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National security: India needs to nurture indigenous-technology driven policy focus

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Nirbhay Missile on Rajpath during Republic Day Parade 2018, in New Delhi Jan 26, 2018)
Nirbhay Missile on Rajpath during Republic Day Parade 2018, in New Delhi Jan 26, 2018

IANS: India’s overall financial outlay in the national budget offers some instructive insights about the constraints and the opportunities in which national security, in its most comprehensive definition, is pursued at the policy level.

A brief comparison with the allocation announced on February 1 by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley illuminates certain trends, particularly the steady increase in the revenue/manpower costs and the resultant shrinkage of funds available for modernising the inventory of the Indian military.

The budgeted estimate for 2018-19 for defence is pegged at Rs 2,95,511 crore ($46 billion) (for the armed forces, the DRDO and the defence production units) and a separate allocation of Rs 1,08,853 crore has been made for defence pensions.

The disaggregation points to an increase in the revenue component (standing costs for a one million-plus military) which for the current fiscal is Rs 1,95,947 crore, while the capital expenditure (for acquisition/modernisation of inventory) has a provision of Rs 99,564 crore. The fact that the overall pension bill in 2018-19 (which includes retired uniformed and civilian personnel) is now greater than the capital outlay is illustrative of the constraints of competing sector-wise allocation of a shrinking defence pie in the larger national context.

Republic Day Parade 2018 - SU-30 MKI fighter planes

New Delhi: Three SU-30 MKI fighter planes flypast Rajpath during Republic Day Parade 2018 in New Delhi, on Jan 26, 2018. (Photo: IANS/PIB)

To its credit, the Modi government has maintained the sanctity of the pension commitment for all government employees so entitled; and while certain inequities are yet to be resolved for the military pensioner, the number of uniformed veterans will increase annually and this allocation will have to be accorded its own fiscal autonomy.

The total defence allocation minus pensions now work out to 1.58 percent of estimated GDP for 2018-19 and this is the second trend that is noteworthy. Over the last decade, from 2009-10 to 2017-18, the defence allocation as a percentage of GDP has declined from 2.19 to 1.65 percent. This now stands at 1.58 percent. It appears that successive governments have come to a determination that defence allocation can be gradually reduced without adverse impact on the national interest.

Consequently, the fiscal support to the training, modernisation and inventory-acquisition of the armed forces will become even more constrained due to fiscal pressure and the fallout of this be felt on the operational profile of the Indian military.

New Delhi: The Indian Air Force Marching Contingent on Rajpath during Republic Day Parade 2018

New Delhi: The Indian Air Force Marching Contingent on Rajpath during Republic Day Parade 2018 in New Delhi Jan 26, 2018. (Photo: IANS/PIB)

The comparison with the previous year’s allocation sheds more light on the national security dilemma for India. In the last budget presented in February 2017, the Finance Minister allocated Rs 2,42,403 crore for defence in the fiscal 2017-18. With the pension amount added, this total went up to Rs 3,59,854 crore for defence alone. The comparable figure for this year, fiscal 2018-19, is Rs.4,04,364 crore ($63 billion).

This is not an insignificant amount in a country where poverty is stark and millions live below or hover near the subsistence level. However, many anomalies abound as far as the Indian security profile is concerned. For a nation that can legitimately take pride in its indigenous capability at the macro end of the spectrum (nuclear weapons, missiles, nuclear submarines and satellites), it is woefully deficient at the middle and lower end of the military inventory spectrum.

The just-concluded Republic Day parade on January 26 illustrated this in a vivid manner. Most of the platforms and ordnance delivering guns are of foreign origin — from Russia in the main. The majority of India’s tanks, ships and fighter aircraft are of ex-Soviet (now Russian) design and while some have been assembled in India, the reality is that India is yet to acquire the appropriate levels of design and manufacture even for basic inventory like personal weapons (rifles and pistols) and artillery guns.

In similar vein, India has been pursuing fighter aircraft and helicopters with limited success. The Indian LCA (light combat aircraft) Tejas has been a work in progress for decades and while the first flight took place in January 2001, the aircraft is yet to be proven in a manner that will meet all the requirements of the users.

There are some encouraging signs and one success story was on display at the parade — the Rudra helicopter. Envisaged as an attack helicopter, it is derived from the Dhruv and was proudly showcased. However, this chopper is still a work in progress and needs to be pursued diligently to meet all the specifications initially outlined.

BSF Camel Contingent marches on Rajpath during Republic Day Parade 2018

New Delhi: BSF Camel Contingent marches on Rajpath during Republic Day Parade 2018 in New Delhi Jan 26, 2018. (Photo: IANS/PIB)

The opportunity that lies ahead is the possibility of India slowly acquiring a degree of credibility in designing and manufacturing conventional military equipment at the middle and lower end of the spectrum. Many developing nations have evinced interest in the Indian helicopters and some were exported to Latin America — but the satisfaction level has been below the median.

The just-concluded India-ASEAN summit had some expansive references to security partnership and the maritime domain received considerable focus. India has been seen as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean and various partnerships that add to the common good at sea have been mooted. But all of this will be predicated on the material status of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard and, to cite but one example, the helicopter is the little-noticed work-horse for many operational exigencies — but the helicopter fleet is grossly below what is the bare minimum number required for all the armed forces.

Over the next decade, based on current trends, India will allocate up to $900 billion for national security and, of this, upwards of $200 billion will be spent in acquisition and modernisation of military capacity. The twin focus will be on ‘Make in India’ and redressing inventory gaps. Innovative partnerships that build on niche capability among India’s bilateral partners needs to be explored in an innovative and effective manner.

Funding for defence will remain a constraint, but nurturing an indigenous-technology driven policy focus and enabling the private sector is the need for ensuring the appropriate index of comprehensive national security.

By C. Uday Bhaskar

(C. Uday Bhaskar is Director, Society for Policy Studies. The article is in special arrangement with www.southasiamonitor.org )

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MP bypolls: Kamal Nath’s ‘item’ remark raises political heat

Political observers feel that issues which have nothing to do with the general masses are given a political colour to influence voters, in the absence of discussion on real issues affecting them.

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Kamal Nath

It comes in the wake of “coming from a hungry and ill-clad family” remarks used by another Congress leader Dinesh Gurjar for Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

While campaigning in Dabra segment in Gwalior district on Sunday, Kamal Nath had allegedly called Imarti Devi an ‘item’, making the BJP turn aggressive and trying to derive political mileage from the situation even as the Congress accused BJP of trying to misinterpret certain words.

The process of filing of nominations for the Assembly seats, which will go to polls on November 3, has since been completed and both parties are now in full campaigning mode.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that Kamal Nath’s remark against the Minister was symptomatic of “petty mentality”.

“Imarti Devi is a daughter of a farmer who began doing labour in her village and has since emerged as a public representative in building the nation. First, the Congress called me ‘hungry and ill-clad’ and now she has been called an ‘item’. This shows the feudal mindset of Kamal Nath,” the Chief Minister said.

BJP MP and former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said that “calling a woman coming from a poor labourer family an item and ‘jalebi’ by another Congress leader Ajay Singh was both condemnable and objectionable.

“Kamal Nath’s comments reflect his thinking towards Dalits and women. Similarly, Digvijay Singh had used such remarks against party leader Meenakshi Natarajan.”

BJP state unit President Vishnudatt Sharma too flayed the remarks as “shameful”, particularly against a woman when the country was celebrating Navratras.

“Kamal Nath has insulted the womanhood by calling the Minister an item,” Sharma alleged.

In Lucknow, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati too jumped into the controversy and demanded on Monday that the Congress leadership should issue a public apology for the remark against a Dalit woman.

She said the remark was “objectionable”. “The remarks made by a former Chief Minister against a Dalit woman candidate in Dabra (Reserve) Assembly segment is highly shameful and needs to be condemned. The Congress leadership should take note and issue a public apology,” the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister tweeted.

She appealed to the Dalit voters to teach a lesson to the Congress in the by-elections in Madhya Pradesh and vote for her BSP to ensure that such incidents don’t occur in future.

On the other hand, Kamal Nath said the BJP was indulging in a “false propaganda” regarding his remarks.

“I did use the word ‘item’, but it is not an insulting word. I am also an item, you are also an item. In this sense, we all are items. During legislative proceedings, we use words like ‘item numbers’. When the state’s people are in a pathetic condition, the BJP instead of wiping their tears is making an issue out of consumption of a beverage by me. Is it a public issue? Are the people’s lives connected with this?” the Congress leader and former Chief Minister remarked.

Political observers feel that issues which have nothing to do with the general masses are given a political colour to influence voters, in the absence of discussion on real issues affecting them.

The BJP will not let go of the chance to use the ‘hungry and ill-clad’ and ‘item’ remarks to its advantage by making these as ‘rich vs poor’ and ‘Dalit’ and ‘women’ issues ahead of the by-elections.

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Old hand, trusted by both Rahul, Ahmed Patel, is Congress choice for Bihar

Shaktisinh Gohil has his task cut out as party in-charge for state, but there are many reasons he may be the man for the job.

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Rahul-Gandhi_Ahmed-Patel

Shaktisinh Gohil may seem an odd choice as the Congress in-charge of Bihar, particularly given the uphill battle the party faces in a state where it has been now out of power since 1990. However, there are two things that make the 60-year-old uniquely placed for the job: the fact that he is a veteran of many political battles against Narendra Modi-led BJP in native Gujarat; and that he is among the few Congress leaders considered close to both Ahmed Patel and Rahul Gandhi.

In his over three-decade political career, it is the first time Gohil will be overseeing a state election as an AICC pointsman. His hand is seen in the hard bargaining by the Congress to secure 70 seats in the Mahagathbandhan, a huge jump from the 41 the party had contested in Bihar in 2015.

A veteran in Gujarat politics, Gohil first entered the national stage in 2014, when he was made a Congress spokesperson. He was elevated as in-charge of Bihar in 2018, given additional charge of Delhi earlier this year, and made a Rajya Sabha MP in June this year.

Often described as Ahmed Patel’s “right-hand man”, Gohil was the Congress veteran’s poll agent in the closely fought 2017 Rajya Sabha election that Patel had won, outmanoeuvring the BJP.

Gohil started his political career in the early 1980s while still in college. In the mid-1980s, as Youth Congress office-bearer, he had been spotted by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi at a national function.

He won the Bhavnagar South Assembly seat in Gujarat at the age of 30 in 1990, and became the minister of state for health at the age of 32 under Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel. He was then the youngest minister in Gujarat’s history.

Two years later though, Gohil took everyone by surprise by resigning over the demand for a medical college for Bhavnagar. The medical college was allocated eventually and Gohil won the seat again in 1995.

Gohil did not contest the 1998 election and lost the one in 2002 that marked Modi’s first electoral win. In the next election in 2007, he returned to the Assembly from Bhavnagar and was made the Leader of the Opposition, emerging as one of the most vocal critics of Modi. However, Gohil lost the 2012 Assembly elections, and while he eventually returned to the Assembly in a by-election from the Abdasa constituency, in the 2017 polls too he couldn’t win. Since then, Gohil has been focusing on national politics.

The Congress veteran had wanted the Grand Alliance in Bihar to be broad-based, involving parties like Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), Mukesh Sahani’s Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) and the Left, but could not convince RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav about the utility of the RLSP and VIP.

However, he managed to bring the CPI, CPM and CPI (M-L) into the fold.

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Meet the ‘Hero of Baramulla’ who conned Pakistan

While Sherwani had to pay with his life after his bluff was caught; he had refused to say, ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ till the very end.

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Maqbool Sherwani

New Delhi, Oct 18 : An event of patriotism from erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 has been given a fresh lease of life. The Union Ministry of Culture has thrown its weight behind the story of October 22, 1947 in its pursuit to mainstream the events of that day that could have altered Kashmir, as we know today.

The Ministry has decided to hold a National Symposium and virtual exhibition on Maqbool Sherwani, a fellow Kashmiri who halted the marching Pakistan-backed tribal militia towards Srinagar.

While Sherwani might have given the Indian Army adequate time to send reinforcements, he had to pay with his own life.

Now, the Narendra Modi-led Central government wants to publicise and mainstream this tale of selfless sacrifice and utter heroism that is starkly opposite to the attempted narrative by Pakistan and certain elements within the valley that Kashmiris want freedom.

The ministry is hailing him as the ‘Hero of Baramulla’.

Prof Amitabh Mattoo will virtually join the symposium themed on “Martyr Maqbool Sherwani: Memory, myth and Imagination”. The Centre organised symposium is also scheduled to take place the same day, Sherwani flaunted his passion for the country- 22nd October. The event is likely to be beamed live on all social media handles of the ministry — Twitter, Youtube, Facebook and Instagram.

“The bravery and subsequent martyrdom of Maqbool Sherwani in 1947 and the story of his role during the Pakistan-backed invasion of Kashmir needs to be mainstreamed throughout India,” says Mattoo.

Sherwani, then a 19-year-old National Conference worker, has been credited with single-handedly stalling the advance of the tribal invaders to Srinagar.

“He managed the feat by telling the invaders that Indian Army was camping outside Baramulla and that a move towards Srinagar would be their undoing. The enemy froze in its tracks before the Indian reinforcement had reached Srinagar. Many say that the outcome of the war would have been different had invaders reached Srinagar before the Indian Army,” reads an e-poster by the Union Ministry of Culture created for the event that will be used to generate interest, in the coming few days over social media.

While Sherwani had to pay with his life after his bluff was caught; he had refused to say, ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ till the very end.

His body was nailed on a wooden plank and left. Now, this heroic story will be disseminated to today’s generation of India and more so to those in the valley, many of whom may not be aware of such an event that could have altered history.

The Culture Ministry has also prepared a 53 second long audio video clip that will be teased over social media to create a buzz and generate interest in him and the significance of the date.

(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at [email protected])

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