Monday, May 08, 2017

Death sentence for Kulbhushan Jadhav: A Pakistani provocation

Civilised countries do not sentence spies to death except in war time. Despite bad relations, India and Pakistan are not at war. 

The Pakistani decision to sentence Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav to death for espionage should be seen to be the provocation that it is. In the 21st century, civilised countries do not sentence spies to death except in war time. And, notwithstanding their frosty relationship, India and Pakistan are not at war.

The official Pakistani press release, of course, claims that he has been sentenced for “his involvement in espionage and sabotage activities against Pakistan” and that he was tasked by India’s Reserach and Analysis Wing to “coordinate and organise espionage/sabotage actiities aiming to destabilise and wage war against Pakistan….”
As of date it has provided no proof of this. And most certainly it cannot expect either India, or the world community, to take the word of a Pakistani military court on the issue. Till now, India has been denied consular access to Jadhav, and neither has he been produced in a Pakistani court of law.
Commander Jadhav is a hero and an extraordinary man who undertook a very difficult mission. But he is neither a saboteur nor a terrorist. His job, in all liklihood, was naval intelligence relating to Karachi and Gwadar which he successfully managed from Chah Bahar.
The Pakistani authorities have only made a general charge that he was involved in Baloch activities, no specific incident has been blamed on him.
Indeed, as a serving naval officer, he would have been very careful in actually entering Pakistani territory which he is alleged to have done. And that, too, carrying his cover, but genuine, passport made out in the name of Hussein Mubarak Patel.
There is every indication that he was kidnapped from the Iranian side and handed over to the Pakistanis. When news of his arrest was revealed, a well-connected Afghan journalist Malik Achakzai tweeted to that effect on April 2, 2016.
On the same day, in Karachi, a former and very knowledgeable German ambassador to Pakistan Dr Gunter Mulack, said, according to the Dawn “that the Indian spy recently arrested in Balochistan was actually caught by Taliban and sold to Pakistani intelligence.”

In his so-called confessional statement, which for obvious reasons must be taken with a large dose of salt, he says that he began his work in 2003 and was allegedly seconded to R&AW in 2013. Even here he says “My purpose was to hold meetings with Baloch insurgents and carry out activities with their collaboration. These activities have been of criminal nature, leading to killing of or maiming Pakistani citizens.”
It is not clear whether he or the Baloch organisations are being accused of the actual acts of “killing and maiming”.
“There are finances which are fed into the Baloch movement through various contacts or various ways and means into the Baloch liberation (movement) and various activities of the Baloch liberation and RAW handlers go towards activities which are criminal, which are anti-national, which can lead to maiming or killing of people within Pakistan and mostly these activities were centred around of what I have knowledge is of ports of Gwadar, Pasni Jewani and various other installations, which are around the coast damaging various other installations, which are in Balochistan.”
If you parse the statement carefully, you can see that he was more into espionage about the ports, rather than sabotage. The bits about the violence and criminal activities have been pasted on.

Inconclusive and insufficient

You may recall also the contretemps over the statement of Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz on December 8 when he told a meeting of the Pakistan Senate Committee of the Whole House that the government could not finalise the dossier on Jadhav because of inadequate evidence provided till then. “The [provided] material, in our view, was insufficient,” he said.
Later the Pakistan Foreign Office scrambled to deny that Aziz had said that and gave a different spin to the statement. In January, Pakistan submitted a dossier to the UN on Jadhav’s involvement in subversive activities.
There was another interesting sidelight to all this during Iranian President Hasan Rouhani’s visit to Pakistan in March 2016. The local media claimed that Jadhav’s activities had been raised by Pakistan Army Chief Raheel Sharif with Rouhani. The Iranians hotly denied that such a conversation had taken place and even dismissed the press reports as “undignified rumours” and a “product of thinking which does not like further expansion of ties” between Iran and Pakistan.
Pakistan later asked Iran to investigate the issue. In January 2017, a senior Iranian official, Allaudin Boroujerdi, Chair­man of Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security of the Islamic Consultative Assembly of Iran, was reported to have said that the Iranian investigations had been inconclusive.
Espionage is a fact of life, and so is the process of getting caught, howsoever that happened. Commander Jadhav is a hero and a patriot who has risked his life for something he believed in passionately. The government of India must do all it can to ensure his release.
And, meanwhile, a retired Pakistani colonel has reportedly vanished in Kathmandu. Will this bring another turn in the already twisted drama that we have been seeing? April 10, 2017

The Trump-Xi summit at Mar-a-Lago, Florida

The Trump-Xi summit at Mar-a-Lago, Florida, seems to have gone off well. A US spokesman says that the 'President was very pleased with the outcomes of the meeting.'While the Chinese readout by Xinhua was dryer, speaking of the meeting 'setting a constructive tone for the development of China-US relations.'
The most important take away was, in the words of US secretary of state Rex Tillerson that 'the chemistry between the two leaders was positive.'

Candid chemistry
Given Trump's demonisation of China through the election campaign and the early turbulence that hit the relationship on the issue of One China policy, the outcome was not easy to predict.
Clearly, however Trump went out of his way to be hospitable to his Chinese guest. 
With good chemistry to start with, the two key countries on the global stage can bring what the Chinese call 'win win' solutions to their problems, and to those of the world.
A measure of the success of the meeting was the decision to raise the level of the various bilateral dialogues that the two countries undertake on economic, law and order, cyber security and diplomatic and security issues.
They will now be overseen by the two Presidents.
There was plain speaking on both sides, more so on the Americans who profess to have had a litany of complaints.
So, as Tillerson noted, 'President Trump noted the challenges caused by Chinese government intervention in its economy and raised serious concerns about the impact of China's industrial, agricultural, technology and cyber policies on US jobs and exports.'
The US was also candid in telling the Chinese that they must adhere to international norms in the East and South China Seas and to their own earlier statements saying that they would not militarise the region.
The Chinese side emphasised its position on the 'Taiwan issue and the Tibet-related issues'.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Liyuan for dinner
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Liyuan for dinner

In other words, re-emphasised its sensitivity to matters relating to its national territory. In addition, it out forward its position on the South China Sea issue.
There was convergence on North Korea and the need to de-nuclearise the Korean peninsula. But the Chinese made their opposition to the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea clear.
For its part, the US, which is the target of North Korea's nuclear and missile weapons, is keeping its powder dry.
But the Chinese side could not have missed the significance of the American missile strike on a Syrian base at the time their President was dining with his American counterpart.
But it was only after Xi left the US that the Chinese media openly criticised the strike as being the actions of a weakened president who needed to show he was tough.

Mutual gains
For the Trump administration, clearly, the first priority is not North Korea or the South China Sea, but to get some action on the trade and investment front.
They are looking for short-term and long term responses from their Chinese counterparts. As part of this there is the 100-day plan which will have specific benchmarks aimed at enhancing US exports to China and reducing the trade deficit between them.
In some ways, the feel-good summit meets the purposes of both parties.
Xi Jinping has ensured that the unpredictable Trump will not surprise him between now and the all-important 19th Party Congress later this year.
At the same time he has burnished his image within his country as a statesman who can confidently step out and deal with the world's biggest power on the basis of equality.
As for Trump, the gains are more subtle. Having assumed power after a shock result, Trump was simply not ready for the complex global issues that a US President must deal with.
Following the summit, he has time to, first, work out the basic outline of what his own foreign policy will be; as of now, as the case of Syria shows, he is merely improvising.
Equally, his trade officials have time to work out a longer term policy to tackle the problems outlined by Secretary Tillerson above.

Regular dialogue 
That said, this can be seen as a first encounter between the leaders of two very important countries.
No doubt there will be many more, and perhaps some not so even. But it is in every one's interest that the two continue to engage each other and work out their problems through dialogue and negotiation.
China's impact on the world order will only intensify in the coming period. The Chinese are constantly searching for ways to tilt the playing field in its own favour and shift goalposts on whim.
The challenge is to ensure that it plays by the established rules, not cherry pick them, as is its wont. 
Mail Today April 9, 2017

Is the Dalai Lama's 'reincarnation' in Arunachal Pradesh the real worry for the Chinese?

China has reacted with anger at the visit of the Dalai Lama to Tawang, declaring that New Delhi has “severely damaged China’s interests and China-India relations.” Considering that this is the seventh visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh, it is only a mark of the current poor state of the Sino-Indian relations that we are hearing such rhetoric. In any case, given how badly Beijing damages Indian interests through its relationship with Pakistan, the statement is not likely to cut much ice in New Delhi.


Adding salt to China’s injury is the statement of the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, which the Chinese term as “southern Tibet”, observing that his state only shares a border with Tibet, not China.
There is little doubt that the Narendra Modi government has gone out of its way to use the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan issue to needle China, beginning with the invitation to the Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, to Modi’s oath-taking ceremony in 2014. This time around, the added insult to Beijing was that the Dalai Lama was received at Tawang by the Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh. Just what India seeks to gain from this, however, is not clear.
For many Indians and indeed the world, the Chinese reaction to the Dalai Lama is not easy to understand because India has formally and repeatedly accepted that it recognises Tibet as being part of China. Yet, the Chinese have elevated the necessity to maintain control over Tibet to one of their “core interests”, second only to ensuring that Taiwan is not recognised as a separate nation.

Where it all began

The issue of Tibet and the Dalai Lama begins with the very conception of a nation, before the emergence of a nation-state. Empires waxed and waned and functioned in an era where ethnic identities were quite different from today. Before 1912, China was part of the Qing Empire, likewise before 1947, India was part of the British Empire. There are concepts of Sinic or Indic civilisational areas, but to claim that these had clearly marked out borders would be incorrect.
As for Tibet, its relationship with Chinese empires fluctuated over time. Despite Chinese claims to the contrary, the Tang Empire did not control the Tibet-Qinghai region. Tibet was conquered by the Mongols who later conquered China and founded the Yuan empire that lasted between 1270-1354. But their ties with the Tibetans was unique, often termed as a patron-priest relationship and they ruled Tibet in quite a different way from the manner in which they administered China.
The Ming dynasty ruled China between 1368 and 1644 and they more or less left Tibet alone, though they, too, welcomed Tibetan religious leaders in their court. Tibet came under the sway of a number of autonomous Mongol kings with Tibetan religious leaders as the preceptors. One such relationship led to the emergence of the Dalai Lama, the fourth of whose reincarnation was from the family of powerful Mongol chief Altan Khan. However, the apogee of the Dalais came with the fifth Dalai Lama who, in 1642, became the spiritual and temporal ruler of the country.
Two years later, in 1644, the Manchus overthrew the Ming and established the Qing empire. The Manchus, too, accepted the Tibetan religious leaders as their spiritual advisers. And it was not surprising that they invited the Dalai Lama to Beijing. Contemporary records show that their 1654 meeting was more of a summit of two rulers than anything else. As historian Sam van Shaik puts it,
“Though modern Chinese historians have taken this visit as marking the submission of the Dalai Lama’s government to China, such an interpretation is hardly borne out either by the Tibetan or Chinese records of the time.”
The sixth Dalai Lama was born near Tawang in 1683 and was enthroned in 1697. But he died prematurely amidst turmoil arising from factional quarrels between the Mongol temporal authorities of Tibet. Eventually, in 1720 the Kanxi emperor sent an army with the seventh Dalai Lama at its head, to re-establish his authority. This marked the beginning of the first entry of Chinese armies into Tibet. Nearly two centuries later, in 1910, the Manchu armies again invaded Tibet and deposed the 13th Dalai Lama, but their rule was short lived as the Manchus themselves were overthrown in 1912.
After the overthrow of the Manchu empire, the 13th Dalai Lama issued a declaration of independence for Tibet and expelled its representatives. The current, 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, escaped from Tibet via Tawang in 1959 and has been in exile in India since then, along with more than 1,50,000 of his compatriots.

A brief history

Now, it is interesting that two of the China-based empires who controlled Tibet were themselves foreign – the Mongols and the Manchus. Yet, Beijing is staking claims for the imperial boundaries of the Qing empire as being those of the People’s Republic of China. True, it is not very different from India, which took as its boundaries the ones established by the British Empire. But just as Indians cannot claim that the Northeast was always part of Mother India, neither can the Chinese make similar claims on areas like Xinjiang and Tibet.
Imperial boundaries are also often based on self-aggrandisement and exaggeration. This was more so in the case of Qing China which refused to accept that they had any equal in the world. So, either you were directly administered by the emperor, or his vassal or tributary. And there was a lot of fiction here, independent states like Vietnam were classed as vassals and European traders as tributaries.
China claims it “liberated” Tibet in 1949. This was actually a military operation by the People’s Liberation Army against the Tibetans who had been independent since 1912. The poorly armed Tibetans resisted, but were overwhelmed. They signed a 17-point agreement which was drafted by the Chinese and signed under duress by the Tibetans. Under this, the Tibetans accepted “returning to the motherland of the People’s Republic of China”. In return the Chinese said they wold give “national regional autonomy” and would not alter the existing political system in Tibet and the status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama.
Needless to say, the Chinese violated their side of the agreement from the very outset and finally, when conditions became difficult, the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 and repudiated the agreement. The PLA now unleashed a massive campaign of repression which was revisited again during the Cultural Revolution in 1966 when many monasteries were destroyed and Tibetan scriptures burnt.
The Dalai Lama. Credit: Anuwar Hazarika/Reuters
The Dalai Lama. Credit: Anuwar Hazarika/Reuters

What the Chinese want

All this history has been retailed here because the current Chinese quarrel with the Dalai Lama is that while he is willing to accept that Tibet is an autonomous part of China, which as the above history indicates it was for varying periods of time, the Chinese now want him to declare that Tibet has always been a part of China, which is factually incorrect.
Over the years, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, there have been efforts between the Chinese and the Tibetans to negotiate a settlement. In 2002-2004, the Dalai Lama’s brother Gyalo Thondup and his special envoy, Lodi Gyari, also visited Tibet. Some of the more recent ones were encouraged by the United States, which, ironically played an earlier role in throwing the Tibetans to the wolves when they first used them to fight the Chinese and then, when they made up with Beijing, abandoned them. But little came out of all this and in 2008, the Dalai Lama said he had given up hope of negotiations with China on Tibet.
In 2011, on a visit to Lhasa, Xi Jinping, then Vice-President, had stood in front of the Potala Palace, the Dalai Lama’s traditional seat and called on the country “to thoroughly fight against the separatist activist activities by the Dalai clique….” Two years later, Yu Zhensheng, ranking Politburo standing committee member in-charge of Tibet, made an extensive tour of Tibet and reiterated Xi’s views and declared that the Dalai’s call for autonomy was against the Chinese constitution.
“Only when the Dalai Lama publicly announces that Tibet is an inalienable part of China since ancient time… can his relations with the CPC [Communist Party of China] Central Committee possibly be improved.”

Worry about ‘reincarnation’

Now, of course, we are at the endgame. The Dalai Lama is ageing. His “reincarnation” is on the mind of the Chinese.
Tibetan Buddhists believe that everybody is reborn, but people have little control over their own reincarnation, since that is governed by their karma. What complicates matters is the unique Tibetan idea that a person is not immediately reincarnated after death. The superior Bodhisattvas, called tulkus, of whom the Dalai Lama is the seniormost, it is believed are able to determine whether and where they will be reborn – and when.
They are supposed to leave clear instructions about the process, so that there is no ambiguity, and the process is not manipulated or misused by anybody for their own personal or political interests. The reincarnated Dalai Lama has thus to be not selected – but found. Incidentally, the first Dalai Lama was not found in his lifetime, but Gendun Drup, a shepherd turned monk, who died in 1474. was considered such after his death.
The current Dalai Lama has, however, said that it would be better that the centuries-old tradition ceased “at the time of a popular Dalai Lama”. Better to have no Dalai Lama than “a stupid one”, the Dalai Lama told the BBC. On his own website, the Dalai Lama explains it thus:
The Dalai Lamas have functioned as both the political and spiritual leaders of Tibet for 369 years since 1642. I have now voluntarily brought this to an end, proud and satisfied that we can pursue the kind of democratic system of government flourishing elsewhere in the world. In fact, as far back as 1969, I made clear that concerned people should decide whether the Dalai Lama’s reincarnations should continue in the future. However, in the absence of clear guidelines, should the concerned public express a strong wish for the Dalai Lamas to continue, there is an obvious risk of vested political interests misusing the reincarnation system to fulfil their own political agenda. Therefore, while I remain physically and mentally fit, it seems important to me that we draw up clear guidelines to recognise the next Dalai Lama, so that there is no room for doubt or deception. 
The Chinese have said that this is not acceptable.
As of 2007, the State Administration for Religious Affairs in China had decreed that the reincarnations must be approved by government else they would be declared invalid.
Image courtesy: Free Tibet
Image courtesy: Free Tibet
The Chinese have done this before and have been planning for life after the current Dalai Lama. On May 15, 1995, the current Dalai Lama named a six-year-old boy Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. The Panchen Lama is the second most important leader among Tibetan Buddhists, part of the process by which each new Dalai Lama is chosen. On May 17, 1995 the Chinese authorities installed another boy, Gyaincain Norbu, in his place as the 11th Panchen Lama. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family have been missing and have not been seen in public since that day.
The Dalai Lama is aware that the Chinese are waiting for his death and will recognise a 15th Dalai Lama of their choice.
It is clear from their recent rules and regulations and subsequent declarations that they have a detailed strategy to deceive Tibetans, followers of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the world community... I have a responsibility to protect the Dharma and sentient beings and counter such detrimental schemes...
It is particularly inappropriate for Chinese communists, who explicitly reject even the idea of past and future lives, let alone the concept of reincarnate Tulkus, to meddle in the system of reincarnation and especially the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas. Such brazen meddling contradicts their own political ideology and reveals their double standards. Should this situation continue in the future, it will be impossible for Tibetans and those who follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition to acknowledge or accept it.

The Chinese seem to realise that they could never rule Tibet without the Dalai Lama’s spiritual authority. Given the current relationship between China and the Dalai Lama, you can be sure that the Dalai Lama, even if he decides to “reincarnate”, will not choose to do so in any Chinese controlled area. So, we are likely to see a Dalai Lama selected by the Chinese, who will have little respect among the Tibetans, or possibly another one in an area outside Chinese control, say, Mongolia or India, who will not be able to exercise his authority in Tibet, which explains the Chinese anger whenever the Dalai Lama visits any of these places.
This reincarnation issue is perhaps also the reason why China has of late been insistently pressing its claim to Tawang. What the Chinese worry about now is the prospect of a Dalai Lama reincarnating in Tawang and its environs and establishing his spiritual authority over the Tibetans.
Tawang is one of the great monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism built at the instance of the fifth Dalai Lama in 1680-81. Tawang became part of British India through the Simla Convention of 1914 arrived at between the Tibetan government and the British government. Till 2003, even the Dalai Lama maintained Tawang was Tibetan, but since then he changed his position and now he says that Tawang is a part of India.
The Chinese, too, earlier did not think much about Tawang being in India. After all, they occupied it for several months during the 1962 war and then pulled out. Thrice they have indicated that they were willing to trade off their eastern claims for India’s western ones in Aksai Chin. But now their position has hardened.
The Tawang issue, the Dalai Lama’s visit all seem to have put Sino-Indian relations in a time machine taking us to the 1950s and 1960s. All the positive vibes that were there in the early 2000s have vanished and both countries will be the losers for it. April 8, 2017

Behind a Mysterious Budget Increase, the National Security Need for ‘Make-In-India’ Chips

The National Security Council Secretariat, headed by top spy Ajit Doval, may have received a staggering 311% increase in funds this year to tackle issues at the intersection of cybersecurity and nuclear weapon delivery systems.

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi with NSA Ajit Doval before a meeting in Ufa last Friday. PTI Photo by Manvender Vashist

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with NSA Ajit Doval. Credit: PTI

This year’s Union budget appeared to be a mostly humdrum affair when it came to India’s defence interests. Although the total sum allocated towards our defence sector was a hefty Rs 2.7 lakh crore, it was only a modest increase of 5.6% when compared to last year. 
What raised eyebrows, however, was the staggering 311% increase in the outlay of the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) – its budget went up from Rs 81 crore to Rs 333 crore. The one line explanation given read “The provision is for meeting the administrative expenses of the National Security Council Secretariat.”
A certain parsimony has been a rule of thumb with regard to budgets relating to defence, so why this generosity? Behind this lies a complicated story.
The NSCS officially services the National Security Council (NSC) whose members are the prime minister and the home, defence and finance ministers. While the composition is essentially similar to the Cabinet Committee on Security, the NSC is advised by the National Security Adviser (Ajit Doval) and in that sense, he is the head of the NSCS.
The NSC comprises of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), which is an advisory board of non-government or retired specialists, and a strategic policy group (SPG) comprising secretaries of key departments, the heads of the three services and the intelligence chiefs.
As of now it is not clear just how frequently the NSC or the SPG meet. NSA Ajit Doval did without an NSAB for nearly two years but has now established a compact body under the chairmanship of retired diplomat P S Raghavan.
Another component of the system is the Joint Intelligence Committee which pre-dates the NSC system and is autonomous, though embedded in the NSCS.
Neither the NSC, JIC, nor the NSAB requires the kind of money that has been appropriated. Neither did the NSCS need it in the past when it was mainly a think-tank for the NSA and a mechanism to coordinate intelligence tasking.
But the NSCS is now fleshing out its hithertofore additional tasks relating to cyber security and nuclear weapons. While the costs relating to the nuclear weapons and missiles come from the budgets of the DRDO and Department of Atomic Energy, there are some additional areas that need urgent attention. These are primarily at the intersection of cyber security and nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
It may be recalled that one of the more important tasks of the NSA is being the chairman of the executive council of the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA). Since 2012, the government has created a Strategic Programme Staff to assist him in this task which is essentially to ensure that if the political council of the NCA orders the use of nuclear weapons, they are ready for use.

Integrated circuit R&D
One major weakness of the Indian deterrent has been the fact that India uncomfortably depends on imported integrated circuits (ICs) for its command and control systems, even though domestic chips have been used in missiles and satellites. In an era where there is considerable worry that foreign origin chips may contain “kill switches” or other means of cyber intrusion, it is important for the country to ensure that its nuclear command and control system is fool-proof on this front.
The money appropriated is likely to help with the R&D relating to the ICs and their fabrication.
India has considerable expertise in chip design but does not have the capability to manufacture them. In 2012, India unveiled a new semiconductor policy aimed at encouraging the setting up of fabrication units within  the country. Two consortiums were identified by the government – one led by Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (HSMC) and the other by Jaiprakash Associates. HSMC has since tied up with ST Microelectronics, Silterra and AMD to set up a $3.5 billion facility in Gujarat while Jaiprakash has dropped out, leaving its partners IBM and TowerJazz  looking for investors. A third plant is expected to come up in MP through Cricket Semiconductors of US.
So far, India has been making do with chips fabricated by the Bharat Electronics, Gallium Arsenide Enabling Technology Centre in Hyderabad and the the Semiconductor Complex Ltd (SCL) in Mohali for its space programme and defence. The GAETEC is a DRDO lab which provides GaAs chips for highly specialised communications applications.
The SCL was set up in 1983 at a cost of $70 million with technology from American Microsystems Inc and Rockwell International and Hitachi. However, the company was wound down to a semiconductor laboratory  although it continues to provide chips for the strategic sector. One weakness of the outfit is that it focuses more on R&D to enhance technology that it acquires from abroad. Manufacture is a weak area because the demand of SCL products is not sufficient to justify the financial investments for upgrading its foundries.
However, SCL and GAETEC are boutique solutions. For a robust defence set-up, India ideally needs to have critical systems that are entirely designed and fabricated in India especially with regard to our military and space-related equipment.
The Wire March 30, 2017

Why Modi fans and trolls should give Left liberals a chance

Following the selection of Yogi Adityanath as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, there were a spate of articles, many seeking to argue that the incendiary preacher deserved to be given a second chance, but there were a few significant pieces questioning the decision.
Among the most compelling was one by the Centre for Policy Research president Pratap Bhanu Mehta. Mehta was attacked in a prominent economic daily as being a “typical” representative of the “Left liberal establishment”.
Clearly, the writer does not know what the Left is all about, leave alone liberalism and Pratap Mehta. But like “sickular” and “Left liberal”, even “Lutyens'” sounds good to the formally literate, but actually uneducated young men, who are trying to make a name for themselves as writers.
Anyone familiar with the deeply religious Mehta knows that he defies ideological categorisation and stands out as one of the sane, centrist voices in the Indian intellectual firmament. If anything, he has always been distrusted by the Left.

hin_032717082605.jpg With job creation having virtually collapsed, the Modi train seems to be shifting track, nominally talking of development, but raking up Hindutva issues. 

For social values
As for liberalism, these troubled times call for it to be looked at again in some detail. Again, since we are dealing with a semi-educated commentariat, it is easy for us to use the word as a pejorative, rather than understand its great tradition and importance in the evolution of society.
Liberalism has given us this modern world which gives primacy to the individual over his tribe, clan, community, caste or gender. It is not important merely as a sociological fact, but as the very root of modern capitalism.
Liberalism is what transformed the rapacious capitalism in the 19th century and ensured that Marx’s proletariat did not overthrow the bourgeoise state, but become a part of it.
It is the liberal impulse that has humanised the world. Its votaries have fought consistently for human liberty, and against crass exploitation, torture, gender inequality, religious persecution, racism and you name it.
Among the greatest enemies of liberalism was Mao Zedong. In his essay “Combat Liberalism” written in 1937, he said that they heard “wrong views” without correcting them (read: they allowed others their opinion); failed to stop “counterrevolutionary” views being aired, promoted self-interest over that of the collective, that they represented a “weak” and “effete” way of doing things (read: they didn’t imprison or shoot dissidents).
Mao’s critique was that liberals were bad for the military style of the Communist Party of China, whose emphasis was on iron discipline and uniform views filtering from the top to down.
Trolls have taken over
In many ways, this is the critique we see from a range of political commentators today — semi-educated trolls, allegedly educated commentators, out and out votaries of a Hindu rashtra. All of them have one thing in common — the herd instinct. They want a united communitarian view and feel insecure with any kind of individualism that liberalism upholds.
It is actually unfair to simply condemn these attitudes. Looked deeper, they are, in reality, cries of despair in a society which is changing rapidly and where old certainties and ways of doing things are rapidly changing or no longer exist.
They also reflect personal fears about jobs and careers. Job creation in the private sector is virtually stagnant and government jobs are affected by reservations.
Modi’s great success in 2014 was his ability to bring hope and his campaign focused on transformation and rejuvenation, Make in India, smart cities and so on, which would create a modern, forward looking nation.
With job creation having virtually collapsed, the Modi train seems to be shifting track, nominally talking of development, but raking up Hindutva issues.
Draconian govt policy
The illiberalism stalking the land is not just about trolls, jobs or secularism. It is also about government policy striking at the very roots of individual liberty. Recently, the government sequestered our bank accounts and doled out our money to us as though we were kids getting pocket money.
Now, besides legislation empowering draconian raids, they want the use of Aadhaar to be compulsory in filing tax returns and a variety of other transactions. There are serious implications of allowing the government to track everything you do.
Mobiles and other technologies give the government access to information about where you are, who you are talking to and what you say. Tracking Aadhaar assists the surveillance. No legal guarantees are being offered on our right to privacy and individual choice, or procedures to prevent the misuse of personal information.
With two former CBI chiefs are being charged for wrongdoing, how much trust can we have on government and its officials?
Published originally in Mail Today March 27, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

India should get a little more creative with its Gilgit-Baltistan policy

It could even consider participating in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, subject to Islamabad fulfilling a few conditions. 

It would be difficult to fault the official stand taken by the Government of India on Pakistan’s decision to create a new province of Gilgit-Baltistan. A Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said last week that the move was “illegal” and “completely unacceptable”.
The legal position is that India holds the sovereignty over the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, though according to the United Nations, it needs to be ratified by a plebiscite. For a variety of reasons, that plebiscite has not taken place for 70 years, and despite many twists and turns, the Jammu and Kashmir issue has not been resolved. However, that does not negate the fact that as of this moment, sovereignty of all of the state rests with India.
Pakistan claims legal rights over Gilgit-Baltistan, formerly the Northern Areas, through an agreement signed by the so-called Azad Kashmir government that ceded control of the region to Pakistan in 1949. No one seems to have a copy of this agreement today. However, Azad Kashmir government never had any control over the region in the first place, and so handing over that region to Pakistan was a sleight of hand to disguise Pakistan’s outright annexation of territory that even now legally belongs to the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
In 1972, the Azad Kashmir legislature demanded the return of the region. Its High Court, in a judgement, supported this contention, but it was overturned by its Supreme Court, which said that the Northern Areas were not part of Azad Kashmir. Since that court did not declare it to be part of Pakistan either, it left the region in a limbo.
The region was ruled since 1949 by the Frontier Crimes Regulation, which gave no rights to local residents, and all administrative and judicial powers were held by the Islamabad-based Ministry of Kashmir Affairs. In 1994, Pakistan passed a peculiar constitutional device called the Legal Framework Order. This administrative instrument was used to deny representative government to local residents and to strengthen Islamabad’s hold over the region. In 1999, the Pakistan Supreme Court directed the Pakistan government to provide fundamental rights to the region, and to draw up a system that would enable the people to have an elected government. So in 2009, President Asif Ali Zardari renamed the region Gilgit-Baltistan through a Self Governance Order, which kept the reins of the government firmly in the hands of Islamabad rather than with the region’s chief minister or elected Assembly.

The way out

Earlier this month, a Pakistani minister told a television channel that a high-powered committee had recommended that Gilgit-Baltistan be declared Pakistan’s fifth province. This move has been criticised not only by the Government of India, but by the Hurriyat Conference, which advocates the state’s secession from India.
The failure of India and Pakistan to conduct the plebiscite led to the exploration of various other ways to resolve the issue. Between 1948 and 1956, the United Nations sought to mediate, but was unsuccessful. In 1953-’54, the two countries held direct talks that were quite positive, but came apart following the American decision to supply arms to Pakistan. In 1963, the US and UK strong-armed India to talk to Pakistan, but the latter, in a style that became typical, over-reached, and the negotiation collapsed. In 1965 Pakistan tried war, but failed. In 1971, the two countries put the past behind them and said they would resolve the dispute through dialogue. In 1989, Pakistan began a covert war that has more or less been defeated.
So, the only way out remains dialogue and negotiation, which is not happening.
As per the instrument of accession, the Government of India Act (1935), Indian Independence Act (1947), Constitution of India and international law, the entire erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir legally belongs to India. This 2004 map by Central Intelligence Agency (modified to show the official Indian map inset) shows the ground position of the areas illegally occupied by Pakistan and China – and that ceded illegally by Pakistan to China. What the map shows as Azad Kashmir is what is called Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in India.
As per the instrument of accession, the Government of India Act (1935), Indian Independence Act (1947), Constitution of India and international law, the entire erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir legally belongs to India. This 2004 map by Central Intelligence Agency (modified to show the official Indian map inset) shows the ground position of the areas illegally occupied by Pakistan and China – and that ceded illegally by Pakistan to China. What the map shows as Azad Kashmir is what is called Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in India.
When the first war over Jammu and Kashmir broke out, India had to make hard choices in its military campaign. It focused on the Kashmir Valley, the region around Poonch and Ladakh. Desultory attempts were made to fight in the vast Northern Areas but they failed for want of adequate forces.
There was another subliminal message – if the nation could be partitioned, so could Jammu and Kashmir, with India holding the Valley of Kashmir and Jammu, and Pakistan getting Azad Kashmir, which provided depth to the defence of its heartland, as well as people who were ethnically close to them. As for the Northern Areas, no one really bothered about it too much, not the Indians, nor the Pakistanis who are only now seeking to give it some legal status.
India’s willingness to the partition option was apparent in its official responses to Sir Owen Dixon’s plans to partition the state and conduct a plebiscite only in the Valley. They reappeared in the 1963 negotiations, when New Delhi proposed not just allowing Pakistan to have Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas, but also a small chunk of the Valley. Pakistan did not bite.

Lost agreement

In 1972, in the Simla talks, Pakistan’s president Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gave a verbal commitment to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that he would convert the Cease Fire Line into an international border. Pending this, he agreed that the line should be called the “Line of Control”, which is a matter-of-fact term, rather than a reference to a line created through war. But Bhutto was deposed, and the Pakistanis denied that the conversation happened. No doubt the government has a record of this in its archives, but we have learnt of this through the memoirs of PN Dhar, Indira Gandhi’s secretary, and a contemporary news report by the New York Times correspondent James Sterba, who had been briefed by the Pakistani delegation.
Interestingly, the actual land connectivity between Pakistan and China dates to the late 1960s and 1970s when the Karakoram Highway linking the two countries through the Khunjerab Pass came up. India did make a formal protest, but it was done as a matter of form. If it had been an important issue it would have figured in the Simla talks. There is nothing in the available records to show that it did.
That India was willing to forgo its formal claim over Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas was more recently reiterated in the back-channel India-Pakistan negotiations in the period 2004-’07. India’s opening gambit was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s repeated statements that he would accept any settlement that would not call for the redrawing of boundaries. Eventually the two sides came close to a settlement based on existing borders. Unfortunately, political instability in Pakistan prevented further movement on an agreement. Subsequently, as is their wont, the Pakistanis disclaimed any connection to the negotiation.

Shifting goalposts?

And this is where we come back to the Indian stand on Gilgit-Baltistan today. India cannot formally take any other stand but to insist on its claim of sovereignty. But there has been an Indian position on Jammu and Kashmir, which essentially wishes to settle the dispute with Pakistan on an “as is, where is” position. By shifting the goalposts now, the Modi government is embarking on an entirely new track.
Many questions arise: Does India assert its sovereignty over Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir with a view of reclaiming them, or is the claim a basis of negotiation? Second, is reclaiming a realistic option, considering that the bulk of the people there would be against the move, never mind the few dissidents who are trotted out in seminars? Third, is this a desireable option? Would India like to add seven million mostly Muslim citizens to Jammu and Kashmir whose population today is 13 million of whom nine million are Muslim and four million are Hindu?
Actually it is more than likely that New Delhi’s main purpose is to use the sovereignty issue to oppose the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on the pretext that it passes through Gilgit-Baltistan. Essentially what India is saying to China is: Either accept India’s sovereignty on Jammu and Kashmir or abandon the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Neither is likely to happen.
On March 17 the Chinese official spokesperson noted: “On the Kashmir issue, China’s position is consistent and clear-cut. As a leftover issue from history between India and Pakistan, it needs to be properly settled through dialogue and consultation between the two sides. The development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor does not affect China’s position on the Kashmir issue.”
In opposing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, New Delhi needs to clarify its goals. Is it doing so with a view to disrupt the Sino-Pakistan axis? That is a legitimate goal, but whether it is desireable or even achieveable is another matter. A more constructive policy could well be a participation in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor subject to Islamabad ending its blockade of India’s land and rail routes to and through Pakistan, and opening up its economy to South Asian regional integration, something which Islamabad has committed itself to in various meetings of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. A more integrated South Asia will be beneficial to all parties and if it is done via a Chinese agency, it will be all the more satisfying. March 20, 2017