04 July 2019

Imperialism, the world’s mightiest military machine and number one sponsor of terrorism at a global level, now led by Donald Trump, is engaged in an all-out offensive against world people to preserve its imperialist interests. The consequent US economic, political and military machinations on the part of US have led to a sharpening of inter-imperialist contradictions. The setbacks suffered by left forces and the world-wide shift of ruling class politics to the far-right leading to fascistic tendencies have enabled US imperialism to forge ties and alliances with such reactionary regimes to ensure its geopolitical interests in different parts of the world. Trump administration’s renewed pressure tactics and ‘carrot and stick’ policy on the Modi regime should be seen in this context. In fact, a number of unilateral restrictions on trade including withdrawal of tariff concessions to India which were taken and informed to Modi government in March 2019 have been kept in abeyance in view of the Indian General Election. Though the Indian ruling classes with their time tested allegiance to US imperialism are satisfied with a ‘decent’ position in the neo-colonial order led by US imperialism, the latter has been rigid in dealing with India in all issues connected with US neo-colonial interests. But the Modi regime in tune with its continuing subservience to US has not done anything worthwhile to protect the interests of India. Its inability to properly intervene in favour of high-tech professionals from India when Trump imposed a series of legal and financial hurdles on them is just an example. Most ignominious  is Indian commerce minister Piyush Goyal’s assurance on June18 to US firms Facebook, Dell, Amazon, SAP, Google, Cognizant, Paypal, IBM, VISA, and Microsoft regarding upholding of their corporate interests in India vis-à-vis RBI’s directive on data localisation.

However, immediately after the second coming to power of Modi with a thumping majority, in continuation of his aggressive trade moves such as cancellation of half-a-century-old preferential trade treatment based on the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) with effect from June 2019, the Trump administration has made certain new initiatives to transform India as a perpetual dumping ground of strategic US weapons. To facilitate this, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo’s India visit is scheduled towards the last week of June 2019 to be followed by the planned meeting between Modi and Trump during the upcoming June G-20 Summit in Japan. As a prelude to this high-level meeting, a Bill sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats seeking amendments to the US Arms Controls Export Act for bringing India on par with NATO allies, Israel, Australia, Korea and New Zealand and for selling high-tech military weapons under ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) list has been moved in the Senate. When this Bill brings appropriate changes in the National Defence Authorisation Act 2020 (since both Republicans and Democrats have the same imperialist interests, the Bill is likely to sail through the Congress), then America will be able to stockpile key weapons in India extending considerable executive powers to US president to export and deploy these weapons for real-time military operations. In continuation of India’s signing of the Communication, Compatibility, and Security Agreement (COMCASA) with US during Modi’s first innings and in the context of the ongoing bilateral discussion on Basic Exchange Cooperation Agreement (BECA) both as foundational agreements for defence cooperation between both countries, the aim of this US initiative is to maintain India as its junior strategic partner in South Asia.

The Modi regime is still keeping a silence on the US warning and threat of sanctions against India’s buying Russian-made S-400 Triumph missile defence system as it is not in consonance with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) adopted by US parliament. Similar has been Modi’s approach to Trump administration’s unilateral termination of the GSP scheme and on the ultimatum on halting cheap oil imports from Venezuela and Iran. Of course, to dilute India-Russia defence deals and to wean away India from Russian influence, the US is reported to have informed its junior partner on its willingness to transfer high-end defence equipment like National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS II), the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), Patriot Advance Capability (PAC-3), and the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet, etc. Obviously, these are very tempting to the saffron regime in India.

Revealingly, at a time when the Erdogan regime of Turkey and certain Latin American countries like Bolivia are eager to maintain their ‘relative national independence’ by taking advantage of the sharpening inter-imperialist contradictions, this American servitude of the Indian ruling regime, true to its class character, is condemnable. Recently, in spite of still being a crucial “NATO ally”, Erdogan has pushed ahead with the purchase of S-400 missile from Russia and amidst US threat of sanctions declared that it is “impossible to cancel deal with Russia”. Evo Morales of Bolivia has openly declared his country’s decision to cut off ties with the Bretton Woods twin, IMF and World Bank, America’s neo-colonial economic arms.

Therefore, ‘the saffron nationalists’’ talk of nationalism is only for hoodwinking the broad masses of people and is a camouflage for acting as an agent of US imperialism. The Modi regime’s actions including its responses on the latest Yankee machinations amply show its self-satisfaction to act as its junior partner under the umbrella of US imperialism, and above all offering itself as a launching pad for Pentagon’s geopolitical interests in the Indo-Pacific directed especially against imperialist China which is contending with the US for world hegemony. If the said Bill that is initiated by both factions of the US ruling class materialises as scheduled, then surpassing Saudi, India will become not only the biggest arms importer from US, but the latter can more nakedly penetrate into India’s defence system too.

However, it would be very naïve to construe these developments under the RSS-led Modi regime as an overnight development. During the Nehruvian period Russia had been the major supplier of arms to India. But, with the onset of neo-liberalism, US imperialism displaced Russia as India’s biggest military supplier and under the pseudo-nationalist Modi regime, most of India’s military exercises are along with US imperialism as the big brother. To counter China’s growing influence particularly in Asia and in the Indo-Pacific region, US imperialism is bent on using India as a regional bully. And in tandem with these military ties, economic cooperation between the two is also growing very fast. As its manifestation, during the quarter century of neo-liberalism, volume of trade between the US and India has increased more than ten-fold. According to strategic analysts, under Modi’s second term, the US-India economic integration may accelerate the trade volume between the two from the existing $150 billion to around $500 billion in five years

As noted above, behind this intensifying military and economic ties between the US and India, long drawn-out common interests between US imperialism and saffron fascists are at work. That is, even much before the formal neoliberal promulgation of “war on terror” and Islamophobia by US imperialist think-tanks by the turn of the 21st century regarding which the RSS shares the same wave-length with the Yankees, the pro-American orientation of the saffron forces has deep-rooted historical tradition. In other words, the pro-British servility of the Hindutva forces during the colonial period continued unabated, albeit in a nuanced form, during the post-1947 period through its abject servitude towards US imperialism, the supreme arbiter in the postwar neo-colonial global order. 

This inherent US allegiance of pseudo nationalists including their far-right orientation could be easily guessed from a letter reportedly written in the early seventies glorifying the US by Golwalker, the biggest-ever RSS theoretician, to the US president Lyndon Johnson. At a time when the whole world was rising up against US imperialism for its crimes against humanity in Vietnam, this letter was entrusted to Atal Behari Vajpayee who was visiting US in 1971. Eulogising US and its ‘democracy’, among other things, Golwalker wrote in the letter thus: “By God’s grace USA is the leader of the free world. Dharma and Adharma are today engaged in a worldwide war. In this war, the US heads the side of Dharma.” It should be specifically noted that this declaration of RSS’s unconditional loyalty to US had come at that critical juncture when world public opinion had gone against US imperialism because of the Vietnam War.  When the Seventies came to a close, the Sangh Parivar’s stand against Soviet-supported Indira Gandhi’s Emergency had immensely contributed to an increase in RSS’ prestige and credibility among US policy makers who were leading the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

Though certain Hindu organisations like the ISKON headquartered in New York since 1965 had their operations in several American cities, it was from the 1980s onward that a sudden spurt in the growth of RSS-related organisations became conspicuous in the US. The International Hindu Conference organised in New York in 1984 was a milestone in this direction. In tandem with the steady growth of BJP, the political party floated by RSS after Emergency in continuation of  erstwhile Jan Sangh, as neo-liberalism advanced, encompassing a wide spectrum of Hindu fundamentalist outfits and saffron ideologues, the ‘Overseas Friends of BJP’ started its operations in USA. This marks the beginning of intense ‘lobbying’ in the US by networks of wealthiest Hindutva groups connected with RSS/BJP emulating the Jewish lobby. Emergence of a network of professional organisations with far-right political undertones under the cover of Indian American Forum for Political Education, Indian American Committee for Political Awareness, US-India Political Action Committee, etc. effective lobbying was made possible first with the formation of Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans in 1993 followed by India Caucus in US senate in 2004. In fact, the Senate caucus dedicated to India was the first of its kind in USA. In creating favourable pro-India opinion for Vajpayee’s nuclear test (1998), Kargil War (1999) and US India Civilian Nuclear Agreement (2008) this lobbying was very effective. Further, the Caucus members played a major role in highlighting the economic and military significance of India becoming America’s strategic junior partner.

The ascendancy of the far-right, Hindutva and openly pro-American BJP to power in 2014, added a qualitative dimension to this trend. Modi’s frequent visits to US following the removal of US visa restraints against him being prime minister, boosted this Indo-US nexus further. Immediately after coming to power in 2014, Modi had a meeting with 40 Congressional Representatives in Manhattan followed by another meeting with a 50-member delegation of the ‘Overseas friends of BJP’ and a convention organised by it to interact with the Diaspora. The US interest in hosting and sponsoring such meetings is obvious—to exploit India’s expanding consumer and capital markets, to ensure India’s perennial dependence on US weapons as well as transform India as the dumping ground of its weapons, and to utilize India’s infrastructure and its status as the south Asian big brother for Pentagon’s geopolitical interests in the Indo-Pacific region vis-à-vis China. And the Hindutva “Indian lobby” in the US has fully reconciled with Trump’s “America First” policy. A convergence of common interests is also visible pertaining to the doctrine of “war on terrorism” targeting Islam enunciated by US imperialism.

In fact, in the context of US election that brought Trump to presidency, modelled after “Republican Jewish Coalition”, the “Republican Hindu Coalition” (RHC) came into being in November 2015 through the coordinated efforts of various far-right and reactionary Hindu outfits and the RHC had a fairly widespread election campaign including fund-raising and mobilising millions of dollars in the process with the slogans “Trump for Hindu Americans”, “Trump Great for India”, “saviour of humanity”, etc. for Tump’s victory.  Wholeheartedly supporting Yankee efforts to combat “radical Islamic terrorism”, the RHC situates itself as “a single, unified platform for Hindu Americans to have a respected voice on the policy table in the United States as well as India.” It is the Indian counterpart of this arch-reactionary and obscurantist RHC that adores Trump as the saviour of Hindutva from “Islamic terrorism” and performs ceremonial rituals worshipping him as God. 

The upshot of the argument is that it has been the rapid rise and strengthening of Islamophobic and xenophobic RSS-sponsored Hindutva lobby having close proximity to US policymaking that facilitated the increasing economic and military integration of India with US imperialism as the latter’s junior strategic partner.  Today, ultra-rightist Hindutva forces in the US including  RHC while faithfully serving American  imperialism are also in the forefront of  propagating  Kashmir issue as a conflict that pits the aggrieved Hindu victim against Islam in a disputed  territory cleverly ignoring  the fundamental national question of Kashmir and covering up the heinous militarisation going on there. To be precise, the strategically important and ultra-neoliberal political, economic and military initiatives which are evolving with respect to Indo-US relations are to be evaluated in the broader context of the ascendancy of neo-fascist far-right in the ruling political spectrum in both India and USA. n

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Kabeer Katlat

The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.