It has been a long, long way from the time when Abraham Lincoln fought a bloody Civil War (1861-1865) to liberate the blacks, a long way since the blacks in Montgomery, Alabama rose in anger on December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks was refused a front row seat in a public transport bus because of her colour, leading the way for a till-then unknown Martin Luther King to make a powerful plea for the true liberation of his people. It is still acons away from the days when murderous gangs of the racist Klu Kux Klan could publicly hang blacks for the slightest offence out there in southern United States. But now Martin Luther King'sdream has at last been fulfilled.
A social revolution of unbelievable magnitude has just overtaken America, this time liberating not the blacks but the Whites themselves from their awful past. The statue of Lincoln in Washington surely would be smiling as a presidential motorcade honouring the newly installed president passes by. It is a great moment not just in the history of the United States, but of the world itself. If a Nation merits a Nobel Prize for Peace, this year'sAward should surely go to the US and the world will applaud the decision. Only in America could a half white half black, half African half American, half Muslim half Christian get elevated to the country'shighest job. This is democracy at its peak. Americans wanted change, and no better individual could have fitted the chair than Barack Hussein Obama. His is a victory by a stunning margin of 338 to 139, not just of an individual but of an entirely new system and it has occurred just when the US is in retreat as a world power and in obvious decline.
Can Obama reverse the trend? Will he, for example, withdraw US military presence, at great cost, from 130 of the world's195 countries? Can he, like his predecessors, function arbitrarily disrespectful of the United Nations, showing blatant disregard to Pakistan's independent status in the matter of Islamic terrorists, opting out of or denying financial contributions to international bodies like the UNSCO? Can he?will he?withdraw troops from Iraq as the Nixon-Kissinger duo was forced to do from Vietnam? What sort of change does he really have in mind, and, just as importantly, will he dare to ignore the financial bigwigs and Corporate Nabobs who have invariably been the powers behind-the-scene?
George Bush may have been a replica of Herbert Hoover but can Obama outdo Franklin Delano Roosevelt? At the domestic level, apart from the ongoing recession, Obama has to face up to the fact that 45 million Americans have no health insurance, banks have to be financed upwards of $ 700 billion to keep them going, if only to prevent collapse of the entire economy that could further trigger off damage world-wide, initiate a new deal parallel to the one Roosevelt did in the 1930s to create new jobs and strengthen existing ones, and, at the international level come to terms with the ascendancy of China, not to speak of an India aiming at the skies?
He is on record as saying that the US and India are ?natural allies?, that building a ?strategic partnership? with India is his ?top priority? and that he is not going to minimise outsourcing of jobs to any country. That is a relief. He is also quoted as saying that Pakistan needs to be convinced that its ?biggest threat? is not India, but militants within its own borders. Obama wants Pakistan to ?democratise?, even when conceding that it is now a ?fledging democracy? which needs to be further strengthened not by ?just providing military aid? but by helping it ?to provide concrete solutions to the poverty and lack of education that exists in Pakistan?.
He wants to increase ?non-military aid? to Pakistan, which is fair enough, only the new President should know that all these years Pakistan'smilitary leaders have been frequently diverting economic aid to military purchases, and not without the knowledge, if not the nod, of the authorities in Washington. One does not know how much aware Obama is of South Asian history. Most American Presidents, if not all, it is a recorded fact, have been notoriously ignorant of Indian compulsions, but if Obama is serious about introducing changes in international relations, he will have to be sensitive to Indian concerns over a wide range of issues, not the least being Jammu & Kashmir, not to mention China. And, for all his good intentions, India can hardly afford to forget the support it pastly received from the Soviet Union and subsequently from Russia.
Happily, in formulating his political policies Obama can now depend on full congressional support, considering that the Democrats have won a majority in both houses. Given the need for change, the election of Obama was practically pre-destined and right from the start, John McCain, the Republic presidential candidate must have known it. George Bush whose popularity rating had taken an ultimate dip to 22 per cent?about the lowest ever?had become an unbearable burden on him. And for all his stunning victory over McCain, Obama will still have to reckon with opponents in a heavily white society which is painfully aware that of a total of some 2.3 million prison population (a world record!) blacks constitute 40 per cent.
Obama will have to face the further fact that having been a Super Power since the end of the Second World War, he now has to face challenge not from Russia or the European Union but from China, to start with. His desire to seek a ?strategic partnership? with India must be seen in the context of current world affairs. It is India which must influence Obama in fashioning foreign policy?and not the other way round, be it in regard to Iran or on any other issue.
There are reports that Obama will link the US-India Nuclear Deal with India signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which may be an instance of kite-flying, but whichever government comes to power in Delhi in the first quarter of 2009, it will have to make it clear to Washington that India is its own master and its foreign policy is not for sale and India will follow a course best suited to its own interests, even as self-interest has invariably dominated formulation of America'spolicies in the past. But right now it is for all purposes, the beginning of a new era in Indo-US relations and one can only pray that it will prove to be beneficial to both parties. Miracles can happen, considering that Obama'selection with a thumping majority is in itself a miracle of a kind never in the past anticipated.