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Friday, April 11, 2014

modi's kashmir

Second Guessing Modi's Kashmir Policy
By Firdaus Ahmed
Modi made two trips to J&K as part of his electioneering. Since J&K will at best yield up one seat for his party, this is unlikely to have propelled him to J&K twice over. J&K is useful for him to get votes elsewhere in India. In his speeches he mentioned two aspects that caught the headlines: one that he would continue Vajpayee's policy of humaneness; and second that he welcomed a debate on Article 370. This has largely attracted positive commentary. This article suggests that this is to be gullible. 

It is true that Modi has not played to the nationalist gallery. But that is of a piece with his campaign strategy: keep his agenda under wraps in order not to have a front build up against him. This he has managed to do and the pundits have it that Delhi is his to take. It is clear that his neoliberal agenda that will probably put Manmohan's to shame, countenances a period of relative stability. This will enable visible economic gains and allow him the breathing space for legitimacy. Therefore, keeping the lid on Kashmir would be a practical thing to do. 

By this yardstick, his reference to Vajpayee has already helped calm Kashmiri apprehensions. One aspect of Vajpayee's tenure was its reaching out to Pakistan. But it bears recall that not only was he rebuffed at Kargil by Pakistan, but more importantly he was not able to carry his own side along at Agra later. The problems Vajpayee faced have not gone away. 

With Nawaz Sharif back at the helm and apparently stronger in Pakistan, he would be able to follow through with his realigning of Pakistan's India policy. He has not succeeded so far since he was dealing with a lame duck prime minister on the Indian side. Modi will be a more surefooted interlocutor and an opening up of the commercial and trade links in the neoliberal model can help take the relationship forward. 

This expectation faces the challenge of a new front for proxy war opening up in Afghanistan. So long as the two states faceoff in Afghanistan, the relations can still progress. However, a spillover from their Afghanistan contest into Baluchistan and Kashmir can but be a step away. How they manage to avert the spillover will determine if they can mend fences to a degree. 

A quiet Kashmir will demand its price for playing along. Modi will be more than willing to meet them half way. The logic will be less to do with Kashmir or external policy, but more to do with the changes in India's complexion that his tenure will seek. The measures to distance Kashmir from the 'mainstream', while appreciated in Kashmir, will have an underside for the rest of India in terms of colouring it a deeper hue of saffron. 

The argument that India is for Hindus will ring louder in light of the Kashmiri Muslims being given their corner under the sun. Implications for the rest of non-Kashmiri Indian Muslims are self-evident. The refrain will be that the Muslims have got Pakistan and now they have been given Kashmir, so they had better behave themselves in their assigned role now on as second class citizens in a Hindu India. 

The reference to Article 370 was perhaps a precursor. The BJP manifesto has echoed it promising revision. This will be in the form of reducing Kashmir to a rump state inhabited by its Muslims, in order that the same convergence between religion and territory inform not only in the remainder of J&K but also the rest of India. 

This involves concessions to Kashmiris. So far several forces have been against any such ideas. For instance, any rethink on AFSPA was shot down by the army during the UPA tenure. The Congress forever fearful of its own shadow since the 1962 debacle allowed the tacit veto. Modi would have no such hangups. With Sharif assuring him on the Pakistani flank, he would be able to move with greater surety and alacrity. 

The army can be expected to be quiescent since a government that wears its nationalism on its sleeve will be taken at its word, unlike the Congress government with its 'soft' image. Modi having built up an image as a 'strongman' will unlikely be seen as 'selling' Indian interests down the Jhelum. In case the army is less than forthcoming, its silence will likely be ensured by a move that Modi can be expected to take early in his tenure. 

Using the Naresh Chandra committee recommendation for cover he will likely 'kick upstairs' the current army chief as permanent chairman chiefs of staff committee. Such a change had been rumoured recently. Modi will then kill two birds with one stone. He, with VK Singh possibly as an MP by then on his shoulder, can be rid of Bikram Singh, and thereby upset the much talked about chain of succession that was allegedly set up by the Congress government way back during the JJ Singh tenure as chief. Recall innuendos to this affect had surfaced during the VK Singh fracas over his DOB (date of birth). He would also be able to move in a general of choice, who may be a closet supporter. Since these moves will be reminiscent of the sacking of Admiral Bhagwat early in the tenure of the last NDA dispensation, it can be assumed that all state institutions will get the message and fall in line. After all, precedence exists of their crawling when they were merely asked to bend during Indira's Emergency. 

Since the measures will be apparently in Kashmiri interest, they are liable to be mistaken for an olive branch. The positive reception will be used by Modi to dispel his anti-minority image and thereby set the stage for his more radical reset of Indian state and society. He may even pend these latter moves to his second tenure after assuring himself of reelection by 'solving' the two problems that plagued the UPA in its second leg: the economy and Pakistan. 

Pakistan, taking a share of credit for gains made by Kashmiris, will walk away from the Kashmir issue, particularly if there is a tradeoff in which India eases up on Afghanistan and allows Pakistan greater strategic space in that direction. This is not unthinkable if the real motives of the religious nationalists are seen. These are essentially internal politics focused. With Pakistan bought off, Indian Muslims will be isolated in a phase in which they may be more willing to scout for external support. 

In summation, Modi may just be able to pull off a success in Kashmir. The apprehension here is that it will be at a cost, that of India's secular crown. Though no case is made for holding Kashmir hostage to India's wider minority's future, such linkages forged in their mind's eye by forces that are poised to take over India. But only if the wizened voter will oblige! 

(The author blogs at Think South Asia:

News Updated at : Saturday, April 12, 2014

modi on the security front

What will Modi do next?
The well known wisdom of the Indian voter can still prove opinion polls and media speculation drastically wrong. Just as in 2004 when the ‘India Shining ‘campaign cameas a cropper, Narendra Modi may yet bite the dust. However, it is worth anticipating what the BJP may set out to do on the security front if it manages to subvert the electorate by cobbling up an opportunistic coalition.The well known wisdom of the Indian voter can still prove opinion polls and media speculation drastically wrong. However, it is worth anticipating what the BJP may set out to do on the security front if it manages to subvert the electorate by cobbling up an opportunistic coalition.

Modi And Manifesto

Wisely the BJP delayed releasing its manifesto till the last minute to make sure that its contents would not affect the personality cult built up around NaMo. The manifesto has a few security related elements that are likely to vitiate societal, Indian and subcontinental security: the building of a temple at Ayodhya;introduction of the uniform civil code; the removal of Article 370; and the rethinking of the nuclear doctrine respectively.
But first is a look at Modi’s cryptic remark at the manifesto release function stating that his will not be a policy of revenge. This is a loaded remark and in itself carries an implied threat. He probably had India’s minority on his mind, hoping that his remarks will influence them to be milder in their voting patterns towards him and his party. Given the mobilisation within the Muslim community, he is unlikely to make headway. This will no doubt keep him for the 270 mark even if he does manage to cobble up a coalition. This will no doubt put him off further; making it is unlikely that he would spare even the sops usually spared for India’s largest minority by its secular state under the Congress.
A poor beginning as this will goad him on to addressing the bullet points in the BJP manifesto of concern to India’s minority. First would be completing the demolition agenda at Ayodhya of the early nineties in which he had earned his spurs as a pracharak. This will also be to keep his fellow Hindutva travellers busy while he gets on with the task of making India safe for corporate takeover, quite like he did during his long reign in Gujarat. The Sangh Parivar’s use of the temple issue to mobilise support for itself, will likely increase social tensions across India.
This will set the stage for the legislative manoeuvring that will inevitably attend introduction of the uniform civil code, a left-over from the BJP’s earlier stint at the Center. The supposed motivation for the bill of ensuring women’s rights will be used to further pressurise the minority. Pushing it to the corner will be useful to instigate the hotheads in the minority to mount a violent challenge that will then justify a resounding crackdown on its ghettos and strongholds.
The ensuing strong arm methods will be easier to swallow for the middle class bent on voting Modi to power to further its economic interests. Any reservations in some quarters will be smothered by a nationalist build up to remove Article 370. This will no doubt provoke a backlash in Kashmir, perhaps just as intended.The army, with its hands full restoring order then, will be too busy and well placated with the needed powers and military goodies, to bother as to what is being done to India’s polity.

Modi and Kashmir

Resulting troubles in Kashmir will easily be attributed to the resumption of the long predicted Pakistani mischief in wake of departure of the Americans from Afghanistan. This will ease the rethinking promised on the nuclear doctrine. The first casualty is expected to be the No First Use principle. Jettisoning it will not amount to much in itself, since in any case Pakistanis find it both less than credible and quite unnecessary in light of superiority of India’s conventional forces. But the advantage will be in buttressing Modi’s image as a ‘strongman’ and as a message to Pakistan to avoid provocation.

Using the opportunity for a nuclear reorganization, Modi could ‘kick upstairs’ the current army chief, Bikram Singh, into being India’s first permanent chairman of the Chief’s of Staff Committee. Recall that Bikram Singh’s bĂȘte noire is General VK Singh of ‘DoB’ (date of birth) fame, the BJP contender for the Ghaziabad seat. During VK Singh’s fracas with the government, the innuendo was that the chain of succession was manipulated by the Congress to get Bikram Singh into the chair. As permanent chairman of COSC he would be a general without an army. It will leave open the army chief’s chair that Modi could fill in with a candidate of his choice; thus undercutting the next one in the current line of succession, the vice chief General Suhag. These moves, reminiscent of the sacking of Baghwat in the early part of the BJP’s last tenure, will keep the military quiet while Modi goes about his India reset.

Way Ahead

There is a view that such fears are unfounded because Modi may wait till he gains a measure of Delhi. He is driven by an economic agenda. This will likely be upset in case he privileges security and gets internal security vitiated. Therefore, he  will bide his time, gain legitimacy with developmental work and then when he is set into his second term, he could reveal his hand. By then, if the economics works, then he would be better positioned with a middle class majority behind him.
This misses the point that he may strike while hot from his election victory. The Hindutva brigade may prove less than patient. He also has the earlier precedent to be wary off in which the BJP was swept from power after just one term. The economic reforms that promise to be more neo-liberal than Manmohan’s may require a dose of ‘nationalism’ for being administered on unwilling non-middle classes. This may compel an early resort to religious nationalism for stoking legitimacy and authoritarianism. There is also the argument that there are checks and balances in the Indian system that will prevent his doing a Gujarat in the rest of India. This neglects the precedence of Emergency in which the civil service crawled when it was merely asked to bend. In any case, of his moving either sooner or later, India is in for interesting times in the Chinese sense of the word.
Consequently, Modi’s security agenda would bear watch. Apprising ourselves now will be timely in terms of taking the necessary preventive measures, in particular ensuring a defeat at the polls. Relying on the good sense of the Indian voter is useful towards this end but democracy can yet be hijacked. So a final push of a warning such as this is necessary.
By Firdaus Ahmed

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Getting ‘practical’ on No-First-Use

PM Manmohan Singh’s plans to minimise nuclear risks, as articulated at a recent conference, revolves around formulation of a ‘global no-first-use’ norm. Firdaus Ahmed points to why a practical solution is less about global norms and rests more likely on issues closer home.

Inaugurating the Indian Pugwash Society and IDSA conference on ‘A nuclear weapons free world: From conception to reality’, the prime minister urged the world to move beyond ‘partial and discriminatory’ approaches and towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Excoriating Cold War thinking that legitimised nuclear first use, he called for an agreed multilateral framework involving all states possessing nuclear weapons.
This is likely the very last call of the prime minister in furthering India’s commitment to a nuclear weapons convention. It is in line with India’s Draft Nuclear Doctrine, largely adopted as India’s official nuclear doctrine, which had stated: ‘8.2. Since no-first use of nuclear weapons is India's basic commitment, every effort shall be made to persuade other States possessing nuclear weapons to join an international treaty banning first use.’ The Prime Minister was only fulfilling a doctrinally ordained commitment.
The position he put forth is consistent with India’s long standing nuclear perspective, an early articulation of which was in a 1968 IDSA monograph, ‘A strategy for India for a credible posture against a nuclear adversary’, anonymously authored most likely by late Mr. Subrahmanyam. The monograph maintained that legitimacy of nuclear weapons could only be abolished by foreswearing of their first use (p. 5).
Subrahmanyam went on to ensure inclusion of this in the Draft Nuclear Doctrine, that he is credited with stewarding through the large and opinionated first National Security Advisory Board that he headed thirty years down the line by making preambular reference to ‘the very existence of offensive doctrine pertaining to the first use of nuclear weapons and the insistence of some nuclear weapons states on the legitimacy of their use’ as constituting the premier threat (Para 1.5).
The idea is that once nuclear weapons use is considered illegitimate their eventual elimination will be closer. This would involve as a first step a constriction in the purpose for which they can be used, restricting this to only deterring nuclear weapons use. This entails adoption by other nuclear states that have other uses for nuclear weapons, such as to deter conventional attack, to move towards the Indian view that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear weapons. This switch in thinking enables moving towards No First Use, which once subscribed to by all would be the ‘global no first use norm’ referred to by Dr. Manmohan Singh.
But does this articulation constitute the ‘practical measure’ that the PM had in mind?
India has not been able to get its neighbour Pakistan on board over this in the past two decades. One of JN Dixit’s non-papers to Pakistan in 1994 was on No First Use of the capability, even though the two states were not overt nuclear powers then. Pakistan subscribing to a different perspective on nuclear weapons – that they are also to deter war itself – was unwilling to give up its nuclear trump card to checkmate India. And with good reason since it was then embarked on proxy war and wanted to deter India’s conventional military might being brought to bear on it for its temerity.
This attempt at making India’s conventional advantage relevant once again in the nuclear era has had the consequence of making Pakistan more reliant on its nuclear card. Its restive nuclear trigger finger is best symbolised by the Nasr, a tactical nuclear weapon.
Though unpalatable and perhaps unfair to India, its position will inevitably be seen through the India-Pakistan lens. A plausible critique could well be that this is an attempt by India to defang Pakistan, thereby making its (India’s) conventional power reckonable. Ducking such arguments will remain difficult till India really wishes to finally get ‘practical’. Clearly, if India is serious on creating a norm, it would require first taking its neighbour along.
Here, one harks back to the debate of the early eighties that had Pakistan taking a leaf out of India’s book dating to 1949 by offering a ‘no war pact’ and India offering friendly neighbourly relations instead. The latter can bring about the former, even without a pact. With war ruled out thus, there would be no question of nuclear first use or no-first-use implying nuclear retaliation. Friendly relations are hostage to outstanding issues that need resolving. Therefore, ‘practical’ steps towards no-first-use begin closer home.
One of Subrahmanyam’s reasons for nuclear advocacy for India was that mutual deterrence was stabilising. Responding to General Sundarji’s invite to participate in the seminal postal seminar in the early eighties at the College of Combat which Sundarji then headed, Subrahmanyam wrote that Pakistan’s ‘inferiority at the conventional level will be compensated when mutual deterrence at the nuclear level is established (Combat Paper No. 2, p. 53).’ He believed that this would enable Pakistan reconcile to the status quo on Kashmir. Time proved him wrong, however.


It would require making good on its offer of friendship. It cannot have Kashmir and eat it too. Dr. Manmohan Singh had the answers in his first term: making borders irrelevant. However, this got sidetracked by 26/11. Getting practical on No-first-use is therefore not so much about nuclear weapons and certainly less of norms at the global level. It is about conflict resolution closer home.  
Subrahmanyam’s answer in his 1968 monograph was that renouncing nuclear first use as illegitimate could be enforced by all states collectively retaliating against any state resorting to nuclear weapons. Since he was writing in the context of the Cold War, not only was such renunciation unrealistic for the conventionally disadvantaged West, but such collective action was incomprehensible. It is with good reason then that the PM chose to end his speech by vaguely referring to ‘verification’ and ‘political measures’.
The apprehension that arises is that with such renewed advocacy of the impossible, India may be creating the grounds for exiting its No-first-use commitment. When it blasted its way into the nuclear club, it had reasoned that this owed to no one listening to its call for nuclear disarmament. When no one listens to its No-first-use call, would India give it up?
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