May 31, 2020
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The Larger Issue

The Larger Issue
Because heated debates in our free-speaking democracy develop a tendency to become polarised, we currently have a situation where urban India is pitted against the two Communist parties who have the potential to bring down the Manmohan Singh government. It may not come to pass but brinkmanship has a habit of getting out of hand. Actually, that is not my worry. Messrs Yechury and Bardhan are grown-up gentlemen, well-versed in realpolitik, so it is presumptuous to remind them of the consequences of the UPA demise. Nevertheless, there is a bigger, infinitely more critical issue wrapped up in the Iran/airport modernisation/FDI in retail controversy. Unless this country arrives at some broad understanding on the said issue, we will forever be thrashing around in a welter of accusations and counter-accusations. Indeed, the issue I am hinting at is of such urgency that its outcome may well decide India's place in the 21st century.

What is the issue? India has to make up its mind once and for all where it stands vis-a-vis the United States. In the post-Cold War, unipolar world, where for the next five or six decades the United States will remain the pre-eminent power, how close a relationship do we wish to forge with the planet's most powerful democracy in which over one million of our citizens live and prosper obscenely? That relationship, whatever its contours, will have to embrace not only economics and politics, but strategic and cultural matters as well. We cannot cherry-pick, because as any South Block rookie will tell you, these relationships are interlinked. In short, is it in our national interest to get into bed with the Americans? Or should we pursue an "independent" foreign and economic policy? Getting into bed with Uncle Sam does not mean India has no options. We can determine the size of the bed, the colour of the bed-sheets, which side of the bed we are going to sleep on. However, we have to decide whether we are in or out; we cannot have it both ways. One other point. We must remember we are getting into bed with a society and its values, not any crazy Republican or Democrat President.

What is the national consensus on this issue? The Great Indian Middle Class, I believe, is in favour of getting into bed, non-shining India doesn't care as long as its concerns are addressed, the CPI and CPM, of course, believe the idea is diabolical.

My own view is that we should sleep with our 1970s "enemy". But I would like Comrade Prakash Karat to act as referee.

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