Are there any foreign policy pluses and minors for India following the Democrats’ defeat and the effective end of the presidency of Barack Obama?

The biggest global issue has been the limp waisted US response to so many international problems. Not just in terms of not bombing here or there, but more in terms of using diplomacy to bring like minded regional players together. The US hasn’t been cashing in IOUs or arm twisting the doubtful.

That won’t change much in the post election era. But expect Republicans to push for greater action against IS, possibly even passing money and bills to force Obama’s hand. There will also be a much tougher stance on Russia and the Ukraine issue.

But ultimately the Senate cannot craft a foreign policy, it can only try to embarrass the president into doing more. But Obama is right: Americans are tired of war, even if they increasingly see foreign policy setbacks as a sign of poor leadership in Congress.

India may be less happy with the fact many new Republican leaders are ardent free traders and want the Trans Pacific Partnership and its North Atlantic equivalent to go through. India is nervous of what would eventually become the gold standard in global trade and leave India marginalised.

There is strong bipartisan support for a strong India relationship. That is good. But it is not clear how this will manifest itself. Congress is also violently anti Pakistani. Useful to India only if it manifests itself a commitment to hold the line in Kabul.

The real accomplishment of the midterm elections has been the evidence that the Republican leadership carefully brought the Tea Party under control. If a more mainstream Democrat wins the primary at this point the isolationism tidal wave that engulfed US foreign policy the past five years can be declared to have receded.

Then we will start to see a real American revival.

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Strobe Talbott, journalist, author of books and former deputy secretary of state, came to India last month having accomplished, as he said, “a dream going back 11 years.” That was when he joined as president of the Brookings Institute and concluded that after being around 85 years the venerable institution, probably the largest policy institute – think tank as the popular vernacular would have it – in the world. Read more

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Why the Horn of Africa could be the New Big Headache next year.

This is not another end of the year commentary. I would prefer to take a look at the coming year and make a prediction. If I am wrong, everyone will forget. If I am right, I will win a prize or something. Read more

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Several years ago a young US diplomat told me, “Wherever in the world I’ve been posted, I always found that the British had been there before me.” Read more

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I have come to expect that European conferences will be marked by excellent cuisine and mediocre ideas. It’s not that people who congregate on the Continent are somehow mentally addled by the taste of fresh oysters, endives and Chablis – it’s just that Europeans get ever more tongue-tied trying to match their soaring international objectives with their declining domestic capacities.

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