Pragati May 2008: Towards liberal nationalism

Issue 14 - Apr 2008

Issue Contents


Liberals, culture and nationalism Ravikiran S Rao
An opportunity exists for a new politics

Changing the broken wheel Raj Cherubal
The secular-right must champion economic freedom

Towards “that heaven of freedom” Gautam Bastian
A free nation of free citizens

Out of court Rohit Pradhan, Shashi Shekhar & Mukul Asher
Carry on the battle, but respect the court’s verdict


India as a rising great power; climate change and national security; India-Iran relations; to the brink; and trade across the Line of Control


The new currency of power Nitin Pai & Aruna Urs
A discussion on strategic affairs with K Subrahmanyam


Use the Tibet card Zorawar Daulet Singh
To settle the India-China dispute

Consensus must endure Dinesh Wagle
Maoists have the upper hand in the construction of the republic

Bottom-up dynamics Sushant K Singh
What attracts Africa to India and how it can be strengthened

Pressed by inflation Gulzar Natarajan
Easing supply bottlenecks is the right way to go


Memories of 1971 Amardeep Singh
A review of Tahmima Anam’s A Golden Age

Read excerpts | Download

Preparing for global warming wars

The Indian National Interest community launches its first policy brief

Climate Change and National Security: Preparing India for New Conflict Scenarios

Policy Brief No 1 - CoverThe global debate on whether there is indeed a process of anthropogenic climate change in progress has been for the most part settled by the international scientific consensus surrounding the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The trajectory of global warming is expected to have a major impact on human society as a whole: calling for a co-ordinated international response towards mitigation and adaptation to a warmer planet.

This policy brief analyses how climate change will affect regional security in the Indian subcontinent and implications for India’s national security. It argues that glacial melt, rising sea levels and extreme weather will exacerbate ongoing conflicts and will require India to develop military capabilities to address a range of new strategic scenarios: from supporting international co-operation, to managing a ‘hot peace’, to outright military conflict.

Get the document from the INI Policy Briefs section.

Pragati April 2008: Give them their freedom

Issue 13 - Apr 2008

Issue Contents


The unkindest cut Salil Tripathi
The loan waiver keeps poor farmers where they are

Waiver of mass debt Vijay Mahajan
How that money could have been used to really change lives

Concerning senior citizens Mukul G Asher &? Deepa Vasudevan
Budget 2008-09 and the implications for a greying population

Waiting for modernisation Sushant K Singh & Nitin Pai
The dismal state of long term defence procurement planning

On the arms race in outer space


Foreign aid to Afghanistan; Water and climate change


Dealing with China’s power projection Harsh V Pant
A rising China will not tolerate a rising India as a peer competitor


It matters what generals say K S Madhu Shankar
The army chief’s worrying remarks on the India-China border

Options in Sri Lanka T S Gopi Rethinaraj
And the risk of Sri Lanka falling sway to outside powers

New language formulas Sujay Rao Mandavilli
From an unsatisfactory compromise to a liberal decentralisation


Tagore in China Stephen S Hay
Edited excerpts from Asian Ideas of East and West

Subscribe | Download

My op-ed in Mint: Clearing the decks for defence modernisation

Defence budgeting and procurement processes need a overhaul

That the procurement process is holding back defence modernisation is relatively well-known. In today’s op-ed in Mint, Sushant and I throw more light on another aspect: only a small fraction of India’s defence budget is available for modernisation.


Putting resources to better use.
Effective use of money by the Armed Forces needs an overhaul of the budgeting and procurement processes

Illustration: Malay Karmakar/MintAs expected, the defence budget for 2008-09 has crossed the Rs1 trillion mark. After adjusting for inflation, this constitutes an increase of only 5%. For the first time since the early 1960s, India’s defence outlay has declined to less than 2% of the gross domestic product (GDP)—a sign of the chasm between the rhetoric and reality on national security…

India’s transformation into a middle-income country requires its Armed Forces to be more capital-intensive. Yet only around 10% of the defence budget is actually available for modernization, compared with around 30-40% in developed countries.

…nearly two-thirds of the amount for capital acquisitions from foreign suppliers, too, is pledged for assured and received deliveries. Payments for major defence purchases from foreign vendors are spread over a number of years. This year, India will pay instalments for earlier purchases such as the Sukhoi aircraft, the Gorshkov aircraft carrier, T-90 tanks, Talwar-class frigates, Scorpene submarines and for many other smaller contracts. Thus, only Rs8,000-9,000 crore ($2 billion) is available for new acquisitions this year.

The initial down payment on new acquisitions is generally around one-fourth of the total cost. So, the defence ministry can theoretically sign contracts worth $8 billion for new equipment this year. Capital allocations for coming years will then have to cater for instalments of these acquisitions. Despite returning more than Rs4,200 crore, the ministry will be asking for additional capital allocations this year; it justifiably believes that allocations already made will be largely used up by earlier contracts.

Defence modernization is based on a long-term integrated procurement plan (LTIPP) of the defence services. LTIPP for 2007-22, spanning the 11th, 12th and 13th Plans, is scheduled to be approved by the Defence Acquisition Council by October 2009. Going by the past record, it doesn’t signify much. The 10th defence plan was never approved by the finance ministry, and two years into the 11th Plan, it also hasn’t been approved so far. Instead, the finance minister has agreed to an annual increase of 10% during the 11th Plan. [Mint]

Gucci doesn’t trump Gandhi

Fashion was never the Mahatma’s strong point

Emily Wax, Washington Post’s correspondent, files a story fresh off the latest shuttle flight from Mars. People in India, she finds, are neither wearing the homespun nor living the spartan lifestyle like the great father of their nation. Why, they are going for branded goods instead!

Sominism is spreading. It’s affecting another of America’s great newspapers.

Disregarding the Mahatma’s advice on personal lifestyle and economic development is neither new nor a bad thing. Apart from its political symbolism (and political atavism today) homespun never had popular appeal. Not even in the Mahatma’s days. In fact, Gandhi himself was a practical man. He excused Sarojini Naidu from wearing khadi sarees when she complained that they made her uncomfortable. [See “Clothing Matters: Dress & Identity in India“, by Emma Tarlo, on Google Books. Ms Tarlo writes that few young women in Gandhi’s ashram wore the austere colours the Mahatma advocated. And that Sarojini Naidu’s choice of dress was motivated by fashion.]

Indians, meanwhile, were nothing if not brand conscious. Like other members of the species. What has changed is that rising incomes have made the more expensive brands accessible to a lot more people. That’s cause for celebration.