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Santosh Kumar asked: How did Obama's trip benefit India? Did this trip help in softening Obama's stand on outsourcing?

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  • Cherian Samuel replies: President Obama’s visit afforded both tangible and intangible benefits to India. The tangible benefits, amongst others, included US backing for India’s quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and the removal of curbs on Indian defence and space related organisations from collaborating with their American counter-parts. The intangible benefits of the visit included the restoration of India-US relations to an even keel after a distinct cooling of relations between the two countries as the Obama Administration struggled to bring out its own distinct imprint on US foreign policy through initiatives such as the Af-Pak policy and the still-born G2 concept which envisaged close co-operation between the United States and China on global and regional issues. The wheel has now come full circle with President Obama’s speech to the joint session of the Indian Parliament carrying forward the framework of partnership laid out in the Strategic Partnership Document of 2005.

    Obama’s stand on outsourcing is partly the outcome of the fact that crucial support to the Democratic Party comes from the middle class and the trade unions, constituencies that have been badly affected by the Global Recession. With the US unemployment rate more than doubling from 4.4% in 2008(May) to 10.6% in 2010(Jan), the attacks against outsourcing have only grown shriller, and the political class has had to respond with more than rhetoric and passed legislation largely affecting Indian outsourcing companies. With the end of mid-term state and national elections, President Obama took the first step to tone down the rhetoric in interactions in Mumbai and Delhi. Prime Minister Singh also took the opportunity to speak to an American audience during the joint press conference where he resolutely declared that “Indians were not in the business of stealing American jobs”. Whilst outsourcing will continue to be a thorny issue, both countries will have to find the middle path between the American view that outsourcing is a minor issue that should have limited place in discussions, and the reality in India of the outsourcing industry having acquired iconic status through catapulting India into its current position as an IT superpower, and the human element of increasing harassment of Indians workers in the United States through the new legislation and stricter enforcement of existing rules.