1. End the impunity: The botched Army operation in Nagaland is yet another reason why AFSPA should go

  • Page 6/Editorial
  • GS 2: Governance, GS 3: Internal security

Context: Killing of six coal miners and the deaths of nine civilians and a soldier in the aftermath of the incident in Mon district, the residents of Nagaland.

  • Incident 1: The firing on the vehicle carrying the coal miners in Oting village, home to the Konyak Naga community, was carried out by soldiers of the ‘21 Para Commando Unit’, and attributed to a case of mistaken identity.
  • Incident 2: an ambush was purportedly laid on insurgents of the NSCN (Khaplang-Yung Aung) faction following an intelligence input, however, a civilian vehicle which offered no hostility was fired upon.

Impact of the incident:

  • Demand to repeal AFSPA: Many in North-east India, will only read this incident as an outcome of impunity accorded by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA.
    • Two sitting Chief Ministers — Conrad Sangma of Meghalaya and Neiphiu Rio of Nagaland — have immediately demanded its repeal;
  • Widespread protests: Following the killings, widespread protests have erupted in Nagaland and adjoining areas. The State Government also suspended mobile Internet and data services and bulk SMS in the entire district.
    • Soon after the violence in Mon, ban orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure were imposed in the district to prevent gatherings and restricting the movement of vehicles barring those carrying essential items from Sunday.
  • Doubts on the future of the ongoing peace process: Unfortunately, the incident could put a spanner in the Naga peace talks between the Government and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) and seven Naga National Political Groups for a solution that has been in the works.

About Armed Forces(Special Powers)Act,1958:  

  • AFSPA gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.
    • It declared by suitable  notification  made in the Official Gazette under Section 3 of the AFSPA.
    • Reason for declaration: An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
    • Disturbed (Special courts) act, 1976: Once it is declared a disturbed area, status quo is maintained at least for 3 months.
    • It provides various powers of arrest without warrant, prohibition of movement and power to open fire upon suspicion after appropriate warning.
  • Current imposition:
    • It is effective in whole of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur(excluding Imphal) & parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
    • J&K has a similar act too.
    • Arunachal Pradesh: its impact was reduced to 8 police stations from 16 and to a three Assamese border districts.

Problems with the current incident:

  • Even AFSPA law violated: This action should be problematic even within the purview of AFSPA, as soldiers who open fire can do so only after warning the person found in contravention of the law.
  • It was not a bordering area of the state: The Army’s and later Union Minister of Home Amit Shah’s contention that the vehicle was shot at only after the miners refused to “cooperate” when asked to stop seems incongruous as this was not an action at the Myanmar border seeking to take on armed infiltrators but an operation well within the country’s boundaries.
  • Armed forces were too trigger-happy and showed barely any intent in securing order, which is the purpose of their presence in the region.

Government Response: The Government has promised an inquiry by a Special Investigation Team.

Way forward:

  • Reduced dependence on the Act: It is clear that the continued reliance on AFSPA as a way to impose public order must be brought to a halt and the long-pending demand for its repeal acceded to.
  • Action against unsolicited action: An approach that shows genuine remorse for the actions, brings the culprits to book and seeks rapprochement with the Konyak Nagas through compensation for the violence, besides a renewed purpose to conclude the peace talks with the Naga groups, is now the only imperative.

2. Expanding India’s engagement envelope with Russia: Beyond existing fields such as defence and energy, there are other areas which can help deepen their links

Context: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi for the 21st India-Russia Summit meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlights the constant efforts by both leaders to nurture and to provide further impetus to the ‘India-Russia Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership’.

The Strategic partnership

  • The robust partnership between India and Russia has come out of the shackles of the Cold War inheritance.
  • It withstood the test of time despite ever-shifting nature of national interests: India has been seen with the US and its groupings more in the recent years. Whereas Russia has patterned with China occasionally on key global issues. However, Relations between the two countries have deepened with time irrespective of the quagmire of realpolitik. This exceptional resilience is built on the firm foundation of strategic national interest and the synergy of geopolitics.
  • Global status in the post-Cold War era:
    • India has emerged as an economic powerhouse and a key stakeholder in today’s global debate be it climate change, international trade, or the menace of terrorism.
    • Russia with its global status and presence.
    • This presents a win-win situation for deeper cooperation. 
  • The Progress in Relationship:
    • Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership” in October 2000 –
      • Made Russia, India’s closest friends and allies.
      • It unlocked new opportunities in strategic, science and technology, space, energy, nuclear ties, trade and commerce, culture and a people-to-people connect.
    • An institutionalised dialogue mechanism involving key stakeholders at the political and official levels – adopted for smooth functioning of relation.
    • “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership”: Mr. Putin’s visit to India in December 2010 heralded a new chapter in India-Russia relations when the Strategic Partnership was elevated to the level of a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership”.

The Convergence in relations

  • The Defence Cooperation: Russia is the key and principal supplier of arms and armaments to the Indian armed forces accounting for over 60% of weapons.
    • It comprises the whole gamut covering the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.
    • India recently inducted the S-400 Triumf missile systems. Sukhoi Su-30 fighter aircraft, T-90 tanks, and the Talwar and the Krivak class stealth frigates are key weapons in the armoury of the Indian armed forces.
  • Areas of military-technical collaboration:
    • The BrahMos missile system was a successful collaboration of joint research, development, and production.
    • Science and technology, nuclear, energy, space have been key driving forces. But changes in interests and capabilities being fuelled by geopolitical differences are widening the divergence between India and Russia.
  • Bilateral trade has seen the two countries progressing from defence and energy to IT, pharmaceuticals, agro-industries, mineral and metallurgy, fertilizers, and infrastructure projects. India-Russia trade was valued at the U.S.$10.11 billion in 2019–20, but is not a true reflection of the potential that can be harnessed.

Key divergences:

  • Geostrategic Relations:  Russia is aligned with China and India is more anchored toward the United States. This dissonance was apparent in the Indian and Russian approach over Afghanistan.
  • B2B Partnership missing: India-Russia partnerships have not percolated to private sectors.
  • Pakistan Angle: Various examples like
    • Joint exercise by Russia in Pak barely a week after the Uri Attacks
    • Four Mi-35 Helicopters supplied to Pakistan.
  • A provocative joint India-Ukraine military exercise near Crimea.

The Current talks:

  • The inaugural ‘2+2’ dialogue between the Foreign and Defence Ministers of the two countries promises to provide new vitality to the special and privileged strategic partnership.
    • The uniqueness of this approach not only ensures result-oriented cooperation but also deliberates upon regional and global matters of mutual concerns and interests.
  • Defence, trade and investment, energy, and science and technology are a part of the agenda.
  • Conclusion:
    • The ‘2+2’ mechanism has become the standard framework of cooperation to widen collaboration and will help our two nations to deepen the engagement.
    • The Modi-Putin meeting has sent the unambiguous signal to the world that the India-Russia partnership is an incredible friendship ensuring stability and diversity.

Way Forward:

  • India and Russia need to work together in a trilateral manner or using other flexible frameworks, particularly in Southeast Asia and Central Asia. Their growing collaboration can be a force of stability and will bring more diversity to the region while strengthening multilateralism.
  • The two countries also need to look at peoples’ power — youth exchanges as well as deeper links in various fields including sport, culture, spiritual and religious studies.
  • Buddhism can be an area where both countries can expand their interaction, where peace and sustainability can act as a balm in this turbulent world.
  • At a time when global politics is in a state of flux, it becomes more important to have compatibility with geopolitical and geoeconomic realities along with the trust of the leadership. Therefore, this evolving political framework provides the necessary agility to the relationship in fine-tuning their differences and deepening their bonds.
  • A practical and result-oriented approach will pave the way for the most reliable partnership.




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