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Is India an useful idiot?

This post was sparked by a post on Madhoo's blog about India's involvement in Sudan's oil business.

As usual, any mention of our unethical behavior has to somehow end-up with discussion on US hypocrisy!

The US did actually support many dictators, both before and after the Cold War and even today it supports some! However, there is difference between support of dictators and actually opposing liberation of people under dictatorial rule. We opposed liberation of Iraqi people, atleast symbolically! So citing US support of dictators does not help. The correct response is that US opposed liberation of Bangladesh from dictatorial Pakistan!

The difference between US opposition of Bangladesh liberation and India's opposition to liberation of Iraq is that atleast US did it because of her self-interest. There is a logic for US support of dictators, a logic of self-interest! US support of dictators benefitted US: either in monetory terms (Saudi Arabia) or in fight against USSR. Or atleast that was the plan at the point of time! What did we gain by opposing US liberation of Iraq? We went against US (although benignly but symbollically) emotionally and were just following rest of the world blindly. France and Russia atleast benefitted by dealing with Saddam.

When I look at India's support of dictators it looks purely emotional or symbolic to me! The benefit that we are getting is negligible but we end up legitimising dictators. Heck, Nehru even rubbed shoulders with Egypt's Naseer.

Our policy has been to support any dictator who thumbs his nose against "imperalism" or Capitalism! Many on the left had been (atleast during Cold War) convinced that socialism (or communism) will win over Capitalism and Western imperalism. The belief was very strong (afterall Karl Marx "proved" "scientifically" that Capitalism cannot sustain itself)! I bet when we refused to support Israel during her formative years we were sure that Israel will not last long enough! Did Nehru invest in building NAM without believing that we will have to atleast live side-by-side with Communism? Just try to understand the logic behind NAM! As if Communism was morally and strengthwise equivalent with Western capitalism!

Even today, the belief is that terrorism (and especially Islamic terrorism) will last forever. So, it is better to accomodate with the reality. US is working with Pakistan in short-term because Musharraf is atleast helping them fight terrorism. I am not defending US here but stating their own arguments. We may not agree with those reasons but atleast they are valid from US point of view. Long-term goal of US policy is to get rid of dictators (atleast stated). Bush has made spread of democracy and freedom his administration's official policy in order to prevent terrorism from taking roots. Is our long-term goal to get rid of dictators like Fidel Castro, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabhe, Iran's mullah's (heck, we invited their President for our Independence Day) and so on? Was our long-term goal the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein (after our short-term beneficial relationship with him was over)? Does our official policy includes the spread of democracy and freedom? How we intend to fight terrorism in the long-run?

Either we should gain from unethical relationships or oppose such things based on principles! I prefer the second option! We are doing exactly reverse! We are not gaining anything significant from dictators but nevertheless support them on an ideological basis! I remember having read somewhere that Fidel Castro calls such people or institutions as useful idiots! That's what we have been!



The argument that the US and India support dictators out of pragmatism is correct. But what this argument fails to capture is the fact that short term support of these repressive regimes almost always leads to long term detriment. The US support of the repressive Saudi regime was at least partially responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The US support of dictators and tyrants has invariably led to unintended consequences. It is almost always better to follow a policy of "do the right thing" and in the end the world will support you and everything else will sort itself out.

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