Hillary Clinton’s Business Trip to India

India’s booming 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.1

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.3 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.”4 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.4

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.5

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.”6

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.7

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).8 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.”8

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 selling spare parts and other services to India.9 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.10 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.”11 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 1977.12 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.12 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.”12

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, the US’ willingness to make nuclear deal with India is perceived, by some, to gain latter’s strategic and geopolitical loyalty.12 “(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.13

   1. 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.11 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, Zbigniew Brzezenski boasted, “We actually did provide some support to the Mijahedeen before (Soviet) invasion.”14 “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.”15

   2. 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….”16 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.”16 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.”6

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 has it 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.17 Arms deals between India and US will pull the military of the two countries together and foster interoperability.11

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.”7 Vice Admiral Jeffrey Wieringa, the head of the Pentagon agency that administers weapons exports, was more candid: “We sell stuff to build relationships.”7

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.”17 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 millions.18 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.19

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.”20

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). [] []
  2. Mark Landler, “Seeking Business Allies, Clinton Connects with India’s Billionaires,” in New York Times (July 18, 2009).
    []
  3. Chomsky, Noam, “September 11th and Its Aftermath: Where is the World Heading?” Public Lecture at the Music Academy, Chennai (Madras), India (November 10, 2001). []
  4. Lukery, “Bombshell: Bin Laden Worked for US until 9/11: Sibel Edmonds on the Mike Malloy Radio Show,” in Global Research (August 1, 2009). [] []
  5. Anwar Iqbal, “US Created Taliban and Abandoned Pakistan: Clinton,” in Dawn.Com (April 25, 2009) and see Youtube. []
  6. Bryan Bender, “US Is Top Purveyor on Weapons Sales List Shipments Grow to Unstable Areas,” in worldproutassembly.org (November 13, 2006). [] []
  7. Frida Berrigan, “Weapons: Our No#1 Export?” in Foreign Policy In Focus (July 1, 2009). [] [] []
  8. Michael F. Martin and K. Alan Kronstadt, CRS Report for Congress: India-U.S. Economic and Trade Relations, August 31, 2007. [] []
  9. Andrew Lichterman and M.V. Ramana, “Rushing into the Wrong Future: The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal, Energy and Security,” in Dissident Voice.org (September 20, 2008). []
  10. Steven Mufson, “New Energy on India: Companies and Lobbyists Throw Support behind U.S. Participation in the Countries Nuclear Sector,” in Washington Post (July 18, 2006). []
  11. William R. Hawkins, “Bush’s Legacy in India,” in FrontPageMagazine.com (November 24, 2008). [] [] []
  12. Jose Miguel Alonso Trabanco, “Is an ‘Asian NATO’ Really on the US Agenda?” in Global Research (January 28, 2009). [] [] [] []
  13. Siddharth Varadarajan, “The Truth behind the Indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal,” in Global Research (July 29, 2005). []
  14. Noor Ali, “US-UN Conspiracy against the People of Afghanistan,” in Online Center for Afghan Studies (February 21, 1998). []
  15. 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.” []
  16. India and US Defence Ties Grow Stronger,” in india-defence.com (June 25, 2008). [] []
  17. Weapons Makers Look Overseas as DoD Cuts Back,” in USAToday (June 13, 2009). [] []
  18. Poverty in the United States, 2007.” []
  19. Katherine S. Newman and Victor Tan Chen, The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2007). []
  20. Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger, “Invest in People, Not Weapons,” in Toronto Star (March 24, 2008). []

Kamalakar Duvvuru teaches the New Testament in India with an objective of promoting peace, justice, unity and love. He can be reached at: kamalakar.duvvur@gmail.com. Read other articles by Kamalakar, or visit Kamalakar's website.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Indian said on August 11th, 2009 at 3:48pm #

    Well. The author has very good points. But either forgot the geographical position of India or just does not want to consider. Its not only in India and US, poor people are ignored. In the bully China also people are living BPL. You people are either communist or …

  2. Max Shields said on August 12th, 2009 at 5:59am #

    What Hillary should be telling India is there on an unsustainably path to ruin. It off it before it’s to late for every one. The US needs to do the same thing.

    Since all these “leaders” are self-serving idiots, they probably wouldn’t get it.

    What is a “boom economy” Kamalakar Duvvuru? Start there and then see if your article makes sense.

  3. b99 said on August 12th, 2009 at 6:54am #

    India may well indeed have a booming economy. That term is used in the US when Wall Street and the fnanciers prosper, even if “Main St” is swooning with debt, poverty and ill-health.

    Clinton”s reference to the Indian market may also include its labor market. Where else can you get hundreds of millions of English (or what passes) speakers for so little money? This recalls Ross Perot’s giant sucking sound of US jobs going overseas – way overseas. She has no problem with that – she’s a ‘free trader.’

    My impression is also that China is not only perceived as a hegemonic threat – they are also, unlike India, not Caucasian. The Chinese are still viewed as inscrutable orientals, a people who hold a different deck of cards. That’s how the Japanese were seen a few decades ago – but that ‘threat’ has since been contained. Indians are viewed as more like us, English speaking and Anglophile – sort of dark-skinned ‘white’ people. And India’ s Hinduism is not seen as a threat at all – rather as a bulwark against Islam. Israel has been cozying up to India for a while against the ‘common enemy.’ US arms to India serve to put the squeeze on the Middle East – Israel on the West, India on the East.

    Meanwhile, India’s ‘wretched refuse’ continue to pour into its cities, and its skies and waters and soil continue to darken with contaminents. The race to the bottom is well underway!

  4. sastry.m said on September 1st, 2009 at 9:32am #

    b99’s observations truly reflect the present Indian situation. Indians like europeans in the west belong to caucasian race in the farthest east and the mother Sanskrit of all Indian languages belongs to Indo-Germanic group of languages providing etemological origins of all sounds and expressions not found in classic Greek and Latin languages of europe. Further east beginning even the eastern Indian states trace to mongolian type of physical features of oriental people. The uniqueness of “soul” expression of these people seems to look into the individual self to seek parity with external manifestations and thereby maintain natural individuality. The Indians, with features of their physical caucasian frame work appear to have swallowed up the oriental “Soul” with the motto ” Know thy Self ” into Yogic integrity coupled with rational and logical intellectual capabilities of western mind-set. Thus the uniqueness of Indian civilization bridges the horizons of both East and West as acknowledged by Prof. Max Mueller given in a series of lectures to I.C.S cadres in England before leaving for dominian services andwhich were edited into a book under the title ” I point to India” Worthy of note is the progress made by the Japanese in emulating western philosophy and mechanical civilization in the 19’th century reaching a status by routing the Russian Czar’s rusting navy with a modern Japanese one of faster mobility and farther fire power in 1902 naval war. This was achieved without trading their millenia old natural civilization and yet adapting the western wisdom of knowledge without losing their own oriental one of self realization to pay back their western Gurus with their own coins in gratitude. The Chinese too later in the 20’th century had to fall back upon their own resources when the Russians left them in a lurch with all projects started to help in the faith of common communism leaving them in a state of half completion in late 1950-early 60’s because of a Mongolian soar developed between the two socialist states-( Peking and Moscow by Prof.Klaus Mehnert). Yet they toiled and struggled under the Direction of Chaiman Mao who although embraced the economic philosophy of socialism originated in the west yet applied it with introspection required of the then existing conditions and developed China skilfully into 70’s and 80’s. India too has progressed thorough times but appears to do so without any coherent expression of natural culture by simply imitating the ways of west and falling an easy prey to their ruthless exploitation of superficial mechanical civilization. When only India can wake up to her infallible spiritual traditions and natural civilization the progress achieved so far can bridge purposefully for human enlightenment required of the west and removalof abject poverty required in the oriental world.