Letter from U.S.A.
Indo-US Military Alliance:
Could Our Independence Be Bartered Away?
Sreeram Sundar Chaulia
the dawn of freedom, Nehru kept India out of power blocks and military
alliances with the sagacious conviction that its independence and
principle-based foreign policy cannot be bartered away to the whims of
mantra still holds good. Many Cold War allies of the United States-
Sadat’s Egypt, Suharto’s Indonesia, Fahd’s Saudi Arabia, Zia’s
Pakistan and Mobutu’s Zaire-are today failed states hopelessly unable
to define their distinct place in the world, maintain internal stability
or territorial integrity. This is because USA has a track record of
using allies to the point of reducing them to puppets and parasites of
the metropolis and then discarding them. American alliances come with
expiry dates and the prospect of fatal withdrawal symptoms.
much-rumoured proposition made to India by the Bush administration for a
“major military alliance” in recent months must be viewed
perspectively with this hindsight. From hints conveyed by the Defence
Minister, it is obvious that there was correspondence between Washington
and New Delhi throughout September and October over the precise
modalities of this alliance, although the Prime Minister has denied the
existence of such an exchange.
cannot be sure how firmly the Cabinet Committee for Security rejected
the idea. It is also not clear whether our decrepit National Security
Council has vetted the US proposal carefully until now. But if India’s
independence and stature in the world are to remain in tact, this
alliance must be rejected sans equivocation.
the main obstacle to bilateral relations during the Cold War was
divergence on national security issues, but there has been increasing
meeting of minds on this subject anyway since the end of the Cold War, without
formal alliances. Robust military-to-military cooperation between India
and the US has been occurring right from the 1991 ‘Kicklighter
Initiative’. So firm had ties become by Clinton’s second term that
joint military exercises were being planned before Pokhran intervened.
India’s endorsement of NMD, the suspension of military contacts since
1998 was done away with and the train came back on rails. General Henry
Shelton visited India in July 2001 and the Defense Policy Group
underwent revival. The two sides have also been striving for enhanced
navy-to-navy cooperation to ensure free navigation through the Indian
was it necessary, on top of all these positive developments, for America
to now propose a treaty-bound alliance? The answer lies not in an
icing-of-the-cake consummation of previous commonalities but actually in
a desperate search for allies after September 11.
Never before has the US been as wary of the genuineness of its extant allies as during the current war against terrorism. US policymakers are consistently mulling over the superfluous support being extended by most of the Arab world against Islamic jihad.
on the close ties between Osama bin Laden and members of the influential
Saudi oligarchy and the symbiotic relationship between Pakistan’s
intelligence and the Taliban have dented the confidence of Washington in
existing relationships and set the tone for a wooing of India for a
Extreme insecurity and uncertainty, coupled with internal tumult and double-game exposes in many seemingly friendly regimes, are the main propellants of the proposed “major military alliance”. As such, it is intended to redress the proposer’s dilemmas and is selfish and one-sided.
Consider what the other side will get from this entangling alliance. American bases, training facilities and intelligence establishment in India could convert us from a freedom-loving oasis of Asia into a semi-colony and satellite lacking voice and dignity on the world stage. Increased American infiltration of Indian air, land and waterways will, in practical terms, mean:
· definite meddling in Kashmir (without the guarantee that the US won’t eschew its old preferences for Kashmiri “self-determination”)
· definite usage of India to settle American scores in the region (entailing a situation when New Delhi will start having partners and foes as per the logic of ‘my ally’s enemy is my enemy’)
· definite hurt to Sino-Indian ties at a time when the two have common causes at the WTO
· definite doubts in the minds of our friends in Moscow who fear America’s expansion into Eurasia
· definite slide into dependency of Indian defence structure on commercial adjuncts of the Pentagon like Lockheed Martin & Co.
dignity and leadership in the third world and the developing South will
also take a severe beating if it starts being identified as a
camp-follower. The slippery slope will apotheosize when the US, a la
Japan and South Korea, becomes the guarantor of Indian security and an
overseer of India’s fate in the comity of nations.
Hopefully, the BJP-led government, laden with avowed US aficionados and ‘realists’ like Jaswant Singh (putatively the original mastermind of the military alliance idea in June 2001), would pay heed to these clear pitfalls, weigh the pros and cons, and not sell India’s interests, legacy and soul.
article was first published in India Day After from Delhi.)
Sundar Chaulia studied History at St.Stephen’s College, Delhi, and
took a Second BA in Modern History at University College, Oxford. He
researched the BJP’s foreign policy at the London School of Economics
and is currently analyzing the impact of conflict on Afghan refugees at
the Maxwell School of Citizenship, Syracuse, NY.]