If you don’t already know the details about Obama’s Indian adventure, you my friend have been trying really hard to avoid the media. Ever since it was made public that the US President Barack Obama was to be the Chief Guest of India’s Republic Day Parade, the India media has not relented in telling every Tom, Dick and Harry about the preparations underway. From the Presidential State Car aka the Beast to the dog squad, we’ve all been showered with the details. What we are also seeing is the serious mobilization of troops along the Line of Control to deter any terror attacks during the usually sensitive Republic Day Event made even more of a security nightmare due to Obama.
First of all, the visit is more of a diplomatic coup and photo-op than a serious bilateral visit. Obama has become a lame-duck President as both houses of the US Legislature are now ruled by the Republicans. Despite this, Obama is still the first US President to attend the Republic Day Parade as the Chief Guest and it’s probably the first time he will spend greater than 2 hours outdoors (thanks to the media highlighting this fact). All this will hardly matter if there are no positives to take away from the event except for the hype of hosting the leader of the free world.
The media obsession over the event in India is evident of the desperation for getting into the good books of the West. As Russia enters into a financially unstable position and the Chinese threat being omnipresent, India is surely trying to score brownie points. The media has begun banging us with the details about how there’s a CCTV camera at every 180 meters. This even prompted a reaction from the Delhi High Court which was quick to criticize how the government is putting up cameras for Obama and not for the general public, especially when the safety of women has become such an issue in the country. Also surprising was a statement by the US asking Pakistan to ensure that it doesn’t engage or promote any violent conflicts at the border. Cutting mobile networks in Agra for 3 hours while the US President visits the city, are we really that desperate?
Just as I write this, the media starts reporting that Obama’s visit to Agra maybe cancelled. Why does this have to make headlines? Do we really need to know about Obama’s detailed itinerary? Once he’s back on his Air Force One, not a single news channel is going to care about what happened. The media has therefore left no stone-unturned to exaggerate this visit and turn it into nothing more than a photo opportunity. By highlighting each and every aspect of Obama’s security, we are being presented an image that India is incapable of securing Obama’s safety. The truth is that the Modi administration is desperately trying to portray this event as a serious bilateral engagement instead of a glorified photo-opportunity, feel good event, which it actually is.