Proposed Obama India visit and the media

Proposed Obama India visit and the media

Last week U.S. President Barack Obama announced that he plans to visit India in November. Both Western and Indian media carried the story almost immediately. This is a big contrast from President Bush’s 2006 visit to India, when American media did not even mention it for days. In fact my company was able to announce it in our newsletter ahead of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.  The fact that  major American media carried Obama’s announcement online in minutes and featured it in their very next video or print editions signifies how important India has become to America.

But there are still differences in the coverage.  Media based in India say that the First Lady will accompany the President. In fact many talk about the President and his entire family travelling to India.  No American outlet has mentioned this.  The official White House announcement did not make any reference to Michelle and the kids traveling in November (during the school year!) to India.

White House photo of Obamas

Also many Indian outlets have identified the dates as November 7-10. Again no American media is mentioning that specific period. I have seen references to “after the November elections” in my private emails from Washington but no particular dates. It would be a pleasant surprise if a sitting American president chose to spend 4 days in a developing country with his entire family. (Hey, Teddy Roosevelt would take much longer than that, but those were the days prior to Air Force One and daily crises).

Does the Indian media have access to the White House calendar in ways that the Washington Post, CNN and the New York Times don’t? Unlikely.

I suspect that this may be a case of Indian imagination and aspiration along with some creative reporting.  India would wish that the President treat this like a desi wedding trip by visiting Indian Americans. Traipse over with the entire family, miss a few days of school, delegate to your immediate subordinates, (turn off the blackberry?), and enjoy the Hillary Platter at Bukhara in Maurya hotel in New Delhi.

Manage your expectations, friends. Two days, three at the tops.  2-3 cities, max.  Don’t make plans to take Malia and Sasha to the zoo in Delhi. Not yet.


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