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Surajit Roy asked: How the implementation of the new Land Acquisition Act will curb the Maoist menace?

Amit Kumar replies: The Left Wing Extremism (LWE) or Maoist movement takes its sinew from the security, administrative and political vacuum that extends over vast areas in parts of the country. The twin process of liberalisation and globalisation has further aggravated this threat by alienating some sections of the society. The Maoist strategy of protracted war recognises the strength and superiority of the state’s brute force, but recognises, equally, its vulnerabilities.

One such vulnerability emanates from the non-implementation of land reforms in many states, which has resulted in the amassing of large tracts of land by a few at the cost of many which in turn has led to huge unrest among the later to be exploited by the Maoists. The post-liberalisation economic policies have focused on high growth rates, which comes at the cost of social exclusion of many. The previous land acquisition policy, which tantamount to land grabbing, affected millions of families particularly in the hinterlands which have long been a fertile ground for the Maoists. These affected families either become sympathisers or join the Maoist rank-and-file. In either case, they are helping the Maoist strategy of protracted war.

As part of a continuing effort to deal with LWE in a holistic manner, the government has passed The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, replacing the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Contrary to the previous act, the new act strikes a balance between developmental goals and rights of the affected people. Unlike the old act, the new act provides for the rehabilitation & resettlement and compensation for loss of livelihoods. There was always a need felt for addressing the concerns of farmers and those whose livelihoods are dependent on the land being acquired while facilitating land acquisition for industrialisation, urbanisation and building infrastructure considered necessary for country’s economic growth. The new act stipulates that land acquisition and rehabilitation & resettlement (R&R) must go together and should be seen as two sides of the same coin.

The salient features of the new land acquisition act are:

1. Safeguarding Food Security
2. Minimum Compensation for Land
3. Minimum R&R Entitlements
4. Infrastructural Amenities under R&R
5. Safeguards against indiscriminate acquisition
6. Transparency Provisions
7. Timelines
8. Retrospective effect
9. No involuntary displacement will take place without completion of R&R.
10. As far as possible, no acquisition of land shall be made in the Scheduled Areas.
11. The definition of “affected family” has been made very humane to include the hitherto neglected sections of society whose primary source of livelihood stands affected by the acquisition of land.
12. No change from the purpose or related purposes for which the land is originally sought to be acquired shall be allowed.
13. Public Disclosure - All documents mandatorily to be made available in the public domain and on the website.
14. No land use change shall be permitted if rehabilitation and resettlement is not complied with in full.
Consent of 80 per cent of land owners is needed for acquiring land for private projects and of 70 per cent landowners for public-private projects.

The new act heralds a new era of development administration in India, quite different from the traditional administration characterised by authoritative and directive style of administration. If implemented successfully, the new act will thwart the Maoist moves in two ways: (a) the hitherto affected developmental projects will gather momentum, which in turn (b) would lead to new employment generation opportunities in the Maoist-infested areas resulting in overall prosperity of the affected people.

Posted on April 22, 2014

Hiddayat Dar asked: What are the trends in India-US relations post-Devyani Khobragade episode? What could be its possible negative fallout?

Saroj Bishoyi replies: Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s arrest, strip search and indictment by the US authorities, has negatively impacted what otherwise has been a burgeoning Indo-US strategic relationship. The immediate impact was on regular bilateral engagements, such as the postponement of the India-US Energy Dialogue initially scheduled to be held in January 2014, on account of rising adversarial perceptions. Perhaps, this also led to the resignation of the US Ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, on March 31, 2014.

However, on March 11, 2014, India and the US resumed their energy dialogue in New Delhi where the two sides expressed their strong commitment to promoting greater technological and scientific collaboration on energy issues. The two sides also expressed their strong desire to further strengthen the strategic relationship based on mutual interests on other areas too, such as trade, climate change, defence, health, education as well as on regional and global security issues. Earlier, on January 22, 2014, India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had met the US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the Geneva II meeting in Montreux. Reviewing the recent development in India-US relations, they not only underscored its significance but also recognised the necessity to set up institutional arrangements to address issues relating to the privileges and immunities for diplomats.

In a positive development, the US court dismissed the January 9 indictment against Khobragade on March 12, 2014. But the American prosecutors immediately thereafter, on March 14, filed another indictment against her on charges of visa fraud and accused her of underpaying her domestic maid, which was again resented by New Delhi. So far the issue has not been resolved to the satisfaction of New Delhi.

However, efforts to normalise the relations continued as the two sides held the sixth round of India-US East Asia Consultations on March 28, where senior government officials from both sides discussed maritime security, combating nuclear proliferation, and expanding regional trade in the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor and beyond.

While in India general elections are underway, the US too is looking forward to mid-term elections due later this year. This means that there will not be any substantive development in the bilateral relationship until the next government takes over in both the countries. However, the two countries cannot afford to overlook the relationship for a long time, given the congruence in their strategic interests on a wide range of issues. In addition, both the countries have heavily invested in diplomatic and political capital over the last one decade in improving the relationship.

Though the relationship is clearly going through a tough time, yet it remains a very important one for both the nations. Despite existing differences over trade, visa rules, nuclear liability, security and other issues, the core objective of India-US strategic relationship remains very strong. The differences can be resolved through established joint mechanisms, such as the India-US Strategic Dialogue. Once the dust settles down both in New Delhi and Washington, the two sides will most likely sharpen their focus on key issues of shared interest, and make vigorous and substantive efforts to take the relationship to its rightful place. It is in the respective national interests of both the US and India to build a strong strategic relationship in the twenty-first century.

Posted on April 21, 2014

Jaydeep Asked: What are the security implications of China's ‘Maritime Silk Road’ for India?

Abhijit Singh replies: In order to assess the security implications of the Maritime Silk Road (MSR), it is necessary to understand what the proposal really entails. China’s plan for a maritime corridor is intended at creating maritime infrastructure and enhancing connectivity in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. First proposed by President Xi Jinping during his trip to Southeast Asia in October 2013, the MSR was originally aimed at enhancing maritime cooperation between China and the ASEAN countries in the South China Sea. Recently, however, China reached out to Sri Lanka and India inviting them to join the MSR, revealing a wider vision for the Indian Ocean.

An idea essentially premised on the leveraging of Chinese soft power, the MSR is potentially beneficial for all regional states in the near term. Part of its appeal lies in an allied initiative of a maritime cooperation fund announced by Chinese Premier Li Kechiang last year, which regional state have shown interest in. The sales pitch of “shared economic gains”, however, does little to conceal the proposal’s real purpose: ensuring the security of Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) in the Indian Ocean. In its eventual form, therefore, the MSR could end up setting up Chinese logistical hubs and military bases, linking up already existing ‘string of pearls’.

As Beijing becomes more involved in the security and governance of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), it could pose a challenge to India’s stature of a ‘net provider of security’ in the region, thereby adversely affecting New Delhi’s geopolitical stakes and strategic influence.

Posted on April 16, 2014

Prathap Singh asked: What are the implicit interests of the US in sponsoring a resolution in the UNHRC against Sri Lanka? What is India’a stand on the resolution?

Gulbin Sultana replies: Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora in the US have effectively influenced the members of the Congress and the Department of State through US lobbying firms to sponsor resolutions in the UNHRC against Sri Lanka. The United States Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) reportedly used the Washington lobbying firm, KSCW Inc., to table Resolution 177 against Sri Lanka in the US House with 53 signatures which included influential and prominent house members in 2012. The USTPAC reportedly invested US$ 30, 000 to get H. Resolution 177 tabled. The USTPAC is also said to have influenced Congressmen Danny Davis (D-IL) and Bill Johnson (R-OH) to spearhead Congressional Caucus on Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka. The Caucus launched at the US Congress in November 2013, played a major role in initiating resolution against Sri Lanka at the 25th session of the UNHRC.

Since the end of Eelam War IV in May 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has passed four resolutions on Sri Lanka: the first resolution was passed on May 27, 2009 during the special session on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka; second on March 22, 2012 during the 19th session of the UNHRC; third on March 21, 2013 during the 22nd session of the UNHRC; and, the fourth resolution was passed on March 27, 2014 during the 25th session of the UNHRC. In 2009, India voted in favour of Sri Lanka, but in 2012 and 2013 India voted against Sri Lanka. In 2014, India abstained from voting since the latest resolution called for an international investigative mechanism, which was considered by India as an intrusive approach.

Posted on April 15, 2014

Balaji DK asked: What could be the impact of the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan on the US-Saudi Arabia relationship?

Rumel Dahiya replies: There would be no direct impact on the US-Saudi Arabia relationship simply because the issue of the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan is not central to the relationship. Broadly, US presence in the region has been viewed by Saudi Arabia approvingly. US has been seen as a balancer and security provider to the monarchies in the Gulf and a bulwark against Iranian hegemony after the 1979 revolution. 9/11 attacks wrong footed the Saudis since many of those involved in planning, financing and executing the attacks were Saudi nationals. It did not help that the Taliban regime was recognised and supported by the Saudis at that time. The latter made amends subsequently and supported US in its Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), but US has not been comfortable with Saudi assertiveness in the region and taking American support for granted since that limits US options. Now the issues troubling the Saudis are thawing of the US-Iran relations and US disinclination to get directly involved in local conflicts in West Asia; particularly in Syria. US withdrawal from Afghanistan has its own logic and will impact different players differently. The way the withdrawal strengthens or weakens Iran's or to an extent Pakistan's position, may have a marginal and indirect impact on the US-Saudi relationship but nothing more than that.

Posted on April 11, 2014

Hariom Singh Dagur asked: How does “deep cultural” understanding as stated in January 2014 India-Republic of Korea Joint Statement affect relations among the two countries?

Rup Narayan Das replies: Cultural relations along with historical and traditional relations have always been a very important aspect of relations between and among nations. These are very important attributes of soft power too. By culture, in this context, we broadly mean religious and philosophical contacts and intercourse between two countries both in historical background and also in contemporary context. These are the feel good factors and are like icing on the cake. Cultural aspect may also refer to sharing common norms, such as liberal and familial values. We also talk of strategic culture suggesting convergence of shared security interests. In the comprehensive Indo-Korean relations, all these are present to a great extent.
After the advent of Buddhism in the Korean Peninsula, cultural contacts between India and Korea were nurtured by Buddhist monks. A sizeable number of Korean spiritual seers and saints came to India from the sixth century onwards in search of Buddhist manuscripts and scriptures. Several Indian monks also travelled to Korea after spending a few years in China. Rabindranath Tagore also made a lasting impact on the Korean psyche and continues to be a source of inspiration to the Korean people even today. In normative and strategic terms, there is great degree of convergence between India and South Korea in particular. India’s contribution towards resolving the crisis in the Korean Peninsula is internationally acknowledged.

For further details, please refer to the following publication:

Skand R. Tayal, India and the Republic of Korea: Engaged Democracies, Routledge, 2014.

Posted on April 09, 2014

Ramesh Reddy asked: What does it exactly mean when it is said ‘India is a net security provider in the Indian Ocean,’ and what are the factors responsible for the same?

Sarabjeet Singh Parmar replies: The broad meaning that one can discern from various statements made about India being a ‘net security provider’ in the Indian Ocean is about India ensuring a stable, secure and peaceful environment in the region. The main aspects that are viewed as responsible for this can be construed as follows:

  • India’s predominant central geographic position in the region, especially overlooking the SLOCs that pass through the region.
  • India’s military capacity and capability that has a distinct reach in the region due to its geographic position.
  • India’s friendly relations and defence cooperation with most of the IOR nations.
  • India’s relatively strong economy and market capacity.
  • India’s non-hegemonic stance and its will and ability to provide assistance when requested.

Posted on April 07, 2014

Neha asked : How did Taliban rise in Pakistan? Is Pakistan Government's endeavour to hold peace talks a right step to end the violence?

Ashok Kumar Behuria replies: I presume the question pertains to the rise of the Pakistani Taliban.

The Pakistani Taliban's rise is both due to acts of omission and commission on the part of the government in Pakistan. When the US launched its war on terror, Pakistan willingly joined it as a partner and pledged to sever its links with the Afghan Taliban. However, in reality it provided these elements sanctuary in both Quetta (Balochistan) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The Afghan Taliban had sympathisers among the local population, some of whom had even fought along with them during their rise as a political force in Afghanistan. As Pakistan hobnobbed with these forces even after joining the war on terror in Afghanistan against them, the Pakistani sympathisers of the Afghan Taliban in the tribal areas slowly metamorphosed into a coalition of radical Islamist forces calling itself Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, better known in its acronymic form as TTP.

While the groups consisting of TTP grew in stature and influence, the Pakistani state ignored them. Initially it sought to handle them either through talks or half hearted and episodic military thrusts that lacked both strategy and conviction. Pakistan's policy of treating the Afghan Taliban as a strategic asset forced it to turn a blind eye to the umbilical cord that brought the two groups together. When finally it decided to take on the TTP, the Afghan Taliban chose to remain neutral. However, even then, Pakistani security forces have found it difficult to deal with such an ideological group, which seeks to impose Sharia and reverse the entire process of democratic state formation in Pakistan.

Talks, that are being attempted now to reconcile the TTP with the state of Pakistan, are a legitimate option which any government worth the name would like to exercise to bring peace to its population. However, in the case of Pakistan and the TTP, such efforts may not succeed. This is mainly because of the irreconcilable positions from which they are approaching the whole issue of reconciliation. Moreover, Pakistan state has had several talks with the TTP since 2004 (the agreements of Shakai, Sararogha, Swat, etc.), which have ended in failure earlier. The talks are not going to work unless one of the parties sheds its ideological orientation and succumbs to the position of the other. Even if the strategy may look right, any desperate attempt to placate the TTP to have a positive outcome from the talks will be disastrous for Pakistan. Remember the old saying: the road to hell is paved with good intentions!!

Posted on April 4, 2014

N.C.Balaji Rajan: How the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is to be viewed in the larger context of global politics, and how will it affect India?

Amit Kumar replies: The ongoing Ukrainian crisis has thrown open new challenges before the international community in this era of globalisation. The realities of the current era are not the same as the realities of the Cold War era, when the inter-linkages between the rival blocs were not as defining as they are today among the major contending stakeholders at the world stage. Today, rivals are also key economic partners. One of the important stakeholders in the Ukrainian crisis, the European Union (EU), is the biggest customer for Russian oil and gas. The Ukrainian crisis is to be viewed in this parlance along with the old fashioned quest for domination or power-politics in the Morgenthauian sense. President Vladimir Putin’s efforts for restoring Russia’s position in the international arena is largely a fall out of the West’s insensitivity towards the legitimate security interests of Russia and its resurgence as a great power which it was for most part of history given its position as world's geopolitical heartland.

The world today is besieged with many conflicts having the potential to go out of hand if the current trend continues. But then what is the current trend? The economic interdependence between and among nations has discouraged them to take sides openly. The equation today at the world stage is very fluid. No two countries hold the same view on various international issues unlike in the Cold War era when the battle lines were very clear. This entails two things: (a) greater propensity to change the status quo in one’s own favour, for e.g., Russia’s bid to annex Crimea and the Sino-Japan desperation over the Diaoyu-Senkaku Islands (b) economic interdependence has emerged as the second strong deterrent force along with the nuclear deterrent.

Situating the Ukrainian crisis in the above context, few conclusions can be drawn:

1. The EU has emerged as an effective foreign policy actor and can stand up to Russia. However, the trade relations between the EU and Russia restrict the options for the EU.

2. The use of sanctions as a tool will not work against robust economies like Russia and China, and this limits the US role as a preeminent global power.

3. Emerging powers like Russia may challenge the US-led world order in an increasingly economically interdependent and politically fragmented world order. New alliances could emerge as the undercurrent against the US domination is strong. The growing understanding between Russia and China, as evident in the current Ukrainian crisis in China’s ambivalence towards the Russian aggression, could pose serious challenges before the US. The world could see more of such crisis in times to come.

4. The US faces the dilemma of acting tough or working towards finding a diplomatic solution. The first option does not look feasible given the US preoccupation in many other parts of the world and its reluctance in recent years to get directly involved in conflict theatres. But from this flows the US dilemma, for failure to send strong signals to Russia will only bolster the Iranians, Syrians and others.

Implications for India:

India so far has tried to maintain a balanced position on the issue. If Russia is the most trusted ally, the European Union is India’s largest trading partner. India like China seems to be standing by Russia, albeit with some reservations. In the long-term, following could be some of the key issues of concern for India:

1) India’s worry is over the fate of Ukraine’s military industrial complex which plays an instrumental role in the modernisation of its air force. Russia also uses Ukrainian military facilities which provide engines for military helicopters of Russian origin. The previous regime saw rapid strides in defence cooperation between the two countries.

2) International oil and gas prices would go up in a conflict situation. It will adversely affect India as it is dependent on imports for its energy needs. This will pressure the rupee and may lead to a rise in the current account deficit.

3) Safety of Indian nationals - According to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs release, there are more than 5,000 Indian nationals, including about 4,000 students, living in different parts of Ukraine.

4) India and Ukraine have signed a vast array of MoUs and agreements in diverse fields; the fate of which is now uncertain.

5) Finally, a strong Russian reaction to the Ukrainian crisis could put India in a somewhat tricky situation. On one hand, it would be difficult for India to endorse Crimea’s secession to Russia based on referendum given India’s long held stance on J&K; on the other, should the crisis deepen, leaving Russia in a lurch would be tantamount to betrayal.

Posted on April 1, 2014

Kinshuk Jain asked: What was India's role in the Geneva II Conference?

Gulshan Dietl replies: The Geneva II was a UN-backed conference for ending the civil war in Syria by bringing the Syrian Government and the opposition together. It was held on January 22, 2014 in Montreux followed by the one in Geneva on January 22-23.

India responded to the international appeal for humanitarian assistance by supplying essential food items, pledging $2 million to the United Nations Syrian Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (UN-SHARP) and offered technical expertise as also $1 million to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for the destruction of chemical stockpiles and related facilities in Syria. On the broader political issues, India refrained from taking sides in the Syrian civil war. Thus, it abstained on a UN Security Council resolution that condemned the Syrian regime’s violent crackdown on the protesters as the resolution did not condemn similar violence by the opposition. It also abstained on the UN General Assembly resolution that called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. It voted for a UN Security Council resolution only after the issues of regime change, military intervention and sanctions were deleted from the text.

India was invited to the Geneva II along with roughly forty other countries. Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid led the Indian delegation. He expressed concern that the situation in Syria had sharply intensified the sectarian fault-lines across the region and that all shades of religious extremism had infiltrated into Syria from all over the world. He reiterated India’s stand that there can be no military solution to the conflict and no society can be re-ordered from outside. He extended support for an all-inclusive Syrian-led peace process and offered to assist in the implementation of the Geneva II resolutions.

Posted on March 28, 2014