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First impressions: Obama treading carefully in Mumbai

By Rama Lakshmi

First impressions count for a lot.

When President Obama arrived in Mumbai on Saturday, many Indian commentators on television debates wondered if he would echo India's concerns on the issues of outsourcing as well as terrorism and whether he would assure that Indians receive a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

But Obama's somber speech commemorating the deaths at the Taj hotel, the site of a siege in November 2008, did not mention "Pakistan" or "terrorists."

TV news anchors and analysts accused Obama of soft-pedaling the issue of terrorism and not demanding effective action from Pakistan, from where the gunmen hailed. Within minutes, India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said: "It was a complete disappointmen. ...We were expecting a hard-hitting statement from the U.S. president on the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack."

When Obama talked about defense and aircraft deals that would generate more than 50,000 jobs for Americans, the TV pundits asked: What is in it for India?

"Everything is going there. Its all one way," Rahul Bajaj, a powerful Indian industrialist told reporters.

But others saw Obama's approach as pragmatic for the economic and political landscape in the United States.

"The $ 10 billion worth of deals he mentioned is most significant because it is meant for his people back home in America," said Avirook Sen, author of the new book "Looking for America," a travelogue of the Obama-obsessed United States in 2008. "He is a very good communicator. So he would not mention Pakistan or any other tricky issue on the first day. What he is saying is: 'Let's get what we want on the table right away. Let's not have any controversy spoil the business end of this trip.' "

By Rama Lakshmi  | November 6, 2010; 11:29 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Comments

I think the Obamas staying at the Taj Palace is symbolic enough and sends a strong message to Pakistan. Look, nations act in their self interests. It just so happens Indias and the U.S.'s coincide quite a bit across economic, geopolitical and political issues. The U.S. needs Pakistan to do what it has to do in Afghanistan and get the hell out. The Paks have been told in no uncertain terms during 3 days in the U.S. that they will be continued to be used as door mats and tips will be forthcoming if they cooperate.

Posted by: rudy10s | November 6, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

The five-day festival of Diwali -- often referred to as the festival of lights -- will take place while the president is in India, and he is scheduled to celebrate with schoolchildren in Mumbai. It won't be the first time President Obama has participated in the most important Hindu festival of the year; the White House hosted its first-ever Diwali celebration last year.

Posted by: *Futurejumps | November 6, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

It is note worthy that President Obama will meet with Va. Mother and wife of Mumbai victims of the Islam terrorist attack on Taj Mahal Palace & Tower. Obama should also at least acknowledge the victims and Iraqi families killed in Baghdad. Read carefully what happened.

Last Sunday in Baghdad at the Catholic church of Our Lady of Salvation, 58 Iraqi Christians were killed by Islam terrorists and 78 Christians were wounded. One witness said, “It was a massacre in there.” Iraqi police said the Islam terrorists were not all from Iraqi. Gunmen held Christians worshipping in the church hostage and a Isalm “suicide bomber” set off an explosive.

The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on the Catholic Church in Baghdad. All the Obama White House had to say is that hostage taking and mass killing was senseless. Islam terrorist killers threatened to continue killing attacks on Christians in Baghdad until two women Muslim converts to the Islam religion are released from Egypt.

This Islam terrorist killing attack on Christians in Iraq is a religious matter. It shows a difference of two religions. Islam kills Christians to free converts to their religion, while Christians believe the martyrs of the killing massacre will one day be dressed in white robes before the throne of God and in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ who comfort them in the glory of God. Read the book of Revelation in the Bible.

Some news readers were concerned about the media coverage and said the death toll from Sunday’s massacre of Iraqi Christians at a Baghdad church has reached 58 dead and 78 wounded. Human rights leaders are rebuking the White House for its generic condemnation, which did not mention that the terrorists’ victims were Christians or attending church. Why keep this from the American people?

Posted by: klausdmk | November 6, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

It is note worthy that President Obama will meet with Va. Mother and wife of Mumbai victims of the Islam terrorist attack on Taj Mahal Palace & Tower. Obama should also at least acknowledge the victims and Iraqi families killed in Baghdad. Read carefully what happened.

Last Sunday in Baghdad at the Catholic church of Our Lady of Salvation, 58 Iraqi Christians were killed by Islam terrorists and 78 Christians were wounded. One witness said, “It was a massacre in there.” Iraqi police said the Islam terrorists were not all from Iraqi. Gunmen held Christians worshipping in the church hostage and a Isalm “suicide bomber” set off an explosive.

The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on the Catholic Church in Baghdad. All the Obama White House had to say is that hostage taking and mass killing was senseless. Islam terrorist killers threatened to continue killing attacks on Christians in Baghdad until two women Muslim converts to the Islam religion are released from Egypt.

This Islam terrorist killing attack on Christians in Iraq is a religious matter. It shows a difference of two religions. Islam kills Christians to free converts to their religion, while Christians believe the martyrs of the killing massacre will one day be dressed in white robes before the throne of God and in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ who comfort them in the glory of God. Read the book of Revelation in the Bible.

Some news readers were concerned about the media coverage and said the death toll from Sunday’s massacre of Iraqi Christians at a Baghdad church has reached 58 dead and 78 wounded. Human rights leaders are rebuking the White House for its generic condemnation, which did not mention that the terrorists’ victims were Christians or attending church. Why keep this from the American people?

Posted by: klausdmk | November 6, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I've been watching NDTV live online. I didn't get the same impression you did. Probably a different channel. They seem quite taken with Michelle and seem to like Obama more than the harsh treatment he receives in the US.

Posted by: carolerae48 | November 6, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

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