2 January 2013

The Indian Space Programme in 2012: A Review

January 2, 2013 

By all means, 2012 can be considered a watershed year for the Indian space programme. The programme had begun modestly in November 1963 with the launch of a 9-kg sounding rocket from a modest facility in the fishing hamlet of Thumba on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram. 2012 saw the 100th space mission of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). On September 9, 2012, the four stage workhorse PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) orbited the 720-kg French remote sensing satellite Spot-6 along with the 15-kg Japanese Proiteres probe as a piggy back payload on commercial terms, and in the process helped ISRO complete the saga of a “space century”. The significance of the mission lay in the fact that the PSLV, considered a highly reliable space vehicle, launched the heaviest ever satellite of an international customer on commercial terms. 

The PSLV has so far launched 29 satellites for international customers on commercial terms. Its versatility lies in the fact that it can launch satellites into a variety of orbits. But then ISRO’s continued dependence on a single operational launch vehicle in the form of the PSLV implies that heavier class home grown INSAT/GSAT series of communications satellites are hoisted into space by means of procured launch services. Not surprisingly then the 3,400-kg GSAT-10 satellite carrying 30 communications transponders and a payload designed to support the Gagan satellite based, civilian aircraft navigation and management system was launched by the Araine-5 vehicle in September 2012. The continued dependence on Ariane-5 for deploying the heavier class Indian communications satellites not only implies a huge foreign exchange outgo but also makes for a far from sound strategic approach. For, in the context of the rapidly shifting global geopolitical dynamics, the timely accessibility to a procured launch service could become a difficult and challenging proposition in the years ahead. 

Indeed, the failure of ISRO to qualify the home grown cryogenic engine stage, meant to power the three-stage Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), has forced India to go in for commercial launch services to get its heavier class communications satellites off the ground. The long delay in mastering the complexities of the cryogenic propulsion system based on liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen mix implies that there are serious challenges ahead in putting in operational mode the GSLV-MKII capable of placing a 2.5-tonne class satellite and the high performance GSLV-MKIII capable of deploying a 4-tonne class satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbits. The failure of the two GSLV missions during 2010—one with a home grown upper cryogenic stage and the other with a Russian origin cryogenic engine stage—proved to be a setback for the Indian launch vehicle development programme. 

Though ISRO had planned a GSLV-MKII launch with an indigenous upper cryogenic stage during 2012, it stood postponed to 2013. The qualification of a 400-tonne plus GSLV is critical for ISRO to sustain some of its high profile projects including the Chandrayaan-II mission slated for take off sometime during the middle of this decade. The Chandrayaan-II mission to the moon, which would feature an Indian orbiter and rover and a Russian lander, is a follow up to India’s maiden lunar probe Chandrayaan-1 launched in 2008. 

Build bridges, but don’t bend

Jan 02, 2013 

Saints have preached that to forgive is nobler than to take revenge. When slapped on one cheek, offer the other cheek. All this may be very laudable from spiritual or moral points of view, but it cannot be the basis for state policy.
During the Kargil War, Capt. Saurabh Kalia and four jawans were taken prisoner. They were brutally tortured and their mutilated bodies were handed over in that state. When this news broke out there was great indignation. The media highlighted this for a while. The then NDA government did not do much about it. Today, in the wake of the officer’s father seeking justice in the Supreme Court and his plans to go to the International Court of Justice, this issue has been revived. The UPA government has been too busy hosting Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, to take notice. The latter has rubbed salt into the wound by saying that Capt. Kalia may have been killed due to bad weather. Weather is more merciful than barbaric brutes and does not gouge eyes or mutilate private parts of the human body.

What happened to Kalia and his men is nothing new. Pakistan has been doing such acts of barbarity repeatedly. On November 7, 1947, we liberated Baramulla from Pakistani invaders led by Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan. Apart from the horrendous massacre of men and rape of women, Maqbool Sherwani’s body was nailed to a cross. He was crucified near the Baramulla Convent. In March 1948, we captured Rajauri. The most ghastly sight awaited us there. Three pits, each 50 square yards, were filled with corpses.

During the 1947-48 winter, the Srinagar Valley was totally isolated with surface and air communications closed due to snow. When communications reopened in May, we reinforced our forces and launched our summer offensive towards Muzaffrabad on May 22, 1948. By June 1, we had advanced 10 miles, when the UN Commission came to the sub-continent. It appealed to both countries to suspend offensive operations while it negotiated a peace arrangement. We had an isolated garrison at Skardu Fort in Baltistan under Lt. Col. Shamsher Jung Thapa, besieged by Pakistani forces. A large number of Hindu and Sikh refugees had taken shelter in the fort. During winter we had not been able to reinforce this post. With Pakistan also agreeing to suspend offensive operations we were hopeful that the Skardu Fort would be able to hold out. However, supplies were rapidly dwindling and we could not carry out airdrops. Our transport planes did not have the capability to carry out airdrops at that height. Thapa had to surrender. Pakistani forces now occupied the fort. We intercepted a wireless message from the Pakistani commander at Skardu to his higher headquarters: “All Hindus Sikhs killed and women raped.” During the 1971 war, Pakistani forces massacred some one million Bangladeshis. In February 2000, Ilyas Kashmiri captured Sepoy Talaker of 17 Maratha Light Infantry, beheaded him and presented his head as a war trophy to former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. He got a reward of `1 lakh. Photos of this grisly act were published in newspapers in Lahore. While we were hosting Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, two soldiers of 20 Kumaon Regiment captured in Kupwara were beheaded as reported by an Indian news magazine.

I do not for a moment suggest that we stoop to the level of Pakistan and in retaliation carry out such barbaric acts. I only want our peaceniks with bleeding hearts burning candles at Wagah and our human rights activists to take note of these incidents. The latter are very vocal in condemning the so-called human rights violations by our security forces but remain totally silent on violations by Pakistan forces or Pakistan-sponsored terrorists. India has a proud record of treating Pakistani prisoners in a humane and civilised manner. I was in charge of looking after 92,000 Pakistani PoWs after the 1971 war. We went much beyond the provisions of the Geneva Convention in our treatment of them. We tried sending them back to Pakistan as ambassadors of durable peace in the subcontinent. We organised religious lectures by Islamic clerics, mushairas, film shows, and “Bara Khana” on Id. I attended the latter myself. Besides, cricket matches between our officers and Pakistan prisoners were also organised. A team of American journalists visited the PoW camp in Roorkee. They were allowed to interview any individual in-camera they liked. I personally knew some of the pre-Independence senior officers who were now prisoners with us. Lt. Gen. Niazi, the Chief of the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan, and I had served together as captains in Indonesia in 1945. We revived our old association and would share a drink when I visited the camp where he was held. The Los Angeles Times reported that never in history had prisoners of war been treated better than in India. When the prisoners returned to Pakistan, their Cabinet secretary, Mohammad Nawaz, who had been my friend and also had been in the Army in Indonesia, wrote a gracious letter of appreciation to me. During the Kargil War, Pakistan maintained that freedom fighters and not the Pakistan Army had intruded across the Line of Control. They refused to receive the dead bodies of the so-called “freedom fighters” killed in the battle. These bodies were buried by us, with military honours, and Islamic religious practice was duly observed.

In our anxiety to reach out to Pakistan, we have been acting as a soft state pursuing a pusillanimous policy. We have been virtually offering the other cheek to Pakistan. Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee went to Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore, which commemorates Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s call for Partition in March 1940, and conveyed a message of peace and brotherhood. Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani laid a wreath at Jinnah’s mausoleum in Karachi and lauded his secular opening address to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. Unlike other international dignitaries who pay homage at Gandhi Samadhi, no Pakistani leader has ever done so. The NDA government convened the Agra Summit, inviting Musharraf, the aggressor of Kargil. He was even allowed to freely rant at a press conference in Agra. We have been hosting Pakistani leaders who make inimical remarks against us on our soil, violating all canons of diplomacy. The most recent example is Mr Malik. Not only this, there have been occasions when we have bent over backwards in our policy of appeasement. Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh referred to Osama bin Laden as “Osamaji”. Our worthy home minister Sushilkumar Shinde prefixed “Shri” to Hafiz Mohammed Saeed’s name in Parliament two or three times.

We should by all means continue with our efforts to build bridges with Pakistan but this should be done in a more realistic manner without bending over backwards and acting like a soft state. This only whets Pakistan’s appetite to do us down. We have been repeatedly doing so from Havana to Sharm el-Sheikh, and now while hosting Pakistan delegations. 

The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir

Thoughts on Delhi's Public Protests

Paper No. 5345 Dated 02-Jan-2013 

By Col. R. Hariharan 

A few questions come to my mind on the way things were handled in the gang rape episode which has shaken the nation as no other crime has done: 

1. What was so special about this crime that roused the nation? 

2. Has the government and the Congress party learnt anything from the messy way they handled it? (This applies to other political parties as well, though what they thought did not really affect the public protest.) 

I am surprised at the ham-handed fashion in which the whole orchestration of knee jerk response from the govt to the gang rape and its aftermath continues. It reminds me of the Phantom comic episodes where Phantom moves from one crisis to another. At least he had a faithful dog and an extraordinary horse to help him out. They were missing here. 

Anna Hazare's movement should have shown the shape of public protests to come in the national capital now onwards. These protestors are not rural guys following Khap panchayat instructions to assemble at Ramlila maidan and watch silently the political circus on the stage enacted by politicians and applaud them on cue. 

These are younger people who feel for what is happening to them and refuse to accept it.They will act not on political party's cues or agendas because they are setting their own agenda. They are socially-networked and are not dependent upon media publicity so important for political gatherings, though the gruesome crime itself spontaneously gave them media coverage. They are not going to meekly accept political rhetoric repeated periodically by leaders. Instead, they want action; and they are not going to wait forever like the ruling class revelling in status quo. They want action now. 

Instead of assessing and understanding the emerging scene, the Congress and government leadership appears to be moving from self-made crisis to crisis like headless chicken. 

Why did not Soniaji or MMS or anyone who takes decisions (is there anyone?) for or in the government work out a genuine plan of action that would defuse the public anger rather than saving their own skin for such contingencies? 

Tiananmen Square & Vijay Chowk Student Protests

Paper No. 5346 Dated 02-Jan-2013 


The Editor,|
"Global Times”


1.  I read with interest a commentary by Lin Xu, in your edition of December 30, 2012, making some negative remarks about the state of India as a liberal democracy in the wake of the widespread public protests, particularly by the students of Delhi against the gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl in a private bus on the night of December 16, 2012. 

2. There has been considerable public outrage all over India, particularly in Delhi, over this incident which illustrates the increase in crime against women, the inability and incompetence of the police in dealing with it effectively and the insensitivity of the political leadership in responding to the outrage. 

3. One saw a similar student upsurge in the Tiananmen Square of Beijing in June 1989 caused by allegations of widespread political corruption and lack of democratic rights. The response of the authorities of democratic India and the one-party Chinese dictatorship to the two student protests differed qualitatively. 

4. The Delhi police imposed curbs on student protests in certain areas sensitive from the VIP security point of view such as the Vijay Chowk and used force mainly in the form of tear-smoke and long bamboo sticks called lathis to prevent protests in these areas. Outside these areas, the students were free to demonstrate wherever they wanted. Both Indian and foreign media freely covered the protests in the restricted as well as non-restricted areas. The Army was not used. No martial law was proclaimed. There was only one death in the confrontation between the police and the students---that of a policeman. 

5. As against this, to deal with the student upsurge in Beijing, the Army was called and a Martial Law was proclaimed. The Army used tanks to disperse the students. Till today, neither the Chinese people nor foreign media have an authentic account of the number of students killed by the tanks and other units of the Chinese army. 

6. The Government of China banned any reference to the Tiananmen Square upsurge by the media or social media networks. The Chinese authorities projected it as a non-event to which there should be no reference in any discussion or articles. 

7. That is the difference between democratic India and authoritarian China. In India, 65 years after our independence, we still have many serious deficiencies---political, administrative, economic and social. We are concerned over them, but we do not push them under the carpet. We freely admit them, criticize our leaders and officials for them, project them in our media and protest in public over them without any fear that we may find ourselves in jail for doing so. Can anyone in authoritarian China do so? The day you allow your people the right to do so, you will have the moral right to criticize India, but not now. 

8. Permit me to cite another example of the qualitative difference between democratic India and authoritarian China. Last year, the “Washington Post” published a highly negative article on Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, sent by its correspondent in New Delhi. There was considerable anger in Indian official circles over the article, but the correspondent did not have to suffer any negative consequences for writing that article. The Indian media and opposition political parties, which have been unhappy over the functioning of Dr. Manmohan Singh, freely disseminated the article. The Government did not try to prevent them from doing so. 

9. During the same period, the “New York Times” carried an investigative report on the wealth of some family members of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. There has been an unadmitted ban on the dissemination of this article inside China. The Chinese Government has not extended the visa of the NY Times correspondent who sent this report, thereby forcing him to leave China. 

10. There has been increasing pressure from the Internet generation in China for greater political reforms with an end of the single-party dictatorship and the introduction of a multi-party democracy. The Tahrir Square uprising in Egypt has added to Chinese fears that the younger generation in China has not forgotten and forgiven the Tiananmen Square massacre and wants genuine democracy and political reforms, the key demands of the 1989 generation. 

11. Your paper, which is the voice of the Communist Party of China, has, therefore, been trying to project the student outrage in Delhi as indicating the dangers of the imperfections of Indian-style democracy and social deficiencies. Your tactics is unlikely to succeed. 

12. It is India’s free and open despite imperfect society and style of democracy that will ultimately succeed. 

Yours sincerely, 

B. Raman

New aircraft carriers 'white elephants with dinky toys on top'

Royal Navy insiders have described the latest multi-billion aircraft carriers as “white elephants” with “dinky toys” on top. 

An artist's impression of the future aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales 

30 Dec 2012 

Chris Parry, former director of doctrine at the Ministry of Defence, said the two new £6bn aircraft carriers have been so stripped back they have less basic capabilities than Argentina’s navy during the Falklands War. 

The ships’ planes will lack facilities for mid-air refuelling, which is vital if they are to attack targets at long range or carry heavy bomb loads. 

“When you consider even Argentina had a buddy-to-buddy refuelling arrangement — where an aircraft refuelled its mate to take it half the distance again — it shows how backward [our] system is,” he said. 

Mr Parry identifies the shortcomings in an article in the Royal United Services Institute Journal quoted in the Sunday Times. 

He argues that the ships will be unable to fight full-scale sea battles and will need to remain close to shore in combat. 

A defence insider told the newspaper “You don’t want a huge white elephant floating around with a couple of Dinky Toys on top.” 

The MoD pointed out that Parry admitted the ships would “improve the navy’s capability”. 

“For longer range we will rely on land-based air-to-air refuelling,” it added.

Edge of the World

For one journalist embarking on a seven-year journey to retrace the footsteps of early humans, the biggest obstacles are man-made. 

Early this year, in the company of camel nomads from Ethiopia's desolate Afar region, I'm planning to walk out of Africa. This dusty jaunt will be the first leg of a seven-year journey -- north into the Levant, east to Asia and Siberia, and down the length of the Americas to Patagonia -- to retrace by foot the first global human diaspora out of our mother continent some 50,000 to 70,000 years ago. It's a long-wave experiment in ambulatory journalism that I'm calling "Out of Eden." Although my ramble will feature few of the hurdles faced by our wandering ancestors -- predators bigger than Volkswagens, for instance, or ice sheets covering Alberta -- it won't lack for obstacles. 

Maddeningly, the toughest will be largely imaginary: political borders. I'll bump into at least three dozen along my route. Some will be impassable. In Africa, for example, I'll steer clear of the frontiers of volatile Somalia. On the Arabian Peninsula, the margins of simmering Yemen are out of bounds. And in the Middle East, there's Iran. It straddles our primordial trail into Central Asia. I just hope bilateral relations improve by the time I hit the Zagros Mountains in, say, the summer of 2015. Iran's a big place to plod around. 

"Ironical, isn't it?" commiserated Meave Leakey, the famous paleoanthropologist and one of my project's many informal advisors. "Getting out of Africa is as hard today as it was the first time we left." 

Borders are perversely enduring artifacts in our globalized era. Remember how, after the Cold War, many pundits declared them passé? A cooperative New World Order was supposedly dawning -- albeit one conveniently supervised by Washington -- where grim frontier no man's lands would be recycled into jogging paths. (Indeed, as far back as 1940, one giddy U.S. general went so far as to announce the death of the "popular fetishism of sovereignty." Ah, innocent times.) 

True enough, most of Europe is navigable today after just one passport check. And a shared monoculture of cheap consumer goods now engulfs the habitable planet courtesy of powerful and stateless corporations. (I've sipped Nescafé instant coffee brewed by Pygmy hunter-gatherers in the rain forest of Congo.) The information superhighway, meanwhile, mocks almost any conceivable barrier an isolationist government can hope to throw up to block it, whether Hesco containers, concertina wire, minefields, or censoring technology. There's just no corralling the web's border-hopping ones and zeros. 

Yet borders aren't fading away. Quite the opposite. Even before the 9/11 attacks exposed the existential threat of global terrorism -- never mind the borderless dangers of narcotics trafficking, the illicit weapons trade, cyberwarfare, and people smuggling -- most countries were already hardening their edges. At the same time, strange new metaborders have also appeared, multiplying at crazy angles. Instead of new maps showing a globalized world, we navigate a jigsaw mosaic of competing interests. The Berlin Wall has been replaced by an emerging politico-economic front line between Beijing and Washington that zigzags murkily through the South China Sea. Journalist Eliza Griswold has drawn a depressing new theological divide between Islam and Christianity along the Earth's northern 10th parallel. To that invisible line I would add the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn: divides that cleave hundreds of millions of temperate-zone haves from the migratory aspirations of billions of subtropical have-nots. Humanity has been boxing itself into a warren of proliferating cliques -- tribes, languages, nations -- ever since we hit our prehistoric land's end in Tierra del Fuego. We have a limbic weakness for borders. 

The only consolation amid all this fractiousness is that old-fashioned borders provide an honest picture, at least, of the countries that rub edges with each other. They are unforgiving mirrors. Want to understand a government's true nature? Gambling on a nation's rise or fall? Don't visit capital cities. The grassy malls and marble colonnades you find there are by definition symbolic -- an idealized facade. Make your way instead to the unseen and unsightly back alleys where the grittier business of statehood is transacted. Go to the borders. You learn a lot among the grabby touts and squinting money-changers at charmless frontiers. Which side of the international boundary deploys more idle soldiers? Which way do they face? Where does the net flow of goods surge, and how many of them are taxed? Which country's immigration office has the longest -- and most patient -- entry queues? 

"I have always felt that the action most worth watching is not at the center of things but where edges meet," says the writer Anne Fadiman. "I like shorelines, weather fronts, international borders. There are interesting frictions and incongruities in these places, and often, if you stand at the point of tangency, you can see both sides better than if you were in the middle of either one." 

MY FAVORITE BORDER has always been the world's oddest perimeter. It's the threshold of home: the United States-Mexico line. I hardly recognize it anymore. 

Not long ago, while out feeding horses in a corral in West Texas, on a parched ranch close to the Rio Grande, I heard an unplaceable sound. It was strange yet familiar, like a lawn mower in the desert. Squinting finally up into the chrome-bright sky, I spotted a Predator drone. It was my first one since Iraq. 

This growing militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border has an elegiac quality about it that transcends nostalgia for a time when this 2,000-mile-wide doorway between two sister republics was congenially open. Ultimately, the slow but steady closing of the United States' vast southern frontier says less about Juárez's narco-violence or the jobless rate in Phoenix than it does about the end of an era of exceptionalism in the United States. The fences of I-beams rolling across the desert now seem almost provisional, an artifact of hindsight, a theatrical gesture against demographic and cultural reality. 

With Mexican cowboys in the Sierra Madre tucking Sam's Club cards into their wallets and U.S. politicians struggling through slogans in Spanish, it would be impossible for author Graham Greene to marvel, as he did nearly 75 years ago in Laredo, Texas, at the otherness of la frontera: "The atmosphere of the border -- it is like starting over again; there is something about it like a good confession: poised for a few happy moments between sin and sin." Not anymore. 

As for the borders interrupting my long walk, I'll be supple and patient. Some will be merely a line of rocks across a salt plain. Others will be triple-fenced minefields. Most, like X-ray body scanners at ports of entry, will peel away my skin. This is what borders do. Denied passage, I'll simply pivot and trudge in another direction, much as our roving ancestors must have done 2,000 generations ago. Scientists have their pet theories about this, of course. 

The prevailing hypothesis holds that we unwittingly conquered the Earth by walking along the margins of the seas, lured onward by a bifurcated horizon. Erik Trinkaus, an ancient-migration expert at Washington University in St. Louis, doesn't truck with this shoreline idea. We spread inland across virgin continents, he believes, shrewdly exploiting the places where major ecosystems met. "The transition zones between mountains and plains, wet and dry regions, that's where the greatest diversity of foods was," says Trinkaus. "That's what offered us the greatest fallback on resources." 

Either way, it seems from the very beginning, we sought, found, and hewed to borders. 

Next: Peter Chilson on waiting out the coup in Mali. 


Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent Paul Salopek begins the Out of Eden walk in January. The project is supported by the National Geographic Society, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and the Knight Foundation.

Can You Fight Poverty With a Five-Star Hotel?

The story of how the World Bank's investment arm hands out billions in loans to wealthy tycoons and giant multinationals in some of the world's poorest places. 

Accra is a city of choking red dust where almost no rain falls for three months at a time and clothes hung out on a line dry in 15 minutes. So the new five-star Mövenpick hotel affords a haven of sorts in Ghana's crowded capital, with manicured lawns, amply watered vegetation, and uniformed waiters gliding poolside on roller skates to offer icy drinks to guests. A high concrete wall rings the grounds, keeping out the city's overflowing poor who hawk goods in the street by day and the homeless who lie on the sidewalks by night. 

The Mövenpick, which opened in 2011, fits the model of a modern international luxury hotel, with 260 rooms, seven floors, and 13,500 square feet of retail space displaying $2,000 Italian handbags and other wares. But it is exceptional in at least one respect: It was financed by a combination of two very different entities: a multibillion-dollar investment company largely controlled by a Saudi prince, and the poverty-fighting World Bank. 

Cursed With Plenty

America is on the verge of an energy boom. But will abundant shale gas create more problems than it fixes? 

Elsewhere in this issue, you will find advice Barack Obama can act on to ensure that history views him as the transformational figure he hoped to be when he took office, from saving Europe from itself to taking nuclear weapons off alert. But transformation cuts both ways. So in the interest of further assisting the president, consider a pitfall he and the country must avoid if this period in U.S. history is not to be someday seen as when it all went wrong for the onetime greatest country on Earth. 

Of course, given the clown-show antics that predominate in Washington and the complexity, volatility, and risks that confront the United States in the world, the president faces potential peril almost wherever he looks. Rather than focusing on the country's more obvious problems, however, I'd like to look at one that is perhaps more worrisome precisely because it comes cloaked in opportunity: America's energy boom. 

That's right: the boom. The technological breakthroughs enabling America to tap vast reserves of previously inaccessible oil and natural gas have been heralded as a bonanza for the United States, not least by Obama, who told everyone tuning in to his speech at the Democratic National Convention that "we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone." Analysts at Citibank are predicting that the United States will be the world's fastest-growing oil and gas producer well into the next decade. Great, huh? Not so fast. 

It looks like the United States is showing the early symptoms of a particularly nasty case of the Resource Curse. The dreaded syndrome, also known as Hugo Chávezitis, tends to strike countries when they tap into large finds of oil, gas, or other valuable natural resources. Although such bonanzas clearly have their advantages, the influx of new wealth often leads countries to neglect real underlying problems or the requirements of long-term growth simply because they can spend their newfound riches to paper over their troubles. Political leaders don't have to do the hard work of building human capital and promoting sustainable economic growth -- they can just coast along, riding the benefits of the resource boom. 

The flavour of the season, again

Published: January 2, 2013
Seema Sirohi 

PTI ABOUT TURN: The State Department’s determination that two former heads of ISI have immunity from prosecution in the U.S. in the 26/11 case has stung India to the core. 

The Obama administration is repairing relations with Islamabad to ensure a smooth pullout from Afghanistan 

An issue that united India and the United States in the recent past — fighting Pakistan-sponsored terrorism — now increasingly divides them. Last week, the U.S. State Department determined that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and two of its former director generals have immunity from prosecution in a case filed in New York by the families of American victims of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The Department of Justice then filed “a statement of interest” on December 17 in the New York district court corroborating the State Department decision. 

The legal argument forwarded says the ISI is a “fundamental part” of the Pakistani government and therefore comes under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. For good measure, the statement ruled out any “exceptions” or “judicial review” of the decision. Ahmed Shuja Pasha and Nadeem Taj, two former ISI chiefs named in the case, can rest in peace for they will never be called to a U.S. court. Presumably, the five other serving and retired majors of the Pakistani army named in the suit will also benefit from this legal largesse. 

The U.S. government’s determination, however deeply based in law, has stung India to the core. India called the U.S. decision “a matter of deep and abiding concern” and “a cause of serious disappointment,” especially given America’s regular shout-outs about dismantling terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan. “It cannot be that any organization, state or non-state, that sponsors terrorism enjoys immunity,” India said bluntly. 

In China, Delhi gang rape spurs online debate, then censorship

Published: January 1, 2013
Ananth Krishnan 

Chinese authorities have moved to censor news about the Delhi gang rape and ensuing protests after the incident triggered a heated debate online between State media outlets and pro-democracy voices.

The incident and the protests in New Delhi in recent days have received wide attention in China. While the brutal attack was initially highlighted by Communist Party-run outlets as indicative of the failures of India’s democratic system to ensure stability, the following protests in New Delhi triggered calls from pro-reform bloggers for the Chinese government to learn from India and to allow the public to express its voice.

The rape case was one of the most discussed topics in Chinese microblogs over the past week, prompting thousands of posts and comments. By Sunday, however, the authorities appeared to move to limit the debate: on Monday, a search for the topic triggered a message on Sina Weibo – a popular Twitter-equivalent used by more than 300 million people – saying the results could not be displayed according to regulations. The message is usually seen as an indicator of a topic being censored by the authorities.

Hu Xijin, controversial editor of the nationalistic party-run Global Times, argued last week in a widely criticised message to his three million followers on Weibo that the case had shown the limits of rule of law in a democracy. “For a backward society, no law can help,” he said. “India calls itself the world’s biggest democratic State, but it is also one of the most disorderly. In the 1960s, China and India had the same level of development, but now China’s GDP is three times India’s.”

Another commentary published in the newspaper on Monday echoed Mr. Hu’s views, describing India as “an inefficient and unequal democracy.” “The Indian democratic system seemingly can’t solve these problems but provides legitimacy for [rulers]. India’s democracy is now manipulated by a small number of elite and interest groups … Efficient democracy means more than electoral politics.”

That Communist Party media outlets and academics often point to India’s “disorderliness” as an outcome of the democratic system and to justify one-party rule is a sore point among many liberal Chinese who are pushing for democratic reforms.

The government-run Beijing Youth Daily in a Weibo message said “the current problem of India is fundamentally the problem of Indian democracy, which is reflected on the weak regime and the invalid social management.”

Shinzo’s ARC

C. Raja Mohan : Wed Jan 02 2013
Shinzo’s ARC 

Japan’s new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has not taken too long to affirm his strong desire to restore the balance of power in Asia amidst the rise of China and Beijing’s political assertiveness. 

As tensions between Japan and China over disputed islands in the East China Sea escalate and diplomatic observers warn against the dangers of a shooting match between their armed forces in 2013, Abe has begun his new tenure with a strong focus on national security. 

Speaking to a leading Japanese newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, immediately after he was sworn in last week, Abe emphasised the importance of strengthening the longstanding alliance with the United States and deepening the new partnerships with India, Indonesia and Australia. 

Japan already has formal declarations on security cooperation with both India and Australia and is hoping to build one with Indonesia. In his earlier brief tenure as PM, during 2006-07, Abe talked of cooperation among Asian democracies as part of a grand strategy to build “an arc of freedom of prosperity”. 

The challenge from China has risen so rapidly in the last few years that Japan no longer has the luxury of limiting 

its partnerships to those countries that share the 

values of democracy and political pluralism. 

Among the first leaders that Abe got in touch with over the telephone last week were Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. 

More interesting were Abe’s calls to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. Neither Russia nor Vietnam has been part of Abe’s earlier conception of Asia’s democratic arc. 

But both are important neighbours of China and have a critical role in shaping the Asian balance of power. While Japan and Vietnam have developed strong economic links in recent years, Abe’s Russia initiative will be closely watched in Asian capitals. 


The absence of good neighbourly relations with Russia has long been a major weakness of Japan’s foreign policy since World War II. 

Moscow and Tokyo never signed a formal peace treaty thanks to the dispute over four islands — Russia calls them the Kuriles and Japan, the Northern Territories — occupied by the Red Army at the end of the war. 

Japan’s military alliance with the US made the two countries irreconcilable adversaries in the Cold War. 

The Gorbachev era in the late 1980s had opened a brief window of opportunity for Tokyo to normalise relations with Moscow. Unlike the West Germans who seized the moment to buy Russian consent for German reunification, the Japanese were too slow to clinch a territorial settlement. 

India upset as Pak fails to keep MFN promise

New Delhi, Jan 1, 2013

Islamabad overshoots deadline set by itself

Pakistan has once again disappointed India as it failed to deliver on its promise to designate its eastern neighbour as the most-favoured nation (MFN) to do business with, even as the deadline set by itself has passed with the end of the year 2012.

An upset New Delhi is quietly looking forward to the meeting of Pakistan’s Federal Cabinet, scheduled for Wednesday, although it is still not clear if it has on its agenda any proposal to normalise trade ties with India. 

India and Pakistan on Tuesday performed the annual New Year’s Day ritual of exchanging lists of nuclear installations and facilities in each other’s country in accordance with a 1988 bilateral agreement. 

They have also exchanged lists of each country’s nationals held prisoners in the jails of both countries. But what has disappointed New Delhi is Islamabad’s failure to adhere to the timeline it had committed itself to for “full normalisation” of Pakistan’s trade relation with India.

Pakistan on April 14 last committed that it would to completely phase out its negative list for trade with India by December 2012 and thus grant its neighbour the status of Most Favoured Nation to do business with. 

Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Makhdoom Mohammad Amin Fahim made the commitment to his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma during a visit to New Delhi. The joint statement issued after the meeting between the two Commerce Ministers had also reflected Pakistan’s commitment to normalise and strengthen bilateral trade ties.

The year 2012 however came to its end on Monday without Pakistan granting the MFN status to India. 

Fahim recently told media persons in Karachi that the process of phasing out the negative list for trade with India and granting the MFN status to it had been “delayed for a short time”. He cited the concerns over protection of the interests of farmers and local manufacturers of Pakistan as the reason for delaying the process to grant India the MFN status. 

Several anti-India radical organisations in Pakistan like Jamat-ud-Dawa and Difa-e-Pakistan strongly opposed Islamabad’s plan to designate India as the MFN. 

Organisations representing farmers and manufacturers also joined the clamour in Pakistan against granting the MFN status to India. 

Fahim also called up Sharma recently to update him on the efforts being made by Pakistan to normalise the trade ties with India. He said that Pakistan was on course to remove bottlenecks in bilateral trade with India. India and Pakistan had continued to recognise each other as the MFN from 1947 to 1965.

Though India had restored the same status for Pakistan in 1995, Islamabad had not reciprocated New Delhi’s gesture.

However, earlier this year, Pakistan moved closer to granting India the MFN status and shifted from a “positive list” to a “negative list” approach.

Has the time for India to lead come?

December 31, 2012

For starters given a declining West, it is indeed unwise on our part to depend on it for any matter whatsoever for our growth, writes M R Venkatesh. 

The events of the past few years at the global level demonstrate that the west is on a significant decline. This decline, let me hasten to add, is not merely political. Rather, it is now visible in economics, finance, demographics and culture. 

Possibly, this decline of the West is caused by a relative growth of the rest. In a sense one could argue that all this may result in a genuine rebalancing of global order. But if events of 2012 are any indication, in my considered view, the decline of the west could well and truly be terminal where the hegemony of the west is increasingly questioned or probably challenged by the rest of the world in the next decade or two. Let me explain. 

Americans at this point in time are grappling with their internal economic crisis. As a result a "fiscal cliff" looms large. The only way out of this mess seems to tax Americans more and simultaneously reduce government expenditure. This is ostensibly aimed at reducing budget deficits and by extension, debt. But as events of the last few days reveal, this is easier said than done. 

If the US is in an economic crisis, Europe is facing economic calamity. Portugal, Ireland, Italy [ Images ], Greece and Spain (PIIGS) are virtually written off at the global level. And all these developments in the west have profound implications for India [ Images ] in the next decade or two. 

At the core of all this economic mess is that family and family values, the basic building blocks of any society and by extension national economy is weakening in the West; perhaps to the point of complete destruction. 

In 2010, more than 50 per cent of children were born out of wedlock in the US. The rest of the western countries, things are no better. Illegitimacy, it seems, is the new norm! This breaking up of the family in the west has put tremendous pressure on the finances of governments and is primarily responsible for their economic mess. Let me explain. 

Gimmicks do not save India and its people from terror

December 28, 2012

'Some said this wild goose chase was a deliberate ploy of Chidambaram, a reluctant home minister, who believed that keeping all the agencies and forces spinning around all the while, would ensure him a safe career in an otherwise dicey charge, no matter how much enduring damage it did to the institutions.'

R N Ravi, retired special director, Intelligence Bureau, assesses how India [ Images ] can meet the challenges of terrorism in 2013. 

Four years since the day when India was traumatised and suffered wrenching humiliation at the hands of 10 terrorists from Pakistan who had sneaked with ease into Mumbai [ Images ] and staged, for over 48 hours, a macabre dance of death and destruction killing 166 hapless people, it is natural for the countrymen to be anxiously curious to know if we are safe today from a determined terrorist attack. 

Did the widespread spasm of outrage and indignation following the November 26, 2008, attack lead to the creation of a credible anti-terror architecture for the country? 

The ringside view of the scenario is rather dismaying. 

Although we made right noises in the wake of 26/11, these were hardly pursued with right resolve and vision. 

Rhetoric apart, our counter-terrorism architecture, notwithstanding some cosmetic make-up in recent years, remains inherently weak and vulnerable. 

At the most fundamental level, security comprises two crucial ingredients: Pre-emptive, and responsive; and the acid test of efficiency of the security architecture for an entity -- be it a nation, a city, an institution or an individual -- is its capabilities on both counts. 

A perfectly efficient architecture detects and disables a threat, whether looming or inchoate before it strikes. 

However, we do not live in a perfect world. Hence, it must have a robust responsive capability to efficiently mitigate the incidence of an unprevented threat. 

India faces real threat of biological warfare

January 01, 2013

There is a plausible threat of bio weapons being used against India by non state actors, reports Vicky Nanjappa 

Indian Intelligence agencies have said that the threat of a biological warfare against India is not something they would rule out. 

A recent report by the BioWeapons Monitor listed India's position on biological warfare. Animesh Roul, executive director, Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict, who was part of the team that prepared this report, discusses the report and the threat India faces from bio weapons.

There is a plausible threat of bio weapons use, though the chances of state actors using it against India are slim. However, there is a threat from the non state actors.

India has not faced a single bioterrorism incident, either from non-state actors (terrorists/criminals/deranged scientists) or from inter-state rivalries involving 'capable' state actors. Of course, we often face the so-called 'bio scares' intermittently due to the suspicious nature of a natural outbreak or a possible human intervention (eg. Plague in Surat [ Images ], Japanese Encephalitis in Siliguri, Bird flu [ Images ]/Swine Flu [ Images ] outbreaks in Northeast and Pune). Also, India has its share of man-made bio weapons related scares/blackmail in the past. Three examples of 'bioscare' could be cited, where a possible angle of non state actors/person/scientist with criminal intent, could be noticed in the last decade.

The 2001 postal letter scares in India (followed by the actual anthrax letter attacks in the US). All were hoax and some letters did contain wheat flour-like powdery substance. For instance, powder laced letters were received by the then Maharashtra [ Images ] deputy chief minister's office till late October 2001, were found to be anthrax negative.

Armed forces budget cut by 10,000 Crore

Defence modernization funds cut by Rs 10,000 crore; Army operations may be hit
By Rajat Pandit, TNN | Jan 2, 2013

The finance ministry conveyed the decision for the Rs 10,000 crore cut in the capital acquisitions for the Army, Navy and IAF to the defence ministry, arguing that fiscal adjustment was necessary since the economic situation was grim, said sources.

NEW DELHI: The modernization budget of the armed forces has been slashed by around Rs 10,000 crore in a major jolt to them in the New Year. The cut is contrary to defence minister A K Antony's earlier promise of a hike in the defence budget to cater for the threat of the expansive China-Pakistan military nexus.

The finance ministry conveyed the decision for the Rs 10,000 crore cut in the capital acquisitions for the Army, Navy and IAF to the defence ministry, arguing that fiscal adjustment was necessary since the economic situation was grim, said sources.

The move will lead to a major slowdown in the ongoing acquisition projects—ranging from aircraft and helicopters to howitzers and missiles. It also makes it clear that the already much-delayed $20 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project to acquire 126 fighters will not be inked anytime before March 31.

IAF had been assured an additional Rs 10,000 crore to cater for the first instalment of the MMRCA project—under which final commercial negotiations are underway for French Rafale fighters—if inked within this fiscal.

Antony, during a rare discussion on defence preparedness in Parliament in May, himself had declared he would seek a hike in the Rs 1,93,408 crore defence outlay in the 2012-13 budget due to "new ground realities" and the "changing security scenario" in the backdrop of the China-Pakistan nexus.

But, now the armed forces' hopes have been dashed. As it is, they get much less than what they demand every year. The armed forces, for instance, had sought a defence outlay of Rs 2,39,123 crore this fiscal that would have amounted to 2.35% of the projected GDP for 2012-13, but got only Rs 1,93,408 crore, or 1.9%.

Then, revenue expenditure (day-to-day costs and salaries) in the defence budget continues to far outstrip the capital outlay for new weapons, sensors and platforms. The two stood at Rs 113,829 crore and Rs 79,579 crore, respectively, this fiscal.

"The actual capital acquisitions budget was even less at Rs 67,672 crore. First, the revenue budget (non-salary) was cut. Now, the capital outlay also has been hacked. The forces were on course to spend 67% of the allocated capital outlay by this time. Many projects will be pushed to the next fiscal," said a source.

While Navy and IAF are better placed, the real worry is the "critical operational hollowness" in the 1.13-million Army. The Army had projected a requirement of over Rs 10 lakh crore for the 12th Plan (2012-17) period to acquire new capabilities and plug huge operational gaps in artillery, aviation, air defence, night-fighting, ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles) and specialized tank and rifle ammunition.

A crucial project during the 12th Plan is to raise the new mountain strike corps, with two specialized divisions for high-altitude areas, at a cost of well over Rs 60,000 crore. Dedicated for "rapid reaction ground force capability" against China, this corps will have its HQs in Panagarh (West Bengal) and add to the two new infantry divisions already raised at Lekhapani and Missamari (Assam).

The charm and disgrace of India-Pakistan cricket

Published: January 2, 2013
Bishan Singh Bedi

USING SPORTS: Cricket must suffer now and for as long as the game is dependent on political clearances. Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

USING SPORTS: Cricket must suffer now and for as long as the game is dependent on political clearances. Photo: S.S. Kumar

It is difficult to think of a series between the two neighbours that did not have the blessings of political leaders

For starters, we could have never used this headline for an Ashes series. The reason, if I may add, is pretty simple — there are no political overtones to the Ashes whereas an India-Pakistan series is seldom without a political “tarkaa.”

Perhaps, that is what raises the excitement quotient of India-Pakistan cricket.

Goodwill tour

Pardon me for recalling here a very personal experience of the most horrendous kind — way back in 1978, when the government of India, under the leadership of late Morarji Desai, decided to mend/renew relations, it was us cricketers he chose to send to Pakistan on a goodwill tour.

Yes, it was earnestly a goodwill tour on which Indian cricketers were expected to do what politicians would not dream of doing – create goodwill that is. I must confess, initially I was very excited too because it was a dream to play against my good old colleagues Mushtaq Mohammad and Sarfraz Nawaz, from Northants, both outstanding professionals.

There were others too from the county fold, namely Asif Iqbal, Majid Khan, Imran Khan and Zaheer Abbas, all accomplished professionals and happily dominating the county scene then.