The HINDU Notes 19th August 2019

 India, Bhutan natural partners: Modi

•No two countries in the world understand each other so well or share so much as India and Bhutan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday, as he emphasised that New Delhi and Thimphu are such “natural partners” in bringing prosperity to their peoples.

•Addressing students of the prestigious Royal University of Bhutan here, Mr. Modi said it is natural that the people of Bhutan and India experience great attachment to each other.

•After all, they are close not just due to their geography. Their history, culture and spiritual traditions have created unique and deep bonds between our peoples and nations, he said.

•“India is fortunate to be the land where Prince Siddhartha became Gautam Buddha. And from where the light of his spiritual message, the light of Buddhism, spread all over the world. Generations of monks, spiritual leaders, scholars and seekers have burnt that flame bright in Bhutan,” the Prime Minister said in the Buddhist majority country.

•“As a result, our shared values have shaped a common world-view,” Mr. Modi said, in the presence of Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering.

•“And as people, we are fortunate to be the living vehicle of this great legacy,” he said. No other two countries in the world understand each other so well or share so much. And no two countries are such natural partners in bringing prosperity to their peoples, he said.

•Mr. Modi concluded his visit on August 18.

•Anyone visiting Bhutan is struck as much by its natural beauty as by the warmth, compassion and simplicity of its people, the Prime Minister said.

•“During this visit, I have had the opportunity to interact closely with the present leadership of Bhutan. I once again received their guidance for the India-Bhutan relationship, which has always benefited from their close and personal attention,” said Mr. Modi.

•“Now, today, I am here, with the future of Bhutan. I can see the dynamism, and feel the energy. I am confident that these will shape the future of this great nation and its citizens. Whether I look at Bhutan’s past, present or future, the common and constant threads are – deep spirituality, and youthful vigour. These are also the strengths of our bilateral relationship,” he said.

•The two countries inked 10 MoUs in the fields of space research, aviation, IT, power and education to infuse new energy in their ties.

 UAE to give Modi highest civilian award

An External Affairs Ministry statement on Sunday said Mr. Modi will visit the UAE on August 23 and 24, and Bahrain on August 24 and 25.

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the UAE on August 23 and 24 where he will receive the Order of Zayed, the highest civilian award of the country. An External Affairs Ministry statement on Sunday said Mr. Modi would pay a state visit to Bahrain on August 24 and 25 where he would launch the renovation of a temple of Shreenathji.

•“The order in the name of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the UAE, acquires special significance as it is awarded to Prime Minister Modi in the year of the birth centenary of Sheikh Zayed,” the statement said.

•The visit acquires importance as it would be the first by Mr. Modi to a leading member of the Organisation of Islamic Countries after India had changed the status of Kashmir.

? Jaishankar to visit Dhaka to discuss bilateral ties

The External Affairs Minister will review the status of all the issues and projects

•The entire gamut of bilateral ties between India and Bangladesh will be discussed when External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar visits Dhaka between August 19 to 21, a diplomatic source said on Sunday.

•“This is the first visit by the senior Minister, so the expectation on both sides is that he will review the status of all the issues and projects between two sides,” said a source familiar with the plans of the visit. The visit was announced by Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen in July for which he had conveyed a formal invitation through Dhaka’s envoy in India.

Hasina’s visit

•It was learnt that the External Affairs Minister is expected to firm up the schedule of the October visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Delhi which will be her first during the second Prime Ministerial stint of Narendra Modi.

•Dr. Jaishankar’s visit will be second high ministerial interaction between the two sides in less than a month. During his August 7-8 visit, Asaduzzaman Khan, Dhaka’s Minister of Interior, met with Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah in Delhi for a one-on-one meeting on bilateral issues. The meeting, however, did not yield a joint statement, triggering speculations on mutual differences.

NRC in Assam

•The meetings between the senior ministers are being viewed as important due to the upcoming publication of the National Register of Citizens in Assam which has drawn attention of the media in Dhaka. Diplomatic sources, however, said Bangladesh considers NRC to be an internal issue of India and therefore it is unlikely to raise the issue with Dr. Jaishankar.

•The Indian Minister is expected to call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and engage his counterpart Mr. Momen in official-level talks. India and Bangladesh have been in dialogue to seal the Teesta water agreement since 2011 though the final deal has remained elusive due to differences within India.

Rohingya issue

•Ms. Hasina is also expected to take up the Rohingya issue that she discussed with Beijing during her July visit to China. Dhaka wants India to exert more pressure on the Government of Myanmar which is an emerging strategic partner of India in the Southeast Asian region.

•Bangladesh ruling coalition member, Hasanul Haq Inu, had protested in July when India hosted Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who is blamed for the Rohingya displacement that forced more than a million Rohingya to seek shelter in the Chittagong hills territory.

An intervention that leads to more questions

Revoking NFU does not necessarily mean giving up restraint, but it leaves India’s nuclear doctrine more ambiguous

•Policymaking by tweet may have arrived in India, for the Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, appears to have altered a key pillar of India’s nuclear doctrine when he tweeted that India’s ‘future’ commitment to a posture of No First Use of nuclear weapons ‘depends on the circumstances’. Using the commemoration of the first death anniversary of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee as the setting for this declaration, Mr. Singh’s announcement marks a significant revision of India’s nuclear stance, seemingly without any prior structured deliberation or consultation. Of course nuclear doctrine, like any directive guiding national security, needs to be a dynamic concept that responds to changing circumstances. However, this raises the question of what has changed in India’s strategic outlook that requires a revision of one of the two foundational pillars of its nuclear doctrine.

•India is one of two countries — China being the other — that adheres to a doctrine of No First Use (NFU). Our knowledge of India’s nuclear doctrine is based largely on a statement circulated on January 4, 2003 by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which said that it had ‘reviewed progress in operationalising India’s nuclear doctrine’, and was making public the relevant details as appropriate (summarised in seven points). The first said that India would maintain ‘a credible minimum deterrent’ and the second point avowed ‘[a] posture of “No First Use”: nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation….’ The remaining five points flow mainly from these two points mentioned. India has maintained that it will not strike first with nuclear weapons but reserves the right to retaliate to any nuclear first strike against it (or any ‘major’ use of weapons of mass destruction against Indian forces anywhere) with a nuclear strike ‘that will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage’. This is not a statement by the faint-hearted — with two nuclear neighbours, the NFU simply raises the nuclear threshold in order to bring stability into a volatile environment.

A rewind

•It is almost exactly 20 years to the day since since any of this was first mentioned officially. On August 17, 1999, the then caretaker Bharatiya Janata Party government released a draft Nuclear Doctrine in order to generate discussion and debate on India’s nuclear posture. There was much discussion and criticism of the doctrine, as indeed of the timing of the release of the draft, coming as it did just weeks before a national election. It was known that the first National Security Advisory Board, a group of 27 individuals convened by K. Subrahmanyam, and comprising strategic analysts, academics, and retired military and civil servants, had completed their draft some months earlier; however, their report was only released a couple of weeks before polling began on September 5, 1999.

•It has ever been thus. Following criticism of the draft doctrine, the government appeared to move away from it. It was never discussed in Parliament and its status remained unclear for three and a half years until it was abruptly adopted by the CCS with minor modifications in 2003. The draft’s emphasis on NFU, however, remained unchanged. The adoption of the nuclear doctrine came soon after Operation Parakram (2001-02), when the threat of a nuclear exchange on the subcontinent had figured prominently in international capitals, if not in New Delhi and Islamabad. The public adoption of the doctrine was in part an attempt by New Delhi to restate its commitment to restraint and to being a responsible nuclear power.

Restraint as a pivotal point

•Restraint has served India well. India used the strategic space offered by its repeated proclamations of restraint to repulse the intruders in Kargil 20 years ago and regain occupied land despite the nuclear shadow created by India and Pakistan’s nuclear tests of 1998. Raising the nuclear threshold gave India the space for conventional operations and gained it sympathy in foreign capitals despite the fears of nuclear miscalculation that were widespread from Washington DC to London to Tokyo. India’s self-proclaimed restraint has formed the basis for its claims to belong to the nuclear mainstream — from the initial application for the waiver in 2008 from the Nuclear Suppliers Group in order to carry out nuclear commerce with the grouping, to its membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group and its ongoing attempts to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

•While revoking the commitment to NFU does not necessarily equate with abandoning restraint, it does leave India’s doctrine more ambiguous. Ambiguity, in turn, can lead to miscalculations, as India found out with Kargil (1999), where it would appear that Rawalpindi misread India’s resolve to carve out space for conventional military operations despite the new nuclear overhang. Neither does adhering to the NFU symbolise weakness, for India is committed to a devastating response to nuclear first use — a stance which underscores India’s understanding of nuclear weapons as meant primarily to deter.

•Of course, NFU has had its critics among those who advocate a more muscular nuclear policy for India. Indeed, Bharat Karnad, a member of the first National Security Advisory Board that drafted the basis of this current nuclear doctrine, made it known at the time that he considered NFU ‘a fraud’ which would be ‘the first casualty’ if war were to break out. However, consensus among the remaining members of the board clearly coalesced around an understanding of nuclear weapons not as war-fighting armaments but as weapons of last resort, meant to deter the threat and use of nuclear weapons. It was this understanding that was then used to bring India into the nuclear mainstream. It is also this understanding that has formed the basis of India’s nuclear posture, from force structure to numbers to its overall nuclear diplomacy.

•All of these points are up for revision with the announcement at Pokhran, which is where the BJP chose to remember Atal Behari Vajpayee on his first death anniversary. At a time when there are multiple queries regarding the state of India’s economy, the road map to normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir, the strength of India’s federalism, to name a few, we can now add questions about what has changed in India’s security environment to warrant a review of its nuclear doctrine. India’s neighbours will be as interested in the answers as this country’s citizens.

A lose-lose scenario

The Centre’s actions and plans for Jammu and Kashmir suffer from inherent infirmities.

•External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar tweeted on August 2 that he had conveyed “in clear terms” to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that “any discussion on Kashmir, if at all warranted, will only be with Pakistan and only bilaterally.” Kashmir has been bilaterally enshrined as a legitimate topic of discussion between India and Pakistan and to that extent it is certainly warranted. There is nothing iffy about it. Pakistan has worked in many ways to obtain a better grip on Kashmir, including by getting nuclear bombs. Now that India has given Pakistan a fait accompli, will Pakistan roll over and play dead? And how does New Delhi hope to pull it off?

The road ahead

•There is a haphazard shape to the beast, sensing its hour coming around, that slouches its way towards Kashmir to be born. The rough contours: The government will later rather than sooner have to pull additional troops out to give the situation in Jammu and Kashmir a gloss of normalcy. There is no saying how many troops are out there in Jammu and Kashmir. It could be surmised that there are about 80,000 deployed in the northern part of Kashmir, along the Line of Control. This is not counting those in counter-insurgency operations in the southern parts of the erstwhile State. This is not counting local police, the BSF and the CRPF. Obviously the additional troops numbering some 40,000 have been brought in to manage the new situation. There could be more.

•The trick is how, with little or no bloodshed, this massive deployment, unparalleled in any democracy, will squelch what waits to emerge out of the Pandora’s Box without a lose-lose scenario dominating the national consciousness. It is a tough call.

•Moves are afoot to hold an election, probably in March or April. The new political leadership, carefully nurtured, will no doubt be from among the throw-ups in the panchayat elections. It is a good time to wager if former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti can ever contest another election. It is a foregone conclusion that these leaders of regional mainstream political parties, which the government says is a discredited lot, will have to be suitably dis-incentivised from contesting the polls, and this means having them under some form of detention for the foreseeable future. From the new perspective, they have identified themselves too much with separatist impulses. Certainly, third-rung or fourth-rung leaders from these parties may already have been identified and may be being primed to give solidity to the new deal that awaits the Kashmiris. Together they are the new quislings of Kashmir’s perennial uprising.

•In order to present that green shoots of industry and economy are going to grow out of Kashmir’s hitherto separatist soil, the CII has already planned a summit in October, and big money is being readied to throw at the region, as has been done before. Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance, Mukesh Ambani, who has signed on to the government’s vision, soon promises to unveil plans for Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The government may not risk a repeat of bringing heavy industries to Kashmir now but it will certainly press ahead with the smaller initiatives pertaining to local handicrafts and the like. It will try to set an example by proving that removal of Article 35A, which has prevented people from the rest of the country from buying property in Jammu and Kashmir, will have a real impact. Just like the elections, this will be a managed outcome. It is a challenge: Even though people from Jammu could always have bought land in Kashmir, they never dared. In May 2008, land was allocated to the Amarnath shrine to set up temporary shelters for the pilgrims leading to sustained and massive protests and a reversal of the government stance months later.

•Yet this could be an extremely optimistic picture. Having removed the separatists of various hues from the equation on the ground and supplanted them with Delhi-controlled ventriloquism, the Centre cannot hold. It will be laying itself directly open to blame on a variety of counts. With the police, paramilitary and administrative machinery totally under New Delhi’s control, the Centre cannot possibly have either the same level of engagement or the same level of deniability of the mess that mishandling of the situation could create, not least the human rights abuses accusations that are bound to pile up once the troops cede the ground to grimmer realities that have lurked for seven decades. At the end of it, diplomat Paul Bremer, whom the Americans sent to Baghdad to clean up after Saddam Hussein, could begin to look like Florence Nightingale.

•Meanwhile, Pakistan is hardly likely to launch a charm offensive. Prime Minister Imran Khan has already predicted the possibility of lone-wolf disruptions of the dreaded Pulwama type. The spiral upward that could follow will end more messily than we have hitherto known. So far, Muslims in the rest of the country have not been drawn into the Kashmir quagmire. There have been some instances but not enough to cause serious alarm. Seeds are perhaps being sown for that to change now. Kashmir’s theatre of war is readying to spill outwards. As pressures pile up, communalisation could result. Jammu, after all, is one-third Muslim. Will the presumed positives of abrogation of Article 370 and an old development card that has been repeatedly and tiredly played with less than encouraging results far outweigh the inherent infirmities of the move?

Statecraft then and now

•The question finally arises: could statecraft have been handled differently? Painstaking back-channel work had narrowed the outstanding differences between India and Pakistan during the time of Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, and the congruence on critical issues had survived changes in Pakistan involving President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Mumbai attacks. There had been agreement on, among other things, a freeze on the Line of Control as the border in exchange of end to violence and terrorism, leading to thinning of troops on either side and blossoming of local bilateral trade as critical steps towards normalisation. The presumption was that once the momentum was there the rest would follow. It could have been taken forward. Time alone will tell if that was the less risky, more gentle, more inclusive way forward, or this, which right now appears to be a comedy of terrors.

Unclear doctrine: On ‘No First Use’ nuclear policy

‘No First Use’ is integral to India’s nuclear doctrine and leaves no space for ambiguity

•Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has been somewhat careful in speaking of envisioning a change in India’s nuclear deterrence posture. In place for 16 years, since January 4, 2003, when the doctrine was adopted formally, New Delhi has said consistently that India’s nuclear weapons were based on staggering and punitive retaliation, in case deterrence failed. The retaliation to a nuclear strike, any nuclear strike, whether by tactical or theatre weapons or something bigger, would be crushing enough to deter the possible use of nuclear weapons by an adversary. So the theory goes. On the first death anniversary of former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, and in the nuclear proving ground in Pokhran, the Minister said two things: that the no-first-use has served India well so far, and that what happens in future depends on circumstances. There ought to be no scope for confusion here. Security is, after all, a dynamic concept. It was the security environment in the neighbourhood coupled with the pressure brought by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that forced India out of the nuclear closet and, at the same time, to adopt the no-first-use posture. The structures associated with the doctrine, the command and control that can survive a nuclear strike, the redundancies that are in-built, the secure communications, have all been developed keeping in view the posture perspective.

•But there is a danger that the minister’s remark could spark off a nuclear arms race, given the strategic paranoias that have been at work in this part of the world for over half a century. In the elections of 2014, the BJP’s manifesto had references to an intention to update and revise the nuclear doctrine, but that went nowhere. It is conceivable that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of non-state actors in Pakistan, but even in such scenarios that warrant pre-emptive action, a nuclear strike cannot be a viable option. It would have been much better if Mr. Singh had elaborated on his thoughts so that a debate could have taken place, and not kept his remarks enigmatic. In a nuclear circumstance it is much better to convey the overwhelming nature of the deterrence than to keep the potential adversary guessing. In this respect it is a good idea for the government to make public any periodic review in its strategic posture. The no-first-use policy comes with being a confident nuclear power. For him to state the future is open is to say nothing and at once imply everything. In matters of nuclear doctrine, it is important to be clear above all else. Nothing must be left to interpretation.

A law for those who testify

The Centre is yet to act on a Supreme Court directive to legislate on witness protection

•The recent accident in Rae Bareli in which a rape survivor’s two aunts died, and which left her and her lawyer in a critical condition, has drawn much media attention. The rape accused, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, was arrested in April last year after the survivor attempted to immolate herself in front of the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister’s residence while demanding justice. Consequent to the death of the two individuals, one of whom was also a witness in the case, charges pertaining to attempt to murder were added to those already present against Sengar.

•On June 2 this year, Assistant Sub Inspector Suresh Pal, assigned to protect murder witness Rambir, was accidentally killed when the assailants missed their aim while attempting to kill the witness. In 2017, in the Asaram Bapu case concerning the rape of some women devotees, three witnesses were killed and as many as 10 attacked in an attempt to weaken the case. In fact, it was the killing of the three, followed by a Public Interest Litigation, which prompted the apex court to issue directions to the Centre and the States to frame laws for protection of witnesses.

Maharashtra’s law

•Following this, Maharashtra came out with the Maharashtra Witness and Protection and Security Act 2017, which was notified in January 2018. However, the Centre, and most other States, are yet to act on the directive.

•Meanwhile, the apex court gave its assent last year to the Witness Protection Scheme, which was drafted by the Centre in consultation with the Bureau of Police Research and Development and the National Legal Services Authority. The Centre was to implement the scheme after circulating it among all States and Union Territories and obtaining their comments. However, the scheme was meant to be a measure in force only till the government brought out its own law on the issue. Though the Centre is scheduled to bring an Act on the subject by the end of this year, it has not made much progress.

Lax implementation

•As regards the existing measure, though its objective is to ensure the safety of witnesses, so that they are able to give a true account of the crime without any fear of violence or criminal recrimination, its implementation on the ground leaves much to be desired. The Unnao matter would have been hushed up but for the fact that the survivor attempted to immolate herself in front of the Chief Minister’s residence.

•Further, though the scheme provides for police personnel to be deployed to protect the witness on the basis of threat perception, it is silent on the punishment to be given to those policemen who, while being charged with providing security, themselves threaten the witnesses. Why were the policemen tasked with protecting the Unnao survivor not with her when she travelled to Rae Bareli? Were they aware that a sinister plan had probably been hatched to eliminate her relatives?

•Above all, what emboldens the criminals the most is the support they get from the police. The shadowy politician-police nexus is so strong that no policeman, at the mercy of political leaders for his career progression, dares take any action against his ‘master’. As long as this nexus continues, the delivery of criminal justice in India will remain a casualty.

•The Witness Protection Scheme calls for more elaborate and stricter laws to be incorporated so that criminals find no loopholes that can be exploited to their advantage. The sooner the Centre comes up with a legislation codifying the protection to be given to witnesses, the better it is for India’s criminal justice system.

Taking on TB: On new anti-tuberculosis drug

Keeping the prices of the new drug low is essential for increased treatment uptake

•The anti-tuberculosis drug pretomanid recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be a game changer for treating people with extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) and those who do not tolerate or respond to now available multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) drugs. That pretomanid is only the third drug in the last 40 years to get FDA approval highlights the scarcity of new drugs to treat TB bacteria that are rapidly developing resistance against most available drugs. The all-oral, three-drug regimen of bedaquiline, pretomanid, and linezolid (BPaL) had a 90% cure rate in a phase III trial in South Africa involving 109 participants. In contrast, the current treatment success rate for XDR-TB and MDR-TB is about 34% and 55%, respectively. Importantly, the regimen was found to be safe and effective in curing TB in people living with HIV. The safety and efficacy were tested in 1,168 patients in 19 clinical trials in 14 countries. Unlike 18-24 months needed to treat highly-resistant TB using nearly 20 drugs, the BPaL regimen took just six months, was better tolerated and more potent in clearing the bacteria. The shorter duration is more likely to increase adherence to therapy and improve treatment outcomes. According to the World Health Organisation, in 2017, there were an estimated 4.5 lakh people across the world with MDR-TB, of which India accounted for 24%, and about 37,500 with XDR-TB. With only a low percentage of MDR-TB cases being treated, the actual number of people who do not tolerate or respond to available MDR-TB drugs and so will be eligible to receive the BPaL regimen is unknown. Though the total number of people who will require the new drug may not be high, these are people who have very little alternative treatment options that are safe and efficacious. Also, the number of those who would need a pretomanid-based regimen is increasing due to rising drug resistance.