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A Commoner’s Diary: India and U.S. Presidential Elections 2016
By Debashree Dattaray
| Category: U.S. India Relations


“I will acknowledge contemporary lands,
I will trail the whole geography of the globe and salute courteously
every city large and small,
And employments! I will put in my poems that with you is heroism
upon land and see,
And I will report all heroism from an American point of view.”

—Walt Whitman, ‘Starting from Paumanok’, Leaves of Grass, Book II

In many ways, the seeds of Leave of Grass were sown in the political tumult of the 1850s in the United States of America – a decade which coincidentally was a crucial time for India as she fought the First War of Independence in 1857. Walt Whitman, one of America’s most contemporary poets, had sought to heal a nation ravaged by slavery, political corruption and enmeshed in gender inequalities and class divisions. Today, the world has become a ‘global village’, yet xenophobia, sexism and racism are as much part of our everyday lives. In such a scheme of things, it is but natural to wonder how the ultimate political election in one of the globe’s most powerful countries would effect the lives of people in a nation which is one of the emerging powers of the global economy.


The U.S. Presidential Elections of 2016 has been of pivotal interest across the globe, and India as one of the world’s largest democracies has also been awaiting the crucial date of November 8, 2016 with much anticipation and concern. According political scientists, India’s relationship with the United States is bound to alter depending on which of the nominees is victorious. According to a migration policy article, “Indian citizens are the top recipients of temporary high-skilled worker H-1B visas, accounting for 70 percent of the 316,000 H-1B petitions (initial and continuing employment) approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in fiscal year (FY) 2014. India is also the second-largest sending country of international students to the United States after China: Close to 103,000 Indian-born students were enrolled in U.S. educational institutions in the 2013-14 school year”1 Therefore, the fate and dreams of many aspiring Indians would depend on the foreign policy nurtured by the successful nominee’s political party. In recent years, India has actively engaged in bilateral collaboration with the United States on issues as varied as strategic cooperation, energy and climate change, education and development, trade and economic cooperation and science and technology and health and innovation. On September 28, 2016, the Governments of the United States and India held the Fifth U.S.-India Cyber Dialogue in New Delhi which emphasized upon a bilateral cooperation on a wide range of cyber issues and deepening of strategic partnership ties, which would in turn promote cybersecurity and digital economy.


However, strategic partnership actually translates into how it may affect the private lives of the average householder, working professional on the street. Would the average Indian walking down the streets of Manhattan or San Francisco feel safe and at home in the United States? Would the American tourist/ businessman exploring Connaught Place in New Delhi or Colaba in Mumbai feel happy and intrigued by an ‘incredible India’? Both countries are not homogenous monoliths. The complex and nuanced characteristics of the two nations is exemplified in the people who do not only identify themselves in a particular candidate and how that person may relate to each other’s land. What would be crucial is to fathom how the aftermath of the results would promote personal growth and also foster a sense of the pubic dimension for educated men and women.


1http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/indian-immigrants-united-states Accessed September 29, 2016.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this contest entry are those of the author and do not reflect the views, positions or policies of the U.S. Government