If there was any question of whether Sarah Palin's star-appeal translated overseas, the standing-room only crowd when she took the stage Saturday night in New Delhi provided an answer. Speaking at a two-day conference that boasted a lineup including a Nobel laureate and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the former Vice-Presidential candidate was clearly the main event.
In her speech titled "My Vision of America," the former Governor of Alaska, who was on her first trip to India, did simply articulate her vision of America but touched on a range of topics from the rise of China, energy independence, Indian-American ties, and, in a rather timely fashion, the use of force in the Arab world.
She stopped short of saying whether she'd run for U.S. President, allowing only that "I'm still thinking about it." But that didn't stop her from positing what she'd do if she had the job. Speaking just as the U.S. and its allies began their military intervention in Libya, she said that a Palin administration would differ from the Obama administration in there would be "less dithering" in America's dealings with the Arab world. "Certainly more decisiveness, more commitment to making sure those who are freedom fighters know that America is on their side," she said. In Libya, while not ruling out military action, Palin expressed support for the no-fly zone, but stopped short of committing American troops echoing Obama.
Palin dismissed the notion of declining American influence. "I completely reject that," she said. "It represents wrongheaded thinking by our friends and wishful thinking by some enemies." Speaking to a crowd of political and business leaders, hosted by India Today magazine, Palin stressed that while America is not in decline, India is rising to meet it. Deepening economic, military and diplomatic ties between the two countries are vital, she said. "The relationship is the key to the future, the security, the prosperity of our world," she said. "I see it strengthening. Whoever's President, it better strengthen. We're going to need each other especially as these other regions rise, if we want a peaceful world, India and the United States have to be linked."
While lauding India's democratic rise and economic liberalization, she expressed concern over China's growing economic influence and militarization. She described Chinese ownership of American debt as a "dangerous" and questioned the country's new military buildup. "I personally have huge military concerns about China. They are stockpiling ballistic missiles, submarines, new age ultra modern fighter aircraft. Is that all for a defensive posture? How could that be when you don't see a tangible outside threat to that country?"
Palin's personal appeal was apparent to those who attended the event. "She said the right things," said Kiran Aurora a retiree from New Delhi. "I don't know if she's Presidential material, but she's charismatic. There is a charm about her." "She came across as a very honorable person, who's still maturing as a politician," said Sandip Ganguli, a hotel executive in India. "What she appeared to lack in global knowledge and experience was made up by her belief in America and that the American people have what it takes to come back."
But there were still some questions. "I expected her to be entertaining and in bits it was," says Nikhil Pawha a publisher at a digital media company. "She had a good sense of humor, but her answers on the financial crisis didn't seem assured."