India Must Not Become a War Manager for US Imperialism

TROOPS OUT of Iraq ! Hands off Iran ! While anti-war activists observed the third anniversary of US invasion and occupation of Iraq by chanting these slogans in hundreds of peace rallies the world over, the Bush brigade celebrated the anniversary by launching a renewed air attack on Iraq . The White House also used this occasion to update the US 'national security strategy', an American euphemism for Washington 's manifesto for absolute American hegemony through permanent war. The NSS 2006 has Bush using many pretexts to sell his doctrine of war - from promoting freedom and democracy and igniting a new era of global economic growth to expanding the circle of development and laying the foundation for future peace. But his bottomline for the American people is that it is a one-way war which would never come back to the American soil. In Bush's arrogant words, "We fight our enemies abroad instead of waiting for them to arrive in our country."

War abroad for peace (and, of course, profit, too!) at home this has always been America 's preferred policy. In fact, the US has always believed in 'outsourcing' the real dirty work of war as much as possible. But the formula of 'war abroad for peace at home' has not always worked. The US will never really be able to erase the memories of the shocking and ignominious defeat it suffered in Vietnam and the popular backlash it produced back home. Iraq is no Vietnam , but the American 'engagement' in Iraq is clearly turning out to be immensely messier than the US possibly expected. While a deposed Saddam Hussein is using the travesty of his trial to spread his political message to the Iraqi people, the US is learning that toppling Saddam was much easier than tackling post-Saddam Iraq . Underlying the textual bravado of the NSS 2006 is the real fear of a politico-military defeat in Iraq even as Bush's domestic ratings continue to experience a free fall.

After Afghanistan and Iraq , the latest American target is Iran . The NSS 2006 says that the US "may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran " and accuses Iran of sponsoring terrorism, threatening Israel and disrupting "democracy in Iraq ". The so-called nuclear concerns have thus been suitably generalized which means that even if Iran were to comply with the IAEA and UN Security Council conditions, the US would have other excuses ready to engineer a 'regime change' in Iran. Iran is however not the only target the US is adamant to pursue. Included in the same bracket are not only fellow Middle-Eastern countries like Syria and Palestine , but countries as distant and diverse Zimbabwe and North Korea , Cuba and Venezuela .

The contours of the American discourse on terrorism are clearly expanding. True, Washington still demonises Islam as the predominant ideological source of terrorism of course, it now accuses terrorists of exploiting, twisting and defiling a proud religion and implicitly seeks an alliance of non-Islamic religions including "Christians, Jews, Hindus, other religious traditions" along the fault-lines of 'clashing civilisations'. But the NSS 2006 also reveals a growing American attempt to describe terrorism as a means towards 'totalitarianism and tyranny' and attribute it to 'sub-cultures of conspiracy and misinformation' standard anti-communist tirades from the Cold War era. Every country that refuses to fall in line with the American doctrine of globalization and 'democracy' runs the risk of being branded a rogue state and identified as a deserving candidate for 'operation regime change'.

Where does New Delhi figure in Washington 's latest global calculations? Indian foreign policy strategists are overwhelmed with joy that George Bush cared not only to pay a visit to India but also sign a landmark Indo-US nuclear deal thereby clearly demonstrating his government's commitment to enable India to emerge as a great power. To be sure, the NSS 2006 mentions India as a 'major power' and a key partner of the US . The US sees the progress in Indo-US relationship quite compatible with improved strategic partnership with Pakistan , and the two together serving as a foundation for deeper American engagement throughout Central Asia . In particular, the US now expects India "to shoulder global obligations in cooperation with the United States in a way befitting a major power."

All those who believe that the Indo-US nuclear deal has been a great bargain for India with no tags attached are therefore clearly living in a world of wishful thinking. The deal has not only bestowed the US with a transparent insight into India 's nuclear programmes and enhanced control over India 's energy economy, it has also reduced India to a foreign policy tool for the US . And as far as India 's own autonomy is concerned, the NSS 2006 has this statutory American warning for all US partners: "while we do not seek to dictate to other states the choices they make, we do seek to influence the calculations on which these choices are based. We also must hedge appropriately in case states choose unwisely."

If India has to escape the disastrous consequences of the strategic embrace by the US , we will indeed have to win a second war of independence. A pro-imperialist ruling clique can never be the architect or custodian of an 'independent' foreign policy.