Just as in another three months, India will have a new government, in another nine months the United States too will have a new government, except that in the case of India the new government may still be the present government re-elected while in the United States, the new government may have a new president. Who can it be?
Will George Bush be crushed by his Democrat opponent, a man called John F. Kerry? John F. Kerry, it may be noticed, has the same initials (JFK) as a former President John F. Kennedy. Like Kennedy, Senator Kerry, too, comes from a rich family. His wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, is a billionaire and in the United States money, like family connections, counts a great deal.
For all its pretensions to democracy and its alleged disdain of elitism, one can see in America a healthy respect for dynasticism and tradition. The word ?Brahmin? in America connotes not high caste, but high class and for some one to be described as hailing from ?the purest of Brahmin stock??as these days Kerry is being described?means that Kerry comes from high class society with long tradition coupled with social status. So here is a man, rich in his own rights, already a Senator with a social standing, comparable to that of a John Kennedy or a Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who attended the best of schools and one of the best of American universities, notably Yale, who is most likely to be the choice of the Democratic Party in the coming presidential elections and already there is talk of George W. Bush being displaced by a newcomer come November 2004. Not much is known about Kerry to the outside world though; apparently, he is already popular in Europe. That is understandable, considering that Kerry'sparents emigrated from Austria to America before the Second World War and by origin, were Jews. Their original name was John but they got converted to Roman Catholicism and took on the name Kerry.
Should John Kerry get elected as president, he would be the second Roman Catholic?after John Kennedy?to be elected to the highest office in the land. As matters stand, already in 12 out of 15 states Kerry has turned out to be the choice of the Democratic Party. One by one his rivals to party nomination, like Howard Dean have dropped out. Three others, Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberhann and Wesley Clarke who were aspirants to party nomination to presidential candidature have withdrawn from the competition which means that John F. Kerry will soon be anointed as the Democratic Party'sofficial candidate to fight the presidential elections towards the end of the year.
Who is popular?
According to surveys so far made, Kerry is as much popular among the Blacks as among the Whites and the powerful trade unions are on his side. If George Bush is known as a champion fund-raiser, reports suggest that Kerry is no mean practitioner of the art himself, apart from the fact that his family on its own rolls in wealth. In face to face debate Kerry, it is claimed, can crush Bush easily. And considering that Bush has been caught telling a lie about the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, a debate between Bush and Kerry is very likely going to be a battle of ideas, if not ideologies. Should Kerry get elected, how will that effect Indo-American relations? Not much is known about Kerry'sthoughts on Asia, especially South Asia. Most American politicians?and Kerry can'tbe an exception?are singularly ignorant of Asia. The only exception in the last fifty years may have been John F. Kennedy. From the times of President Roosevelt, the United States has had a succession of Presidents?be it a Truman, an Eisenhower, a Johnson, a Nixon or for that matter a Clinton, let alone a Carter?who were blissfully ignorant of India and had to be educated. Kerry is supposed to be very knowledgeable about Europe but, considering his origins, that should come as no surprise. Reportedly he speaks French fluently which is a plus-point. His wife Teresa (born in Mozambique to Portuguese parents) reportedly speaks four other languages which, surely, is of great advantage. A first cousin of Kerry?a man called Brice Lalonde?is a well-known French politician and a former Minister of Environment. In that sense Kerry has excellent European connections. The Left-wing French daily Liberation has been quoted as saying that Kerry is ?the kind of American we like?. No wonder! But is he the kind of American that India would like? Let it be remembered that during his first term?and early years as President?Clinton was no friend of India and indeed was a strong critic. It was only in his later years that he came to appreciate what India stands for. This would suggest that India must take the first opportunity to take on hand the education of John F. Kerry on matters pertaining to South Asia and not leave anything to chance. This calls for urgent action on the part not only of Delhi, but of NRIs who should have easy access to the Democrat aspirant to the US presidency.
Not for granted
This is not to say that we should take the defeat of George Bush for granted. One can expect him to put up a stiff fight. But the more American soldiers get killed in Iraq, the less support he is likely to get from the American voter. The United States, as a power, may want to be aggressive, but the American voter has no stomach for a war, especially when its objectives are vague and the death count is rising. Iraq is not Vietnam. The United States got involved in Vietnam for entirely wrong reasons. Poor George Bush should have learnt a lesson from the Vietnam experiment. That he has failed to do and very likely that may cost him his presidentship. That is precisely the reason why Delhi must keep a wary eye on the likely Democratic Party nominee. India cannot afford to have a President who is ignorant of South Asian history and blunders his way, in the formulation of an Asian foreign policy. From the time of John Foster Dulles to that of Henry Kissinger we have had a succession of political ignoramuses who have mistakenly chosen Pakistan as a political partner in South Asia. True, conditions have changed to the point that even a Clinton had come to realise the importance of India as now Bush has. But India cannot leave anything to chance, especially when it is on the verge of a break-through in Indo-Pakistan relations. Does Delhi have any plan to establish direct links with Kerry? Presently international focus is at two points in the world map: Baghdad and Islamabad, and for two entirely different reasons. If American approaches to them fail, the consequences would be very severe. Kerry, in the circumstances, needs to be fully and meaningfully apprised of the changing scenario in South Asia and also of India'srelationships with China and the time is now. George W. Bush won his last presidential election by the skin of his teeth and, one suspects, through means not entirely honourable. This time the competition is expected to be tougher. Not many Presidents have been lucky in getting two consecutive terms and if George Bush is not aware of that, there is no reason why India should not be. A whole new way of life is evolving in South Asia and a future US President should be alerted to that.