Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Vol. XXV
No. 08

February 25, 2001 People's Democracy



Expanding US Operations

Prakash Karat

THE ongoing quest of the Vajpayee government to become a junior partner of the United States is now assuming new and dangerous dimensions. It has been reported in the media that the BJP-led government has given clearance for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an American organisation, to set up its office in India.

The NED is primarily a US State Department-funded organisation which works in coordination with the State Department to promote ‘democracy’ around the world. It concentrates particularly on countries and governments which do not accept the American version of democracy, or promote free market values. The People’s Democracy had, in April 1999, published articles regarding the nature of the operations of the NED in the context of its sponsoring an international conference in New Delhi to build a "world movement for democracy".

Since the advent of the BJP-led government at the centre, the activities of the NED have been stepped up in India. After the international conference held in February 1999, for the "World Movement of Democracy", the next major step was taken during the visit of President Clinton in March 2000. One of the decisions taken during the visit was the announcement by President Clinton of the establishment of an Asian Centre for Democratic Governance, to be located in New Delhi. The National Endowment for Democracy is to set up this Centre in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which is the biggest organisation of big business in India.

The project was important enough for President Clinton to have announced it in his speech after the joint statement was signed by him and Vajpayee. Making the announcement, President Clinton had stated:

"I am pleased that the National Endowment for Democracy, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Bureau of Parliamentary Studies here will organise the Asian Centre for Democratic Governance based here in New Delhi, to share our common experience with the hope of advancing freedom across Asia."


Before coming to the activities of the Asian Centre, it is necessary to understand the nature of the activities of the NED, the sponsoring body. In 1996 the American right-wing Heritage Foundation in an internal document on the NED had noted that in its short life, the NED "has aided Lech Walesa’s solidarity movement in Poland, Harry Wu’s human rights efforts in China, and independent media outlets in the former Yugoslavia. Russia’s political activists affiliated with NED also played a major role in President Boris Yeltsin’s successful re-election campaign against the reinvigorated Communist Party earlier this year".

The NED, which is funded by the US government to the tune of 32 million dollars, and has a representative of the US State Department on its Board, annually funds various parties and organisations in different parts of the world. In the cold war days, the focus was the war against communism, while in the last one decade the emphasis has shifted to supporting right-wing parties and promoting free market values. The motto of the NED is "free market sustains democracy", something which suits the interests of the US multinational corporations admirably. The choice of the Indian partner, the CII, is not accidental. As per the American version of democracy, corporates should be the main agents for promoting ‘democratic’ values.


According to the details given out by the NED about the grants distributed by it during 1999, its main focus has been on China and Burma in Asia. This reflects the concerns of the US to subvert the governments and the social systems in these countries which are seen to be inimical to the American idea of ‘democracy’. The NED supports groups which work for promoting "democracy", "human rights" and "democratic change" in these two countries.

In other countries like Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia also, groups which are considered to be advancing American interests are liberally funded. Significantly, there is no mention of Indian organisations being funded except a Federation of Indian Women Entrepreneurs. This is ominous, as it indicates that the American funding in India is mainly covert.

In a separate column, the grants given to some of the organisations are listed. As far as India-based groups are concerned, the NED has been generously financing the anti-China Tibetan groups. Funding of the NED is routed through its affiliated organisations such as the Centre for International Private Enterprise, the Free Trade Union Institute and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.


The NED is funding various organisations of the Tibetans which are working in India against the Chinese government, and Burmese organisations which are struggling against the regime in Myanmar The democratic forces in India support the movement for restoration of democracy in Burma, but this does not mean the US should be allowed to finance the political activities of Burmese organisations in India. In South America and the Caribbean, NED funds and supports anti-Cuban organisations and in the recent period, it has pumped in a lot of funds to destabilise the Milosevich government in Yugoslavia. One of the major targets is Iraq, the NED finances the anti-Saddam opposition groups which are pro-American.

The NED and its affiliates are known to be coordinating with the CIA and acting as conduit for its funds to be deployed. It is such an organisation, which is an extension of the US government and works to advance US interests politically and ideologically, which is now being allowed by the Vajpayee government to open an office in India.


An immediate necessity for the NED to have its own base in India is to run the Asian Centre for Democratic Governance which will be one of the nodal centres for its network of activities in the major countries of Asia; both those which they considered hostile, and those which are considered to be allies. While China, North Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar are considered states which are hostile, to be targeted, the US would use the Centre for propping up the fragile democracies in its client states Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand.

Step by step, the BJP-led government in its anxiety to become a strategic ally has allowed the United States to make India a base for its political and ideological operations The Americans have found an ideal partner in the BJP, a right-wing party, to advance their "democracy" project in India. That NED is an instrument of US imperialism and not democracy, is clear from the fact that it is allergic to only some military regimes. The Burmese military regime is anathema and opposition to it is financed, but no such steps were taken against Suharto’s regime in Indonesia. The Musharaff regime does not attract the same opprobrium, as Pakistan is a valued ally. The BJP is willing to go along with this American political enterprise in the hope that the US will treat India as a strategic ally. This illusory pursuit of the BJP if not checked, will land India into the ludicrous position of a client state of the US.


Among the stated objectives of the Asian Centre are

understanding the great variety of experiences with democracy and market economies", and
seeking to "advance knowledge of the general conditions for consolidating democracy at a time of economic globalisation".
What this means in plain language is, to enforce the model of ‘democracy’ which will suit a market economy and globalisation, which is in America’s interests. More importantly,

"the Centre will conduct programmes to enhance the capacities of emerging leaders……especially young men and women with leadership potential who are likely to play important roles in the development of democracy in their countries".
This is nothing but a plan to suborn and groom political leaders malleable to American needs.

Gautam Adhikari, a functionary of the NED and the former Executive Editor of The Times of India, was assigned the responsibility for setting up and functioning the Centre. Last month, in January, the inaugural conference of the Asian Centre for Democratic Governance was held in New Delhi.

An array of governmental and political leaders were mobilised, as were top media and legal personalities. They included the union law minister Arun Jaitley, the Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha Najma Heptullah, the NCP leader P A Sangma and prominent editors like Dilip Padgonkar of The Times of India and Shekhar Gupta of The Indian Express. Among the active supporters of the NED’s ‘democracy venture’ are foreign minister Jaswant Singh and the defence minister George Fernandes. Jaswant Singh became one of the co-sponsors of the "Communities of Democracies" conference in Poland last year which was sponsored by the NED and other US foundations.

The NED, working in concert with the Vajpayee government has been able to provide a degree of respectability to the Asian Centre for Democratic Governance under the cover of discussing how to make democracy work, and promoting human rights and better governance in a market economy. Under all these high-sounding goals, the Bureau of Parliamentary Studies, which is not a private body but one which is affiliated to the Indian Parliament, has been roped in.

It is essential that the character and role of the NED as an instrument of American imperialism be fully exposed before the Indian people. If the NED is allowed to operate in India, it will subvert our democratic system by pouring in large amounts of money under the cover of human rights, strengthening civic society, transparency in a democratic society, better corporate governance and so on to such organisations.


The NED, given its role as an ideological instrument of the US establishment, will become the agent for supporting and financing parties and organisations which are hostile to the Left, and the Communists in particular. Already there are sufficient indications of the heightened US interest in the forthcoming assembly elections in West Bengal and Kerala.

The mainstream media has become complicit in the effort to legitimise this American ideological intervention in our public life. Only one newspaper, The Asian Age has highlighted the danger of the NED opening its office in India and funding organisations working against the governments of neighbouring countries.


It is imperative that the NED’s operations in India be stopped. On no account should it be allowed to open its office, just as the FBI was allowed to do last year. The Asian Centre for Democratic Governance is nothing but an American-funded outfit which should not have any official patronage or collaboration. The Bureau of Parliamentary Studies must dissociate from the Centre, nor should the government of India, extend any sort of patronage to this dubious American project.


The following grants for the year 1999 were distributed, through India-based organisations, by NED and its affiliates.

Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB)
Special funds for Burma
To support the short-wave radio programmes of the DVB, the voice of the Burmese pro-democracy movement, and to further professionalise DVB's Oslo studio and its field offices in Thailand and India.

National Coalition for Democracy
To enable the exiled National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) to operate two communications centres, in New Delhi and Bangkok, allowing them to communicate more effectively the NCGUB's message to an international audience.

Nonviolence International (NI)
To support the work of the India-based Committee for Nonviolent Action in Burma (CNAB) to foster coalition building and promote democracy at the grassroots level in Burma.

Tibet Times Newspaper
To provide in-depth coverage of news about Tibet, the exiled Tibetan community, and Chinese and international affairs, through a Tibetan-language newspaper published three times a month in Dharamsala, India.

Tibet Multimedia Centre
To support a four-part programme of democratic civic education and information dissemination that addresses the struggle for human rights and democracy in Tibet. Based in Dharamsala, India, the Centre produces print, audio, and video materials for distribution to Tibetans in India, Nepal, and Tibet.

Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy
To translate into Tibetan, publish, and distribute 10,000 copies each of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. The programme is based in Dharamsala, India.

Tibetan Review
To continue publishing Tibetan Review, an English-language monthly news and opinion journal based in New Delhi, India. The Review, known for its editorial independence and its commitment to promoting democratic pluralism in Tibetan society, provides a unique forum for the free and robust exchange of views.

Centre for International Private Enterprise


To work with the Federation of Indian Women Entrepreneurs to bring together business leaders and successful women entrepreneurs from throughout the South Asian region to share their ideas and expertise on policy advocacy and economic development.

(Source: NED website at

Examples of Funding in Other Asian Countries


International Republican Institute
To strengthen democratic political parties and civic participation in Cambodia. Training topics include the legislative process, communication and message development, and grassroots political party organisation. A separate programme will train several Cambodian NGOs, civic activists, and student leaders on how to become more effective advocates for constitutional democratic political processes in Cambodia.

National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
To support the organizational development of three civic groups whose election-monitoring efforts helped expose flaws during parliamentary polls in 1998. Before the local elections, scheduled in 2000, NDI will assist the civic groups to advocate citizen input into the creation of new laws on local elections and local administrative structures.


American Centre for International Labour Solidarity
To support the work of the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin to investigate and document labour conditions and worker activism in China. The programme also includes support for labour and human rights education efforts to inform workers about their rights under national and local laws.

Foundation for China in the 21st Century
To increase understanding of democratisation, constitutionalism, federalism, and related issues among policy-making and intellectual communities in China. The program includes publications on comparative democratisation issues and grassroots elections in China, a new programme to lay the foundation for inter-ethnic communication through a series of retreats, and humanitarian and programmatic support for Chinese human rights and democracy activists.


National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
To assist a civic group with monitoring November 1999 parliamentary elections in Malaysia, where flawed electoral laws and procedures have prevented genuine, competitive polls. NDI will help the civic group mount a neutral observation effort to monitor the election and pre-election environment and report objectively on the election process.


National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
To strengthen government oversight and accountability in a country where corruption at all levels of government hinders the development of democratic practices and the public's faith in democracy. The programme will assist civic groups with strengthening the legislature's oversight of Nepal's seven independent constitutional bodies and developing a more transparent process of appointing members to those bodies, which are currently appointed in secret.

North Korea

Citizens' Alliance to Help Political Prisoners in North Korea
To investigate and report on human rights abuses and prison camp operations in North Korea. The Seoul-based group will produce English-language materials for international dissemination and publish Korean, Japanese, and English-language editions of its bimonthly journal, Life and Human Rights. The Alliance will also convene the first international conference on human rights abuses in North Korea to assess the current state of knowledge and exchange of information on North Korea's human rights situation, and explore strategies to improve the human rights situation there.


Association for Vietnamese Overseas: Culture & Liaison
To continue distributing the bimonthly magazine, Que Me (Homeland), which brings uncensored news and a discussion of democratic ideas into Vietnam. The Association also will distribute in Vietnam 50,000 copies of its monthly mini-bulletins on human and workers' rights in Vietnam, and a variety of thematic reports in English, French, and Vietnamese.

Asia Regional

American Centre for International Labour Solidarity
To support the protection of workers' rights and the institutional development of trade unions in Thailand and Malaysia. ACILS programmes will broaden workers' civic awareness and help train workers and unions to undertake effective research, analysis, and advocacy on economic policy issues in the wake of the financial crisis. A regional programme will promote transparency in international financial institutions.

Becoming a junior partner

The outcome of the Clinton visit marks a turning point: the Vajpayee government has now aligned itself formally with the global strategic interests of the U.S.


THE Clinton visit to India illustrates starkly the major shift in the foreign policy and strategic approach of India that has been brought about by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government. This major change, which has been developing behind the scenes for nearly two years, has now been presented before the world in the full glare of publicity. In the first visit by an American President in 22 years, Clinton spent barely two days in New Delhi. In that short period, however, the joint statement issued b y the U.S. President and the Indian Prime Minister and the speeches made by them have made it clear just how far the BJP-led government has gone in abandoning a non-aligned foreign policy and how ready it is to accept the status of a junior partner of th e U.S.

The outcome of the Clinton visit marks a turning point in the sense that the Vajpayee government has now aligned itself formally with the global strategic interests of the U.S. This change is evident with respect to all the issues that came under discuss ion during the visit. The issues of nuclear non-proliferation, the U.S. role in South Asia, the content of the economic relations between India and the U.S. and the political-ideological character of bilateral relations have all been framed and articulat ed on the basis of the perceptions of the U.S. This process began when the Vajpayee government decided to enter into a prolonged dialogue with the U.S. in the aftermath of the Pokhran tests. The ten rounds of talks between Jaswant Singh and Strobe Talbot t have culminated in the decisions taken during the Clinton visit.

Clinton, wearing an angavastram, is mobbed by MPs as he leaves Parliament House.

In its quest for recognition by the U.S. as a nuclear weapons power, the BJP-led government has expressed its readiness to accept the U.S. as a hegemonic power. It is willing to act within the U.S. strategic designs for South Asia and the world. In the j oint statement issued after the Clinton visit there is the explicit recognition of the U.S. role in South Asia in the maintenance of regional security and peace. Kashmir is still a disputed territory for the U.S. and the BJP's policies will continue to a ccord the U.S. a role in the India-Pakistan confrontation over Kashmir.

The BJP's desire to become a strategic ally of the U.S. is not a sudden development. Even in its earlier incarnation as the Jan Sangh, during the days of the Cold War, it had wanted the U.S. to replace Pakistan with India as a strategic ally in the regio n. The only point of friction in the pro-imperialist world-view of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has been Pakistan and its enduring links with the U.S.

The BJP has concentrated its efforts on trying to persuade the U.S. that an India ruled by the BJP is a far better strategic partner in South Asia than Pakistan. That explains its pathetic pleas to Clinton not to visit Pakistan. In its turn, the U.S.' st rategy towards India has changed over the last two decades. After the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has identified the containment of "regional powers" - India being one such - as one of its strategic objectives. Thus, until India is brought under the he gemonic umbrella of the U.S., pressure is relentlessly being mounted on India to curb its technological and defence potential.

This combination of circumstances has led to the talk of a strategic partnership between the U.S. and India. The fact that the content of the Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbott talks has never been in the public domain indicates that India has made major conce ssions to the U.S. on issues that affect its sovereignty and vital interests.

THE U.S. has gone ahead in achieving some of its major economic goals with respect to India. The decade-long liberalisation process has enabled the U.S. to gain a vantage point from which to exploit the Indian market, penetrate the Indian economy and buy up India's assets cheaply. Two decisions taken on the eve of the Clinton visit highlighted the subservience of India's present rulers. First, in December 1999, the Indian Government signed an agreement with the U.S. administration whereby India will rem ove quantitative restrictions with regard to imports on 1,429 items by April 2001. This includes all agricultural commodities and many items reserved for the small-scale industries sector in India. India is to be flooded with goods that are offered at mu ch lower prices than the agricultural commodities produced by Indian farmers, thus affecting Indian agriculture and threatening our self-sufficiency in food production. Domestic industry, particularly the small-scale sector, will be severely affected.

The second major decision, which was taken by the Union Cabinet on January 31, was to allow foreign capital entry through the automatic route to acquire shares to the extent of 100 per cent of the equity of a company. This is to apply to all sectors of t he economy other than a small number of industries still in the reserved list. Even before this decision was announced, a major demand of the U.S. was conceded when the BJP-led government finally succeeded in pushing through the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, which lays the basis for opening up the insurance sector to foreign capital.

IN 1998, during the early rounds of the Strobe Talbott-Jaswant Singh talks, the Vajpayee government committed India to signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), reversing India's firm stand, taken in 1996, not to sign discriminatory treaties. Bef ore the elections of 1999, this politically inconvenient commitment was sought to be camouflaged by stating that the government would sign the CTBT only after creating a domestic consensus on the issue. After the Vajpayee government came back to office, it has failed to get the support of Opposition parties for this move. The commitment, however, was made: in a widely published article written on the eve of his visit to India, President Clinton reminded India and Pakistan of the commitment they made in this regard. (" India and Pakistan should sign the Treaty, as they have committed to do, for the same reason." See p.1, The Times of India, March 20, 2000.) The Vajpayee government has not contradicted this claim.

The joint statement issued after the talks in Hyderabad House does not state clearly the stand taken on the CTBT. However, the fact that the BJP-led government has agreed to work with the U.S. towards nuclear non-proliferation constitutes an implicit acc eptance of the U.S. agenda.

IN its quest for a strategic alliance with the U.S., the BJP-led government has conceded the major demands of the U.S. in respect of the economy. The acceptance of the World Trade Organisation regime and the talk in the joint statement of "open trade" ar e clear indications that the U.S. demand for unrestricted access to Indian markets has been granted. The agreements signed for scientific and technological cooperation and on environment and clean energy and the high-level dialogue initiated between the two Commerce Ministers constitute ample evidence of the surrender of India's vital interests. None of India's real concerns was dealt with. These include, for example, removing the quota system in the multi-fibre agreement, lifting curbs on the flow of s killed Indian personnel and professionals to the U.S., and lifting the sanctions (which have been in place for three decades now) on the import of dual purpose technology.

The craven attitude of the BJP-led government and Indian big business has emboldened the U.S. to impose its ideological agenda on India. A little-noticed announcement in the joint statement is that India will be a co-sponsor with the U.S. of a conference of "Communities of Democracies" in Poland. The mainstream media have not bothered to find out what this proposal means. From the 1980s, the U.S. ideological offensive has been powered by the twin slogans of "democracy" and free markets. U.S. imperialism has always linked democracy with open markets; this has been a way of advancing its agenda of liberalisation and privatisation. In the 1990s, one of the key initiatives of the Clinton administration was to set up a platform called the "Communities of De mocracies". These are arrangements to bring together its client states and allies in order to advance "democracy" that is hospitable to big business and multinational corporations and to promote the idea that only free enterprise can nurture and sustain democracy.

A "Communities of Americas" was floated to strengthen U.S. hegemony in South and Central America. This was followed by a Communities of Democracy in Europe backed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. An attempt is now being made to float a global C ommunities of Democracies. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has peddled this idea assiduously, and the U.S. has now succeeded in netting India in this ideological enterprise.

The seven countries sponsoring the Poland conference are the U.S., India, Poland, the Czech Republic, Mali, Chile and South Korea. While the five other co-sponsors were won over to the U.S. in earlier years, India is the new "emerging ally". Significantl y, the conference in Poland is being funded by two organisations - the Stefan Batory Foundation of Poland and Freedom House of the U.S. The former was established in 1998 by George Soros, the financial billionaire, to promote "democracy and open markets" . As for Freedom House, it is funded by a host of American big business foundations and the State Department. Interestingly, no one in the Vajpayee government seems to know anything about this major political venture except Jaswant Singh, who, as Externa l Affairs Minister, is scheduled to attend the conference in Poland in June.

Alongside this foray, India has become host to another pet project of the U.S. The National Endowment for Democracy, which is funded by the U.S. State Department, plans to establish an Asian Centre for Democratic Governance, to be located in New Delhi. B y American norms of good governance, democracy has to be partnered with big business, and the Indian partner in this enterprise is to be none other than the Confederation of Indian Industry. The project is important enough for President Clinton to have a nnounced it in his speech after the joint statement was signed.

The portents are disturbing indeed: a government that accepts the economic doctrine of the imperialist superpower has to fall in line with its political and ideological values as well. Democracy in India, already under siege, will be weakened further to suit imperialism and the free market.

THE visit of President Clinton has also been a spectacle that has lowered the self-respect of the country and the self-esteem of its citizens. At no time has servility been so shamefully on display. The swadeshi BJP was not alone in the scraping and bowi ng before the American President; other ruling class politicians competed in the obsequious display in the Central Hall of Parliament. The only honourable exception has been the President of India. His banquet speech was the one redeeming feature in the official display of a neo-colonial mentality. President Narayanan's emphasis on the relevance of non-alignment and his rejection of a sole headman in the global village was far more representative of the true feelings of the Indian people than all the fa wning coverage by the commercial media.

Mercifully, vast sections of the Indian people were appalled by the content and style of the visit. Though dissent was hardly featured in the mainstream media, tens of thousands of people in different parts of the country participated in various forms of protest actions and anti-imperialist manifestations. They represent the true voice of the Indian people.

Prakash Karat is a member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Community of Democracies:

India Joins America's Ideological Enterprise

Prakash Karat

The advent of the BJP to office at the Centre in 1998 marked a major turning point in Indian politics. The character of the BJP, a right-wing pro-imperialist party, was bound to affect the foreign policy of the country. This became apparent very soon after the Vajpayee government assumed office. The Pokhran nuclear tests in May 1998 served as the launching pad for the qualitative shift in policy towards the United States. From the now infamous Vajpayee's letter to Clinton, citing China as the reason for testing nuclear weapons, to the beginning of the endless rounds of talks between Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and US Under Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, the course was set by the BJP leadership to fashion a new foreign policy abandoning non-alignment and embracing the idea of a strategic partnership with the United States. While much attention is focussed on the nuclear and security aspects in Indo-US relations and the burgeoning US stakes in the Indian economy, very little time is spent on recognising that the BJP, given its right-wing character, is entering into a political and ideological venture with the US.

While it is true that the nuclear strategy of the BJP regime is founded on acquiring recognition from the United States for its nuclear power status, even if it is not an official status, the new content in Indo-US relations has deeper implications. The BJP-RSS combine has been remarkably consistent in its world outlook. From the days of the Cold War, it has scorned non-alignment. The RSS is anti-China and anti-Communist and wishes to promote India's "great power" status in conjunction with the US. It preferred alliance with the United States provided, the imperialist superpower is prepared to rely on India rather than Pakistan. As long as the US kept Pakistan as its military ally, the Jan Sangh and later the BJP could not envisage such a strategic relationship fructifying.

It is only in the 1990s that circumstances changed and the possibilities for effecting this long held view opened up. The success of the Afghan war waged with the help of America and the end of the Cold War with the dismantling of the Soviet Union resulted in the relative diminishing in the importance of Pakistan for the US. The liberalisation process ushered in by the Indian ruling classes in the nineties and the signals sent out that it is now willing to do business with the US, set the background for the BJP pushing for a regional role as a junior partner of the US. Economic policies hospitable to international finance capital, a modus vivendi on the nuclear issue, resumption of military collaboration agreements interrupted by the nuclear tests and acceptance of the US global interests form the basis for India's entry into this new role. In the US global strategy, the US administration places considerable importance to providing an ideological content to its hegemonic order. Democracy is one such construct. How India has been drawn into this ideological venture, is the focus of this article.

The BJP's eleventh month stint in office from 1998 and the return to power in October 1999 have seen this process unfold and reach a point of conclusion with the Clinton visit in March 2000. As in the case of much of the developing Indo-US relations and its different dimensions, there is very little information provided about them by the Vajpayee government and the Ministry of External Affairs. It is from the US side that such information comes out about the current initiatives. This was so in the matter of the prolonged negotiations conducted by the two sides on the nuclear issue and it also true about the brave new venture called the "Community of Democracies" (CoD) that India has entered into under Madeleine Albright's coaxing.

The Singapore Announcement of CoD

The first time Indians became aware of their country's involvement in this American project was a cryptic reference in a statement issued after Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh met Madeleine Albright in Singapore at the time of the Asean Regional Forum meeting in August 1999. The timing was significant. A caretaker government was in place. The Jaswant Singh-Talbott talks had completed eight rounds before the government fell after losing the vote in Parliament. By this time, India had indicated its willingness to sign the CTBT and open the economy further to foreign capital. The announcement signalled the Vajpayee government's readiness to enter into a political-ideological alliance[i]. Interestingly, the Ministry of External Affairs did not come up with any clarification or information about the CoD. Nor was the Indian mainstream media and the charmed circle of foreign affairs correspondents unduly interested or willing to go into it. It is a sign of the times that a major step of signing up on America's ideological bandwagon is ignored or treated as an ordinary event. So what is the CoD as put out by the State Department of the US government? For there is no question as to the parentage of this initiative. To begin with, one must go back to the cognities.

The National Endowment for Democracy

During the Reagan Presidency, in the early eighties, alongwith the renewed military offensive against the Soviet Union (in the form of stepped up military expenditure), the ideological counterpart was the campaign for "democracy". It is in this connection that under Reagan's initiative, the US Congress passed an act creating the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Funded by the US government primarily, the NED's motto is "free markets sustain democracy". The NED is a successor to the American outfits such as the Congress for Cultural Freedom which operated in the fifties and sixties. It provides funds to promote "democracy" to anti-China Tibetan organisations, Cuban émigré groups and generally supports organisations which promote market reforms and transnational corporations.[ii]

The NED appears constantly in all the initiatives taken by the Clinton Administration to float the platform called the CoD and to build "a world movement for democracy".

The first appearance of the CoD is with an inaugural meeting of the International Committee for a Community of Democracies in 1985. This was followed by All Democracies Conference sponsored by the ICCD at Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was attended by 90 representatives from more than 50 countries termed democracies. Former presidents Carter and Ford addressed the Conference. The delegates included members of Parliament, ministers, businessmen, journalists and professors whose attendance, as private citizens, was funded by grants from various foundations. The conference's chief objective was to develop support for an "intergovernmental association of democracies" that would provide a forum for democratic governments to discuss common problems.[iii] This aim has finally reached fruition with the proposed "Community of Democracies Ministerial Conference" in Warsaw in June 2000. The journey to this governmental level international conference has been reached through various regional level efforts of the US government.

Regional "Community of Democracies"

The first laboratory where the CoD was tested was in South America. In 1993, the Clinton Administration which took office in 1992, called for "a true partnership of the Americans -- a Western Hemisphere Community of Democracies". In a speech delivered to the Council of Americans for the US Secretary of state Christopher Warren, the Acting Secretary Wharton said that this Western Hemisphere CoD is to, apart from strengthening democratic institutions and human rights, "to support economic reforms and free markets".[iv] This is the recurring theme in the American idea of democracy whichever President takes over. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was held up as the US vision of a community of hemispheric countries linked by open markets and democratic values. Wharton also asserted that we have a chance of make North American free trade -- and co-operation on labour and environmental standards -- a model for the rest of the hemisphere and the world".[v] At the same meeting, the US made it clear that it would support a counter-revolution in Cuba by `peaceful' means. It hoped that "Cubans win their freedom through the kind of peaceful transition which has brought so many other nations into the democratic community". Till then, it reiterated its opposition of Fidel Castro's "dictatorship".

The Clinton Administration assiduously peddled its version of democracy in all regions as a step towards launching the global democracy forum. The US setup the New Atlantic Initiative (NAI) which, according to the official press release, is an "independent US initiative dedicated to reinvigorating and expanding the Atlantic community of democracies".[vi] This was headquartered at the "American Enterprise Institute" and founded under the auspices of such pro-American stalwarts as Czech President Vaclav Havel, former German Social democratic Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and others. In 1997, the New Atlantic Initiative sponsored a conference on enlarging NATO. The purpose of the European version of the CoD was to consolidate the Eastern European countries under the US-NATO umbrella and provide the ideological support for their difficult transition to a "democratic" system which would open them to western and transnational capital.

In Asia, the grand project for democracy has taken shape with the roping in of India into this global movement sponsored by the US State Department and its outfits like the NED.

New Delhi Conference

The announcement in Singapore that India was ready to be one of the core countries to sponsor the CoD was followed by an international conference in New Delhi called "Building a Worldwide Movement for Democracy" in February 1999. India had finally arrived in the democracy business. It was also the American recognition of India's political role in its strategic interests which the Vajpayee government so avidly sought. This conference was organised by the NED and its affiliates. All the big-wigs of the Vajpayee regime graced the occasion which was attended by 300 participants from 85 countries.[vii] Jaswant Singh, the prime architect of the pro-US line was there, so was Yashwant Sinha, the "swadeshi" Finance Minister and George Fernandes, a person associated with the all democracy ventures of the US since the sixties. To give it a bipartisan look, Dr. Manmohan Singh was the lead speaker on the "political foundations of a market economy".

The NED's local associates for the conference were the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Centre for Policy Research. The CII is the most influential business body in India which advocates fullfledged liberalisation. The CPR is an academic research body which has flourished with funding from American sources.

Asian Centre in Delhi

Though it was not known at that time, the partnership of the US State Department outfit and the big business organisation, the CII, was meant for a more enduring relationship. Before the Clinton visit, Madeleine Albright made a significant announcement -- the setting up of an Asian Centre for Democratic Governance in New Delhi.[viii] Typically, this was announced in Washington on the eve of the visit, with no information from the Indian side. Albright termed this a joint-non-governmental initiative. The NED would jointly organise the Centre in New Delhi. The Bureau of Parliamentary Studies and Training, an affiliate of Indian Parliament would partner the CII in implementing the activities of the Centre. Thus, a private business organisation is used to rope in a parliamentary body for an American government sponsored project.

Jaswant Singh has got India to play a key role in the Asian CoD. The NED sponsored centre would provide the institutional support for its activities. According to the NED press release:

"Focusing on democratic development in Asia, with an emphasis on problems of governance, the Center will organize conferences and workshops that will engage practitioners of democracy, business leaders, and professional executives throughout Asia. The Center's other activities will include training young men and women with leadership potential in public and corporate life.

"The conferences will introduce participants to the latest thinking on democratic governance through presentations by leading scholars and practitioners from India and the region's other established democracies, the newer democracies such as Thailand, Mongolia, and Nepal, more transitional countries such as Indonesia, multilateral development institutions, and the United States and other relevant democracies.

"Workshops will be designed to facilitate active and forthright discussion among practitioners of democracy, businessmen and professional executives in the region. Participants in the workshops, mainly from the continent, will have an opportunity to interact among themselves as well as with a small number of international experts on democratic governance and economic development issues. Although the first major conference and workshop will be held in New Delhi, the Center will seek out other centers in Asia to host the two subsequent workshops in the series."[ix]

An Indian, Gautam Adhikari, recruited by the NED will be one of the key functionaries of the Centre in Delhi. Adhikari is a former executive editor of the Times of India and has had stints with various American research institutions.

Poland: Venue of CoD Meet

The stage is set for the next step: India being a co-sponsor of the international conference of the CoD in Warsaw, Poland in June 2000. After the Singapore announcement when it was said that eleven countries, including India, would constitute the core democracies, it was stated in the vision statement by Clinton and Vajpayee that India would be among the seven co-sponsors. The others are USA, Poland, Czech Republic, Mali, Chile and South Korea.

The hand of Madeleine Albright is evident in this strange club. Mali is an African country which has recently found favour with the US. Albright visited Mali in October 1999. According to a commentary: "The visit was perceived to reflect the good image which Mali had won in the USA through its political and economic reforms over the previous seven years."[x] The Czech President Havel considers the US the torch-bearer of freedom and democracy. As for South Korea, it is a good example of the type of democracy the US favours in Asia; strong authoritarianism with periodic elections. Poland the host country, is a striking example of how efforts at US sponsored democracy first met with success in East Europe.

The Warsaw conference will be a ministerial level conference. The Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh will be the Indian representative. Alongside the governmental meeting, there would be a World Forum on Democracy attended by business groups, ngos, civic leaders and so on. This conference is being hosted and funded by the American organisation, Freedom House and the Stefan Batory Foundation of Poland.

Some details about these two organisations will throw light on the motives of this conference. The Freedom House is a high-powered organisation approved by the State Department. It is funded by big foundations such as Eurasia, Scaife, Ford, Unilever and Carthage. It also gets support from the ubiquitous NED and the US Information Agency. The Stefan Batory Foundation was setup in Poland in 1988. It is part of a network of 31 `open society' foundations setup by George Soros, the billionaire financial speculator in all the former East European, Balkans and Soviet Socialist Republics. In Poland, it is the Stefan Batory foundation which is dedicated to the development "of a free market and democracy in Poland". In 1998, the Soros Foundation Networks spent 574 million dollars which level was expected to maintained in 1999 and 2000.[xi] The latest addition to the network is the Kosovo Foundation for an Open Society. Together with the World Bank's Post Conflict Trust Fund, the Kosovo venture is to help the Kosovo Liberation Army to entrench themselves in local government. This is being undertaken in territory which is nominally still in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.[xii]

The Warsaw Ministerial Conference on the CoD will be discussing the following: i) Co-operation Among Democratic Governments in Strengthening Global, Regional and Specialised Institutions; ii) Democracy and Human Right: Sharing Best Practices; iii) Responding to Threats to Democracy; iv) Looking Ahead on Issues of Democracy Assistance: Strengthening Democratic Institutions through Mutual Support and Partnership.

The rationale for the emerging architecture for global democracy is spelt out by the specialists associated with State Department. Penn Kimble (Special Representative of the Secretary of State for the Community of Democracies Initiative) states that: "Ten years after the Berlin Wall fell, `The Community of Democracies Initiative' aims to take advantage of this period of opportunity by providing a forum for discussing the revitalisation of democracy in the international system."[xiii] James Robert Huntley, author of the book, `Pax Democratica -- A strategy for the 21st century' has provided the main elaboration for the restructuring of international affairs around the American version of democracy which he terms `Pax Democratica'. He argues that there were three earlier periods, the phase of empire, the phase of the balance of power and the current phase of partial international institutional cooperation. In the future such cooperation will be transcended by community building. He holds up the European Union and NATO as advances towards community building which is superior to the earlier phase.[xiv] Human rights and democracy override national sovereignty for building a community based on the democratic principle. According to him: "mature democracies" don't have any real national interests of their own any more. They have only common interests. The common interests are democracy and the open markets which sustain them, as the NED would put it.

The ideologues of the CoD claim that it is not Pax Americana that should be pursued by the US but Pax Democratica. Neither "hegemony" nor "isolationism". This is some sort of a variant of the third way. It can't fool many people. Except those like Jaswant Singh who are in a hurry to make up for the "wasted decades" in which India failed to convert itself into an American ally.

Portents for India

The impact on Indian foreign policy has been immediate. Attending the non-aligned foreign ministers' meeting at Cartagena, Colombia in April 2000, Jaswant Singh proposed the democracy principle as a criterion for membership of NAM. This would effectively disrupt the non-aligned movement which is based on the commonality of interests of third world and developing countries. By Jaswant Singh's criteria, Cuba, Yugoslavia, Vietnam. Iraq, Libya and a host of other countries would be ineligible for membership of NAM. To get India, a founder-member of NAM, to propose this has been a coup of sorts for the US and its western allies.

The ideological trappings to legitimise American hegemony are now manifesting itself through the leitmotif of democracy. The nineties saw the US and its western allies move into secure the gains from the success in the Cold War. The relentless drive to establish the neo-liberal order is accompanied by the ideological justification for free markets which alone, it is claimed, can sustain democracy. The denigration of national sovereignty and disregard for the real content of human rights marks this discourse on democracy. India, under the BJP regime, has formally joined this American enterprise. A government which accepts the economic doctrine of the imperialist superpower is falling in line with its political and ideological ideas as well. Paradoxically the democracy venture, portends a further siege on democracy in India. The demands of international finance capital are relentless. The government wants fixity of tenure for Parliament and legislatures to ensure stability for capital. It has recently declared that enterprises in the special economic zones to be setup will be treated as public utilities to enforce discipline on labour. The rights of minorities are being effectively curtailed by sustained terror and intimidation. Acceptance of the global democracy package of the US signifies fresh attacks on democracy in India.


[i] L.K. Advani, BJP leader and Union Home Minister declared around that time that the year 1999 "has become a turning point in the history of Indo-US relations".

[ii] See Vijay Prashad: "National Endowment for Democracy -- Instrument of US Policy". People's Democracy, 18 April 1999 for a comprehensive profile of the NED.

[iii] "Democracies try to establish global organisation", USIA Text Link 59638 dated 6 December, 1998.

[iv] "US calls for `Community of Democracies' in Americas", USIA Text LEF 117 dated 3 May 1993.

[v] "US calls for…..". Ibid

[vi] "NATO Conference at Alpbach", USIA press release dated 17-19 October 1997

[vii] For details, see "An American Movement for Democracy" -- Prakash Karat. People's Democracy, 18 April, 2000. The second session of the World Conference for Democracy is to be held in November 2000 in Sao Paulo in Brazil.

[viii] NED press release, 16 March 2000.

[ix] NED press release. Ibid.

[x] Record of World Events, Keesings Archives, November 1999.

[xi] On Soros national foundations. http://www/

[xii] Michael Chossudovsky: Opening Kosovo to foreign capital

[xiii] Secretary of State's Open Forum, 10 November 1999,

[xiv] Secretary of State's Open Forum. Ibid.


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