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May 19, 2000


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At long last, containing China

An item in the Hindustan Times on April 24, 2000, was quoted in detail by STRATFOR, a think-tank on global strategic matters. It seems India is planning naval exercises in the South China Sea, slated for October and November 2000. This is surely reason to be pleased, for it is the first flexing of India's muscles as a blue-water naval power; and more importantly, a direct challenge to China. If this is the idea, then thank you, thank you, George Fernandes!

After all, China thinks it owns the South China Sea by divine mandate, even though these are international waters. The Southeast Asians are getting mighty tired of Chinese bullying tactics therein and a friendly India will be welcome there (see my previous column 'The good, the bad and the ugly'); the quid pro quo is increased Indian influence over security issues in the region.

This is both an offensive and a defensive step. As I have continually suggested, India needs to respond to Chinese aggression tit for tat. An Indian naval presence capable of projecting a force deep into the Indian Ocean and its littoral waters will be a formidable threat to Chinese ambitions in the region. As I said in my previous column 'It's good to give the obnoxious Madeleine Albright a taste of her own medicine,' the Chinese, despite all their bluster, cannot even defeat little Taiwan. Sadly India, traumatised by Nehru's 1962 debacle, still thinks the Chinese are formidable.

On the one hand, China has attempted to tie India down through its sponsorship of Pakistan as well as through its covert activities in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal via its alliance with the military junta in Myanmar. On the other hand, there is the small matter of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as its own and so also Sikkim. China is a dangerous imperial power which has territorial disputes with every single one of its neighbors and has swallowed at least one neighbor -- Tibet.

Chinese naval assets are relatively puny and India can and should use its advantage here as a bargaining chip. According to STRATFOR, 'The decision to extend the reach and operational areas of India's expanding navy firmly into the South China Sea will not only trigger a reassessment of the balance of naval power in the region, but also risks a deterioration of Beijing-New Delhi relations as India encroaches into territory claimed by China.

India's navy intends to hold bilateral exercises with South Korea and Vietnam in October and November 2000. Following these exercises, four or five Indian vessels will remain in the South China Sea to be joined by an Indian Kilo-class submarine and reconnaissance aircraft for unilateral naval exercises.

The move to expand operations from the north of the Arabian Sea through the South China Sea and to establish an expeditionary capable force not only threatens China's areas of operation but also alters the balance of naval power in the region. Further, plans for three operational carriers will make India equal to the United Kingdom and second only to the United States in carrier assets. Regionally, other carrier-capable navies have just one, including Russia and Thailand.

For China, the threat of an encroaching Indian naval presence will further undermine any potential Sino-Indian reconciliation and co-operation. An India capable of placing a carrier force off Chinese shores -- supported by submarines capable of ballistic missile launches -- drastically changes the equation with regard to China's support for India's rival, Pakistan. With Russia supplying much of the technology and hardware, Sino-Russian relations will also be strained.

In other words, this sounds pretty much like goodness all around -- the worm is finally turning. Take that, Tang Jiaxuan and Jiang Zemin! They are relics, dinosaurs. After all, Marxism's finest hour was 25 years ago this week -- the departure of the Americans from Saigon in 1975. It has been downhill ever since for them.

Despite the mythology of India's deranged Marxists, China is clearly India's worst enemy. India has tried samam (Panchasilam), danam (giving away large areas of Jammu and Kashmir), to no avail. Time to try a little bhedam (work with the Taiwanese, the Uighurs, the Mongols and the Tibetans) and maybe a little dandam (the naval exercises).

Most appropriately of all, this business of naval exercises has come at precisely the same time as all the glad-handing at yet another meeting of the India-China Joint Working Group. This is sweetly ironic, as it mirrors the Chinese tactic of palaver-and-betray -- they are very good at smiling nicely and in parallel stabbing in the back.

Another article in the New Indian Express on April 13 discussed India's capability to build global reach. It considers nuclear submarines and cruise missile delivery systems the most viable part of its proposed nuclear triad. It was written by Clifford Singer, professor, nuclear engineering and director of arms control, disarmament and international security programme at the University of Illinois.

The article suggests that it is foolish to try to constrain India under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. It says further that India should create a stable of cruise missiles, not ballistic missiles:

'Assuming the country prioritises its reseach, development and procurement... by 2010-2020 it should be able to field a fleet of dual-use nuclear-powered submarines and cruise missiles with increasing domestic technology complement... Projections indicate that India has the economic and technical capability to acquire global reach around the 2010-2020 time frame... global reach could be delayed until 2020 or 2030.'

But, to be fair, all this stuff about global reach is all very well, but the issue that is exercising the minds of most in India at the moment is the serious drought. As I mentioned in an earlier column 'Water Wars: Cauvery, Chinatown and Cadillac Desert,' we have been very lax in not conserving and husbanding water resources. Grassroots efforts are the only solution as the bureaucracy has failed.

The other issue of interest to the urban Indian is the cricket scandal. Apparently, people are shocked that the game 'which embodies the Victorian sense of fair-play and honor' has been brought to such depths. I find this entertaining and true in a warped sort of way. 'Victorian fair-play' indeed -- those Brits were predatory looters who raped and pillaged their way around the world, and then wrote the history of these things to whitewash themselves! Cricket is, similarly, raping and pillaging the Indian subcontinent.


Reader Sudha asked for my opinion on the major gains made by the LTTE recently in Sri Lanka, including their recapture of the strategic Elephant Pass near Jaffna. I have not studied Tamil separatism in Sri Lanka -- and have no insights to contribute. I am glad India is no longer directly involved, as I fear there is no simple solution to the problem. columnist Ashwin Mahesh wrote an entire column disagreeing with my views on whether Indian-Americans need to pay attention to racial bias against them. I shall respond briefly:

1. Ashwin Mahesh seems to believe in a fundamental fallacy -- this 'melting-pot' business. This, alas, only applies to white people. For, any visible minority is considered only partly American by the average person. The experiences of blacks, Hispanics and East Asians are salutary -- even after hundreds of years in the US, they are discriminated against. Don't take my word for it, take Professor David Cole's (No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System) well-researched opinion.

2. I don't see any reason for me to repeat that the US is heaven for Indians. There is plenty of propaganda along those lines already: Just see the lines in front of US consulates. It is clearly not the worst place for Indians to be. Surely, Hong Kong, Fiji, East Africa, the UK are worse.

3. It is inherently easier to prove that bias exists -- just one incident is enough. It is infinitely harder to prove that bias does not exist. And there has clearly been more than one such incident. Ashwin Mahesh seems to suggest: "I have anecdotal evidence -- bias hasn't affected me or anyone I know. Therefore I conclude it does not exist". This is a logical fallacy. Middle class Indians in the US generally don't face overt bias, only covert, like glass ceilings; but the lower-classes, the taxi drivers, the news-stand owners, the gas-station attendants, surely do.

4. Instances of American bias and discrimination against many groups are well-documented:

* The systematic extermination of Native Americans;

* The oppression of Jews and the lack of support to them during the Nazi era;

* Slavery, the still-active Ku Klux Klan and White Aryan Nation that hate blacks;

* The periodic murders of homosexuals;

* The oppression of Indians. The Komagata Maru incident. The 'Hindoo' Exclusion Act. The hounding of the Gadar Party. The de-naturalization of Indians who had become citizens. The prohibitions against Indians bringing wives from India or marrying white women;

* The Asian Exclusion Act and the discrimination against the Chinese in particular

* The World War II concentration camps where Japanese-Americans were incarcerated;

* The oppression of the Irish. There were want-ads in Boston papers that explicitly stated "Irish need not apply";

* The just-below-the-surface religious fanaticism that resulted in the Salem witch-hunts and that underpins the frightening future America of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale which features rule by a Pat Robertson-like fundamentalist;

5. Jews are no longer discriminated against, for several good reasons. One, they are white, and therefore you can't tell a Jew by just looking at them. This is critical, because much racial discrimination is casual. Jews have been mainstreamed, as Irish and Italians before them. Two, they dominate finance, medicine, law and media. Three, they have made an enormous amount of noise: the Jewish Anti-Defamation League and the B'nai B'rith are out there suing anyone who insults Judaism or attacks Jews.

It is all this that Indians lack. There is no point being complacent, waiting for serious discrimination to occur and then moaning about it, although that would be the typical Indian pattern. My basic point is that Indians need to take proactive action. Sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring reality is a very poor tactic.

6. Ashwin Mahesh is hilarious when he talks about the court of public opinion in the case of Lakireddy as opposed to the court of law. He clearly has forgotten another 'court of public opinion' -- the frequent mob lynching (summary execution by hanging) of blacks in the deep South on charges that would not hold up in a court of law. In fact, the Lakireddy case has indeed been an electronic lynching of someone without recourse to due process.

7. The Lakireddy case incensed me because it came after not one Indian-American group made any noise about the H1-B case or the murder of Charanjit Singh Aujla. Where was Ashwin Mahesh when Aujla's case was hushed up? Those 'South Asia' enthusiasts, people like the Indian-American 'progressives' running around playing at urban guerilla, were there to support the Guinean Amadou Diallo, but not the Indian Aujla. I have a clear perspective on this -- charity begins at home. Saving the world comes later.

There was a shooting of a couple of Indians in a possible hate crime in Pittsburgh recently. I am waiting to see if the 'progressives' ignore this too. I am sure they will: Indians are expendable. 'Progressives' will surely demonstrate against the killing of a Vietnamese/Chinese in the same incident, though.

8. I also felt that those condemning Lakireddy were primarily interested in impressing white people that they were not like Lakireddy. I repeat myself: Has any of the morally outraged asked the girls who were allegedly sold to Lakireddy how they felt about it -- did they do it willingly (just like the many illegal aliens who are willing to be exploited just so they may have a future)? None of us should presume to play god and decide how others should live their lives. As many commit suicide in Andhra over the drought, 'slavery' and 'prostitution' in America may not look all that bad to some people. It is their right to decide thus.

9. I liked Ashwin Mahesh's slogan about separate and equal. He may have heard of another American slogan, a somewhat older one: "No taxation without representation". This is what I am talking about -- Indian-Americans are law-abiding, tax-paying citizens who have rights. Unless they are cognizant of and exercise their rights as citizens and residents, they will simply lose these rights in the long run.

Rajeev Srinivasan

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