Sunday, December 14, 2008

Unpacking U.S. Hegemony via Mumbai Terror 11/26/08

In the aftermath of Mumbai's date with terror 11/26 it feels important to analyze a 60-year phenomenon -- a growing U.S. hegemony in South Asia. This process of U.S. dominance began just at the precise moment in the late 1940's (no accident of timing) that South Asia was emerging from centuries of exploitative British colonial rule. That 60+ year process in which British colonialism morphed into U.S. neoimperialism, has brought South Asians all the way to that fateful day in Mumbai last month.

11/26 still feels like today, not yet yesterday, as I write from home in New York, enroute next week to my home in Chennai, remembering my own twenty less-than-something Mumbai home of Haji Ali, Cuffe Parade and the dubbawallahs whose names I carelessly failed in my class privilege, to ask when they unfailingly brought my lunch to my desk in an office not far from VT.

Where you stand depends on where you sit. I am a U.S. citizen, I am classified as an NRI. I consistently fail to be dazzled by US hegemony. I find it abhorrent and ethically unsupportable. Indeed the US stance towards the world is in dire need of CHANGE, that charged word-of-the-moment in US, and in the Mumbai terror, South Asia contemporary geopolitics.

The NAM, the Non-Aligned Movement of newly free sovereign nation-states mainly in Africa and Asia soon found their hard won political liberation rapidly undercut by the geo-economic machinations of the World Bank and the IMF, both within the sphere of US control represented by the Federal Reserve. Nyerere's Tanzania became a debtor nation despite Nyerere's commitment to Ujamaa pan-African socialism. So did India despite Swadeshi and NAM.

The divide-and-rule strategy perfected by the colonial Brits was now given a virulently new lease of life by the neo-imperial US. across much of the Global South. The Mumbai terror attack must be framed within this larger world-system, in which the US invented the Cold War, produced and still maintains the largest number of nuclear warheads, controlled the work of the UN Security Council, satellitized a pro-Zionist Israel in West Asia (the Middle East to some) and made the world safe for Coke, not Democracy.

Last year in New Delhi US Secretary of State Condoleezza arrogantly disparaged NAM stating non-alignment has "lost its meaning".
Rice further suggested that India "move past old ways of thinking and old ways of acting." In other words, the diverse and unique historical trajectory of sovereign states struggling their way out of colonial oppression and emerging into liberatory democracy, has to be set aside to serve US strategic and market interests.

Pakistan, rendered vulnerable at the Mountbatten-engineered Partition (with the assistance of collusional, homegrown elites) particularly has felt the full impact of US meddling. That divisive meddling dates back to the Dulles era of the State Department in the Eisenhower administration with SEATO and CENTO ( both of which Pakistan became a member as an 'ally' of the US). Don't allies have to somewhat equal or equivalent? This unequal 'ally' relationship continues today, to the detriment of Pakistan.

The longstanding, invasive U.S. engagement in Afghanistan (within which Pakistan became enmeshed) is too well known to require cataloging here. Mumbai no more and no less than Islamabad or Kabul or London or Madrid or New York are global or glocal megacitities that stand at the intersection of dominant, yes hegemonic unipolarity represented by US capital and military shock and awe. The rest of the world is awakening to multipolarity and the US is still unipolar. How 20th century!

My point is not at all to externalize the terror that took our breaths away that recent November day in Mumbai. In fact my point is to affirm the need for continuing crossborder people-to-people civil society exchanges, exchanges that are made ever more difficult and divisive when Condi Rice and Mike Mullen pop in and out to "mediate" in South Asia, own "the road map" to illegal Zionist settlements in Palestine, threaten and sanction against Iran.

So long as Afghanistan, India, Pakistan don't shed their colonized, dependent mindset; allow the US to triangulate and dictate their historic and contemporary relationship; fail to look within ourselves to braid the bonds that bind us as blood-sharing kin; do not ensure that the arc of justice can bend proudly and surely towards all our peoples,
we may find ourselves continue to be restive as we cross the street in Mumbai.

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice

1 comment:

Jinu P said...

Hi Chithra

I am truly amazed by the sheer clarity of thought you have displayed in this article. It gave an all new perspective to the way we perceive US and other Geo Political issues related to India.

I work for a new website called which aims to make this world a better place to be at, by way of encouraging Informed Opinion - the kind of opinion you have about the 26/11 attacks.

As an avid blogger, I have seen quite a few blogs that have addressed this issue at hand. I would like to collate all these valuable blog posts under one roof for people across the world get both an emotional and analytical perspective about the issue.

I would request you to register yourself on and simply copy-paste your article in the section called '(Your name) Diary'.

Please do not think of this as a promotional comment for my company since it is not one. :) Feel free to write to me at if you need any help.

Happy Blogging!