Friday, November 5, 2010

President Obama's Asia Trip

India prepares for the big trip
"What happens when the first citizen from the country of 9/11 visits the country of 26/11 (terrorist attack in Mumbai on Nov. 26, 2008)that too during Diwali?" Asks Anandabazaar Patrika, one of India's oldest and trustiest newspapers, in its report of President Obama's impending visit to India. It provided the answer, too: "The city having lost much of its natural luster seems withdrawn. Naturally, since the last two years, the month of November is the time to get back to terror, bewilderment and lack of security. But now it seems that the same things are demonstrated to us more severely!"

Needless to say that many Indians, just like Americans here, are looking at this high-profile trip with intimidation. And the top-notch security measures that are being taken to ensure the safety of the first family are to Indians something that fairytales are made on. Never have they seen such rigorous a net of security in their country, and never have they imagined that the Brobdingnagian American touch could come straight out of its Hollywood package and poke their six-penny average lives directly. To a typical Indian America is a seven star hotel complete with luxury suites and dreamy comfort, and seeing that luxury first-hand inspires awe and fear in them. And when one is awed you cannot blame him for mangling a bit with the facts. It so happened that a certain "unnamed source" in India has added a couple of extra zeroes to the cost of the presidential trip, and that is where the problem started creating a tsunami of controversy and further staining the already stained reputation of the President. The cost of the Asia trip is reported at being an astounding 200 million dollars per daya sum so big that the Obama critics have lost their sleep over it. They are pointing to the ailing American economy and how it could recuperate from the sum the President would be wasting in this trip. However, I think the Obama critics will find their lost peace if they simply replace the USD in the 200 million with the Indian currency code INR. Two hundred million Indian rupees is equivalent to approximately 4.5 million US dollars, and that is the average cost of a presidential trip abroad according to this Anderson Cooper report: A Bill Clinton visit to six countries in Africa in 1998 cost up to $42.8 million. His trip to Chile and China came in with price-tags of $10.5 million and $18.8 million respectively. So, judging by these available facts we can safely deduce that the Obama visit would cost somewhere around $50 million. Of course, with India having always been a soft target for the terrorists in the past, the onus of securing every corner of the country to ensure the President and his family's safety cannot be overlooked. But even then, the mind-boggling $200 million a day does sound rather out of proportion. I wonder if all this was the upshot of some slight misunderstanding: a result of a seemingly un-factual statement amplified erroneously by media that is too peeped by the hotness of the report to even fact-check the statement. Hence, I completely agree with Anderson Cooper when he says that there are many ways to criticize our President, and the comically inflated and clearly over-the-top Asia-trip bill is not one of them.

P.S. Picture from the web.