Delhi marches to Bush tune
Senior Assistant Editor of The Times of
India, New Delhi
December 13, 2002
The national security strategy (NSS) of president
Bush, unveiled on September 20, has been seized by the
government of India to assert its own right to
"pre-emptive strikes". This is a qualitative leap from
the doctrine of deterrence. Yet the difference between
pre-emptive strike and deterrence has been blurred with
the declaration, on September 30, in Washington by Indian
finance minister Jaswant Singh that "Pre-emption or
prevention is inherent in deterrence".
This comes three days after Washington had asked India
to show restraint despite Pakistan continuing
cross-border terrorism, and underscores that New Delhi is
determined to make the most of the NSS report. This is
certain to heighten tension in the region especially with
hostile rhetoric being revived in the aftermath of the
attack on the Swaminarayan Temple complex in Gujarat on
September 24. "
Where there is deterrence there is pre-emption. The
same thing is there in Article 51 of the United Nations
Charter which calls it 'the right to self-defence',"
declared Singh after meeting US secretary of state Colin
Powell and policy planing director, Richard Haas. Singh,
who discussed the "doctrine" of pre-emption or prevention
with US officials, said, "It is not the prerogative of
any one country. Pre-emption is the right of any nation
to prevent injury to itself".
Although Singh is no longer at the helm of foreign
affairs - that portfolio being the charge of Yashwant
Sinha - his remarks echoing Colin Powell and Bush, and
extending the concept of pre-emptive strikes as a
prerogative of countries other than the United States has
implications for South Asia. Powell has already stated,
including before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
that pre-emptive strikes could be applied to terrorists
or to a country.
It is obvious what - or, which country - New Delhi has
in mind, especially when it has been reiterating that US
pressure on Pakistan has failed to end support for
terrorist attacks in India. India accuses Pakistan of
arming, training and sending terrorists across the border
to foment violence in India.
The fact that Singh should have said this while on an
entirely different mission as India's finance minister
exemplifies New Delhi's identity of views with the US in
military and security matters. As a result, the NSS, like
the National Missile Defence, far from lowering
temperatures in South Asia, will further aggravate
It would appear that Washington, despite making
Pakistan a staging ground for its war against terrorists
in Afghanistan, is strengthening strategic ties with New
Delhi. This partnership covers a range of areas from
defence training and equipment to intelligence and joint
A joint India-US naval exercise comprising over 750 US
personnel, that began on September 27, is now underway in
the Arabian Sea. Codenamed 'Exercise Malabar', it
involves, for the first time, a cruiser-destroyer group
of warships. The US ships involved are the Ticonderoga
class guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville, the
Spruance class destroyer USS Paul F Foster and a P-3C
patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. Indian participation
accounts for two warships, a submarine and a maritime
aircraft. The exercises covered a variety of skill areas
on which the two navies worked together.
This is a sequel to the first joint military exercise
- in more than 40 years, according to some reports -
between India and the US conducted in May 2002. The scene
for those war games, codenamed 'Balance Iroquois' , was
Agra - the venue for failed talks between prime minister
Vajpayee and president Musharraf.
These joint exercises reflect the growing miliary
cooperation between New Delhi and Washington, marking a
clear shift from ties that had prevailed during the Cold
War as well as in the years after that till the rise of
the Hindu nationalists to political power.
It is not a coincidence that the partnership should
grow so rapidly and extensively under a government which
harbours people known for their antipathy towards
Muslims. In fact, the development is something that the
ruling BJP, although then functioning as the Jana Sangh,
has aspired for since India's 1962 war with China.
While this may be a dream come true for a section of
the BJP leadership, it is bound generate nightmares in
"the world's most dangerous place".
TFF & the author 2002
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