Several years ago, this writer had suggested that the US extend its Lend Lease system to India. In particular, safeguarding the Indian Ocean from hostile activity called for much stronger naval forces than were available in India. Given budgetary constraints, it would not be possible to acquire the vessels needed for the Indian Navy to fulfill the enormous task of joining friendly navies in keeping the Indian Ocean safe. The Kitty Hawk, a huge aircraft carrier of the US Navy, was being decommissioned, and the suggestion was made that it should instead be transferred to India under a Lend Lease arrangement. Given the jugaad skills of India, the formidable vessel would serve the Indian Navy for at least ten more years. Given the strategic imperative of India and the US needing to work together to secure the Indian Ocean, a transfer of naval equipment from the US to India would serve the interests of both countries. The idea did not fly for long. In India, the lobby pushing for the purchase of the Admiral Gorshkov from Russia looked askance at it, as did the muscular pro-Pakistan lobby in the Pentagon. A later suggestion was for the US to station an information gathering system in India, preferably in the Andaman Islands, on the lines of those functioning in Australia and Japan. Another was to situate a THAAD unit in India, in place of the planned purchase of S-400 systems from Russia, which by then had by default become uncomfortably close to China where military matters were concerned. Only in 2017, due to the momentum imparted by Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe, was the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) retrieved from the freezer and brought back into focus, this time with Australia as an eager rather than as a reluctant participant. Much is made of President Donald Trump taking a combative stance towards the PRC after a period of flirtation with Xi Jinping. The problem with the 45th US President was that he mistook dollar signs for love, and insisted on not just top dollar but over the top dollar for any defence acquisition or even collaboration with the US. Even longtime allies such as South Korea and Japan were asked to pay large sums in excess of the commitments they had made, or face the prospect of a US military withdrawal from their shores. India entered the market for US weaponry in a major way, but got no discount on any purchase, despite these being used in the common defence of the democracies in the Indo-Pacific. As for THAAD, if Trump had his way, it would be an even more financially expensive system than the S-400. The logic of offering to set up such a system in India, as also an intelligence gathering mechanism that could jointly keep track of hostile activities in the Indo-Pacific, never entered into the cash register that was the mind of Donald J. Trump.
After Joe Biden had won the 2020 Presidential election, he had said that the African-American community had his back (having ensured through their votes his election) and that he would have theirs. That promise has been forgotten in President Biden’s propensity for spending vast amounts of taxpayer dollars in “defending freedom and democracy worldwide” in Ukraine. It is clear that the additional spending program on social services and on economic betterment of the underprivileged is no longer a priority for the White House. Making such spending a campaign issue so as to shame the DINOs (Democrats in Name Only) in the US Senate into voting for funding designed to rectify societal imbalances is not the priority, writing bigger and bigger cheques to Ukraine is. The economic impact of the manner in which the Russia-Ukraine conflict is being handled by Biden is becoming clearer with every passing month, and is devastating the Democratic Party voter base. Meanwhile, encouraged by Lone Ranger Biden and his faithful Tonto Boris Johnson, even otherwise rational countries such as Germany have joined the movement to cut themselves off from Russian resources. The impact of such a breakaway from a country awash in resources would be disastrous, as is already becoming evident to many in the European countries. With each acceleration of the conflict, Ukraine is losing more land and people, and yet the dance of destruction goes on. It may be too much to expect that the White House may finally understand that the problem is not Russia but China. And that, from the perspective of the overall security interests of the US, it is India much more than any other country that ought to be offered a Lend Lease agreement. History is littered with the debris of lost opportunities, and this is what is becoming obvious in the very countries that need to understand that they are fixating on the wrong country in their zeal at protecting the world from the threat of authoritarianism.
MDN