Prime Ministers Modi and Nawaz Sharif met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization at Ufa, in Russia, and told of their commitment to the abracadabra, of what is described as the India-Pakistan ‘dialogue.’ It has turned into a dialogue of the deaf. Iftar sweets offered by Indian border guards at the Wagagh check-post were spurned by their Pakistani counterparts. Pakistan is in denial over the authenticity of India’s voice recording of the Pakistani terror mastermind Rehman Lakhvi as evidence of his culpability in the jihadi assault on Mumbai on 26/11/2008. Sartaz Aziz, Nawaz Sharif’s National Security and Foreign Policy Advisor, is due to parley with Ajit Doval, Narendra Modi’s National Security chief: Aziz has been pouring vitriol on India, signifying a long familiar tale of sound and fury, of malice aforethought and unremitting hatred. Hiding one’s head in the sand as mainstream Indian politicians and the political class are wont to do has yielded no worthwhile dividends in the past and are unlikely to do so in the future(Hindu, Business Line, Telegraph, Times of India July 14, 15,17,19)
Living with reality
A true understanding of this vexed subject can be garnered through a perusal of the American scholar Christine Fair’s meticulously researched work on the Pakistan Army – the country’s abiding power – and its supremacist vision of a triumphant regional caliphate. Peace with India would require the Pakistan military’s self-liquidation, or assisted suicide, which is unlikely anytime soon. Hopes of a shift in the template of Indo-Pakistan relations are dead in the water. A reality check IS better than clutching vainly at straws.
PM’s deft move in Turkmenistan
It would be unwise to rule out the possibility that Prime Minister Modi is using his newly acquired diplomatic skill to make a move of far-reaching significance. His three key stopovers on the journey home from the BRICS Summit were historic. His first stop was in Turkmenistan for talks on energy, trade, anti-terrorism and military cooperation, with President Gurbanguly Berimuhameov, were climaxed by seven far-reaching pacts between the two sides. (Hindu July 12)
Kyrgyzstan shares India’s terror concern
Mr Modi’s second stop at Bishek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, to meet with President Temir Suriyev included a wide-ranging discuss issues of common concern such their shared threat perception on jihadi terrorism. Among the four agreements signed were deeper defence cooperation, including an agreement to hold annual military exercises. A statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled, with India congratulating Kyrgyzstan for upholding the secular character of the country. Summing up the importance of his visits to all five former Soviet republics in Central Asia (two on his way to Russia, three on the return journey), Narendra Modi said his tour “demonstrates the importance that we attach to a new level of relationship with Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan is a key part of that vision.” (Hindu JJuly 13)
So does Tajikistan
Mr Modi’s third stop in his Central Asian tour was Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan, where he was photographed with President Emomali Rahmonov at the India-Tajik Friendship Hospital in the capital, Dushanbe. Once again terrorism topped the agenda of the two leaders, as tyhey discussed closer cooperation. They decided to intensify bilateral cooperation in the framework of a Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism which, said the two leaders, should meet at the earliest opportunity (Hindu July 14). It is worth mentioning in this context that India and Russia jointly operate a giant air base at Dushanbe for their respective air forces. (Hindu July 15)
Mr Modi’s Central Asian tour – the first by an Indian prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru visited these parts way back in 1955 – carries a message for the region and the wider world: India is now a player in the Great Game, with a grandmaster at the helm making the moves. The US-Iranian nuclear deal opens the door for India to press ahead with plans to make the Iranian port city of Chabahar its railway hub to Central Asia, thence to Armenia and the Russian Federation (See page 3)
Pakistani columnist and defence specialist, Marian Babbar, was told by the Chairman of Pakistan’s Senate Standing Committee, Syed Mushahid Hussain, that Islamabad’s “outreach to Russia and China had changed the regional dynamics,” that Pakistan was isolating India, hence India’s willingness to open talks with Pakistan (Hindu July 15).
Second thoughts in order
Hussain Sahib would do well to think again, and think hard. Prime Minister Modi’s every conversation with Central Asian leaders included counter measures against jihadi forces in the region [normally code for Pakistan]. Finally, Senator Hussain might consider taking elementary lessons in geo-politics. If India and Russia share an air base in Tajikistan, it surely means that President Putin was in full accord with Mr Modi’s Central Asian diplomacy and its policy goals, one of which is to deny Pakistan and China this dominating strategic space.
Having bent over backwards to accommodate Chinese sensitivities, India has affirmed that Japan would be invited to participate in the prized Malabar naval exercise in October with the United States in the Bay of Bengal. Beijing’s protests in the past had precluded the invitation to Japan. However, a separate bilateral exercise will be held with Australia, also in the Bay of Bengal, towards the end of September (Times of India July13)
Defence deals with US
India is set to order another four P81long range maritime surveillance aircraft from the United States for almost $1 billion. The Indian Navy has inducted seven of these aircraft, which are equipped Harpoon missiles and lightweight torpedoes and depth charges for submarine warfare. Meanwhile, the Indian Army will be ordering $770 million 155mm/39-calibre lightweight howitzers specially designed for operations in the Himalayas (Times of India July 13)
The US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma, in a newspaper interview said “the people-to-people ties are at the heart of our strategic relationship. For many years the governments have tried to catch up with to where the people are.” He recalled the emigration of his parents to the US in the 1960s, when his father got an academic scholarship. He had visited the village where his mother and grandmother once lived. “I am a big proponent of our academic exchange programme, for example, which is increasing across India including southern India,” said Ambassador Verma. He emphasized cooperative ventures in health, which had spread to 10 countries, a tribute to joint India-US endeavours abroad. He concluded: “Defence is a major area of cooperation across southern India. Clean energy is another area, so is space cooperation……The potential is limitless.” (Hindu July 15)
India Inc investments create 91,000 US jobs
American legislators debating foreign investments in their respective states thanked Indian companies for setting up businesses that leave an even larger footprint in the coming years. They were speaking at a function in Washington organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CIII) and the US auditing firm Grant Thompson, which released a report showing India-based companies having invested $15 billion in the United States and created 91000 jobs across the country. This runs counter to the popular American perception that India Inc is simply a recipient of US outsourcing and thus fleecing American jobs. Hopefully, this will lead to a course correction, for jobs and employment are issues that can make or break a senator’s or Congressman’s career in elections. (Times of India July 16)
GPS Navigation Satellite launch
India has successfully launched its Global Position System (GPS) known as GAGAN, which will offer seamless navigation to the country. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) developed the system – only the fourth in the world – at a cost of Rs 774 crore over 15 years. GAGAN will provide augmentation service for the GPS cover over India, the Bay of Bengal, South East Asia and the Middle East up to Africa. A.S. Ganesan, Project Director, GAGAN, ISRO Satellite Centre, said South Korea and Japan had evinced interest in the system (Hindu July 14)
Tata Motors wins Army contract
Tata Motors has been contracted to supply the Indian Army 6X6 transport vehicles worth over Rs 900 crore. “We decided to take a deep dive into the segment and encompass the entire range of land force equipment. The first target was indigenization and we targeted light combat vehicles,” said Vernon Noronha, Vice President , Defence & Government Business, Tata Motors (Hindu July11)