Recently, the Air Forces of India and US held joint exercises in India, evoking unprecedented protests with about 1.5 million people demonstrating against military collaboration with the US. This shows the anger of the people toward the US' attempts to enlist India as its military partner, to "embed" it in Asia in order to establish US supremacy in the region and to contain the challenge from China.
The US is increasing its military collaboration with many countries to sustain its global hegemony. Military bases are useful instruments for the US to influence the internal policies of the "host" countries.
Although the US Department of Defense decided to close 10% of the domestic bases, the US strategy is to "outsource" military bases to other countries. The US has now public agreements with 93 countries to maintain different kinds of military bases.
The Bush administration is strengthening the major hub bases like those in Okinawa, Guam, Britain, Qatar and Honduras, the smaller centers like those in South Korea, Diego Garcia, Kuwait, Bulgaria, Uzbekistan and Australia, and "lily pads" in countries from Lithuania to Tajikistan, and Djibouti to the Andean nations in South America. According to the Overseas Basing Commission, there are 700 US military facilities all over the world.
The US has about 100 military bases and installations across Japan. The revamped Japan-US military relationship would substantially upgrade Japanese military role, making Japan the front line of US-Asian strategy. Japan and the US will cooperate in a dozen fields including anti-aircraft, ballistic missile defense and counter-terrorism. With Japan's assurance to give "unceasing support" for US troops, a joint combat plan was formulated to deal with contingencies and stress.
The political classes in Japan have disregarded the inhuman sufferings of the people due to the continued concentration of military installations in Okinawa and the increasing violence of the stationed troops on the Okinawan.
These military bases accomplish multiple tasks. In South Korea, US troops, now numbering about 33,000, along with deterring North Korea, also assist all US interventions in east Asia, helping even with interventionist activities in the faraway Persian Gulf region.
US and coalition forces have not withdrawn or agreed to a deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan even though their declared aims, which are criminal and immoral, have been achieved. They still maintain about 18,000 forces in Afghanistan with bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, threatening Asian security. And the US gives importance to its major naval and air bases in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to dominate the Middle East and southern and central Asia, while the people of India perceive it as a great threat to Indian security.
Military alliances and military bases have induced the arms sales, benefiting enormously the multinational corporations involved in the weapons sale.
Despite India's displeasure, Bush authorized the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan last year. To balance this move, the US promised India to allow the US firms to sell sophisticated, multi-role combat aircraft, upgraded F-16 and F-18 warplanes and the Patriot anti-missile missile system. And, through the defense agreement, India would be involved in co-production of US-developed weapons with "opportunities for technology transfer, collaboration, and research and development."
So the weapons merchants of the US are happy that both Pakistan and India are engaged in arms race. They have no reason to bother about the increasing tensions in the region, because it will swell their arms sales from the present $30 billion, which itself comes to nearly half of the entire international arms market.
The increasing purchase of arms put a heavy price on the economies of the underdeveloped countries, resulting in reduced spending for people's welfare. In India, where nearly one in 10 children born dies before the age of five due to malnutrition and lack of medication for common infectious diseases, health expenditure declined to just 1% of GDP. However, the defense spending is nearly 3% of the projected GDP for 2005-06. It is actually over 35% higher than combined spending on all social services, agriculture and irrigation.
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, "containing communism" was the usual justification for the US bases and military alliances. Now they talk about a new enemy, called "Islamic radicalism" or "militant Jihadism." Bush, in his speech on Veterans' Day, talked of "the murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals" as "the great challenge of our new century."
But these justifications will never go well among the people in countries where the US troops are stationed, since they increasingly fear the erosion of their national sovereignty. They understand that the real motive behind all these military collaborations is to project corporate America's power and protect its economic and political interests in their countries while ensuring unhindered profits for the military-industrial complex.
N. Gunasekaran is a political activist and writer based in Chennai, India.