Three months ago, India’s former foreign secretary and current coordinator of the National Security Council Advisory Board, Shyam Saran took the unusual step of publicly taking on critics of India’s operational nuclear capabilities. These critics have long cited the inability of successive governments to address the many technical and organizational lacunae in India’s operational capabilities as a reason why they believe that India’s nuclear foray is a prestige-driven enterprise. Contra such claims, Saran maintained that Delhi’s operational nuclear capabilities are robust.
India in Transition
Despite its best attempts and some very creative thinking, the Indian government’s efforts to chart an independent course in cyberspace have met with consistent failures and frustrations. Its Cybersecurity Policy, published last month, is a case in point. Released amidst the growing controversy over revelations regarding the American electronic eavesdropping program, this policy document is the culmination of deliberations that the Indian security establishment has been carrying out with various stakeholders for the past three years.
Seeing oneself through others’ eyes is an important act of introspection. There is much a nation can learn about the content and impact of its external policies by studying how it is perceived by the world. Public opinion can be a reliable indicator of trends in bilateral relations, and analysts frequently measure a country’s attractiveness (soft power) by the opinions of other societies. The perceptions of others, therefore, can act as a heuristic device for a nation's foreign policy if not a metric of its success.
Deciding how to put the abstract democratic ideal into practice isn’t easy. Some decisions are large institutional ones, such as whether a country should opt for parliamentarianism; others are more microscopic – how electoral districts should be mapped, how electoral speech should be regulated, and so forth. The specific institutionalization of the democratic ideal can radically impact its functioning and even threaten the ideal itself. While India has managed non-partisan election administration reasonably well, other features of the system are poorly regulated and understood.
We are just weeks beyond the fifteenth anniversary of the 1998 nuclear tests, and less than a year from the fortieth anniversary of India’s 1974 “peaceful nuclear experiment.” India is justly proud of what its nuclear scientists have accomplished. In the face of an international regime to slow their progress, Indian scientists, engineers, and even bureaucrats and politicians collaborated to find a way to build an increasingly diverse nuclear energy infrastructure and the ability to produce nuclear weapons. To overcome these obstacles, India built a closed, close-knit nuclear enclave.
The Indian state faces a serious need to overhaul its mechanisms of accountability. According to a Pew Research Poll conducted in 2010, 98 percent of Indian citizens classify government corruption as a “very big” or a “moderately big” problem facing the country. There is good reason for citizens to be concerned. Every year, the government loses countless crores of rupees to bribery and embezzlement. Related to the lost money are the lost man-hours. Worker absenteeism, defined as the practice of staying away from work without good reason, is another huge problem.
Identity politics is the workhorse of most analysis of human interaction in India. For decades, the cleavages of caste and community have been viewed as the most important forces shaping social, political, and economic dynamics. The extent to which individuals participate in violence, act collectively, succeed in delivering public goods, or make decisions on Election Day – all of these are perceived to hinge on issues of ethnic identity.
In 1992, in a much cited essay, George Tanham unleashed an enduring, even if incorrect, geopolitical meme – that Indians uniquely lacked a strategic culture. Tanham’s dismissal of all of modern India’s statecraft infuriated some of his Indian counterparts, while others quickly embraced this argument. In a recent cover story, The Economist undid an otherwise good analysis of the myriad challenges in India’s quest to be a great power when it inexplicably settled upon an intellectually lazy explanation of strategic culture.
If the historic trend line in Sino-Indian relations holds, the recent India-China military stand-off in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir will soon be followed by predictable hype in Delhi about the impending transformation of bilateral relations and how it might change the world. The three week intrusion by the Chinese security forces into territory claimed by India came to an end in early May after India persuaded Beijing that a failure to restore the status quo ante could severely set back the bilateral relationship.
Medical devices form a $200 billion global industry, which develops and manufactures essential healthcare equipment ranging in complexity from simple devices like thermometers and stethoscopes to complex devices like pacemakers, ultrasound machines and surgical robots. India’s medical devices market was worth $3 billion in 2011 and grew at roughly 15 percent annually in that year. It is expected to grow at a 16 percent compounded annual clip during the 2010-2015 period, far better than the 2-3 percent growth expected in this sector in the U.S. and Europe.