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India’s two fronts

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by Muhammad Ali Siddiqi

ARE they really serious when successive Indian army chiefs say they are preparing for a two-front war? Or is a two-front war merely a bogey to attract sympathy from the right quarters? The more important question is: does India really consider China an enemy and does it really have the stomach or the desire to fight China? The June 15 clash clearly shows India will do anything to appease China.

Yet, astonishing as it sounds, while flaunting their ambitious plans for a two-front war, the current army chief and his predecessor give themselves away when they declare that the focus of their war preparations is basically Pakistan and that on the Chinese front the Indian army will adopt a policy of deterrence.

In his first press conference after taking over as army chief last December, Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane spoke of “collusivity” between Pakistan and China and said this could be “both physical on land borders and in other spheres also” as in technology and “in coming to each other’s help in times of trouble”. This “collusivity” between two of India’s neighbours, he said, was “maximum” around the Siachen glacier and Shaksgam valley. For that reason, he said, it was important to “keep that area in our possession” because Pakistan was waging a “proxy war” on India, while China was “flexing its muscles”.

For those perceived threats, India’s war plans are ambitious and include, besides road and rail infrastructure and tunnelling, a new mountain strike corps — 17th — consisting of 100,000 men. This corps will be so located that it can be deployed on both the western (Pakistan) and northern fronts (China).

India will never commit suicide by taking on China for America’s benefit.

On the army’s strategy for the border with China, Gen Naravane explained: “We have to balance out our requirements and deployments to cater for both west and north. For the northern frontiers, we are going for capacity building, which includes building roads to forward areas, habitats, storage for ammunition and moving some of our advanced weapons system to [the] eastern side. In a way of balancing out we can meet a threat from any direction. As a result of this rebalancing, we are now prepared for this challenge.”

The general then reaffirmed what Gen Bipin Rawat, his predecessor, had said with regard to the truth about the two-front war. In an interview with the Times of India, Gen Rawat, appointed army chief in December 2016, said: “The two-front is a real scenario. Much has changed from before in terms of our capabilities … the army, navy and IAF are now jointly very much prepared for such an eventuality.” Apart from the development of Agni IV and Agni V nuclear capable ballistic missiles, he said, the forces have taken a series of steps to slowly but surely transform the “dissuasion” posture against China into “deterrence”, which in turn is now being upgraded to “credible deterrence”.

Then he revealed what truly reflects the mindset and strategic thinking of India’s civil and military leadership. In case there are simultaneous threats from Pakistan and China, Gen Rawat, who is also India’s first chief of defence staff, said there would be a primary front and a secondary front. “The bulk of our forces and resources will be concentrated on the primary [Pakistan] front. On the other front, we will adopt a more deterrent posture, so that we are not found wanting”.

While the new corps (consisting of two high-altitude divisions) would have “quick reaction, ground offensive capabilities”, he made clear that India wanted cooperation not conflict with China. But, where Pakistan was concerned, he said in a talk at CLAWS, a military think tank, “we do not see any scope for reconciliation”.

The truth is India will never commit suicide by taking on China for America’s benefit, the two-front theory designed basically to get as much economic, diplomatic and military support as American naivety would allow.

Will India concede more territory to China? Yes because India has already written off Aksai Chin, which it once claimed. Today, a strategic highway linking Xinjiang to Tibet runs through Aksai Chin. Aware of Chinese sensitivity, New Delhi doesn’t even raise this issue because it knows Beijing is not going to talk about it. Thus when India talks of a border dispute with China, it only refers to the eastern border.

As the fate of arbitration after the Rann of Kutch clashes shows, India will concede a mile to China but it will not give an inch to Pakistan. In brief, America must know India has no desire to destroy itself for Pentagon’s pleasure. The two-front hoax is meant to squeeze the milch cow that is America. As its 2003 invasion of Iraq shows, Washington spent trillions of dollars for Israel’s benefit. Why wouldn’t America do the same in South Asia?

(The writer is Dawn’s Readers’ Editor and an author.)

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Opinion

Agriculture Dept. in a slumber

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The Department of Agriculture has been in a slumber for many years. Governments talk about developing agriculture in this country, but nothing happens. I am talking through experience. For the last several years I have been trying to obtain assistance from the department to fertilize my small coconut land and tea plantation, but with no success. In Galle my property is located about one km from the Highway on the Akuressa Road. I spoke to the officers through my cultivator at Walahanduwa and Labuduwa but the stock response is “SORRY the Government has not issued!” Do these officers ever visit these places ? ” NO”.

About two years ago I had to buy from a private trader to fertilize my coconut plants and part of my tea plantation. My profit is almost “NIL”. Due to lack of fertilizer the coconut crop dropped from five hundred nuts to 150/ nuts this month. Besides this, my buyer bought the coconuts @ of Rs 50/ per nut, whilst in Colombo I pay Rs 90/ per nut. Even, in my tea plantation there is a drop in the quantity of green leaf, as I have not fertilized it! Here too I am at the mercy of the buyer and have to accept whatever price he offers as there is no guaranteed price.

In my property I decided to plant cinnamon as it grows well along my fence , but the Agriculture Department told me that I will have to go to Matara to obtain plants, which is 28 miles from my place in Kalahe. Their attitude is very negative.

If one watches the Sinhala news on TV, it is quite evident that the Agriculture Department does nothing to encourage the cultivator in terms of providing fertilizer, advice against pests or even methods in improving the crop. Officers are warming their seats in the offices and never conduct field visits.

There is also no supervision or management by the Department. If from the head office they conduct surprise checks and visits, they will realise the exact situation. My visits to the branches indicated they are very poorly equipped in terms of furniture and equipment. It was found that they are poorly maintained and the premises, with broken furniture and unclean toilets, have never been swept or colour washed. A clear indication that none of the management teams from the head offices ever visit. The approaches to their offices are in a terrible state. Why cannot the management get these officers to provide a programme for the month, and get them to report on facts and figures, with acknowledgement from the growers being obtained with their comments; thus ensuring that the reports are genuine, and there must be sudden visits by the head office to these sites to check and supervise them. The department must adopt appropriate measures by giving proper directions to ensure that the cultivator/grower benefits from the department”. The Public are their Servants today.

The Vision of the Coconut Research Institute is to be the centre of excellence in coconut research technology, development and technology transfer in the region.

Its Mission – General knowledge and technology through excellence in research , towards increasing production & profitability of coconuts.

Its Mandate – 1. Maintain seed gardens.

2. Train advisory and extension workers to assist the coconut industry, guide & advise coconut industry on all matters of technical nature.

It is sad to say these so-called “Visions & Missions” are only on paper. Even the Mandate they talk about is also confined to paper! At grass root level “Nothing” happens.

There is no purpose in having any research and having great experts at the CRI, what matters is do the public benefit from them? It Is an Emphatic No!

No new seedlings are available. There is neither fertilizer nor expert advice. The Southern Province growers are completely neglected, as the so called institutions consist of incompetent and lazy officials who do not care about government or CRI policy. These CRI experts must not confine themselves to their offices; they must visit these places without giving them notice if they want to see what is happening.

 

NIHAL De ALWIS

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Opinion

Presidential words as orders

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At present two presidential inquiry commissions are working on – Easter Sunday Attack and Political Victimization. Many people come before these two commissions and mention many things that have been said/ordered by the former President, Prime Minister and various officials. It would be exceedingly difficult or impossible to check the veracity of those statements.

Now, incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa asks/orders (or in a way threatens) government officials to take his spoken words as legitimate circulars. One day those officers too would have to come before various commissions and judicial courts, to justify the tasks they carried out on verbal orders by a President (may be solely to save themselves from being punished), and then who would be there to safeguard them?

A RATNAYAKE

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Opinion

‘Amude’ also tried in Parliament

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There has been furor on the dress code of NC Leader Athaullah who came to the parliament in a decent Afghan-style dress. I could remember in the years of yore, our friendly Dahanayake from my former electorate Galle, tried to come to the Parliament in an Amude, but cannot remember what followed. He tried to enter the Parliament in Amude (Span Cloth worn by farmers) to protest against the imposition by Mrs Bandaranaike in 1964 of a ration of two yards of textiles per month per person, at a time of grave shortage of foreign exchange.

 When Gandhi came to the British Parliament many decades ago – MPs referred to him as “Naked Pakir walking down the British parliament steps”, as he was dressed in 3/4th trouser style cloth for the down portion, and top part of the body was naked, except for a thin shawl draped over the body exposing parts of his chest. Also in the recent past an ex-president was attired in Modi Dress ( I am not sure if he came to the parliament) for the top part (similar to the top part of Afghan dress) and no one in the government like MP Marikkar or Harin Fernando protested.

Is the so-called Kapatiya Dress in white only admissible in parliament? What about full suits worn by brown sahibs / ex-Royal politicians – this is also a British dress; so why make a big fuss about an Afghan style decent dress. Kandyans are not protesting when down south bride grooms wear the Nilame style dress, which is trending these days?

 

SUMITH DE SILVA

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