Tag Archive for 'Barack Obama'

Obama Inauguration Ball, Bollywood style

Behind-the-scenes at the Indiaspora Ball for Barack Obama’s 2nd Inauguration. Bollywood dance by Mona Kahn Co. Music by “Red Baraat” bhangra band & Shankar Tucker. With host Wendy Bounds.

Barack Obama’s Diwali message

Michelle Obama wows India

Priya Ramani in The Daily Beast takes stock of Michelle Obama’s India moment

If the U.S. presidential trip to India were a Bollywood script, it would not be an exaggeration to say that all the best lines were with First Lady Michelle Obama. She was also the unquestionable star of the two song-and-dance sequences in this Indo-American mega production. And certainly she had the most retro wardrobe of all the lead actors, though why she didn’t pack any bright colors to a country known to nonchalantly drape rani pink (fuchsia times 10) with parrot green is anyone’s guess. After all, she did wear yellow to the inauguration. more

Are nuclear warheads safe in Pakistan?

Seymour M. Hersh in the New Yorker:

In the tumultuous days leading up to the Pakistan Army’s ground offensive in the tribal area of South Waziristan, which began on October 17th, the Pakistani Taliban attacked what should have been some of the country’s best-guarded targets. In the most brazen strike, ten gunmen penetrated the Army’s main headquarters, in Rawalpindi, instigating a twenty-two-hour standoff that left twenty-three dead and the military thoroughly embarrassed. The terrorists had been dressed in Army uniforms. There were also attacks on police installations in Peshawar and Lahore, and, once the offensive began, an Army general was shot dead by gunmen on motorcycles on the streets of Islamabad, the capital. The assassins clearly had advance knowledge of the general’s route, indicating that they had contacts and allies inside the security forces.

Pakistan has been a nuclear power for two decades, and has an estimated eighty to a hundred warheads, scattered in facilities around the country. The success of the latest attacks raised an obvious question: Are the bombs safe? Asked this question the day after the Rawalpindi raid, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “We have confidence in the Pakistani government and the military’s control over nuclear weapons.” Clinton—whose own visit to Pakistan, two weeks later, would be disrupted by more terrorist bombs—added that, despite the attacks by the Taliban, “we see no evidence that they are going to take over the state.”

Clinton’s words sounded reassuring, and several current and former officials also said in interviews that the Pakistan Army was in full control of the nuclear arsenal. But the Taliban overrunning Islamabad is not the only, or even the greatest, concern. The principal fear is mutiny—that extremists inside the Pakistani military might stage a coup, take control of some nuclear assets, or even divert a warhead. More:

Obama wins Nobel

Unny in the Indian Express

obama_unnySeven people who should have won, but didn’t

From Foreign Policy:

mahatma_gandhiMahatma Gandhi: History’s most famous pacifist is probably the peace prize’s most famous omission, and the Nobel Foundation has even a Web page explaining its side of the story. Gandhi made the Nobel short list three times: in 1937, 1947, and then posthumously in 1948. In 1937, the committee’s advisor criticized Gandhi’s dual role as a peace activist and political leader of an independence movement, writing that he “is frequently a Christ, but then, suddenly, an ordinary politician.”

Also read “The Nobel and the audacity of hope-giving: Siddharth Varadarajan in the Hindu

Obama sand sculpture

A sand sculpture of Barack Obama in Puri, India. From The FirstPost

A sand sculpture of Barack Obama in Puri, India. From The FirstPost

Under pressure, Shah renounces Hindu group

From National Journal (via 3quarksdaily):

sonal_shahThe controversy has been gathering steam in the Indian press and South Asian blogosphere for weeks now, but it went mainstream on Thursday when former GOP Senator Rick Santorum published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer questioning the appointment of Shah to the transition team — prompting a Lost In Transition post Friday.

Shah, a Google executive who previously worked for Goldman Sachs and served as a Treasury official in the Clinton years, was appointed to the Obama transition team in November and has since been tapped to be part of the three-person team to develop technology policy. She is also reportedly being considered for Secretary of Energy.

However, her appointment to the administration has drawn strong reactions from the South Asian community. While many prominent Indian-Americans have stood behind Shah, others have raised doubts about her past. Dr. Shaikh Ubaid is part of a group including several Muslim and Sikh associations and dozens of college professors that sent letters to both Shah and President-elect Obama, requesting further information on Shah’s past associations.

“When she was appointed, it was initially a proud moment for us, her being an Indian-American,” said Ubaid in an interview given before Shah’s latest statement. However, the reports regarding Shah’s past ties to the VHP gave Ubaid and others a cause for concern.


The Pakistan test

Nicholas D. Kristof in the New York Times:

Barack Obama’s most difficult international test in the next year will very likely be here in Pakistan. A country with 170 million people and up to 60 nuclear weapons may be collapsing.

Reporting in Pakistan is scarier than it has ever been. The major city of Peshawar is now controlled in part by the Taliban, and this month alone in the area an American aid worker was shot dead, an Iranian diplomat kidnapped, a Japanese journalist shot and American humvees stolen from a NATO convoy to Afghanistan.

I’ve been coming to Pakistan for 26 years, ever since I hid on the tops of buses to sneak into tribal areas as a backpacking university student, and I’ve never found Pakistanis so gloomy. Some worry that militants, nurtured by illiteracy and a failed education system, will overrun the country or that the nation will break apart. I’m not quite that pessimistic, but it’s very likely that the next major terror attack in the West is being planned by extremists here in Pakistan.


The President-elect and India

Martha Nussbaum in 3quarksdaily:

I should like to focus on a letter written by then-candidate Obama to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, dated September 23, 2008, and published in India Abroad, the October 10 issue. I address these remarks to my former University of Chicago Law School colleague in the spirit of the type of respectful yet searching criticism that I know he will recognize as a hallmark of our faculty workshops and discussions.

The Obama letter has three slightly disturbing characteristics.

First, the letter gives lengthy praise to the nuclear deal, without acknowledging the widespread debate about the wisdom of that deal in both nations. Perhaps, however, this silence simply reflects politeness: Obama is surely aware that Singh has been an enthusiastic backer of the deal, risking much political capital in the process.

Second, the letter speaks of future cooperation that will “tap the creativity and dynamism of our entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists,” particularly in the area of alternative energy sources, but never mentions a future partnership in the effort to eradicate poverty and illiteracy. This silence, unlike the first, cannot be explained by politeness, since Singh has devoted a great deal of attention to issues of rural poverty, and it is plausible to think that he could have gotten a lot further had he had more help from abroad.

[Martha Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at The University of Chicago, and the author of The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future.]


India’s dangerous response to the meltdown

There are ‘dangerous’ signs that the global financial crisis may push back some capitalist influences that finally brought India some measure of prosperity, writes Shashi Tharoor in The Daily Beast

marketsThough the historic election of Barack Obama has taken our minds off the convulsions in the international financial markets, the brevity of the stock-market rally that followed confirms widespread skepticism about the health of global capitalism. Indeed, the recent economic setbacks have provoked an unseemly amount of gloating on the part of many in the developing world. That Presidents Fidel Castro and Mohammed Ahmedinejad should pronounce themselves vindicated by the crisis is hardly surprising, since capitalism has over the years been so strongly identified with America that both see the problem through the lens of their own anti-Americanism. A worrying number of people in India, though, are saying similar things. There’s a real danger that India’s political classes could find themselves persuaded by this lapse into historical amnesia.


Obama’s Indian: The many faces of Sonal Shah

[Updated on November 14]

Vijay Prashad in CounterPunch [via 3quarksdaily]:

sonal1But there is a less typical side to the Shah story. Born in Gujarat, India, Shah came to the United States as a two-year old. Her father, a chemical engineer, first worked in New York before moving to Houston, and then moving away from his education toward the stock market. The Shahs remain active in Houston’s Indian community, not only in the ecumenical Gujarati Samaj (a society for people from Gujarat), but also in the far more cruel organizations of the Hindu Right, such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Overseas Friends of the BJP (the main political party of the Hindu Right) and the Ekal Vidyalaya. Shah’s parents, Ramesh and Kokila, not only work as volunteers for these outfits, but they also held positions of authority in them. Their daughter was not far behind. She was an active member of the VHPA, the U. S. branch of the most virulently fascistic outfit within India. The VHP’s head, Ashok Singhal, believes that his organization should “inculcate a fear psychosis among [India's] Muslim community.” This was Shah’s boss. Till 2001, Shah was the National Coordinator of the VHPA.

[Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT.]


The Sonal Shah controversy:

And here is Reuben Abraham’s defence of Sonal Shah [via India Uncut]

And Vijay Prashad again in CounterPunch [via 3quarksdaily]: Guilt by participation

Previously in AW: Indian-born women figure on Obama’s A team

Indian-born women figure on Obama’s A team


Indian-American Sonal Shah, a 40-year-old economist who heads Google’s philanthropic arm has been appointed an advisory board member by President-elect Barack Obama to assist his team make a smooth transition to power.

To read a brief backgrounder on her at Changemakers, click here. For news links click here, here and here.

Meanwhile, Preeta Bansal, a partner at the international law firm Skadden Arps, who was a senior advisor on the Obama campaign, is being tipped to play a significant role in the new Obama administration and speculation is rife that she could be the new solicitor general. Read that report in the Am Law Daily here.

Sonal Shah: The girl from Sabarkantha

From the Times of India:

Born in Mumbai, Sonal completed her studies in US after her father Ramesh Shah moved from Gujarat to New York in 1970. She, along with her sister and mother, joined him in 1972.

While Sonal, the eldest sibling, grew up in US, India helped define her strong social service values, says sister Roopal. “Sonal believes strongly in the power of young people to make a difference like Obama, she too believes in the spirit of service and the spirit of sacrifice…”


Obama and the (bleep) K word

Hours before the American people decide on their next President, Democrat presidential candidate (and front-runner) Barack Obama hit a raw nerve in India with his comments on Kashmir. “We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants,” Obama told Rachel Maddow of MSNBC in response to a question on why he believed more American troops were needed in Afghanistan.

India, always prickly about third party intervention (its stand is that Kashmir is an ‘internal problem’ that is nobody’s business but its own) was quick to respond. Defence and security analyst C Raja Mohan warned in The Indian Express: “If Obama’s Kashmir thesis becomes the policy, many negative consequences might ensue.”

Officially, India has downplayed Obama’s Kashmir comments. But BJP party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said they were “an unwarranted interference in India’s internal affairs”.

Obama’s statement has been welcomed by Kashmiri separatists, including the Kashmiri American Council

Obama’s stand on Kashmir — and his view that the solution to Afghanistan lies in Pakistan both because al Qaeda and the Taliban are based there and also because it suits Pakistan to back Islamic militants against India — are not particularly new. Obama visited Afghanistan in July and had at the time also voiced his opinion on the need for the US to work towards improving relationships between India and Pakistan.

Read the transcript of Barack Obama’s interview here.

Bollywood for Barack Obama


We spotted this on a travel blog. Any comment?

Obama’s In-box

From The New Yorker:

On July 27, 2004, a friend invited Guru Raj to create a Google e-mail account. A recent graduate of the University of Virginia, Raj, then twenty-one, was watching the Democratic National Convention on a television in his parents’ basement, in Norcross, Georgia. The beta version of Gmail-available by invitation only-was less than four months old at the time, and largely unproved, but Raj’s U.V.A. e-mail account was set to expire in a few weeks, so he decided to give Gmail a try.

At first, Raj tried to create an address using his own name, but, remarkably, both gururaj@gmail.com and rajguru@gmail.com were already taken. So he tried the name of the young senator from Illinois who was giving the Democratic keynote address on TV. To his surprise, it worked, and, moments later, barackobama@gmail.com was quietly born. “I’m not some cute little Indian boy who grew up in America with political aspirations,” Raj, the first in his family to be born an American citizen, said recently. “I just thought it would be kind of funny to create an e-mail address based on a random senator whose name no one could spell.”


Spitting image: Obama and Mayawati

One is a Black Presidential candidate, the other a putative Dalit Prime Minister-in-waiting. What else in common do Barack Obama and Mayawati share, asks G Sampath in DNA

Barack Obama and Kumari Mayawati have a lot in common. One is a Black politician who represents the great liberal hope in the US. The other is poised to usher in a new political order where the oppressed castes will finally get their due in a polity traditionally dominated by upper castes.

Or so we are told. If one day either of them assumes the mantle of the highest executive post in their country, it will mark a victory for democracy, with historically marginalised minorities finally getting their turn at the helm of power. Really?


Barack Obama on India and Pakistan

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. In Outlook, an exclusive interview by Ashish Kumar Sen:

On his India connection: Mahatma Gandhi is his inspiration. As an anthropologist, his mother did work in rural India. Considers himself fortunate to have close Indian-American friends. His mother exposed him to different cultures, including India’s.

On Outsourcing: Believes workers in the US have to compete with those in Bangalore or Beijing, an irreversible feature of the world intricately interconnected because of IT. But to make globalisation work for American employees, he plans to offer tax incentives to those who create jobs in the US.


Obama, being called a Muslim is not a smear

Naomi Klein in The Nation argues that Barack Obama must refute the racist implication that being a Muslim, which he is not, is a source of shame 

Hillary Clinton denied leaking the photo of Barack Obama wearing a turban, but her campaign manager says that even if she had, it would be no big deal. “Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely.”

Sure she did. And George W. Bush put on a fetching Chamato poncho in Santiago, while Paul Wolfowitz burned up YouTube with his antimalarial African dance routines when he was World Bank prez. The obvious difference is this: when white politicians go ethnic, they just look funny. When a black presidential contender does it, he looks foreign. And when the ethnic apparel in question is vaguely reminiscent of the clothing worn by Iraqi and Afghan fighters (at least to many Fox viewers, who think any headdress other than a baseball cap is a declaration of war on America), the image is downright frightening.


How about every adult in the world voting in the US election?

Vinay Lal, who teaches history at University of California, Los Angeles, in Hindustan Times:

Every four years, the world is taken on a roller-coaster ride as Americans cast their vote for the President of the United States. Though votes are also cast to fill vacancies in the Congress, state governorships, and other state and local offices, the story of the quest for the presidency is an all-consuming affair. This year’s race for the White House has everywhere generated more than the usual excitement, and understandably so. For the first time in American history, the Anglo-Saxon white male’s iron-clad grip over this office seems to have been put into question. Had Hillary Clinton been the sole Democratic frontrunner, she would already have ‘made history’. All but poised to claim victory as the nominee of the Democratic Party, she suddenly found more than a worthy contender in Barack Obama, who is not only young but, from his father’s side, of African descent. In a country where nearly one out of every three African American males will, in his lifetime, have had some experience with the criminal justice system, the political ascendancy of Obama is an unexpected political phenomenon.