INDIA AS A
MODEL FOR IRAQ AND OTHERS
M. L. Sondhi and Arthur Waldron
The Pioneer, Tuesday April 15, 2003
support for democratisation of Iraq will lay to rest, once
and for all, the suspicion that it is somehow “neutral”
between freedom and dictatorship, while bringing it to where
its interests direct it fully on board with the new
coalition of free and democratic countries that is now
Many were the
prophecies of doom when British Prime Minister Tony Blair
and US President George Bush sent military forces into what
looked like a dangerous war, with Turkey having unhelpfully
closed the crucial northern front. Leaders and the elite in
Paris, Brussels, Berlin, the Chinese rulers and plenty of
Americans also accused Washington of a mercenary oil-driven
neo-imperialist policy. They have all been shown wrong.
Instead, a new
world is beginning to take shape. Iraq and its heart
between the Tigris and the Euphrates is both a cradle of
civilisation and the strategic core of the West Asia.
Demilitarised, free, with parliament, television, radio,
free press and so forth, it will now dramatically alter the
whole balance of power in the Gulf, tied to India by the
millennia of trade, and by urgent security issues today.
Iraq’s emergence in this way can only weaken the remaining
dictatorships which, it is hoped, may opt for the
liberalisation that their people will begin to demand. The
yeast is working, the region is changing, and it is crucial
that India no longer stands aloof.
tradition of freedom demands this, so do its interests.
Behind the military power of many West Asian dictatorships,
not to mention the nearby states like Pakistan and Myanmar,
lies India’s primary competitor today, economically,
militarily and for global influence; China.
So far China
has made all the running. For decades Washington has
bracketed Beijing with Moscow as one of its two most
important foreign interlocutors. New Delhi has, until
recently, been nowhere. The American media earnestly
solicit the Chinese views about the world; it frets when
Beijing is unhappy and fills journals and airwaves about
Beijing’s crucial nature.
But how far,
one may ask, can a relationship develop between a democratic
United States and a China which remains, far more than is
recognised, both collectivist economically and politically
at least aspirationally totalitarian. This is a state which
resembles India in its size, and in the sophistication and
talents of its people but that is where the comparison ends,
for politically the states could not be more different.
China has shown an uncanny ability to back losers
internationally over the last two decades. It poured money
into Milosevic’s Serbia. It continues to arm states like
North Korea and Pakistan, while extending its military
influence around all the waters, from the Straits of Malacca
to the Gulf and the Red Sea, that also wash the coasts of
India. Clearly, the intent is to pin India down by
encircling it militarily while outrunning it economically
already moving to master the seas that are the key both to
its security and the growing trade-based economy and
prosperity. Reports from Washington indicate that the US
now recognises its unique advantages as a fellow free
country and security partner. India belongs in the new
coalition now forming: unlike such failures as the League
of Nations, this coalition is informal: Japan, Australia,
the new states of East Europe such as Poland, and Britain
and the US, and based not on grandiose treaties or new
structures but simply on willingness to lend a hand.
Membership is open; it is a group of friends – the kind of
friends good in a tight spot – and equals. It grows
organically, by working together, and, given the cultural
differences among them, getting to know one another better.
It is, as Mr. George Bush has put it, a growing coalition
“of the willing” – based not in Geneva or Turtle Bay, but on
the willingness to pitch in.
India should be willing. The world is changing its way.
Its success in broadening democracy without vast wealth or
ethnic homogeneity, building institutions in which India’s
many peoples work together, and now, its increasing success
in unleashing its economy for the good of its people – these
will be far more relevant to Iraq and other such countries
as they move forward, then the more distant models of “Old
Europe” or even the United States. Internationally, India
wasted decades after independence on a dead-end policy of
non-alignment. Now is the time to put its energy and
resources behind both its deepest values and its most