By Dr. Haider Mehdi
“These gentlemen are the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers.”
Ronald Reagan, introducing the Afghan Mujahedeen leaders to the media at the White House, 1985
And now the same Afghan Mujahedeen, the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers, fighting the US-Nato occupation of their country, are the terrorist that have been gunned down mercilessly for the last ten years. How so? It is so because every American President is a salesman selling the American delusion of authoritarian and oligarchic corporate capitalism: Whatever suits this agenda becomes the mantra of the US political establishment.
Barack Obama’s sojourn to India is not any different in its contextual concept: The US President is there for India’s psychological dressing and his line of “India’s rise” is not any different from Reagan’s compliments of “inspiration to those who love freedom” to the Afghan Mujahedeen. Both remain, essentially, selling jobs – albeit unscrupulous enterprises as well as misdirected and misguided foreign policy initiatives largely loaded with rhetoric, slogans and symbolism.
In a very strict sense of the word, there is nothing “REAL” in political America, nor for that matter in the political psyche of common Americans. It is a political culture that is “one dimensional”, engineered by media technology, doctored for massive collective indoctrination, designed for conformity to a political-socio value system loaded with judgmental clichés, dogmatic ideological undertones, explosive sentimental and psychological exploitation by expert application of communicative technologies and an unending massive use of rhetoric. When dealing with other nations, the American ideological-rhetorical doctrine is combined with political coercion, military and financial rewards and punishments – on a case by case basis. American foreign policy is a monolithic monster invented to serve the US capitalistic and expansionist objectives but awash with blatant contradictions, moral dilemmas and every conceivable impropriety.
Obama’s sojourn to India is planned to complete the psychological boosting – a process that began nearly a decade and a half ago: India has had a “Miss Universe” and “Miss World”, its authors have won major literary awards, Bollywood has joined Hollywood, its IT industry has won acclaims, it receives preferential treatment on nuclear technology and armament, Hindu terrorism is tolerated, its human rights violations in Kashmir are ignored, Hollywood actresses nowadays carry handbags with “Made in India” logos printed on them – and the US President appears in India supporting its desire for a UN Security Council’s permanent membership, applauding its democracy (even today with its strict class segregation) and its rise to global political-economic-cultural eminence. But will all these accolades and acknowledgments of Indian distinctions and accomplishments hold to rational and unbiased scrutiny and analysis? What the US is attempting to do is to engage India psychologically for a political-military alliance through Afghanistan to the Central Asian Islamic States and put in place a “containment circle” around China, Iran and Pakistan. In doing so, the American global objectives of capitalistic expansion and military political hegemonic control of South-Central Asia will be accomplished – a cornerstone of the 21st century American foreign policy objectives.
“All state visits are overloaded with lofty, superfluous rhetoric,” wrote Jaswant Singh, former foreign minister of India in a recent article. “US-India summits are particularly prone to this hubris: the Great Republic meets the World’s Largest Democracy. It would be better for both countries to shed some of these marigold garlands of cloying adjectives… the US must accept and candidly discuss the damaging consequences of its military, diplomatic and political overreach.”
Let us look at some of the ground realities in today’s India in the wake of a US barrage of praise and appreciation for Indian democracy and its rise to global eminence: Firstly, in India’s population of around 1.1 billion people, about 400 million are illiterate – a full one third of the population. Secondly, though Indian democracy has flourished in a strict sense of the concept, a firm Hindu class structure is still very much intact. Thirdly, India’s social problems emanating from its class-structure and rural underdevelopment besets it with serious social and educational problematics – an estimate suggests that an average Indian child enjoys a mere five years of education. Fourthly, poverty and economic disparity in urban India is phenomenal. Fifth, roads and communication infrastructures, vital for rapid economic growth, are insufficient or lacking. The question is, how will the influx of American capitalistic initiatives and corporate culture of military-industrial oligarchies lift the Indian masses out of their timeless poverty and deprivations?
William Pesek of Bloomberg in a recent article observed: “The so-called Washington consensus of free markets, transparency and unfettered globalization is more of a punch line these days than a recipe for prosperity.” Indeed, this is an absolutely accurate observation in general, and more so particularly in the case of India, where massive poverty alleviation needs more of a revolutionary approach then traditional capitalism, which segregates a society even more on socio-economic levels. Lawrence Summers, the former World Bank economist and Clinton administration Treasury Secretary, recently conceptualized the merits of an Indian “developing state driven not by mercantilist capitalism or exports but a people-centric focus on growing levels of consumption based globally.” Obviously, Summer’s was a “pep-talk” to placate India’s policy makers with an abstract notion of an “Indian Model of Development” – a psychological boost to make them “feel good.” However the fact of the matter is that such a concept is non-existent in Indian developmental projects – instead Indians are latching on to the US-West’s capitalist models. This will spell disaster for the impoverished Indian masses.
On the global political front, India’s desire to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a position publically supported by Obama now, compromises its historical non-aligned status. “It would be wiser for India to redirect its energies radically. The country should stop obsessing with a permanent seat and instead work to strengthen the general assembly and make it more vibrant and responsive to the weakest states. What matters much more than position, status or symbols of status is how India uses the rising power,” wrote Praful Bidwai in The Hindu. India is so overly obsessed with its new “strategic partnership” with the US that it has already abandoned its historical stance on a number of important issues: “In place of crafting proactive independent positions on major issues such as Iran, Palestine-Israel, Afghanistan, climate change, north-south relations, and the great recession, India tails the West – a complete U-turn from the days of nonalignment.”
A fundamental parameter of US-Indian “strategic partnership” is the “containment” of China. It is ironic that instead of pursuing a policy of regional cooperation and peace, India has opted to toe the US-West line of confrontation and conflict towards one of its giant neighbors. India has also already initiated a massive “arms race,” which will only benefit the US industrial-military complex and make the world a less safe and peaceful place. For US-West’s capitalism only thrives on perpetual conflicts, wars and continued arms build-up – however, that is the role that the Indian political establishment has chosen for the 21st century world: conflict expansion and engagements, containment strategies, subversion of global peace and mass prosperity. “India’s elite greatly relishes its growing global power. It does not ask what kind of power India should be and how it can use its influence to make the world better while promoting India’s enlightened interests as a tribune of global underprivileged. That’s a tragedy for a nation with the Gandhi-Nehru legacy.” Obama might have sold his pitch of “Rising India” to India’s pro-Western-elite – but it is all meaningless rhetoric and slogans to its millions of impoverished masses.
And that is what matters the most!
Slogans don’t… not anymore!
The writer: a professor, political analyst, published author and conflict-resolution expert.