India government, governance, international relations

Written by  //  February 19, 2024  //  India  //  No comments

Vital for India to realise maritime potential
National policy is still a work in progress, while SAGAR remains an aspirational vision
C Uday Bhaskar
The government that will assume office in mid-2024 would be well-advised to review the maritime domain in a holistic manner, address the policy lacunae and allocate appropriate resources so that India can realise its untapped maritime potential. ‘Milan 2024’ can serve as a catalyst for achieving this goal
MARITIME matters are the flavour of the month both for India and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). ‘Milan 2024’ kicks off today in Visakhapatnam, headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command. Over 50 navies will take part in a nine-day-long series of activities — both in harbour and at sea. While 20 navies will send their ships for multilateral exercises seeking to enhance camaraderie and show-the-flag bonhomie, other nations will participate in the ‘milan’ (meeting) ashore.
The seventh Indian Ocean Conference was held in Perth, Australia on February 9-10. Its theme was ‘Towards a Stable and Sustainable Indian Ocean’. The keynote addresses were delivered by India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Australian counterpart Penny Wong.
The recent attacks on merchant shipping in the north Arabian Sea by Yemen-based Houthis, a non-state rebel group, and a mini resurgence of piracy off the east coast of Africa have again drawn attention to the centrality of a safe and stable maritime environment for global trade and commerce. While there was disruption to merchant shipping using the Suez canal route from Europe, the Indian Navy, despite its modest profile, was able to provide timely assistance to endangered merchant ships in the western Indian Ocean.

31 January
Hunger is India’s ‘biggest problem’ — one of the world’s largest food producers leaves millions hungry
Rice, wheat, milk and sugarcane — India is among the largest producers of these agricultural commodities, yet millions are still starving in the world’s most populous country.
“Hunger is the biggest problem in India,” a representative of global agribusiness Bunge told CNBC on the sidelines of the Commodity Trading Week held in Singapore.
“There’s still [millions] of people that are hungry. They are still not getting the food they want. If they are getting the food, it’s not nutritious,” said Amit Sharma, Bunge’s global trade execution team leader.
A big part of the problem lies with logistical setbacks.
“The only reason is because there is no supply chain. No one talks about the supply chain. No one talks about the logistics,” said Sharma.

30 January
C Uday Bhaskar: An article by my wife Ira ….may be of interest…..
Today is Jan 30th….. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on this day in 1948
The Ram Rajya Being Imagined Is Certainly Not That of Gandhi’s
Ira Bhaskar
As a devout Ram bhakt, Gandhi’s idea of Ram and of Ram Rajya was a completely different one from the exclusionist and majoritarian Hindutva one that we see in circulation today.
Suhas Palshikar has written very eloquently and poignantly of “our collective entry into an era of erasures” with the inauguration of the new Ram temple in Ayodhya on January 22. He discusses three such erasures that the thronging crowds at the temple and the mass hysteria of the moment have no time for.
The first erasure, on the foundations of which the new Ram temple has been inaugurated, is that of plurality – both of the multiple Ram traditions that enriched India as well as the plurality of religious and spiritual traditions that constitute India as well as Hinduism.
The second erasure is that of the constitutional legitimacy, history, reality and the dream of coexistence.
And the third erasure is that of the “collective amnesia” of December 6, 1992, of the criminal destruction of the Babri Masjid, which the Supreme Court also admitted in its judgement on the Ayodhya dispute while handing over the land on which the mosque stood to the Ram Janmabhoomi trust for the building of a new Ram temple.
22 January
Narendra Modi inaugurates Hindu temple on site of demolished mosque
(The Guardian) India’s prime minister inaugurated a new temple at the site of a demolished 16th-century mosque that was torn down by a mob of Hindu nationalists. Babri Masjid was destroyed in 1992 during a rampage that killed 17 people in the city of Ayodhya. The new Ram Mandir temple was built atop the ruins of the old mosque, where some Hindus believe Lord Ram, a popular deity, was born. The event on Monday drew 8,000 guests including celebrities but also forced members of the local Muslim community to relive old traumas
Assassination of Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the spiritual leader known as the “Great Soul of India” and champion of the Indian movement for independence, was assassinated on January 30, 1948, at the age of 78. Gunned down in New Delhi during a prayer vigil by Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s civil disobedience tactics went on to inspire civil rights leaders worldwide.

8-10 January
C Uday Bhaskar: From Myanmar to Pakistan, India’s possible security challenges in 2024
Conflicts in the past two years, whether Ukraine-Russia or Hamas-Israel, illustrate the necessity of anticipating out-of-the-box security exigencies
The last two years are too recent to be consigned to “history” but some of the most significant punctuations of 2022 and 2023 in the strategic domain could be extrapolated to the composite Indian national security challenge in the year ahead.

Litmus test for India’s politico-diplomatic acumen
India is aspiring to be counted among the great powers, but this can’t be realised if its military capability remains dependent on external infusion.
C Uday Bhaskar
INDIA has entered 2024 with heady optimism, given the achievements in the first week of January. Aditya-L1 moved into the halo orbit to study the sun, while the Navy conducted a dramatic anti-piracy operation in the north Arabian Sea that enhanced India’s credibility as a prompt security provider in the Indian Ocean Region.
However, some potentially significant developments in major power relations that unfolded towards the end of last year could impact the global and regional strategic framework. This, in turn, could transmute into complex headwinds that could prove challenging and test some of the broad assumptions about India’s profile and core capabilities to safeguard its strategic interests.
India’s foreign policy orientation was broadly assumed to be one that was drawing the country closer to Washington and that it was slowly distancing itself from Moscow — more so since New Delhi maintained a calibrated neutrality over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The subtext here is the stark reality that India remains dependent on both Russia and the US for a greater part of its military inventory and this limits Delhi’s ability to exert meaningful strategic autonomy — more so when it has to contend with an assertive China.

2023

14 December
Memo shows Modi government planned ‘crackdown’
Stephen Maher
(GZERO media) The Indian government allegedly directed its officials to launch a “sophisticated crackdown scheme” on overseas Sikh activists just two months before the assassination of a Sikh Canadian activist. … The memo instructs officials at its consulates to cooperate with Indian intelligence agencies to act against Sikh activists. A US indictment unsealed last month linked murder plots in both Canada and the United States to an unnamed Indian government official.

8 December
The Mystery of India’s Assassination Plots
Why Would New Delhi Risk So Much for So Little?
By Hartosh Singh Bal
(Foreign Affairs) …to understand the assassinations, one must understand the ideological project Modi champions—and how Sikhs make it more difficult. The Indian prime minister wants to create a Hindu nation where Christians and Muslims are not equal citizens (or citizens whatsoever), and so he expects opposition from both these communities. But Hindu nationalists believe that Sikhism is a branch of Hinduism, not a separate faith, and so they expect Sikhs will support them.
These nationalists are therefore surprised when Sikhs oppose their policies and vote against their candidates. They also find Sikh opposition more difficult to overcome. When Sikhs protest Modi’s policies, the Indian government cannot simply dismiss the demonstrators as foreign agents, as it does with Muslims. It has to listen.
To deal with this cognitive dissonance, New Delhi has invoked the insurgency that once afflicted Punjab, arguing that Indian Sikhs are being duped by separatists active abroad into opposing the government’s policies. But this invocation has had tangible consequences. Once the state declares that separatists abroad are a serious threat, then it must act as if this were really the case. If the U.S. and Canadian allegations are true, the assassination attempts are the result of this process. They suggest that New Delhi has come to believe its own propaganda.

5 December
The Economist asks Will US-Indian relations be hurt by India’s assassination scheme?
American prosecutors have published devastating allegations about India’s attempted hit jobs
It is a plot worthy of John le Carré. A shadowy figure in India recruits an international arms and drugs smuggler to organise a hit-job in New York. The smuggler recruits an assassin. The assassin turns out to work for America’s Drug Enforcement Administration. The man behind the foiled plot? An Indian government official.
The indictment America’s Justice Department unveiled on November 29th is an astonishing read. It lays out in bracing detail an alleged plot by an Indian official to kill Sikh activists in America (unsuccessfully) and Canada (successfully). It also describes American spies’ equally gripping ruse to foil the plot. This brings to a head a month-long diplomatic scandal over India’s alleged hitman schemes in North America, which began after Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, first raised them in that country’s parliament. The indictment has made India’s earlier denials ring hollow. It will also put stress on the improving relationship between India and the West, on intelligence co-operation in particular.
Senior US official visits India, discusses alleged plot to kill Sikh separatist
U.S. officials have named the target of the attempted murder as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Sikh separatist and dual citizen of the United States and Canada.
In response, India expressed concern about one of its government officials being linked to the plot, from which it dissociated itself, as being against government policy.

4 December
India’s Modi seen unstoppable after surprise state polls sweep
(Reuters) – India’s opposition faces a “herculean task” in next year’s general elections against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which wrested control of key states in a surprisingly strong showing in local polls.
The defeat of Congress in all three heartland states, which was announced on Sunday, dashed any notion that the opposition could pose a serious challenge through a newly formed 28-party alliance led by the party that has ruled India for 54 years since independence from Britain, analysts and politicians said.

29 November-1 December
Why a murder plot will not turn the US away from India
By Simon Lewis, David Brunnstrom and Trevor Hunnicutt
(Reuters) – A brazen murder-for-hire plot against a U.S. citizen, which authorities say was directed by an Indian government official, outwardly seems like a development that could upend the fragile new U.S.-India partnership.
But the countries – each eager for an ally to counterbalance a rising China – appear ready to try to look past the assassination attempt detailed in an U.S. indictment released on Wednesday.
From India, a plot was allegedly hatched to murder an American. Now what?
(WaPo) Mr. Modi must address the charges that — before, during and after his trip — an Indian government employee plotted to assassinate a Sikh separatist and American citizen on U.S. soil.
The conspiracy, described in an indictment [U.S. v. Gupta Indictment] unsealed Wednesday, appears to be one of the most egregious recent examples of transnational repression — the practice of authoritarian regimes reaching beyond their borders to punish, kidnap or assassinate critics, activists, dissidents and journalists.
Senior Biden administration officials say the target of the plot was Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a U.S. citizen, general counsel for the New York-based Sikhs for Justice, a group that advocates that some or all of Punjab province in northern India secede and form an independent Sikh state. The chief plotter against him in India, not identified by name, is described in the indictment as an Indian government employee, a “Senior Field Officer” with responsibilities in “Security Management” and “Intelligence.”
Alleged assassination plots in the U.S. and Canada signal a more assertive Indian foreign policy
Authorities in the U.S. said an Indian government official directed a plot to assassinate Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in New York City.
Reeta Tremblay, Adjunct and Professor Emerita, Politics, University of Victoria
(The Conversation) A recent indictment from the United States Department of Justice has alleged an Indian security official was involved in attempting to assassinate a U.S. and Canadian citizen in New York. The alleged target, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, is a leader in the Sikh separatist movement and has been involved in organizing referendums for the establishment of Khalistan, a proposed independent Sikh state in northern India.
The indictment also states that there is a link between the foiled attempt to kill Pannun and the murder of Canadian Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, B.C. earlier this year.
The Indian government said it was investigating the allegations, and had established a committee to “address the security concerns highlighted by the US government.”
U.S. prosecutors allege assassination plot of Sikh separatist directed by Indian government employee

21 November
Secret Intelligence Documents Show Global Reach of India’s Death Squads
Leaked Pakistani intelligence backs up Canada’s claim of an Indian assassination program.
(The Intercept) The Indian government’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, or RAW, has been planning assassinations targeting Sikh and Kashmiri activists living in foreign countries, according to secret Pakistani intelligence assessments leaked to The Intercept.
The documents offer compelling substantiation for the sensational claim that India has been carrying out a transnational assassination program against its political enemies.

26 September
Ashoka Mody, Visiting Professor of International Economic Policy at Princeton University and the author of India Is Broken: A People Betrayed, Independence to Today.
Project Syndicate: Much of your recent work exposes the cracks in the foundations of India’s economy – cracks that the government is taking great pains to cover up. Such “brazen unaccountability,” you say, is “corroding Indian politics and society,” and you examine its roots in your new book. What has contributed to the erosion of accountability in India, and where are the historical milestones of this decline to be found?
AM: …from small beginnings the lack of accountability in India’s government became increasingly pervasive. By the end of Jawaharlal Nehru’s tenure, corruption had spread to the lower judiciary. Then Indira Gandhi dealt a body blow to all norms of accountability; besides being personally corrupt, she injected criminals into politics. The economic liberalization of the 1990s, which glorified hyper-individualism, further eroded civic consciousness, social norms, and public accountability.Now, the lack of accountability is deeply entrenched in India’s government, to the point that it would be virtually impossible to reverse. After all, if politicians are unaccountable, they are not going to impose accountability on themselves.
… PS: While you dismiss the “Indian century” that many envision as a fantasy, you conclude your book with a “feasible idealism” about India’s prospects. What is the best-case scenario for India over the next decade or two, and how likely is India to achieve it?
AM: India’s best hope is for grassroots movements to mobilize local communities to restore accountability and establish a basis for the provision of local public goods. But international experience suggests that grassroots movements tend to remain limited – in terms of both the scope of their activities and the scale of their achievements – unless they are given a framework and the opportunity to scale up. Here, official institutional and administrative arrangements are essential.Experience in the southwest state of Kerala shows how productive synergy between grassroots movements and local administrations can be. The big unanswered question is why other Indian states have not attempted to replicate this success. In fact, far from serving as an exemplar for the rest of India, Kerala is at risk of becoming infected by the country’s pathologies.

22 September
Nicholas Kristof: A Murder, a Diplomatic Dust-Up and the Risk of Impunity
On Father’s Day this year, two heavyset men were loitering near a Sikh temple in British Columbia. Then the president of the temple, a Canadian citizen and an activist named Hardeep Singh Nijjar, stepped out and climbed into his pickup truck to drive home for dinner with his family.
The two waiting men, wearing masks, fired through Nijjar’s window about a dozen times. Temple members bravely ran after the gunmen, who escaped in a getaway car driven by a third man.
Now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada has publicly asserted that the Indian government may be responsible for murdering Nijjar — an explosive allegation that, if found to be true, should be a warning to Western countries in their dealings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his increasingly authoritarian government. India denies the accusation and calls it “absurd.”
In his initial statement, Trudeau was cautious and spoke of “credible allegations of a potential link” between the murder and the Indian government. But in a visit to The New York Times on Thursday, Trudeau seemed completely confident that the Indian government had been involved.

15 September
From Non-Alignment to Realignment
Akhil Ramesh, Pacific Forum and Cleo Paskal, Non-Resident Senior Fellow
(FDD) The US and India expanded cooperation across various domains in the second reporting period of 2023. The two moved to materialize projects and initiatives that were conceived in the first quarter, in wide-ranging domains with significant geopolitical and geoeconomic scope including defense cooperation, critical and emerging technologies, and infrastructure development. While New Delhi continued to straddle groupings such as BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the US-India partnership broke ground on more initiatives than any of India’s other bilateral relationships. Modi and Biden visited each other’s capitals and reaffirmed their commitment to a rules-based international order. The rousing reception Modi received in Washington and the continued US preeminence in most major trade and technology initiatives conceived by India highlighted the growing partnership between the two democracies. And the two leaders, while facing elections next year, seem willing to work together on common global priorities—sometimes at domestic political costs.
Also, while taking place outside the May-August reporting period, the enormous groundwork Delhi laid over the summer (and earlier), plus the absence of Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, transformed the G20 meeting that took place in September into an event that showcased India’s leadership in finding common ground between the priorities of the Global South and the US. The result was potentially transformative geoeconomic initiatives that could reshape geopolitics, and encourage, for example, the conditions necessary for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. This wasn’t the India of nonalignment; this was an India shaping a realignment, with tacit US support.

12 September
India in the world after the G-20 summit (Podcast and transcript)
(Brookings) To assess highlights from the summit and India’s global role moving forward, Tanvi Madan, senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at Brookings, joins the program. Madan is host of the new Global India podcast, debuting this month from the Brookings Podcast Network.

11 September
Delhi Declaration at G20 Summit: India’s Strategic Sixer Amid a Global Catch-22
C Uday Bhaskar
For India, the challenge is to walk the talk for its domestic population & deliver on the human-centric objectives.
Despite the mounting anxiety and a speculative debate that the G20 summit being hosted by India in Delhi on 9-10 September would not lead to a consensual joint statement, the opening session on Saturday – Day One – had a very pleasant and unexpected surprise.
Devoid of any preparation, the host PM Narendra Modi looked down at a message conveyed to him and announced: “Friends, we have just got good news. With the hard work of our teams, and with the cooperation of you all, there is consensus on the New Delhi G20 Summit Leaders Declaration.”
… The satisfaction for India lies in both the form and content of the Delhi G20 summit.
It was spectacular in its conduct and visual content; ambitious in scope; and substantive in outcomes; and the summit succeeded – despite the last-minute anxiety in reinvigorating multilateralism that has become increasingly frayed in recent years.
For India, the challenge will be to walk the talk for its own domestic population and deliver on the human-centric objectives of the DD. Even while aspiring to be among the world’s top GDP nations, India has the lowest per capita income among the G20 nations and this is an indicator that needs to be progressively improved.

7-8 September
G20 Summit: Despite India framing and conducting an energetic presidency, a joint statement is proving elusive
C Uday Bhaskar
India has the satisfaction of imbuing G20 with purpose and direction through the wide focus on developmental issues and providing a forum for inclusive political dialogue.
… In the past ten months, almost 200 meetings among officials and domain experts of the G20 and at ministerial level have been held in different parts of India to discuss a wide range of development issues relevant to human security. This is unprecedented in the history of the G20 and India has been commended for the wide net it has cast.
Given the scale of global developmental challenges whose equitable management warrants detailed and empathetic dialogue between the developed and developing parts of the world, India has used its chairmanship of the G20 to imbue the global dialogue with purpose and directivity – but clearly there are many geo-political challenges that remain intractable.
The G-20 summit is a huge global branding exercise for Modi’s India
(WaPo) For New Delhi, this week’s upcoming Group of 20 summit offers a chance for a global rebrand. The government may be planning to do so literally: Some G-20 invitations sent out by the host were signed not by the “President of India,” but rather the “President of Bharat” — a Sanskrit and Hindi word favored by the ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
But more broadly, under Indian leader Narendra Modi, the typically staid diplomatic summit…is likely to be a full pomp affair.
Ahead of the event, the prime minister’s face has been plastered on billboards around the country. The message is simple: By hosting the world’s top leaders, India has arrived as a world power, with Modi as the person who took the country there. (The truth is a tad less impressive: The G-20 has a year-long rotating presidency; Indonesia was last year’s host.)
Certainly, India is hosting the event at a fortuitous time. Last year, it overtook its neighboring giant, China, to become the world’s most populous nation, according to estimates from the United Nations. Its future looks comparatively brighter, too: India’s population is far younger than China’s, and the government expects its economy to grow by 7 percent this year — besting China. Under Modi, the country’s ambitions are becoming loftier: India last month succeeded in becoming the first nation to land a spacecraft on the moon’s south pole.
5 September
Calling India names
(GZERO media) What is the name of the country of India? This may sound like the windup to a “what color was George Washington’s white horse?” type of joke, but the issue came up on Tuesday when the Indian government sent out invites for a dinner at the G20 summit, which it is hosting later this week.
The save-the-dates referred to India as “Bharat,” the Hindi name for the country.
Many Hindu nationalists — including members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the RSS, an ultranationalist Hindu organization — want to officially drop the British-imposed “India” in favor of “Bharat,” in order to celebrate the country’s Hindu heritage.
But opposition leaders and other critics say that giving the country an explicitly Hindu name would clash with the Indian state’s secular identity and insult the hundreds of millions of people in the country who aren’t actually Hindus.
Since coming to power in 2017, PM Narendra Modi – who became a member of the RSS as a child – has been criticized for a number of policies that have discriminated against India’s/Bharat’s 200 million Muslims in particular.
Was the G20 invitation a trial balloon? Amid increasing calls from his allies to rename the country in international forums as “Bharat,” keep an eye on whether Modi’s government officially moves to make the change.

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