http://www.telegraphindia.com/1110305/jsp/opinion/story_13666780.jsp Muammar Gaddafi complains the West has deserted him. So have the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. So has India. The Westâ€™s desertion matters most, perhaps, not only because Gaddafi has been at such pains to surrender his nuclear options and reinvent himself as Uncle Samâ€™s pet but because of the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan. With British and German planes landing in Libya, talk of a no-fly zone and David Cameron accused of playing Tony Blair, a Western bid for regime change can be expected if the revolt fails to bring Gaddafi down. Indiaâ€™s position is enigmatic. A former ambassador to Libya once recalled admiringly that when he called on Gaddafi, the latter hugged his local driver because they had fought together in the resistance. He saw Libyaâ€™s leader as a man of the people. When Pranab Mukherjee visited Libya in 2007 â€” the first high-powered visit since Indira Gandhiâ€™s in 1984 â€” Gaddafi waxed eloquent about the sky being â€œthe limit for cooperation between the two countries.â€ Matching his exuberance, Mukherjee declared Indiaâ€™s â€œunlimited interestâ€ in promoting â€œthe historical friendshipâ€ and broadening ties â€œin the economic, commercial, cultural, and joint investment fields.â€ An Indian multi-product business delegation last March, followed in July by the eighth session of the Indo-Libyan Joint Commission, confirmed the promise of partnership in oil and petroleum, IT, education and human resource development. Has Indiaâ€™s evaluation changed because some of Gaddafiâ€™s people have turned against him? Or because the United States of America has? Now we are told Seif al-Islam, Gaddafiâ€™s son and heir, pulled a fast one on New Delhiâ€™s Islamic Centre. Now India, like the US, wants sanctions against Libya, and its leader tried for crimes against humanity. Fellow columnist K.P. Nayar may be able to throw light on the number of telephone calls and summonses from the Americans before Hardeep Singh Puri, Indiaâ€™s permanent representative to the United Nations who was reportedly held at Texas airport not long ago in violation of his diplomatic immunity and his turban â€œsearched forcefullyâ€, agreed to suppress his own preference for a more calibrated approach and go the whole hog. Since Americans test friends and foes on the touchstone of UN votes, P.V. Narasimha Rao had to support revocation of Resolution 3379 (Zionism-is-racism), passed by the UN general assembly with great gusto in 1975, as part of the price of acceptance. As prime minister, I.K. Gujral did not rush to Kuwaitâ€™s defence when Saddam Hussein overran the emirate but realized â€” when the US cut off aid for impoverished Yemen because it voted against invading Iraq â€” that near-bankrupt India would have to toe the line. After that, India supported every American move at the UN. Itâ€™s ironical that the US, with India tagging along, should seek to commit Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court which neither country recognizes. It is also ironical that the world should suddenly have woken up to his dictatorship. Gaddafi has not been anything else since he overthrew the pro-Western monarchy in 1969 and set up the Great Socialist Peopleâ€™s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Presumably, the Americans and Indians would have continued to befriend him if he had ruthlessly suppressed the revolt before it exploded. Itâ€™s ironic, too, that a pro-democracy movement is pitted against a jamahiriya or â€œstate of the massesâ€. The strident American campaign is the biggest irony. The US has accommodated too many dictators in the past for Hillary Clintonâ€™s human rights rhetoric to be taken at face value. Perhaps Gaddafiâ€™s nuclear penitence was never believed and the US has been biding its time since the unfinished business of 1969 when Henry Kissinger tried to topple him or 1986 when the Reagan administration tried to have him killed. Perhaps Washington wants to demonstrate that the Central Intelligence Agency, which could not save a star protÃ©gÃ© in Cairo and has been caught with its pants down in Lahore, isnâ€™t such a nincompoop (if an organization can be called that) after all. This could also be a manifestation of the new plan â€” CIA 2015 â€” by the CIA director, Leon Panetta, to refurbish his agencyâ€™s image. Another explanation might be the intelligence assessment that despite bombast about â€œfighting to the last man and womanâ€, Gaddafi will not survive the storm, and the consequent American determination to win favour with the next ruler(s) of a major oil exporter with Africaâ€™s largest proven oil deposits. The danger is that a superpower can foment trouble in a country and use it as an excuse for intervention. It was a tactic imperial Britain perfected, and the US might feel tempted to employ to avoid the mess that outright invasion created in Iraq and Afghanistan. No one should be surprised if Western arms and funds are channelled to the â€œFree Libyaâ€ insurgents, as they were to Osama bin Laden and the Afghan Mujahideen. Hugo ChÃ¡vez, who has produced a peace plan, can save his breath to cool his porridge, as they say. The Americans canâ€™t back out now. Unlike the British, Indians donâ€™t instinctively protest when civil rights are infringed anywhere in the world. Outsiders have commented India is absorbed in India. The British writer, Taya Zinkin, who knew India well, explained indifference to global events by suggesting that Indians are psychologically incapable of seeing repression when both sides are the same colour. The traditional aversion to championing human rights and democratic freedoms, evident in Jawaharlal Nehruâ€™s hesitation over Hungary in 1956, may also reflect a genuine reluctance to interfere in another countryâ€™s sovereign jurisdiction. It could be born, too, of a hard-pressed peopleâ€™s pragmatic strategy for survival. An Indian Zimbabwean at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas strongly resented Western criticism of Robert Mugabe whose high-handedness he justified in the name of discipline, arguing that white farmers deserved to be expropriated. Typically, he was doing well and didnâ€™t want the boat rocked. Not that Indian governments care much about emigrant sentiments. Nehru, who advised East African Indians to make the best of their circumstances, took up the cudgels against apartheid South Africa because of Mahatma Gandhiâ€™s involvement. Playing to the Afro-Asian gallery and attacking Western colonialism were added incentives. Initiatives like the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and liberalized passport, visa and voting rules were prompted by Chinaâ€™s success in mobilizing funds from its diaspora. Normally, West Asian countries are barely mentioned in the Indian media. The orgy of reports about the upsurge there reflects (dare I say it?) media imitativeness rather than a response to keen domestic interest. Yet, West Asia should rank high in foreign policy priorities. India imports 75 per cent of its oil needs and nearly three-quarters of that comes from the region. The four million Indians there (only 18,000 in Libya) are a major source of foreign remittances. The United Arab Emirates overtook the US in 2008-09 as Indiaâ€™s biggest trading partner. If national interest justifies dealing with Myanmarâ€™s ruling junta (despite Barack Obamaâ€™s chiding) or an array of Arab sheikhs and sultans, there need be no squeamishness about Libyaâ€™s â€œLeader and Guide of the Revolutionâ€. Whether or not his days are numbered, India must forge a coherent West Asian strategy that places Indiaâ€™s fiscal stability, technological expertise and familiarity with democratic institutions at the disposal of the emerging order. Whatever the earlier record of Egyptâ€™s Muslim Brotherhood, its request for help in conducting elections merits a positive response. The unique instrument of soft power that is Bollywood can be deployed with aggressive creativity. While India cannot afford to ignore either US strategic interests or its ties with Israel, being seen to hang on to Americaâ€™s coat-tails like Hosni Mubarakâ€™s ousted regime will only invite ridicule. â€œA subedar owing allegiance to a global overlordâ€, as Syed Shahabuddin put it in another context, wonâ€™t serve even American global interests either. The US needs a credible ally in Asia with an independent foreign policy.