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‘Obama has no option but to make India leading partner’

Ahead of Barack Obama’s India visit,Dr K Subrahmanyam spoke to The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV’s Walk the Talk. Excerpts from the interview,published on October 26,2010.

Written by K. Subrahmanyam |
February 3, 2011 10:51:34 pm

As we talk now,in a couple of weeks,Obama’s coming. The third US president in a decade,when the previous one took 25 years. So,it’s all changed… for the better?
Very much for the better,no doubt about that!

So what are Obama’s options? Does he have his options closed,no choice?
No,I think Obama will be developing his options. His challenges today are from two sources—one is from jihadi-inspired terrorism and the other challenge is that China has become the second power of the world and is trying to catch up with the US. China is the only major country in the world that has not accepted democracy as its value system. Even Russia has. And therefore,a more powerful China expanding into Asia,South Asia,West Asia and East Asia is posing a challenge to the US and is trying to counter the influence of democratic powers. And how to deal with this challenge is something which should preoccupy Obama.

And when this comes up,what should Dr Manmohan Singh be telling him?
I think they have already said that they share these value systems. The main point is,how do these democratic countries,which today form 50 per cent of the global population,counter this value system — of the two challenges of jihadism as well as one-party authoritarianism which denies pluralism? I think the only way of doing this is for them to get into a network of partnerships. Because this is not a military threat and it cannot be dealt with by a military alliance.

So,if India and America come together,as you are saying they logically should,this will not be some old-fashioned kind of alliance with military implications against another power,it’s a philosophical alliance to maybe moderate the conduct of another power?
Yes,in fact the engagement of China should be intensified. Commerce and trade with China should grow. And the only way of effectively countering China’s authoritarianism is to expose the Chinese population to democracy in a more and more intensified manner.

So,when there is conversation today between Dr Singh and Obama,what tone do you see it taking? Do you see some of the same conversation happening,although Obama is different from Eisenhower and Dr Singh is different from Nehru?
I don’t think Obama has to be convinced that he’s facing a Chinese challenge. Of course,he himself has called Pakistan a state afflicted with cancer. And therefore,he doesn’t have to be convinced that he’s facing these challenges. The point is that they have got to devise ways and means of how to respond to these challenges.

And if you see Bob Woodward’s latest book,does it look like he has it in him?
I am very positive about Obama. I think he’s a highly intellectual person and he can think through problems.

I can see that you’re optimistic. And I can see that you’re optimistic not just five years ahead but 10 years ahead,so hopefully we’ll have more conversations as we go ahead and hopefully everybody will still be getting wisdom from you. And as usual,following you. For 50 years,nobody in this country has been able to stay ahead of you and may it remain like that.

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