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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Our investment in US has gone sour

By Swapan Dasgupta

The kerfuffle over the wages paid to the domestic help of Devyani Khobragade in New York may well have exposed the casual manner in which Indians in important posts sign official declarations. But what caused an individual dispute to a full-scale diplomatic conflict between India and the US was different.

Yes, there was outrage in the Indian Foreign Service that US authorities were picking on Indian diplomats and consular officials in furtherance of local political ambitions. The outrage was sufficient to nudge an otherwise sleepy Indian Government into reacting sharply to the US disregard for the Vienna Convention. But what tilted the scales in this case was the public humiliation of Devyani, particularly the fact that she was handcuffed and strip- searched.

In India, the convention, in similar cases of misdemeanour, was for the Government to request the concerned foreign mission to send their errant official home as soon as possible. There have been innumerable cases of diplomats misusing their liquor quotas or even the diplomatic bag to engage in antiques smuggling. Rarely, if ever, have such cases resulted in the errant diplomat spending a night in the local lock-up or being confronted with the complexities of a Patiala House court. Discreet conflict resolution has been the norm. 

The US has for long believed it is a case apart. Apart from believing, and often with some basis, that the single-minded objective of all peoples at all places was to immigrate to the New World, the US has also believed that it is both the moral guardian and the policeman of the world. Therefore, it feels it has the right to eavesdrop on the telephone calls of foreign political leaders,  prejudge the alleged human rights violations of Indian leaders, and decide which country has religious freedom and which country doesn’t. In the Devyani case, the US has displayed its belief that it is the sole arbiter of diplomatic privileges, and it has broadcast its right to ‘evacuate’ anyone from anywhere in the world, with scant regard for other people’s rule of law. 

While it may be comforting to know that US high-handedness is reasonably indiscriminate and not merely aimed at India, the Devyani incident has brought out the grim reality that Indo-US bilateral relations are not governed by reciprocity but tilted quite decisively in favour of the US. The much-publicised removal of barricades in front of the US Embassy may seem petty but it is an indication of the astonishing generosity India had shown in accommodating US concerns.

Showering the US with exceptional privileges was not an outcome of any special relationship India has with the US. Despite the special attempt made by former President George W Bush to upgrade Washington’s relationship with India, the past few years have seen bilateral relations become entirely an India preoccupation. India has invested disproportionately in bettering its relations with the US and allowed itself to be taken for granted.

In the past decade, US influence on critical areas of Indian life has grown exponentially, to the point where it appears distinctly unhealthy. From key bureaucrats who are only too keen to oblige American interests to senior generals who feel they can accept US honours without bothering to seek permission, the US today occupies a role in India that is akin to the hold of the Soviet Union in the India of the 1970s. Even institutions such as the media and academia are not spared from this over-weaning influence. And ‘strategic thinking’, such as it exists in India, has been completely mortgaged to US-based think-tanks. The ripple-effects of this can be discerned in our foreign policy.

The increasing hold of the US in public life could, arguably, have been justified if there was compelling evidence that Washington had thrown its considerable weight behind Indian concerns at a regional and global level. Unfortunately, this is far from being true. When it comes to India’s security, the US’s appreciation is significantly less than emphatic. In trying to extricate itself as painlessly as possible from Afghanistan, the US appears willing to overlook many of the transgressions of India’s neighbours. India, it would seem, matters to the US only as a business opportunity or as part of an unequal, no-question-asked friendship.

A possible reason why India has been taken for granted by the US stems from a belief that because India’s elite has too much of an interest in the US, it will not pursue national interests beyond a point. I fear the American calculations are right. The US has selectively obliged our decision-makers — through visas, green cards and scholarships to sons and daughters — to such an extent that it feels it can kick a diplomat or two or make them fall guys in a larger game.

Indeed the US and the over-zealous Indian-born prosector would have succeeded had it not been for the fact that Devyani was a Dalit woman, and that her prosecution coincided with some crazy judge sending Sonia Gandhi summons for a case relating to the 1984 riots. Belatedly, a supine Establishment felt it had to say enough is enough.

Sunday Pioneer, December 22, 2013

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

But the sabre-rattling should have been avoided. Looked pathetic.

Anonymous said...

your usual rant of, this & that, That & this, This & this and that & that.

Anonymous said...

A greatly illuminating article.

Prasanna S said...

Sir,
Ceteris paribus, the treatment given to Devyani is highly inappropriate. India should start strip-searching and cavity-searching the US politicians and officials too. This should be done "randomly" as they do in the US. Removing the security barricades around the US consulates in India is certainly not the way.

However, taking a different aspect of this row altogether, I wonder about the selection of candidates in our UPSC exam system for posts like the IAS, IPS, IFS and IRS. There are many examples of sons/daughters/relatives of "important" bureaucrats and politicians joining these "services". Our current speaker of Lok Sabha comes to mind instantly, though there are many others like that. Even Devyani Khobragade is the daughter of a IAS official from Maharashtra.

Is it possible that the UPSC candidate selection process itself, barring a top section of those qualified, is fraught with corruption? Otherwise, how can such things happen in a country of 1.3 billion population? Are there no candidates who would have been better than these? What are the odds of that taking place? There is one such scandal making highlights in my home state of Karnataka with the board members of KPSC being the culprits.

And once such candidates are selected, it should not be surprising that they will go on to compromise themselves and their country's interests. Allocation of housing in Adarsh housing in Mumbai to Devyani is only one such outcome.

No Mist said...

Someone shd ask why did make such huge investment in US in the first place. Why did we jeopardize our independence to such an extent that US treats India like a dormat.

But even more pertinent than "why" is "who". Who made Indian long term interests beholden to US whims ? Why bother with their motives if we know who did it. And if we have a chance to take corrective steps.

Moral of the story -- Vote for India !

Only one solution suffices for all of our ills -

Vote for India !

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a cliche but Indians cannot seem to overcome their colonised mindset. First a colony of the British and now a colony of America. The Russians and the Chinese deal with the US in a more muscular fashion. But then their elite is not beholden to the US (especially the Russian elite) as is the Indian elite which is utterly and totally compromised.

But worse than the Indian elite is the Indian so-called "intelligentsia" which continues to genuflect to every Western intellectual fashion there is (including ranting against so-called "fascism" - something which has no relevance to India).

If Modi can and does win, it will be the healthiest development in the history of independent India. He is everything that the current Indian establishment is not. This may explain why he bothers the US so much. They won't have a stooge to play around with any more.

Anonymous said...

The man the Indian elite should learn from is Vladimir Putin. That is truly a man worth admiring for those who still believe in country and have a sense of patriotism. And yes the West hates him of course. Any one who does not follow the West's endless dictates on homosexual marriage and so-called "morality" is going to be hated. But he is a hard man and a difficult customer for the West. But he is not a reflexive hater of the West like the Iranian mullahs or Khomeini.

GOBECHARA said...

Reprisal? Hit them where it hurts most, give asylum to Snowden!

Anonymous said...

My comment is not about Devyani Khobraghade.

However rabidly jingoistic Indians ought not to forget Indians' unhealthy & obnoxious tendency to totally identify with their positions held in high places.

Now that talks of moving her to UN blah blah are going on I have something interesting to share.

My faux husband S.N.Ramachandran a CFO in Kuwait (Fouad Alghanim Industries) driving a company given German Auddy with a FORGED birth certificate (in passport too)(965-97201449) has a battalion of uber rich equally arrogant cousins. One of them is one Ramesh who worked in Telco & was guzzling beer bottles in dozens , gallivanting around in taxi when he came to Calcutta allegedly on official duty thus billing everything to TELCO company. Another was some marine engineer. Lots of sisters too. One among them had a husband who worked in FAO Vienna Austria once upon a time. So she always carried herself with unspeakable hauteur as everyone called her "Vienna R".
Much more than IIT & IIM arrogance
put together.

When my faux husband's nephew called Anand one useless alcoholic thoroughly ill bred son of an equally ill bred father S.N.Bhaskaran got married to a girl in Bangalore these people threw their weight around (typical groom's party opprobrious conduct).

Even after being given free meals by the bride's father Vienna Raji(long retired from that UN job), my faux husband cfo S.N.Ramachandran , S.N.Bhaskaran my sisters in law (owning too much of money , gold , diamonds , silks, own palatial houses more than 2 cars etc) started screaming orders like:-

" Where are Mysore Bondas , Bisibela Baath , xyz ....we want ovaltine , tea , boost , filter coffee , ragi malt for the diabetics ....how could you treat us like beggars serving only lunch & dinner cancelling these items at 4 in the evening".

Soon after marriage the bride summoned her father to Chennai where she had started her "married life" with the alcoholic Anand & left for GOOD.

Predictably they slandered her as the guilty person. Soon started looking for another sucker to become Anand's second wife. Fortunately could not get one.

Recently I heard that useless Anand boasting :-

" I am now working in Lal-Bazar Police Station assisting them in crime busting".

When I asked him if he had cracked the murder of my teacher Sulochana Chari of National High School he said:-

" Why investigate..the dead are not going to come back..so might as well close the case".

I wonder if he knows his own mother Geetha ( S.N.Bhaskaran's wife) died due to wanton & callous negligence & ill treatment by his father & his parents. Makes no difference. As the day she died & throughout those 13 days of official mourning all of them spent their days & nights watching movies , chitrahaar & soaps on television.

Columnists flexed their muscles unfairly maligning America using cliches like Uncle Sam , Uncle Tom impertinently going back to napalm yada yada.

I see no great future for Indians as the quality of Indians by & large is so despicable.

Americans are far superior & more HONEST. And SINCERE.

Anonymous said...

Correction.

Not FAO.

'Vienna' Raji's husband worked in one of the bodies of UN in Vienna for some years.