Can India become a superpower?

As India celebrates its 60th Republic Day, one thought that comes to the mind is that where do we stand on the world stage. Despite all the big talk about being a superpower, we still have a long way to go. I had written an article for NDTV.com in 2007 on the same theme and believe me, the situation hasn’t changed much.

“It (India) belongs to the class of countries that are always emerging but never quite arriving,” said a report which measured India’s power a few years back.

Read below the article that I had written.

Is India ready for the big league?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Indian Army - 1

The states, Cardinal Richelieu said, do not receive credit for doing what is right; they are only rewarded for being strong enough to do what is necessary. India, according to many critics, has never practiced this rule of international politics.

The country, in its 60th year of independence, is considered to be an emerging super power, both in economic and military terms. But is India ready for the big league yet?

According to a report that measures India’s world power, there is a sense of uncertainty with regard to India. “It belongs to the class of countries that are always emerging but never quite arriving,” the report states.

Experts state that for India to play a major role on the world stage, the leadership of the country has to evolve a long-term grand strategy that will guide the nation into the future. This is a big challenge given the hostile neighbourhood India has.

According to them, to a great extent the leadership in the county remains stuck in the daily political survival and the pressures of the impending challenges at hand.

There is a view that much emphasis is put on the limited economic success, which India has had till now, to project India as a great emerging power. Experts believe this success is permanently hostage to the large number of internal and external security challenges that confront India today.

Among the numerous viewpoints regarding India’s potential to make it to the big league, one of the most important opinions held by many analysts is that India has even failed to decisively counter the challenge of terrorism directed towards it from its neighbour, which is one-eighth its size.

Experts opine that the defeat and humiliation at the hands of the Chinese in 1962 has been largely overlooked in the planning of future strategies. According to them, there is a lot of hype about India’s emergence as a great power. But as we take credit for limited successes against a small adversary, there is little or no public knowledge of a well laid out doctrine regarding future engagement with a superior power like China.

Strategic encirclement

Analysts believe that the Chinese leadership has repeatedly reiterated that they have no ambitions in South Asia. But the manner in which it has acted – by passing crucial defence technology and weapons to Pakistan, increasing its strategic influence in the Indian Ocean – over the years clearly indicates that its long-term objective was, and continues to remain, the strategic encirclement of India.

The question now is that does India have an adequate level of conventional military capability vis-à-vis China in an event of future confrontation over border issues?

Answers can be found in exclusive news stories reported by NDTV. The Indian Air Force’s fleet is shrinking. Fighter planes are being phased out much faster than they are replaced. Even the first of the many new fighter jets that India proposes to buy will take at least eight years to enter service.

In a secret letter to then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Air Force Chief, Air Marshal S P Tyagi stated that if the Ministry of Defence delays acquisitions of more fighter jets, IAF will no longer be superior to Pakistan’s PAF.

The other chilling details of the letter, exclusively reported by NDTV states:

  • India needs 40 squadrons of fighters (there are 20 aircraft in each squadron), whereas the figure has come down to 34 squadrons.
  • As old planes like the MIG-21s are phased out, by 2012 there will be barely 31.5 squadrons and by 2018 India will have 26.5 squadrons, about the same as Pakistan’s 26 squadrons.

Defence analysts state that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is numerically and even qualitatively superior to most of the air forces in the region, and the airpower balance vis-à-vis India is gradually turning in China’s favor.

The 148-page Maritime doctrine released by the Indian Navy in April 2004 is concerned about the rapid resurgence of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), the only Asian navy with SLBM (Submarine-launched Ballistic Missile) capability.

The doctrine stressed a need for a submarine based credible Minimum Nuclear Deterrence (MND) capability that would enable India to pursue an independent foreign policy in a multi-polar world.

“If India is to exude the quiet confidence of a nation that seeks to be neither deferential nor belligerent, but is aware of its own role in the larger global scheme, it will need to recognise what constitutes strategic currency in a Clausewitzian sense,” the navy Maritime doctrine 148-page analysis asserts.

But according to security analysts, this assertion seems too ambitious for navy whose total strength will come down to just 135 vessels by 2012-15. At present the Indian Navy is around 150-ship force and the optimum level needed for future is 200 vessels.

Even the scenario in the army is no different. India Army is one of the world’s largest forces with over a million soldiers. But a majority of it is tied up in insurgency-infested areas like Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeastern states.

Jaswant Singh, in his book Defending India, has criticized this strategy of withdrawing troops from the border and deploying them on internal security duties.

Although the Indian Army has embarked on a major military modernization drive, there are number of challenges ahead. The army has been experiencing a major shortfall in officers for quite some time now. There is a problem of mid-level officers leaving the force because of low benefits and slow promotion rates.

To understand the seriousness of these issues one needs to refer to a 250-odd page internal assessment report prepared by the army to look into the successes and failures of Operation Vijay mounted during the Kargil conflict.

The points considered for the assessment were mostly taken from the top-secret operational notes with the military operations directorate. Some of the main eye opening details of this secret report, which appeared in the media, include:

  • The army was so involved in the counter-insurgency operations that when the first reports of an incursion came in, little attention was paid to the fact that Pakistan was gambling to “take possession of the strategic heights”.
  • The report also points out at the older profile of “commanders at the battalion and brigade level”. It was reported in the media that two commanding officers of infantry battalions were moved out because of their physical inability to deal with the rigours of the rugged and high altitude terrain.
  • There was also a lack of adequate troops in the region to tackle threat. Additionally, the troops were maintaining a “defensive posture” and it did not have “committed and trained force levels” to deal with Pakistan.
  • The assessment also points to the misuse of Special Forces, deployed along with regular infantry battalions to capture features, a task they are not equipped and tasked for.

Crisis in the security set-up

Apart from these, as reported by NDTV, Indian Defence Ministry documents have revealed that India’s airspace and critical targets, even nuclear installations, may not be as safe from an enemy air strike.

The reason; many of the air defence missiles that are supposed to protect these critical installations have outlived their lives. No new missiles have been brought because its import has been blocked by Indian scientists. They have promised Akash missile, which has failed a number of tests till now.

Till today not one Akash missile has hit a target in anything that even approaches combat conditions, an NDTV report said.

The most prestigious undertaking of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), is an example of repeated failures and waste of public funds.

The organization announced the production of five missiles – Agni, Prithvi, Akash, Trishul, Nag – in July 1983 under IGMDP. Two ballistic missiles, Prithvi and Agni, have been inducted into the services but according to investigative reports appearing in the media their operational readiness is not up to the mark. The case of other three missiles is even worse.

Other major projects that are still not completed include the Light Combat Aircraft (christened ‘Tejas’), and Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT). The fighter aircraft programme is delayed by 12.5 years and still counting. DRDO exceeded the Arjun tank deadline by 16 years, incurring a cost over-run by 20 times the original estimate.

Changing military doctrines

With these facts in minds, experts say, there is a lot that needs to be done before India becomes an influential player in global affairs.

In terms of military doctrine too, India’s strategy of focusing on a short, intense war can be disastrous. Security analysts point out that the military doctrines even in countries like Russia and the United States of America have failed to grasp the transformations in the fundamental nature of warfare that have occurred.

Iraq is a textbook case, where it was easy for the US to defeat the Iraqi army and take control of the country but the ensuing insurgency across the country has been difficult for them to handle. Similar scenario prevails in Afghanistan where the US and NATO forces are facing challenges in containing the resurgence of Taliban and al-Qaeda elements.

India, then, has to take its national and global security interests seriously and act accordingly. Experts state that the country has to be pro-active in dealing with emerging threats locally and globally.

And India can learn a great deal from its past too. As V S Naipaul stated, in his book India – A Wounded Civilisation: “No civilisation was so little equipped to cope with the outside world; no country was so easily raided and plundered, and learned so little from its disasters.”

It is time now for India to evolve and articulate India’s grand strategy, which would take its security interests into consideration. (With media inputs)

(The article was written for NDTV.com’s web special named “India at Crossroads”)

BJP’s war within: Yashwant Sinha questions party leadership

The succession war within the Bhartiya Janata Party has intensified as senior leaders are questioning the party’s decision to reward those who should have taken the responsibility for the humiliating defeat in the just concluded Lok Sabha polls.

After Jaswant Singh, another former foreign minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha wrote a letter to the BJP president and blamed the top leadership for ignoring grassroots leaders like him.

“It is difficult to avoid the impression that in the BJP we put a premium on failure. Our reluctance to introspect and introspect comprehensively and openly is unacceptable to a large number of people within the party. So is the rat race for posts,” Sinha wrote in his letter.

Sinha also mentioned in the letter that he is resigning from all the posts of the party and will serve the party as an ordinary worker and an MP from Hazaribagh.

The BJP, meanwhile, has accepted Sinha’s resignation from all the party posts.

Below is the letter Yashwant Sinha has written to the BJP President Rajnath Singh:

Date: June 12, 2009

Dear Rajnathji,

As you are aware, I do not belong to the category of those great leaders who can contest and win elections from anywhere in the country. I have been rooted in one constituency, Hazaribagh, ever since I entered politics.

It is not an easy constituency for me. So as on previous occasions, this time also I had to work very hard to win my seat. Apart from the work that I did in my constituency over the last five years, I spent all of three and a half months since the beginning of January until my election was over on April 16, in my constituency, moving from village to village and persuading people to vote for the party. I am grateful to the voters of Hazaribagh, to my workers and to God Almighty for my win.

My joy at my own victory was, however, short-lived when it became clear that the Party had failed to win the trust of the people of India. The little euphoria which was left also evaporated when I reached Delhi to a cold reception from the leadership here. I had expected that there would be a flurry of activity in Delhi, that the Party office would be abuzz with a series of meetings to review our performance, that the necessary lessons from our defeat would be drawn quickly and remedial steps initiated without loss of time. I was surprised, therefore, when I noticed that nothing of the kind was happening. It was business as usual.

It will be obvious even to a casual observer that this election has thrown up a number of issues which we can ignore only at our peril. These relate to our basic tenets, our policies and programmes, the issues that we raised during elections, the language in which we expressed them, the strategy that we worked our for the elections, the manner in which that strategy was implemented, the campaign style of our leaders, and finally, the faces that we projected.

The media has been quick to draw its own conclusions about our defeat. Many of them are superficial and unsupported by empirical evidence. But some facts stand out.

We have never won a seat in Kerala. We have been wiped out in some marginal States like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and most of the North-East. We have drawn a blank in Orissa, Delhi, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. We have done poorly in Rajasthan, Punjab, Maharashtra and UP. In Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh our performance is below our expectation.

The only States where our performance has been satisfactory are Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Karnataka. What are the reasons for this wide variation?

Similarly, one would like to understand the voting behaviour of the minorities, the first-time voters, women, scheduled castes and tribes, the urban middle class, the government employees and most importantly, the farmers and the industrial workers in this election. Which is the vote bank we have lost? Which is the vote bank we have gained? And finally, an analysis of the factors which helped the Congress Party increase its tally from 145 seats in the last election to 206 in this.

I am sure a detailed review would be instructive and show us the path for the future. At the same time it would also help us establish the principle of accountability in the Party. We failed to carry out a review after our defeat in the last election. I am getting a sinking feeling that once again there is a conspiracy of silence.

We are shying away from pin-pointing our weaknesses and fixing responsibility. We are hoping that time shall heal our wounds. Thus, while one of the one hand, the Party is avoiding a systematic appraisal of its performance, on the other, those who were responsible for the management of the campaign have already made their views public through interviews and articles in the media, drawn their conclusions, apportioned blame and given themselves a clean chit.

Those of us who actually toiled in the field and took all the risk have not even been heard. Advaniji set a fine example of accountability by declining to take up the position of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha. It was an eminently appropriate and dignified decision. He was persuaded to continue. So have the others who wanted to take responsibility and resign, it appears as if some people in the party are determined to ensure that the principle of accountability does not prevail so that their own little perch is not disturbed.

Separately, in our anxiety to distribute amongst the few higher mortals in the party whatever goodies were available, we completely disregarded the parliamentary party constitution in the election of the office-bearers of the parliamentary party on May 31.

It is difficult to avoid the impression that in the BJP we put a premium on failure. Our reluctance to introspect and introspect comprehensively and openly is unacceptable to a large number of people within the party. So is the rat race for posts.

If we are a party with a difference, let us set an example in abnegation. If the responsibility is collective, as I have often heard you say, then all of us should jointly share the responsibility for our defeat. Let the party implement its own Kamraj Plan under which all office bearers of the party and the parliamentary party should resign from their posts which should then be filled up through the process of election laid down by our constitution. In order to facilitate this and to establish the principle of collective responsibility, I am making a beginning by submitting my resignation from the post of Vice-President of the party, from the membership of the National Executive of the party and from all positions of responsibility in the party at the national and state level. I shall continue to serve the party as an ordinary worker of the party and as its member in Lok Sabha from Hazaribagh.

In the meanwhile, I hope you will give due consideration to the issues I have raised in this letter. I am endorsing a copy of this letter to all members of the Core Group of the party.

Yashwant Sinha

RSS forms committee to select Advani's successor

Tired of the escalating infighting in the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) over the leadership issue, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has decided to take the matter of deciding the next Leader of Opposition (LOP) into its own hands.

According to sources, the Sangh has formed a committee under the leadership of its senior leader Madan Das Devi to select L K Advani’s successor. Other RSS leaders who are in the committee include Shrikant Joshi, Madhubhai, Suresh Soni, and Indresh Kumar.

The need for forming a committee arose after it looked clear that it would be difficult to maintain the unity of the BJP in the current circumstances where various factions were proposing different names for the post of LOP.

Earlier on Sunday, senior RSS leaders met L K Advani in the presence of BJP President Rajnath Singh and inquired about his choice for the post of LOP. Advani is believed to have given the names of Jaswant Singh and Sushma Swaraj, which sources say, are not widely acceptable in the party circles.

It was then decided that Advani would remain as the Leader of Opposition till a consensus is reached on the name of any leader.

Sources told Canary Trap that the present arrangement suits Rajnath Singh. Singh realises that it is impossible for him to hold the position of party president and LOP at the same time.

According to them, Singh wants Advani to remain as the LOP till the end of 2009. Interestingly, his terms as party president also ends during that period. Singh hopes to succeed Advani as the LOP after that.

Advani is the only leader in the BJP who has held the positions of the party president and the Leader of Opposition at the same time.

Meanwhile, party sources told Canary Trap that in such challenging times a senior and experienced leader like Murli Manohar Joshi is the best bet to lead the party in the Lok Sabha. Joshi has held various senior positions in the party organisation, including the post of party president between 1990-1992.

BJP sources say that Joshi is not preferred by either Advani or Rajnath Singh.

While giving an interview to a news channel after the poll debacle, Joshi targeted Rajnath Singh and said that the party’s ticket distribution could have been “better” and it should have had some Muslim candidates.

Joshi did not even spare Advani when he said “If Advaniji says anything he says it in the interest of party members. He is the most experienced leader in the party. This cannot be criticised if he has taken the responsibility for the loss,” said Joshi.

He further added that the veteran BJP leader is setting a good example by expressing his desire to step down from the post of the Leader of Opposition.

The RSS leaders met Advani in the midst of all this infighting. According to party sources, even the RSS thinks that it would be better if Advani retires now than he does after a year or two as that would not give enough time to the new leader to prepare for the next general elections.

Now all eyes are on the RSS committee which will deliberate on all the aspects and decide the name of the leader who will succeed Advani.

Keep tracking Canary Trap for more such information on the ongoing crisis in the ‘party with a difference’.

Sri Lanka releases pictures of Prabhakaran’s dead body

The Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, General Sarath Fonseka, has confirmed that LTTE chief Prabhakaran’s body has been found on Tuesday morning by the Lankan troops.

The terror chief’s body was found by the 53 Division troops led by Major General Kamal Goonarathne, Sri Lankan military sources said.

A Lankan military spokesman also said that Prabhakaran was in uniform and there were bullet wounds on his head.

Canary Trap brings you exclusive pictures of Prabhakaran’s body released by the Sri Lankan Army.

1. Sri Lankan troops surround Prabhakaran’s body.

Prabhakaran - 3

2. Sri Lankan army soldiers lifting the body of Prabhakaran.

Prabhakaran - 2

3. Prabhakaran’s body was recovered from the battlefield on Tuesday.

Prabhakaran - 1

Earlier, the Lankan military also released a photo of the body suspected to be of Prabhakaran’s eldest son, Charles Antony. According to the sources, Antony was the head of Information and Technology department of the LTTE.

Charles Antony - 1

The Lankan military claimed that they have positively identified 18 bodies of senior LTTE cadres. The list of identified LTTE leaders include:

  • Pottu Amman: LTTE’s Intelligence Wing Leader
  • Bhanu: LTTE military leader
  • Jeyam: LTTE military leader
  • B Nadesan: LTTE’s Political Head
  • S Pulidevan: Head of LTTE’s Peace Secretariat
  • Ramesh: LTTE special military leader
  • Ilango: LTTE Police Chief
  • Charles Anthony: Eldest son of LTTE chief V Prabhakaran
  • Sudharman: Aide to LTTE leader’s son
  • Thomas: Senior intelligence leader
  • Luxman: LTTE military leader
  • Sri Ram:  Senior Sea Tiger cadre
  • Isei Aravi: LTTE female military leader
  • Kapil Amman: LTTE deputy intelligence leader
  • Ajanthi: Female LTTE training in charge
  • Wardha: LTTE mortar in-charge
  • Pudiyawan: Secretary to the LTTE leader
  • Jenarthan: Special military leader

Photos of Prabhakaran with wife, son and daughter

Canary Trap brings you the exclusive pictures of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran’s family.

The photos have been released by the Sri Lankan defence ministry.

1. Prabhakaran and Madivadini in an undisclosed location in India during mid 80’s.

2. Prabhakaran and Madivadini at their wedding.

3. Prabhakaran’s celebrates the sixth birthday of his youngest son Balachandran.

4. Prabhakaran and Madivadini with their most favoured son in an undisclosed location in Wanni.

5. Prabhakaran with family members.

6. Prabhakaran with his son in a swimming pool.

7. Prabhakaran with his family.

 

8. Prabhakaran, Madivadini and children on a sea tiger boat at the Iranamadu tank.

 

 

9. Prabhakaran with son Charles Antony.

 

10. Prabhakaran’s son (Charles Antony) and daughter.

 

Controversey surrounds Rahul Gandhi’s MPhil

The Congress party on Thursday served a legal notice to The New Indian Express for publishing what it called “wild allegations and sly insinuations” on the educational qualifications of party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi.

“Deeply distressed by your wild allegations, sly insinuations and self-serving innuendos, all premised on complete falsehoods and steeped in malice, a notice is being issued,” party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters at the AICC headquarters in the capital.

Singhvi quoted a letter from the University, which stated that Gandhi was a student at the institution as a member of the Trinity College from October 1994 to July 1995 and was awarded an M Phil in Development Studies in 1995.

Earlier, Rahul had also said in a press conference that he will serve a legal notice to the newspaper for writing the article.

Below is the article that the Chennai based newspaper published. Will keep you updated on any further developments on the issue.

(The article, dateline Chennai, was published in The New Indian Express on April 7, 2009. It has been reproduced here with proper permission)

Truth about Rahul Gandhi’s MPhil

Rahul Gandhi appears to have been economical with the truth on his affidavit while filing his election nomination papers in Amethi this weekend.

In the affidavit, he states that he obtained an MPhil from Trinity College of the University of Cambridge, UK, in 1995, in Developmental Economics. A certificate from the University shows that not only has he got dates wrong, he has even got the name of the course he took incorrect.

Worse, the man touted as a future prime minister failed one of his four papers.

Rahul got 58 percent in “National Economic Planning and Policy” (according to the grading scale given in the certificate, 60 percent is the minimum for a pass).

The certificate, shown alongside, was issued a year ago by Diana Kazemi, the secretary of the department of Development Studies (and not Developmental Economics) in which Rahul Gandhi studied.

He enrolled under the name ‘Raul Vinci’, a pseudonym given by the British authorities in a common practice as there are a good number of VVIP wards from around the world enrolled at British educational institutions. The pseudonym came to light during the 2004 elections in the Telegraph and the Hindu.

According to the University, Rahul read for the MPhil in 2004- 05, and not in 1994-95, as stated in his affidavit.

His affidavit’s other claim, to have obtained his Bachelors from Rollins College in Florida, USA, is true (and is a departure from earlier claims by ‘supporters’ that he graduated from Harvard). He also briefly attended St Stephen’s College in Delhi, gaining admission through the sports quota.

His mother (and Congress president) Sonia Gandhi was also in a minor controversy in 2004 over her educational qualifications.

Her nomination papers’ affidavit claimed she obtained a certificate in English from Lennox Cook School, University of Cambridge, in 1965. After it was revealed that the school had no affiliation to the University, Sonia claimed that the error on the affidavit was the result of a secretarial typing mistake.

Rahul Gandhi Certificate