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    More than mere BRICS in the wall:::—— Lt Gen Bhopinder Singh (retd)

    The post-cold war era has seen commerce triumph over security, as the principal rationale of national groupings. In BRICS, India should also play to the cold economic realm and not focus on individual national aspirations.

    More than mere  BRICS in the wall
    Building BRICS: (from left) Brazilian President Michel Temer, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jingping pose during the BRICS summit in Goa. AFP.

    Intergovernmental club memberships differ in composition, objective and criteria’s – they may exist as forums for propagating specific commercial interests (e.g. G-8, OPEC), common causes (OIC) or reflective of emerging aspirations (Group of Five or BRICS) etc.The timidity and generalities of “promoting international co-operation”, as in the case of the United Nations with 193 active members, is increasingly being criticised for lacking efficacy and representation with the exclusive preserve of the five permanent members (who have the critical “veto” power) to disallow any legitimate case. For instance, China has cocked a snook at the Indian efforts to declare Maulana Azhar Masood a terrorist by becoming the only UNSC member to veto the application. Inability to prevent conflicts or espouse meaningful causes, given the haphazard size and construct of the UN, has led to more focused and limited bodies of interested countries. If G-7 (or G-8, once Russia returns from its suspension for annexing Crimea) is the grouping of the most advanced economies, the G5 is the club of the five largest emerging economies, who have a unique set of aspirations and challenges from say, that of the G-8. The post-cold war era has seen commerce triumph over security, as the principal rationale of national groupings. The acronym, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is attributed to the mercantile vision of the then Goldman Sachs Asset Management Chairman, Jim O’Neill. He foresaw a certain growth trajectory and an inherent scale and potential of the member-states to play a major role in the global order. Representing over 3.7 billion population or half of mankind, 22 per cent of Gross World Product and an inherent growth energy that is fundamentally more powerful than the global growths – it has been posited as the growth engine of the world. However, perhaps more than any other multinational grouping, the dissimilarities of cultural-diplomatic-geographical dimension amongst the BRICS members, is the most pronounced of all groupings? It is perhaps the only club that is based on the promise of tomorrow, as opposed to the immediacy of today.The groupings are also reflective of the times that be, even though the genealogical economic honeymoon of the BRICS has ebbed considerably with Brazil and Russia facing deflation (or stagnation at best), and the fundamentals in China coming under extreme pressure and international hawk eye. BRICS remains an invaluably relevant forum for Russia, which faces international isolation from other multinational platforms, following Crimea and Syria. For India and China, this is a more interactive and focused forum which forces certain positions to be taken. For South Africa and Brazil. as the sole representatives from two continents, it offers “white spots” of commercial arrangements. While not a ranking-based or a region-based composition, it suffers from an “emotional” bind amongst members that could afford the BRICS to take powerful and united positions on global issues. Importantly, all four top heads of states who attended the first BRIC (later BRICS, with the addition of South Africa in 2010) summit in Yekaterinburg in Russia —- Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, Manmohan Singh of India and Hu Jintao of China are not in leadership roles, anymore. The recently concluded BRICS summit in Goa, took place against the dark backdrop of Uri-related “surgical strikes” and the accompanying national narrative of cross-border terrorism. As hosts of the summit, an obvious advantage of steering the “Goa Declaration” had the nations eyeballs stuck on the non-trade related aspects of the summit declaration. It is here, a more sobering verdict emerged with the familiar tactic of “veto” by China, and the reiteration of the cold logic of BRICS, as yet another forum that does not necessarily lead to any immediate thawing, dilution or movements from already established positions.  The newsroom-led soap opera led to a premature and exaggerated ‘thumbs-up’ accorded to the trite and rote language of the forum accepting that there cannot be any political or religious justification to terror. This is not surprising, as China faces Islamist issues in Uighur province, while Russia has the same in Chechenia. It was the missing fine-print of the term “cross-border terrorism,” which has singular and damaging implication for Pakistan or the fact that specifics of terror organisations found a mention of “Islamic State”, but not the more pertinent and topical, Jaish-e-Mohammed. Ostensibly, a familiar hand of China “vetoed” the consensus of the original draft.Further, China dampened the spirits by retorting to India’s attribution to Pakistan as the, “mothership of terrorism”, by stating that China was against, “the linking of terrorism to any specific country, ethnicity or religion” and that, “Everyone knows that India and Pakistan are victims of terrorism. Pakistan has made huge efforts and great sacrifices in fighting terrorism. I think the international community should respect this”. The lessons from the BRICS summit Goa is to nuance our expectation from every multinational meeting according to the realities of real politik that ultimately prevails over jingoistic fervour and unnecessary expectations. Some issues, however personal and burning to individual nations (like Pakistan-led terrorism for us), are only important to reiterate and state unambiguously, but not necessary to resolve conclusively. A lot of other relevant issues like commerce gets hijacked and become thevictim of the accompanying heat. China’s intransigence on India’s entry to the NSG, stand on Pakistan or Maulana Azar Masood are complex and rooted in diplomatic calculus of chessboard diplomacy. Like we insist that Pakistan should move beyond the so-called “core issue” of Kashmir to discuss trade, commerce and poverty eradication, likewise expectations from BRICS must set the commercial goalpost of unleashing meaningful trade opportunities. These should not be hampered by minefields of other sensitive issues facing individual member countries. Overt importance to semantical formulation of joint declarations is a frustrating task and the favourite pastime of prime-time news analysts. We must not peg all our efforts and expectations to the vexatious issues of the Sino-Pak relationship, which has logics, doctrines and strategic cords for the two countries, beyond the “non-conflicting” issue of terror, amongst themselves. China is not naïve to the role of Pakistan in terror mechanisations, neither is it naïve enough to accept the same. BRICS is still a very powerful and transformatory idea, albeit, an unnatural one that is beyond the confines of emotionality. We should play to its cold economic realm and not allow the individual national aspirations to let this grouping become another BRIC in the wall.The writer is a former Governor of Puducherry.


    Naval officer from Haryana dies in accidental firing onboard INS Kuthar

    Naval officer from Haryana dies in accidental firing onboard INS Kuthar
    Sub Lieutenant Tejveer Singh

    Ajay Banerjee

    Tribune News Service

    New Delhi, October 11

    A 24-year-old naval officer from Haryana who was posted on a warship, INS Kuthar, died on Tuesday afternoon while handling firearms onboard.Sub Lieutenant Tejveer Singh was injured in an accidental firing and was immediately shifted to a naval hospital, INHS Kalyani, in Vishapatnam, the Indian Navy said on Tuesday.The officer had been raised by an uncle and was not married.   His family has been informed of the his death and a Board of Inquiry has been ordered to investigate the incident. 


    Lalu hails Army, flays BJP on surgical strikes

    Rashtriya Janata Dal national president Lalu Prasad on Monday hailed the Army for its ‘successful’ surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) but mocked the NDA-led Central government for “trying to take credit” for it.

    “BJP is falsely trying to take credit of brave acts of the Indian Army (for the successful surgical strikes on the launch pads of terrorists in PoK),” he told the press outside his wife Rabri Devi’s residence at 10 Circular Road before leaving for the last rites of socialist leader Ram Iqbal Worsi in Bhojpur district.

    “The Army is known for its valour and it has given befitting reply to Pakistan’s attempts to push terrorists into the country and would do so in future as well. I am sure if the need arises, our brave Army would do a major surgery like this in future also,” the RJD supremo said.

    Prasad dismissed opposition’s allegations of “rift” between him and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar saying, “There is a strong bond between me and Nitish Kumar.” Prasad and Kumar are known as ‘Bade bhai’ and ‘Chote bhai’ respectively in the political circles in the state.

    “I extended Durga puja greetings to Nitish Kumar yesterday. BJP is trying to create a rift between us but it is not possible … The coalition government in Bihar will continue to run successfully like it is doing now,” the RJD supremo added. — PTI


    Pak may now target Army pickets at LoC

    Ajay Banerjee

    Tribune News Service

    New Delhi, October 7

    In the wake of surgical strikes by the Army across the Line of Control, several Army posts along the fence have been alerted fearing a possible counter-strike by the Pakistan army.Edit: Back to bickeringThe Indian Army maintains several fortified posts beyond the barbed wire fencing. These are manned by highly trained troops. Some of these are designated as highly sensitive posts because of their proximity to Pakistan army pickets. Other than the firepower of the Army, posts beyond the fencing do not have any additional protection.(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)Border Action Teams on both sides are active and an assessment is that the Pakistan army may target these posts. Action by these teams had led to flare-ups in the past. It is learnt that the Pakistan army has carried out some changes in its patrolling pattern since the surgical strikes.


    Families of Indo-Pak war heroes live in hope

    Families of Indo-Pak war heroes live in hope
    Paramjit Kaur, daughter of Sepoy Jagraj Singh, carries a picture of her father in Bathinda. A Tribune photograph

    Bharat Khanna

    Tribune News Service

    Bathinda, October 4

    Even as the war hysteria had gripped the minds of residents of the state and other border states but families of “martyrs” of the Indo-Pak Wars, who are allegedly lodged in jails of Pakistan, are still perplexed about their existence.The Indian Army had declared these sepoys as dead many years ago. But some of the “spys”, including Surjit Singh and Satish Kumar, released in 2012 from Pakistan, has defied claims of the Army. Since then families of these sepoys are running from pillar to post to get their near and dear ones released from Pakistan jails.Paramjit Kaur, daughter of Sepoy Jagraj Singh of Jeeda village in Bathinda, has been fighting to get her father back from Pakistan jails. Sepoy Jagraj (No. 1524871) of 102 Engr Regiment (Bombay) fought during the 1971 India-Pakistan War and was declared dead by the Indian Army in December 1971.“In September 2004, we got a letter from the Central Government that my father Jagraj Singh is lodged in a Pakistan jail and then in 2012, a spy, Surjit Singh, confirmed of having spent his jail term with my father in Shahi Qila Jail of Pakistan. Though a number of peace and trade initiatives between India-Pakistan took place, the Union Government did nothing to bring back its soldiers who went missing during the war. I was 14- month-old when I lost my father, who is now lodged in a Pakistan jail,” she said.The family of Bagher Singh (No. 4441319) who was declared dead on September 1, 1965, by the Indian Army is still fighting to get it confirmed and get him released from Pakistan jail as in the previous year, a spy, Satish Kumar, claimed that he was alive and lodged in a Pakistan Jail.Bagher, a 24-year-old youngster then, was enrolled by the Indian Army on May 18, 1963, and was part of the ‘6 Sikh Light Infantry’ when he was reportedly ‘killed in action’ in September 1965.Satish claimed that during his own jail term he had spent time with Sepoy Bagher in the Shahi Qila Jail in Lahore, Pakistan.“There are around 176 Indian soldiers of the 1965 Indo-Pak War and about 182 Indian soldiers of the 1971 India-Pakistan War who are lodged in different jails of Pakistan. I had spent about 12.5 years in various jails of Pakistan, including a jail in Rawalpindi; Qila Attak Army Jail, Peshawar; Shahi Qila, Lahore; Kot Lakhpat Jail; Central Jail, Meeyanwali; Bahabalpur; and other jails. In 1974, I had met Bagher Singh of Mansa, Jugraj Singh of Bathinda, and a person from Gurdaspur and many others. Many of these are declared dead by the Indian Government.” he said.Living her life as widow, Bagher Singh’s wife Gurdev Kaur passed away around a year ago taking her husband as dead. She gave birth to four sons, Jagroop Singh (54), Balvir Singh (52), Major Singh (51) and Makkhan Singh (51).I was 5 when I lost my father, says soldier’s sonBagher’s eldest son Jagroop said: “For the past many months we had not slept in peace after a spy revealed that he had seen my father alive, years after the Indian Army declared him dead. I was around 5-year-old when I lost my father, even he was alive or dead, as I never saw him after the 1965 Indo-Pak war. Earlier, the Army declared my father as ‘missing’ but after some months they declared him dead. The Army or we never got any clue that he was dead. Many times my unconvinced mother used to say that our father will return someday but then she used to convince herself that he was no more and might have been killed.”


    Cong releases dates of cross-LoC attacks during UPA regime

    NEW DELHI: The Congress asked the BJP-led NDA government on Tuesday to refrain from politicising the issue of surgical strikes across the LoC, even as it released dates of cross-border raids carried out during the UPA government.

    The main Opposition party said the armed forces had successfully conducted such surgical strikes, particularly on September 1, 2011, July 28, 2013, and January 14, 2014.

    “In its maturity, wisdom and in the interest of national security, the UPA government avoided making a loud claim for the effective response and action of Indian army, which had the full support of political leadership,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

    The tussle over taking the political ownership of surgical strikes across the LoC has gained momentum in view of the upcoming assembly elections in UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

    Former J&K CM and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted a picture of a purported BJP hoarding in UP.

    “And some people will lecture others about politicising the army action all the while turning a blind eye to hoardings like these that sprout,” he said

    “No reward for guessing that this one is in UP. For the BJP & sections of the shouting brigade it’s always do as we say don’t do as we do!!!” Abdullah said in another tweet.

    For its part, the Congress urged the government to“stop po li ti ci sing the sacrifices and bravery of Indian soldiers for myopic” political gains.

    “I don’t think the cross-border action is a novelty or is unprecedented. Just ask the generals, they will tell you that there have been numerous incidences of cross-border action across the Line of Control (LoC). What has changed is that the government took political ownership. That is a conscious decision of this government,” senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said.

    He said the UPA government’s policy was “strategic restraint” and it took a call that the cross-border action should be at the military level and leave it to the generals to say what they want to say.


    200 terrorists waiting to enter India: IB

    200 terrorists waiting to enter India: IB
    Armymen patrol near the LoC in Pallanwal sector, Jammu. PTI

    Mukesh Ranjan

    Tribune News Service

    New Delhi, October 4

    Even as the Indian forces conducted surgical strikes on the other side of the LoC and destroyed several terror launch pads there, intelligence agencies have cautioned the government that around 200 trained terrorists are waiting in the wings to cross the border, while some are already hiding on the Indian side.The Centre has reportedly alerted all border states and asked the security forces to be on a high alert. According to the Intelligence Bureau (IB), these terrorist intend to target Indian security installations, including camps and posts of the armed forces, police stations and pickets.Terror masterminds sitting safe in Pakistan are reportedly planning to take revenge for the September 29 surgical strikes.According to the IB, terrorists who have already entered the Indian Territory are hiding in Jammu and Kashmir. They are awaiting a “signal from their masters in Pakistan” to launch terror attacks in India.Terror masterminds are also reportedly planning to use the notorious drug cartel to infiltrate more terrorists into India, sources say.


    At daggers drawn India, Pakistan heading for talks about talks?

    WHAT now after border villages have been evacuated and the Army put on alert? The assumption is that the Pakistan army has lost face and the Modi government has taken these preemptive measures in case it tries to avenge the surgical strikes. Now that it should be done with basking in the warmth of favourable public opinion, New Delhi will realise that an anxious standoff cannot continue for too long. Winter is setting in and the evacuated villagers from the borders of Punjab and J&K will be unwilling to endure hardship for an undefined goal. The state of general alert for the armed forces means its equipment is taking a beating just like it did during Operation Parakram.After getting stunned into issuing denials of a surgical strike, Pakistan appears to be moving on a game plan designed to get both sides to the negotiating table. Its top diplomat at the UN has petitioned its lame duck Secretary General for intervention. Pakistan’s Defence Minister has twice spoken of nuclear retaliation. This ploy too is meant to cool down India and draw world powers into convincing New Delhi to talk about talks. The Modi government would not be averse to this option. The strikes have fulfilled the Indian public’s sense of revenge. But the terrorist camps were temporary structures and if the Kashmir lockdown continues, Pakistani recruiters will have enough motivated recruits to staff them again.While hinting at its desire for negotiations Pakistan remains insouciant.  Earlier, Indian cross-border operations were conducted under the cloak of deniability. After India had levelled the score with a cross-border strike, Pakistan would be ready for talks. With India publicly owning up to the strikes for the first time, Islamabad is being forced to make belligerent noises to placate its domestic audience. Despite lashing out at each other, neither couple is willing to put the wedding band on the kitchen table because they know that war is not in their larger interest. Though both sides will act unwilling, opening up channels of communication may be the next best thing to a damaging stalemate.


    Pak army says it’s unaware about jawan who strayed across border

    MISSING 22-year-old Chavan had crossed de-facto border hours after India’s surgical strikes

    NEW DELHI: The Pakistan Army has informed its Indian counterpart that it is not aware of the whereabouts of Chandu Chavan, the soldier who inadvertently strayed across the Line of Control, according to a media report.

    AFP PHOTOSoldiers stand on a tank transporter outside an army camp in the village of Jourian, Akhnoor Sector, Jammu, on Saturday.

    Chavan, a 22-year-old soldier from the 37 Rashtriya Rifles, had mistakenly crossed the de facto border in Kashmir hours after India’s surgical strikes on terrorist bases across the LoC on Thursday. The Indian Army, in a communication with the Pakistan Army’s military operations directorate, asked for Chavan’s release as it believes he is in Pakistani custody, the Dawn daily quoted a military source as saying.

    The Pakistani military operations directorate, in its reply, expressed ignorance about his whereabouts, the report said. The contact took place at the level of “duty officers” and the Indian side was told the soldier “was being traced”.

    The Indian Army reiterated on Saturday that Chavan had inadvertently strayed across the LoC and was being held captive by the Pakistan Army. A senior official said the Indian director general of military operations had taken up the matter with his Pakistani counterpart.

    Under a bilateral arrangement, soldiers who inadvertently cross the LoC are handed over to their side. “However, the level of tensions between the two countries, particularly after the Indian claims about ‘surgical strikes’, precludes any possibility of cooperation,” the Dawn reported. JHARKHAND JAWAN DIES AT LINE OF CONTROL RANCHI: A jawan from Jharkhand died while performing his duty along the LoC on Friday. Although army officers have contended that Francis Horo died during patrolling, his family is still clueless about the reason behind his death. Horo was a resident of Serengtoli village under Lali panchayat in Ranchi district. He is survived by wife and two daughters. Horo’s wife has appealed to the state government to bear the costs of her daughters’ upbringing.