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Sunday, November 7

President Obama's visit to India, Day 2: Dancing literally and figuratively (Updated 3X)

November 8, 1:50 PM ET Update
Today's edition of The Hindu reports that the White House released the transcript of the speeches that President Obama and First Lady Michelle gave at St. Xavier's College. So now I'm happy. The Hindu published the transcript, which includes the Q&A session. So that's one thing I can cross off my Grousing List. I was in such a snit yesterday about sketchy reporting on the Q&A session (see below) that it didn't occur to me to check the White House website.
7:45 PM Update
A reader has taken pity on me and sent the following video links to Obama's speech at St. Xavier's. It just struck me: is this the reason, I wonder, why the modern press establishment has gotten so lazy? (See my grousing in the post below.) Do they think, 'What's the use of actually reporting on an event because everyone's going to watch it on YouTube anyhow?'

If that's how they're thinking don't they realize that when news gets reduced to everyone posting links to YouTube videos that few are going to take the time to watch, there's goes news reporting, not to mention democratic government, which depends on reporting of the news?

Sigh. Sigh.


8:45 PM Update
The reader who sent the video links just sent this helpful tidbit from Obama's Q&A session at St. Xavier's:

"Q. Why aren't you calling Pakistan a terrorist state?

A. blah blah blah The country that has the highest stake in a stable and prosperous Pakistan is India blah blah trust blah blah dialogue.
My reply:
Oh! So Obama NEVER DID answer the question! No wonder The Washington Post and The New York Times did handsprings to avoid hooking up his statement about a stable Pakistan with the "terrorist states" question! Those skunks!
End of Updates

The President gave a speech at St. Xavier's College in Mumbai then batted back tough questions from students about Pakistan. He and Michelle also viewed Green exhibits made by schoolchildren at Holy Name High School, took part in their Diwali celebration, and watched them perform traditional dances. From Reuters:
... Michelle led an initially hesitant president to join in, mimicking their dancing moves as White House aides laughed at their commander-in-chief.

Later in the afternoon, Obama landed in New Delhi and greeted the waiting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with a hug. The Obamas and the Singhs chatted with each other for a few minutes before the president went for a scheduled tour of a Mughal-era tomb. The leaders were to meet for dinner at Singh's residence later.
As to the speech -- it hasn't been published yet or it's been tucked away somewhere on the internet where I can't find it.

As to Obama's replies to the students' tough questions -- I wouldn't think of depriving you of the fun of trying to cobble together the exchanges from 16,000 or so news reports, all of which give a piece here and a piece there of the Q&A session. My pick for the worst reporting on what Obama said at St. Xavier's is this gem from the Wall Street Journal :
... Indian concerns were on full view at Sunday's back-and-forth in Mumbai. One woman questioned why Pakistan is so important an ally to the U.S. and why U.S. leaders had not called Pakistan "a terrorist state." A male student asked if Mr. Obama views Taliban control of Southern Afghanistan was inevitable.
Nope, the report does not supply Obama's answers to the questions quoted. You need to paw through reports from other news organizations and gaze into a crystal ball to get an idea of what his answers might have been.

The runner-up prize for crummy reporting on what Obama said at St Xavier's goes to The Washington Post, which sadistically titles its report, In India, Obama faces questions on U.S. relations with Pakistan. It starts out well enough:
MUMBAI - An audience of Indian college students challenged President Obama on Sunday over his administration's relationship with Pakistan's government, drawing a defensive response and a challenge of his own.

We want nothing more than a stable, prosperous and peaceful Pakistan," Obama told the students gathered in a courtyard of St. Xavier's College to see him. "But I'm also going to say something that may surprise you. The country that has the biggest stake in Pakistan's success is India."

The town hall event, featuring Obama as a professorial host, was a moment of unscripted public diplomacy as he sought to bridge the divide between two bitter rivals. Not only was Obama forced to explain some of the awkward elements of U.S. policy in South Asia, from support for Pakistan to his end game in Afghanistan, but he also provided a rare glimpse at the way he approaches his work.
At this point any reasonable person would think that the next sentences would be to describe what Obama said regarding the awkward elements of U.S. policy. The next sentences:
Encounters with young people have become staples of Obama's travels abroad, a nod to his appeal as a symbol of U.S. progress and tolerance. And in few countries will young people make more of a difference in the short term than here.

More than half of India's 1.2 billion people are under 30 years old, a promising market for U.S. goods and the foundation of a workforce driving the country's technical innovation.
It goes on and on like that and you keep thinking ta dum ta dee any day now they're gonna come back around to the part about the awkward questions:
The Indian public's view of the United States rose after Obama took office. But it has since fallen back to its pre-election level amid a sense here that he has neglected India's interests to curry favor with China and Pakistan, which the student who questioned him wondered why he didn't call "a terrorist state."
So then you think, 'Ah ha! That was the same question the Wall Street Journal mentioned! Now let's see what his answer is!' Next sentence:
Some in the student audience seemed well aware of his political troubles at home.

Zenobia Rao, a 19-year-old chemistry student at St. Xavier's, was asked by her professor to attend the event. She said she was "more than honored" to do so. ...
All this effort to learn just what was said put me so cross with the press that I don't feel like showing you a picture of Obama dancing.

This just in from Special Correspondent Priyank Pandey:
Pundita, the Left parties (dominant in West Bengal and Kerala) are protesting the President's visit and one of the parties will be boycotting his address to the Parliament. See this report from The Hindu.

Pakistanis are of course very interested in the trip. From Live Mint. I think the last line in that article is important because I fully expect Obama to address India's role in Afghanistan at some point during the trip (it will probably happen in the address to Parliament).

Here's a similar article but the critical piece here is that apparently, security officials didn't give an approval for a brief stopover in Pakistan prior to coming to India. From Sify.

Finally, more on Indo-Pak ties including a statement from the President that the US will not impose itself on the [negotiation] process. From Hindustan Times.
Earlier he sent the Reuters report I linked to above, which has some discussion of Obama's speech at St. Xavier's, and a link to a New York Times report with his comment, "The Times actually has a decent write-up of his visit to St. Xavier's prior to departing for Delhi." It may be decent; it's not terribly helpful it one wants to learn exactly what was said at St. Xavier's, but it wrings out a few quotes.

Priyank also reports that Rediff is doing a "live feed"
[The feed] gets a little over the top with praise and excitement at times (the media here goes gah-gah over Obama) but does contain useful nuggets. For example, here's a summary of the discussion the president had at St. Xavier's:

"13:07 PM Obama's big moments at Xavier's:

Barack Obama made a truly stirring, impassioned speech at St Xavier's college.

Quick takes.

On Pakistan: The history between India and Pak was born of violence and tragedy. India has the biggest stake in Pak's success is India. India's on the move, Pak's stability is good for India. Progress in Pakistan has not been as quick as we would like it to be. We need to help Pak fight terror.

On India: India is not a rising power. It is a power that has already risen.

On jehad: Islam is a great, peaceful religion. But we need to isolate those who have distorted notions. We need to treat each other with dignity and respect. How you respond to each other is more important than a speech any president makes."
That will have to do, until someone scares up a transcript of the speech and the Q&A.

Actually, I think I'm going to put all the responsibility onto John Batchelor for figuring out whether anything Obama said today about Pakistan and Afghanistan was of any import. If John's show addresses the topic I'll post the podcast.

Oh all right; here's Obama dancing.

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Look Pundita, the Won does not like questions. Someone described his personality as being equivalent to autistic. It's his world and you may participate, but don't expect reality. Someone needs to send this note to India.
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