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Indonesia’s tsunami

India must respond and assist Indonesia in its time of need.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is on a three-nation tour of Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam, attempting to give impetus to India’s “Look East” policy.  The tour culminates with the 8th India-ASEAN summit in Hanoi.  Earlier this month, the defense ministers of the ADMM Plus members met, again in Hanoi, to continue dialog on multilateral security and cooperation in the region. And in an effort to underscore India’s view of Indonesia as an important strategic partner, New Delhi will host President Yudhyono as chief guest at next year’s Republic Day.

In recent days, an earthquake and tsunami have wreaked havoc in Indonesia.  Over 300 are confirmed dead, with about 500 are missing.  The Christian Science Monitor reports:

The Indonesian government and a host of relief agencies scrambled to pull supplies together Wednesday before making the 12-hour journey from Sumatra to the Mentawai Islands, where more than 150 people were killed after a powerful earthquake sparked a tsunami that struck the remote region on Monday.

Two days after the 7.7-magnitude quake struck, little aid has reached the islands due to rough seas and stormy weather. The few reports trickling in have come mainly from survivors, and a few surf charters that were out on the water when the tsunami hit. [Christian Science Monitor]

When the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami struck the region, India distinguished itself at not only being able to provide critical assistance to its own citizens, but also assisted its neighbors as well.  As part of Operation Gambhir, the Indian Navy responded to aid Indonesia, by deploying a hospital ship, providing relief supplies and setting up medical camps to aid disaster victims at Meulaboh, where over 1,800 patients were treated.

Though the present disaster is of a smaller scale than the 2004 tsunami, Indonesia requires assistance, and India, as an ally that shares historic cultural ties with the Great Archipelago, must respond with conviction. The Indian Navy is experienced and well equipped to respond to disaster relief and rehabilitation efforts.  The time for pretty speeches was last week; India must offer to assist Indonesia in its time of need.

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In Pragati: The Cameron Opening

Mr Cameron’s austerity measures may provide a mutually beneficial opportunity to both India and UK.

In this month’s Pragati, I argue that a real opportunity for India and the U.K. to forge the bonds of an important strategic relationship exists.  In order to do this, India and the U.K. first need to get past curry and cricket and focus on issues of strategic importance to each other, and the world.  Three such issues stand out: security, energy and climate change.

The first pertains to what C Raja Mohan calls “keeping the global commons open and secure for all.” The security and safety of vital commodities in transit is critical to any economy; more so to one growing at such a rapid pace as India’s. The growth of India and China, and the Southeast Asian economies will increase competition for resources and further underscore the vitality of Indian Ocean trade routes to their economic growth. Today, India is already engaged with like-minded countries such the United States in securing these high traffic energy and trade routes, from the Horn of Africa to the Straits of Malacca. An India-UK collaboration on maritime security in the Indian Ocean and beyond can significantly transform the nature of this bilateral relationship.

A related aspect involves opportunities for qualitative defence transactions between the two countries. During Mr Cameron’s visit to Bangalore, the much awaited $800 million contract for 57 advanced jet trainers was signed between BAE Systems and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

Read more about it in this month’s Pragati. (PDF ; or  HTML)

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