In March 2000, US President Bill Clinton made a noteworthy visit to India (that loathed nuclear power..), the first by a sitting U.S. president in 22 years! It was followed up by Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee who visited the US in September that year, addressed a joint session of Congress, and became the chief guest at the largest-ever state dinner hosted by the America. So much ado about nuclear non-proliferation!
The tragedy about America and India are not their peoples (who by the way have from time to time shown promises of peace efforts, only to be truncated by five-year democratic rules changing norms). Its their self-proclaimed leaderships. Misleading people into believing in anti-Arab or anti-Pakistan rhetoric, the leaders, irrespective of whether they are from Republican/Democrat or BJP/Congress, have been willing pawns in the hands of the defense lobbies.
The popular narrative has always focused on how the innocent India is always bullied by the US in matters of its defense priorities. Vajpayee even had famously spoken at the UN (yes that Hindi speech for which Indians were told to feel proud about) to stress on “India’s commitment” to nuclear non-proliferation and how countries were making it difficult for India. It was the same Vajpayee who sadistically was laughing his guts out after secretly declaring India a nuclear power. Many Indian politicians over the time have thrived only by denouncing the double speak of the American treadmill (like the famous anti-cola Goerge Fernandes who became defense minister and lured to American defense principles had to resign in shame following Tehelka). This was very noble, except that all throughout, the Indian secret defense establishment (the holy cow which was exposed by Tehelka for its willingness to sellout for sleaze, sex, money and a hoax American company’s letterhead) has only served the American military-industrial interests.
So when in November 2001 in Washington D.C., PM Vajpayee and President Bush reiterated their “commitment to transform India-U. S. relations”, they were basically bullshitting. Their excuse: “The common democratic traditions of our countries remain the bedrock of their relationship and the foundation for long-term strategic cooperation.” Neither of them of course would talk about all those “non-democratic” countries they are oh-so-friendly with (we know who they are of course). And this bedrock of relationship between democracies anyway just emerged recently. India did not talk of Kashmir and Pakistan, because that’s such an old story. The new one was Bin Laden in Afghanistan (yeah those days when Saddam was still not the public enemy number 1) and I remember how I was forced to stop my car on the road because we were required to condemn 9/11 terrorism. It seemed to us on the road that day that terrorism was some alien thing our leaders never approved of!!!! Of course to prove that, leaders came up with Patriot Acts and what not. The patriots!
By the way before I forget, the meetings between US and India are of “Defense co-operation”, not “Peaceful existence co-operation”. There is a crucial difference here too. So the fruitful meet between Vajpayee and Bush concluded that the Joint Technical Group under the US-India Defense Policy Group (DPG) were to meet in February-March 2002 to discuss the promotion of bilateral ties in the field of defense production and research. The U.S. Joint Staff and the Indian Chief of Integrated Defense Staff were to meet in spring of 2002, before the next DPG, and regularly thereafter to discuss tri-service institutions, military planning, and tri- service doctrine. And a new structured dialogue between the U.S. Defense Department’s Office of Net Assessment and its Indian counterpart were to develop exchanges between the defense research and analyses communities in both countries.
The Indian player: Vajpayee. That ironic symbol of nuclear disarmament whom Nehru trusted to be a world leader of peace, and who of course subsequently betrayed an entire country by hiding from its billion population that he was secretly testing nuclear bombs with another secretive scientist who he plans to catapult to the post of an accomplice President.
So logically, quite contrary to that popular narrative of how much US despised the third world nuclear countries, what followed was another meeting of India-U.S. Defense Policy Group during May 2002 in Washington, DC. Broadly they discusses issues for which both the parties involved should have been tried in International Court of Justice (but of course they don’t give two hoots). These “broad” areas included how to improve the security environment in Afghanistan, including reconstruction efforts and building of the Afghan National Army. Not only were these disgusting talks about other sovereign nations not brought into media headlines, even the specificities which should have been enough to cause a riot were played in an ah-so-noble manner that the democracies celebrated their democracies without taking their people’s opinions (What’s new?).
They discussed the combined naval patrols in the Strait of Malacca. For the uninitiated, the 621 mile long Strait of Malacca links the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and thereby becomes the shortest sea route between three most populous countries of the world– India, China, and Indonesia. Another attack on sovereignty? Come on, these are so hot romantic hunks of Baywatch. How can they go wrong?
The other aspects dealt with the resumption of defense trade, beginning with the “Firefinder” radar sale (why else the talks, if no billion dollars commitments are involved). Firefinder by the way literally means something which tracks down the “Agni”, India’s defense experiment icon. Of course the sale would not find any opposition anywhere. In American history, no foreign military sale formally presented by the Defense Department has ever been rejected by lawmakers!
Not just some forlorn oceanic area, combined special forces (read American interventionism) airborne exercises in Agra were planned. There was to be a U.S.-India Ballistic Missile Defense workshop in Colorado Springs (of course!), and the signing of a General Security of Military Information Agreement to facilitate cooperation in defense technology (so that we know, so that people won’t know).
It was also planned that specialized training programs and joint exercises were to be carried out by the armed services of the two countries during the next year. This was to be carried out with a resumption of technical cooperation in defense research, development and production, following the meeting of the Joint Technical Group in New Delhi in early March.
And finally, they decided to develop a defense supply relationship, including through the Government-to-Government Foreign Military Sales program. The two delegations agreed on the need to work closely for speedier approvals of export licenses in the United States. (we know what it means: it’s a vertical agreement where US is the seller. Of course India does not sell its junks to America unless the US generous capitalists put up few sweatshops across where they can exploit the poor workers who have by now learnt how to change their pronunciations anyway. Earlier, they were British apes. Now they are American copycats. After they produce junks, US can then sell them to Turkey).
Come 2003, the group reviewed what they had “accomplished”. Of course they don’t do these regular reviews about hunger and homelessness. Awww….that so boring. Lets review interesting things. Bombs, missiles, the television crew. Well here we come, the patriots, the worthy sons!
Among the things they had already achieved were formation of combined special forces for counterinsurgency exercise in Northeast India (yeah those seven unfortunate children of lesser Indian God). There were complex naval exercises on the East Coast of India and Alaska, the “Firefinder” radars had been delivered already, senior-level missile defense talks and master information exchange agreement to facilitate cooperation in research and development of defense technologies had been concluded.
They hoped further to conduct specialized training programs and joint exercises to be carried out by the armed services of the two countries, including an air combat training exercise. The suitable development of a defense supply relationship was to be continued, through the Government-to-Government Foreign Military Sales program. A U.S. team was to travel India in September to discuss the details of a possible sales of P-3 maritime patrol aircraft. (wow!) Now that sale was legal and welcome, the U.S. was also to sale to India the training materials and specialized equipment to support India’s peacekeeping training capabilities (peacekeeping is the name of the game).
This ongoing process of love and cooperation between one military giant and another ardent supporter continued to January 2004 even with a new government in India. How do the parties matter when they are all part of the same free market democracy? Clinton or Bush, Manmohan or Atal Behari, they are made of the same stuffs—same military-industrial mentality. Suddenly the sophisticated Congress Party which replaced the rightist party BJP, acted out that it was clueless about how to response radically different to the DPG which was formed under the BJP. And it said it to itself: oh come on, we don’t care about principles. We are the principles. Look at how we buried Gandhi and Nehru. What’s the deal?
The deal came in June 2005, when we had the continuation of the Indian rightist program when India and the United States signed a 10-year defense pact agreement that takes the relationship to “unprecedented levels of cooperation”. Unprecedented, in terms of television ratings. Here today, gone tomorrow. But mind you, tomorrow there will be even more vulgar shows. More ratings. More wars.