India-Afghanistan ties – The way ahead | RSTV

Introduction –
In his first prime-time televised address as the US Commander-in-Chief, President Trump announced his Afghanistan policy, wherein he pledged an increase in American troops and military degradation of Taliban in the future. He sought an enhanced role for India in bringing peace in Afghanistan as he ruled out hasty withdrawal of American troops. President Trump also issued the sternest warning yet by an American leader to Pakistan for providing safe havens to terrorists.
Radical policy shift –
This can be seen as a radical departure from the previous policy of the United States on Afghanistan. This fact can be substantiated by two arguments. First, this policy is unambiguously focused on degrading the Taliban militarily. Secondly, he has not yet closed the doors of political dialogue with Taliban in future. Mincing no words, he confirmed that the primary interest will remain degradation of Taliban which superimposes itself on the secondary interest. In the past, the western alliance had shown sensitivity to Pakistan’s objections to India’s role in Afghanistan. But this time, to cater to his primary objective, President Trump had to verbally target the safe haven of terrorism in the region i.e. Pakistan, for giving shelter and support to the terrorists. Similarly, he unequivocally supported India’s constructive role in Afghanistan to rebuild the war-torn country. Therefore, this shift in approach is definitely a radical departure from the past.
Chinese woes –
President Trump did not mention China’s role in Afghanistan despite it being a significant stakeholder in the region. This has definitely irked China which is evident by the way the Chinese Foreign Ministry defended Pakistan’s ‘constructive’ role in Afghanistan. To digress a little, it is not a secret anymore that China was interested in exploiting the mineral resources of Afghanistan, so it was pushing Pakistan to increase the presence of Taliban in the region so that it can work behind the evil shadows of Pakistan to pursue its economic objectives.
India-Afghanistan ties –
America wants India to work more constructively in rebuilding the post-war Afghanistan. India is already the largest aid donor to Afghanistan in the region and second largest export destination for Afghanistan. It has built dams, power projects, roads and other linkages to connect Afghanistan with the international lines of communication and transportation. Inviting Afghanistan as a stakeholder to build the Chabahar Port of Iran is a testimony to this fact. Apart from educating and training the Afghan people and their security forces, India has built the Afghan Parliament, which is an epitome of democracy and India’s resolute support in the legitimate Afghan Government. India cannot dictate the priorities of Afghanistan, hence, it responds positively to the demands originating from Afghanistan and tries to fulfil the same in practical limits. Therefore, India is an independent actor in Afghanistan, which itself is an independent and sovereign country. The relationship between the two nations is based on mutual self-interest, ancient ties (as old as Indus Valley Civilisation) and shared affinities. This process of goodwill needs to be carried forward.
Deescalation of US-Pak ties?
President Trump has removed the initial reservations of the United States of offending Pakistan by allowing India to expand its scope of activities in Afghanistan. Hence, we can expect an acceleration in India-Afghanistan cooperation. There might be a substantial discussion to explore more areas of cooperation where India can assist Afghanistan in areas such as rural development, health and education. Similarly, President Trump has begun giving a setback to the unholy coalition of China and Pakistan in the region, which was aiming for a dominating role Afghanistan. By criticising Pakistan and not mentioning China in his speech, he has cleared that America will not allow them a free access in Afghanistan anymore.
Role of Iran –
In the pursuit of peace in Afghanistan, the role of Iran is of paramount importance. Trilateral cooperation between Afghanistan, India and Iran over Chabahar Port for an access route is beneficial to all the countries. This cooperation should not offend any country including the United States because the larger objective of stabilising Afghanistan rests on the premise of a stable relationship between these two neighbours and India. For a landlocked country like Afghanistan, multiple access routes are naturally advantageous in its ambition to secure development for itself and stability in the region.
Conclusion –
Although the ambiguity over troop numbers remains unresolved, it is quite possible that a new alliance with clear civil and military domains is emerging to outvote China-Pakistan axis. President Trump has assumed the military domain to degrade the terrorists, whereas it has suggested India to assume the developmental role in both civilian and military aspects. What is missing from this equation is the role of other regional stakeholders such as Russia who have turned suddenly active in the region to reclaim their perceived lost glory. As the South Asia policy of President Trump would unfurl itself in the near future, more clarity regarding the troop size, engagement with Taliban factions, strikes in Afghanistan-Pakistan border and most importantly, the role of other regional powers such as Russia, Iran and China would get clearer. Optimistic speculations or pessimistic assumptions are not going to benefit Afghanistan today, but a concerted effort to address the aspirations of Afghanistan Government and its people in an atmosphere free from violence and conflict is what we all should hope for the ‘Heart of Asia’.

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Eradication of Poverty | RSTV

In a recent event, Prime Minister Modi set an ambitious target to alleviate poverty from the nation in the coming 5 years. Even after seven long decades of independence, and despite being one of the major world economies, we have about a quarter of our population living under the trap of poverty. Each successive government since Independence, has tried to tackle poverty by making multiple policies. But, it is still far from what is required, for about more than 50% of the labour force working in agricultural sector and a majority of our population being still prevailing under the trap of poverty in rural areas.
Analysis –
EPoverty is defined as the scarcity of a certain level of material possessions or money (< $1.25/day) which also includes socio-economic, and political concepts. Whereas, absolute poverty (as defined by the United Nations) is “a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, such as food, clean drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.”

  • India saw a rapid rise in poverty levels and even famines in 19th and 20th centuries i.e. during the colonial period, whose sole objective was to reduce the country to being a raw material exporter for Britain’s rapid industrialisation. For that purpose, it encouraged conversion of more lands into farms, collection of revenues, introduction of Zamindari system, etc.
  • To make India, a self-reliant and progressive economy in agriculture, efforts such as 5-year plans, land reforms, green revolution were made just after the independence. Though a little progress was made, too much reliance on ‘inward-oriented’ policy, led to the economic recession of 1980s.
  • The economy was forcefully opened up only in the 1990s, and progress in terms of higher GDP growth rate started showing signs. But, this growth was mainly concentrated selected areas such as services sector rather than the agriculture and manufacturing sector. As a result, inequality increased.
  • Contribution of agriculture to national GDP today is less than 20%, even though it provides livelihood security to millions of people in India and quantitatively, we are a major producer of various crops in the world (such as rice, wheat, etc). Therefore, we need to pay adequate attention to the agriculture sector with the state in leadership position so as to provide for improvement in irrigation (India being monsoon-dependent), latest technology (like drip irrigation, modern farm equipment, computer monitoring system), so as to provide for increase in productivity and more investments to meet infrastructure deficiencies in rural areas.
  • Poverty has increased rapidly in urban areas too due to migration of rural population towards urban centres in search of better livelihood opportunities. But these migrants end up being beggars, street vendors, poor casual workers etc. because of the fact that the manufacturing and services sector is unable to absorb them in time due to lack of skills required by the respective sectors.
  • Policies designed for poverty alleviation objective needs to be implemented efficiently and effectively. This may be done through the help of digitalization and e-governance techniques.
  • India is the second most populous country in the world today and we’re projected to be the most populated country by 2022. Hence, overpopulation needs to be controlled at the earliest. More and more jobs need to be created in diverse sectors to reduce the stress of unemployment and prevent our population from poverty trap.
  • Healthcare facilities suffer from low-quality standards, thereby they need to be improved and made cheaper further, as costly healthcare services may also lead a person to slip to below poverty line category in case of a health emergency.
  • Human resource management is to be ramped up through skill upgradation so as to raise them as capitals which can make them employable. Simultaneously we also need to focus on raising avenues to boost entrepreneurship among the population so as to turn them job generators.

Conclusion –
Multiple efforts by the Government were made since 1947 such as development of manufacturing sector, Green revolution for agriculture, LPG reforms of 1991 etc. Yet issues such as healthcare, undernourishment, lack of basic amenities and the rural-urban gap in terms of development continue to haunt Indian society due to the trap of poverty. Therefore, more efforts need to be made to make this wheel of development more inclusive and diversified so that the fruits of development can be reaped by all sections of society and the trap of poverty can be eliminated by root and branch from the Indian society.

States fiscal deficit on the rise | RSTV Debate Summary


Fiscal deficit trends in India have shown a big reversal and the situation is expected to get worse in the future. Comparing it with the earlier trends, states seemed fiscally prudent until about three years ago from now than the Centre. They are now having larger fiscal deficits and facing financial difficulties.
Reasons for higher fiscal deficits
Three key issues raises our fiscal concerns –

  • The wave of farm loan waivers across the states has raised Fiscal deficit further.
  • Interest liabilities of the member states of UDAY Scheme would be a matter of concern.
  • Prohibition of liquor along the highways and bars has affected excise revenues of few States.

Analysis –

  • This vicious cycle of debt continues in the form of more fiscal deficit for States, the more they will have to arrange borrowings from the market.
  • In the age of cooperative federalism, Union Government has acted liberally towards the State Governments in terms of expenditure management and fiscal deficit managment. Most of the times, the quality or pattern of expenditure is not managed properly. In the past the money was spent on capital expenditure and most of the revenue expenditures were taken care by the central schemes and some by the states themselves.
  • As the direction of fiscal deficit is set for the entire year in the beginning, hence, there is not much left to manoeuver in the middle of the financial year as a particular borrowing pattern has already been decided by the states. Until the next Finance Commission reorganizes the finances of states, the situation seems very unlikely to change or get better.
  • GST impact will now start showing up. Hence, the states will have to be very cautious about keeping their fiscal space in order to manage their fiscal deficit figures. As the states are borrowing more, the banking and insurance sector will be dipping into this lending pool more and ultimately reach the brink of collapsing under the burden of bad debts.
  • Similarly, the corporate bond market might face hardening of rates because a state paper with a sovereign guarantee (UDAY bond) seems much more attractive for the investors like banking and insurance companies to dip into than other offerings.
  • There is a strong possibility of crowding out of private borrowings from the market due to scavenging of resources by public borrowings to meet financial targets. This vicious cycle once started would force the private sector to offer higher rate of interests to stay competitive in the market. This would adversely affect the overall economy.
  • When the Seventh Pay Commission comes into picture, the burden will be much exorbitant on the states to manage. Apparently, there are some compensations offered by the GST Council to states for the next 5 years, which might seem helpful to the states in short term.

Conclusion –
UDAY Scheme is significant because it is the need of the hour to bring the debt burden of public sector electricity companies into the books as well as shelving them off to secure a prudent financial future. This fiscal imprudence over fiscal matters through loan waivers would cost the states and the country much more in formulating the monetary policy, growth and expenditure management strategies. Similarly, the losses from liquor ban are being recovered by imposing additional taxes over and above GST like in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, but they defeat the very purpose of GST. It is high time for the States to realise that they need to be efficient with their spending patterns, otherwise the liabilities they are adding today would become untenable tomorrow.

GM Mustard – Pros & Cons | RSTV

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has given the green signal for commercial cultivation of GM mustard in the country with certain conditions. Developed by Delhi University, the GM Mustard will be the first edible GM crop of India. Several groups have been opposing the GEAC’s decision as it might affect allied agricultural activities and health of the people as per the protesters.

Pros

  • India’s dependence on edible oil imports makes it necessary to harness GM-mustard. About $12 billion is spent by India annually on import of edible oil.
  • Local crop developers can more easily develop different varieties of hybrid mustard, like GM cotton, and confer traits like pest resistance and potentially improving yield.
  • A system of genes from soil bacterium that makes mustard have been used by the scientists. This is generally a self-pollinating plant and is better suited to hybridization than current methods.
  • DMH-11 is claimed to be one of the promising technologies to improve mustard yield in India, which has been almost stagnant since the last two decades.
  • As the population will increase, India will have to increase its productivity of oilseed crops.

Cons

  • There are social and economic concerns attached to any technology as well. In this case, farmers especially in Punjab and other mustard growing areas have said that they don’t need new varieties. They need better policy, pricing and to rationalize the input costs against the cost which they get after selling it in the markets. If these problems cannot be solved, bringing in another technology might not solve the problem.
  • Its impact on health of the people, environment, soil, groundwater or food chain is not known yet. The glufosinate-based herbicide to which the proposed GM mustard is tolerant will also have adverse impacts on health. An herbicide-tolerant crop promotes constant exposure to a single herbicide which eventually results in weeds becoming resistant.
  • GEAC needs to be transparent about this decision and put it in the public domain that on what grounds it has approved GM mustard for citizens to analyse and stay aware whether it is good for them or not. If there is a lack of trust on the part of people who are to use it, it will be like forcing something upon them. India is a signatory to Cartagena Protocol on biosafety where it has committed to public participation in decision making.
  • Allowing the cultivation of GM mustard would lead to a direct attack on women involved in the mustard crop weeding.
  • There has to be strong liability laws if there are any environmental hazards or if something goes wrong in future. These laws are not there in India at present.
  • The pesticide industry’s efforts to influence policymakers and regulators have obstructed reforms globally. Their business model aims only at making profit.

Conclusion

Agriculture is a state subject therefore; it is important for the Centre to take into consideration the views of State Governments as well. It is expected that the Supreme Court will ensure protection of Indian consumers and farmers as giving a nod to GM mustard will pave the way for clearance to other GM crops as well whether the impact is good or bad. The issue is sensitive to society as it involves the health of large population, therefore adequate arrangements must be made to ensure thorough discussion and exchange of views between the scientific community before a formal launch of the product.

Asia-Africa Growth Corridor | RSTV

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently pushed for an Asia-Africa Growth Corridor supported by Japan and India. This comes up within days after China launched its ambitious OBOR. Asia-Africa Growth Corridor was launched during the annual meeting of the African Development Bank (AfDB) at Gandhinagar, Gujarat, where the vision document was launched for the initiative.

About Asia-Africa Growth Corridor

It is a roadmap for opportunities and aspirations of Asia and Africa and has been launched with an aim to prioritize development projects in agriculture and agro-processing, skill enhancement, health and pharmaceuticals and disaster management.

It is destined to focus on people centric sustainable growth approach, the details of which would be evolved through a process of detailed consultation across Asia and Africa.

Background

The idea of Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) had emerged during the Joint Declaration issued PM Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe during the former’s visit to Japan in November 2016.

Components of AAGC

  • Development and cooperation projects
  • Quality infrastructure and institutional connectivity
  • Capacity and skill enhancement
  • People to people partnerships

Analysis

  • AAGC aims to be an efficient and sustainable mechanism for linking economies, industries and institutions, ideas and people in Africa and Asia in an inclusive manner unlike China’s OBOR strategy which aims to form colonies in the area through its economic power.
  • There is vast and untapped potential in both Asia and Africa which needs to be explored for shared growth, development, peace, prosperity and stability of these regions.
  • If Africa looks towards US or Europe for these things, it is very expensive. So, India and Japan are the best in terms of compatibility of interest for Africa. China’s OBOR is concentrated on Eurasian mainland for trade by creating trade infrastructure because China has huge reserves built by trade surplus over the years which has to be balanced globally. AAGC is Indian Ocean oriented initiative basically for the African people and their priorities. India is willing to assist Africa as per its priorities and requirements whereas China is more self-centred
  • As far as engaging more partners is concerned, South Africa is undoubtedly India’s strategic partner. But South Africa’s relationship with China also needs to be monitored and its role in unfolding strategy of China in Africa. Japan’s major flagship conference took place in Kenya whereas China’s major flagship conference took place in South Africa. So, these are the indicators for India to see which countries it can depend upon or bring in to AAGC.

 Mandate of AAGC

  • Effective mobilization of financial resources for inclusive development.
  • Application of high-quality standards in terms of compliance with international standards established to mitigate environmental and social impact.
  • Contribution to the local society and economy of the partner countries.
  • Providing quality infrastructure and taking into account various aspects of economic efficiency and durability, inclusiveness, safety and disaster-resilience, sustainability as well as convenience and amenities.
  • Alignment with socio-economic development and development strategies of partner countries and regions concerned;

Conclusion

At a time when China is rapidly expanding itself in Africa, India and Japan do not have luxury of time to wait and observe the ramifications of such an expansive strategy. We should immediately seizure the moment and initiate a few joint pilot projects involving the private and public sector companies of India, Japan and a few African countries in identified areas like agriculture, health and infrastructure.

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Energy Diplomacy China India Relations | RSTV

In this post we shall see all the possible factors as to why energy diplomacy is important to India (with a special focus on Energy Diplomacy China India Relations ).

Away from the accolades that accompanied the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative of China, India has been quietly working on creating connectivity grids in its neighbourhood and moving beyond physical connectivity to energy as a tool for connectivity. From Indonesia to Mauritius, India is working on a web of relationships that seek to leverage India’s position as a big source of petroleum products, sharing of technology and building interdependencies. Mauritius, one of India’s closest partners in the Indian Ocean region could become a hub for petroleum storage and bunkering for which India has started building infrastructure. India already supplies petroleum products to Mauritius from its Mangalore Refineriesas well as a retail player in that country. As a petroleum hub, Mauritius can secure its own energy supplies while India can use it to market in other parts of Africa. On the other side of the Indian Ocean, India and Indonesia are beginning an energy relationship. Indonesia is one of the biggest sources of hydrocarbon and has been in and out of OPEC. We shall see all the possible factors as to why energy diplomacy is important to India (with a special focus on Energy Diplomacy China).

Energy security v/s national security

India is growing at a rate of 7-8 per cent per annum and sustaining this momentum of growth requires a continuous pace of energy consumption. This fact is in line with the argument that energy security of India is an integral part of India’s developmental as well as national security positioning. Due to the rapid expansion of their economies, both India and China present the world’s biggest appetite for energy. Energy Diplomacy China India relations take high importance as both these countries have high import dependence to secure their energy demands, this race between the two largest developing countries for energy security will determine the shape of the twenty-first-century world. It is somewhat similar to what happened in the last century between the Allied forces and Germany, during the peak of industrialization, of course with different contours.In the last few years, India and China’s face off has been concentrated around the sources of energy supplies (particularly oil and gas resources). As both these countries are highly dependent on coal for meeting their energy demands, the big question at this moment should be concentrated on the type of fuel that both these countries would adopt next in their economic growth trajectory.

Convergence of interests | Energy Diplomacy China

Both India and China are trying to shift to the renewable sources of energy, hence, they should rather cooperate at the optimum level to ensure a situation of win-win for both sides. Instead of this desirable cooperation, an unhealthy friction has been developed over the years due to the expansionist and neo-colonialist policies of China in India’s neighbourhood and the Indian Ocean. We have failed to effectively utilise the forum of ‘India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue’ since its inception in 2010. This forum can be a bulwark in securing effective cooperation to minimise friction over energy security of both our nations. For instance, formalising the trade in solar photovoltaic equipment which is importedby India from China can reap maximum benefits for both the nations.

Expanding horizons | Energy Diplomacy China Relations

Energy investments have a long gestation period, so what we are planning today will start producing the intended results in 2030. Therefore, India needs to prioritise what sources of energy it wishes to utilise in the next decade and the decisions for the same should be taken right now. According to this argument, investing in renewable sources of energy makes more sense, which is in fact what we are doing today. The concerns have been raised about the national security paradigm in terms of abrogating the safer channels of fossil fuels in return for sourcing energy demands through the unchartered territory of renewables for a comparatively long and crucial period of India’s growth. The issues of political and national sovereignty complement these concerns which have been outlined at the appropriate forums.

Renewable era

India is a responsible signatory to the Paris Climate Accord and a proud supporter of the UN-2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, we are poised to shift our focus to the renewable as evident from recent developments in India. The public support and understanding for this gigantic shift are positive which would go a long way in securing our intended contributions towards renewable sources of energy.

India and China are the stories of the future; hence they cannot afford to be non-accommodative towards each other in terms of securing energy supplies. The current cooperation at the small sub-group level between India’s NITI Aayog and National Development and Reform Commission of China should be replaced by the highest political and strategic cooperation.

Energy Diplomacy China | Securing energy channels

Unlike China, where the energy sector corporations do not need to seek approval of the Government to bid for energy sources abroad, Indian corporations need to seek Cabinet’s approval before venturing out for large investments abroad in the energy sector. This creates a safety cushion for Indian corporations but at the same time, it hinders the possibility to explore lucrative sources of energy at a quick pace in this competitive world. It must be remembered that many major investments by the Chinese private energy corporations have been disastrous for them in commercial terms, whereas Indian investments abroad have been more cautious, prudent and commercially viable.

In domestic terms, India has done reasonably well in the energy sector, both in terms of technical and the fuel aspects. It may be lagging behind China in securing sources of fuel from global channels due to non-adherence of colonial ambitions, but in terms of technological traits, we might have even outperformed China in establishing state of the art technology for transmission and distribution equipment and maintenance, boiler turbine generation manufacturing facility for thermal generation and we are gradually picking up in the spheres of renewable energy equipment sectors like solar photovoltaic cells.

Way forward | Energy Diplomacy China

Most of the capacity additions in electricity generation around the world are going to happen in India in the next ten years. India will move from its current capacity of 300,000 MW to 1,500,000 MW in the next decade. Therefore, India will be at the centre stage in terms of development in the energy sector, so we cannot afford inimical relationships with our resource line countries.

Conclusion

It is true that one cannot have energy security by being absolutely autarkic. India slipped into this mess in 1947 by clarifying that it will not look for energy supplies anywhere in the world and we will secure our energy sources to build-up. Until the frontiers of energy security are shifted out of the off-the-shelf sources to building up of own capacities in terms of technology, the ambition of sustainable economic growth would keep on dangling through the walls of uncertainty. A strong political commitment to secure theinvolvement of all the concerned stakeholders including the general public for swallowing the implications of this long-term investment would be required to ensure safe passage to the renewable mode of energy.

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Pak-Saudi Security ties in a Churn (RSTV Debate)

Pak-Saudi Security relationship seems to be undergoing a reset. Last year, former Pakistani Army Chief General Raheel Sharif was selected by Riyadh as the commander of the Saudi-led alliance of Muslim majority countries, ostensibly aimed at counter-terrorism. The alliance is meant to essentially target the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen who are active on the Saudi borders. Then came the news last week since denied that Pakistan would send a brigade strength of combat troops to Saudi Arabia for deployment along its southern borders in the ongoing conflict with Yemen. Islamabad and Riyadh have had a close security relationship. Not only does the Pakistan army regularly train the Saudi soldiers, experts estimate that there are as many as 70,000 Pakistanis serving across the Saudi military services. Pakistani combat troops have been sent to Saudi Arabia in the past also in 1979 after the attack on the Grand Mosque Complex of Mecca and during the First Gulf War when the Saudis feared an attack by Saddam Hussein. In 2015, Saudi Arabia requested Pakistan to join an Arab-military coalition against the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen. However, the Pakistan Parliament voted to remain neutral in the conflict. Let us see if the Pakistanis are reconsidering its position on joining the Riyadh-led alliance against the Houthis and if so, why is there a churning in Pakistan on this issue and what does it mean for the Gulf region?

What are the factors that have shaped and continue to shape the Pak-Saudi Security Relationship?

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy a very close relationship to the extent that at one moment there was a suspicion that Saudi Arabia is financing the nuclear programme of Pakistan (members of the Saudi Royal Family are the only ‘foreigners’ who are allowed to visit the nuclear facilities of Pakistan). In the 1980s, when Saudi Arabia procured the Chinese CSS-2 missiles, the speculation was rife that this procurement is senseless unless they are armed with nuclear weapons. Hence, it was argued that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons would be made available for Saudi Arabia in the time of crisis. Pakistani troops have also served in Saudi Arabia to accord protection to the Saudi Royal family. Saudi Arabia has recognised Taliban regime and financed Madrasas (a college for Islamic instruction) all over Pakistan to spread Wahhabism (identified as the main source of global terrorism by European Parliament).

Today Saudi Arabia is constrained heavily in its fight against the Houthi-rebels of Yemen (allegedly supported by Iran). In fact, there have been instances of serious attacks along the southern borders of Saudi Arabia by the Houthis. Saudi Arabia’s army is incapable of fighting a serious war effectively (forget the Guerrilla warfare) and it exists only on papers. Therefore, Pakistan becomes very valuable in this regard.

Pak-Saudi Security | Why Saudi Arabia selected General Raheel Sharif as the commander of the alliance of Muslim countries?

It could be regarded as a precursor to Saudi Arabia’s hope of obtaining combat troops from Pakistan in its fight against the Houthi rebels. Although there are some inhibitions inside some quarters of Pakistan over General Raheel Sharif taking over the job offered by the Saudis, there is no rejection/acceptance till now.

There was an ‘anger’ in Pakistan regarding Saudi’s request for combat troops in 2015 was not only on substantive grounds (non-meddling in the Saudi-Iran affairs) but also on procedural grounds. The procedure in which Saudi Arabia requested Pakistan to send combat troops to Yemen forced few sections in Pakistan to feel the vassal status of Saudi Arabia vis-à-vis Pakistan.

Pak-Saudi Security | Would Pakistan send troops to Saudi Arabia? What could be the consequences of such an involvement?

A newspaper in UAE leaked the Saudi-Pak plan to cooperate via troops in combating the Houthi problem which has reached to the doors of Saudi Arabia. Defence Minister of Pakistan has denied the reports of such cooperation. Pakistan may be hedging in this arena taking into account the Iran factor.

Even if the troops are sent for ‘emergency deployment’ in Saudi Arabia i.e. to play the defensive role and protect the vital security interests of Saudi Arabia’s territory, the sole purpose would be to extract money via grants and soft loans. Saudis would be happy to do the same, especially when they are getting cheap sources of security at the time of dwindling economy as compared to the costly Western forces in the region.

The implication of such an involvement of Pakistan would be that it would find itself enmeshed in the Sunni-Shia conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Shias in Pakistan are being already targeted by the Sunni extremist groups and it cannot afford to alienate a large section of its population (Shias hold significant positions in Pakistan Army also) further by entering into such an alliance. But the relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia-UAE grouping have already deteriorated in the past few years, so it is in a dilemma over its future course of action.

Pakistan is also unsure of gaining gravitas in American calculus as a regional power by what they perceive to be serving the strategic goals of the United States in the Gulf region.

Pak-Saudi Security | Why Saudi Arabia needs Pakistani troops when it can get mercenary contractors from the West?

One of the reasons could be the diversification strategy on part of the Saudi Kingdom to divert away from their security dependence on the West and look for cheaper alternatives to it. The sheer competence of Pakistan Army in the region could be another factor for Saudi shift towards Pakistan in this situation of war. As discussed earlier, this relationship also goes back to decades of security cooperation. This close security cooperation makes it imperative for the Gulf to prefer Pakistani troops in the event of a security need.

Pak-Saudi Security | Repercussions on Iran-Pakistan relationship

If Pakistan decides to send the troops to Saudi Arabia, it could disturb the relationship between Iran and Pakistan. It is doubtful if Pakistan can afford to lose a significant partner like Iran in the proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Pakistan became the surrogate of Saudi-Iran proxy war through the sectarian conflicts in the 1990s and this is the real danger that Pakistan perceives to be repeated again, in the case of its involvement in the Yemen affairs.

Pak-Saudi Security | India factor in Pakistani calculus

Pakistan is worried about the closeness developing between the Gulf countries and India in the last few years with respect to economic and security interests, especially with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan has a traditional policy to isolate India and complicate its relationship with these countries. Contrary to the popular perception, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has managed to penetrate the Gulf region with his skilful diplomacy and secured a strategic leverage vis-à-vis Pakistan in terms of a developing security relationship with the region. Gulf countries have successfully managed to put the predominance of Islamic factor behind the contours of their relationship with India and are managing to cooperate effectively with India as against their traditional position. Gulf countries and most importantly the UAE is seriously looking towards India for defence and security cooperation to signal Pakistan that they may end the monopoly of Pakistani security umbrella in the region.

Pak-Saudi Security | Conclusion

It would be interesting to see how Pakistan decides to sail across the Arabian Sea to reach the Gulf of Aden through a tightrope diplomacy. Would it be able to prepare an effective solution to escape out of the zero-sum game between Saudi Arabia and Iran?

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NITI Aayog – Vision for New India (RSTV debate)

Recently the 3rd meeting of the NITI Aayog’s Governing Council was held at Delhi. With an aim to transform India (as called by the Prime Minister), the NITI Aayog has envisioned an aspiring agenda for the country to be achieved by the year 2032.

NITI Aayog | Agenda for 2032

  • As we know that the five-year plans have now been replaced by a three-year action plan which will be sub-part of a 7-year strategy which itself would be a sub-part of realising a 15-year long term vision for the country.
  • The targets set by NITI Aayog for the next 15 years include a threefold rise in country’s GDP, Rupees 2 lakh increase in per capita GDP of the country and other necessary facilities for people such as electricity, housing with toilets and digital connectivity for all people in the country with a fully literate population having unhindered access to healthcare and most importantly, ‘a clean India with clean air and water’.

NITI Aayog | Analysis

  • The immediate requirement of NITI Aayog should have been to identify the immediate challenges that our country is facing to realize a developmental vision, rather than writing a manifesto-like document for coming years such as consistent poverty in the country and global environment that may affect regional inequalities among many others. Real challenges should be addressed after taking a 360-degree view of the issues around us.
  • It is not a herculean task for India to receive 8% GDP growth rate because in the last 25 years, the average growth rate was 6.7% of GDP. When our economy is consistently increasing at a sustainable pace, we need to bring few issues under our focus –
  • Inclusive growth can be achieved by providing education for all, skill development, healthcare facilities and raising expenditure on rural infrastructure to fill the concerned gaps.
  • Resilience in the path of realisation of development by strengthening our public institutions, regulatory environment, banking system and management of our natural resources.
  • Government has promised clean and quality air which is enshrined in the NITI Aayog’s agenda but this objective stands contradictory to the aspiration which envisions a private car or two-wheeler for every citizen in the country. At a time when the world is moving towards maximising environment friendly public transport and eco-friendly approach towards energy consumption, this step looks retrograde.

NITI Aayog | Primary sector development

Development of agriculture should be focused on –

  • Enhancing productivity
  • Land leasing reforms
  • Remunerative prices
  • Risk management
  • Second Green Revolution in eastern India

NITI Aayog |  | Fiscal situation

  • The combined expenditure of Centre and States would rise by almost 92 lakh crore rupees to reach 130 lakh crore rupees by the financial year 2031-32.
  • India’s urban population would rise by 22 crore and reach around 60 crores by that time.
  • NITI Aayog also projects per capita income in the country to rise by 2 lakh rupees up to 3,14,667 rupees approximately.
  • Hence, the economy is expected to grow three-fold in the next 15 years. If the economy grows at an 8% average rate of GDP for the next 15 years, our nominal GDP will reach almost 469 lakh crore rupees by the year 2030 (around USD 7.25 trillion).

NITI Aayog | Social situation

  • NITI Aayog has also come up with indices to measure states’ performance in the field of health, education and water management. This will help states to measure the results of various social programmes and compete with each other and simultaneously share best practices and innovations in line with cooperative yet competitive federalism.
  • It has also suggested to club various social programmes and various centrally-sponsored schemes under 28 umbrella projects. For example – The panel has suggested few changes in Swachh Bharat Mission and other flagship schemes like skill development, poverty measurement and Atal Innovation Mission (AIM).

NITI Aayog | Conclusion

Soviet form of central planning may have its limitations but yearly targets and monitoring mechanisms can help the Government to better streamline plan performance for the ambitious goals set out by NITI Aayog. Unwavering political will and public support from all quarters will be the prerequisites to realise the true potential of the aforementioned ambitious targets.

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Bangladesh's PM Sheikh Hasina's visit | RSTV

Bangladesh’s PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India and her meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given the much needed fillip to the bilateral foreign economic policy. India reiterated its binding commitment to support the economic development of Bangladesh.

PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit | Highlights

PM Modi reiterated India’s willingness to partner Bangladesh in its endeavour to develop sectors like energy, infrastructure, science and technology, e-governance and other emerging high technology areas. Towards this, India committed a third line of credit of US$ 4.5 billion for development of a number of projects in the areas of port construction, railways, roads, airports, power and energy, telecommunications and shipping. This is in addition to the US $2.86 billion worth lines of credit provided to Bangladesh earlier to augment its capacities in key infrastructural sectors and the fully funded grants-in-aid which India has extended to various public welfare projects.

PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit | Cooperation in energy supply

One of the priority sectors identified was to integrate the power and energy supply networks of both the countries and the two leaders agreed to promote joint ventures in the field of energy. It was decided to explore the possibility of gas grid interconnectivity and build an LPG pipeline that will serve the needs of Bangladesh as well as the North Eastern Region of India. The Indo-Bangla Friendship Pipeline from Siliguri to Parbatipur for supply of High Speed Diesel to Bangladesh is being supported by India as a grant-in-aid project.

PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit | Fostering connectivity

To foster connectivity along the waterways, both countries have decided to operationalize the Coastal Shipping Agreement signed in June 2015, commence trans-shipment of goods through the Ashuganj River Port under the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) and a MoU on passenger and cruise vessels was inked. The MoU on Development of Fairway from Sirajganj to Daikhowa and Ashuganj to Zakiganj on Indo-Bangladesh Protocol will help reduce logistics cost of cargo movement to northeast India and also reduce congestion through Siliguri’s ‘chicken’s neck’ corridor. The trial run of passenger train between Khulna and Kolkata and the new bus service between Kolkata-Khulna-Dhaka would further people-to-people contacts. These connectivity initiatives apart from providing development dividends, would feed into the new paradigm for sub-regional cooperation.

To further people-to-people contact, it was agreed to revise and revamp the Memorandum of Understanding on Border ‘Haats’ (markets – remember this for Prelims). During the visit of the Bangladesh Prime Minister, the Indian private sector pledged investments of over US$ 9 billion in Bangladesh.

PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit | Participation in multilateral initiatives

Both countries actively encourage these initiatives under the South Asia Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC), Bangladesh Bhutan India and Nepal and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). The various transit and connectivity agreements shall facilitate movement of goods from different parts of India to the North-East through Bangladesh and drastically cut down upon the time and costs for such transportation.

PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit | Economic cooperation

Although the current levels of bilateral trade stands at close to USD 6.7 billion, there is potential for massive growth. Both countries have decided to boost trade and ease doing business by removing a gamut of non and para tariff barriers including port restrictions and upgrade the infrastructure of the Land Customs Stations and Integrated Check Posts.

Trade and industry along both sides of the border has evinced interest on the bilateral economic relations. This could lead to joint ventures in niche areas like exploration of hydrocarbons, marine resources and deep sea fishing in the Bay of Bengal. The Indian Prime Minister is of the opinion that Bangladesh should also develop along with India. He shares the same dream for Bangladesh as he has for India.

PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit | Conclusion

Shared economic prosperity and connectivity are the two dominant themes poised to take Indo-Bangladesh bilateral economic relations to a new high. This also holds the promise of accelerating regional and sub-regional economic growth and usher in far reaching welfare benefits for both neighbours. An all-encompassing partnership is a must to accelerate bilateral economic growth. This was succinctly reflected in the joint statement issued during the summit level meeting which labelled the Indo-Bangladesh relations as one of ‘fraternal friendship’ geared to promote regional connectivity and development.

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Kulbhushan Jadhav – A Patriot or Spy | RSTV

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A Pakistani military court has sentenced a former Indian navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav to death for espionage and sabotage in Pakistan. India has denied that Jadhav was a spy and has dismissed the Pakistan court’s proceedings as farcical. India has also said that if the death sentence were carried out, it would amount to premeditated murder. Repeated requests of India for consular access to Jadhav were denied by Pakistan. Pakistan’s version of events is very different from India’s claims. Pakistan has claimed that Kulbhushan Jadhav was responsible for espionage, sabotage and terrorism in Pakistan and that he had been tried according to the law of the land in a fully transparent manner while preserving his rights under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Pakistan has killed ‘alleged’ Indian spies earlier also. In 1999, an alleged Indian spy was hanged and in 2016, an Indian citizen in jail for sixteen years, convicted of sabotage and terrorism was killed by his fellow inmates even while efforts were on to bring him back to India.

Kulbhushan Jadhav | Credibility of the ‘spy’ claim

Iranian Ambassador in Pakistan has confirmed that Pakistan has abducted the former Indian naval officer from Iranian territory. This was also reiterated by the German Ambassador to Pakistan when he said that Taliban terrorist groups abducted Jadhav from Chabahar and sold it to Pakistan. Even the Government of Pakistan has confirmed that they have not apprehended Kulbhushan Jadhav from Pakistan. He was abducted from Chabahar (Iran) and possessed an Indian passport which may not be the case with an otherwise claimed ‘spy officer’. He was tried in Pakistan’s military court where the evidence was not presented and he was convicted on the basis of assumption and suspicion alone.

Sartaj Aziz, Foreign Affairs Advisor to Pakistan’s Prime Minister issued an absurd statement in response to this issue in which he listed out instances of terrorism in which Jadhav was involved into. There was no evidence provided by Sartaj Aziz regarding Jadhav’s involvement in any of those instances and the timeline provided by Sartaj Aziz itself stands on illogical grounds – it claims that Jadhav was arrested by Pakistan in early March 2016, the first confessional video of him was made on 25th March, First Information Report (FIR) was launched on 8th April and the interrogation was done on 2nd May 2016. Therefore, without any judicial proceedings, Jadhav was kept and tortured for two consecutive months. According to the statement, Pakistan approached India in January 2017 for ‘letter of assistance’ to find credible evidence against Jadhav, despite three proceedings of the trial being finished by November 2016. This shows that proceedings were being carried out without sufficient evidence before January 2017 in the military court of Pakistan. Hence, this timeline of events provided by Sartaj Aziz is prone to outright rejection by the world community as it opens up the debate of Pakistan being a ‘rogue state’.

Kulbhushan Jadhav | The tale of ‘two identities’

Kulbhushan Jadhav was found possessing two passports, one of a ‘Hindu’ name Kulbhushan Jadhav and the other was a ‘Muslim’ name of ‘Mubarak Patel’. Hence, the question being asked here is why would an innocent man possess two passports with different names?

There is no evidence that Government of India provided Kulbhushan Jadhav with the second passport, as there is a possibility of Pakistan creating the second passport to solidify its claim of Jadhav being a ‘spy’. It is obvious that Indian intelligence agencies are not so unwise that they will provide their agents with an Indian passport to send them across to a hostile territory without a diplomatic immunity. Many terrorist modules that India has busted in its territory were found to be possessing fake Indian passports. This is one of the reasons, why Pakistani Government is not willing to provide India with a consular access to Jadhav as in that case, India may bust the claim of Jadhav possessing an original Indian passport.

Kulbhushan Jadhav | Diplomatic options available to India

The Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan has already requested Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary for the charge sheet and judgement against Jadhav. India has repeatedly (more than thirteen times) issued a demarche to Pakistan for providing a consular access of Jadhav to India. Hence, India has lost all the conventional diplomatic channels with the ‘rogue state of Pakistan’ in terms of seeking justice for the former Indian naval officer.

India cannot even seek the interference of ‘International Court of Justice’ because India does not recognise the jurisdiction of the ICJ in matters relating to India and Pakistan. Pakistan’s objective is to carry out a propaganda by demonising an innocent Indian citizen as a ‘threat to the nation’ by diverting the issues of domestic failures to this constructed demonic figure.

There is a provision under the optional protocol to Vienna Convention on Consular relations concerning compulsory settlement of disputes. Both India and Pakistan are signatory to it in 1976 and 1977, respectively. This protocol has been used by various countries in the past when the death sentence has been awarded to their citizens by a foreign country. It is yet to be seen if India would be willing to explore the opportunities provided by this provision to secure the release of former Indian naval officer.

Kulbhushan Jadhav | Prisoner-swap agreement on the cards?

There are talks about India having in its possession a retired Lieutenant Colonel of Pakistan Army, who went missing from Lumbini in Nepal. There is no evidence of this preposterous claim of Pakistan, either by the Government of Pakistan or by its army.

In the case of Pakistan wishing for a prisoner swap agreement, why did it go public with the case? There is still a possibility of a prisoner swap between India and Pakistan, but Pakistan would try to garner a high price from India by pushing for a resumption of talks on Kashmir which were hindered after Pakistan’s continuous proliferation of terrorism on Indian soil.

Kulbhushan Jadhav | Doubtful intentions of Pakistan

Pakistan may be deliberately creating tensions between India and itself to draw the attention of world community and sort out its unfulfilled objective of separation of Kashmir from India. But the whole world accepts that Pakistan is the epicentre of terrorism and it is fermenting and instigating terrorism in India for almost three decades now. To divert attention from its home-grown successful industries of terrorism, Pakistan makes a counter allegation that India is creating troubles for Pakistan in both Balochistan and Karachi, which is not accepted by any democratic and responsible country.

Kulbhushan Jadhav | Conclusion

As a defender of human rights and democratic behaviour, India has pointed out Pakistan’s mishandling of Balochistan and Sindh issue whereby it has almost reached the level of wiping out its own population through military action. India does not believe in interfering in the internal matters of any sovereign nation and has kept this record high since ancient history. Pakistan wants to use Jadhav’s case to create a moral equivalence and demonise India in its objective to wipe out its own citizens of Balochistan and Sindh provinces who are seeking independence from Pakistan’s misrule.

India must deal with this situation in complete firmness that it holds currently and proceed with the time-tested notion of reciprocity in diplomacy.

Shadow of a death sentence on Indo-Pak ties : RSTV Debate