February 26, 2023

Let’s Not Forget the Cost of Tech-Convergence with Imperial America

B Arjun

EXTERNAL affairs minister S Jaishankar is not shy of wearing nationalism on his sleeves. He thinks there is nothing to be apologetic about being nationalist. His public display of nationalistic fervour has earned him many likes of social media. After Modi he is the most liked political figure in Sanghi circles and is generally appreciated as a hardworking and efficient minister. 

His valiant defence of Russian crude oil imports by India has certainly catapulted his public ratings. He unhesitatingly blamed Europe for following double standards. In one of the press conferences last year he remarked: “I think first we need to establish the facts very clearly. Between February 24 and November 17, the European Union has imported more fossil fuel from Russia than the next 10 countries combined. The oil import in the European Union is like six times what India has imported. Gas is infinite because we do not import it while the European Union imported 50 billions Euros worth (of gas).” 

The minister spares no opportunity to show that India is equal to Europe. He has wonderfully used the Ukraine crisis to prove himself as a true blue nationalist and establish the credibility of India’s strategic autonomy among large sections of the public vis-vis the West. 

His ministry has denounced the BBC documentary on complicity of the state in killing of Muslims in 2002 Gujarat riots. The external affairs ministry has described the BBC series on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative. The bias and the lack of objectivity and frankly continuing colonial mindset are belatedly visible.”

British colonialism  as well as the contemporary English media are his favourite punching bag. Recently he castigated the foreign media stating that "they use words like Hindu nationalist government. In America or Europe, they won't say Christian nationalist... These adjectives are reserved for us. They don't understand that this country is ready to do more with the world and not less with the world.”

Evading another attack emanating from the west, the external affairs minister has described George Soros comments on Modi and the democratic decline in India as a “Euro-Atlantic view far from contemporary realities.” Commenting on Soros, Jaishankar said that Soros “is an old, rich, opinionated person sitting in New York who still thinks that his views should determine how the entire world works.” Jaishankar further added that “globalisation had led to shaping narratives and foundations using funds to go about their agenda”.  It is relatively easy for the minister to speak freely against American business persons or philanthropic organisations, however, when it comes to criticising Washington's double standards, Jaishankar is generally mute. 

Jaishankar cannot speak against the US establishment’s misdemeanours in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world.  Even if Seymour Hersh's allegation against Pentagon’s direct involvement in blowing up the Nord Stream pipelines are proved, Jaishankar is not likely to utter a word mainly because of the deep bonds that India is forging with reining imperial power. 

Over the past one month we have seen continuous salvos coming from the west aimed at Modi. We have also seen India-America military ties deepening through the establishment of a high-level initiative on defense and emerging technologies. 

The initiative on critical and emerging technologies, or iCET, aims towards joint production of defense equipment – including military jet engines, long-range artillery and armored infantry vehicles. Jake Sullivan, US national security advisor, has acknowledged the geopolitical dimension to the initiative and the importance of China factor in the relationship.  Speaking to the reporters after inking the iCET deal,  Sullivan remarked,  “The backdrop of geopolitical competition with China has been a feature of the US-India relationship now for more than a decade.” 

The importance of India-China border friction in American strategic calculus clearly suggests that it would never like India to resolve its issues with China and may even encourage continuous tensions on the border. 

There is no gainsaying that growing Indo-US ties are having a detrimental effect on New Delhi's decades-long association with Moscow's nuclear and military industrial complex.

The opposition against India’s involvement with Russian oil is more for the optics or to appease some lobbies in DC.  The US is more interested in bringing India within its fold to strengthen its imperial hold in the age of the fourth industrial revolution.  

India is merrily embracing US 5G and 6G and accepting its semiconductors without really debating how it will impact our sovereignty. This issue is important because we joined the US initiative to ban China's 5G equipment from its national networks and rejected it on the grounds that in the long run we do not intend to fall under the Chinese imperial network. Somehow, we have expediently assumed that the democratic America doesnt have any imperial desires and even if it has they are all benevolent.   

Besides joining the US network, India has also appeased the west with Air India placing the largest orders in history of civil aviation; an order that comprises roughly about close to 400 aircraft, to be purchased from Boeing and Airbus.

Looking at the timing of the salvos against Modi coming from the west and the signing of the massive deals iCET and civil aircraft, one is forced to think that did the west deliberately step on Modis Achilles' heel – 2002 Gujarat and Adani – to arm twist him to probably agree to a deal that is tilted more in the favour of the west. 

One needs to understand the external affairs minister’s  compulsion in wearing a nationalist mask bragging about strategic autonomy at every forum when the actual fact is that India is becoming more aligned with America than it has ever been before.  We are expediently forgetting that America is no Soviet Union of the 1970s. It is more demanding and always places its strategic interests above that of its allies. Let’s not forget that the European members of NATO have been crying for years against the US not sharing the latest military technologies with them. Therefore let’s not expect too much to flow from the iCET.

The US has and will continue to exploit Indian elite’s desire to sit on the global high table without really acquiring the ingredients   to be a great power.