India Insight

Is India really the world’s fifth most powerful country?

India is the world’s fifth most powerful country, according to a New Delhi-authored national security document, the Times of India reported on Wednesday, as Indian analysts placed the emerging nation above major European powers.

Outranking traditional global powers such as the UK, France and Germany, India’s ballooning population, defense capabilities and economic clout were cited as reasons for its position behind only the U.S., China, Japan and Russia in India’s National Security Annual Review 2010, which will be officially released by the country’s foreign ministry next week.

Its statistical foundations in terms of population numbers and GDP aside — in terms of purchasing power parity, it should be noted — India’s experience of wielding power on the global stage of late, boosted by its temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council, has been less encouraging.

India has failed to cultivate a wholly reciprocal relationship with the United States, despite warm rhetoric in recent years between New Delhi and Washington and a number of big-ticket diplomatic and industrial agreements.

New Delhi appears to struggle to assert itself in the face of growing Chinese influence in south Asia, has dithered on formulating a firm approach to states such as Iran, and risked appearing naive and out of its depth during the lead-up to international efforts to protect civilians in Libya.

Should forces responsible for over 100 killings be praised for restraint?

India’s Prime Minister praised the work of security forces in disputed Kashmir on Tuesday, in a show of support for troops that killed over 100 separatist protesters last year that risks angering those that resent India’s large military presence in the state.

Indian policemen stand guard during a curfew in Srinagar September 21, 2010. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

The remarks represent a seal of approval for security forces that are cited by many Kashmiris as an element of the violence, rather than the preventers of it, and come as a team of interlocutors enters its fifth month of talks in the troubled region, and almost two months after Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said that a political solution to the troubles was likely to emerge “in the next few months.”

But can Manmohan Singh’s praise for the “tremendous restraint” of Indian forces in Kashmir be applauded considering they have been responsible for the death of over 100 separatist protesters in months of violent clashes since last summer?

Where has India’s hawkish stance on China gone?

India’s complex diplomacy with China became further muddled on Friday as the chief of the Indian army categorically denied any troop build-up on either side of the Asian giants’ shared border in response to recent reports of Chinese military incursions into Indian territory.

India’s civil government and army officials strike a delicate balancing act in their position on the country’s powerful neighbour, with a hawkish military stance traditionally tempered by more reserved – but domestically unpopular – rhetoric from New Delhi.

A soldier of the Indian army stands guard in Medo village, an insurgency affected area, on the road to India-China border in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh September 6, 2007. Picture taken September 6, 2007. REUTERS/Parth Sanyal

However that appeared to be out of date on Friday as General V.K. Singh, Chief of Army staff said neither side was bolstering its border troops, four days after trashing media reports of potential acts of Chinese aggression on Indian soil last September.

U.S. questions India’s military response abilities

WikiLeaks’ secret U.S. cable dump exposed the first controversial remarks about India on Wednesday, when a cable published by the Guardian described American belittling of India’s ‘Cold Start’ military retaliation plan against Pakistan.
U.S. ambassador to India Tim Roemer (R) talks with security personnel after his meeting with the Indian foreign ministry officials in New Delhi  REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe
The Cold Start is a much vaunted doctrine to rebuff any Pakistani aggression by a massive military attack across the border within 72 hours of any attack from its neighbour.

After India and the U.S. were spared any serious embarrassment in the first two days of WikiLeak’s staggered release of secret U.S. cables, save an outspoken remark from Hillary Clinton about India’s inflated global ambitions, the secret cable from U.S. Ambassador Tim Roemer states that it is unlikely that India would ever enact the planned retribution strategy, and the chances of success would be questionable if so, in a cutting critique of New Delhi’s military might.

The February 16, 2010 cable from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, classified by Roemer and released by WikiLeaks, describes India’s ‘Cold Start Doctrine’ as “a mixture of myth and reality.”

Is Lashkar-e-Taiba behind Kashmir protests?

India has blamed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group for violent anti-India demonstrations sweeping across the Muslim-majority valley in which 11 people have been killed so far.

Policemen stand guard in front of closed shops during a curfew in Srinagar July 2, 2010. REUTERS/Danish IsmailIn Indian Kashmir, authorities extended a curfew on Friday and deployed thousands of troops to quell fresh protests that have spread to other parts of the disputed region.

“We think it is the LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) which is active in Sopore (in north Kashmir),” Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said.

Is the Republic Day parade still relevant?

A tableau from the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) with a theme of global warming is displayed amid heavy fog during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi January 26, 2010. REUTERS/B MathurIndia’s cultural diversity was once again on display in the main streets of Lutyens’ Delhi as the country proclaimed itself a Republic for the 61st time.

Men, women and children in uniform and vivid attire marched along with their tableaux as the armed forces turned out in full battle regalia.

All this, when a significant number of people revelled in watching Dhoni’s batting prowess in the cricket test match between India and Bangladesh.

Indian Army Day: Road to reform?

INDIA

January 15 is celebrated as India’s Army Day each year. Sixty-two years ago on this day, the first Indian officer took over as Commander–in–Chief of the army.

Lately, the Indian army has been under constant scrutiny. From modernization of equipment to the moral character of the organisation, many believe the army is facing too many problems at the same time.

In the recent past, there was a media frenzy about Chinese incursions and violation of Indian air space along the Line of Actual Control and also speculation whether the army would fight the growing left-wing extremism in its own country.

India’s nuclear submarine dream, still miles to go

The unveiling of India’s top secret nuclear-powered submarine, three decades after it was conceived, has been greeted with much tub-thumping.

Even for a nation hungry for success and even more than that, global recognition, some of the adulation seems excessive and perhaps premature as many are starting to point out.

INS Arihant, or destroyer of enemies, has just made contact with water, as it were, with the navy flooding the dry dock at last weekend’s launch in the southern port city of Visakhapatnam.  It has to be tested in the harbour, then out at sea. The nuclear reactor, the heart of the new technology, has yet to be fitted. Perhaps a bigger moment will be when that reactor goes critical.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

More churning in South Asia : India bolsters defences on China border

Power play in South Asia is always a delicate dance and anything that happens between India and China will likely play itself out across the region, not the least in Pakistan, Beijing's all weather friend.

And things are starting to move on the India-China front. We carried a report this weekabout India's plan to increase troop levels and build more airstrips in the remote state of Arunachal Pradesh, a territory disputed by China.  New Delhi planned to deploy two army divisions, the report quoted Arunachal governor J.J. Singh as saying.

Other reports in the Indian media said the air force was beefing up its base in Tejpur in the northeast with Su-30 fighter planes, the newest in its armoury. The HIndustan Times said it was part of a decision to move advanced assets close to the Chinese  border.  The IAF base in Tejpur which is in the state of Assam is within striking distance of the border with China in Arunachal Pradesh.

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