Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Populism and Emotional Blackmail in Indian Elections: Time to Grow Up

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

India is a representative democracy, a republic which is socialist and secular and in which the Preamble of the Constitution and Article 19 guarantee the fundamental right of freedom of speech and the freedom to form associations or unions. These can be political, which means they would be political parties, social, welfare oriented, religious or even groups of friends with common interests. In a representative democracy, elections are fought on the basis of political parties and this finds legal recognition in the Representation of Peoples Act 1951. After the election, the President in the case of the Union and the Governor in the case of a State appoints a person as Prime Minister or Chief Minister, as the case may be, under Articles 75 and 164 respectively because under Articles 74 and 163, the President or the Governor performs his executive functions in accordance with the aid and advice of his Council of Ministers, whose existence, therefore, is mandated by the Constitution itself.
This article refers only to the situation in the Union because constitutionally the position in the States vis-à-vis the Governor and the Council of Ministers is the same as that for the Union. Because the Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the House of the People under Article 75 (3) and the Prime Minister and his Ministers can hold office only so long as they enjoy the confidence of the House, it is obvious that unless they belong to the majority party or group in the House, they cannot enjoy the confidence of the House. It is for this reason that politicians form parties which then try and get a majority in the House at the time of the election. A heterogeneous collection of 543 Members of Lok Sabha can never develop the cohesion necessary to form a majority group and, therefore, let us take it as axiomatic that in a representative democracy there will be political parties.

To differentiate itself from other parties every political party adheres to an ideology, a political philosophy and a programme which can promote that particular ideology. There is complete freedom to develop, evolve and present one’s own ideology, ranging from the extreme left to the extreme right, but subject to the restriction that no political party will question the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India or advocate a system of government which rejects the socialist, secular and democratic nature of our republic. Nor can a party advocate that there will be no justice, liberty, equality and fraternity in India. The Representation of People’s Act states categorically that for a political party to be recognised by the Election Commission, it must swear allegiance to the Constitution. Every office bearer who holds a constitutional position is required to swear an oath or make a solemn affirmation that he or she will function according to the Constitution. For example, the oath for the President is: “I, A.B. do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will faithfully execute the office of President of India and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law and that I will devote myself to the service and well being of the people of India”. As per the Third Schedule, a minister is required to take the following oath, “I, A.B, do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as per law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, that I will faithfully and conscientiously discharge my duties as a minister for the Union and that I will do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”. Similar oaths have to be sworn by a minister in a State, by judges, by Members of Parliament and the State Legislatures, amongst others. Every M.P. or MLA, every Minister belongs to some political party or is an independent and if he has to swear an oath to uphold the Constitution it means that the ideology of every party and individual has to accept the common denominator of the Constitution. This point is pertinent here because whereas every party is free to adhere to its ideology, it cannot forswear the Constitution or advocate its overthrow. That would constitute an offence of sedition under section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code and invite drastic penalties, apart from making the party ineligible to hold public office.

If India is a representative democracy and elections are largely fought on the basis of parties, then obviously every party has to present to the people its own ideology, its vision of India in the long term and its specific programme of work in the next five years after an election by which it will promote such action as will facilitate the party in achieving its political goals. For example, Margaret Thatcher as leader of the Conservative Party in Britain stated categorically that if the party was voted to power she would dismantle the socialist state. The people of Britain accepted this and for the next eleven years Margaret Thatcher worked diligently to achieve what had been stated in the election manifesto of the party. Even when a particular policy was unpopular, Margaret Thatcher relentlessly worked towards implementation of the policy and by the time she ceased to be Prime Minister, the entire political picture of Britain had changed. Even successor Labour Governments were unable to restore the old socialist state and in one form or the other they continued to implement what Margaret Thatcher had wrought.

In a true representative democracy ideology and programmes for implementation of ideological goals have to form the base of a party’s electoral platform. There is no room for cheap populism, nor is there any need, because every political party prepares a programme on the basis of an ideology which has strong philosophical moorings and which has been adopted after considerable thought. Of course, in a true democracy governments can change according to whether the people accept or reject the performance of the government and, therefore, the ideological differences between the parties have to be within defined parameters which ensure that no extremist philosophy can take over the State. In India, the Constitution itself provides for such parameters because if a party steps outside these limits, the courts and the people would intervene and the party would cease to hold office.

The extreme example of this in India was the proclamation of Emergency in June 1975 and the attempt by Mrs. Indira Gandhi and the Congress Party to establish authoritarian rule by using the emergency provisions of Article 352, 357, 358 and 359 of the Constitution. However, even this failed because though Parliament extended its own life by one year, ultimately in 1977 elections had to be held, in which the people firmly rejected Indira Gandhi and the Congress Party and the new government, through the Forty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution, rescinded all the amendments under the Forty-second Amendment which had promoted authoritarian rule. In other words, our Constitution is strong enough to ensure that however extreme in its political ideology a party may be, such ideology has to restrict itself to the bounds set by the Constitution.

Unfortunately India is witnessing the phenomenon of sheer populism substituting for ideology in the functioning of political parties. This populism takes many forms, including handing out largesse to undeserving people in the hope of getting their votes, introducing a communal appeal to voters so that specific sections of the electorate which might be religion based, caste based, region based, even gender based may vote for a particular party. Such largesse can take the form of job reservations, pandering to a particular community without necessarily benefitting it in any meaningful way, using state agencies such as CBI to force political groups to support a particular party under the threat that if that party does not fall in line its leaders may have to face criminal charges. The way in which CBI registered cases against Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati, then delayed them, then once again became active and then officially decided to close the cases, has been coterminous with the fortunes of the Congress Party and the need to coerce or appease the target group or party from time to time. This is blatant misuse of the coercive power of the State and has no place in a democracy.

India has a multitude of problems. Setting aside decimal point economic demography, the fact remains that larger numbers of Indians are poor, huge numbers are unemployed or under employed, they cannot feed their families adequately, there is considerable child malnutrition and the living conditions of vast numbers of people are horrendously bad. How does a sensible country deal with such issues? What should be the approach of every political party to address the question of poverty? Poverty can be ameliorated or eradicated only if there is healthy economic growth in which equality is a focal point. Unless the economy expands in terms of infrastructure development, higher productivity in agriculture, industrial growth and higher level of business which generates wealth, we cannot tackle poverty and malnutrition. Every political party in its manifesto must state categorically how it intends to promote economic growth in which there is social justice, increase gainful employment and ensure adequate income to the last man, thus ensuring that hunger, malnutrition and bad living conditions disappear. Every manifesto must state how the party views the social sector, in particular education and health and what it intends to do to strengthen it. Every manifesto must state what can be expected both long term and immediately if the party comes to power. In the field of agriculture, industry, business, infrastructure development, the social infrastructure, social welfare and security the party must state how it intends to go about its task in the next five years. The manifesto must specifically give the position of the party in the matter of law and order, dispensation of justice speedily and economically, foreign policy globally, in relation to the developed world and in the context of its immediate neighbours. All these are issues which the party must place before the people and discuss with them so that the voter can form an intelligent opinion and exercise an intelligent option while casting his vote. What is more, every party must state how it intends to bring about a casteless and classless society in India, what it intends to do to promote the welfare of the backward and socially disadvantaged people, not by giving them sops but by organising them, educating them and leading them towards genuine empowerment so that they acquire an equal status with the more advanced social groups. Unfortunately, reservation is the only means that parties seem to visualise for bringing about social equality in India and this falls firmly within the definition of populism.

Populism takes many perfidious forms, of which the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) under the MNREG Act is a leading example. Instead of using funds to create rural infrastructure which would bring about a permanent change in the village economy by increasing water availability, giving road connectivity, providing additional fuel and fodder, the programme has become a muster based one whose principal objective is to provide a hundred days employment per year to those who come forward for it in the rural areas. A muster based programme cannot be run honestly and MNREGS has led to massive corruption and leakage of funds, with very little to show for it by way of village improvement. Now we have the Food Security Act, much touted by the National Advisory Council of Sonia Gandhi and the UPA Government, which is really the use of Keynesian deficit financing to fund a food dole. Deficit financing to kick-start a flagging economy which makes the economy function more efficiently is justified because it creates gainful jobs, increases production and removes stagnation without creating excessive inflationary pressure. Deficit financing to pay for a dole is a recipe for economic disaster.

However, populism in the name of the political game in India, so if one Chief Minister says that he will make rice available for Rs. 2 per kg., some other Chief Minister is bound to give it at Re. 1 per kg. Populism makes free electricity available to agriculture, thus beggaring the Electricity Board, leaving distribution lines in a state of disrepair for want of funds, but with no commensurate advantage to the farmer because power supply becomes more erratic as the Electricity Board becomes dysfunctional. Populism leads to surrender to anti social elements such as the Naxalites when they kidnap an official and populism prevents the use of those stern police measures which are necessary in order to restore peace to the Naxal infested districts. Populism is what makes politicians surrender to every pressure group. Populism is what takes a highly prosperous state like Andhra, promising to carve out a separate state of Telangana, thus causing an upsurge of resistance in the main State of Andhra Pradesh, wrecking the economy of the State and causing disorder to prevail in every nook and corner. Populism substitutes an emotional appeal to the voters instead of telling them in practical terms what the party will achieve if it is given a chance to come to power.

The extreme form of populism is emotional blackmail, whose chief practitioner now seems to be Rahul Gandhi, on whom Congress has pinned all its hopes for the five State elections in 2013 and the general election of 2014. Some of the gems of this scion of the house of Feroz-Indira Gandhi are worth recounting. Addressing a conclave of Dalits, Rahul Gandhi wanted to give a message that Dalits have to strive hard to escape from their present lowly status. The way he explained things was to refer to the velocity of acceleration needed to escape the gravitational pull of the earth if one is to go to the moon and of Jupiter if one is to leave that planet. Even here he made a factual error because it is not a particular speed which breaks one away from a given gravitational pull but it is rather acceleration per second per second till one achieves the critical speed. Anyway, the speech made no sense to the audience, but it did attract considerable media reaction, a great deal of it sarcastic. During the U.P. elections, Rahul Gandhi was clean shaven in Delhi and sported a two-day stubble when visiting a scheduled caste household, with a fortnight’s facial growth when visiting Muslim constituencies in Azamgarh. Was he signalling that his incipient beard made him a Muslim and thus one among the crowd in Azamgarh?

In Madhya Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi has excelled himself. In Gwalior he said that the Congress was all for the poor and the Food Security Act will take care of their hunger. His family was emotionally attached to the Bill that when Sonia Gandhi found that she could not attend the House on the day of the vote because of her physical indisposition, she wept uncontrollably. Naturally the people would be expected to vote for such a compassionate leader. At Indore he said that his grandmother and his father were assassinated and perhaps he, too, would be assassinated. The appeal obviously was that he comes from three generations of victims and, therefore, the people should vote for him and his party because after all the victim of assassination needs some compensation from the people at large. He has also stated that the Muzaffarnagar riots were engineered by BJP and that an Intelligence Bureau officer had told him that ISI had contacted a group of about fifteen Muslim boys thereafter in order to create more trouble. Was he indicating that ISI and BJP have a pact to create trouble in India? Who was the IB officer who gave information to a person not authorised to have access to it? Why were the Muslim youth not questioned and their assistance sought to trace the ISI agents?

At some stage an election campaign may have a degree of emotional appeal creeping in. But to go before the electorate with nothing but cheap melodrama does not behove a great national party, the party of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Maulana Azad, B.C. Roy, G.B. Pant, K. Kamaraj, B.G. Kher, Morarji Desai, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, Swaran Singh and all the other great men who fought for our independence and then gave us a Constitution and a polity which aimed at leading a secular India into the modern world. Is this the best that the Congress can offer us? 

Friday, November 22, 2013

In Memoriam: John F Kennedy

Prabhat P Shukla, Joint Director, VIF

The historical record sheds positive light on JFK

It is fifty years since the assassination of President Kennedy, and time to explore his Presidency for what it might have done for Indo-US relations, had he lived longer. What follows is an Indian perspective dealing with JFK’s role in South Asia. He was President at a critical time, particularly because of the India-China War, and what follows is an examination of his policies in a crucial period in the subcontinent’s recent history.

Life is full of ironies, and one was on display in an unlikely venue, very early in JFK’s Presidency – in March 1961 in Soviet Russia, in the city of Novosibirsk. The US Ambassador, Llewellyn Thompson, was calling on Khrushchev, to deliver a letter from JFK. Having read the letter, Khrushchev asked the Ambassador to convey his thanks and good wishes to the President. He added that he was not conveying the usual wishes for a long life for JFK, which was the Russian custom, since he was so young. Such a wish was not needed for a young man like Kennedy.

One leader who did not particularly like Kennedy was Ayub Khan in Pakistan. Even before Kennedy was elected President, indeed before he was a declared candidate, Ayub had complained against him. This happened during a meeting in Karachi with President Eisenhower in December 1959. Ayub complained about the opposition to military aid to Pakistan from then-Senator Kennedy, and then-Congressman Bowles – the latter was to be appointed Ambassador to India by Kennedy to succeed Galbraith in the job. This was an unusual diplomatic step on the part of Ayub, but the Pakistani leaders have usually been both outspoken and petulant in their dealings with the Americans.

Once Kennedy was elected, however, Ayub was off the blocks early, and met Kennedy at the White House a few months after he assumed office on a July afternoon for a long, leisurely talk. Earlier, the State Department had discussed the drift in US-Pakistan relations, and an internal note had pointed out that relations between India and China were facing renewed tensions, and there was scope for Indo-US military cooperation. The problem, according to the State Department officials, was that any improvement with India was bound to alienate Pakistan. It could shut down intelligence cooperation, or even leave SEATO and CENTO, and this the US could not afford. Not for the first time, and not for the last, the Department concluded that the best way forward was for the US to reassure Pakistan by taking on a more active role over Kashmir.

This background is important to appreciate how the US-Pakistan summit talks proceeded. Kennedy led off with a detailed survey of global affairs, including his recent meeting in Vienna with Khrushchev, the situation concerning Germany, which remained a priority for him throughout his Presidency, and other problem areas of the world.

Ayub came straight to the point – India.

With the help of maps of Kashmir and Punjab, he explained to Kennedy that India was militarily threatening Pakistan, which needed all the help that America could give. On the other hand, India did not deserve any help from America, because of its aggressive intent towards Pakistan. Kennedy replied that he did not believe India was going to attack Pakistan – it already had what it wanted in Kashmir. When Ayub persisted, Kennedy observed that he could understand India’s, particularly Nehru’s, desire to hold on to what they had. He could also understand the Indian military deployment, to keep out Pakistan, which had “irredentist feeling”. Any other leader would have got the message, but Ayub was not for stopping. He persisted, and advised Kennedy that India would disintegrate within fifteen or twenty years. As for Kashmir, Pakistan would have to have all of the state up to River Chenab, and a little beyond. Failing this, Pakistan public opinion was beginning to turn in favour of China. Finally, Kennedy agreed to raise the issue with Nehru when the latter visited the US later in the year. Some further vituperation against Afghanistan, Russia and “those bloody Hindus” and Ayub was done.

True to his assurance, Kennedy did raise the subject with Nehru when the latter visited the US in November the same year. From all accounts, the meeting did not go as well as Kennedy would have liked: Nehru was tired and uncommunicative, except on the subject of Kashmir. On this, Nehru told him that there was a fundamental error in thinking that, because the majority of the population in Kashmir was Muslim, it should go to Pakistan; this ignored the reality of the presence of 45 million Muslims in other parts of India. He was willing to legalise the current status quo, with minor changes, said Nehru, and added that the former Prime Minister of Pakistan had agreed with this formula. Unfortunately, the military had stepped in, and matters had grown worse since Gen Ayub took over. Nehru concluded by saying that it would be difficult enough to get approval for the partition of Kashmir along the current ceasefire line, any territorial change to the detriment of India would not be saleable in the country. Kennedy did not press any further, though some of his aides present at the meeting did try and probe a little more.

Thus, Kennedy’s understanding attitude was already in evidence in the early months of his Presidency. So was his personal admiration for Nehru, whom he had hosted at Hammersmith Farm, Mrs Kennedy’s parental home, the previous day for a family affair. It was further displayed in his readiness not only to press on with economic assistance for India, but even to discussing the possibility of providing military assistance – something that had not been seriously considered earlier. As already mentioned, the State Department had already been discussing internally the possibility of military cooperation with India in the context of tensions with China, but had essentially concluded that antagonizing Pakistan was not worth the benefits that might be gained with India.

The test came soon enough. Kennedy really came into his own on the India relationship during the China war in October-November 1962. But first, a little bit on what preceded this in the summer of the year would be in order. Two issues were noteworthy. The first was a brief discussion on Kashmir at the UN Security Council [UNSC]. Kennedy had assured Ayub that if other approaches did not work with India, he would support Ayub in raising the matter in UNSC. The US had suggested the name of Eugene Black – who, as head of the World Bank had worked with India and Pakistan on the Indus Waters – as an intermediary for Kashmir. India had rejected the proposal, and the Pakistanis were therefore moving the UNSC.

America did not want to sponsor any such resolution, and so had asked some of the non-permanent members to sponsor it. One by one, after initially agreeing, UAR, Chile, Venezuela, and Ireland had backed out under pressure from India. Finally, Kennedy himself approached the Irish again and they agreed to sponsor the resolution alone. In the vote that followed, the US and the UK voted in favour of, and the USSR vetoed, the Resolution. This had led to some frictions at the top leadership level, and Kennedy had himself expressed irritation at the strong speech Nehru made in Parliament against the US and the British following their UNSC votes. Naturally, the Soviet Union came in for considerable praise, including in the media.

The second issue was the Indian plan to acquire supersonic fighter aircraft. This was essentially in response to the sale by America of F-104 aircraft to Pakistan, a decision that was made by the previous Eisenhower Administration. President Eisenhower, who was to warn his country three days before demitting office, of the possible danger from a too-powerful military-industrial complex, had done a great deal to push the arms race in South Asia by arming Pakistan under military assistance programmes once Pakistan joined SEATO and CENTO. And so it was that India was searching for viable response to the Pakistani and Chinese military strength. One option was the indigenous HF 24, for which an engine needed to be outsourced with the British in competition with their Orpheus engine. In the end it was the USSR that won the contract, but it was never implemented.

But India was also in need of a short-term response to the military build-up, and was negotiating with the USSR for the MiG-21; also in the fray were the British Lightnings, the French Mirages and the American F-104 itself. However, the latter was ruled out by the Americans, principally because they were concerned that the Pakistanis would react negatively – and shut down the intelligence facilities that America had on its soil. Since India was also keen to obtain the rights to license production, and wished to buy against Rupees, there really was only one serious option and that was the USSR. Although Kennedy tried hard to get an attractive package behind the British, it was clear that the latter did not seriously hope or try to clinch the deal. Even after forcing the US to undertake to meet 75 percent of the cost of the deal, the British did not pursue the project in earnest – and were happy enough to let Krishna Menon kill the offer.

This, then, was the backdrop to the fighting that began as small skirmishes in September-October, and then flared up into large-scale fighting along the entire frontier. Very early after the war began [on 20 October 1962], two diplomatic moves made by the US Administration revealed their stance. The first was to authorise Ambassador Galbraith to issue a declaration that the US recognised the McMahon Line as the border between India and China, and that it fully supported India’s position in this regard. The second was to approach Ayub and advise him not to make any military moves against India, and instead, to call off his own talks with China on the border. He reluctantly – and conditionally – agreed to the former, but ignored the latter request.

Inevitably, the question of arms for India had to be faced. The US had begun emergency arms supplies to India on 3 November, within a few hours of the formal request for such assistance. On 14 November – Nehru’s birthday – the two countries also signed a formal agreement, in the form of an exchange of diplomatic notes, for such an arms supply arrangement, the first such in the history of independent India with the US. However, the bureaucratic system was arrayed against a long-term arms supply agreement for India. In a Note prepared by the State Department, with the Defence Department and the CIA concurring, it was argued that military assistance to India would need to be weighed against its negative impact in Pakistan. The implication was that such a decision should not be taken.

In putting up this Note to the President, the NSC, presumably more in tune with the President’s thinking, recorded a comment that deserves to be quoted at length, as much for its contemporary resonance as for the appraisal of the Kennedy Administration:
I would add one comment on section 3 of the memorandum. Section 3-b (page 5) is devoted to difficulties that the new situation in India will raise for our relations with Pakistan. It seems to me that the problem could be stated a little more sharply in a somewhat different way. We are now faced with the necessity of making the Pakistani [sic] realize that their alliance with us had been of immense value to them. This comprises not only the substantial economic and military assistance we have given, but also the general support that the alliance provides in their relations with India. They are obviously the weaker power, and they have been able to maintain as strong a line on Kashmir as they have in part because of the existence of our support in the background. We are now beginning to confront them with the fact that we are really not able to support their demand for a settlement via plebiscite, and that their best opportunity for settlement on terms something like ratification of the status quo may be passing from their grasp. This will be a difficult and painful process, but it is one we must push through. [Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume XIX, South Asia, Doc 190 of 3 November 1962.]
Kennedy was later to take the same position vis-à-vis Pakistan in cabinet discussions, but that was to come later. During the war itself, the first of the senior-level meetings took place on 19 November, when the US cabinet met to discuss the course of action to be followed after the initial airlift of emergency requirements. Defence Secretary McNamara wanted to send out a military mission urgently to assess the situation and India’s military needs; Secretary of State Rusk was opposed, suggesting that the British should take the lead, as a fellow Commonwealth country. JFK ruled in favour of a stand-alone US mission, while suggesting that the British be kept in the loop to see what they were planning to do. Meanwhile, the airlift of equipment that began as early as mid-October continued, despite Pakistani protests.

Anyway, on 20 November, exactly a month after the war began, the Chinese declared a cease-fire and began to withdraw from most of the areas they had occupied. However, Kennedy continued to give thought to what needed to be done in order to establish a new relationship with India. His thinking was crystallizing over the next few weeks, and became clear in a series of messages he sent to his subordinates and peers, such as the British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan.
The first and most significant of these conclusions was that India had finally woken up to the reality of the Communist threat, and this had opened prospects of a new relationship between America and India. In these early weeks even after the ceasefire, the Soviet Union had not taken a clear-cut stand as between India and China, and had not responded favourably to the Indian requirement for MiG’s. Therefore, Kennedy was looking to a long-term defence relationship with India, and seeing it in the context of the Cold War – that is, to confront China, and keep the Soviets out of India.

The second was that the US could no longer turn a blind eye to the difference in objectives between America and Pakistan over the purpose of their alliance. America was in it for containing Communism, Pakistan was in it for support against India. Pakistan would have to be carried along, but it could no longer hold a veto over what the US did with India. This was recognised as being difficult, but, in his mind, Kennedy was clear that Pakistan would be told clearly that it needed to settle its disputes with India, Kashmir principally, but that the US could not compel India to follow a certain course for such settlement. At the same time, Pakistan would also need to back away from its growing ties with China, as well as control the anti-US sentiment that was finding ever wider expression in the media.

Third, to give expression to the new defence cooperation, Kennedy intended to step up air defence assistance. In his opinion, India had failed to use its Air Force in the war with China because it feared a counter attack from the Chinese Air Force. He therefore suggested to the British Prime Minister that America could supply the hardware – radar and other ground equipment – while the British and other Commonwealth countries could offer to deploy active fighters with crew in case of need. The implication was that the latter would not be permanently deployed in India, but be available in case of need. This insistence on involving the Commonwealth and the British, even in the lead role, called forth from Ambassador Galbraith the tart comment that there were only two-and-a-half capitals in the world that took the Commonwealth seriously – London, Washington, and Canberra.

What broke this scheme was that the accompanying demand for a settlement on Kashmir proved a bridge too far. In the first place, although the idea had been clearly formulated that Pakistan would not be allowed to hold the military cooperation with India hostage to its own demands on Kashmir, in practice, that is exactly what did happen. And, further, in the negotiations on Kashmir that started in December 1962, the Pakistani territorial demands were so high that no Indian Government could possibly agree to them. And, for all his personal reservations, Kennedy could not carry his team with him, and disregard Pakistani objections to closer military cooperation with India. This is abundantly clear from a message from the Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, to the Embassies in New Delhi and Karachi instructing Ambassador Galbraith that it should be stated without ambiguity to the Indian leaders that it was “untenable for us to continue for long [to] give extensive military assistance to India while it [was] expending efforts on quarrel with Pakistan.” No such condition was imposed on Pakistan.

What further angered the Indian establishment was a direct intervention by the Americans, and the British, in the India-Pakistan talks. This took the shape of a document covering the “elements” of a settlement, jointly authored by the US and the UK. This was injected into the discussions on the eve of the fifth – and penultimate – round of the talks, as a result of the growing concern among the US and British policy makers that the talks were not making adequate progress, and needed more hands-on involvement. The two “elements” that caused Nehru to reject the proposals were the demand that both countries had to have a substantial position in the Vale; and that Pakistan had to have its interests in the Chenab recognised. Neither was acceptable to India, even its demoralized state after the war with China.

An equally important factor for the failure of the India-Pakistan talks was that the Soviet Union moved swiftly, once the Cuban crisis was out of the way, to restore ties and trust with India, even though its principal ally in the Government of India – Krishna Menon – was gone as a result of the military debacle. The Soviets offered the MiG’s, and also agreed to provide for licensed production in India, all to be paid for in Rupees. All these steps enabled India to call off the talks with Pakistan on Kashmir by the middle of 1963.

It is also noteworthy that Pakistan played a predictably dubious role throughout the course of the talks. On the eve of the first round, in late December 1962, they announced that they had reached agreement with China to settle their boundary in the Xinjiang-POK area. And on the eve of the fourth round – on 2 March 1963 – Bhutto travelled to Peking to sign the border agreement. This was done in the teeth of opposition not only from India but the US as well. India had registered a formal protest, which was ignored by both China and Pakistan by pointing out that the agreement was of an interim nature, and could be reviewed when the J&K issue was finally resolved. The US had registered its own doubts at the growing closeness between Pakistan and China, but this was also brushed aside by Bhutto and Ayub.

Once the India-Pakistan talks on Kashmir had finally collapsed by mid-1963, the Americans, now willing to cut loose from the British connection, were confronted with determining the way forward with India and with Pakistan. Kennedy was clearer in his mind by this time that the Pakistan connection was not all that it was cracked up to be. The first inkling of his new assessment of the worth of the Pakistan connection was in evidence already in December 1962, at the Nassau Summit with the British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan. At a plenary session devoted to India-China issues, he asked what the Americans got out of Pakistan. He was told, as per the official line, that Pakistan was an ally under SEATO and CENTO, and if America leaned too far towards India, Pakistan could leave these two bodies. Not satisfied, he persisted: what would happen if Pakistan did leave? Iran would also quit, and that would be the end of CENTO, he was informed.

Clearly, this kind of thinking had been developing further in Kennedy’s mind, and his conviction and confidence in his own thinking became clearer after the failure of the talks between India and Pakistan. A note recorded by McGeorge Bundy, the National Security Adviser, on Kennedy’s views on India, spells out the following:
1. Given the declining prospects for a Kashmir settlement, we should not hold off so long on aid, in order to get leverage on Kashmir, that we jeopardize the developing relationship between the US and India.
2. As to the magnitude of further military aid, we should try to get the Indians down to a realistic program, but should regard $300 million (including defense production aid) over three years from the US and UK as a floor rather than a ceiling.

3. …our policy should be not to let the UK restrain us from moving to the extent we think desirable.

6. We must make clear to Ayub that we can't hold off indefinitely on aid to India because of Kashmir.
[FRUS Vol XIX, Document 285 of 26 April 1963 - excerpts]
This line of thinking only got sharpened as the summer of 1963 wore on, and Kennedy grew in confidence and took on the entrenched views not only of the British, but also his own establishment, in State, the CIA and Defence – though this last was less negative on India. In the final event, the Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, bowed to the inevitable and recommended to Kennedy that the US, apart from other measures of defence cooperation, should enter into an executive agreement with India to consult in the event of an attack by China. In a full meeting of the National Security Council to discuss these recommendations, Kennedy asked whether a commitment to “consult” meant a commitment to defend India; on being assured by Rusk that it did, he gave his approval. For good measure, he also said that he would also favour a “flat guarantee of the territorial integrity of India”.

Kennedy’s assessment of Pakistan was also evolving rapidly by the summer of 1963. In August, the US Under Secretary of State was to visit Pakistan, and was seeking instructions from his principals. When there was talk among the officials of the need to reassure Pakistan, Kennedy observed that he “didn't think that Ayub was really scared of India. What would the Indians get out of attacking Pakistan? They'd lose a billion dollars in Western aid. What Ayub was really worried about was that he was losing the capability to attack India successfully or at least to get his way vis-a-vis India.” And once again he asked his team what exactly the US got from Pakistan – his question seemed to imply that the answer was, at best, very little.

Thus, Kennedy had brought Indo-US relations to an entirely new qualitative level from where they had been under the Truman and, especially, the Eisenhower Administrations. And yet, it is ironic that many of the issues that Kennedy grappled with, in particular Pakistan and China, do not seem to have changed all that much since those days fifty years ago.

And so it is that India has reason to regret the untimely killing of a President who might have made a difference to relations between the two countries. As it was, Johnson succeeded Kennedy on 22 November 1963, and with a week of taking over, he had made his position clear: Pakistan had been neglected, and this needed to change. According to a memo recorded in the NSC:

“The President expressed the greatest of confidence in Ayub and a feeling that we had not been forceful enough with him, had not given him a feeling of confidence in our motives and that he had drifted into the thought that we would abandon him in favor of India. He stated that he wished this corrected in a most positive manner.”

To wrap up the narrative, the record shows that Kennedy came to office with an understanding of the importance of India, and a sense that the military ties with Pakistan were of limited value. However, in the early period, he was still feeling his way forward, and was not ready to take the hard decisions that were needed to translate his vision into reality. It should also be remembered that South Asia was not a priority those days, and that he had his hands full dealing with the USSR, the Europeans, and Cuba. The Bay of Pigs had been a disaster, as had the summit in Vienna with Khrushchev. It took the success of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which played out even as the India-China war was taking place, for Kennedy to acquire the dominance over the system that would allow him to drive the changes that he wanted in South Asia. It is hard not to be impressed by the fact that he was able to get the system to recommend an executive agreement for the defence of India, and for him to offer a commitment – a “flat guarantee” - for the territorial integrity of India. Sadly, by the time he was beginning to assert himself, he was assassinated – and that ended what was a very promising start in Indo-US relations.

Patna Blasts – Implications Under Assessed

Ajit Doval, KC - Director, VIF

The serial blasts that took place in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan on October 27, 2013 during BJP’s Hunkar rally was an event whose seriousness and implications have not been fully fathomed. In a setting consumed by ruthless electoral rivalries, the powers that be, have failed to assess the incident in its correct perspective and respond adequately. The event heralds a new genre of terrorist threat, where the objective was not so much to cause depredations as to prevent the people and the leaders from pursuing their lawful right of assembly and speech. The trend, if unchecked, could derail democratic process, undermine constitutional freedoms and seriously destabilise the country. If the terrorists even marginally improve upon their Patna performance, democracy in the country will get a body blow with no political party or political leader remaining safe enough to carry out their legitimate political activities.

Further, if the terrorists succeed in doing it to one – and their capacities are not degraded – they will do it to all; those in power becoming especially vulnerable. Long term implications would be still more dreadful and one would like to restrain oneself from alluding to them. This calls for a careful analysis of the event, re-assessing terrorist intentions and capabilities, evaluating efficacy of our response strategies and plugging the gaps in our level of security preparedness.

The first reality that the event brings forth is that the Indian Mujahideen (IM), though incubated by the Pakistan’s ISI and a satellite of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), has amassed significant domestic content that we cannot wish away for political expediency. No responses can be strategised or meaningful policies executed by remaining in a denial mode. Since its inception in 2005, in last eight years, the IM has acquired menacing proportions both in its geographical spread and cadre strength. Its activities and existence of local cells have been reported from the states of Delhi, UP, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jhrakhand, Kerala, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh etc. Patna blasts when analysed along with the stunning disclosures made by Abdul Kareem Tunda, Riyaz Bhatkal and Abu Jundal, the indigenisation of Jihadi terror in India presents a disturbing spectre. If the menace continues to grow unabated at the pace of last eight years it may soon become unmanageable. The tendency of its getting intertwined with domestic politics will make things worse. Contrary to what their apologists would like us to believe, their Jihad does not spring due to the lack of economic or social upliftment but their plain and simple aim of degrading the Indian state and establishing Sharia rule. This aim mirrors that of global Jihadist groups like the Al Qaeda and LeT. It is true that their goal is neither achievable nor enjoys support of Indian Muslims, but that does not reduce their capacity to destabilise the country. Attack on the Patna rally is an early indication of that.

The second reality that the blasts demonstrate is that the Bihar policy of let sleeping dogs lie does not pay. The Bihar government has been pursuing the policy of conflict avoidance against all extremist groups, particularly the Jihadis, hoping that the soft policy will insulate them from the threat. Bihar has been an important hub of IM activities right from its inception and a good number of its front ranking activists like Tehseen Akhtar and Haider Ali, who are presently driving IM’s activities in India hail from the state. Proximity to Nepal made it a favoured transit route for the IM members but no interceptions were attempted. Many IM activists considered Bihar as a safe haven and sought refuge there when under pressure from other police forces. In the last two years alone, nearly 15 IM suspects belonging to Bihar were either arrested outside Bihar or the police forces of other states nabbed them from Bihar. Bihar Police often resented their forays. The political argument of Muslim sensitivity is completely unfounded as no Muslim leader of the country supports Jihadis though they want innocents to be spared.

Another reality that the blasts brings forth is the failure of the Bihar Police to anticipate and take counter measures to defeat any terrorist or extremist threat. For a rally of this magnitude and considering high security vulnerability of the leaders attending it, they did not follow even rudimentary principles of security. Had proper area sanitization or access control measures taken, the terrorists would not have succeeded in placing 15 IEDs at the venue. An indifferent style of policing over the years had impaired the required verve and resoluteness of the force. Bihar Police refusing to cooperate with the IB in seeking remand of Yasin Bhatkal, despite his links with the infamous Darbhanga module, is illustrative of their indifference. The state police refusing to join the Advance Security Liaison (ASL) exercise with the IB and Gujarat Police before the rally and later even refusing to accept and sign it for taking follow up action is unpardonable. In this environment, October 27 blasts were just waiting to happen.

When the Home Minister in March this year announced a judicial probe into suicide in jail by the prime accused in the gruesome Nirbhaya gang rape case, many who preferred to see him dead than alive, grudgingly accepted it. It is, however, intriguing that in a country where inquiry commissions are appointed at the drop of a hat, Patna blasts which presented an imminent and real threat to some of the top political leaders of the country and led to the death of six persons, with over 80 injured, was not considered fit enough even for a low grade magisterial inquiry. Both the central and state governments, more by design than default, preferred to ignore it. The assertion of the Bihar Chief Minister that there was no security lapse implies that little improvement can be expected in future. Although Narendra Modi’s security has been beefed up following the blasts, it is ad hoc and not co-related to a proper threat assessment. The bigger issue is with how much seriousness do we tackle the challenge thrown by the IM and the measures that we take to deny them both their means and the ends. A high level judicial probe focusing on these issues will help. 

Round-Table Discussion on Credibility of India’s Nuclear Deterrence

A Round-Table Discussion to deliberate upon the credibility of India’s Nuclear Deterrence especially in the light of Pakistan’s development of Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) was held at the VIF on 18 November 2013. The discussion was chaired by Gen NC Vij, former Chief of Army Staff. The participants included members of the strategic community comprising former diplomats, military personnel and representatives from think tanks.

Mr AK Doval, KC, Director VIF opened the discussion by stating that the building up of India’s nuclear capabilities was largely due to its scientists and a few enlightened civil servants who had the vision to allow the former to go ahead with their work in an unfettered manner. The final decision to go nuclear was due to a number of factors and the credibility of India’s nuclear deterrence would be further enhanced with operationalisation of India’s submarine borne nuclear missiles. He underlined the importance of close integration of all the stakeholders viz the developers – scientists, decision makers – Nuclear Command Authority, and the users – Armed Forces, coupled with the constant upgradation of our nuclear arsenal for ensuring the efficacy of India’s nuclear command and control apparatus. He concluded that while nuclear weapons may have prevented full scale wars they had not reduced the scope of limited conflict and covert actions by countries inimical to us.

In his initial remarks, Gen Vij dwelt upon some features of India’s Nuclear Doctrine notably credible minimum deterrence, no first use and massive retaliation if deterrence fails. He indicated that Pakistan had gone nuclear and now developed tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) because of the widening conventional asymmetry with India. It also believed that under the cover of nuclear weapons it could calibrate the use of non-state actors without inviting a punitive military response from India. Therefore, the aim of Indian policymakers should be to find effective means to signal the credibility of its nuclear doctrine without falling for the bogey of nuclear blackmail. The adoption of TNWs is not a new strategy by Pakistan. Even during the Cold War, the Soviet Union and US had graduated to a flexible approach entailing the use of TNWs. Manpreet Sethi of Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) stated that the size of India’s nuclear arsenal, its delivery vectors, command and control system, decision making process etc lends immense credibility to India’s nuclear doctrine. The size of the arsenal and a declaratory no first use policy enhances credibility of India’s nuclear deterrence and limits the possibility of nuclear strike against it as the costs on the adversary would be too prohibitive.

Air Marshal K K Nohwar recalled the successful conduct of Exercise Poorna Vijay by the Indian Armed Forces in May 2001 which validated the theory that there was space for conventional war even under a nuclear overhang. In his presentation, Air Marshal Nohwar provided figures for the number of nuclear weapons and delivery systems held by the US, Russia, China, India and Pakistan. The development of Arihant SSBN would further enhance India’s strategic depth and dissuade Pakistan from launching a first strike, he said.

Ambassador Satish Chandra detailed the main features of India’s nuclear doctrine and the circumstances under which it was formulated. India had no choice but to conduct nuclear tests as Asia was awash with nuclear weapons and as there was blatant Sino- Pak nuclear collusion.

India’s nuclear doctrine was formulated in restrained terms in keeping with its traditional behaviour as a mature and responsible state. The term “credible minimum deterrent” signalled that India’s nuclear weapons program was modest and defensive in nature. The concepts of “No first use” and “Non use” of nuclear weapons against non nuclear weapon states lent credence to India’s non threatening posture. The commitment to civilian control, to eschewing exports which could contribute to proliferation and to a continuity of its traditional approach to nuclear disarmament was reflective of its being a responsible state.

Clearly, India envisaged its nuclear weapons as only a deterrent merely for defensive purposes and not as a means to threaten others, that it was not interested in building up a huge arsenal and that it would not engage in an arms race. However, should it be attacked with nuclear weapons, nuclear retaliation would be “massive” and designed to inflict “unacceptable damage.”
He mentioned that the prerequisites for the credibility of our deterrent in the context of our nuclear doctrine may be listed as follows:
  • Sufficient and Survivable nuclear forces both in terms of warheads and means of delivery able to inflict unacceptable damage;
  • Nuclear Forces must be operationally prepared at all times;
  • Effective Intelligence and Early Warning Capabilities;
  • A Robust Command and Control System;
  • The Will to Employ Nuclear Forces;
  • Communication of Deterrence Capability.
He pointed out that any effort to develop tactical weapons as a response to Pakistan’s development of tactical weapons would be counterproductive for the following reasons:
  1. It would embolden Pakistan to use such weapons as it would remove the certainty of a “massive” attack;
  2. It would enormously complicate our command and control responsibilities and enhance the costs thereof;
  3. It would defeat the purpose of our conventional force thrusts by their neutralization through Pakistan’s tactical nuclear attacks;
  4. It would encourage foreign interference.

Brig Gurmeet Kanwal expressed doubts whether Pakistan has actually been successful in miniaturizing the Nasr based TNWs or are they simply a showcase weapon. Even if Pakistan is successful in fielding TNWs, given their low yield, such weapons will have a very limited damage potential. Brig Kanwal advocated that future wars would be limited but the Armed Forces must remain prepared for the full spectrum of conflict.

Various scenarios of conflict under a nuclear shadow were discussed. There was unanimous view among the participants that the capability or credibility of India’s nuclear doctrine is not in doubt but we must enhance our means to effectively signal the same to our adversaries. 

Interaction with Mr. Tom Dodd, Senior Policy Advisor, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK

Mr. Tom Dodd, Head, ASEAN Department of Foreign and Commonwealth Office accompanied by Helen Fazey, Counsellor, ASEAN and Regional security Affairs at the British Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia had an interaction with the VIF Faculty on 12 November 2013. The discussions focussed on emerging environment in the Asia Pacific and responses of India and UK to the developments.

Mr. Tom Dodd explained the reasons for enhanced engagement of UK with ASEAN countries and East Asian nations. Shifting of focus of trade, commerce and economics to Asia was the primary motivation for UK’s increasing interaction with the Asian nations. As a consequence, the UK has not only increased the number of its diplomats in Asia but is also strengthening its relationships through economic and strategic partnerships. The UK has had presence in many of the Asian nations in earlier times and is now keen to build up relations on many of the positive aspects of such a relationship. The UK was independently engaging with ASEAN and other Asian countries and not necessarily as a part of America’s Asia Pacific strategy. The Five Power Defence Arrangement between UK, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand of 1971 has survived the onslaught of ever changing strategic environment yet motivations for its continued existence may have undergone a change.

So far as India’s approach to ASEAN and East Asia is concerned, the VIF faculty explained, it is encapsulated in its ‘Look East Policy’ unveiled in early 1990s. The dominant impulse of this policy was to integrate the region economically with India. After two decades or so, the policy has acquired some strategic orientation. India has concluded an FTA with the ASEAN in goods and services and has bilateral defence and security cooperation agreements with most of the nations in the region. While US is ‘pivoting’ or rebalancing to Asia in recent times, India’s ‘Look East Policy’ predates the new U.S. strategy. While China’s assertive policies in the region may be cause of America’s rebalance to Asia, India is inclined to follow independent policies that best suit its national interest.

India-China Relations: Hype and Hoopla?

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

We have a tendency to overstate the positives of our relations with China and downplay the negatives. This creates the impression that our ties are better than they actually are, and that the problems are either not as bad as they are made out to be or are more manageable than is thought. Since our most difficult relationship is with China, we have to be very careful in how we project it. It should be as close to reality as diplomacy permits so that the public at home is not misled or encouraged to be complacent, and observers abroad are not confused about where we stand.

China is set to acquire the status of tomorrow’s Number Two power. How India, the only large Asian country that can potentially challenge China’s dominance, develops its relations with it has a bearing on international equations in the years ahead. China’s phenomenal rise is causing concern in its neighbourhood and beyond. Those watchful or threatened would want to apprehend as clearly as possible what the Indian perspective is for seriously exploring the possibility of forging greater understandings in common interest. If we behave as if the threat from China is either exaggerated or that we can cope with China’s rise and the expanding economic and military gap between the two countries largely on our own, then we will be unable to work out optimal partnerships needed to handle the challenges ahead.

It is debatable whether Manmohan Singh needed to go to China so soon after the Chinese premier’s May visit to India. Barring compelling reasons, such high-level visits are normally spaced out sufficiently to extract maximum results. Intensified top-level parleying between countries with known bilateral problems ordinarily indicates rapprochement dynamics at work. With mounting China-Japan tensions, rising Southeast Asian concerns about China’s conduct and growing US-China geopolitical rivalry, India releases pressure on China by visibly boosting its own engagement with it and allowing it to tactically present a more constructive and conciliatory face, just as we have been doing this by increasingly engaging Pakistan and softening our stand on its terrorist affiliations just when it had begun to be cornered on this issue by the West.

The calendar and content of our engagement with China should, of course, be determined foremost by our national interest and not the agenda of others, consistent with our strategic autonomy. But our initiatives should strengthen our position vis-à-vis China, rather than the reverse. We have to carefully watch China’s conduct towards Japan and its assertiveness in the South China Sea, and draw lessons from it for our own differences with China. China has multiple objectives in hiking up its engagement of India. With the forthcoming visit of the Japanese royal couple and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to India in mind, it would want to pre-empt, to the extent possible, a deepening of the India-Japan strategic embrace at China’s cost. By indicating a willingness to stabilize the military situation with India in spite of enduring territorial differences, it is trying to insinuate that Japan, not China, is primarily responsible for territorial tensions over the Senkakus by choosing to activate the dispute rather than seeking stabilizing arrangements. Beyond this, China’s moves towards India are tactically aimed at unbalancing the United States of America’s “re-balancing” towards Asia in which India is being cast in a central role.

That the Chinese clubbed our Prime Minister’s visit with those of the Prime Ministers of Russia and Outer Mongolia shows the mounting hubris of China as a “great power”, which can now command the visits of world leaders to its capital in clusters. While our Prime Minister was received at all the required levels and some extra personal attention was undoubtedly paid to him, the subtle way in which India has also been made to accept a reduced status should not be overlooked. Professional diplomats are prone to highlight gestures made “beyond strict protocol requirements” as signals of the high regard in which a country and its leader are held by the host. Barring immediate satisfaction that such gestures bring, they are often superficial, focussed on atmospherics, without necessarily denoting any change in core calculations. In this connection, it is pertinent that while Presidents Obama and Putin are our Prime Minister’s direct interlocutors, with China it is the Chinese Premier. Apparently, the Chinese Premier is the interlocutor of the German chancellor and the British Premier too, which makes this anomaly less galling diplomatically.

The Border Defence Cooperation Agreement was the most significant outcome of the Prime Minister’s visit. As this is by no means a breakthrough agreement, the question remains whether we were right in being manoeuvred into going to Beijing at this stage to boost the accord’s intrinsic importance, especially in the context of China’s provocative conduct on our own border and elsewhere. If the 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2012 agreements on maintaining peace and tranquillity on the border through confidence-building measures and other mechanisms have not worked as intended, a new agreement, which, in many ways, is a watered-down version of the key earlier ones, may not yield better results. The expanding power gap with China has forced us into a position where a solution to the border issue has become less pressing than ensuring that China does not use its increased muscle to make incremental territorial incursions into our side. This is in consonance with the Chinese strategy of not resolving the core issue and maintaining status quo as China can disturb it periodically at will and keep us under pressure.

Unsurprisingly, the joint statement issued during the Prime Minister’s visit repeats, therefore, the empty formulation that the “Special Representatives, who have been charged with exploring a framework of settlement of the India-China boundary question, were encouraged by the two leaders to continue their efforts in that direction”. If, after 10 years and 16 rounds of discussions, all that the two leaders could do is to “encourage” the special representatives, it indicates the wide gap that still remains to be bridged.

The memorandum of understanding signed during the visit on strengthening cooperation on trans-border rivers is a step in the right direction as it draws China into expert-level discussions on our concerns about Chinese dam-building plans on rivers flowing from Tibet to India. Whether China will move beyond data sharing and emergency management, and will concede any right to India to interfere with its plans is seriously open to question, given the implications of this, inter alia, for China’s relations with other lower riparian countries in Asia.

The joint statement notes that the exchange of visits by the Prime Ministers of the two countries “within the same calendar year was the first since 1954 and has great significance”. This is mystifying because the first such double exchange failed to resolve mounting differences over the border issue that culminated in a military conflict in 1962, and this second double exchange has not opened up any perspective of a resolution of these differences. Our eagerness to improve our relationship with China and project it positively in spite of Chinese provocations, which we tolerate and find ways to reconcile with, hugely handicaps our dealings with the challenges posed by that country.

Launch of the book Tibet: Perspective and Prospects

Tibet: Perspectives and Prospects, a publication of Vivekananda International Foundation, was launched on 6th November 2013, by His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. Shri Ajit Doval KC, Director VIF, Ambassador P P Shukla, Joint Director VIF and Editor of the book, Shri Vijay Kranti, noted Tibet expert, and Vikas Arya, the publisher of the book.

In his opening remarks, Shri Doval highlighted the strong bonds of fraternity India has always shared with Tibet. He pointed out that that despite events of modern history, for India, Tibet has always remained an individual and single entity. Maintaining that nothing stays constant, he expressed hope that the sad state of affairs that engulfs Tibet today will certainly improve and the people of Tibet will see a bright and peaceful future.

Ambassador Shukla, the editor of the book, highlighted two major aspects which the book deals with. Firstly, it reflects the sense among the authors of having let down the Tibetans in their hour of greatest difficulty. It is a mea culpa on the part of the contributors to the book. Second, he referred to the dimension of India’s security concerns. For India, Tibet is not just a civilisational peer, but also a safeguard against unfriendly foreign forces. It was bewildering, he said, to note that India in the late 1940s and early 1950s, keeping the thousand year old friendship with Tibet at stake, allowed the Chinese invasion in Tibet to consolidate itself without challenge – to the point where we actually blocked UN discussion of the issue. Disturbingly, India also became the first nation to recognize Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. However, it was not too late even now to take up the Tibetan cause and to join in the struggle of Tibetans. The issues which the international community could take up today are those of the deteriorating human right situation, water-related issues in Tibet which affect many of the lower riparians in Asia, and the right to self-determination for the people of Tibet, enshrined in a UN General Assembly Resolution of 1961.

His Holiness expressed his gratitude towards the Vivekananda International Foundation for publishing a book that holistically takes up the cause of Tibet and its people. He strongly emphasized on the relationship that people of India and Tibet share. This relation, His Holiness maintained, is deeper than mere political or economic. The relation is spiritual and cultural and it goes so deep that it becomes the basis of Tibetan identity. He argued that despite all the mistakes that Tibet and India did half a century ago, Tibetans realize the fact that India is the mother from where the Tibetan culture originated and like a mother, India has helped and nurtured the people of Tibet in recent times of struggle and difficulties.

The session then opened up for the participation from the audience who expressed their views and shared their views, which included the call for a national debate on the cause of Tibet and also the need to introduce India’s Tibet policy as separate from its China policy. 

Vimarsha on Indigenising Technology and Production in Defence – India’s Survival Need

Dr Saraswat in his highly informative presentation highlighted the geo-political scenario that engulfs India at present and expressed his concerns for the future.

Arguing that self-reliance in Defence technology and production was vital for our survival, Dr Saraswat suggested numerous measures including setting up of a Commission on the lines of ISRO focused specifically on the development of technology and production for both defence and civilian purposes. He also called for an increase in investment in the R&D sector and suggested rational taxation or exemption to encourage greater investment in the sector. Dr Saraswat said it was beyond comprehension as to why the Indian Government could not get Indian private sector involved in defence technology and production, while it is ready to import defence equipments from foreign private manufacturers.

On 11th November 2013, Vivekananda International Foundation invited Dr. V. K. Saraswat, former Director General of DRDO and former Scientific Advisor to the Ministry of Defence, to deliver a talk on Indigenising Technology and Production in Defence – India’s Survival Need, under its monthly series of talks given by eminent personalities, Vimarsha.

Welcoming Dr Saraswat, VIF Director Shri Ajit Doval KC, raised some critical issues related to India’s future defence requirements.

The talk was followed by a very enthusiastic interaction between the guests in the audience and the speaker. It was unanimously agreed that India needs to press-in the paddle, while we still can, as far as indigenisation of our defence sector is concerned. 

Mangalyaan, Vibrant Symbol of India’s Growing Prowess in Space Exploration

Radhakrishna Rao, 
Visiting Fellow, VIF

For a country that was badly in need of a good news, the spectacularly successful launch of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission Mangalyaan on Nov.5 came as a heart warming development that overwhelmed Indians with a sense of ”joy and pride” .

The hoisting of the 1340-kg Indian Mars orbiter into a precise near earth orbit by means of an augmented version of the reliable , four stage Indian space workhorse, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle(PSLV) not only marked a big leap ahead for the Indian space programme but also catapulted India into the ranks of the select galaxy of advanced space faring nations. Indeed, this first ever Indian interplanetary mission is being envisaged as a stepping stone for India’s deeper forays into outer space in the years ahead, in keeping with India’s ambition of emerging as a technological power house of global standing.

Rightly, as pointed out by K.Kasturirangan, a former Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO), Mangalyaan will be a key milestone for the Indian space programme that would also boost India’s credentials to join the future international deep space missions not only to Mars but also to other planets of the solar system. By all means, Mangalyaan is the most complex and challenging space mission ever tried out by the Indian space agency.

Indeed, the accomplishment of Mangalyaan mission in a record period of around thirty months and that too within a limited budget is one more striking instance of the “Indian space success story on a shoe string budget.” As stated by ISRO Chairman, K.Radhakrishnan, “The worth of a nation is defined by the dreams it dares to dream. ISRO dreamt a dream and made it real”. On their part, Western aerospace analysts have not minced words in describing Mangalyaan as a vibrant symbol of India’s growing prowess in space exploration. Across the world, there is a growing realization of the long strides made by India in high technology areas and the successful launch of Mangalyaan has only gone to strengthen this impression.

Considered a natural follow on to India’s highly successful maiden lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 launched in Oct 2008, Mangalyaan has helped ISRO develop a number of new and novel technologies involved in the design, planning, management and operation of interplanetary missions. These technologies will stand ISRO in good stead while launching probes to Venus and inner asteroid belt in the years ahead. Moreover, the spin offs of the strategic technologies developed for interplanetary missions have many potential civilian applications which the Indian industry can exploit for the benefit of the country. On another front, the Indian Mars mission has all the potentials to fire the scientific imagination of the young Indian minds keen on pursuing frontier research that could also result in the development of cutting edge technologies that no country is willing to sell or share. Indeed, for a country that commenced its space journey in a very humble way with the launching of a nine kg. sounding rocket from a facility in the fishing hamlet of Thumba near to Thiruvananthapuram, the slingshot to Mars that would involve an epic trek of Mangalyaan spacecraft covering a distance of about 400-million kms in 300 days is as exciting as it is spectacular.

There is no denying the point that Mangalyaan with a price tag of Rs.4500-million is the cheapest ever ticket to Mars. The cost of Mangalyaan is said to be one tenth of what USA has spent on its latest mission to Mars, MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Violet Evolution) which is all poised for its celestial journey. Innovation, indigenisation and frugal engineering are considered the secret of India’s low cost space missions. For instance, Jeffrey Plescia, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University in USA says that the cost of Indian Mars mission is less than 0.1% of India’s annual budget. ISRO has spent just about 5% of its annual budget on the Mars mission. Significantly, the widely respected British aerospace magazine, Flight International comments, “Remarkably, ISRO has spent a mere $ 75-million on the Mangalyaan mission, an astoundingly small budget for a project so complex. By comparison, Alfonso Cuaron’s acclaimed 2013 space epic, Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney was made at an estimated budget of $100-million”.

As expected, there has been trenchant criticism of the Indian Mars mission based on the argument that a country of India’s standing with the problem of widespread poverty and backwardness on hand, should not have a costly and high profile planetary mission as its priority area. However, such an argument has not found many buyers in the country. For space technology too can contribute to the advancement of the community in tandem with socio economic measures at the ground level. Stating that the Indian space programme is overwhelmingly people centric, Radhakrishnan drove home the point that” there is no question of wrong priority .In fact, this is the right priority. We have benefited the grass root level people in the country.”Indeed, the thrust of India’s INSAT communications and IRS earth observation spacecraft constellations being operated by ISRO is on diffusing the fruit of space technology into the mainstream of national development.

From aiding agriculture to disaster warning as well as supporting education and health to mapping natural resources and providing instant communications links in disaster hit areas, these two satellite constellations continue to play a stellar role in the all round development of the country. In fact, the massive evacuation of people along the coastline of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh in October this year that saved human lives in thousands is a tribute to the early warning on the movement of devastating cyclone Phailin that the weather watch satellites in INSAT constellation made available to the India Meteorological Department(IMD). This is but just an example of how space technology is benefiting the nation. “Our three satellites have helped evacuate people in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh during the recent cyclones. You can see our satellites have been put to use in many such instances”, noted Radhakrishnan.

Indeed, right since inception, the focus of the Indian space programme has been on exploiting the potentials of space technology for speeding up the socio economic development of the country. Radhakrishnan has been quick to observe that while looking at the stars, ISRO has firmly been rooted in the ground.

A section of western analysts have also projected the view that Indian Mars mission is a symbol of India’s overriding ambition to attain a super power status. India, like other space faring countries has every right to project is prowess in outer space in a peaceful manner. To work towards attaining the status of a super power is a prerogative of a sovereign, independent country. Moreover, India which lost the “Industrial revolution “ bus as a nation under foreign rule, cannot afford to remain stagnant in so far as the exploration of the final frontiers is concerned. Indeed an interplanetary probe like Mangalyaan is vital to affirm India’s leadership position in outer space. USA was able to attain an unprecedented level of industrial and technological growth because of the massive investment it made on the basic science research.

As noted by Prof U R Rao, a former ISRO Chairman, just as India’s Chandrayaan-1 made research history with the discovery of water on the moon, Mangalyaan too can come out with something new about the Red Planet, many aspects of which continue to remain shrouded in mystery.” We may have something to say about the presence of methane in the Red Planet and where it comes from. That may give us indications of any form of life at all on the planet”, noted Prof.Rao, Going ahead, he expressed the view that Mangalyaan has also the potential for the advancement of science and technology in the country.

The successful accomplishment of the mission to the Red Planet will make ISRO the fourth space agency in the world to pull off this distinction. So far, only National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of USA, Roscosmos of Russia and European Space Agency (ESA) have logged successful missions to the Red Planet. Interestingly, around half of more than 50 missions launched so far to Mars have ended up in failure. And in Asia, success has eluded Martian probes sent by both China and Japan, the space front runners in the continent. As such, there is a perception that in the area of exploring Mars through a robotic probe, India is keen on assuming a leadership position in Asia. However, ISRO has repeatedly denied the suggestion that it is in race with other space faring countries. It was during his Independence Day speech on August 15,2012 that the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made an announcement of the Indian mission to Mars, saying that it will mark a huge step forward in the area of science and technology. “If it succeeds, Indian Mars mission would represent technological leap for this South Asian nation, pushing it ahead of its space rivals, in the field of planetary exploration,” said Wall Street Journal.

Of course, as pointed out by ISRO, the primary driving technological objective of the mission is to design and realize a spacecraft which can reach Martian transfer trajectory, orbit around Mars to study its atmosphere and map minerals while looking for signs of methane. ISRO feels that MOM is a logical extension Chandrayaan-1 mission . But then in contrast to Chandrayaan-1, mission to the Red Planet involves a longer flight and an altogether different trajectory involving a lot of hurdles on the way. According to M.Annadurai who is currently programme Director for Indian Remote Sensing, Small, Science and Student Satellites at ISRO Satellite Centre in Bangalore, “it provides us with opportunity to test technologies like spacecraft autonomy, long distance space communications, interplanetary navigation and miniaturized space payloads and systems.”Annadurai provided leadership to the team that realized India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission. Evidently, ISRO chose a Martian mission since there are several similarities between the earth and Mars. They include soil surface, seasons, the duration of their days and the polar ice caps.

The Indian Mars probe carries five scientific instruments with a total weight of 15-kg to study the various aspects and features of the Red Planet. All these instruments were designed and developed within the country. According to Radhakrishnan ”It has a colour camera for optical imaging of the planet’s surface, a methane sensor to monitor the presence of methane in Martian atmosphere, a thermal infrared camera to study the geological features, a Lyman Alpha Photometer to study the Martian atmosphere and a payload to study the neutral composition of the planet’s upper atmosphere.” As envisaged now, Mangalyaan is expected to help ISRO generate a first ever comprehensive map of the Red Planet. Rightly, ISRO considers the Mars mission as a symbol of India’s assured access to space.

The importance of Mars to earthlings stems from the fact that many researchers believe that Mars could be the next outpost for the human civilization to flourish in our solar system. According to Prof Rao, the Red Planet holds a great potential and relevance to earthlings. For in “about 500 years or so we might be able to use Mars as a resources base for earth”. Observes Rao, “We are running out of resources in the world. There are many people who believe Mars can be made hospitable and of course it requires a lot of efforts.” Former Indian President and internationally recognised space scientist Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam has made an impassioned plea for a well organised international collaboration to give a practical shape to the human dream of colonizing Mars in the future.

Significantly, ISRO researchers behind the Mars Orbiter Project did carefully study the failures and successes of the various missions to Mars before arriving at the spacecraft configuration and mission profile. It may be recalled that Russia’s Phobos Grunt mission to Mars that also carried a Chinese probe named Yinghuo-1 launched in Nov.2011 came cropper after the spacecraft failed to leave earth’s orbit and crashed back earth in early 2012. This mission was meant to collect the soil samples from the Martian moon Phobos and send them back to earth in a return capsule .Similarly the Japanese mission to Mars, Nozomi launched in July 1998 had, on account of a mechanical hitch, gone into a wrong trajectory and failed to reach Mars.

One of the key areas of research that many Mars probes have focussed on so far is the possibility of the existence of methane whose presence could point out to the planet having supported primitive life forms .As it is, the American Curiosity rover to Mars could hardly find credible evidence for the presence of methane on Mars. “We will be looking at Mars differently from what Curiosity has done. There can be new findings or confirmation of findings,” says S.K.Shivakumar, Director of ISRO Satellite Centre in Bangalore. Significantly, the American MAVEN probe which will study the atmosphere of Mars is expected to share synergy with India’s Mars mission. The sensors of both these missions will probe and analyse the dynamics of the process that resulted in the thinning of the Martian atmosphere. ”There are some overlapping objectives and at the point we are both in-orbit collecting data, we plan to work together with the data, “says Radhakrishnan.

Both India’s Mangalyaan and MAVEN spacecraft will join earth’s armada of five operational obiter and surface rovers currently exploring the Red Planet. “If all goes well, NASA’s MAVEN orbiter and Indian MOM will work together to help solve the mysteries of Mars atmosphere. We plan to collaborate on same overlapping objectives,” says Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN’s principal investigator from the University of Colorado.

Perhaps the most challenging scientific objectives of the Indian Mars probe would be finding clues for the existence of methane on the Mars. Further, the Indian Mars mission will help answer questions such as whether Mars ever had an environment in which life evolved in addition to studying the surface topography, mineral resources and microbiology and atmosphere of the Red Planet Everything going as planned, Mangalyaan will reach its final orbit around the Mars in September next .The five scientific payloads on-board the spacecraft would actively explore Mars from this position in a variety of angles for about six months.

Meanwhile, ISRO is aware that it cannot rest on its laurels. For the Mangalyaan happens to be just the beginning of a long, challenging journey into the mind boggling expanse of outer space, a large part of which remains unexplored. The philosophy that “not even the sky is the limit” continues to propel ISRO for “deeper and wider’ forays into the final frontiers. And for India, the continuing space conquest by ISRO happens to be the brightest part of its history.