China: The Awkward Neighbour

China: The Awkward Neighbour

 

All about understanding the Chinese mind

Just when the stand-off between India and China over the Doklam plateau threatened to go the way of the 1986-1987 incident (Arunachal Pradesh), the two sides agreed to step back and disengage, thus avoiding a confrontation. The Indian side has pulled back its personnel and equipment to the Indian side of the boundary, while China has agreed to make ‘necessary adjustments and deployment’ on its part. It is unclear, however, whether China will patrol the region, which it claims to have been doing earlier. Road construction will not continue for the present.

Behind the scenes, quiet diplomacy by the two sides and ever dominant Indian Foreign policy under Prime Minister Modi, no doubt, led to the defusing of what could have been a serious crisis. Those on either side of the divide currently claiming victory must, hence, pause to think what the future holds.

To savour victory without understanding the factors at work would be a serious mistake. To begin with, China and India have a kind of competitive coexistence. While professing friendship, both sides nurse a mutual suspicion of each other — at times prompting several degrees of alienation. Both countries remain wary of each other’s intentions and actions. Understanding the way the Chinese mind works is, hence, important. The Chinese mind tends to be relational, i.e. dictated by context and relationship. When the Chinese state that they have halted road building in the disputed Doklam area, while adding that they may reconsider the decision after taking into account ‘different factors’, what China means is that it is willing to wait to implement its decision, but at a time of its choosing when an opportunity exists for a settlement suited to its plans. Little finality can, therefore, be attached to any of China’s actions.

Any belief, hence, that China has been deterred by India’s firm position at Doklam could be misplaced. Since the China-Vietnam conflict in 1980, China has avoided getting into any outright conflict. By stepping back from a confrontation with India over a minor issue at this time, what it had in mind were two significant events, viz. the BRICS summit in China in September and the forthcoming 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. Also, it possibly believes that this would help China dilute global perceptions about its aggressive designs.

 

The BRICS summit and the 19th Party Congress both have high priority for China today. Nothing will be permitted to disrupt either event. Extreme factors would not be allowed to affect this situation. For President Xi Jinping, presiding over the BRICS Summit at this juncture will help consolidate his informal leadership of the group. As the undisputed leader of BRICS, China believes it can take a signal step towards global leadership.

China is currently seeking to reshape the regional and international order, and is keen to fine-tune its ‘Great Power diplomacy’. It, hence, needs to be seen as preferring peace over conflict. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a potent instrument in this direction, but needs a peaceful environment to succeed. Limited wars or conflicts, even with the possibility of successful outcomes, would damage China’s peaceful image globally.

The 19th Party Congress is even more important from President Xi’s point of view. It is intended to sustain his legacy and leave his stamp on the Party in the mould of Chairman Mao. To achieve comprehensive success, he needs peace to achieve his target. Till then everything else will need to wait.

This is again a delicate moment for China on the economic planes. China’s growth rate is actually declining, debt levels are dangerously high, and labour is getting more expensive. At this moment, hence, it is more than ever dependent on international trade and global production chains to sustain higher levels of GDP growth. For the present, development, therefore, is the cardinal objective.

The Achilles’ heel of the Chinese economy is the lack of resources, specially oil. Oil from the Gulf region is critical for China’s growth. Peace in Asia is thus vital to ensure uninterrupted supplies of oil. Uncertainties and disruptions across the Asian region would hamper China’s economic progress.

For all the above reasons, China currently leans towards the pragmatic when it comes to relations with countries other than those in its immediate periphery in East Asia. It is not keen to follow a policy adopted by its new-found strategic ally viz. Russia which has paid a high cost for its ‘interventionist’ policies. China tends to take a longer term view of its future and, despite the rising wave of nationalism in China today, is anxious not to upset the international political or economic order. For this reason alone, it would shun a conflict with India in the Doklam area.

China is not a sleeping giant , and aspires to be a Great Power. It is well-positioned to achieve this if it maintains its present course. Any interruption, by indulging in a conflict with nations small or big, would not only damage but derail the levels of progress that are essential to achieve this objective. President Xi’s China dream seems predicated on this belief. It implies support for a rule-based international system, linked to ‘Tianxia’,in the belief that this would help China overtake the U.S. as the dominant world power.It is unlikely to do anything to deviate from this goal.

China is definitely not a ‘Pakistan’ that, it would show its emotions  in a defeat or a victory. The Chinese don’t fire bullets and there is no cross border insurgency but more effective than that, is the Chinese policy of ambiguity and unresolved tensions, for what it is, the Chinese are made of nerves of steel and are ever comfortable with the awkwardness that surrounds its neighbours. The Chinese would never show their cards not even in a crisis or in a state of dominance.

While this attitude cannot be taken for granted for all time, the current Chinese leadership seems comfortable in following this prescription. It appears to believe in the ideal that ‘the longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward’.

For China this is a game of Chess and not that of a T20, for that they are ready to play the long waiting game and sacrifice some of its pawns.

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Hindutva Vs Hinduism

 

Hinduism and Hindutva now stand face to face, not yet ready to confront each other, but aware that the confrontation will have to come some day. It is my belief that it will be a struggle unto death.

Hindutva has nothing to do with Hinduism as a faith or a religion, but rather as a badge of cultural identity and an instrument of political mobilisation.Hinduism is a religion without fundamentals – no founder or prophet, no organised Church, no compulsory beliefs or rites of worship, no single sacred book…What we see today as Hindutva is part of an attempt to ‘semitise’ the faith – to make Hinduism more like the ‘better-organised’ religions like Christianity and Islam, the better to resist their encroachments.

Speaking pessimistically, Hindutva will be the end of Hinduism. Hinduism is the faith by which a majority of Indians still live. Hindutva is the ideology of a part of the upper-caste, lower-middle class Indians, though it has now spread to large parts of the urban middle classes. The ideology is an attack on Hinduism and an attempt to protect the flanks of a minority consciousness which the democratic process is threatening to corner.

On this plane, the sources of Hindutva are no different from that of Islamic fundamentalism.

Hindutva, if it wins, might make Nepal the world’s largest Hindu country. Hinduism will then survive not as a way of life or the faith of a majority of Indians. It will survive in pockets, cut off from the majority who will claim to live by it. It will also perhaps survive in odd places, outside Hinduism. Perhaps directly in Bali and some sections of the Sikhs and the Jains in India; less directly in aspects of Thai and Sri Lankan Buddhism, in the pre-imperial forms of Christianity in South India and, to the utter chagrin of many, in many strands of South Asian Islam.

That death of Hinduism in India will be celebrated by all votaries of Hindutva. For they have always been embarrassed and felt humiliated by Hinduism as it is. Hinduism, I repeat, is a faith and a way of life. Hindutva is an ideology for those whose Hinduism has worn off. Hindutva is built on the tenets of re-formed Hinduism of the nineteenth century. Reformed according to the reading of those who saw Hinduism as inferior to the Semitic creeds, in turn seen as well-bounded, monolithic, well-organized, masculine, and capable of sustaining the ideology of an imperial state.

Speaking optimistically Hindutva has its geographical limits. It cannot spread easily beyond the boundaries of urban, semi-westernized India. It cannot penetrate southern India where Hinduism is more resilient, where it is more difficult to project on to the Muslim the feared and unacceptable parts of one’s own self. Hindutva cannot survive for long even in rural north India where Hinduism is more self-confident and the citizens have not been fully brainwashed by the media to speak only the language of the state. Nor can it survive where the Hindus are willing to be themselves–proudly “backward” superstitious sanatanis rooted firmly in their svadharma and svabhava.

That is why the RSS considers its first task to be moral and physical “improvement” of the Hindus. It does not much like the so-called fallen, compromised Hindus presently available in the back-waters of Mother India. It loves only the Hindus who have been dead for at least one thousand years. If the RSS has its way, it will make every peasant in India wear khaki shorts. For its ideal Indian is the brown- skinned version of the colonial police sergeant, reading the Gita instead of the Bible.

That is why the late Nathuram Godse did not kill the modernist and “pseudo- secular” Jawaharlal Nehru but the ‘arch-reactionary’, ‘anti-national’ sanatani — Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. After the murder, Nehru could only say that the killer was insane. The modernist Prime Minister found it too painful to confront the truth that Godse was sane, that he knew who was the real enemy of Hindutva.

Many of these formations cut across cultures, faiths and state boundaries. The struggle for cultural survival has begun not only in India, but all over the world. In every case, it has also faced a sizable opinion within the community that the struggle must be given up, that pragmatism demands that the culture must adjust to the modern world by giving up its essence to become a part of global mass culture. However, cultures are turning out to be less obedient and docile than many social engineers thought.

Perhaps Hindutva too will die a natural death. But, then, many things that die in the colder climes in the course of a single winter survive in the tropics for years. May be the death of Hindutva will not be as natural as that of some other ideologies. Maybe, post-Gandhian Hinduism will have to take advantage of the democratic process to help Hindutva to die a slightly unnatural death. Perhaps that euthanasia will be called politics.

We see what extreme forms in any religion have done to the nations, Past is full of Church’s hegemony in Europe  and the present can be well reflected in our own neighbourhood – The country they call “Pak” as in pure.Whereas the future seems more grey than white in the middle east threatened by the ISIS ideology of Khorasan and Darl-Al-Harb. We as Indians need to ask ourselves, Where do we want to go?-The idea of “Right” that is Hindutva or the idea that was born as India which is Hinduism!

Moving from Indira to Nehru, Mr Modi.

Once in a lifetime does a person gets to be The Abraham Lincoln of America,the Nelson Mandela of South Africa, The Mao of China  or  The Nehru of India.Its an opportunity for Mr.Modi to be a part of the elite league of World leaders, to become immortal ever with the country’s name.Its upto him to make the shift from Popular to Legitimate!

The BJP’s monumental electoral triumph in Uttar Pradesh, especially after a massive victory in the state’s parliamentary elections in 2014, invites reflection on two important political concepts: Dominance and hegemony. The BJP’s political dominance is now a commonplace observation, but Is it the beginning  BJP’s hegemony as well? Real political matters are involved. And the success of future political strategies might well depend on which concept best captures the realities of Narendra Modi’s India.
Let us start with the differences between Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, viewed as the two most powerful leaders of India after Independence. What was the nature of their power and the polity they ruled? Which one does Modi resemble most? Where might a polity ruled by Modi be headed?
The basic question here is not about Modi’s economics, which is fundamentally different from Nehru’s and Indira Gandhi’s, both of whom were on the left. While Modi is no free market proponent, he is best described as right of centre on economics. The question about hegemony and domination concentrates on politics, not economics.
The basic difference between hegemony and dominance is that the Dominance represents power stemming from persuasion, while Hegemony represents, power from coercion. In democracies, we don’t get pure hegemony or pure dominance. Hegemony is often associated with totalitarian polities, like communism on the left and fascism on the right. The Soviet Union and Maoist China did exercise coercion, but most minds had been ideologically captured. Even the non-state citizen space, the so-called civil society, was inhabited by ideologically conforming and state-supporting organisations.
Democracies construct hegemony differently. They allow freedom to civil society; opposition parties also openly contest the government. They don’t curtail freedom of speech. Even with such freedoms and adversarial opportunities, the power of the Congress party under Nehru spread to all parts of India, with the exception of Kashmir and parts of the Northeast. Only in 1957, 10 years into Nehru’s tenure as PM, did one state, Kerala, acquire a non-Congress government. Opposition parties fought hard, but could not win against him. Also, there was vigorous debate within the Congress. Nehru was sometimes defeated in intra-party debates. Finally, civil society was not repressed.
Nehru was one of the “unchallenged rulers of the world, perhaps the only one who ruled by love and not fear”. Ruled by love, not fear!These words explain why Nehru came to be viewed as a democratically legitimated hegemon of India.
In political practice, despite genetic lineage, Indira Gandhi was anti-Nehru. The masses, on the whole, adored her. But intra-party dissent was crushed; civil society organisations were harassed; government interfered in universities, getting left-leaning academics in positions of power; disagreeing judges were afraid; state-level leaders came to be appointed by her, not by regional wings of the party. Regardless, based on her personal popularity, the Congress party kept winning power in most states (except for 1977), though not in as many as under Nehru. She was dominant, not hegemonic.
In his politics, Modi is more like Indira Gandhi than Nehru. Under his leadership, the BJP is ruling in many more states than ever before. But opposition within the BJP rarely raises its head. Marginalised by Modi’s popularity, the seniors are fading away. An independent voice like Arun Shourie’s could not be accommodated in power, whereas Patel, Nehru’s adversary, was inside the cabinet. Hindu nationalist academics are being imposed on universities. Civil society organisations, opposed to Modi, fear retribution. It is extraordinarily hard to win 40 per cent or more of UP’s vote twice in a row, as Modi did. To this, add winning Maharashtra, a Congress bastion; Haryana and Assam, where the BJP was insignificant; increasing BJP vote share in Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana; and keeping Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh intact. Punjab, Bihar and Delhi are Modi’s only notable electoral failures.
With this electoral record, Modi has become contemporary India’s most dominant political figure. When Karnataka goes to polls next year, he might even win a southern state. His victorious arc will thus touch all parts of India. No politician since Indira Gandhi has had such cross-regional electoral appeal.
However, like Indira Gandhi, his functioning between elections also departs from democratic principles. He does not stop intolerant organisations from running amok and unleashing violence. Freedom of speech is not a principle he loves. Ideological conformity and/or loyalty shape his political functioning.
Can Modi move from dominance to hegemony? From electoral legitimacy to rule by persuasion? Namely, consolidation of power is often necessary before it can be dispersed. Would he pick power dispersal as a preferred strategy? And what will be his approach to groups that remain suspicious and fearful, especially Muslims (and Christians)?
It is unlikely Modi would pick power dispersal over further power consolidation. The former is not his style

To remain Indira forever or become Nehru for a lifetime will be a challenge for Mr.Modi.For now, we should celebrate the man, the vision and the hope he brings for India.

The ‘Unsung’ Refugees: Rohingya

“People floating like pollen in search of more fertile soil.”

The Rohingyas are a people struck by tragedy: persecuted at home in Myanmar, rejected or barely tolerated abroad, and sacrificed at the altar of strategic calculations by powerful neighbours. To add to it, the refugee crisis in Europe has overshadowed their plight. Both institutionally discriminated and denied basic human rights in a legally-sanctioned manner as well as removed from the mainstream, over a million Rohingyas have no land they can call home. It is as though they have been expelled from humanity itself.

Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, neighbouring Bangladesh, are not recognised by the Myanmar government as an official ethnic group and are therefore denied citizenship. Most Rohingyas are not qualified to be citizens of Myanmar as per the 1982 Citizenship Law, which was promulgated by the erstwhile military rule. While it is claimed that there were no Rohingyas in Myanmar before the British brought ‘Bengalis’ to Burma, there is sufficient evidence to show that the Rohingyas pre-existed the British-engineered migration (during the British occupation of the Arakan State in 1823) from present-day Bangladesh to Burma. Even those who arrived in Burma post-1823 could not go back to Bangladesh now given that they have no citizenship claims there. This effectively makes them a stateless people.

Hundreds of people have been killed at the hands of the military, many more hundreds have disappeared, scores of women sexually assaulted, villages razed to the ground, and tens of thousands have fled the country. A large number of those escaping the brutal violence end up in the well-oiled trafficking networks of the region who smuggle them out for huge amounts of money. Some die en route, some make it to the borders of neighbouring countries only to be turned away: hordes, including little children, often get stranded at sea.

Myanmar, however, denies that its military has committed any wrong. A government-appointed inquiry committee recently concluded that “there were no cases of genocide and religious persecution in the region”.

What makes the anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar even more distressing is that all of this is now happening under the stewardship of Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous and inspiring “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights”.Clearly, Ms. Suu Kyi’s precarious political position makes it hard for her to respond to the crisis as effectively as she could have. Despite the return of democracy in 2015, the military continues to have a strong hold over the civilian government in Myanmar, especially on key issues such as defence, border affairs and home affairs. The country’s constitution also reserves one-fourth of the seats in Parliament for the military. And though Ms. Suu Kyi’s party is in power, she herself is barred from becoming the country’s president (she holds the post of State Counsellor) since her children are British citizens. Under such circumstances, her ability to take on the powerful military establishment remains limited.

The predicament of the Rohingyas is also a result of contemporary geopolitical realities and strategic calculations by key stakeholders in the region and elsewhere. The Western world is busy with the unfolding of events in Syria and the resultant refugee crisis. Hence they would not want to get bogged down with the Rohingyas, whose plight has no direct bearing on the West’s interests. Having steadfastly invested in the pro-democracy movement led by Ms. Suu Kyi, and by recently lifting the 20-year-long sanctions against Myanmar, the U.S. finds itself in no position to bargain or put pressure on the country.No Oil No party!

The UN has also proven to be powerless on the Rohingya question, as it has been on most questions lately. In May 2015, when the UN Security Council held a closed-door briefing on the human rights situation in Myanmar, China made it clear that it was an internal matter of Myanmar. For China, its relationship with Myanmar’s Generals is important to gain access to the country’s natural resources, and recruiting Myanmar for China’s larger economic goals which include opening a land corridor to the Bay of Bengal.

India, a traditional home for Myanmar’s pro-democracy activists, has been reluctant to either speak out about the violence against the Rohingyas or accommodate them in significant numbers. China’s closeness to Myanmar clearly worries New Delhi. Its reluctance also comes from the fact that Myanmar’s assistance is seen as significant in dealing with the insurgency in the Northeast. In any case, the Rohingyas are of no strategic value to anyone. Compare this to how both India and China rushed in with aid during the earthquake in Nepal nearly two years ago. Today, many Rohingyas are either turned away while trying to enter the country or sent to jail for illegal entry. Recall that India has not signed the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol which require countries to accept refugees.

Although India’s reluctance to speak out publicly about the violations against the Rohingyas is understandable, it can ill afford to ignore the crisis in Myanmar. Even if human rights considerations are the least of India’s worries, it is clearly in its interest to ensure that stability and peace return to the Rakhine state. For one, as and when peace returns to Myanmar, India can ask the latter to rehabilitate the Rohingyas (like it did vis-à-vis East Pakistan refugees after the 1971 war). Second, a stable and democratic Myanmar will naturally gravitate towards India. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Rohingya crisis, if it remains unsettled, can become a path toward radicalization and pose a greater security threat for India. There are reports of increasing radicalisation among sections of the Rohingya community. A December 2016 report by the International Crisis Group spoke precisely about this challenge and highlighted how rights violations can lead to radicalisation.

India should use creative diplomacy to persuade Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya crisis. It should perhaps consider appointing a special envoy for this purpose who should hold discreet negotiations with Myanmar’s military, Ms. Suu Kyi, Dhaka and Beijing in order to bring an end to the crisis.

“HUMAN BEINGS,WHILE CAPABLE OF BEING THE WORST,ARE ALSO CAPABLE OF RISING ABOVE THEMSELVES,CHOOSING AGAIN WHAT IS GOOD AND MAKING A NEW START ,DESPITE THEIR MENTAL AND SOCIAL CONDITIONING” – Pope Francis

Failure of India or its populist Government?

There has been lot of discussion around demonetisation in the newspapers and social media. The move is being criticised for poor implementation and the government is being blamed for its failure. In social media, jokes and messages about the failure of the government’s policy are shared. A few eminent experts are also blaming the government for the pitiable implementation of demonetisation.
However, any decision taken by the head of family(HE/SHE) should be accepted and implemented whole-heartedly by all the family members. It cannot be the sole responsibility of the head of the family. If a decision is taken in the interest of the country by the head of the country, it is the duty of the people to contribute honestly to its implementation. If demonetisation was a failure, it was not because of an incorrect decision taken by our prime minister or government. It is us, the people as a whole, who are more responsible.

Whosoever got an opportunity to cheat the nation has done so. Bankers were allegedly busy laundering money by illegal means, helping convert old, defunct currency into new notes. Even a few officers of the Reserve Bank of India are allegedly involved in money laundering. Lakhs of people allowed their accounts to be used to convert black money. There are reports of how co-operative banks were involved in laundering currency. Even political parties were used to launder notes.

It appears that everyone is determined to make the scheme a failure and then blame the government. It is not the defeat of the government but of India, by its own society. It is disgraceful. We compare our country with other developed nations, but we never try to understand how honest and devoted their citizens are. Their contribution towards their nation is great.

It is equally true that the fight against black money, corruption, terrorism and counterfeit currency is an ongoing process and cannot be totally eradicated by a single act of demonetisation. However, it would address the  challenges to a great extent, if we would have contributed to its success, rather than its failure.
Our opposition parties are also responsible. They have not contributed to the success of demonetisation. They were busy finding fault with the government. Rather than work for the people, they chose to play politics, as seen during the winter session of Parliament.
The Reserve Bank of India is a noble institution. We are proud of how it has managed the monetary system as well as the needs of the economy for the last 60 years. This time, though, it could not perform to expectation. Every day, a new notification was issued, often contrary to an earlier assurance. There was no system in place to prevent bank officials from using their position for money laundering. We are now talking of digitization.
Will it be possible to implement overnight? The mistake of the head of the government was that a decision was taken without accounting for the flaws in the system which may prevent proper implementation. It was a decision which had a high impact on the financial system of the country. The government should have paid heed to the loopholes in our system, plugging those which could have caused the initiative’s failure.
The decision was like trying to run bullet trains on our existing railway tracks. The lesson to learn from demonetisation is that a decision with honest intentions but poor implementation causes more pain than gain and everyone has contributed to its failure.

To sum it up John F. Kennedy former President of USA, famously said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Trump-Modi-Xi : Caught in Between

As a rising China challenges American primacy in Asia, navigating between the Chinese and American is a major strategic challenge for us. India’s default option, many assume, is to reaffirm non-alignment — neither with USA, nor China. That conventional wisdom is under a cloud as India draws closer towards America, amidst a rather difficult phase with China.

Contrary to the mythology of non-alignment, tilting to one side or another has been very much part of the Indian diplomatic tradition and the Chinese. As he founded the People’s Republic of China, it is known Mao Zedong insisted China must “lean one side” — towards the Soviet Union. But within a few years, he fought Moscow and leaned towards the other side, Washington.Jawaharlal Nehru proclaimed non-alignment but reached out to the US amidst the war with China in 1962. In 1971, Indira Gandhi signed a security treaty with the Soviet Union as the American embrace of China altered the regional balance.

The Problem with India-China:

China’s GDP is nearly five times larger than India’s. Its military spending is thrice that of Delhi. In the last few years, India has struggled to cope with China’s political expansion, military modernisation and power projection in India’s neighbourhood. India’s territorial disputes with China have also endured. After decades of negotiation, India and China don’t even agree on the length of their border. China says the border is about 2,000 km — the Indian count is nearly 4,000. Thereby hangs a tale of two nationalisms, so deeply attached to territory.
The territorial question is further complicated by the disagreement over Tibet and its relationship to India and China. India worries about China’s deepening alliance with Pakistan and frets over China’s growing power in the subcontinent and the Indian Ocean. India has a massive trade deficit with China. Beyond the bilateral and regional, China has tripped up India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and is unenthusiastic about India’s claim for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council.To add to this, At UN, China’s decision to  block India’s bid to ban JeM chief Masood Azhar is not going well down India

The Tilt towards USA:

India’s messy relationship with China stands in contrast to growing political convergence with the United States. India has a significant trade surplus with America; its dynamic IT sector is deeply connected to America’s Silicon Valley. The US ended its pro-Pakistan tilt some years ago and has moved towards neutrality; US is more forthcoming than China in helping India counter cross-border terrorism from Pakistan. Unlike China, America supports India’s membership of the UNSC and the NSG.
US says it wants to see India emerge as a great power; China seems to block India’s rise on the global stage.

The Uncertainty with USA:

India is acutely aware that US and China have a stronger economic partnership with each other than they have with India. For the near future, therefore, India’s emphasis will be on making the best of expanding the partnership with the United States while limiting and managing the differences with China. India has just begun this global walk— and there is much distance to cover.

India’s ambition to grow as an “influential and responsible global power” calls for it to manage equilibrium in the region. It is a challenge for India to ensure that its neighbourhood stays less volatile. At the same time, India has had long-term relations with America. The two countries were once described by PM Vajpayee as “natural allies”. In the last two years, PM Modi has taken these relations much farther and deeper. We need them in our pursuit of progress. At the same time, India needs to be watchful about US moves with at least four important countries — Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. These have a greater bearing on India’s interests in the region and beyond

“Nations have no permanent friends or allies in diplomacy; they have only permanent interests,” said the famous English statesman Lord Palmerstone.

‘New-Clear’ Policy.

Since the dawn of the nuclear age in 1945 there has been an ongoing debate centred on defining an appropriate role for nuclear weapons. Everybody agrees that these weapons are enormously destructive and should not be used. The question is whether the best way to prevent their use is to consider these as weapons for war fighting (just like conventional weapons but only more destructive), or to see them as qualitatively different, meant exclusively for deterrence. Different countries possessing nuclear weapons have evolved their doctrines based on the historical experiences shaping their world views, their threat perceptions and security obligations.

India’s Nuclear Doctrine consists of these key principles: “a) building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent; b) posture of ‘No First Use’, nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere; c) nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage; d) non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states; however, in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons….”

The two key elements — a “credible minimum deterrent” and “no first use” — were first articulated by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Parliament days after India had undertaken a series of five nuclear tests in Pokhran 1998 and declared itself a nuclear weapon state. Mr.Vajpayee stated that India did not see nuclear weapons as weapons of war; that their role was to ensure that India is not subjected to nuclear threats or coercion; that India will not engage in an arms race; and that India believes in a “no first use” policy and remains ready to discuss this with other countries, bilaterally or in a collective forum.

A nuclear doctrine serves multiple uses — it determines the nuclear posture, provides guidance for deployment and targeting, chain of command and control, communication and signalling to adversary and, in the ultimate, the use of nuclear weapons. Naturally, the last would happen once deterrence has failed. So far, the nuclear triad (aircraft, land-based mobile missiles and sea-based assets) which is to guarantee India’s assured retaliation remains a work in progress

India’s doctrine does not mention any country, but it is no secret that the Indian nuclear arsenal is to counter threats from China and Pakistan. China has maintained a ‘no first use’ policy since 1964 when it went nuclear, and the Chinese leadership has always considered nuclear weapons as political weapons.

Pakistan has adopted a first-use policy to ensure full-spectrum deterrence; in other words, it envisages a tactical, operational and strategic role for its nuclear weapons. Since it maintains that its nuclear arsenal is exclusively against India, it seeks to counter India’s conventional superiority at all levels. Recently, it has developed tactical nuclear weapons to hedge against a conventional military strike under the Cold Start doctrine.

The conventional criticism against a ‘no first use’ policy is that India would have to suffer a first strike before it retaliated. This criticism is valid but only highlights the need for India to ensure that deterrence does not fail, and that there is a clear communication to the adversary of the certainty of punitive nuclear retaliation. This can happen when India’s nuclear arsenal, its delivery systems and its command and control enjoy assured survivability.

Does this imply that till then, it is preferable for India to shift to a first-use policy? That might be an attractive option if India was certain that in a first strike, it could take out all of Pakistan’s (or China’s) nuclear assets so that it would escape any nuclear retaliation. That is highly unlikely, today and in the future. Even the U.S. with its vast arsenal, both conventional and nuclear, is unsure about denuclearizing North Korea which has a much smaller arsenal and capability.

Shifting to a first-use policy also has implications for the size of the arsenal, deployment posture, alert levels, delegation of command and control, defining red lines which would trigger a nuclear response and escalation management along the nuclear ladder. In short, it would mark a shift from deterrence towards nuclear war fighting. In short, it would lead to greater instability. The same instability would govern a situation of nuclear ambiguity. Given the short distances, it is impractical for India to envisage a ‘launch on warning’ posture even it developed and deployed a highly effective early warning system.

There is another key difference. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is totally under the military’s control, and by and large, the military approach to any weapon system is to find a use for it; it is difficult for the military to possess a weapon system and then conceive of a doctrine that aims at deterring its use.

Deterrence is a product of ‘technical capability’ and ‘political will’. In dealing with Pakistan, India has to define who is to be deterred and find ways of demonstrating the requisite political will even as we build up our technical capabilities. Israel is a classic example of a state possessing advanced technical capabilities and also having demonstrated political will. Yet, this has failed to deter rocket strikes and terror attacks on Israeli territory.

This is not to suggest that India’s nuclear doctrine cannot be changed. It should be periodically reviewed and updated, possibly every decade or so, taking into account technological developments and changes in the security environment. This is, however, not a simple issue of changing a few words here or there and casual remarks can only add to confusion.

Ultimately, deterrence is a mental construct which requires clarity in its planning. Even ambiguity needs to be a calculated ambiguity. Only then will the doctrine serve to reassure the Indian people even as it deters the adversary in order to safeguard India’s security.