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Modi-Rajapaksa virtual summit on September 26

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Suhasini Haidar
National Editor
 

 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold discussions with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa on September 26 in India’s first virtual summit in the neighbourhood, even as Colombo awaits New Delhi’s decision on its request for a debt moratorium and an additional currency swap.
“Yes, the meeting is confirmed,” Rohan Weliwita, media secretary to Mr. Rajapaksa, told The Hindu on Monday. The meeting will come two days after a scheduled virtual meeting of foreign ministers of the two countries, along with other regional counterparts, at the SAARC foreign ministers’ forum on September 24.

The virtual summit is the first official interaction between the leaders after they met in New Delhi in February this year. They have since spoken at least twice over the telephone though. Mr. Rajapaksa’s request at the February meeting for a debt moratorium of three years from New Delhi, to help Sri Lanka manage its fragile economy, is pending, as is Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s request to Mr. Modi – during a telephone call in May – for a “special” $1.1-billion currency swap facility. Official sources in Colombo said both are “being discussed,” while in July, the Reserve Bank of India signed a $400 million swap facility with Sri Lanka’s Central Bank.

A big challenge

Following Sri Lanka’s August general elections, the Rajapaksas have consolidated political power with an impressive two-thirds in Parliament. However, they face one of the nation’s biggest economic challenges yet, with the global pandemic only heightening it. Sri Lanka is due to repay outstanding loans amounting to nearly $3 billion this year, including a non-negotiable $1 billion sovereign bond maturing next month.

While the official agenda of the ‘virtual summit’ is not known, issues of bilateral interest, including development projects and cooperation in the response to COVID-19, are likely talking points.

In particular, the leaders are expected to discuss the contentious East Container Terminal project at the Colombo Port, which India agreed to jointly develop with Japan and Colombo, signing a Memorandum of Cooperation with the former government. However, the Rajapaksa administration is yet to give the proposal a thumbs up, after worker unions and nationalist groups protested “foreign involvement” in their “national assets.” While those resisting the move recognise that over 70% of the transhipment business at the terminal — located near the China-backed ‘Port City’ in Colombo — comes from India, they are wary of the Adani group’s reported interest in the deal.

13th Amendment

Sri Lanka’s Tamil polity will keenly follow the summit to see if Colombo’s commitment to implement the 13th Amendment — which devolves a measure of power to the provinces — is discussed, as some in the Rajapaksa administration, including prominent ministers, are consistently calling for the abolition of provincial councils that were created following the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987.
Amid criticism of India’s neighbourhood policy, marked by heightening tensions and hostility with many partners, New Delhi has been stepping up its neighbourhood outreach. Mr. Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar have been swiftly connecting with the Sri Lankan leadership, especially after the Rajapaksa brothers’ big win in the November presidential and August general elections. Mr. Modi was the first leader to wish Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa in August, well before the final poll tally was known. Colombo has sought to reciprocate, going by the optics. Both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa wished Mr. Modi over the phone on his birthday last week.
Following the global pandemic, India held its virtual summit in June, with the aim of continuing diplomatic engagement with its partners. The first summit between Mr. Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison saw nine agreements emerge, while the two countries issued a joint declaration on a ‘Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.’

India and Japan were expected to hold a summit early this month, but that did not happen in the wake of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s resignation.

India, Pakistan trade charges at SAARC, CICA meetings

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Suhasini Haidar
National Editor
 
India and Pakistan crossed swords over terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir at the Foreign Minister’s meetings of the 8-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the 27-nation Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA). However, unlike similar occasions in the past, neither side walked out during the events held via video-conference on Thursday.
Speaking at the South Asian meeting, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar called on all SAARC members to “collectively resolve to defeat the scourge of terrorism, including the forces that nurture, support and encourage an environment of terror and conflict, which impede the objective of SAARC to realise its full potential for collective collaboration and prosperity across South Asia”, without a direct reference to Pakistan.

Veiled reference to J&K

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who also attended the meet along with the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, used the SAARC platform to make a detailed statement on the resolution of “long-standing disputes”, a veiled reference to Jammu and Kashmir and New Delhi’s 2019 move to withdraw Article 370.

‘Unilateral moves’

“The Foreign Minister said we must condemn, oppose any unilateral and illegal measures to change the status of disputed territories in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions,” the official Pakistan news agencies reported.

The reports said Mr. Qureshi also referred to “systematic human rights violations of the people suffering from long-running disputes”.

A similar statement was made at the CICA Special Ministerial conference, that brings together Asian nations ranging from Russia and Central Asia to the Gulf and South-East Asia.
India rebutted Mr. Qureshi in its right to reply, said the MEA. “We advise Pakistan to cease its sponsorship and overt and covert support to terrorism against India,” India said.
MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said Pakistan’s statements at both events were “inconsistent” with the mandates of SAARC and CICA, where bilateral contentious issues are not raised. “What else can be expected of a country that indulges in cross-border terrorism as a part of its state policy,” Mr. Srivastava added.

Last week, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had walked off from a virtual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) after his Pakistani counterpart appeared with a Pakistani version of its map that included Indian territories. Last year, at the SAARC Foreign Minister’s meeting held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Qureshi had boycotted each other’s speeches.

PM Modi had also refused to attend the 19th edition of the SAARC summit, due to be held in Islamabad in 2016, over the issue of Pakistan’s continued support to terror groups.
Speaking at the SAARC FM meet, however, Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali and Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi both said it is “imperative” to hold the SAARC summit.

“The delay in convening the 19th SAARC Summit and the absence of formal meetings of the SAARC Charter bodies since 2016, has greatly impacted the functioning of our organisation,” said Mr. Gyawali, adding that this “has raised a serious question about the relevancy” of SAARC.

However, sources said “most countries” agreed it is not the “opportune time” to convene the summit as proposed by Pakistan, given the COVID-19 situation, and the proposal “fell through”.
All SAARC nations including India and Pakistan, however, built a common stand on the need to cooperate in battling the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Jaishankar listed a number of measures taken by India in the past few months including the SAARC Leaders video-conference convened by Mr. Modi, a ‘COVID-19 Information Exchange Platform (COINEX), a SAARC Food Bank mechanism, as well as the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund, to which India has contributed $10 million, making essential drugs, COVID protection and testing kits, amounting to $ 2.3 million available to countries in the SAARC region.

LANKAN PM RANIL ‘TOO NICE’ FOR HIS JOB

Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat
Editorial Director,ITV & GCTC Executive Board Member

 
COLOMBO is among the most pleasant cities for a tourist to visit, and there are few hotels which can match the majestic Galle Face Hotel on Galle Road. Next door to the hotel is the High Commission of India, and next to that the US Embassy. These days, the closeness of the two compounds to each other mirror the growing partnership between Washington and Delhi, two capitals that have been far apart for much of the past. But the attractions of the hotel is not only its Old World charm but the view of the waves of the sea from the oceanfront hotel, followed by the calming sound the seawater makes as it reaches the beach. However, April 04 was far from a calm day for Ranil Wickermasinghe, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, who faced a “Loss of Confidence” motion against him in Parliament that day. Ever courteous and soft-spoken, it must have been an effort for the UNF leader to remain calm as speaker after speaker excoriated him and called for him to step down, including several who had been his supporters till recently.
After the formidable Junius Richard Jayawardene, it had been Ranil who had taken up the leadership of his party, and after a lapse of three decades, it is clear that most of his party colleagues want to see another individual take charge. The most popular among these is the son of a former President, the legislator Sajith Premadasa. Even though Prime Minister Wickremasinghe is an outstanding human being and a competent administrator, it is clear  that he has overstayed his welcome within the ambitious ranks of his own party. The consequence is that whatever is left of the remainder of his term in the second highest office in Sri Lanka ( after the Presidency of the Republic) will be marked with acrimony and controversy. Given the spreading sentiment against Ranil’s continuance, it would be best if he were to voluntarily quit rather than get forced out of office. This No Confidence motion has not succeeded, but others are certain to follow, in different guises. Indeed, the opposition motion was secretly encouraged by ambitious people from Ranil’s own party, the UNF .
Watching what is taking place in the Sri Lankan parliament about a PM who has stayed too long, Atal Behari Vajpayee comes to mind. By the close of 2002, Vajpayee had clearly lost the robust health needed to do justice to a job that mandates a gruelling workday. His medications made it difficult for Vajpayee to concentrate on the tasks and crises that he was confronted with on a daily basis, with the result that effective authority shifted to Principal Secretary to Prime Minister and National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra. From around July 2002, it was Mishra rather than Vajpayee who was calling the shots in the Prime Minister’s Office, the hub of governance in India. Being a lifelong bureaucrat averse to listening to any view or individual he disliked (and this was a long list), “Executive PM” Mishra in effect took precedence in policy over the Cabinet Ministers in the Vajpayee government, including Deputy Prime Minister and Union Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani, who has always been unable to go against either Vajpayee or those nominated by Vajpayee to exercise his powers.
The lack of political antennae of Mishra and his (not surprising) bureaucratised approach to policy resulted in decisions being taken by the BJP-led government that steadily reduced the party’s popularity among its supporters, with the result that enough of them stayed home during polling day in 2004 to ensure that the Congress Party led by Sonia Gandhi prevailed over the BJP in the Lok Sabha ( Lower House) elections to the national parliament. Had Vajpayee gracefully accepted that the state of his health made it impossible to continue into 2003, and handed over the baton to Advani, the BJP may have retained its hold on power in 2009. The health crisis facing Vajpayee made the Prime Minister offer his resignation. But this was tearfully turned down by Advani. The chance to be PM comes but once in a lifetime, and Advani lost it in 2002 by putting his affection for Vajpayee above the needs of the BJP and the country for a healthy PM. In the 2009 polls, Advani failed to enthuse voters and the BJP lost further ground to the Congress, regaining power only under Narendra Modi in 2004, who however seems to be going the Vajpayee way in being excessively dependent on officials for both policy formulation as well as implementation.
The problem with Ranil Wickremasinghe is that he is too nice for the job. The Prime Minister of a country should not be a “nice guy” who is obliging to as many people or interests as possible. He or she needs to be tough on certain issues, the way former President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa was when faced in 2009 with calls from the US and the EU to give LTTE leader Prabhakaran a safe exit from the trap that the Sri Lankan military had laid for him under the guidance of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Because of the Sri Lankan leader’s refusal to obey powerful countries used to deferential behaviour from others, Mahinda Rajapaksa ( with help from a few friendly countries) defeated the LTTE and ensured the end of terrorism in the island. As a consequence, the Sri Lankan economy started to improve and these days, the nightmare of violence and terror attacks that was the norm in the past is becoming a distant memory. However, current President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremasinghe are seen by many as too eager to please the “international community” (CNN and BBC-speak for the US and the EU) by giving unprecedented concessions on sovereignty and self-respect to the US-EU combination who interfere in the guise of “ protecting human rights”. The concessions given by Sirisena and Ranil to Washington and its European allies will not save the Sri Lankan government from harsh demands to punish the Sri Lankan military for shaming NATO by defeating the LTTE in a way that NATO failed to do with the Taliban in Afghanistan and with Al Qaeda and Daesh in the Middle East, despite killing several tens of times more civilians than the Sri Lankan military did in its war with the LTTE. While Russia, Syria and Iran did the heavy lifting against Daesh, CNN_BBC-Al Jazeera gives the credit to NATO, the way the US and the UK forgot that it was Moscow that defeated Hitler from 1943 to 1945. More than any other reason, it is the perception by Sri Lankans of Sirisena and Ranil bowing to US-EU pressure that is clearing a way for the return to power of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the next Sri Lankan election.
 
 
 
 
 

EASTERN INDO-PACIFIC AWAITS TRUMP

Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat
Editorial Director,ITV & GCTC Executive Board Member

 
While President Donald J Trump has visited Europe, East Asia and the Middle East several times, thus far he has not come to any of the countries that form the eastern side of the Indo-Pacific, the giant body of seawater that is the hub of global commerce and geopolitics. Unlike Europe, where the Atlanticist establishment reigns and as a consequence, Trump is unpopular with several local leaders, his image within most of Asia’s ruling elites is good. Candidate Trump gave a promise while on the 2016 Presidential elections campaign that he would – in effect – actualise what his predecessor promised to do, which was to reset US policy from its post-1945 Atlanticist anchor towards mooring onto the Indo-Pacific.
This has so far prevented him from proceeding at speed towards the objective of resetting US policy from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific. However, those close to the strong-willed billionaire say that it is only a matter of months before such a shift gets carried out, including through the removal of those in the top layers of his team who are committed Atlanticists, as indeed are many of the members of the Republican establishment. Interestingly, those close to Senator Bernie Sanders of the Democratic Party say that (unlike Hillary Clinton) he is not committed to preserving the Atlanticist focus of US foreign, economic and security policy, and that he has been devoting increasing interest to the situation in Asia, especially that in China, the Middle East and India. Among the backers of Senator Sanders in his own party is Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who has become an expert on Asia as a consequence of her numerous visits to the continent, although as yet she seems to have been unable to persuade Senator to visit India and Indonesia, two countries that are the most strategically placed so far as geography of eastern reaches of Indo-Pacific is concerned.
Thus far,neither President Trump nor his Democratic critic Bernie Sanders has visited these two most populous democracies in Asia. A Presidential visit to India and Indonesia would have substantial global resonance. Not only are they two of the three most populous countries on the face of the planet, they are also two of the three countries in the world with the highest number of Muslim citizens. Although the Atlanticist establishment focuses near exclusively on the Middle East in connection with matters connected with the worldwide Muslim ummah, the fact is that all three of these countries (Indonesia, Pakistan and India) are located to the east of that region. Donald Trump has given the backing of his administration to Crown Prince Mohammad Al Saud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, who for the first time since the establishment of his very important country is working on rolling back the Wahabbi tide, first in Saudi Arabia and subsequently globally. As this is being written, King Abdullah of Jordan is on a visit to India, where the entire population of the country is in a welcoming mode for an individual who represents the finest traditions of Islam, as indeed would be natural from an individual who is a 41st generation descendant of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself.
India has a large Sufi community, and they have come together to welcome Abdullah to Delhi. Unlike in the case of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, where a junior minister was despatched to the airport to welcome him and his family to India, in the case of the King Of Jordan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself went to the airport to receive the royal guest, in a show of empathy for Jordan and its role as an exemplar of moderation in the Middle East. In much the same way, although on a slightly bigger scale, both Indonesia as well as India have proven to the world that the Muslim community is as peace loving and respectful of other faiths as are those who believe in other numerically large religions such as Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. Whether it be in the UAE (especially Dubai) or in Kuwait, visitors to such countries understand how deep rooted the tradition of tolerance is among the almost wholly Muslim citizenry of such states. Hence the need for President Trump to move away from the Middle East-centric perspective of an Atlanticist establishment that is visceral in its dislike of him and the ideas he represents and visit India and Indonesia as well, having already been (as President of the United States) to the most populated country on the globe, China. Both First Daughter Ivanka Trump as well as eldest son Donald Trump Junior have visited India, thereby paving the way for the US President.
The US has long cherished the objective of serving as a beacon of democracy, and a visit to two of the three largest democracies would showcase such concern in a unique way. A “2 plus 2” summit is already planned for Washington next month, where President Trump and Prime Minister Modi will hold talks, as also Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. There is also talk of Prime Minister Modi meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping the same month, now that the leader of second most important economy has demonstrated to the world his control over the levers of governance in Peoples Republic of China. Indeed, should the US President use the visit to hold a meeting of the Quadrilateral Alliance countries (Japan, Australia,the US and India) while in Delhi, that would be a signal that the alliance is as firm in its structure and resolve as any elsewhere. In Jakarta, he could meet with the leaders of Vietnam and the Philippines together with the President of Indonesia, as the three countries merit inclusion in the Indo-Pacific’s first formal alliance. Hopefully by that time, the situation in the Maldives would have evolved in a manner satisfactory to the democracies.

Failed NSG bid: China is a formidable adversary

Gopalaswami Parthasarathy
Ambassador of India to Myanmar & GCTC Advisory Board Member

 
There has been considerable heat and controversy over India’s admission to the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) being blocked by a “Great Wall of China”, especially constructed to block our entry by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
President Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, had yielded to pressures from US President George W Bush in 2008 and withdrawn objections to ending NSG sanctions against India.
Interestingly, the very creation of the NSG was because of Indira Gandhi’s “Peaceful Nuclear Explosion” (PNE), codenamed “Buddha is Smiling”, in Pokhran on May 18, 1974, which was Buddha Purnima!
Sanctions
The PNE sent shockwaves across the world. Meetings spearheaded by the US and the UK, and backed by Moscow, set up the “London Club”, later renamed the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), in 1975.
The primary aim of the NSG was take measures to deny crucial materials and sensitive technologies to countries like India. These measures not only crippled India’s nuclear power programme, but also our access to high technology, characterised as “dual use”.
But they had little impact on India accumulating enough fissile material, for a viable nuclear weapons programme.
Relief to India from NSG sanctions came unexpectedly when President Bush decided to end nuclear sanctions against India, while enlisting it as a “strategic partner”.
The then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seized this opportunity, despite opposition from high levels in his party and Beijing’s “fellow travellers”, its worthy Communist supporters. The US then led the effort to end global nuclear sanctions against India.
The US Congress amended American laws to accommodate civilian nuclear cooperation and trade with India in 2006. The Bush administration then took the lead in securing an end to NSG sanctions on India.
Major nuclear suppliers like Russia, Germany, Canada, France and UK were on board. The first NSG meeting on August 21-22, 2008, was inconclusive, with China leading countries with reservations – primarily Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland and New Zealand.
A fortnight later, following direct intervention by President Bush, China relented and the NSG ended sanctions on September 6, 2008.
The end of sanctions was not unconditional. India pledged to separate its weapons-related facilities from those used exclusively for peaceful purposes.
It accepted IAEA norms of inspections and safeguards on all exclusively peaceful nuclear facilities. India also pledged to continue its voluntary moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and not share sensitive or dual-use weapons-related technology or material with others and sign a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.
India thus obtained a special status in the NSG, wherein it became eligible for international nuclear cooperation and trade.
It is, therefore, ludicrous that after the NSG had cleared India for global nuclear trade, it should now seek to deny it membership, by linking this membership to a broader policy on dealing with countries which have not signed the NPT.
The driving force behind this denial is China. No country has a more dubious record on nuclear non-proliferation than China.
When the NPT was concluded in 1968, China refused to accede the Treaty for a quarter of a century, describing the treaty as an instrument of “hegemony”.
Moreover, while China acceded to the NPT in 1992, it chose to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group only in 2004. It had by then become the worst proliferator of nuclear weapons materials, equipment and designs in the world.
Generosity
The primary recipient of Beijing’s nuclear generosity was its “all-weather friend” Pakistan.
Western observers have gone to the extent of saying that there would be no Pakistan nuclear weapons programme without China’s assistance.
Interestingly, some of the early weapons designs, which China transferred to Pakistan, were in turn passed on by Dr AQ Khan to recipients like Libya.
Pakistan’s entire Plutonium weapons programme owes its existence to Chinese assistance, which also modernised its uranium enrichment capabilities.
The recently published book, China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics, by US-based analyst Andrew Small, exposes China’s dubious proliferation record.
Diplomacy
Foreign secretary S Jaishankar presented India’s case on NSG membership to all its 48 members in a meticulously crafted 300-page document on May 8. This presentation included details of India’s needs for “clean” nuclear energy.
It recounted its fulfilment of all assurances given to the NSG in 2008 and its spotless record on not transferring sensitive dual-use technologies.
It was noted that to fulfil its commitments on climate change, India needed to add 44,000MW of nuclear power, with its domestic companies increasingly becoming a part of the global nuclear supply chain.
India has also emerged as the largest producer of “Heavy Water” in the world, with exports to countries ranging from South Korea and the US to China and France.
Despite all this, the quest for NSG membership has now moved to peripheral issues like criteria for membership.
But we can be confident that with perseverance and patience we will succeed in our efforts.
This experience should leave India with no doubt that China remains a formidable diplomatic adversary to what it increasingly sees as a rising India across the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
The time has come for us to internationally expose China’s dubious proliferation record and factor in China’s international vulnerabilities, particularly tensions in its relations with neighbours like Vietnam, Japan and Indonesia.

This, even as we expand trade and economic ties and strengthen measures to maintain peace and tranquillity along our borders with China.

Troubles for Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan are far from over

Gopalaswami Parthasarathy
Ambassador of India to Myanmar & GCTC Advisory Board Member

 
Pakistan has been in political turmoil ever since it was revealed in Panama Papers last year that Nawaz Sharif’s family had large undeclared financial assets abroad, including large properties in London and Dubai.
Sharif’s defense was that his father, who owned businesses in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, acquired these properties. It soon became clear, however, that the five member-bench, which the Supreme Court set up to look at the charges, was determined to unseat him from office.
Evidence
Unable to find evidence to establish charges of undeclared assets abroad, the five-member bench held him guilty of not declaring a sum due to him from a company in Dubai, even though Sharif clarified that he never received the money, a relatively paltry sum of around $2,700 (over Rs 1,73,000). Incidentally, influential political and military leaders including Benazir Bhutto, Gen Pervez Musharraf, and former army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, are known to have properties in London, Dubai, France, and Australia.
The Supreme Court is accused of lacking the courage to act against army officers. Many eminent lawyers, activists, and jurists in Pakistan have described the five-member bench’s decision as perverse. The bias of the court was also evident when the joint investigation team it set up included officers from the ISI and military intelligence, with no investigative or legal experience. The verdict is seen as being engineered by the judiciary, working in collusion with the army, which has no love lost for Sharif.
The army has had serious differences with Sharif, especially on his moves to improve relations with India. It objected to his visit to India for PM Narendra Modi’s inauguration. And when, in a move to improve relations, Modi visited Sharif in Lahore to attend a family marriage, the army deliberately undermined efforts to improve relations, by its attack a few days later on the Pathankot airbase, through Jaish-e-Mohammed.
The criminal cases about disproportionate assets held by Sharif, his two sons, daughter, and his finance minister Ishaq Dar (who is related to him) are to be tried separately by an “accountability court”. Forced to resign from office, Sharif has been determined to fight back legally and politically.
Given his effective control of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, Sharif has got a loyalist, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a US-educated engineer who was earlier petroleum minister, sworn in as Prime Minister.
The sensitive post of Interior (Home) has been given to yet another loyalist Ahsan Iqbal, who was an earlier planning minister. Iqbal replaces Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who was not only the senior-most member of Sharif’s Cabinet but also an ambitious politician, with close ties to the military establishment. Chaudhry Nisar, who fancied himself as a logical successor to Sharif, had strong differences with the former PM in recent days. He has now been dropped from the Cabinet.
Unexpected
Prior to the swearing-in of the new Cabinet, it was expected that Abbasi would continue as Prime Minister, till Shahbaz Sharif got elected to the National Assembly from the Lahore seat vacated by Nawaz. He would then take over as Prime Minister. But this whole proposal is under a cloud.
This goes back to the complex relations between the two Sharif brothers. In their younger days, the younger brother, Shahbaz, was considered to be smarter in business matters, while the older brother, Nawaz, took to politics. Nawaz moved to set up the Pakistan Muslim League and grew to lead the party to victory in national elections.
Shahbaz had a junior role as chief minister of Punjab. He established a more comfortable relationship with the army, with whom he behaved deferentially. Nawaz, in all these three terms, had a tense relationship with the army. Matters, however, appear to have come to a head when Shahbaz mobilized party support for his son Hamza to succeed him as chief minister of Punjab, when he moved to Islamabad, as Prime Minister in the course of coming weeks.
This evidently rang alarm bells in the Nawaz family, as Shahbaz and his family would then be ruling in both Islamabad and Lahore. Nawaz has designated his daughter Maryam as his successor. If she were found guilty on charges of unaccounted wealth, the leadership would pass to his wife Kulsoom, who is known to be tough-minded and strong-willed.
Essential
Nawaz, therefore, got senior party members in Lahore to demand that it was essential that Shahbaz should continue as chief minister in Lahore, to set the stage for participation in general elections next year, which many expect the ruling PML(N) to win. Prime Minister Abbasi, therefore, appears set to continue till the elections, with remote control exercised by Nawaz. Khwaja Mohammed Asif, who held the largely ceremonial post of defense minister, has been appointed as the foreign minister.
As defense minister, Asif had got used to taking his orders from the army chief. As foreign minister, he will have to seek to moderate the army’s support for terrorism in Afghanistan and India, in view of the emerging strong anti-terrorism policies of the Trump administration in Washington.
China will look on with concern about the abilities of the new dispensation to fulfill Pakistan’s responsibilities in implementing its growing number of infrastructure projects. These are issues India needs to keep a close eye on, as the ISI continues to spread terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, and elsewhere.
 

Don’t give room for China to dominate

Gopalaswami Parthasarathy
Ambassador of India to Myanmar & GCTC Advisory Board Member

 
The Commander of India’s Ladakh based IV Corps, Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, and his Chinese counterpart, Major General Lio Lon, met on the Chinese side of the un-demarcated ‘Line of Actual Control’ in Ladakh, on June 6, amidst escalating border tensions. They inked an agreement for reducing tensions on the Ladakh-China border.
The tensions were stoked by Chinese objections to India’s road construction activities in Eastern Ladakh, across the picturesque Pangong Lake and the adjacent Galway River. China already has good lines of communication on its side of the Line of Control, which presently give it a strategic advantage. The Chinese are, however, primarily concerned at India’s moves to extend these road communications to Daulat Beg Oldie, which is located barely eight kilometers from the Line of Control, bordering China’s sensitive Aksai Chin Region.
Daulat Beg Oldie is located near the sole strategic road link between Tibet and China’s restive, Muslim dominated, Xinjiang Province. The Chinese had earlier taken serious note of Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement in Parliament on August 5, 2019, asserting: “Kashmir is an integral part of India, there is no doubt over it. When I talk about Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin are included in it.”
The Chinese intrusions in Ladakh across the Galway River and the Pangong Lake caught India by surprise. Attempts to push the Chinese back physically led to injured soldiers on both sides. The Chinese responded, binging in reinforcements from their Western Army. India, in turn, reinforced its already strong presence in Ladakh. The talks between Harinder Singh and Lio Lon cooled frayed tempers, across the Line of Control.
China indicated that it would be pulling out from two sites it occupied in the Galway valley, during these talks.
No assurances were, however, conveyed on positions China had occupied at the Pangong Lake. The two sides will, however, continue the dialogue at the level of field commanders, to secure total Chinese withdrawal. It is, however, unlikely that the Chinese will leave their positions on the Pangong Lake, anytime soon.

China’s message

While India has reacted in a positive manner to the de-escalation, what is the impression the Chinese are conveying to the world on these developments? The Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, the Global Times, noted that some “observers” felt the stand-off between India and China is de-escalating. It, however, patronizingly “advised” India, to pay more attention to domestic issues like the coronavirus challenge and locust attacks, as being essential for its “stagnated economy.”
The Global Times also took a swipe at India’s “contracting economy”. It then threateningly and indeed arrogantly added, that if India chose to confront China, to get closer to the US: “China will not hesitate to protect its own interests, whether political or economic. And the cost of losing China’s friendship will be too high for India to bear.”
China is quite obviously in a hurry to proclaim that the US is under pressure from huge losses in human and financial terms, from the coronavirus damage. This, the Chinese establishment appears to believe, has cleared the way for Xi Jinping to soon assume world leadership. The Chinese, however, do not seem to realize that their brash and arrogant behavior has had a damaging impact across the world.
They have antagonized virtually all their maritime neighbors from South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines, to Vietnam and Indonesia, by illegal seizure of islands, through coercive use of force.
This, despite the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas ruling that China’s maritime territorial claims are in violation of international law. Moreover, countries across Africa and Central Asia now realize that the terms and conditionalities for so-called Chinese “aid” are exploitative.
Some countries are even being compelled to hand over properties and lands, to repay Chinese loans. Despite their distaste for President Trump, many European countries see merit in challenging Chinese economic expansion in crucial areas like 5G technology. China is set to face serious hurdles in its efforts to make Huawei the world’s centerpiece, for global communications.

Dominance in electronics

Given the less than subtle Chinese threats against it, India has to review and reduce its current economic dependence on China. The most crucial, strategic sector that China makes huge money in India, is electronics. Four Chinese companies dominate the cellphone market in India, with smartphone sales exceeding ₹50,000 crores. The senior management of these companies is exclusively Chinese.
Similarly, while the Chinese electronic giant, Huawei, has 3,000 Indian employees in its so-called Research and Development Centre in Bengaluru, no Indian has any say in controlling, planning, and management in the production process, or in the production of key items like semiconductors and computer chips.
Huawei intends to take over the entire 5G services in India, without sharing or transferring any technology, or designs. There is a need for us to significantly change our policies and insist that Chinese electronic companies operating in India, should draw their higher management staff increasingly from India, providing them growing access to the design, installation, production, and sale processes, at the higher levels. The Chinese can be given two years to comply.
At the same time, we need to build links and partnerships between Indian companies and their counterparts in Taiwan, to expeditiously develop the electronics industry in India, including crucially, semiconductors, and computer chips. India sent a clear signal to China when two senior Members of Parliament participated in the swearing-in of the re-elected and gutsy President of Taiwan, Madame Tsai Ing-Wen. China has little right to object to such gestures to Taiwan, given its large presence and investments in Gilgit-Baltistan and elsewhere in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Moreover, political figures from PoK have been welcomed during official visits to China. India has also made it clear that it will continue undeterred, with road construction in Ladakh.
The US is planning to use Taiwan Superconductor Manufacturing Company, the main chipmaker for Apple Inc, to shift its high-tech manufacturing to Arizona, in order to exclude Huawei from entry into the US. The UK and other European countries could follow suit. The Indian army has done well to enhance its presence in Ladakh. And India has made it clear that it will continue undeterred, with road construction in Ladakh.
Similar determination has to be shown by our officially backing growing Taiwan involvement and investments in our electronics and in other high-tech industries. China could be advised that its investments in such areas would be welcome in India, but on terms radically different from those in the past.
The writer is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan

India must grow its interests in Sri Lanka

Gopalaswami Parthasarathy
Ambassador of India to Myanmar & GCTC Advisory Board Member

 
Asian neighbors, Sri Lanka alone has the unique distinction of being a vibrant and functioning democracy, ever since it became independent in 1948. It also has a significantly higher rate of literacy, and an unblemished record of free and fair elections, together with around three decades of ethnic peace. A long-time historical rivalry, however, prevailed between the majority, Buddhist-dominated Sinhala speaking population, and the Tamils, in the Northern and Eastern parts of the Island.
India got drawn into this rivalry, because of the emotional and other ties that linked Sri Lanka’s Northern Tamils, with Tamils in Tamil Nadu. India made the serious mistake of intervening directly in the Sinhala-Tamil ethnic conflict. Pressures for such intervention were accentuated, by political rivals in Tamil Nadu, backing one or another armed Tamil group, in the neighboring Island. What followed was an ill-advised Indian military intervention, which led to the deaths of around 1,000 Indian soldiers and the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by the LTTE.
The Indian intervention did, however, lead to a political understanding and peace between the Sinhalas and Tamils. The conflict ended only after the decisive and bloody military defeat of the LTTE, by the then government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Tamils have since received a measure of Provincial Autonomy, with Colombo directly intervening primarily on issues having a separatist potential. Not surprisingly, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party, led by the Rajapaksa brothers — Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his younger brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa — swept the recent Parliamentary Elections, winning 145 of the 225 Parliamentary seats.
The opposition United National Party (UNP), which ruled Sri Lanka for a number of years after independence in 1948, was virtually wiped out, winning just one seat. This débâcle has been attributed to the “lackluster” leadership of former Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe. Sajith Premadasa, the son of the former President Ranasinghe Premadasa, who quit the UNP and formed his own party, led an imaginative and aggressive election campaign, winning 54 seats. He has emerged as the Leader of the Opposition.
India has acted skilfully after the ethnic conflict ended, building bridges of cooperation with Sri Lanka while providing massive financial assistance to the Tamil majority population, in the war-torn northern and eastern provinces. The turnout in Tamil majority areas was substantial in the recent elections. A positive development was a significant move by Tamils in the Northern Province voting for Sajith Premadasa’s SLPP, which campaigned on promises of employment and economic development, throughout the country.
India has played a remarkable role in restoring normalcy in the Tamil dominated Northern Province, with massive assistance for their rehabilitation, housing, and development. India has committed $3.2 billion since 1995 for the rehabilitation and relief of Tamils in Sri Lanka. It has built 37,000 houses for the rehabilitation of Tamils in the north and north-east. It has also built medical facilities which have extended treatment to an estimated 53,000 people. It is now focussing on building 10,000 houses for the “Indian Tamils” resident in Southern Sri Lanka. The focus has thus been on housing and infrastructure, which has sought to ensure that the grievances of conflict do not lead to violence. The success of this effort has been reflected by the large Tamil participation in the recent elections.

Close watch needed

Politically, the huge humanitarian assistance provided by India has ensured the return of normalcy and ethnic peace in Sri Lanka. It has resulted in greater participation of Tamils in the national life of the country. The salience of the Tamil issue, in India’s relations with Sri Lanka, is diminishing steadily. But, New Delhi should keep a close watch on ensuring that his trend continues. One cannot also ignore the geopolitical trends in the Indian Ocean Region, arising from China’s growing determination to erode and undermine Indian influence, even as one keeps a watch on internal developments in Sri Lanka.
Like in other South Asian countries, China is following its policies of “strategic containment” of India and erosion of Indian influence, particularly in South Asia, by backing and funding parties it believes are anti-Indian, while using Pakistan as its principle instrument for reinforcing its efforts. This effort has now been widened, by seeking to undermine Indian interests, by destabilizing governments headed by rulers friendly to India, and simultaneously promoting individuals and political parties have given to being anti-Indian.
China will spare no effort to persuade the ruling Rajapaksa family to move in that direction. An important aim of such a Chinese effort will be to retain an exclusively Chinese presence in the Colombo Port, by raising anti-Indian sentiments against any Indian participation in the Colombo Port City Project.
India has a natural interest in having a significant presence in the Colombo Port. The overwhelming share of revenues for the port is generated by goods being transferred to and from Indian ports, including items, which have a bearing on India’s national security. An exclusive Chinese presence in the Port would, therefore, be a matter of serious concern.
India’s involvement in the expansion of the Colombo Port City, together with a Japanese presence to improve the terms of funding, would make sense for Sri Lanka, given the exploitative terms of Chinese funding and “aid”, which led Sri Lanka into a “debt trap”. Taking control of the areas of projects that it undertakes across the world, as it did in Sri Lanka, following the construction of the Hambantota Port, in Southern Sri Lanka, is a Chinese specialty, whether in Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, or Ethiopia. With SAARC now non-functional, New Delhi would be well advised to activate the BIMSTEC forum, bringing together it’s Eastern SAARC and ASEAN neighbors, to promote economic and security cooperation, across the Bay of Bengal.
As India prepares to expand security cooperation across the Indo-Pacific region through the “Quad”, where it partners the US, Japan, and Australia, the time has come to promote greater cooperation between the members of the “Quad” and Sri Lanka. The US and its allies will have to be persuaded that they should end their counterproductive economic and other sanctions on Sri Lanka, imposed when the conflict with the LTTE, was drawing to an end.
Sri Lanka today needs assistance from the US and its European allies and multilateral organizations like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, to ensure that it does not land itself in another Chinese “debt trap” like it did, thanks to Chinese “assistance,” in the Hambantota Port project.
The writer is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan

Peace on Sino-Indian borders some way off

Gopalaswami Parthasarathy
Ambassador of India to Myanmar & GCTC Advisory Board Member

 
Few events in India have attracted as much attention in the Western media, including the US, UK, and members of the European Union, as the ongoing tensions, following the face-off between China and India, in Ladakh. China has been seeking to build an image of military invincibility, as it arbitrarily violates the boundaries of virtually all its maritime neighbors, including Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.
China regularly acts like a bully with Vietnam, by coercively preventing the latter’s fishing and other vessels from operating even in Vietnamese waters, close to its shores. Beijing is evidently seeking to blot out memories of its army’s humiliating defeat in 1979 when it sought to invade Vietnam.
China has also rejected/violated the decision by an International Tribunal, holding that its arbitrary maritime territorial claims violated the International Laws of the Seas
The recent massing of Chinese forces and the resulting tensions across Ladakh have followed large-scale Chinese troop movements into strategic and sensitive areas in Ladakh. India has been naturally concerned with these moves.
Recent Chinese provocations in Depsang, Ladakh, would threaten India’s lines of communications in Ladakh, to its Daulat Beg Oldie airbase, and, thereafter, to the adjacent Karakoram Pass, which Pakistan claims, as its territory.
These moves have naturally raised serious concerns. Recent moves by China in Depsang have also compelled India to respond strongly. India has regarded its borders with China in Ladakh, astride the Aksai Chin, as vulnerable to attacks by China.
Moreover, these Chinese moves come at a time when India and the rest of the world are reeling under the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
It is in this context, that India has been working untiringly to improve road communications in Ladakh. China evidently felt that this summer was an ideal time to cut India to size. Its troop strength in Ladakh was significantly enhanced.
Beijing also evidently concluded that with a bitterly cold winter fast approaching, Indian forces in Ladakh would be cut off from all possibilities of getting essential supplies, especially as its coronavirus-infected economy would be under unbearable strain.

Communication lines

The means used by China to achieve its aims have primarily involved disturbing/cutting off-road communications to Northern Ladakh, so that India’s supplies to strategically crucial locations like the Daulat Beg Oldie Airport and the Karakoram Pass, could be blocked. This is, of course, in addition to Chinese moves to get control/dominance of strategic heights in the entire region, extending from Chushul to the Pangong and Galway basins. China has failed to achieve these objectives with Indian forces positioned on hilltops, in key locations.
Any Chinese presence at or near the Karakoram Pass would establish yet another link-up between Pakistan and China across the Himalayas. This will inevitably pose a threat to our lines of communication and to our forces in the Siachen Glacier area. Any such move will face substantive resistance from India. Better sense will hopefully prevail in China. India should ensure that any attempt by China to link up with Pakistan at the Karakoram Pass in Ladakh will be resisted and that any such move would cause China’s leaders to further diplomatic and military embarrassment. Pakistan regards the Karakoram Pass as located in its territory, and as the north-western terminal of the Line of Control in J&K.
The border agreements signed with China in 1993 and 1996 allude to the so-called “Line of Actual Control” (LAC). China uses these agreements to arbitrarily define new locations for the LAC.
These provisions have become an albatross around India’s neck, as they have been used by China for the past 17 years to undertake moves to arbitrarily define and expand their land boundaries, across both India’s western and eastern borders.
With our economy under severe pressure in the early 1990s, there was naturally an anxiety to maintain peace on our borders with China. We decided to sign agreements that defined our borders with China, as lying along the so-called LAC. China has, however, deliberately never defined or delineated this Line, which defines its land borders with India.

The agreements

The 1993 and 1996 agreements laid the ground open for the Chinese to claim, on every conceivable occasion, that their intrusions into what is obviously Indian territory do not involve their transgressing into any Indian territory.
The “Line of Actual Control” alluded to in the 1993 and 1996 agreements lie, in China’s interpretation, within territory Beijing claims is Chinese territory.
Moreover, the Chinese never get tired of constantly demanding that India should respect whatever is their latest interpretation of where the LAC lies. Negotiations on the border issue in Chinese eyes have involved yielding by India, to arbitrary and unilateral Chinese claims on where exactly the LAC lies.
Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Wen Jia Bao concluded an agreement in 2005 on the “Political parameters and guiding principles for Settlement of the India-China Boundary question”. The two Prime Ministers agreed that: “The Boundary should be along with well-defined and easily identifiable natural geographical features, to be mutually agreed upon by the two sides”. It also held that in reaching a boundary settlement, the two sides “shall safeguard the interests of their settled populations in border areas.”.
China refuses to comprehensively define the location and contours of the LAC that it claims to respect. It uses its ambiguity on the Line of Control to its advantage, by laying arbitrary claims to territory, without any sound historical basis. This process is aptly described as “salami slicing.”

Instrument of China

The entire basis for our dealing with China on the border issue has been limited to the agreements between 1993 and 1996. The Chinese have left us running around in circles, by confining themselves to these two agreements. The Chinese aim is confined to ensuring peace and tranquillity along the border, without defining clearly, wherein China’s view, the border lies. This is something we have failed to achieve given China’s growing “Comprehensive National Power,” and territorial ambitions.
China’s territorial ambitions on its western borders with India combined with its growing political, diplomatic, economic, cultural, military, nuclear weapons, and missile ties with Pakistan, are a reality one has to deal with.
Islamabad is merely an instrument of China for the “low-cost containment” of India. Long-term ties with China based on peace and mutual equality, in these circumstances, still appear a very distant goal.
The writer is a former
High Commissioner to Pakistan

‘This may be the last glass ceiling I encounter’

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Rina Mitra
BSF

 
 

Rina Mitra, the senior-most IPS officer who met all the criteria for the CBI director’s post, was bumped out of consideration when the selection committee meeting was deferred to the day just after her retirement. Mitra writes:
I retired this week from the Indian police after 35 years of dedicated service for the nation. Fortunate to have served in various capacities in this beautiful liberal democracy, today, at the end of this journey, I get a chance to reflect on the many challenges and satisfactions I found along the way. For the young men and women who are navigating similar hurdles, dilemmas and choices, this is my story.
To start with, I have much to be thankful for in these last four decades, this country of ours is truly a land of opportunities. When I was a little girl, my family didn’t have the funds to send me to school like my brothers, so I was made to stay back in the remote coal mines where my father worked. But it was one of my brothers, who took a stand and fought for an education for me. These are the kind of men who are the

The following years at school were some of the toughest in my life. New to school, having missed years of education, I felt unprepared and out of place. But I had some very strong role models and I knew that giving up was not an option.
When I finally made it to the services as the first woman IPS officer from West Bengal, I received muted appreciation and comments like, “Mil toh gaya, kar kya legi?”
When Vitiligo began to change the colour of my skin, one patch at a time, there came a big question mark on who would marry me. When I had my first child, the comments predictably changed to “This is no profession for a responsible mother”. As I gradually rose up through the echelons of bureaucracy, I had to constantly assert myself to balance the professional and personal fronts, and prove myself a capable and worthy officer.
But I had one man who was an arc of faith for me; my husband, my batch-mate. He had unshuttering faith in my abilities and stood by me, reassuring me, reposing faith in me.
Moreover, once you start living the life of an officer, the heavy responsibilities of the service do tend to make all these personal problems seem irrelevant.
That said, in this profession, it takes every shred of courage to stand for what is right in the face of risk of personal damage.
When you are the SP of a district dealing with the vagaries of local politics; when you are leading investigations against people from influential and ‘connected’ families; when you are aspiring for a position of great responsibility, it takes courage to not compromise your values.
However, despite these challenges, I believed it was possible for me to make positive contributions to society within my own sphere of influence, which gave me a sense of satisfaction. With this outlook, I thought I had overcome most of life’s trials and tribulations as a woman, a wife and an officer.
However, towards the end of my career, close to my retirement, scaling the ‘glass ceiling’ has been my biggest challenge and these last few months have been truly unsettling. Whilst I do not wish to misappropriate this word from the feminist discourse, in my service, I have learnt that there exists a ‘glass ceiling’ for honesty and uprightness, too, that isn’t any less of a challenge.
Although I was handling a key position within the government dealing with internal security, which hitherto was held only by male officers, even a cosmetic but legitimate change in my designation was not heeded to unlike my male predecessors.
To add to it, I did qualify on all parameters to be considered for selection to head the premier investigating body of the country, the CBI. As per the rules and convention of appointment to the post, I was indeed the senior-most officer fulfilling all the four essential criteria, including experience in CBI and anti-corruption.
However, an easily avoidable delay of just one day in the selection process ensured that I was bumped out of the race and no longer in contention. It forced me to wonder if this was indeed the last glass ceiling I encountered in my professional career.
When faced with these kinds of outcomes, it is sometimes tough to bear in mind that these are factors beyond one’s control, and taking these as any kind of judgement on one’s competence is faulty.
With my story, I don’t mean to dishearten young officers. If anything, I want this to inspire them to maintain their integrity of thought and action, and be the change agent. The greater the number of honest people in this world, the more honesty will be appreciated and rewarded in others. Like love begets love, honesty too begets honesty.
To all those upright and non-partisan officers/individuals serving the country or aspiring to, and those who want to continue to resist temptations of quid pro quo; it only takes a stoic resolve to be duty-bound, and the universe of temptations fades away.
As you climb the professional ladder, you might hear of others gaining favour and gaining wealth, but remember that your reward will be a peaceful night’s sleep free of internal dissonance.
You may be nameless and less powerful, yet the people who do know you will always remember you with respect.
You may fight some bitter battles to retain the respect you value, but remember that you are fighting for something bigger than yourself.
Especially for women, you will need to additionally deal with the gender bias that exists in every profession that is dominated by men.
At the same time, don’t let anyone tell you that you deserve to get ahead only because you are a woman. When being considered to head the investigating body of the country, I wanted to be chosen only on merit — because I was the senior-most candidate who fulfilled all the criteria, as per rules and convention for selection. Not because I was a woman, but a woman who deserved it.
And for those who rooted for me all this while to scale the glass ceiling, I would just want to say that the real opportunity for the government was not to choose a woman, but choose on merit and character. It would still be a win for the country to get an honest and upright officer at the helm of the premier investigative institution of the country, and I pray that has happened, even if it’s not me.
This may be the last glass ceiling I encounter. But there will be many after me who will go through what I went through, and many who continue to push the envelope, as lawyers, doctors, engineers, academicians, managers, bankers, or entrepreneurs.
Stay strong. Fight for a fairer world, but don’t lose heart and don’t give up if you don’t see results right away. I know I won’t.
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