During the Raj and later, “traveling with seven elephants” was an ironic commentary on conspicuous consumption. A pasha, a rich merchant, or a British functionary who needed seven elephants to carry all of his luggage and paraphernalia was either egotistically unaware of the burden he laid on the society, trying to show off how rich, important, and above the common ruck he was, or both.

No, President Obama’s visit to India won’t cost any two billion dollars, nor will it involve a tenth of the Navy. Air Force one still costs over $50,000 per hour to operate, and he’s taking two of them; Washington to Mumbai is approximately twenty hours, so that’s a million each for the round trip, not counting the fighter escort at $7,000 per hour per plane, nor the C-17s to carry the limo and Suburbans at another $7K per hour just for the fuel.

Tigerhawk thinks that’s too bad:

Unlike many on the right who mocked the story as another example of Obaman excess, I was hoping it were true. Why? Because it would amount to a TR-like display in the most geopolitically significant ocean on the planet…

Tunku Varadjian is cautiously optimistic:

Barack Obama’s visit to India, starting Saturday, may offer him some small respite from the drubbing that has made this week the nadir of his political life…[b]ut he will find little of the spontaneous warmth and genuine bonhomie that was lavished on George W. Bush when the latter visited India in 2006.


By far the most important geostrategic relationship for the next generation will be that of U.S.-India-Japan. As Charles Hill, a professor at Yale, put it to me, “This will need to be the first true democratic league of great powers.”  But the Indian political and strategic leadership does not think that Obama gets this.

Having the President of the United States visit India would seem to be a way to promote coherent and amicable relationships with an important part of the Anglosphere. Having the Pasha of Americarasthra coming to show himself to them, trailing a retinue that makes seven elephants look humbly conservative, may say something quite different to the teeming millions who are in many ways our brothers in language and beliefs, even while being friendly competitors. Perhaps he should throw ripe figs to the admiring crowds.