[True to form, in this astute analysis of Asian politics and resource hostilities, Stan Goff emphasizes and clarifies the role of India in the “territorial logic of power”. While most Americans know or care little about India, it is becoming an increasingly pivotal player in Asia’s intensifying energy wars.—CB]
India Takes the Stage
FTW Military/Veterans Affairs Editor
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“In war every truth has to have an escort of lies.”
"New Delhi is now being seduced by Washington into an nuclear agreement to enmesh India into US spider's web, which would adversely affect the security of a billion plus Indians."
- K Gajendra Singh
June 27th 2006, 1:22 pm [PST] - In June 2006, the US Congress was embroiled in the solemn business of debating whether they should protect the American flag from the Satanic legions wanting to set fire to it. While the American public was riveted by this momentous rhetorical contest, the United States House of Representatives International Relations Committee quietly blessed a draft of the United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act (USINCP). The flag-burning debate was grist for hundreds of thousands of letters to the editors in American newspapers. Hardly a peep was heard about a bill that will create multiple bifurcations in world history and carries with it the potentials for anything from the collapse of American global hegemony to nuclear war.
Who in middle America -- wherever that is -- could care less about India? It may be the second most-populous nation on Earth, but why should that matter as we continue the consumer party on the tapering ledge of personal debt and ignore the dark clouds of deflation gathering on that far horizon?
The USINCP is, in fact, the latest US campaign in the global Energy War. Once ratified, it will also drive the last nail in the coffin of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NNPT).
In exploring the social, cultural, and political relations of the Energy War, it would be irresponsible to relegate the second most-populous nation -- one day to be the most populous nation -- in the world to a footnote. In light of the profound complexity and import of the USINCP and its social, historical, and ecological context, bypassing India -- as opposed to settling our final critical gaze here -- would constitute a stunning historical oversight.
India is both a nation and a sub-continent. It is the seventh-largest nation in the world geographically, with 1.1 billion people. It borders Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Burma. It has 28 states and seven Union Territories, and many have remarked that these subdivisions are as culturally diverse as the nations of Europe. Over thirty languages are routinely spoken there, Hindu most commonly (by around 350 million) with English serving as a lingua franca for over 200 million.
The national-cultural character of India, then, has always been problematic, and the sense of national identity was forged as distinctly political in the struggle for independence against the British after World War II. The struggle over the meaning of Indian nationality continues to this day, even as the rest of the world perceives India to be the world’s largest stable “democracy.” Meeting the challenges to that “stability” has always been arduous, but the confluence of ecological and political pressures in India today, and the sudden attentions of the United States, Russia, and China as the latter two explore the possibility of forming a bloc against the former, have brought India center-stage in what may be the most dangerous conjuncture in human history.
Given the “territorial logic of power” in the contest between the United States and China -- which in many senses defines the Energy War -- India’s spatial position between China and the petroleum states of Southwest Asia, as well as its surfeit of warm water ports, made India’s reluctant participation in the new Great Game inevitable.
David Harvey, who coined the term “territorial logic of power,” has noted that the economic, cultural, political, and eco-logics of power often fail to correspond to this territorial logic. The disastrous war against Iraq is a perfect example of these “logical disjunctions.” Herein also lay many of the dilemmas for the various power brokers who have recently turned their eyes to India.
The current situation is more volatile, in part, because of the delusional pretensions of much of the Indian dominant class. They play incessantly at India being a “great power” -- a notion that has led to the muscular Indian-male chauvinism that identifies itself with the successful test of a nuclear weapon in 1998.
Vandana Shiva wrote in April, 2006:
When the nuclear tests were carried out by India in Pokhran on May 11, 1998, the tests were described as “explosions of self-esteem” and “megatonnes of prestige”. The major media dubbed the bomb a “Hindu bomb”.
By May 30, Pakistan had announced six nuclear tests at Chagai. This new bomb was deemed an Islamic bomb by the same media. This identical nuclear threat could not be interpreted as a defense of cultural “difference”. The masculine, militaristic minds on both sides of the border that divided our people half a century ago saw the bomb as a symbol of sectarian power. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) announced that with the nuclear tests, India had finally demonstrated its “manhood”.
This masculine technological-military fetish, that sees The Bomb as a world stage credential, maps directly onto the development paradigm -- embraced in different guises from the right to the left of the political spectrum in India -- embodied in both the Green Revolution and the current attempt to industrialize India.
Both the Green Revolution and industrialization have been -- for most of India -- unmitigated social catastrophes. This fact has had little impact on the faith in both by both elites and the most influential of the communist parties. The latter have, however, been far more nuanced than the right in India about how they relate to questions raised by The Bomb.
While the USINCP purports to be an agreement related to electrical generation with nuclear power, it is centrally and absolutely about nuclear weapons every bit as much as it is about the Energy War and the epic political contest between China and the United States. And for all the Indian machismo associated with The Bomb, the circumstance of India right now on the world stage is more analogous to that of the archetypical coy pre-courtesan alternating her attention between two suitors. And just as surely as the power of the sought-after mistress conceals her fundamental lack of real social power, so India’s positioning in this contest belies the very notion of Great Nation-hood that has accompanied the delusion created by The Bomb.
Much of the chatter about India as an emerging Great Power is not associated with The Bomb, but with above-average economic growth rates and an empiricist (and therefore faulty) comparison with high growth rates in neighboring China.
In December 2002, Aspects of India’s Economy published a special issue on India and the Iraq War, in which it editorialized:
Only the most naive would buy the idea—advanced in the speeches of Indian and US leaders—that the reason for the US’s newfound interest is India’s increased importance as a world power. India’s economy is less than one-twentieth the size of the US’s, and its entire Gross Domestic Product is just about the size of the US trade deficit. Its official military budget is $13 billion or so, compared to the US’s $379 billion. The object of recent moves by the US is not Indo-US ‘partnership’, but advancing US interests, using India as a strategic pawn. In the words of US ambassador Robert Blackwell, “President Bush vigorously pursues strategic relations with India because a powerful India will advance American democratic values [sic] and vital US national interests in the decade ahead”.
The latter quote was from US Ambassador (to India), Robert Blackwell, on November 27th that same year.
Immediately following September 11, 2001, Blackwell made remarks that were interpreted by the New York Times and the Washington Post thus:
“The tenor and substance of the ambassador’s remarks signaled a calm acceptance of India’s nuclear status”. (“US Envoy Extols India, Accepting Its Atom Status”, NYT, 7/9/01)
“There is new thinking about nuclear doctrine, and India, at the White House. Bush intends to end the sanctions in a matter of months, according to aides, and wants a new strategic relationship with India.” (“Rethinking Asia in India’s Favor”, Jim Hoagland, WP, 1/7/01)
This strategic partnership is, of course, designed to advance the Wolfowitz doctrine of “containing China” to prevent any “economic, political, or military challenge to US power.” One needs merely note the frenetic activity of the Bush-Rice State Department in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Nepal, and Indonesia, then refer to a map, to confirm the center of the State Department’s interest.
The difficulties in this plot arising from the radical military miscalculation of the US in Iraq are hard to overestimate. In exercising the Bush Doctrine of preemption, it seems, the Bush administration has preempted itself. While the US has found itself tied down in the Lilliput of Iraq (and ever more Afghanistan), China has been advancing.
The United States is no longer China’s dominant trading partner. The European Union is. And Euroland capitalists have now become so dependent on Chinese investments and markets that they recently repealed the EU weapons technology embargo against China, while the US State Department sputtered helplessly behind the scenes. China is now Japan’s biggest trading partner. It is telling that Tom Donnelly, writing this year for Armed Forces Journal, is sounding the alarm that China is “meddling” in both Africa and Latin America (as American involvement in these regions can be otherwise characterized).
Massive and growing US debt to China, increasing at a rate of around $13 billion a month, and which finances American military profligacy, is combined with substantial US capitalist investment in Chinese enterprise. This creates a situation of dependency and vulnerability for the US that the Financial Times decried on July 26, 2005, as “A Test of American Independence” (Lael Brainerd & Michael O’Hanlon).
The Chinese show a greater capacity than the linear neo-cons to understand the diverse “logics of power.” Meanwhile, China now imports almost 10 percent of the world’s crude oil, around a third of the globe’s coal, iron ore, and rolled steel, a quarter of its aluminum, and over 40 percent of its concrete.
It is this unsustainable trajectory that bodes ill for both China and India -- growing dependence on finite supplies of raw materials, particularly energy -- though the continued control over the economic organs of society in China is still Chinese, while in India, the US exercises nearly complete economic hegemony.
The short, medium, and long-term secular trends associated with world energy peaks -- especially oil over the next three decades -- will inevitably be marked by turbulent international relations, given the exacerbation of rivalries for remaining supplies.
In the short term, every Asian country has to be concerned with US machinations, the US military capacity most importantly. The overseas guarantor for Southwest Asian energy supply transit is still the US Navy, and US military uni-lateralism, while stalled in Iraq, remains a vital concern for all actors.
A stand-down of rivalries between India and China, and India and Pakistan, would substantially weaken the US position in the region by paving the way for higher levels of cooperation in the overland transit of oil, and in the formation -- already in the making -- of an Asian trading and security bloc that can wean itself from the US-directed and International Monetary Fund-administered “neo-liberal consensus.” In both India and Pakistan, and to a far lesser degree China (where the state has maintained control of financial organs, and the Chinese Communist Party has maintained control over the state), there are highly influential, native, comprador bourgeoisies that thrive as national intermediaries within this system.
So the question in the near term, looking at political logics within both Pakistan and India, is which sectors of society will identify their interests with the US and which with the emerging Asian Bloc? The resource, or eco-logics in the region and in India especially, are not holding still until these political questions are answered. On the contrary, Indian economic “growth,” so vaunted by the compradors and the Indian “middle class,” has exacerbated social divisions, thrown up an obscurantist Hindu-nationalist political movement (Hindutva), and led to an expanding ecological crisis with profound economic consequences.
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