//The Grizzly Bear Hug

The Grizzly Bear Hug

The Left’s views on Indo-US ties stem from patriotism, not anti-capitalist bias
PRAKASH KARAT, March 6, 2006, Outlook Magazine

In recent months, two issues have highlighted the dangers of India’s strategic partnership with the United States. The first relates to India’s stand on Iran’s nuclear policy, the second concerns the ongoing negotiations regarding the terms of nuclear cooperation with the US. The Bush administration has interlinked these two issues, and pressure has been mounted on the Manmohan Singh government to acquiesce to the US view on both.

The situation is still unfolding, and serves as a warning on the perils of accepting a strategic partnership—and that too an utterly unequal one—with the US.
When the Left opposed the Indo-US defence framework agreement of June 2005 and the subsequent July 18 joint statement, issued during the PM’s visit to Washington, the dominant news media and ruling circles sought to dismiss the Left’s stand as a product of unthinking
anti-US prejudice. While it is an important concern of the Left to stress the need for an independent foreign policy and for fashioning a role for India in international relations that is commensurate with its importance as a major non-aligned country with an enhanced economic and political role, it has become an obsession with right-wing media and ruling circles to deride these patriotic concerns and divert public attention from them.

Within a few months of the June-July 2005 agreements, however, more and more sections of society have come to share the Left’s concern about the way Indo-US ties are shaping up.

What does the "strategic partnership" with Washington portend? First, it’s an attempt by the US to coopt India into its strategy for Asia. It encompasses both the long-term plan of the US for the containment of China and for the reordering of West Asia so as to establish total US hegemony in the region. Notably, the US has succeeded in yoking India with Pakistan to advance its Asian strategy. Both serve distinct but interrelated aims in the region.

Secondly, the strategic partnership facilitates the US design of acquiring vantage positions in the Indian economy, which has huge potential in terms of resources and markets. Thirdly, the partnership, if cemented, will restrict India’s sovereignty, and obstruct the path of independent socio-economic development and nation-building.

India needs to be on guard against the US’ new-found interest and patronage. The Bush presidency, now in its second term, has become notorious for arrogant unilateralism, circumventing the UN’s authority, violating the sovereignty of countries and for outright military aggression. It seeks to disguise imperialist policy under an ideological cloak of "spreading democracy" and promoting "free markets".

The perception of India among the neo-conservatives who surround Bush changed when they found ideological soulmates in the BJP. The BJP aspired to make India the Israel of South Asia. What’s more, the Vajpayee government’s desperate attempts to acquire US recognition as a de facto nuclear weapons state led it to rupture the non-aligned moorings of foreign policy and float the theory that India is a "natural ally" of the US.

The basis for the agreements the UPA government signed in 2005 with the US is Washington’s compact with the previous government. The 10-year defence cooperation agreement, which ties up all too neatly with American strategic goals in Asia, signifies a major policy step. If this agreement is carried forward, India will place itself squarely in the same box as Japan, South Korea and the Philippines—traditional military allies of the US in Asia.

This unequal "partnership" in military-strategic affairs extends to political and ideological matters as well. During the BJP rule, India had joined the ‘Community of Democracies’ and, now, under the UPA government, it has joined the US in a ‘Global Democracy Initiative’.Seeing how Bush is planting democracy in Iraq, one would have thought that the ruling establishment would have become wary of this talk of US-style "democracy".

The US is aggressively demanding entry of its capital into all sectors of the economy. fdi in retail trade and further liberalisation of the financial sector are high on the list. The purchase of US weapons is being discussed and the government will do well to consider how the US uses arms supplies as a lever to advance its interests.

It’s outrageous to see the Indian government, political leaders and the country as a whole being hectored by US ambassador David Mulford. Thanks to his Bush-like brashness, we know that the US has linked India’s stand on Iran to the nuclear deal. Clearly, the July 18 joint statement led the Indian government into a foreign policy trap. It’s disturbing that while the government has sought to meet ever-escalating US demands on complying with the nuclear cooperation deal, it has kept the details of these demands and of official India’s response a secret from the country.

Those rushing into the US embrace to make up for "wasted decades" should pause and think. The strategic partnership is leading to India having to concede its vital interests to accommodate the US. On the Iran nuclear issue, the UPA government did a volte face and voted with the US and the EU-3 in September 2005 and again in February 2006. The US has already disapproved of the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. It has presented an aide memoire asking the Indian government not to allow ONGC investment in a Syrian oilfield. The list will lengthen in the future.

India needs good relations with the US, but on an equitable plane. It should conform to the Common Minimum Programme of pursuing an independent foreign policy and promoting multipolarity in international relations.


Tension prevailed in this district in North Kerala today following a hartal called by the CPI(M) in protest against the attack, allegedly by IUML activists, on the office of party mouthpiece ‘Desabhimani’ last evening.

Police said the hartal was total in the district.Reports from Payyannur, Edakkadu and Koothuparamba said IUML offices were ransacked, allegedly by CPI(M) activists.