Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vimarsha: Institutional Subversion in India –Implications for the Nation & its Security

VIF organized Vimarhsa on Saturday, July 20, 2013, where senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani dwelt at leangth on the topic ‘Institutional Subversion in India – Implications for the Nation and its Security’.

In his introductory remarks, Ajit Doval, KC, Director, VIF, regretted that the Indian society was more fragmented than at the time of Independence in 1947. He said there appeared to be some invisible hand that gave impetus to anything divisive and weakened anything that united.

In a sharp indictment of the ruling UPA, Jethmalani accused it of polarizing polity on religious grounds by demonizing the alternative (BJP in this case) and keeping minorities in a perpetual state of insecurity. He also charged the ruling Congress with portraying Hinduism and its political manifestations, both internationally and domestically, as irrational, militant, extremist and dangerously violent.

He alleged that the ruling party was using a vocal press, high profile NGOs, corrupt and pliable police force as also resorting to institutional subversion to camouflage its dangerous game.

He cited seven high profile cases in recent times in support of his argument. They included the burning to death of Hindus in Godhra, the Best Bakery Case. The Zakia case, Sohrabuddin and Ishrat Jahan case besides the Malegaon and Samjhauta blast cases where Hindus have been chargesheeted by the “constitutionally fragile” National Investigation Agency without any shred of evidence “only to exonerate the Muslim accused”.

Maintaining that the present Government was “hell bent on destroying every institution”, the noted jurist asserted that “nationalism requires Hindu spirituality and those who deny it are nothing but unmitigated morons”.

The session concluded with a thought provoking round of Q&A.

Social Media: Freedom Yes, License No

K G Suresh, 
Senior Fellow & Editor, VIF

The recent expose about Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot allegedly buying ‘Likes’ for his official Facebook page in Istanbul, the ‘Twitter’ war between the ruling Congress and the main Opposition BJP and an outrageous tweet by Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed virtually defending the terrorist outfit ‘Indian Mujahideen’ have once again brought the spotlight back on the role of social media.

The events also saw the social media directly or indirectly setting the agenda for the mainstream media and thereby reviving the debate on the relationship between the two, particularly in a developing country like India.

According to a joint study by market research firm IMRB International and the Internet and Mobile Association of India, India currently has nearly 20 million Twitter users. Facebook has also reported that its Monthly Active Users in the country doubled to 78 million in Q1 2013.

With a burgeoning number of users joining the online community world wide, the importance of social media is significant - not only for the purpose of connecting with the people we know and befriending strangers but also for the purpose of disseminating information thereby informing, influencing, moulding and building mass opinions.

The Anna Movement against corruption in India exemplified the power of social media. While critics claim that the anti-graft crusade was a television generated movement, the fact remains that a large number of youth who joined the campaign across the country were deeply influenced by the social media, although aided and abetted by the visual media.

We have witnessed the use of social media technology during the widespread unrest in the Middle East – Libya, Syria, Egypt and Bahrain.

In fact, the experiences in Egypt and Tunisia have prompted the Syrian Government to maintain a strong surveillance on the use of new media technologies. The Chinese and Pakistanis have often restricted access to social media on political and cultural grounds.

In India too, the Central Government has made futile attempts to censor social media but have backtracked following huge hue and cry.

In neighbouring Nepal, the importance of these informal channels was recognised after the February 2005 takeover by the then King Gyanendra, when almost all the formal channels of information were blocked and only a few online media and blogs remained to share information with the public.

It is not only during unrest and rebellions that the social media has come handy. They have proved to be immensely invaluable during natural catastrophes and even emergency situations like the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai.

However, what’s more interesting is the emergence of social media not only as a crucial source of information for the mainstream media but also as a key competitor in the race for breaking news.

It is said that Twitter users posted the message about the death of singer Whitney Houston twenty-seven minutes before the mainstream media broke the news.

According to the Telegraph, tweets were posted at a rate of around 70 tweets every five seconds during the Mumbai terror attacks. Blogs and social networking sites were abuzz with news, photo, audio-visual and eyewitness accounts as the events unfolded.

Back home, in India, we have had former UN Under Secretary General and Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor, who lost his first job in the council of Ministers following a series of tweets revealing juicy information about the goings on in the highly lucrative Indian Premier League. The young, media savvy author and columnist was not the only loser in the episode. His friend and now wife Sunanda Pushkar lost her stakes (sweat equity) in the Kochi team, IPL wizard Lalit Modi lost his job and Kerala lost its only IPL team.

The episode provided lot of masala to the mainstream media. So did the tweets of actor director Farah Khan on the SRK-Sirish Kunder spat. The tweets of film stars and starlets often grab media headlines.

Instead of calling the media to air their enlightened views, on subjects ranging from tooth aches to child births, the celebrities, including the Big B and SRK, have taken to the social media to reach out to their fans, hit out at their rivals and remain in news.

The politicos have also joined the bandwagon, with the BJP leaders taking the lead. If Gujarat Chief Minister and Leader of BJP’s Poll Campaign Committee Narendra Modi is among the celebs with huge twitter following, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj’s tweets keep the party beat correspondents updated with the latest in the party and parliament while veteran leader L K Advani has shocked and surprised many within and outside the party with his blogs on issues ranging from media to Modi and films to foreign policy. Digvijay Singh and ManishTiwari lead the Congress offensive on the social media.

Lauding the role of social media, particularly in cornering senior journalists Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi in the wake of the Nira Radia tapes, even as mainstream media remained a mute spectator, columnist Sachin Kalbag wrote in the Mail Today, “ Online media in India rarely, if ever, gets its due. But it is social media, with its ability to become, as a senior journalist put it, a lynch mob that is something that media professionals would do well to remember. It is debatable whether a "lynch mob" or a "mass movement" would describe the phenomenon. It does not matter, really, because social media has well and truly arrived in India.

A series of projects funded by the Australian Research Council, UNESCO, UNDP and other international non-government organisations have been undertaken to enlist new media to help poverty alleviation in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Although each initiative is adapted to local circumstances, the common objective is to give local communities the skills to set up their own independent and community-based media resources to address issues that are important to these communities. Such issues might include health, education or politics, and the media used range from local radio stations to new media forms such as websites.

Finding a Voice: Making technological change socially effective and culturally empowering is one of the leading projects in the programme.. Taking a participatory approach to research, aiming to empower people through finding their own voice, the project looks at using old and new media technologies to reduce poverty in poor communities in terms of people's participation. This is achieved by assessing people's capacity to participate in various activities such as self expression and freedom of speech.
Of late, Government departments in India too have taken to the social media to reach out to the new generations. One of the success stories in this regard has been Census 2011.

According to Zee Research Group (ZRG), Census 2011, a service from the Census Commission of India under the Union Home Ministry, has been one of the best offering of the Government on the social networking media. Census 2011 was logged on 24x7 on Facebook with live updates, comments and responses from the department.

The office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India thought of the Facebook idea soon after it released the momentous Census 2011 findings. The result has been more than satisfying.

According to Registrar General and Commissioner of Census 2011, Dr C Chandramouli, “This initiative really helped to connect with the people. The responses of the people have been overwhelming. People have been very inquisitive and thoughtful throughout and have been actively participating and commenting on our regular updates.” He is not averse to criticism and looks forward to some constructive suggestions to engage the public better.

Several other Ministries and departments including the Ministry of External Affairs too have joined the bandwagon.

With India emerging as a leading Facebook market, the anxiety of the Government to reach out to GenX is understandable. A Tata Consultancy ‘GenY Survey 2011-2012’ of nearly 12,300 high school students across 12 Indian cities found that 85 percent of the students use Facebook.

Interestingly, Socialogue, a survey on social media trends and behaviour, revealed that 56 percent of Indians would prefer giving up television than giving up social networking sites. It revealed that nearly 37 per cent of people prefer a large network of friends as compared to close friends.

A study earlier this year by Mumbai's Iris Knowledge Foundation and the Internet and Mobile Association of India claimed that 78 million Facebook users will "wield a tremendous influence" over 160 Lok Sabha seats in the upcoming general elections. In these so-called "high impact" constituencies, Facebook users constitute either 10% of the total vote, or command greater numbers than the margin of victory in the 2009 election.

However, there are also equally significant statistics that do not support such findings and are also worrisome as far as social media is concerned. Although India ranked third this year in the number of active users next only to China and US, yet the overall Internet penetration in the country is a mere 11 per cent.

India on last count had 120 million active Internet users, up from 81 million users in 2010. Of the 10 top countries on active number of users, India is at the bottom in regard to levels of penetration achieved as against China with a penetration rate of 40 per cent and an active user base of 511 Million. China is followed by United States with 240 million users.

The social media has also become a platform for propagating separatism, communal hatred and vulgarity. Morphed photos of the Muslim-Buddhist violence in Myanmar were extensively used to force hundreds of people belonging to the North East to flee the southern metropolis of Bangalore.

Unsubstantiated reports and gossip are often passed on as genuine information and unlike mainstream media, which has stringent filtration mechanisms in place, many of these fly by the night websites post fiction as facts, throwing to winds journalistic norms such as accuracy and objectivity. Blackmailing has become a norm in the absence of any monitoring or regulatory system. Sensationalism is the only criterion and page hits the only yardstick.

Kashmiri and Sikh separatists are aggressively exploiting the platform to provoke and lure the youth to their ranks whereas the so-called Internet Hindus are hitting back with vengeance. The depth to which the discourse have fallen is appalling. Nicknames such as ‘feku’ and ‘pappu’ have been given to leaders of national political parties by their ideological opponents taking the political debate to an all time low.

The negative impact of the growing influence of social media is also causing concern to sociologists and educationists.

According to ‘Global Youth Online Behaviour Survey’ conducted by Microsoft, India ranked third in the list of 25 countries where 53 percent of the surveyed children aged between eight and 17 admitted that they were victims of cyber bullying.

Even as they are increasingly coming to terms with social media or citizen journalism as a major source of information, leading mainstream media journalists feel that the impact of social media has been overestimated.

Asserting that mere information is not journalism, Richard Sambrook, the former director of the BBC Global News Division, says one gets a lot of things, when one opens up Twitter in the morning, but not journalism.

“Journalism needs discipline, analysis, explanation and context. It is still a profession”, says Sambrook. According to him, the value that gets added with journalism is judgment, analysis and explanation - and that makes the difference.

While the impact of social media should not be underestimated and rather harnessed effectively for nation building, it is important to ensure that anti-social and anti-national elements don’t get away scot-free under the garb of freedom of speech and expression.

Social media will have to be made accountable to the society and the nation at large. It is too powerful a tool to be allowed to flourish and demolish societal and national interests in splendid isolation.

Seminar on Defence Procurement Procedures 2013 Printer-friendly version

Towards Expeditious Procurement and Indigenisation
  1. Despite several initiatives undertaken by the Government, the stated goal of self reliance in defence production still remains elusive. One of the main reasons is that for too long India has been importing over 70 percent of its armament and hardly any worthwhile technology has been developed indigenously.

  2. Even when India is willing to spend heavily to ensure that the preparedness of its Armed Forces is commensurate to its strategic challenge, the progress in procurements has been sluggish and tardy. It is because defence acquisition is a complex decision- making process that needs to balance out the competing requirements of expeditious procurement, development of an indigenous defence sector and conformity to the highest standards of transparency, probity and public accountability.
  3. Defence Ministry has now undertaken a major initiative to rectify this anomaly through issuance of DPP 2013. This focuses or a twin pronged approach of ‘self reliance through indigenisation’ and ‘secondly setting up of a Defence Industrial Base within the country’.
  4. The DPP 2013 has evoked great expectation amongst all experts and the progress in its implementation is being watched with great interest.

  5. At Vivekananda International Foundation, a study group under Gen N C Vij (Retd.), Former Chief of Army Staff along with five more Senior Officers of different Services was set up to study this all too important subject. This effort culminated in a seminar on the subject being held on 19 July from 1030- 1600hrs. This was attended by over 120 participants; from the three Services, both serving and veterans, senior former government officials, representatives of FICCI, CII and ASSOCHAM and also DRDO and DPSUS.

  6. Some of the major issues, on which there was a general consensus, are as under:-
(a) Public and Private sectors must be brought on par to achieve genuine indigenisation. To attain this goal, they will have to be provided ‘level playing field’,
(b) Decision taken by the Govt to share ‘Technology Perspective and capability Road Map’ with the industry is a giant Stride which will bring in greater transparency. This will also help provide the private industry a perspective of what the Services are looking for and also help them draw up their business plans,
(c) It was also felt that the DRDO should focus primarily only on ‘Core Technology’, which no one from outside will be prepared to share with India,
(d) The Govt decision to entrust the Industry with up gradation and serviceability of the equipment, as partners with the Public Sector, was widely welcome,
(e) Creation of a Corpus of Rs 550 Crores for the micro, small and medium scale industries through SIDBI was also a welcome step, and
(f) It was also agreed that there was a need to formally train Services Officers and the MOD officials specifically for dealing with this intricate subject of procurement in our Management Institutions,

Finally, the general consensus was that the issuance of DPP 2013 was an important and positive step towards the important goal of self reliance. Its success will entirely depend upon the quality and expediency shown in its implementation. VIF will be shortly putting out a detailed report on this subject on its Website and also bring out a brochure on the subject.
Event Date: 
July 19, 2013

Kashmir: The Unwritten History; Christopher Snedden; Harper Collins; PP 434; Rs 599

An Underhand Pitch for Plebiscite

Sushant Sareen, 
Senior Fellow, VIF

Over the last few months, there is suddenly a lot of unnecessary, unwarranted and self-serving focus of Western academics, analysts and authors on the India-Pakistan equation – the issue of Jammu and Kashmir inevitably being a centre-piece of the discord between the two countries. Essentially the argument being made is that the problem in Afghanistan is more than anything else an outcome of the India-Pakistan proxy war and that the road to Kabul runs through Kashmir. In other words, Pakistan’s perfidious conduct in the War on Terror against Jihad International being fought in Afghanistan can be altered if some sort of a solution, which by definition is acceptable to Pakistan even if not to India, is worked out to satisfy Pakistan's irredentist claim over the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. With the US abandonment of Afghanistan in 2014 looming on the horizon, and the possibility of Afghanistan being outsourced to Pakistan becoming quite real, there seems to be a sense of urgency in attempts to create an intellectual environment in which the West (read US) can pressurise India to make concessions on Kashmir to Pakistan.

It is against this backdrop that former Australian intelligence officer and now academic Christopher Snedden’s book “Kashmir: The Unwritten History” has been published. While the timing of the book might seem mischievous, the fact of the matter remains that Snedden has been writing this book for some time now and just the kind of voluminous research that has gone into the book – practically every assertion is annotated – suggests that the author wasn’t necessarily working on any ‘agenda’. Even though Part II of the book does fill some gaps in our knowledge about the part of Pakistan occupied Kashmir which is euphemistically called ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ (AJK, which is neither Azad nor Kashmir), the book plugs the Pakistani line on Kashmir even as it disguises itself as pushing the ‘Azad Kashmir’ cause. For instance, Snedden seems to subscribe to the pet conspiracy theory of Pakistanis that Gurdaspur was awarded to India in order to give the Indians access to Jammu and Kashmir. He ignores the documented fact that the Gurdaspur award had more to do with protection of Amritsar (which would otherwise be militarily vulnerable) than Kashmir.

Clearly, there are huge problems with the book, not the least of which is that almost all the sources that Snedden quotes are Pakistani, which in itself raises serious questions about the conclusions that are drawn in the book. Equally troublesome is the central thesis of the book which has to do with the Poonch ‘Uprising’ that Snedden projects as critical to developments that unfolded in the former princely state. And then there are the recommendations on how to solve the Kashmir issue that Snedden makes in the last part of the book, which are quite simply a convoluted pitch for plebiscite, albeit through the back door. Beguilingly presented as ‘Let the People Decide’, Snedden’s formula for solving Kashmir is nothing but a flight of fancy of an academic because it is unworkable, unacceptable and unreal.

The first impression that comes to mind after reading the book is that this is ‘Alistair Lamb 2.0’. Lamb was a British academic who in the 1990’s had published two books which not only questioned Kashmir’s accession to India but also portrayed India as the villain. Not surprisingly then, the Pakistanis used Lamb’s book to press their case on Kashmir, quoting from his works ad nauseam. But after it became known that the funding for Lamb’s book had come from Pakistani sources, Lamb suddenly stopped being quoted. This was a precursor to the sordid chapter involving the ISI funded shenanigans of Ghulam Nabi Fai of the Kashmir American Council. Surprisingly, however, Snedden’s book hasn’t received the same traction that Lamb had got in Pakistan. Perhaps, this is because of the pre-occupation of Pakistanis with their internal troubles.

The central thrust of Snedden’s book, and indeed his entire argument, is built around three developments that took place in the Jammu region in 1947 – the Poonch Uprising which was followed by communal violence in the Hindu majority eastern districts of Jammu region and finally the declaration of a provisional government by the rebels in Poonch. The salience that Snedden gives to the Poonch Uprising is unconvincing because it was at best a sideshow in the entire drama that unfolded in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947. The importance that Snedden gives to the communal violence in Jammu – he even blames the tribal invasion by Pashtun tribesmen backed by the Pakistan army on the Jammu violence and presents it as the catalyst for the eventual Partition of the state of Jammu and Kashmir – flies in the face of historical facts. The communal violence in Jammu needs to be seen in the context of the great disturbances and dislocation that accompanied the monumental changes that were taking place in the Indian subcontinent at that time. That the Jammu violence could have been a reaction to the Poonch Uprising in which Hindus and Sikhs were massacred has been conveniently ignored.

Snedden’s assertion that the J&K dispute was started by the people of the state and not by Pakistan and that the Pashtun tribals invaded the state because of violence in Jammu is almost like saying that the invasion was some sort of instant coffee, which it clearly was not. There is no way that the Pashtun tribesmen could have launched their invasion within a couple of days of the violence in Jammu. There is enough evidence available that the planning for the tribal invasion had commenced months before the Jammu communal violence. Snedden himself accepts this when he points out that Pandit Nehru had informed Sardar Patel about the shenanigans of the NWFP and Punjab governments in the newly created Pakistan to stir trouble in J&K.
While Snedden portrays the Indian position on Kashmir, which blames the entire trouble on the tribal invasion, as being disingenuous, the fact of the matter is that all the troubles in the state that preceded the tribal invasion were localised and to an extent internal to J&K (notwithstanding the involvement of serving Pakistan Army officers and soldiers from the AJK region in stoking the fires and instigating the uprising in places like Poonch). The real problem arose because of open aggression by Pakistani proxies (to use a more contemporary phrase, non-state actors, which goes to show a certain pattern of behaviour on part of Pakistan in its dealings with India) to force the issue while maintaining plausible deniability. Snedden glosses over the rebellion by some state subjects and literally holds it up as a legitimate action. But surely, even he would agree that it is the legitimate right of every state to use every possible means (including accession to India in the case of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir) to defend itself from both internal disturbance and external aggression. To accept Snedden’s specious argument would tantamount to justifying the terrorism that erupted in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Snedden’s book is that because of his advocacy of the position of the people of AJK, he glosses over the ugly reality of the Kashmir problem and doesn’t acknowledge that the entire issue started as an unvarnished communal problem (Muslim majoritarianism) which in the 1990s took on hues of communalism varnished by ethnic nationalism and later became part of the international jihadist narrative. By ignoring this critical facet, Snedden has ended up writing an utterly biased and incomplete history of the Kashmir issue.

Terror Attacks in Bodh Gaya: Prevention is Better than Cure Printer-friendly version

Dr. N Manoharan, 
Senior Fellow, VIF

When serial blasts rocked Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya on 07 July 2013, it was for the first time that a Buddhist holy spot was targeted in India. Ten of the 13 bombs planted at the temple were indeed of low intensity, but their psychological impact was huge. Though no group or individual has claimed responsibility so far, fingers are being pointed at four different directions as possible perpetrators.

Was there a political motive? Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh tried to connect the timing of the blasts with Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP leader Narendra Modi’s advice to the party workers to teach Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar “a lesson”. What Digvijay Singh was trying to suggest was that the BJP would be interested in projecting Bihar’s law and order situation in a poor light, especially after JDU-BJP split in the state. The speculation has no value other than to gain cheap publicity.

There were also conjectures on the possible involvement of Tamil extremist groups to express their resentment against Sinhala Buddhists for the latter’s treatment towards their ethnic brethren in Sri Lanka. Two Buddhist monks were attacked in Tamil Nadu in March this year; and, in January 2011, the Mahabodhi Society Temple in Chennai was attacked. But, the Tamil groups involved in those attacks clearly lack the capability of carrying out terror attacks, that too using bombs. They have no wherewithal to strike a target more than 2000 kilometers away.

Were Maoists behind the attacks? Gaya is indeed a hotbed of the Maoists, but when it comes to a possible motive, it is difficult to establish their involvement. Mahabodhi temple was neither a state symbol nor a camp for security/police forces. Maoists would not bother otherwise. There were doubts whether they did the attack on behalf of any jihadist organisation. There are opportunistic linkages between Maoists and jihadist terror groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). However, such linkages have so far not been so deep as to extend to the outsourcing of terror attacks.

The final possibility is the involvement of the Indian Mujahideen (IM). There have been alerts from the Intelligence Bureau over Mahabodi Temple as one of the prime targets of terror groups like the Indian Mujahideen. The Delhi Police had also sounded out Bodhgaya Temple as one of the targets based on interrogation of IM militants in its custody. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) that has been investigating the case has established IM hands in the blasts. What does the IM have against a Buddhist target? Two broad motives can be established.

The primary aim was to avenge “atrocities” against Muslims in Myanmar by the Buddhist majority. For quite some time, Pakistan-based terror groups like the LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) and Jamaat-e-Mujahideen of Bangladesh (JMB) have been trying to establish a firm foothold in Mayanmar, especially in the Muslim-inhabited Arakan area. They have links with local radical groups like Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), Jammat-ul-Arakan, Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami Arakan and Difa-e-Musalman Arakan. These Myanmarese groups have training camps in neighbouring Bangladesh. Bodh Gaya is one of the popular pilgrimage destinations for the Burmese Buddhists.

The second motivation was obviously anti-India. The Indian Mujahideen is part of ISI’s grand strategy of destabilisation by taking subversion and terrorism to the heartland of India using violent non-state actors. Thus, IM’s hand is evident in most of the terror attacks in India’s hinterland since the mid-2000s.

The serial blasts clearly established a serious security lapse at various levels. It is not clear why the IB alerts were not taken seriously. It is also beyond comprehension why such a high-profile target was not guarded properly. The outer ring was manned by the state police, but with scant presence. Ironically, the security inside the temple premises was entrusted to private security personnel. The fact that 13 bombs were placed at diverse places to go off serially in a span of half-an-hour shows the level of incompetence of the security net around the Mahabodhi temple. This lacuna should be addressed on a priority basis.

An old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies to internal security management. Two important preventive measures, among others, are suggested:

  1. There should be adequate ‘target-hardening’ around the temple. It includes a professional security cover that should be in a position to deter prospective attackers. Given the importance of the place (a UNESCO heritage site and one of the holiest Buddhist shrines in the world), the idea of deploying a central security force at the outer ring should be explored. The other measures that require attention under ‘target-hardening’ include functional metal detectors, proper frisking, situational awareness, effective surveillance cameras, and check points at all approach roads. The objective is to make the environment as unfriendly and as difficult as possible for the terrorists to commit any subversive act.
  2. Also, the key to success in fighting terrorism effectively lies in obtaining accurate and reliable intelligence about impending attacks and neutralisation of terrorist modules well in advance. Intelligence gathering in India, especially preventive aspects of intelligence, needs substantial improvement. Terrorist attacks occur either due to absence of precise/actionable intelligence or, more often, lack of follow-up action even when such intelligence is available. Specific intelligence should reach the concerned agency in real time. Cohesion amongst intelligence agencies and sharing of intelligence in a far more integrated manner is an operational necessity. What is required is ‘intelligence convergence’ more than ‘intelligence coordination’, of both men and material

Has China Upstaged India in Space Diplomacy?

Radhakrishna Rao, 
Visiting Fellow, VIF

Space exploration, once a preserve of the advanced industrialized countries, is no more being viewed as an area of esoteric research involving a huge investment and complex technological systems. Indeed, space technology has now become an indispensable tool for improving the quality of human life on earth in addition to helping boost the war fighting capability in a substantial manner. And on the international arena, space cooperation has emerged as a platform for furthering the diplomatic clout and political ambitions besides helping project “soft power”.

And this is an area where Communist China has made rapid forays in expanding its influence over many of the third world countries keen on entering the space age. By making available space services—by way of building custom made satellites followed by their in orbit-delivery—China not only stands to expand its business interests but also seeks to strengthen its diplomatic clout. By arranging soft loans and providing knowhow and expertise for building and launching satellites on reasonable terms, China is all set to become a recognised player in the multi- billion dollar global space market. Indeed, this dual offer of technological support and financial assistance on reasonable terms has made China the most sought after “space partner” for the developing countries.

Against such a backdrop, the possibility of India’s Himalayan neighbour Nepal turning to China for its satellite project is very much on the cards. Nepal which is now examining the feasibility of getting its first satellite launched before the middle of this decade , has , however revealed that it would look at launching the satellite “through a joint venture of national and international firms along with the Government of Nepal”. Further, the Nepalese Government sources in Kathmandu also stated that “If Nepal is unable to entirely use the satellite for its internal consumption, it can be leased to either China or India or both for commercial purposes”.

Given the aggressive pitch by the China Great Wall Industries Corporation (CGWIC), the commercial arm of the Chinese space programme, the Nepalese satellite project contract going the Chinese way is considered a “strong possibility.” Rapidly expanding Chinese influence over this erstwhile Hindu kingdom along with the rabid anti India stance of a section of the political spectrum in the country implies that in all probability, Nepal will turn to China for getting its satellite project off the ground.

There are no clear cut clues as of now on what steps India would initiate to wean Nepal away from China in the crucial area of satellite technology enterprise,. Of course, India can offer Nepal a co branded and co owned satellite that both the countries could share. For the ground reality is that Nepal may not need the entire capability of a satellite to meet its needs. Here India should play its card very shrewdly by bringing in diplomatic finesse to win the confidence of Nepal. Moreover, India should offer an economically alluring and technologically superb package to meet the Nepalese needs of satellite capability. As it is, the allotment of an orbital slot to Nepal to position its satellite by the Geneva based International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will expire by 2015. This implies that Kathmandu is required to launch the satellite before this deadline.

As it is, Indian security and intelligence agencies are already perturbed over the inroads made by China in forging space cooperation with Sri Lanka and Maldives, the two Indian Ocean island nations with which India has had a long history of cordial relations.

Bangladesh too is known to be moving closer to the Chinese offer to build and launch a dedicated satellite.

In fact, there is dismay in New Delhi over Bangladesh, whose emergence as an independent country owed much to the Indian support, inviting CGWIC for realizing its ”space plan.” The Request for Proposal (RFP) floated in 2011 by the telecom regulator of Bangladesh seeks to get a domestic communications satellite named “Bangabandhu” launched. And the addition of Nepal to the “celestial orbit” of China cannot but be a disturbing development for India with strong strategic, diplomatic and political overtones.

Indeed, India’s missed opportunities in terms of strengthening ties with its immediate neighbours through space cooperation has been the centrepiece of reports recently brought out by Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).The thesis of R&AW is that China capitalised on India’s indifference to the needs of the neighbouring countries. Indeed, an Inter-Ministerial meeting held in February this year stressed the need for Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to play a “pro active” role in helping Maldives and Sri Lanka realize their space dreams. It was felt that India could offer some of its vacant orbital slots for positioning of the proposed communications satellites of Sri Lanka and Maldives.

According to ISRO, “a mutually beneficial cooperation arrangement for building satellites and operating them with increased coverage areas over India can be worked out so that capabilities of the satellites can be used by India and Sri Lanka.” But this strategy is not likely to work. For Sri Lanka’s first partly owned satellite SupremeSAT which was launched by a Chinese Long March -1 rocket in November last has been hailed as a landmark event in Sino-Sri Lankan high tech collaboration. What does this development imply for India? Is this yet another addition to the String of Pearls strategy being vigorously pursued by China? Will Sino-Sri Lankan handshake in space give a new edge to China’s geo political game plan in the Indian Ocean? This partly owned satellite perched up over the Indian Ocean region could prove a trump card for China in providing a boost to its commercial, strategic and military interests in the Indian Ocean region. For both Sri Lanka and China, this space endeavour representing a joint venture between Colombo based regional satellite service provider SupremeSAT and CGWIC is a win win deal. 1 As part of this joint venture, a second SupremeSAT satellite is planned to be launched sometime this year. Also a fully owned Sri Lankan satellite will be launched by 2015.2

Responding to the Indian concerns, Sri Lankan Government sources in Colombo had made it clear that the satellite launch was a private sector initiative by Supremesat which entered into an agreement with CGWIC for the satellite launch.

“From a larger geopolitical perspective, it sends a message to India that a country in its own backyard is cosying up with China” says Brahma Chellany, an expert on strategic affairs at the New Delhi based Centre for Policy Research.

Of course, India’s strength in building world class satellites has widely been recognised but all said and done, the Bangalore based commercial arm of the Indian space programme, Antrix Corp lacks the kind of resources and expertise at the command of CGWIC. In particular, India lacks an operational launch vehicle powerful enough to deliver a communications satellite weighing over 2-tonne.
Also, India is yet to develop a base resurgent enough to launch a satellite on commercial terms. For the Antrix Corp to grab international orders for building and launching satellites, the Government of India should increase funding to strengthen and expand the infrastructure good enough to accomplish commercial orders.

On the other hand, China has a sound track record of building and launching communications satellites on turnkey basis for the developing countries including Pakistan, Nigeria and Venezuela. CGWIC has also signed satellite and ground systems export contracts with Bolivia and Laos.

China, which already boasts of three land locked launch centres, is now close to commissioning its new ultra modern coastal launch complex at Hainan Island which also happens to be the epicentre of the massive Chinese naval build up. This launch station, besides helping China launch its heavier class launch vehicles, would help attract more international customers for its commercial space launch enterprise. In contrast, India boasts of a solitary launch complex in Sriharikota Island on the eastern coast of the country. Though for quite sometime there have been reports to suggest that ISRO is looking at setting up a second launch centre, concrete, ground level action to realize this seems to be lacking. A single operational launch pad makes for a poor strategic sense from the operational point of view.

The proposal of the Maldivian Defence Ministry to seek Chinese assistance for realizing its “space ambition” is a sign that this Indian Ocean island nation is edging closer to China. Chinese IT and telecom companies have already established a strong presence in Maldives. In the context of the growing anti India feelings in Maldives following the exit of the Indian infrastructure enterprise GMR group from the country, China has become a favoured partner for many of the infrastructure projects in the country.

Moreover, the Indian side had not responded to the Maldivian Government’s tender for a satellite. Though six aerospace outfits from across the world responded to the Maldivian tender, the Government at Male responded positively to the Chinese offer. In fact, sometime back, the Maldivian Government sources had said that India had not sent any proposal for the satellite project. But China which has already dug deep in the “developmental landscape”of Maldives, is making all out efforts to bag the satellite project order.

The view in New Delhi is that ISRO could send a delegation to Maldives to impress upon the political leadership of the country on the feasibility of the Indian offer to build and launch a satellite. Whether this approach would help India win Maldivian confidence, only time will tell.

Indeed, China views its space forays as a pathway for its technological excellence and strategic supremacy. For China, space ascendancy is a major step towards its emergence as a global military power at par with US. No wonder then that China’s political leadership has a strong conviction that its forays in space provides it with a spring board to boost its national prestige, showcase its technological prowess, further its military and strategic goals, strengthen its diplomatic and political clout and expand its business interests by offering assistance to the third world countries keen on entering the space age. In contrast, India’s political leadership seems to be long way off from nurturing such a vision.


  1. SupremeSat Chairman R.M.Manivannan has said that Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is cool to his offer of making available the Supremesat-1 capability to the users in India. ISRO is the nodal agency for providing leased satellite capability to users--mainly in broadcasting and telecommunications sectors--in India. Incidentally, India is experiencing an acute shortage of satellite capacity in the context for the phenomenal expansion of telecom and broadcasting services in the country.
  2. SupremeSat has inked a US$215-million deal with China Great Wall Industries Corporation(CGWIC) for the in-orbit delivery of SupremeSat-2 satellite. As per the contract, SupremeSat-2 will be launched by means of a Chinese Long March Vehicle in mid-2016. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hard Power, The Only Currency That Works in Afghanistan

Lt General (Retd) R K Sawhney, Distinguished Fellow, VIF

Sushant Sareen, Senior Fellow, VIF

The so-called Afghan endgame is really nothing more than the US endgame in Afghanistan. For the Afghans, there is unlikely to be any endgame. Even the Americans suspect, even fear, that their exit from, nay abandonment of, Afghanistan will most likely embroil the hapless Afghans in a deadly and brutal battle for survival. But the exigencies of domestic politics and economics, and the dwindling diplomatic and military support from its effete NATO allies, have created circumstances in which the Americans don’t want to exercise their will or expend their wealth in taking the War on Terror to its logical conclusion. Worse, they have no coherent policy or strategy against Jihad Inc. – questions are even being raised about their intent to fight Islamist terror given their tacit understanding, if not cooperation, with Al Qaeda affiliates in places like Syria – certainly not in the Afpak region which is really the epicentre of jihadist terrorism.

Under the mistaken notion that appeasing and accommodating the medieval Taliban will halt the spread of Islamic radicalism, the US seems to have bought into Pakistan's con-game in Afghanistan, which holds out the tantalising prospect of a ‘honourable’ withdrawal for the sole superpower. Of course, there is nothing very honourable in a withdrawal which seeks to bring back into power, albeit through a negotiated ‘settlement’ (surrender is a more appropriate term) the forces of evil against whom the war was fought. The US plan to declare ‘victory’ before exiting only invites sniggers, if not outright contempt, among its well-wishers as well as its enemies who have conspired, connived and contributed materially, morally and monetarily, in inflicting a humiliating defeat on it.

Even more outrageous is the thinly disguised plan to outsource Afghanistan to Pakistan, in effect throwing the Afghans before the proverbial wolves. The Afghan anger and suspicion of the apparent US strategy of making Pakistan the pivot of their Afghan policy is, therefore, entirely understandable. Although the Pakistanis insist that they back an ‘Afghan-driven, Afghan-owned and Afghan-led’ peace process, only the Taliban qualify as Afghans for the Pakistanis. It is of course quite another matter that this disastrous policy of restoring peace and stability in the Afpak region will severely destabilise not just for Afghanistan but also for Pakistan and rest of the region.

The simple paradox about Afghanistan is that if the war against Taliban and their Al Qaeda associates and affiliates is not won, the peace will be lost. Capitulation before the forces of Islamic radicalism and terrorism is, however, being given the spin of ‘reconciliation’. For their part, the Taliban have given no indication that they sincerely desire any sort of reconciliation. Nor is there anything to suggest that they are ready for peaceful co-existence with those who do not subscribe to their medieval mindset. At least the Americans should know by now that the Taliban wouldn’t remain the Taliban if they were reconcilable.

The US clearly has a lot, in fact everything, riding on this ‘reconciliation’ plank hoping that it will bring the Taliban on board. What happens after the Taliban come on board hasn’t quite been thought through. Worse, the Americans don’t have any Plan ‘B’. Essentially, the US policy in Afghanistan is based on a hope and a prayer. They believe that the huge economic and political stakes that people have developed in the Afghan system and the new freedoms and empowerment that have been experienced by the ordinary Afghans will ensure that the Taliban won’t get a walkover if they refuse to reconcile. In other words, as far as the US is concerned, if Plan ‘A’ doesn’t work, the best case scenario in Afghanistan is either a civil war to keep the Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies at bay. The worst case scenario is a Taliban takeover, which ironically is precisely what a successful ‘reconciliation’ of the sorts being tried in Doha i.e. Plan ‘A’, will lead to.

While the US will do what it thinks is in its best interest, and perhaps can live with the consequences of its ill-thought out strategy, the Indian government seems to be totally at sea on its options on Afghanistan. What is touted as India’s policy is really a clumsy rehash of the US policy. From a time when India was deeply sceptical about, if not completely opposed to, the reconciliation process, the Indian position has now regressed to a point where it is now open to a dialogue even with the Taliban. Clearly, the Ministry of External Affairs (and perhaps the entire Indian establishment, if at all there is such a thing anymore) hasn’t quite understood the organic links between Pakistan and the Taliban, summed up by the former Pakistani military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf who called the Taliban Pakistan's ‘strategic reserve that can be unleashed in tens of thousands against India’ whenever Pakistan wanted.

India’s problem with the Taliban is two-fold: one, the Taliban epitomise a barbaric, medieval and radical version of Islam which is antithetical to the very idea of India; two, the Taliban are not independent agents and as long as they are clients and proxies of Pakistan, there is practically no way India can engage with them. This means India can stay relevant in Afghanistan not by being a bystander but by actively bolstering the anti-Taliban forces monetarily, militarily and politically. To do this, India will have to combine its considerable soft power with smart use of its hard power. Without putting boots on ground, hard power can be exercised by building alliances with other regional countries, pooling together diplomatic and political resources with these countries to campaign against the Taliban, and coordinating with them to support the anti-Taliban forces militarily. Even if such cooperation is not forthcoming, India should bring its own national power to play in support the anti-Taliban forces in every possible way. What India shouldn’t do is bank on things like UN-mandated international security force or a regional treaty forswearing interference in Afghanistan that are being peddled either by people who don’t understand the play of forces in Afghanistan or by people who want to obfuscate and obstruct any meaningful measure to stall the onslaught of the Taliban and their sponsors across the Durand Line. This will be a mug’s game. After all, if Pakistan and Taliban could defy arguably the strongest military force on the planet, what are the chances of success of these well-meaning but woolly-headed ideas?

Unfortunately, whether out of naivety, or sheer pusillanimity or even a self-cultivated, if also self-defeating, image of being the perpetual nice guys (an image that India’s adversaries have no use for and which India’s friends find frustrating), India has decided to limit its assistance to building hospitals, roads, power plants, schools etc. but not supplying the much needed military assistance and support that will strengthen the anti-Taliban forces. India needs to realise that all its investment in social goods and infrastructure in Afghanistan will turn to dust if the Taliban gain control of Afghanistan.

Unless India is ready to use its hard power, it should be ready to once again lock up the Indian embassy in Kabul and withdraw from Afghanistan, at least until the Afghan War 2.0 that will become inevitable after Islamist groups use Afghan soil to start spreading terror around the world. 

India-US Ties: Need for Clarity, Balance

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

Doubts persist both in India and the United States on the substance of their strategic partnership. High-sounding declarations about the partnership being one of the defining ones of the 21st century, or one between “natural allies,” have not erased uncertainties in the two countries about the capacity and willingness of each side to meet the expectations of the other.

Growing India-U.S. convergence on several issues has not eliminated significant divergences emanating from huge disparity in power, different priorities, conflicting regional interests and differing views on structures of global governance. India has moved from distrust to positive engagement and greater acceptance of basic U.S. goodwill towards it. The U.S. is devoting higher attention to India than ever before in recognition of its growing international importance. But this improved atmosphere in bilateral relations is not sufficient for ironing out real differences.

Wide Gaps

While there is like-mindedness on issues of democracy, pluralism, human rights, economic liberalisation, terrorism, religious extremism, non-proliferation and the like, their treatment in concrete situations exposes wide gaps in the thinking of the two countries. India notes the selective manner in which “universal values” are promoted, sparing friends who spurn them and sanctioning adversaries for similar repudiation. Even in the case of terrorism, the conduct of some is condoned while that of others invokes steps to bring about regime change.

On Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Climate Change, the Doha Round, sovereignty issues, global governance, etc., India and the U.S. have different perspectives. While differences between the U.S. and some of its allies on important issues do not call into question the basic assumptions about their mutual relationship within an alliance system, in India’s case the “strategic relationship” gets stress-tested in public opinion each time the two countries are in discord.

Our strategic partnership with the U.S. cannot presume identity of views on contentious international issues or adjustment of Indian policies to suit American preferences alone. Yet, when India speaks of strategic autonomy, U.S. votaries and Indian champions of a strong India-U.S. friendship decry such thinking as mired in India’s defunct nonaligned credo. If the Indian Parliament passes a nuclear liability law imposing supplier liability on nuclear vendors, particularly after Fukushima, U.S. and Indian strategic affairs specialists become petulant. Similarly, if U.S. companies are excluded from defence contracts, there is interrogation about India’s commitment to a strategic partnership with the U.S. Elements in India characterise genuine policy differences as fence-sitting, reluctance to accept burden-sharing in upholding the international order and free-loading by India on the back of those powers who make hard choices, sometimes at the cost of their own immediate interest, to maintain peace and security.

Recurrent doubts in India about the quality of its U.S. relationship are fuelled by the inconsistency, lack of steadiness and even transparency of U.S. policies. The U.S. can change gears to suit its interests at a particular juncture, shaped by electoral considerations or lobbying. It is adept at giving varying spins to its policies as circumstances demand. The U.S. policy towards Pakistan, despite its terrorist affiliations and disruptive role in Afghanistan, exemplifies this. Washington’s military and economic aid to Islamabad continues despite Pakistan’s complicity in sheltering Osama bin Laden. Notwithstanding Pakistan’s abetment of terrorism in India and the strategic headaches it causes to the U.S., the American tendency to equate India and Pakistan resurfaces from time to time.

On Afghanistan, the U.S. first questioned India’s role there, then supported it and is now disregarding India’s fundamental strategic doubts about politically rehabilitating the Taliban by dialoguing with it. The U.S. now seems open even to the Haqqani network’s participation in the political end-game in Afghanistan. On China, the signals waver, with the declaration of a pivot towards Asia with China’s rise in mind, which is then diluted to “re-balancing” detached from China-related fears and, finally, the wisdom of any beefed-up Asia-Pacific policy is questioned by the would-be U.S. Secretary of State.
US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit in June for the fourth round of the strategic dialogue illustrated these cross-currents moulding the India-U.S. strategic partnership. The joint statement issued on the occasion omits any mention of Pakistan, even in the context of the Mumbai attack. The references to terrorism and “violent extremism” and to dismantling of terrorist safe havens in the region are worded to avoid finger-pointing at Pakistan. There being no risk of any other political force being excluded by design or choice, the reference to “inclusive” Presidential and Provincial elections in Afghanistan in 2014 is puzzling, as it suggests that India too is advocating the “inclusion” of Taliban in these elections. The rhetoric about the reconciliation process being Afghan-led and Afghan-owned sounds hollower with the U.S. decision to talk directly to the Taliban at Doha, as Kabul will not dictate the negotiating script to Washington. The red lines drawn by the international community for any deal with the Taliban have been blurred in the joint statement which speaks in general terms about preserving “the historic political, economic and social progress made over the last decade,” though in Kerry’s speech at the Habitat Centre these red lines are reiterated. It is not clear how India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid could say in his joint press conference with Kerry that the U.S. “will ensure that none of the concerns of India is overlooked or undermined,” when the very act of talking to the Taliban under Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s benign oversight subverts India’s interests.

The joint statement omits any mention of China, the South China Sea or U.S. “re-balancing” towards Asia, though Kerry affirmed in his press statement that the U.S. leadership considered India a key part of such a re-balance. There is only a general reference — in the paragraph dealing with the Indian Ocean and the Arctic Council — to maritime security, unimpeded commerce and freedom of navigation! Iran and Syria are absent from the statement. The India-U.S. strategic dialogue thus ignores or obfuscates key strategic issues.


Kerry pushed India unreasonably on the civilian nuclear front by unilaterally affirming in the joint press conference with Khurshid — beyond the joint statement’s non-committal language — that the two sides had agreed that a commercial agreement between Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India should be reached by September this year. This is hardly possible when highly complex issues such as capital investment, financial mechanisms and the per-unit tariff rate have to be finalised, besides meeting other regulatory requirements. Is Kerry suggesting that the “full and timely implementation of the civil nuclear deal” requires India to hasten the finalisation of nuclear contracts with U.S. firms, irrespective of any consideration? Perhaps this arm-twisting is related to the Prime Minister’s expected visit to Washington in September.

The extraordinary emphasis on climate change issues by Kerry during his visit unnecessarily risks converting a complex global issue into a contentious bilateral one. Kerry waxed eloquent on the new energy market being the “biggest market ever seen on earth ... a $6 trillion market with 4 billion users,” suggesting powerful commercial considerations behind his push. The wisdom of creating a working group headed by Kerry and Khurshid to intensify bilateral efforts to address “forcefully” this “urgent” issue — which means increasing the weight of non-technical foreign policy considerations into bilateral discussions — is questionable.

Positive features were, of course, not missing from Kerry’s visit, given the much improved tenor of India-U.S. ties and the extraordinarily rich agenda of bilateral cooperation which in many unspectacular ways can be productive for India. The short point is that the cogs of the strategic partnership still grate with each other and the machine is not adequately lubricated yet by the diplomatic grease of coherence, clarity, balance of interests and a sense of true partnership.

National Security: Preemption is Viable and Valid

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

The Chambers Twenty-first Century Dictionary defines ‘preempt’ in the following words:- “To do something ahead of someone else and so make pointless an action they have planned”. Preemptive action is defined by the same dictionary as an attack “effectively destroying the enemy’s weapons before they can be used”. Preemptive action, therefore, is likely to be resorted to in a warlike situation where it is necessary, in fact vital, to destroy the enemy’s capacity to attack and thereby ensure victory. Under what conditions would the police be allowed preemptive action, which could include destruction of property and causing the death of persons who can be identified as inimical to the national interests?

One of the main differences between the military and the police is that the armed forces have an identified enemy and their objective, in the defence of the country, is to destroy the enemy’s offensive capabilities and to inflict such casualties on the enemy as would make it impossible for him to pose a threat to national security and the territorial integrity of the country. The dictionary meaning of the military is “the armed forces, maintained for the purpose of warfare”. The police, on the other hand, is defined as “a body of men and women employed by the government of a country to keep order, enforce the law, prevent crime, etc”. The armed forces are generally required to act against an external enemy, whereas the police is required to maintain order within the country and, therefore, largely deals with Indian citizens. Under section 23 of the Police Act, amongst the duties of a police officer is to prevent the commission of offences and public nuisances. In order that he may be able to perform his duty, Chapter XI, Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) authorises the police to take preventive action under section 149 to ensure that cognisable offences are not committed. Under section 151, Cr.P.C. the police has the authority to arrest a person about whom it has information that he has a design to commit a cognisable offence. The police, therefore, has the legal authority to preempt the commission of a cognisable offence, intervene and take action against any person about whom it has information regarding a design to commit such an offence. To the extent that it preempts an attack to commit an offence such preventive action is also a form of preemptive action.

Coming to Chapter X, Cr.P.C. dealing with maintenance of public order and tranquility, an Executive Magistrate who comes across an assembly of five or more persons which intends to cause a disturbance of the public peace and is thereby an unlawful assembly, can command it to disperse and on its failure to do so can order the use of necessary force, which may include the use of lethal force. This, too, is a form of means of preempting any action by such assembly which could result in break-down of law and order. In continuation of the same authority to prevent disturbance of public peace, an Executive Magistrate may issue an order under section 144, Cr.P.C. directing the person or persons to abstain from certain acts and in order to enforce the order the Magistrate can take such action as may be necessary. This precautionary measure is also a form of preemption because it does result in preventing an offence or disturbance of public peace from occurring.

The scheme of the law is that preventive action is not only permissible, but is also mandated so that public order is maintained and crime prevented. At one level, this mandate is similar to that of the armed forces, that is, to ensure safety and security. But there are differences also and in this regard, the Police Manual drawn up under the Police Act, the Internal Defence and Internal Security Schemes which state what is to be done if the country is facing either a major internal security crisis or an external threat, lay down the procedures, the duties, etc., of the police, the magistracy and the armed forces. However, the doctrine so far as the police is concerned is the use of minimum force, which means minimum effective force, when dealing with a situation pertaining to law and order or general crime. So far as the armed forces are concerned, when facing an enemy, which means an external enemy, the maxim would be to use maximum effective force which would inflict crippling casualties on the enemy while minimising one’s own casualties. Thus, preventive or preemptive action by the police would be measured and aimed at achieving the desired objective without inflicting unnecessary damage or casualties. Preventive action by the armed force would be aimed at causing the maximum damage and maximum casualties to the enemy. The police is governed by the laws of India which naturally place the citizen above everything else. The armed forces are governed by the rules of war in which India comes first and destruction of the enemy is the main objective. Obviously, the police cannot adopt military tactics when dealing with a law and order situation.

The use of force, including lethal force, is legitimate for the police, but strictly as permitted by law. For example, under Chapter V,Cr.P.C, when making an arrest, the police may use force if such an arrest is resisted. Section 46, Cr.P.C. states how an arrest may be made. However, whereas under section 46(2), a police officer or any other person making an arrest may use force, this cannot extend to the causing of death of the person to be arrested unless he is charged with an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for life. In that case, of course, the arresting officer, in order to overpower the accused, can cause death if the circumstance warrants it. A person who voluntarily surrenders cannot be subjected to the use of force. Of course, under the Geneva Convention, even in a war if an enemy surrenders, he has to be treated with courtesy and he cannot be put to death. Killing a surrendered enemy is an offence defined as a war crime.
In the maintenance of public order under the directions of the Executive Magistrate or a police officer, when dispersing an unlawful assembly, both civil and military force can be used. Even when using military force to disperse an unlawful assembly, the armed forces will act on the requisition of an Executive Magistrate, but in doing so, “the commanding officer shall use as little force and do as little injury to person and property as may be consistent with dispersing the assembly and arrest and detaining such person”. The use of minimum force, therefore, is the doctrine for both the police and the armed forces when dealing with assemblies of citizens which may have become unlawful. The action is preventive, but the preemptive portion of it is subject to the principle of use of minimum force.

Unfortunately in India, the choice is not always between civil action and military action because there are shades and nuances of crimes and criminals which one does not find in many other democratic countries where there is the rule of law. Britain is one such a country, but here, too, when faced with an insurgency situation in Ulster, a section of the British police force, designated as the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), was organised as an armed police with paramilitary functions. Even though the principle of use of minimum force continued to apply, the RUC carried out preemptive strikes against the terrorist outfit, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and where it came to an armed encounter, the RUC did not hesitate to use its weapons to neutralise or even liquidate the militants. Whereas the rules of war did not apply, nor did the normal doctrine of policing when faced with a situation of armed conflict. In India, the police is faced with a whole series of situations in which the civil affairs exist side by side with crimes like dacoity in which armed gangs of five or more people come together in order to loot people and do not hesitate to use their fire arms, militancy which has a political objective, outright insurgency as in Nagaland, Manipur, etc., separatism and terrorism as in Kashmir and a state of near civil war as is found in the Naxalite affected areas. In the last named areas, we have whole districts where civil government has virtually ceased to exist and armed police units have to be deployed in a warlike situation. The Naxalites use ambush as a favourite tactic, they use mines and improvised explosive devices to cause blasts which blow up vehicles and kill or injure large numbers of policemen, they have automatic weapons, they are experts in use of terrain and guerilla tactics and they inflict heavy casualties on the police. In such a situation the laws, rules and procedures which govern the civil police just cannot apply. Whereas in a normal situation the right of private defence is valid only if there is an imminent danger to life and property, in an insurgency type of situation, the right of private defence extends to attacking the insurgents before they attack the security forces. This is preemptive action and where it is not undertaken, ambushes can occur such as the one which killed 76 CRPF personnel in one strike and another which virtually decimated the Congress leadership in Chhattisgarh. Here the tracking down of Naxalites, finding their hideouts and then attacking them in order to neutralise groups of militants is absolutely legitimate, viable and valid. The benchmark governing police action in a normal situation will not apply here. When dealing with militants and Naxalites whose objective is to weaken the Indian State by targeting security forces and government officials, we have to lay down different methods, though always within the confines of law.

There is another area where terrorists, many of them supported by government and nongovernment agencies in Pakistan, commit acts of terror in India. The 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai, the 2008 attack, again in Mumbai, bomb blasts at different times in Delhi, the German Bakery case in Pune, to quote just a few examples, are terrorist acts in which the objective is to spread fear in India. How does one deal with such cases? A terrorist submerges himself in society and at the appropriate time when the risk of detection is minimum, he strikes. If he has struck, nothing can be done to stop this and, therefore, it is only by intelligence gatherings that one can get an inkling of new terrorist strikes which might have been planned. Here the only way to stop the terrorist is to strike him before he can act. One does not want to comment on the Sohrabuddin case and the Ishrat Jahan case because the courts have taken cognisance in both cases, but one cannot rule out the possibility of the Gujarat Police having made preemptive strikes which seem to have paid off because Gujarat is relatively free of terrorist activity.

This is really a grey area. If R&AW were to arrange a bomb blast in Karachi which buries Dawood Ibrahim under the rubble of his own house, it would be hailed as a successful preemptive strike. The same action against a known terrorist or criminal in Mumbai or Ahmedabad might invite a charge of murder against the Maharashtra or Gujarat Police. Where does one draw the line? Let us at least be aware of the fact that this nation is under attack by terrorist organisations based in Pakistan, there is real fear of possible militant activity which might erupt if Afghanistan goes the Taliban way, there is insurgency of the Naxalite kind which has seriously undermined the authority of government in large parts of India and there is a degree of extremism, which threatens public order and public safety, all of which need to be countered. If we accept such activity to be anti terrorist, then there will be an element of preemptive action.

We have to develop the capability of distinguishing between preventive action under normal circumstances which is perfectly legal, preemptive action under certain other circumstances which may be on the border line but still compatible with civil norms and yet another set of actions in which the war is carried proactively to those elements which are trying to destroy our national fabric. Here the rules of engagement will have to be different in order that the security forces, operating under great handicaps, would be given a fair chance to take on and neutralise those who are trying to damage India. In other words, we would have to draw up fresh rules of engagement which permit preemptive strikes, avoid civilian casualties so that innocents are not caught in the cross fire and yet effectively neutralise anti national forces. The drawing up of the new guidelines is the real challenge for the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Intelligence Bureau, the Research & Analysis Wing and the National Security Adviser.