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June 2002



Does Indo-US military alliance help India?

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.”

Suresh Jaura

Publisher & Managing Editor

Joint exercises taking place between US and Indian army, navy and air force came as a surprise to those who have been watching US giving billions of dollars to Pakistan in aid and debt relief, using Pakistan’s help and bases in its current ‘war against terrorism’ in Afghanistan.


It wasn’t a surprise for those who have been following Indo-US relations over the last decade or so.


Since the end of the Cold War, without formal alliances, military-to-military cooperation between India and the US has been occurring right from the 1991 ‘Kicklighter Initiative’* 


* (In December 1990, a seminar in Pune brought together senior military officials of both countries. At the beginning of the 1991, the Klicklighter Proposals, named after the former commander of the US armed forces in the Pacific, were drafted with a view to strengthen the military cooperation between the two countries leading for instance to joint maneuvers by the two navies in the Indian Ocean.)


The ties had become so firm that by Clinton’s second term that joint military exercises were being planned before India’s nuclear test at Pokhran in 1998, when military contacts were suspended.


However, in view of growing Indo-US mutual interest, significant developments took place in October 1999, which led to India and US forming a long-term strategic partnership in various sectors.


As Nikhil Patwardhan wrote in an article: The Emerging Indo-US Strategic Partnership in his column Between the Lines in Sword of Truth (October 30, 1999), “US has started to realize that unlike Pakistan, a country where democracy has been brutally murdered by the barbaric Islamic policies, India is a land of vibrant democracy and unlimited potential in terms of its man-power and indigenous technology.”


“The train came back on rails”, as they say, when US General Henry Shelton visited India in July 2001 and the Defense Policy Group (DPG) underwent revival.


Soon after the DPG meeting, the first joint exercises between the two navies since 1997, took place from December 15 to 17, 2001, off the coast of Mumbai. The US aircraft carrier, Carl Vinson, which was engaged in the operations against Afghanistan, took part in these exercises, This was a precursor to various other joint exercises being planned by the executive steering committees of the three services.


In January this year, Indian Defence Minister, George Fernandes, on a six-day visit to the US, said, “As two multi-ethnic, multi-religious open democratic societies India and the United States share a unique perspective against global terrorism and the events of the last three months have deepened our understanding of each others’ concerns.”


The General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) between the two countries was signed during his visit, “which will facilitate the exchange of classified US military information to India”, as he said in a Press conference in Washington.  


This agreement, which had not been signed by India for more than a decade, is the prerequisite for closer military ties and transfer of military technology and equipment to India. The agreement provides for confidentiality of the supplies by the United States. This will be ensured by inspections by US personnel of Indian military installations. 


India has not only established a full-fledged military relationship with the US, but also there is security cooperation, which involves India's internal affairs. The FBI was allowed to set up its office in Delhi in mid-1999 as part of the programme to counter terrorism and the narcotics trade. This role has now been expanded with the CIA being brought in.


There are mutual discussions on internal security, cooperation in strengthening forensic capabilities in India, border management and aviation security.


Home Minister, Advani, on his visit to Israel in 2000 had forged a similar security relationship. According to the Jane Weekly based in Britain, Israeli security experts have been training Indian security forces in Kashmir in counter-insurgency. The triangle is now complete, with the Indian government establishing close security cooperation with both the United States and Israel.

Has India become a junior partner of the USA?


As Prakash Karat, writes in an article, titled, Say Goodbye To India's Sovereignty in People's Democracy, the answer is yes.  


“The joint statement issued after the meeting” - of the Indo-US Defence Policy Group (DPG) held in Delhi on December 3-4, 2001-  “illustrates how far the BJP-led government has gone in accepting the US global strategy. The statement says, ‘India and the United States agree that they share strategic interests in Asia and beyond’. Further, ‘They express satisfaction at the cooperation between the two countries in the ongoing campaign in Afghanistan.’ Significantly, the statement talked about ‘joint counter-proliferation efforts to achieve the goals of their defence cooperation’."


“By this joint statement, India has unreservedly endorsed the United States strategic interests in Asia, endorsed its ongoing war in Afghanistan, and America's global campaign against terrorism. The agreement on counter-proliferation indicates that India will line up with the US to attack countries like Iran, China and North Korea, whom the US considers as proliferators of missile and nuclear technology,” he adds.


“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”, wrote Sreeram Sundar Chaulia, who researched the BJP’s foreign policy at the London School of Economics and is currently at the Maxwell School of Citizenship, Syracuse, NY, in an article titled  Could Our Independence Be Bartered Away? in January 2001 issue of South Asian Outlook.


“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”, he continued.


“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.”


After September 11, India agreed to the US request for Indian naval ships to escort American warships while they travel through the Indian Ocean up to the Malacca straits.


By accepting the role of escorting and guarding US ships by the Indian navy, have Indian defence forces become a cog in the global military mission of the US? Has South Asia become a play-ground for the US with India reduced to the status of a US ally like Pakistan and earlier Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation?


Or does Indo-US Military alliance need to be welcomed by every Indian as it helps India to neutralise the continuing Chinese military assistance and activity around India?



- Suresh Jaura
Publisher & Managing Editor