x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Indians cheer Obama victory

Through the morning local time, as states began to be called in favour of one candidate or another, social-media networks lit up.

Indian students react in front of photographers next to a cardboard cutout of President Barack Obama after he was projected as the winner of the US presidential election. AP Photo / Kevin Frayer
Indian students react in front of photographers next to a cardboard cutout of President Barack Obama after he was projected as the winner of the US presidential election. AP Photo / Kevin Frayer

NEW DELHI // Although it lacked the euphoria and the obsessive national coverage of 2008, India cheered the re-election of Barack Obama as the US president.

Through the morning local time, as states began to be called in favour of one candidate or another, social-media networks lit up with comments that largely celebrated the way the race was heading.

Shreya Rao, a lawyer living in Bangalore, suggested that Indians, like many people elsewhere, were still enamoured with Mr Obama's personality.

"Maybe it has to do with the fact that he comes closer to the 'Hero' figure than most other public or political figures," Ms Rao said yesterday. "Women love his combination of good looks, power, education and fame, men aspire to be there, and we are all taken in by the romance of his story."

The Indian government's official response adhered to stodgier boilerplate.

"The Government and people of India send their congratulations to President Obama on his winning a second mandate," a statement from the ministry of external affairs said. "India and the US have developed extensive bilateral cooperation and partnership based on shared values based on belief in democracy, the rule of law and pluralism. We look forward to continuing to deepen and widen the engagement … in the years ahead."

Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, predicted further incremental improvements in India-US ties in Mr Obama's second presidency.

But he said that a win for Mitt Romney may have drawn the two countries closer.

"George W Bush laid out this policy of befriending India and established the foundation of the US-India partnership, and I think Romney would have provided a clear policy in that vain," Mr Chellaney said.

"Obama extended Bush's policy but without seeking to especially court India," he said. "I think he'll continue in that manner, not really singling out India, and instead allowing the markets and other forces to bring the two countries together."

In a statement, India'sNational Association of Software and Service Companies, chose to press its primary concern: the difficulty and expense of obtaining visas for Indian software professionals working in the US.

The organisation and Mr Obama, the statement said, agreed on the shortage of such professionals, and they both supported "expanding the visa programme so that highly skilled workers can help companies lead the way on innovation and contribute additional jobs and economic growth in the United States".

But some India business leaders expressed concerns about the United States' stance on outsourcing following Mr Obama's re-election.

Mr Obama criticised outsourcing during the presidential campaign, arguing in favour of creating jobs in the United States.

"We hope that the new Obama administration will take a long-term and practical view on issues such as outsourcing, said RV Kanoria,the president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).

Practices such as outsourcing "ultimately are in the US national interest because they help US companies drive down costs paving the way for expansion", Mr Kanoria added.

"Outsourcing is also a concern and I hope it will be addressed soon," Adi Godrej,the chairman of the Indian conglomerate Godrej, was reported as saying by the Press Trust of India.

Indian companies have created about 20,000 jobs in the US during the last two years, according to Ficci.

"[We] expect the new administration to set the US economy firmly on the path of revival and robust growth," Ficci said in a statement. "This would be of great significance for the world economy and Indian exporters should be looking at a sustained rise in demand in the US."

SSubramanian@thenational.ae