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Retribution

Major Gaurav Arya

Indian Army (Retd.)

 
 
 
Yesterday, eighteen of my brothers were martyred in a terror attack in Uri Sector. Eighteen homes were shattered. Children were orphaned. Their fathers will come home in a coffin, wrapped in the tri-color. eighteen homes will not celebrate Diwali this year.
Yes, we will grieve for our dead. We will take care of their families, for that is our way of life. But we will save our tears for later. Today, we will sit and plan retribution.
I have had enough of you peaceniks; enough of you people lighting candles at Wagah. The day you lose a brother, you will know my pain. I have lost 17 brothers. You cannot even imagine the extent of my pain and anger.
I write this to those who are in power today, those who decide what the Indian Army should or should not do.
We are constantly attacked – 1947, 1965, Kargil, 26/11, Parliament attacks, Pathankot terror attack and now in Uri. And yet, we are not permitted to hit back. This is humiliating and it shatters our morale.
We are soldiers. We kill and We die. That is our profession. But when we die, we die with honor. We die on our feet; we don’t live on our knees. I know, because it is written on the walls of the Officers Training Academy.
A soldier can bear pain, loss and sorrow with a shrug. But you are asking us to bear humiliation. This will break our spirit. Pakistani blood must flow. And it must flow like the blood on the streets of Dhaka on Eid.
This is not about strategic gain or that cat and mouse game that Pakistan thinks it is so adept at playing. This is about the soldier’s honor. Our funeral pyres burn as far as the eye can see. Our blood has colored this earth red. Today we ask this nation to restore the rights of the soldier.
It is our right to retaliate at a time and place of our choosing. It is our right to use disproportionate force. It is our right to kill the enemy.
You, our political masters, must realize that you are sitting on a time bomb. Mark my words very carefully. There will be immense pressure on the Commanding Officers of the units that were attacked. The pressure will be from the troops they command. The concept of “face” and honor is everything in the Indian Army. Thousands of armed men will be baying for blood. And they will not stop till their honor has been redeemed.
It could take a very small spark, a comment a month down the line when another unit’s soldier could say to a soldier of the unit that has suffered casualties, “They killed your brothers and you did nothing”. You will then have local commanders taking local decisions. A company commander may just decide that since the LoC is not clearly demarcated, he got lost and entered Pakistan “by mistake”. And then there will be blood. It has been done before. Those from the Naga Regiment will know what I am talking about; the Nagas know a thing or two about vengeance. If you kill one of theirs, they don’t wait for instructions from New Delhi.
Why was such a location chosen, which was astride a river and on the highway connecting Kashmir to Muzzafarabad? Why was it not a walled compound? There are many such questions that I have, but will not ask them on this forum. But this much I will say; someone has to be held accountable for the 17 precious lives lost.
We have several military options that can be used against Pakistan, and one of these must be used in the next 72 hours or before. In none of these actions is there a threat of nuclear response from Pakistan.
Option One will be to go in for massive artillery bombardment across the line of control using Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRL Pinaka), medium artillery and other guns. This will degrade and denude Pakistan’s military infrastructure and cause heavy loss of lives. Pakistan Army’s artillery is no match for our own and has no credible response to our bombardment. CB (counter bombardment) measures and capabilities of the Pakistan Army are well documented. However, loss of lives on our side cannot be ruled out.
Option Two could be to launch a Special Forces raid across the LoC. A team of one of the Para SF units may be tasked to go across the border for a HVT (high value target). This will include assassination of enemy commanders, destroying infrastructure and killing Pakistan Army personnel. Infiltration will not be difficult but exfiltration may be very complicated. We risk loss of lives.
Option Three may be a swift and devastating air attack on Pakistan Army infrastructure, deeper inside Pakistan. HQ 1 Corps in Mangla (Gilgit Baltistan) will be an excellent target. In this option, we will have to contend with Pakistani Air Defence, and loss of our pilot’s lives and a few aircraft.
Any option we choose, we stand to lose lives. But there is no going back now. We must break Pakistan’s spine. The honor of our country is at stake.
And the brave seventeen will not accept peace without honor.
 

Resolving Naga problem to operationalise Act East policy

Lt. Gen K J Singh, PVSM, AVSM(Bar)

Indian Army Officer(Retd.) & GCTC Executive Board Member

 
The current stand-off on Northern borders started with an ugly fracas at Naqu La in Sikkim, in first week of May. Subsequent events at Galwan, Pangang Tso and Depsang have got the whole nation, literally glued to Ladakh albeit on TV screens. While some sort of tortuous disengagement is being attempted, in face of Chinese obduracy, possibility of this being ruse and main action unfolding on Eastern border is very real. China claims large tracts of territory in Arunachal Pradesh (AP) as South Tibet and even in 1962, main punch came in AP, after an initial diversionary foray in Ladakh.
History tends to repeat itself, hence, it will be prudent to keep additional vigil and take requisite measures to dissuade another surprise. It is high time that we discard peripheral focus on North East (NE). We need to take up two critical challenges in mission mode: externally — guard eastern border, and internally — resolve Naga problem.
Armed forces are prepared to combat external threat, but more sinister, internal one, calls for taking note of recent ominous developments. On 12 July, Assam Rifles (AR) and AP Police launched joint encounter to neutralise six militants of NSCN (IM) in Longding district in AP. This was notwithstanding the fact that there is so called ceasefire (CF) in place since 1997. There have been more than 100 rounds of peace talks, over last 23 years. This agreement is most inappropriately called as CF pact, instead of suspension of operations and does not stipulate territorial limits.
The basic stumbling blocks, in resolution of Naga problem, are centred on sovereignty (extent of autonomy) and concept of Nagalim. Factions seek to extend scope to include adjoining Naga habitation pockets in AP, Manipur and Assam. Groups owing allegiance to Khaplang, stretch Nagalim dream to include Heimi, Konyak tribal areas in Myanmar. AR justified this encounter, on the grounds of agreement being confined within territorial boundaries of Nagaland. IM faction countered, by reiterating that Bangkok agreement of June 2001, does not specify territorial limits and is between Government of India and NSCN. It has served an ultimatum asking for clarification on scope and territorial limits, concurrently NSCN leader Muivah has shifted base to Delhi, demanding direct talks.
Naga peace process has been unfortunate litany of badly handled parleys, characterised by series of concessions, in the hope that factions will splinter and tire out. NSCN factions, after mutual agreement, were allocated ‘designated camps’ to intern their cadres. The first deviation in 2002 resulted in IM setting up unauthorised camps, including in Manipur.
Our objections were disregarded with MHA accepting them as – ‘camps taken note of’. This was further compounded by neglecting process of registration, disarming, skilling and absorption of cadres in alternate vocations, including security forces. NSCN factions were allowed to maintain self-styled armies. Armed cadres continued to roam around outside, running parallel economy fuelled by extortion (euphemistically, termed as taxation) with all pervasive influence in elections, politics and controlling stake in shady under world, encompassing narco-terrorism, arms trafficking, timber and wildlife product smuggling, and government contracts.
Anyone, who stands up to the group is likely to receive Azha (deadlier than Fatwa) and meet fate similar to my good friend, retired DGP Hesse Mao murdered brutally in state capital. This reprehensible practice provides measure of pelf and legitimacy to Naga factions. It is ironical, as Nagas working in NE, are exempted from paying income tax.
Recently, central agencies finally turned heat on few kingpins, associated with IM faction, but only after they escaped to Ruili in China. This group included self-styled General Phunthing Shimrang, related to Muivah and designated representative in peace process. IM already has Alee (external) command based in China, orchestrating money laundering and arms trafficking. Overarching control of peace process vests with designated interlocutor, an ex-bureaucrat, assisted by CF Monitoring Group, headed by senior retired Army or police
officer. Starting with Padmanabhaiah, who was reluctant to even visit Nagaland and preferred Bangkok, interlocution process, has undergone a full circle. The current incumbent, R N Ravi, ex-IB, doubles up as the governor. As per leaked letter addressed to CM, he has dropped major bombshell by flagging extortion and uncontrolled move of cadres. This has lead to virtual derailing of peace process as the person nominated to find solution, is now highlighting problems at most inappropriate time, when solution seemed almost imminent. The main reason is that our spooking experts, over play being Machiavelli; promising different things at Delhi and Kohima. It will be important to bring conflict resolution process, back on rails, urgently. Naga problem is the Gordian knot, with potential to bring regional stability and operationalise, stalled ‘Act East’ policy.
Complexity is further exacerbated with reported busting of arms trafficking racket in Myanmar having Sino-Pak connection. Seizure of Chinese arms along Thai-Myanmar border lead to arrest of Pak operatives, linked to Lashkar (LeT). Arms were destined for Rakhine province for Arakan army insurgents. They were meant to target assets, being created for Kaladan multi-model project, to link Kolkata with Sittwe port in Myanmar with Mizoram and Manipur. Unresolved terrorism tends to have domino effect. There has been another dastardly IED attack in Chandel district, close to Indo-Myanmar border by very strange combination of RPF (PLA-Meitei), MNPF (Manipuri Nagas) and breakaway faction of ULFA, causing four fatal casualties.
It is time to act in focussed and concerted manner in mission mode denying China and Pakistan, an opportunity to exploit internal faultline in NE. The key to stability and outreach to the East lies in resolving the longest festering Naga insurgency.

Have light tanks become irrelevant like walkmans?

Lt. Gen K J Singh, PVSM, AVSM(Bar)

Indian Army Officer(Retd.) & GCTC Executive Board Member

 
Appearance of large quantum of PLA armour, specially “so called” light tanks,ZTQ-15, has generated number of shock effects. The first has been belated realisation on continued relevance of tanks, especially in high altitude areas. In a recent seminar, it was proclaimed that tanks are going to become irrelevant like walkmans.
Recently, Britain decided to scrap 225 Challenger-2 tanks. An island can afford such luxury, but reality of current tank inventory — Russia (12,900), USA (6,300) China (5,900) and Pakistan (2,500) — cannot be disregarded, especially with our belligerent adversaries.
Manifestation of swarms of PLA tanks in ‘broadcasting’ mode has highlighted versatility of armour, more importantly, it’s coercive and deterrence potential. Unfortunately, double whammy of budgetary capping and dysfunctional procurement system has reduced inventory to zero sum game. There is clamour for shifting resources from western to northern borders, packaged as ‘rebalancing’. It will be appropriate to flag that in 1965 war, Pakistan surprised us with its second Armoured Division; hope review is done with due deference and history not allowed to repeat.
Second, it has triggered knee-jerk reaction to field light tanks, being touted as silver bullet. Lobbies are active to push ultra light Russian Sprut tanks (18 tons) with air dropping capability. DRDO has utilised this opportunity to revive its comatose light tank project. The harsh reality is that considering gestation of procurement/development cycle, chosen tank is unlikely to be effective in current stand-off. Third, there is no real crisis, with potent mix of medium tanks- T-72s and recently inducted T-90s; ICVs- BMP- 2s, synergised with other anti-tank platforms like attack helicopters, PLA armour can be more than matched.
Debate on light tank is vitiated by self appointed terrain experts, weighed down by status-quo mentality. They opine that light tank is not required in Ladakh and fortify their argument with premise that medium tanks will be able to be streamed through mapped avenues and BMPs will be adequate for difficult terrain. Over reliance on limited gaps and BMPs is questionable and defensive. Faced with similar challenges in Sikkim, seasoned tank drivers/commanders were justifiably accorded, primacy, as opinion makers. However, they have correctly flagged complexity of logistics, associated with fielding of additional platform.
The opening question in this debate is, can we have a tank, designed just for Ladakh? The logical answer is, we need not only light, but also ‘agile’ and versatile tank, to operate in various terrains, including Ladakh. It is important to highlight that agile tanks need to be fielded in adequate numbers, ideally 8-10 regiments, exploiting their versatility, to make it cost effective project. Platforms need to be developed as part of an eco-system and example of stymied Arjuna tank, due to limited orders, should serve as warning.
Hence, proposed tank should have utility for reconnaissance units, riverine terrain (Siliguri corridor), marshy areas (Rann), island territories and for out of area contingencies including UN. In high altitude, they can be deployed in Sikkim, Ladakh and other areas. The most crucial determinant is agility, function of engine power balanced with weight, to ensure survivability/protection, as also carry adequate lethality in terms of gun and missile firing mounts. Traditionally, light tanks were in sub 25 tonne weight class. Air portability and amphibious capability with power to weight ratio (PWR) of around 30 are critical parameters. Chinese ZTQ-15, topping 36 tonne is compromise of sorts. It has 105 mm gun, without missile firing capability and engine of 1000 HP, giving it notional PWR of 30. After factoring 20% de-rating of engines in high altitude, effective PWR drops to 24. It has resorted to extra wide tracks to reduce nominal ground pressure to enhance traffic ability and fording/wading capability.
We need to develop family of vehicles, for which the obvious starting point is to select common chassis and work on modular approach, with multiple variants (gun/missile carriers, reconnaissance and communication), customised for different roles and terrains. There is growing talk of disruptive technologies and they will certainly require agile platforms to be fielded in forward areas. Possible options are platforms like recently developed K9 Vajra SP gun or similar suitable chassis. It will be desirable, at the outset to stipulate macro requirements for an agile tank; air portable, PWR-30, gun ranging from 105 to 125 mm, missile firing capability and preferably amphibious/easy fording capability. High altitude variants should have requisite hardening in terms of pre-heating, batteries, cabling and auxiliary engines. Add-ons like extra wide tracks and rubberised track shoes are vital to minimise damage to fragile and limited communication arteries.
In the interim, we should field hardened battery of K9 Vajras, in Depsang for psychological messaging and building knowledge base. Concurrently, we need to set up facilities for retro-fitting to modernise existing armour fleet, especially by upgrading power packs, to boost agility. Another challenge is maintaining high PWR, yet ensuring sufficient protection. Besides engines, we need to invest in developing Active Protection System (APS), currently prohibitively expensive. In the interim, vanguard units and critical platforms can be equipped with APS. Bottom line is that platforms alone will not suffice as clincher is audacity to employ them imaginatively, exemplified by bouncing Meghna with PT-76s of 63 Cavalry and fielding of Stuarts across Jozila by Gen Sparrow.

LAC stalemate and the way forward

Lt. Gen K J Singh, PVSM, AVSM(Bar)

Indian Army Officer(Retd.) & GCTC Executive Board Member
 
Foreign ministers of India and China met in Moscow, in an atmosphere of unease and palpable distrust. Notwithstanding altered ground realities, media projections included rank optimism; forecasting PLA withdrawal to doomsday predictions of imminent, all-out war.
In order to take a considered view, it is appropriate to recount the Sumdorong Chu incident. The stand-off started in June 1986 and lasted nearly one year. It required a visit by former PM Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, followed by five years of tortuous parleys (in characteristic Chinese style), to arrive at ineffective protocols, now smashed to smithereens by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Unfortunately, China pushed its agenda to de-link border resolution from the template of bilateral relations. It managed to convince India to remain focused on economic development, leading to debilitating supply chain dependencies. Concurrently, border talks were put on the backburner and in ‘slow wok’.
Now, much belatedly, realisation has dawned that it was a clever ploy to gain time to ramp up border infrastructure. This interregnum was also utilised for modernisation and reforms in PLA. Unfortunately, we were lulled into following the Chinese game plan and neglected our armed forces. The status of our forces and pandemic convinced PLA to apply the fifth maxim of, “Loot a burning house,” as enshrined in their war fighting manual titled, “The 36 Stratagems”. We also bound ourselves to protocols of flag/banner drills and banning fire arms, promoting the use of barbaric stone age weapons.
The critical requirement in parleys is to ensure coupling of progress on border resolution with overall bilateral relations. Putting it bluntly, it has to be stated unequivocally that ambiguity in border definition can’t go hand in hand with trade. The model has to be like our current stand with Pakistan; wherein terror and talks are not acceptable concurrently.
It will be appropriate to incorporate defence experts in diplomacy to signal our concern and focus. The contrast in two defence delegations; uniform heavy Chinese with bureaucrat dominated Indian side, is too stark to be missed. Desired end state should be to convert LAC from Line of Ambitious (Imagined) Claims to Line of Articulated (Agreed) Clarity.
It is rather disappointing that diplomats have reinforced status-quo rather than providing any clarity or commitment on critical aspect of delineation of LAC. Despite attempts to give it an optimistic spin by official sources, the five-point agreement has made the task of commanders more complex.
The only silver lining is that we are still talking and promulgating joint declarations, though China has issued its own addendum, reiterating that border resolution can remain de-linked from other bilateral issues. This is like reference to ‘strategic guidance to commanders’ spelt out only in the Indian declaration, after Wuhan. This resulted in one-sided Indian compliance and continued licence to PLA hierarchy.
Corps Commanders are expected to kickstart stalled disengagement process, even when original set of protocols has been destroyed by China and trust is conspicuous by its total absence. PLA will attempt to shift the focus of de-escalation to Spanggur gap. India has to remain centred on sequencing it, in the correct order, i.e. Hot spring, Gogra, Finger 5 to 8, North of Pangong Tso (PTSO), Depsang and only after due verification in Spanggur gap.
Buffer zone formulation needs review because it limits freedom of patrolling. Before analysing possible scenarios, it will be appropriate to reiterate that the hype on PLA’s technological prowess in cyber, electronic and surveillance has been debunked as nearly five months into the stand-off, it is yet to manifest.
The limitations of technology in such terrain and altitude are fairly evident with Indian troops managing to surprise and secure features south of PTSO. Efficacy will further reduce, with winter making LAC largely non-kinetic. In contrast, our Army has proven niche capabilities in high-altitude and winter warfare. It is particularly heartening to see spontaneous mobilisation of Ladakhis, making it a genuine peoples’ war, generating potent signal to Chinese.
Utilisation of SFF has added a sharper edge to psychological messaging. The most likely scenario can be described as – grab to improve posture before winter. PLA, stung by the surprise manoeuvre to secure Spanggur gap, may even resort to desperate measures to even scores. We will have to keep our guard up, particularly in areas south of PTSO, Depsang and even Arunachal.
The second possible scenario is, drift to next campaigning season. It will allow both sides time to negotiate more reliable Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). The most dangerous but mercifully, least likely scenario is – limited conflict. It is learnt that China has not provided any credible explanation for the huge build-up (in the garb of training) and its treachery. However, hints have been given on two accounts.
Media reports indicate that PLA is attempting to shift blame on theatre and other commanders, akin to the narrative rolled out after the Doklam crisis. In the highly centralised CCP-PLA system; such scapegoating seems most ludicrous. It is also being suggested that PLA may not be averse to pull out from rear areas, albeit maintaining their posture in forward areas.
This is attributable to realistic appraisal of challenges of maintaining large forces through winter. Consequently calibrated thinning out is likely. Our forces face a complex challenge but comforting thought is that they are the best in this domain and may even surprise us with more leverage for diplomacy. PLA at Mukhpari indulged in failed ‘Hulla-Bol’ operations complete with spears. It is time they realise that Indian Army can’t be coerced by such rush drills and propaganda manoeuvres.

Understanding Xi Jinping’s China

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Gen. J J Singh
Chief of army staff & Patron-GCTC

 
It is unexceptional a necessity to acquire an in-depth knowledge of China’s strategic thought process and systems besides her geography and history while dealing with the ‘Middle Kingdom’. The strength and weaknesses of civilisation are made up of its philosophy, culture and characteristics of its people and their way of doing things over the centuries. Unless we understand the Chinese mind and contemporary ideology and the mind of their leadership how can we successfully handle them? In the 1950s and 60s, the Chinese thoroughly outwitted our leadership and its advisers by making them believe that our boundary dispute would be settled peacefully by negotiations and dialogue, whereas they were secretly preparing to cut India to size and ‘teach us a lesson’. Ranged against a naive idealist like Nehru were hardcore pragmatic and devious communist stalwarts like Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Nehru and his advisers miserably failed to read the minds of these earthy veterans of the long march, Korean and Vietnam wars. Chinese leaders display no qualms while changing goalposts as far as boundary claims are concerned or dishonouring treaties which are not convenient, and further make the world believe that the process of ‘territorial expansion’ by China should be considered as one of unification rather than conquest.
Despite China’s historical self-confidence that is unique in the present era it may or may not be able to handle spontaneous public outbursts or simmering unrest like what happened at Tiananmen Square or what is currently taking place in Hong Kong, Tibet and Uighur province. The information technology, print and electronic media in China and in its neighbourhood, and social media within and among the Chinese diaspora, have made it difficult for an opaque communist nation like China to conceal facts or suppress public opinion which they had been accustomed to since they became a nation-state in 1949. This has resulted in voices being raised, surprisingly amongst the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) too, albeit in a muffled manner at the present moment asking that the people ought to be told the truth and details of events and incidents that take place in the country.
As articulated by Jagat Mehta a former Foreign Secretary who was an authoritative China hand, ‘Just as China never bothered to understand the working of a democratic [system], India never followed carefully the impact of domestic debate inside China’. My understanding is that while India since the British days has been an open book the vulnerabilities of which the Chinese mandarins have long mastered and exploited, and are still doing so, India has not been able to fathom the depth or get into the inner recesses of the Chinese system. This lacuna needs to be rectified and we need to have many more Mandarin-speaking China experts with the desired level of knowledge of the country, its demographics and its political system. The R&AW needs to have better sources embedded in their system to be able to forewarn India of potential aggressive actions by the Chinese and dedicated satellite network to keep a constant watch along the frontiers.
Supporting the above argument we could take examples from the recent crisis along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China where the adversary was able to successfully conceal the intent and surprise us to some extent. One is at a loss to determine at what level and who ordered the construction of the road that resulted in the Doklam stand-off in 2017 or for that matter the current Chinese build-up and provocative actions in Ladakh and Sikkim. In the case of India, the task of Chinese diplomats to decipher the Indian response and likely future courses of action is simplified because of availability of analyses and reports, at times inaccurate or irresponsible, by the free press, a frenetically energetic electronic media, opposition parties and statements of leaders of various hues. Curiously, Xi Jinping hasn’t uttered a word on the serious situation which has developed along the LAC consequent to the bloody encounter albeit without the use of firearms (sic) that resulted in a large number of unnecessary casualties on both sides. Furthermore, whereas India has made it known to the world that there were 20 fatal casualties including a commanding officer in the scuffles,  fisticuffs in a free for all using spiked batons, sticks and knives, the Chinese are yet to declare their losses. They are unlikely to do so for years going by the precedent established at the end of the Sino-Indian border war of 1962 and later the Sino-Vietnamese conflict during 1979.
Xi Jinping’s China that we are now dealing with has the stamp of his ‘key thoughts’ on ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era’ which have now been incorporated in the Constitution of the Communist Party of China (CPC), alongside the thoughts of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. In his address to the highly selective audience at the nineteenth National Congress of the CPC in 2017, Xi was sanctified as the ‘core’ leader with a limitless term as president of China. He waxed eloquent on the ‘Chinese dream’, on the rejuvenation of the nation, and spelt out the two ambitious centenary goals being aimed at by new China. The first was to build a moderately prosperous society by 2020, and the second, to transform China by 2049, the Republic’s hundredth anniversary, into a ‘great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful’, and also into a ‘global leader in terms of composite national strength and international influence’. These ambitious objectives could perhaps now be difficult to achieve because of the impact of the Corona pandemic and coupled with it the possibility of border tensions escalating to a large scale border skirmish or limited war between the two Asian giants and the continuing hotting -up of the South China Sea region and Taiwan. Besides these one has to consider the effect on the Chinese economy due to the anti-China sentiment and the boycott of Chinese goods and Apps and stalling/cancellation of large contracts of companies including Huawei in many countries. Gordon G. Chang, a noted China expert, has argued that  “China has reached the limits of its power, and in the ordinary course of events would be starting down a decades-long slide into weaknesses”(the WEEK Aug 9, 2020). How true this assessment is only time will tell, although it is clear that everything does not appear to be unravelling as conceived by the Chinese leadership.
The continuing face-off in Ladakh where the Chinese have not yet vacated the transgressions, for example in the Pangong Tso lake and Depsang plain areas is in my opinion likely to be a long haul and neither side appears to be ready to acquiesce at present. The Indians have sent a strong message to China that it will not budge until the status quo ante as obtained in April 2020 is actually restored. At last, we seemed to have understood to some extent the language the Chinese understand- strength begets respect. The trust deficit is at an all-time high basically on account of China’s aggressive overtures and actions. Violating all agreements mutually evolved and sanctified to ensure peace and tranquillity on the border, the Chinese moved a division-sized force with armour, artillery, missiles etc. and attempted to occupy dominating ground along the LAC during May 2020. They were stopped in their tracks by the rapid and robust response of the Indian Army and given a bloody nose in the scuffle that took place in the Galwan valley. The world did not buy their ridiculous argument that Indian forces were the provocateurs! Therefore, the question of our taking their word at face value does not arise and as a consequence, we have to remain alert and on guard all along our northern frontier.
 This inadequacy of expertise in reading the Chinese mind has still to be overcome, and our leadership along with their advisers must get themselves thoroughly acquainted with the nuances and finer points of Chinese national strategy. We must develop the capability to foresee and pre-empt the mal-intentioned aggressive designs of China. It is time for a wake-up call for our intelligence agencies and their capabilities particularly as far as satellite coverage and expertise in image interpretation are concerned which are ought to be enhanced appropriately. Our leaders need to be competent enough to comprehend and handle China matters, and thus to effectively engage with China and resolve the vast array of issues that confront the two nations, the boundary dispute being the foremost.
Although India has effectively conveyed to China that psychological pressure will not work by the firm and resolute response both at Doklam and at Galwan, we need to urgently address areas of weakness in the domain of defence. Instead of knee-jerk acquisition of weapon systems as we witnessed recently, we need to systematically modernise our armed forces and acquire the desired capabilities. We have to enhance our defence budget to around 3% of the GDP for the next five years so that we can meet our minimum inescapable requirement of arms and munitions and are not found wanting in a worst-case scenario of a two-front war. With an environment justifiably tilted in favour of India, we could make known to our potential adversaries in unambiguous terms that any aggression or misadventure would not only give them a bloody nose militarily but also be prohibitively costly diplomatically, economically and politically. Today India stands inspired to do so.
 

Police reform is possible, but the political executive has failed to make it happen

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Prakash Singh
Retd. IPS Officer & Patron-GCTC

 
Our newspapers, until recently, were full of BJP’s tagline “Namumkin Ab Mumkin Hai”. There is no doubt that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a number of initiatives in diverse fields, which would raise the standard of living of the common man and transform India into a cleaner, healthier and resurgent nation. Swachch Bharat is gradually becoming a reality. Ayushman Bharat aims to provide healthcare benefit to about 50 crore people. Electricity would appear to have reached every corner of the country. Ujjwala and Sukanya Yojana would go a long way in improving the plight of women, and so on. Different departments came out with their lists of achievements. Even if we make allowance for an element of exaggeration, these initiatives have been laudable and the progress impressive.
It is disappointing, however, that there is an area where even what was mumkin (possible) has not been achieved — it is about reformative changes in the police with a view to transforming it into an instrument of service to the people. The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment in 2006, clearly said that “the commitment, devotion and accountability of the police has to be only to the rule of law” and that “the supervision and control has to be such that it ensures that the police serves the people without any regard, whatsoever, to the status and position of any person while investigating a crime or taking preventive measures”. The Court issued a slew of directions with a view to insulating the police from extraneous influences, giving it a measure of autonomy in personnel matters and making it more accountable. It is a great pity that even after 12 years, there has been only partial and, in some states, farcical compliance of the directions.
The states are primarily to blame. However, the Centre cannot escape responsibility for its indifference and inaction in the matter. The Police Act Drafting Committee headed by Soli Sorabjee had prepared a Model Police Act in 2006. The expectation was that the Centre would pass an Act on similar lines for Delhi and the Union Territories and that the same model would be adopted at least in those states where the same party held office. Besides, Article 252 of the Constitution gives Parliament the power to legislate for two or more states by consent and lays down that such an Act shall apply to the consenting states “and to any other by which it is adopted through a resolution passed in that behalf by the House or, where there are two Houses, by each of the Houses of the legislature of that State”.
Unfortunately, nothing of the kind happened. Till this day, the Government of India has not taken any definitive action on Sorabjee’s Model Police Act. In the absence of any initiative by the Centre, the states, 17 of them so far, have gone amok with their separate police Acts. It is ironical that while the British India had one police Act for the entire country, we are confronted with a situation where every state has a different Act with sharp differences in essential features.
Justice K T Thomas, who was appointed by the Supreme Court in 2008 to monitor the implementation of its directions, expressed his “dismay over the total indifference (of the states) to the issue of reforms in the functioning of police”. Justice J S Verma, who submitted a comprehensive report on amendments to criminal law in 2012, urged the “states to comply with all six Supreme Court’s directives in order to tackle systemic problems in policing”. It is quite mumkin, but the executive is unfortunately not prepared to give up its zamindari over the police.
The prime minister, while addressing the police chiefs of the country in Guwahati in 2014, raised hopes when he talked of building a SMART police — a police, which would be sensitive, mobile, accountable, responsive and techno-savvy. There has hardly been any follow up action and only some cosmetic steps were taken to augment the manpower and infrastructure of the forces.
It is indeed a tragedy that while the country is forging ahead in different spheres to build a new India, its policing remains mired in a colonial structure. The Acts passed by the states are crude attempts to circumvent the implementation of judicial directions. The Supreme Court has also, for inexplicable reasons, not cracked the whip so far.
The total strength of state police forces is 2.46 million and there are about 25,000 police stations and outposts across the country. It is a formidable strength. Imagine a situation where a common man does not feel inhibited in entering a police station, has a fair degree of confidence that his report would be lodged and investigated! It would be such a sea change. But is the political class keen on bringing about such a transformation? And, are the police officers themselves serious about introducing the much-needed internal reforms, which they could initiate without any political clearance or legislative backup?
We need to understand that stable law and order provides the foundation for sustained economic development. Haryana offers the most recent example of a state suffering a serious economic setback when law and order collapsed in the wake of an agitation over reservation. A healthy democracy also needs a healthy police. In fact, if police is not able to enforce the rule of law and is constrained to take directions from persons of questionable antecedents at the helm, it will be the beginning of the end of democracy.
 

Sadhvi Pragya Thakur’s comments against Karkare raise questions on society’s attitude towards police

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Prakash Singh
Retd. IPS Officer & Patron-GCTC

 
Sadhvi Pragya has been in the news recently. In a highly controversial statement, she claimed to have cursed Hemant Karkare, chief of Mumbai’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), and, according to her, that led to his death. “Tera sarvanash hoga” (you will be destroyed) is the sharp (curse) she is said to have given to Karkare for allegedly torturing her while she was in custody. Karkare, as is known, was one of the senior police officers killed by terrorists on 26/11 in Mumbai. He sacrificed his life while engaging the terrorists who had unleashed mayhem in India’s biggest commercial hub. Karkare was later awarded Ashok Chakra, India’s highest peace-time gallantry medal.
Sadhvi’s statement was outrageous, to say the least. Firstly, is she at all capable of invoking the curse of gods, as she boasted? Only a spiritually evolved person has such powers. Judging by her past record and present conduct, she is anything but that. If she had such powers, why did she not use those to destroy Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the mastermind behind the terrorist attack in Mumbai or Masood Azhar, whose Jaish-e-Mohammed was responsible for the attack on CRPF convoy in Pulwama? The country could perhaps dispense with the services of RAW if we had a couple of sadhvis like her. It is indeed unfortunate that a number of persons masquerading as sadhus and sadhvis are bringing disrepute to the saffron cadre by their acts of omission and commission.
Faced with strong reactions to her statement, Sadhvi retracted it and apologised, though she prefaced her apology by stating that she was taking back her statement because the “enemies of the country were being benefited from it”. It was thus a conditional apology and she continues to spew venom. One may not question her credentials for a parliamentary ticket, considering that all the parties are guilty of fielding disreputable characters who should be in jails rather than given an opportunity to enter Parliament. According to the National Election Watch and Association of Democratic Reforms, of the 4,450 candidates in the first three phases of the poll, whose affidavits could be analysed, 804 (18 per cent) have criminal cases against them while 543 (12 per cent) have serious criminal cases registered against them. It is a matter of concern that political parties continue to give tickets to persons of questionable — even criminal — background. The democratic structure is gradually getting eroded in the process.
The question of torture raised by Sadhvi is, however, relevant. Policemen are in the habit of using third degree methods on persons in their custody. What is the truth in this allegation? Sadhvi Pragya, an accused in the Malegaon blast case, was in jail for almost nine years from October 2008 to April 2017. In August 2014, the National Human Rights Commission ordered a probe into Sadhvi’s allegations of torture. The Commission, while closing the case in 2015, noted that the charges were “not substantiated by facts or evidence collected by the inquiry commission from the prison, courts, and the hospital where Pragya was admitted”. Earlier, the Supreme Court had also remarked in 2011 that Pragya had been examined by doctors at two hospitals and that they did not find any injury marks on her. So, the allegation of torture is not substantiated. It is unfair that a person who is no longer alive to defend himself is being faulted on this count.
The storm over Pragya’s vituperative comments on a celebrated police officer would blow over after some time, but it raises the larger question of not only politicians’ but even society’s attitude towards policemen who are working under extremely hazardous conditions in the disturbed theatres of the country 24×7. State police and central armed police forces’ personnel operating in the Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir, central India against the Maoists and against various shades of lawless elements in different parts of the country are putting their lives at risk day in and day out, while maintaining law and order. They are actually defending the country against terrorists and insurgents of different shades. It is estimated that more than 35,000 policemen have sacrificed their lives since Independence. In no other country of the world, policemen die in the performance of their duties in such large numbers. And yet, an average policeman finds that he is getting brickbats, proverbially and physically, most of the time. Bouquets are reserved for the privileged few.
Not that the policemen are keen to get bouquets. What causes them anguish is that they do not get the kind of respect and recognition which their sacrifices entitle them to. What is worse, as happened in Sadhvi’s outburst against Karkare, even their sacrifice is trivialised. The political class needs to realise that candidates with such sharp tongues would alienate large sections of people.
Let us, for a moment, forget about respect and recognition also. Give policemen at least the necessary resources, equipment and the working environment so that they are able to deliver services. There are huge deficiencies of manpower. Infrastructure is pathetic. Forensic support is inadequate. And, on top of all that, the politicians and the bureaucrats are breathing down their necks all the time, asking them to arrest X, exonerate Y, not pursue disproportionate case against Z, and so on. In the process, we are confronted with the reductio ad absurdum of a person charge-sheeted yesterday and given a clean chit today. Why can’t we rise above parochial considerations and allow the investigating agencies to pursue cases without any extraneous pressures? Why can’t we enforce even the directions given by the Supreme Court?
If the present façade continues, we may in the not too distant future see the death of democracy in the country. Already, people are beginning to wonder whether we have genuine or fraudulent democracy. Politics has become murky. Language is abusive. Cash and liquor are in abundant supply to bribe the voters. Election Commission is effective only by fits and starts in performing its mandated functions. In such an atmosphere, when the Rule of Law tends to get substituted by the Law of Rulers, the policemen do not know what to do and whom to look up to. And then, there are people ready to rub salt into their wounds.
 

Any effort to strengthen national security without reforming the police would be futile

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Prakash Singh
Retd. IPS Officer & Patron-GCTC

 
The country’s internal security architecture continues to be fragile. In the wake of the 26/11 terrorist attack in 2008, a slew of measures were taken to strengthen the police forces, reinforce coastal security and decentralise the deployment of National Security Guard. However, after that, a complacency of sorts seems to have set in, mainly because there has been no major terrorist attack since then. Whatever upgradation of police has happened during the intervening period has essentially been of a cosmetic nature.
Meanwhile, terror clouds are gathering on the horizon and could burst upon the Subcontinent any time. The ISIS, which is committed to spreading “volcanoes of jihad” everywhere, recently perpetrated a horrific attack in Sri Lanka. The organisation has made significant inroads in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and has sympathisers in other areas of the country. It recently announced a separate branch, Wilayah-e-Hind, to focus on the Subcontinent. In the neighborhood, the ISIS has support bases in Bangladesh and Maldives. The government has been playing down the ISIS’s threat. It has been arguing that considering the huge Muslim population of the country, a very small percentage has been drawn to or got involved in the ISIS’s activities. That may be true, but a small percentage of a huge population works out to a significant number and it would be naïve to ignore the threat.
Pakistan has taken some half-hearted measures against terrorist formations in the country, which are euphemistically called non-state actors — largely due to pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF.) These measures are more for show than substance. Besides, the ISI has been, for years, making well-orchestrated attempts to revive militancy in Punjab and trying to disrupt our economy by flooding the country with counterfeit currency.
It is necessary, therefore, that the country’s internal security is beefed up. The first responders to a terrorist attack or a law and order problem is the police and, unfortunately, it is in a shambles. Police infrastructure — its manpower, transport, communications and forensic resources — require substantial augmentation. The directions given by the Supreme Court in 2006 appear to have created a fierce reaction in the establishment and led to a consolidation of, to use Marxist jargon, counterrevolutionary forces. The government must appreciate that any effort to strengthen national security without reforming, reorganising or restructuring the police would be an exercise in futility.
The police in every major state should have a force on the pattern of Greyhounds to deal with any terrorist attack. The country must also have a law on the lines of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA) to deal with organised crimes. Investigation of cyber-crime would require specialist staff. Training the constables and darogas for the job will not take us far. The police must draw recruits from the IITs for the purpose.
The National Counter-Terrorism Centre must be set up with such modifications as may be necessary to meet the legitimate objections of the states. The law to deal with terror — the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act — needs more teeth. Successive governments have only fiddled with the law. We have had the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), followed by the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) followed by the present UAPA.
It is also high time that the government thinks of bringing police in the Concurrent List. Police problems were simpler and of a local nature when the Constitution was framed. Since then, the pattern of crime and the dimensions of law and order problems have undergone a sea change. Drugs trafficked from the Myanmar border traverse the Subcontinent and find their way to Europe or even the US. Arms are smuggled from China to India’s Northeast via Thailand and Bangladesh. They are then distributed to insurgent groups in different parts of the country.
States today are incapable of managing the slightest disruption in law and order. Central forces are deployed to assist the states round the year. Bringing police in the Concurrent List would only amount to giving de jure status to what prevails on the ground.
The CBI’s image needs to refurbished. It is time that an Act was legislated to define the charter and regulate the functioning of the premier investigating agency. It is ridiculous that the CBI draws its mandate from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946 and that the organisation was created through a resolution passed more than 50 years ago.
The Central Armed Police Forces are not in the best of health. It would be desirable that a high-level commission is appointed to go into their problems of deployment, utilisation, discipline, morale and promotional opportunities.
The major internal security threats today are in J&K, in the Northeast and from Maoists in Central India. These would need to be dealt with in a manner which — while addressing legitimate demands and removing genuine grievances — ensures that the intransigent elements are isolated and effectively dealt with. The Hurriyat leaders must be cut down to size and the cases against them pursued to their logical conclusion. The framework agreement with the Naga rebels must be finalised and the NSCN (IM) should be firmly told that the government can go thus far and no further.
The Maoists need to be dealt with in a more sensitive manner. Now that government has got the upper hand, it should seriously consider holding out the olive branch, inviting them for peace talks while taking precaution at the same time that the insurgents do not utilise the peace period as a breather to augment their strength.

Helpless in Unnao

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Prakash Singh
Retd. IPS Officer & Patron-GCTC

 
 
 

The criminal justice system of the country is “virtually collapsing” and “as it is slow, inefficient and ineffective, people are losing confidence in the system”. This was stated by the Justice Malimath Committee (2000-2003), which had been constituted to recommend reforms in the criminal justice system. Thanks to certain lobbies, the salient recommendations of the Committee were never implemented. Meanwhile, the system continues to go down a slippery slope.

There could be no greater indictment of the system than the fact that the Supreme Court had to intervene in a case of alleged rape to ensure that justice was done to the victim. Under normal circumstances, it should have been possible for the matter to be disposed in a satisfactory manner at the thana level. However, there was complete failure at all levels of administration, particularly in the police.

The facts about the Unnao case are as follows. A minor girl is gang-raped, allegedly by an MLA, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, his brother and accomplices, on June 17, 2017. The police register a case of kidnapping, but the MLA is not named in the FIR. On April 3, 2018, her father is brutally assaulted, allegedly by Sengar’s men, for refusing to withdraw the complaint. The police, in a bizarre twist to the case, arrest the her father for alleged illegal possession of firearms. She attempts to immolate herself outside the chief minister’s residence on April 8, 2018. The very next day, her father dies in judicial custody. There is widespread outrage. On April 12, three days after her father had succumbed to the injuries, four days after her attempted suicide and more than nine months after the gruesome incident, a case of rape is finally registered against the MLA under the IPC and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The MLA is not arrested even at this stage, and the case is handed over to the CBI.

The CBI arrests Sengar on April 13, 2018, but the travails of the aggrieved family do not end. The family is said to have sent 35 written complaints to the police and administration over a period of one year, saying they would be targeted by the henchmen of the jailed MLA. But police do not take any effective action. On the contrary, they register an FIR against the woman, her mother and uncle on December 27, 2018 for having submitted forged documents to show that she was a minor at the time of the alleged rape. On July 12, 2019, the woman and her relatives send letters, among others, to the Chief Justice of India, alleging that the MLA had threatened them with dire consequences if they did not settle the sexual assault case with the accused. And, on July 28, 2019, the car in which the woman was travelling is rammed by a truck under suspicious circumstances. Her two aunts are killed. The woman and her lawyer, who was also in the car, suffer grievous injuries. The security personnel provided to her inexplicably did not accompany her during the journey. The truck’s number plate was found defaced. The woman is presently struggling for life.

Sengar, who was in the BSP and then in the Samajwadi Party before getting elected on a BJP ticket in 2017, is in jail, hoping to be released on bail one day and then, perhaps, acquitted for want of evidence.

The handling of the case by UP Police has been, to say the least, disgraceful. The sequence of events clearly brings out that the local police was hand in glove with the politician, trying to protect him at every stage and causing harassment to the woman and her family. Senior officers in the home department cannot escape responsibility either. The case dragged on for nearly two years. There was enough time to diagnose the problem and take corrective action. However, that was not done. Supervision was inexcusably lax and complicit. It was regrettable on the part of the police to have said, even before forensic examination, that the car crash prima facie seemed to be an “accident”.

The CBI has not covered itself with glory either. It is true that the agency filed chargesheets as far back as July 2018 — one charging the MLA with abduction and rape and a second one charging four people of the murder of the woman’s father. A third chargesheet was filed against the legislator for planting weapons on the woman’s father. The CBI should have taken steps to ensure that important witnesses were not intimidated, much less eliminated. And why could trial in the chargesheeted cases not begin?

Fortunately, the Supreme Court issued a slew of directions on August 1, transferring the trial of rape and other related cases to Delhi and ordering that the trial be completed within 45 days. It has also directed the CBI to complete investigation into the accident case in 14 days and ordered the UP government to pay an interim compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the survivor. The CRPF has been asked to provide protection to the victim, her family and the lawyer.

The Supreme Court has been trying to depoliticise the police. It gave directions which, if sincerely implemented, would have insulated police from external pressures. Why are the states being allowed to trifle with them? The apex court needs to introspect if the monitoring and implementation of its directions has been adequate.

Similarly, the Witness Protection law has yet to be passed by the Centre. It has been on the anvil for several years. It should be enacted without further delay.

India-USA: Blow Hot, Blow Cold

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Kanwal Sibal

IFS (Retd.) & Advisory Council
 
 
 
Just as you had not anticipated the size of this roundtable, I was not at all prepared for the kind of intervention that I may have to make. I thought it would be more in the nature of making some comments here and there. So I have no pretension of giving you any definitive discourse on how I see Indo-US relations. I must confess that I have not yet got my teeth fully into the subject. I have some ideas about our relationship, having served in Washington during an interesting period and in a sense perhaps, seeing the transformation of our relationship post the Gulf War, when the United States began to conceive for itself a global role, in what was rapidly becoming and has become a unipolar world.
And then again this subject is very sensitive, in the sense it is at the core in some ways, of our foreign policy. Any less than fully thought out remark on this subject could perhaps create misunderstandings or doubts, which may not be entirely necessary or warranted.
I am not fully in agreement with those who believe that in the past we had a relationship of deep distrust or animosity or antagonism towards the United States of America. We are not built that way. There may have been some people here and there, for ideological reasons, and may be it was the fashion of the times to take a certain view of United States and its role. But temperamentally, we have never been a very ideological country. Maybe in the case of some other countries like China, you can really talk about blowing hot & blowing cold.
At one moment, United States is the principal enemy of China and at another phase of their foreign policy, the United States was its strategic partner. So this kind of total change in thinking and approach has never been visible in terms of India’s relationship with the United States, or for that matter, any other country.
Yes, during the period when we were trying to create space for ourselves after our independence, to play an independent role as much as possible on the international scene, the United States because of the cold war and its policy of forging alliances with countries to combat the communist countries, tried to put constraints on this independence, and we reacted. It was more in the nature of India trying to carve out space for itself rather than any preconceived ideological opposition to the United States.I think what we are seeing today, which seems to appear to be a phase of blowing hot, is another version of the same thing. That, how does India carve out space for itself in a unipolar world? We can’t do it in opposition to the United States, so we do it in cooperation with the United States. We tried to find common ground. In a way this is a reflection of what some other allies of the United States are trying to do.
When countries like France or others speak about multi-polarity, what does that mean? It does not mean they are going to oppose the United States. Or become a part of another cold war crusade, this time directed against the United Sates. It just is that they don’t feel comfortable with the idea that United States has today, the kind of power and influence on the world scene and is willing to use that power and influence primarily to push it’s own view point and it’s own interest and in disregard not only of perhaps the interest of the European countries, but at times the larger consensus in the international community at large.
But this is a point of debate and discussion and engagement and pressure. The idea being to speak to the United States, discuss with them, assert your view point, try to steer them in the direction you want and try to build as much as possible a multi-polar world within a cooperative rather than an antagonistic concept. So our engagement today with the United States or, during this blow hot phase, is a part of our effort to adjust to the reality of the situation, look around and see what options we have and tailor our policy in accordance with those options.It is a fact, that in the past and to some extent even today, the policies of the United States, even if they have not been directed against the interest of India, have tended to adversely affect the interest of India.
The nuclear question is of course a big one. The refusal of India to sign the NPT and our nuclear test in 1974 was a starting point for a whole series of legislation that the United States introduced into the US Congress, which sought to constrain India, and beyond India, the ambitions of any other country. The United States by virtue of its size and its responsibility, thinks globally. So even if India per se may not have been such a major problem, the consequences of the actions India takes could have been reasonably seen by them as creating a problem for them in terms of shaping the global environment according to their priorities and their interests.
Post-Pokhran, the situation changed. Initially the international community led by the United States tried to build a consensus against India, but they did not succeed. Some countries, especially France, did not allow that consensus to be built and engaged us in strategic dialogue, in terms of trying to see how India could be made a partner progressively of the existing non – proliferation regime, knowing fully well that India could not become legally a member of the regime, but how in practical, de facto, terms this could be done.So that India’s perceived defiance is contained and does not set a bad example for others. And then of course, domestic politics in the United States and other events which we need not go into – the position that they took subsequently on CTBT, their own nuclear posture review lately, their desire, in fact, to develop new weapons, nuclear weapons, deep penetration, that can take care of the development of WMD by rogue states underground etc. I think to that extent they themselves have weakened their own non – proliferation posture and continuing pressure on India in this area would not have be consistent or logical. But there are others factors also which we need not go into.
Likewise, Jammu and Kashmir, India and Pakistan. There is a long history to it as all of us know. Most of you know better than I as to how problems with Pakistan and the complication of the issue of Jammu and Kashmir has been due to a large measure, the policies pursued by some western countries, and in particular Britain and the United States. At the time when I was in the United States, this particular issue was even more complicated by the US State Department.
For the first time they started speaking about Jammu and Kashmir being a disputed territory. Though I must here perhaps correct Chidanand, because even at that time they were telling me that when they say it is disputed territory they are referring to the whole of Jammu Kashmir and not simply the part of Jammu Kashmir which is under our control. This being a core area of our own foreign policy and our national security and our national interest, it was inevitable there would be a conflict of interest between us and the United States.In that period, I think the United States initiated certain steps which made us feel uncomfortable with regard to what role they intended to play in Jammu and Kashmir. Their reference to the settlement of Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan taking into account the wishes of the people of Kashmir. What did that mean? How would those wishes of the people be ascertained? Who would represent those wishes? Hence came the idea of a third party to the dispute. Efforts to give shape to this third party, and support given to the Hurriyat, and attempts to try and build some kind of a group which would then encompass not only the people from this side, but also the people from the other side. At one time Kathmandu was being chosen as the spot where this vast congregation of Kashmiris from both sides of the LoC could take place.
We had to struggle against this, but that pressure point has remained. Today there is certainly a big change effectively, in the way United States looks at the issue, and I would agree that the Kargil episode was a watershed in terms on how the United States looks at it. Perhaps there is now a realisation that, come what may, the line of control should be sacrosanct and should not be violated. But, of course, there are a lot of study groups etc., directly or indirectly having the benediction of the State Department and others, which look at various formulae of how this issue can be resolved. After what has happened recently in terms of a real possibility of military conflict between India and Pakistan, perhaps the efforts to encourage some kind of a permanent solution based on the realities on the ground could become a viable solution which the international community led by the United States may wish to support. But that remains to be seen.
The blow hot phase can also be traced to the change of regime in the United States with the Republicans coming to power. We saw some very major developments, including on the defence side between India and United States. Now how does September 11 affect all this?
Interestingly, September 11 is all about combating international terrorism. If one were to logically go down this road together, that is India and United States, then it is very clear what our expectations are and what United States must do. They can’t separate one segment of international terrorism from another and say that they would deal firstly, and on a priority basis, and forcefully, with only that segment of International terrorism which potentially threatens their security. That the other segment, which they recognise does constitute some form of terrorism, would be given second priority. This is not an argument and a logic which is comfortable for us, nor do we accept it.
Our task would be to continue to pressure the United States to see this combat against international terrorism as an international combat, and directed against international terrorism as a whole. This is one issue on which the United States has itself pushed an international consensus and we have resolution 1373 which is very clear in terms of the obligations it imposes on all countries to combat international terrorism – not to give safe haven, not to actively or passively support international terrorism, to stop funding etc. But because the priorities of United States and India perhaps are not in phase, there is a little problem.
That problem we can see, because we would like Pakistan’s involvement in international terrorism, and what it is doing to India, to be dealt with in a particular way. There the progress we are achieving in convincing United States to go down that road has been substantial but not complete. We have to continue to press United States down that road. It is very important for the credibility of the international community, and the international community often today is the code word for the Americans and the British, that the commitments that General Musharraf has given must be honored by him.
These commitments we are told have been given to the International community, and to the Americans and to President Bush himself. So these commitments cannot be watered down. Now it cannot be said that, yes, he has promised that he would be completely end infiltration and take visible action on the training camps, but in reality he does not control all the infiltration. So, the best one can do is to put sustained pressure on him to control, not end, control at present levels, that part of Infiltration which is under his control. But that is not the commitment which was given.
If it is interpreted in this way, then it gives a lot of room to General Musharraf to play with ambiguities, to carve out for himself some room for maneuver, continue in some ways to pursue the policies he has been pursuing in the past, and then say that if there is something still happening, it is because of terrorism that is outside his control. In other words this would give him that alibi that he needs, that he wants.
The diplomatic exercise between us and the Americans on this point is not yet over and will continue. Though I must say that the statements that have been made by the American Government on the issue of Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism, and the need to end terrorism, the need to act on training camps, need to do these things visibly, credibly, demonstratively, to India’s satisfaction – all these statements have come from the US leadership and are most welcome. That is what gives sustenance to the efforts that we will continue to make with them.
The Indian diaspora has been growing in size especially since the 70s. But it became a factor in our political and economic relationship only in the 90s. I think, the role that is played by the Indian-American community should not be under estimated. It was during my time that the India Caucus was established and from its initial modest proportions has grown to the size that it has acquired today. It was during that period that the India Interest group was established by some big American companies with a view to changing the perceptions of India in the US Congress.
We put the India Interest Group & India Caucus together, to see how they could combine their efforts together to advance our interests there. The Information Technology sector has been driven a great deal by this diaspora and this has had a major impact not only on our bilateral relations with the United States but even in a sense globally. This is something which we should cherish and this is something which has a bright future and we can work on it.
Our economic relationship in general also seems to have developed very well in the post liberalisation phase, post 1991. When I left the United States, our two-way bilateral trade was less than 8 billion dollars. Today it is over 13 billion dollars. It is a little less than what I thought. I thought the figure was higher but today our Ministry told me that it is a little under 14 billion dollars. That came as a bit of a disappointment. But I think this is a figure which can be improved upon.
The United States was the one country which reacted the most warmly and the most enthusiastically to India’s policy of liberalisation in the area of Investment. 33% of the cumulative investments in India are from the United States of America. This is an area in which more can be done and the responsibility for this lies not only on the United States but perhaps and even more on ourselves – in terms of putting our own house in order and taking certain initiatives that need to be taken, implementing what is called the second generation of reforms etc. We all know this, since we are speaking at the CII. I think they know exactly what needs to be done in order to invite greater American and foreign Investment in this country. If that happens, I think the blow hot phase could perhaps come to a boil and which is what one would hope for.
Finally, how do we look strategically at United States’ role in our larger region. Chidu has mentioned that we have had exercises with the United States and nobody has said a word. There is no criticism of whatever we are doing with the United States in terms of defence and other areas. I think this says a lot about the sense of pragmatism and realism of the Indian policy makers. There is clearly a community of interest that is growing between the United States’ strategy in this region and our own.
We have always said that there is no real conflict of interest between India and the United States. If there has been a conflict of interest, its largely because of Americas perception of it’s global role and it’s unwillingness, from our point of view, to give India a legitimate share of what we think should be our role. If the United States is willing to concede that and make us a partner, I think those areas where we have a certain conflict would begin to disappear progressively.
We are not averse to United States presence in Afghanistan, on the contrary we welcomed it. It was necessary to get rid of the Taliban, to get rid of international terrorism. If, for promoting stability in this region, their further presence is required, I don’t think the Indian policy makers are necessarily averse to that. If the United States can help in putting an end to the Pakistani-sponsored terrorism in India, we would welcome that. But of course, and I should make that clear, that does not necessarily mean that the policy of bilateralism has been given up. Not at all.
There is a difference between our willingness to work with the United States to combat international terrorism because there is an international consensus on this. But once that is achieved, then it will be we who will be discussing with Pakistan on how to resolve our outstanding issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. There are some fears that we are slipping down the road or giving up our policy of bilateralism. That is not necessarily the case. At least that’s how I see it.
Democracy is a very strong binding factor between India and the United States, though of course, it is quite easy to be cynical about it. The biggest friends of the United States, historically and today, are not necessarily the epitomes of democracies, and if you look at the relationship between United States and China, certainly it not driven by Chinese democracy. But yes, if one were to look at it philosophically, and even in the longer-term interest of the International community and United States’ own interest, I think the fact that India is a practicing democracy, is a vibrant democracy, helps the United States to globally advance its aims of promoting democracy everywhere.

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