No. 41, December 2005
India's Place in the US Strategic Order
II. The Class Logic of the Indian Rulers' Drive for 'Great-Power' Status
III. From Central Asia to the Gulf to the South China Sea
IV. Why the US Promotes India's Great-Power Ambitions
App. I: Indo-US Joint Military Exercises after 2002 – A Partial List
App. II: Growing Relationship with Israel
App. III: Manufacturing Justifications for an Aggressive Alliance
App. IV: Internal Requirements of 'Great-Power' Status
India as 'Global Power'
The prospects for a US-India alliance seem attractive to the Indian rulers. First, because the US evidently enjoys military superiority without precedent in world history, and therefore seems in a good position to guarantee India a new global status. Secondly, perhaps more than ever before, the Indian upper classes, and even considerable sections of the urban middle class, by now identify with the US's world hegemony: Many have relatives in the US; growing numbers of them work for US firms or firms serving the US (eg, in the IT sector); and the explosion of foreign and domestic media during the last 15 years has heightened this sense of identification. Official US backing to India's 'great power' project will no doubt further consolidate support among these sections for a US-India strategic alliance. Though a small minority, these sections play an important role in shaping 'public opinion', that is, in influencing broader sections.
However, there are several reasons why all will not go smoothly for the US-India alliance now unfolding.
(i) First, US military superiority is over-rated. It is by no means unchallenged. Even now it has been unable to suppress the resistance forces of just one country, Iraq. And it is overstretched globally and showing signs of strain. More significantly, the economic base of US hegemony worldwide is fragile. Given this, its guarantees of "making India a global power" are even more fragile.77
(ii) Secondly, the internal political difficulties of the Indian ruling classes are unlikely to be solved by India being deemed a 'global power'. This is for the simple reason that while the upper sections have prospered from the changes that have taken place in the last two decades, the large majority have seen their conditions worsen. It is the latter sections, at the bottom of the pile, that are behind the turbulence in the domestic political scene. These sections live in such grinding misery that they are by and large not susceptible to propaganda about India's 'global status'.
The current trajectory of the Indian economy is not likely to change that fact. The growth of what is called 'national income', when accompanied by even faster growth of inequality, is of dubious benefit to the working sections. Had employment genuinely grown, the working sections would have benefited, but there has been negligible employment growth and thus (given the growing numbers seeking work) there has been rapid growth of unemployment. Further, major changes are in the offing that, in the process of creating opportunities for the foreign and domestic corporate sector, will wreak havoc in India's small-peasant agriculture. With these changes, unemployment in the country is likely to become even more acute, and the political scene even more turbulent.
(iii) Thirdly, the United States today is set on a course of extraordinary military adventurism to shore up its declining imperialist power. We do not have space here to discuss this topic in the detail it deserves. Suffice it to mention a few examples. The invasion and occupation of Iraq, it is now well known, is part of a broader US scheme to grab physical control of as much as possible of the world's oil. The well-known American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh writes that the US government has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran since summer 2004 in order to prepare for bombing strikes and commando raids "to destroy as much of the [Iranian] military infrastructure as possible." ("The Coming Wars", New Yorker, 24/1/05) Perhaps the main obstacle to the execution of this plan has been the continuing resistance in Iraq tying down the US military.
Military plans to check China are longer-term, but no less adventurist. The Pentagon's thinkers envision a new Cold War, writes Robert Kaplan approvingly in a piece titled "How we would fight China" (Atlantic, June 2005). Russia too is to be checked. The US (with European help) has recently sponsored 'revolutions' in Georgia and the Ukraine in order to construct a ring of US allies ringing Russia; in fact, the US is pushing a specific proposal for a 'security organisation' in the region of the oil-rich Caspian Sea excluding Russia and China. The National Security Strategy of the USA (September 2002) declared that the US would not tolerate the emergence of a competitor, not only for global hegemony, but even for regional hegemony in any part of the world.
Because it needs support in this task, the US must encourage elements among its allies to entertain dreams of great-power status under US aegis. Japan, with which the US has concluded a broad-ranging strategic agreement in October 2005, is a striking example. The US has been systematically encouraging Japan in recent years to abandon constitutional restraints on its armed forces, and to despatch them abroad. It has supported a prime minister (Koizumi) who has repeatedly paid homage to Japanese war criminals at the Yasukuni shrine, in a blatant appeal to reactionary sentiments in Japan and in deliberate provocation of China. It has made Japan the key partner of its programme to militarise space.78
Thus it is no exaggeration to say that the US is on a course of belligerence and terrorism against the people of the world. Various forces, of diverse character, have recognised this and are gearing up for the confrontation.
At the level of important military powers, China and Russia are moving closer. They have issued a joint Declaration on the World Order opposing unilateralism and the use of force, and calling for multilateralism and reliance on the United Nations, peaceful use of outer space, and a world order "free from any claims to monopoly or dominance in international affairs." They have formed a military alliance (the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation) with four Central Asian countries. Most significantly, they have recently carried out their first joint military exercises, involving 10,000 troops in all.
However, Chinese and Russian opposition to the US designs is confined to areas of their direct strategic interest. It is at the level of the world people that the opposition to US designs is sharpest and broadest – a fact confirmed at a banal level by several public opinion surveys, but, more importantly, in popular struggle the world over. In Latin America, which the US considers its backyard, the US faces unprecedented isolation, as George Bush discovered during a recent visit there. Similar is the case among the people (as distinct from the rulers) of West Asia and North Africa, Europe and parts of East and Southeast Asia as well.
Therefore as the Indian rulers sign up to the US military alliance, they tie India to the world's most reactionary power and place it at the receiving end of the response of diverse worldwide anti-US forces. The negative consequences of that tying will be felt by the Indian people, in one form or the other: for example, through bloated military expenditures and increased danger of war and other retaliatory acts. So the Indian people will surely come to register their opposition to this subordination to US designs, and to the bogus 'great-power' status, which can neither feed, nor clothe, nor house them.
77. In the period after World War II, the US, anxious to combat the 'menace' of Communism, did assist the economies of South Korea and Taiwan, in particular by allowing them special access to its market even as those countries were allowed to maintain barriers against imports. However, the US economy has long lost the dominant position it enjoyed in the 1950s and 1960s, and today contrarily it is desperate to open up markets for itself. India, moreover, is not a small economy like Taiwan or South Korea. So the US is not in a position to give it any serious economic boost. (back)
78. The US programme to militarise space is a little-publicised development of profound danger to the world:
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