June 30, 2011

Has India outsourced its foreign policy to US?

Shobhan Saxena

29 June 2011, 06:38 PM IST


We are so proud of the techies in our little Silicon Valleys (Bangalore, Hyderabad) that we mistakenly believe that the nerve-centre of US economy is now in India and the Americans can’t do anything until a guy sitting somewhere in India presses a button.

No doubt, thousands of young Indians (with fake names and fake accents) every day tell hundreds of thousands of Americans how to make their credit card payments or how to use a toilet cleaner, but to assume that we run America is preposterous. The fact is that our economy is dependent on American companies which outsource their work to us (at the cost of poor Americans). If the Americans stop hiring our cheap labour, it’s India that will get hit, not the Americans. Every time an American leader talks against outsourcing, India’s BPO bosses begin to shiver with fear.

But, this outsourcing business is not one way. The Americans might be using us for running their software labs, kitchens, clinics and grocery stores, but we have outsourced our foreign policy to Washington. It’s no longer the purpose of Indian foreign policy to protect India’s interest, its objective is to protect and serve American interest. Our foreign policy mandarins no longer use their brains, they look at Washington for inspiration, guidance and orders.

A very good example of this complete sell-out was seen last week, when India failed to send a representative to an international summit on terrorism in Tehran. Though Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent an invitation to Indian vice-president, the government not only ruled out Hamid Ansari’s participation in the meeting but it also failed to name a replacement. (In recent years, Iran has invited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at least twice and he hasn’t responded at all). As a result, there was no Indian participation in an important regional meeting on a crucial issue like terrorism. No points for guessing why the Indian government, whose ministers see a terror threat everywhere, declined the Iranian invitation. Obviously, it was done under American pressure. New Delhi doesn’t want to be seen having friendly relations with a country which is at loggerheads with US. It’s difficult to say if India chickened out after someone from Washington called someone in Delhi, but Indian leaders know very well what makes the Americans happy or what irritates them. So, to make their masters in Washington happy, India’s foreign ministry decided to annoy the Iranians.

India was not the only country under pressure to give the meeting a miss, the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan too were being pressured – both by US and Saudi Arabia – to decline the Iranian invite. But not only Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari attended the summit, they also had a tripartite meeting with Iran, underlining the “necessity for further cooperation among the regional and the neighboring countries”. They pledged to expand their “cooperation in political, security, economic and cultural areas, as well as fighting terrorism and foreign interventions”.

In a brutally frank statement Karzai emphasized Iran's role in creating peace and stability in the region, saying “The Afghan nation demand for withdrawal of foreign forces from their country, in this situation Iran and Pakistan can have an important role in establishing peace in Afghanistan.” And Zardari said that the relations between Iran and Pakistan are supported by a firm cultural and historical background. "These relations will have a far brighter future," he said.

What does this mean for India? It means India has become a non-player in Afghanistan and it has pushed Iran towards Pakistan. In the past 10 years, India has spent millions of dollars in Afghanistan with the objective of curtailing Pakistan’s influence in the country. Now, it’s very clear from Karzai’s statement that India has no role in Afghanistan at all. Why? Blind followers of US foreign policy, Indian ministers and diplomats have been speaking the American lingo on Afghanistan and playing silly side-kick to the American big brother. Now, as Americans are planning to pull out of Afghanistan while striking a deal with Taliban, India stands lost and confused. All the regional countries – Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan – and the US are in the picture but India is out, looking like a non-state actor.

By aligning our foreign policy with American interest, India is now on the verge of losing old friends and making new enemies. Our friendship and cultural relations with Iran go back to centuries, but we now have begun to believe western propaganda about Iran. Even ordinary Indians tend to believe that Iran is some kind of medieval black hole run by a clutch of evil minds. I was in Tehran in June 2008, when the country was preparing to vote for its presidential election, and I saw how democracy works in that country. There were TV debates between the four presidential candidates; young boys and girls campaigned on the streets late at night; different groups organized political rallies every day; and the polling was as free and fare as possible. But, following some disturbances in Tehran, the western media went to paint the entire Iranian system as illegitimate even as western governments continued to support corrupt, medieval and illegal governments in the Arab world – from Morocco to Egypt to Saudi Arabia to Bahrain.

The fact is that Iran has been the only functioning democracy in the entire Middle Eastern region. And it’s the only country which refuses to hand over its resources (oil and gas) to greedy American companies. That explains American hatred towards Iran. That explains the US plans to destroy Iran’s oil industry. Under US pressure, India hasn’t paid Iran any money for the oil bought from that country. India owns $5 billion to Iran. The oil is coming every day but India is not showing any interest in paying Iran. This despite the fact that there is no UN sanctions against Iran’s oil industry. China and European countries are buying oil from Iran but India is proving its loyalty to America by inventing new excuses every day.

This government wants to make India a client state of United States. The way it’s functioning, its dream of being an American lackey may succeed one day, but it will come at a very heavy cost of losing real and trusted friends in our immediate neighbourhood.

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