Nos. 33 & 34, December 2002
Why this special issue:
Readers of Aspects will no doubt be surprised at the fact that we have chosen to bring out a special issue apparently not on any aspect of Indias political economy, but on the impending US assault on Iraq. However, we believe the twoIndias political economy and the most important current world developmentare connected, and as the current offensive drive unleashed by the US worldwide proceeds, the implications for our region will become clearer.
Even as the US prepares to launch a massive assault on Iraq, it has declared India to be its most important military ally in the Asian region (not including west Asia)this despite the fact that it has three bases in Pakistan at the moment. The significance of terming India an ally is not limited to the possible use of Indian ports and airports for re-fuelling American ships and military aircraft. India has become an important part of the US strategic order. That order is now focussed on seizing Iraq and some other states in west Asia; tomorrow it will shift its focus to Asia, which it sees as a region of increasing strategic importance.
Only the most naive would buy the ideaadvanced in the speeches of Indian and US leadersthat the reason for the USs newfound interest is Indias increased importance as a world power. Indias economy is less than one-twentieth the size of the USs, and its entire Gross Domestic Product is just about the size of the US trade deficit. Its official military budget is $13 billion or so, compared to the USs $379 billion. The object of recent moves by the US is not Indo-US partnership, but advancing US interests, using India as a strategic pawn. In the words of US ambassador Robert Blackwill, President Bush vigorously pursues strategic relations with India because a powerful India will advance American democratic values [sic] and vital US national interests in the decade ahead.
That remark is from a remarkable speech made by Blackwill on November 27 at Kolkata (excerpts are given in the Appendices to this issue). In it he not only describes the range of recent military and strategic cooperation between the US and India, but omits any mention of the following familiar themes: Pakistan, Kashmir, human rights, and, most significantly, the Indian nuclear programme. Instead, he promotes India as the USs partner to curtail the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Asia, and the means to deliver them. There is no mention of the fact that India carried out nuclear tests in May 1998, thereby openly declaring that it would be producing weapons of mass destruction.
Indeed this stance is more than a year old. A September 2001 piece in the New York Times about an earlier talk of Blackwills stated that The tenor and substance of the ambassadors remarks signaled a calm acceptance of Indias nuclear status. (US Envoy Extols India, Accepting Its Atom Status, 7/9/01) Jim Hoagland wrote in the Washington Post that There is new thinking about nuclear doctrine, and India, at the White House. Bush intends to end the sanctions in a matter of months, according to aides, and wants a new strategic relationship with India. (Rethinking Asia in Indias Favour, 1/7/01)
In other words, the Indian nuclear programme has become a part of the US strategic architecture for this region.
There is not a single mention of China in Blackwills Kolkata speech, but it is not difficult to understand the target of the US-India alliance. Vajpayees nuclear strategy is centered wholly on China, writes Hoagland. In fact, immediately after the 1998 tests Vajpayee wrote a letter to the then American president Clinton clarifying precisely this.
The integration of India into US military targeting of China will increase the risk of war for the Indian people, since China will surely respond by targeting India as the USs beachhead in the region. Against such a response by China, the Indian rulersfor all their talk of being a major powerwould simply seek refuge under the American umbrella. The Vajpayee government not only endorsed the USs widely condemned missile defence programme1, but is clearly hoping to be brought under its protection. Hoagland wrote in July 1991 that
In the face of a US on the offensive, a US-India axis and a missile shield, China might follow the course similar to that followed by the USSR in the 1980snamely, building up a much larger force of nuclear missiles in order to penetrate the missile shield in different places, including over India. The Americans are well aware that such a programme would be enormously expensive, and would strain Chinas economic strength; indeed, that is one of their objectives. The Indian public, however, is unaware that it is being thrust into this dangerous strategic chess-game by its rulers.
The Indian rulers have already obtained certain benefits in peonage to global American supremacy. This was evident in the aftermath of the ruling partys horrific massacres of Muslims in Gujarat, carried out in a systematic fashion from March of 2002, with the state machinery as active participant. The entire operation was in many ways unprecedented in post-1947 India. The BJP has since then declared its intention to repeat the Gujarat experiment in other states. In April, the Indian government had to face uncomfortable questioning from the European Union in this regard. The Indian government responded in a strident fashion. Vajpayee declared that India is being preached (sic) about secularism.... We do not need to learn from others what secularism and pluralism are all about. He could respond in this fashion because of the crucial silence of the United States, which to date has refused to pass a single official comment on the Gujarat massacres. During this very period military and foreign policy cooperation between the US and India has developed rapidly. Evidently, the USs praise for Indias democratic values winks at whatever methods of rule are actually applied, as long as the parliamentary shell remains in place.
Similarly, US intervention in the Kashmiri political scene has helped the government in Delhi. The US ambassador has made several trips to the Kashmir valley. Hurriyat leaders indirectly admitted in September that they were under US pressure not to boycott the forthcoming elections. Indeed the Hurriyat abandoned plans to hold a parallel referendum on Kashmiri self-determination, and nearly withdrew their opposition to the official elections.
This special isue of Aspects of Indias Economy,
then, is not only about Iraq, west Asia, or oil. It is about the current
US strategic agenda and its implications for the rest of the world. As
the Indian rulers have placed India within that US agenda, it is necessary
for us to understand its implications in depth.
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