Monday, December 14, 2015

India moots manufacturing more combat jets under Make in India programme

Even as the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) races against a self-imposed deadline of December 22 to approve the new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)-2015, discussions and deliberations are already on at the highest levels in South Block to evolve a road map which will give clear direction for major programmes like building submarines, helicopters, guns, combat aircraft and missiles under the Make in India programme, well-informed sources told BharatShakti this week.
For instance, with LCA IA now a reality, discussions are already underway on what shape, size and configuration LCA II will take. “One thing is certain; LCA II will be a different product. It will have a new engine; its length will be longer and will have improved Staff Qualitative Requirements (SQRs) after the IAF gives its observation about how LCA IA performs in operational conditions. In fact, the Indian MoD is discussing a separate manufacturing facility under Make in India for two different products-one a single engine, lighter aircraft and another medium category, twin engine fighter with adequate firepower or capacity.  These two production lines are envisaged under Make in India possibly through strategic partnership or through government to government dialogue, the sources added. No product has been selected so far but there are indications that major military aviation companies in the world will get an opportunity to participate in these big programmes.
The MoD is also taking a fresh look at the War Wastage Reserves (WWR) and the way it is calculated. The military has to hold an inventory of hundreds of small and big weapons for the ultimate eventuality of a conflict or a war but prioritizing the holdings and getting a fix on the required numbers is the key to utilize the available budget optimally, sources pointed out. That reassessment is currently on in conjunction with service headquarters. So over the past six months the MoD has categorized 300-odd proposals into very urgent, urgent and not so urgent and which of these can be considered next year.
Another area of concern is to build capacities of existing Defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs), especially shipyards, so that they can meet the increasing demands that are being placed on them. For example, Mazagaon Docks Ltd, the country’s leading shipbuilder, has an order backlog of approximately Rs 70-80,000 crores. But its current capacity of spending is just about Rs 5,000 crores annually. If the capacity is not improved substantially, at current level of efficiency and capacity, it will take Mazgaon Docks at least 15 years to complete the backlog. Other shipyards are also in similar situation. The MoD is therefore trying to rope in private sector shipyards to augment indigenous capacity.
Once the DPP-2015 is approved at the scheduled meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the MoD will start looking at optimal utilization of the available budget and the future road map for big-ticket acquisitions over the next couple of years.
The article first appeared in the defence website founded by me last month.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The most exhaustive interview of a defence minister in recent times. A range of issues discussed

My new website BharatShakti’s ( journey begins with best possible start. An exhaustive interview with India’s Defence Minister (Raksha Mantri) Manohar Parrikar.
Mr Parrikar talks freely and frankly, a reflection of the transparency he has always promised in the functioning of the Ministry of Defence. He dwells on policy issues, the grand contours of India’s $100 billion acquisition plans, indigenisation of defence production, giving the MSMEs their fair share, Strategic Partnership models and its symbiotic relationship with MSMEs, research and development.
He also elucidates issues regarding acquisition of strategic platforms, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), a possible new promotion policy for top military leadership, the new Strike Corps, officer shortages and also One Rank One Pension.
It is a tell-all package that the reader is bound to find captivating. It is also a reflection of the commitment of the current Defence Minister to get the combat potential of the Indian Armed Forces in sync with India’s national objectives and foreign policy goals. 


NG: So what are your thoughts after a year in office?
RM: Reflection of the past one year gives me the satisfaction that I could change a lot of issues and handle a lot of priorities in defence.

Policy Issues
NG. How are we progressing in terms of policy frameworks to guide equipment induction?
RM. There are some issues which are on the way to completion. For example Defence Procurement Procedures; its review has been completed. It is in its last stages of being finalized. Meanwhile, the  urgent issues have been addressed. For example Offset Policy, Policy on Complaints which was derailing the acquisitions earlier, have been clearly spelt out.

NG: For complaints, how have you changed the earlier method? Trivial complaints and anonymous complaints; how will these be handled?
RM: If there is some component in an anonymous complaint which has  substance, on verification  found correct, action will be initiated. However, complaint will  not derail the process of procurement until proven prima facie.  So a complaint will be processed along with the procurement; the process is not derailed. Secondly, if the complaint comes from the participant, one of the tendering parties, if it is found frivolous, he can be penalised. Of course, we have taken precautions and will refer to the Ombudsman if any action has to be initiated, otherwise we close it. Unless you find prima facie evidence in the complaint, the process does not stop The acquisition process, which was often getting derailed because of frivolous complaints – sometimes even cancelled, has been stopped now. 
That’s one issue. Second issue – Offsets. We realised the earlier Offset rules had some very regressive policies. Like, for example, you could not change the IOP (Indian Operating Partner). This was a very unreasonable condition because Offsets are executed over a long period of time. Sometimes the product becomes obsolete, sometimes the IOP  closes down. Services, for example, was being kept  out of the ambit. These have been included. So most of the issues pertaining to offsets have been addressed, matters regarding complaints have been addressed, foreign exchange rate equalization – that means what was available to PSUs are also being now granted to the private sector. PSUs were granted protection from fluctuation of exchange rate. That is now granted to private sector.
It was  unfair actually, since we say that it should be a level playing field. Level playing field is being insured for local industries. For example, in Offsets, Buy Global, if it was an Indian company, then you had to do 50% indigenous. Whereas for a foreign company it was 30% Offset.  So now we have levelled it both at 30%. Like that even a price comparison now is being done without the statutory taxes; because imported  supplies do not undergo many of the taxes. These are some intermediate steps which have been taken already. We intend to come out with DPP 2015 before mid-December. We should be able to notify. So that should change the pattern.


Now in the case of earlier RFPs, almost Rs 90,000 crores contracts have been signed during my tenure. Another almost 70,000 crores are in the pipeline. They are in the final stage. After the final approvals are obtained, they will be contracted.  I expect in the next 6 months, another 50,000-60,000 crores. In the next six months, the total figure of contracts signed will be Rs 150-160,000 crores. And almost another Rs 95,000 crores are in negotiation stage. So in the 2nd year, you will find around 1,30,000-1,40,000 crores contracts  would have been signed. So, the earlier RFPs are now being speeded up. I have to do it with caution because funds availability also has to be worked out. I expect by March, at least one or two contracts in guns procurement will be finalised and the supply will start next year.  Lot of similar exercises are being done in missile, submarines, fighters, helicopters, and in the second year they should be on the way.

NG: What about Rafale?
RM: Rafale is in final stages Commercial negotiations should be beginning any moment. Of course the Paris incident may delay it by a couple of weeks.
NG: So the 50% Offset has been agreed upon.
RM: Overall framework is almost finalised. So commercial negotiations should be on, could be on, but this incident might cause delay. But I expect by December-January we should be in a position to close the deal.

In defence, we have to look towards self-reliance. In the figure of Rs 90,000 crore that I gave you, almost 70 per cent is indigenous, Buy Indian or Buy and Make in India. Only 30 per cent of the contracts are in the category of Buy Global. The projects for which AONs (Acceptance of Necessity) have been granted, the value is around Rs 1,05,000 crore. In that, almost 88 per cent is Buy Indian and Buy and Make Indian. These AONs will be reflected in next year’s contracts. Whatever AONs have been granted will be progressed to  RFPs in the coming year. Lot of indigenisation efforts are being put in. It is not easy to change the mindsets. But all the armed forces have been given clear indication that they have to give priority to Make in India and indigenisation and dependence on foreign source should be reduced. Of course, if there is some technology issue, we can still go ahead and get that but the trend is that by next year the ratio of 70:30 (imported to indigenous content) should change by at least 10 per cent. So the target is that annually you reduce the foreign component by 10 per cent so that in four to five years, you reverse the ratio -  from 70 per cent foreign import you go to 70 per cent indigenous content. You see, almost 20-25 per cent imported content is inevitable. Some raw materials cannot be manufactured because of technology gaps or lack of economies of scale and because the mineral is not available and in some cases the quantum, the volume does not justify making it in India. It will be too cost prohibitive.

DPP 2015
NG: The rigid and opaque decision-making in MoD, has it been addressed?
RM: The earlier DPPs were all procedure driven. In DPP 2015, we are considering an arrangement where besides the procedure, of course we have to follow procedure, but wherever unforeseen difficulties come, there should be a mechanism to fall back on some principles. The preamble will basically describe the methods for solution to fall back upon through a structured mechanism. Secondly, single vendor situation is also being addressed. Whereas transparency demands there have to be more than one entity in competition, after taking proper oversight and after taking proper technological review, if a particular product’s SQRs cannot be changed and there is no possibility of multi-vendor situation, single vendor situation can be proceeded with proper precautions in the DPP itself.
Even the SQR and field trial concept is under consideration to be modified. SQRs should be based on operational requirements. And field trials should be based on criteria that are generally available in existing equipment. In the case of  costly equipment, and even the not so costly equipment, a supplier cannot be expected to comply with all SQRs you require in the trial samples. This aspect needs to be taken into consideration for field trials to ensure wider participation.

Strategic Partners and MSMEs
NG: What about the concept of choosing strategic partners?
RM: Getting in Strategic partners does not mean they will be in all acquisitions. It is only in the areas where technology i and investment are high you cannot have multiple suppliers.  Suppose you want to set up an assembly line for manufacturing fighter planes with, how do you select an entity ? There will hardly be one or two options. Very few will have the financial muscle, technological capabilities and manufacturing ability. It requires a well-established management set up. The items that we are talking about are very few: submarines, helicopters, fighter planes and may be a couple of more. Now this selection does not keep the MSME sector out of the scope. We can always ask the strategic partners to ensure that so much percentage of the indigenised content be reserved for the MSMEs or for that matter those who source supplies from MSMEs may be given a higher weightage. There are many ways of doing it.

NG: How are you encouraging the MSME Sector?
RM: We are in the process of finalising the DPP in which many difficulties faced by MSMEs are being addressed to ensure that financial viabilities of MSMEs are ensured and they are not pushed into a  financial crisis.

NG: You are also looking at encouraging indigenous design and development?
RM: Yes, indigenously designed and developed product is being given the top priority and it will form a vital part of DPP 2015.  But I want to make one point very clear: The DPP even after finalisation may require changes depending on the difficulty we face. Even after DPP 2015 is finalised it still has the possibility of further correction to ensure smooth acquisition. It is not a static  but a dynamic document. Of course the changes can’t be too frequent. Transparency and changes are meant for giving everyone a level playing field. It doesn’t mean you delay decision-making. 

Policy: Agents and Representatives; Bans and Blacklisting
NG: What about the decision to not put a blanket ban on companies found in wrong doing? And allowing authorised representatives?
RM: This policy will come out along with DPP 2015. Agents are authorised representatives only and not middlemen. We are going to define what agents mean. Currently, this definition does not exist. A person who provides technological expertise, management support for a fee which is reasonable and which does not depend on the value of the contract or outcome—positive or negative—of the contract, will be allowed as agent.

NG: What about blacklisting policy?
RM: The current policy is the moment allegations are made, the company is put on hold/suspended or blacklisted. Now if anything suspicious is found, it will go through the complaints procedure. If prima facie anything is found to be wrong, notice will be issued and opportunity will be given to the party. But if it is  serious, then we may proceed with  temporary measures. Temporary measures are, for example, put on hold, suspend. Once temporary measures are initiated, a designated committee will go into the merits of the case. If they find that there is prima facie evidence of wrong doing, they will continue the temporary measures. If they conclude there is nothing, they can withdraw the temporary measures. There will be a timeline for temporary measures. If there is evidence of serious fraud or wrong doing the committee can impose financial penalty, invoke the integrity pact bond or impose cost as deemed fit or ban the supplier .. The existing issues will also be dealt with by the same committee comprising MoD officials and some experts with knowledge of vigilance matters etc. Basically, what we are trying to do is to have a system that hands out graded punishment commensurate with the magnitude of the wrong-doing. This is in the final stage of being approved and will be issued along with DPP-2015.

DRDO and Product Upgrade
NG: Coming to DRDO and other DPSU. Their performance has been mixed to put it mildly. How would you correct the situation?
RM: In the last one year, we have managed to reenergise them. There is finality to some of their products. For example, some days ago, I inducted the locally developed Torpedo-decoy system  for  Indian Navy ships.

NG: What about LCA, although it is not directly DRDO?
RM: Yes, the LCA model is being given a final shape . Let me tell you in product development, nothing comes perfect, be it an Indian product or a foreign product. Take the example of the Boeing P 8I. They have a long track record but there were some hitches. Over the last two years, most of the hitches were taken care of. The company reacted quickly and most of the issues are sorted out now. There are still some issues but I am sure these will be taken care of in the next one year, so that there is 100 per cent efficiency in this vital asset.
If that is the case with a well-established company like Boeing, how do I expect ADA or HAL product to be perfect in the first instance? So we inducted the LCA and by March 2016 most of the initial problems would be taken care of. And the production line will be initiated and the first squadron of LCA will start flying for the IAF.  Once they start flying, further problems, if any, will be sorted out over the first batch.  In  principle approval for first 100 LCA I A, procurement has been accorded. As per requirement of the Air Force and as agreed by all concerned.
By mid-2016 we should have a very clear direction under Make in India for submarines, helicopters, guns and aircraft and missiles. When I set a timetable, this is MoD timetable but there are other intangibles that may delay the programme a bit, but in 2016 we will have a very clear roadmap on these five important programmes such as fighters planes, submarines, helicopters and missiles.

Revenue Expenditure
NG: These are all items of capital expenditure but how are you tackling the delays in revenue procurements. Very often essential supplies get delayed when decisions are not made quickly.
RM: First of all, the bottlenecks in decision-making have to be cleared. Timeline for clearances have to be compressed. We are monitoring every item now. For example, in case of ammunition, the OFBs are being continuously exhorted to improve efficiency and increase production. We are giving them five years indent and clear orders three years in advance so that they can plan and source their raw material in advance. From January, we are allowing them longer duration rate contracts so that raw material becomes cheaper and assured. Otherwise, they used to take a lot of time in finalising supplies. This year, OFB has delivered around 15 per cent higher output with improved quality. So by 2017, my ammunition requirement should be adequately addressed.


Decision on CDS in the next few months: Parrikar

If in Part I of his interview Raksha Mantri Manohar Parrikar, spoke about the way forward in defence acquisition, in Part II, he elaborates on several key issues of structural reforms in the Defence Ministry, including appointment of a CDS, on why merit cum seniority and not just date of birth should be the criteria for promotions at the highest level.  He also discussed about restructuring of DRDO, OROP, the Mountain Strike Corps and why he has nothing to do with the decision to shift the venue of Defexpo to Goa! Read on

Acquisition of Strategic Assets

NG: How are you going to address critical gaps in India’s defence preparedness: Air Defence Artillery, Field Artillery, and Submarines, all these are in short supply. Will you go for some critical purchases? Will the OFB manufactured gun also be one of the major inductions?RM: A few issues have been decided. We are working on a submarine improvement plan for the first time. Initially, for submarines we have asked Mazagaon Docks, Scorpene submarines; to speed up the process. We are considering whether we need a few more of that class. Some other submarines, through the Make in India route; it will take another six months to decide who is the Strategic Partner. Air Defence (AD) guns are being looked into, I wouldn’t like to give the details now, but we are also working on S400 Russian weapon system. We are also upgrading the existing AD systems; it should take care of immediate requirements. I think, in the next two to three years the gap should be addressed.
NG: You had been to Russia recently, what is the status of the 5th Generation Fighter Aircraft project?
RM: The meetings have started. We are working on the next stage of designing, research and development and the same is expected to be concluded at the earliest.
NG: What about the concerns over poor serviceability of Su-30 aircraft? Did you convey it to the Russians?
RM: The issue has been highlighted and our concerns conveyed. The Russians have promised to ensure that spare parts will be made available smoothly and the availability of the platform improved. Some of the spares may be covered under Make in India programme.
NG: What about our strategic platforms, is India negotiating with the Russians for leasing one more nuclear submarine? We were also working on our own. How is India’s own nuclear submarine programme progressing?
RM: All strategic programmes are progressing as per schedule.
NG: One question about the Mountain Strike Corps what is the status now?
RM: Regarding Mountain Strike Corps, the same was approved without considering adequate financial requirement. However by re-adjusting certain aspects of capital expenditure, we will ensure that the same is properly raised and used.
NG: So, where is the money? We have so many plans, so many sanctions. Are you getting adequate money from the government?
RM: I think the current amount which is given, though I will not say it is an excellent amount, but the amount if used judiciously for the right procurement the gaps in modernization can be removed in the next three to four years. Judicious use of money is required. What I would say that there were something like 300 and odd proposals. They have been now been segregated into very-very urgent, urgent and not so urgent. Prioritization of acquisition can ensure that modernization programme of the armed forces is on track in the next two years. 
Structural Reforms
NG: You separated the posts of DG, DRDO and Scientific Advisor to Raksha Mantri. Has that arrangement worked out better?
RM: I am satisfied with the arrangement DG, DRDO is also Secretary, R&D and the workload of these two posts virtually made the additional responsibility (of Scientific Adviser) impossible to handle.
NG Going ahead further with structural reforms in the way the ministry and the armed forces function, are you looking at some of the fundamental changes and reforms suggested by the Kargil Review Committee or the Naresh Chandra Committee?
RM: If you are referring to CDS or whatever name it's to be called, it’s being actively looked into. As of now, it’s in the final stage of consultations. I think in the next few months, it should be on board.
NG: So the CDS will be basically looking at coordinating and getting the procurements of the three services together?  What is the kind of role that is being envisaged?
RM:  The role which has been envisaged has been worked out. So that while the three services remain more or less intact as it is, certain aspects will be handled by the CDS; basically coordinate the joint effort on procurement, so that the cost is reduced and the duplication and time lag, time period is reduced.

Review of Top Level Promotion Policy
NG: So you are acting seriously on this issue? What about a long standing feeling that date of birth alone becomes a criteria for promotions at the highest level? Are you looking at reviewing some of those systems and practices?
RM: I think these are issues that need consideration and we should ensure that military leadership at the highest level be the best.
NG: And merit should be the criteria?
RM: Merit should be also considered, at the same time, seniority does count. So a proper framework needs to be worked out. These are issues that need consultations and discussions before any finality is achieved.
NG: So, will you work on that?
RM: Let me work on CDS first wherein the appropriate selection process could be considered through proper mechanism to ensure best outcome. 
Officer Shortage
NG:  How are you tackling the shortage of officers in the military?
RM: One is Short Service Commission needs to be made attractive so that we engage more short service officers, thereby reducing the gap. The gap is more because more posts are created. It’s not exactly because there is a shortage.  We are filling up the gap at the rate of 500 to 1000 per year. I think, used efficiently even the slight shortage can be taken care of. One of the ways is to encourage women officers in certain services.
NG: For Permanent Commission too?
RM: In some areas, yes.
Welfare Measures
NG: What about welfare measures for soldiers, for instance more married accommodation etc.
RM: For the first time we have speeded up the construction of married accommodation projects. This year they exhausted entire year’s budget by October. So we had to allot more budget to them. We are now constructing quarters/dwellings at the rate of 1200 units per month. So this year itself we will double the numbers which were completed in the last ten years - last eight years. This year the number is more than double
NG: More than what was achieved in the last eight years?
RM: Yes. The number of units of married accommodation completed in Phase II was around 9,000 out of around 69,000 taken up in the previous year. This year, the figure has already crossed 17,000 units.
NG: Now coming to OROP. The veterans are unhappy and say, this is not what they asked for. What is your take?
RM: Based on consultations, the OROP principle has been accepted which fulfills the long standing demand for more than 40 years. This has been done in spite of a huge financial burden of Rs 8,000 crore per year. As regards the period of upgradation (equalization) once in five years, the same was as per the Koshiyari Committee report. The issue of PMR has been addressed. As regards to prospective implementation of PMR not to be covered under OROP, let me assure that the same will be addressed appropriately in consultation with the armed forces based on their requirements. There are few other minor issues which could be addressed through the judicial commission. Let me assure the veterans that all grievances of theirs will be addressed appropriately and they should not fall prey to those who try and create confusion or spread malicious information.
NG:  There was this rumour about you shifting the Defence Expo to Goa, what’s the reality?
RM:  First of all the decision was taken long before I became Defence Minister. The problem came up because the Pragati Maidan was not available. In 2013 itself, this was communicated. During earlier regime the decision to shift it to various locations was considered. Goa was considered as a preferred location. When it came to me, I gave specific ruling.
NG: So it wasn’t your favoured location, it was done earlier.
RM: No it wasn’t my favoured location. The decision was taken earlier. The important issue is, Pragati Maidan was very clearly indicated as not available and therefore some alternative had to be decided in which Goa was recommended by the concerned as most favoured location.

Monday, October 19, 2015

I shall return (with apologies to Gen Douglas MacArthur)

An apology to the followers of this blog is due. 

For nearly four months I have not been able to update/write the blog for a combination of reasons.

One was of course that writing the book 1965: Turning Tide: How India won the war (, kept me away from the blog since the book had to be delivered in a time-bound manner.

Second, setting up a new venture BharatShakti (, due to begin operations in mid-November, took up the rest of the time.

Third, the US government invited me--out of the blue--to attend an Advanced Security Cooperation Course (  at the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Honolulu, Hawaii between September 24 and October 29. 

Indeed, I am writing this entry from Honolulu.

But, I shall return (as Gen. Douglas MacArthur famously said in much more daunting circumstances during WW II!!).

Mid-November will hopefully see me blogging more frequently with updates from my new venture intended to promote and support India's quest for self-reliance in defence.

Till then, wishing everyone a happy and enjoyable festive season ahead.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

I have more support than 2005 and 2010, says Mahinda Rajapaksa

Former Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been a dominant figure in the country's politics for decades. Even after his surprise defeat in the January 2015 Presidential elections, he continues to be in the news creating ripples in the Island nation's public life and in the polity. In what is perhaps a first detailed interview in recent times (conducted over email), Rajapaksa has speaks about his decision to contest the upcoming Parliamentary elections, his relationship with President Sirisena and PM Ranil Wickramasinghe.

Read on: 

Will you be a Prime Ministerial Candidate in the upcoming Parliamentary elections? If yes, will you be SLFP candidate?

Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR):  I will be contesting the parliamentary election with a view to forming the next government. The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) has extended an invitation to me to contest on their ticket which I and the constituent parties of the UPFA along with the majority of the former SLFP parliamentary group have decided to accept. We contested the 1994 parliamentary election as the People’s Alliance. Ten years later, for the 2004 parliamentary election, we reconstituted our alliance as the UPFA. It was being discussed whether a new alliance should be formed to contest the forthcoming parliamentary election but that will not be necessary now that everyone has made the decision to contest under the UPFA banner.  I have been a loyal member of the SLFP from the inception of my political career.

How do you assess your support in the country?

MR:The most visible political phenomenon after the presidential election of January this year is the groundswell of support that has built up for me in the country. There have been unprecedented crowds at any event attended by me or held on my behalf. The large number of politicians at all levels of government supporting me have done their own assessments and they know that the people are with me. In many ways this support is now more obvious than it was in 2005 and 2010 when I won the presidential elections.

How is your relationship with President Sirisena? Have you mended your differences with him?

MR: The fact that politicians contest against one another does not mean that they have to be enemies. I contested against Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2005 and I won. But I never regarded Mr Wickremesinghe as an enemy. I have always maintained cordial relations with the opposition which is why so many opposition politicians ended up joining my government. As for president Sirisena, I maintained good relations with him during and after the presidential election. Going your separate way at times, is a part of politics. President Sirisena and I have been members of the SLFP for decades and we both want to see the SLFP remaining united.

If you win and do become PM, wouldn't it be odd for you to work under a man who was a minister under you when you were President?

MR: The position of prime minister is now different to what it was before the 19th Amendment to the constitution was passed. The PM has a certain defined role to play. I do not see any problem at all in working with president Sirisena in that capacity.  

How do you assess the six months of this government since January?

MRThe past six-month period can in fact be described as the worst period of economic failure in our post independence history. We have had unsuccessful and reckless economic management in the past but never of this magnitude. Although some of the political reversals can be put right with a change of government, the economic fallout will be more difficult to rectify because investor confidence has been very badly damaged by this government. When I handed over the government to the present set of rulers, the country was experiencing the fastest growth in the whole of Asia. The inflation rate had been at single digit levels for more than 6 years. Interest rates had been at a reasonably low level in the single digit range. The exchange rate was steady for over five years. Our foreign reserves were at an all time high of USD 8.2 billion. The national debt ratio had been reduced from a high of 92%  in 2005 when I took office, to a more manageable 75% by the end of 2014, notwithstanding the massive infrastructure development carried out by my government. The per capita income had increased from USD 1,240 in 2005 to  USD 3,650 by 2014. Many foreign investors acknowledged that we had the one of the best run economies in Asia. But today, just six months later, everything is in shambles. The economy has slowed down; all infrastructure development has stopped; foreign reserves are going down sharply; unemployment is soaring; government finances are in complete disarray with revenue in decline and government expenditure going out of control; the rupee is sliding rapidly against the USD. In addition to all this the apex institution of the banking system the Central Bank is mired in a financial scandal that has so far cost the government over Rs. 55 billion. Never in living memory have we had an economic catastrophe of this magnitude in such a short period of time.

What will be your main campaign plank in the upcoming elections?

MR: We have three main priorities - to put the economy back on track, to dismantle the police state apparatus set up by the UNP government and to restore democracy and to deal with threats to our sovereignty and national security that have arisen since January this year. 

How will you win back the trust of the minorities who it is widely believed, voted in large numbers against you.

MR: My government rescued the Tamil people of the North and East from the LTTE. Now their children are not being forcibly recruited by a terrorist organisation and they can  lead a normal life. Many Tamil people realise this which is why the number of votes I got from the Tamil people of the North doubled between the presidential elections of  2010 and 2015. But for the past six decades or more, the Tamil people have been misled by their leaders who have been showing them the mirage of a separate state. At presidential elections, Tamil people are told to vote for a candidate who would help them come closer to that goal. I can’t compete with that. But what I can do is to give the Tamil people the same facilities and opportunities that everyone else in this country has, and there is no leader who has given the Tamil people more in that respect than I have. Our party used to get a certain proportion of the votes from the Muslim community either directly or through Muslim political parties allied with us. From 2012 onward, Western powers promoted various anti-Muslim extremist groups to disturb the peace that our government had established. The leaders of Muslim political parties saw this as an opportunity to increase their votes and they spread the story that my government was sponsoring these extremist groups. Many of the Muslims who voted against us would by now have realised that my government had nothing to do with these extremist organisations and that the latter are in fact opposed to me.

How do you see the recent US report that all the overground support network of the LTTE is still intact?

MR: We defeated the LTTE’s war machine in 2009. But their overseas financial and political networks based in Western countries continued to remain active. The LTTE rump now uses these funds to buy influence in Western capitals through which they expect to achieve their goal of a separate state.

10. Prime Minister Ranil has challenged you for a straight contest? Will you take up the challenge?

MR: Absolutely. Mr Wickramesinghe contested against me in 2005 and thereafter never faced me at an election. This time around, he is compelled to face me because there is no way of escaping the contest.

Will the India-China rivalry in Sri Lanka once again be a political campaign point in the upcoming elections?

MR: Sri Lanka has always had close relations with China from the early 1950s onwards. India’s concern about Sri Lanka’s relations with China is a new phenomenon which has come about in the past few years in the context of the rivalry between India and China as the world’s rising superpowers in Asia. We need to maintain good relations with both India and China. Sri Lanka will never pose a threat to India, and we have nothing to gain by helping any other country to become a threat to India. In this context I wish to recall the role played by our late leader Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike who mediated between India and China in the Sino-Indian war of 1962. My government was too absorbed with domestic issues such as the war against terrorism and development to play a role in international affairs like Mrs Bandaranaike. But the role that she played during the Sino-Indian war of 1962 has great relevance today. I intend doing what I can to be a bridge between these two rising superpowers.  

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why AFSPA can be lifted in some areas but should not be repealed

        Latest figures figures available from the Ministry of Defence (MoD):

HR Allegations
Number of unverified allegations recd
Punished by Army Auth
* After detailed investigation. 


HR Allegations
Number of unverified allegations recd
Punished by Army Auth
*After detailed investigation

Meanwhile, below is my take on the subject from November 2014 (still relevant)
Two developments in Kashmir during the past fortnight have brought back the focus on the Indian Army and the much-misunderstood Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.
First, the killing of two teenagers in Badgam by troops of the Rashtriya Rifles and the subsequent admission by the Northern Army Commander Lt Gen D S Hooda that "we made a mistake," has given a handle to the critics of the AFSPA and fueled once again the oft-repeated demand to repeal the law.
However, the verdict in the high-profile Machil fake encounter case of 2010 that sentenced five army men to life under the Army Act, 1950 (the punishment will have to be confirmed by the Northern Army Commander) within days of the Badgam incident has silenced -- even if momentarily -- critics of the army’s justice system.
But going beyond the immediate, a closer look is needed at the army’s deployment, the application of the AFSPA and the circumstances under which it has come to acquire such negative connotations. Discussion on the law, however, gets clouded by emotions, distrust and even lack of understanding about the circumstances under which it is applied.
When the AFSPA was made applicable in the state of J&K in 1990, India was fighting a well-funded proxy war fuelled by an implacable adversary. In the past 25 years, the country’s collective efforts have brought down all known parameters of violence down to manageable levels with the help of the Indian Army. 
For a majority of the last quarter century, the army was the only functioning government agency in most parts of Kashmir. It ran schools, conducted vocational training programmes, built roads, set up micro-hydel plants and provided medical relief in remote areas. The army -- Rashtriya Rifles, to be precise -- was like the one-stop service centre for the local population. But it’s certainly time for the army to ‘step back’ a little in J&K and allow the civil administration to start playing its part in providing good governance.
That said, the army has sound reasons to resist the withdrawal of AFSPA. For instance, it says lifting of AFSPA from urban areas/large towns in J&K will result in terrorists seeking shelter in such areas and rebuilding their bases, as has been witnessed in Manipur’s capital Imphal post-2004.
While there may be a comparative decline in terrorist violence, there is no change in the Pakistani ideology and will to support proxy war in J&K. The infrastructure to support such a proxy is all intact and being regularly upgraded. Between 35 and 42 training camps are active in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Moreover, counter-terrorist operations by the army are not restricted to the Line of Control but cover the entire state.
Administrative support including convoys carrying army personnel and stores moving to the LoC pass through urban areas in the hinterland and are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Hence AFSPA cannot be applied in pockets of J&K along the LoC while withdrawing the act from the remaining areas, as is being advocated by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah or even former Home Minister P Chidambaram.
Critics have often chafed at the provisions under Sections 3, 4, 6 and 7 of the AFSPA for being ‘draconian.’ What exactly are these provisions?
Section 3: It lays down the authority which has power to declare areas as ‘disturbed’.  These authorities are the central and the state governments. So the army does not declare the area as disturbed. 
Section 4: It gives the army powers to search premises and make arrests without warrants, to use force even to the extent of causing death, destroy arms/ammunition dumps, fortifications/shelters/hideouts and to stop, search and seize any vehicle. 
Section 6: It stipulates that arrested persons and seized property are to be made over to the police with least possible delay.  
Section 7: It offers protection of persons acting in good faith in their official capacity. Prosecution is permitted only after sanction by the central government.
These provisions came up for scrutiny before a constitution bench of the Supreme Court in a case titled ‘Naga People’s Movement of Human Rights Vs UOI’.  The five-judge bench elaborately dealt with the challenge to the legality of deployment of the armed forces in aid to civil power. The court had then unambiguously ruled that AFSPA cannot be regarded as a colourable legislation or a fraud on the Constitution. 
The apex court said that the conferring of powers vide Section 4 of AFSPA could not be held arbitrary or violative of Article 14, 19 or 21 of the Constitution. In fact, having considered the role and circumstances under which the armed forces have to operate, the Supreme Court extended the scope of powers vested vide 4 and 6 of AFSPA so as to include by implication, the power to interrogate the person arrested. 
It also allowed the armed forces to retain the weapons seized during the operations in their own custody rather than to hand them over to police authorities.
The mere fact that the provisions of AFSPA have to be invoked in a particular area ex facie establishes that handling the law and order situation had gone beyond the control of the state government. The army personnel operating in those circumstances need to enjoy at least similar powers as the police force if not wider ones. So, just as Section 45 of the CrPC disallows arrest of public servants and just as Section 197 provides impunity against prosecution, Section 7 of the AFSPA gives similar protection to the army personnel. Nothing more, nothing less.
And yet, most opponents of the AFSPA have chosen to either downplay or completely ignore this similarity. In the case of J&K, the army needs legal protection all the more since applicability of CrPC is disallowed in the state that operates under a different set of laws called the Ranbir Penal Code.
So what is the way forward?
The revocation of AFSPA from any area needs a concerted view of all organs of the state and Centre. A suggested way is to convert these areas into police administered areas/police districts as was done for Srinagar initially without revoking AFSPA. Subsequently, as the situation improves, while evolving the revocation, an exit strategy needs to be worked out for gradual withdrawal of armed forces from the specified area leading to a smooth transition.
Lifting the AFSPA can certainly be attempted but the provisions of the AFSPA, as an emergency law that empowers the army -- the nation’s instrument of last resort -- must continue to remain on the statute books given the increasingly violent and uncertain times that the subcontinent is likely to face in coming years.
When needed, it must be applied in small doses. Every country has to balance the need for a stringent law with the basic principles of ensuring human dignity and human rights. Therein lies the challenge for India’s leadership.
Nitin A Gokhale is security & strategic affairs editor with NDTV.