Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Time for Intense India-Japan-Vietnam Strategic Partnership

Maj Gen (Retd.) P K Chakravorty


The 24th ASEAN Summit was held for the first time in Naypyitaw, the capital of Myanmar. At the commencement of the summit on May 10, there were serious concerns raised by Vietnam on the recent drilling of an oil rig at the disputed Paracel Islands. ASEAN as a group deals primarily with political and economic issues. Despite the terms of reference, Vietnam brought out the issue and China responded by stating that it would be resolved bilaterally. The Vietnamese Prime Minister has stated that this affected Vietnamese sovereignty as the drilling was taking place 120 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coast which as per the Law of Seas forms a part of the Exclusive Economic Zone of their country. The US State Department as per the Bangkok Post has called Beijing’s move to introduce an oil rig in the Paracel Islands as provocative. Further on 06 May, Philippines arrested 11 fishermen and seized a boat for poaching more than 500 endangered sea turtles at the disputed Half Moon South China Sea shoal. The Chinese call the shoal as Banuye Reef and claim it to be a part of the Nansha Islands. China has called for the release of the fishermen, but Philippines is currently proceeding legally with the case.


Paracel Islands were occupied by Chinese from the erstwhile South Vietnamese in 1974. Ever since, China has been gradually spreading its influence over other islands in the South China Sea. It has built a small garrison town Sansha in the Woody Island of the Paracel Group. Sansha has an airport and a runway of 2700 metres which enable Chinese Air Force to operate in the area.

The China National Offshore Oil Company’s decision to move oil rig HD-981 was a pre meditated move which has hurt Vietnam and other claimants of islands in the South China Sea. The oil rig was escorted by about 80 ships of Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) as also the Chinese Coast Guard and moved into its current location on 02 May 2014. The rig is going to remain in location for three months and drilling operations would continue during this period. The commencement of drilling was formally opposed by the Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh who telephoned China’s State Councillor Yang Jiechi indicating violation of the Law of Seas. China listened to the Minister but continued the drilling process. Vietnam sent 35 ships out of which 29 were armed. On 04 May, Chinese ships rammed two Vietnamese Sea Guard vessels injuring seven Vietnamese. Chinese ships with air support were also used to intimidate six more Vietnamese ships. Further, water cannons were also used to threaten the Vietnamese. As of now not a single round has been fired.

The standoff has led to wide spread demonstrations in Vietnamese urban areas. There have been reports of Taiwanese factories being attacked who the Vietnamese are mistaking for Chinese. The situation remains tense and there is a need to sit at the negotiating table and resolve issues peacefully.
The moot point is why did China despatch rig HD-981 to the Paracel islands? The rig has been positioned immediately after the visit of US President Obama to Japan, South Korea, Philippines and Malaysia. The Chinese military posturing with their Navy and Air Force is possibly to test the US response to such an eventuality. Chinese feel that the US is currently tied down with Iran, Syria, Nigeria and Ukraine. They neither have their forces nor the inclination to get involved in issues pertaining to the South China Sea. Possibly Vietnam too would be seeking military partnerships to strategically balance China’s posturing.

Way Ahead

Despite assurances given by the US President, events of the last two weeks have clarified that the US would like the issue to be resolved diplomatically. There is no strong statement from the US State Department apart from maintaining that it is a provocation. Vietnam has responded with military precision by positioning 35 ships to counter 80 ships of the Chinese backed by Air Force. There is a need for negotiations to resolve the issue bilaterally. Vietnam is also considering legal options, which may not be undertaken. The Philippines issue of the Chinese fishermen too needs to be diplomatically resolved. Manila has also complained to China regarding construction on the Johnson Reef. The Chinese have stated that Johnson Reef belongs to them and they would continue with the construction. The Philippines have already submitted their case to UN tribunal for hearing their case on the South China Sea. In January 2014, the entire case was submitted with 40 maps and nearly 4000 pages of evidence. The case is not likely to be heard before 2015.

All these cases reflect Chinese hegemony in dealing with the situation and there is a need to strategically balance China. While the US is beset with numerous problems currently, it would be pertinent for Japan, Vietnam and India to strengthen their strategic partnership and respond to Chinese posturing. The start point would be to have joint naval exercises between these countries. These exercises should commence in non disputed territory and gradually move on to the South China Sea and East China Sea. This would create strategic problems for the Chinese resulting in discussions based on mutually accepted logic. China respects strength and needs to be tackled with ingenuity. Once the three strategic partners get their act together, China would have to play its cards cautiously and the US would also be a facilitator for these actions.


China is the dominant power in Asia. To balance this power, there is a need for intense strategic partnership between India, Vietnam and Japan. Strategy is a game played in the minds of strategic thinkers and practitioners. With strong leadership in these countries, intense strategic partnerships would become a reality. India’s own maritime interests in the South China Sea would be greatly affected if China does not adhere to UN Convention on Law of Sea. International community through its joint and combined efforts needs to impress upon China to follow the path of peaceful development rather than adopt muscular methods to assert its territorial claims.

(The author was India’s Defence Attache to Vietnam)

Published Date: 27th May 2014, Image source:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Need to Clean Up the Augean Stables of Defence Acquisition

Radhakrishna Rao, 
Visiting Fellow, VIF

The commitment of the Narendra Modi Government to the ushering in of self-reliance in India’s defence sector, which under the ten years long, lack lustre UPA(United Progressive Alliance) dispensation had got enmeshed in corruption, bureaucratic indecision, tardy and questionable acquisition process as well as scams and scandals of staggering proportions, should be the right starting point for initiating the process of building a vibrant Indian military industrial complex which will not only meet all the needs of Indian defence forces but also transform India into a major player in the global defence hardware market place. That today India, an emerging technological power with a globally recognised resurgent IT and software services industry, is the largest importer of arms and ammunition, only goes to show that there is something seriously and fundamentally wrong with the defence production scenario of the country.

Indeed, the complex systemic problems associated with India’s defence production matrix need to be fixed immediately. Since the shocking eruption of the Bofors scandal in mid-1980s, that stirred a big political storm in the country, the entire defence procurement mechanism of the country came under the spell of “lethargy, indecision and delay ” with serious consequences for the combat readiness of the Indian defence forces. In fact, the defence procurement procedure of the country is yet to come out of the “Bofors syndrome”. What’s more, over the last one decade or so, the defence procurement in the country became synonymous with ‘scams and scandals’ involving shady middle men keen on promoting a culture of “corruption, kickbacks and impropriety”. In the national interest, the kind of political and bureaucratic support these middle men received need to be probed thoroughly. The consequent loss caused to the national exchequer on this score is simply mind-boggling and phenomenal. On the other hand, it has gone to sully the the country’s fair image and caused enormous damage to the efforts towards defence self reliance.

The cancellation early this year of the US$770- million deal for acquiring 12 VVIP helicopters from Anglo-Italian enterprise Agusta Westland without blacklisting the vendor following the exposure of the massive kick back has shocked the Indian defence set up as never before. But as has been the case with most other defence scams and scandals that preceded the Agusta Westland episode, the middle men responsible for “corruption, string-pulling and impropriety” will go unpunished. It is here that the new ruling dispensation should blaze a trail by bringing the guilty to the book that would ultimately act as a deterrent for the recurrence and repetition of such “despicable phenomenon” associated with defence procurement. At the end of the day, self reliance in defence production could alone prove effective in putting behind all the negative features including scams and scandals associated with defence equipment import.

Not surprisingly then there is a growing demand to investigate the silence and indifference of the former Defence Minister A K Antony towards rampant corruption and shocking acts of impropriety in India’s defence acquisition. For as Defence Minister Antony had a constitutional obligation to ensure total transparency and rectitude in the defence procurement programme of the country involving massive financial outlays. This is an area where Antony did fail miserably and shockingly. Of course, Antony’s clean image and integrity has never been in doubt. But that he could do very little to stem the rot of corruption, kickbacks and wrong doings associated with the defence procurement hardware which left the defence ministry in shambles and defence forces without many of the vital fighting equipment is now a part of the history. No wonder, there is a growing clamour for probing the glaring failure of Antony to protect national interests and his conspicuous inaction in so far of bringing the guilty to book was concerned.

According to the public audit watch dog, PAC (Public Accounts Committee), the defence procurement systems and procedures that existed at the time of approving various contracts pertaining to the Ordnance Factory Project at Nalanda were beset with glaring loopholes and lacunae to the serious detriment of national interest. Rightly and appropriately, the PAC headed by M.M.Joshi has warned that “without remedial measures, future defence procurements would continue to be clogged with omissions and commissions leading to the scams to the grave peril of the nation”. About the Nalanda Ordnance Factory project, the PAC said that the it was perturbed to note that Ministry of Defence did not try to prevent the recurrence of acts of omission and commission committed in defence procurements causing huge and recurring but avoidable loss to the public exchequer. Of course, the contract with Israel Military Industries (IMI) for Ordnance Factory Project was subsequently terminated.

A the end of the day, Antony’s keenness to promote transparency and end corruption in defence procurement only contributed to the black listing of overseas vendors with serious consequences for the acquisition of defence hardware. To compound the already complicated situation, the obsession of the UPA-II to rush through a series of ” unproductive populist schemes” whose benefits could hardly reach the targeted population, implied that the budgetary provision for the purchase of defence hardware came down by a substantial extent. While the Finance Commission has been in favour of a defence budget to the extent of 3% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the budgetary outlay for defence is now less than 2% of the GDP. In distinct contrast, China has already hinted that it would boost its current annual defence budget by more than 10% with immediate effect. The political dispensation in New Delhi should look at the issue of the budgetary outlay for the defence sector to sustain and support India’s defence preparedness in the context of the extremely disturbed security environment in India’s immediate neighbourhood.

Delay, indecision and lack of clarity in defence procurement have gone to seriously erode the combat fitness of the services. For instance, even as Indian Air Force( IAF) continues to be handicapped by the problem of squadron depletion, the deal to acquire 126 Rafale fighter from France could never be finalised even two years after the aircraft emerged a winner in the closely contested Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft( MMRCA) tender. Incidentally, while IAF has sufficient number of heavier Su-30 MKI combat aircraft and the lighter Mirage-2000 and Mig-21 Bis in its fleet, it is lacking in medium range multi- role fighters.

Similarly, the Indian Navy which has an ambitious plan to position itself as a blue water maritime force, is seriously handicapped by the depletion of its under water arm .It is decades since the Indian Government gave its nod for a long term submarine construction programme under Project 75 involving the building of 24 submarines in India. However, only six are now being taken up for construction at the Mumbai based state owned Mazagaon docks. And the plan to build six more subs with advanced Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) is awaiting clearance from the government. This will enable the submarines to stay submerged for longer periods of time. Currently, none of the submarines in service with the Indian Navy has an AIP system on its board. ”The submarine construction plan has to come back on the priority list. Also our dependence on Russia should come down as the Russians have a weak and corrupt supply system” says former Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash. The new ruling dispensation in New Delhi should immediately review the need for strengthening the submarine fleet of the Indian Navy followed by a time bound action to strengthen the undersea arm of the Navy which happens to be the youngest of the three services.

Similarly, the proposal for the acquisition of 197 light observation helicopters for the Indian defence forces, which was taken up more than a decade back need to be given a practical shape without a loss of time. And the Indian Navy’s plan to acquire 16 multi role helicopters has been in limbo for more than a decade now. About the artillery acquisition programme of the Indian Army, the less said the better. Ever since allegations surrounding the Bofors deal came to the fore, India has not bought a single artillery piece for its armed forces. The Indian Government should fast track the acquisition of various types of artillery systems projected by the Indian Army to boost its fighting fitness. Beyond this, in the immediate future, there should be a serious study and evaluation of various proposals for the acquisition of defence hardware that are already in pipeline.

Simultaneously, the indigenous production of defence equipment should receive the top most priority. Some of the concrete steps could be ending the state monopoly over the defence production, incentivising and encouraging the Indian private enterprises to participate in defence production, creating conditions conducive for the foreign defence companies to invest in India so that Indian partner companies will be in a position to acquire latest genre technologies as well as the skill for precision manufacturing. However, for the private industrial outfits in India to become a part of the defence production scenario, there is a need for the Government to ensure that the entire exercise will be an economically viable option for the participating industries. Similarly, the Defence and Research Development Organisation (DRDO) should be directed to focus on high end research and development by stripping it of any role in system production. It is here that increased industry participation would help DRDO concentrate on research and development. Further, services should be mandated to actively participate in research and development activities of DRDO for the development of technologies that are well suited for ground level operations. Before taking up the development of any fighting equipment, the services should be made to commit on buying them.

Meanwhile, there is a feeling that from the strategic viewpoint, it would be a good idea to have a tri service commander who will serve as a bridge between the three services for the efficient and effective use and coordination of resources and expertise at every stage of joint operations. Indeed, the ambitious plan for mountain strike corps meant to take on Chinese threat, seems to be in need of rigorous, tri service evaluation to check whether China could be deterred through alternative means including the blockade in the vulnerable Malacca Strait or a tactical missile strike in Tibet. Indeed, this aspect should receive proper and immediate attention from the new Indian Government. More importantly, without succumbing to pressure from any quarter, the political dispensation in New Delhi should hasten the process of giving a green signal to the creation of a tri service aerospace command that could also draw on the resources of DRDO and ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation).

There is now all round recognition of the ground reality that gaping holes in India’s defence preparedness could prove catastrophic in the context of China forging ahead with massive augmentation of its combat capability in all its manifestations. The indifference, ineptitude and decision gird-lock that marked the functioning of the UPA-II government has proved to be a major stumbling block in India’s military modernization programme supported by a technological upgradation process. A new national security agenda taking into account the external threat as well as internal terror and insurgency should be put in place immediately and given a practical shape without any further loss of time.

As it is, the 1.13-million strong Indian Army, considered the third largest in the world, has pitched in with a blue print of a massive investment to overcome the slippages and shortcomings of critical nature. The Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh has already made it clear that his top most priority is to hon and fine tune the army’s “operational readiness” through a rigorous modernization process. Not to be left behind, both the Indian Navy and IAF need to address the problems of deficiencies and shortcomings on both tactical and strategic fronts to stay at the winning edge of the battlefield.

According to Defence analyst Brig (Rtd) Rahul Bhonsle, “the new government should address the systemic inadequacies and archaic procedures of doing business within the armed forces as well as with the Ministry of Defence, DRDO, increase the defence budget for acquisitions and establish a genuine level playing field for private sector participation”.

Cleaning up the mess, cobwebs and dirt surrounding the defence procurement procedure should be the top most priority of the Narendra Modi led Government. Of course, this should be followed by vigorous and multi faceted efforts to acquire self reliance in all aspects of defence research development and production by exploiting the synergy cutting across the of public-private sector jurisdictional boundaries and exploiting the expertise and resources available in the research and academic institutions spread across the country. More importantly, services should be asked to play a proactive role in the indigenous development of products and systems. Services should be told in no uncertain terms that there is always a home grown alternative to the “glitzy fighting equipment” touted around in the global defence market. Of course, the path of indigenous development is strewn with problems and challenges. And India which has sent a probe to Mars and successfully developed and flight tested a cryogenic fuel driven launch vehicle has the expertise, resources and talent to create a self reliant base for defence production. What was so far lacking was the political commitment which the new government can chip in without any hesitation.

Dr. A Surya Prakash, 
Distinguished Fellow, VIF

Ever since the Congress Party’s crushing defeat in the recent Lok Sabha election, many acolytes of the Nehru-Gandhi family and Congress sympathisers are bemoaning the fact that the leader of this party, which has just 44 seats, cannot be designated Leader of the Opposition (LOP) and consequently, will not be entitled to the status and perks that go with it. Under rules formulated by Mr. G.V.Mavalankar , the first Speaker of the Lok Sabha and followed since then, a party must have at least ten per cent of the strength of the House in order to qualify to be designated as a Parliamentary Party and the leader of the largest such Parliamentary Party in the opposition ranks is designated Leader of the Opposition.

Those who are troubled by the fact that the Sixteenth Lok Sabha will have no recognized Parliamentary Party in the opposition benches and consequently no recognized LOP, because the Congress Party has just 44 MPs, seem to forget that India’s tryst with parliamentary democracy began on this note. Throughout Jawaharlal Nehru’s prime ministership, India never had a Leader of the Opposition because there was no political party which commanded one-tenth of the strength of the Lok Sabha. Similarly, for long years in the Indira Gandhi era too, there was no LOP. Further, there was no LOP in the Lok Sabha when Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister.

According to Kaul and Shakdher, “with a view to discouraging multiplication of parties and growth of splinter groups” Mavalankar laid down general principles on which recognition can be given to political parties for their parliamentary work in the Lok Sabha. Mr.Mavalankar was of the view that democracy would not grow on proper lines unless there are a fewer number of parties, “possibly not more than two major parties which can almost balance each other as the Government and the Opposition”.1

The conditions laid down by Mavalankar for an association of members who propose to form a Parliamentary Party in the Lok Sabha are as follows: They must have a distinct ideology and programme which they have announced prior to the election and on which they have been elected and ‘they should form a homogenous unit capable of developing into a well knit entity’; they should have an organization both inside and outside the House, which is in touch with public opinion on all important issues before the country; they should at least be able to command a strength which would enable them to keep the House, that is, their number should not be less than the quorum fixed to constitute a sitting of the House, which is one-tenth of the total membership.2 These principles were later embodied in Direction 121 (1) of the Directions by the Speaker, Lok Sabha.3 Many decades later they were incorporated in The Leaders and Chief Whips of Recognised Parties and Groups in Parliament (facilities) Act, 1998.

In the present case, this means that a political party must have at least 55 MPs (one-tenth of the strength of the Lok Sabha – 543 elected members) to be recognized by the Speaker as a Parliamentary Party. Only the leader of such a Parliamentary Party will be eligible to be recognized as Leader of the Opposition. A political party which satisfies the first two conditions laid down by Mavalankar, but which fails to command the required one-tenth strength, cannot be recognised as a Parliamentary Party. It is recognized as a Parliamentary Group, provided it has 30 MPs. As of now The Congress Party in the Lok Sabha falls in this category.

India got its first Leader of the Opposition in 1969 in the Fourth Lok Sabha – a good 17 years after the first general election held in 1952. Prior to this, no opposition party secured 10 per cent of the seats in Lok Sabha and therefore, there was no LOP in the House throughout Nehru’s prime ministership. In 1969, Dr.Ram Subhag Singh was appointed LOP by the Speaker following the split in the Congress Party. The larger branch of the party was headed by Ms.Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister. The smaller branch, comprises 60 members of the Lok Sabha, moved to the opposition benches following the split and since they had the requisite numbers, they were declared to be a Parliamentary Party and their leader – Dr.Singh - became India’s first LOP. He remained in office until dissolution of the Lok Sabha in December, 1970. 4

The dissolution came about because Prime Minister Indira Gandhi opted for a snap poll, which was held in early 1971 to constitute the Fifth Lok Sabha. In this election, the Congress Party led by her bagged 352 seats in a House with a strength of 515. However, no political party got the numbers to be recognized as a Parliamentary Party (52 seats or even to be recognized as a Parliamentary Group (30 seats). In that election, the Communist Party of India -Marxist (CPI-M) was the largest party in the opposition benches with 25 seats followed by the Communist Party of India (CPI) with 23 and the Bharatiya Jana Sangh with 22 seats.5

In the historic Lok Sabha election of 1977 for the Sixth Lok Sabha, in which the Congress Party got a drubbing, the Janata Party secured 295 seats (contesting on the Bharatiya Lok Dal symbol) and formed the government. The Congress secured just 154 seats and its leader became the Leader of the Opposition. However, both the ruling Janata Party and the Congress Party saw splits during the tenure of this Lok Sabha. As a result of the Congress split in March, 1978, the Congress (I) with 58 MPs, which owed allegiance to Indira Gandhi was recognized as a Parliamentary Party in addition to the larger segment which also was in the opposition. Thereafter, the Janata Party too split and the breakaway faction – the Janata Party (S) with 68 MPs was recognized as a Parliamentary Party along with the largest segment –the Janata Party – which was then in government.

The Congress Party returned to power with 353 seats in the Seventh Lok Sabha constituted in 1980 and Indira Gandhi again returned as Prime Minister. Here again, there was no recognized Leader of the Opposition because the largest party was the Janata Party (S) with 41 seats, followed by the CPI(M) with 37 seats and the Janata Party with 31 seats. 6

The election to the Eighth Lok Sabha was held a few months after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. In that election, the Congress Party led by Rajiv Gandhi won a massive 404 seats. Most of the parties in the opposition, specially the so-called national parties, were decimated. The Bharatiya Janata Party won two seats and the Janata Party just 10. The CPI(M) secured a credible 22 seats. As a result, the Telugu Desam, which bagged 30 seats became the largest party in the opposition ranks. However, no party qualified to be designated a Parliamentary Party. The Telugu Desam, however, just managed to meet the criteria to be classified as a Parliamentary Group. The TDP lost this status when an MP left the party in 1988.7

In the Ninth Lok Sabha election, the Congress faced defeat following the Bofors Payoffs Scandal. It secured 197 seats and Rajiv Gandhi became the LOP. The Janata Dal with 141 MPs formed the government along with the support of the BJP and the Left parties. In the Tenth Lok Sabha, the Congress returned to power heading a minority government with 232 seats. Part of this election was held after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and the improved performance of the party, as compared to the previous election, was attributed to the tragic development. However, this election saw a non-Congress Party – the BJP – secure 120 seats and its leader the LOP status. Another party in opposition that crossed the ten per cent hump was the Janata Dal with 59 seats.8

In the Eleventh Lok Sabha election, the Congress bagged 140 seats and propped up a political pot pourri to form a government. The BJP with 161 held the LOP position. The Twelfth Lok Sabha formed in 1998 saw the BJP coming to power in alliance with several regional parties. The Congress secured 141 seats and returned to its status as a Parliamentary Party in the opposition ranks. This Lok Sabha was dissolved in just a year after the Atal Behari Vajpayee –led coalition was defeated by The Congress and its allies by one vote. The people voted the BJP led National Democratic Alliance back with a vengeance in 1999 and the Congress Party hit a low with just 114 seats. However, it had enough to ensure that its leader was the LOP in the Thirteenth Lok Sabha.9

The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Lok Sabhas saw the Congress coming to power in association with its allies under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) umbrella. The BJP secured 145 and 116 seats in these Lok Sabhas and retained the LOP status. The cycle of success and defeat caught up with the Congress once again in the election to the Sixteenth Lok Sabha, but this time its fortunes have really nosedived and it won just 44 seats. Meanwhile the BJP has secured a handsome victory with 282 seats. The Congress Party, however, will be eligible to be recognized as a Parliamentary Group since it has over 30 seats. Two other parties which will claim the status of Parliamentary Groups in this Lok Sabha are the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) with 37 MPs and the All India Trinamool Congress with 34 MPs.10

What this shows is that whenever the Congress won the parliament elections handsomely, the opposition got a severe drubbing and no opposition party managed to secure even ten per cent of the seats to be entitled to the status of LOP. On the other hand, whenever the Congress Party was defeated as in 1977, 1989, 1996, 1998 and 1999, it won enough seats for it to be designated as a Parliamentary Party. However, the Modi Wave has blotched the Congress Party’s copybook. For the first time since the Lok Sabha was constituted in 1952, the party has failed to secure enough seats to be designated as a Parliamentary Party. Also, for the first time since 1952, a single party has comprehensively trounced the Congress and this could be the reason why the Congress has suffered the fate that awaited its opponents from 1952 to 1971 and again in 1971, 1980 and 1984. This is why people have begun to re-designate the phenomenon that routed the Congress. They say it was not a wave, it was a tsunami!


  1. p. 313, M.N.Kaul and S.L.Shakdher, Practice and Procedure of Parliament, Published for Lok Sabha Secretariat, Metropolitan Book Company Pvt.Ltd, New Delhi, Fourth Edition, 1991
  2. Ibid
  3. Directions by the Speaker, Lok Sabha – See
  4. p. 314, M.N.Kaul and S.L.Shakdher, Practice and Procedure of Parliament, Published for Lok Sabha Secretariat, Metropolitan Book Company Pvt.Ltd, New Delhi, Fourth Edition, 1991
  5. p76,
  6. p 314, M.N.Kaul and S.L.Shakdher, Practice and Procedure of Parliament, Published for Lok Sabha Secretariat, Metropolitan Book Company Pvt.Ltd, New Delhi, Fourth Edition, 1991
  7. Ibid, p. 315
  8. p.10,
  9. p.90,

Published Date: 23rd May 2014, Image source:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Congress Bares its Hitler Bunker Mindset in the Last Days of UPA-2

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

H. Trevor-Roper, a British historian, wrote a seminal book called “The Last Days of Hitler”. Hitler and his close colleagues were sheltered in the Hitler bunker buried deep within the bowels of the earth in Berlin. From the West, the British and American Armies had swept through Germany and from the East the Soviet Forces under Marshal Zhukov had entered the outskirts of Berlin. Germany had virtually lost the Second World War and Hitler, the megalomaniac, no longer held sway except over the bunker itself. Yet he still thought that there were imaginary armies, actually nonexistent which he could throw into battle and defeat the Allies even at this late stage. Trevor-Roper’s description of the last days of Hitler is graphic in the extreme and shows how, despite Armageddon and the biblical Apocalypse hours away, Hitler still lived in his world of make believe. We all know the ultimate fate of Hitler, his colleagues and his Nazi regime, but before they ended the road to their defeat was laid over millions of bodies and entire countries were reduced to rubble.

India is not a Nazi dictatorship because it is a deeply entrenched democracy. The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that whereas a dictatorship ends when a dictator is removed, democracy is a continuing process of government in which periodical elections are held, sometimes one party or group of parties gains power and sometimes another one does. Governments change and when a new government comes to power it tries to govern according to its ideology, policies and programmes. In the United States of America, because there is very little major ideological difference between the Republicans and the Democrats, a change of government only brings about marginal change of policy. In Britain, by contrast, when in 1945 the Labour Party led by Clement Atlee defeated the Conservative Party led by Winston Churchill, it introduced socialism and radically changed the economic and social structure of Britain. Despite this in a democracy there is a thread of consistency which is continuous and ensures that there is a flow from one government to another in terms of political approach and the commitment to the principles of democracy and the provisions of the Constitution. In Britain the supremacy of Parliament in legislation and of the Judiciary in adjudication, as also neutrality of the Civil Service remained unchanged even when Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives came back to power. Because of the neutrality of the Civil Service and the effectiveness of the Election Commission, Indira Gandhi and the Congress Party lost and the Janata Government came to power in 1977. Morarji Desai was a very stern and firm administrator, but he eschewed the path of vendetta and gave complete space to Indira Gandhi and the Congress Party not only to function but also make a bid for power, which happened in 1980. This brought Indira Gandhi to power in the general election of 1980. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the NDA Government continued with the basic decency of a democratic system and Sonia and her family were given a place of honour, provided facilities of residence, movement and protection and treated with respect. That is why in 2004 as the lead party in the UPA coalition the Congress could return to power.

2014 is a different story because suddenly an alternative to the Congress has appeared on the horizon in the shape of a resurgent BJP and a strong leader, Narendra Modi. In 2002, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister, Gujarat witnessed the horrible scene of an entire coach load of Ram bhakts being burnt alive at Godhra with the consequential communal riots which engulfed Gujarat. Of course, when we view the events from a distance, we find that the six (now eight) districts of Saurashtra, three districts of northern Gujarat and Kutch District were either free of rioting or there was very quick intervention by the district administration, which maintained peace. In the central and southern districts of Ahmedabad, Mehsana, Kheda, Baroda, Panchmahals, Bharuch, Balsar there was a great deal of violence which took about a week to put down. Here the district administration reacted slowly. Surat, because of a competent Collector and an active Police Commissioner in the city and S.P in the rural areas, remained relatively calm, which proves that if the administration at the district level functions effectively, law and order will be maintained.

The consequences of 2002 was that Narendra Modi, who was then a novice in government, was painted as the devil incarnate. Since that day, the demonisation of Modi by the Congress, the liberals and the so-called secularists has continued apace and no effort has been spared to try and incriminate him in the riots, in cases of encounters and generally to try and book him for criminal offences. All such efforts, including investigation by a Special Task Force supervised by the Supreme Court, have failed to turn up any evidence which could lead to the prosecution of Modi, but that has not deterred people who are trying to vilify him. The fact that BJP under Modi’s leadership has won three successive State Assembly elections in Gujarat , largely on account of the performance of government in the matter of development, law and order and the steady rise of the Gujarat economy has not in any way moderated the continuing attacks on Modi by his opponents.

Why is this happening? Narendra Modi, the RSS pracharak, Narendra Modi, the party apparatchik, was hardly visible and was largely ignored. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat was another matter. The 2002 riots gave an opportunity to the Congress and the liberal lobby to attack Modi, but in the process what was brushed aside was the manner in which Modi and his government handled the disastrous earthquake of 2002 . This is perhaps the most successful example of disaster management ever witnessed in India. Nor have the achievements of the Gujarat Government in improving education, health care, enrolment of girl children in school, the continuing improvement of agriculture and the development of physical infrastructure, especially power and roads, the massive industrial growth have all been either ignored or denigrated. Clever use has been made of statistics to show, for example, that there is poverty, malnutrition and ill-health in Gujarat. Because statistics are not presented longitudinally, those presented by Modi’s opponents do not compare what was with what after comparative charts are presented is. Only then should judgement be pronounced on whether or not there has been progress. Presenting an incomplete picture is a well known tactic in spreading misinformation and people like Jairam Ramesh and Kapil Sibal seem to excel at it. That is but natural if the objective is not the truth but the demonisation of a person seen as a potential rival.

Why is this happening? One has to look at the Congress as it is today. This is the party which, because of Mahatma Gandhi’s self-abnegation, asceticism, total submergence of self, emerged as a party in which there was a wide based leadership. This survived Gandhi’s death because Nehru himself was innately decent. It ended when Indira Gandhi came to power because she, either because of some unexplained sense of insecurity, perhaps because she had an authoritarian streak in her makeup, perhaps because she could not brook rivals centralised all authority in herself and every tall leader was cut down. The culmination of this was the replacement of the party as such by the hegemony of Indira Gandhi and her family, initially Sanjay, then Rajiv and now Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and, from time to time, Priyanka. The focus of Sonia Gandhi is her son, Rahul, to whom she would like to leave the Congress as a legacy and the Prime Ministership as an inherent right. The net result is that today there is no identifiable Congress Party in terms of grass-roots organisation and a democratically elected leadership. There is only Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, which is further proved by the fact that in the 2014 election campaign, it is only Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka who seem to be convassing. There is no big name leadership which participates in an active campaign, so much so that in Madhya Pradesh no one can point out who is actually the leader of the Congress Party for the 2014 elections. D.P.Mishra, Arjun Singh and Digvijaya Singh were leaders in their own right, but the team which is fighting the elections in 2014 has no leader. It is almost as if the Congress has gone into battle with no hope of winning, a belief further strengthened by the fact that the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and the Minister for Information and Broadcasting have stayed away from the hustings, thus sending a message that they are not confident of winning.

A multi-party democracy in the Westminster model of parliamentary government makes it almost mandatory for there to be political parties with their own ideologies, on which foundation they make policies, programmes, agenda of work. Political parties are supposed to fight elections on the basis of their respective ideologies and programmes and in fighting the election in a mature democracy, each political party tries to convince the electorate that it should support that party whose ideology, programmes and practices appear to be best suited to promote the national interests. A positively run election campaign would highlight what the party stands for and also, if the party has ever been in power , tell the electorate where it went wrong the last time, what were the high points of achievements and how does it intend to go about promoting public welfare if elected to office. In the process, it would be legitimate to point out the mistakes, shortcomings and failures of the party in power and state how this party would avoid these pitfalls. If the electorate is convinced that what is being presented is a fair picture, it might decide to vote for the party making the election pitch. What is not desirable, if not positively illegitimate, is to only go on running down the rival party, abuse its leaders and engage in public slanging matches. It is legitimate for the Congress, therefore, to present its own agenda and inform the public why in the opinion of the Congress, a BJP government would not be in the interest of the people of the country. But calling Narendra Modi, who is leading the BJP election campaign, a mass murderer, a rank communalist, a wife deserter, a liar and worse has no place in a decently run election campaign. To present facts only partially, to allege that land has been gifted to industrialists by Narendra Modi at throw away prices without simultaneously pointing out that this policy has prevailed in Gujarat even under the Congress Government, to try and mobilise a community on account of religion against Narendra Modi and the BJP by fanning fear psychosis are all tactics which have no place in a democracy which calls itself free. Unfortunately, that is about all that the Congress and the so called liberal lobby seem to be doing in the 2014 elections. Why is this so?

One could attempt to answer the above question by looking at the background in which the 2014 election is being fought. The UPA Government has been in power for a decade. In the first five years, it had the Left as an associate partner and whatever the other faults of the Left may be, it is still relatively honest, has a genuine concern for the poor, has not surrendered to the business lobby and in international relations is not prepared to permit either the United States or the European Union to enjoy a hegemony in India which virtually subordinates our foreign policy to western economic and political priorities and objectives. Till the Left fell out with the Congress over the nuclear agreement with the United States, the Left ensured that the Congress led coalition was kept in check in the matter of labour policy, industrial policy and government’s attitude towards private business. This was a very healthy check on what is now described as crony capitalism. By parting with the Left, the Congress itself has lost its moorings and today one is not sure where the party stands ideologically. The net result is that in the past few years the Congress has made horrendous and unforgivable compromises in matters which brooked no compromise and that has resulted in corruption, crony capitalism and a virtual break-down of purposive government. That is why the Congress is in trouble and is panicking because the prospect of a BJP run government coming to power with the consequences thereof for the Congress has horrified the party.

The collapse of the Third Reich actually began with the two major battles of Stalingrad in the Soviet Union and El Alamein in the Western Desert. These two battles proved that the Nazi armies were not invincible and could be defeated and though it took another three years of very hard fighting, the road for Germany was continuously downhill. Germany had committed such atrocities in the conquered countries, the hatred had reached such levels, that forgiveness could neither be expected nor given. Perhaps Hitler’s increasing megalomania and the panicky reaction to the progress made by the Allies was partly a result of the feeling that defeat meant annihilation of the Nazi Party and the German State. The first sign of panic was the determination not to retreat, even if it meant the destruction of Germany’s Third Army commanded by Field Marshal Paulus. When defeat followed defeat, a panicked German regime first thought of super weapons such as the V-1 and V-2 rockets, a search for the ultimate weapon which would obviously be nuclear, campaigns like one in the Ardennes which ultimately ended in disaster and in the last moments in the Hitler bunker, orders to nonexistent armies and ultimately mass suicide in the bunker, with only Martin Bormann escaping. To give the Congress credit, it has not indulged in the kind of genocide practised by Hitler, even metaphorically, but in a democracy that is in any case not possible. Even taking as gospel all allegations made against Narendra Modi in connection with the 2002 riots, the institutions of government are so strong that sooner rather than later the law and order machinery would have swung into action and, if the worst came to the worst, the Centre would have intervened, including with military force. There is also an innate decency in the makeup of the average citizen so that the saner elements of society would have stepped in and in fact did. But the fact is that Gujarat had rioting confined to seven districts. After the initial inertia, government did step in and within a week order was restored. Worse things have happened in States administered by the Congress such as Maharashtra and Assam, U.P. where there is a Samajwadi Party Government and Delhi in 1984 when it is the Congress which had the Union Territory of Delhi under its administrative control. In all these cases, no attempt was ever made to carry out anything like the decade long campaign against the Chief Minister in person as has been done by the Congress in the case of Narendra Modi. This despite the fact that the Supreme Court controlled STF, CBI and various agencies of the Government of India have failed to find any evidence of the complicity of Modi in the 2002 riots. If anything, Gujarat’s post 2002 performance in maintaining law and order is better than that of other States and in the last eleven years there have been no communal riots in that State. In all these eleven years, Narendra Modi has been the Chief Minister and if he were the ogre which the Congress has painted him to be there would be no communal peace in Gujarat. Can we not deduce from this that Narendra Modi is not evil, is a good administrator and has run a tight ship?

Actually the liberal lobby’s attacks on Modi are driven by a perverse logic which owes its origin to the kind of panic which prevailed in the Hitler bunker. The objective is to keep Modi out of power lest he prove that a BJP led government is not to be feared, in fact is to be welcomed because it promises to perform adequately well to bring about a genuine transformation in Indian polity, society and economy. If that happens, then what will be the future of parties like the Congress which have been long on promises and somewhat short on delivery, especially in the matter of minority welfare? It is to ensure that this never happens that the Congress and its liberal allies have continued with their programme to paint Modi black and thus ensure that the electorate does not choose him for power.

The UPA Government is now in the last days of office. This is the stage of winding up, on thinking about the post electoral organisation, agenda and programme of the Congress Party. This is not the time for panic, but in the Indian equivalent of the Hitler bunker, which we may call the Manmohan bunker for want of a better phrase, the atmosphere is still one of panic. That is why there was a harebrained proposal to order a Commission of Inquiry against Narendra Modi for alleged illegal tapping of the telephone and other electronic facilities of a lady architect and to bring her under surveillance. The fact that the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, is meant for setting up a Commission which will look at issues of prime public importance is conveniently forgotten. What is equally forgotten is that illegal tapping of telephones is an offence under the Indian Telegraphs Act and also the Indian Penal Code and an alleged offence cannot be the subject matter of enquiry by a Commission of Inquiry. Cognisable offence have to be reported under section 154 Cr.P.C., a FIR recorded, investigation done under law and subsequently either a challan be presented before a competent court or the matter be reported to the court for permission to close the investigation because no prima facie case is made out against anyone. All that is brushed aside in the Manmohan bunker, which was busy ordering nonexistent Commissions of Inquiry to halt Modi in his track. The fact that the lady in question not only refused to make a complaint but has actually approached the Supreme Court for a direction to government not to set up a Commission or to hold any other investigation did not deter those in the bunker from pressing for a Commission. Even the allies of Congress such as the National Conference and the NCP were horrified at the insistence of Congress to order such an inquiry. Ascertaining the truth was not the purpose of the Congress, but embarrassing Modi was. Luckily Manmohan Singh, who is a decent person and a gentleman to boot, ultimately decided against setting up such a Commission, thus saving the Congress from some embarrassment at a subsequent stage. To that extent, the Manmohan bunker is different from the Hitler bunker, but only because Manmohan Singh is no Hitler. One is not too sure whether a similar difference applies between today’s Congress party, which is single family oriented and the Nazi Party. In any case, for the Congress to use every dirty trick in its armoury to keep Modi out of Parliament and the government does not go down well in a democracy.

Published Date: 17th May 2014, Image source:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why Does The Election Commission Treat Rahul Gandhi with Kid Gloves?

Dr. A Surya Prakash, 
Distinguished Fellow, VIF

On May 1, 2014, the Congress Party’s Vice-President, Mr.Rahul Gandhi, made an extraordinary prediction while addressing a rally at Solan in Himachal Pradesh. He said if Mr.Narendra Modi became India’s Prime Minister, 22,000 people would be killed in violence. And from where on earth did he get this insight? From Japan! According to him, the Japanese told him that they were ready to help us build roads, but they feared violence if Modi was at the helm. Mr.Gandhi told his audience that he agreed with the Japanese and his own estimate was that 22,000 people would die!

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lodged a complaint with the Election Commission (EC) regarding this vile comment and demanded that the Commission proceed against Mr.Gandhi. After much deliberation, the poll panel issued a notice to Mr.Gandhi on May 9 and asked him to explain by May 12, failing which it threatened to take action against him. However, on Mr.Gandhi’s request, the Commission gave him further time till May 15.

Apart from the fact that his comments are loathsome, smack of gross irresponsibility and constitute hate speech that could inflame communal passions, they are also rather juvenile.

First of all, do we need the Japanese to build roads when Indian infrastructure companies are building airports and huge projects across the globe? Secondly, this shows how poorly Mr.Gandhi is acquainted with the Japan-Modi equation. Japan is high on the agenda of a Modi prime ministership. Whatever happened to Mr.Gandhi’s backroom boys? That apart, let us now move onto another incident concerning Mr.Gandhi and see how the EC handled it.

On May 7, when Amethi went to polls, Mr.Gandhi, the candidate from that constituency, roamed around polling booths and violated the Conduct of Election Rules. The allegation against him was that he entered the Phoola polling station without permission of the presiding officer and ostensibly “inspected” an allegedly defective voting machine. There were photos in the media showing him inside the voting enclosure, not just in the booth. Mr.Gandhi, to the best of our knowledge, has no skills in electronics and even if he did, he had no business to ‘inspect” a voting machine which is allegedly defective. It was also alleged that he had entered several other polling booths in the constituency in a similar fashion. And, what did the EC do?

After investigating the complaint, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Uttar Pradesh had this to say: “It is possible to infer that neither Mr.Gandhi sought permission to inspect the voting compartment nor was he stopped by anyone from doing so”. Just look at the tentativeness with which the CEO reports this matter betraying his solicitousness to Mr.Gandhi. “It is possible to infer…..” he says. Since he had investigated the matter, he should have had the courage to cut all this out and say that Mr.Gandhi had entered the compartment without permission, period. Secondly, although what Rahul Gandhi did was a violation of the rules, the CEO lets him of on the ground that Mr.Gandhi did not violate the secrecy of the ballot because he left the polling station before polling began. Pray, since when have candidates been allowed to loiter around voting compartments before commencement of polling? See how considerate the CEO is towards Mr.Gandhi?

The point to note is that the CEO did not reprimand Mr.Gandhi for violating the rules. On the other hand, he laboured a lot to let him off the hook. As regards Mr.Gandhi’s activities in other polling stations, there is no investigation and no action. Why? The Chief Election Commissioner Mr.V.S.Sampath offers an even more convoluted explanation for the EC’s inaction in this regard. He says Mr.Gandhi’s presence at other polling stations that morning were not examined because the complaint made to the Commission related only to the Phoola polling station!

Let us now turn to an allegation against Mr.Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and see how the EC has handled it. On April 30, 2014 an allegation was made against Mr Modi by the Congress Party that he had flashed the BJP’s election symbol ‘Lotus” and addressed a media conference near a polling station in violation of election rules. Such was the Election Commission’s anxiety to proceed against Mr.Modi that within hours of receipt of complaint and on the very day of the complaint, the Commission took action and directed the Gujarat Administration to register an FIR against him for violating election rules. It did not even conduct a preliminary enquiry to ascertain the facts before issuing this directive to lodge a criminal complaint against Mr.Modi. You can assess the commission’s extraordinary interest and alacrity in this case when you see the EC’s directions to Gujarat’s Chief Secretary. It said “Compliance reports in this regard should be sent to the Commission latest by 6.00 PM today. Copies of complaints/FIRs should also be furnished to the Commission along with the compliance report”. It also directed that FIRs be lodged against all TV Channels that had broadcast Mr.Modi’s comments. Later, the Gujarat administration, on investigation found that Mr.Modi’s encounter with the media was well beyond the 100 metre distance from the polling booth as stipulated by the EC. So much for the EC’s “special diligence” vis-à-vis Mr.Modi.

Even more shocking was the decision of the Election Commission to deny Mr.Modi, the candidate from Varanasi, permission to hold a rally in the holy city in the final days of the campaign, while allowing road shows for Mr.Rahul Gandhi and the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr.Akhilesh Yadav, who are not candidates in that constituency. This is probably the first time in the history of our elections that the EC has prevented a candidate from holding meetings and seeking votes from the electorate.

In the light of this evidence, the following conclusions would seem reasonable: The Election Commission took nine days even to issue a notice to Rahul Gandhi and even gave him an extension of three days to respond when he made a speech saying 22,000 people would be killed if Mr.Modi became Prime Minister. We have not heard anything as atrocious as this in this election, but the EC treats Mr.Gandhi with kid gloves and hesitates to act. Second, Mr.Gandhi roams around illegally around polling stations and even ‘inspects’ a voting machine, but the EC does not want to even give him a mild rap on the knuckles! On the other hand, the EC was willing to chase any chimera in order to damn Mr.Modi or obstruct his campaign, even in his own constituency.

The Election Commission is a three-member body. It comprises of Mr.V.S.Sampath, the Chief Election Commissioner and Mr.H.S.Brahma and Dr.Nasim Zaidi, Election Commissioners.

The Prime Minister, Mr.Manmohan Singh has brushed aside the opinion of the Justice Venkatachalaiah Commission that reviewed the working of the Constitution and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission that election commissioners must be selected by a collegiums and with bipartisan consensus. Mr.Singh also has the dubious distinction of appointing Mr.Navin Chawla, who was indicted by the Shah Commission of Inquiry as a “tryant” who was “unfit to hold any public office” as an Election Commissioner in 2005. Thus, Mr.Chawla, who did not have the basic qualification to hold office in the Election Commission – commitment to democratic values – went on to become the Chief Election Commissioner as well. Since then, all Election Commissioners have been chosen by the Sonia-Manmohan duo.

There can be no doubt that the Election Commission, which is clothed with extraordinary power under Article 324 of the Constitution, to conduct itself in an independent and fearless manner, has fallen of its perch and now faces embarrassing questions from the public about its partisan conduct. Why do the Election Commissioners labour so much to remind us that they are Sonia-Manmohan appointees? It would be in public interest for the three Election Commissioners to tender their resignation and allow the new government to appoint fresh Commissioners through the collegium route.

Published Date: 15th May 2014, Image source:

Will the Transitional Bill on Truth and Reconciliation Commission Bring Peace to Nepal?

The Bill on Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and on Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances (CID) was tabled in the Legislature-Parliament on April 16, 2014 for discussion, which was finally approved by the majority of the members on April 25, 2014. In fact, the Bill was long overdue as it was expected to address conflict related cases between the period 1996 and 2006 with a view to ensuring long-term peace in the country. Though late, the Bill in itself is important as Nepal's future largely lies on its implementation.

As it is well known, Nepal was fully engulfed by the conflict in which there were major causalities of human life and destruction to physical property between 1996 and 2006. Estimates are that 17,828 people were killed by the Maoists rebel forces and the security agencies during the conflict period, which brought about tremendous sufferings in the lives of 450,000 family members of the victims. Over and above, 5,800 people were disabled, 25,000 children orphaned, 9,000 women widowed and 14,852 people disappeared. In addition, many of the government buildings, educational institutions, telecommunication networks, roads, airports and other physical facilities worth billions of US dollars were partially or completely destroyed. As if this was not enough, the rebel forces even confiscated the private property of many of the individuals, which are yet to be returned to them.

Now it is time to see whether the Government of Nepal punishes the perpetrators and gives justice to the victims in the post-conflict phase or it gives blanket amnesty to all the war-era perpetrators as demanded by certain political forces. Those who protect the perpetrators tend to threaten and create an impression that further conflict would be generated in the country if clean chit is not given to them through such mechanisms as TRC and/or CID.

After tabling the Bill on TRC and CID in the Legislature Parliament, the present government led by Sushil Koirala strongly defended it. An impression was created that the government would not allow any of the perpetrators of heinous crimes to go scot-free and the victims would be given fair justice. For this, the reconciliatory approach was given due focus as per the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Accord, 2006 and the Interim Constitution, 2007.

However, many of the human rights activists, advocates, victims and other sections of the society were not in a mood to buy the government's arguments on the Bill. They were highly skeptical about the intentions of the Bill. They thought that the sole purpose of the Bill was to give blanket amnesty to the perpetrators of serious human rights crimes. This was so because Section 26 of the TRC bill did not treat serious human rights violations like murder, kidnapping and taking hostage, forced disappearance, maiming, physical and psychological torture, looting of private and public property and arson as heinous crimes.

Besides, the Bill was also criticized on the ground that it gave draconian power to the commissions to decide if the case against any perpetrator was subject to punishment or amnesty. In fact, it should have been other way round in which the victims should have been allowed to decide if the perpetrators were to be given pardon or not. So some analysts thought that this was the ploy to give amnesty to the perpetrators as the Bill stipulated that each crime except rape was subject to reconciliation.

Rape is a serious attack on a woman's dignity as it is irreparable. But in fact only a few cases related to rape or sexual offences have been reported. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights-Nepal in its 2012 reported 30,000 cases of transitional justice; of which only a hundred or so are related to sexual violence. Most of the war-era cases of rape or sexual offence occurred long back between 1996 and 2006. Therefore, it would be too difficult for the rape victims to produce sufficient evidence in support of their cases. Failing to do so, it is likely that they might lose their case. Moreover, it is also feared that the victims might be further coerced and intimidated if at all they ventured to prove their cases in the commissions.

In certain quarters, the process through which the bill on TRC and CID was drafted was found faulty. While the major political parties, including the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoists) were consulted during the drafting process, other smaller parties were overlooked. Also ignored during the Bill drafting process were the human rights groups and the victims.

Most importantly, the Government of Nepal overlooked the verdict given by the Supreme Court with regard to the Bill on TRC and CID. The Court had directed the government to form a transitional justice mechanism on par with international standards. It also asked the government to drop some of those sections in the Bill that protected the interests of the perpetrators at the cost of the victims. Also, it was against giving discretionary power to the commissions and to the Attorney General in the matter of making decisions whether the alleged perpetrators were to be given pardon.

In this regard, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay attacked the Bill as its amnesty provisions replicated the matter in the previous ordinance which was rejected by Nepal's Supreme Court. Other international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and International Commission of Jurists found that the Bill was not drafted in line with International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Also, the structure of the commissions on TRC and CID did not comply with international standards. More than anything else, the Bill failed to treat the disappearance cases as criminal offence. Because of some of these concerns, some of the human rights groups had even appealed to the Legislature-Parliament to reject the Bill on transitional justice.

It is unfortunate that the Legislature Parliament passed the draft Bill on TRC and CID without any meaningful modification. Only cosmetic changes were introduced in the Bill. Accordingly, a provision was made to establish a special court to deal with conflict related cases. Now the government attorney would have to file the case in the court after it is forwarded by the TRC. The TRC is also empowered to recommend a pardon for the perpetrators; for which approval or disapproval of the victims is required. Also, the Bill wants TRC to recommend to the government adequate compensation for the properties seized by the rebel forces.

It looks like that the interests of the victims have been minimised, if not ignored. Therefore, there is a danger that many of the perpetrators are likely to go scot-free. The provision of reconciliation is in fact forced reconciliation. In such a case, the victims might be coerced and intimidated if at all they try to seek justice and make effort to punish the perpetrators. Overlooking the interests of the victims, however, might prove a costly affair. Permanent peace in Nepal is not likely to return if the victims do not get justice and the culprits are allowed to go free.

(The author is Professor of Economics and Executive Director, Centre for Economic and Technical Studies, Nepal)

Published Date: 12th May 2014, Image source:

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Message and Meaning of GSLV Success

Radhakrishna Rao, 

No technology, however complex and challenging it might be, is beyond India’s capability to develop and deploy from ground zero. And this truism was amply demonstrated by the spectacularly successful flight of the heaviest ever Indian rocket, the three stage 414.75-tonne Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), the “crowning glory” which was the home grown, upper cryogenic engine stage. The January 5 flawless mission of GSLV, which placed into orbit the 1982 kg GSAT-14 communications satellite, has verily boosted India’s prestige sky high in one quick sweep. The 17-minutes long “text book” perfect mission of GSLV encasing the painstaking endeavours of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) spread over twenty years catapulted India into the ranks of elite space faring countries—USA, Russia ,China, Japan and European Space Agency(ESA)—which have the proven capability to build and launch cryogenic fuel driven space vehicles.

The precise performance of the Indian cryogenic engine which-- burnt for a total 12 minutes-- was such that the GSAT-14 spacecraft was injected into the orbit with a perigee (lowest point) of 176-km against the calculated value of 180-km and the apogee (farthest point) achieved was off the mark by a mere 50-kms from a target of 36,000-km.

ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan was right in his observation, “With the successful GSLV programme, we have paid back all the debts to the country.” The vibrant technological breakthrough achieved by the successful GSLV flight has brought to the country a range of long term, immense and diverse benefits spanning strategic, commercial industrial and space exploration sectors.

But then the most telling and conspicuous message of the unqualified success of GSLV is that India don’t need to care or worry about the notorious technology denial regime spearheaded by USA. The successful development and flawless performance of the cryogenic engine stage built by ISRO, virtually from scratch, stands out as a challenge to USA which left no stone unturned to prevent India from accessing the critical cryogenic engine technology which continues to be a zealously guarded secret. On a more practical plane, the success of GSLV has helped ISRO cross a higher technological threshold in its quest to sustain India’s leadership position in space. As picturesquely pointed out by K.Sivan, GSLV Project Director, the indigenous cryogenic engine has given wings to GSLV which had suffered “setbacks and failures” that had come in for flak from the media.

More importantly, the successful flight of GSLV has helped ISRO break the technological barrier for building better, bigger and more powerful launch vehicles designed to meet the growing and varied needs of India in space sector in the years ahead. For with a single operational vehicle in the form of the four stage PSLV(Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) with a modest launch capability, ISRO had to look beyond the shores of the country for getting its heavier class INSAT/GSAT satellites off the ground at the head of procured launchers whose launch fee involved a huge outgo of foreign exchange. For instance, ISRO had to pay something like US$85-90 million (around Rs.5000 million) as a launch fee for getting its 3.5-tonne class satellite launched. In contrast, a single flight of GSLV costs just Rs.2200 million. This implies that with GSLV at its disposal, India will be in a position to take care of the orbital missions of home-grown satellites in 2-.2.5-tonne class. What’s more, by offering the services of GSLV for the global customers planning to get their commercial class communications satellites off the ground, India can stand to earn a tidy launch fee. By all means, ISRO is in a very comfortable position to offer a highly competitive fee—in comparison to European and American commercial space launch service—for the services of GSLV. Radhakrishnan has made it clear that with one more fight, GSLV will be ready for commercial use. ”After flying one more GSLV, we will be in a position to declare the rocket as a commercially operational,” noted Radhakrishnan. The next flight of GSLV, which will carry GSAT-6 communications satellite into orbit, is planned to be achieved within a year from now.

Without doubt, a home grown high performance launch vehicle capable of meeting Indian needs for launching heavier class satellites makes for a strategic sense in that it could insulate the country from the uncertainties that the multi billion dollar global space launch market could face in the future due to shifting political and geostrategic priorities. Further, with a heavy lift off space vehicle at its command, there is no need for India to worry about the notorious technology denial regime as exemplified by the US trade sanctions and technology embargo. ISRO has for long remained a favourite target of US trade sanction. But then the trade sanction instead of hitting ISRO has only contributed to the steady decline in the volume of business carried out by US companies specializing in space technology. On the other hand, the trade sanction provided the incentive to develop the technology indigenously and here ISRO has come out with flying colours. Occasional failures and setbacks have not dampened the spirits of ISRO in its endeavour of taking India to new heights of glory.

In the immediate future, ISRO has lined up a series of satellites for launch by means of GSLV. Beyond this, GSLV will also be the vehicle of choice for launching India’s high profile missions like Chandrayaan-II robotic probe to moon and follow on missions to Mangalyaan orbiter spacecraft to Mars launched in November last. However, the high point of GSLV is that it has smoothened the path of qualifying the heavy lift off GSLV-MKIII vehicle which would be used for the proposed Indian human space flight mission projected for the second half of this decade. With the experience of the successful GSLV flight behind it, the qualification process of the three stage 630-tonne GSLV-MKIII has now become a less challenging task. As pointed out by Radhakrishnan, the three stage GSLV-MKIII with an upper cryogenic engine stage will be flight ready in around three years from now. An experimental mission of GSLV-MKIII is planned to be accomplished in April this year. ”The rocket will have a passive cryogenic stage/engine. The main purpose of the mission is to study the aerodynamics and stability of the rocket,” said Radhakrishnan. To support the operations of heavy lift space vehicles like GSLV-MKIII, a third launch pad is being set up at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC),the Indian space port on the spindle shaped Sriharikota island on India’s eastern coast. It will be bigger and better than the existing two launch pads. Incidentally, ISRO has a very crowded schedule ahead of it as it has lined up around 50 missions for launch—that would use both PSLV and GSLV-- over the next five years.

The first mission of GSLV carrying an indigenous cryogenic engine in April 2010 had ended up in failure. This failure was traced to the “below par” performance of the fuel booster turbo pump feeding liquid hydrogen to the combustion chamber. Following this, the booster turbo pump was modified and subjected to extensive testing. And once again in August last, the GSLV flight meant to evaluate the performance of the home grown cryogenic engine was called off at the last moment following the detection of leak in liquid fuel driven second stage of the vehicle. In the light of this development, ISRO modified the second stage fuel tank of the vehicle with the use of new high strength aluminium alloy. All in all, ISRO was extremely cautious this time around in tightening the gaps in the design parameters of GSLV.A number of design modifications were implemented followed by a series of ground tests including high altitude tests simulating the actual conditions under which the cryogenic engine stage of the vehicle would perform. Indeed, as a confident Radhakrishnan stated before the GSLV launch, nothing has been left to chance.

Indian industries, in both the private and public sectors, have contributed actively to the development of cryogenic engine stage. ISRO is currently developing cryogenic engine in partnership with a consortium of private industries—Godrej of Mumbai and MTAR Technologies of Hyderabad. Meanwhile, a Rs.1390 million facility is being set up at the Bangalore complex of the state owned Indian aeronautical major HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) to produce cryogenic engines and complex components of GSLV and the futuristic launch vehicles. This facility is expected to be ready by 2016. Indian industries participating in the development of cryogenic engine have been able to upgrade their skill level and expertise in a number of areas of cutting edge, frontier technologies.
The importance of cryogenic propulsion system lies in the fact that it is capable of delivering a heavier payload into the orbit in comparison to the non cryogenic propellants used in the earlier generation PSLV. For the specific impulse of generated by the cryogenic fuel is much higher than the conventional solid and liquid fuel systems. Specific impulse denotes the volume of thrust generated by a rocket engine per unit of fuel burnt per unit of time. But then the biggest technological challenge involved in developing a cryogenic engine system lies in handling oxygen which remains liquid only at temperatures below minus 183 degree Celsius and hydrogen which remains liquid at below minus 253 degree Celsius. The crux of the problem lies in handling these volatile fuel systems in a very regulated and efficient manner under actual flight conditions. And this is an area where ISRO has excelled. ISRO could handle the development of cryogenic engine, which was a really complicated job involving as it does the mastery of materials technology , operation of turbo pumps and turbines that operate at cryogenic temperature, with a high degree of confidence. Incidentally, the Indian cryogenic engine works on “staged combustion cycle” technique wherein hydrogen is partially burnt with a little oxygen in the gas generator. The hot gases, which drive the fuel booster turbo pump, are injected at high pressure into the thrust chamber where the rest of oxygen is introduced to facilitate the fuel combustion. Before going to the gas generator, the incredibly chilly liquid hydrogen is used to cool the thrust chamber whose temperature rises abnormally high when the engine is fired.

As it is, ISRO was exploring the possibility of developing an indigenous high performance cryogenic engine in 1980s.But at that point of time, India’s maturity in space technology left much to be desired. As such, India started looking for the acquisition of this critical rocket technology from abroad. But since the cost of cryogenic engine technology offered by Americans and Europeans was quite stiff, ISRO decided to go in for the offer made by Soviets. The Soviet Glavkosmos came forward to supply two flight ready cryogenic engine stages along with the technology transfer for a modest fee of US$200 million. And in early 1991, ISRO signed a contract with the Glavkosmos for the acquisition of the technology for accelerating the development of the cryogenic engine stage for GSLV. The first two stages of GSLV are derived from the modules of PSLV.

As per the Indo-Russian agreement, only the propulsion hardware was to be made available by Glavkosmos whereas the control system required for the stage and mission management such as sequencing, tank pressure control, thrust and mixture ratio control, gimbal control and post flight passivation as well as facilities required for stage preparation and propellant servicing were to be developed by ISRO. The Russian cryogenic engine was based on the KVD-1 technology developed for the Soviet era N-1 rocket.

But then geo political developments came in the way of taking Indo-Russian agreement to its logical culmination. USA, which could not relish the prospect of India emerging a major player in the area of space exploration, arm twisted Russia into dropping the plan for transferring the cryogenic engine technology. In fact, the US strategy was smoothened by the unceremonious breakup of the Soviet Union. In the context of the changed geographical reality, USA could easily coerce a politically emaciated and economically bankrupt Russia to fall in line with its dictate. By citing the provisions of the so called Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), USA pressurised Russia into going back on its commitment of transferring the cryogenic technology to India.

The US argument that cryogenic engine makes for dual use does not make any sense. For the cryogenic propulsion system is hardly used in a missile system as it is not possible for stuffing the cryogenic fuel into the missile system in advance. Since a missile should be in a fully well ready mode to hit back without any loss of time, normally the earth storable solid fuel is packed into the missile. And ultimately, as a face saving device, the Indo-Russian agreement was diluted down to the supply of seven flight ready cryogenic engine stages to help India sustain the flights of GSLV till such time as a home grown cryogenic engine stage gets ready. Out of the seven Russian engines, six have already been used by ISRO. Out of the six GSLV flights with the Russian upper cryogenic engine stage, three have been a “total flop”. It is a tribute to the technological excellence achieved by ISRO that it could master the highly complex cryogenic propulsion system of Russian origin against heavy odds. With the cryogenic engine technology under its belt, ISRO is now well poised to steer India into the greater heights of space accomplishment. Not even sky seems to be the limit for ISRO.

Published Date: 9th May 2014, Image source: