Wednesday, January 21, 2015

PDP should look at BJP as a partner

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Mission 44 may not have succeeded, but its chain reaction transformed the Jammu & Kashmir State Assembly elections as nothing else could have. No one expected the BJP to win 44 seats in the state. But the party’s campaign, involving repeated visits by Narendra Modi and a galaxy of party leaders, resulted, perhaps inadvertently, in an outcome that has been described as the most credible election since 1977. It certainly had the highest turnout ever—66 per cent. It was also the most peaceful election held in the post militancy period. 

No one charged anyone with irregularity, and the winners and losers have all accepted the results with some bewilderment and surprise. If there is any party with a grouse, it is actually the winner, the Jammu & Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which emerged as the largest single party with 28 seats in the 87-member legislature. In the runup to the elections, the PDP was expected to be the largest single party, but expectations were that they would be closer to the half way mark in the assembly, say 35 seats, which would have required it to lead a coalition, possibly with the Congress and/or with independents. 
‘Mission 44’ was more of a mobilisational slogan than an actual target which brought the party to the number two position with 25 seats. The party may have drawn a blank in the Valley, but perhaps, the failure lies in the failure to effectively mobilise its Kashmiri Pandit supporters. Of 31,000 migrant voters for whom polling booths were set up in New Delhi and Jammu, only 5,169 exercised their franchise. A higher turnout could have assured the BJP’s Moti Koul of victory in Habba Kadal. 

Despite their ideological differences, a PDP-BJP tie-up will be themost stable option. This can only benefit the people of J&K
Despite their ideological differences, a PDP-BJP tie-up will be the most stable option. This can only benefit the people of J&K

But the ‘Mission 44’s unplanned achievement was to undermine the separatist tactic of boycotting the election. Panicked by the prospect of the BJP making inroads into the Valley, separatists came out to vote and backed the NC, PDP and even the Congress where they could. The figures tell their own story. The turnout in Sopur was 1.03 in the Lok Sabha poll and 30 per cent in the Assembly election, likewise in Tral is was 1.53 per cent in the LS poll and 37.68 for the Assembly. This was the story in other such con stituencies: Pampore 6.14 and 47.48, Pulwama 4.44 and 38.31, Zadibal 5.86 and 23.64, Batmaloo 12.4 and 24.34 and so on. 
One beneficiary of this was the National Conference which was expecting a washout, but it actually managed to get 15 seats. Another was the Congress party which lost 12 of the 17 seats it had in the Jammu region. But it picked up four seats in the Valley and three in Ladakh and the other five from the Muslim- majority regions of the Jammu region. It did not win a single seat from the Hindudominated areas of the state. 

The BJP’s performance has been its best ever. The party won 8 seats to the Assembly in 1996, 1 in 2002 and 10 in 2008 in the wake of the Amarnath agitation. This time they got 25 seats across the Jammu region. However, all their candidates, but one, lost their deposits in the Kashmir Valley. In terms of sheer numbers, the party can play the role of a king-maker in the Valley. 
Given the fractured mandate, almost all permutations and combinations have this infirmity or that. The PDP would prefer teaming up with the weaker Congress party. However, numbers will be an issue and the resulting government may not be very stable. Teaming up with the NC is something of a non sequitur because the two compete for the same space in the Valley. The option that looks the most stable is the one that many consider improbable— a combine of the BJP and the PDP. This could take the form of a coalition, or a commitment on the part of the BJP to support a minority government of the PDP. The argument against this option is that the two are ideologically poles apart. The “soft separatist” PDP will find the going tough with the “hard nationalist” BJP. But stranger things have happened in politics. And, given the special needs of J&K, there is a requirement for a smooth relationship between the governments in Srinagar and New Delhi. 
A major problem any new leader of the state must confront is the need to bridge the divide between the Hindumajority areas in Jammu and the Muslim-dominated Valley. Leaving aside the Congress, no party has a presence across the state’s three major geographical regions—Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. 
The way out could be an MoU between the BJP and PDP, which would commit the latter to come up with legislation to enhance the autonomy between Srinagar, Jammu and Leh. There is an issue which has been doing the rounds since the 1960s and was also the subject of a report in 2000. Perhaps this can be done in the larger context of addressing the demand for greater autonomy by the state as well. 

The J&K verdict has devolved a special responsibility on the BJP. It has emerged as the second largest party in the state, but more important, it also runs the Government of India. Narendra Modi will have to take a decision on his party’s perspective in the state as much through the lens of a party leader as the Prime Minister of the country. Nothing should be done which could compel the country to pay a needless price later. It is important to heed the lessons from the Congress’ mishandling of the state in the period 1983-1989. 
Mail Today December 24, 2014

The insane logic of violence

It is difficult to find words to express the sheer horror of the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan. Killing helpless children is perhaps the lowest to which people who call themselves freedom fighters and holy warriors can descend to.

Our immediate task is to step up security in our own schools, especially the ones in the Jammu area, many run for army families living in the numerous cantonments there. In such areas, military facilities are well defended and secured, but residential quarters and schools barely figure in the security plans. It may be recalled that in May 2002, terrorists did breach a military residential area in Kaluchak, near Jammu and killed some 18 family members and 10 civilians and 3 army personnel. The dead included 10 children.

The uncle and cousin of injured student Mohammad Baqair (centre), comfort him as he mourns the death of his mother who was a teacher at the school which was attacked by the Taliban. Pic/AFPThe uncle and cousin of injured student Mohammad Baqair (centre), comfort him as he mourns the death of his mother who was a teacher at the school which was attacked by the Taliban.

In September 2013, three terrorists in camouflage uniforms breached the international boundary in the Kathua district in Jammu and attacked a police station and killed four policemen and two civilians. They then hijacked a truck and reached an army camp in neighbouring Samba district, where they shot six unarmed army personnel, along with a Lieutenant Colonel. Some reports at the time said that the terrorists were looking for an army school and after failing to find it, hit the armoured unit, which was on the main road.
You can imagine what would have been the consequence of such an attack it would have definitely led to an Indian military retaliation and possible escalation to war. Fortunately, that did not happen. But now that scenario has played itself out in the country which has had no hesitation in repeatedly sending killers, who call themselves Fedayeen, cross into our borders to kill indiscriminately.
In the case of Mumbai in 2008, Pakistani terrorists killed people who were of another faith, but here, the extremist Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) killed their own. This is the insane logic of the violent Islamic extremism. The Pakistani deep state, which nourishes the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, and allows a Hafiz Muhammad Sayeed and his ilk to propagate hatred against India on the basis of religion, should at least now understand and take down the monster they have created. But that won’t happen and you will soon hear suggestions that India was behind the attack because it is they who have nurtured the TTP through the Afghan intelligence.
The terrorists who killed the Pakistani school children claim that they have done their horrifying deed in response to attack on their women folk and children by the Pakistan Army’s operations against the TTP. While there is absolutely no justification for killing innocents who had nothing to do with the Pakistan Army operations, there is need to understand some of the context. The Pakistan Army’s tactics involves using air power and heavy artillery against the elusive guerrillas. Such attacks, more often than not, kill a large number of civilians and have led to the displacement of lakhs of people. Even the so-called precision drone strike campaign of the Americans has killed over 500 civilians along with some 2,000 militants.
Over the years, the Pakistan Army has had an on-again, off-again policy of dealing with the militancy in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (the erstwhile North West Frontier Province) area. Operations began in the area in 2002 as part of the American action in Afghanistan. But the Pakistan Army targeted the Arab, Chechen, Uighur and Uzbek elements, even while trying to make peace with the Pashtun tribes and leaders like Baitullah Mehsud.
The carefully calibrated Pakistani strategy was to allow the Afghan Taliban to recover and undermine the American-led effort to stabilise Afghanistan. Among their proxies were the Haqqani network along with several other tribal leaders like Hafiz Gul Bahadar and Maulvi Nazir whose militancy was focused on Afghanistan. Both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban say that Mullah Omar is their leader, but in October a number of leaders declared that they were pledging their allegiance to the Islamic State.
Islamabad’s strategy went awry when angered by the heavy-handed Pakistan Army attacks, Baitullah formed the TTP in 2007 and declared war on Islamabad. But since Baitullah’s death in a drone strike in 2009, the TTP has fragmented into several groups, the most prominent being led by Maulana Fazlullah, who is from Swat.
In 2009, pushed by the US and by the fall of Swat to the militants, the Pakistan army launched Operation Rah-e-Nijat and took control of South Waziristan. But all the key militant leaders managed to escape to Afghanistan or to North Waziristan. Despite enormous American pressure, the Pakistan army refused to take up phase two of the operation in North Waziristan.
It was only this June, after attempts of the Nawaz government to negotiate with the TTP failed, and the latter not only killed 23 Pakistani soldiers in their captivity, but also launched the audacious attack on Jinnah airport in Karachi, that the army began its Operation Zarb-e-Azb which is still continuing. This operation which has the support of almost all the Pakistani leadership, barring the Jamaat-e-Islami, has been the direct cause of the school massacre on Tuesday. But even now it is not clear just how the Pakistanis are dealing with their proxies like the Haqqanis. In any case, the policy of “good” and “bad” Taliban remains since the Afghan Taliban, including their leader Mullah Omar continue to be provided shelter by Islamabad.
The Pakistani offensive may have been just too late. Because today, violent Islamic extremism has spread across the country, and is not something that can be tackled by the army alone. Such is the situation that the world has almost given up on Pakistan. But this tragedy could be the opportunity for Islamabad and Rawalpindi to make that strategic shift away from using violent Islamic extremists against its neighbours.
Mid Day December  17, 2014
It is difficult to find words to express the sheer horror of the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan. Killing helpless children is perhaps the lowest to which people who call themselves freedom fighters and holy warriors can descend to. - See more at:

Turning away is not an option: Engaging Pakistan through the SAARC

There is a French phrase which, roughly translated, says: the more things change, the more they stay the same. India-Pakistan relations seem condemned to remain stuck in the same place, despite valiant efforts to transform them.
Last week, even while India and other SAARC nations sought to change the regional dynamics, Pakistan seemed to be stuck in a time warp around the early 1990s. 
Islamabad refused to consider two game-changing connectivity agreements. Further, its prime minister reiterated Kashmir’s centrality to Pakistan’s India policy, and its Army sent a group of fedayeen to attack an army post in Jammu.

 The Pakistan Army continues to dash any hopes of productive talks with India
 The Pakistan Army continues to dash any hopes of productive talks with India
There was a great deal of movement in the 2004-2008 period with the two countries coming close to agreement on a range of issues. But ever since the Mumbai attacks of 2008, India’s relations with Pakistan have been fraught. 
In the past, too, there had been Pakistani complicity in terrorist attacks on India, but there was something about the brazen audacity of the attack, which had the finger-prints of the Pakistani deep state aka. the Army, which has changed things. 
Needless, to say, Pakistan, has done little or nothing to help. The trial of the key organisers of the carnage - Zaki ur Rehman and his associates - continues fitfully, even while the principal villain Jamaat ud Dawa chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed moves around freely in Pakistan with an official security detail. 
This week, Saeed will organise a congregation of the JuD at the Minar-e-Pakistan, built to commemorate the founding of the country. 
The Pakistani government headed by Asif Ali Zardari did make a few desultory attempts to improve ties, but was quickly swatted down by the Army. 
As for Nawaz Sharif, he came with much promise to not only normalise ties with India, but to put the powerful Army in its place. Today, it is Sharif who has been cornered and shown the limits of his authority. 
In such circumstances, there are a lot of question marks in India about ways and means of dealing with Pakistan. After the SAARC summit, which saw Islamabad blocking even multilateral efforts to promote road and rail connectivity, there were suggestions that maybe the time had come to simply turn away from Pakistan. But that is hardly a viable option.
Since 1991, India has followed a policy of engaging Pakistan in a broad-based dialogue, aimed at solving problems big and small. Initially, the aim was a process which would, by solving the relatively smaller issues like the Siachen, Sir Creek and Wullar Barrage disputes, generate momentum and goodwill to resolve the bigger issues like the J&K and Pakistani support for terrorism and militancy aimed at India. 
In 2004, the decision to create a South Asian Free Trade Area brought forwards the prospect of Indo-Pak normalisation in the wider ambit of regional cooperation. 
But over time it has become evident that this is not working. The Pakistani business community and large sections of its political class are aware of the benefits of opening up. However, the army and the deep state think that normalisation of ties is bad enough, but economic integration with India is nothing short of surrender. And so the struggle continues between those who seek to normalise ties, and those who oppose it. 
The duality in India-Pakistan relationship is evident from the fact that even while Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accepted Narendra Modi’s invitation to participate in the latter’s inaugural along with other SAARC leaders in May, the deep state’s answer was to get its proxies to attack the Indian consulate at Herat on May 23rd, the eve of Modi’s inauguration. Fortunately, the attackers failed to get into the mission and were killed by the outer ring security made up of Afghan personnel. 
Another manifestation of the same phenomenon has been the efforts to turn up the heat in the Kashmir border. It is no coincidence that the SAARC summit was followed by a fedayeen attack on an Indian Army post at Arnia sector in Jammu where three army personnel were killed along with five civilians. 
India shares a 3,323 km international border and a 740 km Line of Control with Pakistan. This is already fenced and floodlit and has prevented large-scale movement across the border. However, smaller scale intrusions take place almost every day and in recent months, the ceasefire that has held along the LoC since November 2003 has shown signs of breaking down. 
Given the length of the border and terrain it traverses, the idea of isolating Pakistan from India by building a huge wall, just as Israel has done with the West Bank and Gaza, does not hold water. As Israel has learnt, the fortress can be breached, not in the least by missiles and rockets. 
Further, as IB chief Asif Ibrahim has pointed out, the Indian diaspora - especially in the Gulf - is a target of Pakistani efforts to radicalise India’s Muslim population.
In any case, Pakistani agents have made use of the more-or-less open border that our country has with Nepal and Bangladesh. 
There are no easy fixes for Indian policy. Its long-term goal has to be the transformation of Pakistan to a “normal” country. 
In a bid to prevent the Pakistani veto in SAARC, India sought to promote the extra-regional Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Cooperation (BIMSTEC) involving Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal. But somehow, BIMSTEC has not quite taken off and has been victim of Indian lassitude. 
So, SAARC remains the only viable vehicle for South Asian integration, a project vital for India because a viable South Asian economy is a necessary pre-condition for our ability to engage effectively with ASEAN and China. And when we look at SAARC, the key hurdle it must overcome is the India-Pakistan problem. 
Mail Today December 3, 2014

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Narenda Modi makes a mark on the global stage

It has been six months since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of India. In this period he has set a scorching pace, but mainly in the area of foreign policy. He has undertaken eight foreign trips, of which six were to the Asia-Pacific region. There were bilateral visits, as well as some which took place on the sidelines of multilateral summits. 
In the process, we have a clearer outline of a Modi foreign policy which appears to have two key elements—first, to attract investment and technology to trigger rapid economic growth in the country; and second, to shore up India’s strategic position in its neighbourhood and larger Asian region. 
It has featured several of “out of the box” elements, such as the invite to all Saarc head of states to attend his inauguration, or to have the president of the United States come as the chief guest at the 2015 Republic Day parade.
One set of Modi’s visits can be seen as roadshows, aimed at showcasing himself and his government and offering up the promise of a new India which was open for business, both economic and strategic. 
This was aimed at two targets—first, countries like the Japan, U.S. and Australia, from whom India expected investment, trade and with whom New Delhi sought strategic ties; and second, mainly with neighbours like Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal, was where the aim was to bind the neighbourhood in closer economic and strategic ties to India. 
There can be little doubt that the subtext of his visits to nine countries has been China. Whether it is in shoring up the neighbourhood, or Japan, U.S., Australia or even Fiji, New Delhi has Beijing in its mind. 
But Modi has, at the same time, signalled a desire to do business with China. 

Modi appears to be a realist of the old school believing that what is supreme is national interest (pictured in Brisbane, Australia on 14th November, 2014)
Modi appears to be a realist of the old school believing that what is supreme is national interest (pictured in Brisbane, Australia on 14th November, 2014)

He has gone along with Beijing on economic issues and taken India into the membership of the New Development Bank (Brics) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), both Chinese initiatives aimed at loosening the power of western countries and Japan over international financial institutions. 
But he has been equally firm in his dealings with the country, as was evidenced by his handling of the Chumar incident during the visit of Xi Jinping. 
In speeches and joint statements in Japan, U.S. and Australia, security in relation to China was a key element. 
It does not take a genius to understand the context of India-Japan’s shared commitment to “maritime security, freedom of navigation and overflight, civil aviation safety, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law”. 
With Australia, too, Modi called for greater cooperation on maintaining maritime security. 
Considering both these countries are close allies of the U.S., it also means, though not quite spelt out, enhanced Indo-U.S. naval cooperation. 
Modi appears to be a realist of the old school believing that what is supreme is national interest. 
While India shares its world view with the West in terms of its institutions, laws— domestic and international— and so on, it is also aware that countries like Japan and the U.S. have a far denser relationship, and hence understands the need for good relations with China. 
So, even while India has made it clear that it stands with the West on freedom of navigation and peaceful settlement of disputes, it is also aware that it needs to have friendly, if not excellent, relations with China, the Asian economic giant which is on its way to becoming a world power. 
This was most clearly manifested in the dual nature of the Xi Jinping visit to India, which featured Chinese commitments on infrastructure investments, as well as Modi’s appointment of Ajit Doval as the Special Representative of India for talks on the border issue and strategic relations with China only after the stage had been set through his visits to the U.S., Japan and Australia. 
Modi has been radical, but not rash and has displayed the surefootedness of a veteran. An example of this was evident in his dealings with Pakistan. Despite a great deal of speculation, he steadfastly refused to deal with Nawaz Sharif in Kathmandu. 
The reason became apparent when it transpired that the first meeting and the customary hand-shake would have taken place on November 26, the sixth anniversary of the Mumbai attack, and played badly at home. But the following day, at the retreat at Dhulikhel, he went and shared a warm handshake with Sharif. 

Modi's political skills were most evident during his trip to the U.S. 
The watershed was his Madison Square Garden speech, which was widely seen and commented on in the U.S. and sent a signal to Barack Obama that a different kind of
The result was a successful visit with multiple features— commitment by the U.S. to open the defence technology tap as well as cooperation in a range of other areas. 
India is acutely aware that relations with the world’s greatest power has a multiplier effect on opening doors in Japan, Australia and Europe, all of whom are military allies of the U.S. 
But Uncle Sam and the others expect a lot of deliverables from India—easier terms for doing business in the country, stronger IPR protection, a revised nuclear liability law and so on. 
Obama’s visit as chief guest at the Republic Day function will also put pressure on both sides to come up with their respective deliverables. 
You can be sure that both sides are working hard at it and there will be a marked transformation in the texture of Indo-U.S. relations over the coming years.


Going by body language, Modi’s most successful visit has been to Japan. 
This was apparent from the warm hug Modi & his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe shared at their meeting. 
Modi plays Japan’s traditional Taiko drum during his Tokyo trip. He came  away with a promise of $35 billion worth of investment over the next five years
Modi plays Japan’s traditional Taiko drum during his Tokyo trip. He came  away with a promise of $35 billion worth of investment over the next five years

At the end of the visit, Modi was not able to get a nuclear agreement with Tokyo, but he did come away with a promise of $35 billion worth of investment over the next five years, perhaps, just about the amount India would actually be able to absorb. 
Just what Japanese investment means is evident from projects that are already underway, such as the Delhi Metro. 
Equally important is the fledgling cooperation in defence between the two.

Modi is the first Indian PM to visit Australia after Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. Australia may be a small player on the international stage, but it is a big one in the Asia-Pacific region through its network of relationships in the ASEAN, and this is what Modi is seeking to exploit. 
Australia is an important cog of the U.S. alliance system and closer ties with it could boost India’s maritime security, given the nation’s sophisticated intelligence system and proximity to key straits leading into the Indian Ocean. 
There was a pleasant break in the formality of G20 when Modi walked in and gave Aussie PM Abbott a hug. By the time he addressed the Oz Parliament later in the week, Australia was won over
There was a pleasant break in the formality of G20 when Modi walked in and gave Aussie PM Abbott a hug. 

By the time he addressed the Oz Parliament later in the week, Australia was won over
It is one of the richest countries in the world, with a GDP of $1.56 trillion, just a shade behind India’s $1.87 trillion. 
Of great significance is the community of nearly 300,000 Australians of Indian origin, many of whom are professionals in a variety of sectors like medicine, IT and finance. 
Australia is also an important destination for Indian students.

India's relations with Nepal have been fraught.Remarkably, however, the prickly Nepalese have taken to Modi. 
Modi with Nepal PM Sushi Koirala. He is the first Indian PM to visit Nepal in 17 years
Modi with Nepal PM Sushil Koirala. 

One reason for this is that Modi is the first Indian PM to visit Nepal in 17 years. 
He has also indicated to Kathmandu that he is open to suggestions on revising the 1950 India-Nepal Friendship Treaty, an important item in the agenda of many Nepalese nationalists. 
Nepal’s location makes it vital to India’s security and Modi’s government is determined to take steps to integrate it into the larger South Asian system through the integration of road, rail and power grid systems & economic cooperation.
 Mail Today November 30, 2014

India must adjust to the rise of China

The decision to invite US President Barack Obama to be the chief guest at the 66th Republic Day marks out in the clearest terms Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strategic outlook. Having personally had to deal with the Chumur episode during the visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping in September, Modi is familiar with just how the assertive leader of China is seeking to redraw the geopolitical landscape of Asia.
In the past year, we have seen Beijing make inroads into Sri Lanka and witnessed our old ally Russia drifting into the Chinese camp. We have also seen the PLA Navy’s forays into the Indian Ocean region which are barely concealed by the mask of anti-piracy operations.

 India’s Prime Minister Modi expressed concern to China’s visiting President Xi Jinping on September 18 about “incidents” on the two countries’ disputed border, as a stand-off between troops at the frontier had eclipsed key talks. Pic/Getty Images

India’s Prime Minister Modi expressed concern to China’s visiting President Xi Jinping on September 18 about “incidents” on the two countries’ disputed border, as a stand-off between troops at the frontier had eclipsed key talks. 

This is not a new development, but has intensified since 2010 as Xi jockeyed for power in Beijing. But now backed by the modernised PLA and the huge cash reserves accumulated by the economy, China is seeking to expand its economic and political universe.
In the past months, China has set out its ambitions through the establishment of the New Development or BRICS Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and committing more than $40 billion to create transportation linkages under the aegis of its Silk Route initiative. Speaking at the BRICS CEO’s meeting, earlier in November, Xi’s message to the world was that in the next five years China would import goods worth $10 trillion, send outward direct investments worth $1.2 trillion, and also send out 500 million tourists.
All this was part of a more ambitious scheme for a Free Trade Area Asia Pacific (FTAAP) which China got the 21-member APEC to endorse. Economists say that the FTAAP could provide a substantial boost to world trade as compared to the two regional trade pacts that are presently under prolonged negotiation the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Economic Cooperation Partnership (RCEP).
What we are witnessing is the third surge of the Chinese economy, one aimed at even closer integration of the Asian economies, with much clearer Chinese leadership. In a range of area China seeks to move from being a low-cost manufacturer to a producer of Chinese-designed and made goods.
The other leg of this advance is political. China insists in asserting its maritime claims in Asia, even while seeking to draw it into a close economic embrace. However, in human affairs, it is well known that national pride is often a greater concern than a desire for economic benefit. As a result, many Asian countries are bandwagoning with the United States in its military “rebalance” to the region.
In the face off between China and the US, we see features of competition and cooperation. This was manifested by the FTAAP, as well as three important bilateral agreements signed in Beijing between the US and China at the sidelines of the APEC summit. The first was a bilateral agreement on climate change which could have the effect of driving the negotiations for a global climate deal. The two other military agreements that are still under negotiations that seek to manage their military competition.
But the big Chinese achievement which also played itself out on the sidelines of the APEC summit was the four-point agreement between China and Japan that enabled the Xi Jinping and Shinzo Abe to have a short, but significant summit.
In the agreement, Japan accepted the need for “facing history squarely and looking forward to the future” short-hand for its horrific wartime role in China. Further, it acknowledged that the two parties “had different views” about the issue of the Senkaku/Diayou islands. Japan may not quite have accepted that there is a dispute over the status of the islands, but it has come close to it.
What do all these developments mean for India ? First, after a period of rising tensions, countries like the US and Japan are seeking to reset their ties with a rising China. Even while standing up to China, their approach seeks to accommodate it as well. All three are densely connected with each other through trade and economic ties and are aware of the consequences of a breakdown.
Second, China is benchmarking itself against the United States. While its “new type of great power relations” seeks a non-confrontational and cooperative relationship with the US, it is bent on getting the US to accept it as an equal stake-holder in the Asia Pacific; in future, of course, it may seek to supplant it.
India’s best course is the one that Prime Minister Modi is setting. This seeks to position India as a “swing state”. On one hand, India has joined the New Development Bank, the AIIB and resisted American-led efforts to condemn Russia over Ukraine. On the other, it is actively wooing the US and its allies, Japan and Australia, in the Asia Pacific region.
This is also a prudent course, both the US and Japan, which have much denser relations with China are adjusting to the rise of China in a similar way competition and cooperation there is no reason why New Delhi should not. Yet, at a broad level, in the area of trade, finance, maritime security, non-proliferation and human rights, India remains broadly aligned with the western countries.
India has some sympathy with China’s demand for a more equitable world order. But is also aware that Beijing, in turn, is not particular sympathetic to India’s demand for a membership in bodies like the Nuclear Suppliers Group or the UN Security Council. India remains deeply distrustful of Beijing because of the Sino-Indian border dispute, its relationship with Pakistan and its competitive efforts to displace India in its own backyard, the South Asian region and its new activities in the Indian Ocean region. 
Mid Day November 25, 2014

Modi's historic Obama coup

The decision to invite US President Barack Obama to be the chief guest at the 66th Republic Day is the clearest indicator of the directions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strategic outlook. 
An assertive China under the leadership of Xi Jinping is seeking to re-draw the geopolitical landscape of Asia backed by a modernised PLA and the massive cash reserves of the country. India’s ally Russia is drifting into the Chinese camp.
New Delhi has so far been somnolent, but now, with a new and vigorous Government, it is staking out its response. 
This is evident to those reading between the lines of official statements and comments made during the official visits of Modi to Japan, the US and Australia in recent months. Remarkably, till now, not a single American leader has ever been invited as the chief guest for Republic Day. 

Historic: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Barack Obama at the recent G20 summit in Brisbane. PM Modi invited President Obama to the 66th Republic Day and the US leader accepted  

We have had the Chinese — Marshal Ye Jianying in 1958, and even the Pakistanis, Ghulam Mohammed in 1955 and Rana Abdul Hamid in 1965 — and of course, the Soviets, British, French and others, but never an American. 
This was clearly no oversight, but a statement of India’s world view. Well, that world view is now changing. The decision to dump hidebound attitudes is very much in keeping with Modi’s “out of the box” approach in policy-making. 
This was first evident in Modi’s invitation to all SAARC leaders to attend his swearing-in. Subsequently, he followed this up with close interactions with America’s two key Asia-Pacific allies Japan and Australia. 
It was also marked by the showmanship visible in the public meetings with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in New York and Sydney which helped focus minds in Washington and Canberra. 
There should be no doubt in any mind that these two countries march lockstep with the Americans and all our initiatives with them, especially those related to nuclear and strategic issues will come to nought, unless Washington is on board. 
Actually, to be more accurate, the issue was more about India coming on board the American-led initiatives to coordinate a response to the rise of China. 

 Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee recognised this when he spoke of the US and India as “natural allies”. Subsequently, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice privately declared that the US was ready to help India become a great power in the 21st century. Since 2010, Beijing’s growing assertion has been causing disquiet in many Asian capitals. It is to address this that the US announced a “pivot” to Asia, later rechristened “rebalance.” 
Though India was facing its own pressures along the entire length of its 4,000km border with China, New Delhi chose to stick it out alone and try and work out an accommodation with Beijing.Towards this end, it accepted the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement in October 2013 and accepted China’s invitation for a Maritime Security Dialogue.
But the events in September 2014, when supreme leader Xi Jinping’s visit was accompanied by a show of force by the PLA in Chumur, convinced New Delhi that the Chinese policy had a depth and purpose which required a new and more sophisticated response.
Towards that end, India has adopted a stance of cooperation and competition with China, manifested by its decision to be party to the Chinese-sponsored initiatives like the New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, even while enhancing its own defence infrastructure and reaching out to countries wary of Beijing.
India’s relations with the US have zig-zagged since the mid 1990s when Robin Raphel and Bill Clinton sought to pummel New Delhi on the score of non-proliferation and Kashmir. They reached their nadir with the nuclear tests of 1998, but the Talbott-Jaswant Singh dialogue led to Bill Clinton reaching out to India in the last years of his presidency.
The George W. Bush era (2001-09) was an Indian-American love fest culminating in the Indo-US nuclear deal which no one but Bush and the Republicans could have delivered.But thereafter, under Obama, and the paralysis afflicting the UPA-II government in New Delhi, things were allowed to drift.
Obama may be a lame duck, but it is the American system we are engaging, and it is clear in word and deed that Washington has now come to accept the centrality of India to any future Asian pivot or re-balance.
Mail Today November 23, 2014