Monday, April 23, 2012

India's Agni V test ...my comments to the Australian ABC

Here's a link to my comments on the recent Agni V missile test of India to the Australian ABC. While this test is seen as a game changer, another three or four years are needed to induct the missile into service. It will have to go through several more tests and user trials before it can be handed over to the services by 2014, Dr. Saraswat said. In real terms, this could take up to three or four years before the sufficient number can be produced and inducted into service. Having tested the missile, there are several important decisions to be taken before it reaches the stage of induction, including strategic doctrines, target definitions, number of missiles to be produced, etc. The government has to make these decisions before it becomes an instrument of capable, credible deterrence.
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Friday, April 20, 2012

India's Agni V test and China, my analysis on the missile test ...

Here's an analysis of mine on India's recent Agni test and China. While Agni V should not be seen as China-specific, India has had to pay attention to and factor Beijing's capabilities in its military modernisation. Capabilities that China builds to deal with the US can easily be turned against India. However, India does not have to assume that such conflict of interest with China is inevitable. India can reach out to China. It will be to the benefit of both countries to engage in periodic military CBMs. For the full article, click here . India has just successfully tested the Agni V missile, a nuclear capable missile with a 5,000 km range. Dr. V.K. Saraswat, the head of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), which built the missile, said soon after the test from the Integrated Test Range complex in Wheeler Island, Odisha, that "this launch has given a message to the entire world that India has the capability to design, develop, build and manufacture missiles of this class, and we are today a missile power." Defence Minister A K Antony described Agni test as a "major milestone." While the full technical data is being evaluated, DRDO scientists maintain that the mission objectives have been met. The various technical parameters, including engine, re-entry capabilities and guidance technology have been validated. With this test, India joins a small group of nations - US, Russia, China, France and UK - that have developed Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). While this test is seen as a game changer, another three or four years are needed to induct the missile into service. It will have to go through several more tests and user trials before it can be handed over to the services by 2014, Dr. Saraswat said. In real terms, this could take up to three or four years before the sufficient number can be produced and inducted into service. Having tested the missile, there are several important decisions to be taken before it reaches the stage of induction, including strategic doctrines, target definitions, number of missiles to be produced, etc. The government has to make these decisions before it becomes an instrument of capable, credible deterrence. As for the technical parameters, the Agni V is a three-stage, solid propellant MIRVed (Multiple Independently Targettable Re-entry Vehicle) missile with a range of 5,000 kilometers and can carry a nuclear warhead weighing over one tonne. The missile can cover most of Asia, parts of Africa and parts of Eastern Europe. India has in its inventory other Agni series missiles also - Agni I of 700 km range, Agni II of 2000 km range, Agni III and Agni IV of 2,500 km to more than 3,500 km range. The Agni V is seen as crucial for strengthening India's defence and deterrence capabilities. The missile has particular relevance to India in the context of advance military capabilities in its neighbourhood. Beijing has been upping the ante in the recent years in Tibet and surrounding areas. Advancements made by China in the Delingha missile facility is a case in point. The Delingha base is believed to be housing some nuclear missiles. PLA has also replaced the earlier liquid-fueled missiles with solid-fueled ones, reducing the launch time as well as making mobility much easier. Also Beijing's DF-4 ICBMs have been upgraded to fit them for the DF-21 (NATO code: CSS-5) series of ballistic missiles. There have also been reports about the possibility of the road mobile DF-31s (NATO code: CSS-9; Pentagon classification: CSS-10) and DF-31As (NATO code: CSS-9 Mod 2) being housed at the Delingha facility. These could additionally be equipped with penetration aids such as decoys and flares, making any countermeasures and warning systems more complicated or even ineffective. This base is particularly significant, given the proximity to India, able to target most of northern India. India does not enjoy a benign neighbourhood. While Delingha is of particular concern, China's increasing foray into the Indian Ocean, its overall military modernisation, rising military expenditure, non-transparent nature of its programmes and objectives are also of concern to India. Recent Chinese policy approaches also have been not reassuring to India. The unresolved boundary and territorial disputes, changing Chinese policy on Jammu & Kashmir, questioning India's territorial integrity, and building strategic links with India's neighbours such as Nepal create security concerns in India. China-Pakistan collaboration on a range of military capabilities also warrants Indian attention. Given these background developments, India has to be prepared for any eventuality. While Agni V should not be seen as China-specific, India has had to pay attention to and factor Beijing's capabilities in its military modernisation. While the official reaction to India's Agni test was fairly muted, China's Global Times, in an editorial, said, "India should not overestimate its strength. Even if it has missiles that could reach most parts of China, that does not mean it will gain anything from being arrogant during disputes with China. India should be clear that China's nuclear power is stronger and more reliable. For the foreseeable future, India would stand no chance in an overall arms race with China." The point to be emphasized and understood clearly by Indian decision-makers is that it is not and should not be in a competition with China on the military front but this is not to mean that India will stop being prepared in a defensive fashion while beefing up its deterrent measures. Agni V is a weapon of deterrence and hopefully will never have to be used. The Global Times editorial goes on to say that India and China should learn to co-exist with each other, if the two can not cooperate. It must also come to learn that India looks for an inclusive approach as it develops and extends its sphere of influence although one is not certain that this can be said of China. China has been rather uncomfortable with the fact that there are two or three rising powers in Asia simultaneously and these countries have to adopt cooperative frameworks if it is to be a stable and peaceful Asian century. Finally, the editorial notes that China does not devote as much time on India as India does towards China. The fact, however, is that as Beijing's military modernisation is geared more towards the United States, its capabilities are already at a much more sophisticated level. It will be naïve if India were to assume that those capabilities are purely US-centric and therefore, not be concerned about those capabilities and applications. Capabilities that China builds to deal with the US can easily be turned against India. However, India does not have to assume that such conflict of interest with China is inevitable. India can reach out to China. It will be to the benefit of both countries to engage in periodic military confidence-building measures (CBMs) as a means of mutual reassurance.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hu's Delhi Visit: BRICS and the Bilateral Dynamics


Here's an analysis of mine published on ORF website on the recent visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Delhi, perhaps his last visit as the president, for the BRICS Summit. However the focus of this article is to see if cooperation at the multilateral levels such as BRICS contributes to narrowing down the differences that exist at the bilateral level between India and China.

For the full article, click here.



Chinese President Hu Jintao was in Delhi for the fourth BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit, possibly his last visit as the leader of China. BRICS appear to have made progress on the economic, trade and financial arena although it will be naïve to assume that it will make similar progress in the political and strategic arena. With Syria, Iran and developments in the West Asia being part of the Delhi Declaration, Mr. Hu is reported to have said that BRICS has begun to make gradual progress on global political issues as well. Rightly so, bilateral issues are not part of the mandate of the BRICS Summit. But it is unclear if cooperation at the multilateral levels such as BRICS contributes to narrowing down the differences that exist at the bilateral level between India and China.

The trend is not particularly reassuring. While India and China have enhanced their trade ties from a mere $ 5 bn a decade earlier to $ 75 bn in 2012, similar trend lines have not been witnessed in the political and strategic arena. Emphasis on economic matters from the Chinese side is quite understandable given that Beijing is on a lookout for newer markets in Asia as the West may no longer be the biggest economic partner for them. India's large market provides an alternative, but New Delhi should also exploit this to its benefit. There are a few issues that need to be addressed, including trade imbalance that is hugely in favour of China and lack of access to Chinese markets for Indian goods and services in the area of pharmaceuticals, agriculture and IT. India is understood to have raised these issues repeatedly with the Chinese side over the last few years with no satisfactory response.

On the political and strategic arena, it has not been easy to say the least. While there has been no untoward incident on the border or elsewhere, it can be best characterised as an uncertain calm. Mr. Hu made tall promises saying China has an "unswerving policy to adhere to the Sino-Indian friendship, deepen strategic cooperation and promote common development. … China is ready to work with the Indian side to seize opportunities, accelerate development, jointly cope with challenges and share the fruits of development to benefit the two peoples and make greater contributions to peace, stability and prosperity of Asia and the world at large." In return, Singh reiterated that India "has no intention to contain China and will not take part in any schemes aimed at containing China. India recognizes the Tibet Autonomous Region as part of China and will not allow Tibetans to pursue anti-China activities in India. He also expressed the hope to work with China to maintain peace and security on the borders and properly resolve border issues through friendly talks." While this is clearly an unobjectionable statement, it is noteworthy that China did not give any such assurances to India. New Delhi should have cashed in on an opportunity like this to gain similar assurances from Beijing as well.

On the sidelines of the BRICS Summit, Mr. Hu held separate meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, discussing a range of issues, including bilateral issues on March 29, 2012. The two leaders also made the politically correct statements on bilateral ties while announcing 2012 as the "Year of India-China Friendship and Cooperation," with an intention to take bilateral ties to the next level, including making progress on strategic matters. The two leaders argued, among other issues, that there was a need for enhancing cooperation particularly in the fields of maritime and regional security. Anti-piracy operations and protection of SLOCS are ideal areas for India and China to cooperate if they have to make progress on the security and strategic front.

In addition, Mr. Hu laid out a five-point proposal to address India-China relations, including one on the border issue. The proposal says the two sides should handle their differences and work for peace and stability, while urging both to push forward border talks in the spirit of peace, friendship, equal consultation, mutual respect and mutual understanding and make good use of the working mechanism of consultation and coordination on border affairs so as to jointly safeguard peace and security on the borders. While the agenda appears comprehensive, this needs to be followed on the ground to make a difference to India-China strategic ties.

Having said that, it is not the border issue that remains at the crux of the problems between India and China. The bigger issue is to reach an understanding on their respective roles in the emerging Asian strategic architecture. It is India's growing role in Asian affairs and beyond and China's eternal desire to box India in South Asia that has been at odds in the recent years. Beijing's closer partnership with Islamabad and in fact with all of the neighbouring countries appears to have been motivated by the desire to balance India. Beijing's ongoing activities in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, or its changing policy on Jammu & Kashmir or the Chinese protests at the Indian troop movement in Sikkim (an otherwise a peaceful sector on the Line of Actual Control (LAC); Sikkim was recognised by China as part of India during Prime Minister Vajpayee's visit to Beijing in 2003) are not reassuring to India. These do reflect a tendency on the part of China to question the very territorial integrity of India.

It is likely that the simultaneous rise of four major powers in Asia (China, Japan, Russia, India) will lead to a period of uncertainty and newer frictions. The fact that except for India and Russia, all the other countries have had troubled history, including war, does not help ease the situation. However, these powers have to recognise that their wealth and prosperity will also depend on the health of bilateral ties with each of these Asian capitals.

India and China have to shoulder greater responsibility in this regard to ensure that they adopt more inclusive and cooperative approach in addressing each other's concerns. And no amount of multilateral level cooperation (BRICS, G-20, WTO) can diminish some of these vexed issues. The fact is also that the two countries have cooperated mostly at the Chinese insistence and where it benefits them and not necessarily in a global forum that is supportive of India. Beijing's less than supportive role at the NSG and its efforts to sabotage an ADB loan for India are one or two instances. Therefore, India has to become more pragmatic in understanding and leveraging multilateral platforms to further its own national interests while strengthening India-China bilateral ties.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

India’s Libya Shame Will Haunt It ... my piece in The Diplomat on India's Libya vote last year ....


Here's a piece published yesterday in the Diplomat on India's Libya vote -- the merits and demerits of it and how it has affected its own standing in global affairs.

Last March, India abstained in a vote over enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya, a move that ultimately signaled the beginning of the end for Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. A year later, though, and it’s clear that India gained little from the move – and may actually have done itself some considerable diplomatic harm in the process.



Of course, India has since (reluctantly) voted for a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria, and it’s abstention (along with China) ended up meaning little in the grand scheme of intervention in Libya – European assistance to Libyan rebels still changed the balance of power in the conflict, and paved the way for the Libyan rebels to overthrow the Gaddafi regime. And, although Libya is far from stable, the rebels’ eventual victory to a certain extent negated any immediate harm that might have come from India’s reticence.

And yet it’s clear that India’s vote will have long-term consequences for the country’s strategic standing.

As the world’s largest democracy, India should have key advantages in dealing with the turmoil resulting from the Arab Spring. India’s status as a large yet stable developing country without some of the baggage of Western countries should have left it well-placed to offer guidance and exercise some “soft power” in these tumultuous times. Yet India clearly missed the boat. Indeed, far from being a role model, India decided to side with authoritarian states such as China and Russia, in seeming opposition to the democratic revolutions reflecting values that India claims to uphold.

Second, though not all of these democratic movements have succeeded, the spread of democracy in the Middle East is clearly something that will boost the prospects for stability in the medium and long term. India might be uncomfortable with the idea of “democracy promotion,” something that’s easy to understand. But India’s actions surrounding the Arab Spring have made India look as if it is standing against the spread of democracy itself. India’s abstention over Libya might not have impeded progress in the end, but it did nothing at all to help, and left it complicit in efforts to crack down.

Third, India’s abstention and its only reluctant support in the Syrian case have won it no friends in the capitals of the world’s democracies. Even if India’s reluctance to assist in the spread of an ideology is well-known, Western capitals were surprised by a vote that actually impeded its spread. Ironically, India’s “moral” position ended up hurting India’s own moral standing in the international community.

The Libyan vote was a particular disappointment to India’s friends in the United States. The U.S. remains an important strategic partner for India, but the decision over Libya was embarrassing to those in Washington who have championed closer ties. All this has only been compounded by India’s softly-softly approach to Iran. As a result, there are increasing doubts in Washington about the value of the partnership with New Delhi.

What is particularly problematic about the Libya decision is that India failed to support action that was backed by the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). It was also action that would have come under the U.N. umbrella, sending a signal to other countries, including in India’s own troubled neighborhood, that India expects other nations to adhere to certain universal principles. This might have prevented India having to vote against Sri Lanka at the United Nations recently – had it seen its giant neighbor backing U.N. action in Libya, Colombo might have thought twice about its resistance to addressing its treatment of its Tamil minority in the closing days of its civil war. And Delhi would also have looked more consistent, appearing to use a similar yardstick when measuring the severity of human rights violations. Instead, the United Progressive Alliance government ended up looking like it was playing domestic politics and buckling under pressure from Tamil political parties at home.

A year on, and it’s clear that India’s decision to step aside over Libya gained it little, and may have done significant damage to its international standing. If Delhi is to meet its aspirations of becoming a significant regional, let alone global, player then it needs to think more carefully about the message its positions send.

India might not want to promote democracy. But at the very least, it shouldn’t stand in its way.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

UNIDIR Conference on Space Security, March 29-30, 2012 ... my presentation on space security and the need for a code of conduct


I was recently invited for the UNIDIR conference on space security held in Geneva on March 29-30, 2012. I was on a panel on international perspectives; Peter Marquez, Former Director of Space Policy, National Security Council, The
White House, USA and Vladimir Yermakov, Deputy-Director, Arms Control Department, Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation, were my co-panelists. My presentation was on space security and giving an Indian perspective. I touched upon the orientation of India's space programme, which is peaceful and civilian, second i looked at the challenges and concerns to India; and lastly the way forward, looking the need to institute a code of conduct in particular. I also spent couple of slides on the current debates on the EU Code and how we could take that forward.

Rest of the discussions (in my panel) focused a lot on placement of weapons in the outer space, the need to institute a code of conduct for space activities, among other issues. The audio presentations and the powerpoint slides have been uploaded onto the UNIDIR site.

For the presentations, click here.


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