Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pakistan's interest in Kashmir is as legitimate as that of Russia's in Crimea


Russia has finally annexed Crimea, heretofore a part, and as much as 50% of landmass, of Ukraine, on the pretext of overwhelming majority of Russian population living in the peninsula. The annexation was formalized after a referendum, dubbed sham by the western media. Almost every member of the international community voiced concern over Russia’s actions. Even non-Western states such as China and even Iran also made clear their support for the principles of non-intervention, state sovereignty and territorial integrity – oblique criticisms of Moscow’s disregard for cornerstone Treaty of Westphalia norms. Russia got support from the countries in its area of influence like Cuba, Venezuela and Syria. The world was, however, bewildered at the stance adopted by India, claiming to be World’s largest democracy.

Has New Delhi, a new-found darling of the West, betrayed international community? Most probably yes, because West had pinned hopes on India to become a counterweight to China to serve US interests in Indian and Pacific Oceans and South China Sea.

Let’s see what India’s stance on Russian incursion into Crimea is: New Delhi respects Russia’s “legitimate interests” in Crimea.

Surprised anyone? No. This is because India has a history of its own incursions into its neighboring states that are weaker and dependent upon India. The cases of Bhutan and Sikkim are historical evidence to establish that for India, principles enunciated in the Treaty of Westphalia are not applicable as long as it can easily usurp and annex its weaker neighbors.  It even tried to make an incursion into China in 1962 but failed after a humiliating defeat at the hands of Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) of China.

Apart from the fact that the West feels betrayed at the hands of India, latter’s stance raises one disturbing question: If Russia has legitimate interests in the Crimean peninsula because of majority of Russian population, why this principle cannot be applied to the valley of Jammu and Kashmir and why India does not recognize, or respect, Pakistan’s legitimate interests in the valley? The basic principle for partition of India was faith; the Muslim majority Kashmir valley must join Pakistan as against its forcible occupation by India.

Why India has deployed a large chunk of its army in Kashmir to suppress the movement against Indian occupation in which tens of thousands of innocent lives have been lost? Why a demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir, promised by India’s prime minister, angers India every time it is raised at the UN?

India’s desire to realign itself with Russia in the upcoming bipolar world is welcome but even the most ruthless stance in international relations is taken on some principles. If the principle is that forcible occupation legitimizes the stance, then India is doing no favor to its democratic posture which is exposed to the risk of further erosion after the current elections being fought on the basis of Hindutva.  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Indian Submarine fleet is not only vulnerable, it is not even enough

Hussain Saqib

The Indian Chief of Naval Staff has resigned after a recent incident on board INS Sindhuratna, a Russian-built conventional submarine in Indian Navy. He is being hailed for a graceful exit but he did not quit for nothing; the challenges faced by Indian Navy under his watch, and particularly its submarine fleet, are enormous. The fleet is not only unsafe, it is depleting faster than expected raising alarm bells. Indian defense planners are genuinely worried about Navy’s combat capabilities with a fleet which would be as big as Pakistan’s in a period of two years. India’s global ambitions to serve its own interests and those of the US, in Indian Ocean and the Pacific have been completely ruined.

Indian Navy has two major issues which expose it to severe risks; its safety record is very poor with at least 10 mishaps reported in the last seven months, and its fleet is depleting fasted than expected. This is something which has worried India’s defense bosses and they have expressed their unease very clearly.
According to a report by NDTV, there were 10 incidents in Indian Navy in the last seven months. These incidents included fire on board and casualties. These incidents are; death of 18 sailors after explosion, fire on submarine INS Sindhurakshak in August, 2013, when the sub was docked at a high-security dockyard in Mumbai. The vessel tilted and sank nose-down. The fire on country’s only aircraft carrier INS Viraat in September and other incident damaging subs and ships are numerous.

India’s defense planners have projected that the Indian Navy's submarine force levels will be the lowest in its history by 2015. This is in the backdrop of China’s scaling up its underwater capabilities, says a secret report of the ministry leaked by Hindustan Times. According to this report, Indian Navy will be left with merely six to seven submarines, including India's first and only nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant, as it begins phasing out the Russian Kilo class and German HDW Type 209 submarines next year. The report warned India had "never before been poised in such a vulnerable situation" and the undersea force levels were "at a highly precarious state".

Indian Navy currently operates 14 submarines, including a nuclear-powered attack submarine leased from Russia. However, the "viable strength" of its submarine arm is much less, factoring in the operational availability of the boats. As against this, China operates close to 45 submarines, including two ballistic missile submarines. China may plan to construct 15 additional Yuan-class attack submarines, based on German diesel engine purchases. Yuan-class boats could be equipped with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems to recharge their batteries without having to surface for more than three weeks, a capability currently unavailable with the Indian Navy. The ministry is genuinely worried that if undersea capability is eroded, there is an inverse increase in both capability and strength of the Chinese and Pakistani navies.