Posts Tagged ‘Indira Gandhi’
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.
Indira Gandhi and the Congress lost the elections held after the Emergency. The Congress split on January 1, 1978; the faction led by Indira Gandhi was recognised by the Election Commission as Congress (I). The ‘Cow and Calf’ symbol of the Congress was frozen and the Congress (I) was allotted the symbol of ‘Hand’. There are two versions of how the Congress (I) opted for the ‘Hand’ symbol.
In his autobiographical political memoir called ‘The Chinar Leaves’, M L Fotedar says that after the formation of the Congress (I), Indiraji had gone to meet Sathya Sai Baba to seek his blessings. Sai Baba raised his hand and said, ‘My blessings are always with you.’ When the Election Commission offered the new symbol to Congress (I), the choice was between a hand and an elephant. Indiraji had the image of Sai Baba’s hand raised in blessing on her mind and so opted for it.
Rasheed Kidwai, however, writes in his book ’24 Akbar Road’, apparently on the basis of his interview with Buta Singh, that ‘Indira was out in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, with P V Narasimha Rao when Buta was asked by the Election Commission to pick up an election symbol; the choices were an elephant, a bicycle and an open palm. Buta was not sure which symbol he should choose, so he booked a trunk call to seek Indira’s approval. The line was not very clear, or, perhaps, Buta’s Hindi pronunciation was so thick that Indira kept hearing haathi (elephant) instead of haath (hand). She kept saying no to it even as Buta kept trying to explain that it was not the elephant, but the open palm symbol that he was advising her to pick. The comedy of errors continued till an exasperated Indira handed the telephone over to Rao. In a matter of seconds, Rao, master of more than a dozen Indian and foreign languages, understood what Buta was trying to convey.’
Between the two, Fotedar’s version appears more credible. For one thing, Buta Singh was not high enough in the party hierarchy at the time. He was a cheer-leader of Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency. After the post-Emergency split in the Congress, the Sanjay brigade had noisily supported Indira Gandhi and many of the Sanjay Gandhi supporters were suitably adjusted in the newly formed Congress (I). Buta Singh was appointed one of the AICC general secretaries.
Secondly, Indira Gandhi was never known to take important decisions in this casual manner. She would consult the people around her but once she had made up her mind, she would take the decision and remain firm on it. Besides, she has always been a superstitious woman and had become more so after the Congress debacle in the post-Emergency period. That she should have on her mind Sathya Sai Baba’s ‘hand raised in blessing’ at the time of deciding her party’s election symbol sounds plausible.
The Congress (I) fought its first election under the new symbol for the Delhi Municipal Corporation and won.