Publication | Page 628 | Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (2024)

British Strategic Vision of 2015: Focus on India and China March 31, 2006 Alok Rashmi Mukhopadhyay

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the United Kingdom has come out with a White Paper on British international strategic priorities for the next ten years. British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, while launching the sixty-page vision statement titled "Active Diplomacy for a Changing World: The UK's International Priorities" also delivered a lecture on this occasion at a conference of senior British diplomats in London on March 28, 2006.

The strategy paper actually attempts to update and incorporate the changes and challenges faced by the UK in the last three years. The earlier White Paper of 2003 was the first of its kind and outlined Britain's international priorities. In the intervening period the UK experienced some major challenges, domestic as well as international, and held some very important assignments. To be precise, the year 2005 was quite eventful for the UK - it held the annual G8 presidency; national elections took place in May; the July 7 terrorist attacks in the London Metro claimed 52 lives and together with the foiled attacks on July 21 marked a watershed in contemporary British history; and Britain held the half-yearly European Union (EU) presidency in the second-half of 2005.

It is against this background that the latest vision statement of the UK should be seen. It sums up its recent experiences and underpins Britain's multidirectional, multi-pronged and multilateral approach to address current challenges. Most importantly the document acknowledges the 'unprecedented' economic growth of India and China. In stark contrast to the 2003 document, in which neither Asian nation was given importance, this document deals at length with future projections about their economies, GDP, demographic trends and energy requirements. While both India and China keep appearing in the document, India, being the 'largest democracy', gets the special emphasis of a strategic partner of the UK.

In its entirety the FCO document presents itself as a combination of national, European as well as transatlantic approaches. While bilateral relationships still remain vital for the UK, approaches at the level of EU are designated as the 'most important multilateral commitment'. The EU-3, i.e. Britain, France and Germany, is given due importance, indicating that in future they would undertake major assignments like the on-going dealings with Iran. The paper also recognises nine strategic priorities including, terrorism and proliferation of WMD, organised crime, conflict prevention, illegal immigration, sustainable development and environment protection, etc. As far as perceived major threats for the UK are concerned the British strategy follows the European Security Strategy adopted in December 2003.

The diplomatic focus of the vision statement seems to be echoing the trend established by the United States in recent months. It may be recalled that Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State in her speech on "Transformational Diplomacy" delivered at Georgetown University on January 18, 2006, highlighted discrepancies in the posting of American diplomats in various parts of the world. Rice underscored the fact that both India and Germany host the same number of US diplomats though the former has a larger population. She added that the US would reallocate its diplomats from Europe to India and China. The British Strategy Paper also follows this American reasoning. At present 29 per cent of Britain's total diplomatic strength is in Europe, while 13 per cent of British diplomats are posted in South Asia and 15 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region. The Strategy Paper is unambiguous that in conformity with future trends, the UK would increase its diplomatic strength in India. In fact, Jack Straw, in his speech, actually stated that the British diplomatic strength in India has already been increased by 16 per cent in the last two years.

Current and future projections using certain key parameters for the growth of Indian and Chinese economies deserve to be noted here. While China and India remain the top two in the growing population chart for the next twenty years, Europe stands first in terms of its ageing population showing an increasingly old age dependency ratio of more than 30 per cent in 2025. In the area of energy consumption, the US and Canada would be the largest consumers in 2030, while India would come fifth after China and the EU. But in terms of per capita GDP, as the Vision Statement illustrates, India - though a major global economy - will come only after the US, EU, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Mexico, China and Brazil. Some salient trade figures may also be cited: after USA and China, the UK is India's third largest partner. Bilateral trade during January-September 2005 was around US$ 7.4 billion, but this is only one per cent of global annual British trade, and in comparison with UK-China trade it is only one-fifth. As both India and the UK are aware of the lack in optimal exploitation of the trade potential despite the continuous increase in trade volumes, bilateral trade is expected to increase in the coming years. The document also refers to, as challenges for both India and China, the perilous path of balancing reform measures and maintaining parity in development across their various regions. In comparison with China, India's democratic traditions and rule of law are upheld as positives and marking the fundamentals of vibrant Indo-UK relations.

Lastly, under the rubric of "Active Diplomacy", India gets special mention as the source country for the largest number of visas issued by the UK as well as in key areas of cooperation like defence, police and crime, reversion of illegal immigrants of Indian origin, etc. It is therefore more than likely that bilateral engagement between India and the UK - not only in trade relations but in other crucial areas as well - would be more intensified in the coming years. This must however be considered within the ambit of the EU-India strategic partnership as well as the Joint Action Plan adopted at the 7th EU-India Summit in 2005 under the British presidency. Apart from the EU-India strategic partnership, India has also been maintaining bilateral strategic partnerships with other major European nations. The continent has observed the recently concluded Indo-US strategic partnership with interest. The current European trend, be it at the governmental level or in think tanks, is that the EU should take its strategic partnership with India seriously. European analysts complain about the apathy shown by Indian experts towards the EU and the Union's perceived insignificance in the global scenario as a military bloc. In the coming years, it remains to be seen how the Indo-UK strategic partnership as well as Indo-EU would evolve in contrast to the newly concluded Indo-US Strategic partnership.

Nuclear and Arms Control India, United Kingdom, China Waziristan Quagmire March 28, 2006 Alok Bansal

The actions of the Pakistani government in North Waziristan during the last one month are indicative of adhocism and adventurism. It was only on February 23 that the Governor of NWFP, Khalil-ur-Rehman, announced that the government had suspended operations in North Waziristan Agency because it believed that tribesmen were capable of restoring peace and normalcy through their own customs and traditions. However just six days later, 41 militants including their Chechen commander were reportedly killed in a raid carried out using helicopter gunships on their hideout in North Waziristan. This volte-face by the government just before the all-important visit of President Bush to Pakistan was apparently triggered by articles in the US media, which accused Pakistan of not doing enough in the 'war on terror'. It was also alleged that certain sections of the Pakistani establishment were still in league with the remnants of the Taliban. This media blitz had put enormous pressure on the Pakistani government to 'do something' and resulted in this operation by the Pakistan Army's Special Services Group in which they claimed to have killed 40 foreign (mainly Chechen) militants.

Local residents led by a radical cleric Maulana Abdul Khaliq, however, denied the presence of any foreigners and claimed that all those killed were local tribesmen, their women and children. They contended that innocent people were massacred by the Pakistani Army to please President Bush, especially as this operation came within a week of the government's widely publicised suspension of operations in North Waziristan Agency. The furious local militants retaliated by storming the bazaar of Miranshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan Agency and capturing the telephone exchange and other government offices. They also warned tribal elders and the Ulema not to attend Jirgas summoned by the political agent of North Waziristan. They then surrounded the fortified military posts and gave a deadline to the government to withdraw troops and helicopters from the town. The authorities in return warned the militants to leave the bazaar and give up their positions or be ready to face the consequences. Clashes erupted immediately after President Bush landed in Pakistan. Both sides wanted to signal their resolve to President Bush and in the fiercest fight in Waziristan over 100 people were killed in battles in which helicopter gunships and medium artillery were used liberally. The telephone exchange and most of the bazaar in Miranshah were razed to the ground. However, despite using inordinately heavy firepower, the Pakistani Army could not recapture the town till President Bush had departed Pakistan. To most Pakistanis this incident demonstrated another attempt by the government to win US accolade by sacrificing Pakistani blood.

Waziristan covers an area of 11,585 square kilometres (4,473 square miles) and is divided into North and South Waziristan agencies. The total population today is estimated to be less than a million. The region is one of the most inaccessible, has an extremely rugged terrain and has remained outside the direct control of the Pakistani government. Hitherto, it has only been controlled nominally by the central government of Pakistan. The Waziri tribes that inhabit the region are fiercely independent, but had not bothered the Pakistani government till the fall of the Taliban government in neighbouring Afghanistan, when the region turned out to be a good sanctuary for the fleeing Al Qaeda and Taliban elements. Pakistani troops entered the region for the first time in late 2002 after long negotiations with the tribes, which reluctantly agreed to allow the military's presence on the assurance that it would bring in funds and development work. However, once the military action started, a number of Waziri tribals took it as an attempt to subjugate them.

During the last three years in which Waziristan has been a hot-bed of terrorist activities, the government has applied various strategies to rein in the militants suspected to be hiding there but has consistently failed. Despite using disproportionately heavy force, the Army has not been able to establish the writ of the state. It has conducted military operations in which many lives have been lost. It offered amnesties to militants and then reneged on its promise and has seen the tribal leaders supporting the government being killed. There have been a number of co-ordinated operations by Pakistani and US troops in the region. Besides, the US has resorted to targeted killings of militants using UAVs, one of which led to the killing of the militant leader Nek Mohammad, who had reached an agreement with the government. The Army operations have resulted in a large number of civilian casualties, further increasing the alienation of the population. The Army also tried to buy off the loyalties of the militants by paying them huge sums of money, but it has failed to herald peace in the region. According to one estimate, in 2005 alone 300 civilians were killed and about 800 injured while 250 army personnel lost their lives and more than 600 were injured.

Today the Pakistani Armed Forces are overstretched and there is a limit to the number of fronts on which the Pakistani Army can fight - there are problems in Balochistan and Northern Areas besides Waziristan. The Army is still involved in rehabilitation work in the earthquake-affected zone and will continue to remain involved for quite some time to come. It has to guard the borders to the West and the East and be prepared for occasional sectarian strife and Al Qaeda strikes. On top of all this, the recent demonstrations against the Danish Cartoons have clearly indicated that the general public is fed up with the government and is looking for chances to give vent to its frustrations. Repeated US attacks on Pakistani soil have not only compromised Pakistani sovereignty but have also incensed the public. Under the circ*mstances it would probably be a wise move for the Pakistan military to extricate itself from the quagmire of Waziristan and bide its time.

Despite committing over 70,000 to 80,000 troops supported by helicopter gunships, artillery and air force, the writ of the state in the region has remained at best tenuous. The frequent incidents of violence make a mockery of the government statements that all is under control. The offer of ceasefire was meant to merely legitimise the de facto position. Top ranking Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders, in any case, have been moving in and out of the region with impunity. However, reports in the US media that a section of the Pakistani establishment is in league with Al Qaeda and Taliban, just prior to President Bush's visit, forced the Pakistani establishment to disturb the hornets' nest. However, having done that, it does not know how to restore order and is looking forward to a face saving formula to extricate itself from this quagmire. Recent attacks on Afghanistan and its leadership is an attempt by the Pakistani leadership to mask its failures in Waziristan from the international media and to divert domestic attention from the strong-arm tactics being used there.

South Asia Waziristan, Pakistan Indo-US Strategic Partnership: Views from Germany March 18, 2006 Alok Rashmi Mukhopadhyay

The visit of US President George Bush to India in the first week of March and the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal have evoked reactions in Western media as expected. Viewpoints expressed in the vast English media, professional websites as well as other discussion fora present a spectrum of analyses. However, it is pertinent to have a look at the vernacular German media which have been closely observing the Indo-US strategic partnership not episodically but with thorough interest. It is also interesting to note that the deal was given due importance at the highest level of the ruling Christian Democratic Union- Social Democratic Party (CDU-SPD) coalition.

At the outset it should be mentioned that German commentators have been following the dynamics of Indo-US strategic partnership since July last year when Manmohan Singh visited the United States. Matthias Rüb, the Washington correspondent of the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), has described the growing closeness of the US with India and China as the "Pacific Triangle". In his view, the most noteworthy outcome of Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington was the factual recognition of India as an official nuclear power. Similarly, Christian Wagner, the South Asia expert at the German think tank Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in Berlin, depicted Indo-US security relations as the beginning of a new era. Both experts were unanimous in their assessment of the seriousness the US attached to its relations with India. While Wagner (in July 2005) opined that though Germany and France had no cause for worry about existing military cooperation with India since the latter has been following the policy of arms diversification, he did, however, express the apprehension that in the foreign and security policy spheres the EU would lose further ground in India as a potential partner. Rüb, for his part, contended that the rationale behind US interests in India and China was the American formulation of the EU of "medium powers" facing demographic, economic and structural challenges.

Given this backdrop, it was certain that the US President's visit to India would be minutely observed in Germany. Gero von Randow identifies India as a "special case" in Die Zeit, the prestigious German weekly with Social-Democratic leanings. The recent Indo-US agreement, in his view, has set that process into motion which American and Indian politicians had already decided upon in July last year. von Randow adds that nuclear cooperation between Washington and New Delhi would annoy Brazil, South Korea or Taiwan, and that other nations like South Africa, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia may well follow the Indian example. However, he concludes with utter scepticism with respect to other possible alternatives for dealing with India as well as the future of the NPT.

But the most important observation comes from an interview given by Karsten D. Voigt, Coordinator for US-German Relations at the German Foreign Office and a close associate of the former German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder. When asked whether different yardsticks have been applied vis-à-vis Iran and India, Voigt categorically stated that while India does not deny the rights of existence of any of its neighbours, Iran does in the case of Israel. Nonetheless, if a common German viewpoint about the Indo-US strategic partnership can be discerned, it lies in the argument that sections within the US administration have a long-term strategy to use India as a counter-weight to China and the recent nuclear agreement is a step towards that direction.

Finally, it is interesting to note how the EU and especially its most important constituent, Germany, shape its future foreign policy initiatives towards India keeping in view the recent Indo-US partnership. As Karsten D. Voigt has pointed out, the designation of Bernd Mützelburg, the security policy advisor of former Chancellor Schröder and an experienced diplomat who led the recent G4 initiative in the UN, as the new ambassador to India shows Germany's earnestness in promoting good ties with India. At the level of bilateral trade and cultural exchange it is worth mentioning that two international fairs held in Germany in 2006 have India as their thrust. India is the partner country at the Hanover Technology Fair and at the Frankfurt Book Fair India is the guest.

In April 2006 on the occasion of the Hanover Fair the newly elected German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are expected to attend an economic summit. As per the latest Indo-German trade statistics, bilateral trade volume indicates continuous growth though Indian exports to Germany show a fluctuating trend. Apart from trade and other issues, in the coming months the EU and specifically Germany would take concrete measures to fulfil its larger strategic goals in the partnership with India. As Christian Wagner has pointed out, while at first sight close cooperation between India and the US may contradict German and European interests, India forging closer ties with the US could in fact open up new possibilities for German and European partnership with India including in multilateral conflict resolution strategies.

Consequently, diplomatic measures and attractive investment offers from Germany to India, in competition with US, may be expected in the coming months. But it would be misleading to interpret increased German foreign policy initiatives towards India as anti-American, because rapprochement in transatlantic relations, i.e., US-German, is the first and foremost task of the new German government. Competitive diplomatic steps from the EU, an aspiring international actor and also a strategic partner of India, are anticipated in the coming months to make their presence more distinct in India.

Nuclear and Arms Control India-US Relations, Germany George Bush Puts Pakistan and Pervez Musharraf Out in the Cold March 11, 2006 Ashutosh Misra

US President George Bush's 26-hour visit to Pakistan was foredoomed to failure as the two leaders had two different sets of issues on their agenda for talks, which shows their divergent perceptions of mutual roles and concerns in the region. While terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation and democracy held salience for George Bush, General Musharraf seemed inclined to forging strategic cooperation and securing civil nuclear technology and US mediation in Kashmir. On the one hand, George Bush managed to put across his concerns on the issues he thought were vital to the US' security interests, and on the other, in an articulated and nuanced manner, he refused to oblige General Musharraf on the civil nuclear cooperation and Kashmir issues.

Take the issue of democracy. George Bush said "In the long run he (General Musharraf) understands that extremism can be defeated by freedom and democracy and prosperity and better education…I believe democracy is Pakistan's future…President Musharraf has made clear that he intends to hold elections." He also stressed on holding 'free and fair' elections in 2007. In response, General Musharraf strongly defended his system by mentioning his contribution to democracy in Pakistan, namely, empowerment of people, minorities, women and free press, which sounded rather unconvincing in the light of the ground realities in Pakistan. Interestingly, George Bush's remarks established that the rise of extremism in Pakistan was related to Musharraf's policy of appeasem*nt of the mullahs at the expense of mainstream parties in the present political dispensation and now he must prepare to relinquish power to democratic parties by holding free and fair elections in 2007. This was a rather distressing note for General Musharraf.

On the non-proliferation issue, all that Pakistan could get was passing praise for agreeing to join the Container Security Initiative (CSI). "Pakistan is an important partner in fighting proliferation…we'll continue to work together to ensure that the world's most dangerous weapons do not end up in the hands of the terrorists," is how George Bush described the US' concerns, and attaching caution as a caveat. The remarks pointed towards the A Q Khan episode in which the role of the Pakistani establishment, particularly the military and ISI had come under the scanner raising questions about the safety of WMDs in Pakistan. Plus, hand in glove relations between the military and Islamists have bred more apprehensions in American minds in the wake of rising anti-US sentiments in Pakistan in the post-9/11 period.

Pakistan's fragile democracy, which has been tampered with by different military regimes and misused by the civilian regimes, has failed to evolve effective constitutional provisions to curtail and control the military's powers and adventurism. The A Q Khan episode is a testimony to this. Though both civilian and military regimes supported the nuclear programme, it was the military that controlled it without allowing any outside interference. On account of Pakistan's dismal non-proliferation record, George Bush declined to commit on civil nuclear supplies to Pakistan. He said, "We discussed a civilian nuclear programme, and I explained that Pakistan and India are different countries with different needs and different histories. So as we proceed forward, our strategies will take in effect those well-known differences."

This statement could be considered the cornerstone of Bush's visit to Pakistan, which to a large extent de-hyphenated the 'India-Pakistan' nuclear relationship. Pakistan had always sought parity with India by linking its nuclear programme and the larger debate on non-proliferation to it. Bush's statement, in a single stroke, acknowledged India's impeccable non-proliferation record and elevated India into the league of responsible nuclear powers.

On the energy issue, George Bush clarified that the US beef with the Iranian regime was its nuclear weapons programme and not the gas pipeline. Though he assured General Musharraf that the US would address Pakistan's energy deficiency, this failed to evoke much enthusiasm for it was limited to the gas pipeline. The US ignored Pakistan's cry for parity with India, implying that Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme in the light of the A Q Khan affair could not be equated with India's responsible and clean nuclear record.

On the terrorism front, in the wake of September 11 attacks, General Musharraf had no option but to join the global war on terrorism (GWOT). It brought rich dividends for Pakistan - the subsequent $3 billion in US aid and waiving of several loans resurrected its tottering economy. It was also granted the status of Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA). But now, Pakistan's role in GWOT, supposedly the lone bargaining chip in General Musharraf's hands, has come to be seen as insufficient by the US. Bush's statement, "Part of my mission today was to determine whether or not the president is as committed as he has been in the past (emphasis added) to bring these terrorists to justice, and he is," emanated out of this scepticism towards Pakistan's commitment to the cause. There have been lapses and gaps in intelligence-sharing on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and other key leaders which were also possibly interpreted by the US as deliberate on Pakistan's part. Hence, General Musharraf was asked to do more in defeating the Al Qaeda.

It is also very frustrating for Pakistan to find the US pointing out shortcomings and inadequacies in its role in Afghanistan, while simultaneously praising India's efforts in providing training to the Afghan assembly staff, elected leaders and security forces, as well as its provision of aid to Kabul for reconstruction. In the same vein, George Bush's description of India as 'global power' and 'natural partner of US' at Purana Qila (old fort) in New Delhi on March 3, 2006 was seen as incongruent to Pakistan's role and ground realities in the region. President Bush's comments that 'India helped the Afghan people to get back on their feet who will always remember that in their hours of need India stood by them' was rejected in Pakistan, considering that the new US-India partnership for the cause of 'democracy and liberty' accorded a dominant role to India in regional affairs. Analysts believe that Pakistan as a US frontline ally in the region, in spite of losing hundreds of soldiers in the fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, finds its strategic depth in Afghanistan eroded significantly due to the Indian role.

On the Kashmir issue too, the story was no different as George Bush ruled out any mediation and called for bilateral effort to settle the differences. Unlike Pakistan, he also shared the need for confidence building measures for changing the atmospherics and enhancing trade as a solution to India-Pakistan conflict. This negated General Musharraf's assertion that the CBMs have facilitated only the atmospherics and trust aspect but not the resolution portion per se. The US response on Kashmir perhaps dampened the spirits not only in Pakistan but also among the separatists in Jammu & Kashmir and the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). Possibly, the resulting despair may heighten terrorist activities in J&K and elsewhere in India, inspired by Pakistan purely for domestic consumption. The bomb blasts in the Sankatmochan temple and railway station in Varanasi on March 7, 2006, which killed 20 people and injured over 50 others, could just be the beginning of another round of killings and bloodshed to be undertaken at Pakistan's behest.

George Bush's visit to Pakistan, considered by many as a 'balancing act' and 'dull affair', provided a trigger for the mullahs, mainstream parties and the media to step up pressure on General Musharraf. More and more have now begun to join the debate arguing that Pakistan should accept that the US is not a trusted ally given that Washington had abandoned it on previous occasions as well. Many also contend that Pakistan must understand that the US has no role whatsoever to play in the Kashmir issue. The US nuclear deal with India and moves to establish a long-term strategic partnership with Pakistan's bloody rival has come to re-emphasize the fact that Pakistan at the most can only be a tactical and not strategic ally. After years of support to the US in Afghanistan and doing this at peril to his own life and political standing in Pakistan, General Musharraf has only got a sermon on the need to strengthen democracy by holding free and fair elections in 2007, to do more on the counter-terrorism front, and settle the Kashmir issue bilaterally. It is heartbreaking and demoralizing indeed! The opposition in Pakistan has stepped up pressure on General Musharraf asking for his resignation because of the failure of his foreign and defence policies, signified by the US presidential visit and the sermons pronounced by George Bush. General Musharraf himself off late has tried to soothe tempers saying that Pakistan does not want to indulge in an arms race with India and seek parity with it and that, therefore, Pakistan's relations with the US should be seen in isolation from US-India relations. But his domestic critics are likely to trash this argument by contending that even in the US-Pakistan context alone the Bush visit has put both General Musharraf and Pakistan out in the cold on all vital matters.

In the aftermath of the Bush visit, two trends can be expected. First, one may witness a spurt in terrorist activities in J&K and elsewhere in India, not only to convince domestic constituencies that the Kashmir issue is very much the priority but also to keep the 'K' factor alive for political purposes. In 2007, supposedly the election year in Pakistan, General Musharraf may resort to old tactics of diverting attention to external threats and challenges and hence justify his indispensability for Pakistan. Second, it would lead to more robust Sino-Pakistan ties in the coming years. Just before George Bush's visit, General Musharraf had visited China and signed several deals pertaining to defence and energy cooperation including nuclear, and secured Chinese investments to the tune of $21 billion. Both have enjoyed strong relations historically and have reasons to feel concerned with the rise of India and its growing proximity to the US. But for now, General Musharraf has not only to figure out how to make Pakistan recover from the current debacle but also craft a policy that balances its relationship with both the US and China.

South Asia Pakistan-US Relations, Pakistan Indian President's Visit to Myanmar March 09, 2006 Udai Bhanu Singh

President APJ Abdul Kalam began his three day (March 8-10, 2006) state visit to Myanmar on March 8 at the invitation of Sr General Than Shwe who himself had visited India in October 2004. The visit began on International Women's Day: whether this was a mere coincidence or carried any hidden symbolism (to draw attention to the continued house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi) is open to interpretation. However, one thing is certain. The first visit by an Indian head of state to this Southeast Asian nation shows that New Delhi attaches great importance to this geopolitically crucial country irrespective of the kind of political system it currently has.

During his visit President Kalam is expected to visit Yangon University, Shwe Dagon Pagoda, and the memorial (mazaar) to the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, besides seeing Bagan and Mandalay. Myanmar has had a steady stream of high level visits from India. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi paid a visit in 1987. India's three service chiefs who have held office at different times have deemed it important to visit Myanmar. The Indian Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat's visit to Myanmar in November 2003 was an important landmark. There were equally significant visits by the Indian External Affairs Minister at different times (Jaswant Singh in April 2002, and Natwar Singh in March 2005). Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, who had served as India's Ambassador to Myanmar, paid a visit in October 2004. He has described the current visit of the President as a very important visit to a very important neighbour. The then Home Secretary NN Vohra had visited Myanmar in 1994 and the process was continued by his successors right upto VK Duggal in October 2005.

Viewed from Myanmar's perspective, its objective is clearly to attain greater integration with the international community and greater manoeuvrability in its foreign relation (which would in a sense be an extension of its earlier emphasis on nonalignment).This explains its urge to have a vibrant relationship with China, which country Myanmar Prime Minister Soe Win visited between February 14 and 18, 2006). Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono paid a visit to Myanmar on March 1-2, 2006. During this visit, Indonesia's foreign minister, Hassan Wirajuda who accompanied the President, offered to share his country's expereince in transition to democracy. The Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar is waiting in the wings to visit Myanmar.

When US President Bush came to India recently, he did criticise Myanmar's human rights record in his speech but what is significant is that Myanmar did not find a mention in India's joint declaration with the United States. From India's standpoint, the objectives it views as signifcant are: energy requirements, infrastructure projects, counter-insurgency, counter-narcotics policy, development of the northeast, and promotion of the Look East policy.

There seems to be an urgency to India's need to import natural gas from an offshore block close to the Arakan coast of Myanmar in which the Gas Autority of India Limited (GAIL) and ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) have stakes. India and Myanamar are expected to sign an agreement on gas supply from Myanmar's Arakan coast. Following Bangladeshi recalcitrance over this issue, India is left with only two options - a (far more expensive) pipeline bypassing Bangladesh through India's northeastern states, or shipping the gas by converting it into LNG. The latter appears to be a viable option and could be finally adopted. Keeping in view India's rapidly growing import dependence for energy (to keep pace with the requirements of GDP growth) it is worth taking Myanmar seriously as a source of energy.

The Kaladan multi-modal transport project is also expected to get a boost with the President's visit. A multi-modal transport from Mizoram to Sitwe could provide "an alternative outlet to the sea for Northeast India in addition to transit through Chittagong" or through the Siliguri neck and Assam.

Following the successful operation in Bhutan against militant outfits in December 2003, similar hopes were expressed for the Indo-Myanmar border. Talks held during General Joginder Jaswant Singh's visit in November 2005 covered security along the Indo-Myanmar border. During his October 2004 visit to India, Sr Gen Than Shwe had assured India that it would not allow insurgents to operate from the territory of Myanmar. Following that visit the armies of the two sides cooperated in counter-insurgency operations along the border in November 2004. India's Home Secretary VK Duggal visited Myanmar for the eleventh round of talks between Home Secretaries of the two countries, during which an agreement was reached on co-operation in tackling insurgents, arms smuggling drugs, etc. on October 14, 2005.

India's trade with Myanmar has steadily increased after border trade was opened at Moreh-Tamu in April 1995 and was targeted at $1 billion this year. India is among Myanmar's top export destinations. But as relations between the two countries deepen, co-operation in other areas like human resource development, education and biotechnology will need to be emphasized.

Military-to-military contacts between India and Myanmar have grown. The Indian Army Chief's visit in November 2005 was followed by the visit of India's Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash in January 2006. In February 2005 the Myanmar Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Soe Thein visited India. Two Indian warships, guided missile destroyer INS Ranjit and the missile corvette INS Kuthar, visited Yangon to participate in some basic exercises with the Myanmar Navy between December 22 and 26, 2005. A corvette of the Myanmar Navy participated in the multi-nation exercise Milan-06 off the Andaman coast (January 9-14, 2006).

A strong and stable Myanmar is in India's interest and it is equally in India's interest to promote agriculture on which Myanmar deeply depends. During his visit President Kalam is expected to discuss the setting up of a ground station in Myanmar which would receive relevant data for better crop management from Indian satellites.

From the Indian point of view, a stable Myanmar is a good in itself and must not be construed as illustrative of Indian rivalry with China. If economics is the prime mover behind India's Look East policy, the economic transformation of India's eastern neighbour could play a very powerful role in its political transformation to a more democratic regime. The process may be gradual but if Myanmar is helped along in this process by neighbouring ASEAN States (including Indonesia which has an experience in this regard) and India, the results may be more enduring and least disruptive.

South East Asia and Oceania Myanmar, India-Myanmar Relations The Bush Offering: Uninterrupted Power Supply March 08, 2006 Cherian Samuel

With President Bush having concluded, in the eyes of both governments, a highly successful visit to India, the time has come to take stock of developments and to assess whether, as has been asserted over and over again, the outcome has been a win-win for both countries.

In the course of his visit to the United States last July, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush signed a landmark agreement whose intent was to "transform" the relationship between the two countries.

Was the relationship in such dire need of transformation? The "Next Steps in Strategic Partnership" or NSSP, initiated in 2004, seemed to be doing an adequate job of removing many of the irritants coming in the way of improved relations, many of them legacies from the Cold War era. But the NSSP, despite its nomenclature, was, at best, a mechanism for normalizing relations between the two countries. The leadership in both countries felt the need to accelerate the process of improving ties through an approach other than the slow step-by-step glide path envisaged by the NSSP.

Thus, the impetus to ratchet up ties and to address outstanding issues such as the nuclear technology denial regime was predicated on political, economic and strategic imperatives on both sides. Again, once the agreement had been signed, the momentum for following up on the Agreement was also provided by the very same imperatives. As a result, much has happened in the short span of seven months between the Prime Minister's visit to the United States and the President's reciprocal visit to India.

The main driver for improved relations on the Indian side was provided by economic compulsions. The Prime Minister, who was responsible for initiating India's economic reforms in 1992, has been clear in his mind that India's growth has reached an inflection point, and that further growth can be sustained only with an infusion of foreign investment to overhaul our decaying infrastructure and to increase competitiveness and productivity. India also needed access to the latest cutting edge technologies, largely available with the United States, to power its economic growth. Such access was largely limited by the US export licensing regimes, which barred the export of high technology with the potential for dual use, both in the civilian and military spheres. These restrictions also cast a further shadow over investment by American companies in India, already constrained by fears of bureaucratic hurdles and infrastructural shortcomings. Though the Indian economy has been racing along on the back of pent-up demand, speed bumps were already looming ahead because of the lack of adequate infrastructure. In the energy sector alone, as reported by Andy Mukherjee in the Wall Street Journal, the recent economic survey released by the Finance Ministry had computed that in the current fiscal year, goods and services worth $68 billion hadn't been produced because of power shortages. According to the Prime Minister, India needed a yearly investment of $150 billion to shore up its infrastructure.

The economic logic for closer relations with the United States was amply supported by the changing geo-political situation. Though India was being courted by all the major powers and being offered a seat at various high tables, only the United States could offer an optimum combination of economic and strategic benefits. But relations could only take off if there was a revaluation of strategic equations on the American side, one that factored in India's security challenges and foreign policy goals and aspirations. Hitherto, India had been on the margins of American political and strategic thinking, as a result of which much of the policy towards India was dictated by the predilections of the non-proliferation and pro-Pakistan lobbies within and outside the bureaucracy. Despite recognition at the political level for the need to reassess equations with India, the inertia of the pre-existing relationship came in the way of any meaningful movement forward. Only the political leadership in the two countries could work up the necessary momentum required to "transform" the relationship.

The considerations that played a part in convincing President Bush of the advantages in advancing US-India relations are only too well known but bear retelling. Economic considerations such as the huge Indian market that was 300 million strong and reducing global dependence on fossil fuels dovetailed with strategic goals such as that of propping up India as a foil against the increasing weight that China carried by virtue of its size and gargantuan economy.

India was also a shining example of the ability of democracy to scale up to provide representative government to a billion-plus people, nearly one-fifth of humanity. The cause of democracy promotion so ardently advocated by the President has undoubtedly got a shot in the arm with India's participation.

There was also the bonus of drawing in the monetarily well endowed but politically unattached Indian American community into the folds of the Republican Party, a small but potentially significant step in Karl Rove's goal of creating a permanent majority for the GOP.

This is the backdrop against which the strategic partnership was conceived and carried through. Beginning with the signing of the joint agreement on July 18, 2005, and notwithstanding the tortuous parleys that went into fashioning a break-through agreement that untangled the nuclear knot, the two sides have institutionalized the mechanisms for closer co-operation and signed a slew of other agreements. A back of the envelope count shows that no less than seventeen agreements have been signed and initiatives launched over the past twelve months in a wide spectrum of areas ranging from trade promotion, to agriculture, to space co-operation to defence co-production to AIDS prevention. During the current visit, one of the major criticisms of industry, that the two governments have to lead the way and focus on particular areas, has been addressed with the establishment of a $100 million project for agricultural co-operation and a $30 million project for co-operation in science and technology. In addition, 18 joint ventures were also agreed upon between the two governments. Many other projects are in the works, including a $500 million project to set up development laboratories where the latest cutting edge technologies will be used to develop products such as life-saving drugs. All these seek to replicate the US model of R&D where strong linkages are established between government, universities and the private sector, thus providing each with a stake in ensuring the success of the venture as well as a laid out path from the laboratory to the marketplace.

The major coup for the Indian government has been the signing of a civilian nuclear deal on terms largely favourable to it and addressing the concerns of the scientific community and others that it would affect India's strategic nuclear programme. As Dr. M.R. Srinivasan, former head of the Atomic Energy Commission and a critic of the initial deal, put it: "From the Indian point of view it is a good agreement. The last minute hurdle was over acceptance of a clause regarding safeguards in perpetuity. But the compromise was reached with India getting a guarantee of uninterrupted power supply."

In a sense, the Indo-US Strategic partnership is all about power supply, not just electricity to light up the villages or guaranteed uranium supply to feed the nuclear reactors, but also co-operation on the economic front that will ultimately feed all the other tangibles and intangibles that go into the making of a great power.

Nuclear and Arms Control India-US Relations The Bomb and the Bird March 08, 2006 Ajey Lele

In the backdrop of President Bush's successful visit to India and the finalizing of the 'nuclear energy' deal minus the US Congress approval, many opinion-makers are coming out with bizarre theories about this deal either in its favour or against it and appear to be making a few mistakes knowingly.

In contrast, intellectual debate is entirely missing on bird flu and its future, particularly when the spread of bird flu has already started in the country. This clearly indicates the triviality of intellectual thinking, be it among academics, scientists or the media.

The concern is this: why are scientists talking only about nuclear issues seriously, while other than routine media briefs by some doctors nothing significant is being discussed on the status of preparedness to handle the threat from bird flu? Is it that the media fails to understand the gravity of the plausible situation if human-to-human transmission of the disease starts, and is currently only interested in counting the dead chickens! Probably, bird flu in particular and agriculture in general do not have the requisite 'sex appeal' the nuclear deal has, and hence the lack of analytical focus.

Interestingly, the texts of the Indo-US Joint Statement issued on July 18, 2005 and March 2, 2006 make clear mention of a US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture focused on promoting teaching, research, service and commercial linkages. But the media is totally devoid of any news on that front, barring an odd report talking about Indian Mango reaching Uncle Sam's country. Particularly for a country like India, agriculture is one of the most important sectors for social, economic and political stability. But little attention is being paid to revolutionalise this field, and lack of significant debate on these issues is bound to harm the country in the long run. Over the years, many times the Indian agro-scientific community has essentially been seen only haggling over issues related to Genetically Modified (GM) food. The other reason for agro-science not coming to the forefront could be the Brahminical treatment given to nuclear scientists in this country. Many of these scientists have shown an ability to become political scientists. But the poor agro-scientist remains mostly in the background, and in the farms.

On issues related to security and technology, the 'thinking community' just appears to be refusing to think out of the box. The strategic community in the country has become so obsessed with Pakistan, nuclear weapons and terrorism, that it fails to appreciate other facets of security, particularly human security. Human security essentially deals with protecting individuals and communities from any form of violence (civil war, genocide, etc.) and even a natural disaster could be defined as violence 'by nature'. It needs to be understood that secure States do not automatically mean secure people. National security may deal with protecting citizens from foreign attack, but does not guarantee protection in the holistic sense of the term.

The chaos in handling bird flu cases in rural Maharashtra is an indication of how little we understand the complexities of human security. Luckily, the threat is still at a nascent stage, but are we prepared to handle fallouts of any human-to-human transmission? Here, it needs to be understood that under such a scenario challenges would go much beyond providing simple medical treatment. Are we as a state prepared to handle the political and social fallouts of any spread of infectious diseases? A simple indicator to such fallouts could be the case of copying by students in Nawapur in board examinations. Since the police force was deployed to handle the situation arising due to bird flu, it could not be made available at examination centres. The Katrina hurricane disaster in the US has shown to the entire world how anti-social elements take advantage of such circ*mstances.

There also appears to be lack of interest in carrying out a "cost-benefit analysis" of money spent on security-related issues. Today, in India, the issue of national security has become more of a 'holy cow' and is unduly getting associated with 'nationalism'. Though a substantial amount of the budget is being spent on 'defence,' this is being done without undertaking proper threat and risk assessments. Issues like 'is nuclear energy the only viable, cheap and clean option' are not even getting discussed at the appropriate fora. A simple comparison of deaths caused by terrorism, investments made in counter-terrorism-related activities and human and economic losses incurred during recent natural disasters in the country indicates that the loss due to disasters surpasses investments in counter-terrorism.

Over the years the entire security apparatus of the state has come to be been seen as more reactive than proactive, probably because we ourselves are not too sure about what we should guard against. As a nation we have a responsibility to make sure that the natural world continues to survive for our future generations and to do so, if we have to kill a bird, we better kill a bird and if we have to kill a bomb, we better kill a bomb.

North America & Strategic Technologies Bird Flu, India-US Relations Defence Budget 2006-07 March 07, 2006 Pravin Joshi

The Indian defence budget for FY 2006-07 is Rs 89, 000 crore (cr). This is 7.23 per cent more than the budget in FY 2004-05. As a percentage of GDP, the budget is 2.29 per cent as against 2.39 per cent in the previous year. Taking the revised allocation of Rs 81, 700 at RE (Revised Estimate) stage in FY 2004-05, the increase is 8.94 per cent.

The revenue budget at Rs 51, 542 cr is Rs 2, 917 cr (or six per cent) more than the in previous year. The capital budget is Rs 37, 458 cr, i.e. an increase of Rs 3, 083 cr (8.97 per cent), though during the previous year it had been reduced at the RE stage by Rs 1,300 cr. So in effect the increase is of Rs 4, 383 cr, that is 13.25 per cent. The revenue budget is 57.91 per cent of the total (58.58 per cent last year), while the capital budget is 42.09 percent (41.42 per cent last year).

Service-wise, the Army has an increase of 2.79 per cent, the Navy 13.13 per cent and the Air Force 9.48 per cent in the revenue budget. The capital budget has been increased by 10.01 per cent for the Army, 3.34 per cent for the Navy and 17.20 per cent for the Air Force. The total increase is 4.49 per cent for the Army, 7.16 per cent for the Navy and 14.01 per cent for the Air Force.

The modernisation budget of the services has been enhanced by Rs 3, 222 cr (11.49 per cent) over the budget allocation last year and 3, 845 cr (14.03 per cent) over the revised allocation. The Air Force has the maximum increase of Rs 2, 175 cr (17.58 per cent), while the Army has been granted Rs 818 cr (11.54 per cent) and the Navy Rs 229 cr (2.67 per cent).

The budget enhancement of Ordnance Factories is 53.81 per cent and that of the DRDO is 1.82 per cent.

In spite of the PM giving an assurance earlier that defence allocations could be increased to 3 per cent of the GDP if economic growth rate were to reach 8 per cent, there has actually been a fall in the budget in terms of percentage of GDP though economic growth is around 8 per cent now.

While there was no surrender of funds at RE stage in FY 2004-05, FY 2005-06 again saw a surrender of Rs 1, 700 cr at the RE stage out of the total allocation of Rs 83, 000 cr. The surrenders have been from the capital budget, out of which Rs 623 cr are from the modernisation budget. Once again the defence forces were not able to utilise the entire allotted modernisation budget, presumably by foregoing some planned acquisition contracts. In the forthcoming year, the modernisation budget is 35.12 per cent of the total budget as against 33.78 per cent in the previous year. The Air Force and the Army have a substantial increase in the modernisation budget. The Air Force is likely to go for the acquisition of 126 multirole combat aircraft, termed the ‘mother of all acquisitions’, and the Army for the much awaited 155 mm guns. Along with these, payment also have to made for the aircraft carrier ‘Gorshkov’ from Russia, the Advanced Jet Trainers from the UK and ‘Scorpene’ submarines from France.

The Service-wise share of the defence budget is as follows: -

2006-07 2005-06
Army46.72%47.95%
Navy17.32%17.33%
Air Force27.94%26.28%

Surprisingly the ‘research and development’ budget has been increased by only 1.82 per cent and is 6.13 per cent of the total defence budget.

Comparing the defence allocations of China and Pakistan in terms of percentages of GDP, the Indian defence budget is far below the Chinese and Pakistani defence budgets, which remain above four per cent of their respective GDPs.

Keeping in view the improvement of relations with China and the ongoing peace process with Pakistan, it may be reasonable to assess that India’s defence allocations in 2006-07 will be adequate to meet the security needs of the country with particular reference to the ‘modernisation’ programme.

Defence Economics & Industry Defence Budget Indo-US Attempt to Bite the Illegal Bytes March 07, 2006 Prasad P. Rane

Of the several agreements signed during the recently concluded US presidential visit to India, one initiative that has been lost to sight is on Cyber Crimes. As part of the larger counter-terrorism effort and realizing the importance of cyber security and cyber forensic research, India and the US have agreed to enhance cooperation to tackle Cyber Crime. This will lead to a greater sharing of expertise in the areas of tracing computer viruses and software worms and network analysis. The agencies involved in this exercise will be the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) under the Department of Information Technology and the United States Cyber Security Division. The joint statement released after the talks between Manmohan Singh and George Bush also stated that the two countries would be discussing a draft protocol on cyber security.

As a part of the larger counter terrorism dialogue, former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Bush had agreed to set up an India-US cyber security forum in November 2001. Under the auspices of this forum, high power delegations from both sides met for the first plenary in the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) on April 29-30, 2002. Since then three plenary meetings have taken place, the third one was held on January 17, 2006.

The 21st century international system is inter-connected with information highways, and Information Technology (IT) has become the buzzword. Speaking philosophically, while the industrial revolution had already "solved" the problem of food, the information revolution solved the problem of "problems". After the initial euphoria subsided, the world slowly started realizing the shortcomings of this information revolution, which had eradicated the problem of "problems" only to lead to an even greater problem. IT can be called an enabling technology, for it enables the user to solve the problem by providing multiple solutions to the problem. The masters of binary logic who are also called computer wizards are responsible for this. But there is another breed of computer wizards who are responsible for cyber crimes. These cyber crimes encompass several nefarious activities like propagating disinformation, defacing websites, spreading computer viruses and software worms, phishing and hacking. Visualizing the problems ahead, a common vision is required to ensure cyber security and prevent cyber crimes.

As is widely acknowledged, terrorism is a threat in all it forms and manifestation. Cyber terrorism is the convergence of terrorism and cyberspace. It is an unlawful attack and threat against computers, networks, and the information stored therein. It is a tool that has the capacity to paralyse a certain network. Such attacks are used to threaten or coerce a government or its people for promoting certain political or social objectives. In an age where information has become a currency of power and sensitive sectors like finance are networked via the Internet, cyber security has become an area of great concern. For countries like the US, an information superpower, and India, which has adopted the information revolution, securing cyber space and information networks has become a tightrope walk. Against this backdrop, the Indo-US Cyber Security forum has proved to be a platform for exchanging views on cyber security. These plenary meetings can also be seen as a tool to shape the Indo-US Strategic Partnership.

As stated above, the Indian Prime Minister and the US President have agreed to enhance co-operation between the law enforcement agencies of the two countries to tackle cyber crimes. The two countries are also carrying out discussions on a draft protocol on cyber security. At the 3rd plenary, which concluded on January 17, 2006, several new initiatives were announced. It was decided to set up an India Information Sharing and Analysis Centre (ISAC) for better co-operation in anti-hacking measures as well as an India Anti-Bot Alliance to raise awareness about the emerging threats in cyberspace by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), in consultation with their US counterpart. It was also decided that the ongoing cooperation between India's Standardization, Testing and Quality Certification (STQC) and the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be expanded to newer areas including harmonization of standards. The R&D Working Group will concentrate on hard problems of cyber security, cyber forensics and anti-spam research. In a way, discussions during the plenary meetings chalked the way for intensifying bilateral cooperation to control cyber crime between India and the US. But the question to be addressed is: is it enough?

Looking at the pace of developments in the field of information technology, these initiatives should pave the way for more institutionalised efforts. There is a need for institutionalising a framework to address the problem of cyber crimes by taking inputs and sharing information from law enforcement agencies of the two countries. The number of Indian websites facing the problem of defacement is alarming. CERT-IN reported that Indian websites were defaced 4824 times in the year 2005 alone. As most Indian financial institutions like banks and stock markets have opted for E-Commerce, the rate of defacement may lead to another worry, viz., phishing crimes. CERT-IN underlines phishing as a widespread targeted financial scam in which social engineering and spyware/malicious code methods are used to steal personal and financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames, passwords and social security numbers of Internet users. Given the growing electronic interdependencies and the imperative of protecting electronic transactions and critical infrastructure, there is a need for joint research projects in the field of information technology, which would give an opportunity for scientists from both sides to conduct collaborative research. The gravity of cyber crimes increases with the potential of hackers to hack defence-related websites and create chaos. The mere thought of defacement of defence and nuclear energy related websites sends shivers down the spine.

Though India has not yet experienced a full-fledged cyber attack paralysing the system, given its vitality the strategic community should include cyber security in the mainstream discourse. The Indo-US agreement in this context has marked a new beginning. This initiative will hopefully not lose out to other conventional areas.

Nuclear and Arms Control Cyber Security, India-US Relations The Sri Lankan Peace Process: Looking Beyond Geneva March 06, 2006 Sukanya Podder

While much analysis has gone into the recently held talks at Geneva on February 22 and 23, 2006, the consensus lies in the recognition that the talks were an important beginning to make a political solution possible to this intractable conflict. At Geneva the two sides had taken divergent positions prior to the talks, with the government desiring an amendment of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) and the LTTE seeking better implementation of the same. However, in what appears as an accommodating stance from both sides, the LTTE has committed itself to taking "all necessary measures to ensure that there will be no acts of violence against the security forces and police." Colombo on its part will "take all necessary measures in accordance with the CFA to ensure that no armed group or person other than the government security forces will carry arms or conduct armed operations."

These commitments were made by the two sides over and above their basic resolve to uphold the ceasefire. Hence, while the Rajapakse government was keen on extricating itself from the shackles of the ceasefire prior to the talks, it finds itself recommitted to the same document that it has declared unconstitutional since it was signed by the then PM Ranil Wickremsinghe.

The final joint statement by Eric Solheim suggests that the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM) will report on implementation of the agreements reached at Geneva. But this goes against the spirit of the Presidential Policy statement of November 2005, which sought to reshape or replace the SLMM with a more open and transparent monitoring machinery. Amendments have not been officially made to the CFA although the government delegation described the Geneva commitments as amendments prompting a LTTE threat to abandon further dialogue. Thus post Geneva the CFA continues to be the key document holding the peace in place, indicating that for now the LTTE seems to have cornered a better deal.

Against this backdrop the next round of talks slated for April 19-21, 2006 at Geneva seems poised for a major confrontation, and it is the implementation of the recent Geneva commitments that holds the key to how the process will shape itself. Efforts are already underway to prepare for the next round of talks and reveal a growing recognition of the need to address the often-overlooked humanitarian dimensions of the ethnic conflict.

Last week the government held the first preparatory meeting attended by representatives from its allies - the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). Despite the fact that the JVP and the JHU had signed pre-poll pacts with President Rajapakse amounting to a near overhaul of the Norwegian-brokered peace process, it seems that there exists a consensus in favour of engaging the Tigers. Hence, although they were critical of the Geneva talks they are unlikely to jeopardize the process of dialogue.

The LTTE would like to address issues like fishing rights of civilians in the northeast and High Security Zones (HSZs) in the next round of talks. The question of HSZs is a sensitive one and has been placed on the backburner since the Hakone talks in March 2003. It has relevance for the freedom of movement enjoyed by the Tamils in the northeast, and also has implications for refugee settlements. Given that the HSZs in the Jaffna peninsula houses vital military installations like the Palaly airport and the Kankesanthurai harbour, dismantling the HSZs is going to be a tricky issue.

The government on its part is likely to draw attention to human rights abuses by the Tigers. The just concluded round of talks did dwell on child recruitment by the LTTE and the paramilitary and armed groups. In fact, the issue of LTTE child soldiers is likely to be an important one given that the UN Secretary General's Report on Children and Armed Conflict (July 2005), which lists the LTTE as a violator of the legal ban on recruiting under-18s. Besides, the Report marks the genesis of a comprehensive monitoring and reporting mechanism that is expected to pre-empt measures like sanctions and travel bans on listed parties. Interestingly, on February 7, 2006, the Secretary General has appointed the noted Sri Lankan human rights and legal expert Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy as his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. Hence, the issue will come to the fore of the debate on human rights violations.

Several other issues will soon have to be addressed by the government. These pertain to the LTTE's airstrip and aircraft, the decommissioning of their arms and disbanding of their suicide squad, and most significantly the illegal operation of LTTE vessels in Sri Lankan territorial waters. These have consequences for India and it would be to Indian benefit if the two sides address these issues in the near future.

The intervening period provides much scope for consolidating or breaking the current thaw. For now it is wait and watch. It needs to be seen how the government proposes to address the issue of disarming armed groups, given that Karuna has declared his resolve to continue resisting the LTTE. The Tigers on their part are required to minimize attacks on government forces and seek a cleaner image as being committed to dialogue.

The next round of talks thus seems poised for some major diplomatic manouvres, and holds the key to whether the Sri Lankan peace process will be effective in engendering conflict transformation and in mitigating decades of civil and ethnic violence.

South Asia Sri Lanka
Publication | Page 628 | Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (2024)
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