Monday, February 28, 2011

India visit offers Gov. Palin opportunity to draw contrast with Obama

"In India... Mrs. Palin is certain to be well received."
New York Sun contributing editor Pranay Gupte weighs in on Gov. Palin's keynote address scheduled for March 19 in India, saying her decision to accept the invitation to speak in New Delhi was a canny one, giving that the India Today conclave "arguably possesses the biggest private-sector megaphone in the world’s largest democracy":
Mrs. Palin’s choice is also shrewd because her visit to India will come barely three months after a celebrated one by President Obama. Her appearance is certain to elicit comparisons, however superficial. A presidential visit, replete with pomp and pageantry, is far more of a visual and verbal feast than that of a private citizen, even if she happens to have been an erstwhile governor of Alaska and a former running mate in an American presidential election.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Palin’s India journey is an important one. For one, Indians would like to hear a clearly defined sense of America’s political and economic trajectory. Mr. Obama’s message during his trip last November was replete with predictable bromides and the usual rhetoric of bilateral friendship.


But it is in India that Mrs. Palin is certain to be well received; there will be quite of bit of curiosity, too, since she will be a newcomer — although not a new face media-wise — for Indians. That has little to do with her controversial public persona. Rather, Indians have traditionally looked favorably at Republicans, with the possible exception of Richard Nixon, during whose presidency Washington openly sided with Pakistan as India assisted the former territory of East Pakistan to gain independence from Islamabad and establish itself as Bangladesh. Two years after George W. Bush retired from the White House, he’s still held in high regard in New Delhi on account of his unflinching support for the deal under which India has been allowed to buy equipment for its civilian nuclear program.

The other reason that Mrs. Palin will be warmly received is that Indians like women leaders. After all, the country’s most powerful politician is Sonia Gandhi, president of the Indian National Congress; the INC is the lead party in the coalition that rules India. It has often been said that Mrs. Gandhi, daughter-in-law of the assassinated prime inister, Indira Gandhi, is the person that the current prime minister, Manmohan Singh, consults on every major decision. Mrs. Palin is bound to be impressed by how many women legislators there are in India’s national parliament, and in the assemblies of the countries 28 states and seven federal territories.


And given her personality, Mrs. Palin most definitely will make friends in India, which has already begun souring on President Obama for his perceived failure to follow through on promises made on his state visit. Happily, Mrs. Palin will be a political tourist; she will have no obligation to make any pledges, other than of accelerating her personal friendships in a land known for its warmth and hospitality.

- JP

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