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Column: The era of strategic flexibility – Spy’s Eye

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The heightened tension between India and China on the LAC in the Ladakh sector is the cumulative outcome of the military build-up carried out by PLA in the period following the abrogation of Art 370 of the Constitution relating to J&K, the play of Sino-Pak military alliance now operating with new strength and the rapid shift of global geopolitics along a Cold War type of polarisation between the US and China.

India faces a new challenge of resetting its strategy of handling international relations taking into consideration three important paradigm shifts of our times — that the ideological base of old NAM does not exist any more even as some of its rationalism might still be valid, that India’s defence has to rest on the country’s own strength and capacity building and that bilateral or multilateral friendships rooted in an in-depth convergence on security and economic interests might be stable but not necessarily everlasting. It goes to the credit of the Modi government and its foreign policy establishment that what seems to be in the country’s best interests for the times ahead is being done on a note of unambiguity and practicality. There is an awareness that in today’s world, ‘strategy’ evolved out of a comprehensive and deep assessment could prove to be lasting enough but it would never be immune to course correction.

Right now India’s military and foreign policy responses have to focus on countering any aggressive Chinese designs in East Ladakh — China is obviously motivated by its keenness to preserve and consolidate its gains in POK area that its ‘all weather friend’ Pakistan had allowed it to have in lieu of the Chinese support to Pakistan against India. The incident of August 29/30 night in which a contingent of PLA tried to sneak into the southern bank of Pangong lake on the LAC and drew back when confronted and another failed attempt by Chinese soldiers to encroach on the Indian side at Mukhpari on August 31 — here also they retreated after firing a few shots in air — confirm that PLA soldiers had the brief to extend their physical hold on the ground in East Ladakh, wherever opportune.

China evidently was not expecting the Indian army to have so swiftly consolidated its position on the heights on the south of Pangong Tso. Claims of nuclear might do not help China when it comes to the deployment of PLA in Ladakh — China is aware of the mountain warfare capability built by Indian army after the Kargil conflict — and that is why it has prepared its soldiers for hand-to-hand fight and equipped them with traditional long handle spears to enable them somehow to inch ahead with their physical possession on the ground.

China cannot fight a ‘war’ on the mountains of Ladakh and India’s military strategy should be to keep the PLA constantly checkmated on the LAC by monitoring its presence and movement. The LAC concerns should not come in the way of India taking to retaliatory action against Pakistan for the terror activity beamed at India from across the LOC. Militarisation of Ladakh by India is necessary to contain China — India should also be prepared to counter any aggressiveness of PLA elsewhere on the LAC. China is stretched more than India is, on the borders. Dr S. Jaishankar, India’s External Affairs Minister, has termed the situation on the LAC as ‘very very serious’ and warned China that this would affect the overall relations between the two countries.

Since the external threat to the security of India emanates primarily from the Sino-Pak alliance working against this country — these adversaries working in collusion also have a significant potential for causing internal destabilisation here from Kashmir to the North-East as also in the communally sensitive underbelly of India — it is good that our security and foreign policy is concentrating on garnering lasting support internationally against this rogue axis. The Sino-Pak alliance is clearly the ganging up of a Communist dictatorship and an Army-controlled dispensation that was openly using Islamic terror as a policy instrument against its opponents.

A complete convergence that prevails between the US under Donald Trump and India of Prime Minister Modi in regard to these two hostile neighbours of India, must be enlarged as the bedrock of strategic cooperation within the democratic world against the threats from the unholy Sino-Pak axis. India should openly collaborate with the US, Japan and Australia in preserving the maritime security of Indo-Pacific and step up navy patrolling in the Indian Ocean to deal with any aggressive behaviour of China there. The strategy of India is to be dedicated to world peace and preference to talks for restoring status quo ante on the Sino-Indian border maintained as India’s commitment to the same. India is doing well in coordinating its military and diplomatic moves to deal with China. Apart from deftly handling countries like Russia and Iran, all democratic countries in India’s neighbourhood need to be kept in the orbit of special friendship notwithstanding the tendency of some of those to act neutral on India-China issues.

India’s relationships within the Muslim world are far more important now than ever before because of the role of Pakistan, emerging contours of alignments of Islamic countries in relation to the US and the multiplicity of factors that can impact on the democratic future of Afghanistan. The Muslim world has to be studied in depth primarily because of the rise of faith-based militancy and Islamic radicals there in recent years — Pakistan becoming an anchor of these trends adds to India’s security concerns. As the US sees through the duplicity of Pakistan during the peace talks with Taliban on Afghanistan, Pak Prime Minister Imran Khan has started openly defying the American administration — this is becoming pronounced with the Sino-Pak alliance acquiring strategic depth.

A serious development in the Muslim world that threatens to put the security of the global democratic order in jeopardy is the emergence of a strong core group of Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia which does not care for the US and is not prepared to jettison the radicals of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. OIC leadership represented by Saudi Arabia and UAE remains with the US — scared as it is of the Islamic radicals — and it is now even amenable to the idea of striking peace with Israel. Iran symbolises the world of Shiite Islam with its undiminished historical enmity towards Sunni extremists.

Iran’s problems with US and Israel notwithstanding, India has the locus standi to tap friendship with Iran — Shiism shares some views on ‘divinity’ with Hindu culture — and put it to mutual advantage in influencing the future of Afghanistan. The visit of India’s External Affairs Minister to Tehran is timely. India should be in a position to explain to the US that its dealings with Iran were not at the cost of American interests. The National Security Council (NSC) would surely be studying developments in the Muslim world — the National Security Advisory Board which is the Council’s think-tank is well placed to do that.

A marked feature of India’s security scenario is the reality that the external and internal threats here have a cause and effect relationship — in spheres of terrorism, insurgency, regional discords, minority-majority conflict and drug trade. To the known mischief of Pakistan is now added the threat to India’s internal stability from the Sino-Pak combine. India has to find ways and means of not letting Pakistan fish in our troubled waters and going all out to pin down agents provocateurs and enemy agents working against our national interests. Administrative outreach to various vulnerable groups must increase and families assured of help in getting any misguided youth back to the social mainstream. In an atmosphere of intense propaganda of ‘moderates’, ‘liberals’ and ‘anti-majoritarianism’ crusaders, it has to be explained to all citizens that Indian democracy is inherently secular as it is built on ‘one man one vote’, ‘development and equal protection of law to all’ and ‘a ruling dispensation that did not carry any denominational stamp’. In a charged security environ, strong domestic governance is the need of the hour.

(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau)

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Jaswant Singh: A soft-spoken former Army officer, astute politician

A soft-spoken man, Jaswant Singh was one of the founding members of BJP and a leading light of the party when Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani helmed it through tumultuous period of Indian politics

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Jaswant Singh

A soft-spoken man, former BJP leader Jaswant Singh was one of the founding members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and a leading light of the party when Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishan Advani helmed it through the tumultuous period of Indian politics. And with his demise, another party stalwart of that era has passed into eternity.

Given that he had retired as a Major-rank officer from the Indian Army, it was no surprise that he was very punctual in his meetings with different people.

The veteran politician passed away at the age of 82 early Sunday morning at the Army Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi following a cardiac arrest.

Even though he was from an Army background, he not only handled the porfolios of defence, but also finance and external affairs in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee governments. He was one of the key Ministers who were in the forefront when Vajpayee’s government was in power at the Centre at different points in time.

Jaswant Singh, who hailed from Rajasthan, first served as the Union Finance Minister in the shortlived Vajpayee government in 1996. He became the External Affairs Minister in the next Vajpayee-led government (1998-2002). Later, he was again given the charge of finance in 2002. The veteran leader was also Deputy Chairman of then Planning Commission at one point in time.

The BJP leader was made the Defence Minister following the resignation of George Fernandes after the latter’s name cropped up in a defence scam.

An astute politician, Jaswant Singh hogged media limelight the world over when he was tasked to hold talks with the Taliban for the release of passengers of an Indian Airlines flight hijacked in December 1999. He even escorted three terrorists, accused of various crimes that included the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, to Afghanistan to swap in lieu of the safe release of 190 passengers.

After the 1998 nuclear tests by India, Jaswant Singh was deputed by then Prime Minister Vajpayee to engage the US in strategic talks.

After the BJP party lost power at the Centre in 2004 to the United Progressive Alliance, Jaswant Singh served as Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha from 2004 to 2009.

The veteran leader stirred a controversy after the BJP suffered its second successive defeat in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections by circulating a note to demand a thorough discussion on the poll debacle.

He again faced a backlash in 2009 from certain quarters after a book authored by him on Pakistan leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah, entitled ‘Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence’ was released. He had written sympathetically about the founder of Pakistan. Later, the BJP leader was marginalised within the party and subsequently expelled.

He was reinducted into the party later on, but parted ways in 2014. Jaswant Singh even contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as an Independent from Barmer in Rajasthan after failing to get a BJP ticket but lost to the party nominee Colonel Sona Ram.

Soon after the general elections in 2014, Jaswant Singh slipped in the bathroom of his residence on August 7 that year, and suffered a serious head injury.

Condoling the death of the veteran leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he served the nation diligently — first as a soldier and later during his long association with politics.

“During Atalji’s government, he handled crucial portfolios and left a strong mark in the worlds of finance, defence, and external affairs. Saddened by his demise,” the Prime Minister said in his message.

“True to his nature, Jaswantji fought his illness with immense courage for the last six years,” Modi said.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that Jaswant Singh would be remembered for his intellectual capabilities and stellar record in service to the nation. “He also played a key role in strengthening the BJP in Rajasthan. Condolences to his family and supporters in this sad hour. Om Shanti,” the Minister said.

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Market Watch – Markets not yet out of the woods

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Sensex Stock Market Update UP and Low

Markets behaved on expected lines and fell on the first four trading days with a sell-off on expiry day. They recovered on Friday the first day of the new futures series which is of five weeks duration. BSESENSEX lost 1,457.16 points or 3.75 per cent to close at 37,388.66 points while NIFTY lost 454.70 points or 3.95 per cent to close at 11,050.25 points. The broader markets saw BSE100, BSE200 and BSE 500 lose 3.98 per cent, 4.14 per cent and 4.24 per cent respectively. BSEMIDCAP lost 4.73 per cent while BSESMALLCAP lost 5.26 per cent. There was panic across the board on Thursday and it was selling by FII’s and liquidation by momentum traders which led to the mayhem. The recovery on Friday was equally sharp and about a third of the losses of four days have been recovered.

The Indian Rupee lost 17 paisa or 0.23 per cent to close at Rs 73.61 to the US Dollar. After a volatile week, Dow Jones closed with losses of 520.46 points or 1.88 per cent at 27,657.42 points.

September series expired with losses of 753.70 points, or 6.52 per cent at 10,805.55 points. This was the lowest closing of NIFTY during the month. On an intra-day basis, the NIFTY on expiry day had touched a low of 10,790.20 points while the low on the BSESENSEX was 36,495.98 points.

The week gone by was about the primary market with three issues opening and closing for subscription and one new listing. Shares of Route Mobile made their debut on Monday and closed at Rs 651.10, a gain of Rs 301.10 or 86.03 per cent. Shares were issued at Rs 350. The striking feature of the day’s trading was the delivery percentage of 97.74 per cent of the non-anchor portion. This effectively means that almost everybody who got allotment of shares, sold on day one. 25 per cent of these shares were bought by two institutional investors and this saw the share gaining further ground to close at Rs 938.60, a gain of Rs 168.17 per cent.

Computer Age Management Services Limited which had tapped the capital markets with its offer for sale saw subscription of 46.99 times. The QIB portion was subscribed 73.18 times, HNI portion subscribed 111.85 times and Retail portion subscribed 46.99 times. The price band was Rs 1229-1230. Shares would list on 1st of October.

The second issue was from Chemcon Speciality Chemicals Limited and shares were issued in a price band of Rs 338-340. The issue was subscribed 149.33 times overall. QIB portion was subscribed 113.54 times, HNI portion 449.14 times while Retail portion was subscribed 41.21 times. This issue would list on Thursday the 1st of October.

The third issue was from Angel Broking Limited and was subscribed 3.94 times overall. Shares were issued in a price band of Rs 305-306. QIB portion was subscribed 5.74 times, HNI portion undersubscribed at 0.69 times and Retail portion subscribed 4.31 times. This issue would list on Monday 5th October.

There are three issues opening next week on Tuesday the 29th of September and closing on Thursday the 1st of October. The first issue is from Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited which is issuing shares in a price band of Rs 135-145. The issue is an offer for sale from the government of India for 3,05,99,017 equity shares. Being a government offer, there would be no anchor allocation. The EPS for the period ended March 2020 was Rs 21.36 and the PE multiple is 6.32 to 6.79. Mazagon Dock is into warships and submarine building and is the only shipyard in India with submarine making capability. There are two other defence PSU listed shipyard companies namely, Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Cochin Shipyard. The issue is very attractively priced and offers ample scope for appreciation. However, allotment would be only by lottery.

The second issue is from UTI Asset Management Company Limited which is through an offer for sale of 3,89,87,081 shares by NSE. The price band is Rs 552.-554. The company had earned an EPS of Rs 21.53 for the year ended March 2020. The PE multiple based on March 2020 numbers is 25.64-25.73. The net asset value or NAV is Rs 212.88 as on 31st March 2020. There are two listed peers for the company, HDFC AMC and Nippon Life India Asset Management Limited. Compared to the peers, the issue is reasonably priced.

The third issue is from Likhitha Infrastructure Limited which is raising capital through a fresh issue of 51 lac shares in a price band of Rs 117-120. The EPS for the year ended March 2020 was Rs 13.59. The PE based on March 2020 is 8.61-8.83. The company is into the business of laying city gas distribution pipes and also product pipeline on a cross country basis. The company has an order book of over Rs 662 crore as of July 2020 and this would be executed over the next 24-30 months. Revenue for the year ended March 2020 was Rs 162 crore. The company gets pipes as a free item for installation from the customer, hence the revenue looks lower than the word ‘infrastructure player’ suggests. Looks an interesting company but the size of the issue and the simultaneous issues from three companies could act as a drag.

Covid-19 saw the world have 330,58,750 patients, 998,747 deaths and 244,11,772 patients recover. In India we had 59,92,532 patients, 94,534 deaths and 49,41,627 people recovering. Compared to the previous week, the world saw 20,65,770 new patients, 37,272 deaths and 18,23,867 patients recovering. In India we saw 5,91,913 new patients, 7,760 deaths and 6,38,58. This is the first time that the number of patients recovering is higher than new patients. This is the first time that the number of patients recovering is higher than new patients.

Coming to the markets, we saw the anticipated correction pan out and the price damage that it led to. We are not yet out of the woods and it would be fair to assume that after a continuation of the current one-day old rally which could last for a further day or two, expect the correction downwards to continue. While lows made on Thursday of 36,495 on BSESENSEX and 10,790 on NIFTY would act as immediate supports, the breaking of these levels could bring a sharper and swifter correction. Use rallies to sell and sharp dips to buy. Refrain from having overnight positions. The week has a trading holiday on Friday and that would bring a sharp reduction in positions on Thursday closing as we have a three-day holiday thereafter. The two new listings on Thursday would keep markets buoyant and engrossed on the last day of the week. Trade cautiously.

(Arun Kejriwal is the founder of Kejriwal Research and Investment Services. The views expressed are personal)

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Sad state of Yamuna pains green warriors – World Rivers Day

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Yamuna World Rivers Day

River lovers and green activists in Agra on Sunday celebrated the World Rivers Day, at the Etmauddaula view-point park, by cleaning up a stretch of Yamuna bank and taking out a rally to demand a comprehensive National Rivers policy along with constitution of a Central Rivers Authority to manage major rivers of India.

Eminent environmentalist and member of the River Connect Campaign, Devashish Bhattacharya said “the world rivers day commemorates the many values of rivers and encourages river stewardship and conservational efforts around the world. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic public participation in the annual event was restricted, but small groups joined river front activities and through web-seminars highlighted the pathetic plight of most rivers in India”.

In fact the pandemic had underlined the important contribution of healthy rivers to our well-being, he added.

“Most rivers are facing increasing pressures associated with climate change, industrial pollution, fallouts of haphazard urbanization and population explosion. Even after seven decades of Independence India does not have a clear road map or a national rivers policy, resulting in protracted wrangling among states over water-sharing and maintenance of waterways,” Pramod Gautam, chairman of the Vedic Sutram, after the Yamuna March, told IANS.

This year’s theme is “waterways in our communities” to stress on the need for protecting and conserving urban waterways.

“The importance of clean fresh water is essential to the fight against Covid-19 so World Rivers Day is a timely opportunity for literally millions of people around the world to come together to commemorate the importance of healthy vibrant waterways,” said Mark Angelo, the founder and Chair of World Rivers Day, in his message to the river activists.

“Rivers are integral to all life,” said Angelo, who has paddled more than 1,000 rivers in over 100 countries, perhaps more than any other. Angelo’s life-long commitment to river conservation, including the founding of World Rivers Day, is also the subject of the upcoming feature length film, “Last Paddle: 1,000 Rivers, One Life”.

In the Braj Mandal, the River Connect Campaign has been actively involved in conservational efforts to save Yamuna river from further degradation.

“Though the river Yamuna is considered sacred, being the beloved consort of Sri Krishna, the Brijbasis are pained to see the river choking to death due to pollution by industries and civic bodies that seem to have no control over sewage discharge,” said Jagan Nath Poddar, convener of Friends of Vrindavan.

Rivers are our life-lines and our future is intricately linked to the health of our holy rivers, added Vrindavan green activist Madhu Mangal.

Pandit Jugal Kishor Shrotriya, Mahant of daily Yamuna Arti in Agra, reminded Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkiri of his oft-repeated promise to start ferry service in Yamuna between Delhi and Agra.

The Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society vice president Shravan Kumar Singh said there was an urgent need to construct a barrage on Yamuna downstream of the Taj Mahal, so that these magnificent Mughal monuments are not harmed by air and water pollution.

The Yogi Adityanath government should have focused more on saving rivers in Uttar Pradesh through dredging and desilting than prioritizing the Film City project in Greater Noida, added Surendra Sharma, founder president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association.

Sharma pointed out that the local administration had failed to activate the River Police squad, shift dhobis and ban cattle grazing in the Yamuna.

“Though the district administration had declared Agra ODF (open defecation free) people were still going to the river bed to answer nature’s calls, a sight that is a real putoff early in the morning,” activist Rahul Raj said.

“The upstream cities and barrages have to ensure a minimum flow in the river round the year to save a dying river and protect aqua life,” River Connect Campaign activist Padmini Iyer said.

“Haryana is drawing all the water of the Yamuna river, what little is left is consumed by Delhi. Uttar Pradesh does not get its share of water as was promised in the 1994 river water sharing agreement among UP, Haryana, Rajasthan, signed by then Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.

By: Brij Khandelwal

(can be contacted at [email protected])

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