If ever there was a time when the US needed a capable Ambassador in its Chanakyapuri embassy, that time is now.

by Madhav D Nalapat

Somewhat disappointingly for the Sino-Wahabi and Sino-Russian lobby within the US, President Joe Biden, who has lately been as emotional in public as participants in a reality television show, behaved with a civility and grace that was reciprocated in the virtual encounter by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Elsewhere, there were, of course, the obligatory unpleasantries. What would any meeting of two argumentative democracies (to paraphrase Amartya Sen’s evocative term) be without a bit of fireworks? Antony Blinken and S. Jaishankar both lobbed disapproving words at each other in a verbal tennis match.

These were few, for the reality is that the US and India have no choice but to get close to each other. Both are facing the same problem, which is an excess of ambition on the part of the People’s Republic of China to replace 19th century European dominance and 20th century US primacy with its own 21st century version of the same. At some cost to itself, India opposed a unipolar world when that locus was Washington, and would be less than welcoming to a unipolar world dominated by Beijing. If China “stood up” in 1949, in many ways India did the same in 2014, with a genuine “man from the people”, Narendra Modi, taking over as PM. Since then, there has been a refashioning of not just policy but the machinery through which implementation takes place. From the start, PM Modi and first President Obama, then Trump and now Biden have been united on the need to preserve and protect a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. From the 1990s, this writer has flagged two threats that the world is facing, the first being the rise of Wahabi terror; the other, the steady progress of the PRC towards its goal of emerging as the dominant player both in the Eurasian land mass and in the Indo-Pacific.

Wahabi terror is a micro threat, in that its effects are limited and sporadic. PRC efforts at dominance are a macro threat, which could potentially reach every corner of the globe with its effects. Official Washington, with Bill Clinton in the White House, was not a friendly location to air such views in the 1990s, but an essential port of call. To Clinton, the PRC was a trusted friend, India an unreasonable country that insisted on developing nuclear weapons and space missions, not to mention India’s intention of holding on to what had been left of Kashmir after Pakistan and China had each gobbled up a portion of the state. Only during the second term of President George W. Bush from 2005 did a US administration accept what had been obvious to Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1992, that global security could not be secured from micro and macro threats unless Washington and Delhi entered upon a close overall partnership.

Of course, this would not mean either country moving in lockstep with the other. Friendship with countries such as Iran and Russia were non-negotiable, exactly the way India’s relations with Israel and the US were. The effort by the State Department under Hillary Clinton to engineer social change in the Middle East through the 2011 “Arab Spring” failed in its stated aims. While Russia was kept out of the EU and NATO by Bill Clinton, under Joe Biden, Washington has moved its goals from Moscow not being a friend to Russia being treated as the primary enemy of the US. As Rupert Murdoch told Harold Evans, one of his editors, “If you treat me as an outsider, I will start behaving as one”.

Exactly the words that Putin may wish to say to Biden and Johnson, the lead players in the moves by NATO to once again return from the Indo-Pacific era to the Atlantic, and back to Russia rather than China as the threat to concentrate on. NATO may not have mastered the art of kinetic combat, but it has that of convincing media within the bloc to accept its point of view on all matters of significance. Such a refreshingly transparent adoption by NATO media of the Pyongyang School of Journalism is evident in its reportage of the conflict that has been going on since February 24, 2022 between Saint Volodymyr and Sinner Vladimir.

The first man is seen as pure and incapable of a lie, while the second individual is treated as incapable of uttering truth to even save his own life. Western media ceaselessly regurgitate whatever news they are being fed by NATO, which itself is fed on an hourly basis by the Kyiv regime about the danger to global peace and security that the Russian-speaking people represent, whether in Russia, Ukraine or elsewhere. Even emigres with non-Russian passports are being deprived in the US, EU and the UK of such vital necessities of life as palaces and yachts without the merest hint of the due process that is the foundation of the rule of law.

If ever there was a time when the US needed a capable Ambassador in its Chanakyapuri embassy, that time is now. Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles is President Biden’s preferred choice for the job, but he is yet to be cleared by the Senate. Republicans are as usual opposing for the sake of opposing in order to please the King of Mar a Lago. Some India-phobic Democratic Senators want Garcetti to say accusatory words about India, thereby hoping to ensure for him a cool welcome in New Delhi, a capital they dislike. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared Garcetti’s appointment, but two Senators have put a hold on the nomination going forward. The stated reason given for the hold is that a staffer in the LA Mayor’s office was accused by a lady of inappropriate conduct. If any Senator were to be found culpable for any alleged wrongdoing by a staffer and made to resign, there would soon be a hundred vacancies in the US Senate. In these times, the absence of an influential US ambassador to India has not made the task of the leaders of the US and India to fashion a much closer relationship any easier.