Friday, November 2nd 2012 - 08:22 UTC

The United States elections, as seen from India

By Rengaraj Viswanathan - In India, people are amused and puzzled, depressed and disinterested and occasionally inspired by the long and loud, colourful and typical American show that goes by the name of the presidential election.

Issues such as Obama's birthplace and religion, raised by some right wing elements, are simply laughable

Indians, used to Bollywood films with predictable storylines evoking the entire range of emotions with lots of laughs and tears, see the US elections as longer versions of these movies, produced by money and media, spin doctors and vested interests.

Indians are amused by the non-stop talk shows, turns and twists, farce and entertainment for two years. Two out of the four years of the presidential term is consumed by the primaries and the campaign, forgetting the important long term national interests - such a waste of energy, resources and time. Issues such as Obama's birthplace and religion, raised by some right wing elements, are simply laughable.

Indians are puzzled by the electoral system, which is so difficult to understand. The Electoral College vote prevailing over the popular vote and the holding of elections on a working day instead of a weekend do not make sense. Indians are perplexed by the American obsession for issues such as abortion and same-sex relationships. They are amazed by the strength of the gun lobby despite the hundreds of killings of innocent people in high schools and college campus and shopping centres caused by the free availability of guns.

Indians are frustrated with their own political leaders and parties who sacrifice national interests for the sake of winning elections by pandering to narrow communitarian and group interests. They are depressed by the fact that even in a mature democracy like the US, the Democrats and the Republicans end up making the same decisions.

Obama's victory in the last election was an inspiration for India's large and diverse democracy. The fact that an inexperienced, young middle class African American outsider could challenge the system and win the election to become the President has renewed the confidence in the authenticity of the American democratic system. The bottom-up grassroots mobilization of support using the power of Internet by Obama was remarkable.

One of the election issues which directly concerns India is outsourcing. Indians are surprised by the American noise on the outsourcing of services (mostly in IT and finance) to India in contrast to their timid silence on the larger issue of outsourcing of manufacturing to China and Mexico. The large scale and irreversible shifting of American manufacturing has cost the country millions of jobs in contrast to the loss of just a few thousand jobs through outsourcing to India. The wholesale shifting of American manufacturing to China has hollowed out the American industry in the long term and has led to a big loss of intellectual property, technology and the whole ecosystem of component makers, suppliers and service providers. Americans know what sectors of service are outsourced to India but they have no idea about what products are made in US since everything from iPhone to toys are now assembled in China. The Fourth of July and Christmas are more celebrated by the Chinese manufacturers of fireworks and gift items than by the American consumers.

Ultimately, Indians are somewhat indifferent to the US elections since they know that, no matter who wins, the policies will remain the same in most areas. Presidents come and go. But the lobbies are permanent. Indians are used to a predictable American policy towards India: Democratic presidents repeat the rhetorical solidarity between the biggest democracies but are insensitive to India's concerns on security, terrorism, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. Republicans presidents, on the other hand, see the opportunities for business in India and are willing to accommodate India's interests, overlooking ideological differences. The most recent example of this was President Bush's initiative to sign the Nuclear Agreement with India and the dilution of the spirit of the Agreement by the Obama administration.

In the past, the American election was the most watched show in the global theatre. Not anymore. Now the Chinese leadership transition is watched with equal interest both by India and the rest of the world. The US has lost its global supremacy in political, economic and technological fields while China is steadily and resolutely gaining strategic space. The pity is that the Democrats and Republicans focus more on hurting each other and polarizing the society rather than addressing the fundamental causes of the continuing decline of US leadership.

 - This article is part of the 'How it looks from here' open Democracy feature on the 2012 US elections.

12 comments Feed

Note: Comments do not reflect MercoPress’ opinions. They are the personal view of our users. We wish to keep this as open and unregulated as possible. However, rude or foul language, discriminative comments (based on ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality, sexual orientation or the sort), spamming or any other offensive or inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated. Please report any inadequate posts to the editor. Comments must be in English. Comments should refer to article. Thank you.

1 British_Kirchnerist (#) Nov 02nd, 2012 - 10:43 am Report abuse
A good interesting article
2 Ken Ridge (#) Nov 02nd, 2012 - 11:38 am Report abuse
@1 Care to state why?

It surprises me how India can critisise the US with the state India is in, yes it may be an evolving economy, but very few Indians see this and still live in extreem poverty and when I say extreem I mean it.
3 Idlehands (#) Nov 02nd, 2012 - 12:12 pm Report abuse
It's right about the elections going on for too long.

“We can't do X because it is election year” is just idiotic.
4 briton (#) Nov 02nd, 2012 - 08:59 pm Report abuse
Millions upon millions if India’s people are living in abstract poverty,

Who is India to criticise.
5 aussie sunshine (#) Nov 02nd, 2012 - 11:31 pm Report abuse
Couldn´t agree more!!
The American election is like one big show that goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on..........
6 British_Kirchnerist (#) Nov 03rd, 2012 - 10:35 am Report abuse
#2&4 When the strong and beautiful Indira Gandhi was running India she did try campaign to end poverty, of course your side at the time saw that as communism and unnacceptable, and since then India has adopted a more capitalist, neoliberal, “American”, model, with the consequences you describe...
7 briton (#) Nov 03rd, 2012 - 07:35 pm Report abuse
Don’t blame the British,
India’s poverty, India’s problems,

Still,
With a space project in tow what do the poor expect [miracles]
8 British_Kirchnerist (#) Nov 03rd, 2012 - 10:50 pm Report abuse
#7 What did I say in my comment that you read as blaming the British. But now you mention it, there was the Raj...
9 Forgetit86 (#) Nov 04th, 2012 - 06:01 am Report abuse
@2 How does India's poverty invalidate the article's points?

- It is bizarre that the election season takes plce 1.5 year before the actual elections.

- It is bizarre that Americans manage to waste their time on values issues even when they have more concrete matters to worry about, ones upon which rests their country's future as a global economic power, and their own future as a people.

- It is bizarre that many Americans have been indoctrinated with all sorts of theories that are refuted by facts and that find support nowhere else in the world: the trickle down theory, rejection of global warming, the view that guns do not promote but stall gun violence, etc.

This is all true, whether the person making that point comes from a poor country or not. Facts don't just quit being facts depending on the person who mentions them.
10 briton (#) Nov 04th, 2012 - 07:04 pm Report abuse
8 British_Kirchnerist (
#7 What did I say in my comment that you read as blaming the British
[What did I say in my comment I was referring to you]

Justa opinion.
.
11 Guzz (#) Nov 04th, 2012 - 09:26 pm Report abuse
1 billion people must have a point...
12 Ayayay (#) Nov 04th, 2012 - 11:43 pm Report abuse
My country is wow. I'm humbled that we have two grads from the top 2nd? School in the world both wanting to make our lives better.

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