20 March 2013

America and Israel: Linked by History, but No Longer United


U.S. President Barack Obama is making his first visit to Israel. The visit comes in the wake of his re-election and inauguration to a second term and the formation of a new Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Normally, summits between Israel and the United States are filled with foreign policy issues on both sides, and there will be many discussed at this meeting, including Iran, Syria and Egypt. But this summit takes place in an interesting climate, because both the Americans and Israelis are less interested in foreign and security matters than they are in their respective domestic issues.

In the United States, the political crisis over the federal budget and the struggle to grow the economy and reduce unemployment has dominated the president's and the country's attention. The Israeli elections turned on domestic issues, ranging from whether the ultra-Orthodox would be required to serve in Israel Defense Forces, as other citizens are, to a growing controversy over economic inequality in Israel.

Inwardness is a cyclic norm in most countries. Foreign policy does not always dominate the agenda and periodically it becomes less important. What is interesting is at this point, while Israelis continue to express concern about foreign policy, they are most passionate on divisive internal social issues. Similarly, although there continues to be a war in Afghanistan, the American public is heavily focused on economic issues. Under these circumstances the interesting question is not what Obama and Netanyahu will talk about but whether what they discuss will matter much.

Washington's New Strategy

For the United States, the focus on domestic affairs is compounded by an emerging strategic shift in how the United States deals with the world. After more than a decade of being focused on the Islamic world and moving aggressively to try to control threats in the region militarily, the United States is moving toward a different stance. The bar for military intervention has been raised. Therefore, the United States has, in spite of recent statements, not militarily committed itself to the Syrian crisis, and when the French intervened in Mali the United States played a supporting role. The intervention in Libya, where France and the United Kingdom drew the United States into the action, was the first manifestation of Washington's strategic re-evaluation. The desire to reduce military engagement in the region was not the result of Libya. That desire was there from the U.S. experience in Iraq and was the realization that the disposal of an unsavory regime does not necessarily -- or even very often -- result in a better regime. Even the relative success of the intervention in Libya drove home the point that every intervention has both unintended consequences and unanticipated costs.

The United States' new stance ought to frighten the Israelis. In Israel's grand strategy, the United States is the ultimate guarantor of its national security and underwrites a portion of its national defense. If the United States becomes less inclined to involve itself in regional adventures, the question is whether the guarantees implicit in the relationship still stand. The issue is not whether the United States would intervene to protect Israel's existence; save from a nuclear-armed Iran, there is no existential threat to Israel's national interest. Rather, the question is whether the United States is prepared to continue shaping the dynamics of the region in areas where Israel lacks political influence and is not able to exert military control. Israel wants a division of labor in the region, where it influences its immediate neighbors while the United States manages more distant issues. To put it differently, the Israelis' understanding of the American role is to control events that endanger Israel and American interests under the assumption that Israeli and American interests are identical. The idea that they are always identical has never been as true as politicians on both sides have claimed, but more important, the difficulties of controlling the environment have increased dramatically for both sides.

Israel's Difficulties

The problem for Israel at this point is that it is not able to do very much in the area that is its responsibility. For example, after the relationship with the United States, the second-most important strategic foundation for Israel is its relationship -- and peace treaty -- with Egypt. Following the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the fear was that Egypt might abrogate the peace treaty, reopening at some distant point the possibility of conventional war. But the most shocking thing to Israel was how little control it actually had over events in Egypt and the future of its ties to Egypt. With good relations between Israel and the Egyptian military and with the military still powerful, the treaty has thus far survived. But the power of the military will not be the sole factor in the long-term sustainability of the treaty. Whether it survives or not ultimately is not a matter that Israel has much control over.

Reviving India-Egypt defence cooperation

By C. Raja Mohan
20 March 2013

At the joint press appearance with the visiting Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the two countries have agreed to initiate military exchanges and defence cooperation. 

In an interview to an Indian newspaper on the eve of his visit, Morsy expressed his interest in establishing security cooperation with India. Morsy told ’The Hindu’ newspaper that he is keen to build a special relationship with India that will include defence cooperation. 

He identified military navigation, electronics and maintenance as some priority areas of interest. Although no further details were given out, defence engagement between Delhi and Cairo is welcome and long overdue. 

Although both countries are distracted by domestic political concerns, establishing a strong institutional links between the two military establishments will benefit both countries. 

After extraordinary bonhomie in the 1950s, the two countries drifted apart since the 1970s. Morsy’s visit to India, the first by an elected Egyptian President, will hopefully set the stage for a comprehensive partnership in the coming years. 

Egypt was among the few countries in the developing world that India sought to cooperation in the defence sector in the years after India’s independence. The close friendship between Jawaharlal Nehru and the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser provided the basis for ambitious bilateral defence cooperation. 

India participated in the development of a jet fighter and jet engine in Egypt from the late 1950s to the late 1960s. Nehru saw cooperation with Egypt as being complementary to India’s own efforts at developing an indigenous aerospace industry. 

According to one account, Nehru’s India "participated in Egypt’s ’Helwan’ HA-300 jet fighter program and sent various professionals from its aeronautics industry and the Indian Air Force on detached service to Egypt, where they joined the local aircraft project. 

India also participated -with contributions of money, experts and equipment -in Egypt’s attempt to produce an indigenous jet turbine engine, the ’Brandner E-300’. 

Critically, Nehru hoped that this engine would have a viable market by pledging to power India’s own indigenous jet fighter, the HAL HF-24 "Marut," with the Egyptian engine. 

Although the projects did not succeed, they underlined Nehru’s deep interest in defence collaboration with friends and political partners, notwithstanding his opposition to military alliances. 

Why India must vote against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC?

IDSA COMMENT 
March 20, 2013 

Hectic diplomatic parleys are on to decide India’s course of action at the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) meeting scheduled for 21 March, where the issue of human rights violations by Sri Lankan forces during the concluding phase of the Eelam war is likely to be discussed. Two questions have become pertinent for India in this context: Should Tamil Nadu be determining India’s Sri Lanka policy? Whether India should vote against Sri Lanka in the UNHRC? 

While the conduct of foreign policy lies in the exclusive domain of the Central government, in recent years regional political players with ‘narrower’ interests in local politics have tried to exert disproportionate influence on key aspects of India’s foreign policy by taking advantage of the politics of coalition and the number game such politics are indeed based upon. It needs to be reiterated here that the Tamil issue is only one part of India’s policy towards Sri Lanka, and it is important to take into account the entire gamut of political, economic, strategic and socio-cultural ties that together make up India-Sri Lanka relations. Therefore, the national interest should be the prime consideration in formulating India’s Sri Lanka policy. 

Be that as it may, it is important to understand why there has been a resurgence of sympathy for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause in Tamil Nadu? The state’s political parties remained largely quite during the last phase of the war conducted in the jungles of Vanni in April 2009. Other than a token hunger strike by Karunanidhi (who was then in power), there was no protest in Tamil Nadu when the LTTE was eliminated. However, the situation has changed particularly in recent weeks. Both the DMK and AIADMK are today engaged in competitive politics keeping the next general elections in mind, with the DMK’s withdrawal from the central government being the latest move. More importantly, the new round of protests has been inspired by various video clippings that have emerged from the war zone showing how unarmed LTTE cadres were indiscriminately killed in spite of surrendering to the Sri Lankan security forces. The latest video to emerge is the killing of Prabhakaran’s 12 year old son Balachandran. All this has disproved the Sri Lankan government’s assertion of zero casualties and caused outrage in Tamil Nadu. Notwithstanding all this, the decision on which way to vote remains a preserve of the Central government and it needs to take a broader perspective of the issues at stake. 

India needs to take some facts into consideration before deciding its course of action. Though the Sri Lankan government has done commendable work in terms of rehabilitation, resettlement and reconstruction of the war ravaged zone, it has not displayed any seriousness in pursuing a political approach involving meaningful devolution of power to address the Tamil political grievances, which, in fact, were the prime motivators for the internecine conflict that raged for three decades. Rather, in its efforts to deny devolution of powers to the provinces, Colombo has been arguing that such demands are diaspora-inspired and motivated by the separatist idea that continues to be held by LTTE sympathisers. Colombo’s unwillingness to move towards a political solution to the ethnic issue has been the major source of dissatisfaction for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. In the past India has tried to convince the Sri Lankan government to resolve the long pending issue through devolution but without much success. 

Defence expenditure: Going beyond the Budget

By Lt-Gen Nirbhay Sharma (retd)
20 March 2013

The ongoing post-Budget debates are on expected lines. As in the past, all essential concerns are on the table excepting, of course, defence. The discourse predictably centres around the adequacy of the amount allocated. No mention is made of the vital issues - value for money and progress on self-reliance. The new budget's allocation of $ 37 billion (Rs 2.03 trillion) amounts to an increase of 14 per cent over the revised estimates of 2012-13. However, when you take into account the annualised inflation rate of around 6 per cent, the actual increase is almost nothing. 

Recently delivering a lecture in New Delhi, the Finance Minister had spoken about shifting from a compartmentalised to a comprehensive approach to security - encompassing all of its dimensions. With an eye on the Budget, a direct relationship between economic growth and the expense on defence was also highlighted. While no one can argue with the premise, its complexities demand further deliberation. 

Defence needs to be viewed as an integral part of national planning so as to comprehensively quantify the overall requirement to meet our legitimate security needs and strategic aspirations. A coordinating mechanism must ensure that all the relevant planning and decision-making instruments of the state are in harmony and do not come in the way of either economic growth or defence preparedness. Considering that building defence capabilities takes a long time requiring assured and sustained financial commitment, the yearly pronouncement in the Budget of "allotting more money if required for defence" must be reviewed. The allocations are nullified further by "giving with one hand and taking back by the other" through cuts at revised estimates. Within these parameters, the allocation of 1.79 per cent of the GDP for defence requires more debate. Also, the present allocation constitutes 12.23 per cent of our annual expenditure, and the taxpayers have a right to know the "whys and hows". 

India is today one of the world's largest importers of defence equipment. In the next five years, we are likely to spend around $50 billion on imports. It's indigenous purchase ratio is barely 30 per cent. China, so often quoted as our strategic rival, is not only nearly self- reliant, it meets a substantial portion of its defence expenditure through the export of arms and other defence hardware. No wonder its defence spending has risen by 200 per cent in the last decade to reach $119 billion in 2010 (compared to our $36 billion). Indigenisation then can also be the key to prudent fiscal management by offsetting the expense on defence as well. 

Secondly, the defence procurement procedures, which have been under constant revision, still result in delays due to procedural bottlenecks. Lengthy processes continue to contribute towards cost overruns, technology backlog and even corrupt practices. There is the view that "no-questions-asked- safety" lies in procurement through defence public sector units (DPSUs) and ordnance factories (OFs) alone. This, in fact, has given these undertakings a monopoly status leading to systemic inefficiency, lack of corporate accountability and competition, high costs and outdated technologies. With notable exceptions, these establishments primarily operate as aggregators or assembly units sourcing components from private producers. Hi-tech components are either outsourced or acquired as transfer of technology, leaving behind a static technological base. 

Stop Dragging Bangladesh back to 1971

20-Mar-2013 

Bangladesh is a country poised to take off economically. True, there are serious issues of corruption, governance, shortage of power and law and order situation. None of these things are new. It will take time and patience to rectify these challenges. But if any one demands an ideal situation he is surely going to be disappointed. But these have to be addressed urgently also. It calls for realism also. 

On March 26, Bangladesh will celebrate its 42nd Independence Day. The 1971 generation belong broadly to two distinct ideological and political streams. One group fought in the war of liberation, lost family and friends, but achieved their goal. The other group threw their lot with the Pakistani army fought against their brethren, killing men, women and children in bloody rampages. 

These comprised the rightist Islamic forces of the Jamaat who formed their killing brigades called Razakars, Al Badars and Al Shams. Among the second group were some who were more sophisticated and cunning, pretending to be liberation warriors, but actually owing allegiance to Pakistan and revealed their true colours later. 

The Father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, an emotional and forgiving person, pardoned may of the butchers of Bangladesh. But the key conspirator, Prof. Ghulam Azam, the Amir of the Jamaat at that time, was denied Bangladeshi citizenship, and his organization banned. Sk. Mujib was assassinated on August 15, 1975 along with his family members. His daughters, Sk. Hasina and Sk. Rehana survived because they were abroad. The assassination was a huge conspiracy spanning countries. 

Sk. Mujibur Rahman’s assassination had more than one dimension. It was revenge for Pakistan and pro-Pakistanis embattled in Bangladesh. For the US, (read Henry Kissinger) it was a blow to India for having supported the liberation war which turned into an India-Pakistan war in which Pakistan was roundly defeated. Pakistan was a close ally of the US, and staged the secret Kissinger visit to China to establish US-China relations. The cold war entered South Asia. A new rearrangement of forces followed: an US-Pakistan-China axis, and a perceived Soviet Union-India axis. 

Liberation was almost overturned when Gen. Zia-ur-Rehman a Bangali Major in the Pakistani army, a ”freedom fighter “of convenience assassinated and executed opponents to become president in 1987-88. Zia formed the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and legitimatised the Jamaat. He almost took Bangladesh back to Pakistan. 

Nepal: Despite Heavy odds, Interim Election Government Starts Functioning

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan. 
20-Mar-2013 

The Interim Election Government with eleven ex- bureaucrats under the chairmanship of Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi started functioning in right earnest from 15th March. 

Strangely, the Chief Justice has not resigned from his post despite taking charge of the chairmanship of the interim government. The reasoning given is that the Chief Justice would return to his post once the elections are over. A petition filed in the Supreme Court was decided yesterday with the single bench ruling that the CJ cannot hold two posts at the same time as one would interfere with the other. It is good that the court had given a quick decision as the Bar Council as well as many other political leaders were aghast at this arrangement. 

Stranger still- former Prime minister Bhattarai has not formally resigned from his post. This is also explained away for the reason that he was only a "care taker prime minister" and that once another has been appointed to head the government his caretaker post would automatically lapse. I see no reason why Bhattarai cannot formally hand over his resignation to the President. 

There is no official announcement yet of the date of elections in June. In fact the political agreement amongst the four parties mentions about extending the term of the Interim government to December 15 in case elections are not held by June 21. It is hoped that the elections are held in June itself as otherwise it would lead to more complications. The High Level Political Committee instead of breathing down the neck of the administration should ensure that elections do take place in June itself. 

As part of the agreement, the President has already issued an ordinance on the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission.) The ordinance has removed the provision of "blanket amnesty" for serious human rights abuses. Discretionary powers have also been given to the five member commission to prosecute those accused of serious war crimes including rape. 

Some human rights activists have complained that the new ordinance is "weak" in addressing the concerns of the victims. It is too early to level such criticisms and these activists should appreciate the commitment of the new government to go ahead with the TRC. The Rights activists are also complaining that the TRC is not upto international standards! Each situation in a country is unique and it is best to allow the TRC to start functioning. 

The concerns of those unregistered citizens and their voting rights have also been addressed. Citizenship certificates will be issued to those citizens by descent to children of Nepali Citizens and the voters list of 2008 and that of the updated digitalised list of last year will also be taken into account in finalising the voters lists. 

Revolution in Nepal: Bolshevik-style?

IDSA COMMENT 
March 20, 2013 

Thabang is a small village cloistered on the mid-western hills of Nepal, but it began to steal the limelight after the Maoists declared their Protracted People’s War in the spring of 1996 in an apparent bid to establish a communist regime in the Himalayan kingdom. This remote village in Rolpa district, which is home to some 300 households, most of them from the ethnic Kham Magar community indoctrinated in the radical communist ideology, became the nerve centre of the Maoist insurgency, and a hideout for the rebel leaders during the bloody war that claimed the lives of over 15,000 people before it formally came to an end in 2006. Thabang is regarded as the Mecca for radical communists and a source of inspiration for them. 

And this explains why Ram Bahadur Thapa “Badal”, the general secretary of the breakaway Maoist party CPN-M led by Mohan Baidya “Kiran”, visited Thabang on February 13, 2013 to celebrate the 18th anniversary of the People’s War and reiterated his party’s commitment to “revolution”, even though, according to him, Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”, chairman of the mother party UCPN (Maoist), and Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, vice-chairman and Maoist ideologue, “betrayed” the causes of the revolution. After all, it was Badal, one of the key military strategists of the People’s War, who had played a major role in laying the foundation of the Maoist insurgency in the mid-western hills through the so-called “rural class struggle” even before the insurgency began in 1996. 

The political document initiated by Baidya, which was endorsed by the party’s recently held general convention, stresses the need for ‘state capture’ to liberate the “dispossessed and oppressed” in Nepal. But while the party’s tactical line, as mentioned in the document presented by Kiran in the general convention, is vague at best, the leaders close to him state that the party is preparing for an “urban insurrection” using the achievements of the People’s War as a springboard and floating the issue of “national sovereignty” as its main agenda to garner the support of the hoi polloi. These leaders allege that former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, who stepped down recently, is “pro-India” and that India had upped its ante in Nepal ever since his election to the helm some 18 months ago. 

There is also widespread perception in Kathmandu that the formation of the current election government led by Chief Justice Khilaraj Regmi was an “Indian design”, and Baidya believes that the Nepalis, who are “too sensitive” on the issue of nationalism, will join hands with him and take to the streets to overthrow the government. Not surprisingly, then, Baidya, backed by 21 other fringe parties and members of civil society, held protest programmes on the day Regmi was sworn in by President Ram Baran Yadav, saying Regmi is heading the election government as per the “design of the external powers”. The party has also stated that the principal contradiction today is between the common Nepali people and the “domestic comprador-bourgeoisie and feudal lords protected and mobilized by India.” 

Then, what are the strategies of the radical party for state capture? 

Myanmar: US, China and An Eastern Great Game?

By D Suba Chandran
20 March 2013 

It appears well established now, that a new Great Game is slowly evolving in Myanmar. Perhaps an Eastern Great Game, if one has to take the construct from the original Great Game between British India and Russia in the western parts of the Indian subcontinent. 

Will this Great Game in the East help Myanmar’s onward march towards peace, stability and democracy? More importantly, will the consolidation of Eastern Great Game and its implications help India’s interests and investments in Myanmar and in the region, as a whole? 

The New Great Game in India's East: US and China in Myanmar 

Recent developments within Myanmar highlight the newfound international interest in stabilizing and democratizing the country, after abandoning it in isolation for decades. In previous years, the international community not only abandoned the people of Myanmar, but also attempted to isolate its military regime through sanctions. Besides the actions by the then ruling regime within Myanmar, there was a concerted effort as well to make the country as a pariah state within the international system. As a result, facing international isolation, economic hardship and internal ethnic conflicts, Myanmar leaned towards China. 

Guided by its own strategic interests, Beijing also moved closer to Myanmar and became the primary source of support to its ruling elite. Not only did China support the rulers within Myanmar by providing economic and military assistance, but also provided the much needed cover at the international level. As a result, until recently, China has had unhindered access to the decision-making apparatus in Myanmar and also to its resources. From building roads to ports, China became one of the primary sources for any infrastructure construction within Myanmar.

Today, there is a substantial difference in both the issues explained above – Myanmar’s dependence on China, and the Beijing’s influence over Naypidaw. The US-led international community’s newfound interest in Myanmar has substantially changed the nature of Naypidaw’s dependence on Beijing. In the last few years, more leaders from the rest of world have visited Myanmar than from China. Aid, economic investment and opportunities for Myanmar have suddenly opened up; more importantly, Myanmar has become “acceptable” within the international system. As a result, China today realises that its influence and inputs into Myanmar’s decision-making apparatus is slowly getting dented.

Is the interest of international community especially that of the US, led by a desire to make Myanmar a stable and democratic polity, or is it shaped by the need to balance China? If looked at in the context of the recent US strategies of ‘Pivot’ and ‘Rebalance’, one could easily decipher that the American interest in Myanmar has a strong China component attached to it.

How will Beijing respond to this new turn of events? Will it sit quietly and allow Myanmar to fall into the hands of Western influence? China has its own trump cards inside Myanmar, starting from the restive ethnic communities such as the Kachins, to economic investments including infrastructural and hydel projects. China is unlikely to merely sit by and watch the encroachment of its influence within Myanmar by the rest of international community. 

China: How bad does the Japan-US alliance look?

By Rana Divyank Chaudhary
Research Intern, China Research Programme, IPCS 
20 March 2013 

The situation in the Asia-Pacific is precarious. Japan and China are neither willing to back down from a peaking military build-up nor a worsening diplomatic standoff. Though going to war might seem unlikely, China is apprehensive about a reinforced alliance between Japan and the US. 

What kind of impact will the Japan-US alliance and the shift in US focus toward regional geopolitics in the Asia-Pacific have on Beijing’s bilateral strategy vis-à-vis Tokyo? Is there room for China to compromise on the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute in the East China Sea? 

Downward Spiral of the China-Japan-US 'Triangle'

Similar to South Korea and Taiwan, the US is treaty-bound (1960) to assist Japan in defending its territory if a hostile third party attacks. While this dramatically enlarges the scope of Sino-Japanese conflict over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, it is also visibly, the most significant impediment to a Chinese first attempt at taking over the islands by force. Nonetheless, both China and the US have not made much about these possible eventualities and both have been inclined to manage rather than escalate the situation. 

However, there has been a fresh spike in Japan’s recent rhetoric on sovereignty over the islands and in anti-Japan protests in China. Assured support and retaliatory response by the US grants Japan a great degree of impunity and space to delay unfavourable outcomes through prolonged stand-offs. It emboldens the hard-line in Japanese foreign policy and projects a willingness to risk war at a time of internal political fragility and economic slowdown. The perceived benefits of the alliance in terms of external balancing take the edge off the costs of escalation for Japan. 

But, the uncertainty of whether the US will ultimately and unequivocally side with Japan against China, drives Tokyo to pursue hedging. Japan’s deliberate shift towards an assertive foreign policy and active defence measures is to satisfy the alliance’s dilemma. 

These dynamics sharpen and bring into contrast China’s image of a rising and dissatisfied power seeking immediate revision of rights and claims with little regard to the dividends of regional peace and stability. Arguably, the Japan-US alliance has precluded a negotiated settlement of the dispute between China and Japan. It has reduced the chances of furthering a diplomatic understanding between the actors toward non-aggression at the minimum.

The Arab Churning and Implications

IDSA COMMENT 
March 20, 2013 

At the recent security conclave held by IDSA, political strategists, Arab affairs observers, Islamic cerebrals and policy practitioners scrupulously dissected the most compelling factors including the cast of international players contributing to the festering ‘Arab Spring’ and its implications. 

The uprisings were a natural upshot of failings of the regimes. In reality, none including the Israeli intelligence could predict the spurt; blamed mostly for the delusion that the Arab rulers were immune to revolts and the pattern appeared fixed for the foreseeable future. But experts now believe that regime illegitimacy, social inequality and injustices were sustained only by external support and were not tenable. 

Ambiguity persists over the consequences and analysis of this complex but imagery nature of Arab events; to wonder whether the surge was a revolution, reawakening, renaissance, turmoil or simply Arabism. An ‘awakening’ signified a higher Arab political acuity but the centre point in the protesting power implied the end of the ‘fear’ factor, thus a ‘renaissance’. Whether or not such assessments indicated any real Arab renaissance, there was no doubting the optimistic view about the Arab’s positive march towards democracy and its presumed benefits to the people. The hope is that the processes at work remain transformational and hence an ‘Arab churning’ would entail streamlining of Arab societies, after decades of stagnation, into the new global political culture. 

But the region still remains fraught with problems and uncertainty. The Syrian crisis conceals as much as it reveals. The Islamists who captured power in Egypt and Tunisia are turning the spring of hope into a winter of despair, hence ‘Arab Winter’. Their commitment to democracy is suspect – making analysts wonder whether it is aspirational or simply a means to capture power. 

Libya’s radical change without an alternative is pushing it into uncertainty. Post-Assad Syria is going to be anarchic. In Yemen the transition has been smooth, but in Bahrain the uprising was aborted with outside intervention. The oil-rich Gulf monarchs have so far proved adept at controlling power through elementary reforms. Therefore, to judge it from either the democratic or Islamic angles remains a premature viewpoint, especially when misgivings endure about what motivated the protesters who came from a wide civilian spectrum; no commonality of views or ideologies existed. 

The trend is visibly towards changing the status quo, with Islam playing the central role although no case for a ‘caliphate’ exists. But the scenario is built for Islamism and democracy becoming an interdependent force in future. The Muslim Brotherhood is proving, in democratic guise, its political and electoral legitimacy. Soon it will acquire experience of governance. Hope is that the complex process of competing for popular support will have a conditioning effect on the Islamists, thus there is no cause for alarm now. One hopes that the exercise of political power will be negotiated among different stake holders. 

Need a Muscular Indian Strategy in Afghanistan

19 Mar , 2013 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting the President of Afghanistan, Mr. Hamid Karzai 

Even at the cost of sounding bellicose with that expressed need in the title of this paper, this writer will argue that Afghanistan stands as a shining example of the success of the country’s post-1990s foreign and security policy. This performance can be compared with its 1960s policy towards Bangladesh, the then East Pakistan, though the latter was more militaristic, stretching up to the 1971 liberation war. But the success in Afghanistan is yet to be harvested and may take a long time in coming. For, the Afghan problem is not just old but far more complex than the comparatively simpler desire of the people of Bangladesh for independence from Pakistan. 

One of the crucial elements of the Afghan imbroglio is the zero-sum game that Pakistan has created with its western neighbour, by which an Indian diplomatic achievement in Afghanistan is considered deleterious to Pakistan’s interests in the country, and vice versa. 

Till now, India was working on a low key, seeking to provide ordinary Afghans public goods like roads and bridges while staying away from the arena of armed conflict. 

New Delhi has also come to a realisation that the U.S. and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces would not be available to underwrite the security of the subcontinent through active measures against the Taliban or assorted other kinds of jihadi groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). 

So, serious debates are going on the within the government circles and amongst independent strategic analysis groups at the margins about what should be the next stage of the country’s involvement in Afghanistan. 

Till now, India was working on a low key, seeking to provide ordinary Afghans public goods like roads and bridges while staying away from the arena of armed conflict. Despite this, Indian government properties like the embassy and consulates and Indians working in Afghanistan have been targeted by organisations like LeT and on occasions by the ISI itself, as the Afghan authorities have claimed to have discovered. 

Post US Withdrawal Scenario in Afghanistan-India's Concerns and Strategies

18/03/2013 

The withdrawal of the American Forces from Afghanistan in 2014 poses many challenges to Indian diplomacy, intelligence agencies and the military. One of the members of Hurriyat after their visit to Pakistan in Dec 2012 had disclosed that the LeT cum Jamait–ud–Dawa head Hafiz Syed and the Hizbul Mujahedeen chief Syed Salahuddin had avowed revival of militancy in Kashmir after the US draws down its military presence in Afghanistan. This needs earnest deliberation and planning. 

Pakistan’s intentions 

Pakistan’s strategy in Afghanistan is India centric. It aims to create a “subversive space” on Afghan soil by ensuring its influence in the area through its proxy, the Taliban. To that end it has been vociferously seeking the participation of Taliban in peace talks. It intends to prop up a pliable weak Government with a significant role for Taliban. Such a regime it believes can be browbeaten into turning a blind eye to the creation of safe havens for militant outfits which it can employ to target India both in Kashmir and in the interior. It thus hopes to camouflage its complicity in the creation and perpetuation of training camps as well as terrorist strikes in India. This will provide it the much needed deniability. The need to prevent Indian influence in Afghanistan and the countries around is seen as a necessity to maintain its own initiative besides denying India the facility to support separatists in Baluchistan. Pakistan would do all that it can to deny any economic dividend that India may gain through trade or access to energy resources in Central Asian Republics (CAR). 

As a prerequisite to its designs, it needs to perpetually keep Afghanistan in a fragile state with a weak military. Preventing its economic and political integration within the region and thwarting its efforts from becoming a partner in the appropriate regional structures is yet another design in its game. In Pakistan’s perception, keeping alive the terror option against India is more relevant than economic or other political gains that may help mitigate its own state of bankruptcy. 

Likely scenario after the withdrawal of US from Afghanistan 

How various influences and pressures will play out in shaping the emergence of Afghanistan as a stable, free and a secular democracy in the region is difficult to predict. Pakistani intervention in the affairs of Afghanistan and its attempt to prop up a Taliban supported weak regime is likely to create a radicalised regime which is a collaborator with various international terrorist organisations. Such an administration will be an ideal setting for the militants to plan and execute terrorist strikes across the world in furtherance of their larger aims. Chaos and infighting within various ethnic groups within Afghanistan is a likely scene. In the bargain, the breakup of the country on ethnic lines affecting the integrity of Pakistan itself is a possibility. Internal turmoil supported by Pakistan from across the border will mean a sure economic disaster to the poverty stricken, corrupt and under-developed country. It is therefore in the interest of the world powers to assert their will to restrict the role of Pakistan and its surrogates in the political and strategic affairs of Afghanistan. Failure to exert at this point in time will cost much despair and sufferings to the entire world in the long run. 

When India (Almost) Invaded Mauritius

By Rory Medcalf
March 19, 2013

When one thinks of nations that have projected substantial military force on faraway islands countries like the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union are likely to come to mind. Less common is for one to mention India. 

But some fascinating new research about the planning for an aborted 1983 military intervention in Mauritius suggests that India is capable of thinking big about expeditionary operations, and that New Delhi will be far from a passive player in the contested Indian Ocean theatre. 

Nobody yet knows how an increasingly powerful India will behave in the looming Indo-Pacific era. But it would be foolish to assume that its security and foreign policy instincts will always be opposed to power projection and intervention. 

In fact, to India’s mixed record of foreign adventures, actual and contemplated – from Sri Lanka and East Pakistan, to Seychelles and the Maldives – must now be added the story of Operation Lal Dora. 

According to the groundbreaking new research by Australian scholar David Brewster and former Indian Director of Naval Intelligence Ranjit Rai, Indira Gandhi’s government began serious planning for an armed intervention to prevent a feared coup to against India-friendly Anerood Jugnauth government in Mauritius. 

In those Cold War days, Mauritius was torn by serious tensions along ideological and ethnic lines, and India had no doubts over whether this strategically-located Indian Ocean state was in its rightful sphere of interest. Another consideration was the welfare of the Indian-majority population on the island. 

According to Brewster and Rai’s intriguing paper, an army battalion was actually mobilized and moved from Hyderabad to Mumbai, though never embarked; inconveniently, the navy had not been told to expect them. 

Diplomatic immunity in peril

By  Anup Surendranath, Shreya Rastogi 

Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini. 

The privilege Daniele Mancini enjoys under the Vienna Convention, personally and as an Ambassador, is absolute. The marines issue should be resolved politically 

The Supreme Court’s order restraining the Italian Ambassador from leaving India and the possibility of contempt proceedings against him are without any basis in law. Undoubtedly the Republic of Italy did file a writ petition through the Ambassador and he did submit an affidavit stating that the marines would return to India. However, those facts along with Italy’s Note Verbale that the marines will not be returning do not provide sufficient legal grounds for action against the Italian Ambassador. The order restraining the Ambassador and the potential contempt of court proceedings are a serious breach of India’s obligations to provide diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961. 

Personal inviolability 

Article 253 of the Indian Constitution requires Parliament to introduce a legislation to give effect to an international agreement. In light of this provision, Parliament enacted The Diplomatic Relations (Vienna Convention) Act, 1972 to give effect to India’s obligations under the Vienna Convention. Within this legal framework, two questions arise in the current context: (i) Was there sufficient legal basis for the Supreme Court’s order restraining the Italian Ambassador from leaving the country?; (ii) Can contempt proceedings be instituted against the Italian Ambassador personally for not adhering to the commitments made in the affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court? 

The Supreme Court’s order restraining the Ambassador goes against the guarantee of personal inviolability of diplomatic agents. Article 29 of the Vienna Convention states that a diplomatic agent shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention and the receiving state shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity. While it is clear that in this case, Daniele Mancini did act in his official capacity while submitting the affidavit, Article 29 would protect him from any form of arrest and detention even if his actions were of a personal nature. It is precisely to avoid holding a diplomatic agent responsible for the acts of the sending state that Article 29 provides protection from any form of arrest or detention. 

On the question whether the order restraining the Italian Ambassador from leaving India amounts to detention under Article 29, the judgment of the International Court of Justice in Congo v. Belgium (2002) is instructive. The ICJ noted that measures that raise the fear of arrest even if they do not in fact interfere with the actual fulfilment of diplomatic activities would go against the guarantee of personal inviolability under Article 29. The order of the Supreme Court restraining the Italian Ambassador from leaving India and the subsequent alert issued to all airports by the Ministry of Home Affairs goes against this fundamental protection granted to diplomatic agents. 

Touchy diplomats

Mar 19, 2013 

An Australian diplomat observed that while some Indian Foreign Service men are among the world’s best, many are like village yokels

The controversy over what can and can’t be done to Italy’s ambassador exposes Indian bungling as well as the shoddy reputation abroad of all our institutions. Daniele Mancini might have lied but the two marines may not have absconded if our police, administrative and legal processes inspired confidence. 

Reprimanding errant ambassadors isn’t easy though the Americans, priding themselves on being the “arsenal of democracy”, have fine-tuned the technique of diplomatic one-upmanship. Indian foreign service and defence officers visiting the US for official talks are usually chagrined to find themselves paired with Americans below them in rank. If they object, the state department or Pentagon quietly leaks to the media that touchy Indians suffer from an inferiority complex.

It took a naturalised American to give the native-born a taste of their own medicine. Daniel Patrick Moynihan complained that Henry Kissinger, his junior in rank, always managed to get out first from Air Force One after a flight. The student of Metternich had all the tricks of the old Habsburg empire up his sleeve. Admitting that L.N. Jha was his equal in diplomatic manoeuvres, Mr Kissinger spitefully forbade senior American officials to meet India’s ambassador during the Bangladesh war.

A brush with protocol I recounted in Looking East to Look West: Lee Kuan Yew’s Mission India was when Harry Chan Keng Howe, Singapore’s high commissioner, came home to dinner. The meal went off pleasantly but he dropped in at my office next morning to say that though he had the place of honour on my wife’s right, the khansama hadn’t served him first. He wouldn’t have minded if Sachin Chaudhuri, the former finance minister, on my wife’s left, had been served first. Instead, the khansama had given precedence to the junior British diplomat sitting next to me.

I tried to plead that patriarchal India accords the most importance to the host and whoever sits beside him. But Harry nursed too many memories of colonial Singapore’s racism to be convinced. He may have been right too. The khansama came from the Bengal Club with its own whites-only legacy. Given Indian prejudices, I can believe an ethnic Indian Singaporean envoy who told me that his Chinese aide received better treatment in New Delhi.

I once watched an Indian envoy on home leave throw a tantrum in South Block because the receptionist wouldn’t let him walk up the broad marble stairs into any room he wished. He had no diplomatic privileges in India and needed a permit like us humble mortals. His Excellency was mightily offended.

So was the unknown retired Excellency who telephoned me out of the blue in Singapore to demand the numbers of several of my colleagues. When I explained I couldn’t hand out phone numbers without the owners’ permission, the man barked peremptorily, “I’ve just told you I am a former Indian ambassador to Ruritania!” He might have been giving orders to his half-witted peon. No wonder India’s relations with Ruritania had taken a nosedive, I mused.

Anjani Kumar: Zeroing in on the 'parallel economy'

19 Mar 2013

A small change in the Income Tax Act from ‘total income’ to ‘gross total income’ can make a big difference in containing black money 

Black money affects both the gross domestic product (GDP), the total value of goods and services produced in an economy, and tax revenue. Where transactions are recorded but tax is not paid, GDP figures may not be impacted. But when the transactions are not recorded or manipulated, GDP is suppressed and tax revenue depressed. The term “parallel economy” refers to such unrecorded transactions. Are there ways to bring this “parallel economy” into the mainstream?

Consider, first, the magnitude of the problem. There are various estimates of black money in India. The National Institute of Public Finance and Policy estimated it at 18 to 21 per cent of GDP in 1981. A study commissioned by the government last year estimated it at above Rs 10 lakh crore or 10 per cent of GDP. A Business Standard report (January 13) estimated it at 30 per cent of GDP, or Rs 28 lakh crore. The report of the Global Financial Integrity of November 2010 titled “The Drivers and Dynamics of Illicit Financial Flows from India: 1948-2008” estimated that India has lost during this period $462 billion (Rs 25 lakh crore) owing to illicit flows. But what is of greater concern is the observation that while the “underground economy” pre-reform (1948-1990) was 27.4 per cent, post-reform (1991-2008) it was 42.8 per cent.

When incomes of rich people grow, part of it also trickles down to lower-income people, either through their ostentatious expenditure or the creation of ancillary industries and supporting services. But a large part of the receipts by these lower-income people are not recorded. Look at the incomes of paan vendors outside five-star hotels, taxi owners, entertainment organisers, et al. These people, in turn, buy jewellery, land, flats and other assets, transactions that are not recorded, partly or wholly. Thus, such receipts get absorbed in unrecorded investments and it is partly for this reason that the “underground economy” post-reform has swelled.

Therefore, the priority in tackling the menace of black money should be to bring on record all such transactions. Once the transactions are recorded, the figures of not only GDP but also revenue will increase. If people receiving income of, say, Rs 1 lakh disclose their transactions, those with whom they invest would have to disclose their transactions in turn. Assuming profits from business or interest from deposits at 10 per cent, people with receipts or gross turnover of Rs 10 lakh would be disclosing their transactions. And assuming the number of such people with income of Rs 1 lakh or turnover of Rs 10 lakh at 10 million, transactions worth Rs 10 lakh crore – the black money estimated by the study commissioned by the government – will be brought on record.

Defence expenditure

By Lt-Gen Nirbhay Sharma (retd) 

Going beyond the Budget

The ongoing post-Budget debates are on expected lines. As in the past, all essential concerns are on the table excepting, of course, defence. The discourse predictably centres around the adequacy of the amount allocated. No mention is made of the vital issues — value for money and progress on self-reliance. The new budget's allocation of $ 37 billion (Rs 2.03 trillion) amounts to an increase of 14 per cent over the revised estimates of 2012-13. However, when you take into account the annualised inflation rate of around 6 per cent, the actual increase is almost nothing. 

Recently delivering a lecture in New Delhi, the Finance Minister had spoken about shifting from a compartmentalised to a comprehensive approach to security — encompassing all of its dimensions. With an eye on the Budget, a direct relationship between economic growth and the expense on defence was also highlighted. While no one can argue with the premise, its complexities demand further deliberation.

Defence needs to be viewed as an integral part of national planning so as to comprehensively quantify the overall requirement to meet our legitimate security needs and strategic aspirations. A coordinating mechanism must ensure that all the relevant planning and decision-making instruments of the state are in harmony and do not come in the way of either economic growth or defence preparedness. Considering that building defence capabilities takes a long time requiring assured and sustained financial commitment, the yearly pronouncement in the Budget of “allotting more money if required for defence” must be reviewed. The allocations are nullified further by “giving with one hand and taking back by the other” through cuts at revised estimates. Within these parameters, the allocation of 1.79 per cent of the GDP for defence requires more debate. Also, the present allocation constitutes 12.23 per cent of our annual expenditure, and the taxpayers have a right to know the “whys and hows”.

India is today one of the world's largest importers of defence equipment. In the next five years, we are likely to spend around $50 billion on imports. It's indigenous purchase ratio is barely 30 per cent. China, so often quoted as our strategic rival, is not only nearly self- reliant, it meets a substantial portion of its defence expenditure through the export of arms and other defence hardware. No wonder its defence spending has risen by 200 per cent in the last decade to reach $119 billion in 2010 (compared to our $36 billion). Indigenisation then can also be the key to prudent fiscal management by offsetting the expense on defence as well.

Secondly, the defence procurement procedures, which have been under constant revision, still result in delays due to procedural bottlenecks. Lengthy processes continue to contribute towards cost overruns, technology backlog and even corrupt practices. There is the view that “no-questions-asked- safety” lies in procurement through defence public sector units (DPSUs) and ordnance factories (OFs) alone. This, in fact, has given these undertakings a monopoly status leading to systemic inefficiency, lack of corporate accountability and competition, high costs and outdated technologies. With notable exceptions, these establishments primarily operate as aggregators or assembly units sourcing components from private producers. Hi-tech components are either outsourced or acquired as transfer of technology, leaving behind a static technological base.

Crumbling BRICS




19 Mar 2013

NEW DELHI – In 2001, when Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs coined the acronym BRIC to refer to Brazil, Russia, India, and China, the world had high hopes for the four emerging economies, whose combined GDP was expected to reach $128.4 trillion by 2050, dwarfing America’s projected GDP of $38.5 trillion. When the four countries’ leaders gather on March 26 in South Africa – which joined their ranks in 2010 – for the fifth BRICS summit, their progress and potential will be reassessed.

The summit’s hosts have set ambitious goals, reflected in the summit’s theme: “BRICS and Africa – a partnership for development, integration, and industrialization.” They seek to advance national interests, further the African agenda, and realign the world’s financial, political, and trade architecture – an agenda that encompasses objectives from previous summits, while reflecting South Africa’s goal of harnessing its membership to benefit all of Africa.

But, while strengthening ties with African countries might seem like the kind of pragmatic development issue that should bring consensus, the seeds of doubt are already being sown. Lamido Sanusi, the governor of Nigeria’s central bank, has called for Africans to recognize that “their romance with China” has helped to bring about “a new form of imperialism.”

Moreover, the central item on the summit’s agenda, a proposed “BRICS development bank,” is one that has gone nowhere at previous summits. This time, armed with a “feasibility study” put together by the five BRICS finance ministers, some progress may at last be made. With trade, both among the BRICS countries and between the BRICS and the rest of Africa, expected to increase from roughly $340 billion in 2012 to more than $500 billion in 2015, there is also much to discuss on the commercial front.

So far, the goal of “global realignment” away from the advanced countries has catalyzed these five very disparate countries’ efforts to forge their own bloc. But the primacy given to “advancing national interests” has always precluded real concerted action, at least until now.

This is why the idea of establishing a BRICS development bank has taken on such importance. And the recently conducted feasibility study might spur long-awaited progress. But toward what end?

According to China’s official news agency, the development bank’s primary objective would be “to direct development in a manner that reflects the BRICS’ priorities and competencies.” Once the bank is established, a working group will be tasked with building the necessary technical and governance capacity. But this stock rhetoric fails to address the discrepancies between the BRICS’ interests, or to define the bank’s role in reconciling and advancing them.

Does China Have a Foreign Policy?

By ZHENG WANG

WHILE many Western analysts focus on the balance of reformers and conservatives in China’s new leadership, most overlook the absence of career diplomats and foreign affairs experts at the highest level of power in Beijing.

China is rising as a global power, but the position that foreign policy occupies in the Chinese political system is very low.

On Saturday, the government, led by the new Chinese president, Xi Jinping, announced its new foreign policy team.

Yang Jiechi, the foreign minister since 2007, was elevated to the State Council. His successor, Wang Yi, has overseen relations with Taiwan and Japan and represented China in talks with the West over North Korea’s nuclear program. China also named a new ambassador to the United States: Cui Tiankai, a career diplomat and a graduate of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

However, neither Mr. Yang, who will continue to oversee foreign relations, nor Mr. Wang, the new foreign minister, is among the 25 members of the Politburo — the power center of Chinese politics.

None of the seven members of the even more powerful Politburo Standing Committee — which includes Mr. Xi and the new prime minister, Li Keqiang — is a foreign policy expert, though one of them, Wang Qishan, has worked closely with the last two Treasury secretaries of the United States, Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Timothy F. Geithner, in coordinating the response to the global economic crisis of 2007-8.

China watchers have a tendency to overstate the sophistication of Beijing’s foreign policy and ambitions, but the truth is that China’s foreign policy is highly deficient. While the outsiders often see China as a rising giant and a threat, Chinese leaders are in fact largely nervous and insecure, uncertain of how to manage, both at home and abroad, the inevitable tensions that arise from their nation’s rapid ascent on the world stage. For the newly “elected” leaders, their first challenge would be how to fill the foreign policy vacuum and how to solve the country’s choice between nationalism and globalism.

Words like “aggressive,” “assertive” and “arrogant” have been used to describe China’s foreign policy, particularly with respect to its protracted war of words with Japan over a set of disputed islands in the East China Sea.

However, a country’s foreign policy should be judged on the basis of its actions as well as its rhetoric. When we conduct a careful examination of Chinese policies and actions, we see that Chinese foreign policy is actually ambivalent, even weak. Beijing does not have a clear and well-developed policy on many issues, from the disputed islands to North Korea to climate change. Strong rhetoric is often used to compensate for weak or incoherent policies.

In fact, China’s bark is often far worse than its bite: China has not been at war with another country since a brief armed conflict with Vietnam in 1979, and has been very cautious in its dealings with its neighbors who occupy islands claimed by China in the South China Sea. This explains why Chinese nationalists have at times criticized the government’s foreign policy for being as soft and accommodating.

18 Mar.: China replaces UK as world’s fifth largest arms exporter, says SIPRI


By Stockholm,
18 March 2013

China has become the fifth largest exporter of major conventional arms worldwide, according to new data on international arms transfers published today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). This is the first time China has been in the top five arms exporters since the end of the cold war. Overall, the volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons grew by 17 per cent between 2003–2007 and 2008–12. 

The five largest suppliers of major conventional weapons during the five-year period 2008–12 were the United States (30 per cent of global arms exports), Russia (26 per cent), Germany (7 per cent), France (6 per cent) and China (5 per cent). This is the first time that the UK has not been in the top five since at least 1950, the earliest year covered by SIPRI data. China’s displacement of the UK is the first change in the composition of the top five exporters in 20 years. 

The volume of Chinese exports of major conventional weapons rose by 162 per cent between 2003–2007 and 2008–2012, and its share of the volume of international arms exports increased from 2 to 5 per cent.

‘China’s rise has been driven primarily by large-scale arms acquisitions by Pakistan,’ said Dr Paul Holtom, Director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. ‘However, a number of recent deals indicate that China is establishing itself as a significant arms supplier to a growing number of important recipient states.’ 

Asian imports strengthen naval capabilities 

In the period 2008–12 Asia and Oceania accounted for almost half (47 per cent) of global imports of major conventional weapons. The top five importers of major conventional weapons worldwide—India (12 per cent of global imports), China (6 per cent), Pakistan (5 per cent), South Korea (5 per cent), and Singapore (4 per cent)—were all in Asia.

Several countries in Asia and Oceania have in recent years ordered or announced plans to acquire long-range strike and support systems that would make them capable of projecting power far beyond their national borders. Last year notably saw the delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine from Russia to India and the commissioning of China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning.

Other regional players are seeking to establish or strengthen submarine fleets, including several South East Asian countries and Australia, which is also acquiring large surface warships and combat aircraft. These developments come at a time of heightening tensions over territorial disputes in the East and South China seas.