2 August 2013

In Telangana Decision, a Microcosm of India's Geopolitical Challenge ***

August 01, 2013


India is set to inaugurate its 29th state: Telangana will be carved out of the existing southern state of Andhra Pradesh after the highest working body of India's ruling Congress Party decided late July 30 to find the legal means to create the new entity. The success of the Telangana movement for statehood encapsulates the deep-rooted struggles New Delhi faces in trying to preserve and manage a nation riven with internal complexities.


Now that the Congress Party and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance coalition, as well as the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, have endorsed Telangana statehood, the proposal will move to the Andhra Pradesh state assembly, which will be called upon to sort out water and energy distribution as well as pending political issues before the new state can be approved by a simple majority vote in the national parliament. Some Congress Party officials, eager to seize political momentum and in hopes that the move will translate into votes in the 2014 general elections, claim the process can be completed in as little as four to five months, but that is probably too optimistic an estimate.

The Indian government has deployed an additional 1,500 paramilitary personnel to the state in anticipation of riots, fearing that clashes will ensue between celebrating pro-Telangana activists and opponents protesting the split of Andhra Pradesh. In addition to the threat of riots, Naxalite insurgents and Islamist militants known to operate in the area may use the opportunity to stir up unrest at a time when political sensitivities are running high.

The Prize of Hyderabad

The soon-to-be-altered boundaries of Andhra Pradesh currently encompass three geographically distinct areas: Telangana, the Andhra coastal plain and the interior Rayalaseema region. The proposal in its current form calls for carving an independent Telangana state out of the 10 northwestern districts of Andhra Pradesh, an area comprising roughly 60,000 square miles with a population of just over 35 million; Andhra Pradesh has a total estimated population of 85 million.

The area that will become Telangana is sandwiched between the Godavari and Krishna rivers and sits on the Deccan plateau, west of the Eastern Ghats mountain range. Though the mostly barren north suffers from acute power shortages, has a high rate of poverty and is a hotbed for Naxalism -- India's Maoist militant movement -- its geographic boundaries include Hyderabad, one of India's most vibrant economic regions.

To the east of the Ghats range sits the coastal plain, where the Godavari and Krishna drain into the Bay of Bengal and open the Andhra coast to trade and commerce with the outside world. Rayalaseema, on the other hand, occupies the state's southwest interior, west of the Eastern Ghats mountain range and just south of the Krishna River. Lacking a city like Hyderabad to serve as a magnet for foreign direct investment, and missing out on the perks of a long coastline to fuel growth, Rayalaseema, drought-prone and teeming with Naxalite militants, has lagged behind its Andhra counterparts.

The new plan to divide Andhra Pradesh would have the residual non-Telangana parts -- coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema -- form the state of Seemandhra. Further, the most controversial element of the Congress Party's current proposal entitles Telangana to the economic prize of Hyderabad, which would serve as a joint capital for 10 years during which Seemandhra is tasked with appointing or building its own capital.

A History of Scissions

Telangana is poised to join a long list of states that have been created since India's independence in 1947. Before Telangana, the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal were carved out of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, respectively, in 2000. Goa defined its state boundaries in 1987, while Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram in the country’s far-flung northeast grew out of Assam in the same year. Manipur and Tripura earned their statehood in 1972, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh were carved out of Punjab state in 1966 and Bombay state in 1960 was divided along linguistic lines into Maharashtra and Gujarat. There is a much longer list of agitated pockets throughout India that are trying to get on the list for statehood, including but not limited to calls for a Bodoland in Assam, Gorkhaland in West Bengal and Vidarbha in Maharashtra.

India's constantly shifting map is no accident. Nation-building can be a messy process, and politicians, activists and militants of various stripes are still grappling with a score of unsettled issues left by India's chaotic transition from the British Raj to an Indian republic in the mid-20th century. Like a cracked window pane, India's multiple river systems cut across the subcontinent and give shape to hundreds of distinct geographic, ethnic, religious and linguistic identities.

Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister and the father of the Indian republic, quickly realized that the three-tier division the British Raj used to divide and administer India's governorships and princely states was ill-suited to the new country. In 1953, he launched a commission to figure out how to reorganize the country. Controversial political questions naturally emerged -- whether to redraw states along lines of linguistic and cultural unity, as well as how to preserve geographic continuity and financial viability. Leaders worried about the precedents any action could set in a country that speaks hundreds of languages and dialects and is beset by overlapping boundaries and economic interests.

The decided course of action -- as often happens when government commissions confront politically explosive tasks -- was to maintain ambiguity. In the words of the commission that led to the States Reorganization Act of 1956, "it is neither possible nor desirable to reorganize States on the basis of the single test of either language or culture, but that a balanced approach to the whole problem is necessary in the interest of our national unity."

Intractable Geopolitical Realities

India is still struggling to find that balance, and the Telangana movement encapsulates the broader issues. Under the States Reorganization Act, Andhra, a Telugu-speaking region, was the first state to be created on a linguistic basis when it was carved out of the wealthier Madras state, a Tamil-speaking region, in 1953. The people of the Andhra coastal plain looked toward the Deccan plateau to the bustling city of Hyderabad for an economic boost, arguing that Telugu would be the linguistic bond to conjoin the Andhra and Telangana regions. But the largely impoverished Telangana people did not identify with their Andhra neighbors, fearing that any economic benefit derived from Hyderabad would be monopolized by the relatively better-off Andhra traders on the coast.

To convince the Telangana to forgo their demands for a separate Hyderabad state and join a Telugu-speaking Andhra state, a so-called gentlemen's agreement was drafted in 1956 to guarantee Telangana demands in the new state. Those demands were left unfulfilled, and after 60 years of political agitation, violent crackdowns and unfulfilled promises of statehood, Telangana is now the closest it has ever been to marking its independence from the Andhra region.

Feeding China, Indian Territory

Issue Net Edition | Date : 01 Aug , 2013

Post his recent trip to India, US Army Chief of Staff General Raymond T Odierno has described the India Army the most influential in Asia Pacific. Browse the web for the 10 most powerful militaries in the world and you get India at number four after the United States, Russia and China. But what use is this when the national hierarchy is doing virtually nothing to rectify endemic systemic failures in realms of national security?

The media reports that Indian skies will soon get crowded by UAVs, but we can’t decipher how a Chinese intrusion suddenly establishes camp 19 kilometres deep inside Indian Territory.

The Chinaman is having a ball repeating intrusion after intrusion, smashing fortifications, surveillance equipment and scaring and warning Indian nationals to vacate and get out from their area. The media reports that Indian skies will soon get crowded by UAVs, but we can’t decipher how a Chinese intrusion suddenly establishes camp 19 kilometres deep inside Indian Territory.

So where is this most influential 1.1 million Army in Asia Pacific and where the fourth powerful Military in the world is whose prestige is being put at stake by a handful of Chinese?

Forget the world, most Indians would not know that the much talked about incursions in Chumar and Depsang Valley has no Army deployment. It is the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) that has been deployed in these areas which has deliberately not been, and is not being put under command the Army. This despite repeated intrusions by China.

The ITBP deployment has reportedly been in accordance with recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) and Group of Ministers (GoP) but the specific caveat that such ITBP deployment must be under command the army has been purposely ignored by the political authority. The Chinese know this and are making the most of the ground situation – which is cause for national shame if the pussyfooter hierarchy has the sense to understand it. The Army had installed surveillance equipment at Chumar but the ITBP deployment in the area has not prevented the Chinese from smashing the equipment. Reportedly, the DG ITBP has told the Army that ITBP has its own separate agenda – perhaps in line with the Home Minister’s statement, “We have no jurisdiction in the area”, which may well earn the former a lucrative post retirement appointment.

The gag order is perhaps also to stop the Pandora box of territories lost splitting open.

On top of all this the political authority has issued a gag order to the Army that they can talk anything to the media about Pakistan but not a word on China is to be uttered. Apparently, the gag order is to cover the political inadequacies and lack of courage to respond. The question is has China bought over the powers that be? Foreign scholars have talked of high ranking Nepalese politicians and bureaucrats having been bought over by China through periodic ‘special gift packages’, so, why would they not try this in India.

The gag order is perhaps also to stop the Pandora box of territories lost splitting open. Already, former Ambassador P Sopden, who hails from Ladakh, has stated that over the years India has given up some 400 square kilometers of Ladakhi territory to China over and above China’s illegal occupation of Aksai Chin and Shaksgam Valley.

Aside from the road constructed by China in Eastern Ladakh during Op ‘Vijay’ the recent media report that China has constructed a road five kilometers deep inside Indian Territory in the vicinity of Pangong Tso Lake was quickly gagged. But what has now emerged is that the latter road is actually 8-10 kilometres inside India. More significantly, Chinese have even in earlier years intruded into the now famous 19 kilometre deep intrusion area but these intrusions have been hushed up. Incidentally, the ITBP at the frontline has little idea about the alignment of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). It is time that IB operatives in Eastern Ladakh let the Indian population know what our merchants of territory are up to .

Our banker and theirs

Fri Aug 02 2013

Debates over appointment of India's RBI governor and US Fed chairman are revealing

Even for those of us not versed in the intricacies of monetary policy, the institutional and psychological dimensions of two major appointments are quite fascinating. The two largest democracies in the world are shortly going to make their most important economic appointments. The United States will appoint a new chairman of the Federal Reserve, and India a new governor of the Reserve Bank.

Both appointments are coming at a crucial time. While there has been modest good news, the debate over recovery in the US is far from over. India is now in near panic mode on its economy. The panic is not being articulated partly because we have one new political distraction a day, partly because the deep and lingering effects of our current mismanagement have yet to fully kick in. But not since 1991 have we been on the verge of such a deep crisis, which now threatens to become a vicious circle, where a high current account deficit, inflation, paucity of investment, declining savings rate and sheer uncertainty threaten to feed off each other. We have unprecedented capital flight. Panic also leads to self-defeating short termism. Think of the enormity of our slide. We are openly talking of import controls. Capital flows can, under some circumstances, be a good thing. But one knowledgeable investor observed, after Finance Minister P. Chidambaram's last visit to Washington, that India now seemed to be saying, we need hot money mutual funds to rescue us. Unintentionally, we send the signal of craven dependence. This is a bad place to be in. In such a context, the role of the RBI governor is going to be stressful in an unprecedented way. But both the chairman of the Federal Reserve and the RBI governor must feel at times that the fate of civilisation rests on their shoulders. Of course, the economic and political contexts of their appointments are vastly different. But the debates over different candidates in the two contexts are quite revealing.

In the US, the pre-appointment debate has historically been dominated by the "principles" or ideology of the main candidates. The very institution of a Senate confirmation requires some public discussion on the past record of the candidate. In the US, for the most part, debates over both monetary policy and banking regulation more neatly align with broader ideological divisions and partisan politics. In fact, it is almost as if the left and right division in American politics is now being refracted through the central bank. Try mapping Indian debates over monetary policy on to party and ideological divisions and you will end up with a classic Indian enigma. The US has much greater depth in areas like finance. India has no shortage of economists but finance, particularly in the context of an open economy, has been something of a backwater. The number of people who can even credibly intervene in a debate can be counted on one's fingers. In the US, the debate over one of the strong candidates, Larry Summers, centres on his past record, his stated views and his personality. In India, the debate is largely over whether it will be a bureaucrat or an eminent economist. It is a sign of progress that at least there is a worthy macro economist in the mix.

Bhairon Singh Shekhawat used to have an Indian theory of governance: kursi sab sikha deti hai. He meant it as an expansive democratic gesture: if you had basic intelligence, common sense and ability to learn, you need not worry too much, the chair will teach you everything. Of course, in India, this noble democratic sentiment was quickly converted into the proposition that bureaucrats can occupy every chair. But lest you think this is an argument against having a bureaucrat, Shekhawat also had the reverse adage: aur jo jyada jante hain, unko kursi bhula bhi deti hain (those who know much, forget a lot for a chair). In short, ex ante professional paths do not tell you much about future behaviour. In some ways, the last proposition is a resonant description of what happened to knowledge systems within this government. Governments will take decisions out of their own compulsions. But the system often had enough honest brokers who would tell it as they saw it. There are very few of these people left in the system, and this makes the job of the RBI even harder.

When you look at the decimation of institutions around you, it is fair to say that a succession of RBI governors have artfully managed to preserve the integrity of the institution. They may have made mistakes but they have not been craven. But the new governor is going to face challenges that have not been faced before. One of the reasons it is so hard to debate qualifications in terms of principles and beliefs is that this job now requires unprecedented jugglery. Economic philosophies are easy to debate. But we are in a world where a priori deductive logic is not going to work. You will need a governor who is sure-footed and nimble in the face of a fast-moving empirical reality. Theory is not the same thing as judgement. Even if the goal, controlling inflation, is clear, the timing of the instrument is not. More than fidelity to principles, he or she will need the ability to diagnose the undercurrents in the economy in real time, and not be bewitched by pressures masquerading as social science arguments. We thought the RBI would have to adapt from being an institution designed for a close, planned economy to being an institution for an open, unplanned macro economy. But now that the broader framework of reform has been decimated by ad hocism, the RBI will have a harder time figuring out what kind of world to aim for.

India Needs a Renaissance

By Riley Barnes

Last week, senior ministers in India made the significant decision to increase the level of foreign ownership of sensitive sectors such as telecommunications and single-brand retail like IKEA. One of the more substantial signs of liberalization by the Indian government in years, India also announced that it would raise the limit on foreign ownership of defense manufacturing, another good sign.

Unfortunately, this decision was not greeted with great excitement or sighs of relief. Instead, major companies with a historically optimistic view of Indian investment like Wal-Mart and Posco announced that they would begin to pull back on investments. With the rapid decline of the rupee over the last month and the broader economic slowdown in India, even this signal was interpreted by many as too little, too late. 

The rest of the world is experiencing the most significant period of globalization in world history, and India is being left behind. The first of what will be multiple rounds of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) began in Washington the week of July 8, with both sides promising a comprehensive agreement that touches on historically sensitive sectors such as agriculture. The same week, the Strategic and Economic Dialogue included productive conversations on hot-button issues like cyber theft and intellectual property, and ended with China’s announcement that it would pursue a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with the United States. And in Malaysia the very next week, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) began its 18th round of negotiations. These trade deals will easily account for the majority of world GDP (just the U.S. and EU together make up almost half).

While countries in every continent but Africa are included, South Asia, and India in particular, is notably absent. Where is India in all of this? Does the government lack the political will required to push through tough agreements?

Of course, there are signs of cooperation. India participated in the U.S.-India Business Council’s 38th Annual Leadership Summit, which included an address by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. He noted, for example, the promise of the Defense Trade Initiative (DTI). But this does not even begin to compare to the likes of the TTIP or TPP, or the extreme ambition and dogged determination that participating countries have to push through on tough issues such as textiles and intellectual property to make meaningful trade happen.

While DTI is certainly a small gesture in the right direction, it is time for the Subcontinent to get serious about economic liberalization. The world’s largest democracy (and the nation with the highest number below the poverty line) should be a champion of trade, not an opponent. To strengthen its economy and stabilize its role as a major global power, India must soberly focus on a three-pronged approach to encourage trade and foreign investment—one that includes bilateral, multilateral and regional components.

Bilateral. We can hope that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to India this week will have provided the shot in the arm needed to get an impressive trade agreement started between the United States and India. As a decades-long supporter of the country, through several ups and downs, it was a more than appropriate time for the vice president to call on Indians to seize opportunities, with an “open and fair” investment partnership and a liberalized economy, as India “builds the largest middle class in human history.”

Multilateral. India would be well-served to learn from massive trade negotiations like the TTIP and TPP, and seek to join. India is not precluded from a role in the TPP, although its geography could raise some eyebrows. The nations currently involved, including the bulk of Southeast Asia, are well connected to India with robust economic and cultural links. Even if India cannot jump into the TPP, it should closely monitor the outcomes and take note of the groundbreaking trade and investment standards being put in place. This will prepare it for negotiations with these countries (or blocs) in the future, particularly as the U.S.-EU FTA has ambition to be the measuring rod against which all future agreements are considered.

Employment of Precision Guided Weapons-PGMs- in the Indian Context

PGMs are weapons directed against pinpoint targets. Fired from land, sea, air and outer space, they have been in use since the Second World War but came into prominence primarily during the Vietnam War. Richard Hallon of Australia Air Power Studies Centre described it as the most important development of the twentieth century. Major General Fuller, a reputed strategic analyst considered accuracy of aim as one of the five recognisable attributes of weaponry, the other four being range, striking power, volume of fire and portability. The current PGMs are capable of fulfilling all these parameters, effectively thereby destroying a target with speed thereby breaking the enemy’s will to fight.

Use of PGMs in Wars

Attempts to use PGMs date back to the First World War. Thereafter, the efforts continued in the Second World War as also the Korean War but the breakthrough occurred during the Vietnam War when persistent efforts to destroy the Thanh Hoa Bridge, which connected North and South Vietnam, failed, despite numerous bombings by the United States Air Force. It took almost five years to destroy the bridge by Laser Guided Bombs (LGBs) from the F-7 aircrafts of the US Navy thereby severing the critical road link between North and South Vietnam.

The First Gulf Warsaw the effective use of PGMs. Here, the Air Land Battle concept of General William Westmoreland was changed to attacks on Centre of Gravities as postulated by Colonel Warden of the US Air Force. Currently the United States has conceptualised the Air Sea Battle, which is extrapolating the targets to an attempt to undertake an amphibious operation followed by capture of land targets. The First Gulf War witnessed the collapse of the command and control as also logistics system of the Iraqis.

The next war where PGMs were used extensively was the Bosnian conflict of 1999 where pilots flying the B 2B stealth bombers took off from bases in the United States and were briefed about targets enroute. PGMs during this conflict were a total success. Thereafter the Second Gulf War, Libya, Afghanistan and the sporadic conflicts between the Israelis vis a vis the Hamas and Hezbollah have frequently seen the use of PGMs.

Drone attacks have been extremely effective in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. Recently the Second in Command of Al Qaeda, Said El Shaheri was killed in a drone attack in Yemen. The percentage of PGMs used by the United States in Vietnam was a mere 0.2 per cent. This increased to 8 per cent in the First Gulf War, 35 per cent in the Kosovo Conflict and 56 per cent in the Second Gulf War, Afghanistan and Libya.

Types of PGMs

There are numerous types of PGMs, which can be fired from air, sea, outer space and land. In as much as air is concerned we have air-to-air missiles, joint direct attack munition (JDAM), LGBs, unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) firing Hellfire fire and forget missiles, air to ship missiles, air to ground missiles and loitering missiles. The Navy has similar missiles, which can be fired from ships and submarines.

The Army has primarily three types of PGMs. One is the course corrected, area effect warhead like Excalibur and Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System. The next is the Sensor Fuzed, which is Shoot to Kill like SADARM and Bonus. The third version is Terminally Homing or hit to kill which is designated on to the target by Krasnopol. The Precision Guidance Kit (PGK) which often takes the form of Course Correction Fuzes which are fitted on the nose of a projectile and can give a Circular Error of Probability around 50 metres.

Usage of PGMs by Other Countries

All NATO countries, Russia, China, Australia, South Korea and PakistanPGMs use PGMs extensively. The United States has taken a conscious decision to raise the stocking levels to 50 percent. The usage of PGMs is based on the nature of target. In order to ensure that a PGM is effective, it is extremely important to accurately locate the target. Therefore, target location by devices like satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), aerostats, battlefield surveillance radars (BFSRs) and long-range reconnaissance and observation system (LORROS) is essential to provide accurate inputs which are gainfully employed to optimise target intelligence.

A letter to Amartya Sen

Sen must return to his philosophical texts and learn, once more, that silence is often more eloquent than words

Dear Dr./Bharat Ratna/former Master of Trinity/current Thomas W. Lamont professor at Harvard/Nobel laureate/economist/moral philosopher/Sanskritist/ greatest living authority on Adam Smith/the last great Bengali/lodestone of the greater good/town crier for the oppressed/the last word on social justice, welfare economics, good and evil, and many other things, etc., etc., Sir…

It is only a deep sense of inquiry (which you must agree is a good thing) and disquiet (which you have made a brilliant career out of) that compels me to write this. Sir, you have suddenly been in the news for the last two weeks, which I am sure has nothing to do with the publication of your latest co-authored book, and have been making statements on various issues. There is this Gujarati economist—who possibly deserves the Nobel Prize as much as you did, and is stuck at Padma Vibhushan, one rung below you in the India honours list—who also has a co-authored book out and has been carping at you. For us Indians, it’s getting a bit too much. So, some questions.

Sir, do you really believe you are still an economist? Your career trajectory surely indicates that you have left that dismal science far behind. You have spent much of the last four decades studying philosophy, especially moral philosophy, and ancient Indian texts that no one other than you has heard of. Yes, your contribution to the field of economics is immense, and your Nobel Prize came 28 long years after the seminal contribution you made in social choice theory, and forced every economist worth his or her salt to re-examine all assumptions. But what have you done after that? Your much-touted Kerala development model is a joke, especially among Malayalis who have a sense of humour. The state—which, anyway, is a money order economy—leads the country in suicide rates, the number of mentally ill people, domestic violence, alcoholism, bandhs and man-days lost, and lust for gold jewellery. Reams of statistics have been hurled at you, and yet you keep speaking about it, but then, philosophers don’t care about data, do they? Only economists do.

Any number of economists have expressed doubts about your data and your methodology in some of your most well-known works. For the food security Bill which you have been championing from every forum, you even went to the extent of concocting a random figure: that a thousand Indians will die per week if the Bill was not passed. And then, you brazenly admitted that this number was fictitious; “to capture people’s attention, you have to have a number” was what you said. All government data shows that shoving free cereals down the throats of the poor (if the cereals ever reach them) makes no sense. India’s problem is malnutrition, which has to do with access to food other than cereals, sanitation and healthcare. The food security ordinance is ruinous for the economy and will help no one other than the already obese lower bureaucracy.

Let’s come to the growth versus development debate then (which should not be a debate at all, but you and that Gujarati have got into it). You have said that a focus on growth helps the “already-privileged”. In fact, if your own life is any indication at all, the “already-privileged” have it good any way, growth or bust. You created a world record when you became professor and head of the department of economics in Jadavpur University at the age of 23 (may be Robert Mugabe anointed a grandson as vice-chancellor of some university in Zimbabwe at the age of 18, I wouldn’t know). You weren’t even a Phd then. But you were from the aristocratic Brahmo Samaj clique. P.C. Mahalanobis, czar of the Indian planned economy and another Brahmo, was your father’s friend and was impressed with you, and there you were, airdropped from a masters degree in Cambridge onto the throne. India was stuck in the Hindu rate of growth, but that didn’t hamper your career, did it? One can only hope that this extreme nepotism shaped your ideas when you grew older. But I have never heard you say that you were privileged in any way.

‘Progress now, environment later’ won’t do

Madhav Gadgil

With its disproportionate economic gains, the US model is not for India. Industrialisation at the cost of environment is not sustainable. Inclusive social growth will be elusive if natural resources are viewed from the prism of short-term gains. 

TODAY'S environment-development debate is cast in inappropriate terms of just two choices. This is a false contradiction; the real issue is not whether India can afford the so-called luxury of worrying about environment, but whether it can afford to slide into a lawless, tyrannical society that abuses the liberating spirit of science.

Economics, properly interpreted, tells us that any country should aim at ensuring a harmonious development of the sum total of a nation's capital stocks of natural, man-made, human and social capitals. This calls for focusing on creating a law-abiding, genuinely democratic society that imbibes the scientific spirit. A well-informed citizenry able to exercise its democratic rights will automatically ensure that environment is cared for, as has happened in the highly industrialised Germany and Scandinavian countries.

A file photo of Illegal mining in Punjab. The laws on environment are in place, but their implementation is lacking. Tribune photo: Parvesh Chauhan

What we must do is concentrate on implementing what by all rights should be implemented: the many well-designed provisions of various Acts and schemes for protecting the environment, and for devolution of democratic powers, provisions that are being systematically sabotaged.

False gods

We live in a world in flux, a world that has been changing rapidly. Prior to the industrial revolution, the Indian society had possibly developed a relatively prosperous agrarian civilisation with extensive handicraft-based industrial production and a rather stable social regime, albeit grounded in a highly inequitable caste society. But with the emergence of modern science and science-based technologies, Europeans came to dominate the world. The British systematically dismantled traditional Indian systems of resource management and destroyed the handicraft-based industrial production, draining away India's resources and impoverishing it.

Naturally Indians came to regard assimilation of European science and technology as critical to India's progress. Mahatma Gandhi disagreed and advocated rejection of European science and technology, and revival of fully self-sufficient Indian villages as the basis of progress. While he successfully led the struggle for Independence, his many actions, such as his support of the Tatas in the context of peasant agitation against unjust takeover of their lands for setting up a hydel project, were quite inconsistent with this philosophy. So after Independence, his model was set aside, and India launched itself on a pursuit of industrialisation on the western model.

Meanwhile, the Marxist philosophy had emerged as a significant rival to the capitalist model. India adopted a curious mixture of the two, accepting Soviet 'statism' without the accompanying pursuit of economic equality through measures like land reform. 

What must be done

Enforce environmental laws to control pollution.

Facilitate freedom of expression and assembly of people drawing attention to issues of environmental degradation.

Empower local bodies to take decisions on environmental issues.

Put in place biodiversity management committees (BMCs) in all local bodies, fully empowered under the Biological Diversity Act, to regulate the use of local biodiversity resources; to charge collection fee and receive appropriate incentives.

Register crop cultivars as called for by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act, and give grants to panchayats to build capacity for conservation of crop genetic resources.

Implement the Forest Rights Act; encourage empowered communities to adopt practices of sustainable resource use and to set apart areas dedicated to biodiversity conservation.

Enhance the scope of regional development plans to include key environmental concerns and make mandatory the involvement of BMCs.

The shaky geopolitics of India’s food security

Arun Mohan Sukumar

The UPA seems to have forgotten that the country’s trade commitments, including to the WTO, stand in the way of its implementing the Food Security Ordinance

The last time I began an essay with the words “in this era of globalisation,” in high school, even my teacher winced at the cliché. In junking the phrase, however, we may have forgotten its import too. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) certainly seems to have, because it has pushed through a major food security initiative without so much as a murmur on how it will operate with respect to India’s international commitments.

Whatever the disagreement on the Food Security Ordinance (FSO), either on the political expediency which drove it, the size of the fiscal burden the government has to shoulder, or the criteria used to identify its beneficiaries, one aspect is beyond question: to fulfil the Ordinance’s mandate, governments would need to procure a lot more food grain than they do currently from Indian farmers and perhaps, through imports. If India intends to be self-sufficient in meeting food security requirements, our farmers must have an incentive to produce more, reflected in higher procurement prices and access to better farming inputs. At the same time, the Rangarajan Committee — constituted by the Prime Minister’s Office to “review” the National Advisory Council’s version of the law — has suggested India should procure only 30 per cent of the country’s total production from farmers. Anything more, the committee has warned, will result in a “distortion of food prices in the open market.” But unless our food production capacity somehow dramatically improves in the next few years, procuring 30 per cent from farmers alone will not meet the FSO’s requirements. In the interim, therefore, food imports are a reality.

During this period, the government needs to compensate farmers well, support the domestic agricultural sector and gain access to cheap food imports. If it fails in these objectives, the FSO will not only ratchet up India’s trade and fiscal deficit, but also fail to boost our own production capacity. This vicious cycle will eventually render the ordinance (by then a law, presumably) unsustainable.

Compensation for farmers

There’s only one problem: imports come cheap thanks to the heavy subsidies the West offers its agribusinesses. These subsidies must go if India’s farmers are to have any chance of competing against imports. What’s more, India’s commitment to the WTO prevents it from raising its Minimum Support Price to farmers by a high margin. With a view to ensuring food security, therefore, the ‘G33’ group of countries at the WTO — in which India has played a leadership role — has sought an exception to this rule. If the G33’s proposal were to be accepted, developing countries would retain the right to pay most of their farmers “above the market” (ATM) rates for procuring and stockpiling food grain.

Ironically, the UPA is yet to pay market rates, let alone above them, to farmers from whom it buys grain. For all its claims to make food security a priority, the government’s Minimum Support Prices for farmers in recent years have been well below those prevailing in the open market. Even so, if one were to give the UPA the benefit of the doubt and assume it will raise compensation for farmers now that the FSO is in place, the G33’s proposal is unlikely to gain traction at the WTO. The proposal to grant ATM rates to marginalised farmers in developing countries has been called a “trade distorting subsidy.” On the other hand, the West is nowhere near close to agreeing on a gradual reduction and eventual elimination of the massive subsidies it offers to large agri-businesses.

Great power and greater responsibility

Harish Khare

The welfare state has made governance a one-way street, offering citizens a sense of entitlement without any commitment to nation-building

Last Saturday, a biker lost his life when the police opened fire to tame an unruly group of stunt motorcyclists near India Gate in New Delhi. The biker’s death is the tragic denouement in a rather recent phenomenon of rowdy bikers proclaiming a part of the city as their ‘zone’ and having a good time on their own terms, and, in the process, cocking a snook at the policeman, armed with the simple lathi. Fellow motorists and other users of public spaces have found themselves at the receiving end of these bikers’ boisterous energy. As week after week the bikers insisted on celebrating their peculiar entitlement to thrill and danger, the public mocked the policemen at their helplessness in the face of these daredevils on powerful machines.

Still, whenever a life is lost, it is a matter of regret and sadness, more so when the life lost is so young and so unlived. Saturday’s loss, too, is to be mourned. Since the police have come to be perceived as an unreasonable and uncontrolled force, there is the predictable accusation of “police brutality.” Accounts of how the death occurred would differ and once again the police will come in for a scathing indictment for their presumed lack of finesse in using force against “innocent” citizens.

One of the close relatives of the dead biker was reported to have argued that the young man was neither a terrorist nor a thief and if he was being a social nuisance all the police had to do was to arrest him. In the limited logic of the case, this is a valid point — but, not so valid in the inherent logic of the defiance that the bikers had persistently flaunted. Beyond being a thief or a terrorist, there is indeed much more space in the arena of citizenship.

The larger issue goes straight to the heart of one of the major failings of our democratic quest: we have collectively ignored, that too at our great disadvantage as a nation, that the rites of citizenship entail rights and privileges as well as duties and obligations.

It is obvious that we have invested too much time and energy and intellectual capital in the nation-building processes without emphasising the citizens’ obligations to fellow-citizens as well as to the state. We have definitely neglected the task of society-building and of nurturing habits and attitudes, which enjoin every citizen to do his bit for the larger good, enhancing social capital and collective well-being.

An established order rests on a social compact, in which everyone undertakes to observe restraint on his freedom in exchange for a minimum expectation of security of life and liberty. For instance, a motorist halts at a red light in the reciprocal expectation that the other motorists too would observe the traffic rules; and, then, there is the traffic policeman to see to it that everyone gets to use the road safely with minimum of inconvenience. A protocol of mutually beneficial restraints and responsibilities is at the heart of the social compact. The “authority” has a duty to protect the citizens from harm from other nations, as also to impose reasonable restrictions in order to ensure an ordered and just social existence; in return, the citizens offer allegiance to the nation-state and undertake to “obey” reasonable laws, reasonably crafted and reasonably enforced.

At the beginning of our national journey, Jawaharlal Nehru had the self-assurance of a true national leader and the conviction of a freedom fighter to preach to the citizens the virtues and necessity of self-sacrifice if India was to attain its national destiny. He would mince no words in reminding the students of the “highest degree of self-discipline, the capacity for working together, selfless devotion, and a sense of the practical combined with the enduring passion of a noble idealism.” He would often proclaim at public meetings that “I would like to remind you that you and I have together to bear the burden of the tasks before us.”

Rights & obligations

Somewhere in the mid-1960s this sense of a fine balance between rights and obligations of the citizens got lost. The state proclaimed that it could do anything and would indeed do everything for its citizens. The welfare state and its (politically elected) operatives spelled out for themselves a maximalist mandate, and enticed the citizens (the voters) to support them in this venture. Except for a token of support at the election time, the state and its managers promised to bring sunshine into every life in every hamlet. Perhaps it was a natural extension of the Gandhian promise of “wiping every tear from every eye.” However, while this caring state project was undertaken, nothing was asked of the citizen, except docility and a nominal obedience; no corresponding duties to contribute to social capital, or self-discipline or self-sacrifice for the larger glory of Mother India.

Calm Before the Storm

John Kerry’s Pakistan trip might be all smiles and handshakes, but there’s a crisis brewing beneath the surface.

On July 31, following several false starts, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Islamabad for meetings with Pakistan's political and military leadership. And while the visit comes at a turbulent time for Pakistan -- on the heels of a massive jail break in Dera Ismail Khan that saw more than 300 prisoners escape, including at least 25 members of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and militant Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group -- it also comes at a time when U.S.-Pakistan relations have been remarkably cordial.

Pakistan's May election, in which the country completed its first democratic transfer of power, appears to have put both capitals in a good mood. Shortly after his electoral triumph, Nawaz Sharif received a congratulatory call from President Barack Obama. Since then, Washington has announced new investments in Pakistan's troubled energy sector, and Sharif has responded by promising to help facilitate America's withdrawal from Afghanistan and by vowing to cooperate on counterterrorism.

The goodwill has lasted since then, allowing for the resurrection of several moribund cooperative initiatives between Washington and Islamabad. For example, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Olson, hasstated his desire to re-launch the Strategic Dialogue -- broad-based talks on non-security issues that have been grounded for several years. Meanwhile, on July 16, Pakistan's finance minister, Ishaq Dar, indicatedthat talks will soon resume on a bilateral investment treaty between the two countries. These negotiations have occurred fitfully since 2005, but hit snags in more recent years.

Today represents a far cry from 2011, when CIA contractor Raymond Davis shot and killed two Pakistani civilians, when U.S. forces raided Osama Bin Laden's compound without giving Pakistan advance notice, and when NATO aircraft accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers stationed on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Reprisals and angry rhetoric ensued on both sides. Islamabad shut down NATO supply routes to Afghanistan, and Adm. Mike Mullen -- then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- famously referred to the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network as a "veritable arm" of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's spy network.

Relations remained tense into 2012, when then U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta openly called for a greater Indian role in Afghanistan -- a message that surely infuriated Pakistan's security establishment, which wants no Indian influence in Afghanistan.

Today, Washington and Islamabad are not one-upping each other with retaliatory acts, and the charged rhetoric has been toned down. Instead of lambasting Pakistan for what it doesn't do --such as launching a military offensive in North Waziristan -- Washington is commending Pakistan for what it does do. In May, for example, a Pentagon official praised Pakistan for adopting new measures that prevent fertilizers produced domestically from being used as bombs in Afghanistan. The two sides are even seeing eye-to-eye on the war in Afghanistan; both want to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table.

Given these developments, does Kerry's trip to Pakistan herald a new era of warm relations for the two reluctant allies? Don't bet on it. The relationship between the United States and Pakistan may be in better shape than it was several years ago, but it remains troubled -- and could easily plunge back into crisis.

One source of brewing tension is Islamabad's interest in opening peace talks with the TTP, which is waging a brutal and unyielding insurgency against the Pakistani state -- one that targets civilians, the government, and the military alike. Sharif campaigned heavily on the issue of talks, so his resounding electoral victory gives him a strong mandate to pursue negotiations. Since taking office, his government has floated the idea of launching a "working group" to explore talks -- even as the TTP has declared its unwillingness to negotiate and continued to stage attacks. Likewise, the new provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa -- near Pakistan's tribal belt -- is led by a party sharing the PML-N's desire to talk to the TTP.

Kerry visits Sharif and resumes "strategic dialogue" with Pakistan

August 1, 2013

First visit

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Islamabad late on Wednesday night to begin an unannounced three-day visit with Pakistani officials that aims to reset ties between the two countries and address a number of issues, including counterterrorism, economic reforms, energy, regional stability, and trade and investment (NYT, Pajhwok, Reuters, VOA). Kerry's visit, his first as the U.S.'s top diplomat, marks the first time a Secretary of State has visited Pakistan since 2011, when relations between the two countries soured following the U.S. Special Forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden. 

Kerry met with a number of senior Pakistani officials on Thursday, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom he invited to Washington to meet with President Obama (BBC, Reuters). In a press conference with his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, Kerry announced "a resumption of the strategic dialogue in order to foster a deeper, boarder and more comprehensive partnership between our countries" (AP, Dawn). During the meetings, Sharif and Aziz both brought up the issue of CIA drone strikes in the country's tribal areas, reiterating their stance that they violate Pakistani sovereignty and hurt the countries' relationship (ET). Kerry responded that terrorist elements like al-Qaeda and its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also challenge Pakistan's sovereignty. Kerry is also expected to meet with Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan's army chief, and President Ali Asif Zardari. 

Diplomatic progress in the region continued on Thursday when Sujatha Singh, India's new Foreign Secretary, suggested that stalled peace talks between Pakistan and India would resume now that Sharif is in office (AFP). Speaking to reporters during her first day on the job, Singh said, "We will be picking up the threads from where we left off with the old government," but added that any discussion with Islamabad "presupposes an environment free of violence and of terror." Sindh's comments echoed those of India's foreign minister, Salman Khursid, who recently said progress could only move forward if Indian concerns over "some recent unforeseen incidents" were addressed (WSJ). Relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors soured in January after skirmishes along the Kashmir border.


Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, announced on Thursday that the coalition had reached an agreement with the Afghan government on issues surrounding the Military Technical Agreement (MTA), particularly the controversial issue of customs tariffs (Pajhwok, S&S). As reported by the Washington Post last month, the Afghan government began fining the U.S. military $1,000 for each shipping container that didn't have a validated customs form, a policy that could have led to around $70 million in fines. Afghanistan's Cabinet approved the Ministry of Finance's recommendation to waive the penalties and fines as the MTA, which was signed in 2002, exempts ISAF from providing routine customs documents on materiel. 

Pakistan's Sectarian Meltdown

July 31, 2013

Last month, militants murdered nine foreign mountain climbers at a base camp on Pakistan’s Nanga Parbat peak.

Many observers noted that it was the first attack of its kind. But in fact, one aspect of the attack—which received little news coverage—was depressingly familiar.

This is because there was a tenth casualty—a Pakistani porter named Ali Hussain. He was a Shia Muslim—a religious minority making up about 20 percent of Pakistan’s Sunni-majority population. Officials believe he was targeted because of his faith, and for good reason: At least four Sunni Muslims were reportedly also at the camp, and their lives were spared.

Sectarian strife is most often associated with the Middle East, but Pakistan is rapidly becoming one of its deadliest new fronts.

According to estimates, roughly four hundred Pakistani Shias were killed in sectarian violence last year—the highest number since the 1990s. There were more than five hundred overall deaths from sectarian strife in 2012, more than double the 2011 figure. A new U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom report concludes that large numbers of attacks have targeted Pakistani religious communities over the last eighteen months. Shias and other minority communities are assaulted in their homes, at their centers of worship, in recreation centers and on public buses. In 2011, Pakistan’s minority-affairs minister, a Christian, was gunned down in his car in broad daylight.

Stability is Washington’s core interest in nuclear-armed, volatile Pakistan. This is why it agonizes over the Pakistani Taliban’s (TTP) vicious campaign of anti-state terror, and obsesses about the possibility of another military coup, a radical Islamist takeover, or nuclear weapons falling into extremist hands. Yet it’s arguably sectarian violence that poses the greatest threat to Pakistan’s long-term stability.

Consider sectarian militancy’s broad reach. One of its most powerful practitioners, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), has staged attacks in all four Pakistani provinces—prompting experts to describe LeJ as “more powerful in its countrywide presence” than the TTP. LeJ gets plenty of help from the Taliban, however. The TTP is increasingly targeting religious minorities and has claimed responsibility for several recent sectarian attacks (including the one that killed the porter on Nanga Parbat). These new tactics suggest a developing alliance between two of Pakistan’s most fearsome Sunni extremist organizations.

Then there’s public opinion. Few Pakistanis embrace the anti-state TTP’s vision of destroying the country’s political system, but many sympathize with the underlying views of sectarian extremists. In a recent Pew poll, 41 percent of Pakistanis said that Shias are not Muslims. In another poll, 60 percent of Pakistani youth contended that Ahmadis—who belong to another minority sect of Islam—are not Muslims. Punjab province governor Salman Taseer was assassinated in 2011 for his public opposition to Pakistan’s so-called blasphemy laws, which are often used to persecute religious minorities. Scores of Pakistanis—including many lawyers—rallied in support of Taseer’s assassin, at one point showering him with roses as he made his way to court. By expressing support for the basic ideas fueling sectarian violence, Pakistanis indirectly confer legitimacy on sectarian militants’ activities.

Finally, the Pakistani state has institutionalized sect-based discrimination. The second amendment of Pakistan’s constitution explicitly states that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. Not surprisingly, Pakistan has few laws that protect religious minorities—yet it does have the blasphemy laws, which produce the opposite effect. The assassination of Taseer has silenced much of the policy debate about religious minorities, and has made reform of the blasphemy laws—much less their elimination—a political nonstarter.

The most troubling aspect of the state’s complicity in sectarianism is the nexus between sectarian extremists and the security establishment. Human-rights groups believe Pakistan’s intelligence agency leverages these organizations to take on separatist insurgents in Balochistan province. There are also links between sectarian fighters and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)—the political party that has long run Punjab’s provincial government, and now leads the central government. In 2011, Punjab’s law minister admitted his government provided financial assistance to the family of LeJ’s supreme leader, Malik Ishaq. Last year, he campaigned with the leader of Sipah-e-Sahaba, LeJ’s parent organization. Given that the PML-N’s bastion in Punjab is also the stronghold of most sectarian extremist groups, such linkages, while disturbing, are unsurprising.

Can John Kerry Salvage US-Pakistan Relations?

By Zachary Keck
August 1, 2013

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has finally arrived in Pakistan, the State Department announced today.

Kerry has long planned to visit Pakistan but had his trip delayed on a number of occasions. Word of an upcoming trip to Pakistan was first reported in the middle of June but Kerry later had to cancel, ostensibly to focus on Syria.

Many suspected, however, that the trip had been cancelled because the Pakistani side had leaked the dates and there were concerns about his security. Others speculated that the Obama administration had cancelled the trip to voice its displeasure over Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s vocal opposition to U.S. drone strikes.

At the time a Pakistani official was quoted as saying that the trip would be rescheduled for the first half of July. 

This never materialized. Talk of an upcoming Kerry visit began to pick up last week, which again forced Kerry to postpone his trip that was set to begin on Sunday after his itinerary leaked to Pakistani media outlets.

Nonetheless, there is a general sense of optimism in Islamabad about Secretary Kerry’s visit. The former Massachusetts Senator’s appointment was viewed very favorably in Pakistan because of his long-standing ties to the country. During President Obama’s first term in office Kerry sometimes served as an unofficial envoy to Pakistan’s leaders, many of whom were often at odds with the appointed officials Obama had put in charge of managing relations. He also teamed up with former Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) on a bill that set out a long-term civilian and economic aid package to Pakistan, areas that had previously taken a backseat to military assistance.

Still, U.S.-Pakistani relations deteriorated substantially during the Obama administration’s first term, as a result of general mistrust as well as a series of specific events like the bin Laden raid and the accidental killing of 24 Pakistani border troops by NATO forces in 2011. 

Pakistani officials seem to hope that Kerry’s history with Pakistan can be used to place ties on a more solid footing.

Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, for example, said that Islamabad hopes that the two sides can agree to re-establish a strategic dialogue that was ended following the border incident two years ago.

Meanwhile, Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s Minister for Planning and Development gave a “wide-ranging interview” with Voice of America last week in which he said that the Sharif administration seeks strong ties to the U.S. particularly in the areas of energy and economics, two of the most pressing challenges that the new administration faces.

When Voice of America asked about Sharif beginning his administration by strengthening ties with China, Iqbal replied, “There are some areas in which cooperation of U.S. is not substitutable.” He went on to list America’s comparative advantages as an export market for Pakistani textiles and as a place for Pakistanis to attend colleges as among these areas.

Still, there are lingering sources of tension in the relationship based on history and substantive disagreements. For example, Pakistan continues to insist on a civilian nuclear deal with the U.S. in the mold of the U.S.-Indian nuclear pact, which is likely to be a non-starter for the Americans. The U.S. has also ruled out any talk of a possible prisoner swap agreement, while Islamabad has said it will push Kerry to end drone strikes inside Pakistan, which have continued despite Sharif’s objections, albeit with much lesser frequency.

So how likely is it that Kerry’s personal history with Pakistan will help the two frenemies overcome historical mistrust and substantive dispute?

Not very, says Shamila Chaudhary, an expert on Pakistani-U.S. relations formerly at Eurasia Group and, as of tomorrow, a senior advisor to Vali Nasr at the Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

In an email interview with The Diplomat last month Chaudhary said, “The political transition underway in Pakistan does afford the United States an opportunity to reset the difficult relationship. However, the sources of tensions between both sides have been less personality-based and more having to do with policy disagreements.”