The Presidential Election of the most influential country in the world is only a few days away. As many observers have noted, it is a historic election since the winning ticket will either have the first African-American President or the first woman Vice President. The election results will have implications beyond the US boundaries since both the campaigns have been promising a fundamental change in the way US conducts its domestic and international affairs. Understandably, the whole world is following the election with great interest.
Several polls and surveys have been conducted in different countries across the world to find which Presidential candidate is popul in these countries. A BBC poll conducted in 22 countries revealed that Democrat Barack Obama was preferred over Republican John McCain by a 4-to-1 margin. A survey conducted in Germany showed that 72 percent preferred Obama over McCain. It is not surprising that when Obama made a speech in Berlin, 200,000 people turned up to listen to him. The most comprehensive poll was conducted by Gallup. Gallup’s polls indicate that Obama is the overwhelming favorite in Europe, Africa (Obama’s father was a Kenyan), most of Middle East Asia and Developed Asia (Japan, S.Korea, Singapore and Australia).
Now here comes the most interesting part.
9 of 10 respondents in both India and Pakistan did not have an opinion/preference for either candidate. In summary, 7% of Indian respondents favored Obama and 2 % favored McCain. The response of Indians in the Gallup poll is remarkable considering the fact that India and US are moving closer to each other at economic, political and cultural levels. It is very much possible that the 10% who expressed their preference are from urban India who have personal stakes in the US election (probably their near and dear are in US).
. So, which candidate is good for India ? Obama has expressed the view that firms outsourcing jobs outside will not get tax breaks.
Obama is also reported to have voted to reduce the number of visas for foreign workers. This might have a negative impact on Indian IT firms. Obama is cautious about free trade whereas McCain is a strong supporter of free trade and has fewer difficulties with outsourcing. Obama also supports subsidies for American farmers.
It is not just Obama, his Democratic party has always been less enthusiastic about free trade and favor protectionism. It was during the presidency of Bill Clinton(considered to be a pro-Indian President), another Democrat, that US imposed sanctions against India for conducting the nuclear test. And it was a Republican President, George Bush, who redefined US’s relation with India and took it a much higher plane. He played a crucial role in ending India’s nuclear isolation. It is doubtful if Republicans would have imposed sanctions against India if they were in power. So, in general, Republicans are perceived to be better for Indo-US relations.
Eminent “Economic Times” columnist Swaminathan S. A. Aiyar discusses these issues in further detail and cautions Indians not to be too excited about an Obama victory. He sums up saying that an Obama victory will be great for US but not necessarily for India. Interestingly, Swaminathan Aiyar’s article was partially reprinted in the US newspaper Wall Street Journal as an argument against electing Obama. Wall Street Journal is a conservative and pro-Business newspaper owned by media Mogul Rupert Murdoch (The same guy who introduced Star TV in India) and is unabashedly anti-Obama.
To his credit, Obama recognizes the increasing influence of Indian-American community in US politics. He said that he supports the Indo-US nuclear deal, greeted the Sikh community on the tercentenary of Guru Granth and claims that he has a Hanuman idol in his home as a lucky charm. (This news led Hanuman Bhaktas in Delhi to conduct a 11 day pooja and sent a 15 kg idol to Obama)
Only time will tell how the result of the US presidential elections is going to affect the world in general and India in particular. Let us hope that whoever wins, the effect on the world is a positive one. In the meantime, let us enjoy the nail-biting finish to the presidential campaign on November 4th.
PS: Will we see an Indo-American as a US president soon ? There are already talks about Bobby Jindal’s suitability as a probable Republican Presidential candidate in 2012. Here are the arguments for and against his candidature
It is definitely getting interesting!!
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