EVEN as Americans are preoccupied with the race to choose the successor of President Obama, Narendra Modi made sure that he had one more round of meeting with the US President in this last leg of his Presidency. This was Modi’s fourth US visit and his seventh meeting with Obama in two years. Figures tell us that including his latest foreign trip Modi has already visited 38 countries making 19 international trips and spending 97 of the 743 days he has been in office which works out to one day abroad for every week spent in India. The four visits to the US and seven meetings with Obama obviously top this list and clearly indicate that whatever degree of importance America may attach to its ties with India, as India’s PM, Modi has taken a great fancy to America, perhaps making up for all the opportunities denied to him earlier to visit the country in his previous avatar as the genocide-tainted Gujarat CM.
Modi bhakts and BJP propagandists are extremely happy with the response Modi got to his 48-minute-long speech to the US Congress complete: 9 standing ovations and 64 rounds of applause. No doubt Modi left his American audience thoroughly entertained and they in turn left him visibly happy with abundant applause and ovations. But if Modi is a tenacious and stubborn salesman, the Americans are among the coolest and cleverest of customers. Apart from the applause and ovations, Modi came back with only a few antiques that were earlier stolen from India. Rest are all lofty words and empty promises. But look at what the US extracted from Modi: while in America, Modi finalised an estimated Rs. 2.8 lakh crore order for six Westinghouse nuclear reactors, a much needed bonanza for an order-starved US company, and after his return to India his government announced 100% FDI and other relaxations in fifteen key and strategic sectors including defence and aviation, pharmaceuticals, single-brand retail and food processing.
BJP leaders keep bragging that Modi has fetched India global recognition. Nothing could be farther from the truth. With India’s huge resources, growing market, rich history and crucial geo-political location, India definitely has an international standing, but the image of the country continues to be tarnished by the kind of appalling poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and social evils that still dog India and more specifically by the divisive politics of hate, bigotry and violence practised with impunity by the Modi establishment and the Sangh brigade. The so-called special relationship the Modi government claims to have with the US is more and illusion and liability than any real gain for India. The US is not known to share its advanced technology, in defence or other sectors, even to its closest NATO allies and India becoming a favourite recipient of Washington’s technological benevolence can only be pure fiction. For all the veiled warnings the US may issue to Pakistan, it cannot abandon its long-standing alliance with Pakistan which has been rendered more important in the context of America’s so-called ‘war on terror’. Even the China card the US plays is more to extract greater concessions from India, for in the context of the ongoing global economic crisis and the multipolar global political reality, the US cannot afford to antagonise China beyond a point.
Indeed, India’s closer identification with the US and its overt ambition to flex muscles as a US-backed regional power in Asia is being resented by almost all our neighbours and many of our traditional friends and potential partners in the developing world. And Modi is going to shameful lengths to emphasise the growing military dimension of India’s ties with the US. During his latest visit, he made it a point to kick off his three-day tour by visiting the US military cemetery in Arlington and placing a wreath as the ‘Tomb of the Unknowns’ which obviously includes all of American war criminals who have been involved in the invasion of Vietnam. He has been the first Indian PM to do so and he even made it a point to begin his speech at the US Congress by mentioning his Arlington visit, adding “India applauds the great sacrifices of the men and women from ‘The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’ in service of mankind. India knows what this means because our soldiers too have fallen in distant battlefields for the same ideals.”
Look at the symbolism and consider it in its historical and current context. On one hand we have US President Barack Obama visiting Hiroshima as a silent gesture of solidarity with the victims of the nuclear havoc the US had unleashed in the past. And here is Indian PM Modi visiting Arlington to pay tribute to US war criminals. And he does it soon after the demise of Muhammad Ali who was remembered across the world not just for his boxing prowess but also for his courage to refuse to join the US war campaign in Vietnam which he had famously summed up as a conspiracy in which ‘the white man sends a black man to kill a yellow man’. The sacrifices by Indian soldiers abroad have happened mostly in the service of British colonial expeditions and not in the service of freedom and mankind as Modi would describe it. To imagine a bond between an imperialist army, which never fought a war on its homeland but always exported war and devastation in the name of freedom and democracy, and hapless Indian soldiers who had to lay down their lives while fighting a war on behalf of their colonial master is a travesty of history and to invoke it to forge an alliance today with the world’s most notorious war-mongering military machine is not only a betrayal to the case of peace and freedom globally but also to the cause of India’s own peace and freedom. The defence partnership which forms the bedrock of India’s growing strategic relationship with the US will only make India a bigger buyer of US weaponry while enabling the US to use India in every possible way in its global military operations.
The Modi government and BJP propagandists are taking great pains to counter the charge of India’s growing pro-US tilt and to camouflage this, they point to Modi’s recent visits to Afghanistan and Iran in this regard. The fact is for the Modi government, ties with Afghanistan and Iran are very much a part of the role it visualises for India as part of the US-led military bloc. Modi mentioned his Afghanistan visit in his speech at the US Congress and went on to add, “Afghans naturally recognize that the sacrifices of Americans have helped create a better life.” India did not show any urgency in developing economic cooperation with Iran as long as the US did not lift sanctions and come to a negotiated settlement with Iran – the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project remained just a neglected idea and India voted against Iran twice in IAEA. If India now believes it can use the Chabahar port project to draw Iran away from its growing economic relationship with China and its age-old ties with Pakistan, then it can only weaken India’s position in an objectively multipolar world in which most of India’s neighbours and other Asian countries already have strong economic ties with China. As some Iran watchers have pointed out that it will not be a surprise if the Chabahar port in Iran in which India has now got partially involved ends up only shortening the route for Chinese exports to reach the Indian shores via Iran!
While the Congress was in power, Modi and the BJP used to constantly used to taunt the Congress government as a foreign puppet because of Sonia Gandhi’s Italian origin and also because of the policies of globalisation, pro-FDI policies, and the diktats of WTO. Now there is a complete U-Turn and the biggest talking points in the report card of the first two years of the Modi government are Modi’s foreign trips and the FDI they are presumably securing for India. With its catchphrase of “Make in India”, the government now takes pride in advertising India as one of the most FDI-friendly countries in the world. This obsession with ‘made in India’ is alarmingly undermining what should be the two more basic concerns – ‘made by India’ and ‘made for India’ – that relate directly to the promotion of India’s self-reliance and the welfare of the common people, which ultimately underpin India’s political and economic independence and sovereignty.
The time has come to resist this suicidal combination of the Modi government’s foreign and economic policies that are reducing India to a military base and captive market for the Americans to the detriment of the needs and interests of India’s billion-plus population, especially the poor and the young whose survival and future are at stake. Let us turn the forthcoming September 2 strike called by the central trade unions into a powerful countrywide show of strength against the disastrous policies of the Modi regime.