Ladakh

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.

 

 

 

Could India be attacked both by China and Pakistan together?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

If India is attacked, it would have not just China but Pakistan also to take care of on multiple fronts.

The two enemy allies would bear down on India together, not just from the west and north but also on the north-eastern theatre encompassing Arunachal Pradesh.

There is no denying the threat as multiple talks between India and China, even involving our foreign minister and national security adviser, isn’t making Beijing see reason in Ladakh. As for Pakistan, this year alone it has made 800 ceasefire violations in Jammu and Kashmir.

Indians are acutely aware of the situation. In January itself, army chief General MM Naravane had admitted of a collusion between China and Pakistan which would push India into a two-front war. The general had pinpointed Siachen and Shaksgam Valley (see image below) where the “threat of collusion is maximum.”

India can’t wait till July 29 when it would receive the first set of five Rafale jets from France and in all likelihood would deploy them on the Ladakh theatre without much delay.

The first Rafale set would land into the 17 Squadron “Golden Arrows” in Ambala next week, taking off from Istres in France, touch the French airbase in Al Dhafra near Abu Dhabi in the UAE and after a night’s halt, Indian pilots would bring them home with at least two rounds of mid-air refuelling during its entire journey. (Midair-fuelling in itself is a spectacle you mustn’t miss watching).

Rafale, a 4.5-generation fighter jet, with its Meteor missiles could end China’s presence in Ladakh in minutes. China admittedly have 600 fourth and fourth-generation-plus jets yet Rafale is said to be a league apart than both the F-16s and JF-17s in terms of range, armaments and electronic warfare capability. Most jets in Pakistan’s inventory are US-made F-16s besides JF-17s which are China-made.

But India is hampered by a lack of central command and after decommissioning of the MiG-21 Bison, it’s down to just over 30 squadrons, far less than at least 42 required to take on China and Pakistan in air in a two-front war.

India has rushed Rafale-maker Dassault co. to make several India-specific changes in the jets which were not part of the initial agreement.

India-specific enhancements include cold-engine start in high-altitude bases; radar-warning receivers, low-band jammers, infra-red search etc but the clincher is air-to-air missile Meteor and 5.1-meter-long cruise missile SCALP which could hit targets with precision as far as 120km and 600km. India, literally, won’t have to leave its airspace to hit the target it wants to smoke out across the border.

Manufactured by European firm MBDA, the Meteor leaves no escape zone once the pilot looks at his radar and pulls the kill switch. The analysts believe there is no air missile presently which is better than Meteor.

The unthinkable Nuclear slide

Rafale jets, critically, could also deliver nuclear weapons. While India hasn’t bought a nuclear warhead delivery missile along with the jets, it could do so at a short notice. The Mirages, presently, are the aircraft for nuclear weapons with India.

Sure, we are not walking down the nuclear-war path yet. It would pop humanity out of existence. There is no point in discussing who has more nuclear weapons as Pakistan and China, put together, are way above India’s N-stockpiles. Analysts expect a conventional war, if god forbids it indeed breaks out, as a nuclear war would leave no winners.

Sure, India is pulling out all the stops. Its defence allocation for the 2020-21 fiscal year stood at Rs 471,378 crores (US$65.86 billion). The latest we hear is that defence ministry has approved the purchase of 21 Russian MiG-29 and 12 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft, costing $2.43 billion. In the pipeline is incomparable S400 missiles, a $5.2 billion deal with Russia. And then there of course is Rafale jets, a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore (US$7.9 billion).

While on Rafale, how do they perform in real situation? Well, in 2011, Rafale operated over Benghazi and Tripoli in Libya and carried out a flawless mission. It has also taken part in operations in Mali and destroyed the enemy infrastructure without a fuss. Then it was Chad in Africa where four Rafale jets hit 21 targets after remaining airborne for nearly 10 hours, starting from their base in Saint-Dizier in eastern France.  India would be the third country, besides Egypt and Qatar, to induct Rafale in its squadrons.

All this spend is to improve India’s deterrence which of course act to reduce the threat of conflicts. It hasn’t stopped Indian prime minister Narendra Modi from declaring that India could take care of Pakistan in 7-10 days. His time frame is not too off the mark: The 1971 War lasted a mere 13 days. The one against China, which we lost, all put together was a fortnight’s affair.

As for China, gone are the days when bigger countries could gulp down another nation like you would do a spoonful of honey. Saudi Arabia hasn’t been able to bring Yemen to its knees yet; Americans failed in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Soviet Union couldn’t keep Afghanistan in its palm and instead it hastened the demise of the Communist regime.  India won’t be a cakewalk too if China and Pakistan were to mire it down on multiple fronts. It could only be a Looneys’ mission. But then who would’ve thought before June 15 that things would come to such a sorry pass between India and China?

 

 

Modi puts his foot on the tail of the Dragon; and hopes the nation is with him

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

India is decoupling itself from China, and not just from Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.

India has banned 59 Chinese Apps used by tens of millions of its citizens and I would be surprised if the Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn’t warn us of its fallout in his afternoon broadcast to the nation on Tuesday.

China would retaliate by pulling out its investments and factories and looking to cripple our telecom and pharmaceutical industry due to our over-reliance on its equipment and ingredients. Their smartphones have 72% of our market. Half of our electronic imports and two-thirds of our drugs depend on China. Why, even our bulletproof vests are made with material from China.

The investment and jobs we were looking in infrastructure (Tsingshan, steel) and automobiles (SAIC), not to speak of the names which are household such as Big Basket, Byju’s, Flipkart, MakeMyTrip, PayTm, Swiggy, Zomato etc could all take a massive hit. It could grow into a trade war and we the citizens of this country would have rising costs, lost jobs and hardships coming our way.

How do you think our cash-strapped telecom companies could cope? Or how diminishing incomes would react to rising costs? And not just demand, would the supply side be able to stay on its feet if walls go up?

Yet India must decouple itself from China. A nation which depends on enemy for its food, goods and materials don’t last.  Germany lost to Britain because of the latter’s blockade in World War I. Ancient Athens fell to Sparta who won’t allow supply of grains through the Black Sea. Why, Australia today is tabulating the cost of a diplomatic spat with China on its crop exports.

The free-trade advocates might whisper into your ears that its’ protectionism, that we are going to pre-liberalization era of 1991 but don’t pay heed. Instead ask: What kind of open trade China is if its subsidizing land, material and tax-cuts for its manufacturers, brutalizing its labour, just to make sure your manufacturing remains buried forever? It’s nothing but a return to colonial era when we exported raw material and imported finished products.

Time is ripe for India to actively intervene in markets. Put spine in India’s manufacturers. Write-off investments in machinery if required. Revamp land, labour and tax structures. Incentivize them to the extent they reinvest profits in men and material. We could then hope for our future generations to look after their parents. Our disabled soldiers to return to the care of their able sons and daughters

If nothing, listen to what Chinese said a few years ago in their economic White Paper of the 21st century:

“Manufacturing is the main pillar…the foundation of the country. Since the beginning of industrial civilization in the middle of the 18th century, it has been proven repeatedly by the rise and fall of world powers that without strong manufacturing, there is no national prosperity.”

India already has the assurance of US State Department which announced last year that Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and of course India would take care of its supply chains in a rewired world. The critical industries outlined are pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, semi-conductors, automotive, aerospace, textile and chemicals among others.

Many countries are already opting for China Plus One manufacturing strategy. Taiwan is now actively promoting “non-Red supply chain”; Japan has put $220 billion on the line for its companies to shift production back home from China. South Korea is doing likewise with easy regulations, financial aid and tax incentives to those who could “return” home. Italy has announced an emergency decree which empowers it to veto foreign investment in electricity, water, health, media, aerospace, banks, insurance, robotics etc.

Prime Minister Modi seems to have opted for the brave course of short-time pain to long-term suicide. He has put his political career on line. He had no business to walk down this road which could put India in some serious woes.  It might make us a little poorer, our goods more expensive but it would secure our borders, our future.  China’s cheap exports are a gift which we would pay with ocean of tears in future. Let’s do our bit for our motherland.

 

This is no soap opera that Russia would come and bail out India

(This is a reprint from NewsBred)

It’s not as much a matter of choice for India as it is for Russia. India media might be scripting a Russia factor in fractured Indo-China relations but you ought to know better.

India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh is in Moscow. The foreign ministers of two nations joined their Chinese counterpart for a virtual dialogue on Tuesday. Both are pre-arranged engagements, not an offshoot of Galwan Valley. Yet hopes are injected that Russia would play a peacemaker. I suggest you examine the evidence than suffer a hangover which is a druggie’s profile the morning after.

Sure, Russia is India’s biggest defence exporter. The two leaders Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi share a rare warmth. They have reset economic ties to the extent that the target of $30 billion is revised to $50 billion by 2025. The two have a strategic partnership. Both need each other for trade corridors. Both have stood by each other on global forums. The two have not stopped liking each other in last seven decades.

But Russia is no big brother to India. India’s economy is more than twice the size of Russia. India’s arm buys are falling vis-à-vis Russia and leapfrogging with Israel, France, the United States etc. Tourism isn’t quite booming between the two nations.

On the contrary, Russia can’t do without China. Its’ trade with China is worth over a hundred billion dollars. It has a $400 billion energy deal with China. Both share a global vision in Indo-Pacific even though Russia, on its own, has little to lose on that sea expanse.  Both see in the United States an implacable rival. Both are looking after each other’s backs. You help us mate if submarines snarl in South China Sea. We look after you if NATO rolls down tanks in Eastern Europe. No formal pact, just a wink in the eye is good enough.

So, Russia could use its good offices to bring the two Asian adversaries on the table. But it can’t prevent a martial discord turning into a divorce. It doesn’t have that bargaining chip. If it was valued this big by China, the latter would’ve taken Russians into confidence before the Galwan Valley misadventure. And if they did take Moscow into confidence, and still went ahead, it’s worse.

It’s for Russia to plot its future in the 21st century. Its present woes began when it took control of Crimea after a referendum in 2014. The US-led sanctions in its wake are crippling.

It could choose to remember that India defended the referendum in Crimea while China didn’t.

It could turn a blind eye, if it wants to, China going big in elbowing it out in Central Asia which is so, so vital to Moscow.

It could choose to be a junior partner to China or retain the instincts which are genetic in a superpower.

It could ignore–if it could afford –the role India could play in linking the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) with Asian mass through Chabahar Port in Iran, now in India’s control.

It could miss, if it wants to, the critical role of India in the International North-South Trade Corridor (INSTC), a 7,200-km network of ship, rail and road which frees up Russian transportation across Europe, Central Asia, Armenia, Iran, Afghanistan up to India.

Nations today are guided by their own interests. Two countries could converge on one issue and diverge significantly on the other.  Russia discounts China’s role in the devastating Covid-19 spread on global forums but it has also shut its borders against China. Russia is indeed India’s friend for all seasons but it doesn’t stop them from selling arms to Pakistan and joining our arch rivals in military exercises since Afghanistan is vital. India too won’t let Russia come in the way of its growing convergence with the United States. But its adamant to buy S400 anti-missile system from Russia next year even though the United States is threatening crippling sanctions. There are camps, sure, but relationships are more fluid, unlike Cold War era. Look at Turkey, a member of NATO, but blackmailing Europe now and then on refugees.

So rejoice Russia is neutral but don’t expect them in your corner against China. Besides India itself is a power of considerable hulk. India’s issue with China won’t have a mediator. New Delhi would have to pack a punch of its own against China. Russia is no parent and India no child even though China decidedly is a bully. Call the bully out on your own. India could do it.

Indian media seeking Russia’s intervention is comical, if not tragic. On one hand you detest the United States offering mediation; on the other you seek one from Russia. It’s tragic for it betrays a sense of inferiority, a colonial hangover, which refuses to acknowledge India could hold its own. It distorts the immediacy India needs in its military preparedness. It injects a false sense of security.  It lets India down in its own eyes.

 

 

Soldiers have done their bit with lives; what are we doing for our India

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

All of us are grieved for our dead soldiers in Ladakh. That all of us want a retribution. That the government is literally closing doors on Chinese telecom equipment which enjoys one-fourth of Indian market. That the Confederation of All-India Traders (CAIT), claiming to represent 7 crore traders, has called for a boycott of Chinese products. That the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar have used the language the nation wanted to hear.

Most of us have also resolved to boycott Chinese goods. It’s also dawning on us though that it’s easier said than done. I mean our mobile phones run on parts supplied by China. Our consumer goods, electronics, toys, furnishings, textiles, luggage, watches, kitchen items, footwear and frozen food etc bear Chinese imprints. We are also heavily reliant on China in pharmaceuticals and automobile sectors. There are thousands—yes, THOUSANDS– of products we import from China. Our supply chains rely on China. Where do we start and where do we end?

If this is unnerving, you could forward the argument that the Chinese entrenchment in our system is creating millions of jobs in trade, kirana shops and logistics. That there is much ado about nothing since our exports matter only two per cent to overall China’s buying. That India’s loss would matter little to China which has economy five times ours size. Besides, how do I throw out my “Ganesha” and “agarbattis”?

This implies that we need a serious introspection. We want our government to hit China hard; we want our soldiers to spill their blood in inhospitable terrains; we appeal for funds to be raised for the martyrs’ families; we dominate hashtags on social media with our outrage but we don’t—or can’t—do anything else. We could urge boycott of China’s goods but please excuse us from doing it ourselves. There is one thing we want from the nation; quite literally the other we do in practice. We want our soldiers to make the ultimate sacrifice but won’t allow that little pinch in the pocket. Can a nation survive without the cost paid by its citizens?

The Confederation of All-India Traders say there are at least 3,000 Chinese products we could easily replace with our own. If you can’t put away your mobiles, make sure you aren’t buying out-and-out Chinese brands. In case of an IPhone or a Samsung, the profits go to those companies and not to component-makers in Shenzen. Besides, what does it take to delete at least Chinese apps from your mobile phones even if you swoon over tik-tok?

China is today only doing what superpowers have done all through since the Industrial Revolution. You loan out a huge amount to a poor or developing country on very generous terms and with a long window. When the debt becomes unpayable, you extract your pound of flesh in form of a nation’s resources.

That’s what China did with Sri Lanka who now has surrendered the critical Hambantota port which is such a critical military advantage to China overlooking India. It did the same to Djibouti which was forced to allow China a military base on its land. Angola is paying through its nose with crude oil on the debt it’s unable to service as per terms. Kenya is on the verge of defaulting on China’s loan extended for a railway link between Mombasa and Nairobi. It could soon be parting with its Port of Mombasa. South Africa is fearing a similar debt trap. There are endless such instances in Latin America, Europe, Asia and rest of Africa.

I am sure none of us want India to suffer a similar loss of sovereignty. That we want this trade disadvantage of $50 billion to be reduced to a nought.  That we are virtually funding China to hurt us. That if we could boycott the Chinese goods we could, it would reduce the trade imbalance by $13 billion in 2021.

Sure, we want Modi government to stand by us with tariff and non-tariff measures. That it must call out China which subsidizes its products, under-prices it, and makes our traders and manufacturers uncompetitive. Our government does—and could do more—to cushion our exporters. That self-reliance–Atmanirbhar—would create products, supply chains and jobs in due course. After all, in this Corona pandemic, we did manage with our supply chains and various local productions did come up.

Let’s not fool ourselves that Indo-China trade is beneficial only to us. It matters hugely to China. There are any number of investments it makes in India through the back channels of Hong Kong and vessel states. That’s why India has decided to screen direct foreign investments. That’s why India has chosen not to be a part of RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Corporation) which would have only rerouted China’s gains. That’s why India has refused to grant market tag to China as neither its’ banks nor pricing is independent of this Communist state. The Modi government is showing its spine: We need to show ours.

 

 

A muscular India gives its army a “free hand” to knock sense in China

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It would be a grave misjudgement to believe that China has walked over India in a physical showdown in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday.

If nothing, ask the Chinese who made moves in lockstep over the last few weeks to test India’s nerves and found a nation mature in diplomacy and dare in equal measure.

India has used velvet gloves against a petulant Nepal which thumbed its nose on borders but didn’t elicit a raging anger from New Delhi that would’ve played into the hands of its puppeteer, China. India knows, as does Nepal, that the latter can’t survive without India’s open borders. Simply, the land-locked nation would run out of essential supplies. A manufactured border dispute has no future but for headlines and talk shows.

China meanwhile had crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at four different points in Ladakh, agreed for de-escalation but then stayed put when the two armies were to pull themselves back by a few kilometres. India would have none of an enemy’s forward-post left standing inside the Galwan Valley which belongs to India. It didn’t backdown from a physical combat either since arms and ammunitions are avoided by the two neighbours in sensitive stretches of border running into thousands of kilometres.

Now has come the news that Indian Army has been empowered to act as per the ground situation without looking for directions from New Delhi. In other words, the Indian Army has been freed from political constraints. It’s an unambiguous message to Beijing that they are now in the wilds. That your superior nuclear stockpiles, defence spending or armaments wouldn’t be of much aid if it’s bare knuckle fight. So, if it’s to fists, stones and clubs now, may the best man win. There is no referee.

Indian Express has quoted an army source thus: “Army has been given emergency powers for deployment there as per needs and new situations without looking towards Delhi…We have to demonstrate our strength on the ground…there is no need to show aggression, only our strength.”

This would put China in a spot. Either they shove the conventions and turn it into an armed combat. Or they pull themselves back as they did in Doklam in 2017. Or they escalate which wouldn’t go unnoticed to a concerned world. It’s a massive show of intent from Modi’s India which is largely consistent in its zero-tolerance approach on nation’s sovereignty and integrity.

It’s not like South China Sea where the Middle Kingdom has usurped islands, sea tolls, reefs and banks overriding neighbours protests. China could not only carry through the bluff but were assured of its efficacy by the mumbled response of the affected. India seems determined to call out the bully. It’s not the semi-autonomous Hong Kong, a cowering Taiwan or a Vietnamese fishing boat you could sink to the floor of the South China Sea.

China clearly is upset at India’s assertions in recent months. India has signed a pact with Australia in the middle of the pandemic which would give teeth to QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) between four democracies of Indo-Pacific: the United States, Japan, Australia and India itself. It has openly given a call to multinationals to shift their operations to India, a blow to China where it hurts the most. It has decided to screen the foreign investments beyond the FDI regulations. It now heads World Health Organization (WHO) which is to take call if China was complicit in hiding the truth on Corona Virus pandemic. It hasn’t helped the matter that Taiwan, which Beijing is paranoid about, could have “observer” status at WHO on pandemic deliberations. Then we have an expanded G-7 group of nations where India is to be included but no invitation has gone out to China

India has an uncontested control of Galwan Valley, between Ladakh and Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin, since 1962. It suffers from poor infrastructure in a hilly terrain unlike China which makes use of the flat Tibetan plateau to carry its road and highway network unhindered. India in contrast has to cross several mountains to access the LAC. It’s only natural that India wants to secure its borders. China would either have to give up the encroachments or face consequences, no less economic. There is a groundswell of consensus to boycott Chinese goods. The little matter of Huawei 5G also hangs in the balance.

There is little doubt China faces uncommon heat across continents. Pushback against its over-arching reach has already begun in Africa and Southeast Asia. Unemployment is unprecedented. Economic woes are spiralling. The world is a hostile theatre after China’s machinations on pandemic which has set the world back by a generation in economic terms. Its present misadventure in Ladakh is an undisguised diversionary tactics.

There is little doubt Indo-China relations would freeze in near future. It would bring Pakistan in closer ambit of China. India, on its part, would have the United States in its drawing room. Distrust between the two main powers of Asia would now run deep. Russia is a common friend which could find its loyalty divided.

A bloodline of martyrs: Why this village rejoices in the blood it sheds

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The present year is a significant one for Indian army, it being the 20th anniversary of Kargil War and the centenary of its role in World War I. India’s martyred are much ignored in history but not in a small dusty village which rejoices in the blood it sheds.

Think of Antarctica to be in spirit with an Indian soldier who is stationed in winter in Kargil, gateway to Ladakh in India’s snow-capped range of northern mountains where temperatures are known to fall below 60 degrees Celsius at times.

Some 20,000 combat troops guard the 150-km stretch of the Line of Control (LoC), where mules transport food to ammunition to shelter boxes across the steep slopes, the lurking fear of crevasse or avalanche heightened by the biting cold and icy winds, an unending stretch of snow and ice which could cause frostbite, dismember your toes and do strange things to your mind. The niceties of bath or regular shave can wait.

Now contrast this with India’s western borders of Thar desert, some 77,000 square miles of arid region, which is a natural boundary between India and Pakistan. Temperatures regularly shoot up beyond 50 degree Celsius in summer here; the rolling sand dunes whipping up unspeakable dust storms in blistering heat. At India’s eastern wing you have swampy mudflats to guard against trouble from across the porous border of Bangladesh.

Given such terrains, it’s a wonder that some 14 million raise their hands for a job in the army, second most in the world, for a salary which stays $500 a month on an average for most part of their careers. Cynical would tell you that’s a mirror on millions unemployed in India. But there are no easy answers why villages of India send their sons to be a martyr for the country and wouldn’t substitute it for anything else in the world.

Village which boasts of its martyrs

Jhunjhunu is a district in Rajasthan, known for its world famous Shekhawati mural paintings but little advertised about a few of India’s richest who have emerged from its dusty plains. Yet the village boasts only about its martyrs and would hate to be known for anything else. They say you knock a door in this village and a story of martyrdom would emerge as a matter of routine.

There are families who have put their men in line of action for generations, their return in coffin draped in India’s flag being a matter of pride. Sons take vow on the pyre of fathers to meet a similar fate; villagers donate funds to feed the family of martyred; rich spend a fortune to have their statues installed at intersection of roads and elsewhere. Newly-weds seek blessings from these profiles in stone and granite as faithful would do to gods in temples.

Legacy is secured by naming schools and colleges; engineering and health centres in the name of those who’ve shed blood for the nation. Faithfuls have no chance in this quest though as the roll of honour gets bigger by the day: Hundreds have lost lives and gallantry medals abound. Some 50,000 presently represent this village in the army ranks; a similar number are past their regular services, some physically impaired, some fighting memory loss having survived the horrors of war.

Examples abound

Jhunjhunu is more famous but there are two other villages nearby, Churu and Sikar, all part of Shekawati region of Rajasthan state, which are a mirror-image in sacrifice. Elsewhere too fire burns bright to wear the army colours. Ambakuduchi is a village in Odisha which has vowed at least one member of a family must join the army; a village near Agra, once the seat of Mughal empire, has a similar goal; Madhavaram, a tiny village in southern state of Andhra Pradesh, has at least one army recruit from each of its household.

Such a fire to lose oneself for the country could have many a basis. It could be the respect and honour which is bestowed on an individual, a tribal instinct of a collective identity or a raging passion to keep the country safe. It’s not solely for an assured job for there are no fixed working hours or extra money accrued due to overtime.  

India is admired by the world for its Gandhi and his philosophy of non-violence which probably has dimmed the sheen of bravery of its armed men. India lost nearly a million men in two World Wars, their courage so exemplary that it moved Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck to assert that the British “couldn’t have come through both wars if they hadn’t had the Indian Army.”  There is still not enough literature on India’s those magnificent sons which is a pity in the centenary year of the culmination of the World War I (1914-1919).

 

Indian Express unearths new “star” to peddle agenda on J & K

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Indian Express is going to length to find voices which could question the Centre on its fiat on Jammu & Kashmir, notably on constitutional, human rights and its federal-character-under-assault grounds.

Conveniently kept out of view is terrorism, loss of tens of thousands of civilian/army lives and billions of tax-payers money which never reached the commoners of the troubled state.

The newspaper doesn’t have a stance on the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, that minorities were discriminated against in the state, that caste reservations was out of bounds; and that 106 Central Laws (Prevention of Corruption Act, Land Acquisition Act, Right to Education Act, National Commission for Minorities Act etc) were rendered lifeless by those who governed the Centre and Srinagar.

Where are people in Indian Express’ discourse? Do we hear from them on Jammu and Ladakh which has bigger area and still bigger population than the Valley? Where are its investigating geniuses who hide from its readers that Kashmir Valley gets more financial allocation that what Jammu and Ladakh divisions, put together, are provided for? Why it escapes them that the per-capita subsidy to J & K is 16 times more than West Bengal and 12 times more than Bihar?

In its’ Sunday’s edition today (September 1, 2019), Indian Express has flushed out a Supreme Court lawyer Aman Hingorani who turned a doctoral research into a book (Unravelling the Kashmir Knot) and now has an entire page dedicated to his discourse to the crème da la crème of the Capital on the Constitutional heist which the Modi government has pulled off in J & K.  The newspaper takes Hingorani’s discourse on a page they pompously call “Explained”.  The man himself is preening to his audience that at the end of his discourse, they would realize the futility of Centre’s move. (You dumbs, here I am to get you rid of your ignorance).

I am not sure if it was an interactive session or Hingorani’s monologue. But since Express claims the session was meant to benefit its’ readers, I as one of its most long-lasting consumer, have a few questions for Hingorani and I hope they are not inconvenient enough to be ducked by both the newspaper and the “star” it has peddled today.

HINGORANI:  The Accession terms were the same in J & K as it was for other princely states.  But while other princely states merged their territory into India, Jammu and Kashmir refused to do so…

Question: Please avoid the misinformation that all other princely states had merged their territory into India. Junagadh and Hyderabad hadn’t.  They were intransigent compared to a prostrated Maharaja Hari Singh of J & K.  But while Junagadh and Hyderabad succumbed to India’s military pressure, J & K was allowed to dictate terms.

Now how did that happen? Was it because Junagadh and Hyderabad were managed by Sardar Patel while J & K was left to be Pt. Nehru’s toy? Your turn Mr Hingorani.

HINGORANI: Article 370 had been emptied long ago…It had never come in the way of New Delhi dealing with the state in the way it wanted to deal with the state.

Question: Article 370 was the stepping stone on which Article 35 and 1954 Presidential Order were later added. It allowed J & K to have a separate constitution, a state flag and autonomy over the internal region of Kashmir.  It allowed the state government to discriminate against Hindu and Sikhs who migrated at Partition; against Valmikis of Punjab whom they lured with the promise of citizenship but never delivered.

Article 370 makes a mockery of Article 14 which guarantees equality before the law and the principles of liberty. As we know, not everyone living in J & K could vote in the election to the state assembly. Further, Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, sex, place of birth or race etc.

So Mr Hingorani, could you please revisit your position in light of the facts obscured in your discourse?

HINGORANI: Many states have restrictions on people buying land, what’s so special about it (Article 370)?

Question:  Let me rephrase this question and see Mr Hingorani what’s your response: Which are other states where a woman, if she marries outside her state, is denied rights over land? Ok, here’s a dollop of escape route I let you have: Just name one state.

HINGORANI: India can’t go to United Nations and then say (Kashmir) is an internal issue…

Question: So Mr Hingorani, what did United Nations do when Pakistan not only occupied a part of Kashmir but also later ceded 20% of the entire area, Gilgit-Baltistan etc, to China? What right Pakistan has on the area of Kashmir it has illegally occupied? What rights Pakistan has of ceding Kashmir to China which has no claim over the territory? Did they take the route of people’s referendum? Was there any instrument of accession signed that you are so fond of quoting?  Hasn’t United Nations become irrelevant on Kashmir? If it hasn’t, then why didn’t United Nations make any noise after India’s move this month: That wait, this matter is under us, and India can’t decide on its own on J & K?

HINGORANI:  Presidential Rule is an emergency provision. It is not meant for taking far-reaching decisions…

Question:  And you think 70 years spent in the quagmire still doesn’t confer an emergency-status to J & K. If the application of President’s Rule now is a travesty of justice, what would you say to the Presidential Order of 1954? Does our constitution bind the President not to take such a decision? If it doesn’t, what’s your gripe?

HINGORANI:  Can you use emergency provisions to dismember and destroy the identity of a state?

Question:  You call it dismembering of state but not question the latter which had no time for Ladakh. You would call it destruction of identity of state but would make no mention that how come Kashmir Valley, with lesser population and lesser area, had 46 assembly seats to Jammu’s 37           in the state assembly. Isn’t it a stolen identity? Who did it? Didn’t it allow Muftis and Abdullahs perpetuity in power? Was it subversion or empowerment of democracy?

It’s important we interject when our newspapers peddle a one-sided warped discourse. It’s certainly not neutral or unbiased. It’s easy to hide behind the cloak that it’s a writer’s own personal view.  But when none of your editorials present any piece which speaks for Kashmiri Pandits, minorities, deprivation of central laws or the welfare of SC-STs in J & K or even question why after 70 years the lot of Kashmiris haven’t improved, then it’s legitimate to ask: Who are you speaking for?

 

Guide to nail 5 essential lies on Jammu and Kashmir

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

You are subjected to five essential lies on Jammu and Kashmir. Please use the below Primer if your teenage daughters, coffee friends or a stranger in transit try to shame you on celebrating the new status of Jammu and Kashmir. Who knows, inadvertently, you might be creating new foot soldiers to take on the Break-India forces and its stooge media. So here it is:

Abrogation of Article 370 is illegal:

Article 370 comes under part XXI of the Constitution of India which deals with “Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions.”

Article 370 was not incorporated when Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession on October 26-27, 1947.  It came a full two years later in October 1949 at the instance of Sheikh Abdullah, who was a member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution.

Indeed, Article 370 became operative only in 1952.

So give a resounding kick in the butt to those who say that Jammu and Kashmir agreed to become a part of India only after it was assured the special protection of Article 370.

A bit of history won’t hurt you either.

India’s law minister, Dr. B.R.Ambedkar was firmly opposed to Article 370. This is what Dr. Ambedkar said to Sheikh Abdullah (as quoted in Dr. BR Ambedkar, Framing of Indian Constitution, by Dr S.N Busi):

“Mr Abdullah, you want India should protect your borders, she should build roads in your area, she should supply you food grains…but you don’t want India and any citizen of India to have any rights in Kashmir…To give consent to this proposal would be treacherous…I cannot betray the interests of my country.”

A full decade on, even Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was conceding in Parliament on November 27, 1963: “Article 370 is part of certain transitional, provisional arrangements. It’s not a permanent part of the Constitution.”

Next year, a private member’s bill sought the abrogation of Article 370 in the Parliament. It received a near-unanimous support. Prakash Vir Shastri had moved the bill in the Lok Sabha. Among supporters were stalwarts like Ram Manohar Lohia and K. Hanumanthaiya, a senior Congress leader.

Hanumanthaiya had then pointed out that fellow MPs, irrespective of party affiliations, had wanted the abrogation of Article 370 to be made into law. He had said: “To go against or to anything against this unanimous opinion in this House is to disown constitutional responsibility in a convenient manner. Article 370…stands in the way of full integration.”

Out of the 12 MPs who opposed the abrogation of Article 370, seven were from Congress, many of them stalwarts, including Inder J. Malhotra, Sham Lal Saraf, HV Kamath and Bhagwat Jha Azad.

And by the way, how come abrogating Article 370 is illegal when the Bill wa passed by two-thirds in the Rajya Sabha and four-fifths in the Lok Sabha this month?

Who benefitted from Article 370? Obviously, the common people of J& K didn’t. The Shia community, Gujjars, Bakkarwals, Gaddis, other Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled castes and people living in Ladakh and Kargil didn’t.  Nor did Kashmiri women who made the mistake of marrying a non-resident and couldn’t purchase or transfer property to their children.

Now, with its abrogation, a total of 106 Central Laws will now be extended to J & K. A load of benefit schemes would come the way of local citizens. Prevention of Corruption Act, Land Acquisition Act, National Commission for Minorities Act, Right to Education Act etc would become applicable.

Why Not Remove Special Status of North-East States Too

This again is an argument forwarded by mischief-makers relying on your ignorance. Tell them that Article 371 (a) to (j) for North Eastern and other states are SPECIAL and not TEMPORARY provisions. That is to protect the development of a particular region for particular tribes. These being special provisions are permanent in nature. They are not temporary as Article 370 was in J & K.

Basic Rights to Kashmiris Are Being Denied:

Oh, Really?

Restrictions in the form of suspension of internet or even mobile services occur every year in the Valley on Independence Day, Republic Day and Eid for the last 30 years! Durations of these restrictions have been far longer in the past.

Do you know the extent of clampdown in the Valley when it suffered a long spell of violence in 2010? What were the conditions during the long spell of unrest during the Amarnath land agitation in 2008? Why was Farooq Abdullah government (before 1984) was termed as Curfew Government?

Between 1990-1996, the Valley remained under curfew on an average 300 days in a year! It was largely under Governor’s Rule between 1990-1996.

Was it not a clampdown in the Valley when Mobiles were introduced in India in 1990s but not in Jammu and Kashmir? (It came about only in 2003 under the Atal Behari Vajpayee government).

Why was there no outcry then?

Now let’s look at the ground conditions in Jammu and Kashmir at this very moment. Activist Rahul Pandita spent 10 days in the Valley after the abrogation of Article 370 and this is what he wrote in Times of India this Sunday:

“I went around in a small car with a local number. I had no curfew pass. There were barricades but security forces could be convinced to let go, as we did several times.

“District Commissioner Srinagar had issued 161 passes to local journalists (while you kept hearing on your TV sets that journalists were unable to go anywhere).

“On Eid (no less), the government took more than 60 journalists on a chopper ride over Srinagar. (Despite stringent restrictions, many reached their neighbourhood mosques).

“Security was totally removed from downtown Srinagar between 4-7 p.m. Boys came out, they painted a little graffiti, but they did not indulge in clashes (Hey, BBC and Reuters, read that).

“Spoke to cross-section, families of policemen, from Shia community and other silent ones who say they are ok with Article 370 abrogation.”

Political Arrests Are Unprecedented:

A reality check.

Sheikh Abdullah was in prison for more than a decade. And he wasn’t under house arrest like the present Valley leaders are. He was packed away to Kodaikanal not by Modi but by Pt. Nehru.

Shyama Prasad Mookerjee was kept under house arrest for 44 days without any chargesheet or FIR in Kashmir Valley. Have you heard of any outcry of human rights violations on Mookerjee?

And what’s the definition of these political leaders of Kashmir Valley who thrive on elections which see only a sample of 8-10 per cent voters’ turnout? It allows them to make it to the Lok Sabha, to the state assembly, to form state governments, generation after generation, to perpetuate their dynastic rule?

And if so upset by political detentions, shed a tear for those who are detained in Jammu too!

Demography would change; Kashmiri culture would vanish

Well, when lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of Valley on gunpoint, the demography change didn’t matter to the champions of these pseudo-seculars.

(Ironically, when Assam is trying to weed out the outsiders to save the local, indigenous culture, these pseudo-seculars are in support of the infiltrators. So guys, make up your mind: You can’t be resisting outsiders in one state and supporting outsiders in another!).

Does Kashmiri culture imply that they remain in a state of poverty and unemployment generation after generation? Isn’t the aspiration of a largely young population—70 per cent are below 40— is for real? Don’t they know that every year, in the civil services exam, you have a topper or someone in the Top 20 from the Valley? That about 30-40 Class 12 pass-outs from terror-affected districts qualify in the IIT-JEE exams. That at least 50 people qualify for the NEET exam, the all-India entrance for medical colleges?

Now Jammu, and not Kashmir Valley, would call the shots

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The game and set are already with the Bharatiya Janata Party vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir but the match would be truly over when the delimitation exercise kicks in.

The chances are it would happen in double quick time as the Centre has decided to set up a delimitation commission which would loosen the unethical hold of Valley’s political parties over the entire erstwhile state and disallow them from punching above their weight.

The shenanigans of unscrupulous Congress and Abdullah dynasty had carved up the erstwhile state, now a union territory, terribly tilted in favour of Kashmir Valley even though in size and density Jammu had a far larger claim to presence in the legislative assembly.

Out of 87 seats in the assembly, 46 were reserved for Kashmir region and 37 for Jammu (Ladakh had the other four seats). No wonder Abdullahs and Muftis, due to their clout in the Valley, controlled the levers of the troublesome region

This of course is historical injustice. Dogras (Jammu) have dominated the region historically. Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh amassed a state bigger than left behind by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a Sikh ruler in the 19th century. Till 1941, Hindus in Jammu numbered Muslims in Kashmir Valley.

However, Kashmir changed forever once Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah rose to power simultaneously in Delhi and Srinagar. Nehru afforded Abdullah a free run. Abdullah arbitrarily allocated 75 assembly seats in the 1951 state assembly between Kashmir Valley (43), Jammu (30) and Ladakh (2). There was no population data but just his whim to guide Abdullah.

Jammu and Kashmir had changed forever.

Abdullah’s son, Farooq, made it worse. His father had constituted the Delimitation Commission which had further increased Kashmir’s representation to 46 seats, as against 37 to Jammu. Farooq amended the Section 47 of the Jammu & Kashmir constitution in 2002 under which no addition or alteration of constituencies could take place up to 2026.

Game, set and match over. Or so they thought.

Modi has now abrogated Article 370 and 35A and bifurcated the erstwhile J and K state into two union terrirotry, J & K and Ladakh. The one of J & K though would still have a legislative assembly and if the present arrangement is allowed to remain, the PDPs and NCs would still control the valley and call the shots.

But now the J and K Reorganisation Bill, 2019 would remove the anomaly. The strength of assembly was 107 (24 being earmarked for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) which would now become 114 after the delimitation exercise is carried out. The new Union Territory will also have reservation for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the legislative assembly.

Once the delimitation kicks in, the ascendency of Jammu is inevitable. It already has more area than Kashmir Valley. It has more people in some constituencies than Valley has in two. (For instance, two constituencies in Srinagar City has nearly 50,000 less electorates than in single constituency of Gandhi Nagar in Jammu region. Same would be the case with Jammu City East seat).

Once this happens, everything would flow from the ballot and not from the bullet. Just imagine the scenarios below:

  • Lakhs of Gujjars, Bakerwals, Gaddies–around 11 per cent of the state’s population—don’t have any reserve seat in the Valley even though they were given Scheduled Tribe (ST) status way back in 1991. The seven reserved seats for ST—Chamb, Domana, Ranbir Singh Pura, Samba, Hiranagar, Chenani and Ramban in Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur district–are all in Jammu region and have stayed stationery since 1996, never ever rotated to Kashmir Valley;
  • A secure Kashmir would be such a powerful bulwark against Pakistan and its’ ISI, not to say a leverage which would come handy against China;
  • If terrorists are throttled, Jihadi organizations such as Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda, not to say Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed—and its leaders such as Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar—would be neutralized.
  • Safer borders means lesser martyred soldiers. A buoyant and not a demoralized force. It would also free up India’s security apparatus. Men and money both could be saved.

The delimitation commission would table in its recommendations to the Centre with regard to the number of assembly constituencies only. The number of Lok Sabha seats—three to Kashmir Valley and two to Jammu—can’t be altered as Parliament had passed a law freezing it till 2026.