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Friday, 25 June 2010

From Today's Papers - 25 Jun 2010





  Bordering on war
by Akanksha Chaudhary  The Wagah Border retreat ceremony has changed from being a humble act of bringing the flag down respectfully to a ritual reeking of aggression and enmity. Loudspeakers, stall-keepers, and the ever-growing number of visitors make it seem like nothing short of a spectator sport.  The process includes soldiers on each side of the border trying to outdo the other side ferociously as they thump their steps staunchly and robustly. The more the sound made by their feet, the louder the rhythmic applause from the public which is larger in number on the Indian side.  While there’s a heightened sense of excitement that one feels being an Indian when the ceremony is going on, there lies a visible veil of hostility when the loudspeaker man asks everybody to cheer and clap louder so as to drown out the other side. It seems like a competition of sorts where the aim doesn’t seem to bring the flag down in earnest admiration but an act of aggressive patriotism.  Where does it lead to? And more than that, is it justified that Indians display their patriotism in exactly the Pakistani manner which is not helping in lowering the enmity? Can’t the whole process be friendlier, especially when it provides a rare chance to see from so close the people from across the border who could have been on our side had the inevitable partition not happened years ago.  The soldiers performing the act might be friendly with one another, but the public that goes home after the ceremony is often filledn with negative feelings of patriotism and anger for the other side.  Why are we so keen on leaving a sense of opposition and aggression among the people witnessing the whole ceremony when we want to bridge the gap created several years ago by manipulated events?  The whole process makes one wonder what’s the aim behind such an act when it could have been done in a more produtive and positive way.  How would the ideology of the two nations ever change if such a practice is being adopted?  It’s often the history, geography, a sense of conditioning or the differences that create the tension and everlasting angst between nations but an act that can be controlled and done in a nicer and more humble manner can do a lot more good with a friendlier foresight than a soured hindsight.







Cordiality returns India, Pakistan decide to move forward as foreign secys meet
Ajay Banerjee in Islamabad  After a prolonged finger-pointing exercise — that stretched over 18 months — India and Pakistan today settled for tight handshake, if not a bear hug, with both sides agreeing to break away from the past to give relations a “forward orientation”.  Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir in a joint press conference today said: “Dialogue is the best way forward to resolve all pending issues…The destiny of our people is linked to each other.”  Clearly setting the ball rolling to “normalise” relations between the two countries as was envisaged by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Yousaf Gilani at a meeting in Thimpu in May, the two foreign secretaries held “cordial and constructive” parleys in a bid to “understand each other’s position and concerns.”  Rao, the first senior Indian official to travel to Pakistan after the 26/11 attacks, told a hall packed with mediapersons: “We owe it our people to chart a course forward. We want a stable, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan.”  The announcement is a seen as a significant thaw in the stormy relations between the two neighbours. India had suspended dialogue with Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks.  Sources said concrete and visible confidence building measures would be announced when the two foreign ministers SM Krishna and Shah Mehmood Qureshi meet in Islamabad on July 15.  During the conference, India made its point very clear on terrorism originating from Pakistan and the role of anti-India elements like Jamaat-ul-Dawaa, its chief Hafiz Sayeed and LeT in the Mumbai attacks. The Indian side noted that Saeed’s “virulently anti-India rhetoric” was not conducive to peace and that Pakistan need to “at least stop such propaganda”, the sources said. Sending a strong message to hawks on both sides of the border, Rao said: “We must deny terrorists an opportunity to derail the peace process.”  In reply to question if the Army and the ISI were in agreement for this peace process, Bashir said: “All the forces and the leadership is reading from the same page… Terrorism has impacted Pakistan and we all know this”.  The two nations choose to move beyond the nomenclature of “composite dialogue” and said the time has come for a substantial, comprehensive and meaningful dialogue.  Rao also sought to address Pakistan’s concerns about the Indian presence in Afghanistan, saying that the only role being played by New Delhi in that country was developmental in nature.  The sources said the Indian side also made it clear that attacks on Indian assets in Afghanistan could not be “allowed to continue” as it affected relations between New Delhi and Islamabad and created “bad blood and suspicions.”









Afghanistan: US should change tactics not generals
June 24, 2010 14:00 IST Tags: Al Qaeda, Stanley McChrystal, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Afghan Taliban, Afghanistan Share this Ask Users Write a Comment Strategic affairs expert B Raman talks about Barack Obama's [ Images ] new man in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus and his predecessor General Stanley McChrystal and why the US needs to change its tactics and not its personnel in Kabul.  General Stanley McChrystal, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation commander in Afghanistan, arrived in Kabul in the early months of the Barack Obama administration roaring like a tiger. He disappeared like a snake's tail slithering away, on Thursday, when Obama replaced him with General David Petraeus, the present head of the US Central Command.  Obama had been justifiably angered by McChrystal's irreverent remarks which appeared in Rolling Stone magazine. His remarks caused considerable embarrassment in the Pentagon [ Images ] and the White House. His dismissal was inevitable.  Even before the sacked general landed himself in an inexcusable position due to his irreverence amounting to insubordination, the halo with which he had taken over the NATO command in Afghanistan last year had disappeared because of his failure to come up with a strategy which could enable his troops to prevail over the Taliban [ Images ]. Since McChrystal took over in Kabul last year, the Afghan Taliban's operations, from sanctuaries in Pakistani territory, had increased in daring and success.  Obama's hopes of the beginning of an exit from Afghanistan from the middle of 2011 are in the process of being belied due to McChrystal's failure to work out an effective strategy against the Taliban and its Pakistani mentors.  What worked for McChrystal during his previous posting in Iraq -- his skills in special operations and his ability to divide and prevail over the Al Qaeda [ Images ] and its Baathist allies from Saddam Hussein's [ Images ] disbanded army -- did not work in Afghanistan.  The Taliban in Afghanistan is a united force, which has successfully resisted US-inspired attempts to create a split between the so-called good and bad Taliban. In Iraq, the Al Qaeda with its Saudi volunteers was in the forefront of the battles. It was easy to create a divide between the outsiders in the Al Qaeda and the native Iraqis, who hated the Saudis as much as they hated the Americans. They were prepared to temporarily swallow their dislike of the Americans and collaborate with them against the outsiders.  In Afghanistan, the native Pashtuns of the Taliban have been in the forefront of the battles against the NATO forces. The role of Al Qaeda outsiders in the battles waged by the Taliban against the NATO forces has been minimal. Conditions for a successful divide and prevail strategy did not exist in Afghanistan and does not exist even today.  Moreover, in Iraq, the role of Iran, despite its aversion to the US, was beneficial to the US operations against the Al Qaeda and its associates. In Afghanistan, the role of Pakistan, while seemingly beneficial, has really been detrimental to US war efforts.  In Afghanistan, a different mix was required -- better conventional capabilities in Afghan territory, better covert capabilities in Pakistani territory to target the Taliban sanctuaries and the political will to force Pakistan to stop playing strategic games in Afghanistan. Instead of devising such a strategy, McChrystal followed a strategy largely based on illusions -- illusions of a coming split in the Taliban, illusions of a diminution of public support for the Taliban and illusions of Pakistani co-operation in dealing with the Taliban.  These illusions proved to be his undoing. His reported decision to postpone the much-trumpeted offensive against the Taliban in the Kandahar area scheduled for later this year spoke volumes of his failure to come to grips with the situation on the ground. McChrystal minus the acquired-in-Iraq halo committed the sin of speaking disparagingly of his political and professional superiors and has paid the price for it. His irreverence enabled Obama to rid himself of a general on the brink of battle failure on the grounds of misconduct instead of on the grounds of failure which could have reflected badly on Obama's political and professional judgment.  It was easy to get rid of McChrystal. It is going to be difficult to turn the tide of the war in favour of NATO. Petraeus, whom Obama has chosen for this purpose, had also acquired a halo in Iraq. The halo has become dimmer since he took over as the commander of the central command. As commander, he has to share the responsibility for the set-backs in Afghanistan and for the failure to make headway against the Taliban.  As General Petraeus gets going in his new assignment, he will have to accept the fact that Afghanistan is not like Iraq, that the Pashtuns are not like the Iraqis or the Saudis, the Taliban is not like the Al Qaeda or Saddam's Baathists, and that Pakistan is not like Iran. He will have a new set of foes unlike any he had known and encountered in Iraq. In Sunni-majority Pakistan, he will have an Islamic state more devious and dissimulating than a Shia-ruled Iran.  Petraeus will need a new strategy which will weld together the Pashtuns loyal to Afghan President Hamid Karzai [ Images ] and the Tajiks and other non-Pashtuns loyal to the leaders of the old Northern Alliance. India [ Images ] understands the mindset of a Pakistani Sunni better than many other countries in the world. Petraeus will benefit with a share of Indian wisdom.









The men in green 
Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar has earned one more title, Group Captain, a honour reserved for few. The Indian Air Force will confer the title on Sachin for his on-field exploits. We list out the personalities bestowed with similar posts  Bangalore Mirror Bureau Posted On Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 11:03:34 PM  Sachin Tendulkar  President Pratibha Patil will confer the honorary rank of Indian Air Force Group Captain on Sachin Tendulkar in recognition of his achievements as a sportsperson.   Tendulkar will function as a brand ambassador. His association with the IAF is expected to motivate the younger generation to join the air force and serve the nation. The sports icon, who is presently out of the country, has accepted the honour. The 37-year-old batsman has played 166 Test matches, scoring 13,400 runs, the highest by any cricketer. In his 21-year cricketing career, he has played 442 one day international matches, scoring 17,598 runs.  Tendulkar had won the country’s highest sports honour — the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna — and the Padma Vibhushan.  Mohan Lal  Malayalam superstar Mohan Lal also dons the Army’s uniform. The actor has joined the Territorial Army (TA), a citizen’s force, as a honorary Lieutenant Colonel. Army chief General Deepak Kapoor did the honours by pinning the Ashoka Lion and star on Mohan Lal’s shoulders at a ceremony in South Block, New Delhi to signify the actor’s new rank.  Mohan Lal has played lead roles in movies such as ‘Kirti Chakra’ and Kurukshetra’. Released in 2006, ‘Kirti Chakra’ was directed by Major Ravi, a former National Security Guards commando. In August 1991, Ravi led the team that killed Sivarasan, the mastermind behind the killing of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.  He joined the 122 Infantry Battalion of Madras Regiment or ‘Kannur Terriers’.  All citizens can volunteer for ‘part-time military service’ under the Territorial Army. In the event of national emergencies, they may be called upon to become ‘full-time’ personnel to back Army units.  JRD Tata  JRD Tata is recognised as the founder of civil aviation in India. He was the first pilot to qualify in the country and held a pilot’s licence since March 1929. In 1932, he founded India’s first national carrier, Tata Airlines, renamed Air India Limited in 1946.  In 1948, JRD founded Air India International Limited as a joint venture with the Centre to take up long-range international operations, which he headed until it was nationalised in 1953.  On his recommendation, the Union government created two airlines - Air India and Indian Airlines - to run international and domestic operations respectively. In recognition of his contribution in the field of aviation, JRD was made honorary Group Captain of the Indian Air Force in 1948 and elevated to honorary Air Commodore in 1966.  Kapil Dev  Haryana Hurricane Kapil Dev was commissioned into the Territorial Army as a ‘vital adjunct’ to the regular Army, as an honorary lieutenant colonel. Kapil, the former Indian cricket captain, was commissioned into the 150 TA (Infantry) battalion of the Punjab Regiment.  Army chief General Deepak Kapoor did the honours at the Defence Ministry headquarters in South Block. The cricketer has inspired thousands of youth in the country to pick up a bat and a ball. As a Lt Col in the Army, Kapil hopes to inspire them to don the olive green and protect the country.  Vijaypat Singhania  Vijaypat Singhania is the chairman emeritus of the Raymond Group of clothing and textiles. He holds the world record for highest altitude flying in a hot air balloon, a feat he accomplished when he was 67 years. Singhania, who holds a world record for his solo microlight flight from the UK to India in 1998, has a flight experience of 5,000 hours.  In 1994, he won a gold medal in the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale air race, covering a distance of 34,000 km spanning 24 days. To mark this occasion, he was conferred the rank of Honorary Air Commodore of the Indian Air Force.    EARLIER RECIPIENTS  Till date, 21 people have been granted honorary ranks, from Flight Lieutenant to Air Marshal. Raja of Jawhar, Raja Yashwant Rao, who was conferred the rank of Flight Lieutenant in 1944, was the first civilian to receive the honour.









The war machine fights back
Its defence projects have promised much, delivered little. Not so well known are its big civilian successes. Now, India’s biggest research agency must get back to warfare Akshai Jain New Delhi: A green needle-thin laser beam slices through the corridor and flickers gently on a 7mm sheet of metal 50m away. The chatter of the scientists gathered on the third floor of the Laser Science and Technology Centre (Lastec) in New Delhi dies down and the countdown begins. The boxes that house a prototype ordnance disposal system have come to life, unleashing a 500W beam that drills into the thin sheet, filling the corridor with the smell of burning metal. A few floors below, Anil Kumar Maini, the director of the lab, swivels his computer screen to reveal what looks like a 3D video game. Figures in combat fatigues surround a house. A vehicle that looks like a cross between a tank and a Humvee drives up, stops about 300m away, and lets loose a laser beam that sets the house on fire. Militants hiding in the house run out, arms in the air. Also Read Previous stories in the series “We’ve been working on an ordnance disposal system for a while,” says Maini, “but it was only recently, at a conference, that the idea of using the system in low-intensity conflicts like Kashmir came up.” The system, intended to destroy mines and munitions from a safe distance, can be adapted to set targets on fire. A 1kW laser, according to Maini, would do the job. “We’ve got the technology,” he says excitedly, “We just got to make it a little more rugged and fit it on to a Tata light specialist vehicle (LSV).” He hopes to have a deployable system in two years. Optimism has never been in short supply at Lastec, or for that matter at any one of the other 50 labs run by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Neither have money, scientists or ideas. The gargantuan network of labs across the country employs 7,000 scientists and 23,000 technical and support staff. Its budget for 2009-10 was Rs8,317.27 crore, dwarfing that of any other research establishment in the country. DRDO’s mandate is to create products and technologies for the Armed Forces. It has interpreted that rather loosely, involving itself in every possible area—from animal husbandry to battle tanks. But what has been in short supply, according to critics (including at various points of time, chiefs of the Armed Forces), are deployable products and technologies. They point to missed deadlines, cost overruns and shoddy output. As recently as 30 April, two of DRDO’s Nishant unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) crashed in trials at the Pokhran airfield. “All of DRDO’s big budget projects have been complete failures,” says Rahul Bedi, India correspondent of Jane’s Defense Weekly. The most glaring of these has been the Arjun battle tank, which took at least 35 years to develop and costs nearly 70% more than the T90, the tried and tested mainstay of the army. The Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) comes a close second. “After all this, the engines, the main component of both these systems,” says Bedi scathingly, “are imported”. In a tacit admission of these failures, DRDO has in recent years shifted some of its attention to spin-offs or adaptations of some of its military technologies for civilian use. It’s some of these that have made an impact. “Nearly 95% of the technologies that we work on can be used in other areas,” says Ravi Gupta, director of public interface, DRDO. One of its earliest adaptations was the Kalam-Raju stent, a low-cost insert made using a new variety of stainless steel created by scientists at a DRDO lab in Hyderabad. All DRDO labs are now, at the time of submitting proposals, required to list possible applications of their research. Technology created by the Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) to package food for soldiers at high altitudes has found its way to MTR Foods Ltd’s processed foods. DRDO’s laboratory in Leh has found a way to preserve seabuckthorn juice, creating the successful “Leh Berry“ brand. DRDO has also made advances in insect control. Its latest product, Attracticide, promises to “lure and kill” the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the carrier of dengue, with military precision. The insecticide uses the tendency of mosquitoes to lay eggs on water that already contains larvae of the same species. Pheromones attract them, and the insect growth regulators that Attracticide contains prevent the larvae from developing into adults. The technology, DRDO says, has been tried successfully by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation. Another one of DRDO’s technology transfers has been to Jyothy Laboratories Ltd, giving the company exclusive global rights to market a range of insect repellent creams, lotions and sprays developed by DRDO. Jyothy estimates these to be four-five times more effective than similar products, and expects revenue of Rs30-40 crore from these this fiscal year. With the increasing emphasis on spin-offs, the process of commercializing technologies at DRDO has been formalized. In January, the research agency, along with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), launched an accelerated technology assessment and commercialization (Atac) programme. Ficci assessed more than 200 products from 26 DRDO labs and chose 45 for commercialization. These include bio-larvicides; techniques for treating effluents and contaminated water; a heat-setting technology for fabrics such as nylon, developed originally for parachute rigging lines, that gives them longer and better elasticity. Also on offer are lightweight ceramics that can find applications in underwater structures, and phase-change materials that can absorb and retain heat for long stretches, making them useful for cooling telecom equipment, boiler rooms, high temperature areas in the construction industry, among others. Eittee Gupta, assistant director, Ficci, says the market response to these technologies has been “excellent”. “The best thing about them,” she adds, “is their cost-effectiveness”. Gupta, however, refused to give the costs at which these technologies were transferred. DRDO’s most significant contributions have, however, been in medicine. Apart from the stent, the Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE) lab in Gwalior has created an H1N1 detection kit as part of its nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) programme. The kit costs just Rs3,000 and can, according to Ravi Gupta, analyse a sample in two-four hours as opposed to the two days other kits need. DRDO will begin marketing it after clearance from the Indian Council of Medical Research. Close to Lastec is another lab where much of DRDO’s medical research is taking place. The buildings in the sprawling campus of the Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (Inmas) bristle with equipment. The lab was the first in India to acquire an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine, and is one of the few to possess a cyclotron, used to synthesise short-lived radioactive isotopes. Inmas runs a drug development and evaluation programme that started as a means of studying the effects of various stresses on soldiers. The lab has been able to “radio label” drugs to study how they are absorbed by the body and to determine which anatomical parts they act on. Corelating the two is a challenging task, but doing so successfully can cut drug development costs significantly. The lab has so far radio-labelled and evaluated 25 drugs, some for pharmaceutical companies. It’s been a busy day for Rajendra Prashad Tripathi, director of the lab. The institute has been roped into the investigation of the Cobalt 60 radiation leak in Delhi, and a team of scientists is on its way to the Army Research and Referral Hospital to collect blood and urine samples from one of the victims. “Gauging the level of radiation exposure is a very difficult task,” he says. It’s also a rare research opportunity that will “be useful for our NBC programme”. According to Tripathi, Inmas has created 40 new drugs. It has also pioneered the use of the molecule 2-deoxyglucose in the treatment of cancer. The technology has been transferred to Dr Reddy’s Laboratory Ltd, and is in advanced clinical trials. Inmas has in collaboration with hospitals and research institutes countrywide, come up with a range of medical devices, from titanium dental and bone implants to inhalers that can dispense drugs for mountain sickness, high-altitude oedema and asthma more effectively. Vikram R. Lele, chief of nuclear medicine at Mumbai’s Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, is a sceptic, however. “They’ve got the best equipment, but their work has not been very impressive,” he says. The institute has created some important radio-chemicals, but has failed to follow up on a number of others, he said. On 12 May, defence minister A.K. Antony approved a radical overhaul of DRDO based on the recommendations of the P. Rama Rao committee, which conducted the first external review of DRDO. The recommendations include the disbanding of the food and life sciences lab to allow for a greater focus on critical weapons and military technologies. It will be the end of most of DRDO’s spin-offs, but that does not perturb Maini. His lab is unlikely to come up with the ordnance disposal system or adapt it for use in low-intensity conflicts anytime soon. But “we’re also working on a vehicle-mounted, low-powered, but broad laser that can temporarily dazzle and disorient groups of people,” says Maini. “It can be used to control mobs and unruly crowds.” If DRDO can manage to put a working model out on the street, Maini will have something to show for all that time and money.









India readies to evaluate C-17 airlifter
2010-06-24 16:50:00    The Boeing C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlifter is in India to begin flight trials this week towards clearing the last formality from the Indian Air Force (IAF) for its acquisition.  One US Air Force (USAF) aircraft was been flown to India on June 19 for technical checks of the fuselage, seating and engines, as also para-jumping and loading and unloading systems by IAF test pilots.  It will now go through the routine checks of operating in humid, hot and rarefied environments at Bangalore, Jaisalmer and Leh respectively, something which is a fundamental requirement for all IAF combat and transport assets due to the geographical terrain of the country, India Strategic defence magazine reports.  Although the IAF has asked the government for an initial batch of 10 C-17s, confirmation of the aircraft's required capabilities by the test pilots would formally seal the process from the Indian side, and the defence ministry would then give its endorsement and forward a note to the US government.  Washington would follow with the procedural Letter of Acceptance (LOA) in response to New Delhi's Letter of Request (LoR) for the aircraft to be acquired under a government-togovernment Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.  This would be India's single biggest defence acquisition agreement with the US ever, estimated in the industry to be between $4-5.8 billion depending on what the IAF requires in terms of onboard assets, capabilities, spares and maintenance support duration.  The deal will be with USAF, and the US government will charge an administrative fee on the actual amount calculated after IAF requirements are finalized.  Col. Kelly Latimer, a former USAF pilot whose laughter matches the respect she commands in flying this huge aircraft, flew in the C-17 to India. A USAF and Boeing team is at hand to explain its capabilities in peacetime for humanitarian missions or to airdrop special forces personnel and material or to pick up the wounded from short, unpaved grassy fields in the thick of battle.  India Strategic quotes Boeing's Vice President for Global Mobility Systems Tommy Dunehew as saying that although it should take about three years to supply the first aircraft after an agreement is signed with a customer, Boeing could deliver all the 10 aircraft within two years.  Every programme has to end somewhere, and as Boeing has only the last 24 aircraft in its order book for the USAF, and another 20 for other countries, it could comfortably juggle with them to meet any IAF requirements.  The USAF has a total of 223 aircraft of order. Its 199th C-17 has just finished pre-delivery flying tests and is on way now to its designated squadron in the USAF Air Mobility Command.  The IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, had told India Strategic last year that IAF was looking for 10-plus 10 C-17s, described in its parlance as VHTAC, or Very Heavy Transport Aircraft, as a replacement of its ageing fleet of Soviet vintage  IL-76 transport jets as also to augment its strategic lift capability in the coming years.  Air Marshal Ashok Goel (retd), who had flown in the first IL-76 from the Soviet Union to India in April 1985, says that the acquisition of the C-17, as also that of Lockheed Martin's C 130J Super Hercules are timely.  The IL-76, which had given IAF strategic lift capability, and the smaller AN 32, would last another 10-12 years although as per the manufacturers' specifications, they are at the end of their lives. IAF has not used them fully and there is substantial residual life in them.  Assimilation of new aircraft takes about five years, and by the Sovient vintage aircraft are phased out, the C-17 and the C-130J would be 'in the bloodstream' of IAF pilots.  The C-17 is the lifeline of US and NATO troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and its operational capabilities have already been displayed informally to IAF officers on various occasions, the first in 1998. A C-17 can carry one heavy-lift Chinook or two Apache helicopters after folding their rotor blades, and even one 60-tonne Arjun main battle tank (MBT) of the Indian Army.










Pakistan’s grand march
 By M K Bhadrakumar  Often derided as a ‘failing state,’ Pakistan presses ahead with a foreign policy agenda that meets the country’s national priorities.   The Pakistani diplomacy has been presenting some stunning success stories. It is coolly cruising toward a ‘nuclear deal’ with China. The deal doesn’t involve any Hyde Act prescribing the contours of Pakistan’s Iran policy or a Nuclear Liability Bill freeing Beijing of culpability for faulty performance.  Nor has Pakistan agreed to have a ‘minimum deterrent’ or shown willingness to cap its inventory of nuclear weapons already exceeding India’s. It seems no power on earth can stop Pakistan getting a ‘waiver’ from the Nuclear Supply Group (NSG). Not even the United States.  Compare it to how the UPA government tied itself in knots to conclude a nuclear deal with the US. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh staked the survival of his government and resorted to dubious methods to re-charter the course of coalition politics for reaching his destination. He is still to explain his failure to fulfil his assurances to parliament. Of course, the ENR technology will not flow to India. Why is Pakistani diplomacy doing so well? The army chief Pervez Kayani has just concluded a 5-day visit to China, which raises Sino-Pak defence cooperation to new heights. Yet, Islamabad is preparing for the second round of the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue for which secretary of state Hillary Clinton is visiting Pakistan next month.  Hardly three months after the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue in Washington, the Obama administration is sitting down with the Pakistani leadership — civilian and military — for another round of high-voltage diplomacy. Against this backdrop, Kayani’s visit to Beijing underscores that Islamabad is not lacking in foreign-policy options if the Obama administration resuscitates the Bush-era doctrine pampering India’s regional vanities.  The self-assuredness of Pakistani diplomacy is such that on the eve of the strategic dialogue with the US, Islamabad ambled across the final lap of negotiations to sign an agreement with Tehran over a $7 billion gas pipeline from Iran. It was done with such manifestly cavalier abandon. The agreement came hot on the heels of the latest UN sanctions against Iran that the Obama administration robustly pushed through.  Why is it that Indian diplomacy chooses to settle for vacuous rhetoric and grandstanding in the ties with the US — a gala state dinner for Singh or an elegant pair of gold cuff links for external affairs minister S M Krishna? India lives in its region and can the US ensure its preeminence?  Our smaller western neighbour, which we often deride as a ‘failing state,’ presses ahead with a purposive foreign policy agenda that meets the country’s national priorities of energy security. The Iran gas pipeline project throws into relief the dismal truth that India lacks a foreign policy that serves its national objectives of growth and development.  Spin masters Every time the subject comes up, the spin masters serving the establishment come up with some lame excuse or the other. The latest thesis is that India could be ‘floating on gas reserves’ and might indeed be ‘energy-secure.’ True, Reliance is developing new gas fields under lucrative pricing conditions provided by the government and competing Iranian gas imports are, arguably, best avoided. But that has nothing to do with the country’s energy security as such. An honest discussion about the cost of Iranian gas becomes practically impossible, given the opaqueness of the government’s pricing policy.  Then, there is shale gas, which is lately touted by our spin masters as a promising energy source ‘likely to overtake’ — in the womb of time — both conventional gas as well as liquid fuels. Unsurprisingly, Reliance bets on shale gas. And needless to say, shale gas extraction, which involves tapping natural gas trapped between layers of shale rock, requires latest American technology and the Reliance is currently buying into it in a significant way.  Of course, Reliance’s emergence as a ‘diversified, vertically integrated player’ in the energy sector could be a matter of national pride. But can national pride be equated with the government’s energy security policy? The heart of the matter is that India needs both the Reliance fuelling wealth as well as Iran’s fabulous South Pars gas fields feeding the gargantuan Indian economy for decades to come.  Quite obviously, the US disfavours Iranian gas feeding the Indian market on a long-term footing as it could deprive the Big Oil of lucrative business. Two, the US seeks to block Iranian energy exports until such time as US-Iran normalisation materialises. Three, the US is fundamentally opposed to the emergence of an Asian energy grid involving Iran, Pakistan, India and China, which would have potentially far-reaching strategic implications for American global strategy.  The Indian leadership has failed to show the transparency that a ‘failing state’ like Pakistan possesses in defining its hardcore national interests vis-à-vis Iran. Pakistan also has a political elite that is corrupt and which may harbour a sense of vulnerability to American pressure.  But what distinguishes its foreign-policy making is that the GHQ in Rawalpindi as the custodian of national interests, draws the bottom line. Which, in turn, enables Pakistani diplomacy to turn to its advantage the growing Sino-American rivalries in the central, south and west Asian regions.  Ironically, the Obama administration doesn’t object to Pakistan’s independent foreign policy. Nor does it seem to mind if Pakistan disagrees with its agenda towards the situation around Iran. The Indian leadership’s fear psychosis is clearly unwarranted. (The writer is a former diplomat)



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