By Nitum Jain:
The President of the United States of America stepped on the Indian soil for the first time on 6th November for a four day long visit. 7th November brought President Obama and the First Lady to Mumbai’s St. Xavier’s College where an interaction with select students from six city colleges took place. Following a speech, President Obama took questions which widened the discussion from Gandhi, Pakistan, Republicans to Jihad and Islam.
“Mahatma Gandhi’s journey is a never-ending source of inspiration for the young generation” On being asked how he inculcates the principles of our Father of the Nation in his own life, the American president said: “One of the things I draw from Gandhi is that you have to be persistent on your journey, you just have to keep going on and never say die Gandhi, Sir Martin Luther King, and Abraham Lincoln are people we are constantly reading and studying about. I’m often frustrated by how far I fall short of their example.”
He spoke about his visit to Mani Bhavan, a place which had been home to Gandhi on occasions and now is a museum and also talked about how the dhoti-clad pioneer of nonviolent resistance had inspired the American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King. “King said he was struck by how Gandhi embodied the universal principles of the universe,” Then he looked at his enraptured audience “You, too, must embody those principles.”
Another notable issue that cropped up was the long-standing discord between India and Pakistan. President Obama’s neglect to mention Pakistan when he talked about the Mumbai 26/11 attacks the day before was duly noted by Indians all over; however, today Obama was more willing to discuss the neighbouring nation, albeit in a very diplomatic manner.
Global politics makes even the most powerful man on Earth to mince words and so we hear President Obama say, “If Pakistan is stable and prosperous, that’s good because India is on the move.” Peacefully he adds, “So my hope is that trust develops between the two countries, that dialogue begins, perhaps on less controversial issues, building up to more controversial issues—and over time, there’s a recognition that India and Pakistan can live side by side in peace. This will not happen tomorrow but it will happen over time.”
However when talking about USA’s involvement to speed that unifying process, he withdraws with a non-committal statement: “The United States stands to be a friend and partner in that process, but we cannot impose that on India and Pakistan. Ultimately, India and Pakistan have to arrive at their own understanding.”
This obviously brought forward questions in the minds of the students present and one of them asked about States’ relationship with Pakistan. To which President Obama replied that Pakistan is “a strategically important country for the U.S. and the world,” but also one, “that has within it, extremist elements.”
He further added that the Pakistani government is aware of it and the U.S. strategy is to “engage aggressively with the Pakistani government to communicate; we want a stable and prosperous Pakistan. Progress on combating terrorism within Pakistan is not always as quick as the U.S. hoped but the U.S. policy was to continue to insist to Pakistan that it had to address the problem.”
Then this honourable guest to our country went on to talk about India and its glory; some things touched our hearts and some stroked our ego when we heard him talk about our country in such manner. But somewhere we also expected this, after all no man would visit another land and not have good things to say to its people, especially one who belongs to the political arena.
The diplomacy was expected too, but thinking non-diplomatically, does Obama really think it is so easy to bridge the rift between the two countries which has been there since they came into existence? Dialogue has been happening for years, manifesting in the form of numerous visits from leaders of both countries to each other and innumerable headlines attached with photographs showing handshakes and toothy smiles. Controversial issues of both mild and strong nature have been put in the open and debated but no verdict was ever reached; the feud is omnipresent, from the troublesome Kashmir issue to Cricket.
The 26/11 hardly paints a future of mutual harmony, the Pakistani extremists are generating fear all over and Indians have perfected the blame-game. Now that definitely makes one wonder that even the President of USA is aware of all this, hence his immediate hesitation to help matters. He did nail it when he said that the countries have to come to an understanding with each other, which may not come immediately but will eventually. More questions, which I doubt even Mr. President can answer; questions that we have to ask ourselves and ponder upon: Are we really ready to put aside our hatred and egos and understand each other? And if we can manage this Herculean feat, then when? Or do we need another Gandhi to lead the way?
The writer is a Sub-Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz.
Image courtesy: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barack_Obama_%26_Manmohan_Singh_9-25-09.jpg