New Delhi: India and the United States are not “natural allies”. When he was prime minister, A.B.Vajpayee described them so. It is doubtful if he believed what he said. Relations with the United States had to be repaired after the second Pokharan test. Perhaps some assuaging rhetoric was in order.

This small reference to recent history is necessary to contextualize events surrounding the former United States Department of State official, Robin Raphel. Raphel is under FBI investigation for alleged espionage. The press says her links to the Pakistan government and the Afghan Taliban are being scrutinized. No one in India will shed a tear if Robin Raphel is convicted.

But it goes beyond Raphel. If you examine the disposition of American officials dealing with the subcontinent in general, they seem naturally inclined to support Pakistan than India when not hyphenating them. Raphel returned from retirement to succeed Richard Holbrooke as the point-person for the Af-Pak region. Holbrooke’s hardnosed diplomacy came up against a granite Indian wall. It broke him.

Why are US officials generally so antagonistic to India? Why do they so readily embrace the military-backed monster state of Pakistan?

Democratic India repels democratic United States. This is the harsh truth. US officials who are used to riding roughshod over nations find themselves blocked in India. India and the United States can never be “natural allies”. Pakistan, on the other hand, has been a vassal state of the US since its independence with terrible consequences, ironically, for both parties.

This was clearly demonstrated in the post-9/11 Afghanistan war. The United States knew the limitations of Indian assistance. A US official made it clear that his country had no patience with India’s democratic checks and balances that made foreign military assistance a cumbersome and often impossible exercise. “We tell the Pakistan military what we want and they deliver,” he said. “You can’t do that with India.”

Back in those years when the statement was made, the Pakistan army was all-powerful. It is less so now though its clout compared to the civilian government remains enormous. Robin Raphel operated in the subcontinent in a still earlier period, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the Pakistan army was flush with success against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and its generals strutted about perhaps like the Knights Templar during the Crusades.

There is a powerful attraction about a military state that is apparently at your command. Raphel doubtless fell for this charm. There were also big bucks involved. American oil companies like Unocal wanted Caspian oil and gas pipelined via Afghanistan to Pakistan. To police war-torn Afghanistan, the US got Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan to prop up the Taliban. It now appears Raphel was central to this awful deal.

This sort of power to make and unmake nations got to her head. When she took on India on Jammu and Kashmir’s accession, she was a convert to Pakistan. She was a friend of Bill Clinton and it added to her power. At bottom, she was what US officials usually are, anti-democratic and imperialistic. Democracy is for the Anglo-Saxons; the rest have to be bludgeoned into submission. Richard Holbrooke was no different; just a battering ram who got lucky in the Balkans.

This farce about the United States and India being “natural allies” has gone on too long. Democracy does not join them but keeps them apart. If you leave personalities and alight on issues, the same trend persists. India and the US cannot be military allies. The Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement has failed because America could not dilute India’s nuclear liability law.

Is there a problem that India and the United States cannot be “natural allies”? Surely. But the United States won’t change its ways any more than India can abandon republicanism. Pakistan has boomeranged on the United States. Nuclear Pakistan cannot be allowed to go down and by that virtue has become the world’s principal extorter state. To India’s lasting misery, it is the immediate western neighbour.

The situation will not change till US imperialism produces officials like Robin Raphel and Richard Holbrooke. India has resisted and overcome them in the past and will do so in the future. But this fraud and fiction of India and the US as “natural allies” must be exposed. A country which remained unmoved and unconcerned despite knowledge of the 2008 Bombay carnage being planned cannot be trusted.