By Soroor Ahmed
Before discussing a security deal sealed on September 15 among Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS) to counter the growing threat from China in the eastern theatre of the globe, one needs to study the prevailing situation in the West in the early days of World War-I when once none else but the US and UK almost came to war. This was largely because Washington was in no mood to snap trade ties with Germany and take part in the Great War on behalf of Britain, Russia and France.
But it was Britain, which through propaganda and all other means – fair and foul – dragged the USA to this four-year long (1914-18) bloodletting in Europe, which ultimately tilted the balance in favour of the Allies. Germany was defeated and Ottoman Turkey was disintegrated, so was the Austria-Hungary Empire.
No doubt German provocation against the United States also contributed to the US’ entry into the war. President Woodrow Wilson got re-elected in 1916 on the anti-war sentiment. But just a few months later the US had to join it.
Commenting on this nefarious design of the arms producers, bankers and the ruling class of the West, Jawaharlal Nehru in Glimpses of World History wrote in early 1930s: “…many of the financiers and industrialists and makers of war material, who sat at home, and patriotically used these fine phrases to induce the young to jump into the furnace of war, made vast profits and become millionaires.” (p. 628)
Bribes were offered to neutral countries and newspapers were used as a propaganda to whip up passion for war. As American money and other resources were essential, a public opinion was built there so that an environment was created to join the war. The strong recent French reaction towards Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States cannot exactly be equated with the situation in the initial days of the World War-I. But it is also a fact that never in the last one century Paris had used such strong words against its main western allies, who sacrificed lakhs of their own men to bail out France in two World Wars. Mind it, in both these wars Germany had occupied France.
It recalled its ambassadors from Australia and the United States. Its foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, went to the extent of calling the signing of the nuclear-powered submarine deal as “a stab in the back.”
The European Union also flayed AUKUS and demanded apology from Australia. Germany too backed France, so did India, which has a special defence relationship with France. But India is in no mood to displease Australia, US and UK as well.
Curiously, the White House rejected any demand for the inclusion of India and Japan in AUKUS and asked what would be the acronym if they too are included. All these developments took place on the eve of the United Nations General Assembly when leaders from across the world converge to New York. This included Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took part in a QUAD meeting and met US President Joe Biden on September 24 and Vice President Kamala Harris a day earlier.
Sensing the reactions of France, Germany and European Union, the leaders of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States tried to reach out to Paris, which was upset because Canberra was negotiating a similar 90-billion dollar submarine deal with it, but scrapped it at the final moment.
The US President conceded that more consultation should have been made with France before coming to the deal.
It is true the western countries have learnt enough lessons from the two World Wars and may soon reconcile. But the sharp contradictions within them have exposed the greed for making arms deal. Like in the pre-World War-I days today the vested interest in the arms manufacturing influences the political leaders. It is not essentially that France has any love for China, but it protested so strongly simply because Australia left it in lurch and finalised nuclear submarine deal with the US and UK.
No doubt, China has emerged as a big challenger to the West, yet there are differences within on how to handle Beijing. There is no dearth of experts in the West who are of the view that the US and now even UK and Australia are not going to be benefited much by heightening the tension in Pacific Ocean and South China Sea.
Whatever be the stand of the rulers of Japan and South Korea, the two allies of the US in the region, many people in these two countries too do not want their respective countries to be pushed into the war hysteria.
So far arms manufacturers are concerned, their only interest is in minting money. They not only create environment for the sale of arms to different countries but also to different militant organisations and mafias and cartels across the world. More than arms there is always need for ammunition. If a country like India had to buy ammunition from Israel at the height of Kargil War, how is it that different terrorist outfits across the world manage to get firepower? It is these manufacturers who keep supplying them. They are not interested in the loss of lives.