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Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 42

Bring the Skeletons Out

Tuesday 9 October 2007, by Nikhil Chakravartty

The disclosure of the Indo-US agreement for the installation of the nuclear-powered spy device on the Himalayas—forced into the open, ironically, by the American press hunt for subversive CIA activities—is a matter which, shorn of its sensational aspect, brings out the tenuous character of our nonaligned foreign policy. Even the bitterest detractor of Jawaharlal Nehru cannot question his patriotism. And yet he, the father of the concept of nonalignment, was responsible for initiating the process which led to US intrusion into our sovereignty, sanctified by a formal decision on his part as the head of the Government of India. All this was done at the height of the angry confrontation with China leading to armed clashes, which were fully exploited by the Western powers, particularly the USA, to widen the breach between the two Asian giants. By no means India has been a beneficiary from this conflict whatever might have been China’s assessment and objective.

Let it also not be forgotten that many of those who today adorn the Treasury Benches were at the time vociferous in their clamour for seeking American military assistance, and at least some among them have also to recognise their own role in reinforcing the frontier defence network in collaboration with the West.

Now that times have changed, it is under-standable that they have to sing other tunes and talk about “genuine” nonalignment without caring to do a bit of self-introspection as to their own contribution towards combating or undermining it.

The US role in this whole episode is now clear as daylight. While doing its utmost to try to poison India’s friendly relations with China in the fifties, it cashed in on the Sino-Indian animosity, to make dangerous inroads into our defence and economy as a whole. If the 1962 conflict with China came as a godsend for the US and its very active lobby in this country, the 1965 war with Pakistan was no less fruitful insofar as Pakistan used the American military hardware against India, followed by the ignominious devaluation of the rupee in 1966 under Washington’s pressure.

This is the background of the continued intelligence gathering arrangement against China which led to the installation of the second nuclear powerpack on the Himalayas in 1967 and kept up for a year until its utility for the CIA ended. In fact, the entire operation was for the benefit of the US intelligence authorities in their global strategy against the socialist world, and India had nothing to gain from it except the shame of having allowed itself to be a water tower for the CIA.

The lesson from this disclosure is that a nonaligned country has to build up its own infrastructure to ward off attacks and subversion; it cannot afford to be a supplicant for its security needs. And no defence in modern times is possible without strengthening the economy, and which in turn demands the building of heavy industry in the public sector and an overall strategy of self-reliance, reducing dependence on aid or imports to the minimum. This is an aspect of the defence of our independence—which is but the essence of nonalignment—which the Janata leaders, at least some of them, have acquires the fashion of running down. Nobody questions the imperative of uplifting the conditions of our downtrodden peasantry, but this cannot be done, nor the country defended, nor our Independence made secure, by running down industrialisation.

Morarji Desai while making the official statement in Parliament on April 17 on the installation of nuclear-powered CIA intelligence posts in the Himalayas, was conspicuously circumspect, giving the impression of being fair to the point of generosity, towards his predecessors in office, from Nehru, to Shastri to Indira Gandhi, as also to the American authorities including the CIA. One can understand his personal predica-ment since he was the Deputy Prime Minister during 1967-69, the period when the successful CIA device was installed on Nandakot, after the failure of the attempt on Nanda Devi in 1965. Besides, the Prime Minister is obviously anxious that his coming visit to Washington should not be spoilt by such embarrassing disclosures, embarrassing for both the US Administration as also for the Government of India.

At the same time, genuine national interests demand that all such foreign collaboration deals, impinging on our Defence, should forthwith be brought out into the open, no matter whether they were concluded under Nehru, Shastri or Indira Gandhi. There are good reasons to believe that this installation on the Himalayas is not the only instance of permitting the US agencies to intrude into our security system. If the Prime Minister cares to investigate and takes the nation into confidence, many more skeletons will come out of the cupboard. Under the fatuous plea, “For Reasons of State”, many other such deals—some much worse than the nuclear powerpack on the Himalayas—were struck involving many of the big names of yesterday and also of today.

It is necessary that all these are unearthed so that this may serve not only as a lesson for our making genuine efforts at self-reliance but as a warning for all those in power not to indulge in such dangerous game, harmful to national interests in the long run.

(Mainstream, April 22, 1978)

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