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“Two great civilizations ---India and China --- have been in mutual dialogue for centuries. Both the dialogue as also the distinctiveness have been inspired in no small measure through the spread of Buddhism.Pilgrims from each country have visited the other. The pilgrimage and trade routes provided opportunity for the flowering of creative energies in both the countries. The paintings and sculpture of the Dunhuang caves represent this cultural synergism as do the Ajanta caves of India."
- Prime Minister Narsimha Rao, November 1991
Defence planning in India has been marked by knee jerk reactions to emerging situations and haphazard single-Service growth. The absence of a clearly enunciated national security strategy, the failure to commit funds for weapons and equipment acquisition on a long-term basis and delays in decision making have together handicapped military modernisation. Also, there is a “critical hollowness” in defence preparedness, including large-scale deficiencies in ammunition and equipment, as revealed in former COAS Gen V K Singh’s letter to the Prime Minister in March 2012.
The recently concluded One Rank One Pension agitation by Veterans of the Armed Forces had me thinking of various aspects of the armed forces itself. Having grown up as an army brat, I spoke to quite a few people about the agitation itself. What I discovered was that while there was complete unity in the belief behind the struggle for OROP, there were differences in opinion pertaining to the way the agitation was taking place.
In recent weeks, there has been some puzzlement over India’s somewhat less than enthusiastic response to Afghan overtures for re-engaging and revitalizing the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed between the two countries in 2011. At a time when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s misplaced faith, or if you will Great Gamble, on Pakistan’s bonafides has started to unravel, many analysts imagined that India would be more than willing to step into the breach.
It is mystifying why commentators on the Indian side, including some who have officially dealt with Pakistan, should have been so critical of their own government for the failure of the Ufa initiative. They seemingly hold our side more responsible for the fiasco, overlooking or downplaying not only Pakistan’s conduct prior to the talks, but its almost seven decades of perennial hostility, recourse to violence and single-minded pursuit of its Kashmir agenda.
Ever since Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister of Pakistan for the third time in 2013, his statements professing his sincere desire for normalising relations with India have been quite at variance with his actions on ground. The result has been that whatever progress was made under his two predecessors – Gen Pervez Musharraf and Asif Zardari – on a host of issues ranging from terrorism to trade, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir (a phrase that Pakistanis so adamantly insist on adding on to anything to do with India) have regressed significantly.