Do the Democrats respect democracy in real?

By K N Pandita

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 lately closer relations between the two countries. India also abstained in the two subsequent meetings of the UN.

India declining to join the condemnation exercise of Russian policy in Ukraine did not go well with sections of the Biden administration. Some observers wanted the US takes punitive action against India like 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 the obsession with imposing economic sanctions has become a habit of intolerant political and bureaucratic managers in Washington. They would like to equate India with Iran. This is the fossilized mentality and may not lead the US to a statesmanlike approach to the Russo-Ukraine war.

The critics of the Indian stand on the issue argue that by abstaining she 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 of Russia posing 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 of India bringing before the SC the complaint about Pakistan launching 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 treat the complaint of India? 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 in point right now. The point is that it left an impression with India that more than the clauses of the UN Charter, it is the big power politics that is ruling 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 their head from anywhere. Washington’s failure is that it thinks democracy is its exclusive realm and the world’s largest democracy has not or little 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 democracy but also to defend democracy by taking on authoritarianism that poses a serious challenge to democracy as the philosophy of governance.

For nearly two years India has been countering blatant aggression and authoritarianism single-handed all along a cold, long and treacherous Himalayan Mountain line giving sacrifices of her precious men in olive green to save the country and save democracy. Did any of the Democrats come out with a resolution of condemnation of aggression by the world’s most notorious oligarchy?

Yes, India bought S-400 missile from Russia to bolster her defence and security. The US brandished her dagger of sanctions. Many Congressmen and Senators claim they defused the situation. Thank you, wise and sensible Congressmen. We abhor thanklessness. But be frank enough to acknowledge that you did not overlook the economic angle in dissuading the administration from a bad decision. This is a country of 140 crore people. Hundreds of American companies, big or small, are engaged in bilateral business. If India seeks to defend herself against an unpredictable enemy, is she not indirectly protecting the economic interests of the US? That is a layman’s inference, and hopefully, you will not deny that.

And let a bitter truth be told without anger or hatred. In pursuance of her 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 having a foothold very close to India which is a democracy and only very friendly terms with the then Soviet Union. Both the situations were gall to the American policy planners. It was American patronage that encouraged Pakistan to wage three wars with India making Kashmir issue the cause for unrelenting hostility. On the Kashmir issue, the US adopted a neutral stance and even when the Kargil war happened in 1999, and Pakistan admitted that non-state actors and some Pakistanis in olive green had illegally occupied many Indian mountain posts, the US never thought of bringing a resolution of condemnation against Pakistan to the table of 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 maintained a military state on the western border of India and then began supporting it on all international fora for right or wrong purposes. The question is why does the US maintain a terror breeding cesspool in a sensitive region on 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 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 shakes off old stereotypes and looks at the world from a new pris. India is a. fast developing country. She is the biggest market for international trade. 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. US must bear in mind that her democracy will be respected by the world only when she respects the world’s largest democracy by moving a resolution in the SC that unless India is given a permanent seat in the SC, the existing world order shall remain disordered.

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