In the old black-and-white Frank Capra film Mr Smith Goes to Washington an idealistic small-town man played by James Stewart is elected to the US Congress, where he is appalled by corrupt politics; but in the end his innocence wins over the blase denizens of the capital.
In a sense, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's trip to the US in the near future is being portrayed in the same way, but the Indian is neither as idealistic nor as naive as the Jimmy Stuart character, nor is there likely to be a happy ending.
US President Barack Hussein Obama has just returned from a tour of Asia. And exactly where did he go? China and Japan, and also Singapore and South Korea, but not India. This one fact speaks volumes about the mind-share India occupies in the American establishment: India is not important. (Nor is it part of Asia according to them, but we will not digress. However we can be quite sure that a future Obama trip to India, if any, will be bracketed with one to Pakistan. Welcome to re-hyphenation.)
Obama's joint statement with Chinese strongman Hu Jintao could well have been written by the Chinese, when it comes to its perspective of India: It referred to the India-Pakistan problem and suggested that China should intervene in it. The implication is that China is the master of Asia, and that lesser powers such as India and Pakistan (yes, hyphenation again) must listen to China.
Then there was the recent appointment of Robin Raphel to the Richard Holbrooke team dealing with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Raphel is well-known as one of the most virulent and vitriolic critics of India in the entire US Democratic set-up. She was, until August, a registered and paid lobbyist for Pakistan. She is infamous for insisting that the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India is not final, and for asserting that Pakistan is the very epitome of a 'model, modern, and moderate Muslim nation'.
On top of this, rediff.com reported last week that Christine Fair, who had rubbed Indian officials the wrong way recently regarding Baluchistan, was offered a job as the 'South Asia' expert in the Obama administration, which apparently she turned down.
The indications, therefore, are that the Obama administration does not take India seriously. All of the latter's hollow pretensions to great-power-hood have been seen through by the Democrats, one might think.
But if they are so smart, why do Democrats persist in kow-towing to China and pouring money into Pakistan? It must be because it is standard Democratic Party policy. Despite the illusions many Indians harbour, Democratic administrations have been nastier towards India in general, notwithstanding the sterling counter-example of the Republican Nixon-Kissinger duo sending the 7th Fleet to the Bay of Bengal in 1971 to intimidate India.
Liberal-left types in the West, despite protestations to the contrary, are fascinated by totalitarians and fascists. They are impressed by Vietnamese who defeated them, and Chinese who fought them to a standstill in Korea.
On the other hand, they despise a weak and moralising nation like India (some of them have not yet forgotten V K Krishna Menon's marathon speech at the United Nations, nor all the hot air about non-alignment.
Obama is the only US president in recent years to have refused to meet the Dalai Lama, as appeasing China is high on his agenda; similarly the Democratic fascination with Mohammedan tyrants as well.
Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institution wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Obama may well be following in Jimmy Carter's footsteps. Carter, of MEOW fame (moral equivalent of war), who groveled to Middle-Easterners, bringing upon himself the Iran hostage crisis that destroyed his presidency.
Obama is going down this path with his Af-Pak policy, which consists primarily of outsourcing the Afghan problem to Pakistan's Inter Services intelligence, to be followed by the United States declaring victory and leaving. He is ignoring the instructive example of Neville Chamberlain appeasing Hitler.
Meanwhile the ISI cannot believe its good luck: Obama is showering billions on it on top of the $11 billion that Bush has already given them, with nothing to show.
On top of this, there is an entire generation of Cold-War-era non-proliferation ayatollahs, many of them Democrats with ties to Obama, who believe India has no business maintaining a nuclear arsenal. These people are on the ascendant, and strangely they have no problem with proliferation by China or Pakistan: The The Washington Post reported how the CIA merely stood by and watched when China delivered two full-fledged nuclear bombs to Pakistan in 1982.
Shortly thereafter, Pakistan, as part of the A Q Khan nuclear Wal-Mart, happily proliferated these to third parties.
Quite clearly, the non-proliferation ayatollahs have a rather interesting twist on semantics: for them, 'proliferation' is defined as India creating a minimum deterrent to defend itself from two nearby rogue States. Of course, these are the same people who created treaty after treaty -- Non-Proliferation Treaty, Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty -- whose prime intent was to contain the Indian nuclear deterrent.
The respected Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reported recently that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is bigger than India's, and that they are growing it rapidly. India has no more than 60 to 80 warheads, Pakistan at least 70 to 90, and China 240.
Of course, India is also handicapped by not having a proven delivery vehicle like an intermediate-range ballistic missile that can reach Beijing (and also by having voluntarily declared a moratorium on nuclear testing). This should be enormous cause for concern for India, because it leaves India vulnerable to the blackmail of a first strike by Pakistan or China, neither of which has ever said they will not indulge in a first strike. India cannot deter them because the threat of a second strike is meaningless if the others's arsenals and delivery systems are bigger and more reliable.
On the political side, here is another fear -- about what Manmohan Singh may concede in Washington. His recent trips have left a trail of wreckage as far as India's foreign policy is concerned. This leads one to wonder whether the foreign ministry lacks the resources to brief the prime minister.
Look at what the PM has said on previous trips abroad:
In Britain in 2005, while receiving an honorary degree from Oxford, Singh said that colonialism had done India good. He claimed that India benefited from 'meeting the dominant empire of the day'. He omitted to mention that the dominant empire had stolen roughly $10 trillion, and left hitherto prosperous India poverty-stricken.
In Havana at the Non-Aligned Meet in 2006, Singh informed a delighted General Pervez Musharraf that Pakistan was also a victim of terrorism, just like India, and absolved the Pakistani State of involvement in acts of terrorism. This, almost immediately after the Mumbai blasts in July of that year.
In the US in 2008, with George Bush a lame duck and the Democrats rampant, Singh assured Bush: 'The people of India deeply love you'. Exactly how did Singh arrive at this conclusion? And how exactly did he think this would be received by the severely anti-Bush Democrats, who were likely to win?
In Sharm-al-Sheikh, Egypt, in July 2009, Singh gratuitously introduced Balochistan into the Indo-Pakistan dialog and promised a delinking of talks from terrorism. The grateful Pakistanis are now using Balochistan as a major card in their propaganda claiming Indian malfeasance there. They have also concluded that the 26/11 Mumbai siege has now been forgotten by India -- that is, Pakistan can proceed with further acts of terrorism with no untoward consequences.
Aren't there people who know how to craft diplomatic verbiage that serves the usual purpose -- to obfuscate and mystify while sounding pious -- instead of having the PM say things that then require substantial damage control?
What might the PM agree to in Washington this time? One grim possibility looms. There is a lot of talk about the G-2 from people like Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former Cold Warrior and eminence grise extraordinaire (who can forget he was an admirer of Osama bin Laden in the old days?). The G-2, that is, the US and China, is to divide the world up among them: the Atlantic and the Eastern Pacific to the US, while the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean Rim belong to China.
China is delighted to go with this prescription, which is reminiscent of Spain and Portugal dividing up the world between them with the Vatican's blessings some centuries ago. A few months ago, a Chinese admiral suggested precisely such an outcome: They would look after the Western Pacific, he kindly offered the Americans the eastern part of the Pacific.
It is entirely possible that, given the trial balloon of the Sino-US statement on China's role in South Asia, the Americans will convince Manmohan Singh to endorse the idea of the G-2. There will be the usual round of 'clarifications' and 'retractions' and howls about 'misquotes', but at the end of the day, it would be plain as daylight that India had publicly accepted banana-republic-dom in the Asian Century.
We have to be prepared for such an eventuality. And that is why the US does not respect India as a potential ally. India is only a source of raw materials and a market, just as the imperialists saw it. India does not deserve any respect, either. A wimpy India -- which cannot deter even a failed state like Pakistan -- is merely an extra in the big scheme of things.
A nation that has no long-term strategic intent, and whose leaders can be easily manipulated through flattery, is a banana republic. Unlike China, which intends to rule the world, India, which can only imagine itself as a second-rate power, will remain one. Welcome to realpolitik.