Why the response to Indo-US defense deal is muted?
After years of dithering India and the United States have agreed in principle to share military logistics including sharing of bases for repairing, refuelling resupply and rest.
While this is an indication that the BJP led National Democratic Alliance government is less inhabited than the Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in cosying up to the US, what is surprising is the muted response from the other players.
India’s ties with United States has often triggered heated debate in the country. This was the case even after the fall of Soviet Union and the balance of power tilted favour of the US. Many reasons can be cited for this. Primarily the Indian national movement was not only anti-colonial it was to a great extent anti–imperial as well. And taking cue from it a large chunk of people believed the US as the sole imperialistic power after the end of the second world war. Another reason is as the country which spearheaded Non –Alignment Movement (NAM) Indians believes it as imprudent for the nation to go along with any of the big powers not at least with the US. After the fall of the communist bloc which effectively rendered the NAM obsolete in the existing world order, the Nehruvian legacy in international relations continued to have great bearing on many of the political parties even when they have no qualms in ignoring his economic logics. But as time passed,this attitude is also changing. Or how would one explain the muted reaction among the political class on the recently inked defence deals?
All the hell broke loose when the short lived Chandrasekhar government allowed US military aircraft to refuel in India during the first Gulf War. Almost all parties were up in the arms against the pro US tilt of the Indian government. But these protests did not deter the following governments from maintaining closer ties with the US. The Vajpayee government had shown keen interest in strengthening relations with Washington.
The upswing in ties came after George W Bush, the then US president visited the country in 2006 during the UPA 1 rule. Even left parties threat of withdrawing support to the coalition government did not deter Manmohan Singh government from going ahead with the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. Finally taking an ideological position, the four party Left bloc withdrew support. This move however did not bring down the government, as it had mustered the support of other parties like Samajwadi Party.
Compared to these two events, the kind of reaction the new Indo-US defence pact is eliciting is negligible. This is surely a reflection of change in the political perception of the parties and opinion makers. Apart from the left no parties are now ideologically opposed against having a defence deal with the sole ‘imperial power’.
The continuous depletion of the left constituency in political scene makes it harder for them to make their voice heard among the political class. It is to be noted that the ramification the India-US Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement would have will be more comprehensive. It might change how New Delhi reacts to international issues involving Washington. Remember, this agreement,as some critics pointed out is one on the lines of treaties that US has made with South Korea and Japan. But these are all ideological issues, where no major parties has any difference opinion, and Nehru’s ideals and left’s rhetoric has less takers now.