|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Wednesday, December 9, 1998
assertion on J &K
PAGE FROM BITTER HISTORY
weapon wonder in Indian skies
Timely assertion on J & K
PRIME MINISTER Atal Behari Vajpayee has tried to infuse as much confidence and sense of security as possible among the people of Jammu and Kashmir during his two-day visit to disturbed areas. Many Prime Ministers and Home Ministers have watched the northern state through imaginary inner binoculars or telescopes. Defence Minister George Fernandes has visited difficult places under direct Pakistani attack. He has gone up to Siachen and boosted the morale of the valiant troops. Home Minister L.K. Advanis destination is usually Jammu. But occasionally, he, too, makes flying visits to the valley. The Prime Minister has the courage of conviction. He means what he says. When he says that not an inch of Indian territory in Jammu and Kashmir will be allowed to be ruled by Pakistan, he speaks futuristically. Pakistan already occupies a huge chunk. It has violated international law and gifted foreign territory to a foreign country. China has no locus standi in any part of the strategic and shining outpost in North India. Brave words do not yield concrete results in the short term. The Government has to do three things in respect of Jammu and Kashmir. First, it has to put an end to the proxy war waged by Pakistan with the help of foreign powers and mercenaries. Second, it has to create a patriotic climate among the misinformed people of the enslaved part of Kashmir through the electronic media. Third, it has to negotiate with China and discuss the impropriety of its occupation of Indian land unlawfully gifted to it by Pakistan. The first point needs immediate attention. Our dry powder has to be used imaginatively to silence the guns across the Line of Control (LoC). Too many lives have been lost near the border and in villages and towns within the reach of Pakistani guns. No true Kashmiri has surrendered his Indianness to the two-nation theory propagated by Pakistani leaders.
Mr Vajpayee should take
advantage of the change in political opinion abroad with
regard to Jammu and Kashmir. Mr Clinton and his advisers
have cold-shouldered Mr Nawaz Sharif and asked him to see
the beneficial aspect of the Simla Agreement. Between two
parties, no ism except bilateralism can work
well. The Nawaz Sharif regime depends for its continuance
on military support and fundamentalist sentiments. The
extension of both these elements goes into the fuelling
of the proxy war. India has to be ruthless and more
assertive. The world has begun to see the benefit of
respecting Indias sovereignty. What has brought
about the attitudinal change in Mr Clinton? Of course,
Indias inner strength, which includes its moral and
nuclear power! There cannot be any bargaining on the
issue of Kashmir and the sooner the Pakistanis realise
this fact, the better it would be for them and their
country. There is no end in sight to either the false
propaganda or military belligerence emanating from
Islamabad. An understanding between the Prime Ministers
of India and Pakistan needs a historical perspective and
the Simla Agreement gives the first glimpse of it. Mr
Vajpayee is in a position to speak for India in a
conciliatory tone. But is Mr Nawaz Sharif in such a
position in his virtual mullahcracy and de facto army
rule? Mr Vajpayee has spoken frankly and sent a clear
message of Indias firmness on the Kashmir issue to
BJP softens its tone
AS far as the Bharatiya Janata Party is concerned it can be said that power has confused it and absolute power has confused it totally. The soft tones in which the top leadership has begun speaking lately on certain contentious issues can be attributed to the drubbing it received in the Assembly elections. On December 4, members of the Christian community organised a nationwide protest against the attack on their institutions. A delegation met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and submitted a memorandum highlighting specific instances of sponsored atrocities against Indian Christians. The protest prompted Mr Vajpayee to make a public statement expressing concern over such attacks. Of course, the BJP has no control whatsoever over the actions of the members of the Sangh Parivar. After the rape of four nuns in Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh instead of putting Chief Minister Digvijay Singh in the dock the Sangh Parivar virtually owned responsibility by linking the incident with the policy of converting Hindus to Christianity. The fact that one of the suspects arrested in connection with the Jhabua case is a Congress worker was overlooked by the minorities during the Assembly elections because of the provocative statements attributed to the Sangh Parivar. The incidents of attacks on Christians in Gujarat had occurred well before the commencement of the election process in four States. That was the time for Mr Vajpayee and other senior leaders of the party to warn the BJP government in Gujarat against the negative fallout elsewhere of the policy of targetting Christians. Mr Vajpayees expression of concern has come too late, but is nevertheless welcome.
If the Prime Minister was late by at least six months in responding to the acts of provocation against the minorities, it has taken Union Home Minister L.K. Advani exactly six years to accept that the demolition of Babri Masjid was a singularly unfortunate event. Mr Advani, afterall, had a ringside view of the demolition of the mosque by frenzied kar sewaks, but it is for the first time that he has publicly described the event as unfortunate. What effect the statement would have on the cases pending against him and others before the Allahabad High Court remains to be seen. The country should count itself lucky that the observance of black day and shaurya divas passed off peacefully although a new source of Hindu-Muslim tension has emerged in Karnataka where a sufi shrine has acquired the unfortunate status of Ayodhya of the South. It is up to Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani to raise their new-found voice of reason over the decibel level of the Sangh Parivar to ensure that Ayodhya is not repeated ever anywhere in the country.
However, the first BJP
leader to change his tone was Uttar Pradesh Chief
Minister Kalyan Singh. The eccentric Emperor Nero kept
playing the fiddle and wept bitterly only after Rome had
been burnt. Mr Kalyan Singh remained silent while the
controversy over the compulsory singing of Vande
Matram and Saraswati vandana in
government schools caused avoidable communal tension
across the country. All of a sudden he woke up to the
fact that the Kalpa Yojna under which the
singing of the two hymns was to be made compulsory was
never cleared by the Cabinet and promptly sacked Minister
of State for Basic, Adult and Non-Formal Education
Ravindra Shukla, the most vocal proponent of compulsory
singing. Does Mr Kalyan Singhs change of heart has
something to do with the improved showing of the Congress
in the Agra Assembly by-election which the BJP won by a
reduced margin? The second question which needs to be
answered is: Will the BJP continue to follow the soft
line of reason or be bullied by the Sangh Parivar into
reviving the rigid Hindutva agenda? The answer to the
second question is likely to be provided later this week
after the post-Assembly election introspection
session of the BJP.
Blame it on media
THE saga of first making a categorical statement and then retracting it continues. After Mr Madan Lal Khurana and Mr Yashwant Sinha contradicted each other on the "priority" attached to the Insurance Regulatory Authority Bill, it has been the turn of the Bharatiya Janata Party president, Mr Kushabhau Thakre, to do an about-turn. First, he was as unequivocal in castigating the government as Ms Uma Bharati and Mr K.R.Malkani for opening up the insurance sector to foreign equity participation without consulting the party. But just when it seemed that an ugly confrontation between the party and the government was in the offing, he backed out. In doing so, he has not only reversed the long-held party stand but has also wrongly blamed the media for giving an "incorrect slant". That is an unhealthy but common stratagem. When Mr Thakre had said in an interview to a magazine that "till yesterday, we were saying something, and now our government is doing just the opposite", he should have known that he was making a bombshell of a statement. A man of his stature should have not only understood the implications but also should have stood by it. But he has decided to blame the media instead. That does not fool anybody, though. The fact remains that there is a lot of resentment among the BJP hardliners over the way the government has changed its stand on the insurance reforms. The BJP chief has himself given the game away by saying that prior consultations between the government and the BJP would have prevented unnecessary speculation in the media and political circles. Try as he might, Mr Thakre cannot deny that the BJP had earlier held that the insurance sector should not be opened to foreign companies. It had even opposed an earlier Bill during the United Front Government saying that it was a sellout. The party must make its stand known once for all instead of changing it on a day-to-day basis. That has given the Congress and other Opposition parties a golden opportunity to poke fun at it.
In a way, it is good that
instead of making the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari
Vajpayee, eat crow, Mr Thakre has eaten the humble pie
himself. A showdown at this stage would have caused
incalculable damage to the BJP. So far, it has been
blaming the allies and the Opposition for all that it has
been doing and is not able to do. A conflict would have
given an unedifying impression that the government was
not able to carry along even its own party. An even
greater danger lay in the fact that had there been a
rollback, it would have sent wrong signals to the party
cadres. There are many in the BJP who are opposed to
every sort of liberalisation.
A PAGE FROM BITTER HISTORY
CHINESE President Jiang Zemin, may appreciate the economic progress made by Japan. But clearly he was not impressed with the historical knowledge of Japan and its people. Facing shouting protestors at the end of a week-long official visit to Japan, the Chinese President urged them to learn and understand the history of their nation. Mr Jiang, who was addressing students at Tokyos Waseda University, said, Japan should guide the nation and young generations with correct views of history and never allow a repeat of the ideology or force of militarism. It was part of Mr Jiangs campaign to elicit a written, official apology for Japans war crimes.
Apology is a sensitive issue in this region. Japan had already issued an official apology to South Korea for the atrocities committed against South Korean before and during the Second World War. Unfortunately, a similar official apology was not forthcoming during the state visit of Mr Jiang, a factor which marred the importance of the historic visit.
Mr Jiangs visit was meant to bring a positive conclusion to a round of regional and international diplomacy involving China, Japan, the USA and Russia. Because of the apology issue, the progress which was expected did not materialise. Japan, for reasons of its own, refused to go back in time, acknowledge its errors and apologise to China for the atrocities committed during the 1930-35 war against China. Political observers and historians were puzzled at the rigid attitude of Japan which was clearly guilty of war crimes during this period.
Only last month, Japanese Prime Minister Obuchi and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung signed a joint declaration which included a written apology from Japan on war crimes against Seoul. This was done after much soul-searching. But the Japanese government did not favour a similar apology to China on several grounds. First, Japan never colonised China. Secondly, the Japanese emperor, during a state visit to China, had expressed remorse and there was no need for a further written apology. Japanese officials maintained there were no official plans to issue any written apology during the Jiang visit.
China, of course, thought differently. It still vividly remembered the scars from the Jap invasion which led to the death of 20 million Chinese. The notorious Nanking massacre alone killed 1,40,000 people, according to historians, and the rape and murder of millions of women. Though China and Japan formally resumed diplomatic relations in 1972, China had never forgotten or forgiven these atrocities.
The Japanese found it difficult to say sorry. Embarrassed historians and scholars all over Japan explained the Japanese attitude saying that the nation did not feel any guilt or remorse over its actions. Said Mr Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a history professor at Chuo University in Tokyo, This lack of remorse comes from the fact that Japan, despite 50 years having passed since the end of the war, had long neglected to examine what the Japanese army did to the Chinese people. Added Prof Shinji Kojima, who teaches history at Tokyo University, Japans vagueness on this issue showed that extreme nationalistic attitudes still prevailed in the country, even 50 years after the war. This issue will continue to haunt the minds of the Japanese people even in the 21st century.
Imperial Japan thought and acted as though it were right all the time. This attitude embroiled the nation in two world wars and skirmishes with China and the Soviet Union. The hangover of such an attitude still lingers. But today there may be different reasons for not coming with an official apology. The other day the Prime Ministers ruling Liberal Democratic Party decided to form a coalition with the conservative Liberal Party, which was anything but liberal. The Liberal was totally opposed to any more official apologies. Even the hardliners in the Liberal Democratic Party had opposed the written apology to South Korea and were against a repeat in the case of China. They felt that in the changed times such apologies showed Japan in poor light, and that the events from the past should be buried and not allowed to influence the present and future bilateral relations.
False sense of pride and political compulsions were not the sole reasons for this thinking. Japanese politicians and government officials say that the issue of apology could lead to hefty compensation claims from victims. The case of South Korea was different, they pointed out. After all, the Korean peninsula was a part of the Japanese empire. The compensation issue was highlighted by the British media when the former prisoners of war, who had undergone unimaginable horrors during World War II demonstrated against the visit of the Japanese emperor and the empress to Britain and also demanded official compensation from Tokyo. The demonstration caused a lot of embarrassment to both Britain and Japan who were keen to improve trade relations.
China made it difficult for Japan by articulating three basic demands which consisted of a written apology for its past aggression, Tokyos support to China on its Taiwan policy and the scrapping of the Japanese missile defence system. None of this was acceptable to Tokyo which, during recent times, had been trying to come out of its passive international attitude. The Japanese felt they had been punished for their wartime aggression and should now play a more prominent role in the political, economic and military development in the region. Naturally, they could not allow China or any other power to interfere with their ambitious plans.
Perhaps, the Jiang visit was also ill-planned. There were hardly any preliminary talks at high levels between the two nations. The Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr Tang Jiaxuan, reached Tokyo only 36 hours before his President and had no time to assess and respond to the rigid attitude of Japan on these issues. Japan, already hit by recession, was expecting a lot of trade concessions from Beijing and was put off by the insistence of President Jiang that Japan must recognise its past history. Japan was ready to provide China with fresh yen loans worth $ 3 billion and sign other technical agreements. But the Chinese obsession with the written apology froze the trade talks. Many of the Japanese were of the view that Japan had suffered enough for its past misdeeds and had expressed enough regrets for its war crimes.
Yet, there was hardly any criticism in China over the Jiang visit, which was hailed as a great triumph. The Chinese had viewed the official apology as a starting point for a new phase of good relations between the two Asian super powers, a partnership which would go a long way into the 21st century. The USA, which was closely watching the outcome of the visit, was happy that the two nations did not make any commitments which would have reduced its own role in the region. The State Department was relieved that Japan was not made to choose between mainland China and Taiwan. Meanwhile, just before the Jiang visit, the Chinese government announced that Beijing was committed to bid for the 2008 Olympic Games for which the Japanese city of Osaka was also a candidate. This competition between the two countries could lead to some tension on the political front.
Japanese officials, prior
to the Jiang visit, had concluded that the President
would use the apology issue to wring out more
trade concessions from Tokyo. They were not prepared for
the rigidity of the Chinese President. Japan was prepared
to offer concessions on the trade front, but Mr Jiang
would not budge from the written apology stand. The
Japanese, who liked to plan their approaches carefully
from the start, were caught off-balance. Some of them,
perhaps, overreacted, and this had an adverse impact on
the course of the talks.
For integrated defence HQ
AN integrated defence headquarters and the Chief of Defence Staff for India will remain a far cry, the reasons for which are not far to seek.
The idea of a defence organisation growing too strong in its boots to think of a coup has been proved rubbish quite adequately. Even in Pakistan, which was a fertile ground for army rule, the generals now have little yen for governance.
Required by the state is a strong military capability to deter war and fight one if necessary. In Indias context, a military deterrent entails the prevention of proxy war, which capability we obviously do not possess, forced as we are into a reactive scenario with Pakistans strategy of a thousand cuts.
Military capability is closely related to the higher defence organisation which serves two purposes. Its integration with the Ministry of Defence ensures that military planning and structure are in consonance with larger issues and threat perceptions as seen at government level. A downward integration ensures requisite coordination within the three Services and the various theatres of operation in which they must operate in joint fashion.
An account of the 1965 Indo-Pak war will best illustrate the vertical and horizontal disjunctions in the context of the MoD and the defence Services.
Maj-Gen D.K. Palit, noted military historian, describes Army Chief Gen J.N. Chaudhuris cavalier role in the 1965 Indo-Pak war. After the Rann-of-Kutch skirmishes of 1965, General Chaudhuri held several discussions with Prime Minister Shastri and Defence Minister Y.B. Chavan about the possibility of a full-scale war with Pakistan, and the necessary sanctions was obtained. Presumably, this meant that he had obtained the governments approval of war plans. But neither he nor the minister thought it fit to keep the other two Services Chiefs informed. General Chaudhuri bypassed the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the JPC and the JIC, and decided to act entirely on his own.
Air Chief Marshal, P.C. Lal, DFC, Vice-Chief of Air Staff at that time, later in his My years with the IAF commented: It comes through clearly from his (Chaudhuris) statements that he treated the whole business as his personal affair, or at any rate that of the Armys alone, with the Air Force as a passive spectator and the Navy out of it altogether. He ignored the basic concepts of our higher defence organisation.
It was not until a crisis developed in the Chhamb sector that General Chaudhuri felt the need to involve the Air Force. According to Air Chief Marshal Lal: On the afternoon of 1 September, General Chaudhuri burst into the office of the Defence Minister who was discussing plans for the modernisation of the Air Force with the Air Chief and demanded air support for his beleaguered forces.
Critical decisions during the war also remained personality-based. When the Pakistan armoured thrust overran many of the forward defences in Khem Karan, the corps commanders unnecessarily alarmist report caused General Chaudhuri to panic. He rushed from Delhi to the GOC-in-C, Lieut-Gen Harbakash Singhs headquarters and ordered him to abandon the Amritsar salient and pull back behind the Beas. But General Harbakash was adamant and refused to comply. He told General Chaudhuri that he would not accept a verbal order on such a crucial issue.
Instead, General Harbakash went forward to the threatened sector to see things for himself. The crisis passed the next day when our armour effectively stalled the Pattons of Pakistans armoured division. Imagine the outcome if the Army Chiefs hasty and irresponsible orders had been followed unhesitatingly!
While any number of examples can be cited to pinpoint the existing fault lines in the system, we have advocates who favour the status quo. Explained by them is the already existing arrangement for inter-services cooperation at the levels of NDA for cadets.
In the absence of an organised structure that institutionalises joint planning and execution of plans, such theoretical training imbibed in earlier years remains at the esoteric level, and hence of little value.
Ad hoc planning and execution cannot survive in the context of a nuclear India with multiple security concerns. Integration of the Services headquarters with the MoD will be the first step towards effective military diplomacy, which we must use with effect for a proactive response instead of remaining in the reactive mode, as in J & K.
OF recent years, the monkeys have become a decided nuisance in Shimla, as they are terribly destructive pests in station gardens and do not improve our houses by frolicking on their roofs. These are the words from Simla, Past and Present by Sir Edward Buck published in 1904.
What was true then is more true today after 94 years. Monkeys have become so urbanised here that Mr H L Gandotra is uncheery about the trees around his house at Chaura Maidan. His pride and boast once, each branch of these trees, is a makeshift diving board now for plunging into his tin roof for these hippety-hop happy ancestors of ours. He is on the look-out for a medicine developed in the USA which sterilises she-monkeys. He says that the fertility rate of monkeys is 100 per cent, and that in a span of seven years each she-monkey increases its race by a number more than one can shake a stick at.
Mr Shakti Singh Chandel, an ex-Commissioner of the Shimla Municipal Corporation, sees no alternative for monkey menace other than having closed sanctuaries for these mammals at various places in the state. He, during his tenure as Commissioner, tried an operation of force-exporting the monkeys to the neighbouring states where, no wonder, the imported material was disliked. He abandoned his drive.
Mr Gautam has studied monkeys from close quarters. He says, And why not? If Tarzan living in a jungle could study the animal life out and out, I am supposed to know the ins and outs of monkeys by virtue of having brought up in a house located in Jakhu, the abode of Monkey-god. He tells the keen audience that the leader of a clan of 16 to 20 monkeys has its tail up which is the signature mark of a leader. All in the clan obey him. When a she-monkey is about to deliver, it is he who directs two or three others to dance attendance on her. They provide total nursing assistance to the pregnant one, so much so that at the time of delivery they are the ones who receive and look after the newly born.
Mr R S S Chauhan, an engineer by profession and floriculturist by design, finding his flower garden being very often pillaged by monkeys, had brought a gadget from England which was used there for protecting the gardens from the ingress of rabbits and dogs. It emitted invisible rays which repelled the animals from entering a garden. But monkeys, after its installation, once made unauthorised entry into his garden simply bypassing the scanning area of the gadget. Such is the grey matter under their skulls.
When I was in the Secretariat and monkeys were the only primates who could make entry without a valid permit into this Giant paper churn-out mill, they would, invariably, run away with the files in which I had proposed action against defaulting officials. I had wondered why the files in which benefits were proposed for the employees were not taken away by the monkeys. I enquired about it from the Section Officer. He was as intelligent as our forefathers. He digressed from the subject with inherited savvy and told me how monkeys took water chestnuts (singhara). Sir, monkeys swim upto the water chestnut plant growing in ponds, cover their heads with slush, pitch in quite a few fruits in that slush and return to a dry piece of land to relish the well-earned bounty. I kowtowed to their intelligence. The Section Officer had his way, and the matter melted there only.
Rudyard Kipling in his poem Gleesome Fleasome Thou has described one-upmonkeyship over man in these words:
Artful Bunder, who never in his life,
Had flirted (in Simla) with another Bunders wife.
Arman Shahabi, the Urdu poet, digs at man and his axe in his inimitable style with this couplet:
Main hoon bunder to mujhe dijiye jungle meraa
Aadmi hoon to Maddari se bachaaya jaaye.
LCA weapon wonder in
BANGALORE: Todays combat aircraft and helicopters are integrated airborne weapon platforms of great complexities, orientation and cost-effective propositions to any democratic society. Frontier areas like defence management and production require a country like India to indigenously conceive, develop, manufacture and service such platforms with the state-of-the-art technology for any eventuality. And we have done it.
The Indian Light Combat Aircraft LCA is one such highly relevant and much complex defence need which is being accomplished by the combined expertise of Indian Aeronautical community, sustained guidance of the IAF and continued support of the Defence Ministry, despite the financial constraints for the past two decades.
The Indian LCA is the smallest, lightweight, supersonic, multirole, single-seater fighter aircraft in the world today. It is primarily designed to replace the MIG-21 series of aircraft of the Indian Air Force during 2000-2020.
This single engined tailless aircraft with compound delta platform has a length of 13.2m, wing span of 8.2m and a height of 4.4m. The take-off clean weight is around 8500 kg.
The LCA integrates modern design concepts like static instability, digital fly-by-wire control system, integrated avionics, glass cockpit, primary composite structure, multimode radar, multiprocessor based utility and brake management systems and a-state-of-the-art-engine Kaveri, specially designed for Indian tropical conditions. The aircraft has more than 500 Line Replaceable Units (LRUs), each tested for its performance and its capability to meet the severe environmental conditions encountered by IAF pilots during combat missions.
The LCA design has been configured to match the stringent demands of modern combat scenario such as speed, acceleration, manoeuvrability and agility. Short take-off and landing, excellent flight performance, safety, reliability and maintainability, are some more salient features of the LCA design.
The LCA is a total weaponsystem where the aircraft constitutes a precision weapon-launch platform. The LCA can carry and deploy a wide range of weapons and stores with a quick turn-around time. The high performance radars allow the aircraft to launch advanced BVR missiles at distant targets with a high degree of effectiveness. A high performance powerful gun offers additional choice in weapon capability.
The choice of seven hard points, three under each wing and one under the fuselage, give the LCA the flexibility to carry a wide mix of missiles, bombs, and rockets to match air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-sea mission roles in a single weapon platform. The combat aircraft is fitted with the most advanced sensors to further enhance the capabilities and effectiveness of the LCA.
The LCA has been designed and developed through a consortium approach. The combined experience of five decades of Indian aircraft research, design, production and product support capability was pooled together.
The mega LCA project was taken up in the early 1980s to meet the increasing indents of war planes and to provide a trainer-cum-fighter aircraft for the 21st century.Between 1983 and 1988 the cost estimated for the prestigious programme was a nominal Rs 560 crore. Although the first stage of the LCA programme was completed in 1989 at a cost of Rs 400 crore, it received a resource crunch for the next three years. The major decision to develop the project to replace the MIG-21 fighters by Parliament in 1993 gave a boost to the programme.
As the momentous occasion of rolling out the countrys first LCA, with US made GE-404 engine, on November-17, 1996 the then Director General, ADA and scientific adviser to the Defence Minister, Prof A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, announced that the flight test of the aircraft would commence then and their itself. The governing body of the LCA also gave the green signal for building two more prototypes of the aircraft in addition to the two already approved. As the country was happy at the aeronautical scientists to accelerate the operational capabilities of the LCA project by abridging the time by 2 to 3 years, leading to initial operational clearance by 2002, the US administration, through its ill-conceived sanctions created hurdles to the project. The US sanctions hit for some time the ADE-Lockheed Martin component of the LCA by withholding the development of the engineering test station facilities which runs the fly-by-wire system.
Despite all these setbacks the Indian aeronautical community is steadfastly moving ahead to complete its assignment of providing a supersonic fighting aircraft to guard the countries skies. The Director of LCA project, Air Marshal P. Raj Kumar, has announced taxi-trials of the aircraft very soon. A naval version of the prototypes is currently getting ready for flight, has also been completed.
The Indian aeronautical
community is confident that the LCA project will be
realised within the next two years by giving a quantum
jump in the technological capabilities of the country,
besides providing the most essential complex weapon
system to meet the defence needs of the nation.
Agriculture victim of geo-politics
NOTWITHSTANDING the allegedly successful talks between the Prime Ministers special envoy Jaswant Singh and US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, the blacklisting of some 200 Indian entities essentially banned from exporting anything to America, has not come as a surprise. In fact, the second list of sanctions against the Indian institutes and companies comes at a time when India failed to retaliate in an area where it would hit the American economy the most agriculture.
It wasnt a humanitarian decision when the United States legislation authorised the President, Mr Bill Clinton, to exempt agriculture exports and credits from the sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan following the nuclear tests. It was essentially aimed at forcing the opening up of the Indian market for highly subsidised American farm exports. With India refusing to behave like a matured nation, and with New Delhi desperation to mollify the American anger clearly visible Indian agriculture has become the first and the major casualty of the ongoing negotiations on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Unlike China, which had a few years ago slapped point-by-point counter sanctions after the USA announced trade sanctions against some 40 Chinese commodities and products, India has miserably failed to measure up to the American dominance. And what appears to be a friendly gesture is enough to destroy the strong foundations of food self-sufficiency built so assiduously over the years. In fact, with the Union Cabinets decision to announce lifting of quantitative restrictions on agricultural commodities, and that too just before the Prime Minister left for his New York visit, India has already sent the right kind of signals indicating that it is ready for large-scale imports of foods, fruits and vegetable products. Milk and milk products, with which the USA and the European Union are virtually overflowing is next on the list.
India is among the 13 countries/regions identified in the 1988 US Trade Policy Agenda where opening up of agriculture markets is to be aggressively pursued. And if the economic sanctions had come to stay, the USA would have certainly lost one of the worlds biggest emerging markets for the food sector. How important India is to the US farm sector became known when the US Special Ambassador for Agriculture, Peter Scher had in a testimony before the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, said that the power of emerging middle classes made up of consumers with the ability to shift their consumption patterns have become a critical factor driving markets. In India, for example, there will be 115 million new members of the middle class by the year 2005. These new middle class consumers will represent a booming potential market for our farm products.
Considering that US farm exports in 1997 were a little over $ 57 billion, leaving a positive trade balance of $ 21 billion, the lifting of sanctions on agriculture needs no over-emphasis. At the same time, armed with the fast track negotiating authority, trade agreements have opened new opportunities for American farm and food products. So far, it has been confined to the northern hemispheric free trade; the next stop being the countries of the south, mainly India and China. With tariff cuts under WTO to be completed latest by 2001, the USA is determined to ensure that the commitment is met. Says the US Agriculture Secretary, Dan Glickman, our initiative is simple. No stopping and waiting for a new government to emerge no pause.
And it was essentially for this reason that a day after the sanctions were imposed in May, a delegation of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had met the Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr Som Pal, urging him to relax the quality standards for the import of American wheat. In fact, the US Ambassador to India had earlier written a strongly worded letter to the Ministries of Commerce, Food and Civil Supplies, Health and Agriculture saying that the Indian preference for the Australian wheat was rather unfair.
Wheat is not the only commodity for which the USA is looking for excess. Recently, the American Association for Soyabean had lobbied hard to seek permission to export one million tonne of genetically engineered grains to India. Not only soyabean, India has also allowed the import of sunflower and rapeseed under the open general licence. Besides oilseeds. American interest is in export of processed food and dairy products, seed and agrochemicals, and numerous other agricultural commodities. Another reason for the waiver on agriculture is the pressure from the multinational agriculture biotechnology companies keen to shift the research and marketing base to India. If the economic sanctions had stayed, these companies would have found it difficult to bring in investments.
Bowing before the domestic agriculture export lobby, President Clinton had earlier endorsed the farm waiver, stating: Food should not be used as a weapon and I will resist any action that would lead to a de facto grain embargo. Notwithstanding his sudden concern for millions of hungry and malnourished, the USA has already announced at the World Food Summit that feeding the estimated 800 million people in the world is not an obligation of the international community. Food security is a national issue and the governments should find ways and means to feed its starving populations. As far as the USA is concerned, it now treats trade instead of foodgrain self-sufficiency to be the answer to food security.
countrys food self-sufficiency is being sacrificed
at the altar of globalisation and nuclear
non-proliferation. With the government agreeing in
principle to accept the intellectual property regime and
frontload agriculture in the phase-out programme of trade
barriers that protected the gains of the green revolution
against an influx of cheap and highly subsidised grains,
the survival of the 400-million farmers is now at stake.
WE are told that Mr J. Patten had been dealing on enormous lines in wheat at New York in the past few years and winding up his gigantic operations so successfully that he was regarded as a more astute Wheat King than any of the famous aspirants to that title and to great wealth since the days of old Hutchinson thirty years ago or so. He cleared in profits £ 4,00,000 in three days on the sales effected by him.
His object was to get into his possession as much wheat as he possibly could and then to be in a position to regulate prices all the world over.
Russia and Canada are two
other countries in the world which grow immense
quantities of wheat. So far as India is concerned there
is every indication that the export trade in wheat will
be very brisk this year, although it cannot be denied
that Mr Pattens old operations must affect the
prices to some extent. No matter what might be the
prevalent prices, Great Britain must import wheat from
India, America, Canada and Russia.
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