Obama interview in Indian magazine

In an exclusive interview, the US presidential hopeful speaks on a range of subjects: the nuclear deal, Mahatma Gandhi, his ability to reconcile Islam with modernity, and how he wouldn’t have put all eggs in the Musharraf basket

‘I Am Reluctant To Seek Changes In The N-Deal’ : outlookindia.com

Interesting interview. Obama says the right things most of the time, so no surprises here. The interviewer also helpfully provides a summary at the top of the interview where he tells us what Obama said and what it means, a little bit of contextualization that goes a long way in helping the reader get perspective on the issues. Western journalists should try this sometime…

On the nuclear deal

“I continue to hope this process can be concluded before the end of the year…. I am reluctant to seek changes.”

His remarks suggest he is opposed to renegotiating the deal, as the BJP has demanded. Should the deal not be sealed this year, Obama as president isn’t likely to impose new conditions, a fear the UPA has constantly stoked to compel its critics to fall in line.

Now that’s an interesting observation because the proposed India-US nuclear deal will formalize India’s standing as a nuclear weapons power while providing the country with access to reactor fuel and technology. The deal will also mean that India will have to come under the purview of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure that certain nuclear safeguards can be agreed upon and met. The so called communist parties of India are protesting this as an affront to the sovreignity of the Indian State and have withdrawn support to the Indian government, who faces a very delicately balanced vote of confidence next week.

Both the US and Indian governments are currently in agreement that the deal needs to be done before Bush leaves or else… Obama’s thrown a little bit of cold water over this idea, which will weaken the ruling party’s hand a little. The deal has been ratified by the US, so the only thing standing in the way is the continued stability of the current Indian government.

What do I think? Nothing much other than it appears that India is getting most of what it wants from this deal, a formalization of its nuclear weapons status, access to more civilian technology and legitimization of its nuclear programme in return for some safeguards (which are good for safety and non-proliferation anyway). It’s just that the opposition BJP cannot possibly support the deal because they are the opposition and recent election results in various states have them reasonably confident of getting back in power in New Delhi if the government were to fall and elections were to be called. The left is trying to remain relevant and is usually reflexively anti-US. So dealing with the US government is like dealing with Satan for the “communist” parties (right, call yourselves communists, insult to the word).

In other, more personal parts, we find out that Obama was in Pakistan for a few weeks when he was 19, which I did not know, but is apparently common news knowledge.

Interesting times, he’s not even president yet and still has great influence on happenings far away.

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