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MULTIPLE FRAMES FOR MARITIME CONSCIOUSNESS

Several factors such as the growing economic interdependence in the post-globalisation world, the rise of China, and India’s slow but steady presence in the strategic scenario have brought the significance of maritime connectivity back to the fore.

Commodore Odakkal Johnson

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In the words of Late Prof B. Arunachalam, “Long before man learnt the art of saddling a horse, he had learnt the skills of paddling in waters.” Eventually, man became more terrestrial. An increasing sea blindness directed our attention to the mainland. Yet, flourishing movement and migration, trade and commerce and cultural exchanges have an undeniable maritime connect. Sufficient literary and epigraphical evidence offers a panoramic view of India’s rich ancient maritime history which has waxed and waned. Indians by no means stopped sailing altogether or deviated entirely from the maritime medium. Maritime Studies is a multi-frame space gaining momentum in academic deliberations. India, a maritime nation is surrounded by oceanic expanse on three sides and must own the rich maritime heritage and legacy we withhold. There is an imminent need to reset the frames of our history with the full spectrum of maritime consciousness.

It is time to introspect India’s engagement with the Indian Ocean and understand conventional and emerging perspectives on nautical activities in the Indian Ocean region. Remnants of material culture that can be found in distant shores testify to the maritime trade links and the subsequent cultural engagements. The Indian Ocean is the third-largest body of water in the world, covering about 20% of the Earth’s water surface. It provides major sea routes connecting the Middle East, Africa, and East Asia with Europe and the Americas. Peninsular India is the most prominent geographical feature in this oceanic space, even as these waters wash the shores of the entire East Coast of Africa, the South Coast of Arabia, the Southern shores of Iran and Baluchistan, the Malaysian Peninsula and Indonesia’s Sumatra. Indian Ocean has always been regarded as an area of great geopolitical significance and India its centre of gravity. Unique feature of the monsoons and a distinct civilisation around this Ocean enhanced maritime activity and traditions in this region. Centuries prior to seafaring in the Aegean Sea, the littoral states of peninsular India had already built up their oceanic traditions.

Research studies and material evidence affirm the presence of a flourishing Sindhu-Saraswati civilisation. Indian maritime history recognises Lothal is the link between the settlements in then Harappa, current Gujarat and a time lapse across the region. The excavation and discovery of Lothal was a result of the need for exploring India’s ancient past. A testimony to the maritime prowess of the Indians, Lothal continues to add to our national memory of our maritime past. The efforts to develop a National Maritime Museum in the vicinity of Lothal is eagerly awaited as the coalescing of long overdue material tribute to a significant legacy.

Tamil Sangam literature of a few centuries before and after the Common Era, especially Silappadikaram and Manimekhalai, testifies to the great overseas trade of the ancient Indian mariners. The Indo-Roman trade was a very intensive maritime venture. There was an established maritime trade network in India. Maritime trade was regulated by the merchant guilds that played a crucial role not just in maintaining trade-inland and overseas-but also provided proper protection to the commodities and actively participated in the development of the places that they traded from.

From the West to the East, Indians dominated the Indian ocean waters with their navigational expertise. We have the account of the Cholas who subjugated the Sri Vijayans and established their control on trade routes which shows the understanding of the geo-politics and foresight in order to improve their monetary benefits. The naval expeditions of the Cholas should be studied as with the ones that were undertaken due to motivation for removal of interference from the flourishing Chola Maritime trade establishing their supremacy in the Bay of Bengal region.

India has a sociological lineage of seasonal festivals and associated rituals among certain coastal communities that had a flourishing maritime practice that compensates for the lack of literary and documented sources. A few of these indicate India’s clear maritime connect with countries afar. The festival of Boita Bandana celebrated on the Odisha coast during Kartika Purnima is a classic example of it. We tend to neglect the voice of the subaltern communities along the coast who essentially have been practitioners and guardians of the traditional maritime legacy. These communities harnessed essential nautical skills with multi-dimensional maritime knowledge to build a framework of sea-mindedness that is still to fully emerge.

Amidst a turbulent socio-political metamorphosis of hinterland rulership through the medieval era, one can notice that a sea-going nation is suddenly found challanged in the clutches of social taboos like Kalapani and people begin to dread crossing seas or water bodies because such an act was tantamount to losing one’s respectability. By and large, the shipping and maritime sector remained largely confined to the coastal communities with their practice diminishing from large trade to fishing for subsistence. The space vacated by Indian mariners was filled in the oceanic routes by Arabs, Malays and the Chinese. In the aftermath of this confluence of oceanic interactions there is a watershed moment with the European advent in India. It brought in a period of conquest, commerce and colonisation. Indian history and historiography changes.

An era of native maritime resurgence spans across the Malabar and Konkan Coasts. Heroic instances of the Kunjali Marakkars to Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre’s strong Naval fleet, and unsung accounts of Colachal and Rani Abakka together point out to our extensive maritime valour. Sadly, these regional histories are only now emerging on a nationwide framework. The unrecognized and silent brave hearts who played a vital role in our ancient past deserve all accolades for their sheer administrative and governance ingenuity and for us to learn from their mistakes and omission of those in present times for a better future.

In modern times, we see a resurgence in Indian shipping sector from shipbuilding that reached a new zenith under the Wadia shipbuilders to the making of the indigenous state-of-the-art vessels. Post the transition from steam to steel vessels, our indigenous shipbuilding industry did incur a severe setback. Although there is a decline in the art of making traditional ship-crafts, with proper support, we can ensure its sustainability. Today, we have a renewed sense of pride about the Make-in-India initiative, but it was said and done by the the Indian Navy, with the saga of INS Ajay, the Nilgiri Class and the amazing Godavari series. That is a story of genuine maritime pride.

India’s geographic location in the Indian Ocean naturally renders the Indian Navy as one of the key players in the region, and an important partner for the Indian Ocean community to keep the area stable and secure. The Indian Navy continues to protect our water frontiers and safeguards our maritime interests. India has one of the largest fleets in the world today that continues to commission a number of indigenously built vessels, warships and submarines in service.

Concepts have been interpreted differently by historians at different times to give a comprehensive view of the past. We are familiar with political history, social history, economic history and administrative history. Maritime history is a larger and inclusive canvas, which has been gaining momentum and currency these days. The seas and the coast have drawn fresh focus by several Indian historians who are interested in understanding the transitions and intrusions of Maritime History. The study of oceanic space enables us to come closer to the crucial dynamics of our journey through time. Knowledge and skill-based examination with community practices will enrich the enquiry into India and the Indian Ocean studies. It has relevance in the exchange of culture, the establishment of political power, the dynamics of society, trade and commerce and religion of these areas.

One challenge that India faces is to reset the apathy towards our maritime past in the context of the huge groundswell of interest. There is a dire need to enhance a maritime consciousness amongst people. We have to explore the myriad opportunities and lessons that the sea has to offer through multiple disciplines that are untouched and untold. It’s a long way and we have a proactive role to play in exploring, conserving and passing the legacy of the maritime heritage of India. With a renewed sense of maritime consciousness, we can relook at the traditional narratives that have shaped our history and historiographies; the application of a sea minded approach can help us look at how the maritime medium has influenced all walks of our life.

We, at Maritime History Society, take pride in being a premier institute in what can be called as an established legacy for matters maritime. An article in a leading daily that bemoaned the lack of attention to the preservation of our maritime heritage was all that it took to stimulate and germinate an idea that led our Founder Chairman & Patron Emeritus Late VAdm MP Awati (Retd), PVSM, VrC to start the Maritime History Society on 12 May 1978. With a view to promoting a learned understanding of the vast maritime expanse and the rich Indian maritime history, the journey began forty years ago. Today the Maritime History Society has crossed four decades; much more than what was originally expected. It has conducted over a hundred monsoon lectures and has published more than 20 excellent works on Indian Maritime History with some more projects in the pipeline. It continues a rich journey of promoting Indian maritime wisdom through a variety of means and services.

MHS holds seminars and leads initiatives to showcase the maritime heritage and share its research and collaborate with eminent scholars in the maritime domain. Maritime Research is a continued effort. Keeping this in mind, MHS Manthan- our in-house Research initiative got underway to promote research and writings in maritime history. The vibrant team at MHS faced initial setbacks during the pandemic and lockdown. But, in their resolve to promote a maritime consciousness, the obstacles were turned to opportunities. Right from putting up interesting content through Blogs, short Vlogs to conducting webinars, MHS also continued the traditional Monsoon Series Lecture that has been an annual routine albeit it was the first time it was on a digital platform; conducted as a four-part Monsoon Musings series that remains available on our website and social media platforms.

Today, MHS seeks to draw attention to the lesser-known snippets from the Indian Maritime history that remain unsung or are barely mentioned as a footnote in the annals of our Indian history and their role in India’s long maritime past. There is a wide chasm in our historical narratives as it overlooks and undermines the subaltern narratives of the coastal communities. Oceans are our Great Commons and it is important to look at all the aspects it touches. When six Indian Naval Officers; an all-women crew circumnavigated the globe in INSV Tarini, history was created. They defied all odds and proved that Sea knows no gender. Defying the social construct of gender, their momentous feat also broke the barriers of sailing and navigating that was an all-male business.

Another important aspect of seafaring history is maritime connectivity in the Indian Ocean. It becomes vital as it has garnered renewed focus over the last few years. Despite the fact that seas and oceans have always had an impact on civilisations, for many decades during the latter half of the past century the attention of states had shifted from a maritime perspective to a continental one. Several factors such as the growing economic interdependence in the post-globalisation world, the rise of China, and India’s slow but steady presence in the strategic scenario have brought the significance of maritime connectivity back to the fore. Within the IOR, maritime connectivity holds the key to act as the forerunner for enhanced bilateral and multilateral engagement. Indian commitment to a ‘Free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific’ builds further from ‘Act East’ policy and enhances ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR)’ approach as envisioned by India are gaining traction. In this context, convergence and collaboration explicate the importance of maritime connectivity.

This is the century of the seas, with multiple sea-based trade conduits connecting the states, compounded with the constantly increasing significance of the maritime chokepoints and the international sea lanes. The concept of ‘Maritime Consciousness’ has been gaining prominence among the various jargons used in the maritime domain. Any country seeking a strong influence in the global high table must remain committed to ensure the security of the seas and sustainably exploit marine resources. Efforts for preserving good order at sea to realise this common interest has found momentum across the globe. Achieving maritime consciousness, covering awareness, immersive engagement and skilful harnessing the dimension, can genuinely catalyse such efforts. Being a country, which is excessively reliant on the maritime trade routes, the need to develop a comprehensive maritime consciousness has been critical for India.

Maritime History Society, India as an organisation has envisaged on following important aspects

•To promote awareness of and debate in all aspects of India’s maritime interests, especially in the field of naval, geo-strategic, maritime history, Shipbuilding and heritage.

•To generate awareness of and research in India’s maritime heritage and related history.

•To foster an environment of informed maritime opinion among the various maritime interests pertaining to history and archaeology

•To engender awareness for Maritime Sustainability and Consciousness.

With the regular Annual Maritime Seminar scaled up to the first National Maritime Heritage Conclave, the objective is to stimulate deliberations on the under-explored dimensions of Indian maritime history and enhance the direction of maritime history as a discipline in India so that it may include areas neglected previously. A two-day National Maritime Heritage Conclave 2020 is envisaged on the theme of “Exploring Unsung Frames in Indian Maritime History” on 18-19 November 2020 from 1000h to 1300h on both the days. The online Conclave is curated around the themes of Coastal communities, Gender in Maritime history and Trans-maritime connectivity in the Indian Ocean Region. It has a vibrant lineup of deliberations that includes established academicians who have contributed to the vast body of knowledge and young research minds that look forward to interchange ideas by sharing this platform to disseminate maritime consciousness. It will benefit a wide segment of enthusiasts. Visit www.mhsindia.org/events/ to know more and register.

MHS continues its commitment to supplement more pronounced research in the realms of maritime studies and promote a maritime consciousness amongst people. We make an earnest appeal for your support. Do participate in our events and spread a good word about us. Quality research requires your help in every way possible. Follow us on our social media pages for latest updates of events and content. Do become a part of our sustainability campaign. We urge you to network us towards increasing our sustainability. We urge you to help us continue to pursue the mission of letting heritage awaken our maritime consciousness.

The writer is Director, Maritime History Society (MHS).

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Defence

DEEPENING RELATIONS: AUSTRALIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER CALLS ON WESTERN NAVAL COMMAND CHIEF

Ashish Singh

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Barry O’ Farrell AO, High Commissioner of Australia, accompanied by Sarah Roberts, acting Consul General, Consulate of Australia, Mumbai, and a three-member delegation called on Vice Admiral Ajit Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command, on Monday. The High Commissioner interacted with the Admiral and exchanged views on various issues of common interest such as Bilateral Cooperation in Defence and Security, Strategic Partnership and shared maritime interests as Indian Ocean littoral States. The High Commissioner also visited the Aircraft Carrier Dock at the Western Naval Command.

The High Commissioner’s visit was significant as it coincided with the recently concluded Quad exercise MALABAR 2020 in which India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. participated. HMAS Ballarat, a frigate of Royal Australian Navy represented Australia in both the phases of Malabar 20 and had spent some time at Goa port for its operational turnaround from 10 – 13 Nov 20. The current visit by the High Commissioner is in accordance with the good relations enjoyed by both the Commonwealth nations and is expected to further strengthen the existing bonds between both the navies.

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Defence

INDIA TEST-FIRES LAND-ATTACK VERSION OF BRAHMOS

Ashish Singh

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At approximately 10 am on Monday, Indian Army successfully test-fired a BrahMos Land Attack Cruise Missile using a Mobile Autonomous Launcher (MAL) from Car Nicobar Islands against a designated target located at a range of approximately 200 km in Bay of Bengal. During this successful test launch, the missile demonstrated the weapon’s unmatched lethal ability and formidable precision strike capability.

BrahMos missile system, an Indo- Russian joint venture is the most lethal and potent weapon system available with the Indian Army for precision strike. The land attack version of BrahMos with capability of cruising at 2.8 Mach speed, is cutting edge of the Indian Army since 2007. The present Block III version of the missile has successfully executed four operational launches in the past. With the upgraded capability the missile can hit targets at a range of upto 400 Km with precision. The launch marks the achievement of a critical milestone in enhancing India’s capability of engaging enemy’s vitally important targets in depth areas. The launch was witnessed by various dignitaries who lauded the commendable effort demonstrated during the successful execution of the launch.

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Defence

WORLD NEEDS A NEW ORDER AND EVERLASTING PEACE

Making a rule or law with agreement of all is the first step to have acknowledged the problem and need for correction. However, more important are constantly making amendments in the law as per changing times, effective monitoring by unbiased body, strict implementation to ensure timely justice and punitive punishments to violators.

Ashish Singh

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World has been facing the most challenging medical emergency in last one century since December 2019 causing deaths in millions. This time it is due to a well concealed pandemic by inimical forces of humanity and treacherous intentions beyond comprehension. Historically on occurrence of crime, motive is the first and foremost thing to be investigated and most important clue is revealed by singling out the beneficiary. Evident motive in the present case of worldwide pandemic unleashed is to damage world economy, stemming the increasing influence of western culture by discrediting it and above all breaking the morale of developed nations by manipulating world organizations. It is quite obvious that a new world order is desired to be set. Wrongdoer was well aware that the collateral damages would be deaths in millions, discrediting of world leaders and dislocated governing bodies. In fact, the perpetrator must be overjoyed to have achieved more than what it had planned for however, it has also revealed itself in this act of treachery towards humanity. Nations of the world surely are not going to watch it go helplessly.

There are many pertinent questions to be asked such as; was the virus developed in a lab, was it allowed to escape, was it allowed to be sent worldwide? The leading world body being compromised what is the authenticity of the findings given by the investigating teams? It is difficult to believe that any punitive actions would be taken against the offender in a comprehensive manner to punish him as those actions would again be a violation of basic human rights and against the democratic values which the majority of the world players presently support. All this can happen only after the world is sufficiently assured of the correctness of judgment and identification of the guilty. Given all these there would still be a need for justice to the world humanity and human cause. Answer for destruction cannot be even more destruction however, suitable steps must be taken to make the culprit realize the futility of such covert and inhuman acts.

World at this juncture must address the much larger issue of the way forward for the humanity and world peace. They had come together earlier after WW I with formation of League of Nations and after WW II created United Nations just to ensure peaceful world and a better future for humankind. Anybody reading the preamble of United Nations would even today wonder how to improve upon it as it already has all the ingredients that are desired for world peace and harmony. Happenings after WW II has been well documented and we must contemplate a repeat.

Forty-six nations, including the four sponsors, were originally invited to the San Francisco Conference: nations which had declared war on Germany and Japan and had subscribed to the United Nations Declaration. There were 850 delegates, and their advisers and staff together with the conference secretariat brought the total to 3,500. There were only ten plenary meetings of all the delegates but nearly 400 meetings of the committees at which every line and comma was hammered out.

There was also considerable debate on the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the conference decided that member nations would not be compelled to accept the Court’s jurisdiction but might voluntarily declare their acceptance of compulsory jurisdiction. Likewise, the question of future amendments to the Charter received much attention and finally resulted in an agreed solution. Above all, the right of each of the “Big Five” to exercise a “veto” on action by the powerful Security Council provoked long and heated debate. The smaller powers feared that when one of the “Big Five” menaced the peace, the Security Council would be powerless to act, while in the event of a clash between two powers not permanent members of the Security Council, the “Big Five” could act arbitrarily. But the great powers unanimously insisted on this provision as vital, and emphasized that the main responsibility for maintaining world peace would fall most heavily on them. Eventually the smaller powers conceded the point in the interest of setting up the world organization.

“The Charter of the United Nations which you have just signed,” said President Truman in addressing the final session “is a solid structure upon which we can build a better world. History will honor you for it. With this Charter the world can begin to look forward to the time when all worthy human beings may be permitted to live decently as free people. If we fail to use it” he concluded, “we shall betray all those who have died so that we might meet here in freedom and safety to create it. If we seek to use it selfishly – for the advantage of any one nation or any small group of nations — we shall be equally guilty of that betrayal.”

On October 24, 1945 Charter came into force when the Governments of China, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States and a majority of the other signatory states ratified it and deposited notification to this effect with the State Department of the United States then the United Nations came into existence.” (Excerpt from un.org)

So, what led us as nations to violate the basic intent of collective resolve undertaken in 1945? Is it blatant disregard for rules or desire for growth or seeking better future for own people or jealousy or simply dominance? What did we overlook while finalizing the Charter? Causes of our collective failure lies in basic nature of human’s struggle to achieve equality. Equality of knowledge, wealth, status and every aspect of human life is a must to create a harmonious and peaceful co-existence. Non agreement on universal applicability of ICJ judgments and allowing veto powers to big five are the two major reasons which caused failure of the world body to prevent wars and manmade calamities. World thereafter witnessed numerous skirmishes, wars, long drawn out cold war, nations breaking up, meddling in others affairs with impunity and many more actions by signatory nations that were in violation to the spirit of UN Charter. One good thing that occurred during the meetings was agreement to carry out future amendments to UN Charter as and when felt necessary.

Making a rule or law with agreement of all is the first step to have acknowledged the problem and need for correction. However, more important are constantly making amendments in the law as per changing times, effective monitoring by unbiased body, strict implementation to ensure timely justice and punitive punishments to violators. Struggle would always be there between pure and the evil; the way forward should be to restrict, reduce and finally eradicate evil to diminish and eventually eliminate sufferings. Same struggle can be identified among the human race with religion to search for something pure which would eradicate all distress. World effort should be to establish such Charter that wipes out agony and replaces it with peace for the human race in this world. World after recovering from this artificial calamity must resort to rebuilding and restructuring the architecture of the world body. World certainly needs a new order today to ensure peace and alleviation of affliction of the human race.

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Defence

Resetting India -Nepal relations needed to offset Chinese threats

Mukesh Ambani has added a feather to India’s cap by figuring among the richest in the world.

Lt Gen A.K. Bhatt (Retd) & Brig Narender Kumar (Retd)

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No bilateral relations between nations can be built on sentiment—whether it is based on faith, ideology or inheritance. Only those rooted in shared interests will endure. Relations will not remain everlasting if the interests of the people and nations are not renegotiated. The relations with Nepal were driven for long on shared culture, religion and geographical realities. The problem thus far has been a sense of “everlasting friendship” between India and Nepal without incorporating suitable changes to the historical treaties to accommodate new political, social and economic realities. The border dispute is a manifestation of multiple factors including new found competitive nationalism among the political parties of Nepal, structural changes unfolding in the external and internal context of the bilateral relationship and Nepal asserting strategic autonomy to renegotiate the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship. New political elites of Nepal feel that relations with India cannot be frozen in time due to a treaty that has lived its utility.

When the founder of the modern Nepali state, Prithvi Narayan Shah, described Nepal as a “yam between two rocks”, he in fact hinted at the geo-strategic significance of Nepal and need for maintaining strategic autonomy and neutrality with India and China. In order to look ahead and repair, revise and revive the bilateral relationship, India must first understand why and how the territorial dispute has flared up. It may be tempting to start on a clean slate, but future visions will remain void if both sides don’t learn from past mistakes.

A POLITICAL CONFLICT TRAP

Nepal’s claim of approximately 372 sq km of Indian Territory in Kalapani area has caused considerable fissures in bilateral relations between the two countries. Kalapani issue has become a huge rallying point amongst the opposition parties in Nepal and it is now very difficult for the Nepalese Government or even the opposition parties to back off from their claim. It came at a time when India was engaged with China in a standoff along the Line of Actual Control. It gave new lease of life to the current Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and he rode the competitive nationalism to tide over the current political crisis. The claim and subsequent issue of map has given birth to a permanent and long-term territorial dispute that is difficult to resolve and thus creating a conflict trap that will keep rising whenever the relations between two states take a turn to the South. Till now the political leadership of both countries were keeping this conflict under wraps, but now it has been unleashed and will remain on the prowl till a mechanism is worked out to set this conflict to rest. 

The question comes up, could India prevent the constitutional amendment of the map if Indian government had kept their ears to the ground? It is difficult to answer in “yes or no” but the fact of the matter is that India needs to have a new road map to engage with Nepal post changed political realities in Nepal. To control the damage, Nepalese leadership should ensure that Nationalism is not distorted to an anti-Indian feeling. Because that will narrow down the options to resolve this dispute in future. Let this dispute not become a pivot for China to exploit Nepalese sentiment.

THE CHINA ANGLE

If the relations are not reset and Nepal continues to drift away, it will become a major peril of corridor especially due to China- Pak nexus and manifestation of Three Warfares (3Ws) and Irregular Warfare against India. The open and porous border facilitates an active non-contact warfare by China and Pakistan to destabilise the heartland India. It gives an opportunity to inimical forces to exploit this porous border for smuggling of arms, drugs and fake Indian currency to give impetus to instability and also support Left Wing Extremists who have ideological and organisational linkages with Maoists of Nepal. Dr PV Ramana posits that the Maoist insurgents and PWG have formed the Indo-Nepal Border Regional Committee (INBRC) “to coordinate their activities” in Bihar. The bottom-line is that ideological and organisational linkages do exist and it can be exploited by China by extending material and weapon support to the LWE through Nepalese Maoists. Bigger threat is political and information warfare that can penetrate deep inside India’s heartland. China Study Centers especially along the India- Nepal borders are a greater threat that can cause instability in Gangetic Plains and disrupt East- West strategic lines of communication. Only way this threat can be managed is by restoring ties with Nepal and building resolute military to military relation between two armies.

INDIA, A NATURAL ALLY

Nepal has been embracing a policy of strategic diversification to reduce its dependence on India and enhance its non-aligned autonomy. In response India’s perceived economic blockade of 2015 was seen by Nepal as a right to deny and insulate Nepal from the outside world. That had caused major upheaval against India among the Nepalese youth and common citizens. India should consider Nepal as co-equal and develop relations not as a “protectorate but as a partner”. Because strategic space if abdicated by India will be encroached upon by China and that will become difficult for India to reclaim. India cannot blame China’s political interference in Nepal as a major factor for deteriorating relations between the two states. India not paying adequate attention to reset the road map for building relations is also a factor. It is very natural that two neighbours sharing a border of more than 1,800 km are bound to have some differences but these differences should not become disputes or else a third party will take advantage of it.

Both nations today have to realise that apart from the strong historical relations guided by a common culture, religion and similar language is also supported by Geography. The Indian ports and transit access, protected by special trade and transit treaties is a commitment which needs to be honoured by India. Even though China has provided…special trade and transit facilities by way of dry ports and roads, the long distance from the eastern coast of China to Nepal via Tibet, approximately 4000 kms is just not a cost-effective option. Initially China may subsidize services and goods passing through this long corridor as it meets the objectives of Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative. However, if Nepal has to take a cue from Sri Lanka’s experience let it be clear that a decade later it is the people of Nepal who will pay the price for their political miscalculation. Many countries in the African continent today are suffering because of the free largess initially offered by China in the form of soft loans for development of infrastructure. Is this the future which Nepal is looking at? According to a report by the Survey Department of Agriculture Ministry of Nepal, China has illegally occupied Nepal’s land in several places spreading over seven bordering districts. Unfortunately the Oli Government has kept silent over this land grab. China believes in debt slavery and Nepal could be forced to surrender its strategic autonomy if it allows China to continue to make economic, political and cultural inroads in Nepal. Though there is a vocal anti-India lobby in Nepal, but the people with this new development along the Northern borders are equally resentful of China.

Nepal shares a long and open border with India the special privileges which are given to all citizens of Nepal are unique. In fact, a citizen of Nepal can work anywhere in India including the Armed forces as well as reside in any part of India. These privileges are not reciprocal for Indian citizens which is quite understandable because of the size of Nepal. Apart from the Army there is a large population of unskilled workers from Nepal working in the industrial and agriculture sector. Nepal will never have an ally that offers its citizens free access for work, education, health services, tourism, travel, religious pilgrimage and business. Such a facility has been extended by India to the Nepalese citizens without reciprocation from Nepal. Closing down the border and treating Nepalese citizens as per diplomatic protocol followed globally will harm the interests of the people of Nepal. Therefore, Nepal must exercise caution and restrain not to burn the bridges that may become difficult to rebuild in future.

MILITARY DIPLOMACY A BRIDGE TO INITIATE THE DIALOGUE

India has been shy of using military diplomacy with its neighbours, whereas there are special relations and close ties between Indian Army and Nepal Army that has been rarely exploited to reset the ties between two nations. After long hiatus of nearly more than four months, relations between India and Nepal could be set in motion, the visit of Indian Army Chief General M.M. Naravane to Nepal, where he will be conferred with the title of the honorary Chief of the Nepalese Army is a much-needed initiative for stabilisation of relations between the two close neighbours. This special tradition of bestowing the title of honorary Chief on each other’s Army Chief dates back to the period of Field Marshal S.H.F.J. Manekshaw who was proud enough to change his name to Sam Bahadur as a homage to his brave Gorkha brethren. This military tradition has helped in strengthening military to military relations between the two Armies. Fortunately, this tradition has continued despite some occasional ups and downs in the relation between the two nations. It is a good initiative that the leaders of both the nations have taken a pause and allowed military to military engagement to take place to kick-start the dialogue between two neighbours. It is a positive step that the Indian Government has sent their Army Chief and the Nepalese Government by willingly receiving him and honouring him. The President of Nepal bestowing the honorary General’s rank and the PM of Nepal meeting him in the capacity of Defence minister needs to be understood in a positive manner. It is pertinent to mention that Nepal Army has always acted as a permanent ambassador of India in Nepal due to their long association with the Indian Army. However, off late India has neglected this aspect and it must be given impetus by building bridges with the Nepalese Army and police.

Both the Governments need to take this visit as a trigger for a new beginning, an opportunity to reset our relationship to the current strategic realities, the recommendations of the Eminent People’s Committees report which is available with the Government could be a guideline. A very important part is that the relations between the two strategic neighbours should not be taken hostage by irresponsible media or local domestic political considerations in either of the nations.

WAY FORWARD

Most crucial aspect is building bridges with the people. The strong connect India maintains with the ex-servicemen of Gorkha regiments in Nepal needs to be consolidated. India still remains an economic destination for the people of Nepal. In fact, citizens of Nepal should be granted access to utilise the health care, education institutions along the borders for the common good of the citizens of the border areas of both countries. Villagers living along the Kali River should be allowed to use the road Dharchula-Kalapani for movement ‘to and from’ Dharchula. India needs to send a message that this road is built for collective good of India and border citizens of Nepal.

One visit by the Chief of the Army Staff may not be sufficient and thus there is a need to have a permanent presence of Indian military leader in Kathmandu either by way of posting a Gorkha Regiment General as an Ambassador or Special Envoy to Nepal. This engagement must remain unbroken and resilient. Nepalese Army and even the civil bureaucracy are more comfortable in dealing with a Nepalese speaking Army envoy who understands their language and ethos better than a diplomat who has lesser linkages with the people on the ground. The tenure of late Lt Gen S.K. Sinha as an ambassador is a proof of it.

India should guarantee unobstructed access to the port and dry docks. However, Nepalese government should be made accountable to ensure that the access will be unconditional if Nepal does not work against the strategic interest and national security of India.

India should be open to renegotiate the Treaty of Peace and Friendship 1950. The Eminent Peoples Committee Report could also be examined to give a new direction to the India-Nepal relations.

India must invest in upgrading its cross-border infrastructure and economic assistance to Nepal: There are now new rail and road links, an electronic cargo system for Nepali goods to transit via Indian ports, inland waterway navigation plans, and a new cross-border pipeline for petroleum products. These projects must be pursued at fast pace because it will bring economic benefits to both nations.

Lt Gen A.K. Bhatt (Retd) is an Infantry Officer from 9th Gorkha Rifles. He is a former DGMO, GOC 15 Corps, and Military Secretary of the Indian Army. Brig Narender Kumar (Retd) is a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) and former Distinguished Fellow, USI (New Delhi). The views expressed and suggestions made in the article are solely of the authors in their personal capacity and do not have any official endorsement.

Most crucial aspect is building bridges with the people. The strong connect India maintains with the ex-servicemen of Gorkha regiments in Nepal needs to be consolidated. India still remains an economic destination for the people of Nepal. In fact, citizens of Nepal should be granted access to utilise the healthcare and educational institutions along the borders.

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Defence

Maiden Indian navy-MDL cup begins in Mumbai

Ashish Singh

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The Indian Naval Watermanship Training Centre (INWTC), Mumbai is organising the commencement of sailing activities in Mumbai harbour with the Maiden IN-MDL Cup, National Yachting Championship. At the behest of the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Karambir Singh, as Patron of the Indian Naval Sailing Association, the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) has stepped up to sponsor an annual IN-MDL Cup to promote sailing in the country. The maiden IN-MDL Cup 2020 is being conducted under the aegis of the Yachting Association of India (YAI) for all Senior Olympic classes as the YAI Senior National 2020. The regatta will be a ranking event and will be conducted from 22- 27 Nov 20 near the Sunk Rock lighthouse. After the pandemic, this regatta will once again fill up the skyline of Mumbai harbour with vibrant sails vying for top honours in keenly contested races.

The IN-MDL Cup will see participation from 12 sailing clubs from across India. INWTC(MBI), INWTC(Goa), INWTC (Hamla), Army Yachting Node, EMESC(Bhopal), EMESA, CESC, Tamil Nadu Sailing Association, GYA, National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, NSS Bhopal and NSN Bhopal. The regatta will be held in four basic classes of boats namely the 49er Skiff, 470, Laser and the RS:X class windsurfer. It will be the first time in the history of Senior Nationals where 470 mixed class will participate and compete in the race. Of particular note is the sizeable number of young girls and women participants, which hopefully will be a motivating factor for future aspirants and level out the playing field. The races will be sailed in the following classes of sail boats: Laser Standard(Men), Laser Radial(Women), 470 (Men/women/mixed), 49er(Men), 49er FX(women), RS: X(Men/Women), Finn. The event was declared open by the Flag Officer Maharashtra Area at INWTC, Colaba, Mumbai yesterday.

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Defence

INS Shivaji discusses ‘management of structure borne noise’

Ashish Singh

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A Webinar on the subject of “Management of Structure Borne Noise” was conducted by INS Shivajil last week under the aegis of Distinguished Chair, Centre of Excellence, Marine Engineering. The Webinar saw participation from over 300 participants comprising Flag Officers, Senior Naval Officers, Veteran Officers and Officers from all branches of Indian Navy. The one-day Webinar commenced with the welcome address by Commodore Ravnish Seth, Commanding Officer, INS Shivaji. The Inaugural Address was delivered by Vice Admiral IC Rao, (r), Distinguished Chair, Centre of Excellence (Marine Engineering). VAdm AK Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command delivered the Keynote Address and emphasised on maintenance of platform to near design conditions to ensure optimal acoustic signatures of ships and submarines. He also urged the industry, academia and shipbuilding industry to seamlessly collaborate with Indian Navy, through strategic programmes by the GoI such as ‘Make-in-India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, to ensure better designs for quieter ships.

Papers on various aspects including measurement, prediction and mitigation of Structure Borne Noise were delivered by subject matter experts from various R&D labs such as NSTL Visakhapatnam, NPOL Kochi, IRS Mumbai, NIOT Chennai, Shipbuilders such as Mazagon Docks and Shipbuilders limited, Design Directorates of IHQ MoD (N) and the Naval Underwater Ranges, Goa. The Webinar witnessed wholehearted and active participation from all attendees towards enhancing the domain awareness in the subject of Structure Borne Noise and its management for all personnel. VAdm SR Sarma, Chief of Materiel, delivered the closing address and emphasized on the life cycle maintenance of machinery onboard ships and submarines. Incorporation of new technologies into design was given a special mention during the Closing Address. The Vote of Thanks was delivered by RAdm CS Baburaj, (D&R). Active participation from all stakeholders during the discussions lead to detailed inputs from the speakers towards enhancement of awareness of Structure Borne Noise and its management.

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