By Abhijit Bhattacharyya
Aug 2, 2019
India is a good business location for high-profile American individuals who institutionally represent their country too.
American President Donald Trump’s newfound interest in India’s politico-economic geography — with special focus on Kashmir — serves both his own interests as well as his country’s national interest. On the former, one clear example of high-stakes individual interest in India can be gleaned from the SMS received by several Delhi cellphone users: “Trump Tower Delhi/NCR — Gurgaon. 3/4 BHK ultra-luxury apartments and the most prestigious address. Starts at Rs 5.2 Crores onwards.” Assuming that one “Trump Tower” consists of at least a hundred flats, the cost cannot be less than Rs 520 Crores; and if one takes into account various taxes, levies and other deductions, the net profit won’t be less than Rs 100 Crores for just one of Mr Trump’s India projects. As the US President reportedly has several ongoing (real estate) projects in this country, the supervision of which is done by his own family members, the overlapping cocktail-interest of individuals and institutions of the United States is visible. India is a good business location for high-profile American individuals who institutionally represent their country too.
Nevertheless, the actual area of interest for the US is broader and deeper than what meets the eye. America’s ambitions, strategy and plan, in the aftermath of the Second World War, are invariably global. Being still the sole superpower, it feels the world falls under its “command”, and it has “deployable bases” across continents. The US Navy rules supreme across the world’s oceans, with its Army, Air Force and Marines ready to act in support whenever necessary. Not for nothing was its defence budget in 2018 equal to $643.3 billion, as reported by Military Balance, London (2019), which outstrips the combined defence budgets of 15 countries, including China ($168.2 billion); Russia ($63.1 billion); India ($57.9 billion); Britain ($56.1 billion) and France ($53.4 billion).
Yet, despite the formidable US firepower and global presence in every nook and corner of the planet, America feels insecure. As depicted by Harlem K. Ullman in his book Anatomy of Failure — Why America Loses Every War It Starts” (2017), the author makes a few pertinent points: “For more than half a century, America has lost every war it started. Likewise, America has also failed in the military interventions it has initiated — interventions undertaken for reasons that turned out to be misinformed, contrived, baseless, ignorant, or just wrong”. Ullman is scathing, saying: “Presidents, politicians and the public have failed to grasp this simple truth”. How then can the impressionable President Donald Trump break with this tradition?
It should come as little surprise, therefore, to all non-Western countries, including India, that what the US President utters cannot be the gospel truth; being as far from reality as can be found in the dissenting voices of the American establishment itself. Nevertheless, nothing is more important for the US President than to project his purported national self-interest, even if it contains an illusory objective. America’s interests are multi-directional and multi-dimensional. What is visible is the arrogance of the sole superpower, which cannot take “no” for an answer from any nation. Do you remember the immediate post 9/11 period? “If you are not with us, you are against us!” How Pakistan’s then “President” Pervez Musharraf was “threatened” by the US to either submit unconditionally, fight “terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan”, or see his country get “bombed and banished back into the Stone Age”?
However, the present Kashmir scenario, in the US government’s eyes, appears to have emerged from the upgraded India-US defence hardware cooperation and commerce-related demands by Washington, which has given Mr Trump a definite upper hand. In fact, the world over, whenever and wherever the US has supplied weapons, it has extracted its pound of flesh from importing countries, imposing stringent conditions pertaining to hardware end-use, under US supervision or control, both direct and indirect. The recent induction of US non-fighter aircraft into the Indian Air Force and the logistics pact have made India more dependent on the United States than ever before.
The American military has consistently failed in its missions in Asia ever since the victory over Japan in the Second World War. From Korea in the immediate post-war period, to Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, it has been a sorry track record. It is still failing to penetrate the Asian mainland — look at China, India, Iran, Asiatic Russia, North Korea… Yet, with the exception of Germany (37,950 soldiers), some of its biggest troop deployments have been in Asia — Japan (53,900); South Korea (28,500); Afghanistan (16,475) and Kuwait (14,000).
Understandably, the increasing Sino-Russian bonhomie and a “soft” India’s propensity to continue its “nonaligned” ways — keeping all its options open — annoys the US no end. In American eyes, Kashmir is no longer a bilateral issue. There is no doubt a lot of truth in this — this columnist has held that view for long. Kashmir is in the thick of a global geopolitical power play — not least due to India’s inability to keep China out of it. It all began with J&K’s accession to India, but could never be fully accomplished. To make matters worse, China entered from the east (Aksai Chin) and now operates deep inside Gilgit-Baltistan, using the CPEC as a pretext. The entire world is aware of this.
Therefore, if there are already three players involved in the Kashmir issue — India, Pakistan and China — what really is the harm if the United States comes in as the fourth? In the vicinity of 10 landlocked countries (Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Nepal, Bhutan) and two of China’s most turbulent landlocked provinces — Xizang (Tibet) and Xinjiang? The vulnerable western flank of China is Moscow’s underbelly. America would obviously love to play a role in such a hugely strategic location.
It has for long been America’s desire to set up military bases in India — which has not been possible so far: Presidents have come and gone in Washington and Prime Ministers in New Delhi, but India has held fast to its fortress of sovereignty. Donald Trump, therefore, did not make any random, off-the-cuff comment. His words reflect the deep-rooted US geopolitical strategy and plan of action in India — just as a few centuries back British traders managed to turn themselves from being foreigners in India into foreigners ruling over India. The vast terrain’s multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic groups have usually been a comparatively easy target for penetration by determined foreigners on Indian soil.
Abhijit Bhattacharyya is an advocate practicing in the Supreme Court.
The views expressed here are personal.
Source: The Asian Age