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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

From Today's Papers - 21 May 2013
India’s interests in Iran
Significance of Chahbahar project
by Harsh V. Pant

THE visit of the External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid, to Iran recently once again brought into focus India's changing role in West Asia where it has significant stakes which are rising by the day. India made known its desire to enhance its energy engagement with Iran as it sought joint exploration and joint investment in infrastructure. Tehran has reportedly made offers with regard to joint exploration and a production sharing agreement in an oil block which New Delhi has indicated will be of interest. There are also plans to bring together some countries like Iran, Indonesia and India under the rubric of the Non-Aligned Movement to manage the deteriorating situation in Syria. But the biggest splash was created by India's decision to participate in the upgradation of the strategically crucial Chahbahar port and invest around $100 million in the project at the initial stage.

It is another matter as to why New Delhi could not have taken this decision earlier, especially as it helped in the initial setting up of this port almost a decade back. Whether China's proactive role in Gwadar now is one of the reasons why India is taking this decision is a moot point. But Chahbahar was important for India's Afghanistan and larger Central Asian policy in 2002 and it is even more important now as regional realities unfold at a rapid pace.

India's relationship with West Asia as a region is dramatically different than a generation ago, when from 1947-1990 India was too ideological toward the region, as was reflected in its subdued ties with Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Today, however, it is these three states around which India is developing its new West Asian strategy, with New Delhi recently taking special care to nurture all these relationships and pursue its substantial regional interests. And now with a democratic Egypt emerging as a new player in the region, India is re-negotiating the terms of its engagement with the region.

India's policy toward West Asia has often been viewed through the prism of Indo-Iranian relations. The international community, the West in particular, has been obsessed with New Delhi's ties to Tehran, which are actually largely underdeveloped, while missing India's much substantive simultaneous engagement with Arab Gulf states and Israel.

A close examination of the Indo-Iranian relationship, however, reveals an underdeveloped relationship despite all the spin attached to it. India would like to increase its presence in the Iranian energy sector because of its rapidly rising energy needs, and is rightfully feeling restless about its own marginalisation in Iran. Not only has Pakistan moved ahead with the pipeline deal with Tehran, but China also is starting to make its presence felt. China is now Iran's largest trading partner and is undertaking massive investments in the country, rapidly occupying the space vacated by Western firms. Whereas Beijing's economic engagement with Iran is growing, India's presence is shrinking, as firms such as Reliance Industries have, partially under Western pressure, withdrawn from Iran and others have shelved their plans to make investments.

Moreover, there is little evidence so far that Iran would be a reliable partner in India's search for energy security. A number of important projects with Indian businesses and the Indian government have either been rejected by Iran or have yet to be finalised due to last minute changes in the terms and conditions by Tehran. To date, Iran accounts for only about 8 per cent Indian oil imports and that too is declining under pressure from western sanctions. Moreover, both of the major energy deals recently signed with great fanfare, and raising concerns in the West, are now in limbo.

India's position on the Iranian nuclear question is relatively straightforward. Although India believes that Iran has the right to pursue civilian nuclear energy, it has insisted that Iran should clarify the doubts raised by the IAEA regarding Iran's compliance with the NPT. India has long maintained that it does not see further nuclear proliferation as being in its interests. This position has as much to do with India's desire to project itself as a responsible nuclear state as with the very real danger that further proliferation in its extended neighbourhood could endanger its security. India has continued to affirm its commitment to enforce all sanctions against Iran as mandated since 2006 by the UN Security Council, when the first set of sanctions was imposed. However, much like Beijing and Moscow, New Delhi has argued that such sanctions should not hurt the Iranian populace and has expressed its disapproval of sanctions by individual countries that restrict investments by third countries in Iran's energy sector.

The crucial regional issue where India and Iran need each other is the evolving security situation in Afghanistan. If Washington were to abandon the goals of establishing a functioning Afghan state and seeing a moderate Pakistan emerge, that would put greater pressure on Indian security. To preserve its interests in case such a strategic milieu evolves, India has reason to coordinate more closely with states such as Russia and Iran as a contingency. And this brings us to Chahbahar where after a decade of neglect, India will be once again focusing its energies as it becomes clear with every passing day that post-2014 regional environment for India would be extremely troublesome unless New Delhi takes immediate ameliorative measures. But not much should be expected of a government beset with domestic contradictions so profound that for the last four years foreign policy has been left to a risk-averse bureaucracy with the result that not only has India's stature taken a nose-dive around the world but the country has also found it difficult to protect its vital national interests.
India, China resolve to settle border row
China ready to revisit 2005 agreement
‘Candid talks’ held between Manmohan, Li Keqiang
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, May 20
Though it did not give New Delhi a satisfactory explanation on the PLA’s incursion in the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) Sector recently, China today indicated to India its readiness to revisit the 2005 agreement on political parameters and guiding principles so as to arrive at a ‘package settlement’ of the lingering boundary dispute.

At the delegation-level talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, China also acceded to New Delhi’s demand that it shared with India information on water level, discharge and rainfall in respect of three hydrological stations on the mainstream Brahmaputra River.
An agreement on hydrological data sharing was among the eight documents signed between the two countries after the ‘candid’ talks between the two leaders at which, according to officials, they were able to establish ‘good’ personal chemistry. The two leaders discussed the entire range of bilateral issues as well as global developments, particularly the evolving situation in Afghanistan.

“We also took stock of the lessons learnt from the recent incident in the Western sector (Chinese incursion in Ladakh), when existing mechanisms proved their worth,” Manmohan Singh said, adding that Special Representatives (SRs) of the two countries would meet soon to consider further measures needed to maintain peace and tranquillity along the border.

The Chinese Premier, on his maiden overseas tour after taking charge of his office in May, also did not try to brush under the carpet the mutual distrust between the two countries because of their long-pending boundary dispute. “We don’t deny there are some differences between us. Both believe that the border question is a left over from the history. We have established principles and mechanisms to maintain peace and tranquillity in border areas,” he said.

It is understood that National Security Adviser Shivshanker Menon, who is India’s SR for the boundary talks, would soon visit Beijing to hold the 16th round of talks with Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi, the former Foreign Minister, with the mandate to discuss how the 2005 agreement could be improved to ensure that incidents like the Ladakh incursion did not recur. There would also be other proposals on the table when the two SRs meet to deal with border flare-ups.

Even as the two PMs met at the majestic Hyderabad House, Tibetans-in-exile held demonstrations in different parts of the capital to protest against the Chinese leader’s visit, leading to traffic jams at many places.

A joint statement issued by the two sides said, “The two sides shall work together to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas in line with the previous agreements.” It noted with satisfaction that the meetings of the India-China working mechanism for consultation and coordination on border affairs had been very fruitful. Significantly, there was no reference to India’s ‘one China policy’ in the joint statement.

Briefing reporters, Indian Ambassador China S Jaishankar described the meeting between the two PMs as “significant, substantive and productive.” Noting that the visit of the Chinese Premier had come after an incident which was ‘unusual’ (border incursion), he said the two SRs would also look at the existing mechanisms and if there were any shortcomings which led to the border face off.

The Chinese Premier raised the issue of the activities of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans in India. He was told by the Indian side that India did not permit the Tibetans to engage in any political activity.

In response to a question, Jaishankar said there were a number of high-level exchanges scheduled between the two countries in the coming days. The PM has accepted his Chinese counterpart’s invitation to visit Beijing soon. Defence Minister AK Antony would also be visiting China.

Menon to visit Beijing

  Shivshanker Menon, India’s SR for the boundary talks, would soon visit Beijing to hold the 16th round of talks with Chinese State Councillor.

  He will have the mandate to discuss how the 2005 agreement could be improved to ensure that incidents like the Ladakh incursion did not recur.

  There would also be other proposals on the table when the two SRs meet to deal with border flare-ups.

Joint statement

  The two sides shall work together to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas in line with the previous agreements.

  The meetings of the India-China working mechanism for consultation and coordination on border affairs had been very fruitful.

  Significantly, there was no reference to India’s ‘one China policy’ in the joint statement.
Eight pacts signed, China to share Brahmaputra data
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 20
India and China today signed eight accords, including one on sharing hydrological data, and agreed to start bilateral cooperation in the civil nuclear energy field in line with their respective international commitments.

Under a protocol on the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, the nations agreed to conduct the pilgrimage every year from May to September. The Chinese side would further improve existing facilities on the route of the pilgrims. To maintain smooth communication, it also agreed to assist in renting out wireless sets and local SIM cards.

Under one MoU, China will provide India with information of water level, discharge and rainfall twice a day from June one to October 15 each year in respect of three hydrological stations on the mainstream Brahmaputra river.

Another MoU aims at strengthening mutual cooperation in trade and safety of buffalo meat, fishery products and feed and feed ingredients and to meet regulatory requirements with respect to safety and hygiene and quarantine.

One agreement is aimed at enhancing cooperation in the field of sewage treatment while a fifth one is for enhancing cooperation in the field of water efficient technology with applicability in the area of agriculture and exchange of best practices.

The sixth MoU provides for a joint working group that would coordinate translation and publication of 25 books of classic and contemporary works of each side over a period of five years into Chinese and Indian languages. The seventh MoU aims at enhancing cooperation in the field of water efficient technology in the area of agriculture.

Sino-India pacts

  Setting up three working groups on services trade promotion, economic and trade planning, and trade statistical analysis under the Joint Economic Group

  Upgrade of existing facilities for the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage by China

  Provision of info by China on water level, discharge and rainfall from its three hydro-electric projects upstream Brahmaputra

  Enhancing bilateral cooperation in the field of water efficient technology

  Strengthening mutual cooperation in trade and safety of buffalo meat, fish products

  Cooperation in the field of sewage treatment

  Coordinating translation and publication of 25 books over a period of five years into Chinese and Indian languages

  Facilitating cooperation and linkages between cities and provinces of the two countries

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Although officially at peace, the army's theatre of operations has grown steadily. It has responded by boosting its numbers, but that has its own challenges.

The details of the Nyoma Incident need not detain us here. It can be predicted that there will be multiple versions of the unfortunate incident floating in cyber space soon. The military court of inquiry will ascertain the facts, justice will be meted out and the artillery regiment that served as the site of the incident disbanded.
The standard operating procedures for the rest of the army will be firmed up and will no doubt include a stricture against families accompanying officers when out in the field.

While all this can understandably be expected to be internal to the military, it bears reflection as to whether this is an isolated case, an 'aberration' to anticipate an army spokesperson. Or, is there something in it on the good health of the army for the ear of wider society?

The army has been expanding incessantly over the past three decades. The first round was over the turn of the eighties of mechanisation. The following decade witnessed the raising of the Rashtriya Rifles. The last decade saw the doubling of Rashtriya Rifles and raisings of two mountain divisions for the China front. This decade will see the raising of a mountain strike corps, promised recently by the Defence Minister.

The message that emerges is one of insecurity. While earlier it was insecurity prompted by Pakistan, lately there is the China threat to contend with. For the first time this month the government accepted the possibility of a 'two front' threat, one the army has been plugging for the past three years. India, relying on its limitless resource in manpower, has decided that expansion of the service strength is one part of the answer.

The other focus is on acquisitions - that have placed India as the top most arms importer. This status India will continue to have over the coming decade. India has also gone in for nuclearisation, with the Agni V test and INS Chakra making their mark this year. The nuclear future consists of multiple warheads for the Agni and mating of nuclear ballistic missiles with the nuclear powered submarine.

Taken together the three prongs - manpower, material and nuclear - can reasonably expected to keep India safe into the future. But this expectation can be thwarted if the army proves unable to absorb the changes. Tritely put, it's the man behind the gun that matters.

Expansion has been managed quite well by the army earlier. In wake of the 1962 debacle, Emergency commission officers were inducted. The showing of the army in 1971 war vindicated the decision. However, this time around, the expansion has been in the wake of incessant deployment in operations. The story begins with Siachen and Op Blue Star in Punjab in 1984. It is followed by the IPKF sojourn and a near simultaneous deployment on deinduction from there into Punjab, Kashmir and Assam. Thereafter, as one Chief put it, the army has only been 'officially at peace'.

The army has proven responsive. It has over time firmed in a rotation policy for Rashtriya Rifles that caters for primary group cohesion to an extent. The army website indicates that several training schools have been opened up for preparing junior leaders under a 'train the trainer' system. News reports of summer exercises at field army level, such as the recent Exercise Shoor Vir, indicate a heavy schedule for collective training. Socialisation has been furthered by greater military interface with veterans.

Nevertheless, the challenge continues to be daunting. Universally, the army's good health is dependent on professionalism of the officer corps. Therefore to focus here on this facet first makes sense. The intake is over 1500 officers a year. (Compare this to the 900 who make it to the civil services every year.) The tension between quantity and quality can only be expected to be resolved in favour of quantity, since the army never tires of pointing to vacancies in the officer cadre pegged consistently in the low five figures.

This was the case in wake of the Kargil War, when it was rumoured that standards had been diluted for expanding intake in real time. Also there was reportedly a one-time truncating of pre-commission training length. The chickens have apparently come home to roost, with the incident in question suggesting a breakdown in discipline of officers commissioned post Kargil War.

There is also deficiency in socialisation into military mores. Rashtriya Rifles and field postings having created such personnel turbulence that both horizontal and vertical integration have been impacted at both the officer and soldier level. Additional raisings mean the transfer of empathetic leadership and stolid manpower to the new set up; the vacancies so created in existing organizations being filled up by raw recruits.

Further, the age and service of officers holding appointments at unit level has gone down, and with good reason. However, the pressures on them of performance and demands from the wider army, that has in turn gone top-heavy, are higher. And all this is in face of higher career pressures stemming from competition to go up a wide-based but steep sided pyramid.

Acknowledging the latter, the army's response has been to compound the problem. The army has opened another Officer Training Academy at Gaya, intending to have a higher officer intake but of short service commission officers. While resolving the problem of the pyramidal structure of its promotion system, it could deepen the other one of fraying officer-soldier bonding.

The army may be intending to overcome this problem by higher levels of manpower and higher technological levels in relation to the adversary. The Kargil War was won by concentrating two divisions and a large proportion of the firepower available in J&K, thereby overwhelming the enemy. However, neglecting the idea that 'the man behind the gun' is consequential may prove debilitating over the long run.

This point has a wider import. Expansion has not been restricted to the army. In fact the security sector has been perhaps the only sector that has expanded over the past decade, given that the neoliberal paradigm believes in contracting government. Even more ambitious expansion has been witnessed in the central armed police forces, with the Central Reserve Police Force becoming the world's largest internal security force. And yet, it is unable to penetrate into the forests of Abujmad!

The point that emerges is that expansion is the easier answer. And in any case it must not be at the cost of quality. Since this has been the case with both the army and the paramilitary, compensation needs to be done by heightened training, accentuated socialization and intimate supervision. This is doubly important since these forces are operationally committed, particularly in people-centric counter insurgency.

The gravity of the problem can be inferred from the fact that its most significant facet has been pushed right to the very end: impact of societal turbulence, especially so in an officer cadre springing from the lower middle class. Given this, it can be sensed that Nyoma was only waiting to happen. The army leadership that has been enmeshed lately in peripheral matters needs now to return to its bread and butter.
ISI cuffs on army clerk

Darjeeling, May 20: A clerk at the Indian Army’s base in Sukna was arrested today for allegedly stealing defence documents and supplying them to four persons from Kurseong, held yesterday on the charge of working as conduits of Pakistan’s ISI.

“Mani Kumar Biswakarma, aged about 50 years and currently serving as an upper division clerk with the army in Sukna, was arrested today. He has confessed to stealing documents and supplying them to ISI agents,” said Kunal Aggarwal, the Darjeeling superintendent of police.

Biswakarma was detained yesterday for questioning with the four who were arrested.

Investigators have said the documents seized from the four men revealed that national security was compromised.

“The documents include a map and details of installations in army cantonments in the region. There are also documents that specifically show the positions of fighter planes of the air force,” said an investigator. The air force has bases at Bagdogra in Darjeeling district and Hashimari in Jalpaiguri district. The Bagdogra air force station is close to India’s borders with China and Nepal while Hashimara is close to the Bhutan and Bangladesh borders.

Biswakarma worked for the army’s 33 Corps headquarters in Sukna, which is close to India’s border with China at Nathu-la, Sikkim.

His desk job as an upper division clerk could have allowed him some access to official documents.

The police said Biswakarma’s name had cropped up during interrogation of the four men arrested in Kurseong yesterday.

Among the four arrested was an ex-serviceman, 54-year-old Maghan Bahadur Singh. He was a driver with the army but was dismissed from service in 2008 for conduct unbecoming of an army man. That year, he had been arrested in connection with a murder case. Another person, Meshan Souriya, 54, who the police believe was the ring leader, was a member of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. The hill party today distanced itself from Souriya saying he was no more with the party.

Both central and state agencies as well as the army’s intelligence wing are interrogating the five as well as two other men alleged to be ISI links. They, too, were arrested yesterday. Souriya allegedly formed a group to work for the ISI in 2008. The investigators claimed that he and Singh had been directly recruited by the Pakistani spy agency.

The alleged ISI links were identified as Dhan Kumar Pradhan, a 42-year-old resident of Panighatta Bazaar, and Gopal Khati, 39, a resident of Naxalbari. Both the places are in Darjeeling district.

Pradhan has a valid passport till 2016 and it was learnt that he had gone to Afghanistan. The police said they were yet to find out if his travel to Afghanistan had anything to do with his ISI activities.

The arrests in Darjeeling were made after a tip-off from the Rajasthan police who had taken into custody an alleged ISI spy, B.K. Sinha, recently. Sinha too was an upper division clerk and was posted in Siliguri till 2011.

The four arrested yesterday were remanded in police custody for 10 days.

Soon after Souriya’s arrest, Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha, said yesterday: “The Morcha had decided to expel Souriya from the party with immediate effect. We will not tolerate anyone compromising national security.” Today he said the Morcha had learnt that Souriya was no longer actively associated with the party.
Antony to visit China in June as bilateral ties improve
Notwithstanding the recent faceoff in eastern Ladakh, Defence Minister A K Antony may travel to China next month to strengthen the bilateral relations on military affairs between the two rising Asian powerhouses.

“The defence minister will be going to China soon. The dates will be announced when we are ready,”  said Jaishankar, Indian Ambassador to China, here on Monday after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Chinese premier Li Keqiang.

Defence Ministry officials are working on a set of dates in June because Antony's visit was being planned for quite some time as a follow-up to last August‘s visit by Chinese Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie, who invited his Indian counterpart to come to China. General Liang has now been replaced by Gen Chang Wanquan in the new Chinese regime.

Antony will  be the second Indian defence minister after Pranab Mukherjee to travel to Beijing after decades of mistrust between the two neighbours in the wake of India’s 1962 war with China.

In May 2006, then defence minister Pranab Mukherjee had visited China for five days, during which he signed a memorandum of understanding with China on bilateral cooperation in military issues and visited the Lanzhou Military Region, adjacent to Ladakh in India and Pakistan. Mukherjee was also given a detailed briefing on the role and functions of the Lanzhou Military Area Command, which is important from India’s perspective.

Before Mukherjee’s China tour, their defence minister Gen Cao Gangchuan  visited India in March 2004.

One of the fallouts of Mukherjee’s visit was a joint exercise between two of the world's biggest armies. The counter-insurgency exercise involving 80-100 men in uniform from both sides took place in 2007 (in Kunming) and 2008 (in Belgaum), after which it came to a screeching halt when Beijing refused to give visa to the Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Command for an official trip, arguing that Kashmir was a disputed territory.

With both governments agreeing to revive the bilateral exercise, sources told Deccan Herald that the People's Liberation Army of China and the Indian Army are likely to exercise together in October, possibly in the Chengdu military region. The exact dates and venue, however, are yet to decide.

“Both sides have agreed to hold the next round of joint training exercises later this year, in addition to increased exchanges between the Armies, Navies and Air Forces of the two nations,” says the joint statement, signalling renewed thrust on military engagements.
Karzai seeks Indian military aid amid Pak tensions
kabul  - Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to discuss potential arms deals with Indian officials during a trip to New Delhi this week, officials said, at a time when tensions are running high on Afghanistan’s disputed border with Pakistan.
Kabul’s overtures to New Delhi are likely to rile Islamabad where a new government led by two-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif is set to take office soon, promising improved ties with India.
Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi said the Afghan leader would discuss the flare-up on the Durand Line, the colonial-era border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in addition to ways to strengthen Afghan security institutions. “Afghanistan has already agreed and signed a strategic pact with India and based on that agreement, India assists Afghanistan on several grounds, including the military sector,” Faizi said.
“In order to strengthen Afghan security forces, we will ask India to help us with military needs and shortages,” he said. India has been training a limited number of Afghan military officers for years at its military institutions, but provided little weapons assistance except for some vehicles.
In 2011 New Delhi signed a strategic partnership agreement with Kabul, allowing the two sides to expand training as Afghan forces prepare to takeover security from foreign troops at the end of 2014.
An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said New Delhi’s cooperation with Afghanistan was focused on development projects but security was also an important aspect given the challenges it faced.
“While we are striving to realize this vision of an economically viable Afghanistan ... we have no illusions that we can ignore the political and security issues that stand in the way of realizing that vision,” said Syed Akbaruddin. He added the question of equipping Afghan forces was best discussed through the strategic partnership agreement and that a meeting would be held later this year to discuss security and political matters.
Pakistan also proposed a strategic partnership with Afghanistan and offered military training to the Afghanistan national army, but Kabul has been cool to the idea.
Earlier this month border guards from the two countries, which have blamed each other for providing sanctuary to militant groups, clashed at their disputed border on the Durand Line.
Afghanistan said a policeman was killed, and accused Pakistan of using heavy artillery and tanks during the fighting along Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province. It added several Afghan border posts were destroyed. Pakistan said the clashes were the result of unprovoked Afghan action.
Afghan security forces have since asked for better equipment to deal with the border threat. An official said that during the trip to New Delhi the Afghan delegation would explore the possibility of equipping the army with Indian artillery.
A NATO diplomat in Kabul said Afghanistan was also seeking to build up its air force and had sought aircraft to beef up border defenses.
“The Afghans are taking the border problem very seriously. They have asked us for equipment ... emotions are very high,” the diplomat said. The fresh strains in Pakistan’s ties with Afghanistan come at a time when hopes for an improvement in its relations with India have risen following the election of the business-friendly Sharif.
Sharif has said that the mistrust that has long dogged relations with India over a range of issues including Afghanistan must be tackled. Islamabad says India’s expanding role in Afghanistan is aimed at destabilizing it from the rear, a charge New Delhi denies.
A Pakistan defense analyst and retired Brigadier Shaukat Qadir didn’t see any souring of relations between Pakistan and India because of the likely arms deal between Afghanistan and India.
“This is nothing new,” he said. “The two countries have been engaged in similar deals for a long time.”

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