Putin's Indian Visit A Look Beyond Enduring Alliance

More than a clutch of agreements signed, Russian President Vladimir Putin's 25-26 January Indian visit heralds revival of an old enduring alliance, which was weakened temporarily in the wake of Soviet Union's collapse in 1990s. A resurgent Russia, minus much of the old baggage and an economically vibrant and confident India are coming together again. To the Cold War calculus of geopolitical convergence with India's defence needs has been added India's need for energy security. The relationship is now on a more even and equal keel.   

On the other hand, not withstanding past irritations and even inimical relations between Washington and Delhi, their ties are being transformed into strong cooperation based on trade, investment, technology and nuclear power with nearly two million Indian Americans acting as a catalyst towards a closer embrace. But Delhi remains suspicious and cautious because of US attitudes and policies in the past and even now. The new post-Iraq-2003 illegal invasion era of manifest decline of US hegemony as hyper power and a rising assertive China underpins the need to strengthen Indo-Russian strategic partnership. But the jury is still out on how Japan would finally emerge following the 2nd world war nuked surrender and US imposed mould, in the new emerging strategic equation. 

If US were to commit an even more irrational act than invading Iraq i.e. attack Iran, which George Bush Administration threatens often, alone or in cahoots with Israel, following destruction of perhaps Iran's nuclear and military infrastructure, US will have hell to pay and its fall will be precipitous. If USA or Israel introduce nuclear weapons, the so called bunker bursting bombs, the world would enter an era of utter lawlessness which both USA and Israel have promoted in recent years. The world would revert back to caveman's rule.

Compare the perceptions of USA's 'invincible' military might, international standing, its status and credibility as the only hyper power, often described as the New Rome even by its respected academics before the 2003 invasion and now. In the annual survey of international military equation by London's International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) a picture of a messy "non-polar" world emerges rather than "multi-polar" or "uni-polar", so described since the late 1980s. [ IISS is coy about impact of Washington's unilateral and aggressive assault against international law and conventions, the real cause of the messy landscape. ]

The United States, according to IISS is still "powerful enough to shape an agenda for international activity but is too weak to implement it globally as it faces uncertain prospects in Iraq, an escalating confrontation over Iran's nuclear ambitions and a robust challenge to its military hegemony from an increasingly assertive China. Even "non-state actors", such as Lebanon's Hezbollah, are now "strong enough to resist an American agenda" (and emerge stronger from the 'birth pangs of a new Middle East'.)

In Iraq, Bush's last-ditch "surge" strategy of "simply flooding one area ... in this case Baghdad, with troops, neglects the subtler aspects of counter-insurgency doctrine,"'" the chances of US success in Iraq at just 40%".  "Iran's sense of its own power has been steadily heightened as US influence in the Middle East is challenged and in response to disunity in the international community [ basically Christian West and Israel, and Sunni allies in the region] on how to deal with Tehran's pursuit of its nuclear ambitions."

[The five recognized nuclear armed powers with veto powers in UNSC have destroyed the letter and the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which required them to start disarming as demanded by UN General Assembly resolutions and rulings of the International Court in the Hague and not threaten non-nuclear states . They are even going for new nuclear bombs. They remain the biggest proliferators and violators of NPT.]

IISS reports that "NATO member states face a "stamina" problem in Afghanistan, though there are grounds for optimism despite a resurgent Taliban and difficulties with Pakistan. "NATO will have to stay for a long time to allow stability, which then allows reconstruction." Progress on North Korea's nuclear program could come as a result of new flexibility in US negotiating tactics. Pyongyang has floated the prospect of halting its production and reprocessing of uranium, of which it now has enough for up to 10 weapons, though it is unlikely to surrender them.[ In a lawless world now that seems to be the only way to deter unprovoked attacks.]

USA complained that China's defence budget increased by 14.7% in 2006 and it was concealing the true dimensions of its military modernization and buildup  [Yes, USA has divine right to spend as much as it pleases on defence 'which ironically it now finances by its current account deficits. China owns US $ one trillion of that.] Chinese President Hu Jintao speaks of preparing for "military struggle". Last month's destruction by China of one of its own satellites was cited as evidence of the intent. "Confidence still seems too low and suspicions too high to allow for meaningful engagement on these or broader military matters between China and the US." [ Or for that matter with many others.]

The Chinese used a ballistic missile to disintegrate it ageing satellite and had lit up an American spy satellite making its usual round over China last September by a ground-based laser, decidedly of low power. But as far back as in 1994, China tested a 140 MW free electron laser. So what happens to the NMD and other such money-chewingguzzling military monster projects, now becoming obsolete, and Bush administration plans for others to join in.

The Brookings Institution in Washington in a recent report recommended that US must draw up plans to deal with an all-out Iraqi civil war that could kill hundreds of thousands, create millions of refugees, and could spill over into a regional catastrophe, disrupting oil supplies and setting up a direct confrontation between Washington and Iran. It is based on the assumption [ rightly ] that the 'Surge' policy would not stabilize Iraq. But Washington cannot simply walk away from the quagmire unleashed by its invasion.

It recommends that US troops should withdraw from Iraqi cities. This was "the only rational course of action, horrific though it will be", as America refocused its efforts from preventing civil war to containing its effects [and guard borders ' or retire to 4 military bases it has built for long term occupation to control the region and its energy resources. ] These bleak conclusions draw on the experience of civil wars in Lebanon, Yugoslavia, Congo and Afghanistan, and also offer a remarkably stark assessment of Iraq's "spill-over" potential across the Persian Gulf region. The report " warns of radicalization and possible secession movements in adjacent countries, an upsurge in terrorism, and of intervention by Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ending an all-out civil war, the report says, would require a force of 450,000 - three times the present US deployment even after the 21,500 "surge" ordered by President Bush this month." [ Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, who had so told the US Congress was derided and eased out by the Administration, was after all right ]

With the deionization of Iran and if the civil war became full fledged, confrontation between the US and Iran intensified, and Washington's leverage on Tehran diminished, then the civil war in Iraq would turn Iran into "the unambiguous adversary" of the US. The Brookings study urges the creation of a regional contact group to contain the civil war. This would mean contacts with Iran and Syria that the Bush administration is opposed to [Such contacts were also recommended by Baker- Hamilton Iraq Study Group.]

It does not need USA's National Intelligence Estimate to tell that Iraq now meets the conditions of a long-predicted civil war and needs 12 to 18 months to avoid further deterioration. It has been caused by US policies in Iraq under its occupation. This weekend was one of the bloodiest period in Iraq since 2003 with hundreds dead. The counter-offensive by Sunni and Shia militias saw four US helicopters shot down recently as the resistance prepared to meet the 'Surge' in Baghdad with the violence spreading to the disputed city of Kirkuk and Mosul in the north. Leading Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, renewed an appeal for Iraqis to reject violence and unite.

These venerable think tanks forget that colonization under any label was unacceptable in 20th century and it is even more so now. These are national struggles against foreign occupation and exploitation, for freedom and independence as happened in Turkey after its occupation by the Allied Powers after the First World War and Algeria after the Second World War. The occupation forces were expelled and both nations won their freedom but at heavy human and material cost.

India and Russia 'Putin's Visit

For the first time, a Russian Head of State, President Putin was honored as the Chief Guest, at India's prestigious and widely disseminated Republic Day celebrations and parade on 26 January, a gesture not yet accorded to an American President. Such an exposure as India's special friend leaves a lasting impression among over a billion Indians at home and tens of millions abroad. Russian MIGS, Sukhois and tanks which form a major part of India's military might on display at the parade, remind people of the strategic relationship with Russia.

Yes, there is little personal knowledge about Russia or Russians in India as there is little people-to-people contacts via trade, economic projects in the private sector, or flow of tourists and students.  Whereas, there is a large and influential Indian Diaspora in USA and UK and outsourcing, Info tech and Call Centers in India. With 5 million Indians working in the Gulf and remitting billions of dollars, even that region and its people are well known in India.

But a strategic partnership cannot survive on past alliance alone. It must dovetail into each others strategic and national policies. But the edifice of a deep-rooted partnership exists that survived maverick Russian President Boris Yelstin's turbulent nineties. There is a shared interest in working towards a multi-polar world and in weakening US global unilateralist and 'the Lone Ranger ' policies. Delhi and Moscow support and understand each other's interests and policies in their respective strategic neighborhoods ' South Asia for India, and Russia's near abroad. There is a complementarity of interests in oil and gas, defence, nuclear, space, science and technology, - all areas that constitute Russia's core strength and globally competitiveness where India needs collaboration.

In spite of many headaches, Indo-Russian military cooperation survived the 1990s as it is mutually profitable and beneficial. Russian military equipment is reliable with Moscow ready to sell state-of-the-art equipment and willing for joint research and development of new products. India remains a big customer of military hardware with payments in time and scrupulous settling of even Soviet-era debts. Moscow would not want to lose to the competition from new boys on the block like Israel, France and specially the US.

With one of fastest growing economies but with a deficit in energy sector, India's alliance with energy-rich Russia is vital, more so as USA has so far succeeded at least in delaying Indian attempts to forge energy ties with Iran. Washington even succeeded in getting India's energetic oil Minister Mani Shankar changed, as he was working assiduously in establishing long term ties with Iran and elsewhere. Crude interventions by US Ambassadors in Delhi do not make Washington popular with Indians.

After India's success in investing in the Sakhalin-I project, with strong push from the top political levels, Delhi now looks to investments in Russian upstream energy sector for long-term energy security. Moscow looks at India as an important and growing market for Russian energy exports and desires a share in the downstream business. It is keen to corner a large share in India's new nuclear energy projects when the Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines are suitably revised.

In olden days of barter trade the governments played a decisive role but the private sector with a major role in trade and investment now is still not up to the mark, with Russians looking West for quality goods, with Indians reputation of inferior goods from Soviet era. Indian businessmen have problems of getting visas, a hangover from the past, which persists in most ex Communist countries. During Romanian President's visit to India last year the Indian business community, which has invested substantially in Romania cited it as a major constraint in greater economic exchanges.

Agreements and Protocols signed

Apart from a joint statement on cooperation in the nuclear energy sector, 9 agreements were signed during Putin's visit. These include a joint communiqu' on the visit, cultural exchange programs for 2007-09, a protocol on holding a 'Year of Russia' in India in 2008 and 'Year of India' in Russia in 2009, a memorandum on the construction of new reactors for nuclear power plants in India, an agreement by heads of Space agencies on cooperation between their organizations and for providing India access to Russia's GLONASS system and of access to Russia's global navigation satellite system, a financial protocol on exchange of trade and other related data, among others.

Russian oil major Roseneft and India's Oil and Natural Gas Videsh signed a memorandum of understanding for oil-exploration projects not only in Russia and India but also in third countries. India has a 20% stake in the Sakhalin-I oil block in Russia and is keen to invest in the Sakhalin-III project as well and in the development of the Vankor oil and gas fields in eastern Siberia.

An Indian version of the supersonic cruise missile BrahMos developed in collaboration with Russia will be put for sale to friendly countries. It was successfully test fired on 3 February. The ground-hugging BrahMos, with a 290-kilometer range is similar to the US Tomahawk cruise missiles.There appears to be a global demand for at least 2,000 BrahMos missiles.

Defense Ministers of Russia and India Sergei Ivanov and A. K. Antony signed four agreements including licensed production of Russian aircraft engines in India, and for joint development of a military transport plane.

"The development of a close and trusting relationship with India is a top priority for Russian Foreign policy," Ivanov said after the signing of the agreements. Russia's aircraft manufacturer with its latest jet fighter MiG-35s, "is going to participate in that (India's international bidding process) in the most active way," added Ivanov. Indian plans to purchase 126 fighter jets, a deal worth US$6.5 billion to US$10 billion is whetting appetite of Russia, USA and Sweden.

Russia is helping India build two 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors at Kudankulam in south India. Last year, when uranium fuel was about to run out at India's US built Tarapore nuclear power plant, Russia supplied 60 tons, against U.S. objections. This attitude of a friend and shylock like USA makes all the difference in general perceptions in India. "We hope a clear road map for cooperation in peaceful civilian nuclear energy will emerge from the President's visit," said Russian ambassador to India, Vyacheslav I. Trubnikov.

On the whole, western media and Indian business media which highlight the relationship with America, played down the visit. Britain's "Financial Times" quoted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that "energy security is the most important emerging dimension of our strategic partnership," and "Russia's position as a global leader on energy issues is widely recognized. We look forward to a long-term partnership with Russia in this vital field." India's "The Economic Times" wrote that the visit "was marked by much pomp but little substance." "The Hindu" quoted Konstantin Kosachyov, who heads the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, saying that Russia might sell additional arms to Pakistan if India moved away from Russia as its main arms supplier. (He is learning fast from US Senator Lantos who issued threats in 2005 if India did not follow US policy on Iran).

Yury Federov, a Russian foreign-policy analyst at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, was more balanced and said that India "prefers a very 'multi-vectoral' policy. Russia is an important partner for India, yet not the only one." He added that "India is seeking partnership relations [in addition] with the United States, and also with China.

Indo-Russian Bilateral Relations

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union Rajiv Gandhi kept up close relations which had reached a peak under his mother Indira Gandhi. She had signed the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with USSR in 1971 to guard against any Chinese interference, before the crisis in East Pakistan developed into an Indian Pakistani war. Rajiv Gandhi visited Moscow in 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1989 while the new Soviet leader Mikhail S Gorbachev traveled to India in 1986 and 1988.

This is not Putin's first visit but its is the most significant . With no major bilateral problems or none on the horizon, Moscow and Delhi can look towards future relations with confidence and optimism.

India born Lakshmi Mittal is now lording over Mittal-Acelor as world's biggest producer of steel (and joined by Tatas who have taken over big British Dutch steel producer Corus) but independent India's first steel plant at Bhilai, was set up with Soviet assistance after the West refused to help India. Many of the operations Indian personnel in Mittal acquired plants abroad were trained at India's steel plants in public sector. Apart from Bhilai, many of India's globally competitive public sector companies like ONGC and HAL, BHEL were set up with Soviet cooperation. It was with Russian assistance that India established its biggest Drugs and Pharmaceuticals company (IDPL), of which the author was Chairman cum Managing Director in 1985 and 86, to counter multinationals gouging prices and to provide drugs to India's poor at affordable prices. With training and experience provided at IDPL to the likes of the owner of Dr Reddy's Laboratory and others, a large technical cadre was built up which has helped India become a big producer and exporter of drugs. The cadres built up in other public sector units are behind India's industrialization. Strangely West always accused India of its overwhelming public sector, but its percentage was not higher than of the public sector in UK prior to its decimation by Margret Thatcher.

After independence Nehruvian policies of economic development were correct. Most of the people who rail against it now are writing for capitalist media or are pensioners of multinationals and Washington consensus organizations like IMF, World Bank et al, whose role in strengthening stranglehold of US led West in strangling the impoverished economies is well documented by Stieglitz and others. In 1990s the mantra of globalization was used for the same objective and now we have WTO. Why does US and EU remove subsidies on agriculture, while shouting from housetops advising poor countries to open their markets to the West?

While Delhi had to make some readjustments after its more open economic policy in 1990s, Moscow lost its way after the collapse of the Soviet Union when US led media onslaught with insidious capitalist maneuvers under the subterfuge of economic reforms and globalization and spreading democracy tried to reduce the great Russian people to an abject status in the wake of ill advised perestroika and glasnost under a na've Gorbachev. He was intimidated by US bluff of Star Wars and consequent expenditure by a economically hard pressed USSR and gave up Moscow's strategic leverage for nothing, flattered and seduced by the manufactured popularity as great peace maker and democrat in corporate western media.

At home the suffering Russians gave their verdict by giving him but a handful of votes in his presidential ambitions in the new Russian Federation, which Boris Yeltsin had after the failed communist coup d'etat. A drunk or drugged Boris Yeltsin (how western media lauded and loved him) dismantled the Soviet Union. He will go down as the destroyer of the Russian state, who allowed rapacious Western corporate interests and proxies to almost take over the state with brazen theft of peoples' wealth. Scores of $ billionaires and Western proxies were created. More than US$ 200 billions was transferred to western banks and institutions making US puppets and proxies in Russia beholden to western pressure and blackmail, which included even Yeltsin's daughter and one time Prime Minister Chernomyrdin.

In a theatre of the absurd, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once head of oil giant Yukos and Russia's richest man, even planned to acquire political power to implement western plan of political and economic take over of the Russian state as done in Latin America. He is now in jail for tax evasion. How the capitalist western heart ached at his trial, while similar trials of Enron criminals were OK. Other oligarchs like Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky - businessmen who grew rich in the chaos of the first privatizations - have ended up as fugitives living in exile abroad.

India China relations

How India manages its relations with USA and China is important. Relations with Beijing would remain uneasy, not because US might like to use India as it used Saddam Hussein's Iraq against a resurgent Shia Iran in 1980s. But whatever the system, the Chinese mentality remains imperialistic in its outlook. Beijing declares that India's boundaries were created by British imperialists, as if China's expansion was carried out by plebiscite and referendums by Tibetans and Uighurs in Xinjiang and not by force and its imperial policies. To keep India under suspense and pressure , while China has accepted boundaries with India's neighbors like Pakistan and Burma drawn up under 'British imperialists' or natural water shed principles, in India's case it has not done so.

Of the 3 top leaders of China, US and Russia who visited India in last 12 months, only the Chinese President's visit left a sour taste. Its imperialistic pretensions were emphasized when the Chinese Ambassador in Delhi on the eve of the visit said that borders of India's eastern state Arunachal Pradesh, were not settled. It is strange that China forgets Tibet, whose forceful occupation many in the world dispute while its leader Dalai Lama remains in exile. They keep on citing Japanese brutality during the second world war but what about their own in history, and continuing brutality in Tibet and suppression of Turkic speaking province of Xinjiang under its heel, while all other Turkic speaking nations have regained their freedom and sovereignty after USSR's demise.

The Chinese have created strategic presence in locations around India; for example, on Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, in Pakistan, in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, in southern most of the Burmese Coco Islands, just 40kms off the northern trip of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands an so on.

Limitations of US India relations

Recent US official reports starkly emphasize that Washington is determined to maintain its global "leadership" and domination in all respects. With a rising Asia, mounting US debts, a falling dollar, USA is looking around for means to counter its decline in post 2003 invasion era "to hedge against uncertainty over the next 20 years." So it is trying to forge "broad-based and capable partnerships with like-minded states," specially at strategic crossroads. USA regards India "poised to shoulder global responsibilities in cooperation with the US in a way befitting a major power", but somewhat like Tony Blair's UK. But like most nations of the world India believes that the world should be multi-polar, with India itself as one of the poles, whereas the US wants the current so-called uni-polar world order to continue.

Many Indians and US propagandists suggest that US leaders would "help India become a major world power in the 21 st century", which is absolute rubbish. As Ataturk said power and sovereignty are taken by force. Whether in UN, IMF or WTO Indian and US interests clash.

"India, on the other hand, is firmly committed to pursuing an independent foreign policy. Non-alignment as a policy option for India, as distinct from the Non-aligned Movement, was essentially about resisting pressures to join rival camps during the Cold War and examining foreign policy options on merit. This national consensus remains very strong in India, and has nothing to do with the so-called Cold War mentality," wrote Rajiv Sikri , a recently retired top Indian diplomat .

"It is not lost on the Americans that China, Russia and India are the only major countries on the Eurasian landmass that collectively have the economic, military, and technological potential, as well as the critical geographical landmass and demographic structure, matched by political will, to challenge US global hegemony. Techniques used against the 'axis of evil' -- cannot be used against these bigger powers. The latter have to be kept divided and, where possible, co-opted on the side of the US. In this scenario, India assumes great importance for the US as a 'swing' state."

"India has had a time-tested strategic partnership with Russia, which remains even today extremely valuable for India in the defence, space, nuclear and energy sectors, not to speak of its reassuring political support in the UN on many critical issues. It would not be wise for India to dilute this strategic partnership. As for China, although India has no intention of allowing itself to be used for containing China, China seems to have misgivings about the true import of the India-US strategic partnership."

US and Chinese support to Pakistan to counter India during the Cold war era has not gone down at least in Beijing. Pakistan, created by Western imperialists, to bar USSR from oil wells of the Middle East remains important for USA and China. It is also crucial for guarding their interests in central Asian region.

Helped by India's English language media which still relies on western media inputs, relations between USA and India get amplified. But Indians have not forgotten the way the Lyndon Johnson administration made food aid to India in the late 1960s conditional on India following policies laid down in Washington. After the Chinese aggression on India's border US led West offered support but hedged with many demands including a policy to benefit its ally Pakistan on Kashmir, when the 1962 war with Chinese was against occupation of Indian territory in Kashmir ( and elsewhere ), which China still occupies. At the time of the 1971 war with Pakistan over the liberation of Bangladesh, Indians still remember President Richard Nixon's tilt to the dictatorial military regime of Gen Yahya Khan of Pakistan and his policies, after the Bengali leader Sheikh Mujibur Rehman had won the first ever free poll in united Pakistan to form his government in Islamabad, but West Pakistanis were dead opposed to it. (So much for the US litany of democratic pretensions.)

Then Washington sent the USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal at the height of the 1971 war in a show of support for Pakistan, which the decision-makers in Delhi and people of India recall. Indians remember too, that Washington went back on its contractual commitments with regard to supplying fuel to the Tarapur atomic-power plant in the wake of the nuclear tests at Pokharan in 1974. The promises and reality while enacting the laws in the US Congress on Indo-US agreement for nuclear cooperation, a major agreement has only created doubts and distrust among Indians of US intensions, which wants to roll back Indian nuclear weapons program. Therefore not many Indians have much trust in USA promises and agreements.

In 'India Takes the Stage - Nuclear India ' Stan Goff, Military/Veterans Affairs Editor of quoted from an article of mine ' "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."

Taking into account US's past behavior and current policies there is widespread misgivings about the wisdom of putting all eggs on the Indo-US nuclear deal, unexpectedly and hurriedly discussed and initialed in July 2005 during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visit. He talked of India's long-term and strategic vision of relations with the US on a path the two countries had embarked which was "not just for tomorrow but'.for generations to come." During President Bush's visit to India in March 2006, Manmohan Singh said that there are "no limits" to the India-US partnership. Indians, trying to show command of the English language are some times carried away by their own rhetoric.

Many Indians still have a complex and a photo ops with Western leaders are highly sought. How members of Indian Parliament fell over each other to shake hands with Bill Clinton in 1999?  Policy makers in New Delhi and Washington cite that for the first time a US President is determined to improve relations with India. He is not doing a favor. Pressure is being put by US corporate interests for easy gains from a growing Indian market with an up beat economy, specially in Nuclear power reactor sales of billions of dollars. But Washington still remains opposed to Indian membership of UNSC. If one looks around at what Bush has done since he took over, Indo-US Nuclear agreement and better Indo-US relations could be one of his worthwhile legacies in a horizon littered with disasters and quagmires. The process of improving bilateral relations was begun during by Bill Clinton time, no doubt also encouraged by poll contributions by the affluent Indian American community to Democratic party coffers ( and Republicans too.)

In spite of malevolent influence of US led western corporate media on India's English language media, where many are seduced with education grants, scholarships, well paid seminars to USA among other allurements, had made George Bush even more popular in urban India than in USA two years ago, but full truth has finally filtered down to Indian public too, more so after the hell like situation in Iraq, with as many as 650,000 Iraqis killed after the invasion in 2003 and barbaric occupation and kangaroo courts style trial and lynching of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who was a real friend of India and very popular for standing up to USA. There were widespread protests across India against his execution.

Latest world wide polls conducted for BBC on popularity of US policies indicate that they are now less popular in India than in USA, where it has plummeted to almost the same level as of Nixon before his resignation. According to the BBC poll, only 30% Indians had a positive image of USA, compared to 44% in 2006 and 54% in 2005. Its negative image increased from 17% in 2006 to 28% now. On US military role in Middle East, 38% Indians consider it disruptive, while 21% consider it stabilizing. Yes US policies are very popular in Nigeria.

The dilemma of a small nation allying with a more powerful one were well articulated in Artha Shastra by an Indian political counselor Chanakya in third century BC. Apart from other areas of governance, it a treatise on how to conduct foreign and strategic relations between states. It is a known fact that a strategic relationship with USA can never be of equality. Look at UK , Pakistan, Turkey among others. And an uncouth leadership delights in making enemies of nations and people.

How US Treats Allies-Pakistan

Indians can look across at Pakistan to see how USA treats its allies. Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf during his last visit to USA publicly recalled that Islamabad was threatened by Washington after 11/9 that if did not jettison its decades old policy of strategic depth in Afghanistan and joined USA in its so called war on terror, Pakistan would be bombed to the stone age. Ironically it were the US, Pakistan, their intelligence agencies like CIA and Pakistan's ISI and others from Saudi Arabia and Gulf Kingdoms, who created the monster cocktail of militants, Jihadis, Al Qaeda, Taliban and terrorists during their Jihad cum Crusade against Godless Soviet regime's occupation of Afghanistan in 1980s.  Now US and NATO are occupying and fighting a resurgent Taliban there (and public and almost official support from across in Pakistan) and destroying whatever was left after the US led West proxy war against USSR, Except the glittering mirage in Kabul. Instead of agreeing to a more acceptable head of state like former King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan, who was willing in 2002 to return to Kabul, as is the US wont for installing puppets in their franchise of 'cooked up' democracies, Hamid Karzai was imposed on that proud people. He has been compared to Soviet puppet Babrak Karmal who rode into Kabul on Russian tanks. Karzai's, writ doesn't run beyond Kabul and US guards provide him security.

Gen Musharraf has dismissed Western speculations that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is in Pakistan and said suggestions that Pakistan ISI or military were helping the Taliban were "preposterous". "A growing perception that Pakistan was responsible for a resurgent Taliban was "absolutely wrong", said Gen Musharraf. "Pakistan is contributing the most but we are being blamed. We cannot accept this anymore," he told a news conference recently.

Violence surged last year to its most intense level in Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001. Afghanistan and its NATO allies say the Taliban's strength is partly a result of safe havens in Pakistan. Pressure has been mounting on Pakistan to tackle Taliban sanctuaries on its side of the lawless border. But Islamabad itself has bought peace and signed an agreement with Taliban in Pakistan in North West, who are then free to help their brethren in Afghanistan. In fact Islamabad advised NATO to sign an agreement with the Taliban.

A U.S. bill, approved by the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate for consideration, calls for an end to U.S. military aid to Pakistan if it fails to stop the Taliban operating from its territory.

The Bush administration opposes the provision in the bill linking aid to action against the Taliban and says Pakistan cooperates with U.S. counter-terrorism efforts.

USA and NATO Ally Turkey

Turkey which remained neutral during the second world war, 'to avoid first being occupied by the Axis powers and then liberated by the Soviet Union ', joined US led Western alliance NATO to protect itself against expanding Soviet influence and takeover in East Europe, more so after Moscow made territorial claims over two of its provinces in north East and a say in the Montreaux regime controlling the access to the Black Sea via Turkish straits of Dardanelles and Bosporus. Throughout the Cold War Turkey served as an unsinkable NATO aircraft carrier and ranged a million armed men against USSR and the Warsaw pact forces. The U2 spy flights took off from Turkey, its Incirlik base is still an important NATO asset. It was used to enforce sanctions and attacks against Iraq during 1990s. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which Turkey refused to join, its use by US forces has been curtailed. Now there appears little common ground on Iraq or the region between Washington and Ankara with tensions bubbling up from time to time.

Since 1984 over 37,000 Turks have been killed in a Kurdish rebellion led by Kurdish Labour party (PKK) in Turkey's South East, which also destroyed the regions economy. Since the 2003 invasion, north Iraq i.e. Kurdistan has provided refuge to PKK cadre. After 1991 Gulf War, it became almost a US protectorate and secured against Saddam Hussein's central authority by NATO bombers operating from the Incirlik base. Turkey claims that US promises to Ankara for joining US led coalition in 1991 war were not fulfilled and it suffered enormous economic losses and the Kurdish rebellion was renewed.

Ankara threatened to invade Syria in 2000, unless Damascus expelled PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan sheltered there with his cadre. Ocalan was expelled and apprehended by Turkish intelligence units in Kenya. His trial and imprisonment and constitutional reforms to alleviate Kurdish grievances cooled the rebellion. But it has been reactivated again after many thousands of PKK militants took refuge in north Iraq after the 2003 war.  Washington has classified PKK, which follows communist ideology, a terrorist organization, but in spite of promises to Ankara, US has done little to control PKK militants in north Iraq, which is now almost autonomous and working for independence.

An autonomous or independent Kurdistan in north Iraq would have destabilizing effect on Turkey's Kurdish south East. Turkey has threatened military action in that case.  Ankara considers it self the protectors of its ethnic cousins the Turcomen with sizable presence in the north Iraq city of Kirkuk, floating on oil like Kuwait. This region was occupied by the British after the First World War ceasefire following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, of which the region was a province. Turkey has laid claims on the north Iraq from time to time.

Now a coordinator on the Kurdish issue has been appointed by Washington, to look into Ankara's grievances. He has issued a warning for the PKK to surrender. The PKK rebellion is of critical importance for Turkey. Even on others issues Washington overlooks Turkish interests when its own interests are concerned. Many Turkish leaders, including a deputy Prime Minister, told me during my post in Ankara, "Mr. Ambassador, you cannot trust the Americans, not even their promises given in writing."

Ankara has brought about drastic changes in foreign policy, even with historical enemies like Russia, Syria and Iran. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a US TV channel recently that with the dead in sectarian violence having exceeded 650,000 ... it could only be explained as a civil war in Iraq. He added that Iraq's neighbors have a huge stake in the civil war not spreading outwards. In addition to Iran, Turkey, Syria and US having bilateral or trilateral meetings, there should be an international consensus that includes all neighboring countries and the U.N. Security Council.

As for the 'Surge ' in US troops for Baghdad, Erdogan felt that it was time for a phased reduction of US military presence in Iraq. Erdogan had earlier opposed dispatch of more US troops to Iraqi Kurdistan. He also declared recently that if faraway US could ferry troops to Iraq then Ankara had the right to enter north Iraq too, as the situation there impinged on Turkey directly and adversely.

Post Cold War Russian debacle; A US opportunity

Sen Barbara Boxer chided Secretary of State Condi Rice for her statement that Sunami in Indonesia was an opportunity i.e. to improve US's battered image in the largest Muslim Nation Indonesia. But Washington did try by dusting off former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W.H. Bush for photo opportunity for relief operations and also to establish links with the rebels in Indonesian province of Sunami affected Sumatra.

So the opportunity in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse has been ruthlessly exploited by Washington. Western capitalist media sang praises of economic reforms and democratization. But Russian political and economic disintegration following application of 'shock therapy' caused the worst kind of depression in modern history with economic losses more than twice those suffered by USSR in World War II. Russian GDP was trimmed to half and capital investment fell by 80 percent. Free medical aid collapsed and there was no subsidized housing. People were reduced to penury and misery, death rates soared and the population shrank. And in August 1998, the Russian financial system collapsed. (With systematic collapse of economies around the world, in August 'September,1998, the whole edifice of capitalism appeared to be on the brink of collapse, but somehow, it survived .)

Boris Yeltsin's only saving act was to first appoint Putin Prime Minister in 1999, then acting president in his place. In the 2000 election, Putin took 53% of the vote in the first round and, four years later, he was re-elected with a landslide majority of 71%. After Putin took charge he arrested the decline, brought stability and security and consolidated the disintegrating core of the Russian state. The rise in energy prices, natural and a consequence of invasion of Iraq has benefited Russia immensely.

Since 1999 Russian economy has averaged 6 to 7 annual growth, its gold and foreign currency reserves are the world's fifth largest. Moscow is booming with new construction, frenzied consumption of Western luxury goods, even exhibitions are held on how millionaires live and consume but the glitter is largely because of high world energy prices. Over 60% Russians live below the poverty line, the old middle classes i.e. educated and professional classes, among them teachers, doctors and military officers have been severely effected. The gap between the poor and the rich has become a chasm. But Putin's rule has brought stability and restored some sense of pride, and he remains very popular.

Stephen F. Cohen wrote in an article "The New American Cold War " in 10 July 2006 issue of US Magazine, "The Nation" that since 1990s, Washington has followed an up front policy of "strategic partnership and friendship," with Presidents being on first name basis but underneath, all US administrations have followed a ruthless policy of undermining Russia. It has been "accompanied by broken American promises, condescending lectures and demands for unilateral concessions. USA has been even more aggressive and uncompromising than was Washington's approach to the Soviet Communist Russia." Cohen underlines the following;

"A growing military encirclement of Russia, on and near its borders, by US and NATO bases, which are already ensconced or being planned in at least half the fourteen other former Soviet republics, from the Baltics and Ukraine to Georgia, Azerbaijan and the new states of Central Asia. The result is a US-built reverse iron curtain and the remilitarization of American-Russian relations.

"A tacit (and closely related) US denial that Russia has any legitimate national interests outside its own territory, even in ethnically akin or contiguous former republics such as Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia. How else to explain, to take a bellwether example, the thinking of Richard Holbrooke, Democratic would-be Secretary of State? While roundly condemning the Kremlin for promoting a pro-Moscow government in neighboring Ukraine, where Russia has centuries of shared linguistic, marital, religious, economic and security ties, Holbrooke declares that far-away Slav nation part of "our core zone of security."

"Even more, a presumption that Russia does not have full sovereignty within its own borders, as expressed by constant US interventions in Moscow's internal affairs since 1992. They have included an on-site crusade by swarms of American "advisers," particularly during the 1990s, to direct Russia's "transition" from Communism; endless missionary sermons from afar, often couched in threats, on how that nation should and should not organize its political and economic systems; and active support for Russian anti-Kremlin groups, some associated with hated Yeltsin-era oligarchs.

That intervention impulse has now grown even into suggestions that Putin be overthrown by the kind of US-backed "color revolutions" carried out since 2003 in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, and attempted this year in Belarus. Thus, while mainstream editorial pages increasingly call the Russian president "thug," "fascist" and "Saddam Hussein," one of the Carnegie Endowment's several Washington crusaders assures us of "Putin's weakness" and vulnerability to "regime change." (Do proponents of "democratic regime change" in Russia care that it might mean destabilizing a nuclear state?)

[They refuse to learn from back lash of regime change in Iraq, after which regime changes have taken place in US allies Spain, Portugal, Italy, with poodle Tony Blair just about clinging to power in UK. For Bush's failure in Iraq, in November elections, US electorate punished his ruling Republican party and voted the Democrats into majority in the Congress. What is really needed is a systems change in US polity distorted by Military-Industry, Energy an Media corporate axis.]

"Underpinning these components of the real US policy are familiar cold war double standards, condemning Moscow for doing what Washington does - such as seeking allies and military bases in former Soviet republics, using its assets (oil and gas in Russia's case) as aid to friendly governments and regulating foreign money in its political life.

"More broadly, when NATO expands to Russia's front and back doorsteps, gobbling up former Soviet-bloc members and republics, it is "fighting terrorism" and "protecting new states"; when Moscow protests, it is engaging in "cold war thinking." When Washington meddles in the politics of Georgia and Ukraine, it is "promoting democracy"; when the Kremlin does so, it is "neo-imperialism."

"And not to forget the historical background: When in the 1990s the US-supported Yeltsin overthrew Russia's elected Parliament and Constitutional Court by force, gave its national wealth and television networks to Kremlin insiders, imposed a constitution without real constraints on executive power and rigged elections, it was "democratic reform"; when Putin continues that process, it is "authoritarianism."

"Finally, the United States is attempting, by exploiting Russia's weakness, to acquire the nuclear superiority it could not achieve during the Soviet era. That is the essential meaning of two major steps taken by the Bush Administration in 2002, both against Moscow's strong wishes. One was the Administration's unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, freeing it to try to create a system capable of destroying incoming missiles and thereby the capacity to launch a nuclear first strike without fear of retaliation. The other was pressuring the Kremlin to sign an ultimately empty nuclear weapons reduction agreement requiring no actual destruction of weapons and indeed allowing development of new ones; providing for no verification; and permitting unilateral withdrawal before the specified reductions are required.

"The extraordinarily anti-Russian nature of these policies casts serious doubt on two American official and media axioms: that the recent "chill" in US-Russian relations has been caused by Putin's behavior at home and abroad, and that the cold war ended fifteen years ago. The first axiom is false, the second only half true: The cold war ended in Moscow, but not in Washington."

It was well intentioned but na've Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, coming into power in 1985 who decided to abolish the decades-long cold war. As a result, in December 1989, at a historic summit meeting at Malta, Gorbachev and Bush Sr. declared that the cold war was over. But the cold war attitudes and actions remained in USA .When USSR broke up in December 1991: US officials and the media claimed the "end of the cold war" not as a mutual Soviet-American decision, but a great US led victory of free market and democracy over Soviet Russian political and economic system . From that triumphalism grew the still-ongoing interventions in Moscow's internal affairs and the abiding notion that Russia has no autonomous rights at home or abroad. Remember how Gorbachev's peace efforts just before the 1991 Gulf war were brushed aside.

"The crusade to transform Russia during the 1990s, with its disastrous "shock therapy" economic measures and resulting antidemocratic acts, further destabilized the country, fostering an oligarchical system that plundered the state's wealth, deprived essential infrastructures of investment, impoverished the people and nurtured dangerous corruption. In the process, it discredited Western-style reform, generated mass anti-Americanism where there had been almost none - only 5 percent of Russians surveyed in May (2006) thought the United States was a "friend" - and eviscerated the once-influential pro-American faction in Kremlin and electoral politics."

US leaders and media pretend that Washington has a "well-intentioned Russian policy," but "a Russian autocrat ... betrayed the American's faith." After a decade of broken US promises and Yeltsin's boozy compliance, Kremlin declared four years ago, in a Radio commentary "The era of Russian geopolitical concessions [is] coming to an end." (Looking back, the commentator remarked bitterly that Russia has been "constantly deceived.") In the undeclared cold war now there are no structures for any substantive negotiations and cooperation. The "dialogue is almost non-existent ," in regard to nuclear weapons after US's abandonment of the ABM treaty and real reductions, its decision to build an antimissile shield, and talk of pre-emptive war and nuclear strikes which had kept the nuclear peace for nearly fifty years are now open. Reportedly, Bush's National Security Council is contemptuous of arms control as a "baggage from the cold war." US editorial pages are dominated by resurgent cold war orthodoxies, with incessant demonization of Putin's "autocracy" and "crude neo-imperialism". It reads like a bygone Pravda on the Potomac.


At a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi in Sochi on January 23, President Putin said that "Russia will determine her place in the world by herself, and will strive for a well-balanced and multi-polar world". He argued that "since the collapse of the bipolar world and the two confronting systems, an illusion has arisen among some people that the world had became mono-polar and that all the world problems could be quite easily resolved from one center. It turned out that this was not the case. Such approaches have led to a growing number of crises, while the means to resolve them have become more limited." Putin stressed that in these conditions, Russia's economic, military, and political abilities are clearly growing.

At his annual media conference a few days ago Putin said "We're not obliged to subsidize the economies of other countries," "Nobody does that, so why are they demanding it of us? he added. He was referring to the clamor in the West with EU in the forefront, when Moscow brought prices of its gas to nearer market levels with Ukraine and Belarus. EU relies on Russia for its gas and energy requirements. The other alternative for gas is Iran.

In fact during the recent visit to Tehran of a senior Russian official, a message for Moscow from Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was conveyed on Iran's willingness of forming an organization of Gas producing countries, which has been proposed by Putin. For trilateral energy cooperation a meeting of Foreign Ministers of Russia, China and India is being organized in February, according to the Russian foreign Minister Serguei Lavrov.

(K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author. E-mail:


More by :  K. Gajendra Singh

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