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The Romney Resurrection and India

Barack Obama enjoyed a seemingly unbeatable lead of many points in most opinion polls.

Written by C. Raja Mohan |
October 10, 2012 5:11:13 pm

A week,it is said,is a long time in politics. That sounds truer than ever as we look at the dramatic turn in the political fortunes of Mitt Romney,the Republican contender for American Presidency in the US elections.

A week ago,the talk was all about the implosion of the Romney campaign. Some were describing it as one of the worst led Republican campaigns in recent memory.

Barack Obama enjoyed a seemingly unbeatable lead of many points in most opinion polls. On top of it,Romney seemed to be trailing in all the important battle ground states like Ohio and Florida.

But within days after the first presidential debate between Obama and Romney last week watched by a record 70 million viewers,the electoral dynamic has turned upside down.

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More than two thirds of those polled after the debate said Romney had won the debate hands down. Supporters of Obama are shell-shocked at the President’s off-colour performance.

For the first time since he got the Republican nomination,Romney has now gained a slender lead over Obama in the opinion polls.

Even in the critical states like Ohio,Romney has closed in. Put simply,there is now a reasonable prospect that President Obama might not be able to win the second term.

To be sure,the Obama campaign will fight back to regain the high ground before the polling takes place on November 6. But there is no denying that it is a race and a tight one at that.

Until now,most of America’s major external interlocutors were generally complacent with the notion of continuity in Washington. India has been no exception.

Foreign policy establishments everywhere are comfortable dealing with status quo rather than change,which always introduces a measure of unpredictability into diplomacy.

Four years ago,Delhi was deeply uncomfortable with the prospects of the Obama presidency. The fear was that Obama might reverse or slow down some of the big initiatives of his predecessor who was much liked in India–George W. Bush.

Whatever the initial concerns of India and the impulses of Obama might have been,the India U.S. relationship has advanced steadily in the last four years. Four more years of Obama should help consolidate the bilateral relationship further.

Could a Romney presidency create new complications for the bilateral relationship? On the face of it,no. That he did not mention India in a major foreign policy speech on Monday is not the issue. The speech was not about policy but finding line a political attack on Obama’s perceived failures in the Middle East.

The Republican Party has in fact been far more enthusiastic about a strategic partnership with India. Its political platform has hailed India as a ‘geopolitical ally’.

Beyond the general rhetoric though,Romney seems to have little personal interest in India. A lot would depend on the kind of people he would appoint to the top slots in the Administration. As some would say personnel is often the policy.

Obama’s secretary of state,Hillary Clinton,was deeply committed to the bilateral partnership with India. As the first lady in her husband’s Administration and a member of the U.S. Senate and head of the India caucus in the U.S. Congress during the Bush years,Hillary Clinton brought great energy to the objective of boosting ties with Delhi.

A new President will take time to settle down. Romney will be further hampered by the deepening divisions within the Republican foreign policy establishment on how best to deal with the external challenges confronting America.

India should be prepared to manage a brief hiatus in the relationship with the U.S. and Delhi’s foreign policy managers must begin to scroll down their list of top Republican contacts.

(C. Raja Mohan is a Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation,Delhi and a Contributing Editor for the Indian Express)

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