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The Great Western Establishment Lie

As long as imperialism exists, it will, by definition, exert its domination over other countries. Today that domination is called neo-colonialism. - Ernesto Che Guevara

Last month, I ran into an American friend from a Washington university who had just decided to cancel her long-planned study tour of India due to a US State Department Public Announcement that was prominently relayed by CNN and BBC. Her destination was Gandhinagar, capital of Gujarat, where rare fin de siecle fashion photographs of erstwhile royal families were open to researchers of art history.

The warning that deterred her read as follows: Nonessential US Government-sponsored travel to Gujarat, including the region of Kutch, is being postponed. Private American citizens should also defer travel to Gujarat. US citizens who decide to travel to Gujarat should register with the US Consulate General in Mumbai and request an update on the situation. Tensions also remain high in the area of Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. Due to the high risk of violence, US citizens are strongly urged to avoid travel to Ayodhya or the surrounding areas.

Gandhinagar is approximately 32 km away from the epicentre of the communal violence, Ahmedabad, and reported to have been one of the most peaceful and tension-free cities during the religious flare up of March-April. While it is conceivable that American travellers could have courted danger setting foot in Ahmedabad, Panchmahal and Vadodara districts, the blanket prescription not to travel to all of Gujarat’s 25 districts as well as distant Ayodhya which was completely peaceful, was either a reflection of supreme ignorance or of ulterior motives in the American establishment.

How would the US have liked it if the Indian Ministry of External Affairs issued a public announcement in April 2001, when race riots swept Cincinnati, that Indian travellers to and residents of Ohio state and other Black-predominated areas, defer travel or evacuate? How would the British government have liked it if the Indian Ministry of External Affairs issued a directive to all its nationals to immediately leave Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham when the UK’s worst ever race riots erupted in Bradford in July 2001?

Chaos theory, a major western tool for understanding and undermining the Third World as a teeming slum full of primordial tensions and bloody primitive identity clashes, was the psychological underpinning of Foggy Bottom’s exaggerated warnings on Gujarat. But that was simply the tip of the iceberg, because as India-Pakistan tensions arose in early June, (US Secretary of State) Colin Powell’s South Asia "experts" decided to release a war-scare Travel Advisory (one notch above Public Announcement in American bureaucratese), which read:

The Department strongly urges that American citizens in India depart the country. The Department of State warns Americans to defer travel to India, particularly to all border areas between India and Pakistan, including the Indian states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Punjab, and to the state of Jammu & Kashmir.

The sweeping and misleading extension of chaos and imminent war to Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab, when the armed shelling was taking place only across the Kashmir border, coupled with daily CNN headlines about "nuclear armed" sub-continental rivals being on the verge of hostilities, beg the question why China and the US were not similarly painted as nuclear bulls when the spy-plane ruckus exploded in May 2001. How would have George Bush reacted if Indian intelligence came up with a corollary to the CIA’s recent propaganda that India and Pakistan are "closer to war than ever before" by announcing that China and America came closest to war in May 2001 since the Taiwan Straits crisis of 1996? The "dangerous spiral" that Donald Rumsfeld keeps referring to in his vaunted bid to "defuse tensions" in South Asia is more applicable and much more dangerous in the context of the simmering state of China-US conflict since the Bush administration came to office.

But then, China and the US are in a different league as far as western governments and media are concerned. They are not ‘irresponsible’ and 'trigger-happy' like India. They are not led by "Hindu fundamentalists" like India. They do not have fanatic 'war-mongers' in their governmental ranks. They will not foolhardily engage in nuclear war. They are the keepers of regional and world security, the 'moderators' and 'crisis managers' who together share the burden of preventing Third World disasters. They represent the rational forces of modern world politics which massage and smother the 'irrationality' and preposterousness of fractious countries like India. They work as global policemen bringing 'order' and 'sanity' to parts of the world like South Asia, Africa and the West Asia where fighting, warfare and hotheadedness are endemic. They are the physicians who, to use Robert Kaplan’s influential language, cure madhouses like India from 'societal breakdown'.

But Orientalist hallucinations do not fully explain the psychological war that the western establishment and media have unleashed on India. Two calculated and selfish American motives come across as important causes for the 'nuclear war' bogey. First, the Pentagon is terrified at the prospect of Pakistan 'diverting' its armed forces from the Durand Line to the LoC, thus leaving its so-called war on terrorism in the lurch.

By raising the pitch on nuclear war and disaster in South Asia, the US plans to attract the collective will of the international community (even the UN was advised to withdraw non-essential staff from India three weeks ago) and introduce diplomatic pressure on India to not rightfully demand Pakistan’s disengagement from terrorism in Kashmir. Secondly, thousands of US troops hunkering down for a near-permanent presence in South and Central Asia could be caught in the crossfire and forced to flee if an India-Pakistan war broke out. Rumsfeld is pulling out all stops to occlude this unintended harm to American soldiers, whose lives are often overrated vis-à-vis non-American civilian and military lives (remember Somalia?). Cold-blooded mujahideen brutalising of two-month-old Indian babies is not America’s typical nightmare. What Washington dreads is body bags for its GIs. Chaos theory conveniently dovetails with this instinct of military self-preservation.

The latest distorting artillery shot by the western press at India concerns the selection of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for the post of President of the Republic. Glossing over the fact that the President of India is a titular office that wields no real power sans the symbolic, a brouhaha has been worked up at how 'hawkish India' has now chosen a 'nuclear scientist' (Kalam is actually a missile scientist) to be the new head of state. A typical wired press report has this to say:

Just when Indo-Pak tension is making headlines raising the threat of a possible nuclear conflict, political parties in India have nominated the Missile Man, APJ Abdul Kalam, to become the country's 12th president.

I ask, isn’t Colin Powell, the putative moderate in the Bush cabinet, a four-star General who fought several wars? Why wasn’t there a hue and cry in the media when he was made US Secretary of State? Why aren’t Rumsfeld’s Cold Warrior mentality and ruinous 'forward planning' to expand the current American war to new regions the subject of hard-hitting journalism (save, perhaps, in The Guardian, from London)?

Abdul Kalam is an inspirational scientist with a visionary development-oriented plan for India’s economic growth. His personal and public life have been exemplary testimonies to the genuine secular project in India, and it is a crudity to label him as 'hardliner' and 'proliferationist'. But with the overdose of 'nuclear war' gibberish having already been fed into viewers of western television, the elevation of Kalam is being construed as another chapter in a long-established pattern of Indian 'brinkmanship'. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

To conclude, the western powers who have waged and continue to plan the most destructive wars in history, dropped two nuclear bombs on innocent civilians, and brought the world to the brink of atomic catastrophe twice during the Cold War (in 1961, during the Cuban Missile Crisis and in 1981, when the Reagan administration considered pre-emptive strikes on Soviet Theatre Nuclear Weapons), need to de-escalate their barrage of lies, instead of loose-talking about ‘de-escalating India-Pakistan tensions.’ Reductionism is a neo-colonial speciality that the western governments and media have internalised and perfected like an art form. It fulfils the psychological necessity for America and its allies to feel superior and responsible in contrast to a tottering and ‘Humpty Dumptyish’ Third World. I am not an apologist crying foul about ‘western interference in Indian internal affairs’, as some Indian politicos have done. What is called for is objective and fair coverage of Indian events, so that the western public is not co-opted into their establishment’s malignant alarmism and myopic aims in South Asia.

Sreeram Chaulia,
Columnist with Asia Times Daily, Hong Kong
Via e-mail

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