It’s time for India to act upon launching its nuclear deterrence triad, especially given the geopolitical scenario.
For all the viciousness of political thrust and counterthrust between parties over the past four decades, India’s political establishment has shown rare consistency and unanimity in pursuing the national nuclear programme and its weaponization. From Indira Gandhi through to AB Vajpayee on whose respective watch Pokhran-I and Pokhran-II took place, and from Manmohan Singh to Narendra Modi, the importance of nuclear power for civilian purposes and for our national security has not been lost on the political leadership. The lion’s share of the credit for our achievements in the nuclear field must, of course, go to our brilliant scientists and technologists who have battled all manner of obstacles put in their way by nations and agencies averse to India acquiring nuclear capability. But without the backing and support of those in power from across the political spectrum, it could have all ended in shambles. Instead, we had the Prime Minister on Monday proudly announce that the country’s first indigenous nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant, had successfully completed its first deterrence patrol. The success of the submarine “gives a fitting response to those who indulge in nuclear blackmail”, he added, clearly targeting Pakistan. The Chinese, too, have been, in a sense, put on notice. We do live in a rough neighbourhood.
The fully operational submarine completes the sea leg of India’s nuclear triad, giving it all-round nuclear strike and counterstrike capabilities after the induction through the 2000s of the Agni series of land-launched nuclear missiles and the arming of our fighter aircraft including Sukhoi-30s, Mirage-2000s (as well as the on-order Rafale) which can all deliver nuclear warheads. It is important here to underline that the development of the triad is very much part of India’s nuclear doctrine premised on the twin principles of minimum credible deterrence and a no first-use policy. Which is also why it is significant that the Prime Minister iterated that India’s nuclear triad will be “an important pillar of global peace and stability”. As for the achievement itself, well, only a handful of countries — the United States, Russia, France, United Kingdom and China — can deliver nuclear warheads from a submarine and India now joins that club.
The 6,000-tonne Arihant, armed with submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), is capable of delivering nuclear warheads up to 750 km away. The range, however, say experts, is a limitation, and India requires the capability to deploy SLBMs capable of striking targets thousands of kilometres away. Also, the number of nuclear-powered and nuclear-missile carrying submersible vessels of the Indian Navy will need to be enhanced appreciably. To this end, a second nuclear submarine, the INS Arighat, is already under development and expected to be operational by 2020. But a dose of realism also needs to be injected to counter the excessive chest-thumping in certain quarters — the US has 72 operational nuclear submarines, Russia over 40, UK and France between 8-12 each and China 10 (equipped with JIN-class nuclear-tipped missiles with a range of over 7,000 kilometres). So, while India’s newest nuclear-weapons delivery platform is a welcome and much needed as it completes the country’s land-air-sea ability in terms of nuclear deterrence, we have to keep the nuclear programme well-funded to ensure that future security challenges can be met effectively.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer
The credit for surgical strikes and other operations might go to India, but the fact is that the soldiers are the ones who do all the heavy work. Government should make sure their faith doesn’t waiver.
Data and the tax department don’t lie, to paraphrase a saying. IndiaSpend is the torchbearer of new journalism. It specialises in data-crunching, rather than relying on vague, perception-based analysis. In a report about a new study, it backs up with data what we always knew but could not prove. The Azim Premji University and Lokniti (the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies or CSDS) in 2018, conducted a study covering eight States to map trust in institutions. The study covered 22 Assembly constituencies with more than 16,000 respondents. It revealed that nearly 77 per cent respondents showed the most trust in the military, followed by 54.8 per cent in the Supreme Court and 48 per cent in the High Courts.
On an average, elected offices and institutions, such as the President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Parliament, State Legislature, et al, enjoyed an “effective trust” of 40 per cent. Effective trust is the difference between percentage of respondents who opted for a “great deal of trust” at one end of the scale and “no trust at all” at the other. According to the study, political parties garnered low trust, at minus 1.75 per cent. Political parties polled the lowest in the list of 16. The average “effective trust” in Parliament was 36.6 per cent in the eight States surveyed. Government officials scored 4.8 per cent trust while the police managed only 0.9 percentage points more.
Why do you think this is? It could be because the military in India has proved time and again to be free of political influence, unlike the police, administration and other institutions. The study suggests the Indian people believe the effect of political parties is toxic (reflected in the low ranking to political parties) and, therefore, they trust the courts more than the Prime Minister and Parliament. The military does not hide or lie to cover up unpleasant realities — although sometimes, it might highlight certain parts of truth: Like what a wonderful aircraft the Rafale is (true) and that India could never have made such a wonderful aircraft (false).
The main thing is, the military does what it is supposed to do without grumbling or complaining (although its Chiefs do occasionally go to court about their personal problems — and are quickly absorbed by political parties). It is often weighed down by crippling shortages, but it gets the job done, no matter what the difficulties, even though it doesn’t get paid enough in relation to the other arms of the Government, tends to be bossed over by them, and is frequently denied state-of-the-art equipment.
It is true that no Army in the world has a full inventory — it is a mix of modern, mature and legacy/obsolete equipment. In 1995, Army Chief Gen Shankar Roy Choudhury was fed up writing letters to his superiors about critical deficiencies and was forced to go public. “The Army should not be held responsible for failing to meet its mandate.” In the same period, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral VS Shekhawat, concerned about the shrinking size of the Indian Navy, warned over dangers at sea in the event of hostilities. His outburst resulted in the then Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav calling him to a breakfast meeting and immediately placing orders on Naval Dockyards for ship construction. In France this year, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) resigned because of arbitrary reduction in the defence budget. By this yardstick, many of our service chiefs ought to have resigned. Last year, the defence budget was lowest since 1962.
One is periodically reminded that China has risen, while India is still rising and no one will come to India’s help in the event of conflict. India will have to fight its battles alone. But is it equipped to do so? A strategic reset is essential to meet the emerging security challenges. Of the 340 recommendations by the Kargil GoM, many are unimplemented, including the appointment of CDS. A headless Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) created more than a decade ago is an exercise in futility. Integration of the three services with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has not even begun while jointness is only in name. Defence planning on the basis of 15, five and one year plans is compartmentalised and offers no strategic choices. The IDS simply collates the three services’ plans and lets the MoD determine priorities.
The service chiefs have consistently complained about inadequate say in decision-making. The military is seen to be subservient to the political class and civilian bureaucracy. Speaking at a public lecture some years ago, the then Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) Vinod Rai urged the Government to repose trust in the Armed Forces by giving full financial powers to the service chiefs. He said the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) (which has undergone seven upgrades and become very complex) involved the participation of 13 agencies.
The ghost of Bofors is a B, (you could add an R for Rafale) plus the three Cs — CAG, CVC and CBI — these are retarding the procurement process. Are we surprised that the Army has not added a single new gun to its inventory since 1986 when it is required to deter a two-front war? Transformation of the Army — like the Navy and the Indian Air Force (IAF) — is underway independent of a tri-service operational plan. There is no long-term Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) to derive national security and defence strategies and then evolve doctrines. We have put the cart before the horse.
During the limited war in Kargil, Army Chief Gen Ved Malik despairingly announced: “We will fight with what we have.” But for Israel’s strategic intervention with 155 mm Bofors ammunition, UAVs and PGMs for the IAF, vacation of Pakistan’s aggression would have met cost, time and casualty overruns. Fast-tracked acquisitions arrived only after the war was over. One of the reasons for Operation Parakram not taking off was the discovery that the military was not combat ready, probably an alibi for lack of political will which got translated as strategic restraint. Not fighting a war since 1971 and acquisition of nuclear weapons have willy nilly undermined the conventional deterrence.
We can feel good about surgical strikes and claim credit for such piecemeal operations in elections. But remember: The faith of the people of India resides in the defence services, because like the people of India, the services make do with what they have; and do a damn good job in it. That faith, Governments must ensure never breaks.
(The writer is a retired Major General of the Indian Army and founder member of the Defence Planning Staff, currently the revamped Integrated Defence Staff)
Writer: Ashok K Mehta
Source: The Pioneer
Although India is set to buy the S-400 missile systems from Russia, if they wish to fix their ties with Moscow, India must diminish all Russian concerns – especially accepting their relationship with Pakistan. The Russian S-400 Air Defence Missile Defence (ADMS) system has been elevated from a weapon system to symbolise the re-set of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy: From being a global power to a balancing power, which, given its national attributes, it actually is.
Global powers have credible Hard Power comprising economic, technological, military and defence-industrial capabilities. Balancing powers, on the other hand, are those who maintain even relations with all geo-strategic or global players who have the capability, capacity and political will to influence events beyond their borders.
In an interview on May 30, 2015, Prime Minister Modi had said, “It is clear in my mind we are no more just a balancing power, but a global player”. That belief came crashing in the aftermath of the 2017 Doklam crisis, when India realised that its tactical victory was short-lived. China had, in the winter months of 2017-2018, started mobilising its military capabilities for a likely border war which would have jeopardised Modi’s 2019 General Election plans. Once this reality dawned, the Prime Minister sought two informal summits in quick time — with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan, and with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.
The Wuhan understanding arrived in April 2018 and ensured that both sides were satisfied. China agreed to keep the disputed border peaceful, that Modi wanted. And, India agreed to cooperate with China on development and connectivity projects in the neighbourhood, as Xi desired. In order to ensure that Xi kept his side of the promise despite a few provocations (which could not be ruled out with General Elections looming large), Prime Minister Modi met Putin in Sochi to make him the confidante of the Wuhan understanding since he is the only global leader Xi would listen to.
To spur Putin to do his bidding, Modi offered to invest more time in strengthening ties with Russia, and to sign the S-400 contract, which had been hanging fire since over two years. Signed as an inter-governmental agreement in October 2016, the S-400 contract, according to the head of the Russian Rostec, Sergey Chemezov, was expected to be signed by themiddle of 2017. His assessment was premised on the fact that the Defence Acquisition Council had cleared the deal in December 2015. Since then, the S-400 file has been shuttling between the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister’s office.
There were two reasons why the Modi Government was hesitant to sign the deal. The first was the cost. Russians were asking for close to six billion dollar for five regiments of the weapon system without any ‘Make in India’ and offsets component. They, however, were willing to set up maintenance facilities in India; help integrate the S-400 with India’s indigenous systems like Akash (which was made with Russian hand-holding); expedite procurement despite having a full order book till 2022; and consider the transformational S-500 system (with capability to kill low-earth satellites) which are under trials for sales to India.
Once the Contract-Negotiation-Committee (CNC), comprising Russian and Indian officials started work, Moscow appeared more amenable. The price was brought down substantially close to five-and-half billion dollar; Moscow offered to transfer the S-400 in the Russian military inventory to India over two to three years; and showed flexibility on payments. It soon became clear that price, though an issue, was not the main concern. It was India’s growing partnership with the United States and the belief that it could help position India as a rival to China in a multipolar Asia. Since Russia was close to China and was building relationship with Pakistan, India, while downplaying its traditional ties and special support in areas of civil nuclear reactors, defence technology and procurements, kept ties with Moscow at a low keel.
Welcoming the opportunity, the US, which views India as the maritime pivot in the Indian Ocean region, sought interoperability (ability to fight together on common mission) through defence sales, military bilateral and multilateral exercises, and by seeking to align India’s foreign policy objectives with its own. Delhi was asked to sign the two fundamental agreements which would allow interoperability by greater transparency in classified equipment onboard US platforms bought by India.
In a symbolic gesture to highlight India’s grown status, the US re-named its largest theatre command as the Indo-Pacific command. This suggested a role for India across the two Oceans — Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. Just when Prime Minister Modi thought India had got recognition as a global power based much on his personal diplomacy style, Doklam happened followed by the re-set, a euphemism for the forced foreign policy correction. The coming days would likely witness a major shift in India’s relations with Russia. While side-stepping the US’ concern (impact on growing interoperability) and threats (of sanctions) Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been emphatic on buying S-400.
Each S-400 regiment comprises two batteries with four launchers each; this makes a total of 40 launchers for five regiments. Five regiments of S-400 will protect two to three major Indian cities, including the capital city of New Delhi. Interestingly, India has ordered a total of 1,000 missiles in the very long-range and long-range category (range 400km), with none in the medium and short ranges category.
Sitharaman has not ruled out considering the Russia Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) — SU-57 — at a later date. Supposed to be a joint development programme, India had pulled out of the detailed design and development stage on differences regarding the distribution of work and technology transfer with Russia. However, the SU-57 might well emerge as the dark horse in the new race for the acquisition of fighters for the Indian Air Force.
As India once again works on deepening its relationship with Moscow, it will have to come to terms with Russia’s ties with Pakistan. In 2004, Russia under Putin took the unusual step of supporting Pakistan. Speaking to this writer, the Russian Ambassador to India, VI Trubnikov had said, “Our relations with Islamabad have their own agenda chiefly aimed at developing trade and economic ties and cooperation at the anti-terrorist front. They [Pakistan] have always been and will remain subject to our greater and traditional interest for stability in South Asia.”
(The writer in editor, FORCE newsmagazine)
Writer: Pravin Sawhney
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The nonpolitical nature of the army is a support of India’s self-governing and representative institutions. It enables allegiance and faithfulness to the constitution. The political parties and leaders should ensure that it remains the same.
The Modi Government will be celebrating four years of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas this week. It might be useful to factor military lessons from the recent Karnataka election. Prime Minister Modi takes immense pride in his Government’s contribution in strengthening the morale and mettle of the Armed Forces, frequently quoting the surgical strikes, Doklam episode, One Rank One Pension (OROP) and its modernisation through Make in India.
Sadly, this is not the entire truth. If anything, defence is one area where Modi has personally shown minimum interest, which is borne out by the frequency with which he has switched Defence Ministers and ad hocism that has crept in defence management. While he is au fait with the political history of the country, he is comparatively ignorant of the country’s colonial and post-independence history.
My friend, Air Marshal Nanda Cariappa, son of Field Marshal KM Cariappa, India’s first CinC and Army Chief, is quite upset with the faux pas made by Modi about his father’s military record while trying to win over Coorg during the recent Karnataka election.
Even the grand master and wizard of electoral oratory, Prime Minister Modi, in his indefatigable campaign trail in Karnataka, tripped by events of two of Coorg’s military legends to woo the voters. The Kodava is steeped in martial tradition and has been a great warrior from the land from where the Cauvery originates. Modi recalled the gallantry of two military icons and Army Chiefs — Gens KM Cariappa (Kipper) and KS Thimayya (Timmy) from Coorg who set the stage for many of the present-day Indian Army traditions, customs, ethics and coveted values of the military being professional, secular and most of all, apolitical.
By portraying that the two Generals were treated indifferently, even insulted by the Congress Governments in the wars of 1948 and 1962, Modi’s script writers got their military history wrong. Neither was the Army Chief during the wars in Kashmir and China. Timmy was Divisional Commander in Kashmir in 1947 and Cariappa had retired well before the 1962 War.
Modi normally has total command of facts, mastery over the political context and a sharp strategy for shredding the Congress. But earlier this month, he was wide of the target. He said Army Chief Gen Thimayya won the war in Kashmir but was insulted by Jawaharlal Nehru and Defence Minister Krishna Menon. This forced him to resign. The facts are otherwise: Nehru and Timmy were good friends but it was Menon who had problems with him and the other way around.
Menon liked to micromanage the internal affairs of the Army, such as interfere in promotions and posting of officers — an activity which is sacrosanct for any Army Chief. What has not been mentioned in any report are the widespread whispered accounts of an alleged plot of a military take-over by Timmy. One story refers to an interview given by him to a foreign correspondent who asked the ‘C’ question. And he replied: “Search my cupboard for any folder on coup d’etat”. This take-over account was concocted by the Menon camp. Timmy was one of the most dynamic military leaders and one of three Indians who commanded a Brigade in World War II. Timmy was truly a soldier’s General.
Modi messed up the Cariappa episode as well. Cariappa was the first Army Chief, a pucca Brown Sahib and a gentleman’s gentleman. He retired much before the India-China War and rather than being chided and insulted by the Congress for losing the war, was made a Field Marshal 33 years after he had retired. Gen Sam Manekshaw, who was hounded by Menon, was made India’s first Field Marshal, the supreme honour conferred for winning the 1971 War.
It is amazing that nobody in the local media picked up Modi’s slip of the tongue, but I suspect that he did convince the crowds that injustice had been done to the military heroes of Karnataka. Coorg has produced per capita, the highest number of General Officers and their equivalents in India. When HD Deve Gowda was the Prime Minister, he advocated raising a Coorg Regiment in recognition of their service to the country.
The last episode in politicisation of the Army was during the term of Gen VK Singh, now a Minister for rescue and relief in Government, when as Army Chief, he took his own Government to court over his age row. That was unethical on his part. But the UPA Government allowed the affair to be politicised.
More recently, two events have politicised the forces: OROP and surgical strikes. You could add Doklam too. Surgical strikes became the political password to an election-winning spree for the BJP. Pictures of Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, then Director General of Military Operations, who monitored the operation along with those of Modi, the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and BJP president Amit Shah, appeared on banners and posters during the Uttar Pradesh election.
The actions of Army commandos across the Line of Control became associated with the courage and nationalism of the BJP. Parrikar, meanwhile, would tell stories to the media about how as an Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) pracharak, he had instilled the Hanuman spirit in the Army. In short, besides politicising the cross border operations, the BJP extracted maximum political capital from the surgical strikes.
Even to this day, every political leader in the Government invokes surgical strikes as the new political metaphor for courage, decisiveness and boldness.
The apolitical nature of the military is one of the pillars for India’s democratic institutions which enables loyalty and fidelity to the Constitution, regardless of the political party in power. Despite their political aloofness, the majority of military veterans associate nationalism and military power with the BJP to negate the impression and reputation that India is docile and has abundant strategic patience and tolerance.
After the Kargil war, the BJP and the Congress were on opposite ends in matters of defence and national security when a national political consensus was paramount. Unsavoury comments have been made about the Army by the political class for electoral gains. The lesson from Karnataka election is to keep the military outside the political discourse during elections, enabling it to remain firmly apolitical. The Election Commission of India should lay down red lines that will ensure this. Prime Minister Modi understands only too well, the strengths and sensitivity of the Army while frequently eulogising the surgical strikes. India is the only country in this region where the military has been firmly under civilian political control due to its apolitical disposition. The political class should ensure it remains the same.
(The writer is a retired Major General of the Indian Army and founder member of the Defence Planning Staff, currently the revamped Integrated Defence Staff)
Writer: Ashok K Mehta
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The Defense Planning Committee appears to complicate defense planning and higher political Management. Missing defense reforms have to be enforced top down, superseding babucracy.
Four years after coming to office, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Government hurled a surprise at the defence and strategic community with newspapers last month splashed with the news of a new high-powered Defence Planning Committee (DPC) under NSA Ajit Doval to steer the country’s military security strategy and develop defence capability. Instead of first establishing Integrated Theatre Commands, appointing a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and creating jointness in existing planning headquarters, like the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Integrated Defence Staff, the DPC appears as an attempt to obfuscate defence planning and higher political management.
India has waited for a CDS for 50 years. The first time this acronym was heard was after the 1971 war when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi told late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw that he would be made CDS, but the idea whose time had come, never materialised. In 2001, following the Group of Ministers (GoM) report after the Kargil Review Committee report had recommended and the Government accepted 340 defence reforms, and some were implemented, the name of Admiral Sushil Isaacs as CDS was the breaking news on TV, his office chosen and rehearsals carried out for his appointment. The screens then went blank; the CDS disappeared into oblivion. It was not until the Naresh Chandra Task Force (NCTF) was set up in 2011 that the CDS was resurrected from among 97 recommendations made by the Task Force.
Defence Minister AK Antony, influenced by the bureaucracy, refused to approve the appointment of the CDS. By the end of September 2012, the MoD had accepted all the NCTF recommendations except two: Integration of the MoD and IDS; and the appointment of Permanent Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee in lieu of CDS.
Of the three Defence Ministers appointed by this Government (Arun Jaitley twice holding additional charge of defence) only Manohar Parrikar was seriously working towards the CDS. He announced half a dozen times that a CDS will happen — in six months time.
With the CDS missing, without a genuinely integrated Inter Services Staff and several recommendations of the GoM not implemented, erecting a new defence planning architecture is creating another organisation on a weak platform. Without foundational reforms — missing CDS and no integration for jointness in planning structures — the DPC will be like a house of cards. Previously, the Government had tried working at National Security Council (NSC), National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), and other ad hoc committees. The versatile and immortal Governor of Jammu & Kashmir, NN Vohra, has suggested a Ministry for National Security but India never produced a single worthwhile document on security and defence strategy.
But the reincarnated DPC is meant to be a permanent body consisting of the three Service Chiefs (one of whom is rotating chairman of CoSC) Secretaries of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Expenditure. The chief of IDS is member secretary who will service the DPC. IDS currently has five departments — Doctrine, Organisation and Training; Perspective Plans and Force Structures; Intelligence; Operations; and Medical. Because it is not fully staffed, does not have anyone from the Ministry of External Affairs, for example, and other expertise, there are holes in its output.
In April 2017, the IDS produced the joint doctrine of the Indian Armed Forces which was a very shoddy work and was criticised by the strategic community. Missing was the concept of jointness, joint war fighting capability and interoperability. Till some of the basic shortcomings of jointness and integration are rectified through joint commands, truly integrated headquarters and the CDS, the DPC will make no substantial difference to the existing outcomes. In the IDS, operations are planned and fought single service and separate defence plans are merely stitched together.
Almost similar to the IDS, the DPC has four subcommittees: Policy and Strategy; Planning and Capability Development; Defence Diplomacy and Defence Manufacturing. The last two would have been in IDS had the Ministry of External Affairs and Defence Research and Development Organisation initially posted their officers instead of keeping these slots vacant. The DPC will produce position papers which the MoD and IDS do today and forward them to the Raksha Mantri (RM). In other words, NSA will report to the RM. How all this will sharpen defence planning and capability building is hard to visualise. This one extra layer of bureaucracy of very busy bureaucrats will in no way catalyse strategic processes and tactical procedures as long as strategic political guidance is absent. The RM’s operational directive is currently written by the IDS and not the CCS or NSC.
Thus, the left arm does not know what the right arm is doing as illustrated by the establishment of yet another advisory panel for RM. A 13-member committee has been formed to explore why procurement procedures on capital projects exceeding five billion rupees face long delays. Ironically, principal resistance to its formation has come from MoD. The RM should also task the panel to investigate why modernisation funds, meagre as they are, are usually not utilised in full, usually for reasons of financial expediency — balancing the fiscal deficit.
The truth about higher defence management, defence planning and capacity building is the surfeit of ad hocism. Prime Minister Modi ordering 36 Rafale instead of allowing the fruition of the 126 Rafale aircraft deal, is a classic example. As long as the Government does not traverse the established planning processes, starting with a National Strategic Defence and Security Review, followed by building requisite military capability — which has never been done — Governments will indulge in bouts of tinkering and tampering as has been the practice excluding the KRC report. Even a White Paper on defence has never been attempted. The NSAB and IDS were asked to draft a National Security Strategy. The UK last carried out its SDSR in 2011 and keeps updating it along with periodic military capability review.
A Defence Planning Staff was established in 1985 with hands on involvement of service chiefs and the defence Minister in systematising defence planning and higher defence management. It wrote the first ever 15-year Long Term Integrated Defence Plan which was recognised in Parliament. DPS was the harbinger of jointness and integration — with it morphing into IDS, but with jointness absent. The muddle-headedness will continue with NSA replacing Defence Secretary as virtual CDS. What is really needed is the revival of the Cabinet Committee on Defence. In many ways, The DPC is too little too late and akin to the Government’s charade of the latest RFI for 110 fighter jets. The missing defence reforms have to be forced top down, overruling the babucracy.
(The writer was founder member of the Defence Planning Staff which is today the Integrated Defence Staff)
Writer: Ashok K Mehta
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The agitation against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant has been running as a TV reality show for weeks now. The news-starved visual media has reduced the Koodankulam nuclear plant - a national investment of Rs 13,000 crore and just about to start - to a day-matinee-night show. The Koodankulam theatre is plagiarised on the Anna Fast model for media to hype it. The media too obliged and packaged it as hapless villagers fighting for their right to live. For long, it had winked at the scriptwriters, directors and actors behind the show. But does the media know - or not - that Koodankulam is no isolated event? And that the goals and mission that drive it link it to the stir that is on for almost two decades in the distant and remote West Khasi Hills in Meghalaya against uranium mining? The scriptwriters, directors and actors behind both have a common mission. The Koodankulam stir blocks the building of a nuclear plant for India. The West Khasi Hills agitation prevents the building of nuclear arsenal for India. Who are the directors and actors and what is their mission?
See what nuclear technology means to India. India needs nuclear power and nuclear weapons. There are, in the world, 22,000 nuclear bombs, 8,000 actively targeted at one another's perceived enemy. China has some 240 bombs targeted mostly at India. Pakistan has some 80 bombs targeted only at India. India has 100, less than a third of both. No one deeply concerned for India can even remotely undermine nuclear technology for power or weapons. On the other side, our energy security, heavily import-dependent, is at risk. We, a sixth of humanity, remain a burden on the world. Shamefully. We import oil, coal and gas. Our energy imports is $100 billion a year. Of which, coal imports, now 100 billion tons, alone cost $5 billion; it will reach $45 billion in 2020, $250 billion by 2050.
We today produce 1,50,000MW of electricity. We need to raise it, by over six times, to 9,50,000MW, by 2030. This is not doable through imported fuel. It needs no seer to tell us that, in the long run, we need indigenously fuelled power. For which a prime candidate is nuclear power.
Now, compare the environmental and human risk in thermal and nuclear power. The risk in one is the merit of the other. Experts say that a 1,000MW coal power plant causes annually 400 deaths by air pollution and climatic change. Nuclear energy does risk accidents - but once in decades - just four accidents in 60 years, involving 66 direct and 4,000 related deaths. It is far less risky compared thermal power. Air accidents kill some 1,000 persons in the world annually. Traffic accidents killed 1.14 lakh people in 2007 in India alone. Yet to think of banning coal, nor air or automobile travel will be laughable. The balance sheet of nuclear energy is thus superior, less risky, and more clean. Why do some brand nuclear power as evil? Now see how do we produce nuclear power and also weaponise India.
Now uranium drives our nuclear programme. Our minimal uranium reserves are mainly located in Khasi Hills in Meghalaya, Jaduguda in Jharkhand and Tummalappalle in Andhra Pradesh. Global uranium trade is political, controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The NSG sells uranium only to an approved country and its nuclear reactors are subject to NSG supervision. India signed a loaded nuclear treaty with the US only to win the NSG approval to access imported uranium. As on now, fourteen of our twenty-two nuclear reactors are subject to global supervision. Only the unsupervised eight are usable for producing nuclear weapons. India can import uranium from the NSG for its nuclear power reactors, but import is only a short term answer, and costly for a country of our size. To fuel large nuclear power plants and for energy security, we cannot rely on imported uranium for long. Ultimately it has to be indigenous fuel. Fortunately, we have the world's largest deposit of thorium, an alternative to uranium and the nuclear fuel of future. We are perfecting the technology to use thorium for producing power. But, till that happens, we need to mine indigenous uranium, first, to reduce the dependence on imports for our nuclear power programme and, next, for operating the eight reactors to produce nuclear weaponry. The two facts are self-evident. And now lift the veil and see the common faces behind the two-decade-old Khasi Hills agitation against uranium mining and the agitation against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant - that is against nuclear India itself.
That the Koodankulam stir is the show of the Catholic Church has become out, but a bit late. Neutral media reports now confirm that S P Udaykumar, who leads the agitation, stays with the parish priest Father Jaikumar at Idinthakarai village; Fr Jaikumar openly supports the stir; Fr Thadyuse, the priest of the church in Koodankulam, too is forthright in his support; Fr S Peter, priest at the popular St Antony's Church in the coastal village Ovary, sends his flock to partake in the relay fast at Idinthakarai; local Christians priests confirm that the Bishop at Tirunelveli supports the stir. The church hierarchy is therefore fully at it. According to reports, trans-port, cash and biriyani are provided to mobilise protesters and they are motivated to throw stones at the maintenance officials of the plant to force its closure. Remove the church, the agitation will stop.
Now see the face behind the agitation in the Christian -majority Meghalaya, which has a sixth of India's uranium reserves. Not a kilogram of uranium has been mined out of Meghalaya since 1990, thanks to 20-year long agitation by Khasi Hills students against mining it. The church in Meghalaya is backing, actually organising, the students. Violent incidents, blockade, picketing, huge rallies, setting fire to government offices and paralysing government marked the agitation And who talks for the agitators? The archbishop of Shillong, Dominic Jala. Take the church out, there will be no stir. Even the uranium reserve in Jharkhand is at risk. A huge tribal campaign, with NGOs patronised by the church backing it, is thwarting uranium mining in Jharkhand.
QED: The campaign against mining uranium in Meghalaya and against the Koodankulam nuclear plant is by the same directors and actors with global links and money. Their target is nuclear India. They are driven by a geopolitical agenda to de-nuke India. But they actually nuke India.
(Views expressed are those of the author only)
The writer is a well-known commentator on political and economic issues.