Two developments: One strange, the other a big mistake

No link between NRC and NPR, says Amit Shah - The Hindu
Umm..said the wrong thing?

Something monumental happened and no one noticed. Not the Ministry of Defence, not the Ministry for External Affairs — the two ministries that will be most affected. Unless they have known about this and are quietly reconciled to this development by stealth. Or, because they do not take seriously the seminal change announced by Amit Shah, the Home Minister.

The undisputed Number Two in the Narendra Modi government, Amit Shah made public something that was at once strange and stunning. No one has commented on his statement or even reacted to it. Delivering the KF Rustomji Lecture on July 17 at the 18th investiture ceremony of the Border Security Force, Shah remarked that he “used to think if there is a security policy of this country or not?” This is a reasonable thing to wonder about. I have done so too. Then he elaborated a bit by adding a qualifier. “Till Narendra Modi became the prime minister”, Shah declared, “we did not have any independent security policy.”

But for the insertion of Modi into that line, I would agree with this conclusion. That India’s foreign and military polices and, therefore, the national security policies are not “independent” is, after all, a theme I have been dilating on for the better part of the past 25 years, especially in the context of America’s conspicuous role in the last decade and half in shaping and channeling Indian government’s thinking. So, you can understand my nearly jumping out of my skin at finding the Home Minister seemingly seconding my view, leading me, for an instant, to expect that Modi, having belatedly recognized the flawed policy system he was working with, had decided on a structural overhaul and a radical change of course.

That joy lasted the proverbial half second — the time it presumably took Shah to read the next line in his speech, which brought me down with a thud accompanied by much befuddlement. This effect would have been replicated on anyone who was paying attention to Shah.

The Home Minister, it turns out, was not referring to any foreign influences on Indian foreign and military or security policies, but rather was expressing his elation at the country’s “security policy” being unshackled from the malign influence of — wait for it — India’s “foreign policy”!!

To quote Shah per a newspaper report: the country’s security policy he declared “was either influenced by foreign policy or it was overlapping with the foreign policy” — both, by his reckoning, bad things to happen. “Our idea is to have peaceful relations with all” he continued, “but if someone disturbs our borders, if someone challenges our sovereignty the priority of our security policy is that such an attempt will be replied in the same language.” He added that this new security policy was a “big achievement” and “I believe without [it] neither the country can progress nor democracy can prosper.” He then congratulated “Modiji [for doing] this big job” before revealing that this policy had already been operationalized.
( )

Is that too much to take in all at once?!

National security considerations are at the apex and dictate foreign and military policy choices and options. In the event, if Shah is to be taken at his word, it means primarily that the “security policy” making is now in the Home Ministry’s bailiwick, and secondarily, because disturbances on the border, “peaceful relations with all” and “challenges [to] our sovereignty” are apparently not “priority” with either the MEA or MOD, the Shah-led Home Ministry will put in place measures to implement these priority jobs. In other words, the task of managing relations with Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Pakistan are now transferred from South Block to Sardar Patel Bhavan. China, because it does the intimidating where India is concerned, is left for the MEA and MOD to handle. The MEA, MOD and the armed services on their part will feel relieved that in this new Shah scheme they will have something to do other than sit on the sidelines unprofitably twiddling their thumbs.

Then again, it may just be that nothing has changed and Amit Shah does not know what he is talking about. This is a real possiblity given how ministers read babu-drafted speeches they can’t make head or tail of, in which case, Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla and his minions ought to be blamed for making the Home Minister sound, well, as not quite there! In this policy realm, is there anything more outlandish than what Amit Shah said?

The interesting thing is why did Shah, even in his muddled fashion, say what he did? May be the Home Minister is in an aggrandizing mood and believes diplomacy with adjoining states would be conducted better by him and his boys, and would like to wrench decisionmaking turf from the MEA and MOD, and find more military missions and such for the BSF and other paramils under his control to carry out? Or, with the neighbourhood blowing up around us the Home Minister is a bit jealous of his colleague, the external affairs minister, S Jaishankar for being, willy nilly, in the public eye. Except the foreign minister is in the limelight lately for the wrong reasons.

EAM Dr. S. Jaishankar leaves for 3-day official visit to Russia - NewsOnAIR  -
Missteping along

Diplomats, it is said should think twice or thrice before saying nothing. Jaishankar, perhaps, feels that because he has graduated from the ranks of babu to minister, he can let his mouth run wild, the diplomat’s characteristic tact be damned! He let this happen around the same day that Shah was asking the MEA to keep off security policy in order to make it more “independent”. What? How? Don’t ask!

Speaking to a virtual audience of his BJP partymen in a foreign policy training session, Jaishankar couldn’t resist boasting. “Due to us, Pakistan is under the lens of FATF and it was kept in the grey list”, he asserted. “We have been successful in pressurizing Pakistan and the fact that Pakistan’s behaviour has changed is because of pressure put by India by various measures.” He elaborated further: “FATF, as all of you know, keep a check on fundings for terrorism and deals with black money supporting terrorism. Also terrorists from LeT and Jaish, India’s efforts through UN, have come under sanctions.”

So, where was the diplomatic boo-boo?

FATF (Financial Action Task Force) is fairly unique in how it holds a targeted country’s feet to the fire. For instance, at the last FATF meeting in Paris in end-June Pakistan did not get a pass out of the institution’s ‘Grey List’ even though it fulfilled 26 of the 27 conditions because there was telltale evidence of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist outfits beneftting from monies Pakistani agencies had a role in laundering. By the same token, US will ensure, Pakistan never slips into the Black List which India wants, which will activate comprehesnive economic sanctions, because Islamabad is, owing to the civil war in Afghanistan, all but indispensable to America.

The trouble is this: Pakistan is in the FATF crosshairs because of its covert and overt support to the various terrorist outfits it has nursed for operations in Jammu & Kashmir which, in turn, keeps alive what, for all intents and purposes, is the dead 1949 UN Resolution 47 pertaining to Kashmir — the outcome of Jawaharlal Nehru’s referring the dispute to the UN.

India does not have to do a thing to keep Pakistan in the Grey List other than do what it has quietly been doing — list terrorist incidents traceable to Pakistan-based gangs and refer to their financial links to the Pakistan state. In that sense, the Indian government is merely an agency reporting terrorist incidents and the electronic/paper trails of terror financing; that this implicates Islamabad is by the way. This was done routinely and without fuss. Now Jaishankar has gone and spoilt it.

For the Indian foreign minister to publicly take credit and crow about India’s efforts in keeping Pakistan on the FATF’s warning list is to arouse suspicions among the European and other member states of this body about motives other than terrorism driving Indian government’s actions. Not that they are unaware of how much value and weight New Delhi attaches to keeping Pakistan on the FATF hook. But, for that very reason, they could at any time convert their decision into diplomatic leverage for use against India.

Indeed, the Pakistan Foreign Office was very fast in trying to corner India on just this point, claiming that New Delhi had “politicized” the FATF, and offered Jaishankar’s “confession” as it called his gloating, as proof for its charge. Such a claim is rendered credible because India is the co-chair of the Joint Group that assesses whether Pakistan’s warrants placement in the grey list in the first place. The more low key and objectively the Indian government acts in the FATF the more convincingly Pakistan crucifies itself by its own irrefutable acts of ommission and commission. Should Pakistan’s case of India politicizing the FATF take hold, however, Pakistan may well be let off on its good faith actions and for fulfilling most of the criteria and Indian interests will end up taking a hit

For Jaishankar to have thus imperilled India’s case and potentially loosened the FATF noose around Pakistan’s neck is an inexcusable mistake particularly for a supposedly seasoned former career diplomat to make. But then just may be Jaishankar felt pressured. Can it be Amit Shah and Jasihankar are both competing, trying to elbow each other out of Modi’s attention, by trumpeting the performance of the ministries they head?

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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26 Responses to Two developments: One strange, the other a big mistake

  1. Amit says:

    Mr. Shah has talked big and caused significant damage to India’s foreign relationships. His comments about Bangladesh led to real deterioration of relations and his comments about taking back Aksai Chin in parliament would not have sat well with China and probably played a significant role in the current stand off. In a more meritocratic place his wings would have been clipped, but India is no such place.

    There is also a tendency in India to gloat over small achievements. Like gloating over Tata Defence making the underbody for Apache Helicopters. Like that is a big deal. Maybe it’s the huge undercurrents of underconfidence that run in India that many Indians gloat over small things. We should learn from the Chinese in that respect or the Americans. The Chinese have become world class in many fields, by hunkering down and working hard. And doing more than talking. America remains the top innovation hub in the world and they don’t crow about it like India. It is shameful to see how many Indians gloat over their perceived glorious past and how every small success is somehow an indication of coming future glory. India is at best mediocre and will remain so unless people in power relentlessly work to address its many weaknesses.

    But people in power who glorify small achievements are probably reflecting the attitude of millions of Indians who feel similarly.

    • Sunil Kumar says:

      Agreed. The pettiness, subversion and destruction of institutions for glory of Modi, and crowing about how great we are has ruined us while the majority of the people are drunk on the kool-aid. I wish I were a believer in a benevolent intervening God. Alas, no such luck.

    • Sankar says:

      I do not agree with your assessment of Shah in the context. First, military moves do not come about on what the politicians utter on the spur of the moment, and it takes a long to prepare for it. PLA’s very recent ingress in Depsang and Pangong Tso must have been planned for decades to eventuate and it was coming anyway due to the subservience of India’s political and military leadership to China’s ever since Indira Gandhi left the scene. China has been in the process of consolidating its 1959 claim that Nehru rejected. Shah has let the world know justifiably that Aksai Chin is legitimate India’s sovereign territory lest the fact is forgotten. The only way to redress the situation for India now is to undertake military steps locally as Lt Gen Panag has noted. China has studied well that Modi does not have the stomach for it. If Indira Gandhi were at the helm, PLA would never have dared to probe in Ladakh.

      Apropos Bangladesh, Modi & Co has failed to articulate correctly the political history for the legitimate enactment of CAA to the Indian citizens at large. The partition of British India was agreed upon by Gandhi & Congress with the tacit commitment by Jinnah that the minorities (Hindus, Sikhs. ..) will not be deprived of their status or fundamental rights in Pakistan. But Pakistan violated that post-partition in many ways, down the track as declaring it as Islamic State and making the minorities second-class citizens there. In 1950s Nehru was able to put pressure Pak to honour the agreement of partition, and the Pak PM Liaquat Ali undertook some measures to reverse the political situation. But he was murdered in Pak and everything went astray. Hence, all the progeny of original Hindus (and Sikhs) in Pak must have the right to return and be citizens of India since they lost their equal status, and are now second class in Pakistan. Present Bangladesh may be somewhat better, but not that much, than Pakistan. The official census for partition was 30% (unofficial it was more) Hindus in now Bangladesh, but it has dwindled to 8-9% at present. Shah could have raised it in diplomatically polished language. That would have thwarted anti-India posturing in Bangladesh – Bangladesh has to justify the wholesale downslide of Hindus there. I feel CAA will be a great landmark in India’s history if properly enacted – there is no need for Modi & Co to recoil from it just like they separated Buddhist Ladakh from J&K recently.

      • Amit says:

        In my comment about relations with Bangladesh I had the ‘termites’ statement made by Mr. Shah as the example which caused a serious relationship issue with Bangladesh. If you read Bangladeshi articles, they are still smarting from that language. I did not have CAA in mind, which I largely have no issues with (outside of Assam – in Assam it needs to be handled with extreme care).

        Regarding your comment about Mr. Shah’s statement’s impact on China, I beg to differ. No one really knows why China did what it did, but Mr. Shah’s statement can be added into the mix of reasons for China’s belligerence. And if one wants to make such statements against a stronger power, do some military prep work to handle the consequences. No point talking big and doing small.

        As to your other points on Bangladesh and Pakistan – they are a different matter. I was making my point about how India talks big and acts small, and gloats over small achievements. This is a problem with many in the general population and is reflected in many politicians as well.

    • Sankar says:

      Using words like “termites” is surely not only undiplomatic, it exposes just a foul mouth and is detrimental to India’s civilized standing in the international world. Not to forget that a sizeable Indian diaspora in the Western World has been by illegal entries. It needs to be condemned. Modi’s ministers are loose cannon, Modi himself is like a bully in dealing with the public. This is the worst side of this Modi Raj, and unfortunately they have no desire to learn.

      I think it was Subramanium Swamy who had first raised openly the loss of Aksai Chin, and he did it correctly. There can be nothing secret or that could be unknown about China’s policy in Tibet and Ladakh – they are not only consolidating their hold militarily but grabbing more territory. With their latest incursion, it seems Depsang is lost forever for India. To my mind the present Indian Army leadership is spineless, and China is taking full advantage of it. Modi follows what the Army advises him. Unless there’s public pressure Modi is not going for any real action. The ball is in the citizens’ court and people should start kicking.


      India needed to have stated her red lines very unambiguously. That thankfully has been done. China now clearly knows that if she does not respect one India policy, India will have scant respect for one China policy.

    • San Mann says:

      Xi ordered PLA to seize Galwan because Xi was in desperate need of foreign diversions to distract from his govt’s culpability in the COVID disaster that has so direly affected the world, and affected China’s ties with it. Along with the attack on Galwan, there was the sudden crackdown on HongKong, sanctions against Australia, the intrusions against Taiwan, Japan, Philippines. You can also see the sudden shrill defiant rhetoric coming from Xi towards foreign adversaries (“their heads will be bashed and bloodied on China’s wall of steel”). Xi is desperate not to lose his position, because he’s made many internal enemies during his ruthless rise to the top of China’s power structure. Your comments are therefore uninformed and only spreading misperceptions to others.


    1. In the light of Pegassus issue so why is India not willing to see any deal between Beijing and the Dalai Lama ? What are India’s reservations ?
    2. what are motivations behind Indian move to attack Chinese engineers in the Dashu project in Pakistan ? Do you think there is a risk that we could be put into FATF because of this ?
    3. I did mention in 2020 just after the COVID lockdowns were being implemented that this is a great opportunity for China to make it’s presence felt in the South Asian region. I believe I have been proven right by circumstances in last six months. Do you think now China will be a permanent player challenging our hegemony in the South Asian region ?

    Looking forward to your extremely informed views on the same.

    Thanks and regards with best wishes

  3. Sankar says:

    Brilliant analysis of statecraft!
    I am afraid Modi Raj is drifting rudderless in the turbulent sea of the international diplomatic world and could succumb under its own hubris. Gone are the days of Durga Prasad Dhar or Rameshwar Nath Kao that crowned India with glory in 1971. It has been reported that to commemorate the Ind-Soviet Treaty signed in 1971 but now defunct, the Russian President will come to Delhi. It remains to be seen what will be the new direction for the Indian nation.

  4. Deepak says:

    biggest problem with modi govt is modi himself.replacing modi with competent leader is the only option.cabinet reshuffle wont change anything much on ground. modi thinks he is smart but in reality he is not smart rather he the biggest celebrity in this country whose negatives is always ignored due to really bad tukde tukde gang opposition headed by retard like Raga.modi thinks because he is most popular and winning elections his decisions are correct always but it is not correct most of the times. modi thinks only thing he has to do is keep his image good performance does not matter to win elections again and again which is correct in this country where masses are driven by image,sentiment more than policies,economics,impact of govt policies.nationalist has to wait for post modi era if any truly good leader emerges for real positives for this country.

  5. Rudra says:

    I’m baffled by the stupidity of the Indian state, why don’t you take charge of defense or external affairs ministry? It’s impossible that bjp top chairs don’t know about your credentials. Please your state for RS ticket

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      @Rudra- Rajya Sabha nominations are given by political parties to either their sycophants (retired bureaucrats, politicians incapable of winning elections) or to businessmen, who contribute big money to the party coffers.

      Professor Karnad doesn’t fit the bill in any of the aforesaid categories furthermore, he is a big critic of the Foreign Minister, who has the ears of the establishment.

      Maybe if the current NSA puts in a word for him, Modi might agree to your suggestion.


    Dear Mr Karnad,

    Very recently Raja Menon suggested that the INA should intercept and seize all Chinese oil tankers floating in the Indian Ocean region in case the PRC does not vacate Ladakh territory. What are your thoughts on this option ? Should India opt for it ?

    Many prominent think tankers want India to concentrate more upon the Navy in the Indian ocean. So do you think the recent decision to shift one strike corps that was meant to drive sharply deep inside into the Pakistani territory aka “Operation Cold Start” from the LOC to the Ladakh border with the PRC would severely deplete the Indian ability to focus on her navy in the Indo-pacific ?

    I eagerly await your views on these two scenarios.

    • Rear Admiral (ret) Raja Menon suggested this where?

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      @Debanjan Banerjee- What Mr. Menon has suggested regarding holding Chinese ships is indeed a very innovative suggestion.

      However, Indian establishment doesn’t have the guts to pull it off. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whom everyone knows was a heavy drunk and a big womanizer was “entertained” lavishly by the Chinese during his visit to China in 2003. As a result, he gave it in writing that India recognizes Tibet as a part of China.

      You just have to connect the dots. Modi has been regularly visiting China since he was the Gujarat C.M. Modi has also been “entertained” lavishly by his Chinese hosts. They have him by the scruff of his neck.

      Modi is Chinese mole. He will never do anything to antagonize his Chinese Masters.

  7. Apba says:

    2nd June 2019

    This S. Jaishankar, the former Foreign secretary is a very bad choice by Modi jee for a cabinet minister.
    His past actions as foreign Secretary shows that he bent backwards to please the Americans to the detriment of Indian interests.
    That S. Jaishankar was one of the men who sold India’s nuclear independence to America under unelected MM Singh ‘s regime.
    For a lot of idiot Indians that is an achievement! Then they talk about India being a powerful country!
    I know that Indians long for so called technocrats to rule them or atleast run their ministries.But technocrats are the least capable people to independently run anything. They are Functionaries whose job is to run the machinary and not to think independently or to formulate policies. For that we have ministers from the  political class. It does not matter what system, democratic or otherwise. Functionaries are servants and are inherently incapable of being master of policy making.
    That is why in the most successful foreign ministry (of the UK) the show runs on the direction of a political foreign Mnister and not by permanent secrataries. British would never trust mandarins to run their ministries. Contrast that with French ministries dominated and run only by career diplomats. French foreign policy has  been, by and large, unsuccessful in last 250 years.


    Good article.
    Just being a power means nothing unless a nation has the will to exercise this power.
    That has what has happened in the last few years. Announcing the action for the world media is a good policy.
    Same is case with our Ministries. MoD and MoFA have traditionally lacked the will to be aggressive. MoFA had been too pessimistic in recommendating any action.
    Good change. So, think through, act and keep initiative always. But act we must.

  9. Today, the chinese foreign minister met with taliban delegation and the extremists assure Beijing that their country won’t be used as a base against China for Uyghurs.

    My question—

    1. Were you expecting such a meeting?

    2. What do you make of this?

    3. If we take this statement as face value, does this mean that whatever you wrote in your recent article of using taliban against China is now irrelevant?

  10. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    These Taliban folks are uncivilized savages. They extort money and bully civilians. They have no regard for women.

    India doesn’t share any land border with Afghanistan and should stay away from Afghan politics. No need to get involved in any talks with Taliban.


    They are Salafi Jihadists fighting to establish Caliphate Khurasan in South Asia. They even kill and enslave different Muslim sects other than Sunni Salafis. They need to be liquidated else will destroy us.
    Be utterly clear on this.

  12. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Taliban is a bunch of criminal hooligans. Their different factions would proclaim their loyalty to everyone Pakistan, Iran, Russia, China even India while being faithful to none. They just wish to extort money from every side.

    It’s so strange that everyone is rushing to talk to Taliban while ignoring the elected government of Afghanistan. Anyways they are as good as gone.

    The country is doomed. No one can save it.

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