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Posted by on Jun 18, 2006 in At TMV | 9 comments

India, Pakistan: What is the U.S. Foreign Policy?

The Indian subcontinent rarely gets the attention it deserves. However, the latest developments would ensure that more sensible people would be tempted to analyse the situation there in an informed manner.

Here I am specifically referring to the recent brilliant post by Cernig “America’s Next Big Foreign Policy Disaster”. As also to the result of a recent Opinion Poll about the U.S. foreign policy as reported by the Voice of America.

Indian subcontinent, because of its diversity and the past, is a complex place. Geographically, the Indian subcontinent is a peninsular region south of the Himalayas and east of the Hindu Kush mountain range and Balochistan region, extending southward into the Indian Ocean between the Arabian Sea (to the southwest) and the Bay of Bengal (to the southeast). It covers about 4,480,000 km² (1,729,738 mi²) or 10 percent of the Asian continent; however, it accounts for about 40 percent of Asia’s population.

It is futile to make off-the-cuff remarks about this strategic subcontinent. But a few things are clear.

Historically speaking, the Mughal Empire (1526-1857) initially used force but in later months/years/decades/centuries did not overtly interfere in the local affairs/politics. The “troubled” regions of the “frontier areas” bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan (including Afghanistan) were left to their own functioning/machinations. The theory is that those who interfere there become their life-time enemy.

(And this applies to Iraq too. I read a fascinating book tracing the history in Israel-Palestine-Iraq from the late 19th century to the present. The British/French never got permanently embroiled. A short skirmish here and there…and then get out. When I remember the name of the book I would tell you).

The British Empire followed the same example. Even the civil servants ensured minimum interference although they were posted in remote areas. Soldiers were rarely used in the internal strife. This helped the British Empire to influence large areas without interfering in the day-to-day life of the the local people and leaders.

The fatal flaw in the American foreign policy is to control the situation on a foreign soil with soldiers…overtly interfere in local affairs…and then stay on for an unlimited period until even friends become foes. American soldiers can’t fight the internal bloody battles of all the nations!!!

When a nation cannot conduct its foreign policy, and that too in areas where in the past all nations have tried to stay away, then it is sensible/safer to offer foreign policy franchise to some other nation/nations!!!

About India and Pakistan, I think the Bush administration policy is on the right track. Whatever be the impediments, the two nations must be encouraged to overcome their traditional hostility for the sake of peace in the Indian subcontinent and the world.

Many believe that most of the problems here are aggravated by the Western nations’ dangerous approach in promoting the sales of their arms. The Western nations, in the process, wink at the possible consequences of this ruthless marketing strategy (which, in turn, may also indirectly fuel terrorist activities).

Leaders in India and Pakistan have been accused of fanning insecurity in the minds of their respective citizens to create a market for these arms (of course under pressure from the Western nations). (Ask an average Indian or Pakistani…they love each other and want to live in peace.) There have been allegations that certain leaders binge on the goodies/commission that comes along with the arms. This is now a well-entrenched practice.

Although the British/French/Russians are also selling arms in the Indian sub-continent, it is the American nation that gets the maximum bad name and bashing. I remember there was a best-selling novel called “The Ugly American”. It is better to be seen as promoting trade and commerce in items other than arms alone.

The billions that are been pumped by the Indian subcontinent for purchasing arms from the Western nations can be diverted in the field of education, health and agriculture/forestry.

A rich nation would be loved more if it is seen to provide help to the impoverished, hungry and uneducated people than arming them to the teeth. The Western nations’ visible lust for taking reckless monetary advantage in developing countries would get them more enemies than friends. And one wonders whether mere killing of al-Quaeda terrorists alone would help much.

The scenario may not change overnight but a good alternative policy approach would help in the long run.

Take for example, President George W. Bush’s recent visit to Iraq. He would have done a great service in promoting the image of America as a caring nation had he visited some civilians (or even met them in the safety of the Prime Minister’s palace).

(“Anyone remember this great photo-op where Bush left the lens-caps on?”—courtesy Newshog).

At least he could have met members of the families who suffered at Haditha and apologised. This gesture would have given a healing touch. He could have also announced monetary or similar help to the aggrieved civilans.

But, no Sir! President George W. Bush was all smiles and had a swagger of a Chief of an occupying/conquering force. Not a word about the suffering common/ordinary Iraqi folks being butchered on the streets and homes every day. The “war” is against al-Qaeda and terrorists and not against common Iraqi people. Or, am I wrong?

Ordinary people in India and Pakistan have always believed that the “war on terror” will never end so long the mindless and dangerous pumping of arms by the Western nations does not stop in the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere.

So its a great irony. On the one hand the Western politicians are in the grip of arms-sellers, and on the other the West goes on with its “war on terrorism” for the “sake of peace on earth”.