By Farzana Versey
The most telling aspect of President Barack Obama’s trip to India in early November is his planned visit to all the sites targeted in the Mumbai attacks of November 28, 2008. He will also stay at the Taj Hotel. Commentators have been quick to gloat that this move will corroborate American support to India’s battle against terror.
This is the vile game that the US is so adept at. Its one major encounter with terrorism has been transformed into a metaphor for world militancy. It is a myopic and inadequate example if we take note of the different kinds of terrorism being unleashed in various parts of the world, including by the American establishment under the garb of ‘support for democracy’. This has often translated in ruining thriving societies or pushing them into ‘backward’ mode as a reaction to the US standard McDonald idea of franchising its version of liberty.
Obama’s personal history remains on the backburner to signify simmering discontent within the supposed melting pot that America flaunts. The multi-culturalism that it permits within its shores, much in the manner of the patronage of old feudal communities, is what it makes certain to upset in the countries it interferes in. There is a deliberate attempt at creating ghetto nations so that they are easily identifiable to the simplistic US polity.
India is ostensibly a difficult proposition, although a potential ghetto exists beneath the global Valhalla. For the Obama administration this is manna, for its current economic desperation will find sustenance through just such an Indian upbeat financial cocoon that seeks to camouflage its contemporary social flaws. However, this is not how the Obama mechanism will be set in motion.
The importance of Indo-US relationship will be akin to straws in beaks. The White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, said, “Look, just from a viewpoint economically, we understand ...what we have to do to create jobs, to grow our exports, to ensure that it just doesn’t fall on American consumers to drive world demand. That’s a lot of what you’ll hear the President talk about on that trip, and we’ll hopefully have some tangible results from it.”
This essentially means upsetting the call-centre apple cart and ensuring that the American free market is bullish rather than bearish. The outsourcing will now also be about exporting manpower, given the dismal economic situation. As a superpower and the keeper of the world’s consumerist conscience, Obama cannot afford to expose these chinks. It follows that world demand – conceived in the American laboratory – has to bear the burden of being a guinea pig for products and services that will keep the US always on top.
Among these goods and services comes an ideological baggage. For a country with a nascent history, it has to seek the destruction of old civilisations or maul them out of shape. Terrorism has been a boon for America. It has given it a reason to flash its contemporaneity and completely ignore its record of slavery. In fact, it has introduced new chattels in the form of puppet regimes and Disneyworld caricatures.
Obama could well be spending time in Orlando rather than India, except that in the latter he won’t have to pay for the rides; he will be in charge of running those rides. India, like much of the subcontinent, suffers from the mentality of subservience. Years of colonial rule have been embedded in the mindset. It manifests itself in how even the lower middle class person treats domestic helps not to speak about the hierarchy in the highest echelons of bureaucracy. It is the exchange of money that has to a large extent driven the class as well as caste divide.
The US ambassador to India, Timothy J Roemer, has stated, “Obama will be spending more time in India than he had spent in any other country so far. It signifies the growing strategic importance of India in the eyes of the US.” The strategic importance is two-pronged – to utilise India’s huge market and to play up its uncomfortable relationship with Pakistan. The United States is doing what the British did as colonisers by using an economic route to get into a commanding position and divide and rule.
America cannot lose Pakistan and all its tough talk is to embolden its Af-Pak policy and ensure that Afghanistan remains a democratic knave and Pakistan is always on the edge of military rule. The current trip by the president has smartly mentioned that he will visit Pakistan in 2011 and delinked it with the India trip. The purpose of this declamation is to make both sides tense.
It is not the American media or policy makers who will be keeping tabs on the visit as much as the Indian and Pakistani media and governments. Overtly, the king is granting favours but in real terms he is the one taking back goodies. He said, “So when it comes to the sphere of our work, building a future of greater prosperity, opportunity and security for our people, there is no doubt; I have to go India. But even more, I am proud to go to India, and I look forward to the history that we will make together, progress that will be treasured not just by this generation but by generations to come.”
This does not qualify even as aphorism; it reeks of puerile opportunism. India has already sold out to the US in the nuclear energy stakes, that too for its least vocal population – the villagers. For getting peanuts we now have a monkey sitting on our trees.
America has sanctified a few Indians in top positions, which is like canonising those with miraculous clout. The real deal is to flatter India into somnolence. A sleepwalking retail therapy obsessed country will only bare its creamy layer. The US is more than willing to take this, which in turn will hawk its indigenous markets. Add to that a dollop of ‘war on terror’ and you have Indo-US history being made.
Pakistan is told that India is not a threat and it has to worry about its internal strife. NATO positions itself to help bring ‘peace’ within. The country is constantly on the verge of a marionette performance to please the US string-pullers.
The end game is simple: India glows for being legitimised as a cash-rich buyer; Pakistan gets a reprieve by being bought out. The American salesman once again sells an empty dream.
Farzana Versey is a Mumbai-based columnist and author of ‘A Journey Interrupted: Being Indian in Pakistan’