A wobbly emerging giant - Praful Bidwai - Friday, March 25, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=38027&Cat=9

WikiLeaks cables disclosures have hit India. A major Indian daily, The Hindu, has accessed and summarised classified cables sent over the last few years from the US Embassy in New Delhi to Washington – and produced a political furore.

The most sensational disclosure is about the cash-for-votes scandal of July 2008, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh staked the United Progressive Alliance government’s survival on the India-US nuclear cooperation deal. The Left parties, on whose support the minority government depended, withdrew their backing. The Congress bribed other parties to support it during a confidence vote.

A TV channel’s sting operation widely publicised this in 2008. It mainly indicted the Samajwadi Party. It now emerges that Gandhi family confidant Captain Satish Sharma got an aide to bribe the Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Ajit Singh too.

Manmohan Singh pugnaciously defended his government in parliament. He said “the veracity, contents and even the existence” of the cables sent by the US embassy couldn’t be confirmed and that in any case he had not “authorised anyone to purchase any votes”.

Despite denials, the WikiLeaks disclosure constitutes a strong prima facie case that the UPA bought MPs to win the confidence vote. The government must let the Central Bureau of Investigation investigate the scandal under Supreme Court supervision and ask the US embassy to identify the staffer who reported the scam in the cables. Failure to do this will further damage the government’s image, already badly tainted by numerous scams.

The Bharatiya Janata Party is doing its utmost to exploit the disclosures. But it too stands indicted. While it publicly criticised the nuclear deal, it wasn’t serious about opposing it. BJP national executive members told the Americans “not to read much” into the party’s foreign policy resolutions. LK Advani, no less, assured them that when in power, the BJP would “behave very differently from its days in the opposition”.

The BJP opposed the US-India deal to affirm India’s “sovereign” right to determine its nuclear policy. But its foreign and security policy is fundamentally Right-wing. It has been pro-US since the Cold War and sees India’s future in strengthening a US-dominated capitalist world order. This makes it practise double standards – destroying its credibility.

However, the real importance of the WikiLeaks disclosures lies in illuminating the direction that India’s foreign policy has recently taken, and showing how the world, in particular the US, views India’s domestic situation and its response to regional and international events.

The disclosures contain generally useful, and sometimes valuable, information on diverse issues: domestic intra- and inter-party relations; Kashmir; public perceptions of the nuclear deal; India-Pakistan tensions; Iran’s nuclear pursuits; and India’s demand for UN Security Council reform, seen as mere “sound and fury”.

Cables are routinely used by diplomats to convey information, analysis and assessments of the host country’s positions. In the present case, they highlight divergence between the then-president APJ Abdul Kalam and Sonia Gandhi over the execution of the death sentence for Afzal Guru. They quote J&K Liberation Front leader Yaseen Malik as saying that hanging Guru would have an adverse impact in the Valley because the punishment is grossly disproportionate to the charge – of helping organise transport for the Parliament House attacks.

The disclosures highlight the differences between Prime Minister Singh and former National Security Adviser MK Narayanan over resuming talks with Pakistan in 2009. Singh had said India and Pakistan “have a shared destiny”. Narayanan bluntly told Singh: “Your destiny is shared. Ours is not.” It was highly improper for Narayanan to say this to his boss. Even more deplorably, he narrated this to a US diplomat.

On substantive foreign policy issues, India comes across as an emerging but diffident giant, which often capitulates to Washington’s pressure, sometimes without offering resistance. This is especially so on Iran, over which the US arm-twisted India.

India voted three times against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency, thus enabling the Security Council to impose sanctions. India’s votes were against its Ministry of External Affairs’ conclusion that Iran isn’t in substantive breach of its obligations under the IAEA charter or the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The US was deeply unhappy with the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and made the nuclear deal conditional upon India dropping the project and helping isolate Iran.

The US doesn’t countenance even a peaceful nuclear programme for Iran – although Iran has every right to pursue it. Barring some infringements of disclosure requirements, Teheran has cooperated with the IAEA. India sounds doubly hypocritical on Iran because it acquired its own nuclear weapons by abusing the civilian route – much like Pakistan did.

India’s stance is at odds with its need for friendly relations with Iran, which it for decades partnered in Afghanistan against the mujaheedin and the Taliban. Afghanistan is vital to this region’s future. And India-Iran relations will be crucial to Afghanistan’s future.

The WikiLeaks cables show that New Delhi was so frightened of US annoyance at the April 2008 India visit of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that it notified the US embassy “even prior” to informing “other agencies within the Indian government”. The MEA emphasised that Singh had rejected previous requests either to visit Tehran or for Ahmadinejad to visit India.

Recently, the MEA ordered its diplomats to do extraordinary things to please the US. Days after Hardeep Puri was appointed India’s ambassador to the UN, he assured the US embassy in New Delhi that his “specific brief” was to seek a “higher degree of convergence” with the US. Puri repeated this assurance to US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.

Puri reportedly raised the “arc of failed states” surrounding India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, and “noted the convergence between US and Indian interests. Specifically, he praised US policy on Sri Lanka”, where the Rajapakse government was about to kill thousands of Tamil civilians while combating the Liberation Tigers.

In another bizarre development, the MEA asked its deputy ambassador to the UN Ajai Malhotra to undercut his own boss Nirupam Sen whom he accused of taking “a confrontational approach to the US”. In dispute was the secretary general’s selection. The Non-Aligned Movement demanded he should be from Asia. Malhotra offered to help the US promote its candidate in case the NAM proposal didn’t find wider support.

That someone of Sen’s impeccable credentials and stature should be overridden in such a slimy way speaks of the MEA’s lack of professionalism and its pro-US bias. This is wholly unbecoming of a nation with a vision of global leadership.

The cables show the light-years’ distance India has travelled from the Nehru-Indira Gandhi legacy of non-alignment and opposition to US hegemonism. They also show how the US has insistently, determinedly and obsessively attempted to push India into a subordinate relationship.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, India was the last major nation with an independent foreign policy focussed on demanding a more balanced world. The US has prised India from its independent policy moorings through inducements like the nuclear deal. It now wants India to become a supplicant and an obedient ally. The WikiLeaks disclosures should make the Indian public aware of this and provoke a strong response in favour of a fiercely autonomous foreign policy.

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1 @yahoo.co.in

No comments:

Post a Comment