3 November 2014

Time to bury Article 370

Nov 03, 2014

If at any stage now or later the BJP attains its 44-plus target in the Assembly, Article 370 could be given a fitting burial by a suitable resolution passed by the state Assembly

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for public debate on Article 370 and not for it being struck down as such. A decision on this controversial issue should be taken through a democratic process.

We need to discuss the origin and history of Article 370. All the 555 Princely States in India and the seven in Pakistan joined their respective Dominion after Partition. They, word by word, signed the same Instrument of Accession drafted before Independence. Kashmir was the only state in which accession became conditional. The state’s accession was limited to only defence, foreign relations, communications and currency. The rulers of Princely States were required to decide to which Dominion their state would accede. The Indian Independence Act of 1947 did not stipulate for the people of the state to have any say in the matter. Muhammad Ali Jinnah supported this. His hidden agenda was to acquire Hyderabad, the richest and the largest Princely State of the size of France, and some other Princely States with Muslim rulers, like Bhopal. The Indian National Congress before Independence wanted the people of the state rather than the ruler to decide the future status of the state. Jinnah hoped Pakistan would get both Hyderabad and Kashmir, the former on legal grounds, and Kashmir, due to geographical compulsions, would fall like a ripe plum into his lap.

Maharaja Hari Singh had a Hobson’s choice. He realised that being a Hindu, he would have no future in Pakistan. He also realised that if he acceded to India, his future would be no different. He had detained Jawaharlal Nehru at the border, preventing him from entering the state to defend his friend, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, facing trial in a court of law. He vacillated and toyed with the idea of becoming an independent ruler. Impatient at the delay in the maharaja taking a decision, Jinnah ordered an invasion of Kashmir on October 22, 1947, led by Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan of the Pakistan Army. The invading force comprised thousands of tribal Lashkars and Pakistan Army personnel in civvies. Overcoming brave resistance of meagre state forces, the enemy reached Baramulla on October 25. Srinagar was now defenceless. Maharaja Hari Singh fled to Jammu. It was in these circumstances that the maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession, on the afternoon of October 26, 1947. He was like a drowning man needing immediate succour and in no position to lay down conditions for his accession of the state. No other ruler had signed the Instrument of Accession when he was in such a desperate position. Yet in his letter to Lord Mountbatten he stated that his accession would be confined to defence, foreign affairs, communications and currency only. He also stated that he would immediately hand over power to Sheikh Abdullah, his bitter opponent who had launched the Quit Kashmir movement against him. He knew that unless he did so Nehru would not accept his accession. As for making the accession conditional, he had no axe to grind.

During that critical period Sheikh Abdullah was staying with Nehru in Delhi. Possibly the Sheikh exploited his close friendship with a trusting, visionary and idealistic friend. Jawaharlal and the Congress had lost the war for secularism when undivided India was partitioned. Nehru now hoped to win the battle for secularism in Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah came out in his true colours in 1953 when he was found negotiating with the US ambassador in India to have an independent Kashmir. He had to be dismissed and held in detention for several years.

Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the principal drafter of our Constitution, refused to draft any special concessions for Kashmir without the latter fully reciprocating. He told Sheikh Abdullah, “I, as the law minister of India, will never do it.” Nehru then commissioned N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar to draft a special Article for Kashmir. He said there were ongoing military operations in Kashmir and the issue had been referred to the United Nations and, hence, special provisions were necessary for Kashmir. Accordingly Ayyangar drafted Article 370 and persuaded Ambedkar and Sardar Patel not to raise any objection. Sheikh Abdullah took full advantage of Article 370 to impose various conditions. Indians visiting Kashmir had to take a permit from their district magistrate. This was almost like getting a visa to go to a foreign country. The Indian national flag was not to be flown in Kashmir and no Indian could buy immovable property in Kashmir although Kashmiris could do so in the rest of India. Even the 30,000 Hindu and Sikh refugees coming out of West Pakistan to Jammu area were not given full citizenship. They cannot vote in state elections, acquire immovable property or get government service in the state or their children admission in state government technical colleges.

India and the state of Palestine

Nov 03, 2014

India has a representative mission but not a formal embassy in Ramallah. It should now raise the status of the office to an embassy. Such a move would be entirely in keeping with the country’s long-standing support for the Palestinian cause.

Last week, the Swedish government chose to grant formal recognition to a Palestinian state. Such a move was not entirely surprising. In the wake of the Gaza war, the stalled peace process and steady Israeli expansion of settlements in Jerusalem and not to mention the intransigence of certain members of the current Israeli Cabinet, the possibility of a two-state solution to this enduring conflict seems increasingly remote. The Swedish decision came not long after a non-binding resolution passed in the British House of Commons calling for the recognition of a Palestinian state. Both these moves indicate a growing international concern about the near moribund state of the peace process.

Given the recent vote in the House of Commons and the Swedish decision India may now wish to accord full diplomatic recognition to the Palestinians. Currently, India has a representative mission but not a formal embassy in Ramallah. It should now raise the status of the office to an embassy. Such a move would be entirely in keeping with the country’s long-standing support for the Palestinian cause. It would also signal that India is willing and able to bear some costs as it seeks to play a wider global role.

What could be the possible arguments against such a move? Two immediately come to mind and need to be addressed forthrightly. First, it would obviously cause some strain in Indo-Israeli relations. However, since India’s rather belated decision to grant full diplomatic status to Israel in 1992, the relationship, with some inevitable hiccups, has flourished. Today it is a genuinely multi-faceted relationship extending from substantial people-to-people contacts to extensive defence cooperation. Consequently, even if there is some immediate heartburn in Tel Aviv with this decision, it is unlikely to sour India’s long-term ties with Israel.

Second, it could be argued that such a move is entirely premature. Some may well argue that at this juncture it is far from clear what will constitute the geographic boundaries of the Palestinian state. This argument, though superficially appealing, is not with much merit. The final status of the Palestinian state and its exact territorial contours, it is hoped, could be arrived at after the conclusion of bilateral talks. However, given the distressing state of the negotiations granting full diplomatic recognition to Palestine may contribute to a renewed momentum to the talks. This is especially the case because India, unlike a host of other states, does matter to Israel. After an initial pique, even hardline elements within the current government in Israel would pay heed to India’s decision. It may not spur them to take prompt action but could at least have the effect of forcing a reconsideration of their present stance of stonewalling any meaningful discussions with the Palestinians. It could also be noted

that if Palestine does not have defined international boundaries, of necessity neither does Israel, yet that fact does not prevent it from being recognised as a state in the international community.

The road to ultra-populism

November 3, 2014 

In each South Asian country, the no-go areas of discourse are proliferating rather than decreasing as the state establishments deploy ultra-populism. In response, the intelligentsia cowers and ‘opinion-makers’ are dehumanised as they take to weighing what to say and what to leave unsaid

The making and the public screening of “Haider” as a mainstream film was unexpected for observers of the contemporary Indian polity, at this time of a surge in Hindutva-spiked nationalism. Top-line cinematographers, stars, lyricists and promoters participated in a production that questioned New Delhi’s record in the Kashmir Valley, with onscreen characters even challenging the infamous Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). The film was not alternative cinema and has had a full run in multiplexes all over despite denouncements from some quarters.

Yet, with all other indicators pointing to a political constriction of cultural space, it would be misplaced to read “Haider” as representing a trend towards openness. Long before Narendra Modi turned up on the national radar screen, jingoism was already on the rise and it seems set to escalate. By and large, littérateurs, academics and media commentators have gone silent on critical issues rather than trying to maintain elbow room.

India is the largest and most anchored democracy around, and its shift towards a closed society portends a perilous journey for South Asia as a whole. It also has global implications.


New countries tend to be more nationalistic than older ones, and South Asia is bubbling with the incipient patriotisms of its newborn nation-states, all less than seven decades old (other than Nepal, which goes back a couple of centuries). Rather than evolve through the historical push-and-pull of power and politics, the countries were defined amid the hurried manipulations of the departing colonial. They were then required to construct their separate nationalisms, and the capital elites of India, Pakistan and Ceylon were more than happy to fill the shoes of Mountbatten.

There was and is the contradiction of trying to force-fit a demographically layered and syncretistic subcontinent into the Westphalian nation-state, rather than devise workable formulae within that format. The new nationalisms of South Asia tended towards xenophobic and “ultra,” with a need to build external enemies and “foreign hands” in order to manage schisms. The more diverse the country, the more the need for centralised mono-nationalism.

“As the largest and most anchored democracy around, India’s shift towards a closed society portends a perilous journey for South Asia as a whole”

India and Pakistan, as the two largest, are curious nation-states for the many large nations they subsume. Because of this, both Islamabad and New Delhi are riding the tiger, with no politician daring to tinker with the given superstructure. But the choice is stark, to turn autocratic or to devolve federally, the latter presenting a viable path for the people to achieve their genius within the nation-state.

Mr. Modi, arriving in New Delhi as the outsider from Gujarat, should understand the need to allow the play of sub-nationalism. However, the new Prime Minister’s instinct seems to tilt towards centralised command-and-control, which can hardly inspire the diverse, populous, extra-large India we know.

It’s now easier for citizens to sue China government

Nov 3, 2014

This will lead to a major change in the ground situation as many people do not dare to take government departments to court even if they have serious grouses over official decisions concerning their life and property.

BEIJING: China is making it easier for people to sue the government. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress accepted an amendment to the Administrative Procedure Law on Saturday, allowing courts to launch proceedings whenever government departments are sued for violating agreements on land, housing compensation or commercial operations franchised by the government. 

This will lead to a major change in the ground situation as many people do not dare to take government departments to court even if they have serious grouses over official decisions concerning their life and property. 

Cases involving rights infringement will also be accepted by courts, it said. Actionable cases will no longer be confined to "specific administrative acts," which in practice is an excuse for courts to throw out cases. 

The courts threw out 65% of the cases filed against government agencies in 2012, according to a survey conducted by Xiu Fujin, a member of the Standing Committee of the NPC. 

Officials are now expected to appear in court in person whenever their actions are challenged instead of hiding behind a public prosecutor. They might face additional punishment if they fail to appear in court without providing legitimate reason. 

Government officials may also be fined or detained if they "force" a plaintiff to withdraw the suit through illegal means such as threats or fraud. Members of the Standing Committee of the NPC said the amendment is in line with the reality of present situation in the area of administrative litigation. 

"Having them appear in court will also promote officials' awareness of the rule of law," the local media quoted Jiang Ming'an, a professor in Peking University, as saying. 

Bai Zhijian, an NPC Standing Committee member, told Xinhua news agency that the revised law will help protect the rights and interests of citizens.

Afghanistan before and after the exit

After the last of the troops leave, the population left behind will be hoping that the West, facing a new conflict in Syria and Iraq, keeps its promises to Afghanistan

Kim Sengupta

PLEASE don't call it our Dien Bien Phu,” Lieutenant Colonel Simon Winkworth, of the Royal Engineers, requested as we gazed out onto a desolate expanse of scrub and sand on which he was going to build Camp Bastion. There were reasons for optimism on that February day, eight years ago, that Britain's Helmand force would not suffer the same fate as the French in Vietnam when a prolonged siege of that base effectively brought their occupation of Vietnam to an end.

The British would not underestimate the enemy as the French had done, we were assured. And John Reid, the then Defence Secretary, stated, when the mission was announced by Tony Blair's government, that it would last no more than two years and end, he hoped, “without a shot being fired” in anger.

End to Britain’s Afghan war
US Marines lower their flag at the handover ceremony. On October 26, the control of the last base was handed over to Afghan forces.

On October 26, 2014, the Union flag was lowered for the last time in Camp Bastion, bringing an end to Britain’s Afghan war after 13 years, three weeks and five days. Although the invasion following 9/11 was in 2001, for the UK the war really started in 2006. Until then, five members of the forces had been killed in total, three from suicide, accidental firearms discharge and a homicide respectively. The death toll today is 453; meanwhile around eight million rounds had been fired in combat; and the financial cost of the mission is over £40bn. The US has supplanted the UK as the main combat force in Helmand over the past few years, and the main handover ceremony to the Afghan army's 215 corps was very much an American and Afghan affair. It was held at Camp Leatherneck, the US camp adjoining Bastion; the speech by Lieutenant-General Joseph Anderson, commander of Regional Command South West made only a passing reference to the UK's contribution in the conflict, focusing instead on those of the Afghan forces and the US Marines.

The senior British officer present, Brigadier Rob Thompson, spoke of the allies helping “Afghanistan get itself back on its feet” and the creation of the “opportunity now for the Afghan leadership to get into the fast lane and move ahead”. He stressed that “we need to get the story into 2014 space and not 2006 space. Don't see Helmand in a lens shaped by 2006. In Lashkar Gar today, you could easily go down the street. I have seen children playing chicken in the street. I have seen policemen at checkpoints.”

In reality all those things could be done and seen in Lashkar Gar, the Helmand capital, in 2006 — before the arrival of the UK task force. At the time, my colleagues and I stayed in a guest house in the city, shopped and drank chai in the bazaar: I accompanied the British commander running a small team, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Worsley, as he went in "soft-skin" Land-Rovers to meet imams and elders in village shuras without body armour and helmets.

The suicide attack

Then came the first suicide attack in Lashkar Gar. The American private security company, DynCorp, had started carrying out poppy eradication in Helmand, and their contractors took to visiting their former colleagues in the US military at the Lashkar Gar base. A car packed with explosives followed them and drove into the main gate.

One of the reasons for making Helmand the location of the UK force, the Government said, was to tackle the poppy harvest: 90 per cent of the heroin on the streets of Britain came from the province, which was responsible for 25 per cent of Afghanistan's opium crop. Sher Mohammed Akhundzada, the governor, was one of the main druglords; the British insisted on his removal, much to President Hamid Karzai's chagrin. Helmand now produces 52 per cent of the Afghan crop. The British military were extremely wary about getting involved in creating another tier of enemy among farmers whose livelihood depended on the crop. As I was leaving Lashkar Gar to fly up to Kabul that February, Lt Col Worsley asked: “Are you going to the British embassy in Kabul? If you are, can you ask them what exactly is the HMG policy on poppy eradication? No one has told us.”

By the summer of 2006, the British had more than poppies to worry about. Helmand was aflame, pitted with lots of mini Dien Bien Phus where small UK units were besieged in their bases by the Taliban.

China overtakes the US

It is now the largest economy in the world. Should we worry?

Pritam Singh

Taxis on the street in Hong Kong. The earlier models of development cannot be repeated in the emerging economies such as China and India. Thinkstock

WHAT was earlier anticipated by many observers, including this writer, regarding the rise of China as the largest national economy in the world is official now. The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) data has confirmed that China with 17.6 trillion dollars Gross Domestic Product (GDP) now has a 16.47% share of the global GDP and the US at the number two position with a 16.28% share. Between them, these two countries now have one-third of the entire world's GDP. India, which overtook Japan as the third largest economy in 2011, is way behind in its share at 6.81 per cent of the world GDP. The ten largest economies in the world now are (in the descending order): China, the US, India, Japan, Germany, Russia, Brazil, France, Indonesia and the UK.

America has been the most dominant national economy in the world for 142 years. It overtook the UK as the largest economy in 1872. It seems that if the 19th century was a British century, the 20th century a US century, the 21st century is likely to be an Asian or, to be more exact, a Chinese century. America's decline has been slowly in the making but the financial crisis since 2007-08 has precipitated that relative decline. The American intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq has further put strain on US resources despite some American corporations winning energy, military and construction projects in these countries.

China's rise has been phenomenal. In 1980, China' share of the global GDP was merely 2% (lower than even India's 2.40%) while America' share was 22.6% which went up to 23.3% (nearly one fourth of the world GDP) in 2000. China's dominance is not confined merely to a top place in the GDP ranking. China is also the largest exporter in the world. It is also the largest importer of many commodities, and it is able to use that economic clout to be a price setter of many products. China holds the world's largest trade and current account surpluses, is the owner of a third of the world's currency reserves and holds the world's largest flow of savings. As the owner of the world's largest dollar reserves, although it owes that position to its exports to the US, it holds the US fate in its hands. China is the biggest trading partner in Africa and has a huge foothold in Latin America, Europe, Middle East and South and South East Asia.

Many observers had found it odd that when the IMF first presented data a few months ago which suggested that China would overtake the US as the largest national economy in the world by the end of 2014, China protested against the IMF estimates. China's protest related to the use of the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) method used by the IMF to estimate the GDP of all countries rather than using the current exchange rates to measure the GDP. It is true that at current exchange rates, China's GDP is lower than the USA's but due to differences in costs of living in different countries, the PPP method is internationally accepted as a better measure of comparing GDPs of different countries. China has finally accepted the IMF estimates. Any other emerging economy in the world, including India, would have celebrated with great fanfare if that economy had reported to have achieved the number one GDP slot but China seems to be reluctant to accept that status. Chinese reluctance is based on the astute realisation that becoming the world's top GDP economy carries many global governance responsibilities too. The recent criticism of China's disproportionately low commitment to fighting the Ebola virus in Africa has brought into sharp focus the responsibilities that accompany the power that comes with achieving the top economy status.

China's rise to GDP dominance is a reflection of a wider structural change taking place in global capitalism. The advanced capitalist economies have been in crisis since 2007-08. Although most recently there have been signs of recovery in the US and the UK mainly reflected through the decline in unemployment, the new jobs that are being created are low wage, generally with very low job security and most often part time in nature. In contrast with that the leading emerging economies have shown reasonable rates of growth. No doubt, per capita income in the advanced economies still remains significantly higher than that in the emerging economies.

India-China Border Standoff: High in the Mountains, Thousands of Troops Go Toe-to-Toe

Biggest Border Clashes in Decades a Sign of Growing Friction Between World’s Most-Populous Countries

Oct. 30, 2014

Friction along India’s long and disputed border with China has sparked a road-building effort to make it easier for the Indian army to move troops and equipment to contested areas. WSJ's Gordon Fairclough reports.

KORZOK, India—It was dusk when the herdsmen reached their Himalayan village bearing ominous news: They had spotted dozens of camouflage-clad Chinese soldiers inside territory India considers its own.

Indian security forces poured in, beginning a face-off last monththat grew to involve more than 1,000 troops on each side at an altitude of roughly 15,000 feet, according to Indian officials, making it the biggest border confrontation between the two nations in decades.

The mountain standoff lasted weeks and at times involved tense shoving-and-shouting matches, according to Indian border-patrol troopers who participated. Both armies called in helicopters. The scale and duration of the clash are signs of mounting friction between the world’s two most-populous countries.

“The Chinese have become more aggressive,” said Jayadeva Ranadé, a member of India’s National Security Advisory Board. “They were trying to send a message that they can pressure us at a time and place of their choosing.”

Beijing says its forces didn’t cross the “line of actual control”—a boundary that has separated the two sides since a 1962 border war and whose exact location remains a subject of bitter dispute—and played down the encounter’s significance.

Without a clearly demarcated border, “it is quite natural for some incidents to happen,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Geng Yansheng said afterward at a news briefing in Beijing.

Locals were caught in the middle. “Everybody was worried and asking if we should stay or go,” said Gyaltsan Tsering, the headman of Chumar, a village near the standoff. “We were afraid hostilities would break out.”

Should India give up on the UNSC?

31 OCTOBER 2014, 

Despite staking a claim to permanent UN Security Council membership 60 years ago, India is no closer to that goal. While conflict zones remain in Africa and Asia, economic might has shifted eastwards. The West-dominated UNSC is becoming irrelevant. If India becomes a permanent member, can it influence the council’s ethos?

In his address to the 69th United Nations General Assembly on September 27, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to “make it more democratic and participative.” It was a thinly-veiled call for India to be made a permanent member.

Modi reiterated that India was one of the founding members of the UN in 1945, and urged that the reforms be carried out in time for the international organisation’s 70th anniversary next year. He highlighted the fact that institutions must reflect 21st century realities or risk irrelevance—a challenge the UN is already failing to meet.

The UNSC is the most important organ of the United Nations. It decides issues of war and peace, and has a total of 15 members. Of these, the five permanent members wield veto powers: U.S., Russia, UK, and France—the victors of World War II—and late entrant China.

Since 1945, the UNSC has been reformed only once, in 1963, to expand the number of non-permanent non-veto empowered members from six to 10. This does not reflect even the most basic realities of a world in which the population has grown from 2.3 billion, when the UN was established, to over 7 billion now, and the number of UN member countries has almost quadrupled from 51 to 193.

Since 1955, India has claimed permanent representation in the UNSC. In later years, two of the defeated former powers, Japan and Germany, have also staked a similar claim, as has emerging power Brazil. Numerous other countries also remain claimants to UNSC seats—including two (unnamed so far) from the African Union and an Arab/Islamic country

It is unacceptable that India, with a population of 1.2 billion, a $2 trillion economy, the third largest country in terms of purchasing power parity, a nuclear weapons power with the third largest standing army in the world, and a major contributor to the UN’s peacekeeping missions, is not a member of the UNSC—that too when economically and morally exhausted nations like France and UK remain on the council.

Many spoilers without credible claims of their own are committed to derailing the chances of neighbours and rivals. But it is the opposition from the Uniting for Consensus (that includes Italy, Mexico and Pakistan—called the “Coffee Club” by UN diplomats) as well as the reluctance of existing members that has confounded the reform.

India’s new government has taken up the issue not only in the General Assembly, but also at summit-level interactions with the U.S. and China. After Modi’s White House meetings in September, President Barack Obama expressed his appreciation for India’s role in peacekeeping operations for the last 60 years and reiterated his backing for a reformed UNSC with India as a permanent member. In the past, France, UK, and Russia have also supported India’s claims to permanent membership. But the verbal support has so far not translated into any action.

Meanwhile, even as the reform remains in abeyance, global geopolitics have changed.

Today, there are three major conglomerations of problems: the turmoil in West Asia, encapsulated by the brutal Islamic State, which is quickly redrawing the map of the region; the rise of an increasingly expansionist and assertive China; and the renewed standoff between the West and Russia.

It is worth noting that although matters of war and peace are the core function of the UNSC, it has not been consulted on any of these issues. The most blatant instance was Obama’s address to the UN General Assembly on September 24, where he defended airstrikes on Syria and Iraq. The U.S did not deem it necessary, once again, to seek the approval of the UNSC. Sadly, UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon was pressured to support the U.S.’s unilateral actions, though he expressed the vain hope that the UNSC will lead the effort against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

In the east, China has completely rejected international arbitration on territorial disputes with its maritime neighbours, despite the Philippines taking the issue to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.

And amid steadily deteriorating Russia-West ties, U.S.-led NATO has not taken the issue to the UNSC, though it has accused Moscow of breaching international law and compromising Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by annexing Crimea. With these disagreements—as well as the opposing perspectives on Syria—the equation between the West and Russia has deteriorated to a point reminiscent of the hostilities between the two during the Cold War.

The new standoff over Ukraine has completely paralysed the UNSC. However, such disregard was already evident when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 without the Security Council’s authorisation, distorted the sense of UNSC Resolution 1973 on Libya in 2011 by justifying the invasion of that country, and recently ordered airstrikes on Syria.

India-China Cooperation in Counter-Terrorism: Q & A

By Col R. Hariharan

Here are my answers given to a columnist’s e-mail questions on the subject.

1. The main source of anti-India terrorism is Pakistan. In the event of a hijacking, for instance, by a Pak-based group, will Sino-Indian co-operation be possible? What is the scope of operational cooperation in counter-terrorism between India and China?

This question on operational cooperation in counter-terrorism between India and China covers two different issues: one pertains to aircraft hijacking and the other relates to the scope of such cooperation in general.

China is a party to two multilateral treaties relating to hijacking. Under the Hague Hijacking Convention of 1970 (Convention on Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft), China has agreed to prohibit and punish hijacking of civilian aircraft (other than aircraft of customs, law enforcement and military). Based on the principles of this convention China must also prosecute the hijacker if he is not extradited.

As a signatory to the Beijing Convention of 2010 (Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Relating to International Civil Aviation) adopted after the 9/11 Al Qaeda terrorist hijacking, China has also agreed to criminalise terrorists using civil aircraft as a weapon and the use ofa dangerous materials to attack aircraft or other targets on the ground as well as for the illegal transportation of bacterial, chemical and nuclear weapons.

So if India seeks China’s operational cooperation in a case of hijacking, China will be expected to positively respond under these two conventions. One can expect China to conform to this requirement, as it increasingly wants to be accepted by the international community as a responsible power in keeping with its growing global influence. Moreover, China is a promoter of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) formed with the primary aim of fostering cooperation and coordination through networked action among the member-countries against terrorism. And China has invited India to join the SCO.

However, as if the hijacking is carried out by a Pak-based terrorist body, China’s response is likely to be qualitatively different. If the hijacker lands the aircraft in Chinese territory we can expect the response to be swift as it would be difficult for the Chinese to discern the aim of the terrorist group. China hates Pak-based Jihadi terrorist groups and suspects their hand in the increasing Uighur extremist acts in Xinjiang. It is also wary of Tibetan insurgency sprouting once again.

However, Indian Special Forces are unlikely to be permitted to carry out the operation to apprehend the hijackers on Chinese soil. The PLA Special Forces have been carrying out intense training in refining their anti-hijacking drills. Anti-hijacking, hostage rescue, and bomb disposal now form part of the counter terrorism training regime of the Police and People’s Armed Police (PAP) also in the last three years after Uighur extremists’ stepped up their acts. So China would not like India or any other country to carryout operations against hijackers. To do so would be a loss of face for China.

However, if Pak-based hijackers are apprehended, Pakistan would not want China to hand them over to India. As Pakistan is a close and long-standing strategic South Asian ally of China, Beijing would be averse to handing over the apprehended hijackers to India. So the extradition process could be delayed using bureaucratic and legal process as a ploy. China might provide provided secret access to Pakistan to meet with the hijackers in custody before India is extended the same facility. In the unlikely event of the hijackers managing to take off (or being let off) in the aircraft after using Chinese territory as an intermediary stop, China can be expected to share all available information with India. Of course China is likely to take into consideration of Pak sensitivities while sharing such information.

2. To what extent have joint military exercises contributed to confidence building between India and China?

One rank, one pension scheme pushes up defence pension bill

Puja Mehra
November 1, 2014 

The implementation of one rank, one pension has pushed up the Centre’s defence pension payments by a record 40 per cent, posing fresh challenges to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s resolve to keep the Centre’s fiscal deficit within the budgetary target of 4.1 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.

The armed forces pensions bill for the first six months of the current fiscal, from April to September, has turned out to be about Rs. 8,000 crore higher than for the corresponding period last year. Mr. Jaitley had provided only Rs. 1,000 crore for the whole year towards the scheme in the Budget he presented on July 10. The Finance Ministry is revising upwards its Budget estimate for the outgo on account of the scheme that benefits nearly 24 lakh pensioners of the armed forces.

The defence pensions bill for 2014-15 can be roughly expected to go up by about Rs. 16,000 crore over last year’s, the source said. The Budget estimated defence pensions during 2014-15 to be Rs. 50,966.95 crore as against Rs. 44,475.95 crore the previous year.

The austerity measures do not cover pensions and the challenge for Mr. Jaitley will be to find fresh resources for the rapidly rising bill.

“Defence pensions payments normally do not go up so drastically. Though some increase was expected on account of the new scheme, the rise is turning out to be manifold,” the source said.

One rank, one pension means soldiers of the same rank and the same length of service get the same pension, irrespective of their retirement date.

The decision to implement the scheme was first announced by former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in the UPA government’s interim Budget he had presented in February this year. Mr. Chidambaram had allocated Rs. 500 crore for it. “This decision will be implemented prospectively from the financial year 2014-15,” he had said while presenting the vote on account ahead of the elections.

Printable version | Nov 2, 2014 10:51:18 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/one-rank-one-pension-scheme-pushes-up-defence-pension-bill/article6553249.ece

© The Hindu

Exchange Rate Variation in Defence Contracts in India

October 31, 2014

I. Introduction

The rapid, albeit short-lived, depreciation of the Indian Rupeewitnessed recently saw some interesting claims and policy responses unfolding around public procurement in India: certain sections of India’sIT industry upped the ante for incorporation of an “Exchange Rate Variation” (ERV) clause in government contracts in India ; and the Ministry of Finance responded by issuing an office memorandum covering IT procurements by essentially restating, and potentially further complicating, an already existing provision of the Manual on Policies and Procedures for Purchase of Goods. These interesting and important developments lend themselves to a quick academic inspection of similar industry claims in the context of defence procurement in India ; and this shortnote accordingly attempts to put forth some suggestions on how government responses could be structured or improved upon, given potential conflicts of such industry demands withimportant policy interventions for increasing self-reliance and indigenisation outlined under India’s National Manufacturing Policy ,the Defence Production Policyand the Policy for Providing Preference to Domestically Manufactured Electronic Products (DMEP Policy).
II. ERV in Defence Contracts in India

ERV provisions under India’s Defence Procurement Procedures(DPP) are not very clearly or unambiguously outlined in the main text, the issue having been relegated to a relatively short and incomplete paragraph under “Commercial Clauses” part of the Standard RFP Document. Briefly, the applicable RFP provision reads as follows:

Exchange Rate variation shall be applicable for Rupee contracts with Indian Vendors, based on RFPs issued under the category ‘Buy(Global)’. ERV, however shall not be applicable in cases categorized as ‘Buy (Indian)’except for DPSUs in ab-initio Single Vendor cases or when nominated as Production Agency. The guidelines on protection of Exchange Rate variation are given at Annexure to this Appendix (emphasis added).
A. Indian Vendors vs. Foreign Bidders in Buy (Global) Cases

The regulatory language in DPP is incomplete, since foreign vendors are already permitted to bid (and to be paid) in Dollars, Euros or Pounds in capital acquisition cases categorised as “Buy (Global)” or “Buy and Make with ToT”. Thus, the DPP,de facto,provides complete ERV insulation to foreign vendors in these two categories since their payments do not get linked to prevailing exchange rates with Indian Rupee, whereas a plain text reading of the regulatory language could be lead a newcomer to believe thatERV is allowed onlyfor Indian vendors in “Buy (Global)” cases.

In contrast to full ERV protection to foreign vendors as outlined above, the DPP presently allows only partial ERV protection to Indian bidders, and that too, only mainly in theory. TheAnnexure to Commercial Clauses part, referred to in 1.4.8 reproduced earlier, read with another part on “Evaluation Criteria and Price Bid Format”, seems to indicate that payments to Indian vendors are based on exchange rates at the time of import (during the stage of contract performance) vis-à-vis exchange rates at the time of bid comparison . In a depreciating Rupee scenario, this places an extreme financial burden on Indian bidders, as the present formula ignores the exchange rates prevailing on the last date of submission of bids, making Indian bidders bear the full impact of exchange rate-dependent losses from the period from last date of bidding to date of actual bid comparison/ final contract valuation, which typically could run into a few years . This forces Indian defence industry to usually obtain exchange rate insurance to hedge their certain losses, artificially inflating their bid prices in the first instance, thus making them relatively non-competitive at the initial stage itself as compared to their foreign counterparts.

To add to the problem, the language of the DPP is potentially inconsistent:the bid comparison amongst Indian and foreign vendors takes place on the basis of exchange rates prevailing at the time of opening of bids, while payment to an Indian vendor could take place on the basis of exchange rate at the time of transaction vis-à-vis exchange rate at the time of bid comparison or that at the time contract finalisation, as may be interpreted by the MoD acquisition officials given significant inconsistency of the DPP text.13.

B. Private Indian Vendors vs. OFB/ DPSUs in Single Vendor“Buy (Indian)” CasesUnder DPP, ERV is not applicable in cases categorised as “Buy (Indian)”,except for DPSUs in ab-initio“Single Vendor” cases or when nominated as a production agency . In all probability, this means that ERV is available only to DPSUs in ab-initio single vendor cases or when nominated as production agencies in “Buy and Make with ToT” cases. The logic in extending ERV protection in both cases is clear: it would really make no financial difference to MoDwhether such ERV protection is provided or not provided in single vendor cases. This happens as the single vendor would anyway incorporate foreign exchange risks in the initial bid price in a fixed price contract if ERV protection is not afforded upfront, given the absence of competition and resulting absence of any market forces driving down bid prices.

Time for India to Take Down Dawood Ibrahim

Recent reports suggest that the underworld figure with terrorist links is a bigger threat than ever before.

By Elizabeth Bennett
November 01, 2014

Dawood Ibrahim is perhaps the most notorious “underworld don” in South Asia, involved in everything from supporting terrorist organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and now Boko Haram to organized crime and even fixing cricket matches. Dawood’s connection to al-Qaeda, allowing the use of his smuggling routes out of Afghanistan into Pakistan, made him a U.S. Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Terrorist in 2003. He is also wanted by INTERPOL. Most recent reporting has Dawood and his criminal syndicate D-Company headquartered in Pakistan under the protection of the Pakistani ISI.

The U.S. has not involved itself in any military action to take down Dawood or D-Company, but has restricted itself to placing Dawood and his leadership on Treasury Department sanctions lists. The threat D-Company poses to U.S. national security is not often discussed domestically; rather, the focus is on the terrorist groups financed by D-Company. But with the recent announcement by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri that the terrorist outfit is creating an India branch, and with the proliferation of jihad throughout South Asia, will the U.S. now finally act to take down Dawood Ibrahim?

Unlikely. U.S. President Barack Obama has had no problem sending in special operations forces or conducting UAV strikes to take out major terrorist leadership, especially in a country like Pakistan that hosts more terrorists than any other country in the world. The list of figures killed in U.S. strikes includes Osama bin Laden, Abu Yahya al-Libi, Anwar al-Awlaki, and Hakimullah Mehsud, the former leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. Even though Dawood Ibrahim in on a par with these figures in terms of lethality and influence, his support of terrorism has not directly reached the U.S. homeland. It will not be until there is a major attack in India with direct evidence of Dawood’s involvement that the U.S. will become more involved.

The U.S. economic and security relationship with India is of increasing importance, as evidenced during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the U.S. The joint U.S.-India statement mentioned the goal of, “dismantling of safe havens for terrorist and criminal networks, to disrupt all financial and tactical support for networks” for groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and D-Company. It was also reported that the FBI and India’s Intelligence Bureau will begin swapping intelligence on asset sharing by D-Company in the hope of dismantling the organization. Still, it is unlikely that the U.S. action will go beyond this cooperation, at least for the time being.

People of India Photographed Over 150 Years

Oct 29, 2014

When British photographer Bertrum Edwin Ebenezer Scott disembarked from the train in Karachi in the days following the partition of India and Pakistan, he took a picture that would mark the end of nearly 150 years spent by six generations of his family in the subcontinent.

“The Last Breakfast in Karachi,” taken before Mr. Scott boarded a ship in the port city of newly created Pakistan and set sail for England, is part of a collection of images he shot in India that are now on display at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry in the United Kingdom.
Bert Scott

“The People of India,” also includes photographs taken by Mr. Scott’s grandson, Jason Scott Tilley, who put together the exhibition that spans more than a century of India’s history.

Mr. Scott grew up in southern Indian city of Bangalore with his grandparents – Edwin Ebenezer Scott and Emily Good Andre — before India gained independence from the British. His grandfather was the Assistant Commissioner of Salt for southern India. 

Mr. Scott became a press photographer for The Times of India before moving to head the Indian Army’s photography unit stationed in Burma during the Second World War.

His work forms a valuable photographic account of India in the pre-independence era but many of his photographs have remained in his grandson’s closet until now.

About 40 of Mr. Scott’s photographs are currently on display combined with more than 50 portraits of Indians taken in India by his grandson between 1999 and 2009.

This photograph below, was taken by Mr. Scott in 1937, while Mahatma Gandhi, known as the father of independent India, walked on Juhu beach in Bombay, now Mumbai.
Bert Scott

The image below is of a farewell ceremony held in New Delhi for Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India who was made the first Governor General of the independent country before leaving on Aug. 15, 1947, India’s independence day.

Bert Scott

This 1934 photograph is described by Mr. Scott Tilley as the ‘Selfie of the 1930s’, and shows his grandfather standing on the rooftop of the building belonging to The Times of India office in Bombay.
Bert Scott

China pledges financial, training assistance to Afghanistan


02 November 2014

China pledged to provide non-reimbursable assistance of 500 million yuan (about $81.43 million) to Afghanistan this year at an international meeting on Afghanistan held in Beijing Friday.

China will provide to Afghanistan non-reimbursable assistance of 1.5 billion yuan (about $244 million) over the upcoming three years, to help the country train 3,000 people in all fields over the next five years and provide 500 scholarships, said Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang while addressing the opening ceremony of the fourth ministerial conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan.

"Firm support for Afghanistan's peaceful reconstruction should be concrete action instead of verbal commitment," Xinhua quoted the premier as saying.

He pledged to strengthen bilateral cooperation in areas such as infrastructure construction, agriculture, water conservation and mineral resources exploitation.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Chinese side will implement assistance and training plans, and try to open training courses on anti-terrorism, drug control and disaster management.

China will have a broader and deeper participation in cooperation under the framework of the Istanbul Process, and promote Afghanistan-related regional cooperation, Wang said.

Inaugurated in 2011, the Istanbul Process is the only Afghanistan-related cooperation mechanism led by regional countries.

To promote result-oriented cooperation through practical means, the Istanbul Process has identified a number of confidence building measures (CBM) in areas, including anti-terrorism, drug control, disaster management, trade and investment opportunity, regional infrastructure construction and education, to be jointly implemented by interested participating and supporting countries and organisations.

According to Wang, 15 cooperation programmes in those areas have been conducted over past year, which have seen good results.

Sixty-four more priority programmes were identified in Friday's ministerial conference, which will help Afghanistan develop its national governance, self-development, public security and defence, Wang said.

He called on all parties involved to implement these programmes, provide financial or technological assistance and strengthen cooperation.

Wang also stressed that realising political reconciliation as soon as possible and strengthening Afghanistan's capability building were of vital importance to its transition process.

He hoped all political parties in Afghanistan would work towards the realisation of inclusive political reconciliation through dialogue and negotiation. He called on the Istanbul Process to play an important and constructive role in helping Afghanistan .

By the Numbers: Pakistan’s Perilous Religious Laws

OCTOBER 30, 2014 

Pakistani Christian Aasia Bibi's death sentence for blasphemous activity has shone a spotlight on the perilous situation for religious communities in Pakistan. The country's laws repress religious freedoms for all and are vigorously enforced, especially against religious minorities. In addition, an alarming level of violence against the religious "other" is plaguing Pakistan. Extremists victimize not just non-Muslims but Muslims who dissent from the extremists' radical interpretations of Islam. Impunity increasingly reigns, as militants and mobs regularly perpetrate attacks with little or no state response.

Here are some numbers that highlight the challenges facing Pakistan:

38 sentenced -- The number of people on death row or serving life sentences for blasphemy, five of whom were sentenced in 2014 alone. Blasphemy laws in Pakistan are easily abused or manipulated. Pakistan has no penalty for lying, no evidentiary requirement, and the maximum penalty for blasphemy is death. Blasphemy laws protect the systemic beliefs of the state at the expense of individuals, violating the freedoms of religion and expression and colliding with international human rights standards. Pakistan has the dubious distinction of having more people sentenced to jail for blasphemy than any other country in the world.

4 years -- The length of time Aasia Bibi has been in jail while her death sentence is on appeal. The Lahore High Court recently refused to overturn the lower court's decision despite ample evidence that the underlying event was an argument between farmhands and not a religious dispute. Commentators think Bibi could be in jail for an additional four years while her case awaits Supreme Court review. While she has garnered international attention, many others are in a similar position.

0 jailed -- The number of people sentenced for the murders of Shahbaz Bhatti, Rashid Rehman, and Muhammad Shakil Auj. My friend Bhatti, a former federal minister for minority affairs and outspoken critic of Pakistan's blasphemy law, was assassinated by the Pakistani Taliban in March 2011. Human rights lawyer Rehman was murdered in May 2014 for his defense of an individual accused of blasphemy after weeks of threats -- authorities failed to provide Rehman protection or investigate the threats. Auj, a leading Islamic scholar, was killed this September for his "blasphemous" writings.

1,130 killed -- The number of people killed over the past two-and-one-half years in targeted acts of violence against religious communities, as tracked by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (see reports here and here). The Commission found that while Hindus, Sikhs, and Ahmadis are also targets, Shi'a Muslims have been consistently victimized more than others and continued to be the target of terrorist attacks, with more than 850 killed during that period.

40 years -- Four decades ago this past September the Second Amendment to Pakistan's constitution was passed decreeing that Ahmadis could not be Muslims. While not unusual for a national constitution to establish a particular religion, it is virtually unprecedented for a constitution to define the boundaries of one faith, deciding who's in and who's out. The move cast Ahmadi Muslims as the religious "other" in Pakistan and presaged additional discriminatory laws that effectively criminalize practicing their faith. It set the stage for decades of repression, fueled violence, and laid the groundwork for the apartheid-like system that exists today.

15 hours -- The grand total of time reportedly devoted by the National Assembly to discussing challenges faced by religious minorities in the past year. An NGO found that during 130 days of proceedings and over 1000 hours of debate, only a tiny fraction of time was spent considering the plight of religious minorities and the surge of violence unleashed against them. The Assembly did unanimously pass a nonbinding resolution condemning the "brutal" killings of religious minorities and discrimination against them on Minorities Day in August. While speaking out is important, parliament could play a greater oversight role in ensuring that police protect minorities and arrest attackers.

2014 Asia Update: What’s at Stake for America


Often overlooked in the tumult of Washington’s foreign policy debates is the remarkable consistency of U.S. foreign and trade policies over time. This is due to one immutable factor: American national interests. When U.S. policy moves away from our national interest, not only does it cease to serve its primary purpose, but it becomes unstable and threatening to peace, security, and prosperity.

It is in the cause of furthering American interests that The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center once again offers a snapshot of America’s stake in the Pacific and the environment in which our foreign policy, defense, and commercial establishments operate.

Our stake is material. The following charts illustrate the well-known story of Pacific economic dynamism and integration from investment to trade to finance. They illustrate the magnitude of Asia’s investments in the U.S. and how they relate to one another. Today’s headlines may be about China’s investments in the U.S., and in fact, they are growing rapidly, but those investments are still dwarfed by those of our ally Japan. The charts speak to China’s outward investment, with original research taken from a product Heritage developed and manages with the American Enterprise Institute, the China Investment Tracker. And for the first time, the charts present a fuller picture of regional value chains by capturing the services trade.

Our stake is value-based. It is the nature of American foreign policy, deeply imbedded in our history and tradition, that our commitment to freedom does not stop at the borders. The U.S. has a fundamental interest in human liberty. We cannot but act on it, prudently, but for its own sake and for the sake of all of our interests, because over the long term all our interests are most secure in a world that shares our values. The charts look at the state of political freedom, economic freedom, instability, and for the first time, the specific issues of human trafficking and religious freedom.

Nothing about our stake can be taken for granted. For this reason, there are again representations of several threats in the region, including proliferation of arms, size of the armed forces in the region, territorial disputes, and disposition of the U.S. forces that have kept the peace for the past 70 years.

Long before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared America’s “pivot” to the Pacific, the U.S. was deeply involved in the affairs of the region. Not just its foreign affairs, but its “internal affairs.” We are so deeply engaged because we are a Pacific nation, connected to Asia by the sea. Americans know that it is in the long-term interest of liberty and our material interests that we remain principally and vigorously committed to Asia. This year’s chart book once again seeks to demonstrate the substance and rationale for that time-honored, bi-partisan commitment.