September 1, 2004
India, Gratitude for U.S. Terror Policy
The McGill Report
ROCHESTER, MN -- Ramesh Vinayak, a journalist with India Today magazine,
told an audience at the Rochester Public Library on Wednesday that in
world -- northwest India along the border with Kashmir and Pakistan
-- the United
States is not reviled as a grasping empire drunk with power, but rather
is deeply respected and considered an absolute lynchpin of Indian peace
"The U.S. is the biggest hope for us," Vinayak said. "Prosperity
in India is based on technology growth and peace with Pakistan, and the
U.S. is keeping both of those on track."
A bureau chief based in Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab Province,
Vinayak was in town as part of an annual visit to the United States by
10 foreign journalists, hosted by the World Press Institute at Macalester
A "shadow of the Cold War" still hangs over U.S.-India relations,
Vinayak said, but is rapidly dissipating as the two economies draw closer,
thanks to India's booming information technology sector. The Indian software
industry grew from $150 million in 1991 to $5.7 billion in 2000, and
is on track for $87 billion in sales (including $50 billion exports)
by 2008, according to the global consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
Vinayak noted that India's growth in the information technology sector
has been so enormous that the outsourcing of technology jobs to India
has become a major issue in the present U.S. presidential election campaign.
Still, the total percentage of U.S. jobs outsourced to India is small,
Vinayak said, and the heated political denunciations of outsourcing contain
more than a hint of hypocrisy. "If you have free flow of capital
you are going to have outsourcing," he said. "You can't have
your cake and eat it, too."
Even more than increased economic ties between the two countries, Vinayak
said in an interview before the library presentation, the war on terror
has brought the United States and India closer together.
"We've found common ground on the war on terror," he said. "The
U.S. is now close to the view that India has on terrorism, and it's helped
to bring the peace process back on track" between India and Pakistan.
It is no coincidence that tensions between the two nuclear powers over
Kashmir, a disputed territory between them, have eased substantially
since 9/11, Vinayak said. That's because the United States since then
has strongly supported Pakistan's efforts to suppress Islamic fundamentalists
in the country who have increasingly infiltrated the Kashmir insurgency.
"The only way India can survive is to trade with Pakistan," he
said. "And not only with Pakistan, but through Pakistan to trade
with Afghanistan and the Caucusus" region including Russia, Turkey,
"We've got used to terrorism" in India after many years of
experience with Kashmiri, Sikh, Tamil, and other terrorist groups, Vinayak
said. "Now, the U.S. is just beginning to get used to it."
During the question-and-answer session, an audience member asked, "Why
do they hate us?"
"The U.S. is not hated for being a tyrant," Vinayak said. "It's
being hated because it is a free society, a liberal society, a democratic
society. The way to fight back is at the level of ideas. You have to
defeat the ideologies that are feeding terrorism whether it is in India,
Pakistan, Iraq or wherever."
Although India and the United States have thus grown closer recently,
many decades of mutual stereotyping have yet to be overcome, the journalist
"The picture Americans have of India is much the same as it was
two decades ago, a country of snake charmers and photogenic images of
poverty," he said. "Yet we are one of the most stable civil
societies in the world. The U.S. is the world's oldest democracy, and
India is the largest."
As for Indian stereotypes of America, Vinayak said he didn't expect
to find that so many Americans are religious.
"We tend to think Americans are atheists," he said. "America
is known as a very materialistic society, and in India materialism is
taken as something not godly. If you are rich, that means you are not
religious. So I was very surprised to find that a majority of Americans
believe in God."
Was India, the birthplace of Hinduism and Buddhism, going to lose its
spirituality as it becomes the economic powerhouse it seeks to be?
"No, I don't think so," Vinayak said. "The two aren't
I wanted to argue with him on that, but time was up. Yet we need to
get to the bottom of this important question. So I hope Ramesh visits
Copyright @ 2004 The McGill