The Bush Visit and After: Battle Lines have been Redrawn

PREDICTABLY ENOUGH, Indian advocates of a strategic partnership with the US have begun to describe Bush's just concluded maiden visit to India and the Indo-US nuclear deal as a huge diplomatic breakthrough for India's foreign policy. With Bush ruling out the possibility of a similar nuclear deal with Pakistan , there is an obvious element of additional glee in this camp. America 's relationship with India , they argue, has now entered a qualitatively new phase - it is now a really special and exclusive relationship. And what better international role can India really cherish than being identified as the most trusted American partner in Asia ! So never mind if Manmohan Singh had to throw all diplomatic protocols to the winds to personally rush to the airport to be patted patronisingly on the back by the US President and, if unconfirmed media reports are to be believed, also to be frisked by US security agencies.

The nuclear deal, the much talked about centrepiece of the Bush visit, supposedly recognises India as a nuclear power and entitles her to receive nuclear fuel and technology from the US and other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group in lieu of India's commitment to abide by the norms and requirements of 'nuclear non-proliferation'. While the deal is yet to be ratified by the US Congress and the details of the so-called 'India-specific safeguards' are yet to be worked out, India's nuclear programme now clearly stands subjected to an international inspections regime and legally binding eternal and intrusive safeguards. Contrary to Manmohan Singh's solemn assurance to Parliament last July 29 to acquire the same rights and benefits as the other nuclear powers and never accept discrimination, the deal has signalled an end to India's long phase of nuclear untouchability only to grant her second-class citizenship in the nuclear world.

The nuclear deal is full of both military and civilian implications. Militarily, it is bound to trigger a disastrous arms race in the subcontinent and the size of India 's so-called 'minimum nuclear deterrent' will steadily go up. The enormous costs of this escalating arms race will obviously have to be shouldered by the common Indian people who would be called upon to sacrifice more and more of their basic needs and rights for 'national security'. The nuclear deal also marks a major shift in India 's energy matrix in favour of nuclear energy which Bush has described as the 'cleanest and most reliable way' of meeting India 's energy needs. This means India will be 'encouraged' to rely more on nuclear energy, to be generated increasingly by imported reactors dependent on imported fuel, and 'dissuaded' from exploring alternative channels of energy supply like the gas pipeline from Iran or cooperation with China in the international oil market. In other words, the deal promises to revive the decrepit US nuclear power industry while thwarting India 's energy independence.

Meanwhile, Bush has been pretty blunt in listing the 'other responsibilities' that India will have to discharge. In his Purana Qila address, he has categorically asked India not only "to continue to lift its caps on foreign investment, to make its rules and regulations more transparent, and to continue to lower its tariffs and open its markets to American agricultural products, industrial goods and services" but also to stand by the US in opening up global markets and carrying freedom and democracy to "the darkest corners of the earth". In other words, the US wants India both as an unfettered market as well as a loyal ally in its 'mission' to engineer regime change in any country that may dare oppose American hegemony. Whether it is in relation to China or North Korea , Iran or Syria , Venezuela or Cuba , India will now have to toe the US line without fail. Indeed, what else could an unequal strategic partnership possibly mean?

In stark contrast to the euphoria of the ruling elite and the mainstream media, the people of India hit the streets in large numbers to express their anger and opposition. They are angry with Bush and his worldwide war on democracy, progress and humanity, and fuelling this anger is the Indian rulers' policy of spineless capitulation to the American drive for global hegemony. Many of the parties 'sponsoring' these protests may well be accused of being highly inconsistent and even hypocritical in their anti-imperialism, but the scale and intensity of the protests indicated a veritable countrywide outrage against imperialist domination, a popular Indian outcry for national dignity, independence and anti-imperialist internationalism. One of the most heartening features of the protests was the mass participation of the Muslim community and the prospect of growing political proximity between the communist movement and the Muslim masses. Indeed, in the Indian people's spirited opposition to US imperialism we have the basis of a new, necessary and vibrant Indian nationalism. Communal forces and the Indian state will of course do all they can to disrupt this militant secular anti-imperialist unity of the Indian people. We have already seen such derailment attempts in Lucknow and anti-imperialist forces must act promptly to foil such communal designs. The Bush visit has done its bit in terms of redrawing the battle lines both inside India and in the international arena, and the challenge now is to intensify the battle and carry it forward to victory.