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Sunday, 28 September 2014

From Today's Papers - 28 Sep 2014

 India rejects Pak’s ‘untenable comments’ on Kashmir

United Nations, September 27
India today strongly rejected the “untenable comments” made by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Jammu and Kashmir in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), asserting that the people of the state have peacefully chosen their destiny in accordance with universally accepted democratic principles.

Exercising its right of reply on the floor of the UNGA to the comments made by Sharif, India said the Pakistan PM made “unwarranted references” in his address to the UN session yesterday.

“I would like to bring to the notice of this august House that the people of J&K have peacefully chosen their destiny in accordance with the universally accepted democratic principles and practices and they continue to do so. We, therefore, reject in their entirety the untenable comments of the distinguished delegate of Pakistan,” Abhishek Singh, First Secretary in the Indian mission to the UN said in the General Assembly.

Again raising the issue of J&K in the UN, Sharif had said that a “veil” cannot be drawn on the Kashmir issue.

Blaming India for the cancellation of the Foreign Secretary-level talks between the two countries in August, Sharif had said it was “another missed opportunity” to settle disputes and build economic and trade relations. — PTI
Army may replace ITBP on Sino-India border
In a significant move aimed at countering the increasing threat and incidents of incursion by China’s People’s Liberation Army, the government is contemplating replacing the ITBP with the Army, particularly in the Ladakh sector, where the maximum number of incidents of incursion have been reported over the last few months.

The Army’s role in handling the recent crisis at Chumar has come in for appreciation as it took a tough stand on the issue, not letting the PLA troops initimidate its soldiers. The Army had even successfully managed to set up an observation hut at a strategic location in the Chumar region from where it could closely monitor all activities of the Chinese troops. Top government sources said it was the Army’s prompt and immediate action that put a complete check on PLA’s plans for any further advancement into Indian territory.

Thus, there is now a growing view among the highest quarters in the government that the Army and not the ITBP should be made the “first line of defence” along the Sino-India border. During the ongoing Chumar crisis also, several rounds of discussions were held between national security adviser Ajit Doval and top officials from the ministries of defence and home where the assessment was that the Army should replace the ITBP, particularly in the Ladakh region. The NSA had been personally monitoring the standoff between the Indian and the Chinese security forces in Chumar. The ITBP, the paramilitary force which is primarily responsible for guarding the Sino-India border, however, would remain deployed along other areas in Uttarakhand and Northeast. “Since the Chinese take advantage of the fact that there is no clear demarcation along the Line of Actual Control and enter Indian territory, there is a feeling that the Army’s presence will act as a huge deterrent. This argument has been strengthened following the tactful handling of the situation in Chumar by the Army,” a senior government functionary said.

Sources said while broadly there was consensus on increasing the Army’s presence along the LAC and the border in Ladakh sector, there were certain logistical issues that had to be taken care of before a formal decision is taken. “The adequate availability of troops without adversely affecting the functioning of the security forces is one of the key issues that is being looked into. So the exercise may take some time,” the official added.
China ramps up regional tensions to outflank Modi

A tense standoff between Indian and Chinese troops on the frigid peaks of western Himalayas has become the symbol of Narendra Modi’s failed effort to reset his country’s relationship with China. The military tensions prompted the Indian army chief to announce cancellation of a scheduled visit to Bhutan on a day the Chinese defence ministry quoted Xi Jinping as advising his military to be ready to win a “regional war”.

Mr Modi has gone out of his way to befriend China. His first bilateral meeting with an important head of state was with Mr Xi on the sidelines of a summit in Brazil. Indeed, Mr Modi postponed his own Japan trip so that he met Mr Xi first. Not only that, Mr Modi became India’s first prime minister to receive a foreign leader outside the Indian capital – that too on his own birthday.

So when Mr Xi, dressed in a Nehru jacket, toasted the birthday of his host at a private dinner in Gujarat earlier this month, it highlighted the Indian leader’s determination to build a cooperative relationship with a country that India sees as its primary strategic competitor.

Such was Mr Modi’s courtship that Mr Xi quoted him as saying “India and China are two bodies in one spirit”.

But the diplomatic love-fest quickly turned into diplomatic discomfiture, and may well overshadow Mr Modi’s current US tour, as news trickled in about a major border incursion by Chinese soldiers in India’s Ladakh region.

While Mr Modi was publicly espousing “inch toward miles” as the motto of India-China cooperation, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China was implementing that call through a fresh action on the ground.

Even more galling for Mr Modi was the fact that the latest incursion came to epitomise Mr Xi’s birthday gift for him.

China has used virtually every high-level visit to drive home such a message. For example, China carried out its most-powerful nuclear test in 1992 during the first-ever state visit of an Indian president. In 2003, when prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in Beijing, a PLA patrol intruded 14 kilometres into India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh and abducted a 10-member Indian security team.

When Chinese leaders have visited India, their trips have coincided with PLA provocations along the long, disputed Himalayan frontier, including cross-border forays. For instance, Li Keqiang’s visit last year followed a deep PLA encroachment into Ladakh, seemingly intended to convey China’s anger over India’s belated efforts to fortify its border defences.

The message that China seeks to deliver through such provocations is that if India does not behave, it seriously risks being taught a lesson in the style of 1962, when Chinese troops routed the Indian army in the Sino-Indian conflict.

Yet such is the game that Beijing plays that it has used its official media and think tanks to charge India with intentionally ramping up border tensions during Mr Xi’s visit to exert pressure on China.

Mr Modi thought he could co-opt China, with its $4 trillion foreign-exchange reserves, as a partner in India’s development and, in the process, ease the Himalayan border tensions and territorial disputes. But in Chinese strategy, political and economic elements are closely integrated.

This was demonstrated by China rattling its sabres while its president was paying a state visit to India. That China chose to stage a major intrusion and get into a dangerous, even if localised, military standoff with India while Mr Xi was holding talks with Mr Modi attests to the PLA’s growing political muscle.

Even without considering the border incursion, Mr Xi’s visit was rich in symbolism but underwhelming in substance. Mr Xi’s $20 billion investment promise is like honey presented on a sharp knife: partaking it will cut India’s interests, including by giving China greater leeway to dump more goods in the Indian market and rake in larger profits.

China’s exports to India currently are far greater in value than its imports. Yet China’s total investment in India is only slightly over 1 per cent of its yearly trade surplus with it at present.

India must calibrate China’s market access to progress on resolving political and territorial disputes, or else China will further strengthen its economic leverage while continuing to mount military pressure.

The plain fact is that after the setback to Mr Modi’s efforts to befriend Beijing, his China policy needs to be infused with greater realism. To be sure, Mr Modi was so jolted by the “birthday gift” that Mr Xi brought with him that he spoke up forthrightly, saying it won’t be possible for the two countries to collaborate meaningfully without peace.

A key challenge for Mr Modi is to counter Chinese border incursions, which have escalated significantly over the past seven years. The intrusions reflect a posture of aggressive deterrence.

The only counter to aggressive deterrence is “offensive defence”. But India still clings to defensive defence, deploying border police as its first line of defence against regular PLA troops. The result is that India continues to get blindsided by repeated Chinese incursions. It is time for India to reappraise its Himalayan defences, or else its posture of “defensive defence” will continue to spring nasty surprises.

Brahma Chellaney is a geostrategist and the author of Water: Asia’s New Battleground, the winner of the 2012 Bernard Schwartz Award

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