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Mira Kamdar: Outsourcing India: For Obama and Singh, Democracy Means Business

This article was originally published in The Huffington Post. While the administration rolled out the red carpet to welcome Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Washington this week, the real action wasn't around the elegantly set tables at the Obama's first state dinner. It was across the street at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That's right: the same folks who are spending millions to fight any government action to prevent climate change are about to be put in charge of the relationship between two of the countries most essential to finding solutions for that and other pressing global challenges. As Robert Blake, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia put it at an "India Day" celebration at defense and communications giant Honeywell: "The most important part of our relationship is that increasingly governments matter less and less and it's more about empowering the private sector and our businesses, our scientists, educators so that they can all work together to achieve great things." Honeywell's CEO David Cote is the head of the newly expanded India-U.S. CEO Forum, which met during the Indian prime minister's visit. The India side is headed by Ratan Tata, one of seven Indian CEOs who accompanied the prime minister. On Monday, Nov. 23, Prime Minister Singh addressed the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC); part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the biggest lobbyist for the U.S.-India nuclear deal, which saw final approval in the last weeks of the George W. Bush administration. In fact, to clear one of the last remaining hurdles of the deal, the Indian cabinet just green-lighted a provision to make immune from liability U.S. nuclear plant builders in the event of an accident. This is no small feat in a country that still hasn't gotten over the Union Carbide poisonous gas leak in Bhopal, the worst industrial accident in history. The bill must still pass India's parliament. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has identified five pillars of the U.S.-India relationship: strategy, agriculture, health care, science and technology, and education. In all cases, the Obama administration is putting the private sector in the driver's seat. As Robert Blake put it at meeting in Washington last Wednesday, Nov. 18: "[T]he Obama administration would really like to do much more to try to engage the private sector, both in private-public partnerships, but also in advising and working with both governments, to see how we can make the private sector portion bring the private sector to the fore in all of these dialogues."

Ed Hancox: Obama's Missed Uyghur Moment

It could have been a powerful image—America’s first multicultural president promoting the benefits of an ethnically diverse society to the Chinese—but during his trip to China this week, Barack Obama chose to steer clear of comments that could be perceived as lecturing the Chinese on their (poor) human rights record, and that included any reference to their treatment of their Tibetan and Uyghur ethnic minorities.

Lecturing another country on their shortcomings during a state visit is usually a diplomatic no-no.  Unfortunately, for the past year the Obama Administration has generally taken the position that silence is golden when it comes to China and the issue of human rights, including not meeting with the Dalai Lama when he visited the United States last month. For the Chinese, the Dalai Lama is an international irritant, a highly visible spokesman reminding the world of China’s ongoing attempts to eradicate the indigenous Tibetan culture and replace it with an ethnic Han Chinese one.

Due north of Tibet, China is engaging in a much lower-profile, but just as tenacious, cultural eradication campaign against the Uyghur community in Xinjiang, China’s northwestern-most province. The Uyghurs, a Turkic people practicing the Muslim faith, have lived in the region for well over a millennia; their empire once stretched over a broad swath of Central Asia. Today the Uyghurs find themselves a minority within what’s officially called the “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” of China.

It is the result of a process that started more than 60 years ago when the Uyghurs’ briefly-independent nation of “East Turkestan” was gobbled up by Beijing and the People’s Liberation Army in 1949, a mere five years after its founding.  In 1949, just 7 percent of Xinjiang’s population was Han Chinese, but today that figure is over 40 percent—the result, the Uyghurs say, of an aggressive Han resettlement policy orchestrated by Beijing. The Chinese government meanwhile has opposed the teaching of the Uyghur language, closed mosques, arrested Uyghur religious and cultural leaders, and, the Uyghurs claim, kept them from getting jobs in their homeland, prompting a large migration of Uyghurs from Xinjiang.  (Uyghurs now make up just 45 percent of the population in their “Autonomous Region.”)

THE INDEX — November 20, 2009

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