Saturday, March 11, 2006


THE SEDUCTION OF INDIA - beware fools playing geopolitics. The world's biggest and most dangerous game is being played by the United States in India - and there's a reasonable suspicion that at least half the players are fools. The United States' hypocritical nuclear deal signed yesterday is just one step in a plan to promote India as America's proxy against both Islam and China, a role fraught with danger for absolutely everyone. The cornerstone of real politick is "my enemy's enemy is my friend" - and thus the Bush administration is desperate to befriend India. The great danger is that the Republicans' Washington will promote an adversarial role for India against America's great foes. Left to its own devices, if not its prejudices, India (and the world) would have a better future if the two most populous nations and the second and third most populous religions pursued non-adversarial co-operation and friendship. That is a very difficult hope, but the last thing the world needs is the born-again neo-cons whipping up and supporting age-old rivalries. The United States' unnatural ally of convenience, Pakistan, of course wants the same civilian nuclear deal. Neither India nor Pakistan has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Bush is breaking the nuclear club's own rules in a bid to make up for the cold shoulder shown to India throughout the Cold War, but doing the same thing for Pakistan is much harder.What worries the US most is that its alliance with Pakistan is based on a military dictatorship remaining in control of an unstable Islamic nation that is at best ambivalent about the US. For all of Washington's bluster, it knows that an Islamic nation it doesn't really trust already has the bomb. The United States tried but failed to entice India to join its Iraq adventure. If you want something really big to worry about instead of our piddly local politics, consider that eventually the Americans will happily promote whatever forces within India might be interested in fighting its wars for it and garrisoning the Middle East. What India's leadership must be extremely wary of is the inevitable American courtship of India's military. The seduction can be powerful. Already, the money markets are assisting - the Indian stock market hit a record on the signing of the nuclear deal.
Australia will do its little bit for American policy as usual - John Howard is off to New Delhi next week. The trip is about trade, but Malaysian media interestingly homes in on the "strategic" angle: "Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who will embark on a four-day visit to India next week, has said that 'more energy' needed to be put into bilateral ties for 'general strategic reasons'."

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