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Defence : Budget Brings No Cheers {Business Standard}

Published March 13, 2015 by vishalvkale

I normally carry my own articles and analysis; for the first time, please read an article on Business Standard on the Defence Forces {Business Standard}, which is self-explanatory, and is a factual analysis. This is a small attempt from my side in educating the people, at least those who may not be aware. The genuine needs of our Defence Forces cannot be put off; having said that, it is equally true that we are a developing country, and funds are always going to be extremely scarce. 

But does that mean we spend historical lows on defence in percentage terms? I am sure the Government can find space in the budget for a better allocation to the genuine needs of the security forces. I understand the difficulties faced by the government, and am not stating the Government doesn’t want to; they have to make some difficult choices in the governance of the nation, and are a democratic government. They have to meet the needs of a diverse set of requirements, all of which are genuine. 

That is why I appeal to the people – can we please allow and ask our government that we the people can make some sacrifices, and that please ensure proper allocation to the defence of the nation? I do not know what those sacrifices will be myself; but I am certain of one thing – if we empower our government, and build democratic pressure on them, they can easily find half-a-percentage point of GDP more to allocate to defence, or at the very least, a decided, definable, emphatic and firm increase in the allocations as well as other steps that may be needed to modernise and make our defence better than it already is. All it requires that we the people empower our Government, which is clearly one of the best we have had, with our support and voice for such a step enabling them to take the hard decision that will perforce be required. In true democratic fashion. Please keep in mind the challenges we as a nation face on the security of the nation, India!

The articles lists in detail the genuine requirements of the Armed Forces of India; I request all to read the article. The link to the original article is provided above. And please remember that no one can state with certainty that we will have to fight a war; then again, it is also true that no one can say for certain that we wont. It is better to be prepared; furthermore, we the people of India owe it to our protectors, The Armed Forces, to do something for them. They deserve our support, and more. 
THE ARTICLE:

For the armed forces, Budget brings no cheer : Ajai Shukla, March 9, 2015, Business Standard



The Budget presented on February 28 has disappointed the armed forces. With acquisitions in the pipeline worth almost Rs 20 lakh crore, military planners protest that the allocation of Rs 94,588 crore, not a rupee more than what was allocated in last year’s budget, is far less than what is required.


Over a period of 15 years, Rs 31 lakh crore worth of acquisitions are needed, say sources in the that carries out long-term planning of acquisitions for the three services.

Adding to the military’s disquiet is the repeated inability of the ministry of defence to spend the capital budget on new equipment. Year after year, chunks of the capital budget are surrendered unspent, or diverted to the revenue budget for funding running expenses like military salaries, and maintenance of equipment. (TIGHT PURSE STRINGS)

Walking a tightrope

A Business Standard analysis of equipment requirements over the next 15 years and the likely funds available finds a precarious balance between needs and means.

In the near term, there is precious little money to meet the three services’ requirement of Rs 20 lakh crore worth of equipment. However, as the years go by, especially in the next decade, an expected real increase of 10 per cent per annum will allocate Rs 22.5 lakh crore by the end of 2027-28 towards the military’s capital budget.

This includes a cumulative total of Rs 5 lakh crore for the army, Rs 5.65 lakh crore for the navy, and Rs 7.72 lakh crore for the air force. Another Rs 4.17 lakh crore will provide capital funding for Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factory Board, joint staff, railroads and military land and buildings.

Given the army’s requirements of Rs 5.29 lakh crore, that leaves a shortfall of Rs 30,000 crore. Thewill be short of Rs 1.75 lakh crore. The alone might have the money it requires.

These projections assume that the distribution of funds between the three services remains static. In fact, the share of the navy has steadily grown over the years, rising from barely 5 per cent of the overall defence budget to 16 per cent today. The military implications of a “Look East, Act East” policy might result in further increases for the navy, with some analysts predicting that the navy’s allocations might inch up to 20-23 per cent of total military spending.

Future budgetary projections are always uncertain, and Lieutenant General Anil Chait, who coordinated tri-service budgetary and acquisition planning until he retired as chief of the Integrated Defence Staff last May, points out that with 60 per cent of the military’s equipment requirements being sourced from abroad, any significant rupee devaluation would indeed buy less.

Battling for modernisation

While the army remains the service most in need of modernisation, land systems in general are significantly less expensive than aircraft and naval equipment. A large chunk of the army’s modernisation budget will go towards procuring, or indigenously building, modern howitzers, rocket launchers and various missile systems. There will be large expenditure on modernising the army’s mechanised forces, including the indigenous development and production of a main battle tank and infantry combat vehicle.

Also being developed indigenously is the digital backbone for a “networked force”, which will include communications and data networks like the tactical communications system, as well as soldier-specific networks like the battlefield management system which was kick-started last week.

Trouble at the seas

The navy’s maritime capability perspective plan envisages a 160-ship force that is centred on 90 capital warships like aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes. While there are currently more than 140 vessels, the navy has barely half the destroyers and frigates it needs. About five ships need to be inducted each year just to replace warships that are decommissioned after completing their 30-40 years’ service. Much of the navy’s modernisation budget, therefore, would go towards constructing new warships and submarines.

Submarines will form a thrust area. These include twelve conventional submarines, of which six Scorpenes would start rolling out of Mazagon Dock next year. Another six will be built in India along with a foreign shipyard. will build another two nuclear missile-carrying submarines of the Arihant class and develop and build six nuclear-powered attack submarines.

A hefty chunk of the expenditure will go towards developing a brand new naval base on the Andhra Pradesh coast at Rambilli, which will be the key operational base for the Eastern Naval Command. Money will also be spent on the Western Naval Command’s premier new base at Karwar, and on naval facilities in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Air strike capabilities

With just 35 fighter squadrons against the authorised strength of 42 squadrons, and with another 11 squadrons likely to be decommissioned before 2022-23, the air force’s focus is on acquiring fighter aircraft. Besides the Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft, it will buy six squadrons of Tejas light fighters, 80 more Sukhoi-30MKI fighters under an existing contract, and upgrade its fleet of 50 Mirage 2000 and 125 Jaguar fighters. There is under way an Indo-Russian programme for 144 fifth-generation fighter aircraft as well as another DRDO project for at least 150 advanced medium combat aircraft.

These procurements do not include a host of high-tech development projects that are planned for developing the battlefield capabilities of the future: space surveillance, launch-on-demand satellites, hypersonic vehicles, electronic warfare systems, cyber warfare capability, unmanned combat aerial vehicles and a range of drones that have precision strike capabilities. DRDO has programmes under way to develop high altitude long endurance and medium altitude long endurance drones, long range cruise missiles and an anti-ballistic missile shield to shoot down incoming nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

None of these have been budgeted for, except through the DRDO’s budget. However, in a 15-year perspective, some of these projects might reach fruition, but their introduction into service would require additional funds.

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Is This Government On The Wrong Path?

Published March 3, 2015 by vishalvkale

I closed my previous article with these words  : 
What we are in effect saying is, Corporate India, Middle Classes can reap immediate benefit, while making no efforts to tackle the real problems beings faced by Rural India, like reducing middlemen, education, etc. This is a majority government, they can easily take hard decisions. And yet they are not doing so – as I had foretold much earlier. And that is what makes this budget completely unimpressive, and very UPA 3-ish. “
Given below are the problems that I consider to be the real problems that impact us as a nation, encapsulated in very short : 
A) DEFENCE : Dramatic increase in budgetary allocation to defence. The plain and sad fact is that The Indian Armed Forces are in dire need of funds infusion; we need Fighter Aircraft : Medium Role Combat Aircraft in particular; we need Artillery Guns to replace the ageing bofors; we need munitions; We need urgent infusion of Naval Craft in several categories and so on and so forth. We further need to the Eastern Army corps that is being planned as a defence against China. The status of the Armed Forces has been extensively documented in the books by Gen Malik, in Gen VK Singh’s leaked letter, and in numerous articles in newspapers and magazines 
B) EDUCATION : Major focus on Primary and Secondary Education, not higher education. India does not need any further higher educations institutions as yet; what it needs are the refurbishment of existing facilities, and major fund infusion in Rural India especially. In terms of budgetary allocation, we are among the lowest – which is sad for a developing country. 
C) HEALTH : A clear definable plan to counter malnutrition, and fund infusion in the Rural Health Sector, encompassing PHCs, Taluka, Tehsil and District HQ hospitals in terms of staff, medicines as well as facilities. We need an increase in budgetary allocation to bankroll this 
D) RURAL INDIA / AGRICULTURE : A clear shift in focus from Urban to Rural India in terms of infrastructure : easier access to nearest agricultural mandis, markets, rural facilities like digitisation of land and revenue records, connectivity of the village with the local district and state capitals, making it feasible for the farmer to sell his produce directly ensuring better price to him, amending APMC etc related acts and so on and so forth. What is required is a clear focus on forgetting Urban India for now, and focussing on Rural India; with the benefits from the above, Urban India stands to gain automatically given the productivity enhancements. This requires budgetary allocation of funds, and a workable plan for the same – and a clear implementation focus.
E) SUBSIDIES : Tackle wasteful subsidies. On Agriculture, streamline subisidy; remove undue focus on Nitrogen, and develop a more equitable and more logical subsidy plan. I do not recommend cutting back on Subsidies in this sector; farmers cannot afford it. That is a fact. What is needed is a rebalancing. This is a structural component, and cannot be so easily altered. Reduce subsidy even further on petroleum products for all IT payers; they can afford higher cost of petrol. The farms cannot. Alternatively, remove petroleum subsidy altogether; develop cash reimbursement through Aadhar for the poor and the rural sector. 
F) RAILWAYS : Increase fares across the board, period. Invest proceeds on modernisation and increased security. Stop cross-subsidisation of passenger with freight; be logical, consistent and transparent. 
G) EXPENDITURE : Curtail wasteful expenditure, and all non-productive expenditure; period. No explanation required, no justification need be given. It is our money you are spending. This does not include expenditure on social imperatives, and support causes, without which we may have a human tragedy, Those expenses are a priority; here I refer to Governmental expenses, making the states accountable, cutting back on wasteful non-productive freebies etc. 
This, in the order of priority, is what the nation requires. What I am a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y shocked is that few people thought of defence. Boss, they defend our lives, and their problems are serious! It is a shocker that no one – not one person here thought of the needs of the defence of India! And their needs have been documented by several authentic people, and in detail. Shame on you, India. Shame!
Now look at education. You first shout to all and then some – education is the focus, we need a school every so-and-so Kms… And then dont budget for it. And on top of it all, in a classic mark of crass stupidity, increase allocation to states – without ensuring a mechanism for extracting value of this excess fund flow to the states, quite a few of whom are known for fiscal profligacy of the worst kind. And then, you expect the states to implement what is in essence a centrally thought plan. While the plan to devolve to states is laudable, there is a dire need to pull up recalcitrant state governments. Interested people can go through this report : State Finances – RBI Report
What has been done to ensure buy-in by stakeholders at the state level? What has been done to improve efficiency of monetary utilization in the states, and ensure that the excess funds dont get spent in idiotic schemes, for which quite a few of our states are famous? If the states were so efficient, they would have already improved on-ground governance, which they havent. One look at state budgets is enough. What mechanism has been implemented – or is being planned to be implemented – to ensure that the states’ budgetary health improves, and that real value for money spent is obtained? This is what I expect a good PM to do, a good central government to do! 
The budget document is also a strategy document, it reveals your real priorities. If you are not putting your money where your mouth is, it clearly raises the suspicion that you are insincere in your words, or you have no idea what you are doing – or you have compromised. And dont have the guts to say so openly. And that is precisely what this Government’s actions in totality are stating to me as a worried and concerned citizen. I am already on record accepting that this is the best Government we have had in a long time – and if this is the best we can do, we had better get seriously worried!
Why the hell do we need more Engineering Colleges? That too IITs? And more management colleges? So that they can run away from India, rather than help solve the problems? And that too in a scenario where  thousands of Engineering graduates, management graduates and other graduates are running around from pillar to post jobless? That is being smart? The definition of smart has certainly changed, if that is the case. Why not upgrade existing colleges from D and C category? 
You know why not? Because it is hard to do. Because you will have to roll up your sleeves and really work! Because you will have to challenge vote banks; vested interests; etc. I feel jilted! I had high hopes from the BJP. I feel jilted! They are doing exactly what the Congress did – NOTHING!
Next, defence. “Already, more than 90 per cent of the defence capital allocation is pre-committed towards instalments for purchases made during previous years. While the exact figures would become clear only after March 31, it is already evident that no more than Rs 8,000-9,000 crore of the Rs 94,588 crore capital Budget for 2015-16 would be available for new purchases. A few percentage points of army revenue overspend (it overspent 5.5 per cent this year) would whittle that down to zero.” 
This is a brutal shocker – the nation’s armed forces are in dire need to refurbishment, and the best you can do is this? Add to that the zero action on health and education : the conclusion is inescapable : the priorities are wrong. The Government is wrong on this, demonstrably so.
The needs of Agriculture which have gone unattended for many years, have again been postponed. Agriculture needs subsidy rebalancing – not done. Ideal ratio – 4-2-1. Indian ratio – 6.5-2-1. QED. Largely due to the Subsidy imbalance. Why wasnt this attended to?
Next, APMC act. How do you intend to ensure that the farmer gets the right price- the government states it want to do this – without dismantling the credit scenario-mandi power and giving free market access etc? {This is not just a budget issue, but also a governance one} Why hasnt this been done? This isnt a good government, sorry. I feel jilted. And I can do a similar analysis for Health, Education etc. I feel jilted.
And we, the middle classes, we are all jumping for joy as rates were not increased in Rail budget. We travel with family once or twice a year, and earn Several Hundred Thousand every annum. Total additional expense to us taking 2 trips for 4, and a {huge} 15% rise : 2000 Rs.
Wow man, WE middle class can go bankrupt if we have to shell out 2000 Rupees extra. F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C! Keep it up!
What is required is a sense of balance : while the needs of growth and business are real, and vital – they will, after all,  generate the profits and the employment to solve our poverty problem – the needs of the people are also equally important, so that they are in a position to partake in the economic development in the form of an educated and healthy people of India. I am worried since this is a good government we have; but whose direction is as wrong as the previous ones!
India isn’t about the Middle and above classes alone; it is equally about the other 80-plus percent. What we are currently doing tantamount to giving them freebies, and alms, and not developing them so that they can stand on their feet. What they need is the ability of stand on their feet, and assistance in the form of support programs till the time they do. That is a fact – and the sooner India realizes this, the better for all of us.

The Biggest Threat – USA or Pakistan?

Published February 1, 2015 by vishalvkale

The USA – Friend, Threat Or Foe? Some voices tend to typify the USA as a foe or a threat, and my own articles have been largely critical. An article a few months ago { Biggest Threat} in a leading daily carried a survey that showed The USA as the biggest threat to world peace.. Let us look at the other side of this issue, and examine the relationship in the light of cold logic. 

First, threat. I am no fan of the USA, anyone who has read me knows that. I am a die-hard nationalist Indian, who loves India beyond description {as most people do their nation}, and who sees the USA as something less than nice;  but even to me – the claim of the USA being a threat to the world  sounds a bit far-fetched. The USA as a threat is a bit of a stretch, even for my highly critical imagination. A victim cannot be called a perpetrator; a fool or naive maybe, or a person who made a strategic error : but threat?

The biggest threat to world peace cannot be the person who is trying to maintain world peace; credit where credit is due. Coming from a critic of the USA, this is saying something. That the means adopted by this peacemaker are all cockeyed does nothing to take away the basic premise. Furthermore, this has no link with the issues of Trade; if you were to ask, the biggest threat to real free trade / fair practices to India, I would state The USA each and every time. But that is trade, and each nation has a right to protect its turf, howsoever amoral may the approach be.  This is not about trade – it is about Geopolitics. 


THE GEOPOLITICAL SITUATION
The Geopolitical situation in the world has 2 hotspots : Ukraine, which is a mild political issue, a creation of misbegotten policies on both sides, and is localised to one region with little chance of getting into a world issue unless the USA pushes needlessly; and The Middle East, or more specifically Islamic Terror. The third one – India/Pakistan, the West’s favourite bugbear, is in reality no threat all, for the perfectly simple reason that Pakistan knows fully well that it cannot take on India in straight honest hard combat and win; that is a manifest impossibility. 

A strike from our side would decidedly have a significant downside. The key aspect here is the overall geopolitical situation, which is not in our favour. A unilateral attack from our side can only lead to international intervention due to the Nuclear bugbear, which is exactly what Pakistan wants. Doing that would be playing into Pakistani hands. Personally, I am sure that the Nuclear threat is just a bluff : we are certain to give a disproportionate response. That would mean certain obliteration for Pakistan. Second, it would leave Pakistan’s owner & master the USA with no option but to participate in the response, and step in. For Pakistan, it means complete destruction and/or dismemberment. That is 100% assured. 


And that is what is Pakistan’s play is : it is buffing. And those geniuses in the West are too smart to see through this, the biggest bluff ever perpetrated by any nation. I would request people here to watch state department interviews on youtube – Pakistan is always viewed as a strategic location. Always and everytime. This is blinding the West to the reality; the grand bluff. A master play by a genius – credit where credit is due. Hence, every time there is tension on the border, everyone from The Western Media to The Western Leaders begin their nightmare scenarios, forcing intervention.

{This analysis taken from  my article :India, Pakistan and The West}

That only leaves the Middle East, and more specifically Islamic Terror, which the USA is trying to fight. That much is the truth. I need not state much on that; the inroads being made by Islamic Terror are known by all. Please note that this is a threat that is not limited to the borders, but rather has the capacity to reach into the innermost and most secure and safe civilian locations within our towns, cities, homes and offices.  From our POV, that the steps taken by the USA or The West at times go aginst our interests does not make them a threat; it only means that we have to strengthen our own response, and ensure that the other side understands the error of their strategy. This can only be through negotiation and discussion. 


THE BIGGEST THREAT?
Pakistan, period. It is a known fact that Pakistani Armed Forces are in cahoots with the terrorists, with deep and systemic links to terror organisations both India-specific and world-focussed. Pakistan is also home to rabid fundamentalism {not my words, words to this effect have also been stated by some forward-looking and worried Pakistanis} for ex :”

The common belief in Pakistan is that Islamic Radicalisation is a problem only in FATA, and that  madrassas are the only institutions serving as Jehad factories. This is a serious misconception. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing with anyone except  strictly their own kind. The kind of mindset it creates may eventually lead to Pakistan’s demise as a nation-state… “ :  Pervez Hoodbhoy, in Newsline,  January 2009




This is a nation that has nuclear weapons; is highly unstable; with an economy in deep trouble, and no genuine efforts to repair the same; with a fundamentalist population; is a known recruiting and breeding ground for terrorists; with deep, systemic and well-thought-out and supported contacts with terrorist bases and organisations; is increasingly anti-Western; has a  modern & professional Armed Forces; with deep cultural, religious and other contacts with the entire Islamic World. That they have become like this due in part to Western {particularly US } handling does not excuse them from the sins they have or will commit. 

For more specifics, read this : The War On Terror : India Versus Pakistan


That the USA and the entire West are wrong in their handling of Pakistan is beyond debate; that they have created this entire problem is also beyond debate; that does not make them sinners, only erroneous in their approach. That we understand Pakistan better than anyone is also no surprise, for the perfectly simple reason that Pakistan itself is a mirage, with no basis in history, culture or reality – an imagined never-never land. Pakistanis are, after all, howsoever much they may deny it, Indians. That is an inescapable fact. 

How to handle this? I dont know. Going to war with them is not the solution, neither is ostracizing them. Pakistan cannot be wished away; best would be to help Pakistan build its own identity by strengthening moderate forces within Pakistan, and evolving an identity different from India. But that is another story, not relevant here.


NaMo, RaGa and ArKe… A List Of Questions…

Published March 6, 2014 by vishalvkale

There is a new party on the Horizon – The AAP. In just 48 days of Governance, the people of India are picking on their mistakes – just 48 days – unmindful of the fact that both the BJP and the UPA have had chances to rule India, and have committed massive errors – errors which the people of India have conveniently forgotten. I have been seeing questions being asked of the AAP; why isnt anyone asking these questions to both the UPA and the BJP? The below occurred in their tenures; neither can escape answering these : 
1) A special group was set up to study the defence structures in India, Its recommendations lie unheeded – and all this while, our defence preparedness continues to suffer, Why?
2) During Kargil, emergency supplies were needed; for ex, the Swiss company supplying Bofors had to be de-blacklisted on an emergency basis. Other examples abound. This caused the then Chief of Army Staff to comment, : “We will fight with what we have”. What are our politicians doing? Are they not seriously compromising the security of the nation?
3) Kargil was a serious intelligence failure; we were caught with our pants down. And yet, the intelligence set-up, while decidedly improved, has still to be unified. Are we not compromising on the lives of our citizens? Examples abound. NCTC remains a pipe dream, and the NIA is supposed to lack substantive powers
4) Moving On, there were 2 major scams – Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh, Have they been properly investigated? The CBI’s investigation apparently had numerous loopholes; all regulators were blamed or faulted in an investigative report by Sucheta Dalal and Debashis Basu. The money is still untraceable. Where is the money? What about the small investors, several of whom were destroyed? Why were SBI officials targeted, when they were the ones to expose the scam? Why werent the systemic flaws attended to? The investigators claim that huge numbers of junior functionaries lives or careers were destroyed, or are fighting to clear themselves. Why? 
5) Why is the CBI still not an autonomous body, despite numerous CBI directors coming out openly in favour of this?
6) Why have the police reforms, accepted by everyone and demanded by no less a body than the Supreme Court, not been implemented? Isnt this causing risk to the lives of the people?
7) Why has no Government been able to control the Fiscal Deficit, and has insisted on running freebies and leaking schemes, and ignoring the real demands of the people?
8) Why is the expense on Education, as a percentage of GDP, among the lowest in the world? What have our politicians been doing all these years?
9) Why is the expense on Defense as a percentage of GDP at the lowest level since 1962?
10) What has been done about Black Money by anyone?
11) Mining – across states, is mired in illegal activities. There have been documented murders of even IAS officials because of this. What is being done to control this? How has this come about?
12) What has been done the check the banks after the Cobrapost expose, and to check systemic flaws and abuse? 
13) Telecom : security aspects. The questions remain unanswered till this date. What is being done to address this?
14) Telecom scam : What has happened? Why are the guilty still free?
15) Commonwealth scam?
16) Why is the status of India on HDI parameters comparable, or lower than, even sub-saharan nations?
17) Why is malnutrition such a serious issue in the interiors?
18) What is being done to address the concerns of the people from whom land is forcible taken away for development? This is a serious impediment causing several developmental projects to be blocked up.
19) What has been done to overhaul the RBI, SEBI, Banks and their working?
20) What is being done about Fertiliser and Oil Subisidies? Why are the rich being subsidised by cheap petrol?
21) Why is good Healthcare in Rural India such a serious concern even in 2014?
22) Good Motorable Roads: It takes more time now to travel by road {by truck} than 40 years ago, Fact, Why? Why dont we have good motorable roads connecting villages to marketplaces, when this will result in savings and benefits for the people?
23) Why is Agricultural Productivity among the worst in the world in any number of crops? What is being done about this?
24) We are facing a serious electricity shortage in the years to come. Why is there no traction in planning and implementing this?
25) Farmer Suicides : Why are large amounts of farmers committing suicide?
26) 76% of our farmers are small and marginal farmers, who lose 840 – 1400 Rupees per hectare per crop – in Modern India. Why?
Why is each and every political party silent on these {or a majority of these) matters? Why is no one addressing quite a few of these serious issues? Why is this absent from the English Language press? {Dont read the vernacular, so no idea of them}. Why are we not concerned about these serious, serious issues? Because they dont impact us directly? Farmer Suicides, Malnutrition, Healthcare, Land Acquisition, Project Implementation, Defence Preparedness, Police Reforms – no one is talking about these. Why? Why only focus on Urban India? We Urban Indians comprise only 17.68% as per 2011 census – speaking from memory. What about rural India? What about their concerns? And I have not even started asking questions!
There are many more questions that can be asked. Why should only the AAP be answerable for just 48 days of power, and not the NDA and the UPA for their mistakes? Why the differential treatment? Not only that, the AAP is being asked for clarity on its economic and other policies. Please tell me which party has a clearly defined economic ideology? Which party has clearly stated its objectives in no uncertain terms, encompassing various aspects of trade and foreign policy – things which are being asked of the AAP? 
  • Just how is the NDA / UPA going to reign in inflation? 
  • How are they going to contain fiscal deficit? 
  • How do they intend to fill the tax deficit that will arise from their grandiose taxation reforms suggested – I mean specific, time-bound implementable measures? 
  • How much will they spend on defence? 
  • How much will they spend on Education? 
  • How much will they spend on Plan and Non-Plan Expenditure? 
  • How much will they spend on Healthcare? 
  • What are their specific plans for disinvestment of Blue Chip PSUs? 
  • How do they intend to stoke the slowing manufacturing engine?
  • How do they intend to reverse the IIP numbers? 
  • How do they intend to tackle inflation?
  • What is their foreign policy? 
  • Precisely how will they tackle the challenges now arising in the Malidives, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka? 
  • What is their defence outlook? 
  • What is their stance on the relationship with Japan, Israel and France? 
  • On Pakistan? 
  • On Terrorism? 
  • On centre-state relationships? 
  • On sharing revenue with the states? 
  • On the plans to bring in the GST? 
  • On the excise duty structure and the customs duty structure? 
  • What is their stance on the exim (trade) policy?

No one is asking these questions – I can ask dozens more. There isnt a single document, a single article – at least one that I have seen on mainstream media; neither is anyone asking these questions of the NDA or the UPA.
But Lo and Behold, along comes a new person – and everyone pounces on that person! Asks for a detailed manifesto covering these points! Everyone in the Media and the Public, members of my friends and family included! There isnt even a hint of a discussion on these vital parameters anywhere – but the new guy has to answer these questions. The NDA was given 5 full years; and their failure in innumerable areas is a matter of documented record. I am not an AAP fan – but within a span of 48 days people are willing to write off the new guy! Fantastic!
As far as I know, as on date, the AAP is the only party with a clearly documented vision and action plan; the others are playing ad-hoc. Read the book swaraj. also remember that they have promised a detailed clarity on all points. No one else has promised that… it may not be what you are looking for – but they have a clearly defined ideology, and a set of policies; they have further promised a detailed clarification on all points. This is more than anyone else’s statements. 

Book Review : India’s Military Conflicts And Diplomacy

Published March 5, 2014 by vishalvkale

The only good histories are those that have been written by the persons themselves who commanded in the affairs whereof they write; rest is hearsay – Michel Eyquem Montaigne, {from the Preface of the current book}
This is the second book by General V P Malik – and it is as good as the first; and in some ways, far more reader friendly. While the first – Kargil – was a deep and involved analysis of the Kargil War, this is one comprises a set of real-life incidences from his Army Experience; incidences which are known in almost every educated household in India. This takes up half of the book; the second half is a short, and to-the-point analysis of Military Diplomacy. Again, in this part as well, the author has delved into his personal experience, which gives the reader the entire story from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. 
THE FIRST PART
This part will be the interesting part for those readers who are not too interested in Military Diplomacy or Foreign Policy. This part alone makes it worth the money spent on it. For, in this part you get to read about some of India’s most famous military operations – from a person who was an integral part of the entire matter. This lends considerable weight to the book, as well as makes it doubly interesting; you are not reading a third person telling a story. You are reading history as it happened, through the eyes of one of the major players in these historically vital events; you get a blow-by-blow account of things as they happened and when they happened. 
The events I am referring to are the IPKF, Kargil, Commando Operation in the Maldives, Nuclear Tests, and UN Peacekeeping at Sierra Leone. For those who dont have the patience to read the voluminous Kargil – From Surprise To Victory – this book will give a short but complete summary of the Kargil War, alongwith an insightful but interesting analysis. And for those who have read the first book, this book contains new material, including analyses and reports from retired Pakistani senior Military Officers and journalists who have ripped into the Pakistani ruling elite for the entire fiasco. 
For the first time, we get an understanding of the sad sequence of events that led to Rajiv Gandhi’s assasination; a true and no-holds-barred account of the entire IPKF saga that is disquieting and frank, honest and transparent in its appraisal. The book makes no bones about it : as the heading of the chapter itself states: Wrong From The Start. You feel sad – not just for Rajivji; but actually for all the needless lives lost in that entire IPKF mission. And yet, you also feel pride in the performance of our warriors despite the immense pressure and problems they had to face; the struggle of coming to terms with a sudden 180-degree turn in political orders, and the brilliant performance despite such factors. You feel a sense of pride, tinged with grief at what was inarguably the second-worst episode in our military history. This chapter will be a stunner to the uninformed; a punch to the solar plexus, since the entire saga goes far deeper than what is generally known; as well as will raise some very very pertinent questions for Indians.
Moving on from this, we are treated to a fast-paced and deeply interesting account of how India helped the Maldives President avoid a military coup, in all the classic detailing by a person who was there. Even here, the more informed will wonder at the turn of events, as a close relationship has gone slightly awry in recent times, as reported in the latest papers – educating us about the need for keeping good relations on a healthy level, and giving due importance. You get a ringside seat {in every chapter} of the decision making process; it is an experience to be savoured, as you read about momentous and well known decisions being made. 
Then you get to read the details of the Nuclear Tests, and the way India went about it – alongwith the international repercussions. You also get to read an insightful yet simply worded analysis of the Nuclear Issue, which is an education in itself. The last operation covered is a UN peacekeeping operation at Sierra Leone. Like the other chapters, this one is also chock-full of surprises that will bring questions to your mind; like the hardly known fact that Indian casualties in UN operations are the highest suffered by any nation, and that India is one of the most active members in peace-keeping missions in the UN. You cannot avoid a feeling of pride as you get to know how highly regarded Indian soldiers are in UN missions due to various factors. It is such simple insights, simple analysis and fast-paced narrative of actual on-ground operations that make this part of the book a highly engaging and energising read. 
THE SECOND PART
This part is much shorter {happily so for those readers who are not inclined towards deep analysis}, but is equally – if not more – full of surprises and unknown or lesser known facts of the Indian Armed Forces. This part starts with the role of the Military in Diplomacy, which will be both a surprise to us, as well as a very highly informative and interesting look into a side of the Armed Forces that is not too well known. It contains a short but to-the-point and effective analysis of our relations in Military as well as diplomatic terms with China, Maldives, Nepal, Israel, Tajikistan, Myanmar and the USA. Again, you get a ringside seat on the authors visits to these places, as well as interesting background on how relations were repaired {Israel, for example – or Myanmar} and the role of the Military in these matters. 
The last 3 chapters are on Myanmar, Nepal, and an analysis of our strategic culture and the way forward for us. The chapters on Nepal and Myanmar are replete with surprises; I would prefer each reader discovers what they are for themselves. Suffice it to state that these are the most surprising of all, and contain the real meat of the book. These 2 chapters are the most engaging and informative, alongwith IPKF – and form the real meat of this fast-paced, interesting book that both educates us on our Military Operational And Strategic Culture, as well as raises some deeply disquieting questions.
This book  is a great resource for every educated Indian; a must-read for all of us, given that we as a nation do not have a very transparent culture on these matters, Further, there is little understanding of how a public discourse of these matters can help give shape to national policies, which are currently made in exalted halls, with little information being shared with the public, leading to a situation where the common citizens are just not aware of strategic matters, and thus cannot help shape the national dialogue, which is an essential part of any democracy. That is why this book, alongwith Pax Indica, is an important contribution towards a more open public discourse on matters relating to strategy, as they ultimately impact all of us… 

Book Review: THE GREAT DIVIDE – INDIA AND PAKISTAN by Ira Pande

Published September 25, 2013 by vishalvkale

The mere mention of the word Pakistan is enough to drive an Indian to extremes of behavior: ranging from a devout hoping for peace and brotherhood, to outright hatred. This is a subject that is fraught with bitter memories, blood and betrayal; a subject that is extremely hard to deal with sans emotion – at least if you are either an Indian, or a Pakistani. Therefore, for the above reasons, the book under review is a special surprise, a treat and a treasure; an experience to be savoured, a moment to be treasured – and a lesson to be learnt. A book which is head and shoulders above any I have read on this topic… a true delight; a collectors’ item. 
This book is a collection of essays by various Indian and Pakistani personalities on this subject. If you were expecting fireworks, think again. The book is singularly devoid of any fireworks; and in fact comprises a remarkably controlled and informed set of essays, which are well thought out, with the subject matter well presented. The book deals with the issue very delicately – and in a mature manner; yet fully, leaving nothing out.  And that is quite a tremendous achievement, given the nature of the  subject at hand. 
Every single facet of the India-Pakistan relationship finds a mention here: comparisons of growth, Kashmir, the art and culture scenario, journalistic comparisons, history, terrorism etc. I cannot offhand find a single point which has been left out. This gives an in-depth look at the entire relationship, as well as gives a fairly good idea of the road towards normalcy, and the challenges that lie ahead. The piece de resistance of the book is the presentation by both Indians as well as Pakistanis; which gives a 360-degree look at the problem. 
Through this book and its component essays, one gets a look at the situation inside Pakistan; for the primary focus of the book is Pakistan. You begin to form a basic idea of the pulls and pressures within that country, its multiple power centers and the scale of the challenges it has created for itself, largely due to its own short-sighted approach. And from that realization comes the realization of the true face of the problems that are bedeviling this relationship, and consequently us Indians. For example, the myth that the people at large want freedom, and that the politicians don’t, has, to my mind, been well and truly shattered.   This assumption does not take into account the increasing radicalization of the society, as becomes evident from the various essays  that deal with Pakistani History. This factor indicates that while at present, the educated elite may want peace and friendship, but there is no guarantee that this will continue, given the radicalized educational set-up and POV presentation. 
“The common belief in Pakistan is that Islamic Radicalisation is a problem only in FATA, and that  madrassas are the only institutions serving as Jehad factories. This is a serious misconception. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing with anyone except  strictly their own kind. The kind of mindset it creates may eventually lead to Pakistan’s demise as a nation-state… “ :  Pervez Hoodbhoy, in Newsline,  January 2009
And yet, the very fact that such bold words can appear in the Media, from the pen of a Pakistani, holds out hope that perhaps, given the chance, the forces of positive change and peace may win out. While on the one hand, it serves as a warning to us not to relax, on the other hand, it underscores the need for patience and peace – not rhetoric and diatribe. A Pakistani contributor has gone so far as to state that India may have to absorb some more terrorist attacks before things stabilize – as Pakistan internally struggles to cope with the serious internal threats it faces to its own existence. The alternative, as the essay points out bluntly, does not bear contemplation. I agree. 
One of the most powerful and enlightening essays is the interview of a terrorist, with the police officer a muslim and the interviewer also a muslim. This is an eye-opener; read it to experience it. The book also covers the art, culture, music and related scenarios, with poignant lamentation at the loss of a once highly-regarded tradition as a form of music suffers under the new dispensation post-independence. The food habits and specialities, reminiscent of a time gone by; and the memories of partition not heard before – the good ones; as shared in another essay just add spice as well as dimension to the book, giving it a complete 360-degree approach. 
In conclusion, it can be gleaned from  the book that the assertion of some people  – Pakistan is not paranoid about India, and does not harbor envy   – is just hogwash. This is evident in the war-game story, wherein Indian and Pakistani retired generals played a war game; while Indians attacked the terror training camps, the Pakistani side attacked Infosys! Reason: symbol of India’s growth! This is also borne out by the views of a general of the ISI! At the same time, this book is one of the most powerful presentations of peace that I have ever read; as it brings you face to face with the internal contradictions within Pakistan, its multiple power centers and its serious self-created issues; as well as the inescapable fact that there are some within that country that desire development, growth, and most of all… peace. The learning is that we, the elder, more mature society and people, had best not react – for our own sakes, as well as that of the younger child of Mother India…
Can we ever be friends? I somehow doubt it. But can we co-exist? As to that, only time will tell… or, rather, only Pakistan and its future will tell. For the ball is firmly in Pakistan’s court; and is likely to remain there for quite a bit of time… the road is long and arduous, and the challenges huge, and varied.
Coming Book Reviews:
1.      Operation Red Lotus – (The Real Story Of The First War Of Independence) by Parag Tope
2.      Asian Juggernaut: The Rise Of China, India And Japan by Brahma Chellaney
3.      What India Should Know by V Lakshmikanthan / J Vasundhara Devi
4.      Kill List – Frederick Forsyth
5.      Bankerupt – Ravi Subramanian

India and China… what’s up?

Published May 6, 2013 by vishalvkale

This post first appeared in the following questions on Quora, wherein I had supported the diplomatic initiative and tried to analyse the same; and had suspected a peaceful resolution for now…

Why Is China Entering India?

Is China Trying To Impose A War?

MILITARY SITUATION
This has to be seen in the larger Indo-China relationship. China has been systematically encircling India militarily all around it for quite some time now. These developments have been noted with some disquiet in India – especially in Military circles. On the political level, there is near-total consensus on China: it is a major threat; only political expediency prevents India from officially designating China as a principal threat. George Fernandes stands as the only Defence Minister to have openly stated that China is the threat number one for India. 

China potential threat number one: George Fernandes

India’s New Defense Chief Sees Chinese Military Threat

India realised that in preparing for Pakistan, it had left the Chinese border practically open – wide open. And thus started India’s China Programme. Indian planners realised that first of all, they have to build up the warfare logistics all along the Chinese Border – Roads, Airstrips etc. Plan – 2 was to develop missile strike capabilities against China; Plan – 3 was to develop Naval Strength; Plan 4 was to develop new divisions etc. All these have been gaining momentum in recent years; all were severely criticised in China – and even belittled. However, the fact remains that India has been beefing up its defences all along the Chinese Border for at least 5 – 8 years now. On top of this was our ICBM success: with the development of a missile that brought all of China in its range. 

This is the military backdrop to the situation. China is aware of these developments; the news articles and the decrying of all such military moves by India is constantly derided in newspapers in China. Furthermore, as the below link states, there is the possibility that this is linked to Gwadar port near Karachi – which, apparently – as per the article – needs a link to China from Ladakh region… 

Xtreme theory on China

The point is that this could be another cog in the military encirclement of India – or it could be just a case of China proving India’s vulnerability. In either case, it is a medieval misadventure – and has only served to isolate China even further




POLITICAL SITUATION
Politically, India has never trusted China since 1962. From that day onwards, we have always been wary. The fact of Chinese assistance to Pakistan in everything Military as well as diplomacy has been noted with some disquiet in India. This distance has been further exacerbated by Chinese claims – ridiculous claims – on Arunachal Pradesh; Visa Stapling for Arunachal Pradesh and Kashmir; Blue Water Navy developments; military encirclement of India; open declaration by Chinese Premier that issues with India will take time etc etc. The icing on the cake was the most dangerous of them all – the Brahmaputra Dispute. All in all, this has all but driven a deep chasm in a relationship that was never healthy to start with. 

Rest Assured; India – at least unofficially – designates China as the number one threat to its security. The only full scale war that can happen for India is with China;this too has been accepted (I tihnk) by Indian Policy makers. There can be no other reason for the Defence Minister’s Statement above. Pakistan does not have the wherewithal to wage a war. China, however – does. It is also far more powerful than India both militarily as well as economically. It has the ability, the veto power in the UN (no small factor, this one), the attitude and the reason to wage a war. This is also a fact. And as of now, we do not have the firepower in place in Ladakh – or anywhere on the Macmohan Line – to pull of any retaliatory moves. For that, we need time. And that is what explains the political reaction. 



THE HISTORY
Sumdorong Chu incident – Arunachal Pradesh, 1986; Demchok during Kargil war 1999; Trig Heights 1999; Pangong Tso, 1999; Chantze 1999

The last 4 were all during the Kargil War. This fact alone is enough the raise the hackles for India. These intrusions are neither a new affair, nor will it be the last. They are extremely serious developments when seen in the backdrop given above. It is also established fact that PLA’s director of Armaments visited Islamabad during Kargil; Musharraf and Sharif both visited Beijing just before Kargil. These are all noteworthy incidents, and cannot be forgotten or ignored. Trust me, The Indian Armed Forces and the Political Establishment have not forgotten them either. General V. P. Malik has openly quoted in his book “We need a credible dissuasive posture in Ladakh  till the LOC and Siachen dispute with Pakistan and the boundary question with China are fully resolved”

He has further noted – quite correctly – ” b) China’s aggressive and assertive policies in the Middle Kingdom, and even after attaining independence in 1949 c) Regular sale of military equipment to India’s immediate neighbourhood d) Close relations with Pakistan e) Rapid changes in international power equilibrium seldom take place without concomitant conflict and turbulence”



ADD ALL THE ABOVE
Add all of the above, and a picture begins to emerge. And that picture does not speak peace. China wants to dominate – and India will not be dominated; not even by the USA. China wants Indian land; and Indian waters..,. it is encircling India from all sides militarily. 

This may not lead to war; in fact – it certainly wont. But war is increasingly becoming inevitable – unless good sense prevails on the Chinese side… which does not seem likely, basis the above. 

To quote Shashi Tharoor: “Keeps India guessing about Chinese intentions; exposes the giant democracy’s vulnerabilities, and cuts a potential rival to size”



THE CURRENT SCENARIO
China is simply testing the waters;; pushing India hard. Just like the Visa row; it is wanting to keep the issue burning and volatile; keep India off-balance – and perhaps provoke a response. It could be seeing just how much pressure will India bear before retaliating. Will this lead to war? I dont think so. But how long will peace win out? Difficult to state. 

Except…

If what the experts and the newspapers say on the Brahmaputra is anywhere near accurate- the  I see big trouble… meaning War. I hope I am wrong…That one factor – coming on top of all of this – might just be the last straw on the camel’s back. Short of this, I dont see War. Not yet, anyway – not unless China attacks. On that, I am not hopeful; China, in my opinion – will attack someday. The facts above do not speak peace; China seems to be preparing for War with India. You do not militarily encircle a nation for peaceable reasons; you do not build up forces all along the border- massive buildup, by the way – for peace. 

If there is War – it will be started by China. Not India – that is certain. At least, till the Brahmputra problem rears its head; short of that – India wont attack. As things stand today, War is inevitable. It is only a question of when. It will not happen from India – except as a response to a existential or equally serious invasive threat. My analysis predicts the War between 2015 – 2020. There will come a time when we will be ready on the MacMohan Line – as we have already begun preparing for the eventuality since the past few years. And at that time – if a disagreement crops up , as we have shown in Kargil – we will respond. That is assured. It may only be a Kargil style limited War – but a military stand-off is now assured. 

I do not see good sense prevailing in China…

I hope I am wrong on this last paragraph,, and that peace prevails; that the experts who deny any war chances are right…