Two back-to-back ministerial visits to Japan from India have brought the two nations closer – and China must be worried. External Affairs Minister SM Krishna visited Tokyo from October 28 to 30. Defence Minister AK Antony paid a daylong visit to Japan on November 2. Krishna held wide-ranging talks with his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba and also called on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. The high point of the visit was the 5th annual Japan-India Strategic Dialogue which was co-chaired by the two Foreign Ministers and provided them an opportunity to review all aspects of their bilateral Strategic and Global Partnership.
The two foreign ministers were engaged in an exploratory exercise to maximise their convergences and minimise the divergences, a significant thing as India and Japan are getting increasingly closer, much to the consternation of China which is apprehensive of a “surround China” strategy by its potential foes. No bilateral agreements or documents were signed during the Krishna-Gemba talks as the event was largely an exercise for the two sides to update each other with the current situation in their bilateral relations, the regional geo-politics and the international situation.
Antony was in Japan for the defence dialogue, a new institutionalised mechanism between them. Regional and global security scenario, maritime security, piracy in the gulf of Aden and cooperation in the field of humanitarian assistance and terrorism were some of the issues which figured prominently during the talks that Antony held with his Japanese counterpart Yasho Jchikawa.
Indian army changes code signs for choppers in 14 corps area
Even as the Indian Army is in the process of assessing the extent to which vital security information has been compromised in the wake of the straying of its Cheetah helicopter into Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) on October 23, it has changed nicknames and code signs of all helipads in the 14 Corps region. The army authorities are also making efforts to make their aircraft’s Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates tamper-proof. The need for this arose when reports surfaced that the Pakistan Army removed the GPS coordinates of all helipads in the Ladakh sector from the Indian Army’s Cheetah helicopter that had strayed into PoK on October 23.
The Ministry of Defence, however, has maintained that the national security was not compromised in any manner in the wake of the Cheetah helicopter incident. Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju has already gone on record as saying that there was no threat to the national security as no helicopter has any secret information and the government was taking adequate safeguards for national security. “There is no secret information in any helicopter. It is regular information that is needed for any machine. So I do not think that is the case,” Raju said.
A significant thing in Raju’s comments is that he did not flatly deny that GPS data and other information had been removed by the Pakistan Army from the Cheetah helicopter. At the same time, he also did not say a word against Pakistan. The Ministry of External Affairs has already gone on record in appreciating the Pakistani conduct. “We greatly appreciate the manner in which Pakistan worked with us in resolving the matter,” MEA spokesperson Vishnu Prakash had said after the return of the helicopter and the crew.
The Indian Army has ordered a high-level inquiry into the chopper incident as an inspection of the helicopter after it was allowed to return to India a few hours later showed that the GPS data, nicknames and code signs of all the helipads in the 14 Corps deployed in the Ladakh-Siachen region were missing from the chopper. A question before the inquiry panel is how the Cheetah strayed into PoK in the first place as it was equipped with GPS.
India and Gaddafi
The world reaction on the death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has come in S, M and XL sizes. Blame real-politik for the S category Indian reaction on Gaddafi. India has reacted guardedly to Gaddafi’s death. The Indian reaction conceals more than what it reveals – and the concealed ones are the vitals. The formal reaction by the Ministry of External Affairs made no comment on Gaddafi, unlike reactions from the Western world where leaders vied with one another in choosing strongest condemnatory words for the longest-ruling leader of the Arab world. It consciously kept away from reacting on the most important question: whether the killing of Gaddafi in combat is good or bad.
Two factors appear to have shaped the Indian reaction. One, the international diplomatic vortex and two, India has to be politically-correct in its posturing on Libya in its dealings with the 54-odd Islamic countries. India, which is currently a non-permanent member of the United Nation’s Security Council, cannot afford to be at variance with the international opinion on any issue. At the same time, India cannot annoy the Muslim constituency in the international politics. More importantly, India cannot be seen to say unkind words to a leader who has been the face of the oil-rich Libya all these 42 years when he was in power. The Indian reaction, therefore, has to be seen in the overall context of India’s relations with the Arab world and the Muslim world. India, after all, cannot be speaking ill of a leader who lorded over Libya in the past 42 years.
Here is the terse Indian reaction as given by the MEA: “We have seen reports that Col. Gaddafi has been killed in Sirte, Libya. The strife in Libya and the suffering of its people has been a matter of concern to us. We hope that peace and stability would soon return to Libya. India’s relations with the people of Libya are deep and long standing. At this juncture, India reiterates its readiness to extend all possible assistance to the people of Libya in their political transition and rebuilding of the country”.