The line blurs

It is a decidedly sad phenomenon for peace activists of South Asia.
What does the Second Coming of George W. Bush mean for South Asia? Certainly, no improved prospect of peace in this region, no more so than in Iraq and the Middle East. Official reactions here to the numbing news of November 3 make this abundantly clear.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a congratulatory message to Bush, makes this particularly clear. Going beyond a formal greeting, the message says: “As partners against terrorism and WMD proliferation, we will stand by the United States in strengthening international peace and stability.” Singh adds: “The global war against terrorism and efforts to combat WMD proliferation will benefit enormously from your steadfast resolve and leadership.”

The Prime Minister also declares that a major goal of the two countries’ policies “must be to continue to deny any comfort or encouragement to religious extremism or terrorism, and resolve to ensure their complete elimination as an acceptable instrument of state policy.” The allusions are obvious.

The message might have been identical if former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had returned to power following the general election six months ago. Almost identical, in fact, was the message that went out from New Delhi to the Bush Administration in the wake of 9/11 and of the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq.

The government of India under Vajpayee was prompt, on each of those past occasions, to try turning it into a partnership with the USA against Pakistan. It was quick to propose a “coalition of democracies” to counter terrorism, of which they were supposed to be common victims. It welcomed the idea of a “pre-emptive strike,” wondering loudly whether it was not warranted in relation to Pakistan and Kashmir as well.

I am not shell shocked or even mildly surprised despite my considered lack of naiveity with regard to politics and ideology– The congress increasingly seems to be a poor alternative to the far Indian right. Time to mint new coins- heads both sides; vajpayee/advani and manmohan/sonia… It is a loss-loss situation, if there ever was one.

Singh’s message shows that a change of government does not dictate either an instant or an easy change of such a policy and perspective. A militarist think-tank and like-minded mandarins can make sure that the legacy lasts longer.

What more can one expect from the institution of ‘Government’? Anti-people the rule… Time to look towards sooth-sayers!