Why India is not enthused by NATO membership offer?

Julianne Smith, US Ambassador to NATO, recently caused ripples by stating that India was welcome to join the NATO. India, however, is reluctant to take up this ‘sugar coated’ invitation on its face value.

With an assertive China stamping its presence in 2023, the USA’s role as the only Super Power on the planet appears to be fading. It is natural for democratic nations like India to rally around the democratic forces to rescue the world’s most powerful democracy, America. But it must be said that during the four decades of its hegemony, USA has not conducted her role with dignity.

Like a wolf, it accuses Iraq of amassing weapons of mass destruction and destroys the prosperous country. Similarly, it abandons his supporters in Afghanistan in 2022. It has been fuelling the Russia-Ukraine conflict instead of diffusing this avoidable conflict.  

It is often asked why India is not ready to perform her legitimate role as the world’s one of the most successful multi-party democracy, especially when the US-led western powers are keen that she should ‘unhesitatingly ‘pick up the gauntlet’ and steer the democratic world to a much more unified approach. India can help in tackling the challenges being mounted by the authoritarian regimes, especially China, besides some military dictatorships such as Myanmar, where a non-descript general has toppled the elected government and sabotaged the ongoing polls because the army’s proxy, a political outfit floated by the generals, was losing the polls. The US did not impose sanctions on China for promoting military rule on the peaceful people of the country. 

During the cold war era, in the name of preventing the expansion of Communism, Washington had been prompting military take-overs across the continents, Asia to Africa and Americas. In India’s neighbourhood, Pakistan was armed to the teeth, and now this role is being played by China. Americans know that China has now a strong constituency among the Blacks in the USA. It could trigger off a nationwide movement on the issue,‘ Black life matters’.

Instead of criticising Dragon, the USA is reluctant to force the Myanmar army chief Tatmadaw, perhaps with the blessings of the Chinese government. He shamelessly arrested the State Councillor, a post equivalent to a PM, Aung San Suu Kyi, a living legend, who is also a Nobel  laureate, in February 2021. Within a few weeks after the re-election of Xi Jinping as the new president, the emboldened Myanmar junta deliberately ignored the UN Security Council resolution asking for an end to violence in Myanmar and the release of all political prisoners.

Ethical Issues

Among the NATO allies, America sabotaged the French diesel sub-marine deal with Australia causing huge financial loss to France. Similarly, Germany which has Volkswagen plants in China has been assured that China would be protecting its financial interests in this key sector. Both France and Germany have already notified America, that they would not be assisting in any conflict or war it indulges outside Europe. It means that if China attacks Taiwan, the major European powers will remain neutral.

Being the world’s biggest democracy, India may not be averse to this proposal, but she must be allowed to cleanse the political mess caused by the American policies during the past several decades.

In a bid to improve the political climate in the South Asian region, India’s security advisor, Ajit Doval, has recently been in Tehran, where he met Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his Iranian counterpart Ali Shamkhani and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian. It may be noted that Hossein Amirabdollahian had skipped the key meeting of the Raisina Dialogue, because one of its sponsors, Observer Foundation, believed to be an American proxy, had raked up the issue of the alleged police repression on Iranian women protesting against the imposition of veil on them. The Iranian FM after boycotting the Indian conference quietly flew to Beijing to sign an agreement with its arch enemy, Saudi Arabia, for resuming their diplomatic ties. India as well as the NATO allies was stunned. Thus, the Ambani outfit, Observer Foundation, put paid the efforts of India’s two successive governments, the UPA and NDA, for bringing Iran and Saudi Arabia closer.  

A Good Beginning

Let us not be fooled by the media rhetoric expressed by the Iranian leaders regarding improving ties with India. It is believed that substantive talks might have been held on a much broader perspective including improving Iran’s ties with the West, especially the USA. It is not immediately known whether India will be able to persuade Iran to have negotiations with the West, especially with the USA for ending the standoff on the issue of developing nuclear weapons, especially when Iran has been a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The issue is still under wraps, but it has to be discussed and resolved. If Saudi Arabia and Iran could resume their diplomatic ties, Iran can also be persuaded for negotiations.

For this, the West has to endorse India’s efforts. Her efforts will be effective as in NATO to play her role as one of the leading figures championing the cause of multi-party representative governments in the world.

NATO’s Offer to India

The recent statement of Julianne Smith, US Ambassador to NATO, has caused ripples in the diplomatic circles that India is being welcomed with open arms in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation or NATO. But the final decision of this proposed deeper association lies with India herself. India, however, though being one of the closest allies of the USA in the South Asian region, is reluctant to take up this ‘sugar coated’ invitation on its face value.

Julianne Smith does doublespeak that the alliance has so far no plans to expand NATO to a broader global military alliance. The truth, however, is that the two major wars, WW-I and W.W.-II were won by the supreme sacrifices of the Indian soldiers. The apprehension is that NATO wants full scale military participation of India in future conflicts, whether it is Taiwan or elsewhere. She further states that NATO is being deployed for strengthening the West’s relationships in the Indo-Pacific, but she avoids mentioning the much-talked about the growing Chinese threat in the region.

The Disenchantment

Smith deliberately avoids the growing disenchantment among the key NATO allies. Interestingly, in April 2023, French President Emmanuel Macron made a high-profile state visit to Beijing accompanied by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, just days after the visit of the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

On the Global chess-board, India is ready to play her role, but the West must shed off its unethical greedy actions not sparing its own trusted allies in NATO.

She talks about NATO’s emphasis on honouring and ensuring that the key principles, particularly as they relate to sovereignty and territorial integrity, are respected. Interestingly, the Chinese constitution has already incorporated the Panchsheel, the Five Principles, approved at the Bandung in the Afro-Asian conference.  It means, NATO is for the Panchsheel, but it is reluctant to concede that China has already taken a lead.

She states that “NATO has really shifted in a pretty noticeable way in terms of how it conducts outreach and engages with its partners in the Indo- Pacific region. It is for the Biden administration to understand that “no alliance will be effective unless it is backed by ethics and fair play”. Unfortunately, in recent years, NATO has been quietly spreading its clutches in the region. Its recently published strategic documents include the Asia-Pacific and the Indo-Pacific as the first and foremost in the American thinking.

It is admitted, may be for the first time, that NATO acknowledges the importance of focusing on Dragon as a challenge for the alliance and why it’s important for NATO allies to enhance and deepen their relationship across with partners in the region. Americans, however, are shy to admit that their NATO allies, especially the US Administration under President Bill Clinton had allowed China to become an economic giant. With this, Dragon has penetrated in American systems, and for this India is needed.