(This article was first published in September 2016 in the previous version of People’s Review. Due to an incident of hacking the old website was pulled down and we could only restore the old articles in this section)
The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), which happens to be the first ever ‘official’ bilateral agreement between the Indian government and the US government to make the former a military base of the latter, is going to see the light of the day after weeks, if not months, as told by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who concluded the deal after meeting Ashton Carter, the US Defence Secretary. At the same time John Kerry, Obama’s Foreign Secretary, met Narendra Modi on 30 August morning in New Delhi to see through the deal. Having India on board of LEMOA, which is a bespoke agreement drafted after editing the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), the agreement that the US government has signed with its usual satellite states whom it calls ‘partners’.
The policy hawks of New Delhi, led by a clique of right-wing extremists, mostly Sangh affiliated think tanks and people close to Langley and Tel Aviv, hailed the LEMOA as a win-win situation and claimed that by signing the deal India will be a strong partner of the US and check mate Pakistan and China in the territorial influence exerting exercise. The mainstream media, barring few, wholeheartedly plunged in the arena to support the deal by inciting jingoistic spirit among the upper caste elites, who are the core decision makers, by playing the Pakistan and China card. Suddenly signing the LEMOA became a patriotic act and Modi government was hailed for being pragmatic and for taking India ahead.
LEMOA provides the armed forces of both signing parties non-exclusive rights to use each other’s military bases and infrastructure for refuelling, inventory, repairs, etc. in case such a need arises. It is sure that with no worldwide military engagement, Indian armed forces would ever require the assistance from the American military bases. However, due to its growing engagement in Middle East Asia, and in its pursuit of military victory on Chinese and Korean (DPRK) forces, the US military will utilise the Indian military infrastructure more under this deal. The US military command has a record of stationing troops, even in limited number, in those countries where it has gained permission to operate or co-own any military base. The LEMOA signing will pave the way for the US army to station troops under technical cover in India and it will eventually lead to the formal establishment of US military bases in India through the back door. An incredible job was done by the self-styled patriotic regime of Modi, which again placed the sovereignty of India at stake by stooping before the bosses of White House – Pentagon and Wall Street.
The signing process of LEMOA, first initiated under the regime of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, took 12 years to complete. Vajpayee’s NDA government started switching India’s foreign policy to meet the demands of the globalised unipolar world under US command. The Vajpayee government took extraordinary proactive measures to strengthen ties with Zionist Israel and the US led Western bloc. The visit of Bill Clinton, the US president, in 2000, initiated the post-Pokhran stage bilateral relations between India and USA, which were focused on opening FBI office in India, developing stronger military ties between the two armies, especially to counter growth of anti-US and anti-Western wave of movements in South East Asia and to primarily encircle China. The Vajpayee government renewed the anti-China propaganda and tirade under the then defence minister, George Fernandes, who accused China of being a greater threat than Pakistan. This was done under extensive American pressure exerted on the Indian government. Vajpayee signed the General Security of Military Information Agreement in 2002, which helped the US and its allies like Israel, France, and Britain to increase their military footprint on the surface of India by utilising the new tide of neo-liberal economic policies adopted by the BJP led NDA government.
The LEMOA was originally part of a set of four cardinal agreements that the US makes its neo-colonial ‘partners’ sign when it starts a relationship with them. The case with India was different because India was highlighted as a large and successful democratic country on a global scale by global monopoly capital and it would have been improper to expose the true character of the Indian state machinery without a cloak of sham independence that the Indian ruling classes love to flaunt. Therefore, the negotiation resulted in something like LEMOA, instead of a usual LSA. Along with the LEMOA the three other agreements that the US has placed on the table for the Indian government to sign are End User Verification Agreement (India and US already signed this agreement), Communications Interoperability & Security Memorandum of Agreement(CISMOA), and the Basic Exchange & Cooperation Agreement on Geo-spatial services (BECA). The defence establishment along with a broad range of political opposition strongly expressed reservations about the CISMOA and BECA, which threatens the national security and sovereignty of India.
The process was stalled under the UPA regime for a while as it became politically risky for the Congress and Sonia Gandhi to do the tightrope walk that Manmohan Singh, the US deputed Prime Minister, wanted her to perform. The UPA compensated the US by forging an Indo-US military pact, the 123 Nuclear Deal, which once nearly took Manmohan Singh’s government towards the verge of collapse.
The Modi regime surpassed the servility of the Congress regime and shamelessly advocated the transformation of India into an American military base, alike the Pakistan of the 1960s. The US couldn’t miss the chance to push through the stalled agreements during the rule of the Modi regime to ensure that the process of opening up India’s military base for Pentagon is completed as an irreversible process when a favourable regime is at the helm of affairs.
Shortly after coming to power, Modi gave his nod to open up Indian defence sector to 100 per cent FDI. Under the garb of promoting Make in India, Modi regime has ensured that the US and other Western countries can sell their highly priced obsolete technology to India by manufacturing the same stuff in India by using cheap raw materials and labour. The extensive stress laid on defence production is helping the stocks of aluminium and bauxite mining companies owned by Modi’s corporate patrons like Adani, Agarwal (Vedanta), and other groups soar. As aluminium is a chief component in defence manufacturing, it’s inevitable that the progress of the Make in India defence scheme is directly linked to the war waged by the Indian government in the Adivasi-dominated heartland of the country to evict the aboriginal people from the last vestige of India’s green cover.
The LEMOA history is linked with Indian history
Since 1947, as India and Pakistan were formed when the British imperialism decided to end its direct colonial rule, these two countries became pawns of the neo-imperialist nexus of US-Britain, until Nehru wearing his sham jacket of socialism started lap dancing for the Soviet Union, which took the path of state capitalism after the death of CPSU leader Stalin. India had a significant number of US troops present during the Second World War and later the Americans enjoyed special treatment from Nehru-Patel-Krishna Menon regime until the Soviet’s started penetrating into the country and its military-economic affairs.
The government of Nehru sought US support after the British government handed over the baton of New Delhi to it. Since 1947, soon after their formation, the two states of the British commonwealth, India and Pakistan, started racing and outmanoeuvring each other to get closer to the US. As part of a deal signed between the interim government of Nehru in July 1947, the US forces were allowed to station their planes and refuel in India, and this special treaty continued until the 1960s. The Nehru government even sent its military attaché to Pentagon to buy American weapons when armed skirmishes started between the Pakistani regime and New Delhi to occupy the turbulent Jammu and Kashmir in October 1948. By January 1949, Nehru was a close ally of the US, however, a weak military and backward economy of India were liabilities for the American programme of containing the socialist camp, especially when China was getting out of the grip of US and when Korean war was looming large. Nehru, during his maiden visit to the USA, ensured that a special bonding between the Truman administration and New Delhi is formed. The CIA, initially had reservations regarding Krishna Menon, the Defence Minister of Nehru who was known for his firebrand anti-imperialist speeches, mostly hollow and devoid of any revolutionary content. Very soon the US was assured of Menon’s cooperation, which made a long lasting and strong bonding between the Nehru regime and Washington, which went from the McCarthyist era up to the Indo-Sino war in 1962 when India used the American weapons to fight the war against the common enemy, communist China.
Nehru, despite his left-wing welfare rhetoric mongering, which carefully distinguished his ideology from the ideology of Marxism that he despised, kept doors open for Americans as well to utilise the support of both super-powers to fulfil the interests of the Indian comprador capitalists and build up a strong militaristic state. The theory of not becoming an exclusive neo-colony of any power unlike Pakistan, which became a neo-colony of the US, helped Nehru and his coterie to exploit the contradiction among the US and the Soviet Union for global hegemony, on one hand, to expand India’s role as a reactionary watch-dog in South East Asia, on the other hand, it helped Nehru to equip and bolster the rumbling army that was passed down from the colonial masters. Nehru very cunningly joined the Non-Alignment Movement, which was devised as a strategy by rulers of neo-colonial and semi-colonial states to bargain from both the US and Soviet led blocs. After Indira Gandhi took over power, India tilted further towards the Soviet Union and signed a military pact in 1971, which made India a Soviet satellite state. However, the Indira Gandhi government still stood officially by the Non-Alignment Movement and tried to bargain better deals from both US and USSR. The Indira Gandhi government was the first one in the history of India, which on one hand increased the pitch of anti-Americanism and on the other hand, took all sort of prescriptions, including population control diktats, from the US led IMF and World Bank for loans and financial aid.
The US establishment tried its best to lure the Indian government from the Russian side to their side by offering lucrative baits, but Indira Gandhi remained a committed Russian puppet despite allowing the Americans to control different sectors of the Indian economy. However, the most lucrative defence sector remained the exclusive zone for the Soviets to mint huge profit. The US aided Indira’s opposition during the period of emergency to increase American footprint in Indian defence sector and beat the Soviet Union in other key sectors of the economy. The US started materialising its goal from the mid-1980s onwards with the gradual decline of the Soviet Union due to its economic and political crisis. The government of Rajiv Gandhi started the shift by agreeing to the policy of opening up the economy and its core sectors to the Western powers. The safe passage provided to the American head of the Union Carbide from India after the tragic Bhopal Gas leak was a signage of India’s keenness to be a part of the Western block by switching from the Soviet block.
While the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse and was about to enter a stage of an extreme economic crisis, Prime Minister Chandrasekhar, who belonged to the US sponsored Janata Party conglomerate, allowed American jets to refuel themselves in India during the First Gulf War, the American aggression on Iraq.
As India embraced the neo-liberal economic prescription of the IMF under the Congress government the drive to transform India into a neo-colony of the American-led Western bloc started at a fast pace. The Vajpayee government finally started the official engagements with the US government on a larger scale and it was Vajpayee’s policy hawks like Brajesh Mishra, a RSS deputed bureaucrat, who prepared the roadmap to get the four cardinal agreements signed and implement Pentagon’s project to make India a grand military base and puppet of the Washington DC. The visit of Bill Clinton to India hastened the process of Indian defence tie-ups with the US and its allies like Israel. In a couple of years, the Indian government pushed through a military cooperation treaty as well as opened India as a dumping ground for the obsolete nuclear power generation industry of the Western world.
The consequences of LEMOA
The LEMOA is not an end in itself, however, just the first step to set the ball in motion. Despite the available data on how the US government has converted most of its “partner” states to satellite states, the eagerness of the Indian ruling classes to officially embrace servility to the Western monopoly and finance capital represented by the US, indicates the nadir that comprador stooping has reached in last three decades. The overall rejection of the Non-Alignment principles to transform India into a military base of the US and its Western Allies is done with the intention of strategically outmanoeuvre and encircle China, which both New Delhi and Washington DC treats as a formidable foe in the global arena. It must be noted that though the LEMOA is non-binding on both parties it is quite unlikely that in an event of US request for repair or refuelling during any military engagement of US in the neighbourhood, India will have the liberty to deny such request. This will severely undermine the leftover sovereignty of the country, while it will offer a great deal of freedom to the American military establishment in India. Gradually the post-LEMOA bonhomie between the US and Indian military establishment will eventually stir up the demand for an American military base in some remote locations as a part of the geo-political strategy of Pentagon, and slowly the US military will move its expensive hardware and technologies along with the manpower from a volatile Pakistan to a more stable and friendly India. The positioning of troops and hardware in India and with an access to use Indian runways for flying its jets, the US government will be able to carry on its regular military aggression on Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, as well as secure its position before launching any military campaign against countries like Iran, China or DPR Korea.
The Indian sovereignty cannot remain secure under any type of military ties with the world’s no.1 coloniser of the present time. The US government has not secured or consolidated the sovereignty of any nation in the last seven decades, rather it implemented some most nefarious plans on a global basis, which jeopardised the sovereignty and economy of several of the Asian-African and South American countries. While seeking global unilateral hegemony, the US and its giant corporations have overturned governments, killed millions of innocent people, bombed dozens of independent and sovereign nations and funded hundreds of terrorist and fundamentalist organisations, including the notorious Taliban and Al Qaeda. The national security of India, which the Modi government and his coteries swear by, day in and out, will not only be at stake but totally compromised in case the US forces feels at home in India through the deals like LEMOA.
The weak and fragile opposition to LEMOA must transform
The so-called “nationalist” government of Modi has already milked the defence sector to the saturation point. The Rafale deal with France, opposed by the BJP during opposition days, saw the light of the day when the deal amount shooted from initial Rs 750 crore of 2012 to Rs 1600 crore per fighter jet now. The Modi government gave consent to the purchase of 126 Rafale jets from the French company at the hiked price in August 2015, a signage of a huge amount of money getting transferred between different stakeholders of New Delhi’s power corridors.
While the Rafale jets will be arriving only after three years, it will be a good time for the BJP (accused in the 2001 Tehelka exposure on defence scams) and the bureaucracy to earn some more commissions from the US administration in lieu of allowing more grants and access to the American forces. The burden of the treaties and their repercussions will fall on the people and until now the opposition to the LEMOA signing had been so weak and fragile that it did not go beyond the corporate English media walls. The zeal of the opposition, which was displayed when Manmohan Singh tried to offer India on a platter to George W Bush and Obama administration was quite absent this time when the anti-national deal should have been vehemently opposed by agitating the people from the grassroots. The LEMOA will shackle India to the US military and it is the right of the people of the country, especially the broad masses of workers and peasants who pay the highest amount of indirect taxes, to voice their opinion and even veto the deal that aims at subjugating them officially before the US armed forces.
As the parliamentary and mainstream political parties are showing reluctance to oppose this deal of US slavery by the Indian government led by the RSS-BJP combo and the poster boy of saffron nationalism, Narendra Modi, the time is ripe for the democratic and progressive forces fighting for the rights of the people and against the aggression of foreign monopoly capital owned corporate aggression on Indian soil to take up the issue and agitate the people, the working class, the peasantry, the Dalits-Tribals and oppressed minority communities like Muslims and Christians against the peril of LEMOA and build up huge resistance movements against the implementation of the LEMOA to ensure that the Modi government is forced to withdraw the act and surrender before the people. Without such a strong movement, without a consolidated anti-fascist movement of the patriotic forces against the conspiracy to sell off the country to US corporations, there is no other way left to protect the sovereignty of India.