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February 19, 2006
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February 19, 2006

Page: 10/33

Home > 2006 Issues > February 19, 2006

The Moving Finger Writes
United States and India: Time to think

By M.V. Kamath

By now it is a cliche to say that the United States is the only super power in the world and everybody knows it. But it is behaving like one with India in a manner that can only be described as crude. If India does not bare its teeth now, it may find itself paying a heavy price for it in years to come.

Washington is playing the carrot-and-stick game. On the one hand it promises access to US civilian nuclear technology to India if Delhi shows willingness to put its civilian facilities under international inspection.

But then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that ?in order to move on to a new phase in which civil nuclear power would be made available to India, Delhi has to make some difficult choices?. That is a broad hint that has its own implications.

And if that is not enough, US Ambassador to India issues what can only be described as an ultimatum, and an unqualified threat. If the Ambassador, David C. Mulford is to be believed?and we should believe him?if India refuses to vote against Iran?s nuclear programme it would have ?devastating? consequences?US nuclear deal with the US Congress refusing to ratify it. The arrogance behind that remark has been described by Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee as ?outrageous?, and violating ?all diplomatic norms?.

No one will charge Shri Vajpayee as being anti-American. And yet even he has been forced to speak out against Mulford. He was reportedly summoned by India?s Foreign Secretary Shri Shyam Saran and told that his comments were ?inappropriate? and ?not conducive to building a strong partnership? between India and the US.

Mulford reportedly expressed his ?sincere regrets? saying that his remarks had been taken out of context?a standard excuse not worth considering. The Government should have demanded his immediate recall for insulting India?s status. But all that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh could say is that ?to err is human?. Dr Singh forgets that what Mulford is guilty of is not erring but insulting a nation. The situation was further compounded in true US style by the US State Department?s spokesman Sean McCormack who, instead of apologising for Mulford?s statement, merely excused him by saying that ?what the Ambassador was talking about merely reflected the views of the Capitol Hill?, meaning thereby the US Congress.

No one will charge Shri Vajpayee as being anti-American. And yet even he has been forced to speak out against Mulford. He was reportedly summoned by India?s Foreign Secretary Shri Shyam Saran and told that his comments were ?inappropriate? and ?not conducive to building a strong partnership? between India and the US.

According to McCormack, ?there are very strongly held feelings about Iran? in the US Congress. He should know that there are equally ?very strong feelings? in India about American behaviour. The US is getting too big for its shoes. The Indian Left has made its ?strong feelings? explicit and for once the communists are speaking out for all India. Even the BJP felt it necessary to express its serious concern over Mulford?s ?over-bearing? statements and warn the government against compromising national interests under US pressure.

Indeed, BJP President Rajnath Singh has gone to the extent of asking Prime Minister Dr Singh to convene an all-party meeting for evolving a consensus on the issue of India?s handling of the Iran nuclear crisis. Let this be clearly understood: The issue is not whether Iran can be allowed to make its own nuclear bombs. If Israel can build its own stockpile of such arms and so can Pakistan, why should anyone object to Iran following suit? If the US is opposed to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, why shouldn?t it get Pakistan to severely punish its own guilty scientist, Dr Abdul Qadir who lives under the protection of the CIA? The US approach is racist. Why doesn?t Washington demand that Britain and France neutralise all their accumulated weapons of mass destruction? Who is likely to attack Britain? Or, for that matter, France?

American arrogance comes through when its interests are affected. Fancy American fury at India?s recent decision to buy a Syrian oilfield in partnership with China! Why shouldn?t India do as it pleases to safeguard its own oil interests? And who is America to tell India what it should or should not do? And yet we learn that a demarche has been issued by the US Government to Delhi saying it ?strongly opposes such investments in Syrian resources?. Strongly, eh? And on what grounds?

On the grounds that the UN Security Council has unanimously passed two resolutions UNSCR 1636 and 1644 demanding mandatory Syrian cooperation with the UN in the later?s investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

According to Washington this is not the time to be seen to help Syria. The US obviously wants to implicate Syria with the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister. In the last two decades, the United States has been guilty of the assassination of not one, but over half a dozen international leaders and the UN has not dared to say so much as a ?boo? against Washington. Who is the United States fooling? The number of international crimes committed by the United States can run into several volumes. Does the United States want to be reminded of that? Or are we supposed to turn a blind eye to American crimes and gratefully fall at Washington?s feet on the theory that it is better to befriend the United States and reap benefits rather than annoy it and invite its anger? If India is to accept that advice, in what way would it be different from, say, Panama or Nicaragua or some other petty Latin American state? Do we always have to grovel at America?s feet to save our interests? The order to India to stay away from Syria has nothing to do with the murder of the Lebanese Minister. What is at stake is America?s hold on Middle East Oil and it wants no competition from India or China. Behind Washington?s demarche is pressure from US oil interests. That is the plain truth.

Already the United States is scared of India and China?s growing strength in science and technology which has persuaded US lawmakers to introduce three Bills in the US Congress to increase the American talent pool in these fields and to attract and retain the best scientific brains from around the world. The Bill package?collectively called the Protect America?s Competitive Edge (PACE) Act was introduced in the Senate as recently as January 26. India would do well, at least in this regard, to follow America?s example and introduce a similar Bill to protect India?s interests, such as investing in Syria?s oil wells.

?We can?t be pressured,? says Dr Manmohan Singh, ?whether on domestic or international policy?. He had better prove himself, if he wants to be believed. As, for instance, on Iran. Or on investing in Syrian oilfields. How else can we show that we have our self-respect? How else, Mr Prime Minister?

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