Forty-six billion dollars. A figure like this not only makes for a great headline but also creates a hype which deflects from the fine print and details that lie behind this number. Not surprisingly, the focus of attention – in Pakistan, in India and in other parts of the world, including the US – is the big number and how it will be a ‘game-changer’, how it will change the destiny of Pakistan, how it will change the strategic balance in the region and so on and so forth.
The policy shift being attempted by Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani in which he sought to relegate India to the fourth circle of priority and appease Pakistan has had mixed reception in the Indian strategic community. It ranges from disappointment over side-lining of India to a resigned acceptance of an emerging situation in which India's space may get constricted. The result is both a sort of detachment over what happens in Afghanistan and hope of seeing China and Pakistan getting steadily bogged down in the Afghan quagmire.
In an effort to restructure the growth vehicle of the nation, Sh. Narendra Modi has announced a paradigm shift from the erstwhile Planning Commission to a new institution named ‘NITI Aayog’ or the National institute of Transforming India. NITI Aayog, in a departure from the working methodology of the Planning Commission, will serve as a ‘Think Tank’ of the Government – as a directional and policy dynamo.
It was all gung-ho in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi as President Xi Jinping arrived in Pakistan – the first-ever visit of a Chinese President in almost a decade--to sign projects worth almost $50 billion to get the much-trumpeted China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) rolling. The CPEC project largely hinges on connecting Kashgar with Gwadar, the port projected as a strategically important outpost located at the northern tip of the Straits of Hormuz.
The saga for procurement of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA) for the Indian Air Force (IAF) actually began in 2001, gathered steam in 2007 and was stuck in price negotiations for the past three years.
Meanwhile, the IAF's combat fighter jet strength was depleting fast. Over the past couple of years, the Air Force top brass was alarmed enough to tell the government that its conventional combat edge even against Pakistan was in danger of being lost.
There is a well known song from an old Hindi film, with a catchy melody whose opening words are “Aayega aanewala, aayaga, aayega, aayega”. What these words literally mean is that he who is to come will come.
The much-awaited nuclear breakthrough has happened again when Iran and the P5+1 countries comprising of the United States (US), Russia, China, France, Germany and the United Kingdom (UK) signed the “parameters” for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on 2 April 2015. As it was with the 2013 Geneva interim accord, this deal is considered as a “good deal” or a “historic understanding” by the US President Barack Obama. Simultaneously, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to consider the deal as a threat to Israel’s survival and to the region.
When India became independent in 1947 it inherited a system of government which even today holds good. The basics of democracy and parliamentary government, separation of powers which gave the judiciary total autonomy in its own sphere, disciplined Armed Forces totally under civilian control, an organised and independent Civil Service and the rule of law are the positive legacy the British left us and it would be churlish not to acknowledge this.
Article 79 of the Constitution provides for a Parliament for the Union consisting of the President, House of the People (Lok Sabha) and the Council of States (Rajya Sabha). Our bicameral Parliament thus shapes itself on Westminster, where Parliament consists of the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons in Parliament assembled. By contrast the U.S. Parliament, called the Congress, consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the latter representing the States, but does not include the President.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena visited China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping from 25th March to 29th March 2015. Apart from the bilateral meetings in Beijing, he also attended the Bo Ao Forum in Hainan on 28-29 March. This was Sirisena’s maiden visit to China since taking office.