Friday, July 31, 2015

The Ukraine Stalemate: Implications for India

Dr Harinder Sekhon, 
Senior Fellow, VIF

In a bid to defuse the standoff in Ukraine, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin spoke over the phone in the third week of July thus ending the impasse. The timing and substance of this bilateral conversation reaffirms that Russia and the United States are the key players in this conflict and who alone can hammer out a solution in Ukraine. The crisis in Ukraine and the future of Ukrainian security and stability continue to remain Europe’s most formidable challenge. The Ukrainian conflict has exacerbated tensions between Russia and the West, particularly the United States, putting stress on the cooperative phase of their relations. The situation today is reminiscent of the Cold War days and the “Ukraine crisis has re kindled a rivalry between the US and Russia that’s quite comparable to the 19th century’s Great Game.”1

It is a conflict between two geopolitical realities: “If Ukraine supports Moscow, Russia becomes a regional power on the rise. If Ukraine supports the west, Russia becomes vulnerable from without and from within.”2 It is therefore significant that the two main players, the United States and Russia have decided to start regular bilateral talks in a bid to defuse tensions. This is a positive move that builds upon the earlier diplomatic efforts by the European Union, particularly Germany and France, in February that led to the Minsk-II Agreement.

While a tenuous peace holds in Ukraine after the adoption of the second ceasefire agreement, the Minsk II agreement of February 15, 2015, tensions have remained high in this region and stability in Ukraine remains elusive as Eastern Ukraine continues to face the threat of Russian military intervention. Fighting broke out here as recently as June 2015 when Russia-backed separatists pushed westward toward Maryinka and Mariupol leading to a warning by Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko to his army to be prepared for the possibility of a “full-scale invasion” by Russia along the entire length of Ukraine’s border. This coincided with Putin’s visit to a “military-patriotic recreation park” near Moscow, where he made a speech announcing the addition of 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles to Russia’s military inventory in 2015.

The West sees Putin’s ‘revisionist agenda’ and growing Russian assertiveness as a serious threat to any lasting peace in the region. Putin on the other hand would like to draw attention to the US led NATO expansion and to understand what he did in Ukraine, one must go back to the EU Athens Conference of April 2003, which according to him has led to the current security stalemate. At the Athens Conference the West decided that besides Malta and Cyprus, the three former Soviet Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and four former Warsaw Pact countries – Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, would all join both the EU and become NATO members in 2004. To Russia this was nothing but a US led move to serve its own geo-political interests and in complete violation of a promise made to Mikhail Gorbachev in October 1990 at the time of the German Unification that NATO would not expand “even an inch eastwards.” The trigger for taking back Crimea by Russia seems to be the result of attempts by NATO since February 2012 to install a Ballistic Missile Defence System in those NATO countries that border Russia thereby encircling Moscow. The Baltic States, however, feel that NATO has so far failed to provide them with a clear deterrent capability.

Though the West was caught unawares by Russian action in Crimea, it nonetheless feels that it holds all the cards and if they are able to continue with the imposition of sanctions and maintain their unity, Putin will come under both domestic and international pressure and be forced to give up his revisionist agenda. But this has not happened as Putin has adopted a more competitive stance against the West. According to Carnegie expert, Andrew S Weiss, “Putin has also been signaling for some time now that he sees reestablishing Russian influence over the political and economic development of neighboring countries via the establishment of a Eurasian Union as the centerpiece of his third term in office.”3 Russian assertiveness and a heightened sense of empowerment need to be handled carefully especially as China and Russia become more politically aligned. This has larger global implications and something that India too needs to watch.

Last year Russia and China signed a major 30-year energy deal worth $ 400 billion for the delivery of Russian oil and gas to China. The payments will be in local currencies not in dollars and both have started working towards this as in 2014 there was a nine-fold increase in bilateral trade in their respective national currencies between China and Russia over 2013. This indicates that Russia and China are carefully planning a long-term strategy of getting out of a cycle of dependency on the US currency, something that, as the US sanctions last year revealed make both countries vulnerable to the vagaries of US policy and currency.4

China has also agreed with Russia to unify the new Silk Road high-speed rail project with Eurasian Economic Union. At the same time Beijing has announced it is creating a huge $16 billion fund to develop gold mines along the rail route linking Russia and China and Central Asia. This suggests that there are plans to build up gold reserves as central bank reserve share.5 Home to some of the world's largest natural gas and coal reserves, Central Asia has emerged as an important arena of both cooperation and power play between Russia and China.

While traditionally Central Asia deferred to Russian authority due to the region’s inclusion in the Soviet Union, China has emerged as a new patron in recent years through new trade relations and investments. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are important players in Beijing's 'New Silk Road' project, an ambitious Chinese attempt to expand its presence and infrastructure across three continents. Russia is not comfortable with such developments and Moscow has ramped up efforts to secure its position as the region's leading strategic player. Russia has made concerted efforts to increase its military and security presence in the region and has been working with its allies to strengthen the Collective Security Treaty Organization while also strengthening its own engagement with China in the SCO. In December 2014 President Putin signed the Federal law to ratify an earlier agreement of June 2009 for establishing a secret command system for the CSTO’s collective security forces. The CSTO is also establishing a cyber warfare command to protect the alliance from potential cyber attacks. Simultaneously, Russia is also strengthening its own military infrastructure in the CSTO countries to protect them from attacks by NATO.6

In January, President Vladimir Putin formally launched the Eurasian Economic Union, comprising of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan.7 While Russia still possesses substantial hard power, in terms of economic clout, Beijing is widely perceived as having the upper hand due to the impact of Western sanctions and Russia's protracted recession. With China increasingly financing more Russian projects and companies due to Moscow's deteriorating economy, the bilateral relation balance seems to be tilting more towards Beijing.

The strengthening Russia-China relationship, including the increased flow of Russian defence supplies to China, in response to western pressures on Russia has implications for Indian interests. The growing entente between Russia and China is also a factor in Russian overtures to Pakistan, as both countries have been responsive to each other’s interests and sensitivities as a result. Russian policies towards Afghanistan may also undergo evolution not entirely aligned to Indian interest following China’s direct involvement now in the reconciliation process and the centrality of Pakistan, not only in this, but the Chinese ‘One Belt One Road’ project of which the CPEC is a part and which would link Central Asia more closely with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan’s membership of the SCO along with India may encourage Russia to act as a broker between India and Pakistan in the context of geopolitical changes occurring in the region following China’s Eurasian strategy. This requires a profound and frank dialogue with Russia. We have to make sure our longer term interests are not compromised beyond a point because of these developments. Beyond that, to preserve our strategic autonomy and for a better balance in our international ties, we need to conserve our relationship with Russia that has been cemented by mutual confidence over decades.

Indications are that Russia would like to balance its growing dependence on China in the future by developing closer relationships with other Asian countries. Since the most natural partners – Japan and South Korea – are US treaty allies, Russia will have to explore alternatives to reach out to Asia and here India is well-placed to facilitate a dialogue between Putin with other East Asian countries.
Similarly, “the West should begin positioning itself to enter into negotiations with Moscow over a new security arrangement for Europe, including conventional and nuclear force postures that minimizes the risks of new proxy wars on Russia’s periphery and a direct military conflict between NATO and Russia.”8 Here again, India is well positioned to play an active and positive role as we have good relations with multiple players. While we upgraded the strategic partnership with Russia into a special and privileged one, we also entered into special and global partnerships with others, including a formal Declaration of Friendship with the US at a time when the West is attempting to isolate Russia internationally. Indian foreign policy is capable of tackling such challenges and take steps that are necessary to safeguard its core interests.

End Notes:
  1. Dmitri Trenin, The Ukraine Crisis and the Resumption of Great-Power Rivalry, available at
  2. U.S. , Russia: The Case for Bilateral Talks, Geopolitical Diary, available at,
  3. Available at
  4. For more details see F William Engdahl, Russia Gets Very Serious on De-dollarizing, New Eastern
    Outlook, 6 June 2015.
  5. Ibid.
  6. For more details see, and Pavel Baev, The CSTO: Military Dimensions of the Russian Reintegration Effort, available at,
  7. Nyshka Chandran, Central Asia’s Battleground: Who’s winning? Available at
  8. Edward W Walker, A Strategic response to Russia’s Role in the Ukraine Crisis, May 6, 2015, available at,

Published Date: 31st July 2015, Image Source:
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Vivekananda International Foundation)

A Mass Murderer is Neither an Icon Nor a Victim

Sushant Sareen, 
Senior Fellow, VIF

The most troubling aspect of the sinister and manufactured outrage of the usual suspects over the hanging of a mass murderer, Yakub Memon, is how easily this fringe group is able to impose itself on the national narrative and build pressure to short-circuit, stall and sabotage even a transparent, if also torturous, judicial process. This is precisely what happened in the case of Afzal Guru and now in the case of Yakub Memon. The last minute challenges against the death sentence, which if allowed would have tied the legal system in an ad infinitum cycle of ruling followed by challenge followed by mercy petition followed by challenging the rejection of mercy petition and so on and so forth, were only aimed at making a mockery of the judicial system. It goes to the credit of the government and the judiciary that it did not succumb to the falsehoods and disingenuous arguments that these fringe elements forwarded in the defence of a mass murderer responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Indians. But the entire spectacle surrounding the Yakub Memon case raises serious questions – and this was raised by a young Facebook friend – about how a country,which seems jittery about hanging a convicted terrorist, can ever fight terrorism, much less defeat it.

Despite all the deflection, obfuscation, double-speak, twisting of facts and inventing of facts, conjuring up evidence which did not exist, specious logic and blatant lies that was employed in the defence of Yakub Memon, the sheer weight of evidence against him was so overwhelming and his crime so unpardonable, that there was really no way that he could have escaped the gallows.
While it is easy to understand where conscientious objectors to death penalty are coming from and one can agree to disagree with them, what is mind boggling is the logic that was forwarded by those who argued that Memon was being hanged because he was a Muslim or that he was not an integral part of the 1993 bomb blast conspiracy or that he had been offered a deal by the investigating agencies and that’s why he came back, or that the bomb blasts must be seen in the context of the Babri demolition and subsequent riots in Mumbai (as if this was a mitigating factor!) or even that since so many other criminals and murderers have managed to evade the death sentence – the Khalistani terrorist Balwant Singh Rajaona for example – therefore so should Yakub Memon and so on and so forth etc. Almost all these arguments are pure nonsense.

The entire case against Memon’s execution was sought to be based on an article written by the former R&AW official B. Raman who expressed his opinion– note, it was only his opinion – that Memon shouldn’t be hanged. Raman did write that he organised the logistics for bringing Memon into India from Nepal. But since when has organising logistics come to mean that Memon was offered a deal by Indian officials? Raman has very clearly written that not only did he consider Memon guilty but also that Memon was not surrendering and was going back to Karachi when he was apprehended by the Nepalese authorities and handed over to India. And yet, Memon’s defenders keep mouthing the lies that he had surrendered. It is also touching to see how these usual suspects who never let go off any opportunity to undermine and question the credibility of officials of law enforcement and intelligence agencies so readily lap up an opinion of an official of these very agencies simply because it suits them. Strangely, while one Raman’s opinion is accepted as the unalloyed truth, the testimony and opinions of dozens of other officials who were directly involved in the investigation is rejected out of hand because it doesn’t suit their sinister agenda.

Even more strange is how all these people never opened their mouth in the 22 odd years while the trial was underway but as soon as the day of judgement approached, this entire lot of usual suspects who have made it their mission in life to promote and protect all those who damage India, come out of the woodwork and start a clamour in the defence of a Yakub Memon. Where was their activism when the trial was going on? Why did they not speak up then?If they felt so strongly about Memon’s innocence why did they not stand up in court to defend him? No answer is ever forthcoming. It is now being said that Memon was offered a deal and that’s why he came back. Now anyone with even a modicum of knowledge of how the criminal justice system works knows that there is a process and procedure by which someone is made a prosecution witness on the promise of reduced charges. How come if Memon was offered a deal and the prosecution reneged on it his defence lawyers never mentioned this before the judge when the chargesheet was filed against him? Surely, this matter should have been raised then and if there was some breach of trust by the investigators it should have been brought to the notice of the judge. But this was never done. To raise this issue now is a simple dissemble.

Raman also writes that Yakub cooperated after his arrest. Did he have a choice? Be that as it may, the legal challenge to Yakub’s execution had really no leg to stand on. But there was a political argument which was also made in an effort to get him off the gallows, only it was mostly just as specious as the legal argument.

The most pernicious part of the political argument was the attempt to project Yakub Memon as a victim of a ‘cruel’ and ‘biased’ justice system who was being punished because he was a Muslim. As such he was being projected as some sort of Muslim icon, which he clearly was not. Nor for that matter was his case some kind of Muslim cause celebre, though it was sought to be presented as such. In the process his crime was sought to be either glossed over or explained away or even justified by presenting it as a cause (Babri Masjid demolition and the Mumbai riots) and effect (bomb blasts) thing. To equate Yakub Memon with rest of the Indian Muslims is a grave injustice to the entire community because it lumps the community with the perpetrators of a horrible crime as their sympathiser and supporter, which is nothing but a travesty. The simple fact was that Yakub Memon was hanged not because he was a Muslim but because he participated in mass murder. He might have carried out his crime because he felt it was his religious obligation, but the punishment he was meted out was for his crime not his creed. The tragedy however is that, at least on social media, the narrative that was being lapped up by many Indian Muslims was that Memon was being victimised. The purveyors of this poisonous line of thinking of course want this sentiment to grow since communal polarisation is the primary pillar of their political strategy and is getting them traction among sections of Indian Muslims.

The effort to explain away, even justify, the bomb blasts as an action-reaction thing is clearly untenable. Apart from the old cliché that two wrongs don’t make a right, if this action-reaction proposition is accepted then everything can be justified – Gujarat riots because they were a reaction to Godhara train burning, anti-Sikh riots because they were a reaction to Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination because of IPKF operations, its an endless list in which even Babri demolition can be justified as reaction for demolition of Ram temple hundreds of years back because in this logic the cut-off point of history is whatever suits you. The argument that since the main conspirators Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim haven’t been brought to justice, Yakub Memon shouldn’t be punished also doesn’t stand the test of reason. In law the fact that someone else has managed to evade justice doesn’t mitigate the gravity of the crime of the person who hasn’t been able to run away. Even the fact that other murderers and terrorists like Rajaona have managed to evade capital punishment because of political expediency doesn’t justify Memon getting a reprieve. While there is undeniably a miscarriage of justice when an unrepentant terrorist like Rajaona isn’t hanged, it doesn’t mean that the same miscarriage of justice be extended to every such criminal. If anything, Memon’s hanging should become a template for justice being delivered on Rajaona.
It is precisely to prevent this perceived double-standard that the sort of discretion that is bestowed upon the judiciary through the dictum of death penalty in only ‘rarest of rare’ cases must end. If the statute books lay down death penalty for certain crimes, then that should be the sentence for anyone found guilty of the crime. If another mass murder – the Nithari monster – can have his death sentence commuted then there is something clearly wrong with how this penalty is being imposed. Those who point to the apparent inconsistency on part of judges in handing out death penalty do have a case, only it is not a case against capital punishment but in not allowing discretion in pronouncing the death sentence according to the predilections of the judges.

Finally, there is the whole argument that death penalty is no deterrence. This is at best a half truth.Come to think of it, no criminal penalty is a deterrence. If it was then given that there are punishments listed for every crime, no crime would ever be committed. For instance, the existence of rape laws or even sexual harassment laws hasn’t stopped either rape or sexual harassment. Surely then it can be nobody’s argument that rape laws be scrapped. People commit crimes when they think they can get away with it. This is then more a function of the manner in which the criminal justice system operates, taking decades to settle cases which keep meandering endlessly. There is of course no guarantee that if swift justice was to visit the criminals crimes wouldn’t be committed, but it would deter many potential criminals. The argument that some 100 countries have abolished the death penalty and how low crime rates is again a half truth because it doesn’t take into account a whole host of other issues like their stage of development, the delivery and provision of social goods, the levels of education etc. Most civilised societies which have been liberalising their laws but continue to face the challenge of deterring crime need to ask the question as to how barbaric dispensations like the Taliban and IS are able to enforce their laws but modern nation states are faltering and fumbling in enforcing their laws. Are modern societies missing something that people with medieval mindsets have figured out? If capital punishment isn’t a deterrence, how are thesemedieval barbarians able to impose their law while civilised societies fail to do the same?

Published Date: 31st July 2015, Image Source:
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Vivekananda International Foundation)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Indian Navy: Trendsetter in Indigenisation

Pradeep Chauhan

Preceding Prime Minister Modi’s contemporary clarion call of ‘Make-in-India’ by half a century, the indigenisation drive first launched by the Indian Navy in the 1960s has, over time, matured into a success story worthy of both adulation and emulation. Often ploughing a lonely furrow as it seemingly marched to the beat of a different drummer, the Navy alone amongst our three defence services has been a true trendsetter of comprehensive indigenisation. The results are impressive across a range of capabilities —from a staggering 119 combat-platforms themselves to their propulsion-cum-generation systems and the state-of-the-art weapon-sensor suites that have made our ships, submarines and aircraft both feared and revered.

This remarkable feat is really the revival of a far older tradition, for India was well-known for its shipbuilding skills some two-centuries ago. In 1817, Mumbai Docks (today the Naval Dockyard) built the Trincomalee — the oldest British warship afloat, which is currently berthed in Hartlepool, UK — and HMS Minden — on which Francis Scott Key composed America’s national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner” — as also HMS Cornwallis, on which China signed the Treaty of Nanking in 1942, ceding Hong Kong to the British!

The Directorate of Naval Design (DND) has produced as many as 19 different warship-designs — from modest patrol vessels in the 1960s to the formidable destroyers of Projects 15-A and 15-B (the Kolkata Class and the Visakhapatnam Class, respectively), right up to our first indigenous aircraft carrier, the Vikrant, which is currently under construction in Cochin Shipyard. It is a telling fact that even today, neither the Army nor the Air Force has an equivalent design-agency of its own. 2014, which was the DND’s golden jubilee year, saw new ‘Commissioning Pendants’ being flown aboard three different ‘Types’ and ‘Classes’ of the Indian Navy — the Kolkata (the first of a new class of guided-missile destroyers), the Kamorta (the first of a new class of anti-submarine corvettes), and, the Sumitra (the fourth of a new class of Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels). The maturity of indigenised design continues to be strikingly visible, as witness this April’s launch of the stealth-enhanced guided-missile destroyer, the Visakhapatnam — the first of its Class. As things currently stand, Indian shipyards have as many as 41 indigenously designed warships in various stages of construction. These stand testimony to the Indian Navy’s consistent view that indigenisation is a fundamental tenet of its planning and growth. Apart from supporting and encouraging the resurgence of Indian industry, indigenisation also cut costs or dependence levels, both of which translate to significant vulnerability since one has to depend upon imports throughout the life-cycle of the platform and its equipment.

The Navy certainly seems to be acutely aware of the urgent need to incorporate private shipyards into warship-construction and to actively support and, wherever possible, contribute to the modernisation of existing shipyards by adopting modular construction-practices and the preparation of very large pre-fabricated sections. Even with all this, there is a necessity for the country to proactively encourage the creation of ‘green-field’ shipyards, with latest technologies and ship-building techniques/practices.

Between 2005 and 2009, the Navy was in the throes of a process of particularly focussed transformation. In 2006, acutely conscious of the need to stay abreast the gallop of technology and the need to emulate the DND success through matching indigenous capability in terms of shipborne and shore-based equipment, the Indian Navy set-up the ‘Directorate of Indigenisation’ (DOI), in New Delhi, as the nodal directorate for navy-wide indigenisation activities. In so doing, it sent out the unambiguous message that it intends to continue to take advantage of the technological revolution in both, software and production, increasingly establishing itself as a ‘Builder’s Navy’, with attendant spin-offs that would build capacity and enhance capability amongst India’s regional friends and partners. These indigenisation efforts are guided by an ongoing ‘15-year Indigenisation Plan’, covering the period up to 2022, which has been shared with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) so as to ensure wide publicity among industry leaders and greater participation from industry. The Navy has also prepared a ‘Science and Technology Roadmap-2025’, aimed at the development of indigenous technology in respect of naval applications. Indian industry is increasingly entering into a number of new and exciting partnerships with global players on the one hand and the Indian Navy, on the other. Top-end examples would include major systems required for aircraft carrier operations, such as Electro-Magnetic Launch Systems, arrestor-wires and aircraft-lifts.

Contrary to the pervasive pessimism that all too often seems to be the staple diet of some segments of the media, the truth is that the Navy’s relentless drive for indigenisation has already yielded impressive and encouraging results in a number of critical war-fighting areas. A number of illustrative examples exist. The DRDO has frequently received adverse media-attention, but it has many success stories as well — at least insofar as the Navy is concerned — and it would be churlish not to acknowledge this. The range of Electronic Warfare Suites such as the revamped ‘AJANTA’, as also the ‘ELLORA’, ‘KITE’, ‘HOMI’ and ‘PORPOISE’, all of which are fitted on the Navy’s latest frontline surface, airborne and subsurface combatants, and which are designed to detect the presence of enemy combatants without disclosing one’s position or identity, are certainly success stories of which we ought to be proud — and these have all been designed by the Defence Electronics Research Laboratory (DLRL), Hyderabad, and are manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). The same is true of the Navy’s advanced underwater-sensors such as the APSOH, HUMSA NG and USHUS family of sonars. These have been developed by the Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL), Kochi. Likewise, an indigenous state-of-the-art electro-optical Fire Control System (FCS) the ‘EON 51 Mk II’, designed by IRDE, Dehradun, and productionised by BEL, is now a standard fit. Pitching-in directly with its own formidable developmental expertise, the Navy’s WESEE (Weapons and Electronics Systems Establishment), along with the Centre for Development of Telematics, has rendered yeoman service to the overall indigenisation-effort through its series of world-class ‘Combat Management Systems’ (CMS) and data-link systems (LINK-II Mod 3), now being manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). These form the heart of the entire C4/2SR set-up on board most classes of the Navy’s frontline warships. Likewise, the indigenously designed and developed ‘REVATHI’ three-dimensional ‘Central Acquisition Radar’ (CAR), which is installed aboard the Kamorta Class Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) is not only a success story, but is also a good example of the growing ‘Public-Private Partnership’ (PPP) in defence production. The design and production of this radar has been undertaken through a collaborative effort between the Navy, the DRDO and M/s L & T, Mumbai. Similarly, the Indian Navy has partnered GTRE, Bangalore, in ‘marinising’ the ‘KAVERI’ Gas Turbine and will induct at least four units. Deserving of special mention are four indigenously developed system-management suites, viz., the ‘Integrated Machinery Control System (IMCS), the ‘Integrated Bridge Management System’ (IBMS), the ‘Integrated Propulsion Management System’ (IPMS) and the ‘Battle Damage Control System’ (BDCS) that now equip the Shivalik, Kamorta, Kolkata and Visakhapatnam classes of warships, as also the Vikrant. The successful leveraging of Navy-designed IT networks and IT-security platforms stands in sharp contrast to the grave concerns often expressed in respect the country’s remaining critical infrastructure. Even outside of ‘equipment’, there is much to cheer about. The Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL), Hyderabad, in collaboration with M/s Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), and with active participation from the Indian Navy, has successfully undertaken the indigenous development and production of warship-grade ‘DMR249A’ steel plates and bulb structural sections for ship and submarine applications. This represents an enormous step in freeing ourselves from the yoke of pressures and prices associated with the import of steel, as was the norm until very recently. The results are evident in the construction of the Navy’s big-ticket platforms such as the Vikrant and the future submarines being constructed under ‘Project 75-India’. In recognition of the criticality of the PPP-model and guided by the recommendations of the ‘Dr Vijay Kelkar Committee’ that had been set-up to look into the issue of private sector participation in the defence industry, the Navy has taken a number of measures to optimise the potential created by the growing capability of Indian Industry coupled with the shift in Government policy to allow for private partnership in the defence sector. Regular buyer-seller meets and vendor-development programmes are being conducted by nodal organisations within the Navy. The procedures involved in registering as defence vendors are being tweaked to make them both simple and transparent and if the industry is able to adhere to the specifications that are needed and deliver the desired products at competitive prices, there is immense scope for collaboration for mutual benefit.

And yet, although the Indian Navy is an acknowledged pioneer in terms of promoting private participation and private-public partnerships for the induction of equipment, there is much that remains to be done. Where manned and unmanned aircraft are concerned, for instance, the state continues to be grim. While the efforts of HAL can hardly be downplayed, there is a widening gap between the requirement and capability. It is true that the Navy — like its sister services — needs to freeze specifications at a reasonable point in time. It is, however, equally true that the gallop of technology and the telescoping of the point of obsolescence cannot be ignored. What is at stake here is not merely the somewhat esoteric, long-term development of capability, but of real lives that an enemy is actively engaged in attempting to snuff out. Armed combat is brutal, real, and terminal in nature. We cannot afford the luxury of a media-debate when precious lives are at stake. This may sound a trifle dramatic, but it is, nevertheless, a fact that needs to be recognised. As a consequence, there is certainly a need to encourage far greater synergy between the uniformed and civilian segments of the Ministry of Defence and continuously refine the Defence Procurement Procedures.
The current aim of the Navy is to achieve 85% indigenisation through extensive interaction with the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and the Organisation of Small Scale Industries (OSSI) to identify the right sources for our equipment. All this notwithstanding, there is no gainsaying the fact that howsoever impressive the advances that have made, the way ahead is still a long and challenging one. The MSME sector is yet to weigh in with its its much vaunted effervescence and this needs to be the Navy’s next focus-area. But that’s a story for another day.

(The writer is a retired Vice Admiral of the Indian Navy)

Published Date: 28th July 2015, Image Source:
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Vivekananda International Foundation)

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Dinanagar Terror Attack: What it Portends

Sushant Sareen, 
Senior Fellow, VIF

At the time of writing this analysis of the terror attack in Dinanagar town of Punjab, the operation to flush out and finish the terrorists holed up in a police station is still going on. As a result, there is only sketchy information available on the basis of which some sense has to be made of what is happening, why it is happening and what it portends for the future. Until now it is not clear who these terrorists are and where they have come from. Did they infiltrate from the Jammu border side, in which case how did they travel all the way to Dinanagar? Did they infiltrate from the Punjab border side? Are they Pakistani Punjabi jihadis or are they Kashmiri militants or are they Khalistani terrorists? Did these terrorists even infiltrate from across the border or are they part of some terror group cell which has been activated inside India and therefore did not need to cross the border to strike in India? The honest answer is that we don’t know as yet.

Was their aim to target the Amarnath Yatra, as is the speculation in some quarters, and that they lost their way and entered Punjab? This theory sounds a little far-fetched because unless the Pakistanis are now so desperate that they are sending in people without any preparation or training, it is unlikely that people would have crossed the border without having received a detailed briefing on where they have to go and how to reach there. What is more plausible is that the terrorists deliberately launched an attack in Punjab instead of Jammu and Kashmir. This is perhaps the most critical aspect of this attack because this means that the theatre of terrorism is now being sought to be expanded beyond just Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, even in Jammu and Kashmir there have been more attacks by Pakistani-based terrorists in Jammu than in Kashmir where the attacks have generally believed to have been carried out by local terrorists instead of Pakistani terrorists. Therefore, regardless of whether or not there is a Khalistani angle to the attack, there appears to be a sinister design in expanding the area of terrorist attacks.

It is also important to remember that these terrorists were not on a ‘hit-and-run’ mission but on an ‘hit-hold-and-die’ mission. This means that there aim wasn’t to attack a target and then escape but to wantonly kill whoever comes in their way and then target a government building by entering it and holding off the counter offensive for as long as possible before finally dying at the hands of the security forces. Normally, the idea behind such operations is to gain maximum mileage by creating a tehalka. To do this, however, they didn’t need to specifically enter Punjab. If they had done the same operation in any part of Jammu and Kashmir, even in some obscure small town of that state, they would have created the same tehelka. The fact that they entered Punjab was to deliver a message and the discovery of the bombs planted on the railway tracks on the same day as the Dinanagar attack only reaffirms that this is part of a bigger plot and not a case of some terrorists having lost their way.

But why Punjab? The reason is that there is a clear effort by the Pakistanis to resuscitate the Khalistan movement. For months now, the Pakistani intelligence has been actively trying to revive the moribund Khalistani elements in London, Canada and the US – in the last two mentioned places, Khalistanis held protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visits. In the UK, 
Khalistanis have been holding demonstrations and protests and making representations to the British Parliament. These terror group operatives are being put up to this and being funded by the Pakistanis. Worse, the events in Jammu in June when Khalistani sympathisers came out on the streets to protest against the pulling down of some Bhindranwale posters was an intimation of what has been brewing for some time. The security agencies were clearly taken by surprise at the discovery of this reservoir of pro-Khalistan sentiment in Jammu.

After having broken the back of the Khalistani movement in the mid 1990s, it appears that the security agencies – police in particular but also the intelligence agencies – have taken their eye of the ball of Khalistani terrorism. The dictum that ‘eternal vigilance is the price of freedom and stability’ has been forgotten because it was assumed that the Khalistani movement has been decimated and cannot be revived. But during a visit to Pakistan in 2003-04 a very well connected Pakistani newspaper editor informed me that the ISI was constantly making efforts to keep the Khalistani movement alive but were not getting much traction. Perhaps this is why even the Indian security agencies became lax. In the process what they lost sight of was the fact that even though there weren’t many takers for Khalistan, the Pakistanis were continuing to stir the pot and unless a close vigil was kept on potential troublemakers, there was a chance that things could once again go out of control in Punjab. It is in this context that the Dinanagar attack has to be seen as an intimation of a coming storm, which can still be prevented if necessary steps are taken.

The first thing that the state and central government must do is to crackdown on the narcotics trade in Punjab. Not only has an entire generation of Punjab youth been destroyed by the drugs trade but the state itself is acquiring the reputation of becoming a narco-state what with ministers, officials and even relatives of the Chief Minister being accused of involvement in the narcotics trade. Given the close linkage between narcotics trade and terrorism, the eradication of this menace must become a priority for the government. The second thing to do is to end the ambivalence and the soft-peddling of Khalistan sympathisers by the state government. This sort of political pandering to separatists only creates a fertile ground for them. Thirdly, border management and control must be beefed up. The fencing along the border has worked up to a point but new systems need to be put in place to stop the flow of drugs and terrorists into Punjab. For this, officials on the spot must be made accountable for any such activity in their area of responsibility. Fourth, the intelligence network in Punjab must be beefed up so that the plant of terrorism can be nipped in the bud. Alongside, the central intelligence agencies must also not take their eye off Khalistani groups and must have close coordination and intelligence sharing with their colleagues in Punjab. Fifth, the Punjab Police had developed good anti-terror capabilities in the past and these need to be kept in fine fettle. It is creditable that the Punjab government decided to use the Punjab Police and not the Army or NSG to conduct the flushing out operations. This is the Police’s job and other state police forces should be encouraged, nay forced, to develop similar capabilities. The Army should back up the police in such operations but these operations should be carried out by the police.

Finally, a word in appreciation of the sacrifice made by the Punjab Police SP, Baljeet Singh, who upheld the finest traditions of the Punjab Police and of Sikhism by leading his force from the front and making the supreme sacrifice in the service of his country.

Published Date: 27th July 2015, Image Source:
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Vivekananda International Foundation)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Iranian Nuclear Deal : Will it be a Game Changer?

Brig SK Chatterji

The Iranian Nuclear Deal has created a storm in the Gulf. The deal has been arrived at between Iran and the P6 (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China) after negotiating for years. The cascading effects of the deal go much beyond the Gulf to substantially influence geo-political equations between nations thousands of miles away from Ground Zero. It isn’t a question of who was the victor in the negotiations; outright victories too often fade into insignificance; but it’s more a question of: are old and established US relationships in the Gulf region in for realignment? What happens to the power equations across the Persian Gulf? Are Israel and Saudi Arabia the new bedfellows? What are the fallouts on our foreign policy?

Notwithstanding the maze of possibilities that the deal triggers, the foremost requirement is to evaluate the feasibility of the deal being implemented. Are the safeguards, adequate? Apparently, they are as good as they can be.

Iran is allowed to keep 5000 and 1000 Uranium enrichment centrifuges each at Natanz and Fordow’s underground facility, respectively. However, Iran will have no stocks of 20 % enriched Uranium. Iran will maintain upto 300 kg of 3.5 % enriched Uranium. Further, Iran will redesign its reactor at Arak so as not to be able to produce weapons grade Plutonium. The reactor’s spent fuel will be transhipped out and Iran will not go for any more heavy water reactors in the next 15 years. Iran may continue with its research as long as it’s directed only at peaceful use of nuclear energy. That keeps Iran far enough from the bomb to allow the west enough time to contemplate a military response should Iran decide to abjure the compliances it has accepted.

Iran has also agreed to an extensive inspection regime, including that of certain military facilities, and will thus adhere to the Additional Protocol of Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. The Iranian stance of all sanctions being immediately waived has not been accepted and these will be subject to full verifications. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that concluded a separate deal simultaneously, and announced that the compliances will be verified by December, 2015 and only then would the sanctions be lifted.

Though there is enough criticism from the Israelis and Saudis, the 139 page document seems as good as a deal can be. Yes, the success of the deal will be decided by the ability to monitor compliances. Provisions in the deal cater for non-compliance issues being raised at the UNO by anyone of the signatories. Should the UN fail to address the issues in 60 days, the deal falls through; and that takes care of a possible vetos by China and Russia.

The geo political fallouts of the deal are a wide array. Assad, the Syrian President, is surely the man satisfied the most. Iran was already feeling the stress of supporting the regime with its economy headed south. With almost $100 billion in frozen assets now available, surely the Iranians can provide Assad with the funding he requires. Tehran, however, may look beyond Assad and want to play a major role in resolving the Syrian conflict. One of the options is to bring in a transitional government without Assad but including the current regime, substantially.

Iran would also be able to provide greater assistance to Iraq. This is one country where the US and Iranians are already on the same side though they would rather keep the convergence a low key affair. The Houthis in Yemen would also get greater support, and the case for a dialogue to resolve the issues is more on the cards.

The biggest opponents of the deal are Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Saudis detest dilution of their supremacy in the Gulf. The sectarian divide in the middle-east could also witness a spike, resultantly. The deal could bring together Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar into a more proximate circle. The relationship between the first two is already on an upswing. The otherwise unlikely partner they may find is Israel, a country that has been sharply against the deal, all along.

US – Iran relations should progressively become more meaningful. Prior to the Iranian Revolution the countries enjoyed an excellent relationship during the reign of the Mohammed Reza Shah Pallavi, King of Iran. The geo political realities in West Asia and an orthodox leadership in Iran hardly permits a return to the old proximity, however, given conditions where Iran adheres by the compliances stipulated in the deal, the relationship can gradually strengthen. Of course, the US will have to balance the act with the fallouts it could have on its stable partnerships in the region that have been so stable for decades.

The growth of US – Iran relationship could catalyse a pro China - Russia leaning in the Gulf states. The Russians and Chinese will surely have sensed the opportunities and will be only to ready to countervail American power in the region with new alliances over the years ahead. However, both these countries have long nurtured strong ties with Iran which they would not like to throw away, either.

Closer home, Iranians will be able to play a bigger role in Afghanistan. Given the fact that the two countries share land borders, the Iranian role, should the regime at Kabul show signs of weakening, could involve substantial intervention. Afghanistan has a sizeable ethnic stock that traces its roots to Iran, and the latter has a moral responsibility to ensure they are not suppressed by a rampaging Taliban.

As far as India is concerned, the reduction in the oil and gas import bill could well bring down our current account deficit substantially. Iran has the 4th and 2nd largest oil and gas deposits in the world. In the bargain Indian companies in the oil and gas sector will find themselves more comfortable. ONGC Videsh may be able revive the Faizad B gas fields and possibly look at production. However, such a project will require further negotiations with Iran.

India has been exporting Basmati rice, sugar, barley, meat etc., to Iran at prices higher than the global market rates. When the sanctions are removed, Indian business will find the Iranian market more competitive.

Indian options in Afghanistan also increase substantially with an Iranian partnership should the situation in Afghanistan call for intervention with force. The possibility of logistics being located in Iran for deployment of troops in Afghanistan, is an option available. Such a situation would have never been allowed by the US, before the deal. However, now with the conditions very different and Afghan forces gradually losing ground to Taliban, Kabul may require more boots on ground than the US contingent that is being left there.

India will have to navigate carefully to maintain its relations with the gulf countries. Proximity to Iran will not be viewed positively by a lot of the GCC nations. It’s an old hazard that we have been able to successfully manoeuvre through, so far. The Israelis may also be sensitive to our rapport with Iran. They are also our major military equipment suppliers. However, it’s unlikely that minor reverses in the relationship would affect mutual trade and commerce.

The biggest winners in this deal are the Iranian people. They have lived a difficult life with the sanctions pulling the economy down. Their lives have been constrained by the imposition of restraints. With the country opening up to trade and commerce, possibly a more liberal attitude will ultimately prevail in Tehran and Iranians will live a fuller and richer life.

Brig SK Chatterji, Former Deputy Director General, Public Information at the Army HQ

Published Date: 22nd July 2015, Image Source:
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Vivekananda International Foundation)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Maldives; The Political Game Continues - It’s the Vice President Now

Anushree Ghisad, 
Research Intern, VIF

Maldives continues to grapple with ongoing political turmoil. The latest issue which has not let the spotlight shift from the country’s political crisis is the attempted removal of current Vice-President Dr.Mohamed Jameel Ahamed by the ruling alliance. The ruling coalition of Progressive Party of Maldives and Maldives Development Alliance (PPM-MDA) has submitted a ‘no-confidence motion’ against Mohamed Jameel, on grounds of ‘incompetence and disloyalty’. What is surprising in this development is the extension of support to government’s move by prominent opposition parties like Jambhoori Party (JP) and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Mohamed Jameel has described this exercise as ‘constitutional coup in the guise of constitutional reforms’ and called on ‘friends of Maldives to step in as they understand what is happening.’ In his immediate response to this unexpected turn of events, Jameel, without informing the government, has fled to London via Sri Lanka, where he had gone extensively for medical treatment. The mandatory fourteen day notice period sent to Jameel under the constitutional provision ended on 13 July, 2015. Government has also declared its plan to appoint current tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Gafoor as the new Vice President.

What Compels VP’s Removal?

The first indication of Jameel’s impending removal from vice-presidency came from MP Ibrahim Sujaau who said, ‘We do not want a Vice-President to be a monument at the President’s office.’ While no coherent reason for such allegation was given, some PPM MPs clarified that Jameel had failed to publicly defend the government ahead of the opposition’s protest rally on May 1. Others vaguely allege that he had failed to show progress in the health and education sectors. One senior official accused Jameel of trying to build an independent power-base by spending time with independent MPs. None of the above charges have yet been substantiated and even if any one of these were true, should these be enough to move a no-confidence motion against him?

Clearly, President Yameen had Jameel’s removal as a priority and was waiting for an opportune moment. It may be recalled that Jameel had held important portfolios in Maumoon Gayoom’s regime and later co-founded the ‘New Maldives’ which led the opposition against the same regime. He had an open clash with current President in 2006 during the elections for DRP council. Later, he enjoyed a short stint in Nasheed’s government as Minister of Science and Technology, but is now currently with Yameen’s PPM. In this background, President Yameen does not see him as a close confidant and this could be a potential reason for Jameels’s proposed removal on grounds of ‘disloyalty and incompetence’. The questions that beg answer are, why was he not removed earlier and what has triggered the sudden need to rush through with it now? In any case, according to Maldivian Constitution, Vice President has to assist the President in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities [Article112 (a)]. It is only when the office of the President becomes vacant for any reason then the Vice President succeeds to the office of the President [Article 112 (d)]. This implies that VP assumes real powers only in absence of President.

A closer look would suggest that, in view of the above mentioned constitutional provision, President Yameen would prefer to have a trusted ally as his vice president in the event his prolonged absence from duty. Government believes that the current minister for tourism Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Gafoor fits the bill. This argument is strengthened by continuing reports in the media that President Yameen requires urgent medical attention including a possible brain surgery, for which he is set to fly abroad soon after Maldives’ Independence Day on July 26. While these reports have not been confirmed by the government, former president Mohamed Nasheed has been raising concerns over President’s health since October 2014. It is difficult to ascertain the veracity of these reports but if he really were to go abroad, he would not risk bequeathing his powers to an undependable person like Jameel. What is striking here is the clarity and dogged efforts with which PPM is promoting Adeeb as next VP. In MP Ibrahim Sujaau’s words, ‘Our ‘target’ is to make Adeeb the VP before July 26.’

Measures Adopted to Achieve ‘The Target’

Thirty three year old Ahmed Adeeb is the current tourism minister and crony of President Yameen. A major stumbling block in his appointment as VP is the provision under article 112 (c) of the constitution under which the Vice Presidential candidate must be at least thirty five years of age. This would render Adeeb ineligible for the post. On June 25, 2015, this obstacle was sought to be removed through the first Constitutional Amendment. Besides, under article 100 (c) the People’s Majlis may establish a committee to investigate the issue raised in any resolution calling for removal of the President or Vice President. Now, the ruling alliance wants to amend the Majlis standing orders doing away with the requirement of investigation of charges. Accordingly, a parliamentary sub-committee on June 27 approved changes to the People’s Majlis rules of procedure to fast track the removal process. Under the new rules, parliament can vote on a no-confidence motion in the Vice President without an investigation. Both these measures were extensively adopted to achieve the desired ‘target’.

Where do Nasheed & Gasim Figure in the Game?

Article 100 (c) of Constitution says that ‘A resolution to remove the President or Vice President from office [as specified in article (a)] shall only be passed if it receives a two-thirds majority of the total membership of the People’s Majlis’. This boils down to 57 votes of the current 85-member Majlis, where ruling alliance holds 48 seats. This is where Nasheed & Gasim entered the game. Mohamed Nasheed’s MDP and Gasim Ibrahim’s JP hold 22 and 11 seats respectively in Majlis. Their support becomes critical for securing the required two thirds majority to pass the no confidence resolution and to pass the Constitutional Amendment to lower the age criteria for VP to facilitate Adeeb’s candidature.

Big Game – The ‘Secret Deal’

This led to intense political bargaining. Yameen seems to have been accordingly advised to soften his stance on Nasheed and Gasim to persuade them to support his plans. What lends credibility to the theory of a possible ‘secret deal’ with them is the fact that Nasheed, who was sentenced to jail for thirteen years, was shifted to three-day house arrest, further extended to eight weeks. It is worth noting that earlier Yameen had not shown any flexibility towards Nasheed even in the face of mounting international pressure. Following this, MDP announced its support for the Constitutional Amendment and VP’s removal, citing ‘compromise is a very important part in democracy.’ MDP has decided to begin talks with the government, without insisting on Nasheed’s participation. Having done the ‘give’ part of the deal, MDP is demanding withdrawal of charges against opposition politicians and around 400 supporters arrested since Nasheed’s arrest.

As regards Gasim, Government had also issued a US$90.4million fine on Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group and had frozen the accounts of its several subsidiary companies. This stance has been partly reversed and freeze on Gasim’s account was removed in last week of June. These should pave the way for the plans to be implemented.


Considering all the possibilities, Jameel’s removal and Adeeb’s election as new VP doesn’t appear to be a distant one. It can well happen before 26 July as planned by President Yameen. However hard his ‘friends’ find this to digest these manipulative moves of the ruling alliance; technically it would remain within the bounds of constitutionality. In the game of hard politics, the thin line demarcating ethics and opportunism is fast disappearing. But the real concern is whether Maldives was fast descending into some obscure form of authoritarianism?

Published Date: 21st July 2015, Image Source:
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Vivekananda International Foundation)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Modernisation of India’s Internal Security Mechanism

PM Heblikar

India’s internal security mechanism, since Independence, has functioned in a silo system largely confined to the home ministry. It is obvious that this arrangement has outlived its utility and needs a massive make-over. Time has also become appropriate to make political administration of the internal security mechanism effective and result oriented. One way to achieving this objective is to create a set of principles that will ultimately constitute a national security doctrine or policy.

This policy should not be seen in a narrow military sense but expanded to include other organs of the government that also deal with the mechanics of national security. The connotation of national security must change making it incumbent of each citizen to consider it as his national duty. Contemporary developments underline the need to include central government departments and ministries, state owned enterprises, think-tanks and academic institutions, state governments and the private sector as stakeholders in the overall national security architecture.

A road map is contained in the report of the Kargil Review Committee (KRC), which devoted particular attention to India’s internal security challenges and responses. The KRC is the only comprehensive study undertaken on national security at the highest political levels in the country. Chapter-IV entitled “Internal Security” in the report of Group of Ministers Report on National Security is very relevant in present day context. The report of the Naresh Chandra Task Force which was constituted in 2011 on the reform of the intelligence apparatus adds new dimensions to the subject.

Management of internal security in today’s environment is primarily recognised as being a police function. The police are usually the first responder to civil developments. The central government maintains a large body of central armed police forces and several police organizations for this purpose to provide the safety net and provide assistance at all times. In addition the central government incurs massive expenditure on several police modernisation schemes and also provides special assistance to state governments.

Despite this, threats to national security have remained undiminished and new ones are emerging at regular intervals. There is no doubt that the security forces and agencies have developed appreciable degree of proficiency and success in dealing with internal security threats over the past several decades. However, no systematic efforts have been made to exploit these success stories to remove the root cause of the problems or issues that cast shadow on internal security. One of the fundamental reasons for this situation is attributed to the absence of strong political leadership to tackle reasons of instability. This factor also is responsible for absence of a road map or a strategy. It would appear that while dealing with internal threats, ruling parties have often times relegated national interests in favour of their narrow political agenda.

The police modernization program funded by the union government since the late 1960s till date has rendered yeoman service to the cause of national security and safety. Central assistance to the state governments has also kept pace despite existing limitations. These limitations are perhaps arising out of Constitutional provisions governing various aspects of centre-state relations on law and order related issues. The other factor is also attributed to the “coalition dharma” that prevailed at the centre for well over 30 years till May 2014, when the government of Prime Minister Modi took office. Failure to establish the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) is a prime example of this dilemma. There are other instances, as well. Evidently, there is now a pressing need to energise bi-partisan approach to such issues.

The time is opportune for the incumbent government to come up with new initiatives to make the modernization program more purposeful. It will be seen that the BJP led central government is yet to publicly announce contours of a national policy on pressing security related issues despite being in office for over fifteen months. It must address staffing arrangements so as to make the home ministry more broad-based and proactive in meeting its several responsibilities. Training of civil servants in national security is an important aspect. The need to induct laterally into its ranks best brains from other ministries, departments and “open” market such as Information Technology, Information and Communication Technology, Cyber experts to deal with state and non-state actors must be emphasized. Dependence on traditional staffing patterns must be done away as soon as possible. Several police officers and especially those from the central armed police forces opine that the officer-cadres must be strengthened with “even” more senior posts made available to them in both command and staff positions.

Adoption of best technology platforms by central armed police forces in prosecution of their duties is important. There is a very large reservoir of trained technical manpower available in the country. Among these are qualified young men and women pilots who are awaiting flying opportunities. The slump in aviation sector has created avenues for them to become eligible to join the air wing of the Border Security Force (BSF) both for flying and other ground duties. The sister forces of the BSF who may be considering their own air wing could benefit from open market recruitment.

Modernization must become a precursor to making our forces lean and mean and to bring in technology to act as a force multiplier. The recent advice of Shri Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor to the BSF on harnessing technology in its operational work is timely and worthy of quick implementation. A stage has arrived for our security forces to consider the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) for surveillance roles. There are several applications for this platform especially for BSF, ITPB, SSB, CRPF, CISF and NDRF units. Ideally, each unit should be equipped with UAVs to act as “eyes and ears” in border guard duties, counter-insurgency operations, rescue and relief operations, crowd control and surveillance duties. This technology is available locally and can meet the requirements of our central forces leading to creation of force-multipliers and also give fillip to the fledgling local UAV industry. The experience of central forces in use of UAV technology can be shared with state governments. Technical personnel are available in the open market and if need be the services of short service commissioned officers of army, navy and air-force could be utilised to set-up the infrastructure including training, specialisation, analysis, repair and maintenance. Attractive pay and promotion packages for those joining the UAV stream or general pilot duties must be ensured. The induction of UAVs into central armed police forces must become an urgent item in modernisation programme of the central government and in doing so receive benefits from its “Make in India” policy. A definite timeline for this induction should be made with adequate financial commitments under various modernizations schemes.

Strengthening of the “special units” of the central armed police forces must receive more attention of the home ministry. This involves a cross-synergy between the home ministry and the defence ministry. It has been discussed in public domain for considerable period of time with very little results. The need to augment capacity to deal with asymmetrical warfare cannot be over-emphasised and in this direction sharing of expertise and experience becomes inevitable. Lateral induction of short service officers, with special-forces background, into CRPF units deployed in counter-insurgency grid must be considered. The advantages are many and will add more teeth to those units involved in anti-insurgency operations.

Police modernization programme must focus on upgrading training both at central and state level. Shri NN Vohra, Governor, Jammu and Kashmir, in his address on “Management of National Security” at the United Services Institution, Delhi in August 2014 shared his concerns on the subject. The key point he made was that the arrangements in the states left much to be desired and considerable efforts were needed to close the gap in quality and response. Several former IPS officers have dwelt exclusively on this subject. Shri. V. Balachandran, former Special Secretary, Government of India has written several articles related to the Mumbai incident of November 2011. A colleague of his, Mr Prakash Singh has taken the legal route to bring in police reforms.

Two major subjects namely Intelligence and Training form the crux of modernization programmes. Experience indicates that technical intelligence has become the favoured tool in counter-insurgency operations. The failure to give Human Intelligence or HUMINT its primacy in the intelligence gathering process must be urgently addressed. There are several agencies in India depending on Technical Intelligence or TECHINT to fulfil their tasks. Techint has severe limitations and must be used with care and caution. There is no substitute for Humint and practitioners of intelligence acquisition activities must “go back to roots”. While the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) are foremost practitioners of Humint, they have developed high degree of skills in this format. Techint too forms part of their activities. The NTRO has its role cut out in this direction.

It would be ideal to create a National Academy of Intelligence as a platform to train state and central agencies in intelligence statecraft and also to look at impending threats and challenges to national security. Both the R&AW and the IB may provide the platform for civil and military agencies to partake of their rich experience.

Under the modernization programs, states may be encouraged to establish their own format of Centre for Counter-Terrorism (CTC) to combat terrorism which includes 24x7 automated surveillance mechanism, quick response and post incident analysis etc. These centres should possess the ability to detect, deter and destroy actions of “non-state” entities or “asymmetrical warfare”. The CTC would need to be separate from the state intelligence department, criminal investigation department or the special branch. The coastal security arrangements must engage the attention of the home ministry. A former senior navy officer remarked that much more requires to be done to empower state governments in this direction. He recommends that each state government creates a separate organization within the police department to handle all aspects of coastal security (b) create a cadre of dedicated personnel drawn from former navy servicemen and directly recruited police constables (c) create an inventory of boats and other hardware including repair and maintenance facility and (d) induct advanced technology like UAV and specific coastal surveillance program. According to another Navy veteran, the east coast of India, especially West Bengal and Orissa, needs to tighten its vigil since several vulnerabilities are yet to be addressed.

There is reluctance in the government to allow private sector participation in not only in security related issues but also training matters. The private sector enterprises have developed attractive packages in several interest areas such as counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism, security of vulnerable areas and vulnerable points, communications and safe communications technology and personnel security. With massive requirements to meet Homeland security demands, the relevant authorities must increase the area of private participation in related activities. The corporate sector too requires the assistance of private agencies to protect their assets. The home ministry must strive to create conditions for such participation.

Police modernization must address the quality and effectiveness of the Civil Defence and Home Guards Organisation. Both are important elements in the national security scenario. The Home Guards Organization plays a variety of roles, both in war and peace. The terms and condition and remunerations must be made financially attractive for people to join and render service. The possibility of the corporate sector joining hands to give the Home Guards Organization must be considered especially for watch and ward duties. There is a proliferation of private security agencies and private detective agencies nation-wide, there is however very little supervision and audit of their activities. A bulk of these fall short of set or expected standards. This is an issue for urgent redressal.
Police modernization must become an integral part of national security policy and therefore a strategic tool in its implementation. The political dimension of police modernization must be to ensure that while the police force gets the best possible attention, there must be equal attention to others in the field especially private sector participation in its activities. The most important aspect here is to bring the state governments at the highest political level to the national security debate and management of internal security. Without this understanding between state and central government, the national security infrastructure will remain weak and ineffective. India certainly cannot afford this stalemate.

PM Heblikar is Managing Trustee, Institute of Contemporary Studies Bangalore (ICSB) and former Special Secretary, in the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Putting an end to Pedestrian approach to Landslide Disaster Mitigation in India

R. K. Bhandari

The Indian calendar of Landslide disasters is literally dotted with catastrophic events, most of which, by hindsight, look self imposed and probably avoidable. If landslides could plead their cases in the courts of law, a great majority of them will come out unscathed, after convincingly proving that the boot is on the other leg. It is we who have flouted the basic rules of slope safety by one hand, while turning over the pages of the landslide calendar, by the other hand, without remorse. The increasing frequency and the fatal consequences of landslides are the proof enough that our approach to landslide disaster mitigation in India has thusfar been lackadaisical. While we are justly proud of our Armed Forces, National Disaster Response Force, Indo-Tibetan Police, Border Roads Organization and others for their heroic deeds of rescue, saving lives at the expense of their own, it's the sad ground reality that our preventive and mitigatory actions are no match to the scale and complexity of landslide problems we face, and time has come when we should either vow to pull the plug on the prevailing pedestrian and whishy-washy approach to landslide disaster mitigation in India , or further slide down to the tipping point.

Whenever major landslides strike different parts of India inflicting untold misery, we often ritualistically shed crocodile-tears to console the kith and kin of those killed or injured with tons of sympathies, and compensate lives lost with some promises and money. Experts and managers-in-charge hurriedly summon meetings, seminars and conferences which often end up with research papers, investigation reports and recommendations. By now, we have scores of reports and piles of recommendations, but, alas, the very same exercise is bound to repeat when the next major landslide hits us. Between the two landslide disasters, our effort has never been forceful enough to take the bull by the horns and permanently fix at least such of those landslides which stare us in the face, 24 x7!
The Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) took suo moto cognizance of the above ground reality bearing in mind the fact that India is on the fast track of development, and disasters due to landslides can no longer be allowed to frustrate progress. Currently, our approach remains pedestrian because the associated engineering practices are unremarkable, the existing institutional mechanisms appear dysfunctional, the culture of safety is on the decline, and worst of all, the frequency, intensity, damage potential and the devastating impact of landslides are on the increase, accentuated by extreme weather events, unregulated urbanization and non-engineered construction.

Recognizing the severe limitations of the conventional approach, INAE built the roundtable meeting of landslide experts on 11 May 2015 in New Delhi, on the foundation of a series of nationwide pre-roundtable consultations aimed at answering vital questions, otherwise languishing on the back-burner. The roundtable concluded that a proactive strategic and determined approach, powered by a strong political and administrative will, can put us back on the track to safety because, unlike earthquakes and tsunamis, most landslides are predictable, preventable, and controllable, if managed with appropriate interventions of Science & Technology.

Of the various recommendations made at the roundtable, the most significant is the one seeking the establishment of an autonomous and empowered National Centre for Landslide Management for focused, coordinated and holistic attention to landslide management. Currently, many institutions in India are engaged in pursuing diverse aspects of the subject, but there is no visible excitement, binding force, coordinated effort, and accountability to the nation. Under the National Disaster Management Act of 2005, we created National Institute of Disaster Management. It, inter alia, runs training programmes on landslide management, way below the state-of-the-art level. It being the disaster mitigation face of India, now is the time for a SWOT analysis to know how much it has delivered, what difference it has made on the ground, and how it could be strengthened to measure upto its responsibilities? Geological Survey of India is the national nodal agency on landslides for over a decade, but that does not diminish the need for an autonomous center because the existing institutional mechanisms have fallen short of delivering, all these years, and their mere cosmetic reorganization or strengthening will not suffice. The proposed Centre should play the role as an apex national institution for landslide management, and be accountable to the nation.

There are large parts of our country in which hazards due to landslides co-exist with other hazards, like floods and earthquakes. In these multi-hazard areas, the landslide risk reduction plans will necessarily have to be subordinate to the multi-hazard risk reduction plans. Currently no such plans and strategy exists. If they do, they are insensitive to the multi-hazard reality. It is in this background that the roundtable has laid emphasis on preparation of short- (0-3 years), medium- (3-10 years) and long-term (10-20 years) landslide management plans at the national, state and district levels in the multi-hazard context, through multi-disciplinary teams, within one year. Besides frontally addressing the present and the emerging challenges, providing strategies for coordinated action, and promoting sound engineering practices, the roundtable saw the need for a standing order to ensure regular updating, reaffirmation and re-notification of the various plans, in keeping with their dynamic nature.
One wonders why India, with such a rich pool of human resource, has resigned to the option of living with landslides, relying for so long on palliative and quick-fix approaches to landslide remediation. Paucity of funds, absence of delivery capacity, and urgency to deal with immediate landslide danger are generally being cited as the reasons. The capital intensive nature of permanent measures and unaffordability are the arguments often advanced to justify inaction. However, the truth is that the benefits of permanently fixing landslides far overweigh capital investments. It is with this thinking that a time-bound national programme for controlling all major landslides has been recommended with onetime funding by the Central Government. There is the need to ensure that the solution finally picked for adoption out of a plethora of technological possibilities, must necessarily pass through the process of comparative evaluation of all options, with the eco-friendly bias.

No matter what we do, the success will continue to elude us if we do not fortify landslide management by introducing innovative techno-legal and techno-financial practices. For all ongoing and new development projects involving landslide risk management, the project construction and the corrective action for countering the construction-related, visible or anticipated slope failures and environmental damage before, during or after the construction stage, ought to be considered in design as its inseparable parts. This could be achieved by discontinuing the conventional practice of reflecting the costs of corrective actions as separate budget items, and by creating innovative techno-legal and techno-financial enabling environment. Adequate budget for the above purpose, including the maintenance costs, must be sanctioned as a package and all major landslide projects should pass through a mandatory peer-review by independent panels of experts.

The INAE roundtable, inter alia, unmasked the contentious link between the poor quality of detailed project reports (DPRs) and the contractual disputes, and cost and time over-runs. Ensuring eco-friendly and techno-economically sound DPR’s was therefore considered critical to efficient project implementation. The need for accreditation of consultancy firms, capacity building of technical agencies within the Government, strengthening of the institutional arrangements for vetting and approvals of DPRs, a Third Party Inspection and audit, Disaster Impact Assessment of all major projects, and permitting mid-course modification of ongoing sanctioned works (to account for the new information exposed during investigation) was underscored.

There is a widespread disappointment in the country on the quality of landslide investigation. What the credibility of pathology report means to a patient, so does the quality of the investigation report means to the landslide management. Often times, there is a visible disconnect between the actually implemented control measures in the field and the landslide investigation report. The reasons for this are many. Landslide investigation in difficult terrains and inclement weather need higher expertise, more time to plan and out-of-the-ordinary implementation capacity which we seldom possess. Even in cases where adequate time is available, there are not many institutions and trained teams in our country with multi-disciplinary expertise to scientifically formulate an investigation plan, carry out credible investigation, and deliver peer-reviewed recommendations for time bound implementation. Then there are real-life situations in which Geotechnical investigations cannot be planned and frozen in time and space because of site complexities and ensuing uncertainties. A thorough Geotechnical investigation should therefore be a mandatory prerequisite to the planning and design of landslide control measures.

The other recommendations of the roundtable call for initiatives- to establish strong communication between senior professionals, development planners and decision makers for building teams and teamwork; create pace-setting best practices of community-centric early warning systems and accord the highest priority to R&D on topics such as earthquake-induced landslides, role of extreme weather events in landslide studies, approaches to landslide risk and damage assessment, development of innovative technologies for effective utilisation of landslide debris and other wastes, and unfolding of fundamental mechanisms of the most problematic Indian landslides.

A very strong case has been made for credible and comprehensive documentation of landslides and landslide disasters. The emphasis stems from the fact that the universe of landslides is fascinating because every inch of landslide exposed, deepens our questions and taxes our imagination. What a landslide reveals at its surface, if not explored deeper, may sometimes make us conclude at the expense of what is hidden, not-known, unseen or not-understood. Our ensuing research papers and study reports naturally reflect more of our own perceptions built on the pile of observations and past experience known for subconscious loyalty to the widely accepted trends and theories. In many cases, vital field evidences get erased even before landslide investigations begin and facts get lost until they resurface in some other landslide at some other time and location. Many landslide case-records published after due process of scholarly studies and debate go seldom challenged because the publications appear scholarly at their face value. The need to write credible monographs is therefore critical.

“We cannot solve the problems we have created with the same thinking which created them”, said Albert Einstein. And according to Seneca, “If a man does not know to what port he is steering, no wind is favourable to him.” Clearly we need a sense of direction, clarity of ideas and the excitement of building Team India. In Bob Proctor’s words: “If you see it in your mind, you’re going to hold it in your hands!”

(The writer is Chairman, Forum on Engineering Interventions for Disaster Mitigation, Indian National Academy of Engineering, New Delhi)

Published Date: 16th July 2015, Image Source:
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Vivekananda International Foundation)