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Column: It is not just about LAC – Spy’s Eye

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India China Ladakh Border

The continuing escalation of India-China tension on the border leading to a large-scale physical attack by PLA men on Indian personnel on the LAC in Galwan valley in Ladakh on June 15 — that resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers including the Lieutenant Colonel in the field — is a new development that calls for a relook at our China policy.

American media has talked of the Chinese having sustained large casualties which only shows that the Indian troops did not take it lying down when aggression was unleashed by the opposite side. To India”s consternation, China had stepped up its muscle flexing at multiple points on our border in recent months, mobilised PLA units all along the LAC and launched a substantial military build-up in the Ladakh segment. Considering the fact of Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping having held several meetings over the last couple of years, the resurfacing of Sino-Indian border conflict points to a recalibration of China”s global strategy by President Xi putting India in the ”opposite” camp — in disregard of all the Indian hospitalIty extended to him on his visit here and the peace overtures made by our Prime Minister in his bilateral ”summit” interactions.

None of what is happening, therefore, pertains to LAC alone — it is part of the larger Chinese policy of dealing with the emerging global scene in the long term. India has to get this new profile of China right to frame its strategic responses.

Considering the fact that a country would not allow its military to indulge in an activity on the ground that ran counter to its overall strategy, the display of muscle power by PLA in Ladakh sector of LAC is evidently a part of the Chinese plan to geo-politically strengthen its position in the Pak-Afghan-Kashmir tri-junction that had in the historical perspective been a crucial flag mark of superpower rivalries of the Cold War.

There is little doubt that after the demise of USSR, the Chinese leadership, particularly Xi Jinping, has been pursuing the economic and military path to making China the second superpower. Its military alliance with Pakistan and the base of economic convergence laid by CPEC, both resting on the enormous gain of territory acquired by China from Pakistan in POK, give it the benefit of having an intrinsic influence in the Pak-Afghan belt. The abolition of Art 370 of the Constitution by the Indian Parliament and the conversion of Ladakh into a Union Territory outside of J&K, to be governed directly by the Modi government, evoked an open protest from China and established a new degree of meeting of minds between Pakistan and China in countering Indian security initiatives in this vitally important border region.

The flashpoints created by China on LAC were primarily meant to enable it to stay put in Galwan valley apparently by using the ”two steps forward one step backward” doctrine — significantly, this was also a hotspot in the 1962 Sino-Indian military conflict. Something stronger than the verbal consensus at the local Commander”s level about vacating the encroachment here, was required. The incident on June 15 reportedly occurred when the Chinese army men used force to browbeat the Indian personnel who had asked them to move away. Chinese soldiers were clearly trained to attack and kill the opponents with specially forged personal weapons used in hand-to-hand combat. They obviously had instructions not to move back and to take advantage of the situation where the patrols by convention did not use firearms.

There is substance in the view that the Chinese highhandedness on LAC has been timed to take advantage of the trouble caused to both US and India, politically and economically, by the corona pandemic, in the backdrop of rapid growth of US-India strategic partnership during the Modi regime. The convergence between the two biggest democracies of the world on many global matters in the post-Cold War era is natural and cannot be faulted on the outdated plea of the need for adherence to ”non alignment” that India had to adopt as an ”ideological” line in the face of a complete division of the world between Communism and Capitalism at the height of the Cold War. The policy of equidistance from both might have been alright in the given context then but the Modi government has done well to shed the baggage of the past and adopt the policy of having bilateral relationships with all — based on mutual economic and security interests, in today”s world.

It is in keeping with these interests that India has, like the US, tried to correct the trade imbalance with China on one hand and moved closer to QUAD, which is a US-led multilateral grouping working for preservation of ”rule based order” in the Indo-Pacific maritime region — on the other. From India”s angle, checking the aggressiveness of China in the Indo-Pacific is crucial for the security of Indian Ocean nearer home.

Post-Covid developments created an environment in which the US-led campaign, blaming the pandemic on China, wanted the global business to shun the latter — the Indian response of welcoming the investors who wanted to opt for India as the alternate destination and at the same time discouraging the Chinese portfolio investors was a valid strategy of safeguarding India”s economic interests. China seems to have decided to disturb the border scene to damage the environ of peace in the subcontinent and impede India”s economic recovery.

The emerging regional and global scenario makes it clear to India that the Sino-Pak military alliance and the US-India strategic partnership have become the counterbalancing factors impacting the security of entire South Asia. Pakistan had stepped up cross-border terrorism in Kashmir and was in concert with China on all points of conflict with India just as China had joined in the Pak campaign against India”s moves in J&K by labelling them as infringement of ”China”s sovereignty”. India has, at the highest levels in the Modi government, raised the issue of illegal occupation of Aksai Chin by China. Things could thus be moving in the direction of irreversibility as far as Sino-Indian relationship is concerned unless China signals a pushback in Galwan.

In the meanwhile, India is required to put a three-fold course of defence in play — continuing the upgradation of infrastructure on the Indian side of LAC, adequate deployment of troops to deal with any infringement of the border there and doubling down on the counter-terrorism drive in Kashmir. China is as much under a constraint not to create a war-like situation as India is to avoid going beyond an effective answer to repel any encroachment on the LAC.

We need to launch a diplomatic offensive against the Sino-Pak collusion against India and highlight China’s support to Islamic terrorists fostered by Pakistan. India should step up efforts to talk to US, Russia, Iran, Israel and other stakeholders to get on to the roundtable on Afghanistan. The democratic world should be warned against the peril of ”radicalisation” that Pakistan and its ally, China, were instigating for their narrow ends. The Pak-China axis is to be countered on the Afghan front and all the internal players in Afghanistan”s polity should be contacted and cultivated.

It is good that we are concentrating on economic recovery by combining indigenous production with globalisation, particularly in the sphere of reconstructing the global supply chain. India has to be prepared to give a message of firm reciprocity to China militarily, take to a punitive response to Pakistan for its mischief in Kashmir and pursue international relations in the long haul in a manner that added to political and economic costs for the Sino-Pak alliance. The Chinese have many territories usurped by them on their periphery and India has several cards up its sleeve to stretch the Chinese capability of handling multiple fronts at one go. In the new Cold War, developing between China and US there should be no doubt about India favouring the democratic camp this time around.

By D.C. PATHAK

(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau)

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India at Afghan crossroads as Taliban cocks its guns

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India Army on Desert

New Delhi, July 3 : With Chinese bellicosity reverberating across the world, South Asia is bracing for another jolt — the epicentre of which is neighbouring Afghanistan. The tremors from Kabul will pass through Islamabad and hit Delhi, yet their intensity is not known. To what extent is India prepared is a question mark.

It all began on February 29, when the US signed a deal with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, to withdraw its forces from the war-torn country after almost 19 long years. Strangely it chose to leave out the elected Afghan government from a deal that impacts the future of Afghans.

The peace deal between the US and Taliban, remains a misnomer. Contrary to the spirit of the deal, the Taliban has increased attacks and the violence has engulfed the landlocked country – right from the maternity ward of a hospital in Kabul, to a gurdwara in prayers; from a funeral site in Nangarhar to a court in Paktia. And, not to mention dozens of Afghan security check-points where many hundreds of security personnel have died.

On its part, the Afghan government is implementing various provisions of the deal, like the release of Taliban prisoners, and President Ashraf Ghani has committed to join the intra-Afghan talks in Doha.

Doha is where the Taliban maintains its political office, and where the US-Taliban deal had been negotiated this February. The US Special Representative for Peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad has been chasing diverse parties including Pakistan for the intra-Afghan talks, reducing violence and release of prisoners. In his recent talks with Afghan leaders, Khalilzad reinforced that peace in Afghanistan is equivalent to peace in the region and the US is ready to invest in this sphere.

However, going by the high levels of violence inflicted by the Taliban the future looks bleak for the nation. It is not difficult to understand why the Taliban has stepped up its deadly attacks across the country – it is looking forward to an American withdrawal to enable a complete takeover of the country. The World Human Rights Watch Report has said that the Taliban”s widespread human rights abuses in areas under its control raise concerns about its willingness to adhere to future agreements.

Besides the two key nations — the US and Afghanistan, there always has been a high-stakes player — Pakistan, with its behind-the-scenes shelter and support to terror groups. In its efforts to control a resource-rich but unstable neighbour, it has played a pivotal role in keeping Afghanistan on the tenterhooks and vulnerable to attacks through battle-hardened terror groups. It has also put in considerable efforts to keep India at bay.

Indian intervention in Afghanistan has been diametrically opposite Pakistan”s — it has pumped in $2 billion aid and assistance for the Afghan people to rebuild the war-ravaged country and promote democracy. India has built dams, power stations, roads, hospitals and trained Afghan people in various aspects of administration and security.

With unprecedented developments happening in Afghanistan, many including Khalilzad are urging India to talk to Taliban. This is a view which even Zamir Kabulov, Russia”s special presidential envoy for Afghanistan, holds. The million dollar question is — how does India view the Taliban, which India has kept at an arm”s length for close to two decades now.

India still looks at Afghanistan as a democratic country that elects a people”s government, while the Taliban is still viewed as a terror group, power hungry and a Pakistani stooge. Indian thinking is still governed by the good old-fashioned theory of an ideal Afghanistan where all tribes come together to hold elections, where terror groups drop their arms and the Afghans climb up the development charts with roads, dams, schools and hospitals with Indian support.

With unbelievable violence engulfing Afghanistan, this looks like an impossible reality. An Indian pipe dream. But what is still possible amidst these impossibilities is that India opens up a window to talk with the Taliban.

The Taliban has made reconciliatory gestures towards India which have been surprising. It has already said that the revocation of Article 370 in Kashmir was an internal matter of India. And, it has said a couple of times that it is open to talks with India. In fact, even the Afghan government has indicated that India should join the intra-Afghan talks as the country has always been supportive of peace in Afghanistan. It wants India to drop its opposition to the Taliban and lend strength to the peace process.

While calls for India”s role in the peace process echo from all sides, the only opposition has come from arch enemy Pakistan, which is still busy playing its ”running with the hare and hunting with the hounds” game. Even as it poses with the US as an ally in the Afghan peace process, it has been sheltering and training various terror groups in attacking both Afghan and Indian interests.

However, the good news for India is that the terror groups are mutating in the Afghan battlefield. While the Taliban is warming up to India, the formidable terror group, Haqqani Network, shares Pakistan”s line of thinking.

The fast-paced developments in Afghanistan have left the field wide open for India to drop its nonchalance and join the talks, paving the way for a bigger Indian role once the US completely withdraws from the region. As the various players in the Afghanistan theatre know, India”s stand at the talks will only be from a point of peace and from a perspective of the Afghan people.

We know that there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies in international relations. People evolve, entities change but peace still remains a goal worth pursuing. India has pursued that goal for millions of Afghan people for long. It should not give up now.

By : Rahul Kumar

(This content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

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Saroj Khan will live in history of choreography for Indian cinema: Subhash Ghai

She was an integral part of our Mukta Arts family-She was my strong partner in grooming stars like Madhuri Meenakshi, Manisha and Aishwarya. Master of masters.

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Saroj Khan Death

Mumbai, July 3 : Filmmaker Subhash Ghai has described prolific choreographer Saroj Khans death as a “personal loss”, and said that she will forever live in the history of choreography in Indian cinema.

Almost all the biggest films in Ghai”s career had Saroj Khan calling the shots for some of the biggest dance hits in his films. These include “Hero” (1983), “Karma” (1986), “Ram Lakhan” (1989), “Khalnayak” (1993), “Pardes” (1997), “Taal” (1999), “Yaadein” (2001) and “Kisna” (2005).

On Friday, Ghai shared an emotional video talking about Saroj Khan, who passed away after a cardiac arrest in the early hours at the age of 71.

“Saroj Khan. My biggest personal loss. An integral part of my journey in cinema — Sarojji. Keeping alive classical dance in Hindi cinema was Saroj Khan. Change has come and change will come, but Saroj Khan will not. We all have become masters by becoming her students. Cinema will always remember her. What do I say, I have no words. I am saddened,” he said in the video.

Alongside the video he also shared a message, where he said that she was a strong partner in grooming stars like Meenakshi Sheshadri, Madhuri Dixit, Manisha Koirala and Aishwarya Rai.

Meenakshi Sheshadri became an overnight star after “Hero”, Ghai”s musical blockbuster of 1983. Madhuri worked in the Ghai hits “Ram Lakhan” and “Khalnayak”, both of which had superhit dances choreographed by Saroj Khan. Manisha Koirala made her debut in Ghai’s 1991 hit “Saudagar”, which had several hit song-and-dance sequences, while Aishwarya Rai’s dances in “Taal” continue to be a rage to this day.

“An era has gone. Absolutely my personal loss. She was an integral part of our Mukta Arts family-She was my strong partner in grooming stars like Madhuri Meenakshi, Manisha and Aishwarya. Master of masters. Saroj Khan will live in the history of choreography for Indian cinema indeed. Bye Jaan. RIP,” said Ghai.

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No Chinese goods in food ministry now: Ram Vilas Paswan

After the incident, there is a wave of anger all over the country against China and people are boycotting Chinese goods.

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Ram Vilas Paswan

New Delhi, July 1 : Union Minister for Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan has said that his ministry has closed the door for Chinese products. Paswan said that no Chinese goods will come to his department anymore and a circular to this effect has already been issued.

In an exclusive interview with IANS, Paswan said that from now on foreign products will also be tested as per the standard set by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

After this decision, the purchase of goods directly by his Ministry and the departments and organizations under his Ministry will not include products from China.

The Food Corporation of India and the Central Warehousing Corporation also come under the Union Food and Public Distribution Ministry.

The circular issued by the ministry on June 23 stated that no goods manufactured in China would be purchased from the Government e Marketplace (GeM) portal or any other source.

This decision comes after the incident in Galwan Valley in Ladakh in which 20 Indian soldiers, including an officer, were killed in a clash with Chinese troops last month.

After the incident, there is a wave of anger all over the country against China and people are boycotting Chinese goods.

Paswan said “Rules are being framed to check foreign goods standards. These rules will apply not only to Chinese products but also to products coming from other countries.”

He said the way Indian goods are tested on foreign standards in the same way, foreign goods will be tested in India. “We will stop foreign goods if our standards are not met,” Paswan said.

Paswan has been active in delivering foodgrains to every nook and corner of the country by implementing the free grain distribution scheme – Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) during the corona crisis. So far, 1,03,53,715 tonnes of foodgrains have been distributed, which is 87 per cent of the total quota for three months.

The scheme has been extended till November. Expressing happiness, Paswan said this will provide great relief to more than 80 crore poor people of the country in this hour of crisis.

Paswan said there is enough stock of foodgrains in the country. He urged the states to lift the grains for the months ahead to ensure smooth distribution under PMGKAY.

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