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BY MAJ GEN (RETD) S.B. ASTHANA
National Security has a wide span and needs to cover much wider period for any meaningful analysis, but to be realistic about current security dynamics of the country, speculating the immediate trends under the existing realities may be useful, especially in a high voltage political scenario in the country. While the year 2019 has seen a lot of activities with regard to national security from Balakot strike, abrogation of Article 370, administrative reorganisation of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into two Union territories (UTs) and appointment of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), extrapolating the trends can help in anticipating some strategic and security challenges which might need the attention of decision makers beyond politics.
China Factor: The US-China trade war, which touched a new height in 2019, is showing some indicators of respite with the announcement of finalising part one of the agreements by January 15, 2020. Leaving optics aside, the strategic competition (including economic competition) is expected to continue in 2020, because it has become an essential part of US strategy against China, having recognised it as a competitor and vice versa. China, despite internal pressures like protests in Hong Kong and some jolts in economic and infrastructure ventures, has been maintaining a brave front. It has been able to gravitate Russia and Iran towards it and is in the process of colonising Pakistan.
This leaves India in a state of doing strategic balancing to get the best out of such strategic scenario, as it continues to have an unsettled border with China. The positivity brought in during reset of China-India relations during ‘Informal Summit’, at Wuhan in 2018, nosedived with China dragging India to the UN Security Council on internal reorganisation of J&K into two UTs. The Indian claim on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir further dampened the ï¿½Wuhan spirit’ which could not be revived in Malappuram in 2019, as China again made a second effort to go back to UNSC, which got scuttled. In this context I do not visualise that the mutual mistrust between India and China will improve in 2020, unless China faces a major setback in economy and finds it useful to lure India away from US strategic partnership.
In the light of the fact that there has been no major breakthrough in the 22nd round of China-India border talks, I do not expect any worthwhile development on delineation, delimitation for demarcation of LAC, which otherwise is necessary to prevent a repeat of Doklam-like incidents. This is doable, if there is political will, but it is not a priority with China as yet. We can expect a relative quiet period on Chinese borders, with some positive steps for better border management, so long the US-China competition continues, and Chinese remain under pressure of economic slowdown. India, in conjunction with other navies, is unlikely to face any confrontation in the Indian Ocean, except few occasional visits of Chinese submarines to their potential bases/surveillance missions and some more build-up on bases acquired by them through ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy’.
In the South China Sea, India will stand for freedom of navigation and flights, rule-based order, use of global commons in international waters, but any showdown with China is unlikely because Quad, despite its upgradation to Foreign Ministers level, is still not a military alliance to threaten China. South China Sea and Taiwan Strait will continue to witness military posturing just short of a confrontation, with a heated Cold War scenario. Any big bang decision from US or Quad is unlikely, because it is election year in US.
Pakistan Factor: With Chinese pushing BRI/CPEC through, the strategic relevance of Pakistan for China has further increased. A major side effect of abrogation of Article 370 and internal reorganisation of J&K into two UTs, has been the strengthening of the Sino-Pak nexus. China was relatively quiet after the Balakot strike, but openly backed Pakistan after abrogation of Article 370. China will like to ignore state sponsored terror by Pakistan, as it indirectly contains India’s growth to reduce Indian impact in South Asia. The terror industry and proxy war by Pakistan will continue in 2020, notwithstanding their economic difficulties, which have been in the news in 2019.
Whenever they are on the verge of sinking, some country will bail them out to foster its own interest through them, because of their strategic location/terror potential. As the security situation unfolds in Afghanistan-Pakistan Region, I will not be surprised if Taliban, which was decimated by multi-national forces once, (but nurtured by Pakistan) may be in the driver’s seat in the power struggle in Afghanistan, much against Indian interest and US may choose to end their pursuit against them, acknowledging Pakistan as one of the main brokers.
It may be interesting to note that Pakistan’s terror industry is mainly sustained by parallel economy involving drug trade, extortion and assistance from ISI, with material and operational support from Pakistan Army. The efforts of FATF and IMF may show some check on the formal economy, but not on the terror economy, as the linkage between the two is not as tight as it is made out to be. Pakistan is unlikely to get blacklisted by FATF even in 2020, because it will be able to find three countries to oppose such a move, which is adequate to avoid blacklisting. However, it will continue to be in the grey list. Pakistan seems to have done well for themselves in initiating false propaganda against India, which has mitigated their criticism amongst domestic as well as global audience. UN declared terrorists will continue to operate and plan terror operations against India in 2020, as in the past, with greater effort to destabilise Kashmir to undo Indian effort for inclusive growth of J&K.
Sino-Pak nexus: The progress on CPEC is likely to continue despite Indian opposition and some domestic opposition inside Pakistan, although, BRI will continue to face many roadblocks globally. CPEC will make Pakistan a colony of China, which is already into a client-patron relationship, where strategic choices of Pakistan are hostage to China. This brings out a long-term threat to India in terms of a ‘two-front war’ which India has to be prepared for. India’s intention to take back Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) will need shaping of the international environment, affected population and seeing through at least one peaceful summer in Kashmir after reorganisation, as a precursor to any such action plan.
Other neighbours: India does not have any direct threat from other neighbouring countries, but has to remain cautious of developments there to minimize the influence of potential adversaries. Many scribes tend to overplay it by relating it to China most of the time, but being sovereign countries, these nations act as per their own national interests. India will have to continue a ‘neighbours first’ policy to prevent them slipping away into Chinese orbit. In 2020, we can expect closer ties with the Maldives and Bhutan who will continue to get assistance from India. The border issue with Nepal like Kalapani, can be resolved, as it was done in case of enclaves with Bangladesh.
Sri Lanka may have its own compulsions for some policies not very favourable to India; hence diplomatic efforts will be required to let it be neutral despite mounting financial pressure of China. Smart diplomacy will be required to deal with sensitive issues of illegal immigration with Bangladesh, as it is in India’s interest to support Sheikh Hasina and collectively find solutions to problems (including Rohingyas and water dispute) affecting both countries. Similarly in case of Myanmar, the issue of Rohingyas and better connectivity will have to be worked out with proactive diplomacy, in the light of certain internal reforms picking up heat due to undesirable controversies.
Internal Security Challenges
Kashmir: Post abrogation of Article 370 and 35a, the clampdown on mobile and internet facilities will have to be relaxed incrementally from more peaceful districts to potential hot spots. Kashmir has remained relatively peaceful after August 5, but the real test will be peaceful summers in 2020, when Pakistan will redouble its efforts to ignite violence in the Kashmir Valley, which needs to be prevented.
Prolonged restrictions will be counterproductive in terms of alienating the population; hence some calculated risks will have to be taken, even if it amounts to removing and re-clamping restrictions in some vulnerable spots, where remnants of terrorists/separatists may influence the situation. Incidentally Jammu, Ladakh and some parts of Kashmir will continue to be peaceful and only a handful of districts, sympathetic to militants may be prone to terror actions. In 2020 it is expected that terrorists supported by Pakistan will make a few more attempts to derail inclusive growth and development process, before the new UTs are mentally accepted as a reality and as a new normal to progress forward.
Indian security forces need to comb existing terrorists during winters of 2020 and be ready to deal with a fresh lot in the coming summers. Legally, convictions of separatists must happen, because temporary arrests do not matter to them. Unless visible effects of inclusive growth and better governance appear under the reorganised system, the security forces will have to continue fighting infiltrators, terrorists (foreign as well local) because the terror industry will continue to be a lucrative industry.
North Eastern India: We can hope for a development in the North-East region post some crucial agreements in 2020, with declining insurgency. Except for some parts of Manipur and adjoining areas, the region is showing keenness to grow. With friendly Governments in power in adjoining countries, North-East may not be a major security concern. It may face a temporary law and order problem due to some internal reforms like CAA, NRC in Assam, resulting in aggressive politics but these would be surmountable from the security point of view.
Red Corridor/Naxalites: The problem in these areas relates to poor governance and its intensity will increase/decrease depending upon the quality of governance provided. There have been changes in Government in some affected states. Depending upon the governance provided by them and lessons learnt by security forces operating there, the magnitude of the problem can be expected to vary in either direction in 2020. The police forces dealing with it need to have modern equipment, training including leadership training at the grass-roots level.
With China’s discord over internal reorganisation of hte erstwhile state of J&K into UTs, need to keep CPEC going and it’s need to increase domestic support by generating spirit of nationalism amidst growing protests, slowing down of economy, the urge to do something different cannot be ruled out. The clouds of ‘Two Front War’ might hang over India, although it may not happen in 2020. The only way to avoid a ‘Two Front War’ for India is to convince the potential adversaries that India is capable of fighting it. This convincing cannot be by announcements or statements, but by building/proving capability to do so. There seems to be some effort in capacity building, but with limited financial size, its magnitude may not deter potential adversaries, more so when our neighbour in the north has hiked up its pace of modernisation appreciably. India needs to realize that defence capabilities take decades of consistent effort, more-so if it does not have strong manufacturing base.
‘Make in India’ and self-reliance are essential, but time consuming; hence it must continue simultaneously with new procurements with transfer of technology. Unless Pakistan is deterred, the proxy war will continue; hence India needs to improve capability to exercise its ‘Proactive’ intent. If capability exists, then intentions can change overnight, which makes the adversary jittery. (IANS)
Great historic events that have shaped the world and changed the outlines of countries are often not recorded in memory, or so we think. Wars made sure to destroy evidence and heritage, and the ones who survived told the tale of what really happened. Folklore, albeit through oral tradition kept alive many such stories, hidden in verse, limericks, and rhymes.
Ringa-ringa-roses, a common playtime rhyme among children across the world, is an example of folklore that has survived for many centuries. It tells the story of the The Great Plague of London which ravaged the city between 1665-1666.
The Plague broke out from improper disposal of garbage and poor sewage conditions. Fleas from the rats that lived in the sewers spread the disease that killed more than half of London's population. Many people fled from their homes as there was no medicine available for those who were infected.
Beak-shaped masks worn during the Great Plague of London Image source: wikimedia commons
It was around this time that masks began to be invented. The first masks were shaped like beaks, and were worn not to protect the wearer from the disease, but to the prevent them from being able to smell the decay and death around them, which they called 'miasma'. The beaks were filled with floral herbs that allowed doctors and nurses to tend to the sick without being reviled from the smell.
Children are often seen forming circles by holding hands and reciting loudly,
Pockets full of posies
We all fall down"
An illustration of the Great Plague of London, 1665 Image source: wikimedia commons
When the last line is sung, they break the circle and fall down. The roses and posies are believed to be the preferred fragrances inside the masks, and a single sneeze (a-tishoo) was enough to infect the one who was exposed to the disease. Consequently, they fell down, ill, and later died.
An alternative version of this rhyme is sung about the fall of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the aftermath of World War II. The roses and posies are interchanged with geranium and uranium, to symbolise what was used in the atomic bomb. But this version is not as famous the original.
Keywords: Rhymes, Ringa-ringa-roses, Great Plague of London, WWII, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Folklore
In modern times, many social movements aim to bring reform to the society we live in, on the basis of certain existing patterns. Patriarchy is something that many aim to cleanse our cultures of, to usher in the era of social and gender equality. Despite all these so-called movements, in southern India, certain societies that patronise matriarchy have existed since before India's independence. The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country.
Kerala remains separate from the rest of India in many ways. Be it literacy policy, form of government, or cultural practices, this state does not always conform to the ideal that India is known for. Even so with their social structure. Certain tribes have remained matrilineal, where the decision-making power rests with the eldest female of the family.
The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country. Image source: wikimedia commons
A male member, who is the close confidante of the matriarch is chosen. He plays a crucial role in representing the male members of his family, and his opinion is highly valued. He is called karavanan. The men reside in separate rooms or in separate houses, and do not interfere in the upbringing of children. Property is also passed down along the lineage of the eldest female. Among the Nairs, matriarchy is more prominently adhered to than the Ezhavas, who have some patrilocal connections.
In Karnataka, the Bunts and Billavas belong to the Tuluva ethnic group. They are also a predominantly matriarchal society, founded on the belief in a legend. Their matrilineal descent is known as Aliyasantana.
The story is told of a demon who threatened to destroy a kingdom if the king did not sacrifice his sons, but the king's sister comes forward to offer her children in sacrifice for the sake of the kingdom. The demon is touched and does not destroy the city. Since then, the kingdom, or the property is inherited through female lineage.
In Karnataka, the Bunts and Billavas belong to the Tuluva ethnic group. They are also a predominantly matriarchal society, founded on the belief in a legend. Image source: wikimedia commons
In the recent past, many of these matriarchal societies have been reduced to matrilineal societies by certain governmental laws. They fall under the patriarchal scheme of the rest of the state but have reserved the right to pass on property and heritage through the female line. In the North east of India, matriarchal dominance is far more resilient than the south.
Keywords: Bunts, Billava, Nair, Ezhava, Aliyasantana, Matrilineal, South India, Karnataka, Kerala
Apple inc. Is an American multinational tech firm specialized in consumer electronics, computer programs, and internet services founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in 1976 to manufacture Wozniak's Apple iComputer. It is the world's top tech company in turnover (totaling $274.5 billion in 2020) and its most valuable corporation. Apple is the fourth-largest PC seller by unit sales and the fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.
Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. On the day of the live event, Apple announced the iPad mini, Apple Watch Series 7, iPhone 13 mini, and iPhone 13, as well as the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. | Photo by Daniel Romero on Unsplash
In the first major product announcement during the event, Apple introduced the newest edition of the iPad and a 5G-capable iPad Mini.
iPad: The 10.2-inch iPad is equipped with a solid A13 processor that delivers 20 percent quicker performance than the preceding version. According to Apple, it is now three times faster than a Chromebook. A new 12MP ultra-wide camera with Center Stage, which utilizes machine learning to optimize the front-facing camera during FaceTime video chats, as well as more incredible accessory support, including compatibility with the first-generation Apple Pencil, are among the new features. For 64GB of storage, the iPad costs $329.
iPad Mini: In addition to reduced borders and more rounded edges, the 8.3-inch iPad mini also has improved front and back cameras. A liquid retina display, USB-C compatibility, magnetic support for the Apple Pencil, an enhanced speaker system, and new hues such as pink and purple are all features of the new Apple iPad Mini. The starting price is $499.
In the first major product announcement during the event, Apple introduced the newest edition of the iPad and a 5G-capable iPad Mini. | Photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash
The other major unveiled products include:
iPhone 13 and other variants: The iPhone 13 range is almost identical to the iPhone 12 lineup, with a 5.4-inch iPhone 13 Mini, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro, and a 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max. It was also revealed that the Watch Series 7 has a smaller "S7" processor, which may allow for a bigger battery or other components to be housed in a smaller footprint. The gadgets have a revolutionary design that includes a dual-camera system, placed diagonally. Apple's iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini have longer-lasting batteries than the previous generation of devices. In addition, Apple claims that the iPhone 13 will have a battery life that is 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12, and the iPhone 13 mini will have a battery life that is 1.5 hours longer. A more energy-efficient display, an upgraded 5G chip, and functionality called "Cinematic Mode," similar to the famous Portrait mode function but is only available for movies, are among the other enhancements. The A15 Bionic chip present in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini is also used in the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro and 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max, also 6.1-inch devices. However, it also has a five-core CPU, which promises graphics that are 50% quicker than previous models. Other notable features of the Pro devices include a brilliant Super Retna XDR display with a higher refresh rate and long-lasting battery life. Now, for the price, it will start at $699 for the iPhone 13 mini with 128 GB of storage, $799 for the iPhone 13 with 128 GB of storage, and the Pro and Pro Max have starting prices of $999 $1,099, respectively.
Apple Watch Series 7: The new Apple Watch Series 7, which is smaller and has a larger screen than its previous model, was introduced by Apple on Wednesday. There is a 20% increase in screen size over Series 6 on the new watch. A complete keyboard that you can touch or slide to write out text messages can show 50% more text. It starts at $399.
Keywords: Apple, iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone Mini, Apple event 2021