“Motormouth Manohar Parrikar almost nukes India’s NSG bid with needless boast”

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s astonishingly witless statements straying from India’s carefully-worded official nuclear-weapons policy on Thursday comes at a particularly bad time.

As India embarks on a renewed mission to compel Pakistan to course-correct by deploying all instruments of statecraft while simultaneously lobbying for a place in the global nuclear high table, Parrikar’s musings will be noticed and filed up for propaganda value by those who seek to block both objectives. One imagines minions in Zhongnanhai and GHQ Rawalpindi to be exceedingly pleased with this enormous Indian self-goal.

Watching the defence minister’s grandstanding — he was speaking at the launch of a very interesting new book that seeks to lay out a national security strategy for India in the 21st century — one is reminded of a late-night college bull session where a senior seeks to impress sophomores with his cleverness.

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“US elects Donald Trump as President: How he handles China, Russia will be interesting”

When the history of the 21st century is written, 8 November, 2016 will be marked as a day when the worst nightmare of liberal internationalists came true with the election of the 45th President of the United States: Donald John Trump. The road from here to a global free-for-all is not far. All that would take is for Trump to carry out a small fraction of his foreign policy promises – if one can indeed call fragmentary, contradictory, stream-of-consciousness statements as such.

What President Trump means for India has already been dissected to the point where adding anything new becomes impossible, on either side of the ledger – Trump as “positive” or “negative” when it comes to India. And as umpteen commentators have already noted, the broad bipartisan support for India is something no American president can overturn overnight. Having said that the challenge for India does not lie in dealing with Trump’s India-specific policies. It lies with fire-fighting contingencies and spill-overs from his Administration’s policies elsewhere.

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“At the middle kingdom’s core: Xi Jinping anointed “core” Chinese leader but his strategy reveals a contradiction”

The Chinese President Xi Jinping’s penchant for collecting titles is well known. So is his compulsive habit of consolidating control over the disparate and byzantine organs of the Chinese state in his own hands. So when – on October 27, at the sixth plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) congress – it was announced that Xi is now, officially, a “core leader” of the Party, this may have appeared unsurprising to many. That, however, does not make this latest announcement from the CPC insignificant.

In Chinese political hagiography, a core leader of the Party is one whose teachings and policies determine and drive the grand strategy of the Chinese state. Coupled to increasing speculations that Xi may seek to extend his term beyond 2017, what he and his confidantes embark on now will determine the contours of what China would look like in 2049 – the hundredth anniversary of the communist state.

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“Month after surgical strikes: Appraisal of India’s new strategy of dealing with Pakistan”

Exactly a month ago, Indian special forces crossed the Line of Control (LoC) to prevent imminent infiltration of Pakistan-sponsored terrorists into Indian territory. While this was certainly not the first time such an action was undertaken, the government’s decision to publicise this attack and, therefore, signal to Pakistan that it no longer buys the logic of inexorable escalation that was supposed to follow any Indian breach of the LoC – however limited – certainly establishes New Delhi’s intention to forge a new course in its dealings with Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

This is as good as any occasion gets to record what the strikes have established – and what they haven’t.

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“MNS’ aggressive stand can wreck PM Narendra Modi’s new Pakistan policy”

Whether or not patriotism is, as often said, the last refuge of scoundrels, the recent kerfuffle involving the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Karan Johar indeed show that thugs have a special penchant for exploiting national security debates to suit their own purposes. As New Delhi embarks on an ambitious plan to modify Rawalpindi’s behaviour, MNS leaders have crudely made themselves a party to the vigorous public debate since the cross-LoC raids on 29 September on the tools available to disincentivise Pakistan’s long-standing use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

It can be argued that MNS’s extortive tactics have as much to do with placating its nativist base – and squaring its complicated equation with Bollywood – as it has with piggy-backing on the surge in nationalist sentiments in the recent months. Whatever be the root cause of the party’s virulence, its stance has a particularly toxic quality which – if adopted as a matter of course – can complicate and perhaps derail Prime Minister Modi’s emerging Pakistan policy.

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“Situating the Uri terror attack within Pakistan’s strategy of provocation and escalation”

Sunday morning’s attack on an army support facility in Uri is one of the largest such attacks since the start of the Pakistan-sponsored insurgency in Kashmir in the 1990s. Through a meticulously-planned operation that showed a keen awareness of that facility’s vulnerability in an otherwise heavily-fortified area, Pakistan has signalled to India that it is willing to stir the pot in Kashmir with greater vigour, and that it is not averse to ratcheting up the sub-conventional conflict there.

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“BRICS Summit: India’s hands full with Pakistan, must bide time to deal with China”

The BRICS Summit this weekend in Goa comes at a time when India-Pakistan relationship has hit a new low. Between Pakistan’s renewed intransigence in leveraging anti-India proxies to prosecute its Kashmir agenda, and India’s signal that will meet the same using limited military options, the discussions in Goa will invariably be coloured by the recent events in South Asia.

Of special interest would be the stance China takes on terrorism during the Summit and whether it will look beyond its all-weather friendship with Pakistan to accommodate India’s concerns when it comes to cross-border – and increasingly Islamist – terrorism. China’s calculations will be driven by the relative weights its puts on its geopolitical imperatives behind supporting Pakistan, its professed desire to upgrade its relationship with an increasingly assertive India, and its own vulnerabilities when it comes to Islamist terrorism in the restive region of Xinjiang.

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