Corporatism Swallowing Up Diplomacy


India is projected to be the world’s third largest economy by 2030, after the US and China. India’s growing economic might attracts both developed and developing countries and they hurry up for closer economic ties with India. For India’s ministry of External Affairs, the year 2010 was the busiest one, as India received all five heads of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

President Nicholas Sarkozy's visit in December 2010 was the third one, after British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama visited India. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also visited India in December.

The visit of President Obama had further strengthened India’s strategic alliance with the US with the close defense and security relationships between the two countries. It would involve India buying US weaponry on a large scale. The US achieved further opening up of Indian market for the business and commercial interests of the US. President Obama clinched about $10 billion in new contracts for the US exports to India, which the mainstream media in the US forecast that over 50,000 jobs would be created in the US with these deals. Even if this prediction is materialized, it won’t alter the alarming employment scenario in the US with the country's unemployment rate surpassing over 9.6%.

However, opening up of Indian agriculture and retail trade for the profiteering of American multinational corporations like Wal-Mart and Monsanto would be detrimental to the livelihood of working people in India. By entering into these deals, the ruling elites actually betrayed the interests of millions of small and marginal farmers and unorganized retailers in India. So, the current Indo-US relations do not serve the real interests of the people of India since it was not based on equality and mutual interest.

French President Sarkozy’s visit was also on the same lines. He stated that the nuclear energy would be "the focus of our cooperation" with India. His primary aim for his coming to India was business, specifically the sale of French nuclear reactors. The agreement to build two reactors — of 1,650 megawatts capacity each — worth $10 billion — at Jaitapur in Maharashtra was the crowning success of his visit.

But India’s press including the mainstream warned the government to carefully tread on the Jaitapur plant and asked to ensure that the cost of power per unit was not too high or else India would breed another Enron.

The French president demanded the Indian government further open up sectors like insurance and retail, particularly multi-brand retail trade for French Foreign Direct Investments. Indian Left parties have always been strident in opposing this move since it would fire away the hundreds of thousands of people working in these sectors.

As a quid pro quo for clinching the nuclear business deal, President Sarkozy dangled a carrot before New Delhi. He said that India being "home to a sixth of the world's humanity should become a Security Council permanent member; so that it could assume its full role within the G20." Earlier, President Obama had also endorsed India’s demand for permanent membership in the UNSC. India began its two-year tenure as one of the 12 non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) from Jan. 1, 2011.

Indian diplomatic establishment would always feel pride whenever somebody echoes its long-standing demand for permanent membership in UNSC. However they ignore the fact that the UN structure is not yet democratized on the basis of its independent role and influence in world affairs. India’s membership as a permanent member of the Security Council in a more democratized UN structure would be more productive in international relations.

Establishing mutual ties and strengthening relations between India and other countries such as the US, UK, France and others should benefit the working people of these countries. Maintaining relations with these countries with the mutual and reciprocal benefits is also vital for India since about 40% of the people of India are still poverty-stricken.

But many of the agreements signed during the visits of the heads of the states were hugely beneficial for the corporate capital, particularly in the sectors like defense, nuclear field and arms industry. Across the world, the corporate globalization with an accelerated accumulation of capital requires more brutal exploitation of working people. Both domestic and external policies are changed according to this requirement. India’s principle of non-alignment with the major global powers and maintaining independent foreign policy has become a memory of the past.

The US attitude of treating Pakistan more reliable than India has also changed. India’s potential market is now more important for the corporate America. Both Obama and Sarkozy did not visit Pakistan since they understood that de-hyphenating India from Pakistan would please India’s ruling elites. The US policy of containing China by maintaining close relationships with India is still pursued under Obama’s Presidency.

So, for the layman, it would appear that the foreign policy establishment consisting of diplomats, politicians, journalists, defense personnel and experts, policy-oriented experts and think-tanks operate independently. But, the corporate capital acting as a trans-state actor has tightened its stranglehold on the policy-making in foreign affairs in the era of neo-liberalism. It’s worth mentioning that the cohort of over 200 corporate CEOs accompanied the US Presidential team during its visit to India.

Only the global unity of the working people could do away with the increasing stranglehold of corporatism in international relations.

N. Gunasekaran is a political activist and writer based in Chennai, India.

From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2011

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