Will Doval hold the line, disregarding the ‘Beijing Syndrome’?

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NSA Ajit Doval leaves for Beijing to confer with his opposite number on the Special Representative-level  talks to resolve the border dispute, the State Counselor Yang Jiechi. But Doval is being welcomed by a barrage, to add to the verbal fusillade by the Chinese defence ministry, of rhetorical escalation now involving the Foreign Minister Wang Yi. In a censorious tone that almost sounds comical, he asked Delhi to “conscientiously withdraw its troops”. Yes, there has been an invasion, as Beijing claims, but it is by the Peoples Liberation Army elements on Bhutanese territory, and the sooner the Zhongnanhai recovers a bit of sanity and restores the status quo ante, the better it will be for China. Because already it has gone way out on a limb and, with most of the small and big states in Asia and elsewhere watching, has more face to lose when eventually it backs down from an untenable position, as it will have to.

For the first time the Indian government has shown some spine and, more, displayed considerable cunning in giving Beijing a very big stage to publicly make a fool of itself. The initial resolve to ensure the intruding PLA troops don’t have their way on the Doklam Plateau and the Indian jawans and officers standing their ground, backed by a determined build-up in the rear areas, was as powerful a move as it was unexpected, especially to the Chinese. The confusion it sowed in the Chinese ranks bubbled up all the way through the Xigatze, Chengdu military commands to Beijing and is manifested in precisely the spate of nervously impolitic statements issued by all and sundry. China has been pushed on to the backfoot and it will be good to keep it there.

This is a great call made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and his moves to-date where his government has played it so cool, have been unerringly right. The question is what has he advised Doval to do? One only hopes he has told the NSA to stick by the line laid down at the PM’s behest by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Parliament of no preconditions and simultaneous withdrawal by the PLA to the Batang La perimeter and the Indian troops to their start-off points before any talks. There should be no flexibility, no give, in this respect because the Chinese can take a mile when offered an inch. There’s, moreover, no time guillotine coming down to arrive at a hurried compromise. It is the PLA unit out of the sub-regional command that is at the end of a fairly long logistics chain, while the Indian forward supply system is arrayed on a shorter, tighter, grid. So, if the Chinese want their soldiers to spend the coming winter at the Dok La heights, it is no skin off our backs. But the principle of the inviolability of the Bhutan border and Thimpu’s territorial claims has to be maintained at all cost by India.

So, what’s the problem? As always it is the Mandarin-speaking veterans of MEA who have pulled long stints in China and suffer from the ‘Beijing syndrome’ — the diplomatic equivalent of the ‘Stockholm syndrome’, wherein Indian diplomats begin so empathizing with the Chinese and their point of view, that they end up pushing  the Beijing line to the govt of India, through the China Desk at the MEA and the ‘China Study Circle’ (CSC), which should long ago have been disbanded but is persisted with by the powers that be. These China-lovers are pushing for a compromise that will hurt the Indian national interest, and that’s the problem.  This band of China lovers have reached top positions (NSA, Foreign Secretary), monopolized India’s China policy, and made a mess of it over the last 50 years, because their instincts are to adjust, accommodate, compromise, and surrender. It was CSC, for instance, that advocated participation in Xi Jinping’s OBOR project until they were firmly over-ruled by Modi. Hope the PM does not at this stage succumb to CSC advice.

Modi and India have gained a lot of admiration in Asia and the world by showing, for a change, some spirit. It shouldn’t be frittered away in the false hope that concessions by Doval will lead to peace on the border. It won’t but will rather only lead to more demands, more truculence and gross misbehaviour. Ask Yangbon, Hanoi, Taipei, Tokyo, Seoul.

A sideline issue, but yesterday evening I heard some commentators on TV talk about this country not being up on the public relations game compared to China. Actually, one of the great pluses of the Indian policy so far is exactly that the Modi government hasn’t been voluble or over-hyped the situation. It’s been low key and low to the ground, leaving it to China to blow the whole thing out of proportion and face regional and global ridicule. Nothing reduces a big power as much as ridicule. The Doklam confrontation is a subject matter that the numerous comedy outfits on Indian social media should make a meal of. Much fun can be had there.



Posted in Asian geopolitics, Bhutan, Central Asia, China, China military, civil-military relations, Culture, Decision-making, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Iran and West Asia, MEA/foreign policy, Military/military advice, Myanmar, North Korea, Northeast Asia, society, South Asia, Taiwan, Tibet | 33 Comments

The Doklam Standoff: Hot And Cold At The Creeping Tri-Junction

My ‘Realpolitik’ column published July 23, 2017 in BloombergQuint.com, at https://www.bloombergquint.com/opinion/2017/07/23/the-doklam-india-china-standoff-hot-and-cold-at-the-creeping-tri-junction


The Doklam plateau is far from being in a touch-trigger situation as many Indian commentaries and the Chinese government’s version of RK Karanjia’s Blitz – Global Times suggest. Nothing is likely to happen other than more ejections of more hot air and gas from the Chinese side. This is so, mainly because China is rattled. The developments around Doka La have got Beijing’s goat, and China finds itself pushed into a corner and facing a dilemma – damned if it acts and double-damned if it doesn’t.


Beijing was stunned by the speed and the stealth displayed by the Indian Army’s Bhutan-based infantry brigade in its proactive intervention on Bhutanese territory to prevent the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) construction crews from completing a serviceable track across the Doka La watershed. The Indian brigade is notionally part of the Indian Military Training Team in Bhutan. The school-boyish pushing shoving recorded on mobile cameras had a message for the PLA – the Indian army was ready for a rumble. Then, having belied Chinese expectations, Delhi proceeded to play it very cool – not at all ruffled by the growing crescendo of accusations, threats, and fulminations that had the Chinese Foreign Office in Zhongnanhai sounding verily like the Global Times. Delhi’s low key statements that have sought to keep a lid on the issue, infuriated Beijing even more as it realised that its threats were being ignored.

Delhi’s studious unwillingness to take the Chinese bait even as Beijing rhetorically raised the ante meant that Delhi had forced China into the unenviable position of having to deliver on its threat of initiating war against India or eat crow.

 Union Minister for Home Affairs Rajnath Singh chais an all-party meet on the Doklam standoff between India and China, on July 14, 2017. (Photograph: @HMOIndia/Twitter)
Union Minister for Home Affairs Rajnath Singh chais an all-party meet on the Doklam standoff between India and China, on July 14, 2017. (Photograph: @HMOIndia/Twitter)


There are some in the Indian commentariat who, perhaps, unwittingly echo Chinese sentiments about the illegality of the Indian intervention when, actually, international law entirely backs the Indian army’s actions on the Doklam plateau.

Under international law, it was the sovereign right of Bhutan to ask for a friendly India to come to its rescue, protect its territory, against a predatory China.

Bhutan has no formal diplomatic relations with China. Having been a protectorate of British India, Bhutan has, post-1947, permitted Delhi to conduct its foreign relations – something that irks Beijing. China has waged a campaign to get Thimpu to establish an embassy in Beijing and for this purpose has cultivated the Bhutanese elite and intelligentsia in various ways, including irregular financial subventions.


The Indian government has been mindful of the Chinese plan and this is among the reasons why Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Thimpu and announced a billion dollar aid package in June 2014, just a couple of weeks after taking office. The trigger for this trip was the Bhutan-China parleys were scheduled a month later for defining the border between the two countries – a forum that had produced little by way of results over the previous 20 years. Nevertheless, Delhi didn’t want any surprises. The Bhutanese government has naturally become adept at playing India off against China to get better consideration from Delhi, and India has never been found wanting in its generosity.

It is Indian-funded hydroelectric projects and a scheme to buy the excess electricity produced at a good rate, that has been responsible for increasing the per capita income of Bhutan to a point where it is the highest of any country in greater southern Asia, including, incidentally, India.

It is an economic development model Delhi has so far failed to sell to a more suspicious Nepal.


A section of the Punatsangchhu hydro-electric power project stands under construction in Wangdue, Bhutan, on February 11, 2012. (Photographer: Adeel Halim/Bloomberg)
A section of the Punatsangchhu hydro-electric power project stands under construction in Wangdue, Bhutan, on February 11, 2012. (Photographer: Adeel Halim/Bloomberg)

The absence of agreement on a formally delineated border, however, has not made China any less reluctant to progressively annex piecemeal more strategically-placed Bhutanese territory and attempt to move the tri-junction in the southerly direction by building border roads and presenting a new fait accompli to Thimpu each time. This is how the earlier tri-junction on the Batang La line at Gymochan – consolidated by a motorable border – is now sought to be pushed to the Doklam plateau. Such aggression has been happening in the face of the standstill accords of 1998 and 1999 signed by China and Bhutan. The two sides had agreed that pending a final resolution of the border, neither would disturb the status quo. In the event, when Thimpu complained of the Chinese road building around Doka La this time, the Indian army sprang into action. The rest is recent history.


India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has calmly explained in Parliament that India will be happy to talk with Beijing, but only after it drops any preconditions and withdraws all its troops to the Batang La line, simultaneous to which, Indian troops would get out of Doka La. Beijing doesn’t have an option other than to agree to this offer. The PLA simply cannot muster the forces necessary to overcome the three Indian army Divisions in the Doka La vicinity in a short, intense, war. Delhi has publicly indicated that its military jump-off threshold would be if elements of the two Tibet-based group armies (each the size of an Indian division) begin crossing any of the 11 bridges over the Tsangpo River that runs parallel to the Line of Actual Control and enters India as the Brahmaputra.

Because the PLA has refrained from this provocation, India has been restrained as well.

But assuming it can mobilise and deploy the forces necessary to take on the Indian Army, the PLA will have to brave a very difficult logistics problem that its units will face.

The PLA has just about another month to start an affray before the weather begins closing in. Beijing apparently doesn’t rate the PLA’s chances highly. Otherwise, it would, by now, have done something instead of just raving and ranting.

Posted in Asian geopolitics, Bhutan, China, China military, civil-military relations, Decision-making, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Politics, MEA/foreign policy, Military/military advice, Nepal, society, South Asia, Tibet | 17 Comments

Dok la

The Quint asked three of us — Ajai Shukla, P. Stobdan, and yours truly the same questions on the standoff in Dokla, at https://www.thequint.com/world/2017/07/20/india-china-military-doklam-standoff-experts-speak. Responses reproduced below:

Experts Decode China’s Doklam Dare: Troops Won’t Wait Indefinitely


A month into the Doklam standoff, India is still refraining from calling it a “war-like situation” or even a “conflict”. This, despite reports of China conveying to foreign diplomats in Beijing that troops of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been waiting patiently but may not wait indefinitely.

With Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj warning that India could face a security challenge if China unilaterally changes the status quo in Doklam, we asked three experts just how seriously should we consider China’s rhetoric.

By adopting a threatening tone, is China trying to posture or is India being complacent in thinking that China will not follow up its threat with military action?

Ajai Shukla: India’s reactions cannot be predicated on whether it thinks China is bluffing or serious. India’s reactions have to be guided by a clear understanding of what its national interests are, and whether it is worth risking a confrontation with China over the Doklam plateau – a 89 sq km territory. It goes without saying that China will need to measure its reactions in light of the same calculations. I find it hard to believe that China will attack India or risk a war with India over an issue which is essentially a small border problem. Both sides have resolved border problems like these in the past, and there is no reason why they will not do so in the future. But if India believes its interests are such that it does not warrant a withdrawal from the Doklam plateau at this point in time, it must be prepared to go to war with China, if China initiates war.

Bharat Karnad: This is major Chinese bluff and bluster. If the Chinese are letting off some gun powder in an exercise in hinterland Tibet, Indian troop concentrations are not lazing around either. In the Dokla region, Indian forces hold the high ground and any adventure by PLA will prove very dear for China. In that extended region there are in excess of three Indian army Divisions, not something the PLA will be able to tangle with, let alone overcome.

Phunchok Stobdan: We’ve been dealing with China in an ad hoc manner since 1959. Perhaps this is because we do not understand China like we understand Pakistan or the Western world.

Moreover, India has ambiguously pursued a firm Tibet policy rather than a China policy. This became the root of misunderstanding and strategic mistrust has only grown since. In fact, nobody has even thought of questioning our China policy. China, on the other hand, has followed a dual policy of engagement and containment with India.

Therefore, direct face-offs have been avoided or have been resolved using diplomatic means or via BPM-level meetings.

The Chinese stance now is that the current standoff is unique because it is along the internationally defined boundary. One cannot therefore predict whether or not rhetoric will be followed by action.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping exchange greetings at the BRICS leaders’ informal gathering hosted by the China, in Hamburg, Germany on Friday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping exchange greetings at the BRICS leaders’ informal gathering hosted by the China, in Hamburg, Germany on Friday. (Photo: PTI )

After Nepal and Myanmar, is China now drawing politically closer to Bhutan? There are indications that except for the King and to some extent the current Prime Minister, a large swathe of mainstream Bhutanese political opinion could be swaying towards China. If that change is indeed occurring, what should India do?


Ajai Shukla: Bhutan, like every small state that is in the vicinity of two conflicted larger states, is playing the game with both India and China.

If they wish to go down that route, there is nothing India can do about it. But it suffices to say that there are other countries that have gone through that route – Sri Lanka and Myanmar for example. All of them have realised that playing footsie with the dragon is not without cost. So if Bhutan wishes to go down that road, that is a part of the political development of that country.

Bharat Karnad: It is true Beijing is cultivating the Bhutanese elite. But Dokla plateau is Bhutanese territory that the Indian military is trying to protect against forcible Chinese occupation. This is well appreciated by everyone in Thimpu.


Phunchok Stobdan: It is hard to access the mainstream perception of Bhutan about its ties with India – owing to the lack of proper information from Bhutan and the government’s tight control over its media.

However, social media and personal blogs have helped bring the thoughts of important Bhutanese commentators into the public eye. I would say we misunderstood their silence and took their traditional adherence towards India for granted. My understanding of the Bhutanese mind is that they are extremely sophisticated and subtle in their thinking. I would say that an ordinary Bhutanese person still respects and loves India – owing to their spiritual affinity with the land of Buddha and Padmasambava. In a critical situation, they would prefer to defend the land of the Buddha over the land of Mao. But is Buddhism taken into consideration when India examines its ties with Bhutan?

The diplomats posted in Bhutan rarely have any political, strategic and spiritual nuances. It is about fixing the relationship, not building it. We don’t have diplomats in the country to deal with a country like Bhutan, which is far more challenging and difficult than dealing with Pakistan or Nepal. Of course, there are a number of ways to restore respect for India among the Bhutanese. But I don’t think our government is thinking that way because we’re dealing with Bhutan in a tactical and operational way.

Recently, Chinese state media asserted that J&K (Ladakh) is not an India-Pakistan bilateral dispute but a trilateral dispute between India, Pakistan and China. I think we lack proper understanding on the trans-Himalayan Indo-Tibetan borderland. Often our ignorance, or lack of understanding on China, is conveniently interpreted as a threat from China. This is a flawed mindset. Many more complications are going to unfold in the coming years and these will have adverse implications on Indian security. The current Indian policy suits Chinese interests. Clearly, we need to rethink our China policy. The more we ignore it, the more mistakes we will commit.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders at the informal meeting of leaders of the BRICS countries. 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders at the informal meeting of leaders of the BRICS countries.  (Photo: PTI )

Has Bhutan done enough in this standoff to “be seen with India”, or is it playing a “tactically silent” role as a signal of its growing closeness to China? Is this the reason that China has upped the rhetoric so much in this instance, since it may be a bit more confident about its growing proximity to Bhutan?


Ajai Shukla: Bhutan will always play a tactical role because every country acts in its national interest. But when Indian troops crossed into Bhutanese territory – to confront Chinese road-building parties and troops in the Doklam plateau in territory that Bhutan claims – Bhutan was very quick to issue a statement. Bhutan said China was in violation of the 1988 and 1998 agreements between the two countries that provided sufficient political cover for India to justify its entry into that area. I think Bhutan has done what it needed to do to support India.


Bharat Karnad: Thimpu’s silence should not be mistaken as some ruse suggestive of sub-surface collusion and so on.

Phunchok Stobdan: We do not seem to know anything about what transpired between Bhutan and China between 2008 and 2013. I am sure they reached an understanding on the boundary issue. China views the absence of clear statements from India as a sign of India losing confidence with Bhutan.

 Chinese media issued a warning and stirred nationalist sentiments by republishing photographs from the 1962 Indo-China war in the course of the ongoing Doklam standoff. 
Chinese media issued a warning and stirred nationalist sentiments by republishing photographs from the 1962 Indo-China war in the course of the ongoing Doklam standoff.  (Photo: Reuters) 

How do you explain China pulling “Kashmir” into the narrative, something it has not been that keen on doing in the past?


Ajai Shukla: China is playing a game of brinkmanship here. It is going further on several counts than it has ever before and there are probably good reasons why the decision makers in Beijing have decided to do so. India is in a confrontation with China over Kashmir from the statement that it issued while deciding not to go for the Belt and Road initiative in Beijing and that is how it’s going to go in the future.


Bharat Karnad: For whatever reason that China has raised the Kashmir issue, the Indian government should seize upon it as an opportunity to make it clear to Beijing –assuming Delhi is able to muster the guts and the gumption – that if China does not support the “one India” concept and it shouldn’t expect India agreeing to “one China” either.


Phunchok Stobdan: Of course, we have been ignoring or avoiding the China factor in our Kashmir discourse and treating it only as an Indo-Pak problem. But in our rhetoric, we’ve been claiming that China has occupied 39,000 sq km territory of Aksai Chin in Ladakh and 5,000 sq km Skysgam Valley of Jammu and Kashmir.

Second, the India-China border dispute in the Western Sector is a contest for J&K land in eastern Ladakh. Third, a new twist has come from Beijing after India allowed the Dalai Lama’s representative to hoist a Tibetan national flag on the bank of Pangong Ladakh in J&K. We should understand that the Chinese claims on Indian Territory –whether in Tawang or Ladakh – are based on the history of the fifth Dalai Lama.

Tibetans have been historically claiming Ladakh since the 1680s and have launched several military attacks on the Kingdom of Ladakh. In fact, the Dalai Lama, through his Mongol troop’s contingent, snatched more than half of Indian land stretching up to Kailash and Taklakot near the India-Nepal-China tri-junction. But for the military support offered by Aurangzeb in 1683, all of Ladakh would have been part of Tibet – and thereby China today. By implication, the PLA troops would have been along the Kangra Valley in Himachal Pradesh.

Similarly, the Sona area of Tawang region (Monyul) was snatched by fifth Dalai Lama after establishing a Dzong (fortress) in Tawang. From Tawang to Ladakh, the key Indian monasteries are now controlled by Tibetan Lamas. This makes it easy for China to assert its claim on Indian territories in the Himalayan belt. Clearly, the Chinese have been successful in creating strategic depth for themselves at India’s expense. It is a classic Chinese game of converting challenges into opportunities.

Clearly, India will flounder strategically in the long term. It is only a matter of time before our flawed policy complicates the entire Himalayan theatre.


India says it is defending the chicken’s neck region that connects the north-east. Is there any other strategic reasoning behind India’s decision not to back down?


Ajai Shukla: I do not buy this argument that India is defending the chicken’s neck region. The chicken’s neck region is not under threat from the Doklam plateau. Chinese forces would have to first overcome Indian forces in that region and then advance through very difficult terrain for 100 km, outpace their guns, their logistic support and be exposed to Indian counter-attacks all along the advance to the Siliguri corridor region. This is not a possibility that any reasonable tactical assessment would support.

In a sense, demonstrating that it would support any treaties that it enters into with regional countries.


Bharat Karnad: From Doklam, PLA weapons would have line-of-sight targeting capability to disrupt traffic through the strategic Siliguri Corridor (or chicken’s neck) – whence its military value to India and Delhi’s determination to prevent the plateau’s occupation by the Chinese.


Would India’s decision to not back down constitute a miscalculation in the future?


Ajai Shukla: Whether it constitutes a miscalculation will be determined by the outcome of this crisis. However, successive governments have already miscalculated in allowing an unacceptable shortfall in India’s defence preparedness – and successive governments have created that capability gap in the military. There will be deficiencies that will become apparent if push comes to shove at the border and this government and the preceding one are fully responsible for that.


Bharat Karnad: No. It’d be a huge mistake if India permitted China leeway on Doklam.


In the event of an escalation in the region, can India take on China? What does India stand to lose or gain?


Ajai Shukla: Both countries, India and China, stand to lose a great deal if it comes to war. I don’t believe that any action on the border – on the lines of a Chinese attack – would be a walkover for China like it was in 1962.

It would be a far, far tougher battle for China. Despite the equipment shortfalls I mentioned earlier, I think Indian forces are in a much better position to take on the Chinese military. The outcome will be along the lines of a stalemate rather than a clear victory for either side.


Bharat Karnad: Yes. But ask what China stands to lose – $60.1B (in 2016-17) of export trade with India for starters.


Posted in Asian geopolitics, Bhutan, Central Asia, China, China military, Decision-making, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Indian ecobomic situation, Military/military advice, society, South Asia, Tibet | 11 Comments

The Arms of Others

Image result for pics of the Indian quick reaction missile tests

(Test firing of the indigenous QRSAM)

In the defence sector, India’s import fixation is taking a toll


As on some of his earlier foreign trips, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised Israel, the host country, rich contracts for military hardware, in this case for joint development of medium range and long range surface-to-air missiles (MRSAMs and LRSAMs), and for off-the-shelf purchase of the Israeli Spyder Quick Reaction SAM (QRSAM) for the army.

Why do these deals stick in the throat? The Modi government approved them earlier this year even though it knew the indigenous QRSAM, for instance, was on track and would be tested soon. Both its first test firing on June 4 and the second, pointedly, on July 3, the day Modi left for Israel, went off without a hitch. A third successful test-firing and this locally made missile would be ready for series production and induction. Acting Defence Minister Arun Jaitley praised DRDO for the successful tests, but didn’t take the next, logical, step — scrapping the contract for the Spyder that would have saved the country in excess of $2-3 billion, and given a fillip to the local armaments design and development efforts at the heart of Modi’s flagship Make in India programme.

There was no need to go to Israel for 500 units each of MRSAMs and LRSAMs either. The Akash short range missile is already operational with the Indian Air Force. True, this missile’s performance is deficient owing to a sub-par Russian radar seeker, but there’s little else wrong with it. So, a sensible solution would have been for the indigenous Akash project to be tasked with developing scaled-up medium and long range versions of the missile within the timeline given to the Israelis. A more narrowly defined deal with Tel Aviv to co-develop a radar-seeker for the Akash missiles could then have been signed at a fraction of the $5-7 billion cost of MRSAM-LRSAM.

The Israeli contracts to win goodwill are like the PM’s announcement in April 2015 in Paris to buy 36 Rafale combat aircraft. These are too few in number to have any sustained impact in war and too costly not to divert scarce funds from the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), which is technologically the same as the 4.5 generation Rafale. But because it is an Indian design, it can spawn a whole bunch of air force and naval variants in the future.

India’s purchase of the Rafale prevented the French company, Dassault Avions, from closing down its combat aircraft development complex, because until then no country had bought this inordinately expensive fighter plane. The Indian contract will fetch France Rs 1,750 crore per Rafale, for a minimum payout by India of Rs 63,000 crore.

Incidentally, this is about the cost of raising 17 Corps, the army’s first large offensive mountain warfare formation which Jaitley, wearing his finance minister’s hat, had earlier rejected as unaffordable. Now the Chinese are acting up in the Doklam area and India, as ever, is bereft of forces to take the fight to the PLA on the Tibetan Plateau.

And while in Washington, Modi promised US President Donald J. Trump consideration of the 1970s vintage F-16 fighter plane for assembly in India. Lockheed Martin will make billions of dollars from shifting the worn out F-16 production line to India. The F-16 has no realistic chance if the IAF has any say in the decision, but the Saab Gripen is likely to get in as the single engine aircraft choice of the IAF, again at the expense of the Tejas LCA.

Modi is not the first prime minister to be profligate with the country’s resources. In 1995-96, the Congress PM, P.V. Narasimha Rao, rescued the Sukhoi Bureau and manufacturing plant in Irkutsk from shuttering with a generous subvention of Rs 6,000 crore. In return, he did not contractually demand Intellectual Property Rights for the Su-30 technologies developed there, or that Sukhoi share the design work load with Indian aircraft designers in the Aeronautical Development Agency in Bangalore, who created the LCA, or that technology be fully transferred, including source codes, to Indian agencies, or anything else remotely to advance India’s defence industrial capability.

Between an imports-fixated Indian military and an Indian government that seems incapable of thinking straight, the country is fated to remain an arms dependency.


Published in the Indian Express, July 17, 2017, http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/the-arms-of-others-narendra-modi-israel-4753653/


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Making examples of the Adarsh military scamsters?

Image result for pictures of General NC Vij

It has been about a week since the report of the investigation ordered by former defence minister Manohar Parrikar and conducted by a panel including a serving Lieutenant General, Ravi Thodge, into the Adarsh housing scam, became public. As expected it damned in particular General NC Vij who as army chief and previously as GOC-in-C, Southern Command, had provided,  as this report says, the “protective umbrella” for efforts facilitating the “alienation of the land in question“, a very desirable piece of real estate in Colaba, Mumbai, in the face of Navy’s “serious security concerns”. The 31-storey apartment building overlooks naval installations. (Originally, the Adarsh cooperative housing society was set up to house the widows of the heroes of the Kargil border war.) But the Government has not reacted so far.

My concern is not with the bunch of politicians –four former Maharashtra Chief Ministers — Ashok Chavan, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Shivajirao Patil and two former Maharashtra Urban Development Ministers, Rajesh Tope and Sunil Tatkare, and 12 bureaucrats, who too acquired some of the 124-odd flats that were up for grabs — politicians and babus are a soiled and useless lot any way, very few among them with even a shred of integrity, but the military officers involved in this fairly brazen attempt at illegal self-enrichment.

Among this latter sad group are other than Vij, two other retired service chiefs — General Deepak Kapoor, and Admiral Madhavendra Singh, and three retired Lt. Generals G S Sihota (ex-GOC-in-C, Southern Command), Tejinder Singh (ex-IDS) and Shantanu Choudhary (ex-VCOAS), and four Major Generals — A R Kumar, V S Yadav, T K Kaul and R K Hooda. Also fingered are two Brigadiers — T K Sinha and M M Wanchu, and Col R K Bakshi.  These dramatis personae had been mentioned in the 2011 internal Army inquiry submitted to the defence ministry as well.

So far there’s not a squeak out of the Modi government about how it means to deal with these military miscreants. There’s a view that because most of these officers are now retired nothing much can be done punitively against them. On the face of it that’s not quite correct. The Government of India has every latitude to make glaring examples  of these officers who were sworn to uphold the highest standards of propriety but didn’t.

Trivially, it is surprising, for example, that Vij has stayed on as head of the Vivekananda International Foundation, the thinktank NSA Ajit Doval presided over. He should be fired forthwith by the trustees of this institution, in case he refuses to resign.

So, what should exemplary punishment be?  Because they cannot be divested of the last last rank they held, this entire group of scambags should have their retirement benefits reduced by two ranks retroactively from the time they individually entered unlawfully upon the Adarsh deal. In other words, the pensions and all pecuniary and other benefits, etc, of Messrs Kapoor and Singh should be pegged downward to what’s normally owed a retiring Major General/Rear Admiral. For Vij, however, that should mean from the time he was a three star general and offering the protective “umbrella” to the deal drivers, which will require the pegging of his pension and benefits to that of 1-star Brigadier rank. Similar demotion should see Adarsh scam stained  Lieutenant Generals also getting pensions, etc., slotted at Brigadier rank, Major Generals at Colonel-rank, Brigadiers at Major rank, and the lone Colonel involved at army Captain rank.

Moreover, GOI should issue instructions that hereafter these scamsters are to be denied use of any military-run facility, including clubs, etc., as a means of formally stamping them as service outcasts.

This treatment should become the new normal to deal with military officers caught in the web of corruption of their own making when in service.

It is reasonable action for the Modi government to take considering it has made the elimination of corruption a central plank in its governance agenda. The armed services should, in theory, welcome such initiative to pillory senior officers for bringing their respective services into disrepute.   The question is can Prime Minister Modi muster the iron will to ram this measure down the military system and set a precedent for severely punishing military men who fail to maintain a high level of probity during their careers?

Corruption is spreading in the military, and if this trend is not arrested, and the wrongdoers not legally brought to book and saddled with the additional stigma of demoted pension and other benefits, and the bestowal of service outcast status, there’s no knowing how bad the situation can become.


Posted in corruption, Decision-making, domestic politics, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Politics, Internal Security, society, South Asia | 27 Comments

Another TV discussion

‘We, the People’ on NDTV had a discussion on Modi’s foreign policy.

Posted in Afghanistan, Africa, arms exports, Asian geopolitics, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Central Asia, China, China military, Decision-making, Defence Industry, domestic politics, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, indian policy -- Israel, Indian Politics, Internal Security, Iran and West Asia, Israel, Japan, MEA/foreign policy, Military Acquisitions, Myanmar, Nepal, Northeast Asia, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Russia, russian assistance, SAARC, society, South Asia, South East Asia, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, UN, United States, US., Vietnam, Weapons | 9 Comments

TV curtain raiser and Modi trip assessments

Several Rajya Sabha TV panel discussions — ‘Security Scan’ & ‘The Big Picture’ aired over the last three weeks, regarding PM Modi’s trips to the US, Israel, and the Astana summit of SCO.


Posted in Afghanistan, arms exports, Asian geopolitics, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Central Asia, China, China military, Decision-making, Defence Industry, domestic politics, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, indian policy -- Israel, indian policy -- Israel, Iran and West Asia, Internal Security, Iran and West Asia, Israel, MEA/foreign policy, Military Acquisitions, Myanmar, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Relations with Russia, Russia, society, South Asia, South East Asia, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, US., Weapons, West Asia | 1 Comment