Uncle Sam and the Indian Left on the Same Page
The Naxal Problem
I must confess to be rather serenly unsurprised by the Wikileaks pertaining to India.
This for the reason that for the most part in everything we have seen revealed thus far, the US embassy cables emphatically confirm all the main coordinates of the critique that the Indian Left has been voicing through the life of the two UPA regimes (2004 to date). Be it the shifts in India’s foreign policy, or defence and security related issues, or the broad preferences of economic doctrine, at every point the criticisms voiced by the Left can be now seen to have been not Pavlovian reflexes shorn of content but indeed borne out everywhere as facts. And official denials just pathetic and disingenuous refusals of the truth.
The Iran vote in the IAEA in September, 2005, the plethora of Defence-related purchase and the many US dictated stipulations accompanying such purchase, or the close embrace of the US and Israeli security agencies and apparatuses, the sharing of Intelligence and access given to spooky outfits to innermost Indian sanctorums, or Cabinet reshuffles (including the shameful ouster of Mani Shankar Aiyar from the Petroleum ministry and his substitution by the US- corporate friendly Murli Deoria) effected by Manmohan Singh, the Wikileaks lay out a scenario of capitulation that the Left has been repeatedly underscoring.
Here is what the cables gloss on some of these episodes:
on the Iran vote: “the most important signal so far of the UPA’s commitment to building a stronger US-India relationship”;
same with respect to coordinating policy towards Nepal, Srilanka, Bangladesh;
on the Cabinet reshuffle: “the net result of the reshuffle, however, is a cabinet that is likely to be excellent for US goals in India (and Iran)”; further: “viewing this reshuffle as shift towards the US, the Left has become more alienated from the Congress and more determined to obstruct UPA’s economic liberalization and foreign policy initiatives, all but ensuring political fireworks in the months ahead.” In passing, also the remark that Indian officials are “loathe to admit that India and US have begun coordinating foreign policies”; and the other predictable revelation that the BJP at the topmost levels of leadership had been keen to reassure the Americans that the latter need not take to heart the party’s noises against the nuclear deal, since these noises were mainly for “public consumption”; the BJP confiding to the US embassy that once in power they had no intention to review the nuclear deal or deviate from a close strategic relationship with America.
So why do I choose to comment at all? For the reason that the leaks (The Hindu, March, 24) have indeed let out one monumental surprise, a rarest of the rare convergence of the understanding of the Indian Left and the American establishment on the question of India’s Maoist problem.
Amazingly, the cables on this question underline the following diagnostics:
--that the Naxalite insurgency issues directly from the continuing feudal oppressions of relegated populations in the Indian hinterland;
--and that ending gratuitous state violence, enacting extensive land reforms, and dismantling the feudal power structures in the affected 12 states where such insurgency rages can alone help tackle the problem, rather than a cussed law-and-order and police approach.
Unbelievably, cable 47006: confidential) has this to record:
“India’s scheduled tribes, and scheduled castes who live in these remote
areas, often face lives of desperation and view Naxalites as the only
groups willing to defend them.”
“Most tribals have little or no faith that the GOI will protect them, and
over time may see little alternative but to turn to the Maoists as the best
of a bad set of choices.”
This for the reason that “There is little sign that the GOI is willing to take such steps” (namely, dismantle feudal power structures that expropriate and oppress the tribals and other disenfranchised communities.)
I doubt me that either Arundhati Roy or this writer has put the case any differently, or that India’s organized Left has said anything on the question that is at variance with the US embassy’s forthright and stunningly objective analysis of the problem.
Never mind that the neo-liberal economic policies that the American establishment wishes India to embrace without the least squeamishness lie at the heart of the exacerbated oppression the embassy cable speaks of, for when it comes to exploiting the forest resources, or water resources or other customary habitats that the tribal societies have lived with and on for millennia, and to which they have a “natural” right, the corporate imperialists are happily one with India’s own corporate marauders in pushing the Indian state to facilitate such expropriation and exploitation without a thought to how the tribals feel or react. After all, one only has to remember the indigenous and foreign mining mafias who have ravaged and seek to ravage these resources regardless of the stipulatons of the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Indian Constitution which enjoin the State to ensure that such wealth, and indeed all wealth, is progressively so controlled and distributed as to benefit not the marauders but the people at large rather than be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands (Article 39). Which is precisely what we have seen happening since especially the commitment that India made to the “covenant” called the Washington Consensus (1990).
And yet we have the cable I have cited above.
Our simple poser to the GOI then is this: for once we will applaud you to the echo which will applaud back if, forgetting that the likes of the Left in India have made the same diagnoses and offered the same course of action as the embassy cable (dismantle feudal structures of power, give up the police/militarist approach, return what belongs to the tribals, and encourage the politics of inclusive control and participation in good faith), you were now in this one instance to embrace the counsel so rendered by accredited agents of your strategic partner, and make a drastic reformlation of your equation with the hinterland without which the Maoist insurgency may not be negated for long times to come.
The cable clearly tells you that “the Indian state and the GOI is unlikely to eradicate Naxalism through police action. The most likely prospect is a continuing and bloody stalemate.” Think that we of the Indian Left never said so, and that you heard this for the first time from your strategic partner. Then, as you have done in most other matters, follow the advice and do the needful.
We will join you in the tea party and shake hands with uncle Sam with pleasure.