how the world sees america

Indians Protest U.S. Aircraft Carrier, But Some Welcome Sailors

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I arrive in Chennai, a city on the southeast coast of India, at the same time as a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, drops anchor right off the coast. Though it was the arrival of the latter that made headlines across India, we both faced an angry communist greeting.

At 5:00 p.m., the Communist Party of India (CPI) staged a protest near the Chennai Port. I went straight there to check out the scene. Demonstrators decried “American imperialism.” To them, the massive carrier signified the American threat to the developing world. Operating under the pretense of friendship, these CPI members argued that America was helping India stand up while stepping on its head.

The communists here tell me that America has a long history of undermining India’s growth, from support for China and Pakistan in the Indo-China War of 1971 to the sketchy nuclear deal today. Now this war vessel comes to their shores after active duty in the Persian Gulf, supporting a war many Indians oppose.

Behind the historical complaints, there are also very personal ones. It’s all about equality, one demonstrator explains. He joined the CPI because it was the only party willing to fight for a world “without an upper class and a lower class.” This struggle takes place locally and globally; “America doesn't want to be equal” and “refuses to make room” for the developing world.

“Nuclear ship, America ship, we won’t allow it on Indian soil!” The chants drown out conversation, but the ship isn’t going anywhere. The Indian government supports its presence. And the sloganeering of these few thousand doesn’t change much, so I decide to journey past the port to the massive, popular Marina Beach where thousands mill around street vendors, to find out what they have to say.

On the size and strength of America, all agree. But it means very different things to the sandal salesman and the homeless children on the beach. With few resources, these locals look to the sailors as new customers, new sources of revenue and, more than that, new subjects of curiosity.

The shoemaker says, “We get to see Americans. It's good.” And a young girl who lives on the beach, caring for other children, visage masking her age, tells me, "It's good that the ship has come because we can see how people live there...” and, she adds, “…we can also live like that.”

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Comments (16)

Tantor:

Communist Party of India: "The significance of the visit of the USS Nimitz is that the UPA government is step by step implementing the defence framework agreement with the United States which will convert India into a military ally of the United States."


I certainly hope so. I'd like India to be allied as tightly with America as Australia is. Indians are good people, have a fine cuisine, and feature innumerable hot babes. I kinda like those Bollywood movies, too, even though I can't understand them. I'd much rather see India, a humane and democratic nation, be the regional power in south Asia.

George:

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Westerner:

The indian commies should just grow up or they're going to be left behind by their capitalist compatriots.

Amar Jain:

Count on the Communinists to oppose everything that is good for India.
Hey Communists, go do some bootlicking of your Masters.

Wall Fly:

Those interested in the little war between China and India that happened so many years ago may wish to examine the Operations Review of the Sino-Indian War written by Generals Henderson Brooks and P.S. Bhagat, VC, to find out what really happened. Alas you will be hard-pressed because this report still remains classified and has not been released by the Indian Government.

matthew kuruban:

The hyperlink of the "Communist Party of India" on this page (2nd paragraph) leads to the Communist Party of India Marxist" website. Don't the editors check all facts before they publish a news story?

Rama:

Funny, that the CPI brings up the India-China War. The Indian Communists support China in that war and blamed Nehru for "provoking" China into invading India. Well, one can't win an argument with the Communists - thats all they are good for - arguing and drinking tea!

VD:

Interesting series.

Just a correction...perhaps that CPI activist was too young to know or you misquouted him when you say "India-China war of 1971." The war forced upon India in 1971 was the India-pakistan war that led to creation of Bangladesh. Chinese fought India in 1962.

Amar:

Sankar, to be fair, I think they meant soil a bit more broadly than that!

Amar:

This event reminded me a bit of Peter Underwood, the British canal boat dweller who said half in jest that the U.S. was using the UK as an aircraft carrier.
http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/america/2007/06/uk_american_aircraft_carrier_back.html
It's a potent symbol around the world: the destroyer, the aircraft carrier, the cruiser, the nuclear submarine. Sometimes in a good context - aid and rescue missions, sometime not.

Sankar:

"Nuclear ship, America ship, we won’t allow it on Indian soil!”

Nobody can. Even if they wish to get to indian SOIL they cant, cause its a ship you morons. It will remain in the SEA.

CPI:

The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:

On Nuclear Weapons on Board USS Nimitz

The Chief Officer of the naval group comprising the USS Nimitz has refused to confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons on board the Nimitz. This is in keeping with the standard US navy guideline which states, “It is the policy of the US government to neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at any general or specific location.” (OPNAV INSTRUCTION 5721. IF)

The Ministry of Defence and the US Embassy had earlier issued statements that there were no nuclear weapons on board the US ship. These are statements which misinform the Indian people. Rear Admiral John Terence Blake, Commander of the Carrier Strike Group told the media on June 30 on board the Nimitz that “We can neither confirm nor deny the presence of weapons on board the ship.”

The significance of the visit of the USS Nimitz is that the UPA government is step by step implementing the defence framework agreement with the United States which will convert India into a military ally of the United States.

Nitin:

As I wrote on the Forbes blog, "Man Bites Dog" makes a very good headline. But it is absurd to suggest that it is indicative of the dietary preferences of human beings.

Shashank Shekhar (Doha):

When you see a protest by a political party in India don't get swayed by the turnout. A large section of those out on th roads do not even know what kind of a banner they are actually carrying. And if they do know the knowledge is mostly half baked.
It's only recently that the relationship in between the two countries has improved to a level that it can be termed 'warm'. Further, communists need to grow up from a hardcore anti American bias.
Relationship in between the two largest democracies must be warm and if the anchorage of US $ Nimitz plays a role in it, that should not bother anyone.India and especially the communists need to grow up from the fashion of protesting on the drop of a hat.

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