2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
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India: Obama as president will build 'close strategic ties' with India


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2/23/08 Indo-Asian News Services


Senator Barack Obama, the frontrunner for the Democratic Party's nomination for presidential elections in November, has pledged to "build a close strategic partnership" between US and India if elected.

In an article he has written for India Abroad, the Illinois senator has also committed that he will encourage the active engagement and partnership of the Indian American community in "making the change we seek" in US.

"The world's oldest democracy (US) and the world's largest democracy (India) are natural partners, sharing important interests and fundamental democratic values," Obama said in the article for the next edition of the weekly newspaper headquartered in New York.

Obama, who has edged past rival Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, said it is his commitment to the critical relationship between the two countries that he voted for the US-India nuclear energy deal on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"And that is why I will move forward to build a close strategic partnership between the US and India when I am president of the United States," he added.

Obama said Washington and New Delhi must work together to combat the common threats of the 21st century because "both countries have been victims of catastrophic terrorist attacks and we have a shared interest in succeeding in the fight against Al Qaeda and its operational and ideological affiliates".

The presidential hopeful said he voted against the Iraq war because "we needed to finish the fight with bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan".

He also referred to his proposal long before the declaration of martial law in Pakistan that the US needed to "condition our assistance to the Pakistani government so that we encourage stronger action against Al Qaeda and a restoration of democracy".

In the article, Obama also spoke about his admiration for Mahatma Gandhi, whose portrait hangs prominently in his Senate office.

"In my life, I have always looked to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration, because he embodies the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things," he wrote.

In the article, Obama lauded the major contributions the Indian American community has been making to the country's economy as well as to the fabric of American society.

"Already, in communities across this country, Indian Americans are lifting up our economy and creating jobs," he said. "Leading entrepreneurs, innovators, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and hardworking professionals are adding to the richness and success of the American society."

Obama also bemoaned hate crimes, civil liberties violations, and protracted immigration regulations and backlogs that adversely affect Indian Americans.

"Too often," Obama argued, "flawed strategies like racial profiling have had a disproportionate effect on Indian Americans. Too often, restrictions at our borders have prevented entry for many students and family members who seek nothing more than opportunity and reunification with loved ones".

Obama said as president he would draw upon the energy and expertise of the Indian American community.

"Together, we can restore and revitalise America's innovation-based economy so that we can create jobs and meet our most pressing domestic challenges," he said.

Acknowledging the prowess in IT and high technology fields of Indian Americans who have powered Silicon Valley, he said: "To succeed, we need to make use of technology, a sector where so many Indian Americans have thrived."

Obama, the first African American to have a real chance of occupying the White House, also drew a parallel between his personal story and that of Indian Americans.

"For many years," he said, "I have been impressed by the dedication of Indian Americans to make their communities and their country a better place."

"My relationship with the community stretches back to my days as a student. This bond is strong and deep because it is in part personal. Like so many Indian Americans, my father arrived in America (from Kenya) without money, but with a student visa and a determination to live his dreams," he said.

Obama claimed that he had the longstanding support of many Indian Americans in all aspects of his campaign, as well as the endorsements of leading elected Indian American lawmakers. Those who have endorsed him include Maryland House Majority Leader Kumar Barve and Kansas Representative Rajiv Goyle.


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