Category Archives: Security
Many American soldiers served and died in the various bloody theaters of World War II. They were called upon by the people of America and the wider family of civilized nations around the world to defeat burgeoning, horrific threats to the global order. They enjoined what history has widely judged to be a just and necessary war. Hundreds of thousands of these heroes’ remains were duly brought back home to be buried by their families and friends in somber funeral ceremonies across the 50 states. While those war dead represented the greatest possible sacrifice to country at a critical moment in history, and also a tragic loss for countless communities, at least upon paying the terrible price they received the proper honor they deserved in a final resting place chosen by those who loved them the most after earning victory. In the 1940s and beyond their headstones would be adorned with inspiring inscriptions, soaring monuments, and beautiful flowers, or they could lie next to their brothers in arms in dignified venues such as Arlington Cemetery, their heroism to be cherished by the generations to come and most importantly, never, ever forgotten.
Yet the remains of too many of these brave souls unceremoniously languish even today under remote corners of Indian stone and soil, in the incongruously scenic mountains and fields of Arunachal Pradesh, a Northeastern state riven by contentious territorial disputes between the rising superpowers, China and India.
They were US Airmen whose planes crashed in the heat of battle, and the Great War is still not over for them at all. We have a good idea of exactly who they are and where they lie, but the descendants and friends of approximately 400 men have been innocent victims squarely caught in the crossfire of endless bureaucratic disputes between nations- *nations whose soldiers fought alongside them as allies in WW II, no less.* Government bureaucracies are preventing even basic access to the sites where these men lie, forever young. Meanwhile, challenging and complex as the solutions may be, the United States government has not fought hard enough for a clean resolution, which should disturb all Americans who still benefit from the fruits of the MIA soldiers’ ultimate sacrifice.
As an Indian-American in particular, I feel the pain and helplessness suffered by the wives, siblings, and children who are living and over time, dying without the simple satisfaction of closure that society owes them.
What will it take to right this injustice? Previous editorials in this space by Gary Zaetz, the leader of Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action paint a picture of tireless efforts, promising breakthroughs, productive archaeological surveys and digging expeditions, and minor victories on the rare occasion where a limited expedition turns up a small fraction of a soldier’s strewn body parts over 70 years after World War II ended.
The Pentagon has even sponsored a few ceremonies for a few of them. Many journalists, government leaders, and concerned citizens around the world have encouragingly offered support for the cause. But what sticks out most cruelly are the reams of red tape thrown forward by the halls of power in Washington, New Delhi, and Beijing which are stifling progress. Please read these moving editorials by Gary Zaetz here with critical updates to the story published here and here. Please take a few moments to scan the photos of the pilots and crew members, and look straight into the eyes of these young men and their families.
So what are the main challenges today? The key roadblock is the fact that China and India disagree about who the land belongs to, along with thousands of other miles of far-flung border lands throughout the Himalayan Mountain region. The two nations themselves have fought major wars in the 20th century over various little pieces of this turf in tragic pissing matches, with China defeating India badly, along with numerous smaller skirmishes that continue to this day. None of these have served to permanently settle the disputes over territory between these two nuclear weapon-tipped rivals. Hundreds of thousands of troops from both sides uneasily patrol the disputed regions in an ugly stalemate. The United Nations and the international community have been helpless in helping settle the disputes. Under the current postures of the involved nations, China will not allow peaceful expeditions to search for the remains safely behind a security cordon. India, viewing its role in the matter as subservient to wider engagement priorities in dialogue with China, has been unwilling to support the expeditions despite claiming outright that the territory is Indian. Perhaps understandably under the harsh realities, neither China nor India have decided to lead the discovery of American bodies. More vexingly, successive United States governments under administration after administration both Democrat and Republican have not taken full accountability for their own war dead either.
This should not stand. In fact, there is a duly appointed Pentagon office called Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) whose entire mission and reason for being is to find, recover, and repatriate the US military’s MIAs around the world. Unlike MIAs in Vietnam and elsewhere, where it may seem like finding them is sort of a “cold case,” there is more accurate information as to where to look in the case of Arunachal’s MIA soldiers. However, since 2004 communications and efforts of the Families and Supporters for Arunachal’s Missing in Action with the DPAA has resulted in limited progress.
The group has also earnestly reached out to US Senators, Representatives, State Department officials such as multiple US Ambassadors to India over time, senior Indian government officials such as retired Indian military officers, the Chinese Embassy in Washington, media groups, and others. Unfortunately, these communications have largely resulted in finger pointing about who is responsible for the lack of accountability in leading the long-overdue MIA discoveries. Over the last several years I have felt increasingly hapless due to the sea of red tape that has risen up.
We can certainly do better! I have contemplated what simple actions can be taken by concerned readers, regardless of where you live in the world, your politics, culture, or your religious background in the face of what seem like insurmountable challenges as large as the Himalaya mountains themselves. After all, this is purely a humanitarian issue with a potential solution in sight, a light at the end of the tunnel. You can join in by doing the following:
1) Join the Facebook page for the latest updates and offer your support in any way you can to this nonprofit organization, including financial.
2) Reach out with targeted messaging to the relevant government authorities individually, or as part of an organization you belong to such as local VFW or American Legion posts. Feel free to use the content from this editorial or others we have shared here as a guide, such as copying and pasting into emails, letters, or social media:
* The US Embassy to India https://in.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/new-delhi/
* The Indian Embassy to the United States https://www.indianembassy.org/
* The White House https://www.whitehouse.gov/
* Your Senator and Congressperson
3) Publish these letters and emails in local newspapers, newsletters, or social media outlets that you have access to.
4) If you can, set up meetings with government leaders who may have the power to assist in finding and bringing home the MIAs of Arunachal Pradesh.
5) Communicate any fresh ideas you might have to usindiamonitor or to Gary Zaetz, as you may think of new angles not yet considered for achieving elusive progress.
If enough people join this fight, the Arunachal Pradesh expeditions can continue apace once again with the approvals of all the relevant authorities- a long and hard slog in its own right so far led by a team including Clayton Kuhles, despite the government resistance. Indian-Americans, other NRIs, or Indians residing in India itself can join with this cause in solidarity. But of course, all comers would be most welcome.
The saddest aspect is that the loved ones of the US war dead will themselves be buried without the satisfaction of burying their own hero family members. This suffering is unnecessary and unacceptable, if there is something that can be done about it.
To some I understand that this may all appear to be such a small and unimportant priority from a long bygone era, when there are so many active problems going on in the world of today. To those, I would respond that if we patriots can’t take care of these little things as a society, then how can we possibly hope to tackle the grand global challenges society faces today?
I look forward to hearing from you on this conundrum.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindamonitor
While browsing the quite engaging war scenarios by the Infographics Show, I came across a video that describes in advanced level of detail what could happen if a potential US-India alliance came to battle a Russia-China offensive. This video is relevant for several reasons. Most importantly, many have come to believe that these two sides present the front lines of the new 21st century “Cold War,” which needs to be recognized as a new world order slowly replacing the previous Cold War and its unstable aftermath we are living through today. This is in fact even the topic of an upcoming novel by usindiamonitor. Secondly, the world needs to prepare for these new alignments.
Is this terrible war scenario likely in the near future? We don’t think so. But we foreign policy mavens should get mentally prepared for what it would look like, and this video does a very good job of laying out the likeliest possibilities in the heat of a battle involving millions of soldiers and affecting billions of human beings. It’s worth watching! If nothing else, you will learn what the capabilities are of these four powerful militaries when thrown onto the chessboard in a time of grave peril.
The FBI recently tweeted about the history of its famous, or infamous, 10 Most Wanted list. Out of curiosity I went online to check out who the current fugitives from the law on the list are. I was surprised to learn one of them is Indian-born Bhadreshkumar Chetanbhai Patel, a man who brutally murdered his wife by repeatedly stabbing her at the Dunkin Donuts where they worked in Maryland, and made a run for it, potentially abroad. Please see video above for more details.
I know that a lot of Indians and others around the world visit this site and don’t like these kinds of headlines giving us all a bad name. If any of you have info about Patel and are willing to call this one in, there is a reward of up to $100,000 waiting for you. I would love one of my readers to be the one to help nail this alleged monster’s ass to the wall.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
One of the many pitfalls of our current climate in America is the severe breakdown in identifying causal links between policies and outcomes. All too predictable in a country where science and logic are being trumped by emotions such as fear.
Let’s take an example from the 2018 frame. Forget the raging immorality of separating 3,000 young children from their parents at the US border and throwing them in cages using my hard-earned taxpayer dollars. Is it at least an effective policy?
The answer is of course, no. It ain’t working. We spend billions to protect our borders, billions to prevent illegal drugs from pouring in, and billions more to protect our cybersecurity. But America is a total and absolute failure at all of these aspects of protecting Americans, which is the federal government’s #1 job. American efforts in these areas are a complete joke and everyone around the world knows it. Locking up kids in cages doesn’t work, either.
Emotions are quite simply the reason why we are in the current state we are in. Americans are overall pretty uneducated, misinformed, and ruled by our lizard brains. We elect leaders who are disproportionately crooks that prey upon our emotions. The solution itself is easy: pursue policies that make logical and scientific sense.
I can end illegal immigration in 1 month. Requiring nothing more than manipulating the simple laws of supply and demand. Pass a law that any corporation, restaurant, bar, farm, cab company, family, or individual who employs illegal immigrants will immediately be thrown in jail for 10 years. Go out and arrest them en masse. Such employers are explicitly breaking the law by hiring workers under the table. Yet nobody ever goes after these criminals simply because they come out of the political donor class that fuels both parties.
But, uh, justice is supposed to be blind right? F*** the political donor class. After this swift administration of justice, let’s see if illegal immigration drops dramatically or not. Yes, the president and his family and his cronies would be even more knee-deep in trouble with the law than they already are, because among other projects Trump Tower itself was built by many- you guessed it – illegal immigrants.
Of course the policy will work. The supply and demand curves don’t lie. Illegal immigrants would be unable to find work in America again, and they’d stop coming here soon enough. But good luck keeping the child care, the factories, the farms, the armed services, the restaurants, the cabs, and the food supply running. Those are different problems for different days.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
We spend upwards of $600 billion annually on our military, and yet we do a subpar job in protecting our business and political interests from the Chinese, Russians, and others robbing us blind, hacking our elections, stealing the plans from weapons systems and federal government personnel files, etc.
The problem is structural. No entity is accountable for our cyber arena threat matrix- both offensive and defensive capabilities. There’s the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Pentagon, Homeland Security, CIA, FBI, NSA, and the list goes on.
Whose fault was RussiaGate? Whose job is it to respond? WE ARE AT WAR. We should be going on the offensive. And the future isn’t tanks, and jets, and carriers, and missiles. We already dominate those categories, and we are still left unprotected and vulnerable. We can’t even run a clean election or a free and truthful press, those most basic tenets of democracy.
The United States must create, ASAP, a new military branch on par with the Army, Navy, and Air Force called the United States Cyber Force. It’s not just land, air, and sea anymore. It must have cutting-edge technical and personnel resources to show overwhelming AND disproportionate force if any nation or terrorist group or criminal organization ever decides to attack America’s cyber infrastructure.
I’m writing a novel about this. But this is more important than that. It’s about patriotism, and it’s not partisan at all. We need to make it reality. Today. The clock is ticking, and no less than our democracy is at stake.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Donald Trump’s first tweet of 2018 made a huge splash around the world. It was that rare sort of Trump foreign policy statement that didn’t deny collusion with Russia, or taunt North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. It was about withdrawing US aid to Pakistan.
The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
My first instinct was to agree with the premise. I was shocked by positive truths while visiting Pakistan, but I have long thought that the United States should predicate the billions in military and civil aid to Pakistan on effectiveness and measurable progress towards eliminating terrorism and increasing economic development, respectively. It would be fair to take some of that aid away at this point. Pakistan’s government has proven over and over again that a large chunk of US aid will go to build up its armed forces against India and twist the spigot of American blood in Afghanistan to and fro. This dirty double game has been going on ever since 9/11.
Ending the double game is a noble goal. But it’s not so simple. The Trump administration is ramping up the US military presence in Afghanistan by thousands of troops, even as yet another American soldier was killed and four others critically injured there on the day of Trump’s above tweet. The longest war in American history continues even further into Year 17. We are in endless territory when it comes to US blood and treasure and the suffering of the Afghan people. We hardly know or understand who we are fighting and why. The media hardly bothers to cover that war anymore even when Americans die. It’s the textbook definition of mission creep.
Pakistan has been a beneficiary of this war’s largesse from the start, from Bush through Obama to Trump, partly because the US military supply lines run heavily through Pakistan’s ports, airspace, and roads. America pays dearly for the right to use Pakistan’s resources. Cutting off US funds to Pakistan could also result in an explosion of fire and fury as terrorists are unleashed from Pakistani territory and other parts of the world in retaliation by dark networks we aren’t very good at tracking.
Like most half-cocked Trump policy prescriptions, the foreign policy establishment in the United States has no plan prepared to follow through on the threat. The Tweet was poorly timed. How can you cut off aid to Pakistan when you need them for your war? Without winding down the war in Afghanistan, or being able to control Pakistani terrorists or nukes minus the local government’s help, Pakistan still has America by the balls. Even drone strikes in Pakistan require local human intelligence. These things cannot be separated. India’s rejoicing may be premature, and I’m not the only one saying so.
We shall watch now how it all unfolds.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
usindiamonitor was overly underwhelmed that the position of US Ambassador to India had been left vacant for many months since January 2017. That’s when former Ambassador Richard Verma last roamed the halls of the US Embassy and left behind not only the hot air of New Delhi, but also a legacy of forward progress in the US-India relationship. Obama’s pick was also much appreciated by many Indians worldwide as the first Indian-American to hold the post. Trump promised less than one year ago that India would be America’s best friend as he lit up a Hindu diva in New Jersey, stoking the hopes and dreams of innumerable Indian-American voters along with a wonderful lamp.
Do best friends leave Ambassador posts to one another unfilled for that long, especially if the relationship is as superlatively non-controversial and bipartisan as the US-India nexus today? Maybe not. But in June, promising murmurs circulated about a certain Kenneth Juster being appointed to the post, an unexpected announcement which nearly served to make up for the time lapse. Senate confirmation based on Juster’s qualifications seemed a given due to his tried and true negotiations with India. Opposition either domestic or bilateral seemed unlikely to cause real impact.
Yet several more long months of silence on this matter followed, as the White House and its attendant media were consumed by other, baser affairs. On September 5, Juster was finally nominated to be the 26th US Ambassador to India. We urge rapid action by the US Senate to confirm Juster without delay when he comes up to vote this week.
So, who is Kenneth Ian Juster?
Juster had overseas proclivities generally, and toward Asia specifically from an early age. As a Harvard undergraduate he studied abroad in Thailand, and served as a research assistant to Samuel P. Huntington, one of the foremost political science gurus in United States history. Juster’s resume includes substantive stints in both the public and private sectors, and in each area the work took him beyond the water’s edge. He came to know the levers and pipelines of federal bureaucracy at the White House, State Department, Department of Commerce, National Security Council, and National Economic Council. On the other side, Juster was respected by private sector colleagues at entities such as salesforce.com, power law firm Arnold & Porter, and private equity shop Warburg Pincus, all of which have global operations.
When it comes to US-India diplomatic relations, Juster is among the limited pool of Americans who have found themselves deep in the arena over the years- and yet became accepted as true friends of India by Indians. This pool is relatively small, shared by members such as previous Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, the aforementioned Richard Verma, the late Congressman Stephen Solarz, and former Ambassador Robert Blackwill. Unlike many in the US foreign policy establishment and particularly in the US State Department, these figures generally didn’t condescend towards their counterparts even if they had to play hardball. Indians have never viewed this as a given. Small wonder that Narendra Modi and his team approved of Juster’s nomination.
Juster is known for helping initiate a High Tech Cooperation Group between the two countries in the early 2000’s, at a time when technology trade and transfer were nowhere near the powerhouse level they have now reached. Today, it’s impossible to keep up with the daily flow of US-India tech deals, mergers, and acquisitions. Some of this is finally creeping into the military realm, including the potential for big-ticket US toys such as the Marine One helicopter and the F-16 fighter jet to be made in India, while American drones and other cutting-edge hardware may be sold to the Indian military, all for the first time.
Juster is even better known for what followed, playing a key role in the multi-year negotiations that culminated in the 2008 civilian nuclear cooperation deal, to this day a jewel in the crown of bilateral trade, but one which still has a long way to go to fulfill its promise. Nuclear exchange is nowhere near where it could be. Even so 2008 represented the end of a long and difficult climb since 1998, a year when India secretly tested nuclear weapons in the sands underneath the Pokhran desert, angering the United States, prompting sanctions against India, and setting the relationship back by years. There has been a steep climb since 2008 as well to address a myriad of concerns with the deal.
It won’t hurt that Juster has Trump’s ear and has for some years especially on economic matters. There are many challenges in play. A rising China and the bitter escalation with North Korea are going to affect the entire Asian neighborhood for the foreseeable future in this, the Asian Century. The nuclear exchange could stall on matters such as liability. Reduction in the flow of Indians coming to the United States to work and study under the Trump administration should be of serious concern to both countries. Intellectual property and the monitoring quality of drug manufacturing in India for US sales are in need of mutually agreed upon swim lanes. Afghanistan, which has been in turmoil for 40 years will rely heavily on US-India cooperation if it’s ever to stabilize. Future cooperation will also depend on how the United States and Pakistan deal with each other, an issue that India will study more closely than all others.
It is possible that Juster will be part of a much anticipated seismic shift, toward the first mutual defense treaty between the United States and India, befitting for the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest. There are many steps and pitfalls along the way, but we consider this eventuality to be inevitable the way things are going. Might as well get on with it.
Juster will have his hands full upon arrival in New Delhi. But for now, it’s time for the Senate to do its job and confirm the qualified nominee. This is also a very good time to thank Mary Kay Loss Carlson, the US Charge d’Affaires in New Delhi, for holding down the fort during the long interim period. We also applaud the Trump administration for making a good decision in this critical area of foreign policy. If only there were more of them.
Have you no shame, sir?
We all heard you say on the campaign trail. “I am a big fan of Hindu and I am a big fan of India.” We heard you tell us that the United States and India will be “best friends.”
You’re nothing but a so-called big fan, and a so-called best friend. Sad!
I hoped that I was wrong about you when you said those things about our community. Of course, I wasn’t wrong that you just wanted to score cheap political points without the work. I take zero pleasure from that. But it’s not too late. You can still prove your commitment to our community. You can still act like a leader in a time of crisis.
Cut to America, 2017. This land is your land, this land is my land…The Great City on a Hill, where people from around the world aspire to come to, work in, learn in, fall in love in, create a family in, form friendships in, and contribute to the great ideals of humanity’s leading light…
Cut to America, 2017. Two Indians, Srinivas Kuchibotla and Alok Madasani, were shot in cold blood at a bar in Olathe, Kansas by Adam Purinton on February 22nd. A third victim, Ian Grillot, tried to intervene and was also shot in the process. Grillot is a real American hero, standing up for the rights of his fellow men in an act of bravery worthy of America’s highest civilian or military honor. Kuchibotla is dead. Madasani and Grillot are recovering from gunshot wounds. Purinton is a racist murderer who deserves all of the pain and suffering the criminal justice system has to offer. Oh, and there’s also the ignorance thing: the two initial victims aren’t even Middle Eastern, which is what Purinton thought they were.
THIS IS UNDOUBTEDLY A HATE CRIME DIRECTLY CORRELATED TO THE IRRESPONSIBLE ANTI-IMMIGRANT, ANTI-MUSLIM, ANTI-MIDDLE EAST POLICIES AND RHETORIC COMING FROM DONALD AND HIS STAFF, like so many other incidents in our current epidemic of hate crimes going on around the country. Two Hindus and an American hero are collateral damage in a war of irresponsible rhetoric and broken toys. Our president influenced and emboldened the Navy veteran Purinton to pull the trigger with a thousand lines of bigotry.
The White House response was a whitewash, typical of the cowards in Occupy Oval Office. Minister of Information Sean Spicer bravely crouched into a defensive stance, like he does every other day of this new regime: “Obviously, any loss of life is tragic, but I’m not going to get into, like, to suggest that there’s any correlation I think is a bit absurd. So I’m not going to go any further than that.”
That’s all you have to say? Of all things, absurd is the word that comes to mind?
How dare you!
We could’ve been proven wrong in so many different ways, without even getting an apology. Donald had so many opportunities to earn our respect. Donald could have done a joint statement with Indian Prime Minister Modi, promising that he would do everything in his power to make sure justice is done for America’s “best friend.” He could have reached out to a crying mother to express sympathy, sorrow, and an ounce of humanity- or a grieving widow who is (understandably) literally afraid to even be in the United States. He could have invited flesh-and-(literally)-blood American hero Ian Grillo to the White House, or visited him at the hospital. He could have flown to Olathe to soothe a decent midwestern community that feels violated and ashamed by this incident. He could have gone on TV to express outrage at a murder in cold blood on his watch, at a time where he decries the crime and “American carnage” all around us; and yet we hear nothing from Donald but whining about the media and lying about how many holes of golf he plays – or MAKING UP terrorism in Sweden or Bowling Green when there is a real terror attack in front of his face. He could have looked the world in the eye and told us that violence not only against Indians, or Arabs, or Hindus, or Muslims, or immigrants of any type is unacceptable; instead, not a peep or a tweet out of Donald. The silence is deafening.
We all hear Donald now.
If this is how he treats his best friends, I can’t imagine what he would do for the rest of you.
Donald, why don’t you just be honest for once, and tell us point blank that you don’t give a fuck about us? I’m speaking as an AMERICAN here, for ALL AMERICANS.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
P.S.: Former US President Barack Obama’s statement after the Wisconsin Sikh Temple Massacre of 2012, when he ordered American flags to be raised at half-staff. I will never forget what a real friend to Indians looks like.
Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.
For most American families, “India” evokes such positive images as India’s wonderful cuisines, its many cultural treasures such as the Taj Mahal and the great Hindu books, Gandhi’s historic civil disobedience campaign against British rule, the epic accomplishments of Indian scientists, and the physical and spiritual benefits of the discipline of yoga. Unfortunately, for a small group of American families, numbering in the hundreds, India does not evoke such positive thoughts. They are the families of US servicemen killed in India during World War Two – servicemen whose remains still lie unburied there because of the Indian Government’s long history of callousness toward their humanitarian plight. For these families, who only want the Indian Government to honor their right to repatriate their loved ones’ remains for proper burial, “India” only evokes thoughts of frustration and resentment.
A fundamental aspect of basic human decency, shared by all religions and all cultures worldwide throughout history, is that families have not only a right but an obligation to honor the mortal remains of their deceased loved ones ceremonially with a funeral ceremony as soon as possible after they die. If families are refused access to the mortal remains of their loved ones, they are illegitimately deprived of the ability to exercise this right and obligation, and those who refuse this access deserve the severest condemnation. This right is well-established in both the Geneva Conventions and the body of customary international humanitarian law.
.An estimated 400 US servicemen still lie unrecovered at or near a multitude of World War II crash sites in northeast India. Since the turn of the millenium, 15 of these crash sites have been located, photographed, and documented by the American MIA investigator Clayton Kuhles. From the late 1970s until late 2008, and then from 2010 to 2015, the Government of India did not permit US Defense Department recovery teams into the region of India – Arunachal Pradesh – where most of the remains of US airmen in India lie unburied. For a brief time only (late 2008 until late 2009), the Government of India permitted only one of the many well-known crash sites in Arunachal Pradesh to be investigated for remains, a crash site located on a mountainside in the Upper Siang district near the village of Damroh. In late 2009 the UPA Government withdrew that permission, without a word of protest by the Obama Administration, before any human remains could be recovered. From early 2010 until the assumption of the Modi Government, a de facto moratorium was imposed on Arunachal recoveries. Even after the Modi Government took over, the de facto moratorium continued for well over a year, until the Modi Government, faced with bad publicity over this situation in the Indian press, finally relented and permitted some token recovery efforts.
.During the years (2010-2015) the Indian Government imposed a de facto moratorium on remains recoveries in Arunachal Pradesh, many close relatives of these airmen died, forever deprived by the Indian Government of their right, recognized by the Geneva Conventions (to which India is a signatory). to reunite with the remains of their loved ones killed in wartime, and give them the honored funerals they deserve. Faced with this violation of such a foundational principle of humanitarianism, I (a nephew of one of these MIA servicemen) founded Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action to lobby the Government of India to honor its obligation to allow the recovery of the bodies of these men from its sovereign territory, an obligation frequently supported by statements of Indian leaders, but almost never honored by action.
Secondarily, our efforts have focused on trying to get our own Government – the US Government – to pressure the Government of India to honor these obligations. The Obama Administration was more concerned with selling to arms to India, conducting joint military exercises, and concluding lucrative commercial contracts with Indian companies than with recovering our war dead. The Obama Administration even went so far as to make patently transparent excuses for the Indian Government’s inaction.
With the transition to the Trump Administration, it’s anybody’s guess whether President Trump will make recovery of our MIAs in India a higher priority. Disturbingly, when US Secretary of Defense Mattis recently talked with Indian Defence Minister Parrikar, published accounts of the conversation made no mention of US MIAs in India.
Those who counsel patience to the families of these men are tragically unrealistic. Many of these MIAs still have elderly brothers and sisters who deserve to have their right to bury their loved ones honored during their own lifetimes. These relatives do not have many years left themselves – patience is the one thing they cannot afford. They deserve to have the remains of their relatives repatriated NOW.
Founder/Chairman of Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action
Cary, North Carolina
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Now that Barack Obama has just left office and is no doubt miserably plotting out his post-presidential life in Trump’s America as a private citizen, it’s time to assess the legacy of his relationship with India.
Like that between any US president and India, this relationship game was pretty complicated. There were ups. There were definitely some downs. There were times fraught with peril. And just like in a cricket match, there were two distinct batting partnerships: Obama/Singh and Obama/Modi (which incidentally, has the holiest of Hindu words OM as its acronym), each of which had its own unique flavor. Through all of this, one thing is inarguable: Obama was the best US president for India, its people, its development, and its advancement in the nation’s 70 year history. It’s not even a close competition.
Getting There. Any discussion of Obama’s legacy vis-a-vis India must begin and end with one remarkable fact: Obama is the first president in history to visit India twice while in office. The below figure shows the number of times each one visited India since “Ike” in 1958, which I just learned was the first of the official American head of state visits to New Delhi. There have been only 6 since.
Looking at this chart, a few interesting things come to light; Kennedy, LBJ, Ford, Reagan, and H.W. didn’t even bother to visit India. Reagan had eight whole years to pay his respects to the world’s largest democracy, whereas the others had less time, in all fairness. Kennedy was assassinated early on. Johnson and Ford became presidents by default via assassination and political corruption, respectively. Nixon, the only one of these presidents to (sort of) threaten India militarily with Task Force 74, actually did swing by. Obama not only visited twice, in 2010 and 2015, but arrived as the chief guest at India’s 2015 Republic Day parade, the first US president in history to receive this honor from India.
Meanwhile, Barack and Michelle Obama chose to host Manmohan and Gurshuran Kaur Singh for the first official state dinner of the entire Obama presidency, cherry-picking the Indian Prime Minister over leaders from other close allies including the UK, Canada, Germany, France, etc. in 2009. While state visits in either direction are partly symbolic shows of pageantry, they do help to grease the wheels for real, substantive work to get done. It is clear that Obama, Singh, and Modi all directed their staff and agencies to work together and advance the cause of friendship.
Good Trade. The pulse of any bilateral relationship is the amount of trade conducted between the two nations. While the governments certainly cannot take all of the credit for these numbers, and even less so the heads of state, the vibrancy of the private sectors of both nations depend heavily on government providing some nudges in the right places, while not getting in the way too much.
US-India trade has been on a healthy upswing when it comes to both goods and services, and around the middle of the Obama administration, official statistics from the US Department of Commerce show that total trade crossed the $100 billion annual threshold. While this is dwarfed by, say, US-China trade totaling $659 billion in 2015, a $35 billion upswing in five years still isn’t too shabby. Go back a little further to 2004, and the US-India trade total was only $12 billion. There have been major hiccups, including significant trade wars that dragged on and played out at the WTO, and ongoing battles over intellectual property but we can expect bilateral trade to continue rising in the future.
Unprecedented Defense Cooperation. Perhaps more important than trade advances, another clear victory in the US-India relationship took place on the military front. After all trade between two countries halfway around the world depends on open and secure sea lanes, airways, communications, and a relative amount of peace. Some military cooperation is essential to keeping the goods moving.
In 2015, a surprising event took place. The Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, and government-run airline Air India answered an urgent call for help from Washington, DC in Yemen, by helping evacuate US citizens among others along with the Indians who were stuck in that war and terrorism infested country without any US military assets in the area immediately available to respond. This is the first time we could think of that the Indian military participated in rescuing Americans in a third country. While the US media mostly neglected this dramatic development, plenty of grateful praise was heaped upon India by the Obama administration and the evacuated Americans. This event did not happen in a vacuum. It took place after years of military cooperation, which made it possible in a highly dangerous situation to trust.
The two nations in 2016 signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), the first such agreement between them in history, and highly tailored for India’s sensitivities towards any sort of formal alliance, which smacks of colonialism. The US and Indian defense establishments have been distant for most of the last 7 decades. Now thanks to the LEMOA, they can officially share fuel and communications, ports and bases, cooperate in cyberwarfare and humanitarian operations, co-develop aircraft carrier technology, and even build US military equipment such as the Marine One helicopter used for presidential transport, as part of the Make in India campaign. Much of the credit for this unprecedented “strategic handshake” between the United States and India in the last two years must go to Obama, Narendra Modi, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, a noted longtime friend to India, and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. In fact, the Obama/Carter Pentagon has been the friendliest of any to India, including kickstarting the only country specific “rapid reaction cell” tailored to India cooperation. All this despite India not being a mutual defense treaty ally such as the treaty members of NATO.
Meanwhile, US-India joint military exercises and training exchanges have ramped up. The two nations’ air forces, armies, special forces, and most prominently, their navies are building powerful relationships through increasingly complex exercises such as Yudh Abhyas and Malabar. Malabar is now a permanent annual deep-ocean exercise that as of recently also includes Japan. While these exercises aren’t explicitly meant to threaten any other nation, it’s quite clear that China and Pakistan have taken note, and have been spying on them with a dose of concern. Speaking of spying, India and the United States are now jointly monitoring the movement of Chinese submarines and other assets in the Indian Ocean. The US-India naval partnership is now, in our estimation, the most powerful naval partnership in the world.
All of this means that India can now continue developing into an economic and military powerhouse right behind China, unhindered, without needing to worry too much that the hostile neighbors surrounding it, especially BFFs Pakistan and China, can convincingly halt this rise while America has its back. Meanwhile, the United States gains a partnership in Asia to help counterbalance China. Before Barack Obama came into power, this business had not been settled.
Nobody questions that it’s settled now, even after a new US administration has transitioned in.
The Personnel Front Indian leaders couldn’t possibly say nicer things about the previous Defense Secretary, Ash Carter. But he wasn’t alone. Others among Obama’s appointees, including US Navy Admiral Harry Harris, Jr., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal worked tirelessly on India’s behalf at Obama’s direction, and all of them spent time in India with their counterparts, business leaders, non-profits, and school children.
But the jewel in the crown for Indians everywhere was Obama’s appointment of one of our own, Rich Verma, as the US Ambassador to India. The first Indian-American to ever occupy this prestigious role, Verma moved the ball across the goal line since his appointment in September 2014. The US-India relationship finally turned the corner for the first time after almost 7 decades of drift. Imagine in this devastatingly polarized time, that his confirmation was unanimously approved by the US Senate, a sign of respect from both Republicans and Democrats for Verma’s long diplomatic career. In New Delhi, Verma shepherded a dizzying array of initiatives on behalf of the United States, including on the longtime bugbears, nuclear energy cooperation and climate change cooperation. India rightly believes that it’s unfair for the United States, which has been leading the planet’s defiling and environmental demise for centuries before India was even a country, to dictate environmental austerity on India. The United States responded with financial and technological assistance in areas including solar energy. US nuclear suppliers are now active in helping India build up its plant capacity after many years of disagreement and inaction, especially on liability concerns. This is important, because without India’s participation, there is no hope to reverse climate change.
All of this aside, when a brown man appointed another brown man to lead the relationship with India, India sat up and took note, proud to be dealing with its native son across the table. Many other Indian-Americans were given prominent roles in the Obama administration, finally bending toward being in line with the community’s achievements outside of government: Surgeon General Vivek Murthy faced a brutal yearlong confirmation battle largely due to the NRA’s dislike of his calling mass shootings an American epidemic, but was appointed anyway; Ajit Pai was appointed an FCC Commissioner (and is now the new FCC Chair); and Aneesh Chopra was the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Nisha Biswal was promoted at State, as mentioned before. There are many others.
Tired of Pakistan’s Games Much as I loved visiting Pakistan and the Pakistani people, the US government has been growing exceedingly bored and tired with the Pakistani government’s dangerous games. These include providing disgraceful succor to Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists who have harmed or intend to harm both US and Indian interests. When the Obama administration showed the courage to eliminate Bin Laden without informing the Pakistani government, it proved to India that the longstanding US policy of fierce courtship with Pakistan was on the rocks. The US-Pakistan relationship (by the way, “us-pak monitor” would be a very interesting site!) has been the most intractable problem in the US-India relationship until recently. Now that Pakistan’s games have largely removed the country from US favor, and with withdrawal from Afghanistan US troops no longer rely on Pakistani ports and supply lines, it created a stategic opening for unprecedented cooperation between Obama’s America and India with less concern for Pakistan’s feelings. This could of course change, but I haven’t seen good signs from Islamabad in this regard. Pakistan has been curling deeper and deeper into China’s warm, welcoming, but costly embrace.
The Worst Moments It wasn’t all wine and roses in the US-India relationship during Obama’s presidency. The darkest stain was the 2013 dustup over Devyani Khobragade, the consular officer at the Indian Consulate in New York who was arrested for underpaying and mistreating her domestic help. Both sides completely bungled this. It somehow turned into a major international incident, bringing out all that was wrong in the US-India relationship, like Washington’s heavy hand and India’s deep insecurities and mistrust. The incident caused the cancellation of numerous high-level meetings, the halt of major projects, and a spiteful war of words between the two nations. Nobody came out of it looking good from either the US government or Indian government, all of whom utterly failed to resolve the crisis even after it escalated to greater and greater heights for multiple months. It was all shameful and could have been easily prevented, as I’ve written before, with a single, quiet, closed door meeting between friends. Instead, we got amateur hour from both sides, and witnessed diplomacy at its worst.
There is no doubt that Khobragade’s superiors should have shut her behavior down to start with; then when they failed to, the United States should have worked out a deal to quietly deport her, under the radar, with Indian cooperation. Instead, she was arrested and publicly shamed and treated somewhat roughly in detention, like many who spend time in American jails. India swiftly retaliated in a number of ways, such as removing traffic barricades near the US Embassy, revoking US diplomats’ duty free liquor privileges, issuing calls to arrest the domestic partners of gay US diplomats in India from shockingly high levels of Indian government, and violent anti-US riots. None of this should have happened, and we can blame both the Obama administration and Singh administration for it.
Then there was the brain-dead Modi visa ban. It might be hard for some to remember, but current Indian Prime Minister Modi was totally banned from visiting the United States at all by the US Congress due to a little-known and bizarre law on religious freedom for a whole decade before assuming national office. This visa ban was enforced as a result of Modi’s terrible management at best, and condoning at worst, of Hindu-Muslim riots that caused the deaths of more than 1,000 people in the state of Gujarat while he was Chief Minister. While Modi’s performance during the Gujurat riots constitute his worst days as a leader and a human being, the US visa ban was stupid and targeted, and did not apply to any other foreign politicians who have done so many worse things. In fact, Modi was the only one targeted by this law. Many believe it was a plot to please Pakistani lobbyists. In this case as well, nobody came out looking good, and unnecessary resentment was caused toward the Indian people. While Modi became a head of state, and therefore earned a bullet-proof passport allowing him to go anywhere, the resentment among many Indians has continued. Obama’s administration should have tried to put an end to it.
The Obama-Modi (OM) Years On the flip side of that, the two-and-a-half years of the Obama-Modi partnership have been so productive that most people can be forgiven for forgetting the visa ban even existed. Today, the US-India relationship is firing on all cylinders, and credit should go to Modi as well as Obama. The two hit it off early on in a heady and unashamed bromance for all the world to see, and continued to grow closer both as friends and as enterprise partners. Their praise of each other in various other venues was copious and sincere.
Some of the diplomacy between the two men was transcendental. In Time magazine’s 2015 issue on the world’s 100 most influential people, Obama took the unusual move of personally penning Modi’s entry, “India’s Reformer-in-Chief.” There was of course Obama’s seat next to Modi at India’s Republic Day parade. That entire trip began with a breach of protocol, as Modi waited for Obama on the airport tarmac and gave him a famous hug right off of Air Force One (pictured). There was also the Mann Ki Baat radio show, Modi’s weekly address to the Indian people, where the Prime Minister quite casually called his guest by his first name, and implored millions of listeners to follow the example of “his good friend” Barack who was lovingly raising two girls, with no son, and if the most powerful man in the world can do that, why couldn’t Indians give their daughters equal respect? There was also Obama’s speech at North India’s Siri Fort, which was unforgettable for its full-throated defense of women’s rights, in an era during which Indian women continue to suffer a heap of indignities, from low pay, poor medical care, abuse in the home from husbands and in-laws, and rapes and gang-rapes on the streets, often without justice. This speech was so powerful, and created such a far-reaching debate in the media and political establishment, I have no doubt that it made a difference.
Then there was the first Obama-Modi hotline, or 24/7 secure line of communication set up between Washington and New Delhi in a sign of the prestige being given by both countries to one another. At launch, this was India’s first and only hotline, and only the fourth for the United States after the UK, Russia, and China. Media outlets reported that it was one final phone call from Obama to Modi that sealed a flailing India’s decision to sign the Paris climate change agreement. There were also 9 separate one-on-one meetings in just the short period when both Obama and Modi were in power.
The Future? The United States and India have turned the corner. This means that the relationship has advanced to the point where it is unlikely for the progress to be completely undone under any new administration. While Trump has business interests in India, and has even said that the two countries “are going to be best friends,” a statement beyond anything Obama said, Trump is all over the place, and his policies are unpredictable. However, observers of the bilateral relationship can take heart in knowing that Trump’s obsessions with Islam, Mexico, NATO, and Russia do not interfere with any of India’s core interests. We are still bullish on the US-India relationship due to ever-converging values. We will save progress in the Trump-India nexus for the next article.
I have read many pieces in the US media about Obama’s long-term legacy. There is nearly zero mention in these lengthy assessments of Obama’s India policy. Part of the reason for this is the India relationship is seen as a bipartisan priority among American politicians who all want a piece, and therefore isn’t always controversial like other areas. Another reason for the lack of attention on US-India progress is a severe underestimation of its importance. India is now a key player in US global strategy, especially as relates to balancing against terrorists, Russia, and China for the foreseeable future. Barack Obama is not the sole reason, as his staff, Indian leaders, and previous presidents, especially Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, were excellent for India too.
But Obama has taken things to the next level. He has lit a lamp that should continue shining for the rest of this century. For all of these reasons, it is very much fair to name him as the best US president for India in history so far.