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Turkish Boeing 747 cargo plane crashes in kyrgyzstan with 37 onboard; all killed । Astronaut Gene Cernan, 82, the last man to walk on moon, passes away । India marks Army Day President, Prime Minister and Defence Minister greet the Army । Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat takes salute at the impressive Army Day Parade । Gen Rawat says India wants peace but if attempts are made to disrupt it, then “we will display our power” । He says emphasis is on newer technology weapons and systems for the Army । Space connectivity is also high on Army’s agenda । This is the 69th Army Day, marking the time when an Indian Chief, Gen KM Cariappa took over the command after Independence । Indian Navy launches its second Kalvari class submarine INS Khanderi in Mumbai । India Strategic wishes all its readers and viewers a very Happy New Year । India successfully test fires Agni 5 long range missile | IAF gets Government approval for one more C 17 strategic Lift aircraft | IAF has got 10 C 17s, but had initially planned for more than 20 | Lack of timely approval made IAF slash figure to three but by then Boeing closed factory | IAF will get the last one in production | Syrian government of President Assad takes full control of Aleppo | Lt Gen Bipin Rawat appointed the next Army Chief and Air Marshal BS Dhanoa the Air Chief | The appointments are effective December 31 afternoon | Both are Vice Chiefs of Staff at present in their respective Services | 48 killed in a PIA ATR-42 aircraft crash in Pakistan | The twin-engine propellor aircraft was on way from Chitral to Islamabad | India marks Navy Day | Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets all Navy personnel, and salutes their bravery on Indian Navy annual day | PM Modi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani jointly inaugurate Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference at Amritsar (India) Dec 4 | Need of the hour is to identify terrorism and bring stability in the region, says PM Modi | India’s commitment to Afghan is absolute, Mr Modi said addressing 6th HoA Ministerial Conf | Afgan Prez accused Pakistan of sheltering terror, and thanked India of financial aid | HoA Conf began at Amritsar Dec 3 | INS Vikrant likely to be operational in 2018 | Vikrant to operate both Russian MiG-29K and Western origin Aircraft | Indian Navy to mark 2017 as the year of submarine: Adm Lanba | Gujarat-cadre officer Rakesh Asthana to take over as CBI Director after Anil Sinha, who retires Dec 2 | Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is Pakistan’s new army chief | Gen Bajwa took over from Gen Raheel Sharif Nov 29 | The outgoing chief stressed all should work together “against external and internathreats” | Plane carrying Brazilian football team crashes in Colombia | Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro dies. He was 90. | Castro had challenged the US might and invited Soviet presence next door to the US | US-Cuban relations have normalized now after half a century | Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar Commissions INS Chennai into Indian Navy Nov 21 | INS Chennai is a Project 15A Guided Missile Destroyer | This is the 3rd and last ‘Kolkata’ class destroyer indigenously designed by DND and constructed by MDL, Mumbai | India successfully tests nuclear capable Prithvi-II missile in Odisha | India becomes associate member of European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Geneva | Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar inducts four Indigenous Naval Systems | The 4 Indigenous Naval Systems – ABHAY, HUMSA UG, NACS and AIDSS – were indigenously developed by DRDO | These Indigenous Naval Systems will boost underwater surveillance capability of the Indian Navy | India, Japan sign Civil Nuclear Deal | The Deal signed during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan Nov 10-11 | With this Deal, Japan is able to export N-technology to India for peaceful uses | PM Modi calls the Deal “a historic step to build a clean energy partnership between India, Japan” |
January 17, 2017
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No ‘tit for tat’ diplomacy; Moscow takes the high road

By Nilova Roy Chaudhury January 2017
 

New Delhi. As a batch of 35 Russian diplomats, described by the United States as “intelligence operatives” headed back to Moscow on the first day of the New Year, American diplomats posted in Moscow did not have to take a similar hurried leave.

In a rare, surprising break from the normal diplomatic tradition of reciprocal punishment, Russian President Vladimir Putin opted to do nothing after the United States said it would expel 35 Russian diplomats and close a pair of Russian-owned properties in retaliation for Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Putin, under pressure from his foreign policy establishment to take a firm stand, opted to wait and said he would see how U.S.-Russian relations develop under the new (Donald) Trump administration before planning “any further steps” on the issue.

The Barack Obama administration, in one of its final acts, announced sweeping new measures against Russia on December 29, retaliating against what U.S. officials have characterized as interference in the presidential elections. It ordered the expulsion of Russian “intelligence operatives” and announced a bunch of new sanctions on state agencies and individuals suspected to have hacked U.S. computer systems and place information to favour Trump.

The Obama administration sanctioned agencies and individuals connected to the hacking and closed off two compounds. The announcement culminated months of internal debate over whether and how to respond to Russia’s unprecedented election-year provocations, ranging from the hacks of the Democratic National Committee to the targeting of state electoral systems.

As the Kremlin bid farewell to Obama and hoped that a friendly Trump administration would provide opportunities to get sanctions removed, Putin chose to take the high road and appear magnanimous.

“We will not create any problems for U.S. diplomats,” Putin said in a statement December 30. “We will not expel anyone. We will not prevent their families and children from using their traditional leisure sites during the New Year’s holidays.”

Instead of sending the U.S. diplomats home, Putin invited their kids over for “the New Year and Christmas children’s parties in the Kremlin.”

Then he wished the Obamas a happy new year and bid season’s greetings to “Donald Trump and the American people.”
“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always knew he was very smart!” Trump wrote effusively in a tweet December 30, again making public his admiration for the Russian leader.

Russia has denied and ridiculed accusations by Obama and the U.S. intelligence community that it sponsored hackers to steal and then leak sensitive information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to sway the election in favour of Trump. Putin December 30 accused the United States of engaging in “irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy” and said Russia would retain its “right to retaliate.”

The Obama administration’s move to expel a large number of diplomats is virtually unprecedented in the post-Cold War world. It was a gesture reminiscent of the 1970s, or 1980s, when tit-for-tat expulsions between the Soviets and the Americans were par for the course.

Until Putin’s surprise decision, it appeared that there would be a familiar, tit-for-tat, tough response from the Kremlin.

Sources in Moscow told India Strategic that Putin’s “unexpected” decision was “a diplomatic masterstroke,” which underlined some of Putin’s “hard-nosed political acumen.”

Coming right after the Syrian ceasefire agreement, brokered primarily by Russia, it showed Putin as a committed “peacenik, who preferred the diplomatic, moderate approach” to global geopolitics.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov December 30 urged Putin for a matching response; expulsions of personnel (31 from the embassy in Moscow and four from the US Consulate in Saint Petersburg) and banning U.S. diplomats from using a dacha and a warehouse in Moscow. In a rare break from the diplomatic tradition of reciprocal punishment, Putin did not.

Instead he said he would decline to follow the recommendation and focus on improving relations with Washington after President-elect Trump assumes office on January 20.

Earlier, writing on Facebook, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova promised “official statements, countermeasures, and much else besides.” There was an expectation that the Kremlin was preparing another attack on perceived Western soft targets — perhaps on orphans, human rights groups, or the LGBT community. There were reports in the Russian media that the Anglo-American School of Moscow, a favourite of foreign diplomats, would be closed. Country residences for U.S. diplomats would be shuttered.

Putin’s reaction to “Obama’s sanctions”, posted on the Kremlin website, further marred the image of the outgoing US President in Russian eyes.

Russia would resist even the minimum expected diplomatic response of retaliatory expulsions, the statement read: “[Russia] will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration.”

There has been considerable expectation, euphoria even, among sections of the Russian establishment, at Trump’s election. The President-elect’s appointment of Kremlinophiles — including Rex Tillerson as secretary of state-designate and the mooted choice of Thomas Graham as ambassador to Russia — has completely altered the geopolitical landscape as far as Moscow in concerned.

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