ASIF HAROON RAJA
SOON after partition of India in August 1947, India had tilted towards Moscow. This tilt was much to the chagrin of USA. Despite its wooing, India under Nehru dynasty refused to move out of the lap of Moscow and befriend Washington. Eisenhower, President of USA from 1953 to 1961 had tried to convince Nehru to make India part of anti-communist alliance but failed. He paid an official visit to India in 1959 to somehow convince Indian leadership to join up with USA to contain growing power of China but didn’t solicit encouraging response. John F Kennedy made concerted efforts to pullout India from Soviet camp and to make it stand up against China but couldn’t make any headway. Although India had come fully under the umbrella of USSR, but it never strained its relations with USA the way Pakistan had spoilt its relations with USSR after it joined western defence pacts. Even when India supported Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in December 1979 and castigated US policies, it didn’t mar Indo-US relations.
The 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars also didn’t cast adverse effects on working relations of India and USA. The US should have ethically provided all out material and moral support to Pakistan since it was its ally and member of SEATO and CENTO. On the contrary, it stopped flow of defence items which were in the pipeline and imposed economic and military sanctions. In the 1971 war, the US gave false hopes to Pakistan that its 7th Fleet was on its way and would come to the rescue of beleaguered Pak military troops in erstwhile East Pakistan but it never came. Gen Yahya regime naively kept waiting not realizing that a non-Muslim ally would never come to the aid of a Muslim country particularly when it is fighting against a non-Muslim country. Conversely, Soviet Union provided full support to India before and during the war to breakup Pakistan into two halves.
India benefited a great deal from its closeness with USSR in terms of development of its economy and military strength. Moscow became the biggest supplier of arms to India and in expanding its defence industrial base. Indo-Soviet intimacy remained unbroken till the collapse of Soviet Union. Even after India shifted into US lap, their relationship remained cordial. Defence, economic and nuclear deals are still being signed and 70% of Indian forces weaponry is Russian origin. What is however noteworthy is that when the Soviet empire was on deathbed and gasping for breath, India didn’t even wait for its demise. It hastened to abandon the sinking ship and climbed aboard the ship of USA. In order to develop intimate relations with the sole super power which it had been criticizing, India thought it necessary to build relations with Israel and European Union. Indo-US collaboration in various fields nurtured throughout the 1990s.
When India under extremist Hindu party BJP led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee carried two nuclear tests on 11 May 1998 and three more on 13 May, it created a stir in the world. A visible change came in the attitudes of Indian leaders towards Pakistan and they started behaving arrogantly. Temporary economic sanctions were levied by USA and Japan on India to show to the world that USA was evenhanded in its dealings; however sanctions were removed in September 2001 since India was not a Muslim state and was a secular state. One doesn’t have to recount the anger of US leadership when Pakistan conducted similar tests.
India could not have risked carrying out five nuclear tests without tacit understanding of US President Bill Clinton. In fact, nuclear tests led to further warming of Indo-US ties. This was evident from visit of Clinton to India in March 2000 who laid the foundation of Indo-US strategic relationship. It was the first step to make India a regional power and pave its way towards attaining big power status.
9/11 came as God given opportunity for India to become a key country for USA in its dealings with this region. It managed to convince Washington that like USA India was also a victim of terrorism. Israel played its role in assigning a key role to India in future regional affairs particularly in Afghanistan. Afghan adventure lent strength to Indo-US-Israeli nexus. So-called champions of democracy and human rights who had earned the notoriety of worst abusers of human rights decided to sail in one boat and jointly execute the slaughter of Muslims under the guise of terrorism and to attain their common strategic and economic objectives.
In January 2004, Indo-US relationship crossed another milestone in the field of defence collaboration. In 2005, process of joint Indo-US naval exercises commenced. In order to protect US-Israeli commercial interests in Indian Ocean and to keep an eye on activities of Muslim countries, George W Bush declared India as the policemen of Indian Ocean. In this context, it was planned to entrust Indian Navy with the responsibility of protecting sea lanes from Suez Canal up till Singapore.
In April 2005, another Indo-US agreement termed as ‘open sky’ was signed. Purpose behind the deal was to remove all restrictions imposed by Israel and USA and to open avenues for two-way free transactions. Cooperation in the fields of defence, civil nuclear technology, space and high technology were strengthened during the state visit of Indian PM to Washington in July 2005. On the visit of Bush to India in March 2006, tens of defence, economic and trade deals were inked and a commitment for awarding civil nuclear technology given. In December, the US Congress approved the nuclear deal despite knowing that India had not signed CTBT.
Award of civil nuclear deal by Bush Administration was meant to convert India into a global power. IAEA Board of Governors meeting in August 2008 gave a go-ahead signal to Nuclear Suppliers Group to supply nuclear material to India. Barack Obama has now reconfirmed that India has emerged as the regional and global power. Contracts worth $10 billion were signed during his visit to India in November 2010. India has also been given proxy power in Afghanistan against Pakistan. All the three US presidents have played a part in upgrading the standing of India and in projecting it as a counterweight to China.
The US Civil nuclear deal has allowed India the right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel of US origin. Whatever restrictions imposed on transfer of technology was removed by Obama. The US is all set to welcome India in the nuclear club of five and to make it permanent member of UNSC. The US will support India’s admission in four multilateral export control regimes including Nuclear Suppliers Group and Missile Technology Control Regime. All these are clear signs that Washington has made up its mind to make India a global power.
Our leaders are however still convinced that the US is Pakistan’s trusted friend and will not take any direct or indirect step to harm Pakistan’s interests. They seem to have accepted US decision to make India a global power.
The writer is a defence analyst. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org