Slavoj Zizek, the new Left guru had given an interview in which he had almost desperately sought a Donald Trump Presidency. Reason: Hillary Clinton was an interventionist of a kind on the basis of which the beltway Ayatollahs of the US strategic community thrive.
She was also a quintessential status quoist. That was the reason why Wall Street loved her. And the white and blue collar workers hated her. They, in middle America, gave so many delegate votes to Trump, even though the two coasts gave her a numerical majority in terms of popular votes.
There were lesser mortals in the ‘blink and miss’ strategic security community in New Delhi wanted what Zizek wanted. Reason: a retrenchment of expeditionary military policy was the centrepiece of Trump’s pitch that caught on like a maelstrom.
But why an isolationist US should be favoured by the Indian experts and the rest of the elite even when they seemed apoplectic with joy each time there was an Indo-US deal. Reason: a resurgent India with increasingly sophisticated navy increasingly venturing well into the blue waters gets a strategic space that could turn the only ocean named after a country its own. Also, the India Ocean’s littoral nations no longer need to appeal to the US before calling New Delhi when they are in trouble.
In other words, the Indian strategic planners could accomplish their own hegemonic desires, based on the notion of what they thought to be ‘Indian exceptionalism.’ That was the template the US was actually selling to New Delhi only as its surrogate. It seems the Narendra Modi-led NDA government is more keen about the former. The comparative picture is that of Manmohan Singh’s UPA government that had planned to be a knock-off power with the blessings of the New York-Washington beltway ‘Brahmins.’
However, lately, Modi’s major power engagements seem to be stuck despite his effort to lead India as evolving ‘hard State’ led by himself as the ‘strongman.’ It may have erred in its understanding the always ‘transactional’ relationships that Washington favoured. The Strategic Partnership that the two sides had been building upon was more based ‘military commerce’ and ‘nuclear energy sales.’
If Britain was called the shopkeepers of the world by a rampaging Napoleon, the US for long, and increasingly so, have been a militarist power. Dwight Eisenhower’s last testament of calling the evolving economy and society a ‘military-industrial complex’ (MIC) was a reaction to John Kennedy’s fictitious ‘missile gap.’ The Cold War obviously helped but 9/11 helped more.
A seminal research by two top Washington Post researchers/correspondents had reported how much of the US has been annexed by security contractors, and how many they employed with highest secrecy classifications.
If Trump decides to withdraw from ruling the world with the help of this supra-MIC, they need emergent and resurgent countries like India as markets. This message seems only to be sinking in the minds foreign policy practitioners. But it may already be a little to take steps that smoothen relations with the other major powers like Russia and China.
Russia has already shown signs of some kind of a course correction – albeit careful - of their own in the way it has given occasional sops to Pindi-Islamabad jihadists. China is of course fully invested in Pakistan.
In the process, New Delhi is feeling the heat despite cool breeze from the Ganges in Varanasi should have propitiated China’s own strongman and a neo-Maoist, Xi Jinping, Beijing appears to have taken it upon itself to show light to the unemancipated mandarins who are housed in the South Block sandstone edifice.
So what is the way out? For one, it is key that an equally oligarchic Russia of Vladimir Putin – equally as in what the US is – should see fruition of all the ‘low hanging fruits’ in the areas where precisely the US was seeking to displace them.
Trump’s Administration may not like to rile India especially when it takes on China and the jihadist sections of Pakistan. It realises that it does not have too many policy tools to discipline its ‘banker’ i.e. China that holds $ 1.3 trillion of US treasury bonds and another trillion odd dollars in its foreign exchange reserve.
New Delhi’s own course correction needs to be in the multilateral fora like the BRICS or G-20 and not be too protective of the ASEAN. After all, the two US super-Carriers that had ventured into South China Sea last year, was seen off by a plan when the former went passed the waters with a chummy and hearty farewell message. And that is how responsible nations behave amongst themselves.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)