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International Relations

India looks on bright side of Obama's return

India has welcomed the re-election of the 44th US president and is waiting to see what he has in store. While Obama did not make India the focus of Asia policy in his first term, there is general optimism in Delhi.

US President Barack Obama (L) and First Lady Michelle Obama (C) light Diwali candles during a cultural event at The Holy Name High School in Mumbai on November 7, 2010. Barack Obama's Asia trip has turned into an early test of whether the US president's global goals and prestige will survive his weakened grip on domestic power, following a painful rebuke from voters. In India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, Obama is trying to pull off the trick of advancing a still ambitious foreign policy, while reducing high unemployment left barely touched by the sluggish economic recovery. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Indien Lichtfest Diwali Obama 2011

India has long become accustomed to dealing with changes of administration at the White House.

Since the country gained its independence more than six decades ago, 11 different presidents have taken over at the Oval Office. Delhi has always been eager to nurture its relations with what remains the world's biggest economy, and to offer warm words to new presidents.

But while Barack Obama's first election to the presidency in 2008 was welcomed with enthusiasm by many Indians, some see his return as even better news.

Yashwant Sinha, leader of the opposition Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), told DW the president now has the advantage of experience.

"Obama has grown and has become more pragmatic and understands the international situation much better." said Sinha.

Cyclists ride on a beach passing by a sand sculpture congratulating US president Barack Obama (Photo: Biswaranjan Rout/AP/dapd)

Some Indians just couldn't hide their delight at Obama's re-election

"Obama understands that India is an important global player - both from the point of view of global economy and global strategic affairs; India has a voice which even the US would like to listen to."

Fiscal cliff poses worry 

Sinha also voiced concerns about the IT industry after Obama said he might legislate against the outsourcing of US jobs to countries such as India. There was also trepidation over the US fiscal situation. "India is concerned about the state of the US economy and the fiscal cliff, the downturn in the US stock markets is getting reflected in the Indian stock market."

From an economic point of view, secretary general of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, R.K. Chopra, said the result represented stability.

"Obama's re-election ensures continuity of economic policies for not only bottoming-out economic slowdown… but also for creating a new architecture for the sustained economic growth to put the world economy back on track," said Chopra.

PresidentBarack Obama on the phone in the Oval Office (Photo by Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images)

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated Obama by phone last week

Chopra hopes that the efforts to boost bilateral trade can be accelerated so that Indo-US trade crosses the 100 billion dollar mark in the near future. "The bilateral investments which have shown remarkable growth in the last few years should be consolidated and nurtured to achieve newer proportions," he said.

Talking to DW, Brahma Chellaney, Professor for Strategic Studies at Delhi's Center for Policy Research said Obama's first term was more of a learning process for him. "The Indo-US relationship is clearly set towards closer cooperation and collaboration and that momentum is actually independent of the two governments, because there are economic forces and juristic forces that are bringing the two countries closer."

Obama did not appear to have a distinct India policy in his first term, Chellaney told DW. "He was too preoccupied with the Afghanistan Pakistan issues and increasingly got drawn into the Middle Eastern issues like Iran, Syria and so on. He never clearly defined his vision for India. We are hoping that in his second term he has a more distinct India policy."

Democrats' ideological baggage

According to Chellaney, Bush was the classic example of a US President who focused on India as a priority.

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (Photo:Charles Dharapak/AP/dapd)

Singh and Obama have a chance to meet at the ASEAN summit, as they did last year

"The Republicans tend to be even more pragmatic than the Democrats in foreign policy. Because the Democrats tend to carry a lot of ideological baggage, quite often these issues tend to weigh them down and color their foreign policy perspectives."

One major issue concerning India is a deal to give the US access to the nuclear power market. Chellaney told "The Americans want to enter the Indian market but they don't want to assume the liability for accidents. That is the issue that needs to be sorted."

Whatever priority Obama places on India, it won't be the first Asian destination of his second term of office; the president sets off for a tour of Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia later this week. However, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have a chance to meet the president next Monday, on the sidelines of ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh.

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