[Assam] Hush Bush
dilipdeka at yahoo.com
Tue Feb 28 09:39:17 PST 2006
I noticed the word "taunt" in my friend Chandan Mahanta's email and the usual acerbic comments. I know he means no harm. :-)
No taunting is intended in posting the following article. Unlike my friend I like to give credit where it is due. I do not wear colored glasses. Thus it is easier for me to see natural light. Let's face it - despite tremendous internal problems, India is making steady progress in the international market and politics. India's position in the hierarchy is not as tenuous as some portray it to be.
Though I left India many years ago, I am still interested in things Indian and thoughts Indian. I like some and I loathe some. The ones I like outnumber the ones I loathe. I am just as proud to be an American as a citizen, as I am to be an Indian and an Assamese ethnically.
With that opener, I'll take you to an article from the NYT that also looks at Indo-US relations under natural light.
P.S. I liked the new slogan "Hush Bush".
An Assertive India Girds for Negotiations With Bush
By SOMINI SENGUPTA
Published: February 28, 2006
NEW DELHI, Feb. 27 When President Bush lands in India early Wednesday, he will encounter an ever ambivalent American ally with one important difference from the past: this India has new power to assert its views, some of which align with Mr. Bush's agenda and some of which do not.
Skip to next paragraph Scott Eells for The New York Times
A performer removed his mask after an anti-Bush rally in New Delhi last week. Despite the protests, many Indians say they admire America.
Enlarge This Image
Scott Eells for The New York Times
Demonstrators burned effigies of President Bush near a New Delhi mosque last week before his planned visit and waved "Hush Bush" signs.
Much has changed, in fact, since the last visit here by an American president, in 2000, when President Clinton's address to the Indian Parliament was received so enthusiastically that lawmakers climbed over benches to shake his hand.
Facing prospects of protests, President Bush is not expected to address Parliament at all. But that is not to say that India has morphed into an anti-American redoubt. There is still in most quarters enthusiasm for relations.
But in the past six years, India has also become a more confident partner in trade and in America's campaigns against terrorism and nuclear proliferation which touch India both obliquely and directly as it looks abroad in pursuit of its own interests like never before. Meanwhile, India's endemic prickliness shows no signs of remission.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the nonpartisan Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, sees in his country what he calls "a great admiration for U.S. power," a capacity that many Indians find worthy of emulation. "This is a power that acts independently, acts freely, is not constrained," he said. "It's not so much an anti-American view than wanting to replicate that."
That fine balance is most visible in talks over whether to reward India with access to American nuclear technology, an issue about which both sides would like to announce a deal this week. They are not there yet, as the talks rub up against the one thing that many Indians, particularly in the political elite, hold dear: the idea of India's independence.
Little else may actually unite opinion here. Indeed, the many shades of political opinion found in this feisty country of one billion defy any easy rendering of an India as either for or against the United States. India has fundamentalists of the Hindu and Muslim persuasion, Maoist guerrillas, free marketers, newly minted millionaires and Marxist lawmakers with posters of Che Guevara on their office walls.
The Pew Global Attitudes Project found Indians last year to be among the most cheerful in their appraisal of both the United States and President Bush. In a survey published this week in the Indian newsweekly Outlook, two-thirds of Indians "strongly" or "somewhat" regarded Mr. Bush as "a friend of India," even as 72 percent called the United States "a bully."
In the same survey, conducted by A. C. Nielsen, nearly two-thirds of respondents said India should go its own way and defy American objections on a natural gas pipeline to Iran. Perhaps most striking, fewer than half the Indians surveyed said they would want to "settle down in the U.S."
The conflicting currents come as relations between the countries have undergone a revolution, and are more entwined than ever before, making commonplace today what would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.
Indians are buying American arms. The two military powers are conducting joint counterinsurgency exercises. Indians are among the fastest growing immigrant groups in the United States, and charity money from America something that would be held in suspicion in the recent past is helping to train Indian nurses to care for people with AIDS.
But it is the nuclear deal that is potentially most fraught for both sides. In contradiction to its stand against nuclear proliferation with countries like Iran, the White House has promised India access to civilian nuclear technology, provided that New Delhi comes up with a plan to separate its civilian and military programs.
As beneficial as such a deal would be to this vast, energy-starved nation, it is this demand that has exposed a deep vein of postcolonial pride in the Indian political culture. Why, even pro-American voices are asking, should Washington be allowed to exert leverage over the contours of the nuclear program in India, long a defiant opponent of the global nonproliferation treaty?
"No matter what your position is on whether you think India should have a big nuclear program or a small nuclear program, a lot of people are saying, 'Hang on, weren't we told this choice is ours?' " said Mr. Mehta, the political analyst. "It's an attachment to India's own sovereignty, also to what we think India's own capability is."
Even the most avid proponents of the new partnership are circling the sovereignty wagons. A senior Indian government official, who did not want to be quoted for fear of jeopardizing the continuing talks, said the future course of relations might hinge on the tendency of the Bush White House to cast nations as either adversary or ally.
India, the official made clear, can be neither. "This is a very sovereignty-conscious country," the official said.
The nuclear talks are moving neither as swiftly nor as smoothly as either Washington or New Delhi had hoped. India insists that its own strategic interests must be placed before the imperatives of the White House.
Nor have the quid pro quo suggestions made by the American ambassador in India, David C. Mulford, gone down particularly well: in exchange for nuclear cooperation, Mr. Mulford suggested in an interview with an Indian news agency earlier this month, India would have to take a stance against Iran's nuclear ambitions, cooperation that Washington clearly cherishes.
Such a diplomatic tempest did his remarks cause that the embassy later took pains to say Mr. Mulford's comments had been misinterpreted.
As it happened, India voted against Iran at the early February meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Later, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was prompted to reassure Parliament that India's vote was based only on its national interest.
On Monday, the prime minister again went to Parliament to reassure lawmakers that India's national security would not be compromised, notwithstanding American demands. "We remain firm in that the decision of what facilities may be identified as civilian will be made by India alone, and not by anyone else," he said. More to the point, he maintained that India engaged in negotiations only as "an equal partner."
A glimpse of how varied India regards its new suitor is clearly on display in Hyderabad, in the heart of the country, which Mr. Bush will visit on Friday.
In the shadow of a four-pillared monument called the Charminar, grape sellers, tailors and college students quietly curse America's treatment of the Muslim world. The Charminar, like Hyderabad itself, was built by the Iranians who conquered this part of the country 500 years ago. It stands as a testament to what the Indian government repeatedly describes as its "civilizational" ties to Iran as well as to the political significance of Muslim public opinion in this country. India's Muslim population is second in size only to Indonesia's.
"They talk about democracy, but democracy is on their lips," a tailor named Abdul Karim said. "In their heart, it's bullying."
Kodandaram Reddy, 50, a professor of political science at Osmania University, discerned a certain generational gap, with young Indians less troubled by the prospect of American domination than those of his generation.
"They think one need not be too scared about white people, we can handle them," Mr. Reddy offered. "It's naïve to think it's always possible to talk it over. It's not possible. Especially not with the Americans."
In fact, in the courtyard of the Cyber Towers building can be found those young men and women who have cashed in, like no other generation of Indians, on the mighty possibilities of American outsourcing.
They seemed the most confident that India was capable of splitting the difference, reaping the benefits of its new ties to America while keeping its more powerful ally at a safe distance.
Swathi Reddy, 25, said she was swiftly hired by an American company as soon as she graduated from engineering college. Had she graduated even a few years earlier, she would have had to wait for work. "It's a very good thing," she said of the new United States-India partnership. "We are benefiting the most."
Arun Chinnasamy, 28, said that he had no plans to protest the Bush visit but added that he felt no love for Bush administration's policies, like the pressure on India to vote against Iran's nuclear ambitions. "You can't have someone peering into your own house," is how he put it.
But his colleague, Pranesh Upasi, 26, was not terribly worried. "India," he said, "can stand up for itself."
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