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Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 29

Rice’s Message and Indian Response


Saturday 7 July 2007, by SC


Long years ago at the height of the Cold War John Foster Dulles had in his characteristic style spewed venom at the non-aligned worldview and decreed the concept of non-alignment as ‘amoral’.

Today the Dullesian Cold War lies buried in the dust-heap of history. Yet in essence the attitude of the American leaders has not undergone the slightest change. Thus US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, while addressing the US-India Business Council meeting in Washington, displayed the same arrogance of Dulles when she bluntly asked India to ditch the NAM and join the ‘partnership of fellow democracies with common ideals and values’ obviously under Washington’s guidance and inspiration. The message was loud and clear: don’t stand on the sidelines, join us. Since the NAM is a stumbling block on the path of such a ‘partnership’ it was necessary for states like India to discard it, she sermonised.

When Nehru, Tito and Naseer had conceived non-alignment the whole idea stemmed not from any “holier than thou” approach or from the ulterior design of striking lucrative deals with both the superpowers (the other name of realpolitic) but from the overriding need of reinforcing the developing world’s independence and the individual NAM country’s sovereignty. Nehru had, in his visit to the US in 1949, made it abundantly clear that freedom was something non-negotiable: if freedom is imperilled or when aggression takes place we cannot and will not remain neutral, he had declared without equivocation. Such statements naturally did not go down well with the US Establishment.

Rice spoke at length on non-alignment. But her understanding of NAM is quite poor. Thus, she says that instead of being aligned with the interests and power of one bloc or another as during the Cold War there should now be a partnership of fellow democra-cies.

For her information, the NAM states—or at least the most prominent founding members like India—have not been aligned with any bloc. That is the basis of their success in evolving independence of thought, vision and action. But all that is anathema to Rice—she won’t or doesn’t want to understand.

However, one question remains: why was Rice emboldened to speak in the manner in which she did? The answer is not far to seek. There are quite a number of enthusiastic supporters of her view in our country as well and they occupy influential positions in government and outside. It is these people who have encouraged her to speak her mind. But these influential elements do not represent the real public opinion of this country. That is where Condoleezza Rice had made a major mistake.

Nevertheless, we must be thankful to Rice for once again exposing Washington’s insatiable urge to dominate the world. And by so doing the fundamental difference in the approach of the US and India has once come out in the open. So there cannot be any alignment with the US.

Rice’s statement has come at a time when the Government of India has granted R&R facilities to the US aircraft carrier, USS Nimitz, in Chennai. This was one of the two US aircraft carriers recently mobilised in the Persian Gulf to threaten Iran. As several noted historians, economists, writers and intellectuals have underlined, military interactions with such entities “point to an erosion of foreign policy independence” and constitute “a departure from the UPA’s promise to work for a balanced, multipolar world free of nuclear weapons”. One must always be vigilant of such dangers.

The American objectives are crystal-clear: to draw India into its arc of influence and eventually ensure our total alignment with Washington in the name of ‘partnership of fellow democracies’. Any move in that direction would definitely amount to compromising our independence and sovereignty. By reiterating our continued adherence to the NAM and highlighting its abiding relevance it has been made transparent by Indian public opinion as well as the Government of India that this country is not up for sale. That should also help Condi Rice to purge her mind of any thought that India could be turned into a banana republic by employing the carrot-and-stick policy in the changed global scenario, howsoever much a section of our rootless elite would like to see that kind of transformation for our nation.

July 3 S.C.

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