Pushing for Closer Links?

Afriend in need? Not really. Yet Modi hoped to deepen both political and economic ties with America by inviting US President Barack Obama as a special guest on the Republic Day parade. For all practical purposes Modi failed to upgrade bilateral co-operation with the US beyond the stated position of America, which is by any standard, even by the saffron standard, heavily biased against the country’s national interests. That Corporate India would welcome the ‘positive’ outcome of Obama’s mission to New Delhi, was a foregone conclusion. In truth Obama came as a salesman of Corporate America and he did his bit with American precision. Appreciating the shared vision of economic growth the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said ‘the future of both the Indian and US economies is interlinked in the globalised world’. But the statement was so casual and general that concerned people just interpreted it in a different way leaving a lot to read between the lines. In plain language there was not much to cheer about in Obama’s promises and deals. They agreed to identify priority sectors, particularly in bilateral trade, climate change and defence for attracting investments after the Budget session that will begin on February 23. And the controversial Indo-US nuclear deal over which the left withdrew support from the Manmohan Singh government is yet to be finalised because Washington is unlikely to oblige Modi unless Nuclear Liability Act gets diluted. Also, it is not yet clear how they will satisfy US corporations without compromising on the Intellectual Property Right issue. The IPR policy is now ready for joint discussion but its success depends on how far Indian side will go to surrender India’s economic sovereignty.

Much is said about strategic defence colaboration between India and the US. In reality joint military exercises mean very little in terms of strategic joint defence. Maybe, it has an anti-Chinese angle but it is too difficult for New Delhi, to take any anti-Chinese stance in the emerging global context. What India is demanding is transfer of advanced technology which America is denying, notwithstanding periodic ‘euphoria’ over strategic partnership in defence sector. As for climate change, America is not going to change its policy, Obama or no Obama. Their wasteful life-style is not negotiable under any circumstances. Obama’s all important Republic Day visit is unlikely to improve bilateral trade relations beyond the traditional framework, at least for the time being. Investing in solar power which Obama promised, was not precisely the preferred area India’s corporate lobby was hoping for. After all both Republicans and Democrats of America would not like to see India producing patriot missiles or stealth aircrafts on its own. And the White House administration, even after ‘enhanced bilateral relations’ will refuse to transfer advanced technologies. The reason is simple : American arrogance to dominate the world stems from its advanced technology, both civil and military. The hard fact is that India has better options elsewhere to gain strategic advantage. India’s defence pact with France for fighter planes and with Israel for anti-tank missiles involves transfer of technology for domestic production. As for the contentious issue of food subsidy, America has not agreed to solve it permanently in favour of India. No doubt India has some breathing space on this issue at the moment but a permanent solution remains elusive despite Obama’s multi-purpose ‘Republic Day’ diplomacy. And India’s demand for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council? Obama didn’t go beyond what the US has already stated about it officially and unofficially as well. They support it against the backdrop of restructuring the UN, hopefully to include Japan and Germany. What remains unanswered is whether India will enjoy veto power like the big five. A permanent seat in the Security Council without veto power doesn’t mean much in the real world of hard bargaining and continuing conflict of interests.

As for public show at Siri Fort auditorium, where some 2000 distinguished invitees listened to Obama’s sermons, it was not that encouraging for Modi. Much to the dismay of the Modi brigade Obama emphasised on some controversial issues like human rights, religious freedom and women’s rights, for which Modi is facing flak from the Opposition.

As for the left’s reaction to Obama’s visit and that too as a special guest on the Republic Day was on expected lines. Seven left parties, including the Communist Ghadar Party of India took to the streets as a protest without attacking the American policy of domination and destruction through wars and unequal trade. They mainly focused on the understanding between the two governments on nuclear deal, blaming Modi for putting India on the path of a ‘subordinate’ relationship with the US. They are concerned, and quite justifiably, about circumventions of clause 17(b) of the Nuclear Liability  Act dealing with suppliers’ responsibility and compensation to the affected in case of an accident. The Japanese victims of Fukushima disaster have not been able to hold the American supplier company GE, to account because of a weak Japanese regulatory law. The Modi government is just implementing the Congress government’s plan to import 10,000 MW of nuclear reactors from the US as a quid pro quo for ensuring American support to India’s nuclear ambitions.

But these left parties are not opposed to nuclear energy. What all they want is ‘no nuclear deal with America’. But everybody knows civilian nuclear programme is a mask to carry on the policy of nuclear weaponisation. What is needed is to oppose nuclear power in principle—no it is not on their agenda. All their anti-Americanism, rather anti-imperialism in political parlance, is so skin deep that they will soon go back to their respective headquarters to wait for another occasion to issue fresh statements against nuclear deal.

Vol. 47, No. 31, Feb 8 -14, 2015