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Mainstream, VOL LV No 16 New Delhi April 8, 2017

India’s Sovereignty — Have We Lost It?

Sunday 9 April 2017, by S G Vombatkere

This article was written before the results of the five State Assembly elections came out and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was elected the Chief Minister of Goa thus resigning from the Union Cabinet.

UPA-1 and UPA-2 PM Dr Manmohan Singh staked his “kursi” on concluding two strategic agreements with the USA: The New Framework Agreement for US-India Defence Relationship between the US Secretary of Defense and the Indian Defence Minister, on June 28, 2005; and The US-India Joint Agreement, signed by US President George W. Bush and India’s Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh, on July 18, 2005.

The strategic agreements included civil nuclear co-operation, the Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture (KIA), and closer military ties. However, in India, public and media attention was focussed on the 123 Agreement pertaining to nuclear power, which was vociferously opposed in Parliament.

There were problems within the USA too for having signed a 123 Agreement with India, which was not a signatory to the NPT. In order to overcome the alarm at home, a legislation titled ‘‘Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006’’ came into force in the USA on January 3, 2006. Though this legislation was not binding on India, its stated India-specificity caused alarm in India, because even though the USA had signed 123 Agreements with other countries very similar to that signed with India, there was no country-specific US legislation that laid down strategic conditionalities like the Hyde Act did. The Hyde Act, albeit concerning nuclear energy cooperation, widens the 123 Agreement subject to India having a foreign policy congruent with that of the USA. [Note 1 for relevant text] The nuclear agreement was the Trojan horse for defence arrangements to further the USA’s strategic interests.

In September 2010, Admiral Willard, the US PACOM Commander, visited India and proposed expanding the existing defence engagement of co-operation and inter-operability between the US and Indian militaries to a “much richer dialogue” including the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) and Communications Inter-operability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), to go “beyond bilateral exercises and sale of military hardware”.

The United States Government now projects what it calls “three foundational agreements”—CISMAO, LSA and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).

The NDA-2 Government is reported to have signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA)—an updated version of LSA—without tabling it in Parliament. It reportedly enables the USA to use Indian seaports and Army and Air Force airports for refuelling, revictualling, deployment and actual warfare, and as rest and recoupment staging camps for US soldiers injured in the USA’s military adventures. Even though RM Parrikar says that LEMOA does not allow stationing US troops and logistics on Indian territory, the USA has made its own rules in Section 1292: “Enhancing defense and security cooperation with India”, of the National Defence Authorisation (NDA) Act 2017. [Note 2 for relevant text] The NDA Act text spells out several aspects of cooperation, but those specifically relating to India’s foreign policy are to “recognise India’s status as a major defense partner of the United States” and “continue to enhance defense and security cooperation with India in order to advance United States interests in the South Asia and greater Indo-Asia-Pacific regions”. Thus, it is clear that India is a mere tool, a political pawn in the big power game of a declining power, and an abettor of the USA’s foreign policy, its small-minded politicians thrilled at being named as the USA’s “major defense partner”.

The USA clearly intends to use India as a base for its “China pivot”, and India’s tilt towards the USA and Israel (and therefore the USA’s “four eyes” UK-Canada-Australia-New Zealand camp) is shown by the appreciation of the Israeli envoy, Daniel Carmon, of India abstaining from votes critical of Tel Aviv at the United Nations since 2015. [“Grateful for shift in India’s position, says Israel envoy”, The Hindu, Bangalore; January 1, 2017, p. 10] India, which traditionally voted in the UN fora in favour of justice for Palestinians, has shown a shift away from justice, drawing appreciation from Israel. This shift away from the principles of justice is clearly because of the NDA-2 Government’s hate for Muslims (in this case Palestinians). But more significantly, it shows a lurch of India’s foreign policy towards congruence with that of the USA, an abject acceptance of playing “chela” to a “guru” with dubious credentials. True, this was started by PM Dr Manmohan Singh, but PM Narendra Modi is pushing it with vigour and outstanding oratory. It is apt to recall that during an interview by Karan Thapar, when asked what was the difference between the UPA and NDA, Mr Arun Shourie said words to the effect that “NDA equals UPA scaled-up plus cow”. Dr Manmohan Singh mortgaged India’s sovereignty and Mr Narendra Modi has taken a second mortgage on it.

India’s Neighbours

Pakistan has always been hostile to India, but India’s shift towards the USA has strengthened the China-Pakistan bond to India’s disadvantage. Recall that after Pakistan responded to India’s post-Uri “surgical strike” with more attacks, with amazing ignorance some NDA-2 politicians bravely spoke of retaliation by abrogating the Indus water treaty and “stopping” Indus water so that Pakistan would suffer. China’s quiet threat that it could stop Brahmaputra water into India killed the brave words. Indeed, precisely because the post-Uri surgical strike was followed by brave “we-dun-it” declarations of having put an end to Pakistan’s terror attacks, there has been unprecedented loss of Indian soldiers killed by Pakistan-sponsored attacks. And now Pakistan is carrying out joint military exercises with Russia, drawing clear battle-lines. A Pakistani General’s cheeky “invitation” to India to join in the China-Pakistan economic corridor shows the disdain with which it treats India. No doubt the Pakistani Army knows that the Indian Army is gradually but surely being emasculated by its own politician-bureaucrat nexus which has heaped humiliation on it. More brave words by clueless politicians of India’s capability and willingness to carry out a nuclear strike on Pakistan, have only served to heighten tension.

After a terror raid on an Army camp in India’s North-East, the Indian Army pursued the terrorists and eliminated them. But a NDA-2 Minister boasted that the Army had killed the terrorists after “hot pursuit” across the border into Myanmar. This was an inexcusable faux pas in diplomatic relations with Myanmar. Today, Myanmar is cosying up with China militarily and economically.

When Nepal had an internal problem with its Madeshi population regarding its draft Constitution, India’s NDA-2 Government orchestrated a blockade of essential commodities into Nepal, causing immense suffering among the Nepali population. Now we read that Nepal’s Army is carrying out joint military exercises with China.

In short, India is being outmanoeuvred mainly because of a combination of its own diplomatic ineptness and its falling into bed with the USA as its subordinate partner. The “NDA” in the USA’s NDA Act could well be mistaken for National Democratic Alliance!

India’s Sovereignty

India’s strength in the international arena, and especially in the South Asia region, is predicated upon its diplomatic competence and its military capability. When the first is apparently being handled almost solely by PM Modi, and the second is being weakened by neglecting its weapons, ammunition and equipment supplies combined with an (albeit unintended) assault on the morale of its soldiers, one wonders how and whether India’s sovereignty will survive.


Note 1. The following are quotes from the Hyde Act: “It is the sense of Congress that ... (6) it is in the interest of the United States to enter into an agreement for nuclear cooperation arranged pursuant to section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 of U.S.C 2153) with a country that has never been a State Party to the NPT if ... (B) the country has a functioning and uninterrupted democratic system of government, has a foreign policy that is congruent to that of the United States, and is working with the United States on key foreign policy initiatives related to non-proliferation.” The Hyde Act also states in Section 103, Statements of Policy, “The following shall be the policies with respect to South Asia: ... (4) Secure India’s full and active participation in United States efforts to dissuade, isolate, and, if necessary, sanction and contain Iran for its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear weapons capability and the capability to enrich uranium or reprocess nuclear fuel, and the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction.” [Emphases added]

Note 2. USA’s National Defense Authorisation (NDA) Act 2017.

SEC. 1292. Enhancing defense and security cooperation with India.

(a) Actions.—[[<> (2) REPORT.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State shall jointly submit to the congressional defense committees and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives a report on how the United States is supporting its defense relationship with India in relation to the actions described in paragraph (1).

(b) Bilateral Coordination.—To enhance cooperation and encourage military-to-military engagement between the United States and India, the Secretary of Defense should take appropriate actions to ensure that exchanges between senior military officers and senior civilian defense officials of the United States Government and the Government of India—

(1) are at a level appropriate to enhance engagement between the militaries of the two countries for threat analysis, military doctrine, force planning, mutual security interests, logistical support, intelligence, tactics, techniques and procedures, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief;

(2) include exchanges of general and flag officers between the two countries;

(3) enhance cooperative military operations, including maritime security, counter-piracy, counter-terror cooperation, and domain awareness, in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region;

(4) accelerate the development of combined military planning for missions such as those identified in subsection (a)(1)(C) or in paragraph (1) of this subsection, or other missions in the national security interests of both countries; and

(5) solicit and recognize actions and efforts by India that would allow the United States to treat India as a major defense partner.

(c) Assessment required.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State shall jointly, on an ongoing basis, conduct an assessment of the extent to which India possesses capabilities to support and carry out military operations of mutual interest to the United States and India, including an assessment of the defense export control regulations and policies that need appropriate modification, in recognition of India’s capabilities and its status as a major defense partner.

(2) USE OF ASSESSMENT.—The President shall ensure that the assessment described in paragraph (1) is used, consistent with United States conventional arms transfer policy, to inform the review by the United States of requests to export defense articles, defense services, or related technology to India under the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.), and to inform any regulatory and policy adjustments that may be appropriate.

Major General S.G. Vombatkere, VSM, retired as Additional DG Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ AG’s Branch. He is a member of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). With over 540 published papers in national and international journals and seminars, his area of interest is strategic and development-related issues.

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