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India's Non-Alignment on the Balance, Communists on Alert

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The accelerated pace of India’s liberal economics and pragmatic ties with the United States and Israel risks polarizing Indian domestic politics and invoking a deep-seated communist as well as Islamist anti – Americanism with a realistic potential for a foreign policy strategic shift leading unintentionally and indirectly to creating an internal political environment that could be receptive for the first time to the agitation of the extreme violent Islamists who have been waiting on the sidelines for such a “golden opportunity” in the turbulent Afghani and Pakistani neighborhood, as well as for the agitation of the violent Indian Maoists.

Indian diplomats proudly highlight the fact that their country’s democratic and secular tradition has so far spared India the atrocities of the U.S. – led global war on terrorism and similarly proudly note that so far al-Qaeda has failed to recruit or implicate anyone of the Indian world’s second largest Muslim community, after Indonesia, in their schemes or activities.

The communist – leftist factor has had a decisive role in attracting grassroots anti – globalization, anti – American and anti – Israeli grievances into the traditional democratic channels of the Indian secular system away from violent Maoist and Islamist extremism; however the politics of India’s internally liberal economics and external pragmatic U.S. and Israeli ties risk also polarizing the democratic communist – leftist front, the national third mainstream political movement, and might make their role more difficult as well as more critical in neutralizing the violent Maoist and Islamist threats.

While the Islamist threat is looming, the Maoist is already an Indian security headache. According to a Christian Science Monitor report on August 28 last year, the Maoist insurrection is spreading across India “like an oil stain across paper,” already affecting 14 of India's 28 States (Chatisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Asma, Uttaranchal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra and Bihar). In figures, that means the Maoists are in control in 165 districts out of the total of 602 into which the country is divided. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recognized the Maoist advance on August 23rd 2006 when he declared to Parliament that the Maoists “have become the biggest internal challenge to security that India has,” the Monitor reported. Undoubtedly Maoists and Islamists will find in the Indian foreign and internal politics of liberal economics precious ammunition for their anti-American propaganda as well as for their internal “struggle.”

Already India’s foreign policy and globalization – oriented liberal economics are creating cracks in the so far united communist – leftist front. The Communist Party of India (CPI) has recently moved for a review of Left parties’ outside support to the ruling coalition of the Congress - led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), but The Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M), with 44 seats of the New Delhi Parliament's total of 543, was wisely not for such a move, lest it would bring down the Government: “At this juncture, it [review] would be counterproductive,” said a political developments report, adopted by the central committee of the CPI-M at a June 24-26 meeting.

The Left has been critical of Singh government's economic and foreign policies and is working for a “political alternative,” the head of the CPI-M, Prakash Karat, told Reuters in an interview recently, adding that the ruling coalition had failed internally to curb rising food prices and was not addressing poverty and lack of investment in the countryside while following unpopular economic policies.

Externally the leftists see that a nuclear deal with the U.S. would or at least could compromise the ruling coalition’s commitment to “independent foreign policy.” India's National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan was expected with a high-ranking delegation in Washington for talks on July 16-18 to clinch a nuclear deal with the U.S. to coincide with the second anniversary of the landmark July 18 agreement,” the Indian Express reported; two major sticking points has been U.S. reluctance to allow India to reprocess spent atomic fuel, a crucial step in making weapons-grade nuclear material, and to continue nuclear tests. The Indian leftists criticize these U.S. conditions as constraints on India’s sovereign decision making. They also protested a port call in Chennai in early July by the nuclear-powered USS Nimitz, a first by a U.S. aircraft carrier.

Moreover they view the deal as courting India away from a potential alliance with Russia and China to counterweight the U.S. global hegemony. They note also that the U.S. administration began the process of agreement with India on the nuclear issue in March 2006, putting an end to the 30-year embargo on nuclear material she imposed on India in 1974, at the same time she began her nuclear crisis with Iran, with whom India has strategic oil interests.

During the last 18 years, India has been gradually dismantling its centralized economy and privatizing its main sectors under the wing of a battery of laws to protect Direct Foreign Investments, especially those from the United States that have now increased from US$76m to US$4bn.

The accelerated pace of the growing ties with Israel was another foreign policy point of criticism by Indian leftists and communists. On July 18 The Times of India reported a “crucial milestone in growing Indo-Israeli military ties” to lift-off from the space centre at Sriharikota an Israeli spy satellite called TechSar, weighing about 260 kg, by a four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Earlier there was the $2.5 billion project to develop a medium range SAM for use with India's land forces and the Israeli Barak missile system $350 million deal, which the Indian Navy chief, Admiral Arun Prakash, strongly defended in a statement on May 15, saying there was “nothing comparable” to it anywhere in the world, which was objected to by none other than President APJ Abdul Kalam and claimed as its major victim former defense minister George Fernandes in a widely reported corruption scandal.

Communist – led Left on the Move

Reversing an historical trend worldwide, the Indian communists and leftists have been gaining more ground and making progress in a very hostile political and economic environment where globalization – oriented liberals are ruling and responding to the strategic overtures of the United States, the leader of globalization, irrespective of the their affiliation to the Congress or the Janata parties.

At least economically the dividing lines between the mainstream parties of the Congress and Janata have become blurred since 1991 when the leading member of the Congress, Manmohan Singh, became the finance minister of the Janata – led government of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, long before securing his party’s nomination for premiership in 2004, a position he still occupies ever since.

An economist by profession and a veteran of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as his country’s central bank, Singh, the first ever Sikh prime minister of India, is considered the most educated and one of the most qualified and influential prime ministers in India’s history, mainly because of the liberal economic reforms he initiated in 1991 and the Indian economic liberalization, which have become established under his premiership since May 22, 2004; he got rid of several socialist policies and opened the nation to foreign direct investments, thus paving the way for stronger relations with the U.S. and Israel, the biggest and the most controversial achievement of his legacy.

Most likely because of the context of this hostile environment, the Indian communists and leftists, who have been closely involved in the presidential and vice presidency elections on July 19 and in August respectively, are gaining ground and making progress while at the same time opposing both the political and economic strategic opening to the U.S. and Israel as well as standing up to the victimization of millions of Indians by the official opening to globalization by the government’s liberal economics.

Ironically the Indian cornerstone of liberal economics and U.S. and Israeli –oriented politics, that is the government of Dr. Singh, is uplifted to survive only by the 61 legislative votes, representing more than 120 million voters, of the Left Front in the federal lower House of parliament. Today, for the first time in India’s history, the federal government in New Delhi remains in power thanks to the Left Front, who decided to support the coalition government led by the Congress from the outside.

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
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