Wednesday 28 November 2007

Will the USS Kitty Hawk cement U.S.-India military ties? (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Thanks largely to India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who shared with his leftwing British friends a dislike of the Yanks, the geopolitically senseless alienation between the United States and India continued for five decades after India's independence in 1947.

What seems finally to have convinced the British to leave India was the seepage of loyalty from the Indian component of the armed forces. More than 2 million Indians saw action on the Allied side during World War II. Yet during the war, their loyalty to the Crown was tested by the discriminatory treatment meted out to Indians in the services. British personnel dominated the higher reaches of the military and were given perquisites and privileges far beyond those enjoyed by Indians.

Several thousands of soldiers joined the pro-Axis Indian National Army during the war. Within the ranks of those who remained on the Allied side, there was visible sympathy for those Indian officers and men who switched sides and refused to fight for the British monarchy that denied them the privileges enjoyed by soldiers from the Australian, New Zealand, U.S. and Canadian complements. The possibility of widespread revolts within the armed forces concentrated minds in London and speeded up the withdrawal from India.

Wednesday 14 November 2007

U.S. Tilt Cools India-Iran Ties (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat 

Tehran, Iran — While Sonia Gandhi prefers the European Union, Manmohan Singh's favorite country is the United States. Both as India's finance minister from 1992-96 and from 2004 onwards as prime minister, Singh has been open in his belief that a Washington-set agenda is in his country's best interest.

Sadly for him, few share this view, with the result that his efforts at implementing the Bush team's prescriptions for India have stalled on opposition within Parliament, even though Sonia Gandhi has managed thus far to silence dissent within Singh's own Congress Party, and has backed the prime minister in his U.S.-centered policies.

Largely as a result of the perception that he is following Tony Blair in the role of White House poodle, several countries otherwise friendly to India have distanced themselves from the Sonia-led regime now precariously in office. Russia made Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee undergo the indignity of a body search at Moscow airport recently, while Vladimir Putin declined to find the time to meet with visiting Indian Defense Minister A. K. Antony.

Moscow's mood has not been improved by Manmohan Singh's second rebuff of Russia's efforts to sign a nuclear deal with India that would enable the country to import four more nuclear reactors from Moscow. The move would cut into the potential profits being factored in by U.S. corporations eager to enter the Indian nuclear energy sector on advantageous terms.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Punjabis Re-Assert Supremacy in Pakistan (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Since the 1980s, about six years after Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq took control from Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, the Pakistan army has been less a symbol of national unity than an instrument to ensure the supremacy of the Punjabi element in all reaches of Pakistan society.

Today, the army is replicating in the northwestern frontier what has always been the case in Baluchistan and Sindh -- frank control over local government through the use of bullets. Although the Pashtun and Baloch elements have been allowed some representation within the officer corps, ultimately it is the Punjabi element that decides policy.

Since2003, when they turned against Pervez Musharraf because of the Pakistan coup master's proclivity to cling to his post as Chief of Army Staff, the Punjabi element has moved closer to China, countering moves by Musharraf to align his country firmly with the United States in the ongoing War on Terror. From 2003 onwards, under cover of the need to confront Indian control in Kashmir, they have continued to give assistance to the jihadis. They have blocked U.S. moves to get the Pakistan army to mount an effective defense against the Taliban sheltering in almost every city in Pakistan, including Islamabad, where a cluster has set up base about five miles from the U.S. Embassy complex.

Thursday 1 November 2007

Treating India like Dirt (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

MANIPAL, India — U.S. diplomats have lorded it over the world's "Untermenschen," or inferior people, for so long that the latter have come to regard even the more obvious and offensive forms of condescension and patronizing behavior as a compliment.

Ever since the United States was informed on Oct. 21 by India that domestic political difficulties were hampering the implementation of the George Bush-Manmohan Singh nuclear deal, a battalion of U.S. officials and wannabe officials have been lecturing India almost daily on what they consider to be the core attributes of a "responsible" and "mature" power -- which is to fulfill the wishes of the United States in every detail. Any deviation from this would be evidence of an inability to be ranked worthy of the support of the "Big Boys" -- presumably Blairite Britain, Sarkozhian France and Merkellian Germany, who amble behind the United States on key issues.

After being informed a week ago that the next steps in finalizing the nuclear deal were negotiating a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group on transfer of civilian technology, France was the first of the Big Boys to kick in, warning that any agreement with it was conditional on the Bush-Singh agreement being signed first.

Next followed Germany, repeating its insistence that India sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons power before Berlin would agree to join the bandwagon. Unusually -- and wisely -- Britain has kept silent, unlike the United States, which has been issuing a stream of statements, warning that placing the deal in cold storage would severely impact relations with Washington.