Wednesday, 20 August 2014

New Delhi’s new red line on dialogue with Pakistan

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 20th Aug 14

By calling off a scheduled meeting between India’s and Pakistan’s foreign secretaries, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has placed an onus of good diplomatic behaviour on Pakistan. New Delhi’s new red line is --- if Islamabad wishes to talk to New Delhi, it must not talk to the Hurriyat Conference.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has confirmed to Business Standard that the ban on talking to the Hurriyat includes the spectrum of Kashmiri separatist parties. This includes non-Hurriyat leaders like Yasin Malik of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front; and newer leaders like Masarat Alam, who emerged from three years of violent street protests in Kashmir from 2008-2010.

This impasse was triggered on Aug 18, when Pakistan’s high commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, insisted on meeting Hurriyat leader, Shabir Shah, the first of several consultations with Kashmiri separatists scheduled for this week. The MEA responded swiftly by cancelling the foreign secretaries’ meeting scheduled in Islamabad on Aug 25. An MEA press statement said: “(T)he invitation to so-called leaders of the Hurriyat by Pakistan’s High Commissioner does indeed raise questions about Pakistan’s sincerity, and shows that its negative approaches and attempts to interfere in India’s internal affairs continue unabated.”

New Delhi has never before formally objected to Pakistani leaders and diplomats meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders. Numerous such meetings have taken place during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) decade in government. In 2001, when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government invited President Pervez Musharraf for the Agra Summit, he met Kashmiri separatists at a reception hosted by the Pakistan High Commission.

New Delhi has itself facilitated meetings between the Hurriyat and Pakistani leaders, recognising the Hurriyat’s utility in anchoring any India-Pakistan settlement on Kashmir. In the mid-2000s, when back-channel negotiations between India and Pakistan were close to sealing a deal on Kashmir, New Delhi encouraged Hurriyat leaders to travel several times to Pakistan. The Hurriyat leaders met Pakistan’s then foreign minister, Khursheed Kasuri, and foreign secretary, Riaz Khokhar, in 2004; President Musharraf the next year; and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in 2007, with New Delhi’s silent approval.

There is irony in Pakistani leaders meeting Kashmiri separatists before discussions with India, since any Indo-Pak settlement on Kashmir would be at the cost of the Hurriyat’s demands. India’s former high commissioner to Pakistan, Satyabrata Pal, says: “The Pakistani High Commissioner meeting the Hurriyat before talks is like the cook consulting the chickens before a banquet.”

Indian diplomats in Islamabad too have met separatist leaders from Baluchistan. Mani Shankar Aiyar, who was posted in Islamabad during Zia-ul-Haq’s rule, recounts that he met numerous Baluchi separatist leaders, including Ghaus Bux Bizenjo, Ahmed Nawaz Bugti and Akbar Bugti (who was killed in 2006 by the Pakistani military in an operation in Baluchistan).

The current impasse underlines the need for clarity about India’s Red Lines, since it is unclear what Pakistani actions would invite a cessation of dialogue. Going by recent precedence, it would appear that the death of Indian soldiers in firing on the Line of Control is acceptable, but a red line gets infringed when a soldier’s body is mutilated. Similarly, terror attacks in Srinagar will not prevent talks from going ahead, but an attack in Delhi or Mumbai would trigger reprisals, even war. Indian diplomats accept that New Delhi’s reactions have been inconsistent, and that red lines must be demarcated with greater clarity.

While the need for firmness with Pakistan is undisputed every unfriendly act cannot be allowed to interrupt dialogue. If peace talks are called off for every minor reason, New Delhi may find it can negotiate only with close allies. As the adage goes, one negotiates peace with ones enemies, not with ones friends.

Effectively, New Delhi has decided that Pakistan cannot talk to Hurriyat leaders because they are Indian citizens; and that would be tantamount to interfering in India’s internal affairs. Yet, New Delhi itself has failed to initiate a dialogue with its own disaffected people, the Kashmiri separatists.

New Delhi’s latest red line becomes viable only if it implements an open, new, holistic approach to internal dialogue. It must boldly declare that the Kashmiri people are Indians and New Delhi, not Islamabad, will deal with their grievances. With the latest interruption of dialogue, New Delhi has only half a strategy --- flexing its muscles at Islamabad, but not reaching out to Kashmir.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Imran Khan’s storm in a teacup

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 19th Aug 14

On the Pakistani street, there is again talk of a military coup. Threatened with a massive civil agitation against rigged elections last year, a needlessly panicked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last week invoked Article 245 of the constitution to draft the army to quell the protests. With thousands of political activists (their numbers varying wildly depending upon who one asks) camping in Islamabad and demanding Nawaz’s ouster, the Lion of Punjab let out a pitiful mewl and sent his brother, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, to Rawalpindi to supplicate before the army chief, General Raheel Sharif. In this charade it is clear who is the sheriff --- as always in Pakistan, the army will have the final word on how this political confrontation is resolved.

Sensibly, the army refrained from stepping in overtly. When its principal opponent --- unquestionably Nawaz Sharif --- is discrediting himself so comprehensively, why would the generals turn the spotlight on themselves? Given the blood lust in the US Congress against Pakistan, a coup in Islamabad would inevitably trigger painful sanctions. Furthermore, with military operations in North Waziristan proceeding less than gloriously, it is convenient to have some politicians at hand to blame for anything that goes wrong. The army has chosen to weaken Nawaz by simply adjudicating from the sidelines in a reminder of who is boss.

It is a measure of Nawaz’s plummeting stock that, a year after winning the May 2013 elections, a few thousand protestors and a call to revolution has visibly shaken his government. Remember, the challenge to Nawaz is not even from the largest opposition party --- the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) --- but from political gadfly, Imran Khan, and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), which launched an “Azadi march” from Lahore to Islamabad.

Sharing Islamabad’s streets with the PTI are supporters of Canada-based cleric, Tahirul Qadri, whose conservative Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) has launched a parallel “Inquilab march”. Unlike Mr Khan, who is a status-quoist politician, Mr Qadri seeks to fundamentally overturn Pakistan’s political order, giving power to the masses rather than continue the domination by a powerful and wealthy elite. Messrs Khan and Qadri claim to march independently, but most of Pakistan believes they are marching to the army’s tune.

The army and Nawaz Sharif are old adversaries, even though the prime minister owes his political career to former dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, who launched the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) in the early 1980s as a counterweight to the Bhuttos. In 1993, three years after Nawaz Sharif first became prime minister, the generals forced him to step down after he clashed with the army’s front man, former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Nawaz Sharif’s second tenure as prime minister was even stormier, with his bid to repair relations with India badly bruised by the Kargil conflict of 1999 --- which he insists the army did not take his clearance for. That confrontation with his army culminated in Oct 1999 with General Pervez Musharraf’s coup that consigned him to seven years of exile in Saudi Arabia.

When General Musharraf fell and Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan in 2008, relations with the army remained strained. Nawaz Sharif even supported his greatest political rival refusing to take advantage when the army undermined then president Asif Ali Zardari. That favour is being repaid today with the PPPP staying aloof from the ongoing turmoil.

In June 2013, a month after Nawaz was elected prime minister for the third time, he put Musharraf on trial for treason, for suspending the Constitution and imposing emergency in Nov 2007 at the height of his confrontation with the judiciary. When the army wanted to launch an offensive into North Waziristan against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Nawaz insisted on first pursuing political reconciliation through an eventually fruitless peace dialogue. Nawaz Sharif even supported Jang, after the media conglomerate sensationally blamed the military intelligence agency for shooting prominent anchor, Hamid Mir.

Messrs Khan and Qadri have both calculated that Nawaz Sharif’s long-running confrontation with the army has left him vulnerable and exposed. Bellowing through a microphone on Sunday, Imran Khan gave the prime minister a two-day ultimatum to resign, threatening a “civil disobedience movement” in which Pakistanis would stop paying taxes (hardly earth-shaking, given that less than two per cent of the populace pays income tax) and utility bills (electricity is seldom supplied for more than a few hours daily). To justify the demand for a majority government to resign just a year after receiving a thumping mandate, Imran alleges that the polls were rigged. He does not explain how his own party’s government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is legitimate, having won its mandate in the same elections that he now discredits.

There is a growing sense that Imran has bitten off more than he can chew. Given the turmoil in Pakistan, it was never realistic to assume that the military would take charge when the situation deteriorated. Nor is this the Pakistan of old; a hyperactive media and a powerful judiciary would today be impediments to any coup attempt.

Having whipped up a political frenzy amongst his supporters who marched to Islamabad, Imran Khan has nothing in hand to declare victory --- only the prospect of “civil disobedience”. Pakistani press reports suggest the government could offer a face-saver by constituting two government committees to hold separate talks with Messrs Khan and Qadri. After all the thunder and rhetoric, this can only be perceived as an anti-climax. While Mr Qadri can wing his way back to Canada, Imran Khan appears to have seriously damaged his credibility as a political leader. The prime minister, too, ends up diminished, beholden to the army for having done absolutely nothing. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

INS Kolkata commissioned. PM talks tough, but new warship lacks teeth

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17th Aug 14

“No country will dare to challenge India after the commissioning of INS Kolkata”, declared Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, while commissioning what is touted as the navy’s newest and most capable warship.

“INS Kolkata will send a message around the globe”, he added.

In fact, the disquieting message from Saturday’s hyperbole-filled ceremony at Mumbai is that India’s prime minister and top security officials are backstopping tough talk with a warship that is not yet operationally ready.

The 6,800-tonne guided missile destroyer, INS Kolkata, has been commissioned by the prime minister without two key weapon systems --- the Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR-SAM) that shoots down incoming anti-ship missiles at ranges out to 70 kilometres, well before they strike the ship; and the Advanced Towed Array Sonar (ATAS), which is essential for detecting enemy submarines trying to sneak into torpedo range.

Until these systems are fitted on INS Kolkata, the destroyer cannot provide security to the fleet. Instead, it will rely on accompanying warships for protection against anti-ship missiles and submarines.

Project 15A was originally sanctioned with a budget of Rs 3,500 crore for building three destroyers. That cost has more than tripled to Rs 11,662 crore. Meanwhile the delivery date has slipped by four years from the originally scheduled 2010.

“INS Kolkata is entirely built in India and it is a symbol of our self-reliance,” said Prime Minister Modi at the commissioning.

In fact, while briefing the media on Aug 13, a senior naval officer had stated that only 60 per cent of the destroyer is currently built in India. This percentage will marginally rise for INS Kochi and Chennai --- which will follow INS Kolkata within a year --- but is unlikely to cross 70 per cent.

Foreign components include the Russian steel from which the vessel is built, its four Ukrainian engines, Russian propellers and shafting, and significant components of the LR-SAM and other weapons systems.

More worrying than foreign systems in INS Kolkata are systems that should be there but are not. Crucial for battle-effectiveness are two multi-role helicopters, which must fly in often blustery, rainy conditions to look out for enemy submarines and aircraft. With the navy running out of its vintage Sea King helicopters, INS Kolkata has been equipped with single-engine Cheetahs that are utterly inadequate for the job. Meanwhile, the long-running procurement of a “naval multi-role helicopter” from the international market has dragged on for years.

The Indo-Israeli project to jointly develop the LR-SAM for both navies began in 2006 and was to be completed in 2012 for three Project 15A destroyers --- INS Kolkata, INS Kochi and INS Chennai. Delay dogged the LR-SAM and, in 2014, with INS Kolkata four years late already, it was decided not to wait for the LR-SAM missile.

The LR-SAM’s guidance radar --- the world-class Israeli MF-STAR --- has been built into INS Kolkata, as have the “vertical launch units” that will carry 32 LR-SAMs. What remains is the missile itself, which the navy claims will be done within “a couple of months”.

Business Standard learns, however, that the LR-SAM will not be available for at least 6-9 months, or even a year if glitches turn up in testing. The potential for hiccups is evident from the fact (Business Standard, Aug 11, “Indian missiles languish in South Korea due to Gaza conflict”) that four LR-SAM rocket motors that were despatched to Israel for testing remain stranded in Seoul, since cargo delivery to Israel was suspended due to the Gaza conflict.

Meanwhile the failure to develop or import an ATAS, means that the Kolkata remains a sitting duck for enemy submarines that can lurk unseen, behind the peculiar temperature gradients that prevail in the warm, shallow waters of the Arabian Sea. The Kolkata shares this vulnerability with every one of India’s warships built since 1997, none of which have an ATAS.

Since the mid-1990s, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) worked fruitlessly on building an indigenous ATAS called Nagan. In 2012 that was declared a failure and shut down, and work began on another ATAS called ALTIS.

Meanwhile, German company, Atlas Elektronic emerged as frontrunner in a global tender to supply cutting edge ATAS to the navy. Predictably, allegations of corruption were raised against Atlas and the import was put on hold. On Aug 5, the defence minister told parliament that the complaints were being examined.

Once completed and with all systems functional, Project 15A destroyers will be --- tonne for tonne --- amongst the most heavily armed warships in their class anywhere. Its 32 LR-SAMs will provide unprecedented missile defence cover, which experts say could be the best in the world. Critics point out that contemporary destroyers carry 64 missiles; yet, none of those missiles have capabilities that match the LR-SAM.

In case an incoming missile or aircraft evades the LR-SAM, it will be engaged by a 76 millimetre Otomelara super-rapid gun mount (SRGM), and the AK-630 close in weapon system (CIWS). The navy, realising that the 76 millimetre gun lacks power, is considering acquiring bigger guns for its warships.

In addition, Project 15A destroyers carry 16 Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles that can strike ships or land targets at ranges out to 295 kilometres. They engage enemy submarines at ranges out to 100 kilometres with heavy torpedoes fired from an indigenous twin-tube torpedo launcher (ITTL); or with rockets fired from an indigenous rocket launcher (IRL) built by Larsen & Toubro.

Project 15A will be followed by Project 15B, in which Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai, is constructing four more destroyers for Rs 29,325 crore. The first Project 15B destroyer is to be delivered in July 2018, with the three subsequent ships following at two-year intervals, i.e. July 2020, 2022, and 2024. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Resolve the border dispute, don’t just “manage” it

By Ajai Shukla
China-India Brief #33
Centre for Asia and Globalisation
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
Available at:

The election of every new government in New Delhi generates speculation over the possibility of a new Indian approach towards China. Narendra Modi’s election as India’s new prime minister has occasioned such conjecture, especially given his public acceptance of the “China model” --- firm governance, infrastructure building and the creation of manufacturing jobs. In July, Modi had a long and cordial meeting with China’s president, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Fortaleza, Brazil. Modi’s foreign policy emphasis on India’s neighbourhood makes it inevitable that China would be high in his priorities.

Like his predecessors, Modi believes that resolving the Sino-Indian territorial dispute is an essential pre-requisite for unlocking the full economic potential of the relationship. “If India and China could amicably resolve the boundary question, it would set an example for the entire world, on peaceful conflict resolution," he told Xi in Fortaleza.

The Chinese president, less keenly focused on the boundary question, invited India to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in November, and to “deepen its engagement” with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation --- which India desires. Xi acknowledged Indian concerns about an unfavourable trade balance with China, endorsing New Delhi’s longstanding plea that facilitating the import of Indian software services to China would make the trade relationship more equitable. Like Chinese leaders before him, Xi appeared to regard the border issue as too complex to tackle successfully; and, therefore, best placed on the backburner while Sino-Indian relations are taken forward through commercial ties and people-to-people interaction. This is a mistaken perception.

Modi correctly assesses that the poison of mutual suspicion, unless drained, will prevent the relationship from blooming. As an elected prime minister with years of experience in democratic politics and in tune with the mood of his people, Modi knows that, as long as the border remains contested, he will face public scepticism of, and opposition to, every step that brings India closer to China. As a politician who has played the nationalist card opportunistically, he understands that his political opponents will unhesitatingly play the same card against him.

This vulnerability gets highlighted after every border incident, when the Indian media whips up sentiment against “Chinese aggression”. This feeds on the angst from India’s humiliating defeat in 1962, when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) routed ill-prepared and badly positioned Indian forces in the disputed regions of Ladakh and the North East Frontier Province (later Arunachal Pradesh). The Indian narrative, entrenched in the national psyche, is one of “Chinese deceit” and “back-stabbing”. Few notice that the 4,057-kilometre Line of Actual Control (LAC) --- the de facto border --- is one of India’s most peaceful frontiers. Instead, relatively inconsequential border incidents serve as reminders that China is now unwilling to settle the border on terms that then premier, Zhou En-lai, had proposed in the late 1950s; and other leaders had offered into the early 1980s --- viz, an “east-for-west” swap, with China keeping Aksai Chin while India retains Arunachal Pradesh, or South Tibet as Beijing calls it. Having hardened that position, China today demands Indian “concessions in the East”, which is widely interpreted as a demand for the strategic Tawang area. It would be politically inconceivable for any Indian leader to hand over to China this tract, thickly populated by Buddhists of the politically influential, and strongly anti-China, Monpa tribe. India would see it as loyal Monpas being thrown under the wheels of the Chinese bus.

Chinese public opinion plays a smaller role in shaping Zhongnanhai’s position on the border, since the controlled media can be held off from reporting on this. Yet, successive Chinese leaders have seen greater benefit in “managing” the border, rather than resolving the fundamental dispute. True, the LAC has not seen a shot fired in almost four decades, and peace has been institutionalized through a series of agreements: the 1993 “Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control”; the 1996 “Agreement on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control”; Standard Operating Procedures framed in 2005; and the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement of 2013. Even so, China is miscalculating in choosing to manage, rather than resolve, the boundary question.

This is so for two important reasons. First, Beijing gravely underestimates the Indian consensus on refusing territorial concessions in Arunachal Pradesh. Second, no strategic advantage that Beijing could derive from controlling Tawang would compensate for having a permanently alienated India along the Tibet border. It would be almost as short sighted as Beijing’s decision to attack India in 1962. On the other hand, a border settlement with India would dramatically reduce the likelihood of India joining hands with the US against China; defuse the permanent threat to China posed by a restive Tibetan exile community in India; and open the floodgates for Chinese infrastructure companies to participate in major projects in India.

Notwithstanding Beijing’s current position, China’s leaders could some day see the advantages of a comprehensive, “east-for-west”, border settlement. New Delhi is being lax in failing to prepare Indian public opinion for the jolt of ceding territory to China and reshaping the map of India. The first step towards this would be to abandon the Indian narrative of victimhood in 1962. India and its people must begin to accept the unpalatable truth --- that, through the 1950s, India was arbitrary, implacable and bull-headed in refusing to mutually delineate the border, even though it lacked the military muscle to back its stance of “no negotiations with the Chinese.” While Beijing was short-sighted in choosing war with India, New Delhi’s provocative “Forward Policy”, which involved pushing troops into disputed areas, may have left China with little choice.

Who will bell this Indian cat? Fortunately, there is a convenient narrative that the new government has at hand --- the Henderson Brooks Report (HBR), which, in the aftermath of the 1962 defeat, scathingly indicted India’s politico-military leadership, blaming Indian miscalculation and incompetence more than Chinese deviousness for the debacle. Disseminating that message across India would be essential for any territorial give-and-take with China.

Unwisely, New Delhi has chosen not to bite the bullet. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, who had promised earlier this year to make public the Henderson-Brooks report, has inexplicably changed his mind. Last month, he told parliament that there was no plan to declassify the report. This is unwise, even though there is no acceptable border settlement on the table just yet. India’s leaders need time to prepare public opinion, and New Delhi benefits in no way from maintaining entrenched animosities.

The leaders in both capitals need to arrive at a shared vision for settling the border question. Beijing and New Delhi must work together to overcome the biases of history and open new vistas for both peoples to usher in an Asian century. 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Indian missiles, sent for tests in Israel, languish in South Korea due to Gaza conflict

A mock-up of the anti-ship missile buster, LR-SAM, also referred to as the Barak 8
By Ajai Shukla
New Delhi

The eponymously named Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR-SAM), being co-developed by the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), is already two years late. Now, because of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, the delay will get longer.

Business Standard has learnt that four LR-SAM rocket motors, built in India and despatched to Tel Aviv for trials, have been lying in Seoul, South Korea, for close to one month.

The DRDO confirms that the rockets, filled with highly combustible propellant, were despatched on a commercial airline, Korean Air, for trials in Israel. After the rocket motors reached Seoul --- Korean Air’s global hub, from where they were to be routed onwards to Tel Aviv --- the launch of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza on July 8 caused Korean Air to cancel all flights to Tel Aviv. Fighting intensified after Israeli ground forces invaded Gaza on July 17.

Consequently, a crucial and secret sub-system of the world’s most advanced anti-missile defence system has been languishing in a Korean Air warehouse in Seoul.

The LR-SAM’s rocket motor and propellant, along with its rear section, fall in India’s work share in the joint DRDO-IAI project. This crucial component, built by Hyderabad-based Premier Explosives Ltd, will be integrated in Israel with the IAI-built front section, and then tested at an Israeli range.

DRDO chief, Dr Avinash Chander, told Business Standard that it was not unusual to despatch missiles as commercial cargo, or through shipping agents.

“We didn’t think it necessary to sent the rocket motors on an Indian Air Force (IAF) flight. But now we may do a rethink and use an IAF aircraft. We are monitoring the situation,” said Chander.

This is only the latest delay in the LR-SAM, which began co-development in 2006 and was to be ready by 2012 to protect a new generation of Indian warships from sea-skimming, anti-ship missiles at ranges out to 70 kilometres. First there was delay due to Israel’s preoccupation with its “Iron Dome” missile shield; intended to intercept rockets fired at Israel from Gaza. Now, even after international flights to Israel resume, uncertainty hangs over the tests.

The LR-SAM is one of the navy’s most worrying operational vulnerabilities. On Aug 16, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissions INS Kolkata in Mumbai, the navy’s most vaunted destroyer will have empty canisters where the LR-SAMs are to be housed.

This will also be true of INS Kochi and INS Chennai, the second and third vessels of the Kolkata-class, which are expected within a year. Similarly, the aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, which was delivered by Russia last year, also awaits the LR-SAM.

All these warships have been fitted with the radar and canisters that are a part of the LR-SAM system. The development of the missile has faced glitches, but will be delivered by end-2015, predicts the DRDO chief.

“These rocket motors are going to Israel for full homing trials, at shorter ranges. After that, the missile will be fired from actual naval warships,” says Chander.

This is not the first missile fiasco in South Korea. India Today reports this week that a Pragati surface-to-surface missile that was sent for display to South Korea’s Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX-2013) last October, lay unguarded at a South Korean port for nearly a month after missing its ship back to India. 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

US, India to renew defence agreement

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 9th Aug 14

New Delhi and Washington will negotiate a new defence framework to replace the current agreement, negotiated in 2005, which will expire next year.

The ministry of defence (MoD) announced on Friday that visiting US Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, and India’s defence minister, Arun Jaitley, had “decided to take steps for the extension of the New Framework for the United States – India defence relationship, well before it expires in July 2015.”

In delegation talks today between the MoD and the Pentagon delegation, the two sides agreed to take forward the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), a high-level body established in 2012 to ensure that bureaucratic red tape was not allowed to stand in the way of the broader strategic relationship.

The DTTI was rendered directionless after the recent retirement of the heads from both sides --- US Deputy Secretary of Defence, Ashton Carter resigned in November, while India’s National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon stepped down in May when the new government was formed.

The MoD today announced the new leadership of the DTTI, stating that “The contact person from the Indian side will be the Secretary, Department of Defence Production and the United States will be represented by the Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Licensing at the Pentagon.”

The US had already named Frank Kendall, the Under Secretary of Defence (ATL) as their representative to the DTTI. New Delhi has still to name a new
secretary of the department of defence production, a post that is currently vacant.

Washington has sought to catalyse the US-India defence partnership through the DTTI, by offering proposals like co-producing the Javelin anti-tank missile in India, and co-developing a next-generation version of the Javelin. The MoD is evaluating the Javelin proposal.

The Indian side stressed its wish for US high technology in defence R&D and manufacture. The Indian defence minister stated, “The development of our own indigenous capabilities is a major objective that guides our present policies. In this direction, we have taken steps to raise the FDI (foreign direct investment) cap in the defence sector. We look forward to work closely with the US in this regard”.

On Thursday, the government had raised the permissible FDI cap in defence from 26 to 49 per cent.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Chuck Hagel arrives with US-India defence ties at crossroads

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 8th July 14

Visiting US Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, who will meet top officials in Delhi on Friday, has little reason to believe that the ministry of defence (MoD) has changed much from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) era. Then defence minister, AK Antony, made it clear that, despite growing warmth between the two militaries, the MoD would keep the US at arms length.

So far, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has not signalled conspicuous warmth. The MoD has turned down a raft of relationship-building proposals that the two armies had agreed to at a meeting of the Executive Steering Group (ESG), in Delhi, on March 18-20.

Of 19 exchanges proposed by the ESG, the MoD accepted just 4 last month. The proposals --- which include joint exercises, courses of instruction and exchanges of visits --- were agreed between India’s Director General of Military Operations, Lt Gen PR Kumar, and General Vincent Brooks, ground forces commander in the US Pacific Command (PACOM).

The Pentagon also believes the NDA government is neglecting the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), established in June 2012 to cut through any bureaucratic red tape that impeded the US-India defence relationship. After the November resignation of Ashton Carter, the former US deputy secretary of defence, who had co-chaired the DTTI, the Pentagon named Frank Kendall --- currently Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics --- as the new co-chair. New Delhi has not yet named a replacement for the former national security advisor, Shiv Shankar Menon, who was the Indian co-chair.

Pentagon sources admit concern over New Delhi’s unconcern, especially since the NDA government had been expected to focus more keenly than the UPA on defence. “We are not coming loaded with expectations. We can see that the new MoD hasn’t had the time yet to formulate its defence outlook, especially given that Mr Jaitley is handling two key ministries simultaneously”, says an official.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary told PTI last week, “The purpose of this trip is to nurture the relationship and not to ink any deal”.

Both sides are also looking to begin negotiations for a new defence agreement to replace the “New Framework Agreement, 2005” that will expire in June 2015. The current agreement was signed in Washington by then defence minister, Pranab Mukherjee, at the high-water mark of US-India relations, on June 28, 2005. It was followed on July 18, 2005, by an agreement between the two heads of government to go ahead with the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement.

While Washington is keen to renew the defence agreement, there is unhappiness at New Delhi’s “lack of enthusiasm” in collaborating on 13 areas specified in the 2005 agreement. These include collaboration in multinational operations in the common interest; expanding two-way defence trade; expanding collaboration in missile defence; conducting exchanges on defence strategy; increasing exchanges in intelligence; and conducting strategic-level discussions between the senior leadership of both defence ministries.

India’s defence ministry, in contrast to the Pentagon, is entirely satisfied with the progress of the relationship. “We are doing more and more exercises together, and we have procured major US weapons platforms, which is a sign of a mature relationship”, an MoD spokesperson told Business Standard.

Any new agreement would also build on the “US-India Joint Declaration on Defence Cooperation” that was signed on Sept 27, 2013. This notes “The United States and India share common security interests and place each other at the same level as their closest partners.”

Chuck Hagel will, besides his discussions in the MoD, also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He will separately meet Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the tri-service chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha.

Hagel’s delegation includes the DTTI co-chair, Frank Kendall; and Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs Puneet Talwar.