Sochi for the right reasons

Image result for pics of modi and putin

(Modi and Putin at the Konstantinovsky Palace in St Petersburg)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the  Black Sea resort town of Sochi May 21 in a “mini summit” sought by Delhi. There are a whole bunch of streams making up the background.

Modi is beginning to realize, in the penultimate year of his term, that all his foreign trips and jaw-jawing with the good and the mighty have produced little, and that his foreign policy achievements cupboard is pretty bare. More specifically, he is realizing how wrong he has been, and that as this analyst has long stressed by way of a reality check, that his US-centered policy is a near disaster. The realization has dawned that (1) he may have keeled over too much to one side and that his America slanted foreign policy according pride of place to the US for whom India is less important than it is for Russia, has curtailed India’s options and freedom of choice, a conclusion reached after seeing that Trump has dumped on precisely the issues that Modi has attached his ego to — H1B visas, increased exports to the US, etc., (2) this over-tilt prompted a strong Russian reaction that India cannot afford  — Moscow cooled off, began backing out of some critical projects (the hypersonic variant of the Brahmos cruise missile, the deal for the second Akula-II SSN, etc) while courting Pakistan, but not so seriously, with talk of arms sales at “friendship prices”, (3) with Washington acting up and India moving into the crosshairs of CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) aimed at Russia but indirectly targeting India owing to its arms supply tie-ups with Russian defence companies, Delhi suddenly finds it needs to renew a strong association with Moscow as leverage against the Trump Administration’s pettiness and bumptious attitude, (4) with the termination of the Iran nuclear deal and Tehran facing growing pressure, India finds itself confronting possible sanctions from yet another end of US policy, which imperils Delhi’s geostrategic design for Afghanistan and Central Asia centered on the Chahbahar port on the Arabian Sea just 70kms up the coast and outflanking the potential Chinese naval presence in Gwadar, whence the sudden appreciation of Russia providing political cover, just in case relations with the US and/or China go south, and finally (5) with Trump out-footsie-ing Modi where Xi Jinping is concerned, the imperative to have Putin and Russia on India’s side against a China that shows no sign of slowing down.

These worries animating Modi’s outreach to Putin also have a domestic context: Modi, Amit Shah & Co., knew well before May 15 that they would have to contend with a hung assembly in Karnataka, and that BJP is on its way to handily losing Rajasthan in April 2019, just a month before the general elections are due, and that despite hard slogging BJP may retain Madhya Pradesh with the greatest difficulty but Chattisgarh more easily. The loss of 2 states after a middling performance in Karnataka in the period preceding the big elections would sour the electoral landscape for Modi and BJP. In other words, just as Modi’s dream of “Congress-mukt” Bharat was becoming a reality, BJP and Modi’s slippage will find a rejuvenated Rahul Congress instead.

This needn’t have been the case had Modi concentrated on his agenda of economic growth and empowerment  that got him victory at the hustings in 2014. So while all the Hindu fringe groups will vote for Modi — because without him  in the PM’s chair, they would not dare unloose mayhem and violence that they are prone to, but lose large chunks of the urban middle class vote for sure besides whatever caste coalitions find themselves in adverse situation.

But that’s water under the bridge and time is nigh to marshal and mobilize the scarce financial resources for development and social welfare programmes to power a last sprint back to the gaddi a year hence. But here’s the rub. It means there are absolutely no additional monies to spare for “defence forces modernization”.

The trick therefore is to find and fund small bore military expenditure programmes — like the Rs 15,000 crore outlay to replenish depleted ammo stocks — to ensure the army in particular can deal with whatever small crises and contingencies may be precipitated on the LOC and LAC by Islamabad and Beijing respectively in the year ahead, and a successful Chinese or worse a Pakistani military operation doesn’t in this intervening time sink Modi’s chances altogether. The result of such inter se prioritization is that the big ticket items are off the table.  Rafale combat aircraft deal with France, for instance, is no go in the foreseeable future and, may be, trashed because Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party are up for making this the big corruption issue to tie around Modi’s neck in the runup to the 2019 elections which is as I long predicted. This truth is something ACM BS Dhanoa and his cohort at Air Hqrs are beginning to reconcile to. The Navy meanwhile has accepted without demurring the government’s decision that there will be no third indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-3) and hence no American EMALS (electro-magnetic aircraft launch system) that costs the proverbial arm and leg.

This is a stunning denouement to add to Modi’s other political woes, because his nationalist rhetoric and implementation of OROP had created a potentially huge vote base. This has eroded because the discontent in the armed forces due to a pitiful defence budget that cannot be increased because the economy hasn’t grown because Modi didn’t undertake the kind of system transformation of less government, more free market  and entrepreneurship, he promised, will percolate down to the vast military family support and pensioner base in the countryside, and that the blame for this mess too will be laid at  Modi’s door.

Modi has a real huge problem and it may be a bit late, but his foreign policy worries and attached security concerns can still be worked out to an extent but only if he begins to regain for India the balance in its policy as between the US and Russia, Russia and China, and China and the US.

Whether Modi, and his sidekick NSA Ajit Doval, have the strategic nous for managing such an intricate power game is another matter. Their record to-date suggests they don’t.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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28 Responses to Sochi for the right reasons

  1. Rupam says:

    Bharatji Namaskaar,

    One think i would like to clarify regarding the gau-rakshaks (the real ones and not the robots who only see Modi and not his mistakes) is that their is rampant Cow smuggling that goes on between Bangladesh and India and the same channel is often used by infiltrators, terrorists etc. to get inside India. And also these people are killed daily in the process of protecting cows, why this has not been shown in MSM is because lives of Hindus matter less that lives of the criminals from the “peaceful ” community.

    Thank you.

    • What you say about the BD border may be true. But that doesn’t excuse the disruptions unleashed by the Hindu fringe elsewhere in the country.

      • Surely Mr Karnad I would like to see the examples of mayhem that you mentioned and seems to be the general perception(incorrect?).

        On cow protection let me bring to everyone’s attention the incidents of 1966 movement when hundreds if not thousands of Sandhus were killed in police firing in Delhi.

        If the real factual data is taken into consideration we would find there is more violence against the cow protects than the opposite which is propagated.

        The cattle stealing and killing by smugglers across India is not reported with alacrity. While the NCRB official data shows a marked decline in cattle theft cases the illegal export to Bangladesh has increased and so have illegal slaughter houses which means either NCRB data is incorrect/police is refusing to register cases due to bias or the cattle purchased in legal markets is being diverted to illegal slaughter.

        GOI brought a law to curb this trade but the English media and states like Kerala West Bengal where the killing is legal opposed the central law tooth and nail.

        It’s easy to blame the people who face the brunt in the ground and occasional violence can be used to discredit their entire movement based on ethical/cultural values, but all the legal remedy is being blocked by misguded ‘liberal’ opposition.

  2. Vishnugupt says:

    I think we shouldn’t give any weight to the friendship with the “Ruskies” and keep it strictly transactional. Putin punched us below the belt when he offered the Hajis of Rawalpindi a “helping hand” recently. And i think a fair US tilt is necessary to put Putin back in his place should he try to get close with the haji generals to force us to buy his ridiculously over priced SAMs and SU-56s.

    A billion a pop for the S-400s is too high a price, specially for an equipment which is built by a Russian state run company.

    Just because Lockheed priced their THAAD for 800 million( a private company, which has to pay astronomical salaries to its scientists and taxes to uncle SAM) , Putin decided to price his S-400s at a billion. Perhaps he expects his buyers to overlook the fact that he has no such salary and tax compulsions, his prospective buyers clearly knows that Putin is ripping them off with no mercy. And they will make sure he pays for it in a different way.

    Clearly,Putin’s gun slinger’s gait notwithstanding, he is a bad sales man, while uncle SAM on the other hand is the best salesman out there, who has the wherewithal to shove any over priced military equipment down his allies throat.
    The Ruskies have historically been very bad salesmen/entrepreneurs, and their emphasis only on track 1 diplomacy proves this, i feel this is what destroyed the Soviet union’s sphere of influence and the same fate awaits Putin should he ignore to take a crash course in Salesmanship 101.

    Plus the Chinese and the Turks, the two most notorious reverse engineers in the world have got their hands on them and we all know how that is going to end.
    Needless to say, Delhi’s decisions to buy s-400s for a billion a pop without any TOT is nothing short of a disaster.

    I feel the single biggest mistake that countries like India and Russia have made/ is making- is of not making enough money using their influence. They have taken the economics of Geo-politics for granted.
    I call this the “Socialist Hangover”. And the only country which fancied Socialism earlier to come out of this state is CHINA.
    Meanwhile Delhi is till busy to keep up the facade of Socialism.

    On the Modi’s fading vote base.

    It is a flawed conjecture at best. In the average joe’s mind, he may not have delivered all of which he has promised but the “truth” is no one thinks he will, for them he is someone who is trying to change things. And “trying” is a word synonymous to the magical word “HOPE”, which Rahul doesn’t project for the majority of Indians. It is as simple as that.

    On ” The 15000 cr deal to ensure the army in particular can deal with whatever small crises and contingencies may be precipitated on the LOC and LAC by Islamabad and Beijing respectively in the year ahead,and a successful Chinese or worse a Pakistani military operation doesn’t in this intervening time sink Modi’s chances altogether.”

    An external emergency would enable Modi to impose emergency and postpone the elections, and nothing unites a country behind its leader like a war. And given Modi’s audacity to use army for his political gains he will make sure he wins it by hook or crook. Just like Mao did in 62.

    And as far as i think the Chinese knows this, so i feel 2019 running up to the election will be the most peaceful time on the Indo-Chinese border. I wouldn’t be surprised if Modi/Shah duo themselves seek some adventure without any provocations with the Hajis.

    Or do you think they are saving Cactus 2.0 for it?

    Either way, i feel there is still a tune or two up the sleeves of the “pied piper of Gujarat”.

    Lets wait and watch.

  3. There’s much in what you say. I never said Modi won’t be reelected but that he will never again enjoy the parliamentary majority he has now with which he could have done so much buthas done so little.

    What will surefire get him the votes is if he orders a Big Bang series of highyield thermonuclear tests. It may alienate the US but get the Indian nation behind him. But he doesn’t have the guts for it.

    • Vishnugupt says:

      On a lightly different note Prof.

      As per DAE 11 nuclear scientists had unnatural deaths during a four year period from 2009-13.
      Is it just me or is there something really wrong?
      If yes, who do you think might be responsible?

      • Yes this is a worrisome record that GOI has refused over the years to investigate even as Indian N-scientists have died, mostly mysteriously.

    • Rupam says:

      Bharatji ye to aapne naamumkin waali baat kardi, aisa tabhi ho sakta hai jab prithvi ulti ghumne lage gi

  4. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    @BK, you have ridiculed the Indian understanding around cows more than once.

    Indian cows have been around since very long and will stay for very long. Only the hindu mythology holds an equally strong influence on the life of India. May be also why the Right Wing has chosen to subvert it all for their dallagiri.

    But you cannot just tag cows and its well wishers along, with a bunch of fattus on hire for political purposes. Just the way all Hindus are not dalle for Americans, exactly the same way not all people who revere cows are out to kill people.

    Whatever the reasons a person in India may have against Indian reverence for cows, he has little options but to fall in line. Better, one does it without bitterness. Cow didn’t move anybodies cheese.

    • ~!…@ — Let’s be clear about the veneration of cow. The Vedas belonged to a pastoral herding community — the “original Hindus” for whom the cow had multiple uses, not least as source of meat and nourishment. The cultural mutation that happened is what here I have written about with the Shankaracharyá’s violent intervention to save India from turning fully Buddhist-Jain by incorporating into it the Buddhist-Jain tenets of nonviolence, etc. with cow worship as in the Jain principle of not harming animals, etc.

  5. Bharat Karnad says:

    I am a Vedic Hindu. Vedic Hindus, who reflected a vigorous, energetic, expansive civilization, were beefeaters. Is it coincidental that the decline of Vedic India began with Emperor Ashoka’s turn to Buddhism and pacifism? Beef-eating may or may not be related to the enervation of a once muscular Hinduism and strong & confident India. But the coincidence is striking. This entire issue of the rapid plunge of Hindu India is explored in chapter 1 of my book ‘NuclearWeapons and Indian Security’.

    • Vishnugupt says:

      This short 5 min video explains why vegetarianism is a good thing for the planet.

      When it comes to “enervation of a once muscular Hinduism and strong & confident India.”
      It has nothing to do with diet.Blaming it on Hinduism is a deeply flawed conjecture much like the “Hindu rate” of growth argument propagated by the communists.

      People think “Vasudeva Kudumbakam” is all about disregarding ones interest and submitting to enemy’s will. They couldn’t be more wrong.

      They forget the fact that the same “Vasudev” in Geeta is advising Arjun to pick up arms and destroy his enemies and ask him to disregard the fact that they are his “RELATIVES”.
      So clearly, even killing ones own Kudumbakam(family) is OK for protecting a higher cause/dhamra.

      It clearly says that one must do his dharma at ANY COST. And the highest dharma for a politician/king is to protect his country and its interest.

      Hindus today have mistaken Buddhism for Hinduism. A few similarities notwithstanding the two are worlds apart, with the latter having a very rich strategic heritage.
      Kautilya/Vishnugupt isn’t the alpha and omega of Indian realpolitik, he was just a follower of it as he has himself mentions earlier treaties on statecraft.

      The “Blind men of Hindoostan” on the other hand,starting from Nehru have used Vasudeva Kudumbakam time and again as a shroud to hide their strategic myopia,incompetence and corrupt indecision . It is a classical case of “A bad workman blaming his tools”.

      Just to point out a fact that the naked, ash smeared, weed smoking, HUMAN FLESH eating AGHORIS are also a part of Hinduism, who are equally respected along with the strict vegetarian dhanu dhari brahmins. Thats is the beauty of Hinduism, it never belittles anything.

      Unlike Abrahamic faiths Hinduism allows the individual to choose what he wants,and there are no right and wrongs, just choices and consequences.


    • Mr Karnad,

      I can only say you are factually incorrect on the point about vedic Hindus, it’s a result of mischevious mistranslation of some verses. Gau means not just the mother animal but also Light and hence sun, it also means Earth. Hanyate can mean to kill it can also mean to reduce. So a verse meaning light reduces in winter can be mistranslated as cow is killed in winter. I hope you get the gist of what I mean.

      And even if one finds some instance and evidence of killing of cow/bull somewhere. Commonsense tells us that the overwhelming cultural value is against killing of cows which was an offence punishable by death in much of our history.

      This same value reached as far as Japan where the first cow was killed in 19th century but American ambassador.

      Every culture had its values. In India eating dogs was considered polluting but not a sin. Killing of peacocks and cows is another matter both these acts were punishable offences. It still is.

      In Europe, USA and even in Taiwan now killing of dogs and cats for consumption is a punishable offence and they are not shy in projecting it as a positive ethical cultural value.

      Finally in Indian context cows are seen as ‘nonhuman persons’ a legal term to day used for dolphins for instance.

      So our state of affairs had more to do with mental colonization and degradation of our own cultural values rather than some questionable evidence of vedic practices.

    • indeed Sir, i read your book ,but the fact is that we rejected martial behaviour in the name of AHIMSA, that was the keysin point, even shaolin temple monks are grandmasters of KUNG FU (which is basically Kalaripayattu,established by our very own King Pallava of kerala) & ironically they are Vegetarians,so i think that the center of attention should be somewhere else,rather than beef eating

      • Vishnugupt says:

        @Security Analyst,
        Mate history has shown us that even without Kung-Fu Indian soldiers are brave compared to their Paki and Chini counterparts.Even with out dated weapons. “Remember how the American Patton tanks were destroyed by Indian jawans.

        But i would like to point out a major reason, which i think is the reason for our failure to dominate the world, and that is our “LACK of UNITY” and ABSENCE of a pathological LUST for our neighbor’s land and lady.

        As you know Indian subcontinent had everything for its population to survive and thrive, a good monsoon, milder tropical climate etc etc. As a result we were a content lot and we had no desire to capture other lands as we were already self-sufficient. Hence our military strategy was mostly defensive.

        This self-sufficiency and defensive posture over the years paved way for complacency and VOILA.
        We were subjugated for 2000 years.

        You see there is an inherent flaw in a defensive posture because, OFFENSE IS THE BEST FORM OF DEFENSE.

        What we lacked back then and what we lack now is the same. WE HAVE FORGOTTEN THE ART OF PREEMPTIVE ATTACK. We have forgotten how to slaughter the enemy in his sleep. And mate, that is the only way to secure ones country. Do you think we are doing it?

        BTW i hope you are aware that Kung-fu is for self-discipline and self-protection, not for winning wars and conquering lands.

      • yes sir i get your point & i fully agree with you on that,but what i am trying to establish is that even though these chinese chumps did not know anything at all about martial arts before shaolin was established by Bodhidharma,but now they have digested & INTERNALISED that martial culture as an irrefutable & a NECESSARY ingredient of their own socio-spiritual-cultural fabric of their national identity & we have focused TILL DATE ONLY ON SOFT POWER,to the DETRIMENT OF HARD POWER, i hope you will agree with me on my point as well.

  6. avkirankumar says:

    Prof. Karnad sir, you have written extensively on defence, so
    on an unrelated note(to the subject what you have written), i wanted know
    1) whether MBTs (Main Battle Tanks) are of relevance to Indian army or just attack helicopters (or even LCA) are enough?
    2) Are AMCAs (Ad. medium combat aircraft) enough or should India go for Su-57?
    3) Don’t you think MARCOS should be separated Indian Navy and expand it and created separate armed force called Marine Corps like US and some other countries?
    4) don’t you think it is time for india also to create a “SPACE COMMAND” like US? and also have a military division of ISRO (as a seperate body) dedicated only to military forces and its missions?
    I wanted to know your views

  7. avkirankumar says:

    Prof. Karnad sir,

    A Humble request from your follower, if you don’t get offended.

    I have been following your blog and also you TV debate shows. You argue and comment very academically and very well.

    Please, don’t bring in religion into your argument. It just decreases or even destroys the merit of your argument, which might be fantastic had religion (Hinduism) is not brought into it.

    Lets be proud of our religion and culture and the heritage of India

    • Vishnugupt says:

      @avikirankumar I don’t think we should make religion sacrosanct and not discuss its influence over the nation’s progress.
      You see,one cannot divorce religion from these issues. A country’s culture is the foundation on which its strategic culture stands.

      Look at the Israelis, can you take Judaism out of the IDF?

      I feel Academics should comment on religion.

      • avkirankumar says:

        I fully agree with you on this, in fact that’s what i a have indicated it in last line of my comment.

        What i meant was, just because some people misuse the religion for their personal gains, the entire religion should not be blamed. Example: if he or anyone wants to comment on some fringe group (if he or anyone thinks it is so) let him name it particularly. What i disagree is the use of the word ‘Hindu’ (or any other religion) in front on fringe group or terror.

        At the same time if there is some thing that is wrong in the religion let him or anyone be vocal about it and they should be vocal about it.

        This is what i meant, I thought you misunderstood me.

        With Regards,
        Thank you

  8. vivek says:

    may be this will clear your doubt for doval’s view on china

  9. andy says:

    Here we go again,the IAF demands more from the Tejas, another 3 or 4 yrs delay looming over the LCA project.Just was beginning to wonder wether the IAF had reconciled itself to having a large fleet of the Tejas,turns out to be wishful thinking.Their top brass will have more Rafale and another western fighter jet before they allow a peaceful ingress for the LCA into the IAF.Pathetic to say the least.

    • After the first opportunity India got by GOI doing one sound thing by getting the former head of Focke Wulf design bureau to design the HAL Marut, LCA presents the second opportunity for India to become self sufficient in designing and manufacturing fighter jets. One can’t bet there will be a third opportunity if this one is scuttled by such incomprehensible demands at this stage in the project.

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