Europe, the EU and the Atlantic Alliance in India’s view
by Come Carpentier de Gourdon on 31 Oct 2011 1 Comment

Newfound suspicions about the role and intentions of Europe have arisen in India’s ruling circles, together with growing doubts about the viability of the European Union and its Euro-zone core, in their present form.

The Indian government’s misgivings about the current and future positions of the USA and its NATO allies – which in fact often behave like vassals – in the light of past experience, are deep rooted since they sound as an echo of Pandit Nehru’s own antipathy for US economic liberalism, whose present avatar is free-market globalization, and Cold War militarism which he saw as successors of Western imperialism. His study of 19th century liberal thinkers taught him that they generally had condoned colonial invasions and occupations which they regarded as inevitable or beneficial when they brought “superior” capitalist civilization and accessorily, Christianity, to “inferior” or “savage” people. Europe nowadays seems to be reclaiming that imperialistic heritage, mainly under American leadership and inspiration.

Nehru was willing to keep India within the British Commonwealth because of his attachment to English intellectual and political culture and in particular to the Fabian socialist school of thought, but he would have no part in Anglo-American plans to keep the former colonies in an anti-Communist league as an extension of NATO, which Pakistan eagerly joined by entering the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO), together with fellow pro-Western states Turkey, Iraq and Iran.

The Nehruvian perspective on the global order has been gradually modified by the changing circumstances in India and abroad, and is being replaced by a perception of the international political and economic situation which can be summed up thus:

-       The “rentier” exploitive western economic dominance, denounced by John Maynard Keynes in his day is now collapsing

-       Post-industrialism is a myth used to justify a neo-colonial liberal model whereby industry has been relocated to developing countries of Asia and Latin America (mainly China).

-       Both manufacturing industry and agriculture remain the critical bases of a country’s power and prosperity which cannot be sustained only through such “props” as information technology and a sophisticated financial sector.

(These conclusions are summarised in an article entitled The Coming Revolution in Global Supply Chains and Logistics by V.I. Yakunin, Chairman of Russian Railways and Scientific Supervisor, Governance and Problem Analysis Center, Moscow, in World Affairs, Summer 2011, vol. 15, no 2).

-       There is a global conflict between rival capitalisms: liberal and authoritarian: the increasingly troubled and contested “Washington Consensus”, which has turned out to be a mix of neoliberal economics and neo-conservative militarism, is being successfully challenged by what the W and S Thornton (ibid.) call a “formidable hybrid”: a neo-authoritarian stated-driven capitalism inaugurated by China – dubbed by John Cooper Ramo “The Beijing Consensus” and followed in
varying degrees by Russia and some Asian “dragons” and “tigers”. 

In keeping with its traditional ethos, India, culturally uneasy with a regime of pure economism, seeks to define a Middle Way between those two geo-economic poles that political scientists William and Songkok Han Thornton define as a “Delhi Consensus” inspired by the economic principles expounded by economist Amartya Sen in line with the “alternative” Asian values long embodied in Indian civilization and reflected in the primacy of the spiritual and socio-cultural over the economic elements. That socially conscious “controlled and inclusive development” would be the order of the day in the post-globalization era which seems to be fast approaching.

The Atlantic Alliance: “War for Peace?”

In the last decades of the twentieth century, Nehru’s assessment of Capitalism as an expansionistic, bellicose and imperialistic ideology has found some justification, all the more since the fall of its Soviet rival, in the successive US-led campaigns in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, - which irresistibly call to mind parallels with the Franco-British-Israeli ill-fated 1956 adventure against Egypt over Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal, and can be also be compared to the 19th century European and American conquests in Asia and Africa, then also invoking civilizing missions and alleging the need to combat terrorism and barbarity.

Unsurprisingly, India has taken a dim view of the repeated infractions to the principle of respect for national sovereignty and non-intervention (a pillar of India’s foreign policy almost since Independence) in the domestic affairs of other states in recent years. New Delhi, like China and Russia, could not but take exception to the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state by most Atlantic powers, since a similar arbitrary policy could one day be imposed on India’s own restive regions in the North East and in Kashmir, and is therefore a threat to its unity.

This commitment to respect of national sovereignty accounts for India’s principled opposition to the western, relatively recent concept of humanitarian intervention, conveniently dubbed as “duty to protect” civilians from their own governments, crafted by human rights activists such as Gareth Evans and Bernard Kouchner which has in fact shown itself , bypassing international law, to be a useful tool for military invasion and occupation of less developed, smaller nations by the great powers that control the UN Security Council.

One of the beliefs that inspired the Non Aligned Movement since its inception is that the West uses and abuses its own democratic standards self-servingly in order to clip the wings of its ex-colonies and tributaries, and restrict their economic and political autonomy on moral pretexts, and India by and large has not forsaken that conviction. The present National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon recently noted: “we have seen how high sounding phrases as the “right to protect” are selectively invoked and brutally applied in the pursuit of self-interest”.

New warnings are now being heard daily about the resurgent threat of western “post-modern” humanitarian colonialism which seems to rest on the assumption that cultural and religious minorities in the developing world should be granted political independence if they (or an undetermined number of their members) demand it. To protect themselves against that very same threat, Western nations are reasserting their respective forms of uniculturalism in the name of internal cohesion and social peace.

The apparent contradiction between the West’s calls to “war on (Islamist) terror” and its well documented willingness to ally with radical Jihadi elements when it can serve its own strategic interests, as in the South Caucasus, North Africa, the Near East, Iran, Pakistan and Kashmir does not escape Indian observers. The recent NATO campaign in Libya illustrates this duplicity. The western assailants fully supported, - with more than 30,000 air sorties during which they dropped some 50,000 bombs and missiles – the rebels which included a number of radical Islamist guerillas recruited in Afghanistan and Iraq such as the LIFG (Libyan Islamic Fighting Groups), long backed by the CIA and other western Intelligence agencies. Britain, France, the USA and other NATO countries infiltrated Special Forces commandos on Libyan soil at the outset of the operation in order to guide the insurrection and ensure its success at any cost to Libyan lives, resources and infrastructure.

The ruthless Western will to enforce its writ in more and more areas of the world cannot but be a cause of grave concern for India. Several EU member countries do not share that hegemonic ambition, which is prevalent among the ruling elites but does not have the adhesion of most of the population. However, dissenting nations like Germany, Italy and Spain are hesitant to stand in open opposition (as France tended to, before the rise to power of the staunchly pro-American Sarkozy) for fear of retaliation from the aggressor states and also because they do not wish to fracture Atlantic and EU unity, seen (perhaps wrongly) as the foundation of their own security.

The increasingly frequent resort to accusing of “crimes against humanity” countries or governments that the Western Club of nations regards as its enemies, or as rebels to its global regime, is equally suspect. It is as clear to Delhi policy makers as to those of other formerly colonized or ex-socialist states (such as Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria, Sudan or Libya) that such charges are not pressed against the West, its “colonies” such as Israel or its docile allies, and that war crimes committed by NATO members’ forces escape international prosecution and are only tried, if ever, under their own domestic jurisdictions which can be trusted to exhibit great leniency while Western Human Rights watchdog bodies and other NGOs tend to prefer denouncing abusing committed in “non-cooperative”, generally less affluent countries.

NATO’s obdurate and illegal bombing of Libya in 2011, and its frantic campaign, - under prodding from France, Britain and the USA, three nations that have a well known record of imperial colonization and exploitation in the continent, to dislodge Qaddafi’s government on behalf of handpicked and obscure puppet-like “rebels” from Benghazi under cover of UN resolution 1973, appeared unreasonable and cynical in the eyes of Indian statesmen. They could not fail to note the repetition of the formula applied in Iraq and Afghanistan, consisting in destroying a country’s infrastructure in order to secure contracts for its rebuilding, either funded by “International assistance” (i.e. tax payers) or at the victim’s own cost as proposed by Paul Wolfowitz, then US Deputy Secretary of Defense for Iraq, in the months leading up to its invasion and occupation in 2002-03.

An even less flattering comparison can be drawn with the air campaign and overall military support provided by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy to the rebel troops led by General Franco against the Spanish government of the day.

The unseemly scramble for oil and gas deals in the new post-Qaddafi Libya among the NATO bombing partners, now demanding their pounds of flesh out of the war-ravaged country, and the persistent rumours that large financial inducements were distributed among high ranking members of the Libyan government to make them change sides, whereas some western leaders were also personal beneficiaries of the arbitrarily “frozen” Libyan financial reserves, only confirm those misgivings. In American vocabulary, “freezing foreign assets” is often synonymous with confiscating them to bolster the failing US economy.

There is also worrying evidence that NATO, bereft of its original mission since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, is trying to perpetuate itself by inventing reasons for overseas wars and neo-colonial missions and turning into a costly and destructive parasite of the global economy. Prof. M.D. Nalapat, an influential foreign policy expert, has compared NATO to “an army of simians… Such a force can create immense damage but is unable to clean up the resultant mess” (shamireaders, 8/30/2011). Indeed, it is guilty of a fast rising number of war crimes, some of which qualify as crimes against humanity by the standards NATO members themselves have set.

The threats and sanctions brandished by members of the Atlantic Club against the Syrian government and the US’ persistent attempts to “strangle” Iran through sanctions and sabotage it in the interests of client states Israel and Saudi Arabia, are seen from Delhi as continued efforts to implement the original Project for the New American Century (PNAC) of 2000 which advocated the overthrow of a number of Middle Eastern regimes and possible occupation of the corresponding countries, including Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran, Sudan and possibly Saudi Arabia, or at
least its oil fields.

The European Union

The EU was hailed as a model of supra-national regional integration between countries that share long histories of conflict and rivalry. The desired “United States of Europe” has often been compared to the Indian Union in terms of size, political system, diversity, cultural wealth and antiquity. However, the growing resistance in European populations to continental integration and their distrust of a unified bureaucratic leadership, generally regarded as undemocratic, was seen in India as an indication that the ambitious federal project might not have paid enough attention to objective social and cultural conditions in member states.

The growing financial troubles for the Eurozone, beginning in 2009 with the Greek debt crisis that rapidly spread to most Southern EU members, are an added proof that the technocratic planners and managers of unification have gone too far and now seem out of their depth. It is a fact that the EU has not been able to project a united diplomatic front and cannot, in most respects, be viewed as a single political and economic force so that India, like all other powers, especially Euro-skeptic ones such as the USA, Britain and Russia whose opinions are very influential in the country for different reasons, does not see the EU as a substitute of the national governments it supposedly represents.

Germany’s quest for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for instance confirms that Europe is not ready to adopt a common foreign policy, especially in view of the fact that not one but two other EU members are already permanent veto-wielding members of the UNSC, even though they no longer rank among the world’s predominant powers.

The traditionally strong linkages and relations between India and major European powers, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy in particular, remain and have multiplied, whereas the EU’s focus in India is on cooperation in science, technology, education, trade promotion and in other areas that are not exclusively controlled by national governments, generally jealous of their prerogatives.

An often raised question concerns the future of the EU and the possibility that it may split into at least two blocs, on North-South or East-West lines, in economic and monetary terms. For both historical and geopolitical reasons, India would have more convergences and synergies, ideologically and commercially, with a continental “Eurasian” association centered on Germany and Russia, which provides a land bridge between South Asia and Europe than in the “Atlantic” NATO-aligned Europe whose centre of gravity remains between the US and Britain in what still remains in some respects the “Imperial West”. In this regard, Europe’s purported unity was cast in doubt not only by the poor coordination between member-states in tackling the current economic crisis, but also by the Franco-British-US assault on Libya, which was clearly designed to evict and replace Italy in its privileged relationship with the Qaddafi government, in an old-fashioned show of intra-European rivalry.

Secularism in Europe: Multi or Uni-cultural?

Another matter of curiosity and concern in India is the perception that Europe, in fear of “multiculturalism”, as noted earlier, is striving to reassert a homogenous civilization and absorb or reject immigrant elements that it sees as a danger to its prosperity and identity. Current efforts in various European states to curb and ban religious and cultural symbols associated with exogenous minorities remind many of the old western “demons” that manifested in the Crusades, the Inquisition and the missionary-cum-colonizing campaigns and “civilizing conquests” – not to mention stalags, gulags and other concentration and death camps of centuries past.

India feels it has long ago devised its own brand of spiritual or “transcendent” secularism, reflected in the Hindu nationalist philosopher Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s definition of “Integral Humanism”, which allows full scope for religious and cultural freedom and diversity, while avoiding some of the narrow minded and condescending aspects of western secularism, whose often aggressively anti-religious legalistic positions unwittingly reflect some Judeo-Christian prejudices internalized by the Euro-American Enlightenment. 

As Professor R.K. Singh wrote:“India has its own model of secularism… Instead of blindly joining the West in its war on terror, India needs to evolve a strategy that is more appropriate to its domestic and regional environment[…] Indians have learned to live with Islam for centuries […] Instead of seeking to impose uniculturalism, Indians have evolve their own brand of multiculturalism that has been further strengthened since its independence […] in which […] minorities are not only co-partners but, under the Constitution are also provided with additional safeguards as minorities. India with its large Muslim population has a major role to play in resolving intra-Islamic conflict”, A New Axis: China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran in Defence Watch, Vol. X, n 4, December 2010, p. 18)

Many in the country realize that they and their expatriate compatriots are likely to be targeted and victimized in some ways by Western societies turning inwards and becoming increasingly chauvinistic and parochial, even if they can avoid a proliferation of individual or collective acts of violence such as the massacre carried out on July 22, 2011 in Norway by a fanatic imbued with extreme “Neo-Conservative” ideas that may characterize a rebranded Euro-American form of Fascism.

The author is Convener, Editorial Board, World Affairs Journal. In 1999, he co-founded the Telesis Academy in Switzerland, dedicated to the study of the ancient wisdom of East and West in the contemporary scientific context. He has been associated with the Nuclear Disarmament Forum and the Foundation of Global Dialog in Switzerland.

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