Sunday, 31 July 2022
Saturday, 30 July 2022
As a consequence of the requirements created by World War II, the British colonial administration was forced to expand the role of Indian-owned companies in what was still part of the British Empire. In 1947, although colonial rule had impoverished the people, a moderate industrial base existed which at that point in time compared favourably with war-ravaged countries in East and Southeast Asia. Such a foundation could have been utilised in order to create a large private industrial base, including for defence production. The effort of Prime Minister Winston Spencer Churchill was to avoid boosting the capabilities of India, a country whose people he resented for demanding that he repay dues owed to the Bangalore Club, for instance, when he exited the country decades ago. However, wartime exigencies resulted in several industrial units coming up in India that catered to the requirements of the war that was going on between the Axis and the Allies. The foundation built could have been expanded into a defence industry that would have been capable of not just meeting the needs of the armed forces of the newly independent republic, but of those of friendly countries as well through exports. During the 1950s, Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon did go some way towards setting up an indigenous capability in defence manufacture, but this was confined to the public sector. As a consequence, the immense synergy and growth was lost that would have taken place had the domestic private sector been permitted to join the process. During the 1980s, the emergence of a propensity for some of the leaders of the country to prefer money made illegally and kept or spent abroad became pronounced. Some of these transactions were uncovered, usually by exposes in foreign media, as was the case when a Swedish publication published details of the payments made for a field gun made by Bofors. The 1980s saw the rise from moderate means to wealth of the members of families linked to politicians and officials in India, a trend that continued but began to be checked in 2014, when Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister. Until then, defence and fuel purchases had been the preferred means of collecting bribes through overpaying foreign suppliers. As a consequence, self-sufficiency in defence production was given up and India was made dangerously dependent on foreign countries even for essential defence requirements. While China became more and more self-sufficient in defence production over the years, India reached a stage where more than 80% of its critical defence needs were imported. Such a plight made nonsense of the claim made by apologists for such a practice that nevertheless, India had “strategic independence”. Such a situation began to get actualised only in 2014.After having been shunned from significant procurement until then, the new government opened the doors of defence production to indigenous enterprises. During Modi 1.0 the groundwork was being laid for a strong domestic capability in defence production, and by the time Modi 2.0 came about, that process was delivering results. The involvement of the private sector in defence production has been mainstreamed, and as a consequence, the performance of the DRDO too is improving at a rapid clip. Whether it be DRDO, ISRO or even the atomic energy establishment, sabotage by external elements and their local associates was visible. In the DRDO, this took the form of several incidents of delays or lack of adequate standards in manufacture. In the ISRO, until the advent of the new government, the injustice that had been done to reputed scientists such as Dr Nambi Narayanan was swept under the carpet. In the nuclear and space program, scientists and engineers lost their lives in “accidents” or “attacks by criminals”, not to mention “suicides”. Exposure of such activities in The Sunday Guardian gave notice to the external perpetrators involved that their crimes had been exposed. External actors have been decisive in convincing policymakers in India to block off the private sector in India in the field of defence, ironically on grounds of security, when such a blockade resulted in near-total dependence on external suppliers of defence critical items. While trade between Russia and India needs to be boosted, such an exchange needs to focus not predominantly on defence as is the case now, but on the abundant natural resources of the Russian Federation. Where the military is concerned, placing too many bets on a country that is a close military ally of the PRC is a risky manoeuvre. The reality is that Moscow needs to pay attention to the requests from Beijing as a consequence of the closing of the doors of the Atlantic Alliance on the Russian Federation consequent to the comprehensive war that erupted on 24 February between Ukraine and Russia. Such a stipulation would particularly apply during periods of conflict between China and a power such as India, with which Russia has close relations but nowhere near the dependency that the country has on the PRC. Under Prime Minister Modi, the doors to the production of defence equipment, including for export, have been opened to the private sector in India rather than only foreign producers as formerly. The defence sector is growing at speed within India, and this is as it should be. The military dimension is an inseparable part of national resilience, and the attention being paid by PM Narendra Modi to both military production as well as diplomacy is welcome.
Monday, 25 July 2022
Social media is being used to create a cohort of real and virtual influencers who seek to convey to external and domestic investors a false sense of an economy and society in turmoil and decline.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar have understood the intractable nature of the policy followed by China’s leader, General Secretary Xi Jinping, towards the world’s most populous democracy, soon to be the world’s most populous country. That is, unless Xi has another brainwave and threatens to put any couple in jail if they fail to have three or more children. Of course, just as his lockdown strategy has failed to ensure Zero Covid, even such a draconian measure would not succeed in persuading most couples in the PRC to adopt the example of zealots in Germany in the 1930s, who believed that it was their duty to the state to have as many children as possible to later get spent as cannon fodder in the wars that the country was then planning under its leadership at the time. Over the decades, more and more Chinese people have travelled abroad, and have understood the benefits that a government less than all powerful would bring to the country, were such a system to replace the stifling control of all aspects of Chinese life that is the objective of the CCP led by Xi Jinping. In schools and in the media, the supremo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) figures as the wise leader, the guide and teacher, and the only individual who can ensure safety and prosperity for the 1.4 billion citizens of the PRC. Xi is only popular among the millions of citizens of his country who have failed to better their living standards, and who relish the fact that those more successful are living in constant dread of an early morning hammering on the door, followed by incarceration and sometimes, not just temporary but permanent disappearance. In China, individuals are picked up, entire families are ruined, for reasons that are opaque, although the usual formulations are trotted out whenever such detentions or disgrace takes place. Corruption, disloyalty to the party, inefficiency, harm to the national interest. These are huge boxes that are capable of being used to fit almost any individual.
Sunday, 24 July 2022
Wednesday, 20 July 2022
US Ambassador to Afghanistan is making steady, and deadly, progress in a GHQ inspired crusade to install the Taliban within the Ashraf Ghani government.
Sunday, 17 July 2022
Barring Bhutan and India, every other country in what is termed South Asia has succumbed to the snare of loans from the PRC for projects that fail commercial tests of viability. Now that Shahbaz Sharif has taken over as Prime Minister of Pakistan, he is contacting country after country to provide assistance to an economy that is nearing the stage of meltdown. The problem he is facing is what has at last been understood by his predecessor Imran Khan, which is that it is the army that is draining Pakistan of its economic viability. The generals have from the 1950s claimed an outsize share of national resources in order to protect the people of the country from a non-existent threat, that India wishes to take over Pakistan. The country born out of the partition of India does indeed have some political leaders who are not linked to the extremist ideologies of the parties committed to converting Pakistan into a larger version of Afghanistan. Were such leaders to have united in the past, it may have been possible for them to throw out the post-Zia military commanders who are committed to Wahhabism, and replace them with those who are professional soldiers rather than religious zealots. Only after he has been removed by the military from office has former Prime Minister Imran Khan become a foe of the generals. The reality is that the Two Nation theory on the basis of which Pakistan was created is an absurdity. Hindus and Muslims are not two nations, they are in India at least joined together to ensure that the country prospers. GHQ Rawalpindi, has, through its networks, sought to spread hatred of India among the Buddhists of Sri Lanka and the Muslims of Bangladesh. If the logic of the Two Nation theory is followed, each faith would constitute a separate nation, a formulation that was used in Pakistan to drive out almost all Hindus and Christians from that country, together with the Sikh community. Fortunately, as seen in recent agitations in Sri Lanka, Buddhists joined hands with Muslims, Christians and Hindus to oust the Rajapaksas from government. Rather than the division that is at the root of the Pakistani state, it is unity of people around common issues that is central to progress and democracy.