No. 41, December 2005

No. 41
(December 2005):

India's Place in the US Strategic Order

India’s Place in the US Strategic Order

The US and India have entered a new era.
-- Opening words of the “New Framework for the US-India Defense Relationship”, June 28, 2005.

Three years ago, in explaining why our journal, which is devoted to analysing the Indian economy, was producing a special issue on the invasion of Iraq, we wrote: "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 [the rest of] Asia, which it sees as a region of increasing strategic importance."

In Asia, we argued, one of the US’s principal targets was China: "The integration of India into US military targeting of China will increase the risk of war for the Indian people.... The Indian public, however, is unaware that it is being thrust into this dangerous strategic chess-game by its rulers.” Thus, we explained, our special issue was 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." (Behind the Invasion of Iraq, Aspects no.s 33 & 34)

Developments have rapidly borne out this analysis. No doubt, the then Vajpayee government was defeated in the May 2004 elections, and was replaced by a Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, backed by the CPI, CPI(M) and other parties. No doubt the Common Minimum Programme of the UPA made vague noises about pursuing "an independent foreign policy keeping in mind past traditions", maintaining "the independence of India’s foreign policy position on all regional and global issues", opposing "all attempts at unilateralism", and so on.

For a year after the UPA assumed office, this pretence was kept up to some degree. Progress was made on talks with China on the border question and other issues; Manmohan Singh declared that relations with Russia have "never looked better" and claimed he saw "immense possibilities" in the "strategic triangle" of India, Russia and China; the petroleum minister negotiated for a pipeline to carry natural gas from Iran to India, in the face of blunt warnings by US officials; and no public commitments were made on certain pending deals with the United States, such as on the missile defence system and the Proliferation Security Initiative (described elsewhere in this issue).

Then, in rapid succession, three developments occurred; none preceded by any public discussion. On June 28, 2005 the Indian defence minister signed the "New Framework of Defence Relations" with the US. On July 18, 2005, the Indian Prime Minister issued a Joint Statement with the US President on a wide range of issues, including India’s nuclear programme. And on September 24, 2005, India voted against Iran in the meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA). Of course, these were not three independent developments: they were expressions of a single development.

US domination over India’s foreign policy has never been more starkly apparent. Former external affairs minister, Yashwant Sinha, who himself presided over unprecedented growth of US influence and control, now terms India a "client state of America". That term has long been applied to Pakistan; yet even Pakistan abstained on September 24 from voting for the US’s resolution in the IAEA.

In the following we address four questions: What sort of "global power" is India? What impelled the Indian government to take the three steps mentioned above? What is the global context in which these steps have been taken? What are the implications of these steps for the Indian people?


NEXT: India as a 'Global Power'


All material © copyright 2015 by Research Unit for Political Economy