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The Hindu Notes for 23rd November 2018

Topic Discussed: The Hindu Notes of 23rd November 2018

Aligning the triad

INS Arihant’s inaugural sea patrol must spark a debate on the state of India’s nuclear deterrence

  • The INS Arihant, India’s first nuclear ballistic missile submarine that completed its sea patrol earlier this month, will contribute significantly to making India’s deterrence capability more robust. Submarine-based nuclear capability is the most survivable leg of a nuclear triad, and its benefit must be seen especially in the light of the growing naval capabilities of India’s potential adversaries. In this light, certain questions need to be addressed on the third leg of India’s nuclear triad, as well as major challenges for strategic stability in the southern Asian region.
  • Arihant’s missing links

  • While it is true that India’s deterrence capability is a work in progress, there is nevertheless a need to carry out an objective assessment of what INS Arihant can and cannot do, and the implications thereof. To begin with, there is no clarity on whether the first deterrence patrol of INS Arihant had nuclear-tipped missiles on board. If not, the deterrence patrol would have been intended for political purposes devoid of any real deterrent utility. Without nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles on board an SSBN (ship submersible ballistic nuclear) such as INS Arihant, it might not be any more useful than an ordinary nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN).
  • Second, even if INS Arihant had nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles on board, it is not clear what ranges they would cover. Reports suggest that it had the 750 km range K-15 missiles on board, which is insufficient to reach key targets in, say, China or Pakistan unless it gets close to their waters, which would then make the Indian SSBN a target. While the K-4 missile (3,500 km range) currently under development would give the country’s sea deterrent the necessary range vis-à-vis its adversaries, INS Arihant would not be able to carry them on board. The Navy would require bigger SSBNs (S-4 and S-5) to carry the K-4 ballistic missiles. In other words, deterring India’s adversaries using the naval leg of its nuclear forces is a work in progress at this point of time.
  • Third, if indeed the objective of India’s nuclear planners is to achieve seamless and continuous sea deterrence, one SSBN with limited range is far from sufficient. Given the adversaries’ capabilities in tracking, monitoring and surveilling India’s SSBNs, it would need to invest in at least four more. Maintaining a huge nuclear force and its ancillary systems, in particular the naval leg, would eventually prove to be extremely expensive. One way to address the costs would be to reduce the reliance on the air and land legs of the nuclear triad. Given that India does not have ‘first strike’ or ‘launch on warning’ policies, it can adopt a relatively relaxed nuclear readiness posture. New Delhi could, in the long run, invest in a survivable fleet of nuclear submarines armed with nuclear-tipped missies of various ranges, and decide to reduce its investment in the land and air legs of its nuclear deterrent, thereby reducing costs. While this might bring down costs without sacrificing the country’s deterrence requirements, inter-service claims might frustrate such plans.
  • Finally, the naval leg of the nuclear triad also poses significant command and control challenges. As a matter of fact, communicating with SSBNs without being intercepted by the adversaries’ tracking systems while the submarines navigate deep and far-flung waters is among the most difficult challenges in maintaining an SSBN fleet. Until such sophisticated communication systems are eventually put in place, India will have to do with shallower waters or focus on bastion control, which in some ways reduces the deterrence effect of SSBNs, as bastions would be closer to the ports..
  • Impact on strategic stability

  • INS Arihant’s induction will also have implications for regional stability. For one, it is bound to make the maritime competition in the Indian Ocean region sharper, even though the lead in this direction was taken by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) a long time ago. Hence, the dominant driver of India’s SSBN plans appears to be China's expanding inventory of nuclear submarines. The PLAN’s Jin class submarine with the JL-2 missiles with a range of 7,400 km began its deterrent patrol several years ago. Chinese nuclear-powered submarines (reportedly without nuclear weapons on board) have been frequenting the Indian Ocean on anti-piracy missions, creating unease in New Delhi. INS Arihant in that sense is a response to the Chinese naval build-up. Pakistan’s reaction to India’s response to China would be to speed up its submarine-building spree, with assistance from Beijing. Add to this mix China’s mega infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative, with its ambitious maritime objectives; and the revival of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, with India, U.S., Japan, and Australia.
  • This sharpening of the maritime competition further engenders several regional ‘security dilemmas’ wherein what a state does to secure itself could end up making it more insecure. The net result of this would be heightened instability for the foreseeable future. However, once the three key players in this trilemma — China, India and Pakistan — manage to put in place the essential conditions for credible minimum deterrence, the effect of the instability could potentially decrease. But it’s a long road to such an outcome.
  • What would further complicate the relations among the three key players in the region is the absence of nuclear confidence-building measures (CBMs) among them. While India and Pakistan have only rudimentary nuclear CBMs between them, India and China have none at all. In the maritime sphere, neither pairs have any CBMs. Given the feverish maritime developments that are underway, the absence of CBMs could lead to miscalculations and accidents. This becomes even more pertinent in the case of Pakistan, which uses dual-use platforms for maritime nuclear power projection. In case of a bilateral naval standoff, the absence of dedicated conventional or nuclear platforms could potentially lead to misunderstandings and accidents. It is therefore important for India and Pakistan (as also India and China) to have an ‘incidents at sea’ agreement like the one between the U.S. and USSR in 1972, so as to avoid incidents at sea and avoid their escalation if they took place.
  • Command and control

  • India’s sea deterrent also throws up several key questions about the country’s nuclear command and control systems. To begin with, unlike in the case of the air or land legs of the triad where civilian organisations have the custody of nuclear warheads, the naval leg will be essentially under military custody and control given that there would be no civilian presence on board an SSBN. Not only would the SSBN have no warhead control by civilians (i.e., BARC scientists), its captain would be under the Strategic Forces Command, an organisation manned by military officers. Also, given that the warhead would be pre-mated with the canisterised missiles in the SSBN, what would be the finer details of the launch authority invested in the SSBN captain? The SSBN captain would have the authority to launch nuclear missiles on orders from the political authority. However, is there a fool-proof Permissive Action Links system in place to ensure that an unauthorised use does not take place? There needs to be more clarity on such issues.
  • In sum, while INS Arihant makes India’s nuclear deterrence more robust, it also changes deterrence stability in the southern Asian region as we know it. More so, it is important to remember that the country’s sea deterrent is still in its infancy, and its path hereon is riddled with challenges.
  • Get the model right

    For state-sponsored insurance, governments should avoid insurance companies

  • World Bank data, in 2015, showed that nearly 65% of health-care expenditure in India is “Out of Pocket” (OoP). A report by the World Health Organisation has shown that around 3.2% of Indians would fall below the poverty line because of high OoP health expenditure. Thus, a national health insurance scheme like the Ayushman Bharat is welcome.
  • While the principle of insuring a vulnerable population is widely accepted, what is contentious is the model that the government has adopted — that of using insurance companies. High premiums are paid for these schemes. Ayushman Bharat, for instance, has enhanced the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) of the United Progressive Alliance government, to cover around 11 crore families with a yearly coverage of ₹5 lakh. Experts estimate this will require ₹25,000 crore per year, when fully implemented. Similarly, the Central and State governments jointly paid ₹17,796 crore for crop insurance (2017-18) under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).
  • The flawed model

  • Insurance works on the principle of pooling the risk of policy holders. But another common sense idea must guide insurance decisions. If an individual, corporation or a government can bear a certain quantum of risk by themselves, it is not financially sensible to insure with an insurance company. This is because administrative overheads and profit margins of insurance companies are included in insurance premium costs.
  • At least if the companies involved in the process are restricted to the public sector, government funds would only be going from one pocket to another. But at a phase when India is trying to promote more foreign direct investment and private sector participation in insurance, it is only fair to provide a level-playing field to public and private sector insurance companies.
  • However, recently in Jammu and Kashmir, when a compulsory health insurance scheme for employees was rolled out by the Central government tied to a private insurer, it raised eyebrows and was subsequently rolled back. Similarly, last year, insurance companies made a bumper profit of 85% to the tune of ₹15,029 crore on crop insurance premium under the PMFBY.
  • Another pertinent issue is finding reinsurers for government insurance schemes, a problem that is being encountered by companies on the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana because of high claims.
  • Costs of insurance companies

  • Typical insurance company costs include designing insurance products to suit customer needs; actuarial input to assess and manage risk; advertising and marketing; empanelment (of approved service providers such as hospitals); administrative expenses to provide prior approval of claims; and processing, which includes functions such as fraud detection.
  • However, of these, the first three are not applicable to programmes such as Ayushman Bharat which will be fully funded by the government as a blanket scheme. The government is also funding more than 80% of crop insurance. The last three functions, i.e. empanelling service providers, pre-approving hospitalisation of patients and subsequently settling the claim, are commonly outsourced to third-party administrators (TPAs) even by insurance companies.
  • Trust mode and cost cutting

  • No insurance company has the kind of financial resources the Centre and the States have. Hence, governments must consider bearing the risk by themselves — known as the “trust mode” — instead of using insurance companies as risk-bearers and intermediaries. However, in India, governments continue to pay hefty sums in premium to insurance companies.
  • This phenomenon was researched in 2015 by Srikant Nagulapalli and Sudarsana Rao Rokkam of the Andhra Pradesh University. Studying the Aarogyasri scheme introduced in undivided Andhra Pradesh by the late Congress Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy (the forerunner of the RSBY), they showed that the bid by insurance companies on such health schemes included a 20% margin for administrative expense and profit. By avoiding insurance companies and using TPAs instead, governments can save about 15%, or up to ₹6,000 crore per year. These savings will continue to rise due to rising premiums. Additionally, since premiums paid to insurance companies are transferred at the beginning of the year, there is an opportunity cost, which at current interest rates could amount to around ₹2,000 crore a year. The study also found the claim-to-premium ratio and customer satisfaction to be better in the trust mode than the insurance mode. It would also prevent exorbitant profits accruing to insurance companies in good cropping seasons as in 2017-18.
  • Those who recommend the use of insurance companies allude that the government lacks the expertise to manage insurance. While the “government has no business being in business” is the neoliberal mantra, insurance companies are a redundant layer in the government’s social security structure. The government has already proclaimed that it wishes to cut the intermediary through the JAM trinity (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) and direct benefit transfers. It has also indicated that it wants to optimise fund utilisation through the recently introduced Public Finance Management System. Shifting to the trust mode will be the next natural step in this path, not only saving taxpayer money but also benefiting farmers and the underprivileged instead of insurance companies.
  • Will the BJP lose Rajasthan?

    The BJP’s renewed recourse to emotive issues is an acknowledgement that it is staring at defeat

  • Will the BJP win in Rajasthan is like asking whether Narendra Modi will become the U.S. President. The reason for the imminent defeat of the BJP in Rajasthan cannot be attributed to a “normal trend” or “Rajasthan is a see-saw State” kind of arguments.
  • First, let’s look at candidates. The BJP could not change the number of candidates as its central leadership would have wanted, owing to a battle between Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and BJP president Amit Shah. Mr. Shah wanted to change at least 100 sitting MLAs; Ms. Raje allowed only 45 changes.
  • Next, governance. Ms. Raje’s government has been corrupt, non-performing and insensitive for the past five years. This government brought back memories of her previous tenure as Chief Minister (2003-2008). The mining scam, where over 600 mining leases were allotted without following due procedure, resulted in the Rajya Sabha being adjourned many times and brought shame to the State.
  • Employment figures

  • Further, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the unemployment figure in Rajasthan (13.7%) in October is more than twice the national figure (6.6%). Ms. Raje came to power promising 15 lakh jobs. She later changed “job” to “employment” and “employment” to “employment opportunities”. She proudly claimed that instead of 15 lakh jobs, her government had provided 44 lakh jobs. Her own Minister of Labour and Employment said in December last year that the the total number of jobs provided by her government stood at 2.17 lakh. A Comptroller and Auditor General report exposes her claims on employment. The Rajasthan Skill and Livelihood Development Corporation, the premier agency for skill training, could only achieve 48.90% of its target between 2014 and 2017. Placement data stands at a meagre 35.58%.
  • An example of the gravity of unemployment in the State can be seen from the fact that for the 18 posts advertised for peons in 2017 by the Rajasthan Assembly, among 13,000 applicants, 129 were engineers, 23 were lawyers, one was a chartered accountant and 393 were postgraduates. Farmers, daily wage earners, small businesses and traders have borne the brunt of demonetisation and the complicated implementation of the goods and services tax. Under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the number of days of employment stands at 50 instead of 150.
  • Both Mr. Modi and Ms. Raje can see the clear prospect of a looming defeat. The renewed recourse to emotive issues is a clear testimony to an internal acknowledgement by the party that on jobs and other parameters of development, the BJP is staring at defeat.
  • Other failures

  • The list of Ms. Raje’s mistakes competes with Mr. Modi’s own long list. Ms. Raje’s decision to merge schools with a low student count with larger schools within the vicinity (of 3-4 km) has led to the closure of 17,000 schools and has impacted over 5 lakh children.
  • Mr. Modi has not yet appointed a Lokpal, and Ms. Raje recently extended the tenure of the Lokayukta to eight years from the earlier five, causing a severe dent to the integrity of the institution.
  • If Mr. Modi tries to honestly find out about the actual scam in the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), he will see that in Rajasthan, two out of three farmers enrolled with the PMFBY have been left out. Of the 53,39,000 farmers of 41 tehsils in 13 districts declared drought-hit in the kharif season in 2017, and part of the rabi season in 2017-18, all of whom were covered under the PMFBY, only 19,76,000 farmers benefited from the scheme.
  • How the Congress and the BJP use their assets will determine who will win

  • Rajasthan is complicated because of the intriguing split-vote phenomenon which is bound to send analysts looking for all kinds of excuses if they intend to read too much into the Assembly election, hoping to get some traction for the upcoming Lok Sabha election. When was the last time you saw any State election with the poll slogan, “Modi tujhse bair nahin, par rani teri khair nahin”? The nearest would be the Delhi Assembly election when the Aam Aadmi Party had placed a banner on its official website stating, “Modi for PM, Arvind for CM”. That was also dropped after it was pointed out by the media. But you still find this slogan making its way into some newspapers. What does that tell us? It tells us that the Rajasthan voters are extremely upset with the sitting Chief Minister but they don’t want to conflate it with their sentiments on the Prime Minister. And that makes Rajasthan complicated.
  • The issue of State leadership

  • Rajasthan is complicated because there is no other State which exposes the fault lines on regional leadership the way Rajasthan does. While the voters in Rajasthan are eager to swing towards the young and energetic Sachin Pilot as a possible Congress Chief Minister, make no mistake, they are not swinging for the old guard, Ashok Gehlot. Yes, Mr. Gehlot is still popular among old Congress voters, but if that were enough, he would not have lost the election in the humiliating way that he did five years ago. The edge in any election is the swing vote, and all the votes are swinging towards Mr. Pilot courtesy the young voters. He is the prime asset for the Congress now, and Ms. Raje seems to be the prime liability for the BJP, for there is a lot of anger against her. This seems to be straightforward as far as State leadership is concerned.
  • Assets and liabilities

  • But what makes the Rajasthan election complicated is the fact that the national leadership equation is just the opposite of this. Among the voters in the State, Mr. Modi is the prime asset of the BJP, whereas Congress president Rahul Gandhi is the prime liability for the Congress. So, it is the asset/liability cross equation that makes Rajasthan an intriguing case study.
  • For the Congress, it is really easy to win Rajasthan provided it understands its liability clearly and uses its asset prudently. The party has to focus only on local issues and local governance. The moment it gives in to the urge of project its central leadership, it will end up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
  • For the BJP, it is the opposite. It knows its liability and will play its trump card: arranging many rallies by Mr. Modi. The more the Congress deviates from the Raje versus Pilot contest to the Modi versus Gandhi contest, the more complicated it will get. In doing so, it will walk directly into the Modi trap.
  • Focus on local issues

  • Will the Congress do it? Yes and no. While its State leadership, be it Mr. Pilot or Mr. Gehlot, is prudent enough to focus on local issues alone (just check how many statements have been made on Rafale, for example), the same can’t be said about its central leadership. Mr. Gandhi’s campaign is essentially focused on Mr. Modi, and while this is being seen as “aggressive” by his cheerleaders, the truth is uncomfortable. You must be wondering, why blame Mr. Gandhi when Mr. Modi’s campaign is about 10 Janpath rather than the performance of Ms. Raje or even his own Central government?
  • That is precisely my point. That kind of campaign is home turf for Mr. Modi. You go that way, and it will be his highway.
  • History points to a promising and impressive victory for the BJP in the State

  • There is no question of the BJP losing in Rajasthan. The State government has taken numerous initiatives for the common man. Let me cite two examples. The first is the Bhamashah Swasthya Bima Yojana which ensures that the needy get a health cover of up to ₹3 lakh. About 22 lakh people have benefited from this scheme. The second is the work done in education. All 5,000 gram panchayats in the State now have access to schools and inter-government colleges, i.e. schools till Class 12. That’s why the pass percentage at the school level has increased substantially, and Rajasthan has jumped from the bottom of the list in education to an enviable position. Before this, students had to travel long distances to go to school and often dropped out of school as a result.
  • Candidate decisions

  • By focusing on education and health, the Vasundhara Raje government has reached out to people who really matter. Those who are trying to malign her by saying she is not accessible or who question her style of functioning should substantiate their claims. The Congress is not able to criticise her with concrete examples. When the main Opposition party has to change its candidate three times in a crucial constituency like Bikaner, what does that tell you? At one point in time, the Leader of the Opposition went to the extent of saying he would not contest the election if the party did not review its decision on one candidate.
  • The central leadership of Rajasthan was forced to leave through the back door because its own partypersons were disgruntled in Delhi with the candidates. So, let’s not talk about style of functioning. As far as the BJP is concerned, it has successfully rewritten history in several States.
  • If you go by all the prepoll surveys, with the exception of the Delhi Assembly, these surveys got their predictions wrong as far as the BJP tally was concerned. In U.P., for example, the surveys said the BJP would not get a majority. They had the same predictions for Tripura and Assam, but look at the results.
  • What has also changed in Rajasthan is the successful outreach programme of the State government. Perhaps this was missing the previous time. But this time, the message has reached the people.
  • Nationalist sentiment

  • Rajasthan is very crucial to the BJP’s scheme of things. The people of the State have closely identified with cultural pride and a strong nationalist sentiment, which is in sync with the BJP’s ideological position. When the Modi government at the Centre is marching ahead on the path of development with national pride and with a strong cultural foundation, how can Rajasthan be left out?
  • Those who are talking about the electoral history of Rajasthan should revisit facts. Bhairon Singh Shekhawat formed two successive governments in 1990 and 1993. In 2003, the first government of Vasundhara Raje was the first BJP government of Rajasthan to get a clear majority and, in 2013, the BJP got a three-fourths majority for the first time.
  • So, history points to a promising and impressive victory for the BJP in Rajasthan.
  • Gandhi opposed Partition

    Blaming Gandhi for Partition and by implication lionising his assassin is the worst form of historical revisionism

  • I was shocked when a young Indian professional recently advised me to listen to the audiotape of Nathuram Godse’s speech in the court trying him for Mahatma Gandhi’s murder to get the “right perspective” on both Gandhi and Godse. An obvious admirer of Godse, he found the assassin’s rant blaming Gandhi for abetting Partition convincing, thus implying that Gandhi’s assassination was a legitimate act of retribution carried out by a true Indian nationalist.
  • It is very disturbing to hear of this revisionist version of Gandhi’s assassination that by implication justifies Godse’s action. It not only tarnishes Gandhi’s reputation, but also flies in the face of recorded facts.
  • In reality, Gandhi opposed Partition until the very end. However, the Congress leadership had increasingly sidelined him by the end of 1946. By that time, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel had come to accept the idea of Partition without even the courtesy of consulting Gandhi. Eventually, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) accepted the Mountbatten plan to divide the country.
  • On the morning of June 3, 1947, the day the Partition plan was announced, Gandhi told Rajendra Prasad, “I can see only evil in the plan.” Reacting to a question by a reporter whether he would undertake a fast to prevent Partition, Gandhi, uncharacteristically dejected, replied: “If the Congress commits to an act of madness, does it mean I should die?”
  • It is a matter of record that Patel, on the advice of States Secretary V.P. Menon, had accepted the inevitability of Partition by December 1946 and had signalled this to Nehru. Patel was convinced, as he later stated, that “if India is to remain united it must be divided”. Nehru was also eventually convinced that Partition was a necessary evil in order to neutralise Jinnah’s nuisance value and to establish a strong and centralised Indian state which would not have been possible with Muslim League ministries in office in undivided Punjab and Bengal.
  • It is instructive to note that at the CWC meeting that accepted the Partition plan there were only two dissenters, both Muslim. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan opposed the plan declaring, “You [the Congress] have thrown us to the wolves”. Maulana Azad, a trenchant critic of Jinnah and the Muslim League and fervently opposed to Partition, remained silent in deference to his friend Nehru who had moved the Partition resolution. Everyone else, including Prasad and Govind Ballabh Pant, voted in favour of dividing the country. Blaming Gandhi for Partition and by implication lionising his assassin is the worst form of historical revisionism. In fact, it is a crime, which all thoughtful Indians must condemn unequivocally.