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Globalisation Or Militarist Imperialism? India Must Choose

By Rohini Hensman

19 November, 2007

The Indo-US nuclear deal

Opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal has come from
three distinct quarters, but the reasons for
opposition overlap. The main complaint of the
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the deal is that
it will open up part of India's nuclear programme to
international scrutiny and compromise 'India's
sovereign right to decide the future development of
our nuclear weapons programme as per our own
independent assessment of our national security
needs'.[1] This objection could be removed by
assurances that only the civilian part of India's
nuclear programme would be subjected to international
monitoring while the military part would remain
outside the orbit of International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) inspections. It is not, therefore, a
serious obstacle to the deal being pushed through at
some point in the future.

For the Left parties, the nuclear deal is only one
link in the new strategic partnership being forged by
India with the US and Israel. This would be an unequal
partnership, one that makes India subservient to US
foreign policy objectives; for example, the Hyde Act,
which is binding on the US, specifies that the export
of nuclear fuel and technology to India would depend
on India's foreign policy being congruent with that of
the US, and on India joining in US efforts to isolate
and sanction Iran.[2] There is prima facie evidence to
support this claim. US legislator Tom Lantos went out
of his way to emphasise that the nuclear deal would be
in trouble if India did not vote with the US in the
IAEA in September 2005, and to pat India on the back
when it gave in to the demand. And in January 2006, US
Ambassador to India David Mulford made a similar
threat that the deal might run into problems unless
India voted with the US in the IAEA meeting the
following month, and India complied. Yet prior to the
2005 vote, in which India supported a motion indicting
Iran for non-compliance with Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT) safeguards, the Foreign Ministry had said
that 'finding Iran non-compliant is not justified,'[3]
and in 2006, India had declared beforehand that it
would abstain in the vote.[4] Lest there be any doubt
whatsoever that arm-twisting was going on, former US
Assistant Secretary for International Security and
Non-Proliferation Stephen Rademaker declared at a
meeting on 15 February 2007 at the Institute for
Defence Studies and Analyses, 'I am the first to admit
that the votes were coerced'.[5]

The objections to the nuclear deal on this score are
serious. At a time when the US and Israel have been
guilty of causing millions of civilian deaths in
Palestine, Afghanistan Iraq and Lebanon, in clear
violation of international law,[6] an alliance with
the Bush regime would be analogous to an alliance with
Nazi Germany somewhere in the middle of World War II.
And it gets worse. Vociferous claims emanating from
Washington that Iran has a nuclear weapons programme
and is arming terrorists in Iraq (despite denials
coming from those who ought to know, such as IAEA
chief Mohamed El Baradei and the Iraqi government), a
military build-up which could only be aimed at Iran,
and recent punitive sanctions against the country by
the US, all produce a sense of déjà vu: similar action
was taken in the run-up to the attack on Iraq.[7]
There can be no doubt that Bush, Cheney and others in
the current administration are determined to attack
Iran militarily, although the majority of people in
the US and high-ranking military personnel oppose such
a step.[8]

In moral, ethical and legal terms, such an attack
would be a massive crime, yet an India bound by its
obligations under the nuclear deal would willy-nilly
become an accomplice to it. Indeed, India is already
complicit in the build-up to the crime due to its two
votes against Iran in the IAEA, but so long as it
retains its freedom, could make amends for this lapse
by opposing any sanctions whatsoever unless and until
there is decisive proof of serious wrongdoing on the
part of Iran, and opposing military attack and/or
sanctions that would hurt civilians under any
circumstances. Such evidence of independence would
also enhance India's standing in the international
arena. There is a lack of respect - an assumption that
India is in a subordinate position - which is
humiliating and insulting in the way that the US has
ordered India to vote against Iran and refrain from
going ahead with the gas pipeline deal with that
country. If India is regarded as nothing more than a
stooge of the US, its ambitions of a permanent seat at
the UN Security Council would not be supported by many

The second major objection by the Left parties to the
nuclear deal is that its tacit endorsement of India's
nuclear weapons programme would upset the regional
balance of power, souring relations between India and
its neighbours, and spurring a nuclear arms race with
Pakistan and even China. This, too, is a serious
objection. In recent years there have been moves to
resolve long-standing border disputes between India
and its neighbours, which, if taken to a successful
conclusion, would result in a significant reduction in
the militarisation of India's borders with Pakistan
and China. But both these countries have expressed
reservations about the nuclear deal, suggesting there
could be a reversal of this process, especially if the
US uses India to pursue its objective of surrounding
China and Russia with hostile bases. In seeming
contradiction to this objection, however, the Left
parties also oppose what they see as interference with
India's sovereign right to make decisions on its
nuclear weapons programme.[9] This objection overlaps
with that of the BJP.

The objections of anti-nuclear groups overlap with
those of the Left parties in their opposition to
India's foreign policy being subordinated to US
objectives and to the exacerbation of regional
tensions. But they go much further. On the issue of
energy security, they see the deal as having a
negative impact. While the deal could, at most, raise
the contribution of nuclear energy from 3 per cent to
7-9 per cent of India's needs by 2020, the resulting
power would be extremely expensive, even more so if
the cost of uranium continues to rise as expected.
Furthermore, there would always be the threat of a
catastrophic accident, and the problem of the disposal
of nuclear waste - which remains radioactive for
thousands of years - has never been solved. Indeed,
with many developed countries moving away from nuclear
power, it seems anomalous that India should be moving
into it: something like a throw-back to the days when
India accepted the obsolete technology of more
advanced capitalist countries. The same investment in
clean, renewable sources of energy like small hydro,
solar, wind and wave power - which now produce more
electricity worldwide than nuclear energy - would
ensure a safer, cheaper and more sustainable energy
supply in the future.

The minimal or possibly negative contribution of the
deal to energy security leads to suspicions that the
real purpose of the deal, for India, is to endorse its
status as a nuclear weapons power and allow all
domestically produced uranium to be used for nuclear
weapons production. On this issue, the objections of
anti-nuclear groups are the very opposite of those of
both the BJP and Left parties: not that India should
have the sovereign right to control its nuclear
weapons programme, but that India should press for
immediate measures which would lead to global nuclear
disarmament; measures that would, of course, involve a
regime of international monitoring. The terms of the
deal, on the contrary, could provide an impetus to
other proliferators by tacitly endorsing the nuclear
proliferation practised by India, and make the goal of
nuclear disarmament even more distant than it is now.

Mis-defining Globalisation

It is an irony that both supporters of globalisation
like members of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)
government in power, and opponents of it like the Left
parties, seem to concur in accepting Thomas Friedman's
definition of globalisation as neoliberalism backed by
the military might of US imperialism.[10] Yet a
moment's thought reveals this to be a terribly
incoherent, muddled definition. Neoliberalism is
supposed to be marked by the more or less complete
withdrawal of the state from interference in the
market, while imperialism constitutes the most
heavy-handed state support for its national capitalism
that can be imagined. Clearly, the two are not
compatible, and defining globalisation in this manner
renders it meaningless.

A much more useful definition of globalisation
characterises it as a new stage of capitalism emerging
out of imperialism, and distinguished from all
previous epochs by (a) the existence of Information
and Communication Technologies which allow capital to
operate worldwide in a way that had not been possible
before; (b) a gradual reversal of the distortion of
Third World economies imposed by imperialism, and
reintegration of key Second and Third World countries
into the capitalist world economy on a more equal
basis; (c) a dynamic sector of capital which depends
not on the support of a nation-state for its
expansion, nor on rigid national borders to protect it
from imports, but on porous borders and global
regulation that will allow it to expand globally; and
(d) the growing dominance of new financial
institutions, especially pension funds. Globalisation,
according to this definition, began to emerge in the
middle of the 20th century with the struggles for
independence and national liberation in the Third
World, and progressed further as some of the largest
of these countries industrialised.

From the standpoint of this definition, the US has
never been a proponent of globalisation, since global
regulation depends on multilateralism and a more
democratic world order based on equality and mutual
respect between peoples. On the contrary, the doctrine
of US exceptionalism, which proclaims that the US must
not be subject to the same rules and regulations that
govern the rest of the world, and the practice of
imperialism, which has marked the conduct of the US
from its birth to the present, mark the US out as the
greatest obstacle to globalisation. The assumption of
a God-given right to invade and occupy countries like
Afghanistan and Iraq, and slaughter millions of
civilians in them in blatant violation of
international law, is one way in which this attitude
manifests itself. The presence of US military bases
throughout the world and the ubiquitous presence of
the CIA is another. The allegations against Iran
provide clear illustrations of US exceptionalism. Iran
is accused of wanting to produce nuclear weapons, yet
the US, which has the biggest nuclear arsenal in the
world, is the only country that has ever used nuclear
weapons, and is currently using Depleted Uranium
weapons and developing its own nuclear arsenal, is
somehow supposed to be exempt from criticism. (Other
nuclear weapons states voting against Iran are guilty
of similar hypocrisy.) Iran is also accused of sending
fighters into Iraq, yet the US, which has hundreds of
thousands of regular and irregular fighters in Iraq
who are terrorising and killing the civilian
population, is again miraculously absolved of all
blame. Clearly, the same laws that apply to other
countries are not supposed to apply to the US.

By and large, the US prefers to fight proxy wars by
installing, funding and arming collaborators; US
troops are sent in only when this strategy fails.
Likewise, it prefers to bribe and bully 'allies' to
support it in the UN, and attacks unilaterally only
when this strategy fails. But there can be no doubt
that this is imperialism. As John Perkins describes
it, 'So we make this big loan, most of it comes back
to the United States, the country is left with the
debt plus lots of interest, and they basically become
our servants, our slaves. It's an empire. There's no
two ways about it. It's a huge empire. It's been
extremely successful.' However, 'When the economic hit
men fail in this scenario, the next step is what we
call the jackals. Jackals are CIA-sanctioned people
that come in and try to foment a coup or revolution.
If that doesn't work, they perform assassinations, or
try to.So the third line of defense, if the economic
hit men and the jackals fail, the next line of defense
is our young men and women, who are sent in to die and
kill, which is what we've obviously done in Iraq.'[11]
As this quotation suggests, the IMF and World Bank,
both controlled by the US, have been involved in the
'economic hit men' strategy. On the other hand the US
relationship with the WTO, a multilateral body with a
one-country-one-vote constitution, has been much
cooler, and sometimes even hostile.

Militarism played a positive role for capitalism when
it was still in the process of expanding
geographically, helping it to conquer new territories.
And in an epoch when capital depended heavily on the
state to secure or expand national borders, military
spending could be seen as an asset even in countries
like India, although the use of taxes to fund military
expenditure has always been at the expense of social
spending. In the epoch of globalisation, however,
military expenditure becomes a drag on the economy.
The products of investment in infrastructure,
technology and capital goods come back into production
and boost productivity; likewise, investment in the
labour force, in the form of higher wages and social
spending, also comes back in the form of a healthier,
better-educated workforce. But the product of military
expenditure never comes back into production, and thus
cannot enhance capital accumulation once capitalism no
longer needs to expand geographically.

Militarism contributed to the fact that productivity
in the US lagged far behind productivity in Japan and
Germany in the 1990s;[12] more recently, massive
expenditure on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,[13]
plus billions of dollars of military aid to Israel,
have led the US economy to virtual collapse. As one
American analyst put it after the subprime mortgage
crisis broke, 'There are no quick-fixes or "silver
bullets" as Bush likes to say. It'll take years to dig
ourselves out of this mess. In the meantime, there's
little to look forward to except the steady weakening
of the dollar, the persistent decline in housing and
the looming police-state apparatus that's supposed to
keep us in line while the soup kitchens open.'[14]

Big-Power Status versus Democracy

It should be abundantly clear, then, that far from
leading the rest of the world into a more democratic
epoch of globalisation, the US is an imperialist
dinosaur in its death-throes, the last of a species
facing extinction. If India, in a quest for big-power
status via recognition as a nuclear weapons power,
gets entangled with it at this stage, it risks being
dragged down too; after all, the dire predicament in
which Pakistan finds itself, caught between military
and fundamentalist authoritarianism, is partly due to
the close strategic embrace in which it has been held
by the US, which from the late 1970s used the ISI to
sponsor Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh can rest assured that rejection of the
nuclear deal is not synonymous with rejection of his
globalisation policies; on the contrary, it can be
argued that pushing globalisation forward demands
rejection of the deal (which would set India back by
over sixty years to a time when it was still dominated
by imperialism) and commitment to a programme of
democratisation both domestically and internationally.
At the same time, the Left parties should note that
their nationalistic opposition to globalisation also
fits into a nation-statist vision of the world that is
eminently compatible with imperialism and militarism.
The internationalism that forms the basis of genuine
Marxist politics has no place for such nationalism.

While neoliberalism, which channels wealth away from
the poor and into the pockets of the rich, can coexist
with globalisation in its intial stages, it soon
becomes an impediment. Luxury consumption, like
military spending, constitutes a deduction from
capital accumulation, by channelling money away from
investment in improving productivity and the quality
of the labour force. Thus if economic progress is to
be sustained, the expansion of social spending becomes
mandatory, and there is ample scope for this in India.
A recent ranking on the Global Hunger Index showed
India's rank as 96, behind Pakistan (at 88) and Sri
Lanka (at 69), and far behind China (at 47).[15] India
also leads the world in the number of women dying in
childbirth: 117,000 in 2005, constituting a maternal
mortality ratio (MMR) of 450 deaths per 100,000 live
births; Pakistan's MMR was 320, Sri Lanka's 58, and
China's 45 - one tenth of India's.[16]

Apart from all the human misery and sorrow these
figures represent, they also point to a colossal waste
of human resources that a globalising economy can ill
afford. Moreover, they suggest that employers and the
government in India are still operating with a
pre-globalisation model of an economy where domestic
mass markets are not important. In a globalised world,
the size of India's mass market would be an asset,
attracting investment from both domestic and foreign
investors, but developing this asset would entail
raising wages and living standards on a large scale.
This has been done in China, resulting not only in
much better Human Development statistics but also in
making it a more attractive investment destination
than India.[17] The passage of the National Rural
Employment Guarantee Act by the UPA government is a
step in the right direction, but it is only one of
many steps that need to be taken.

Lakhs of women dying in childbirth and millions of
people going hungry in a supposedly prosperous country
suggests a democracy deficit that also shows up in
other areas. The Tehelka sting operation video-taping
perpetrators of the Gujarat carnage of 2002 boasting
of their crimes[18] does not reveal much that we did
not know already; what is truly shocking about it is
the absolute confidence of the genocidists in their
own impunity. If legal action against people who are
known to have organised the mass rape and mass murder
of Muslims in Gujarat has not been taken before
because it was claimed that sufficient evidence was
lacking, this excuse can no longer be made, nor is
there any space left for denial of what happened: that
is Tehelka's biggest achievement. The UPA's democratic
credentials would be in serious doubt if it does not
form an electoral alliance with the courageous groups
and parties that have been fighting the fascist state
in Gujarat, on a programme of restoring democracy and
the rule of law and providing justice to the victims
of discrimination, persecution and violence. Since the
Modi government has suppressed the Tehelka tapes, they
ought to be shown widely, and the argument made that
those who still vote for his party become accomplices
in its crimes by doing so.

Gujarat may be the most extreme example of the
subversion of democracy in India, yet similar
subversion is occurring elsewhere. In Gujarat, dozens
of Muslims accused of setting a coach of the Sabarmati
Express on fire and put in jail under the Prevention
of Terrorism Act (POTA) still remain incarcerated,[19]
despite the repeal of POTA and forensic reports that
have concluded the fire was set from inside the coach,
where there were no Muslims, and not from outside as
alleged against the detainees.[20] In exactly the same
manner, after every case of bomb blasts, including
many where Muslims are the target, innocent Muslims
are rounded up, illegally incarcerated and tortured,
and this is happening in Congress-ruled states like
Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.[21] Meanwhile,
Hindutva terrorist networks associated with the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu
Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal are not properly
investigated,[22] leading to the suspicion that the
real perpetrators of several terrorist attacks are
being allowed to get away scot free and continue with
their dirty work. While Muslims accused of
perpetrating the Bombay bomb blasts, and even others
like Sanjay Dutt who were not involved in them, were
handed draconian sentences, Hindu perpetrators of the
pogroms of 1992-93, in which many more were killed,
continue to roam free, despite the evidence against
them in the Srikrishna Commission Report. Equality
before the law and equal protection of the law,
guaranteed in the Indian Constitution, are the sine
qua non of democracy, yet it clearly has not been
applied in these cases. Unless communalism in the
police and other state security forces, other
investigative and law enforcement agencies, and even,
sometimes, in the judiciary is addressed, democracy in
India continues to be flawed. The UPA government has
taken an important step in strengthening democracy by
passing the Right to Information Act, but a great deal
more remains to be done.

Finally, if India wishes to be a respected member of
the international community, it would need to uphold
international law. This would entail working with
other countries to outlaw weapons of mass destruction
(chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, including
Depleted Uranium weapons), as well as weapons that
target civilians, such as land mines and cluster
bombs, all of which violate international law by
failing to confine their effects to military targets.
Obviously this would imply halting the nuclear
weaponisation programme in India. It would also entail
opposition to all instances of aggression, defined by
the UN in 1974 as follows: 'Article 1: Aggression is
the use of armed force by a State against the
sovereignty, territorial integrity or political
independence of another State.Article 3: Any of the
following acts, regardless of a declaration of war,
shall.qualify as an act of aggression: (a) The
invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of
the territory of another State, or any military
occupation, however temporary, resulting from such
invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of
force of the territory of another State or part
thereof, (b) Bombardment by the armed forces of a
State against the territory of another State or the
use of any weapons by a State against the territory of
another State; (c) The blockade of the ports or coasts
of a State by the armed forces of another State; (d)
An attack by the armed forces of a State on the land,
sea or air forces, or marine and air fleets of another
State;..Article 5: 1. No consideration of whatever
nature, whether political, economic, military or
otherwise, may serve as a justification for
aggression. 2. A war of aggression is a crime against
international peace.3. No territorial acquisition or
special advantage resulting from aggression is or
shall be recognized as lawful.' Both the US and Israel
have repeatedly been guilty of this crime, condemned
by the Nuremburg Tribunal as 'the supreme
international crime differing only from other war
crimes in that it contains within itself the
accumulated evil of the whole,' and India needs to
voice its condemnation of such acts.

It is easy to understand why the current US
administration is so desperate to seal a strategic
alliance with India, at a time when Pakistan, its
traditional ally in South Asia, appears to be
faltering. For India, however, the deal would be a
disaster. Backing out of it under pressure from public
opinion may be embarrassing, but not shameful; on the
contrary, it is the only democratic option. Going
through with it, on the other hand, would be
detrimental to India in the multifarious ways outlined
above. Clearly, the democratic option is both the
wisest and the only honourable one.


[1] Sudheendra Kulkarni, 'The myth being sold about
nuclear bijlee,' The Sunday Express, 28 October 2007
[2] Kamal Mitra Chenoy and Anuradha M. Chenoy,
"India's Foreign Policy Shifts and the Calculus of
Power,' Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.XLII no.35,
1-7 September 2007, pp.3547-54
[3] Praful Bidwai, 'The loser in Iran vote,' Khaleej
Times, 2 October 2005
[4] Reuters, 'India plans to abstain from Iran vote,', 31 January 2006,

[5] Siddharth Varadarajan interviewed by Abbas Edalat,
'US coercion of India against Iran at IAEA,' Znet, 19
March 2007,

[6] For a summary of the evidence, see Gideon Polya,
'Two Million Iraq Deaths, Eight Million Bush Asian
Holocaust Deaths and Media Holocaust Denial,', 7 October 2007, - this
estimate includes excess deaths during the Clinton
[7] The evidence is summarised by Peter Symonds in
'More Warnings of a US War on Iran,' World Socialist
Web Site, 29 October 2007,

[8] It has been speculated that the mysterious
transportation of six missiles with nuclear warheads
across the US in violation of all the rules, and the
equally mysterious deaths of many servicemen who might
have had information about it, could be linked to
resistance from the military to an attack on Iran. See

[9] Chenoy and Chenoy, Ibid.
[10] Thomas L.Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree:
Understanding Globalization, Farrar, Strauss and
Giroux, New York, 1999
[11] John Perkins, interviewed by Amy Goodman about
his book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man: How the
US uses Globalization to Cheat Poor Countries Out of
Trillions (Barrett-Kohler, San Francisco, 2004), 9
November 2004,

[12] Seymour Melman, After Capitalism: From
Managerialism to Workplace Democracy, Alfred A. Knopf,
New York, 2001, pp.110-14, 124-26)
[13] The literally useless character of much
expenditure on the occupation is described amusingly
in 'The Great Iraq Swindle: How Bush Allowed an Army
of For-Profit Contractors to Invade the US Treasury,'
Rolling Stone Magazine, 23 August 2007, which
concludes, 'According to the most reliable estimates,
we have doled out more than $500 billion for the war,
as well as $44 billion for the Iraqi reconstruction
effort. And what did America's contractors give us for
that money? They built big steaming shit piles, set
brand-new trucks on fire, drove back and forth across
the desert for no reason at all and dumped bags of
nails in ditches.'

[14] Mike Whitney, 'Plummeting Dollar, Credit Crunch,', 15 Sepember 2007

[16] Kounteya Sinha, 'India reports maximum no of
childbirth deaths,' The Times of India, 16 October
[17] Global Business Policy Council, FDI Confidence
Audit: India, A.T.Kearney Inc., USA, February 2001
[18] Gujarat 2002: The Truth in the Words of the Men
Who Did It, Tehelka Special Issue, 3 November 2007
[19] Yoginder Sikhand, 'Godhra, Gujarat: POTA-affected
Families Struggle to Survive,', 4
October 2007,
[20] 'Forensic report disputes Godhra fire theory,'
The Hindu, 15 July 2004; Asghar Ali Engineer, 'Godhra
Train Burning Incident and Banerjee Report,'
Communalism Watch, 1 February 2005,

[21] Harsh Mander, 'The Marked People,' Hindustan
Times, 25 October 2007
[22] Shashwat Gupta Ray, 'Nanded Blast: The Hindu
Hand,' Tehelka, 30 December 2006


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