Wednesday, March 01, 2006

From Kabul With Love

By now, President Bush should be on his way to New Delhi after his brief stop in Kabul and Afghanistan.

The link between the two places throughout history has always been strong. It was through the mountain passes of the Hindu Kush and through present Afghanistan that successive invading civilisations over the centuries entered the plains of northern India and made their impact on the subcontinent.

The massive Red Fort in Delhi was built by the Mughal imperial rulers of India in the 17th century. It was in the front of the Red Fort that the independence of the nation was declared by Nehru in 1947.

A plan to have President Bush deliver an address from its ramparts has allegedly been shelved for security reasons. The Red Fort is in a part of Delhi dominated mostly by its Muslim population.

The three-day visit will be a most important affair.

The nuclear deal I have written about earlier will be the subject of what well be very difficult negotiations. There is a hard-line nationalist line in the nuclear establishment that might not give in that easily. Their fast breeder-reactor seems to be at the core of the controversy over what can be opened up for international inspections and what can not.

We'll see the outcome in a couple of days.

But in a broader sense the visit will highlight the emergence of India as a major international player - both in terms of politics and economy. As an article in Times of India puts it:

"In many ways, what Bush will see is a far more confident India juggling deftly tradition and modernity, increasingly aware of its place under the global sun, with an economy growing steadily at the rate of eight percent per year and 300 million middle class consumers that exceed the population of the US."

"Bush, here on a maiden visit, comes to a country whose billion-plus people have shown an inexhaustible appetite for democracy and half of whom are younger than 25 - unlike China which has an ageing population - and an IT juggernaut that is flattening the world bringing Bangalore and Boston together."

It's a different India - and accordingly a different world. Posted by Picasa