Prof. Sumit Ganguly addresses strategic importance of South Asia to the US

Saturday, 4 August 2012 01:33 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shanuka Tissera

Sumit Ganguly is a Professor of Political Science and holds the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilisations at Indiana University, Bloomington. He has been a Fellow and a Guest Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in Washington DC and serves on the editorial board of numerous boards such as Asian Affairs.

He has a plethora of teaching experience from top institutions and has gained the respect of many professionals and diplomats around the world.

The talk sponsored by the United States Embassy and Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS), which took place on 26 July at the Taj Samudra Hotel, was focused on what the current principal American concerns are and how the South Asian region can help America alleviate its terminal illness of massive Government spending and militarisation around the world.

Giving a brief history on the relevance of South Asia to America in the pre-Cold War era, Prof. Ganguly shared that regional security with S. Asia was not needed. “The Cold War did not have a big impact on the South Asian region along with the small US military. The South Asian countries were very inwards; there were no waves of immigration. See how policy can be shaped by a few elite such as America’s veto on Cuba.”

Over time, South Asia has gained strategic significance within this ultimatum of uncertainty. India has been diversifying its weapons acquisitions through America, hence why America now has a strategic reason to invest in India. During the tsunami disaster, America’s and India’s military-to-military relationship strengthened and is now blossoming rapidly.

Current concern for the US

The current concern for the US is that they are going to repeat some of their previous mistakes such as the end of the war in Afghanistan. “The US washed its hands and left, to follow was a tiresome civil war and an influx in terrorism.”

This time the Professor, with a rainbow of experience, explained how America cannot walk away from Afghanistan. A mental imprint has been left on the people of Afghanistan; by 2014, the US is meant to leave Afghanistan but everyone knows it will not happen.

There will be a reduction in military spending within the new budget review, be it through the second term of the Obama administration, or by Mitt Romney, the Republican Presidential hopeful, who has been heavily overestimated and has a mountain to climb to beat Obama, especially without the support of the Ron Paul movement with an underestimated delegate count, which includes the independents, a massive youth following, libertarians and most proudly, current and ex military personnel.

According to Professor Ganguly, the American military will be reduced but they will most definitely keep a watchful eye on Afghanistan and the world. Pakistan will too stay on the radar if it continues this downward spiral; the US cannot simply walk away.

There is also the major threat of terrorist sanctuaries therefore continual engagement is necessary. America is the forced upon policeman of the world with no money and according to the Pentagon’s Base Structure Report 2012, lists 4,999 sites in the US, its territories and overseas.

Looking to the future

The lecture then steered toward a more positive aspect that the future holds. Personally speaking, how military and peace are positively correlated does startle me. Why the world cannot just take a non-interventionist stance baffles me, but that would be blasphemous for all the hard work of the diplomatic and private lobbying taken place to ensure the best weapons contracts totalling billions, if not trillions, of dollars were given to the right people.

America is now positive to stay engaged. “The greatest prospect is in India; India has an extremely robust military in all three branches. American is actually more dependent on the Indian Military and the pace and score may vary due to changes in world affairs but the military will not stop.”

Professor Ganguly announced that the momentum gathered would continue. India recently bought weapons from France and US for a very good price. This is due to the fact that India does not want to rely on one country for a single matter; there has been some compromise from India with its purchases of Medium Multi role Combat Aircrafts (MMCA).

The US Navy, which is the most powerful in the world, will be drawn into conflict if needed, especially with the mining of the sea bed and the law of the sea. Prof. Ganguly made it clear that India wishes to have no alliances, notional equals yes, but strategic partnerships can be made depending on what deal a country is willing to offer.

The brilliant intellect of the speaker personified terrorism as a hydra monster with x-amount of unknown manifestations. “There will not be a haven for terrorism, it will happen around the world but political power will look to combat it.”

The conclusion one can derive from the world’s allegiance on counter-terrorism is preparing for attacks and this implies sales in military equipment and the lives of personnel.


Prof. Ganguly talked about trade between the US and India but a question was asked why there was no reference to trade with Bangladesh with reference to natural gas and petrol.

“My expertise is mainly of a military dimension. Consistent trade is necessary and the US does have interests with Bangladesh, although they were slightly apprehensive about hosting America in a large way as the results in the long-term could have negative effects on the people and economy. Sometimes nationalism blinds us and we do not want to delude ourselves. Bangladesh is not as enlightened as they can be, but this will change with the future. Maybe in 20 years we will not use natural gas and petrol as a source of energy.”


Commenting on the future of shipping lines around the world, Prof. Ganguly said: “We are seeing a Chinese presence all over; the US Navy does need to heed some of the other armies and maybe take a pinch of salt from their bowl. I agree that there is a big difference by how the Chinese and others carry out their business. The Chinese implement ideas through a very friendly and family manner. They wish to help the people at the bottom and help educate. The Strait of Hormuz is the key shipping line that is the hot topic for all countries and companies at this time. The transit route which accounts for one-fifth of the world’s oil is a brittle problem needing repair.”

Q&A session

The lecture concluded with a lengthy Q& A session debating a range of topics regarding the US and its strategy to infiltrate the South Asian region. Personally speaking, America needs to focus on its own economic problems which are of gargantuan proportions.

At this point, the US national debt is rising by more than two million dollars every single minute.  The US national debt as of 7 June 2012 is nearing $ 16 trillion. It has risen by more than five trillion dollars since the day Barack Obama first took office.

According to Professor Alan Blinder of Princeton University, 40 million more US jobs could be sent offshore over the next two decades if current trends continue. This is just to show you where the tip of the iceberg is located. I have not gone into military spending and cost of occupying countries, but they result in figures just as large.

Auditing the Fed

Another key issue taking place in America right now is the bill hr 459 to subject the Federal Reserve to audits. The legislation written by Republican Representative Ron Paul, who will be on the ticket at the Republican Convention at the end of August, ran on policies such as ‘Audit the Fed’.

The bill passed the House by 327-98 vote on Wednesday, of which 89 were Democrats. The Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told the House lawmakers last week that it would open the door to a “nightmare scenario” of political meddling in monetary policy decisions.

The bill would remove an exemption that shielded from audit the monetary policy and other decisions by the Federal Open Market Committee. “It’s time that we stood up to the Federal Reserve that right now acts like some kind of high, exalted priesthood, unaccountable to democracy,” added Dennis Kucinich.

Maybe there are flaws in the changes Ron Paul wishes to exercise such as military non-intervention but strong defence, a gold standard which is not applicable now due to the size of the crisis around the world, to mention the EU crisis. Maybe it is realising that views of liberty, freedom and peace are not a dream. It is the people who get to vote for who they want. That is the basics of politics. Those who prepare for these changes will be the ultimate winners.