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Manvendra Singh Blog - DSA's Editor-in-Chief

DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! (November-2019)

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After much humming and hawing, India and Pakistan finally signed along the dotted line to activate the much announced Kartarpur Gurudwara Corridor. Media reports had long back said that the signing would be delayed. So much so, some even wondered whether it would be done at all. Pakistan had once announced that all Indian pilgrims would pay a dollar fees, but now that too has been waived by an announcement made by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The on-off, and on again, nature of the Kartarpur Corridor issue truly captures all that has gone amiss in the running of a once hyped South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

The smaller members are completely on the mark when they say that the potential and scope of SAARC has been stymied by the competition between the two largest members, India and Pakistan. The actual fact is that while these two maybe the largest members but between the two the size differential is so enormous that it is one-sided. Pakistan is about one-seventh the size of India, but since its birth, its differences with India have made for an endemic competition between Islamabad and New Delhi. This has truly thwarted the growth of SAARC, from its very inception.

Neighbours everywhere in the world have differences. Even tiny seemingly peaceful island neighbours can create a conflict situation, from air space to fishing rights to anything that catches the fancy. European neighbours have, of course, the longest history of conflict, including wars that have lasted decades. Yet they came tougher to create a truly European Union, allowing for seamless travel between their countries, a common currency, even fairly joined foreign policy initiatives. What truly sets them apart from other associations is the promotion and facilitation of trade amongst member states.

Trade is, after all, the most important factor for economic growth. It is the easiest economic lesson learnt from history, and predates the birth of the modern nation state. Trade happened between ancient India and Rome, between China and East Africa, and amongst the various empires that existed in what is now the Western Hemisphere. The growth of imperialism was fuelled by a desire to circumvent the prevailing trade monopolies, finding new ones, and dominating newly found areas of production. Thus proving a boon for European imperial capitals and their citizenry. Those empires are long gone, but the logic of trade as an irreplaceable fuel for economic growth remains.

SAARC could learn lessons from ancient times, and modern ones, to realise its potential, thus sidestepping the minefields that it has laid for itself, and draw out an equitable trade regime amongst the member states. There is no gain in individual members entering new trade blocs outside of the region, hoping to circumvent local strangleholds. It must be remembered that the oldest logic of trade begins with exploiting geography, that is, beginning from the nearest and easiest routes, and then expanding further. South Asia is blessed that it already has ancient, land and maritime, trade routes. The wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented, only attitudinal changes. It won’t be long before trade overrides terrorism, the biggest bugbear between the two largest SAARC members. Once people begin to see gains, growth potential will certainly be realised.

 

DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! (October-2019)

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Raksha Mantri Sh Rajnath Singh has become the first to hold that office who has flown a sortie in Light Combat Aircraft Tejas. The indigenously developed LCA Tejas holds its own importance to many people connected with the Air Force, and Indian defence industry and management generally. What it above all stands for is the ability of Indian scientists and engineers to master critical technologies so as to make a modern combat aircraft. That is a matter of pride as the country approaches its annual Air Force Day on 08 October.

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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! (September 2019)

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After a long stand-off, the Iranian tanker, Grace 1, has set sail from Gibraltar, heading eastbound, allegedly for Syria. Which is where the root of this crisis lies! Washington tried to prevent the tanker from sailing and in fact asked for it to be handed over. The Gibraltar courts would have none of it, and let it free after weeks in detention. In the meantime it has been renamed Adrian Darya-1, why so is not such a mystery after all given the nature of the crisis.

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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! (August 2019)

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The country is currently in the midst of marking the 20th anniversary of conflict in Kargil. Many events are to be held and memories rekindled about the brief but very brutal war fought on the heights of Kargil sector and the brave to be always remembered. For that is the duty of those who remain behind. And, also their duty to keep in mind the primacy of national security and all that entails in making it a success. On that account a lot more needs to be done.

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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! (July 2019)

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Despite years of Civil War with its Tamil minority, a brutal insurgency in the South involving its Sinhala majority, nothing quite prepared Sri Lanka for the sheer scale and surprise of the 21st April Easter Sunday multiple attacks. Everything about them was like new, unexpected, and horrifying in its impact. The repercussions of which are going to be long lasting, both in terms of the society and the state. An over reach by the state has already been reported, but at this early stage of the investigations, this is only to be expected in the aftermath of what is a truly frightening scenario for Sri Lanka.

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