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March 31, 2000


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E-Mail this column to a friend Rajeev Srinivasan

It is good to give the obnoxious Albright a taste of her own medicine

Veni, vidi, vici? Not exactly, but not bad, either

At the end of the day, I am immensely relieved that India did not capitulate tamely and give Clinton a signed copy of the CTBT. One of these days I must write a column on the clever ways in which the US has subverted the letter and spirit of the CTBT by fudging what "new weapons" mean, and by conducting "sub-critical" tests. Of course, the US will never ratify the CTBT, just like it has not ratified various other universal treaties. The US, with its fetish for multilateral treaties, nevertheless manages to wriggle out of most of them. See how they undermine the WTO through their unilateral Super 301 and Special 301 shenanigans.

Furthermore, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was opposed by only two nations, the US and Somalia. The International Criminal Tribunal for war crimes was opposed only by the US, China, Iraq, Libya, Qatar, Yemen and Israel -- dubious bed-fellows, surely. The Americans did not want to risk having their soldiers being tried as war criminals after some future war. It is not as if American GIs are immune to barbarity and war crimes. Take for instance, My Lai in Vietnam, and the recent revelations about South Korean civilians being massacred quite deliberately by American airmen during the Korean war.

According to The New York Times, August 8, 1999, the US was "whittling away inspection safeguards in the Chemical Weapons Convention and lagging in commitments to tighten international rules against biological weapons. The United States has also opted out of an international convention banning the production or use of land mines, killers of millions of the world's poorest people caught in the most brutal of civil wars."

Clearly the US approach to multilateral treaties is that they only sign and respect those that are in its own interests. This I cannot emphasise enough: The Americans stoutly defend their interests and I admire them greatly for it. George Kennan, a former US official and architect of the Cold War, once put it simply: "The US has eight per cent of the world's population and enjoys 33 per cent of the world's resources. US foreign policy is intended to keep it that way." Any questions?

India should clearly take the same approach of doing that which is in its own interests alone. It is not in India's interests to adhere to the CTBT as it would threaten its national security. There is no need to hang one's head about all this, despite what the 'progressives' with their breast-beating about nukes think.

And there is no reason to do any chest-thumping that America has 'tilted' towards India either. It has not. I repeat myself: America is neither India's friend nor enemy. A great power -- and that applies to India too -- only has strategic partners. These partners change depending on the commonality of interests. Some readers accuse me of being anti-American -- this is not true at all. I like America a lot, but I will criticise it when its interests and those of India's diverge, because I wrote this column with an Indian perspective.

That brings me to China. Of course, India's nukes are primarily meant for China. America's CIA chief testified, coincidentally during Clinton's visit, that they have known for years about the transfer of Chinese M-11 missiles to Pakistan, but essentially chose to turn a blind eye. Nothing new there. China has plotted to keep India all tied up in Kashmir. Naturally this prevents India from: a Raising the issue of Tibet and b Playing a more assertive role in Asia as a whole.

Therefore it is music to my ears to hear of China's latest woes with regard to Taiwan. The election of a strongly pro-independence Taiwanese president who minces no words about his disdain for the mainland now means China is 'losing face' and that they will now have to spend more of their time worrying about how to deal with their own 'troubled province'. Less time for mischief in Jammu and Kashmir or in the Northeast.

The Taiwan situation also has the side-effect of exposing China's diplomatic theater (see my column "China does not matter"). China's blood-curdling threats to attack Taiwan are essentially bluster -- according to the Economist of March 25, the Chinese will be whipped by the rather strong Taiwanese defense forces if they attacked them now, not to mention the fact that there is a vague American commitment to help defend Taiwan in case of an attack:

"At present, China would probably get a sound thrashing in an all-out assault. Taiwan has 376,000 highly trained troops, 150 F-16 fighters, dozens of so-called Indigenous Defence Fighters and French Mirage jets. Its navy is much more modern than China's. If China planned to invade Taiwan at present, it would have to use fishing boats. It could, of course, mount an effective economic blockade of Taiwan with just a few submarines patrolling in the Strait. But it has only 80,000 troops in Fujian province facing Taiwan and at present there are few signs of military activity there or anywhere else."

This brings up a really interesting possibility for India, something which I wish our foreign-policy mandarins would consider more carefully -- cozying up to Taiwan and offering them various types of support, including military links and nuclear and missile systems. Non-proliferation be damned, in other words. The threat of proliferation will focus the Americans' mind wonderfully, but they can ignore this just as they ignored M-11 and nuclear proliferation by China to Pakistan.

The very sight of India talking to the Taiwanese will make Qian Qichen, Chinese foreign minister, have a fit. What a good bargaining chip for India -- you Chinese stop mucking about in Jammu and Kashmir and we won't give Taiwan any nukes or missiles! What's good for the goose -- that is, Chinese encirclement and containment of India -- is good for the gander, too. And along the same lines, we should ally with first Vietnam and then with Indonesia as well.

China also has reason to worry about the new-found economic closeness between India and the US. When the Americans come in, so will the others. For instance, Australia's Kerry Packer just announced his new IT venture capital fund for India, declaring in the New York Times that the country of the future is India, not China. His countryman Rupert Murdoch has already shown considerable interest in India's IT sector. As is widely known, nobody has made any money in China except for corrupt Chinese officials. MNCs are thus wary of investing more there.

On the political and strategic front, a number of articles in the Western media did bring up the possibility of India being a strategic counterweight to China. This must seriously worry China.

There were demonstrations and some left-wing entities called the AYFI and the SUCI urged, "Murderer Clinton, go back!" in a reference to the evocative Independence-era "Simon Commission, go back!" What was genuinely ironic about this is the fact that the godfather of the Marxists, China, is closely tied into the US and the US President visits them. All that is okay with India's seriously confused Marxists. So when Clinton goes to China is he not a murderer?

A Marxist leader also pontificated that Clinton only came to India because of its wealth. No kidding, Sherlock! Every foreigner has come to India all through history for its wealth, not for its poverty! By the way, why were the Marxists silent about something that they should have brought up to embarrass the Americans? What about those Indian programmers humiliated by the US INS? (See my column, "Welcome to America. Now here are your handcuffs") Just as I thought, these people don't care about Indians, they want debating points for their mentor, China.

There was a bit of a flap about what President Narayanan said in his formal banquet for Clinton. He lectured the Americans a bit about reckless statements about the Indian subcontinent being the most dangerous place on earth. I don't always agree with President Narayanan, but this time I do. It is good to give the obnoxious Madeleine Albright a taste of her own medicine. There is no reason why India shouldn't pontificate a little at visitors; after all, they are a captive audience.

At the end of the day, I do believe the greatest benefit from the Clinton visit is the media extravaganza -- if the fickle American public retains images of India as a reasonable country worth investing in, then the visit can be termed a success. But of course, we need to continue to provide positive images of India to counteract the 'progressive' idiots who bleat about all the things that are wrong with India.

These 'progressives' are the ones who would like to show on television the 'real India' -- meaning the slums of Dharavi and the badlands of Bihar. Has it ever occurred to them that when a visiting dignitary goes to America, they don't show him/her the worst parts of America either -- not the Bronx or South Central LA or Newark, New Jersey or a coal-mining town in West Virginia or the swamps outside New Orleans? To paraphrase Thomas Edison, foreign policy is one per cent reality and 99 per cent marketing.


I got a large number of messages on my previous column on Indian foreign policy. Alas, I am travelling and don't have the bandwidth to respond to individual responses, I apologise for that. Most of the replies agreed with my assertion that India needs a bold foreign policy. A few readers said I could count on their votes for spokesperson. Thank you, folks, but really, I do have a day job that keeps me quite occupied.

Rajeev Srinivasan

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