Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts

19 September 2017

India’s Strategic Choices: China and the Balance of Power in Asia

India is a rising power, but its transformation is occurring in the shadow of China’s even more impressive ascent. Beijing’s influence will almost certainly continue to grow and has already upset Asia’s geopolitical balance. India must decide how to secure its interests in this unbalanced environment by choosing among six potential strategic options: staying unaligned, hedging, building indigenous military power, forming regional partnerships, aligning with China, or aligning with the United States. A closer alignment with Washington likely represents India’s best chance to counter China, while efforts to foster regional partnerships and cultivate domestic military capabilities, although insufficient by themselves, could play a complementary role.

Challenges Posed by China’s Rise

China is a direct military threat to India, particularly in light of the two countries’ border disputes. Though India has considerable military power, China’s forces are already stronger and better-funded; Beijing’s outsized wealth will likely allow it to outspend New Delhi for the foreseeable future.

Beijing’s influence in both established international organizations like the United Nations and in new institutions China is setting up, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, gives Beijing opportunities to hamper Indian interests and goals in multilateral forums, especially when it comes to reforming these institutions and giving India a greater voice in global affairs.

China’s alignment with Pakistan and deepening relations with other South Asian countries represents a significant challenge to India’s position in the region, which New Delhi has dominated for decades. Beijing’s ability to provide financial assistance and balance against New Delhi may tempt India’s smaller neighbors to play one power against the other, undermining India in its own backyard.

China’s economic power allows Beijing to spread its influence around the world, which could be used to India’s detriment.

India’s Potential Policy Responses

Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh (1919-2017): Man of Stupendous Achievements

By Commodore C Uday Bhaskar (Retd.)

It is appropriate and befitting, given his stature and distinctive profile, that the only Marshal of the Air Force (MAF), Arjan Singh, was accorded a state funeral with the national flag flown at half-mast.

The MAF is the equivalent of a five-star Field Marshal (FM) in the army and India had earlier elevated only two officers to that rank – Sam ‘Bahadur’ Manekshaw and later ‘Kipper’ Cariappa. Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh was elevated to Marshal of the Air Force in January 2002.

In an unprecedented but welcome gesture, the President and the Prime Minister led the country in paying tribute to an ‘icon’ – not just of the Indian Air Force, or the Indian military – but for the entire nation.

Born in 1919, the MAF was just two years short of his ‘century’ and while his demise is indeed very sad, he lived a life that will remain an inspiration for a younger generation that can only glean some part of his professional trajectory from military history books and related documentation.

The bare statistics about the MAF’s life are stupendous. Commissioned in the erstwhile Royal Indian Air Force in December 1939, he began life as a fighter-pilot in the earliest bi-planes of the time and was awarded for high gallantry with a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) during the Burma campaign in 1944.

Armies of US, India Begin Joint Military Drills

The Indian and U.S. armies have started the thirteenth iteration of their Yudh Abhyas series of joint military exercises.

The exercise began on September 14 at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state in the United States and will go on until September 27.

The United States and India trade off on hosting iterations of the exercises. The first-ever drill under the Yudh Abhyas moniker was carried out in 2004 at the platoon level and has since been expanded.

The exercise this year will focus primarily on the counter-terrorism operations and will also included strategic consultations between senior armed forces officers on both sides.

Last year’s Yudh Abhyas was held in India, in the Chaubatia foothills in India’s state of Uttarakhand near the Sino-Indian border.

the “focus of the exercise will be counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations in mountainous terrain under a UN mandate.”

Though the U.S. Department of Defense or Pacific Command has not publicly confirmed the exact scope of this year’s exercise, it is likely intended to focus on similar operations under a United Nations mandate.

The Indian Defense Ministry released a statement noting that the exercise would allow troops from both sides to “hone their tactical skills in counter insurgency and counter terrorist operations under a joint brigade headquarter.”

“Both sides will jointly train, plan and execute a series of well-developed tactical drills for neutralization of likely threats that may be encountered in UN peace keeping operations,” it added.

Indian must Doggedly Preserve its Strategic Independence

By Ambassador Bhaswati Mukherjee

A nation’s foreign policy is strongly influenced by the imperatives of its neighbourhood, its strategic environment and the perception of its own status in the international community. India’s extended neighbourhood, outlined in Kautilya’s ‘Arthashastra’, the ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, as one of widening concentric circles around a central axis of historical and cultural commonalities, is an appealing definition which is a rational mean of demonstrating India’s future great power status. 

India is proactively pursuing a vigorous bilateral and multilateral agenda, based on its national security templates, at a time when the world is facing many new global strategic challenges. What are these new challenges? To what extent have our decision makers in the making of foreign policy been successful in addressing them?

The remarkable continuity in Indian foreign policy despite change of governments has some advantages, but also drawbacks.

There are certain principles in our foreign policy which we are reluctant to shed even if the global scenario starkly demonstrates our need to move on and find new strategic paradigms.

Non-alignment is one of them. We have never formally jettisoned non alignment. After the present government came to power, we have only sent our former Vice President to attend Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit meetings.

This is a clear signal of our distancing ourselves from NAM. Today, our lip service to NAM makes a mockery of our continued membership.

With the end of the Cold War, a new era of globalisation and, in an increasingly uni-polar world, India should have analysed and thought through its foreign policy and strategic directives based on its definition of strategic autonomy and its national security interests.

The Search for Crime and Justice on America's Indian Reservations

New Mexico is quietly wild. Its multicolored sunsets, volcano-pocked terrain and unique cultural landscape attract tourists, inspire artists and mask its dark side. After all, one of the perks of the sparsely populated state is that it's wide-open spaces offer a makeshift sanctuary to those who seek isolation and freedom, but with that magnitude of freedom comes the danger of believing that the day-to-day social and legal restrictions that govern society no longer apply. Anything seems possible under the desert sun, and many people have gone out of their way to test that theory.

Crime in the desert is like a flower on a cactus. It flourishes in unexpected places. It is not easily beaten back by brutal or unexpected elements. It does not shy away from the brink of extinction or the occasional danger.

It is difficult to kill.

This has sometimes been a harsh reality for the sprawling territories that are governed by the state’s twenty-three Indian tribes.

New Mexico is no stranger to unusual crimes, so it is unlikely that authorities were shocked when they caught Loren Lloyd Wauneka and Lisa Benally stealing jewelry, furniture and firearms from a law-enforcement officer’s residence on the Navajo Nation reservation in January 2016. Both had criminal histories. Wauneka was convicted of the crime and sentenced to thirty-seven months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, according to an August 10 Department of Justice press statement. Benally is still awaiting her day in court. She faces ten years in federal prison.



Editor’s Note: This is the seventh installment of “Southern (Dis)Comfort,” a new series from War on the Rocks and the Stimson Center. The series seeks to unpack the dynamics of intensifying competition — military, economic, diplomatic — in Southern Asia, principally between China, India, Pakistan, and the United States. Catch up on the rest of the series

As a revolutionary state, Iran’s grand strategy is perennially torn between the rigid imperatives of ideological consistency and practical considerations of its national interests. Since the onset of the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Iranian leaders have struggled to achieve a balance between these currents in the pursuit of broader objectives in the surrounding regions. The result has been a demonstrably different foreign policy approach to Southern Asia than to the Middle East.

In the resource-rich, Arab-dominated Middle East, Iran’s long-term strategic aim has been to resist the emergence of a powerful U.S.-backed Sunni coalition that could challenge the Islamic Republic’s pan-Islamic appeal and ambitions. Since the advent of the Islamic Republic in 1979, Iranian leaders have consistently linked the survival of their regime with successful resistance of a U.S.-Sunni Arab-Israel axis, which they regard as obstinately bent on overthrowing it. To this end, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – the regime’s praetorian guards and chief purveyors of its revolutionary mission – have over the years cultivated a resilient network of Shi’a militant groups and political parties stretching from southwestern Iraq to the shores of the Mediterranean (the so-called “Shi’a Crescent”). This strategy has played a significant role in the intensification of conflicts along sectarian lines since the onset of the Arab uprisings in 2010, but IRGC commanders have framed it as merely the fulfillment of their revolutionary duties to fellow Shi’a Muslims. They have been especially open about their financial, military, and intelligence support for the Hezbollah-Assad nexus, which offers the Islamic Republic a major strategic foothold in the Levant.

sense of strategic opportunity, rather than existential angst, in Iranian leaders’ imaginations.

A Tale of Two Disputes: China’s Irrationality and India’s Stakes

Disputes in Asia, be they in the maritime or territorial spheres, are usually complex. Their nature or connotation may vary from issue to issue and from one sub-region to another and may have different sets of implications. Also, they tend to expand beyond their original context and become somewhat byzantine when they are connected with ‘national interests’, which involves both the quest for resource exploration and national pride. An assessment of China’s continued reservation on India’s oil and energy exploration in the South China Sea (SCS) and India’s concerns over China’s infrastructural development in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project – which is a vital part of Beijing’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative – underline these complexities. Both oil exploration in the SCS and infrastructure development in the POK may be two different issues involving different sub-regions; but the Chinese and Indian approaches and reactions and their pursuit of ‘national interests’ in these matters compels the drawing of a parallel.

This Policy Brief analyses the complexity introduced into India-China relations by these two issues as well as the resultant fallout. The assessment here indicates the irrationality of the Chinese approach to which India must respond cogently. All the more so when China has released the document, Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, in March 2015,11 and Beijing desires India to join and support its ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative.
II. Issues of Sovereignty and the ‘Historical’ Context

China opposes India’s oil exploration in the SCS (which has been undertaken at Vietnam’s request) by calling the area of exploration a ‘disputed’ area and asserting ‘Chinese sovereignty’ over the SCS in the ‘historical’ context. It has been continuously expressing its reservation in this regard in the last few years, and sometimes quite belligerently at that. India has taken note of the Chinese reservation and has carefully gone ahead in signing a few agreements with Vietnam for oil exploration in the SCS. These exploration fields are very much within the maritime space under the actual control of Vietnam.

18 September 2017

Af-Pak, India and Beyond: The New Underpinnings of Washington's South Asia Policy

Puneet Ahluwalia Prateek Joshi

American national interest lies in reaching out to the smallest of the nations, which may prove crucial to “America First” domestic concerns.

Strategic circles in South Asia have been obsessed with Washington since August 21, when President Trump addressed the nation from the Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Virginia, and laid out America’s military plans for Afghanistan. The speech had been interpreted as his vision for South Asia, given the Af-Pak dynamic and the potential role he envisaged for India to play in stabilizing her neighborhood.

Describing India as a “key security and economic partner of the United States,” Trump expressed his vision to elevate India as a key stakeholder in the Af-Pak issue. A recent estimate by Anthony Cordesman of Center for Strategic and International Studies pegs the total cost of the sixteen-year-long war at $841 billion, along with 2,400 soldiers killed. It was in this regard that the president, for the first time, repeatedly stressed that sixteen years had passed and yet the Afghan imbroglio was far from being resolved. The consistency in the new administration’s stance on the Af-Pak imbroglio is too serious to be ignored.

Ever since President Trump assumed power, Indo-U.S. relationship has got the much needed push across the entire spectrum of factors that drive the bilateral relationship. Prime Minister Modi’s U.S. visit in June was dubbed successful not only in the domain of tangible achievements—such as the Guardian drone deal and a joint statement pointing towards strong future defense cooperation and anti-terror initiatives—but also in terms of the chemistry the two leaders shared. New Delhi is decked up for welcoming Ivanka Trump in November.

Washington has sent strong signals to acknowledge India’s long pending grievance of fixing accountability on the non-state actors operating out of Pakistani soil without impunity. Prime Minister Modi’s visit coincided with U.S. State Department’s declaration of Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist. On Salahuddin, the State Department report stated that he “vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers, and vowed to turn the Kashmir Valley into a graveyard for Indian forces.” While it is true that merely designating him a terrorist would not do much to curb Hizbul Mujahideen’s menace in the valley, such gestures are a part of the broader bilateral-strategic interface and set the stage for future cooperation in respective dimensions. Two months after blacklisting Salahuddin, the Hizbul Mujahideen was also declared as a terrorist outfit by Trump administration.

Doklam: India at an Inflection Point in its Quest for Regional/Global Power Status

By Lt Gen (Dr) JS Bajwa

Doklam, was an innocuous and routine local initiative by the troops on ground. The commander there felt the need to ensure that the existing Agreements and Treaties between India and China are abided by in letter and spirit. The Chinese road makers were stoutly confronted by this courageous sub-unit of soldiers who stood up to stop any construction in the territory that belonged to Bhutan – despite the Chinese vehemently continuing to claim otherwise. This uncomplicated straightforward military stance taken by India troops has acquired such import that it now signals to the region and the world of the time when India transcends into the realm of a “great power” to be reckoned with.

China has been aggressively persistent in its efforts to make strategic inroads in India’s immediate neighbourhood, resulting in India being left with a constricted space to exercise its influence.

What India has done displays the Governments ‘steely’ WILL to pursue what it believes and knows is right. Diplomacy, under the sterling leadership of the Minister, has been forthright and firm. Her iteration in the Lok Sabha adequately indicates the sagacity of the government’s actions:

“War is not a solution to anything. Even after war, there has to be a dialogue. So, have dialogue without a war… Patience, control on comments and diplomacy can resolve problems,” the minister said. “If patience is lost, there can be provocation on the other side. We will keep patience to resolve the issue, we will keep engaging with China to resolve the dispute.”

The Chinese, on their part, have let loose a vitriolic diatribe through their state controlled media showing themselves in poor light. The world has been watching and all of China’s neighbours and supporters around the world must have concluded that in future they should not expect a fair deal from a ‘rising China’ which is given to such vituperative bluster. It is unworthy to even bother or recount the didactic statements made in the process and that too in the most patronizing tones. In fact, these could be compiled to illustrate the poorest examples of diplomacy and conduct of international relations at all institutions and universities highlighting this aspect of how diplomacy should NEVER be conducted by mature nations.

17 September 2017

Nuclear India: Revisiting Issues, Challenges and Threats

The International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP) at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), in collaboration with the Department of International Studies and History, Christ University, organised a workshop titled “Nuclear India: Revisiting issues, challenges and threats” on 24 August 2017. The introductory notes by Air Marshal Vinod Patney and Professor Rajaram Nagappa focused on the importance of understanding the issues and challenges faced by a nuclear India. The first session was led by Air Marshal (Retd) Vinod Patney, currently the Director of Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), New Delhi. This session focused upon the topic “Why did India go nuclear and What is India’s Nuclear Doctrine”. He successfully traced down the history from 1945 till 1998. The dynamics within the political structure and the threats from India’s neighbors were discussed upon. He gave brief explanations on the peaceful nuclear explosion by India in 1974 and 1998. Furthermore, India’s Nuclear Doctrine and its two major principles, Credible Minimum Deterrence and No First Use Policy, were elaborated upon.

The bureaucracy is ailing

Jawhar Sircar

There is no point in denying that the Indian bureaucracy is one of the worst in the world and is widely notorious for its labyrinthine rules and genetic negativity. India is also among the most corrupt nations; surely a large part of the bureaucracy must have either connived in it or abdicated its tasks. On the Corruption Perceptions Index, India's rank is 79th, which is rather shameful, while, where 'the ease of doing business' is concerned, we have moved just a couple of notches but are still below 129 other nations. What amazes us, however, is that even so, several lakhs of young and not-so-young aspirants spend months and years to prepare and appear for the prestigious civil services examinations. They include a large number from the Indian Institutes of Technology, National Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Management, medical colleges and rank-holders of Indian and foreign universities - for a job where they would earn a pittance. It is certainly not true that they enter the services to be a party to corruption, except for a very small section, and to most 'public service' is better than enriching a merchant. It confers greater responsibility and social prestige. In spite of such 'good boys' heading administration, India's ranking is 168th in the world where literacy rate in concerned; 131st in the Human Development Index while in the Global Hunger Index we are below 96 nations.

China and India: The Roots of Hostility

By Mohan Malik

Up until the “disengagement agreement” of August 28 which led to withdrawal of Indian troops and an end to Chinese road construction in the disputed Doklam (Donglang in Chinese) plateau at the China-Bhutan-India tri-junction, China’s official media and spokespersons had unleashed a daily barrage of vitriol and warnings of an imminent “short and swift war” to teach India a “bitter lesson” and inflict “greater losses” than the Sino-Indian War of 1962.

Contending that Doklam was “Chinese territory,” Beijing’s media, along with its foreign affairs and defense spokespersons, demanded India’s unconditional withdrawal. New Delhi was adamant that road building was in violation of several bilateral agreements (agreements in 1988, 1998, and 2012 specifically) with Bhutan and India. To independent observers, Beijing’s behavior in the Himalayas seemed consistent with its incremental expansion of strategic frontiers by drawing new lines around China’s periphery in the land, air, water, sand, and snow. Troop mobilization along their disputed frontiers saw tempers running high, and for the first time since the 1987 Sumdorong Chu valley face-off, violent clashes occurred in the Ladakh sector. The confrontation was the worst in decades between Asia’s old rivals.

Thanks to a negotiated settlement on the eve of the BRICS Summit in China, the two-month Doklam standoff has ended in such a fashion as to allow the media in both countries to claim “victory.”

16 September 2017

How to make Indian courts more efficient

Better case management and procedural reforms can go a long way in reducing case pendency

The Indian judicial system has a pendency problem. This is known—a staple of every governance reform and economic growth debate. That makes the news that lower courts in Kerala, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Chandigarh have disposed of almost all cases that had been pending for a decade or more as welcome as it is surprising. Today, there are only a total of 11,000 cases pending for over 10 years in these four states and the Union territory of Chandigarh. This is impressive given that the national pendency count is pegged at around 2.3 million cases. Delhi, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka are also close to clearing out long-pending cases.

These figures are only for the lower courts but there are still valuable lessons to be learnt—especially since the lower courts are where most cases get stuck. Take, for example, the high court of Punjab and Haryana which has jurisdiction over the lower courts of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. Almost a decade ago, it set up a case management system—i.e. a mechanism to monitor every case from filing to disposal. It also began to categorize writ petitions based on their urgency. In addition, it set annual targets and action plans for judicial officers to dispose of old cases, and began a quarterly performance review to ensure that cases were not disposed of with undue haste. All these measures ushered in a degree of transparency and accountability in the system, the results of which are now apparent.

Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons and the Indian Nuclear Doctrine

Sanjana Gogna

For long, the international literature on the nuclear dynamics in South Asia has disregarded the role of China. Indian scholars have consistently highlighted this lacuna in the past. Many experts continue to ignore the Chinese factor in their analyses and advance clichéd assessments and raise alarmist concerns about the nuclear situation in the region.

Lately, there has been a renewed debate in Western academic circles about India’s growing predilection for an offensive nuclear posture. This supposed shift in India’s position is often interpreted as a response to Pakistan’s acquisition of tactical nuclear weapons or even to India’s inability to deter Pakistan from employing cross-border terrorism. Whatever may be the reason that is attributed, analysts alleging such a shift in India’s nuclear posture warn about the consequent heightening of nuclear risks and recommend that India demonstrate responsible nuclear behaviour.

Frank O’Donnell’s recent article, ‘Reconsidering Minimum Deterrence in South Asia: India’s Responses to Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons’ published in Contemporary Security Policy (2017), falls in this category. It strives to place in perspective the Indian responses generated by the introduction of the Nasr missile by Pakistan. O’Donnell delineates two ‘official’ (military and the civilian policy-makers), along with three streams of ‘strategic elite’ responses’.

O’Donnell begins by analysing Pakistan’s launch of the ‘Nasr’ and its concept of the full-spectrum deterrence. However, he seems to give credence to Pakistan’s argument that it developed tactical nuclear weapons and conceived of the concept of full spectrum deterrence in response to India’s ‘new pro-active’ military approach in the form of the so-called ‘Cold Start’ doctrine. Needless to assert that there is nothing called a Cold Start doctrine or a new ‘pro-active’ conventional war fighting approach. Each country has the right to retaliate when a war is waged against it, including a proxy war. This is certainly not a ‘new stage of regional nuclear competition’, as O’Donnell puts it.

The Priority List For Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Nirmala Sitharaman’s elevation as the Union Minister of Defence was met with deserved applause for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and, more predictably, a spate of news stories highlighting the “gimme” attitude of the military, with each armed service pitching its set of wants. Television channels meanwhile indulged in symbolism, portraying her – as a strappy, no-nonsense, ‘Durga’, presumably, ready to lay waste adversaries. There are the Mahishasuras to slay, many of them, she’ll find lurking in her own ministry and in the military. That should keep her busy for a long time. But, hopefully, Sitharaman will bring to her job the attributes that high-achievers of her gender are justly appreciated for – practical good sense, capacity for multi-tasking, and natural tact to make the demons smile even as she plunges the Trishul into them.

Firstly, the new defence minister has to inoculate herself against being overwhelmed and beguiled by technical jargon and minutiae and military pressure – all of which can get brains to freeze, as has regularly happened with her predecessors.

Secondly, she needs to set her goal. Does she mean to be transformational, or merely fill a South Block ministerial chair?

If transformation is what she has in her mind then it will require her to radically change the way the Ministry of Defence and the Indian military think, prioritise, and make decisions.

She’ll be upending a hoary system that, astonishingly, has been persisted with despite routinely making the wrong choices, misusing scarce national resources, and digging the country ever deeper into a strategic hole. It will require her to stomp and repeatedly on a whole bunch of very big toes. But the rewards of doing so for national security in the medium and long term will be immense.

Why oil can spoil India’s budget math

Tadit Kundu

A spike in oil price to around $70 per barrel is enough to strain public finances and add 0.4% to the Centre’s fiscal deficit. Photo: Bloomberg

Mumbai: One of the biggest drivers of India’s superlative macro-economic performance in the recent past has been a relatively under-appreciated element: oil. Since 2014, the dramatic fall in crude oil prices has helped India contain her twin deficits, and tame inflation. But with oil exporting countries planning to curtail oil supply, raising the possibility of a rise in oil prices, the Indian economy might soon have to deal with another pain point besides demonetisation.

The extent of the gains from lower oil prices since mid-2014 is under-appreciated as the benefits have not been evident in the retail prices of petrol or diesel. However, the government did improve its finances, using the opportunity to increase the amount of taxes collected on petroleum products, as the charts below illustrate.

The excise duty collected by the Union government on petrol and diesel has been hiked nine times since November 2014. The Union government’s tax collection from petrol and diesel has increased from 0.4% of GDP in 2013-14 to 1.1% in 2015-16, i.e. an increase of 70 basis points (bps) in two years. To put this in perspective, this is more than the 60 bps reduction achieved in gross fiscal deficit (from 4.5% of GDP to 3.9% of GDP) over the same period. One basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point.

In other words, the entire reduction in India’s fiscal deficit could be attributed to the increase in Centre’s tax revenue from petrol and diesel alone. Hence, it is fair to say that falling crude oil prices have driven the improvements in India’s public finances over the past couple of years. Looking at more recent data for the first half of the fiscal year ending March 2017 (April-September 2016), and combining taxes with other oil-linked receipts such as dividends from public sector petroleum companies and states’ VAT collection on petroleum products, we find that the total receipts of the Centre and state governments’ from the petroleum sector have risen by about 50 bps since fiscal 2015 to 3.14%.

15 September 2017

Modi Is Offering A 56-Inch Dartboard To Critics By Not Devolving More Power To States

R Jagannathan

Modi can change the discourse around him if he can shift powers down to states and cities. India will boom once states do not have the alibi of blaming the Centre for their misfortunes.

And in allowing this to happen, Modi has himself to blame as much as the constitution’s misplaced emphasis in giving the Centre primacy in too many things.

Narendra Modi has been the target of multiple criticisms, the most important of which relate to his tendency to centralise decisions in the Prime Minister’s Office, and the second being his links to the Sangh’s Hindutva agenda.

The second criticism is motivated by political ideology, and depends on who his critic is, while the first has a ring of truth around it. However, it is not the centralisation of power itself that is the problem. (Show me one state where power is not centralised around the chief minister (CM), especially when that CM has a majority of his own.) The real problem is that Modi’s rise has revived the average Indian’s belief that all answers lie with Delhi.

This is why Modi faces excess criticism for things going wrong anywhere, since the assumption is that he can do something about it. Thus, in the horrible murder of Gauri Lankesh, it is his party and ideologues that get the blame, while the Karnataka government’s administrative incompetence in enforcing law and order gets a pass.

After the 14th Finance Commission passed on more resources to states, 62 per cent of national revenues rest with states; but it is to Delhi we look for answers to growth and jobs. When land and agriculture are largely state subjects, and both these subjects are badly in need of reform and investment, we don’t even ask states to fix the problem.

Why Self-Reliance In Defence Must Top Nirmala Sitharaman’s Things To Do List

Keertivardhan Joshi

In a redefined role, the Minister of Defence must take up the responsibility of fast-tracking indigenisation of crucial defence platforms, besides giving a push to the scientific programmes of the ministry and sprucing up research development.

Nirmala Sitharaman has been given charge of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after the recent cabinet rejig. As she sets out to disperse her duties, she will have before her some long standing and seemingly insurmountable issues – issues that consecutive defence ministers have found onerous, to say the least. They include, rejuvenating the Make in India programme, forging partnerships for defence production under the Strategic Partnership model and, consolidating the Defence MSME (micro, small and medium enterprise) base and providing them with a level playing field. In all of these, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), which comes under the purview of the Commerce Ministry, will have a significant role to play. As someone who has previously handled the Commerce Ministry, Sitharaman is perhaps best placed to identify and iron out any contradicting interests that may arise between these ministries.

But, at the heart of all the issues lies an unfulfilled promise of every defence minister so far – to dramatically increase the self-reliance quotient of our defence production. Of course, it is not simple. Self-reliance is a sum total of a large number of measures with often contradicting objectives. Besides this daunting task, the ministry is also entrusted with wide ranging duties.

The ministry is responsible for disbursing a huge defence budget (Rs 3.6 lakh crore for 2017-2018) with which it has to take care of acquisitions, manage assets, supplies and logistics, offset management, budgeting, formulation and execution of programmes of scientific research, drawing service quality requirements in coordination with integrated defence staff (IDS), welfare of personnel, and so on. Giving precedence to such a diverse range of activities is always going to be a challenge.

Did We Need Piketty To Tell Us Indian Inequality Is Up? Here’s What We Need To Do About It

R Jagannathan

Inequality is real, but the answers lie not in soaking legitimately earned wage, salary and skill-related incomes, but unearned wealth passed on to the next generation which may have done little to create it.

We need to protect incomes and wealth creation, not wealth transfers.

The Left loves Thomas Piketty, a French economist, who has been hailed as the Karl Marx of the 21st century, for his work on inequality. In his 2014 book, Capital in the 21st Century, Piketty says that inequality is increasing again as old wealth accumulated over the years yields higher returns than the overall rate of economic growth, on which depend the incomes of the aam aadmi.

You don’t have to navigate the tense prose of Piketty’s book to figure out that wealth is getting concentrated, especially when Wall Street hits the stratosphere while the rest of the global economy is struggling to grow, and quality jobs are disappearing. In India, you only need to step out of your cosy 2BHK in some distant Delhi, Bengaluru or Mumbai suburb to notice the inequities.

Piketty’s equation is, in a sense, simple. He says if r is greater than g, where rrepresents return on wealth and g is economic growth, inequalities will rise. And when this is the case, governments must tax wealth.

BRICS was no victory for India: Why China won't break ties with Pakistan


After hitting Islamabad on the head with the BRICS declaration that named two outfits based in Pakistan for fomenting violence in the region, Beijing is now applying soothing balm on its “good brother and ironclad friend” by saying that it has fought the good fight against terrorism.

The Chinese aim, as indeed the US goal, is to gently nudge Pakistan in the direction of abandoning support for its proxies which include not just the Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba, but the Taliban, which in turn shelters the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

No victory for India

Unlike India, which has an adversarial attitude and is happiest when Islamabad is humiliated, China and the US see considerable value in retaining good ties with Pakistan.

People in India who saw the BRICS declaration as some kind of victory for Indian diplomacy are delusional. China, as the host country, drafted the declaration and did so with its eyes open.

After all, China has been party to UN actions to proscribe the LeT and JeM in the past. It needs to be recalled, too, that the context of the statement was in relation to Afghanistan.