a) The great American arms bazaar

In a joint press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the White House earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump made up the name of a non-existent fighter plane, “F-52,” while lauding the F-35 fighter sale in a new defence deal with America’s NATO ally. While the gaffe yielded a heavy round of Twitter humour at the expense of Mr. Trump, what has not been adequately noticed is the significance of weapons sales in his diplomatic pitch throughout. He has been an aggressive salesman for American defence manufacturers during his foreign tours and to visiting heads of foreign countries in his first year in office. Promoting the sale of U.S. arms could soon become a key result area for the country’s embassies around the world, according to a Reuters report earlier this month. Arms supply has been a key tool of U.S. strategy for years. Mr. Trump wants to make arms sale itself a strategy.

The existing policy

Arms transfers by the U.S. happen primarily through Foreign Military Sales, Direct Commercial Sales, and Foreign Military Financing, all controlled by stringent laws, the most important of them being the Arms Export Control Act. The U.S. government sells defence equipment worth about $40 billion every year under Foreign Military Sales. Direct Commercial Sales are worth around $110 billion a year, in which a foreign buyer and the American seller negotiate the deal directly. Foreign Military Financing is done through American grants. Of the roughly $6 billion under that head, $3.7 billion goes to Israel each year. Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan have been other significant recipients of Foreign Military Financing in recent years, followed by 50 countries that receive smaller amounts totalling $1 billion. Arms supplies to foreign countries is critical to the U.S. for at least three reasons: it is a key leverage of global influence, it reduces the cost of procurement for the U.S. military by spreading the cost, and by employing 1.7 million people, the defence industry is a key component in the country’s economy and consequently, its politics. But the sale of weaponry, traditionally, is guided less by commercial considerations rather than strategic ones. The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the Department of State is the lynchpin of this process; the other players are the Department of Defence, the White House and the U.S. Congress. Each proposed sale is vetted on a case-by-case basis and approved “only if found to further U.S. foreign policy and national security interests”, according to the Bureau’s policy. The actual process of a sale could be long-winded, and could take months even after it is approved in principle, an example being the ongoing negotiations to acquire 22 Guardian drones for the Indian Navy from American manufacturer General Atomics. “We are very concerned that our partners have the ability to buy what they seek, within their means,” a U.S. official explained. “So we assess the capability. If someone asks for [the] F-35, we have to ensure that they have the money, the capability to operate it and protect the technology as well as we can. So if we conclude that we cannot sell F-35s, we have at least 10 different types of F-16 fighters that we match with the capability and importance of the partner country.” The process of initial assessment of selling arms to any country involves the State and Defence Departments. There are around 100 military officers attached to the State Department and around the same number of diplomats assigned to the Pentagon, who help in such decisions. It is also sought to ensure that the systems sold to one country do not end up with a third party. The White House, through the National Security Council, plays a key role in this process. Once all of them are on the same page on a particular proposal, Congressional leaders of the House and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations are informally consulted. Once they are on board, the sale is formally notified. Significant sales require a tacit approval by lawmakers.

Changes Mr. Trump wants

Mr. Trump has not hidden his disapproval for the American strategy, which he thinks has been a big failure. His views on defence partnerships are in line with this thinking. He wants to reduce the Foreign Military Financing to the least, except for Israel. He wants American partners to buy more weapons from it, and it is also a move towards reducing trade deficits with key partners such as South Korea and Japan. He is hammering NATO partners to ramp up defence spending and believes that all these partners have taken the U.S. for a ride. He has little patience for linking human rights to arms sales. The fact also is that the actual practice of American arms supplies does not often live up to its professed objectives. The Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine weapons supplies for Syrian rebels reached the Islamic State and al-Qaeda for instance, and Mr. Trump has ordered the discontinuation of the programme. So, overall, the President is pushing for a liberalisation of U.S. arms sales to partner countries, guided less by any grand strategic vision, but by commercial and domestic political calculations. He is seeking to flip the equation between commercial and strategic calculations behind arms sales in favour of the first. The security establishment and Congress will not easily accede to major changes in existing U.S. laws in order to further Mr. Trump’s ideas. However, Mr. Trump holds the last word on defining what U.S. national interests are, and his thinking could turn out be an opportunity for India, one of the largest importers of major arms. India has bought $15 billion worth of defence equipment from the U.S. over the last decade, but Indian requests for arms often get entangled in the U.S. bureaucracy for multiple reasons. The honorific title of ‘major defence partner’ notwithstanding, the traditional American propensity to link sales to operational questions such as interoperability and larger strategic notions dampens possibilities. India’s robust defence partnership with Russia is a major irritant for American officials. If Mr. Trump manages to emphasise the commercial benefits of arms sales, and de-emphasise the strategic angle, it could lead to a change in the dynamics of the India-U.S. defence trade, and bilateral trade in general. India, always wary of military alliances, will be more comfortable with weapons purchases as commercial deals. For America, India could be a reliable, non-proliferating buyer of its arms. The U.S. also has a trade deficit with India. It was the out-of-the-box thinking of a President that led to the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal. With his unconventional thinking, could Mr. Trump offer F-35s to India?

b) Time for clarity: on Doklam stand-off

Five months after the government claimed the victory of “quiet diplomacy” to bring the 73-day stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops at Doklam to an end, the contours of the actual agreement and events that have followed remain a mystery. On August 28, the Centre had issued a statement on a mutual decision for Indian and Chinese troops to disengage and withdraw from the part of the Doklam plateau disputed between China and Bhutan that had been the scene of the stand-off. A second statement from the Ministry of External Affairs the same day said the verification of the disengagement by both sides from the “face-off” point, which included the withdrawal of troops, road construction equipment and tents, was “almost complete”. However, last week the Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, said Chinese troops are in parts of Doklam they had hitherto not manned, and while the People’s Liberation Army infrastructure development was “temporary” in nature, “tents remain, observation posts remain” in the disputed area. The MEA, which had maintained that there was “no change” in the status quo, also appeared to shift position, saying that New Delhi was using “established mechanisms” to resolve misunderstandings over the Doklam issue. While discretion and quiet negotiations are useful, especially when sensitive matters along the India-China Line of Actual Control are being discussed, such divergence in public statements also fuels speculation that something deeper and more troubling exists on the ground. The government must verify if satellite photographs showing much more permanent infrastructure in north Doklam, not far from Indian posts, that are the subject of reports in the media, are accurate and whether they pose a new threat to India. Roiling matters further are the broader statements made in New Delhi last week. Speaking at the MEA’s annual Raisina Dialogue, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar put China’s rise first on a list of “major disruptors” in the region. General Rawat said that the “time has come” for India to “shift focus” from its western border with Pakistan to its northern border with China. This is bound to raise eyebrows given that the boundary with Pakistan has seen heavy shelling and rising military and civilian casualties in the past year. Similarly, Beijing’s latest belligerent statements that all of Doklam belongs to China and is under its “effective jurisdiction” could be indicators that the agreement announced in August is unravelling. If so, a Doklam-style troop build-up in the future must be avoided at all costs. It is imperative that the government proceed with caution in step and consistency in statement, and drop the ambiguity it has embraced since the Doklam stand-off began in June.


1) Gaffe

Meaning: An unintentional act or remark causing embarrassment to its originator; a blunder.

Example: “In my first few months at work I made some real gaffes”

Synonyms: Blunder, Mistake

2) Adequately

Meaning: To a satisfactory or acceptable extent.

Example: “The resources required to prepare adequately will be extensive”

3) Aggressive

Meaning: Behaving or done in a determined and forceful way.

Example: “We needed more growth to pursue our aggressive acquisition strategy”

Synonyms: Assertive, Forceful

Antonyms: Submissive, Diffident

4) Embassies

Meaning: The official residence or offices of an ambassador.

Example: “The Chilean embassy in Moscow”

Synonyms: Consulate, Legation,

5) Stringent

Meaning: (Of regulations, requirements, or conditions) strict, precise, and exacting.

Example: “Stringent guidelines on air pollution”

Synonyms: Strict, Firm

Antonyms: Lenient, Flexible

6) Procurement

Meaning: The action of obtaining or procuring something.

Example: “Financial assistance for the procurement of legal advice”

7) Lynchpin

Meaning: A person or thing vital to an enterprise or organization.

Example: “Nurses are the linchpin of the National Health Service”

8) Vetted

Meaning: Make a careful and critical examination of (something).

Example: “Proposals for vetting large takeover bids”

Synonyms: Screen, Assess,

9) Long-winded

Meaning: (Of speech or writing) continuing at tedious length.

Example: “A long-winded question”

Synonyms: Lengthy, Long

Antonyms: Concise, Succinct, Laconic

10) Drones

Meaning: A low continuous noise that does not change its note.

Example: “The drone of an engine”

11) Concerned

Meaning: Worried, troubled, or anxious.

Example: “The villagers are concerned about burglaries”

Synonyms: Worried, Anxious

Antonyms: Unconcerned

12) Diplomats

Meaning: A person who is skilled at dealing with difficult situations in a way that does not offend people.

Example: “The deal is being authored by a Greek diplomat”

13) Tacit

Meaning: Understood or implied without being stated.

Example: “Your silence may be taken to mean tacit agreement”

Synonyms: Implicit, Understood

Antonyms: Explicit, Stated

14) Lawmakers

Meaning: A legislator.

Example: “The game’s official lawmakers are preparing the new legislation”

15) Hammering

Meaning: Attack or criticize forcefully and relentlessly.

Example: “He got hammered for an honest mistake”

Synonyms: Criticize, Censure

Antonyms: Praise

16) Ramp up

Meaning: A large increase in activity or in the level of something:

Example: “They saw a ramp-up in orders”

17) Live up

Meaning: To be as good as something.

Example: “The concert was brilliant – it lived up to all our expectations”

18) Clandestine

Meaning: Kept secret or done secretively, especially because illicit.

Example: “She deserved better than these clandestine meetings”

Synonyms: Secret, Covert

Antonyms: Open, Above board

19) Turn out

Meaning: Prove to be the case.

Example: “The job turned out to be beyond his rather limited abilities”

Synonyms: Transpire, Emerge

20) Entangled

Meaning: Cause to become twisted together with or caught in.

Example: “Fish attempt to swim through the mesh and become entangled”

Synonyms: Intertwine, Entwine

Antonyms: Disentangle, Release

21) Honorific

Meaning: Given as a mark of respect but having few or no duties.

Example: “He was elevated to the honorific status of ‘Dom’”

22) Interoperability

Meaning: The ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information.

Example: “Interoperability between devices made by different manufacturers”

23) Dampens

Meaning: Make slightly wet.

Example: “The fine rain dampened her face”

Synonyms: Moisten, Damp

Antonyms: Dry, Drench

24) Emphasise

Meaning: Give special importance or value to (something) in speaking or writing.

Example: “They emphasize the need for daily, one-to-one contact between parent and child”

Synonyms: Highlight, Point up

Antonyms: Understate, Play down

25) Alliances

Meaning: A union or association formed for mutual benefit, especially between countries or organizations.

Example: “A defensive alliance between Australia and New Zealand”

Synonyms: Association, Union

26) Non-proliferating

Meaning: The controlling of the spread and/or amount of something, especially nuclear or chemical weapons.

Example: A non-proliferation treaty.

27) Deficit

Meaning: The amount by which something, especially a sum of money, is too small.

Synonyms: Shortfall, Deficiency

Antonyms: Surplus, Profit

28) Out-of-the-box

Meaning: Used to refer to the immediate usability or functionality of a newly purchased product, typically an electronic device or a piece of software.

Example: “Most laptops come with wireless capability out of the box”

29) Stand-off

Meaning: A deadlock between two equally matched opponents in a dispute or conflict.

Example: “The 16-day-old stand-off was no closer to being resolved”

Synonyms: Deadlock, Stalemate

30) Contours

Meaning: An outline representing or bounding the shape or form of something.

Example: “She traced the contours of his face with her finger”

Synonyms: Outline, Shape

31) Mystery

Meaning: Something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain.

Example: “The mysteries of outer space”

Synonyms: Puzzle, Enigma

32) Disengage

Meaning: Separate or release (someone or something) from something to which they are attached or connected.

Example: “I disengaged his hand from mine”

Synonyms: Remove, Detach

Antonyms: Attach, Connect

33) Disputed

Meaning: Argue about (something).

Example: “The point has been much disputed”

Synonyms: Debate, Discuss

34) Face-off

Meaning: A direct confrontation between two people or groups.

Example: “Last night’s vice presidential face-off”

35) Hitherto

Meaning: Until now or until the point in time under discussion.

Example: “Hitherto part of French West Africa, Benin achieved independence in 1960”

Synonyms: Previously, Formerly

36) Status quo

Meaning: The existing state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues.

Example: “They have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo”

37) Roiling

Meaning: Make (a liquid) turbid or muddy by disturbing the sediment.

Example: “Winds roil these waters”

38) Belligerent

Meaning: Hostile and aggressive.

Example: “The mood at the meeting was belligerent”

Synonyms: Hostile, Aggressive

Antonyms: Friendly, Peaceable

39) Unravelling

Meaning: Undo (twisted, knitted, or woven threads).

Example: “He cut the rope and started to unravel its strands”

Synonyms: Untangle, Disentangle

Antonyms: Entangle, Tangle

40) Ambiguity

Meaning: The quality of being open to more than one interpretation; inexactness.

Example: “We can detect no ambiguity in this section of the Act”

Synonyms: Ambivalence, Equivocation

Antonyms: Unambiguousness, Transparency


Other Important THE HINDU EDITORIALS for the month of December , 2017 :


Other Important THE HINDU EDITORIALS for the month of January , 2018 :