Monday, December 30, 2013

Afghanistan: Security Trends and Implications for India

Brig (Retd) Vinod Anand, 
Senior Fellow, VIF

The events in Afghanistan seem to be turning a full circle. ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ that commenced in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is drawing to a close and plans are afoot to hand over Afghanistan to the very forces that were the root cause of the problems in Afghanistan. The American strategy has been shifting and its objectives have been diluted over a period of time. Disruption and dismantling of the Taliban networks is no more their objective. While their current strategy definition aims to build capable and transparent Afghan security and governing institutions and move to a supporting role and then transfer full responsibility to the Afghans by the end of 2014, it cannot be said that they have been successful in their endeavours so far.

The neighbours of Afghanistan and Pakistan would be the worst sufferers of the adverse fallout from a Talibanised Afghanistan. Laying down of timeline for withdrawal without attaining the necessary benchmarks for ensuring a self-sustaining Afghanistan in terms of governance, security and economic parameters has created its own dynamics which does not bode well for the future of Afghanistan.

If the politics of Afghanistan holds, then the security scenario is expected to improve with concomitant positive impact on economy. However, the most dangerous trend which is apparent from a series of attempts by the American leaders is to outsource reconciliation with the Taliban to the Pakistani establishment. Afghanistan’s High Peace Council’s ‘Peace Process Roadmap to 2015’document points towards Pakistan becoming the main arbiter of Afghanistan’s destiny at the cost of Afghans and the regional stakeholders. In any case the Afghan reconciliation process remains stymied because of the competing interests of all the entities involved in the process. Further, the Afghan war is not popular domestically and there is no upside to the European and American economies for the time being.

The current situation in Afghanistan can be best described as ‘complex and uncertain’. Afghanistan is a country amid transition and 2014 is the year when many of the components of the transition are supposed to reach fruition. However, many elements of these Afghan transitions themselves remain inextricably entwined influencing each other in different and complex ways. For example, it may not be possible to usher in economic development in Afghanistan till some modicum of political stability and security has been achieved.

Afghanistan of today is much different from that of 2001; years of infusion of western aid coupled with many million Afghan children going to school and many other accomplishments and the gains of the last decade or so of western engagement would be lost if the Taliban were allowed to return to power. Despite the fact that Taliban continues to carry out targeted operations there is still a semblance of relative stability and prosperity due to presence of western troops.

However, there are many uncertainties about the future political, security and economic environment which is impacted by combination of factors by varying degrees generating several likely future scenarios. These factors include: a level of overall Western assistance, implications of inevitable foreign aid cuts, sustainability of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF), the number of American/western troops to be left behind, the outcome of the 2014 elections, the prospect of a political settlement, future of the insurgency, Pakistan as a factor and the competing objectives of the regional players.

Political Factors Impacting Security

Afghanistan’s engagement with the West and conduct of elections and ushering in of democracy have planted the seeds of modernity in the Afghan civil society even though the elections conducted so far may not have adhered strictly to the norms of western democracies. The influence of civil society activists and independents in the National Assembly has been growing due to many factors including access to media. Yet, they have been struggling against the traditional factional leaders to have a say in the policy. It is also seen that even in security organs Pashtuns, Tajiks and others, of all factional affiliations, have worked together relatively well.

Therefore, free and fair conduct of forthcoming Presidential elections in April 2014 is being seen as an important factor in providing stability to post-2014 Afghanistan. Political trends indicate a degree of dissonance between President Karzai and the US, differences on how the reconciliation process should proceed, the role of Pakistan and an American perception that Karzai intends to hold on to power or at least would install his own candidate as President through possibly a stage managed elections (using the election machinery) in 2014.

Further, while the US and Afghanistan have concluded a Strategic Partnership Agreement in 2012, Karzai has so far been reluctant to conclude a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that could involve giving long term basing rights to the US forces and immunity to troops from prosecution. Afghanistan has clarified that these negotiations are premised on the understanding that the United States does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan, or a presence that was perceived as a threat to Afghanistan's neighbours. However, Karzai has been accused of using the BSA negotiations as a tool to sort out internal political wrangles. Even after the Loya Jirga meeting held in end November had approved the signing of the BSA, Karzai wants the same to be approved by new Assembly after the elections in April 2014.

Trends in ongoing reconciliation efforts seem to indicate that all the parties to the negotiations have different approaches to the negotiations. While Afghan regime wants the talks to be Afghan-owned, Afghan-led and Afghan controlled process as endorsed in many of the international conferences on Afghanistan, Pakistan wants to be the main driver of eventual reconciliation between the Afghans. Apparently, the US and many other western nations who were making reconciliation efforts and talking directly to the Taliban representatives seem to have outsourced their efforts to Pakistan. Pakistan’s duplicity and deceit in the West’s war on terror has now been rewarded by making Pakistan as the main arbitrator of Afghan destiny.

Prospects of success of reconciliation efforts do not look good because of a number of factors including the stance of Pakistan. The Taliban have not been militarily defeated and not very keen to come to the negotiating table. Karzai’s efforts at reconciliation with the Taliban have floundered so far including his visit to Doha in first week of April for the same purpose. However, some efforts for reconciliation are still on behind the scenes and there may be some forward movement after the elections in Afghanistan in April 2014.

Finally, there has to be a political solution and not a military one though a strong military action should have been able to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table. A negotiated outcome has the potential to usher in peace and stability in Afghanistan. However, a forced reconciliation is unlikely to lead to sustainable peace. Further, reconciliation should not become a code word for surrender or handing over power to the Taliban. A Taliban dominated government is not acceptable to most of the Afghans and even to its neighbours except Pakistan. Non-Pashtuns and anti-Taliban forces also need to be co-opted in the peace efforts.

Trends in Security

There has been a clear increase in the number of attacks launched by the Taliban in 2013, year on year as compared to 2012. Thus, there has been a general increase in insurgent activity including increased number of insider attacks on the Afghan local police. On the other hand, it can also be said that Afghan national security Forces after having taken over the lead role in operations have fared well. They have withstood the Taliban offensive even though their rate of causalities has been far more than the coalition forces.
Taliban had launched their annual spring offensive, ‘Operation Khalid bin Walid’ in March this year. According to a Taliban spokesman , the offensive was to “consist of special military tactics quantity and quality wise while successful insider attacks, to eliminate foreign invaders, will be carried out by infiltrating Mujahideen inside enemy bases in a systematic and coordinated manner." The DOD report of July 2013 states that there had been some “regression” (loss of security) in several provinces, including Wardak, Faryab, Farah, and Herat1.

Evidently, the Taliban’s focus was on weaker forces like ANP, local police to undermine their organizational cohesion, and morale. The aim was to seize initiative. According to Gen. Salim Ehsas, Chief of the Afghan Police forces, the militants have carried out 6000 attacks all across the country. 1,273 Afghan public order police service members and 779 Afghan local police (ALP) officers along with 856 civilians lost their lives. According to Gen. Dunford Afghan casualties are among my top concerns,” and stated that ANSF was suffering in some cases 100 to 120 causalities per week2.

ANSF conducted around 300 independent military operations and over 1,500 joint military operations with coalition security forces in the current campaigning season3. Though the overall causality numbers in case of ANSF are not being released as some sort of a security measure yet it has been reported that the causality rates among Afghan security forces have increased by 80 percent compared to 2012. This is further compounded by the fact that the attrition rates of ANSF have also increased to 35 percent4. Though such rates appear to be alarming yet the ANSF has somehow been able to maintain sufficient strength in their units. However, large numbers of casualties and inadequate facilities for their evacuation adversely affect morale and have negative impact on recruitment and attrition.

As part of their overall strategy, the Taliban has targeted key officials of the Afghan government and vulnerable military and civilian installations. Though, of late number of such attacks has declined. The key objective of the Taliban is to continue to expand their areas of influence and operations with a view to acquire a predominant position if and when negotiations take place.

It has been estimated that Taliban’s strength is between 25,000 to 30,000 fighters with various degrees of commitment to the cause. The Haqqani network operating in the North-East Afghanistan with launch pads in North Waziristan Tribal agency of Pakistan has a strength of about 3000 personnel while Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s group is estimated to have 1000 fighters.

One of the major tactics employed by the Taliban is the use of IEDs; US military commanders have been increasingly concerned by the number of deaths caused by the use of IEDs. Year 2010 saw a considerable jump over the number of fatalities over 2009 due to IEDs. Year 2011 saw some decline yet the number of total fatalities (492) and the portion (252) of fatalities due to IEDs was quite large. Years 2012 and 2013 have seen a decline in IED fatalities.

IED Fatalities5

Another tactic used by the Taliban has been to increase the use of infiltrators into the ANSF and cause maximum causalities to both ANSF and coalition troops. This is further supplemented by Taliban’s leadership’s instructions that civilian casualties should be avoided. Evidently, the Taliban is attempting to shape the perceptions of the common populace and win them over through improved relations with local leaders and elders and use local Imams and teachers to indoctrinate students in Taliban ideology and outlook.6 Added to this is another developing trend though as yet not very pronounced wherein ANSF have been concluding local ceasefires and making many other such arrangements with the insurgents. The ISAF for the time being thinks that such pacts may prove to be beneficial to impart some flexibility and stability in post-2014 situation. However, adverse effects of such arrangements should not be underestimated as the past experience dictates that such understandings have been used by the Taliban to expand and consolidate their influence and presence7.

Further, according to the Pentagon estimates, there is a large core of the Taliban which remains loyal to the Taliban insurgency headed by Mullah Omar headquartered at Quetta.

Uncertainty over Quantum of US/ISAF Forces

There have been many statements made by the US leadership that the US and coalition troops are going to stay in Afghanistan though no quantity has been agreed upon as yet. Gen. James Mattis, Commander of US Central Command before retiring in March, stated that a total of 20,000 troops (13,600 of US and balance by other NATO partners) would stay post-2014; while Lt. Gen. Dunford, Commander of US/ISAF forces in Afghanistan had not indicated any numbers when questioned by Senate Armed Services Committee. AT a NATO meeting in February 2013, the size of force remaining behind in post-2014 was mentioned as 8,000 to 12,000 US forces and about 5,000 from other partners of the coalition. The residual force is to consist of ‘trainers and mentors’ with unspecified number of counter-terrorism forces. But the size of residual forces still remains a question mark with some analysts even assessing that the Americans might renege on their long term commitment and pull out lock stock and barrel if the situation worsens in the coming years; if not in 2014, it might fully withdraw by say 2016. The objective of such a residual force is ‘to ensure sustainable stability until Afghans can provide for their own security’.
Quantum of western troops staying back after the end of their combat mission in December 2014 has become contingent on the conclusion a BSA which would determine the status and role of U.S. forces. The main demand of the US is that the US forces should remain outside the jurisdiction of the Afghan law and be subject to the US military courts. The US is keen that ANSF handle their own security needs and is ready to leave behind some troops in advisory and training capacity but for protection of the US troops, BSA is necessary. There is also a mention of a ‘Zero Option’ i.e. no troops stay behind if BSA is not concluded but then this may be only a tactic to force the Afghans to sign the BSA. Eventually, the BSA may be signed in some form or the other as the interests of both sides are aligned. On the other hand, a demand for similar agreement by the US forces in Iraq failed to materialize and the American troops had to withdraw.

The above problems would be further compounded by an under resourced, under equipped and not fully trained security forces.

ANSF Development

The planned strength of 352,000 (195,000 ANA and 157,000 ANP) has not been achieved due to various contextual factors. There are plans to reduce the strength to 228,500 by 2018 so that Afghanistan is able to sustain its forces (financially more viable) However, according to a US GAO report released in October 2013 the ANSF may be short by over 15,000 personnel and the efficiency or training levels have been lowered in assessment procedures. A claimed improvement in the effectiveness of Afghan security forces has been partly due to the lowering of standards by U.S.-led forces.

As mentioned earlier, the annual attrition rate for the Afghan Army is now 35 percent, according to U.S. military commanders, provoking an enormous churn in the ranks.

The Pentagon’s inspector general reported (March 2013) that the extensive U.S.-led coalition effort to develop the Afghan National Army’s command-and-control capabilities, which are crucial in executing counterinsurgency operations on its own, “had produced a marginally sufficient” system. The ANA “did not yet have the ability to plan and conduct sustained operations without U.S. and Coalition support,” the DOD IG report said.

According to a Regional Command Annual Assessment Report (RASR) of September 2013, only 20 ANA out of 65 and 8 ANP units out of 21surveyed (which were assessed during the month of September 2013) have been assessed as fully capable. Further, according to the UN Secretary-General, there remains a notable shortage of logistical, air support, medical evacuation, and counter improvised explosive device (IED) capabilities within the ANSF. Despite a clear recognition from a number of senior US/NATO officers of the need for more balance between combat and specialized combat arms like armoured corps, artillery, engineers etc., tangible action to address this issue has not been taken.

Recruitment and retention policies as well as the quality attracting the suitable, committed and educated individuals both in the ranks as well as officers would continue to pose difficulties. Given the low levels of education facilities in Afghanistan, it is not surprising to find that approximately 70% of ANA is functionally illiterate. To mould them into an effective army would be a challenging task. There is also an essential imperative of having an ethnically diverse army. A rough estimate indicates that while the presence of Pashtuns at all levels corresponds to their general proportion of the population, Tajiks continue to dominate the officer and NCO ranks. In contrast, Hazaras, Uzbek and other minorities are significantly under represented. These discrepancies promote factionalism and create negative dynamics.

Further, there is still a debate on whether US air assets in post 2014 Afghanistan would not only support ISAF but also ANSF. The deficiency of air support to ANSF would definitely affect their operational performance. There are reports the United States will transfer to the ANSF some mortars, long-range artillery, and unarmed remotely piloted vehicles8. On the other hand, there are also indications that the US and western forces are more keen to make ANA as a counter insurgency force rather than a regular standing army which can defend its borders from any type of external threats. Regular army has implications for increased financial burden which they may be unwilling to bear. Further, they also appear to be mindful of Pakistan’s sensitivities about a strong ANA.

The size of ANSF, especially ANA, is required to be determined based on internal as well as external threats to the country. One of the means to achieve the economic scale for the security forces would be to ensure that such threats, which essentially come from Pakistan based and supported insurgents, is reduced by regional and global initiatives.

In any case, there is an immediate need to create/strengthen as well as institutionalize a cohesive security structure which should evolve policies regarding important questions such as ultimate force size, equipment as well as infrastructure expenditure. At the moment, such vital decisions are being taken mostly on ad hoc basis.

The Afghan security forces are going to continue to depend upon international assistance for foreseeable future; funding requirements of ANSF have been agreed to in Chicago Summit last year but the key question is whether the fund promised (US and partners 3.6 billion dollars per year plus 500 million to be provided by Afghanistan) would be made available. These funds, if provided, may not be sufficient for development and sustainment of the ANSF. The funds are also for a four year period till 2017. Long term commitment of funds is absent and it is tied up with many conditions to be met by the Kabul government.

Pakistan as a Source of Insecurity

The double role of Pakistan in Afghanistan has been well recognized by the western nations and even some experts and authors of Pakistani origin have verified to this effect. Many recent writings point out that Pakistani’ establishment’s policy of treating Afghanistan as ‘strategic depth’ may be undergoing a change because of the existential threat from its own terrorist and extremist groups. While the newly installed government in Pakistan has made some positive noises its credentials and its capability to deliver remain suspect. In fact, the new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made statements to please every stakeholder. He has been attempting to juggle too many balls hoping that none falls. However, there is no tangible evidence to support the fact that Pakistan is ready to become part of the solution in Afghanistan. Though, officially Pakistan supports an Afghan-led and Afghan controlled negotiation process, it has exhibited its prowess in disrupting the reconciliation process by releasing/arresting Taliban leaders who do not toe its line. Pakistan’s need to be the driver of reconciliation process is driven by its obsession of bringing a government in Kabul which is not friendly to India in any manner whatsoever. Having provided havens and resources to the Taliban in its territory, Pakistan envisages a Taliban dominated/influenced government in Afghanistan that follows its strategic discourse. There is also widespread belief amongst the Pakistani leadership that once the western forces withdraw, the ANSF would not be able to sustain itself and would collapse in the face of onslaught by the Taliban with some help from Pakistan as was done during mid-1990s. This is a possibility if ‘Zero Option’ is exercised by the U.S. and the donor commitment to funds for Afghanistan wanes and is finally withdrawn. An apt analogy is that of Najibullah government whose armed forces continued to provide security from 1989 to 1992 when the Russian aid was finally withdrawn. That resulted in the collapse of the armed forces and the government.

There is a climate of fundamental distrust between the governments in Kabul and Pakistan. The ANA is also not keen to accept in a meaningful way the offer by Pakistan to train its armed forces. Somehow Pakistani establishment feels that President Karzai is better disposed towards India and encourages expansion of Indian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, continues to support Quetta Shura led by Mullah Omar, Haqqani group and Hekmatyar factions of Taliban which have been carrying out attacks inside Afghanistan for many years.

In any case, other than Pakistan there is no other neighbour of Afghanistan who favours installation of a Taliban government in Afghanistan. No country in the region wants Afghanistan to become a haven for terrorists who would embark on a regional and global jihad after having tasted victory against the erstwhile super power USSR and now the reigning super power US.

Implications for India

India’s efforts in Afghanistan are shaped by its commitment to build a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan that is bereft of extremist and radical ideologies. Its principal objective is to build indigenous Afghan capacity and institutions which cover almost all sectors. India’s reconstruction and developmental programmes have been devised in a manner that supports the priorities of the Afghan government and its people. Besides the aid of over 2 billion US dollars, Indian companies are also in the process of investing 10 to 11 billion US dollars in the Hagijak iron ore mines and the connected ancillaries. India is investing in mineral, agricultural and other sectors to help build a sustainable economy. As part of the Istanbul process, India has also been instrumental in encouraging other countries to invest in Afghanistan. Promoting Afghanistan as a regional hub for trade and commerce would not only help Afghanistan in integrating its economy with the region but it would also enable Kabul to earn adequate transit revenues to sustain its government’s budget including that of the ANSF over the long term.

India had signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan in 2011 which catered for providing Kabul with both military and non-military aid. India has been training ANSF personnel in its academies and military institutions. While Karzai has been pressing India to provide military equipment like artillery guns and tanks, India has been keen to provide only non-lethal equipment. India’s reticence in supplying such weapon system is possibly shaped by the likelihood of the same falling into the Taliban or even Pakistani hands. India has also been telling the US and other western countries to leave such equipment that enables the ANSF to perform their tasks efficiently before they withdraw. However, there is growing opinion amongst some strategic thinkers that India can afford to give some regiments of 105mm artillery guns which are being phased out. Similarly, some older versions of tanks can also been given though there might be some issues about their origin. Afghanistan has also requested for transport aircraft like AN-12 and some MI-17 helicopters which is within the capability of India to provide. Problems of some of the equipment and weapon systems being of Russian origin can be resolved after consultations with Moscow. Such equipment would go a long way to help ANA improve its defensive capabilities.

Further, India has also agreed to provide trainers for the Afghan National Army academy that has been established by the UK and is modeled on Sandhurst. India is also likely to deploy technicians to run an old military hardware maintenance facility in Afghanistan. As part of its overall effort in strengthening the capacities of ANSF, a few light helicopters like Cheetah for reconnaissance purposes would also be delivered.

The thaw between the U.S. and Iran has opened up new opportunities for improving connectivity between India and Afghanistan and onwards to Central Asia and beyond. Development of Chabahar port in Iran and the connecting infrastructure to Afghan border can be expedited and mineral resources/finished products can be evacuated in variety of ways. Development of Afghanistan and consequential benefits to Afghan populace and government would help in stabilising Afghanistan and improving its security environment.


The unfolding scenarios in Afghanistan are largely dependent upon the US strategies, Pakistan’s stance, and the manner of reconciliation and integration of radical elements. Though other regional powers have significant stake in the outcome of what is happening in Afghanistan, they have not been much involved in the ongoing process. The US and its coalition partners’ strategies have been shifting and their resolve to invest and endure has weakened due to many contextual factors. They are now only working for a face saving withdrawal. Further, if the politics in Afghanistan holds, that is a successful holding of Afghan elections in April 2014, then the security environment is also expected to improve and consequently the economic transition would be more likely to succeed in the long term.

While the US and its allies have invested considerably in ANSF, they are as yet reluctant to make it a regular standing force suitably equipped with necessary wherewithal so that it could discharge its duties with a high degree of satisfaction. The ANSF needs to be provided with a balanced composition of arms and services in order to meet both internal and external threats likely to be posed to survival of Afghanistan. American and other western forces need to leave adequate military equipment and weapon systems behind instead of hauling them all over back to the US or somewhere else. As it is, lot of blood and treasure has been spent over the last twelve years or so and leaving the equipment back may not be of much consequence monetarily. So far as signing the BSA is concerned, it is expected that it would be signed sooner or later as its draft has been approved by the Afghan Loya Jirga.

India needs to have a de novo look at its policies in Afghanistan; if its strategic interests in Afghanistan are bolstered by providing lethal military equipment to ANSF then it must take a call. India’s core strategic interest continues to be that ‘Afghanistan should never be allowed to become a haven of terrorists who would embark on regional and global jihad’.

  1. Kenneth Katzman, “Afghanistan; Post Taliban Governance, Security and Policy’, Congressional Research Service Report No. RL30588, October 23, 2013, p.23
  2. DOD, News Transcript, “Department of Defense Press Briefing with Gen. Dunford from the Pentagon Briefing Room,” June 18, 2013
  3. “Taliban Attacks Kill 3000 Afghanis in Seven Months: Interior Ministry”, Press TV, October 29, 2013 available at
  4. “Afghan Combat Deaths Nearly Double in 2013 Fighting Season, while US Causalities Drop”, RT News, November 09, 2013 available at
  5. See
  6. DOD Report “Progress Toward Stability and Security in Afghanistan”, July, 2013, pp 20 available at
  7. Ibid. pp.20-21
  8. Jim Michaels, “ White House Scaling Back Military Support for Afghan Forces”, The USA Today, June 04, 2013 available at

Friday, December 27, 2013

Release of VIF Series on ‘History of Ancient India’

The first five Volumes of the 11 volume series on ‘History of Ancient India’ being prepared under the aegis of the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) were released by former Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Opposition National Democratic Alliance, Shri L.K. Advani on 23rd December 2013 at an impressive ceremony at the VIF Auditorium. The Editors of the 11 volumes series are Prof. Dilip K. Chakrabarti (Professor Emeritus of South Asian Archaeology at Cambridge University) and Prof. Makkhan Lal (noted historian and archaeologist).

In his address, Shri Advani said though he has released a large number of books over the years, this series has a special place in his heart since it has not only enhanced his pride as an Indian but as people at large would get to know about the nation’s true history.

Speaking on the occasion, VIF Director Shri Ajit Doval outlined the aims and objectives of the entire project and its importance. Describing the monumental project as a “brain child” of noted columnist and thinker Shri S Gurumurthy, he explained how it was conceived and took shape over the years.

Prof. Dilip K. Chakrabarti outlined the details of each volume and pointed out that since the country attained independence many multi-volume projects on history and archaeology were undertaken by many governmental and non- governmental agencies but except for one (i.e. the Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan series) no other project could proceed beyond a few initial volumes. In fact, most of them could not go even beyond the planning stage.

Explaining the mammoth task involved in the publication of the five volumes running into about 3,500 double column printed pages within a short span of two years and seven months, he said the rest of the six volumes will also be released as per schedule. Over 80 leading scholars from various universities from India and abroad and Government departments contributed chapters on different aspects of ancient Indian history in these volumes.

Speaking on the occasion, Shri S. Gurumurthy, who is also a renowned economist, said the idea for this project on ancient Indian history came to him while searching the meaning of the so called “Hindu rate of growth” in economics. He spoke in detail on how India and China dominated the world economics for well over two thousand years; contributing more than 60 percent of the total world GDP. The economy gradually declined and was finally destroyed once India came under the British rule. He hoped that these volumes will clear-up lots of myths perpetuated by wrong approaches and misrepresentation of facts.

Shri Arun Shourie, noted journalist and author and Prof Kapil Kumar, noted historian spoke at length about the distortions deliberately perpetuated by the colonial historians and continued more vigorously after independence by the Marxist historians.

Proposing a vote thanks, Prof Makkhan Lal said history is all about identity of the people and therefore it is important they should be vigilant as to what is being written and what is being taught. There should not be a conflict between what is written in the textbooks and people’s religious beliefs. He said that it should not happen that what is being viewed as sacred and very revered at home is denigrated in the school textbooks. He further emphasized that history need not be written by winners alone but also the defeated ones. To illustrate his point, he cited the two streams of histories regarding the discovery of the New World i.e. the Americas. The European version views that discovery of the New World opened new natural resources, amazing reserves of gold and more land for their colonization but completely ignored the fact that within a decade or so after the Europeans discovered the New World, three major civilizations – Inca, Aztec and Maya -- developed over two millennia, were destroyed. The same can be said about the other countries conquered by those who projected themselves as missionaries of Christianity and Islam.

The event saw the participation of many eminent persons including Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Shri Arif Mohammad Khan, Shri K.N Govindacharya, Shri Subhash Kashyap, Shri Vijai Kapoor, Gen. N.C. Vij, Adm. K.K. Nayyar, Shri Prabhat Shukla and Prof Lokesh Chandra.  

Interaction with Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, Member of Pakistan’s National Assembly

An interaction was held with Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, Member of Pakistan’s National Assembly and President of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazal-ur-Rehman group) on 17 December 2013. The Maulana shared his perspectives on several issues related to Indo-Pak relations and the emerging situation in Afghanistan. The interaction was chaired by Mr Ajit Doval, KC, Director VIF and attended by members of the VIF faculty. Maulana Mahmood A Madani, Executive Member of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind was also present on the occasion.

Release of India-US Partnership: Asian Challenges and Beyond

India-US Partnership: Asian Challenges and Beyond, a culmination of the joint study between the Vivekananda International Foundation and the Heritage Foundation, US, was released by Ambassador K S Bajpai, Former Indian Ambassador to the US, on 16th December 2013.

The book has contributions by experts, including Ajit Doval KC, Ambassador Kanwal Sibal, Ambassador PP Shukla, Lisa Curtis, Jeff Smith, Walter Lohman, Lt. Gen. (Retd) Ravi Sawhney, Dean Cheng, Brig. (Retd) Gurmeet Kanwal, and Thubten Samphel.

In his opening remarks, Shri Ajit Doval KC, Director VIF, recognized three major events of the twenty first century: China’s assertive rise, the 9/11 incident and the US follow up of War on Terror, and India’s emergence as a democratic, economic, military and technological power, which according to him have redefined the geopolitical considerations of the US in Asia.

In his address, Ambassador Prabhat P Shukla, Editor of the book, highlighted its relevance in identifying hurdles in India-US strategic relations and in recommending ways for overcoming these hurdles. On the issues addressed in the book, he said that the participants had correctly seen the stagnation in Indo-US relations, and the slowdown in the Chinese economy. These were not widely accepted at the time of the seminar, but are more or less the accepted consensus now. An easily achievable way of removing some of the doubts in India regarding the bilateral relationship, according to Ambassador Shukla, was for the US to correct the depiction of the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, which US maps show as extending to the Karakoram Pass. This was neither legally, nor in actuality, the correct depiction, which was to extend the line due north to Indira Col along the Actual Ground Position Line. This could then be followed with an examination of the border depiction in the Ladakh region with China. Another area of importance for both India and the US to observe and examine carefully is the worsening of situation in, not just the economy of China, but also its political structure. The increase in public and high-level expressions of caution and worry over a probable collapse of China spreading through the Chinese media and the political class cannot be ignored. Ambassador Shukla concluded by referring to the importance of a substantive dialogue between the two countries on the Asian rebalance and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Ambassador Bajpai, while releasing the book, congratulated the VIF and the Heritage Foundation for the remarkable study. Quoting from the Editor’s note, Ambassador Bajpai summed up the situation of the India-US relations as follows: “We are not happy with the US on Pakistan; the US is not happy with us on Iran; and we both are utterly confused about China”. He argued that a stagnation in relations is much less a worry than the absence of trust and assurance, without which no two nations can live and cooperate together. He therefore stressed that such collaborative work as done in this book is crucial to build trust and regenerate assurances. Ambassador Bajpai observed that be it the security of the Persian Gulf, stability of Central Asia, managing power equations in East Asia vis-à-vis China, or the vast range of issues in the Indian Ocean, India and the US are the only two nations with identical strategic goals in all these four areas and we can definitely identify some common ways to achieve these common goals.

Also present at the release was the team from the Heritage Foundation, which included James Carafano, Vice President Heritage Foundation, Lisa Curtis, Senior Fellow Heritage Foundation and Walter Lohman, Director of the Asian Studies Centre at the Heritage Foundation. Mr. Lohman discussed in brief his contribution in the book on the prospects and need for the two countries to work together in Burma. He stressed that development in Burma serves as an ideal example and opportunity for cooperation between India and the US. Ms. Curtis argued that while irritants in the relations may remain, the strategic goals of the two countries seem to converge strongly on China and the Af-Pak region as a whole and therefore the two nations, according to Ms. Curtis, are destined to cooperate strategically. Mr. Carafano congratulated the two Foundations for the exceptional work put into the study and argued that the governments of the two nations will not lead but only follow the path of cooperation. It will be ideational works, such as the present book, through exchanges of ideas and minds which are going to lead and direct the way for cooperation ahead. The two organisations needed to continue to work together in the future as well towards this objective.

It was therefore agreed that the two Foundations will continue their exchanges in order to create strong ideational grounds for the cooperation between India and the US to be realized soon.

Monday, December 23, 2013

India-China Relations: Mutual Concerns

Brig (Retd) Gurmeet Kanwal, 
Visiting Fellow, VIF

In the Indian perception, there are several major areas of concern that are limiting the growth of the bilateral relationship. The foremost among these is the unresolved territorial and boundary dispute. The other major concern is the “all-weather” friendship between China and Pakistan that is, in Chinese President Hu Jintao’s words, “higher than the mountains and deeper than the oceans”. The Indian government and most Indian analysts are convinced that China has given nuclear warhead designs, fissile material and missile technology as well as fully assembled, crated M-9 and M-11 missiles to Pakistan, as has been widely reported in the international media. China and Pakistan are also known to have a joint weapons and equipment development programme that includes Al Khalid tanks, F-22 frigates and FC-1/JF-17 fighter aircraft. China’s military aid has considerably strengthened Pakistan’s war waging potential and enabled it to launch and sustain a proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir and in other parts of India. By implication, therefore, it is also China’s proxy war.

From the Indian perspective, there are several other contentious issues. These include China’s continuing opposition to India’s nuclear weapons programme; its deep inroads into Myanmar and support to its military regime; its covert assistance to the now almost defunct LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) in Sri Lanka; its increasing activities in the Bay of Bengal; its attempts to isolate India in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) while keeping India out of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation; and, its relentless efforts to increase its influence in Nepal and Bangladesh. China’s efforts to develop port facilities in Myanmar (Hangyi), Chittagong (Bangladesh), Sri Lanka (Hambantota), Maldives and at Gwadar in Pakistan are seen by many Indian analysts as forming part of a “string of pearls” strategy to contain India and develop the capacity to dominate the northern Indian Ocean region around 2015-20. Though at present the Indian Navy dominates the northern Indian Ocean, a maritime clash is possible in future as the PLA Navy begins operating in the Indian Ocean – ostensibly to safeguard its sea lanes and protect its merchant ship traffic. Hence, China’s moves are seen by Indian analysts to be part of a carefully orchestrated plan aimed at the strategic encirclement of India in the long-term to counter-balance India’s growing power and influence in Asia, even as China engages India on the political and economic fronts in the short-term.

As both China and India are nuclear-armed states, it is in the interest of both to ensure that strategic stability is maintained and that the risk of accidental or unauthorised nuclear exchanges is minimised. This would be possible only if negotiators from both the sides sit down together and discuss nuclear confidence building measures (CBMs) and nuclear risk reduction measures (NRRMs). However, China’s insistence that it cannot discuss nuclear CBMs and NRRMs with India as India is not a nuclear weapons state recognised by the NPT is proving to be a stumbling block. China’s official position is that India should cap, roll back and eliminate its nuclear weapons in terms of UNSC Resolution No 1172. That is unlikely to happen. India has been recognised as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology and has been given a backdoor entry into the NPT through the NSG waiver and the IAEA safeguards agreement. India has also signed civil nuclear cooperation agreements with France, Russia and the United States (US). It would be in the interest of both the countries to discuss nuclear CBMs and NRRMs so as to enhance strategic stability in Southern Asia. It is also in China’s interest to enter into a nuclear trade agreement with India as India is rapidly emerging as a large market for nuclear fuel and nuclear technology.

India realises that its growing external relations with its new strategic partners are causing some concern in China. China has viewed with some suspicion India’s willingness to join Australia, Japan and the US in a “quadrilateral” engagement to promote shared common interests in South East Asia. China also wishes to reduce what it perceives as the steadily increasing influence of the US over New Delhi. China knows that the US is several years ahead of Beijing in recognising India's potential as a military and economic power and has greatly increased its cooperation with India in both spheres. China fears that the growing US-India strategic partnership is actually a loose alliance and that the two countries are ganging up against China. It should be clear that India is unlikely to ever form a military alliance with the US – unlike Pakistan, which is a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) of the US and is also China’s “all weather” friend. India has always pursued an independent foreign policy and cherishes its strategic autonomy. It will be recalled that India steadfastly supported the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) for several decades during the Cold War and has never entered into a military alliance with any country. The US is an Asian country in strategic terms and it is necessary for India to maintain good relations with it. It is also India’s largest trading partner and has a large Indian Diaspora. There are major convergences of interests between India and the US. Hence, India’s newfound strategic relationship with the US need not come in the way of India-China relations, which have their own strategic significance for India.

In an article entitled “Warning to the Indian Government” (posted on the website of the China Institute of International Strategic Studies on March 26, 2008), Zhan Lue, a Communist Party member, warned India not to “walk today along the old road of resisting China” as the People’s Liberation Army is now well-entrenched in Tibet and will not repeat its mistake of withdrawing after a border war as it did in 1962. He extolled the virtues of the PLA’s newly developed capabilities and went on to advise India “not to requite kindness with ingratitude.” This surprisingly sharp attack in a scholarly journal did not appear to be an isolated piece of writing. Another Chinese scholar advised his government to engage India’s neighbours to break India into 26 parts. In the wake of the Tibetan unrest in India and across the world earlier during 2008, anti-India rhetoric in the Chinese media had been ratcheted up several notches. Analysts in India believe that such scurrilous writings could not have been published without the express sanction of the Chinese authorities as almost all Chinese media are state controlled. This type of rhetoric sets back efforts at reconciliation and mutual understanding.

China is concerned about the situation that might develop when the Dalai Lama passes away. Despite all the raving and ranting against him, the Chinese government is acutely conscious of the fact that the present Dalai Lama’s is a voice of moderation and accommodation. They know that there will be a major uprising in Tibet when he passes away as the Tibetan youth will no longer feel constrained to respect his cherished desire for peace and harmony and are likely to resort to violent attacks against the Han Chinese people and officials and state property. Despite India’s remarkable restraint over 50 years, the Chinese are not sure of how India will react to a post-Dalai Lama rebellion in Tibet. In fact, the Chinese harbour a fair deal of ill will against India for providing the Dalai Lama with sanctuary – even though India has forbidden him from any anti-China political activities from Indian soil and the Dalai Lama has honoured the restraints imposed on him by his hosts. A senior Chinese interlocutor told this analyst at a bilateral think tanks’ dialogue at Bangkok in October 2009 that relations between China and India would flourish very well if India was to hand over the Dalai Lama to China even at this belated stage. From this the depth of Chinese resentment with India for providing shelter to the Dalai Lama can be gauged. Since such a course of action would be completely out of character with India’s civilisational and spiritual values, handing over the Dalai Lama is simply out of the question. China would, therefore, do well to put this issue aside and move forward in its relationship with India.

Another area of concern for India is the rapid development of military infrastructure in Tibet by China. The Gormo-Lhasa railway line is now fully operational. The rail network is proposed to be extended towards Shigatse and then into Nepal. China has recently developed a road network of 58,000 km and five new air bases. New military camps have come up close to the border with India. Telephone and radio communication infrastructure has been considerably improved. China has been practicing the rapid induction of airborne divisions into Tibet. Some Indian analysts have estimated that China is now capable of inducting and sustaining about 25 to 30 divisions in Tibet in a single campaign season. Short range ballistic missiles (SRBMs), some of them nuclear tipped, are also known to be deployed in Tibet. Surely, all these developments are not for sustaining Tibet’s fledgling economy. The continuing improvement of military infrastructure in Tibet does not augur well for future peace and stability between the two nations in the light of an unresolved territorial and boundary dispute.

Humiliation of Indian Diplomat by US Unacceptable

Kanwal Sibal, 
Dean, Centre for International Relations and Diplomacy, VIF

The arrest and hand-cuffing of India’s Deputy Consul General (DCG) Devyani Khobragade in New York as if she is a criminal with all the intrusive personal indignities heaped on a “felon” by the US manuals raises serious questions about India-US bilateral equations and the unilateralist manner in which the US interprets the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR).

This humiliation has been consciously inflicted by the US authorities ignoring its political implications. It could have been avoided since there is nothing in the case that could have compelled them to take this drastic step. If the US authorities felt that denying the maid the US minimum wage was intolerable, they could have sought the DCG’s expulsion. Instead, they have themselves — not the maid — filed the case against the DCG by contriving a legal cover for their extreme step by claiming that she had committed visa fraud by falsely declaring the maid’s wages.

There is much chicanery involved here. Indian diplomats taking domestic staff to the US accept the minimum wage requirement when all concerned, including the US visa services and the State Department, know this is done pro-forma to have the paper work in order. To imagine that the US authorities are duped into believing that our diplomats will pay their domestic staff more than what they earn is absurd. The US authorities have been clearing such visas for years to practically resolve the contradiction between reality and the letter of the law.

Any US concerns about this practical approach exposing our diplomats to potentially lethal legal consequences do not seem to have been amicably addressed at the official level despite the numerous dialogues that we boast of to underline our transformed bilateral ties. Absurdly, US authorities first recognise domestic staff as officials because visas are affixed on their official passports (without insisting on affixing them only on ordinary passports) and subsequently de-recognising their official status by subjecting them to local employment laws. The VCCR does not require that home-based domestic staff be treated as local American employees. The other ludicrous implication of the DCG’s case is that any Indian national giving wrong information on a US visa form can be hauled into a US prison at the whim of US authorities.

The US sees no moral wrong in our diplomats and our India-based service staff being paid far less than their US counterparts, but feels morally outraged if our domestic staff is not paid according to the US standards. Their moral sensibilities are not aroused when their own consular diplomats, paid extra in hardship postings like India, give slave wages to their Indian staff, disregarding their own laws on what is technically sovereign US territory.

The Americans adhere to or ignore international law as it suits them. Their abusive interpretation of the VCCR cannot be challenged before any international adjudicatory body. Powerful countries can insist on their own interpretation and weaker countries have to adjust. While the US is cavalier about diplomatic immunity applicable to other countries, it seeks total immunity for its own personnel stationed in foreign countries as an entitlement. The case of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor attached to its consulate in Lahore who murdered two Pakistani citizens in a street shoot-out, is an egregious example.

Would the US authorities have treated the DCG of Russia or China in the same way it treated our DCG? Tellingly, they have recently expelled, not arrested, several Russian diplomats for defrauding the US healthcare system, a crime that cost the US exchequer. Our DCG not paying her maid the minimum wage did not cost the US exchequer a penny. The US is more careful with countries where their stakes are higher or where the threat of retaliation is more real.
This unfortunate episode reveals a lack of respect for India and a belief that we will not react forcefully. The State Department, instead of expressing regrets, can, therefore, be flippant in observing that this incident should not affect bilateral ties.

Unfortunately, because of numerous cases of maltreatment of domestic staff in India and some cases abroad, the egregiousness of US action in humiliating a senior Indian diplomat is escaping proper public understanding. The lady DCG, whose diplomatic passport has been impounded, is in for a long torment. Whatever our unmerited prejudices against our career diplomats and grievances about the efficiency of our consular services in missions, we should not forget that our diplomats abroad represent the country’s sovereignty. Debasing them is demeaning India and its sovereign status.

The government has rightly called the US action unacceptable. Concrete reciprocal action should follow to signal that there is a price to pay for willfully humiliating our diplomatic representatives. Some steps have already been taken. A systematic review of the privileges accorded to the US government personnel in India should be made and the principle of reciprocity strictly enforced in stages as the case in New York proceeds. The US has already self-inflicted a big price for its high-handedness as the Indian Foreign Service is seething with anger against it with a lasting fallout on the relationship at the diplomatic level.

What the AAP Performance means for Indian Politics

Dr M N Buch, 
Dean, Centre for Governance and Political Studies, VIF

The Preamble to the Constitution of India starts with the following words, “We, the people of India …” and ends with the words, “hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution”. The final arbiters of what happens in this country are the people and how they will fulfill their role is given in Chapter 2 of Part IV of the Constitution and Chapter 3 of Part VI of the Constitution, which provide for an elected Parliament at the level of the Union and an elected Legislature at the level of the States. India’s Constitution makes us a representative democracy, that is, every five years we elect persons who will represent us in Parliament and the State Legislatures and who, by their participation in the activities of the Legislature, will enact laws on our behalf, sanction the budget and generally call the Executive into question about its performance. Each one of us cannot sit in Parliament, but through our representatives we can make Parliament listen to us and function according to the larger mandate given by us collectively to our representatives. The value of each M.P. and each MLA is not so much that he occupy a seat in the Legislature, but rather that he represents our collective voices and his ultimate responsibility and accountability is to those who have elected him.

Is that how the representatives view themselves? Do they really believe that they are in office because the people have chosen them and that it is the people who are supreme and that the Members of Parliament and the State Legislatures are only in office because people have decided that they should be there? If the legislators realise that the people are everything and that they themselves exist because the people have put them there, then this would be a true representative democracy. Unfortunately that is not what happens in India because our MPs and MLAs, once they are sworn in, seem to think that they are independent individuals, subject to the party whip but otherwise free to plunder the very people who have put them in office. Every act of corruption on the part of an elected representative, especially if he also holds office as a minister and makes money illegally, makes him doubly accountable, first as a minister to the House, that is, Lok Sabha in the case of the Union under Article 75 (3) or to the State Legislature under Article 164(2). Secondly he is accountable to the people of India, especially his electorate which has sent him to the Legislature as its representative and whom he fails whenever he indulges in a corrupt practice. The people of India have a right to be annoyed with such a legislator because he has violated the mandate given to him by the people. Reverting to the Preamble, the Constitution promises to all its citizens’ social, economic and political justice, liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, equality of status and opportunity and fraternity which assures the dignity of the individual. Every time a legislator takes a decision or makes a recommendation which is based on such extraneous circumstances as a bribe, he denies both justice and equality to his constituents. Whereas this is an offence under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act, it is much more serious than an ordinary offence because the act violates the Constitution. Deliberately violating the Constitution of India to the detriment of the very people who have framed the Constitution makes the violator more than a criminal, it makes him a traitor. There can be only one penalty for a traitor, which is death and in terms of politics it should metaphorically mean death through writing finis to the political career of the guilty legislator. This power vests only in the people, the voters.

From 1967 when the purchase of power through engineering defections by bribery entered our political scene, the rules of politics changed. Now it became legitimate to try and capture power by means other than the ballot. In other words, the mandate of the people was replaced by the mandate of Kuber. From being representatives of the people, the elected persons became the predators of the people. I use strong words because the extent to which our politics has fallen cannot be expressed politely. To these predators not only were the people prey, they were also the means of somehow achieving the status of predator. Misled at the time of polls, the people were thereafter betrayed once the election had been won. For forty-seven years after 1967 our so called representatives were able to betray the people without the people reacting. That, however, did not mean that anger was not seething internally or that the people any longer had any faith in politicians. Initially the people experimented by sometimes bringing one party into power and sometimes another. In Madhya Pradesh, BJP and Congress alternated accordingly. However, by giving an unclear mandate in many States and at the Centre, the people made it known that they were not happy with any party. Unfortunately the political parties did not read the signals correctly and merrily continued with their unprincipled politics because there in lay a very lucrative source of personal gain. Wherever the people found an alternative they moved away from the dominant Congress Party. New coalitions were formed and changed from time to time and India entered into an era of coalition governments. Unfortunately this has not resulted in better government, less corruption and extension of social services and social infrastructure. Ultimately it seems that the people have had enough and the signal they are sending out is that they are prepared to back anyone or party which promises positive action. The victory of Narendra Modi, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Raman Singh and Vasundhara Raje proves that religion based politics is not what the people favour. Instead the people want performance, are prepared to punish lack of performance and are prepared to vote for anyone who, in their opinion, is likely to provide better government. Ultimately in a democracy if elections reward performance or punish nonperformance, then that is one step forward in the process of democracy. It is an unfortunate fact that our parties, especially the Congress, have preferred manipulation of elections rather than sterling performance. That is why populism has replaced ideology, expediency has replaced programmes and projects and corruption has replaced honest government. Instead there is dependence on old shibboleths such as gareebi hatao, pseudo secularism and a belief that there are vote banks which can be exploited in order to gain and retain power. That is why Congress rode into battle like Don Quixote, mouthing platitudes which became dated forty years ago and only managed a tilt at wind mills rather than a presentation of ideology, ideas and programmes. This gimmickry has not worked. The net result is a drought of votes for the Congress.

It is into this vitiated atmosphere that Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party entered. They represent the collective anger of the people and their message has cut across caste and religious lines. What is more, they broke the traditional vote bank of the Congress, namely, the scheduled castes and the minorities. This time round the traditional vote bank of the Congress voted en masse for Arvind Kejriwal and his group.

In the seventies of the last century, Jayaprakash Narayan launched his ‘Sampoorna Kranti’ (Total Revolution) because the people of India were fed up with corruption, misgovernment and lack of economic opportunities. Because the movement did not define itself in specific terms, nor laid down its specific objectives from which it would not budge, the Sampoorna Kranti fizzled out and in 1980 the same old faces which had declared a State of Emergency came to the forefront. The revolutionary zeal of the Sampoorna Kranti had been dissipated by the infighting, indecisiveness and corruption of the Janata Party Government. That is why the people of India convinced themselves that Indira Gandhi was a better option and in 1980 she was back in power. The attack on institutions, the slide in morality continued and once again the legislators forgot the very people who had sent them to the Legislature. It is in this context that one has to look at the performance of the Aam Aadmi Party to whom, I admit, I had not predicted more than three seats and who in fact emerged as the second largest party in Delhi in the assembly elections. Now the ambitions of Kejriwal have increased and he is eyeing other States and, perhaps the whole country as a means of himself achieving power. The people who have reposed faith in him may find it difficult to work with him because like Jayaprakash Narayan’s Sampoorna Kranti, the Aam Aadmi Party has still not evolved an ideology, a programme or plan which would make it a continuous and serious contender for political office. Activism is not a substitute for the hard slog in Indian politics. Does this mean that the Aam Aadmi Party will also go the Jayaprakash way?

One achievement of Kejriwal is that he has given a rude shock to the Congress and the BJP in the Delhi assembly elections. Whether his party expands, contracts or disappears will be of no consequence, provided that the shock he has administered to the mainstream parties results in the parties themselves applying suitable correctives and returning to their true role of offering themselves to represent the people, thereafter serving the people instead of preying on them. This would be a positive contribution by Arvind Kejriwal. Otherwise he will be a passing meteor flashing through the sky and then disappear.

I cannot help but look back on the Soviet experiment in Russia after the First World War. In fact, it is in 1905 after the crushing defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese war that Tsarist Russia’s basic weakness came to the fore and there was a revolt which forced the Tsar to concede some powers to the Duma, or Parliament. Unfortunately the situation was beyond gradual reform and when the Russian armed forces broke before the German onslaught, revolution was the only answer. It is from this that the Bolshevik Revolution led by Lenin overtook Russia, which signed a separate peace treaty with Germany, thus pulling out of the First World War in its closing stage. Lenin was very clear in his objectives. The Tsarist regime was to be completely dismantled and destroyed and the entire old social order of Russia was to be liquidated, especially the Kulak class of land owners and the Russian aristocracy. A dictatorship of the proletariat was to be established in which at the lowest level the Soviet was the form of both political and administrative organisation. At one level the regime was egalitarian in that it abolished the classes into which Russian society was divided. At another level the regime was extremely totalitarian in which the only arbiters of the fate of Russia and all Russians was the Communist Party. Post Tsarist Russia was not a democracy, there was no rule of law as we understand it and horrors and atrocities were committed in the name of Soviet ideology. Nevertheless Russia’s inexorable march to become the Soviet Union could not be stopped because Lenin and Stalin thereafter had their goals very clearly set before them. To my mind what we had in the Soviet Union was a Sampoorna Kranti, with whose methods and objectives I did not agree but which did pull the Soviet Union out of the Tsarist morass and made it into a truly powerful nation. Where the Soviets went wrong was that they did not gauge or understand how people change when they become more prosperous and that is what ultimately caused the Soviet Union to unravel. Even that is a contribution because it proved that a democracy which is vibrant and open to change is always a better form of government than any dictatorship, which tends to be swallowed up by the very rigidity of its own beliefs.

I make the above point because in Russia there was no direct transition from Tsarist rule to the Soviet Union because for about fourteen years there was the intervening period of an incomplete democratic regime. In India, the danger is that if the political parties continue to bicker, are effete, practice unconstitutional means, are corrupt and fail to give good government, then the likelihood is that the rot in the political system will continue. To the extent that Kejriwal and his followers have been able to project the collective anger of the people and the refusal to accept the old rotten system, this is a very positive thing in Indian politics. The question is whether our other mainstream political parties will read the signal, stop finding excuses for defeat and instead do some introspection so that the government envisaged by the Preamble is in fact established because the message of the Constitution is understood by the politicians and the political parties. The message is good government, strong but totally accountable, firm but honest and at all times in touch with ground realities and the aspirations of the people. I will be very surprised if the Aam Aadmi Party is able to convert itself into a true political party, but to the extent that it is a sounding board for what people are thinking that should be welcomed by all political parties. Ultimately we all Indians need to have a mirror held up to us so that we can see ourselves as others see us. Jayaprakash Narayan could have done it but he faltered and instead gifted us with a bunch of some of the most rapacious politicians. Will Kejriwal be up to it? That depends upon the extent of megalomania that descends on him as the paeans of praise engulf him. Will his feet then remain planted firmly on the ground? Unfortunately his present stance of making impossible demands and refusal to concede that there might be another point of view would suggest otherwise.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Need for Enhanced Indian Surveillance in IOR

Radhakrishna Rao, 
Visiting Fellow, VIF

Indian Ocean, the third largest oceanic body in the world accounting for 20% of the total area of the world under water, holds a position of paramount importance for India. Since India occupies a central position in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the significance of the Indian Ocean to the maritime security of the country hardly needs to be emphasized. Rightly and appropriately, India considers the Indian Ocean as its own backyard. As pointed out by the historian K.M.Pannikar, “For India, the Indian Ocean is a vital sea. Her lifelines are concentrated in that area, her freedom is dependent on the freedom of that water surface.” On another front, Indian Ocean holds the key to the climatic dynamics of the Indian sub continent including monsoon on which is dependent the fortunes of the Indian agriculture, a major contributor to the Indian economy. Further, the Indian Ocean is also crucial to the energy security of the country. According to the Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, more than 80% of the world’s sea borne trade in oil transits through the Indian Ocean choke points.

In view of the rapidly expanding strategic importance of Indian Ocean, in recent years, there has been a growing clamour for strengthening and expanding the Indian presence in this vitally located oceanic body with a view to ensure the security of mainland India on a sustainable basis. Against this backdrop, sometime back, Avinash Chander, Director General of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) , had stressed on the need for India to put in place an effective mechanism to fully monitor IOR in a complete and three dimensional manner. To accomplish this objective, he has suggested the development and deployment of about 80-100 satellites designed for covering the IOR in a detailed manner .There are said to be 19 Chinese satellites keeping a watch over the IOR. As it is, the growing Chinese space based ocean surveillance capability with particular reference to the Indian Ocean has been a matter of concern for US strategic planners. In recent years, ocean observation space platforms have emerged as a major technological tool to keep a tab on the oceanic expanse on a sustained basis with a high degree of effectiveness.

By all means, India has vital stakes in the IOR even as the geostrategic focus of the world is shifting slowly to this region through which a bulk of world’s shipping trade passes. The changing geo-political stakes in IOR in the last decade has acted as a stimulus for the littoral nations to look seawards and this presents India with a challenging opportunity to expand its influence over the countries in the IOR. Rapidly shifting geopolitical environment underpins the need for India to not only safeguard its own interests but also cater to the security needs of island nations in IOR. Clearly and apparently, India would need to boost its naval capabilities to reach out to the littoral states with a greater degree of confidence. The recent handing over of India’s home grown Advanced Light Helicopter(ALH) Dhruv to Maldives for helping this island nation carry out search and rescue operations could imply a shot in the arm for the Indian influence in IOR.

As pointed out by India’s former Foreign Secretary and currently the Indian Ambassador to USA Nirupama Rao, as the main resident power, India has a vital stake in IOR. ”We have a vital stake in the evolution of a stable, open, inclusive and balanced security and cooperation architecture in the region,” says Rao. She further observes “By definition, this would need to be a consensus based process where all the stakeholders, who have a legitimate presence in the region, make their respective contribution to the regional security”.

There is no denying the point that the threat of global terrorism, piracy and international crime coming together and converging at the strategically located IOR is real and serious. And the increased trade in raw materials including oil from West Asia has radically transformed Indian Ocean into one of the busiest waterways in the world. In addition, the emergence of a unipolar world in the aftermath of the collapse of the once mighty Soviet empire and the prevailing disturbed security environment in Iraq and Afghanistan have all gone to significantly diminish the importance of Atlantic even while boosting the critical importance of Indian Ocean as a significant conduit for the Western military supplies.

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy whose current primary area of focus is on IOR , has acquired an “eye in the sky” in the form India’s fully home-grown GSAT-7 multi band communications satellite launched in August 2013 .This space platform would help the Indian Navy keep a tab on IOR with a vastly enhanced vigour. Further, it would facilitate the real time networking of all the Indian warships, submarines and deck based fighters and helicopters with the onshore operational centre. The 2625--kg Rukmini, as the satellite is known, will also help the Indian Navy keep a hawk eye in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal regions where arms running and sea piracy are reported with recurring regularity .Indeed, the seizure of the arms laden American private security ship, MV Seaman Guard Ohio by Indian Coast Guard off the Tamil Nadu coast in October this year is a clear indicator of use of IOR for arms trafficking. Evidently, investigation has revealed that the crew of this ship was in possession of sophisticated weapons without any valid documents. Indeed, the threat of arms laden privately owned vessels foraying into IOR would need to be tackled with all the seriousness it deserves.

Against such a scenario of disturbing developments in IOR, GSAT-7 with its reliable and safe communications networking capability will help expand Indian Navy’s maritime security apparatus over a wide swath of both eastern and western flanks of IOR. As things stand now, with this satellite, the Indian Navy would be able to cover well around 70% of the IOR—from Persian Gulf in the West to Malacca Strait in the east. Indeed for more than a decade now, Indian Navy has been clamouring for such an advanced space platform with a view to tighten its “sensor to shoot loop” which implies the ability to swiftly detect and tackle a threat.

Similarly, the easy access that Indian Navy would have to India’s home-grown navigational constellation IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System) will prove to be a game changer. The first of the seven satellites constituting the space segment of IRNSS was launched in July this year. Access to satellite navigation capability would help Indian Navy in enhancing its situational awareness and improving the hitting accuracy of its precision weapons including long range missiles. Of course, to enhance its “power projection” in IOR and beyond, Indian Navy is looking at acquiring a range of satellites designed for a variety of end uses including electronic intelligence and communications intelligence. To dominate IOR, Indian Navy should transform itself into a three dimensional network enabled maritime force with an uninterrupted access to “space resources”.

All said and done, India would, in the years ahead, face a serious challenge from China which is trying to dominate IOR in a systematic manner. As defence analysts point out, China’ strategic calculations in the Indian Ocean is to protect its sea lane of communications especially the transport of energy from West Asia to China through Malacca Strait. But on the other hand, there is also a perception that through its “string of pearls” strategy, China is trying to encircle India by creating its own sphere of influence in India’s neighbouring countries forming part of IOR.

Along with Myanmar and Pakistan, China has been fast expanding its influence in Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh. As diplomatic experts observe, by making available soft loans on generous repayment terms along with the engineering expertise for putting in place infrastructure and utility projects including roads, dams, energy pipelines, as well as military assistance, China has succeeded in expanding its influence and securing goodwill among many of IOR countries. Of particular concern to India should be China’s forays in the telecom, IT and other strategic sectors of the trouble torn Maldives which has historically been a close ally of India. Significantly, Maldives has also sought Chinese assistance for realizing its “space ambition.” Media reports also reveal that China is setting up a naval base in Seychelles. Though on the face of it, this facility is primarily meant for the purpose of seeking supplies and recuperating its navy, it could be a significant addition to China’s expanding footprints in IOR.

And in India’s immediate neighbourhood, China has taken over the administrative control of Gwadar port at the mouth of the Arabian Sea in the restive Balochistan province of Pakistan. Located about 400-kms to the east of the strategically located Strait of Hormuz, Gwadar can provide China an ideal spring board to monitor the US activities in the Gulf region and Indian activities in the Arabian Sea. The proposal for a pipeline from Gwadar to transport oil and gas to China could help this communist giant minimize its dependence of Malacca Strait which can be closed during war or become vulnerable to piracy.

China, which has already built a port for Sri Lanka at Hambantota has also become a space partner of this island nation which shares a common culture and history with India. As part of the Sino-Sri Lankan “handshake in space”, Supremesat-1 communications satellite was launched at the head of a Chinese Long March rocket last year. This partly Sri Lankan owned satellite perched over the Indian Ocean could help China in providing a boost its commercial, strategic and military interests in IOR. And as a follow on, Supremesat-2 is planned to be launched in mid-2016 by means of a Chinese Long March vehicle.

Chinese involvement in building Sonadiya deep water port near to Chittagong in Bangladesh is yet another instance of Chinese strategy of “string of pearls” aimed at encircling India in IOR. Bangladesh is also looking at China for giving a practical shape to its satellite project. The immense strategic significance of space cooperation could provide China with a platform in IOR to expand its geostrategic interests, rapidly and efficiently.

China has also strengthened its presence in IOR by signing a contract with the UN backed International Seabed Authority to gain rights to explore polymetallic sulphide ore deposits in IOR for the next fifteen years. China will have exclusive rights to explore 10,000-sq.kms in Southwest Indian Ocean. And this venture would provide a strategic platform for this communist giant to expand its sphere of influence in IOR.

Of course Indian Navy has developed its own military capabilities in the Strait of Malacca. In IOR, India holds a clear geographical and military advantage over China. India has a natural advantage in the Indian Ocean including short lines of communications to its own bases and resources along its coast. The Indian Ocean is a long way from China as well and control of the choke points could be useful for bargaining in the international power game. However, even though China’s maritime objectives in shipbuilding and port construction projects in the countries of IOR are primarily driven by commercial interests, the possibility of these large Chinese investments being used later for military purposes cannot be ruled out.

In view of its location close to Indian Ocean, India happens to be the country in the IOR having adequate resources and more importantly, a central strategic location to effectively provide a security umbrella for the region. Not surprisingly then IOR occupies a central position in Indian Navy’s strategic vision. India’s strategic doctrine for IOR highlights its willingness to enter into cooperative security in policing the region. India’s initiative in quelling the menace of piracy has been led by the Indian Navy which started its anti piracy operations in October 2008. Indeed, India has responded to China’s perceived presence in the Indian Ocean by trying to pre-empt China’s presence in the region by developing its own military capabilities near the maritime choke point particularly in the vitally important Malacca Strait. India is fully well aware that China’s strategic vulnerability in the Indian Ocean creates a dynamics of its own.