Friday, March 21, 2014

What the Crimean Crisis Means for India

All the commentary in India about the crisis over the Crimea has been from foreign viewpoints, and the resulting Russia versus the United States debate ignores our very firm interests in the matter.

To see what they are, it is necessary to be aware of the historical currents that have shaped modern realities.

Perhaps the most important of them is the rise of the United States to global power after World War II and the Ismay-Churchill coup of 1946 that subverted American democracy. It put in place an unconstitutional “permanent government” in Washington that allowed the American military and Intelligence establishments to serve under British strategic command to create the unified “West of the Cold War.

Those realities have been eroding steadily since the end of the Cold War, and have crumbled rapidly since fracking technology freed the United States from the policy constraints imposed by dependence on Saudi Arabian oil. Washington is now engaged in a complex struggle to maintain its global dominance in an increasingly multipolar world. That has involved:

1. Creating the “financial crisis” of 2008-2009 to render the international order fluid and ready for change;

2. Pushing the British to end the various global corruptions (massive money laundering, manipulating LIBOR, rigging currency exchange rates), that have sustained its power since the end of Empire;

3. The “pivot to Asia” to counter rising Chinese power;

4. End of long-standing support for tyrannical regimes in the Middle East and promoting the “Arab Spring;”

5. Continuing pressure on the remnants of the Soviet power structure reconstituted within the Russian Federation by ex-KGB operative Vladimir Putin.

India has chosen to tread very carefully through this multi-front battlefield to take creative advantage of the new opportunities it has opened up. Among the highlights:

1. India recovered quickly from the financial crisis of 2008-2009 with its economy fueled by the massive deficit spending in the US, Europe and China. Along with all other developing countries, it continued to grow at historically unprecedented rates while the industrialized countries sank into the “Great Recession.”

2. New Delhi’s effort to have British communications giant Vodafone pay taxes on assets acquired through the global black market has been a silent but stout refusal to cooperate with that reality. The silence acknowledges the enormous black money holdings of the country’s elite.

3. While engaging in strategic dialogue and partnership with the United States on Asian affairs, India has also warmed its relations with a China newly keen to win friends and influence people.

4. As the “Arab Spring” turned to winter, India has taken no sides, conscious on the one hand, that nearly a third of its $70 billion in foreign remittances come from the Middle East, and on the other hand, aware that its own political system is vulnerable to remote controlled uprisings. It has welcomed some of the changes the United States has forced on the Arab world, especially the Saudi retreat from blatant support of terrorism and its medieval outlook on human rights.

5. On the crisis in the Crimea, PM Manmohan Singh’s call for restraint by all sides is not lame fence sitting but a cri de coeur in a situation that has the potential to spin rapidly out of control. In fact, American strategists might be pushing for that to happen. Sanctions on Russia and its expulsion from the G-8 coinciding with the long feared bursting of the Chinese real estate and debt bubbles will mean there can be no coordinated international effort to contain the contagion of economic chaos. Three-quarters of all South-South exports are to Asia, and China is the largest trading partner of all of Africa, Brazil (which accounts for 3/5th of the South American economy) and India. If the Chinese economy comes in for a hard landing, the rapid growth of the South in the last decade will be history.The prospect of an Asian Century will have to be put off.

Of course, it is very possible that the United States will step in and rescue Africa. Washington is hosting its very first conclave of the continent’s leaders this summer, and a number of indicators point to a massive rise in investment in Africa.

China and India might also be thrown lifebelts, but at the cost of kowtowing to American economic prescriptions.

Whether India will do so will depend very much on the election results on 16 May. And I do not mean that a firm fascist hand at the economic tiller in New Delhi will help matters; on the contrary, it might devastate the country.

More on that in the next post.

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