December 27, 2015

No Military Bases for US

DEFENCE Minister Manohar Parrikar’s first visit to Washington has led to various initiatives in defence cooperation with the United States.  The most serious and disturbing of them is the willingness expressed by the minister for giving US access to Indian military bases and ports. Media reports suggest that Parrikar has conveyed to his US counterpart Ashton Carter that the Indian government has an open mind on the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA). 

It may be recalled that after the signing of the India-US Defence Framework Agreement in June 2005, the United States had been pursuing India to sign the LSA and the Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA). The Left parties had strongly opposed the signing of the Defence Framework Agreement and these two specific agreements.  The LSA would have led to the US armed forces using Indian airbases and naval ports for their military operations.  The other agreement, CISMOA, was to integrate the communication networks of the two armed forces.  If these agreements had been acceded to, then India would have become a full-fledged military ally of the United States.  The UPA government finally did not go ahead with signing these two agreements.  The then defence minister, AK Antony, took a clear stand in this regard.

The BJP government seems eager to join the US military alliance.  There have been clear indications in this direction. During the Obama visit in January this year, a Joint Vision Statement was signed which aligns India with the US strategy in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region. In the name of maritime security, India is coordinating with the United States navy in the Indian Ocean. Defence Minister Parrikar became the first Indian defence minister to visit the US Pacific Command in Hawaii.  The US has become largest supplier of defence equipment. 

The India-US Defence Framework Agreement was renewed in June this year for another ten years. It is under this framework that the United States has once again put pressure on India to sign the LSA, the CISMOA and a third agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).  Defence Minister Parrikar agreeing to discuss the issue and to keep an open mind is a danger signal that the Modi government is going to succumb to the US pressure. 

The Americans have been taking the position that various components of high technology cannot be given to India without India signing up on to these two agreements.  The Modi government, in its eagerness to involve the US in joint production of defence equipment, is being cajoled into compromising national sovereignty and the integrity of the armed forces. 

Allowing the US armed forces to use the naval ports and airbases for servicing, re-fuelling and maintenance is going to mark a radical break from the independent status of the country so far that it won’t be part of any military alliance.  The efforts to operationalise and integrate the systems of the two armed forces will lock-in the Indian armed forces to the American defence structures.

The BJP government should not sign these agreements which will limit India’s sovereignty, impair its strategic autonomy and make India a subordinate military ally of the United States.  

Stop Temple Politics of RSS


THE RSS combine has decided to ratchet up its Ram temple agenda.  Last week, two trucks of sandstone from Rajasthan arrived in Ayodhya as part of the stockpile of stones meant for the construction of the temple.  The Vishwa Hindu Parishad-run workshop has been engaged in preparing the stones for the temple construction.  This consignment of stones was received with ceremonies having arrived in Ayodhya after a gap of eight years.

According to the organisers of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, the VHP run trust, with the Modi government in power, they have got “positive signals” that the temple would be constructed.  The “positive signals” could be the remarks of Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief, who on December 3 said that “none can say when and how the temple would be constructed”, but “we need to be prepared and ready”.  He further stated that the temple would be built within his lifetime.  The VHP’s renewed activity at Ayodhya should be viewed as preparations to rake up the issue of the temple again with a political motive.  The Uttar Pradesh assembly elections are due in early 2017 and the RSS-BJP combine needs to stir the communal pot.  If needed, it can be stirred to a boiling point.  After the Bihar polls showed the steady erosion of support for the BJP, the RSS is readying the communal weapons in its arsenal.  

The Ayodhya dispute is with the Supreme Court and there is a longstanding judicial directive to maintain the status-quo at the site where the Babri Masjid stood.  The collection of stones at Ayodhya for the purpose of temple construction must be seen as a violation of this judicial order.  The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh has instructed the district authorities to be vigilant.  This is not enough. The Uttar Pradesh government should direct the district administration to stop any activity such as importing stones into Ayodhya which is meant to disturb the status-quo. The mischief planned must be nipped in the bud. 

(December 23, 2015)