India’s new alignment spells trouble for the region
Posted on September 27th, 2016

By Dr Kamal Wickremasinghe Courtesy The Island

The just concluded 17th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Venezuela was attended by representatives of 104 of the 120 nations that form the organisation.The mood of the summit proceedings however, was made sombre by the absence of top level representation from India, its founding member and the moral force behind it. Modi’s absence at NAM 2016 was despite the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Ms Delcy Rodriguez coming to India twice to invite him, even offering to change the Summit schedule to suit his program. Obviously, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to have considered NAM a trivial and inconsequential affair in delegating the task to a relatively unknown Vice President Hamid Ansari and a ministerial delegation led by the second-rung Minister of State for External Affairs.


Modi’s non-attendance at NAM has been widely interpreted, with consternation, as the first overt display of India’s cosying up to the neocon-controlled American regimes.Heavy diplomatic traffic between New Delhi and Washington during the preceding weeks justified such concerns: the US Secretary of State John Kerry and Penny Pritzker – the billionaire business woman moonlighting as Obama’s Commerce Secretary – were in New Delhi meeting with politicians and bureaucrats; Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was in Washington to sign the landmark Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement,the first of three Memorandums to be signed.The other two will be on Communication and Information Security and Basic Exchange and Cooperation.

India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar made India’s position somewhat clearer when he declared that: “Blocs and alliances are less relevant today and the world is moving towards a loosely arranged order.” The lack of interest in NAM affairs, coupled with the signing of treaties signifies an apparentcrucial shift in India’s foreign policy direction, currently heading unashamedly towards the neocon-controlled US orbit.

Jaishankar has already announced India’s “transition” back in July 2015 as “an expression of greater self-confidence” and a foreign policy objective to become a global power. He made the announcement during Fullerton Lecture (named such because it is delivered in the Ballroom of The Fullerton Hotel in Singapore) organised by the International Institute of Strategic Studiesof Singapore on India, the United States and China.

The purpose here is to shed some light on the background to the causes of India giving leadership to NAM and how the neocons have achieved the control of Indian foreign policy ‘by crook’, after failing to achieve the same ‘by hook’ since the time of the post-independence interim government of India headed by Jawaharlal Nehru. It is asserted that neocons found their way in to the bowels of the Indian state through the offices of a clique of ‘philosopher-bureaucrats’ as described in ancient Indian Brahmanical literature. The development is bound have significant repercussions on Sri Lanka and other neighbouring countries.

NAM was Nehru’s response to American imperialism of John Foster Dallas The most accurate interpretation of the global political conditions that led to the formation of NAM would probably be Jawaharlal Nehru’s stern determination to ward off the sly American attempts to acquire the empire – its ‘jewel of the crown’, India in particular -upon the demise of the British empire in Asia in the aftermath of the Second War. Winston Churchill had implored the US to step in during his September 6, 1943 speech at the Harvard University.He probably revealed more than intended when he prophesied that “The empires of the future are the empires of the mind”.

Nehru, however, would not have a bar of it: as much as he was famed to have been an Anglophile, his character and political philosophy had been moulded by British imperialist atrocities perpetrated on his people, particularly by the notorious war criminal Churchill: Nehruhad been a leader at the February 1927 International Congress against Colonial Oppression and Imperialism held in Brussels. He had adopted the Marxist viewpoint of the need to fight against imperialism and itshandmaid capitalism. Nehru wrote after attending the tenth anniversary of the Russian Revolution in Moscow in 1927, “… she [Russia] stands today as the greatest opponent of imperialism and her record with nations of the East has been just and generous”. So he clearly had definite Communist sympathies.

Americans were fully aware of the difficulties they were facing in ‘converting’ Nehru back to serve their agenda of global domination and exploitation; Theycast the first ‘hook’by extending an early invitation (in 1949) to Nehru, for a multi-week ‘goodwill tour’ of the US.The American establishment presswelcomedNehruby hailing him as “a great man who straddlesthe occidental and oriental worlds, eastern and western philosophies, and rich and poor standards of living”.

Failing to be impressed by the detestable personal and political record of the US President Harry S. Truman,Nehru awaited the result of 1952 presidential election before deciding on the level of future engagement with the US. Right through this period,he was careful to emphasize India’s neutrality in the developing Cold War. The attitudes, rhetoric, and decisions of the Dwight Eisenhower administration that took its oaths in 1953 rubbed Nehru the wrong way, expediting his move away from any alignment with the US.

The formation of NAM was the result of an ideological and political battle between Nehru and John Foster Dulles who served as secretary of state of President Eisenhower from 1953 -1959 when Dulles died of lung cancer, almost in office. Dulles’ ferocious anti-communist stance, partly fuelled by his particularly abrasive brand of Presbyterianism, convinced Nehru to give no succour to evil American plans.

John Foster Dulles was the negative force that prompted the formation of NAM.A Washington DC born grandson and the nephew of two former secretaries of state, Dulles was the ultimate establishment figure in the American power structure; Reputedly a pathologically belligerent and devious man, he has been described even by his mentor and friend Winston Churchill as ‘‘the only bull I know who carries his china closet with him.’’

Dulles is considered the architect of America’s Cold War foreign policy. More significantly, he is considered responsible for almost ‘merging’ the Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – headed at the time by his brother Allen – moving the CIA beyond the reach of democratic checks and balances mechanisms. The two brothers were partners in the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell that linked big business and American government policy making. Allen Dulles’ notorious deeds as CIA director in supporting his brother are discussed in detail in the book The Devil’s Chessboard: The Rise of America’s Secret Government by David Talbot (2015), the journalist who foundedSalon.

Nehru strenuously avoided ‘alignment’ due mainly to the obligations a military alliance with one of the ideological blocs would have entailed, and the economic impact it would have had on India’s dire need for rapid economic development. John Foster Dulles arrogantly held Nehru’s idea of non-alignment “immoral”, short-sighted and dangerous in the Cold War context. Nehru’s approach to economic development involving state planning and involvement without ingratiating to foreign capital and multinationals probably irritated the Americans more.

It was against this background that the US moved to sign anarms deal withPakistan, aimed at underminingIndia’s preeminent position inSouth Asia with the use of Pakistani sensibilities. The move wasa serious miscalculation of Indian response, andNehru refused to be swayed.

As they always do, American response was to throw a ‘carrot’ in the form of a visit by the then Vice President Richard Nixon to India in December 1953. Nixon’s post visit remarks reflected his typical arrogance, as well as America’sdesperation before Nehru’s steadfastness. Nixon said upon his return: ‘The time has come to put an end to Washington’s patience with Nehru. The US should take afirmer course with Nehru who has often embarrassed the US.”

Nehru responded to American threats by enhancing relations with China;He signed the historically important Panchsheel (five virtues) Treaty – to respect each other’s sovereign territory, to coexist peacefully, to keepout of each other’s internal affairs, to denounce aggression, and to act for mutual benefit – with Zhou Enlaiin New Delhi in 1954.

Dulles’ response was to orchestrate rival treaties:in September 1954, he formed the morbid South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) among the motley group the Philippines, Thailand, and Pakistan together with US, Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand. In 1955, he arranged the so-called Baghdad Pact between Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, and Britain. Nehru saw the pacts as desperate death rattle of imperialism.

Incensed by Dulles’ attempted high-handed interference in the region Nehru initiated the Bandung Conference in April 1955 with the participation of all African and Asian nations. The conference embraced Nehru’s principles of Panchsheel. Nehru followed up with a state visit to the Soviet Union in June 1955.Finally the US State Departmentarranged for détente, under Eisenhower’s direction, by inviting Nehru for a three-day informal visit inDecember 1956, largely to bespent on Eisenhower’s farm in Gettysburg.

A look in to the entrails of India’s recent foreign policy transformation

Reading the recent, apparently radical transformation of India’s foreign policy that marks the discarding of Nehru’s honourable legacy requires an understanding of the philosophical and social foundations of Indian bureaucracy, as well as insights in to the manner in which neocons ‘creep through the crevices’ to prise open closed government systems in other countries.

A look in to the foundations of Indian bureaucracy, built along the lines of the rules enunciated in classical Brahmanical literature the Artha-shâstra(the principles of polity), Dharma-shâstra(the principles of ethics and piety) and Royal virtue (Râja-dharma) – supplemented by the worst of British colonial practice – is integral to interpretingits current policy development malaise: these ancient texts lay out that legitimacy requires kings to conduct themselves according to procedures acquired through virtue and empowering knowledge. Kings however, should not be distracted by trying to be ‘philosopher kings’ (as later posited by Plato);Theycan beguided bythe learned, virtuous ‘advisors’ of the ‘twice-born’ castes (Brahmins) with whom such noble traits naturally reside.

Such self-serving views are used today to maintain continuing Brahmin dominance in providing executive and judicial advice to governments. In effect, the system has given rise to a polity of the Brahmin ‘philosopher-bureaucrat’ along the lines of Aristotle’s retort to Plato in the dialogue On Kingship.

The operational aspects of the policy process are governed bya tripartite organisational structure consisting of the prime minister’s office (PMO); the National Security Council (NSC); and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) within the PMO is the primary information provider.

The dynamics of foreign policy and advising in India are characterised by a highly individualistic process thatlends itselfeasily for exploitation by crafty neocon manoeuvres.With key geopolitical and economic stakes in the region, such as the future of Diego Garcia after the expiry of the “$1 lease” from the UK in 2016and lucrative weapons sales worth $100 billion, the US neocons will go to any lengths to ‘secure’ the Indian realm.

Neocons in the first Obama administration focused onthis vulnerability in 2009 – during the reign of Sri Lanka’s old “friend” Robert O. Blake as assistant secretary for South Asian affairs at the state department – when they announced a policy of “intense engagement” with India, built around the so-called India-US “Strategic Dialogue” involving such programs as the one on exploration of Mars.

The arms trade being pushed by the military-industrial complex with hefty incentives, commissions and outright bribes on offer, is bound to corrupt the occasional IFS officer, or two. Rumours often surround people at the top, like the late Brajesh Mishra, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s national security adviser (1998 – 2004). It is strongly rumoured that Mishra who single-handedly severed India’shistorically cordial relations with Russia and moved India towards closer ties with the US,had been compromised by certain US diplomats in Delhi at the time.

Like Mishra, Modi’s current National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) operative. His qualifications for the job are based ona career as a former spy, claimed to have spent seven years undercover in Pakistan and engaged in several other interesting adventures;Irrespective of his contributions in that particular area, a spyas foreign policy advisor canonly function as efficientlyas a pilot as chairman of an airline would, as demonstrated commonly in developing countries! They simply lack perspective.

Doval is among those who reflect the BJP clamourfor a more assertive foreign policy and a beefed up military on the vague grounds thatIndia currently”punches below its weight”.He is also wary of India’s “eroding maritime pre-eminence”in the Indian Ocean, and China’s development that may not be “an assured peaceful rise”. Such views show a lack of nuance or sophistication the ‘bigger game’ India is capable of geopolitically requires.They only showsigns of being led by short term, emotive issues without recourse to a ‘game plan’. But he seems to be the man who has Modi’s ear!

Then there is the “interesting”Dr S Jaishankar whotook over as foreign secretary in July 2014. Having been around the IFS traps since 1977, most recently he was the Indian ambassador to China and the US. He has worked in Sri Lanka also, from 1988 to 1990 as political advisor to the Indian Peace Keeping Force. Jaishankar, who seems to be the more calculating architect of the current policy, appears to be keen to dress it in the garb of India’s response to ‘the growing reality of a multi-polar world’ and the need to build bilateral relationships with all major players, accompanied by a higher level of regional engagement. In his view, the world is full of possibilities than risks.

If only Jaishankar could be trusted at his word; Unfortunately, his record as an IFS officer whose name has been damnedthrough a number of US diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks, makes placing such trust impossible:Jaishankar figured prominently in a number of ‘Wikileaked’ US diplomatic cables in different contexts, written by different US diplomats in Delhi, Colombo and Tokyo, to the state department.

In a confidential cable dated January 9, 1989 (89COLOMBO158), the then US ambassador in Colombo, James W. Spain passed on to Washington the assessment of current strength of the LTTEby Jaishankar whom he described as a “working-level Indian high commission official who deals most closely with all aspects of India’s role in North Eastern province. In another cable dated April 25, 2005 (31383), Delhi Charge d’Affaires Robert O. Blake, Jr. writes in typically arrogant fashion that “Jaishankar called the US embassy to make sure we had noticed” the GOI’s vote(against the Cuba-sponsored UNHRC resolution condemning US practices at Guantanamo). In another cable dated December19, 2005 (05NEWDELHI9514) written prior to the departure of the then Indian Foreign Secretary on an official visit to Washington, Blake informs the state department of India’s ‘game plan’ during meetings, as “revealed” to him by Jaishankar. The most recent revelation of Jaishankar’s apparently ‘cushy’ relationship with the Americans came in the form of a Wikileaks cable sent in February 2010 by the US ambassador to Beijing, Jon Huntsman, informing the state department that Jaishankar had sought “closer co-operation with the US” to curb “China’s aggressive approach” to neighbouring countries.

Jaishankar has been the foreign secretary since 2013.

A problematic future for India-Sri Lanka relations

It is clear that the broader Indian foreign policy is currently being manipulated by the US neocon forces to serve their geopolitical interests.The neocon infiltration of the Indian bureaucracy is bound to have serious repercussions on our all-important relationship with India.

Similar neocon activities led to India’s totally inexplicable vote, twice, in favour of the US sponsored anti-Sri Lanka resolution at the UNHRC in Geneva, ‘against the flow’ of amicable bilateral relations between our two countries. In 2012, it was a Keralite Nasraninamed Ranjan Mathai, an IFSveteran of nearly 40 years with postings as Indian ambassador almost exclusively in western capitals, Israel and Qatar who made the drastic, out-of-character policy change towards Sri Lanka.

Soon after becoming secretary in August 2011,Mathai launcheda new foreign policy agenda for India,in a book titled ‘India’s Neighbourhood Challenges in the Next Two Decades’. The launch was at the pro-American Think Tank the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi. Mathai, considered a great friend by the neocon establishment, posited the primary premise that the geo-political situation in India’s neighbourhood would change drastically in the next two decades and will present a “challenging” environment. This particular viewcompletely ignored India’s strong historical, cultural, and other influences on the region andwas most untypical of the traditional Indian approach to dealings with its neighbours.

Ranjan Mathai’s ‘new’ vision for India essentially reflected a new US defence strategy outlined by the then US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, a hawkish neocon and former director of the CIA, at IDSA just six months previous to Mathai’s own pronouncement;The new policy was clearly directing India part of the ‘Asia Pivot’ Panetta was minting, and was aimed at making India America’s ‘deputy sheriff’ in South Asia.

The neocon strategy is to promise India enhanced means to command the sea, air, and cyber domainsin the Indian Ocean regionby lending assistance in the areas of carrier aviation, space surveillance, and cyber warfare. Neocons will ‘curry favour’ with India with claims of India being is its natural ally based on common values and regional interests.India is likely to be duped by the potential ofsuch ‘promised’ favours that would allow the domination of these spaces.

However, to the extent the American neocons will actually provide such assistance would be limited by their ‘Asia rebalance’ strategy aimed at curbing Chinese progress;Empowering India in its own right is fundamentally incompatible with their objectives: Churchill’s advice to America prior to independence was that India should never be allowed to realise its full potential and it needed to be ‘managed’ through the agency of an ‘external balancer’ in international relations theory terms.

The November 2014 and September 2015 events showed the potential impact of the ‘unholy’ convergence of interests between a large regional power and a cunning, manipulative global super power. Salvation for smaller, progressive nations does not exist in either sphere. The current government will do well to remember that while they were the beneficiaries of a regime change this time around, they could well be at the receiving end at another time.

It is worth remembering the most subversive foreign policydictumever, laid out by the grandfather of all neocons, Henry Kissinger: “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests”. It is also worth remembering that Kissinger was only paraphrasing the words of the mid-19th century British Prime Minister, the most ruthless colonialist after Winston Churchill, named Henry John Temple, also known as Lord Palmerston.His words were: “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual”.

The least we can do is to plead with India to repel neocon advances with promises to make us “allies”, because in all probability, judging by their own words, we will be destined to be discarded when they find new interests! We don’t want that, do we?

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