The eternal love triangle: India - Pakistan - USA...


Hyphenated relationship seems a trifle overdone statement; it seems to be a common and everyday term. It is also a term that does not capture the realities of the relationship. Even the most forthright of observers veers round the ugly facts by using this term, and insisting on the India-USA relationship be dehyphenated. What the situation requires is a new term - one that truly represents the ground reality of the India-USA relationship.

And I humbly propose "The eternal love triangle". The "eternal" implies no solution in the foreseeable future; and the "love" is purely one-sided: US love for our markets, India's love for day-dreaming of a strategic Indo-US relationship and US love for Pakistan. That, to my mind, is the perfect terminology for the complicated relationship between my lovely India and the USA. And triangle? There are 3 of us. Even geometrically, join the capitals - they make an isosceles triangle, almost. Try it: I just did!

No headway can be made until we describe the background of this relationship; it is essential that we exorcise the ghosts of the past before we try to make an objective analysis of this most critical of our relationships. This is even more so, since the US side does not understand,appreciate or accept the Indian realities, or what India has gone through. Hence, I will restrict myself to the Indian realities as are known to me; the US side of the story and its strategic imperatives are well known to all. As Manoj Kumar said, Bhaarat Kaa Rehene Waalaa Hun, Bhaarat Ki Baat Sunaataa Hun. 


The Historical Perspective
USA has many expectations from India; rarely has it ever tried to understand the Indian side of the story. They would like us to run into their arms - as is evident from the Aircraft procurement tantrum by the USA. They forget the past, the history. It will take time for the wounds to heal, for the suspicion to falter. To those who say the USA, in turn, has expectations - my response is simply, it takes 2 to tango. And that is precisely what is wrong with the relationship. The following bullet points highlight the flow of the problems from 1940 onwards till the modern era:


  • First, The Atlantic Charter. When the freedom for the world was being discussed, self-determination for all was considered. India was not included in this landmark treaty. India was denied the right to freedom by that paragon of freedom, by that great supporter of freedom the USA. This was a major blow; the leaders of our independence movement were shocked by this betrayal. "How can I fight for a thing - freedom - which is denied to me?" Jawaharlal Nehru. The USA interpreted it as standing in the path of the war; totally forgetting the Indian right to freedom. This was perhaps the starting point of the deterioration.
  • Second, consistent denial of technology to a growing, needy and hungry nation in dire need of technological improvements. This gained ground after the entry of Pakistan into the US alliance in 1954. We were, for example, denied steel plant technology - when we first approached the USA. The USSR gave it to us; we took it. Why shouldn't we? We came to USA first, but were spurned.
  • Third, supply of arms to Pakistan. This continues till date; despite credible and concrete evidence of its usage against India in both overt as well as covert missions. Enough said.
  • Fourth, sending the 7th fleet against India in the 1971 war to intercede on Pakistan's behalf, ignoring the problems- the real problems - India was facing, or the fate of the Bangladeshis, or the genocide and massacres being carried out there.
  • Fifth, arming Mujahideens, setting up ISI for operations  in Afghanistan starting 1988. The USA totally ignored the possibility that the ISI would use these arms and intelligence assets against India. This decision is ultimately responsible for Operation Topac of Pakistan, and the sudden influx of terror into the then-peaceful Kashmir. India has not known a peaceful day since that fateful decision - the loss in terms of lives has been incalculable. There is not even the hint of remorse on the US side; despite being given evidence of Pakistani complicity.
  • Sixth, the 1998 sanctions on the Nuclear Tests, and the 2001 about-face as the USA belatedly woke up to the potential market of India, as well as the chance of selling their stuff to us. But this did not go so far as the Cryogenic Technology; which they are still denying to pass on. No matter: we are scheduled to test our own indigenous version in June 2013 

I could state several more: denial of complete access to David Coleman Headley, the chance that he was a US spy, that the US might have been aware of the atacks; or I could examine the lack of real felt cooperation in the war against terror. I could state several more instances; I could examine the US pouting on their F-16 and F-18s being rejected against the overall growth in Indo-US military trade, which is by no means insubstantial. Or I could make the point that the USA has not been a reliable arms supplier in the past, withholding critical parts to achieve some objective... but the above will suffice to showcase the consistent anti-India approach of the USA for the past 73 years at least, right upto the modern day with the latest statement of Indian "interference" in Afghanistan. This is a reality that has shown no signs of change... 

The Current Reality, And The Roadmap Forward
I am only concerned with highlighting the simple fact that there are genuine areas of concern, areas where the USA was caught with its pants down; areas where we have lost due to the USA, or were spurned or even attacked like in 1971. Any Indian decision has to be examined in the perspective of the nature of the current relationship. The relationship is such that there is an absence of trust on the Indian side due to the reasons outlined above. In this light, it is optimistic in the extreme to expect any substantial movement from India beyond what has already been achieved: joint military exercises, increased military and other trade, lowered barriers, cooperation in terror etc. 

The 2 of our nations have progressed a great deal from the days when we were, if not enemies, at the very least deeply suspicious of each other. The narrow glasses have been removed, a broader world view in now in place, which is a welcome development. However, expecting too much too soon in this relationship would be a capital mistake for the reasons outlined above. I appreciate that the US might also have concerns and its own strategic imperatives; but it needs to be aware of our concerns, as also the fact that without addressing these core concerns, real  progress is not possible. Our concerns, to be brief are: Pakistan and the US handling of the same; Lack of technology transfer; China; Intelligence sharing, Joint Military Operations and Collaboration in high technology. As per Nicholas K Gvosdev, A partner like India might be accorded full participation in a number of counter-terrorism initiatives, an expedited export control process for space technology and invitations to partner in selected research and development projects with the Department Of Defense. The last bit is precisely what Russia is doing; we are partners in many defence R&D efforts, notably the 5G figher. 

There seems to be little realisation of this reality in even the common man in the USA (as evidenced by my interactions on quora) ; Andy Lee Chaisiri being a notable exception on Quora community. If the expectation is that India will be happy in playing the normally understood role of an ally in US perceptions, then there can be no progress forthcoming; not now, not ever. India will prefer to retain her autonomy of decision making as per her own strategic imperatives; the Iran imbroglio with the US being a case in point. India will never accede to playing second fiddle. The USA will have to find a proper definition of a partner with respect to India - or bid goodbye to strategic partnership hopes with India. It will have to accept our reservations and objections on the US treatment of Pakistan, or there can be no progress. That, to my mind, is beyond negotiation. And this is generally representative of the people's desires as well. 

And the historical perspective cannot be ignored. Saying sorry by the USA now would be both pointless, as well as a pipe dream. You dont insult a country you want to become your partner by starting out insisting for an apology. But the trust deficit will have to be lowered; and that can only be a long-term process. USA will have to rise above its penchant for seeing our relations from a purely transactional basis. That could be a way to bridge the trust deficit. The Nuclear Accord, and the support for a permanent seat on the UN security council offered a window of opportunity, which has been quickly squandered away, largely by the USA to be frank. The historical perspective above has been enclosed solely for one purpose: to underline the trust deficit. In such a scenario, quick implementation of promises and long-term thought are the need of the hour. 

Without mutual trust and respect, a strategic partnership will remain a pipe dream. And the indications are not hopeful: the latest statement on Indian "interference" in Afghanistan, the Arms to Pakistan, China-US dialogue contents  etc all seem to indicate that for the USA, India is just a market, a need. It is still viewed on a transactional basis; much like we customers ourselves treat a store which we know we will never visit again. On a regular store, we will forego the extra discount, or the unavailable change, We expect to be back. That is why the USA's insistence on Quid-Pro-Quo as in the Aircraft deal, or in Iran example, is unacceptable to us Indians. 

Which is why I said: The Eternal Love Triangle: US love for our markets, India's love for day-dreaming of a strategic Indo-US relationship and US love for Pakistan...

By the time USA wakes up, it will be far too late... for chances are, a deeply proud Indian Nation will have moved on. There are indications of this having started...

Comments

  1. Vishal, to a certain degree I agree. But if we want to be accurate, a strategic alliance with the then Soviet Union and India during the 60s and 70s is never mentioned anywhere by you. This alliance became the hot dispute not only with the US but with whole Western World. The problem with India and Egypt at that time was the lack of understanding about the political and economic dynamics of the Soviet Union and the US in the context of the struggle of a world wide influence.
    It is very interesting that at present the relationship of US and India is 10 times stronger that it is with with India and Russia. Can you explain as to why this is?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes the relationship is improving, but I dont think the India - US relationship is stronger than the Russians. India and Russia share a deep strategic relationship; ditto India and Israel. In the case of USA, there is only people-to-people contact that is deep; all other parameters are in the doldrums. As regards investment, that will come to India so long as our markets offer competitively higher growth, and has little relationship with diplomatic ties.

      USA still views India as only a market; there is zero tachnology sharing on any front. We are demonstrably at the forefront of sny number of technological areas, where a strategic partnership can be forged. But USA has shown no intention of partnering India - unlike Russia and Israel, who are partnering India in several military and non-military development projects of substantial importance. It is USA's loss, as they are losing the access to frugal engineering skills that Indians excel at, as an example. There are several other areas where USA can benefit in technological partnerships, but no. It cannot see beyond its own short-term strategic imperatives. USA's loss; no skin of our backs. Makes little difference to us - we are already moving ahead, factoring this into our calculations. If USA expects India to play second-fiddle like its NATO partners, forget it. That is a pipe-dream. Either partner us as equals, or forget it. This is not a deal that USA is used to negotiating. We are an intensely proud people; no headway can be made by treating us like second-class people. That apart, till such time as USA is sending arms to Pakistan, there will be no strategic partnership between India and the USA. Currently, India is just keeping the doors open, a wise diplomatic move. The real substance is reserved for partners we trust - and we dont trust the USA. Simple as that. The trust deficit will have to be removed; there is no other alternative. And the ball is in USA's court. India has had enough of meaningless platitudes; it is high time the USA showed substance. And that means, recognising Pakistan for what it is, stopping Arms and Aid to Pakistan, partnering us as equals in technology development programs like the Russians etc do, settling Indian concerns on China, real cooperation on terror with a proper mechanism for information sharing & joint terror operations, and a seat as a permanent member of the UN security council. Except the last - not one item is negotiable. Further, the USA has actively discouraged and hindered Indian designs in each and every one of the points above. And in each and every case, we have overcome. Witness our Moon probe, and the Mars probe to be launched. Witness cryogenic technology, or ICBMs etc which we developed internally - despite US hindrance.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. As regards the Russian angle, we were never part of the Russian block. We were just allies. Further, please note that Russia offered technology transfer right from the start; and actually helped us whenever we were in dire need - whereas the USA always denied help - right from the 1930s and 1940s. Documented fact. US denial of help to India right from the Atlantic Charter predated this concern of yours. Atlantic Charter, Refusal to give steel for steel plants, Military help to Pakistan from 1955 etc etc all predate India's alliance with the Russians. I dont think the West has any right to object, given that they had refused us help consistently, right from 1947. An American president is even on record stating "I didnt think it (India) was important". This statement also predates India's so-called alliance with the russians. If we went to Russia, it is the west which is responsible for it, with their refusal of help on innumerable occasions as well as building up Pakistan militarily. We had no option; we had to ally with Russia for self-defence. The West had better examine its own actions before preaching to India.

      "I thought India was pretty jammed with poor people and cows round streets, witch doctors and people sitting on hot coals and bathing in the Ganges... but I did not think anybody thought it was important" - Harry S Truman, 33rd President of the USA, around 1951.

      If such lovely and fair views were held by your President, what do you expect from the others? And then how can you blame us for doing what we could in those days to help ourselves.

      The record shows we approached USA first - and were spurned on each and every occasion. The reason is that USA was not interested in altruism or friendship; they needed a means to control the middle east and russia - and Pakistan met the requirement.

      Delete
    4. Dear Peter,
      Please accept my apologies for the bluntness; hope you can understand. And thanks for agreeing with me part-way. I have stated my views in detail here: http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2013/04/india-russia-and-us-connection.html

      Hope this helps. Please do read the 2 books referred there... there are absolute top-class.

      Regards,

      Vishal

      Delete
  2. US denial of help to India right from the Atlantic Charter predated this concern of yours. Atlantic Charter, Refusal to give steel for steel plants, Military help to Pakistan from 1955 etc etc all predate India's alliance with the Russians. I dont think the West has any right to object, given that they had refused us help consistently, right from 1947. An American president is even on record stating "I didnt think it was important". This statement also predates India's so-called alliance with the russians. If we went to Russia, it is the west which is responsible for it, with their refusal of help on innumerable occasions as well as building up Pakistan militarily. We had no option; we had to ally with Russia for self-defence. The West had better examine its own actions before preaching to India.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

PK, The Movie : One Of The Best...

Pink Movie - Asking The Right Questions Of The Man!