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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Superpower India: A second-hand aspiration

August 21, 2010

By Sandhya Jain
Organiser (India)
August 22, 2010

The idea of an economically rising India as an emerging superpower -
when it remains in Western terminology a 'developing' and not a
'developed' country - was an opiate sold to a dollar-centric
political-economic-intellectual elite.

On a larger canvas, the goal is to use India to contain and/or
confront China and Iran; neither goal is consistent with the Indian
national interest. This does not mean that India cannot play a larger
international role in defence of its own needs as well as the
international community. Indian naval vigilance against pirates on
the Somali coast, the safety of the Indian Ocean sea-lanes,
participating in UN peacekeeping operations, are moves in that direction.

THE primary constraint to India's emergence as a Superpower is simply
that this is not the natural culmination of a diligently pursued
national quest for affirmation and assertion of the civilisational
identity and ethos of this ancient land, now a modern nation-state.

The idea of an economically rising India as an emerging superpower -
when it remains in Western terminology a 'developing' and not a
'developed' country - was an opiate sold to a dollar-centric
political-economic-intellectual elite by the administration of
President George Bush, Jr. This set New Delhi on a faux quest for
this mirage, gave it a false sense of participation in a new club of
rich western nations, and made it subvert its national ethos,
national interests, and foreign policy. In terms of foreign policy,
we have realised some of our mistakes, and are seeking to mend fences
with Iran, a neighbour critical to our stability in the region.

Two unstated facts pushed the Superpower-Status-For-Free drive. One,
the Indian elite, including left intellectuals and communist parties,
needed to cover the shame of quietly ditching its erstwhile Soviet
ally for greener pastures in the west. Two, at western prodding, the
deracinated Indian elite felt disconcerted at the military and
economic rise of China.

China always believed in strong central authority; the Communist
Party easily assumed the Mandarin mantle. As prosperity rose, the
regime encouraged revival of Confucian-Taoist-Buddhist traditions to
keep nationalist sentiments high, and resist the warlike invasion of
underground evangelicals. Records of Buddhist pilgrims to India show
how Buddhism augmented the Emperors' aura. In some countries the West
has used Buddhist clergy to subvert local power structures, most
notably Tibet and Myanmar; but China over two decades restored old
monasteries. As recently as May 29, 2010, she invited President
Pratibha Patil to inaugurate the Indian-style Buddhist temple at the
White Horse temple complex in Loyang, cradle of Buddhism in China,
where 1,900 years ago, the Indian monks Kashyapamatanga and
Dharmaratna helped establish the first Buddhist shrine.

Surely there is an irony and a message here. The godless Soviet
Union, once the vanguard of international communism, reinvented
itself as Russia and restored the prestige of the Russian Orthodox
Church, a critical component of Russian national identity for nearly
a thousand years. Russia's unrecognised lacuna remains an inability
to connect to a deeper pre-Christian identity, and an elite that has
been westward-looking since Peter the Great, thus denying her a more
vibrant native identity. Communism itself was a western export,
funded largely by New York bankers.

China had it easier. It has a wholly Asian landmass and large Han
population; it overcame the disastrous Mao interregnum and reclaimed
its status as Middle Kingdom (between Heaven and Earth). The timely
return of religion and culture was a rudder that helped Russia and
China carry their people through painful economic and political turmoil.

India -- still burdened with the legacy of Nehru's pretentious
atheism and soul-dead leftist fellow travellers - has failed to
bridge the self-created chasm with her ancient civilisation. How can
we be a world power without civilisational continuity; to what do we
aspire? Military power delinked from civilisational purpose will make
us Asuras, as demonic and rapacious as the superpower that foisted
this second-hand aspiration upon us in the first place.

We must first ask what superpower status entails for India. In the
brief space of this column, only few salient points can be made. By
the end of the Second World War, Britain and America had successfully
crushed the ambitions of Germany and Japan, and recognised that the
Soviet Union was the next challenger on the international stage.
Hence the subordination and economic revival of Germany and Japan,
and the rush to secure as much of the world as possible as Western
sphere of influence. Stalin too rushed to secure the Soviet frontiers
in Europe and Central Asia, and spheres of influence elsewhere. Given
Britain's financial collapse, America and the Soviet Union were
recognised as superpowers, until financial ruin imploded the USSR.
Sole superpower America is now facing the classic symptoms of
imperial overreach.

China's rise as a political, economic and military power in the
meantime is instructive. Unlike Washington, Beijing is not run by
Corporate Robber Barons who dictate national policy and bear no
accountability for the ruin they wreak upon the nation. In its shared
neighbourhood with India, China has excellent ties with Pakistan (to
counter American influence, right from the days of Gen. Ayub Khan).
In Nepal, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, it has taken advantage of the
Indian tendency to preach sermons without understanding the national
interest of either the concerned nation, or even of India herself.

It baffles me to this day that New Delhi helped undermine the Nepal
monarchy, to no benefit to itself. For long it batted for western
implant Aung San Su Ki, until strategic reasons forced Prime Minister
Atal Bihari Vajpayee and now Manmohan Singh to court the generals
holding the nation together. Even with Colombo, New Delhi vacillated
on behalf of the divisive and missionary-driven LTTE; only the
tenacity of President Mahinda Rajapakse saved the island from
becoming a Western neo-colony. New Delhi has simply forgotten Iraq
and in Palestine, it surrendered its long advocacy of the Arab cause
at the precise moment when international opinion began to turn against Israel!

China has friendly relations with Iran and all Muslim countries,
despite some tensions with Turkey over the Uighurs. India fractured a
stable relationship with Teheran by twice voting against it in the UN
Atomic Energy Commission at the bidding of Washington, and thereby
compromised in own energy security and position in Afghanistan. Can
New Delhi-which cannot make Pakistan pay for Kargil or Mumbai, whose
leaders repeatedly bow to US diktat to dialogue with Pakistan, whose
leaders get snubbed by Pakistani bureaucrats and ministers, which
gets jittery at the thought of US withdrawal from Afghanistan-really
dream of Superpower status? It is not even a credible regional power.

Why then the Superpower Lemon? China. On the vast resource-rich
African continent, the scale of Chinese diplomatic generosity has
irked - and exposed - the West. Unlike Britain and America, which
used/use gunboats (now bombs and missiles) to wrest economic
advantages from unwilling nations, Beijing operates by honest market
rules. It buys the resources it needs through generous long-term
contracts, a policy that, if emulated by the United States, would cut
its military budget by at least half.

But old dogs don't learn new tricks. Britain established the Raj by a
policy of Subsidiary Alliances with native rulers. Superpower India
is a modern-day version of this modus operandi; it really means
Subservient Power, one that will serve the Anglo-American
geo-political agenda. The idea itself was mooted around the time the
Bush regime tried to lure India into providing troops to hold Iraq on
its behalf.

On a larger canvass, the goal is to use India to contain and/or
confront China and Iran; neither goal is consistent with the Indian
national interest. This does not mean that India cannot play a larger
international role in defence of its own needs as well as the
international community. Indian naval vigilance against pirates on
the Somali coast, the safety of the Indian Ocean sea-lanes,
participating in UN peacekeeping operations, are moves in that direction.

But a US-led multinational action in concert with Russia, China,
Pakistan, and India, to extract (read loot) the rich mineral
resources of Afghanistan, is a path New Delhi cannot tread. India is
not a mere landmass stretching from the Himalayas to the Indian
Ocean; it is a land created by the gods. The Hindu Rashtra is a
Protective and not a Predatory State, and a Hindu polity can never be
divorced from Dharma.

Long years ago, Greek philosopher Aristotle noted with wonder that
Hindus were the only people in the world to have founded a polity on
the basis of Dharma. The quest for Subsidiary Superpower status, to
join the club of nations that oppress and loot other nations and
peoples, would be a terrible perversion of this legacy.

(The writer is senior columnist)
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