July 18, 2011

INDIA'S FLAWED NEIGHBORHOOD POLICY AND TERROR IN THE SUBCONTINENT

[The inconsistency of India’s neighborhood relations is more blatant when it comes to Nepal. It was the first country to brand the Maoists of Nepal as terrorists and at the same time took no measures to crack down on them in their safe havens inside India. They supported the king and at the same time nurtured the Maoists. When the king alleged that India was helping the Maoists, the rebels in turn accused India of favoring the king because of its feudal mindset. Then again when the king dissolved the parliament,  India stopped supplying oil and arms. In its myopic policy, it sent Dr Karan Singh to mediate between the king and the Maoists and given Dr Singh’s ‘royal’ connection, the Maoists outright rejected him.]
By Kishalay Bhattacharjee

Source: Map of India.
It was spooky. Moments after I spoke on a VTC (video tele conference)  with members of the US Department of Defense about India’s internal security concerns I received an alert about the serial blasts in Mumbai.

This interaction was conducted on some key areas in US-India security relations with research fellows at India’s Institute of Defence and Security Analyses (IDSA) and the Observer  Research Foundation (ORF) to allow military and civilian participants of the US Department of Defense to get an idea from Indian think tank fellows in advance of forthcoming visits to India by US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen (in late July 2011) and the new US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (at a time TBD)

I started by giving an overview of India’s internal security situation, which in terms of numbers is much better than it was 10 years ago. But the threat perception has increased and even by conservative estimates at least two thirds of the country has some insurgent activity. I couldn’t find many ways in which India can collaborate with the US on its domestic issues except for intelligence sharing and addressing cross-border terrorism, which I stressed should go beyond just rhetoric.

But something I heard this morning from India’s home minister about India’s ‘troubled neighborhood’ made me wonder about Wednesday evening’s VTC we had with the US officials. He said, “We are neighbors living in a troubled neighborhood. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the hubs of terror”. It is no secret that Pakistan and Afghanistan are hubs of terror but it is also true that India’s neighborhood sees India as a hub of terror. So, in that sense, the comment is a little misplaced.

India’s neighborhood also sees India as an indecisive big brother with a propensity to bully and alienate its neighbors with inconsistent foreign policy. But the comment disturbed me with its inaccuracies. India’s domestic problems in internal security are now five decades old. Two-third of India has some form of insurgency or conflict going on. India is at war with itself. When will it then stop blaming its neighborhood for its own inadequacies? But if terror is also making its way from across the borders (which, in fact, it has), then should India blame or address the issue? Not just by raising it in bilateral talks but following it up on the ground at least within its own borders.

But let me go back to the video conference. It is not unusual that Indian think tanks should be exchanging notes with US policymakers on the eve of a high-profile visit. But how many times have Indian think tanks or civil society or the government think tanks exchanged notes with its ‘troubled neighborhood”? How much of formal people-to-people exchange have we had except for something like Aman ki Asha 
with Pakistan?

The symbiotic nature of Indo-Nepal partnership is inevitable, so why is that taken for granted and not prioritized? It is already late but India’s neighborhood policy surely needs a pragmatic rethink. India shares a long and porous border with many of its neighbors. Bangladesh for years had allegedly provided tacit support to Indian armed groups who operated from its soil. By 2010, a regime change in that country helped India gain support and access most of the leaders of the various groups. But India must realize that their relations are not with any particular regime rather with the country. The Indian prime minister’s off the record comment on 25 percent of Bangladeshis as anti-Indian should have been on record if he believed in it. Why is that percentage of people anti-Indian in a country that gained independence with India’s help? That is where India needs to work on. For example, India is yet to fulfill its promises of supplying rice during the aftermath of 2007 cyclone in Bangladesh. There are people who will remember that.

The inconsistency of India’s neighborhood relations is more blatant when it comes to Nepal. It was the first country to brand the Maoists of Nepal as terrorists and at the same time took no measures to crack down on them in their safe havens inside India. They supported the king and at the same time nurtured the Maoists. When the king alleged that India was helping the Maoists, the rebels in turn accused India of favoring the king because of its feudal mindset. Then again when the king dissolved the parliament, India stopped supplying oil and arms. In its myopic policy, it sent Dr Karan Singh to mediate between the king and the Maoists and given Dr Singh’s ‘royal’ connection, the Maoists outright rejected him.

Nepal has been a transit for several groups fighting in India particularly in India’s North East. It has been a route for wildlife smuggling and arms running amongst other illegal activities. But for Nepal, India has also been a transit for anti-Nepal activities.

Given the continuity in culture and heritage between the two countries and their geo-political necessity of partnering, do institutions exchange ideas and information or organize VTCs on critical areas of interest? If not, why not? The symbiotic nature of Indo-Nepal partnership is inevitable, so why is that taken for granted and not prioritized? It is already late but India’s neighborhood policy surely needs a pragmatic
rethink.

The author is North-East Region Bureau Chief of NDTV, a leading Indian television news channel. On a sabbatical now, he is Senior Fellow at Institute of Defence Studies Analysis in New Delhi. he can be reached  at 
kishalayb@gmail.com

@ Republica

GORKHALAND AGREEMENT TO BE SIGNED TODAY

[This will be the first time that any authority outside the state gets such wide-ranging powers. Except for legislative powers, the Bimal Gurung-led GJM has managed to wrest control over all state subjects as far as Darjeeling hill area is concerned, including land, forest, education, levy of local taxes, health and tea plantation.]  
By Pradeep Thakur
Map:Calcuttaweb
NEW DELHI: Within a few weeks of closed-door negotiations with top leaders of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal has managed to make them sign on the dotted line of a broad-based agreement on Darjeeling, leading to the creation ofGorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). 

The new administration will be vested with powers to regulate 54 subjects, unlike the 1988 creation of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council
 which was given control over only 19 subjects. 

This will be the first time that any authority outside the state gets such wide-ranging powers. Except for legislative powers, the Bimal Gurung-led GJM has managed to wrest control over all state subjects as far as Darjeeling hill area is concerned, including land, forest, education, levy of local taxes, health and tea plantation. 

A tripartite pact will be signed on Monday with the Union home secretary, West Bengal home secretary and the GJM secretary as signatories. 

Among all subjects, the power to control tea plantation is the most important one. Almost all the revenue in the Darjeeling hills flows from that sector. Anyone having control over tea plantation will have control over the financial purse of the area. 

The erstwhile Subhash Ghishing-led Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council did not have powers to regulate tea plantation and higher education among others. Police and law and order will remain a state subject. 

The development is seen as a major breakthrough for chief minister Mamata Banerjee and is likely to bring peace to the volatile region. But this is something that has not gone down well with the former rulers of the state, the CPM, which alleged lack of transparency in the deal and has decided to boycott Monday's pact signing ceremony. Banerjee had invited senior leaders of CPM and other Left partners. 

For the past three weeks, chief secretary of West Bengal was involved in secret parleys with Gurung and his general secretary Roshan Giri. The Centre was apprised of all developments and had agreed to the Bengal government's concessions to the new Gorkhaland administration.