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August - September 2008


Indo-US Friendship

by Krishan Ralleigh

After meeting President Bush, Prime minister Manmohan Singh addressed a press conference in Hokkaido, Japan where he said something which would be treasured by historians in times to come. Manmohan Singh said: "Our relationship has never been in such good shape as it is today... It is the intention of my government, as I believe it is also the will of the Indian people, particularly the thinking segments of the people, that in this increasingly interdependent world that we live in, whether it is the question of climate change or managing the global economy, India and US must work together shoulder to shoulder, and that is what is going to happen."

The two leaders of the two largest and richest democratoc States had detailed discussions on the nuclear deal, an eleventh hour decision which now has to be taken through two very arduous stages in a time too short for going through an indepth detailed democratic process either in the US Congress or in Lok Sabha, “The people’s parliament” in New Dehi.

President Bush succinctly said, "We talked about the nuclear deal and how important that is for our respective countries."

The President complimented profusely the Prime minister of India for his recent action back home. In an obvious reference to the domestic political turmoil, Bush said, "It was a really good meeting amongst two friends. And so, Mr Prime Minister, thank you for joining us today, and congratulations on your leadership at home."

For Manmohan Singh it was a bold, blunt and desperate decision to bring to an end the hesitation of his comrades at home; and a crucial breaking of the gordian knot which bound him with the left wing parties, hitherto a part of the Coalition, a relic of the past, a cancerous part of the body that had to be amputated. The Prime minister dared to take such a bold step perhaps because he was out of the country and thus felt free from the pressures from the top leadership of the UPA at home.

It may also be, that great Dr Singh chose the right time and the right place for he is more confident now than he was in 1991 when despite obstacles from some powerful Congress overlords, he freed India’s economy from the choking embrace of ‘socialist economy’

Here in Japan, in the company of leaders of the top eight countries, (G8), he freed India’s foreign policy from the ghost of non-alignment, so assiduously cultivated by Jawahar Lal Nehru and Indira Gandhi in the past.

The time was right for such a move. The wise Prime Minister is fully aware of the new wind blowing in India’s favour. It is time India takes the bull by the horn; and destroy the shibboleth of socialist political and economic policies which proclaim love for poor and down-trodden; but would like them to remain poor and downtrodden so that those in power could remain in power in perpetuity. Indira Gandhi’s “Garibee Hatao” proved to be a shallow slogan designed to win votes of the illiterate and poor masses of India.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh has no such desire of deluding the people by false slogans. But he has the courage of his conviction. Once he is convinced of the right course of action, he would do his utmost to inform and educate the people of India about the action he has decided to take. For him vote bank politics, whether of Muslims, Dalits or of any regions is of little value. His focus has always been to see India standing shoulder to shoulder with the richest and the most powerful nations of the world. Not to claim any hegemony over other nations but to support, sustain and safeguard India’s democratic systerm, her culture and tradition of religious toleratnce and seeking unity in diversity.

Europe changed after the crumbling of Berlin Wall. The United States of America drastically adjusted its foreign policy after the 9/11 tragedy. India is set to change after the Nuclear Deal. The economic fall-out of the Nuclear-deal may not be much to boast about. India’s will to be strong and prosperous is without any doubt. India’s hunger for energy will keep on increasing. Nuclear power will be more substantial but even then it will hardly be over ten percent of total power consumption. India will have to be on the look out for other resources. It is not beyond Indian scientists to harness solar, wind and hydro-power to meet ever-growing demand for energy to sustain India’s fast-growing economy.

With Nuclear-Deal in her pocket, India’s strategic partnership with the United States has been sealed for generations to come. This partnership is not against any counry or any bloc. It is certainly not against communism whether it is of Chinese brand or Indian Marxists’ brand. It certainly is an axis of good. In no way it has comlpromised Jawahar Lal Nehru’s dream of conducting international relations based on ‘Panch-sheel” the edicts that were the foundations of non-aligned movement; and which he actively promoted during his stewardship of India in the first seventeen years of her independence. Moral stance is, and should remain an important ingredient of India’s foreign policy and for that matter of the US policy.

The consequences of the nuclear deal, undoubtedly, are going to be far-reaching; and we have discussed them in detail in our cover story on pages 11-12. Suffice it to say that cementing of friendship between India and the United States will eventually become an important instrument of promoting peace, democracy, rule of law and economic prosperity world-wide.

Meanwhile, leading to 22nd July, the day the trust vote is taken in India’s parliament, Indian politicians are indulging in their favourite hobby of making deals and counterdeals to gain or buy the sudden jacked up price of an MP’s vote. Dr Manmohan Singh with his low pitch voice did not seem to have much power of persuasion nor does the Minister for foreign affairs, Pranab Mukherjee who tried in vain to salvage the career of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterji, (a leftist by choice; otherwise a centrist and genial personality).

Bringing the Samajwadi Party (The Socialist party) in the Congress fold to vote for the nuclear deal was no less a coup for Dr Manmohan Singh. It will definitely bring a winning majority, however slender. In the long run, the Congress will have to pay a high price.

The Congress leadership must be missing the late crafty South Indian ‘Brahmin’ Narasimha Rao who was able to save his government by persuading a few members of a small party to vote for his moribund government in 1993.

How times have changed! Dr Manmohan Singh’s government is going on an advertisement spree in the Indian media to explain the Nuclear Deal to what he called,”the thinking segments of the people”. Unfortunately, this type of people rarely enter the Indian parliament. As far as the Indian media is concerned, they are alreay on his side except, perhaps, the readers of left-leaning newspapers rarely read by thinking people.

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