Columns/Op-Eds, In the News, Politics / Globalisation

“The Karzai Caper: What India Must Do With Afghanistan”

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Original link is here

HAMID Karzai is playing his final hand, or so it seems. Against the backdrop of his dithering over the Bilateral Security Agreement, President Karzai has embarked on another visit to India. This is not only an opportunity for Karzai to shore up support for his country post- 2014, but also for India to step up its engagement with Afghanistan, take steps to safeguard its interests and seek clarity on a number of dilemmas confronting it.

There are two posers in particular that India should be seeking to address. The first is the future of the US militarys role in the region. New Delhi is conscious of the fact that the larger Afghan polity should be comfortable with the contours of any future US role. Although currently there seems to be huge support for a US role post- 2014, Karzais obstinacy has led to an impasse.

Can India with its strong ties with the Karzai government and goodwill in Afghanistan play a constructive role to break this stalemate in a way that does not provide disproportionate space and influence to Pakistan or cause further Iranian disenchantment with the situation? Irrespective of an Afghan- US security pact, India should prepare itself for a scenario where it may have to look after its interests by itself. Kabul and New Delhi should also be looking at developing an understanding through which India can directly and independently engage with Pashtun tribal elders, provincial governors and even regional warlords to protect its investments.

India must also seek more security cover by the Afghan Public Protection Force ( APPF) for its projects. Obviously, given the security situation, India cannot demand without giving. It is imperative that India bear the costs for further development and training of this force which is currently largely borne by NATO. Therefore the second dilemma for India is to reach an understanding with the current Afghanistan government and yet ensure that this arrangement is sustainable beyond Karzais reign.

Maintaining the high level of engagement with Afghanistan with its obvious benefits for Afghanistan is likely to create a vested interest for whoever is in power in Kabul to continue the thriving bilateral ties with India.

Stepping up its support for the Afghan National Security Forces ( ANSF) is another way of ensuring that continued engagement with India becomes indispensable for any Afghan government. This assistance must not just be material, but rather one that builds local managerial and organisational capacity to enable Afghanistan to sustain such a force.

As the situation in Afghanistan continues to change and is likely to change even more dramatically in the future, India is faced with the choice of being a proactive game- changer itself or continuing to watch from the sidelines as it has for the last 12 years. Now is the time to shed its strategic ambiguity and to commit to an ever larger constructive role in the post- 2014 Afghanistan.

Books / Papers, In the News, Politics / Globalisation

Corporate Governance and Business Responsibility

An Empirical Assessment of Large Indian Companies

GIZ Study booklet

It is widely accepted today that the onus for business responsibility must lie with senior management and Board members of corporations. The contours of what constitutes ‘responsibility’ though are still under discussion and description. However, there is a broad consensus that this must imply integration of environmental, social and economic priorities within the business model and governance processes of companies.

The Board of Directors of any firm have a significant role to play in terms of providing strategic vision as well as performing critical oversight of business operations. Therefore any efforts at embedding sustainability within business operations, whether through mandatory or prescriptive frameworks, must originate at the level of the Board.

Additionally, the entire market ecosystem within which firms operate is also relevant to the business responsibility discourse. For instance, the performance metrics of production supply chains are often overlooked by companies. Even within large companies, oversight of supply chains, are limited to negotiations on price points and timelines. This must see radical transformation. Similarly, long term risk assessment frameworks around environment, social responsibility and good governance practices must become a part of decision making processes at the highest levels.

Lack of awareness at the level of the Board is not the only impediment to holistic integration of sustainability priorities in the case of large Indian companies. For enhanced community engagement to become a pillar of business operations, systemic policy hurdles need to be addressed (for example: inefficient licensing regimes in critical sectors).

In India, like in most other places, corporate governance and business responsibility tend to be viewed as being mutually distinct. However, this study shows that there is visible correlation between adherence to corporate governance regulations and business responsibility norms – which is precisely the paradigm of ‘responsible corporate governance’ that is referred to in this research report.

This study establishes that large companies that already have the basic mandatory processes and governance structures in place are more likely to also be the ones that tend to adhere to voluntary norms. Therefore, further analysis and research is required to study behavioural drivers at the level of the Board as well as the impacts of regulatory processes across and within sectors. On the external front, sustained effort is required by stakeholders to bridge institutional capacity gaps, in order to streamline and harmonise regulatory processes and policies with ‘intra-company’ mechanisms.

So clearly, two sets of core issues need to be addressed. The first, dealing with internal corporate processes; and the second related to the interaction of these with the regulatory environment and societal expectations. This study is the first step in analysing some of the above and beginning an engagement with multiple stakeholders to discover next steps and pragmatic pathways that would allow accelerated adoption of best in class responsible corporate governance practices by all and certainly by the large corporations that have a compelling impact on society, environment and development.

I would like to thank the Indian Institute for Corporate Affairs (IICA) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, for their continued support and guidance in the conceptualisation, and writing of this report. And, I would like to congratulate Vivan Sharan and Andrea Deisenrieder for their stellar work and very interesting research on one of the most debated themes of these times.

Samir Saran

Chairman and CEO, gTrade

In the News, Non-Traditional Security, Politics / Globalisation, Uncategorized



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Cyberspace transcends boundaries to provide unprecedented levels of connectivity and empowerment to states, institutions and individuals across the globe. This fluidity of the cyber- spheres pawns ‘cyber-gangsters’, necessitating cyber-security on the one hand while raising the spectre of a ‘big brother’ state on the other, according to the Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Mr. Kapil Sibal. Inaugurating the 2-day workshop he emphasised cyber governance as something of an oxymoron and a re-imagined notion of sovereignty was essential to develop an effective cyber security paradigm. The Indian National Security Adviser, Mr. Shivshankar Menon, who delivered the keynote address, said that the Internet is also the government’s chosen platform for socio-economic empowerment schemes. This makes India uniquely dependent on the cyber-sphere for its development – while at the same time exposing it to heightened vulnerability.

If the past is any indication, India’s growth and economic prosperity will be inextricably and intricately tied to the digital sphere. Hence, India’s proactive engagement in the global norm making process is important. India can and must be a rule maker and ensure that global norms pertaining to the cyber-sphere align with the opportunities this space has to offer its people. Additionally, the boundlessness of the cyber-sphere must be protected, but not at the cost of pluralism or access. Policy objectives must aim to build infrastructure and provide security and must seamlessly align with the inexorable logic of providing greater access through enhanced penetration.

Consequently, the Internet, for India and many countries indeed, is a means and medium of greater freedom and democratisation. Therefore discovering the median between access and security becomes a global imperative. Given India’s democratic ethos and the sheer volume of cyber-sphere it does (and will) account for, India’s policy responses which will inevitably shape the future of cyberspace, its management and governance.

It was in this background that the inaugural and most comprehensive ‘India Conference on Cyber Security and Cyber Governance – CyFy 2013’ was held at New Delhi on 14th& 15th October, 2013. Supported and guided by the National Security Council Secretariat, Government of India, Raytheon and the Bombay Stock Exchange, the event saw two days of engrossing debate, capturing the perspectives of over 250 international experts, parliamentarians, academics, industry leaders, media practitioners and representatives of the civil society.

The following key conclusions emerged from the discussions:

• The tension between “multistakeholderism” and multilateralism should be resolved to further a cooperative framework in formulating cyber-security strategies. It is only with the participation of diverse stakeholders that refined, legitimate and nuanced policy shall emerge. A unilateral approach without systematic and periodic consultations with, and inputs of, these multiple sets of stakeholders will be deeply counterproductive and can undermine the democratic nature of the cyber-sphere. Multistakeholderism is the mantra for devising articulate policy pathways.

• International cooperation is a must in responding to cyber-security threats and governance challenges. Conventions and treaties ensure agreed definitions on security issues, acceptable set of norms, confidence building measures and will eventually shape an international framework to manage cyberspace.

• Cooperation is beneficial in managing inter-dependencies that are inherent while seeking cyber-security, for which regional and bilateral cooperative measures can also be devised successfully. For instance, Internet fraud and related crimes can be a potential area of cooperation given the minimal political underpinnings.

• It was emphasised that cooperation could be compromised by the national strategic interest of major powers and by viewing this space as a new ‘zero sum game’. The tensions between great powers can undermine a multilateral approach to cyber-security and will have an asymmetrically negative impact on lesser powers.

• Public and private sector partnership (PPP) in policymaking is essential as the bulk of communications and certain critical information infrastructure networks are managed by the private sector. An information sharing mechanism should be created to ensure timely responses.

• The bulk of cyber-security costs are currently being borne by the private sector. Like all issues related to national security, the government must take the lead, incentivise and guide developments in this sector, and allocate specific funding. This funding should be spent on awareness campaigns, education, stakeholder consultations and capacity building initiatives in the near to medium term. Similarly governments should invest in initiatives that improve cyber hygiene and data protection. A critical skills shortage exists and there should be an emphasis on training ‘cyber builders’ rather than ‘cyber warriors’. PPP models and certifications regimes should be rapidly introduced to ensure both quality and numbers.

Governments must standardise security measures, protocols and surveillance processes in order to ensure that they are neither sector-specific nor applicable only to individuals or companies. Greater transparency around security processes will also increase user confidence and allow greater vibrancy in spread and adoption of cyber platforms. This is important as the Government of India, like many other national governments, sees digital last mile connectivity as the most efficient mode for government-citizen interface in social and related sectors.

• There is today a collision of narratives on National Security and Individual Privacy. While this debate is important to have, the ideal for any security policy must be safeguarding the private space of individuals and their freedom of expression. Governments have been unable to define and agree to a universal definition of “privacy” and due to the borderless nature of the Internet there will be contests and hence there are concerns voiced by many stakeholders that need to be addressed.

• Additionally, collective security often gets an unfair advantage over individual privacy. Some questioned the efficacy of these security measures and if the gains from surveillance are worth the costs to privacy and whether there are alternatives to safeguarding national security while keeping privacy sacrosanct.

• It did appear from the discussions that privacy and national security concerns do not necessarily have to compete with one another. Concerns over security measures can be addressed by embedding privacy presets into surveillance mechanisms ab-initio. Targeted surveillance has proven effective, but too much surveillance is demonstrably counter- productive. More investment is needed to ensure privacy enhancing technologies along with sensitising the personnel who deal with the data while conducting surveillance.

• Certain core ideals must be preserved and propagated in respect of privacy. And creating a universal common and robust approach to privacy should be a key global objective to work towards. Such a definition would necessarily be the basis for any future rules based cyber- sphere governed by internationally accepted norms.

The issue of verifiable cyber-identity is also a contested one – on one hand being necessary to prevent crime but on the other being prone to abuse. The issue of identity is intricately linked to the notion of anonymity. A third party management of identity verification is a possible solution but one that requires extensive trust building between the various stakeholders.

• Transparency and accountability in formulating cyber policies, empowering NGOs as pressure groups, widespread consultation, research initiatives, public participation, and a robust media are all needed in order to help formulate effective cyber governance and security architecture. An international cyber management framework can establish best practices and norms. This framework can also analyse risks and create deterrence mechanisms and alliances.

To quote the Deputy National Security Adviser of India, Mr. Nehchal Sandhu, “India has a national cyber-security policy, not a national cyber-security strategy.”Policy is the route to building strategy but strategy is the articulation of an assessment of objectives, needs and aspirations of what citizens seek in a secure and democratic cyberspace. CyFy 2013 is a first step in this process. It has initiated a plural and honest attempt to discuss, contest and discover contours of a national cyber strategy by bringing together domestic and international stakeholders and specialists, initiating the right conversations and encouraging debates that are critical to the formation of an enlightened cyber strategy for India.

Vice President, Observer Research Foundation

Chair, Communications and Digital Economy
Committee, FICCI

CYFY Conference Secretariat
20, Rouse Avenue, Institutional Area, New Delhi – 110032
Ph: +91-11-43520020 | E-mail:

Columns/Op-Eds, In the News

China’s aggression towards Japan is a global threat

Original link is here

PUBLISHED:23:03 GMT, 4 December 2013| UPDATED:23:03 GMT, 4 December 2013

On the 23rd of November China escalated its tensions with Japan significantly by declaring an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ).

While this zone may be a geographic span encompassing most of the East China Sea, its strategic shadow falls on the Himalayas.

The responses to this episode will shape the history of the 21st century.

Though more than three thousand kilometres away, this new Chinese posture may be well be India’s security frontline.

Pic 1

Dispute: This 2011 photo shows a P-3C patrol plane of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force flying over the disputed islets known as the Senkaku islands


The ADIZ claims almost the entire area of the East China Sea – a quadrangle comprising China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan – as an extension of Chinese airspace.

The way an ADIZ works is that it extends a sort of sovereignty, a type of territoriality to airspace beyond ones geographic territory. An aircraft that intends to fly through, though technically in international airspace has to notify the claimant.

Most countries have used the declaration of ADIZs to consolidate sovereignty, as both the US and Japan have contiguous to their own territories for defence purposes.

China’s claim, though, doesn’t follow the contours of its coastline but rather juts out – a prominent salient into the sea. In this day and age land grabs are completely unacceptable, sea grabs are becoming unacceptable, and China has jumped the normative gun challenging air norms to possibly buttress its maritime and territorial claims.

There are some interesting dimensions to this episode. The first is the reality that China is the big man on campus in Asia, the U.S. pivot notwithstanding.

Pic 2

Admission: Joe Biden admitted America is ‘deeply concerned ‘ about Beijing’s exclusion zone in the East China Sea

Two; China’s continental outlook is now turning to the maritime domain and its early 20th century Wilhelmine notions of territoriality are being unleashed at sea.

Third; China’s actions do not come from any public discourse or consultation process, internally or externally. China has established therefore, that it is fundamentally a unilateralist, acting through stealth.

And above all, China only respects strength. Japan demonstrated enormous gumption and fortitude during the Senkaku crisis, but President Obama’s vacillations undermined this response. Questioning alliance responsibilities at that crucial moment may have indeed emboldened China in its current gambit.

In the words of Chinese Foreign Minister Qing Gang, “The U.S. should keep its word of not taking sides on the issue concerning the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands and stop making improper comments”.


America’s deliberate violation of the ADIZ by two B-52 bombers was a first step that saw a steady escalation, by Japanese and Korean jets. A day later China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailed into the region and fighter jets have been deployed.

But yet again contradictory messages are coming out of DC. While using the air force to challenge the ADIZ, Washington has advised commercial airlines to respect the rules, all but throwing in the towel. The message from Beijing seems unequivocal “China will wait you out”.

China has an abundance of patience and resolve – and in its own view, it is on the right side of history. This portends trouble for India. If China declares an ADIZ in the east today, what prevents it from declaring the same over Arunachal, Sikkim or Ladakh? If that happens, Indian helicopters will require Chinese permission to land in Indian Territory. India cannot afford to allow this to pass.

The big question is, who will fly a challenging B-52 patrol for India over Arunachal, given that we do not even provide the United States with berthing rights? Given how supine India was at Dempsang, and the lack of public support for its position in the international community, India may find itself having to grapple with a far more ominous ADIZ with greater bite.


India must urgently explore a variety of options to restore deterrence vis-à-vis China. This first thing is to back Japan. The Emperor’s visit last week could have presented India with a moment of expressing solidarity and the impending visit of Prime Minister Abe in the coming month would be a useful time to do some plain speaking and strategic positioning.

But words alone are not enough. India has to work on a range of options including economic and hard options. These must include rationalisation and augmentation of its air force to ensure air superiority in each of its fragile border zones. It must also take a fresh look at reinvigorating its ties with Vietnam, Japan, Australia, Singapore and the littoral states.

Passive diplomacy is now not an option. It must engage with Taiwan, actively,across the board and especially on security issues.

As a last resort, the option of revoking recognition of Tibet’s accession to China, and the status of the Dalai Lama must not be discarded. Changing positions on geopolitical affairs should be a lesson we must learn from the wise mandarins in Beijing.

Ultimately this is a moment of truth for Japan: will the US take its alliance commitments to their logical conclusion or does an insecure and newly militarised Japan loom on the horizon?

This is also a moment of truth for India – where its increasing economic engagement with China must be located within a robust, security architecture – strength being the only currency China respects and it is the only currency of engagement with them.

Lastly it is a moment of truth for the United States; that alliances are absolute and need to be defended in deed and word.

While this analysis could be wrong, nothing is about to change till the Obama-Kerry duo play out the change they keep talking about, because whatever the U.S. has done so far, clearly, is not working. Emperor Akihito’s arrival in Delhi may have been an exercise in pomp and ceremony, but embedded deep within that visit was a menacing message from Beijing.