avatar
The Bastards Love America


The Pew Global Attitudes Survey (June 23) is remarkable for one statistic. Seventy-one percent of the Indian population surveyed this year loves the United States, and fifty four percent have a high regard for Bush. Sixty-three percent of Indians who talked to Pew feel that the US places India high on its list of priorities, and meets this regard with concomitant largess. Pakistan, which actually receives greater US aid and has closer ties to the US government (it is the only “major non-NATO ally”), has no such illusions. Twenty-three percent of the Pakistanis who took the Pew survey like America, and only ten percent think highly of Bush.

The news of this survey came at the same time as the US government released its “Foreign Relations of the United States” volume on South Asia, 1969-1976. That valuable document offered transcripts of conversations between President Nixon and his consigliore Henry Kissinger. Sandwiched by some crafty diplomacy by the Indian government led by Indira Gandhi, and by the resilience of the East Pakistani political and guerrilla opposition (as well as by the obduracy of the Pakistani political and military leadership), Kissinger-Nixon vented their frustrations. Gandhi is an “old witch,” Nixon said, while Kissinger added, “the Indians are bastards anyway” (November 5, 1971). India went to war against Pakistan to liberate Bangladesh and on December 16, 1971, Mrs. Gandhi announced the Pakistani surrender at Dacca, “the free capital of a free country.”

Kissinger, who now represents many multinational companies that do business with India, hastily agreed to a television interview with NDTV. He apologized for his remarks, adding that he is a “strong supporter and promoter” of a close relationship between India and the US.

It is not clear if Kissinger played any role in the deliberations, but a few days before his interview (on June 29), the US and Indian Defense ministers signed an historic agreement, “New Framework for the US-India Defense Relationship.” This agreement brings the Indian military into very close relationship with the US armed forces. The “bastards” not only love the US, but they’ve also joined them in a military relationship.

One can’t take surveys very seriously in societies with a high digital and telephonic divide. In India, unless a survey is rigorously invested in the views of the rural population, it tends to gauge the impressions of the urban middle class and that handful of the elite who are willing to waste their time on such a telephone call (The Pew report is quite forthright, “The surveys in India and Pakistan were also disproportionately or exclusively urban samples”).

For these class fractions, the propaganda of consumer goods is immense, as is the desire to sit in the winner’s circle rather than struggle from the margin. That the Indian exploitative classes are more eager to be nice about the US than the Pakistani exploitative classes is not a surprise: the anti-Muslim tenor of the Bush administration is perhaps the most obvious factor to turn off the support of many in Pakistan, even as they might long for the same kind of upwardly mobile consumer lifestyle.

The propaganda of consumer goods, largely manufactured in China even as they have the cultural imprimatur of being “American,” is sufficient to create consensus over such otherwise boring events as a defense agreement. When the US and the Pakistani governments announced the “major non-NATO status” for the latter, the media outlets of the exploitative classes gushed (June 2004). Much the same happened a year later, in early July, in the Indian media that is read by this same sort of class combinations. The details of the agreements, discussed only in a few major papers, seemed to be less important than the creation of some kind of entente with the US, the ideal typical image of upwardly mobile consumer bliss.

Some immediate concerns leap out from the defense agreement between India and the US.

One, the Indian government appears to have entered into the Bush administration’s hallucination of a missile defense shield. The shield may not work militarily, although India will now have Patriot missile systems, but it will certainly work to create political tension between India and China who have only recently cemented some confidence building measures.

Two, the Indian government pledged to set up co-production facilities, that is to say, the US arms manufacturers will outsource weapons production to India. This had already been intimated during the sale of F-16s to Pakistan, when Indian received this option from the Bush administration.

Three, despite the strong opposition to the use of Indian troops in Iraq, the agreement will allow Indian troops to join their US counterparts in “multinational operations” under US command. This is anathema to the major political forces in India and it will be the focus of discussion in the Monsoon Parliament session.

Four, the agreement sidelines the importance of regional resolution of conflict through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, for example. When Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia pledged to manage the crucial Malacca straits, the Indian government did not go along. It has now preferred the US option. In addition, along the grain of the controversial US proposal for a Proliferation Security Initiative (to give its ships the right to interdict any ships on the high seas), the US and India have agreed to patrol the high seas together.

The agreement is dangerous and it has gone virtually unreported in the US. The Communist Party of India (Marxist), one of the few to have gone after the agreement within India itself, notes, “If this agreement is carried forward, India will be placing itself in the same category as Japan, South Korea and Philippines – all traditional military allies of the US.” Further, “The defense agreement comes at a time when the US is actively working to prevent China from enhancing its defense potential. What is unstated in this agreement is the US aim of containment of China using India as a counterweight.”

The “bastards” are useful again. They have a large market for US-based transnational corporations, they have a well-educated middle class who are ready to work in outsourced jobs, they have a consensus among this middle class toward an upwardly mobile consumer society, and they have a military that can shoulder the burden of an inelastic US armed force. It was perhaps this fantasy that forced Kissinger to quickly apologize for his 1971 statements, and for Bush to quickly quote from Indira Gandhi (“Indira Gandhi spoke of poverty and need as the greatest polluters,” July 1).

Leave a comment