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No cheers for this one

India's position in the world lies in its intrinsic internal strength. We will end up weakening ourselves if we become a subordinate ally of the US, writes Sitaram Yechury.

columns Updated: May 21, 2011 16:54 IST
Sitaram Yechury
Sitaram Yechury
Hindustan Times

President Barack Obama came, saw and in a sense, conquered, by drawing India further into the US geopolitical strategic framework, apart from advancing US commercial interests. Before leaving Washington, according to The New York Times, Obama said that "The primary purpose is to take a bunch of US companies and open up markets so that we can sell in Asia, in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world", and "create jobs at home".

This may sound desperate but logical in the backdrop of the severe electoral drubbing that the Democrats received in the recent US Congressional elections. With unemployment breaching the psychological barrier of 10% and an economic turnaround not appearing on the horizon, the US needs to prise open the markets of the emerging economies to sell its products. By the time he left India, it was announced that deals amounting to $ 15 billion have been sealed, creating nearly 75,000 jobs in the USA. In an effort to appease India Inc., Obama said, "They (deals) will create jobs in the US, it is true, but those same technologies will also allow Indian entrepreneurs to create jobs here".

The joint statement issued after the visit shows that in the name of promoting food security through an "evergreen revolution", the Indian market is being pushed to open up further for US agri-produce. This would create conditions of 'instant death' for Indian agriculture which is already reeling under an acute crisis. The flooding of Indian markets with highly subsidised US agricultural and dairy products may well escalate distress suicides that are already haunting our country. The US is now anticipating huge orders for nuclear reactors as well as hefty defence purchases. The promise of technology transfer by removing Indian organisations from the US 'entities list', however, does not include the Department of Atomic Energy. This clearly shows that the commitment made in the India-US nuclear deal of full civilian nuclear cooperation including technology transfer will not materialise.

Couched in the flowery rhetoric of India having already "emerged", rubbing shoulders on the 'high table', the framework for economic cooperation in the joint statement maps further opening up our markets. This is happening when the US continues to actively discourage, through policy prescriptions, US firms from outsourcing, adversely affecting employment in India.

There is a satisfactory purr in 'Shining India' that the US has endorsed India's entry into the United Nations Security Council as a permanent member. Speaking to us in Parliament, through us to India, Obama invoked many an Indian icon, acknowledged India's spiritual and scientific contributions including the invention of the zero, effortlessly assayed through Chandni Chowk, panchayat and Panchatantra, using this as a cushion to declare that "increased power comes with increased responsibility". This was followed by a virtual admonition of India for not articulating forcefully the issue of democracy in Myanmar. This was followed by hailing India's commitment towards complete nuclear disarmament and, therefore, suggesting that we fall in line with the US in supporting sanctions on Iran. President Obama raised these issues within the context of universal values of peace, security, democracy and human rights.

Universality of values must necessarily be accompanied by universality of their application. Talking of democracy in Myanmar while remaining silent on the gross violation of the human rights of the Palestinians, or the merciless massacre of civilians by the 50,000-strong US army in Iraq or the illegal economic blockade of Cuba sounds not merely politically selective but hollow. Talking of nuclear proliferation and sanctions against Iran and remaining silent on Israel reveals the agenda of imperialist strategy.

US geopolitical military strategy had led it to underwrite dictatorships across the world in the name of protecting American interests. Hence, one can only conclude that the US would be prepared to see India with 'increased power' but only if it comes with 'increased responsibility' in supporting its strategic interests. President Obama clearly said in as many words in the Parliament that he expected India in its current two-year term as a non permanent member of the UN Security Council to play such a role. He has, thus, put India on probation. A probationary period of two years when support to US positions will determine the latter's support for India's permanent membership.

'Shining India' is also glowing in a sense of 'triumphalism' that the US has finally nailed Pakistan on the issue of terrorism. Obama spoke of Pakistan's need to dismantle 'terrorist apparatus' on its soil and bring the perpetrators of 26/11 to book. This comes on the back of billions of dollars of aid that the US has given Pakistan in return for its military and logistical help in anti-Taliban operations in Afghanistan. The fact of the matter is that the US needs Pakistan in these efforts. It would, thus, be naïve for us in India to hope that the US would jettison Pakistan and support us in the fight against terrorism. The US 'Af-Pak' strategy cannot advance without Pakistan.

In the final analysis, India has to battle the terrorist menace — as we continue to do — on the basis of its own strength and resilience. Instead, that we are relying on the illusory props of US support explains why India failed to raise the issue of David Headley's extradition.

Likewise India failed to remind Obama that double standards on dealing with industrial accidents are not acceptable. Dow Jones must be made to account for the Bhopal gas tragedy like Obama made BP shell out billions for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

India's position in the world's comity of nations lies in its intrinsic internal strength. It is precisely this strength that will be weakened when India seeks the status of a subordinate ally of the US as the crutch to 'arrive' in the world.

These and many other crucial issues will continue to engage us as we battle to improve the livelihoods of the vast majority of impoverished Indians — the real India. We, the Indian Left have heard Obama. It is now his turn to listen.

Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP. The views expressed by the author are personal.

First Published: Nov 11, 2010 23:42 IST