SWAMINOMICS Indian versus American hegemony
The Times of India 9 Sep 2007 Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar
I think India and the US can both be called mild hegemons. They certainly seek to use their muscle, but in a mild form, very different from conventional imperialism. After 9/11, the US ceased to look mild. But Iraq soon exposed its limitations. The supposed superpower is helpless to quell militancy; lacks troops for even one occupation, let alone global hegemony; and dares not impose compulsory military service in the US. It can bomb countries from a height, but cannot control events on the ground. US politicians want to exit Iraq, and have no stomach for occupation of other foes (like Iran). After talking mighty and very imperial after 9/11, the US once again looks a mild hegemon, though less so than pre-9/11.
The second issue raised at the start of this column was: how should we react to this degree of hegemonism? For an answer, turn again to India's position in South Asia. Some neighbours view India as an imperial threat. But it is better viewed as a mild hegemon. Should the neighbours boycott India and avoid any form of co-operation? Should they treat India as a strategic pariah? Surely not.
For the same reason, India must not treat the US as a strategic pariah. It must laugh at the CPM, which is a prisoner of its own past. A child of red imperialism, the CPM was utterly humiliated by the US when the Soviet Union and its East European empire collapsed. Anti-Americanism is in the CPM's blood. It is not in India's.
The CPM thinks partnership with the US means becoming an imperial slave. Some extremists in our neighbouring countries similarly view co-operation with India as slavery. Yet, sane folks in these countries see eminent sense in co-operating with India, both bilaterally and regionally. Indeed, they see such co-operation as a way of blunting the edge of Indian hegemony. That is how we should view co-operation with the US.