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Two Largest Democracies of the World

Professor Dutta reports the highlights of the Obamas’ visit to India. He writes about the merits of democracy, non-discrimination and diversity and their importance in the past and future of both the US and India.

President Barack Obama and the first lady arrived in Mumbai, India and checked into the Taj Hotel. This is the hotel where jihadists from Pakistan committed the tragic act of terrorism, killing so many innocent men and women. The terrorists from no country could be allowed to control our travel plan, President Obama proclaimed. He invited the Pakistani authorities to condemn the acts of terrorism, as it originated in their country.

In Mumbai he visited the Gandhi Museum, and faithfully recalled the date of visit to the Museum by Reverend Martin Luther King. Mahatma Gandhi was a hero to the world, not only to India, he had reminded the entire world. The peoples of all countries salute the Mahatma for his message of peace and non-violence.

President Obama next arrived in New Delhi and his visit to the Humayun Tomb became a high point. The Sakas, the Huns, the Pathans, the Moguls came to India and over time became a part of India. Indian civilization became all embracing. All who came from remote lands as invaders found their final resting place in Indian soil. President Obama reminded the world that India was the second largest Moslem country, after Indonesia.  In New Delhi, he took his shoes off and walked the short distance to pay homage at the Gandhi Samadhi, the memorial to Gandhi and a key destination for public figures to visit.

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife hosted a reception for the President and Mrs. Obama.  It became a very, very cordial event. The spicy food was much relished. The Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy comes from the minority Sikh religious community of predominantly Hindu India while the President of the world’s second largest democracy rose to office from the minority community of African American heritage in a country where the White immigrants of European heritage constitute some 85% of the population.

Next came the state dinner, hosted by India’s president, Mrs. Pratibha Patil. She had the privilege to propose the toast in honor of the President of the world’s second largest democracy. President Obama in his eloquent response praised the democratic rule of India and India’s efforts in promoting global peace.

In his address to the Indian Parliament, President Obama made his case for India’s seat as a permanent member on the Security Council of the United Nations The 1.2 billion people of the Indian democracy rose to applaud him.

It merits a mention that democracy in America, based on one person-one vote, came long after the Proclamation of Emancipation, signed by President Lincoln in 1853; even though the law went into effect in 1863.  For millions of Americans of African American heritage, emancipation came only in the 1960s when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and then the Voting Rights Act.  India had its democratic rule, based on one-person-one vote, with no bar for race, sex and religion some ten years sooner than the US did.

President Obama returned home after brief stops in Indonesia and Japan. His visit to South Asia, South East Asia, and North East Asia, with his earlier visit to the Peoples’ Republic of China, Central Asia, invited the rest of the world to recognize the increased importance of the Asian family. With half the population of the world in this family with diversities of language, religion, life styles, plus its huge resource base, the time has come to welcome the Asian Century.

Economic engagement between India and the USA – trade and investment- is increasing but is yet to reach its potential. American investors would be well advised to explore the Indian market, given the fact that India offers a free market with well-managed macroeconomic policies. Availability of high-tech labor is a big plus for India. In addition, English, the world’s business language, is one of India’s official languages… The Reserve Bank of India, India’s central bank, has managed monetary policy successfully, with both inflation and foreign exchange reserves remaining stable. Fiscal policy has increasingly given greater incentives for business investment.
The Presidential visit helped promote US exports to India, especially in sectors like air-transport and nuclear power. The American business leaders accompanying the President welcomed the opportunities for joint ventures with Indian investors, and also for foreign direct investment in India. A new paradigm of political/economic relationship is beginning between the two largest democracies.