From our 5 April LDESP Asia-Pacific News Update.
In late 2012, India’s complex socio-political issues came to the fore when the rape and subsequent death of a young girl sparked a global reaction. Shoma Chaudhury, Executive Editor of Tehelka, a reputed public interest newsmagazine in India, wrote an excellent detailed account about the victim, the peretrators and the aftermath in a “country seething with rage and violence stuck between feudal hierarchies and the modern economy”:
“Mahavir Enclave is a bustling working-class colony at the hard extremities of New Delhi. Houses snake up here in haphazard bursts whenever their inhabitants can afford to elbow a little more space for themselves in the world. For an outsider, these seem less homes, more just slivers of precarious brick slapped together. But for those who live there, it’s psychological solidity: a toehold, finally, on life.
Here in Mahavir Enclave, in a tiny mole hole of a room a few feet below ground, in a warren of other similar rooms, two brothers, 20 and 16, struggle to hold on to a dream. The elder is studying to be an engineer; the younger wanted to be an astronaut. But their frontrunner, the lively, quick-brained sister who birthed these ambitions—who made them seem so tantalizingly possible in this nether layer—is no longer there. She has morphed into a symbol: globally known now as Nirbhaya, which means “the fearless one.”
On March 8, Michelle Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry posthumously honored Nirbhaya with an International Woman of Courage Award. A week earlier, in his annual budget speech, Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram announced a 10 billion–rupee (about $200 million) Nirbhaya Fund to empower and promote safety for women. Briefly the Indian Parliament considered dedicating a new criminal-law bill to her name.
The story of Nirbhaya—a 23-year-old paramedic who was gang raped with unspeakable brutality on a bus on December 16, 2012, and died 13 days later of her injuries—has triggered shock and outrage across the world and galvanized spontaneous and unprecedented protests in India. She has become an icon of resistance, a watershed moment. (Indian law forbids revealing the names of rape victims, so when an Indian media house came up with Nirbhaya as a substitute, it stuck: it encapsulated the spirit with which she fought.)
India can be a cruel place for women. Each day, the papers teem with stories of anonymous women raped, killed, and dumped in different parts of the country. Sometimes they are minors, girls no older than 3. The spectrum of chronic gender violence stretches even further: acid attacks, marital rapes, honor killings, female feticide, acute malnutrition, discriminative access to schools and jobs, the cultural misogyny rolls on. Of course none of this has abated since December 16, but something has shifted in India. The response to sexual assault in this country will never be the same again. The silence has been broken. Women everywhere are speaking up more; men feel freed (or enjoined) to be more supportive. Some of the stigma has been yanked off. Laws are being revised; judicial and administrative machinery is being revamped. Clumsy and inadequate as it may be, the government is being forced to respond.
At one level, therefore, the story of Nirbhaya could be read as a tragic yet celebratory one: a simple but soaring binary about courage in the face of immeasurable bestiality. But at another level, it is a window into a much more complex, perhaps even darker and sadder, narrative about contemporary India and the terrible collision of aspiration and frustration that has been unleashed within it.
Until December 16, Nirbhaya was just one among millions of faceless young people in India trying to break through the stifling fixity of their lives. Her father, Badrinath Singh, had left rural Uttar Pradesh decades earlier in search of a larger life, but failed to find it. Having run through a series of petty jobs in small industrial towns, he had come to Delhi in 1983, his wife pregnant with their first child. Singh carried a schism in his heart. His own impoverished father had had money to educate only two of his four sons. One son now had a job in the paramilitary; the other had risen to be a judge. In stark contrast, the younger two were fated to remain casual farm laborers or scrabble a life out of some urban fringe.
Understandably, education was the driving hunger in the Singh household. Working grueling double shifts, first as a watchman, then as a cargo loader with an airline, earning a mere 200 rupees ($4) a day, Singh put all three of his children—by turns—into a private school that used English as the language of instruction. (English, in India, is the most coveted vehicle of social advancement and mobility.) “My father was determined to give all three of us a strong foundation,” says Gaurav, Nirbhaya’s brother.
Nirbhaya—obsessive, industrious, optimistic, face always set inexorably to the sky—was the centerpiece of that life. She had an innate taste for fine things; she was determined to carve a slice of it for her family and herself. After fifth grade, she had to switch to a cheaper government school, because her father couldn’t afford private school for all three. By the time she was in 10th grade, she had started tutoring 25 to 30 neighborhood kids, in 2 shifts every day, to pay for her own fees and help her parents put her brothers through school.
Awindra and Nirbhaya knew something was wrong within minutes of boarding the bus. Their skin prickled. There were only six men inside; the windows were tinted black. The door was slammed shut. As the bus set off, one of the men began to taunt the girl for being out late. Awindra tried to shut him up. The others immediately surrounded him like wolves. Nirbhaya rushed to defend her friend. Her defiance enraged the men. The altercation spun out of control. They began to beat Awindra mercilessly with an iron rod. As he lay pinned at the front of the bus, floating through bouts of unconsciousness, Nirbhaya was dragged, fighting and kicking, to the back and raped and bitten and sodomized in turn by the six men. When she resisted, biting three of them herself, they pushed the rusted iron rod inside her all the way to her diaphragm and ripped her intestines out. “An intestine is 23 feet long, ma’am,” her brother Gaurav, Nirbhaya’s brother, had said stoically in his room. “Barely 5 percent of it was left intact.” The doctors who treated her said they’d never seen a rape victim so brutalized.
The men drove the bus in circles for almost an hour as they raped her. When they were done, they stripped the couple of their belongings, tossed them naked on the highway, then tried to run the bus over the girl. Failing in that, the rapists calmly took the bus back, washed it clean, divvied up the spoils, and returned to their homes.
Nirbhaya and Awindra lay mangled and naked in the December cold for two hours before the police finally turned up. Cars kept whizzing by. No one stopped.
In a sense, Nirbhaya embodied a new India no one has a full measure of yet. India’s cities and small towns are full of young men and women like her: restless and on the move; hungry for an education, for jobs, for English, for social mobility, for belonging. They’re an Internet generation; they know there’s a wider world out there. They’re reinventing themselves with energy, dissolving—or at least challenging—centuries-old boundaries of caste and station and wealth. They love their families with a grave sense of duty, but they long to leave the old ways behind. If it’s to be a toss of coin, they’d rather look good than eat, rather have a TV set than a bed. They’ve sloughed off old skins, but not quite acquired the new. Just one chromosome binds them all: aspiration. They are the neo–middle class.
Nirbhaya’s friendship with Awindra was made possible by this new India. He is the son of a lawyer, a high-caste Brahmin; she was a Kurmi, much lower in that unforgiving ladder. His family lives in a three-story house in Uttar Pradesh; hers was cramped in the space it takes to park a car. Yet, introduced by a common friend, they felt instant affinities. They went on trips together to religious places, shared rooms, hugged, held hands, but stayed away from other intimacies, aware that beyond the cocoon of their friendship, a real and more questioning world awaited.
Under intense pressure, the Delhi police made arrests in record time. Within a week, six men were in custody. Ram Singh, 33, the bus driver; Mukesh, 23, his brother; Vinay Sharma, 25, a gym assistant; Pawan Gupta, 24, a fruit seller; Anurag Thakur, 24, a cleaner of the bus; and a 17-and-a-half-year-old juvenile—known as Raju—who worked odd jobs at roadside eateries.
With the arrests, the protests reached a crescendo. These protests encapsulate profound sociological changes under way in India. On the upside, they demonstrate that the vocabulary of feminism has percolated down to the street. For weeks young people who’ve never been part of any formal political movement braved water cannons and baton charges, demanding not only better policing and a swifter judiciary, but also complete autonomy for women over their bodies and lives. India has a galling history of blaming women for the violence that happens to them. But now, when an older generation tried to mouth venal idiocies about how women should be chaste and cautious, the young turned on them with fierce scorn.
The protests also made visible a disturbing phenomenon: India’s increasingly illiberal gene. Nirbhaya’s desire to see her rapists burnt alive is understandable. But on the streets, too, the demand for justice morphed too quickly into a roar for revenge. For the most part, the media and political establishment followed suit: castration, capital punishment, and a reduction in the age of those deemed juvenile became the dominant discourse.
As the new economy is forcing millions of Indians from their land and traditional livelihoods into hostile megalopolises, a storm of colliding worlds is being created. The glittering city with its bold new ways and siren images now sits in intimate proximity with rural backgrounds. The membrane that separated them is gone, but the divide remains. (Women in the World)
The government’s response to the outcry in the largest democracy in the world was swift. In March, Indian lawmakers quickly passed new legislation placing tougher punishments on sex-related crimes. Reuters reported:
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 or “anti-rape law” puts in place a slew of new provisions and tougher punishments, which include criminalizing voyeurism and stalking and making acid attacks and human trafficking specific offences. The legislation is seen as a crucial step towards curbing rising cases of violence against women in the largely patriarchal country, but activists said it was weak and warned that much would depend on enforcement. “Such legislation has come to India for the first time and the parliament has given its approval. It will create a revolution in the country,” Home Affairs Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told Reuters shortly after lawmakers approved it. (…)The law also punishes police and hospital authorities with imprisonment of up to two years if they fail to register a complaint or treat a victim. Women’s groups expressed satisfaction that their fight had brought change, but said the law should have been stronger. Marital rape, for instance, remains legitimate, and the age of consent has been set at 18 years instead of 16, and politicians charged with rape can still run in elections -despite the government-panel recommending otherwise. The law’s proper enforcement remains key, activists said. “I am not expecting wonderful progress in implementation. That is our next struggle,” said Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association. “So this new law is not the end, but a step in a very long battle for gender equality in this country.” (Reuters)
In early February, India’s Ambassador to the United States the Honorable Nirupama Rao gave an interesting perspective on “America’s Asian Pivot: The View from India”:
It is a truism that the center of gravity for global opportunity has shifted towards Asia and the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean world with its spectacular and continued economic growth. According to the IMF, over the last three decades, Asia’s share of global GDP grew from 10 percent to 30 percent, its standard of living rose six times, and half a billion people were brought out of poverty. In the last decade alone, emerging Asia has grown by an average annual rate of over 7 percent.
Today, Asia has by far the greatest share of rising middle classes and a young population. With the economies of this region growing and integrating with the global economy, the region can be expected to continue to contribute significantly to global growth, trade, prosperity and innovation, and thereby, play a vital role in the molding of the 21st century.
Given the extraordinary change that is underway in the Asia Pacific as well as in India, there seems to be a natural interest in the U.S. in understanding India’s role in Asia and its expanding engagement with the region, just as there is interest in India to understand the vision and the workings of U.S. policy towards Asia and the Asia-Pacific. While the contours of this U.S. policy variously described as “pivot” or “rebalancing” towards Asia, are still unfolding, there is no denying that the U.S. seeks to engage with that region much more robustly than it has in the recent past.
Let me talk about India’s own engagement with that region. Our engagement with the Asia-Pacific is not new. We are part of the Asia-Pacific and an Indian Ocean world that traditionally lived in peace, pursuing the traffic of ideas, the peaceful absorption of different religions without proselytization, pursuing traded commerce in a nonpolarized, peaceful, common economic space. In our view, more than geopolitical, or geo-economic, this was a geo-civilizational paradigm a creative space with revolving doors where civilizations coalesced and did not clash. One has only to visit the caves of Ajanta in western India or see the murals of Dunhuang in China’s West to see this vision of unity that marked our past I refer to the depiction of various nationalities thronging royal processions or expressing their grief before a dying Buddha. This is the region where we hear the muffled footsteps of historical travelers and thinkers like Boddhidharma of India and Xuan Zang of China beat in our blood, to use a phrase from Rabindranath Tagore. These were lives mortgaged to pilgrimage, and voyages of intellectual discovery. We see that past as a rough guide to our future. Though these interactions faded during India’s colonial existence, we strove to reestablish these linkages soon after our independence. This was the vision that India, together with China, sought to create when we moved a level beyond Westphalian concepts of statecraft to the definition of the Panchashila or the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, principles that explain India’s foreign policy in a fundamental manner. In fact, these principles also define the core beliefs of ASEAN in a post-Panchashila world as scholars like Prasenjit Duara have pointed out. (…)
Connectivity is a big focus of our engagement with ASEAN and the region, which we will enhance through the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity. We will step up our assistance in the completion of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and its extension to Lao PDR and Cambodia. We will also help develop a new highway project connecting India-Myanmar-Lao PDR-Viet Nam-Cambodia as well as the Mekong-India Economic Corridor (MIEC) connecting Southeast Asia to South Asia through India’s eastern region. These connectivities will add new impetus to trade and investment linkages and people to people exchanges between ASEAN and India. (…)
While beginning with a strong economic emphasis, our engagement in the region has also become increasingly strategic in its content. Our political dialogue has grown, our consultations in regional forums have intensified, and our defence and counter-terrorism cooperation with countries in the region have expanded. We have bilateral agreements to strengthen our defence cooperation as also cooperation in combating non-traditional security challenges with several countries of the region including with Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. (…)
We would like to work for an open, inclusive and transparent architecture of regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, where all major powers in Asia and beyond work together to address the traditional and non-traditional challenges and to create a basis for a stable and prosperous Asia. These are the challenges that cut across national boundaries and require cooperative responses. Based on this vision, we welcome the U.S. engagement in the Asia of the Indo-Pacific. The continuance of economic growth and prosperity in both our countries is in many ways linked to the opportunities for growth and prosperity in this region. It is a space that impacts our destinies, whose security and prosperity is vital to both of us, and where we have an increasing convergence of interests.
We believe that India and the United States are stakeholders in the creation of an inclusive, participatory network of interdependence, cooperative trade, economic development, security and stability in the Asia of the Indo-Pacific. These converging interests have opened up new opportunities for enhanced cooperation between our two countries.
Today, our naval forces conduct regular joint exercises and exchanges. The anti-piracy operations off the coast of Africa, where our navies are working together with forces of other countries have brought in a new dimension that requires continued focus so that we mitigate and remove threats to international and regional maritime commerce.” (Brown University)
India’s relations with Asia and in particular its neighbors, as highlighted by Ambassador Nirupama Rao, has been a major focus of its foreign policy for much longer than the U.S.’s rebalancing. Ambassador Hemant Krisha Singh, former Indian ambassador to various Asian countries including Indonesia and Japan, focuses on one particular country in the region that has recently become a regional ally of the U.S. as well: Myanmar. In his article adapted from the policy brief of the organization he chairs, the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), Ambassador Singh argues that “India’s Reinvigorated Look East Policy Require Myanmar Connectivity”:
“For over two decades, India’s Look East Policy (LEP) has been hobbled by one major constraint: balancing India’s example of democratic governance with the strategic need to engage the military regime in Myanmar. With that country’s gradual democratic opening in recent years, the focus is shifting to energizing India’s slow and steady efforts to develop connectivity infrastructure and boost economic and security ties with Myanmar.
As this Issue Brief by Sanjay Pulipaka, ICREIR Wadhwani Programme Fellow, indicates there are major shortfalls not only in the physical connectivity between India’s Northeast and this vital gateway country linking India and Southeast Asia, but also in soft systems to facilitate cross border trade, commerce and travel.
India’s poor track record on project completion stands exposed by interminable delays which undermine both its interests and regional image. High level visits, like that of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India in May 2012, can yield agreements but cannot deliver on implementation unless there is improved oversight and coordination within the government of India. This report identifies several areas that require urgent attention, including:
- Coordinated socio-economic development of border areas, improved infrastructure for crossborder trade and travel, and direct civil aviation links.
- Completion of Kaladan multi-modal transport project and the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway; planning of future railway connectivity.
- India’s participation in the development of deep sea ports such as Dawei to speed up progress on the Mekong India Economic Corridor designed to provide seamless connectivity from Chennai to Hanoi.
- Promotion of greater engagement of the Indian private sector in exploring economic and commercial opportunities in Myanmar.
- Capacity building support for the Myanmar navy for bilateral cooperation on maritime security in the eastern reaches of the Bay of Bengal.
- Support for democratic institution building in Myanmar through training of professionals and sharing of India’s vast experience in parliamentary democracy.
- Advancing complementarities on Myanmar initiatives with regional partners likeJapan and the United States.
- Offering assistance to Myanmar to shoulder its responsibilities as Chair of ASEAN in 2014.
While it is true that Myanmar’s democratic transformation is still tentative and the country faces several complex domestic challenges, from social unrest to lingering ethnic insurgencies, India faces a clear test of its resolve to engage and act East by strengthening connectivity, trade, security and other institutional linkages with Myanmar.
With oil and gas pipelines and railway links being constructed by China between Kyaukphyu in the Bay of Bengal and Kunming, Myanmar has already become Beijing’s link to the Indian Ocean. It remains to be seen if India can also add urgency to its efforts to convert Myanmar into its land bridge to mainland and maritime reaches of Southeast Asia. India’s reinvigorated LEP, to be credible, demands no less.” (CSIS CogitAsia)
GOVERNMENT & ECONOMY
Indian Government Stable Despite Key Ally Pulling Out: Finance Minister
India’s Congress party-led government is “stable” despite a key ally withdrawing its support in protest against the government’s position on a United Nations resolution on war crimes in Sri Lanka, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said on 19 March. “The government is absolutely stable,” Chidambaram told reporters. “There is no crisis,” he added. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is based in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, and has often pressured the Indian government to do more to protect Sri Lanka’s minority Tamil population. It wants the Indian government to introduce stronger language into the resolution, including the use of the word “genocide”. The government has yet to give a response on what its position on the resolution would be. (NBC News, Reuters)
India Building Collapse Near Mumbai Kills 45
At least 45 people have died, including 15 children, after a building being constructed illegally collapsed near the
Indian city of Mumbai, police say. About 70 people were injured and many are feared trapped beneath the seven-storey bloc in Thane after the incident on 4 April evening. Building work was going on even though four floors were already occupied. A search for survivors is continuing. Building collapses are common with poor construction practices often blamed. The authorities now say they are searching for the officials who were supervising the building works. ‘Like a pack of cards’ The BBC’s Sameer Hashmi, who is at the scene of the incident, says rescue workers are still trying to clear the debris. Most people living in the building are from the low-to-middle income groups, our correspondent adds. Witnesses say the construction of the building started just six weeks ago and in that time seven floors were built rapidly and the eighth floor was under construction. Even though the construction was incomplete, the builders had allowed families to move in, our correspondent adds. On 4 April evening a section of the building collapsed, bringing the entire structure down, police said. Rescue efforts continued throughout the night and dozens have been injured. It is not yet clear what caused the collapse, but police inspector Digamber Jangale told the BBC it appeared to be due to the use of substandard building material. (BBC)
India Asks Vodafone, Idea to Stop 3G Pact, Imposes Fines
The telecommunications ministry has asked Vodafone Group Plc’s local unit and Idea Cellular to stop 3G services outside their licensed zones and imposed penalty on both carriers, a senior government official said, in a dispute that has dragged on for more than a year. The orders follow a similar directive to top mobile phone carrier Bharti Airtel Ltd last month, which the company is fighting in courts. Vodafone and Idea are also expected to challenge the government orders. The Department of Telecommunications has asked Vodafone India to pay a penalty of 5.5 billion rupees and Idea Cellular to pay about 3 billion rupees, the official said. Vodafone India and Idea declined to comment. The dispute over 3G pacts is one of several regulatory challenges hurting carriers in the world’s second-biggest mobile phone market. In a 2010 auction, no single carrier managed to win 3G airwaves for all of India’s 22 telecommunication zones as bid prices were far higher than expected. Bharti, Vodafone and Idea provide 3G services beyond their licensed zones through pacts with each other. The government says such pacts are “illegal”. ($1 = 54.8450 rupees) (Reuters)
India’s Supreme Court has ruled against Big Pharma and for the country’s generic drug companies. But who’s the big winner in the end?
When the Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis lost its battle in India’s highest court on April 1, it was hailed as a major victory in India. The Indian Supreme Court rejected a plea by Novartis for patent protection for the drug Gleevec, which has been called a “miracle drug” for patients with some forms of leukemia. Now, Indian companies are free to make and distribute low-cost versions of the drug to the 300,000-some Indian patients currently using Gleevec. “It is a very happy day for us. Now we can cater to all cancer patients,” said Kiran Hukku of Cancer Patients Aid Association, which led the case against Novartis. But the 1 April verdict is about much more than leukemia patients in India. It’s about India’s ability to legally continue to uphold its reputation as “the pharmacy to the third world.” Over the last decade, Indian pharmaceutical companies have pioneered the method of making cheap drugs by copy-catting brand-name medications when they go out of patent for everything from HIV to malaria. These drugs are used widely in India, where tens of millions of people still live on less than two dollars a day and cannot afford basic health care costs. It’s estimated that less than 10 percent of drugs sold in India are under patent. That number can be partly accounted for by the country’s thriving business in counterfeit drugs, which makes up between 8 and 25 percent of India’s drug market. But Indian drug makers also export about $10 billion worth of generic medicine every year. That means tens of millions of people across the developing world have come to rely on India’s cheap drugs. Essentially, the battle between Indian and multinational pharmaceutical companies boils down to a fundamental disagreement about the definition and the ethics of innovation. India’s pharmaceutical companies have a very different business model than that of the research-focused big international pharma companies. Firms like Switzerland’s Novartis and America’s Pfizer — which is the world’s largest pharmaceutical company — often spend decades and billions of dollars developing a single medication. They say they need patent protection on their drugs in order to support the high research costs that come with innovation. Indian companies do not invest in research and development on the same scale. Rather, they wait until successful drugs come off patent, and then make copycat versions to sell at a fraction of the cost across the developing world. Indian generic manufacturers sell their version of Gleevec for about $175 a month; the brand-name medication costs patients in India $1,900 a month, although Novartis has a support program that has provided over $1.7 billion worth of Gleevec, free of cost, to Indian patients since 2002. (…) To U.S. pharma companies, the divide seems stark: Indian companies are simply stealing and repackaging their intellectual property. Yet the view is not the same in India. There, they take the moral high ground, arguing that the long-term costs of drug production become irrelevant if they are not an option for millions of patients in the developing world. After the Novartis decision, an editorial in the Indian newspaper The Hindu declared, “The decision affirms the idea that a patent regime loses its social relevance when a drug is priced beyond the reach of the vast majority of a country’s people.” Popular sentiment against U.S. and multinational pharma companies, and support for domestic generic companies, remains strong. (Foreign Policy)
SECURITY & MILITARY
Government’s $15 Billion Rafale Deal Faces Delays
India’s plan to buy 126 fighter-jets from Dassault Aviation could be delayed as the two sides struggle to reach an agreement over the role of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), two sources familiar with the matter said. India picked the Dassault-made Rafale jet for exclusive negotiations in January 2012 after a hotly contested bidding war with rival manufacturers, but it is still to finalise the $15 billion deal, one of the world’s largest defence import orders. Under the initial terms of the proposed deal, Dassault was expected to provide 18 fighters in “fly-away” condition, and then let HAL manufacture the rest in India. However, Dassault now wants two separate contracts to be signed – one for the ready-made ones, and another for the rest to be built by HAL, but India opposes that proposal, an Indian Defence Ministry official told Reuters. “Dassault says HAL does not have the capacity and capability to assemble the aircraft,” said the official, who declined to be identified because he is not authorised to speak to the media. “HAL is our main public sector partner. And if needed, capacity and capabilities can be improved. But the proposal for two contracts is not agreeable to the government of India,” he said. (…) According to a preliminary agreement between Dassault and the government, HAL will make 108 Rafale jets in India, while parts will be delivered by Dassault and its partners, Thales, Europe’s largest defence electronics group, and aerospace group Safran. India, the world’s biggest arms importer, plans to spend about $100 billion over the next 10 years upgrading its mostly Soviet-era military hardware. However, a recent push by the Defence Ministry to increase local manufacturing of military equipment has renewed concerns about whether Indian companies have the advanced technology and trained staff to build sophisticated defence equipment. (Reuters)
Report for Purchase by The National Bureau of Asian Research: India’s Security Challenges at Home and Abroad
“India’s Internal Security Challenges,” Ajai Sahni
India’s fractious democracy faces numerous internal security challenges and is hobbled by incoherent policy responses and enduring deficits in capacity. The system has, nevertheless, demonstrated extraordinary resilience and has several dramatic successes to its credit.
India is a study in contrasts, if not contradictions. Extreme poverty and lack of opportunities coexist with rapid economic growth and obscene wealth, creating what commentators have often conceptualized as “two Indias.” These discrepancies, compounded by a wide range of external and internal destabilizers, produce enormous potential for discord as well as a number of enduring internal conflicts.
The state’s responses to existing and emerging challenges of internal security have been marked by a high measure of incoherence, structural infirmities, and a growing crisis of capacities. Despite these deficits and vulnerabilities, India has extraordinary experience in defeating some of the most virulent insurgent and terrorist movements. Unfortunately, the lessons of successful counterinsurgency (CI) and counterterrorism (CT) campaigns have not been transferred efficiently to other theaters.
While rapid economic growth has increased state resources, the policy environment remains crippled by the lack of a strategic culture and foresight. Nevertheless, there is increasing awareness of the urgency of a coherent strategic response. Ultimately, India’s political environment has demonstrated tremendous resilience, justifying the expectation that, in spite of its difficulties, the country will sustain its positive trajectory.
“Managing Multipolarity: India’s Security Strategy in a Changing World,” C. Raja Mohan
This essay discusses the impact of the emerging multipolar world on the foreign and national security policies of India and examines the new imperatives for India to go beyond its enduring strategy of nonalignment.
India, which began its quest for a multipolar world amid fears of American hegemony after the Cold War, is now faced with the prospect of a unipolar Asia that is dominated by China. India’s strategy of engagement with all other great powers without having to choose between them paid rich dividends in the first two decades after the Cold War but is not sustainable in the future. The compulsions for looking beyond nonalignment do not stem from a prior recasting of India’s foreign policy principles but rather from adapting to the regional consequences of China’s rise for India’s extended neighborhood and to a range of global issues. While the logic of circumstances will eventually drive New Delhi closer to Washington, there may be many detours along the way. (National Bureau of Asian Research)
India’s Defense Budget: Inadequate Outlay
This is the second post in a series analyzing India’s newly released Union Budget from the CSIS Wadhwani Chair experts. Here Gurmeet Kanwal focuses on planned military spending for 2013-14.
The funds allotted for defense expenditure by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram for the Financial Year (FY) 2013-14 are inadequate to meet the growing threats and challenges facing the country, modernization of the armed forces and India’s increasing responsibilities as a regional power. The defense budget is also inadequate to expeditiously make up the “critical hollowness” in defense preparedness pointed out by General V K Singh, the former Army Chief. The increase of 5.3% in the budget estimates from Rs 1,93,007.00 crore in 2012-13 to Rs 2,03,672.10 crore (US $37.46 billion) for 2013-14 is too small to allow for inflation, which is ruling at about 7.5% annually. Also, the Rupee’s recent slide against the U.S. dollar to almost Rs 55 to a dollar has further eroded its purchasing power. Hence, in real terms the defense budget has actually declined by about 1.3%. Meanwhile, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been modernizing at a rapid pace for over a decade, backed by a double-digit annual hike in the defense budget. At US $115.70 billion, China’s official defense budget for the current year is 10.7% more than the previous year and it is over three times India’s planned defense expenditure. As China invariably conceals many items of expenditure on national security, its actual expenditure is likely to be well over $150 billion. The PLA is investing heavily in modernizing its surface-to-surface missile firepower, fighter aircraft and air-to-ground strike capability. China is acquiring strategic airlift capability, modern aircraft carriers, new submarines, improving command and control and surveillance systems and is enhancing its capacity to launch amphibious operations. It is also upgrading the military infrastructure in Tibet to sustain larger deployments over longer durations. Despite the long list of obsolescent weapons and equipment in service with the Indian armed forces, the present military gap with China is quantitative rather than qualitative. However, as India’s military modernization has been stagnating for several years, this gap is likely to soon become a qualitative one as well. By about 2020-25, China will complete its military modernization and will then be in a position to dictate terms on the resolution of any territorial dispute if India continues to neglect defense preparedness. (CSIS CogitAsia)