India-Pakistan tensions show no signs of easing anytime soon. The deaths of 18 Indian soldiers by Pakistan-sponsored jihadis in the Uri sector of Kashmir, it would appear, crossed the red lines. India clearly means business, but the form and execution is being mulled over before the action button is pressed. This is as it should be: act in haste, repent at leisure is a warning that should be heeded. There are multiple options for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his advisers to consider through careful risk analysis. Mr Modi is to expand India’s access to the waters of the Indus river system, without abrogating the core of the 1960 water sharing agreement with Pakistan.
As in any arrangement of this magnitude there will surely be space for flexibility, viz, permitting withdrawal from those provisions that depend on Indian goodwill. ‘You cannot have blood and water,’ he said pithily, when addressing a public rally in Delhi.
He also announced that India would not be attending the South Asian (SAARC) Summit in Islamabad scheduled for November. Its Chairman Nepal has been informed accordingly. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka joined India by staying away. The Summit was cancelled.
India will now be setting its sights on developing closer neighbourhood economic and transport ties with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. (Times of India, Hindu, TV networks et al September 26,27, 28, 29)
British columnist’s salvo
British columnist Julie Raven (nee Burchill) has never been afraid to pull her punches dealing with jihadi states. True to form she fired a broadside at Pakistan: ‘What a disgusting rotter! I’ve always been keen on the Indians. It’s disgraceful that this country (UK) isn’t more partisan towards this admirable democracy compared to our indulgence and assistance to the vice theocratic hellhole Pakistan.’ (Daily Mail Online September 26)
The Obama administration’s weasel words on the subject show no signs of abating. Mark Toner, the US State Department spokesman affirmed that Washington’s relationship with Pakistan was not a zero sum game. Nor is it with the likes of Al Nusra and other terror groups in Syria. Toner’s sage advice to India was to keep talking to Pakistan. The US has given Pakistan $20 billion in military and economic aid since 2001. (Hindu September 28)
Obama, the Nobel Peace laureate has three weird sisters advising him on foreign policy: Samantha Power at the UN, Victoria Nuland at the State Department and Susan Rice, National Security. Macbeth too had three nameless weird sisters giving him counsel. See where it got him.
Six top jihadis arrested
Six top operatives of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh were arrested in Kolkata by the Special Task Force of the Kolkata Police last week. This was a major breakthrough since these men were believed to have been involved in the Bardhawan bomb blasts over a year ago and were planning to hit targets further afield in Assam and other places in India. The six arrested men were: Anwar Hussian Farukh, Maulana Yousef, Sahidul Islam, Mohammed Rubel, Abdul Kalam, and Zahidul Islam. All six were tracked down in different places in West Bengal at the time of their arrests (Telegraph, Times of India, Hindu September 27)
Smart fence along India-Pakistan border
The government has approved the installation of smart fencing along the entire stretch of the Indo-Pakistan border stretching from Jammu & Kashmir to Gujarat with satellite sensors monitoring the space. Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force has been conducting a series of exercises in the western sector (Times of India September 27)
Forget Kashmir: Sushma Swaraj
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, addressing the United Nations General Assembly Summit in New York, told Pakistan to forget Kashmir. Its acquisition by Islamabad and its surrogate: the separatist Hurriyat was never going to happen. Period (Times of India September 28)
Amidst the existential challenges it currently faces, Indian science and engineering – the surest guarantors of the country’s future - forges ahead. While India exports IT, Pakistan exports terror, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Spot on. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) added another to its substantial cap, launching a total of eight satellites in two different orbits. Besides the weather satellite SCATSAM-1, two satellites, PRATAM and PISAT from Indian academic institutions, three from Algeria (ALSATIN IB and 2B) and one each from Canada (NSL-19) and the United States (Pathway-1) were launched in longest PSLV mission to date.
ISRO workhorse lauded
ISRO Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar lauded the performance of the PSLV rocket, India’s longstanding workhorse at a press conference at the Sriharikota spaceport, for its proven capability to ‘undertake any type of mission.’ Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Antrix Corporation – ISRO’s commercial arm – S.Rakesh, said the launch had enhanced the ‘marketability and versatility of PSLV in a ‘unique position’ in the global services market.
For students and the faculty PES University at Bangalore, it was a day to celebrate the academic imaging satellite PISAT. It was a collective effort of 250 and more students from the university and four colleges. The project began in 2012 as a training programme for students and was completed in 2014.PISAT then underwent tests under a strict supervisory regime until the launched gained ISRO approval, the successful feat for which participating students are justly proud (Hindu, Times of India September 27)
India 39 in global compettive index
India moved up 16 places to 39 in the Global Competiveness Index for 2016-17 released by the World Economic Forum (WEF). At the last count its position was 55, hence the latest figure is a great leap forward. This is the fastest rise among the 138 countries assessed. Amongst the BRICS nations, India now stands second to China in 29th place.
The WEF said the recent government’s economic reform measures had played a significant part in this exponential improvement. Improving public institutions, market efficiency, greater opening up to foreign investors and greater transparency in the financial sector and innovation and sophistication were listed as the lead items behind this current performance. However, more needed to be done, said the WEF report, a judgment few would contest (Mint, Hindu, Business Line, Times of India September 28)
Beijing jitters on Job losses to India
As China’s giant telecom firm, Huawei starts manufacturing in India, the country’s official media have voiced their concerns about job cuts at home because of production bases increasingly shifting to India. ‘China needs to worry about the effect of industrial transfers to India of production chains,’ said an article in the state-run Global Times.
Cost to China
Huawei’s ‘joining a wave of smartphone vendors establishing production facilities in the promising mobile phone market’ would result in job cuts if mobile manufacturing shifted to India….Frankly speaking China can’t afford that….India’s relatively stable political environment, sustained economic growth momentum, huge population dividend and cheap labour costs have attracted international investors,’ said the GFlobal Times report (Times of India September 27)
Russian supplier for Kudankulam- Phase II
Zio-Podolsk, the engineering arm of Russian nuclear group Rosatom, has been selected to supply equipment for the third and fourth nuclear power units to be in Tamil Nadu. The audit for the second phase of the Kudankulam project was carried out by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and the general contractor, ASE Engineering Group.
In 2014, New Delhi and Moscow signed an agreement for the construction of 12 nuclear power units across India using Russian technology. (Business Line September 24)
Knee jerk reaction
The Pakistan-Russia army exercise, some forty km from Peshawar, evoked some handwringing and fevered media speculation. Was Russia downgrading its Indian relationship? India and Russia are conducting more intensive military drills near Vladivostok, and the scale of its relations with India based on a convergence of their national interests ought to have evoked a more adult response to the Pakistan demarche. It is likely that Moscow kept New Delhi informed of its reasons for engaging with Pakistan (Times of India, Hindu, Mint September 26)
President’s condoles Shimon Peres’ passing
President Pranab Mukherjee expressed his condolences at the death of Shimon Peres, 93, veteran Israeli politician former foreign minister, prime minister and, finally, President of the State of Israel. President Mukherjee who met Mr Peres during his visit to Israel last year, described as a force for peace in the Middle East and one of the principal architects of Indo-Israel friendship
Indira Gandhi airport goes fully green
New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport became the Asia-Pacific’s first fully green airport last week by earning carbon neutral status. Around 25 airports in the world, most of them in Europe, have acquired carbon neutral status. The Indira Gandh Airport is managed by a private operator Delhi International Airport Ltd boasts green buildings, solar power plants, rain water harvesting systems etc have helped reduce and offset carbon emissions. ‘With this achievement, we have set a new benchmark for other airports in the region,’ said CEO I.Prabhkara Rao (Hindu September 29).