Indian media are upset by Jaishankar’s heavy-handed responses to US pressure to toe his line on Ukraine. But the American media did not mention it: which means that official America simply did not hear the reply of the Indian MEA.
On the face of it, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s heavy-handed responses to US pressure to toe his line on Ukraine are fitting rebuttals to interference in India’s internal affairs. Because India has generally been reluctant (for example in the face of aggressive Chinese statements), the general public has been delighted to see this as an example of Indian resolve maturing. I’m not so sure.
I have long advocated mutually respectful relations between the United States and India. And I was thrilled by the Quad’s promise as a gathering of democratic forces in the Indo-Pacific, especially as an antidote to the Chinese rampage. However, I was apprehensive about the Biden administration, because the Democrats’ record on India is, well, abysmal.
In previous Democratic administrations, we’ve had the spectacle of Madeleine Albright teaching India a rude lesson, and of the very harmful Robin Raphel who was later accused by the FBI of being a Pakistani agent (she was cleared of these charge). The general tendency has been to treat India with disdain, even contempt, partly as a holdover from Cold War attitudes, the stupid Non-Aligned Movement and the stupid moralizing of Jawaharlal Nehru and Krishna Menon.
Also, India was considered a basket case (for good reason: the humiliating PL 480 emergency food aid was a watershed moment, as the Indians only ate when American ships showed up with grain that they normally fed only to cattle). A country that cannot manage its basic food security deserves contempt. But those days are long gone, except in the minds of Atlantic cold warriors: India is now one of the biggest grain exporters and will profit from the war in Ukraine.
In other respects too, the power equation between the two countries needs to be rethought. I remember the story of a king’s court poet in India who wrote a poem comparing his king to the Emperor. He called his king the New Moon and the Emperor the Full Moon. Furious, the king wanted to know why he had said that.
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The poet explained that the New Moon waxes and the Full Moon wanes.
In a nutshell, this is the situation with India and the United States. Barring unforeseen calamities, India’s relative economic and military power will increase, and America’s will decrease. In the not too distant future, India’s GDP in PPP terms will overtake that of the United States, and it is a matter of speculation as GDP in nominal terms does the same. This is not a chauvinistic boob shot, but a very real possibility.
The United States is suffering from something like a midlife crisis. It’s strange, for a nation with immense resources – a vast continent with all the natural resources one could dream of – and endowed with friendly neighbors and vast oceans that separate it from possible enemies. Its people have long been the most industrious and innovative on the planet, and the country is a magnet for the best and brightest from around the world. His soft power, too, is unmatched.
Yet the dominant concerns that drive Americans seem strange: gender, abortion rights, human rights. They don’t exercise on their virtual deindustrialization (and loss of manufacturing jobs) thanks to China, nor on the possible collapse of white-collar jobs through automation and robotics.
They seem jaded about their inordinate use of energy (NPR reported in “How Much Energy Fuels a Good Life?” A Stanford study that Americans use “almost four times the energy needed to live a good life?” happy”). This is clearly the cause of global climate change.
They may be living beyond their means, supported by printing billions of dollars, which they can do because Nixon took the dollar off the gold standard. The dollar remains the world’s reserve currency. However, sanctions against Russia may well lead to the bifurcation of the global trading system, and the Chinese would like to make the renminbi the currency of choice.
Yet Americans are most concerned about human rights. Sure, these are ethical issues that are rightly on the minds of rich countries, but there is a whiff of decadence: it feels like the self-centered navel-gazing of a civilization in decline, unaware of the barbarians at the gates, and you know who said that the barbarians are. The word tumble seems to sum it up: The possibility of a sudden collapse.
The other problem is that they are lecturing others when their own system is not working very well. US Secretary of State Donald Blinken added a sour note in the recent 2+2 meeting with India when he said, gratuitously, that ‘human rights abuses’ in India were monitored by states -United.
It was ironic that Blinken made that statement on a day when someone shot 10 people in Brooklyn; the next day, two Sikhs were beaten and robbed in New York. And a Kashmiri Hindu was shot dead in Kashmir. The New York Timesfollowing the fatal shooting of a black man by a police officer, said: “American police officers over the past five years have killed more than 400 motorists who were not wielding a weapon or knife or who were being prosecuted for a violent crime. criminality.”
One could say that human rights violations are also a problem for the United States. The Chinese are making the United States squirm by listing cases. At a reception (at Howard University, a historically black university), MEA Jaishankar said that India pays attention to human rights issues in the United States. He also talked about the threat of CAATSA sanctions against India and in fact said that if the United States imposes these sanctions, India will find a way around them.
Indeed, India circumvented earlier US denials and sanctions: when it went nuclear, earlier when the US unilaterally abrogated the Tarapore Nuclear Fuel Supply Treaty, when the Biden Amendment ( yes, the same Biden) forced Russia to give up its cryogenic rocket engine deal with India, and when a Cray supercomputer sale was canceled.
So far, so good. Yes, India stands up and fights back. But the question is whether it is registering where it counts. Indian media are abuzz with reports. However, the American media, as far as I know, did not mention it: which means that the official America simply did not hear the reply of the Indian MEA.
Plus, there’s the Good Cop, Bad Cop story: Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh threatened India with “consequences.” An emollient Daniel Lu, a senior State Department official, made soothing noises. Victoria Nuland, the architect of the “Maidan revolution” in Ukraine in 2014, visited and met with mysterious “opinion leaders” and Arvind Kejriwal.
Shortly thereafter, the AAP government in Punjab demanded Rs 50,000 crore per annum from the Center to fulfill the AAP’s grandiose election promises of giveaways; Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal has casually dismissed the rape-murder of a 14-year-old Hindu girl by TMC cadres; the Tamil Nadu government has intensified separatist rumors; and Ram Navami shobhayatras were attacked with stones by Muslims. Pure coincidence? Or are they “consequences”?
Is the Biden administration now convinced that India will and should be allowed to pursue its own interests? I’m just not as sure as the others. After all, I hear that AUKUS becomes JAUKUS, and that leaves India in the cold clutching the Quad.
The writer has been a conservative columnist for over 25 years. His academic interest is innovation. Opinions expressed are personal.
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