Evaluating Indo-US defence agreements

By K.N. Pandita

Energy, counter terrorism and defence stand out prominently in eight Indo-US agreements signed recently.

The civilian nuclear agreement opens the path for preparatory work on sites for six AP1100 reactors in India to be built by Westinghouse with US Import-Export Bank assuming financing role. India is energy starved.

A MoU on exchange of terms of screening between their intelligence agencies to provide access to terrorism screening information has been signed. This is a significant move forward in combating terrorism.

However, it is in the realm of defence that India shows interest in revision of her traditional policy. China’s hegemonic posturing and its dichotomy in interpreting terror are catalyst to our long term defence strategy.

Both countries had to travel long and tortuous distance spanning over decades before they came to a handshake.

By virtue of defence agreement, the US recognises India a ‘major defence partner’ noting that US-India defence relationship can be “an anchor of stability”. The implication is that India will share facets of defence technology with the US and her close allies on parity basis.

They have also finalised the text of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) to be signed soon.

Under the Joint Working Group on Aircraft Carrier Technology Cooperation, India and the US have also finalised the text of an Information Exchange Annex.

At home, not unexpectedly, the opposition buoyed by the Left has raised eyebrow on defence agreements and the idea of US recognising India as the “Major Defence Partner”. Obsessed with long defunct non-aligned tantrum, this narrative is alien to their ears.

However, their apprehensions, certainly unfounded, stem from historical hangover. They are ill at ease to witness first major shift in India’s foreign and defence policy after independence.

Critics place their finger on two key defence agreements, Information Exchange Annex (IEA) and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement.

Their argument is that the US military is much larger and its ships, aircraft and soldiers operate across the world. They believe that the US needs more than India needs to boost their operational capability.

In recognizing India as a “ major defence partner” with access to a licence-free range of dual-use technologies, the US has agreed to support the Indian initiative to develop defence industries through the export of goods and technologies consistent with US laws.

The argument that the US would need to use Indian military facilities far more often than the Indian side would need US bases, overlooks the ground realities. As a super power, the US’ political-military reach worldwide is well in place. The US has options or alternatives to fill the gaps if any, be it the vast landlocked Central Asian Steppes or the critical maritime region of South China Sea.

The second is LEMOA or Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement. The transformational element of this agreement virtually surpasses MTCR. It will open Indian maritime and aviation facilities for refuelling and other logistics support to the US Armed Forces. The ambit would functionally include the Indian Navy’s use of US ports such as Djibouti, Diego Garcia, Guam and Subic Bay as part of port calls, training and disaster management. The implications go well beyond the functional aspects with India’s almost complete turnaround from a policy of isolationism in this field.

Eschewing reference to South China Sea in the final joint does not minimise geostrategic importance of the region for the US or India, especially when the Philippines have invoked relevant body at the UN to contain China in her ambitious designs in Paracels and Sprtlys islands. A visit of US guided missile destroyer within 20 nautical miles of the islands carried the message.

It is also argued that India signing defence agreements with the US would lead to her gradual estrangement with Russia. After the implosion of the Soviet Union, and especially after its reckless incursion into Afghanistan, Indo-Russian relations did not enjoy the same warmth as in the Soviet era. Soviet reckless policy in Afghanistan caused us much distress; in fact we are still grappling with its fall out.

The lesson of history is that in post-cold war era polarization is getting discredited. While trade and commerce are replacing or reshaping alignment among nations, the concept of military blocs is shifting to defence partnership.

As for Logistics Agreement, the Left Parties are raising an eyebrow that this agreement will have to face serious consequences and all this amounts to abandoning independent foreign policy and bilateral interests with the friendly countries in West Asia (Iran).

No West Asian country has stood up strongly against American interventionist policy. They were complacent with the destruction of Iraq; they are lukewarm on NATO-US action in Afghanistan while they are expectantly concerned on American pedestrianism towards the Islamic Caliphate.
Of course, Iran is a different story. She is hold
ing the nuclear deal with her teeth. It will take her a long time to reap the harvest of investments she will be making in the aftermath of lifting of sanctions by the US.

Defence agreements outreach the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region. India has stakes in the security of maritime routes of Indian Ocean. Maximum of world trade passes through the Straits of Malacca.

Chinese presence in Gwadar port of Pakistan has to be taken note of. Chabahar strategy a part, the importance of India-Pacific region necessitates cooperation and collaboration with the US.

Military and naval exercises with the US are not new to us. Shared responsibility of security means defence cooperation. Defence partnership has gained importance for the freedom of navigation.

Outreach of defence agreements have also to be evaluated in the background of rising crescendo of terrorism holding sway over parts of the Middle East and Karakorum-Hindu Kush region.

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, a day after Prime Minister Modi addressed a joint meeting of the US Congress, Paul Ryan, Speaker of the US House of Representatives said that “US-India have a great potential for the future particularly with the seas, in the Pacific and in the Indian Ocean, making sure that we help police the global commons and international order, namely China building, you know, runways on islands in contested areas.”

India-US defence agreements are of immense consequences to the global strategy from which India stood excluded for last six decades and half. This notwithstanding, the two democracies know it well that national interests supervene in the policy planning of sensible nations.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

On the chessboard of South Asian defense strategies

By K.N. Pandita

Is the South Asian region (or Khurasan according to Islamic exegesis) emerging as the battlefield of a decisive clash of ideologies? Khurasan, originally an Avestic word, stands for the ‘lands to the East’. In geographical terms it could be Eastern part of Iran, Afghanistan and Baluchistan including its oceanic outreach.

The outcome of recently concluded Nuclear Security Summit in Washington is elusive if not controversial.   Continue Reading…

The ‘Great Game’ Reborn in the Indian Ocean: A Tale of Two Ports

By K.N. Pandita

The historic 19th century ‘Great Game’ of Lord Curzon’s making may be in the process of revival, albeit in different setting with different actors and varying interests.

From the vast deserts of Central Asia, the new Great Game seems to be shifting to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, the premier commercial waterway of international trade. The actors are not the old imperial powers aspiring for empires but shrewd traders seeking large markets for their merchandise and accompanying political clout. They act not in isolation but in collaboration without losing sight of their respective national interests. Continue Reading…

Reality about fighting nuclear terror

By K.N. Pandita

In the two-day summit in Washington, (March 31 – April 1) representatives of forty-nine countries interacted on the danger of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons as “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security”.

Have four meetings of NSS since 2009 achieved the objective? It is a moot question. Radioactive materials in numerous countries are still vulnerable. International nuclear security architecture continues to be fragmented and predominantly based on nonbinding measures. NSS has not left behind its successor.   Continue Reading…

PM’s visit to Saudi Arabia

By K.N. Pandita

After concluding Nuclear Security Summit meet in Washington (31 March – 1 April), Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Observers are essaying the diagnosis of this visit in the background of various know or unknown complications.

Objective analyses of Modi’s visits abroad reveal his penchant for reassessment of India’s regional and global relationship with a view of infusing new vitality in the tenets of our foreign policy. His first visit to Middle East region was not to Israel as observers would have anticipated but to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Continue Reading…

Is ISIS Closing in on Europe?

By K.N. Pandita

In October 1993, I was in Brussels attending the Socialist Group of European Parliament’s seminar on Kashmir. Dr. Farooq Abdullah and Prof. Bhim Singh were also there. A group from PoK lead by Amanullah Khan of JKLF was also attending. Around midnight, my telephone rang and a local friend on the other end said that Amanullah Khan had been arrested. Indian Government had issued a red-corner letter to Interpol wanting his arrest for murder of Indian diplomat Mhatre in London. Next day, the British Parliament passed a resolution demanding the Belgian government to release Amanullah Khan forthwith. Belgium obliged. I asked my Belgian friend, who, I knew, had close contacts with Pakistanis, how the release came about that soon. She said,” Brussels is the hotbed of jihadis in Europe.” Continue Reading…

Nuclear Security Summit and South Asia

By K.N. Pandita

In his speech in Prague in 2009, President Obama touched on an important subject for the first time. He talked about security against nuclear terror, meaning securing nuclear arsenals against falling in the hands of non-State actors. A year later, the first meeting of stakeholders (NSS) numbering no fewer than 53, was held in Washington to deliberate and gradually inch towards a consensus formula of how nuclear arsenals could be safeguarded.

The fourth and perhaps the final meeting of the NSS, to which India and Pakistan have also been invited, is to be held in Washington 31 March-1 April, 2016. President Putin of Russia has declined to participate.   Continue Reading…

From seat of learning to cesspool of sedition

By K.N. Pandita

It is almost three weeks that Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the ‘prestigious” university of India is aflame. What makes it prestigious? In forty-six years of its life, it did not produce a single Nobel laureate, a single outstanding thinker, a Prime Minister or chief minister or a single social figure of national or international repute. It does not figure among 200 top universities of the world. Continue Reading…

Face to face with Frankenstein

By K.N. Pandita

No surprise that Pakistani terrorist attack on Pathankot air base is getting internationalized; not at India’s asking. Pakistan’s mortification is almost unprecedented.

For the third time, the US has reacted on Pathankot attack. Recently Secretary of State Kerry spoke to Nawaz Sharif asking him to take on the terrorists. Continue Reading…

Pathankot airbase attack

By K.N. Pandita

The four-day-long operation in the premises of Pathankot air base is heading towards completion. Combing operation may still be on partly. Six Pakistani terrorists have been finished. Our forces have suffered bigger loss in terms of human lives. We salute the martyred soldiers and share the grief of their kith and kin.

This is not the first attack of its kind undertaken by Pakistani jihadis. It differs from previous attacks in at least two ways. One, it came soon on the heels of PM’s unscheduled stop over at Lahore. The visit was in search of peace. Two, it was aimed at causing great damage to defence assets of Pathankot air base. Continue Reading…

Breaking India-Pakistan logjam

By K.N. Pandita

On his flight back home from Kabul, Prime Minister Modi broke journey at Lahore. This unusual drop off has become a subject for speculation. Congress spokesman says Indian nation will have to pay heavily for the tea Modi had with Pak premier Nawaz Sharif at his family residence in Raiwaind. The case merits dissection.

Some called the visit “sudden”, albeit honestly; yet it doesn’t seem to be sudden. High level visits, even if for a couple of hours only, are neither sudden nor unscheduled. Of course, the nature of the mission demanded secrecy. Continue Reading…

Stop holding Parliament to ransom

By K.N. Pandita

For one full week the Parliament remains paralyzed by the Congress-led opposition, creating disorder and ruckus when the sessions begin and staging walkouts when serious business needs to be contacted.

What boycotting MPs are doing is illegal. They are paid by the tax payer. The Parliament session is held through huge funding by tax payers. The assurance given to the tax payer is that his problems will be addressed, and if possible, solved at national level. There is also a sort of unwritten bond between the Parliament and the people who give it a shape through their vote, to utilize their money judiciously and in the interests of the country. Boycotting MPs are drawing from public exchequer to mar and not make the sessions. Continue Reading…

To Washington with domestic baggage

By K.N. Pandita
(to give the rest of the world a better understanding, all wikipedia-links are added by Heidi, the editor and blog owner).

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while on his US visit in October last cancelled his scheduled visit to Chicago. He would not give Imran Khan’s brats any chance of spoiling his visit by staging a protest demonstration… Continue Reading…

G-20 fight against terrorism

By K.N. Pandita

Paris carnage shadowed G-20 Anatoly (Turkey) summit. Besides a press release, summing up economic and developmental agenda, the summit released 9-point agenda on its fight against terrorism.

G-20 was not as much specific and vociferous on its policy on terrorism in any of its previous summits as at Anatoly. This shows that it takes terrorism now even if the Mumbai carnage of 2008, which claimed a toll of over 200 innocent souls, did not scratch its humanistic sentiment.   Continue Reading…

Carnage in Paris

By K.N. Pandita

Paris has come under the attack of Islamic militants. It is the bloodiest after World War II. Reports are that 127 innocent people are massacred and 200 injured some seriously. The most beautiful capital in Europe could never imagine that carnage of this brutality would ever befall it. This attack has come close on the heels of January attack in which 17 people were killed in Paris including Charlie Hebdo the editor of satirical magazine, and a Jewish supermarket. Terrorists targeted restaurants, concert halls and market places sending down terror and chaos in the city. The President who was at a stadium watching a friendly football match between France and Germany was evacuated under close security arrangement as the terrorists conducted attack outside the stadium. Continue Reading…

Critical turn in national politics

By K.N. Pandita

The apprehension was that majority mandate in the Parliamentary elections would turn the head of BJP. Unfortunately, that happened. The glamour of victory overshadowed the need for astute state management.

The more powerful sections within BJP leadership drew inspiration from RSS think tank. Seniors and veterans of the party knew the risks involved in party looking for brainwaves from that source. Continue Reading…

The passion for self- mockery

By K.N. Pandita

About three dozen Sahitya Akademi awardees reportedly returned their awards. They did not say whether they returned the accompanying amount also.

Evidently, they had received award for contribution to India sahitya (literature) not politics. It was literature when they received award and it is politics when they return it. A question arises: Was it then their mock contribution. We do not comment on their literary acumen; we talk of their sincerity to the profession. Continue Reading…

Nostalgia of personality cult

By K.N. Pandita

Recently, the NDA government expressed its intention of revamping the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML). It has stirred commotion in Nehruite and Congress circles. They see something sinister in it, like ideological assault on Nehruvian philosophy.

To reinforce their adherence to personality cult and swear by Nehruvian loyalty, they do not hesitate to misinterpret, rather distort, the idea of revamping the said museum. The truth is far from it. Revamping carries no apprehension of denigrating the stalwart of India’s freedom struggle.   Continue Reading…

Obama’s Security Adviser visits Pak

By K.N. Pandita

Susan Rice, President Obama’s National Security Adviser, who rarely goes on foreign trips unless necessary, was on one-day visit to Islamabad on Sunday, the 30th of August.

A recent VOA broadcast said that Rice had always planned to stop in Islamabad after two days of high-level talks in Beijing ahead of next month’s White House meetings between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.   Continue Reading…

The Captain steers the Ship

By K.N. Pandita

Historians will record Modi’s two-day visit to the UAE and Dubai as a landmark in opening up his country of 1.25 billion people to incredible investment by the Emirates. To two main categories of people in the Emirates, Modi’s visit has brought immeasurable cheer. First is the 2.7 lakh strong Indian industrial work force most of them labourers, factory workers, wage earners and office goers who earn their wages through honest labour, and in the process, have helped build the Sheikhdoms brick by brick. The second category of beneficiaries is of the investors in the Gulf who have the capital and now have the opportunities of investing it in a mega investment venture. Therefore, the most important takeaway of the prime minister’s visit is that it will open this door of foreign direct investment towards India.   Continue Reading…