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Archive | July, 2010

The ties that bind (2)

Transforming the nature of the India-UK relationship.

In my previous blogpost, I argued that for India and the U.K. to enter into what Prime Minister David Cameron calls an “enhanced partnership,” would require both countries to engage each other on issues impacting their strategic interests.  I had argued that security was one such area, and the extent to which the U.K. can play a meaningful role in addressing India’s security needs could go a long way in determining how successful this “enhanced partnership” will be.  Today’s TIME online has an interesting piece on the on-going battle between U.K.’s MoD and the Exchequer over replacement costs for the Royal Navy’s V-Class nuclear submarines (h/t @pragmatic_d):

As part of Britain’s austerity cuts, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) has been asked to find savings of between 10 and 20% by 2014, and then work off of steady-level funding until 2020. Britain’s V-class subs, known as Trident after the U.S.-made ballistic missiles they carry, are aging and need to be replaced by 2024. A replacement system as sophisticated as the V-class submarine will cost around $30 billion, with the first contracts to be inked by 2016.

Defense Secretary Liam Fox has said the MoD could not spend that much on nuclear subs while simultaneously cutting its budget without jeopardizing the purchasing of other big-ticket weapons such as armored vehicles, aircraft carriers, and fighter jets. He insisted the money should come not from the MoD but from the Treasury, which has traditionally paid for Britain’s subs. However, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who heads the Treasury, said that wasn’t going to happen. “The [nuclear submarine] costs … are part of the defense budget. All budgets have pressure. I don’t think there’s anything particularly unique about the Ministry of Defense,” he said.

Malcolm Chalmers, a former nuclear adviser to two British foreign secretaries, says V-class submarines are relics of the Cold War. While Britain’s conventional forces are no longer organized to defend against a military attack from the Soviet Union, its nuclear policy has “remained largely unchanged since the 1960s, when a surprise attack on Western Europe was a central driver for U.K. force planning,” he wrote. The [RUSI] report concludes that the government should save money by either halving the number of new V-class-type boats it builds, building a new submarine fleet capable of both conventional and nuclear roles, or scrapping the submarine-based system altogether and maintaining a non-deployed arsenal to be delivered either by airplane or special forces. [TIME]

Some of this current monetary pressure can be alleviated by a U.K. offer to lease its V-class submarines to India on a short-term basis. This will be well received in New Delhi and will help in broadening the scope of bilateral engagement. India today is seeking to diversify its delivery systems — essential for maintaining a credible secondary-strike capability.  Its sea-based deterrence system, however, is nascent, with a small fleet of aging diesel-powered submarines. The induction of the nuclear-powered Arihant-class submarines — products of India’s indigenous Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project — is still few years away.

U.K. has made significant contributions to the Indian Navy in the past — lest we forget, the only aircraft carriers India has had — Vikrant and Viraat — were both purchased from the Royal Navy; HMS Hermes (Viraat) played a pivotal role in the South Atlantic during the Falklands War.

Given the sensitivity of the technology, India and the U.K. will need to conclude a more over-arching dual-use agreement before any transfer takes place, which could pave the way for future high-technology trade.  And while the sale of Advanced Jet Trainers to  HAL is an important step, more potential on defense and security collaboration between India and the U.K. exists and can be realized.  This will require both India and the U.K. to determine commonalities in each others’ long-term strategic interests, re-visit mechanisms that can make such collaboration possible, and commit to exploring the full potential of an Indo-U.K. strategic partnership.

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The ties that bind

Enough about curry and cricket.

U.K.’s Prime Minister David Cameron is in India on a three day state visit.  His visit comes on the heels of his trip to Turkey, where he pledged to support that country’s membership to the European Union.  Some say that is part of the Mr. Cameron’s new foreign policy initiative to woo the East.  Indeed, in an op-ed in The Hindu, Mr. Cameron declared as much:

From the British perspective, it’s clear why India matters. Most obviously, there is the dynamism of your economy. In the U.S., they used to say: “Go West, young man” to find opportunity and fortune. For today’s entrepreneurs, the real promise is in the East. But your economy isn’t the only reason India matters to Britain. There’s also your democracy with its three million elected representatives — a beacon to our world. There is your tradition of tolerance, with dozens of faiths and hundreds of languages living side by side — a lesson to our world. And there is this country’s sense of responsibility. Whether it’s donating reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan, peacekeeping in Sierra Leone or providing intellectual leadership in the G20, India is a source of strength to our world. [The Hindu]

Faced with government debt and high levels of unemployment, Mr. Cameron will do what he must to revive his country from the global economic slump.  At the backdrop of a domestic debate on immigration, Mr. Cameron arrived in Bangalore — not New Delhi — visiting Infosys’ technology park and HAL, where a $800 million deal between BAE and HAL for 57 advanced jet trainers (AJTs) was signed.

The U.K. is already India’s largest trading partner in the E.U.  Trade between India and the U.K. has, and will continue to amble along, increasing annually in absolute terms, while decreasing in terms of U.K.’s overall contribution to India’s economy. Certainly, India is open for business and any mutually beneficial opportunity for trade and commerce is welcome.  But if the goal of Mr. Cameron’s visit is to forge the bonds of an “enhanced relationship” with India,we will need to move beyond the (dare I say) mundane and begin talking about issues of strategic importance to each other; for India, this includes  energy and security.  Indeed, France has shown that such an engagement model can be successful.

In this respect, news of progress on civilian nuclear cooperation and the AJT deal, though long overdue, is perhaps welcome.  However, it is as yet unclear if U.K.’s leaders truly understand and are willing to commit to a more broad-based partnership with India.  It is also unlikely that India will bother to sit around and wait.

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Gen. Kayani’s extension

Beware the General with the extended contract.

When Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani announced his government’s decision to extend COAS Gen. Kayani’s term for another three years, he was merely formalizing an arrangement that many had already foreseen months ago.  Media reaction to Gen. Kayani’s extension in Pakistan has swayed from grudging acceptance (The News) to complete endorsement  (نوائے وقت, ایکسپریس).  On the face of it, this is a matter internal to Pakistan, and the Government of India has rightly chosen not to comment on the extension.

Three issues, however, feature prominently in Pakistan’s press on favoring an extended tenure for Gen. Kayani — the war on terrorism, upholding the laws of the nation, and security.  It is the third that should be of concern to India; indeed, if history has taught us one thing, it is that secure generals in Rawalpindi have taken decisions that negatively impact India’s internal security.  Men in power at GHQ have historically been poor judges of how far they can push the button, either internally or as it relates to India.  We need not delve too far back into history to realize that precedents exist.  The events leading up to October 1999 serve as a reminder.  Nazim Zehra explains:

Musharraf had then clearly stayed away from the political situation as journalists had queried about the ability of the present system’s ability to ‘deliver’ given Pakistan’s major problems. His response to a question related to constitutional change was unambiguous. This relates to constitutional changes, an issue which only the country’s political leadership can address, he had definitively said. He was straight and honest recalling that when he had taken over as the COAS people around me held different views about Nawaz Sharif ‘s relations with the army leadership.

What was striking about the general was how he related to the team around him. Not only did he ensure the presence of at least half a dozen of his key lieutenants through his press encounter, he also let them speak. More so let them interrupt him, correct him on occasions. Only a general, secure about his authority would allow such public display of freedom of expression from his men. Musharraf had come across as a secure general; a team player. [Defence Journal]

Then there was Kargil.

The difference between 1999 and 2010, of course,  is that in Parvez Musharraf, you had a general who had no backing from the United States (up until the events of 9/11), while Kayani today enjoys popular support from folks in Arlington, Vir. And the U.S. is notorious for its weakness for scotch-drinking Pakistani generals; even more so when they are graduates of army colleges in the U.S.  Gen. Kayani is described in the U.S. as a “soft-spoken intellectual” and “apolitical.”  As if this “soft-spokenness” is a virtuous quality.

Yet, of all the 14 chiefs of army staff to have served Pakistan, only one man holds the distinction of having commanded both Pakistan’s premiere intelligence agency, the ISI, and the Pakistani army.  That man is Gen. Kayani.  That Gen. Kayani played an integral part in ensuring that talks between S.M. Krishna and his counterpart in Pakistan failed should be no surprise.  What Gen. Kayani does or doesn’t do within the confines of Pakistan’s political environment is a matter entirely internal to Pakistan.

However, “secure” Pakistani generals have displayed a knack for misunderstanding their relative power within the Pakistani establishment and misconstruing their ability to force India’s hand on “unresolved issues.”  And this is something that India needs to be wary of.

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Course correction needed

Focus on India, please.

In the aftermath of the Lahore talks between S.M. Krishna and S.M. Qureshi, much was written in the press about the reasons why the talks failed and on Mr. Qureshi’s antics during and after the press conference.  The failure of the talks to yield anything substantial should have been a good opportunity for India to reevaluate what it is attempting to achieve vis-a-vis Pakistan and why, and determine whether its current strategy is working.  Sadly, barring a few exceptions, such a dialog does not seem to be occurring; at least, not publicly.

My INI colleague over at Pragmatic Euphony has an excellent blogpost with recommendations on steps India needs to take going forward,  laying out areas where the attention of India’s political leadership should be more focused.  From internal security to the delivery of social services, the blogpost argues that an internally stronger India will be able to negotiate with Pakistan on a better footing.

This argument can be further extended, particularly where internal security is concerned.  That Pakistan has no intention of abjuring terrorism against India is no secret.  In fact, if Mr. Qureshi’s bizarre comments at the presscon, equating statements made by LeT chief Hafiz Saeed to those made by Home Secretary G.K. Pillai are anything to go by, there is no reason not to believe that Pakistan will continue to encourage rhetoric and action against India — talks or no talks.  The aim of India’s internal reforms, then, should be to develop capabilities to deter Pakistan’s adventurism for sub-conventional warfare against India.

This requires refocusing on issues that have been highlighted previously on various platforms.  It means accepting the reality that internal security can no longer be a part-time job for the Home Minister, and moving forward with establishing a Ministry of Internal Security, with adequate funding and staffing.  It means significantly upgrading the capabilities of first responders to terror incidents — something that cannot be meaningfully achieved without police reforms.

It means fundamentally restructuring our intelligence agencies, their reporting structure, staffing, training, funding, information collection — at the local, national and international levels — and inter-agency coordination.  It means revisiting existing anti-terror legislation, to provide law enforcement agencies legal and political backing, and tools necessary to effectively deter or respond to incidents.  Finally, it also means equipping our agencies with the ability to challenge terrorism from whence it emanates.

Now, the argument can be made — and not without justification or precedent — that in a country that puts a premium on symbolism, expecting changes such as those highlighted above — which essentially call for a structural recalibration of the government — is far too radical.  It can be argued that no one in New Delhi will have the stomach for projects whose benefits may only become visible at some distant point in the future.  On the other hand, the exhibitionism we have come to expect from India-Pakistan “events” can be beneficial during election season, even if they did fail as spectacularly as Lahore, because India’s leaders went “out of their way” and “extended a hand of friendship” which was spurned by short-sighted politicians from across the border.  It is just the sort of altruistic, moral pompousness that wins elections.

But Dr. Manmohan Singh, more than anyone, can appreciate what structural reforms can do for this nation.  Indeed, reforms he instituted some twenty years ago have fundamentally transformed India’s economy and society.  With this transformation comes the need for institutions that can effectively govern and keep pace with the India of today.  This has not happened, however, and nowhere is the structural decay more telling than in institutions charged with India’s security.

Structural recalibration of India’s internal security is a long-term project whose benefits may only be realized in the distant future. But unless priority is given now, we will continue to flounder and stumble from one disaster to another while hoping that cosmetic fixes, finger wagging and rhetoric will conceal the structural decay of institutions charged with India’s internal security.  It will not help India either put an end to the insurgencies that plague it nor allow it to deal effectively with the threats that will continue to emanate from Pakistan.  Dr. Singh and his government must get to work: India’s internal security needs a 1991.

Focus on the India, please.

In the aftermath of the Lahore talks between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his counterpart, Pakistani Foreign Minister S.M. Qureshi, much has been written about the reasons why the talks failed and about Mr. Qureshi’s antics during and after the press conference.  The failure of the talks to yield anything substantial should have been a good opportunity for India to reevaluate what it is attempting to achieve vis-a-vis Pakistan and why, and determine whether its current strategy is working.  Sadly, barring a few exceptions, such a dialog does not seem to be occurring; at least, not publicly.

My INI colleague over at Pragmatic Euphony has an excellent blogpost with recommendations on steps India needs to take going forward,  laying out areas where the attention of India’s political leadership should be more focused.  From internal security, economic and labor reforms to education, public health and delivery of social services, the blogpost argues that an internally stronger India will be able to negotiate with Pakistan on a better footing.

This argument can be further extended, particularly where internal security is concerned.  That Pakistan has no intentions of abjuring terrorism against India is no secret.  In fact, if Mr. Qureshi’s bazarre comments at the presscon, equating statements made by LeT chief Hafiz Saeed to those made by Home Secretary GK. Pillai are anything to go by, there is no reason not to believe that Pakistan will continue to encourage rhetoric and action against India — talks or no talks.  The aim of India’s internal reforms, then, should be to develop capabilities to deter Pakistan’s adventurism for sub-conventional warfare against India.

This requires refocusing on issues that have highlighted on various platforms.  It means accepting the reality that internal security can no longer be a part-time job for the Home Minister — and moving forward with establishing a Ministry of Internal Security, with adequate funding and staffing.  It means significantly upgrading the capabilities of first responders to terror incidents — something that cannot be meaningfully achieved without police reforms.

It means fundamentally restructuring our intelligence agencies, their reporting structure, staffing, training, funding, how they collect information — at at the local, national and international levels — and how they coordinate with each other.  It means revisiting existing anti-terror legislation, to provide law enforcement agencies legal and political backing, and tools necessary to effectively deter or respond to incidents.  Finally, it also means equipping our agencies with the ability to challenge terror infrastructure from whence the emanate.

Now, the argument can be made, not without justification or precedent, that in a country that puts a premium on symbolism, expecting changes such as those highlighted above — which essentially call for a structural recalibration of the government — is far too radical.  It can be argued that no one in New Delhi will have the stomach for projects whose benefits may only become visible at some distant point in the future.  On the other hand, the exhibitionism we have come to expect from India-Pakistan “events” can be beneficial during election season, even if they did fail as spectacularly as Lahore, because India went “out of its way” and “extended a hand of friendship” which was spurned by short-sighted leaders from across the border.  It is just the sort of altruistic, moral pompousness that wins elections.

But Dr. Manmohan Singh, more than anyone can appreciate what structural reforms can do for this nation.  Indeed, reforms he instituted some twenty years ago have fundamentally transformed India’s economy and society.  With this transformation comes the need for institutions that can effectively govern and keep pace with an India of today.  This has not happened, however, and nowhere is the structural decay more telling than in institutions charged with India’s security.

Structural recalibration of India’s internal security is a long-term project whose benefits may only be realized in the distant future, but unless priority is given now, we will continue to flounder and stumble from one disaster to another while hoping that cosmetic fixes, finger wagging and rhetoric will conceal the structural decay of institutions charged with India’s internal security.  It will not help India either put an end to the insurgencies that plague it or allow it to deal effectively with the threats that will continue to emanate from Pakistan.  Dr. Singh and his government must get to work: India’s internal security needs a 1991.

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