Palin uses visit to fuel rumours of White House ambitions

Sarah Palin, the controversial conservative US politician, fuelled speculation that she is preparing for a presidential bid in 2012 by refusing to rule out her candidacy in a high-profile appearance in Delhi.

In a question and answer session following a speech entitled My Vision for America, Palin, the former governor of Alaska and Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2008, said she had yet to make up her mind about running.

“I don’t think there needs to be a rush to get out there as a declared candidate. It’s a life-changing decision,” Palin told Aroon Purie, editor in chief of India Today magazine, citing her concern about potential effects on her family.

Palin, who described herself as “a busy mom”, has only ever made a handful of trips abroad and has limited public appearances to Fox television and statements to social networking sites. During the 2008 campaign, she revealed a deep ignorance of international affairs, famously saying that Russia could be seen from Alaska.
An on-air slip that confused North and South Korea last year didn’t help matters.

Political analysts in the US and India have said that Palin is seeking to bolster shaky foreign policy credentials before a new campaign. From India, the mother of five will fly to Israel.

Palin had been invited to India to deliver the keynote speech at a conference organised by a domestic media group. Her usual fee for a similar appearance is reported to be up to $100 000. She travelled with her husband Todd.

In her speech, she described how India was following America’s “rags to riches story” thanks to a pioneering spirit, free markets and the universal dream of individual liberty.

She criticised President Barack Obama’s “dithering” over recent violence in Libya and the Middle East.

In a speech carefully worked to appeal to a local audience as well as public opinion at home, Palin told her audience that the US and India shared many things, including religious tolerance, democratic traditions, a common struggle for freedom from the British empire, a commitment to “see terrorism defeated” and a concern over the rise of China.

‘I want peace on earth’
“It is the largest democracies, not the world’s largest autocracy, [who] will lead the next century,” Palin said. “I want peace on earth. That peacefulness and that prosperity comes with more freedoms.”

Palin’s trip follows only three months after the brief but highly successful tour of India by Obama, who won over audiences with repeated references to how India was “no longer an emerging power but had emerged”. Palin, too, praised India’s dynamism, stressing the similarities between people in Alaska and India’s Andhra Pradesh state.

Before Palin’s speech, Professor Mahesh Rangarajan of Delhi University said the US politician had “nothing to offer India”.

“It’s more about what India has to offer her. She is a very effective communicator who will no doubt try to reach out to India as an emerging power. But we’ve had a series of presidents here who have already done that,” Rangarajan told the Observer.

President George Bush visited in 2007 and overcame the legacy of decades of mutual suspicion to conclude a landmark civil nuclear deal.

However, Palin’s repeated attacks on the “central planning” of economies, the “top-down way of making decisions” and her insistence on the importance of empowering individuals and entrepreneurs will strike a chord in an India still suffering from an inefficient and often corrupt bureaucracy.

“She was very good. She’s very American but a lot of what she says makes sense here too,” said one major industrialist at the conference.

Palin joined speakers ranging from feminist thinker and writer Germaine Greer to Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan at the conference.

On Monday, Palin is scheduled to meet the rightwing Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. She has consistently supported many of the Israeli government’s more controversial policies. -

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