Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
India's military humiliation at the hands of China in 1962 set in motion a process of internal political deterioration which still continues. The first impact of the unimpeded Chinese advance had brought a temporary surge of fellow feeling and patriotic fervor; but the deeper and more lasting consequence of the rout at Bomdila was the virtual destruction of the unprecedented sense of national confidence so carefully nurtured by Nehru during his years of leadership. What was left of dynamism and élan soon faded away as India's inability to strike back in the foreseeable future became more and more abundantly clear to a demoralized nationalist élite.
Nehru had consistently addressed his domestic and foreign policies to the legacy of self-doubt arising out of the millennial failure of Indian nationalism. The deluge he feared most after his death was a return to the age-old nightmare of balkanization and internecine strife characteristic of India in the prelude to Mogul and British rule. Although his neutralist foreign policy grew out of a complex of factors, Nehru saw it in the last analysis as the emblem of a renascent national pride, a reminder to the heterogeneous Indian people of their new collective identity in international affairs. By projecting New Delhi onto the world stage as a free-wheeling entity pursuing its own national interests, Nehru deliberately held out before Bengalis and Marathas and Tamils a mirror image of themselves as Indians.
The fact that he was riding for a fall dawned on remarkably few of his countrymen during the euphoric years when India played its role as a peacemaker and go-between in the company of the superpowers. Indians did indeed begin to see themselves in an inflated mirror-image as citizens of a country that had already arrived-a country held in universal respect-and to attach increased value to their national identity. This was a great source of strength for Nehru in his efforts to control divisive stresses holding back the Five Year Plans. It provided the unifying momentum for more than a decade of domestic progress under his aegis. When the fall finally came, however, the country was totally unprepared for the shock of self- recognition. The frenetic reaction of India in the two years since has oscillated between the extremes of a defeatist abandonment of all dreams of ever attaining great-power status and a stalwart attempt to stride the world stage as if nothing has happened.
If only because he had himself become the embodiment of national self- esteem, Nehru was able to survive the ordeal of 1962 with his personal position intact. Little serious thought was given to discarding him in the most intense moments of reappraisal among the leaders of the governing Congress Party. Even the efforts to circumscribe and redistribute his power were halfhearted until he suffered his stroke early in 1964. The country knew that it shared in the blame for what had happened and rallied around a refurbished image of the leader who symbolized its earlier success. Nehru had little leadership to give in his period of decline, for he was the most demoralized of all by the Himalayan débâcle; but this did not alter the determination of the country to wait out the months with him until the end.
For more than a year the machinery of government ground along aimlessly. Difficult issues were avoided and jurisdictional disputes multiplied. There was a widespread if tacit recognition that only after Nehru was gone, after the succession had been settled and a new political status quo established, would the country be ready to turn its face away from what was past.
In some degree the first months of the post-Nehru era have brought a healthy and constructive phase of reassessment. The mere fact of a stable transition provided a revitalizing sensation of reassurance. With no over- arching personality serving as the fount of all national policies, the base of participation in decision-making has widened and a heightened sense of responsibility has spread through the upper and middle levels of the bureaucracy. The monumental and long neglected twin tasks of stepping up food production and controlling inflationary speculation in the grain trade have been given the highest priority by the new Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri. Corruption in Congress ranks has been confronted in places where Nehru chose not to tread for personal political reasons. Inefficiency and waste in public industrial enterprises are now frankly recognized as serious problems demanding drastic corrective measures. Concrete programs for controlling population through mass sterilization, liberalized abortion laws and the subsidized sale of male contraceptives have found influential sponsors and are slowly making their way through the bureaucratic machinery.
But it is one thing to say that the succession has brought with it a healthy ferment in policy-making and quite another to conclude that this gives promise of significant results. While no serious downturn appears to be in prospect in the years immediately ahead, neither does one see signs of strong forward movement. To the question, "Where is India going?", one can only answer, for the present, that it is pottering along with no clear destination yet in mind.
The old vision is gone, and there are few signs pointing to the birth of a renewed spirit of common purpose to take its place. The mood is increasingly one of every man for himself. This can be felt at every turn in the impatient refusal of each sector of the population to accept the disciplines of planned development. Thus the farmer who grows more food shows more determination than ever to hoard it for a time of still greater stringency or to consume it himself rather than to free it for the market in response to pleas from New Delhi. The middleman and trader reacted to the recent food price crisis by creating artificial local scarcities to push prices up, moving operations methodically from one area to another with the police a jump behind. The low-wage consumer in the cities and towns, who has been using his increase of income in recent years to buy wheat or rice instead of coarse grains, refused to shift back during the 1964 pinch despite official exhortations. All this could also have been said of earlier food crises under Nehru, but one detected on this occasion for the first time a note of antagonism and even contempt toward constituted authority.
Perhaps the most suggestive illustration of the limitations confronting Indian leaders today lies in the fact that the interstate movement of food came to a virtual standstill during the 1964 crisis. The have states declined to share with the have-nots. Punjab withheld its wheat from Uttar Pradesh; Andhra took its time before sharing its rice surplus with Madras, Kerala and Mysore; Orissa banned grain exports to neighboring Bengal, and Gujarat stockpiled its peanuts. This was not a case of simple orneriness or avarice. The states are explicitly given control of agriculture under the strict allocation of powers in the Indian Constitution. National programs to boost food production are carried out not through a centrally directed administrative mechanism but by state governments free to set their own pace. Even the power to tax agricultural income is denied to the central government in what is still an overwhelmingly agricultural country. Estimates of the possible yield from effective taxation of the upper 30 percent of the peasantry run from $1 billion per year on up. Yet attempts to reach this potential source of capital have invariably been unsuccessful.
The decision to allocate agriculture to the states was part of an unusually careful effort to balance the claims of the central and provincial authority in all spheres. Educational policy has also been placed in the hands of the states, which is leading to an intellectual Babel as universities go their separate ways in determining whether to replace English with ten different regional languages. In strictly constitutional terms, the Indian Constitution is neither unitary nor federal but something in between, most accurately described by a term such as "quasi-federal." The central authority has great residual powers and holds a financial rein over the states. As a practical political matter, however, the amount of rope given to the states offers a standing invitation to resist central direction.
Centrifugal tendencies had already become menacing in Nehru's lifetime. In a sense, the succession has ratified the shift of decisive political influence from New Delhi to the provincial capitals. Shastri came to office as the creature of a coalition of southern and coastal state Congress bosses in a straightforward political bargain stipulating plainly that he keep his hands out of the states. Unlike Nehru, he is not in a position to appeal effectively to people in all parts of the country over the heads of the party panjandrums. If a state does not wish to offend a local interest and declines to fall in line with a national policy, Shastri cannot do much about it.
This immobilization of the central power would inhibit even a vigorously assertive leadership which exploited existing constitutional authority to the limit. Given the permissive arrangements evolved among themselves by the Congress leaders, India could well be headed for a stalemate in development. Ansley Coale and Edgar Hoover have sketched the general lines of the race between population growth and economic development in their definitive study for the World Bank. By 1986, according to their projections, the population is likely to climb from the present figure of 475,000,000 to 775,000,000. A multiplying population, moreover, means a proliferating legion of job-seekers clamoring for industrial employment expected at the very most to double every decade. Unless India shows a downward trend in the birth rate by 1966, a trend which progresses to a 50 percent decline by 1981, the rate of increase in the standard of living will remain fixed at slightly less than 1 percent per year under the most favorable assumptions of economic development.[i]
It is a measure of the pervasive atmosphere of futility and defeatism that anti-government forces are proving impotent to make anything of such explosive political material. The kaleidoscopic splits among Communist and Socialist factions have left party rank-and-filers bewildered. Little common ground exists on the right between the modernist, business-oriented Swatantra (Freedom) Party and the Hindu traditionalist Jan Sangh (Peoples) Party. The Congress, comfortably ensconced in Parliament with 370 out of 510 seats and faced with no significant concerted opposition, looks confidently to the 1967 elections.
Nevertheless, the surface placidity of the Indian political scene could be misleading. There is a slow-burning change in the public temper going on underneath as the country searches for some compensatory source of political identity to fill the void left by the humiliation of 1962 and the departure of a charismatic leader. It is as if the passing of Nehru has stripped a veil off the body politic. One encounters an ostentatious return to "things Indian." Astrologers who used to visit their ministerial clients by the back door are now frankly accepted as part of the political landscape. The editor of the English-language New Delhi Statesman took a look at what had been there all the time, behind the Westernized façade, and exclaimed at the wife of the new Prime Minister "cooking the meals for the whole household herself, the most modern thing around her a gas burner, the hearth overlooked by plaster casts of the gods."[ii]
The traditionalist tone in social patterns has a political parallel in the slow stirrings of a coarse-grain nationalism which is frankly, even belligerently, Hindu in its inspiration. This is evident not only in the increased influence of the Jan Sangh but in the sea change within the Congress itself. Shastri comes out of the traditionalist wing of the party in Uttar Pradesh state and was originally brought into the National Congress leadership by Nehru as one of the more adaptable representatives of the old guard. Soon after his selection last year, as it grew clear that he did not have in mind a Pakistan settlement relinquishing Indian sovereignty over Kashmir, Shastri and the Jan Sangh entered into a quiet non-aggression pact. The new government has been largely exempt from attack by Sangh leaders, and in return the Congress no longer pairs the Hindu right with the Communists as a threat to the nation.
Although Shastri, a man of moderation and tolerance, berated the Sangh for its excessive zeal in opposing the Indian visit of the Pope in December and personally displays none of the bigotry of the Hindu right in his attitude toward the Indian Moslems, he does not range himself frontally against Hindu chauvinism as Nehru did. No obstacles are placed in the way of Sangh members joining the party and no particular importance is attached to retaining the participation of spokesmen of India's 48,000,000 Moslems in Congress councils. It is increasingly clear that secularism as Nehru conceived of it died with him.
By and large, the case for nationalism in the first decade of independence could be reduced to the austerely rational proposition that unity offers the only route to modernity. Yet even Nehru, in appealing for a "composite" Indian identity blending Hindu and Moslem cultural influences, clearly implied that the generalized ideal of modernity required the extra accent of a specifically Indian theme. The intermittent attempt on the part of a scattering of Hindu and Moslem intellectuals inspired by Nehru to define a secular "national" culture constituted an implicit acknowledgment that something was lacking. And the failure of the attempt to win significant support for a hybrid nationalism was a summons to Hindu chauvinists to redefine nationalism in their own terms.
The historic inability of Hindu society to throw up its own pan-Indian political institutions and in more recent centuries the humiliating memory of the long dominance of the Moguls have left a searing mark on Hindu attitudes today. Aurangzeb's repressive policies toward his "infidel" subjects had produced the first rumbles of a Hindu political response in the rise of Shivaji just when the British arrived on the scene. In the ensuing quest during the colonial period for an answer to their plight, the leaders of Hindu thought were divided into two camps. Tagore argued that India need not be ashamed of its political failure, which was simply the price paid, as it were, for the achievement of spiritual and cultural greatness. The fact that India had established a Universal Society over so vast and diverse a subcontinent made up for the failure to erect a Universal Empire. Indeed, he maintained, India would lose what was best in its nature if it sought to imitate the Western model of an integrated nation-state.
But the suggestion that Hindu society was incapable of rivaling Western- style nationalism on its own ground found an answer in the Hindu nationalist credo of Vivekananda, Aurobindo and Tilak, who declared that India's gift to the world is Hinduism and that Indian nationalism should be the political expression of Hindu religion and culture. Despite the rise of a later leadership in Nehru and Gandhi committed to a secular nationalism, the tradition of the early Hindu revivalists lived on, finding a strong echo in the aggressive, mystical nationalism of Subhas Chandra Bose-Nehru's only significant rival for leadership of the Congress.
Nehru was unable to make secularism more than a thin overlay on the vast Congress organization with its base in orthodox rural India. The face of the Congress could be seen in the hard-line Hindu attitude of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, the Tammany-style wheelhorse who built the Congress machine and played a pivotal part in the ruling party triumvirate with Gandhi and Nehru. To Sardar Patel, Moslems were a necessary evil in the Congress and the country, to be tolerated but not to be given the kid-glove treatment accorded, or so he thought, by his two colleagues. He was outraged by the threat of a separate Pakistan. Ironically, though, it was Patel in the end who clinched the creation of Pakistan by taking the position in Congress councils that the new state would never be viable. It would be good riddance to get at least some of the Moslems off his hands, if only temporarily, and would teach them a lesson. At best, they would ultimately have to come back on Hindu-dictated terms; at worst, India could enforce its dominion over its weaker neighbor.
The prevailing Hindu view that the new Moslem state would be short-lived was expressed by the Congress president at the time of Partition, Acharya J. B. Kripalani. A strong, economically successful India, he said, "can win back the seceding children to its lap. The freedom we have achieved cannot be complete without the unity of India."[iii] It was deeply exasperating to most Hindus that a Moslem state should be created in part of the motherland envisaged in the ancient Hindu scriptures, and it was deeply frustrating that at the very moment when Hindus were to rule over Moslems for the first time in their history, so many of the Moslems should escape their appointed fate.
Patel's legacy rests with one of his erstwhile lieutenants, Morarji Desai, former Finance Minister and Shastri's opponent in the contest for the succession. Standing implacably against all concessions to Pakistan, Desai said recently that "whatever may be the provocations, we should maintain our attitude so that one day they will be put to it and will have to make friendship with us on proper terms."[iv] What many Congress leaders say in private, the Jan Sangh goes on to say plainly, noting with regret "the existence of Pakistan on Indian territory" and observing that "this situation has given rise to a number of problems. Bharatiya Jan Sangh will aim at bringing India and Pakistan together by ending their separation."[v]
The dominant note in the Hindu attitude today is that Hindus have a natural right to rule in modern India as a form of long-overdue retribution for the sins of the Mogul overlords. It is not enough that a unified state with a Hindu majority-clearly dominant over a Moslem minority now reduced to 11 percent-has been established at long last in the Indian subcontinent. The fulfillment of Indian nationalism requires an assertion of Hindu hegemony over the Moslems of the subcontinent in one form or another. Most Hindus would be satisfied with an acquiescent Pakistan within an Indian sphere of influence, some hope for a confederation, and a vocal few would welcome an excuse to annul Partition by force. Only a hardy band of Westernized intellectuals and Congress moderates think in terms of a settlement with Pakistan, taking into account Pakistan's own internal compulsions. India appears emotionally incapable of assuming the benign posture which might be expected of her as the overwhelmingly larger of the two neighbors.
Pakistan is not reacting out of some unreasoning hysteria or paranoia in charging that India wants the dominant position in their relationship. This is indeed the overwhelming fact of life confronting Rawalpindi. But it does not necessarily follow from this that India should be viewed as the big bad bully and Pakistan the brave little Belgium of the subcontinent.
In Pakistan the need for an external diversionary symbol to hold together a spiritless body politic is, if anything, more conspicuous than in the case of India. The indeterminate character of her own nationalism leaves Pakistan with India as the indispensable rallying point for diverse regional and social groups. This is most vividly seen in the paralyzing conflict between a dominant western wing and a more populous Bengali eastern wing set off by itself in the midst of Indian territory 1,000 miles from the rest of the country. There are few points of contact between the volatile, rice-eating Bengalis with their linguistic kinship to the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal and the wheat-eaters of the West Pakistan plains. Although Islam provides a nominal link, most Bengali Moslems view their position under Rawalpindi as that of a colony subject to economic imperialism and the alien rule of a predominantly Punjabi civil service and military.
Cutting across regional divisions is a fundamental controversy over what Pakistan is to be, which amounts in effect to a disenchanting debate over why Pakistan was formed in the first instance. Is it enough to say that the raison d'être for Pakistan was the desire to escape Hindu domination? The more satisfying proposition is that Pakistan was to be a monument to the Islamic way of life, but the country has been unable to arrive at a consensus as to what this means. Modernists who wanted the commitment to an Islamic state to be nothing more than a statement of values, and traditionalists pressing for more explicit theological sanctions, wrangled over constitutional language from the inception of Pakistan in 1947 until early 1956. What emerged then as the Constitution was hailed by the traditionalists as a victory. But the 1956 Constitution was declared void when Ayub took over two years later and to this day no national consensus has been established on the nature of the state.
The inability of Pakistan to move toward a positive and constructive nationalism focused on internal tasks aggravates what would in any case be the difficult adjustment of a small power living next to a considerably larger neighbor. Indian control of the Moslem-majority Vale of Kashmir stands as a denial of the two-nation theory on which Pakistan was founded and nurtures a persistent sense of national insecurity. Frustrated and at loose ends, Pakistan searches restlessly and endlessly for a degree of recognition and respect out of all proportion to its size. It huffs and puffs and still finds to its understandable despair that India is bigger. Each provocation from Pakistan, each gesture of self-assertion and defiance serves to strengthen the demand in India to put Pakistan in its place. The two countries feed each other's obsessions in a vicious circle of challenge and response. It is in the nature of the situation that India as the larger of the two powers would have to be the first to display political maturity and large-heartedness in order for a process of accommodation to get under way. Yet the forces of moderation are forever on the defensive as the Hindu parties point with alarm to each new act of real or imagined insolence in Rawalpindi.
Historical circumstance has provided several recent moments of lost opportunity in Indo-Pakistan relations which are not likely to recur in such rapid succession soon again. The rise of a pragmatic military man to power in Pakistan was one such occasion. Ayub at the outset of his régime was in a peculiarly strong position to override opposition to a settlement within Pakistan, but Nehru's rejection of his overtures out of hand quickly gave the initiative back to the hard-liners. Another brief intermission in the sequence of mutual recrimination came when India showed a fleeting awareness of its stake in friendship with Pakistan following the Chinese border incursions. Before this feeling could gain momentum, however, Pakistan had started on its intensified diplomacy in Peking. By the time Nehru, near the end of his life, made his dramatic moves for a rapprochement, public opinion in both countries had already hardened along new and seemingly impenetrable battle lines.
Evidence has accumulated since his death to indicate that the Kashmir settlement envisaged by Nehru presupposed a larger Indo-Pakistan accommodation based on confederal relations between the two countries. This was rejected by Ayub out of fear that even a limited confederation with adequate safeguards would imply separate status for East Pakistan in the new grouping, Indeed, the mere rumor that confederation was in the wind touched off backstage demands on the part of East Pakistan for separate treatment in any negotiations.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have undoubtedly been made more abrasive by the pressures of the cold war and the active involvement of both the United States and the Soviet Union in the subcontinent. Pakistan has been able to acquire a disproportionately strong power position relative to that of India through alignment with the United States. As an ally permitting the use of its territory for strategic intelligence purposes, Pakistan has commanded from the United States an economic and military aid subsidy much larger than her size would otherwise warrant. Rawalpindi has been emboldened by this to think big and to press for Indian concessions from a position of artificially induced strength.
Paradoxically, the special character of the relationship of the United States with Pakistan has also prolonged and reinforced Indian intransigence. The responsible inner group in the Indian leadership has come to think of Pakistan with its exclusive military dependence on Washington as an American presence in the subcontinent. This is so even now, despite the new Rawalpindi-Peking relationship. It is believed that the United States is in a position to frustrate any sustained Pakistan military adventure through its intimate ties with the military, its control of spare parts and petroleum imports. The net effect of the American role has been to give India a false sense of stability and to make a meaningful bilateral dialogue with Pakistan seem superfluous. Washington is left to worry about its problem child, and India feels free to stand its ground without facing up to the potential implications of the Rawalpindi-Peking liaison.
In contrast to the United States, which stumbled almost inadvertently into the Indo-Pakistan arena and makes periodic efforts to bring the two protagonists together, the Soviet Union has played a deliberately divisive role in South Asian relations. The use of the veto on the Kashmir issue has been the cutting edge for what has become a broad Soviet commitment to a "progressive" India as against a "reactionary" Pakistan. This has placed the United States in an extremely awkward position as each instance of Soviet support for India prompts demands for equally unequivocal backing from Pakistan. Much of the motive behind Pakistan's increasing assertion of independence from the United States comes from the fact that the United States holds to the anti-Communist basis of the alliance and seeks to remain above the battle in Indo-Pakistan disputes.
It seemed for a time as if the United States might find itself forced onto Pakistan's side as against a Soviet-backed India in a South Asia polarized along cold-war lines. Once having entered into the 1954 military-aid pact with Ayub, then the army commander, the United States found itself automatically catapulted into an expansion of the aid program when Ayub later took over political control of the country. By 1962, India had signed the first of what was to become a series of military aid agreements with the Soviet Union. There seemed to be no way to arrest the process of polarization short of an abrupt American disengagement from Pakistan until the Chinese invasion of 1962. The United States was then given the opportunity to resolve its dilemma through the positive step of a military assistance program in India rather than a negative withdrawal from Pakistan. At present, the United States has a more symmetrical relationship to the two countries than it has had in the past, but the special nature of the Pakistan link has been sharply underscored in the American refusal of Indian requests for supersonic aircraft, air-to-air missiles and heavy tanks, all of which have been given to Pakistan.
Some chance would appear to exist that the United States and the Soviet Union will in time see their interests in South Asia as overlapping rather than competitive. Among other things, it is possible that the Soviet Union will grow tired of its restrictive commitment to India on the Kashmir issue and will seek to emulate the United States by maintaining a presence in both countries. Moscow has already made exploratory overtures to Rawalpindi in an effort to exploit Pakistan's dissatisfaction with its American link and to checkmate Chinese inroads. In his visit to New Delhi in June 1964, Soviet President Mikoyan went so far as to suggest directly to Shastri that it was time for India and Pakistan to seek a settlement of their disputes.
From Pakistan's point of view, a more disinterested Soviet posture has a certain appeal as a means of weakening India. But it is not clear what Pakistan might be prepared to give in return. Although there is widespread anti-Western sentiment in the country, and a new spirit of Asian self- assertion seeking an outlet in an independent foreign policy, Pakistan standing on a similar footing with Washington and Moscow would command a sum total of aid from both considerably smaller than what is now forthcoming from Washington. The Pakistan interest would appear to lie in perpetuating its unilateral aid subsidy as long as this proves possible.
Even in a more relaxed international climate marked by parallel Soviet and American policies toward the Indian subcontinent, the Indo-Pakistan conflict might still persist as a noisy constant of the world scene for many years to come. What the superpowers want will not necessarily be determinative. Yet to the extent that there is, in fact, any chance for a process of adjustment between India and Pakistan, it would appear to depend on their foreign policies growing closer together in response to external developments. This could come in the form of a Soviet entry into Pakistan, or a partial American disengagement from Pakistan, or from both occurring simultaneously. Or it could come from a modified Indian policy on the China border dispute. Only if international realignments force the two countries into similar postures toward their common neighbors is the cycle of suspicion likely to diminish.
It is the pivotal importance of Pakistan in the Indian scheme of things which explains why New Delhi attaches such special importance to its relations with the Soviet Union. The Soviet stand on Kashmir has been the old standby available to the Indian leadership when confronted with the charge that India has no true friends in the world. On more than one occasion, moreover, Soviet leaders have strongly implied that Partition should be undone. Indian opinion is peculiarly sensitive to periodic suggestions that Moscow may re-assess its attitude, and if New Delhi shows signs of wavering on issues affecting major Soviet interests, Moscow need only cast a nod in the direction of Rawalpindi to induce clear thinking.
The ideal world of Indian nationalist dreams is one in which Pakistan remains aligned and India has the Soviet Union all to herself; and in which the Soviet Union and the United States both continue to be at odds with China indefinitely. India sees herself in this situation as the focal point of a grand alliance against Peking. So long as the Soviets, in particular, play their appointed part, India is spared the possible necessity of becoming exclusively dependent on the American nuclear umbrella.
Just as India has a psychological vested interest in a stalemate with Pakistan, so there is utility in the China impasse as a factor keeping alive Soviet and American interest in New Delhi. This is not to say that the onus lies on India for perpetuating the border dispute or that a stabilization of the cease-fire would significantly reduce long-term Chinese military pressures, India has understandably been in no mood to add a diplomatic humiliation to what has already been suffered on the battlefield. But one should not overlook the larger context in which India sees its relations with Peking. Indian leaders have built their whole foreign-policy structure on the concept of a geopolitical community of interest between India and the Soviet Union with respect to China. "We are their second front," Nehru once said, "and they are ours."
The two-year diplomatic tug-of-war over the Indo-Soviet MIG transaction illustrated the strength of the Soviet position in India. India was motivated mainly by the belief that the MIG program would drive a wedge between Moscow and Peking and in so doing reinforce over-all Soviet ties to New Delhi, Beyond this, Soviet planes, unlike U.S. military aid, were to be provided without strings; if Pakistan attacked, India would have an interceptor force equipped with Sidewinder-type air-to-air missiles as a counter to Pakistan's U.S.-supplied F-86s and F-104s. There is little doubt that the Indian Air Force would have insisted on acceptance of the technically superior F-104 if the United States had acceded to Indian requests for supersonic aircraft when the subject was first under serious discussion in 1963. The way was clear for the United States during the period of more than a year after the Indian clash with China when Moscow backtracked on its original licensing offer. But once the Soviet Union had resolved its doubts and a choice was available, the forces in the Indian Government favoring a continued effort to get Americans planes were swept aside.
The attractive power of the Soviet relationship for politically conscious Indians is heightened by the identification of the Soviet Union with the national aspiration for industrial independence. While the United States has provided indispensable underpinnings for industrial growth in the fields of power and transportation, the Soviet Union has stolen the political thunder with two steel mills, a heavy machine-building complex and a series of oil refineries, dramatic symbols of modernization, and state power. It would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of the fact that Soviet-assisted heavy industrial development falls in the public sector of the Indian economy. Public enterprise enjoys great popularity in India despite the administrative lapses and corruption in some of the government's economic ventures. The reason for this does not lie, as often suggested, in the perverse Fabianism of a few doctrinaire bureaucrats. It reflects at bottom the deep distaste felt throughout most of Indian public opinion toward the dominant family and caste groupings presiding over Indian private business. The public sector symbolizes national progress, equally shared, as against unbalanced development in which disparities in wealth multiply.
With economic-aid commitments totaling slightly more than $1 billion and a line of credit for military aid approaching $300 million, the Soviet Union has grown so involved in New Delhi that it is difficult to imagine any wholesale disengagement as part of a shift in emphasis to Pakistan or a moderation of differences with China. What cannot be ruled out, however, is that Moscow will begin to taper off future investments in India while extending its activities to Pakistan as well; and India as a weak and dependent state will have no choice but to take its medicine.
The early cold-war days of the Indo-Soviet relationship, when Moscow needed Nehru's New Delhi as a front in addressing the uncommitted world, seem far off. India is cast today in the status of a client in its dealings with the superpowers. Instead of striking an elusive, equidistant pose midway between the extremes of commitment, the object now is to remain as near as possible to both of her patrons while displeasing neither. "Equidistance" has been replaced by what an Indian statesman has called "equal proximity." "Non-alignment" has been succeeded by "bi-alignment."
The Indian desire to avoid exclusive dependence on any one external power is a healthy sign indicating that there is still some nationalist spirit left in the body politic despite the bruising experience of 1962. Far from deploring Indian ties to Moscow, the United States might well applaud, recognizing that ultimate Indian reliance on the West for food and military support acts as a powerful restraint on the pro-Moscow lobby in New Delhi. It might even be said that relations between India and the United States would be subjected to unbearable strains should the Soviet Union decide for internal or external reasons to reduce its commitments in the post-Nehru period. For in such a situation the United States could become over- committed to the solution of Indian internal problems which do not lend themselves to management from the outside.
If there is any one principle which should guide American policy in developing societies, with their inchoate nationalisms and their intractable economic problems, it is that the responsibility for success or failure should rest clearly with the countries concerned. It should be cause for alarm rather than satisfaction when national leaders throw their arms too enthusiastically around our neck. We are then being asked in effect to perform miracles which we are not likely to perform. Limited responsibility is implicit in the mere act of extending any aid at all, and most certainly so when the amounts are those of the American aid program in New Delhi. But the location of ultimate responsibility can be kept clear so long as the amounts do not loom too large compared to the resources mobilized by the country itself and to the aid given by other powers.
The desirability of staying loose and avoiding unnecessarily deep involvement in situations basically beyond our control applies with special force to the field of military aid. Our military aid relationship with India has been on politically sound ground precisely because the United States has not assumed what should properly be Indian responsibilities for training and shaping the Indian armed forces. During 1963, however, when the United States still thought that the Soviet Union could be preëmpted from the military aid field in India, some of those concerned with the aid program in New Delhi and Washington were restive. It was the natural American instinct to want to see the job through in a close collaboration bordering for all practical purposes on a military alliance relationship.
This is a case of not being able to stand prosperity. Here, for once, the tail does not wag the dog. In Pakistan the United States is committed to the maintenance of certain specific force levels and to a broad objective of "modernization" which can never be fully realized in a period of changing weapons technology. The possibility of graceful disengagement is virtually foreclosed in such an open-ended arrangement, even when some of its underlying assumptions are challenged as in the case of Pakistan's flirtation with Communist China. By contrast, the military hardware given and sold to India is parceled out with a close eye on the evolving Indian posture toward China, toward Pakistan and toward the Soviet Union, It serves its continuing deterrent purpose with respect to China. It assures a balance between Western and Soviet influence in the Indian armed forces at a time when the military is an increasingly important domestic political factor. But the United States retains its bargaining power as well as the opportunity for a flexible response in the event that China is induced at some point to reduce expansionist pressures.
It appears unlikely that the United States will ever be faced with the need to decide on the wisdom of an alliance relationship with India short of a massive Chinese military thrust. To the extent that Moscow-Peking relations permit a continuing Soviet commitment in New Delhi, India, as we have seen, is likely to seek to retain its Soviet links and will be inhibited accordingly in Its security ties with the United States. It is even possible that, at the behest of Moscow, India would move toward a cease- fire agreement with China, once persuaded that the Soviet Union is in a position to restrain Peking as the result of an ideological truce within the bloc. The alternative line of policy which enjoys the most significant support is not alignment with Washington but a sweeping program of militarization-including the development of an independent Indian nuclear deterrent. Powerful groups in the armed forces and leaders of the Hindu nationalist Jan Sangh were demanding an independent deterrent even before the Chinese nuclear test in October. The Indian atomic energy czar, Homi Bhabha, makes a persuasive case to show that India is in a position to produce a stockpile of 50 ten-kiloton bombs in five years, at a manageable cost of $52 million, and goes on to suggest that the know-how now being acquired with French help in rocketry for weather observation could be adapted to make intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
The United States cannot realistically base its policies on the expectation that India will become an integral participant in the American strategic system in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia, Indian and American interests are complementary, not identical, and the most that we can expect is an acknowledgment of overlapping objectives. Thus India has begun to give tacit recognition to the legitimacy of a U.S. nuclear presence in the Indian Ocean; and in the larger global arena, India is making a conscious effort to avoid working at cross-purposes with the United States, though there are likely to be times, as on the issue of U.N. payments, when the Soviet Union is given the benefit of the doubt.
What we can properly ask of India is a decent respect for American interests as a global power and a corresponding acceptance of the fact that India at this stage of development is restricted to the status of a regional power. But this would logically presuppose, in turn, an American willingness to take a dispassionate view of Indian regional ambitions and to let South Asian power relationships develop unimpeded. It would require in particular a clear definition by the United States of the assumptions governing military assistance to Pakistan.
Although our military aid program is nominally addressed to the threat of Communist aggression, Pakistan has frankly pressed for a recasting of the alliance to imply the objective of a military balance of power with India and Afghanistan. The United States has never met this issue head-on. In their 1961 communiqué, President Kennedy and Marshal Ayub agreed in deliberately ambiguous language that Pakistan could use U.S. military aid to maintain its "security," and Ayub no longer bothers with the pretense that Pakistan is motivated by anti-Communism in continuing the alliance. What Pakistan now seeks to establish is a self-perpetuating aid relationship implicitly dedicated to bolstering its power position vis-à- vis India and a veto power over the nature and scope of Indian military expansion. Washington finds itself called upon to deny India supersonic aircraft; and when Moscow, predictably, steps into the breach, this is then cited as renewed reason for replacing the U.S.-supplied Pakistan subsonic fighter force with supersonic planes.
The interest of the United States would appear to lie in a scrupulous detachment from local power rivalries in South Asia. It is not the responsibility of the United States to maintain some arbitrarily determined balance of power between India and Pakistan, and it would not be within our power to control the terms of their relationship indefinitely should the attempt ever be made. If aid levels fixed in proportion to the size of the two countries help India to realize its natural margin of economic and military superiority over Pakistan, this is not the fault of the United States. It is inherent in the situation created by Partition. The test of U.S. friendship with respect to Pakistan can only be whether we are making an adequate contribution to the fulfillment of Pakistan's own power potential.
In both India and Pakistan the basic long-term interest of the United States in stable development has been obscured by the expedient importance of short-term interests associated with the cold war. The exaggerated image of India as a country that counted in a closely divided world struggle led Washington to give importance to New Delhi largely in terms of its international role. Pakistan, too, became a factor in American policy at a time when global war seemed an imminent possibility, which implied that it would be forgotten once tensions subsided. Yet as the passage of time has made clear, the ultimate stake of the United States lies in what happens inside the two countries.
India compels attention not because it is a great power, but precisely because it is so far from being one. There is a long and dangerous road ahead as the country seeks to create a viable nationalism in the face of staggering historical odds. The shadow of Chinese nuclear power dampens the stoutest spirits. Failure lurks on every side, and the costs of failure, it is all too clear, would be paid in the end not only by India but by the responsible international community. Nor would India's failure be Pakistan's triumph. Disarray in New Delhi with its attendant strains on Hindu-Moslem amity would precipitate a chain reaction of strife reaching across the border.
Balkanization in the Indian subcontinent would set the stage for a prolonged conflict between Soviet, Chinese and American interests, with the advantage in such a situation going to those nearest at hand. It is to help forestall this possibility that the United States is playing out its role in the South Asian drama.
[i] Ansley J. Coale and Edgar Hoover, "Population Growth and Economic Development in Low-Income Countries: A Case Study of India's Prospects." Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958, esp. p. 273.
[ii] Pran Chopra, "The Changing Climate of Indian Politics." New Delhi: The Statesman, August 15, 1964.
[iii] Congress Bulletin, July 10, 1947.
[iv] Morarji Desai, address before the Indian Council on World Affairs, recorded by All-India Radio, September 16, 1964.
[v] Bharatiya Jan Sangh, "Principles and Policies." New Delhi, 1964. Translated from Hindi.