Friday, January 11, 2008


“The Americans always do the right things after they have tried everything else”

Winston Churchill.

In considering Indo- US relations it is necessary to understand America's approach to its role in the global geo-strategic and global economic environment that obtains. America has advanced far from the “Halls of Montezuma, the Shores of Tripoli”, the Monroe doctrine, Commodore Perry, the Phillipines, Panama, the Boxers, Teddy Roosvelt and Black Jack Pershing. The two world wars saw America emerge as a super power. Important post world war II landmarks were the creation of the United Nations, Bretton Woods, the IMF, the World Bank and the Marshal plan. Seeds of future conflict were laid down by arming of the Viet Minh in August 1945 by Wild Bill Donovan and his OSS. Next came the Korean War ,the Viet Nam war, and John Foster Dulles with his Domino Theory, the Cold War, Reagan and the fall of Berlin Wall, Afghanistan and the creation of the Taliban, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the new Russia. Then 9/11 ,Omar Bin Laden and the march of International terrorism, the two campaigns in Iraq and the ongoing counter-insurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Indo-Us relations have waned and waxed like the phases of the moon. In the nineteen forties it was Franklin D Roosvelt and Harry Truman who pressurized the British into granting India its independence. Relations became strained in nineteen fifties due partly to the vitriolic speeches of Krishna Menon in the UN. Despite this the US responded to the critical food shortages that India was experiencing during Bihar famine by sending very large tonnages of wheat in the 1960’s under PL 480. The repayment for this was most generously waived later by the US. Relations again waxed when the United State immediately responded to India’s defence needs during the Chinese invasion of 1962. The USA sent India weapons and more importantly located in India two of their Squadrons of C 130 aircraft to help to lift troops, stores and equipment. (Incidentally Israel was the only other donor, sending its latest 120 mm Tampella heavy mortars with ammunition and spares to equip two regiments.) Relations then waned during the cold war due to India’s friendly relations with the Soviet Union. Pakistan’s membership CENTO was another cause for concern.

Relations were further strained in 1971 by Nixons tilt to Pakistan during its repression in East Pakistan and subsequently in the war of 1971. Mrs Gandhi displayed courage and determination throughout. She stood up to Nixon and United Nations and led the India to its greatest victory. The movement of the Enterprise carrier group through the Straits of Malacca on December 12/13 was another matter of concern. The recent release of documents by the State Department for this period illustrates the Pro Pakistan stand of the Nixon Administration. Pakistan's role in the creation of Taliban (under the aegis of Benazir Bhutto) and the financial aid and weapons supplied by USA and others were also matters of concern. Most of the aid to Pakistan was diverted to finance and equip the regular Pakistan army. We are today reaping this random harvest due to the spread of international terrorism that has its roots in Pakistan (To quote an old proverb “to hoist with one’s own petard”)

Relations began to wax under the initiatives of Rajiv Gandhi in 1984/89. Talks between two countries took place for the transfer of Technology and the supply of GE jet engines for the LCA project. This process was continued by Narasimha Rao, Vajpayee and currently Manmohan Singh.

During the 1997 Pakistani incursions in Kargil Clinton pressurized the Pakistan Government to withdraw its troops and warned them against embarking on any nuclear adventure. Despite Pakistan providing covert support to the Taliban and other terrorist groups, the United States perforce maintains cordial relations with Pakistan due to its dependence on Pakistan for land and air communications to support NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Under the Bush administration Indo- US relations have reached a new high as Bush considers India to be a reliable strategic partner for the maintenance of stability in the Region.

There are three main parameters governing American military global supremacy –

The deep seas – deterrence by nuclear submarines -Air space and outer space – deterrence by aircraft and satellites-

Control of the deep seas – air space and outer space gives the US ability to prosecute operations far from the Continental United States. This ability is enhanced by a string of world wide bases. (Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean is of particular relevance, making the United States an Indian Ocean power.)

America remains a technological giant, particularly in research. America spends more on R&D than the combined defence budgets of France and Germany. This is of particular importance to India which requires technology for its progress.

India and US have commonalities of interest particularly in the Indian Ocean, Asia, the Middle East and Central Asia. Much of the trade and sea communications of both countries pass through the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca, past the Horn of Africa and around the Cape of Good Hope. Peace and stability in this region are of paramount importance to both countries.

Significant progress has recently been made in co-operation by the signing of “Mutual Assistance Treaty” , formation of “The Defence Policy Group”, launching of “Cyber Security” with regard to Cyber Terrorism and information security ,as also military to military cooperation. The 123 agreement is being processed. An FBI office has been set up in Delhi and there is liaison between the FBI, IB and CBI. Military cooperation has also been enhanced. There has been joint Naval anti pirate patrolling in the Straits of Malacca. Perhaps this could be expanded to patrolling of the pirate infested waters around of the Horn of Africa. Joint military exercises have been held as also exchange of Training facilities particularly in counter insurgency. Talks are in progress for the transfer of Defence Technology.

India looks to US to support its application for a seat in the United Nations Security Council,particularly in view of India’s emergence as a regional power and its role in various peace keeping missions.

Discussions are continuing on market access and reduction of tariffs and tariff barriers. Talks are progressing on Civil nuclear power, outer space and missile defence. Exchanges are continuing on the sale of military equipment and spares. The major stumbling block in the past was India’s concerns over the control by the US government on the guaranteed provision of spares. These concerns are now being allayed by assurances given in this matter. The US has already indicated its willingness to participate in joint production ventures for Indian and other markets. The US on its part requires assurances on end use, diversion and transfer of goods and technologies to third countries, control and physical protection of such technologies. End user verification is also required by the US.

India on the other hand wants the US to review licensing procedures for commercial launching of US made satellites.

Trade between the two countries in on the increase. Exports from the US in 2006 reached 7 billion US dollars. Major items were aviation and engineering materials, machinery, Medical instruments, fertilizers, stones and metals. Indian exports were some 3 billion US dollars – mainly diamonds and precious stones, textiles, iron and steel, organic chemicals and electrical machinery. Incidentally Indo-Russian trade is less than 2% of Indian exports.

There are two areas of concern for India namely Pak sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the North-East and India itself. Pakistan continues to be the Epi Centre of terrorism, harboring Ben Laden, and the Taliban leadership as also providing covert support for their training camps located in Pakistan. The ISI, under whose auspices the Taliban was formed, is still providing covert support to both organizations. Pakistan wants to see a friendly pro Pakistan Taliban government in Afghanistan. Pakistan is apprehensive of the India’s friendly relations with Afghanistan. NATO Forces will find a very difficult to defeat the Taliban as long as the Taliban is supported by Pakistan providing them with firm bases and lines of supply for arms, ammunition and money. These terrorist organizations are also said to be receiving money from some Arab countries. (There are two factors required to keep an insurgency going – firm bases and lines of supply for arms, ammunition and money. As long as these parameters obtain NATO will find it very difficult to defeat the Taliban.)

Due to the current instability in Pakistan, exacerbated by the assassination of Benzir Bhutto, it may therefore be necessary to maintain NATO Forces by Air via Turkey, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan. It should be recalled that during the Cold War Soviet blockade of Berlin, Berlin was entirely maintained by Air by NATO aircraft.
In case of complete anarchy in Pakistan presumably the United States will take preemptive action to safeguard Pakistan’s nuclear warheads and missiles. India is unhappy that their strategic partnership with US is being hyphenated with Pakistan. The US should remember the Pakistan remains a country where ethnic identities supercede national loyalties. After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto chaotic conditions are likely to obtain in Pakistan. It is possible that Musharraf will not be able to control events.

The next area of concern is China. The author recalls a remark made to him by a Chinese General in 1957 – “We Chinese will never forget that Indian troops took part in the sacking of the summer palace in Bejing.”

America and China were involved in direct war in Korea in the 1950s, including the bombing of the bridges across the Yalu River. Then there was a proxy war in Vietnam during the 1960-1970s.

China is desperately seeking raw materials to fuel its industries. It is worth while to digress here to recall that in 1939 Japan, desperately in need of raw materials, attacked the Soviet Union in Siberia. Gen Zukhov inflicted a crushing defeat on the Japanese at the Battle of NOMOHAN. This battle had two major consequences, one the Japanese then decided that the Soviets were too strong in Siberia and decided to move south – Pearl Harbor, Philippines and South East Asia. The other major consequence was that Stalin, after NOMOHAN, moved Zukhov’s well equipped Siberian Army to the west thus saving the Soviet Union. NOMOHAN is a battle that is not well known and should be considered to be one of the most decisive battles of the world, changing the course of history.

The relevance of the incident above is applicable to China. China is seeking bases in the Bay of Bengal in Burma as also Gwadhar (in Baluchistan). China is sourcing raw materials from Australia, Asia, Africa and South America. China is modernizing its Army, Navy, (particularly its submarine arm) and Air Force. The expansion of its nuclear arsenal is being undertaken at a rapid pace. They are increasing their missile inventory, particularly intercontinental missiles. By 2020 China will be in position of strength to dictate to others. Chinese occupation and claims of Indian Territory present a direct threat to India.

China presents a threat in being to the United States. Napoleon once said “Let China sleep for when she wakes the world will tremble.”

The USA is the worlds most powerful democracy and India the largest. They have large areas of commonality of interest both strategic and economic. Both are victims of terrorist attacks. Both are concerned with the security of the sea lanes across the Indian Ocean. Both need each other.

The US should reassess their relationship with Pakistan in view of its instability and its covert support of the infrastructure of terrorism. The situation of Pakistan is volatile and chaotic. Pakistan cannot be considered to be a reliable partner for the US.

China will pose a threat to the security of United States in the latter part the next decade .

China also poses a direct threat to the security of India occupying and claiming Indian territory.

Finally though Indo-US relations have waned and waxed like the phases of the moon, now however due to the pragmatism of Bush and Indian administrations, hopefully they will emerge to be as constant as the Northern Star. A new equation and balance of power is emerging to redress the imbalances of the old.

JFR Jacob

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