Bharat Mata with Stars and Stripes
NEW DELHI: It is ironical that at the precise time the BJP-RSS combine is whipping up a “nationalist” fervor and targeting so-called anti-national activities in the country, the Modi government has taken a series of policy measures, both in the external and domestic spheres, which are anti-national and detrimental to national interests. The first and foremost such anti-national step concerns military collaboration with the United States that will seriously compromise India’s sovereignty and strategic autonomy.
The Modi government is seriously considering signing the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), which will convert India into a military ally of the United States on par with countries like Pakistan, Philippines and South Korea. The LSA, which is another name for the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreements (ACSA), will provide for the respective militaries to use each other’s base facilities for logistic support such as refueling and berthing facilities and to borrow specified “non lethal” defence equipment for use elsewhere. This would facilitate the United States using India’s air force and naval facilities for military operations against third countries.
It is this agreement which was sought to be imposed upon India when the UPA government signed the ten-year Defence Framework Agreement with the United States in June 2005. At that time, the Left parties, which were supporting the UPA government, strongly opposed the Framework Agreement and in talks with the UPA leadership made it clear that signing of the LSA would be tantamount to converting India into a military ally of the United States. There was an unwritten assurance that the government would not sign the LSA, a stand which was firmly adhered to by the then Defence Minister A. K. Antony.
Now, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has indicated that the BJP government has an “open mind” on signing the LSA and two other agreements, Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA). He has even gone to the extent of stating that there is “in principle” agreement to signing what the Americans call foundational agreements. Foundational agreement for what? For yoking the Indian armed forces with that of the US military to fulfill the strategic goals of the United States in Asia.
If this agreement on the LSA is arrived at and the signal for which will be clear during the visit of Ashton Carter, the US Secretary for Defence, to India on April 10, it will be the biggest sell out of India’s strategic interests to the United States by the Modi government – an anti-national act without parallel.
The other aspect in the defence sphere is the speed with which the Modi government is fulfilling the other agenda of the US administration. The signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal was made contingent on the United States becoming the largest and major supplier of arms and defence equipment to India. The then US Under Secretary, Nicholas Burns, had made this linkage clear during the 123 Agreement. The US has now emerged as the largest supplier of defence equipment.
The demand for interoperability and the supply of defence technology and communications equipments will, thus, become the logic for signing the so-called three foundational agreements.
It is not only in the defence and strategic areas that the Modi government is proceeding to compromise sovereignty and Indian interests. The sell-out in the economic and trade sectors is equally pronounced. At the WTO ministerial meeting in Nairobi, the Union Commerce Minister, Nirmala Sitaraman, surrendered without any resistance India’s vital interests in getting a permanent solution for the public stock holding programme. Neither did India stand firm on Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) for protection against sudden surge in imports. The Modi government, thus, compromised on the issue of food security and the interests of farmers.
That this is not an isolated incident becomes clear from the ongoing negotiations between India and the European Union for the Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA). Here too, there are two major issues concerning investment rights and reduction of tariffs on agricultural imports which can have serious repercussions for India. An investor-state dispute settlement agreement will lead to foreign firms taking the Indian government to an International Tribunal if their investments and profits are endanger by any policy measure. Similarly, the agenda on lowering of import tariffs for agricultural goods from Europe to India is something which can spell ruin for agriculture and the dairy industry. The Modi government has given up on all vital issues concerning government procurement, agricultural tariffs and intellectual property rights which are harmful for the people and national interests of India.
The Modi government has surrendered to US pressure on intellectual property rights in particular about patent rights for medicines. The Patent Law provides for compulsory licensing, a clause which allows Indian companies to break the monopoly of MNCs. It is now reported by the US-India Business Council that the Indian government has “privately assured” the US based drug MNCs that it would not use compulsory licenses for commercial purposes. Thus the only way to bring down the monopoly prices imposed by drug MNCs has been given up.
This is also mirrored in the offer to include education in the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) and the recent decision to allow 100 per cent FDI in e-commerce retail which is a betrayal of the BJP’s own pledge not to allow FDI in retail trade. The threads binding India to the United States on economic and trade policies through various forums like the US-India Business Council, the US-India Trade Policy Forum and so on are subverting India’s independent stand in multilateral forums and bilateral trade agreements with various countries.
The Modi government has taken another dangerous step in moving for an amendment to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. This amendment has been proposed in the Finance Bill whereby the definition of a foreign company is being revised. As per this amendment, any company which conforms to the foreign investment limit prescribed by the government will be treated as an Indian company. This amendment is being done to circumvent the verdict of the Delhi High Court which had found both the BJP and the Congress guilty of receiving foreign funds from a London-based multinational company, Vedanta.
If this amendment goes through in Parliament, then the BJP can happily receive crores of rupees from foreign companies operating in India. This will bring about a major transformation in the nature of political party funding with all its consequences for the democratic political system.
How do we match up the nationalist rhetoric of the BJP and the Modi government with this surrender of national interests and compromising of national sovereignty? The ultra nationalism and national chauvinism being purveyed covers up the real nature of the government and the party. Having no moorings in the anti-imperialist secular nationalism of the country, what we are witnessing is Hindu nationalism, and as Jawaharlal Nehru so presciently observed, majority communalism masquerading as nationalism. Such a “nationalism” is inherently pro-imperialist.
The Bharat Mata which is hailed by the Hindutva forces will soon have to hold the Stars and Stripes in one hand while the other holds the Bhagwa Jhanda. Absent will be the tricolour.
(Prakash Karat is former general secretary of the CPI(M))