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What’s behind Bush’s South Asian maneuvers?

Published Mar 9, 2006 12:10 AM

In the world of diplomacy, it’s often what’s left unsaid that requires the most careful consideration.

George W. Bush has generally not been regarded as shy when it comes to naming his “enemies.” In fact, his menacing bluster against Iran, Iraq and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as an “axis of evil” in 2002 was about as crudely open as any president could be in laying out before the world his aggressive plans.

But that was the “old” Bush. That was before his plan to easily conquer Iraq with a few weeks of “shock and awe”—and then roll on to impose Washington’s dominion over many others—turned to ashes. It was before the Iraqi resistance shipwrecked the global empire plans of Washington’s neocons and breathed a renewed spirit of struggle into parts of the world that were supposed to be passively carved up by Bush’s friends in the oil business.

These days, Bush draws huge, angry demonstrations whenever he goes abroad, unless he sneaks in and out in the dead of night. His approval rating even at home is in the low 30s, undercut only by that of his vice president, who sunk to 18 percent approval after shooting his hunting friend in the face.

So when Bush went on a recent trip to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, he avoided sounding bellicose. He talked about promoting “democracy,” of course, and fighting “terrorism,” but he didn’t talk about an endless war this time. His emphasis in India especially was on building a partnership of economic cooperation and development.

Leaving aside style, however, the content of this trip has plenty of menace for the billions of people in Asia.

What Bush didn’t talk about was how his overtures to India are linked to U.S. imperialism’s desire to offset China’s growth as a world power. Nor is the English-language press in China saying anything about this, either. It is maintaining a calm demeanor in the face of what could be a serious development.

In New Delhi, Bush announced a deal by which the U.S. would actively cooperate with India’s development of nuclear power, even though India withdrew from the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and has developed nuclear weapons.

This move has left many in the imperialist world who have applauded the U.S. hard-line stance against Iraq, Iran and the DPRK not knowing what to say now. Of course, it’s now known that Iraq never had nuclear weapons, while Washington’s ally Israel has secretly produced many of them.

But this latest move by Bush toward India proves that the non-proliferation issue is as phony as a three-dollar bill. What kind of credibility will the administration have as it tries to haul Iran before the Security Council for building nuclear power plants, claiming that is a dangerous development, when nuclear weapons are sprouting up in countries all around them?

The British publication Guardian had this to say on March 4:

“The U.S. is now treating India like its uniquely special ally Israel, also outside the NPT, which maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity about its nuclear capacity and is believed to have 200 warheads.

“Part of the rationale for the agreement is helping to reduce the dependence of India’s booming economy on oil and thus cut greenhouse gas emissions. Another element is accepting a fait accompli which is likely to benefit a U.S. nuclear industry that is keen to sell fuel and reactor components. The hard-fought terms mean that 14 of India’s 22 reactors will be placed under scrutiny; military ones will not. The military will also retain control of fast-breeder reactors, highly efficient producers of the plutonium needed for warheads—whose numbers could rise from an estimated 50 today to 300-400 in a decade. That is a stunning reversal after 30 years of efforts to deny India nuclear technology, including sanctions when it conducted a nuclear test in 1998.

“The U.S. has defended this volte-face in terms of Realpolitik and shared values, while China (a ‘big five’ nuclear power under the NPT) is clearly another key, common factor.”

Bush pushed the “shared values” argument hard. India is a democracy, he said repeatedly, as though that somehow made it all right. Yes, India has capitalist democracy—and has had it for decades. When the Indian government was close to the Soviet Union, the fact that it had many political parties didn’t stop the U.S. from threatening it with sanctions. Nor did it keep Washington from building up a military dictatorship in neighboring Pakistan that threatened India. On this trip, however, Bush was almost insulting to Pakis tani dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf, after all that Musharraf has done for the Pentagon, allowing the U.S. to use it as a base for its war of regime change in Afghanistan.

India’s capitalist democracy hasn’t brought much to the vast majority of people in India, either, which has the largest population of extremely poor people in the world. U.S. investment in information technology in India in recent years has only widened the gap between rich and poor. (See accompanying article on protests over Bush’s visit.)

So this isn’t about democracy. And it isn’t just about trade or economic cooperation with India. This move was decided on by the brain trust in the Pentagon and State Department, headed by Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, respectively, that sees China as the biggest problem for U.S. imperialism down the road, and is starting to prepare for that now.

With all the other things that the U.S. should be doing with its great resources and technology—dealing with the enormous threats looming from global warming is just a start—the last thing the people of any country need is a U.S.-instigated arms race in Asia.