Posts Tagged ‘Atal Behari Vajpayee’
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been preparing the ground for allowing US military presence on Indian territory. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter have been negotiating the issue for over a year and much advancement is reported to have been made. They jointly announced during Carter’s recent visit to New Delhi that India and the United States have ‘agreed in principle to share military logistics.’ The two, it appears, have decided to release only bits of negotiations periodically for fear of the possible strong reaction of the people of India towards allowing the US, or any other country for that matter, to use Indian territory for its military purposes.
It may start by establishing army repair shops in India. The two countries have almost finalised a Logistics Support Agreement that allows the two militaries to use each other’s land, air and naval bases for supplies, repair and rest. Both sides claim that this has become inevitable to ‘counter the growing maritime assertiveness of China.’
It has been repeatedly emphasised by both sides that there is no question of stationing US troops on Indian soil. ‘As and when a situation arises, like an earthquake or a natural disaster, that is when it is directed at’, Carter announced. Parrikar said, ‘it is a concept of logistics support’ to provide ‘support for each other’s platform where they need fuel and supplies.’ The Wall Street Journal has quoted an unnamed Indian Naval Officer as having said: ‘since coming to power two years ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has strengthened strategic and defence ties with the US, while avoiding the steps that could provoke a major reaction from Beijing.’ The Indian officer further said: ‘there is no ammunition involved, no combat operations. We are not talking about positioning men in each other’s countries.’
America has been coveting Indian territory for use of its armed forces ever since India got independence. Nehru resisted it diplomatically all his years as Prime Minister. He did not succumb to the pressure even when the Chinese assertiveness had ceased to be a mere perception but become real as that country had advanced its troops on Indian territory. Indira Gandhi virtually snubbed America during the Bangladesh war when that arrogant super-power threatened to destroy India with its legendary nuclear-powered Seventh Fleet. Even Atal Behari Vajpayee considered it terribly against the national interests of India to allow Indian territory to be used by a foreign power for its military activities. The Chandra Shekhar government had, though, allowed the US armed forces the refuelling facilities in India during the 1991 Iraq conflict and there were widespread protests within the country.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the UPA government was inclined to accede to the US request for closer military cooperation. However, Defence Minister A K Antony, reportedly with the full backing of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, stood firm against any military relationship between India and America, and was jeered at by pro-American sections as a Leftist.
Apprehensions in India about allowing military bases on its territory are based on the history of colonial period. The powerful nations had sought a foothold for some small military operation or commercial activity and had eventually occupied the host country.
During one of the visits of the US Defence Secretary to India, the USS Blue Ridge, the flagship of the US Seventh Fleet, was on a port call off Goa coast. The principal tasks of the USS Blue Ridge include providing command, control, communications, computers and intelligence support to the commander and staff of the US Seventh Fleet. Defence Secretary Carter took Defence Minister Parrikar on a tour of the USS Blue Ridge. Parrikar was said to be simply overawed by that majestic machine of destruction.
The US military experts estimate between 662 and 900 military bases in 38 countries. According to the official information provided by the US Department of Defence and its Defence Manpower Data Centre (DMDC), there are still about 40,000 US troops, and 179 US bases in Germany, over 50,000 troops (and 109 bases) in Japan, and tens of thousands of troops, with hundreds of bases, all over Europe. Over 28,000 US troops are present in 85 bases in South Korea, and have been there since 1957.
According to David Vine, Associate Professor of Anthropology at American University, Washington DC, who has specialised on US defence affairs, the Pentagon claims to have just 64 ‘active major installations’ overseas and that most of its base sites are ‘small installations or locations.’ But it defines ‘small’ as having a value of up to $915 million. ‘In other words, small can be no small.’
The information about troops abroad, too, isn’t completely clear, which ‘makes it difficult to know the true extent of the American military footprint,’ Professor Vine writes.
Sonia Gandhi, too, should share the blame for sweeping the post-Kargil scams under the carpet. She, as not only the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament at the time but also the President of the country’s oldest political party, had woken up too late to the “mess” that Fernandes had created in the wake of the Kargil conflict and, then too, her approach had been lackadaisical.
Sonia, or her party, did not try to find out if the “mess” was the result of incompetence or design. Defence Minister George Fernandes, the former socialist-turned-trade unionist, had, by his own admission, worked for the West German intelligence agency during India’s Emergency. He might, who knows, still be on the rolls of a foreign intelligence agency not exactly operating in the best interests of India when he was holding charge of Defence portfolio.
His role during the Kargil crisis was inexplicable. His utterances had created so much problem for the Government that the National Security Council (NSC) held its first meeting on June 8, 1999 to discuss the matter and was constrained to ask Fernandes to keep his mouth shut.
On crucial days from May 6, when the first confirmed news of infiltration from across the Line of Control was reported to him, Fernandes was busy holding rounds of confabulations with Chandra Shekhar, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Pawar, amongst others, for new political alignments. On May 8, he left for Mumbai to celebrate the silver jubilee of the 1974 railway strike led by him.
Fernandes took a moralistic stand after the Tehelka expose, resigned from the Government and declared that he would not rejoin it till he was cleared of the allegations. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who must be knowing Fernandes inside out, was also taken in because he declared in his Address to the Nation: “In the highest traditions of the country, to safeguard the morale of our forces and the security of the country, my esteemed colleague, a stalwart of the NDA, George Fernandes, has left office”. Within a few months, Fernandes was back at his position. No one knows if it was some foreign pressure that compelled Vajpayee to take him back, giving a blow to the “highest traditions of the country”, “morale of our forces” and “the security of the country”.
Sonia betrayed the people by forcing an anti-climax to the Congress party’s signature campaign launched with a great fanfare in the wake of the Tehelka expose. It was said that Sonia, accompanied by all PCC presidents, would hand over the signatures to the President and seek action. One can imagine how it would have galvanised the party and sent a positive message to the people. But when the time came, Sonia pushed off to the US, leaving it to some AICC functionaries to present the truckloads of signatures to President K R Narayanan.