Vol. XLIII No. 24 June 16, 2019
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Modi Submits Meekly to US

ALL indications are that the second term of the Modi government will mark a further reinforcement of its role as a junior partner of the United States. This will, in turn, quicken the implementation of the neoliberal agenda and the consequent adverse impact on the lives of the people.

In the period 2014-19, the Modi government took substantial steps to further interlink India strategically and militarily with the US. Agreements for logistic support and integration of military communication equipment were signed. India also joined the quadrilateral alliance proposed by the US consisting of Japan, Australia, India and America.

This strategic embrace led to a foreign policy fully in alignment with the United States’ geo-political interests in the Asia-Pacific region. 

Under pressure of the United States, India stepped up the buying of US arms and equipment displacing the traditional supplier, Russia, in the top spot.  As far as domestic policies are concerned, the Modi government undertook various measures which would help US multinational corporations and financial interests.

After President Trump took office in January 2018, there have been more demands made on India, in keeping with Trump’s “America First” and protectionist policies.

Trump has initiated a trade war against China by raising tariffs on $ 250 billion worth of Chinese goods and threatening tariffs on $ 325 billion more.  He has demanded more access to Chinese markets and safeguards for American technology and intellectual property rights. 

Trump has not spared India either.  His demand is that the trade deficit with India be reversed and India lower tariffs and import more American goods. Towards this, he first raised tariffs on Indian aluminium and steel imports to US. This has been followed up with the decision to end preferential trade treatment by which India could export various items without tariffs.  By scrapping this system, 1,900 items of export from India will now be subject to customs duties.

It is to be noted that this announcement was made in the beginning of March by the US and it was stated that it will take effect after 60 days. Yet the Modi government did nothing to stop this hostile action, or, to take counter-measures. This is in contrast to how China has dealt with the US imposition of tariffs. It retaliated by imposing tariffs on American goods entering China. 

The inability of the Modi government to stand up to the United States is because it has bound itself into a subordinate position as a strategic ally. 

Narendra Modi, who is projected as a “great nationalist”, has been meekly surrendering to one US diktat after another.  The US ordered India to stop purchasing oil from Iran.  It has complied.  This is going to cost India heavily as Iranian oil was being bought at a cheaper price than the international price prevailing. After that, the US in its economic warfare against Venezuela demanded that India stop buying Venezuelan oil. The Modi government has hastened to comply to this also.

India has been pleading with the United States not to impose sanctions for buying the Russian Triumf S-400 missile system. But the United States continues to threaten to invoke sanctions against India.  This is being done to force India to place large-scale orders for US weapons as compensation.

Immense pressure is being mounted to make India buy the Lockheed manufactured F-21 fighter planes. India had issued a tender for buying 110 fighter planes (after reducing the Rafale order to only 36 planes). The US wants to coerce India into placing this contract worth billions of dollars. 

The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is to visit India in the third week of June; his first since the Modi government returned to office. Pompeo can be expected to push the American agenda – talk tough on trade issues, demand India buy more US weaponry to compensate for the Russian missile purchase and prohibit Huawei, the giant Chinese company, from participating in the 5G rollout in India.

The Modi government has a new external affairs minister, S Jaishankar, who is a former foreign secretary. This is the first time a career diplomat has been promoted directly to the cabinet.  Jaishankar is known for his pro-US proclivities.  His record in the external affairs ministry and as the foreign secretary shows how he has pushed for close strategic ties with the US.

The craven attitude displayed so far by the Modi government to the arrogant demands of the Trump administration show that it will continue to play the role of a junior ally of the United States; India’s national interests will be subordinated to that of the interests of the imperialist superpower. 

(June 5, 2019)