Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chinese Premier Li’s Visit to India: Engaging to Contain

Brig (retd) Vinod Anand, Senior Fellow, VIF

Strategic Backdrop

Chinese Premier Li Kequiang’s visit to India took place at a crucial time when the geopolitics at the international level are in a state of flux with the US pursuing its pivot to Asia-Pacific strategy besides its ongoing draw down from Afghanistan. China, as a possible response to the US maneuvers, is moving to forge new strategic equations and strengthen its old ones. China’s involvement in territorial disputes with some of its neighbours like Japan, Vietnam and Philippines also not only restricts its freedom of strategic maneuver but also paints a negative image of China’s peaceful rise theory and motivates affected countries to move closer to the US and the West to balance China. Therefore, President Xi Jinping’s first visit abroad to Russia was in this context aimed at stressing the importance of its relations with a close ally. Similarly, Prime Minister Li’s visit to India was with an understanding that India was a key power that could tilt the emerging international strategic balance either way. While Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing was due in the coming months, yet Li’s visit to India prior to that exhibited the level of urgency and keenness with which the new leadership wishes to engage India and possibly reduce the trust deficit and address mutual differences on a number of issues of concern to both. Chinese leadership is also concerned with Indian moves to forge a closer relationship with Japan and therefore the timing of Li’s visit before Singh’s scheduled trip to Tokyo was also significant in the strategic context.

That Li chose to make India his first visit abroad after assuming office has given a positive thrust to Sino-Indian relations and also underscored the importance of this relationship in shaping the emerging world order. The Joint statement issued at the end of the visit notes that "both countries view each other as partners for mutual benefit and not as rivals or competitors."

Issues of Concern: No Easy Solutions

Evidently, the most important issue is the settlement of border dispute where both sides have failed to find a solution despite 15 rounds of talks by Special Representatives’ (SRs). This is further compounded by the fact that the Chinese side has not communicated to India their perception on as to where does the Line of Actual Control (LAC) lie. Despite the so called ‘candid and frank’ exchange of views there is a general impression that the Indian Prime Minister was not assertive enough in communicating New Delhi’s views on recent incursion by PLA. Singh’s statement terming it as an ‘incident’ in the Western Sector has not been well-received in the strategic community.

As expected, the Chinese proposal for formulating a new mechanism in the shape of a Border Cooperation Agreement/Border Defence Management Agreement has not been agreed to by India, as according to New Delhi, the ‘existing mechanisms have proved their worth’ in the recent border stand-off. Not only India had put forward its own proposals to deal with border flare-ups India also sought more time to examine Beijing’s proposal. Further, suggestions for demilitarization of border areas are fraught with risk so far as India is concerned because of lack of development of strategic infrastructure on the Indian side. However, what has been stressed by India is that an early boundary settlement is a necessary pre-condition for stabilizing the relationship between the two nations. Though these issues have been left for the next round of SR talks, yet the dissonance in Sino-Indian relations is likely to persist unless this fundamental divergence is addressed in a substantive manner.

Another issue flagged by Indian leadership was the construction of dams on Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra River without taking into account the interest of lower riparian countries. India proposed a joint mechanism for the same but this did not find any positive response from the Chinese side. China was only ready to share some hydrological data of river flows which might cause floods on the Indian side. In fact, India’s demand was that the mandate of existing Expert Level Mechanism should be expanded to include information sharing on upstream development projects on these rivers. Li also spoke reassuringly of China's respect for the rights of the lower riparian states. This has been interpreted by Indian officials as a “movement forward” but it is not clear up to what degree. Generally, China has been known for disregarding the rights of downstream countries over the rivers flowing down from Chinese territory which is contrary to international conventions on river water flows.

The third important issue from Indian perspective was a large number of Chinese (possibly PAP or some other militia personnel) working on projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) which is recognized by even China as a disputed area. Though this point was not brought up by India during the deliberations with Li, it remains an area of concern for New Delhi. Conclusion of an agreement with Pakistan on constructing an economic corridor through POK with construction projects in admittedly disputed territory indicates double standards being followed by China. It needs to be remembered that China had prevented the Asian Development Bank from advancing funds for projects in Arunachal Pradesh.

Trade Imbalance and connected issues: Some Promises

Imbalance in trade was another area which was sought to be addressed by both sides though; largely the Chinese delegation consisted mostly of export representatives rather than importers. A number of proposals were made, and these included greater Indian access to the Chinese market, investment in each country by the other, and exploring ways to allow Indian manufactures to export their products to China. Beijing also offered to invest in and build infrastructure in this country. India’s infrastructure requirements are huge but there are also some concerns about Chinese ways of working and investing in such projects which may be disadvantageous to Indian firms.

The Chinese Premier did promise to help the IT, pharma and other Indian companies to promote their businesses in China. Apparently, this may not help much as the trade deficit with China is very large and India would have to think of innovative ways to reduce the imbalance. India was also not keen to enter into a bilateral Regional Trade Agreement as also a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which would have further skewed the trade balance in favour of China.

It was also the first time that a mention of promoting the Kunming Initiative or BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) Forum for Regional Cooperation for improving connectivity and trade relations through multimodal corridors from Yunnan- Myanmar and India’s North East was made at the highest level.

Earlier, India viewed it as only a provincial initiative by Yunnan; it had also not gained much traction due to reservations by India on grounds of security and connected issues. Hopefully, some substance would be added to it in the coming years. So far only conferences of the forum have been held and some publicity to the BCIM concept has been given through Kolkata to Kunming car rally. Surprisingly, there were no members from Yunnan in China’s business delegation. However, overall on the question of addressing trade imbalance and allied issues Li exhibited receptivity and reasonableness.

Apparently, the Joint Statement also reflected that China and India were ready to discuss bilateral cooperation in civil nuclear field for the first time. India is looking forward to China removing its opposition to India becoming a member of the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group). India is also keen that China should not provide its technology etc. to Pakistan for Chashma III and IV nuclear plants. The Joint Statement maintains that “the two sides will carry out bilateral cooperation in civil nuclear energy in line with their respective international commitments.” However, it is envisaged that China would continue to cooperate with Pakistan under grandfathering clause which, perhaps, could be termed by China as part of its ‘international commitments’.

A total of eight agreements were signed between India and China in areas of military-to-military cooperation to include exercises between respective Armies, Air Forces and Navies; cooperation in non-traditional areas of security, relaxing of visas for enhancing people to people relations etc. These were largely areas of congruence except that in military exercises, the scope and scale is very limited.

Regional and Global issues

For sometime, both India and China were interacting with each other at Track II and even Track I levels on the question of evolving scenario in Afghanistan post 2014 where both countries are concerned about security and stability. India and China have invested huge capital in Afghanistan and are also apprehensive about the adverse fallout of instability in Afghanistan on the region. Both have endorsed an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” reconciliation process. India believes that a positive Chinese involvement in Afghanistan may have the effect of moderating Pakistan’s stance on the issue. Though, so far China has largely viewed the Afghanistan issue through Pakistani prism.

There has also been general convergence on most of the global issues where both India and China have largely cooperated on climate and trade issues i.e. in Doha Development Round of WTO and Durban climate change summit and WTO issues. Further, for long both sides have been supporting the central role of the UN in the international affairs which the US has been disregarding for many years.

A mention of Asia Pacific security was also made where both sides observed that principles of international law should be followed to maintain peace and stability; this was somewhat of an indirect and mild criticism of America’s Asian pivot strategy. Another clause in the joint statement states that both sides “take a positive view of each other’s participation in regional and sub-regional cooperation processes, and support each other in enhancing friendly relations with their common neighbors for mutual benefit, and win-win results.” From Chinese perspective, it would mean that India should not be concerned about China’s engagement with its South Asian neghbours while India would interpret it as China should, therefore, take similar view of India’s engagement with Vietnam, other ASEAN nations as also Japan and other East Asian countries.


It has been said that that talks took were candid and frank indicating that both sides articulated their views freely. India, in a way, did underline its unhappiness with lack of progress on the border issue and connected issues by not restating the Chinese demand of including the usual averment of Tibet being part of China and ‘One China’ policy etc. However, India did try to play down the issue as basic policy of India on Tibet has not undergone any fundamental change. It appears to be a bargaining tactic for China’s one-sided policies on POK. Indian officials feel that there is no point in making such remarks/commitments without getting anything in return as Kashmir is of core concern to India.

Further, China also wanted to make mention of South China and East China Sea as areas of core concern but was not accepted to be included in the official statement because of the larger ramifications on the sovereignty and freedom of navigation issues.
Overall, the visit can be described as moderately successful from Indian perspective as both sides have strived to resolve the core divergences but no easy solution is likely in the short-term. The new Chinese leadership has tried to reach out to India without offering any strategic concessions while giving minor concessions and making some promises. Positive development could possibly be that the Chinese Premier visited India first thereby indicating the new leadership’s priority. Li’s visit to Pakistan immediately thereafter denotes that China is still playing balance of power games in South Asia. Convergence on most of the global issues will not help much unless the bilateral divergences are settled amicably.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Maoists Attack in Chhattisgarh: Urgent Steps Required

The cowardly and barbaric attack on a convoy of Congress leaders and workers at Jeeram Ghati in Jagdalpur district of Chhattisgarh recently resulting in the loss of many precious lives should be an urgent wake-up call for the entire nation.

It is regrettable to note that this moment of grief and introspection is being turned into a 24x7 media spectacle with leaders on both sides of the political divide engaging in a blame game and manufacturing conspiracy theories whereas the discourse should be on tackling this menace with a multi-pronged approach including putting in place a realistic threat assessment mechanism, enhanced cooperation and better coordination between the Centre and the states, capacity building and taking development to the grassroots level.

Let us face it. Such a shameful incident does not help any political dispensation or police establishment. While responsibility needs to be fixed, apportioning blame is no solution. The first and foremost ingredient in the war against Naxalism has to be political will. Andhra Pradesh had shown the way over two decades back and there is no reason why there cannot be a more effective encore in other Maoist-affected states as well.

Given the inter-State and global nature of the threat, the Union Government is duty bound under Article 355 to “protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance.”

Unfortunately, despite being dubbed as “India’s greatest internal security threat”, the fact remains that threat assessment of Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) has not been realistic. LWE is no more a ‘public order’ issue, and falls well within the innermost circle of what Justice Hidayatullah called “three concentric circles” of threats.

Capacity building, therefore, has to be taken up with utmost urgency. Firstly, even though the local police forces are first responders, they are considered the weakest link in the entire response chain. What India requires is, as the Padmanabhaiah Committee advocated, a “highly motivated, professionally-skilled, infrastructurally self-sufficient and sophisticatedly trained police force.” Although the Army’s successful track record in counter-insurgency is well established, its primary role is to safeguard the country’s territorial integrity from any external aggression. The Army, therefore, can be best utilised in training CPOs and State police forces in counter-insurgency tactics, techniques and procedures. Secondly, the key to success in fighting Naxals effectively lies in obtaining accurate and reliable intelligence. The Centre should enhance the States’ ability to ‘expect the unexpected’. Thirdly, it is also important to develop a strong participatory mechanism involving the masses in the Naxal-affected areas.

The situation calls for a much more mature and measured response from the stake holders including Governments and political parties. It is time for some real action and not rhetoric.

The Pakistan Factor in India’s Afghanistan Policy

Monish Gulati

During his last week’s visit to New Delhi, Afghan President Hamid Karzai sought a pro ‘active’ Indian involvement in Afghanistan’s security even as across the border, Chinese Premier Li Kequiang committed to improve the connectivity of the strategically located Gwadar port to realize the Pakistani dream of turning it into a regional trade hub for China, Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics (CARs).

Also the first US convoy of 50 trucks and armoured vehicles reached Quetta from Kandahar on 21 May, carrying US equipment being withdrawn from Afghanistan through the Chaman crossing on the Pak-Afghan border to Port Qasim, Karachi. This came even as Pentagon put in a request for ‘reprogramming’ its budget for 2013 on account of additional expenditure of $ 1.8 billion it had incurred when Pakistan had closed NATO supply routes to Afghanistan from Karachi last year.

Contrasting events over the last week point to how Pakistan’s foreign policy trumps India’s foreign relations in the sub-continent. It also indicates how Pakistan with an economy propped up by aid handouts finds itself on the same table as US and China without declaring itself a regional superpower. India on the other hand appears to be blundering through its foreign policy options or operating with its hands tied. The question to be asked is whether India lacks the capability to articulate and realize its interests in Afghanistan or its foreign policy manoeuvers have been constrained by certain ‘red lines’ Pakistan has managed to frame through a dexterous manipulation of international interests and concerns.

Afghan-Pak Relationship

Despite a common and porous border, ethnic bonds and shared Pashtun culture, Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan have at best, been tenuous. After the dismal outcome of the recent Afghan-Pak-UK trilateral and the failure of Hagel and Kerry to achieve a significant breakthrough in Af-Pak, it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict what direction the relations between the two countries will take after the ongoing security transition in Afghanistan. Quite simply, as one analyst put it, "There are way too many things in play.” The failure of the two countries to come to an understanding on their relationship has bred an atmosphere of suspicion and frustration making third party intervention on behest of either side very difficult.

Other than the China and Iran, the two neighbours Pakistan shares with Afghanistan, Pakistan’s relations with US and India have been playing a crucial role in shaping its strategy in Afghanistan. Besides the Pakistani fears of encirclement by India and the perceived Indian interference in its internal security affairs particularly in Baluchistan, it is the blatant Pakistani demand at virtually all recent bilateral and multilateral forums that Afghanistan has no meaningful relationship with India and it has proved to be a major obstacle in ties between the two South Asian countries. This insistence has been shrill of late on Indo-Afghan bilateral security cooperation, which is largely confined to training of personnel as against any Indian military presence on Afghan soil. What is worse is the tacit support such demands have received from countries such as the UK.

However, it is the choppy dynamics of its relations with the US that has had overbearing influence on Pakistan’s strategic outlook and external policy. Post 2001, US has displaced India as Pakistan’s prime foreign policy concern which in turn strongly influences the country’s dealings with Afghanistan because it regards the US as one of the major causes of instability in Afghanistan and indeed, within Pakistan itself.

Like all regional stakeholders, Pakistan has also hedged its interests in Afghanistan, which unfortunately is premised on the outcome that in the end, US will not have its way in Afghanistan. It is this factor that makes Pakistan’s hedging strategy distinct from that of other regional actors, who too are safeguarding their interests, but against the uncertainty of the final outcome in Afghanistan. Therefore, Pakistan will oppose directly or indirectly any move to prolong US presence across the border. Many analysts infer that it is this position which induces duplicity in Pakistan‘s approach towards US/NATO in Afghanistan.

Contrary to what many in India would like to believe, it is very likely that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the consequent reduction of US influence in the region will take away even the economic cooperation plank from the Indo-Afghan relationship . Pakistan, on the other hand, has doubly hedged its bets against Indian role in Afghanistan by reinforcing the perception that its support for the Afghan Taliban is a reaction to Indian assertiveness in Afghanistan. This ensures that any Pakistani assistance in furthering Afghan reconciliation that involves Taliban’s cooperation comes with the underlying precondition of keep India out of the picture. A condition that remains valid even after the US drawdown and as long as Taliban remains a force to reckon with in Afghanistan. It also gives credence to this ungainly argument that a part of Afghanistan’s woes are due to India’s ‘hegemonistic’ aspirations in the region.

Thus, India finds itself in a position where Pakistan’s support to the insurgency in Kashmir is being viewed as legitimate assistance to a local independence struggle while any notion that India might harbor for a tit-for-tat in Baluchistan will be construed as interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs and in the eyes of the international community an ‘irresponsible’ act to destabilize the fragile situation in Afghanistan and regional peace. International sentiments remain equally ‘understanding’ of Pakistani fears on ‘encirclement’ by India, while it is India that is finding itself increasingly isolated by China in its own backyard.

In addition to managing its affairs with the US, Pakistan appears to utilise its ‘all-weather’ relationship with China as a counterbalance to both the US and India and at the same time partake economic benefits through development of bilateral trade . It also looks to increased transit revenue on account of trade traffic through its transportation routes and ports as a spin off from the Chinese economic activity in Afghanistan. The recent handover of commercial operations of Gwadar port to the Chinese is an indicator of this approach.

Pakistan is also trying to manage its disagreements with Iran over the strategic approach to Afghanistan and Central Asia. This would provide Pakistan access to Iran’s energy resources, prevent diversion of potential transit trade revenue from Gwadar and simultaneously deny India access to the CARs. The recent Iran Pakistan gas pipeline deal with Iran showcases this approach which Pakistan formalized against US opposition and the seemingly irreconcilable Sunni-Shia sectarian divide.

Internally the situation in Pakistan is equally confounding as the country which continues to face major concerns on economic stability, growth and security, professes lack of state control over militants on its territory and what it has got many to believe- its nuclear arsenal. Pakistani non-state actors who appear to be beyond Pakistani control (in the process absolve it of any responsibility for their actions) strangely, at times, find common ground with the Pakistani state in pursuit of their ‘criminal’ objectives. The recent decision of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to participate in Afghan Taliban's spring offensive in Afghanistan against Afghan and foreign forces is one such case. TTP also confirmed that its cadres were already active against Afghan and foreign forces, especially in the Logar province.

Red Lines

Through a deft management of international opinion and a subtle exploitation of their vulnerabilities and fears, Pakistan has managed draw certain ‘red lines’ for Indian foreign policy on Afghanistan. The first line ensures India deals with Pakistani support to foreign militants in Kashmir on its side of line of control only, as an internal security issue. Second, any support to militancy in Baluchistan, even financially, is an irresponsible act of interfering in the internal affairs of an economically and politically fragile nuclear weapon state. Third line restricts support to Afghanistan to non-military /security areas and no measure is taken to upstage Pakistan’s influence and leverage with the government of the day in Afghanistan. That comes with minor discomfort of issues such as no Most Favoured Nation status, no transit for Indian trade, TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) gas line remains a pipe dream etc.


It is imperative for India, therefore, for to find its way out of the ‘foreign policy confines’ Pakistan has created for it with regards to its relations with Afghanistan. There is a need to replace the theory of Indian ‘irresponsibility’ in seeking a greater role in future of Afghanistan with Pakistani ‘responsibility’ to acknowledge the fact that that as an independent sovereign nation, Afghanistan has the right to manage its own relations with its neighbours driven by the interest of its own people.

China’s Evolving ASAT Capabilities: Implications for India

Brig (retd) Vinod Anand, Senior Fellow, VIF

China has carried out a ground-launched anti-satellite missile test on May 13 which according to reports was disguised as space exploration rocket firing. China’s National Space Science Center claimed that a sounding rocket was used in a high-altitude scientific exploration test. The missile fired from Xichang Space Launch center has been identified as Dong Ning-2 ASAT missile. However, in this case apparently there was no target to be engaged like the disused Chinese weather satellite in low-earth orbit in the first Chinese ASAT test of January 2007, the debris of which is still causing problems. It was the very same Xichang Space Launch center from where ASAT test of 2007 was carried out. Apparently, the existence of this new ASAT missile was discovered sometime in October last year. The Chinese spokesman, however, did not directly confirm or deny the conduct of such a test.

The DN-2 is a high-earth orbit attack missile which is part of PLA’s plans to build asymmetric warfare capabilities that could be used against the US and regional competitors. According to some reports China possesses an arsenal of at least a dozen ASAT missiles. Such a counter space capability which is being viewed seriously by the US would also pose a threat India’s communication and soon to be placed Global Positioning Satellites besides a wide variety of critical civilian infrastructure that is dependent on communication and navigation satellites. Possibilities of ‘Unrestricted Warfare’ scenarios outlined by two senior colonels of PLA in their book published in 1999 cannot be ruled out.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has plans to launch first of a series of seven satellites of Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) starting from June 2013; the system will provide positioning timing and navigation facilities. All the satellites are expected to be in place by 2015. The satellites will provide facilities to both authorized civilian and military users with inbuilt secrecy devices.

In addition, a dedicated military communications satellite GSAT-7/INSAT-4F is expected to be launched in August and GSAT-7A for use of the Indian Air Force is scheduled to be launched next year. Further, CARTOSAT-3 series of satellites that will give image resolution of .25 meters will replace the earlier ones have their slots for launch between 2016 and 2018. Further, Indian space programme is also very ambitious with plans to launch a variety of satellites in the coming years for collecting data, intelligence and for carrying out detection, reconnaissance and surveillance activities. All such space assets would be vulnerable to an adversary’s ASAT capabilities.

Therefore, the moot point is how can India protect its increasing number of assets in the space? India’s rising ballistic missile warfare capabilities including its ballistic missile defence would be of no use without concomitant support from a variety of space based assets. Thus, a deterrence capability in space becomes a necessary condition for our long range precision strike of a strategic nature. In addition the entire structure of C4ISR is largely dependent on space-based assets. It can be easily surmised that we need an ASAT capability.

Last year in April after the successful test of Agni V, DRDO Chief VK Sraswat claimed that "Today, we have developed all the building blocks for an anti-satellite (ASAT) capability". In fact, China’s ASAT test of 2007 had given impetus for undertaking such a project as India’s space infrastructure (worth over 12 billion US dollars) had become vulnerable. Agni V's launch in addition to substantively strengthening our strategic deterrence has spin off benefits as the ASAT weapon would largely be based on Agni V's propulsion system with the AD-2 interceptor missile becoming the kill-vehicle that is being developed as part of India’s ballistic missile defence system. As the military satellites operate in Low Earth Orbit (up to 2000 km) such a capability would deter any adversary that seeks to neutralise our satellites. According to DRDO projections the development of an ASAT capability is expected to be completed by end 2014. DRDO says that there are no plans to carry out an actual test; only simulation tests to verify the effectiveness of the ASAT weapon system are likely to be carried out.

However, the question remains whether a demonstrated ASAT capability would be more credible and effective as a deterrent than an untested capability based merely on claims. After all deterrence is a mind game or a psychological process and a demonstrated capability followed by articulation of doctrine or even in some cases in the absence of a doctrine would have more telling effect on adversary’s mind. It was only after Pokharan nuclear tests of May 1998 that India was taken seriously as a nuclear weapon power. Thus conducting a physical ASAT weapon test rather than a simulated one would pay much more dividends in a world which according to realist theory of international relations remains largely anarchical.

Another development which needs to be kept in mind is that plans are afoot to impose restrictive regimes in the space like the ones which were imposed in the case of nuclear weapons and missile controls. Such regimes have been largely favourable to the existing players in the respective fields and especially the P-5. While China’s conducted ASAT test in January 2007 the US seems to have reacted to this by conducting its own ground launched ASAT test in 2008 against an unused satellite. Both the US and Russia have carried out a variety of ASAT weapons tests earlier commencing from 1950’s onwards but of late such efforts were at low key. There have been indications that the US and some other powers were moving towards instituting a framework that would restrict the use of such kind of weapon systems against space based assets.

Currently, a proposed ‘Prevention of An Arms Race in Outer Space’ (PAROS) Treaty is under discussion in the Conference on Disarmament of the UN. For the time being there appears to be a deadlock in the negotiations. In 2008 China and Russia had put forward a draft of the PAROS treaty which was shot down by the US as an attempt by both the countries to gain military advantage. Russia-China proposals did not include restrictions on ground based ASAT weapons. A PAROS treaty is expected to be in consonance with the spirit of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which aims to preserve space for peaceful uses by prohibiting the use of space weapons, the development of space-weapon technology, and technology related to “missile defense.” Having already gained military advantage it would be natural for the ‘haves’ to deny the same to ‘have-nots’ like India.

Another parallel UN initiative on the issue is the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Transparency and Confidence-building Measures (TCBMs) in Outer Space Activities which was formed in 2011. Its origins lie in UN General Assembly Resolution 63/68 which was sponsored by major space-faring nations, such as Russia and China. Though the US declared its support for the process, it abstained from voting on the resolution, objecting to its mention of the Chinese-Russian draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Object (PPWT). The objectives of the initiative are to improve international cooperation and reduce the risks of misunderstanding and miscommunication in outer space activities and ensure strategic stability in the space domain. The GGE naturally consists of P-5 powers and ten other members; India is not represented in this forum. There is also another UN initiative of formulating an ‘International Space Code of Conduct’ which is based on a draft put forward by the EU in Conference on Disarmament. Though the efforts are to move towards a consensus on peace and security in the outer space domain the mutual suspicions and distrust remain.

From Indian perspective it needs to be seen is whether any such space regime would prevent it from exercising its strategic options. So far India’s experience has not been very happy with most of such international regimes/treaties which are unequal and have been engineered in a manner so that benefit generally goes to the P-5 nations.

Therefore, before a strategic restraint regime places a bar on ASAT tests it is imperative for India to conduct such a test to demonstrate its capabilities in this sphere. Such a counter space capability is required to defend our space assets and deter any adversary. Of course, there is a need to take care to ensure that debris fallout from an ASAT test is either very little or negligible to assuage international concerns on this aspect. If space debris is to be avoided altogether then ASAT missile could be fired with an inbuilt offset to the designated target which would result in a near miss but validate the resulting test data. According to some experts this is possibly what has been done by China when it fired space exploration rocket on May 13.

Indian Media must Review its Priorities

K G Suresh, Senior Fellow, VIF

In February 2013, one of Delhi’s leading newspapers published a news item which claimed that Indians don’t believe in ghosts anymore and superstitions have reduced in the country.

The report was based on a research conducted during the Kumbh Mela by scientists from Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), who claimed to have spoken to all sections of the society.

“In fact, Kumbh was chosen since nowhere else in the country can one find such variety of people,” said Gauhar Raza, chief scientist of National Institute of Scientific Communication and Information — a part of CSIR — who led the team.

What is good news for the country at large must have been bad news not only for the Tantriks and black magic practitioners from all communities, who thrive on the superstition of the masses but also many a television channel, which over the years has been providing a staple diet of superstition such as ghosts and revenge of the snake women to up their TRPs.

Having exhausted all such material in Indian folklore, the innovative producers did not hesitate to predict the world’s end based on the Mayan calendar or to turn a God Damned Particle into God’s Particle. It could not have been more outrageous and ridiculous.

Not that there is a dearth of news including positive stories in a nation of a billion plus, but then mediocrity has come to rule the roost, hard work has become a forgotten virtue and trivia the in thing.

It would also be unjust to dismiss these trends as an issue of convenience or lethargy. There are far deeper designs to it with profits being the only motive.
As the country’s Vice-President Hamid Ansari put across couple of years back, "Indian media is facing a crisis of content. The phenomenon of convergence between news media, entertainment and telecom has meant that the demarcation between professional journalistic output, public relations, advertisement and entertainment is fast blurring”.

Apparently disturbed over the deteriorating trends in the media, Ansari was of the view that the "public perception today is that the ethical underpinning of professional journalism has weakened."

However, it is in the electronic media bogged down by TRP ratings that crisis of content is manifested more prominently, Ansari said while referring to programmes devoted to astrology, superstition, crime and sleaze.

Of late, another extremely worrying trend has been noticed. From the days of yellow journalism, ‘lifafa journalism’ and sting for blackmail to ‘Paid News’ and Radia Tapes, the disturbing trend now is even big media houses turning extortionist. Sensational cases of corruption are offered to be suppressed for a price. There cannot be a more blacker period for Indian journalism.

Today, increasingly questions are being raised as to why a journalist has written a particular piece as against the earlier curiosity about what has been written by the scribe.

Referring to the "progressive transformation" of the Indian citizen into a significant consumer of media content and products, Vice-President Ansari had said, today questions were being raised whether journalists understand those demarcations and respect them or are willing to sacrifice them for commercial gains.

Questions are also being asked in academic and policy quarters whether Indian journalism is aping the West blindly and not realising its role as a catalyst for inclusive development in a developing country.

Whose priorities are they batting for? P Sainath of The Hindu had once famously said that the Indian farmer would have loved to be born as the heavily subsidised American cow. The recent race among English channels in favour of fuel price hike, deregulation, end to subsidies and FDI was absolutely out of sync with the needs and aspirations of the Áam Admi’. Comparisons were being made to western countries where spending on social security and farm subsidies is heavy.

While one may disagree with Press Council Chairman Justice Markandey Katju on several issues, he had a point when he asked, “What do we see on television these days? Some channels show film stars, pop music, disco and fashion parades (often with scantily clad young women), astrology or cricket. Is it not a cruel irony and an affront to our poor people that so much time and money are being spent on showing cricket, film stars, disco-dancing, and pop music? What have the Indian masses to do with cricket, film stars, fashion parades, disco and pop? The Indian media today are largely acting irresponsibly and not serving the people in their struggle against poverty, unemployment, and other social evils, as they ought to be doing.

Addressing the Speaker’s Lecture Series in Parliament House in September 2007, Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor with The Hindu, sought to put the startling statistics in perspective thus,:

“We have the second richest billionaire in the world in dollars and we have the fourth largest number of billionaires in the planet. But we are 126th in human development. The same nation that ranks fourth (in terms of number of ) billionaires ranks 126th in human development. What does it mean to be 126th? It means that it is better to be a poor person in Bolivia (the poorest nation in South America) or Guatemala or Gabon. They are ahead of us in the UN’s Human Development Index.”

We are the emerging ‘tiger economy.’ But life expectancy in our nation is lower than it is in Bolivia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. We have 100,000 dollar millionaires, out of whom 25,000 reside in my city of Mumbai, I am proud to say. Yet, 836 million people in our nation exist on less than Rs. 20/- a day according to the Government of India. There is no such thing as Indian reality. There are Indian realities. There is a multiplicity of realities.”

A report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation shows that between the period from 1995-97 to 1999-2001, India added more newly hungry millions than the rest of the world taken together. The average rural family now consumes significantly less than what it was consuming earlier. Indebtedness has doubled over the past decade. Cultivation costs have increased exorbitantly and farming incomes have collapsed, leading to suicides by farmers.

In the words of Sainath, while there were 512 accredited journalists covering the Lakme India Fashion Week, there were only six journalists to cover the suicides in Vidharbha. In that Fashion Week programme, the models were displaying cotton garments while the men and women who grew the cotton were killing themselves an hour away by flight from Nagpur, in the Vidharbha region. Nobody told that story except one or two journalists locally.

At a seminar on “Changing Face of Indian Media: What needs to be done?” organised by the Centre for Economic and Social Studies in Hyderabad, Bella Mody of the University of Colorado argued that India needs a journalism curriculum and professional norms suited to its unique power context and the need for research to arrive at what needs to be done locally and that domestic authors need to step up to the plate and write textbooks for ourselves.

It was argued and rightly so that 1960s American textbooks are being used to teach journalism in India. The publishers of these outdated books are happy to have developing countries print these on the cheap and sell them. Cut-copy-paste culture sadly exists in this area too.

During the course of deliberations, it was also mentioned that journalists were trained on the job in India in the old days by sitting on the bench at a newspaper while getting hands on training. Now, this training has been converted into a business. Most media houses have now set up their own media schools. This kind of profit driven training is along the lines of the “grab money and push them out” model that is the trend with most training programs today. With no uniform curriculum, this method too fails the Indian journalism student.

The stark contrast between English and regional language media also figured prominently in the debate. Among the issues that came up was that more masala in news is encouraged in the local language media. Infotainmentitus plagues the regional press more than the English media, very few working journalists in regional media had formal university-type training as against their English counterparts. Most significantly, severe salary disparities existed between the English and regional media and advertising revenue was higher for English papers as opposed to language papers despite larger readership.
The double standards practised by the media is another major challenge. Ever since the ghastly Delhi bus gang rape incident, television channels have been working overtime espousing the case of women but they have absolutely no qualms allowing advertisements which commodify women and use them as mere sex symbols. All the advocacy on women’s rights and vehement opposition to their projection as sex symbols gets diluted during the commercial break when the viewer is shown semi clad women selling cars and men’s undergarments and swooning over men using a particular brand of deodorant.

If the media is so committed to the cause of women, why don’t they say a no to advertisements portraying women in such a demeaning manner as they do in the case of liquor and cigarette advertisements.

One can go on and on but what is required is a serious introspection, even as the Indian media raises its fingers at politicians, bureaucrats and others. The need of the hour is a serious re-look and review of media’s priorities. To rephrase a cliché phrase, this Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion, superstition, superficiality and sycophancy.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Visit of Delegation from RCDS, UK to VIF

A 20 member delegation from the Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS) visited the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) on 14 May, 2013 for a Round Table Discussion that covered a wide range of issues. The RCDS delegation was led by Air Commodore (Retd) S Abbott. Welcoming the guests Lt Gen (Retd) Ravi Sawhney talked about his time spent in RCDS and how much he cherished the memories of his association with the RCDS. He noted the emergence of new threats, both traditional as well as non traditional, since his tenure at the RCDS in 1989, which he acknowledged was a watershed year in International Politics.

Mr Ajit Doval, Director VIF gave the Opening Remarks and his assessment about the enigmatic character of India, its strengths and weaknesses, role in global and regional affairs, its future trajectory etc. He highlighted India’s important geo-political location, size, rising economic power and demography, its pluralistic society as well as having a stable constitutional democracy with strong defence capabilities. He touched upon the problems and challenges faced by India that included environmental concerns, food and water security, the effect of global terrorism, the rise of Islamic radicalism and terrorism in Pakistan and changes in Afghanistan that would have an impact on the region. Whether the rise of China would be peaceful or could it become a destabilizing factor in the region was another important issue that was touched upon by him.

The need to develop strategic thinking was stressed by Air Commodore (Retd) S Abbott, leader of the RCDS delegation, in his opening remarks.

Amb PP Shukla presented a functional categorization of where India is and spoke at length about issues that were of priority for India. Essential constitutional requirements and commitments ensuring sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of the country required a strong defence sector, a strong economy, and an active diplomacy. Giving an overview of the defence sector, he highlighted the desire of self reliance related to defence equipment although acknowledging that there was huge import dependence. Issues such as technology transfers, offsets and end use monitoring that underlie India’s defence procurement were flagged by Amb Shukla. India’s impressive economic growth was traced by him, that moved from a socialist pattern to following a liberal economic order in the 1990’s. How far this growth has been inclusive was also discussed. Increased economic engagement of India post 1990’s with the world was highlighted. Pakistan and China were identified as a cause of concern for India. According to him, the fundamental problem with Pakistan is not Kashmir but the inability of Pakistan to find an identity for itself, except in a way to oppose India in every way it can. With respect to Afghanistan, the narrative that Al Qaeda is finished, Taliban and Pakistan have changed and therefore things would turn out well after 2014 were described as being far from the truth. Stressing the need for the current government to be financially and materially secure as being essential to be able to hold on their own in a similar manner as the Najibullah government was in 1989 when the Soviet’s withdrew due to the financial support given to them by the Soviets. As soon as financial support was withdrawn, Najibullah government fell.

Gen NC Vij gave his perception about Sino- Indian relations and the security aspects in the Asia Pacific region. Two issues that were identified by him as a cause of concern in terms of the security calculus of the region were the rapid rise of China and the spread of Islamic Fundamentalism and terrorism in the region. The Chinese providing nuclear capability to Pakistan, investment in the Port of Gwadar, the string of pearls around India, challenging India’s sovereignty by stapling visa’s, mentioning only 2000kms as the land boundary it shares with India as against the actual 4000kms, their claim over Arunachal Pradesh and the recent 15 day intrusion in Ladakh were some of the issues highlighted by Gen Vij that were of concern to India. The Indian response, however to these issues is largely dictated by it being a peace loving nation having other priorities like removing poverty rather than spending on defence. The Indian stance therefore has stressed on the co-existence of the two economic giants and co-operation to work towards the betterment of the world rather than confronting each other. In addition, the US China relationship, Japan China relations, the Taiwanese issue, the Korean Peninsula, South China Sea and Myanmar’s Sittwe Port were also discussed and identified as factors that affect the security scenario in the Asia Pacific Region.

Amb Satish Chandra spoke about India’s nuclear deterrent strategy and the reasoning behind their SSBN capability development vis-à-vis the risk of an arms race with Pakistan and China. In his talk Amb. Chandra demonstrated that India’s nuclearization and strategy has in fact not contributed to a regional arms race in the region. He wove his talk around three basic strands, firstly India’s aversion to nuclear weapons, the factors that have impelled India to go nuclear and the strategy itself. He spoke about the evolution of nuclear doctrine and presented its main features. Expanding on the concept of Credible Nuclear Deterrence which is the core of the document taken together with no first use and non use which clearly envisages that India views its nuclear weapons only as a deterrent for defensive purposes and not as a means to threaten others or build a huge arms arsenal or engage in arms race. He also highlighted that survivability of India’s nuclear forces that needs a combination of multiple redundant system viz. mobility, dispersion and deception, bringing out the importance of a triad and developing SSBN capability.

The presentations were followed by a vigourous questions and answers session which pertained to India’s security environment and the evolving scenario in Afghanistan. Leader of the RCDS in his closing remarks expressed his keen desire to further interact with the VIF Faculty in the future.
Event Date: 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lip Service is Still Being Paid to Defence Indigenisation

Brig (retd) Gurmeet Kanwal, 
Visiting Fellow, VIF

The Defence Minister, Mr A K Antony, has repeatedly exhorted the armed forces to procure their weapons and equipment from indigenous sources in recent months. It is a well-established fact that no nation aspiring to great power status can expect to achieve it without being substantively self-reliant in defence production. However, it is not the armed forces that are the stumbling block. Unless the government drastically reorients its policies, the import content of defence acquisitions will continue to remain over 80 per cent.

India’s procurement of weapons platforms and other equipment as part of its plans for defence modernisation, must simultaneously lead to a transformative change in the country’s defence technology base and manufacturing prowess. Or else, defence procurement will remain mired in disadvantageous buyer-seller, patron-client relationships like that with the erstwhile Soviet Union and now Russia. While we manufactured Russian fighter aircraft and tanks under license, the Russians never actually transferred technology to India. Whatever India procures now must be procured with the transfer of technology being built into the contract even if it means having to pay a higher price. The aim should be to make India a design, development, manufacturing and export hub for defence equipment in two decades.

Though it seeks to encourage public-private partnerships, the government continues to retain its monopoly on defence production and R&D. The latest Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) was amended in April 2013 to reflect the current thinking on ‘buying Indian’. However, in effect it still favours the defence PSUs over the private sector. MNCs are allowed to bring in only up to 26 per cent FDI as against 74 per cent for non-defence sector joint ventures. Though the procurement of weapons and equipment worth more than Rs 300 crore from MNCs has been linked with 30-50 per cent offsets, it is doubtful whether the economy is ready to absorb such high levels of offsets.

The DRDO is in the process of implementing the report of the P Rama Rao committee that had asked it to identify 8 to 10 critical areas that best fit its existing human resource pool, technological threshold and established capacity to take up new projects. Since its inception in 1958, the DRDO has achieved some spectacular successes, but also has many failures to its name. However, to its credit, it worked under extremely restrictive technology denial regimes and with a rather low indigenous technology base.

The DRDO must now concentrate its efforts on developing critical cutting edge technologies that no strategic partner is likely to be willing to share; for example, ballistic missile defence (BMD) technology. Other future weapons platforms should be jointly developed, produced and marketed with India’s strategic partners in conjunction with the private sector. The development of technologies that are not critical should be outsourced completely to the private sector. Also, the armed forces should be given funding support to undertake research geared towards the improvement of in-service equipment with a view to enhancing operational performance and increasing service life. Gradually, the universities and the IITs should be involved in undertaking defence R&D. This five-pronged approach will help to raise India’s technological threshold over the next two decades by an order of magnitude.
The defence production process must provide a level playing field between defence PSUs and private Indian companies forming joint ventures with MNCs where necessary. The amount of FDI that MNCs can bring in must be raised to 49 per cent immediately and to 74 per cent in due course to make it attractive for MNCs. However, no MNC that is unable to provide transfer of technology – either due to the home country’s restrictive laws or due to proprietary considerations – should be considered for future defence acquisitions.

India cannot leap-frog to a higher defence technology trajectory virtually overnight. Transforming a low technology base to a higher plane will need time, patience and large-scale capital investment. It will also need strong support across the political spectrum. In the interim period, there will be a further dip in defence preparedness. This short-term weakness in capacity building will need to be carefully weighed against long-term gains that will be strategic in nature.

The immediate requirement is to think big in keeping with the country’s growing economic clout and to plan for the future with a level of confidence that policy planners have not dared to exhibit before. In 10 to 15 years India must begin to acquire most of its defence equipment needs from Indian companies—with or without a joint venture with an MNC. Only then will the era of self-reliance in defence acquisition truly dawn on the country. It will be a difficult quest, but not one that a great nation cannot realise.

Bowing Down to The Dragon

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

Our statements on the recent India-China face-off in Ladakh continue to confound. One would have thought that we would have analysed the incident in depth, tried to figure out China’s motivations in staging it just before External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s visit to China and that of Chinese Premier Le Keqiang’s to India and examined if it was another instance of Beijing’s increased assertiveness on territorial issues rather than a reaction to any specific activity by India.

The several flag meetings with the Chinese military, the diplomatic demarches made at foreign secretary/ambassadorial level and the close consultations between diplomats in charge of the newly set up joint border management mechanism would have normally given us some clues. The preparatory work for our Minister’s Beijing visit should have involved a comprehensive internal analysis of why the Ladakh face-off occurred and produced a brief for frank discussions with the Chinese leadership on the subject.


But the government’s handling of the issue has been curiously different. On arrival at Beijing Shri Khurshid, astonishingly, told the Indian journalists that it was not clear why the incident happened and that the Chinese “were not offering us that background and we were not looking for (it)”, adding gratuitously that “actually, we are not even ready with our own analysis”, suggesting he came unprepared on this vital agenda point.

In talking to Chinese journalists he implied that the need was not to end such incidents altogether but resolve them “much quicker”. Oddly, he thought it was “not very helpful at this stage to apportion blame between them and us (as) it will only take away from the sense of relief and satisfaction that it was resolved in time”. According to him, the apple cart of what is going on with China is far more important and should not be upset, which suggests China had not done any upsetting with the Ladakh incident.

On return, Shri Khurshid has reaffirmed that “we did not do any post-mortem or apportion blame” on the Chinese intrusion and that he was satisfied that the mechanisms worked well to resolve the stand-off. This timidity towards China, to the point of fearing to raise a contentious issue and implicitly accepting part of the blame for the incident, seems more a pathology than an execise in diplomacy.

For the government, the Chinese action in Ladakh seems to be of secondary importance; what is “more important is that the issue got resolved in a timely manner and within the laid down mechanism”. Why this reluctance to address the root of the problem and easy satisfaction that the immediate problem has gone away? In the context of premier Le Keqiang’s visit the Minister has added that “ there are no prickly issues, issues of major differences which can be seen as obstacles”. Is the border issue no longer a “prickly issue” or a “major difference” between the two countries?

All these statements imply that India can live with Chinese border intrusions, that they convey no political message to India, that the public anguish at home can be disregarded as exaggerated, and that such incursions will not be allowed to disrupt the growing relationship with China so long as they get resolved through established mechanisms in time for high level visits. Why we must bend so much before China is quite incomprehensible.

We forget that ever since it became our direct neighbour by militarily occupying Tibet, China poses an enormous strategic challenge to us. It already occupies large tracts of our territory. The issue is not any attempt by us to evict China from such territory, it is the legitimacy of our defensive measures to prevent China from advancing further south, either through additional territorial claims as in Arunachal Pradesh or by claiming control of terrain beyond its existing military positions over which India too claims control.


There is no actual agreed line of actual control (LAC) on the ground; each side has its own perception of where it lies. Such a situation is inherently unstable. China prefers agreements to maintain peace and tranquility on the border without formally settling it because such agreements allow it to maintain its territorial demands on India and improve the military infrastructure on its side, even as they impose restraints on India to actively challenge China and open it to accusations of a provocative “forward policy” if it seeks to belatedly improve its defensive positions on the ground. India is being constrained to adjust itself to the realities on the ground that are to its disadvantage. The talk of a new “defence cooperation agreement” on the border serves this Chinese objective that it has apparently sought to advance by the Ladakh intrusion.


While diplomatic niceties are part of political visits, one has to be careful about the import of statements and how they will be construed by our other partners. Shri Khurshid would have us believe that "Both in historical terms and in terms of potential that there is for collaboration between us, we cannot think of more important country at this point of time and we are pleased that this is recognised mutually". Really?

It seems China is no longer a strategic adversary. Even as China is raising the temperature of its relations with several of its other neighbours in the east, we seem to believe that China has altogether higher stakes in its relationship with us. This would explain why we believe that “China is willing to make concerted efforts with India... and promote the strategic cooperative partnership to a new level”. While cannot ignore China as a powerful reality that has to be engaged, we certainly can ignore such self-serving, empty Chinese rhetoric.

Use and Misuse of Public Funds: Some Questions Which Must be Asked

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

Recently Rahul Gandhi visited Bhopal for a day on purely Congress Party work. He did not come by a normal commercial flight, the fare of which he could have reimbursed as a Member of Parliament. He came by a special aircraft and for his personal protection a bullet proof armoured vehicle had been sent in advance from Delhi by train. Naturally he was accompanied by his SPG escort and more than one thousand policemen were deployed for his protection and general bandobast. He travelled in a convoy of several cars, piloted and escorted by the police and barricades were erected for crowd control. I cannot think of the Chairman of the Labour Party in Britain travelling in that country in such style and at such a great expense. In Delhi the Sonia Gandhi family maintains a life style which undoubtedly must cost a great deal of money, certainly more than can be afforded by the emoluments earned by her and Rahul Gandhi as Members of Parliament. The question which the people of India must ask is, “Where is all this money coming from?”

I am not targeting Rahul Gandhi or the Congress Party because every party and every leader does exactly the same thing. The BJP President Rajnath Singh travels by special aircraft and helicopters as do Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav and leaders of the parties in the Southern States. The Congress Party is supposed to be the richest political party in India, followed by BJP and CPI (M). If we take the population of India as being 120 crores, including adults and minors, if a party were to collect five rupees per head that would still come to only Rs. 600 crores. Considering the life style of our leaders, the cost of their travel, the huge amounts spent during elections, it is obvious that parties and party leaders are accepting money from business houses, whereas their followers are extorting money from smaller businessmen. Why should a business house give any money to any politician unless he is convinced that this is a form of investment which can be encashed at huge profit, to the advantage of the politicians also for overlooking the malpractices of the business house? One is told that the House of Tata refuses to pay bribes and I am prepared to accept that the family of Jamnalal Bajaj, mainly Rahul Bajaj, would also be principled in this behalf. But that is not true of most of our business houses and, therefore, party funds are very largely dependent on contributions from black marketeers, people indulging in illegal business and business houses, some on the make but most who know that if they are to survive they have to please the politicians. This is the root cause of corruption and surely the question must be asked, “Why are parties and politicians sourcing funds from businessmen and why are businessmen doling out such huge amounts?’

In my family we three brothers were in the IAS (the middle one died when he was just 52 years) and my wife was also an IAS officer. She, my youngest brother and I are pensioners and no doubt after the Sixth Pay Commission the pension is enough for us to live reasonably comfortably. It is not enough to afford luxury, which is why my wife is unable to replace her eleven-year old car. In some ways we are fortunate because there is a huge escalation in land value and the house which I built in 1975-76 cost me just about rupees three lakhs, including the cost of land, which is now worth crores of rupees. However, I cannot think of acquiring more property at today’s prices. On the other hand most of our politicians have acquired assets for which there is no logical explanation in terms of what they earn. For example, a Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh once told me that his Industries and Excise Minister, who belonged to a particular tribe, came from a poverty stricken household but he now owns a hotel in Itanagar, properties in Guwahati, Delhi and Bombay and is an extremely wealthy man. I can give any number of examples from Madhya Pradesh of politicians who could not afford a bicycle now owning several cars, others who could not afford a one room tenement having luxurious bungalows and commercial properties, with their wives being loaded with jewels. Where does all this money come from? Elections cost huge sums of money and it is obvious that political parties cannot afford to give every candidate crores of rupees for an assembly or parliamentary election. A person who has spent rupees five to ten crores to win a parliamentary seat has obviously to collect money by illegal means in order to recoup what he has spent. He becomes corrupt, he corrupts the system by forcing his civil servants to assist in collecting money, the civil servants in turn find that it is lucrative to be corrupt on their own, unscrupulous contractors and businessmen take advantage of the corruption of the bureaucrats and the politicians and, therefore, spurious drugs and liquor are sold and kill innocent people, the roof of a hospital collapses with patients occupying the premises, a Dawood Ibrahim flourishes and scams occur on a national scale.

Let us carry the analysis further. There are two phenomena which one does not find in most developed economies which are also democracies. Newspapers such as Le Figaro, Washington Post, The Times do not carry several one-page advertisements celebrating the birthday of some leaders, highlighting by way of an advertisement the speeches of a Chief Minister or lauding appointment of some political leader to a post in government or in a government corporation. There are no hoardings and ceremonial gates put up all over the city because an office bearer of a political party is paying it a visit. There are no bill boards or hoardings at street corners and along public roads containing the portraits of politicians and celebrating something relating to them. That is the way of dictatorships. The Nazi Party rallies at Nueremburg, the portraits of the Great Leader adorning the streets of Pyongyang, the statues of Stalin and Lenin in the Soviet cities are all hallmarks of Fascist and authoritarian Communist societies. The situation in India far exceeds anything that was found in Nazi Berlin, Mussolini’s Rome, Franco’s Madrid or Kim Il Sung’s Pyongyang. It goes even further than Mao’s Beijing. The sycophancy and the prostration before the leaders is so sickening that one is sometimes ashamed to be an Indian. In a democracy the citizen is supreme, the system of politics is multi-party, the voter decides who governs us and the Constitution prescribes how we shall be governed. Party leaders individually count for nothing and even so powerful a person as Margaret Thatcher would have been laughed out of court if, for example, she were to visit Liverpool at the height of her power and her party tried to plaster the city with her portraits. Why, then, does India, which calls itself the world’s largest democracy, have a culture of what is nothing short of idolatry with regard to its political leaders? The media, the party workers, the bureaucrats, the political parties themselves and, sad to say, citizens at large are guilty of this miasma which has overtaken our society and our politics. We must ask the question why this has happened and we must root out this toadyism lock, stock and barrel.

Advertisements in the newspapers in favour of our politicians cost a great deal of money, may be about rupees two crores for a full page advertisement in a national newspaper. Where is the money coming from? Who pays for the banners, posters, ceremonial gates, the tonnes of flowers when a person like Advani, Rahul Gandhi, etc. visits a city? Quite apart from the waste there is also the case of the corruption which accompanies such expenditure, all of which is ultimately paid for by the common man. Why are we not asking for an immediate end to this practice? As a young District Magistrate I have had visits of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Jaiprakash Narain and others to my district headquarters. What we see today did not exist then and certainly politicians were much simpler in those days and more austere. We have to return to the days of sane politics and people must insist on this.

We can no longer hide behind the ‘purdah’ of democracy when dealing with corruption. I, as a citizen, would like know why the cases of disproportionate assets against Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati, both in Uttar Pradesh, have been pending for so long. The allegations do not relate to some obscure tale of illegal funds passing through a confusing maze of transactions in Mauritius, a West Indian island, anonymous banks in Switzerland or Luxembourg. They relate to tangible immoveable assets in India, to cash payments, bank balances and jewelry. The allegations are false, in which the case should be closed, or they are correct, a prima facie case exists and the matter should be challaned before a court of competent jurisdiction. Instead the Delhi Police Special Establishment (popularly known as CBI) digs up or buries the cases from time to time according to the need for the support of the Samajwadi Party or Bahujana Samaj Party when things become dicey in Parliament. That CBI is professionally incompetent, its officers are not above corruption and its is extremely selective, depending on what government wants, in prosecuting offences, is well known. The Supreme Court bravely states that it will free CBI from political control. Why does the Supreme Court not ask the Inspector General of the Delhi Special Police Establishment, who is a legal entity, also known as the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, which is only a non statutory executive agency, to read Chapter XII of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973? In the matter of recording of FIR, investigating an offence, apprehending accused persons, collecting evidence, arriving at a conclusion whether a prima facie case does or does not exist against the accused person or persons and then deciding to either challan the accused in court or to submit a final report seeking permission to close the case, the police has complete and absolute legal autonomy. Only a superior police officer has the power to supervise a case under section 36 Cr.P.C. and section 158 Cr.P.C. However, even a superior police officer cannot direct that the investigating officer excludes from his investigation a person against whom there is a prima facie case, or include in the charge-sheet a person against whom there is no evidence of a prima facie case, challan a case in which there is no evidence that an offence is made out or submit a final report for closure in a case where there is enough evidence for a charge-sheet. No one, minister, civil servant or superior police officer can make an investigating officer delay an investigation or make a false investigation. That provision already exists under the present law. Even if the law does not specifically state that a Law Minister or an officer of government is debarred from interfering in an investigation, there are any number of decisions of the Privy Council, our High Courts and the Supreme Court which makes this amply clear. What other autonomy does the Supreme Court intend to confer on CBI? Will the greatest respect to our courts my submission to them is to use their judicial power to make officers, including police officers, function according to law instead of making statements about how they intend to liberate officers or organisations from the control of government.

I think a question must also be asked of the Executive as to why it has abandoned its executive functions. Despite what some police officers like to believe, the police is part of the executive arm of government, whose existence is determined by laws enacted by the Legislature, whose authority and functions are prescribed by such laws and whose accountability and subordination are both determined by law. Let me give one example. The Supreme Court is insisting that the police should not function under the control of government. Superintendence over the police vests in government and must continue to do so. The power of superintendence does not mean micro management of the police, but it does mean that the framework of policing, the objectives of policing and the broad policy relating to the methods of policing will be laid down and prescribed by government through rules, regulations, manuals and standing orders. In the ultimate analysis the Minister in charge of Home is accountable to the Legislature for the manner in which the police functions and neither the Supreme Court nor any other authority can dilute this accountability of the Ministers. Suppose the police exceeds its powers, misuse its authority, harasses citizens, indulges in excessive force in dealing with a law and order situation, fails to deal with crime because it is corrupt or incompetent and questions are raised about this in the Legislature. Can the Home Minister turn around and say, “I have no control over the police, I cannot shift an officer, I cannot punish him until some prescribed authority permits me to do so?” The legislators will then demand a change in the law and if this demand is supported by the majority, the law will be changed.
What we need is a balance between the authority of the Executive, the role of the Judiciary in ensuring that all executive arms, including the police, function according to law and for the police to be operationally autonomous so that it can fulfill its task of maintaining order, preventing crime and quickly detecting and prosecuting offenders. This calls for restraint, rational thinking, proper legislation, competent executive functioning and vigilance on the part of the Judiciary which, in the present surcharged environment, is no where visible. The question which people must ask is “Why is this so?”

Good government is a function of a proper balance between the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. It is equally a function of integrity, honesty in the matter of working and efficiency and competence on the part of the constituents of the State. I consider the role of the Legislature and the legislators pivotal because it is this body and these persons who, because they are constituted by the freely cast vote of the citizens, are the key components of a representative democracy. Legislators have a constitutionally defined role and that consists of enactment of laws which are in the public interests, approval of the annual budget and individual items of expenditure and grants to meet such expenditure and then maintaining a watch over government to ensure that it functions in a manner such that the funds allotted to it by popular will, expressed through the representatives of the people, are properly utilised. This is done through questions, resolutions, debates, call attention motions, adjournment motions and through functioning of the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the various standing committees for different departments, which all call government to account. At every step the Executive is accountable to the Legislature and if legislators were to do their duty the end result would be good government. But the fact is that the legislators do not do their duty, most sessions of parliament are heavily interrupted by agitations, there is very little meaningful debate in State Legislatures or in Parliament and most legislators are more interested in getting executive posts or in interfering in the day-to-day working of the Executive by demanding postings and transfers, insisting on work being done according to their whims and fancies and using the bureaucracy as a means of making money rather than in attending to legislative business. Should not a question be asked why the legislators do not perform their legitimate function and instead make it impossible for the bureaucracy to function? Should we also not ask why the bureaucracy has become so used to this situation that it has now become a willing partner in what ultimately leads to wholesale corruption?

We have been silent too long and an Anna Hazare fasting to end corruption, an Arvind Kejriwal jumping around and agitating, a Prashant Bhushan filing public interest writ petitions do not even scratch at the problem. We need a massive upsurge of public anger which would tear down the posters of our leaders, dog their footsteps when they talk nonsense in public and insist on an austere style of living and functioning of the politicians and the civil servants. That will bring us back to the early days of independence, when India looked to the future with hope, the politicians still imbued with a sense of Gandhian morality and the civil servants enthused by and proud of their role in building a new and prosperous nation.