India’s Rising Regional Military Engagement

India’s Rising Regional Military Engagement

Nitin Gokhale New Delhi has been strengthening defense ties with countries across the region. Sometime in the latter half of 2013, the top brass of the Indian military had a short but effective brainstorming session with other stakeholders in the national security architecture. The participants were drawn from the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) which functions directly under National Security Adviser (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon, senior officials from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the Research and Analysis Wing or RAW, India’s external intelligence agency and of course the Ministry of Defence. The main agenda: how to further India’s interests in the immediate and strategic neighborhood through effective use of India’s military.  For the past decade, India has been receiving increasing requests for joint exercises and training slots from what are described as “Friendly Foreign Countries” in the bureaucratic parlance of South Block, the colonial style building that houses both the defense ministry and the external affairs ministry. Considering these requests, a review was called for. At the end of the high-level meeting, a six-point formula for stepping up the nation’s military diplomacy was finalized. Specifically, the officials decided to: leverage the military element of national power towards the furtherance of the national interest; contribute to the national security environment by developing a shared confidence amongst the armed forces; strengthen defense relations to promote India’s influence in the region; establish a presence commensurate with India’s strategic interests and the comfort level of the host nation; assist friendly foreign countries in developing defense capabilities consistent with India’s security needs; exploit India’s presence in UN Missions to further the national interest. Many of the elements in the policy are part of India’s ongoing engagement with its friends and neighbors, but the fact that a reiteration was considered necessary signifies renewed interest in making full use of Indian military’s standing across the world. One of the first decisions flowing out of the new thinking was to post defense attachés in the Central Asian Republics. Accordingly, three new attachés have been placed in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the past three months. These three countries are of particular immediate interest because of their proximity to Afghanistan, currently in the...

Dynastic shenanigans….

Dynastic shenanigans….

The dynasty is following a scorched-earth policy. There is still scope for limiting the damage that is likely to be attempted in the coming days before the Election Commission embargo sets in. Whether the Prime Minister or the cabinet will muster the courage to finally put their foot down is difficult to say. Clearly the time has come for the President of India to exercise his constitutional mandate and step in to limit the damage.. ~ VINOD SAIGHAL The Statesman, New Delhi (10 February 2014) Pronouncements by the ruling party’s prime minister-in-waiting have been flying thick and fast, bestowing benefits to all and sundry from an exchequer that stands critically depleted. An example is the decision by the government after intervention of Mr. Rahul Gandhi (as per news reports) that the number of gas cylinders available at the subsidized rate should be increased from 9 to 12. There could hardly be any doubt that the concerned ministry knowing the parlous situation of the economy would have been opposed to it, as would have been the finance minister and the Prime Minister even if they chose to remain silent. After all, the extra-constitutional authority with no accountability has been running the government and for that matter the country by fiats from time to time. The question of non-conformity has almost never arisen for the simple reason that all the important ministerial appointments have been made by the UPA chairperson. They run their ministries at her sufferance. The Prime Minister falls into the same category. Even the crucial positions within the PMO are decided in the same manner. In the remaining period till elections are announced many more sops irrespective of whether the economy can withstand further shocks are likely to be announced. In the case of the increase in subsidized gas cylinders at a cost to the exchequer of Rs 5000 crore, the Reserve Bank Governor felt impelled to come out with an uncharacteristic negative comment against the government’s decision. It is not likely to have an effect on the cavalier dynastic shenanigans. Increasingly they seem to have abandoned the armed forces, thereby endangering national security due to critical shortages and the wellbeing of troops...

‘Nice guys finish second’

‘Nice guys finish second’

So what should the governor of Kashmir be like? HAPPYMON JACOB I am using the title of BK Nehru’s famous book ‘Nice guys finish second’ as the title of my column today because what follows would have certain indirect links with Mr. Nehru’s tenure as the governor of J&K from 1982 till he was shifted out by Indira Gandhi for refusing to remove Farooq Abdullah from power in J&K.  The Times of India carried a news item the other day that there is a strong speculation that the incumbent National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon will replace Mr. N. N Vohra as the Governor of J&K, that too in the near future. I am not sure how much to trust this story but if indeed there is such a move underway, I don’t consider that to be a good choice for a variety of reasons. If Menon’s stint as the Foreign Secretary and National Security Advisor is any indication of what kind of a Governor he will make, then one would have to say that he is unlikely to be any more than a guardian of the status-quo, something the people of Kashmir patently detest. Mr. Menon is a sophisticated diplomat who can articulate and justify New Delhi’s positions on various issues with élan and aplomb. But that’s it – he is no visionary who can put together a roadmap for conflict resolution in J&K considering the fact that governors in this conflict-ridden state have been given more powers than governors elsewhere. So what should the governor of Kashmir be like? Clearly, Kashmir and Kashmiris deserve someone better than Mr. Jagmohan whose tenure can easily be termed as one of the most disastrous in the modern history of Kashmir. First of all, the governor of J&K, where a number of internal and external security considerations converge, should be someone who can get out of the comfort of the Raj Bhavan and connect with the people of the state. He/she should be a statesman, sensitive individual, and who does not see governorship as merely a post-retirement perk. Again, when it comes to J&K, there is no point in suggesting individuals who may be very good...

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