Is India backing the wrong horse?
Posted on October 12th, 2016

By Dr Kamal Wickremasinghe Courtesy The Island

The casual disregard with which India treated the two regional and global forums South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summits was an overt expression of the new Indian approach to its external relations, of becoming the ‘deputy sheriff’ of the US in the Indian Ocean Region. Obviously with the strength of the neocon empire behind, India now feels that it will only engage with the region on their own terms.

Admittedly, the case of the terrorist attack in Kashmir complicated the circumstances leading up to the SARRC summit and the demise of an idea fraught with insurmountable difficulties is inevitable. However, India’s readiness to hold the Pakistani government responsible for the attack, without solid proof, showeda new ‘devil-may-care’ attitude to regional engagement. The Indian decision to downgrade their involvement with the NAM however, was a slap in the face of the anti-imperialist project that clamoured for a “new world order”, vocalised by the giants of independence movements like India’s Jawaharlal Nehru, Sri Lanka’s S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Indonesia’s Sukarno, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta.

Regional minions appear to be lining up behind India, albeit diffidently in this journey for a new destination;In Sri Lanka of course India findsa regime overjoyed by the new Indo-American alliance that removes the historical cause of bad blood between the two countries: Indira Gandhi’s overt and covert nurturing of the LTTE was based entirely on her hatred of J. R. Jayawardene’s slavish devotion to America.

The new Indian thinking however, is not going to be without significant consequences for India and the region in the coming decades.At base level, it signifies the formal burial of the UN Resolution 2832 of 1971, “Declaration of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace”,initiated by Sri Lanka. The new development paves the way for America to continue to occupy the prized Diego Garcia islands for $1 year from Britain, and the unhindered dumping of nuclear waste in the pristine waters of the region.

Quite apart from such ‘unintended’ consequences of this monstrous development, the Modi government’s foreign policy of drifting into a military alliance with America is being criticised for it not being preceded by a rigorous assessment of its effect on India’s long term national interests, or the larger geopolitical trends in the wake of America’s economic decline and China’s meteoric rise as an economic power.

Judging by parallel developments, Russia and China appear to be reacting‘fast and furious’ to the emerging new, sinister geopolitical equation; Russia feels justifiably betrayed by India’s behaviour which they see as ‘treacherous’ and China, as usual, is reacting in their own way, with not many words but resolute action; Pakistan is ‘fishing in troubled waters’ by rapidly moving to develop strong defence and business ties with both Russia and China. Tables have turned it seems, and the devious neocons will be the only ones laughing: they have effectively destroyed regional unity, paving the way for future wars that would serve their main interest of selling destructive military weapons.

The evolving situation in the Indian Ocean Region is a portrayal of the dictum by the great American public servant John W. Gardner (1912-2002) that: “History never looks like history when you are living through it”.In fact, the story of John W. Gardener – a total unknown today – is worth reminiscing before the consideration of the likely strategic future of the region, because Gardener was a man who embodied the type of decency the neocons subjugated to establish their current anti-social regime in America that is extending its claws to our region through India.

Lyndon B. Johnson (US President from 1963-68) appointed Gardener in 1965, as an antidote to Henry Kissinger in his administration; Powerless to stop the waste of public resources on a destructive, unwinnable war in Vietnam – led by a cabal headed by Kissinger -Johnson decided to at least ‘balance’ the wastage of resources on the war with a “war on poverty” that aimed to address some of the social ills plaguing America like ‘open sores’ at the time:he asked Gardener to head a newly-formeddepartment of health, education and welfare in a move designedto improve equality and education, and to reduce poverty. Gardener, a PhD in Psychology from Stanford University, engineeredthe “Great Society” program:Gardener was the architect of some of the most progressive legislation in American history such as the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965) that theoretically granted racial equality to Black Americans and provided federal funding to improve their education. Gardener however, had to fight the clandestine undermining of Henry Kissinger who was hell-bent on continuing the war in Vietnam that served as a diversion of American and world public interest away from aggressive Israeli expansion in Palestine.

The leading American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed in his1983 book, The Price of Power that Kissinger, while serving in theJohnson administration, helped the Nixon campaign sabotageUS negotiations with the Nguyen Van Thieu government (in Saigon)on ending the war;The 1968 Nixon presidential campaign wanted to prevent the Democrats getting out of the war in the same manner Ronald Reagan prevented the release of American hostages by Iran in 1979. Kissinger facilitated the sabotage by passing on highly classified intelligence information to the Nixon camp. Nixon used the information in back-channel communications to prevent any pre-election progress toward peace by the Democrats by preventing South Vietnam’s President Thieu from attending peace talks, promising that his government would get a better deal under a Nixon presidency. Hersh’s account shows that President Johnson was unaware of Kissinger’s treason until the waning days of the election campaign;Nixon went on to win the election and Kissinger, of course, went on to become Nixon’s national security advisor.

Kissinger’s actions are estimated to have caused the deaths of more than 20,000 US soldiers and millions of Indochinese. In mid-March 1969, Kissinger got President Nixon to launch “Operation Breakfast”, the covert carpet-bombing of defenceless and neutral Cambodia. The war crimes of Kissinger continued until 1975 when North Vietnamese forces captured Saigon, and America lost the war.Nixon died in 1994and Kissinger is still “at large”, mentoring neocons and their acolytes such as Hillary Clinton to manipulate American government policy to achieve their nefarious ends – without any regard for the rest of America or the rest of the world. This is the beast whose actions we are trying to analyse!

Going back to the main story, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to skip the SAARC summit in Islamabad shows that his government treats SAARC as irrelevant to their way of looking at India’s regionalism. In comparison to his snubbing of the NAM summit, abandonment of the problem-ridden SARRC idea is likely to be largely inconsequential, and even welcomed by some of India’s smaller neighbours.

The regional integration attempted by SARRC was very much a product of necessity borne by the global economic transformations of the1990s;Intra-regional trade and economic projects provided the only safeguards against the risks of total exploitation by the world ‘markets’ ruled by the very same neocon forces. At the time, India accepted its role as the nucleus of economic and political regionalism as a necessary survival mechanism for the smaller nations.

However, throughout its history, animosities between India and Pakistan made SARRCunworkable and ineffective. The difficulties heightened at the last SAARC summit in Kathmandu in November 2014 following the failure to agree on road connectivity between the two countries, prompting India toembark on ‘sub-regional cooperation’ with the groupings Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

Such initiatives however, have not made the underlying problems of trade between a regional giant and minions surrounding it disappear: Bhutan is currently expressing concern over the BBIN motor vehicles agreement. Bhutan fears that flooding in of Marutis (car ownership in Bhutan has increased by 233% over the last 15 years)and the expansion of the attendant roads network (that has grown from just 1,500 kilometres to more than12, 000 kilometres in 40 years)will cause irreversible damage to its extremely fragile high-elevation environment. Against this background, the inevitable dissolution of the SAARC is not going to be the biggest casualty of India’s new alliance, but regional peace and stability will be.

For over six decades, India-US relations have been governed by India’s justifiable mistrust of US sponsoring of Pakistan’s military machine, while subverting democracy with military governments led by hand-picked generals; Russia has been the most reliable international partner of India since the 1950s, including by exercising its veto in the UN Security Council to block Anglo-American moves on Jammu and Kashmir.The pronouncement by the Soviet leaderNikita Khrushchev in 1955, during a visit to Srinagarthat “Moscow was just across the border and if there is any trouble in Kashmir, Delhi should just call out for help” gave a remarkable indication of the Russian sentiment.

Until 1991, India maintained bipartisan support for its relationship with Russia. But since then, the neocon introduced corruption has eaten in to the heart of Indo-Russian relationship. In the statement issued in New Delhi on August 30, the Congress declared that the signing of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) is a fundamental departure from India’s time-tested policy of “strategic military neutrality”. The Congress Party’s reaction to the LEMOA is rich because it was indeed the UPA government that opened up India to substantive defence cooperation with the US by signing a 10-year framework agreement in May 2005before developing cold feet and holding back from signing agreements.

The current over-commitment of the BJP government to the US however, is counterintuitive in view of such factors as their barring of Narendra Modi, until three years ago, from the US on the grounds that he failed to restrain Hindu mobs from attacking Muslims in 2002 Gujarat riots. The ban ignored an Indian court’s refusal to prosecute him on grounds of inadequate evidence. Mr Jaishankar appears to have been successful in convincing Modi to “let bygones be bygones”.

It needs to be remembered that the ultimate neocon target is India’s substantial military expenditure, built on past neocon fuelling of tensions with Pakistan; the US – and Israel -displaced Russia as India’s top suppliers of armaments to consume the bulk of the current budget of over $50 billion. Moscow still remains a key supplier of aircraft, tanks, warships, spares and associated equipment, but is likely to be gradually phased out over the ensuing years.

During his US visit in June this year, Modi signed multibillion contracts with the US company Westinghouse to construct six atomic reactors in Andhra Pradesh, financed with a loan by the US Export-Import Bank. The project follows India’s relaxation of a 2010 law that made US firms liable for accidents of the type of Bhopal disaster that caused 3783 deaths of poor Indians. The Indian government has now promised to create an insurance pool of $250 million that would pay out any damages on behalf of nuclear suppliers.So the Indian tax payers will finance the greed of American misery dealers!

At the root of India’s BJP government’s self-destructive behaviour is their obsession with becoming a ‘nuclear power’; Neocons are ‘milking’ this conceit by promising India entry in to the Missile Technology Control Regime and in to the Nuclear Suppliers Group that regulates international atomic commerce. They have also promised to ‘forget’ charges of India violating the nuclear non-proliferation regime that was used to impose US sanctions against India in the past.

Modi seems to be doing the US bidding with countries like Vietnam who are engaged in territorial disputes with China: during his visit to Vietnam in August, Modi signed a “comprehensive strategic partnership” agreement with Vietnam, and extended a $500million credit line for the purchase of Indian defence equipment. This is in addition to the $100million defence credit offered previously.

Pakistan, on the other hand had been created by Winston Churchill for the purpose of keeping India under check, and had received generous military support from the neocolonialist American empire over the same period. Pakistan was charged by Moscow of supporting the jihad on its soil in the 1980s. With the neocons pulling the rug under Pakistan’s feet following the success of their clandestine nuclear program however, its relationship with Russia began to thaw, despite Indian efforts to limit the development. As recently as March 2010,Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to be ‘responding to India’s concerns when he announced during a visit to New Delhi that “unlike many other countries, Russia does not have any military cooperation with Pakistan because we bear in mind the concerns of our Indian friends”.

Since then however, Russia has responded to India’s cosying up to the neocons ‘in kind’, by expanding defence cooperation with Pakistan;Russian and Pakistani servicemen are currently conducting their first joint military exercises “Friendship 2016 war games”. Training will take place at an altitude of over 4,500 feet in Gilgit-Baltistan that is part of the Kashmir claimed by India.(Gilgit-Baltistan,by the way, the meeting point of three great Himalayan mountain ranges – the Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and Nanga Parbat – is probably the closest locale to heaven on earth; Karimabad, the capital of the regionhas been the setting for Shangri-La,the utopian city in 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton). Russia’s indifference toIndia’s requests to postpone the exercises so soon after the terrorist attacks in Kashmir shows the extent of hardening of Moscow’s position towards India.Russia has also promised the supply of its new Su-35 fighter jets to Pakistan.

Pakistan is also forging a strategic economic partnership with China, developing the trans-border China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. In 2009, Pakistan signed an agreement with China for a mega energy project in Gilgit-Baltistan which includes the construction of a 7,000-megawatt dam, against Indian protests. Pakistan is also negotiating a new long-term defence pact with China. Pakistan is also in a position to buffer any negative impacts of a crumbling SAARC, with its membership of the Islamic collective, the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) with Iran, Turkey and a number of Central Asian states.

All these developments point to ominous prospects for the future of the south Asian region, with India propping up the declining economic power of America, possibly with the help of America’s “special” Anglo-Saxon friend the UK and other European countries. They will be immediately facing Pakistan, backed by the growing economic might and the strength of union between China and Russia.

India should be wary of possible Chinese memory of Mao Tse Tung’s advice in “A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire” (January 5, 1930): When we look at a thing, we must examine its essence and treat its appearance merely as an usher at the threshold, and once we cross the threshold, we must grasp the essence of the thing; this is the only reliable and scientific method of analysis.

This is where India will be most vulnerable, ideologically and militarily.

One Response to “Is India backing the wrong horse?”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Completely agree with Kamal. India is the deputy Sheriff of the US. Hindu nationalist BJP is the most US subservient in history. Even Sonia Gandhi and her children were not so bad US sell-outs. This was well known even before BJP swept to power.

    India made a mockery of the nonaligned movement and SAARC as it doesn’t care with US on its side. With LAMOA military agreement with USA, India has now become a US protectorate. It is a contingency US military base and poses a massive threat to the region.

    China’s role in maintaining peace in South Asia must be commended. If not for China, Hindustan would have overrun Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, Burma and Pakistan. Chinese military contribution to rid India-funded Hindu terrorists (LTTE) is well known. Recently India threatened to cut river water flow to Pakistan which is exactly what caste-minded Hindus in Sri Lanka do in the north – denying water. They also tried it in 2006 sparking war in Mavil Aru. However, China matched India’s threat. Since 2008, China has dammed the Brahmaputra river. Now China is in a position to cut water flow to India’s vulnerable east. This counter threat by China brought India down to senses. It is China that has stopped a marauding India from totally devastating Kashmir.

    The only way to prevent these double hegemonic plans turning South Asia into a quagmire of death and destruction is to disintegrate India into smaller nations. Some of these nations will align with China while some others with Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. This will ensure regional peace and USA will be unable to leverage all at once. No such piece will be singularly more powerful than Pakistan. It will also reduce or eliminate Indian nuclear weapons.

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