Monday, November 1, 2010

Obama's speech will build bridges of friendship

The Parliament of India is being spruced up ahead of the visit by Barack Obama who will address the Parliamentarians in a joint session in New Delhi.

Such important addresses by heads of state have taken place in the past too and former secretary general of the lower house of the Indian Parliament, Subhash Kashyap feels that such excercises are extremely important in a democratic set up.

This is the second time that a President from the United States of America would be addressing a joint session of Parliament. Bill Clinton during his visit in the year 2000 had addressed the Indian Parliamentians. However George W Bush who was keen on such an address had to cancel this programme since the Left Parties had threatened to boycott the same in protest agasint the US Invasion of Iraq. Bush finally ended up giving an address at the Purana Qila where he spoke with a cross section of the who is who in India.

The others who have addressed a joint session of the Parliament are Vladimir Putin who was Russian President. The year 2007 however saw a bit of a change when for the first time a Prime Minister was allowed to address Parliament. Shinzo Abe the Japanese Prime Minister addressed Indian law makers in the year 2007. The custom and tradition is that only a head of state will be allowed to address Parliament. This was allowed since Dr Manmohan Singh was invited earlier to speak before the Japanese Parliament (Diet) at Tokyo.

Subhash Kashyap tell that such addresses are extremely important since they help build relations with friendly nations. Such privilages are usually given only to friendly nations and their heads of state. Such an exercise is more of a confidence building exercise and it is a way that the head of the state approaches the Supreme representatives of the people of India.

I would however like to correct everyone on one technical aspect. It is not known as an address to a joint session of parliament. Basically one should say that Obama will be speaking to the members of both the Houses.

In the past there have been similar excercises and I would say that they have shaped up pretty well. There have been no unruly behaviour on part of the members of the House and the members of the House has always been disciplined and decorous. Even this time around I hope and it should be the same. We have never had any instance in the past where our members have behaved badly when a head of the state has addressed our members.

It would be difficult for me to say whether such excercises have yielded results. It is hard to document such a thing or even comment on it. As I pointed out it is more of a confidence building measure and the idea is to build bridges of friendship. The Obama talk to Parliament would be extremely crucial since he is the head of the most powerful democracy in the world. It does make a huge difference when the most powerful leader of the world is eye to eye with the most important and powerful body of our nation.

The talk with the members of both the Houses will not be an interactive session. He would have his speech ready and would read it out which would mostly comprise of the ties and future ties both the nations would have to share. He would try and instill confidence and speak of how to carry relations forward. This would be the manner in which the entire exercise is carried out and during this time no member would be allowed to debate or even ask questions.

The event would take place in the Central Hall on November 8. The whole of Parliament will be spruced up for this event and the staff will be dressed in traditional attire to welcome the US president. This event would also mark the debut of the tele prompter in Parliament to give a feel that the US president is addressing the Parliament extempore. In reality there would be a transparent plate in front of him from which he would read out his speech.

Obama would be accompanied by the Prime Minister and the Vice President who will be present with him on the dais. First lady of the US, Michelle Obama will be given a special chair in the front row of the Central hall. Following the address Obama will have to sign on the Golden Book or the Visitors Book in which he will write his comments too.

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