Saturday, December 25, 2010

India remains in S Asian bottle

Here's the link to an article of mine on Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit that appeared in today's Pioneer.

The biggest success for China insofar India is to derive maximum advantage from her emerging economy status while at the same time keeping India tied down in sub-continental squabbling. The Wen visit achieved just that.

Premier Wen Jiabao’s three-day visit has produced mixed results, with the business community somewhat satisfied with Wen’s promise to open Chinese market for Indian products, although there was no progress on major political issues that were of critical importance to India. On the other hand, this visit was not expected to result in major breakthroughs. Rather, it seems to have been designed to cool temperatures after a series of face-offs between the two countries. But it may not have achieved even this limited objective because the visit appears to have led to even greater wariness in Delhi about China.

From the Chinese perspective, the focus was almost exclusively on economic and trade issues, evident in the 400-member business delegation that accompanied Wen. But contrary to what many have argued, strengthened economics ties have not contributed to better relations on the political front. If the last few years have seen a dramatic increase in trade, so has been the increase in tension on a range of political issues.

India’s focus, on the other hand, was on several political issues, on which the Indian leadership wanted some resolution from Beijing: the changing Chinese policy on Jammu & Kashmir, China-Pakistan nuclear cooperation and terrorism.

From a neutral approach on J&K in the 1980s through 1990s, China has in recent years adopted a more aggressive and partisan role, questioning even the territorial integrity of India. China’s attempt to carve out areas out of the western sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is reflective of the Chinese intent in rewriting history and redrawing geographical boundaries. How far back would China go into history to make new territorial claims is something to be watched out for. While the recent deletion of about 1,500 km from the boundary is a new phenomenon, the Chinese questioning of Indian territorial integrity has been evident in a series of recent Chinese actions. The issuance of stapled visas to people from J&K, denial of travel permits to senior military officers commanding the region are but two instances. Chinese unwillingness to exchange maps of the western sector at least for a decade is reflective of the Chinese intent to question India’s territorial integrity on J&K. While these may be tactical and minor pricks, India should not lose sight of the strategic thinking behind these tactics.

Second, China-Pakistan nuclear and missile cooperation of the 1980s and 1990s has had lasting geopolitical effects on India. The recent Chinese proposal to sell additional nuclear reactors, grandfathering the agreement as it were in total defiance of the international regime, is a dangerous development. This has implications not just for the India-Pakistan military balance but for the global community. Pakistan is on the threshold of being a failed state, and breeding a dangerous cocktail of terrorism and WMD proliferation. The global non-proliferation regime and the US seem unable or unwilling to put the necessary pressure on China not to go ahead with the proposal.

Third, terrorism should have ideally formed an issue of commonality between India and China given that both countries have been victims of terror. But the Chinese selective approach to fight terrorism places New Delhi and Beijing at two ends of the spectrum. More importantly, Beijing refuses to come on board in acknowledging and putting the onus on Pakistan when the Pak-based terror groups have been actively promoting terrorism in India. The best evidence was the post-Mumbai terror attacks, when China refused to be party to UN action against Pakistan-based terror groups like let for their role in the Mumbai attacks. Selectively fighting terrorism in Xinjiang alone will hurt China in the long-term.

It must be borne that these are rather tactical issues in the bilateral relations to keep India embroiled in the Indian neighborhood. The larger question is whether Beijing recognizes the fact that India is also a rising power that needs its strategic space.

The new policy approach towards India is part of a well-considered, clearly articulated and well-orchestrated policy to deny India the space and potential to move beyond South Asia. In 2005, the Chinese leadership had got an internal study done on India, written by the top South Asia specialists including Prof Ma Jiali, who used to frequent India in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The study recommended, among other things, that China take steps to maintain its strategic advantages over India and try to keep India bottled within South Asia. While the study may be a bit dated, the conclusion of the study appears to have been taken to heart by the Chinese policy elites.

India has been admirably careful and diplomatic in handling Chinese provocations so far. India has little need to open up a northern front while it continues to have trouble from Pakistan. But New Delhi also has limitations, especially in justifying its passive policies domestically. Thus, its forbearance may not last. Hopefully, Beijing will realize that its hardline policies towards Delhi will be counter-productive and that India and China have complementary goals that require cooperation rather than confrontation.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wen Jiabao Visit -- Expectations and Deliverables

Here's the link to an article of mine on the recent visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, looking at the potential areas that the Indian leadership is likely to take up with the visiting leader. For the full article, click here.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is on a three-day visit to India against the backdrop of both increasing rivalry between the two Asian giants as well as opportunities for greater cooperation. This is manifested from time to time as both tension and cooperation, both at the bilateral and multilateral levels. Whether tension or cooperation predominates this visit will reveal a lot about the long-term prospect of this important bilateral relationship.

The two sides have improved their relations to a great extent in the last few years, particularly in the economic domain. The trade ties have grown from just US $ 1.99 billion in 1999 to nearly US $ 60 billion this year, but without seeming to have any positive impact on the political relationship. This article outlines the major concerns that New Delhi has. How they are addressed by the two sides will decide how this visit is judged.

For the Indian side, there are four key issues that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will likely take up with Wen Jiabao. These are the opening of Chinese market for Indian goods; Chinese policy approach on Jammu & Kashmir, including that of the issuance of stapled visas; nuclear cooperation with Pakistan; and terrorism.

Opening up of the Chinese Market

India-China economic and commercial relations have improved tremendously in the last few years. Even while there is imbalance in the trade, this is one area that has continued to flourish without major hurdles. The trade deficit is hugely in favour of China. Another area of concern is that India continues to export mostly raw materials while we import manufactured products. This imbalance is an issue that needs to be addressed.

One major demand from the Indian side has been the opening up of the Chinese market for India. India has demanded opening of the market in three key sectors – pharmaceuticals, IT and agriculture. In spite of efforts by the Indian government and the private sector, there has been hardly any movement. India has a sizeable R&D and technological base in the area of pharmaceuticals and India has produced a variety of cheap and effective drugs for a number of diseases including AIDS. However, India has not been allowed to operate in the Chinese market. Similar has been the case in the areas of IT and agricultural products. This is another issue that the Indian leadership has to take up with China.

Chinese Policy on Jammu & Kashmir

China’s policy on Jammu and Kashmir has oscillated from one end of the spectrum to the other. From a policy of neutrality in the 1980s and 1990s, China has adopted a more active and partisan role today. China’s policy on J&K today represents a mix of aggressiveness and determination, emboldened by the rising politico, economic and military might of the nation. This change in its stance is partly contributed to by the fact that the US is a declining power and there are other power centres in the making, including that of New Delhi and Beijing. The Obama Administration, particularly in the first year of its administration, followed an extremely pro-China policy, adding to the confidence of Beijing. Because of this, China began to sense that it was an important power to reckon with, not just in the region, but even in global terms. Such confidence on the part of Beijing led to more aggressive behaviour in China’s dealing with all of its neighbours and even the United States. The number of maritime issues between the PLAN (PLA Navy) and the US Navy and conflicts involving Vietnam and Indonesia, and India on the land border, are reflective of China’s growing muscle and its willingness to flex its muscles. This new more interventionist policy on J&K appears to be an outgrowth of the US-China joint plan of action vis-a-vis South Asia. It appears to be an after-effect of the US-China Joint Statement in November 2009 for the two countries to jointly manage South Asia. While the issuance of stapled visas may not be directly linked to the changed policy on J&K, China has begun to make serious assertions that the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir is a disputed territory.

Nuclear Cooperation with Pakistan

Nuclear and missile cooperation in India’s neighbourhood has had long-lasting impact in the geopolitics of South Asia. China’s proliferation of nuclear weapons/technology along with its delivery vehicles has clearly altered the India-Pakistan military balance. While some analysts suggest that this is a thing of the past, the recent Chinese proposal to build additional nuclear plants in Pakistan indicates otherwise, in addition to being a clear violation of the international agreements that China is party to. China is seeking to ‘grandfather’ the current agreement into an earlier agreement for the supply of the nuclear reactors. The international community, including the UN and its associated bodies, appears to be unable to persuade China to desist from supplying these reactors. The US appears unable or unwilling to put the kind of pressure needed to stop Beijing from carrying out this arrangement.

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and the issue of nuclear proliferation have continued to be major issues of concern for US, India and the global community at large. Earlier revelations about AQ Khan having assisted Libya, North Korea and Iran with materials related to uranium enrichment is neither forgotten nor can it be ruled out in the future. The US’s overlooking of Pakistan’s nuclear activities in the 1980s to achieve its Cold War objectives has led to these dangers in Pakistan today. If the US is unwilling to take strong measures against the latest Chinese proposal, the effects could be much more damaging not only for India, but for Pakistan, China and the US.


While India and China are “victims” of terror, the two countries differ drastically on the definitional aspects of terror. For India, terror has originated and continues to originate from Pakistan while China has refused to put the responsibility on Pakistan. The best illustration was the post-Mumbai terror attacks when the UN was to take action against the Pakistan-based terror groups for their role in the Mumbai attacks. China refused to see India’s or even the larger global community’s point of view on fixing the responsibility on Pakistan. China has to recognise that it cannot selectively fight Islamic terrorism only in Xinjiang.

While these are some of the issues that India should take up with the Chinese leadership, it will be naive to expect that China will give in on any of these issues. Wen Jiabao’s visit to India is more of a good will visit or a CBM (Confidence Building Measures) measure to cool the temperatures after the recent tensions on the border as well as the J&K issues. This visit is not expected to be a foreign policy success for either of the governments, from that limited perspective. However, the two countries will continue to be on an “engage” mode, since engagement is the mantra.

As far as China is concerned, Wen Jiabao’s trip is almost singularly driven by economic objectives, evident from the 400-member business delegation that is accompanying Wen Jiabao. China, particularly after the global financial crisis, is on a look-out for markets in Asia, and India offers the largest market. Therefore, China’s singular focus on economic issues is understandable, but India should not give into the Chinese demands without a quid pro quo.

Monday, December 6, 2010

North Korean Crisis and China

Here's an article of mine on the North Korean crisis, looking specifically at the role of China. The article was published on the ORF website and can be accessed here.

China has to recognise the pitfalls of its approach as it deals with North Korea. China has to recognise that North Korean actions are triggering several developments that are not necessarily in the interests of China. For instance, it has triggered major debates on defence in Japan about becoming proactive in defending themselves, including the option of nuclearisation. Can a nuclearised East Asia be ruled out in the next decade if Pyongyang is to continue on the same path?

North Korea appears to be in an aggressive mode with its second attack this year against South Korea, provoking the world at large, and certainly its neighbours, to respond. In March this year, Pyongyang had sunk the 1,200 ton South Korean corvette Cheonan in the Yellow Sea, which prompted the United Nations to issue a resolution condemning the incident, although it did not blame Pyongyang for the incident. This week Pyongyang shelled a South Korean fishing community and military base in Yeonpyeong, a disputed island, on Nov.23 with highly inflammable ammunition that killed four people, including two civilian construction workers, and blew the windows out of a school and torched houses. As of November 29, the US and South Korea had completed their third day of naval exercises off the Korean Peninsula’s west coast, although Seoul has cancelled the live firing drill at Yeonpyeong.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang has also clarified that it is pursuing its nuclear programme vigorously. It recently stated that it has a uranium-enrichment facility with thousands of centrifuges, to provide for a light water reactor, for “peaceful purpose of meeting electricity demand.” Quoting an editorial from the ruling communist party’s newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, media reports said, “Our nuclear energy development, which is for peaceful purposes and to solve the electricity demand, will be more active.” In fact, this was the first time that Pyongyang has openly talked about its nuclear programme. The existence of the modern enrichment facility was disclosed by Stanford University professor and scientist Siegfried S Hecker, who was given a tour of the site on November 12.1

What has prompted Pyongyang to adopt such hardline measures in the recent years? The “military-first politics” of Kim Jong Il, the expansion of DPRK military capabilities and its increasing defence budget continue to be an area of concern. Pyongyang has continued to argue that nuclear weapons and missiles along with their conventional capabilities are required as deterrents against possible South Korean, Japanese and American military aggression against North Korea. The North Korean leadership has also maintained that this is one possible way that it can get the international attention and that the world will engage it only under such conditions. This argument is difficult to sell anymore given that the international community, and the US in particular, have been engaged with Pyongyang on a bilateral basis as well as through the Six Party talks format.

Second, is there a message for the world that the new leadership in North Korea is as hardline as the old one? In fact, continuity can be visualised as far as Pyongyang’s future trajectory is concerned, given that Kim Jong Il chose the youngest son and not the older one (who is considered a peacenik) to carry on with the Kim Jong Il legacy in Asian affairs.

What has been the role of China in this regard? The Chinese interests, while they seem congruent on the surface with that of the US and other regional powers, are actually different and incongruent. For instance, the Chinese and American perspectives about the issue of North Korean stability are very different. For the regional powers as well as the US, what they want is a denuclearised North Korea at peace with its neighbours, and also a country that protects the human rights for its own people, whereas Chinese interests are to ensure that there is no crisis that might prompt the influx of large number of refugees into China and that there are no US troops on the Chinese borders, say if South Korea takes over the North after a collapse. Therefore, the Chinese interests are driven by narrower perceptions of North Korean stability.

Pyongyang has adopted a defiant attitude in its dealings with its neighbourhood, with the possible exception of Beijing. Beijing has become almost the only friend of the Kim Jong Il regime, extending the crucial economic, political and moral support. China remains North Korea’s largest trading partner as well as an important source of food, fuel and arms.2 Given that Pyongyang’s relations, particularly with Seoul, have declined drastically after the two nuclear tests, Beijing’s bargaining power with the North Korean leadership should have increased dramatically.

Some analysts argue that the US is dependent on China to put any serious pressure on North Korea. While this may be partly true, it is also possible that China has not put any serious pressure on North Korea because they see it as a buffer state between itself and the US allies in its neighbourhood. Second, with the US having been preoccupied with Iraq and Afghanistan, China has managed to create a vital strategic space in Asia, particularly as the US deals with problem cases like North Korea or Myanmar. In both of these cases, China has emerged as the conduit for any dealing, be it the democracy, human rights or the WMD proliferation issues. Therefore, China does not want to lose that privileged position where the West has to route itself through Beijing to achieve some of their foreign policy objectives.

However, some have argued that the West has overestimated the Chinese hold on North Korea and that Beijing is unable to exercise that kind of influence on Pyongyang. There are experts who note that China is beginning to reach a point of frustration with North Korea on three issues: its increasingly belligerent behaviour; growing economic crisis; and the leadership succession issues. The recently-released WikiLeaks too suggested that China may have been re-thinking its policy towards North Korea, although the Cheonan incident and the recent shelling incident have established that Beijing has not altered its policy towards North Korea. There have been undoubtedly subtle changes in the last few years in China’s approach towards Pyongyang, evident from the support lent by China in imposing sanctions on North Korea post-nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.3 There were reports which noted that after the Cheonan incident, although China did not issue any action against North Korea despite strong evidence, President Hu Jintao is believed to have directed the leadership to be less provocative and avoid confrontations.4 Nonetheless, the subtle change that one witnessed is clearly reversible, which was evident in the recent crises.

Whether there is a change or not, China’s role in finding a solution to the North Korean crisis is critical. However, like any other country, China will get on board with an effective response only if it sees that its interests are affected or its interests can be served better by an active role. For China, there are three issues that could drive a more active role. As mentioned earlier, one of the major imperatives for China keeping Pyongyang as an ally is because it is a buffer state between the pro-west US-allies and Beijing. The Chinese have been paranoid about the US troops on its border. Second, in the case of any instability in North Korea or a serious conflict, there could be a huge refugee influx into China -- a nightmare scenario becoming a reality for Beijing. Lastly, any serious crisis on the Korean Peninsula can also weaken the Chinese standing and hurt its leadership, exposing its inability to deal with a problem successfully in its neighbourhood. This will seriously damage the image of the global leader-in-the-making.

In conclusion, China has to recognise the pitfalls of its approach as it deals with North Korea. China has to recognise that North Korean actions are triggering several developments that are not necessarily in the interests of China. For instance, it has triggered major debates on defence in Japan about becoming proactive in defending themselves, including the option of nuclearisation. Can a nuclearised East Asia be ruled out in the next decade if Pyongyang is to continue on the same path?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

As India pushes east, so China worries ....

Here's the link to a story on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Japan visit by Peter Brown. The story, quoting me, is appearing in tomorrow's Asia Times.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's trip to Japan in late October was a success, but not a complete success. Thanks to Japan's fundamentally pacifist worldview and rigid take on nuclear cooperation, the outcome was somewhat underwhelming.

For the full story, click here.

As India pushes east, so China worries
By Peter J Brown

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's trip to Japan in late October was a success, but not a complete success. Thanks to Japan's fundamentally pacifist worldview and rigid take on nuclear cooperation, the outcome was somewhat underwhelming.

Real damage might have been done if Manmohan and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan had decided to forego an annual summit they have held since 2005, rather than announce a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) after making little headway in firming up strategic and civil nuclear cooperation issues during the annual cycle of discussions between the two countries.

"With a Strategic Partnership being declared - in 2006 - a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation being issued, and an Action Plan related to the Joint Declaration thereafter being issued almost in successive years, expecting another deliverable of the magnitude of the previous ones to be pulled out of the hat - or turban - again this year is tantamount to placing an overly high threshold of expectation," said Sourabh Gupta, senior research associate at Samuels International Associates in Washington, DC.

Expectations matter, but above all else, this trip and its limited agenda might have been a strong indicator of the nature of a rapidly maturing relationship. There could be little doubt that, regardless of what other positive moves the meeting held for the bilateral relationship, the participants were pleased by the fact that approximately one quarter of the allotted time was devoted to the topic of how best to deal with China.

"Most of all, India wanted further Japanese foreign direct investment especially in infrastructure, and technological assistance on nuclear power plants, along with [some sign that they were] reaffirming their mistrust against China," said Yukie Yoshikawa, a senior research fellow at the Edwin O Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies in Washington DC.

In response to Japanese concerns that it has been slower than other countries to capitalize on the opportunities that India's rapidly growing economy presents, India was quite willing to make important concessions in the process.

"Japan fears it is already a late comer into the Indian market. Japan has been slow in signing a free-trade agreement with India, and some companies already investing in India, including Suzuki, were dying to have the EPA approved," said Yoshikawa. "The [Japanese government] should be very pleased by India's strategic decision to of drop agricultural products for Japan. India compromised with Japan to exclude rice, and wheat [as well as other products] from the EPA."

To Professor Kazuto Suzuki of Hokkaido University's School of Public Policy, the summit provided a positive reflection of the steady overall improvement in ties between the two nations.

"It was good meeting and there was a good advancement of the relationship - not the best though," Suzuki said.

Beijing was watching the proceedings closely because if both the establishment of an EPA and the conclusion of nuclear deal had taken place during Manmohan's visit, the impact on China would have been substantial. Especially so given that the heated showdown between Japan and China over the fishing boat seizure near disputed islands claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan is still simmering.

"From a Chinese point of view, these strengthening ties between Japan and India represent nothing less than an effort to contain China - something that has yet to be accomplished completely," said Suzuki, who added that the initiation of institutionalized military and security cooperation between India and Japan that has been underway since 2008 means that Japan and India have formed "a semi-alliance" which is reinforced "by regular 2+2 meetings and military cooperation at all levels".

Gupta poured some cold water on the notion that this series of bilateral discussions is gaining momentum at a rapid enough pace and in such a way that might cause Beijing to think seriously about taking decisive moves to counter this trend.

"Going forward, there might be grounds for creeping doubt as to how fast this bilateral relationship will proceed under the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) PMs, [former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro] Mori and [his successors], had been the decisive driving force behind Japan's new outreach to India - and each LDP PM's degree of emphasis on Indo-Japanese ties bore a relative correlation with his anti-China [or pro-China] inclinations. That dynamic is not readily apparent in the DPJ," said Gupta.

It is possible that the DPJ contains an invisible dividing line which seems generational when it comes to Japan's relations with India.
"The older generation including [former premier Yukio] Hatoyama, [former DPJ leader Ichiro] Ozawa particularly, and Kan - privately perhaps too - who take a more autonomist view of Japanese geopolitical strategy, had a place for India," said Gupta. "The younger generation including [Foreign Minister Seiji] Maehara .... [DPJ deputy secretary general Yukio] Edano .... even as they hold hawkish views on China, developed their worldviews at a time when India's image was at its poorest during the late 1970s to the early 1990s. Hence they are not altogether sold on the India strategic connection."

This younger group certainly does not dismiss its importance, but simply prefers to place more emphasis on building Japan's strategic ties with allies positioned closer to Japan.

"India is beneath the radar in their scheme of things. But this is all very tentative and preliminary, and time will tell how this dynamic within the DPJ plays out in terms of India-Japan relations in the coming years," said Gupta.

How India goes about cultivating its vital relationship with the 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will also affect its relationship with Japan.

"India's most common refrain on Asian security architecture issues is that it be 'open, balanced and inclusive'. For it to turn out to be such, India's obligation is to participate within its processes, engage actively with all stakeholders, carry its share of the burden, and not be an irritant in the mix,'' said Gupta, ''ASEAN is a key shareholder in this dynamic and for India, a gateway too to its East Asian destiny - hence the low key but utterly concentrated effort on New Delhi's part to get this relationship right."

Gupta described the signing of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement last year as "a big deal", and the same is true of New Delhi's decision to invite President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, Southeast Asia's biggest economy, to be the honored guest at India's forthcoming annual Republic Day parade.

As part of its Look East policy, India sees these relationships as an important bridge to East Asia. ''A more robust economic engagement with Malaysia, ASEAN and Japan will provide strategic ballast down the line," said Gupta.

South Korea will certainly play an important role here and both Japan and India agree that better coordination is in order. They also zeroed in on what to do about Japanese allegations (denied by Beijing) that China is holding back on exports of the rare earth minerals that are a crucial ingredient for their hi-tech industries.

"It was significant that the two PM's mentioned an India-Japan dialog on Africa on foreign policy and security issues. We all know what has prompted such a dialog. Rare earths supply problems were also discussed along with potential cooperation in developing technologies to mitigate the problem," said Subrata Ghoshroy, a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Program in Science, Technology, and Society.

However, China has nothing whatsoever to do with the chronic differences affecting Tokyo and New Delhi on the nuclear front, where India and the United Stated last year pledged closer civilian nuclear cooperation.

"Japan was not enthusiastic about the US-India nuclear deal and gave it grudging support toward the end. Japan is also concerned about the status of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as can be surmised from the joint vision statement issued during the Indian PM's visit," said Ghoshroy. "Singh did not directly mention India's stance on the CTBT and reiterated India's 'unilateral moratorium' on nuclear testing."

In the end, the only thing really holding up completion of the nuclear deal was the nuclear test clause.

"If an Indian test yields a nuclear explosion, then Japan would halt all cooperation with India," said Suzuki. "PM Singh did not commit to a halt in nuclear testing, but he mentioned that there will be no planned test for a moment. This is good enough for Japan."

Regarding the India-Japan nuclear cooperation agreement, it appears that there are still outstanding issues.

"It is interesting to note that India has speedily concluded a nuclear agreement with South Korea, while the Japan deal is on a sticky wicket," said Ghoshroy. "Unlike South Korea, France, or Russia with which India has easily concluded such deals, Japan does not sell reactors. It does not have an overwhelming economic driver behind the nuclear trade."

India cannot be pleased that Japan has been so slow to come aboard as a willing supporter of its nuclear program.

"There have been three rounds of negotiations and while there is appreciation of the Japanese concerns - Japan being the only victim of nuclear weapons - India has made it clear that it cannot become party to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon state," said Rajeswari Rajagopalan, senior fellow in security studies at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. "There has been a slightly modified position on CTBT wherein the prime minister has stated India will consider signing the treaty provided the US and China ratify it. It appears that it will take several rounds of negotiations before the two sides can reach any compromise on this issue."

On the issue of nullifying the agreement if India carries out a nuclear test, New Delhi is not willing to make an exception in its terms and references for Japan alone.

"India has insisted that India will use the same terms and references as it did in its agreements with other countries - US, Russia, France and Canada," said Rajagopalan.

The national security dimension of this situation may not get overlooked entirely, but it is often downplayed by observers.

"The national security dimension will remain critical in India's negotiations not just with Washington, but with other capitals as well - Tokyo, Canberra, Paris or Moscow. It is indeed this national security dimension that has restrained India from accepting the conditions imposed by Tokyo," said Rajagopalan.

While these stubborn nuclear obstacles persist, there are strong imperatives for both India and Japan to cooperate not just economic and commercial issues, but more importantly on security issues, particularly those in the maritime realm, given the challenges that both New Delhi and Tokyo are facing.

"The Look East policy is an important component of India's foreign policy which is likely to acquire special significance in the coming years. Given the belligerent approach of China towards all of its neighbors including Japan, and Vietnam, India is likely to pursue the Look East policy with much more vigor to consolidate its ties with both Southeast Asian and Northeast Asian countries," said Rajagopalan.

The very fact that both India and Japan have kept up with the annual summit meetings is a testimony to the importance that each side attaches to the bilateral relationship despite the change in Japanese leadership along with the change in ruling parties.

"The inability to conclude the civil nuclear agreement may be a shortcoming, although these are issues that cannot be hammered out in one or two meetings. The fact that the two sides are still keen to continue negotiations to iron out their differences is a positive indicator," said Rajagopalan.

As Manmohan departed Tokyo and flew onto Malaysia and Vietnam, he could not have ignored Kan's declining approval ratings just as he cannot overlook or ignore the changing political winds which are now affecting United States President Barack Obama as Obama is about to show up on his doorstep.

In the case of Kan in particular, the situation surrounding Russia's activities on the islands due north of Japan was a topic that Manmohan would have avoided despite the fact that Russia and India are longtime partners.

Russia ignored Japan's protests much to Kan's displeasure. This did not help Kan's ratings at all.

And Kan cannot offer to sell India any Japanese weaponry, including submarines and electronic warfare gear, until the strict ban on the export of Japanese weapons is lifted. Besides, India and Russia are jointly building state-of-the-art missiles and new warplanes are appearing on the drawing board, while US defense contractors are eager to see their advanced aircraft parked aside India's runways. Perhaps painfully slow nuclear bargaining may be Kan's only option, hypothetically anyway.

While Kan and Obama have exerted their influence over India's future, Kan is not guaranteed at least two more years in office like Obama. And at the same time, Obama who has made a big deal out of his administration's endorsement of closer US ties to Asia and who has applied considerable energy to improved relations with India is no longer guaranteed a vote of confidence, nor is it a blank check from the US Congress.

And important members of his team including US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who has held the line on US bases in Okinawa will soon be heading out the door. Some have already left.

As anti-Chinese sentiment in the halls of the US Congress is likely to intensify, and as it becomes more noticeable in the coming weeks, the challenge for Manmohan will be to harness this energy to India's and Japan's advantage - and at Pakistan's expense. Not doing so during Obama's upcoming state visit to India will simply be a matter of common sense and diplomatic courtesy.

That is, after all, a strategic plan that is sound and applicable only if Manmohan has concluded that stronger ties to the US under the current rules will benefit rather than hinder India over time.

Manmohan will soon sort this all out. In the meantime, he is signaling to China that Look East is alive and well.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Can Taiwan Ever Integrate with Mainland China in Political Terms?

Can Taiwan ever integrate with Mainland China in political terms? Economic terms, yes, but in political terms, it is not going to happen. The social and political cultures of ROC and PRC are so different. One has a vibrant democracy, wherein freedom of the press and individual freedom are so vital and on the other hand, PRC remains a socialist, communist and most importantly an authoritarian government with severe curbs on several aspects ranging from the freedom of the press, freedom of the internet which in a way restrains severely the freedom of the individual, freedom of assembly, to freedom of religion and even reproductive rights.

In fact, I have just come back from a two-week trip to Taiwan where I had the opportunity to experience first hand what the country is all about and get the pulse of the common people, in addition to benefiting from the official line on a range of issues, through formal briefings. In the next couple of days, I will be putting across some of the recent surveys in Taiwan on the entire integration issue, particularly after the ECFA between ROC and PRC.

Type rest of the post here

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Multi-National Corporations and China's Sovereignty

Here's an article of mine on Multi-National Corporations and China's Sovereignty published in Leaders, a Hong Kong-based journal (in Chinese). My article, in English (obviously) has been translated into Chinese and is published in the latest issue of the journal.

Even while there may be cases of MNCs and FIEs crossing over into state politics and sovereignty, their contribution to the China growth story have far outweighed the disadvantages. In fact the period when China began to embrace economic reforms and the MNCs started moving into China saw an overlapping of sorts, and the interests of the Chinese state and the MNCs were rather complimentary. However, it is not certain whether China will continue to encourage the MNCs as it did in the last two decades since China has reached a developed stage in its economic growth and standing internationally.

However, there is another side to the coin wherein the MNCs and FIEs have been demonized to an extent. The earlier enthusiasm shown towards foreign investment and the MNCs is thinning down given the large size of the Chinese economy and the ability of the Chinese government to sustain the momentum originally created by the huge infusion of FDI through MNCs.

Multi-National Corporations and China’s Sovereignty

The end of 20th century witnessed the phenomena of globalization and interconnectivity between nations, at least on the economic front. This process of rapid globalization leads to questions about whether there is a gradual decline of state sovereignty. Under the Westphalian system of state security, the state was theoretically sovereign and it exercised supreme control over all aspects of the state and society – territory to economy and polity. However, with the increasing interconnectivity between states and the ability of the multi-national corporations (MNCs) to affect a particular country – its productivity, employment generation process, technology transfer, and lastly the long-term economic well-being of a nation – have begun to cast greater influence thus leading to the threat of the erosion of state sovereignty. This paper looks at the increasing influence of MNCs and its impact on Chinese sovereignty.

Increasing Influence of MNCs
MNCs, in the recent years, have been able to exert great power thereby affecting the sovereignty of the state through a variety of means. The ability of MNCs to generate employment, improve the productivity of a state through greater inflow of investment, enable transfer of technology and help the overall health of a state has had a large effect on states and their ability to exercise supreme political authority. UNCTAD, for instance, notes that in 2002, about 64,000 MNCs or trans-national corporations and their foreign affiliates, with an FDI stock of $7 trillion, controlling one-thirds of global trade in goods and services had generated 53 million jobs. This speaks to one influence that an MNC is able to create in a particular state. The positive co-relationship between FDI inflows and economic growth trajectories of countries and the impact that MNCs have on such inflows is fairly obvious and well established. Such inflows have multiplier effects also on economic well-being and aspirational needs. In fact, any state’s security discourse will be dominated by the state’s capacity to deal with rising individual aspirational needs that are increasingly being shaped by the powerful forces of globalization. The gap between the growing needs and the state’s capacity and national capability (availability of various resources) is going to be a constant thread across virtually every sphere – energy resources, policing, healthcare, technology. The state will increasingly be put to test by this increasing deficit. Managing this gap will perhaps remain the central policy paradigm, particularly for rising powers like China and India. Given the deficiency on the part state to meet these needs, MNCs could potentially assume a larger determining role that can be detrimental to the state.

Against this backdrop, there has been constant debate between the two schools that argue “decline of state” and “continued strength of state.” While the institution of state may still be relevant, there is increasing questioning of the role and nature of state, possibly leading to a redefinition of the concept itself. While forces of globalization have brought about the flow of people, goods, services and information, it has also increased the flow of crime, weapons, drugs. It is not possible for any one state to define and defend its security by shutting itself from the rest of the world, as many third world states tried to do with import-substitution strategies in the 1950s and 1960s. Interconnectivity and interdependence are the new games that states have to learn to play. But while territorial boundaries are becoming irrelevant on the one hand, there is a simultaneous tendency to emphasize territoriality as seen in the case of India-China and India-Pakistan or China-Japan equations. In fact, any threat to state sovereignty is driving the states to seek to protect their sovereignty in an even more determined manner, especially in regions outside Europe.

There is also the new Cosmopolitan argument that since sovereignty and nation-state system are fairly new arrangements, they could potentially change in the face of increasing number of international institutions assuming larger responsibilities. European Union (EU) is cited as a case in point. This school of thinkers argue that state supremacy may be eroding when it loses control over civil society or predominance of state in international politics starts going down. In the case of EU, it may be somewhat flawed to state that the influence of civil society has gained to an extent where it questions the existence of the state, but the impact of supra-national bodies like the EU on domestic matters cannot be wished away. EU directives on trade, monetary policies are issues that European states cannot ignore. In international politics, while EU may function as a collective body, the divisiveness on critical matters is loud and clear and the states speak for themselves and not as a collective body. The divisive nature of EU was evident on Iraq, Iran and other critical issues.

Theoretically speaking, Chinese scholars believe that increasing economic integration with the world economy can put the states under pressure in terms of maintaining economic sovereignty. Additionally, they argue that economic sovereignty will continually be a “hidden power struggle” in which the more powerful will be able to exert greater influence upon the weaker states. Without the existence of supra-national bodies and such other mechanisms, stronger states will not be in a position to institutionalize and influence the decisions of the weaker states. Therefore, powerful states like China will have a critical role in formulating policies that are conducive to its own economic development but not necessarily in the interests of other regional powers.

Other factors that have contributed to the increasing interconnectivity have been the information and technological revolution. The revolution in information and communication technologies has changed the way individuals or even states think and act. Accordingly, globalization has moved out of the traditional economic sphere to include political and military spheres as well, which is when it begins to critically affect state sovereignty. The manner in which MNCs have begun to exert influence in the economic arena itself is overwhelming. Huge FDIs channeled through MNCs most often do have local alliances which brings its own ramifications to the political economy of the state. As globalization gained even greater momentum there is power shift taking place “from states to firms.” Financial globalization has been another factor along with globalization of trade and industrial/company alliances that has reduced state control. Growth in international trade, spurred by movement of goods, trade, ideas, technological innovations & advancements and transfers have given way to an increased stature for the MNCs, reducing the state control and leverage. National governments are no more in a position to control “the spread of ideas, capital, technology, labour, trade or economic ownership of assets.” These have led to a situation wherein national governments are losing leverage in formulating national economic policies or be in a position to determine the economic future of the state. There have been arguments to suggest that globalization would bring “an end to the system of independent sovereign states,” thus leading to “the erosion, loss and diminution of the state.”

Additionally, political globalization is taken forward not just by states but more importantly by a variety of bodies including national and international pressure groups and lobbies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and non-state actors like MNCs. Many a time, activities by these groups transcend national boundaries into international spheres affecting a particular state’s sovereignty. There is also the emergence of supra-national or international law influenced by these bodies that sometimes come into conflict with the state and thereby challenging the state sovereignty. Similarly, globalization inroads into national security issues also. For a long time, security was restricted to a state’s ability to maintain territorial integrity and then broadened to include economic security. However, today the definition has been widened to include identity issues, climate change and environment and health as well. Fast-paced globalization has meant that all of these have serious international linkages with impact on state sovereignty. The ability of the state to exercise sovereignty on hard core security issues is severely constrained in many cases by the presence of Inter-Governmental Organization (IGOs) and International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs). Geopolitics is thus increasingly becoming complex in the backdrop of such international bodies.

Are States Still Relevant?
Having talked about how globalization and technology have impacted upon states, there is a clear need to make a distinction between internationalization of economy and globalization. Are the states, particularly in Asia witnessing true globalization or internationalization? In a truly globalised world, state policies may be irrelevant, but in a highly internationalized economy, states are still supreme and states do take an active role in deciding economic policy. The state continues to be the major benefactor of the technological and economic advancements that take place under the influence of the MNCs. Therefore, the role of the state in some cases is increasing in determining how societies deal with the challenge of globalization. This holds true for East Asia in general and China in particular. State power and autonomy in deciding policy is abundantly evident; Google operations in China is a good example of state power. Thus, what is currently being witnessed is not true globalization, but interdependency of high order. The world may move towards a genuinely globalized world, but for the moment it is more of an interconnected and integrated world economic order.

This leads to the next point that states are not only powerful but that more powerful states like the United States and China will continue to exercise greater influence than others. Smaller and less powerful countries, having weaker bargaining positions, will be faced with further restrictions in shaping their future.

Proliferation of regional and supra-national bodies has in no manner diminished the importance of states in the transactions of business, economic, political or security matters. States take the lead in establishing regional or international organizations to serve the political and economic interests of the state. The question of integration with the world economy is solely decided by states, particularly strong ones as China. Therefore, the arguments that state are not in control of its citizens and not able to fully govern their territories may be a bit farfetched.

Some scholars argue that states are not relevant anymore and that it is the supra-national bodies like EU or other international organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or even other regional institutions like the ASEAN or the SAARC that are at the centre stage. However, globalization cannot yet replace the state order or undermine importance of states. But there is a constant redefinition of the concept to suit the increasing global economic interdependence. As some scholars have said while there may be fissures in the state’s ability to exercise supreme sovereignty, there is a parallel “creation of islands of sovereignty within the state.” MNCs may not pose a direct challenge to the concept of “legal” sovereignty but what is at stake is practical sovereignty. Therefore, when states continue to be the legal custodian, there might be erosion of sovereignty taking place in a day to day manner.

Supra-national or international organizations are themselves sustained by states. States have a predominant role in determining the shape of regional or international governance. These non-state actors are operating in a space created and sustained by state and its decisions. State actions or inactions clearly affect functioning of MNCs, from determining the “pattern and level of transactions” to “the distribution of benefits within the countries and between them.” The fact is that states, particularly the powerful ones continue to be necessary for MNCs to operate.

China and MNCs
The entire question of state sovereignty being lost in the face of increasing globalization is almost irrelevant in the case of China. For instance, on the issue of internet sovereignty, Beijing has been quite categorical that IT companies in China will have to function as per Beijing’s rules. China’s “rule of the thumb” in this area has been different from that of the West, which held the view that information should be (generally) freely available. China on the other hand has held that, for instance, the data about Chinese consumers cannot be made available in the open or be allowed to “leave (s) China’s borders.” Similarly, Google’s operations were halted in China in January 2010 because Google objected to Chinese censorship rules that were agreed upon in 2006 when Google began its operations in China.

While China has believed that MNCs can be seen to be a form of external interference in their internal matters (by setting rules and regulations on the labour issues etc), they have acknowledged the critical importance of MNCs and the Foreign-Invested Enterprises (FIEs) and the advantages that they bring in changing the Chinese economy from a controlled economy to a full-fledged globalised market economy. Several factors may have contributed to the economic growth of China in the last two decades, although the rapid inflow of FDIs through the MNCs and the accompanied expansion of China’s own capital cannot be simply wished away as insignificant. In the case of China, FIEs have brought technology, capital, expertise and global standards which have induced a spirit of competitiveness even among the Chinese companies. FIEs have set the standards and made the local Chinese companies internationalize to such an extent that the Chinese national competitiveness has gone from 35th place to the 19th in one decade. So far, China believes that MNCs or FIEs have not affected the sovereignty of the state as they are in China through China’s Company Law which restricts the scope and role of the MNC. But they have been central to the Chinese economic growth story. A few facts reveal their importance: FIEs make a contribution of about a third of China’s industrial input; one-fifth of China’s tax revenues; and provide employment to about 25 million people, which is estimated to be more than one-tenth of the Chinese urban workforce. It is also estimated that half of technology transfers have taken place through FIEs. By 2006 about 590,000 FIEs were registered routing about $685 bn (USD) of foreign capital into China. Additionally, they have created several long-term fixed investments in terms of factories, workshops and equipments, which are providing a solid base to the Chinese economy. With all the advantages, there is still the fear of MNCs overpowering states and impeding upon the sovereignty and the writ of the state (at least in certain parts where development has been slow). MNCs, given the large economic contribution, have an ability to manipulate policies particularly in developing nations. And this cannot be ruled out in the case of China, particularly if the MNCs enter the world of healthcare or energy security where large corporations such as Allied Health Professionals and Hightowers Petroleum are notorious for taking initiatives that need not necessarily be in the Chinese interests, particularly on human or minority rights issues or issues like equality of opportunity and treatment, wage levels and employee benefits, working conditions or environmental standards.

Therefore, even while there may be cases of MNCs and FIEs crossing over into state politics and sovereignty, their contribution to the China growth story have far outweighed the disadvantages. In fact the period when China began to embrace economic reforms and the MNCs started moving into China saw an overlapping of sorts, and the interests of the Chinese state and the MNCs were rather complimentary. However, it is not certain whether China will continue to encourage the MNCs as it did in the last two decades since China has reached a developed stage in its economic growth and standing internationally.

However, there is another side to the coin wherein the MNCs and FIEs have been demonized to an extent. The earlier enthusiasm shown towards foreign investment and the MNCs is thinning down given the large size of the Chinese economy and the ability of the Chinese government to sustain the momentum originally created by the huge infusion of FDI through MNCs. Chinese foreign exchange reserves reached $1 trillion in 2006 and according to the People’s Bank of China, it has now risen to $2.454 trillion in June 2010 and its gross domestic savings stood at $2 trillion in 2006. China’s domestic capital resources are probably adequate to sustain and enhance further economic growth. Therefore, the importance of FDIs and FIEs are probably fading in the Chinese calculations. The government is in fact reversing some of the earlier policies that were meant to attract MNCs into China; the preferential tax policy for MNCs has been changed in the recent past.

Another sentiment that does not bode well for MNCs is increasing economic nationalism in China. As China becomes stronger and spreads its wings far and wide into the international economy, there are several protectionist measures put in place in China in other countries to limit the horizontal and vertical expansion of Chinese companies, leading even to sanctions and such hard measures for investing abroad. Chinese feel that there has been extraordinary political interference in certain cases, as in the CNOOC-Unocal one. The experience may not be very different if one is to see the trend in other countries as well. The Chinese telecom companies, for instance, have come under the security scanner several times in India in the recent years. This has been again seen by China as undue political interference from India in blacklisting such companies. Such measures have triggered the rise of nationalistic tendencies among the Chinese companies and are becoming domineering factors as they interact with the outside world. The Chinese are increasingly sensing the need to do the same in terms of taking punitive measures as the global MNCs think of mergers and acquisitions with Chinese companies.

A third criticism against MNCs and FIEs has been the increasing “monopolization of the Chinese market” by these companies, which in some ways pose a threat to China’s own economic security. China has begun to feel that the FIEs are targeting particularly the large-scale enterprises such as the manufacturing sector in automobiles, electronics, machinery and petrochemicals. These being “capital- and technology-intensive” sectors have their own ramifications for the Chinese economy. Additionally FIEs have been able to strengthen their hold and monopolize important sectors such as banks, stock exchanges, telecommunications, harbours, aviation and water services. A reverse-dependence of China on FIEs and MNCs could be the undesired consequence of such moves. China’s concerns in this regard are not entirely fabricated and merit attention for policy-makers.

The presence of FIEs and MNCs has also been criticized for allegedly killing the home-grown local brands. These local brands are not ableto face stiff competition from multinational firms, thereby killing local entrepreneurship and identity and thereby China’s economic security. However, there have been several successful cases as well, where Chinese companies have not only withstood international competition but also acquired global brands. The acquisition of a leading German sewing manufacturing unit is a case in point. The Shanghai-based Shanggong Shenbei Corporation not only acquired the unit, but along with it the patents and the R&D centre. If the local companies can battle the initial competition, China feels that it may be able to fare well in the long-term. In fact, the Chinese companies faced with stiff competition will be forced to improve their standards and thereby they have been able to achieve qualitative edge in many sectors. Looking at the huge advantages to FIEs, China is devising measures that are more conducive to MNCs while keeping the interests of local small operators in mind. For instance, China promulgated a new policy in December 2006 which leaves state-owned entities with “absolute control” in seven areas and “relatively strong control” in several other areas, while not blacklisting the MNCs. The policy ensures that state entities remain the controlling stakeholders. Such measures ensure that China’s sovereignty is not easily doubted, whether in economic or political matters.

Another issue has been that of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) of MNCs. As China gained more economic momentum, and as Chinese firms became more competitive, there has been increasing focus from global MNCs on the failure of their Chinese counterparts to live up to global CSR norms and pressure that should be adhered to. The prevalence of “sweat shops” and the associated scandals has given force to the arguments of these global MNCs. But the Chinese public has shown mixed response to such campaigns. A survey done by Ipsos in 2009 found that about 60 percent of the people surveyed noted that meeting the CSR roles was in tune with their operating philosophy which may also stand beneficial to the Chinese society. But, 40 percent of the respondents believed that “fulfillment of CSR is just a mandatory action they take in order to save face.” And one third of the people surveyed said that CSR actually is a means to evade taxes or other charges.

Despite the existence of supra-national bodies or non-state actors such as the MNCs, it is the state that is at the core in most parts of the world. The centrality of states continue in determining, for instance, the kind of economic policies to be adopted and the kind of economic interaction that they want to have with the rest of the world. This is particularly true in the case of powerful states like China which have the capacity to shape the kind of economic future it wants to achieve. The role of MNCs in setting the directions of state policy is minimal in the case of states like China.

Despite the talk of borders being irrelevant, the threat of the erosion of state sovereignty has triggered a reinvigorated push for protecting national sovereignty. Despite economic interdependence and regional economic integration, states appear to be guarding their sovereignty in a more determined manner. Borders are not becoming very irrelevant in the Asian context. In many a case, it is the border that is fermenting trouble and so the idea of borders being irrelevant remains somewhat of a futuristic goal in Asia rather than a present reality. Even with all the economic integration, the salience of military and hardcore security has not diminished; on the contrary, there is a heightened stress on military modernization and competition between neighbours have been on the rise. Lingering tensions between the major Asian powers, internal socio-political threats in each of these countries, and emergence of newer security challenges have put undue importance on military issues as the focus.

While economic liberalization and global economic integration may be pushing parts of the world towards borderless and highly interdependent circumstances, it is important to note that there has been the simultaneous rise of ethnic conflicts, identity politics and insurgencies of kinds in a number of regions. Asia is no exception to this latter phenomenon. In this regard, states are not only not likely to allow dilution of their sovereignty but are likely to seek to strengthen their authority and control.

Lastly, forces of nationalism appear to be overpowering forces of globalization. The sense of nationalism sprouting in states, particularly Asian states such as China, Japan and India is unlikely to give way to forces of globalization. States guard their autonomy with greater vigour and MNCs are allowed in through specific and legal and institutional mechanisms. They do not have “free ride” in the operating states and are forced to operate within certain parameters set by the states. Therefore, at the moment and for the immediate future, states will continue to be the ultimate custodians and their sovereignty is thus under no serious threat from MNCs.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Leaks in India's submarine strategy

Here's the link to a story quoting me on the Indian submarines by Peter Brown that has appeared in today's Asia Times.

Internal divisions in India's navy have led to critical delays in submarine deployments that threaten the country's ability to meet undersea warfare challenges. Aside from the Chinese increasing their presence in the Indian Ocean, the overall lack of an immediate competitor has created a "leisurely" approach to implementing plans for a nuclear triad of air, sea and ground launch capabilities.

For the full story, click here.

Leaks in India's submarine strategy
By Peter J Brown
Asia Times
Sep 29, 2010

India's emphasis on undersea warfare is growing, but too slowly for many experts. Today, the Indian navy's submarine fleet - India's "silent service" - is beset with numerous problems and delays.

In China, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) shows no sign of backing off its plans to gradually increase its presence in the Indian Ocean. This influx of Chinese naval vessels does not pose an immediate threat to India's national security, but the situation could change.

Russia, however, may wield considerable influence over the flow of events. While Russia continues to serve as a vital cog in the vast machinery that is driving the PLAN's construction and development of a modern submarine fleet, American submarine historian and expert Norman Polmar sees ample evidence that Russia is selling India better undersea systems than those it is selling China.

"China, unlike India, is a natural enemy of Russia, and despite China's distrust of Russia, the Chinese deal with the Russians because the Russians possess submarine and antisubmarine technologies that the Chinese want," said Polmar. "This is solely an economic relationship involving China as a customer whereas the Russian's longstanding military assistance relationship with India is based on a need to sustain both its economic and geopolitical bonds that Russia deems very important to its overall security."

At the same time, the US decision to sell India sophisticated anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft known as P-8 India (P-8I) is significant as well in terms of countering any Chinese sub activities in the Indian Ocean. Although US Defense Secretary Robert Gates might have a submarine surprise up his sleeve for Indian Defense Minister A K Antony who is currently in Washington for talks, this seems unlikely given the current restrictions on high-tech exports to India.

"Keep in mind that in the P-8I aircraft, India is getting an ASW platform from the US, not comprehensive and advanced ASW systems such as sonar, or magnetic anomaly detectors," said Polmar.

China is well aware that India has another option at its disposal. Polmar agrees that India could quickly adopt and update the naval aviation strategy that the Soviet Union devised in the 1950s. By adding several 21st-century refinements and technological advancements - the P-8I takes India in that direction - India's degree of control over the Indian Ocean could be reinforced considerably, far surpassing what the Soviets achieved in the Western Pacific and elsewhere.

The naval aviation model looms large because India has only 16 submarines today, including 10 Russian-built Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines; four German Shishukumar-class subs; and two Russian Foxtrot subs which are used primarily for training purposes.

In June, India signed a US$80 million contract with Russia's Zvezdochka shipyard for the fifth in a series of overhauls and upgrades of its Kilo subs. This overhaul commenced in August. [1]

Then in July, the Indian government allocated US$11 billion (over 500 billion rupees) for the development of six next-generation diesel submarines under Project-75 India (P-75I). With their air independent propulsion systems, these new subs will offer major operational advantages, and much to Pakistan's chagrin in particular, they are envisioned as stealthy, land attack subs.

"India's submarine force has declined because a good number of older subs will be retiring very soon - the Kilos start retiring in 2013, for example - and an insufficient number of newer subs have been acquired to replace them," said Dr Rajeswari Rajagopalan, senior fellow in security studies at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

"India's submarine fleet remains a coastal fleet because of a lack of nuclear-powered subs, and its reach is limited because the missiles on these subs have limited range. Finally, the focus of the Indian navy's attention also appears to be on large surface ships rather than submarines, which is hindering development of the sub fleet."

In mid-2009, India launched a nuclear sub, the INS Arihant. It is currently designated as an Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV), and it is undergoing sea trials. If all goes well, Arihant might be transferred to the Indian navy by the end of 2011. Plans call for two more ATVs with a goal of building five or six new nuclear subs. It is still unclear whether these ATVs are nuclear strategic missile subs (SSBNs) or simply nuclear - powered attack subs (SSNs). (See India's nuclear submarine plan surfaces, Asia Times Online, Feb 20, 2009).

"Some estimates suggest that if India is to maintain an effective nuclear triad [from air, land and sea], India would need at least a fleet of 24 subs, though this is likely out of India's reach,' said Rajagopalan. "Meanwhile, a Russian nuclear-powered Akula II SSN - the K-152 Nerpa - has departed Russia for India under a 10-year lease." [2]

Absent any replacements or additions to its existing fleet, the most upbeat assessment is that India's sub fleet could be reduced to around nine by 2014 or 2015. In fact, the Indian navy has already notified the government that there is strong possibility that only nine subs might be in service by 2012, and just five in the coming years. No matter which projection proves to be accurate, the result is still a single digit total.

India is in the process of getting six Scorpene subs from the French - with an option of six additional subs - to be built at the Mazagon facility in Mumbai under the supervision of French technicians, but this procurement is experiencing a slowdown. Mazagon Docks in Mumbai will construct three of the six, Hindustan Shipyard Ltd in Visakhapatnam will construct one, and the other two may be procured from foreign sources or built by another private shipyard in India

"The delivery of the first of the French Scorpenes, which was supposed to enter service in December 2012, has been delayed. Antony addressed this situation in parliament only a few weeks back. This will clearly impact upon India's undersea force levels," said Rajagopalan. "India has about 35 private shipyards, of which L&T [Larsen & Toubro Ltd] and Pipavav are believed to be competing to build the two submarines, of the six planned."

Some doubt that these two will be built in India after all.

India must focus on meeting its planned timetable for new submarine deployments to avoid critical challenges in the next decade. Among those who argue for submarines, there have been disagreements over whether to pursue nuclear-powered or conventional submarines. In fact, under the original P-75I program, there was a 30-year Submarine Construction Plan approved in 1999.

"Internal disagreements within the navy, however, have substantially undermined that plan. The fact that last two naval chiefs were naval aviators who did not appear to have great interest in allocating limited available funding for sub programs did not help matters," said Rajagopalan.

According to some reports, once Antony became defense minister in 2006, all the decisions relating to the nuclear triad were put on hold. Antony reportedly was of the opinion that decisions involving India's strategic nuclear program should be taken by the Prime Minister's Office. In the process, there was little or no real progress concerning any additional SSNs and SSBNs.

"Dr VK Saraswat, director general of India's Defense Research and Development Organization [DRDO] is of the view that SSNs can be developed easily once DRDO gets the go-ahead. He had noted that the essential difference is the weaponry and accordingly the size, but the technology for design and integration remains the same," said Rajagopalan. "Meanwhile, the Indian Atomic Energy Commission is continuing with its work on nuclear steam reactors for the ATVs which are powered by light-water reactors using enriched uranium as fuel."

According to Dr Bharath Gopalaswamy, a researcher in the Arms Control and Non-proliferation Program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the principal challenge facing India is India's own bureaucracy and its lack of vision in formulating long term strategic goals.

"The Comptroller and Auditor General's recent report seriously criticized the Indian navy about its aging fleet - 63% of the subs would be past their operational life beyond 2012 - and highlighted that due to this aging fleet and its refit schedules (which has been consistently delayed), the average operational availability of India's subs is as low as 48%," said Gopalaswamy.

To make matters worse, a test check on certain submarines revealed that prescribed standards for operational patrol, tactical exercises and individual work ups were either not in play or loosely followed.

“Piecemeal modernization and upgradation of submarines at an aggregate cost of 1,560 crore rupees [15.6 billion rupees] was undertaken by the navy without taking approval of the competent financial authority,” the report said. And according to its findings, most refits were not well managed and seldom completed within the prescribed time period.

The looming sub gap that India will confront from 2013 to 2016 cannot be sidestepped. Delaying the retirement of existing subs is a very risky strategy at best.

As India starts to build its own nuclear submarines, very complex construction programs and prolonged at-sea trials will strain existing resources including manpower. Building indigenous submarine reactors is one thing, integrating them into modern undersea battle platforms in another even greater challenge. Nevertheless, despite enormous obstacles, confidence is running high and the objectives are deemed achievable in the required timeframe by many Indian naval experts

Others including Nathan Hughes, director of military analysis at Texas-based Stratfor a global intelligence company, raise serious questions about the submarine force which the Indian navy intends to deploy. [3]

"For all its various interests and challenges, India does not have a competitor like the US-USSR rivalry of the Cold War that drove massive investment and the frantic pace of development and competition. There is a certain lack of urgency to India's drawn out effort to design a nuclear submarine of its own,' said Hughes. "Russian assistance including leasing nuclear subs to India has been more direct and overt than Russian-Chinese cooperation, although this is also quite significant. Indeed, with China working to increase its independence from Russia and refine its own designs, Moscow may have extra bandwidth in terms of advising and design assistance and expertise from which India might benefit,"

However, the Indian navy does not now possess a viable submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), and this gap cannot be dismissed or overlooked. While the new Arihant-class ATVs may carry Sagarika SLBMs, they may do so only on a very limited basis.

"Some development work has been done with the Sagarika, but this has been from a submerged pontoon. Much more work remains for an SLBM to be integrated into a submarine and made operationally capable, said Hughes. "The only ship of the Arihant class so far will have only a very limited - if any - capacity for vertical launch of any kind. She is a technology demonstrator and more ships of the class will need to be built with modified designs before India fields a meaningful SSBN capability." [4]

And while India is planning a Submarine-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM) variant of the Brahmos cruise missile with a range of about 300 kilometers or more - Brahmos was jointly created with Russia - several issues must be addressed and resolved before this SLCM is deployed on Indian subs.

"Yes, this will likely be the last variant tested and certified. Ground and surface ship-launched variants have already completed testing, and preparations are being made for testing of an air-launched version. However, the Brahmos is simply too big to be fired from the 21-inch [533mm] torpedo tubes used by India's current sub fleet, but the 25.6-inch [650 mm] tubes of the Nerpa would be sufficient in theory to do so," said Hughes. "Other submarines India might acquire from Russia might also be tailored to carry a vertically-launched Brahmos."

Otherwise, it is unclear if the recently leased Russian Nerpa sub is going to have Indian or Russian cruise missiles aboard.

"The inclusion of the RK-55 Granat [SS-N-21 Sampson], a medium-range land-attack cruise missile, is not likely. The inclusion of the 3M-54 Klub [SS-N-27] short-range anti-ship cruise missile is more likely, but also uncertain,' said Hughes. "It is not clear if Indian armaments might be fitted." [5]

Regardless of weaponry, the Indian navy needs place more emphasis on simply getting its submariners aboard their subs for longer periods of time at sea, according to John Pike, director of Virginia-based

"Submarines are more difficult to operate than surface ships, and this requires more time at sea to remain proficient. India has had an easier time mapping out ambitious plans than in actual implementation, and an easier time putting submarines into service than in keeping them in service," said Pike. "Delays and other problems have been the rule not the exception over past decades, so this seems to be business as usual. India's naval programs, like so many other Indian military acquisition efforts, are remarkably leisurely."

From the standpoint of flexibility, while India seems to be relying on French and Russian submarine purchases thus far, these countries do not enjoy a preferred supplier status.

"India might turn to Germany, and possibly eventually to South Korea," said Pike. "If Japan started exporting subs, it might also export aircraft carriers."

Pike sees little chance that Japan will start exporting subs to India or any other country for that matter anytime soon, however. Other experts agree. Japanese submarines are for Japanese use only.

Regardless, India cannot hold its breath and wait to see what does or does not happen in Kobe, where Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd is concentrating its submarine construction activities. As India focuses its attention on China instead, it must realize at the same time that some prefer to depict China as totally unprepared to churn the waters of the Indian Ocean.

"China poses no naval threat to India either on the surface or beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean. China is not seeking a naval confrontation with India there for a variety of reasons despite much talk of China's 'string of pearls' strategy involving its development of port facilities in countries surrounding India," said Polmar. "China does not intend to try and outmatch the Indian navy in India's own backyard. China wants access to vital resources, not a series of unwanted engagements at sea. China is simply not prepared for any heated naval engagements so far from its coast at this time."

In a nutshell, India must forge balanced submarine and anti-submarine programs, and inject them with the same energy and enthusiasm that has propelled its space program. India must also define what it expects from a true 21st-century submarine fleet. Sustained dependence on legacy undersea systems seems out of the question.

Peter J Brown is a freelance writer from Maine USA.

1. Russia to modernize fifth Indian submarine
2. Click here.
3. Further in depth analysis can be seen here.
4. Click here
5. Click here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

China in South Asia for Peace & Stability?

Many security analysts have often asked the question as to why India's rise is benign whereas China's rise seen as a threat? However, recently, I came across an entirely different argument as to how Chinese rise & rising influence in South Asia can bring about peace. A recent article written by a former foreign service officer argued that "the rise in China's influence in the region can lead to peace and regional stability provided we [India] eschew outdated notions of "sphere of influence."" I fail to understand the logic. He went on to argue that "On the contrary, a struggle will inevitably ensue if India chooses to contest China's growing influence since the quintessence of that choice will be that India is prepared to sacrifice peace and stability in the region in its quest for regional primacy. Our South Asian neighbours will only see our choice as a quest for regional hegemony and they cannot be expected to accommodate hubris."

Now that China has become the second largest economic power, should we sit back & just relax and say our destiny, our future rest in the hands of China? The Chinese being the second largest power, will have greater interests across the continents, but does this mean India adopt a defeatist strategy and say our future lies with China and China alone? Is that a good idea?

The full article is available here.

South Asia beckons China

M.K. Bhadrakumar

A peaceful South Asia can be built only if India works with China. The alternative will be war and mayhem and history provides many examples.

An Assistant Secretary dealing with South Asia in the State Department in Washington a decade-and-a-half ago once took justifiable pride that she only needed a clutch of minutes to get the Indians all worked up into a tizzy. What the loquacious U.S. diplomat, who was an old India-Pakistan hand familiar with the human frailties (and vanities) in our part of the world, meant was that Indians never bothered to crosscheck facts when they came across an unpalatable thought.

She had a point. And her adage holds good. When an opinion piece by the U.S. strategic analyst, Selig Harrison, appeared in the New York Times recently alleging large-scale Chinese military presence in the Northern Areas of Pakistan, history seemed to repeat itself. Our tribal instincts resurfaced. It still remains foggy on what basis Mr. Harrison painted the apocalyptic vision of war drums beating distantly in the obscure Himalayan mountains. The regions beyond the northern edges of Kashmir comprise tangled, inaccessible mountains and it is highly improbable that Mr. Harrison wrote on the basis of any first-hand information regarding the 22 secret tunnels in which 11,000 Chinese soldiers belonging to the People's Liberation Army reportedly huddle uneasily alongside stockpiles of deadly missiles that could be launched against India. (Actually, the Pakistani authorities have invited him to go to that picturesque region and take a good look himself.)

Not much ingenuity is needed to discern that Mr. Harrison based his opinion piece on intelligence sources. All he would say later was that his story was based on “western and regional intelligence sources.” Who could be these sources? Politics should, after all, begin with asking a few blunt questions. Were these sources Pakistani, Afghan, Iranian, Russian or Chinese who guided Mr. Harrison? Seems illogical. Were they Indian sources based in Delhi — or Indian “analysts” comfortably located in Singapore? Indeed, by a process of elimination, we arrive at the conclusion that the greatest likelihood seems to be that Mr. Harrison's sources were American. This of course is by no means casting aspersions on Mr. Harrison's integrity. In fact, he has been most candid about his thesis when he concluded his opinion piece with a stirring call to the U.S. administration. He wrote: “The United States is uniquely situated to play a moderating role in Kashmir, given its growing economic and military ties with India and Pakistan's aid dependence on Washington.

“Washington should press New Delhi to resume autonomy negotiations with Kashmiri separatists. Success would put pressure on Islamabad for comparable concessions in Free Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan … Precisely because the Gilgit-Baltistan region is so important to China, the U.S., India and Pakistan should work together to make sure that it is not overwhelmed … by the Chinese behemoth.”

Both Islamabad and Beijing have since repeatedly and unequivocally refuted the contents of Mr. Harrison's article. Top Indian officials who have full access to intelligence have also off-the-record given their estimation that any Chinese presence in the Gilgit-Baltistan region could be related to flood-relief work and some development projects and it doesn't involve Chinese regulars of the PLA. They are also inclined to accept the Chinese assurance that there is no change in Beijing's stand on the Kashmir issue, including the part of Kashmir that is under Indian governance.

Equally, in their assessment, Chinese nationals are not taking up habitation in Gilgit-Baltistan, but come to the region from time to time to build infrastructure projects and they go away upon the completion of those projects. Delhi regards the figure of $1.7 billion as Chinese investment in Northern Areas and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as far-too inflated a figure. As a senior Indian official put it “They [the Chinese] are a business-like people and they won't invest in that kind of area like that.”

Evidently, there is a glaring disconnect in New Delhi between those who know and generally prefer not to speak and those who rave but have no flair or patience for checking the facts on the ground. The problem with disregard of facts is that incrementally you withdraw into a smaller and smaller coil of rage and ultimately resign yourself to a sense of powerlessness, frustration and defeat. Should that be the fate of a great country like India that has survived for millennia?

Ultimately, it all boils down to China's presence in the South Asian region and, as the Prime Minister put it the other day, “we have to reflect on this reality, we have to be aware of this.” The issue is: what is the nature of the “reality” so that we can come to terms with it?

The reality is China's growing power and influence that need to be tackled in regional politics. The security of our region and its future will significantly depend on the choices that China makes. Having said that, we too have choices to make. Even if India fails to overtake China economically, it will nonetheless be the second-strongest regional power and will be the most serious constraint on Chinese power. That is to say, the manner and the directions in which India chooses to use its power is going to be no less important than China's actions in their impact on regional stability.

Of course, our choices are going to be harder than China's. The heart of the matter is that a stable, peaceful South Asia can only be built if India works with China. The alternative will be war and mayhem and history provides many examples. The point is, there is a fundamental choice involved here — the choice between “influence” and stability. India and China are on the same side — both want influence and neither seeks instability.

However, we cannot insist that regional stability is synonymous with India's primacy. The international community will only mock at us if we do so in this era of globalisation. As, for that matter, was the region in a blissful state of stability even in the halcyon days when India's influence reigned supreme? In short, the rise in China's influence in the region can lead to peace and regional stability provided we eschew outdated notions of “sphere of influence.” On the contrary, a struggle will inevitably ensue if India chooses to contest China's growing influence since the quintessence of that choice will be that India is prepared to sacrifice peace and stability in the region in its quest for regional primacy. Our South Asian neighbours will only see our choice as a quest for regional hegemony and they cannot be expected to accommodate hubris.

Alas, a segment of our strategic community seems to think that South Asia can be peaceful only under Indian tutelage. It perceives China's desire to expand its influence in the region as inherently threatening. But what is the alternative? China has already grown to be the second biggest economic power in the world. With such economic power, political and strategic power inexorably follows. To quote from a recent thoughtful essay by well-known Australian scholar Hugh White, “China's power, controlled by China's government, must be dealt with as a simple fact of international politics. If Americans deny the right to exercise its power internationally within the same limits and norms that they accept for themselves, they can hardly be surprised if China decides not to accept the legitimacy of American power and starts pushing back. These days it can push back pretty hard.”

Again, all evidence so far points to a distinct pattern that China wishes to expand its influence in South Asia without breaking international law or the rules set out in the Charter of the United Nations. China has not used its power improperly. The fact that China has growing ambitions to develop communication links via South Asia to the world market bypassing the Malacca Strait (which is an American “choke-point”) or that China aspires to explore the vast untapped potential for regional trade and investment in South Asia do not make the Chinese policies illegitimate. Our dilemma is that we are used to exercising a level of regional primacy in the neighbouring countries and we may have come to regard it almost as a mark of our national identity. Clearly, the instinct to “fight” to keep our perceived regional primacy stems from a wrong notion.

The rise of China's influence doesn't have to be a story of India's weakness but can remain a story of Chinese strength. What is it, arguably, that prevents Indian companies even today from spreading wings to the mountains, jungles and beaches of Nepal, Myanmar or Sri Lanka with the gusto with which the Chinese businessmen are doing? Last week, Yunnan commenced direct flight to Colombo. Why is it that a Raipur-Colombo air link remains “uneconomical?”

Nothing like this Chinese “challenge” ever happened before in the South Asian region. Japan or America or Britain could have mounted it in these six decades, but they didn't. But then, they weren't South Asia's neighbours. China is a neighbour.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sardar Vallabhbahi Patel's Letter to Jawaharlal Nehru on China ....

Talking about relations with China (after the Chinese invasion of Tibet), Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in a letter to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had written, "we cannot afford either to be complacent or to be vacillating. We must have a clear idea of what we wish to achieve and also of the methods by which we should achieve it. Any faltering or lack of decisiveness in formulating our objectives or in pursuing our policies to attain those objectives is bound to weaken us and increase the threats which are so evident."

Mr. Patel's assessment seems realistic, although the sad part is that India has done very little in the last 60 years to overcome several of the problems that he had identified in the letter.

For the full text of the letter, keep reading.

My dear Jawaharlal,

Ever since my return from Ahmedabad and after the cabinet meeting the same day which I had to attend at practically fifteen minutes' notice and for which I regret I was not able to read all the papers, I have been anxiously thinking over the problem of Tibet and I thought I should share with you what is passing through my mind.

I have carefully gone through the correspondence between the External Affairs Ministry and our Ambassador in Peking and through him the Chinese Government. I have tried to peruse this correspondence as favourably to our Ambassador and the Chinese Government as possible, but I regret to say that neither of them comes out well as a result of this study.

The Chinese Government has tried to delude us by professions of peaceful intention. My own feeling is that at a crucial period they managed to instill into our Ambassador a false sense of confidence in their so-called desire to settle the Tibetan problem by peaceful means. There can be no doubt that during the period covered by this correspondence the Chinese must have been concentrating for an onslaught on Tibet. The final action of the Chinese, in my judgement, is little short of perfidy. The tragedy of it is that the Tibetans put faith in us; they chose to be guided by us; and we have been unable to get them out of the meshes of Chinese diplomacy or Chinese malevolence. From the latest position, it appears that we shall not be able to rescue the Dalai Lama. Our Ambassador has been at great pains to find an explanation or justification for Chinese policy and actions. As the External Affairs Ministry remarked in one of their telegrams, there was a lack

of firmness and unnecessary apology in one or two representations that he made to the Chinese Government on our behalf.

It is impossible to imagine any sensible person believing in the so-called threat to China from Anglo-American machinations in Tibet. Therefore, if the Chinese put faith in this, they must have distrusted us so completely as to have taken us as tools or stooges of Anglo-American diplomacy or strategy. This feeling, if genuinely entertained by the Chinese in spite of your direct approaches to them, indicates that even though we regard ourselves as the friends of China, the Chinese do not regard us as their friends. With the Communist mentality of "whoever is not with them being against them", this is a significant pointer, of which we have to take due note. During the last several months, outside the Russian camp, we have practically been alone in championing the cause of Chinese entry into UN and in securing from the Americans assurances on the question of Formosa. We have done everything we could to assuage Chinese feelings, to allay its apprehensions and to defend its legitimate claims in our discussions and correspondence with America and Britain and in the UN.

Inspite of this, China is not convinced about our disinterestedness; it continues to regard us with suspicion and the whole psychology is one, at least outwardly, of scepticism perhaps mixed with a little hostility. I doubt if we can go any further than we have done already to convince China of our good intentions, friendliness and goodwill. In Peking we have an Ambassador who is eminently suitable for putting across the friendly point of view. Even he seems to have failed to convert the Chinese. Their last telegram to us is an act of gross discourtesy not only in the summary way it disposes of our protest against the entry of Chinese forces into Tibet but also in the wild insinuation that our attitude is determined by foreign influences. It looks as though it is not a friend speaking in that language but a potential enemy.

In the background of this, we have to consider what new situation now faces us as a result of the disappearance of Tibet, as we knew it, and the expansion of China almost up to our gates. Throughout history we have seldom been worried about our north-east frontier. The Himalayas have been regarded as an impenetrable barrier against any threat from the north. We had a friendly Tibet which gave us no trouble. The Chinese were divided. They had their own domestic problems and never bothered us about frontiers. In 1914, we entered into a convention with Tibet which was not endorsed by the Chinese. We seem to have regarded Tibetan autonomy as extending to independent treaty relationship. Presumably, all that we required was Chinese counter-signature. The Chinese interpretation of suzerainty seems to be different.

We can, therefore, safely assume that very soon they will disown all the stipulations which Tibet has entered into with us in the past. That throws into the melting pot all frontier and commercial settlements with Tibet on which we have been functioning and acting during the last half a century. China is no longer divided. It is united and strong. All along the Himalayas in the north and north-east, we have on our side of the frontier a population ethnologically and culturally not different from Tibetans and Mongoloids. The undefined state of the frontier and the existence on our side of a population with its affinities to the Tibetans or Chinese have all the elements of the potential trouble between China and ourselves. Recent and bitter history also tells us that Communism is no shield against imperialism and that the communists are as good or as bad imperialists as any other. Chinese ambitions in this respect not only cover the Himalayan slopes on our side but also include the important part of Assam. They have their ambitions in Burma also. Burma has the added difficulty that it has no McMahon Line round which to build up even the semblance of an agreement. Chinese irredentism and communist imperialism are different from the expansionism or imperialism of the western powers. The former has a cloak of ideology which makes it ten times more dangerous. In the guise of ideological expansion lie concealed racial, national or historical claims. The danger from the north and north-east, therefore, becomes both communist and imperialist.

While our western and north-western threat to security is still as prominent as before, a new threat has developed from the north and north-east. Thus, for the first time, after centuries, India's defence has to concentrate itself on two fronts simultaneously. Our defence measures have so far been based on the calculations of superiority over Pakistan. In our calculations we shall now have to reckon with communist China in the north and in the north-east, a communist China which has definite ambitions and aims and which does not, in any way, seem friendly disposed towards us.

Let us also consider the political conditions on this potentially troublesome frontier. Our northern and north-eastern approaches consist of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and the tribal areas in Assam. From the point of view of communication, there are weak spots. Continuous defensive lines do not exist. There is almost an unlimited scope for infiltration. Police protection is limited to a very small number of passes. There, too, our outposts do not seem to be fully manned. The contact of these areas with us is by no means close and intimate. The people inhabiting these portions have no established loyalty or devotion to India. Even Darjeeling and Kalimpong areas are not free from pro-Mongoloid prejudices. During the last three years, we have not been able to make any appreciable approaches to the Nagas and other hill tribes in Assam.

European missionaries and other visitors had been in touch with them, but their influence was in no way friendly to India or Indians. In Sikkim, there was political ferment some time ago. It is quite possible that discontent is smouldering there. Bhutan is comparatively quiet, but its affinity with Tibetans would be a handicap. Nepal has a weak oligarchic regime based almost entirely on force: it is in conflict with a turbulent element of the population as well as with enlightened ideas of the modern age. In these circumstances, to make people alive to the new danger or to make them defensively strong is a very difficult task indeed and that difficulty can be got over only by enlightened firmness, strength and a clear line of policy. I am sure the Chinese and their source of inspiration, Soviet Union, would not miss any opportunity of exploiting these weak spots, partly in support of their ideology and partly in support of their ambitions.

In my judgement the situation is one which we cannot afford either to be complacent or to be vacillating. We must have a clear idea of what we wish to achieve and also of the methods by which we should achieve it. Any faltering or lack of decisiveness in formulating our objectives or in pursuing our policies to attain those objectives is bound to weaken us and increase the threats which are so evident.

Side by side with these external dangers, we shall now have to face serious internal problems as well. I have already asked Iyengar to send to the External Affairs Ministry a copy of the Intelligence Bureau's appreciation of these matters. Hitherto, the Communist Party of India has found some difficulty in contacting communists abroad, or in getting supplies of arms, literature, etc., from them. They had to contend with the difficult Burmese and Pakistan frontiers on the east or with the long seaboard. They shall now have a comparatively easy means of access to Chinese communists and through them to other foreign communists. Infiltration of spies, fifth columnists and communists would now be easier. Instead of having to deal with isolated communist pockets in Telengana and Warrangal we may have to deal with communist threats to our security along our northern and north-eastern frontiers, where, for supplies of arms and ammunition, they can safely depend on communist arsenals in China.

The whole situation thus raises a number of problems on which we must come to an early decision so that we can, as I said earlier, formulate the objectives of our policy and decide the method by which those objectives are to be attained. It is also clear that the action will have to be fairly comprehensive, involving not only our defence strategy and state of preparations but also problem of internal security to deal with which we have not a moment to lose. We shall also have to deal with administrative and political problems in the weak spots along the frontier to which I have already referred.

It is of course, impossible to be exhaustive in setting out all these problems. I am, however, giving below some of the problems which, in my opinion, require early solution and round which we have to build our administrative or military policies and measures to implement them.

a) A military and intelligence appreciation of the Chinese threat to India both on the frontier and to internal security.

b) An examination of military position and such redisposition of our forces as might be necessary, particularly with the idea of guarding important routes or areas which are likely to be the subject of dispute.

c) An appraisement of the strength of our forces and, if necessary, reconsideration of our retrenchment plans for the Army in the light of the new threat.

d) A long-term consideration of our defence needs. My own feeling is that, unless we assure our supplies of arms, ammunition and armour, we would be making our defence perpetually weak and we would not be able to stand up to the double threat of difficulties both from the west and north-west and north and north-east.

e) The question of China's entry into the UN. In view of the rebuff which China has given us and the method which it has followed in dealing with Tibet, I am doubtful whether we can advocate its claim any longer. There would probably be a threat in the UN virtually to outlaw China, in view of its active participation in the Korean war. We must determine our attitude on this question also.

f) The political and administrative steps which we should take to strengthen our northern and north-eastern frontier. This would include the whole of the border, ie. Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and the tribal territory in Assam.

g) Measures of internal security in the border areas as well as the states flanking those areas such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal and Assam.

h) Improvement of our communication, road, rail, air and wireless, in these areas and with the frontier outposts.

i) The future of our mission at Lhasa and the trade posts at Gyangtse and Yatung and the forces which we have in operation in Tibet to guard the trade routes.

j) The policy in regard to the McMahon Line.

These are some of the questions which occur to my mind. It is possible that a consideration of these matters may lead us into wider question of our relationship with China, Russia, America, Britain and Burma. This, however, would be of a general nature, though some might be basically very important, e.g., we might have to consider whether we should not enter into closer association with Burma in order to strengthen the latter in its dealings with China. I do not rule out the possibility that, before applying pressure on us, China might apply pressure on Burma. With Burma, the frontier is entirely undefined and the Chinese territorial claims are more substantial. In its present position, Burma might offer an easier problem to China, and therefore, might claim its first attention.

I suggest that we meet early to have a general discussion on these problems and decide on such steps as we might think to be immediately necessary and direct, quick examination of other problems with a view to taking early measures to deal with them.

Vallabhbhai Patel,
7th November 1950