16 May 2013

Chinese Prime Minister’s Visit to India

Paper No. 5493 Dated 15-May-2013

By B. Raman

1. Prime Minister Li Kequiang of China, who took over in March last, is to visit India, Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany during his first round of overseas visits after taking over as the Prime Minister.

2. His clubbing together his visits to India and Pakistan on his way to Europe indicates the equal importance which the newly-elected Chinese leadership attaches to China’s relations with India and Pakistan.

3. The visit to India from May 19 to 21 threatened to come under a cloud following the intrusion by a platoon of PLA troops into Indian territory in the Daulat Beg Oldie area of Eastern Ladakh on April 15 and their camping in tents there for nearly three weeks.

4. The resulting stand-off between Chinese and Indian troops of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) created trans-Line of Actual Control tensions and led to demands in India for the postponement of the visit of our Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid to Beijing to make preparations for Li’s visit. The stand-off also revived the distrust of China in Indian strategic circles.

5. The two countries managed to avert an embarrassing postponement of the visits by agreeing on the restoration of the status quo ante. The Chinese troops then vacated the Indian territory into which they had intruded.

6. Two questions remain unclear. Firstly, why did the Chinese troops intrude into this area even at the risk of their intrusion casting a shadow on the first visit of their new Prime Minister to India? Secondly, was there an Indian quid pro quo for the Chinese withdrawal? Sections of the Indian media had reported that India had agreed to remove some temporary infrastructure like bunkers for sheltering patrolling Indian troops from its territory. If media accounts of the quid pro quo are correct, it could ultimately turn out to be to the detriment of our sovereignty claims in that area.

7. While the Ministry of Defence of the Government of India has been a little more forthcoming on the Indian right to build defensive and logistics infrastructure in our territory, the Ministry of External Affairs has been evasive.

8. Ever since Xi Jinping took over as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in November last year, he has been talking of the need for a border settlement “ as early as possible.” The previous leaderships used to talk of the need for time and patience in reaching a border accord and for not allowing this to come in the way of the development of the bilateral relations in the economic and other fields. India had been going along with this formulation of the past leaderships.

9. From the various remarks of Xi on Sino-Indian relations since he took over, it would seem that he wants a time-frame for finding a border accord without allowing the pressure for a time-frame coming in the way of strengthening relations in other fields. The recent intrusion, in this regard, could be interpreted as an attempt by the new leadership to press the need for a solution “as early as possible” without letting the negotiations drag on endlessly.

10. It would be in India’s interest too to work for a border accord “as early as possible.” At the same time, India should not accept the Chinese formulation that the absence of a border accord should not come in the way of the economic and other relations. This formulation has immensely benefitted China.

Kenneth Waltz R.I.P. (1924-2013)

IDSA COMMENT

May 15, 2013

Kenneth Waltz, probably the most influential international relations theorist since the late 1950s, died on May 13, 2013. I did not know Waltz personally and I only saw him once, when he was given an award for his achievements at the International Studies Annual Convention in 2010 at New Orleans. As the tributes to his life and contributions pour in, I wanted to set down a few thoughts about how much his work has influenced the field as well as my own intellectual development and ideas.

What I find most fascinating is how little Waltz has written when compared to the enormous impact he has had on the field. He has only three full-length books, spread over three decades and the last of these, Theory of International Politics, was written almost thirty-five years ago. Two of these books became classics and are still widely read, including Man, the State and War, the book that grew out of his PhD thesis.

As Waltz started his doctoral work, he was more interested in political philosophy than international politics and was really forced into international politics by his advisor Professor William T.R. Fox at Columbia. But his PhD thesis brought these disciplines together, asking how political philosophers had looked at the question of war and categorizing their explanations.Man, the State and War is still essential reading for any IR student. In other words, scholars are still reading the PhD thesis that he wrote more than half a century back! And I expect they will continue reading it for a long time.

But what is equally fascinating is the evolution of Waltz’s thinking because you can clearly see his progression between Man, the State and War and Theory of International Politics, which Waltz himself characterizes as a sequel in his Conversations with History interview. The first outlined why a systemic theory was necessary, the second outlined Waltz’s own view of how that systemic theory should look. Waltz has never revised or produced a second edition ofTheory of International Politics. Clearly, it does not need any revision. In between, he wrote his second book (which is rarely read) but also some other important essays including his argument about the importance of polarity in international politics and specifically why bipolarityis more stabilizing that multipolarity. His insight in this early essay has significantly influenced how Realists have thought about the issue and has been central to many Realist arguments after the end of the Cold War. I have become more sceptical about his argument about the pacifying effects of bipolarity but only because I think that nuclear weapons played as important a role as polarity in preventing the Cold War from becoming a shooting war. Nevertheless, the impact of polarity on international politics cannot be ignored it remains animportant subject for IR scholars, most of whom take his lead.

India’s defence needs FDI

Manoj Joshi


The government has finally started taking small steps to change procurement policy but what is required is to free it from the inefficient public sector 

Last Friday, the Ministry of Defence took yet another step to signal that it is serious about turning around the pathetic state of India’s defence industry. It did so by requesting proposals from eight foreign vendors for 56 medium transport aircraft to replace the Indian Air Force’s ageing fleet of HS 748 Avros. What is striking about the deal is not its value of around Rs 28,000 crore, but the fact that the ministry has deliberately kept the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd away from the competition. The deal involves off-the-shelf purchase of 16 aircraft with the balance to be made in a facility in India established by the foreign vendor and an Indian private sector partner of its choice. 

Private sector involvement 

This is the first time in recent decades that the government has consciously chosen to open up a military industrial contract to the private sector and it comes hard on the heels of the Ministry’s April 20 amendation to its defence procurement procedure (DPP). Yet, these are only tiny steps in the right direction. What we need are giant strides that will ensure that the next cycle of modernisation too — it will begin roughly in the mid-2020s — is not based overwhelmingly on imports. 

“Tweaking” procedures, as the MoD is now doing, is not going to achieve this. It will take nothing less than a drastic makeover, involving a transformation of the management of the ministry, as well as dismantling some parts of the military-industrial setup, to make way for more efficacious alternatives. 

In the mid-1990s, a committee headed by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam said it would increase the indigenous content of weaponry from 30 to 70 per cent by 2005. But in 2013, we are still importing 70 per cent. We are manufacturing high-end products like the SU 30 MKI fighters, Brahmos missiles and Scorpene subs, but these are licence productions of foreign designed weapons, and even here we know that key assemblies will be imported till the very end of the programme. 

While other sectors of the manufacturing industry in the country, notably automobiles, have become world class sectors, the record of our government-run arms industry which employs 1.5 million people, remains one of failure and disappointment. In 1991, the Arun Singh Committee on Defence Expenditure was the first to point out the obsolescence of the ordnance factories and recommended the shutting down of five and letting the private sector handle items like clothing. Instead of shutting down, they are flourishing, including the premier Vehicle Factory Jabalpur which simply assembles Ashok Leyland Stallion and Tata LPTA 713 trucks. 

The performance of the Ordnance factories and Defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs) has been, to use a polite word, below par. According to a report of the Boston Consulting Group, the annual output per employee in the Ordnance Factories and the DPSU is of the order of Rs 15.4 lakh while the average across the manufacturing sector is Rs 30.40 lakh. The parliamentary Defence Service Estimates of 2012-13 show that despite this, Rs 556 crore had been allotted for overtime pay in the Ordnance factories’ budget. 

Loot of the exchequer 

Just how we have short-changed our defence capabilities and allowed DPSUs to loot the exchequer is brought out by two figures. One reveals that build times for indigenous warships are unconscionably long. The Delhi class (6,500 tonnes) took 114 months to be built while equivalent ships take 29-30 months in the U.S. and Japan. Delhi, the first in its class, may have involved a learning curve, but sadly, the follow on Mysore and Mumbai also took 117 and 106 months. The Shivalik class which were contracted for 60 months took 112 months. 

Another metric emerges from the fact that Indian-made Sukhoi 30 MKI costs Rs 80 crore per unit more than those imported from Russia. The fact we are tying up to design the fifth generation fighter with the Russians indicates that there was little or no learning process involved in the indigenous manufacture of the Su-30 by the HAL. 

In the past one year, we have seen two other aspects of the problem. A CBI probe has shown how the management of the Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML) undermined the 1986 agreement with Tatra of the erstwhile Czechoslovakia for the supply of its T815 trucks. But instead of a projected 85 per cent indigenisation by 1991, we were left below 50 per cent in 2012. 

Evidence suggests that our DPSU managers have actually been going out of their way to serve the interests of the foreign “partner,” rather than the PSU they head. This is not a disease confined to BEML alone; almost all DPSUs suffer from it. 

Intrusion and the farce of being friends

Wednesday, 15 May 2013 | Ashok K Mehta

New Delhi played down the encroachment as a ‘local’ incident, having misread the Chinese intention. There was an intelligence and surveillance lapse. The responsibility for the border is with the Home Ministry, not the Army

The unprecedented Chinese incursion into the Depsang plateau in Ladakh should be a wake-up call for the Government. Judging by the record of appeasement of China — a choice triggered by the two-front contingency — and the slipshod manner in which the adverse situation was allowed to continue for three weeks in full public gaze reflects the passivity of the establishment which will encourage the new Chinese leadership to push India around on any future settlement of the border dispute. China’s first Blue Book released on May 10 sees the UPA Government in ‘serious crisis’. 

What else could be expected when Ministers described the intrusion, the most serious since the 1986 face-off at Wangdung, as a ‘local incident’; an ‘acne’; and as one lying in no-man’s land? A former foreign office mandarin has candidly described Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid as someone suffering from verbal diarrhoea, when, after his recent visit to China, he said he would like to live in Beijing. In his meetings with Chinese leaders, Mr Khurshid merely flagged the incursion because he did not want to apportion blame when clearly it was the most serious violation ever of the perceived Line of Actual Control in Ladakh. Mr Khurshid’s illustrious predecessor took the abundant precaution of never speaking off the cuff — he was always equipped with a written statement. It is another matter that at the United Nations he read out a part of the Portuguese Foreign Minister’s speech. 

Mr Khurshid has stated that we need to do an internal analysis of how the intrusion was handled. Why did the Chinese stage the incursion in the first place, despite a multitude of agreements and protocols on maintenance of peace and tranquility on the border — 1993 and 1996 CBMs; 2005 Political Parameters and Guiding Principles; and the 2012 Joint Border Mechanism? No one has deciphered Chinese motives in making the well-planned 19km deep 21-day-long intrusion in an area where they had never ventured before. The reasons being given vary from the zeal of local commanders to taking a leaf out of the new leadership’s ‘assertive deterrence’ in protecting its core interests of sovereignty and territorial integrity, to a show of strength for testing Indian response in an area of huge geo-strategic significance where they seek concessions. 

Attributed to the intrusion are other impulses: Believe it or not, nudging India for an early border settlement, heralding China’s White Paper on defence released on April 16; and securing Indian acquiescence of yet one more protocol — the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement. 

The timing was equally baffling. Four weeks before Mr Khurshid’s visit to China and seven weeks before the new Premier Li Keqiang’s first visit outside China, to India. Both sides wanted the visits, India more than China. Beijing’s brinkmanship led to furious Indian efforts to get the crisis defused. So why did the Chinese PLA relent and what did they take back? According to the Government, nothing. There was no deal, it was an unconditional withdrawal. This is hard to believe. 

Mr Khurshid has gone public saying one tin-shed at Chumar was dismantled. Chumar, incidentally, is 400km south east of Depsang, on the Himachal border. The Chinese reportedly had made three demands: Freeze infrastructure development; cease patrolling; and deactivate Daulat Beg Oldi, Fukche and Nyoma air fields as these violate the 1993 and 1996 protocols. 

Analysing the Indian response, it is clear that New Delhi played down the intrusion as a local incident, obviously misreading Chinese motivation and intention. It was an intelligence and surveillance lapse — that the intrusion actually occurred on April 10, and in no way could the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have been face to face within six hours. The responsibility for the border is with the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and not the Army. This anomaly has to be corrected till the border is settled. That the Cabinet Committee on Security met after 17 days shows the incursion was not a local affair. The most glaring defect was the uncoordinated response and the suppression of critical information that led to avoidable speculation in the media and in Parliament. 

In contrast, the Chinese response was firm, measured and in one voice — that, as Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying consistently held, the LAC had not been crossed, consultations were ongoing and “China is ready to join hands with Indian side to seek a mutually acceptable and fair solution to the border question at an early date”. After the BRICS summit in Durban on March 27, where President Xi Jingping had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the PLA Daily noted that while in the case of maritime disputes in the South and East China Seas, China’s core interests did not permit compromise, its dispute with India calls for a ‘mutually acceptable solution’. Further, the daily underlined seeking a solution as soon as possible which is a departure from the hardline formulation of ‘dispute being complex and legacy of history that required patience’. If this interpretation is accurate and not double-speak, it is a new ballgame for China’s quest of seeking a new relationship with India. 

India preparing for a possible two-front war with Pakistan, China: Blue Book

Press Trust of India : Beijing, Tue May 14 2013

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/india-preparing-for-a-possible-twofront-war-with-pakistan-china-blue-book/1115694/0

"YOU'VE CROSSED THE BORDER, PLEASE GO BACK' said a banner held aloft by intruding Chinese troops at Daulat Beg Oldi sector of Ladakh. (PTI) 

India continues to view Pakistan as the "real threat" even though it is adjusting its military strategy to include the possibility of a limited two-front war with both Pakistan and China, the first Blue Book on India published by a Chinese think tank said. 

Pakistan is India's main "real threat" to maintain a high degree of vigilance and preparedness, the summary of the Blue Book released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, (CASS) said. 

The report says Indian military deployment on land is mainly fixated against Pakistan but in recent times, it is also being adjusted for both China and Pakistan. 

The book in Chinese language, the first ever on India, said, New Delhi is focusing to deal with limited war with China and Pakistan at the same time. 

It spoke of large increase in troops at the borders and upgradation of border forces with new weapons and equipment. 

The report spoke about India's maritime military deployment in recent years, the prime cause of China's worry as it regards India's fast expanding blue water navy as a major threat. 

The book, which speaks of India's efforts in the past to strengthen its maritime military strength in the East, specially mentioned Indian Navy's Eastern Naval Command and its bases in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. 

It also spoke of increase in Indian defence budget with the rapid growth of the Indian economy making it the biggest buyer of the international arms. 

About India's policy towards neighbours, it said New Delhi continued to pursue the "Gujral Doctrine" on neighbouring countries to provide unilateral assistance, enhancing mutual trust and cooperation with the neighbouring countries of South Asia, while continuing to push forward the peace process with Pakistan. 

India also established a strategic partnership with Afghanistan while developing relations with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, it said. 

The book also mentioned India's bid for the permanent membership of the UN Security Council in association with Germany, Japan and Brazil besides India's Look East Policy improving relations with Japan, Vietnam, Australia in the backdrop of US' Asia Pacific push. 

While cautioning the Chinese establishment against underestimating India's "great potential" for development in future, it has highlighted the recent corruption scandals which has damaged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government. 

However, the book praised India's progress saying that it has achieved remarkable progress. 

Since the implementation of a comprehensive economic reform in 1991, India's economic development has made remarkable achievements with accelerated economic growth improving the comprehensive economic strength resulting in "India's rise". 

Noting the campaigns like "Incredible India", "world office", it said India remained one of the fastest growing economies in the world. 

But at the same time, India faced many contradictions in its aura of high-growth which include the problem of poverty, uneven development, irrational industrial structure, the high fiscal deficit, it said. - See more at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/india-preparing-for-a-possible-twofront-war-with-pakistan-china-blue-book/1115694/0#sthash.AGD1ZYkW.dpuf

Afghan-Pakistani Border Row: A Double-Edged Sword for India

By Pratyush
May 16, 2013
http://thediplomat.com/the-pulse/2013/05/16/afghan-pakistani-border-row-a-double-edged-sword-for-india/

Preoccupied with its own border tensions with China, India has given little attention to the other border dispute brewing in the region, the one between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yet a spate of border clashes between the two states to India’s west could have a far-reaching impact on the wider region, which could also compound Delhi’s clash with Beijing. 

Afghanistan has historically refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Durand Line, contending that it is a relic of the region’s colonial past. The line, drawn by the British in the 19th century, was meant to delineate British India from Afghanistan and cuts through lands populated by Pashtun tribes. Since Pakistan’s creation in 1947, the Durand Line has served as the de-facto border between the two nations. In stark contrast to Afghanistan’s position, Pakistan considers the Durand Line a settled international boundary and has consistently refused to discuss its legitimacy.

In recent weeks, the Afghan government has loudly denounced a slew of new Pakistani border posts, which officials in Kabul claim are being built in their territory. On May 2, border fighting erupted in the rugged Goshta area of eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, following growing complaints over construction of the outposts. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Afghan officials said the incident began after an Afghan Border Police unit deployed on the Goshta border noticed Pakistani forces beginning additional work to fortify their outpost, despite recent agreements to suspend construction.

The ensuing clashes, among the worst in recent years, left one Afghan border guard dead and two Pakistani soldiers injured. In a measure of growing Afghan fury over Pakistan’s perceived violation of Afghan sovereignty, thousands of protesters took to the streets, chanting “Death to Pakistan”

This response, however, has done little to end the violence. On May 12, at least two children were injured and four houses damaged after shelling by Pakistani forces in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, indicating that border tensions were far from over. The clashes have led to mounting public support for the Afghan military – an irony given that years of fighting with the Taliban have seldom led to similar levels of support.

The Call of the Clan

BY MARK S. WEINER | MAY 15, 2013
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/05/15/the_call_of_the_clan

Why ancient kinship and tribal affiliation still matter in a world of global geopolitics.

What do the European sovereign debt crisis, the difficulty of building a liberal democracy in Afghanistan, and a Mexican drug cartel have in common? To begin with, all three are the predictable result of weak government institutions. On a deeper level, however, they are products of a single basic impulse: They all implicate the fundamental human drive to live under the rule of the clan. Grasping this impulse and appreciating the range of forms it takes are vital to solving a surprisingly long list of foreign-policy challenges.

So what is the rule of the clan? Ancient Highland Scotland provides a helpful example. Until well after the failed 1745 Jacobite rising, when Britain roundly defeated the cause of "Bonnie Prince Charlie," no robust public identity or state institution in the Highlands effectively superseded clans. Society was organized around kinship groups -- like the MacGregors, Macphersons, and MacDonalds, each associated with its own region -- and the ever shifting confederacies they established over centuries. Under clan rule, groups of extended families formed the basic building blocks of civic life. They remained largely autonomous from central government authority, maintaining their own law and settling disputes according to local custom.

Inseparable from this profound decentralization of authority was the clan's culture of group honor and shame. Collective honor allowed individuals to interact with outsiders -- whether for the purposes of trade, marriage, or friendship -- based on the social reputation of their kin (a stain on one Macpherson was a stain on all). This principle reinforced the autonomy of clans and strengthened their internal coherence by providing an incentive for members to keep watch over one another's behavior. Group honor and shame formed the cultural circuitry of ancient Highland Scotland's radically decentralized society -- just as it does in many parts of the developing world today (and, indeed, in some parts of the developed world as well).

Based on the biological fact of blood relatedness and the adjunct principle of "fictive kinship" -- in which a non-consanguineous group is treated "like family" -- clan rule is a natural way of organizing legal and political affairs. Certainly, it is more explicable in human terms than that most historically anomalous of institutions: the modern liberal state. Clan rule also has much to recommend it, offering its members social solidarity, a secure sense of personal identity, and a measure of social justice. Likewise, the institution of blood feud, the dispute-resolution corollary of kin honor, has delivered relative harmony for millennia -- controlling violence through its finely calibrated rules of reciprocal exchange.

Given these advantages, people who live under clan rule often -- and sensibly -- hold it in high regard, just as they rationally return to it when other social structures break down. But today, clan rule poses grave international challenges, not just in tribal societies, but in more developed nations, and even in modern liberal democracies.

Real challenge lies in handling the Taliban

by S. Nihal Singh 


Two aspects of the Pakistan election results are worthy of note. One is, of course, the return to power after 14 years of Mr Nawaz Sharif of the Muslim League (PML-N). The other is the hunger of the average Pakistani voter to have his say, despite threats and mayhem promised and often acted upon by the extremists.

No one can describe the elections as entirely free and fair because of a terror campaign aimed at the more liberal and secular parties such as the People’s Party of Pakistan, the National Awami Party and the MQM. They could campaign only furtively, if at all. On the other hand, the PML (N) and the newcomer PTI of the cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan had a free run.

Indeed, Mr Imran Khan’s electoral debut in national elections has been more than a footnote. He is nudging the PPP for second place and his call for “a new Pakistan” enthused many new young voters and considerable sections of women. His call for a “new Pakistan” was heard. He also did well in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Indeed, a regional split between the most populous Punjab province and the other provinces has been accentuated.

For Mr Sharif, his third stint as Prime Minister is a personal triumph because a man who was displaced in an Army coup, first imprisoned and then exiled for years in Saudi Arabia, is back in power. His nemesis, General Pervez Musharraf, was barred from contesting the election and is facing a string of serious charges in courts after his homecoming from self-exile. By the same token, Mr Sharif faces a mountain of challenges.

These challenges are primarily domestic, both in the economic field and in initiating a new policy towards the Taliban and in managing his relationship with the Army establishment. But the looming American withdrawal from Afghanistan next year imposes immediate priorities and he must balance the widespread anti-American sentiment in his country, particularly on the use of drones, with the obvious need for US money and support for receiving international financial help. If he makes the right moves towards India, it might help alleviate the acute power crisis crippling his country. In other words, Mr Sharif must hit the ground running.

The world will judge Mr Sharif’s opening gambit by how he approaches the Pakistani Taliban. It is all very well to pronounce, as he has, that the answer lies in talking to, not fighting, the extremists. There are several shades of the Taliban, a section rejecting the very concept of democracy Pakistani voters have chosen to endorse. While the Afghan Taliban have publicly refused to talk to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, dismissing him as a US puppet, how is the Pakistan variant to be induced to sit down to talk turkey?

Above all, Mr Sharif’s primary task is to build on the enthusiasm shown by voters in the democratic process, despite all the warts, to strengthen institutions. In a sense, the judiciary has been hyper-active, but other institutions a democratic state must rely on need to be strengthened. The civilian leadership’s equation with the Army establishment is still very much a work in progress and Mr Sharif’s own experience of the Kargil misadventure must serve as a warning. While the Army and its present chief, Gen Ashfaque Pervez Kayani, has allowed a change of leadership from one civilian dispensation to the other to happen for the first time, they are keen on guarding their dominant voice in relation to nuclear policy and in dealings with Afghanistan and India.

Nawaz Sharif’s Return to Power Brings Pakistan’s Challenges in Focus

TIME
May 12, 2013

In 1999, Nawaz Sharif was overthrown in a military coup. His vanquisher, General Pervez Musharraf, was broadly welcomed in Pakistan, and later, by the international community. Sharif was first thrown in jail, and later dispatched into exile for seven years. In his absence, some claimed that Sharif’s party — and his political career — were finished. Now, in an astonishing turn of history, Sharif is set to become Pakistan’s Prime Minister for the third time, while his once powerful nemesis Musharraf is under arrest and possibly facing trial for alleged crimes to do with abuse of power. 

Sharif beat expectations, cruising toward a convincing victory that will allow his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PMLN) party to control the national Parliament and hold a two-thirds majority in the provincial parliament of Punjab, Pakistan’s wealthiest and most populous province. As the results became apparent in the early hours of Sunday morning, Sharif supporters spilled out into the streets of Lahore, the capital of Punjab, cheering. Young men whizzed through the streets, their speed lending a flutter to party flags attached at the back. “Look, look who has come? The tiger has come, the tiger has come!” they chanted, referring to Sharif’s election symbol. 

If the elections could be boiled down to one issue, it was electricity. Throughout the country, voters listed a litany of their disappointments. They dreaded the near-daily terrorist attacks they suffer, not least during the campaign. At least 130 people were killed during the bloody election campaign, mainly supporters of Pakistan’s secular parties, in attacks on candidates, election rallies and campaign offices. Tales of greed also repulsed Pakistanis. All former ministers of President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) were voted out in Punjab province. 

But for many voters, their principal concern was the crippling power shortages they endure — sometimes for up to 20 hours a day — and the effect it has on the economy. Economists estimate that Pakistan’s energy crisis shaves off up to 5% growth each year. In big industrial towns like Faisalabad, where Sharif’s party won many seats, factories have been forced to shut down and tens of thousands of workers laid off. If the next government can diminish power cuts substantially, it may be enough to win the next elections. If it fails, it could suffer the fate of its predecessors. 

Sharif appealed to voters, particularly in his native Punjab, as a businessman who has experience of governance and who may be able to lift Pakistan’s economy out of its current misery. In a country shifting toward a more conservative direction, Sharif’s social conservatism and religiosity was a plus. In 1997, when he last won an election, Sharif told academic Vali Nasr, he wanted to be “both the [Turkish moderate Islamist leader Necmettin] Erbakan and the [economically minded former Malaysian Prime Minister] Mahathir [Mohamad] of Pakistan.” 

It was a disappointing night for former cricket legend Imran Khan, who was mounting an aggressive and high-profile campaign as the candidate for “change.” Despite a flood of publicity, claims of a solid youth vote behind him and a well-financed party infrastructure, he failed to secure the breakthrough he craved, winning around 35 out of 242 seats in Parliament. Khan came second in a vast number of seats, but failed to catch up to Sharif’s galloping tiger. Still, Khan will remain a force in Pakistani politics and could become the leader of the opposition in Parliament while his party, which swept the northwest militancy-wracked province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, will form a provincial government there. 

On Sunday, Khan accepted defeat but said that his party was a victim of polling-day rigging. Several Khan supporters have pointed out incidents of shady electoral practices at polling booths across Lahore. The PPP is licking its wounds, suffering its second-worst defeat ever, but holding on to its stronghold in Sindh province. 

Misplaced Optimism


The ‘restoration’ of democracy has done little to impede Pakistan’s hurtling flight into chaos in the past, and it would be delusional to believe that the present election has produced any magical solution to its enduring afflictions. 

There is an air of triumph and hope in Pakistan. A massive turnout in the elections to the 14th Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) and four Provincial Assemblies, held under the shadow of the gun, a near-decisive victory for a single party and the astonishing spectacle of an ordered transition of power from one civilian government to another— unprecedented in Pakistan’s twisted history, have produced euphoria and an expectation that all that is to come can only be better than the benighted past.

Partial provisional results and trends for the May 11, 2013 available at the time of writing indicate that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif— who had been deposed in a coup by then Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf in 1999—was poised for a record third term. His party, the Pakistan Muslim League— Nawaz (PML-N) establishing an unassailable lead over its rivals— Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), led by cricketer turned politician, Imran Khan; and the Bilawal Zardari Bhutto-led Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). PML-N had established a lead in 125 seats, PTI in 34, and the incumbent PPP had virtually been wiped out, with just 32 seats to show. Other smaller parties and independent candidates had won or established leads in the remaining seats. The required majority in the NA is 137. Once it establishes a majority, Sharif's party would also be allotted a majority of 70 parliamentary seats that are reserved for women and non-Muslim minorities. The total number of seats in NA is 342.

In the 13th Parliament, PPP had 125 seats, followed by PML-N (92); Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid (PML-Q), 50; Muttahida Qumi Movement Pakistan (MQM), 25; Awami National Party (ANP) 13; and others, 34 (as on October 23, 2012). Three seats were vacant then.

In simultaneous elections for the four Provincial Assemblies— Balochistan (51 seats), Punjab (297 seats), Sindh (130 seats) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP, 99 seats)—PML-N was set to continue to rule in Punjab, where it was leading in 196 of 270 seats for which trends/results were available. In Sindh, PPP and its ally MQM were leading in 55 and 23 seats, respectively, out of a total of 95 seats for which trends/results were available, and were comfortably placed to continue their rule. PTI was leading in 30 seats out of 93 seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) for which trends/results were available. The ruling ANP was leading in just four seats. Out of 34 seats in Balochistan for which trends/results were available, both Maulana Fazlur Rehman led Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and independents were leading in seven seats each. The PPP which was in power has failed to open its account.

Many analysts have conceived of these elections as a game changer for Pakistan as a nation, since the 13th Parliament completed its tenure uninterrupted and the elections for the new Parliament were conducted under the aegis of civilian caretaker government. They claim that it is first civilian transition of government— though some would claim that this is technically inaccurate. The 12th Parliament also completed its full tenure, albeit under the shadow of the military dictator, Pervez Musharaf, though military rule had, legally, ended.

It is, however, much too early to endorse the “myth of democracy achieved”, or to assume that Pakistan’s disastrous trajectory is now due for imminent reversal. Indeed, it is sobering to recognize that the PPP-led government under Asif Ali Zardari’s leadership, which completed its term on March 16, 2013, had been heralded with similar expectations, but failed abysmally to stop the continuous slide in governance, or to stem the rising tide of terrorist and sectarian violence. Indeed, the reality of Pakistan has been that each incumbent government has made its predecessor regime— however miserable it may have been— look good.

The portents do not auger well. The present elections and the preceding electoral campaign have been the most violent in Pakistan’s history. At least 51 persons were killed and several others injured on election day itself. Worse, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, at least 118 persons were killed and 417 were injured in election-related violence in 52 days, between March 20, 2013, the day on which the elections were declared, and May 10, 2013, a day before the elections. By comparison, 110 persons were killed and 244 others injured in election-related violence in 102 days, between November 8, 2007, the day on which the elections were declared, and February 17, 2008, a day before the elections to the last Parliament. 19 persons were killed and 157 were injured on Election Day, February 18, 2008.

Worse, electoral violence merely compounded the near anarchy that has come to afflict the country. Partial data compiled by SATP indicates that Pakistan recorded 38,914 fatalities, including 12,553 civilians, 3,573 SF personnel and 22,788 militants during the tenure of the 13th Parliament. The preceding five years, significantly, under a nominally ‘democratic’ dispensation dominated by the waning Musharraf dictatorship, had recorded 5,886 fatalities, including 2,645 civilians, 1,086 SF personnel and 2,135 militants.

Looking Beyond The DBO Face off


With the Chinese removing the four tents pitched in Indian Territory at an altitude of 17,500 feet, a few kilometers South of Daulat Beg Oldi(DBO) in the Depsang Plains in Eastern Ladakh a potentially explosive situation has been diffused. However, as India’s border with China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region in Eastern Ladakh and with Tibet opposite Arunachal Pradesh is neither demarcated nor delimited, the potential for conflict remains. China sees no urgency in resolving the border issue in terms of the “guiding principles” that Prime Minister’s Dr Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao agreed to in 2005.

Historically, in Ladakh, two points in the border remain well defined. These are the Karakoram Pass and the Pangong Tso about 200 km further South. The Johnson Line of 1865 put the Aksai Chin within India. Subsequently, the Macartney-MacDonald Line of 1899 put parts of the Aksai Chin within the Xinjiang province of China. British maps used both these lines, but since 1908, the Johnson Line was taken to be the boundary. However, the border was not demarcated. Today, China is in illegal occupation of the entire Aksai Chin area. The Macartney-MacDonald Line generally conforms to the present day LAC in eastern Ladakh. In Arunachal Pradesh, the McMahon Line defines the border. Here, while there are differing perceptions of the McMahon Line, the Chinese quite inexplicably claim the whole of Arunachal Pradesh! We thus have both a border problem as well as a territorial problem with China.

The intrusion in Depsang in Eastern Ladakh was clearly on the Indian side of the LAC even on the basis of the Macartney-MacDonald Line. It was hence a clear violation of India’s territorial integrity. As India’s border with China’s Xinjiang Province in Eastern Ladakh and the Tibet border with Arunachal Pradesh remain un-demarcated on the ground and as both sides do not use common maps, disputes on the boundary will always remain. These disputes are unlikely to be resolved until both nations agree to demarcate the line on the ground and then have similar maps of the boundary. Differing perceptions of the boundary can lead to a faceoff between Chinese and Indian troops with potential for conflict escalation, which could even lead to full-scale war. In addition, China may unilaterally try to resolve its territorial dispute with India through force. There is thus a requirement to ensure effective border management to both avoid potential conflict as also be the better able to deal with it should such an eventuality arise. This assumes greater significance when viewed in the context of military related infrastructure development by China in Tibet, Chinese defence modernisation and the vast financial outlays allocated for that purpose. While India may be willing to cooperate with an increasingly affluent China, she must factor in the fact that Chinese defence doctrine is getting increasingly assertive. The best way to counter Chinese designs remains in being prepared to defend our national interests.

Considering the above, it is essential that duality in border management be avoided. As of now, while the Indian Army is responsible for the border, the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which comes under the Home Ministry, also looks after some segments. The ITBP reports through its channels to the Home Ministry and remains outside the Army’s chain of command. This is a sure fire recipe for disaster. It must be remembered that prior to the disastrous 1962 conflict with China, the border was under the control of the Ministry for External Affairs and the Army was not in the loop. The army took responsibility of the area only when the situation became untenable. This was one of the major reasons for the 1962 debacle and we cannot allow that to happen again.

The ITBP is a police force working under the Home Ministry. If the border were demarcated, then perhaps there was a justification for giving this force a border guarding responsibility. In the present case however, we have a semi-active un-demarcated border with Chinese troops continually overstepping their brief and patrolling in Indian Territory. To presume that such activity is only confined to the extent of Chinese perceptions of the LAC is being naïve. An undefined border with maps of each other’s claim lines also not having been exchanged gives the Chinese the leeway to continually patrol deeper and deeper into Indian territory and keep changing their perception line! India has a Peace and Tranquility Agreement with China but how long tranquility will remain is a moot question. The infrastructure build up by China in Tibet and the huge sums of money being put into modernisation of Chinese Armed Forces holds dangerous portents for India. The need for effective border management therefore assumes urgency and towards that end, two issues must be urgently addressed.

The Dragon Covets the Arctic


China’s lust for oil, minerals, rare earths, fish and desire for an alternative northern sea route boils the Arctic Geopolitics! 

Introduction: 

Iceland is a small, sparsely populated island nation with a population of only 320,000 and area of 40,000 square miles. It is the only member of the NATO that does not have an army of its own. Icelandic banks were part of the 2008 global financial crisis and meltdown when they exposed the Icelandic government of huge financial risks by indulging in risky loans and speculative foreign currency transactions without having enough liquidity and capital reserves. The fiscal crisis led to a former Icelandic prime minister losing his job and being hauled to court of law for not supervising the banks enough. 

In an international capitalistic, mercantile system, if Iceland were a company, it was “sitting duck” for outright purchase and acquisition. Fortunately, foreigners are not allowed to buy any property or real estate in Iceland and need a special permit.

And here comes the Peoples’ Republic of China, rich with $ 3.4 trillion in foreign exchange reserves in its kitty. It has built a palatial embassy in Reykjavik, Iceland worth $250 million with only 7 accredited diplomats. China is negotiating a free trade area with Iceland, the first with any European nation. Former Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao even paid a state visit to Iceland for two full days in 2012. Other Chinese ministers and officials have also been very active in Iceland with bilateral visits and cultural events.

In 2010, Huang Nubo, a “poetry loving” Chinese billionaire and former communist party official visited Iceland to meet his former classmate Hjorleifur Sveinbjornsson, a Chinese translator with whom he had shared a room in 1970s in the Peking University. He expressed his intense love for poetry and put up $ one million to finance Iceland-China Cultural Fund and organized two poetry summits, the first one in Reykjavik in 2010 and the second one in Beijing in 2011.

Last year (2012), Huang Nubo and his Beijing based company, the Zhongkun group offered to buy 300 sq km of Icelandic land ostensibly to develop a holiday resort with a golf course. This Chinese billionaire wanted to pay $7million to an Icelandic sheep farmer to take over the land and build a $100 million 100-room five star resort hotel, luxury villas, an eco-golf course and an airstrip with 10 aircrafts. A state owned Chinese bank reportedly offered the Zhongkun group a soft loan of $ 800 million for this project.

The deal was blocked by the Icelandic Interior Minister who asked many pertinent questions but reportedly got no answers. Huang would not take no for an answer and has submitted a revised bid for leasing the land for $ one million instead of outright purchase. He makes an unbelievable assertion that there is a market demand for peace and solitude: “Rich Chinese people are so fed up of pollution that they would like to enjoy the fresh air and solitude of the snowy Iceland”.

The current Icelandic government, a left-of-center coalition has given this proposal a cold shoulder. But, with elections due in April 2013 in Iceland, China is hoping for a more sympathetic government to approve the project. Iceland looks like an easy bird of prey for the wily red Dragon with insatiable appetite.

China is showing generosity to another poor and sparsely populated, self-governing island of Greenland by offering investments in mining industry with proposal to import Chinese crews for construction and mining operations. Greenland is rich in mineral deposits and rare earth metals. China wants Greenland to provide exclusive rights to its rare earth metals in lieu of the fiscal investments. Under one such proposal, China would invest $2.5 billion in an iron mine and would bring 5000 Chinese construction and mining workers whereas the population of the capital of Greenland, Nuuk is only 15000. 

Arctic Council Membership: 

There are eight members of the Arctic Council that includes Canada, Denmark (including Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the USA. All these eight countries have geographic territories within the Arctic Circle. It was constituted in 1996 as an intergovernmental body but has evolved gradually from a dialogue forum to a geo-political club and a decision making body. There are continuing territorial disputes in Arctic Circle. Ownership of the Arctic is governed by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, which gives the Arctic nations an exclusive economic zone that extends 200 nautical miles from the land. Member countries signed their first treaty on joint search and rescue missions in 2011. A second treaty on cleaning up oil spills is being negotiated. The group established its permanent secretariat at Tromso, Norway in January 2013. 

Arctic Melting and Opening of Newer Sea Lanes: 

With global warming becoming a reality, the Arctic ice has started to melt rapidly opening the northern sea-lanes that were frozen earlier. In summer of 2012, 46 ships sailed through the Arctic Waters carrying 1.2 million tonnes of cargo. There are legal questions about the international status of the northern sea lanes. 

The fallout of China's Depsang plains transgression

May 06, 2013

It is clear that overall the Chinese transgression will leave its scars for a long time to come on the bilateral equations, even as India [ Images ] will have to learn from lessons in statecraft to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, says Srikanth Kondapalli.

The ‘compromise’ solution arrived at the Indian and Chinese troops at Depsang plains and diplomats at Delhi [ Images ] and Beijing [ Images ] on Sunday had lifted the pressures building up between the two countries in the last three weeks ever since the Chinese troops crossed 19 kilometres into Indian claimed areas in Ladakh sector. This is also expected to pave way for the Indian foreign minister’s visit to Beijing and then China’s premier visit slated for this month. 

However, as details of the compromise are not available -- and could remain so for at least a year or so -- it is difficult to surmise on the reasons first of the Chinese intrusions and their exit at will in the Ladakh sector. However, what is clear is that some trends became quite obvious for us to reflect on this issue. 

First, the incident triggered intense diplomatic activity with hardly any military moves by India after the incident was reported on April 15. A number of flag meetings were held and diplomatic visits ensued. Could India have done better in getting these tents vacated? Could Indian troops acted similarly as the Japanese coast guard did as in September 2010 when they arrested 15 crew members of an intruding Chinese ship in the Japanese claimed but Chinese contested Senkaku islands? 

If the Indian defence secretary had told the parliamentary committee on defence that the Chinese troops had intruded 19 km into the Indian territory, then did India have not acted in the initial stages by handing over the intruders at the borders? Was escalation on the border the fear in the Indian political leadership? 

No clear answers are forthcoming, but indicated to the Chinese that the Indian resolve had chinks in its armour and more needs to be done if a similar incident occurs in future. It is interesting to compare, in 1962 as well, the Chinese side stayed almost the same time they did as this time and walked away later. 

It is also not clear if the Indian side had agreed with China on the latter’s three main demands viz, to stop infrastructure projects in Ladakh, discontinue patrolling up to the Line of Actual Control, de-activating the Daulet Beg Oldi, Fukche and Nyoma airfields. Similarly it is not clear if there is a reciprocal demand that China should stop such projects in Tibet [ Images ], adjoining the Line of Actual Control. The ground level situation in the coming months and years will indicate the variations and compromises, if any. 

Secondly, Indian foreign minister’s suggestion for possible postponement of his May 9 visit to Beijing if there is no ground level improvement in the situation could have put pressures on the Chinese side, preparing as they were for premier Li Keqiang’s first overseas visit to Delhi after he took over in March. Also, the anti-China public perception in India -- which the Ladakh incident triggered -- mainly in the media and Parliament -- could have consequences to the bilateral relations. 

Thirdly, the Chinese policy makers -- the politburo and the central committee members -- grew up in the tradition of understanding the “correlation of forces” in the international system. Was the Chinese leadership paying attention to the Japan [ Images ]ese deputy prime minister Taro Aso’s visit to Delhi this week and his comments that Japan and India are in the same boat? 

Specifically on his comments that India and Japan should strengthen maritime cooperation must have unnerved the Chinese side, dependent they are on the Indian Ocean for energy and increasingly trade with the region. 

After Pakistan's elections

Last updated on: May 15, 2013

The Indian government should resist the temptation to make a grand gesture of friendship towards Nawaz Sharif, says Shyam SaranThe leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, Nawaz Sharif, has received a decisive and powerful mandate from the Pakistani electorate in the recently concluded elections. He has publicly committed himself to improving relations with India, picking up the threads from 1999, when he played host to the then Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, at a summit in Lahore. 

The Lahore spirit of peace and reconciliation between the two countries swiftly evaporated on the heights of Kargil, where the armed forces of the two sides fought a limited but bloody war. How real are the prospects of Pakistan under Nawaz Sharif picking up the pieces again with the Indian prime minister, who is convinced that peace with Pakistan remains an essential condition for India’s own march towards an enhanced regional and global role? 

It may be worthwhile to look at what is unlikely to change in Pakistan’s posture towards India. 

One, Kashmir will remain the “core issue” for Pakistan. It figures in the PML-N manifesto, and Sharif has reiterated his intention to put Kashmir on the bilateral agenda. In fact, giving prominence to the Kashmir issue will help him deflect and dilute the Pakistani army’s well-known opposition to him. It would also reassure his constituency of right-wing and religious elements, including jihadi groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tauiba. For this reason, one should be sceptical of him delivering on his promises to investigate the Kargil war or the Mumbai terrorist attack. 

Two, given PML-N’s close association with jihadi and fundamentalist groups, it is unlikely that serious curbs would be put on them. In fact, some of these groups may well feel emboldened by the PML-N’s assumption of political power. Thus, there is unlikely to be a clear break from the long-standing policy of using cross-border terrorism as an instrument of State policy -- although in seeking to improve relations with India, they may be put under more strict constraint. We may expect calculated remission but no elimination of the threat of jihadi terror. 

Three, Sharif has been reticent about his party’s views on the Afghan Taliban or on how he sees Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan. It is not only the Pakistani army but even the political-bureaucratic elite in the country that believes that Pakistan deserves a proprietary role in Afghanistan and that the 2014 US withdrawal offers an opening to enhance Pakistan’s strategic relevance both regionally and globally. India has had no place in Pakistan’s vision of a future Afghanistan and this is unlikely to change. 

Four, Pakistan’s alliance with China and its “all-weather friendship” with that country will remain intact. The India focus of the Sino-Pak nexus is unlikely to diminish. 

Trusting the neighbour to keep our lights on

Use of Chinese power equipment by Sandhya Jain in Daily Pioneer


It’s not just the issue of security that is at stake in overly depending on Chinese equipment for our power transmission and generation needs. There are serious issues over the quality of the material too. 

A television debate following the simultaneous failure of three grids on July 31 revealed India’s plans to integrate its power grid with China, and other neighbours. Not being a subject expert, one cannot opine if this conflicts with current moves by States to ensure ‘islanding’, so that sudden fluctuations in drawing power from the grid do not trigger total blackouts across states. Experts, however, point out that just as the dominance of foreign direct investment in the telecommunications sector is a permanent threat to national security, (and in the aviation sector in times of war), so also a critical sector like power should not be dominated by a nation with territorial claims on India. 

One reason for the collapse of the northern, eastern, and north-eastern grids last month is inadequate power generation and obsolete, ill-maintained infrastructure. Now, as India gears up to meet the estimated increase in demand (an additional 3,15,000 MW by 2017; investment $600 billion) to support the desired eight per cent growth rate, doubts are surfacing over the service, operations and maintenance, and longevity of Chinese power equipment that is steadily dominating India’s power sector. 

According to official figures, in the 11th Plan period (2007-12), the total capacity added stood at 45,064 MW, of which Chinese equipment accounted for 17,772 MW (market share 39.4 per cent). Of the 2012-onwards under-construction capacity of 96,650 MW of thermal power, Chinese equipment account for 38,900 MW (market share 40.2 per cent), leaving the balance of 57,750 MW to BHEL and joint ventures which will import equipment — mainly boilers, turbines and generators — from established multinational partners and eventually reduce the market share of Chinese power firms. The Government’s recent decision to impose duty at peak rates (21 per cent) may also affect future imports from Chinese firms. Hitherto, supplies to all domestic power projects above 1000 MW capacity invited zero per cent customs duty. 

As of now, the high market share of Chinese power equipment is mainly because Independent Power Producers and other clients find these 20-25 per cent cheaper than domestically manufactured equipment. It is also delivered on time, averting delays and cost overruns; a delay of six-12 months increases costs by roughly 10 per cent. Above all, the deals are sweetened by easy financing. 

A Forbes study noted that Indian regulations require power generation firms to have a debt equity ratio of 30:70. A company planning to expand capacity by thousands of megawatts over the next few years would have problems raising so much capital at high interest rates (Indian banks usually charge 10-13 per cent). Chinese banks levy just four-to-six per cent, but this also involves purchasing equipment from Chinese firms, a strategy that has enabled Shanghai Electric and Dongfang Electric to bag orders to the tune of 40,000 MW from private players. 

China has also made rapid inroads in the local transformer market, putting established giants like Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd and others on the defensive. Recently, the Power Grid Corporation of India gave Chinese firms 46 per cent of its orders for high-grade 765 kV transformers needed to support 765 kV transmission lines which transport power from super critical power plants with generation capacity of 660 MW and above. 

The flip side is that serious problems have cropped up with Chinese equipment at many places. The Haryana Power Generation Corporation’s Yamuna Nagar thermal power station had to shut down both its 300 MW units since April 2012, as also two 600 MW units at Khedar, Hissar (one was fixed later), causing a shortage of 1000 MW at the height of the paddy season. 

At Yamuna Nagar — Haryana’s first plant awarded to the private sector — both turbines failed within just four years of commissioning. Last year, one turbine rotor failed and was sent to Siemens’ Baroda workshop for repair, at a cost of five crore rupees. 

An enquiry by the Haryana Power Generation Corporation Ltd identified two major lapses in design/construction, but the firm that set up the plant is unwilling to accept or admit the lapses and has refrained from rectification work. 

At Khedar, the turbine blades were damaged as a ‘sealing strip’ inside the turbine came loose and dented the blades. In the absence of a service facility in India, the turbine had to be shipped to Shanghai Electric Co’s facility in China for repairs. Official sources say Haryana purchased the Chinese equipment at Rs3.49 crore per MW at Yamuna Nagar, and Rs3.19 crore per MW at Khedar; similar BHEL units would have cost Rs4 to Rs4.5 crore per MW. But now, the apparent gains have been wiped out by poor performance and generation loss. 

Other plants with problems include West Bengal Power Development Corporation Ltd’s Sagardighi Thermal Power Plant, where the turbine blades collapsed and the piping systems in the boiler had snags; and the Durgapur Thermal Power Project. 

Chinese checkmate

By Brahma C 15/5/13 

China has taken no break to savour the triumph of its coercive diplomacy when it caught India unawares by sneaking troops into Ladakh’s Depsang plateau and then, employing the threat of an extended standoff and escalation, extracted military concessions. Not content with that success, Beijing is now pushing a frontier accord that, in the name of Himalayan peace and tranquillity, would freeze India’s belated, bumbling build-up of border defences and troop levels while preserving China’s capability to strike without warning. 

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) completed the removal of its encampment from Depsang not on May 5, when India said the face-off was over, but on May 7 after Indian troops dismantled a defensive line of bunkers on their side at Chumar, an action that has spawned another concession — suspension of Indian patrolling along that critical borderline. Earlier on May 4, India received a far-reaching, Chinese-drafted “Border Defence Cooperation Agreement” that, in essence, seeks to keep India at a strategic disadvantage and thus vulnerable to Chinese military preemption. 

Beijing is stepping up pressure, lest it gets too late, to stop India from plugging gaps in its border defences. China’s recent incursion forced India to dismantle vantage-point fortifications capable of providing early warning of Chinese troop movements, while the draft Border Defence Cooperation Agreement aims to advance broader Chinese interests and ensure that the PLA retains the option to strike at a time and place of its choosing. An emboldened China believes the Ladakh standoff has so softened India that it can now be inveigled into granting more concessions, especially to make Premier Li Keqiang’s visit a “success”. 

In the recent episode, Chinese coercion easily trumped Indian diffidence. By merely positioning a single platoon of up to 50 troops across the de facto border, China compelled India — without firing a single shot — to agree to attenuate its border defences at Chumar (the scene of recurrent Chinese intrusion attempts) and to commit to addressing other Chinese concerns in follow-up negotiations. 

China had a lot to lose by persisting with the face-off because it would have led to cancellation of Li’s visit and shone an adverse international spotlight on Chinese territorial aggressiveness with multiple neighbours. It was in India’s interest to raise the diplomatic costs for China so as to deter future military provocations. 

Instead of letting China stew for a while after beefing up its forces but without encircling the intruders, India rewarded the aggressor with concessions. It also presented itself in the same light as the aggressor by announcing a simultaneous Indian and Chinese troop pullout from the standoff zone. 

While New Delhi wilted under coercive pressure, China incontrovertibly vindicated its raid by paying no diplomatic or economic costs. Yet the corruption-tainted Indian government claims quiet diplomacy made China beat a retreat. If such is the power of Indian diplomacy, why is India bleeding itself by remaining the world’s largest arms importer? 

In truth, it was India’s feckless decision to respond only by diplomatic means to a grave military provocation that left it no choice but to publicly play down the incursion and to yield ground. 

China’s leverage-pivoted, concessions-mining approach stands in stark contrast with the forbearing Indian diplomacy, now stewarded by Salman Khurshid from his cloud-cuckoo-land perch. Imagine if Indian soldiers had intruded even one kilometre into Chinese territory: Would the Chinese foreign minister have survived in office by belittling it as a pimple on the “beautiful face” of India-China relations? And would he have subsequently rushed to New Delhi, renouncing the right to “do any post-mortem or apportion blame” and saying he would love to live in India?