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Tuesday, January 01, 2019

A US-China Trade Deal Is Likely, but Will Not Resolve a Deteriorating Relationship

The outcome of the US mid-terms is unlikely to have any impact on Sino-US relations. For one thing, Donald Trump has already declared that it was a great victory for him, never mind that the Democrats seized the House of Representatives and flipped a number of key elections for state governors. The Democrats are also likely to be as tough on China as the Trump administration. Most Americans shrugged off the impact of the tariff war, which was not an election issue.


Fortunately, there are signs that China and the US may be working towards a settlement of their trade and related disputes. Trump termed his November 1 telephone conversation with Chinese premier Xi Jinping as “long and very good”. The dialogue came ahead of the planned meeting at the G-20 in Argentina later this month. The Chinese readout of the conversation had Jinping telling Trump that the essence of Sino-US relations were “mutual benefit and win-win”, emphasising the resolution of their trade and economic disputeThe possibility of a late November deal is now increasing. But this could well be a ceasefire in their trade war along with negotiations to create a new framework of trade relations. But this would be limited to trade and economic issues alone. There are many issues – South China Sea, Taiwan, alleged Chinese influence on operations in the US and technology theft – dividing the two nations.

2+2 talks held

On November 9, the two sides had their 2+2 talks involving the US secretaries of state and defense and their Chinese counterparts. The meeting was originally scheduled last month but was postponed after the US imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for purchasing Russian Su-35 aircraft and the S-300 missile system.

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defense secretary James Mattis represented the US, while the Chinese side comprised of Yang Jichei, who is a politburo member and the director of the office of foreign affairs in the Chinese Communist Party, and the minister of national defence, Wei Fenghe. On top of the agenda were issues relating to North Korea and the recent dangerous encounters between US and Chinese ships in the South China Sea.

According to media reports, the event brought out the continuing and serious differences on issues relating to the South China Sea, Taiwan, religious freedom and trade. In a subsequent press meet, the Chinese insisted that the US should not send its vessels to the “Chinese territory” in the South China Sea, while the US reiterated its position that it will “continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.” The Chinese were critical of US trade policy and for walking out of the Iran nuclear deal.

On the other hand, the Americans also expressed concerns over China’s treatment of its religious minorities. The two sides also traded barbs over each other’s perspectives on Taiwan. This indicates that the gap between the two countries is, if anything, becoming wider.

‘Cooperation over confrontation’
Earlier this week, the Bloomberg New Economy Forum threw light into the murky dynamics of Sino-US relations. It was forced to relocate to Singapore after permission was denied for it to be held in Beijing. In his remarks as keynote speaker, China’s vice president Wang Qishan said that China was ready for trade talks and both sides stood to gain by choosing cooperation over confrontation. Wang is one of Jinping’s closest aides and is virtually seen as the eighth member of the standing committee of the CPC politburoAfter several rounds of negotiations and tariffs, the two sides may now be getting down to do real business. The Chinese, especially, now have a sharper appreciation of the other side’s position. Clearly laying out what the countries are seeking and the concessions they can offer or those they cannot will help.
So, even as the Trump administration seeks to balance its trade, it’s not clear what other objective it wishes to achieve. But the inexorable unfolding of events has ensured that the US high-tech sector has become steadily hostile to China and now, even academia is becoming chary of the Chinese connection. Recently, the Johns Hopkins Medical school barred foreign scientists because of concerns of intellectual property rights issues. The move affects all foreign nationals, but the primary target is China.

Secrecy over Chinese scientists
Besides charging Chinese intelligence officers and hackers, the US has begun focusing on Chinese students studying STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) subjects in the US. Of particular focus is the Chinese Thousand Talents Programme, launched in 2008 to attract foreign-educated Chinese scientists. More than 7,000 researchers, mainly from the US, have been persuaded to return to China. Many of these, the US believes, are channels for stealing US intellectual property. One part of the programme is also open to non-Chinese researchers who are offered lucrative research grants and salaries to shift to China. 
As a result of US pressure, the Chinese have started hiding the identities of top scientific recruits, playing down the importance of the programmeThe bottom line is therefore quite stark. The US and China may work out a trade deal, but it will be a limited affair. It cannot resolve the issues that are leading to a steadily deteriorating US-China relationship, these include not just Taiwan and the South China Sea, but the basic lack of trust in the relationship that is acting as a dampener across the board.
It is not clear just what the US views the endpoint of the policy measures it is taking today. But for the Chinese, even a limited ceasefire would be a means of limiting US pressure on a range of areas, at least for a period of time, so as to enable China to build up its own capabilities in the economic, technological and military field to better offset US power.
The Wire November 10, 2018

Midterm Toxins & Tonic: Trump could end up being the unwitting vehicle of a very American revolution

Whether the blue (Democratic) electoral wave was stopped by a red (Republican) wall, or if there was a wave at all, remains a matter of contention in the United States. President Donald Trump responded as though he had won a re-election, took the opportunity to fire his attorney general and, in a lengthy, angry press conference, attacked the media.
To go by the metrics, Democrats captured the House of Representatives and made portentous gains in state legislatures and with other elected officials like state governors and attorneys general. Republicans, though, not only kept the upper house, the Senate, but they also picked up three seats there. With a divided legislature, Trump will now take credit for success and blame Democrats for his failures.
But with Democrats in charge of the House, Trump will, for the first time, face real Congressional oversight. Unlike in India, American parliamentary committees have real teeth which they often use in exercise of their investigation and oversight powers.  But with Trump threatening counterattack, nothing will be straightforward.
In essence, the election was about America’s dangerously divided polity and the outcome only underscores that the immediate future will remain toxic. Differences between the two parties have now reached epic proportions. These relate to social issues like abortion and same sex marriage, immigration and race, healthcare and environmental policy. Democrats have the support of larger numbers of women, minorities and the young, while the Republican core support comes from men, mainly white, and rural folk.
An electoral map shows the periphery of the country as blue, while the vast hinterland remains red. The US is increasingly becoming suburban and urban and less rural, and the polls show that Democratic strength derives from suburban women, younger voters, and non-Europeans. Time is running out for today’s Republican Party and in many instances they are clinging on to power through gerrymandering constituencies, preventing the minorities and the poor from voting, and toxic politics.
For Trump, the ideal American economy lies in the 1970s with workers in assembly lines churning out cars, trucks and locomotives. In the social sphere he goes back one more decade to an America where blacks were kept in their place and non-European immigrants didn’t exist. The old elite wants to turn the clock back to recreate an American economy that is no longer viable, or a society where white patriarchal dominance is unquestioned.
In all this, foreign affairs are furthest away from the minds of Americans. Those in China who had hoped that the outcome would help moderate Trump will be disappointed. Trump has helped change American attitudes towards them and the process has been bipartisan. Russians probably did not expect much. As for India, it doesn’t really count in America’s global calculus. For that we need a much larger economy, or a capacity to do mischief to the detriment of the US. As of now we have neither.
Trump’s narrow definition of American nationalism, attitudes towards race and immigration, international treaties, law and even basic decency and norms go against the grain, and, indeed, the real interests of his own country. Despite its obvious flaws and acts of commission, the US has been “the city on the hill” – a country that set global standards, whether in academia, fashion, lifestyle or entertainment, and one which welcomed immigrants who, in turn, enriched it.
Even so, Trump could end up being the unwitting vehicle of a very American revolution. One significant outcome has been the election of an unprecedented number of women legislators, triggered by the Trump misogyny and non-white voter turnout has soared to historic levels. By trampling on his allies and trashing norms, Trump could also end up changing global politics, in a manner that he never intended. But the struggle for the soul of the US is not likely to end soon. Indeed, things could well get worse before they get any better.
Times of India November 10, 2018

Afghan Peace Talks: India, Taliban in the Same Room Was Inevitable

India’s decision to join the second edition of the Moscow format talks on Friday, 9 November, on Afghanistan, where representatives of the Taliban were present, is essentially an acceptance of the inevitable.
New Delhi has had to confront a situation where the principal players are willing to undertake a dialogue with the Taliban and the US; Russia and China have been active in promoting reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Islamist group. The two representatives sent by India are ‘non-officials’.
Russia’s Return to the ‘Great Game’
During 1996-2001, when the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, India joined Russia and Iran to fight them. But now, not only have Russia and Iran developed ties with them, but even American officials have held direct talks with the Islamist group in recent months.
Friday’s Moscow meet represents the success of the Russians – who have succeeded in getting the Taliban and semi-official representatives of the Afghan government to sit at the same table and talk.
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This marks the return of Russia to the ‘Great Game’, and is yet another indicator of its determination to play a larger regional role.
Present at the meeting were representatives of 11 countries including China and Pakistan. The Taliban delegation was led by the Mohammed Abbas Stanekzai and Abdul Salam Hanafi (who run the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar). The Afghan government sent a delegation comprising four members of its High Peace Council, whose task is to promote national reconciliation.
Indian Participation
The Moscow Format, is a Russian-led effort to promote peace, and featured officials and unofficial representatives of Afghanistan, US, India, Iran, Pakistan, China, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and the Taliban. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, its aim is to establish a wide inter-Afghan dialogue aimed at promoting national reconciliation, and defeating the threat of the Islamic State group to the countries of the region.
The Americans sent an official from its Moscow embassy as an observer, and the Indians added their own creative bit by sending two retired foreign service officers who are associated with government-funded think tanks, to participate in the dialogue. They are T C A Raghavan, former High Commissioner to Islamabad and currently head of the Indian Council for World Affairs, and Amar Sinha, former Ambassador to Kabul and Distinguished Fellow at the Research and Information Systems for Developing Countries.
The key tipping point for India was, perhaps, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to send the High Peace Council delegation.
The first meeting hosted by Moscow collapsed in September when the Afghan government refused to meet Taliban representatives. At the time, an Indian official had been sent to attend the meeting.

Peace Talks With Taliban: American vs Russian Efforts

The Indian position has varied from the official one which says that any peace talks in the country must be “Afghan-owned” and “Afghan-led”, by which it means the Government of Afghanistan.  In line with this, it supported the Kabul Process initiated by Ghani in 2017. India was also signatory to the Tashkent Declaration of March 2018 which endorsed an Afghan-led process.
The Russian effort seems to be garnering more success than the American one. In July, the Americans held their first round of talks when Alice Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South, and Central Asian Affairs met with the Taliban at their office in Qatar.
The second round was held between the new US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban representatives again in Qatar last month. The Taliban want the Americans to leave before the formal peace process begins, while Washington is seeking to persuade the Taliban to talk directly to the Afghan government, even while it maintains a military force in the country.
The American decision was motivated by the fact that the Trump strategy is not making any difference to the ground situation in the country and the Taliban are steadily expanding their control and retaining the momentum of violence.

The India-Taliban-Afghanistan Relationship

For years, India has resisted any direct dealings with the Taliban. There are memories of the manner in which they played the Indian officials, amongst them current NSA Ajit Doval, during the hijack of IC 814 to Kandahar, in December 1999. There is also a recollection of how territory under the control of the Taliban was used to house training camps for militants belonging to organisations active in Jammu & Kashmir.
The unofficial Indian position has been that you cannot distinguish between good terrorists and bad terrorists and there are no “good Taliban” around.
Needless to say, the Indian position has been coloured by the role of Pakistan in providing logistical support to the outfit and so, its victory is liable to be seen as a victory for Islamabad by New Delhi.
India may have significant security and economic interests in Afghanistan, but the functioning of its important aid projects has depended on the security cover provided by the US/ISAF and the Afghan government because it is unwilling to commit ground forces there.
Ideally, India would have liked the NATO and the US to fight the Taliban to the end.  But that is not going to happen. India was overjoyed when the Trump Administration made Afghanistan a focus of its South Asia policy in 2017 and brought Islamabad in its cross-hairs for continuing to support the Afghan Taliban.

India Paves the Way for Better Ties With Afghanistan

But after a brief estrangement, the US and Pakistan are once again doing business together. This was underscored by a decision of the US Congress to remove the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba from provision in its National Defence Authorisation Act that would have required the government to “significantly disrupt” the activities of the LeT and the Haqqani network.
By bowing to the inevitable, India has laid the groundwork for its possible participation in the Afghan dialogue, and ensured that it is not isolated. This way, New Delhi can get a voice in the outcome of the peace process, where it may have had none otherwise.
It will try to (presumably) coordinate with the Afghan government, which it supports strongly. Simultaneously, the process enables India to build ties with the Taliban, even if somewhat late in the day. India cannot ignore the fact that ground realities ensure that the Taliban will be in the Afghan governing structure in some form or the other in the future.
The Quint November 10, 2018

What this China-Japan 'friendship' means to India and the South China Sea conflict

It is inevitable when there are back-to-back summits involving three key nations, that there will be comparisons. And so it is with the Modi-Abe summit of October 27-29 following the Xi-Abe meet of October 25-27.
abe-modi_110418121820.jpgJapan is developing infrastructure in North-East India. (Photo: Reuters)
Given the already good relations between India and Japan, the China-Japan summit was the more consequential one.
It was long in coming — the last time a Chinese leader met his Japanese counterpart officially was in 2011.
Their meet at a multilateral forum in 2014 is noted for the photograph of the two grim leaders shaking hands briefly.
After the most recent meeting with Xi, Abe declared that the relations between the two countries were moving “from competition to co-existence.”
Xi, in turn, spoke about the importance of working together at a time of growing global “instability and uncertainties.”
There is little doubt that the policies of Donald Trump form the subtext of the meeting.
xi-abe_110418121835.jpgFrom competition to co-existence... (Photo: Reuters)
Chinese partnership
Besides the usual declarations and photo-ops, the two sides also took some practical steps such as a $30 billion credit swap agreement and Japan’s de facto participation in the Belt and Road Initiative through 50 joint infrastructure projects.
Given the strong headwinds that China is facing in rolling out the BRI, Japanese participation could be a welcome means of finding the right balance.
belt-and-road_110418121913.jpgJapan is a de facto participant in the Belt and Road Initiative. (Photo: Reuters)
Japan has considerable experience in this area and remains a major player in what it calls the construction of “quality infrastructure.”
Participating in joint ventures with China is a good way for Japan to get more business for its own companies, even while providing a certain measure of stability in the tumult created by the trade stand-off between China and the US.
The process represents a workman-like approach to their ties, emphasising realism and self interest. Japan and other major exporting economies are not happy with the way China has done business, squeezing foreign companies for technology and closing off entire sectors of their economy.
But Japan and China also do business worth $350 billion in goods and services, and American policies, which could result in disrupting Chinese supply chains, could have a deeply negative impact on Japan.

All this does not mean that the Japanese are loosening their ties with the US.
What they are doing is to adjust to the realities of the US policies, especially in the trade front, where Washington simply wants to go it alone.
Tokyo underscored this by its tough posture in the South China Sea where in September Japan carried out drills involving not only its helicopter carrier, but also a submarine. The submarine later made a port call to Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam.

Backing India
Another facet of the Japanese posture was visible in the Modi-Abe summit that immediately followed.
Abe’s approach to New Delhi is without doubt shaped by his belief that India represents the best possible regional counter-weight to a rising China.
He has gone that extra mile to befriend Modi, as evidenced by his invitation to the Indian Prime Minister to visit his vacation home.
This was Modi’s third trip to Japan and his 12th summit with Abe.
India and Japan agreed to join forces in promoting technologies such as 5G phones, robotics and AI, areas where Beijing’s quest for them have been generating global concern.
The approach would be to harness Japan’s hardware skills with India’s software prowess.
Japan’s agreement to cooperate with India on infrastructure projects in third countries like Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bangladesh is useful for New Delhi to counter China.
By itself it lacks the resources and the expertise, so the partnership with Japan makes a critical difference.
Japan is already involved in developing infrastructure in the North-East in India. Japan has provided nearly $53 billion in total yen-denominated low interest loans to India.
Aligning motives
The current visit saw an agreement for deeper cooperation between Japan and India in the naval sphere.
They are currently negotiating a bilateral acquisition and cross-servicing agreement to share supplies and services.
In November, the two sides will have their first army counter-terrorism joint exercise.
This remains a problem area for the two countries. Notwithstanding a great deal of activity through high-level visits and joint exercises, their defence cooperation is limited.
In part, this is because of the reticence of both players. But it is also an indication of their inability to work out a strategic framework for their ties.
While China may be the context of their security ties, it's not clear under what circumstances and contingencies they will cooperate. Japan remains comfortable in operating through its American alliance system, while India is chary of any alliance at all.
Mail Today November 4, 2018

The tip of the damaged iceberg

LAST week, Ajit Doval, the powerful National Security Adviser (NSA), spoke of the need for strong and decisive governments, the importance of observing the rule of law, encouraging technological independence and the private sector.
The NSA should have also spoken for a modern government, where institutions and due process prevails, rather than individual whim. India’s governments, and Modi’s in particular, operate in a feudal milieu that privileges loyalty over other virtues.
That was evident in that week itself, when we saw what is probably the real face of the government — a medieval one, with darbaris locked in a bitter internecine war, even as the emperor watches silently. Doval himself, according to reports, played a significant role in the sordid drama that saw the chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) being removed in a midnight coup.
Given the past judgments and directions of the Supreme Court in relation to the autonomy of the organisation, the government’s moves appear suspicious and may not be quite legal. Indeed, there are some who now see the Supreme Court’s intervention as a victory for Prime Minister Modi. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The apex court directions have complicated the situation from the government’s point of view. They may have brought respite to the paralysed PMO that was unable to act till the last minute, but the bigger questions remain.
The government could well have done all this more transparently. But, maybe, Doval thrives on drama, or, perhaps, there is more to the report that the action was aimed at Director Verma for initiating action on a complaint on the Rafale deal by BJP dissidents Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha and lawyer Prashant Bhushan. 
There was a certain theatricality in issuing a midnight directive that saw the appointment of M Nageshwara Rao as an interim head of the CBI and both Rakesh Asthana and Alok Verma being informed by pre-dawn messengers that they were being sent on leave. Simultaneously, the new Director Rao immediately transferred officers perceived to be close to Verma and involved in the Asthana investigations. Rao was only declared ‘interim director’ as an afterthought when the matter headed for the apex court.  And Rao’s own record for impartiality looks a bit dodgy.
The apex court’s fetters on the CVC inquiry and interim director Nageshwara Rao indicate that it is following a cautious but sceptical approach. It has yet to hear on the main matter — the decision to send Verma on forced leave, given the fact that the Vineet Narain judgment commits the government to give a two-year tenure to the Director CBI. Verma is scheduled to retire in three months.
Accusing the Congress of coterie politics has been the stock-in-trade for the BJP. But in terms of style, the Modi government has been no different. He has also resorted to darbari politics, dependent on ‘loyalist’ IAS and IPS officers. Not surprisingly, those who served Modi in his long tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat have found places of authority in his prime ministerial dispensation.
Modi always wanted Asthana, an old associate from Gujarat, at the head of the ‘caged parrot’ agency. On December 2, 2016, as Additional Director he was appointed the ‘interim director’ of the CBI when the incumbent Anil Sinha retired. Special Director RK Dutta, who was senior to him, was shunted out to a new post in the Union Home Ministry as a Special Secretary, just two days before Sinha’s retirement.
Since Asthana lacked the seniority to be confirmed to the post that is statutorily appointed by a committee comprising the Chief Justice, leader of the Opposition and the PM, he had to give way to Alok Verma who was appointed to head the agency on February 1, 2017. Since then, an incipient civil war played out in the agency, where Asthana, with the help of the PMO, sought to undermine his boss, and where the boss, no slouch himself, gave as good as he got.
Some will say that the CBI has always had such problems, and hark back to the tenures of Ranjit Sinha and AP Singh. But the parallel drama taking place in another institution — the Enforcement Directorate (ED) — indicates that there is a larger problem. In the ED, following the retirement of Karnal Singh, Sanjay Mishra has been appointed its interim director. Attention is focused on Rajeshwar Singh, Joint Director of the ED, against whom an inquiry has been initiated following his falling out with Hasmukh Adhia, the powerful Finance Secretary.
This could well be the tip of the damaged iceberg that is the Government of India. The state of other institutions like the Election Commission or the Information Commission has also drawn concern. And on Friday,  RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya warned that the government’s efforts to undermine the institution could cost the country heavy.
So, yes, India needs strong, decisive governments that uphold the rule of law. But it also needs governments that understand the importance of institutions and also that the law of the land applies to these institutions. It, most certainly, does not mean — as Doval probably thinks it does — a country where people must obey the law. In fact, it is a process to check the arbitrary exercise of power by subjecting it to due process.
The Tribune October 31, 2018

Ajit Doval’s Speech is Ironic, Given His Govt’s Take on CBI Row

It would be difficult to take issue with any of the themes that National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval took up in his Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture on Thursday, 25 October. The highly cerebral Doval, who has a reputation for operational efficiency, declared:
  1. India needs a strong, stable and decisive government for the next decade; weak coalitions will not do.
  2. India cannot be a soft power because it needs to take hard decisions.
  3. India needs to have a big, globally competitive economy and it can be that only if it is technologically ahead.
  4. Populism is bad and against the larger national interest.
  5. Indian private sector companies should promote India’s strategic interests.
  6. Rule of law is extremely important and the temptation to undermine it should be resisted.
  7. Hard power and large armies don’t win battles’ technological superiority does.
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Ironically, his speech came on the same day when the government made short work of the rule of law and its intelligence officers were caught, apparently while maintaining surveillance over the head of the CBI, who had been replaced in highly questionable circumstances the night before.

Govt Response to CBI Row Has Been Dodgy

In 2014, for the first time in 30 years, India did get a government that was not a coalition. Its leader had a reputation for decisiveness and his authority over the government and the BJP was untrammeled. As a bonus, crude oil prices, a critical factor for the Indian economy, had halved over the previous year and remained low till 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised a corruption-free government, a government that would be decisive and push for market-friendly reforms. The reality we have just witnessed is of a government that was paralysed as the number one and number two in its premier investigation agency accused each other of corruption. The government response has been dodgy, to say the least.
As for decisiveness, yes, Modi was decisive, but he brought on the demonetization, one of the greatest policy blunders of recent times. This was compounded by the shoddy roll out of the GST. There has been reform in a number of areas like taxes, bankruptcy, etc. But none have been decisive in giving the economy the fillip it needs.
As for a technologically advanced military, ready to fight fourth-generation contact-less wars, the record of the government is less than shoddy. The Modi government has seriously underfunded the armed forces.
India’s defence budget is just 1.57 percent of the GDP, the lowest since the disastrous China war of 1962. But this is not the issue, what is more germane is the fact that all three Services have been seriously short-changed when it comes to capital outlays which are used to buy new equipment.
In the case of the army, the allocation of Rs 21,338 crore was not even sufficient to meet the committed payments of Rs 29,033 crore for past contracts. It is this new equipment that will ready the military to fight the kind of wars that Doval was referring to, and as of now nothing is happening on that front except talk.
Of course, blame for many of these things cannot be laid on Doval. A lot of the really important mis-steps must be blamed on the prime minister himself, or his finance minister.
As it is, there is a tendency to over-state Doval’s authority over the government. Though, it cannot be denied that he has gained unprecedented responsibilities in comparison to his predecessors, barring Brajesh Mishra, who was also Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister.
As NSA, in any case, he supervises the intelligence agencies, is the points man for the China and Pakistan policy, and heads the executive council of the nuclear command authority.

Doval Must Accept Responsibility for His ‘Ill-Conceived’ Strategies

Earlier this year, the government, in its wisdom, decided to make him the chair of the Defence Planning Committee, a highly unusual arrangement that has sought to provide a measure of integration over India’s stove-piped and scattered defence management system.
Its not clear, as of now, as to whether this innovation will yield results, or that it is merely an effort to brush the major problems afflicting our defence system under the carpet.
Doval has carried out significant changes in the National Security Council system that he heads and expanded its remit. The latter fact testified to by its hugely expanded budget and the National Security Council Secretariat’s take over of the entire Sardar Patel Bhavan in Parliament Street, where it had occupied some half the space till recently.
Doval’s supporters will argue that we laymen do not know the secret and internal changes that he has affected. That is true. But we are witness to the many public failures of the government on the security front.
Again, it would not be right to lay it all on Doval’s head. But in some instances, he must accept responsibility for substandard operations and ill-conceived strategies.
In the first category, it is difficult to forget the poor response to the Pathankot attack. Despite being forewarned, Doval, who was personally in-charge of the operation, botched the Indian response.
Then, his hard-line strategy in Jammu & Kashmir is far from yielding a dividend and his policy has led to increased tensions. As for China, after a policy of irritating Beijing by promoting the exiled Tibetans and Uighurs, even while belabouring it for not backing India’s case in the NSG or in proscribing Masood Azhar, Doval’s boss, Prime Minister Modi, decided that discretion was the better part of valour and has smoked the peace pipe with Xi Jinping in Wuhan.
Analysing Doval’s record is important for getting a measure of the importance of what he said in his lecture on Thursday.
Certainly, India needs a strong, stable and decisive government, a government that promotes business and technology acquisition and hews to the rule of law. But it also needs a government that is competent.
The government Doval has worked for, unfortunately, has not quite displayed an ability to execute policy effectively.
The Quint November 13, 2018