The creation of the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) and the appointment of Mr. Nandan Nilekani (former CEO of Infosys) as its Chairperson, have generated a great deal of excitement around the Unique Identity Numbers (UIN) project. The Authority’s commitment to produce the first batch of UINs within a period of two years has prompted a celebratory round of applause in the media. It would certainly be a significant technological and logistical feat to meet this self imposed target.
Foreign Policy & Security
“India’s problem is that we have never imposed a price on any nation for action taken against us,” former Deputy National Security Adviser Satish Chandra said back in September. “We keep silent and accept whatever comes our way.” Chandra is echoing a feeling that is widespread among the Indian elite and even general public.
In the Medium-range Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) sweepstakes, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is confronted with many choices, all of them bad. Whatever the IAF’s reasons for wanting a new aircraft, the Indian government means to use the deal to make international political capital, gain leverage in bilateral relations, and cement a strategic partnership. The Air Staff Quality Requirements – insofar as these can be deduced – are opaque.
As India’s new foreign minister settles into office, a major issue demanding his attention will be the boundary negotiations with China. These negotiations began with the appointment of Special Representatives in 2003 and two years later, the two sides agreed on “Political Parameters and Guiding Principles” for settling the dispute. Despite thirteen rounds of discussions, an agreement seems as elusive as ever. The key point of contention is China’s claim to the Tawang area of Arunachal Pradesh.
Once the rhetoric of electioneering dies down, the ruling coalition will have to confront a number of security related problems. The possibility of any one of the Pakistan-based groups initiating another diversionary attack on India remains high. If as expected, the incoming government will be a loose coalition of vested interests, the possibility of major policy reforms and strong determination to deal with the perpetuators is going to be negligible. The principal challenge placed before the new government will thus be to prepare for a dramatic strike.
Foreign policy has never been a major electoral issue in India because a vast majority of the electorate has more pressing domestic economic and social concerns. While events in the sub-continent may have some impact on domestic politics they have so far proved to be marginal.
If India becomes one of the leading powers of the 21st century, as is widely predicted, how will it exercise its power and influence? The answer to this question is being shaped by four competing visions of India’s place in the international system. The oldest of these can be traced to India’s struggle for freedom, when homage was paid to the notion that India ought to serve as a counterexample to the West’s role in international affairs.
Despite all the talk of an emerging “strategic partnership” between India and Iran in Washington’s policy-making circles, two recent developments underscore the tenuous nature of India-Iran ties. Tehran has taken up with the Indian government the issue of India launching an Israeli satellite, TECSAR, that many in Israel have suggested would be used to spy on Iran’s nuclear program.
With the India-United States nuclear deal facing an uncertain future, there has been a spate of analysis on the domestic opposition to the deal from within India. Security hawks and sections of the Bharatiya Janata Party worry that the deal may constrain India’s strategic options in the future. And for India’s Left the most disturbing implication of the deal is that it will bind India more closely to the US.
In two remarkable recent speeches in New Delhi, India's Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon underlined a significant shift in India's official discourse on its neighbors, especially toward Pakistan.
In a speech titled "The Challenges Ahead for India's Foreign Policy" and another which analyzed the enduring conflict with Pakistan, titled "India-Pakistan: Understanding the Conflict Dynamics," Menon identified the construction of a "peaceful and prosperous periphery" as a major national objective.