Pragati November 2008: The Sri Lanka dilemma


Don’t abandon the Tiger
A Sinhala-dominated Sri Lanka is not in India’s interests
T S Gopi Rethinaraj

The moment of truth on the LTTE
The decimation of the Tamil Tigers is a good thing
Subramanian Swamy

Tuning a new balance
China’s military transformation and the implications for India
Arun Sahgal

Looking back at Amarnath
India must seize the opportunity that has come in the wake of the crisis
Raja Karthikeya Gundu

The strategic imprint of India’s presence
A discussion on strategic affairs with Jaswant Singh
Nitin Pai & Prashant Kumar Singh

In tandem: military and civil bureaucracy
Differentiating military advisors and military commanders
Sushant K Singh & Rohit Pradhan

Faith in the system
The state must not restrict religious freedoms
Rohit Pradhan & Harsh Gupta

Rajiv Gandhi’s last manifesto
The Congress Party must rediscover its 1991 vision
V Anantha Nageswaran

The end of financial capitalism: what now?
Competent economic management has become all the more important
Mukul G Asher

Not a moment of boredom
Reviews of Pallavi Aiyar’s Smoke and Mirrors and Praveen Swami’s India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad
Nitin Pai

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BJP is tying itself in knots

…and making avoidable mistakes

The worst type of errors are the unforced ones. And the BJP’s leaders are making them. Sushma Swaraj’s ill-considered accusations gave pause to anyone who thought that the BJP might take internal security a little more seriously than the UPA. And it was followed by Manvendra Singh’s op-ed, of all places in The Hindu, that demonstrates the bind the party has gotten itself in in view of its partisan opposition to the nuclear deal. It is all the more surprising that such an article should come from Mr Singh, who is considered one of those rare politicians who have a good grasp of geopolitical and national security issues.

It is hard to understand why Mr Singh should dismiss India’s sense of confidence because it has “come from an access to markets, from an acquired sense of belonging” and “not from earning the seat or the role”. To the extent that this is true, it confirms the view that India’s foreign policy is lagging behind its actual geopolitical status. And that the nation and the economy have left the political class behind.

It is also hard to understand why Mr Singh should worry about “some fairly simple and laudable foreign policy intransigents” that we have jettisoned. He cites “From its stated position of a multi-polar world, India is now a practitioner of uni-polar politics.” He doesn’t support this assertion with any argument, other than contend that India would require Washington’s approvals to import South African, Russian, French or Japanese civilian power reactors. To the extent that this is true, isn’t it better to have a reactor—albeit one that comes with strings—than no reactor at all? Now, it would perhaps be cause for worry if these reactors accounted for a huge fraction of India’s energy supply, but he himself contends that at 40GW they won’t amount to more than 1 single-digit percent of India’s energy mix in 40 years. Surely, needing Washington’s approval for a mere 1 single-digit percent of India’s energy requirements isn’t something to lose sleep over?

Given its significance for party politics, it is understandable that Mr Singh should seek to justify his party’s position on the deal. But what is more worrisome is the underlying thinking that comes through in the op-ed.

The entire thrust of the deal is to secure for India technology from global civilian nuclear vendors. All of it depends on import. And how imports could make the country more secure is an oxymoron of the most perplexing kind. The only route India has to greater energy security is by implementing efficiency standards and building up on its abundant renewable resources…
What it needs is a re-working of the development vision for the country. Mega-projects and other big-ticket items are politics of the 20th century. India is a country that still refuses to urbanise at the global pace. All that it requires is to implement the panchayat level of thinking. Encourage, and allow, the development of renewable energy projects that are community-based, and sustained. Plan India, and implement village. This is the future, and there are ample examples of its success around the world. But it requires a change of mindset, shifting of gears, from Delhi to the districts. It is there that politics is played out, and there that energy security is available aplenty. [The Hindu]

Here Mr Singh is tossing out some simple and laudable intransigents of his own. The path to energy security—ask anyone in India’s nuclear power establishment—is the exploitation of abundant thorium resources. Some criticise Homi Bhabha’s vision as a chimera because it has proven so elusive. Yet the stakes are high enough not to abandon the project.

Now investment in renewable energy is a good idea. But just because India doesn’t have to import wind, water and sunlight it does not follow that renewable energy will not depend on imports—unless Mr Singh believes that all that technology will be developed and manufactured in India.

That brings us to his most perplexing statement: his contention that imports don’t make the country more secure. Unless Mr Singh is arguing that renewable energy will be sufficient to sustain 8 to 10 percent economic growth over the next two decades, India will have to import fuel: oil, natural gas, coal or uranium. Given this situation, India’s energy security lies in diversity: multiple sources of fuel from multiple countries such that no single source or country is large enough to cause trouble. That’s where nuclear power makes sense. Until the time thorium or renewables take us to the promised land, every kilowatt of nuclear power reduces India’s dependence on oil-producing countries of the Persian Gulf.

Decentralised power may be the answer for towns and bigger villages (see Reuben Abraham & Atanu Dey’s piece in the August 2007 issue of Pragati). India’s pace of urbanisation might be slower than China’s, but 300 million people live in cities today. This number is expected to increase to 900 million (55 percent of the population) by 2050. Empowering them will need more than panchayat thinking.

Pragati August 2008: Should India send troops to Afghanistan?

Issue 17 - Aug 2008
Issue Contents


Making a leader
Excerpts from a lecture on leadership and discipline
Sam HFJ Manekshaw

Our voice in our history
Academic freedom, private funding and historical research
Jayakrishnan Nair

On whether or not India has a coherent foreign policy

A survey of think-tanks
On China policy; Fixing the FATA; An Indo-Israeli alliance?
Vijay Vikram

Hold steady in Afghanistan
India is on the right track and it should stay that way
Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

A bigger military presence is essential
…if India is to shape Afghanistan’s future
Sushant K Singh

The myth of Taliban tribalism
The folly of trying to set tribes against each other
Joshua Foust

Monsoon Session 2008—What’s in store
Legislative brief
Sarita Vanka

When it’s good to slow down
The why and what next about rising inflation
V Anantha Nageswaran

The historical roots of the services sector
…calls for a strategy that plays to India’s strengths
Stephen Broadberry and Bishnupriya Gupta

Profiting from education
Resistance against commercialisation is fruitless
Atanu Dey

Four books about Pakistan
On nuclear proliferation, military politics and society
Nitin Pai

My essay in The Friday Times: The little revolutions in India’s military affairs

Making India’s defence policy consistent with its emergence as a significant global player.

Here’s a version of my essay that appeared in Pakistan’s The Friday Times July 11-17, 2008 | (Vol. XX, No. 21):

India’s armed forces, according to K Subrahmanyam, have “not modernised their decision-making process ever since Lord Ismay prescribed it in 1947. Command and control have not changed since the Second World War. We are now thinking about buying modern equipment when the force structure and philosophy of it go back to the desert campaign of Rommel and Southeast Asia Command of Mountbatten.”

Mr Subrahmanyam’s words highlight a much broader point—that India’s external and domestic contexts have radically changed, especially since 1991, and a wide-ranging rethink of its defence policy has become an urgent necessity. A comprehensive policy review, however, is yet to take place.

That’s because the country’s leaders—even those with an interest and expertise in defence matters—have been constrained by the diktats of coalition politics, repulsed by the vested interests of the civilian and military bureaucracies, and not least, deterred by the popular media’s enthusiasm for blowing up corruption scandals.

The central challenge is to make India’s defence policy—encompassing doctrine, equipment and manpower—consistent with its emergence as a significant global player. The process of economic liberalisation first initiated by the P V Narasimha Rao government in the early 1990s not only turned India into a trillion dollar economy by early 2008, but also made it an important stakeholder in global economic and strategic affairs. Even as this is placing new demands on the armed forces, the mix of resources available for defence has changed. Budget constraints, for instance, have eased. Manpower constraints, on the other hand, have become tighter. Mindsets and policies, though, hark back to the days when the reverse was true.
Continue reading “My essay in The Friday Times: The little revolutions in India’s military affairs”

Dear Mr Ramachandra Guha

Patience is immoral

Your essay (via Streetcar) arguing that India will not, and should not attempt to become a superpower is simply too long. It does deserve to be read, though, though at leisure. For now let’s examine your concluding paragraph.

To follow the Naxalites is to plunge India into decades of civil war; to follow the Hindu right is to persecute and demonise large numbers of one’s own countrymen; to follow the market fundamentalists is to intensify the divisions between the consuming and the surviving classes (and to destroy the global environment in the process). Rather than nurture or act upon these utopian fantasies, the Indian patriot must focus instead on the tasks of gradual and piecemeal reform. We need to repair, one by one, the institutions that have safeguarded our unity amidst diversity, and to forge, also one by one, the new institutions that can help us meet the fresh challenges of the 21st century. It will be hard, patient, slow work—that is to say, the only kind of work that is ever worth it. [Outlook]

From your comfortable drawing room it is easy to argue that reform must be gradual and piecemeal and that the Indian patriot must be patient.

But it is immoral to keep hundreds of millions poor, to deny them economic freedom, to deny them a chance to improve the lot of their children, and climb out of poverty in a generation. Even if the divisions between the consuming and surviving classes intensifies in the process. Even if the global environment is damaged in the process. It is immoral to plead for patience, for one extra day of poverty is one day too many.

Look around you, Mr Guha. Look at the number of countries that have managed to extract their citizens out of poverty in less than the span of one generation. It’s quite all right if you reject the notion that India must not try to be superpower (although it is unlikely that you—like Gurcharan Das—fathom that India can’t improve the lot of its citizens unless it holds its own against the world’s powers). But why should you reject the idea that Indian people should get out of poverty as fast as they can?

Weekday Squib: Move over Tom Friedman

…and make way for a new theory of conflict prevention

Via Manoranjitam
Picture: Manoranjitam

Anand Ramachandran’s Evil Twin doesn’t say so explicitly (via Desipundit), but he’s onto something: countries that have Gopal Palpodi don’t go to war with each other.

[It is possible that there is also an Ayurvedic Soap Theory of Conflict Prevention, based on countries that have Medimix and Chandrika Soap. Proof of this hypothesis is left as an exercise for Keralite graduate students]

Towards a quantum theory of international relations

A metaphor and beyond

Nikolas Gvosdev is struck by a comment by Commodore C Uday Bhaskar on new ways of thinking about international relations.

He suggested that policymakers take a page from the sciences, specifically quantum computing. Unlike in traditional computing, based on a binary system—something is either a one or a zero, quantum computing works from the model that you can have a one, a zero, or a quantum superposition of the one and zero simultaneously.

Bhaskar argues that in foreign policy governments and analysts have to become more comfortable with balancing competitive and cooperative approaches simultaneously with the same country in terms of the bilateral relationship. It is a further reminder that we are moving away from a system where the assumption that if states cooperate on one set of issues, they will cooperate on everything else is no longer operative. And the fact that a country may have very serious competitive issues with another will not remove the obligation and the need to cooperate on other issues which are of vital interest to both. [The Washington Realist]

Now it is quite likely that the good commodore was talking metaphorically. But one commenter on Dr Gvosdev’s blog points a paper by Alexander Wendt, titled “Social Theory as Cartesian Science: An auto-critique from a quantum perspective“. That surely is some academic mixing of drinks.

By Invitation: On Rivals in Asia

A review of Bill Emmott’s Rivals: How the Power Struggle Between China, India and Japan Will Shape Our Next Decade

By V Anantha Nageswaran

Mr Bill Emmott, former Editor-in-Chief of “Economist” has written another book. It is on China, Japan and India and is appropriately titled, Rivals. The temptation to go for “Pillars of the new Asian century” would have been too high to resist for some others. But, Mr Emmott is not one of those woolly eyed observers of Asia to take the common consent that this would be Asia’s century for granted. He sees plenty of risks and rightly so.  

For the most part, the book is an engaging and easy read. As it winds down, the pace appears to slacken and the reader gets impatient. But that could quite legitimately be put down to the reader’s unjustified lack of interest in the subject of North and South Korea that comes up in the end. The book has at least two fascinating chapters on the environmental risks of the rise of China and India, not just to the rest of the world but also to themselves. Whereas India’s pollution comes from its poverty, China’s comes from its breakneck capacity addition. In other words, the story of India’s pollution and environmental decay is in its early chapters. 
Continue reading “By Invitation: On Rivals in Asia”

When will Iran have its Bomb?

Watch out for the Big Bad Row

The IAEA submitted its latest report on Iran’s nuclear programme to its board of governors on 26th May. (via V Anantha Nageswaran). The report points out that Iran has been operating its assembly of 3000 IR-1 centrifuges at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant with greater efficiency and is in the process of adding another similar assembly. It is experimenting with advanced centrifuge designs (modified Pakistani P2 designs, replacing maraging steel rotors with carbon fibre composite ones), although these remain employed in the pilot stage.

The IAEA report finds Iran guilty of both procedural violations (reporting installations post facto, rather than in advance) as well as for not providing satisfactory accounts of alleged weapons development activities (preparing an underground shafts for testing, testing detonators and warhead designs, and modifying the Shahab-3 ballistic missile to carry a nuclear warhead). [See Arms Control Wonk‘s post]

So what does this tell us about the all important question: when will Iran have a bomb ready?

Assuming that Iran does not have other secret nuclear plants well hidden from the public eye, the reasonable assumption is that Iran will use the Natanz facilities to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) that will go into its bomb. According to Jeffrey Lewis’ handy calculator, Iran will need between 156 to 293 days to produce enough HEU for a bomb. If it gets the second assembly of 3000 centrifuges operating, that period will be halved, to about 78-147 days. As Dr Lewis’s calculations show, the time to produce sufficient HEU gets shorter if more centrifuges become operational, or their efficiency improves.

In addition to having sufficient quantities of HEU, Iran must also have a functioning weapons design—again thanks to Pakistan and A Q Khan, that should not be too difficult.

But Iran’s centrifuges are not yet producing HEU. The IAEA is keeping watch over the nuclear material and the centrifuge cascades in the Natanz facility. It is likely to know if and when the Iranian authorities decide to go into the bomb mode. A possible indicator of this happening is when Iran and the IAEA have the Big Bad Row. Depending on how many centrifuges Iran has working then, we can estimate the time it will take to produce and assemble a bomb. That could be anywhere between 78 days (if the second assembly is operational) to 293 days (if only the existing one is operational). If you are looking for a ready reckoner: you can assume that Iran has the bomb three months from the Big Bad Row.

(Some Europeans are going to look silly when that happens. So will the some Americans. But other events—both ugly ones and not-at-all-ugly ones—might well spare them from the embarrassment. )

Pragati June 2008: The New Jihadis

Issue 15 - Jun 2008
Issue Contents


The New Jihadis
Local manifestations of a global pattern
Nitin Pai

Getting human rights right
Are human rights activists playing into the hands of
Sandeep Balakrishna, Salil Tripathi & Rohit Pradhan

Towards a cultural liberalism
Governments must stop siding with intolerant mobs
Jayakrishnan Nair


A survey of think-tanks
Feline counter-terrorism; Measuring up against international human rights standards; On what makes foreign policy tick; Assessing energy security policies


Look before you hop

A discussion on strategic affairs with Stephen P Cohen
Nitin Pai & Aruna Urs


A review of Budget Session 2008
Kaushiki Sanyal


Where is the financial superhighway?
Two reports later, there is still no movement on reforms
Aadisht Khanna

Improving economic literacy
Effective delivery of public services requires sound public policy education
Mukul G Asher & Amarendu Nandy

A food credit card scheme
How microfinance and the public distribution scheme can work together
Ankit Rawal


History is in the writing
The changing fashions of recording history
Sunil Laxman

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