Archive for August, 2009

“Your Name Is Common”: Racial Profiling in the US

August 21, 2009

 

One of the draconian consequences of 9/11 is racial profiling. Bollywood Muslim actor Shah Rukh Khan became the latest victim of what some call “flying while a Muslim” after he was singled out by US airport authorities allegedly because of his Muslim surname “Khan”. “I was really hassled at the American airport because my name is Khan,” he said. The other recent Indian victim was former president of India. On April 24, 2009 in a clear violation of protocol, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a Muslim, was frisked by the staff of American airliner Continental Airlines.

Shah Rukh Khan was detained at the Newark airport on August 14, 2009 for about two hours, and released only after the Indian consulate intervened and vouched for him. Later he said that, instead of doing a routine finger scan, the immigration authorities kept telling him that his name was “common”. He said: “They kept telling me your name is common…And I was too polite to ask ‘common to what’.”[1] Ironically, his new film “My Name is Khan” is on racial profiling, and revolves around a Muslim character, mistaken for a terrorist, and his experiences in a post 9/11 America.

What happened to Shah Rukh Khan is not an isolated incident. Since September 11, 2001 there has been a widely reported increase in racial profiling at US airports, particularly as it applies to passengers with darker complexion, “foreign sounding names”, and/or Middle Eastern or South Asian appearance. They are either forced to disembark or refused entry to a plane or detained. Their skin color, names, language and country of origin attract security personnel. Not because they are all criminals. Their “foreign marks” make them suspects. A 50-page report of the Amnesty International “Threat and Humiliation: Racial Profiling, Domestic Security, and Human Rights in the United States,” released on September 13, 2004, asserts that racial profiling in the US is pervasive and the law enforcement uses race, religion, country of origin, or ethnic and religious appearance as a proxy for criminal suspicion. “Prior to 9/11, racial profiling was frequently referred to as ‘driving while black,’” the report noted. “Now, the practice can be more accurately characterized as driving, flying, walking, worshipping, shopping or staying at home while Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, Muslim or of Middle-Eastern appearance.”

According to the newly released government data, more than 2000 immigrants from Muslim-majority nations were singled out as possible national security threats and questioned in the fall of 2004. After being questioned about their views on the United States and what was preached in their mosques, none of those interrogated were charged with national security offenses. Of course, security personnel should interrogate individuals who arouse suspicion, but to question only members of one religious or ethnic community is unethical, humiliating and ineffective. It is naïve to imagine that all terrorists are Muslim and Middle Eastern descent.

In 2007 the Los Angeles Police Department has launched an extensive mapping program to identify Muslim enclaves across the city. LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing told the Los Angeles Times: “We want to know where the Pakistanis, Iranians and Chechens are so we can reach out to those communities.”[2] But the mapping program has sparked outrage from some Islamic groups and civil libertarians. The American Civil Liberties Union said that the program was nothing short of racial profiling.

Racial profiling at the US airports has intensified after 9/11. On a flight air marshals and Airline crew can force a passenger to leave a plane, or even arrest him/her merely because a fellow passenger or airline personnel feels uncomfortable with his/her presence in the plane. Inevitably, the passengers affected are those with darker skin, and/or Middle Eastern and South Asian appearance. In November 2006 six Muslim imams were led away in handcuffs from a US Airways flight after passengers complained that they were praying in the terminal before boarding the plane. After their release, it is alleged, the airline denied them passage in any of its other flights and also refused to help them get tickets for other airlines. In another incident, in August 2007 at the San Diego airport an American airlines flight to Chicago was delayed because a passenger was scared of several Arabic speaking men on board. They were, in fact, Iraqi-Americans, who went to San Diego to train US Marines at Camp Pendleton. The men were detained and questioned before being released. Later the flight was cancelled! 

Azhar Usman, a burly American-born Muslim with a heavy black beard, says that he elicits an almost universal reaction when he boards an airplane at any United States airport: conversations stop in midsentence and the look in the eyes of his fellow passengers says, “We’re all going to die!”[3] Ahmed Ahmed, a comedian who was hauled through the Las Vegas airport in handcuffs, says: “It’s a bad time to be named Ahmed now,” as his name is a “common” name and could match a member of a terrorist group.

Racial profiling affected those with “foreign marks” at the cross-border also. Zakariya Muhammad Reed, who served for 20 years in the National Guard, and eleven years as a firefighter, was detained four times in six months in 2007 at the Canada-US boarder after he and his family visited his wife’s family in Ontario, Canada, and were returning to the US. In the first encounter, he says, the guards engaged in some nasty banter. “You know, we’re really too good to these detainees,” one of the guards said, according to Reed. “We should treat them like we do in the desert. We should put a bag over their heads and zip tie their hands together.” After about three hours, Reed says, they took his photo and fingerprints, and made him wait a half hour longer before giving him his passport back and telling he could go. “Our car was completely trashed,” he says. “My son’s portable DVD player was broken, and I have a decorative Koran on the dashboard that was thrown on the floor.” Later he was told by Dan Foote, aide to Representative Marcy Kaptur, that the trouble was “no doubt because you probably changed your name to a Muslim name.”[4]

Reed’s letter to the Interagency Border Inspection System, sent on February 2, 2007, expresses his agonizing ordeal. “Nobody will give me any information as to why I am being detained,” he wrote. “I would like to know exactly what I am being accused of and why is it that I am having so much trouble reentering the home of my birth…My entire life has revolved around the service of American citizens and suddenly I am being treated like a criminal because there ‘is a problem with my name,’ to quote one of the border officers…What do I have to do to get my name from this list?…I have been treated like a criminal and my wife and children have been mistreated and disrespected in the name of Homeland Security. All we want is to go on with our lives as before. I have never taken part in any subversive activity to cause harm to this land or its people. I have never done anything criminal in my life.”[5]

US has been caught up with Islamophobia. This is fuelled by several self-interests groups. Media played its role in stoking up Islamophobia. Radio host Mike Gallagher suggested “Muslim-only” line for the airports. On November 14, 2006 CNN host Glenn Beck asked the first-ever Muslim congressman Keith Ellison: “I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.’ I am not accusing you of being an enemy, but that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.” Some politicians played their part in supporting racial profiling. After terrorist attacks in London, a New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat, said that he would introduce legislation to allow police to zero in on Middle Easterners when they conduct terrorism prevention searches in subways or other local transport systems.[6] In 2008 during US presidential elections, 28 million copies of a DVD titled Obsession: Radical Islam’s War against the West have been distributed within a few weeks in key battleground states. This film features graphic, violent images and makes comparisons of Islam to Nazism.[7] Islamophobia in the US is clearly reflected by the question of John McCain’s supporter: “I got to ask you a question. I donot believe in…I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he’s not…he’s not…he is an Arab. He is not….”[8]

Not only is racial profiling unfair and unequal, but it also implements a system of racial moral superiority. While it is true that some members of Muslim community and Middle Eastern descent were responsible for terrorist attacks in the US, so have “white” men like Timothy McVeigh of the Oklahoma City bombings, and Richard Reid, the British shoe bomber. Adam Gadahn, an al-Qaida spokesperson, is a “white” American from a mixed Jewish and Christian heritage and hails from California. John Walker Lindh, the so-called “American Taliban”, is a Roman Catholic. These individuals do not fit the profile used by programs like the National Security Entry Exit Registration System (NSEERS) and US-VISIT that target Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians. Terrorists are multinational, multiethnic and multireligious. Focusing solely upon a particular race, ethnicity, national origin and religion in deciding who to investigate and detain deflects attention from the actual terrorists.

In March 2008, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issued a strongly worded critique of the United States’ record on racial discrimination and urged the government to make sweeping reforms to policies affecting racial and ethnic minorities, women, immigrants and indigenous populations in the US. Among its recommendations, the Committee called on the US to pass the federal End Racial Profiling Act or similar legislation and combat widespread ethnic and racial profiling practices by law enforcement, especially against Arabs, Muslims and South Asians in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

 Racial Profiling and the Global War on Terror

Racial profiling in the US has been not only to stoke hatred towards Muslims, but also to fuel the already rampant ethnic and religious scapegoating. The power of “scapegoat mechanism” lies in its deception and concealment. On the one hand, it deceives by depicting those who established “scapegoat mechanism” as righteous and innocent, and the “other” as cause of violence. Thus, it legitimizes all forms of violence (violence as violation of one’s human dignity, value and rights) against the “other”, and portrays this violence as a “sacred” act. On the other hand, it conceals the innocence and plight of the “other”, and the violence of those who scapegoated the “other”.  It transforms the violence against the “other” as “good violence”. Thus, the cycle of scapegoating the weak and vulnerable continues.

Racial profiling has, in a way, secured support of majority of Americans for the US’ global war on terror. Moreover, Muslims are perceived by many in the US as “the other”, a perception that allows them to be treated inhumanely without mass protest. It is similar to what US did during World War II to Japanese, leaving out those of German or Italian heritage.

With the overwhelming public support US, along with its allies, launched global war on terror, disguising its real economic and political agenda. Racial profiling, with its skewed up morality, perverted the integrity of human conscience, head and heart. It has helped to deflect not only sympathy from the victims of US’ genocidal violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, but also public focus from “normalized” US’ human rights violations in those countries. American public is benumbed to the US’ atrocities and plunder, incarceration of hundreds of Muslims, destruction of life and property in Iraq and Afghanistan, torture in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, Afghanistan and other secret prisons, and extraordinary renditions. Robert Fisk said:

“Do we in fact really understand the extent of injustice in the Middle East? When I finished writing my new book, I realized how amazed I was that after the past 90 years of injustice, betrayal, slaughter, terror, torture, secret policemen and dictators, how restrained Muslims had been, I realized, towards the West, because I don’t think we Westerners care about Muslims. I don’t think we care about Muslim Arabs. You only have to look at the reporting of Iraq. Every time an American or British soldier is killed, we know his name, his age, whether he was married, the names of his children. But 500,000-600,000 Iraqis, how many of their names have found their way onto our television programs, our radio shows, our newspapers? They are just numbers, and we don’t even know the statistic.”[9]

 Moreover, the American public has failed to acknowledge that US’ unlawful use of force against people and property in Iraq and Afghanistan to achieve its political and economic objectives is nothing but terrorism. According to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff publication, terrorism is defined as “the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against people or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives.”[10]

Americans have also ignored US’ past terrorism history. Pointing out the US behavior, in July 2006 Edward Peck, former US Ambassador to Iraq and Deputy Director of Reagan’s Task Force on Terrorism, said:

“In 1985, when I was the Deputy Director of the Reagan White House Task Force on Terrorism, they asked us – this is a Cabinet Task Force on Terrorism; I was the Deputy Director of the working group – they asked us to come up with a definition of terrorism that could be used throughout the government. We produced about six, and each and every case, they were rejected, because careful reading would indicate that our own country had been involved in some of those activities.”[11]

Again in July 2006 Peck said:

“U.S. Code Title 18, Section 2331[1], and read the U.S. definition of terrorism. And one of them in here says • one of the terms, “international terrorism,” means “activities that,” I quote, “appear to be intended to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping”…Yes, well, certainly, you can think of a number of countries that have been involved in such activities. Ours is one of them.”[12]

A concerned Peck in an interview on CNN Crossfire on October 8, 2001 retorted, “Why it is that all of these people hate us. It’s not because of freedom…They hate us because of things they see us doing to their part of the world that they definitely do not like.”[13]

Very rightly Shah Rukh Khan said that America needed to understand that “it’s not an isolated parallel universe existence for this country…There is a whole world which makes all the good and bad that is happening. So if you are scared of violence, terrorism, all of us are responsible for it. It is not that the rest of the world is and America is not.”[14]

 

 


[1] “America Needs to offer More ‘Warmth’: Shah Rukh,” in OutlookIndia.Com (August 19, 2009).

http://news.outlookindia.com/item.aspx?664478

[2] “LAPD Starts Mapping Muslim Enclaves across Los Angeles,” in DemocracyNow.Org (November 12, 2007).

http://www.democracynow.org/2007/11/12/headlines#16

[3] “Terror Fears Hamper U.S. Muslims Travel,” in The New York Times (June 1, 2006).

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/01/us/nationalspecial3/01traveler.html?_r=2

[4] Matthew Rothschild, “Muslim American Grilled at Border over Religion, Letter to the Editor,” in The Progressive (May 10, 2007).

[5] Matthew Rothschild, “Muslim American Grilled at Border over Religion, Letter to the Editor.”

[6] Edward Epstein, “Calls for Racial, Ethnic Profiling Renewed after Transit Attacks,” in ADC.Org (August 10, 2005).

http://www.adc.org/index.php?id=2562

[7] “Smearcasting: How Islamophobes Spread Fear, Bigotry and Misinformation,” in DemocracyNow.Com (October 17, 2008).

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/10/17/smearcasting_how_islamophobes_spread_fear_bigotry

[8] “Smearcasting: How Islamophobes Spread Fear, Bigotry and Misinformation.”

[9] Robert Fisk, “I Don’t Think We Westerners Care about Muslims,” Keynote Address delivered at MPAC Convention.

http://www.democracynow.org/2006/12/20/i_dont_think_we_westerners_care  

[10] Ghali Hassan, “Iraq’s Occupation: A Form of Terrorism,www.Countercurrents.org (May 29, 2008).

[11] “NATIONAL EXCLUSIVE: Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah Talks with Former US Diplomats on Israel, Prisoners and Hezbollah’s Founding,” in DemocracyNow.Org (July 28, 2006).

[12] “NATIONAL EXCLUSIVE.”

[13] “CNN CROSSFIRE: America Strikes Back: Should the U.S. Target Iraq?” Aired at 19.30 ET on October 8, 2001. http://www.counterpunch.org/peck1.html.

[14] “America Needs to offer More ‘Warmth’: Shah Rukh.”

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Hillary Clinton’s Business Trip To India

August 11, 2009

 

India’s growing economy and vast new market made Hillary Clinton, not surprisingly, to stop first in India’s commercial capital Mumbai during her three day tour of India in July 2009. In an op-ed in The Times of India, Clinton laid out clearly US’ interests in India. First was “the 300 million members of India’s burgeoning middle class” whom she identified as “a vast new market and opportunity.”[1] The focus on India as fundamentally a market for the US business indicates the purpose of Hillary’s visit to India.

In Mumbai, Hillary Clinton first had a meeting with a selective group of Indian business executives. Later she stayed at Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, one of the two hotels that had been attacked by terrorists in November 2008. At a news conference she subtly brought India’s 11/26 and US’ 9/11 together: “Just as India supported America on 9/11, these events are seared in our memory….”[2] The reason for this, probably, was to direct Indian public’s attention to the common perpetrator: Islamic extremism. In her op-ed in The Times of India, Clinton clearly made her point. She mentioned about security: “Our countries have experienced searing terrorist attacks. We both seek a more secure world for our citizens,” and therefore, “We should intensify our defense and law enforcement cooperation to that end.” In the same breath she identified the common enemy as the extremism that Pakistan is confronting.[3]

The two events – Clinton’s meeting with Indian business executives and her stay at Taj hotel – are steeped in a powerful, but unfortunate, symbolism, as 11/26 is linked with 9/11.

US’ 9/11 and Weapons’ Trade

On September 11, 2001 there was a significant shift in security trend. For the first time since the British burned down Washington in 1814, US experienced death and destruction on its land through an enemy attack.[4] Till then death and destruction have always been suffered on foreign lands. George W. Bush, then President of the US, in his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003 recognized this: “In two years, America has gone from a sense of invulnerability to an awareness of peril.” This challenge to its hegemony and attack on its land, instead of leading to introspection of its foreign policy and actions on foreign lands, resulted in the US’ “war on terror”. US failed to acknowledge that the terrorist attack on its land was a blowback. In an interview on the Mike Malloy radio show, former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds said that the US maintained “intimate relations” with Osama Bin Laden and Taliban “all the way until that day of September 11.”[5] The goals of American “statesmen” using these “intimate relations” with al-Qaida included control of Central Asia’s vast energy supplies and new markets for US military-industrial complex.[6]

Recently in a very rare acknowledgement by Hillary Clinton, she confessed that the US’ present enemy in Afghanistan and Pakistan was once its friend. To a question of the Congressman Adam Shciff in a Subcommittee of the House of Appropriations Committee on April 23, 2009, Clinton explained how the militancy was linked to the US-backed proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan:

Let’s remember here…the people we are fighting today we funded them twenty years ago…and we did it because we were locked in a struggle with the Soviet Union. They invaded Afghanistan…and we did not want to see them control Central Asia and we went to work…and it was President Reagan in partnership with Congress led by Democrats who said you know what it sounds like a pretty good idea…let’s deal with the ISI and the Pakistan military and let’s go recruit these mujahedeen…let them come from Saudi Arabia and other countries, importing their Wahabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet Union…they (the Soviets) retreated…they lost billions of dollars and it led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. So there is a very strong argument which is…it wasn’t a bad investment in terms of Soviet Union but let’s be careful with what we sow…because we will harvest.[7]

Therefore, the early foundations of al-Qaida were built, mainly, on relationships and weaponry that came from the billions of dollars in US support for the Afghan mujahedeen during the war to expel Soviet forces from that country. The US has long relied on weapons supplies and sales to prop up allies or enhance collective defense arrangements. According to the report titled “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations”, “For decades, during the height of the Cold War, providing conventional weapons to friendly states was an instrument of foreign policy utilized by the United States and its allies.”[8]

The US Cold War foreign policy of supplying weapons to maintain strategic relationship continued even after 9/11. In fact, the US’ response to the terror attacks was that it was more willing than ever to sell or supply high technology weapons to countries that have pledged assistance in the global war on terror, regardless of their past behavior or current status. Under the guise of the global war on terror, George W. Bush fast-tracked weapon sales, released countries from arms embargoes, and pumped more money into foreign military aid. US sanctions were lifted on Armenia, Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Yugoslavia. These countries have been identified as key allies in the global war on terror.[9]

US-India Relationship

After initial confidence building measures, on January 12, 2004 US and India signed an agreement called the “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership” (NSSP) with the aim of implementing a shared vision to expand cooperation, deepening the ties of commerce and friendship between the two nations, and increasing stability in Asia and beyond. This “strategic partnership” has grown into “global partnership” with the ratification of the US-India Agreement for Cooperation on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy in July 2005. Bush signed the Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006 (or “Hyde Act”) into law in December 2006 (P.L. 109-401).[10] Commenting on the nuclear deal Nicholas Burns, then Under Secretary of State, said that it was “positive for United States national security interest because it will help us cement our strategic partnership with India, which is very important for our global interests.”[11]

In October 10, 2008 Condoleezza Rice, then US Secretary of State, and Pranab Mukherjee, then External Affairs Minister of India, signed the nuclear deal after three years of negotiations. Called the 123 Agreement after a section in the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, the pact allowed India to buy vital nuclear fuel and technology from American companies. 

Right from the beginning corporate interests led by the nuclear industry and arms makers in the US lobbied for the nuclear deal. They saw the possibilities for nuclear trade, weapons sales, and sales of spare parts and other services to India.[12] According to the Washington Post, American companies saw a vast market in India for nuclear reactors and conventional weapons, after having been largely frozen out of that market for decades.[13] The US-India Business Council hired the high-powered firm of Patton Boggs to work on Congress, and the Indian government a powerful US lobbying firm, Barbour Griffith & Rogers LLC, for which Robert Blackwill – US ambassador to India from 2001 to 2003 – is president, as well as the law firm of Venable LLP. The Confederation of Indian Industry and the India-American Friendship Council were also involved.

US politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, overwhelmingly supported the US-India nuclear deal. Because they either have investments in or received financial contributions from the arms industry.

US’ Interests in the Deal

US has acknowledged India’s growing global economic, political, and geo-strategic clout. So it wanted to court India through US-India nuclear deal to further its global interests.

1. To Contain China

US perceives China to be the larger threat to its hegemony. According to the 2008 annual report to Congress from the Office of the Secretary of Defense on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China, “China’s expanding and improving military capabilities are changing East Asian military balances; improvements in China’s strategic capabilities have implications beyond the Asia-Pacific region.”[14] US sees India as a new emerging power of the 21st century, one that can be an ally of the United States and help it balance and contain the rise of China. India also directly faces the Chinese military along a four thousand kilometer northern border.

There has been some speculation regarding US’ intention to create an Asian NATO. During the Cold War era, US forged the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) comprising of pro-western countries such as Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand as well as France and UK. However, this organization was dissolved in 1977.[15] The speculation about US’ intention to forge Asian NATO has been substantiated with the proposals of some American politicians such as Rudolph Giuliani and John McCain. Giuliani proposed that India, Japan, Singapore, Israel and Australia should be included in NATO. Whereas McCain suggested the establishment of US-led League of Democracies. Trabanco opines that McCain’s proposal was a euphemism for the inclusion of nonEuropean US allies in a global military coalition.[16] The reason for this seems to be the rise of China as an economic power. The US National Intelligence Council called it “the unprecedented transfer of wealth from west to east.”[17]

In order to contain China’s power and to preserve its control over strategic sea routes, US strategists have acknowledged the strategically significant geographic location of India. This could be the reason why US has forged an alliance with India in maritime cooperation.

Therefore, US’ willingness to make nuclear deal with India is perceived, by some, to gain latter’s strategic and geopolitical loyalty.[18] “(It) would buttress (India’s) potential utility as a hedge against a rising China, encourage it to pursue economic and strategic policies aligned with U.S. interests, and shape its choices in regard to global energy stability….” said Tellis.[19]

2. To Involve India in the “Reconstruction” of Afghanistan

There is also a talk about US’ intention to involve India in Afghan “reconstruction” and ask for Indian troops.[20] India, in the past, refused to send its troops to Iraq. However, the US-India “global partnership” might give the US leverage over India. As the relationship deepens, it would be difficult for India to reject US’ request for its partnership in the “reconstruction” of Afghanistan, which includes alignment of Indian troops with the NATO troops under the leadership of US.

During her three day visit to India, Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, mentioned about security cooperation: “Our countries have experienced searing terrorist attacks. We both seek a more secure world for our citizens,” and therefore, “We should intensify our defense and law enforcement cooperation to that end.” And this cooperation is against the extremism that Pakistan is tackling at present.

The US strategy seems to be to draw India (as a “partner”) into “Afghan trap”, as it did Russia (its enemy). Admitting that an American operation to infiltrate Afghanistan was launched long before Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, former National Security Adviser under the Carter Administration Zbigniew Brzezenski boasted, “We actually did provide some support to the Mijahedeen before (Soviet) invasion.”[21] “We did not push the Russians into invading, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would,” Brzezenski bragged. “That secret operation was an excellent idea. The effect was to draw the Russians into the Afghan trap.”[22] 

3. Market for US Military-Industrial Complex

The US-India nuclear deal not only links India more closely to US and its global interests, but also boosts US trade in a profitable sector, nuclear industry. It also creates market for US conventional weapons. Till now Russia is the largest supplier of weapons to India (second is Israel). US expects that the nuclear deal will change this scenario.

India is a huge market for weapons sales. In 2005 it was the largest buyer of arms in the developing world with purchases of $5.4 billion. US’ intention to profit from this market is evidenced by recent visits to India by US officials, including Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, in February 2008 to strengthen military ties and promote weapons sales. Lt. Gen. V.K. Kapoor, a defence analyst, said, “Other than obvious commercial interests, the US is keen to invest militarily in India….”[23] At DefExpo 2008 in New Delhi in February 2008 at which major US weapons companies were well represented, William Cohen, former US Defence Secretary under Bill Clinton, declared, “The promise of deeper US-India defence co-operation is now a reality, with collaborations and joint ventures between US and India firms already under way.”[24] India is projected to spend more than $30 billion by 2012 as the country seeks to modernize its military. By 2022 spending is expected to reach $80 billion.

The US-India nuclear deal has opened a huge market for the US weapons industry. For US weapons companies foreign sales mean the biggest bucks. Also, sales are often accompanied by lucrative deals for accessories, spare parts, and eventual upgrades. There is growing evidence that weapons sales are more about money for the US military-industrial complex and other major military economies. According to the congressional report “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations”, “Where before the principal motivation for arms sales by foreign suppliers might have been to support a foreign policy objective, today that motivation may be based as much on economic considerations as those of foreign policy or national security policy.”[25]

 Weapons Deals during Hillary Clinton’s Visit to India

The burgeoning “global partnership” between US and India is gradually laying bare its contents. India has dramatically increased its defence budget up over 34% alone this year. Hillary Clinton’s visit to India in July 2009 resulted in defence, space and nuclear power agreements. It is the payoff resulting from the US-India nuclear deal.

On July 20, 2009 an accord, known as an end use monitoring agreement, between India and US has been reached in New Delhi to clear the way for the sale of US weapons to India. “We have agreed on the end-use monitoring arrangement which would refer to…Indian procurement of US defence technology and equipment,” said S.M. Krishna, Indian External Affairs Minister, in a joint news conference with Clinton. India is now holding a tender for the order of 126 multi-purpose lightweight fighters for the Air Force. US company Lockheed Martin stands as the front runner to sell F-16. The other three bidders are companies from Russia, France and Sweden. According to the tender terms, a winner should launch licensed production of its aircraft in India. The Indian-assembled F-16 would be a lot cheaper than its equivalent put together in the US or Europe. There is qualified labor in India, and labor costs are low. For the first time in history the US is making such an offer to a country that is neither a NATO member state, nor it has Americans troops deployed on its territory.

Hillary Clinton said that India has also approved two sites for the construction of two US nuclear reactors. She said, “I am also pleased that Prime Minister Singh told me that sites for two nuclear parks for US companies have been approved by the government.” That means, it provides about $10 billion business for the US nuclear reactor builders such as General Electric Company and Westinghouse Electric Company, a subsidiary of Japan’s Toshiba Corporation. However, what is not clear is whether India has agreed to the US’ demand for legal immunity to its companies, if there is an accident. 

India has already bought $2.1 billion worth of anti-submarine planes from Boeing earlier this year, the largest US arms transfer to India to date.[26] Arms deals between India and US will pull the military of the two countries together and foster interoperability.[27]

At a May 2009 Defense Writers Group convened by the Center for Media and Security, to the question “whether the Obama administration will follow the general policy of supporting (weapons) exports?” and “do you anticipate any change in terms of where US arms will be sold?” Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy responded, “We don’t have a sort of arms sale policy as much as more a sense of commitment to building partner capacity.”[28] Vice Admiral Jeffrey Wieringa, the head of the Pentagon agency that administers weapons exports, was more candid: “We sell stuff to build relationships.”[29]

Not surprisingly, Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, a consultant to Lockheed Martin, said, “Weapons could be the single biggest U.S. export item over the next 10 years.”[30] Increased weapons sales will certainly help the US Military-Industrial Complex weather the current economic crisis.

 Conclusion

Not surprisingly, in the “global partnership” between US and India, the people who are missing are the poor of both the countries. In the op-ed in The Times of India Hillary Clinton, former Wal-Mart Board Director, made no mention of India’s poor. According to the World Bank poverty line of $1.25 (Rs. 56.13) per day, the number of poor in India during 2004-2005 was 456 million, that is, 41.6% of the population. The official figure of number of poor in the US in 2007 was 37.3 million.[31] However, Katherine Newman, professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, says that apart from 37.3 million poor, there are over 50 million Americans, who belong to what she calls “the missing class”. In her book The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America, co-authored with Victor Tan Chen, she says that the Americans who belong to “the missing class” are those who are living on the edge – one sudden illness, one pink slip (i.e. loss of job), one divorce away from free fall.[32]

The impact of arms trade between US and India has on the lack of economic development among the poor in both the countries, as more and more resources are directed into production and acquisition of new deadly weapons. “We’ve put this money down a black hole of so-called security,” says David Krieger, President of the California-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. “In a more just and humane society, that money would be spent on health care, housing and the alleviation of poverty.”[33]  

Therefore, the single most pressing “security” issue of the 21st century will be assuring the essentials of a healthy, dignified life for the millions of people in India and US, who are left out of the global economy. Poverty continues to be the main human rights issue in both the countries.

What needs to be done is, try and reduce the drive for production and acquisition of more and more weapons systems, so that resources may be used for education, healthcare, and to fight against poverty.


[1] Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Encourage Pakistan as It Confronts Extremism,” in The Times of India (July 17, 2009).

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/NEWS-India-Encourage-Pakistan-as-it-confronts-extremism/articleshow/4787173.cms

[2] Mark Landler, “Seeking Business Allies, Clinton Connects with India’s Billionaires,” in New York Times (July 18, 2009).

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/world/asia/19clinton.html

[3] Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Encourage Pakistan as It Confronts Extremism.”

[4] Noam Chomsky, “September 11th and Its Aftermath: Where is the World Heading?” Public Lecture at the Music Academy, Chennai (Madras), India (November 10, 2001).

[5] Lukery, “Bombshell: Bin Laden Worked for US until 9/11: Sibel Edmonds on the Mike Malloy Radio Show,” in Global Research (August 1, 2009).

[6] Lukery, “Bombshell: Bin Laden Worked for US until 9/11: Sibel Edmonds on the Mike Malloy Radio Show.”

[7] Anwar Iqbal, “US Created Taliban and Abandoned Pakistan: Clinton,” in Dawn.Com (April 25, 2009).

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/12-us-created-taliban-and-abandoned-pakistan-clinton-bi-06;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2CE0fyz4ys

[8] Bryan Bender, “US Is Top Purveyor on Weapons Sales List Shipments Grow to Unstable Areas,” in www.worldproutassembly.org (November 13, 2006).

http://www.worldproutassembly.org/archives/2006/11/us is top purve.html  

[9] Frida Berrigan, “Weapons: Our No#1 Export?” in Foreign Policy In Focus (July 1, 2009).

[10] Michael F. Martin and K. Alan Kronstadt, CRS Report for Congress: India-U.S. Economic and Trade Relations, August 31, 2007.

[11] Michael F. Martin and K. Alan Kronstadt, CRS Report for Congress: India-U.S. Economic and Trade Relations.

[12] Andrew Lichterman and M.V. Ramana, “Rushing into the Wrong Future: The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal, Energy and Security,” in www.dissidentvoice.org (September 20, 2008).

http://dissidentvoice.org2008/09/rushing-into-the-wrong-future-the-us-india-nuclear-deal-energy-and-security.

[13] Steven Mufson, “New Energy on India: Companies and Lobbyists Throw Support behind U.S. Participation in the Countries Nuclear Sector,” in The Washington Post (July 18, 2006).

[14] William R. Hawkins, “Bush’s Legacy in India,” in FrontPageMagazine.com (November 24, 2008).

http://www.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=33188

[15] Jose Miguel Alonso Trabanco, “Is an ‘Asian NATO’ Really on the US Agenda?” in Global Research (January 28, 2009).

[16] Jose Miguel Alonso Trabanco, “Is an ‘Asian NATO’ Really on the US Agenda?”

[17] Jose Miguel Alonso Trabanco, “Is an ‘Asian NATO’ Really on the US Agenda?”

[18] Jose Miguel Alonso Trabanco, “Is an ‘Asian NATO’ Really on the US Agenda?”

[19] Siddharth Varadarajan, “The Truth behind the Indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal,” in Global Research (July 29, 2005).

[20] William R. Hawkins, “Bush’s Legacy in India.”

[21] Noor Ali, “US-UN Conspiracy against the People of Afghanistan,” in Online Center for Afghan Studies (February 21, 1998).

[22] J.W. Smith, “Simultaneously Suppressing the World’s Break for Freedom,” in Economic Democracy: The Political Struggle for the 21st Century, ed. by M.E. Sharpe (New York: Armonk, 2000).

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, “Afghanistan, the Taliban and the United States: The Role of Human Rights in Western Foreign Policy.”

http://www.mediamonitors.net/mosaddeq2.html

[23] “India and US Defence Ties Grow Stronger,” in www.india-defence.com (June 25, 2008).

http://www.india-defence.com/reports-3883.

[24] “India and US Defence Ties Grow Stronger.”

[25] Bryan Bender, “US Is Top Purveyor on Weapons Sales List Shipments Grow to Unstable Areas.”

[26] “Weapons Makers Look Overseas as DoD Cuts Back,” in USAToday (June 13, 2009).

http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2009-06-13-weaponssales-overseas_N.htm

[27] William R. Hawkins, “Bush’s Legacy in India.”

[28] Frida Berrigan, “Weapons: Our No#1 Export?” in Foreign Policy In Focus (July 1, 2009).

[29] Frida Berrigan, “Weapons: Our No#1 Export?”

[30] “Weapons Makers Look Overseas as DoD Cuts Back.”

[31] http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0104520.html

[32] Katherine S. Newman and Victor Tan Chen, The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2007).

[33] Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger, “Invest in People, Not Weapons,” in The Toronto Star (March 24, 2008).