A Letter From America

An IDC Report


New Delhi, 11 May 2006

A visit to USA to attend an important military conference and to conduct research on the papers released about the India–Pakistan war of 1971, unearthed the fuzzy Rules of Engagement handed out to the USS Enterprise Task Force that entered and retreated from the Bay of Bengal in December 1971 and some other amazing details. India has not yet released the papers, so our history has been written thus far as the authors wanted it and some have been misled. The research was to update the earlier book ‘A Nation And Its Navy At War’ (Ranjit B Rai) published by Lancer in 1986. The books by Vice Admiral M K Roy, Admiral SN Kohli and Admiral SM Nanda and the details in Vice Admiral SM Hiranandani’s book (sponsored and paid for by the Navy) are the Navy’s versions of the war as each saw it –– another look is needed from the Pakistani and USA sides before amnesia sets in.

An earlier visit to Pakistan had also given an opportunity and a chance to report the status of America as of Today. Our attempt has been to educate viewers and to have a stronger India especially its military and economy. These aspects and ethics are the backbone of a nation and we would like to see an India as powerful as America by the end of this century. This needs a look from the outside and from rich America.

What is important to understand is that there are three Americas at the same time. There is the massive economic and infrastructure engine of USA the richest, the most creative, innovative and vibrant. Despite the deficit the economy is doing well and there is no looking back on that except that economists have to tell us what the deficit will do to it. The stock market boom continues. Indians must know there are jobs and opportunities galore and they are now welcome and day to day life is full of quality and justice exists. Water and electricity are basics. So many aged Indian parents of wealthy Indian NRIs are living in USA, on Social Security. They just state that they have no resources and yet some whom we met have huge properties in India and even collect rent. They get free medical and help at home if they are handicapped and all they have to prove is that they are penniless and unable to cope. In India there is no gift tax or estate duty so they can prove this in a day with transfer of wealth and an affidavit. USA can afford to look after the aged for a while but the debate has begun how long this can last.

Then there is an America that does not know how to solve the imbroglio of Iraq, Afghanistan and now coming up on the horizon, Iran. That concerns the US military which is not rank conscious, war experienced and ready to discuss issues in the open. In passing we were able to explain the INDIA–US Nuclear deal also quite cogently. Admiral Raja Menon, whose wife Anjoulie has paining sales in New York regularly, was there too in an official capacity to lecture to the military and he is very knowledgeable on the subject.

Then there is the politician lobby of America as corrupt and bigoted as Indians, and controlled by the big businesses but what is very significant to report on this visit is the sudden and considerable interest in India, not only for business but in India's military and culture, including Yoga. These subjects were used to impress the people one met. Yet Americans are stressed and the bureaucracy seems rudderless on its future policeman role, and Bush is not liked but the many Americans we met on the golf courses, knew they have no choice for the next two years. The next President has his task cut out. Thank God for the Indian version of democracy. Many grumbled about the high fuel prices but they are half of European and Indian prices, so they can easily bear the increases for a while.

India can therefore take full advantage of the present climate in USA by attracting their huge business and personal surpluses to be invested in India and like Japan and China India does not need to look back on its economy. India’s economy can run in auto if it is not fiddled with. The Government must make investing easy for USA, even in the retail sector and attend to infrastructure on a war footing, involving the military and the paramilitary too, which today need a role in nation building –– like Dwi Fungsi of Indonesia which helped build up the nation’s infrastructure by supervision. They are building airports in Tajikistan and so why not in India. Gen Rodrigues said ‘good governance was also the Military’s role’, but then backed down. He is now a Governor and seems to be doling well with Capt Arminder Singh of Patalia as his Chief Minister in Punjab.

Defence Against Cruise Missiles and IEDs Conference

While speaking at the well attended Defence News and Northrop Grumman sponsored, ‘Cruise Missiles And Improvised Explosive Device Defence Conference’ in Washington DC on 27th and 28th April there was great interest in the power point and video movie presentation made on South Asia and Middle East missiles, especially about the supersonic cruise missile BrahMos and the subsonic Hatf VII (Babur) and Shaheen 11 (M 9) which are in Pakistan and Iran's inventory also known variously as Zeb in Iran and C 602 in China.

USA is very worried about Iran’s missiles and proliferation in the area and IEDs have played hell into their troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and DOD have spent $3 billion for anti IED equipment, sniffer dogs and chemicals. They have lost 1800 lives to IEDs. The suggestion that USA used cruise missiles last in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that they may have to use them again in Iran, stirred interest and questions galore. Lyndon Johnson words made about India," Let the Indians come begging to me for food i.e. PL 480", was repeated to the gathering as history to be forgotten and they appreciated that though India’s GNP is just more than USA’s $500 bill military budget by $200 bill, we informed all that India was now self sufficient in food and even in missile technology. That India was lacking in leadership and had poverty was the confession one had to make. This was surprisingly appreciated, as Lyndon Johnson was known for his intemperate remarks while poverty and India’s U turns and slow bureaucracy worries Americans.

Otherwise in USA the general knowledge about India is pathetic and perhaps our mission can do much to change that, but it was the carpets that we saw being changed in the Mass Avenue Embassy and most Indians said they were ashamed about the Chancery Visa office as that was the first impression Americans got about India! We agree but that is another story. We see that our High Commissioner in New Zealand cannot even be recalled. The IFS badly needs leadership training and trainees could be inducted into the Armed Forces to serve a term and gain confidence. As India rises it is our IFS who become our military abroad and they need to lead. We say this with service experience in three missions under five fine Ambassadors for four years. A strong statement, but with national interest for the future of India at heart.

The American economy is doing well, jobs are available for those who wish to work and I do not blame young ambitious Indians to come away as life is still good in USA and Indian stock is high. The rich Americans including Indians have multiplied their money and generally there is efficiency all round. There is large writ and worry about the 2354 deaths in Iraq and the many more maimed and under treatment in Walter Reed Hospital and opinion on whether to continue or withdraw is the debate in USA and elsewhere. Gen Zimmi former Central Command Chief spoke about his recent book and offered solutions at various fora but Rumsfeld is not listening to his retired Generals.

Saw the movie 'WATER' by Deepa Mehta and it was a sad depiction of old India and what it did to its widows in Varanasi, including make them prostitutes but the hall was only half full of Indians and the movie was shown in an off Broadway theatre. Lisa Ray comes fair and sexy and very Anglo-Indian looking in her no blouse apparel all the time, but the movie was slow and repetitive. It does India no good and even Ashwariya Rai another pretty Indian in ‘Mistress of Spices’ got poor reviews. Hence we tried to convey good things Americans do not know about India and its military, or what they asked to know about India with frankness.

A visit to research in the FDR Library and meet with local researchers was illuminating as the resources are vast in Presidential libraries and freely provided. The India–China debate is strong in USA. A Q and A on India and China which was music to our ears is excerpted below as those are what many raised in the Conference. President Bush raised it in his recent Iowa Graduation speech in early May asking Americans to cooperate with India and China to be more competitive. Putting it another way at the Conference we said India was in C3I with China i.e. it is in Cooperation, Competition, Confrontation and Interference will follow. Americans appreciate such acronyms and nodded their heads because that is what they see with China too.

The visit to USA was exhilarating and a learning experience to confirm with conviction that with honest and enlightened leadership India can beat any nation in this information era. But we worry that we have lacked it for 1000 years in the past. Musilm invaders and the British ruled us for 1000 years and whether we can change in the coming years is the challenge. The first 40 years after Independence were not commendable for India or its neighbours.


'No one's seeing India as a counter to China'

Q&A/ Edward Luttwak

Ajai Shukla / New Delhi April 21, 2006

Internationally-renowned strategist Edward Luttwak, a Senior Fellow with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, was in India for a week, at the invitation of the government, under the Distinguished Visitors Programme. Luttwak is known for his offbeat and thought-provoking ideas, authoring well-known works such as 'Coup D'Etat: A Practical Handbook', and that is why Pandit Nehru instituted Artilce 310 in the Constitution to prevent coup d’etats. A conservative hard-liner, Luttwak supported every US intervention from Vietnam to Afghanistan, but warned against the invasion of Iraq. Luttwak spoke to Business Standard about his views on India.


Q. What are the changes you see from 20 years ago, when you last visited India?

A. As a superficial observer, 20 years ago India had a catastrophic internal airline system. There were overbooked flights, cancelled flights, irregularity, unpredictability. Today, India has a better domestic airline service than you have in Western Europe or the US. Only Japan has a comparable service in terms of abundance, quality and so on. It affects few Indians but it most certainly affects India's relationship with the outside world, whether it is a tourist or an investor. That's called a revolution.

Q. How do you see India's strategic repositioning of the previous decade, and

its new relationship with the US?

A. I think India's best friend has been Russia and not the United States. Relations with the US have been improving a lot in the past few years. If they continue to improve, we are going to be India's best friend. India has some hardcore leftists who don't even know why they are anti-American. They wake up in the morning and they are anti-American. Some of them are even trying hard to be pro-Iranian. Can you imagine waking up in the morning as a progressive leftist and pro a government that executes 10-year old girls. This is not an Indian speciality, we have this in Italy, we have this in France. This is a cultural phenomenon. The large message is that the democracy of India has to live with this and cope with this and manage with this. I don't think anyone is going to say the foreign policy of the government of India for the past 20 years has been a ridiculous foreign policy. It is notable how you make a transition from one political party to another –– a very important transition for the world that was - and you had continuity in foreign policy. If you had stepped back and said this is what the BJP did and now we are going to do the opposite, that would have been a catastrophe. That would have been Latin America –– that is how they do it.

Q. There is concern in India about being set up by the US as a counterweight to

China. Does the US see that?

A. It's a valid fear in the abstract, but not in practice. I don't know anybody serious in Washington who has any idea, or concept, or vision of building up a relationship with India to use against China. The people who are obsessed with the China threat are isolationists, not internationalists. When they talk about China threat they say, "that's why we need a big navy, the Chinese navy is building up, they have 3,700 ships." Most of them are as good as row-boats but never mind. The people who talk China threat in United States are marginal. American strategy succeeds and triumphs not by setting India against China or vice versa –– it is by having a good relationship with both and, therefore, any sensible American policy would welcome any improvement in the China–India relationship because it makes it easier to maximise relations with both.

Q. You have recommended to Indian officials that India buy the most advanced US high-technology weaponry, but that requires big money of the kind that India cannot afford to spen?.

A. They are big bucks, but nothing is more expensive than investing all that you have in old systems. And the old systems in air power get completely overtaken quickly. You can buy a 10-year-old rifle and you'll make a small difference, but you buy the wrong generation aircraft and you are out. Also, you can't recover anything from that. If I was the Indian Air Force, I would go to an international bank and borrow money, order 200 pieces of (the most futuristic systems that are still on the drawing board). I would give the manufacturers the economy of scale, urge them to joint ventures all over the place, make alliances with everybody, manufacture those aircraft and lease them.

Q. What do you see as the big challenge in the US building a relationship with India?

A. We have an anti-Pakistan party in Washington today, we have an anti-Iran  party, we have an anti-Portugal party, we even have an anti-Denmark party.  But we don't have an anti-India party. The problem is that despite this we have recently had the P3 episode (a US proposal to lease P3 Orion maritime reconnaissance aircraft to India), where Americans had proposed to lease them and they were sabotaged - both bureaucracies managed to co-operate to wreck the deal. You can have goodwill in a cultural broad national sense, you can have two governments that agree to do something and yet it failed and will leave a bad taste because of the failure to crack the bureaucracy. The relationship between India and America will remain about fashion and IT unless we can solve the problem of the bureaucratic interface in your defence and our defence.

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