Random Thoughts

Ahalya, Damayanti or Draupadi

- Role Models for India

From its independence and the subsequent jilting by the Dulles brotherhood and Eisenhower administration due to Nehru's egotistic pseudo-moral stand, India found common cause with the Soviet Union while turning a blind eye to the atrocities of totalitarian dictatorship masquerading as the rule of the proletariat. An understandable reluctance to align with western imperialism after a millennium of Islamic and European colonization is another basis for India's past foreign policy. Pakistan's prompt falling in line by joining CENTO and other alliances with America and its more strategic location, set in stone the India-Pakistan equating policies of America and the resultant fifty year pro-Pakistan tilt.

Time has shown that Pakistan is nothing more than a one night stand for America when its attention is on its neighborhood. Its services are to be purchased by money, arms or threats when needed, and to be thrown away or ignored when the American desires are sated. The recent bombings in London and the constant stalling of efforts to root out jihadists from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, together with the disenchantment with China by the current American administration, have seriously damaged the pro-Pakistani factions amongst the administration and foreign policy elite. It is therefore crucial for India not to fall into the trap of Pakistan's status. Words and agreements are cheap and worthless unless followed by deeds. The recent defense and technology agreements have to result in concrete transfers and not bogged down in bureaucratic inertia. As C. Northcote Parkinson's third law states and the motto of Indian bureaucracy proves, delay is the deadliest form of denial.

India can take the Ahalya approach and pretend to be fooled by its newest seduce's disguised motives in return for transient novel ecstasy, and risk being turned into a stone for much of its future history with the hope of being restored to its pristine status by a future messianic Rama. On the other hand, it can take the Damayanti approach by being true and devoted to the Russian Nala, who deserted it in the Yeltsin era under the influence of the all powerful and ever scheming Kaliyuga and hope to live happily after much pain and stress in the interim period. A much wiser approach would be to bind all the five Pandavas in a strictly structured relationship that causes no jealousies or conflicts and allowed Draupadi to manipulate all of them to suit her purposes.

The five factions that India has to appease and manipulate are the Middle Eastern Muslim states, Israel, Russia, China and America. The EU, while an important player is ridden by internal divisions. Its educated masses have a morbid fear of losing their unsustainable welfare state due to the threat of jobs moving to cheaper labor of newer members. Their other fear is of terrorism by their faster growing disenchanted significant Muslim minorities. They are thus unable to spend enough to project force and unwilling to involve their military in even their near abroad, as their inertia in the Serbia- Bosnia- Kosovo crisis proves. Thus India needs to maintain good relations without provocation while increasing trade and transfer of technology. Italy is the weakest link and lacks large manufacturers in comparison to Britain, France and Germany. In the past it has survived by running larger budget deficits and regular devaluations of the Lira to maintain its competitiveness in trade. These options have been closed due to the Euro and EU budget. The generally slow growths of the EU countries may yet derail the union. 

The Middle Eastern Muslim states are players because of their essential energy resources, the large number of expatriate Indians working there, who are a source of large foreign exchange remittances to India, and India's large Muslim minorities. Iran stands out differently and prominently because it is Shia and thus not afflicted with Ladenism and because it is the neighbor of our neighboring enemy. Thus setting up a gas pipeline or even better a LNG facility at one of the Iranian Gulf ports should be a prime priority. Gas pipelines from Iran via Pakistan and Burma via Bangladesh may provide an economic incentive for these bellicose rogue nations to modify their behavior for the better due to the rich windfall of transit fees. 

Israel is a source of sophisticated arms and shares our fear of Islamic radicalism. Its treatment of Palestinians deserves condemnation and our relationship with Iran is a thorn in its and America's side. We should bring our unhappiness regarding their policies to their attention quietly and discreetly without indulging in Stentorian moralism of Nehru. The Arthashastra, Panchatantra and Machiavelli in chronological order have stated that the behavior of kings (governments) often follows the rules of morality and virtues that are the distinct obverse of those in dealings between individuals.

Russia in the past has been a reliable supporter by way of arms supplies and the use of its UN Security Council veto and continues to be our prime source of military technology. We should maintain the relationship without making it exclusive. Our past experience with American sanctions and the notoriously whimsical behavior of American presidents and congresses should prevent us from being foolhardy to make America a prime supplier. Thus military purchases must be judicially parsed between Russia, Israel, EU and America to avoid being vulnerable to the displeasure of one or two of them. In the meantime our indigenous capabilities need to be advanced.

China is our neighbor and potential adversary. It has miraculous rates of growth and within 20 to 50 years is poised to match or even surpass the American GDP. It is downright foolish to foster enmity with an immediate neighbor destined to be a major world power. Thus we have to be competitively powerful to avoid being subservient. A careful study of its strategy reveals much to emulate. Even when it did not have nuclear weapons, it did not back down against America during the Korean War. It took Russia's help to modernize while overlooking its previous usurpation of territory and attacked India in 1962 to assert its claim to prior territory captured by British India. It occupied Tibet and flooded it and the Western Uighur regions with Han Chinese unhampered by self-destructive policies like India's Article 370. It continued to support Vietnam in the war with America while establishing relations with America in the Nixon era and allowing listening posts for America to spy on Russian space and nuclear sites after its fallout with Russia. It attacked its ally Vietnam to teach it a lesson for its interference in Cambodia and overthrow of Pol Pot. It allowed Taiwan to set up many factories to exploit cheap Chinese labor while still threatening to militarily re-unite the renegade province. 

It exploited the greed of American companies and the desire for cheap goods of the American public to lure huge American investments, hollow out American manufacturing and become the second largest creditor nation at the cost of exploiting its own citizens by slave labor. Recently when its large dollar holdings were denied the purchase of American companies like Maytag and Unocal, and it was threatened with 27.5% tariffs, it severed the parity of its currency to the dollar and has tied to a secret basket of currencies. This is a shot across the bow to threaten to stop buying US treasuries helping to keep interest rates low and funding America's current account deficit. This was probably also a response to America's criticism of its increased militarization and the signing of pacts with India with a potential of China's encirclement and containment. A Chinese general had no hesitation in threatening to nuke Los Angeles if a war occurs over Taiwan. The general was not demoted or transferred as happened to General Vij for his actions in the defense of his country. China continues to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds like Musharraf (Taliban, Al Qaeda and America) in the matter of North Korea's nuclear arms. It overtly speaks against them while covertly subsidizing North Korea and probably supplying technology as it did to Pakistan, which it props up to stunt and stifle India's progress. It is now the largest arms client of Russia and recipient of its technology transfer. It continues to drive a wedge between the EU and America by lobbying against the American supported EU arms embargo while increasing trade with America.

India has a lot of lessons to learn from Chinese diplomacy and strategy. It must not be forgotten that Draupadi was a boon obtained via Yagna by Drupad, who sought the destruction of the Pandavas and Kauravas as a revenge for their humiliation of him on behalf of their Guru Drona. China has a chip on each shoulder. One for its humiliation by the western powers in the nineteenth century when the British forcibly sold opium from India to China and most western nations captured coastal enclaves where they ruled and the Chinese were coolies just like the British, French and Portuguese did in India. The second chip is for its humiliation by America in the twentieth century in the matter of Taiwan, Even now the Chinese military doctrine and strategy are devised on the basis of war games with America. My recommendations for India are not so vindictive or Machiavellian. They are just for India to prosper like America did in the early nineteenth century under aegis of the British and to lesser extent the French, while standing up to the Spanish in the Americas. Just as Draupadi did against her enemies with the support of her five spouses without arousing internal jealousy.

Finally America, though an insurmountable military power is waning economically. It lives on borrowed money and time, marching relentlessly and unfortunately nonchalantly but knowingly to its doom, like the words of Longfellow's poem. India has the advantage that it has enough need to buy American technology to keep its trade with America balanced and not lopsided like China. It may even be able to allow America to cut its defense budget by taking over some of its responsibilities in the Indian Ocean. It is a democracy and has no territorial designs. Geographically and historically, from its isolated birth by separation from Gondwanaland millions of years ago, it has drifted north to strike the underbelly of Asia to create the Himalayas, Hindu Kush and Pamir mountains to maintain its geographical and historical isolation. It went beyond these barriers only to spread Buddhism while outsiders have breached the barriers for far from benign motives. Their motives were not noble or strategic but pecuniary. Geographically, India has no direct strategic value to any major power, but a strong potential to thwart or facilitate the ambitions of other great powers at present.      


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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