Indian Air Force

It’s in China’s interest to keep India in good humour and here’s why

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

We could all look at clues emanating from a two-hour meeting between India’s foreign minister S. Jaishankar with Wang Yi, his Chinese counterpart, in Moscow on Thursday. Or trust the redoubtable Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to have hefted his weight in making them shake hands. But frankly, it’s in China’s interests to keep India in good humour.

As the two troops square up within a punch’s distance in Ladakh, where even a guttural breath could spark off World War III, analysts have a meltdown that India could be facing a multi-pronged war on its borders, none more so than on its eastern, northern and western ones from two heavily nuclear-armed enemies—China and Pakistan. Most are failing to connect the dots that it’s China which presently is more encircled and it’s India which is the centrepiece in the coordinated move.

Agreed, India hosting the QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) later this year doesn’t sound menacing at first glance. But the enormity of the moment won’t be lost on pros who know that India now has military logistical agreement with all three other members of the grouping: the United States, Australia and Japan. The one with the US (LEMOA) has been operational since 2016. The one with Australia was signed in June. Now, on Thursday, India and Japan, riding on the visible warmth between Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his outgoing Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, have inked a similar military logistical deal. Who said nothing moved during the Corona?

Even as I write this, French defence minister Florence Parly would’ve left Indian shores after overseeing the official induction of 5 Rafale jets in the Indian Air Force in Ambala on Thursday. Don’t go by the innocent press releases marking the moment. In geopolitical and military sense, it carried a grave message for Beijing.

Quietly in the background, India and France have grown akin to blood brothers. It hasn’t happened overnight. As soon as the Cold War ended last century, India and France had signed a “strategic partnership.” Everyone talks of 36 Rafale jets but it isn’t much in public domain that Indian navy has already commissioned 2 of 6 Scorpene submarines being build in our own Malegaon dockyards. The third one is undergoing sea trials. India had signed a military logistics pact with France in 2018 itself. France was one of the few countries which had backed India’s decision to nuclear-test in 1998.

And this is all because like other members of QUAD, France too needs India badly for its considerable stakes in the Indian Ocean. The two countries could sign a secure communications agreement too which would allow the two navies to share maritime domain awareness. Even before Parly arrived in India, the two countries, along with Australia, had held their a trilateral foreign-secretary level dialogue on Wednesday. Surely, India-France are welcoming the likeminded in fold.

The domino effect of this all must not be lost on observers. LEMOA with the US has extended Indian navy’s reach in southwestern Indian Ocean due to French bases in Reunion island near Madagascar and Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. The logistical arrangement with Australia has bolstered Indian warships in southern Indian Ocean and the western Pacific.

There are two other logistical pacts—besides the US, Australia, Japan and France—which India has firmly secured under its belt. One is with South Korea, the other one is with Singapore. Now Indian officials are openly touting two more in near future—with the UK and Russia, the latter one possibly by the end of this year itself. Yes, Russia—you have heard it right.

And now comes something which completely has rattled the command of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). India, Japan and Australia have launched a “Resilient Supply Chain Initiative” amongst themselves. In simpler terms, it means the three countries are looking for alternatives to China in terms of relocating industries and supply chains in Indo-Pacific.

Japan, which has considerable industrial presence in China, unlike India or Australia, is even incentivizing its companies to relocate to, say India and Bangladesh. It has taken badly the recent moves by China to intensify dispute in East China Sea. Australia is badly stung by the trade spats with China. The repatriation of Australian journalists by Beijing hasn’t helped matters. India of course has a war at door.

In essence, there is an attempt to disengage supply chains in strategic areas such as telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, semiconductors etc from China. This has potential to fundamentally alter the geographical shape of cross-border industrial network in the region. It would hurt China where it hurts most.

India and China could point fingers at each other, and not just Finger 3 or 4, for the downturn of ties between two of world’s most populous nations. China could claim that it has had enough of India’s “running with the hare and hunting with the hound” attitude. India could do likewise. After all, China backs Pakistan both on its terrorism and hostility in Kashmir. But these are no better than academic discourse. The truth is India has moved firmly on its Act East Policy. And China has to look after its back. Like Doklam, this face-off ftoo is likely to end with a loss of face for the Dragon.

 

 

 

Rafale: So they found “Shastra Puja” a Hindutva act

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The first of 36 Rafale jets of the first batch was acquired on Tuesday. It was a seminal day, not just because India acquired a massive defence shield but also since it coincided with Vijaydashmi or Dusshera, the day which Indians have celebrated as the win of Good over Evil for centuries now.

Somehow, matters which warm the hearts of millions of Indians causes heart-burn amongst a few who are well-identified now. “The Hindu” mocked the celebrations with “Wait-Its-Due-Only-Next-Year” front page headline; the (Rajdeep) Sardesais and Ghoses (Sagarika) and Dutts (Barkha) were silent as if in a funeral and so were the Gandhis: Priyanka is showing off her Hindi skills on twitter and Rahul Gandhi, well, he is heard less these days than even his brother-in-law. Yet, one of Congress’ leaders, Sandeep Dikshit, couldn’t hold back and reflected the grumpiness of this brigade: “Why link the acquisition (Rafale) in a religious context,” he contended.

Dikshit was upset that defence minister Rajnath Singh had done a “shastra puja” of Rafale which involved putting lemons in front of its wheels, placing a coconut on its nose and drawing an “Om” on its side cheek. In Dikshit’s book, it was a religious assertion, an assertion of Hindutva, and a “secular” state indulging in communalism. (Err, Mr Dikshit, your thoughts on the then prime minister Manmohan Singh, choosing the day of Sonia Gandhi’s birthday–December 9, 2006—to declare that Muslims have the first right on the resources of the country. Was it secular?).

Understandably, it found echo amongst the young and impressionable. So here it is, an attempt for rationale to prevail over outbursts:

“Shastra Puja” is a routine marker with our armed forces on new inductions of weaponry. It happened when MiGs, Jaguars, Tejas, practically every new addition, was made to the Indian Air Force. Every ship which slides off keels is always launched with coconut-breaking ceremony. Even the Supreme Court has said that “Shastra Puja” doesn’t impinge on secularism.

The induction of Rafale happened on the 87th anniversary of Indian Air Force. “Vijaydashmi” might’ve been coincidental and not necessarily the reason for choice of date.

It’s a flawed approach to view “shastra puja” as an assertion of Hindu identity. As it would be to view the reading of “kalma”as Islamic when Tejas was inducted on July 2, 2016.  When soldiers are greeted with garlands and tilak on return to their villages, is it communal? Besides, placing of lemons in front of tyres, applying “Om” on its steering and breaking a coconut in front of the vehicle are common actions millions of us do before a newly bought vehicle reaches home.

But trust our spoilsports to keep taking the matter to absurd lengths. A twitterati argued thus: “But buying a car and doing all this is personal. Whereas in Rafale was an act by the ruling government. Don’t they know that India is secular and state and religion must not cross each other’s path?”

First thing first. India wasn’t a secular state to begin with. This happened when our Constitution was arbitrarily changed by a chaffed Indira Gandhi during the Emergency without the consent of the lawmakers of the Parliament. There are various articles in the Constitution—like freedom of propagation of own faith for monotheist religions like Islam and Christianity—which can’t be termed secular.

Now, if the Indian state indeed is “secular”why does it interfere and control Hindu temples? As writer and scientist Anand Ranganathan points out : Governments of five southern states control 90,700 temples; TN Temple Trusts own 478,000 acres of land. Tamil Nadu state government alone controls 36,425 mutts: It gives them billions of rupees. By a rough estimate, the total revenue earned from temples by state government till now would be somewhere between Rs 10-15 lakh crores.

Is this secularism? That Tamil Nadu government has a temple in its logo is secular? If you want religion should be out of bounds for the State then the State should also keep out of religion.

Famous Indologist David Frawley has posted a YouTube video where the “war-cry” of various battalions are mentioned.  For Gorkha Rifles it’s “Jai Maa Kaali.” Rajput Regiment exhort with “Bol Bajrangbali ki Jai”; Rajputana Rifles with “Raja Ram Chandra Ki Jai.” For Dogra regiment, the full-throated call of “Jwala Mata Ki Jai” is the motivator; Jammu & Kashmir infantry enjoin with “Durga Mata Ki Jai.” So it is with Naga regiment (Jai Durga Naga); Bihar regiment (Jai Bajrang bali) and Kumaon regiment (Kalika Mata Ki Jai). Yet these traditions would be communal in the eyes of pseudo-seculars.

On a different note, the in-your-face “Shastra Puja” hasn’t gone unnoticed to the discerners. A confident Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is no longer embarrassed in asserting the cultural identity of the nation. And to hell with those who portray it as tyranny of the majority, communal Hindutva and minority-in-crisis narrative.