Ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Manmohan Singh had clinched the Indo-US nuclear deal with George Bush in 2008. Five years later, as India awaits the general elections of 2014, Singh was back in America to open up India’s national exchequer to American companies in mega defence and nuclear purchase agreements. The joint statement issued after the third Obama-Manmohan meeting (ignoring the occasions when the two have met on the sidelines of multilateral summits) talks of enhanced defence, economic and of course foreign policy cooperation between the two countries.
The Obama-Manmohan summit produced a separate Joint Declaration on Defence Cooperation expanding on the 2005 Framework Agreement, with the US promising to treat India as one of its ‘closest partners’ in matters of defence technology transfer, trade, research, co-development and co-production of defence articles and services, including the most advanced and sophisticated technology. India has agreed to participate in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise in Hawaii, the world’s largest multilateral maritime exercise to be hosted by the US Pacific Command, signalling a new readiness to integrate India more closely fully with America’s strategic goals and operations. Ten years ago, Indo-US defence trade was worth just $100 million which has since risen to $10 billion, and the US is obviously looking gleefully at India’s burgeoning defence budget.
Manmohan Singh’s ‘short working visit’ also finalised initial agreements for India to purchase exorbitantly expensive and technologically untested nuclear reactors from the US. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited is setting up nuclear reactors in Mithi Virdi of Gujarat and Kovvada of Andhra Pradesh in collaboration with US companies Westinghouse and General Electric-Hitachi respectively. While Manmohan Singh avoided committing to any formal and explicit dilution of the liability clause for nuclear suppliers, he had already reassured the latter that their ‘profits will tell the true story’. In other words India is already ‘compensating’ American companies for their possible ‘liability burden’ by agreeing to pay much higher prices. According to an estimate, the tariff of power generated by these plants would be as high as Rs 15 per unit, which is more than double the price at which the Russian reactors at Kudankulam are expected to produce electricity.
While the Manmohan-Obama joint statement described Indo-US ties as a defining partnership for 21st Century, the degree of Indian subordination to American strategic control is becoming increasingly obvious. A glaring case in point is India’s shameful silence on the issue of American surveillance on India’s domestic politics and strategic and commercial interests and even on Indian diplomatic posts in America. Following Edward Snowden’s sensational revelations, it is now well known that the PRISM programme of the US National Security Agency taps live communication as well as stored information related to India’s geopolitical and economic interests including nuclear and space research programmes. US calls India a valued and key ally, but subjects India to intrusive surveillance and Manmohan Singh just did not have the courage to raise this crucial issue during his meeting with Barack Obama.
India’s growing economic and strategic subservience to US imperialism has only deepened the country’s economic and political crisis. As Finance Minister in 1991, Manmohan Singh had begun the opening up of the Indian economy for foreign and Indian corporate interests, and as Prime Minister since 2004, he has subordinated India’s foreign policy to the strategic goals and priorities of US imperialism. His latest trip to Washington may well have been his last tribute as PM to his American bosses, it is now up to the Indian people to end this shameful legacy and roll back the entire gamut of pro-corporate pro-US policies pursued by UPA and NDA governments.