November 10, 2010

Shied away

President Obama's speech in our Lok Sabha touched a number of upbeat themes about the ties between the US and India, as such speeches tend to do. Good stuff, but not overly enlightening. So I read through his speech for signs of more hard-nosed rhetoric. Things to make us think a bit, if we want to.

I found two.

* "This is the bond that we share. It's why we insist that nothing ever justifies the slaughter of innocent men, women and children."

* "Faced with such gross violations of human rights, it is the responsibility of the international community —- especially leaders like the United States and India —- to condemn it. And if I can be frank, in international fora, India has often shied away from some of these issues."

Think about it.


Chandru K said...

I've thought about it, and it is unfortunate that the US has a history of such abuses and crimes, in Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines( early 20th century) and Iraq. And indirectly for its support for brutal regimes. India is facing domestic terror, such as the NDFB's massacre of 20 Hindi speaking people and government employees 2 days ago in Assam. It is these wanton, bloodthirsty killers who need to hear Obama's speech, and 'think about it'. Unfortunately, they are too busy collecting arms and money, and planning future strikes, to listen to any enlightened speech.

Arun said...


Obama's visit was a revelation for me about the man. The new item about the fact that they installed teleprompters in parliament for his speech made me realize that he is merely a newsreader and no orator, and simply not a great leader (Obama is merely his speeches).

Obama's speech to parliament, just like all the other speeches he gave in India (and what he went on to give in Indonasia - speaking something in the local language, lot of empty words, etc), was merely whitewash, what Indians wanted to hear from him, mere high words.

USA talking about human rights? And wanting India to speak up against human rights violations by countries like Myanmar? What about speaking out against the lakhs of innocents killed in Iraq for no reason, and the trillions of dollars wasted there? He goes gaga about the 10billion deal=50000 jobs etc, but what shitty rhetoric coming from a president whose country spends trillions in totally avoidable wars?

Empty words; he's saying India is a world leader in cutting edge agricultural technology etc. WTF? And as for him saying he wants to incorporate Gandhi's principles in his life etc...

And Indian media!


Arun said...

I am not forgetting the fact that he was advising India, who doesnt really care much about human rights anyway. But just the fact that he was telling us to change our Iran policy (i.e we are still having a foreign policy that the USA dont like) made me proud of being Indian :)

Chandru K said...

Arun, Obama really struck a chord with Indians. He displayed an affinity for Indian names, terms, personages, places and in one case, a literary work. That was quite novel and endearing. Can you see the average American or Canadian acknowledging and referring to Vivekananda, the Panchatantra, uttering the line "Jai Hind" or using the word "Dhanyavad"? Obama is way above the dumb, parochial, insular North American. While of course not getting too carried away, let's appreciate his acknowledgement and comfort level with 'things Indian' as something intrinsically good.

Arun said...

He was merely reading out Jai Hind, Dhanyawad etc from the teleprompters.

He said something similar in Indonasia as well (in the local language). Vintage Obama. Big, nice, hollow words (mostly from the teleprompter).


Anonymous said...


Dcubed - Absolutely not. I will not think about it. It is not meant to be 'thunk' about. For even after the most perfunctory examination of this statement you realize how blatantly and ridiculously hypocritical it is and what a despicable lie it is.

Sorry, and unless irony is what you are employing in this post, it is pitiful that you celebrate such hypocrisy (much like your David Cameron quote could hold you suspect)

Also, is it even legal to have a foreign head of state lecture us in our Parliament?

Anonymous said...

Also I join Arun in his outrage and pretty much the same reasons. The WTF is totally justified. It seriously is a huge wtf moment in the Indian Republic's, what now seems like - sorry, history.

Empty words and vacuous rubbish should not be mined through for finding something substantive. What is happening is the grand symbolism that we all celebrated around a year back is acquiring a new perverse meaning. What else were we expecting anyway. I feel dejected and hopeless.

Arundhati Roy is perhaps justified when she wonders if "[the] Preamble should read, 'We, the upper castes and classes of India, [having] secretly resolved to constitute India into a Corporate, Hindu, Satellite State...'"
(and anything that your regular right wing commentators say to this is only going to prove this as we see above)

Chandru K said...

Arun, what would have been an ideal Obama speech or visit? He did pretty well considering all the issues. Finally, he referred to terrorist safe havens in Pakistan, rather than just going with the safe option of "both India and Pakistan are victims of terror". The thing about how India and the US are linked, not with metal or gold, but with unseen bonds of the heart, was a nice touch. Teleprompter or not.

One thing Western leaders to India almost never mention in their speeches is India's struggle against colonialism. That doesn't figure in their consciousness of a human rights and freedom movement. They tend to latch on to one man, namely Gandhi, and ignore not only who and what it was that not only Gandhi, but millions of other Indians were trying to free themselves from. It strikes them as an incongruous and inconvenient truth that a non-Western country won its freedom from one of the so called upholders of freedom and democracy.

Another major omission in Western leaders' references are the immense sacrifices Indians made on behalf of the British i.e Indian soldiers fighting and dying in Europe, Africa etc during the World Wars.

These two issues, among several others, speak to the heart of what's really missing in America's and other Western countries' relationship with India. Empathy and acknowledgement. The day they develop these qualities is the day you can say the world has turned.

Anonymous said...

as for "And if I can be frank, in international fora, India has often shied away from some of these issues."

President Obama is in fact correct. This is an actual statement.

But again, I feel I would not ever quote this statement if I ever want to be taken seriously in the realm of basic human values of rights and solidarity. Essentially because it comes from a hypocrite an outright hypocrite. The hypocrisy is easily demonstrable (ref. read Glenn Greenwald's blog)

Dcubed, This is my huge concern with this blog. I am a huge admirer of you both as a person and a writer but I think sometimes you reference and quote from people who are such hypocrites like in this case, or seriously scary David Cameron or suspect racialists like Aakar Patel. You are an effective voice and I am no judge of who is taken seriously but I find it a little hard to take you seriously every time I read something like this. I suspect support for empty sloganeering and a dogmatic quest for meaningless bi-partisan equivalence (like the 'oh australians are racists against us but so are we against them' kind of attitude. To be fair to you though you never put it that way.).

Chandru K, I request you not to respond to this. Please.

Dilip D'Souza said...

just the fact that he was telling us to change our Iran policy ... made me proud of being Indian.

Not so different, then, from the guys who found pride in something Bush said.

Above comment, I would be writing nothing if I wrote in the hope of being taken seriously by everyone out there. (Which is another way of saying, you can't please all of the people all of the time). Some things some folks say give me stuff to think about, and sometimes I share that in this space. If that bothers some people, well, I'm not sure how I can avoid that. I hope you find some other stuff here that's interesting.

Anonymous said...

Dcubed - Thats a disingenuous reply where you have avoided tackling why I said - being taken seriously.

There was a point I was trying to make there and been making for a while now. The only attention given is to the conclusions with no signs of tackling the reasons. Almost every time. That seems like a debating strategy to me. I am not interested in any form of debate. I was interested in a serious revealing discussion.

No more on this. Good luck.

Dilip D'Souza said...

But no, I don't think it is a disingenuous reply at all. (Well, you know I would say that). I try hard to think about every bit of criticism I get from guys who mean it (i.e. without being taunting about it), and then respond if possible, and that's what I tried to do here. I'm not interested in scoring debating points either.

Look at it this way: suppose I myself had said what Obama had said, e.g. "Nothing ever justifies the slaughter of innocent men, women and children." Would you give it a thought? Well, treat it that way this time.

There are times when even people I would often disagree with say things that make me think. Acknowledging that, and therefore how those "other guys" think, is sometimes hard to do, but it's a good exercise for me. I don't get much satisfaction in simply condemning people I disagree with.

I recommend "Playing the Enemy", the book that inspired the movie "Invictus", and Mandela's thinking.

Jai_C said...

The anon commenter on this thread talks like baby V but isnt identifying himself/herself. Why anon?

re the post i have nothing to add. we are well advised not to go out lecturing others on human rights situations- whatever be Obama's advice on this matter.


Anonymous said...

Jai C - Why do you think dude? The smut brigade won. I won't even respond to their level of puerile abuse.

Arun said...

Not so different, then, from the guys who found pride in something Bush said."

- well, I meant, we still have a somewhat independent Iran policy that the Americans dont like! :)