George W. Bush has a cat named India. In New Delhi, about thirty activists of
the Hindu Right’s political formation, the BJP, stood before the US Embassy
outraged with this news. "We are not cats," said one man, "we are lions."
lions don’t lie with the lamb, or with the goat.
is why the Hindu Right government does not want to make nice with Pakistan, and
much prefers the other lions in the region, such as Israel, and the big lion of
the planet, the USA.
in mind, however, that this outburst against Bush the Second has little to do
with anti-imperialism. While one section of the Hindu Right government
demolishes the economic sovereignty of India on behalf of transnational
corporations and the Dollar (under the auspices of the Ministry of
Disinvestment), another section of the same government offers the nation’s
children a chauvinistic version of history in which the great Hindu Nation comes
off as the next great Universal Empire (under the auspices of what might as well
be called the Ministry of Disinformation). The Hindu Right is the Trojan Horse
of capitalist globalization, even as it portrays itself as the conquering lion
of the new century.
missile defense, on globalization, on so many of the contentious issues of the
day, the government of India has come out slavishly on the side of the US (even
as there is dissension among the generally compliant G-8). This is diametrically
opposed to what one expects from the government of India, which had a reputation
as a stanch defender of the international Third Way, of peaceful coexistence, of
anti-nuclearism, of genuine anti-poverty, etc. Nehru was not Castro, but he was
certainly not the Hindu Right.
fantasy entertained by the Hindu Right government is that an alliance with the
world’s lions (USA-Israel) will allow India to sup at High Table, to eat high on
the hog. Certainly the expectation is that trade will follow the military
that reason, we see a wholesale sell-out by the Hindu Right to US-Israeli
foreign/military policy objectives. Hardt and Negri in their new book <Empire>
come to the conclusion that imperialism is perhaps an out of date formulation,
that there is no real center to the current political economic formation. To get
to this position, they must, and do, neglect the world of the military (and to a
certain extent the role of the Dollar — for which, see Peter Gowan’s The Global
Gambit, from Verso). And they mistake the contentiousness of past imperialisms.
Imperialisms of the past (English, French, German, Japanese), for example,
remained confined to certain zones, and these nation-based formations came into
conflict with each other. If the English dominated the rest for a period, it did
not mean that they ceased to feel pressure from the other European pretenders.
The model, with some variations, works today. The US is paramount not in a total
way, but through alliances with sub-imperial powers (Israel in west Asia,
Japan-South Korea in east Asia, etc) and with military pacts with lesser powers
(the US Navy conducts joint exercises, for example in Asia, with Singapore,
India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and many others). To neglect the role of the
official forces (the military) and the unofficial forces (the paramilitary
units) is to miss the way imperialism functions.
Hindu Right, unlike Hardt and Negri, recognize the persistence of US
imperialism, and Israeli sub-imperialism — and they want a piece of the action
in South Asia. It appears that the Hindu Right seeks the franchise for US lackey
against what it sees as Islamic fundamentalism and Chinese Communism. In
exchange for trade arrangements and a seat with the big boys (in the UN Security
Council), the Hindu Right government will allow the US to create the biggest
aircraft carrier in the Asian region (and render Diego Garcia, and maybe
Okinawa, obsolete). After Rajiv Gandhi allowed Gulf War planes to refuel in
Mumbai in 1991, the door to this lay open. The Hindu Right stepped right in.
the entire thing seems odd: the Hindu Right and the Israelis? In the 1930s, the
Hindu Right was ecstatic about the advent of Hitler, and one of its founders, V.
D. Savarkar was feted in the Nazi press for his enthusiasm at the Blitzkrieg
(I’ve written about this in my forthcoming book from Beacon Press, Everybody Was
Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity; a very
cogent analysis is available on the web from Raja Harish Swamy at
/IndiaResistance2001.htm). Another important Hindu Right figure, M. S.
Golwalkar, reflected on the Holocaust, and concluded: "Race pride at its highest
has been manifested here. Germany has shown how wellnigh impossible it is for
Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into
one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by."
Indeed, this philosophy remains at the heart of the Hindu Right’s ideology, what
is known as Hindutva.
the alliance with Israel is not so strange after all, because at the ideological
level, Hindutva is much like Zionism, for both extol the importance of the
Race-State, and both cast aspersions at the presence of a Muslim minority. An
India-born analyst at the Zionist Freeman Center in Houston, Texas, makes just
this connection: "Islamic fascists see Bharat [India] as the soft spot to
propagate their irrational creed and foment violence. India tries to placate
them. Israel expels them. This is what Bharat should do. If they hate Hindu
Rashtra so much they are free to leave for dar-ul Islam." [I’m puzzled by the
claim that India "placates" anyone, given the rather ruthless actions of the
army and police against, for example, the residents of the Kashmir valley].
the unofficial level, the links seem to be growing. The leading Indian-American
newspaper, India Abroad, hired a veteran Jewish lobbyist who worked on Israel
and on Jewish causes. Ralph Nuremberger’s job was to do to the Indian Americans
and India what the newspaper felt he had done for Israel and for Jewish
Americans. There is a general sentiment that Indian Americans should follow the
Jewish path to whiteness and not dwell in the world of color that tries to undo
semi-fascists the links are deep. I recently found that I was on the "hit-list"
of the US-branch of the notorious Bajrang Dal (who are the shock troops of the
Hindu Right), and are here known as Hindu Unity. None other than the Kahane
group (Haktiva), well known for its Iron Fist Zionism, sponsors the website of
the real dangers lie on the official level. Both India and Israel came to life
due to the mendacity of a waning English imperialism that conjured up the idea
of partition to hastily dispatch its problems in west and south Asia. India was
averse to a relationship with Israel mainly because of the injustice done to the
Palestinians. From the late 1940s to 1992 there was no substantial relationship
(indeed my Indian passport did not allow me to visit South Africa or Israel —
both seen as racist states).
was at the political level. At the military level, something else was at work.
January 1963, a few months after India’s border war with China, the government
of India reached out to the Israeli military establishment and opened a dialogue
(the story broke in the Hindustan Times on 15 May 1980). Two years later,
Israeli cabinet minister Yigal Alon visited India. Mossad and India’s Research
Analysis Wing (RAW) shared information and analysis from the late 1970s onwards.
1992, India openly embraced Israel’s military establishment. There are several
reasons for this shift. First, the Indian military was eager to find a supplier
for military hardware to replace the by then defunct Soviet pipeline. Second,
the Indian government’s enthusiastic 1991 entry into IMFundamentalism enabled
the heresy of a rapid pro-Americanism, and on its back, a pro-Zionism. 1992 also
signaled the emergence of the Hindu Right as a leading contender for national
office, and its ideology remains far more compatible with that of the US-Israel
than that of the Left and the Center-Left.
months after the establishment of full diplomatic relations, a six member
Israeli Defense contingent came to India to discuss arms issues with the Indian
Ministry of Defense. Military preceded the political bureau.
India’s first shopping list was loaded with aircraft demands, mainly to replace
the ailing MIG-21 and MIG-29 fleet. But by the time the Hindu Right took power
in 1998, the list grew much longer and far more complex. It also reveals the
sub-imperial ambitions of the Hindu Right over southern Asia. In May 1998, a few
days after the nuclear tests, a delegation from Israeli Aircraft Industries
toured India to sell their pilotless aircraft anti-ship missiles. Components of
a missile defense shield, then, have been in the works for India for at least
three years. A set of deals have been signed between the arms merchants in India
and Israel to buy goods for the airforce (MIGs, Light Combat Aircraft, AWACs),
navy (aircraft carrier, maritime radar, attack craft), army (Main Battle Tank,
Advanced Light Helicopters), and for the missile branch of the military (the
Indian defense contractors want to buy Israeli guidance and launch systems for
the Prithvi surface to surface missile, and for the sea to surface Sagarika
system, but there is also evidence that India wants Israeli help with the Akash,
a missile system akin to the M-11). These weapons would put India into
contention as the main power not only in south Asia, but perhaps, as the second
front against the Chinese (a move that enabled the US to revise its military
doctrine to fight only one full-scale war; its proxy powers would take care of
the other one, in the new scenario). Furthermore, the missile defense parts of
the deals would enable India to fantastically suggest that Pakistan’s nuclear
option had been neutralized, and that the parity of 1998 had been negated.
India’s eagerness for the missile defense, then, is part of the desire of the
Hindu Right to will away the Pakistani tests on the Chagai range.
the India-Pakistan summit fizzled away on July 17th, the Indian and Israeli
defense contractors met in Israel and concluded a US$ 2 billion deal that will
upgrade Indian fighter jets, provide India with Barak-type surface to surface
missiles, and with parts of a missile defense package (unmanned aerial vehicles
and radar systems). The boys and their toys had already undermined the political
pieties in Agra.
restless lions of west and south Asia join the tigers of east Asia to encircle
China and the predominantly Muslim states of west and central Asia. The big cats
are at Genoa, but they significantly meet in military headquarters and in the
secure offices of arms merchants around the world, eager to undermine the
political process with the sorts of hardware that ensures that our world remain
undemocratic. Empire is alive and well.