People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 49

December 06, 2009

PRIME MINISTER'S VISIT:

 

More Aligned With the US

 

Prakash Karat

 

THE Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has just completed his second State visit to Washington. Five years ago, in July 2005, the prime minister made his first official visit during the Bush presidency. That visit resulted in the joint statement which set out the framework for the strategic alliance with the United States. It was this visit which ushered in close defence collaboration, greater concessions to American capital and the civilian nuclear deal.

 

The current visit has taken place during the Obama administration. It took place amid speculation that unlike the period of the George Bush presidency, the Obama administration does not accord any special status to India. Having hitched themselves to the aggressive Bush regime that was marked by unilateralism and military aggression, the ruling establishment in India has been feeling apprehensive about the approach of the Obama presidency. The visit coming in the wake of President Obama's visit to China, saw these feelings being voiced publicly. One such typical observation came from a former Foreign Secretary and Indian Ambassador to the United States, Lalit Man Singh who was reported in New York Times as saying “The suspicion is building up that Obama is not as keen on the strategic partnership with India as George W Bush was. There is, underneath the surface, a suspicion that the Americans are scared or too dependent on the Chinese”.

 

CONTOURS OF A

SUBORDINATE ALLIANCE

Such a view reveals the flawed mindset of much of the Indian establishment. They are oblivious of the fact that they tried to covert India into a subordinate ally of the United States during the Bush administration. Having bred illusions that India would occupy a place in the high table of great powers with the help of the United States, they are unable to see the actual purpose and design behind the efforts of the United States to make India a strategic ally.

 

What are being overlooked are the strategic interests of US imperialism in Asia, a policy which is not determined by any single US leader. The strategic partnership that the United States firmed up with India and which was so coveted by the Indian ruling classes was dictated by the global strategy of the United States. It wanted to tie up with India, a major regional power, keeping its Asian strategy in mind and the fact that it sees China as its long term rival. It was imperative for the United States to be advantageously placed to invest and exploit India's huge market. More immediately, the focus of the United States is on the war on Afghanistan which it has been waging for the past eight years. India perforce has its relevance for Obama's “Afpak” strategy.

 

The prime minister's four day visit to Washington and the discussions conducted there and the speeches made by the prime minister provide ample indication that the Congress-led government will continue on the path towards forging deeper strategic ties with the United States. One of the key aspects of this alliance is the defence relationship. The joint statement issued by the US president and the Indian prime minister reiterates the commitment of the two leaders “to continue pursuing mutually beneficial defence cooperation through the existing security dialogue, service-level exchanges, defence exercises and trade and technology transfer and collaboration”. The United States is eager to become a major arms seller to India. The prime minister responded to this American priority in his address to the US Chamber of Commerce: “We have an expanding area of defence collaboration including the possibility of procurement of defence equipment from the US. Our domestic private sector defence suppliers are now allowed to have upto 26 per cent foreign investment, opening a new avenue for Indo-US collaboration”.

 

GROWING

MILITARY TIES

The signing of the End Use Monitoring Agreement during the visit of Hillary Clinton in July 2009 just as the earlier signing of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) by the Vajpayee government in 2002 have opened the way for large scale purchase of US arms and defence equipment. This does not mean however that the United States has lifted the restrictions on the transfer of dual use technology. The hopes that purchase of large scale American arms will lead to a relaxation of these controls is still to materialise. The United States has single-mindedly pursued defence collaboration to ensure “interoperability” between the two armed forces. This is being ensured through regular joint exercises between the two armed forces, and by putting in place a regime which can enable India to buy weapons and defence equipment which will be under the strict supervision of the Pentagon.

 

“AFPAK” AND

INDIA

On Afghanistan, the prime minister was outspoken in supporting the US-Nato occupation of Afghanistan. He indirectly cautioned President Obama against any premature plans for an exit strategy. On Pakistan, even though the prime minister urged the United States to intervene and ensure that the Pakistan government takes firm action against the extremists and the terrorist organisations, the “Afpak” strategy that Obama has spelt out accords Pakistan a key role in the American plans for Afghanistan. Just before the Manmohan Singh visit, President Obama sent a letter to President Zardari offering Pakistan a strategic partnership including additional military and economic cooperation. The letter has also asked the Pakistan government to take firm steps against the pro-Taliban and Al Qaeda organisations including the Laskhar-e- Taiba. However, the United States will not do anything to undermine the Pakistani military, a section of whom and its intelligence wing is aiding and protecting those groups which are active in Kashmir and India.

 

Even though the prime minister was careful to assert that the world has to prepare for the peaceful rise of China and India would engage with China to develop a multidimensional relationship and to resolve outstanding issues, in the talks with the US leadership there was the underlying current about the “assertiveness” of China.  The tendency to play up India as a counterweight to China and as a “balancer” continues.

 

PLEASING AMERICAN

BIG BUSINESS

The prime minister's pronouncement about economic policies and foreign investment in India were meant to please American big business. The prime minister was at pains to assure them about the continuance of economic reforms. He declared: “You should have no doubt on that score”.  He announced that the government has started “A programme to raise resources by selling of equity in public sector enterprises”. He promised financial sector reforms. As far as American business investments are concerned, he wanted them to enter agri business, agricultural marketing and among other sectors like mining and retailing. In the case of mining we are seeing its disastrous impact in the tribal areas and in the way mineral resources are being exploited and exported. On retailing, the prime minister was signalling that the government would give up the restrictions on FDI in retail trade.

 

The Indian side tried hard to finalise the reprocessing agreement which they hoped could be signed during the visit. But it was not to be. The right to reprocess spent fuel imported from the US requires another agreement subsequent to the 123 agreement being ratified. It is reported that the US wants intrusive inspections of the reprocessing facilities that India will set up. Here again, the US will extend a price which the Indian side has to concede having accepted unequal terms for the nuclear deal.

 

ONE-SIDED

GAINS

All in all, the Manmohan Singh visit has underlined the character of the Indo-US strategic alliance. The United States has enlisted India as a military ally and is on the way to becoming a large scale supplier of weapons which will enormously benefit its arms companies; the United States has been able to prise open various sectors of the economy for American capital and is now looking forward to FDI in higher education, retail and other services. The Indo-US nuclear deal has straitjacketed India into adopting positions contrary to an independent foreign policy.

 

The United States, unlike what the pro-American acolytes in the Indian establishment want, will continue to accord importance to Pakistan which is not only a non-Nato major ally but also its dubious partner in the “war against terror”. As far as China is concerned, the United States has acknowledged that given its weakened economic power and the global economic crisis, China will inevitably play an important role in the global economy and world affairs.

 

IRAN: BETRAYAL

AGAIN

It is really a sad day that we have a government in India which finds virtue in being a supplicant and revels in being a subordinate ally.

 

This came out strikingly a few days after the Manmohan Singh visit to Washington. India voted for the resolution censuring Iran in the IAEA. The non-aligned group of countries decided to stand by Iran. That is why countries like Egypt (the current chairman), Cuba, South Africa, Brazil and Malaysia voted against the resolution or abstained. Even Pakistan and Afghanistan abstained. The nuclear reprocessing agreement with the United States is still to be finalised. India cannot afford to antagonise its senior ally.

 

The prime minister asserted in Washington that Iran should not acquire nuclear weapons. As usual, he kept silent about the Israeli nuclear arsenal and the need to keep West Asia free of nuclear weapons.

 

In 2005 too, after the first Manmohan Singh visit to Washington, a few weeks later, India voted against Iran, for the first time.  Nothing has changed in between except that India is now more firmly aligned with the United States.