Prospects for Indo-US Partnership

The topic of Indo-American partnership elicits strong reactions - either optimistic sound-bites of shared economic and political values at the political level or pessimistic dismissals and accusations of double-standards at the level of Indian commentators, particularly in the shadow of the US Congress’ attachment of extraneous conditions to the Indo-US nuclear partnership, the proposed arming of Pakistan to the tune of $5 billion and the high-level penetrations of the Indian intelligence service by its American counterparts. Despite these acts of bad faith on the part of the Unites States, neither the Indian government nor market nor society has abandoned its engagement with it. Since the US is the larger and more powerful partner in this duo, it is worthwhile to examine its strategic outlook and to look at India’s potential through its eyes. One may then see the emerging contours for India’s participation more clearly and maneuver accordingly to safeguard our interests. This Op-Ed examines two possible trajectories in the US’ engagement with the world and seeks to extrapolate the implications for Indo-US partnership in either case.


Scenario I

Since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the strategic dilemma for the US has been whether to focus on the threat from failed states or to focus on preparing for the next near-competitor, a la the Soviet Union. Thomas Barnett’s book, “The Pentagon’s New Map – War and Peace in the 21st Century” 1 provides a ringside view of this debate and its seeming tilt towards the former threat scenario. Barnett, a professor at the US Naval War College, is a respected voice in the American strategic community 2. He contends that:


(a) The threat of true global wars between large powers has effectively died with the end of the Cold War. This is due to the fact that there are no longer two competing economic ideologies jostling for supremacy.


(b) The incumbent political powers – the West – have bought into the idea of economic globalization and do not seek to replace it. The emerging political powers like Russia, China, India and Brazil also have bought into the idea of globalization. The increase in the issue-focused working groups among the G-7/8 and strong emphasis on compliance 3 with agreed-upon benchmarks, illustrate this trend of co-operation vividly. While there may be specific disagreements that reflect their society’s needs (farm subsidies, import tariffs on steel/timber/textiles, patent rights on life saving drugs etc.), they are willing to use their membership in world bodies like the WTO and regional trading blocs like the EU, ASEAN and NAFTA to negotiate their demands, instead of breaking those bodies. Thus, competition between the world powers has moved one rung above to supra-national entities or to the “system” stage from the level of nation-states. Therefore, the challenge of accommodating new members like India, China, Russia and Brazil into “the Core” will be dealt with in peaceful ways, not by war.


(c) The progress of globalization has been highly uneven and has resulted in a many exclusions, like Africa, the Middle East, parts of Latin America and the CAR region, which form “the Gap”. The exclusions are so severe that entire societies and nations in “the Gap” can be mobilized to fight the process of globalization, with Islamic fundamentalism being one example. The level of violence has now moved one rung below that of nation-states to the level of individuals or networks.


(d) The challenge for the US military is not to defeat a competitor in full-scale war; no real military competitor exists or is likely to in the medium term. The recurring burden for the US military, one that it is not equipped to handle, is the continuous deployment of US troops in regions of “the Gap”, from Iraq to Afghanistan to the Korean border. As Barnett points out, the number of American military’s crisis deployment days increased 70% from the 1970s to the 1980s, although the number of incidents increased only 20%. From the 1990s to 2003, the US military engaged in 140 military responses, 80% of them concentrated in Haiti, Yugoslavia, Iraq and Somalia.


(e) The American response should be to bridge the divide between “the Core” and “the Gap”, not merely to keep “the Gap” from intruding into “the Core”, like it did on 9/11. In this endeavor, it cannot go it alone, because the burden is too enormous for any one country to shoulder. The scale of political and economic investment required will need the buy-in of Europe, Russia and Asia.


In the first scenario, we accept that this will be Washington’s worldview, and extrapolate the prospects for Indo-US relations, as viewed by Washington, in the next 25 years or so.


(1) India’s value to the US will lie in functioning as “the Core” for South Asia that pulls “the Gap” – Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Burma - into the orbit of globalization. In this regard, the US is helped immensely from India’s own acceptance of this methodology of dealing with its neighbors, even the troublesome ones like Pakistan and Bangladesh. In other words, India didn’t need to be convinced of this responsibility; we have already donned that mantle. The best-case scenario is the recreation of the economic transformation of the Far East in the 1980s that was driven by the engine of Japanese economy; in other words, economic integration without erasing political boundaries. One could argue that the US could instead invest directly in the development of “the Gap” countries in South Asia and reap the political rewards, rather than act via India. However, the way to secure India itself within “the Core” is to strengthen the process of globalization here and share the burden of integrating the South Asian “Gap” with India.


(2) Another Indian trait that is of great value to the US and to “the Core” in general is our willingness to be part of and strengthen the “system” i.e. the supra-national entities that will govern rules of conduct in the future. During the Cold War, it was possible to construct two ideologically different “systems” for the world and still maintain the credibility of the both, because both the Soviet bloc and the West invested in their respective economic and political models. In the current set-up, the credibility of the surviving “system” depends on the participation of an India that hosts one-sixth the world’s population and an economy that is progressively integrating with the world’s. India has never sabotaged international agreements or bodies, even those that it has not been party to e.g. NPT. As a corollary, it is in our interests to refrain from making commitments that will run contrary to our core interests in the future in the mistaken belief that we can jettison them at a later time. As a unified, consensus-based response becomes the norm among the G-7/8 countries, Indian reneging on commitments risks attracting more than bilateral sanctions; it could result in damaging our relations with other powerful countries. In this context, India must negotiate its commitments to the Indo-US nuclear agreement very carefully before it is signed into law from both sides.


(3) India is the only country, other than the U.S., that is capable of projecting power in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and capable of securing the commercial sea-lanes from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Straits. This becomes a critical factor in the US’ calculations on the number of ships and refueling ports required to enforce the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). Going forward, the co-operation of the Indian, Australian, South Korean and Japanese navies will be essential to the success of this security paradigm and only the Indian navy has the combination of location, force structure and political commitment to policing the IOR.


What should India ask of the US?

(i) In order to successfully become “the Core” in South Asia, India’s own citizens in “the Gap” need to brought into the fold and therefore, we need to keep our economic growth on path. In this regard, it is in US interests to ease India’s quest for cheap, reliable and plentiful power, like nuclear fuel.


(ii) The US should increase co-operation in areas of science and technology (meteorology, geology, new materials, electronic fabrication, instrumentation and alternate fuels) agriculture (water management, crop variety development, storage and food processing), infrastructure development (urban planning, roads, ports, airports, water treatment facilities and telecommunications) and medicine (combating pandemics and preventable diseases) on favorable terms to India. It is interesting to note that there has been an enduring engagement at the academic level, spanning nearly 40 years, between the US and India on a majority of these projects. What is now required is the financial investment in these sectors to transform the scientific and technological knowledge gained through this partnership into solutions to real-world problems. This is already happening in the form of FDI and Portfolio investment 4. However, there is a need for the US government to step in with bilateral or multilateral aid in these sectors so that financial investment by American companies seeking new markets in India is partly buffered from the short-term, high profitability requirements dictated by their stock ratings. Currently, of the top 9 US companies investing in India, 6 are in the power sector (taking advantage of the recent deregulation) and one each in the passenger cars, soft-drinks market and cellular phones sectors – all serving the needs of a rising middle class. There is a need for India to balance the investment in other sectors mentioned above and here it requires the developmental assistance of the US government. If investment in India is left entirely to market forces, it will continue to remain unaffordable for the majority of the population, trigger off a protectionist wave in India in response to increasing social disparities and set the clock back on co-operation in securing the “system”. In any case, such assistance will still be much less than its investment in post-WWII Japan and Germany, for example, because India is not war ravaged and has already made significant progress in these fields and is in a position to provide economies of scale to the US market.


(iii) The fact that India is taking a significant domestic political risk by identifying with the US’ economic and political agenda (a consequence of our lop-sided economic development, multi-religious society and fragmentation of political authority among various parties) must be reflected in the US’ treatment of India. While the US has been quite understanding of our inability to contribute troops to post-Saddam Iraq, such a sensitivity has been completely absent in its prescriptions on how India must deal with Iran, in the run-up to the US Congress’ debate on the Indo-US civilian nuclear co-operation bill. The US government and legislature must be made to understand that such pressure on the Indian government undercuts its ability to align with their goals, even if it wishes to.


The tasks of reigning in Pakistan or facing down China are glaring, but deliberate, omissions from this wish list. As far as Pakistan is concerned, we believe that the sun is setting on its ability to wage war on India in any form, conventional or sub-conventional. It retains the ability to go down in a blaze, but India has offered enough incentives to prevent that from occurring – by not encouraging the break-up of Pakistan and by even supplying lifelines to Musharraf in the form of a composite-dialogue process. Pakistani rulers in the medium term will have to be content with an India that does not ignore them.


While India must protect its interests from a rising China, it must do so in a way that does not turn the Sino-US competition into a Sino-Indian one. The competition for energy supply, for political influence in neighboring capitals and for naval presence in the IOR will continue, but can be balanced by expanding bilateral trade 5 and stabilized by the strengthening of India’s strategic deterrent in the form of an Agni-III arsenal and a nuclear submarine fleet.


Scenario II

We now discuss the alternate scenario to Barnett’s i.e. one in which there will be increased emphasis on preventing the rise of peer-competitors at the expense of enforcing a rule set that finds global consensus. The discussion so far has rested on the assumption that the US is truly ready for a globalized world. Does that assumption hold?

(a) There are indications that the US, having successfully faced down the Soviet Union, is not ready to share the spoils of uni-polarity with other partners in a first-among-equals setting. The US handling of the UNSC, in the run-up to the Iraq war does not warrant the conclusion that it will be bound by the need to build consensus in “the Core”. Another example is the US’ opposition to the International Criminal Court (ICC), resting on the belief that American military forces take on a disproportionate burden of maintaining global order through interventions and therefore, must be exempt from the legal implications of such actions. A third example is its lack of support for the Kyoto Agreement based on fears of its impact on the US economy.

(b) The form of globalization that the US currently champions still keeps the US as the pre-eminent power in the world, primarily due to the fact that the currency of trade in essential items is the US dollar. The choice of the US dollar as the world’s trade currency gives the US a time-cushion, which other countries lack, to adjust its economy to adapt to the changing world. It also enables the US to spend beyond its means because it attract its trade deficit dollars back to the US economy as an investment in US Treasury Bonds, thereby keeping interest rates low. The pre-eminent position of the US dollar is due to trust-worthiness of the US economy, which in turn is linked to the ability of the US government to force changes, via military means if necessary, in various parts of the world in order to sustain its economical position. Thus, it is not in US interests to encourage such a democracy of globalization that its own ability to remain supreme is reduced. In other words, the US will continue to act unilaterally to maintain its pre-eminent position, that will put a natural limit on the cohesiveness of “the Core”, and hence to its effectiveness to maintain a peaceful global order.

 What can happen to derail the proposed American-authored and enforced world order of “systems”? A partial list includes:

(a) Lack of a common vision of the future and lack of trust among the current economic powers, the G-7/8. There has to be a sustained period of more give than take from the G-7/8 if “the Gap” is to be incorporated into “the Core”. With declining economic and population growth in G-7/8 countries, governments may be less inclined to favor measures like liberal labor movements, expanding trade deficits or inclusion of less developed economies into regional groupings. In return, such lack of co-operation will cause developing countries to place less trust in mechanisms like IPR and will effectively freeze globalization at its current limits.

(b) The inability to defeat Islamic fundamentalism. This will continue to deny cheap energy sources to the world in the medium term and will produce fissures among the grouping of nations that want to expand the process of globalization on the right way to deal with this threat, particularly as many West European countries grapple with the domestic implications of a clash of civilizations.

(c) The resurgence of Marxism, albeit in a different incarnation than Communism. Marxism came to the fore as a result of socio-political turmoil during the industrial revolution and was a direct byproduct of rapidly changing technology and its impact on the world. A rapid pace of technological change accelerates the emergence of economic ideologies, and technological change has never been more rapid than it is today. If globalization continues to exclude countries and indeed, entire continents, from its benefits, the resurgence of an anti-Capitalist social movement cannot be ruled out. It can be argued that globalization as it exists today, as an overseas province of the Capitalist system, forces exclusions into “the Gap” because it is, by definition, exploitative. Whether it is search for Middle Eastern or CAR energy resources or African mineral resources, the institutions that govern relations within “the Core” require the existence of “the Gap” wherein a no-holds-barred competition for such resources can take place. There is thus a conflict of interest between “a Core” that seeks to assimilate entire nations and societies in the interest of a peaceful world and “a Core” that is founded on competitive capitalism, and by its actions fosters underdevelopment, war and social malaise on nations which become easier to exploit under those circumstances. However, absent a strong state sponsor, it is unlikely to result in a worldwide challenge to Capitalism; at best, it can deny “the Core” access to the natural wealth needed for continued economic growth and thereby exacerbate tensions within “the Core”.

(d) The negotiation of American national identity. Thus far, the success of melting pot culture in the US has rested on controlled immigration and linguistic unity combined with economic growth and opportunity. The shifting demographics towards Hispanic populations and pressure for a bilingual society have caused a debate on national identity and the American role in engaging with its neighbors. If such divisions increase over time, they can combine with economic downturns, to result in an American withdrawal from its role as the global enforcer of “the Core’s” rules.

 What forms will the contours of increased competition among “the Core” take?

Between the EU and the US, competition 6 will be focused on whether the Euro or the US dollar will be the world’s reserve currency and the choice in international financial transactions. Within three years of its introduction, the Euro has become the world’s most used and stable currency, backed as it is by the combined strength of Europe in the form of the European Central Bank and anchored in the Stability and Growth Pact’s strict standard of requiring all participant countries to maintain a budget deficit below 3 percent of their GDP. The European Union is also the world’s largest market. The impact of this unified market on the dominance of American business entities is being felt in many ways – most household American brand names are under European ownership, and American companies have had to comply with tighter European regulations on anti-trust laws, environmental and labeling standards. What is perhaps most galling to American policy makers is the fact that American taxation policy could be set by the EU – the repeal of American Foreign Sales Corporations and Extra-Territorial Income Exclusion Act being a case in point. The American response to the EU’s rising clout is likely to remain politically oriented – it would seek to split the EU bloc in support of its political agenda as it did in the run-up to Iraq’s invasion and would push for the EU to share a greater burden of NATO expenses.

The competition between the US and leading EU member states like France and Germany, Russia and China appears to be a race towards rehabilitating critical “Gap” states like Iran, Iraq (for its oil) and North Korea (for its implications for the American military presence in the Far East) into “the Core” on terms profitable to each. Thus far, the US has the upper hand in Iraq with respect to this geopolitical goal, despite its difficulties in stabilizing the situation there. In North Korea, China has the advantage, thanks to its nuclear and missile proliferation as well as to its increasing closeness to South Korea driven by trade and the common distrust of an assertive Japan. In Iran, the coming years will see an intra-Core arm-wrestle and the pendulum is not in the US’ favor because, given its adversarial relationship with Iran, it will have to impose a regime change in order to achieve its objectives. In contrast, Russia, China, France and Germany, needing only to moderate American pressure, have less ground to make up in the race for influence in Teheran. Russia and China, concerned at the US presence in the CAR region, have deflected American pressure to ostracize Iran by granting it observer status in the SCO.

What are the prospects for Indo-US partnership in this alternate scenario? 


We believe that co-operation with India will assume added importance for the US government in this scenario, because the US will be primarily interested in fending off the second-rung challengers to its authority, namely the EU, Russia and China and so, makes it imperative to co-opt third-rung competitors like India.


The US effort at co-opting India as an ally will be categorized by greater co-operation at the political level like leaning towards India on the India-Pakistan scale, military sales directly and allowing third party transfers and increased joint military exercises, greater sensitivity in commenting upon Indian domestic issues like freedom of religion, communal relations, human rights issues and less overt pressure on Indian foreign policy choices, rather than at the economic level like those outlined previously.


India must summarily reject such co-operation! The reasons are two-fold - such inducements are designed to attract political allies, not economic partners and they can be reversed anytime, depending on the prevailing political climate or wisdom in Washington, DC.


The Indian response must be geared towards discerning and deflecting American inducements or pressures without causing political estrangement. A classic example is the US’ proposed arming of Pakistan and its impact on Indian and American defense modernization plans. The Pentagon needs to support its hi-tech military transformation plans because it does not trust a truly multi-polar world when it comes to military power, unipolarity being the pre-eminent prize of the Soviet collapse. That transformation requires costly and protracted weapons development, which means that defense contractors must be able to generate more money for development instead of relying on federal assistance that must pass through a skeptical Congress intent on cashing in the “peace dividend”. On the other hand, US military involvement in the troubled spots of the world has been steadily increasing over the past 20 years under both Republican and Democratic administrations as Barnett has shown, which brings added pressure on manpower and operational expenses, further eroding the capital expenditure budget for big ticket items like theatre missile defense. The US government’s logical course of action is to help defense contractors generate their own income through weapon sales and India is a lucrative market in this respect. The nature and timing of the Pentagon’s defense relationship with Pakistan is intended to prey on Indian insecurity and garner the arms market. For example, the sale or even notification of the sale of Harpoon missiles is intended to provoke an Indian order for the P-3C Orion aircraft and that of the F-16 sales is intended to tip the Indian MRCA order towards the F-18. That is why India must completely ignore it and carry on with business as usual.


Despite these weapons for Pakistan, they lack a strategic context to wage war against India on the scale that these weapon systems become a factor. In responding militarily to a re-armed Pakistan, India would do well to take a leaf from Pakistan’s own defense procurement strategy of the 1980s. While India focused on developing a balanced war-fighting capability including a modern air force (at least in the regional context) and augmenting armored mobility, Pakistan focused on narrow and select purchases like the F-16s and artillery up gradation that served merely to mitigate the conventional force disparity but never to overcome it. India’s response to the rearming of Pakistan’s military should be focused on denying them the rationale to go to war e.g. by increasing the BrahMos inventory and their land, air and sea delivery platforms, upgrading our ECW capabilities, upgrading rocket artillery regiments and increasing our PGM and BVR missile inventory – all indigenous weapon systems. The intended message is clear – India will target Pakistani communication nodes from a range beyond Pakistan’s capability to respond. This, in conjunction with the terrain, our force structure, the state of Pakistan’s economy and the international pressure to avoid war, renders Pakistan’s acquisitions virtually useless – as long as India refrains from costly acquisitions from the US to offset them. Any big-ticket weapon imports should be sourced from Russia and Europe if need be. Similarly, India faced down the Kashmiri terrorist movement in the 1990s despite the US’ encouragement of the Hurriyat Conference and its questioning of the legitimacy of India’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir. There is no reason to surrender this victory for American pronouncements of solidarity with India’s position on this issue.


India can maximize its benefits by continually maneuvering to remain the “swing-vote” in this game of chess, never completely committing to or becoming estranged from either camp. In the coming show down with Iran, India’s value lies in its ability to communicate in a friendly manner with Iran. India should use it to convey the twin messages that while we do not support its nuclear weapons development, we will moderate the US threat of using force. The Indian reaction to Washington’s rhetoric should be to raise our own rhetoric for a peaceful resolution of the issue, so that it does not take our acquiescence in its game plan for granted. In return, India can offer to secure common interests in Afghanistan and reduce the American military deployment there. In the Chinese-American rivalry, India can compensate for declining American influence in South Korea by working more closely with its ally, Japan, and simultaneously expanding our influence in Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia.


In return, India must hold out for the truly meaningful rewards of broad-based economic benefit because that is a sure sign that the US is invested in a strong and self-sufficient India. We must be wary of rewards that bring disproportionate and relatively short-term economic benefit to a particular class of our countrymen, as opposed to those that genuinely afford us the capacity to develop our economy as a nation.



1.T. P. M. Barnett, The Pentagon’s New Map. War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 2004.

2. A. Chaikivsky, “The Strategist”, Esquire, December 2002, p. 163.

3. J. Kirton, ““Economic Co-operation: Summitry, Institutions, and Structural Change”, in John Dunning and Gavin Boyd, eds. Structural Change and Co-operation in the Global Economy, Edward Elgar, London, 1997. Also, see E. Kokotsis, Keeping International Commitments: Compliance, Credibility and the G7, 1988-1995, Grland Publishing, New York, 1999.

4. India-US Economic Relations, Embassy of India,

5. Indian Trade Statistics, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India. As an example, the fastest growth in India’s imports, to the tune of 51% from FY 2005 to FY 2006 came with the PRC, which now makes up 7.5% of India’s total imports, while Indian exports in the same period grew 20% to make it the fourth fastest growing export destination that accounts for 6.5% share in India’s exports.

6. T.R. Reid, The United States of Europe. The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy, The Penguin Press, New York, 2004.  

©Security Research Review Volume 2(2) 2006

Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Afghanistan

Brief history of the Afghan War 

The Afghan war had its roots in a series of overthrows starting in 1973 when Mohammad Daoud overthrew King Zahir Shah. In 1975, resistance to the communist regime began as uprisings. The Afghan Islamist factions of the resistance were favored by
Pakistan , Saudi Arabia and the US over Afghan traditionalist and royalist factions. After the Soviet 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan selected seven Afghan Islamist groups [i], trained thousands of their members and supplied them with billions of dollars of weapons, aid, and support to fight the Soviets and the communist regime in Afghanistan. The CIA and Pakistan ’s ISI in association with Saudi intelligence set up an arms and aid pipeline to keep the mujaheddin supplied from Pakistan
. They also collaborated closely with each other in planning military and political strategy for their mujaheddin clients. 

During the period 1979-1989 the Soviets fought to quell the Afghan resistance by repeated assaults such as aerial bombing of villages that resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties and displacements. The mujaheddin practiced guerilla warfare and fought for control over various regions with Pakistan-supplied arms and training. Beginning in 1986, the
US supplied Stinger missiles to the mujaheddin to further increase the Soviet cost of involvement in Afghanistan . The mujaheddin did not always fight cleanly; for instance many commanders were paid by the ISI and CIA to launch missile attacks on Kabul city that resulted in large civilian casualties [ii]. Pakistani and Saudi authorities co-opted the initial Afghan nationalist resistance to defeat the Soviet Army and topple its proxy Communist regime in Kabul
. This was performed by sustained political, military and material support of the most radical of Afghan Islamists Hikmatyar and Sayyaf. 

The Afghan mujaheddin supported by the US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, made repeated attempts to engineer total military victory and political dominance for their particular Salafi clients Hikmatyar and Sayyaf. As a result of Saudi and Pakistani influence, multiple attempts to bring about sustainable military or political culminations with cooperation of other Afghan mujaheddin and exile groups failed because they did not grant Hikmatyar such total military or political dominance [iii]  [iv]  [v].

Jihadis from
Pakistan , Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries participated in the Afghan War; notable were Bin Laden and Al Zawahiri. Numerous organizations flourished by receiving their share of aid and/or weapons for the jihad and subsequently gained in power and prestige. Some of these groups later coalesced into Al Qaeda. Under President Zia Ul Haq and his Islamisation program, which ran in tandem with the Afghan jihad, religious parties in Pakistan
gained influence through the burgeoning number of madrassas funded by Arab donors aimed at indoctrinating young people for the jihad. 

Under pressure from military conflict in
Afghanistan and political compulsions in Moscow , the Soviet Army finally withdrew from Afghanistan
in 1989. The US and Soviets reached an agreement and completely disengaged from the Afghan conflict in 1991, even though no stable settlement for restoring peace in Afghanistan could be reached between the superpowers or various Afghan factions. In the post-1991 period, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia continued to pursue their previous policies of fueling the conflict by avoiding compromise with other mujaheddin groups and attempting to engineer a total military victory for Hikmatyar and Sayyaf [vi]   [vii]

Many Afghan commanders and exile groups considered the Afghan Jihad to have ended after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. However, the prerogative for ending the conflict was out of their control due to Pakistani and Saudi obduracy. The Pakistani commitment to engineering victory for the radical Islamist Hikmatyar can also be seen in the fact that two civilian governments of Pakistan, that of Prime Minister Junejo in 1988 and Benazir Bhutto in 1990, were dismissed, in order to enable the Pakistani Army and the ISI to continue their Afghan policy. 

In the years 1989-2001, it is estimated that approximately one million Afghans were killed. Specifically, the period between 1989-1995 was marked by large-scale civic disorder and destruction, lawlessness and conflict. Notable was the fighting in
in 1992-1994 in which 20,000 Afghans civilians are estimated to have been killed. 

In 1994, Hikmatyar was abandoned by
Pakistan and the newly supported Taliban militia gradually won over large tracts of war-weary Afghanistan
. Pakistani jihadis fought alongside the Taliban with the Pakistani Army and ISI providing military planning and support. The Taliban's military victories came after not only driving back its chief opponents in the Northern Alliance and Hizb-e-Wahadat, but also after carrying out massacres of Afghan civilians in which the Pakistanis also participated [viii] [ix] [x] [xi].

At the time of the
US invasion in 2001, the Taliban were presiding over an oppressive regime not recognized by any country except Pakistan and Saudi Arabia , and entrenched in a civil war against the Northern Alliance . The Afghan economy was in ruins with no prospects for reconstruction; Afghan women were forced out of work and Afghan girls forced out of schools by state decree. Under Taliban patronage, Osama Bin Laden and his allied organizations were operating camps in Afghanistan
to train jihadis for guerilla warfare and terrorist attacks on a global scale. 

Clearly, the power and prestige which jihadi Islamism gained in the Afghan conflict derived from the billions of dollars of weapons, aid, and training, and state patronage which US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan supplied to their clients during that period. It is also clear that any jihadi victories were of the pyrrhic kind which may be ascribed to jihadi Islamists and their ISI and Saudi sponsors preferring to preside over the most horrific destruction rather than seek compromise. Unfortunately such a destructive conflict is now mythologized and eulogized as a landmark victory by radical propaganda through out the Islamic world. This is facilitated by the continued maintenance of official denial by the
US , Saudi Arabia and Pakistan
about their roles in the Afghan War.

Scope of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on

Ideally, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be established by the
United States and Russia with the participation of Saudi Arabia , Pakistan , Afghanistan , Iran and other countries. 

Under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, each nation, including the
US and Russia
, would put on public record its cumulative role and its share of the horrors of Afghan conflict in the period 1975-2001. The sole purpose would be solely to put the truth on the public record for the purpose of reconciliation and ending the cycle of violence. As the victims number in tens of millions; it would be primarily representative groups, organizations, member of militaries and former and present government functionaries who would testify before the Commission. 

Primarily the governments of
Russia , Saudi Arabia , Pakistan , and the United States
would testify about support to the war effort such as alliances, clients in the war, military aid, arms pipeline, and training of combatants. Other aspects of testimony would involve particular military offensives, Afghan civilian causalities, destruction of infrastructure, glorification of the jihad and religious extremism through propaganda and indoctrination. 

Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in other countries

Truth and Reconciliation commissions have been used in a number of other countries to document and reach reconciliation after extended periods of political violence. 

South Africa  

South Africa established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission when the rule of apartheid ended in 1994. In order to facilitate reconciliation among South Africans and put an end to cycles of violence, the Commission put on record the violence and human rights abuses committed in the period of 1960-1994. 

Human rights abuses had been committed by both sides in
South Africa
, the domestic governments in imposing the official apartheid policy, and by South Africans fighting the government. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission did not aim to award punishment to those who committed human rights abuses on either side. Rather it encouraged offenders to put the truth on official record; the Commission offered amnesty to those who confessed to their crimes. The Commission also aimed to record incidents of human rights abuses, identify victims, and offer relief and reparation to the deserving. 

East Timor

East Timor established a Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation to look into human rights violations committed in East Timor between April 1974 and October 1999.

The Commission, which is currently in operation, has a mandate to seek the truth, record victim testimonies, perpetuator acknowledgements of human rights abuses, to facilitate community reconciliation by dealing with minor offences such as looting, burning and minor assault, and to make recommendations to prevent further abuses and help past victims. The Commission does not have the power to offer amnesties. Serious crimes such as crime, rape and torture have to be brought to trial in the state’s justice system outside the Commission. 

A number of other countries have established Truth and Reconciliation Commissions to look into human rights abuses in the past, including Chile, Argentina, Peru, Sri Lanka and South Korea [xii]

Benefits of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on

Benefits to

By revealing the past actions of Afghan and foreign players in the Afghan War, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would help Afghans reconcile with their past and provide a sound foundation for the peaceful reconstruction of the Afghan nation and society. 

A Truth and Reconciliation would lay out the truths regarding the Afghan War. The truth would grant Afghan civilians their due position as key sufferers in the 25 years of the Afghan conflict and as the key stakeholders in peace and progress in the future. It would also help foster trust and reconciliation between the numerous Afghan factions whose current relationship is precariously based on military peace imposed by the presence of international military forces. It would put an end to the cycle of violence which can otherwise be triggered by revenge killings by warlords or the assassinations of major government leaders. 

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission would also provide a basis of truth for
Afghanistan ’s reconciliation with other countries including Pakistan , Iran and Saudi Arabia . The world may owe Afghanistan monetary or material aid, but much more so the world owes Afghanistan the truth about the Afghan War. 

Benefits in the Global War on Terror 

The establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on
is consistent with the goals of the global war on terror. The realities about the near-total destruction of Afghanistan, its causes and its contributors, what led to it and who contributed to it, when laid before the public record would serve to destroy jihadi Islamist myths being propagated and reveal the true costs of jihadi Islamism. 

A number of blatant falsehoods being propagated to credulous populations by jihadi Islamism’s proponents would also be conclusively quashed. 

Myth #1: The Afghan Jihad did not target noncombatants, women and children. 

The Afghan War was, in fact, characterized by indiscriminate killing of civilians by all sides. Civilians were killed in all phases including in missile attacks by mujaheddin during the Soviet phase as well as ethnic and sectarian massacres. The women of
Kabul suffered atrocities committed by former mujaheddin commanders in the early nineties. The Taliban regime committed atrocities on women on the frontlines of its civil war with Northern Alliance

Myth #2: The Afghan Jihad was a noble struggle for Muslims’ just rights. 

The Afghan Jihad was fought in defense of Afghan nationalism against the Soviet occupation. It is also factual that the jihad was co-opted by the Pakistani Army/ISI and
Saudi Arabia 's religio-political agenda in association with the US ’s strategic agenda of defeating the Soviet Union

Myth #3: The armed jihad purifies Islamic societies and rids them of corruption. 

In fact, in
, there were brutal mutual betrayals by mujaheddin commanders who killed each others’ men in the battlefield and refused all compromise on the political front. The jihad reduced Afghan society to a dangerous, private army-dominated, brutalized society with every civic and social institution destroyed and cities reduced to rubble. Afghan women were reduced to illiteracy and some forced into prostitution, opium was freely traded by Pakistani-Afghan drug lords, and the economy destroyed. 

Myth #4: Jihadis who fought in
and elsewhere are martyrs who will gain entry to paradise for themselves and their relatives. 

When the shifting alliances, betrayals and foreign agendas in the Afghan War are laid on public record, the question of martyrdom in the Afghan War would be seen as a difficult one. It will become clear that it was usually the current jihadi allies of the Pakistani ISI/Pakistani Army who were conferred the status of martyrs. 

The establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission will go a long way to stem the mythology surrounding the Afghan Jihad.

Benefits beyond

The aims of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are consistent with
Pakistan ’s official policy of enlightened moderation, namely to quell religious extremism in Pakistan

Pakistan , the Afghan jihad is an ongoing process that began in 1975. Pakistanis participated in the Afghan jihad in large numbers [xiii]. However, all discourse on jihad including in state textbooks for school children propagates jihad as an abstract Quranic concept, with no mention of the human toll in neighboring Afghanistan . The Truth and Reconciliation Commission would bring the facts about Afghan War into the public discourse on jihadi Islamism in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

The establishment of the Commission would also have a positive impact in other countries vulnerable to the propaganda of jihadi Islamism such as
Bangladesh and Indonesia . Additionally, for the United States and Russia
the Commission would clearly display the long term consequences of Cold War policies.

Obstacles to the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Afghanistan as suggested in this article is different from previous such Commissions because it requires extensive cooperation between several governments. Such a Commission would be unprecedented. In addition it requires political will on the part of the
United States and Russia to voluntarily put their Cold War choices in Afghanistan
under public scrutiny. 

In countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, not only are participants in the Afghan Jihad policy still in positions of power, but there is also no existing tradition of public debate on internal conflicts much less on matters considered key to the state’s ideology and security. It may be recalled that Hamidur Rehman Commission reports on the secession of
East Pakistan were not released in Pakistan for more than two decades. The participation of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in an international body such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Afghanistan
would be an unprecedented opening up or glasnost in these societies. 

A more general impediment to the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the desire of world powers and governments to continue the Great Game in
Central Asia . Competition for access to Central Asian energy resources might see the revival of the use of jihadi Islamism and proxies in the region, an option which world powers would not wish to lose by laying out their past policies to international scrutiny. In summary, United States , Russia , Pakistan and Saudi Arabia must determine if the commitment to reconstruction of Afghanistan
and tackling radical Islamist ideology is a matter of expedience or conviction.

Reprint from Afgha ( and the original article may be viewed

References and Footnotes
[i]The seven Afghan Islamist parties were (1)Nationalist Islamic Front of Afghanistan(NIFA) led by Sayyid Ahmad Gailani, (2) Afghan National Liberation Front(ANLF), led by Hazrat Sibghatullah Mujaddidi,(3) Harkat-i Inquilab-i Islami (HAR) of Mawlawi Muhammad Nabi Muhammadi (4) Hizb-i-Islami, Hikmatyar group(HIH) of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (5) Hizb-i-Islami, Khalis group(HIK) of Mawlawi Yunus Khalis(6) Jamiat-I Islami-yi Aghanistan(JIA) lead by Burhanuddin Rabbani (7) Ittihad-i Islami bara-yi Azad-I Afghanistan(ITT ) led by Professer Abd al_rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf

[ii]Page 114, [Barnett Rubin]

[iii](1)Failed attempt to establish interim government in February-March 1988, page 88, [Barnett Rubin] (2) During Afghan shura in February 1989 CIA and ISI estimated that compromise or negotiations with PDPA were unnecessary as its military downfall was imminent. (3) Manipulation by ISI and Saudi intelligence of the February 1989 Afghan shura held to decide interim government, the Interim Islamic Government of Afghanistan (IIGA) pages 103-104, [Barnett Rubin]

[iv]March 1990, ISI and Saudi intelligence tried unsuccessfully to engineer a coup by Afghan Defence Minister Tanai and Hikmatyar to depose President Najibullah. page 108, [Barnett Rubin]

[v]March 1991 The CIA and ISI engineered a mujahidin assault on Paktia in Khost province. Though Jalaluddin Haqqani's forces succeeded in capturing the town, Hikmatyar's forces captured the garrison and victory was short-lived as ISI prevented Haqqani from recovering the heavy arms seized by Hikmatyar and factional fighting broke out page 110, [Barnett Rubin]

[vi]March 1993 Under Saudi sponsorship, Islamabad Accord was signed making Burhanuddin Rabbani the President and Hikmatyar the Prime Minister. Himatyar immediately dismissed the Defence Minister Massoud and the internecine fighting continued.

[vii]January 1994 with fresh military aid from Pakistan , Hikmatyar and Dostum launched combined assault on Kabul to displace Rabbani. Hikmatyar failed to capture Kabul

[viii]January 1994 with fresh military aid from Pakistan , Hikmatyar and Dostum launched combined assault on Kabul to displace Rabbani. Hikmatyar failed to capture Kabul

[ix]25 percent or more of the Taliban forces were Pakistani in 1999. page 118, [Larry Goodson]

[x]More than eight thousand minority residents were reportedly killed by the Taliban in and around Mazar-i-Sharif and Bamiyan page120, [Larry Goodson]

[xi] Human Rights Watch, The Massacre in Mazar-i-Sharif, November 1998 


[xiii]Ahmed Rashid estimated that eighty thousand to one hundred thousand Pakistanis fought and trained in Afghanistan during the 1990s in "The Taliban: Exporting Extremism." page 107, [Larry Goodson] [Barnett Rubin] The Search for Peace in Afghanistan - From Buffer State to Failed State, Barnett R. Rubin, Yale University Press, 1995 [Larry Goodson] Afghanistan's Endless War, State Failure, Regional Politics and the Rise of the Taliban, Larry P. Goodson, University of Washington Press, 2001 Reprint from Afgha ( and the original article may be viewed 

Book Review: The Expanding Roles of Chinese Americans in U.S.-China Relations

Book Review

The Expanding Roles of Chinese Americans in U.S.-China Relations 

P. H. Koehn and X. Yin (Eds.)Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe

Anoop C.

Relations between the U.S. and China span the spectrum from collaborative in the economic sphere, to cautious and adversarial at worst in the political and military arenas. Such a wide canvas offers non-state actors to bridge gaps in perception, conduct direct dialog with civic society on both sides, and raise concerns and influence policy and decision-making. One such group is the American-Chinese population, which according to the 2000 U.S. Census numbered 2.7 million, making it, at 20%, the largest single grouping of the U.S.’ Asian population [1]. Significantly, the Asian population in the U.S. is expected to grow by 213% in the next 50 years, making its share of the country’s population more than double to 8% [2]. Clearly, this demographic will play an increasingly important part in the domestic politics of the U.S. as well as influence U.S. policy towards their countries of origin. 

The book [3] by Koehn and Xiao-huang Yin, which is actually a collection of 13 contributed articles, offers a comprehensive view of the various roles Chinese Americans play in US-China relations. This book will be of interest to China watchers because it fills a gap in terms of content, while avoiding the linguistic barrier most non-Chinese readers face in getting information pertaining to Chinese society, even if such society is a transplanted one. The book is organized in three parts and deals with a wide variety of issues ranging from the historical connection of Chinese trans-Pacific families to U.S.-China relations, to the present day activism of American-born Chinese on political issues in the mainland. What I found most interesting were the articles tracing the history of the Chinese ethnic groups in the U.S., their evolving economic and business interests, the evolution of lobbies from the pro-Taiwan to the more neutral tone vis-à-vis cross-strait relations and the expanding role of Chinese American scholars in conducting a dialog across political barriers with civic society in China. 

Chinese immigration to the U.S. goes as far back as 1850s when able-bodied men came to work on the railroads and in agriculture. In 1868, the Burlingame Treaty provided free immigration between U.S. and China and allowed permanent residency for Chinese in America. However, following popular resentment against cheap labor during the recession of 1870s, the U.S. and signed the Angell Treaty in 1880, which gave the U.S. govt. the right to regulate and suspend Chinese labor immigration. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the Geary Act of 1892, which extended the provisions of the 1882 Act for another 10 years, worsened the lopsided gender ratio of immigrants by keeping the women and children of Chinese immigrants from entering the U.S. Although the Immigration Act of 1924 denied immigrants citizenship, a 1930 Amendment excluded the wife of a merchant and women married before 1924 from the provisions of the law. Such laws that prevented the integration of the immigrants to society, resulting in the growth of Chinese schools and indeed, a modest rate of return of educated people to China. The situation changed dramatically in 1965 with the legislation of the Immigration Act which removed racial criteria from immigration policy – nearly 250,000 Chinese arrived in the U.S. over the next 15 years transforming the community to a 70% immigrant one by 1990, up from the 60% American-born one in the 1960s. Prior to 1979, most of the immigrants were from Taiwan and Hong Kong, which had additional quotas as a consequence of the U.S. support to them. Due to the PRC’s economic liberalization, the restrictions on emigration from China were relaxed and most people emigrants opted for the U.S. The demographics of the immigrants today show an educated (the number of Chinese students in U.S. universities increased steadily from 1000 in 1979 to 54,000 in 1999) and professionally successful and enterprising business community. 

Expanding business networks of Chinese Americans had an important impact on trans-Pacific economic ties. Taking advantage of the post-1965 U.S. policy (particularly the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1990) of providing special immigration visas for people who could bring in large wealth ($ 500,000 to 1 million) and contribute to employment, affluent ethnic Chinese from Hong Kong and Taiwan brought a large amount of capital (estimated between $2-3 billion every year for more than a decade) to the U.S. With the downturn of those economies, their remittances also slowed, but were made up by businessmen from Mainland China’s booming economy in the mid to late 1990s. Such investments were in U.S. offices of Chinese companies that benefited from the large trade surplus of China vis-à-vis the U.S. and also in real estate including hotels, high-rise office buildings and shopping malls. A more modest investment of the less wealthy immigrants were in services provided to an ever increasing number of compatriot students and professionals – grocery stores, restaurants, medical care and financial counseling. During the 1980s, a large number of highly qualified professionals and managers left the U.S. for Taiwan in response to a concerted recruiting effort by the government and helped power the Taiwanese economy to a strong position in Asia within a decade. Indeed, many of these families stayed back in the U.S. to take advantage of the less competitive but good quality school education for their children, and the professionals split their lives between the two countries, marking an ironic reversal of their fore-fathers fate. The semi-conductor and later information technology boom in the U.S. saw more than its fair share of Chinese participation – in 1995, 20% of technology start-ups in the Silicon Valley were Chinese American and by 1998, their contribution to came to 17% in ownership, 10% in employment and 13% in sales. Most of their ventures were financed by leveraging their connections in the expanding markets, first in Taiwan and later in the Mainland, making them an important factor in the technological success story shared by the U.S. and these countries. With the booming economy in China, many graduates returned to the coastal towns to set up hi-tech business ventures as the Taiwanese had done before them– Shanghai alone benefited from 2 billion USD worth of enterprises started by the returning professionals according to the city’s estimates.

With the changing social and economic character of the immigrant population comes change in their political outlook. This is expressed in different ways – at the personal level, via vernacular media and through organized lobbies. Three chapters in the book deal with this topic. One reports the author’s findings of a survey conducted among the Chinese population in North Carolina; while 72% of the respondents wanted the U.S. to promote democracy in China and 50% wished for improved bilateral relations, 32 % expected the U.S. to aid in the reunification of Taiwan and 17% hoped that it would help Taiwan become independent. However, the very small survey sample size casts doubts on the generality of these trends. Community newspapers and periodicals numbering more than 100 – there are about 20 in Southern California alone – offer a broader indication of the mood of the populace. Sometimes, the press has looked out for the interests of the immigrant community, even encouraging them to dissociate themselves from the governments in Beijing and Taipei after the 1949 victory of the Communist party in the mainland’s civil war. However, after the U.S.-China clash over Korea, the sentiment turned pro-Taiwan, perhaps because the espousal of a Communist govt. would not sit well with their adopted country but also because there was a substantial contribution to the Chinese community from Taiwan and Hong Kong. This trend was reflected in the editorials of the largest Chinese newspaper, the World Journal, which was pro-Taiwan throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The protests over the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and the sale of U.S. arms to Taiwan in the early 1990s also polarized the community. The paper became more neutral in its political opinions with the easing of relations between the U.S. and PRC governments in the late 1990s. The strengthening mainland economy coupled with the weakening Taiwanese economy and the attempts by the newly elected Democratic Progressive Party to declare independence shifted the pendulum to a criticism of Taiwan’s policy. The paper called for a refrain from dangerous rhetoric as well as to move closer to People’s Republic of China in the economic sphere. Most newspapers now propound that the China-Taiwan conflict is one between the same people, essentially burying the idea of independence. 

In order to understand how the wheel has come full circle, one must examine the history of organized Chinese American lobbies in the U.S. The first organization to support the Kuomintang government in Taiwan was, ironically, named the China Lobby and it traces its origins to 1949. This was a loosely knit group comprising KMT agents, U.S. citizens and Chinese Americans, which established the Committee of One Million to block the PRC’s admission to the U.N., to ensure the survival of the KMT and to push for U.S. arms and economic aid to Taiwan. The modus operandi involved publishing newspaper articles, radio broadcasts, petition drives (the name of the committee is derived from the number of people who signed to prevent the PRC’s admission to the U.N.), campaign contributions and being heard in Congressional Hearings through their sympathizers in Congress. The theme employed was that Taiwan was a bulwark against the spread of Communism in Asia – a message that was received with sympathy in both the political circles and among the general populace in the U.S. during that time. As the rapprochement of the U.S. and the PRC governments took place in the late 1970s, the effectiveness of the China Lobby decreased, giving rise to the Taiwan Lobby. This is an umbrella of various organizations like the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce of North America, the Center for Taiwanese International Relations, World United Formosans for Independence and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, with the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) forming the core. The agenda for these organizations has shifted from a focus on influencing U.S. domestic politics to Taiwan’s internal politics, security and international stature. These organizations seek to terminate the control of the KMT in Taiwan and push for independent status for Taiwan. The FAPA has 40 chapters across the country. It has a strong grass-root orientation (they instruct their members on how to visit, write and talk to Congressmen), collects money from fundraising and membership dues (in 1999, that amounted to more than $500,000), is careful to maintain an impartial domestic image (FAPA is banned from contributing to U.S. election campaigns, although its members are allowed to do so in their individual capacity). It wields significant influence in Congress, as can be seen in the resolutions passed between 1996 and 1998 calling for Taiwan’s admission to the U.N., the case for including Taiwan in a Theatre Missile Defense system and for Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization. The author of this article contends that the effectiveness of the Taiwan Lobby is likely to be counterbalanced by the growing influence of pro-Mainland lobbies, although none are listed. This seems like a glaring omission in an otherwise very informative piece. 

Distinct from political lobbies, there are a few Chinese-led transnational organizations that seek to improve the social, political and economic conditions in China while functioning as a resource to both governments in understanding the other’s society. Well-connected ethnic Chinese in San Francisco founded the 1990 Institute in the year following the Tiananmen Square massacre, with the charter of preventing the political debacle from impinging on the pace of economic reform. The Institute first published books and monographs on Chinese economic reform largely by drawing upon contributions from ethnic Chinese economic scholars in the U.S. academia and economists in China. Later, when this activity gained momentum and the economic theories gained acceptance, the focus of the institute’s research shifted to the social ethics of economic liberalization. This think-tank has been active in organizing seminars in China with the participation of Western business investors and has been well received by Chinese officialdom, with people like President Jiang Zemin inaugurating their conferences and Premier Zhu Rongji espousing its policy prescriptions. Similarly, the Committee of 100, whose membership includes very successful Chinese Americans in business, arts and science, on the one hand, focus on fighting the negative fall-out of controversial incidents involving their community (e.g. political fundraising for the Democrats in 1996 and Wen Ho Lee’s incarceration on suspicion of being a spy) and on the other hand, function as advisors to political figures like Clinton’s NSA, Sandy Berger prior to the President’s visit to China in 1998. Needless to say, this group is also well connected to Chinese officialdom, even hosting a private event for Jiang Zemin during his 1997 visit to the U.S. In contrast, the Human Rights In China organization, also founded in 1989, is openly critical of the Chinese government’s human rights record and also of those organizations that push for expanded trade and diplomatic relations with China at the expense of its human rights violations. Prominent members like Liu Qing and Ge Yang have been either imprisoned or kept in exile for many years in the PRC, prior to their arrival in the U.S. This organization broadcasts Chinese language programs to the mainland through the Voice of America, BBC, Radio Australia, distributes newsletters and maintains internet contact with many students in China and even campaigned, futilely, to have the Chinese Premier excluded from the U.N. group, the Inter-Parliamentary Union. 

There are many other topics covered in the book, from the role played by the Chinese American community in negotiating environmental issues between U.S. and China, the value of scholars like Nobel laureates C.N. Yang and Yuan Tze Lee in broaching politically difficult topics with their colleagues in China on account of the high respect they enjoy in that society to the increasing activism of American born Chinese and the little known philanthropic record of the community. The tone of the book is slanted more towards a social studies perspective and its value lies in the various avenues it opens for a newcomer to study this important, and thus far neglected, piece of the U.S.-China relationship mosaic.


India's China Policy: Importance of a Strategic Framework


According to many political observers, the global political architecture is undergoing a transformation with power increasingly shifting from the West to the East1.The two most populous nations on the earth China and India are on their way to becoming economic powerhouses and are shedding their reticence in asserting their global profiles. Japan is gradually flexing its military muscle and the Southeast Asian tigers are roaring again after the 1997 “Asian Flu”. Whether it is such hopeful prospects or the challenges ahead in the Korean peninsula, Taiwan , and Kashmir , it is clear that this new century will, in all likelihood, be an Asian century.

The future of this Asian century will to large extent depend upon the relationship between the two regional giants, China and India . According the United States National Intelligence Council Report on emerging global trends, by 2015, international community will have to confront the military, political and economic dimensions of the rise of China and India.2 The bilateral relationship between China and India will define the contours of the new international political architecture in Asia and the world at large. As of today, however, the trajectory of the Sino-Indian relationship remains as complex as ever to decipher despite some remarkable positive developments in the last few years.

This article attempts to explore this complex, multi-layered relationship in all its dimensions, largely from the perspective of Indian foreign policy priorities. It mainly focuses on the recent developments in the Sino-Indian relationship.  It reviews India ’s and China ’s view of each other and their policies.  It examines the trends of convergence that have emerged in the past few years.  Additionally, it looks at the points of divergence and possible areas of concern in the relationship between Asia ’s giants.  

Sino-Indian Convergence: Bilateral and Global

Bilateral relations between India and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have indeed come a long way after they touched their nadir in the immediate aftermath of India ’s nuclear tests in May 1998. China had been singled out as the “number one” security threat for India by India’s Defense Minister just before the nuclear tests.3 After the tests, the Indian Prime Minister wrote to the US President justifying Indian nuclear tests as a response to the threat posed by China.4 Unsurprisingly, China reacted strongly and diplomatic relations between the two countries plummeted to an all time low.

However, some six years later, the relations between the two countries seem to be on an upswing. The visit of the Indian External Affairs Minister to China in 1999 marked the resumption of high-level dialogue and the two sides declared that they were not threats to each other. A bilateral security dialogue was also initiated that has helped the two countries in openly expressing and sharing their security concerns with each other. India and China also decided to expedite the process of demarcation of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the Joint Working Group (JWG) on the boundary question, set up in 1988, has been meeting regularly5.As a first step in this direction, the two countries exchanged border maps on the least controversial middle sector of the LAC.

The Indian Prime Minster visited China in June 2003, the first such visit in a decade. The joint declaration signed during the visit stated that China was not a threat to India.6 The two states appointed special representatives in order to impart momentum to border negotiations that have lasted twenty two years, with the Prime Minister’s principal secretary becoming India’s political-level negotiator, replacing the India-China JWG. India and China also decided to hold their first joint naval exercise later in the year and discussions on joint air exercise continue. India also acknowledged China ’s sovereignty over Tibet and pledged not to allow “anti-China” political activities in India . On its part, China has acknowledged India ’s 1975 annexation of the former monarchy of Sikkim by agreeing to open a trading post along the border with the former kingdom and later rectified official maps to include Sikkim as part of India7.

India and China have found substantial convergence of interests at the international level. Both share similar concerns about the growing international dominance of the US , the threat of terrorism disguised as religious and ethnic movements and the need to accord primacy to economic development. India and China have both expressed concern about the US ’ use of military power around the world and publicly opposed the war in Iraq . This was merely a continuation of the desire of both states to oppose the US hyperpuissance ever since the end of the Cold War.

Like other major powers in the international system, India and China favor a multi-polar world order where US unipolarity remains constrained by the other “poles” in the system. China and India zealously guard their national sovereignty and have been wary of US attempts to interfere in what they see as domestic affairs of other stares, be it Serbia , Kosovo or Iraq . Both took strong exception to the US air strikes on Iraq in 1998, the US-led air campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999, and more recently the US campaign against Saddam Hussein arguing that these violated the national sovereignty and undermined the authority of the United Nations system8.

Both nations also favor more democratic international economic regimes. They have strongly resisted efforts by the US and other developed nations to link global trade to labor and environmental standards, realizing clearly that this would put them at a huge disadvantage vis-à-vis the developed world, thereby hampering their drive towards economic development, a top priority. Both have committed themselves to crafting joint Sino-Indian positions in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and global trade negotiations in the hope that this might provide them greater negotiating leverage over the developed states. They would like to see further liberalization of agricultural trade in the developed countries, tightening of the rules on anti-dumping measures and ensuring that non-trade related issues such as labor and environment are not allowed to come to the WTO.

In recent years, India and China have attempted to build their bilateral relationship on the basis of their larger worldview of international politics. As they have found a distinct convergence of their interests on world stage, they have used it to strengthen their bilateral relations. They have established and maintained regular reciprocal high-level visits between political leaders. There has been a sincere attempt to improve trade relations and to compartmentalize intractable issues that make it difficult for their bilateral relationship to move forward.

India and China have strengthened their bilateral relationship in areas as distinct as cultural and educational exchanges, military exchanges, and science and technology cooperation. Bilateral trade has recorded rapid growth from a trade volume of US $265 million in 1991 to US $3596 million in 2001. In 2001, bilateral trade saw an increase of 23.4 percent over 2000.  It is expected to rise to $10 billion this year. The two nations are even evaluating the possibility of signing a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement and a free trade agreement by the end of this year, thereby building on strong complementarities between the two9.

Both states are also taking steps to upgrade their military-related cooperation, leading to greater understanding on the bilateral military front, something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago10.As a first step in this direction, the Chinese and Indian navies carried out joint search and rescue operations off the Shanghai coast in November 2003. Both states are also seeking to cooperate on the nuclear front with China planning to import heavy water from India to be utilized in the pressurized heavy water reactors near Shanghai11.

Many observers have also pointed out a subtle shift in Beijing ’s stance on Pakistan vis-à-vis India . China ’s “neutral” position during the Kargil conflict and the intense Indo-Pak crisis following the terrorist attack on the India ’s Parliament is seen by many as a reflection of China ’s sincerity in its attempts to improve ties. In keeping with China’s attempts to project itself as a responsible regional player, China is seen by some as supporting peace and anti-terrorist efforts in South Asia by cooperating with the US and India. China is also seen as playing a central role in encouraging Pakistan to negotiate with India by using its leverage over Pakistan12.

After assuming office Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government made it clear that it favored closer ties with China and would continue to work towards improving bilateral relations with China . In his first address to the nation, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, also emphasized the carrying forward of the process of further development and diversification of Sino-Indian relations13.The late J.N. Dixit, National Security Advisor in the current government, wrote that “the Congress will continue the process of normalizing, strengthening and expanding India’s relations with China, which is the most important factor affecting Asian security and stability”14.One of the first foreign visits of the new Indian foreign minister, Natwar Singh, was to China to attend the Asia Cooperation Dialogue in Qingdao, in East China's Shandong province and apparently had “substantive discussions” with his Chinese counterpart15.

All this reflects on India continuing to build its relations with China on the convergence of interests that the two nations have achieved in recent years. Aside from the positive developments, one should not ignore the enormous obstacles that confront this bilateral relationship. There has been a dominant tendency in the Indian foreign policy establishment to focus on the strengths of its bilateral relations with China while pretending that problems confronting the relationship would somehow take care of themselves. The challenges in the Sino-Indian relationship are by no means insignificant nor will China take care of Indian interests. It is for India to recognize them for what they are and evolve a coherent strategy to tackle them.

Divergences and Challenges

The number one priority for China 's leadership today is economic growth and social stability. China recently underwent one of the most peaceful and orderly political transformations in its recent history, even though its exact ramifications remain far from clear. Hu Jintao became Communist Party chief in 2002 and President of China in 2003 replacing Jiang Zemin. He also finally ceded the effective control of the armed forces to Hu Jintao in September 2004. Hu Jintao is now formally in command of the vast party, government, and military bureaucracies that rule China . This shift, although important for the smooth working of the Chinese government, is unlikely to produce any radical change in China ’s foreign policy.  China 's focus is going to be on maintaining its high rate of economic growth in the coming years. It should be remembered that Hu Jintao is a product of the “evolutionary policies” of Deng Xiao Peng that emphasize economic growth and orderly governance. President Hu Jintao has made it amply clear that Western-style multiparty democracy is something that would not serve the Chinese people well, terming it a “blind alley” for China . Therefore, one can expect China to continue on its current economic trajectory and shaping its foreign policy accordingly.

China has enjoyed average annual rates of real income growth of around 10 percent in the last two decades of the twentieth century, something unprecedented historically. China accounts for about 5 percent of world trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) to China is predicted to reach an annual utilized rate of 100 billion in 2005. After its accession to the WTO, China ’s already-high global economic profile is set to rise manifold. China will continue to focus on maintaining its high rates of economic growth in the coming years, even as some of the economic challenges China faces will become more acute. The burgeoning income disparities, restructuring of its states owned enterprises and the problem of non-performing loans in its banks are just a few of the economic problems China ’s economy is likely to face in the coming years. So far China has managed remarkably even though the future remains uncertain.

Broadly speaking, Indians either view China ’s economic growth as a façade or envy it16. While India has achieved some remarkable growth rates in the last few years enjoying average annual rates of real income growth of six percent in the last two decades of the twentieth century, it still lags behind China . India accounts for less than one percent of world trade in goods and services. Currently, China outperforms India in terms of levels of growth, education, health, and living standards of its population, and global integration of its economy. China outpaces India , in sectors where the two compete for third country markets. Sino-Indian competition for these markets is bound to further intensify in the coming years.

Though some argue that the long term economic prospects of India are much better than China ’s, China remains the undisputed economic powerhouse of the moment driving the Asian and global economy with India somewhere far behind. The fact of the matter is so long as India does not place its own economic house in order; it will remain a second-rate power even in Asia . And China will remain the Asian power that the world will look up to when trying to manage problems in Asia .

What should be equally, if not more, significant for India is the fact that it is China's economic transformation that has given it the capability to become a military power with China spending as much as $65 billion a year on its military17.China's military may or may not be able to challenge US supremacy in the next few years but it will surely become the most dominant force in Asia. According to authoritative sources, China is set to overtake Japan in the next decade to become Asia ’s major regional military power18. The US involvement in the global war on terror has put the “containment” of China on the backburner and China has seized on this opportunity to strengthen its armed forces further.

China imbibed the lessons of US military undertakings such as the 1991 Gulf War, war in Afghanistan and the recent operation Iraqi Freedom. These have spurred China’s pursuit of the latest Revolution in Military affairs (RMA) manifested in the buying, adopting of latest technologies and weapons systems (particularly from Russia) along with concomitant changes in doctrine and organizational structures19. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been shedding its manpower since late 1990s to save funds so as to be able to focus on high tech. Despite a western embargo on China preventing transfer of military technologies, China has been able to deftly use US corporations to garner and apply dual-use technologies20. China is simultaneously pursuing a qualitative and quantitative transformation of its nuclear infrastructure. China plans to deploy new road-mobile, solid-fueled, long-range missiles over the next several years possibly to counter US ballistic missile defense.

Overtime, China ’s enhanced military prowess will lead it to assert its interests more forcefully, thereby, adversely affecting Indian interests. As China becomes more reliant on imported oil for its rapidly growing industrial economy, China will develop and exercise military power projection capabilities to protect the shipping that transports oil from the Persian Gulf to China . The capability to project power would require access to advanced naval bases along the sea lines of communication and forces capable of gaining and sustaining naval and air superiority.

China 's assistance to Myanmar in constructing and improving port facilities on two islands in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea is the first step to securing military base privileges in the Indian Ocean . This can be used as a listening post to gather intelligence on Indian naval operations and a potential forward base for future Chinese naval operations in the Indian Ocean . India 's traditional geographic advantages in the Indian Ocean are also increasingly at risk with deepening Chinese involvement in Myanmar . China 's increasing naval presence in the Indian Ocean is of tremendous strategic consequence for India . There are also suggestions that the balance of air power in the China-India theater has shifted in China ’s favor with it acquiring an inventory of about 1500 modern combat aircraft for deployment in the theater21.

China remains the only major power in the world that refuses to discuss nuclear issues with India for fear that this might imply a de facto recognition of India ’s status as a nuclear power. It continues to insist on the sanctity of the UN resolution 1172 which calls for India (and Pakistan ) to give up its nuclear weapons program and join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state22. This was reflected in China ’s lack of response to the Indian Foreign Minister’s proposal of a common nuclear doctrine for China , India , and Pakistan . China would not like to get into any sort of nuclear dialogue with India that might give the impression of China recognizing India as a nuclear power. Moreover, while both India and China have a “no first use” nuclear doctrine, China ’s doctrine is not applicable to India as it is not a party to the NPT.

China has done its best to maintain a rough balance of power in Indian Subcontinent by preventing India from gaining an upper hand over Pakistan . It has consistently assisted Pakistan 's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs to counterbalance India 's development of new weapons systems. India 's preoccupation with Pakistan reduces India to the level of a regional power while China can claim the status of an Asian and world power. China signed a charter to step up bilateral defense cooperation with Pakistan “to help maintain peace and stability in South Asia ” even as it professes to improve its relations with India . Moreover, even as India and China share similar concerns regarding Islamic terrorism in Kashmir and Xinjiang respectively, China has been rather unwilling to make a common cause with India against Pakistan . China ’s use of India ’s neighbors to curtail Indian influence has not been restricted to Pakistan . China has actively sought to contain India all around its periphery by engaging Nepal , Bangladesh and Myanmar .

Despite resolving most of its border disputes with other countries, China is reluctant to move ahead with India on border issues. India ’s discussion of border issues with China is seen as a concession. India remains satisfied with the “positive” and “satisfactory” Joint Working Group negotiations on the boundary issue. Despite the need for an expeditious demarcation of the Line of Actual Control, the talks seem to be continuing endlessly and the momentum of the talks itself seems to have flagged.  

The momentum of the issue of Tibet seems to have been lost.  Tibet has become a platform for the projection of Chinese military power. India 's tacit support to Dalai Lama's government-in-exile has failed to have much of an impact either on China or on the international community. Today even Dalai Lama seems ready to talk to the Chinese as he realizes that in a few years Tibet might get overwhelmed with the Han population and Tibetans themselves might become a minority. The proposed opening up of the Nathula trade route that connects Tibet and Sikkim has been much trumpeted by the Indian government as a major achievement of Indian diplomacy. However, this step is fraught with dangers as there is no certainty that internal security threat posed by Chinese infiltration would not get worse with the opening of Nathula. This has probably led to some rethinking in India on this issue23.

There were disturbing reports during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to China , that Chinese troops had intruded into the Indian territory along a stretch of the unfenced border with Arunachal Pradesh. China refuses to recognize Arunachal Pradesh as part of the Indian territory , laying claim to 90, 000 sq. km. of its land. If recent reports are to be believed after a two-decade gap, China has resumed the supply of weapons to various insurgent groups fighting in northeastern India . China seems to be getting successful in hemming India in from both, the eastern and the western flanks.

China and India : Different Approaches, Different Outcomes

What the above discussion of the divergence and convergence between Sino-Indian interests reveals is the success of China in attaining its foreign policy objectives and the failure of India to preserve its vital interests vis-à-vis China . This cannot simply be attributed to China ’s economic and military strength. While China is definitely the bigger player in the region and the world at large but its success vis-à-vis India owes as much to its power as to the way that power has been cultivated and used. While realizing fully well that it would take China decades to seriously compete with the US , it has focused strategic energy on Asia . Its foreign policy is aimed at enhancing its economic and military prowess to achieve hegemony in Asia . China ’s recent emphasis on projecting itself as peaceful power is merely aimed at allaying the concerns of neighbors lest they try to counterbalance it24. China’s readiness to negotiate with other regional states and to be an economically “responsible” nation is also a signal to other states that there are greater benefits in bandwagoning to China’s growing regional weight rather than opposing its rise in any manner.

However, while declaring that it will be focusing on internal socio-economic development for the next decade or so, China has actively pursued policies of preventing the rise of other regional powers. In case of India , this manifests itself in its cultivation of Pakistan as a close ally. From supplying it nuclear and missile technologies to building its military infrastructure, China has done all it can to build Pakistan as a counterweight to India . This policy has largely succeeded as India no longer enjoys its earlier conventional superiority vis-à-vis Pakistan possession of nuclear weapons by both nations ensures that any step that India takes to strengthen its nuclear weapons profile is viewed by the international community as highly destabilizing in the context of the “nuclear flashpoint” that South Asia has become for the world at large. China has thereby been successful in emerging as a “responsible” global player, despite its abysmal nuclear and missile proliferation record while the international community rails at India for making the world much more dangerous.

China’s attempts to increase its influence in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, its persistent refusal to recognize parts of India such as Arunachal Pradesh, its lack of support for India’s membership to the United Nations Security Council and other regional and global organizations, all point towards China’s attempts at preventing the rise of India as a regional and global player of major import. It is this strategy that China has consistently and successfully pursued without any apologies. In fact, this strategy has been so successful that today China no longer believes that India can be a serious rival for Asian hegemony and some have pointed out, India is off of China ’s diplomatic radar.

In contrast to China ’s well-laid out policy vis-à-vis India , India has from time to time oscillated from one extreme to another. George Tanham has famously pointed out that India has shown little ability to think strategically on national security. In the case of India ’s China policy, it needs to be realized that there is nothing really sinister about China ’s attempts to expand its own influence and curtail India ’s. China is a rising power in Asia and the world and as such will do its utmost to prevent the rise of other power centers around its periphery like India that might in the future prevent it from taking its rightful place as a global player. This is not much different than the stated US policy of preventing the rise of other powers that might threaten its position as a global hegemon. Just as the US is working towards achieving its strategic objective, China is pursuing its own strategic agenda.

There is also nothing extraordinarily benign in China ’s attempts to improve its bilateral relations with India in recent times. After working to curtail India ’s influence in various ways, China would not like to see India coming close to the US in order to contain China . In this geopolitical chessboard, both the US and China are using India towards their own strategic ends. India must resist the tendency of reacting to the actions of other.   India ’s attempt to come up a coherent strategy towards China based on identified strategic objectives is of paramount importance. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared that it wants to have friendly relations with China , a reasonable foreign policy objective. However, without a clear articulation of India ’s national security objectives, pursuit of friendly relations with China should not become an end in itself. It should be a means towards achieving India ’s larger strategic objective of emerging as a major regional and global player.

India ’s China policy is also symptomatic of a larger misunderstanding in the Indian and political establishment with regard to a nation’s foreign policy. For the left-liberal strand in the Indian polity, foreign policy is merely an extension of domestic policy. As such since India is a secular, democratic, and peace-loving nation, India ’s pursuit of its relations with other states should merely be a reflection of these virtues. This has given rise to much of the moral rhetoric in foreign affairs. On the other hand, the Indian right, because of its preoccupation with establishing a “Hindu” nation and minority bashing, have extended its narrow sectarian view to foreign policy. The consequence has been its obsession with Pakistan as evil incarnate in its foreign policy agenda and its inclination to view the world in black and white, friends and enemies, evil and noble. Shaped by these forces, Indian foreign policy has merely been one of responding to events around it rather than anticipating them and evolving long-term strategies to deal with them. India’s China policy is a casualty of this reactionary approach.

India needs to develop its economic and military might without being apologetic. It needs to clearly articulate its national interests and engage China on a host of issues, from the border problem to the alleged dumping of cheap Chinese goods in the Indian market. India needs to recognize that appeasing China is neither desirable nor necessary even as a direct confrontation with China is not something India can afford, at least in the near future. It must also be recognized that while for India, managing its relations with China is at the top of its foreign policy agenda, China does not view India as a significant global player and is largely indifferent to India’s growing profile.

India is a rising power in Asia and there is nothing wrong in demanding its rightful place in the inter-state hierarchy. Simply put India and China are two major powers in Asia with global aspirations and some significant conflicting interests. As a result, some amount of friction in their bilateral relationship is inevitable. The geopolitical reality of Asia makes sure that it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Hindi-Chini to be bhai-bhai (brothers) in the foreseeable future.  This reality should be accepted by the Indian policy makers, rather than wished away. India should make a serious attempt to manage this friction by expanding the zone of cooperation with China even as it tries to steadfastly pursue its national interests. India should display the confidence to craft a foreign policy that best serves its national security interests without always looking over the shoulders to make sure that China is not displeased. Again, India can learn a lot by examining how China has managed its relationship with the US in the last few years.

While India certainly needs to engage China in an effort at reconciling security and political perspectives, it is naïve to assert, as many do, that India should first be sensitive to China’s concerns, real or imaginary, before defining its foreign policy goals and strategic agenda. Does China consult India in its pursuit of its own strategic objectives? It does not and neither should India expect it to. In a similar vein, India should define its foreign policy agenda in view of its own national security imperatives.

But for this to happen, the government of India will have to formulate a clear China policy and, more importantly, a broader national security strategy. Ad-hocism just won’t do. This should be the top foreign policy priority of the Indian government if it wants India to emerge as a global power of any reckoning. India should heed to Sun Tzu’s advice and recognize that a merely tactical foreign policy approach without the backing of a sound strategy will only lead to nowhere.

References and Footnotes

See, for example, James F. Hoge, Jr., “A Global Power Shift in the Making,” Foreign Affairs, July/August 2004, available at
The report is available at
“India’s New Defense Chief Sees Chinese Military Threat,” The New York Times, 5 May 1998, p. A6.
The text of the letter was published in the New York Times, May 13, 1998, p. A12.
The JWG was set up in 1988 during the then Indian Prime Minster, Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China to explore the boundary issue and examine probable solutions to the problem. As a follow up in 1993, the two sides signed the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas. Thereafter the India-China Expert Group of Diplomatic and Military Officials (EG) was set up under the JWG. Both the JWG and EG have been meeting regularly since then.
For details, see the “Declaration on Principles for Relations and Comprehensive Cooperation Between the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China ,” available at <>.
Amit Baruah, “ China keeps its word on Sikkim ,” The Hindu, New Delhi , May 7, 2004.
See “ Russia , China , India Pile up Pressure on West over Kosovo,” The Indian Express, New Delhi , March 26, 1999. Also, see no. 6.
P.S. Suryanarayana, “ India , China discuss economic ties,” The Hindu, New Delhi , March 25, 2004.
P.S. Suryanarayana, “ India , China likely to move forward on military ties,” The Hindu, New Delhi , March 23, 2004.
S. Laxman, “ China seeks nuclear input from India , The Times of India, New Delhi , December 13, 2003.
“ China Pursues India-Pakistan Peace, Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2003.
The text of the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s address to the nation is available at
J.N. Dixit, “A New Security Framework,” The Telegraph, Calcutta , May 17, 2004.
P.S. Suryanarayana, “Call for Security through Cooperation,” The Hindu, New Delhi , June 23, 2004.For some of the standard reactions, see
See the US Department of Defense “Annual Report on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China ” at
See the report of an independent task force of the Council on Foreign Relations on Chinese Military Power at
For details, see
Ravi V. Prasad, “ America ’s Two Timing,” The Hindustan Times, New Delhi , March 17, 2004.
Jasjit Singh, “The Arc in the Sky,” Indian Express, New Delhi , November 10, 2003.
“ China against India , Pakistan joining nuclear club,” The Hindu, New Delhi , June 30, 2004.
N. Banerjee, “Center to review Nathula Trade Policy,” The Times of India, New Delhi , June 22, 2004.
For a discussion of the various interpretations of China ’s ‘peaceful rise,’ see Evan S. Medeiros, “ China Debates Its ‘Peaceful Rise’ Strategy?” available at
“Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai” (Indians and Chinese are brothers) was a popular slogan during the 1950s, the heydays of Sino-Indian relationship, that became discredited after the 1962 Sino-Indian war.


Religious School Enrollment in Pakistan: A Look at the Data

Religious School Enrollment in Pakistan: A Look at the Data

Amitabh Dubey 

Ever since the attacks on the US on 11 September 2001 , the world has focused on Islamic radicalism in South Asia , and in particular on networks of religious seminaries, or madrassas, in Pakistan and Afghanistan . The conventional wisdom is that radical Islamists in an important minority of madrassas in the two countries have used their control of these institutions to spread militant Islam. Formerly protected by the state and by radical Islamist parties, madrassas have acted as incubators of a radical ideology that today threatens political stability in South Asia and beyond, perhaps some day contributing to an Islamist revolution in nuclear-armed Pakistan . (more)

Was late medieval India ready for a revolution in military affairs? - Part III

Was late medieval India ready for a revolution in military affairs? - Part III


Airavat Singh

This is the third in the series of articles on indigenous Indian infantry. The previous articles covered the Berads, the Jats, and the Ruhelas—this article has been reserved for the Purbias. Their story covers a long period of nearly three centuries—from the heyday of the Mughal Empire, to the spectacular rise of the Maratha power, and ending with their role in the 1857 revolt against the British East India Company.(more

India’s Next War

Executive Summary 

While it is the task of the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force to be prepared to tackle any threats to the nation on the northwestern and northern land borders of the country, what is emerging is that the seeds of India’s next war are quietly being sown in the seas surrounding the Indian sub-continent. The seeds are being sown in the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, the Andaman Sea and even in the South China Sea.

The scenario as it is unfolding, presages a major conflict with China. A conflict that is likely to take place within the next 5-7 years. A conflict that shall be fought on dimensions and planes very different from any battles between major military powers in the past. We are not likely to see any pitched battles between sea-borne armadas. While many minor incursions and skirmishes may occur, a full-scale Chinese invasion from Tibet into India, of the ‘boots on the ground type’, is also rather unlikely. So what are the dimensions of this war likely to be? Let us do some crystal gazing and examine the possibilities and the probabilities.

India’s next war will be with China but the attrition that China will try to inflict upon India will be way of economic damage rather than military destruction. While the military muscle shall be used more to intimidate than to destroy, the major effort is likely to be to try to strangulate India through an embargo on its seaborne trade. This would serve a two-fold purpose. The prime purpose would be to signal to all the Asian nations the supremacy of the Chinese nation and its primacy in Asia-Pacific affairs The second would be to indicate to the world that China should no longer be considered a military lightweight that can be pushed around – in other words, that it is now ready to do some pushing itself. That if it can take on and constrain India, it can easily squeeze the other smaller Asian (particularly ASEAN) nations. It would be a major signal to the USA that the world is now to be divided into two empires: America’s western empire and China’s eastern one, and that each should respect the other’s domain. As all China watchers know, that country’s collective psyche has still not recovered from the “humiliation” the Middle Kingdom suffered at the hands of the Europeans in the 19th century and the Japanese in the early 20th century. The dragon is just biding its time and building up its strength to recover its lost hegemonic glory. 

Be that as it may, one aspect is a certainty: the predominant dimension of this next war shall be a maritime one.


Strategic Encirclement 
Modus Operandi 
India's Response
References and Footnotes

Strategic Encirclement

Slowly but surely, over the last many years, China has been encircling India strategically. Each link in the chain of encirclement has been carefully selected for its strategic importance. On the extreme west we have Gwadar, which has the potential to dominate shipping through and from the Gulf. In the southwest, it has been eying Gan Base in the Maldives hungrily, although so far without success. In the east, in the Bay of Bengal, it has a sophisticated listening post on the Great Coco Islands, which can monitor all Indian Shipping from Port Blair, Vishakhapatnam, Kolkata, Paradip, etc. (China has another listening post at Hainji island.) It has bases (as well as potential bases, since the PLA Navy (PLAN) enjoys right of usage) at the Myanmar ports of Akyab, Cheduba and Bassein, all of which it is helping to develop into naval ports with facilities for handling ships considerably larger and more sophisticated than what the Myanmar Navy currently possesses or is likely to possess in the near future. Similarly, in the Andaman Sea it has access to Tenassirim, which is most strategically located, fairly close to the Malacca Strait. All these bases or ports where Chinese Naval ships are permitted to dock and refuel, etc, can be used most effectively to block shipping to and from Indian ports. Test visits by PLAN ships to these ports have already taken place.

Not content only with naval bases, the PLAN is also working aggressively towards building a blue water navy including aircraft carriers and long-range nuclear submarines. Six to ten ballistic missile strategic nuclear submarines are planned in addition to 6-8 nuclear powered attack submarines. Surely these are not for coastal defense. [i]  Meanwhile, Varyag, the ex Soviet ex Ukrainian vessel should be nearing completion as China’s first aircraft carrier. In addition, China is acquiring ten new destroyers, mostly from Russia and has also contracted for two Sovremennyy-class destroyers (now renamed the Hangzhou and Fuzhou, respectively) equipped with 200-km-range supersonic Moskit Anti Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCMs). One such destroyer can simultaneously launch 8 ASCMs, each of which could take out a NATO Aegis-type destroyer, and three of which can disable a large aircraft carrier.[ii]

On the eastern landward side, China is constructing road and other communication links from Chengdu to Mandalay and thence southwards to Rangoon. Proposed and funded by China, ostensibly to reduce transportation costs and improve access to its hinterland, this road cum river linkages would also permit rapid deployment of troops from Chengdu, the headquarters of the PLA’s Chengdu Military Region, which also encompasses Tibet. Talking of Tibet, it is already proposed to extend the Chengdu-Lhasa railway all the way to Kathmandu. Reports have meanwhile indicated that China’s Tibet region now possesses a good military road network running parallel to the Indo-Tibet border.

Tibet is also known to have numerous India specific missile sites with most parts of India within range of their warheads. The string of forward airfields also now make it possible for PLAAF aircraft to conduct sorties into Northern India, with almost all northern and eastern airbases of India being within their striking range.

In the meantime, China has signed a defense pact with Bangladesh, a country with which it has no common borders or any common security concerns. The obvious imputation is that like its pact with Pakistan, this pact too is meant to pressurize India at an opportune moment.

Modus Operandi

There is every possibility that in the initial stages of the conflict with India, China merely incites Pakistan and Bangladesh to open hostilities with India on some pretext or the other. Myanmar would then grab the opportunity to raise some border dispute to raise the ante on India’s easternmost borders. China would at that stage ‘most reluctantly’ have to step in to protect its allies with which it has defence pacts, all the while insisting that it itself has no desire to pick a fight with India. In view of these peaceful and friendly intentions, it would only put its forces in Tibet on full alert and move them up to the LOAC but not actually attack Indian border posts. However, since it’s intentions were to act as an interlocutor that brought peace to the troubled region, it had little choice but to impose a ‘peaceful’ economic blockade on India to force it to abandon hostilities against China’s friends in South Asia. The ‘embargo’ would be justified as being in the interests of world peace. 

Let us examine this scenario in some depth:

I. Economic Blockade

“Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.”

                                                                                                                               -- Sun Tzu

The implication of the encirclement of India by Chinese military bases / capabilities is clear. When push comes to shove, China shall be in a position to impose a massive economic blockade on India, thereby exerting enormous pressure. If the SLOCs for oil from the Gulf are blocked by ships operating out of Gwader and Karachi; if edible oil, and other supplies from Malaysia and the South East are strangulated because China dominates the South China Sea, the Andaman Sea and the Malacca Strait; if the Indian Navy’s efforts are dogged and stymied by Chinese submarine and surface craft operating from a string of ports along the Myanmar coast and guided by the electronic eavesdropping from the Great Coco monitoring station; and if simultaneously, threats of missile and air-attacks from Tibet loom large, then It shall become so much easier to draw India to the negotiating table on bended knee. 

II. Assymetrical Warfare

Many analysts make the mistake of comparing China’s armed forces with those of India on an item-by-item basis. This is simplistic. A country’s military potential must be viewed against the backdrop of its military ethos, its determination to win, its ability to take and absorb ‘punishment’, and the ingenuity / innovativeness of its military leadership. In the last aspect in particular, the keen interest of Chinese strategists in ways of waging asymmetric warfare must be borne in mind. Damage far out of proportion to the simplistic military capabilities of a battle group can be achieved by using asymmetric techniques.

“In their book Unrestricted Warfare, [iii]  the senior Colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, have proposed various methods of non-military warfare including inter-alia hacking into websites, targeting financial institutions, engaging in terrorism, and using the media. In an interview with Zhongguo Qingnian Bao, Qiao stated that “the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden.” 

The evolution of Chinese strategy can be traced back to its written history itself. The military strategy of China is identified with its pre-eminent military strategists like Sun Tzu, Sun Bin and others. However, later Chinese writings do not restrict this to a narrow military dimension only. They trace their strategic heritage to a very broad spectrum of ancient Chinese thinkers and scholars, starting from Confucius. The Chinese are a very traditional people. Their traditional roots are very deep and an integral part of their lore is the treatise on military strategy, The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu was a great proponent of asymmetrical war, as were other strategists like Sun Bin and Mao Zedong.

“China’s history of war is replete with examples of the successful use of asymmetrical war, where wisdom rather than valor was used to subdue the opposing forces. In particular one finds great use of D-3 viz. diversionary tactics, deception and disinformation. [iv] 

III. Intelligence

During World War II when Japan invaded Malaya and Burma, it was found that the Japanese troops had extremely detailed maps showing every little strategic feature, important building, defensive site and military installation. It emerged that the Japanese had been working for over a couple of years, through their agents, spies, moles and informers, gathering and collating detailed intelligence. Many of the agents had infiltrated army installations working as menial staff and made detailed drawings of all they saw. 

The Chinese are known to place a great deal of premium on such activities. A very painstaking people, when the time comes, they too are likely to have done their homework well.  

India's Response


Counter –intelligence


The Chinese, like the Japanese during World War II are known to be very strong believers in Humint. It would be safe to assume that they have built up a powerful network in India, with moles and sleepers who can be used not only for gathering intelligence but also as fifth columnists and agent provocateurs. There is, therefore, an imperative need for the Indian Armed Forces to gear up their own counter-intelligence capabilities, particularly since the Chinese are known for their patient ability to infiltrate religious and social organizations in order to establish contacts and gain recruits for their agenda. 

In today’s world, cyber counter-intelligence measures also assume great significance.

Role of the Indian Navy


The major onus of defending India’s economic and maritime interests shall rest upon the Indian Navy. It is in this future context that the Indian Navy has to gear up its capabilities. In addition to a defensive role of guarding the coastline, the ports and offshore assets like drilling rigs, the Indian Navy will need to play an active blue water role in ensuring that SLOCs are kept open. This role shall include surveillance, monitoring, interdiction, capture, and confrontation (if necessary). 

There is a strong likelihood that China shall be seen to be exercising the 21st century version of Gunboat Diplomacy vis-à-vis Nepal, Indonesia, and possibly Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Pakistan is already in its pocket as is Myanmar. With Bangladesh it has a defense pact that it can invoke to allow use of the harbors at Chittagong and Cox’s Bazaar as well as refueling facilities for its aircraft.

The Indian Navy shall need greatly enhanced surveillance capabilities; capabilities that should stretch well beyond India’s EEZ, and well into the Gulf Region on one hand and the Indian Ocean and the Malacca Strait on the other. Obviously, this would require space-based satellite assets dedicated to Naval use. The Indian Navy shall next need the capability to project force well beyond India’s shores or EEZ for extended periods of time if an adversary’s efforts to intimidate India’s neighbors are to be stymied. Apart from supply ships, oilers, submarine support ships, etc, this would mean some bases at a distance from the mainland. Port Blair is certainly a useful outpost. Gan too should be considered, before China makes the Maldives an offer they cannot refuse. Overtures need to be made to Iran for permission to regularly use port facilities for Indian Naval ships at Bandar Abbas or Kish. This might offset to some extent the strategic importance of Gwadar. In the South East, some kind of arrangement or understanding would need to be arrived at with Singapore and if possible, Malaysia for berthing, refueling, victualling, communication and other support facilities for Indian naval vessels. Inter-operability with the Republic of Singapore Navy would also be a highly desirable development. In view of Singapore’s interest to be allowed some sort of a base along India’s coast for its armed forces to conduct exercises, it should be possible to work out reciprocal arrangements either at Singapore or on one of its many outlying islands.

Strengthening blue water capability


Amongst the long-range prolonged capability fighting vessels, nuclear powered submarines are a high priority. Conventional submarines do not have the capability for prolonged underwater operations that might be required. A submarine support base with all facilities as well as a VLF communications center needs to be built in the vicinity of the Ten Degree Channel, perhaps on Little Andaman in the South Andaman Islands.

Another corollary of this unfolding scenario is that the Indian Navy needs to have at least two functional carrier-based task forces at all times. Current indications seem to show that this is unlikely to happen. This implies the availability of at least three aircraft carriers / Air Defense Ships and an adequate number of escort vessels. 

Similarly, unless immediate action is taken to build / buy additional vessels (the Scorpene is hanging fire for many months now), the Indian Navy is likely to see a dwindling submarine fleet, perhaps even a hiatus of a year or two when no effective submarine strength exists – a situation that could seriously impact both the defensive and offensive capabilities of the nation.

If one bears in mind the 7-10 year gestation period that it takes to acquire / build naval assets as well as train manpower and evolve a tactical doctrine, it is not a day too soon to start planning for meeting this threat that looms large over India’s maritime horizon. 


This article first appeared in the India Defence Review and has been reproduced here with the permission of the author. 

References and Footnotes


[i] Amrish Sahgal. PLAN's Plans.II. Indian Defence Review.


[ii] Amrish Sahgal. PLAN's Plans.II. Indian Defence Review.


[iii] Chinese People's Liberation Army Literature and Arts Publishing House (Beijing). February 1999


[iv] Amrish Sahgal. China and the Doctrine of Asymmetrical Warfare. Indian Defence Review.


October-December 2002.

Kashmir Imbroglio: Whose Solution?

During his last tour to the United States and West Europe, Pakistani President, General Pervez Musharraf said on a couple of occasions that he had as many as 15 formulae for the solution of the vexed Kashmir issue. Though he did not elaborate what these formulae were, it is now well known that the Pakistani strongman, unlike, most of his predecessors, has been trying to project himself as a pragmatist and a moderate on the Kashmir issue. But, in reality, he is the cleverest Pakistani head of government and most dangerous from India’s point of view. If his ideas on Kashmir are taken to the logical conclusion, then India will forgo the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, whereas Musharaff’s predecessors would have been more than satisfied with only the Kashmir Valley seceding from India. This short essay is aimed at proving this theme of Musharraf.   

We may begin with the  “successful” meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf last September  on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at New York. The meeting calmed the otherwise tense India-Pakistan relations so much that Musharraf claimed to have seen “a ray of light at the end of the tunnel” as far as a “negotiated settlement” of the vexed issue of Jammu and Kashmir is concerned.

In fact, in a meeting with Indian visitors, including veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar and India’s former Foreign Secretary, Salman Haider, President Musharraf told an Indian daily (The Asian Age) on October 12 that in just “a full day’s sitting” the Kashmir issue could be resolved. "How many times can we keep discussing options, once, twice, four times, six times, how much more can one discuss," he said, adding that as far as he was concerned both India and Pakistan could resolve the issue within (at the most) two to three days easily.

By any standards, it was an astounding statement.  But Musharraf told his Indian guests that the resolution was ”simple, identify the region, demilitarise it and change its status". He said it was important for both India and Pakistan to leave behind their stated positions on Kashmir, adding: "We are both, at present, on a maximalist course: if there has to be an agreement, both sides have to step down."

According to him, it is also necessary now to merge “Steps 3 and 4” of the framework that he had spelt out earlier. Step 3, as elaborated by him at several press interactions in the past, was to eliminate all those options for a solution of Jammu and Kashmir that were not acceptable to either side and focus on those that were left behind on the table. Step 4 was to begin discussing the different options. He said it was necessary to merge the two for "if Step 3 is taken in isolation all hell will break loose."

There was a perceptible change in Musharraf’s much talked about blueprint of the solution of Kashmir issue through four steps. It may be noted here that so far, Musharraf’s four-pronged thesis on Kashmir, which he enunciated soon after his military coup in 1999, ran like this: First, both India and Pakistan should admit that J&K is a core issue; second, let the two sides place on the table their respective proposals on the future of J&K; third, let each side reject the proposals not acceptable to it; and fourth, both should start looking for a solution, which would be acceptable to India, Pakistan and the people of J&K.

In its original form, the Musharraf thesis was a non-starter. Because, had New Delhi said that the whole of the undivided J&K was an integral part of India, Pakistan would have rejected it. On the other hand, had Pakistan placed on the table a proposal that the people of J&K should be given the so-called right of self-determination, India would have rejected it. Then nothing would have remained on the table to be discussed further since Pakistan is also opposed to the conversion of the Line of Control (LoC) into an international border.

Viewed thus, Musharraf’s October 12 statement was an amendment of his thesis, something that seems to have escaped the attention of many observers of the India-Pakistan scene. Now by saying that Step 3 “cannot be seen in isolation” and that it has to be seen together with Step 4, Musharraf virtually left no option for India and Pakistan other than agreeing on a solution that is acceptable also to the people of J&K. And that solution, according to him, would mean that both the countries identified a region out of the undivided J&K (pre-1948), demilitarised it and then changed its status. By implication, the rest of the undivided state could be incorporated in India and Pakistan, depending on the circumstances.

Is this formula acceptable to India and its present political leadership? Musharraf is optimistic since he found Manmohan Singh’s “body language” to be “very good”. He also “found the Indian Prime Minister to be extremely positive and sincere.” Musharraf, it may also be noted, was equally fond of the former Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee. So much so that during the Vajpayee regime, the Pakistanis and a section of the Bush administration in the United States were so hopeful of reaching a solution of the Kashmir problem that both Vajpayee and Musharraf were among those nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for this year.

Does this mean that there is a similarity of views on Kashmir between the top leaderships of the Congress and the BJP? As it is, before he had left for the United States where he met Musharraf, Manmohan Singh had had a quiet meeting with Vajpayee and on his return LK Advani had an audience with him. It is not out of place to notice that neither Vajpayee nor Advani has differed with Singh on the UPA government’s Pakistan policy. The present government is just continuing Vajpayee’s Pakistan policy. 

In fact, just before the Singh-Musharraf meet took place, the influential Time magazine of the US had carried a report, saying, “A senior (Indian) official conveyed to it that India will offer to ‘adjust’ the Line of Control – the de facto border dividing Kashmir “by a matter of miles’ eastward.” That would mean India conceding some of the territories under its present control. To further substantiate its position, the magazine stated, “Indian analysts confirm that the offer has been under discussion, in India and with Pakistan’s leadership for months – even under the government that preceded Singh’s.”             
It is well known in diplomatic circles that Musharraf has been keen on what Pakistani diplomats describe as the Chenab Plan – a partition of Jammu and Kashmir along its communal faultlines.  Islamabad is pushing for an arrangement where the six Muslim-dominated districts of the Kashmir Valley – Srinagar, Budgam, Baramulla, Kupwara, Anantnag and Pulwama – will be granted suzerainty, a near-sovereign status. This near-sovereign status would leave the new entity with power over all areas of governance other than foreign policy.

India, under the Chenab Plan, will then have to forgo all its claims to Pakistan-held Kashmir, and the Northern Areas of Gilgit and Baltistan. In turn, Pakistan would be called on to accept Indian sovereignty over the Hindu-majority Jammu region of the State. The Jammu region is made up of the six districts of Jammu, Doda, Kathua, Udhampur, Rajouri and Poonch. But the Chenab Plan calls for a further division of Poonch, Doda, and Rajouri, all Muslim-majority areas. They will all go to Pakistan if the LoC is extended eastward and then becomes the border between India and Pakistan. In return, Pakistan would also forgo any claim over Ladakh, leaving a decision on the future of the region to be made between India and China at their mutual convenience.

Schemes for a partitioning of Jammu and Kashmir have been in the air for some years now. During the Kargil War, back-channel negotiators Niaz Naik, a former Pakistani foreign secretary and RK Mishra, a leading Indian journalist, had been reported to have exchanged papers on the Chenab Plan, documented in a Pakistani proposal, an Indian counter-proposal, and a Pakistani response. Later, Pakistani negotiators demanded of their US interlocutors that a withdrawal from Kargil by Pakistan be premised on Indian reciprocity, in the form of the acceptance of the Chenab Plan. Then, in February 2000, the then Kashmir Chief Minister, Abdullah and his key Cabinet Ministers held discussions with US-based businessman Farooq Kathwari, the author of detailed plans to divide Jammu and Kashmir. Kathwari's Kashmir Studies Group (KSG) had, in a series of reports collectively called "Kashmir: A Way Forward", called for the creation of a new sovereign state but without an international personality. The demands made by Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah for a restoration of the 1953 status of Jammu and Kashmir are not distant from the KSG conception of a quasi-independent state.

Many observers find the Chenab Plan a variation of the "Dixon Plan."  Sir Owen Dixon, a Judge of the Australian High Court had come to the subcontinent as the United Nations' Representative for India and Pakistan pursuant to the Security Council's Resolution of March 14, 1950. “The report he submitted to the UN Security Council on September 15, 1950, was very close to success”, argues noted constitutional expert AG Noorani.

The "Dixon Plan" assigned Ladakh to India, the Northern Areas and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) to Pakistan, split Jammu between the two, and envisaged a plebiscite in the Kashmir Valley. Pakistan demurred at first, but agreed later. It fell through because Pandit Nehru did not accept the conditions under which the plebiscite could be held. He wanted that the plebiscite to determine the future of the Kashmir Valley should be held under the then Prime Minister of the State, Sheikh Abdullah, something Dixon did not agree to. Otherwise, If Noorani is to be believed, almost all the top Indian leaders of the time – Nehru, Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad and Abdul Kalam – had agreed with the Australian jurist that major portions of the pre-1948 J&K could be divided between India and Pakistan, with the Kashmir Valley given the option to decide for itself whether to join India or Pakistan through a plebiscite. 

However, 2004 is not 1950. Circumstances have changed dramatically. Therefore, neither the Chenab Plan nor the KSG formula nor the thesis of Musharraf is talking of the possibility of the Valley going to Pakistan. Instead, each of them would settle for a semi-independent status for the Valley. It is against this background that many think tanks and intellectuals of both India and Pakistan – the professional Track II-wallahs – have now floated what is called the Andorra model for J&K.

Andorra is a co-principality of the Bishop of Urgel (Spain) and the French President. Under a 1993 agreement, Andorra has near autonomy with its own constitution and currency. France and Spain both share responsibility for its defence.  Applied to the Kashmir Valley, the Andorra model would suggest that its defence and foreign affairs would be the joint responsibility of India and Pakistan and its borders would be soft enough to allow the movements of both Indians and Pakistanis in and out of it.

It was against this background that General Musharraf further confounded the matter on October 25 by suggesting a three-point formula for resolving the Kashmir imbroglio permanently.  Addressing Pakistani editors and columnists that day, he mooted his “proposal, a food for thought”. He said that Pakistanis must discuss a “change of status” for Kashmir. “Change in status could be independent status... joint control (with India), it can be a UN mandate also,” he reportedly said, adding  “We’ll have to sit down with legal experts who can give their opinion on what other status are possible”. 

General Musharraf  divided the pre-1948 Jammu and Kashmir into seven regions.  Two regions –“Azad Kashmir” and the Northern Areas – are under the control of Pakistan (which we Indians call Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or PoK) whereas five regions are under Indian control. According to him, of these five, the first part comprises Jammu, Sambha and Katwa and in them Hindus are in majority. The second part also comprises Jammu but the areas include Dodha, Phirkuch and Rajawri where the Muslim population is in a majority, which includes Gujjars, Sidhans and Rajas, “who are associated with Azad Kashmir”. The third part is the area of Kashmir Valley, which includes Srinagar and also has a Muslim majority. The fourth part is Indian held area, which includes Kargil and has Shia and Balti population in a majority and the fifth area is Ladakh and adjoining areas where Buddhists live.

The second leg of Musharraf’s formula is that after their identification, these regions need to be demilitarised, following which, and this is the third leg, their status should be changed. According to him, the possibility of jointly controlling the area (by this he was referring to the Kashmir Valley) as an Indo-Pak condominium or giving it under the control of the United Nations could also be discussed.  Musharraf said India, ”…because of its secular façade”, was opposed to a division of the territory on religious basis. But, he pointed out, “The beauty of this option for a Kashmir solution was that the same regions emerge even if you consider geography or ethnicity as the basis of division.”

From India’s point of view, nothing could be more devious than Musharraf’s Kashmir formula. Musharraf wants to take from India through peace what Pakistan failed to gain through its four wars.  If his formula of regions is realised, then POK and the Northern Areas will legally merge with Pakistan. In addition, Pakistan will also gain ceded areas from Jammu and Ladakh. And as for the Kashmir Valley, it would either go for independence or remain under joint India-Pakistan control. That means, India will either lose the Valley or retain partial control over it along with Pakistan. Pakistan gains here as well. 

Historically speaking, undivided Kashmir has consisted of five regions – Punjabi-speaking POK, Northern Areas, Ladakh, the Kashmir Valley and Jammu. Now the first two areas are under Pakistan’s control and the last three have been with India. Musharraf now wants to carve out two separate areas dominated by Muslims, one each from Hindu-majority Jammu and Buddhist dominated Ladakh. But he does not want to cite religion as the criterion behind this categorisation since that will, according to him, offend India’s “façade” of secularism. Instead, he uses the terms “geography” and “ethnicity”.

I have a few problems with this approach. If geography and ethnicity could be the basis of dividing and uniting nations, then Pakistan has no right to exist as a sovereign country since Indians and Pakistanis are ethnically the same and geographically both belong to the same landmass having common flora and fauna. If geography and ethnicity are to be interpreted negatively, then too Pakistan’s legitimacy could be challenged, given the perpetual clash between Shias and Sunnis, not to talk of the ever disenchanted Muhajirs whose leaders are on record to have said that the partition of India was “A historic blunder”.           

Musharraf, indeed, is a quintessential Pakistani in the sense that for him the Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims cannot coexist in Jammu and Kashmir and, therefore, the Muslims must either join Pakistan or form an independent country. That is the basis of his Kashmir-formula. In other words, he is only revalidating the nefarious “two-nation theory”. But in that case, he should also accept the blueprint devised by Prof. Deepak Basu, who teaches at Japan’s Nagasaki University.

Basu argues that the problem between India and Pakistan remains because what was natural after a partition of a country, exchange of population, never took place. Pakistan and Bangladesh drove out most of their non-Muslim population, but Muslims are still in India, even after their homeland was created. This is the most unnatural event in the world. In other cases of partition elsewhere in the world, there were always exchanges of population. The cases of Greece-Turkey, Germany-Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria-Turkey, Poland-Germany, Bosnia-Serbia and Croatia-Serbia are recent examples where a full-scale exchange of population was organised, sometimes by the UN itself. 

Basu, therefore, suggests that the proposed solution of Kashmir should be packaged with the following items: 

(1) Pakistan and Bangladesh will take all Muslims living in India (including Kashmir) while India will accept all non-Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh; 

(2) India will give up the Kashmir Valley but Pakistan-occupied Skardhu Hunza, Baltistan, and Gilgit, where very few Muslims used to live in 1947, should come to India; 

(3) the Chittagong Hill District, which was 97 per cent Buddhist in 1947, will have a referendum, to join either Burma or India or to stay independent. The Muslim population there will go back to Bangladesh; 

(4) Migrants will be allowed to take away their assets and destitutes should be compensated by the government of the country displacing them; 

(5) In order to avoid the holocaust that took place in 1947-48, the whole of the subcontinent should be placed under the jurisdiction of the UN, for about one year, during which this exchange of population would take place.

Will the Basu theory be accepted as food for thought in Pakistan? It is quite obvious that whether it is the Dixon Plan or the Chenab Plan or the Musharraf thesis or the Andorra model, the suggested solution entails concessions on territories under Indian control. Pakistan does not forgo anything; rather it gains territory in the Jammu sector and earns a say in the affairs of the Valley. Is that what the Vajpayee government in the past and Manmohan Singh government at present have been negotiating with Musharraf? Even the much talked about option of the Indian government of having a soft border to facilitate movement between the people in the two divided parts of Kashmir is not devoid of danger, if in the name of free movement, people from PoK come and reside  in  Jammu and Ladakh and change their demographic composition, a process which has already started. The Hindus in Jammu and the Buddhists in Ladakh are about to lose their numerically majority over the next 10 years, if the present trend continues. 

As Lt Gen. Vinay Shankar (Retd.), who had fought Pakistan during the Kargil War, rightly wonders,  “To the Indian interlocutors, coming to an agreement in negotiations with Pakistan has become more important than finding a solution. Or receiving US approval has transcended national interests. Both these possibilities are truly worrisome.” 

Many observers find it perplexing that in the last 57 years, India has not offered any plan officially for the solution of the Kashmir imbroglio. Other than the decades-old parliamentary resolution of taking back POK, New Delhi has never bothered to give any counterproposal to Pakistan, although it is said privately that Indira Gandhi had reached an understanding with ZA Bhutto in 1972 at Shimla that India would like the exiting LoC converted into an international border. On the other hand, Pakistan has consistently defined the Kashmir imbroglio. Pakistanis have defined the problem, they have defined the issues, they have taken a lead in actions and now they are defining the solution.

If any of the suggested plans gets implemented, the implications could be dangerous for India. As Gen Shankar says, “Gifting territory would be a sell-out, that too, on the ground that those gifted are Muslim-majority areas. By the same logic tomorrow, if Bangladesh were to claim Muslim majority villages on its borders, that too would be reasonable.”

What then is the way out for India?  Says Bharat Verma, editor of this distinguished journal, “No enduring solution is possible in Kashmir as Pakistan's intentions and activities remain hostile to India and spread from Kashmir to Indo-Bangladesh borders notwithstanding the deceptive peace overtures. Therefore, to achieve peace in Kashmir, India will ultimately need to wage war by covert as well as overt means in the near future."

Verma belongs to a school of thought that believes that time is India’s biggest strategic weapon, something that Pakistan does not have. India, the 10th largest economy of the world, can compete in the global economy and win; Pakistan cannot.  So instead of agreeing to Musharraf’s timeline for the solution of the Kashmir imbroglio, India must prolong it till Pakistan virtually agrees to the existing reality.

It is in this context that Arindam Bannerji, a US based Indian engineer, has propagated the much commented upon ‘Neelam Plan’, which has dismayed many a Pakistani. The Neelam Plan suggests that India should stick to its present position of complete and equal integration of J&K into India and from that position could envisage shifting the LoC to the west and north along the Neelam River, so that the Northern Areas become independent. The rest of the POK could then join Pakistan.

The Neelam Valley is a 144 km long bow-shaped deeply forested region that makes up much of  what Pakistanis call Azad Kashmir. The Neelam River enters Pakistan from India in the Gurais sector of the Line of Control, and then runs west till it meets the Jhelum north of Muzzafarabad. The Neelam valley, says Banerji, is the valley of death and the valley of hatred. This valley and the region around it are infested with every kind of terrorist vermin that the Pakistanis have been able to rustle up, with the buying power of their extortion, drug-running and charity money. 

While the Chenab plan is based on the bigoted principles of division along ethnic lines, the Neelam Plan is focused on clamping down on terrorism and prevention of religious clashes in India. Clearly, these principles only apply to India, since terrorism is revered as freedom-fighting in Pakistan and other religions have mysteriously disappeared (from 20 per cent to about 3 per cent in 5 decades) from the land of the pure. Unlike the Chenab Plan, which does nobody any good apart from a few hallucinating generals at GHQ at Rawalpindi, the Neelam Plan actually, as Bannerji says, has a sound basis, namely:

·         Artificial countries based on religion alone are a hassle – Britain has already tried that with the creation of Pakistan -- been there, done that; doesn't quite work. 

·         Any plan that does not explicitly take into account US strategic interests in the area will become road-kill – so ensure easy US access to the Chinese border. 

·         Water is the biggest strategic issue in the subcontinent – talk about it, don't hide it, avoid the next war.

·         Terrorism and not the over-hyped repression of the people of Kashmir will cause the next nuclear war – so address it.

There are 5 basic principles and 5 associated actions that constitute Bannerji’s Neelam plan:

First, the absorption of integrated areas. India has demonstrated through its fair elections of last year, the enormous dollars spent in economic development ($5 billion) in Kashmir and the special attempts at integration such as reservation in out-of-state colleges, that J&K is well on its way to full-fledged integration with India. For better results, arcane constitutional artefacts, such as Article 370 need to be done away with. Improved industrial investment will follow. Pakistan has never managed to integrate any part of its country, let alone PoK. A vague case may be made that what they call 'Azad' Kashmir has been integrated as an armed camp, but this should be subject to LoC alterations, as described below.

Second, freedom for the oppressed, the brutally oppressed people of Gilgit and Baltistan have faced complete abrogation of their constitutional and human rights, with hardly any economic development for the last 55 years.  Their lands have seen murderous occupation and their standard of living makes the sub-Saharan Africans feel mighty privileged.

According to the Neelam Plan, the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan) will become a free country and Pakistani garrisons currently encamped there, will have to depart. Naturally, the Pakistani Punjabis currently usurping people's rights in this land will immediately become illegal aliens and over a period of time, will have to obtain appropriate work visas to remain there. 

Both India and Pakistan would need to officially obtain transit rights through this land. This would bring about a demilitarisation of the Deosai Plain and thus effect a natural stabilisation in places like Siachen, Kargil and Drass.

From the perspective of the main interlocutor, the US, direct access to the Deosai Plain could be a strategic coup in its oncoming superpower battles with China. There possibly is no better strategic location for US forces in the northern regions of South Asia -- certainly, far better than being located in the Kashmir Valley. All this comes with the added benefit of not having to upset relations with a potential strategic partner – India.

Third, clamping down on terrorism. The only terrorism of consequence in South and Central Asia seems to originate from Pakistan. There are two problems here – first, the Neelam valley has become the launching pad and training ground for terrorism; second, Pakistan views terrorism as a legitimate instrument of State policy.
For the first problem, the solution is quite clear -- reduce drastically, the scope of the Neelam valley to act as the biggest terrorist training camp in the world. This is achieved by moving the LoC into the Neelam valley and better international mediation. The specific steps are:

1. Move the LoC north of Gurais till it covers all the infiltration routes emerging from the Burzil Pass.

2. Move the LoC in the Kupwara area to enclose the Neelam valley segment north of Muzaffarabad.

3. Move the Haji Pir Pass within India, since it is the entrance point for most terrorists in J&K.

4. Move the LoC south of Poonch closer to New Mirpur, perhaps along the Poonch River, this will drastically reduce terrorist breeding grounds.

5. Have UN troops guard the rest of 'Azad Kashmir.'

6. The independence of Gilgit and Baltistan to the north will bring about a closure of terrorist training and coordination camps in Gilgit, Astore, Skardu and the Deosai Plains area.

The second issue of Pakistan using terrorism as state policy is a little more difficult. Here, international lenders, in return for monetary aid, must ask for intrusive UN monitoring within Pakistan to ensure that the ISI and other groups do not engage in terrorism. Connecting monetary aid directly to stopping Pakistani terrorism is the only way to ensure that there isn't a terrorism-induced nuclear war on the sub-continent. The IMF has always used this policy to open up markets for the West; so why not use a similar approach to contain the scourge of jihadi terrorism in the country that has been referred to as the 'epicentre of terrorism?’ asks Bannerji. 

Fourth, equitable distribution of water, the Indus Water Treaty is inherently inequitable – it does not take into consideration that India's population is about 8 times that of Pakistan and Pakistan has eliminated or pushed into India almost all of its ethnic minorities since independence. This treaty must be declared invalid and must be renegotiated on the basis of the population balance on either side of the border.

An equitable distribution would imply that India gets around 40 per cent of the waters currently earmarked for Pakistan. Pakistan has so far depended upon India's inability to use its water resources aggressively and as a consequence not developed its water resource infrastructures adequately. Without such re-negotiation, Pakistan may not realise the criticality of doing so on its own – leading to disaster for Pakistan within this decade.

If this issue is not resolved, the Indus Water Treaty, and not Kashmir, will lead to the next nuclear war – water has already become the most precious resource in India, says Bannerji rightly.

Fifth, no one-sided guns to anybody's head; the only hope for the Pakistani economy is transit fees from oil pipelines. These pipelines will remain pipe dreams unless India agrees to be the key destination market for this oil. One of the main reasons for US interest in peace in Kashmir is related to the big dollars that would roll into the pockets of US oil giants if these pipelines do not flow through Iran.

Unfortunately, if these pipelines become a reality, Pakistan just obtains a large economic gun to put to India's head. To be fair, any gas pipeline should only be considered if at the same time, India is allowed to build up the infrastructure required to completely stop water to Pakistan. In other words, if Pakistan has the ability to shut off energy supply to India, then India must have the ability to shut off water supply to Pakistan, argues Bannerji. 

“ Erecting bigger walls between India and Kashmir through increased autonomy, even as the slow Pakistanisation of Kashmir through Pakistan-inspired religious teachers continues, is diminishing Indian strategic hold in Kashmir. Therefore, I’m strongly suggesting that we Indians watch out for strategic mistakes that our politicians tend to make – lest our children and grandchildren have to pay for them 50 or 100 years from now.  Our history is replete with well-meaning leaders giving up strategic advantages – remember Coco Island, Kashmir, Indus Water Treaty, seat on the UNSC, …you get my point.” reminds Bannerji.

More and more thinking Indians should listen to Bannerji.

The writer is Political Editor, Sahara Time. Courtesy:  Indian Defence Review, vol 19-4

The Afghan Drug Trade

  1. A map of drug routes emanating from Afghanistan through Pakistan and into India. (Source : Jane's Intelligence Report, through ). This map describes opium trade routes emanating from Eastern Afghanistan into Pakistan through the North West Frontier Province and Pakistan’s Punjab into India. The triangles symbolize Heroin laboratories. This map shows that the laboratories are clustered along the Afghan border, and many are within Pakistan. Interestingly, many of the routes used for smuggling drugs also double as routes for smuggling arms to supply terrorist activity in neighboring countries. 2. An Afghan farmer standing in a poppy field. (Source: Ric Ergenbright / CORBIS) Poppy cultivation is considerably more lucrative for Afghan farmers than more traditional cereal crops. In recent times, cultivation of poppy was also encouraged by the Pakistani backed Taliban regime. Afghan cultivation of Opium boomed in the 1980's when the Pakistani government set up drugs and arms smuggling networks to finance and run the Afghan jihad. These types of networks are used to smuggle arms, drugs and supply terrorist organizations active in India.

3. A montage showing opium in different stages, juxtaposed with a mujahideen. (Source : U.S Department of Drug Enforcement, ) The illegal narcotics trade in Afghanistan and Pakistan spawned and facilitated the growth of a thriving arms trade in the region. The nexus of arms and drug trafficking under the long time patronage of the Pakistani government involves senior members of the Pakistani army and business communities yielding a significant income. Dawood Ibrahim, India's top mafia boss involved in these activities, is believed to reside in Pakistan after being given shelter by its government against Indian attempts to capture him.

4. Iranian officials inspecting a captured shipment of heroin. (Source: Reuters, via Afghanistan is well positioned to send drugs into Central Asia and Iran. These networks could pose a serious threat to stability in the region because they can be used to arm Islamic fundamentalist organizations in Central Asia. Additionally, drug addiction is a major problem in several parts of Iran. The Iranian government has repeatedly tried to combat the spread of drugs from Afghanistan into its borders.

5. Arms being examined in the North West Frontier Province, Pakistan. (Source: South Asia Tribune;

The very lucrative Afghan Transit Trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan serves as a smuggling route of other goods. One of the most dangerous aspects of this trade is the arms trafficking. This well established activity dates back to the initial set up used to supply Afghan Mujahideen fighting the Soviet occupation. An extensive industry involved in the production of arms in the provinces of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan.

6. Woman Smoking Heroin, Pakistan. (Source : Getty Images) Drug addiction is a serious social problem in Pakistan with an estimated 2% of its population directly using drugs and cuts across ethnic and gender boundaries.  Due to the complicity of drug trade among the powerful sections of Pakistani society, this problem is likely to worsen considerably.  In Pakistan and neighboring countries the affliction of drugs and illegal arms are linked, they are one, and cannot be tackled in isolation.

Is Pakistan Necessary?

Does Pakistan need to exist? This is not a question normally asked about any country, but it is one that will be asked with increasing urgency in the years ahead if Pakistan continues to operate the way it does. Pakistan’s neighbors – Afghanistan, India, Iran, Tajikistan and increasingly China - are suspicious of its intentions. Often its actions tend to confirm these suspicions. Increasingly, the existence of Pakistan is being questioned by its component provinces as well – especially Balochistan and Sindh.

Since its creation, Pakistan’s preferred state of existence has been one in which it plays a mercenary role for a big power – America has usually been the first choice, but over the past decade Islamabad has indicated that China will do too. The problem is that these two countries do not really trust Pakistan (or each other). They know fully well that Islamabad’s rulers will simply opt for the highest bidder – while nurturing its own Islamist agenda just in case. China has begun to realise that its relationship with Pakistan has primacy only so long as the US is disinterested.

On the regional level, Islamabad may have revived its violate and deny tactics on the Line of Control separating India from “Azad Kashmir” – the part of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) state which Pakistan now occupies. It is clear that the recent shelling across the LoC was intended as a message. Though one might quibble about who was sending it, given the level of control that the Pakistani military has over terrorist groups dedicated to the destruction of India, it would be irresponsible to assume that it was an “accident”. No terror group would attempt such a move without clearance from the military, and no rogue army unit would have done it without a nod from a rogue officer higher up. 

There are also credible media reports suggesting that the Pakistani military leadership is preparing to re-escalate cross-LoC terrorism. This is seen to be, at least in part, a response to what Islamabad believes to be: (1) a lack of results from the Indo-Pak dialogue – i.e. India is neither willing to make any territorial concessions in J&K nor to suspend its hydro-electric projects in that state; and (2) a hidden Indian hand behind the rapidly deteriorating situation in Balochistan, complementing the hidden Iranian hand which Islamabad believes wants to destabilize Pakistan for its role beside America in the war against terrorism. 

Meanwhile, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and the lieutenant generals lined up behind him, seem to believe that Pakistan is now well-positioned to take a tougher stand on a number of issues with its neighbors. The role of America’s most-allied ally (or Major Non-NATO Ally in Washington parlance) has given them the confidence to interpret the current geo-political situation as they have traditionally done – i.e. as a challenge to be handled through a series of tactical military actions. They are certain they will have American backing in any action that may impact upon Iran, such as a no-holds-barred offensive in Balochistan – which appears to have already commenced. 

President Musharraf has even delivered a veiled nuclear threat, subtly directed against Iran but couched as a warning against the insurgents in Balochistan – “…you will not even know what hit you”. About a week later the Pakistani government’s man in Balochistan accused Iran of supporting the resistance. Around the same time, two instances of shelling across the LoC were reported; and the Islamabad government denied that it occurred, instead accusing India of shelling Pakistani territory. 

The tactic of violate and deny is not new, and fits within a pattern of denial that Pakistani military leaders have employed since the creation of the state. The most recent example was the Kargil incursion of 1999, in which Pakistani military involvement continues to be denied – although soldiers have been awarded honors for their role in it.

The global picture of Pakistan is no less worrying. One can hardly bring Pakistan into a conversation without two issues popping up immediately: its nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Al Qaida and the stability of the country. Conventional wisdom is, of course, that these two issues are correlated – i.e. if Pakistan disintegrates, nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of Al Qaida; or if nuclear weapons fall into the hands of Al Qaida, then it must be assumed that Pakistan as we know it has disintegrated. 

This is the assumption which underlies the logic with which “the West” (primarily the US) deals with Pakistan. The corollary is that President Gen. Musharraf, must submit to American demands on Al Qaida to keep the axiom valid. From Musharraf’s viewpoint, this is a problematic but necessary condition for his continued survival. He is doing well, given the trying circumstances. Pakistani military commanders, for instance, are now directing American artillery fire from Afghanistan into Pakistani sovereign territory against suspected Al Qaida targets. 

Yet accidents can never be ruled out, and Washington is well aware of this. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pointed out that contingency plans are in existence should any accident befall the well-guarded Musharraf. The implication is that, from the US perspective, Pakistan can be regarded as stable so long as Musharraf (or another suitably compliant general) is at the helm. More subtly, it shows the extent to which Washington depends on Musharraf the man rather than Pakistan the state. Musharraf is necessary. But Pakistan? Not necessarily. It can be credibly argued that a gradually unraveling Pakistan will very much suit the long-term objectives of the war against terrorism.

From the perspective of Pakistan’s neighbors, all this is beside the point. Under Gen. Musharraf, Pakistan’s actions against Afghanistan, India and Iran suggest that it is pursuing a policy of destabilisation against these countries. It is clear that at least in the case of Iran there is a direct and declared American interest involved. If proposed US arms sales – including F-16 fighter jets capable of delivering nuclear weapons – are followed through, then India would view this as directly inimical to its security. The Afghan government continues to complain about the fact that Taliban leaders are living freely in Pakistan and organizing attacks on its territory. 

Given that Pakistan has shown little inclination over the better part of the past five decades to co-exist with a stable and prosperous Afghanistan, India and Iran, it is perfectly reasonable for these countries to wonder how it benefits them to have a stable Pakistan as their neighbor. So long as Pakistan continues to destabilize its neighbors, either on its own or as a proxy, its neighbors cannot be expected to support a stable Pakistan. On the contrary, they may conclude that unless stable neighbors are in Pakistan’s interest, a stable Pakistan is not in theirs.

Pakistani leaders seem to be betting that, so long as they have the war against terrorism to link themselves to the US, none of the neighboring countries will get aggressive. But Washington is not a guarantor of Pakistan’s stability. It is merely the keeper of Musharraf’s flame. It will not let that flame burn too brightly or too low, so long as he can deliver “a senior Al Qaida leader” at regular intervals. 

However, the ability of Musharaff to deliver is becoming increasingly questionable, as senior officers are disenchanted with the humiliating erosion of sovereignty involved in attacking their own countrymen at the behest of a foreign power; the situation in the lower ranks is worse. For its part, the US is aware that the military establishment – Musharraf included - has no abiding interest in seeing America bring the war against terrorism to a successful end, as that would almost certainly terminate the relationship of convenience that has been re-forged after 9/11. But if Musharraf is unable to continue to deliver what Washington wants, he too may become unnecessary. Whither Pakistan then?

Qualitative Requirements Of Military Equipment Need For A Process Revamp

The Prime Minister of India expressed his grave concern about the delays in defense procurements during the Combined Commanders’ Conference held in October 2004, as it adversely affects the modernization of the defense forces. This issue has been engaging the attention of experts for a long time. Most of them fault poor planning, inflexible mindsets and tardy decision making for failure to utilize the defense budget and the resultant surrender of unexpended funds. The Group of Ministers on National Security, in their report submitted to the Prime Minister in February 2001, also took a serious view of this inadequacy. It was critical of the cumbersome and archaic procurement methodology and the lack of a dedicated procurement structure.

Generally, everyone blames complex procedures, ‘play-safe’ bureaucracy and over-zealous finance officials. Surprisingly, the fundamental cause for delays in procurements has remained unidentified and hence, unaddressed so far. However, a comprehensive study of recent cases reveals that faulty formulation of Services Qualitative Requirements (SQRs) has been the principal cause for delay in most instances. 

SQRs refer to the essential characteristics of proposed military equipment projected against a specific time period to counter an estimated enemy threat or to fill other operational needs. The defense forces formulate these to achieve full operational exploitation. 

The SQR is really the basic building block on which the complete edifice of the procurement system is based. It is the start point. The entire procurement process is, therefore, directed towards getting the equipment, which satisfies the laid down SQRs. Deviations to SQRs can only be sanctioned by the Defense Minister on the recommendations of the Defense Procurement Board (DPB), and is a highly complex and time-consuming process. 

Poorly conceived, formulated and drafted SQRs create confusion, lend themselves to misinterpretations, vitiate the environment, and cause immense delays. At times, the whole process has to be aborted at an advanced stage or a number of special dispensations obtained to regularize infirmities. Here are a few examples that prove the point.

In one case, the military sought equipment, that could be carried by two persons in a battlefield. It was an essential and inescapable parameter. However, after three years of tendering and trials, it was realized that such equipment neither existed nor was feasible. The closest any equipment came to meeting the parameters was so heavy that it had to be carried by six men. Obviously, the user directorate had not formulated the SQRs realistically. Now it was faced with a dilemma, either to reframe the SQRs and recommence the process all over again or to dilute the requirement from a two-man load to a six-man load and seek a deviation. It was also in a quandary as to how to justify seeking a grant of deviation of this magnitude. It took two years to finalize the deal. 

In another interesting case, the SQRs for a piece of equipment contained over 130 essential parameters. An analysis of the responses revealed that such a machine did not exist. The best product in the world did not meet over 25 major parameters. The concerned Service Headquarters did not know how to proceed. There was no way that the Defense Minister could be convinced to grant such key deviations. Moreover, requesting for dilution of vital parameters would have exposed the slipshod manner in which the SQRs were framed. Finally, it was decided to abort the case and start it ab-initio with a fresh and realistic SQR. It resulted in a delay of over three years.

In yet another case, an essential parameter of reversibility was not included while framing the SQRs for inviting proposals. After extensive trials over a period of three years, it was felt that the requirement of reversibility was overriding and inescapable. As it was not an initial stipulation but introduced later on, it invited protests from the participating producers. The whole matter was debated in depth at various levels to salvage the case. Finally, it was considered beyond redemption and closed. A fresh case with a revised SQR was ordered to be initiated. It caused a delay of nearly five years. Troops are still waiting for the acquisition to materialize. 

There are any number of such examples. It will, perhaps, be more appropriate to aver that there is hardly a case where the SQRs do not warrant revision or necessitate grant of deviations. 

Reasons for faulty SQRs

It is the very process of framing the SQRs, which is to blame for its deficiencies. After the inclusion of a projection in the acquisition plan, the sponsoring directorate is asked to finalize the SQRs and initiate a case for its procurement. The task of preparing the first draft is assigned to the concerned branch. All available books on the equipment and glossy catalogues of the manufacturers are collected. The best characteristics of all known equipment are compiled as essential requirements. Generally, there is a penchant to include as many features as possible to demonstrate enormity and exhaustiveness of the work done.

As the draft travels upwards in official hierarchy, it gathers more parameters. Every officer feels that he must contribute his bit by suggesting additional provisions. The process thus goes on. Once the draft is circulated to other members of the approving committee, it receives further stipulations from the maintenance agencies, development organization and the quality control people. The most interesting part is that every one suggests additions to the parameters but no one recommends any deletion. Thus, the final SQR takes the shape of a well-compiled ‘wish list’ of utopian dimensions. Highly ambitious capabilities are sought without reference to their viability and achievability.

The SQRs are made by the services without considering the technologies available or likely to be available in the planned time frame. No inputs are obtained from the industry as regards their capability. The whole process is done with highly limited knowledge and blinkered views. In most of the cases, performance parameters do not even relate to the technical parameters.

The SQRs are the same whether the equipment is to be purchased outright or developed indigenously. This invariably creates problems for the development agencies as they are given little technological leeway. Additionally, such SQRs do not relate to available technology. Thus, the development agencies are forced to embark upon new and unknown technologies. It becomes a highly expensive, time consuming and uncertain exercise. As a matter of fact, SQRs for equipment to be procured should be based on the equipment in production in the world market while SQRs for indigenous development should be based on the current level of technology, research proficiency and the time frame assigned. This is a major flaw in the system.

All three services work in watertight compartments. They do not seek each other’s advice or opinion. Unbelievable but true, the Army prepared SQRs for helicopters without reference to the Air Force, thereby depriving itself of the expertise available with the latter. Similarly, the Army formulated SQRs for deep-sea diving equipment without consulting the Navy. There is definitely no ‘jointness’ amongst the services as regards procurement of equipment. 

SQRs should always be realistic, broad-based and spelt out in terms of verifiable functional characteristics. But, in many cases, instead of giving broad performance requirements, they tend to get too specific for minor details as well. The SQRs for a towing vehicle contain over 115 essential parameters. At other times, parameters are too general in nature, vague and unverifiable. For example, an essential parameter for a new vehicle stated that the vehicle should provide adequate comfort to the driver. It became extremely difficult to determine and evaluate ‘driver’s comfort’ of competing vehicles during field trials, as it is an individual-specific and indeterminate quality.

A Service HQ has recently posted GSQR for a vehicle on its web site, which contains essential parameters that cannot be quantified at all. It states: “The vehicle should be compact with excellent running characteristic to permit quick acceleration… It should be strong and sturdy to permit optimum mobility in all types of terrain. It should be robust enough to withstand handling in cross country terrain for prolonged duration.” Parameters highlighted here are indeterminate and can lend themselves to different interpretations, leading to impasse at a later stage. For example, how can ‘prolonged duration’ be computed? Additionally, they are all essential parameters and hence, any deviation at a later stage would need sanction of the Defence Minister.

A look at the procedures followed abroad

The concept of Qualitative Requirements is a legacy of World War II days. It is too rigid and does not cater for changing technology. Most of the developed countries have already discarded it.

The British now ask the services to provide basic Cardinal Points Specifications (CPS) only. These are operational parameters specifying performance requirements in very broad terms. It helps the Defense Procurement Organization to study the projections in detail and decide on ‘make’ or ‘buy’ decisions in consultation with the research / development agencies and the defense industry. Even the procurements are carried out on the basis of CPS, which are made known to all the producers.

It is a very ingenious method, in which the producers, while conforming to CPS can introduce innovative techniques and ideas. All products, which comply with CPS, are trial evaluated by the services to identify the most suitable one for introduction into service. This also provides a common platform to judge different technologies for futuristic adaptation and further research. 

The Russians follow a ‘bottoms-up’ approach, in which, initially only baseline standards are evolved for a large variety of military equipment. These standards are grouped together to form basic profiles, which in turn help generate broad equipment contours with distinct characteristics. The profile of equipment, when translated into specific distinctive requirements is called a functional standard. A functional standard is, thus, a document that lays down the parameters for the development of equipment. In other words, baseline standards are like building blocks, which are common to a large array of military systems. These are combined to get basic profiles of a range of equipment, whereas profiles get converted into functional standards to define a military product. Such an arrangement is ideal for a country, which rarely imports any military hardware but develops its complete requirement indigenously. It is a highly cost effective system as it exploits the technology mastered over a range of products. It reduces inventory and facilitates easy life-cycle support.

As regards the United States, it introduced the concept of Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) a decade ago to reduce acquisition time. The concept aims at offering comparatively stabilised technologies to the defense forces and let the commanders ascertain their suitability in operational environments. Thus, it is left to the commanders to determine whether the equipment offered meets their requirement in its current form or further developmental work is required. In this methodology, it is not the military that demands development of new systems ab-initio. Advantage is taken of the nation’s technological prowess to tell the military as to what equipment can be made available with the technology mastered. Thus, time taken to develop new technologies as per the military’s requirements is eliminated. The ACTD concept can work best for the countries, which have a well-developed scientific base with multiple agencies working on different competing technologies. This approach has the added advantage that the military is made aware as to what is technically feasible in a given time frame, rather than seek equipment with over-ambitious and impractical parameters.

India needs to revamp its process

The present system wherein the user directorate initiates SQRs containing operational and technical characteristics should be done away with. Service HQ should prepare and forward only Operational Characteristics (OR) of the equipment sought. OR are purely military characteristics, which pertain primarily to the functions to be performed by equipment, either alone or in conjunction with other equipment in service. It implies that the military should initially restrict itself to specifying operational parameters in broad terms only. Thereafter, Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) under the Defense Minister should deliberate upon the case to decide on ‘make’ or ‘buy’ approach. DAC has representatives of Defense Research & Development Organization (DRDO) and Department of Defence Production amongst others. Their opinion as regards indigenous competence becomes a major factor in decision-making. It is desirable to obtain inputs from the private sector as well as it has developed considerable skills in various fields.

Once a ‘buy’ or ‘make’ decision is made, the case should be returned to the Service HQ to frame Qualitative Performance Requirements for Purchase (QPRP) for ‘buy’ cases and Qualitative Performance Requirements for Development (QPRD) for ‘make’ cases respectively. QPRP are based on the equipment currently available in the world market, whereas QPRD are based on futuristic technologies under development. With inputs received in DAC, the Service HQ is now fully geared to make a clear distinction between the existing and the achievable. It, therefore, modifies the earlier parameters to make them more realistic. It also gives a detailed description of the equipment with all its operational facets duly specified in a precise and quantifiable manner.

In ‘buy’ cases, QPRP are forwarded to the Acquisition Wing, where a Technical Parameters Committee (TPC) is constituted under the concerned Technical Manager to generate Technical Characteristics (TC). TPC has representatives of DRDO, Director General Quality Assurance, maintenance agencies and sponsoring service. Members of public and private sectors should also be invited on ‘as required’ basis for advice. TC of equipment pertain primarily to the technical characteristics of equipment possessing projected QPRP. Thus, invitation for bids should include QPRP as prepared by the Service HQ and TC as formulated by TPC.

However, in ‘make’ cases, the Service HQ forwards QPRD to DRDO. DRDO should have a standing Research Oversight Committee (ROC) to analyze all QPRD. It should be a broad based arrangement, conducive for consultations with the best brains in the country – whether from public/private sector or the academies. ROC should perform the functions of a think tank where various technological alternatives are brain-stormed in depth. ROC is tasked to produce Qualitative Research Requirements (QRR) for the equipment to be developed. QRR is primarily a technical road map, which broadly spells out technology to be adopted, assignment of responsibilities and outline contours of various phases of development with time frames. Once the Defense Development Board under the Scientific Advisor to the Defense Minister approves the QPR, it acquires the shape of a Policy Statement and acts as the basic document for the development of that equipment. 

Thereafter, the case is progressed by DRDO, who define Technical Specifications (TS) of the equipment (which flow from the QPR). These specifications relate to research, actual design development, production processes and engineering. Close interaction and periodic joint reviews with the user service are maintained throughout the development phase.

A schematic representation of the suggested mechanism is given below.

The proposed mechanism has the following major advantages:

  • Service HQ prepares realistic and well spelt out Qualitative Performance Requirements after obtaining extensive inputs at the DAC meeting, where other services are also present for discussion.
  • Technical Characteristics are not left to the military but are formulated by a technical committee after wide ranging discussions, thereby ensuring their applicability and practicality.
  • It ensures separation of formulation of parameters for procurement and development.
  • Formulation of Qualitative Research Requirements is assigned to the scientific community, being a matter of research and development.
  • Close and regular joint monitoring of the development process is institutionalized.

The present system served its purpose when India bought all its military hardware from the world market. In any case, all the major purchases were from the erstwhile Soviet Union and the country took what was offered to it. Formulation of SQRs really did not mean much. In most of the cases, Russian equipment on offer was studied and SQRs framed accordingly. There was neither any alternate source nor any worthwhile indigenous effort. But in the present environment of open competition, multi-source procurements and credible indigenous research base; the current system has outlived its relevance and is proving to be a major impediment in the expeditious procurement of military equipment. It is time we recognize this fact and carry out a total revamp of the process.


This article first appeared in the India Defence Review and has been reproduced here with the permission of the Editor. 

Smile on Billion Faces

An Address to the Nation on the Eve of 55th Republic Day  His Excellency Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam  President of India


Dear Citizens, on this important day on the eve of 55th Republic Day of India, I am indeed happy to greet all the billion citizens of our country including those living abroad. I also greet the members of the armed forces and paramilitary forces who guard our frontiers on the land, the sea and the air and also internal security forces. I would like to share some of my thoughts for evolution of a beautiful India, combining economic prosperity and value system drawn from our civilizational heritage.

Indian economic scenario

Indian economy shows a very robust and consistent growth, indicated by the recent 8.4% GDP growth in the second quarter of 2003-2004. Our foreign exchange reserves have crossed the $100 billion mark and are continuously rising. The rupee is steady and the middle class resurgence and the domestic buying power are on the rise. This has made our economy one of the fastest growing in the world. The time has come for these economic benefits to reach speedily the rural population through development programmes such as PURA - Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas and Interlinking of Rivers. Economists all around the world predict that by the year 2020, the world economic scenario will be completely different from what it is today, and that India will occupy the pride of position. 

Indian industries in certain sectors have matured to be very responsive to the national and international needs and have shown steady growth inspite of earlier adverse predictions. Interest rates from the banks need to be more proactive to stimulate the growth of the right type of small, medium scale industry and agro food processing industries. The combination of entrepreneurship education in the schools and colleges, the hassle free flow of venture capital and evolution of good market will give additional momentum for national growth. 

Transforming India into a competitive beautiful nation

Dear citizens, for the next five years, with certain progress behind us, the challenge we have, is to launch a major thrust for attaining national prosperity. We should convert the present opportunity and work towards giving our future generations, a competitive nation which has the following characteristics. 

Profile of Competitive India

a. A Nation that is prosperous, healthy, secure, peaceful and happy. 

b. A Nation where the rural and urban divide has reduced to a thin line. 

c. A Nation where there is an equitable distribution of energy and quality water.

d. A Nation where agriculture, industry and service sector work together in symphony, absorbing technology thereby resulting in sustained wealth generation leading to higher employment potential.

e. A Nation where education is not denied to any meritorious candidates because of societal or economic discrimination.

f. A Nation which is the best destination for the most talented scholars and scientists all over the world.

g. A Nation where the best of health care is available to all the billion population and the diseases like AIDS/TB, water borne diseases, Cardiac diseases and Cancer are extinct. 

h. A Nation where the governance uses the best of the technologies to be responsive, transparent, easily accessible and simple in rules, thereby corruption free. i. A Nation where poverty has been totally alleviated, illiteracy and crime against women are eradicated and the society is unalienated. 

j. A Nation that is one of the best places to live in, on the earth and brings smiles on a billion faces.

These are the ten dimensional transformations needed for a competitive India and we have to work for. 

Peace in the offing

For continuing our mission of national development and economic growth in our sub-continent, peace is a paramount ingredient. Most nations have realized that low intensity proxy wars, deterrence based buildups and real wars are too expensive detractors from the perceived visions of development. The development of the society also weans away its people from destructive activities of alienation, leading to celebration of peace-makers. 

When guns are silent,
Flowers blossom on the earth;
Fragrance engulfs good souls,
Who created beautiful silence.
India will always be grateful to the successful peacemakers. 

Towards Unity of minds

Dear citizens, when I assumed office on 25th July 2002, I addressed the need for unity of minds becoming one of the focused missions for our nation. Recently fifteen Gurus, Acharyas, Swamijis, Maulavis, Reverent Fathers, Spiritual leaders, devotees and the representatives of many religions met at S
urat in the presence of His Holiness Acharya Mahaprajna and deliberated for two days and took vital decisions leading to the religions graduating as spiritual force. Also, they have declared that the nation is bigger than any leader or individual or an organization. They had collectively evolved five inter-religious projects for implementation. Nation's best wishes to our spiritual leaders and their mission of transforming religions into a spiritual force.

Challenges before Us

Also certain challenges before the nation are to be addressed collectively in the immediate future to facilitate faster pace of national development. 

Service to Society: Our scientists should become civic scientists and contribute towards societal transformation. Civic means concerning or affecting the community or the people. In the new capacity, scientists step beyond their campuses, laboratories, ministries and institutes and move into the center of their communities to engage in active dialogue and action with their fellow citizens. They should ask themselves a question, how their knowledge can make an impact on the common man's life. Our civil servants and others in the service sector should become fearlessly people-friendly, have a positive attitude, and provide responsive, proactive, transparent and unbiased administration and service to the billion people. Primary education: Assent has been accorded for the 86th Constitution Amendment Act - Right to Education Bill for children between the age group of 5 and 14 years. Urgent action is needed for providing suitable school infrastructure and appointment of good teachers for running the schools for providing quality education to the children blended with the modern technologies of e-learning and tele-education. While doing so a review of the syllabus is also required to prevent overloading of the children for ensuring blossoming of their creativity. 

Protecting the Brand image of higher education: The nation's vision of developed India requires greater thrust to scientific and technological advancements. All our IITs, IIMs have graduated as world class brand institutions in addition to the century old premier institution - Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. These characteristics must be preserved and nurtured. We should also encourage universities to become cradles of higher learning and research, contributing generation of high skilled global human resource force. 

Examination reforms: Often, we have witnessed that many important national examinations have been the target of attack by a select group of corrupt individuals who undermine the very fabric of secrecy and transparency of the conduct of these examinations. While we should deal with such individuals with sternness to protect the image of our national selection system and the quality, we should also find technological solution that can ensure tamperproof examination system. 

Agriculture and Agro food processing

With farmers in focus, farming technology as their friend, and food processing and marketing as partners is indeed the second green revolution. From now on to 2020, India would have to gradually increase the production to around 400 million tones per annum. The increase in the production will have to be done under the reduced availability of land from 170 million hectares to 100 million hectares with reduced water availability using technological inputs.


Institutions of Pharmaceutical sciences and Pharma industries need to evolve an integrated and comprehensive National Pharma Vision to meet the challenges of design to drug development, production and marketing. The major challenge before the Pharma community is to prevent the entry of spurious drugs and eradicate it's presence in the market.


With our self-reliance in our Space programme it is time we should enter into the global market aggressively. The exploration of the moon through 'Chandrayaan' and keeping our sight on the Mars will electrify the entire country, particularly young scientists and children. 


Modernization of our armed forces with force multipliers is indeed progressing to meet the national security needs. Defence technology has led to the development of long range missile systems and supersonic cruise missile, Light Combat Aircraft, Electronic warfare systems, radars, under-water sensors, combat vehicles and armaments. The Indo-Russian joint venture programme - BRAHMOS is one of the leading examples of development, production and marketing of state-of-the-art missile system.


Our power generation capacity of hundred thousand megawatt has to be tripled by the year 2020. In addition to the power generation from the conventional sources we need to enhance the power generation capacity through non-conventional energy sources to attain power security. Also the present nuclear capacity of 2700 Megawatts should be enhanced to more than 20,000 Megawatts by 2020. Desalination plants can be co-located with the future nuclear power plants for converting sea-water to drinking water. We need to establish large solar farms of 800 to 1000 Megawatts capacity in many areas to augment the energy requirements.

Science and Technology Growth

Every academic institution and research and development organisation is a reservoir of knowledge. Technology will also spin off to societal products which are cost effective, high-quality and available to the people in time. Thrust is required in nanoscience and biotechnology to achieve leadership in these areas in the coming decade. The scientists and technologists must undertake a health mission "Let my brain remove the pain". The scientific community must realize that the competitiveness can come only by integrated mission driven programmes partnered by academy, research and development organisation and industry.

Civic Awareness

The status of environmental cleanliness is one of the indicators of development of a nation. As a nation, we have to keep our environment clean and tidy. This is essential for better health conditions of all the citizens and also for presenting a wholesome and aesthetic atmosphere for us and also the tourists visiting our country. It is essential that we keep all our places of worship and rivers clean and tidy to preserve their innate divinity. Each one of the States may promulgate appropriate local laws for promoting harmonious environment in their regions.

Election manifesto

The general elections for 14th Lok Sabha will take place in early 2004. I was thinking what could be the manifesto of the competing political parties for the election. India has more than 540 million people up to the age of 25 years. India is a nation of youth. During my interactions with the youth of our country, two aspects have come out very clearly. One is that the young have a passion, self respect and dream to live in developed India. Second, they want to live in a corruption free India. I can see these two are glowing in their eyes. I am also convinced that we should build developed India in a time bound way to prevent instability in the society. Hence the manifesto of the political parties has to take into account their aspirations and design them to meet the dream of the young and be resonant with their aspirations with identified missions and action plan. Every political party must clearly state their vision, action plan, and approaches for the developed India vision 2020 and how fast they can realize these missions in quality and quantity.

Voter's responsibility

Every citizen has got a role to choose the right representative to the Parliament and Legislatures, whose vision is that of national development and who has the concern for his/her constituency and the people. The right to vote is the greatest power given by the democracy to you, so that you can reinforce further democratic values. I would like to appeal to all eligible voters to exercise their franchise without fail, fear or favour. Large voter turn out will be the first step towards realization of developed India 2020, and the second step would be to become enlightened righteous citizens.

"Movement" by young citizens

Which is the starting point, for the character evolution in the nation? Dear citizens, let me share with you an incident, which took place somewhere in Nagaland. I was talking to a group of 600 persons consisting of young children, their parents and teachers. The topic I selected was the knowledge society, foundation for a developed India. One boy who was studying in 10th class, asked me, "Mr. President, tell me is it possible for a nation to get transformed into a developed country, when there is corruption everywhere?" This question greatly upset the many faces of the experienced generation. I said that, "the question was beautiful and I must answer". Fortunately, the boy's parents and teachers were sitting by his side. I asked both, "Do you have an answer?" They said, "Mr. President, he shouldn't have asked such a question, which is beyond his age. Please ignore it, sir". How can I ignore such a valuable mind? I must answer. My answer was the following. 

We can create any number of laws in the country. No law can remove corruption fully. However there are only three members of the society, who can remove corruption. I call it as a "Three dimensional action" plan. Who are these three members? They are father, mother and elementary school teacher. In this connection, I would like to recall a famous statement from Vedic Guru, who said "You give me a child for seven years - after that, no God or devil can change the child". That is the power of the teacher. 

My dear young friends, when you hear my national broadcast, please ask yourself a question, what can be the greatest contribution that the youth can give without disturbing their academic pursuit. You have to commence a silent revolution for removal of corruption by rightly reforming those who go against righteousness in your families. You all must endeavour to make the home you live, beautiful and righteous. You definitely have the power on your parents to do so, with love and affection. 

Dear Citizens, now I would like to administer an oath for the youth which I would like the youths to repeat with me now, wherever you are. Are you ready?

Ten point oath for the youth of the nation

1. I will pursue my education or the work with dedication and I will excel in it.

2. From now onwards, I will teach at least 10 persons to read and write those who cannot read and write.

3. I will plant at least 10 saplings and shall ensure their growth through constant care.

4. I will visit rural and urban areas and permanently wean away at least 5 persons from addiction and gambling.

5. I will constantly endeavor to remove the pain of my suffering brethren.

6. I will not support any religious, caste or language differentiation.

7. I will be honest and endeavour to make a corruption free society. 

8. I will work for becoming an enlightened citizen and make my family righteous.

9. I will always be a friend of the mentally and physically challenged and will work hard to make them feel normal, like the rest of us.

10. I will proudly celebrate the success of my country and my people.


India is very fortunate to have 540 million youth out of a billion people. We are doing well in agriculture, our industry is on the upswing and our performance in the services sector is also equally good. Time has now come for us to make our country, righteous. Righteousness comes out of good character. The evolution of good character leads to harmony in home. Harmony in home brings the people of the state to become enlightened citizens. Enlightened citizens lead the planet earth to be a peaceful world. 

Let us rededicate ourselves on this occasion of the 55th Republic Day to work towards making India a prosperous, happy and secure nation, with smile on billion faces. 

Almighty, the God is with us. 

Jai Hind 

Offsets In International Arms Trade Need For A National Policy


The end of the Cold War saw a considerable reduction in the demand for major weapon systems the world over. Additionally, free or subsidized military aid gave way to pure trade transactions. With limited buyers, the sellers were hard put to outbid their competitors. They had to make their offers virtually irresistible with promises of lucrative ‘add-ons’, collectively called offsets. Gradually, offsets became an essential part of all defense deals. From being an add-on, they became an important tool of decision-making as the purchasing countries used offsets to contend with the hostile public opinion against defense spending. Governments highlighted the benefits accruing to the national economy by way of technology transfers and buy-backs. Thus, the twin conditions of limited arms market and hostile public opinion in buying nations became the raison d'tra of the concept of offsets. 

Many consider offsets as some sort of coercion or compulsion, unfairly imposed by the buyer. But that is not true. In any competitive environment, a seller has to make his offer more lucrative than those of others. This is the basic ‘mantra’ of marketing and is equally applicable to defense trade as well. A seller accepts offsets of his own free will, as it still makes good marketing and economic sense for his company. 

The value of an offset is generally expressed in terms of percentage of the contract value. The Austrian air defense deal in 1993 had offsets of up to 200 per cent of the contract value, while their radar program recently had offsets of 280 per cent. The Czech fighter deal had an offset clause of 150 per cent. Interestingly, South Africa negotiated an arms package deal with nearly 350 per cent offsets in 1999.

Not all offsets are duly published. Sellers are generally reluctant to reveal the quantum of offsets they had to offer to clinch a deal. They term it as commercially sensitive information. They are wary of future clients getting wiser and upping their demands in turn. They are also wary of adverse local opinion, which may view it as leading to job losses, as many suppliers undertake to place orders for sub-assemblies on the local vendors in the importing country at the cost of the original vendors in their own country.

What is an offset? 

Offsets have been described in a number of ways. In its simplest form, an offset is a trade-off or a type of barter system. As the concept has many connotations, it is difficult to find one single definition, which could encompass all the facets. Offsets can generally be termed as formal arrangements of trade, wherein a foreign supplier undertakes specified programs with a view to compensate the buyer as regards his procurement expenditure and outflow of resources. In other words, the supplier undertakes programs to generate benefits for the economy of the buyer country. It is a formal arrangement, as it has inbuilt contractual obligations. The negotiated package consists of the primary contract and the compensatory offsets. 

Offsets can also be termed as trade arrangements with built-in reciprocity clauses to provide some sort of relief to the buyer to help him pay for the purchases. Some may term it as a narrow, simplistic and focused approach towards offsets, as they feel that the concept has much wider implications. As will be seen subsequently, different nations have used offsets differently to suit their specific requirements.

Perhaps, it would be best to define offsets as some sort of a leverage exploited by a buyer to obtain compensatory benefits by asking the seller to undertake well-designated activities to boost the economy of the buying country. Of course, the effectiveness of the leverage depends on the level of competition amongst the defense producers, their desperation to grab the order and the negotiating skills of the buyer nation. 

Methodology of Offsets

Offsets can be direct or indirect. In direct offsets, the trade arrangement is related to the primary product sold. It implies that the compensatory dispensation remains confined to the main weapon system, its sub-assemblies and components. It does not transcend other economic or social activities. On the other hand, indirect offsets have a much wider scope and are not restricted to the product sold. 

Direct offsets in their simplistic form may include buy-back or co-production or licensed production or sub-contracts of the system and its sub-systems. In this arrangement, the seller helps the buyer produce the product or a part thereof and purchases it back for incorporation in all similar systems sold by him elsewhere in the world. Therefore, the countries that want to develop their defence industrial base generally seek direct offsets. Most of the European countries follow this path. By far the most common and generally accepted to be the best form of direct offsets is technology transfer. It is considered the engine that drives offsets.

South Korea negotiated a unique direct offset arrangement with its F-16 procurement. It acquired technology from Lockheed Martin to produce most of the parts of the F-16 and final assembly of 108 of the total 120 purchased aircraft. It also extracted an undertaking from Lockheed Martin to co-develop its KTX-2 advanced trainer. 

However, long-term economic viability of direct programs needs to be examined in depth before embarking upon them. Rapid obsolescence of technology and over capacity can render a program wasteful. Turkey invested heavily in setting up assembly lines for an F-16 program. But today, it is faced with dwindling orders and overcapacity, as many other countries that bought the F-16 had also established similar facilities under their own offset programs.

On the other hand, indirect offsets generally take the form of compensation trading. Actually, they are pure trade arrangements. Reciprocal trade, counter purchase, switch trading, counter deliveries and parallel trade fall under this category. Some may like to term them as different shades of the age-old barter system, which specifies the exchange value of products / services for other products or services of equal value. However, counter purchase has a little different connotation. Herein, the seller of the defense equipment agrees to buy or help in finding a buyer for a specific percentage from the original importer within a specified period. The product to be counter purchased may vary from oil to agricultural produce. One of the earliest defense deals, which followed this arrangement, was oil for weapons by the oil-rich Gulf countries. The importance of indirect offsets can be gauged from the fact that over the years a definite shift is discernible towards them. Today, indirect offsets outnumber direct offsets by two to one, as the buyer countries have realized the immense economic and social potential of offsets.

Offsets can become rather complex in case the buyer demands investment in infrastructure and social sectors like health care and education. Buyer nations, at times, demand assistance in penetrating new markets for their products. In some cases, the seller is forced to spend a part of the cost in the defense industry of the importing country.

The Czech Government drove a hard bargain while negotiating to lease Gripen jet fighters from Sweden. It managed to extract a highly competitive price with lucrative indirect offsets. The Swedish-led consortium offered to help in 30 projects spanning energy generation, automobiles, aerospace and transport. 

While negotiating a deal for 18 SU-30 fighters from Russia for 900 million dollars, Malaysia obtained offsets with wide-ranging dispensations after three years of intense bargaining. Russia agreed to acquire palm oil worth 300 million dollars in part payment of the aircraft. It agreed to provide technology worth 270 million dollars. Further, Russia undertook to establish a joint venture facility to service the aircraft and co-produce some components. It also accepted a Malaysian astronaut for training. This is an ideal example of seeking offsets according to the defense and economic needs of the country.

Most of the countries have laid down an ‘offset threshold’ for defense imports. It implies that all arms deals above that value would necessarily have associated offsets. 

Offsets are commonly assigned a ‘multiplier value’. It is a factor applied to the actual value of an offset transaction to calculate the credit value earned. It is a methodology of assigning weightage to different offset programs. Buyers use multipliers to provide sellers with incentives to offer offsets in targeted areas of their choice.

Technology Transfer

This is the commonest type of direct offset in defense transactions. Up to 30 per cent of all offsets provided relate to technology transfer of varying degree. Most of the buyers want the technology to manufacture the complete system, if possible, or at least its sub-assemblies. Although commonly touted as the most beneficial offset, its effectiveness remains suspect for many nations. 

Despite the US providing professedly latest technology to a host of its allies, its technology lead is increasing. No country is keen to offer the latest technology. The technology on offer would invariably have limited residual effective life. Such a technology is useful only if it is utilized as a take-off platform for indigenous development of more advanced technologies. This was the route taken by Japan and South Korea. Unfortunately, not very many countries have understood this aspect. This applies to India as well. Transferred technology must make the local defense industry self-sustaining. Further development must be indigenous. If every subsequent technology has to be imported, it does not contribute to the technical prowess of the country and hence, dependence upon imports continues. 

No producer is going to transfer his technology to a client unless there are commensurate commercial gains. Even if the technology is deemed free as an offset, the seller invariably tries to charge an inflated price for jigs, fixtures, test beds, training and technical documentation. Therefore, before seeking technology, the buyer should carry out a detailed analysis of the technology on offer and ascertain its requirement.

Any technology, which is product specific and does not have applications in other fields, will invariably not be cost-effective. Hence, the technology sought should be such that the recipient can exploit it fully by developing its other applications as well. That will provide the necessary economies of scale. The buyer nation should also match the technology sought with its own capability for its smooth absorption. 

The greatest drawback of technology transfer as an offset is that it is very difficult to measure its real impact and effectiveness. The recipient nation has to have a dedicated set-up to collate and assess the overall benefits. Technology transfer for the sake of getting an offset is of no avail. 

Management of the Offset Process

Generally, it is for the buyer nation to decide as to what offsets to seek. It is a very crucial decision and demands careful consideration. It is not the type of offset but its relevance that should guide the selection. Normally, offsets should be in consonance with the national economic objectives. They should be broad-based and fulfill an economic need.

The success of any offset program depends primarily on proper selection, detailed planning, close supervision and regular monitoring. Therefore, the whole process of offsets has to be managed in a well thought out and coordinated manner.

The complete offset process can be broadly considered in five stages: 

  • Policy Stage. This is the initial and perhaps the most important stage. Offsets should form a part of the overall national endeavor with well-specified aims. A national offset policy needs to be formulated with the objectives that are sought to be achieved through offsets, clearly spelt out. The policy statement should also lay down offset thresholds and indicate the areas in which offsets are preferred. This helps the sellers in preparing their offset packages. 
  • Planning Stage. This stage starts with the receipt of bids from the sellers, which are evaluated along with their offset packages. Discussions are carried out for seeking clarifications. Once the successful bidder is identified, a detailed dialogue is initiated with him to draw out a mutually acceptable offset plan, which is flexible, realistic, realizable and practical. The plan specifies the sectors in which offset programs are to be implemented with inter se priorities and assigns multiplier values to them.
  • Negotiation Stage. Specific projects in each sector are identified. Various options to have an optimally balanced mix are negotiated. Expert groups are constituted for different projects and their reports included in the contract document. All aspects are covered in clear and unambiguous terms. Subsequent interpretation should not lead to any confusion. It is imperative that the seller is bound by various clauses to prevent his reneging on his promises. Therefore, levels of technology, value addition, penalty clauses, measurement methodology and time-frame for implementation must be spelt out clearly in the contract document. While being specific, there should be enough inbuilt flexibility to cater for changing conditions.
  • Implementation and Monitoring Stage. Implementation of offsets is invariably a long-drawn process. Its success depends upon sincerity in execution and strict adherence to the letter and spirit of the agreement. A properly constituted monitoring mechanism should be put in place to carry out periodic reviews of the process and apply corrections, where necessary. 
  • Feedback and Review Stage. It is really a stage of doing stocktaking. A thorough review of the whole offset program is carried out to ascertain the degree to which the stated objectives had been achieved. Weaknesses and infirmities are identified and corrective measures recommended for future. This stage provides vital inputs for the periodic review of the overall offset policy as well. 
The US Experience

The US has no declared policy on offsets. It feels that offsets go against its stated promotion of ‘free and fair’ trade. As the largest exporter of arms, it considers offsets as a burden on its economy and a necessary evil, which cannot be wished away. The Congress in 1999, had opined that unilateral efforts by the US to prohibit offsets may be impractical in the current era of globalization and would severely hinder the competitiveness of the US defense industry in the global market. It accepts that offsets are a part of the current defense trade environment.

Being the oldest and the largest provider of offsets in the world, the US has gained invaluable experience in this field. It is generally estimated that the US defense industry has offset obligations of over 10 billion dollars. It has a very exhaustive system in place to compile data on offsets and to monitor them closely to minimize their adverse effects. All firms with more than 5 million dollars offset liability are required to report to the Secretary of Commerce. 

For the first time in 1984, the Congress addressed the subject of offsets in defense trade under Section 309. It requires the President to submit an annual report on the impact of offsets on the US defense-industrial base. The US Department of Commerce (Bureau of Industry and Security) submitted its latest report to the Congress in July 2004. The report covered a ten-year period from 1993 to 2002. It makes very educative reading. Some of its findings are: 
  • During the above period, the US companies entered into 434 offset agreements with 36 countries.
  • The average offset percentage demanded by the 17 European countries, involved in offset activities, was 92.6 per cent of the export contract values (a percentage that was higher than that of any other region).
  • The UK and Finland were the two largest recipients of offsets worth 4.4 billion dollars and 3.2 billion dollars respectively.
  • Austria obtained 174.2 per cent offsets from the US. It was by far the highest. The Netherlands, Greece and Sweden varied from 120 per cent to 104 per cent.
  • Sub-contracts, co-production and licensed production accounted for 79.1 per cent of the value of all direct offsets.
  • In 2000, Asian countries accounted for offsets of only 2.8 per cent of the value of agreements, but this rose to 64.8 per cent of the total in 2002. 
  • In 2002, new US offset-related defense export contracts were valued at 7.4 billion dollars. The value of attached offsets was 6.1 billion dollars or a whopping 82.3 per cent of the total value. 
Need for a National Policy

More than 130 countries are demanding offsets in one form or the other. Most have a central body to oversee offsets in their entirety, as per their national policy. The UAE had set up an empowered Offset Group way back in 1990. It demands and negotiates offsets in varied fields like health care, shipbuilding and other industrial activities. It also seeks joint ventures with local partners. Its policy mandates that all sellers of arms to it must generate, within a period of seven years, commercially viable products worth 60 per cent of the contract value. South Africa has a policy of seeking three faceted offsets – about 20 per cent of the contract value as direct defense oriented offsets, 45 per cent as counter purchase by the seller and 35 per cent as foreign investment in South Africa. 

The Swedish policy on offsets gives primary importance to the creation of long-term employment opportunities in the country. It seeks newer markets for its goods to improve balance of trade. It also demands technology and know-how to ensure maintenance of the purchased defense equipment. 

The British defense industry was quick to grasp the increasing importance of offsets. The British Defense Manufacturers Offset Group was established in 1990. The members exchange knowledge on offsets and share expertise to deal with different countries. It is also creating a data bank wherein the offset policies of the major arms buying countries have been compiled to enable the members to negotiate effectively.

In addition, the Defense Export Services Organization under the British Ministry of Defense provides support and offset advice to British arms exporters. It also administers the policies for seeking offsets from the producers who export to Britain. The British call it Industrial Participation (IP). Under the British IP policy, a minimum of 100 per cent offset is essential for all contracts over 50 million pounds for French and German companies, and 10 million pounds for all others. It further stipulates that offsets have to be defense related, new and of equivalent technical quality; and have to be fulfilled within the period of the main contract and at no extra cost. It permits both direct and indirect offsets. Incidentally, the UK’s offset benefits exceed 5 billion pounds, with the USA being the main provider. 

Countries of the erstwhile communist bloc like Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland are modernizing their armed forces to make them compatible with the NATO forces. They have also become aware of their bargaining power and have evolved detailed offset policies.

India has no declared offset policy for defense purchases. Many large-scale procurements have an in-built clause, wherein after the initial supply of fully built items, the balance quantity is produced indigenously with transferred technology. This route was followed in the cases of MIG series of aircraft, Jaguars, BMPs, T-72 tanks and T-90 tanks. Even the recently finalized deal of Advanced Jet Trainer HAWK includes production in India with receipt of technology. However, they cannot be called offsets, as the transfer of technology is negotiated as a part of the overall deal, albeit at a cost. 

A suggested set up for India could be as follows:
  • National Offset Mission
     - Location: Union Ministry of Commerce.

     - Composition: To be chaired by the Union Commerce Minister: It should consist of  members from the various Ministries dealing with foreign trade, Director General Foreign Trade and Director General Technical Development. It should also have representatives of Indian industry both public and private sectors. The Group should co-opt other experts from different fields as and when required.

          - Perform the role of an overarching body at the national level. It should formulate national policy on offsets with clearly spelt out aims and objectives. The policy should be pragmatic and have long-term benefits. It should have continuity and should encompass the complete spectrum of all economic activities. It should be flexible to cater for a changing environment.
          - Prioritize areas and fields in which offsets should be sought.
          - Fix offset thresholds for different types of procurements.
          - Issue guidelines to all concerned Ministries for fixing offset percentages.
          - Issue directions for apportioning weightage to direct and indirect offsets.
          - Lay down broad framework for monitoring arrangement.
          - Issue guidelines for feedback and evaluation.
          - Give ‘in principle approval’ to offset packages for all import deals over Rs 1,000             crore.
          - Create a national data bank. 
  • Defense Offset Group 
     - Location: Ministry of Defense.

     - Composition: It should work as an adjunct to the Defense Acquisition Council (DAC). The DAC is headed by the Defense Minister and includes all Ministers of State for Defense, Chiefs of the three Services and all Secretaries in the Ministry of Defense. It should have a permanent cell for offsets to provide continuity. Advice of various experts must be taken when discussing specific programs.

     - Charter:
           - Formulate defense-offset policy, which should flow from the national policy.              Identify and prioritize areas for offsets.
           - Evolve and issue guidelines for fixing offset thresholds, keeping in mind the  value of the deal, level of technology and the exporting country involved.
           - Fix offset percentages for different procurements at the time of taking ‘Buy’ and ‘Buy and Make’ decisions. Identify the recipient for the transfer of imported technology. It could be a public or private sector enterprise. 
           - Prioritize various offset programs by assigning them differential weightage              through multiplier values.
           - Amend Defense Procurement Procedure-2002 to incorporate offset stipulations. All Requests for Proposals should contain terms for offering offsets in the form of a matrix to facilitate their inter se comparison.
           - Develop necessary skills to negotiate deals and sign contracts. 
           - Evolve an effective implementation, monitoring and feedback mechanism.
           - Set up an exhaustive data bank.


The World Trade Organization prohibits its signatories from imposing, seeking or considering offsets for government procurement transactions. While many countries impose no formal offset requirements, there is, at the same time, an understanding that any seller who wants to do business must voluntarily submit an offset proposal. There is no doubt that offsets are here to stay and their importance is bound to rise in future.

It will be prudent to consider offsets as a natural interplay of market forces. Earlier, arms exporters dictated terms by inflating prices and imposing other stringent conditions, which varied from demanding access to the importer’s market to establishing military basis. Now, it is a buyers’ market. They try to extract most profitable offsets to use them as engines of national economic growth, by redirection of large outflows involved in defense procurements back into their economy. 

The value of an offset depends primarily on its appropriate selection. Ill-conceived and ill planned offset programs invariably prove to be highly wasteful in national resources and uneconomical in value. Therefore, programs have to be selected on the basis of their viability, estimated offset credit value, ease of monitoring and demonstrability of accruing benefits. Offsets should not be viewed in isolation as one-time agreements, but as an important and integral element of long-term national policy. To derive full benefit from offsets, it is absolutely necessary to understand the dynamics of offsets. Being one of the biggest buyers of defense equipment, India can draw immense benefits with a well thought out offset policy. It is time India puts its act together for optimum exploitation of offsets in all defense deals.

This article first appeared in the India Defence Review and has been reproduced here with the permission of the Editor 

Coping With A “Logically- Uncertain” Defence Budget

Fifteen years ago, in 1988, three years into the 1985-1990 Defense Five Year Plan, funds had not been released for plan projects – the failure of the 1986 monsoon was followed by a prolonged drought, which compelled funds to be restricted for defense. This year, three years into the current Tenth Defense Five Year Plan (2002-2007), funds have yet to be released for plan projects. This is not a coincidence. It is a basic reality in monsoon-dependent India. Drought relief must always receive precedence. 

There is also a political reality. A coalition government is compelled to find the resources for its ‘common minimum program’. Five years later, should a different coalition government take office, it too cannot shirk allocating resources for its new ‘common minimum program’. Added to this is the economic reality of the ‘fiscal deficit’.

These logical realities have undesirable implications for the ‘capital’ segment of the defense budget. At present, ‘revenue’ expenditure (pay, allowances, training, maintenance, logistics, etc) takes up more than two-thirds of the budget. This leaves less than a third for ‘capital’ expenditure for: 

  • New acquisitions to replace obsolete assets. 
  • Modernization or upgrades of existing assets (like the Navy’s ships, submarines and aircraft, the Army’s armor and artillery, the Air Force’s air squadrons and the weapons of the three services). 
  • Developing the command and control systems needed for network-centric and network-enabled operations.
Since funds are limited, and not infinite, an unpredictable outcome will always persist between the allocations for defense and the allocations for social development (education, health, drinking water, roads and other infrastructure). There will always be pressures to reduce the ‘deficit’ by cutting back on defense expenditure. From a common-sense point of view, it is wise for defense planners to accept that this situation will continue indefinitely, regardless of the percentage of the GDP earmarked for or allocated to defense. 

This being so, reforms need to be thought through on how, without degrading operational readiness, the acquisition or modernization segment of the defense budget can be bolstered by savings in revenue expenditure. For example by:

  • Reducing personnel costs by outsourcing or by not replacing civilian retirees; this would help yield savings in the long term. 
  • Reducing maintenance and logistic costs by cocooning whatever assets are cocoon-able (tanks, artillery, aircraft, submarines) to extend life in our hot and humid tropical climate.
  • Changing the way each service trains for war.
  • Becoming more cost-efficient (readjusting traditional arms / services / branch roles, outsourcing refits, closing bases, retiring old assets to cut rising maintenance costs rather than prolonging their in-service life to make up numbers and so on).
A case in point is the modernization drive presently underway in the Army to improve its surveillance, communication and firepower capability and modernize its infantry divisions. If the Army is to be ready for intensive battle at short notice, then its modernization program depends on funds being available for time-bound completion. If, however, for the reasons discussed above, the steady flow of funds is likely to remain uncertain, modernization will be piecemeal. Much the same reasoning is applicable to the Navy and the Air Force. 

Another reality is that present structures, roles, practices and procedures of the Navy, Army and Air Force have evolved after long years of experience. Within each service and within segments of each service, there will be logical and understandable resistance to reform. The Government would be disinclined (and ill-advised) to tell the services how to do their job. 

Reforms like those discussed above must, therefore, be generated by and find acceptance within each service with the specifically focused objective of re-investing the savings in modernization or upgrades. Until a better answer emerges, this seems to be the only realistic way to cope with ‘logically-uncertain’ defense budgets.

This article first appeared in the India Defence Review and has been reproduced here with the permission of the Editor. 

Obituary: Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha Rao

Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha Rao A. Das

Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha Rao, the 10th Prime Minister of India died on 23 December 2004, aged 83. By any measure PV, as he was widely known was an extraordinary PM with many firsts to his credit. He was the first PM from the south of the Vindhyas, the first non- Nehru dynasty PM to complete a full term in office, the first Indian PM of the post-Soviet unipolar era and the first PM to make a break with Nehruvian control of the economy. Less well-known but widely acknowledged among specialists are his contributions to Indian nuclear deterrence and strategic missilery, to peace in Punjab, to innovative counter-insurgency postures in J&K and Nagaland, to India's leadership position in IT, to path-breaking strategic cooperation with Israel and a slowly-but-steadily evolving modus-vivendi with the USA and its ancillary States.

He did have his share of critics: On Ayodhya, on the financial markets scams, on the JMM scandal, on intra-party democracy and other topics. But on balance his position as a great PM and servant of the Republic is unassailable. Where did this remarkable man begin his journey? How did he operate? What made him tick? The answers to these questions are both complex and simple. Most observers tend to focus on the complex side, emphasising his polyglot scholarship, his Chanakyan stratagems, his inscrutability and his penchant for disinformation. But those who take a closer look would often find a simpler explanation: PV was not just a loyal servant of the Republic; he was ferociously committed to the essential Indian values that have sustained themselves over the millennia through Indian civilization’s struggles with both internal turmoil and external aggression. To him these values constituted “eternal” India and he would pragmatically to do what it took to defend, sustain and further its standing in the world.

Fittingly, the fates of PV and the Nation were inter-twined from the very beginning. He was born in a Telugu Brahmin family on 28 June 1921 in Vangara, in what was then Karimnagar Zilla in the Nizam of Hyderabad’s territory. This was a time and place where the condition of those not part of the Nizam’s ruling clique was not exactly enviable. Other parts of India were not idyllic either. Jallianwala Bagh was still a recent event. Tilak’s ideal of Purna Swaraj was firing the popular imagination with notions of Indian Independence and Statehood. Gandhiji’s methods of Satyagraha were spreading these ideas farther and deeper among the teeming masses than ever before. These dynamics were beginning to shake the very foundations of Britain’s political and economic domination of the sub-continent. This was the highly charged socio-political milieu that pervaded PV’s formative years and would influence him for the rest of his life.

In 1938, as a mere youth, PV committed his first notable political acts by joining the then nascent Hyderabad State Congress and by singing Vande Mataram in explicit violation of a Nizam-regime ban. For this act, he was expelled from Osmania University. PV took his expulsion in stride and graduated with a BSc from Bombay University. He subsequently completed L.L.B. from Nagpur University. Perhaps as a precursor of his later cross-party alliances, his close cohorts in this period included several people who would go on to become leading communists, including the redoubtable Arutla Ramachandra Reddy.

Never far from political action, PV took part in the Quit India Movement of 1942. His political and leadership skills were noticeable even then and he became a protégé of Swami Ramananda Tirtha, who became President of the Hyderabad State Congress in 1946. The Swami and Dr.Burgula Ramakrishna Rao assigned PV an important organizing role in the Join India Movement that picked up steam in Hyderabad in 1947 and PV forewent a legal career to work closely with other young men then on their way up the Congress ranks like Shankarrao Chavan, Dr. Marri Channa Reddy and Veerendra Patil. Their efforts were so successful in stirring up popular sentiment for merging the Hyderabad State with the Indian Union that the Nizam regime imprisoned them along with hundreds of others.

These events provided invaluable experience to the young PV in underground political organization and propaganda besides early exposure to military operations, security management and international intrigue. The coterie around Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, led by his Prime Minister Mir Laik Ali, the Majlis-e-Ittihad-ul-Muslimeen leader Bahadur Yar Jung and Kasim Rizvi, the leader of the Majlis-inspired paramilitaries known as the Razakars were intent on a military “solution” to the Join India Movement “problem”. Also in the picture were the United Nations, the British, the newly-emergent Pakistan government, the Aga Khan and shadowy figures like the Australian mercenary Sidney Cotton. Things continued to be rather rough going for PV and his comrades till the Union Cabinet authorized the Indian Army’s Operation Polo in September 1948, accomplishing the objectives of the Join India Movement. Not yet 30 years old, PV had witnessed up close how fragile the emerging Indian Union was and how much more fragmented some had preferred it to be. These impressions were never to leave him.

Soon the Telengana insurgency would break out, inspired by the CPI’s famous “Ranadive Line” and would last into the 1950s. From this time on, PV would never be far from power. He proved himself an invaluable albeit informal rapporteur on the insurgency to Dr. Burgula Ramakrishna Rao, who was now Hyderabad’s Chief Minister and others in the government apparatus who took a hard line in dealing with it such as Sardar Patel and Rajaji. In 1953, Andhra State was formed from the Telugu-speaking areas of the old Madras State with the legendary Tanguturi Prakasam Panthulu as chief minister. The Telugu-speaking areas of Hyderabad State would soon be merged with Andhra by the States Re-organization Bill of 1956 to form the modern Andhra Pradesh State with Neelam Sanjiva Reddy as Chief Minister. PV won election to the State’s first Legislative Assembly in 1957 and would hold a series of posts in the new State’s Cabinet from 1962, handling portfolios like Law and Information, Law and Endowments, Health and Medicine, and Education. His formidable intellect, lucidity of thought and range of scholarship made him a very effective administrator. In the Congress split of 1969, he aligned himself with Indira Gandhi, Damodaram Sanjeevaiah and Kasu Brahmananda Reddy against Kamaraj, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, Nijalingappa and other stalwarts of the Syndicate, landing him the Chief Ministerial Gaddi in 1971. However, he could scarcely hold the job for two years. His Land Reforms initiative could not overcome a deadly combination of the Jai Andhra movement, the Naxalite rebellion and a revived Telengana agitation which fed off each other and led the State down a slippery slope to President’s rule. When Jalagam Vengala Rao became Chief Minister in 1973, PV had been sidelined in State-level politics forever, though he would continue as MLA till 1977.

This setback seems to have awakened the litterateur in him and he went through a prolific publishing phase, producing both original works and translating works from Telugu to Hindi and from Marathi to Telugu, notably 'SahasraPhan' and 'Abala Jeevitam'.

He moved effortlessly to National politics, winning election to the Lok Sabha in 1977 and bucking the anti-Congress wave that the Janata Party rode to power at the centre. When the Congress was swept back into power in 1980, Indira Gandhi tapped PV as External Affairs Minister (EAM). IFS mandarins who were used to less were surprised to find in him a sophisticated political superior who could quote in the original Sanskrit the Vedas, Bhagwat Gita, Upanishads and major Puranas. He could also charm Haj-bound Ulema in his impeccable Persian-laced Urdu Zubaan and expound on the Greek and Latin classics. He surprised Fidel Castro at the 1983 NAM summit in New Delhi with his command of Spanish and Gen. Zia-ul-Haq in Rawalpindi by his knowledge of Clausewitz and Jomini. This was also a time when PV began playing a significant role in shaping India’s then ambiguous strategic deterrence policies. The relationships he forged with members of India’s strategic community at this juncture would prove particularly long-lasting and fruitful and included luminaries like President APJ Abdul Kalam and the recently-deceased National Security Adviser JN “Mani” Dixit. He would go on to head the Home Ministry, assume the mantle of Raksha Mantri and then to become the first ever HRD minister, but he would return as EAM just in time to assist Rajiv Gandhi in dealing with a stalwart Junius Jayawardene and a slippery Anton Balasingham. Mani Dixit was again PV’s partner in this process, along with MGR, another of his non-Congress friends.

PV himself considered his ministerial career to have only one blot: The assassination of Indira Gandhi by her own pro-Khalistan bodyguards and the anti-Sikh riots that followed under his watch as Home Minister.

In the run up to the 1991 election, PV turned 70 and decided to hang up his boots, packing his things and pondering the details of his retirement. When Rajiv was assassinated by LTTE terrorists, this very fact presented him to the AICC as a disinterested but seasoned senior leader who could command the confidence of the party’s rank and file and organize an electoral victory. His old friend K. Karunakaran played an instrumental role behind the scenes in the AICC to mollify other contenders like Arjun Singh and Sharad Pawar. That he was considered unobjectionable to Rajiv Gandhi’s family also furthered his prospects.

The Indian people, concerned as they were about eternal India in those dangerous times, saw in him someone they could trust the Nation’s destiny with. The opposition was kind as well. NT Rama Rao allowed PV to contest unmolested from Nandyal constituency as a fellow Telugu Bidda. The BJP did put up a candidate against him, though as a token gesture. PV was able to form a government and the rest is history. The prospective retiree went to work and with gusto! He knew the Nation was at a cross-roads and he knew which direction he had to take it. Socialist controls were out, economic liberalism was in. The Soviet Union was out; friendlier relations with the West and Israel were in. Nuclear apartheid was out, credible (soon to be un-closeted) deterrence was in. Also out were innumerable little things that changed India forever: The India that was supposed not to outlast a few early leaders, the India that was stuck between plebiscitary dictatorship and non-governance, the India that was seen as being held together by charisma instead of by character, the India that was supposed to buckle under some well-placed terrorist blows, the India that was supposed to be incapable of anything but sclerotic economic growth, the India that was supposed to perpetually let its citizens down, the India that was a supposed “has been and never will be”.

For all this and more, a humble Indian Prahlad may thank his Lord Narasimha.

Indian Air Force 2020

Perspective Planning - An Essential Requirement


India has yet to demonstrate its ability to do long-term perspective planning in any field. Defense is by no means an exception. Inability, if not disinclination, to do so in the early decades after independence could be arguably justified for the defense sector on several counts. The key factor, possibly, was the initial political disinclination to develop our defense forces. The Nehruvian pre-occupation with national economic and industrial development, non-alignment and global statesmanship resulted in a myopic vision towards our defense requirements. Development of defense forces came to be looked upon as a hindrance rather than an asset to India playing the role that it had set for itself, nationally and internationally.

The American supply of military aid to Pakistan in the late 1950s made India scramble for arms purchases in an effort to balance the scales that had tilted in Pakistan’s favor. This was the start to India’s reactive responses to events taking place in its western neighborhood. The Chinese fiasco of 1962 was essentially the result of firstly, foolishly thinking that pure statesmanship would win us our legitimate claims; and secondly, making strong political noises and military moves with neither a coherent military plan nor (more importantly) the military capability.

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