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The Emperor's Visit: Whither India?

By Rajesh Ramakrishnan

27 February, 2006

The official invitation to President George Bush to visit India is a slap in the face of India's history of struggle against imperialism and has therefore evoked strong opposition from a sizeable section of Indians. The United States Government has a long history of imperialist aggression and war crimes against developing countries. The ravaging of Latin America and South East Asia, and the attack on Yugoslavia, are fresh in public memory. The barbaric attack on Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq are the bloodiest conflicts of our times. The cruel torture of Iraqi civilians by the US military in the prisons of Abu Ghraib has been beamed worldwide by the media. The recent call of the UN Human Rights Commission to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison camp confirms that torture and abuse are part of the US war machine, evoking memories of Nazi concentration camps. Resistance to this war and occupation is growing within the US and UK. The people of Iraq are still waging a heroic struggle for independence from occupation. The Bush Administration continues to use the September 11 incident to justify a global military onslaught to capture key resources, markets and strategic regions. The threat of military attack looms large over Cuba, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and now Iran. Falsely painting the Iranian civilian nuclear energy programme as a weapons programme, President Bush, who presides over the largest nuclear weapon stockpile in the world, is preparing for a military attack on Iran.

By the end of March 2006, US troops would have completed three years of occupation in Iraq. In this period, Iraq has been transformed into a brutalised and impoverished nation. Health care services have collapsed, and acute malnutrition among young Iraqi children has increased. One of the best education systems in the region has deteriorated. School attendance, particularly among girls, is at its lowest level. Iraq's new Constitution, prepared under the supervision of occupation forces, is a major setback to the high status of women in Iraqi society. In less than three years, peace between Iraq's diverse communities has been endangered due to imperialist machinations of `divide-and-rule'. A vibrant community of scientists, academics and prominent Iraqi politicians and intellectuals has been liquidated in cold blood by criminal elements supported by the occupation forces. In October 2004, the reputed British medical journal, the Lancet, published a conservative estimate of 100,000 Iraqis, mostly women and children, killed by U.S. forces between March 2003 and October 2004.

Why has the Government extended a red-carpet welcome to President Bush, knowing fully well this scandalous track record? The Government has displayed such keenness for a Presidential visit at a time when the world over, including in the United States itself, lakhs of people are demanding the trial of George Bush and Tony Blair for war crimes. But the sad truth is that today, an influential section of the Indian ruling elite aspires for a share of the global market and for domination over South and South-East Asia. In order to further its own aspirations of becoming a global power, this elite is cultivating close ties with the US Government, turning a blind eye to American imperialism. The series of Indo-US joint military exercises, the Indo-US nuclear agreement, and the recent vote against Iran at the IAEA, all exemplify this growing nexus. India's foreign policy is now characterised by hypocrisy and cant, and pretensions of being a responsible `Great Power', eerily similar to Noam Chomsky's description of US foreign policy. This is a betrayal of the great sacrifices of uncompromising freedom fighters like Khudiram Bose, Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, and Subhash Bose.

The attitude of the parliamentary parties to the visit of President Bush is out of step with that of popular opinion. The Congress, which was once the leader of the anti-colonial movement and non-alignment, has now aligned itself with American imperialism. The BJP, which strengthened the aspirations of the Indian elite with the 1998 nuclear tests and a strong pro-US tilt, is fully in favour of the Bush visit. The Left parties, whose support is crucial for the very existence of the UPA Government, did not even threaten to withdraw support to the UPA Government. Had they done so, the Congress would not have dared to invite President Bush. It appears that all the parliamentary parties have arrived at a tacit understanding that the Bush visit will be unhindered. It is the myriad small political formations, citizens' groups and civil society organisations opposing the Bush visit that are the true inheritors of India's anti-imperialist tradition. In the days leading up to the Bush visit, their principled opposition will unfortunately be ignored by the media, which is increasingly conditioned to rush after the hollow sound and fury of the official spokesmen of `big parties'.

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