Friday, November 19, 2004

Indo-US relationship

Colin Powell is gone. Condoleezza Rice is apparently now charged with purging the Department of State.

In "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" Milan Kundera famously asked "Muss es sein" (must it be so?) and answered "Es muss sein" (it must be so). This logic applies here as well.

Ahead of the election, we thought that the Bush revolution (re-ordering the world) is highly favorable to India -- but that because it likely was already irreversible, Mr. Kerry might well be the right man to bring the world together in a new (pro-India) configuration. We were wrong as we now realize.

The Bush revolution cannot be complete unless it has changed not only the world outside America, but also the world within. The status quo, of which Washington's bureaucracy is the keeper, has to be fully shattered -- absent which, like lilies in a pond, the old order has a chance to grow back and crowd out new possibilities.

Even as the White House (Ms. Rice, Mr. Hadley, and most important President Bush) have moved to radically change how US views the world (and India), the State Department has stood in their way. Why? Because it is the custodian of fossillized tradition, and (for example) views India principally as a non-proliferation problem (something that our friends in Indian Foreign Service much lament). This view can now change after the purge. It must be so, and we erred in not recognizing this before.

What should Indians in America do now? We think our central task is to re-educate ourselves. Too many of us are status-quoist in our thinking. We are uncomfortable with American assertiveness in the world (even though this serendipitously helps India). We call for "stability" in Iraq, when India benefits from the deliberate destabilization of status-quo dictators and religious witch-doctors all over the middle east. We plead for multipolarity and multilateralism -- not recognizing that the first is presently impossible, and second is a code for putting the (pro-India) Bush revolution back in a box.

This is not to say Indians don't like the results of the revolution. India was one of only two countries worldwide where Pew found more people pro-Bush than pro-Kerry. Last Sunday, CNN reported that India was the only Asian country where more people welcomed Bush re-election than lamented it. Indians like the omelet but are uncomfortable with the egg-breaking that makes the omelet possible. This confusion must be cleared.

The real focus for us (as activists) is to help Indians understand the Bush revolution, and help Americans understand why India's national interests are well-aligned with the said revolution. All else will follow naturally.

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