Former US President Barack Obama’s memoirs, released on Tuesday, have caused some ripples in India, especially his unflattering remarks about Rahul Gandhi of the opposition Congress party. The autobiography also has references to Obama’s India visit.
In his latest book, former US President Barack Obama stated that Pakistan’s military and its intelligence arm, the ISI, quietly assisted the Taliban “as a means of keeping the Afghan government weak and the hedging against Kabul’s potential alignment with Pakistan’s arch rival, India”.
In his memoirs “A Promised Land”, Obama wrote that the US had also “tolerated” such behaviour from a purported ally – supporting it with billions of dollars in military and economic aid despite its complicity with violent extremists and its record as a significant and irresponsible proliferator of nuclear weapons technology in the world.
Obama remarked that a complete cut-off of military aid to Islamabad wasn’t an option, since the US had to rely on the overland routes through Pakistan to supply its Afghanistan operations. The former president, however, admitted that Pakistan tacitly helped and facilitated the United States in its “counter terrorism efforts against al-Qaeda camps within its territory’’.
‘’Unless Pakistan stopped sheltering the Taliban, our efforts at long-term stability in Afghanistan were bound to fail,’’ he wrote.
About India’s former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Obama wrote “…with a white beard and a turban that were the marks of his Sikh faith, but to the Western eye lent him the air of a holy man”. But Obama acknowledged that Singh had engineered the modernisation of India’s economy.
“For the duration of his tenure as prime minister, I would find Singh to be wise, thoughtful, and scrupulously honest”, wrote Obama.
The former US president revealed that India had always held a special place in his imagination – by its sheer size, diverse culture and demography, which he attributed to listening to the “epic Hindu tales of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata”.
He also expressed his fascination with Indian cuisines like dahl (lentil) and keema (minced meat) and with Bollywood movies, which was triggered by a group of Indian and Pakistani college friends.
On Indo-Pakistan relations, Obama wrote that “…hostility toward Pakistan was still the quickest route to national unity”.
“…many Indians taking great pride in the knowledge that their country had developed a nuclear weapons program to match Pakistan’s, untroubled by the fact that a single miscalculation by either side could risk regional annihilation”, reads his memoir.
Obama’s presidency began on 20 January 2009 and lasted until 20 January 2017. During this period, he visited India twice – the first president to visit India two times. The first visit was in November 2010 and the second in 2015, as the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the United States in September 2014 and again in September 2015, as well as in March and June 2016 during Obama’s presidency.
During Prime Minister Modi’s first trip, India and the US signed the Vision Statement for the India-US Strategic Partnership.
New Delhi and Washington signed the Delhi Declaration of Friendship during the visit of President Obama in 2015, and adopted the Joint Strategic Vision for Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region.
Both countries updated the Defence Framework Agreement in June 2016 and renewed it for another 10 years. Later, in August 2016, India and the United States signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Association (LEMOA), which New Delhi activated for the first time recently in October to acquire cold weather clothing for the Indian Army.