5 March 2013

Why Cameron Didn’t Apologize to India

March 05, 2013
By Sumit Ganguly and Jennifer Lind

Many criticized British Prime Minister David Cameron for not apologizing for the Jallianwala massacre. Sumit Ganguly and Jennifer Lind on why they’re wrong.

When David Cameron visited the city of Amritsar last month and paid homage at a shrine commemorating the victims of a 1919 British military massacre, the world spent more time discussing what the British prime minister didn’t do rather than what he did. Coverage of Cameron’s visit buzzed about the fact that he had not apologized, and commentators debated whether or not he should have. 

But relative to official apologies, Cameron’s effort to acknowledge and learn from the past offers a better model for countries struggling to move their relations forward.

The Jallianwala massacre, in which British soldiers opened fire on 10,000 Indians engaging in a peaceful protest, was easily one of the most reprehensible moments of British colonial rule in India. Even the hard-headed imperialist, Winston Churchill, declared it “shameful” and a “monstrous” event. In its wake, the great Indian poet and writer and subsequent winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, Rabindranath Tagore, renounced the knighthood that he had received from Britain. 

At his visit to the monument, Cameron, echoing his Tory predecessor, wrote in the guest book that the massacre was “deeply shameful.” He went on to add that, “We must not forget what happened here. And in remembering we must ensure that the United Kingdom stands up for the right of peaceful protest around the world.” 

India's Northeast: The Threat of Islamist Militancy

Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman
Research Scholar, JNU E-mail: mirzalibra10@gmail.com

The demonstration by Muslim advocacy groups, which resulted in violent clashes in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan on 11 August 2012, leaving 2 dead and over 65 injured, was held to protest against the killings of Muslims in Kokrajhar (the inter-community clashes between Muslims and the Bodo community) and in the Arakan state of Myanmar (the inter-community clashes between the Rohingya Muslims and the Rakhine community). The linkage of these two separate inter-community clashes to a single protest march in Mumbai may be symbolic, but the threat of the rise of Islamist militancy in parts of Northeast India, and the larger international neighbourhood encompassing Myanmar and Bangladesh, has to be seen in context.

It has been well documented that Islamist militant groups and networks have had links with insurgent groups in many states of Northeast India, especially in Manipur, Assam and Nagaland; and this had been oscillating between tactical support in arms dealing, narcotics, illegal and fake currency networks, and anti-government sabotage activities over the past few decades. This trend, however, does not indicate by itself the threat of Islamist militancy. While many commentators have described the threat of the rise of Islamist militancy in Northeast India as unfounded and being alarmist, the ground conditions in the larger region cannot be ignored.

The People’s United Liberation Front (PULF) has been operating in parts of Manipur, Assam and Nagaland for the past two decades, and has been splintered, as has been the trend with many other insurgent organisations in Northeast India. Though split into many smaller factions over time, it is one of the major Islamist militant organisations currently active in the region. Apart from this, the role and support of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Bangladesh’s Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) to many insurgent organisations and networks in Northeast India, has unabatedly continued. There is a sort of an ideological vacuum in many of the ‘home-grown’ insurgent organisations in Northeast India. They have suffered huge losses in tactical and public legitimacy accounts in the past decade or so and are not in a position to prevent the growth of Islamist militancy in Northeast India, as to guard their own turf.

The entry points for Islamist militancy in Northeast India are not hard to comprehend. The presence of a large ‘illegal’ Muslim immigrant community in Assam, which has been a source of perennial political activism, and was one of the motivations behind the formation of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), became fertile ground for an entry point to the Islamist militant groups. The political uncertainty that has engulfed this migrant community over more than four decades now, has made them vulnerable to such militant influence, as a way to survive the political threat. Further enhancing the political aspect of an ever-looming ‘threat to their survival’ versus their responses to ‘surviving the threat’ over the past decades; the instance of large-scale riots and inter-community clashes in the past, such as the Nellie riots and the recent instances in Udalguri in 2008 and Kokrajhar in 2012, have made the case for militant responses an usable instrument in the evolving politics of the region.

How Democracy Kills in Indonesia and Pakistan

By Pankaj Mishra Mar 3, 2013

Pankaj Mishra is the author of "Temptations of the West: How to be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet and Beyond," ... MORE

The recent slaughter of Shiites in Pakistan is another grisly reminder of the perilous condition of its minorities. Indeed, in Pakistan and Indonesia, the two largest Muslim countries, both of which are in the midst of a fraught experiment with electoral democracy after decades of military rule, murderous assaults on Shiites, Christians and Ahmadis by majoritarian Sunni fanatics have become routine. 

As a report last week by Human Right Watch claimed, the Indonesian government has shown a “deadly indifference to the growing plight of Indonesia’s religious minorities.” Political leaders in Pakistan, too, are guilty of the same. 

Successful mass mobilizations against autocratic rule in Indonesia and Pakistan, followed by free elections, raised hopes of a new civil society. So why have both countries witnessed the opposite phenomenon -- the rise of uncivil society? 

The exponential rise in violence and bigotry is often blamed on the deep -- and very nasty -- state within the two countries: army and intelligence officials who helped set up extremist groups and now use them to wield power. 

Islam is also held culpable, even though its conservative varieties, denoted superficially by the proliferation of veils and long beards, have long been apparent in both countries, partly as the result of urbanization and the loss of traditionalist Sufi-inflected faiths favored by a majority in the multicultural pasts of both Indonesia and Pakistan
Radical Politics

However, the obsession with the deep state’s incurable malignity or Islam’s menacing sociopolitical manifestations, which actually range from Wahhabi blowhards to relatively sagacious televangelists, obscures how elected politicians, in the absence of substantive democracy, cynically deploy radical groups to practice power politics. 

Triumph and tragedy at Tashkent

Mar 04 2013 

With the signing of a peace agreement between India and Pakistan came the news of Lal Bahadur Shastri's passing 

ON THE morning of January 10, there was a sea change in the atmosphere of Tashkent. The bickering, the blame game and intensely motivated accusations about the "impending collapse of the talks" had suddenly vanished. Instead, everyone seemed cheerful. For, word had spread fast that in the wee hours of the morning, the tireless Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin had brought about an agreement between Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri of India and President Ayub Khan of Pakistan. It was to be called the "Tashkent Declaration", and signed in the afternoon by Shastri and Ayub, with Kosygin witnessing it. The text of the declaration was released only after it was signed, but there was striking unanimity among Indians, Pakistanis and Soviets that it was a "triumph of statesmanship". 

At precisely 4 pm, the accord was signed, and a long, lavish and exuberant reception by the Soviet hosts followed. Shastri left early. Those who shook hands with him and saw him off testified later that his hold was firm, and he seemed calm and carefree. My colleagues and I had left much earlier to report and analyse the welcome accord. On careful reading, however, it seemed an arrangement only for the disengagement of troops that were too close for comfort and for the return of occupied territories. Major issues had been slurred over. This became even clearer when reactions started coming in from Delhi and Rawalpindi. The public in both countries was unhappy. 

In India, the harshest criticism not only by the political class, but also by members of the PM's family, was focused on his decision to "give away" Haji Pir, which he had vowed never to do. Little did his critics know that Kosygin had explained to him the dire consequences of defying the UN Security Council's resolution insisting that the armed personnel of both countries "return to the positions they had occupied before August 5", when Pakistan's infiltrations into Kashmir were first detected. 

For his part, Ayub had wanted to hold on to the Chhamb area in Kashmir his troops had captured. Kosygin explained the facts of life to him, too. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, anxious to sabotage an agreement somehow, suddenly demanded that the entire paragraph committing the two countries to "discourage hostile propaganda against each other" be deleted. Kosygin turned on him and asked: "How do two countries that agree to make peace and maintain good-neighbourly relations also proclaim that they would carry on hostile propaganda against each other?" 

Ayub's difficulty with his countrymen was not Chhamb, however, but the glaring fact that their "core issue", Kashmir, had been "dismissed" in the declaration with the bland statement that "Jammu and Kashmir was discussed and each of the two sides set forth its respective position". 

Ahead of 2014 pullout, India, China plan Afghan dialogue

New Delhi
Mar 04 2013

India and China have agreed to start a dialogue on Afghanistan, lending an interesting twist to hedging among regional powers ahead of the planned withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014. 

An in-principle agreement on official-level dialogue has been reached, sources said, and dates for the first meeting are being worked out. Already, the two countries have dialogue on Central Asia, West Asia and Africa. 

Earlier this week, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon travelled to Moscow for the first three-way dialogue between India, Russia and China on Afghanistan in an effort to build on common security concerns. 

What is notable about the planned bilateral conversation is that it grew out of a Chinese proposal for a dialogue on South Asia, much on the lines of what the two had initiated on other regions. 

However, India was not too keen on opening up conversation about its own neighbourhood with China, a key security factor in many of the South Asian countries, apart from the fact that New Delhi felt that there was not much in common to discuss in the region. Delhi was also apprehensive about, say, the Tibetan question coming up. India therefore made a counter proposal to hold a dialogue on Afghanistan. 

As of now, India has an institutionalised dialogue on Afghanistan only with the US. 

While Pakistan is not officially part of the dialogue with China, it's likely to be discussed. India expects that China, just like any growing regional power, will seek to re-define its role in Afghanistan after the US and its allies reduce their military presence. Already, China has invested in the mining sector and, through Pakistan, aims to corner infrastructure projects. 

From a security standpoint, China is focused on its western borders to quell any problems from Islamic fundamentalist groups in Xinjiang. To that extent, engagement with Afghanistan is a logical extension of its Pakistan policy. 

Holding back on soft power

Mar 04 2013

While India's development assistance has increased markedly since 2000, it remains moderate in relation to the country's size and growing stature 

The newly released budget has not only protected but has actually increased India's foreign assistance, or development partnerships as the government prefers to call it. It has done so despite fiscal pressures to decrease spending, as well as pre-election year pressures to increase funding only for programmes that will gain votes. 

Given India's growing global stature and its international strategic interests, India needs to ensure that its development assistance is harnessed to its full potential. Protecting the ministry of external affairs' budget, and that of development assistance in particular, will help to further cement several changes India has undertaken over the past decade to strengthen its relationships with other developing countries. 

India is not an "emerging donor", having started development assistance to neighbouring Bhutan only a couple of years after Independence, at a time when India was itself struggling to deal with its massive poverty and other social issues, as well as the horrors of Partition. With the addition of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme in the 1960s, India's development assistance focused on training and capacity building in partner countries and was able to leverage an entire generation of Indian-trained civil servants from numerous countries into friendly bilateral relations, as well as support for India's views in multilateral fora. For example, nearly 700 Ethiopians, largely civil servants (but including the current prime minister), have received training to date under the ITEC programme. The Ethiopian government has repeatedly stated that India is among its preferred partners and it supports India's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council. 

While India's development assistance has increased markedly since 2000, it remains moderate in relation to the country's size and growing stature. Between 2003-04 and the new 2013-14 budget, India's development assistance increased fourfold, from Rs 1,749 crore to Rs 7,019 crore annually. Much of this increase in development funding went to Afghanistan where India, with a total commitment of around Rs 11,000 crore, is the fifth-largest bilateral donor. India has also provided increased assistance to other neighbouring countries, such as Bhutan and Myanmar, and has given some grants to several African countries. Over the past two years, development assistance as a percentage of total government expenditures has grown from 0.27 per cent to 0.42 per cent. Yet, this soft power tool of foreign policy is still below half a per cent of the budget, and is dwarfed when compared to spending on hard power, as defence accounts for over 12 per cent of the estimated government spending in this year. 

Black hole of the state

Mar 04 2013

Unless there are signs that we are reinventing the state, all promises will prove illusory 

Beyond the jugglery of numbers, there is one unambiguous message we should take away this season: India's future depends on the state of its state. And the evidence provided by the Union budget, particularly the economic survey, on the state is truly dispiriting. The state is now the black hole of reforms, swallowing everything thrown at it. 

The core of India's economic challenge is managing inflationary expectations. Everything from the savings rate to investor confidence depends on giving some signal about what kind of world to expect in terms of inflation. Fiscal tightening might signal a resolve to manage those expectations. But the state has done nothing to lessen the uncertainties over inflation. If anything, the budget suggests even more inflationary pressures. The government lost credibility because for three years it was being mendacious about inflation diagnostics. Was it labour cost push? Was it energy prices? Was it government expenditure growth not being linked to productivity increases? Without a diagnostic that is clearly addressed in the budget, there is no credible roadmap to managing inflation, and this will create choppy seas. 

The second black hole of the state is regulatory certainty. The biggest regression over UPA 2 was that it continued to multiply regulators, while at the same time moving away from principled regulation. It got into trouble in sector after sector because it could not stick to regulatory frameworks with credibility; even in PPPs, it was amenable to arbitrary discretion. This also created openings where other institutions like courts could compound uncertainties. So here is a non-rhetorical question. Do we have any reason to have more confidence that the regulatory capacity of the state is going to improve? The answer is probably, no. 

Border Tales

Mar 02 2013

The 1971 War brought millions from Bangladesh to Kolkata, Premankur Biswas catches up with a few who stayed on and a few who chose to leave. 

Plates, heaped with rice, change hands with alacrity at the Radhuni restaurant. Waiters bustle from one table to another, carrying bowls of Bangladeshi delights, while patrons dig into their portions with gusto. This is a well-oiled machinery. Nirpendra Chandra Bhaumik, stoic and brusque, installed in a chair behind a dingy counter, presides over all. Looking at him dispatch bills, without looking up from his counter, it is easy to assume that this man is all about memorised price lists and exact change. But then something happens. An unassuming lady in a salwar kurta, who was having her meal with her family just a few tables away, approaches him with folded hands. "Bhaumik da, thanks to your good wishes, my son is hale and hearty now. I can take him back to Dhaka", she says. For the first time in our meeting he, smiles. "They come from Dhaka every two months for the treatment of their seven-year-old son who is suffering from leukemia. Life can be so cruel at times," he says, after bidding goodbye to the family. 

Bhaumik is no stranger to life's cruelties. He deals with his ghosts every day. "It has been 32 years and I still cannot forget the sight of dead bodies on the streets of my hometown, Mymensingh," he says. He was only 16 when the nine-month liberation war of Bangladesh started on March 27, 1971. The war which pitted East Pakistan and India against West Pakistan resulted in the secession of East Pakistan, which became the independent nation of Bangladesh. 

It was a war which snatched 19 of Bhaumik's classmates. "It was April, my friends wanted to be freedom fighters. They decided to cross the border and be trained in camps in India, but they were gunned down by the Pakistani army. They were mere boys," says Bhaumik. It was then that his parents decided to leave the country. "I know it may sound like a cliché, but we were zamindars back home. You will say everyone who migrated to India from Bangladesh claims to be zamindars. I can't argue with that, all I will say is that it was really painful to leave all we had and set out for an unknown destination," says Bhaumik. 

When water flows like money

March 5, 2013
P. Sainath

The HinduAdvance Booking in Osmanabad: The water won't run here for another few hours, but the women have started placing their pots in line for it. The women themselves are collecting water from other sources too, and will arrive when the water does. Photo: P. Sainath 

The HinduOn water duty, the cycle awaits its owner, who is on "full-time water duty" for his family. He will add a couple of pots more and journey two to three kilometres for water at least thrice that day. Photo: P. Sainath 
The HinduAlmost every vehicle you see on Osmanabad's roads is ferrying water somewhere. Photo: P. Sainath 
The HinduWomen in Takwiki explaining their recycling routine: "first we use the water to bathe. What's left we use to wash the clothes. What remains, we clean out the utensils with." Photo: P. Sainath 
The HinduBharat Raut in Takwiki with the ghaddas (plastic pots) he will strap on to his Hero Honda to fetch water for his family. Every family has one member on "full-time water duty." Photo: P. Sainath 

The HinduIn the villages of Osmanabad, every lane and gully has people moving about at all hours, collecting water as scarcity bites deeper. Photo: P. Sainath 

If drought is making many in Osmanabad struggle for survival, it is also boosting a 24-hour trade that thrives on scarcity

Bharat Raut spends around Rs.800 a month on petrol — just to fetch water that belongs to him. So do a lot of others in Takwiki village in Osmanabad district in Marathwada. Almost every household in Takwiki (and other villages) has one member locked into a single task each day: fetching water from wherever they can. Nearly every vehicle you see on Osmanabad’s roads is ferrying water somewhere. That includes cycles, bullock carts, motorbikes, jeeps, lorries, vans and tankers. And women carrying it in pots on their heads, hips and shoulders. The drought ensures that most do it for sheer survival. Some, for a neat profit. 
Timings and distances

Nation in a State A model that delivers

March 5, 2013
Ramya Kannan

The HinduIn PHCs, small things have begun to make a difference, an example being giving ante natal mothers a nutritious meal two days in a week. 

Better equipped primary health centres are the reason why the State is posting its much-feted achievements in maternal and child health care

The intense heat of Vellore had just been vanquished temporarily by a freak storm. The speeding wheels of the ambulance leave no trail of dust behind. Inside the vehicle, Ellama, pregnant and full-term, is clutching her stomach with one hand and with the other, her husband’s arm. The ambulance is trying to balance urgency with a smooth drive. As it races from Banavaram Panchayat in Vellore to the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Egmore, Chennai, Ellamma and her family send up a small prayer. 

Ellama had been referred to the ISO-certified Banavaram Primary Health Centre (PHC) for a Caesarean. The district’s flagship PHC does elective and emergency C-sections five days a week. She was scheduled for surgery, when suddenly she developed complications. 

“Ordinarily, we could have delivered here, but the fainting episode made it a complex case. We stabilised her, and made the decision to shift her to a higher institution in her best interests,” explains S. Manonmani, Block Medical Officer. 

With its blood storage units, availability of a trained obstetrician, anaesthetist, ultrasound scan facility and doctors and nurses on call 24 hours, the block-level PHC at Banavaram is itself a referral centre for surrounding areas. Ellamma had been referred to it from the PHC at nearby Panapakkam, but prudence is the better part of valour, especially when it is the question of saving two lives. 

Forging a new horse shoe

March 5, 2013
Hardeep S. Puri

For the first time, there is a draft resolution with the largest possible consensus on expanding the Security Council. It needs to be put to vote in the General Assembly 

In a debate on Security Council reform last year, a Russian representative assertively stated: “We deserve to be there because we won it in our history on the battlefield.” I had then quipped that if ‘to the victor belong the spoils’ is the criteria cast in stone for a seat on the high table, the battlefield now is fundamentally different from 1945. If, on the other hand, a ‘third world war’ is required to reform the horse shoe, this time around the victors will emerge from the size of their economies. The two European permanent members appeared worried then! 

I cite this only to illustrate that our quest for seeking reform of the Council must never underestimate the challenges we confront.
The P-5 club

First, the exclusive P-5 (Permanent Five) club. Theirs is an entrenched reluctance to share the high table with others and, from their perspective, understandably so. Presently, at least two of them would be hard put to justify their privileged position. Frequently, the P-5 mouth platitudes to please the aspirants, even whilst their negotiators at the United Nations do whatever it takes to hold back progress. Clearly, whenever we move, we would need to hold them to the public pronouncements of their leaders and try to get at least three of them on board. In the end, whenever the vote eventually takes place they could still be on the opposing side, as in 1963, when the first expansion took place. 

Second, the UfC or the Coffee Club countries which at best total 10-11, including our neighbour on the west, along with Italy and a few others. Secure in the knowledge that they would never make it to the expanded setting, they work overtime to create fissures and stall forward movement to keep the house divided. 

Before examining how critically close we are today, one needs to address the cynics in our own system, who question both our credentials and the need for permanent membership. Being on the Security Council is no longer an option or a luxury for India. It is an absolute imperative. The vast expanse of issues on the Council’s plate has transcended its traditional mandate of international peace and security to practically all matters of critical importance including climate change, access to mineral resources, illicit flow of arms/drugs, non-proliferation and even HIV/AIDS. Not joining the pool of ‘chefs’ preparing the global menu could result in ending up on the menu itself! 


- Some measures may still lessen India’s economic problems

The Indian economy is in the midst of its biggest crisis since 1991. It has been on the horizon. The political masters’ public attitude towards it was to brush it off and exude mindless optimism. Surprisingly, the finance minister eased his official grin as he presented the budget last week; he tried various tricks to make India more attractive to foreign investment. 

He is even trying to strike a deal with Vodafone over its purchase into the Ruias’ telecommunications company. He should ask himself why. The Vodafone purchase was made abroad, and not on Indian soil, and was therefore not taxable here. If he thinks that is wrong, he should amend the law; but it is entirely wrong to try and screw Vodafone illegally. Even if he amends the law, it must not be applied retrospectively. If he thinks someone should pay tax on his gains in the transaction, it is the Ruias he should be pursuing. They sold their stake and made a profit; they should pay tax on it. What is the reason for letting them off scot-free and pursuing Vodafone? Is it because they are Indian and Vodafone is foreign? Or because they are politically influential and Vodafone is not? 

The Economic Survey does not normally fudge facts, although it may varnish them. The chapter on the balance of payments is in the official style of mechanically reporting the rise and fall of figures. It is full of grammatical errors. But it did teach me new jargon. For instance, when investors in industrial countries get scared by events in their own economies, such as a credit downgrade of the United States of America or a crisis in a European Union economy, they liquidate their investments abroad and take money home; capital then flows out of India. The Survey calls this a risk-off event. Conversely, an improvement in investor sentiment in industrial countries is called a risk-on event. The risk of the EU disintegrating is a tail-risk; the Survey does not say what a horn-risk would be. 

India depends heavily on capital inflows; if they stopped or were reversed, exchange reserves would fall rapidly. So the Survey favours allowing in capital more freely, which is what the finance minister has also been pushing. Its idea of liberalization is to allow more investment into defence industries. But India is an insignificant producer of military equipment. Selling it to the government is so risky and requires such expertise in bribery that even Indian companies stay out of it; it is unrealistic to think that allowing foreign companies in would make much difference. 

Let old wounds heal

Mar 05, 2013 


Pursuing all those who opposed independence means the bleeding wounds of history will never have a chance of healing 

India’s first Bengali President paid his first visit to Bangladesh while Bangladeshis were fiercely reliving yesterday’s battle between their Bengali and Muslim identities. The only way to break that grim cycle is to abandon all question of justice which is often indistinguishable from revenge, and draw a veil over the blood-soaked past as South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission tried to do. 

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto put his finger on Bangladesh’s dilemma on the eve of the war of liberation. If “Muslim Bangla” (as he called Bangladesh) was primarily a Bengali nation, it should merge with West Bengal, he argued. If it was Islamic, it should remain East Pakistan.

Logically, there need be no conflict between religion and language. But while Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s ruling Awami League is identified with secular linguistic nationalism, the Jamaat-e-Islami’s inspiration is religious.

Today’s conflict is ostensibly between people who want the butchers of 1971 executed and those who see the International Crimes Tribunal Sheikh Hasina set up in 2010 as an instrument of her personal vendetta against adversaries who opposed independence and later murdered her parents, brothers and other relatives. The faultline being between secularism and Islam, Bangladesh’s already hard-pressed Hindu minority (9.6 per cent) is again the victim.

It’s always so. It wasn’t fashionable to admit it, but the nine million refugees who fled to India in 1971 were mostly Hindus, victims as much of the Pakistani military as of local Muslim brutality. They didn’t want to go back after liberation but had to when Indian Army bulldozers razed their camps and Indian soldiers forced them into trucks at bayonet point. I asked a returning Hindu peasant if he regarded himself a Bangladeshi. “No” he replied. “You can call me an Indian living in Bangladesh!”

Despite Sheikh Hasina’s many liberal reforms since returning to power, she has not dared to touch the 1988 constitutional amendment making Islam the state religion. She knows how far she can go in an overwhelmingly Muslim country that, like Pakistan, feels it necessary to distance itself from what it regards as India’s dominant culture.

The present round of this old battle started on February 5 when a crowd gathered in Dhaka’s Shahbag Square to demand the death penalty for Abdul Quader Mollah, the Jamaat’s assistant secretary-general, instead of life imprisonment, as the tribunal had decreed. (On January 21 the tribunal had sentenced the Jamaat’s Abul Kalam Azad to death but in absentia.) The angry Islamic response to the Shahbag demand confirmed that Bangladesh is still a painfully divided nation.


N. N. Sachitanand

India is gifted with large reserves of minerals. Unfortunately, many of these are located in tribal and forest areas. The proliferation of human and animal rights activism and stringent environmental legislation have almost stymied the opening up of new mines 

Since it involves harsh labour and risk, mining has become associated with exploitation, child labour and many other unsavoury practices. Photo: AFP

INDIA’S Minister for Rural Development, Jairam Ramesh, recently had some harsh things to say about mining, blaming it for leading to environmental degradation, displacement of tribals and their impoverishment. He made these remarks at Lanjigarh in interior Orissa. Ramesh must have reached that spot either in a helicopter or by road in a SUV, both of which use metals (aluminium and steel), derived from minerals which have been mined. Among his other activities during that trip, he laid the foundation of a model school , which will use cement made from limestone which is mined . He would have used a mobile phone which uses a processor made from silicon which is manufactured from mined silica. 

Mining and exploitation

Not to belabour the point further, modern human existence cannot survive without mining. It is not, as is mistakenly assumed, an activity born of the Industrial Revolution. It has been around ever since man decided to abandon existence in natural caves and take up living in structural residences which needed stones to be extracted from the earth. As mankind’s material needs multiplied in volume, variety and complexity, so did its digging up the earth for different minerals. Thus we had the Copper Age, Bronze Age , Iron Age and so on. Those nations which mastered the extraction and utilisation of minerals ended up at the top of the power heap. 

Unfortunately, because it involved harsh labour and risk (especially underground), mining became associated with exploitation, child labour, slavery and such unsavoury practices. In ancient times, slaves, war prisoners and convicts were forced to do mining tasks since they were “cheap” and “expendable”. Eighteenth century Wales saw children being sent into the shafts underground because their smaller size needed smaller tunnels. Even today, China loses as many as 3000 miners a year in explosions of methane gas in its coal mines. 

Since minerals commanded a special price, mining also became tied up to illegal activities such as smuggling , theft, murder, forced occupation and, of course, war. We have heard of the “Blood diamonds” of West Africa and , in our own backyard Veerappan was a household name in Karnataka in the realm of smuggling granite while the Reddy brothers of Bellary hogged headlines for their alleged illegal mining of iron ore for export. 

The Agusta deflection

Mar 05, 2013 

The Sukhoi-30, the LCA, and now the Rafale, will have to hold the ‘thin blue line’ in the skies until the almost mystical FGFA enters the Air Force inventory 

National security has never been a high priority item in India. This is being demonstrated yet again by the polemics raging in Parliament around alleged linkages with murky Italian intermediaries said to be involved in the bribery for the acquisition of 12 Italian AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters for the VIP fleet of the Indian Air Force. 

The defence ministry has placed the Agusta contract under intensive scrutiny and reexamination, in which the Central Vigilance Commission and Comptroller and Auditor General have also impleaded themselves. The matter is now under discussion in the Budget Session of Parliament by an intensely divided and hugely partisan assembly, until the urgency is overtaken by other breaking news. The implications of such debates are linked to the survival of a not too secure government, which cannot afford any mistakes in a pre-election year. All else, including national security and defence preparedness, comes later, and can even be jettisoned for the present.

As things stand, the Agusta deal seems to be losing altitude, and if it does ultimately crash land, there are fair chances that the resultant tremors will impact the procurement of other even more critical equipment, for which negotiations are also under way. One serious possible fallout from an Agusta deal going wrong is its potential to cast a shadow over negotiations for the Rafale, a fighter aircraft of French origin selected by the Indian Air Force as its future Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) for which a letter of intent has been issued in January 2012 to the French aviation giant Dassault.

This is a major and critically important acquisition, immensely more vital to the Indian Air Force than VIP helicopters. The Rafale contract is scheduled to cost big money — an estimated $10.3 billion for the induction of 126 Rafale fighters into the Indian Air Force, (vis-a-vis $748 million for the Agusta VIP helicopters), the process to commence in 2017 and continue over the next 10 years, i.e. at least up to 2027 if all goes smoothly. If and when it is finally inducted into service, the Rafale will thus remain operational for well over three if not four decades forming a substantial component of Indian air power at least up to the mid-21st century. So, can the ultimate outcome of the Agusta deal leave its mark on the negotiations for the Rafale, and therefore on the future of Indian air power? That is something only time can tell, but at this time, the possibility certainly does exist.

India’s Defence Budget 2013-14: A Bumpy Road Ahead

March 4, 2013


While presenting the Union Budget 2013-14 to Parliament on 28 February, the Finance Minister hiked the defence allocation by 5.3 per cent to Rs. 2,03,672.1 crore (US$ 37.4 billion) and made the customary promise that “constraints will not come in the way of providing any additional requirement for the security of the nation.” This nominal increase in the latest defence allocation – which is quite modest in comparison to the growth rates of 17.6 per cent and 11.6 per cent in the previous two budgets – has been caused by a depressing economic environment and the government’s austerity drive to combat the fiscal deficit. However, the defence ministry, which is already battling a high inflationary regime and an adverse rupee-dollar exchange rate, may find the new allocation inadequate to sustain both the running and modernisation requirements of the armed forces. 

Defence Budget Comes under Economic and Fiscal Stress 

The prime reason for the modest increase in the defence budget is economic slowdown and the government’s determination to contain the fiscal deficit. As the Economic Survey 2012-13, presented to the Parliament a day before the Union Budget’s presentation, shows, the Indian economy is expected to grow at a decadal low of five per cent in the current fiscal year (down from the peak of 9.3 per cent in 2010-11), before increasing to 6.1 to 6.7 per cent in the coming fiscal. At this growth rate, the government’s revenue receipts have come under sharp pressure, forcing it to tighten its purse. The austerity drive has further been necessitated by a widening fiscal deficit, which has fuelled concerns among investors with rating agencies seemingly inclined to reduce India to junk status. The fear of the downgrade was so intense that the Finance Minister has not only downwardly revised the current year’s expenditure to contain the fiscal deficit at 5.2 per cent of GDP but has gone a step further to reduce the deficit level to 4.8 per cent in the coming fiscal year. Moreover, he has also laid down a fiscal consolidation path whereby the fiscal deficit is to be reduced by 0.6 percentage point every year till it becomes three per cent of the GDP in 2016-17. 

However, the larger question is how much burden the defence budget has taken to accommodate the government’s austerity drive. From a macro point of view, it is reasonable to assume that the fiscal burden, in terms of controlled growth of total government expenditure, is shared more or less equally by each and every sector. But as the statistics would show, the defence budget has taken a larger burden than would probably be reasonable. This is evident from the growth rate of both the union budget and the defence budget. While the former has increased by 11.7 per cent, the increase in the latter is less than half of that. In other words, the defence budget has been harshly controlled not only in the interest of the larger fiscal deficit, but to accommodate the relatively larger shares of other government expenditure heads. 

Downward Revision of Budget 2012-13

Although the defence budget 2013-14 has been increased by a modest 5.3 per cent, the growth rate is a hefty 14.1 per cent over the revised estimate of 2012-13. The difference in these growth rates is due to the cut of Rs. 14,903.8 crore (or 7.7 per cent) from the budget of 2012-13. Of the total reduction, 67 per cent is accounted for by capital expenditure, which has been reduced by Rs. 10,000 crore (12.6 per cent) from the original allocation. Of the total cut in capital expenditure, around 87 per cent is due to what is generally known as ‘under-spending’ of the modernisation budget, which has been reduced by Rs. 8,663.2 crore (13 per cent) to Rs. 57,796.3 crore. Around 75 per cent of this is accounted for by the Navy whose modernization budget has been reduced by Rs. 6,500 crore (26.9 per cent) to Rs. 17,651.5 crore, partly due to slippage of delivery of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya by almost one year to late 2013. For its part, the revenue expenditure was revised downward by Rs. 4,903.8 crore (4.3 per cent). Around 53 per cent of this reduction is due to cut in the pay and allowances of the armed forces. 

The Defence Budget 2013-14: Reasonable in the Existing Circumstances but Need for Re-orientation and Reform

March 4, 2013


Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has in his 2013-14 budget speech assured that “constraints will not come in the way of providing any additional requirement for the security of the nation” over and above the Rs. 2,03,672 crore allocated for defence, which is 18 per cent of the total Union Non-Plan budget for the next year. While the Services will face some constraint with a 2.7 per cent increase in the Budget Estimates (BE) 2013-14 allocation on Revenue Account compared to the BE 2012-13 provision, it appears that the Government of India could not afford a higher Revenue budget for defence considering that interest payments and the debt servicing burden would continue to increase, the government’s overall pension payment liability will remain high and a substantial quantum of Central devolution to the State Governments would be involved in the Non-Plan segment. However, the Government appears to have provided a reasonable growth of nine per cent with an expenditure budget provision of Rs. 86,741 crore for defence on Capital Account for 2013-14 vis-à-vis BE 2012-13. Moreover, it has to be appreciated that the Government has given a 14 per cent increment for defence between Revised Estimates (RE) 2012-13 and BE 2013-14 as against a 10.8 per cent hike in the overall Central Non-Plan budget between RE 2012-13 and BE 2013-14.1

Some salient features of the defence budget 2013-14 are: 

  • Revenue expenditure budget increase for defence is relatively less than the overall Non-Plan Revenue expenditure budget growth between RE 2012-13 and BE 2013-14;
  • gross Revenue budget for Navy has declined from Rs. 12,748 crore in BE 2012-13 to Rs. 12, 394 crore in BE 2013-14 (there are reductions under salaries, transportation and miscellaneous heads while there are negligible increases for repairs & re-fitment works and in respect of Coast Guard); 
  • Capital budget support for the Indian Coast Guard will be less in 2013-14 – Rs. 740 crore in BE 2013-14 vis-à-vis Rs. 899 crore in BE 2012-13;
  • the value of supplies of stores (not classified as Capital assets) from Ordnance factories to the Services will only marginally increase from Rs. 11,213 crore as per BE 2012-13 to Rs. 12,141crore provided in BE 2013-14; 
  • Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) – a welfare oriented organisation for ex-Servicemen and their dependants in the defence set-up – has been allocated less budget (Capital and Revenue taken together) for the next year as compared to the actual expenditure of 2011-12 and RE of 2012-13; and 
  • virtually no funds have been earmarked for development of prototype stores in association with indigenous trade sources (a token provision of Rs. one crore has been made for the next year as against Rs. 29 crore actually spent in 2011-12 and a BE 2012-13 of Rs. 89 crore). 
It is a mixed picture and does not seem to indicate that the Services will try to be more self-reliant and involve the available indigenous technological capacity in the defence effort. An enhanced future role for the Indian Coast Guard in strengthening maritime coastal security seems doubtful and the designated role of the ECHS is unlikely to evolve towards consummation. 

Some concern has been expressed by certain defence analysts and think-tanks on the likely adverse impact on major acquisitions and the modernisation programmes of the Services. However, the fact of the matter is that, vis-à-vis actual requirement of cash-flow for supplies contracted, there has never been any default in payment on the part of the Government. Furthermore, deferment of discharge of liabilities in respect of contractual payments or re-negotiation of payment schedules owing to budgetary shortfall has never been observed. 

India’s Defence Budget: Trends Beyond the Numbers

March 4, 2013

Amidst the commotion of the Agusta-Westland helicopter scam and a string of exposés on corruption-stained defence contracts, the defence budget for the fiscal year 2013-14 was predictably along expected lines. The defence expenditure and its components along with some other relevant data is given in Table 1 below. 

Estimate (BE)
Estimate (RE)
Estimate (BE)
1) Defence Rev Exp.
2) Defence Cap.Exp.
3) Total Def. Exp.        
4) Total CGE               
5) GDP (Rs Billion))
(3)/(4) %                     
(3)/(5) %                      

The revised estimates of defence expenditure and both its components, revenue and capital, for 2012-13 are less than the budget estimates. This should not be surprising since as early as May 2012 the Ministry of Finance had issued an Expenditure Control Order mandating a 10 per cent cut in all non-Plan expenditure excluding subsidies, interest payments, salaries, etc. Here, it must be noted that all of defence expenditure is non-Plan expenditure. As a result, while there was only a nominal reduction in defence revenue expenditure, the reduction in defence capital expenditure was substantial, amounting to Rs.10,000 crore. The bulk of the reduction on capital account – approximately Rs. 4,000 crore – was in respect of expenditure on aircraft and aeroengines by the Army and the Navy, while the Air Force suffered a minor reduction of about Rs. 1,000 crore. 

As result of the cuts imposed during the last financial year, the revised estimate for defence in 2012-13 is only marginally higher at 4.5 per cent over that for 2011-12, instead of the earlier projection of a 13.5 per cent increase. 

This is not the first time that the Ministry of Finance has arbitrarily reduced defence capital expenditure. The repeated reductions in defence capital expenditure was commented upon by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence while examining the Demand for Grants for 2007-08 thus: “On being asked by the Committee whether the reduction was imposed by the Ministry of Finance or this is due to non-fructification of various projects, the Ministry in their written reply stated: ‘This reduction was not sought by the Ministry of Defence but imposed by Ministry of Finance at the RE [Revised Estimate] stage’.” During subsequent examination, “On the issue of allocation of funds and pattern of utilisation of capital expenditure by the Ministry of Defence, the representative of the Ministry of Defence during oral evidence stated: ‘The cut at RE stage is not done to our volition, but it was done by the Ministry of Finance, we were planning to spend the entire amount; the schemes were all at various stages of implementation; we would carry on and that additionally would have to be sought in the coming years’.” 

Troubled Pak province

Islamabad coming to terms with reality in Balochistan
by T.V. Rajeswar 

THE problem province of Balochistan in Pakistan continues to simmer. It has always been a source of conflict and headache to the Government of Pakistan. The geographical parameters of the province are such that they are prone to generate conflicts. The western part of Balochistan borders Iran while the northern part borders Afghanistan. The Gulf of Oman marks its southern border. The Balochis trace their origin to the central Caspian region. They have had close affinities with this region. 

When Pakistan and India became independent in 1947, the British gave the Baloch tribes the choice of joining either Pakistan or India. Baloch tribal leaders, however, were against joining either of these two countries and instead wanted to be an independent State of Balochistan. Lord Mountbattan thought that Balochistan would not be able to survive as an independent country and decided to declare it as a part of Pakistan. 

Early in 2012, a group of US Congressmen suggested a novel solution to bring about peace in the Af-Pak region as well as in Afghanistan. It suggested recognising Balochistan an independent state and thereby ensuring peace. However, the idea was dropped later on as being impractical. One of the Balochi leaders, Suleiman Khan, said that they had no desire to be a part of Pakistan. But they were given no choice and were "sold down the river". However, the Balochi leaders tried to negotiate with Pakistan to secure at least autonomy for retaining the authority over land and natural resources. But Pakistan integrated Balochistan as one of its four provinces and more or less completely erased the Balochi identity. With a population only 7.5 million, Balochistan is the largest of the four provinces of Pakistan. But the people of Balochistan are behind the rest of the Pakistanis in terms of education and social development, and as much as its 63 per cent of its people are living below poverty line. The people even lack safe drinking water and electricity. All these have led to a state of continuous discontent and hatred towards Pakistani rulers. There have been periodic outbreaks of insurgency which had been put down ruthlessly by the Pakistan Army. 

The Balochi tribes took up arms and have resorted to a continuous guerrilla warfare. They had their bases in the region of Marri and Bugti. The insurgents bombed railway tracks and ambushed the convoys. The Pakistan Army retaliated ruthlessly and put down the conflicts that erupted in the shape of Guerrilla warfare in 2004, 2006 and 2009. In August 2009 the Khan of Kalat, tribal leader as a ruler of Balochistan, formally announced a council for independent Balochistan. 

Irrelevance of innocence

March 5, 2013
Kanak Mani Dixit

APKarachi has become an intensified microcosm of the bloodletting in Pakistan. The site of a bomb blast in the city on Sunday. Photo: AP 

As the attacks on the Shia in Pakistan continue relentlessly, a sense of fatalism is overtaking demands for accountability and justice

Rabia Flower is an apartment block in the Abbas Town neighbourhood of Karachi, on the road named “Isphahani” after an associate of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The twin-blasts that of Sunday, just as the evening prayers were coming to a close in this Shia residential locality, was the result of a “triggered IED.” 

More than 150 kg of high explosives were detonated as shoppers filled the market below, and families took in the evening sea breeze in the upper storey balconies. Fifty died and many times that were maimed. Water from broken mains mixed with the blood of innocents. 

Local youth and ambulances swung to the rescue, while the security personnel took their time to arrive. They probably came late because the mass-murderers have taken to setting off explosions in sequence, meant to kill those who respond to the emergency — local youth, journalists, firefighters, police and rangers. 

Karachi has become an intensified microcosm of the bloodletting in Pakistan, and earlier politico-ethnic rivalries have transmogrified into deeper, cross-cutting complexities. The city today harbours a frightening brew of militancy, involving drug, arms and real estate mafiosi placed on top of additional layers of communal polarisations. Class-based secular politics, for which Sindh and its capital were celebrated, has its back to the wall. 

Beyond the tension between the political parties representing the Urdu-speaking Mohajir and the Sindhi indigenes, there are now those claiming to represent Punjabi, Baloch and Pashto interests. In terms of sectarian targeting, the sense of vulnerability now goes beyond the Christians, Hindu or Ahmadiya. 

Sectarian Blast in Karachi

Around 45 people were killed and around 150 others injured in a massive blast in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city on Sunday, 03 March 2013. The blast that was triggered by planting explosives in a vehicle near a market in Karachi's Abbas town, a locality dominated by the Shiite population, triggered massive fires and shattered the façade of many a surrounding buildings. A gas pipeline exploded under the impact, leading to a speculation about another blast. The casualties are expected to rise as many are believed to be trapped under the debris. The bomb exploded outside a Shiite mosque as people were leaving after evening prayers and the casualties included many women and children. After the blast, Shiites in Karachi fired their weapons into the air to protest the killings, which further hampered the rescue efforts. According to preliminary reports over 150 kg of explosive was used which resulted in a crater that was four feet deep and over six feet wide. Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi (LeJ), a Sunni sectarian outfit aligned with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which had taken credit for the previous two major blasts is believed to be responsible for the blast in Karachi. 

This was the third major attack on the Shiite community in last eight weeks. Earlier, a suicide attack in Quetta, the capital of restive Baluchistan province on 10 January, had killed over 100 and injured 200 others; another blast at Quetta on 16 February had killed 84 and injured 200 others. These are over and above the daily bout of sectarian violence where scores of adherents of the two sects have been killed. Just the previous day, on 02 Mar 13, five Shia citizens and one Sunni activist were killed. The sectarian rift in Pakistan has been increasing and is making Pakistan’s Shias, who constitute 20 per cent of its population insecure. 2012 was considered the worst year for Shias when 502 Shias were killed in Pakistan, however, the figure for the current year is already touching 300. The menace in not confined to Karachi and Baluchistan as is widely perceived, but has spread to every corner of Pakistan and territories controlled by it. According to ARY News, in 2012, Baluchistan was the arena for a continuing pogrom of Shias, where 156 of them were killed. 146 Shias were killed in Sindh, most of them in Karachi, 99 in Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir, 80 in Punjab and 21 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The death toll in Baluchistan during the current year has already crossed 200. The figures do not take into account killings where motive for killings has not clearly been established. 

Sectarian conflict in Pakistan is a natural corollary of the divisive ‘Two Nation Theory’. After having asserted that the Muslims of the sub-continent were a separate nation, the next logical question was, ‘Who is a Muslim’. Pakistan was confronted with this problem in 1953, when there were massive anti- Ahmadiyya riots and many clerics demanded their expulsion from the fold of Islam. A commission comprising Justice Munir and Justice Kayani of the Pakistan Supreme Court was set up to establish if Ahmadiyya were Muslims. The commission ruled that it was not in a position to decide on the issue as no two ulema of the 23 it had summoned could agree on the precise definition of a Muslim. After the liberation of Bangladesh, when the number of non-Muslims became insignificant, the fanatic adherents of the exclusivist ‘Two Nation Theory’ looked for new objects of hate and turned their ire towards their co-religionists, who differed from their own version of Islam. Consequently, the violence was used to settle scores not only between Shias and Sunnis, but also between different strands of the same sect.