| Protesters carry caskets during an anti-Bush march in New York. (AFP)
New York, Aug. 30: Seeking a second term in the White House, President George W. Bush has given a quiet, but decent burial to the four year-old idea that India and the US are “natural allies”.
The Republican Party’s manifesto for the presidential election in November, released here yesterday on the eve of the party’s national convention, does not list India among America’s allies — natural or otherwise — in Asia. Alas, it does not count India even in the category of “long-standing American friends”.
It is poor consolation for New Delhi that the manifesto — platform in US political jargon — does not describe Pakistan in glowing terms either.
Washington’s equation with Islamabad has shades of an “affair”, a sort of illicit or extra-marital relationship, in the section of the manifesto that deals with US foreign policy.
The document talks about America’s “long-standing relationship” with Pakistan, not friendship or alliance.
It assumes significance with Bush insisting in an interview during the weekend that his administration’s designation of Pakistan as a “major non-Nato ally” does not mean that “there will be an infusion of sophisticated weapons into Pakistan”.
The manifesto says “India is emerging as one of the great democracies of the twenty-first century. Soon it will be the world’s most populous state. India is now redefining its identity and future strategy.
The US should engage India, respecting its great multicultural achievements and encouraging Indian choices for a more open world”.
This reference to India is far cry from the enthusiasm with which the Bush campaign approached India during the President’s first run for the White House four years ago.
Partly, the change is because those responsible for that enthusiasm in 2000 are now in the White House and are not actively taking part in shaping the party’s campaign for re-electing Bush or its platform.
Prominent among those who shaped the Republican approach in 2000 were former US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, both part of the “Vulcans”, a group that advised Bush on foreign policy during that campaign.
Blackwill is now involved neck-deep Iraq: he is the President’s chief aide in the National Security Council dealing with Iraq.
Rice is fire-fighting in the White House with foreign and security policies threatening to be the President’s Achille’s Heel in the current re-election effort.
The manifesto plainly acknowledges that US policies in Asia will give priority to Washington’s allies and goes on to list them: Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Then comes the second category: long-standing American friends — Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, and New Zealand.
“Our allies are critical in building and expanding peace, security, democracy, and prosperity... joined by long-standing American friends”, says the document.
On South Asia, it says that “mindful of its longstanding relationship with Pakistan, the US will place a priority on the secure, stable development of this volatile region where adversaries now face each other with nuclear arsenals”.
The manifesto is expected to be adopted without any changes by the convention, which opened here this morning in a city deluged by anti-Bush demonstrations.
Wave of protests
Yesterday’s unending stream of protesters who filled New York’s streets and avenues near the convention venue of Madison Square Garden were variously estimated at between one and four lakhs.
They included a 97 year-old woman on a wheelchair, who carried a placard proclaiming “97-years-old and outraged”. A Jewish rabbi who accused Republicans of holding their convention here to exploit the September 11 terror attacks and Vietnam veterans who are demonstrating after returning their bravery medals in protest against the war in Iraq.
In addition to a huge demonstration organised by a coalition of 800 anti-war groups — United for Peace and Justice — there were separate protests by pro-immigrant organisations, gays, anti-abortionists and efforts to criticise Broadway theatres holding special shows for Republican delegates.