US President Barack Obama (R) and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh shake hands after giving toasts during the first official State Dinner of Obama's administration at the White House in Washington on November 24, 2009. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Observers of the carefully choreographed event noted India’s emergence on the global economic scene and wondered if it made up for a prior snub, when Obama left the country out of his recent Asian tour.
The National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson wasn’t impressed with the President’s introduction of his Indian counterpart, quoting Obama’s opening remark: “Yours is the first official state visit of my presidency, it's fitting that you and India be so recognized.” Bad form, according to Williamson, who offered this snarky bit of advice to Obama: “Note to the Great Diplomat: When you do a head of state an honor, you don't remind him, in public, of the fact that you have done him an honor, particularly in self-aggrandizing terms of this sort.”
Writing in Foreign Policy, Daniel Twining argues that “the United States has an enormous stake in the emergence of a rich, confident, democratic India that shares American ambitions to manage Chinese power, protect Indian Ocean sea lanes, safeguard an open international economy, stabilize a volatile region encompassing the heartland of jihadist extremism in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and constructively manage challenges of proliferation, climate change, and other global issues.”
The Daily Beast’s Tunku Varadarajan highlights George W. Bush’s recognition of India’s role in the world and urges Obama to show proper appreciation of allies. “One trusts that Mr. Obama will come to see these qualities as clearly as his predecessor did. If not, this could be one area in which history will judge Mr. Obama to have been ‘dumb,’ and Mr. Bush to have been the ‘smart’ one.”
Politico's Patrick Garvin points out Obama and Bush may have more in common that you'd expect, especially when a photo from the evening appears to show Obama toasting Singh with a glass of water. "When President Barack Obama took office, fans and DC socialites rejoiced that — after years with a sober President George W. Bush — there was a beer drinker back in the White House ," he writes. Maybe not.