Winds of change

No head of Russia/USSR/CIS is safe and his ideologies are far from eternal. Lenin (who ruled from 1917-24) was the first head of state of the Soviet Union. When Stalin (1924-53) came to power, he disregarded most of Lenin’s ideologies and proved to be a solid dictator for 29 years. After that came Khrushchev (1953-64) who decried Stalin’s style of ruling and introduced glasnost and perestroika. Brezhnev (1964-82) was totally opposed to any such ideas and reacted with a coup when Khrushchev was holidaying in Crimea. He destroyed all the foundations of reform, which were laid by Khrushchev and was a Communist to the very depth of his soul. Then Yuri Andropov (1982-84) who was more or less a moderate, came, and after him Chernenko (1984-85) a staunch hardliner.

So the union had been alternating between a hardliner and reformist for most of its time and each leader attacked his immediate predecessor. Gorbochev (1985-91) went many steps further and attacked all of his predecessors right up to Lenin and was responsible for dismantling Communism in the Soviet Union. After that, for a very brief period a hardliner, Yanayev took over. Now we have Yelstin, who was supposed to be a champion democrat, but he is also in deep water and his position is far from safe, with everyone including his Vice-President attacking him.

Yesterday, today or tomorrow—no Russian leader is sure of respect and approval from his future generation.

(This appeared as a Letter to the Editor in The Times of India in 1991)

Refusing to yield

After the collapse of the USSR, America had expected India’s position to be at her mercy and everybody thought America could get away with anything. However, India has stood up to the USA on three major issues: NPT, patent laws and the rocket technology transfer deal.

India not only refused to bow to American pressure to sign the NPT but also rejected the US-backed Pakistan proposal for a nuclear-free zone in Asia. Then came the issue of patent laws. The US pressured, cajoled and threatened India to sign on the dotted line. India was put on the Super 301 list. But still, the US got nowhere. It only turned Indian public opinion against itself and hardened the resolve of India’s elected representatives and government not to kowtow to the US. It is unlikely that the Indian patent laws will be altered in the near future to satisfy the Americans.

The US sanctions against ISRO on the issue of transfer of rocket engine technology from Glavkosmos have also backfired. The sanctions have resulted neither in Glavkosmos backing out of the deal, nor in crippling ISRO. Instead, with the successful launching of the ASLV and INSAT 2-A, ISRO has proved a point to the US.

Before the sanctions, the US companies contributed 50 per cent of the ISRO import of components and the French only 10 per cent. But now, with Thomson-CSF and Marta of France offering all the components previously supplied by the US, there is a reversal of roles.

In the end, more than India, it will be the US who will be the biggest loser, both politically and financially.

(This appeared in the Letters to the Editor section of Week magazine, 26 July, 1991)