Amit Baruah: Unequal partners? ( A rising India is closing its strategic options by allying too closely with the United States.)
- Date:02/03/2006 URL:
Opinion - News Analysis
A rising India is closing its strategic options by allying too closely
with the United States.
SINCE THE July 2005 visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to
Washington, the Indo-U.S. relationship has been the subject of
considerable debate in both the Indian and the American press
principally for the statement of intent on civilian nuclear
cooperation. Even as the last word on a nuclear deal will be clear
during President George W. Bush's ongoing visit, another initiative the
Prime Minister undertook is, perhaps, even more controversial. And that
is the promotion of democracy along with the U.S. around the world.
Agreeing to a "global democracy initiative" last July, the two sides
said, "India and the United States share a fundamental commitment to
democracy and believe they have an obligation to the global community
to strengthen values, ideals and practices of freedom, pluralism, and
rule of law.
"With their solid democratic traditions and institutions, they have
agreed to assist other societies in transition seeking to become more
open and democratic. They recognise democracy as a universal aspiration
that transcends social, cultural and religious boundaries."
This grandiose formulation also commits New Delhi to "organising
together" with the U.S. training courses in India, America, or a third
country where necessary, to enhance capabilities to strengthen
democratic institutions and develop their human resources. This
initiative must be read together with the new, bilateral defence
framework of June 2005, which holds that the Indo-U.S. defence
relationship derives from a common belief in freedom, democracy, and
the rule of law, and seeks to advance shared security interests. In
pursuit of this shared vision, the defence establishments of the two
sides shall collaborate in multinational operations "when it is in
their common interest".
So, if the next "democracy" project of America is, say, Iran, the U.S.
can legitimately invoke this new framework for "multinational
collaboration". Of course, in India's "enlightened national interest",
the Government may say it's not in the "common interest", but, then,
the U.S., by a formal mechanism, can legitimately request Indian troops
When Manmohan Singh and George W. Bush stood together to announce
their global "democracy" initiative, Iraq was burning. According to
iraqbodycount.net, an independent website, a minimum of 28,535 and a
maximum of 32,153 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the March 2003
Since May 2003, when Mr. Bush announced that his "mission" in Iraq had
been "accomplished", it's estimated that a total of 2,149 American
troops have been killed in what was once a peaceful and safe West Asian
Of this 2,149, as many as 1,734 perished in combat with what
increasingly looks to be a sophisticated and organised resistance
against the U.S., which is beginning to show signs of panic and a
desire to embrace a still unclear exit strategy.
In the name of democracy, Iraq stands at the crossroads of a
full-scale civil war. America has failed on all counts: be it the
building of democracy, infrastructure or even minimum safety conditions
for the people of Iraq. In the name of democracy, American troops have
resorted to abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners; the
American state, in reality, has lost the right to speak about human
rights' abuses in other parts of the world.
In the name of democracy, America under Mr. Bush set up the biggest
con job in selling the war on Iraq: that Saddam Hussein possessed
"weapons of mass destruction".
The Indian Parliament was one of the few in the world, at the prodding
of Congress party, which called for an immediate withdrawal of foreign
troops from Iraq. Today, the resolution is forgotten as successive
Indian governments rush to embrace American foreign policy as their
own. A much poorer, resource-constrained India spoke for national
liberation movements in Palestine and South Africa. America, on its
part, is the biggest impediment to an independent Palestinian state and
was also the biggest collaborator with the apartheid regime in South
A much richer, resource-endowed Indian state now believes that its
"place in the sun" can only be ensured by promoting an American version
of democracy, whose next act Washington wants to perform in Iran.
A rising India is today closing its strategic options by allying
closely with the United States. Some years ago, it would have been
considered a general insult for the U.S. to say that it would "help"
India become a global power. Now, sections of India's strategic elite
simply applaud such statements.
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