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Bush’s Re-Election and the ‘Indian Dream’

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Pratyush Chandra

ML INTERNATIONAL NEWSLETTER JAN-FEB 2005

Interesting reactions over the US elections came from two sections of the Indian society – those vocalised by different associations of the Indian capitalist class, and those coming from the right reactionary forces of the country. More interesting is their open concurrence not only with regard to their assessment of the economic impact of Bush’s victory, but also with regard to their politico-militarist tenor. In my opinion this concurrence speaks a lot about the character of the so-called “national” bourgeoisie and their immediate interests.

Generally, it is assumed that the Indian ruling interests in the foreign political developments are rent-oriented, i.e., gathering favours for offering Indian markets. This judgement is too simplistic and does not match up to the complexity of capitalist international relations. Further, it fails to grasp the nature of capitalist development in India. Marxists enriched the concept of “imperialism” in the second decade of the 20th century to grasp this very complexity of relationships in capitalism. They saw in imperialism a “dense and widespread network of relationships and connections” causing “the propertied classes to go over entirely to the side of imperialism”. (Lenin: 133) They recognised the crisscross nature of international associations and treaties between “national” ruling classes. With the later development of “shareholder” capitalism and MNCs/TNCs, inter-national relationships have become more complicated, which cannot be explained by strict geographical conceptualisation of core/periphery divide. The Indian ruling interests have to be explained as embedded in the global logic of capitalist accumulation, their aim, like their competitors’, being to siphon away as much profit from the global pool of surplus value as they can, by collaborative or aggressive tactics.

This complex relationship between the Indian capitalist class, their political representatives and global politico-economic developments is evident in reactions to Bush’s victory. Strategic and militaristic concerns are predominant in them. They perceive Bush’s victory as an opportunity to ensure the implementation of “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership” (NSSP) with India, which was elaborated in his first tenure. NSSP outlined collaborations in high technology, civil and nuclear space programs and trade. Bush’s commitment to the partnership was taken to be evident in the setting up of the U.S. India High Technology Cooperation Group, U.S. India Cyber Security Forum and the Joint Working Group on Terrorism.

The Indian political and economic elites rely strictly on the “strategic calculus” that would garner Bush’s attractions for India. Since the collapse of Soviet Union, the Indian ruling class has been trying hard to sell themselves as a regional force that can act as a reliable watchdog for global imperialism. The decision to refuel the Anglo-American warplanes in 1991 during Chandrashekhar’s regime, India’s desperate graduation as a nuclear power and bargaining favours on its basis, and sycophant persuasion to get employment during the Afghan War – all amount to the same goal of selling themselves as a power to be reckoned with for any strategic building up in Asia. And they feel now the time has come to realise the “Indian Dream”.

Just after the elections the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) hoped for President Bush’s visit to India early in his second term to provide a new thrust to U.S.-India relations. Rumsfield has already arrived to pave the way for the mission. The CII finds, “Bilateral defense relations are at record highs with the two countries organizing joint military exercises and patrols and are now looking at cooperating in newer areas such as missile defense”, and “a second term now provides an opportunity to build on these initiatives.” The CII being a prime association of the Indian corporates finds the economic gains packaged in this aggressive military relation that puts the government-to-government agreement for cooperation in place. The Indian bourgeoisie seem to agree with the pop-intellectual of American imperialism, Thomas Friedman (1999) that “the hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist – McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnel-Douglas, the designer of the F-15”, and that the hidden fist that keeps Silicon Valleys and their technologies safe is the army, navy and air-force. I think he forgot to add private armies and “Ku Klux Klan” rioters, who do what “legal” forces can’t do. Further, with the Indian stakes in McDonalds, why will not F-15s be refuelled in India?

A representative of the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Prasanta Biswal, voiced a similar hope and found that “the republican administration has been pro-India with people like the under secretary of Commerce, Ken Juster, and former ambassador to India Robert Blackwill. We just hope that the initiatives that have been taken will be carried forward and at the same time, they will take newer initiatives.”

A presentiment, definitely, existed that the Democrats would have faced difficulty in avoiding the nationalist pressure of the biggest labour union in the US, the AFL-CIO, which has been the most formidable support base for the Democratic Party. This could have resulted into the curtailment on outsourcing etc., which is an important source of tapping on low wage zones for global profit making which then is shared by the MNCs in the first world and their collaborators in the Third World. In India especially in the IT industry there was an uneasiness and apprehension. The Hindu (Nov 5, 2004) reported, “The re-election of George Bush as President of the U.S. has ended the brief period of uncertainty for the Indian IT industry. Mr. Bush’s rival John Kerry’s protectionist promises that included ending the outflow of call centre and software development business from the U.S. to other countries had made the Indian industry, one of the biggest beneficiaries of this relocation, apprehensive.”

However this fear was false because, on the one hand, any “mature” democracy and its parties are fully trained to dupe such support base while still maintaining it. On the other hand, both Republicans and Democrats have always been involved in propaganda competition on who fulfils the “American Dream”, hence both play on chauvinism to hoodwink the American masses, while remaining consistently married to the expansionist drive of the capitalist class. Even the “democratic” Clinton sagely commends the “conservatives” for drawing “lines that should not be crossed”. (Walsh, 2004)

In fact, the chauvinist tenor of the American Dream and American values herds together the masses behind expansionism as supposed “resolution” to their plight. It is true, the organised labour everywhere has been on defensive in the phase of globalisation, when capital flight works as the regimenting factor. In the face of non-availability of any immediate revolutionary option in the society, they revert to the ideology of desperation, of introversion, to slogans like “buy American, be American”. On the one hand, this forces them to convince the capitalists of their commitment to the industrial “peace”, to make “national” industries competitive in the global market! On the other hand, it consolidates the domestic market for the “national” bourgeoisie of the US. Hence, the “labour support” nowhere binds the hands of the US state or any capitalist state to do what it is meant to do as the governing body of the ruling class.

Particularly interesting is the response of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS); though one never knows which part of its sounding zone will be claimed official – fascism is always cacophonous. A few months ago RSS Chief Sudarshan “discovered” about the US funded programme to christianise India completely by 2010 or so, and propounded the US to be India’s worst enemy. But now in the columns of RSS’ mouthpiece, Organiser (Nov 21, 2004), one finds Bush as the emancipator of the world from “oriental Talibanism and occidental anarchy” and by re-electing him the Americans have salvaged their civil society. In this column entitled “America, America … says the PM, Comrades want him to shut up” (a usual and unimpressive stuff of anti-communism), Rajendra Prabhu finds “the relationship between India and the United States has been transformed from the cold war suspicion to strategic partnership where the two have deepening mutual interests”. He praises Bush for bringing democracy and freedom to Afghanis and Iraqis. “Today our companies, our government, our experts are building roads, hospitals and schools in that country.” Afghan war was in “our national interest” (one of the Bushisms).

Prabhu, further, notes, “the Presidential election campaign in the US has thrown up the deep divide within that country over Bush’s action and strategy in Iraq.” But then “it was Iraq action that sent the shivers in Pakistan also that the American President could act if the Musharraf regime refused to tango with it in suppressing the Islamic fundamentalists”, thus the US action once again fulfilled “our national interest”.

In a sycophantic tone, peculiar to the “liberal” section of RSS, he lauds Bush’s messianic goals. “From Indonesia to Egypt, the historic Muslim Crescent did get a message in various intensities that the days of oppressive regimes are numbered. Regimes have changed no doubt through elections in Indonesia and Malaysia, and stirrings of a more liberal approach are buffeting the royal regimes and semi-autocracies. If finally an elected government takes office in Baghdad, the President would be vindicated. It looks doubtful at present given the rising level of violence. It looked impossible in Afghanistan also even six months back. But it has happened.” The cowboy spirit of Bush makes possible all Missions Impossible.

Finally, Prabhu concludes – “In this US election, besides Iraq and terrorism, the most divisive issue was the destruction of family values through such aberrations as gay marriages, legalization of lesbianism and such social viruses. For years it seemed the New England liberal establishment and California’s aberrant communities would hijack core values of the country. But suddenly the silent majority gave up its silence and spoke through the ballot to restore the social balance. American ultra liberals may be in mourning. And the Islamic fundamentalists are angry. Civil society needs to be saved both from oriental Talibanism and occidental anarchy. At least that is what the Americans accomplished in this election.”

Both the Indian capitalist class and the rightist forces find strategic and militaristic collaboration between India and the US as crucial for the Indian “national interests”. The only difference is that the latter provides the former with a voice that can draw the general masses behind these national interests with the help of the homogenising effect of aggressive chauvinism. It allows the ruling class interest to become a national interest. Sudarshan’s rabid anti-Christian rhetoric ghettoising masses on communal lines uniquely combines with the “secular” urge of profit-making that can be fulfilled only by joining forces with the US imperialism.

Sections of the Indian capitalists suffered a heavy shock a few months ago to see Vajpayee government voted out of power. It was the government that represented their interests while perfectly taming the masses with its rightist rhetoric. It is not that they were averse to the Congress, which has been their representative for the longest period of time. But the Congress could not sustain itself as such because of its inability to combine various sectional interests within the rural/urban ruling classes while simultaneously regimenting the general masses. In the neo-liberal phase of global capitalism it could not provide a stable government with an aggressive tenor required to support the domestic capital to collaborate and compete in the post-Cold War globalising market. After numerous ups and downs, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) graduated as that political power. But its defeat and moreover the parliamentary left’s position in a crucial role of stabilising the new government made the capitalists desperate.

Now, the new Congress government has the dual task of competing with the rightist political gymnastics and moderating the damage on the state’s legitimacy by the earlier government by its naïve open communal preferences. Further, it has to continue with the act of settling in the evolving global polity. The biggest contribution of the earlier rightist regime was its determination to fashion its international surroundings in favour of the corporatist interests in the country. Its tactics ranged from the hype of nuclear blasts to the laughable sycophant persuasion of the Anglo-American masters to get employment in the Afghan war. The Indian oil interests and other corporates had their heyday during Vajpayee government. It was the first consistently “outward”- oriented (even if not expansionist in the normal sense of the word) regime, concentrating on building a place in the global polity as a junior partner in global imperialism. As a result, Manmohan’s government has the major task of internal re-legitimisation of the Indian state with a furtherance of the basic orientation of the earlier government, i.e., its economic and foreign policies. In fact, the left support gives his government the essential political legitimacy to pursue these tasks. The parliamentary left was quite easily tamed by the manipulated stock exchange turbulences just after the general elections. It is being time and again forced to reassure the “business” community of its moderated nature. Even when it says that its support must not be taken for granted, it is extremely afraid of the immediate fallout of any hard-line on its part. This situation has become another self-justification for not waging “class struggle” leading to their further reduction as a distinct force of the working class. This tamed radical has become the biggest asset of the capitalist state, which was struggling for its legitimacy right from the initial days of liberalisation in the country.

Frankly as regards to the American policies it hardly mattered who won the election – Bush or Kerry. But for the Indian politics Bush’s victory is significant in the sense, that it allows the rightist forces to once again pose themselves as the smarter representative of the capitalist class attuned to the global needs, which is evident in their respective reactions to Bush’s victory. Further, it pressurises Manmohan to be on the “right” track even with a left support, as he has already demonstrated recently. His initial efforts to start a dialogue with nationalist and left extremists were perhaps laudable, but he has not shown any sign of doing away with Vajpayee government’s belligerent rhetoric and apparatus to wage its own regional “war against terrorism” that includes fighting the left insurgency in Nepal. Bush’s re-election is definitely a gift to the Indian capitalist class and the rightist forces in India, as it would continue to build an atmosphere of aggressive globalism. And they have aptly interpreted the result of the American elections – a victory for militarism and rightism.

References:

Dutt, Rimin (2004) “Indian business groups welcome Bush’s re-election”, IndUS Business Journal Online Nov 15, http://www.indusbusinessjournal.com

Friedman, Thomas (1999) “What the World Needs Now”, New York Times, March 28

Lenin, V.I. (2000) Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Left Word Books, New Delhi

Prabhu, Rajendra (2004) “America, America … says the PM Comrades want him to shut up”, Organiser Nov 21, http://www.organiser.org

Special Correspondent (2004) “IT Sector greets Bush’s Re-elections”, The Hindu Nov 05, http://www.hindu.com/2004/11/05/stories/2004110503541500.htm

Walsh, David (2004) “Opening of Bill Clinton’s library: a sordid gathering of the “fat cats””, World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) Nov 20, http://www.wsws.org/

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Written by Pratyush Chandra

February 4, 2005 at 6:15 am

Tsunami, US & India

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Pratyush Chandra

[This article analyses the ‘confident’ moves of the Indian state during the Tsunami crisis. It seeks to demonstrate that India’s increasing integration with the imperialist camp is not driven by any “ideological” illusion but rather is a manifestation of the definite material needs of the Indian capital, which are essentially expansionist.]

1. ‘Tsunami’ Coalition – Context & Implications

In India, the ruling Congress Party has finally buried the remains of the Nehruvian foreign policy. In 1992, Narasimha Rao destroyed one of the major pillars of the so-called “nonalignment” that guided India’s international relations during the Cold War, when he established full ties with Israel. Before this, Chandrashekhar’s desire to allow the refuelling of the American warplanes in 1991 had already announced the way things were going to shape up. The Vajpayee government stretched this to the extent of a complete abandonment of the principle of nonalignment. Manmohan Singh has now completed the process, by abandoning the formal Indian stand for strengthening the UNO as the global coalition to resolve international disputes and provide humanitarian aids. Becoming a part of the US-led 4-nation coalition (which includes its most stable allies in the region, Japan and Australia) for tsunami relief efforts, the “pragmatic” India has shown the world, other western powers and its former comrades in the NAM (non-aligned movement) that it sides with the US. It has aligned with the US’ unilateral strategy to impose its own designs on the world community, by announcing its moves and then using the UN as a rubber stamp.

The coalition came as the American response to the initial criticism from its European competitors for late rising to the occasion for providing relief to tsunami victims. Only Australia, Japan and India were invited, excluding not only the European nations, but also the time-tested militarist allies of the US in the region. India’s initial ‘displeasure’ over deploying of the 1500 US Marines in Sri Lanka was shut up in the sheen and prospects of being close to the US. The latter, knowing that it cannot compete economically with other Western powers, nevertheless is aware of its only strength – its military might and the capacity to go anywhere and bully anybody. Even the European Union foreign policy head Javier Solana’s spokesperson had to admit that the United States’ military muscle allows it a higher visibility in the current crisis around the Indian Ocean.

The US is effectively using the occasion to extend its militarist tentacles in Southeast Asia and Indian Ocean. It is returning to its Vietnam War bases like Utapao Royal Thai Naval Air Force Base on the Bay of Thailand, in the name of setting up a “command centre” for the tsunami emergency relief effort. It has revamped all its ties in the region. Sri Lanka’s ruling elites have found new muscle support allowing the US Marines to venture its terrain. Most importantly, it is the occasion for the US to strengthen and test its relation with India, as its most stable support in the region. In the name of humanitarian aid it has established sweeping ties with the regimes in the region and refurbished its strategic machinery within a few days after the tragedy.

But what does the Indian refusal to “humanitarian aid” for its own victims signify? Is it not ideological, “anti-imperialist” stand? Not at all. If it had happened 20 years ago one could submit to such illusions. This refusal along with its readiness to provide aid to other victim countries involves something more than this simplistic rhetoric. Definitely, India seeks to demonstrate to the world that it is self-dependent and a power in itself with which western powers must reckon to pursue any strategic designs in the Indian Ocean. Its “ambitions” must be understood as culmination of the particular configuration of material interests composing the character of the state in India, its assessment of its own capacity to hegemonise the region.

2. US Interests in India

The US knows how to pamper such “ambition”, and aptly responded. Bush lauded India’s “very strong leadership” thanking it “for taking a lead in this issue”. Regarding the coalition he said, “one of the first things that we did was to put together a core group of nations, nations that are capable of organising relief efforts around the region, and the Indian Government has been especially strong, as a part of this core group”.

The European powers, not in the Anglo-American coalition, understand the American design, but cannot do anything about it. France thinking it an opportunity came in defence of India, when it was criticised around the globe for refusing the aid. The French Defence Minister Michelle Aillot Marie said, “Those who criticised the Indian government’s decision not to accept the aid don’t really understand or know the country’s technological, financial and economic strength and its capability to deal with such crises.” However, it is clear in this competition, for the present at least, the US military prowess allows it to go so far, where others still fumble to tread.

It was arguably the greatest “mainstream” economist of the 20th Century, John M. Keynes, who once said “Pyramid-building, earthquakes, even wars may serve to increase wealth.” The present century was already going through endless wars, when the tragedy of tsunami occurred. It would be a matter of immense research and controversies to assess the exact “positive” economic value of these disasters. But Powell has already made it clear that the US aid for tsunami victims will be beneficial for its strategic designs and “war against terror”. He said in the tone typical of the Yankee politicians, “I think it does give to the Muslim world and the rest of the world an opportunity to see American generosity, American values in action”.

The induction of India in this design signifies a clear extension of the American front throughout the Indian Ocean. The growing economic and consequent political might of China is a concern for the US and the erstwhile “Asian Miracle” states, who are invariably its allies. China plays a crucial role in the global rivalry for hegemony between the US and EU. The US cannot depend on Chinese road to capitalism, which has its own peculiarities and strength, as it cannot depend on Russia or any other East European states, humbled and weakened as they are now. China has been “unbalancing” the hegemony of dollar in the region and world. Indian clientele therefore acts as a definite respite, as no other economy has the potentiality in making up to the Chinese with regard to size, strength, resources and stability. Further, it is the only credible state, which can oversee or even intervene in the political, military and economic activities in the Indian Ocean. The submission of India, being a growing economy (though with its own uneven pace and specificities) and with a stable political system, unlike other American allies in the region, provides an immense potentiality for the strategic interests of the US. What could be a more auspicious opportunity for such alignment than the relief efforts for tsunami victims? It is the time when only a few can smell deception, and those who do are so humbled by the disaster that they lack guts to point fingers.

3. Reasoning Indian Interests – Mere Big Brotherly or Imperialist?

On the other hand, the growing expansionist motivation of the Indian capital drives the Indian state to muster its own strategic plans. There are evident political economic reasons underlying these designs, but characteristically these are generally ignored even by the radical “anti-imperialist” forces in favour of arguments based on the simplistic rhetoric like “big brotherhood”, etc. Perhaps this is due to the overwhelming persistence of the ossified conceptualisation of the strict division between core and periphery, where both are homogenously and geographically defined. However, below are cited some relevant facts, which demonstrate that there are sufficient reasons for the Indian State to give aggressive support to the hegemonic material interests of the Indian capital, which are perfectly attuned to the dynamism of global capitalist accumulation.

Firstly, India’s tiny, yet growing oil interests, forces it to be with the US’ “war on terrorism” (although, toned down because of the domestic pressures), play love-hate relationship with Pakistan, have rightist love affair with Israel, nourish its little-known interest in Sudanese and other African and Arab conflicts. Although most of the Indian manoeuvrings in the international oil market is through the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Oil India Ltd (OIL) etc., there is considerable private motivation directing them. The upcoming “oil baronage” of Reliance Industries taking over the state’s Indian Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (IPCL) and divestment in other public sector undertakings in core sector including ONGC are increasingly solidifying the oil interest in the country. Until the Indian “private” capital is confident enough in the world of petro-oligopolies, the State’s mantle can provide the essential leverage required to make up to these oil giants. In fact, states in the OPEC countries are virtually the “organized body” of the “oil” capitalists and business negotiations are executed state-to-state. As an example of recent achievements in this regard is the ONGC being “in the race for picking up Canadian firm EnCana’s stake in a cluster of oil fields in Ecuador. The state-owned company is also in talks with Russia for picking up stake in the assets of oil major Yukos.” (Business Line, “ONGC eyeing EnCana’s stake in Ecuadorian fields — In race for Yukos assets” (11/01/2005)) Further, Business Line (08/01/2005) informs “ONGC Ltd is negotiating a 12-year loan to raise $600 million for financing a Sudan refinery expansion project for its subsidiary ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL)”. Sudan is already hosting the largest Indian investment abroad in the oil sector. This sufficiently explains India’s defence dealing with the Sudanese regime when Sudan’s defence minister visited India in December 2003 preceded by its oil minister’s visit. Besides Sudan, ONGC has operating assets in Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, Myanmar, Libya, Syria and Sakhalin Islands. On Sep 3 2004, ONGC Videsh Ltd announced that it reached agreement with Vanco Energy Company, USA to acquire 30% participating interest in an exploratory block, Offshore Ivory Coast.

But more importantly, throughout the 90s and afterwards, India has sought to make South Asia its own political economic regional base by playing crucial role in the political conflicts of other countries in the region, like Nepal and Sri Lanka, whose economies are heavily dependent on the Indian capital. In Nepal, seven countries account “for over four fifths of cumulative FDI. India alone accounted for one third, followed by the United States and then China.” India being the biggest investor in Nepal since 1996, owns 35% of the enterprises with FDI and 35.8% share in the total FDI. (UNCTAD 2003 Investment Policy Review: Nepal) Taking into consideration the enormity of the Indian “imperialist” stakes in Nepal’s economy, India’s growing interest in Nepali politics and the dependence of Nepali political elites (the king, the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML) are not at all unanticipated. Similarly, “India has recently become an important investor as a result of the India–Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement. This agreement has huge potential for generating FDI focused on the Indian market. Indeed, India was the largest investor in Sri Lanka in 2002.” (UNCTAD 2003 Investment Policy Review: Sri Lanka) In both cases, low tariffs on import-export in post-liberalisation trade agreements have given the Indian investors the ability to re-export to India goods they could manufacture cheaply in Nepal and Sri Lanka. Even investors from other countries have expressed interest in investing in Sri Lanka and Nepal to export to the Indian market. This gives India further advantage since these investors in Sri Lanka, Nepal and other countries in the subcontinent force their own respective political representatives to seek ties with India to have access to its market.

All these facts, at least, evidence that India has much on stake now to be simply non-aligned to the “hooks and crooks” of global imperialism, and the Indian capitalist class with their political representatives are definitely aware of this. India is defining its own “war on terrorism” and is not wary of having “pro-active” militarist build up for “pre-empting” attacks. It is not at all uncomfortable now with the idea of having “national security interests” across the border, and is ready to cross it if it must. All these add up to graduate India as a strong ideological, economic and military partner of the emerging “Global Right” under the leadership of the US. Tsunami relief efforts are only strengthening this partnership.

Written by Pratyush Chandra

February 2, 2005 at 12:59 pm

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