Friday, March 09, 2007

Bush Admin policy towards India - confused priorities?

I was taken aback by the Bush administrations decision to slash foreign aid to India by approximately 30% this fiscal year. What makes this cut remarkable is the fact that how the administration touted the Indo-US nuclear deal as a "pro-people" deal and now when the opportunity to help the most marginalized Indians has presented itself through various development programs the administration sees it as wasteful expenditure. What kind of a relationship will the United States build with India if on the one hand it exhausts its diplomacy on deals/agreements that barely touch the Indian masses beyond the national security apparatus and on the other ignores their genuine needs as not worthy of support?

It is immaterial how much the absolute dollar figure is. It is critical to note the areas in which commitment and support is being pledged. This cut in funding forces us to question the true rationale behind the Indo-US nuclear deal. The argument that this was to help the people of India stands challenged today. Young India has already advocated the position that the deal was a misstep in Indo-US relations as it diverted our collective energies from seeking real solutions to real problems. Do read Young India's op-eds on this issue by going to our page devoted to the analysis of the nuclear deal.

We urge policymakers and citizens from both countries to dedicate themselves to first addressing the most pressing concerns of our people. If indeed energy is a challenge that we wish to tackle jointly then let's develop real collaborative strategies that lead us to energy independence and not to unrealized and un-materialized promises discussions on whom has evaded the public arena to a large extent. We urge the administration to bring out a clear statement explaining the rationale for the cut in funding and place it in a clear to understand context of what type of a relationship does it seek with the world's largest democracy. It no longer suffices to use the term "strategic" as it clearly does not include the ordinary Indian and concerns for his/her problems.

We are committed to working with policymakers and people's movements both in India and the United States to strengthen the natural bond of democracy and freedom. But we are weary of claims of doing so if the policies pursued suggest otherwise. I hope the administration can lift the cloud of doubt for us all and affirm our shared belief in a joint march towards a better world order as partners.