Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sino Indian Standoff in Ladakh: Implications and Options

Amb Satish Chandra, 
Dean, Centre for National Security and Strategic Studies

On April 15th around 50 PLA soldiers intruded about 10 Km inside Indian territory in eastern Ladakh and erected a tented post there. Efforts to get the area vacated through flag meetings, activation of the bilateral joint secretary level mechanism set up to address such situations, and intervention of our Foreign Secretary with the Chinese Ambassador have so far failed. As a result, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police has established a camp 300 meters from that set up by the PLA troops leading to an eyeball to eyeball confrontation.
The problem has arisen because the 4057 Km long Sino Indian border is disputed and because a common perception about the course of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is lacking. This has led each country, with a view to bolstering its territorial claims, to undertake patrolling in areas perceived by the other to be on its side of the LAC. While such activity on our part has been relatively modest China has each year engaged in hundreds of incursions into Indian territory. Such decades long activity is not risk free as anything can happen when the armed personnel of two contending parties are in close proximity in a disputed area. Accordingly, we should have been much more proactive in seeking to resolve the border dispute or, at least, arriving at a common perception of the LAC.

The current incident is much more serious than earlier ones because it is the first occasion in decades when the Chinese are adamant about not vacating the area. Clearly China has decided to up the ante and this move constitutes yet another provocation which we need to appropriately address. 

Unfortunately, India has placed too much faith on the innumerable affirmations committing both countries to maintain peace and tranquility along their borders and to resolve their border related differences peacefully as well as in the multi tiered mechanisms to ensure that the channels of communication remain open at all times.

Such faith is misplaced as China has shown no desire to resolve our border related differences. As recently as March 2013, President Xi Jinping in response to questions from the media asserted that “the boundary question is a complex issue”, resolving it “will not be easy” and pending settlement we should not let it affect “the all-round development in ties.” China, obviously, does not want to work on the early resolution of the boundary issue with a view to keeping India off balance, to destabilize us and to choose the time and manner in which it would act against us.

The foregoing coupled with China’s rapid military modernization are naturally worrisome given its inimical approach towards India which is borne out by the following:

  1. Rapid upgradation of infrastructure and force levels in Tibet along with India specific military exercises;
  2. Ratcheting up of claims to Arunachal Pradesh;
  3. Non grant of visas to residents of Arunachal Pradesh on Indian passports;
  4. PLA presence in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir;
  5. Claims that Sino Indian border is only 2000 Km thus questioning the legality of our possession of the Ladakh sector;
  6. Use of Pakistan as a proxy through grant to it of nuclear weapons related technology as well as conventional weapons;
  7. Pursuance of a string of pearls strategy to strangulate India.
  8. Opposition to India’s efforts to secure permanent membership of the UN Security Council and of various multilateral non proliferation related export control regimes like the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group etc.
In view of China’s overwhelming military superiority and inimical disposition towards India we have the following policy options:
  1. Business as Usual Approach: characterized by a casual military modernization programme, timidity towards China calculated to avoid ruffling its feathers and a hedging strategy in our relationship with other major players in the region. This option is based on the hope that in the absence of any “provocative” steps by India, China will not take any aggressive steps against us. Such an approach smacks of appeasement and as history has shown will only encourage further Chinese adventurism.
  2. Reciprocal Military Build Up Coupled with Business as Usual Approach: This would entail a focused China centric military buildup while continuing to appease it. While superior to a pure ‘Business as Usual Approach’ it will invoke China’s ire without causing it to renounce its inimical policies vis a vis India. This is apparent from the fact that China is reported to have indicated that it will only vacate its recent incursion if India dismantles its fortifications along its borders.
  3. Firm Self Respecting Policy: This should be our preferred approach and comprise the following elements:
a. Rapid military buildup designed to inflict pain on China in the event of an attack on India; such an attack should invoke counter attacks on China’s vulnerable points and its lines of communication both on land and sea. Our nuclear forces should be appropriately upgraded particularly the submarine vector. Specific attention must be paid to neutralization of Chinese military superiority through asymmetric warfare and guerilla tactics.

b. Linkages with countries which are similarly threatened by China should be openly pursued and plans discreetly developed for reciprocal assistance in the event of Chinese aggression.
c. Inimical moves by China should not be brushed under the carpet and must be responded to firmly. In the instant case we should set up camps in areas regarded by China as being on its side of the LAC but are in India as per our perception. Grant of stapled visas for those from Arunachal should not merely be the object of protest but cause us to issue stapled visas for Chinese from Sinkiang and Tibet.
d. We must play the Tibet card by allowing the Dalai Lama and the Kalon Tripa greater access to our leadership, ceasing to reiterate that Tibet is a part of China, being more supportive of human rights in Tibet and in Sinkiang at international fora, instigating moves in the UN for Tibetan independence, projecting that Tibet is the water tower of Asia and its mismanagement by China threatens the entire region etc. 
e. While welcoming increased Sino Indian economic ties we must ensure that trade is more balanced and China does not use it as a means to damage Indian industry and enter into sensitive sectors like telecommunications.
Adoption of such a policy will, of course, provoke painful Chinese countermeasures but it will in the long term make India stronger. A prerequisite for the adoption of such a policy is, of course, the need to clean up our act at home by providing better governance and ensuring rapid economic development.         

Interaction on Situation in Pakistan and Regional Security

A delegation led by Ambassador Richard Oslon, US Ambassador to Pakistan visited VIF on 17 April 2013. The delegation interacted with members of the faculty led by Shri Ajit Doval, KC, Director VIF on recent occurrences in Pakistan and the overall security situation in the region. The US ambassador also touched upon some aspects of US perspective on evolving situation Afghanistan. The VIF faculty gave its own perspective on events in Af-Pak region and evolving Indo-Pak relations.

Interaction on Evolving Situation in Afghanistan

On 18 April 2013, Mr. Shaida Mohammad Abdali, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India interacted with members of the VIF faculty on contemporary developments in Afghanistan. He spoke on the ongoing political, security and economic transition. He gave his perspective on reconciliation efforts with the Taliban. He also covered the interests and its manifestations of its neighbours. The VIF faculty highlighted the Indian interests and objectives in Afghanistan and the developmental efforts which have won popular support.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Nationalists not Marxists: Celebrating the Centenary of the Ghadar Revolution - 1913-2013

Dr. Anirban Ganguly, 
Research Fellow, VIF

April 2013 announces the centenary of the Ghadar Party – one of the most riveting symbols of Indian defiance against colonial oppression. What makes the Ghadar movement an enduring symbol in the imagination of youth is the fact that it was waged in the western world in support of an eastern movement for self-hood and self-determination. Unfortunately the predominant “non-violent” narrative of the Indian freedom movement has, over the past decades, successfully sidelined the contributions of these alternate movements. As Prithwindra Mukherjee, veteran scholar of the pre-Gandhian phase of the Indian freedom struggle and author of the seminal “Les Racines Intellectuelles du Mouvement D’Indépedance the L’Inde (1893-1918)” argued, “Those who are recognized and rewarded had been supposedly by the side of Gandhiji, no matter whether they fought for the country or not. Others belonging to the pre-Gandhian phase (1893-1918) had known the message of ma phaleshu and sacrificed all they had – in certain cases, up to the last drop of their own blood – for the cause of the Motherland.” 1 The dominant perception “sustained by catching slogans” has been, as nationalist historian R.C.Majumdar noted in his seminal History of the Freedom Movement in India, that “Gandhi achieved India’s freedom by the method of Satyagraha and thus laid down for the subject peoples all over the world a unique method for gaining independence without bloodshed.” But, as Majumdar argued, “a successful Satyagraha, as conceived by Gandhi, would necessarily mean that the British had given up their hold on India in a mood of repentance or penitence for their past sinful acts in India. But of this we have no evidence whatsoever.” 2

The travesty is that the groups which challenged the non-violent narrative either remain marginalised or face appropriation by Marxist intellectuals and scholars who have, while renewing to a certain extent an interest in them, been trying to establish a Marxist, anarchist credentials for these early Indian revolutionaries. Even Indian separatists have now pitched in with a programme of appropriation. Thus between the marginalisation and appropriation some actual facts and perceptions of these early Indian political thinkers and activists remain unexplained.

Discussing the Ghadar revolution a senior journalist in a leading Indian daily has taken pains to point out the Communists-Marxist inspiration of the entire movement. 3 To make such a conclusion is to look at things superficially and selectively and to negate altogether the nationalist spirit inspired by Indian nationalism that this early movement represented. A corrective is therefore called for.

Both stalwarts of the Indian revolution abroad, Shyamji Krishnavarma and Madame Bhikaji Cama were inspired by the Jugantar and Anushilan Samiti movements, by no means Marxist, back home in India. Both these groups espoused the cause of India’s liberation through violent methods if need be and equally emphasised the laying down of a solid intellectual foundation to the whole movement. The intellectual foundation that these groups wished to re-establish essentially derived inspiration from India’s civilisational ethos, vision and spirit. A careful reading of the lead editorials of two of the leading mouthpieces of the early nationalist movement “Bande Mataram” and the intensely revolutionary “Jugantar” that had, in its heyday, achieved a circulation of 50,000 in face of massive colonial clampdown, will amply make clear that intention. It has also been well established through personal memoirs and government records that the early nationalist movement in Bengal and in India was deeply inspired by the stirring speeches of Swami Vivekananda, especially his collection of talks from ‘Colombo to Almora’.4 The inspiration could also be seen in faraway America where in a pamphlet “A Few Facts about British Rule in India” issued in June 1915 by “The Hindustan Gadar Office” in San Francisco, reference was made to a passage from Swami Abhedananda’s proscribed book “India and Her People” (1906) where the monk cited figures showing how Indians were compelled to support the entire colonial administrative and military machinery.5

The Ghadar group, unlike the usual Marxists and anarchist conglomerations, acknowledged Swami Vivekananda’s contribution to the cause of Hinduism in the West. In fact, Lala Hardayal (1884-1939), the leading ideologue and organisers of the Ghadar movement, insisted on calling India “Bharatvarsha” and was fond of asserting “Satyameva vijayate nânrtam” while appealing to his countrymen to keep striving for freedom.6 Hardayal began his famous article “India in America” with “Very few readers of this Magazine can have a correct idea of the noble work which is being silently accomplished by the sons of Bharatvarsha”7 in America. In the same piece Hardayal also gave his assessment of Swami Vivekananda’s impact in the West:
When Swami Vivekananda stood on the platform of the Chicago Parliament of Religions in 1893 and evoked an outburst of applause by addressing his audience as “Sisters and Brothers of America,” he little dreamed that his work would be carried on after him by a devoted band of missionaries. The beneficial effects of his preaching are visible on every side. America is always alert for a lesson in religion from a Hindu…There is a keen and growing interest in Hindu thought. Many earnest enquirer wish to quench their thirst for the ideal at the fountain of Hindu philosophy….The work of the swamis [of the Vedanta Mission] has resulted in general diffusion of Hindu…A friend of mine has lectured on Indian politics and religion in the remote and inaccessible tracts of Arizona and Southern Mexico and he was heard with the greatest interest and even respect everywhere.8
Praising the contributions of the Vedanta movement in the West Hardayal clarified that though he was not a Vedantin he nevertheless admired persons from all creeds who worked for ‘introducing the discipline of idealism into human life.” Hardayal, according to his own confessions, was interested in the success of the Vedantic missionaries “as representatives of that spirit of enterprise and self denial which [was] transforming New India. Their work [was] part of the great renaissance which is breathing new life into Hindu society.”9 Terming a series of prominent Indians such as “Dayananda Saraswati, Mahendralal Sircar, Bankim, Arabinda Ghose, Tilak, J.C.Bose, Vivekananda” as “heroes of New India”, he called for appreciating all efforts made to uplift and project the Indian cause, including efforts made by “self-sacrificing swamis who are “making Hinduism aggressive,” because they cherish that dream and are sincerely devoted to it.”10 This is hardly a Marxist assessment of the contributions of Hindu religion in support of the Indian revolution!

Leading members of the early Indian revolutionary groups, developing an all India network went on to form the Nationalist group within the then Indian National Congress and put up the first major challenge to the policies of petition and prayer till then followed by the moderate lobby in the party. Lokmanya Tilak, Sri Aurobindo (then Aurobindo Ghose), Lala Lajpat Rai, Sardar Ajit Singh were leading members of the Nationalist party. Within a year of the famous nationalist daily “Bande Mataram” ceasing publication in 1908 in Kolkata, Madame Cama launched another version of the “Bande Mataram” from Paris under the same name. When repression against the revolutionary movement was unleashed in India, Cama announced that the “centre of gravity of political work had shifted from Calcutta, Poona, Lahore to Paris, Geneva, Berlin, London and New York.”11 She thus saw the work abroad as a continuation of the nationalist work back home. None of these leading revolutionaries displayed any Marxist tendencies during their lifetime and were instead positively inspired by the traditions and foundations of Indian civilisations.

There were a number of connecting links with the Indian nationalist at home and the Indian revolutionaries abroad. In 1906 Hem Chandra Das a member of the Jugantar core group in Bengal had already been sent to Paris in order to learn the art of bomb making. Das was later joined by others turning Paris, for a while into the centre of Indian revolution abroad. Madame Cama’s first design of the Indian flag had the words “Bande Mataram” etched on it. In June 1907, the Sociologist edited by Krishnavarma announced the setting up of the Desh Bhakt Samaj (Society of Patriots). The organisation was to have a central committee comprising of Krishnavarma and a few nationalist leaders from India. A sum of Rs.1500 was sanctioned for Indian revolutionary propaganda abroad and the leading Indian nationalist Bipin Chandra Pal ‘was selected as the first lecturer of this Samaj in U.K. for the year 1907.’ Pal’s incarceration in the Bande Mataram sedition case postponed his departure by a year.12 Thus while it has been argued that the Indian revolutionary groups abroad were mainly Marxists and were goaded by Marx’s writings to plunge into revolutionary activities it can be easily argued on the other hand that these revolutionaries had deep links with Indian nationalists and through their writings, far from propagating borderless, identity-less and denationalised world-views, spoke for Indian nationalism, Indian identity and civilisation.

By 1910 and 1911 revolutionaries associated with the Jugantar group had fanned out internationally and had begun organising Indian diasporic groups. Bholanath Chatterjee of the Jugantar group, for example, visited Malay around 1910-1911 and Thailand in 1913 and “imbued the Indian settlers [there] with revolutionary ideas.”13 There were many others too who were associated with the early nationalist movement in Bengal and went on to forge international linkages for furthering the Indian revolutionary movement abroad. Members of Jatindranath Mukherjee’s group, one of the leading revolutionary nationalist active in Bengal, had succeeded in developing an international network with the objective of overthrowing colonial rule in India. Deeply pious and religious Jatindranath, who had come early in contact with Swami Vivekananda and had been inspired to take to the revolutionary life by the monk,14 was deeply involved in laying the foundations of a revolutionary network all over the province. Jatin and his associates, except for a while M.N.Roy who had his brushes with Marxism, can hardly be called Marxists or anarchists.

Coming back to the Ghadarites and to another veteran revolutionary Dr. Tarak Nath Das (1884-1958), whom the article in question mentions, it may be relevant to argue that to assign neat labels of Marxist and anarchist to these figures is in fact unfairly trying to fit them into a strait jacket that they themselves may have rejected or abjured during their lifetime. A few examples from their thoughts and action would suffice to support our contention in the present discussion.

Through his early writings Hardayal emerges as the quintessential Indian nationalist imbued and immersed in the traditions of his land. In his “Our Educational Problem” (1922) in which Hardayal discusses the issue of national education in India and attacks the colonial education system and its aims as one which “de-Hinduizes us and causes the decay of our national institutions thereby hindering the growth of the feeling of Hindu unity and national life”,15 one sees him discussing at some length the benefits of Sanskrit for national integration. A few brief examples may be relevant. Hardayal made a demand which would make Indian Marxists see red. Recognising the need to develop Indian vernacular languages he called for making Sanskrit the link language for India. Castigating himself for being incapable of communicating with his fellow countrymen in this ancient cultural language of his land he wrote:
If I had followed nature, if our whole life had not been rendered ridiculous, artificial and miserable by this [colonial] education system, I should have written in Sanskrit to appeal to my countrymen in Bengal, Bombay or Madras, ( an aspiration which has not altogether been abandoned) and in Hindi to address the people of my province.16
Hardayal also argued for the need to rework and preserve India’s national institutions – her “history, religion, languages, social life, literature – all living forces in a community which mould national character and aspirations.” He saw these being destroyed by the education imparted to Indian youth. For Hardayal the “desire to attain Swaraj” was meant for the “defence of these beloved institutions, the heirlooms which we have inherited from our ancestors.”17 He also talked of two national virtues – virtues which usually never find mention in the Marxist lexicon – that were missing in the imposed colonial education system, “Patriotism and spirituality – the two great character-making forces – are absent from this educational system”, he noted.18
In the chapter “Sanskrit versus English” Hardayal argued that if English was declared the “language of unified India” then a united India would in effect mean a “denationalised India.” He called upon the Indian states, “the great semi-independent states” to act as “bulwarks of the national civilisation against the attacks of alien ideals.”19 The “illusion of Anglicisation” as he called it, from which India had been suffering for last few decades had to be destroyed and until that was done the “Brahma of National Self-Realisation “ would be hidden from Indians.20 All of them terms and expressions, that were and remain quite alien to the anarchists-Marxists. Interestingly, contrary to Marxist positions, while discussing the need to seek national unity Hardayal emphasised that the “principle of Unity exists WITHIN [sic] a community and cannot be imported from WITHOUT.21

One sees another dimension of Hardayal’s nationalism in his discussions of the threats faced by India’s civilisational fabric from activities of missionaries in India. Nationalist thinker and ideologue, Ananda Coomaraswamy, in his essays on national idealism while discussing in great detail the intellectual and cultural effects that Christian missionaries were making in India cited Hardayal’s position in support of his contentions. In his assessment of the missionaries meddling with Indian culture, tradition and life Hardayal appears as a staunch nationalist; the following review could hardly be expected from a Marxist:
The missionary is the representative of a society, a polity, a social system, a religion and a code of morality, which are totally different from our own. He comes as a belligerent and attacks our time-honoured customs and institutions, our sacred literature and traditions, our historical memories and associations. He wishes to give us a new name, a new place of worship, a new set of social laws. He has declared war to the knife against everything Hindu. He hates all that we hold dear. Our religion is to him a foolish superstition; our customs are the relic of barbarism; our forefathers are to him black heathens condemned to burn in the fires of hell for ever. He wishes to destroy our society, history, and civilisation… He looks forward to the time when the Smritis shall be unknown to the descendents of present day Hindus, and the Ram-Lila shall have become a meaningless word in their ears …22
Hardayal was intensely and primarily concerned with the fact that England was trying to destroy the “character” of his people. This civilisational onslaught was what seemed to have disturbed him most. As he told the journalist John Barry, “England is not allowing us to develop according to our own nature. She is imposing her own civilisation from without.”23 From a survey of his above discussed writings and utterances Hardayal emerges as a committed Indian nationalist, a speaker for Indian nationalism and an articulate voice of India’s tradition and culture who sought to ceaselessly analyse and tackle threats to India’s civilisational and cultural unity.

The life and works of Tarak Nath Das in exile is a whole subject by itself but it would be useful to add to the discussion by briefly looking at some aspects of it. Closely associated with the early nationalist movement in Bengal, by 1905 Das was already involved in clandestinely spreading the message of the nationalist revolutionaries in other provinces of India and made a special impact in the south. In 1906 he went off to the U.S. and joined efforts at spreading the message of the Indian revolution. In his over five decades stay and struggle in the United States Tarak Nath Das emerged as a formidable rallying point not only for the Indian revolutionary movement in the West but also for the civil rights movement of Asians there. Through his struggle, advocacy and incarceration Tarak Nath proved to be one of the ablest advocates of India in the West. A veritable polymath he also emerged as a prolific Asian intellectual of the epoch having earned a masters in 1911 in politics and international relations from the University of Berkeley and a doctorate in “international law and cooperation” from the University of Georgetown.

Along with his intense work for mobilization of opinion in favour of the Indian nationalists in the West, Tarak Nath also became a visiting professor at a number of leading western universities lecturing on international affairs and Indian culture and religion. In course of resurrecting and sustaining the international network of Indian revolutionaries both Tarak Nath and Hardayal dealt with Marxists and anarchists but their roots lay in the Indian traditions and was something which they never seemed to have abandoned. Tarak Nath, whose root inspiration was Jatin Mukherjee and through him Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, remained in touch with the latter throughout his life and sought his direction and help in his spiritual practices.24

When he visited India in 1952 after having toiled for 46 years in a distant land to spread the message of Indian nationalism, Tarak Nath’s public meeting in Calcutta, in which he called for the need to develop a collective discipline in our national life imbued by the revolutionary nationalist spirit, was disrupted by Communist student groups who called him an American agent.25 Surely, if he had been a committed Marxists, then these young disruptive left voices of India had failed to recognise him!

These well documented positions of the Ghadar revolutionaries and others thus, make it difficult to issue a conclusive verdict that their actions and visions were particularly and completely inspired by the Marxist and anarchist ideologies. It would be better, for the sake of balanced history writing and for the sake of preserving the deeds and words of these revolutionaries, to desist from trying to fit them into a left jacket. It would serve their memory best to call them Nationalists and not Marxists.
The centenary celebrations of the Ghadar movement thus, may do well to project that as truth.

  1. “Protecting India’s History from a Distant Land”, Prithwindra Mukherjee’s interview given to “The” accessed at: (29.9.2010)
  2. R.C.Majumdar, History of the Freedom Movement in India, vol.3, (Kolkata: Firma KLM, rpt, 1997), pp. xx-xxii. Majumdar points out how his proposal for writing a History of the Freedom Movement in India unanimously passed by the Indian Historical Records Commission was turned down by the Education Ministry of the Government of India in 1948. His letters remained unacknowledged and it was only on the intervention of the then President Dr. Rajendra Prasad in 1949 that the Ministry appointed a commission to look into the proposal. The commission’s recommendations were not acted upon and finally in 1952 a Board of Editors was formed with members, “one half of whom were historians” while the other half “were politicians of the Congress school” and with “two staunch Congressmen.” as Chairman and Secretary. Majumdar soon realised that his efforts at creating a balanced narrative of the freedom movement in India would be defeated. (R.C.Majumdar, The Sepoy Mutiny and the Revolt of 1857, (Calcutta: Firma KLM, 1957), pp.v-vi.).
  3. See e.g., Seema Chisti, “From US, the effort to free India from British”, in The Indian Express, April 22, 2013.
  4. See e.g. Sedition Committee Report – 1918 (Calcutta: Superintendent Government Printing, 1918), Collected Works of Nolini Kanta Gupta, vol.2, (Calcutta: Nolini Kanta Gupta Birth Centenary Celebrations Committee, 3rd ed., 1989), C.A.Tegart, “A Note on the Ramakrishna Mission” (1914) in Amiya K. Samanta ed., Terrorism in Bengal vol.4 (Kolkata: Govt. of West Bengal, 1995), Nirodbaran, Talks with Sri Aurobindo, vol.1, (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2001), Bhupendranath Dutta, Swami Vivekananda: Patriot-Prophet, (Kolkata: Nababharat Publishers, 1954), Romain Rolland Prophets of the New India, (London: Cassell & Co., 1930), Haridas Mukherjee, “Swami Abhedananda: an Outstanding Personality” in Prabuddha Bharata, vol.115, no.6, (Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama, June, 2010,), S.C.Sengupta, Swami Vivekananda and Indian Nationalism (1984), (Kolkata: The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, rpt, 2001).
  5. See e.g. A Few Facts about British Rule in India, Bulletin No.1, (San Francisco: The Hindustan Gadar Office, 1915).
  6. Vide. Hardayal’s foreword to John D. Barry’s, Sidelights on India, (San Francisco, 1912), p.3.
  7. Har Dayal “India in America” in The Modern Review, vol.10, no.1, July 1911.p.1.
  8. Ibid., p.6
  9. Ibid., p.9
  10. Ibid., p.10.
  11. A.C.Bose, Indian Revolutionaries Abroad: 1905-1922, (Patna: Bharati Bhawan, 1971), p.28.
  12. Ibid., p.19.
  13. R.C.Majumdar, History of the Freedom Movement in India, vol.2, p.364.
  14. Prithwindra Mukherjee, Sadhak Biplabi Jatindranath (Kolkata: West Bengal Book Board, 1990), p.32.
  15. Har Dayal, Our Educational Problem, (Madras: Tagore & Co., 1922), p.65.
  16. Ibid., pp.67-68.
  17. Ibid., p.64.
  18. Ibid., p.75.
  19. Ibid., p.85.
  20. Ibid., p.87.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Vide Ananda Coomaraswamy, Essays in National Idealism, (Madras: G.A. Natesan & Co, 1909), p.156.
  23. John D. Barry, Sidelights on India, op.cit., p.4.
  24. For a detailed discussion on Tarak Nath Das see e.g. “Mahabiplabi Tarak Nath Das” in Prithwindra Mukherjee, Sadhak Biplabi Jatindranath, op.cit., pp.443-469.
  25. Ibid., p.446.

Need to Transform Indian Navy into A Blue water Maritime Force

Radhakrishna Rao, 
Visiting Fellow, VIF

In the context of the South China Sea rapidly emerging as a turbulent oceanic stretch with China questioning the claims of a number of Asian countries over this disputed water body, late last year Indian Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi had driven home the point that the Indian Navy is prepared to deploy vessels to the South China sea to protect Indian interests there. As it is, not long back India had sparred diplomatically with China over its gas and oil exploration blocks off the coast of Vietnam. China claims virtually the entire mineral rich South China Sea and has stepped up its naval presence here to ward off any challenge to its monopoly of this oceanic body. Joshi did also express the view that Beijing’s growing maritime strength was a “major cause of concern.” The moral of the story is that the Indian Navy cannot afford to keep its focus concentrated exclusively on the Indian Ocean region. It should build up the capability and power level good enough to take care of Indian interests in any part of the global oceanic stretch.

As diplomatic experts point out, China is beefing up its naval capability with a view to not only exercise virtual monopoly over the South China Sea but also challenge US dominance over the global oceanic waters. The combat edge of the Chinese navy is expected to receive a shot in the arm from the home grown,58,000-tonne class Liaoning aircraft carrier built around the decommissioned Soviet era ship Varyag. China has been able to successfully land the indigenous fighter J-15 on the deck of Liaoning, which is currently going through extensive sea trials.

Of course, Joshi did hit the nail on the head with the statement that while India was not a claimant in the dispute over territorial rights in South China sea, it was prepared to act, if necessary to protect its maritime and economic rights in the region. “China opposes any unilateral oil and gas exploration activities in disputed area in the South China sea and hopes countries respect China’s sovereignty and national interests as well as the efforts of countries within the region to resolve dispute through bilateral negotiations,” said an official of China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Nearer home, recent developments in the neighbouring Sri Lanka and Maldives cannot but be a cause of concern for India. Along with Myanmar and Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives are considered vital components of the Chinese strategy of “string of pearls” aimed at encircling India. In addition to lending a big hand to a variety of infrastructure projects in these two island nations, China has already made inroads in the area of space cooperation with both Sri Lanka and Maldives. The immense strategic significance of space cooperation could provide China a powerful platform in the Indian Ocean region to further its geo strategic interests. As such, Indian intelligence and security agencies have suggested that ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) should take a proactive role in building and launching satellites for these two vitally located Indian ocean island nations with which India has had a long standing, cordial relations. But then unlike China, which already operates a string of powerful rockets capable of delivering satellite payloads of different weight class to required orbital slots, ISRO lacks the launch power to deliver satellites in two tonne plus class. For currently, ISRO operates a solitary launch vehicle PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle), the most powerful version of which is capable of delivering a 1800kg satellite into a polar/sun-synchronous orbit.

Meanwhile, in a development of significance, Indian Navy’s offensive capability will stand augmented with the state owned Kolkatta based Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE)launching work on the third corvette with stealth features. With 90% of the indigenous contents, this third anti submarine warfare corvette under Project-28 will showcase India’s warship building potentials with domestic resources and indigenous expertise. Aimed at enhancing Indian Navy’s underwater warfare capabilities, the warship, is said to be a first of its kind to be fitted with indigenous state of art weapons and sensors.

On another front, India’s near futuristic naval base is also set to take shape on the eastern sea board .This vitally situated sea base with an eye firmly set on China will ultimately have underground pens or bunkers to protect nuclear submarines from prying eyes of spy satellites. The project named Varsha to be located close to Vishakhapatnam is considered a counterpoise to China’s massive underground nuclear submarine base on the south-western tip of Hainan Island.

And to further bolster its blue water capabilities, the Indian Navy plans to acquire five self propelled Fleet Support Ships (FSS) that should be capable of transferring all types of stores, ammunition, fuel and personnel to naval units. Clearly and apparently, blue water navies boast of large auxiliary fleets comprising longer range fleet support vessels designed to provide support far beyond territorial waters. As part of the plan to boost its long range surveillance capability, in December last, the Indian Navy received first of its eight P-81 maritime patrol aircraft from it had ordered from the American defence and aerospace major Boeing. The P-81 long range surveillance aircraft is well suited for anti submarine warfare. Indian Navy has also decided to exercise the option of going in for additional four P-81 aircraft with a view to strengthen its maritime patrol capabilities as well as counter piracy threats and the growing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean region.

On a longer term canvas, Indian Navy has a 30 year plan for inducting 24 new submarines that was approved by the Indian Government in late 1990s.But unfortunately that plan went wrong with not a single new vessel inducted in the one and half decade since. The Indian Navy currently has 14 diesel–electric submarines in its fleet-10 Russian origin Kilo class vessels and four HDW German origin vessels-apart from one nuclear powered vessel borrowed from Russia on a 10 year lease. China on the other had has 60 diesel-electric submarines and 10 nuclear powered vessels in its fleet. As such the need of the hour is to strengthen the submarine fleet of the Indian navy which is looking at expanding the area of its “operations”.

There is no denying the fact that the Indian Navy would need to boost by a substantial extent its surveillance and reconnaissance, capability with a view to attain a blue water capability essential to meet the multi dimensional challenges of the future. The Indian Navy, currently the fifth largest in the world, plans to operate three aircraft carriers by the end of this decade. Indeed, air arm holds the key to attaining a credible blue water capability in all its manifestations. Against this backdrop, Indian Navy’s maritime doctrine rightly incorporates comprehensive modernization plan for its air arm through a mid life upgrades and modernization of its current aircraft fleet. The induction of Mig-29 multi role fighter aircraft with air combat, ground attack and maritime strike capability, would prove a major force multiplier for the air arm of the Indian Navy.

The 37,500-tonne Air Defence Ship (ADS), currently under construction at the Cochin Shipyard Ltd, will be capable of accommodating 30 combat aircraft mix of Mig-29K and LCA Tejas navy. Everything going as planned; this indigenous aircraft carrier will be inducted into the Indian Naval fleet by around the middle of this decade. Looking into the future, Indian Navy has also drawn up a plan to design and develop a vastly improved home grown aircraft carrier as a follow up to ADS. The Indian navy’s currently operational lone aircraft carrier Viraat is planned to replaced by INS Vikramaditya which is now undergoing sea trials in Russia .

However, the delay in the delivery of the retrofitted aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya by Russia is a matter of concern for the Indian navy. This 45,000-tonne class carrier refurbished around Russian decommissioned vessel Admrial Gorhskov was to be handed over to India in December 2012. But problems in the boiler of the carrier revealed during the sea trials of September 2012 implied that the carrier required extensive rectification to render it fully operational. The saga of INS Vikarmaditya has been marred by time slippages in delivery schedule and steep cost escalation. India, which in 2004 had signed US$974-million deal for the retrofitting of this decommissioned Russian vessel, was ultimately forced to cough up US$2.3-billion. The air arm INS Vikarmadiaya comprises Mig-29K deck based fighters and Ka-30 early warning helicopters. Sometime back, Indian Defence Minister AK Antony had told the Indian Parliament that the Russia has been asked to deliver the retrofitted aircraft carrier before the end of 2013.

In a major milestone in developing a home grown deck based fighter, the naval version of India’s home-grown fighter aircraft Tejas is now getting ready for a flight test involving the crucial ski jump trials at the shore based test facility at Hans air station of the Indian Navy in Goa. The ski jump trial is crucial for establishing the carrier compatibility of the deck based fighter. Derived from the air force version, the naval Tejas is longitudinally unstable fly by wire aircraft making it agile war machine. The flight control system of LCA navy is being augmented with Leading Edge Vortex Controller (LEVCON) aiding reduction in approach speed for carrier landing. Landing gear for Tejas naval has been adequately strengthened to withstand increased landing loads in carrier operations. Phase Two of the LCA Tejas naval envisages the development of a single seat fighter with a new higher thrust engine and further design optimization.

With the kind of capabilities on the anvil, Indian Navy is seriously working towards transforming itself into a credible maritime force to tackle multi-dimensional challenges of the future. Against the fast changing global maritime dynamism, the Indian Navy has drawn up an ambitious plan to take care of the Indian ’interests and assets” across high seas of the world. Indian Navy is clear in its perception that the futuristic threat would be dynamic and could emanate from multiple sources. Perhaps the most striking feature of the on-going programme of modernization launched by the Indian Navy is its thrust on sourcing its requirements through the indigenous routes by harnessing the potential of the Indian industry. The Indian Navy has already made it clear that its plan for modernization is not China specific but based on the multiple threats facing India.

Indian Navy’s vision is to position itself as the third largest fleet in the world. The centrepiece of Indian Navy’s modernisation scheme revolves round besides the acquisition of aircraft carriers, the nuclear powered submarines. In 2009, India launched INS Arihant, its first home-grown nuclear submarine. This will give India a nuclear triad, currently capability possessed only by US, China and Russia. Arihant will carry Shaurya missile capable of carrying one ton class nuclear warhead with a range of 750-km.The 6,000-tonee plus Arihant equipped with a dozen K-15 ballistic missiles will constitute the robust under sea leg of the Indian nuclear triad.

The Nerpa class Chakra nuclear submarine which India has taken on lease from Russia in tandem with Arihant will give Indian Navy a greater degree of manoeuvrability to hoodwink the enemy’s surveillance system and strike hard as they remain submerged indefinitely. Arihant is now close to attaining its operational status. In particular the sea based nuclear strike capability being put in place by the Indian navy would provide credible second strike capability. Incidentally, the nuclear strike capability based on a submarine platform has the advantage in terms of stealth and survivability in cause of a first attack.
The vision of Indian navy is to operate 150 plus warships of various categories and 500 aircraft including fighter jets, helicopters and maritime reconnaissance aircraft by 2027. However the trump card of the Indian Navy is the Indo-Russian supersonic cruise missile BrahMos which has already been inducted into some of its warships. The 290-km range BrahMos with a phenomenal destructive power has been described as the “most powerful and most formidable” naval missile of its kind.

In keeping with the global trends, Indian Navy has been quite keen on making use of the space assets with a view to projects its combat power in littoral regions with a greater degree of confidence. The plan is to create and sustain a three dimensional, technology driven and satellite enabled network centric system to transform itself into a formidable sea power. To boost its strike capability, Indian Navy is quite keen to link up its long range missiles, radars and air defence systems as well as the sea bed assets to a central room through a highly dedicated satellite network.

Given the practical difficulties involved in guarding long and porous coastal stretch, the Indian Navy is looking at a string of satellites specially designed to take care of maritime security aspects. Against such a backdrop, Indian Navy should be excited over the possibility of the launch of multi band communications satellite GSAT-7 sometime this year by ISRO. This satellite which will serve as the exclusive space platform of the Indian Navy will go a long way towards strengthening the communications network of the Indian Navy to effectively link up its resources spread across the vast and sprawling oceanic region. It is expected to transform the entire maritime domain awareness of the Indian navy. As envisaged now, the satellite will have a 600-700 nautical miles footprint over the Indian Ocean region.

Further into the future, as the situation unfolds, the Indian Navy will look at having dedicated satellite systems for ocean monitoring, weather watch, navigation, surveillance and reconnaissance. Without doubt, in years ahead to sustain its expansion programme, Indian navy would be interested in acquiring advanced microwave imaging satellite systems, naval transit space platforms, electronic ferret satellites and other specialized space birds.

Indian Navy should draw inspiration from the fact that India has had a long and chequered maritime and ship building tradition. What is more, the setting up of cultural empire in South East Asia by Indian rulers was a tribute to the sea faring spirit of medieval India. According to the US based geo-strategist Parag Khanna, who is also the founding director of the Global Governance Initiative at the new American Foundation think tank, “In terms of geopolitics, India’s influence is still very limited…What underpins that is the reality that India is not going to be what initially was thought and hoped it would be a land based continental rival to balance China. Now, India is seen as much more a naval power—overseeing and having a strategic role with respect to the Indian Ocean and the trade routes there. That actually is the geopolitical future of India. It is a very strong future.”

Crisis in Mali: Policy Report

Dr. Vasabjit Banerjee, 
Visiting Fellow, VIF

A Background to the Regional Conflict

Mali is part of the broader African arid and desert region called the Sahel, which stretches from Mauritania on the West Coast of Africa to Somalia on the East Coast. The main ethnic divisions in the region are between the northern tribes who identify as Arabs and Muslims, such as the Tuareg and Hausa, and the southern black population that may or may not be Islamic. These divisions are worsened by the historical role played by the northern tribes in capturing and enslaving blacks.

In terms of law and order, the area has never been effectively controlled by post-colonial states. In the past, the French, British, and Italian colonial regimes were also unwilling or unable to control the area. This has led to uncontrolled population flows, accompanied by criminal activities, through what are known as Trans-Sahelian networks. At present, these networks undertake human and narcotics trafficking. The border regions of southern Algeria and northern Mauritania are especially prone to these issues.

Given the trans-border networks, the crisis in Mali has either co-opted members from other insurgencies in neighboring countries or threatens to spread to them. The foremost group that has delivered members and received training with the Mali insurgents has been Boko Haram of Nigeria, which has an Islamic ideology. The first major sign of the conflict spreading was the January 2013 capture of a gas facility in Algeria, which led to the taking of 41 foreign hostages, by a terror group called Belmoktar that is associated with the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

International Actors

The international actors’ are involved in Mali for different reasons, which blocks coordinated responses. In terms of western powers, the US is involved because it views the crisis in Mali through the prism of Islamic terrorism. The former colonial power France allegedly wants to secure the Uranium reserves in the Gao administrative region of Mali or intends to protect the supply route to Niger from where France gets 32 percent of the uranium supplies it requires for domestic electricity production. However, a recent article by Rod Adams uses data from the World Nuclear Association to argue that France neither depends on uranium from Mali nor does it need to maintain the supply route to Niger.1 Nevertheless, France is the most actively involved international player because it has sent troops into the country that have pushed back the Islamist-Tuareg rebels, and is now supporting the training and buildup of Malian government forces. Also, the African-led International Support Mission (AFISMA) in Mali is present in combating the terrorists with the backing of the UN. The strength and capability of this force will grow via the recent injection of funds by the European Union.2

With regards to Asian players, China also reportedly wants to maintain its assets in northern Niger, specifically the SOMINA uranium mine, which have been targets of Tuareg hostility.3 It is widely acknowledged that Pakistani presence in Mali goes back to connections made via the military backed A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network. However, Pakistani presence in Mali is now through terrorists in the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).4 In a similar vein, Qatar has become involved because Islamic NGOs from there have channeled cash to the Tuareg rebels. 5

Domestic Politics: Situation and Players

The crisis in Mali arises from the interaction of weak state authority with failed democratization. Although the 22nd March, 2012 coup in the wake of the successful advances of the Tuaregs was a setback for democracy, the political system was already oligarchic and corrupt. In fact, the Islamists have frequently presented themselves as honest alternatives to entrenched political-economic elites. According to Dr. David Zounmenou of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, the extant social divisions were ignored or mishandled by the democratic government. For example, the Tuaregs were already beneficiaries of affirmative action policies, but their real aim has been to restore political dominance lost due to democratization.6

As of March, 2013, there are four major groups vying for power in Mali. The southern region, containing the administrative districts of Kayes, Koulikoro, and Mopti, has three competing centers of power centered on the capital city of Bamako: President Dioncounda Traoré, Prime Minister Django Cissoko, and Captain Amadou Sanogo.

In northern Mali, the Ansar Dine representing the Tuaregs was present in the regions of Timbuktu, Kidal, and Gao. However, after suffering major losses against French forces, the group fragmented in January 2013. The Movement for Azawad broke away from Ansar Dine and accepted dialogues with the government, and a regional commander moving to the other Tuareg group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). Initially fighting against the government, the MNLA was trained in Libya under the Gadhafi regime, but has reportedly switched sides and is now fighting for the government. The Islamist-Tuareg group called Al Qaeda Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), with its roots in the 1990s insurgency between Islamists and secular elites backed by the army in Algeria, is also present in the north. However, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), also present in this region, has broken away from the AQIM, perhaps because of ethnic and ideological differences with the predominantly Algerian AQIM leadership.7

Policy Prescriptions:

At present, given its minor economic involvement in the region, India should only support the French, UN and African Union efforts to control the insurgency in the region. On the positive side, the conflict has not become centered on the control of mineral resources in the area, which extends from energy resources such as petroleum and natural gas, to mineral wealth like gold and diamonds, as well as uranium.

However, if the pattern in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sub-Saharan Africa is considered, then such resource-centric insurgencies could appear in the future (especially if state institutions remain weak). Insurgent groups would then seek to capture resource rich areas and earn rents from international investors. Furthermore, once this dynamic appears, the states would find it increasingly difficult to control the lost areas because it would entail destruction of industrial infrastructure and insurgent groups will acquire better weapons due to a higher and steadier revenue streams.

If Indian companies were to invest in the area in the region under such conditions, the Indian government should follow a two-pronged strategy of negotiating with locally powerful groups and the pertinent national state. India should also consider an overall industrial investment strategy in Africa that addresses the security concerns of private and public companies.

  1. Adams, Rod. “France does not need Mali’s uranium despite all conspiracy theories to the contrary.” Atomic Insights, Jan. 24, 2013. .
  2. Karls, Tsokar. “AFISMA gets EU’s N15b financial lifeline.” The Guardian, Nigeria Apr. 10, 2013. .
  3. “Niger rebels menace uranium miners after China deal.” Reuters Nov. 14, 2007.
    Armstrong, Hannah. “China mining company causes unrest in Niger.” Christian Science Monitor Mar. 29, 2010. .
  4. Blair, David. “Timbuktu: al-Qaeda’s terrorist training academy in the Mali desert.” The Telegraph, Feb. 11, 2013.
  5. “France launches unprecedent campaign against Qatar role in Mali.” Middle East Online Feb. 04, 2013. .
  6. Zounmenou, David. “Mali: Collateral Damage of the Complex Security Challenges in the Sahel.” Presentation at the Centre for Mediation in Africa. Pretoria: University of Pretoria. Mar. 14, 2013.
  7. George, William L.. “Mali’s irrevocable crisis.” Al Jazeera Apr. 16, 2012. .

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

General in The Gaol: Musharraf’s Arrest and Its Implications

Sushant Sareen, 
Senior Fellow, VIF

In what is being called a first in Pakistan’s history, a former military strongman, Gen Pervez Musharraf, has been formally arrested on charges of terrorism and illegal confinement of judges. Musharraf’s detractors see his arrest as a sign of the fundamental changes that have come in the political power structure in Pakistan. According to them, the power of the Pakistan Army has been seriously eroded with the restoration of democracy and the reinstatement of the judiciary, and this is reflected in the failure of the army to stand behind its former chief in his hour of trial and tribulation.

The cynics disagree. They are of the view that the army still remains the most powerful political player and beyond a point it will not allow its former chief to be humiliated by the judiciary because this will deal a body blow to the power of the military and the impunity and immunity enjoyed by the Generals. According to them, even the judges are aware of the limits of their power and will desist from crossing the red-lines as far as the army is concerned. The dramatic arrest of Gen Musharraf, the cynics are convinced, is therefore nothing but a farcical drama. After all sides in this drama (particularly the judiciary) have played their roles, that is to say, established their credentials and made their point, the curtain will fall on this so-called demonstration of civilian supremacy and rule of law. Musharraf, at the end of the day, will not be thrown into prison, forget about being taken to the gallows for committing treason. He may, however, have to suffer the indignity of appearing in court to face the various cases that have been filed against him.

Historically, no Pakistani military dictator has ever been imprisoned. Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan were put under house arrest but this was more out of political necessity than for their crimes against law and constitution. One other army chief, Tikka Khan, was also arrested for a short periods’ of time for participating in political agitation after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was deposed. But Tikka Khan, better known as the Butcher of Balochistan and Bengal, never was made to answer for the crimes against humanity that he committed. A Naval Chief, Mansur-ul-Haq, was imprisoned on charges of corruption but was soon released after a plea bargain which involved returning a large part of his ill-gotten gains. Other than these cases, no other top serving or retired military official who remains embedded in the ‘establishment’ has been prosecuted for any act of commission or omission.

The important point is that only defeated or deposed military strongmen in Pakistan have had to face any sort of action, albeit of a fairly benign kind. Unlike civilians who have been thrown in prison, humiliated, even tortured, the military officials have been treated with kid gloves, enjoying incarceration in the comforts of their extremely well-appointed homes. Another important criterion for determining the kind of action taken against a general is whether he is part of the ruling establishment. Musharraf’s almost successor, Gen Ziauddin Butt did suffer imprisonment and loss of all privileges but that was because he was seen as a man who was siding with the political establishment against the military. Officers like Major Generals Akbar Khan and Zaheerul Islam Abbasi were imprisoned but that was because they rebelled against the military hierarchy. On the other hand, Generals Aslam Beg, Hamid Gul and Asad Durrani have had no action taken against them despite their public confessions that they subverted the political system.

The eternal wisdom of Shakespeare that “there is a tide in the affairs of men which, when taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries” also comes into play in how dictators are treated in Pakistan. When things are going in their favour, everything they do is kosher and receives kudos; but when the tide turns, anything they do is a disaster and is denounced. Musharraf should have realised that his time as the master of all he surveyed was up. But his proneness for miscalculation coupled with his propensity for throwing caution to the winds has led him into a somewhat sticky situation. Clearly, apart from some of his foreign benefactors and guarantors (reportedly the Saudis) Musharraf was banking upon the army to ensure that he wasn’t going to be put through the mill of justice in Pakistan. To an extent, both the Saudis and the army delivered. The Saudis ensured the deafening silence of Nawaz Sharif who had till recently been clamouring for Musharraf’s prosecution. President Asif Zardari in any case wasn’t interested in taking any serious action against Musharraf. For its part the army made sure that Musharraf was provided all necessary security.

But what Musharraf didn’t budget for was that he had become both an embarrassment and an inconvenience for the military. While the army would not like to see its former chief humiliated or thrown in prison, it would also not go out on a limb for Musharraf and take on the judiciary, the political class and the public by overthrowing or even destabilising the entire system for his sake. In other words, the army wouldn’t want to see Musharraf mistreated but was also not going to lose any sleep if Musharraf was forced to fight his cases in courts. As the army saw it, Musharraf had been forewarned against returning to Pakistan because of the changed circumstances in the country which limited the ability of the army to protect its former chief from the rampaging courts. If despite this warning Musharraf returned, then he would have to bear the cross of his decision. Having barely regained its image that was badly sullied in the last years of Musharraf’s rule, the army was unlikely to once again let its image take a blow for Musharraf’s sake. What is more, the army is embroiled on too many fronts and would be loath to see another domestic front open only because of Musharraf. Most of all, the cases that would open against Musharraf would also open a can of worms involving serving military officials and the army in general, something that made the top brass extremely uncomfortable.

Compounding the problem for the military is the fact there is currently a sort of uneasy balance between the judiciary and the army which could be disturbed because of Musharraf. The judiciary has been asserting itself against all pillars of the Pakistani state and winning. But as opposed to its tearing into the civilian government and elected politicians, the judiciary has been a lot more circumspect when it comes to dealing with the army. In numerous cases where there is clear evidence against serving officials – for instance, in cases involving extra-judicial killings, illegal detentions, unlawful use of force etc. – the judiciary has been all fire and brimstone but has refrained from taking any meaningful action against the guilty officials. This unstable equilibrium could get disturbed if either the judiciary or the army take any precipitate action, either to fix Musharraf or protect him.

In a way, Musharraf has left the military, the judiciary and the politicians with difficult choices. If the army leaves its former chief in a limbo then it will be setting a dangerous precedent. After all if Musharraf can be prosecuted and punished for whatever illegal and extra-constitutional actions he did, then other generals too will be opening themselves to similar legal action in the future. This clearly is not quite acceptable. Already, the army feels that there has been a steady paring down of its power and influence. And while it still remains a player in the politics of the country, its role and influence is no longer what it was in the not so distant past. Increasingly, the army is able to only assert itself on strategic policy and direction and not so much on domestic politics. If this trend continues and is not reversed, the army will see a whittling down of its political role, something which the generals wouldn’t exactly be happy about. But reversing the trend is going to mean intervention at a level that the army might find difficult to handle.

The politicians are meanwhile chary of exploiting the situation in their favour. If anything, they are waiting to see the outcome of the tussle for supremacy between the army and the judiciary and therefore are quick to throw the ball either in the court of the army or the judiciary. No surprise then that cutting across the political divide, the political class, notwithstanding fiery statements against Musharraf, has not really tried to book Musharraf for treason and left it to the courts to take suo moto action in this matter. Despite the fact that only the government can institute a treason case, neither the erstwhile PPP-led coalition, nor the caretaker, and in all likelihood not even the next elected government is likely book Musharraf for treason and will be happy to take the lead from the judiciary.

With the ball in its court, it now remains to be seen how far the judiciary will go against Musharraf. For now, the judiciary has been operating on the time honoured but unchivalrous Pakistani principle of power: kick a man when he is down and out. The manner in which his bail was refused by the Islamabad High Court judge in a bailable offence case, orders for his arrest issued by the same judge who also slapped him with terrorism charges, is a classic hatchet job. Quite aside the fact that Musharraf didn’t help his case by his loud-mouthed brazenness and brashness (admitting in an interview to allowing drone attacks and defending his action against the judges is just one example), the vindictiveness of the judiciary was also on display. The judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui is a man with a very dubious past. He was in the vanguard of the lawyers who threw rose petals on the assassin of the former Punjab governor Salman Taseer. While hearing the case against Musharraf his bias was reflected when he said that even he had been detained after emergency was declared on November 3, 2007.

Forget about this judge, the entire superior judiciary is working overtime to fix anyone they don’t like – law be damned – and arrogating power to a point where it is literally becoming a supra-government. Every morning, it seems, the registrar of the Supreme Court scans the newspapers and prepares a brief for the chief justice on any issue which he thinks is of public interest and by evening suo moto notices are issued. From elections to electricity and from gas allocation to transfers and postings, the courts are calling the shots with the government behaving like a mute spectator to this travesty. This is fast becoming an untenable situation and something has got to give if there is to be even a modicum of administrative coherence. Perhaps, the cases against Musharraf might become the tipping point.

Out of all the cases against Musharraf, the only really serious case is the treason charge for imposing emergency on November 3, 2007. All other cases – Lal Masjid, Akbar Bugti assassination, Benazir Bhutto assassination, illegal confinement of judges etc. – are political cases in which it will be impossible to find any real evidence of wrong doing against Musharraf. For example, the Lal Masjid operation was a legitimate operation against terrorists holed up in the complex. Regardless of the sensitivities involved and the repercussions that followed, Akbar Bugti’s killing was also the result of action against a declared insurgent. In Benazir Bhutto’s case, the only thing against Musharraf is that he didn’t provide her adequate security and that he is supposed to have threatened her. And in the judges confinement case, none of the judges who were confined illegally are a complainant! This leaves the treason case. But if the judiciary goes down that path, then under the letter of the law, a whole lot of people will be prosecuted, including the current army chief. What is more, the current chief justice will also find it difficult to justify sitting on the bench that sanctified Musharraf’s 1999 coup and gave him the power to change the constitution. Although the parliament indemnified that coup, the point is whether the parliament had the power to change the basic feature of the constitution, something the Supreme Court of Pakistan has repeatedly said is not permitted.

While the legal and constitutional drama will unfold in the days and weeks ahead, the only thing that can be said with any degree of certainty in Pakistan is that Musharraf is history. If he was a genuine political leader with some following, his current trial would win him sympathy and rehabilitate him in the eyes of the people, as has happened with people like Benazir Bhutto, Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. But as a man who has a following only on Facebook, and no real party or organisation to back him, Musharraf is a political has-been. Whether he will now become a trailblazer by becoming the first coup-maker to be imprisoned in Pakistan or whether he will be let off like his predecessors is the only thing in which he has any further contribution to make in Pakistan's sordid politics. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Let’s not Get too Relaxed on China

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

Reports of Chinese soldiers intruding 10 kilometres into Ladakh challenge once again our assumptions about the stability of the situation on the unsettled India-China border. Our expanding relationship with China has encouraged thinking that the border issue is no longer central to the future of the relationship and can await resolution as and when possible. We have adjusted ourselves to China’s India strategy. We downplay such incursions.


The low priority attached by the Chinese leadership to the resolution of the border dispute is ignored by us. President Xi Jinping has lost no time in telling us that the border issue is not easy to resolve, reiterating former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao’s remarks in Delhi in 2010. He has scotched any hope of changed thinking in Beijing on an issue that generates distrust and apprehensions about China’s longer term intentions. In effect, President Xi has closed the doors to a settlement for the next ten years when he will be in power. We have not reacted.

President Xi’s five point proposal for conducting relations with India is self-serving, as it is calculated to play to China’s strenghts and side step India’s concerns.

After ruling out a border settlement, the Chinese President proposes that the two countries cooperate to maintain peace and tranquillity. This is singularly unimaginative as the two are maintaining peace and tranquillity for the last two decades, following the relevant agreements of 1993 and 1996.

When President Xi proposes that border differences shoud not affect the overall relationship, he is only nodding at existing realities. The bilateral relationship has progressed tremendously despite Chinese periodic provocations, such as those laying claim to Arunachal Pradesh and describing it as “South Tibet”, protesting the visits of our political leaders there, shortening the length of the Sino-Indian border in a bid to question India’s territorial sovereignty in the eastern and western sectors, giving Kashmir-linked stapled visas etc.

These provocations have been one-sided. Notwithstanding them, our Prime Minister has met China’s leaders oftener than others; we have a strategic dialogue with China at political, economic and defence levels; our armed forces now conduct joint exercises, albeit limited. The two countries engage with each other in the Russia-India-China format, that of BRICS and G-20, apart from collaborating in WTO and climate change negotiations. Now China has proposed a dialogue with us on Afghanistan, which we have welcomed.

In proposing that differences over the border should not affect the overall relationship, President Xi wants to preserve the freedom to continue provoking us and undermining our interests in our neighbourhood, as the latest strategic decision to take over Gwadar demonstrates. His proposal that India should maintain close strategic communication in order to keep bilateral relations on the right track excludes any explanation from China about its strategic ties with Pakistan, its continuing assistance in building Pakistan’s nuclear capability, its opposition to our joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group and our permanent membership of the Security Council, etc.


President Xi calls for harnessing each other’s comparative strengths and expand mutually beneficial cooperation in infrastructure, investment etc. India has comparative strength in Information Technology and pharmaceuticals for instance, but it faces hurdles in accessing the Chinese domestic market. China, on the other hand, has become India’s largest trading partner in goods despite our unsustainable trade deficit with it. Chinese telecommunication and power companies have bagged huge contracts in India despite serious cybersecurity concerns. China would like to have a share of the $1 trillion we intend investing in upgrading our infrastructure in the next 5 years, especially when it has huge unutilized capacities in this sector and opportunities abroad are declining because of a global slow down. It can use its financial strength to advantage in countries like India if the politics can be managed. Unsurprisingly with the border issue “effectively controlled”, the People’s Daily advocates more focus on trade and multilateral issues with India.

President Xi’s emphasis on strenghtening cultural ties is unobjectionable. Enhancing cooperation in multilateral forums to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries in tackling global challenges- another point that President Xi makes- is desirable although China has hardly championed the rights of developing countries in the past, though today its hunger for natural resources and markets accounts for a different stance.


When the Chinese President says that the two countries should accommodate each other’s core concerns, the hard kernel of his message becomes evident. India has never identified its core concerns to the international community or to China bilaterally. Consequently, President Xi is not talking about China accommodating India’s stated core concerns. In any case, whether in the case of transferring nuclear and missile technologies to Pakistan, undermining our position in our neighbourhood, whether in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives or Bangladesh, China disregards our obvious core concerns.

The Chinese leader is expecting India, in a one-sided proposition, to accommodate China’s core concerns, evidently in South China Sea and Tibet, as Taiwan and Sinkiang are not contentious issues with us. China wants its sovereignty over these areas to be respected, while using Tibet to claim Indian territory and expanding its presence in territory under Pakistan’s illegal occupation in J&K.

We have chosen to interpret President Xi’s remarks positively. We possibly believe that we are in control of our relations with China, that China is reaching out to us and we must therefore seize this opportunity to explore the potential of the bilateral relationship. We are disregarding hard realities and confusing China’s tactical moves with its strategic intent. President Xi has signalled that China will not compromise on territorial issues, whether today in the east with others and tomorrow in the west with us.