Crisis of State — External Security

I was invited to deliver the 6th PA Ramakrishnan Lecture at the Bhatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mylapore, Chennai, Oct 5, 2014. For those who are interested, the talk and the interaction following was videographed and uploaded to Youtube and may be accessed as below:

Bharat Karnad on “Crisis of the State – India’s External Security” – 1

Bharat Karnad on “Crisis of the State – India’s External Security” – 2

Bharat Karnad on “Crisis of the State – India’s External Security” – 3

Bharat Karnad on “Crisis of the State – India’s External Security” – 4

Bharat Karnad on “Crisis of the State – India’s External Security” – 5

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Vietnam as India’s Pivot

Vietnam prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit has just ended with a sealing of a defence pact. That this significant accord was readied as a follow-up to the defence Memorandum of Understanding signed a scant month and half after president Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Hanoi suggests New Delhi has finally woken up to Vietnam’s seminal importance to India’s strategic well-being.

This special standing of Vietnam in India’s geopolitics, incidentally, took the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and the Indian government more than a decade to appreciate—from the articulation by then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao in 1992-93 of the “Look East” policy to when his successor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, betook himself to Hanoi in 2003 which produced the agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation. Another 11 years elapsed before the advent of the Narendra Modi government and this appreciation growing teeth.

Since 2005, I have been advocating the transfer of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile—the only one of its kind in the world—to Vietnam. In 2007, Hanoi for the first time expressed its keen interest in securing this singularly accurate and lethal weapon to defend itself and deter China from having its way in the disputed sea territories in the South China Sea—almost the whole of which Beijing claims as its own in a brazen bid for a maritime lebensraum. Lebensraum is the concept the Nazi geographer and geopolitical strategist Karl Haushofer coined in the 1930s to justify Germany’s policy of territorial aggrandisement at the expense of the Central European states, Poland and Russia. It refers to the “living space” Haushofer said a vigorous Germany needed legitimately to expand in order to increase its resources base, consolidate its strength, and realise its grand ambition. China is the Germany of the 21st Century and it has got to be stopped.

The case that China is India’s biggest challenge (not Pakistan that Indians and their government get mightily exercised about) and Vietnam is the pivotal state around which New Delhi can obtain a coalition of Asian rimland and offshore countries to ringfence China was a geostrategic scheme first articulated in my 1994 book “Future Imperilled”. So, when the newly founded National Security Advisory Board constituted during Vajpayee’s time met with MEA in the autumn of 1998 and I as member of the board, assuming the Indian diplomats were clued into the theories and practice of geopolitics, asked then foreign secretary K Raghunath why India had failed to respond to Beijing’s calculated policy of nuclear missile-arming Pakistan over the previous decade with a tit-for-tat gesture and a policy of imposing costs on China, by transferring easily nuclearisable missiles to Vietnam, Raghunath replied with practised certitude. “It is not practicable,” he said.

Fast forward 16 years and the impracticable has become Indian policy—the Modi government has decided to pass on the Brahmos missile to Hanoi which, appropriately, finds no mention in the Joint Statement issued by prime ministers Modi and Dung. These anti-ship weapons, for which there’s no counter, will be installed in shore batteries along the Vietnamese coast fronting on the Hainan Island, to deter the Chinese South Seas Fleet based there, and as sentinels for that country’s offshore claims and oil and gas exploration and drilling assets in the South China Sea, and to dissuade the Chinese navy from capturing disputed sea territories as happened in the case of the Paracel Islands.

The MEA during Manmohan Singh’s time turned aside repeated Vietnamese requests for the Brahmos by asserting that the Russian partner company in this project, NPO Maschinostroeyenia was against any such deal. It lost India traction with a strategic partner Indonesia as well, which too had asked for the Brahmos. Denied by New Delhi, Jakarta directly approached Moscow and secured the slightly derated version of the Brahmos, the Ramos. The difference with the onset of the Modi dispensation was that India rather than merely seeking Russian assent for the transfer of this cruise missile to Vietnam pushed for it.

Indeed, the MEA and the ministry of defence (MoD) bureaucrats, who in line with the Congress government’s instincts for kowtowing to Beijing routinely vetoed initiatives over the past decade by the armed forces to improve India’s relative security position vis-a-vis China by using transfers of armaments and forging military-to-military links, are now more receptive.

With the first stirrings of geopolitical common sense in the fusty corridors of the MEA and MoD, New Delhi will hopefully begin to see that Vietnam can be to India what Pakistan is to China. A Chinese nuclear missile-armed Pakistan, enabled by Beijing to grow its indigenous defence industry beyond the screwdriver technology the Indian defence PSUs are stuck at, and thus to acquire a measure of genuine self-reliance has, as per Beijing’s design, contained India to the subcontinent. India, in similar fashion, can prioritise the military build-up of Vietnam (and the Philippines, and Indonesia) as the first tier of India’s distant defence with a view to restricting Chinese options east of the Malacca Strait.

The logic behind such a policy, as I keep repeating in my writings, is that if we don’t have the stomach for a fight with China and cannot muster the will to stand up to Beijing, let’s at least arm the Vietnamese who over a thousand years have bloodied Chinese forces intruding into their country, and never shied away from a fight. It is a cost-effective means of diminishing India’s primary security threat and military challenge and, equally important, of paying Beijing back in its own coin.

India also needs to capitalise on the opportunity to distance Vietnam economically from China, incentivising it with lines of credit and Indian investment to plug into the Indian economy instead. In this respect, the business delegation with Dung, hopefully, returned home with a bag full of deals. A more telling measure would be to increase manifold the Indian stake in Vietnam’s security by investing in its energy resource sector. ONGC Videsh should act quickly on Dung’s offer of new oil blocks inside the Vietnamese claimline in the South China Sea.

[Published in the New Indian Express, Oct 30, 2014 and is at http://www.newindianexpress.com/columns/Vietnam-as-Indias-Pivot/2014/10/31/article2500503.ece

Posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, civil-military relations, Defence Industry, DRDO, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Japan, Missiles, Northeast Asia, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Pakistan nuclear forces, Relations with Russia, Russia, russian assistance, South Asia, South East Asia, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Weapons | 2 Comments

Home-grown Islamic terrorism

Historically, India and Indians have never been good at reading threats or dodging dangers. Indian governments in particular have failed to be realistic in their assessment of adversaries or to anticipate difficult situations created by internal and external actors and, therefore, have fared badly in diverting and diminishing threats, generally behaving like immobilised rabbits thrown as food into python pits.

There’s a long inglorious record of this. Take an arbitrary starting point. The 12th Century king of Delhi, Prithviraj Chauhan, reacted to the rampaging Mohammad Ghori on his annual looting campaigns into Hindustan by chasing the Afghan only up to Bhatinda, before letting him get away. This happened, as the legend goes, 16 times, but on the 17th such occasion Ghori got the better of Prithviraj, putting the latter out of his misery by first gouging out his eyes, no doubt to avoid the tedium of being regularly chased only up to a certain point in eastern Punjab! The reality, however, is just as damning. Ghori was not pursued much beyond Bhatinda by Prithviraj after he defeated the Afghan raider in the First Battle of Tarain (in 1191) in the hope, no doubt, that he’d have the good sense not to return. Alas, Ghori did the next year and this time Chauhan lost the second battle and his life. The wages of misjudging an adversary, of not taking him seriously! Later, the East India Company was similarly misjudged by the landlubber Mughal dispensation until it was too late.

The trouble is New Delhi does not look beyond its nose, fails to act against threats before they become full-blown, and remains stunningly complacent and inactive until the calamity is upon the country. The habit of not thinking and acting proactively, and rarely preempting a threat or preventing a disaster or catastrophe from happening despite usually having prior information and often the means and wherewithal, and even official agencies in place, to forestall such an eventuality, has cost the nation dear. Of course, once the worst happens, official agencies bestir themselves. India has inverted the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” to “Never be Prepared”!

Such bleak thoughts are prompted by a news report referring to the differences between the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) over whether the execrable international terrorist organisation Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) poses a threat to India and how to handle Indian Muslim youth attracted by its medievalist ideology aimed at “reviving” the 7th Century Caliphate stretching from the Levant to western India, an extended swathe of land the self-anointed khalifa, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calls, Greater Khorasan.

Typical of the overly bureaucratised Indian state, the differences have come to a head over a procedural matter of whether or not to file an FIR (First Information Report), the requirement before a police investigation can get underway. This is apparently an issue of major importance to IB and NIA, both populated by Indian Police Service officers. Talk of misplaced priorities! So, instead of working on ways to ensure that support for, and potential followers of ISIS and al-Qaeda are dealt with urgently and with dispatch and deterrent measures rolled out, inaction is spurred by irrelevant discussions on following the right procedure. The ends are thus often confused by endlessly debating the means.

The specific issue here is about FIRs being registered against extremist Islamist groups and its members to facilitate investigation into their nefarious activities. The NIA is for it, the IB supposedly fearing the effect of such a preventive measure on Muslim youth and the minority community, is against it, and home minister Rajnath Singh is being asked to adjudicate. Prima facie, this seems to be a non-issue raised by a stalwart organisation, IB, whose abject failure to process the available intelligence, alert the state police, and prevent the 28/11 seaborne raid by Pakistan-based terrorists on Mumbai led to its being stripped of the anti-terrorism/counter-terrorism role and responsibility and the NIA formed in 2009 to handle them. It has made the IB determined to show up the fledgling body in some way or the other, and the FIR issue afforded it the opportunity to paint the NIA as a bunch of mavericks with a rule-breaking bent of mind. Not sure how the menace of terrorism can be throttled without adopting irregular methods. But IB seems motivated by the desire for bureaucratic one-upmanship.

Meanwhile, there are still no laws and regulations permitting close and continuous monitoring of Arab monies channelled into India by Sunni-Salafi “charitable” trusts in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates, or legal requirement by beneficiaries to verifiably account for the uses these funds are put to. It is precisely the money flooding into the southern Indian states, Kerala in particular, and Andhra Pradesh-Telangana, and Karnataka, all with sizeable minority populations, that is responsible for communalising and destabilising previously harmonious societies. The state police are well aware of the mischief underway but local politics catering indiscriminately to minority sentiment have defanged them. More frequently, however, the matter of the threat posed by ISIS and al-Qaeda working separately with Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and other such outfits is reduced, ridiculously, to breast-beating about Pakistani ploys and stratagems, ignoring altogether the malign undercurrents within Indian society that need to be checked.

Indian democracy has to respect minority views but cannot overlook the danger from spreading Wahabbi values and ideas redolent of desert Islam displacing the syncretic and moderate Sufi Islam rooted in the local environs, and the resulting virulence and violence has to be stopped at all cost. Unless it has a death wish, the Indian state cannot avoid the hard option of intrusive and intensive-extensive policing of potential hotbeds of Islamic extremism in the country, scrutinising financial flows and Internet and other electronic communications traffic, installing its agents in SIMI and similar organisations, and apprehending, detaining and dissuading troublemakers attracted to radical causes. India cannot risk taking things lightly as is its habit. For strong counter-terrorism efforts to be strangled by legalism and procedure is to mock the peril creeping up on the country.

[Published in the New Indian Express, Oct 17, 2014, at http://www.newindianexpress.com/columns/Home-grown-Islamic-Terrorism/2014/10/17/article2480912.ece

Posted in Afghanistan, Asian geopolitics, Central Asia, civil-military relations, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian para-military forces, indian policy -- Israel, Iran and West Asia, Indian Politics, Internal Security, Pakistan, Pakistan military, society, South Asia, Terrorism, West Asia | 1 Comment

Giving our foes the advantage

The Line of Control (LoC) dividing the Indian portion of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu & Kashmir from its Pakistan-occupied parts is, like the Line of Actual Control (LAC) separating India and China, a Cease-Fire Line (CFL).

These lines were established when the last major hostilities with these countries — the 1971 War, and the withdrawal by the Peoples Liberation Army to a more defensible and logistically maintainable line in the 1962 War — ended.

Under international law, a ceasefire line is just that — a temporary stand-still agreement terminating active military operations without prejudicing legal or other claims on territory held by either country pending a final negotiated settlement of the boundary.

Implicit in the concept of a CFL, therefore, is the sanction available to any of the parties to violate it at any time for any reason, including gaining of military or other advantage or slivers of territory to buttress its claims.This is the legal status of the LoC and LAC that both Pakistan and China respectively adhere to.India, curiously, has adopted the view that these Lines are, for all intent and purposes, international borders whose violation New Delhi will not brook.

The unilateral stance by India of the LoC as a settled border, for instance, has resulted in New Delhi rarely bringing up in international councils the disputed nature of western Kashmir and the Northern Areas, inclusive of Gilgit, Hunza, and Baltistan illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947, thereby reinforcing the Pakistani contention that the only matter remaining to be resolved is the status of Indian Kashmir.

Unquestioningly accepting the Chinese annexation of Tibet and the forcible assimilation of the Tibetan people by supporting the myth of an ‘autonomous region of Tibet’ as integral to the Chinese whole has likewise bolstered the Chinese position that peace will come when Arunachal Pradesh regarded by it as only another part of Tibet — ‘southern Tibet’ — is ceded to Beijing.

India has thus lost ground politically and legally vis-à-vis both Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Chinese-occupied Tibet.
Neither Pakistan nor China has made the mistake India has, and continually contest the LoC and LAC with armed intrusions, artillery duels, and indiscriminate firings, to highlight the disputed nature of these borders and to ensure their respective territorial claims are active, for fear that not doing so may, in time, accord the status quo sanctity which New Delhi desires.
Thus, frequent military eruptions on the LoC and LAC and, hence, a series of never-ending crises on the borders with Pakistan and China, are preordained with tensions being stoked by sensation-seeking 24/7 electronic media and print media, both apparently as ignorant of the meaning of CFL in international law as the ministry of external affairs (MEA).

At the root of India’s problems with the LoC and LAC is the absence in the Indian political leadership, the Indian government, and especially the MEA, of what the great theorist of geopolitics Halford Mackinder called, “the map-reading habit of mind”. The importance of expanding and safeguarding sovereign territory on land and sea is scarcely understood.
The spatial imperatives of strategy and foreign and military policy, when not reduced to military-wise nonsensical axioms, such as “not an inch of territory will be lost”, are treated as matters of political expediency.

Thus, the diffident Lal Bahadur Shastri at Tashkent, overcome by the flattery of Field Marshal Ayub Khan seeking “rahmat”, magnanimously returned to Pakistan the Haji Pir salient captured at great cost by the Indian Army in the September 1965 War, without appreciating its strategic importance as a finger sticking into Indian Kashmir and which piece of real estate has ever since been used to infiltrate militants and other undesirables to create havoc in J&K and elsewhere.
Six years later, with Bangladesh liberated, 93,000 Pakistani Prisoners of War (PoWs) as leverage, and Islamabad on its knees, a supposedly hard-headed, Indira Gandhi, instead of imposing a victor’s peace sanctioned by international law requiring the formalisation of the LoC as international border, in a fit of misplaced generosity, accepted the supplicating Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s plea that he be given time to create consensus at home for such a permanent solution.

Rather than telling Bhutto that thrusting the Indian design for peace down resisting Pakistani throats was his problem, and the price for waging war and the return of PoWs was his signature on the dotted line, Indira gave in. India still suffers due to her myopia.

One of the main consequences of such political ham-handedness even when dealt a winning hand is that the Indian military simply does not trust the elected rulers and the Indian government to do right by them and the country.
Whence, the unprecedented warning some years back by an army chief that if the Siachen Glacier is asked to be vacated of Indian troops as part of some grand compromise with Pakistan, and should the situation be exploited by the Forces Command Northern Areas of the Pakistan army to establish an armed presence there, New Delhi must not expect the Indian army to retake those forbidding heights.

The respect for geography and the spatial concerns of good strategy were at the core of British imperial policy of ‘distant defence’ based on Indian control of the Indian Ocean littoral, influence in regions stretching from the Caspian Sea to Central Asia, and the strengthening of the ‘Mongolian fringe’ to the north and the North-East.

Those geostrategics were discarded by Jawaharlal Nehru — his suspicion of geopolitics surpassing his good sense. To promote peace Tibet was not contested, nor was the taking of Aksai Chin by China, Coco Islands were gifted to Myanmar and, in 1974, the Kachchateevu Island to Sri Lanka. India has never recovered.
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[Published in the Hindustan Times, Oct 13, 2014 at  http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/analysis/giving-our-foes-the-advantage/article1-1274611.aspx

Posted in Asian geopolitics, Bangladesh, Central Asia, China, China military, civil-military relations, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, guerilla warfare, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Indian democracy, Indian Politics, Internal Security, society, South Asia, Terrorism, Tibet, West Asia | 4 Comments

Significant weapon to be tested soon

Nirbhay — the 1,000 km subsonic cruise missile being developed in land, sea, and air versions, will undergo its second test flight on Oct 17. DRDO seniors are confident that the sensor malfunction that had marred the first test-firing has been corrected, and that this time around the missile will deliver unblemished performance. What’s most significant is that the mid course navigation of the missile by means of satellites. aircraft. etc is in place and worked well during the first flight. Prioritised, the project will soon have a lethal new BVR weapon for the Indian military, enabling neutralization of all kinds of medium distance-targets, and to otherwise keep adversary weapons platforms at bay.

Posted in Asian geopolitics, Cyber & Space, Defence Industry, DRDO, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, South Asia, Weapons | 4 Comments

Impending MMRCA Waste

Narendra Modi has handled Shinzo Abe, Xi Jinping, and Barack Obama well. So fending off pressure from the Indian Air Force (IAF) and European states on medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) should be easy, especially because favouring the French Rafale aircraft or the German Eurofighter is likely to permanently tar the reputation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as the Bofors gun scam did the Congress party. A boondoggle lurks just below the MMRCA decision and requires, not finalising, but scrutiny by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The MMRCA was conceived by the IAF brass as means of procuring Western aircraft under the rubric of “diversifying supply sources”. The deficiencies in the MMRCA concept and the Rafale aircraft and deal have been analysed in my previous writings. But how supplier states brazenly play a con game using transfer of technology (TOT) provisions with the full connivance and complicity of the ministry of defence and services headquarters is astonishing and has, so far, gone unnoticed. An egregious example is that Dassault, as part of the Rafale contract, has promised gallium nitride (GaN) technology to make semi-conductor chips utilised in high-powered avionics but refused to part with technology for the foundries to fabricate the chips! India will thus pay through its nose for technology that cannot be converted into a component, which will end up being imported for the lifetime of the aircraft.

Eurofighter has come back into the reckoning because the visiting German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier offered 126 of this aircraft for Rs 20,000 crore less than the Rafale. A discounted price cannot outweigh the redundancy aspect attending on the MMRCA in general and the negatives of the Eurofighter/Rafale in particular. Take the case of the AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar enabling combat planes to shift between ground attack and air-to-air interception roles. The European consortium EADS talked up the dated and deficient Captor-M PESA (passive electronically scanned array) radar when IAF was assessing the Eurofighter. It is to be enhanced to full AESA capability courtesy a $1.8 billion 5-year Captor-E project just sanctioned by the UK government. New Delhi will thus pay for the development of the enhanced Captor-E system, which will be available a decade late for retrofitting on the Eurofighter peddled to IAF without, however, enjoying intellectual property rights on the AESA technology as its development-funder!

More significantly, this plane has an unstable flight control system driven by faulty software that, according to a story in reputable periodical Der Spiegel dated July 10, 2013, has led to many near-disasters such as the aircraft almost flying into the air traffic control tower at the Neuberg air base in 2007. Other serious problems afflict this plane such as a flawed pilot ejection system. Design and system deficiencies have periodically grounded the Eurofighter fleet in the German Air Force. The Austrian Air Force, with 15 Eurofighters in service, detected 68 defects in it that potentially could have caused fatal crashes such as the altimeter being off by nearly 200 feet, unbalanced aircraft owing to incorrect pumping of aviation fuel into the engine, etc.

The main production plant at Manching, moreover, lost its licence to manufacture the Eurofighter because a German defence ministry review, in the words of Der Spiegel, found “unprecedented sloppiness in production”, identifying 35 defects in the production process and another 49 in the quality control process. Worse, EADS delivered only 108 aircraft instead of 143 Eurofighters for the contracted sum of 18.6 billion Euros. Further, the Eurofighter, like the Rafale, has found no buyers, because it represents obsolete technology! Most problematically from the Indian perspective is the fact that Eurofighter has many US-made components and its networking system (data fusion, air-to-air and other communications links, etc.) is designed by the American company, Raytheon. From India’s past experience of the US terminating spares and other material supplies over policy differences and in violation of contractual obligations, Eurofighter is thoroughly compromised goods. Grounding of C-17/C-130 transport fleets is one thing; losing whole squadrons of frontline combat aircraft this way in a crisis is something else altogether.

Interesting revelations may tumble out if CBI inquired into how, why, and by whom the MMRCA decisions were crafted. In the early 2000s, as a “stop gap” measure a decision was taken to acquire 12 Mirage 2000-5 aircraft with 85 per cent of its life still remaining from Qatar, which had acquired them from France in 1997. The tripartite deal, involving aircraft producer Dassault, was struck in April 2005 for $600 million, including a stock of 500 air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. It was aborted a few months later when IAF headed by Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi arbitrarily slashed its offer to $375 million. The decision by a protesting Qatar to back out of the deal was used to conjure up the entirely novel MMRCA requirement and push for global tender, which Dassault hoped to win and, surprise! surprise!, did.

It is unfortunate that military bosses cry wolf in order to stampede the government of the day into approving purchases of often unnecessary weapons platforms they desire. The IAF brass did so to get the Qatari Mirages sanctioned before abruptly junking the deal and opting for shinier hardware; now they say they can’t do without the Rafale! If the need was so urgent 10 years ago, why was the termination of the Qatari transaction engineered? The problem of depleting fighter squadrons that IAF complains about can be filled in short order and at fraction of the eventual $30 plus billion MMRCA cost, as suggested by this analyst, by accelerating production and induction of the Tejas Mk-1 for short-range air defence combined with off-the-shelf buys of the multi-role and technologically superior Su-30s and MiG-29Ms (whose servicing infrastructure is in place) until the Indianised genuine 5th generation fighter, Su-50 PAK FA enters service by the end of the decade. Finally, after cutting Rs 3,000 crore from the army’s procurement budget as an economy measure, defence minister Arun Jaitley may find it hard to justify a requirements-wise questionable MMRCA costing Rs 1.8 lakh crore, or sixty times as much.

[Published in the New Indian Express, Oct 3, 2014 at http://www.newindianexpress.com/columns/Impending-MMRCA-Waste/2014/10/03/article2459932.ece

Posted in Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, Defence Industry, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, indian policy -- Israel, Iran and West Asia, Indian Politics, Military Acquisitions, Relations with Russia, Russia, russian assistance, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, United States, US., Weapons, Western militaries | 35 Comments

Strange, show of sensitivity

It is puzzling why the Narenra Modi government was so solicitous of the Chinese President Xi Jinping. Instead of quietly urging on the Tibetan cause, the Delhi government under Central rule, as seems to be the convention whenever a Chinese notable is in town, acted as the Chinese ‘thanedar’. Hence the Delhi Police were marshalled in force to silence peaceful Tibetan protesters demanding a “Free Tibet” by manhandling and arresting them for the duration.
The main thing that distinguishes India from China (other than world class infrastructure — superfast trains, highways, etc) is democracy. And, it was the democratic rights of the Tibetans for peaceful protest and assembly were denied the Tibetans in India, much as the Tibetans in Tibet are, ironically, denied them by China! More astonishing still was the fact that the lone Arunachali in the cabinet, a Minister of State for Home no less, Kiiren Rijiju, was kept out of the State banquet and all other official interactions with Xi. Has GOI’s show of such sensitivity over Tibet vis a vis China fetched India anything over the years, except now all of Arunachal Pradesh is officially shown in Chinese maps as “Southern Tibet”. Some diplomatic exchange this! Instead, shouldn’t India have responded all these years — as per its own policy roots in recognition of only “autonomous region of Tibet” as falling within China”s sovereignty — and that if Tibet is not genuinely autonomous, doesn’t it logically follow that India is not bound to consider Tibert as in any way Chinese? Hence, shouldn’t Tibet then be shown in a different colour on Indian maps to denote its questionable status? When the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj equated India’s support for “Once China” policy with China’s “One India (including all of Arunachal Pradesh)” policy, there was reason to exult that India had entered upon a brave new world where national interest was uncomprisable and would be pushed hard. And then there was this show of deference to China. Modi’s personal relations with Xi are a great diplomatic plus, but so casually reverting to the Congress party era attitude to genuflecting to Beijing was unnecessary. Tibet is a strong leverage for New Delhi and the government shouldn’t shy away from using the Tibet card, with the Dalai Lama as the perfect knight to Beijing’s pawns. Beijing never has been influenced by concerns of showing sensitivity, or why else would Xi authorize PLA and “civilian”movement into the disputed Chumar sector of Ladakh knowing fully well it’d create a ruckus during his summit with Modi? It was a way of reminding India of Chinese claims. How to stake a position with regard to an autonomous Tibet and territorial claims on the LAC and sticking by them are something Modi needs quickly to learn from Xi.

Posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, Indian Politics, Internal Security, society, South Asia, Tibet | 5 Comments