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South Asian Dialectic

PR Chari
Former member of the Indian Administrative Service and former Visiting Professor, IPCS
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security
Obama’s New Strategy towards the Islamic State: Implications for India
Modi’s Tryst with Abe
Thinking the Unthinkable: Promoting Nuclear Disarmament
The Enigmatic Case of Bowe Bergdahl
India-Pakistan Relations: Modi’s Options
India and No First Use: The Doctrinal Conundrum
India and Nuclear Terrorism: Meeting the Threat
Federalism: Centre as Coordinator and Adjudicator
Limits of Federalism
#4836, 18 February 2015
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
PR Chari
Visiting Professor, IPCS

Foreign Secretary Jaishankar is scheduled to visit Pakistan for resuming the interrupted Indo-Pak dialogue, which has got the talking heads in New Delhi into a tizzy. Why on earth did the Prime Minister reverse course after taking the firm position that Pakistan could not indulge in unacceptable conduct and hope to continue efforts to normalise relations with India? It would be recollected here that the Pakistani Foreign Secretary had gone ahead last year during his visit to India to meet separatist leaders from Kashmir in New Delhi, despite being specifically urged not to do so. That act of deliberate intransigence had caused Prime Minister Modi's ire, and his announcement that no further dialogue with Islamabad was possible due to its obduracy.

What has happened then to occasion this policy reversal? It has been alleged that US pressure on New Delhi was responsible. President Obama has made the inclusion of Pakistan within the structure of various dialogue processes into an article of faith, despite Pakistan's many transgressions. This is vividly demonstrated by Obama's Afghanistan policy, which privileges Pakistan above all others for being doled out financial largesse, despite its proven links with al Qaeda, Taliban and militant groups of all descriptions. It is therefore quite possible that President Obama strongly urged Modi to resume the dialogue with Pakistan and not complicate the American plans for withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan. Indeed, there are committed elements in India who also believe that dialogue with Pakistan should be an uninterrupted and uninterruptable process that is not subject to the vagaries of day-to-day occurrences.

Conspiracy theorists have also speculated that the BJP's humiliating defeat in the Delhi state elections, despite Modi's personal canvassing, alongside other stalwarts of the BJP and the RSS, made it imperative to divert public attention away from this electoral disaster. Hence, the dramatic decision to resume the shelved India-Pakistan dialogue although nothing has changed in the bilateral situation. This conclusion has some merit. But subsequent clarifications by the Government have sought to play down the significance of this overture to Pakistan by urging that the Foreign Secretary's visit to Islamabad is part of a larger diplomatic endeavour. Visits are also planned thereafter to the other SAARC capitals to infuse new life into this moribund organisation. The policy implications of this modality are of the essence and need to be emphasised, especially in the light of Prime Minister Modi's radical declarations during the last SAARC Summit meeting  in Kathmandu held in November 2014.

After identifying terrorism as the major security threat confronting the regional grouping, Modi predicted that regional integration could occur “through SAARC or outside it” if the group failed to reach consensus on the many fundamental issues that were bedevilling this regional organisation. Modi also asserted, significantly, that India would work “through SAARC or outside it, among some or all of its members,” which presages a new approach to dealing with India's South Asian neighbours. Plainly, this was Modi's instinctive reaction to Pakistan's obstructive conduct during the Summit meeting, where it did not allow several proposals for achieving regional cooperation to be passed. Under its Charter, unfortunately, the founders of SAARC had opted for all its decisions being taken by consensus, and not on the basis of majority votes, which has enabled intransigent members to halt decision-making for frivolous and implausible reasons.

Modi's message to Islamabad was plain. If the situation so warranted India could work within the SAARC modality or with individual SAARC countries or with smaller groupings of its members. A new relevance was thereby accorded to bilateral relations and sub-regional groupings within the ambit of SAARC. Reportedly, a BJP spokesperson had declared earlier that “South Asia will grow without Pakistan if they don’t want to be on board. They anyway see themselves as a part of the Islamic West Asian world; good luck to them.” The Foreign Secretary could pursue these propositions during his forthcoming visit to Pakistan, in addition to the set-piece agenda for Indo-Pak meetings that must perforce include border incidents, terrorist activities, hostile propaganda, apart from more constructive items like strengthening trade relations and facilitating people-to-people relations.

In his subsequent visits to the other SAARC countries the Foreign Secretary could also explore the possibility of invigorating the possible sub-regional groupings within SAARC  where some natural affinities are available, and trade, communications and similar cooperative linkages are already existing. A sub-regional grouping that would include Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN), or India, Maldives and Sri Lanka (SIM) is presently conceivable. And, a sub-regional grouping comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (API) can be visualised in the fullness of time if the politics of these countries transcends their present dissensions. 

Viewed in the SAARC perspective the resumption of the Indo-Pak dialogue offers Pakistan both a challenge and an opportunity to redeem its present image of being the global centre for jihad and religious terrorism. It would be in the self-interests of both China and the US to support these initiatives that derive from the SAARC modality.

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#4749, 20 November 2014
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
PR Chari
Visiting Professor, IPCS

Being a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) mukhya pracharak (chief preacher) endeared Manohar Parikkar to Modi and earned him the Defence portfolio. Parikkar is a modern man. He graduated in Metallurgical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, and has proven his administrative capabilities as a two-term Chief Minister of Goa. Parikkar’s shift to New Delhi resembles that of YB Chavan, the highly regarded Chief Minister of Maharashtra, who was brought to New Delhi by Jawaharlal Nehru following India’s traumatic defeat in the Sino-Indian border conflict in 1962.

Parikkar would need to display the same acumen as YB Chavan did when he joined the Union Cabinet. India’s defeat in the border conflict had left the prestige of the defence apparatus in tatters. What was the situation obtaining? I have noticed elsewhere that “A blame game started with the political, civilian and military establishments accusing each other of incompetence, naïveté and worse. Civil-military relations had, in fact, crumbled…” Chavan sought initially to assuage the bruised egos in South Block, adjudicate between mutual accusations, and restore a semblance of normality in the higher echelons of the defence apparatus. The very first change effected was to start the institution of Morning Meetings that provided an informal setting for interactions between the Ministers in the MoD, Chiefs of the three Services, Secretaries in the Ministry of Defence, and the Financial Adviser. The unstated purpose of these meetings was to develop a rapport between the estranged segments of the higher defence apparatus and persuade them to work together harmoniously.

Civil-military relations have again reached a new low in New Delhi following the date of birth controversy raised by the former Chief of Army Staff, General VK Singh. His approaching the Supreme Court and later, prosecution for criminal defamation, are unprecedented. Charges and counter-charges of malfeasance made against the highest officials in the military hierarchy have also been unprecedented, taking a huge toll on the armed forces’ morale. The Modi Government, in its wisdom, gave a ticket to General VK Singh, got him elected, and inducted him into the Council of Ministers. How will these actions heal the wounds inflicted on Army morale and civil-military relations? This problem needs to be faced head on by the new Defence Minister.

Parikkar would have been well advised to make soundings and develop cogent views on the defence apparatus before indulging in policy declarations. But, he has opined that user trials and commercial negotiations must be completed quickly to expedite procurement decisions. Thereby, equipment would be delivered quickly, greater transparency would be ensured, and costs reduced, since suppliers do inflate costs to allow for delays. Coming to maintenance of advanced weapon systems, Parikkar felt that “the best solution is to ask the company to manufacture in India,” which raises several awkward negative issues like the general state of the economy, technical education standards and skill sets available in the country.

However, there are three other supervening and conceptual issues that he should address in the interests of higher defence management.

• First, a realistic effort is needed to recognise the variegated threats to national security that require countering by the Services. In future, internal security challenges would multiply beyond the capacity of the paramilitary forces to handle them. This is already occurring with Left Wing Extremism in Central India. The Army and Air Force have steadily expanded their roles here, despite their reservations. A clear policy in this matter will enable appropriate decisions being taken on future armed forces’ training, equipment and force structures.

• Second, personnel management requires urgent attention for two major reasons. Parikkar should get details of the litigation that has rocked the Ministry of Defence and Services Headquarters over the years, analyse their content, and take pre-emptive steps to mitigate the underlying grievances. Apart from the time and energy involved in dealing with a huge volume of litigation, their numbers is a sad reflection of the dissatisfaction in the armed forces. Another aspect of personnel management relates to retention of officers, especially at the cutting edge level of Captains/Majors in the Army and the two other Services, which has become a serious issue.

• Third, the ubiquitous subject of economy in defence expenditure cannot be ignored. Governments are notoriously remiss in controlling their own expenses and Defence establishments lead this insouciance. A serious exercise to address waste could provide some surprises. For instance, it would be found that different units using the same equipment, eg. MiG-21 aircraft, have different manning patterns. More serious thought is also required on whether units like radar stations or electrical and mechanical workshops could be managed by civilian personnel. Currently, they are manned by uniformed personnel who cost some three times as their civilian counterparts, without any commensurate improvement in efficiency or reliability.

These issues and examples could be multiplied, highlighting the value of bringing a fresh mind to bear on old issues.

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#4699, 20 October 2014
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security
PR Chari
Visiting Professor, IPCS

Months of deadlock followed a hard fought election in Afghanistan after which both principal contenders - Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah - claimed victory, and a uniquely Afghan solution was found. Ghani will be President with Abdullah being the de facto Prime Minister. This solution is designed to reconcile the conflicting interests of several warring ethnicities and tribes in an essentially pre-Westphalian state. Ashraf Ghani, a former Finance Minister and World Bank official, is a Pashtun. Abdullah Abdullah is of mixed Pashtun-Tajik extraction, and is closer to the Tajiks. But the Pashtun-Central Asian divide subsumes deeper tribal loyalties in Afghanistan that have excoriated this country over the past decades.

Ghani and Abdullah have pledged to work together to address the multitude of problems plaguing Afghanistan which, notably, includes fighting the resurgent Taliban and al Qaeda factions operating in    the country that find support and refuge in Pakistan. The duo also faces an immediate financial crisis with the October salaries of government servants remaining to be paid. Already heavily indebted to foreign donors, especially the US, Kabul has needed to plead again with the Obama administration to provide further accommodation. 

Both Ghani and Abdullah were agreed, however, that Afghanistan should sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) sought by the Obama Administration to enable continuance of the American military presence in Afghanistan. This has been promptly done. Their predecessor, President Karzai, had delayed signing the BSA for personal reasons. With the BSA signed the US plans to thin out its troops in Afghanistan from some  24,000 at present to around 9,800 by the end of 2014, with all US troops moving out by 2017. Kabul, Islamabad and New Delhi are distressed with this American decision for different reasons. Their angst arises from the course of recent events that are still unfolding in Iraq following the ill-advised American entry into Iraq, and, now, its hasty withdrawal from that country. A similar tragedy is likely to unfold in Afghanistan should US troops effect a precipitate withdrawal.

This contention derives from the inadequacy of the US forces being left behind to defend the Afghan state. They would be located in Kabul and the Bagram Airbase to function as trainers and advisers to the Afghan Army by conducting air and drone attacks against the insurgents. It is apparent, however, that although these airstrikes might deplete the insurgent ranks and leadership, they cannot gain or hold territory. After US troops withdraw, moreover, these Afghan forces will be on their own in the battlefield. The Afghan Army currently suffers from the lack of relevant weapon systems, especially armour and attack helicopters. Consequently, it has suffered heavy casualties in its counter-militancy and counter-terrorism operations, estimated between 7,000 and 9,000 soldiers killed or wounded this year alone. The likelihood of mass scale desertions is a distinct possibility, especially if the Afghan Army splits along ethnic lines. It should be added that the Afghan Army is a young force without any compelling history or military traditions. Hence, the possibility of a geo-political partition of Afghanistan along Pashtun-non-Pashtun lines, predicted by Selig Harrison, could become an ugly reality.

The security imperative apart, are the US and its Western allies likely to continue funding Afghanistan after 2014? And, despite their strategic priorities shifting to address the Islamic resurgence in the Middle East, the imbroglio in Ukraine, and the US pivot towards the Asia-Pacific region? But, if Kabul’s economic lifeline is cut, the collapse of the Afghan state is certain. Could a consortium of Asian powers like Iran, India, China and, perhaps, Russia, bail out Kabul and the Afghan economy? If this, too, does not appear feasible, the climate would be propitious for the Taliban-e-Pakistan and al Qaeda to contest the domination of Afghanistan with the local Taliban and other militant groups. They have already accelerated their disruptive strikes against American, ISAF and Afghan forces to highlight their own strength, and the lack of political will and military capacity in their adversaries. Moreover, the proximity of the Pak Taliban and al Qaeda leadership to the Islamic forces in the Middle East - the Pak Taliban has recently announced its allegiance to them - has serious implications for the rest of South Asia.

Clearly, a civil war and instability in Afghanistan and the prospects of Islamic extremism radiating out into Pakistan, Iran, and the Central Asian Republics, besides India, Saudi Arabia, and China, has grave implications for Asian security. The question of the moment is what India could do to ensure its national interests. Continuance of its economic and developmental assistance to Afghanistan, which is an investment in the country’s stability, should be enhanced. India could also enhance its training of the Afghan armed forces for which it has the capacity. How to address the security threat from the Pak Taliban and al Qaeda to Afghanistan remains the critical question. Ruling out boots-on-the-ground the other option available is close consultations to derive a common approach with other countries affected.

Is it unthinkable that India should coordinate its efforts with Pakistan by reviving its interrupted dialogue with Islamabad?

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#4659, 15 September 2014
Obama’s New Strategy towards the Islamic State: Implications for India
PR Chari

In his widely anticipated 15th anniversary address on the  9/11 attacks, President Obama has clarified his  objectives in the Middle East: “We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, [the Islamic State] through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.” 
Its contours are taking shape, but the new strategy would involve airstrikes against militants and training the moderate opposition fighters in Syria. The US will wage war against the Islamic extremists and the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Wary of domestic opposition to getting mired in another overseas conflict after Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama emphasized that he would seek Congressional approval and international support from America’s Middle East and NATO allies. 
Could American air power and the ground forces of its partners destroy the Islamic State? There is enough realism around to appreciate that al Qaeda, ISIS and similar extremist organizations propagate beguiling ideals of equality, freedom, religious purity and so on to confront the Western alliance, headed by the United States. It is difficult to defeat an ideal, but its baneful effects can certainly be contained. This understanding, is currently informing Obama’s rejuvenated counter-insurgency strategy premised on assured domestic support and the cooperation of allies, but restricting military action to airstrikes and leaving ground action to allies.  
Only a modest augmentation of US troops in Iraq is envisaged, raising their total number to around 1500 for performing advisory functions by manning tactical operations centers, protecting American personnel and helping local security forces. An important, though unstated, component of this revised strategy is human intelligence to pinpoint the location of individual militant leaders for elimination by air and ground action. Jordan is critical here.
The new Obama strategy envisages training the Free Syrian Army. Saudi Arabia has apparently agreed to provide facilities in its territory for their training and turning them turned around to combat the Islamic extremists and the Assad regime. The dangers of this radical policy are two-fold. First, the US and its allies, including Saudi Arabia, would be getting embroiled in an enlarging Shia- Sunni sectarian conflict, with the lines of division getting increasingly blurred. Thus Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States are becoming uneasy partners to confront the ISIS and al Qaeda. But, Iran, alongside remnants of the Iraqi and Assad regime still feel obligated to support Hamas against Israel. How Obama’s revised Middle East strategy will sidestep these land mines of Middle East politics remains to be seen.
So, what do these developments signify for India? 
First, Obama’s 9/11 strategy is designed to ensure the continued American presence in the Middle East; its vestigial continuance would, hopefully, protect US national interests. It can similarly be adduced that the US will not leave Afghanistan altogether after 2014, but elements will remain in Bagram and other secure bases to enable air- and drone-strikes against identified militant forces. Air-strikes do not win wars, but they can seriously degrade the morale of rebel forces and weaken them by decapitating their leadership. It would be in India’s interests to support the US presence in Afghanistan, especially with the al Qaeda threatening to turn its attention against India. A dialogue with the US to firm up greater cooperation in this regard is called for. 
Second, it has been wryly observed that one assured supply source for ready weapons in ISIS’s brutal efforts to overrun Iraq and Syria is the US taxpayer. Significant numbers of semi-automatic rifles have been captured by ISIS from military stockpiles in Iraq and Syria, apart from heavier weapons like anti-tank HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) and shoulder-fired anti-tank rockets that can destroy armored vehicles. Much the same situation might arise in Afghanistan after the departure of US and ISAF forces. According to reports significant numbers of vehicles, small arms and ammunition will be left behind as they are prohibitively costly to ship back to the United States. Much of this materiel might find its way into India via terrorist groups operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, but with interests in Kashmir. How this menace should be thwarted requires urgent consultations with the United States.
Third, the growth of sectarianism in the Middle East crisis should concern India. Extremists in the Middle East have targeted Christians and other ethnic minorities, but also rival schisms within Islam.  The Shia-Sunni divide has become corrosive, which is also excoriating South Asia, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also India. This rapid growth in sectarianism has to be guarded against, especially with the coming into power in New Delhi of a political party with militant Hindu roots. Concerns here are not ill-founded.
Obama’s newly minted Middle East policy will therefore have  much wider repercussions, including the US pivot towards Asia that concerns India; further developments here will require India’s vigilant attention.

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#4606, 18 August 2014
Modi’s Tryst with Abe
PR Chari
Visiting Professor, IPCS

Modi’s first foray outside South Asia was to Brazil to attend the sixth BRICS Summit on 15-16 July. This gave him the opportunity to meet President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin. Incidentally, he was to visit Japan in early July. But he postponed his visit ostensibly due to his compulsions with remaining in Parliament for the budget presentation, which created some unhappiness in Tokyo. Its sensitivities were ruffled by the unfortunate impression created that Modi wished to converse with Xi Jinping before meeting Abe, who had been the chief guest at India's Republic Day Parade this year.

India chooses its guest country after much deliberation each year taking into consideration its strategic, economic and political interests. Now, Modi is expected to visit Japan in August before proceeding to New York for the UN General Assembly session starting in the third week of September. He is scheduled to visit Washington thereafter to meet President Obama. What should one make of these complex manoeuvres to evaluate the present state of India-Japan relations? 

On the economic front, Japan is India’s third largest foreign direct investment (FDI) investor. Japan’s Bank for International Co-operation rates India as a valuable FDI destination over the longer term. Currently, Japan is assisting the progression of the Delhi Metro Rail Project. Discussions are afoot on a Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, and dedicated Mumbai-Delhi and Delhi-Howrah Industrial Corridors. A similar dedicated freight corridor project is contemplated between Bangalore and Chennai. Trade between the two countries has risen from a modest US$ 4.1 billion (two-way) in 2001 to US$ 18.51 in 2012-13, which is largely in Japan’s favour at present.

On the military front, Japan and India have joined in the Malabar series of naval exercises. Their maritime forces are maintaining cordial and cooperative relations in pursuit of their compulsion to protect their commerce through the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They have a common interest also in battling terrorism, maritime piracy, and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The totality of their strategic partnership needs fuller appreciation. 

Shinzo Abe is conscious of its significance and has strongly advocated closer security cooperation with India to counter rising tensions in East and Southeast Asia, aggravated by China's territorial expansionist policies in these regions. Japan is acutely conscious of this reality of a non-peacefully rising China, which is also of concern to India. Indubitably, moreover, the central focus of the American ‘pivot’ or ‘rebalance’ towards Asia is China, which requires Japan and India to shape their foreign and security policies around this basic reality. Neither country needs to frontally challenge China, but it is apparent in which direction they will turn if China threatens their supreme national interests. Indeed, China has enhanced the relevance of the US ‘pivot’ or  ‘rebalance’ towards Asia by encouraging the regional countries to coordinate their security efforts and seek the countervailing power of the US.

These circumstances are unlikely to change because China is afflicted by its Middle Kingdom syndrome, and can only conceptualise a hierarchical international system, not one based on the premises of coordination, trust and mutual respect. The problem with the rising China model is that it also embeds an incipient confrontation with the US and, by logical extension, confrontation with a rising India. India is strengthening its land and maritime defenses. But, India also needs to deepen its relations with Japan that faces a similar predicament. Japan has buttressed its long-standing alliance with the US by entering a security agreement with India in 2008. For its part, the US finds Chinese behaviour in the East and South China Seas deeply problematical, since it must protect US allies while eschewing any overt containment of China.

But, are there any persisting tensions between Japan and India? Indeed, yes, and they pertain to the nuclear arena. Japan had strongly disapproved of India’s Pokharan-II nuclear tests in 1998, and imposed sanctions on India. These were lifted three years later. Japan has always wished that India joined the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to embody its pledge that it would not conduct any more nuclear tests. But India has diligently refused. Currently, India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Act (2010) is excoriating their relations and discouraging Japan from entering India’s atomic energy market. Why? India does not permit foreign countries to enter the atomic energy area for strategic reasons, but allows them to become suppliers of nuclear equipment.

The problem lies in Section 17(b) of the impugned Act, which permits the Indian Atomic Energy Commission to exercise a ‘right to recourse’ and claim compensation from the supplier for any fault of its employees, apart from supplying defective equipment or spare parts, and for any problems arising from their usage. Japan is leery of entering a contract with such uncertain liabilities, which is greatly inhibiting its nuclear commerce with India. 

Can Modi resolve this complex issue before reaching Tokyo? He also needs to bring greater clarity into India’s ‘Look East’ policy to serve its larger national interests. These are prerequisites for improving Indo-Japanese relations.

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#4570, 21 July 2014
Thinking the Unthinkable: Promoting Nuclear Disarmament
PR Chari
Visiting Professor, IPCS

In a barely noticed event, forty bishops, scholars and activists had gathered in the Catholic University of Notre Dame in end-April to explore how the world could eliminate nuclear weapons.  University President Rev Jenkins cited Pope John XIII’s message after the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) that “nuclear weapons are morally tolerable only for the purpose of nuclear deterrence, and even then, only as a step on the way toward progressive disarmament.”

Apropos, non-proliferation advocates had met in New York in May 2014 for a two-week Preparatory Committee meeting to pave the way for the NPT Review Conference in 2015. The bland statement issued by them after their confabulations urged the nuclear weapon states (NWS) to hasten their efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament in an "irreversible, transparent and verifiable manner," as envisaged in Article VI of the NPT.  However, the preparatory meeting also expressed its disappointment that a conference to discuss the establishment of a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East, visualised at the last NPT Review Conference in 2010, has not yet been held. It is no secret that this proposal is directed against Israel’s undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal, which has motivated its regional neighbours to stockpile chemical and biological weapons to deter Israel. More distressingly, the Preparatory Committee meeting could not even negotiate a final document for being placed before the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

In other negative developments, India, though not a NPT signatory, has revealed that it had tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile from an underwater platform. They are planned to equip its nuclear submarine INS Arihant. North Korea has declared that it means to carry out a fourth nuclear test. Analysts believe this would accelerate Pyongyang’s development of a miniaturised warhead to be delivered by a ballistic missile. South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye warned that another nuclear test by Pyongyang would trigger a “nuclear domino” effect, since both South Korea and Japan would be under great domestic pressure from their alarmed people to develop and deploy nuclear weapons to deter North Korea. Neither country is believed to be very far from becoming a nuclear weapon power if they so choose in view of their advanced atomic energy programmes. Efforts to rein in Iran’s nuclear progress by bringing its uranium enrichment programme under safeguards have received a setback with the rise of Islamic (Sunni) forces in Syria and Iraq. Iran is needed to balance these disruptive forces. Its ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons might, therefore, get placed on the backburner. Should Iran go nuclear a “nuclear domino” effect could ensue in the Gulf and Middle East regions with many regional countries seeking nuclear weapons to deter Iran. Further, the technological abilities of several developing countries have been growing rapidly. Non-proliferation efforts cannot succeed much longer by gating the spread of technology, but require the difficult political issues driving nuclear proliferation to be addressed.

In its latest Annual Report on Armament and Disarmament the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has assessed the total number of nuclear weapons worldwide to be around 16,300, with 93 per cent being held by the US and Russia.  The remaining are held by the seven other NWS viz.  UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. SIPRI has noted that India and Pakistan continue to increase their nuclear stockpiles, and that there is no” genuine willingness to work toward complete dismantlement of their nuclear arsenals. The long term modernization programs under way in these states suggest that nuclear weapons will remain deeply embedded elements of their strategic calculus.” The modernisation of the nuclear arsenals held by the US and Russia like in the sphere of missile defense has gained much attention, but the steady efforts being made by other NWS to improve their arsenals proceed under the radar screen. Naturally, the non-nuclear adherents to the NPT view these developments askance, and their resentments could surface in the 2015 Review Conference with threats to withdraw from the NPT. 

The question now arises whether nuclear non-proliferation is a lost cause and whether nuclear disarmament remains a desirable but elusive goal? The simple answer to this despairing question is “No.” Why? Nuclear weapons are different in that they can effect global destruction in very short time frames; the consequent radiation effects would last for centuries  And, this massive devastation could occur, not by deliberate use, but by accident. The nuclear age is replete with examples of near-misses that could have led to the use of nuclear weapons by misapprehension or inadvertence. Nuclear theology urges that these weapons are irreplaceable to provide deterrence against adversaries. But reliance on nuclear weapons is hazardous and is becoming less effective with the passing years.

Again, why? There is little controversy that, at present, the main security threat to nations arises from terrorism and non-military threats like climate change or migration. Nuclear weapons have no utility to meet them. 

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#4511, 16 June 2014
The Enigmatic Case of Bowe Bergdahl
PR Chari
Visiting Professor, IPCS

Sgt Bowe Bergdahl was serving with the US Army in Afghanistan’s Paktika province when he was captured on 30 June 2009 by the Taliban’s Haqqani faction. After protracted negotiations, Bergdahl was released on 31 May 2014 in a deal brokered with the Taliban by the governments of the US, Afghanistan and Qatar. In terms of this deal, five Taliban detainees, currently incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), were transferred to Qatari custody for one year, after which they would be free to go wherever they wished. Bergdahl was treated after his release at a Regional Medical Centre in Germany, and has now been transferred to a medical facility in Texas for further physical and psychological treatment. Incidentally, the five Taliban detainees exchanged to secure Bergdahl’s liberty include the former Taliban army chief of staff, a Taliban deputy minister of intelligence, a former Taliban interior minister, and two other senior Taliban figures. Eyebrows have been raised in the US political and military establishments, especially among Republicans and conservative Democrats, apart from the veterans’ community, over whether too high a price has been paid to secure Bergdahl’s release. These hardened terrorists, their argument goes, are bound to return to active duty, and complicate the on-going war on terror by the US.

President Obama, who took the decision to proceed with this exchange, has justified it on humanitarian grounds, citing the American tradition of not leaving anyone behind on the battlefield. A further wrinkle was added because the prior approval of Congress had not been sought before the release of the Guantanamo Bay detainees, which is a procedural and statutory necessity under American law. But the Obama administration has justified its bypassing of Congress by claiming that the window of opportunity to obtain Bergdahl’s release was limited and dilatory procedures could have endangered his life. There is also the legal argument that the Presidential system of governance in the US gives absolute discretion to the Chief Executive to take appropriate decisions in matters involving the supreme national interests. Detractors, however, have found these justificatory arguments unconvincing, if not glib.

Some versions of Berghdahl’s capture have also become controversial. He had confessed to being captured when he fell behind on a patrol. The Taliban alleged that Bergdahl was ambushed after he got drunk off base. Other sources said that Berghdahl walked off the base after his shift. The US Defense Department had attributed his disappearance to his walking off his base with three Afghans when he was taken prisoner. Critics allege that Bergdahl was a deserter, and swapping him for notorious Taliban leaders was most unwise, especially since general American policy eschews bargaining with militants for freeing hostages.

Why then did President Obama - an intensely political leader - undertake this manoeuvre? Obviously, he wanted to bolster his sagging political image, which has been severely dented in the recent past. Clearly, the American economy is showing no signs of recovery, unemployment has reached historical heights, and the Obamacare health programme is going nowhere. Furthermore, foreign policy disasters centering on Ukraine, Syria and, now, Iraq are staring Obama in the face. He might have calculated that securing the release of Bowe Bergdahl would deflect attention from these depressing realities. Unfortunately, this affair became hugely controversial and divisive. Apropos, the latest Obama public approval ratings have dropped to an all-time low of 44 per cent.

What are the lessons to be learnt from this episode that have universal applicability? No doubt, domestic political realities like the strength of the government, importance of the hostage, or even their numbers are relevant considerations for deciding on how to deal with hostage crises. But, the most obvious lesson to be learnt is that nations should have a hostage policy. Should they negotiate with abductors and hijackers to secure the release of citizens? Or, pursue a firm policy of not dealing with abductors and hijackers? The worst policy would, of course, be to have a hostage policy and make exceptions when crises arise, which is the choice preferred by President Obama. 

India’s experience is instructive here. The abduction of the Sukma Collector in Chattisgarh in 2012 by Naxalites led to a high-level official team of interlocutors being set up; it negotiated his release after 12 days in captivity. No Naxalites, it seems, were released in return. But a high-level review of all pending cases was promised and the release of all arrested Naxal suspects against whom no specific charges had been levelled. The Chief Minister had made an impassioned plea at that time requesting a national hostage policy being devised for the guidance of the states. That policy has not yet been drafted, and the states remain adrift on how to handle such hostage cases if they occur in future.

Perhaps the Modi government, which has emphasised governance, should devise a hostage policy before the next crisis occurs. Even deciding on not having a policy and proceeding in an ad hoc fashion requires a policy decision. 

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#4444, 19 May 2014
India-Pakistan Relations: Modi’s Options
PR Chari
Visiting Professor, IPCS

How will Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi deal with Pakistan? He made a passing reference to China when he visited Arunachal Pradesh during the election campaign. An uncomplimentary mention of Bangladesh was also made as the major originating source of illegal immigrants, who will be speedily sent back home if the BJP came to power. But no reference to Pakistan was made, which is intriguing, given Modi’s RSS roots and earlier rhetoric lambasting “Miya Musharraf.” The BJP’s election manifesto, too, offers no clues. It commends a foreign policy based on pursuing friendly relations [with nations] “in our neighborhood… [and that] India shall remain a natural home for persecuted Hindus and they shall be welcome to seek refuge here.” Surprisingly, there is no evidence to discern Modi’s likely Pakistan policy. 

It would be the understatement of the year to notice that Modi’s coming to power in New Delhi has caused great anxiety in Pakistan’s ruling elite. Modi has repeatedly stressed that the need for development and reviving the economy are his main priorities. Foreign policy, one suspects, will be tailored to promoting these objectives. But, he is also seen as a primordial nationalist, and naturally hawkish towards Pakistan and China. Modi has sidelined practically all the senior leaders in the BJP, but praised Atal Behari Vajpayee for adopting a foreign policy that sought “peace and strength.” Still, this additional information is not very helpful in discovering Modi’s Pakistan policy.

It would therefore be useful to lay out India’s abiding apprehensions regarding Pakistan. The US State Department has noted in its Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 (April 2014) that: “Continued allegations of violations of the Line of Control between India and Pakistan, Pakistan’s failure to bring the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks to justice, and activities of Pakistan-based terrorist groups remained serious concerns for the Indian government.” We can reasonably conclude that India’s major security concern with Pakistan arises from its support to cross-border militancy and terrorism.

The other threat from Pakistan arises from its testing the 60-km nuclear-capable short-range Hatf IX (NASR) missile, identified as a tactical nuclear weapon for battlefield use. Pakistan claims it would provide “full spectrum deterrence” by lowering the nuclear threshold.  What it signals is that if New Delhi should launch a conventional attack against Pakistan, say in response to a major terrorist strike, Islamabad could threaten a response with tactical nuclear weapons. India, thereafter, would need to mull over whether to proceed up the ladder of nuclear conflict, or restrict its response to the verbal level. How Modi will deal with this nuclear blackmail will be his earliest challenge.

Relations with Pakistan will have to cater for the inclinations of the RSS, which had massively deployed its manpower for Modi’s election campaign. Will they quietly withdraw into the background? Their minimum expectations would include “non-appeasement’’ of minorities inside India, and not making "concessions" to Islamic countries abroad. So, what are Modi’s options? Three are discernible:

• First, take seriously Pakistan’s professions that it wants to transform India-Pakistan relations from conflict to cooperation, invigorate the composite dialogue, and improve trade and people-to-people relations. More nuclear CBMs like Risk Reduction Centres could come on the table, apart from hardy perennials like the Siachen and Sir Creek disputes. But, these negotiations could only succeed if Pakistan is pressed by Washington and Beijing. They need to be convinced that Pakistan harbours the world’s major security problems - terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, nuclear proliferation and state failure. 

• Second, proceed on the assumption that dealing with Pakistan is futile until it sets its own house in order. Demonstrably, Nawaz Sharif has no control over the Pakistani Army, or elements of Pakistan’s foreign policy, like relations with India, Kashmir or nuclear weapons. The Pakistani Army and the mullahs are the chief patrons of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which they believe to be a strategic asset for use against India. They also, alongside Pakistan's terrorist groups, disfavour trade with India since it disrupts their basic agenda. Modi could undertake a cost-benefit analysis to see what are the opportunity casts in sidelining Pakistan while promoting  other aspects of  South Asian integration. 

• Third, proceed on the basis of strict reciprocity, and deal with Pakistan exactly as it deals with India. Be friendly when Pakistan is friendly, and nasty when it acts nasty. And, if Pakistan says one thing and does the opposite, do exactly the same. India has accommodated Pakistan far too long, for example in the Simla Agreement (1972), by initiating the Lahore Agreement (1992), and entering the Sharm-el Sheikh arrangement (2009) with its snide reference, “Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas.” In all these cases Pakistan pursued its own self-interests taking advantage of India’s good faith. How Modi will react to cross-border provocations needs an early and clear policy enunciation. 

Speculation is rife about who will be included in Modi’s Cabinet, and be his key bureaucrats, especially the next National Security Adviser. But, the buck stops with Modi. Which option will he choose in dealing with Pakistan?

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#4392, 21 April 2014
India and No First Use: The Doctrinal Conundrum
PR Chari
Visiting Professor, IPCS

One can only be bemused by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s exhortation while inaugurating a recent conference on nuclear disarmament that the need was to establish a global no-first-use convention relating to nuclear weapons. His relevant remarks are:
 “More and more voices are speaking out today that the sole function of nuclear weapons, while they exist, should be to deter a nuclear attack. If all states possessing nuclear weapons recognise that this is so and are prepared to declare it, we can quickly move to the establishment of a global no-first-use norm. In many ways, this can open the way to gradual reductions and, finally, elimination through a Nuclear Weapons Convention. Such a Convention would require necessary verification measures. It would also require political measures to ensure that stability is maintained as the level of nuclear arsenals approaches zero.”

Why Manmohan Singh chose to make this radical declaration in the twilight days of the UPA government after its insouciance over the last ten years can only be speculated upon, especially when all bets are off about its returning to power after the forthcoming elections. It is also unfortunate that, shortly thereafter, two kiss-and-tell-all biographies published by former aides of Manmohan Singh have further dented his soiled image. Moreover, the historical record informs that India’s ‘no-first-use’ policy owes, not to the Congress and UPA, but to the BJP party and NDA government that took the decision to conduct the nuclear tests in May 1998. Shortly thereafter, the incumbent Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, declared that India would pursue a no-first-use policy in regard to employing nuclear weapons, which was later reaffirmed in a statement before Parliament in December 1998. This pledge was reiterated in the draft nuclear doctrine issued for public discussion in August 1999, and later incorporated into the decisions of the Cabinet  Committee on Security (CCS) promulgated in January 2003.

This potted history of how India’s ‘no-first-use’ policy evolved clarifies that it was a BJP innovation; it was adopted by the Congress Party, which is now seeking its global remit. However, India's pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons was severely qualified. It is thus unclear whether Manmohan Singh was promoting the Indian version or a ‘no-first-use’ pledge in its pristine purity. This conundrum needs an explanation.
• First, the CCS decision of January 2003 made clear that India would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states, which left open the question how India would respond if a nuclear weapon state positioned its nuclear weapons in a non-nuclear weapon state for and utilisation against India. Very conceivably, Afghanistan could host nuclear weapons belonging to China or Pakistan that could target India.
• Second, the CCS decision also mentions that “in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons.” A host of problems arise here. How does one define ‘major’? Would a cross-border raid or air attack qualify? Would a Mumbai-type attack be considered ‘major’?  Or, would ‘major’ only include a full-scale conventional attack employing all arms and services of the national armed forces?  Does that rule out sub-conventional warfare and attacks by non-state actors which constitutes the present and imminent danger?
• Third, this problem gets more complex when applied to chemical and biological weapons, since the tricky question of forensics enters the equation. How can a nation ascertain with certainty the identity of the attacker, which could be either a non-state or state actor? Or, a non-state actor promoted by a state actor. Current happenings in Syria underline this dilemma of identifying the attacker.  

To contextualise these issues is germane: How do China and Pakistan treat the ‘no-first-use’ issue? China declared its ‘no-first-use’ pledge immediately after conducting its first nuclear test in October 1964. But, it later excluded its own territories from the ambit of this declaration. The catch here is that China believes Taiwan and Arunachal Pradesh are parts of its territory, the implication being that, if the conflict extended into these ‘disputed’ territories, China was entitled to use nuclear weapons. Pakistan, of course, has never countenanced the ‘no-first-use’ doctrine urging that the weaker conventionally armed power has to rely on nuclear weapons to assure its security. Incidentally, the NATO powers had steadfastly abjured a ‘no-first-use’ declaration during the Cold War years, despite the Soviet Union making this pledge, on the premise that the Warsaw Pact powers possessed superior conventional forces that could overrun Europe. No doubt, this example also informs Pakistan’s decision to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in a battlefield mode to counter India’s Cold Start strategy.

Many loose ends must be tied up before proceeding with Manmohan Singh’s fervent plea to establish a global no-first-use convention. More thought would need to be bestowed by New Delhi’s next rulers to decide whether and how to review this ‘no-first-use’ pledge in the broader context of India’s nuclear doctrine that has remained unvisited since 2003.

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#4339, 17 March 2014
India and Nuclear Terrorism: Meeting the Threat
PR Chari
Visiting Professor, IPCS

Nuclear Terrorism: Is the threat exaggerated?
To play the devil’s advocate, it is not easy for unauthorised persons to acquire nuclear weapons or nuclear materials. Being crown jewels, they would be closely guarded by trusted cohorts. Even if they are subverted, the terrorists would have to overcome many other  problems. Nuclear warheads are maintained in an unarmed state, and armed using electronic codes to ensure against accidental detonation. These codes are kept secret by the ‘release authority’, obviously the Chief Executive in the nation. Further, in the case of India and Pakistan, nuclear cores are kept separate from the warheads and delivery vehicles, hence several  steps have to be taken by different bodies to arm these weapons. Could all these hurdles be surmounted by a terrorist group? 
Second, the problems faced to acquire nuclear materials is no less acute. Arrangements for their protection would be equally stringent. Should a terrorist group somehow gain access to weapons-usable nuclear materials, fashioning it into a deliverable nuclear weapon is not a trivial task. 
Third, scenario builders have also visualised terrorist organisations gaining control over the nation, and accessing its military nuclear program and nuclear weapons. But the probability of all these events occurring must be rated low.
Nuclear Terrorism: Low Probability, but High Consequence
Despite the above, it is known that senior Pakistani scientists were in touch with Osama bin Laden. The CIA has highlighted al Qaeda’s general interest in weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. Al Qaeda’s branches and franchisees span the world. Moreover, several instances are known  of missing nuclear materials being recovered. More alarmingly, nuclear materials have been found to be missing after they were recovered. Nuclear terrorism remains a discrete possibility, hence it should be designated a low probability high consequence event. 
An imperative need consequently for the upcoming Netherlands Nuclear  Security Summit to work towards establishing tighter international controls over nuclear materials; seeking  greater transparency on national  measures to enhance nuclear security; gaining  more adherents for international agreements pertaining to the physical protection of nuclear materials; reducing the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium in national nuclear programmes; registering  the sources of radioactive materials that have extensive medical, educational and research applications; and strengthening the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
India and Nuclear Security
India’s contribution to these objectives has been considerable. It has joined the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials, with its 2005 Amendment, and the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. Further, India’s  execution of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (April 2004) has been exemplary; it  casts a legally binding obligation on  UN Member States to enforce effective measures against the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons (WMDs), and their delivery systems. It is especially intended to prevent terrorists and criminal organisations from obtaining the world’s most dangerous weapons. Towards this end States need to prohibit support to non-state actors seeking WMDs; adopt effective laws prohibiting activities involving the proliferation of WMDs to non-state actors; and, enforce effective measures to reduce the vulnerability of many legitimate activities to misuse  and the proliferation of WMDs to non-state actors. These are essentially reactive measures.
Meeting the threat of nuclear terrorism  proactively, however, requires a holistic programme that can be framed within a matrix of four ‘Ds’ viz. Detection, Deterrence, Defense and Disaster Management. Clearly, detection is an intelligence function, which requires high level attention, constant vigilance, technical competence and so on. The deterrence option requires the country sheltering potential nuclear terrorists to be placed on notice, and threatened with condign punishment if any act of nuclear terrorism is perpetrated by its terrorists-in-residence. The problem here is that an organidation like al Qaeda has branches in several countries. How can a deterrent relationship be established vis-à-vis such an organidation? Defence against a nuclear attack is not feasible. hence it must be sought within  the defence and deterrence matrix. Finally, disaster management in the post-attack aftermath must comprise a mix of immediate and longer-term relief, medical assistance, evacuation and rehabilitation measures. Special measures would be needed to deal with radiation casualties. There are many grey areas here such as the first responders getting incapacitated, and the sociological impact on affected societies, of which we have no knowledge or previous experience. 
India, Nuclear Security and NSS 2014
There is much that India can contribute to the Netherlands Security Summit. It could do more to meet the criticism that its nuclear programme is opaque, and become more forthcoming about its emergency response systems. It must also explain why it has not been able to fulfill its earlier commitments to establish an independent nuclear regulatory authority and a Centre of Excellence to train personnel in nuclear safety and security matters. It had contributed US$ 1 million to strengthen the IAEA as the focal entity to ensure nuclear security. India could add to this contribution, and offer training facilities to IAEA personnel in its Centre of Excellence.
But, India should also suggest the extension of nuclear security measures by promoting  pro-active  measures to ensure nuclear security through a four ‘Ds’ programme.

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#4314, 17 February 2014
Federalism: Centre as Coordinator and Adjudicator
PR Chari
Visiting Professor, IPCS Email: prchari@gmail.com

Some verities about federalism in the context of regionalism in South Asia are becoming clearer. The proposition that "the (changing) political map of South Asian countries must reflect its social and cultural diversities" is unarguable. How, then, should the inescapable contentions between the peripheral and central federating entities be managed, apart from  differences between the federating units themselves that are "yielding contrary trends and mixed conclusions"? I argue that, while respecting regional aspirations, the Centre must function effectively as a coordinating and adjudicatory authority for the whole nation to remain viable.

One is fortified here by the lessons of history. The role of village republics in Buddhist times, their tradition of democratic functioning with all decisions being taken by consensus, and the local administration being under the village assemblies has been deified. The larger lesson of history is that these village republics were easily overrun by the Mauryan rulers and incorporated into their empire, since these purely local regional units could neither defend their integrity nor implement a common foreign policy.

Coming to British India, Sir Charles Metcalfe, acting governor-general of India had minuted in 1830: "This union of the village communities, each one forming a separate little state in itself, has, I conceive, contributed more than any other cause to the preservation of the peoples of India."  Metcalfe was speaking to local government. He did not appreciate the interplay between centrifugal and centripetal forces in Indian history with empires being born, flourishing, reaching their zenith, declining and finally disintegrating over and over again. This process also revealed the underlying tension between the federal (integrative) and regional (disintegrative) forces within Indian polity. The balance of power must favour the central authority if the federal entity is to survive.

These issues have been dramatised by the regional Aam Admi Party's confronting the Union Government in Delhi. It would be recollected that Delhi became the capital of British India in 1912 after excising it from the Punjab Province. It was designated a Chief Commissioner's Province, and was directly administered by the Centre. Later, it was designated a Part C state, and, still later, pursuant to the recommendations of the State Reorganisation Committee, Delhi was designated a Union Territory. Under Article 239 of the Constitution, Union Territories are to be administered by the President through an Administrator (Lt Governor).

But, there has been a clamour over the years for granting Delhi full Statehood, which is being echoed by the Aam Admi Party, but is resolutely opposed by the Union Government. In truth, any scheme for the administration of Delhi must appreciate its urban character, and the need for the Union Government to exercise close supervision and control over the capital city. The Sarkaria Committee, appointed in end 1987 to examine this issue, studied the set-up in other national capitals of the world having a federal set-up; it finally recommended after extensive consultations that Delhi should remain a Union Territory with a Legislative Assembly and a Council of Ministers responsible to this Assembly. However, matters relating to the police, land and public order were reserved for the Centre. The Committee further recommended that to ensure stability and permanence to these arrangements, the Constitution should incorporate provisions to accord a special status for the national capital among the other Union territories, which was effected by a Constitutional Amendment in end-1991, and the insertion of new Articles 239AA and 239AB.

The major reason why the Committee (I was its Member-Secretary) recommended these  arrangements was that it anticipated contingencies where the Central and Delhi  governments might come into conflict,  as is currently occurring, leading to practical difficulties in the governance of the national capital. For instance, the Delhi government could bring the working of the Union Government to a standstill by populist agitations and boycott movements or even organising gheraos of Parliament, North and South Block and other Central Government offices. For this reason, the vital subjects of public order and the police, were excluded from the purview of the Delhi government and reserved for the Centre.

This long digression has been undertaken to highlight a special problem of Indian federalism, pertaining to the administration of its national capital, and draws pointed attention to the need for privileging the central authority to counter sub-national populism in Delhi, but also other parts of the country. Regrettably, regional parties have, thus far, shown little interest in participating in the governance of the country or helping in the process of consensus-building, which further strengthens the argument for having a strong centralising authority, especially to execute foreign policy and provide national security.

How the increasingly uneasy power equations between the federal and regional authorities will work themselves out in future remains to be seen, but great maturity and restraint will be required on all sides. A hopeful sign is that Article 356 is falling into disuse in contrast to its misuse in the earlier years of one-party and central dominance.

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#4265, 20 January 2014
Limits of Federalism
PR Chari

The Indian Constitution distributes political, financial and legislative authority  between New Delhi and the States, with the centre enjoying primacy due to its control over finance, defense, trade, telecommunications and foreign investment. But. the  states, too, have wide authority on vital issues that have significance for  India’s investment climate, like power, agriculture, land, domestic investment and police. The system works well when the Center and the States are in synch, which is by no means assured when narrow parochial interests supersede the  demands of national interests. 
India remained a centralized democracy while the Congress, in the initial few decades ruled the Centre and the states, which changed radically in later years. It is arguable that the federalization of India’s polity has enabled its  conversion into a true democracy, with the unexpected result that the regional parties have now become more assertive in several of the larger states. They will increasingly decide who will govern New Delhi in future. A hodgepodge of regional parties seems likely, therefore,  to shape the structure of the new Government in New Delhi  and guide its security beliefs, with distressing implications for peace and conflict in South Asia.  
Domestic and electoral politics, incidentally gained ascendancy in 2013, and this process seems likely to continue into 2014 with the flawed Bangladesh elections of January 5 bidding fair to create more problems for the region that what they were designed to resolve. India will go to the polls in mid-2014; presentiments are that neither the Congress Party, nor the Bharatiya Janata Party will reach within striking distance of crafting a stable Government. The Aam Admi Party, for its part, had too little time to organize itself on a national scale; all that could be expected of it is some presence being registered in the metropolitan centers of India.  All realistic analyses points to New Delhi being ruled post- elections by a coalition of parties owing allegiance either to the Modi-brand nationalist Right or the Rahul-Sonia led left-centrist party. These developments have serious implications for India’s internal and external security.  
Several of these security challenges arise for conceptual reasons. The workings, for instance, of the federal principle in South Asia have revealed how parochial interests have acquired disproportionate influence on national security and foreign policy. Instances of the periphery and core coming into contention were visible all over South Asia in 3013, as, for instance, between the Madhes and Kathmandu, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunwa provinces with Islamabad, Jaffna and the Eastern province with Colombo.   In Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka the national interests as discerned by their respective central Governments clashed with the regional interests of their federating units (states/ provinces). Local perceptions of the need for greater autonomy and even independence have informed dissent, which came into conflict with the Centre’s need to maintain national unity. 
Significantly, the political support available within the federating units has made it difficult for the Center to peremptorily reject their demands.; indeed, the elections held in 2013 revealed an aggressive provincialism developing in the region.  The growth of regionalism is inevitable appreciating that the political map of South Asian countries must reflect its social and cultural diversities, yielding contrary trends and mixed conclusions. In Nepal, the Madhes parties failed to muster any great support, which strengthened the hands of Kathmandu in dealing with their constant threats of secession. But, in Jaffna, the success of the Tamil National Alliance highlighted the unresolved problem of Tamil disaffection, which the Rajapaksha government in Colombo seems determined to ignore.  The situation in Khyber-Pakhtunwa remains delicate with the prospect of its provincial parties making common cause with either the tribal elements in the FATA region or the warlords in Afghanistan or with both to loosen their ties to Islamabad.
Another example. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tame acquiescence to DMK pressure in November 2013 by not joining the CHOGM summit in Colombo can be variously interpreted.  Some 6 entries in the Union List under the Indian Constitution embed foreign policy firmly within the exclusive authority of the Union Government. Apparently, the PMO and MEA had strongly favored the Prime Minister joining this meeting. A brief visit to Jaffna was also planned to promote India’s relations with the Tamil-dominated Northern Province. Tamilnadu’s success in swaying New Delhi’s foreign policy decision would be anathema to federal purists. But, this incident illustrates how parochial considerations acted to the detriment of India’s federal and national interests. 
Earlier, New Delhi’s decision to enter an agreement for sharing the Teesta river waters was given up under pressure from Ms. Mamata Banerjee and the West Bengal government. Further, India could not  finalize  the  Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh that envisioned the transfer of enclaves and straightening out portions of the border, that was concluded in September 2011, and  ratified by the Indian Parliament. Hardliners in Bangladesh have already raised the pitch against India on these issues., which is egregious since  it was with the help of Sheikh Hasina government that India was  able to neutralize the terror outfits operating against India from Bangladesh soil.

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