Saturday, May 26, 2018

Modi's Neighbourhood Policy: Chronicling Four Wasted Years: Mani Shankar Aiyar

A general with no foot soldiers, Modi has been unable to see foreign policy beyond the photo-op

Instead of soundly running foreign policy through sober, institutionalised mechanisms, it is the misuse of foreign affairs to build a personality cult that has been at the root of the Modi Diplomatic Disaster in South Asia

On May 26, 2014, while the media applauded and Indian, South Asian and world opinion welcomed Narendra Modi’s innovative move to invite heads of state/government from all South Asian governments to the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan to witness his coronation – sorry, his taking the oath as the next prime minister of India – I was perhaps alone in being frankly appalled.

For it seemed such an imitation of the Delhi Durbar summoned in 1911 by the Laat Sahib, Viceroy Lord Hardinge of Penhurst, to pay obeisance to George V, King-Emperor of India. It was perhaps at that moment that I first realised that Modi was not so much a PM but an EM – a master events manager who could hoodwink the brightest and the best to think this invitation represented policy when all it amounted to was chutzpah and glitz.

Yet, instead of feeling insulted, it seems this bevy of South Asian leaders were so thrilled to be invited that they were ready to sit out the function in the blistering May heat because they thought Modi represented a new beginning in India’s relationship with her immediate neighbours.

Pakistan

The first to be conned was Nawaz Sharif, the then prime minister of Pakistan.

Modi began his odyssey of serial hugging by first grabbing Nawaz Sharif to his ’56-inch chest’ while simultaneously assuring him that the stalled India-Pakistan dialogue would receive a mighty impetus in the new golden age of South Asian cooperation that was dawning.

For his part, Nawaz Sharif so enthusiastically welcomed the initiative that he forgot to put the standard clichés about Kashmir into the text of the joint statement. And although he drew some flak at home for this lapse, the overall sentiment in Pakistan was that Modi was the best thing that had happened to them since at least Morarji Desai.

I was intrigued at this enthusiastic welcome for a hardcore Sanghi, and so availed of a visit to Pakistan a fortnight later to check on what made them so euphoric about the change of regime in India. I traced it to what one might call the Nixon syndrome. Intelligent, well-informed Pakistanis, including former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri, patiently explained to me that even as it took a hardcore right-wing Nixon, who had made anti-China ranting his political stock-in-trade, and was, therefore, able to “sell” to his core political base his sudden and startling outreach to Mao Tse Tung, so would a tough RSS-type like Modi do far better than his predecessors in making a deal with Pakistan that would stick.

I tried to say that any forward movement with Pakistan would undercut and undermine the anti-Muslim fuel on which the Sangh parivar’s engine runs, but my Pakistani friends brushed the point aside. Modi, the Deliverer, had, they believed, arrived! 

It was announced that the India-Pakistan composite dialogue (by whatever name called) would be resumed with an initial meeting between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan in the third week of August 2014. My Pakistani friends appeared to be winning the argument. It seemed that out of prejudice against Modi and the BJP, I had misread the situation.

Then, on August 8, an innocuous item appeared in the papers, tucked away deep in an inside page, that, in the preparation for the resumed dialogue, the Pakistan High Commissioner, Abdul Basit, would be meeting at Pakistan House, New Delhi, with a delegation of Hurriyat leaders. This, by then, had become so routine that not even Arnab Goswami had his nightly dose of apoplexy. A decade earlier, the first BJP premier, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had given the green signal for meetings between the Hurriyat and Pakistani notables in New Delhi after it had been explained to him, and he had agreed, that the credibility of Pakistan maintaining dialogue with Delhi rested on giving the Pakistan public at least the appearance that its representatives were keeping the Hurriyat in the loop.

High Commissioner Basit had scheduled the get-together on August 18, that is, the eve of the Indian foreign secretary’s departure for Islamabad. Suddenly, foreign secretary Sujata Singh received instructions from up high to summon the Pakistan HC and tell him in no uncertain terms that if he went ahead with meeting the Hurriyat she would not be taking off for Islamabad. And with that, the unconsummated honeymoon ended. As whimsically as the process had begun in May 2014, equally whimsically it was terminated less than a 100 days later.

And the whimsicality continued at the Kathmandu SAARC summit in November 2014. In an act of calculated discourtesy, Modi ostentatiously held a magazine in front of his face as Nawaz Sharif passed by him to go to the podium to address the meeting. Then, as Barkha Datt discovered, he had a secret tryst with Sharif in a hotel room arranged by Sharif’s business partner, Sajjan Jindal.

The personalisation of foreign policy had begun, ending the well-established institutionalised practice of trained diplomatic experts carefully preparing the ground before the last leg of the trek to the summit begins. This personalisation has proved the bane of four years of foreign and neighbourhood policy under Modi. The external affairs minister, the hapless Sushma Swaraj, has been marginalised as never before, while the nuts and bolts of everyday diplomacy have been outsourced to a retired spook, with the Foreign Secretary reduced to acting as the policeman’s handmaiden.

There followed the Ufa summit in the Russian Federation the following year. With no preparatory arrangements made whatsoever, Modi had his next meeting with Sharif. Triumphantly, Modi and his coterie flaunted a joint communiqué that announced a visit to New Delhi by Pakistan’s National Security Adviser and de facto foreign minister, Sartaj Aziz, the very next month – August 2015 – to kickstart a resumption of the India-Pakistan dialogue.

Disruption followed almost immediately because Team Modi started publicly claiming that this was an unprecedented Modi victory because only terrorism would be on the agenda, not Kashmir. Inevitably, a huge row broke out in Pakistan, leading, as day to the night, to Sartaj calling off the visit. Flop Number Two.

Modi then sat briefly on a sofa with Sharif at the Paris Climate Change conference. There followed a flurry of activity. The two NSAs met in Bangkok and hastily put together a road-map. Sushma Swaraj was briefly resurrected to fetch up in Islamabad for the Heart of Asia conference and mutter a few sweet nothings.

Suddenly, a few days later, as Modi flew out of Kabul on Christmas Day, it was announced that his flight was not heading to Delhi but landing at Lahore – another personal triumph for ’56 inches’ of diplomacy. The sheer drama of it had our ever-triviality obsessed media falling over themselves. What a Great Man this Modi, spontaneously dropping in on his great chum Sharif to wish him on the birthday he shares with Jesus Christ and giving his blessings to Sharif’s grand-daughter on the eve of holy matrimony. Again, no prior preparation, just personalised stuntsmanship masquerading as statesmanship.

In consequence, within a week, a helpful police official gave a lift to a bunch of Pakistani terrorists searching for the way to the hopelessly insecure air force station at Pathankot. A horrified India awoke on New Year’s Day to the news of yet another Pakistani terrorist attack – this time on a highly sensitive military complex.

Soldiers on the top of a building at the Indian air force base in Pathankot , a day after the end of military operations against militants in Pathankot. Credit: PTI

Either the Sharif government was complicit – in which case advance intelligence inputs should have been obtained, and discreet diplomatic soundings made, before precipitately bursting in on the Sharif household. Or the Pak government was not complicit, in which case breaking the dialogue before it had begun was a self-goal that left India-Pakistan relations hostage to any nut-case Pakistani seeking 72 houries in the next world by slipping across the border and rubbing out a couple of kafirs. Of course, the third possibility was that the Nawaz Sharif government was just not in control, in which case why drop in on a clueless Prime Minister? 

Instead of soundly running foreign policy through sober, institutionalised mechanisms, it is the misuse of foreign affairs to build a personality cult that has been at the root of the Modi Diplomatic Disaster in South Asia. Nothing has been achieved because the ground has never been carefully prepared. A sudden summit is fine to start a process. But what should follow is a carefully crafted process of discreet preparation that quietly settles most issues, leaving, by mutual agreement, one or two points open for the two heads of state/government to resolve when they meet – of course, to wild applause from their countrymen and women.

But as Modi wants all the credit for himself, he remains a general with no foot soldiers, and so comes a cropper each and every time he makes a dramatic gesture in the name of diplomatic innovation. He is unable to see foreign policy beyond the photo-op.

The next major development in India’s tortured relations with Pakistan came in the wake of Uri with Modi’s “surgical strike”. It was reported that terrorist “launch pads” in Pakistan had been taken out. (Launch pads? Surely launch pads are for ballistic missiles? Since when have abandoned Bakarwal huts been elevated to “launch pads”?) And with what results?

Modi recently claimed that the strikes so scared the Pakistanis they wouldn’t even come on the phone line to talk to us! But if the surgical strikes did scare the daylights out of the Pakistanis, then would the PM kindly explain why ever since more Indian civilians have been killed in cross-border firing and more jawans martyred in the last two years than in the entire decade of Dr Manmohan Singh’s government? Why has there been more cross-border infiltration? Why more terrorist incursions? Simply because the surgical strikes, however dramatic at that moment, seem to have deterred nothing since. They have only aggravated Pakistan’s disproportionate retaliation.

We are no nearer the resolution of any issue with Pakistan than we were on 26 May 2014. It is only once the government changes, hopefully after the next Lok Sabha elections, that responsible diplomacy might have a chance.

Nepal

The next target for Modi’s ministrations was Nepal. He landed in Kathmandu a few weeks after the swearing-in ceremony in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan.

What a reception he was accorded! All along the road, everywhere he went, the cutest children in the world – who are undoubtedly the children of Nepal – were lined up waving Indian and Nepali flags: “It was roses, roses all the way/With myrtle mixed in his path like mad” (Robert Browning). Modi and his team, continuing his election campaign even after becoming PM, repeatedly underlined that Modi had arrived in Nepal within weeks of becoming PM whereas his predecessor had not visited Nepal even once during his decade-long tenure.

What was not mentioned was that through the period of Dr Singh’s term, Nepal had not been able to stitch together a constitution and, given what appeared to be a virtual three-way ethnic divide between the dominant Khas-Arya, the Adibasi-janajati and the Madhesi-Tharu, overlaid (at least in the Indian perception) by issues between the Paharis and the plainspeople of the Terai, it would have been highly imprudent for an Indian PM to be seen or portrayed as taking sides in the ever-shifting sands of the country’s fractious politics that had seen nine PMs come and go in as many years.

Modi, on the other hand, had every intention of meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs, as was shortly to be revealed – and that too with the naked aim of influencing the then upcoming state assembly elections in Bihar, a state that that celebrates its roti-beti relations with the plains region of Nepal, the Terai. For it was known to all and sundry that Modi would be undertaking a second visit to Kathmandu just a few months later – in November 2014 – for the SAARC summit. So, having beguiled the Nepalese with his goodwill blitzkrieg on his first visit, he then asked to make his second visit in November by road, going first to Janakpur, the birthplace of Sita, and also taking in the Muktinath temple in the vicinity of Mustang before finally reaching the Nepalese capital for the SAARC summit.

At first, the Nepalese government played along, but as further demands began pouring in, first to hold a public rally in Janakpur, followed by the distribution of ten thousand bicycles to Nepali girl students, many of whose parents would shortly be seeking bridegrooms in Bihar, the Nepalese awoke to the horror of being used as cats-paws in an Indian state election. They turned down Jankapur, they turned down Mustang, and they turned down the proposed road journey that would have been trailed by truck-loads of BJP followers pouring into the Terai, and asked Modi to land directly in Kathmandu like all other South Asian leaders coming for the Summit. 

In November the following year (2015), he got the opportunity he was seeking to avenge himself. After nine years of internecine wrangling among parties and factions, that saw prime ministers and governments come and go through the revolving door of Nepal politics, the Nepalese Constituent Assembly suddenly closed ranks and, by an overwhelming majority, adopted a constitution. A vast majority of the Madhesi representatives voted for the motion, especially as they were assured that the incoming Parliament would continue to function as a constituent assembly for any amendments any member might wish to bring for the consideration of the House.

Nevertheless, Modi, furious that he had been thwarted, sought to prevent the constitution, as adopted, from being proclaimed. He even had the temerity to send his favourite foreign secretary, relabelled as the PM’s “special envoy”, to bully the Nepalese legislature and government into postponing the proclamation of the Constitution till Modi’s desires had been fulfilled. It was a most egregious example of gross interference in the internal affairs of another independent state.

Little wonder, the Nepalese were astounded, then shocked, then appalled at his blatant violation of their sovereignty. How would we have reacted to, say, Mountbatten fetching up in Delhi on January 24, 1950, to order us to not go ahead with proclaiming our constitution two days later? Given the special envoy’s manner, bearing and message, one Nepal newspaper compared him to Lord Curzon!

Modi’s outrageous demand was rejected – and the Nepalese went ahead and ceremonially proclaimed their hard-fought Constitution, as scheduled.

Team Modi retaliated almost instantly. They both encouraged and were complicit in a vicious months-long blockade of land-locked Nepal that disrupted supplies of even essential food items and medicines, as also of petroleum products, adding immeasurably to the misery of the ordinary people of Nepal who were still recovering from the trauma of the earthquake that had devastated their country a few weeks earlier.

Modi seemed not to realise that in his Nepalese counterpart, K.P. Sharma Oli, hardened by 14 continuous years in prison from 1973 to 1987, he had more than met his match. Oli responded by ratcheting up Nepal’s relationship with China, signing ten agreements with Beijing, including a trade and transit agreement that ended India’s monopoly control over Nepal’s external communications, and opening the way to a railway that would connect China with Nepal through Tibet. Oli then went on to conciliate his Nepalese communist rivals and consolidate his long-standing relations with the people of the plains.

While other parties squabbled and bickered over petty issues, Oli single-mindedly worked towards victory in the three tiers of election promised by the constitution in sequence at the local, provincial and federal level – this despite being ousted from the premiership in a political coup in which several Nepalese commentators suspected an Indian hand.

At each of the three levels, Oli triumphed, with the plains people in all but Province no.2 widely supporting him. Thus he emerged as the undisputed leader of Nepal, uniting the communists into a single political entity and hence assured of retaining his office for at least another five years.

Modi has had to bow to the inevitable. He has visited Nepal to “reset” India-Nepal relations, relations that needed resetting only because he had so thoroughly wrecked them in the first place. The mood in Nepal was succinctly summed up in a placard that said, “Welcome, Modi, but we haven’t forgotten the blockade”.

Bangladesh

With Bangladesh, the summum bonum of the relationship is Modi doing no more than signing an agreement earlier negotiated by previous governments, on the demarcation of the land boundary, including the hotly contested Teen Bigha enclaves. The far more important Teesta river issues continue to fester.

But the worst negative development is the amendment to the Citizenship Act the Modi government is attempting to push through to fulfil Modi’s wholly communal promise to allow non-Muslim Bangladesh-origin immigrants to secure entitlement to Indian citizenship while placing severe discriminatory restrictions on Bangladeshi Muslims, especially as this is bound to rebound on wholly legitimate Assam-born and Assam-resident Muslims, whose share in the state’s population is the second-largest (after J&K) of any state of the Union.

The move has not only severely divided the Barak valley of Assam from the Brahmaputra valley, political temperatures in the Brahmaputra valley have soared to the point that a repetition of the horrors that preceded Rajiv Gandhi’s Assam accord of 1985 appears to be on the cards. Even the BJP CM of Assam is openly distressed. Bangladesh, of course, is seething. Unless this wholly unwise move is stoppered, India-Bangladesh relations are sure to plummet.

Moreover, the wholly Hasina-centric and Khaleda-phobic bias in our Bangladesh policy has not been even marginally reset, entailing the danger of an unraveling of India-Bangladesh relations if regime change were to occur – an ever-present possibility in a democracy (and even worse were there to be a coup).

Bhutan

Doklam has signalled the inflexion point in our relations with Bhutan, the first South Asian country Modi visited with much hype and fanfare. While Modi’s musclemen skewed up the tension, our professional diplomats were mercifully left to their devices to defuse the situation. Wuhan represented Modi’s acceptance of the inevitable. The Chinese are now at Doklam to stay. But in the meanwhile, we have given Bhutan such a fright that India-Bhutan relations have, perhaps forever, lost the even tenor that has characterised our relations with this key neighbour since Independence.

Bhutan, especially after Modi’s bumblings, is itching to free itself of its abject dependence on India, especially in matters of international relations. As a bright young new generation Bhutanese commentator, Tenzing Lamsang, has remarked, Bhutan’s existential dilemma is that it has to “avoid both the fire from the Dragon and the Elephant tusks in our soft underbelly”!

More disturbingly, our economic relations with Bhutan are also fraught with raging, if muted, argument over hydroelectric projects, their management and their pricing.

In 2008, Dr Manmohan Singh, on what the Bhutan press hailed as a “historic visit” to Bhutan, won all hearts by dramatically doubling the promise to Bhutan of “5000 MW by 2020” to “10,000 MW by 2020”. The impact of this doubling may be measured by recalling that the current Chukka (1800 MW) and Tala (1400 MW) projects are generating 60 percent of Bhutan’s government revenues and about a quarter of the country’s GDP. Ten thousand MW more of hydropower would take Bhutan into the South-east Asia league!

While work was initiated on ten identified hydro-power projects to give teeth to Dr Singh’s promise, under Modi so many unilateral reservations and conditions have been sought to be imposed on Bhutan that, effectively, the “10,000 MW by 2020” pledge has been whittled down to “6467 MW by 2022”. It hasn’t helped either that Piyush Goyal and his successors in India’s power ministry have been proclaiming India’s imminent self-sufficiency in power. What then, ask the bewildered Bhutanese, will we do with our only real development resource, the electricity we generate from our rivers?

Such shameful backtracking has been brought about by Modi’s India switching the funding pattern from 60% grant and 40% loan on easy terms to 30% grant and 70% loans at augmented rates of interest; insisting on four of the projects (Chamkarchhu, Khorongchhu, Wangchhu and Bonakaha, planned to generate 2120 MW) from being Bhutan-owned enterprises (as in the previous case of Chukka and Tala) and becoming instead joint ventures with Indian PSUs holding 51% of the stake and securing “more managerial control”. There is thus a deadlock on terms of financing.

Also, where the 2006 protocol to the inter-governmental agreement on the massive Sunkosh (2560 MW) and Kuri Gongri (2640 MW) projects solemnly and unambiguously categorised these as “inter-governmental projects”, Modi’s cohort has been demanding that the these two key projects (that are not run-of-the-river but reservoir projects and, therefore, a guarantee of year-round electricity supply) be put in the category of India-dominated joint ventures.

To add insult to injury, disquiet in Bhutan reached fever pitch when the Modi government, without consulting Bhutan, issued on December 5, 2016, its Guidelines for Cross-Border Trade in Electricity (CBTE). The guidelines

– curtail the types of investment permitted in hydropower projects in Bhutan if the output were to be sold in India (the main export market for a country whose major hope for development is hydropower; it also effectively debars Bhutan’s sovereign Druk Holding and Investments from investing without a majority-holding Indian partner in their own hydro-power sector, while closing the Indian market to Bhutan’s own Punatsangchhu I&II power);
– insist that Bhutan keeps its tariff at the lower end (India buys Chukka and Tala power at about a sixth of the price it charges Indian consumers!); and
– restrict Bhutan’s entry into the Indian energy trading market to secure higher prices for its electricity (to forestall any further development of Bhutan’s initial success in competing in the Indian energy market for118 MW Nikachhu electricity)

Little wonder then that the gentle and ever-courteous prime minister of Bhutan found himself obliged to mildly protest that Modi’s Guidelines “essentially restrict” Bhutan’s options for the development of its hydropower potential “and give the Indian government a strong say over Bhutan’s hydropower future”.

Does this not sound like Dadabhai Naoroji denouncing colonial economic policy in the House of Commons circa 1890?

Of course, an alternative (if smaller) market for Bhutan’s electricity is Bangladesh, a nation whose development needs make it so desperate for power that, under the overall aegis of the SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation, Bangladesh offered to fund the 1125 MW Dorjilung power project and buy the entire output to be transmitted to Bangladesh through India. Modi put his foot down on such trilateral cooperation. So much for friendship with neighbours!

Under Modi, we leaned on Bhutan to sign the South Asia Motor Vehicles Agreement even after the Bhutanese Parliament had rejected it. The retaliation came when Bhutan refused to sign up on the Bhutan-Bangladesh-India-Nepal connectivity accord that the Modi government was determinedly promoting.

Unless we shed all machismos and start treating Bhutan as a fully sovereign, independent country, we run the risk of Bhutan going the Nepal way.

Sri Lanka

Despite having tried to acquire a high profile in Sri Lankan affairs with a view to contributing to a resolution of the island’s deep ethnic divide between Tamils and Sinhalas that spills over to Tamil Nadu, India remains a sidelined player. This, of course, is largely owing to the Modi government’s total inability to win the confidence of any section of the Sri Lankan polity. Indeed, as a perceptive observer of the Sri Lankan scene, has remarked, “every stakeholder in Sri Lanka looks at India with suspicion, both behind and beyond our shoulders”.

It is a measure of the hollowness of the claims initially made that, as the new face of India, Modi was going to prove the prime mover and shaker of Sri Lankan affairs, that India has been rendered redundant in the heroic long-term effort made by the Maithripala-Ranil government, under the umbrella of its National Policy for Reconciliation, and principally through the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation headed by former president Chandrika B. Kumaratunga, “to change the hearts, minds and attitudes of people of all communities, beginning with school children, University students and adults”, as also innovative initiatives like “Women for Reconciliation” to help war widows in the Tamil areas of the North and East, and Sinhala military widows in the south of the island.

Additional assistance to the Sri Lankan Tamil population has, of course, been announced by Narendra Modi on his visit to the North and East, but that does not amount to even icing on the cake. Merely popping up in exotic locations not visited by earlier Indian PMs does not amount to foreign policy.

The Chinese, meanwhile, have moved into Hambantota and not all the “Quads” in the world are going to displace them. The Indian Ocean is no longer our domestic lake. Perhaps it never was.

Maldives

And that assessment is reinforced by the happenings in the Maldives. We have a government there that dislikes India quite as much as it loves the Chinese. Modi stands hapless before this “factuity”. Where once India’s Rajiv Gandhi was begged to come to the armed rescue of a besieged Maldivian government by the president himself (and acted with alacrity to save democracy from a military takeover even though he was in far-away Harare at the time), India under Modi counts for zilch at the very cross-roads of the Indian Ocean. China has arrived and the same Modi’s India that aspires to “Great Power” status in the world cannot make even a blade of grass move in its own backyard.

Ever since President Mohammed ‘Anni’ Nasheed was ousted in 2012, India has been in a dilemma as to whether to deal with the ground reality in the Maldives or continue searching in the sky for a rainbow to appear. The 2018 presidential election approaches and, barring a miracle, the Yameen regime will continue, especially since every possible contender is either barred from standing or locked behind bars. India’s preferred Maldivian, ex-president Nasheed, continues to seek asylum in the United Kingdom, and his Maldives Democratic Party therefore continues to stagnate in the doldrums. 

Also, although the Commonwealth and the US have made threatening noises about democracy being murdered in the Maldives, [resident Yameen has simply walked out of the Commonwealth and cocked his snook at the US.

As N. Sathiya Moorthy, the ardent observer of the Maldives scene has remarked in an article in the South Asia Journal, Maldives has “once again reiterated even in its very own context the limitations of international diplomacy and big power politics to control and conduct events and developments in smaller/tiny nations than had been possible in an earlier era”. If that is the reality that the Western powers are having to swallow, can Modi’s India do better? Hardly – for sovereignty cannot be encroached upon except in extremis.

To protest the overthrow of democracy in the Maldives, Modi dropped his intention of including the Maldives in his South Asian neighbours tour program. It was an empty gesture. The playing out of domestic politics in Maldives in the last four years has so marginalised India that it is difficult to say whether it is we who are isolating the Maldives or the Maldives who are isolating us!

It thus becomes imperative to answer Sathiya Moorthy’s burning question: has India under Modi “overdone its ‘pro-democracy’ position on Maldives to the point of making it look anti-Yameen and pro-Nasheed even more?” Until India objectively assesses its real capacity to influence political developments in the Maldives (at present, near zero), we will continue to lose influence and every step backwards by India will be matched by two steps forward by China.

SAARC

SAARC, and hence South Asian cooperation, have suffered continuously under Modi’s watch. He won a Pyrrhic victory by sabotaging the Islamabad summit but everyone else wants the summit to be held – and that too in Islamabad, not elsewhere – so what the point Modi was trying to make remains obscure.

The forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan witnessed on 26 May 2014 a grand spectacle. The spectacle has proved empty of content. The only hope of South Asian solidarity lies in a change of government a year from now. Till then, one can only pray that things will not go from bad to even worse.

Mani Shankar Aiyar is a member of the Congress party and a former MP and minister in the erstwhile UPA government


Pakistan Warns India of Dangerous Situation Over Water Issues


Pakistan warned on Friday that water issues with India can lead to a dangerous situation and that Islamabad wants a peaceful resolution of such problems as per the spirit of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).

Foreign Office spokesperson Muhammad Faisal, during the weekly media briefing, said the World Bank has assured that the international agreement will not be breached.

He said Islamabad has been effectively raising the issue of India's Kishanganga project to resolve it through a dispute resolution mechanism provided by the pact.

Lately, Pakistan sent a four-member delegation to the World Bank in Washington to raise the issue of the inauguration of the Kishanganga hydropower plant by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which it said was in violation of the agreement.

Pakistan has opposed the project as it "violates a World Bank-mediated treaty" on the sharing of waters from the Indus and its tributaries upon which 80 per cent of its irrigated agriculture depends.

New Delhi claims that the treaty allows it to build "run-of-river" hydel projects that do not change the course of the river and do not deplete the water level downstream.

Disagreeing with the Indian interpretation, Islamabad said that the Kishanganga project not only violates the course of the river but also depletes its water level.


Can Never Forget How India Stood Beside Bangladesh During 1971 Liberation War: Sheikh Hasina

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina during the annual convocation of Visva Bharati University in Birbhum on Friday

Inaugurating the Bangladesh Bhavan at Visva Bharati University campus, together with Prime Minister Modi, Hasina expressed gratitude to India for "standing beside Bangladesh in times of crisis."

SANTINIKETAN: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today hailed India for standing beside her country in times of crisis and said negotiations in an amicable way have led to the resolution of many bilateral issues.

In the past, the two countries had settled border disputes with the signing of Land Boundary Agreement for exchange of enclaves, she said.

"Together we have resolved many bilateral issues in an amicable way for the benefit of both the countries. Although there are issues that still need to be taken care of, I do not wish to mention them at this program," Hasina said.

Inaugurating the Bangladesh Bhavan - a centre dedicated to cultural cooperation - at Visva Bharati University campus, together with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Hasina expressed gratitude to India for "standing beside Bangladesh in times of crisis".

"We shall never forget how India stood beside us during 1971 liberation war," she said.

Bangladesh was working hard to alleviate poverty in the region, which poses a major problem for a developing country, Hasina said.

"We are getting all cooperation from India, as both the countries want to alleviate poverty in this region. By 2041 we want to develop Bangladesh into a 'Sonar Bangla' (Golden Bangladesh)," she asserted.

Talking about Bangladesh Bhavan, set up by her government, Hasina said, "We are delighted with our share in Visva Bharati University. The students, scholars and teachers will be immensely benefited from this Bhavan."

Remembering Rabindra Nath Tagore, Hasina said the bard had built the university to give shape to his ideals.

"Tagore belongs to both India and Bangladesh because he has written the national anthems of both the nations. He wrote most of his poems in Bangladesh and that is why we can claim a greater right over him," she added.


China's Nuclear Weapons: Everything You Always Wanted To Know

DF-21C is a modernised version of the DF-21 family medium-range road mobile ballistic missile. This version is reported to have a similar range of 1,770 km

by Steve Weintz

With its first nuclear test on October 16, 1964, China joined the other victorious allies of World War II in the nuclear club, both cementing and unsettling the postwar order. Hard experience of the American nuclear threat during the Korean War and the divorce from the Soviet Union, propelled China towards the bomb in ways familiar to those observing North Korea's current quest. Mao Zedong himself said in 1956, "…if we don't want to be bullied, we have to have this thing."

But China for all its size has made itself a limited nuclear power. It has demonstrated its ability to build very big bombs but chose to test and make few of them. The size of China's arsenal is a highly guarded state secret, but estimates put it in the several hundreds, not thousands. Beijing can hold armies and cities at risk, but not make the rubble bounce several times over.

During the palmy days of the 1950s, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics shared technical, industrial and military knowledge and material with its new communist sibling. However, by the early 1960s the relationship was on the rocks, inflamed in part by Soviet alarm at Mao's erratic behavior and Chinese irritation over the USSR's support of India. Without Moscow's promised bomb prototype and fissionable material the Chinese had to do it themselves.

The first Chinese nuclear device, code-named "596" for "June 1959" when it began, was like the Soviet Union's and Britain's first bombs, in that it was a close copy of the "Fat Man" implosion bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Its yield - 22 kilotons - also closely matched the others but its fuel was pure Uranium-235 rather than plutonium. The CIA knew of China's upcoming test from its new Corona spy satellites and the State Department sought to reduce the impact of the test by announcing it in advance.

Nonetheless the advent of China as the world's fifth nuclear power caused an uproar. Taiwan wanted U.S. backing for either a preemptive strike or its own nukes. (Neither came.) U.S. analysts had missed China's U-235 production and wondered what else they'd missed. Diplomats began exploring non-proliferation talks with the Soviets. But doubts still floated about China's nuclear status. Sure, they now had the bomb, but could they fight with it?

Mao was determined to prove it. On May 14, 1965, less than six months after the first test a PLAAF H-6 bomber dropped a fully-weaponized version of the 596 at the Lop Nur Test Site in Xinjiang. The third test a year later in 1966 tested the first "boosted" design fortified with Lithium-6 fusion fuel. It yielded an impressive 250 kilotons. But China still got the "Rodney Dangerfield" treatment from foreign defense thinkers.

So on October 27, 1966 a DF-2 intermediate-range ballistic missile flew 550 miles over populated parts of China to Lop Nur where its 12-kiloton warhead detonated 180 feet over the Gobi Desert. It was the second all-up nuclear missile test ever conducted after the U.S. Frigate Bird test of 1962, and it quieted doubts about China's nukes.

Even as the Cultural Revolution began roiling China the nuclear tests continued; a month after the missile test a 300-kiloton boosted-fission explosion showcased their design of a hydrogen bomb. Six months later on June 17, 1967, only two and a half years after its first nuclear test, China tested an air-deliverable thermonuclear weapon.

The three-stage device used a fission primary (an A-bomb) to heat and compress a second stage of lithium-6 deuteride powder. A third stage was a heavy shell of uranium-238, which held the explosion together for just long enough for the hydrogen in the lithium compound to undergo nuclear fusion. The resulting burst of neutrons caused the U-238 shell to fission and explode.

The bomb yielded 3.3 megatons - big by any measure, big enough to destroy Tokyo or Los Angeles or Moscow. China ran the race to the H-bomb faster than any nation before or since that we know of.

In 1967, China’s attempt at using plutonium in a bomb fizzled, but it was successful in another test in December of 1968. This 3.0 megaton shot, and others with yields of 3-3.4 megatons, were also tested in 1969, 1972 and 1973. In addition, all of these tests were for fitting a large warhead on the DF-3 ICBM. They represent all but the largest Chinese tests. After all of this work, China conducted its biggest test, a 4.0 megaton blast, in November 1976. That test proved the capability of the DF-5 ICBM's warhead.

One H-bomb test nearly went horribly wrong. When test pilot Yang Guoxiang lined up his Q-5A fighter-bomber for its drop maneuver and pulled the weapon release, the bomb failed to drop. After three attempts Yang returned to base with a live hydrogen bomb slung beneath his plane. The whole airbase - all 10,000 crew - sheltered in underground tunnels while a lonely Yang carefully climbed out of his cockpit and awaited assistance. All ended well this time and Yang later successfully carried out his mission.

China's last big blast, a one-megaton warhead test in October 1980, ended the era of atmospheric testing. No nuclear-weapons state has tested above ground since. But nuclear testing never ends, really, not when they were conducted not far from populated areas. As with natives to the Pacific atolls and Russian steppes, the Gobi Desert and its peoples will bear the long-term impact of radiation from those nuclear tests for a long time.


PM Modi Govt@4: May The Forces Get A Bigger Budget

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman waves from the cockpit of IAF’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI plane before taking off for a sortie

by Nitin A Gokhale

As the Narendra Modi government completes four years, the record of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) can at best be termed mixed. The MoD, easily the most complicated and cumbersome of the portfolios, has in parts suffered because it has seen four defence ministers in four years.

It would, however, be unfair to blame the Modi government alone for the mess in which the defence sector finds itself in mid-2018. A combination of prolonged neglect and unstructured acquisition by the previous governments meant that the armed forces have been struggling to keep its arsenal up-to-date. Critical shortages were never made up in time, leading up to a huge backlog difficult to be made up in shorter time frame of four years.

Therefore, the formation of Defence Planning Committee (DPC) under the chairmanship of National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval in April 2018 has not come a day too soon. The DPC is much more than a body to just improve defence procurements or revitalise defence diplomacy. Its formation is part of a larger exercise ordered by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to review the existing structures that give inputs on vital national security issues and provide advice to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the highest decision-making body that finally approves crucial steps to protect India's national interests. Four verticals — Policy and strategy, Planning and capability development, Defence diplomacy and Defence manufacturing—have been included in the DPC.

Of the four verticals entrusted to the DPC, the section on defence procurements has attracted the most attention in the public discussion so far because of recent revelations that the majority of India's military arsenal is either outdated or is getting there quickly. As a consequence, the DPC is expected to first concentrate on repairing the dysfunctional procurement process and align future acquisitions with the quantum of funds that are likely to be available in the next few years. It is here that the inclusion of Secretary Expenditure from the Ministry of Finance in the DPC is welcome. One aspect that is often ignored in the management of the MoD expenditure is the fact that early in its tenure, the Modi government decided to fulfil a 45-year old promise of granting One Rank One Pension to retired soldiers, further adding to the ballooning salary and pension bill. From a share of about 45 per cent of the MoD budget in 2014-15, today the pay and pension bill in 2019 has risen to a whopping 56 per cent while the allocation for acquiring new weaponry (capital expenditure) has come down from 21 per cent in 2014-15 to a mere 18 per cent in the current budget. This high manpower cost is obviously unacceptable and the government will have to find ways to curtail this expenditure.

One way of doing it is to right size the forces, since pension is an obligation that the nation has to fulfil for supporting its former soldiers. In the government's internal discussions the limits to the fund available to the defence forces has been flagged time and again. The MoD budget is already 33 per cent of the capital expenditure of the government and 11.58 per cent of the overall expenditure, it has been pointed out. To expect more funds under the current circumstances is therefore impractical, military planners have concluded. The trick would, therefore, be to maximise the utilisation of available funds and reprioritise the areas of acquisition and modernisation.

Even as the DPC hunkers down, there is a lot of restructuring and revamp happening within the MoD. The new draft Defence Production Policy for instance. It may appear overly ambitious in its scope and vision. A closer scrutiny, however, reveals that a deliberate roadmap is being evolved to make India one of the top five defence and aerospace hubs in the world that can create and support jobs for two to three million people by 2025.

Even as policies and guidelines get finalised to revitalise the Indian defence sector, many new initiatives and systems have been introduced to utilise current fund allotment to its full extent. So, in 2017-18 — for the first time since the Kargil conflict in 1999 — the Indian Army's ammunition stock, inventory of spares and maintenance of existing critical equipment is up to date, thanks to a combination of emergency procurement and revamped management system.

Meanwhile, in late 2016, the Army signed 19 major contracts worth Rs 11,000 crore to replenish about 10 different types of ammunition. Deliveries in three of the bigger contracts have been completed and 13 others are on the verge of being fulfilled by end of 2018. Similarly, the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy too bought ammunition and spares worth over Rs 10,000 crores to make up for years of neglect and indecision.

Additionally, over 75 contracts to buy and stock crucial spares for different equipment worth over Rs 15,000 crore (to be spent over the next four years) have been signed by the Army in 2017-18. These two measures alone have ensured that ammunition stock is up-to-date. Deliberate decentralisation of financial powers and emphasis on sourcing more equipment and stores from indigenous sources, thanks to the decision made by former defence minister Manohar Parrikar and continued to be supported by the incumbent minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has resulted in improved efficiency.

From here on, all measures to build on the long-term plan to equip the military for a 30-day war, will continue apace. Although the Army Vice-Chief has flagged the meagre allotment in the coming financial year which may impede or slow down the 30i (30 days of intense war) plan, the MoD is confident that wherever required, money will be made available, as it has been done for buying the 36 Rafale aircraft, the M-777 light howitzers, Apache and Chinook helicopters among several other required weapons systems by the three armed forces. Decisions on purchasing these crucial platforms were pending for periods ranging from five to seven years. Thus, the MoD has spent these four years in removing the cobwebs and untying the Gordian knot so to speak and is now poised to strengthen systems and processes for faster decision-making.

While the utilisation of revenue budget has been exemplary over the past three-four years, the military is still faced with huge shortfall in its funds for capital or new acquisitions, as highlighted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence in its latest report. The government will have to find ways to augment the necessary budget if it wants to ensure that the military remains in top shape and ready for the twin challenges it faces from Pakistan and China.

FLYING HIGH

  • A roadmap is being evolved to make India one of the top five defence and aerospace hubs in the world.

  • In 2016, the Army signed 19 big contracts worth Rs 11,000 crore to replenish 10 different types of ammunition.

  • In 2017-18, for the first time since Kargil conflict, stock of ammunition, inventory of spares, etc is up to date 


Lakhvi’s Son’s Van Ferried Us Till LoC, Says Arrested Jihadi


NIA has managed to trace their route from Muzafarrabad in Pakistan after interrogating Zaibullah, the 20-year-old lone survivor of the terrorist squad caught during an anti-terror operation in Kupwara on March 20. His associates were killed. Their route included halts at two locations in PoK, Sarbal on the Indian side of the LoC and four areas near Indian Army posts in Kupwara. Zaibullah, the 20-year-old lone survivor of the six-member terrorist squad caught in Kupwara on March 20

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has managed to trace their route from Muzafarrabad in Pakistan after interrogating Zaibullah, the 20-year-old lone survivor of the terrorist squad caught during an anti-terror operation in Kupwara on March 20. His associates were killed. 

Their route included halts at two locations in PoK (Dudhniyal and Tezia), Sarbal on the Indian side of the LoC and four areas near Indian Army posts till the forests of Tushan Bala Jugtiyal and Halmatpora in Kupwara.

“After completion of the last leg of training, Huzefa (head of LeT training) selected the six of us. We were given AK-47s, 1kg almonds and dates, five bottles of honey, some 20 chapatis and Rs 1 lakh each in Indian currency by Kasim Bhai, the son of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi,” Zaibullah said. Lakhvi is the operational commander of LeT and mastermind of the 26/11 attack.

They were first taken in Lakhvi’s son’s Toyota Coaster from Muzaffarabad to Sarwal. “It took us two days to reach the LoC. That night, we cut the fencing. Five others had come to help us and they left us at the LoC. Then we started with the journey with the help of a GPS till we reached Indian Army post Ding,” Zaibullah revealed.

He said they used the forests of Kupwara as a hideout for 15 days. Some local Kashmiris helped them to get ration. “On March 12 evening, we reached the house of Altaf and Bila. Our group leader Wakas paid them Rs 13,000 to buy dal, biscuits, utensils and milk powder. We stayed there for six days. On March 18, we moved to the next village, Fateh Khan, where people initially refused to host us. However, one gave us shelter and food,” Zaibullah said.

He said that on March 20, the Army cordoned off the area and started firing.

“All of us woke up, picked up our weapons and ran towards the jungle. We finally reached a house in Dhoke and told the owner there that we were from LeT and had come from Pakistan. It was here that my associates were killed in the encounter. I managed to escape with the help from a cleric but was soon caught by the Army,” he said.


Pakistan Military Summons Former ISI Chief Durrani Over Book Co-Authored With Ex-RAW chief


Pakistani army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Friday that Durrani had been summoned to the General Headquarters (GHQ) on May 28, where he "will be asked to explain his position on views attributed to him in the book Spy Chronicles.”

New Delhi: Two days after the release of his book The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace, former ISI chief Asad Durrani has been summoned at the Pakistani army headquarters. Durrani, who co-authored the book with former RAW chief AS Dulat, has been accused of “violating the military code of conduct”.

Pakistani army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Friday that Durrani had been summoned to the General Headquarters (GHQ) on May 28, where he "will be asked to explain his position on views attributed to him in the book Spy Chronicles.”

“Lt Gen Asad Durrani, Retired being called in GHQ on 28th May 18. Will be asked to explain his position on views attributed to him in book ‘Spy Chronicles’. Attribution taken as violation of Military Code of Conduct applicable on all serving and retired military personnel,” said a statement released on Twitter by Major General Ghafoor, who is the chief of the Inter-Services Public Relations, the publicity wing of Pakistan’s military establishment.

Durrani, whom AS Dulat fondly refers to as ‘General Sahab’ in the book, has remarked several times that the unprecedented joint effort between the former spymasters of the two hostile neighbours, is an attempt to cool down tempers and call for a dialogue between the India and Pakistan.

The book is a compendium of discussions between the former ISI and RAW chiefs on various subjects like Afghanistan, Pervez Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif, Ajit Doval, Kulbhushan Jadhav, Kashmir and Narendra Modi.

Durrani had admitted in the book that Pakistan was fully aware of the US-launched operation to nab Osama Bin Laden, and the fact that his country has mismanaged the Kulbhushan Jadhav episode. He had also, in his discussions with Dulat and senior journalist Aditya Sinha, admitted that Hurriyat was a creation of Pakistan.

In an interview with News18 three days ago, the retired ISI chief had also hinted that Pakistan is actively involved in the current unrest in Kashmir.

“Some in Pakistan may have reasons to watch India lose its grip over the Kashmiris with expectancy. One indeed could not be playing fiddle while Kashmir burns and bleeds,” he said.

On Friday, when the orders to summon Durrani were issued, former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif drew parallels between the statements he had made on Pakistan’s role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks for which he was severely criticised, and those made by Durrani.

Sharif had asked for the National Security Council (NSC) of Pakistan to sit down and discuss the issues raised by him and by Durrani in his book. Sharif had also alleged that the former director of ISI had disclosed some classified information.


What Russia Means To India


Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi Modi and Putin are slated to meet at least four more times this year. Hopefully Indo-Russian relations are back to the energetic mode they have always been in

by Syed Ata Hasnain

If anything, the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Russia on May 20-21 2018, which by no means was an unscheduled visit, did help in conveying the thought that India values Russia as a friend and partner. The Prime Minister’s easy and effusive way of meeting his international counterparts does help in breaking the ice and strengthening bonds. Concerning Russia, no one in India can forget that it was the strength of the Indo-Soviet treaty of 1971 which greatly helped India plan its response to the then insecure situation on its borders; the rest of course was history.

Following high-profile visits to the US, UK, Middle East and China, Modi’s second official visit to Russia was overdue and will be seen in the light of the emerging ‘reset’ in India’s foreign policy which anyway is a dynamic process. It also comes in the middle of some path breaking times in international affairs; with the Iran nuclear deal almost on the rocks and the scheduled Trump-Kim summit in Singapore next month which has been called off recently by President Trump. 

The manner in which the Prime Minister’s visit was conducted by President Vladimir Putin should be a reflection of the value of the relationship. Observers in Russia report that it is for the first time that an Indian leader was invited to the summer residence of President Putin signifying growing ease between the two leaders. Throughout this working visit the President and PM were together with the host conducting his guest personally. Except for the initial 90 minutes, the balance of the six hours, were spent by the two leaders without aides. This is reported to be an unprecedented courtesy by the Russian leader. Both countries probably realise the importance of each other and desire to present the right optics. President Putin also broke protocol to be at the airport to see of the Indian Prime Minister.

All this must be viewed from two angles. First, the optics present in China during the Modi-Xi summit at Wuhan had adequately projected dilution of the tension due to Doklam and indicated India’s willingness at some ‘reset.'

Taking a cue from that, Russian and Indian leaders were reiterating the warmth and confirming that the Indo-Russian relationship yet remains a special one; not a ‘reset’ in this case but more a refocus after perception of deviation and dilution in the partnership. Second, now that India is a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), along with Pakistan, a strong Indo-Russia relationship will always be an advantage. The three-way Russia-India-China initiative which did not appear to be finding any energy can be more active on the back of matching relationships.

What’s more important is that with the visibility of an emerging Indo-US strategic partnership Russia was not complaining but in private parleys Russians were conveying and reminding India about the past strength of Indo-Russian relations. It is agreed that only optics of warmth between leaders isn’t ever enough. We witnessed that when Modi hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at Ahmadabad even as the PLA was conducting serious transgressions at the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. Walking the talk is also necessary. 

The issues discussed by PM Modi and President Putin included the economic impact of the US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal, terrorism, the situation in Afghanistan and Syria, matters related to SCO and the BRICS summit at Johannesburg in July 2018. Considering the fact that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval made two visits to Moscow prior to this meeting reveals that a focused agenda was drawn up. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was also in Moscow a few weeks ago and the Russian S-400 Air Defence (AD) system, the most advanced AD system of the world was under negotiation; the Rs 40,000 crore deal could be signed in 2018 except that there is now a creeping problem. Under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act), the newly enacted US law India’s planned defence procurement from Russia could potentially come under US sanctions. Although no country has yet been sanctioned India’s $11 billion budget for defence procurement this year with promise of much more in the future could also not invite sanctions, as the US has no guarantee that India will not go with its old and trusted partner on the issue of defence equipment.

Among other important areas of discussion included North Korea and the political implications of the US pullout from the Iran Nuclear Deal. For India the Chabahar port issue, energy security and the future of access to Russia’s North-South Corridor (which cuts the trade routes from India to St Petersburg and many East European countries), all linked to the deal were the key issues. How Russia, China and Europe intend to keep the Iran Nuclear Deal in place and what it will entail to have an increasingly grumbly US would have been brought to the Prime Minister’s notice by President Putin.

Lastly, on Pakistan, Afghanistan and international terror Russia usually has a lot to say because what is known in Moscow is not usually put out in the public space. Moscow’s fears on ISIS in Afghanistan and the potential of its spread into Central Asia has always been a matter of great concern. The small negative signals that Russia gave through its bilateral military exercise with Pakistan and the sale of a few helicopters were intended perhaps only as signals of beckoning. India’s concerns about these were largely allayed by the Russian leadership.

PM Modi and President Putin are slated to meet at least four more times this year but there is nothing like an official visit with optics also forming an essential aspect. Hopefully Indo-Russian relations are back to the energetic mode they have always been in.

The author commanded the 15 Corps in Jammu and Kashmir. Views expressed are personal


Facebook, Whatsapp Not Helping In Terror Probes: Intel Agencies


The biggest stumbling block to terror investigations, it was agreed, remained foreign-based, encrypted messaging services like Whatsapp and Facebook

NEW DELHI: A key security strategies meeting on Friday saw the intelligence and law enforcement agencies raising concern over lack of cooperation from foreign internet service providers such as Whatsapp and Facebook in terror investigations.

According to sources, counter-terror strategy was the focus of deliberations on the second and final day of the annual national security strategies conference of all states, Union territories and Central police organisations, organised by the Intelligence Bureau at its headquarters here. Rather than going into specifics of each counter-terror module, the discussion centred around defining strategies to combat terror and make successful investigations and prosecutions in terror cases.

The biggest stumbling block to terror investigations, it was agreed, remained foreign-based, encrypted messaging services like Whatsapp and Facebook that often sat on requests of the Indian intelligence and law enforcement agencies for sharing messages exchanged between suspected terrorists and stored on their servers, in a readable format. “This often tends to delay and even derail anti-terror investigations, as encryption makes the content secure against viewing by a third party,” said an officer who attended the conference. “Since their servers are located abroad, they conform to privacy laws and security policies of their respective countries,” the officer added.

A power-point presentation was also made on Friday on Left-wing extremism in the country, followed by a panel discussion. While it was acknowledged that violence levels in LWE theatres had witnessed a significant decline, the panel of officers followed it up with a sobering discussion that stressed on remaining on full alert until the Maoist leadership was brought to its knees.

An officer from UP spoke about emerging threats on the counter-terror landscape, especially in eastern parts of India. It be recalled that radicalisation drives by Bangladesh-based outfits like Jamaat ul Mujahideen Bangladesh in madrasas of West Bengal and Assam have emerged as a major security concern, with the direct role of JMB-affiliated operatives having emerged in an attempt to bomb Bodh Gaya complex on January 19 this year.

During the deliberations on Thursday, which centred on Kashmir, a panel discussion chaired by home minister Rajnath Singh had discussed the option of opening talks with the Hurriyat. While some officers supported the idea, an official on Friday told TOI that it was really for the Hurriyat to respond positively. “Hurriyat hardliner Syed Geelani insists that talks should be held at the level of the Prime Minister. It may however not be a good idea to give Hurriyat this elevated status. Second, the capability of the Hurriyat to control violence in J&K is itself in doubt. Thirdly, it has to be seen if Geelani agrees not to insist on ‘azaadi’, which is clearly outside the ambit of the Indian Constitution,” said a senior officer of the security establishment.


Infiltration Bid Foiled, 5 Terrorists Killed In Kashmir 


SRINAGAR: At least five terrorists were killed in a gunfight with the Indian Army on the Line of Control (LoC) after an infiltration attempt from across the de facto border with Pakistan was foiled early on Saturday, officials said.

The operation, which is still in progress, was launched in north Kashmir border area of Tanghdar, around 120km from here.

"Five terrorists killed while attempting to infiltrate early morning today," a defence spokesperson said.


Rustom-2 Drones Set To Be Ready By 2020: DRDO Chief


Pune: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on Friday said the Rustom-2 drone would be ready for use in two years.

Speaking on the sidelines of the convocation ceremony of the Defence Institute of Advanced Technology (DIAT) here on Friday, DRDO chairman S Christopher said the drone will be delivered to the Indian armed forces by 2020.

Rustom drones are medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). They are a part of India’s Rs. 1,500 crore UAV project that will cater to the needs of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force.

Rustom-2 is being developed on the lines of USA’s predator drones. It will carry out surveillance and reconnaissance for the armed forces and has a 24-hour endurance cycle.

Christopher said Rustom-2 was successfully tested earlier this year at the Aeronautical Test Range in Karnataka’s Chalakere.

“With the help of production partners Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) our endeavour now is to deliver the drone by 2020. As of now, we are evaluating its endurance capacity, which is 24 hours with all types of payload,” he said.

A DRDO official said the army and navy together require 150 drones. “The United States and other western countries have for long used drones against their enemies. The US forces used UAVs against terrorist organisations in Afghanistan. Considering the security scenario in the north and northeastern regions of India, the army should be equipped with advanced drones,” said a senior DRDO scientist.

“There is a growing demand for ‘Akash’, an all-weather, medium-range, surface-to-air missile from several countries,” Christopher said, while declining to name the countries as “we are negotiating with them”.

The Centre has allocated Rs. 18,000 crore to DRDO for the 2018-19 fiscal year. “The airborne early warning and control system (AWACS), stealth technology for unmanned combat aerial vehicle, indigenous technology for cruise missile, etc, are on top of our priority,” he said.

“We are currently working on various artificial intelligence (AI) projects,” said G Athithan, DRDO’s director general for micro electronic devices and computational systems.

“High-altitude trials of the indigenously developed advanced towed artillery gun system was successful. More trials will be held at the Pokhran firing range,” said Pravin Kumar Mehta, DRDO’s director general for armament and combat engineering systems.


Indian Navy Commissions Fourth Mk-IV LCU


The Indian navy has commissioned its fourth Landing Craft Utility (LCU) Mk-IV, IN LCU L54, in a ceremony at Port Blair on South Andaman Island.

The ceremony took place Friday and was led by Indian Navy Chief of Materiel, Vice Admiral GS Pabby.

A total of 8 vessels in the class are planned to be built for the Indian Navy. The commissioning of the third ship in the class took place in April 2018.

The amphibious ships are designed by India’s Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers and can be deployed for multi-role activities like beaching operations, humanitarian and disaster relief operations and evacuation from distant islands.

They displace 830 tons and are capable of transporting Arjun main battle tanks, T-72 and other armoured vehicles. The ships are fitted with an integrated bridge system (IBS) and an integrated platform management system (IPMS) and feature the indigenous CRN 91 gun with a stabilised optronic pedestal for patrolling tasks. LCU ships are capable of carrying up to 160 troops.


Mike Pompeo Pushes For CAATSA Waiver So That Countries Like India Aren't Affected


CAATSA is a US federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia. It includes sanctions against countries that engage in significant transactions with Russia's defence and intelligence sectors

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged the Congress to provide the necessary waiver so that its sanctions on Russia under CAATSA does not impact countries for which it is not intended for.

Provisions of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) threaten India and several other close friends and allies of the US with sanctions.

CAATSA is a US federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia. It includes sanctions against countries that engage in significant transactions with Russia's defence and intelligence sectors.

India is planning to purchase five S-400 Triumf air defence systems for around USD 4.5 billion from Russia, which US officials say could be considered as a significant military purchase.

"Will you make a commitment that you'll help (Defence) Secretary (Jim) Mattis get the waivers that he needs in order to make sure that these sanctions don't hit folks that were not intended to be harmed by these sanctions?" Pompeo asked Senator Robert Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a Congressional hearing yesterday.

Pompeo was referring to the letter written by Mattis to the Congress in which he has sought waiver for certain countries from CAATSA legislation, which was signed into law by the US President Donald Trump in August 2017.

Under this any significant purchase of military equipment from Russia would attract American sanctions.

Mattis recently wrote a letter to the Congress seeking waiver for certain provisions.

"I know it's not my day to ask questions, but it is my day to ask for things that I think we need," Pompeo said.

Menendez, a strong advocate of CAATSA sanctions, urged Pompeo to go ahead with the sanctions. He remained non-committal to waiver move.

"I have to see the specifics of what Secretary Mattis wants," said the Democratic Senator from New Jersey.

"I also have to say, if we're going to allow countries that are sanctioned, because we believe in the sanctions policy, and they want to get off the hook because there's some other benefit, well then we begin to erode the sanction policies and we pick and choose. And other countries will seek the same questions. I'm open to listen to it. But it has to follow, in essence, what our policy is trying to achieve," Menendez added.


Indo-Russian Economic Dialogue In July


Innovation-driven small sector enterprises play a critical role in bridging the gap between Indian and Russian firms

The first ever Indo-Russian Strategic Economic Dialogue -- created by PM Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin in their informal summit – will be held in St Petersburg this July to give a big push to economic partnership that has started to gain momentum since 2017.

The dialogue, from the Indian side, will be led by NITI Aayog CEO Rajiv Kumar and will seek to put in place a mechanism for partnership between resource rich Russian regions and Indian states. Modi met governors of the Russian regions last year and invited them for collaboration.

Far East regions of Russia are seeking active partnership with Indian states as well as investors eyeing options beyond China. The Strategic Economic Dialogue that aims to focus on macro picture of the economic partnership will also explore partnership and joint ventures in services and IT sectors.

Besides, a civil-Industrial complex conference is being explored to look into non-defence Russian investments in India and vice-versa. The dialogue will be preceded by Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu's visit for St Petersburg International Economic Forum. India has already launched a Strategic Economic Dialogue with China.

In an effort to boost bilateral trade to $30 billion by 2025, Russia has urged Indian start-up companies to play the role of catalysts to bring large Indian companies and Russian investors closer. The two governments have agreed to give high priority to the removal of obstacles to trade in order to improve upon the 21.5 percent growth in two-way trade recorded last year, both Indian and Russian officials said.

Innovation-driven small sector enterprises play a critical role in bridging the gap between Indian and Russian firms. India-Russia B2B relations are poised to grow and deepen as the Indian government was committed to providing the required hand-holding to Russian companies through ‘Invest India' – India’s investment promotion wing, said a sectoral expert speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Russian government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Delhi has moved one step closer to free trade with the customs free Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) after the informal Summit in Sochi. EAEU partnership will complement India’s outreach in SCO. Besides LNG supply beginning from June will expand Indo-Russian energy ties and enable India to move towards a gas-based economy in future.


India Wants Peace, But Pakistan Must Stop Sending Militants Into Jammu & Kashmir: Rawat


Rawat also said Pakistan should stop sending militants into the state if it was interested in peace

PAHALGAM: The suspension of combat operations in Jammu and Kashmir can be extended further if the atmosphere of peace continues in the state, but any action by terrorists would trigger a rethink immediately, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said today.

Rawat also said Pakistan should stop sending militants into the state if it was interested in peace.

"If Pakistan really wants peace, then we will want them to take the first step by stopping infiltration of terrorists into our side. The ceasefire violation mostly takes place to aid infiltration," Gen Rawat told reporters at a function here, 95 km from Srinagar.

The army chief said India wants peace along the borders but Pakistan was continuously violating the ceasefire, which caused loss of life and property.

"When such an action takes place, we also have to respond. We cannot sit idle. If there is ceasefire violation, then there will be action from our side," he said.

Gen Rawat said for peace, it was imperative that cross-border terrorism comes to an end.

"It is imperative to stop terrorism from across (the LoC), the camps which are there where training is given to them, from where the ammunition is infiltrated into J-K and India, that should stop. If that happens, then I can assure you that peace will prevail on the borders," he added.

The Army chief said the suspension of anti-militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir was an attempt to make people realise the benefits of peace.

"The suspension of operations or what we call NICO (Non initiation of combat operations) has been done to make the people believe and see how the atmosphere is when there is peace. The way an atmosphere of peace and calm is here right now, in my opinion, the people here are very happy with that," he said.

The Union home ministry had announced on May 16 that security forces would not launch any operations in J&K during the holy month of Ramzan. However, the security forces reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people.

Gen Rawat said the Army will think about continuing the unilateral ceasefire if the peaceful situation continues in the valley.

"If this atmosphere of peace continues, then I assure you that we will think about continuing with NICO. But if there is some action by the terrorists, then we will have to rethink on this ceasefire or suspension of operations or NICO," he said.

Gen Rawat was here to launch Digital Education in five Army Goodwill Schools which has been established with the help of Power Grid Corporation and Extra Marks Foundation.

"Children in AGPS should get right kind of education. Their education standards should keep improving. Knowledge and education today needs infusion of technology. With this aim, we have taken help from PGC and Extra Marks foundation to start Digital education here," he said.

Gen Rawat said the Corporation has contributed nearly Rs 25 lakh and Extra Marks foundation is providing support.

"This will be started in five army good schools on pilot basis. We would like to extend this technology to other Army Goodwill Schools also. We want the children from here develop and progress in life," he added.