18 January 2014

India: Human InSecurity

An interview with author Ram Mashru on human security issues in India.
By Ankit Panda
January 17, 2014

Ram Mashru is author of the new book Human InSecurity: Fear, Deprivation and Abuse in India, which goes behind the news to consider the factors driving some of the stories of India’s social and political ills. The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda spoke with Mashru recently about his book and the potential ways India could improve its record on human security.

You begin your book by asking the question, famously posed by The New York Times: Does India’s democracy get more credit than it deserves? What is your answer to that question?

The distinction I draw is a basic one, between India as a formal democracy and India as a substantive democracy. The former – India’s election capabilities, the size of its electorate, high voter turnout, etc. – is certainly impressive, and institutions like the Electoral Commission bolster India’s reputation as an exemplary democracy, but in a limited sense. If we switch to India’s substantive democratic record we must ask questions about the country’s performance on human rights, development, minority rights, law and order, etc. On these issues there is a great deal to be critical about.

Do I think India’s democracy gets more credit than it deserves? Only to the extent that an appraisal of India as “the world’s largest democracy” distracts attention away from a regrettable record on gender equality, tribal rights, corruption etc. Professor Varshney argues, in his latest book Battles Half Won, that India is an electoral wonder but that it performs poorly between elections. This is the view I encourage.

The tones used to discuss India have shifted significantly since The New York Times article, and I cite it as one of the first examples I came across of an attempt to challenge the dominant discourse. The article itself is tentative in its criticism and since then India’s performance as a democracy has, rightly, attracted more and more scrutiny. We can attribute this shift to a whole series of changes: a more trenchant press, more interest in India as it rises on the international stage, the investigations of human rights organizations and development professionals, and shocking cases such as the horrific Delhi gang rape. These changes have all chipped away at India’s dubious reputation as a shining post-colonial success story.

Of course, compared to Bangladesh, where the elections earlier this month were deadly and undemocratic, India is a shining regional example. But the argument that India is a relatively stable and successful democracy is compatible with the argument that it has a lamentable record on development and rights.


The Bangladesh election, held according to the constitution and conducted by an authorized body, was legal, writes Krishnan Srinivasan

In the Bangladesh general elections of 2008, Sheikh Hasina Wajed led the Awami League to a handsome victory. She used this majority to amend the constitution in 2011, doing away with the device of the interim neutral caretaker government, whereby a group of non-political technicians ran the country between elections to ensure a free and fair poll. It was the removal of this neutral body that was the proximate cause of the boycott of this year’s election by Khaleda Zia, the leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, and her allied parties. Earlier, the Jamaat-e-Islami, also an ally of the BNP, had been declared by the courts as ineligible to contest the elections since religion-based parties were banned by the constitution.

The weeks leading up to the election on January 5 were marked by hartals and violence on a major scale by the BNP and the Jamaat in order to make the government concede the demand for a caretaker authority for the polls; otherwise, they alleged, the election would be rigged in favour of the ruling party. The Awami League government and the security forces found it impossible to contain the chaos that ensued. Road and rail transport vehicles were attacked and set on fire. Blockades and lock-downs took place for days on end, and the economy was brought to a halt. Since October 2013, 130 persons have died in the violence.

Negotiations between the two main parties and mediation by the European Union, the United States of America and India failed to produce any compromise: the detention of several opposition leaders and the confinement of Khaleda Zia to her residence did not curb the violence. The elections were held as scheduled and the Awami League won an overwhelming victory with about half the seats uncontested. The turn-out of the electorate was low, believed by observers to be about 20 per cent. Nearly 22 persons were murdered on the day itself, some 500 schools were torched and 200 polling booths in seven constituencies set on fire. The Hindu minority, representing 10 per cent of the electorate, was singled out as targets for extreme violence. The election was described as a farce by the BNP and as not representing the wishes of the people by the US and Europe. The Indian government, however, endorsed the election results and with good reason.

South Korea Calling India

Can India seize the opportunities offered by its growing engagement with South Korea and Japan?
By Sreeram Chaulia
January 18, 2014

The state visit to India this week by South Korean President Park Geun-hye represents a significant opportunity to stretch New Delhi’s two-decade-long “Look East” policy and cement strategic and economic relations with a major emerging power.

Traditionally, India has concentrated more on Southeast Asian countries as the lynchpins of its quest to spread political influence and profit from the region’s economic dynamism. New Delhi’s relative neglect of the geographically more distant Northeast Asia, of which South Korea is a pivotal country, is gradually being redressed with a spectacular warming of ties between India and Japan.

If Japan is entrenching itself as a close strategic partner of India, can its main neighbor South Korea stay far behind? To host Park as a state guest just before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives for the Republic Day celebrations in India later this month is a propitious lineup of Northeast Asian powers who matter to India’s national security and economic growth. It is also a sign that India is thinking bigger, eyeing a horizon further from its own immediate neighborhood, and seeking a broader footprint than just being a subcontinental power nestled in South Asia.

South Korea boasts a technologically advanced and cost-effective military industrial complex that could help India diversify its list of defense suppliers and R&D partners. South Korean missile and naval combat systems are internationally accepted as state-of-the-art and are on offer for India to acquire.

Before departing for India, Park mentioned that she would be treating her visit as the beginning of her “sales diplomacy toward the world’s new growing economies.” As a conservative politician whose father was a former military dictator of South Korea, she has the full backing of her defense establishment to woo India as a buyer.

India's UPA Government and Foreign Policy

How did India’s UPA government perform in terms of foreign policy during its 10 years in power?
January 18, 2014

Foreign policy, generally, is never a major issue for the Indian electorate ahead of an election, but as the country gets ready to head to the polls to choose its next Prime Minister later this year, the time seems right to reflect on the performance of the incumbent UPA government in foreign policy matters over the past decade.

I’ll start by saying that Indian foreign policy in general is perhaps criticized more than is warranted–India pursues and secures her interests with more foresight than conventionally appreciated. The UPA government’s tenure in New Delhi has been a period of rather momentous geopolitical change in Asia. As the UPA came into power in 2004, geopolitical themes that resonate today–such as the rise of China–were more than palpable. Other themes, such as the United States’ global decline and a broader shift to multipolarity or “G-Zero,” were less so. Regionally, the seemingly perennial issue of Pakistan persisted, but saw no major breakthroughs.

Although the term never really caught on, the notion of a “Manmohan Doctrine” is helpful in understanding what India’s technocratic professor-prime minister had in mind when he rose to the helm in 2004. Often criticized for leading the country despite never having been elected to any office, Manmohan Singh was the man who eased India into the 1990s, managing a disastrous balance of payments crisis as India’s finance minister. His professorial proclivities colored his perceptions of foreign policy. Singh was no realist; as an economist, his “doctrine” was that Indian foreign policy should privilege economic goals as the driver of India’s national interest.

Had pre-2010 economic indicators in India persisted to this day, Singh’s schema for foreign policy would have been undoubtedly a success, but today India laments the loss of double-digit annual GDP growth rates. After the financial crisis in 2008, India’s annual GDP growth stood at 3.9 percent. It peaked in 2010 at 10.5 percent, finally sliding to 3.2 percent in 2012. During that same period, inflation indices climbed–the rupee’s dramatic cliffhanging against the dollar in 2013 highlighted this as well.

The trade story is far more positive for India, though still wanting in certain areas. The most recent success in this area came with the passage of the WTO’s “Bali Package” trade deal–one where Indian negotiators succeeded in pursuing India’s protectionist agenda. The deal satisfies India’s concerns about its domestic food security. The UPA’s tenure over the past 10 years also saw India conclude numerous free trade agreements, including with South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and ASEAN, with negotiations continuing on many others. While India concluded many agreements and pursued its agenda effectively, it hasn’t managed to close trade deficits with major partners.

India, Japan should focus on the Asian strategic framework

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan
16 January 2014
Source Link

Japan is clearly the flavour of the season as far as India is concerned. Japanese defence minister Itsunori Onodera was in New Delhi last week for consultations with his counterpart on how to strengthen and coordinate relations between the two sides in the security arena. In one of their rare visits, the Japanese Emperor and Empress were in Delhi in December. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be the guest of honour at this year's Republic Day function on January 26, 2014. 

With both India and Japan acknowledging the need to strengthen bilateral defence and security ties, a major chunk of the attention is likely to be on maritime security and anti-piracy efforts. While these are by no means unimportant facets of bilateral cooperation, more significant will be the role of India and Japan in shaping the Asian strategic order. Both the countries have a common and shared perspective on the Asian framework, even as it is an emerging one. 

Having said that, Defence Minister Onodera's visit focused on some of the tactical and policy issues for enhancing the level and pace of India-Japan bilateral cooperation. Cooperation between the two navies has been an on-going affair, but what has been low on the radar until now have been the links between the air forces of the two sides. This was given some emphasis during the recent visit with the two sides agreeing to encourage more staff exchanges and coordinate the possibility of staff talks between the Indian Air Force and the Japan Air Self Defence Forces as well as exchanges of test-pilots, professional exchanges in the field of flight safety and between two transport squadrons of the two air forces. Also agreed upon was promotion of exchanges on UN Peace Keeping operations between various Japanese agencies (such as the Japan Peacekeeping Training and Research Centre, Joint Staff College (JPC), Central Readiness Force of Japan Ground Self Defence Forces and the Indian Army's Centre for UN Peacekeeping (CUNPK), and expert-level engagements on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and counter-terrorism between Indian Army and Japan Ground Self Defence Force. On the naval front, there were agreements on joint exercises between the Indian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self Defence Forces on a regular basis (with the Indian Navy to visit Japan this year). Some of the other aspects that were decided during Onodera's visit included visit to Japan by India's defence minister later this year and a decision to undertake high-level visits on an annual basis, conducting of the third 2+2 dialogue and the fourth Defence Policy Dialogue (Defence Secretary level). 

While a rising China factor is undoubtedly an important consideration for both India and Japan as they strengthen their cooperation, the two have been careful not to invite Chinese wrath and thus have not made a mention of China in any of their statements. However, as mentioned above, there are any number of areas including freedom of navigation, anti-piracy, uninterrupted commerce, safe energy corridors and an inclusive Asian strategic framework that are becoming important to both India and Japan. 

The Khalistani Terrorism

Date : 16 Jan , 2014

In the first few years after India’s independence, the Sikh migrants from Punjab constituted the largest single group of Indian origin in the Indian diaspora in the UK, the US and Canada. Some of them had migrated even during the British rule—particularly to Canada to work in the saw mills of British Columbia. Others had gone after 1947. Most of these migrants came from poor rural families and many of them in the UK earned their living by working as drivers and conductors in the public transportation systems of the municipalities. Some of the farmers, who had migrated to the US, did extremely well in citrus farming in California. The Yuba City in California had a prosperous community of Sikh farmers. The migrants to Canada earned their living in factories and in the public transportation systems.

I was given to understand that at the request of Kao, two officers of the British Security Service (MI-5) visited the Golden Temple as tourists and gave a similar advice to Indira Gandhi—- be patient and avoid action or use the police.

Despite their living in Western countries, they continued to be attached to their religion and led their lives as true Sikhs. Whenever they could save enough money, they would come to India to visit their relatives and worship in the Golden Temple in Amritsar. In the late 1950s and the early 1960s, the Sikhs, who were working abroad as salary-earners, started facing difficulties because their employers began insisting that they should shave off their beard and stop wearing turbans. This was particularly so in the public transportation companies of the UK. Moreover, the Sikh migrants in the West faced difficulties in getting permission from the municipal authorities for acquiring land and constructing gurudwaras where they could worship.

In the UK, many of the affected Sikhs took up the matter with the Indian High Commission in London and sought its intervention. The High Commission declined to intervene and advised the Sikhs to approach the local authorities for a redressal of their grievances. Jawaharlal Nehru, who was India’s Prime Minister at that time, followed a hands-off policy with regard to the migrants of Indian origin living abroad. He was against the Government of India intervening on their behalf with their host governments. They were told that they should sort out matters themselves by taking up their problems with the local authorities.

The affected Sikhs compared what they thought was the indifferent attitude of the Government of India with the helpful and interventionist role played by the Government of Israel in responding to the religious sensitivities of the Jewish people, wherever they might be living and whatever might be their nationality. The Israeli Government, according to the aggrieved Sikhs, always assumed a moral responsibility for protecting the religious interests of the Jewish people. Moreover, Israeli citizenship laws permitted dual nationality, whereas the Sikh migrants, who acquired a foreign nationality, had to renounce their Indian citizenship. Another demand of the Sikhs was that the Government of India should take up with Pakistan the question of facilitating pilgrimage visits by Sikhs living in India as well as abroad to their holy shrines in Pakistan such as the Nankana Sahib gurudwara.

Making Sense of Karzai's BSA Gambit


The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the US-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement (BSA). The agreement, comprising 30 documents and 36 articles covers everything from taxation and customs duties to a promise to protect Afghanistan from hostile action and will form the basis of the US military presence in Afghanistan post-2014. Karzai, in the last few months has gone past a few US deadlines to sign the BSA; the latest one being 31 December 2013. He has ignored US threats of the “zero option” and recommendation of his own Loya Jirga and its head and his ally, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi. He wants the BSA to be signed by the next Afghan president after the elections in April this year subject to US refrain from raiding civilian homes in Afghanistan and directly negotiating with the Afghan Taliban.

Karzai’s stand has confounded analysts and even frustrated the US lawmakers, who at a congressional hearing in December last year accused him of “insulting” US sacrifices by not signing the “all for Afghans and Afghanistan” BSA . The US also got people from the Iraqi foreign minister to Jan Kubis, the U.N. special representative to Afghanistan, to “advise” Karzai to sign the BSA. Even the most unlikely of mediators, the Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, during her recent visit to the US found herself being urged by the Obama administration to use Indian influence with Karzai on the BSA.[1] The absence of a credible reason for Karzai’s dilly-dallying on the BSA has led to slew of theories.

Shah Shuja Complex

Some analysts feel it is all about Karzai’s legacy as he dreads his situation being compared to the treatment meted out to his forebear, Shah Shuja, by the East India Company in the 1840s and be remembered as a puppet ruler.[2] Shah Shuja incidentally came from the same sub-tribe as Karzai. There are others who feel Karzai has the mindset of a tribal warlord, playing community and local politics at the national level, resorting to brinkmanship and in the process losing sight of the big picture. Not surprising then that some members of the Meshrano Jirga - or the upper house of parliament, last month asked Karzai to ink the BSA with the US instead of seeking defence cooperation from India.[3] However, as per William Dalrymple, the Afghan President “is no fool", and is vastly underrated by the West.

Cut-off Date

After weeks of insisting that the BSA be signed by the end of the year, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel now says that Karzai has time until February’s NATO defence ministers meeting, [4] backing off his initial demand that the deal be done by the end of 2013. However Omar Samad, former Afghan ambassador to France and now with the New America Foundation, feels it is more to do with Afghan elections.

Afghan Elections

According to Samad the February cut-off is derived from the understanding that Afghan presidential candidates (and Karzai) would not want BSA to be a campaigning issue and hence would like to settle it before the start of the campaigning season ie by the end of February 2014. The US also does not want to wait until April’s presidential election because of the possibility of a lengthy runoff that may follow in case the elections do not yield a clear winner. This would delay the signing of the BSA into the summer, perhaps even the fall of 2014. Adding to this is the talked about possibility of an extended winter pushing the election date itself ahead of the scheduled April 2014.

China’s Gorbachov Angst


January 16, 2014

It is a matter of historical record that the Soviet Union lasted for 74 years and on its demise the Soviet Communist Party also went into oblivion. The People’s Republic of China has been in existence for nearly 65 years and therefore if we were to follow the Soviet analogy; the People’s Republic should survive for at least another 9 years, if not more. The Chinese leadership is not only conscious of the analogy, but more importantly also aware of the significance of the dates. It is common knowledge amongst most that follow the evolution of Chinese policies closely that nothing concentrates the mind of the Chinese leadership more than to ensure that there is no repeat of the Gorbachov fiasco in China. It is said that the Chinese have commissioned a vast number of studies to determine what actually went wrong in the ex-Soviet Union and what led to its collapse.

The question that is asked quite frequently these days is what is the nature of the Chinese State? After so many years of following Deng Xiaoping’s reformist economic policies; it is certainly not any more a Marxist-Leninist State in the pure classical sense having abandoned most of Marxist-Leninist tenants. It is also not Confucian in nature, nor is it a functional democracy with free elections, free speech as is commonly understood. The present Chinese leaders themselves like to describe China as a ‘socialist state with Chinese characteristics.’

A common definition of socialism would indicate that it is a political doctrine under which the means of production would be in public [state] rather in private hands and that it would usher in a classless society where inequality would be minimized, if not totally eliminated. But that is hardly true of Chinese society today for under decisions taken at the 3rd Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] recently, not only is private ownership of the means of production emphasized having been allowed much earlier, but even the pricing policy would be ‘market driven.’ At best it can be surmised that China today has a mixed economy with a large number of state owned enterprises [SMEs], but that which is largely capitalist in its orientation.

The other pillar of socialism is that it is supposed to promote a classless society with inequality reduced to a bare minimum. In the China of today, to the contrary, there is increasing evidence of growing inequality. The gini co-efficient for China, the internationally accepted measure of inequality within a country, was between 0.46 and 0.49 in 2007; the highest for any Asian country1 and could be approaching 0.61.2 According to the UN, if the gini co-efficient touches 0.44, danger signals on internal stability should start flashing. This inequality is further highlighted by the fact that the richest 10 percent in China own 45 percent of the country’s wealth; whereas the poorest 10 percent own only 1.4 percent!3 At the same time large income disparities exist between urban and rural residents, between regions and in minority areas. In addition there are about 200 million internal migrant workers that are treated as second class citizens as they are denied health care facilities, on par with local residents, and their children often end up in sub-standard schools. The Chinese National People‘s Congress [NPC] has 83 billionaires as its members as opposed to none in the US Senate and House of Representatives. Recently both the New York Times and Bloomberg were denied visas for their Beijing staff as they had published the wealth of family members of former PM Wen estimated at US$2.7billion and present Chinese leader Xi Jinping estimated at US$ 376million.

Measures for Improving Management of National Security


January 16, 2014

India faces multiple external and internal security threats and challenges, but its response to defeat these successfully has often been inadequate. India’s response is usually marked by knee jerk reactions that fail to optimise the capacities of various organs of the state. With the experience gained over the last six decades, there are several steps that the government can take to improve the functioning of higher defence organisations and better manage national security, including planning for the neutralisation of emerging threats and challenges.

The first and foremost item on the government’s defence and national security reforms agenda should be the formulation of a comprehensive National Security Strategy (NSS), including that for internal security. The NSS should be formulated after carrying out an inter-departmental, inter-agency, multi-disciplinary strategic defence review. Such a review must take the public into confidence and not be conducted behind closed doors. Like in most other democracies, the NSS should be signed by Prime Minister, who is the head of government, placed on the table of Parliament and released as a public document. Only then will various stakeholders take ownership of the strategy and work unitedly to achieve its aims and objectives.

The armed forces are now in the second year of the 12th Defence Plan (2012-17) and it has not yet been formally approved with full financial backing by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). The government has also not formally approved the long-term integrated perspective plan (LTIPP 2007-22) formulated by HQ Integrated Defence Staff. Without these essential approvals, defence procurement is being undertaken through ad hoc annual procurement plans, rather than being based on duly prioritised long-term plans that are designed to systematically enhance India’s combat potential. These are serious lacunae as effective defence planning cannot be undertaken in a policy void. The government must commit itself to supporting long-term defence plans or else defence modernisation will continue to lag and the growing military capabilities gap with China’s People’s Liberation Army will assume ominous proportions. This can be done only by reviving the dormant National Security Council (NSC) as defence planning is in the domain of the NSC and not the CCS, which deals with current and near-term threats and challenges and reacts to emergent situations.

The inability to speedily conclude major defence contracts to enhance national security preparedness in the face of growing threats and challenges, exemplifies the government’s challenges in grappling with systemic flaws in the procurement procedures and processes. Despite having formulated the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) and the Defence Production Policy (DPrP), the government has been unable to reduce bureaucratic red tape and defence modernisation continues to stagnate. It is difficult to understand why the budgetary allocations earmarked on the capital account for the modernisation of the armed forces should continue to be surrendered year after year with complete lack of accountability. The year FY 2010-11 had brought some encouraging news as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) managed to fully utilise all the funds that were allocated on the capital account. This should become the norm rather than the exception.

A foreign policy worthy of the Indian dream

By editor
Created 17 Jan 2014

Who in India would disagree with Saudi Arabia’s ideology being a ‘threat to the world’? While the BJP has little understanding of the Islamic world, Modi perhaps has even less so.

Who in India would disagree with Saudi Arabia’s ideology being a ‘threat to the world’? While the BJP has little understanding of the Islamic world, Modi perhaps has even less so.

The year 2014 has seen the public discourse in India shift to internal political drama, even turning the Devyani Khobragade saga into India, like the proverbial David, catapulting diplomatic pebbles at Goliath-like US. The rise of the Aam Aadmi Party stole television time from a resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party under “I-have-a-dream” Narendra Modi and the Congress’ “I-do-not-want-power” Rahul Gandhi.

The AAP now plans to contest national elections, due in less than five months. For the third time in independent India’s history a popular upsurge is propelling new political players onto the national stage. Earlier this happened in 1978, when Indira Gandhi, lifting Emergency, called elections, and again in 1989 when Vishwanath Pratap Singh, resigning from the Union Cabinet over corruption, reaped a storm of popular discontent to oust Rajiv Gandhi. Both experiments ended in disaster, the second even resulting in economic meltdown.

The worry is that, distracted by the domestic drama, the Indian political elite may allow the external environment to shape itself irrespective of its impact on Indian interests. Two elements are significant: the rise of China and the mushrooming of radical Islam. President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea is visiting India from January 15-18. Ten days later Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan will be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade. Two important nations on the periphery of China are engaging India seriously. The Republic of Korea will discuss the stalled $12 billion Posco project and cooperation in civil nuclear energy. Japan wants to enlarge its investment footprint in India and move towards closer engagement in the military and security areas. Both these visits impinge on shared concerns about China and a stable future security order in Asia.

The second element to be factored into Indian policy-making is radical Islam. The issue can be trivialised like the former home secretary R.K. Singh throwing cheap punches at his former boss or it can be seriously examined by all political parties and prime ministerial aspirants. The Islamic world has borne the impact of three developments in the last few years: the survival and re-emergence of Al Qaeda; the hope of the Arab Spring as its antidote dissipating with developments in Syria and Egypt; and the Shia-Sunni rivalry complicated by the US-Iran nuclear engagement.


Friday, 17 January 2014 

There is no reason as to why India should take part in this rat race to become a nuclear-powered nation. Instead, we should learn from Japan and switch to safer and cleaner energy sources like solar, hydro and thorium

On January 13, Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone for one of India’s largest nuclear power plants in Haryana amidst protests from various groups. Had logic and public opinion been something that our Prime Minister or his Government respected, then the Aam Aadmi Party perhaps would not have been there in the first place. But these have not been his forte; as is well known, he neither uses his mouth (the absolute lack of communication from him), nor his ears (the disregard for public opinion). Or perhaps he has sold his soul so massively to Western interests that his skin has become far too thick for anything to affect him, including the imminent end of his official tenure.

I wouldn’t spend time delving into the scary possibilities of a Japan-like natural disaster and its possible effects. But the fact is, nuclear plants can be most fragile and such incidents can have disastrous consequences. Any case of a nuclear meltdown would cause leakage of radiation, which not only can lead to an unimaginably high death toll and permanent physical and mental disorders, but in the long run, can also make the vicinity uninhabitable for tens of decades.

India, which is blindly following a dream of going the nuclear way, is largely ignoring the threats that these reactors bring with themselves. It is not that this is something new for India — in August 2010, the Journal of Contemporary Asia reported that between 1993 and 1995, more than 120 hazardous nuclear accidents took place in India. It is amazing how our Government seems to have forgotten the biggest disaster of all times in Indian history — the Bhopal gas tragedy.

If nuclear leakages can happen in developed nations like Japan, which have a focus on zero defects, then given India’s level of work ethics in general take it as good an assurance that in India a nuclear disaster will happen for certain. Globally, post the Japanese disaster, Germany has suspended contracts and agreements that would have otherwise ensured an extension of their nuclear facilities, while Switzerland has, for the time being, kept aside all files meant for approval of nuclear plants.

In India, it all started with the signing of the 1-2-3 deal with the US in 2008. This deal opened up a $250 billion nuclear reactor market for India; and today we find various companies (mostly American and European) waiting to sign their contracts with India. The biggest contract that we have signed in this area is with Areva for a 9,000 MW plant at Jaitapur in the Konkan region in Maharashtra. Interestingly the Konkan coast is located in the seismic belt of the nation and is categorised as a high damage risk zone. For the record, in the last two decades, this zone has experienced a whopping number of 92 earthquakes, of which three were major, with the highest being measured at 6.3 on the Richter scale in 1993. And on top of this, we are using a very controversial and unapproved nuclear reactor for this plant. As of now, we have more than 20 nuclear reactors dotted along the coastal areas of the nation, and these may be either exposed to quakes or tsunamis.

However, the biggest argument against nuclear power is not the fear of accidents alone. It is basic economics. There is absolutely no economic logic that can support the argument that nuclear energy is needed in India, a nation where the sunlight we receive is far more than sufficient to take care of all our energy requirements, and that too most importantly at one fourth of the cost of nuclear energy.

Indian Army: A national asset

Date : 15 Jan , 2014

The Indian nation celebrates Army day on January, 15 every year with great fervor. January, 15 has been chosen for this event due to its historical significance. It was on this day in 1949 that the Indian Army divested itself from British control with General (later Field Marshal) K. M. Cariappa taking over as the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from Sir Francis Butcher.

On the occasion of Army Day it is only befitting to remind the nation about its bounden duty to ensure that the blood spilled by its brave soldiers as also their contribution to the national cause does not go waste.

A number of parades, memorial lectures, equipment displays, investiture ceremonies organised by the Army on this day elicit tremendous response from the general public. The Army Day is also a time to revisit the achievements of the army in the year gone by. The pace for this exercise is set, in no small measure, by the traditional press conference of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS). This year the press conference by General Bikram Singh, COAS, was held at the majestic Manekshaw Stadium, New Delhi on 13th January. Many issues of relevance came up during the press conference.

The COAS made a short introductory statement where he spoke of enhancement of combat power and gave out figures of the amounts expended for the purpose through the year. His focus was on the raising of an additional corps in the North-East that has been on the drawing board for some time now. It has got a denomination (17 Corps) and the skeleton is in place. This constitutes good news since its raising has been pushed by defence experts and analysts as imperative to cover strategic gaps in the nations defence in the sensitive area. Other points covered by the COAS were the strides being made by the army in the domain of human resource management where the thrust has been on work culture and maintaining the secular profile of the force. The chief also stressed upon the importance of “jointness” in the evolving strategic thought process globally and the efforts made by the army in this direction.

Major issues came up during the question and answer session. As is usual, it was on the issue of security in Jammu and Kashmir that the maximum questions were fielded. With regard to continued Chinese belligerence along the line of actual control the COAS said that the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement signed by the two countries recently would strengthen existing mechanisms and interface at the theatre level. When asked to elaborate on the crucial aspect of an imbalance in infrastructure between India and China in the border regions the COAS tacitly admitted to the need for more effort in this direction and added that a plan has been submitted to the government whereby development of infrastructure would be outsourced. Efforts are also being made to enhance the capability of the Army’s Border Roads Organisation.

The Looming Narco-State in Afghanistan

Afghan farmers are growing more opium today than at any time in recent memory, according to America’s watchdog in the country.
JAN 15 2014

Afghan farmers work at a poppy field in Jalalabad province, on May 5, 2012. (Reuters/Parwiz)

Testifying Wednesday before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, offered a grim assessment of the war-torn country—and revealed startling details about America’s hapless reconstruction efforts there.

Few have a job as challenging as Sopko’s. As the inspector general, he must study our actions and spending, and uncover and investigate examples of fraud, waste, abuse, and corruption. Since the U.S. has spent the last 12 years blasting dollars into Afghanistan, “following the money” is a task on the order of investigating grains of sand in the desert. Still, Sopko and his team have proven to be uncompromising, inexhaustible, and enormously effective. His office is independent; he is not beholden to the usual feudal lords in Washington. As Congress has decided to sit this war out, Sopko has proven to be the conflict’s only real oversight mechanism.

Since taking charge in 2012, he’s uncovered everything from $230 million in missing spare parts to spending on diesel running $500 per gallon (when the going rate was around $5 per gallon). Thanks to Sopko, American taxpayers learned that they bought $200,000 thermostats for air conditioners in a small medical clinic that was never completed—and according to the Afghan government, was probably never going to be used. And that’s just in the areas to which he has access. Because of security concerns, by next year his office will be restricted to a mere 21 percent of the country.

And according to Sopko’s congressional testimony, things are bad. Really bad.

Since the fall of the Taliban government at the start of the war, the United States has invested $10 billion to fight the Afghan drug trade, through efforts such as ending poppy cultivation, halting the manufacture of narcotics, establishing drug treatment programs, and building a robust counternarcotics police force and criminal justice system. This might be money well spent, as 90 percent of the world’s opium originates in Afghanistan. No effort to build a stable nation there can succeed amid the hurricane forces of financial and institutional corruption that come with a thriving drug trade.“More land in Afghanistan is under poppy cultivation today than it was when the United States overthrew the Taliban in 2002.”

North East Asia Strategically Notices India

Paper 5635 Dated 16-Jan-2014
By Dr Subhash Kapila

North East Asia is a strategically significant region which earlier experienced intense Cold War confrontations and is now witnessing the unfolding of possibly a new more intense Cold War, this time between China and the United States and in both cases Japan and South Korea are significant regional players on this chessboard.

With China looming large as a threat perception in varying shades in North East Asia and in Asia as a whole, India stands strategically noticed by the two prominent regional actors, namely Japan and South Korea, possibly because India’s power differentials with China are not too wide and Japan- India and South Korea-India have enough strategic convergences.

Strategically, it is naïve as some believe in India that there is some concept as ‘strategic non-alignment’ and that it can be pursued as India’s overall strategy in global power-politics. India has to realise that even without entering into military alliances strategic space exists to practise ‘balance of power’ politics. Asian security demands that with the United States obsessed with ‘China Hedging Strategy’, it is the Asian powers themselves which have to formulate ‘balance of power’ strategies as deterrence against any threats to Asian security and stability.

Japan and South Korea in recent times have forged ‘Strategic Partnerships’ with India whose significance and import has not been lost on China This stands evident from two recent newspaper articles by the Chinese Ambassador which indirectly reflect concerns at Japan and South Korea reinforcing strategic partnerships with India and highlighting that India conversely has more to gain strategically from China.

Significantly, the onset of 2014 witnesses India hosting visits of its North East Asia ‘Strategic Partners’ to New Delhi for apex level political discussions and meetings. The South Korean President Park Geun-hye is currently on a state visit to India heading a large delegation for substantive discussions on reinforcing further strategic and defence ties besides economic relations. South Korea is expected to make a bid for construction of nuclear reactors in India in which field it has good experience. South Korea also has figured as an economic power-house and has a thriving defence industry.

China Confirms Hypersonic Missile Test

January 17, 2014

China’s Ministry of National Defense confirmed the ultra-high speed missile test, but said it wasn’t directed at the US.

China has confirmed it conducted a hypersonic missile test last week, but is downplaying its significance and implications.

As my colleague Ankit wrote earlier this week, “Last week, the Chinese military successfully concluded the first test flight of a hypersonic missile vehicle.” The test was first reported by the Washington Free Beacon, which quoted U.S. military and defense officials.

On Thursday China Daily reported “The Ministry of National Defense issued a statement on Wednesday dismissing media reports that China’s recent ultra-high speed missile test flight was aimed at delivering warheads through the missile defenses of the United States.”

It went on to quote the Ministry of National Defense as saying: “It is normal for China to conduct scientific experiments within its borders according to its plans. The tests were not aimed at any nation nor any specific target.” The report didn’t specify whether the MND judged the test to be successful or not.

The Washington Free Beacon article said that China had developed the missile in order to get pass U.S. missile defenses. Hypersonic missiles pose immense challenges to current missile defense technologies because of their speed, maneuverability and the fact that they travel at lower altitudes than ballistic missiles.

However, Chinese military analysts offered different reasons for America’s concern. One analyst said that the U.S. was concerned about the test because of a lack of mutual strategic trust between the U.S. and Chinese militaries. He added that these mutual misperceptions could be corrected through talks.

A different Chinese defense analyst dismissed U.S. criticism outright on account of the fact that the U.S. spends more on its military than China. “There is no need for the U.S. or any other country to worry about the development of the Chinese military, given that China’s military expenditure is much lower than that of the U.S.,” said Li Qingkong, deputy secretary-general of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies.

They didn’t need to convince Admiral Samuel Locklear, the head of U.S. Pacific Command. In characteristic fashion, Admiral Locklear downplayed the significance of the test, saying he was not particularly concernedabout the hypersonic missile, or about China’s growing military capabilities more generally. Instead, he said that the U.S. should encourage China to “come into the security environment as a productive member,” adding “I think we should be more optimistic about the future of China.” He did caution: “It doesn’t mean we should be Pollyannaish either.”

He may be missed

Israel needed—and still needs—a man like Ariel Sharon to bludgeon a path to peace
Jan 18th 2014 

HOW strange that a man widely reviled for most of his adult life as a warmonger, even by many of his fellow Israelis, might have been the one to bring about a lasting peace between Jews and Arabs—and a proper state for Palestine—had he survived in fair health for another five years or so as prime minister. Ariel Sharon, who died on January 11th after lying in a coma for eight years following a stroke that struck him down at the height of his political powers, was a man of moral as well as physical courage. He was a man of vision, too—an example to the current prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

For many years Mr Sharon saw Israel as a fortress to be defended so ferociously that no Arab could hope to destroy it. When, as prime minister, he dramatically changed tack by deciding to evacuate the Gaza Strip, evicting thousands of Jewish settlers for whom he had previously been the doughtiest champion, he faced down Israel’s hard right. It was an act of courage as well as pragmatism. At the time he sought to persuade the outraged settlers and their influential lobby that he would not then proceed to wrest the West Bank from their grip, handing it back to the Palestinians as the basis of their state. But he might well have changed his mind on this score, too (see article and our obituary).

The dilemma Mr Sharon had the courage to confront in 2005 is the same one that Mr Netanyahu (and too many of Israel’s supporters in America’s Congress) keep on running away from. If Israel is to remain a democracy, it cannot indefinitely occupy the West Bank while also denying the Palestinians full political rights in a Greater Israel. Yet a Palestinian majority—and the demography is heading that way—would mean the end of Israel as a predominantly Jewish state. If Israel wants to remain both Jewish and a democracy, the only workable alternative is to give the Palestinians a state of their own, thereby accepting that Israel must vacate most of that hallowed land on the West Bank. Giving up Gaza was the first step.

Rand Paul on Diplomacy

January 16, 2014

When I was about ten years old, I used to play chess with an old Ukrainian named Pete Karpenko. Captain Pete, as we called him, told us stories of fighting the Bolsheviks when he was fourteen years old. He and his family were little more than peasants but they resisted the idea of collective farming. He fought with the White Army against the Bolsheviks, and fled when the communists won. Fifty-five years later, he was still afraid to return to the Soviet Union. So, it's easy to understand that around my house, we had little use for communists or their sympathizers.

Like many conservative middle-class families, our inclination was to resist anything to do with Red China. In that black and white world, you were either for us or against us. Trade with China was thought to be trade with the enemy. A funny thing happened, though, along the way. Many conservatives came to understand a larger truth. As trade began to blossom with China, many conservatives, myself included, came to admit that trade improves our economic well-being AND makes us less likely to fight. The success of trade with China made many conservatives rethink their view of the world.

People sometimes ask me what my worldview is. My response is that even if you've crisscrossed the globe, I'm not sure that the world doesn't change by the time you return to the same spot twice. I really am a believer that foreign policy must be viewed by events as they present themselves, not as we wish them to be.

A few years ago, I read a review of John Gaddis' biography of George Kennan. I laughed when I read that Dr. Gaddis promised Kennan not to publish it until after his death. And that twenty years later Gaddis' students were jokingly wondering who might die first. I loved the book. To me, containment is not a dead letter. I look at the worldwide menace of radical jihad and I think we need a long-term vigilance like containment.

Kennan believed that there is "distinction between vital and peripheral interests." I couldn't agree more. Politicians vaguely understand that they must assert a national-security interest before launching war, but asserting a national-security interest doesn't necessarily make it so.

To me, the assertion of a vital interest is the beginning of the debate, not the end.

When the President came to us to try to convince the Senate to support a military engagement with Syria, he acknowledged that any national-security interest was ambiguous at best. Because of the demand, by many of us, for more debate a diplomatic solution arose that may well do something that no military strike could perform—remove the chemical weapons. The Syrian chemical-weapons solution could be exactly what we need to resolve the standoff in Iran and North Korea. By leveraging our relationship with China, we should be able to influence the behavior of North Korea. Likewise, we should be engaging the Russians to assist us with the Syrians and the Iranians.

The Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations

Aiming "Low" or "High"
Author: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
Download Now
PublisherCouncil on Foreign Relations Press
Release DateJanuary 2014
Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 40

The Obama administration is fostering Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at a full and final peace agreement. While the talks last they help calm the regional political situation, but they do nothing to improve Palestinian daily life or help build the institutions of a future Palestinian state. If they fail, as all past efforts have, they may leave behind frustration and bitterness. Even so, negotiations should not be abandoned, but should be buttressed by a simultaneous effort to undertake pragmatic steps that support Palestinian institutions, improve life in the West Bank, and strengthen the Palestinian Authority (PA) against Hamas. While today's political-level peace negotiations can provide an essential umbrella for such steps, focusing solely on achieving a full "final status agreement" is too risky. Practical "on-the-ground" improvements are beneficial in themselves and can improve chances for an eventual negotiated settlement. Moreover, because such steps do not violate the interests of the Israeli or Palestinian sides, they can be pursued without continuing the top-level U.S. intervention that other and often higher U.S. policy priorities may require.

The Cost of "Aiming High"

At least since the Oslo Accords in 1993, Washington has sought to broker a comprehensive peace agreement to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflict. Those efforts have failed, and they have damaged the prestige of both U.S. administrations and Palestinian leaders. Had the moderate leadership that emerged under President Mahmoud Abbas and former prime minister Salam Fayyad achieved a peace agreement and created a Palestinian state, it would have been greatly strengthened vis-à-vis Hamas and other terrorist groups. When this failed to occur, the PA's main argument against Hamas—that Hamas could only deliver violence, while they could deliver a state—was weakened.

The United States has contributed to this problem by "aiming high." The cost of Washington's focus on a comprehensive agreement has been that it has rarely pushed hard for immediate, on-the-ground changes that would be meaningful to Palestinians—such as more jobs in Israel or more control over larger areas of the West Bank. Such changes do not reflect a lack of ambition or vision; rather, they can be characterized as "preparing for statehood," and would suggest to Palestinians that their affairs are being competently handled by the current leadership and that they have much to lose from the violent actions and extreme politics of terrorist groups. The United States can, as a matter of policy, seek both a long-term, comprehensive deal and take incremental, preparatory steps. But top officials have limited time and energy, and focusing on the former has crowded out the latter.

America's Secret War in 134 Countries

January 17, 2014

They operate in the green glow of night vision in Southwest Asia and stalk through the jungles of South America. They snatch men from their homes in the Maghreb and shoot it out with heavily armed militants in the Horn of Africa. They feel the salty spray while skimming over the tops of waves from the turquoise Caribbean to the deep blue Pacific. They conduct missions in the oppressive heat of Middle Eastern deserts and the deep freeze of Scandinavia. All over the planet, the Obama administration is waging a secret war whose full extent has never been fully revealed -- until now.

Since September 11, 2001, U.S. Special Operations forces have grown in every conceivable way, from their numbers to their budget. Most telling, however, has been the exponential rise in special ops deployments globally. This presence -- now, in nearly 70% of the world's nations -- provides new evidence of the size and scope of a secret war being waged from Latin America to the backlands of Afghanistan, from training missions with African allies to information operations launched in cyberspace.

In the waning days of the Bush presidency, Special Operations forces were reportedly deployed in about 60 countries around the world. By 2010, that number had swelled to 75, according to Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post. In 2011, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told TomDispatch that the total would reach 120. Today, that figure has risen higher still.

In 2013, elite U.S. forces were deployed in 134 countries around the globe, according to Major Matthew Robert Bockholt of SOCOM Public Affairs. This 123% increase during the Obama years demonstrates how, in addition to conventional wars and a CIA drone campaign, public diplomacy and extensive electronic spying, the U.S. has engaged in still another significant and growing form of overseas power projection. Conducted largely in the shadows by America's most elite troops, the vast majority of these missions take place far from prying eyes, media scrutiny, or any type of outside oversight, increasing the chances of unforeseen blowback and catastrophic consequences.

Growth Industry

Formally established in 1987, Special Operations Command has grown steadily in the post-9/11 era. SOCOM is reportedly on track to reach 72,000 personnel in 2014, up from 33,000 in 2001. Funding for the command has also jumped exponentially as its baseline budget, $2.3 billion in 2001, hit $6.9 billion in 2013 ($10.4 billion, if you add in supplemental funding). Personnel deployments abroad have skyrocketed, too, from 4,900 "man-years" in 2001 to 11,500 in 2013.

A recent investigation by TomDispatch, using open source government documents and news releases as well as press reports, found evidence that U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed in or involved with the militaries of 106 nations around the world in 2012-2013. For more than a month during the preparation of that article, however, SOCOM failed to provide accurate statistics on the total number of countries to which special operators -- Green Berets and Rangers, Navy SEALs and Delta Force commandos, specialized helicopter crews, boat teams, and civil affairs personnel -- were deployed. "We don't just keep it on hand," SOCOM's Bockholt explained in a telephone interview once the article had been filed. "We have to go searching through stuff. It takes a long time to do that." Hours later, just prior to publication, he provided an answer to a question I first asked in November of last year. "SOF [Special Operations forces] were deployed to 134 countries" during fiscal year 2013, Bockholt explained in an email.

Elections Don't Matter, Institutions Do

Many years ago, I visited Four Corners in the American Southwest. This is a small stone monument on a polished metal platform where four states meet. You can walk around the monument in the space of a few seconds and stand in four states: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. People lined up to do this and have their pictures taken by excited relatives. To walk around the monument is indeed a thrill, because each of these four states has a richly developed tradition and identity that gives these borders real meaning. And yet no passports or customs police are required to go from one state to the other.

Well, of course that's true, they're only states, not countries, you might say. But the fact that my observation is a dull commonplace doesn't make it any less amazing. To be sure, it makes it more amazing. For as the late Harvard Professor Samuel P. Huntington once remarked, the genius of the American system lies less in its democracy per se than in its institutions. The federal and state system featuring 50 separate identities and bureaucracies, each with definitive land borders -- that nevertheless do not conflict with each other -- is unique in political history. And this is not to mention the thousands of counties and municipalities in America with their own sovereign jurisdictions. Many of the countries I have covered as a reporter in the troubled and war-torn developing world would be envious of such an original institutional arrangement for governing an entire continent.

In fact, Huntington's observation can be expanded further: The genius of Western civilization in general is that of institutions. Sure, democracy is a basis for this; but democracy is, nevertheless, a separate factor. For enlightened dictatorships in Asia have built robust, meritocratic institutions whereas weak democracies in Africa have not.

Institutions are such a mundane element of Western civilization that we tend to take them for granted. But as I've indicated, in many places I have worked and lived, that is not the case. Getting a permit or a simple document is not a matter of waiting in line for a few minutes, but of paying bribes and employing fixers. We take our running water and dependable electric current for granted, but those are amenities missing from many countries and regions because of the lack of competent institutions to manage such infrastructure. Having a friend or a relative working in the IRS is not going to save you from paying taxes, but such a situation is a rarity elsewhere. Successful institutions treat everyone equally and impersonally. This is not the case in Russia orPakistan or Nigeria.

Of course, Americans may complain about poor rail service and deteriorating infrastructure and bureaucracies, especially in inner cities, but it is important to realize that we are, nevertheless, complaining on the basis of a very high standard relative to much of the developing world.

Institutions, or the lack of them, explain much that has happened in the world in recent decades. Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Central Europe went on to build functioning democracies and economies. With all of their problems and challenges, the Baltic states, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary have not fared badly and in some cases have been rousing success stories. This is because these societies boast high literacy rates among both men and women and have a tradition of modern bourgeois culture prior to World War II and communism. And it is literacy and middle class culture that are the building blocks of successful institutions. Institutions after all require bureaucrats, who must, in turn, be literate and familiar with the impersonal workings of modern organizations.