Obama State Dinner

I seem to be on a roll with these food related posts. Nonetheless, the honour of the first State Dinner of any new administration is a big deal. And for President Obama, this gesture of goodwill goes to India. So other than the novelty of wine pairings with each course and hearing Hail to the Chief, what is the big deal about State Dinners?

Well, there is the symbolism. No matter how much we try and ignore it, symbolism matters to both countries. For the United States, it shows that it takes the developing world seriously (especially when the country in question has nuclear weapons and 1.2 billion consumers) and that it wants to build on ties with India. The symbolism is particularly telling when considering that Obama has yet to visit the country, though Hillary had been dispatched into the Delhi heat for high-level talks as well as hand-delivering the For India, being the first country to have a State Dinner held in its honour is akin to being invited to the adult table- the US signalling that it sees India as a partner, an useful ally that needs to be respected and taken seriously.

This dinner could not come at a better time for India, who has been feeling a little overshadowed by the attention lavished on its rival in the subcontinent by the States. Some much needed face-to-face time between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama at the State Dinner would allow both leaders to more freely discuss pertinent issues such as counter-terrorism, nuclear proliferation as well as the building of nuclear power plants. It would also allow the two to build on ideas floated during the G20 summit concerning economic liberalisation, an area in which both stand to gain. Perhaps even Pakistan may be on the menu for discussion, especially since the fate of Pakistan is so heavily intertwined with the destinies of both India and Pakistan.

It’s about time that these giants feast for greater cooperation.