24 February 2013

An unacknowledged war

By Tavleen Singh 
Feb 24 2013

The biggest threat to India's security today is jihadi terrorism. Have you ever heard any of our political leaders acknowledge this? Have you heard them admit that this jihad is a war against the very idea of India and that its ultimate goal is to see this country divided once more in the name of Islam? Have you heard them tell the people of this country in clear terms that what the Pakistani army did after its Kargil misadventure was arm, finance and train Islamist groups to wage an insidious new war against India more lethal than those fought on battlefields? 

Quite the opposite has happened since Dr Manmohan Singh's 'secular' government came to power in 2004. On more than one occasion, senior Congress leaders have gone out of their way to emphasise that the real threat to India's security comes from 'saffron terrorism'. Rahul Gandhi said this to an American ambassador according to Wikileaks, and his political mentor Digvijay Singh publicly promoted a book whose title was, '26/11: an RSS Conspiracy'. 

The most recent statement of this kind came from the Home Minister himself when he charged the RSS with running terrorist training camps. No sooner was the statement made than the Home Minister got instant support from Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. If India's most wanted terrorist had listened to the Home Minister's statement after last week's Hyderabad bombings, he would have been totally assured that the Government of India was not serious about fighting jihadi terrorism. All that Sushil Kumar Shinde could come up with as words of comfort was a short catalogue of what he did in Hyderabad. "Along with the governor, the chief minister and other colleagues, I visited the places where the incidents took place and then we went to the hospital and met some of the non-critical patients. We talked to those who had suffered." 

From the Prime Minister we heard that the guilty would not go unpunished and, from Sonia Gandhi, that she suffered pangs of sorrow and anguish. Well, the time has come to admit that this sort of namby-pamby response is the reason why we are no closer to winning the war against jihadi terrorism than we were four years ago when Mumbai was attacked. After the 26/11 attack there should have been a concerted strategy, a robust time bound plan of action and it is time to ask why this did not happen. Did it not happen because of fears that it might alienate Indian Muslims? If this was indeed the reason, then it is hard to think of a bigger insult to them because it amounts to an admission that all Muslims support jihadi terror. Is this what 'secular' Congress leaders secretly believe? 

A Budget speech you will never hear

By Gurcharan Das
24 February 2013

It is Budget time again and next Thursday the finance minister will address Parliament with a speech which you will never hear except from my auto-wallah : 
Madam Speaker, I rise to present the Union Budget for 2013-2014. This is a pre-election year and the people expect give-aways and bribes-for-votes . But this is not going to happen in this Budget. So, here is my advice to citizens. Go home; on the way, pick up the garbage that you threw out the window. Wash the street. Teach your children about their duties, not just their rights. Tell them to spend an hour each week on their neighbourhood, learning democratic ‘habits of the heart’. 

India does not owe you cheap diesel, cooking gas or subsidized food. Nor does it owe you free electricity, make-work jobs, loan waivers, or even reservations. The only thing the state owes is good governance. This begins with law and order, as Nirbhaya has reminded us. By the way, none of you stopped to help her on the road. We also owe you public goods — roads, clean drinking water and other infrastructure; plus, functioning schools and health care. After that, it is up to you to work hard, pull yourself up, pay your taxes and make India a great nation. 

A few years ago India was the envy of the world. We were growing rapidly, creating masses of jobs, and lifting millions out of poverty. All this happened because of our reforms. All governments after 1991 kept reforming, albeit slowly, but even the slow reforms added up to make us the world’s second fastest growing economy. The reforms stopped after the UPA came to power because we made a false trade-off between equity and growth. Instead of investing on growth we started spending on the poor. We also stopped approving new projects. This has led to high inflation, low growth, and an unsustainable fiscal deficit, which threatens our nation’s sovereign rating. 

Madame Speaker, our growth numbers hide real misery that has been inflicted upon the Indian people as growth has plunged from almost 9 per cent to 5 per cent. One percentage point of GDP growth means roughly 15 lakh jobs; each direct job creates three indirect jobs; and each job supports a family of five. If you do the arithmetic, Madam, you will find that a four percentage point drop in GDP has brought pain and suffering to around 12,00,00,000 Indians. 

Here are some examples of what went wrong. If we had continued the momentum in road building after we came to power, we might have been looking at a different India. A recent study by Ejaz Ghani and others for the World Bank shows that the highways built or upgraded by the Golden Quadrilateral have brought enormous gains in new manufacturing activity, jobs and productivity within ten km of the new highways. 

Land acquisition has been a problem. But we have made it worse now. To acquire an acre of land under the new Land Acquisition Bill will “take at least two years as the proposal would have to pass through about a hundred hands... social assessment would be carried out and its report would be vetted by an Expert Group... there would be an R&R Committee and a National Monitoring Committee to pontificate over the reports of the junior committees... The bill is anti-farmer and anti-growth , but it is certainly pro-civil society,” says a respected member of the National Advisory Council. 

There is no single reality that defines the past

By Swapan Dasgupta
24 February 2013

There was a time when history was an engagement involving the dead, the living and the unborn. Today, thanks to the multiplication of isms and the epidemic of prefixes (post-modernism, post-colonial , neo-liberal , et al), the story of the human experience has been reduced to conversations involving tiny groups of ‘professional’ historians. The wider citizenry that should, ideally, have informed perceptions of their heritage and inheritance have been disdainfully left out of the process. 

The results have been horrible. An India that was in any case relatively unconcerned with history has become even less so. An enlightened yet critical view of how our ancestors coped with challenges and uncertainties have been replaced by either idyllic or prejudicial fantasies. By far the most damaging contribution has been that of ‘scientific’ history which, thanks to its impersonal nature and inherent dryness, has virtually killed popular interest in the past. For the aam aadmi, history has become a Bollywood hand-me-down. 

This perversion has had two consequences. For some, not least the political class, the rendering of the past has become an aspect of contemporary politics — tales to be moulded and presented as facets of a contested nationhood . To the completely uninitiated, history has become an extension of mythology — a process that conveniently bypasses chronology and empirical rigour. By definition, any appreciation of the past involves a great deal of tentativeness. Yet, if mass reaction is any guide, everything from Shivaji to Gandhiji has become bound in unflinching certitudes. 

As a busy politician preoccupied with problems on his doorstep, it is unlikely that British Prime Minister David Cameron was sufficiently sensitised to the minefield he was walking into in Amritsar last Wednesday. Having chosen to visit that city, primarily to visit the Golden Temple, he couldn’t escape the obligation of visiting the Jallianwala Bagh, the site of the infamous massacre in April 1919. Under the circumstances, he did what modern sensibilities demanded: he called it a “deeply shameful act” that “we must never forget.” 

Cameron is a consummate politician, deeply conscious of doing the “right thing”. As such, his measured comments in the condolence book were a darn sight more tactful than the Queen’s equivocation in 1997. During her disastrous visit that year she had described Jallianwala Bagh as a “difficult” episode whose “sadness” must, however, be balanced by the “gladness” that also marked the three centuries of Indo-British engagement. The Duke of Edinburgh — who, incidentally , was more fascinated by a sign advertising Bagpiper whiskey during his drive into Amritsar — added his inimitable touch by asking if the casualties were really as high as Indian nationalists had claimed. 

The Emerging Indian Economy

Contributor: Foreword by Karl F. Inderfurth 
Feb 21, 2013 

As the U.S.-India relationship continues to deepen, some misconceptions unfortunately linger about the forces driving India’s economic growth. Over the course of a year-long lecture series, the CSIS Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies invited key business leaders to discuss the issues facing some of the foundational, albeit underexplored, sectors of the emerging Indian economy. 

Infrastructure, energy, health care, and manufacturing are all top priorities for India’s leaders. The policies affecting these sectors will have long-lasting implications for India’s growth trajectory. The business leaders who delivered public remarks for this project outlined some of those choices and their importance. You will find their respective analyses and recommendations compiled in this report. 

It's Still The Indian Ocean

By Nilanthi Samaranayake
22 Feb 2013

India’s position in the Indian Ocean region remains strong due to longstanding and growing security cooperation with smaller neighbours as well as the Indian Navy’s expanding capabilities. 

ALEXANDRIA, VA: Is India’s influence declining in the ocean named after the country? That seems to be the conclusion of some analysts after Maldives’ cancellation of an airport development contract with an Indian company in November. These concerns are elevated by China’s increased engagement with smaller states in the Indian Ocean, including Maldives. Given the legacy of the 1962 war between China and India and ongoing competition for influence, New Delhi is right to have suspicions about Beijing’s intentions in its neighborhood and whether smaller Indian Ocean countries are playing the two sides off each other. But the fact is that India’s position in the region remains strong due to longstanding and growing security cooperation with smaller neighbours as well as the Indian Navy’s expanding capabilities. Just in the past week, New Delhi’s influence has been underscored by former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed’s decision to seek refuge in the Indian High Commission in Male after a Maldivian court ordered his arrest. 

India is a rising naval power and has the natural advantage of geography in the surrounding ocean. Moreover, India is connected to smaller countries in the region through entrenched ethnic and historical ties. President Mohamed Waheed has discussed Maldives’ “preferential relationship” with India, and a former Maldivian foreign minister has stated that “nothing will change the fact that we are only 200 miles from Trivandrum,” referring to Maldives’ proximity to the Indian city. India feels security obligations to regional states and has displayed its operational reach through campaigns in Sri Lanka and Maldives. In 1987, it intervened in the Sri Lankan civil war through the Indian Peace Keeping Force. Likewise, Indian armed forces intervened in Maldives in 1988 following a coup, and after the 2004 tsunami the Indian Navy was first to provide critical disaster relief to Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia. 

Aside from such extraordinary circumstances, India has enduring and growing military relationships with island nations in the Indian Ocean. India deputes a navy officer to manage the National Coast Guard of Mauritius, where two-thirds of the public is of Indian origin. In 2007, New Delhi built a monitoring station in Madagascar that relays intelligence back to Mumbai and Kochi. India is also installing a network of coastal radars in all 26 Maldivian atolls that feed back to India. The Indian Navy and Coast Guard frequently assist Seychelles, Maldives and Mauritius in maintaining security by providing maritime surveillance, hydrographic surveys, training, and maritime military equipment and repair, in addition to engaging these countries in exercises. In contrast, China has not provided such maritime assistance, except for two patrol craft and training to Seychelles. India concluded the DOSTI exercise with Maldives in April, even adding Sri Lanka to this two-decade bilateral engagement. The three countries will soon sign an agreement to advance maritime domain awareness in the region. India’s military ties with postwar Sri Lanka are now deeper with the resumption of the SLINEX naval exercise in 2011, and the two countries began an annual dialogue between their defense secretaries in 2012. Beyond bilateral relationships, New Delhi is gradually assuming a greater leadership role in Indian Ocean institutions, such as the economic and diplomatic forum Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS). Far from India’s influence waning, all these measures reinforce the country’s strong security relationships with Indian Ocean countries. 

Failure to act fast encourages terror

Feb 23, 2013 

Extremist elements are emboldened when terrorist strikes do not lead to successful prosecutions in reasonable time

Terrorist violence has rocked Hyderabad once again. Thursday evening’s twin blasts have claimed 16 lives, mostly of young people as the busy city area in which the detonations occurred is a transport hub and has several educational and training institutes. 

To that extent the perpetrators chose their location well. There might have been three blasts but one of the bombs failed to go off. If it had, the casualty would have been higher. This shows that the module that carried out the attacks did so with thorough preparation. It is not unreasonable to think that it may have also had sufficient confidence that it won’t be found out easily, and that if it was it will take a long time to secure conviction.

After all, this is the story of the two separate terrorist incidents of 2007, the last time terrorism visited the city. Although six years have gone by, there have been no convictions in the Mecca Masjid blast of that year, for which some Hindu extremists are believed to be among those responsible, and then the twin blasts of August the same year, for which operatives of Indian Mujahideen, widely seen as the local Indian affiliate of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, are being investigated. No one has so far been brought to trial in either case. This is completely unacceptable.

Extremist elements are emboldened when terrorist strikes do not lead to successful prosecutions in reasonable time. This points to governance issues in the widest sense. There are just too many police and intelligence agencies involved, and quite frequently they work at cross purposes. There appears inadequate coordination as between Central agencies and those in the states.

The transmitting of real-time information has not quite come off. An effort by the Manmohan Singh government to enact legislation to track terrorist outfits on a pan-India basis was thwarted by the Trinamul Congress, then a constituent of the UPA-2 government, on the specious plea that the Centre was eating into the province of the state. The Opposition parties backed the Trinamul viewpoint, arguing that law and order was a state subject. But terrorism is not a law and order matter. The nature of the beast is such that an all-India framework to deal with it suggests itself. But in this country we are apt to play politics even with matters of national security.

US preparations for cyber war against China

By Peter Symonds
23 February 2013 

The Obama administration, working hand-in-hand with the American media, has opened up a new front in its aggressive campaign against China. A slew of articles, most notably in the New York Times, has appeared over the past week purportedly exposing the involvement of the Chinese military in hacking US corporations and hinting at the menace of cyber warfare to vital American infrastructure such as the electricity grid. 

The Times article on Tuesday based itself on the unsubstantiated and self-serving claims of a report prepared by cyber-security company Mandiant alleging that a Chinese military unit based in Shanghai had been responsible for sophisticated cyber-attacks in the US. (See: “US uses hacking allegations to escalate threats against China”). The rest of the media in the US and internationally followed suit, with articles replete with comments from analysts, think tanks and administration officials past and present about the “Chinese cyber threat”, all but ignoring the emphatic denials by China’s foreign and defence ministries. 

This set the stage for the release on Wednesday of Obama’s “Administration Strategy on Mitigation of Theft of US Trade Secrets,” which, while not formally naming China, cited numerous examples of alleged Chinese cyber espionage. In broad terms, the document laid out the US response, including “sustained and coordinated diplomatic pressure” on offending countries and the implied threat of economic retaliation via “trade policy tools.” 

US Attorney General Eric Holder warned of “a significant and steadily increasing threat to America’s economy and national security interests.” Deputy Secretary of State Robert Hormats declared that the US had “repeatedly raised our concerns about trade secret theft by any means at the highest levels with senior Chinese officials.” 

The demonisation of China as a global cyber threat follows a well-established modus operandi: it is aimed at whipping up a public climate of fear and hysteria in preparation for new acts of aggression—this time in the sphere of cyber warfare. Since coming to office in 2009, Obama has launched a broad economic and strategic offensive aimed at weakening and isolating China and reinforcing US global dominance, especially in Asia. 

Accusations of Chinese cyber theft dovetail with the Obama administration’s economic thrust into Asia through its Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a new multilateral trade agreement aimed at boosting US trade at China’s expense. The protection of “intellectual property rights” is a central component of the TPP, as the profits of American corporations rest heavily on their monopoly over markets via brand names and technology. Allegations of cyber espionage will become the pretext for new trade war measures against China. 

Why Lanka is losing the battle for peace

By Raj chengappa 
24 Feb 2013

Almost four years after Prabhakaran was killed along with his family, how they died remains shrouded in mystery.

Facing criticism over human rights violations, the least President Rajapaksa can do is to keep his promises to the Tamils after the war.

Chandrika Kumaratunga, former President of Sri Lanka, may be out of power but her words still carry plenty of weight. I met her at a wedding in Delhi recently and asked her what she thought of the current situation in Sri Lanka. Her answer was succinct: “We may have won the civil war against Tamil separatists but we are losing the battle for peace.”

Like the Nehru and Bhutto families, Kumaratunga is a daughter of history with her late parents, Solomon Bandaranaike and Srimavo Bandaranaike, being former Prime Ministers. Kumaratunga was President of Sri Lanka from 1994 to 2005 during one of the most turbulent periods of the island nation’s history that saw an escalation of the bloody civil war between Tamil separatists led by Vellupillai Prabhakaran, the dreaded chief of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan Army.

So her party colleague, Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka, should heed her comments. Currently Rajapaksa is battling a fresh round of controversy over human rights violations by the Sri Lankan army during the last phase of the civil war that saw the decimation of the LTTE in 2009 and the death of its charismatic chief.

Channel 4 TV, a British news channel, recently released a documentary that claimed photographic evidence alleging that Balachandran, Prabhakaran’s 12-year-old son, had been captured in May 2009 and executed by the Sri Lankan army. The Sri Lankan government issued the usual rounds of denials.

File photos of Prabhakaran and his son before and after being shot dead. 

How to Save Syria from Al Qaeda

By Leslie H. Gelb 
Feb 24, 2013

The aim now in Syria can’t be just to help the rebels and get rid of Assad; it must be to prevent al Qaeda’s extremist cohorts from grabbing power. 

Tactically, President Obama is operating true to form in Syria; he’s wisely avoiding ever creeping military measures on behalf of rebels, many of whom might well turn out to be even worse than the already viperous President Assad. But also typically, the Obama team seems to be without a longer-term strategy that explicitly and relentlessly locks onto the real emerging threat within Syria – al Qaeda and its devious affiliates. This strategy would go way beyond simply dumping a nasty dictator, or pressing for illusory deals between Assad and a Turkey-based rebel group devoid of meaningful power. Meantime, Syrians still drown in bloodletting, chaos, and refugees, while the Assad side weakens only by endless inches.

A Syrian girl walks along a street with the pre-Baath Syrian flag across, now adopted by the Free Syrian Army, across her shoulders in the city of Aleppo on February 13, 2013. (Bruno Gallado/AFP/Getty) 

The real dangers in Syria today come less from Assad, or even Iran, and much more from increasingly potent Sunni extremist fighters. If the “rebels” win, as matters now stand, jihadis likely would be the real victors. They’d swiftly create a terrorist state to menace Turkey, Jordan, and Israel. U.S. strategy must be constructed to blunt that nightmare. 

Stopping jihadis from taking over Syria could represent the only common goal between Syria’s ruling Alawites and the secular Sunni rebels. Shiite-related Alawites rightly fear an al Qaeda-like triumph in Syria as the worst possible outcome. There can be no doubt in their minds that Sunni extremists would make the mass killing of Alawites their number one priority. The secular leaders of the Syrian rebels, clustered in the exile group known as the Syrian National Council, also must worry about the extremist threat they themselves would face if the Assad government fell now. Remember, most Syrian Sunnis don’t have a history of religious radicalism. They don’t want rule by shari’a law any more than the Alawites do. 

White House sending Benghazi emails to Senate

By Pam Benson
February 22nd, 2013 

Damaged room at U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya 

The White House has agreed to turn over to the Senate Intelligence Committee additional e-mails and intelligence reports related to the lethal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, according to a congressional source. 

The source said some of the materials have already been received by the panel and others "will be provided shortly." 

Republican senators have threatened to hold up the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director until they receive e-mails exchanged between the White House and the spy agency concerning public talking points about the deadly attack last September 11. 

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice relied on those talking points to explain the Obama administration's version of events several days after the armed assault. Her televised comments ignited an election-year controversy, fueled by Republicans, over whether the administration was being truthful about the nature of the attack. 

Rice said it apparently grew from a demonstration over an anti-Muslim film, but it was later disclosed that it was a terror assault. 

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens was one of four Americans killed. 

The CIA's original draft of talking points linked individuals associated with al Qaeda to the attack. But the final version changed the al Qaeda reference to extremists. 

The War Within: Training Survivalists in North Florida

By TIME Staff
Feb. 22, 2013

Members of the North Florida Survival Group wait with their rifles before heading out to perform "enemy contact drills" during a field training exercise in Old Town, Florida, December 2012. 

Americans have been exercising their “right to keep and bear arms” — pistols, shotguns, rifles and other firearms — since before the Second Amendment was codified in December 1791. And ever since, Americans across the political spectrum have been debating (often politely, sometimes rancorously, always passionately) what exactly the Second Amendment means. 

Those who advocate for what has, in recent decades, come to be called “gun control” often cite not only the changed nature of the weapons (assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, etc.) available to both the authorities and to civilians today, but the very language of the Second Amendment itself. “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state,” reads the first part of the amendment — a phrase seized on by some gun-control advocates as evidence that the Founding Fathers never foresaw or even intended unfettered civilian access to any and all weapons. 

Many gun rights activists, on the other hand, see “right to keep and bear arms” as absolute and inviolate, and any attempts by the federal government to limit that right as not merely overreaching, but the first step on the slippery slope to tyranny. 

Today, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, the national debate on gun control shows no signs of cooling. In fact, if anything, that debate is more central to the long, fraught dialog about the limits of liberty in a pluralistic society than it’s ever been. And by all accounts, advocates of gun rights have grown, if anything, even more adamant in their determination not only to keep their arms — all their arms — but to train the next generation to fight for that same right, as they interpret it.