By Sanya Malik:
“Awe and fear have always co-existed when dealing with the Modi phenomenon” writes Rajdeep Sardesai in an article in Indiatoday. One can’t ignore this man who charmed his way into Madison Square Garden, posting selfies and live tweeting across the world, as the first tech-savvy Indian P.M., urging Indians to join his “Make in India” campaign. 2014 will always be remembered as the year a veteran office holder was ousted by a “Chaiwallah” to become the Prime Minister of India. While one looks forward to a pro-business approach ahead for India, it also fills my mind with fear. The fear dates back to the 2002 Godhra riots, and extends to the caste card played by Modi in the 2014 elections. I was almost sure my fears were not unreasonable when Santa came this year to teach me “good governance”. Being quite the charmer of words that he is, his silence on the RSS’s “Hindutva” rhetoric is quite worrisome.
Come 2015 and Madison square itself reaches India. Many Indians are already welcoming Modi’s invite to Obama for the Republic day celebrations, the first U.S. President invited for such an event. At this point, I again come to doubt Mr. Modi’s “good judgement” for inviting the President of America to be a part of the celebrations of a day that signifies autonomy.
Let me begin by quoting what a group of 6 left parties has highlighted regarding how the mainstream media has almost failed to notice how it is “a supreme irony that the day which symbolizes India’s independence and sovereignty is being graced by the head of a country which has done the most to assault and destroy the sovereignty of many countries around the world“.
Many have chosen to call Mr. Modi’s invitation as the “the greatest diplomatic triumph” for India. However, it seems to me no different than any other major political visit apart from one interesting detail that this is the same American President who denied a visa to Modi a few years back. Yes, it is a way forward for India on the global front, but one must not lose sight of what price India will have to pay for this “friendship”.
While many rejoice the so called Indo-U.S. bilateral talks, the left is wary of U.S.’s ulterior motives. Infact, six left parties – the CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML)-Liberation, AIFB, SUCI(C) and RSP have called for a Protest Day on January 24 against the visit of President Obama. The protest is based on three main agendas – namely, Halt US aggression, Stop interference in India’s domestic matters and Stop US-India strategic collaboration. The intent of the protests is to focus people’s attention on the balance of power in the strategic relations between India and the US.
The US has, for years now, maintained its status of being the supreme power. It has meddled with the affairs of various countries, for its own good, pretending to serve global peace interests. Kavita Krishnan from the CPI(ML)-Liberation opines: “What the US intervention in Afghanistan and Pakistan has done serve as a warning to India. Infact, currently, the United States is targeting and destabilizing governments and countries in West Asia by military interventions like in Iraq, Libya and Syria. President Obama himself is responsible for the aggression in Libya and for the rerun of bombing and sending troops back to Iraq. The US is doing everything to destroy Syria as a national entity.” My fear is that the price for the Obama visit is that India will have to participate in the Afghan campaign.
The recent Fergusson case has brought into light USA’s domestic turmoil, entrapped in racial violence by the police. Further, the discrimination towards Muslims and the terrible record of torture by the CIA with the approval of the U.S. government only deepens the irony of Obama’s visit.
I cannot believe that our Prime Minister has not noticed this irony, or maybe he has chosen to deliberately ignore it. In a joint press statement, the 6 parties accused “the BJP government of pursuing a pro-US foreign policy which is contrary to an independent non-aligned foreign policy. This is being done in the interests of Indian and foreign monopoly capital.” Through this visit, America will pull the strings of our government to fulfil its own vested interests. The Left parties choose to protest the decision to renew the India-US Defence Framework Agreement for another ten years. By demanding a greater stake in India’s defence industry, the USA will deny India its strategic autonomy.
Again, the issue of India’s autonomy arises when India is forced to open up its financial sector to the U.S. capital – 49 % FDI in the insurance sector, the weakening of the patents regime to benefit the U.S. drug companies, dilution of the civil nuclear liability law to favour U.S. nuclear firms. America’s pressures that India give up its food security programme and weaken labour rights and environment laws to benefit US corporations is a disaster that awaits India. Such development has never achieved inclusive growth. Hence, India should ensure that cooperation with the U.S. does not mean adhering to American “commercial” interests.
It is evident that the US is so worried about a rising China that containing it has become imperative for the US, and it must find friends in Asia. Hence, America will begin its game of playing India off against China. At this point, India must maintain its strategic autonomy.
To me, the R-day visit is not a foreign policy game changer by Mr. Modi. Infact, U.S. is exploiting India for its own interests. Dear Mr. Modi, let 2015 not be the year when India became a dancing puppet in America’s hands. India’s current situation reminds me of the old morality plays of Faustian tales where the price paid for over-ambition is a “deal with the devil”. Let us not be blinded so as to believe that this “Faustian deal” has something substantial for India in it.