Friday, June 29, 2012

An Interaction on ‘Indo-US Relations: Global Partnership”

On Jun 28, 2012, a group of eminent security experts held an intense and wide ranging interaction with Mr. Jason Issacson, Director of Government and International affairs at the American Jewish Committee in Washington. The informal interaction, held at the Foundation’s premises, focused primarily on the subject ‘Indo-US Relations: Global Partnership’, but as expected and hoped for, it included a whole range of other related issues such Pakistan’s support to terrorist groups, the nuclear proliferation of Iran, the growth of radical Islam in the Middle East, the rise of China in Asia-Pacific region and the bilateral relations between India and Israel. Mr Jason was however accompanied by Ms. Patty Friedman Marcus, Director of the Asia Pacific Institute at the American Jewish Committee. With Ambassador Prabhat Shukla Joint Director VIF in the Chair, others who took part in the interaction included Mr Ajit Doval, Director VIF, Mr. AK Verma, Lt Gen (retd) RK Sawhney, Vice Admiral Raman Puri Brig Arun Sahgal and Brig Vinod Anand.
The interaction opened with Mr. Jason making out a strong case for much closer cooperation between India and the US than what they have been able to achieve so far, a view shared by Director VIF who also underscored the fact that notwithstanding differences in perceptions in few areas, the two sister democracies needed to evolve a common world view in their own interests. Mr. Jason stressed that in view of new sets of challenges confronting the two nations, the choice they faced was not one between cooperation and avoidance or between cooperation and aloofness, but between closer and less close cooperation. While he advocated the need for India and the US to build on the promises made in the civil nuclear agreement, he also urged for building architecture for inter-dependence. Mr. Jason also said that greater exchanges between the officials of the two countries at all levels would go a long way in fostering better and stronger ties. Chiming in with his views, Mr. Doval said that a joint net assessment of common perceptions was necessary, especially to confront common challenges. He however said that area of specific cooperation between the two countries needed to be identified as the future direction in the relationship.

The interaction which followed Mr. Jason’s brief presentation also dealt with several complex issues in a very cordial atmosphere, illustrating eagerness on both sides not only to appreciate each other’s point of views, but also to work together for achieving common national objectives.

Fishermen Issue and India - Sri Lanka Relations

Dr. N. Manoharan
Senior Fellow, VIF

The Problem:

The issue of fishermen straying in each other’s territorial waters has come as a potential irritant in the otherwise generally good bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka.In the latest instance, the Sri Lankan Navy on 26 June reportedly “chased the fishermen near Katchatheevu and cut the ropes and damaged the nets of 10 boats.” Citing this incident, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha urged New Delhi to “impress upon Lanka the need to instruct their navy to exercise restraint and refrain from harassing innocent Indian fishermen pursuing their livelihood in their traditional waters.” Indeed, wherever sovereign coasts are in proximity (as in the case of India-Pakistan, India-Bangladesh and India-Sri Lanka), straying of fishermen is normal. Fishes know no frontiers; fishermen choose to ignore them, principally for livelihood reasons. However, in the India-Sri Lanka case, the issue is more complex and, therefore, calls for holistic approach.

Maritime border between the two countries is about 400 kilometres spreading along three different areas: the Bay of Bengal in the north, the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar in the centre and the Indian Ocean in the south. In the Palk Bay region, distances between the coasts of the two countries varies between 16 and 45 kms. This means territorial waters of each country in some areas strays into the other’s if 12 nautical mile criteria is strictly applied.

The issue of fishermen came to the fore only with emergence of violent ethnic conflict between the Tamil militants and the Sri Lankan government in the mid 1980s. Increased vigilance by the Sri Lankan Navy to check intermittent flow of Tamil refugees into India and flow of arms and supplies to Tamil militant groups made fishing difficult and risky. With the LTTE emerging as a dominant militant group, with a naval wing of its own (‘Sea Tigers’), things changed for worse to fishermen on both sides. They were caught in the crossfire between the Sri Lankan Navy and the ‘Sea Tigers’.

Logically speaking, after the ‘Eelam War IV’ and with the decimation of the LTTE, the fishermen issue should have come to an end. In reality, it has not. When the ethnic war was on, the Sri Lankan Navy focussed on ‘Sea Tigers’ and the movement of LTTE boats around the island. It overlooked straying of Indian fishermen, who were entrepreneurial enough to take the risk to smuggle goods that could be use to the LTTE. After the ethnic war, the Sri Lankan Navy is back to its primary task of patrolling the island’s maritime borders. The monitoring is also aimed at preventing possible return of LTTE cadres, who fled from the island during the height of the conflict in 2009, to revive the insurgency all over again. Security concerns still persist in Sri Lanka. Its Navy, therefore, has not let the guard down.

The end of war, however, has resulted in relaxation of fishing restrictions along Sri Lankan coasts resulting in its fishermen to venture into the seas around without any fear. The Indian fishermen, who thus far enjoyed monopoly of resource-rich waters, have now got competitors in massive numbers. At times, this leads to confrontations between the two fishing communities and in turn drawing intervention of either of naval forces. The main complaint of Sri Lankan fishermen has been against Indian mechanised trawlers that indulge in pair, mid-water, pelagic, and bottom trawling severely damaging marine resources and the sea bed. Ironically, most of the trawlers from Tamil Nadu are owned by merchant capitalists from non-fishing and other social backgrounds. The entry of ‘outsiders’ has not only threatened the local customary laws of fishing communities, but also turned several traditional fishermen from owners to labourers. Trawler sector in Tamil Nadu is also politically influential and financially sound making it more obdurate to solutions that could cut down its profit margins.

Straying of fishermen also takes place inadvertently due to ignorance of imaginary marine boundaries, engine failure or even due to sudden turbulence at seas. But, to be fair to Sri Lanka, not all Indian fishermen who stray into Sri Lankan waters are arrested or shot. Most of the times, they are warned and shooed away. Sri Lankan fishermen, who venture on high seas for ‘multi-day fishing’, are also caught poaching in Indian waters off coasts of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and even Orissa. They are, however, not shot at, but arrested and prosecuted.


Looking at solutions, at the outset, the right to life of fishermen should be respected; then comes the livelihood issue. To avoid shooting incidents due to “mistaken identity”, ‘coordinated patrolling’ between marine forces (Sri Lankan Navy and Indian Coast Guards) of both countries can be considered. Additionally, developing fish farming extensively in Indian waters would prevent its fishermen from venturing into other waters in search of a ‘big catch’. India can also consider leasing fishing blocks, especially those identified as ‘surplus total available catch’, from Sri Lanka. Through this, Sri Lanka could also earn much required foreign exchange. To preserve marine resources and to provide enough sustenance to the traditional marginal fishermen of both the countries, it is important to impose strict and complete ban on mechanised trawlers. However, given the dependency, immediate phasing out of mechanised trawlers from coastal fishing may be difficult. But, it has to be done sooner than later. As an alternative, these large trawlers could be encouraged to venture into high seas in India’s exclusive economic zones (EEZs) rather into territorial waters of Sri Lanka. With suitable modification, they can also be used as patrol boats by the Coast Guards on hiring basis. Presently, the Indian Coast Guards faces immense shortage of patrol vessels.

Reinventing sustainable fisheries is vital for solving many issues. The issue ultimately lies in proper fisheries management. If adequate fish population is maintained in Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar areas, most of the fishermen would not find the need to venture into other’s ‘territories’. India also can consider taking on Katchchativu Island that has been the centre of controversy, on long-term lease. As a bigger neighbour, India has been accommodative to Sri Lankan sensitivities on the issue to the extent of gifting strategically vital Katchchativu Island despite opposition from Tamil Nadu. It should be noted that the Maritime Agreements of 1974 and 1976, which fixed marine boundaries between India and Sri Lanka, were done much before the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that came into force in 1994. New Delhi never asked for renegotiation in the light of this new development, despite immense pressures from Tamil Nadu to wrest the island back from Sri Lanka so as to protect the interests of its fishermen. Colombo should take note of this and reciprocate accordingly by taking a liberal approach on Katchchativu Island and its visitors.

As an additional safety measure, the Indian Navy's proposal of fitting Global Positioning System (GPS) in every Indian fishing boat should be implemented. GPS provides the fastest and most accurate method for fishermen to navigate, measure speed and determine locations. Costs of installation could be shared by the governments of India and Tamil Nadu, with a token contribution from the concerned fishermen. Apart from training the fishermen of its usage, the local administration should sensitise them on the dos and don’ts in the international waters. Apart from respecting the rights of their Sri Lankan counterparts, the Indian fishermen should voluntarily try and avoid using trawlers that damage plankton and in turn make the seabed unfavourable for breeding of new fishes and prawns. There is already an agreement between the fishermen of two countries on this, but it is not abided by.

Arranging frequent meetings between fishing communities of both countries could be explored so as to develop a friendlier atmosphere at mid-seas during fishing. ‘Solution from below’ has greater chances of success than a ‘solution imposed from above’ by the governments. There have indeed been meetings between fishing communities since 2003, but erratic and not so fruitful in terms of tangible results. If they are systematised and institutionalised, one can expect them to be more successful. It is important that whatever agreements reached by the fishing communities amongst themselves receive strong backing from the governments and their marine forces. Otherwise, all these agreements would be futile.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Of Examinations and Admissions: Need for a Revamp

Dr. M.N. Buch
Visiting Fellow, VIF

Ever since one can remember admission to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIsT) was through the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), which is considered one of the toughest entrance examinations for technology students anywhere in the world. My son appeared for the examination in 1988-89 and he topped it. For this he put in twelve to fourteen hours of preparation time per day for a whole year and even though his JEE record stands to this day, till the result was announced he was not confident that he would be selected. There were only five IIsT in those days, with Kharagpur being the oldest. The Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, Banaras Hindu University Institute of Technology and the Roorkee University were considered almost as good as the IIsT, but nevertheless the latter named institutions were considered to have an edge. An IIT graduate was coveted by universities abroad, especially the United States of America and IIsT students could just walk into any university of their choice for postgraduate studies. The students were so good that in G-MAT, the entrance examination for Business Management studies, only five persons have ever achieved 100 percentile point, one being Robert McNamara and four others being IIT graduates, including my son. The Indian Institute of Technology tag carried an academic distinction which was not considered less than MIT, Caltech and the Leyland Stanford Institute of Technology.

The Central Government, in addition to the IIsT, set up institutes of national importance in technical education of which NITIE, the Indian Institutes of Information Technology and the Indian School of Mines were the lead members, followed very closely by the National Institutes of Technology. For admission to these institutions government constituted the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE). Students thus had a choice of taking JEE, AIEEE or both. These examinations give an opportunity to bright young students who had completed the Higher Secondary Examination to compete for admission to the best technical institutes in India. The system worked and has been working right up to today.

Running parallel to these All India examinations are the engineering entrance tests conducted by various State Boards for professional examinations. For example, the Madhya Pradesh Professional Entrance Examination Board conducts PET for engineering, PMT for medicine and similar professional examinations for admission to State run colleges in Agriculture, Business Management, Pharmacy, etc. These examinations qualify students for admission in other engineering colleges either run by the State Government or by institutions and universities in the private sector set up under a State Act.

In the States for other disciplines such as Humanities and Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Commerce, etc., the marks obtained at the Higher Secondary level (Class XII) in either the State run Board of Higher Education or the Central Board of Secondary Education and other similar organisations which conduct Higher Secondary Examinations, are the criterion for admission. Depending on the examination score and the cut-off point subject-wise which each college lays down, students obtain admission to a particular course of studies in a particular subject and because of the cut-off point colleges naturally get graded between those most sought after and those which are a last resort for desperate students seeking admission. Within the education system, by distinguishing colleges in this manner, an educational caste system is created which must inevitably lead to downgrading of the quality of education whilst simultaneously giving an inferiority complex to students who come from colleges considered to be substandard.

A natural corollary of the driving need to excel in order that one may get admission to a good college is the proliferation of the so-called coaching classes. The relatively small town of Kota is the epicenter of the coaching earthquake and accommodates approximately four lakh students all eager to use coaching as a means of doing well at entrance examinations. Coaching classes are a direct slap in the face of our formal education structure because it means that our schools are not preparing our students adequately for them to be able to tackle an entrance examination or get adequate marks at the higher secondary level in order to be found fit for admission. The question which arises is whether our entrance examinations have become so mechanical that through coaching and repetitive practice of solving examination papers a student can be automated to do well at an entrance examination. If that be so we need to seriously look at two things: - (1) The standard of our schools and our teachers and the method of education followed (2) The format of our examination papers so that instead of being amenable to answering through a drill they in fact test the aptitude, knowledge, analytical skills and ability to think independently of each one of our students. If the examination system stops being mechanical the reason for the existence of coaching classes would disappear. Unfortunately enough attention has not been given to the issue.

Let me illustrate this. When I appeared for the IAS examination in 1956 for the 1957 batch the Civil Services Examination consisted of three parts.-

(a) Three compulsory papers which were General English, English Essay and General Knowledge.

(b) Lower papers. The Indian Police Service and other Central Services had to take two lower papers, which approximated to a basic bachelors degree level. The Indian Audit and Accounts Service had to take three lower papers.

(c) Advanced papers. The Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Foreign Service had to take three compulsory, three lower and two advanced papers, which approximated to a postgraduate level.

The examination was so organised that for the IAS not more than one lower and one advanced paper could be from a subject studied for the bachelors degree. Because entrance was at twenty-one years and upper age limit was twenty-four years most of us had only one degree. One could take only one lower and one advanced paper from the subject in which one had a degree and all of us had to study for two lower and one advanced paper on our own in a subject which we had not formally studied. For example, my discipline at B.A. and M.A. levels was Economics and I had to take, apart from General Economics and Advanced Economic Theory, two lower papers for which I chose World History and International Law and one advanced paper for which I chose Advanced Political Thought. As a result of the way in which the examination was organised it did not matter whether one came from the Humanities stream, Liberal Arts, Social Sciences or Natural Sciences. Each one of us was examined in subjects which we had not studied in college and for which we had read up on our own. The distinction between Services based on the number of papers one took clearly made IAS and IFS the two senior Services and all other Services were sister Services but not totally equal. That is reflected even today in the vast canvas covered by the IAS and the relatively narrow focus of other Services. However, since this examination system was changed somewhere in the mid-seventies of the last century and there was one single examination for all Services with no distinction about the number of papers taken, with the question papers also being made much more multiple choice, objective type in format, it is people from the streams of Technology, Science and Mathematics who began to predominate because their minds are more given to mechanical answers, whereas Humanities and Social Sciences students are more attuned to analytical logic and reasoning. The nature of the Civil Service has changed and inter-service rivalry and bad blood has increased because Services other than IAS feel that they have taken the same examination and a few percentile points only made a difference to placement. Because of this coordination, cooperation and cordiality between the Services have all been lost, much to the detriment of the administration.

Something similar is happening to the entrance examination for engineering courses. For one thing a system which worked is now being restructured without thinking about all the consequences of such restructuring. The main criticism of JEE which has emanated from the Ministry of Human Resource Development is that it is elitist, weighted against students from small town India and works against any effort to improve school education while encouraging coaching classes. Therefore, the Ministry, working under the cover of the IIT Council, has decided that there will be one single entrance examination for technical education throughout India. It is not clear whether this covers State run colleges or not, but that seems to be the hidden implication. There would be two components of the examination – one is the marks obtained in the Higher Secondary Board Examination, that is, Class XII. The second component would be the marks obtained in the entrance examination and the two would be combined to rank the students. It is also proposed that the top twenty percent of the students would have to take a further test to qualify for IIT. This line of reasoning suffers from a whole multitude of errors and is based on a complete misunderstanding of how our school system functions. We initially started with Boards of Secondary Education which give a Matriculation Certificate after Class X. An elitist large city school which charges high fees and has a better paid and better qualified faculty, together with excellent classrooms and laboratory facilities is at an advantage over less fortunate schools meant for the ordinary child. Pitting these two types of schools against each other is like asking a school hockey team from a village which has never seen a turf hockey field, leave alone an Astroturf field, against the Indian Olympic team.

This may sound harsh but it is a reality and, therefore, in order to protect the rural constituency politicians tend to lower the standards of the Higher Secondary School Boards so that the percentage of rural failures comes down. In other words, almost every State Board functions on the basis of the lowest common denominator, which is certainly not aimed at improving academic standards in schools. The fact that the better schools all over India have shifted to CBSE or, where they can manage it, to ICSE proves that there is a huge gap between the standards of these two Central Boards and the State Boards. Within the State Boards also there are differing standards and there is just not enough evidence available for us to arrive at a template which would enable us to do equalisation in marking. For example, does 97 percent marks in the State Board of, say, Jharkhand equate with 85 percent marks of the Goa Board or 72 percent of CBSE? If such equalisation, which the Ministry calls normalisation, is not possible, how does one take into account Higher Secondary Board Examination marks when determining the ranking of students in the all India single examination system? In an open letter written by Prof. Dheeraj Sanghi of IIT Kanpur to Prof. Baruah, Director, IIT Guwahati this point is beautifully argued and I am sure there is no answer to the questions raised by him.

Let me give an example from Madhya Pradesh where the Higher Secondary Examination and the professional entrance examination for technical education conducted by the M.P. Board of Professional Courses Examination are conjointly considered for admission to engineering colleges in the State. The parents of two students, one of whom had obtained 27 percent in the PET examination and the other had obtained 24.50 percent came to me with a request that I try and get their children admission to a local engineering college. Both had obtained less than pass marks in PET and the XIIth Class Board marks were 72 percent and 52 percent respectively. I asked the Vice Chancellor of the Rajiv Gandhi Technical University, to which are affiliated all the engineering colleges in the State, whether there was a cut-off point in the PET examination for admission. He told me that if a student had got at least 40 percent marks in the Higher Secondary Examination he could be considered for selection even if he has got zero in the PET examination. If this logic is extended to the IIsT and other institutions of national importance we would get illiterates who cannot get one mark in a professional examination being eligible for consideration for admission. Is this what we want to do with our institutions of higher education and technology?

The argument advanced by the Ministry in favour of a single examination is that students have to take too many examinations and because of this they go to coaching classes. The obvious fallacy is that they would go to coaching classes regardless of the number of examinations they have to take because these coaching classes train them for all the examinations which, in any cases, follow a similar format. In a two-tier examination which is now being proposed the coaching classes will in fact proliferate because they will prepare students to get more marks in the higher secondary examination, then try and get enough marks to be in the top 20 percent of the common examination and then further improve their position within the 20 percent so that they can be admitted to an IIT. The present proposal is a boon to coaching classes and is not aimed at reducing their importance. The second argument is that if Higher Secondary Board marks are taken into account for admission, then the standard of education will improve in the schools. How this will happen is beyond my comprehension. The standard of education in some of our schools is excellent. For example, the Navodaya Schools, which are all located in rural areas, admit students from a rural background charge no fees but have relatively good teachers, better classrooms and laboratory facilities than an average government school and are fully residential, have outstripped all other schools in CBSE results. The children are motivated to rise above their rural origins and because they are given a fair chance of getting decent education they have grasped it with both hands.

I had suggested to the Prime Minister since 2004 that the 560 odd Navodaya schools be increased to 10,000 so that schools of excellence could be established in large parts of the country. The Prime Minster agreed and I was informed in 2008 that he had announced that 6,000 such schools would be set up. Unfortunately the Minister for Human Resource Development, Shri Kapil Sibal and the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, Shri Montek Singh Ahluwalia thought otherwise and decided that the schools would be in a Public-Private Participation mode, which virtually torpedoed the scheme. My howls of protest ultimately caused government to decide that 3,500 schools would be in the public domain but in my meeting with the Prime Minister I was left with some doubt about this. A government which is not prepared to emulate and imitate its own successful experience cannot really claim that it is interested in raising the standard of school education. In fact my allegation is that government in the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Higher Education is in conspiracy to ensure that school standards do not improve but rather that our Boards of Higher Secondary Education are led into the paths of deceit and fudge results so that students have a higher percentage in their Board Examination and thus automatically become at least partially eligible for admission to the Indian Institutes of Technology and other institutes of national importance.

As a former civil servant I am naturally conservative, but as one who took premature retirement eight years before my date of superannuation, I am not status quoist. This means that if we need change in the system of entrance examinations for our institutes of higher technology we can initiate them, but this cannot be done ad hoc. Certainly the method of going about this is not for Shri Sibal to drum up support by holding meetings of deemed universities and making them endorse his proposal. I was Chairman, ABV-IIITM, Gwalior and in the IIIT Council meeting this issue was never discussed. Had it been proposed I would have certainly taken a good, sharp look at the proposal and come up with our suggestions about how an entrance examination should be conducted. But what is a real mystery to me is that a perfectly good and proven system of a Joint Entrance Examination for the Indian Institutes of Technology and an All India Engineering Entrance Examination for other institutions which are either equal to the IIsT or just one step below is being abandoned. If MHRD is attempting a revolution what it has achieved is anarchy. Under these circumstances does India really need this Ministry?

The Sarabjit Cockup: Chickening out or Merely Communication Confusion

Sushant Sareen
Senior Fellow, VIF

The celebrations and media excitement over the news that Pakistan's President Asif Zardari had commuted the death sentence of a condemned Indian prisoner, Sarabjit Singh, to life imprisonment and that he would soon be released and repatriated to India soon gave way to gloom and bitterness after it became known that the man in question wasn’t Sarabjit but another Indian prisoner, Surjit Singh. In an era of 24x7 news, with news organisations competing with each other to be the first to ‘break news’, the original story had soon acquired a life of its own and without anyone double checking the authenticity or veracity of the news, it was plastered on TV screens. By the time the clarification came, the damage had been done. While media outfits screamed ‘U-turn’, ‘backtrack’, ‘caving-in by the Pakistani government to pressure of ISI, Islamists and Jihadists’, the roller-coaster of emotions that the hapless family of Sarabjit must have gone through can only be imagined.

The huge controversy that has erupted on the airwaves is centred around one big question: was the cockup a genuine communication error leading to a mix-up over names or was it the result of the government of Pakistan wilting under the pressure of the military, the media mujahideen and the militants? The answer to this all important question lies in the summary that was moved by Pakistan’s law ministry to recommend the release of the Indian prisoner. If the summary was moved in the name of Sarabjit, then it is clearly a case of the government doing a U-turn under pressure; on the other hand, if the summary was indeed in the name of Surjit Singh, then it was most likely a case of misreporting of the news, not necessarily out of malice but probably as an outcome of the old Punjabi ditty: ‘Natha Singh and Prem Singh, one and the same thing’. Given the Pakistani genius for mutilating Indian names, it shouldn’t cause any surprise if President Zardari’s spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, read Surjit as Sarabjit. Nevertheless, the six hour delay by the Pakistani authorities in clarifying who was actually being released has only added to the mystery and suspicion about what actually transpired between the announcement and subsequent clarification.

Although some would explain away this delay as a manifestation of the sheer incompetence of the administration in that country, the fact of the matter is that while Sarabjit’s case has become a cause celebre in the media of both countries, Surjit’s case was hardly on anyone’s radar screen. Even after the release on bail of the Pakistani doctor Khalil Chishty by the Indian Supreme Court, and amidst a clamour for a quid pro quo from Pakistan on Sarabjit, there was no give from the Pakistani side on Sarabjit. Instead, there were some reports in the Pakistani press that Pakistan would reciprocate by expediting the release another Indian prisoner, Surjit, who has already served his prison term. But since Surjit’s name didn’t strike any bell, no one paid much attention to it. It is therefore possible that even though the Pakistanis were releasing Surjit, it was Sarabjit’s name that started doing the rounds.

The news of Sarabjit’s release was also sensational because of the nature of the case in which he was sentenced. While Surjit was serving a prison sentence on charges of espionage, Sarabjit was put on death row on charges of sabotage and terrorism. As a result, releasing Surjit would not be as big a problem for the Pakistan government as releasing Sarabjit. Notwithstanding the merits of the argument given in defence of Sarabjit – mistaken identity, an innocent man implicated in a heinous crime just so the Pakistani security agencies could claim success in their investigation, etc. – his conviction complicates matters immensely for the Pakistani authorities, especially for the incumbent government which is already reeling under the onslaught of the jihadist judiciary. Having already sacked a sitting prime minister on as frivolous a charge as contempt of court and hell bent on taking away the constitutional immunity enjoyed by the President, what are the chances that the judges would allow President Zardari to commute the sentence of Sarabjit and repatriate him to India?

While politically, it would have been practically impossible for the PPP-led coalition to release Sarabjit – the right-wing, Islamist opposition had already started to bay for the government’s blood after the announcement and before the clarification (or if you will, backtracking) – even legally the government would be on a very weak wicket if it tried to do any such thing. Quite asides the fact that last year the Lahore High Court had admitted petitions against any government move to release Sarabjit and the government had denied any intention to pardon Sarabjit, chances are that the Pakistani judges would have probably invoked Islamic jurisprudence to block any relief for Sarabjit. Apart from the raft of petitions that right-wing lawyers (many with links to terror organisations like Jamaat Islami and Lashkar-e-Taiba) would have filed to block Sarabjit’s release, the heirs of the victims of the bomb blasts allegedly carried out by Sarabjit would have resorted to Islamic laws of Qisas and Diyat to demand Sarabjit’s execution. Clearly, Sarabjit’s case was something of a no-go area for the government and it is unlikely if they would have been brave enough, or foolhardy enough, to have released him for winning some brownie points from India.
The timing of the announcement of release of an Indian prisoner also had something to do with the comedy of errors that followed. The Indian media had gone into an overdrive over the arrest of the terrorist Abu Jindal, who is believed to be one of the masterminds and controllers of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. Pakistan was naturally inviting a lot of flak and the mood in India was once again turning quite ugly. Perhaps, the release of Surjit (or was it Sarabjit?) could well be an attempt by the Pakistani establishment to dilute the growing anger in India. This is a tactic the Pakistanis used very often with the Americans – every time the former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf was travelling to the US, or some senior American official was visiting Pakistan, the Pakistanis would present the Americans with some Al Qaeda terrorist. But while this tactic kept the Americans happy, it is unlikely to have worked very much with Indians, most of whom are quite familiar with Pakistan's perfidy. And, if this was the plan, then it has clearly backfired because instead of any goodwill, the cockup has only caused more bitterness inside India.

Of course, if Pakistan really wants to do the right thing and the just thing, then there is clearly a case to be made for reopening and reinvestigating Sarabjit’s case. Sending an innocent man to the gallows on trumped up charges might satisfy the blood-lust of the fanatics in Pakistan, but it will be not only be a crime against humanity but will also add to the existing bitterness in bilateral relations.

Threats in The Long Range

Kanwal Sibal
Member Advisory Board, VIF

Tensions between the United States of America and Russia over the deployment of a ballistic missile defence system by the US in eastern Europe are sharpening. Japan is deploying such a system to ward off the North Korean missile threat.

With fears of increasing missile proliferation, BMD deployments could take place also in the Gulf region. What stock-taking can one do of the situation in South Asia?

India’s strategic neighbourhood is extremely difficult, with two large neighbours, China and Pakistan, possessing nuclear weapons and a panoply of missiles and collaborating with each other to contain India. No other country faces such a powerful combination of adversarial direct neighbours.

India is therefore compelled to develop technologies and capacities to protect itself. But it faces considerable technological and financial constraints. Its formidable challenge is to develop capacities that are autonomous but also available in reasonable time frames.
India’s political system and domestic economic and social challenges dispose it towards moderation. It seeks to develop the base of high technologies in the country, but without excessive investment of resources and determined acceleration of programmes.
India’s missile development programme began in 1986 and it is only this year that it has successfully launched its 5,000-kilometre range Agni V missile. Its earlier development of Prithvi and Agni III missiles gave it the means to develop a BMD programme, which began in 1999.

India’s BMD programme has a two-tiered system, with the Prithvi air defence for high altitude exo-atmospheric (50 to 80 kms) and advanced air defence for low altitude endo-atmospheric (15 to 30 kms) interception. Future plans include two new anti-ballistic missiles, AD-1 and AD-2, for intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles at a range of around 5,000 kms.

India has carried out seven BMD tests in all, six of them successful, of which two used the PAD exo-atmospheric interceptor and four the endo-atmospheric one. The first was on March 6, 2006, the seventh on February 10, 2012.

India’s BMD system is being developed in two phases: in the first phase against missiles with less than 2,000 km range, like Pakistan’s Ghauri and Shaheen missiles, with 600 km-range radars and missiles at the speed of Mach 4-5 and expected deployment by 2013.
It will be a two-tiered terminal phase interceptor system consisting of a PAD exo-atmospheric interceptor missile, an AAD endo-atmospheric interceptor and the “Swordfish” long range tracking radar developed jointly with Israel. Under phase one, the national capital region will be covered and later other cities will be protected.

The current PAD missile is intended to be replaced by a PDV missile in the PAD/AAD combination by eliminating the liquid-fuel first stage and creating a two solid-fuel stage missile capable of interception at altitudes of upto 150 kms.

Phase two will cater for missiles with a range greater than 2,000 kms, will reach Mach 6-7 speed and have the capability to manoeuvre and deploy decoys. It will require long range radars with a detection range of 1,600 kms with greater indigenous content. Several technologies, such as a space based launch detection system, have to be integrated to make this possible, and all this will take several more years to develop.
A satellite kill vehicle, using Agni III, is reportedly being developed but no test has been scheduled so far, as delicate political considerations are involved. China’s ASAT test in 2007 has spurred Indian concerns because our growing space assets need protection.
While the achievements of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation are impressive, claims that we can deploy an effective BMD system against intermediate range ballistic missiles and ICBMs in the next few years invite some scepticism. Of course, India is not planning a full spectrum BMD system because of technological and financial limitations. Even the US, after spending billions, does not possess such a system and is looking for financial burden-sharing now even for developing and deploying the Standard Missile 3 that can intercept an incoming missile mid-course. The Indian effort is concentrated on the terminal phase which gives limited geographical coverage as compared to mid-course interception.

However, in terms of actual effectiveness in battlefield conditions, like other systems, the Indian system will have to contend with the enemy overwhelming the shield with a large number of warheads or mirved missiles. The Chinese have this capability.

Just as the Russians are developing new missile and reworking systems to defeat the proposed US BMD shield, the Chinese and the Pakistanis will react similarly to India’s BMD system. Chinese experts claim China has never taken India as a strategic rival and that none of its weapons were designed to contain India. Similarly India says that its longer range Agni missiles are intended to deter China and not Pakistan, but this does not deter Pakistan from developing its missile capacities further to counter India. Regional diplomatic initiatives to address these problems are very difficult to work out.
The US BMD deployments are triggering Chinese responses with an impact on our region. China wants to deter the US, India wants to deter China and Pakistan, Pakistan wants to deter India. China will not limit its capabilities to assuage India’s concerns so long as it perceives a threat from the US. India will continue to develop credible deterrent capabilities against China so long as the China threat exists and expands, and will not be able to respond to Pakistan’s calls for a mutual strategic restraint regime that leaves China out.

Significantly, all those countries deploying terminal defence systems are integrated into the US surveillance and tracking capabilities. India and the US have signed a 10-year defence framework agreement that provides for expanding collaboration relating to missile defence. In January 2012, a senior Pentagon official stated that the US was open to collaborating with India on the missile defence shield project and would restart the dialogue with India on the subject.

For many years India and the US have been talking about missile defence issues, without tangible progress so far. India wants to retain its autonomy in this area.
In sum, India is making progress in developing a BMD system even if its effectiveness in battlefield conditions remains open to question. India has little choice in this regard as it cannot allow the strategic gap between it and China to grow irretrievably. It must remain abreast of vital strategic technologies. India has to consider developing ASAT technologies before any international regime is reached that excludes India like the non-proliferation treaty.

India is not a member of any alliance and must rely on itself for its defence. This makes it necessary for it to develop its strategic capacities sufficiently and independently. The conditions for a separate Indian subcontinental deal on such issues do not exist as China would not want to be constrained in its choices vis-a-vis the US by the India factor, apart from its unwillingness to deal with India on the basis of equality in nuclear matters, and India will not want to be constrained in its choices vis-a-vis China by the Pakistan factor.

This is a circular problem and squaring this circle will be exceedingly difficult indeed.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pakistan: Judicial Coup could Unravel Democracy

Sushant Sareen
Senior Fellow, VIF

Pakistan’s dubious record of not a single Prime Minister completing his full term remains unbroken. A self-perpetuating right-wing, Islamist-oriented judicial mafia in the country has broken new constitutional ground by delivering a coup de grace on a sitting Prime Minister by disqualifying him on the charge of committing contempt of court. Whether it is as a cause or a result of the steady atrophying of the Pakistani state, the judiciary has emerged as virtually a state within a state, a notoriety it now shares with the Pakistan Army.

From ordering transfers and postings of officials to deciding the price of sugar, and from advising the government on how to maintain law and order to interfering in economic decisions, affairs of political parties, and what have you, the Pakistani judiciary has, for some time now, been playing executive, judiciary and legislature, all rolled into one. Now of course it has even acquired the power to not only break governments (and create an unprecedented constitutional crisis in which a nuclear armed country remains without a government for around four days) but also form governments, especially if the politicians cannot strike a deal on the next Chief Election Commissioner or the next Caretaker Prime Minister.

Notwithstanding the Supreme Court judgment’s sinister and potentially destructive portents for the constitutional scheme in Pakistan, a large part of the blame for the manner in which the government’s, and indeed parliament’s, role has been diminished lies with the political class. Had the incumbent government given a modicum of good and clean governance and retained the support of the people, it is unlikely that the Court’s could have run amok like they have done. But it is equally true that ever since it came into office, the government has lurched from one crisis to another (some the result of its own incompetence and many others the result of being hobbled by an overbearing military, a hostile media and an over-assertive and activist judiciary) leaving it with little time and space for governing effectively.

Given the horrible mess Pakistan is in – a destabilised, fragmented and polarized polity which is being further strained by the tussle for power between institutions of state, a tanking economy, a very precarious security situation, a fraught law and order situation made worse by rising sectarian and ethnic violence, a tense relationship almost on breakpoint with the sole superpower - it is highly unlikely that the new Prime Minister will be able to deliver anything. Not only does Raja Pervez Ashraf face a possible indictment in the alleged scam over sanctioning Rental Power plants (making his continuation in office untenable), he could also face a fate similar to that of his predecessor if he refuses to kowtow to the Supreme Court on the issue of reopening the Swiss money laundering cases against President Asif Zardari. This means that the political crisis in Pakistan could only worsen in the days and weeks ahead.

The big question now is whether or not the Supreme Court will be reckless enough to guillotine a second Prime Minister and continue with this theatre of the absurd. If the Court holds its hand, questions will be raised as to what has happened to its commitment to uphold rule of law; on the other hand, if the Court sacks another PM, then the question will arise whether and for how long the political system can endure such constitutional adventurism. Equally important will be the reaction of the PPP and its allies. If the PPP sheds its pusillanimity (as it must if it doesn't want to see another PM sacked) and forsakes the ‘politics of reconciliation’ (to take on the opposition which is believed to be conspiring with the judiciary), a clash between the government, and perhaps parliament, on one side and the judiciary on the other will become inevitable. In the event this happens, the way will be paved for an extra-constitutional intervention by the Pakistan army which is extremely disquieted by the continuing drift in the affairs of state.

While general elections are being touted as a solution to the logjam, they are unlikely to be a panacea partly because a hung parliament is expected to emerge from the next elections and partly because both the two front-runners i.e. Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, spook the army and also the Americans. Not surprisingly, Pakistan is abuzz once again with talk of the infamous ‘Bangladesh model’ – a government of technocrats backed by the army. While in Bangladesh, the judiciary partnered the army in supporting this government, replicating the same in Pakistan will be difficult, more so because of the judiciary’s professed commitment to democracy will tie its hands in backing this ‘caretaker’ government beyond the constitutionally mandated 90 days. But for this government of technocrats to have any realistic chance of setting things right, it will need to be in power for longer than 90 days. At that stage, the army might have to step in to send the judges home and the political circus in Pakistan will have come a full circle.

The problem however is that while the army might be thinking that the mess created by the politicians have given them yet another chance to become 'saviours of the country', things on the ground have gone so bad that it increasingly appears unlikely if even the triumvirate of Army, Allah and America together can pull things back. Compounding the problems for the army is the fact that in order to improve the economy they will have to compromise with the Americans. While this could give some very short term relief on the economic side, politically this is a rather unpalatable proposition given the widespread and deep seated anti-Americanism that is sweeping through Pakistan. If nothing else, any deal with the Americans will tarnish the army's image and there is a high chance that it will pit the army against the Islamist fundamentalist and insurgent groups. In the end, it seems that Pakistan will become an even more fractious country and consequently an even more difficult place to manage.

India’s Neighbourhood Policy

Satish Chandra
Distinguished Fellow,VIF

India’s neighbourhood policy has of late attracted scrutiny not only because of our troubled relationship with many of our neighbours but also because of projections, including at the level of the Prime Minister, that a peaceful neighbourhood is a sine qua non for the realization of its growth ambitions. It is not without significance that many Pakistanis have for long pedaled a similar self serving view, urging India to meet Pakistan’s demands on the grounds that the failure to do so had led to the prevailing fractious environment which was stymieing India’s global ambitions.

While the increased attention to our neighbourhood policy is to be welcomed it is too much to suggest that a stable neighbourhood is absolutely mandatory for India’s progress. There are countries, like for example China or South Korea, which despite a fractious relationship with some of their neighbours have nevertheless done remarkably well. Accordingly, there is no reason why India cannot do likewise even if it has one or more unfriendly neighbours given good governance and sagacious leadership. While it should certainly strive for a harmonious relationship with all its neighbours this should not be at the cost of its core national interests.

It is a sad but unfortunate truism that many of India’s neighbours regard it, often quite wrongly, as selfish and overbearing and seek to countervail it through relationships with regional and extra regional powers. With a view to rectifying the situation many recommendations have, from time to time, been made about changes required in the conduct of India’s dealings with its neighbours. While some are eminently reasonable, others are unnecessary and even counter productive.

Some of the recommendations that merit favourable consideration may be enumerated as follows:

  • Most of our neighbours suffer from a deep sense of neglect due to the absence of sustained linkages particularly at the political level. Exchange of high level visits between India and each of its neighbours on a frequent and regular basis related to the entire gamut of national activity would help alleviate this feeling of neglect and also foster closer understanding and cooperation. It would, in addition, minimise misperceptions about India and promote mutual trust.
  • In its exchanges with each of its neighbours India must not hesitate in spelling out its expectations and laying down red lines that should never be crossed in relation to its core interests. In this context, while India should be relatively relaxed about the linkages developed by its neighbours with other regional or extra regional powers it should certainly frown upon such linkages being used against its interests.
  • Proactive steps must be taken to resolve at the earliest long standing political and economic disputes with each of its neighbours which inevitably vitiate the relationship;
  • Jointly evolve with each neighbour comprehensive economic, commercial, educational and cultural cooperation programmes designed to create win win situations for both countries and integrate them more closely. Joint management of waters, connectivity, energy grids, easier movement of peoples etc could all form part of this exercise.
  • India’s implementation record in fulfillment of political and economic understandings solemnly undertaken leaves much to be desired. Time bound fulfillment of its promises is essential if India is to command respect.
India has sometimes been quite unnecessarily faulted for lacking an overarching South Asia policy and being overly focused on security related issues.
In regard to the former it may be pointed out that, given the enormous difference in the nature, depth, complexity and texture of India’s relationship with each of its neighbours, adoption of a common policy towards all of them is neither possible nor desirable. For instance, India’s policies towards Nepal---a country with which it has open borders and free movement of people --- cannot possibly be replicated with Pakistan--- a country with which it has fought four wars and which constantly seeks to undermine it.

Similarly, India’s focus on security related issues is both natural and necessary as this happens to be a core concern for us and we can only avoid it at our peril.

Worse still is the proposition enshrined in the Gujral doctrine and reiterated in the recently enunciated Non Alignment 2.0, put out by a group of eminent Indian analysts, that India must constantly go the extra mile to reassure its neighbours and be prepared for unilateral concessions rather than insist on reciprocity. It is no one’s case that India should not err on the side of generosity in dealing with neighbours who are mindful of its concerns. For instance, in the case of Bangladesh which has been helpful to us in addressing our concerns on critical issues like terrorism and connectivity we should be much more proactive than we have been in terms of finalizing an agreement on the sharing of the Teesta waters, implementing the border settlement accord, fast tracking the projects envisaged under the $1 billion line of credit extended and in fact even doubling the amount of the credit accorded. But a similar generous approach vis a vis Pakistan which misses no opportunity to stab India in the back would be counterproductive. Indeed, it can be argued that India’s failure to penalize Pakistan for its involvement in terrorist activities directed against India has only emboldened it to continue in its anti Indian policies in a business as usual mode.

Indian history is replete with the accord of unilateral concessions made by it to its neighbours but they have neither been reciprocated nor led to better relations. For instance, neither the Indus Waters Treaty nor the Simla Agreement induced Pakistan to give up its inimical policies in regard to India. Under the former India despite being the upper riparian with 40% of the catchment of the Indus waters gave Pakistan the right to 80% of the waters and under the latter it gave up without any quid pro quo the over 5000 square miles of territory captured by it during the 1971 conflict and the nearly 92000 PoWs in its custody. Similarly, all the unilateral Indian gestures to win over China such as abandoning its own special rights in Tibet, recognizing China’s claim to Tibet, canvassing for the PRC government’s representation in the UN, etc came to nought and were reciprocated by China’s seizure of Indian territory in Jammu and Kashmir and its attack on India in 1962.

In these circumstances, we would be well advised to desist from making any unilateral concessions towards any country and adhere to the time tested practice of dealing with all countries, including neighbours, on the basis of reciprocity. Where a neighbour addresses our concerns we must richly reward it and where it acts against us we must strictly penalize it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ties with China, US not Exclusive

Kanwal Sibal
Member Advisory Board, VIF

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s visit to India on June 5-6 and the third round of the India-US Strategic dialogue at Washington on June 13 have provoked much commentary on the direction of our relations with the US.

Those strongly supportive of close India-US ties see in these two exchanges the re-assertion of the will of both governments to deepen their strategic partnership and remove the growing impression that the relationship is adrift.


Those suspicious of US policies for ideological or other reasons are opposed to US efforts to enlist India as a partner in furthering its new Asia-Pacific strategy aimed at countering a potential threat from China. Their sense is that, in response to US overtures, India has shown unwillingness to become a pawn in America’s anti-China strategy and has indicated it will preserve its strategic autonomy.

For those who favour improved ties with the US, but who would caution against taking the US rhetoric about India- overblown at times- at its face value, Panetta’s visit and the Clinton-Krishna dialogue are part of a desirable process of drawing the two countries closer through engagement in diverse domains. India, in their view, is right to want to preserve its strategic autonomy as much as possible, but it should leverage a stronger India-US entente in the making to its geopolitical advantage.

There is little reason today to view India-US relations ideologically, particularly when ideological differences no longer drive international relations. One can disagree with US policies for plain common-sense reasons, without recourse to the rigidity of ideology.

With the process of globalisation- whatever its downsides- knitting the countries together in a form of interdependence, pragmatic choices for advancing national interest have today much greater relevance.

It is necessary therefore to take a balanced, pragmatic view of our relationship with the US. We should neither be burdened too much by past distrust of the US nor feel unduly buoyed up by the belief that it can now be fully trusted in the future. The US acted primarily in its own interest in the past and will do so in the future too. India is no different.

Today, both Panetta and Clinton extol India’s role in Afghanistan and want India to be more active there, even in training the Afghan national security forces, an area which was considered out of bounds by Defence Secretary Gates as recently as January 2010.
The US language on Pakistan has changed, coming closer to that of India on the issue of terrorism and the difficulties both countries face in dealing with that country- “our respective- and often deep-dfferences with Pakistan”- as Panetta remarked during his recent visit to Delhi. Not too long ago, while expressing support for India on the issue of terrorism, President Bush unfailingly lauded Pakistan as a front-line ally of the US in the war on terror.


It is because the US places its own interest above anything else that it is accused of inconsistencies, double standards, adopting contradictory positions, striking questionable balances and the like. The lesson we have to draw from this is less a moral than a practical one. US policy towards India will be modulated by its perception of where its interests lie in changing circumstances. We should, too, modulate our policies towards the US to the degreee required by our national interest in an evolving international scenario.

On our part, the Indian political elite has for long intellectually decried many aspects of US political, military and economic policies even when they did not target India directly, but the US has also been a powerful magnet for sections of India’s middle class in search for opportunities abroad. This dichotomy in attitudes has persisted in India all these years, and, although much attenuated, exists even today.

The US remains the leading global power but its economy is in trouble and its military is overstretched. The western alliance embodied by NATO lacks, in the absence of an identifiable external enemy, the reason as well as the will to collectively assert its global supremacy. Other powers have risen to contest the domination of the West, economically to begin with and now even militarily. China represents this development most palpably.


India’s own international profile has changed. Its economic growth, market size, entrepreneurial talent, advances in the knowledge economy, human resources, its role in addressing global challenges of climate change, energy and food security, financial stability, international trade negotiations etc are reasons why it is now considered an important pillar of the global system.

It now no longer needs its leadership of the nonaligned movement to make its weight felt in international affairs. The opposing Cold War camps-which in any case have disappeared-do not need to woo it for its influence amongst the developing countries. In this perspective, India has become more like China in terms of the interest it now evokes in the international community.

All these developments signify that space now exists for us to play an enhanced international role, which we seek. While the US can facilitate it because we are not competitors, China will be remain an obstacle because we are.

We should, of course, continue our engagement with China bilaterally and in regional and international forums. Our relationship with the US and China are not exclusive. We should, however, not forget that our real adversary is China not the US. China claims our territory, the US our partnership. We can tactically send reassuring signals to China, even as we become “enlightened” partners with the US, but we need not equate our relations with the US with those with China to preserve our strategic autonomy.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Looking for a Sustainable Energy Policy

Dr. M.N. Buch
Visiting Fellow, VIF

On 18th June 2012 the Rajiv Gandhi Technical University, Bhopal (RGTU) held a day-long roundtable on solar power in which there was partnership with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a consortium of Japanese industry in which Toyo Engineering and Ricoh had a prominent role.

The RGTU and the Delhi Technical University (DTU) are both working with the Tokyo Institute of Technology on alternative energy systems which would be sustainable and environment friendly. The proposal is to set up solar power generation projects in which solar power replaces conventional fuel to convert water into superheated steam which, in turn, would drive turbines to generate electricity. The project combines the new technology of tapping solar energy and the known technology of using steam to drive power turbines for power generation.

This joint Indo-Japanese project aims at initially setting up a 30 kilowatt pilot plant of what is termed as CL-CSP technology. A pilot plant each would be located in RGTU and DTU. I did a calculation of the space requirements for such a plant. There will be 65 solar collector panels which would require a minimum land area of 750 to 800 sq.ft. The plant itself is divided into three sections, the first one of which consists of solar collectors and concentrators which heat up carbon dioxide. The second section consists of a heat exchange chamber in which carbon dioxide exchanges heat to superheat water and converts it into superheated steam. Carbon dioxide, after cooling, is circulated back for reheating to the first chamber. In the third chamber the superheated steam drives a turbine, which, in turn, generates electricity. When all the chambers are taken together this 30 kilowatt plant would probably require about 2500 sq.ft of area, which is the size of a large dwelling unit. By contrast a 30 kilowatt diesel generator set would probably need less than 100 sq.ft.

The project further envisages a one megawatt plant and a twenty megawatt plant also. One wonders whether any university in India will have that much of land space to accommodate the solar collectors needed for the larger plants. The technology is a definite advancement on the existing one of using solar collectors and both concentrating solar energy and converting it to electricity and then storing it through photo voltaic cells. In terms of land, the system appears to be highly demanding of land space and, therefore, would be inefficient on account of the land factor. In Gujarat the government seems to have a hit upon the novel idea of using the space above the Narmada main canals for setting up solar collectors because this space does not have an alternative use and the Gujarat proposal would give it the dual use of being a waterway and providing space for solar collectors. At present this is aimed at setting up a one megawatt power plant. Gujarat has very ambitious plans for use of solar energy for power generation and fortunately there is enough wasteland available in the deserts of northern Gujarat to provide large spaces for solar collectors. Not every State is so fortunately placed. In the Punjab, for example, where there is very little wasteland, one finds it difficult to believe that large solar based power plants can be established. This is emphasised in order to caution our scientists and technologists about the limitations of solar power. Having said that if we disaggregate the use of solar power India provides great scope for it, we have about 300 days of sun shine per year in almost all parts of the country and, therefore, using rooftops for trapping solar energy for domestic purposes has enormous possibilities. We can cut down our lighting, cooling and water heating load on conventional energy systems if we resort to large scale domestic use of solar power. Such application of solar power could also be extended to industry to at least partially meet their energy requirements. India will not become a largely solar power driven economy, but we must fully exploit the potential of solar energy in order to reduce the load on conventional power systems.

One of the areas in which alternative power sources are being sought is wind energy. Again Gujarat is one of the leading States because along large coastal stretches in Saurashtra wind velocity is satisfactory and there are stretches of wasteland available for setting up windmills. Let me contrast this with the city of Bhopal where, despite the fact that it has seven hills, the wind-rose is such that there are at least four months in the year when atmospheric conditions are not favourable for wind energy. For two months wind velocity drops well below optimum levels and wind energy based power generation becomes almost impossible. Therefore, whilst expanding the use of wind energy to the maximum extent possible we should be clear in our minds that the contribution of wind energy power generation, whilst valuable, will still be marginal.

Both DTU and RGTU have vociferously advocated bio-fuels, especially bio diesel synthesised from jatropha seed. Both universities have set up pilot plants and also done some jatropha plantation. The effort is commendable but one has strong reservations on how far it can be taken. Brazil leads in the use of bio-fuels, especially ethanol derived from sugar cane and similar plants which grow easily in tropical Amazonia. In India if we are to become dependent on jatropha based bio-diesel we would have to convert all our cultivated area to jatropha -- a horrendous situation which no one will accept. A better bet would be conversion of water to hydrogen and re-engineering automobile engines to use hydrogen as a hydro-carbon replacement. We have more water than we have jatropha seed, so now we can see where technology should be headed.

That leaves us with three major sources of power generation, fossil fuel and gas based thermal power generation, nuclear power generation which is again thermal based and hydro power generation which is dependent on water flow. Fossil fuel is a depleting resource and its extraction causes landscape upheavals which are not environment friendly and in its use is highly polluting both on account of emissions and on account of disposal of fly ash. It also necessitates very large scale displacement of people from mining areas. At the same time it is our single biggest source of power generation and, therefore, we cannot abandon it in the near future, greenhouse effect notwithstanding. Here technology must tackle the twin problems of environment friendly mining and efficient combustion which reduces emissions and whose byproduct can be used to produce building materials instead of blighting the landscape. The German State of Rhenish Westphalia pioneered scientific mining in which overburden was removed in a planned manner and, when the mine ran out, was returned to its original location. Top soil was imported and mined areas brought under landscaping and plantation so that they were restored to a near natural landscape in the shortest possible time. India must follow this policy vigorously and honestly. At the same time our technologists must address the problem of dealing with emissions and byproducts so that the carbon footprints of the power plants are kept within such reasonable limits that they do not add to the greenhouse effect.

Another source is nuclear energy. By itself this technology is clean and does not harm the environment directly through emissions or bulky byproducts. A nuclear plant does not produce fly ash. The problem here is how to treat spent fuel which has a substantial half-life and is radio active. The tsunami which hit Japan and caused the disaster at the Fukishima Nuclear Power Plant, Chernobyl and the melt down at the Three Mile Island have created panic about the safety of nuclear plants, especially when a massive natural disaster occurs. Our scientists have repeatedly assured us that, for example, the Kudankulam plant has unprecedented safety factors built into it and the proposed Jaitapur Plant also will be quite safe. One only hopes that corruption, carelessness, lack of supervision in the construction do not undo the safety factors prescribed by the plant design, but one’s trust in the construction industry and government officers is not very high. One wonders whether the design of the plants has taken care of these factors also.

This brings us to the cleanest energy source, hydro power. The water wheel for irrigation and the mill for grinding grain have always been the machines for which water power has been used. The generation of electricity by using water to drive turbines is a relatively recent phenomenon in human history, but water as the driving force has always been there. Water forced through a turbine drives it but creates neither emissions nor heat and as it exits the turbines it can be used for other purposes such as irrigation. The Bhakra Dam, Sardar Sarovar, Indira Sagar are all examples of combined use of water power for electricity generation and for irrigation. With some planning it can further be used for navigation and for transport of goods and people. Our entire Himalayan region has enormous potential for hydro power generation, which would be entirely nonpolluting. Ironically the very source of totally clean power is the one which is opposed by the very environmentalists who consider other sources of power generation to be polluting.

Why should this be so? Our rivers are not really perennial in terms of equitable flow throughout the year. The snow fed Himalayan Rivers do have some flow throughout the year, either because it rains or because there is snow-melt. Even here the position is that, for example, at Uttar Kashi and at Tehri the difference between peak season flow and slack season flow of Ganga (Bhagirathi) is 94 percent, with flow at the bottom end of the season being six percent of peak season flow. By contrast the slack season flow of the Narmada at Hoshangabad is about 12 percent to 14 percent of peak season flow. Do we consider the Ganga a perennial river or is the Narmada more perennial, despite the Narmada being totally monsoon based and the Ganga being a snow-fed river? If rivers are not truly equitably perennial then we need to store water, both for irrigation in dry season and for power generation. Run of the river power generation plants have a far smaller possibility of success than is being made out by the environmentalists and it is a pity that our engineers have been unable to come up with a convincing case for building storage reservoirs and not being dependent on run of the river projects.

The minute one mentions storage the environmentalists are up in arms because storage entails submergence, it may bring some forest areas under submergence and certainly it would cause people in the catchment to be displaced. We have still been unable to come up with a truly convincing and effective policy whereby the benefits enjoyed by people in the command of a hydro project are shared equally with the people living in the catchment, with displaced people being rehabilitated in the command area in such a way that they can share in the benefits of the project. We have not been able to evolve a viable policy which can convince even hard bitten environmentalists that forests under submergence will be compensated by alternative forests of as good a quality as the submerged areas. This is an administrative failure and must be corrected. The very environmentalists who oppose a project must be deeply involved in rehabilitation both of people and forests whereby a new partnership develops which facilitates the taking up of hydro projects.

Our entire approach to the power problem is looked at from the supply side. Demand for use of electrical energy on per capita basis is one of the principal indices of the level of development of a country. The power off take per capita in the United States is a multiple of the off take in India and, therefore, the United States is considered more developed than us. No one is suggesting that we should reduce our dependence on electricity because we really cannot go back to an era when oil lamps and candles were the only source of lighting. Therefore, as demand increases we are constantly in search of means of increasing power generation. This has prevented us from looking at the demand side wherein technology is used to reduce the power requirements of every single prime mover in the world so that even with the given power resources we do not suffer shortages. A few examples will illustrate the point.

A tropical country like India uses millions of ceiling fans, not to mention pedestal and table fans. The average ceiling fan needs between 60 and 100 watts of power. Supposing the motor which drives a fan was be made so efficient that it does not require more than 10 watts of power. This would mean a 600 percent improvement in the performance efficiency of the fan. If every fan in India was this many times more efficient than it is today, India would no longer have a power shortage. Extend this to every prime mover, from the smallest motor to the very largest one which drives the machinery of a factory. If the same thinking were applied to the power sector as we do to the IT hardware sector, the world would probably not to have to generate a single extra kilowatt of power for the next fifty years because what we have would suffice for our purpose.
Let me take another example. There are crores of electricity driven pump sets used for lift irrigation. The quality of rural power supply is universally bad in India except, perhaps, in Gujarat. With power being erratically supplied in terms of phases and regular three phase supply being rare, with there being vast voltage fluctuations, the motors of the pump sets burn out very quickly. The villager electricians do heavy rewinding of the motors and attach a condenser. This permits the motor to run on one phase, two phases and three phases, but very inefficiently and with amperage going up because of the resistance generated by heavy rewinding. There is a great deal of unnecessary loss of power as a result thereof. I have begged our engineering colleges, including Indian Institutes of Technology, to invent a motor whose sensors recognise the quality of power and enable the motor to function under adverse conditions without losing efficiency. Not one of our top engineering institutions has bothered to do any research in this area because this is low end research which would benefit millions of people but would not get the institute much publicity.

The Japanese took the huge radio with its unwieldy valves and by inventing the transistor were able to reduce the radio to the size of a cigarette pack powered by a one and a half volt battery, which enabled one to listen in on the world. From this came the entire integrated circuitry revolution, with the integrated circuit and the silicon micro chip which has completely changed the entire information technology hardware. We need a similar revolution in the design of prime movers so that there is a revolution in the use of power which will take care of the question of the total quantum of power we need and the means of generating such power.