November 29, 2022

Do the US Democrats really respect democracy?

India declining to join the condemnation exercise against Russian policy in Ukraine did not go well with sections of the Biden administration.
Keywords: Democracy, USA, India, Sanctions, Economic, Conflict, Ukraine, Russia, War, Abstain, Condemnation, Punitive
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India abstained from voting on the US-sponsored resolution on the Ukrainian crisis in the Security Council’s 26 February meeting. 11 out of its 15 members voted in favour of the resolution while three members, China, India and the UAE abstained.

The US was very unhappy as it did not expect India to abstain; keeping in view the closer relations between the two countries in recent years. India also abstained in the two subsequent meetings of the UN.

India declining to join the condemnation exercise against Russian policy in Ukraine did not go well with sections of the Biden administration. Some of its members wanted the US to take punitive action against India, such as imposing a slew of economic sanctions. However, President Biden appears to have anticipated the repercussions of taking a punitive step against the world’s largest democracy.

But somehow, imposing economic sanctions has become an obsessive habit of intolerant political and bureaucratic managers in Washington. They would like to equate India with Iran. This evinces a fossilized mentality and may not allow the US to take a statesmanlike approach to the Russo-Ukraine war.

The critics of the Indian stand on the issue argue that by abstaining New Delhi has overlooked Russia tearing down Article 2(4) of the Charter of the UN. The Article deals at length with “The question of the scope and limits of the phrase “threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.” In other words, the Article is interpreted to bring forth the point that Russia is posing a threat and using force against the territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine.

Now, let us go back a little in history and bring to memory an identical case when India brought before the Security Council the complaint about Pakistan carrying out aggression through a sponsored proxy on Jammu and Kashmir, an independent and sovereign state of the Indian sub-continent after the end of the colonial rule over India on 15 August 1947. India demanded a vacation of aggression. How did the Security Council (SC) treat India’s complaint? It equated the aggressor with the aggressed. It never demanded the condemnation of the aggressor despite Article 2(4) which 104 voters of the General Assembly invoked to pillory Russia. Whatever happened to the Kashmir cause at the SC is not the point right now. The point is that it left an impression with India that more than the clauses of the UN Charter, it is big power politics that rules the roost.

Some American and British retired diplomats have commented that India’s abstention is tantamount to “betrayal of good faith the US has reposed in India by giving the country a special nuclear deal in 2008 and designating India as a major defence partner in 2016.”

Relations between countries are essentially guided by national interests. Friends become friends and foes become foes in the prism of national interests. Superpowers look out on all four sides if a challenge or a threat to their supremacy raises its head from anywhere. Washington’s failure is that it thinks democracy is its exclusive domain and the world’s largest democracy has little or no commitment to its people. India is not only a democracy but also a nuclear power. India is not to befriend the US only because the US is the most powerful nation but also in order to defend democracy by taking on authoritarianism that poses a serious challenge to it as a method of governance.

For nearly two years India has been countering blatant aggression and authoritarianism single-handedly along a cold, long and treacherous Himalayan Mountain border, at times sacrificing her precious servicemen to defend the country and protect democracy. Did any of the US Democrats come out with a resolution to condemn aggression by the world’s most notorious totalitarian regime?

India bought the S-400 missile defence system from Russia to bolster her defence and security. The US brandished the threat of sanctions. Many Congressmen and Senators claim they defused the situation. In pursuance of perceived national and security interests, Washington strongly supported and sustained a military-controlled state on the western borders of democratic India with the clear objective of keeping a foothold very close to India which is a democracy at that time in very friendly terms with the then Soviet Union. That relationship was galling to the American policy planners. It was American patronage that encouraged Pakistan to wage three wars with India, making the Kashmir issue the cause for unrelenting hostility. On that score, the US adopted a neutral stance and even when the Kargil war happened in 1999, and Pakistan admitted that non-state actors and some Pakistani regular troops had illegally occupied many Indian mountain posts, the US never thought of tabling a resolution to condemn Pakistan in the SC.

The US earmarked a special grant in its annual budget for the Pakistan army. Retired Pak army officers have special privileges and most of them are settled in the US.

In this way, the US helped maintain a military regime on the western border of India and then began supporting it on all international fora. The question is: why does the US support a terror breeding state in a sensitive region of the globe which makes no secret of its mission to “bleed India by a thousand cuts”? Everybody knows what maintaining a foothold entails in terms of intelligence, finances, war material, logistical alliance and political cooperation. What else, if not this, is also a threat to the sovereignty and integrity of Russia?  The age of creating buffers and proxies has gone. That is what is making the US shaky.

We would highly appreciate it if the US would shake off old stereotypes and look at the world through a new prism. India is a fast-developing country. She is the second-most populous country in the world and the largest democracy and nuclear power. Single-handed, she is standing up to the threats posed by two of her warlike and unpredictable neighbours, both sworn enemies of democracy. The USA must bear in mind that her democracy will be more respected by the world when she acknowledges the legitimate interests of the world’s largest democracy and, among other initiatives, moves a resolution in the SC that as long as India is not given a permanent seat in it, the United Nations will not reflect the current geopolitical reality. 

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K N Pandita

K N Pandita has a PhD in Iranian Studies from the University of Teheran. He is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University.

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