ARTICLES PUBLICATIONS EVENTS
Article no. 2374
Date 15 September 2007
Ideology, Foreign Policy and the Rhetoric of Anti-Americanism
Dr. Bhartendu Kumar Singh
Indian Defence Accounts Service
Despite the 'end of ideology' and the ultimate triumph of liberal faith in international politics, anti-Americanism still propels Left forces in India and many other parts of the world. The protests by Left parties and others to the Malabar naval exercises involving India and the US apart from three other countries bring home the point that the facade of ideology still remains in international relations, even if it for a rhetorical purpose. Whether it is the Indo-US nuclear deal, the visit by the USS Nimitz, or the Indo-US air exercises, the Left in India sees conspiracies or meek surrender by the country in all collaborations with the US.
India has been a party to many war games and exercises in recent times. Apart from the ongoing military exercises with Russia, the Indian Army is slated for a joint exercise with the Chinese PLA the coming November. None of these endeavours attract Left attention. From all the speeches delivered by the Left leaders during their protests against the Malabar exercises, it seems that anti-Americanism rather than the objectives of the exercises were the targets of the protesters.
Ironically, anti-Americanism is being used to divert the foreign policy of India at a time when it has lost sheen at the global level. After the demise of the Cold War, anti-Americanism declined along with the communist ideology. Irrespective of Cuba or Venezuela, anti-Americanism is incapable of inducing new tensions in international relations. The relative peace and the bleak prospects of a new Cold War could also be attributed to the fact that China has refused to buy hostility with the US and mobilize anti-American forces. People who project al Qaeda as the new face of anti-Americanism forget that it is driven by religious fundamentalism rather than ideology.
The fading economic prowess of America and the concurrent rise of oriental economies have also led to a decline in anti-Americanism. There was a time when America attracted talent from all parts of the world. A green card used to be the most coveted document for the emigrant population. The economic, political and military domination of America coupled with its support for colonialism, apartheid and market economy attracted anti-Americans in huge numbers. India was no different to this global trend and often the country's foreign policy used to be peppered with anti-Americanism. The tangible benefits from such postures were limited. Meanwhile, the US supported Pakistan as part of its pressure tactics against India.
If India has given up the rhetoric of anti-Americanism, it is in keeping with the realities of international relations. From Iraq to North Korea, pax Americana is all too pervasive. Hence, other great powers value cooperation with the US. India is no exception. The just concluded war games in the Bay of Bengal have to be understood from this perspective. The oceanic waters provide India over two million sq km of exclusive economic zone, 97 percent of its trade supplies, oil and gas and so on. Piracy apart, there is increasing pressure on the Indian Navy due to China's naval modernization and its new hubs in India's neighbourhood. India, therefore, needs to reach out to major players including the US and enforce a security regime in the region.
Thus, it is the national interest rather than fascination for America that propels Indian foreign policy. Witness for example, India's stand on the Iranian nuclear issue or its posturing on the Doha development round. India waged and won a war in Bangladesh in 1971 much to the chagrin of the US. Indira Gandhi was certainly not guided by the ideological bogey of anti-Americanism.
The protagonists of anti-Americanism in India should take a cue from China. Barring state-sponsored occasional outbursts against US, the Chinese are 'cool' about America and whatever it stands for! McDonalds, as admitted by the Chinese Ambassador to India, Sun Yuxi, is far more popular in China than in India. The ongoing English revolution in China is based on the American version. Internationally, the Chinese are happy doing brisk business with US and bask in huge trade surpluses.
Public opinion in India is similarly less concerned about America than it is about China or Pakistan. Psychologically too, Indians feel more comfortable with Americans than with Chinese or Pakistanis. Further, the 1.6 million strong Indian diaspora in the US removes any scope for large scale anti-American sentiments in the same manner as there can be no anti-Gulf sentiments in this country. In fact, anti-Americanism is a rhetoric of outdated ideology with no popular support. The artificial construct of anti-Americanism will further jeopardize rationality in foreign policy decision-making through mirror images and stereotype views about US. This can dilute the trust so painfully built up between India and US in recent times. Hence, the left ideologues in India need to reconsider their anti-Americanism and stop judging all foreign policy issues from this prism.