TOPIC: General Studies 2
- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
21st Malabar Exercise : Significance, Opportunities and Challenges
The 21st edition of exercise “Malabar” was held in the Bay of Bengal in July 2017. The tri-lateral naval exercise is the widest in scope than all its previous editions and will continue for 10 days. This year is witnessing the largest participation to date with 16 ships, two submarines and over 95 aircraft taking part from the three countries. In another first this year, all three countries fielded carriers for the exercises. Naval exercises don’t get more complex or sophisticated than Malabar-2017.
What is Malabar?
- Malabar is an annual military exercise between the navies of India, Japan and the U.S. held alternately in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
- It began in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between India and the U.S. and permanently expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan in 2015.
- Japan had, however, participated in several drills since 2007 as a non-permanent member. The other non-permanent participants from the past are Australia and Singapore.
- In 2007, the scope of Malabar was enhanced and the high-point was a five-nation multilateral naval exercise that brought on board three other nations — Japan, Australia and Singapore.
- Having got off to a good start, the Indo-US exercises named “Malabar” were interrupted by US sanctions imposed after India’s 1998 nuclear tests. Resumed in 2001,
- Since 1994, the Malabar exercise has been institutionalised in a progressively robust manner.
What is its importance?
· The main aim of the exercise is to address the shared threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia Pacific.
· With China’s growing military strength and its increasing presence in the Indian Ocean, Malabar has assumed greater importance as it is a platform to improve interoperability between the navies.
· There is special focus on anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations in the backdrop of increasing submarine forays by the Chinese Navy. Both India and the U.S. are keen on improving their submarine hunting capabilities in the warm waters of Bay of Bengal.
· These naval interactions have not only provided the Indian navy invaluable insights into the tactics, doctrines, warfare techniques and best practices of the US Navy, but also enabled periodic self-assessment, using the world’s most powerful navy as a professional yardstick.
· The deeper geopolitical salience of the exercise is about joint stewardship of the maritime domain – the traditional global commons. The concept of a ‘global common’ has now been extended to include the cyber and space domains and in many ways the Malabar exercise is a symbol of the depth of such collective endeavour.
· India has been concerned with the increasing presence of Chinese ships in the Indian Ocean. There have been reports of as many as 6 submarine deployments by China in the Indian Ocean since 2013. China’s increasing closeness with Pakistan and Sri Lanka are also a cause of worry for India. Thus, Malabar 2017 will prove to be a concrete step towards increasing India’s presence in the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal.
· Thus China’s growing military strength has lent greater weight to Malabar naval exercises
The Chinese angle:
- Malabar 2017 comes at a time when there are high tensions between India and China over the Sikkim border and the growth of Chinese navy in the Indian Ocean Region.
- China has been wary of the drills since a long time. The Chinese government had expressed its hope that the exercise is not aimed at other countries. “We have no objection to the normal bilateral relations and cooperation among relevant countries, but we hope that this kind of relationship and cooperation will not be directed at any third party and will be conducive to the regional peace and stability,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
- China has sustained a determined opposition to Malabar because of its suspicion that India is colluding with the US in an attempt at “containment”.
- China has always viewed Malabar as a grouping to contain it and the fears have been exacerbated with Japan being included and Australia keen to join as well.
- In September 2007, the Navies of Australia, Japan and Singapore joined India and the U.S. in the Malabar exercises. China had issued a demarche to New Delhi questioning the intent behind the war games, which forced India to abandon the expansion at that time. Australia has been keen to join the games on a permanent basis, which has so far not fructified due to India’s reluctance.
- The border standoff on a plateau next to the mountainous Indian state of Sikkim, which borders China, has ratcheted up tension between the neighbouring giants, who share a 3,500km (2,175 miles) frontier, large parts of which are disputed.
- Chinese apprehensions this year has led India turning down an Australian request to join the exercises for now, for fear that it would antagonise China further.
Reflects the change in India’s foreign policy:
The far-reaching geo-political impact of these exercises needs to be kept firmly in sight. Although India’s traditional strategy of “non-alignment”, and its more recent mutation, “strategic autonomy”, have served to preserve its freedom of action, India’s past leadership did not allow it to come in the way of national interest. The aftermath of the 1962 Sino-Indian crisis as well as the impending 1971 Indo-Pak War saw our leaders suspend their beliefs in national interest — in the first case, to seek military aid from the West, and in the second, to sign a treaty of friendship with the USSR.
With the 1998 nuclear tests and the 2005 Indo-US nuclear deal having resulted in a fundamental transformation of India’s status, the present government has also given clear indications that India’s foreign policies will be guided by pragmatism and national interest, rather than idealism.
- Today, realpolitik demands that India take necessary steps to avoid getting trapped by ensuring a favourable regional balance-of-power, through cooperation and partnerships; striking short-term alliances if necessary.
- Apprehensions about the Trump administration’s stance on Indo-US naval relations have been set at rest. Japan, too, is easing its laws vis-a-vis foreign military relations. The stage is, therefore, set for the three navies to expand their linkages beyond exercises at sea.
- In the realm of maritime warfare, the three navies could derive mutual benefit from their diverse operational expertise.
- Our navy’s indigenous warship-building programme is still heavily reliant on key inputs from foreign sources. We must seek help from the advanced US and Japanese military industrial complexes to acquire the competence for designing and building our own weapons and sensors.
- A proposal worthy of contemplation would be the creation of a “maritime-infrastructure and economic initiative” that reaches out to smaller Indian Ocean nations in an endeavour to wean them away from China.
Indo-US naval cooperation has, for 25 years, formed the sheet-anchor of bilateral relations, stoically weathering political and diplomatic storms. With the invaluable accession of Japan to this partnership, the India-Japan-US triad must, now, be elevated to strategic status. Also India needs to maintain a cautious approach so as not to upset China as the standoff in Doklam plateau at India-Bhutan-China tri-junction continues.
Connecting the dots:
- The 2017 Malabar exercise was one of the most sophisticated naval exercises. Discuss its significance for India and Indian ocean region geo-politics. Also critically analyze the apprehension China has against the trilateral exercise.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
- Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
Ratan P. Watal Committee to review all Autonomous Bodies (ABs)
The government had decided to focus on over 500 autonomous bodies – from the University Grants Commission and Jawahar Lal Nehru University to Delhi Development Authority, Prasar Bharati and CSIR – and had asked Niti Aayog to review the performance of these entities that have mushroomed over the years with little oversight.
Niti Aayog had been entrusted the task as the government looks to cut down on wasteful expenditure.
The number of central autonomous bodies has shot up from 35 in 1955 to 533 in 2012 and the Expenditure Management Commission (EMC) headed by former RBI governor Bimal Jalan had said these agencies guzzled a lot of cash, which some estimates suggest could be over Rs 70,000 crore annually .
Hence, NITI Aayog had set up a Committee under the Chairmanship of Shri Ratan P. Watal for comprehensive review of all Autonomous Bodies (ABs). This review is part of the first phase of a drive to curb overlapping work and reduce the Centre’s expenditure, currently at over Rs 70,000 crore per annum on 679 such institutions.
Definition of autonomous body:
The term “autonomous body” denotes a self governing body, independent, or subject to its own laws.
However, private enterprise is also self-governing and independent of direct government influence or control.
Therefore what is the actual meaning of Autonomous Body (AB)?
- First, an AB is set up by the government for a specific purpose (it’s a public authority).
- Second, it is independent in day-to-day functioning, but the government has some control over ABs.
- Third, the government funds ABs in some way — revenue expenditure, capital expenditure, or both.
Definition of public authority:
Right to Information Act defines “public authority” as – any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted (a) by or under the Constitution; (b) by any other law made by Parliament; (c) by any other law made by State Legislature; (d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) non-government organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government”.
Why a system of external or peer review of autonomous organisations or bodies every three or four is need of the hour?
- There is a need to review the objective for which the autonomous organisation was set up and whether these objectives have been or are being achieved.
- Review is essential to find out whether the activities of the ABs should be continued at all, either because they are no longer relevant or have been completed or if there has been a substantial failure in achievement of objectives.
- To find whether the nature of the activities is such that these need to be performed only by an autonomous organisation
- Whether similar functions are also being undertaken by other organisations, be it in the central government or state governments or the private sector, and if so, whether there is scope for merging or winding up the organisations under review.
- Whether the total staff complement, particularly at the support level, is kept at a minimum, whether the enormous strides in information technology and communication facilities as also facilities for outsourcing of work on a contract basis, have been taken into account in determining staff strength; and whether scientific or technical personnel are being deployed on functions which could well be carried out by non-scientific or non-technical personnel etc.
- Whether user charges including overhead/ institutional charges/management fee in respect of sponsored projects, wherever the output or benefit of services are utilised by others, are levied at appropriate rates.
- To find out whether there is scope for maximising internal resources generation in the organisation so that the dependence upon government budgetary support is minimised.
In 1955, there were 35 ABs. The oldest is clearly The Asiatic Society, established in 1784 by William Jones. Today, there are at least 679 ABs. The actual number of ABs could be marginally more as proper information is not available. They obtained nearly Rs 46,500 crore in 2010-11. In 2017-18, 679 ABs obtained Rs 72,200 crore.
Since public resources are involved, and all resources have trade-offs, setting up a review committee will improve oversight, bring in necessary transparency and accountability of ABs.
However some experts are also divided on the dividends such an exercise would yield. Critics have expressed their reservations, stating that the changes may lead to a dilution of the purpose for which an autonomous organisation was originally meant. The Centre is clearly eager to reduce its annual expenditure on these 679 autonomous bodies, which come under 68 different ministries and departments, but in doing so without adequate consultations it is feared that it may end up doing more harm than good.
Connecting the dots:
- What are Autonomous Bodies? Do you think there is a need for legal provision to be made that all bodies which are publicly funded will automatically fall within the ambit of the CAG’s audit jusrisdiction? Analyze.
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