Aug 2, 2019
India is a
good business location for high-profile American individuals who
institutionally represent their country too.
President Donald Trump’s newfound interest in India’s politico-economic
geography — with special focus on Kashmir — serves both his own interests as
well as his country’s national interest. On the former, one clear example of
high-stakes individual interest in India can be gleaned from the SMS received
by several Delhi cellphone users: “Trump Tower Delhi/NCR — Gurgaon. 3/4 BHK
ultra-luxury apartments and the most prestigious address. Starts at Rs 5.2 Crores
onwards.” Assuming that one “Trump Tower” consists of at least a hundred flats,
the cost cannot be less than Rs 520 Crores; and if one takes into account
various taxes, levies and other deductions, the net profit won’t be less than
Rs 100 Crores for just one of Mr Trump’s India projects. As the US President
reportedly has several ongoing (real estate) projects in this country, the
supervision of which is done by his own family members, the overlapping
cocktail-interest of individuals and institutions of the United States is
visible. India is a good business location for high-profile American
individuals who institutionally represent their country too.
the actual area of interest for the US is broader and deeper than what meets
the eye. America’s ambitions, strategy and plan, in the aftermath of the Second
World War, are invariably global. Being still the sole superpower, it feels the
world falls under its “command”, and it has “deployable bases” across
continents. The US Navy rules supreme across the world’s oceans, with its Army,
Air Force and Marines ready to act in support whenever necessary. Not for
nothing was its defence budget in 2018 equal to $643.3 billion, as reported by
Military Balance, London (2019), which outstrips the combined defence budgets
of 15 countries, including China ($168.2 billion); Russia ($63.1 billion);
India ($57.9 billion); Britain ($56.1 billion) and France ($53.4 billion).
despite the formidable US firepower and global presence in every nook and
corner of the planet, America feels insecure. As depicted by Harlem K. Ullman
in his book Anatomy of Failure — Why America Loses Every War It Starts” (2017),
the author makes a few pertinent points: “For more than half a century, America
has lost every war it started. Likewise, America has also failed in the
military interventions it has initiated — interventions undertaken for reasons
that turned out to be misinformed, contrived, baseless, ignorant, or just wrong”.
Ullman is scathing, saying: “Presidents, politicians and the public have failed
to grasp this simple truth”. How then can the impressionable President Donald
Trump break with this tradition?
come as little surprise, therefore, to all non-Western countries, including
India, that what the US President utters cannot be the gospel truth; being as
far from reality as can be found in the dissenting voices of the American
establishment itself. Nevertheless, nothing is more important for the US President
than to project his purported national self-interest, even if it contains an
illusory objective. America’s interests are multi-directional and
multi-dimensional. What is visible is the arrogance of the sole superpower,
which cannot take “no” for an answer from any nation. Do you remember the
immediate post 9/11 period? “If you are not with us, you are against us!” How
Pakistan’s then “President” Pervez Musharraf was “threatened” by the US to
either submit unconditionally, fight “terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan”,
or see his country get “bombed and banished back into the Stone Age”?
the present Kashmir scenario, in the US government’s eyes, appears to have
emerged from the upgraded India-US defence hardware cooperation and
commerce-related demands by Washington, which has given Mr Trump a definite
upper hand. In fact, the world over, whenever and wherever the US has supplied
weapons, it has extracted its pound of flesh from importing countries, imposing
stringent conditions pertaining to hardware end-use, under US supervision or
control, both direct and indirect. The recent induction of US non-fighter
aircraft into the Indian Air Force and the logistics pact have made India more
dependent on the United States than ever before.
American military has consistently failed in its missions in Asia ever since
the victory over Japan in the Second World War. From Korea in the immediate
post-war period, to Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, it has been a sorry
track record. It is still failing to penetrate the Asian mainland — look at
China, India, Iran, Asiatic Russia, North Korea… Yet, with the exception of
Germany (37,950 soldiers), some of its biggest troop deployments have been in
Asia — Japan (53,900); South Korea (28,500); Afghanistan (16,475) and Kuwait
the increasing Sino-Russian bonhomie and a “soft” India’s propensity to
continue its “nonaligned” ways — keeping all its options open — annoys the US
no end. In American eyes, Kashmir is no longer a bilateral issue. There is no
doubt a lot of truth in this — this columnist has held that view for long.
Kashmir is in the thick of a global geopolitical power play — not least due to
India’s inability to keep China out of it. It all began with J&K’s
accession to India, but could never be fully accomplished. To make matters
worse, China entered from the east (Aksai Chin) and now operates deep inside
Gilgit-Baltistan, using the CPEC as a pretext. The entire world is aware of
if there are already three players involved in the Kashmir issue — India,
Pakistan and China — what really is the harm if the United States comes in as
the fourth? In the vicinity of 10 landlocked countries (Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan,
Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Nepal,
Bhutan) and two of China’s most turbulent landlocked provinces — Xizang (Tibet)
and Xinjiang? The vulnerable western flank of China is Moscow’s underbelly.
America would obviously love to play a role in such a hugely strategic location.
It has for
long been America’s desire to set up military bases in India — which has not
been possible so far: Presidents have come and gone in Washington and Prime
Ministers in New Delhi, but India has held fast to its fortress of sovereignty.
Donald Trump, therefore, did not make any random, off-the-cuff comment. His
words reflect the deep-rooted US geopolitical strategy and plan of action in
India — just as a few centuries back British traders managed to turn themselves
from being foreigners in India into foreigners ruling over India. The vast
terrain’s multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic groups have usually been a
comparatively easy target for penetration by determined foreigners on Indian
Bhattacharyya is an advocate practicing in the Supreme Court.
The views expressed here are personal.