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Uncle Sam kneads you

Wednesday 8 February 2006, by YECHURY*Sitaram

India’s vote at the recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meeting in favour of reporting Iran to the United Nations Security Council has many ramifications. This also has to be seen in the larger context of American imperialist strategies to strengthen its global hegemonic drive.

At one level, this vote seems to vindicate the unsolicited remark of the US ambassador to India, David Mulford, that the UPA government has no option but to toe the US line on this matter. In an unprecedented manner, he brazenly threatened that if India did otherwise, the recent India-US nuclear deal will not be honoured. If India’s vote was determined by such a threat, then it is downright insulting.

At another level, it is argued that India had not gone along with the US but with the P-5 permanent members of the UN Security Council. The point at issue is not with whom India aligns in its voting; the point is whether India is upholding the principles of natural justice and advancing its time-tested self-declared policy of pursuing an independent foreign policy in its national interest.

Similarly, therefore, the other argument - that since the non-aligned countries on the IAEA were divided, India went along with the P-5 - also cannot hold any water. Again, it is too specious to argue that the IAEA only decided to report and not refer Iran to the UN Security Council. Such a reference now appears inevitable at the next round.

The main issue under contention is the US insistence that Iran is conducting undeclared programmes on its territories to build nuclear weapons. Proceeding on this, the US insists that Iran abandon its legitimate rights to develop its civilian nuclear facilities. If Iran is, in fact, conducting such illegitimate activities, then the only way to stop these is through effective inspections by the IAEA.

Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India has rightly refused to join the NPT given its discriminating character. NPT demarcates between nuclear weapon States and others, thus institutionalising the monopoly of nuclear weapons in a few hands. This monopoly is used for blandishment of other nations to toe the US line.

However, Iran, being part of the NPT is, therefore, subject to both its rights and obligations under the treaty. So far, the IAEA is on record to have stated that Iran has cooperated with its inspections and complied with its instructions. Outside of the standard safeguards, Iran had voluntarily adhered to an additional protocol which permitted IAEA inspectors to conduct spot-checks at facilities and locations not covered by standard safeguards. In addition, Iran had also announced a voluntary suspension of full-scale uranium enrichment, which is a necessary prerequisite for nuclear weaponisation.

Instead of utilising this situation and establishing that Iran is, in fact, possessing clandestine nuclear facilities, the US has chosen to brazenly push its way in reporting this entire matter to the UN Security Council. Clearly, the US has, as always, pre-decided that Iran does, indeed, possess illegal nuclear capabilities and the only way to check is through UN-imposed sanctions and the use of punitive military force.

Following this vote, Iran has announced that it has ended its voluntary adherence to the additional protocol. This, naturally, brings confrontation on to the agenda. It is, indeed, unfortunate that the US is making such demands which have no bearing whatsoever on the IAEA’s legal authority and competence under its own statute or Iran’s obligations under the NPT.

This brings the world dangerously close to the situation prevalent a decade ago when the US similarly confronted Iraq. The much televised evidence presented to the UN Security Council then to substantiate US claims of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destructions (WMDs) turned out to be the most audacious untruth that the world was ever presented with. In fact, every single pretext used by the US to mount the attack on Iraq and its military occupation turned out to be a hoax. Yet, the military occupation continues till date.

This only underlines the fact that US imperialism’s main reason for attacking Iraq is its aim to hegemonise the control of the world’s energy resources, particularly oil. The current targeting of Iran as well as the open hostility against Hugo Chavez and oil rich Venezuela is the pursuit of the same agenda.

Such imperialist arrogance accompanied by vicious neo-liberal economic policies is being resisted all across Latin America today with many countries, through democratic elections, rejecting pro-US forces. The results of such democratic elections, however, are anathema for the US. In fact, it has openly expressed that it’s aghast at the Palestinians for electing Hamas. The US considers Hamas as a terrorist organisation. How can it now recognise the legitimate new government in Palestine?

As is its wont, if it rejects the democratic verdict of the Palestinians, its contempt for democracy is, once again, exposed. US imperialism’s concept of the democracy appears close to what Henry Ford had famously remarked early last century about people being able to buy a Ford car in any colour they wanted as long as the colour was black. It is, indeed, an irony that the US has sponsored the global democracy initiative.

Speaking to the UN General Assembly in September 2004, George W. Bush proposed the establishment of a UN Democracy Fund. The fund, he stated, “would help countries lay the foundations of democracy by instituting the rule of law and an independent courts, a free press, political parties and trade unions.” It is equally ironic that India has joined this coalition by making the highest financial contribution of $ 10 million - equal to what the US itself has contributed.

It is only natural, under these circumstances, that the Indian people would want the present government to strictly adhere to its own commitment made in the National Common Minimum Programme that India, while seeking to improve relations with all countries including the US, will nonetheless pursue vigorously an independent foreign policy.

Opposing the protests against imperialism by progressive sections of our people, the ruling classes invoke our so-called ?common culture’ of ?Indian hospitality’ to visiting guests. ?Atithi Devo Bhava’, we are told, ignoring, however, lessons from our own ?traditions’ and legends. Recall that Vishnu comes in the avatar of Vamana to the audience of King Mahabali. The guest is accorded the warmest of welcomes and asked to seek any gift he wishes. Vamana seeks ?three feet of land’. His wish being granted, he assumes the form of Vishnu’s ?Viswaroopa darsana’ and places one foot on ?swarga loka’ (heaven), one on ?bhoo loka’ (earth) and then asks Mahabali where to place the third! With Mahabali’s head alone remaining unoccupied, he places his foot there and pushes him down to ?patala loka’ (underworld) thus killing him. So much for ?Atithi Devo Bhava’.

Let us, however, return to the larger context. The opposition to the vote against Iran is, in effect, an opposition to the US’s drive to create a ?new world order’. The South African writer, J.M. Coetzee, in his book, Waiting for the Barbarians, states: “The new men of Empire are the ones who believe in fresh starts, new chapters, new pages; we struggle on with the old story.” The story of the real world, real people and their real struggle for emancipation and liberty.

The writer is Rajya Sabha MP and member, CPI(M) Politburo

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