The war train sidetracks U.S.-India 'alliance'

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By Sol Sanders

Sol W. Sanders

April 14, 2003

Early, early, early …but the fallout from the Iraq War appears to have killed an India-U.S. alliance. Since the Clinton Administration heyday, some Washington plotters dreamed of this bumper sticker. It was one flighty Clintonite stratagem accepted without question by the incoming Bushies.

Whether it was ever realistic, only future historians will guess. The hypothesis had wide appeal: Indian-U.S. commercial exchanges were mushrooming. Indians’ mathematics genes produced cybernetic graduates for donkey work of the dot.coms at bargain prices. Washington’s recognition of New Delhi as hegemonic power in South Asia would make India a big customer for U.S. arms, always attractive to Pentagon procurement budgeters. India’s massive manpower pool suggested a counterfoil to China’s growing military Ý and having failed to halt India’s nuclearization, a competing nuclear power.

In the pre-9/11 geopolitical equation, Pakistan’s lock-step alliance with China had vitiated our longtime Cold War alliance. There was Islamabad’s nuclear weapons pursuit, collaboration with North Korea for missiles. Its Westminster system implosion into corruption and incompetence approaching bankruptcy made it a realpolitik write-off, ditto in an idealistic world of human rights and promotion of free markets. What wasn’t appreciated then [or now?] is that the two major states of South Asia are locked in internal embrace, created out of the horrors of British India Partition. One only has to recall India has a larger Moslem minority than Pakistan Ý its justification was a theory of two nations, Moslem and Hindu.

We will never know, of course, but had the Clinton policy of embrace of India succeeded, it would surely have pushed Pakistan over the edge.

Then came two events, a military takeover in Pakistan and the terrorist attack on the American homeland. Gen.-President. Musharraf threw in his lot with the U.S. and has, to a greater or lesser degree, collaborated in Afghanistan and in the pursuit of the Islamic terrorists. When the U.S. pressed for elections, he held them Ý even though they resulted in Islamicist majorities in two border provinces. It is not clear how successful he will be for we do not know what inroads these radicals have made in the Pakistan army itself, having seen how far they have infiltrated its security services and the country’s scientific elite.

Washington wants India to give him a helping hand by restarting negotiations over principle issues, particularly Kashmir Ý the disputed province where a half million Indian security forces cannot halt bloodletting. India has argued the U.S. has a double-standard, refusal to conciliate “its” terrorists but, in effect, condoning terrorism in Kashmir.

In typical hypocrisy of its 35 years of alliance with the Soviet Union, New Delhi has denounced the U.S. intervention in Iraq but argued that a supposed American dictum of preemption could justify an attack on Pakistan. Despite outrageously provocative statements by its foreign minister and the loose canon minister of defense, George Fernandes, India is not likely to move. But it uses this argument against Sec. of State Powell’s entreaties to reduce tensions and the [possibility of an accidental nuclear exchange with Pakistan through talks. No discussions, India says, until Pakistan halts infiltration into Kashmir, the center of their disputes.

Meanwhile, India has signed huge new arms agreements with Russia Ý although Indo-Russian trade is falling. Hopes of American investors have collapsed in the face of failure and endless lawsuits of a mammoth investment Ý by the discredited Enron and its partners Ý in electrical generation, one of India’s many shortages.

Slowdown of privatization Ý led by Fernandes, a one-time leftwing socialist Ý of India’s Soviet-style government industries has also scared off U.S. and other foreign investment. And the bureaucratic snarl has not improved.India’s four technological schools report no jobs because of the world computer recession.

A parliamentary statement denouncing U.S. intervention in Iraq Ý despite talk of India grabbing reconstruction contracts Ý was enthusiastically supported by the Congress Party, waiting in the wings for the fragile governing coalition to crack. Inder Kumar Gural, who as foreign minister went to embrace Sadaam Hussein during the Gulf War. and spokesman for the Moscow claque in India’s bureaucracy, puts it succinctly: Gulf War II, he said, should be viewed in the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, U.S. attempts at ‘‘de-Russification’’ of Central Asia and the entry of China into Central Asia, particularly Kazakhstan. ‘‘We have our interests in Iraq and the stand in Parliament represents the sentiments of the people. We don’t decide our foreign policy on the basis of what Washington does. Saddam was a dictator but remember he was on our side when it came to Kashmir. Also remember that the oldest democracy in the world supports the largest number of dictators. We have to watch our interests.”

Back to the East India Company syndrome which has always seen the U.S. as a new colonial threat to Indian “values”.

Sol W. Sanders, (, is an Asian specialist with more than 25 years in the region, and a former correspondent for Business Week, U.S. News & World Report and United Press International. He writes weekly for World

April 14, 2003

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