Uri Attacks:Is Attack the best form of Defence?

The early dawn of September 18, Pakistani irregulars belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohammed(JeM) attacked an Army camp in the Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir,killing 18 jawans and inflicting grievous casualties on many more.The Fidayeen were able to breach the Line of Control as also the camp’s security, employing a combination of incendiary grenades and close-quarter weapons to inflict heavy casualties.The Uri attack had a close similarity to the Pathankot Air Force base in January this year, in which seven security personnel were killed, Lessons from that incident obviously have not been filtered down.What is significant is that the JeM was responsible for both attacks.The JeM is the hand maiden of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence(ISI).It obeys implicitly,and acts directly on the directions of ISI.Prime Minister Narendra Modi now has the opportunity to deliver the message he advocated-but he is still searching for the right words.Logic though tells us that the Prime Minister’s advisors have five basic options on the table.

The First is the old-fashioned one: Retaliate along the Line of Control, using eye for tooth rules that both the Indian and Pakistani armies understand quite well.The Pakistani army posts, that help infiltration are ideally, the same ones that aided the attack-will be identified and obliterated, using missiles or special forces.This is the option the army prefers,knowing that it serves its main purpose  deterrence with the least risk of escalation.India has, indeed sometimes staged unpublicized retaliatory actions across the LoC-for example,destroying Pakistani forward posts after the kidnapping and beheading of its soldiers in the raids by the country’s special forces in 2011 and 2013.From the point of view of political leadership though, this is the least attractive option, for the simple reason that it cannot be bragged about.Fighting along the Loc will hurt Pakistan-but it will hurt India even more, since it will let Jihadists slip through counter-infiltration defences with relative ease.

The Second option-the one most attractive to politicians-are air or missile strikes on the jihadist targets across the LoC, which are highly visible but stop short of outright conflict.In the years since 26/11,india’s ability to conduct such strikes has been significantly enhanced.However the tactic isn’t always succesful.In August 1998,the US fired missiles into Afghanistan,seeking to avenge bombings which killed 224 people.In all,75 missiles,each priced at $1.5 miilion, killed six minor jihadists.Even worse Pakistan could hit back,targeting Indian industrial infrastructure, which is much more expensive than the tent and donkey-cart training camps.

Like Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee before him, Prime Minister Modi has a third choice-to use coercion,but stop short of full throttle escalation.In 2001,after terrorist attacked Parliament, India mobilised troops.Pakistan was forced to respond in kind.Its nuclear weapons stopped India from attacking,its smaller economy though suffered disproportionately.The statergem is time tested.in 1953,Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru mobilised troops in Punjab to deter a Pakistani attack into Kashmir.The Vajpayee strategy worked,forcing Pakistan to dramatically scale down the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir.But it was hideously expensive,in money and lives-and for a prime minister who is relentlessly focused on economic growth, this ia a real issue.

Fourth Prime Minister Modi could try covert means, like bomb-for-bomb strikes in Pakistan, or targeted assassinations of jihadist leaders.The problem is,jihadists India targets will hit back-and as Indian citizens die there will be public outcry.If the government had invested in growing India’s police and intelligence capacities to absorb the back lash, this might be less of a concern-but central support for police modernisation has actually been slashed.

Finally there is a fifth option: Do nothing.This sounds callous-but it isn’t as worthless an idea as it seems.In the grand scheme of things,securing Kashmir’s internal security and maintain  counter-infiltration defences,are what are important to India-not vengeance

All of India feels that mere impotent rage and euphuistic excesses are insufficiant.there is clamour for action,all the more because the present government had come into office promising strong action against Pakistan.’The shoe is now on the other foot,and the wearer is since learning where the shoe pinches’. The need for caution is even more imperative today ,as not only is the world more interconnected and events in anyone region do have a geopolitical impact,but the stakes for India as one of the world’s leading economic powers have become considerable.Utmore care needs to be taken considering any military option.Pakistan may be a ‘basket case’ approximating to North Korea,but like the latter it is a ‘militarised’ state which has ‘nuclear teeth’.

As quoted by one political genius, “The security and sovereignty of our nation has been challenged.We will confront it,and we hope we will receive support from all right thinking nations.We do not expect them to fight our battle,but the world has to decide that definitions of terrorism cannot be different.yardsticks cannot be differnt.there must be only one Yardstick for Terrorism”- Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee

And by a genius Economist,”It is in times of adversity that the true metal of a nation is tested.We must remain calm and be resolute.We will give a fitting rebuff to our enemies.the idea of India as a functioning democracy and a pluralist society is at stake.this is the time for national unity and i seek your cooperation.Truth and righteousness are on our side and together we shall prevail”-Prime Minister ManMohan Singh

A Game of Chess:International politics

“When Diplomacy ends, War begins”, Is this where the world seems to be moving? For now it may appear to be safer place  with the coming together of two nations  as i put them,’Friends for Benefits’ with the development of recent Indo-U.S relationship.Union Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar and U.S Defence secretary Ashton Carter signed a Logistics Exchange Memorandom of Agreement(LEMOA) that the U.S. has assiduously pursued since 2002 and which India had,till now, resolutely refused to endorse.According to the signatories , LEMOA only facilitates establishing “mutual basing facilities”.This would be on a case-by-case basis, intended to help speed up humanitarian relief operations as also emergency evacuation from conflict prone regions.In certain circumstances, it could also help smoothen operational logistics between the navies of the two countries.LEMOA is a critical link in the U.S.’s plans for a larger pivot towards Asia. Also, that it is intended to meet the threat from an increasingly assertive ‘Dragon’ of the east(China).

Talking of India-U.S. relations, it was President Bill Clinton who made the initial move to break the logjam in India-U.S. ties dating back to the Cold War period.It was Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who during a visit to U.S., made a bold statement to hint that it was time to “move beyond the hesitations of the history”; hopes which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have fulfilled in more than ample measures.Realistically speaking, the strategic build up between the two countries commenced during the first term of Mr. Bush, when the Next Steps in Strategic  Partnership heralded a sea of change in U.S.-India relations.It was in 2005 that India and the U.S. signed their first defence Cooperation Agreement.This agreement was renewed in 2010 and 2015, leading to a loosening of strict controls that existed regarding the transfer of excluded categories of technologies.Around 2007-2008, the U.S. made initial moves to get india sign three foundational agreements viz., the Logistics Support Agreement(LSA);the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement(CISMOA); and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement(BECA) for Geo-spatial Coopertaion.While India welcomed the idea of relaxation of technology norms, it resisted signing the foundational agreements on the ground that it undermined India’s strategic autonomy.With LEMOA in place, it is almost certain that pressures would intensify to sign the other two foundational agreements-CISMOA and BECA.If India were to do so, it could convey an impression that India had gone from being a “major defence partner” to a significant “non-NATO ally” of the U.S.

Overcoming “the hesitations of history” is one thing; not ignoring the lessons of history is equally, if not more, important.The U.S. is a true practitioner of the art of “Realpolitik”.Changes in policy are constantly reflected to suit its global requirements.In Europe, for example, today the U.S. seems to be preparing to jettison its long-standing “special relationship” with the U.K. . In West Asia, as U.S.-Iran relations improve , Saudi Arabia is now the new villain on the block.The U.S. had always been suspicious of India’s friendship with Russia, that go back to the period of Non-Allignment. And today as the U.S.-Russia relations are at their nadir since fall of Berlin Wall, the U.S. can be expected to try to further weaken India-Russia relations that are lately facing some strain.Furthermore, given Pakistan’s location, it would be a mistake to belive that the U.S. would completely detach itself from Pakistan.

The geopolitical situation across the world is more confused today than it was only a few years back.Geopolitical alignments are changing at bewildering pace.As India moves closer to the U.S., Russia is seen to coming closer to China.At one level, Russia is strengthening its links with China economically and strategically and coordinating more closely on the later on the issue of South China Sea. At another level, Russia is engaging with China to oppose U.S. attempts to install Missile Defence System in Asia.

Russia is simultaneously seeking to reinforce its long-standing strategic ties with South Asian countries such as Vietnam.Russia and Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) appear to have come closer.In Eurasia, Russia is currently carving out a zone of influence for itslef.India does not figure on any of these plans.When the strategic balance across the entire Asian region is undergoing a seismic shift, India cannot be seen to be playing a losing hand.The main players, today, are the U.S., Russia and China.The current effort of countries such as China and Russia is to restrict, if not exclude, U.S. influence from the region, labelling it as a non-Asian power.On issues such as the South China Sea, even many of the countries directly involved, specially Philippines. are willing to make their peace with China.The U.S.’s role in the region is thus becoming restricted, leaving it few alternatives.

With the ‘Snake ‘ and the ‘Dragon’ lurking in its backyard, India need to reflect whether this is the opportune moment for the country to reset its compass and move away from its long-term resistance on strategic autonomy.It is also hardly the time to be seen to be the ally of One power, that too one whose power seems to be waning. The Lion must play its cards carefully if it wants to project itself as the one in the near future. As quoted by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, “A lot of people think International Relations is like a game of chess.But its not a game of  chess,where people sit quietly,thinking out their strategy, taking their time between the moves.It’s more like a game of Billiards,with a bunch of balls clustered together.”

Lost in the Woods: India’s Biodiversity

“Biodiversity can’t be maintained by protecting a few species in a zoo, or by preserving green belts or national parks. To function properly, nature needs more room than that. It can maintain itself, however, without human expense, without zoo keepers, park rangers, foresters or gene banks. All it needs is to be left alone.” » Donella Meadows

Biological Diversity Act 2002, calls for protection and management of biodiversity through the setting up of Biodiversity Management Committees(BMC) for managing biodiversity and managing People’s biodiversity registers(PBR) to document biodiversity in each district.The Act provides for both centralised as well as decentralised institutional mechanisms for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It has National Biodiversity Authority at the apex level and BMC’s at the local level, with an intermediate state biodiversity board.

The problem is acute at the level of BMC’s. The BMC have been given diverse responsibilities which includes conservation, promoting sustainable use and chronicling of knowledge related to biodiversity.BMC are mandated to prepare PBR’s which are comprehensive records of biodiversity that occur under the jurisdiction of BMC.The issue acquires importance as India is facing massive biodiversity loss: 333 acres of forest which is under provisions of Forest Conservation Act 1980 is illegally diverted every year.This does not include forests illegally felled or enchroched.Supreme court has called for ‘Species best interest standard’, But one Rhino was killed every two weeks in Kaziranga National Park. About 30 or less genetically pure Wild Buffaloes exist in central India.The number of Great Indian bustards stand at the precarious 150 birds.Construction plan for Amravati, the new capital of Andra Pradesh includes 13000 hectares or 130 sq.km of forest.The himalayas are today the world’s mountain ranges with most dams.

India is in the midst of a unacknowledgebale biodiversity crisis.Therefore it is ironic that the act is the most neglected of India’s environment laws and one of the least implemented.there is very limited judicial pronouncement and interpretation, action by civil society is virtually absent.This despite the fact that the at has immense potential to safeguard India’s threatened biodiversity.Constantly seen fraudulent,Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse.It undermines the ecological value of the areas that are proposed to be damned, mined or diverted.Examples-Monpa community of Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh had to struggle for 3 years to National Green Tribunal(NGT) that had riverine area proposed for construction of dam is one of the two wintering sites of the Blacked-necked Crane, it is a protected specie held sacred by the Buddhist.The tribals in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh are struggling to protect the last remaining Chilgoza(pine nut) trees from being lost to a series of hydro-power projects.Forest deparatments reports do not mention the significant role of trees in providing livelihood security to people.The Lakhwar-Vyasi hydro-electric project in Uttarakhand is almost the size of Tehri project which means that an EIA should be conducted, but it has been exempted because of ingenious and questionable interpretation of law which states that project was proposed in 1987 before EIA act of 2006.Therefore most-hydel projects are 24.99 Megawatts giving the limit set by EIA at 25 Megawatts! The same holds true for mining and other projects

PBR could be an effective tool to counter false and misleading statements given in forest diversion proposals and EIA reports.They could help a community present the facts before the decision maker in order to highlight the real value of the ecological entity proposed to be sacrificed.They could save area from being value based on rapid assessment done by institutions of questionable integrity or methodology whose goals are only to take the projects through.India’s famed ‘Green Judge’, Justice Kuldip Singh had observed in ICELA vs Union of India(1996) case that “enacting of a law but tolerating its infringement is worse than not enacting a law at all”

In face of an unimplemented act and general apathy, India’s biodiversity is too precious to be lost. Contrary to the general viewpoint, we should not protect our biodiversity for present and future generations.This is an Anthropocentric approach.We should protect biodiversity purely because we have no moral,legal and ethical right to destroy something not created by us.