25.12.2023 Author: Vladimir Terehov

US president won’t go to India’s main holiday

India's main holiday

In the sea of available information accompanying the process of breaking the world order of the “Post-Cold War Period”, an observer of the main vectors of its transformation, as it is called, only has time to somehow comprehend and comment on the most remarkable moments and events. For example, why another contact in the lines of communication between the main participants of this process took place and what results it ended up with. Here it is not up to the prevailing in the mentioned “sea” of different kinds of trifles.

Such as the news about the murder of a certain leader of one of the separatist movements in the Indian state of “Punjab” in the summer of this year in the Canadian city of Sarri. With the daily killing of thousands of people in the armed conflicts going on right now (instigated by someone). And also at the fact that various sources of internal political turbulence in such a gigantic in terms of population, extremely complicated country as India are also numerous. Therefore, the author has initially confined himself to fixing (for himself) the above-mentioned report.

But within a few months, it had already developed in a way that directly addressed the most important components of the process outlined above. These include, undoubtedly, the very fact and the nature of the long-standing, but in the last few years accelerating US-India rapprochement. This sometimes allows us to draw radical conclusions about India’s departure from its “traditionally neutral” positioning in the international arena and the irreversibility of this rapprochement itself. There is indeed a lot of weighty evidence of this, but still, as a film character said, “we should not hurry”.

Another “trifle”, which could also initially seem to be information about the refusal of the US President to attend the annual (late January) main holiday “Republic Day” celebrated in India, was an additional confirmation of the fairness of this wise advice. In this connection, let us note two points at once.

Firstly, the very fact of inviting a foreign guest to the said holiday is a manifestation of extreme importance in the eyes of the Indian leadership of this person personally, as well as of the country headed by him. And in general, such an invitation is rather an exception to the rules of holding the said holiday “in a closed from outside presence” format. It should be recalled that it was sent to the President of the United States, that is really the most important partner of India in the international arena, for the last time eight years ago. Which the then President Barack Obama did not fail to take advantage of.

In this connection, and secondly, such an invitation had already been extended (and accepted) to Joseph Biden during his last visit to India in early September. Suddenly, it was turned down in the face of the growing (for Washington too) significance of the very fact of very visible progress in US-India relations over the last two decades. It will not take long to lose all the positives that have been achieved.

Therefore, it was necessary for the current US administration to at least comment on this step. The President’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan immediately did so, explaining almost nothing, but emphasising in every possible way the continuing importance of relations with India for the US. He also assured that the postponed regular meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi “in the coming months” will still take place.

India responded with a “don’t worry, we understand” message. The “understanding” itself was outlined in one of India’s leading newspapers, the Hindustan Times. Among its several points, those concerning the issue of holding the next summit of the QUAD configuration attract attention. This event was planned to be held on the margins of the aforementioned major Indian holiday, which, as it turns out, was also to be attended by N. Modi’s colleagues from Australia and Japan.

But both of them (again, “suddenly”) had some internal problems that prevented them from appearing in the Indian capital by the date of the said holiday. Of these problems, the one that seems to be really weighty is the one around the current Japanese cabinet. After a new series of scandals, the government of Fumio Kishida, which has just undergone its second “reformatting“, seems to be “breathing down its neck”. However, this topic deserves a separate commentary.

But President Biden, who this time for some reason decided to “address the nation”, is hardly in the same position on the 30th of January next year. And not at the end of the first week of February, as it was usually done so far. This is, of course, an important event, but it is unlikely that Biden will be required to prepare for it very seriously. All he will have to do is to read the text prepared by specialists.

And here we come to the really important circumstances that required Washington to “take a (apparently small, but still) pause” in the seemingly well-established process of developing relations with a partner that is becoming no less important in American foreign policy than its current key regional ally, Japan.

Firstly, not only is the scandal with the “incident” mentioned in the Canadian city of Sarri continuing unabated, but it is developing. It turns out that information compromising India’s intelligence services was “leaked” to Ottawa from Washington. Not only that, it turns out that the FBI had prevented a similar “incident” in the USA itself. The scandal in the US-India relations cannot be hushed up. And then five Congressmen of Indian origin demanded from the leadership of the motherland to “thoroughly investigate” all the circumstances of the (so far) raised suspicions. Otherwise, they threatened to conduct an American investigation of their own.

Again, all this relative “trivia” reflects some reasons for the fundamental plan of the current US administration’s problems in relations with India. The said reasons are almost entirely due to the inevitable costs that any global leader faces while bearing the associated heavy burden. One has to immerse oneself in various “local” squabbles, the nature of which still needs to be thoroughly understood. And the possible results of approaches to their solution, more often than not, directly contradict each other.

A key issue in the South Asian subregion stems from the conflict between India and Pakistan (the two de facto nuclear powers) over the Kashmir issue. Which has once again escalated following the recent confirmation by India’s apex court of the conformity of the national Constitution with the summer 2019 judgement of the Supreme Court of India to repeal its Article 370, which established special rights for the then state of “Jammu and Kashmir”.

In response, Pakistan’s “caretaker” Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar and the head of the country’s armed forces, General Asim Munir, were quite harsh on New Delhi. Moreover, they were uttered by the latter during his stay in the US and during meetings with US officials of the highest rank, as well as with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

In connection with the very fact of this trip by General A. Munir, we disagree with the not infrequent labelling of the current leadership of Pakistan, which replaced the government of Imran Khan a year and a half ago, as “pro-Western-American”. It is enough to refer to the official and public denial of rumours about the supply of shells from Pakistani arsenals to Ukraine. Islamabad has its own (quite rational) reasons for establishing relations with Washington.

The latter, in turn, cannot afford to respond negatively to these trends on the part of the former, which in fact has been a US ally in this sub-region throughout the Cold War. But such “trends” in US-Pakistan relations cannot but provoke negative assessments on the part of New Delhi, to which Washington has sent so many different kinds of positive messages.

This is the hard fate of the world hegemon, which simply has no “good moves” at the current stage of the “Big World Game”. To smooth out New Delhi’s understandable (though not publicly voiced) emotions from the games with Pakistan, the US ambassador to India travelled to Arunachal Pradesh. But China, to which Washington has also sent a considerable number of positive signals in recent months (along with, of course, a lot of negative ones), claims ownership of its territory.

Finally, one cannot but express surprise at the enthusiasm with which slogans about “Russia, without which no world problem can be solved today” were uttered not so long ago. This is a remake (most likely apocryphal) of Catherine the Great’s claim that without her “no cannon fires in Europe”. For such claims, the current RF simply does not have the necessary potential, which was substantially wasted as a result of the collapse of the USSR. Such losses cannot be compensated for by various kinds of “Sarmato-Poseidono-Hypersonic”, the fact of possession of which has a very indirect relation to the main motives of what is happening today on the global game table.

But even if there was such a potential, as they say, “do we need it?” The current hegemon (with incomparably greater potential) does not know how to get rid of the above-mentioned “burden”. The analogy with the war, in which “it is easy to get involved, but difficult to get out”, is quite correct here.

Of course, being in the modern world, one cannot ignore its problems. However, involvement in the process of solving them should be approached, as it is called, “to the best of one’s ability and capacity”. And also taking into account, as a rule, numerous circumstances accompanying a particular problem.

Such weighty conclusions can be reached by taking into account and at least preliminary analyses of certain events that at first glance look minor.

For example, the refusal of the current U.S. President to participate in the bank holidays of India.


Vladimir TEREKHOV, an expert on the problems of the Asia-Pacific region, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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