The general reaction by Media opinion writers in India's English newspapers, to US Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta's new traps in which he would give his right hand to ensnare India, has been markedly confused and confusing. While practically the entire English print media is privately owned and commercially run, the follow the policy of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. It is appalling that one of the supposedly most independent newspaper that had a very long tradition of being in constructive opposition to the establishment carried articles that urged the government to offer India to Leon Panetta on the silver platter; without bothering to take in the longer term consequences of India becoming a mercenary country totally geared to the military strategies of the world's doddering super power, that relentlessly follows the policies of perpetual wars for perpetual 'peace'. In the following article Seema Mustafa has been more circumspect in not calling a spade a spade by merely hinting at India's subservient nature as compared to China's more independent world-view. The misfortune is that unlike China, India has remained a very closed country under British colonial rule and had been robbed of its true ethos of winning friends and influencing people, without resorting to arms. Knowledgeable circles are aware that India's partition was made on Churchill insistence that Britain and the West should keep some part to serve the strategic defense needs of the West. Pakistan was nothing but a specially created military outpost for the ne0-colinials. It is they that directed their major 'aid' to build up the military and even the nuclear capability. Now that the same captive Pak military is losing patience with US high-handedness, which gives a hoot for others’ notions of sovereignty, whenever it suits its own narrow objectives. Faced with dire consequences of its foolhardy foray into Afghanistan and deterioration of its relations with Pakistan, US has no shame in turning to India with open objective of dragging it into the quagmire of world of conflicts and wars. The US is confident that with people at the helm, like Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, and India's march to economic panacea being interrupted, India will be a piece of cake.
That will be a big mistake on the part of the US.
New developments in the Asian neighborhood give India many alternatives than to tamely succumb to US arm-twisting. It is time people like C. Raja Mohan read their blind endorsement of the US position again and again to find out where they are going astray. US is changing its military strategies to fighting its war, without sacrificing its own citizens and devising more advance technologies like drones et al. And at the same time it wants to make India's Jawans, the sacrificial lambs to shed their blood for the causes, that are foreign made and serve mainly foreign vested interests. US will play the same game in India, as it did in Pakistan and try to bribe the military with goodies and promises of good times to come. It is time for all right thinking people to realize that India's freedom is too precious to be bartered away with some glittering pieces of hardware.
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai
Unlike China, India prefers being force-fed her destiny
The purpose of US defence secretary Leon E Panetta’s two-day visit to New Delhi was very clear. In immediate terms, it was to get India to partially bankroll US and Nato operations in Afghanistan and secure a commitment from New Delhi for a deeper engagement there; and in the longer term, to give effect to his new defence strategy, where India has the role of a ‘lynchpin’ in the proposed US ‘rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific region.’
Panetta is said to have been fairly successful in getting India on board in stepping up training for the Afghan forces, committing more funds for the so-called reconstruction of Afghanistan programme, and, although this is yet to be confirmed, getting a tentative ‘yes’ for the supply of military tanks and armoured vehicles to Afghanistan. The US is clearly worried about Pakistan and while Panetta chose his words a little delicately even he could not get away from describing US relations with the Pakistan military as ‘complicated’ and ‘difficult’ and at times ‘frustrating.’
Despite this, he said, “The US cannot just walk away from that relationship, we have to continue to find areas for engagement.”
Panetta did not choose sensational terms but the problems with Pakistan were underlined, and rather effectively. It thus became all the more imperative for the US to draw India into Afghanistan, and while it has not been able to wear down the Indian resistance to sending troops to Kabul, it clearly hopes to step up the military engagement in terms of training and hardware. But it is the new defence strategy that needs to be watched as it indicates a major, and finally, formal shift in US policy. Panetta spoke of five crucial elements of the new strategy: one, the US military being developed into a ‘leaner force, casual, deployable, flexible on the cutting edge of technology’; two, rebalancing to shift the focus on two crucial areas, the Pacific-Indian Ocean and the Middle East: “We will expand our military partnerships and our presence in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia”; three, decision to maintain presence all over the globe through an ‘innovative’ rotational approach in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America; four, develop the power to confront more than one enemy at a time; five, investments in cyber space, unmanned systems, special forces, and capability to mobilise when facing crisis situations.
It was clear from this that the US operations will expand significantly in the Pacific-Indian Ocean and it is here that it wants to develop India as a ‘lynchpin’ for joint action.
It has been clear for a long while now that the US has been targeting the Indian Navy to help it monitor the high seas, particularly the South China Sea that has elicited adverse reaction from China on more than one occasion. Panetta claimed that the US vision was for a ‘peaceful Indian Ocean supported by growing Indian capabilities’. And that the US would do its bit through the rotational presence of the Marines in Australia, Littoral Combat ships rotating through Singapore and other US military deployments in the region.
He admitted that six of the US 11 aircraft carriers would be deployed in this region.
Panetta maintained that all this was in response to threats from tiny North Korea and other such ‘challenges’. He sought to make light about the perceived threat from China and the fact that the US was keen on developing India as a front-line state against China. He, however, claimed that China had the same goals as US and India and should realise that it too needed to work together to secure the seas and the shores. That China does not think along the same lines is a matter that had external affairs minister SM Krishna visiting Beijing on the exact same days as Panetta was in Delhi. The official Indian position has been to secure the waters for multilateral trade, and for the international community, but it remains to be seen whether it will be able to join an aggressive US military in the seas to ensure this.
The Indian strategic establishment is torn between the glamorous seduction by the US — promise of new aircraft, state-of-the-art technology and assurances like ‘India and the US are the only two countries to operate the P8-I maritime surveillance aircraft’ — and the dry but real China that is breathing down our borders. No seduction or glowing words here, but just the established presence of a growing country in the neighbourhood that would work better as a friend than an enemy. Hence the visible efforts by the Indian government to keep the balance between the two, a task that is becoming more difficult by the day in the absence of clear strategic vision. India is using its usual ad hoc approach to work out the details of these two relationships, and given the fact that both Washington and Beijing are thinking decades ahead, instead of determining its destiny New Delhi is getting into the precarious position of getting its destiny thrust on it.
Panetta’s message articulated at a meeting hosted by IDSA, New Delhi, did not leave much room for the usual hedging by the Indian establishment. He offered military support at all levels in return for Indian partnership in the region. He made it clear that the US was going to expand into the region one way or the other, and despite the funds crunch it was determined to ‘turn the corner’. He outlined recent successes as the US ability to have contained the al-Qaeda, of bringing democratic rule, as he put it, in Iraq and now in Afghanistan, of having impacted on terrorism, and of Nato action in Libya. It was clear that what many in this part of the world term as heinous action constitutes ‘success’ for the US and there has been no rethinking on these policies that are instead being given form and substance in the new defence strategy.
Panetta identified the possible new areas of US intervention as Yemen, North Africa, Somalia — which he said were ridden with terrorism — North Korea, Iran, Middle East and the new battlefield of cyber attacks. He reached out to India to grasp the aggressive US hand.
It is now for this government, crawling under the weight of inertia and stupidity, to decide where its fortunes really lie, and what it needs to do to keep itself from becoming just a beggar waiting for wishes to become horses, and emerging from the morass with its own strategic doctrine aimed at securing Indian interests in the region and the world.