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Mainstream, VOL LV No 9 New Delhi February 18, 2017

India - US: Wheel turns Full Circle

Tuesday 21 February 2017

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

Some historic comments never get stale. Marx opened his Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte with these words: “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” This has been quoted umpteen times on umpteen occasions by many people. Indeed, the decision of the Modi Government to allow Anil Ambani group’s Reliance Defence and Engineering to enter into a contract with the US Navy to service ships of the US Seventh Fleet is one such occasion.

In 1971, at the penultimate stage of the Bangladesh liberation war, the then US President, Richard Nixon, sent the Seventh Fleet to the Bay of Bengal to crush the dreams of the people of Bangladesh to become independent. It was an irony of history that the leading ship of the Seventh Fleet was named Independence. It was a tragedy for the mighty US. Before Independence could make a beachhead at Chittagong, ninety thousand Pakistani troops surrendered to the Indian forces. Free Bangladesh was born. That was the India of Indira Gandhi in the year 1971.

Now, in 2017, the wheel has turned full circle. History is repeating itself—this time as a farce for India. The India of Narendra Modi has agreed to host the very same Seventh Fleet through its proxy, the Ambanis, who enjoy excellent rapport with the Prime Minister. In return, the US will throw ten thousand crore bucks over the next five years. The Reliance-US Navy deal is in line with the Logistic Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) signed between India and Washington in August last year. Anyone who has gone through the LEMOA document knows that without formally admitting it, the Agreement binds India into supporting the United States in any future conflict with China by allowing it to use freely Indian seaports and airports for military operations.

Of course, for form’s sake, the LEMOA allows India to make similar use of US air- and seaports, but it is only a fig leaf to hide the real truth, because India will never have to use US facilities as it is not going to be involved in any military operations on the other side of the Atlantic. Therefore, for all practical purposes, LEMOA will be entirely to the advantage of the US without any coequal advantage to India. Indeed, LEMOA signifies the formal end of India’s foreign policy of non-alignment and its jumping on to the American bandwagon. It will forfeit India’s claim to be the leader of the Third World countries—a unique status it has enjoyed since independence.

The US-India strategic partnershjp started during the UPA regime when New Delhi decided to ‘broaden and deepen’ India’s defence relationship with Washington. Now the Modi Government has taken the process several steps ahead. Indeed, as far back as in 2013, India was toying with the idea of a Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) with the US. LEMOA is the final version of the original idea. The present rulers of this country have turned India into a junior partner of the US whose sole concern, especially under Donald Trump, is the containment of China. To be sure, China is no friend of India, but that does not mean that India should gang up with the United States to further antagonise China without any consequential benefit.

Unfortunately, the sinister implications of LEMOA and the deals flowing from it like the one between the Ambanis and the US Navy, have not been brought into focus and analysed by the media, especially the electronic media. What is more intriguing is that the parties of the Opposition, including those of the Left, have preferred to remain silent on this issue for reasons best known to them.

India’s military strength is quite formidable now and is growing quickly. The Agni V with its reported range of six thousand plus kms and the successful testing of the K-4, the nuclear capable Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM), with a range of 3500 kms, are some of the formidable deterrents India already has. No self-respecting nation depends on another country for its defence. India can defend itself on its own, without becoming a junior partner of the US.

February 16 B.D.G.