Barack Obama's India Visit –

Outsourcing US' Economic Crisis to India

(The ruling Congress and main opposition BJP alike were unanimous in hailing US President Barack Obama's India visit as a great success. Behind all the hype, what did the visit spell for the Indian people? In the feature below, we take a look at some aspects of the visit that were obscured in the 'feel good' media coverage. – Ed/-)                     
Jobs for the US – at What Cost for Indians?
On the eve of his visit to India, and on the heels of mid-term polls in the US where voters showed their discontent with the Obama government by allowing Republicans to wrest control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats, an op-ed piece by US President Barack Obama appeared in the New York Times. The article, seeking to address concerns about recession and unemployment in the US, indicated clearly that his visit to Asia and India was a quest for jobs in the US, seeking "new customers in new markets for American-made goods." Referring in particular to India, Obama wrote that the trip spelled "billions of dollars in contracts that will support tens of thousands of American jobs," and was intended to "explore ways to reduce barriers to United States exports and increase access to the Indian market." obama_protest_rallly_punjab
In his speech to CEOs in Mumbai, too, Obama reiterated that for the US, India represents “an opportunity to sell our exports in one of the fastest growing markets in the world... a jobs strategy.” On his first day in India, US companies like Boeing and General Electric sealed deals worth $10bn, thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs in the United States. A recent report by the CII that describes India as a "Growth Partner in the US Economy" and stresses the role of Indian companies as "partners in the resurgence of the U.S. economy" estimates that Indian purchases of military and nuclear hardware, civilian aircraft and infrastructure equipment alone from the United States can create nearly seven lakh jobs there over the next decade. 
From his visit to India, Obama will take back lakhs of jobs for US citizens and an expanded market for US corporations – all this, at the cost of jobs, education, health and self-reliance of India's people. Increased US access to India's markets comes by reducing restrictions to foreign investment in key sectors of India's economy - such as defence, agriculture and insurance. In particular, the business lobby has been pushing India to open up its consumer market to foreign retail chains – and during Obama's visit, the Manmohan Singh government has assured US and Indian CEOs of its "positive mindset" on this question. This move, if it comes to a pass, will lead to the loss of employment and survival for millions of small retailers in India. Outsourcing cuts have already hit India’s IT industry badly. Clearly, US Inc. and its CEO Obama are outsourcing their economic crisis to Indian soil! 
Agriculture – at the Service of US Agribusiness
The Joint Statement released by India and the US on Obama's visit talks of a partnership in agriculture "to work together to develop, test, and replicate transformative technologies to extend food security as part of an Evergreen Revolution." What is this 'Evergreen Revolution'? This is an extension of the Indo-US 'Agriculture Knowledge Initiative' (AKI) inaugurated during Bush's visit, and its key agenda is to open up India's farm sector for export of US agricultural products and technologies (mainly patented seeds and GM crops), open up Indian agriculture and retail for US corporations, and to use India as a site for research by US crop-seed bio-tech corporations. The AKI had US agribusiness giants like Monsanto, Walmart and Archer Daniels Midland on its Board. The US-India Business Council which scripted the agenda of the 'Evergreen Revolution' said in a November 2010 document titled 'Partners in Prosperity -Business Leading the Way' that "the effort to vitalize India's agriculture sector should be driven by business."
Expanding US Export: Behind all the talk of 'food security' and concern for Indian farmers, lies the real agenda: the US government's new 'National Export Initiative.' A US Agriculture Secretary who accompanied Obama on his visit elaborated on US' plans to expand its agricultural trade surplus, saying that "US Department of Agriculture studies show that every billion dollars in agricultural exports supports over 8,000 jobs and generates an additional US$1.4 billion in economic activity." So, once again, the deal with India is going to generate jobs in America – at the cost of the sovereignty and lives of India's farmers.   
Profiteers Eye India's Retail Sector: The US-India Business Council is promoting the entry of US agribusiness corporations in food storage and retail in the name of bringing down food prices by curbing wastage/spoilage and getting rid of intermediaries. Its agenda is being echoed by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) of the Ministry of Commerce which has called for a 'field-to-fork retail supply chain' in a note supporting FDI in retail. We must recognise and resist such attempts to make India's agriculture and retail a playground for US agribusiness profiteers.    
Seeds of Imperialist Control: The US corporations in collusion with the Indian Government seek to subjugate Indian agriculture to patented MNC seeds. The latest version of the Seed Bill 2010 approved by the cabinet seeks to rob Indian farmers of the freedom to develop and save seeds, instead allowing MNC seed monopolies to enjoy a stranglehold on Indian agriculture. The Bill allows seed companies to fix seed prices and collect royalties according to their whims, free of regulation. It recognises foreign seed certification agencies, disregarding the dangers of seeds that are not tested for Indian soil and climate conditions.
Guinea Pigs for GM Foods: In the name of "greater food security based on technology to increase efficiency and productivity" the AKI and US-India Business Council promote genetically modified seeds and food crops – even though the safety of these foods is yet to be proven and consumers in the US are yet to be exposed to them. The attempt to introduce Bt Brinjal in India recently was an instance of the AKI agenda in action – where Monsanto-Mahyco, the US corporation marketing Bt Brinjal also influenced the research and regulatory process, based on which the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) granted approval. Thanks to outraged protests by farmers and citizens, the Government was forced to stay this approval, but now measures are being taken to pre-empt protests. The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill proposed by the UPA Government seeks to do away with the regulatory process itself by granting 'single-window clearance' to GM crops, and threatens to jail anyone who questions the safety of GM crops!
Our Research, our Biodiversity, Their Profit: As part of the AKI, efforts have been on to orient India's agricultural research institutions in favour of private profit and market rather than the needs of peasants. Under the AKI, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has to provide US companies and research bodies with free access to its vast network of research institutes, agricultural universities and research projects for the purpose of "joint research" in biotech areas “that have the potential for rapid commercialization”. Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has called for 'PPP' (Public Private Partnership) in ICAR; such PPP simply means that India's publicly funded research is to be pressed into service for profit-seeking US agribusiness giants, providing both research labour as well as field-testing sites! The rich genetic diversity of India's crops is being served up for exploitation by US corporations, and Indian consumers will be exposed to the dangers of GM foods. The greatest irony of all is that this blow to India's food sovereignty and security as well as consumer safety is being done in the garb of ensuring India's food and nutrition security! An India-US Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation in Agriculture and Food Security was signed by Obama and Singh last year, which talked about Indians' access to ‘diverse diet and diversified and fortified foods’ —  which is nothing but a euphemism for GM foods.
Weather Forecasting – for Indian Farmers or for US Agribusiness? A Weather Forecasting collaboration is the "showpiece" of Obama's visit, promising to predict sudden breaks in India's monsoon cycle. But the subtext of this arrangement is that it will allow the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Commerce access to minute, detailed information about predictions of India's district-level crop sowing, harvesting etc. This invaluable data about the Indian agriculture market will then be provided to US agribusiness corporations.
While the US is aggressively promoting neo-liberal agricultural policies which have led to steep cut-backs in state subsidies for Indian farmers, the US itself provides hefty subsidies to the tune of Rs 12.50 lakh-crore between 1995 and 2009 to American farmers. 
In 1970, Henry Kissinger had said “Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people”. The policies being pushed by the US and its agribusiness lobby are aimed at destroying India's food security and sovereignty. These US-dictated liberalisation policies in the agriculture sector have already caused hundreds of thousands of farmers’ suicides in India - opening up this sector further will spell further devastation for our farmers, and will destroy the self-reliance of Indian farmers and agriculture. bangal_protest
Exploiting the Education Market:
The Singh-Obama 21st Century Knowledge Initiative was launched last year, and in the Joint Statement issued on the occasion of Obama's visit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Obama agreed to convene an India-U.S. Higher Education Summit in 2011.
Education is yet another key area of interest for the Indo-US Business Council. As with agriculture and other sectors of India's economy, the US is keen that India deregulate education and allow foreign players to tap the Indian education market (which, according to ASSOCHAM’s estimates, stands at $25 billion and is projected to reach $50 billion by 2015. In recent months, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal has travelled to the US twice along with top bureaucrats and academics. US top brass, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale, have reiterated the need for better educational tie-ups. In October, on the eve of Obama's visit, three top universities – Yale, Illinois and Cincinnati – have toured India to scout avenues for academic collaboration.  The US-India Business Council conducted a 'Higher Education Mission to India' that coincided with Obama's visit to India.
Noted educationist Anil Sadgopal points out that in the US (as well as many other advanced economies), higher education institutions are in crisis. In the US, students all over the country have been protesting against the massive fund cuts and fee hikes. Militant protests and sit-ins have been witnessed in many major US campuses; students have even blockaded important highways in protest; and October 7, 2010 was observed all over the US as a “National Day of Action to Defend Public Education.”  The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) also participated in the Day of Action as part of its “Higher Education is a Public Good” week, which its members described as - “a week of action to demonstrate the importance of not-for-profit higher education.”  Against between November 11-20 this year, there have been massive student occupations and protest demonstrations against fee hikes in the prestigious University of California campuses at Los Angeles (UCLA) and Berkeley. In Britain on November 10, 50,000 students held a militant protest at the Tory Headquarters to protest fund cuts and fee hikes. Subsequently, many British campuses have witnessed sit-ins and occupations in protest against fee hikes. Sadgopal suggests that various education-related Bills (including the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010 and the Universities for Innovation Bill) that the UPA Government has in the pipeline "will bail out these fund-starved American institutions" and also indicates a "major distortion of goals, direction and knowledge content in our higher education, which would be dictated by market needs, rather than people’s aspirations."
Kopal_protestTo facilitate the entry of American and other MNC education businesses, Sam Pitroda, adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on innovation and infrastructure has recommended that we "do to our education what we did to our economy" in the 1990s – i.e deregulate, withdraw state support and let the market have a free hand. Withdrawing state support, in this case, always means letting public sector institutions starve for funds and fend for themselves by hiking fees and commercialising. The State continues to hand over enormous sops in the way of land and other goodies, free to corporate universities. An instance is the notorious 'Vedanta University' in Odisha, where the High Court has recently questioned the legality of the Government's grant of 6000 acres of land on the Orissa coastline to Vedanta.
Pitroda has hailed the entry of "world-class institutions, particularly the Innovation Universities proposed by the Prime Minister," and lauded the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill pending in Parliament on the grounds that it "will also play a role in opening up our education sector to globally renowned institutes." In these pages, we have already taken a close look at the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill. International experience indicates that such legislation can neither attract truly 'world-class' institutions, but can only allow unreliable educations shops to sell sub-standard wares (relatively free of regulation) to Indian students. The Universities for Innovation Bill, 2010 is even more preposterous. According to a proposed legislation, 14 such Universities will be set up in India, which can have foreign VCs; 'merit-based' admission process free from any obligations to reserve seats for SC/STs and OBCs; fix their own free structures; pay differential fees to faculty; and admit up to 50% foreign students (in contrast to ordinary universities which have a 15% cap on foreign students). Such Universities will be so-called "not-for-profit legal entities"; but on the lines of "for-profit" corporate industries, they will be established not through an Act of Parliament but through a Memorandum of Association signed between the Central government and the private partner. In spite of this commercialised structure, these universities will not be under the purview of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). These universities will be called upon to disclose to the government any new research created leading to an intellectual property; while the government may use this intellectual property for “public good,” it will pass on all profits/royalty earned to the university. According to HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, the legislation proposes to ensure that the innovative "initiatives and energy of the promoters are not stifled in an excessive regulatory mechanism" – i.e these Universities will be free from supervision by regulatory authorities like the UGC. However, they will enjoy Government funding in the shape of land grants as well as grants towards research, fellowships and scholarships for socially and economically disadvantaged students. The Bill says these Universities will maintain a higher standard than the run-of-the-mill Indian institutions, but does not define this standard. Curriculum, teaching quality, students' assessment – all are left to the whims of the Universities themselves. There are no norms spelled out for the promoters of these universities, and no penalty for making false claims or failing to provide quality education. There was much outrage at the deemed universities that made a mockery of standards and cheated students; these fancy Universities will simply be the deemed universities all over again, while enjoying unprecedented prestige and powers. According to the UPA Government, these Universities will be far above mundane regulations. In these paradises of creative 'freedom' and 'innovation', however, no provision is spelt out for students' freedom to exercise their democratic rights or elect Unions!
Another piece of legislation – the Educational Tribunals Bill 2010 - is part of the package of moves to restructure higher education and bring it in tune with a commercialised set-up. This Bill's stated aim is to establish educational tribunals at national and state level to resolve disputes among stakeholders in the education sector and penalise unfair practices. Amazingly, there is no specific provision in this Bill for redressing grievances and disputes involving students!
The Bill stipulates that no court can take cognisance of any offence punishable under the chapter on penalties, unless a complaint is made by an officer authorised by the either of the tribunals. Further, no civil court will have jurisdiction to entertain any suit in any matter that falls under the purview of these tribunals. An appeal against the decision of the national level tribunal can be made only to the Supreme Court. Effectively, the aim seems to be to restrict the recourse of teachers, employees and students to courts. This seems to be to facilitate foreign and private players in the education sector who would like to be free from the prospect of being taken to court.
Another Bill relevant to education is the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill 2010, which makes accreditation compulsory. It may be that fund cuts can follow in case an institution fails to achieve sufficient credits. However, the central government will have the power to exempt any class or classes of institutions from all or any provisions of this law, in the name of “advancement of knowledge” or “in the interests of the general public.” Any private or otherwise influential players can therefore secure such exemption, which is an open invitation to graft and corruption. Further, the "Innovation Universities" are by definition exempted from the compulsions of accreditation!
Higher education is being privatised in the name of ridding it of problems like corruption and capitation fees and ensuring higher standards. However, the telecom scam is a reminder that privatisation and greed for profit go hand-in-hand with corruption. The US-backed agenda for India's higher education will not only further exclude the poor and underprivileged, it will increase the scale of chaos and corruption in education manifold.    
More Bhopals in the Making 
Obama visited Mumbai, the site of India’s worst terrorist attack – but he has averted his eyes conveniently from Bhopal, the site of India’s worst industrial disaster, whose perpetrators have evaded justice with the patronage and protection of the US and India’s own rulers. Bhopal reminded us how US corporations also love to outsource pollution and accidents to countries like India, where human life, in their eyes, is cheap. The Bhopal verdict has sent a message to the US corporations that safety regulations are lax in India, and thanks to US political clout, Indian governments will go out of their way to ensure that US corporations are protected from criminal liability and even from having to pay compensation!
The recently passed Nuke Liability Act protects nuclear corporations from having to pay adequate compensation in case of a nuclear accident. In the same vein, the Seed Bill 2010 proposes to protect MNC seed companies from facing punishment or paying compensation in case of false claims or crop failure. Clearly, Bhopal is becoming the model for the Indian State's relationship with US corporations.                 
Exporting Terrorism  
Obama's visit has been marked by much rhetoric about partnership against terrorism and justice for the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack. But President Obama did not tell the Indian people why the US failed to share crucial intelligence with India which could have prevented the Mumbai attack. Home Minister P Chidambaram, in a bid to ease any embarrassment for Obama on this question, has sought to play down the issue by saying that the US did not have specific intelligence that Headley was planning an attack on Mumbai. Even if that is true, it does not change the fact that the US, which knew of David Headley's terrorist links prior to the Mumbai attack, did not share this information with India, thus enabling a terrorist mastermind to travel freely in and out of India on a US passport.
In the case of both Bhopal and Mumbai, key perpetrators have been American citizens, and continue to be shielded by US Governments, which have refused to extradite Warren Anderson and which are protecting David Headley from facing justice in Indian courts. 
US Strategic Stranglehold Tightens on India    
During the Indo-US Strategic Dialogue in June this year, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton observed that “the US military holds more exercises with India than with any other country”. The Indo-US Joint Statement 2010 clearly indicates closer defence cooperation, joint defence exercises, trade and technology transfer and, in particular, purchase of military hardware on a massive scale by India. It also indicated India's compliance with key US strategic concerns. India's defence market was opened up for American companies who sold artillery guns, missiles, military transport aircrafts and fighter jets worth many millions of dollars.
On the eve of Obama's visit, the Manmohan Singh government cleared a Rs.2,000-crore proposal to acquire a sophisticated equipment for the Indian Air Force from the U.S. through the Foreign Military Sales route.
For long, the US has been negotiating a Logistics Support Agreement and Communications Inter-operability Security Memorandum of Agreement with the UPA Government. These agreements would obligate India to provide military support to the US and therefore have met with fierce opposition in India. Already India has signed the End-use Verification Agreement that gives the US access to India's military faculties in the name of monitoring the "end-use" of military technology purchased from the US.
The UPA Government has been triumphant about lifting of restrictions by the US on India's access to dual use technology, but we are yet to know what strings are attached to this decision. The Nuke Deal was achieved at the cost of India's about-turn on long-time friend Iran. 
In his address to Indian Parliament, Obama reiterated his justification for US aggression in the Af-Pak region by declaring that 'safe havens for terror' in Afghanistan and Pakistan would not be tolerated, while remaining silent on the killings of innocent civilians in US drone attacks in that region. Obama overtly chose to comment on India's foreign policy vis a vis Iran and Myanmar. While Indian citizens too would demand that their government break its silence on the Myanmarese military dictatorship and human rights abuses in that country, it smacks of double standards for a US President (who is yet to acknowledge war crimes and occupation in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan) to do so. India has already buckled under US pressure by voting against Iran twice at the IAEA – and Obama's speech clearly indicates that the US will continue to mould India's foreign policy to suit US interests.
US President Barack Obama's address to Indian Parliament, which served as a prelude to the Parliament's winter session, has been welcomed not only by the ruling Congress but also by the main Opposition the BJP, indicating the unity of the Indian ruling class in its subservience to US imperialism. The Manmohan Singh government betrayed Indian people by failing to confront the US on Bhopal or on David Headley. It has refused to ask the US to break silence on prosecution of those guilty for war crimes in Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is all too ready to create jobs in the US and expand US corporations' markets by opening up India’s economy and sacrificing Indian jobs, Indian farmers’ lives, India’s agricultural self-reliance and Indians’ health and safety. And it is ready and willing to be US’ junior partner in its bid for imperialist world hegemony – ‘sharing’ the US’ war-time military burdens and boosting America’s military-industrial complex by buying up US military hardware and nuclear reactors.
The countrywide protests that greeted Obama on his India visit are a clear message to the Manmohan Singh Government that Indians reject and resist the Indian ruling classes' bid to make India a junior partner of US imperialism.

Countrywide Protests Against Obama Visit

The All India Left Coordination (AILC) had called for countrywide protests with the slogan "US Imperialism Keep off from India, Keep Off from Asia!, Asia is not for US Meddling and Occupation! "Stop Outsourcing War, Terror, and Economic Crisis!" Constituents of AILC held vigorous protests all over the country. 
CPI(ML) held a dharna at Parliament Street on 8 November, led and addressed by CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma, CPI(ML) Central Committee members Prabhat Kumar, Rajendra Pratholi, and many others. 1300 activists of CPI(ML) and CPM Punjab under the banner of All India Left Coordination (AILC) staged an impressive convention and demonstration in Jalandhar on 7 July against the growing interference of American Imperialism in the affairs of our country. The convention was held in the overflowing hall of Desh Bhagat Yadgar. A presidium comprising of Comrade Trilochan Singh Rana, Dr. Satnam Singh Ajnala, Com. Ruldu Singh and Com. Bhagwant Singh Samao conducted the Convention. Various leaders of the organising parties including Com. Mangat Ram Pasla, Secretary CPM Punjab, Com. Dipankar Bhatacharya, General Secretary of CPI (ML) Liberation, Com. Swapan Mukherjee, AICCTU Gen.Sec., Com. Rajvinder Singh Rana, Com. Rattan Singh Randhawa and Com. Harkanwal Singh addressed the convention. After the convention a well decorated and organised “Obama Go Back” march led by leaders of the All India Left Co-ordination marched through the main areas of the city. Participants, including women, agricultural labourers, students and workers came from all the districts of Punjab.
In Kolkata, a well-decorated protest rally started off from College Square for Dharmatala. Later there was a road blockade for 30 minutes and the effigy of Obama and Manmohan Singh were burnt. The rally was led by CPI(ML)’s PBM Com. Kartick Pal. State Committee member Basudev Bose, CCM Com. Kalyan Goswami and State Secretary Com. Partha Ghosh. Comrades from North and South 24 Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly joined the rally in great number. AISA members also participated in the rally. A protest rally and effigy burning was held at Siliguri led by CCM Com. Abhiijit Mazumder. At Krishnanagar (Nadia), as well as six places in Malda, anti-imperialist mass meetings were held. At Kaliagunge in N. Dinajpur, roads were blockaded for 30 minutes and a mass meeting held. Protest campaigns were held in several other parts of West Bengal as well. delhi_protest
In Andhra Pradesh, 200 people marched in Kakinada town, headquarters of East Godavari district and burnt the American President’s effigy in front of the Collectorate. CPI(ML) State Secretary and Polit Bureau member Comrade N Murthy,  AIALA State Secretary Comrade Bugata Bangaru Rao addressed the demonstrators. At Vissanapet, HQ of Krishna district, a road blockade was held, while protest marches were held at Visakhapatnam and Ananthapur.
A protest demonstration was held in front of the Orissa State Assembly, culminating in a public meeting. Protest rallies were also held in Rayagada, Kendrapara and Bhadrak districts.
In UP, State-wide demonstrations and marches coupled with effigy burning were held, including at the state capital Lucknow, as well as at Varanasi, Allahabad, Ghazipur, Mirzapur, Sonbhadra, Chandauli, Mau, Pilibhit, Lakhimpur Khiri, Sitapur and Jalaun.
The demonstration at Chennai was led by CPI(ML) PBM Comrade Kumaraswami. Demonstrations were also held in Pudukottai, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari. “Go Back Obama” posters were released and put up all over the State.
A rally was held at Gangavathi town in opal, Karnataka where Obama’s effigy was burned. A demonstration and dharna was held at the taluk office of HD Kote town in Mysore district. In Uttarakhand, protest marches, dharnas and meetings were organised by CPI(ML) State Unit and AISA at several places in the State including Lalkuan in Nainital district, Pithoragarh, Syalde in Almora district, Rudrapur in Udhamsingh Nagar and Srinagar in Pauri Garhwal. 
In Jharkhand, demonstrations were held at Ranchi and Bagodar. At Puducherry, CPI(ML), CPI, CPI(M), AIFB, and RSP organised a massive joint state level protest demonstration on 8th November 2010 in front of the head post office at Puducherry. S. Balasubramanian State Secretary CPI (ML), Kalainathan State Secretary CPI, Perumal State Secretary CPI (M), Muthu State Secretary AIFB, Lenin State Secretary RSP addressed the protest gathering. Protest posters were pasted throughout the town and thousand of leaflets were distributed.

A protest demonstration and dharna was held at the ‘Mini-Secretariat’ in Karnal, Haryana. The CPI(ML) and Lal Nishan Party Leninist jointly organised a protest demonstration at Mumbai.