Saturday, 3 May 2014

Reality : India-USA - Has Anything Changed?

On the face of it, the title seems incorrect, for how can anyone say that the famous and much touted partnership between the 2 largest democracies has not undergone a sea change. Witness the Nuclear Accord; The US support for a permanent seat on the UN; increased cooperation; increased trade... it seems glaringly obvious that everything has changed. But has it?

Let us take trade. Can this really be the barometer of a healthy relationship? We have a very robust trade with China. It is somewhat lop-sided, but the trade relations are massive. And yet, no one would call China as India's friend, or that it has a vastly improved relationship with India. We also have trading relations with Pakistan to the tune of nearly 3 Billion Dollars, with whom we have fought 4 wars - 1948, 1965, 1972 and 1999.

The  reality is that a "Healthy", "Friendly" US-India relationship does not  exist, except in Pro-USA lobbies in India, and Pro-India Lobbies in the  USA. Historically, India is probably the only country that has  consistently refused to bow down to USA. This is a current trend, with  the Indian Government making a clear statement that it will not back  down as late as last week. It is manifest in the realities above that  India and the USA, if not enemies, are certainly nowhere close to being  friends, let alone strategic partners. Note that trade does not count in  geopolitical relationships; we have a trading relationship with our  mortal enemy Pakistan, as well as a huge trade with China, who is also  an enemy. Trade does not define Strategic Relationships.

The question is, then, if you take away trade, what can be seen of the relationship? That question, unfortunately, cannot be attended to fully in a blog post. But let us take a single factor here : geopolitical and security relations between the two countries. The USA did everything in  its power to build Pakistan up militarily right from 1955. In 1971, it went to the extreme of nearly attacing India, ignoring the Bangladeshi Genocide, and the attendant damage this was threatening to cause in India. Even the requisite help in terms of helping the refugees was not provided till very late, and then too limited in nature. You had the now-famous Henry Kissinger, whose views regarding India dont make for too healthy and happy reading from an Indian standpoint.

Despite  clear evidence of genocide & the presence of nearly 9 Million  refugees (80% plus Hindus) as well as the knowledge that India does not  have the resources to feed them, no one on Earth came forward to help.  In the face of 1 Billion Dollars, we got something like 100 Million.  And, everyone – 104 nations – opposed the war without suggesting any  alternative to India, or to the refugees. Critically, not one single  nation said anything to Pakistan excepting Russia.

Has anything changed in the intervening 43 years since then? Let us take a look at another gentleman, also a Senior US Diplomat. He was questioned by S Hussain Zaidi in May 2007. The transcript of a critical part is given below; you can read the entire part in the book from Dongri To Dubai...

Hussain Zaidi : Are you aware that Pakistani soil has been used to create terrorism not only in India, but also in cities like Bombay? Karachi in Pakistan has been a safe haven for at least 30 terrorists wanted by the Indian Government in Mumbai blasts of 1993 and subsequently other bombings?

Assistant Secretary Boucher : Well, If you are going to accuse every country - I mean, there are terrorists in India. Look at the Mumbai bombings, Look at the train bombings.

Hussain Zaidi : Yeah, But -

Assistant Secretary Boucher : They were local people, and there were people with connections to other places, including Pakistan

{For the record, the weapons and the bombs were irrefutably traced to Pakistan; they were sent to international agencies as well. The entire plot was unravelled, and Pakistani involvement established. Key perpetrators traced to Pakistan as well}

Hussain Zaidi : Yeah, but the kingpin is always Pakistan

Assistant Secretary Boucher : No, I... I dont think that's completely true, frankly.

Hussain Zaidi : India has always been a victim of terrorists who were remotely controlled by Pakistan, and they have always produced evidence to the US, you still maintain that -

Assistant Secretary Boucher : I'm not here to have an argument. If you want to ask me a question, I'll give you an answer, okay? There are terrorist groups that originated in Pakistan that are now operation throughout the region. Some of those groups are now banned in Pakistan. Some of them have tried to assassinate President Musharraf as well as other people throughout the region. The fact is, you know, this is not a gang from one country to another. Thisis not an accusation from one country to another. These terrorists are operating and attacking governments throughout the region and particularly India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan have recognised that they have a common problem. They need to find common solutions. That's why they have a common mechanism to work together against terrorism.  We think that's good development. We're against terrorists. We're with India against terrorists. We're with Pakistan against terrorists, and we all have to work together if we're going to stop it. That's our view of the situation.

[Zaidi in his mind - as per book - I was absolutely shocked by Boucher's partisan attitude, but now I have to directly ask him about Dawood Ibrahim and the hypocrisy of the US in turning a blind eye towards him]

Husain Zaidi : Just one last thing. Dawood Ibrahim is declared global terrorist by the US. I think the US has also declared that Dawood is an ally of Al Qaida. So I think even the US appears to have in their possession, evidence of his being in  Pakistan

Assistant Secretary Boucher : I dont know if that's true. I mean, I do Dawood Ibrahim is a bad guy, and we deserve to get him, but we all have to work together, yes?

Note the date, this was during the thick of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal negotiations. Even then, there was no hint of a softening, or no hint of taking Pakistan to task, or no hint of a realisation of the gargantuan nature of the problem facing us. This is as late as in 2007. This is when India-US relations were being called the defining relationship. Even now, 7 years later, little seems to have changed; with reports from the US being to the tune that Pakistanis did not know of that Osama was in Pakistan - 1 km from its biggest military training school!

As we can see, nothing has changed in 43 years. The USA is still focussed in the Pakistan-China axis, as it always was. Its views are still partisan; Indian problems - genuine problems do not find even a vague hint of a realisation in the US policies. And yet, we Indians go gaga over the US-India relationship! Arms continue to flow to Pakistan; the USA continues to look the other way; it continues to deny India critical technology; it continues to come in India's way at each and every single forum.  It is time for us to face this hard reality : The USA is not a strategic partner. Let alone that, it is not even a friend, at least on the GeoPolitical and Strategic perspective.

We are just business partners. If Company 1 have a business manufacturing product X, composed of a component Y, that is being produced by companies A, B and C. Of these, A can be negotiated with, and the product sourced.  Similarly, company A has a second product, for which it can source a component from company 1. That does not make the owners of company 1 and A friends; it makes them business partners. That is the perfect description.

Note that we have a trade of nearly 3 Billion Dollars with Pakistan, who is a defined enemy. So why cant we have a 100-Billion Dollar Trade with an acquaintance or an unknown entity such as the USA? Just as you have family, friends, acquaintances and unknown people in individual relations, we can map the India-US relations to such 'names'. In that framework USA is at best an acquaintance. An acquaintance who is the best freind of the next door neighbour who is my enemy. Proof provided above.

Time to face the reality: The USA and India arent friends, and arent strategic partners. We are just trading partners. You have a drink and dinner with friends, you look to defend them in front of others. This is exactly what the USA has been doing to Pakistan - while going after us hammer and tongs for everything under the sun. Time to face the reality, and move on. Let us focus on trade, by all means. Trade is welcome, so long as it is fair. But let us all draw the line there; let us all accept that this brouhaha has to stop; that this is just wishful thinking born out of the romantic notion of democratic links and the equally romantic but thoroughly unrealistic dreams of the expatriate population.

Will this change? Will the hitherto powerless PIO and NRI population make a dent on US' conscience and policies? That remains to be seen. Till that day comes about, let us focus on building trade - like we do with China, Pakistan, even Burma, Sri Lanka. Let us look for strategic partners elsewhere. If the change does happen, it will be welcome. Problem is, it hasnt happened in the past 67 years... 

References -

The Blood Telegram - Gary J Bass
Black Friday - S Hussain Zaidi
From Dongri To Dubai - S Hussain Zaidi

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