A ‘orientalist’ writer from Belgium, Koenraad Elst, waded into India. His books on Hinduism, Aryan culture, Islamic history in India were avidly lapped up by a section which was eager for Western approval. Elst’s blatant anti-Islamic agenda warmed the cockles of many hearts. LK Advani released Elst’s book in India. BJP’s proximity to Elst’s ideas has given it visibility which imbalances the discussion.
Rajiv Gandhi had come back from Sriperumbudur in a coffin. Assam problem seemed beyond resolution. The common Indian had given up on Punjab. The 1984 anti Sikh riots only strengthened the negative outlook. Kashmir was simmering. The Indian electorate had given a fractured mandate. A hung Parliament. Corruption was endemic and every politician was an Untouchable – nobody or anything could touch them. There were no laws.
Indian economy was going downhill – and nothing seemed to get the economy out of the “Hindu rate of growth”. India was on the verge of a debt default. Indian debt was downgraded by Western rating agencies.
The Asian Tigers had done wonders – under US tutelage. China was furiously reforming – and succeeding at it. USSR 2 years ago had decided to retreat from Afghanistan. India’s faithful ally, Russia was breaking up. Many across the world shook their head and could be heard saying, “I knew … I told you … It had to happen …”
All bets on India were off.
In this seige mentality, one fine day, a US Senator, Larry Pressler, announced at a press conference in New Delhi, that India was encircled by an Islamic coalition of 9 countries. The proxy war against India by Pakistan was at its height. This ‘Islamic Crescent’ (as Larry Pressler called it) first stunned India - and then stampeded its foreign policy.
Larry Pressler was seen as a friend of India - by Indians. He got some well-paying corporate board room positions - and he has kept in the back ground after that. But his press conference still rings. And Pressler’s proximity to Indian liberal establishment (which is close to both the BJP and the Congress), flanks India’s movement towards Western paranoia from the opposite direction. (Strangely, Google search, Yahoo search, Indiatimes search, cannot find any newspaper coverage for that press conference.)
Soon thereafter, India upgraded its relationship with Israel, (practically) abandoned the Palestinians (not to ignore West Asia’s own desire to cosy with the West) - and started getting closer to the US. The Vajpayee Government (with a historic tendency) continued with this rush to embrace the US.
There is too much tradition and culture for India to go down the demonisation path, but recent developments do call for consciousness on this account.
India’s Record - And the Reversal
India and its Government was in the vanguard of opposition to Apartheid, neo-colonialism, (especially in the Middle East). However, in the last 15 years, under the garb of ‘geo-strategic interests /initiatives /imperatives’, changed ’super power equations,’ ‘uni-polar world,’ India is losing its moral initiative - and equally importantly its long term interests. It is getting sucked into uni-directional relationships - which are going down.
Western Adventurism - The Imperative
Without slavery, the West does not enjoy the manpower edge that it had till 1900. The loss of colonies from 1900-1950 has taken away the resource base and captive markets for Western dominance. Now with the collapse of Bretton Woods, the opacity in financial systems is diminished. The welfare state has put a significant burden on an aging Western population. With fading prowess on one side, and a resurgent Asia on the other, the US and EU are now at the cross roads. Is the West prepared to quietly fade away in the sunset?
Indian Perceptions - Preparedness and Paranoia
Will this loss of power encourage some adventurism by the West? Are the various ‘co-operation’ agreements a sign of India becoming a client state of the West - again? What is the threat magnitude of this ‘cowboy imperative’? Does India need to prepare itself against an imperative of the ‘desert bloc’?
While the activities of these Western ‘friends’, sensitised India to the Islamic ‘threat’, it more importantly, has lowered the Indian guard against the resurgent Western encirclement.
American forces are based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Diego Garcia - and of course Iraq. The wolf pack behaviour of pursuit of quarry does not allow co-operation between packs - but within the pack itself. So, while the Islamic crescent perception has some validity, the threat of The Star and The Cross is equal, if not greater.
Sometimes, ‘friends’ are more dangerous than a recognised opposition.
Equally, India should not acquire the practices or memberships that have made recent history bloody and exploitative. While many civilisations have stumbled (Greeks, Romans, Egypt) and fallen by the wayside, India’s many comebacks, have been based on never losing moral stature - and it is late in the day to start down that path.
Is the ‘Islamic demonisation’ an attempt by the ‘wolf pack’ to separate a member of the herd and then go for the kill - like Iraq.
Is India getting co-opted in this ‘wolf pack hunt’?