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Joyeeta Basu is the Editor of The Sunday Guardian.

Reality in the time of collective swoon

At a time when the Indian media is in a state of collective swoon, also known as the Obama effect, a note of reality. A permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council is anything but certain. It may happen, it may not, perhaps in the not-so-near future. The reforms needed to get India a place on that high table of moth-eaten "world powers" like Britain and France may take ages to be ushered in. And here we are not even going into the obstacles, and opposition, to be surmounted.

The President of the United States endorsed India's name, but did not specify what he would do to ensure India that place. But in almost the same breath he inserted two caveats: one, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which India has resolutely refused to sign; and two, Iran, which is a bugbear for the US, but not for India. His exact words were: "We have put preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism at the top of our nuclear agenda, and strengthened the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." The reference was too obvious to ignore.

The mention of Burma was more incidental, although in this case Barack Obama was at his preachy best, scolding the truant child that is India, conveniently ignoring the US' own track record of being involved in dirty wars around the globe, to give just one instance.

The western press has already dubbed Obama's endorsement as an effort to counter China. "Symbolic than substantive" was how the New York Times described it. All that rhetoric about shared values and Indian greatness was driven by compulsions of realpolitik. It was also a not-so-subtle attempt to massage the ego of the host country. Incidentally, this is the same President who not too far back was talking about China having a role to play in resolving disputes in South Asia. But now we have to believe that on Monday afternoon he discovered how great a country India was.

Obama had come with a clear-cut objective: to sell American goods to India. The First Salesman of America did a decent job of that, and left the door open for more. It is a different matter that creating 50,000 jobs may not work at a time when he is being described by the average American as Nero, dancing in India when America is burning.

The President, however, excelled in dancing around the Pakistan issue. He smartly deflected all questions directed at him on terror. A mention here and a mention there of terror camps on Pakistani soil do not amount to action, which this country is demanding.As the mirage of a permanent UNSC seat hovers on the horizon, let's not allow the pretty pictures and prettier speeches addle our brains.

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