20 May 2013

Outer space comes closer to a regime

IDSA COMMENT 
May 20, 2013 

The Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures (TCBMs) in Outer Space Activities is an important United Nations (UN) platform for space security. The UN had established the present GGE in 2011 and during July 2013 this group is expected to furnish their final findings.1 Till date two meetings of the GGE have been held. 

The last two decades have witnessed rapid developments in the field of space. And in the last few years, states like Iran, North Korea and South Korea have all joined the coveted club of space-faring nations. On 29 April 2013, a suborbital air-launched space plane (Space Ship Two), being designed and developed for space tourism by a private company, successfully performed its first test flight. While on 7 May 2013 with a launch of the satellite ESTCube-1, Estonia became the 41st nation in the world to own a man-made object orbiting in space. On the other hand, there are concerns over issues associated with the possibility of weaponsation of space. All this clearly imply that there is an urgent need to develop a mechanism to oversee responsible behaviour in space. 

Over the years various efforts have been made to device a mutually agreeable space regime without much success. There has been a deadlock in the CD (Conference on Disarmament) for more than 15 years on space related matters. Also, the UN efforts like the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPOUS) and the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) have remained non-starters. Presently, two complimentary efforts are underway to develop a space mechanism: one, the International Space Code of Conduct which continuous to remain under deliberations and two, the GGE. 

The present GGE constitutes a group of members nominated by 15 states. The permanent five (P-5) of the UN Security Council and Brazil, Chile, Italy, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine are the other members of GGE. Apart from P-5 states, which indecently are also space-faring states, only two other members from this grouping have only recently become space-faring states, namely Ukraine and South Korea. In fact, South Korea became a space-faring state just three months back, after the GGE was constituted. In order to have a fair geographic representation, the UN appears to have compromised inducting the actual stakeholders. 

Absence of a consensus has resulted in failure to establish any form of space regime. Urgency has arisen to start an initiative, fundamental in nature, with broad-based consensus. In the light of this, a great deal of thinking has gone into developing the TCBMs, which are voluntary in nature. The critical question, however, is whether it is ‘worth to accept the lowest common dominator just because no consensuses are likely to emerge?’ The purpose is not to argue either in favour of or against the concept of voluntary declarations but to check the efficacy of developing a long-term and sustainable mechanism factoring in the geopolitical variables. 

The purpose should be to develop a structure that is transparent and accountable as well as to strike a right balance between the legitimate concerns of the states vis-à-vis transparency-related goals. It is important that such instruments should not be formulated just to accommodate the interests of the big players. In the past various UN regimes, particularly related to weapons, have been manipulated by the major powers, for example nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and also missiles. However, ‘weapon’ is only a minuscule aspect for any space regime. Broadly, the mechanism for space needs to be developed for the purposes of space sustainability. 

India hopes China PM visit will cool tempers

Monday, 20 May 2013 | Rahul Datta | New Delhi 

Notwithstanding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday raising “upfront” India's boundary concerns with visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, New Delhi has already given in to Beijing's demand for putting on hold its infrastructure development along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). 

Against the backdrop of China's latest incursion into Ladakh, sources said Singh, during his hour-long restricted talks with Li, maintained that without maintaining peace at the border, the relationship between the two countries will suffer. Li and Singh will hold summit level talks on Monday on key international, regional and bilateral issues. 

China had raised the issue of infrastructure development along the LAC during the stand-off in Depsang Valley in Ladakh earlier this month. It maintained that infrastructure development including airfields and roads in the region between Karakoram and the east edge of Siachen posed a threat to its strategic interests. 

In fact, the Chinese troops intruded 19 km into Ladakh and engaged in a face-off to make a point about India's infrastructure development there, sources said adding indications were that New Delhi will inform Beijing that all development work have been put on freeze till the Border Defence Co-operation Agreement talks between the two countries are over. 

India has upgraded some airfields including Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), Nyoma and Phuckche in Ladakh region in the last few years to maintain logistics for its troops guarding the inaccessible LAC. 

Most of the forward posts are air-maintained and these airfields are the lifeline as transport planes like AN-32 and the recently acquired C-130 Js from the US, land there carrying tons of supplies and troops. 

Incidentally, DBO airfield is about 30 km from the face-off point and about 150 km from the Karakoram Highway and the Chinese had objected to it, sources said adding Beijing also asked India to stop its capability and capacity building to counter Beijing's vastly superior infrastructure across the LAC. 

Li, who arrived here on Sunday on a three-day visit, held restricted talks with Singh on all contentious issues including the boundary dispute, incursion into Ladakh and China's proposal to build three dams on the Brahmaputra river. Singh is said to have also stressed the need to address the trade deficit which was highly in favour of China. For his part, Li raised the issue of Tibet and India's support to the Dalai Lama. 

Singh later hosted a dinner for Li at 7 Race Course Road. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and senior BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley besides SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav attended the dinner. 

“Everything is on the table,” Joint Secretary (East Asia) Gautam Bambawale said when asked about the issues to be discussed between the leaders of the two countries, which are witnessing differences on crucial matters like boundary, waters and market access under economic ties. 

“The two Prime Ministers would talk about these subjects. Since the incursion is a recent occurrence it will be discussed,” Bambawale said. 

How the world looks from India

May 20, 2013 
Amitabh Mattoo Rory Medcalf 

Indians are anxious about Chinese policies and capabilities, but a new survey finds as many prefer partnering Beijing as those who favour joining hands with other countries to contain it 

The Government of India may have rolled out the red carpet for Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who arrived in New Delhi yesterday, but popular opinion in India is deeply sceptical of Chinese ambitions in Asia and its policy towards India. This is the clear verdict of arguably the most comprehensive survey of Indian public opinion in recent years. But while there is great warmth for the United States, and discomfort at China’s rise, the percentage of Indians who believe India should cooperate with China at the global level equals those who support plans to contain China. India Poll 2013, the findings of which are being released today, was carried out late last year, much before last month’s incursion by Chinese troops in Ladakh. 

Predictably, there continues to be deep concern within India about possible terrorist attacks from Pakistan as well as the motives of the Pakistan Army, but a courageous, reconciliatory move towards Islamabad by the Indian Prime Minister would invite widespread domestic support. 

India Poll 2013: Facing the Future is a survey of opinion of 1,233 adults, a representative cross-section of Indians from all sectors of society; interviews were conducted face-to-face in India between August 30 and October 15, 2012. The poll was commissioned by the Australia India Institute at the University of Melbourne and the Lowy Institute for International Policy, and the fieldwork conducted by a reputable international polling company. 

China and threat factors 

Not surprisingly, Indians see Pakistan and China as the biggest foreign threats to their nation. Only nine per cent of Indians believe China does not pose a threat, while 84 per cent believe it does, with 60 per cent identifying it as a major threat. Seventy per cent of the respondents agreed that China’s aim is to dominate Asia. The responses were roughly equal, however, between those who believed that India should join with other countries to limit China’s influence (65 per cent), and those who believed India should cooperate with China to play a leading role in the world together (64 per cent). In fact, some Indians clearly hold both views at once, an interesting sign of the tensions or indeed duality within Indian foreign policy expectations. 

From all those who had identified China as a threat, over 80 per cent agreed that threat was for the following reasons: China possesses nuclear weapons, it was competing with India for resources in other countries, it was strengthening its relations with other countries in the Indian Ocean Region, and it was claiming sovereignty on parts of India’s territory. Only a slightly smaller number believed that the threat was because of China’s stronger military, its bigger economy, its military assistance to Pakistan, and because it does not “show respect” to India. 

On a scale 

This does not mean, however, that Indians do not want better relations with China; 63 per cent of the respondents want bilateral ties to be stronger. On a scale of 0 to 100, in terms of feelings towards a country (with 100 meaning very warm, and 0 very cold) of the 22 countries listed, China ranked right in the middle along with Brazil, at 44 degrees; the United States, Singapore, Japan, Australia, France, Nepal, Russia, Great Britain, Sri Lanka and South Africa ranked higher. 

The ‘VVIP’ Helicopter Scandal: Steering towards a Positive Response

Issue Vol. 28.2 Apr-Jun 2013 | Date : 20 May , 2013 

AW-101 Merlin 

India should be vigilant to enforce its existing laws, principally the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA). Section 7 of the PCA makes it a criminal offence for any public official to take “gratification.” Section 8 punishes perpetrators of bribery. The PCA has been faulted, by international standards, due to its poor enforcement record. The VVIP helicopter scandal is an opportunity for Indian authorities to improve the record and communicate to government officials and to companies, in and out of India, that corruption in defence procurement will not be tolerated. 

Since February this year, investigators in Italy and India have been pursuing a scandal involving the sale by Finmeccanica of 12 AgustaWestland AW-101 helicopters to India for ‘VVIP’ travel. Allegations have been made that bribes and agent fees amounting to $65 million were paid to secure the $750 million sale. The investigation again focuses world attention on India’s defence acquisition process – and on the continuing problems of corruption that infect government processes in India. 

…the VVIP helicopter scandal shows that the risk of official, large-scale corruption remains omnipresent in contemporary India. 

Since 2009, India has purchased $14.3 billion (Rs 78,000 crore) to import weapons. SIPRI, the international research institute, reported recently that India now is the world’s largest importer of weapons. India’s foreign military purchases are accompanied by ‘offset’ obligations that require foreign sellers to purchase supplies and services from Indian sources worth at least 30 per cent of the sale price. 

The latest controversy casts a harsh light on the role of middlemen and consultants, and shows how offset contract arrangements can be misused to become vehicles to flow funds for kickbacks and other illegal purposes. Also exposed is the risk that corruption distorts India’s procurement process where it produces deviation from stated performance requirements as to favour one over other competitors. 

Reaction by the Government has been both swift and strong. Investigations have been mounted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and a criminal investigation has been initiated against a former top official of the Indian Air Force Marshal and his relatives, following filing of a First Information Report. Prosecutions may follow under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA). Simultaneously, the Ministry of Defence is pursuing contractual remedies including those afforded by the Integrity Pact that accompanies each defence contract. Under consideration are contract cancellation, demand to recover sums paid and potential debarment of the companies involved. 

All this occurs while the Ministry of Defence has been working to complete the next set of revisions to India’s Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). Various press reports indicate that the Union Government intends to respond to the VVIP helicopter scandal by favouring indigenous sources of supply rather than those from abroad. Defence Minister AK Antony has said that indigenisation is the “ultimate solution to the scourge of corruption.” Media sources indicate that domestic sources – public and private sector – will be given a “right of first refusal” for new system purchases. Also under consideration is the exclusion of software services and most forms of consultancies from eligibility to satisfy offset requirements. 

Defence Minister AK Antony has said that indigenisation is the “ultimate solution to the scourge of corruption.” 

India is right to pursue the scandal related to the VVIP helicopter deal aggressively. At the same time, India should take care not to draw the wrong conclusions from the sordid episode or to take the wrong steps in response. Steps taken must be positive rather than reactive. 

First and foremost, India should be vigilant to enforce its existing laws, principally the PCA Section 7 of which makes it a criminal offence for any public official to take “gratification.” Section 8 punishes perpetrators of bribery. The PCA has been faulted by international standards, due to its poor enforcement record. The VVIP helicopter scandal is an opportunity for Indian authorities to improve the record and communicate to government officials and to companies inside and outside of India that corruption in defence procurement will not be tolerated. 

India should act to realise its contractual rights. Under the Integrity Pact that accompanies the VVIP helicopter supply contract, India has a right to recover any sums paid to middlemen, agents or brokers to facilitate the illegal scheme. As to contract cancellation, or debarment, India should consider its own interests. It can redeem its financial loss and impose sanctions on those responsible for misdemeanor without depriving its Armed Forces of equipment they may need and without excluding suppliers who only are corporate affiliates of culpable companies but otherwise have no involvement in transgressions. 

India should strengthen its legal regime to address official corruption. The pending Public Procurement Bill (PPB) 2012, introduced in May 2012, should receive renewed attention and become law. That Bill has as its express purpose ensuring “fair and equitable treatment of bidders, promoting competition, enhancing efficiency and economy and maintaining integrity and public confidence in the procurement process.” These are goals to embrace and achieve. 

A handshake across the Himalayas

Li Keqiang 
May 20, 2013

China and India are destined to be together. They should work hand in hand if Asia is to become the anchor of world peace 

We live in an age of change, but there are always certain things that are enduring, forever refreshing and attractive. India is such a nation, at once old and young. I will be leading a Chinese government delegation to India, the first country I will visit as the Premier of China. I am very much looking forward to it and hope to make some concrete contribution to deepening the friendship and promoting cooperation in various areas between China and India. 

Pillars of civilisation 

Both China and India have a long and great history that goes back thousands of years. The Chinese and Indian civilisations are among the oldest of human civilisation. They represent the two pillars of the civilisation of the East. The towering Himalayas have not prevented them from mutual attraction and illumination. Fahien and Huen Tsang, two eminent Chinese monks of the Jin and Tang dynasties respectively, and Bodhidharma of ancient India all made outstanding contribution to religious and cultural exchanges between China and India. In my student days, I already had a strong interest in India. I was impressed by the memorable poetic lines and the deep philosophical insights of Rabindranath Tagore, the famed “sage poet”, and moved by his profound friendship with the leading Chinese authors of his day. There was a Chinese Indologist at my alma mater, Peking University, with whom I was well acquainted. He spent his whole life studying and teaching ancient Indian culture and in recognition of his contribution, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan. Indeed, from generation to generation, our two cultures have learned and benefited from each other through exchanges and, as a result, they have both flourished with the passage of time. 

When I first visited India 27 years ago, I was struck by her warm sunshine, brilliant colours, beautiful arts, hard-working and talented people and amazing splendour and diversity. As far as I know, the India of the 21st century is taking a fast track of innovation-driven development. Bangalore, the “Silicon Valley of South Asia”, is home to about 1/3 of IT talents in India; it is not only the ICT centre of India, but also a hub of software services in Asia. India’s manufacturing sector has also moved forward. Tata Motors ranks among the world’s top five manufacturers of commercial vehicles, and Tata Global Beverages is the world’s second-largest producer of tea. I have read that Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple, had travelled to India with no other purpose than to learn yoga and meditation. It is believed that this gave him many inspirations and resolve for innovation. Now, a growing number of Chinese youth are backpacking across your country, intent on discovering and appreciating India’s magnificent culture and retracing the footsteps of history. 

China and India, two big Asian countries living next door to each other, are destined to be together. 

Since modern times, our destinies have been more closely tied than ever. Our peoples sympathised with, supported and helped each other in their quest for national independence and liberation, leaving behind a trail of touching stories. Afterwards, our two countries jointly initiated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which have become the important basic norms underpinning the new type of international relations that we both seek. Our two countries have worked shoulder to shoulder to uphold the rights and interests of developing countries, giving lasting traction to South-South cooperation. 

Today, the handshake across the Himalayas is even stronger. Facing the same task of boosting the economy, improving people’s living standards and reviving the nation, both countries need a peaceful and tranquil neighbourhood and external environment and wish to achieve win-win results through dialogue and cooperation. India, a strong Asian nation and a major country with global influence, is playing an increasingly important role in international affairs. India, a BRICS member with robust economic growth, is playing a significant role for peace and prosperity in South Asia and in the Asia Pacific in general. China is happy to see the growth momentum of India and ready to expand and upgrade Sino-Indian cooperation to the benefit of all-round economic and social development in both countries. 

Solution to J & K problem lies in New Delhi...

Issue Net Edition | Date : 18 May , 2013 

J&K is an integral part of India. The only problem that can be called J&K Problem is the non- comprehension by India, its people and the government to this ultimate truth of its being the integral part of India and not distinct or separate entity in any way from the other states of India. The problem that would remain to be settled then is the need to free the areas of J&K illegally occupied by Pakistan and China. Once this fact is understood and fully comprehended by us, all else will fall in place. 

It is proposed to discuss this very complex and muddled up situation, erroneously called “The Jammu & Kashmir Problem”, as under: 
  • Strategic Importance of J&K 
  • The Problem and its historic Mishandling 
  • Solution 
  • Strategic Importance of J&K 
The illegally occupied part of J&K by Pakistan is in two parts, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (the so called Azad Kashmir by Pakistan) and Gilgit- Baltistan(GB) (earlier called the Northern Areas). China is in possession of Akshai Chin and the Shaksgam valley illegally ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963. 

J&K forms the head of the Indian sub continent, and has been the traditional trade route of Central and South Asia to the East and Tibet, generally called the ‘Silk Route’. It is bounded by more countries than any other state of India; in the North East with Tibet, and further North with Xinjiang province of China, in the North West with the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan, in the West with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and further South with Punjab of Pakistan. This geographic layout is strategically so important that no power of the world wants to remain away from the area, as it gives them access to the sensitive areas of the neighbouring countries.. Its high mountains provide strategic depth and domination over the surrounding area. For hundreds of years in the past, the Russian, Persian, Chinese, Tibetan and the British Indian empires, sought the passes of this region to dominate each other. The region rests along “the ancient axis of Asia” where South, Central and East Asia converge and, since time immemorial, has been the gateway for both India and China to Central Asia. 

The maps below show the geo strategic location and its dominating position. 

Distorted Pak map: Erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir showing illegal occupation of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan by Pakistan and Shaksgam and Akshai Chin by China The map is not accurate for boundaries, particularly the alignment of the line shown to Karakorum pass, leaving Siachin glacier in Pak occupied territory. 

Akshai Chin detailed map showing all the landmarks recently in the news. Map not to scale. 

The state of Jammu and Kashmir consists of two parts, one that is with India and the other that is under the occupation of Pakistan and China. The part with India consists of three regions: Jammu, the Kashmir valley and Ladakh. While the Kashmir valley is famous for its beautiful mountainous landscape, Jammu’s numerous shrines attract tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims every year. Ladakh, is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and Buddhist culture. The illegally occupied part of J&K by Pakistan is in two parts, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (the so called Azad Kashmir by Pakistan) and Gilgit- Baltistan(GB) (earlier called the Northern Areas). China is in possession of Akshai Chin and the Shaksgam valley illegally ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963. 

The “high roof of the world” , the Gilgit-Baltistan and the Ladakh region of the pre-independence state of Jammu and Kashmir is geo- strategically very important. This region lies between the high Hindu Kush and Karakoram mountain ranges to its north and the Western Himalayas to its immediate south, with the Kashmir Vale and the Jammu region further South. The strategic importance of J&K can be understood from the fact that China is spending huge sums to build infrastructure through highways connecting Tibet to Xinjiang through the Chinese occupied Akshai Chin plateau, and Xinjiang to Pakistan via the Karakorum highway through the Kunzreb pass. This highway then connects Gwadar port on the Arabian sea, giving warm water port and access to the Indian Ocean to China. Its importance can be visualized in that China trade can avoid the bottleneck of Malacca straits as also cuts down turn round to the interior provinces of China. China is now in de facto control of the GB area. It is believed to have deployed more than ten thousand troops for the purpose of developing infrastructure in the area. It is also believed that Pakistan is to lease the GB area to China for 50 years under the pretext of developing the area.

In Mali, Indian-owned mine caught in land dispute

BAMAKO, May 19, 2013 
The Sunday Story 
Aman Sethi 

The Hindu Malian mining code requires companies to compensate landowners when they acquire land. Photo: Aman Sethi 


The Hindu Villagers at Dokoro village fear the expansion of Sahara’s mines will threaten their farms and livelihoods and no longer trust their government to protect them. Photos: Aman Sethi 

The Hindu The land is home to hundreds of villagers who view the expansion of the mine with trepidation and are asking how they gain from the project. Photo: Aman Sethi 

Syed Masoom Ali stood in a clearing on the outskirts of Bamako, the capital of Mali, gestured towards the low-slung hills around him, and thought of home.

“It is a good deposit, the ore is close to the surface,” he said, but of course, it was not like home. Born in Orissa’s iron-rich Keonjhar district, Ali is now the mining foreman of a 210,000 hectare iron-ore mine operated by Sahara Mining, an Indian-owned West African mining concern set to become Mali’s biggest iron-ore exporter.

“We have invested almost $100 million in the mine,” said Sandeep Garg, the Gurgaon-based former scrap merchant who set up Sahara Mining. “The total, including a fully integrated steel plant, will be more than $300 million.”

The land is also home to hundreds of villagers who view the expansion of the mine with trepidation and are asking how they gain from the project.

As licences and land become harder to acquire in India, businessmen like Mr. Garg are investing in African countries eager for big-ticket foreign investment. Africa could produce 10 per cent of the world’s iron-ore by 2025, according to a report by market research firm, Frost & Sullivan, and currently accounts for between three and four per cent of global supply. West Africa has emerged as the new frontier for exploration with 15 major mining projects, with a capital expenditure of $36.9 billion, in progress.

Yet, the absence of established land titles and transparency hastens project approval to the detriment of project-affected communities.

Sandeep Garg built his network in West Africa in the 1990s by exporting scrap from countries like Senegal, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Mali to buyers in India. “The major source of scrap in Africa is old vehicles,” said Mr. Garg, explaining his buyers were induction furnace operators in towns like Ghaziabad, Chennai and Raipur. India accounts for about 5 per cent of annual global scrap imports.

In 2008, Sahara Mining applied for an exploration licence in Mali and began work in 2010. The ore is mined, crushed, loaded onto trucks and driven 1,300 km across the border to the Atlantic Ocean port-city of Dakar, Senegal, from where it is shipped to India and China. In 2011, Sahara exported 6.6 million tonnes of ore, but they hope to sell steel products across West Africa once the plant is set up.

“Africa is more comfortable as there is no competition,” Mr. Garg noted. “Infrastructure-wise, there are a lot of things they have to build.”

Villagers on the land allotted to Sahara Mining are fearful of the company’s plans. “When the mayor and the company asked us for land, we said we would think about it,” said Dienfa Coullibaly, councillor of Dokoro village. “One day we noticed mining people in area. The mayor told us, ‘Indian people have bought the land’.”

Malian mining code requires companies to compensate landowners when they acquire land. Yet, Mali has no clear system of land titles, and most land is informally divided amongst the community. At Dokoro, villagers showed this correspondent a government document they insisted was a land title; it was only an identity card that made no mention of land holdings.

CHINESE PREMIER LI KEQIANG’S FORTHCOMING VISIT TO INDIA – HOLD YOUR BETS

Bhaskar Roy, C3S Paper No:1152 dated May 18, 2013 

From acute rancour for three weeks since a Chinese army battalion pitched tents at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) on April 15, it is now spring in the relations between India and China. Premier Li remembers the warmth of the Indian people when he led a Chinese youth delegation to India in 1986. This came after Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid expressed his desire to live in China, and found his walk around Beijing’s Tien An Men Square so peaceful. Where was Mr. Khurshid on July 04, 1989? 

Premier Li Keqiang will arrive in New Delhi on May 19. Following official talks he will address a group of Indians mainly ex-Indian Foreign Service officers and other selected invitees on May 21, organized by the Indian Council of World Affair (ICWA), a think tank of the Indian Foreign Ministry. This would have given the Premier an opportunity to interact with Indians and give greater clarity of China’s foreign policy and India policy. Alas, that is not to be. Premier Li will not take any questions. 

The April 15 DBO incident could have blown into a bigger problem. The Indian government was not willing to budge with the army fully in the loop. It was not 1962 any longer, and the Chinese side may have understood it finally. Much as the Chinese official media may blame the Indian media and some opposition politicians to blow up the incident, the fact is that the Indian people have taken too much pressure and insults from the Chinese, their patience shave been tested to the limits. 

The Indian side is emphatic that the Chinese army tents were located inside the Indian perceived Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Western Sector of the India-China undemarcated border, and both sides are fully aware where their respective LAC lies. 

How exactly the situation was diffused is not yet available to the public. In this writer’s understanding interlocutors of both sides agreed to put a thick blanket on the incident for immediate reasons of bilateral and regional exigencies, but the problem is hibernating. 

Following indicators may help. On March 19, Chinese President Xi Jinping told an Indian in Beijing that the border issue was an historical issue, and resolving would not be easy. Later, after meeting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in South Africa, President Xi told the Xinhua (March 27) that he was keen on a faster pace of work between the two sides to resolve the border issue. This quick reversal inside of ten days is not a Chinese characteristic. Of course, when the Chinese are determined to resolve boundary issue, they move quickly. 

Then came another reversal when the Chinese army decided to set up tents at DBO. The Chinese official media maintained silence on the border issue after March 27 to May 10, when the relationship thawed.

It may also be noted that the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson gave cryptic answers to questions on the issue. The main point they made was that the Chinese troops remained inside Chinese territory at DBO. This position did not change even after troops on both sides disengaged. From the Chinese point of view, the particular point at which the Chinese troops pitched their tents is Chinese territory and they will be cited when the negotiations come down to identifying the LAC. 

The Xinhua which is acknowledged as the Chinese government’s is authentic mouthpiece, came out with an article on diplomacy of the new Chinese leadership. It mentioned President Xi’s first official tour of Russia and three African countries, and Premier Li’s forthcoming maiden foreign trip to India, Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany as demonstration of China’s desire towards shared destiny and common development, and giving priority to close neighbours, enhance relations with underdeveloped and developing countries, and work with the developed countries with a more amiable Europe.  

A close look at the article would reveal the emphasis was mainly on developing relations with India and lock India into a commitment where India at least remains neutral in China’s policies with Japan, Vietnam and other South East Asian countries with which it has territorial disputes. They would expect India not to take a position countering sovereignty claim over the entire South China Sea based on nine dashed-lines, the origin of which is unclear except China’s military muscle. This policy comes out clear even in the very recent so-called “sweet” Chinese articles on relations with India. Incidentally, the Xinhua article devoted only one clear sentence to Pakistan as “all-weather” friends and “unusual friends”. This is misleading. The same article quoted acclaimed Chinese military strategy at the National Defence University of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) saying “Rain or Shine, China-Pakistan relations stand weather proof”. The PLA and the Pakistani army are close partners focussed on countering India, and this is not going to change easily. 

INDIA AND CHINA IN THE ARCTIC: THE NEW GREAT GAME?

Ramesh Ramachandran
Journalist, New Delhi 
18 May 2013 

Energy rivalry took India and China first to Central Asia and then to Africa. Now, they are scrambling for resources and attendant benefits on the icy slopes of the Arctic. On 15 May 2013, the two Asian giants were made observers in the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum, to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic States. The occasion caps a concerted effort by India to reach out to Nordic countries such as Iceland, whose president visited New Delhi in April this year. 

The polar region is, veritably, the new hot real estate; and it is only getting hotter, quite literally, due to climate change and global warming. Melting ice caps are posing problems for the indigenous peoples of the Arctic, who fear for their livelihood and future; but at the same time, they are presenting opportunities like never before by opening up new sea lanes of transport and communication, and making it possible to tap hitherto inaccessible reserves of oil, gas, and minerals. 

As the Arctic becomes navigable, it is opening up new avenues for mining, commercial exploitation of marine resources, and maritime commerce. But as is the wont of human history, politics manifests itself when scientific, economic, and other interests collide; so it is with the freezing environs of the Arctic too, where competing geostrategies make intergovernmental cooperation manifestly imperative. Unlike the Antarctica, which is governed by the Antarctic Treaty System of 1961 (India is a consultative party since 1983), the Arctic is only now beginning to occupy the attention of nation-states near and far. 

Almost aready, it seems, everybody wants to have a say in how the region is administered. Woven into this narrative is the thinking in certain non-Arctic countries’ capitals that the Arctic belongs to all of humankind; they interpret the international Law of the Sea Convention to argue that the areas lying outside the respective national jurisdictions are open to all. Ergo, it follows that the world’s last resources must be equitably distributed and the region become more accessible to the non-Arctic countries, too. 

Given its burgeoning appetite for natural resources, it is only natural and inevitable that China will show an interest in the region. However, what needs to be flagged is that much of the natural resources could already belong to the Arctic countries by virtue of their presence inside their respective exclusive economic zones. The Arctic Council’s importance should be located in this context. It intends to bring various stakeholders together for discussions on issues such as equity, territorial integrity, sovereignty, and national security. Observers do not have voting rights, but they participate in the Council’s meetings. India, China, and four other countries - Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Italy - are the newest entrants to the observers’ club. 

The Communist state is eyeing the Arctic region for many reasons, including, but not limited to, the fact that a northern sea route will reduce its dependence on shipping oil and gas from West Asia through the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca. Further, it will reduce transportation costs and increase freight volumes between Asia and Europe or the US. Not to mention the commercial benefits that will accrue. Recently, China entered into a free trade agreement with Iceland. In September 2012, China expanded its presence in the Arctic when its icebreaking vessel crossed the Arctic waters for the very first time. 

There is much at stake for India, too, although it is a moot point to what extent it can gain from its foray into the Arctic. For India, energy security can be a prime motivation for venturing into this polar region; other potential areas of potential would be renewable energy and scientific pursuits. Already, India is a participant in ongoing research in the Arctic. 

INDIA AND CHINA IN THE ARCTIC: BREECHING THE MONOPOLY

Vijay Sakhuja
Director (Research), Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi 
May 18, 2013 

China’s long wait for a ‘permanent observer’ status in the Arctic Council, a top-level intergovernmental regional body, is finally over. At the Eighth Ministerial Meeting in Kiruna in Sweden, the Arctic Council (five Nordic countries, Russia, Canada, and the US) finally agreed to invite China, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Italy as permanent observers to the Council. 

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has been granted tentative observer status pending the resolution of its dispute with Canada over the 2011 European Parliament ban on seal meat and fur, traditionally produced by the indigenous Inuit people of the Arctic. The application of international environmental organisation, Greenpeace, and six other non-governmental organisations, such as energy industry groups, appear to have been rejected. 

The Asian countries have welcomed the decision of the Arctic Council even if it is the ‘back row’ where they will ‘sit and listen’. They do not have voting rights in the Council, not entitled to introduce new ideas or raise problems, will be graded ‘on their behaviour’, and are required to adhere to the ‘principles embodied by this organisation’. 

Drivers for Chinese Interests 

Among the Asian countries, China has been the most proactive and has invested enormous political and diplomatic capital to ensure its inclusion in the prestigious Arctic Council. China’s interest in the Arctic region is driven by a number of factors such as science, resources (living and non-living), routes, and political influence. It is keen to obtain scientific knowledge of the on-going climate induced changes in the Arctic resulting in the melting of polar ice. In 2004, China established its Arctic research facility at Yellow River Station, located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. It has also established in Shanghai a Polar Research Institute of China to train its scientists, and dispatched five research expeditions to the Arctic since 1999. 

In 2010, China’s icebreaker Xue Long (Snow Dragon) sailed to the Arctic to collect data for the study of atmosphere, sea ice, and melting of the ice. China plans to build another icebreaker and launch three expeditions to the Arctic in 2015. 

Resources

China is an energy hungry nation; domestic production has already peaked, and it imports nearly 60 per cent of its energy needs to sustain its economic growth. It is quite natural that China looks towards the Arctic, which is known to contain nearly 13 per cent of the world's undiscovered oil and 30 per cent of undiscovered gas. In November 2010, the Sovcomflot Group (SCF) of Russia and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) signed a long-term cooperation agreement to develop seaborne energy solutions, with the SCF fleet serving the Chinese imports of hydrocarbons. The cooperation envisages shipments of oil and gas extracted from Russian Arctic offshore fields. 

A prescription for a more secure India

Posted:May 18, 2013 
By Admiral (retd.)Arun Prakash, IANS,

No matter what cosmetic gloss (or acne ointment) is put on the recent stand-off between the Indian border police and the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), India is perceived as having come off second best in test of wills, as the Chinese intruded across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, and camped in 'Indian territory' for 20 days. As a regional power of substance, with robust armed forces and a nuclear arsenal, India has available the full spectrum of policy options, ranging from war to capitulation.

However, the diffident and fumbling Indian reaction to this crisis, once again, brought into public focus questions about India's political resolve and military preparedness in the face of repeated provocations by neighbours.

Those in Delhi, who tend to downplay recent displays of brazen Chinese truculence, need to recognize the contrasting national mindsets, as symbolically represented by the ancient Indian game of chaturanga (or chess) and its traditional Chinese counterpart, wei qui. Whereas chess is about manoeuvre, direct attack and total victory by checkmate, wei qui is about seeking relative advantage through occupation of vacant spaces and strategic encirclement of the adversary. In the words of Henry Kissinger, the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict was, for Mao Tse Tung, the "exercise in wei qui in the Himalayas". The Depsang Valley probe could well be part of a continuum.

It has taken six decades of maladroit diplomacy, combined with a dearth of strategic thinking and planning, for matters to reach this pass. In 1950, Indian statesmen viewed China, somewhat patronizingly, as a fellow developing nation, struggling to find its place in the international order. China's hard-nosed Communist leadership, having emerged victorious from both the Civil War and World War II, had different ideas. In their realist vision, not only would China brook no rival for leadership of Asia, but it would seek parity with the great powers through build-up of military strength and early acquisition of nuclear weapons.

China has made Pakistan the centrepiece of its anti-India grand strategy and, by arming it to the teeth with conventional and nuclear weaponry, it has completely skewed the natural balance of power on the sub-continent, and placed India in the jaws of a pincer. The Machiavellian Sino-Pakistan nexus has not only checkmated India militarily, but also stymied Delhi's ambitions to be a leading Asian power. Substantive PLA presence in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and its frequent attempts to alter the LAC are some of the sinister manifestations of this nexus.

While a totalitarian China, steadily surging forward, on the back of a burgeoning economy, is now within sight of great-power status, India's unique brand of democracy has created political conundrums leading to policy paralysis, economic slowdown and social unrest which will have long-term repercussions for national security. Strategic vision has been substituted by an ostrich-like approach which perseveres in the hope that if we maintain status quo, all our problems and adversaries will melt away.

STUNG BY GWADAR, INDIA LOOKS FOR BUSINESS IN CHABAHAR


The 17th Session of the India-Iran Joint Commission which was held on 4 May in Tehran was co-chaired by Ali Akbar Salehi, Foreign Minister of Islamic Republic of Iran and Salman Khurshid, External Affairs Minister of India. Besides bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest, the matter of ‘reviving’ Indian participation in Chabahar port project was discussed. In this regard the two sides also visited the importance of greater connectivity between Russia, Central and South Asia through the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

The Chabahar port is located near the Iran-Pakistan border facing the Arabian Sea. Established in 1992 Chabahar industrial and trade free zone is the only free trade zone in the Middle East outside the Persian Gulf. Along the same coast, at a distance of over 70 km from Chabahar, is the Pakistani port of Gwadar built with US$200 million in Chinese assistance.

It is quite likely that the recent Pakistani decision to hand over the operation of Gwadar port to China injected some fresh enthusiasm in the Indian establishment for the Chabahar port project.

Indo-Iranian Cooperation

The Indo-Iranian Cooperation on Chabahar was first discussed during the visit of Iranian President Mohammed Khatami to India in January 2003. It led to the signing of a trilateral agreement between Delhi, Tehran and Kabul on the terms of overland transit, the expansion and modernisation of the Chabahar port and upgradation of a road link to Western Afghanistan. Consequent to the 2003 agreement, Iran has built a new transit route to connect Chabahar with Zaranj in Afghanistan, which includes the construction of bridge over the Helmand River at Milak. Chabahar-Iranshahr-Zahedan-Milak is now the main route connecting Chabahar to Afghanistan. 

While Chabahar offers many opportunities to India, it is Afghanistan which is the focus in the near term. Denied greater security cooperation with Afghanistan due to international pressure, the Indo-Afghan relationship relies on trade and economic assistance. Pakistan’s denial of transit to Indian exports to Afghanistan adds to the situation. It is in this scenario that Chabahar provides the opportunity to India to sustain its relationship with Afghanistan and protect its investments and economic interests. 

The key to India's strategy in Afghanistan is to build transportation links that bypass Pakistan. Thereby, reduce the Afghan economy's dependence on Pakistan and at the same time step-up bilateral trade with Afghanistan. In the process also increase trade links with Central Asian Republics (CARs) through Afghanistan and Iran. The Indian Army's Border Roads Organisation constructed a major road in 2009, connecting Delaram on the Afghan ring highway with Zaranj the capital of province of Nimroz, which borders Iran. This completed the linking of Chabahar port to the Kandahar-Herat highway. 

Two rail projects are also enhancing the connectivity of Afghanistan. The first project, to be undertaken by India, plans to link Chabahar to Fahraj on the Bam- Zahedan railway line. As the second project, Iran is constructing a railway line from its city of Khaf to Herat in Afghanistan. The portion of this railway line falling in Iran has already been completed, while the second portion of 124 Km, comprising of two sections, is under construction in Afghanistan. Construction of the first section, closer to the Iranian border, is being financed by Iran ($75m) and the second (Ghorian-Herat) is managed by the CAREC/ADB programme. 

However, the Indian interest and involvement in the Chabahar port project and its transport linkages to Afghanistan has been progressing in fits and starts for last ten years. 

Mr Khurshid in Tehran conveyed India’s interest in upgrading Chabahar port in Iran which entails an investment of $100 million. A team of experts from India will shortly visit Iran to assess investment needed for upgradation of the port. The government is examining three options for investment in the port, focused on improving the berthing facility and expansion of the container terminal. It is believed that infrastructure-related investment in Chabahar port will not attract US sanctions in-force concerning Iran’s nuclear programme.

Pakistan of its part is clear that its interests are best served in realizing the commercial potential of Gwadar at the earliest. Weeks after the ‘handover’ of Gwadar to the Chinese, President Asif Ali Zardari, on 21 March, in his address at the opening session of the International Conference on Nauroz festival at the Rukhyat Palace, Ashgabat, offered the CARs the use of Gwadar port for trade with rest of the world. He indicated Pakistan’s wiliness to facilitate transportation of LNG from Central Asia to South East Asia and other world markets. 

Iran-Afghanistan Trade

Under pressure from EU sanctions and growing popular dissatisfaction, the Iranian government is looking at ways to relieve its economic and diplomatic isolation. Upgrading and opening up Chabahar for international trade presents such an opportunity. Also, Afghanistan has become a sizeable market for Iranian products following US and EU sanctions on Iran. According to Afghan officials the export value of Iran has reached to $1.3 billion annually in Afghanistan. Another influencing factor is Afghan transit trade through Iran. Afghanistan gets nearly 34 per cent of imports through Pakistan with the rest coming via Iran and Tajikistan. Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistan for the use of Karachi has been a source of tension between the two countries and resulted in efforts by Afghanistan to find alternate routes.

Pakistan's Industry of Violence



May 17, 2013 

In the wake of election violence, one reporter explores the country's acceptance of its bloody everyday—and how different it is from the United States' reaction to bloodshed 

I was at an uncle’s house in Peshawar a couple of months ago when the windows began to rattle. One of my youngest cousins walked towards them, peering out nervously. “It’s an earthquake,” she said almost hopefully. I looked at her father who shook his head slowly, but only when his daughter had turned back to the window. It was as if he wanted her to believe that the quivering earth was the result of a mere natural disaster. And then the windows began to clatter again. The 14-year-old slunk onto the couch beside her father. Her sisters and mother filed in around the TV, scarves draped over their heads, lips moving in prayer. It didn’t take long for live coverage to begin. The site of the attack was the city airport, just a couple miles from where we were. Even more disconcerting, the rockets began to fire where, just a few minutes prior, my aunt had driven on her way home. Once we’d been watching long enough that the news reports had become repetitive—the same bloodied shirts and broken asphalt dominating the screen—my uncle began to call all of our relatives. He started with those closest to where the rockets fell and worked his way out. For the first time, I did the same, calling people on my father’s side of the family. 

I’ve followed news of such attacks for years, and have done so even more closely now that I'm working as a reporter in Pakistan—a place where this past Saturday, Election Day, nearly 30 people were killed in violence as the country took to the polls. Despite the constant barrage of chilling headlines, I never bothered to reach out to my relatives to check up on them. But then again, before the attack on the airport, I never truly understood what it's like to feel so unsafe standing in the middle of your living room. The same feeling of terror struck me again just a couple of weeks ago when I discovered, via Twitter, an unfolding scene of chaos at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. 

I had been settling into bed, but news of the bombing kept me up nearly until morning. I absorbed as many live streams as I could and checked in with friends who I knew would be running, watching, or reporting on the race. Armed with a press pass and recording kit, I had covered the finish line last year, standing for hours on end at the very spot where the first bomb erupted to file live newscasts for the NPR local news affiliate, WBUR. Although I was a full year removed from the scene, the thought of bombs going off in the center of Boston shook me from half a world away. 

I couldn't help but cringe to watch as initial reports of the brothers Tsaranaev were filled with unfounded allegations of ties to jihadist outlets. Information that has come forth since suggests that the suspected culprits set up the makeshift explosive devices without the support of a sophisticated terrorist network. They were driven to their heinous crime it seems, by a sense of alienation. 

In America, many instances of mass violence are perpetrated because of the singular motivations of an individual: a man walks into a movie theater or a school and shoots it up, often without any signs of his vicious designs. The crimes are viscerally personal, and this is what’s so frightening. One never knows if the person at the check-out counter or at the town library is going to break down and go on a killing spree—and worse, we may never be able to understand what brought a quiet neighbor or all-star athlete to take such an bewildering turn. 

Violence in Pakistan is different. It is a country largely governed by old-world communal ties, even the responsibility for mass carnage tends to be shared by a group of people. Soon after a shooting spree ravages a busy Karachi street or a car bomb erupts in Quetta, a militant group will often phone the media to lay claim to the attack. There are, of course, cases of purely individualized violence and no doubt, the mothers of some suicide bombers must be totally taken aback by the actions of their sons. By and large, the perpetrators of large-scale attacks committed to them through a network of others. Even a lone gunman is backed up by a crime syndicate or terrorist group which is itself often governed by an even broader set of social ties: a longstanding ethnic divide or a centuries-old sectarian rift that may well be a proxy war between regional actors. 

Pakistan: Elections and Beyond


The recent elections in Pakistan were strategically important, because the people of the anarchy-laden country had to choose their fate out of highly skewed options. For a country where no civil government could complete its constitutional term as well as transfer power through holding free, fair, and non-manipulative elections, the elections can certainly be termed as a remarkable achievement. Such a historical yet, incomplete task that should have been accomplished immediately after 1947 has been attained after sixty-five years, albeit in a half-hearted manner. News reports, public reaction, social media, visual evidences as well as observations by the EU mission and civil society monitors indicate that the elections were “neither free, nor fair and non-manipulated” in many parts of the country, especially in Sindh, Baluchistan, South Punjab and a larger part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). That notwithstanding, they herald an important chapter in Pakistan’s history. 

Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) have won 124 seats, mostly from central and northern Punjab and to a lesser extent from Hazara division of Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Baluchistan and South Punjab. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has been reduced to Sindh province alone, winning just a few seats in Punjab and KP. Unlike people outside Pakistan, the people of Pakistan are surprised at the extent of the success achieved by Imran Khan’s ‘Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf’ party (PTI) which has now emerged as the third largest political party. Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) with 18 seats is now the fourth largest party. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam of Maulana Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F) won 10 seats and retained the position of fifth largest party. Against expectations by analysts, Pir Pagara-Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) won five seats in the federal legislature. 

PML-N will be forming the central government and has tied up with PML–F from Sindh and Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party (PkMAP) of Baluchistan as allies in the central government. It is also expected that PML-N may seek alliance with JI and possibly with JUI-F. PML-N could also form a coalition government in Baluchistan, it has however, declined the offer by JUI-F of forming the government in KP. PPP and MQM will be forming a coalition government in Sindh. 

The elections have been marred by allegations of election rigging. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the media, mostly social media started telecasting and circulating the video clips of election rigging at various polling stations in Karachi, Hyderabad, rural Sindh, South Punjab and KP. Reports emanating from the print and electronic media and from international election observers, talk of heavy rigging in Sindh. They also noted that the voter turn-out was more than 100 percent in some constituency, which means that the number of votes casted were higher than the registered voters particularly in Karachi. This indicator alone establishes the higher level of election fraud and rigging. Election Commission of Pakistan also admitted on May 13 that the elections in Karachi, Hyderabad and some other parts of Sindh were not fair. PML–F has claimed that its five candidates in the National Assembly and 28 in Sindh Provincial Assembly gained the maximum votes but lost as the election process and the results were rigged. Sindhi nationalists, mainly Sindh United Party, Qaumi Awami Tahreek and Sindh Taraqi Passand Party has said that their candidates on at least three National Assembly seats and around 10 in Sindh Assembly should have won had the results not been rigged. Besides, another Sindhi political party with nationalist leanings, National Peoples Party has secure two seats in the National Assembly and three in the Sindh Provincial Assembly. In fact, Sindh has become the centre stage of massive agitation against election rigging in the province with unexpected public outpourings in the streets of Karachi and other cities and towns. The Election commission has also received formal complaints of rigging from 12 districts in Sindh, nearly 30 districts in Punjab most of them from Southern Siraiki belt, 9 districts in Baluchistan and some districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). 

Nawaz Sharif is the best bet for New Delhi

Sunday, 19 May 2013 | Kanchan Gupta | in Coffee Break

Not only does the democratic transition of power augur well for Pakistan, which has spent far too many decades searching for the democratic route to political stability, it also means good news for the world 

The Army had hoped that Imran Khan would lead his political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, to victory and America had braced itself for such an outcome of the recent election in Pakistan. But Allah had planned otherwise. It is Nawaz Sharif, the old-fashioned politician from Punjab Province, cunning and crafty in equal measure and a veteran of many political battles, who has trounced his rivals to reclaim the masnad of Islamabad from which General Pervez Musharraf had rudely unseated him. 

There is no denying the fact that Kerry Packer’s poster boy who came to symbolise all that was exciting about night cricket — ‘Big Boys Play At Night’ T-shirts were a rage after Imran Khan began sporting one — was widely expected to win the poll. Young and first-time voters were rooting for him and the turnout at his public rallies was invariably huge. 

On the flip side, there was —and remains — understandable discomfort, both within and outside Pakistan, about the company he kept — and keeps — as also his soft stand on Islamic fanatics. This would explain why the Generals of Rawalpindi were hopeful of a PTI victory. 

It would, however, be wrong to suggest that the enthusiasm he generated was on account of this alone. There is something refreshing about Imran Khan, and in a country where politicians are perceived as vile and cynical, he was seen as clean and earnest. He connected with the youth like none of the establishment politicians did. 

That was before the votes were cast and counted. The results have reaffirmed that conventional wisdom is not without merit: People prefer tried and tested politicians and parties over Johnny Come Latelies. Hence, Nawaz Sharif and his faction of Pakistan Muslim League won the race by a yard and more, leaving his rivals way behind. The Pakistan Peoples Party has been virtually washed out by the tide of support for Nawaz Sharif while Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has performed way below popular expectation. 

These details apart, perhaps the bigger winner than Nawaz Sharif in this election is the idea of democracy and the craving for political liberty. For the first time Pakistan has witnessed a democratic transition of power from one civilian Government to another. Yes, it was a bloody election marred by targeted assassinations, mass killings and abduction of candidates and campaigners. But neither the politicians nor political parties were deterred. More important, Pakistanis turned out in large numbers on voting day. 

The importance of this democratic transition of power from one civilian Government to another cannot be over-emphasised. Not only does this augur well for Pakistan, which has spent far too many decades searching for the democratic route to political stability and economic prosperity, but it means good news for India and the world. It’s far easier to deal with a democracy than with a military dictatorship. 

What makes the good news better is Nawaz Sharif’s repeatedly stated intention to improve Pakistan’s relations with India — “I want to pick up the thread from where I left it in 1999” — and remove the bitterness that has crept into its relationship with America. A client state, Nawaz Sharif would readily agree, cannot afford to cock a snook at its benefactor; this is all the more true when the client state is in a mess and one step away from turning into a failed state. 

There are two other reasons why Nawaz Sharif’s return to Islamabad should fetch cheers. First, he remains committed to turning around the Pakistani economy and focussed on development goals. A prosperous Pakistan could yet lead to the eclipse and exit of Islamist fanatics who prey on the poor who in Pakistan tend to be desperately poor. Development is the best antidote to warped ideologies. 

Second, Nawaz Sharif detests and despises the Generals in khaki who use the state and its resources to promote their own interests and maintain their stranglehold over the political establishment. The military-ISI-jihadi nexus never held any appeal for Nawaz Sharif or else he would not have had a bitter fall-out with Gen Musharraf. 

Seen from India’s perspective, given the downward spiral in our relationship with Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif is the best bet — far better than the unreliable and untrustworthy leadership of the PPP. President Asif Ali Zardari was never his own man; the Prime Ministers who headed the PPP Government were comfortable with the idea of being putty in the hands of the Army and letting the ISI run amok.