What Indians think of Obama

(Note: Many comments have been posted.)

LA to Indian living in the West:

Is there any political breakdown in India between those who are pro Obama visit and those who are anti-Obama visit? Or is everyone pro visit?

ILW replies:

I would say that the Indian left generally loves Obama (even though it is often virulently anti-American). Obama to them is a hero because he is black. Had Obama been white and even further left, it would not be so good. But his being black makes it wonderful.

The nationalist right is probably anti-Obama but that is mainly because of Pakistan (nothing to do with whether Obama is black or white or right/left). In Obama they see a continuation of old American policies—money and weapons for a failed state incubating terrorists by the thousands and leaking them into the civilized world.

Those would be, I think, the main two distinctions on Obama politically.

The general mass of English speaking Indians are gushing about Obama—their minds are colonised by the West. These very people who complain about British imperialism in India and about “racism” are the most completely colonised people you will encounter. They have almost nothing in common with the majority of the people in the country. To them, any little tiny bit of acclaim that is gained from the West is worth much much more than anything ever received from any other source. So although they complain about the fact that India was a British colony and the British “exploited it,” their own minds are permanent colonies of the West. These are people who would talk for the next ten years if an Indian won an Oscar. Since the left dominates American opinion formation, whatever is fashionable in the American left becomes fashionable among the Indian English speaking liberals in the cities.

This is a crucial aspect which distinguishes India from China. The Chinese don’t really care about Western opinion. To them, the West is an adversary to be overcome. The Chinese see themselves as a great race and want to become the world’s predominant power. The Indians worship Gandhi. Need I say more?

By the way, that dance by Michelle Obama with the orphans in Mumbai shocked me. I thought it was ridiculous—but it fit neatly into the silly “Oprah-fied” society that a good chunk of America has become. The whole Obama spectacle in India is something of an absurdity.

I wanted to ask you something. We have had British prime ministers come to India time after time. David Cameron came to India recently and, I thought, he made an excellent impression. The British PMs generally do not bring their wives along. Why do American presidents feel the need for the First Lady to tag along?

LA replies:

In the last couple of decades, presidential nominees and presidents are seen as part of a “family package,” with their wives and children a fundamental part of their public identity. Thus we have speeches by the nominee’s wife, and even the nominee’s children, at the national convention where he is nominated. It’s all part of the personalization of the political. It shows that the president is a “regular guy.” It makes him more likable and sympathetic to women, who want to see that the nominee/president has a good relationship with a woman. Importantly, it’s also a way of making women equal to men in politics. The nominee’s/president’s wife is as important as he is.

It’s all unseemly and ridiculous beyond words, but until some of the presidential nominees / presidents start to resist it, it’s going to continue.

I have never seen a mainstream commentator criticize this recent custom. Everyone takes it for granted.

- end of initial entry -

Ivan M. writes:

I am a regular reader of your blog and this is my first comment.

Further to ILW’s comment, I have to say that this constant ganging up on Mahatma Gandhi is getting tiresome. His eternal claim to renown and the gratitude of Indians rests on his bringing about a largely peaceful transition to a free and united India. Contrary to what the so-called nationalists would have you believe, it was British rule that united and extended the borders of India. I am myself from the south of India, and I can assure you that had it not been for the tolerance displayed by the Congress Party for regional, linguistic, racial, and religious differences, we would now be looking at a house divided—a Hindu version of Iraq.

The comparisons with China are egregious, for some very obvious reasons. Frankly too many Indians suffer from a China envy, when all that is needed is a strong and determined armed force to repel agression from that quarter. I am old enough to remember when everyone including the Koreans thought that the Japanese were going to take over the world in the 1980s. What China has succeeded in doing with the “China price,” is really to destroy the economic value of manufacturing work.

November 9

Michael S. writes:

ILW wrote: “I would say that the Indian left generally loves Obama (even though it is often virulently anti-American).”

So, DESPITE the fact that the Indian left is “often virulently anti-American,” it generally loves Obama … anyway?

Where’s the contradiction?

LA replies:

It would not be a contradiction, if they see Obama as the (excuse the pun) un-American, like the un-Cola.

Indian living in the West writes:

Ivan M writes:

“Frankly too many Indians suffer from a China envy, when all that is needed is a strong and determined armed force to repel aggression from that quarter.”

That would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. Ivan M. has no idea what he is talking about. The mismatch between the two countries is so great that, heaven forbid, were it ever to descend into armed conflict, the Chinese would eat India for lunch within days—and I’m not saying this with any pride. I have cousins in the armed forces and they are brave men.

In 1962 when China was a basket case and not a patch on the power that it has now become, it fought a border war with India. The Chinese won that war hands down and would have marched all the way to Delhi had Washington not threatened intervention. That was another great achievement of Nehru—that great disciple of Gandhi.

Many who praise Gandhi for his kindness do not understand that there are other ways of uniting a disparate people without resorting to violence. Lee Kwan Yew did it in Singapore. And he had fairly intractable problems with Indians, Chinese, and Malays in Singapore. That didn’t stop him from turning that tiny country into a power to reckon with. Also, Gandhi wanted total de-industrialisation of India—the people who foolishly praise Gandhi today are the same people who gush about India’s economic growth. They are in contradiction with themselves.

Gandhi was insane. Here is another example. The Indians were lucky they were ruled by the British. Had Gandhi and his foolish followers been facing Genghis Khan, all that their pacifism would have got them would have been slit throats—which would have been thoroughly well deserved by the way. India was fortunate that its independence coincided with the Cold War and that Gandhi’s terrible influence on the leaders of the country did not cost the country a major war (as it could have easily done in 1962). However, we will not be so lucky in future. The war of 1962 was a warning. I’m not sure the country heeded it.

ILW continues:

I also want to add: The idea that India would not have gained freedom from colonial rule without Gandhi is Congress propaganda fed to school children from an early age by government employed “historians.”

The fact is that at the end of World War II, Britain was completely bankrupt and was in no position to maintain its empire. American financial aid was forthcoming but decolonisation was a condition attached to all financial assistance after the war. As a result, every British colony gained its independence from British rule within two decades of the war.

Gandhi had nothing to do with it. I will try to locate a George Orwell article on Gandhi in which he demonstrated that Gandhi was a “useful fool” for the British as he ensured that would be no armed insurrection. Trying to explain this to brainwashed Indians is impossible.

LA replies:

And ILW has not even mentioned Gandhi’s most damaging legacy—the presence of hundreds of millions of Muslims in India. He has previously told how, when the new nation of Pakistan was killing and kicking out all the Hindus, and the Hindus in India intended to do the same the Muslims in India, Gandhi stopped them. India is saddled forever with the curse of a large Muslim population because of the liberal hero Gandhi.

See: India and Pakistan: why the mass killings occurred; and The anti-national liberalism at the core of Indian national identity

Kevin V. writes:

After reading ILW’s comment regarding the Prime Minister arriving without family while President Obama had the First Lady with him, I believe he is overlooking a key difference between the British and the American systems. Under the British Constitution, the Prime Minister is merely the head of government, while the Queen is the head of state. Thus, a visit by the PM to India is not a State Visit, but merely a very high level ministerial visit. It would not be proper for such a working visit for family to accompany the Prime Minister. However, the President of the United States is not only head of government but head of state as well. Thus, his visit is necessarily a State visit, which is why it must, and has, been accompanied by all the formal pomp and circumstance that modern diplomatic protocol demands. If Queen Elizabeth II were to visit India, it is beyond question that the Duke of Edinburgh would be at her side.

There is a lot of confusion about this distinction in the American media, especially in conservative circles. I see this morning, at The Corner, one of the commentators goes to great lengths about the formalities and describes this strange event where the dignitaries stand in one place while each visitor goes past shaking hands. This is nothing more than the very standard receiving line, a routine matter of diplomatic protocol, and something that is suffered through by U.S. ambassadors and other high-ranking diplomatic officials on weekly (sometimes daily!) basis. It seems absurd only if one is not familiar with diplomacy in its everyday sense.

On the substance of the visit, the U.S. expressing support for India to have a permanent seat at the UN Security Council is one of the best moves I’ve seen this president take. I’m frankly astounded that the United States government found the guts to make such an open call, and, given the sheer weight of the inter-agency process which must have been involved in clearing such a move, I would not at all be surprised to learn this was at the president’s insistence. While very few people in the government harbor undue illusions about the United Nations, they certainly realize it’s huge symbolic and representational importance, especially in the developing world. What we just did was fundamentally align ourselves in the most public manner possible with the Hindic civilization, smack in the middle of the Chinese and Muslim civilizations. It’s a just and natural alliance. It is a sign that at bottom even this administration understands the real U.S. interest in this regard.

This is very good news indeed. Of course, even a broken clock is right twice a day, so this may simply be a matter of the right decision taken for the wrong reason. However, I am beyond sure that in Beijing, Islamabad, Tehran and Riyadh it is seen as a clear, red-white-and-blue colored shot across the bow.

James P. writes:

Ivan M. writes:

“I have to say that this constant ganging up on Mahatma Gandhi is getting tiresome. His eternal claim to renown and the gratitude of Indians rests on his bringing about a largely peaceful transition to a free and united India.”

Say what? Far from being united, after independence from Britain, India was partitioned into largely Muslim West Pakistan and East Pakistan (the future Bangladesh), and largely but not entirely Hindu India. The partition was along religious lines, and thus was far from peaceful, with one of the largest population transfers in human history, widespread violence resulting in 500,000 to one million deaths, and an immediate war over Kashmir, the first of four Indo-Pakistani Wars. The claim that Gandhi brought about a peaceful transition is particularly risible in that his assassin considered him a traitor to the nation for consenting to partition, and thought that killing Gandhi would remove someone too conciliatory to Muslims, thus enabling the Hindu government to retaliate for Muslim outrages. As for being “free,” this was true in that India and Pakistan were “free” from British rule, but Pakistan (part of British India) has been under military rule for half its existence. So, to give Gandhi credit for a peaceful transition to a free and united India is true, except that the transition was not peaceful and India was not free or united.

“had it not been for the tolerance displayed by the Congress Party for regional, linguistic, racial, and religious differences, we would now be looking at a house divided—a Hindu version of Iraq.”

Let’s leave aside the fact that British India was a “house divided” (into India and Pakistan) when India became independent, and focus just on India itself. Religious, national and ethnic violence within India since 1947 has been a constant fact of life—Hindu against Muslim and Christian, Muslim against Hindu, secessionist insurgency in Kashmir, secessionist insurgency in north-east India, Maoist insurgency in eastern India, caste-related violence, and terrorism. India may not be a “Hindu Iraq,” but it is most definitely a “house divided.” A brief glance at Wiki (yes, I know Wiki is not always credible) tells us something about casualties over the decades: 7,000 police, 20,000 militants, and 30,000 to 100,000 civilians killed in the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir; 20,000 killed in Assam; 6,000 killed in the Naxalite insurgency; and numerous terrorist incidents that kill dozens to hundreds. And, of course, the Indo-Pakistani wars with their resulting casualties were the product of divisions within India itself and of external (Pakistani) support for those divisions. The Indian government deserves credit for holding the country together as well as it has, but to pretend that the Congress Party created a tolerant era of regional, racial, and religious harmony is very far wide of the mark.

Leonard D. writes:

In the recent India thread, a reader asked:

DESPITE the fact that the Indian left is “often virulently anti-American,” it generally loves Obama … anyway?

And you said:

It would not be a contradiction, if they see Obama as … un-American …

Right, but not exactly. Rather, they see Obama as representing one particular America, the America they like: progressive America.

In this connection, your readers with time to invest would profit from a read of Mencius Moldbug’s 2007 essay, The secret of anti-Americanism:

As a young American living outside the U.S. I often found myself exposed to the odd belief system that’s often called “anti-Americanism.” I had trouble understanding how or why anyone could think this way…. And yet the creed seemed quite popular. Moreover, it was no peasant superstition. If anything, the local elites … tended to be the most anti-American around. If anyone was pro-American, it was the people farther down the food chain. This was a puzzle, and it was quite some time before I had any satisfying answer to the mystery.

… The truth, in my opinion, is that Europeans hate not America, but the American government. And they hate not the American government, but the red government—Defense, the White House, and maybe (quite anachronistically these days) the CIA. In other words, they are just like the San Francisco liberal who “loves her country, but doesn’t trust her government.”

In short, anti-Americanism is perhaps more clearly viewed as ultra-Americanism: they hate our government because in the sphere of action that they see (that is, international affairs), we don’t live up to our progressive universalist rhetoric. Obama is loved because he is a progressive and universalist.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 08, 2010 09:17 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):