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Bush drew mostly harsh reviews in India

COMMENTARY | March 06, 2006

Editorials, columns tended to be highly personal and unfavorable to Bush in comparing him to earlier presidential visitors Eisenhower, Bush Sr., and Clinton. A theme: 'Bush go home.'

By John Burke

PARIS---Speculation, pessimism and angst were the main responses outside the U.S. to Bush’s trip to India and the ensuing nuclear deal.

Accusations of a double standard, notoriously prevalent in outsiders’ view of American foreign policy, were once again raised as Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed an agreement that would enhance India’s nuclear capabilities while Iran is chided for developing its own nuclear power facilities.

Others figured that a strategic alliance with the world’s second-largest country in terms of population was only logical in countering the growing power of the largest, especially as concern over China grows in the United States.

Some saw ideology as the motivation for the deal; a friendly relationship with the world’s largest democracy, home to the world’s third-largest Muslim population, was viewed as helping the Bush administration as it tries to spread democracy throughout the Middle East.

But in general, the international press echoed the gigantic manifestations of the Indian population which came out in droves to protest the arrival of what may be the most internationally unpopular American head of state ever.


From the daily, The Hindu, 'George Bush Go Home:'

“Oh, and on the 2nd of March, Bush will be taken to visit Gandhi's memorial in Rajghat. He's by no means the only war criminal who has been invited by the Indian Government to lay flowers at Rajghat.

“But when George Bush places flowers on that famous slab of highly polished stone, millions of Indians will wince. It will be as though he has poured a pint of blood on the memory of Gandhi.

“We really would prefer that he didn't.

“George W. Bush, incumbent President of the United States of America, world nightmare incarnate, is just not welcome.”

A column in The Hindu, “From Eisenhower to Clinton to Bush” explores the history of India’s relations with various US administrations:

“Dwight Eisenhower, the first American President to visit free India, drove in an open car to a tumultuous welcome. That was in 1959, the Cold War was still raging fiercely, the United States was not particularly friendly to us, we felt sentimentally close to the Soviet Union; yet the Indian people turned out in huge numbers to welcome the visiting American President. That kind of reception certainly does not await Mr. Bush. His visit, instead, has invoked all the dormant emotions Indians feel towards the U.S.: outright hostility, unspoken suspicion, and a grudging admiration for the American model.”

The Times of India was rife with opinions concerning Bush’s visit:

US and India: partners, not allies

“Contrary to what Atal Bihari Vajpayee (former prime minister of India) claimed and George Bush now repeats, India and the US are not natural allies. They are, however, natural partners.

“The distinction is important. India cannot be an ally because, in its current mood, the USA does not want allies. Consider Bush's fury when France and Germany, old NATO allies, disagreed with his Iraq invasion. US politicians renamed French fries as 'freedom fries'.

“The fact is that 9/11 has transformed the US ability to act for the global good. Earlier, the US could proudly claim to have spearheaded the defeat of the two greatest tyrannies of the 20th century, fascism and communism.

“But this then made the US the only superpower. All power corrupts, and super-power corrupts superlatively.”

This op-ed entitled “Guest Control talks,” whose main focus is the traffic problems and inconveniences Bush’s visit would cause the Indian population, suggests that Bush isn’t really making any of the government’s decisions:

“There's no reason why Bush can't pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi at an earlier hour or visit Purana Qila after dinner. After all, his visit has largely symbolic value; back-room boys are doing the real wheeling and dealing.”

An opinion piece, ‘Origin of spices,’ talks of America’s growing willingness to taste foods from outside the country, but claims that Bush is less adventurous.

“George 'Dubya' Bush is a conservative not just in the political sense but also, it seems, in matters gastronomic. Unlike his predecessor Bill Clinton, saucy tales of whose pre-heart trouble gluttony is the lore of kitchens in Washington DC's Bombay Club and Delhi's Bukhara, Bush is not known to have succumbed to any spicy blandishments.

“Even his father, Bush I, is more adventurous, seeking out the Peking Duck Restaurant in Virginia in moments of nostalgia for his stint as the US ambassador in Beijing.

“But give Dubya a double cheeseburger any day, and he will chomp it down, confident that he can burn it off on the treadmill next day. The man is a fitness maniac.”

The author of this column called “Dubya-Wubya” sets himself inside Bush’s mind, a mind which in his opinion is not particularly intelligent:

“Condy says that the most important thing on my agenda in India is the nuclear deal. After all these years of sayin' 'no' to the Indian nuclear program, the US now wants to help India nuclearise like all get out.

“I ask Condy why. An' she tells me that if we don't give India nuclear energy, India and China will burn up all the world's oil. An' that would never do.

'Cos as a Texas oil man I know that it's only the US in general — an' Texas in particular — which has the God-given right to burn up all the world's oil.”

This Hindustan Times column, “We’re both democrats,” labels individuals  in the Bush administration by their political ideologies, labels which would no doubt be contested in other journals:

“A significant proportion of India's intelligentsia looks upon George W. Bush with derision. To them, he represents the image of a cowboy who shoots from the hip and a man who is least aware of the complexities of the world beyond the shores of the US. These people recall that when he took office, he couldn't remember the names of India's prime minister or that of Pakistan's president.

“Yet, it is the same Bush who took the strongest ever position in favour of India in his very first speech in the presidential campaign. And now, he has broken all norms of the US nuclear doctrine to make India an exception for supplying nuclear fuel. He brushed aside the  

'ayatollahs of non-proliferation' in Washington and took the decision against the views of many Congressmen and senators of his own party, leave aside the Democrats. What explains Bush's unwavering and substantive bond with India?

“What is the underpinning of Bush's India policy? Bush-Wolfowitz-Rice are Wilsonians in American foreign policy parlance. They do not believe in the passive Jeffersonian perspective that democracy is like a shining city on the hill, which will automatically attract all nations to emulate.”

An AC Nielsen Opinion Poll reported on in Outlook India shows that “66% say Bush is India’s Friend":

Is George Bush a friend of India?
Strongly agree: 21
Somewhat agree: 45
Neither agree nor disagree: 15
Somewhat disagree: 8
Strongly disagree: 11

What feelings come to mind when you think about the US?
Love the country: 46
Hate the country: 14
Neutral: 39

Do you think India can trust the US for support in times of need?
Yes: 55
No: 36
Don’t know/Can’t say: 9

Is America a bully?
Yes: 72
No: 24
Don’t know/Can’t say: 4

Who’s better for India—George Bush or the last president, Bill Clinton?
George Bush: 43
Bill Clinton: 49
Don’t know/Can’t say; 8

“India: The Real Reason for Bush’s Warm Embrace,” a leader from The Guardian found in Arab News, suspects that the US is always out to maintain its superpower status:

“America is determined to ensure that the rise of India, and its larger neighbor China, will not mean the decline of the US. Washington may be prepared to concede that there might be bigger economies in the world, but aims to remain pre-eminent in industrial power.

“To do so Washington is willing to restrict access to capital markets and technology, promoting its national interest under the guise of a moral foreign policy.”

The French conservative daily Le Figaro writes (in English) “Bush in India ... to Cement His Place in History:"

“Afghanistan, India, Pakistan. The voyage begun yesterday by George W. Bush in South Asia is not solely for diplomatic purposes. A few months before the midterm elections, which are very important for the Republican Party if it wants to retain a majority in the Congress, is 

also meant to have an impact on the other side of the Atlantic. Seen from the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan are lands of terrorism. As for India, a nuclear power, it is not a natural ally for Washington. The American president is thus looking to show his courage, 

and to show, two years before he retires from the White House, that he is not abandoning places he reached out to after the attacks of September 11, 2001. In short, Bush is working for history.”


There’s a first time for everything: this editorial from Arab News entitled “Positive Stand” agrees with Bush’s stance on the deal:

“The attempt by a group of US Congressman to block the takeover of six US ports by an Arab company is wrong. In vowing that he will veto any legislation that stops this purely commercial transaction, President Bush is showing wisdom.

“They fear that Arab management of US ports might offer an opportunity for international terrorists to attack the US.

“Unfortunately, this is bigoted nonsense that once again raises the deeply objectionable notion that all Muslims are terrorists.”

Le Figaro (in French) cites America’s mounting deficit as motivation for more economic isolationism under the headline “For protectionist Americans, the fight against terrorism provides support”:

“Can the United States remain a welcoming country for foreign investment if even companies originating from allies, be them Arab or not, are suspected of being infiltrated by terrorists? The old protectionist reflex, overcome in past decades thanks to the influence of “internationalists” form both parties, threatens to take the upper hand.

In reality, the amount of American exports is continually beaten by its imports. A deficit has resulted primarily from the excessive consumption of Americans and their weak savings. But no senator nor American politician would have the slightest chance of keeping their seat if they admitted out loud the simple truth. Just try telling a voter that he must buy less and save more!”

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