27 April 2013

India and China’s Border Spat

By Nitin Gokhale
April 27, 2013

On April 23, eight days after 25-30 soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) walked across an unguarded portion of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China in Ladakh, military delegations from both sides met again to try and resolve the standoff. But a four hour long meeting failed to break the deadlock, prolonging the latest flashpoint between the two nuclear armed powers.

China and India fought a brief but bitter war in 1962 over the non-demarcated border, but even half a century after that conflict ended the boundary dispute remains unresolved, leading to episodes like the current face off. 

Both sides have put in place several mechanisms to ensure that small incidents on the border do not get out of hand despite continued incursions and intrusions by both sides. In a break from the pattern, however, the Chinese troops have setup tents and stayed in position six miles inside Indian Territory for more than a week, posing a dilemma for Indian decision makers.

While neither Beijing nor New Delhi wants the current situation to escalate beyond the local level, domestic factors in both countries makes it difficult for the two governments to devise a solution that doesn't look like one side has conceded too much to the other.

So even as China demands that India stop developing militarily useful infrastructure on the border, it continues to stress it seeks a comprehensive strategic partnership with New Delhi. China’s “two track” approach could be seen in some quarters as a strategy to keep India engaged strategically while keeping it off balance tactically.

Since taking office President Xi Jinping has largely hewed to his predecessors’ five point formula for moving the India-China relationship forward. On the border issue, for instance, Xi has simply reiterated previous Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's assertion that the resolution of the boundary problem is not easy and therefore the two sides must concentrate on other factors like the burgeoning bilateral trade believed to total US$100 billion. India, aware that its economic and military strength is still not on par with China, has often chosen to downplay or ignore Chinese provocations and instead peddle the line that there is enough room in Asia for both to rise simultaneously.

Understanding the standoff in Ladakh

Zorawar Daulet Singh

China’s approach to its core territorial interests has become uncompromising in recent years and is manifesting across the board from a climate of discord in the South China Sea, the dispute with Japan over the East China Sea islands, to the Himalayan dispute with India.

IN the cacophony of media coverage a nuanced portrayal of the Ladakh standoff has fallen by the wayside. Since context is so important, it is worth exploring both the macro and micro causes for such incidents.

A view of the Chinese infrastructure across the LAC in south-eastern Ladakh. After the April 23 flag meeting it is clear that both sides are engaged in probing up to their preferred LAC. File photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

The macro-narrative locates the present standoff to China’s stronger periphery control measures that are part of an increasingly sensitive and assertive China across its continental and maritime frontiers. China’s perceptions and its approach to its entire periphery has undergone changes in recent years. The reasons can be attributed mostly to internal political dynamics where the Dengist image of a pragmatic and agreeable China has been trumped by a more assertive self-image of China as a great power. The East Asian geopolitical dynamic, especially the US ‘pivot’ and renewed intra-allied cooperation in the US security network, only reinforces China’s threat perceptions and its assertive posture. This is now an ongoing game as part of the evolving balance of power in the Asia Pacific.

To some extent, locating Chinese frontier activity with India in the context of its evolving worldview makes sense. Yet, the India-China border has a distinct dynamic and Chinese intentions here cannot be simply read off from Beijing’s geostrategic posture toward its eastern seaboard.

Missed opportunities

There have been three opportunities since 1960 in resolving this dispute. Zhou Enlai made an offer to solve the dispute via an east-west swapping of claims during his 1960 visit. India’s reluctance to equate the two sectors would see this offer being rejected. In 1979 Deng Xiaoping made a formal offer for a “package solution” to Foreign Minister Vajpayee during the latter’s visit to Beijing. Once again, the Indian side could not countenance a change in its negotiating position. A third opening came with the April 2005 “Political Parameters and Guiding Principles” Agreement, which indicated that both sides had substantially converged their positions on the overarching principles that would guide a settlement. The 2005 agreement declared that a “package settlement” is the only way forward along with a mutual recognition that this would involve minor territorial adjustments by both sides.

India, China have wisdom to defuse row'

Ananth Krishnan

The Hindu File photo shows a signpost at the India-China border in Bumla, Arunachal Pradesh.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the problems could be solved through "friendly consultation".

As the stand-off between India and China in eastern Ladakh continues to strain relations, the Chinese government said on Friday it believed both countries had the “capacity and wisdom” to defuse the row.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters both countries had maintained “close communication” over issues regarding the boundary, adding that China believed problems could be solved through “friendly consultation”.

Separately on Friday, State media quoted a South Asia scholar at the elite Peking University as saying the recent tensions “may cast a shadow” on the expected visit of new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to New Delhi next month – likely to be his first overseas trip after he took over in March.

Han Hua, a South Asia scholar at Peking University, told the Party-run Global Times that “choosing India as the first stop of the premier’s visit shows China’s will to improve ties, but that the current standoff may cast a shadow on the visit”.

“Reports about Chinese troops’ cross-border patrols are not rare in Indian media. However, the latest hyping came at an inappropriate time before the premier's visit, and it was also inappropriate to summon the [Chinese] ambassador [in New Delhi],” Professor Han told the newspaper.

She said “there had been speculation that New Delhi may hope to ‘fish in troubled waters’ as Beijing is caught in an island dispute with Tokyo.”

Before Friday, Chinese media outlets, unlike their Indian counterparts, had devoted little attention to the border row this past week.

While the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s statements have been reported in State media outlets, there has, so far, been little in the way of commentaries or analysis, even in newspapers such as the Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid that usually devotes considerable space to covering India-China relations.

Much of the State media’s attention has been occupied with on-going tensions with Japan over the disputed Diaoyu or Senkaku islands in the East China Sea. China’s relations with Japan generally occupy greater importance for media outlets, particularly considering that the history of strained ties and incidents such as the Nanjing massacre continue to evoke strong emotions.

Ms. Hua, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told reporters at a regular briefing on Friday she believed India and China “have the willingness to properly resolve relevant issues through dialogue and negotiation”.

“I want to stress here once again the two countries have maintained close communication on border issues, and both countries, we also believe, have the capacity and wisdom to solve the issue through friendly consultations, so as to maintain peace and stability in border areas.”

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said on Thursday he would go ahead with his scheduled visit to Beijing on May 9, which is expected to lay the groundwork for the Chinese Premier’s visit next month. Ms. Hua said, in response to a question, she, as yet, had no specific information on Mr. Khurshid’s visit.

Handling of the Boston attack by the FBI and Lessons for India

Paper No. 5472 Dated 26-Apr-2013 

Guest Column by Commodore R. S. Vasan (Retd.)

There have been many questions raised after the killing of the elder brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the capture of the younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev post the Boston Marathon bombing.

The blasts caused due to the pressure cooker bombs killed three and injured more than 260 victims on 15th April at the finishing line of the Boston Marathon. About fifty are still in the hospital after the heinous attacks. 

While the citizens of Boston heaved a sigh of relief that the terrorists were neutralized / captured on 19th April, there are increasing concerns about the action (or lack of it) by the FBI in hind sight. As per the reports, there was a request from Russia to check on the credentials of the elder brother when he applied for US citizenship. The request was put on hold for some time after the interview. The FBI apparently cleared the applicant after going through the usual drills though with some delay. It is obvious that this drill did not prevent the granting of US citizenship to a potential terrorist. It is also not known if such doubtful persons with questionable antecedents are constantly under observation and for how long. It is obvious that the processes need a review to prevent such lapses if there were any. There is also a need to examine if there were human failures due to lack of training/orientation or even supervision. 

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security had come in for praise for not allowing any act of terrorism to succeed on US Soil after the multiple coordinated attacks on 11th September 2001. There are reports that since 2001, apparently there were five similar cases of people under scan indulging in attempts for carrying out terrorist attacks. With most counter terrorism effort going right for the last twelve years whether complacency did creep in to the system would be a question that needs to be answered in all earnestness. The agencies will doubtlessly double their efforts from now on to ensure that there are no recurrences by having a close look at the existing practices. There can however be no guarantee that a similar attack by radicalized individuals anywhere in the world including in the adopted countries can be prevented.

Despite some doubts about whether any terrorist organization was involved, there is no confirmation about links with any other terrorist organization as of now. According to the younger brother, Dzhokhar, his elder brother was radicalized by the internet propaganda. How much impact did the visit of Tsarnaev to Dagestan have on his plans to attack the Marathon in Boston is yet to be established. Apparently, it is the role of US in Iraq and Afghanistan that prompted the duo to take the Jihadi route with a decision to attack the innocent participants in the marathon at Boston. It is clear that the younger brother who is still a teen was guided by his elder brother and joined hands with him to carry out the terrorist attack on 15th April. The fact that the siblings came under the influence of the elder brother was corroborated by other siblings and the parents of Tamerlan.

Amid Ladakh tensions, India, China discuss joint military exercises

Ananth Krishnan

Scheduled in China later this year, they are the first such exercises after a 5-year hiatus

Amid the ongoing tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, an Indian military delegation on Friday concluded a three-day visit to China to coordinate the dates and arrangements for the first joint military exercises in five years, scheduled to be held in China later this year.

The delegation of three officials, led by Brigadier Y.K. Joshi, held talks with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Friday in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan and the headquarters of the Chengdu Military Area Command (MAC).

The Indian Embassy here did not comment on the outcome of the consultations.

The officials were here to discuss the joint exercises scheduled for August or September.
Defence ties better

While defence ties have been warming in the past year, the recent tensions along the LAC in eastern Ladakh — triggered after the PLA set up tented posts in a disputed area where the claim lines of both countries are overlapping — have cast a shadow on ties when both countries were scheduled to resume exercises after a five-year hiatus.

The Chengdu MAC is the main point of contact for exercises and engagement with India, as its jurisdiction extends over Tibet and the entire length of the disputed border with India, except for the Aksai Chin region which falls under the Lanzhou MAC.

The last round of joint exercises was held as long as five years ago in Belgaum. The first round was held in Kunming, in south-western Yunnan province, which is also under the Chengdu MAC, in 2007.

India suspended defence exchanges with China in 2010 after China refused to host the then head of the Northern Command citing “sensitivities” on Jammu and Kashmir.

Exchanges were resumed after China agreed to stop its controversial policy of issuing stapled visas to Indian citizens resident in Jammu and Kashmir. The PLA has subsequently hosted Indian military delegations comprising officials from J&K. Last year saw a marked improvement in ties, with a rare port call by four ships in Shanghai and coordination on joint anti-piracy escort missions in the Indian Ocean. The PLA had last year also hosted an Indian military delegation in Tibet — a region usually viewed with particular sensitivity by the Chinese — for the first time in many years.

West Bengal: Condemn JEI-Hind Rally in sympathy with the JEI of Bangladesh

Paper No. 5473 Dated 26-Apr-2013

By R. Upadhyay

A huge belligerent rally led by the JEI-Hind in the historic maidan of Kolkatha in West Bengal on March 30 this year has largely gone unnoticed in India. 

The rally was to protest against the death sentence to Delawar Hussain Sayeedi awarded by Bangladesh court as he was one of the prime accused in collaborating with Pakistan army in the genocide during Bangladesh liberation war. The incidents that Sayeedi was accused of included indiscriminate killing and elimination of the hapless minorities in the then East Pakistan.

The JEI was not alone in demonstration. It gathered the support of sixteen other fundamentalist organisations of the community. While the aggressive and assertive stance of the JEI was nothing new for West Bengal, but ignoring their mind set is dangerous and the potential for future mischief in parallel with the happenings in Bangladesh should alert the authorities. Unfortunately, it looks to be a tall order.

The venue chosen for the demonstration is not without significance. It was the same Kolkatha Maidan from where the Muslim League gave a call for “Direct Action” in 1946 before partition. The gory events and the riots that followed are still fresh in the memory of those still surviving from those horrible days.

I am not sure whether the history books of the State refer to the direct action call which triggered subsequent riots at many places in Bengal.

Surprisingly, even the media did not take due notice of this aggressive demonstration. More surprising was the indifference of the government on this blatant demonstration against the stringent action being taken by a friendly neighbour that is fighting against heavy odds to establish a secular polity in that country. 

One cannot but recall the tragic events that followed the partition of Bengal. The Muslim league that was emboldened by the support it received from the communists went to the extent of demanding the incorporation of the whole of Bengal into Pakistan. Will history be allowed to be repeated in West Bengal and the not so benign outfit JEI allowed to run riot in India? Should vote bank politics alone be the causative factor to remain indifferent by the State in this blatant communal display of something happening in the neighbouring country. Have they forgotten the sermon of Swami Vivekanand who said “ “ It is out of the past that the course of future has to be moulded: it is the past that becomes future. Therefore more the Indians study their past the more glorious will be their future and whosoever tries to bring the past to the door of everyone, is a benefactor of the nation”. (Integrated History of Ancient India by Wakankar).

Due to mounting communal tension just before and after partition there was a large scale exodus of population from both sides after the partition. But what went unnoticed and allowed to happen was that those going from the present state of West Bengal after taking temporary shelter in the then East Pakistan returned to India and settled in the bordering districts. The reverse did not happen and so those who came from East Pakistan and now Bangladesh remained in India thereafter.

Lessons from Somdurong Chu Incident

April 26, 2013

The 4057 km long Line of Actual Control (LAC) is the largest undemarcated and disputed land border in the world. It has the unique distinction of being the most 'peaceful' border with not a shot being fired over the last 46 years, save a standoff at Nathu La in 1967, when a display of resolve by the Indian Army prevented further escalation. However, there have been some serious incidents of escalation of tension between the two nuclear powered neighbours which were successfully diffused by a combination of adroit diplomacy, ‘show of force’ and political statesmanship. The most notable among these was the Somdurong Chu incident, sometimes called the Wangdung incident, in 1986-87 in the state of Arunachal Pradesh on the LAC.

On 26 June, 1986, the Government of India (GOI) lodged a formal protest with the Chinese government that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) had intruded in the Thandrong pasture on the banks of the Somdurong Chu (river) under the Zimithang circle of Tawang district. This was days before the seventh round of border talks which was due between the two countries. The area of intrusion, in the vicinity of the Thag La ridge, had seen bloody conflict in 1962. Considered neutral since 1962-63, it was not monitored till 1980. Patrolling resumed in 1981 and by the summer of 1984, India established a post in the area manned by the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), a para-military force , which was vacated in winters. On 16 June 1986, a patrol of 12 ASSAM regiment of the Indian Army noticed Chinese presence in the area and construction of a few permanent structures. The Chinese soldiers were initially identified to be 40 and were soon reinforced by 200 more troops. They were being maintained by mules along a seven km mule track. By August, they had constructed a helipad and were being air supplied.1

The GOI, made an offer to China to withdraw from the area with an understanding that India would not reoccupy the vacated area, the following summer. This was rejected by the Chinese. At the Seventh round of border talks that were held from 21-23 July 1986, despite the standoff, the issue was discussed “intensively” with no solution, resulting in acrimony and tension.2 Meanwhile, the Chinese 'dug in' to prepare to stay through the winter of 1986. The Indian Army then air lifted a Brigade from 5 Mountain Division to Zimithang and occupied the ridges dominating the Somdurong Chu. Deng Xiaoping took a tough stand and said that it was time to "teach India a lesson”, a message conveyed through the visiting US Secretary of Defence, Caspar Weinberger during a stopover at New Delhi from Beijing. Simultaneously, the PLA moved 20,000 troops of the 53 Group Army and 13 Group Army along with guns and helicopters. There were reports that unemployed Tibetan youth were recruited at RMB 300 per month, essentially for administrative duties.3 Tibetans also reported movement and mobilisation of PLA in the areas around Lhasa and parts of the Tibetan plateau. The Indian Army moved up to three divisions into the positions around Wangdung, maintaining them by air. In addition as many as ten divisions were mobilised to the Eastern sector with almost 50,000 troops in Arunachal Pradesh alone with substantial assets from the Indian Air Force. Simultaneously, the Indian Army conducted a massive air- land exercise called 'Chequerboard ' which commenced in October, 1986 and continued till March 1987.4 This was in conjunction with another major military exercise called ‘Brasstacks’ on the western borders. These exercises demonstrated the will and capability of the Indian armed forces to fight a war on both fronts.

China in Ladakh - A frozen state takes time to react to an aggression

24 April 2013

A polity too frozen in scandals, agitations, elections, promises and having factories to churn out new slogans and charming lines to woo voters suddenly can’t be woken up to a People's Liberation Army platoon, pitching tents on a land that poses direct threat to our position. What should we do? Before the politicians could make use of their wisdom; our jawans, under the guidance of officers at ground zero, in consultation with the MEA, pitched their tents too and asserted that they were watching and resisting. It is eye ball to eye ball at 17,000 feet high altitude.

But why was the government sleeping all these years when everyone was trying to wake it up? Last year, a serious breach of security occurred. The district administration wrote to the government about the Chinese direct intervention. Nothing happened. See my note, released last year.

“3rd September, 2012, New Delhi - The Chinese intrusion in Ladakh region has increased manifold just before the India visit of Chinese defence minister.

India's defence ministry must take up this issue strongly with the visiting Chinese minister and ensure that such intrusions are stopped immediately. So much has been the pressure of Chinese armed forces on Indian border villages that for the first time the tricolor was not allowed to be unfurled at Demchhok, near Line of Actual Control (LAC).

I have just returned from Jammu & Kashmir and where I met a delegation of Ladakhi people who complained that for the first time Indian tricolor was not allowed to be hoisted at Demchhok, near line of actual control, where every year Independence Day is celebrated. Instead villagers were asked to unfurl tricolor in a hall near ITBP post, at a distance from LAC.

Chinese Army Personnel have also forced development work stopped in border village Koyul in Leh. The silence of home and defence ministry in this regard is mysterious. In a communication to divisional commissioner, Srinagar (Kashmir), the deputy commissioner of Leh wrote on 22nd August, 2012, '….work is being executed on the bonafide Indian side and the Chinese have no locus standi on the land which belongs to the people of Koyul. Besides, large chunk of an un-irrigated land to the tune of 400 hectares could be converted into pasture area as most of the nomads are dependent on their live-stocks and their main earning is by sale of raw Pashmina wools'. The letter to DC Srinagar by DC Leh clearly mentions, 'The contractors and the labourers have been reportedly threatened by the Chinese security personnel numbering 15-16 on 12th July, 2012. These Chinese personnel were reportedly carrying weapons with them and asked them to abandon the civil works in progress, although it was an ongoing scheme under BADP.'

The DC had further requested Government, 'in order to resolve this contagious issue the matter needs to be taken up with the external affairs ministry and also with Ministry of Home as the people are strongly showing their resentment for unnecessary harassment and stoppage of the developmental work……The work is being executed on the bonafide Indian side and the Chinese have no locus standi on the land which belongs to the people of Koyul.

In another letter by the deputy commissioner of Leh on 22nd August, 2012 sent to the DIG, ITBP (Force), it is stated that, 'it has been reported by the executive engineer that the I&FC Division Leh that the Chinese have threatened to stop the work forthwith otherwise face the consequences….."Since the ITBP is supposed to give protection to the border villages from any such interference from across the border, you are requested to give all necessary assistance in ensuring full protection to the executing agencies in implementing an important project under BADP scheme and to ensure speedy completion of the ongoing working so as to build confidence among the border villages"

The Chinese didn’t allow our engineers to work, they didn’t allow our villagers to unfurl a tricolour, yet nothing happened.

The deputy commissioner of the Ladakh region alarmed the govt, the govt silenced him. The Member of Parliament, me in this case, raised the issue in the House, the govt again avoided the direct answer. The people of Arunachal and Ladakh send SOS to Delhi, but the Prime Minister says, we have nothing to fear from the dam building exercise of the Chinese on Brahmaputra and the Ladakh sector is fine, not a single bullet has been fired there, and we hope Chinese will go back.

No they will not. Their statement, from Beijing, is a clear indication that they believe their soldiers are on their territory and its India that is unnecessarily poking its nose into a purely Chinese internal matter.

But what we had been doing all these thirty years post 1962 in this sector? Simply watching and maintaining a status quo, that defies any logic. Are we really governed by Indians who care for the Indian nation and her people and can go to any extent to protect the territorial integrity, keeping the lives of our border people safe and boosting the morals of jawans?

Lesson from an unsettled boundary

Manoj Joshi

The reality is that the Line of Actual Control between India and China is notional and has not been put down on any mutually agreed map

In 1950, the Survey of India issued a map of India showing the political divisions of the new republic. While the border with Pakistan was defined as it is now, including the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir area, the borders with China were depicted differently. In the east, the McMahon Line was shown as the border, except in its eastern extremity, the Tirap subdivision, where the border was shown as “undefined.” In the Central sector of what is now Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and the eastern part of Jammu & Kashmir, including Aksai Chin, the boundary was depicted merely by a colour wash and denoted as “boundary undefined.”
Unilateral act

In March 1954, the Union Cabinet met and decided to unilaterally define the border of India with China. The colour wash was replaced by a hard line, and the Survey of India issued a new map, which depicts the borders as we know them today. All the old maps were withdrawn and the depiction of Indian boundaries in the old way became illegal. Indeed, if you seek out the White Paper on Indian States of 1948 and 1950 in the Parliament library, you will find that the maps have been removed because they too showed the border as being “undefined” in the Central and Western sectors.

What was the government up to? Did it seriously think it could get away with such a sleight of hand? Or was there a design that will become apparent when the papers of the period are declassified? Not surprisingly, the other party, the People’s Republic of China, was not amused and, in any case, there are enough copies of the old documents and maps across the world today to bring out the uncomfortable truth that the boundaries of India in these regions were unilaterally defined by the Government of India, rather than through negotiation and discussions with China.

It is not as though the Chinese have a particularly good case when it comes to their western boundary in Tibet. The record shows that the Chinese empire was unclear as to its western extremities, and rejected repeated British attempts to settle the border. The problem in the Aksai Chin region was further compounded by the fact that this was an uninhabited high-altitude desert, with few markers that could decide the case in favour of one country or the other. But there was cause for the two countries to sit down and negotiate a mutually acceptable boundary. This as we know was not to be and, since then, the process has gone through needless tension and conflict.

Himalayas or Indo Pacific

April 26, 2013 by Team SAISA
Filed under Analysis

It is very likely that the ongoing standoff with China in Ladakh will likely blow over as the 600 cases of intrusion reported (or not reported) before this have. Hawks have been pleased with their predictions of belligerence of PLA in foreign policy of China as they propose strong Sumdorong Chu like option to be explored to justify their patriotism. 

While the Indian political establishment and the media (including twitterati) have been asking for a strong action , the discourse of India’s security structure and its various constructs in facing the complex challenges India faces, have been glossed over . There are ‘experts’ who have argued for mobilisation of the army and the air force (Nehru- Menon style ) and be prepared for all eventualities. Saner Voices argue putting the entire episode into larger perspective of developing a strong mechanism to pursue India’s foreign and security policies coherently. General Vinod Saighal had analysed the contours of likely conflict scenarios in SAISA in his post “Can 1962 be Repeated..Yes and No” which provides deep insights into the standoff.

The cacophony of confused TV debates and media outpouring go to display the shallow “patriotic” hysteria built around the Sino Indian relations – a signal of portrayal of a weak strategic culture.Ambassador P Stobdan is one of the pragmatic voices which has offered a viable policy option to maintain India’s strategic autonomy in Ladakh. Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal in his post in SAISA has analysed that China would negotiate to resolve the dispute when the Chinese are in a much stronger position in terms of comprehensive national strength so that they can dictate terms. 

At a critical juncture in Chinese leadership transition such belligerence by PLA could be woven around many hypothesis. 

Firstly, the Xi administration may be under pressure from CMC to maintain its tough stand on Tibet to keep India tied to the pole along the vast Himalayan frontier amidst reports of growing Indian naval expansion plans in Indo Pacific and increased force accretions in the Himalayas . But such a posture would push India and US closer to the “Defining Partnership of 21st Century”. The US president, for example, has called India a“natural ally” of the United States, while his former secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, declared that India was “a linchpin” of America’s pivot to the Asia-Pacific. This ‘The Diplomat’ post discusses contours of this vexed US – India-US matrix in the region and concludes that the real question is whether India should emphasize balancing China on land or at sea. 

Why then should Xi accept such a proposal of helping consolidate the Indo-US alliance as part of the pivot? 

Secondly, this may be a PLA initiative to force India to commit resources to an otherwise dormant 4000 km frontier in the high Himalayas – resources that would be diverted from India’s meager defence budget . As India’s China policy of raising strike corps fructifies it would also have to undertake major investments in infrastructure (a departure from its Nehruvian scorched earth policy ). Something, which by any conservative estimates, would keep India numerically inferior in the Himalayas for another two to three decades . Considering China’s infrastructure and quantitative troops lead, this would allow China to dominate the LAC pressure points at will, especially, when seen in light of poor Indian leadership responses to transgressions over the last three years. 

National Interest: Mere paas media hai

Shekhar Gupta : Sat Apr 27 2013

The fixer-businessman's new badge of honour — and disgrace

Besides political connections, there is one equally significant common thread linking the owners of chit fund companies currently under the scanner in the east. They are all media owners as well. Many have a footprint across media and languages. Further, there are other common factors within their media businesses. For none of them, is media a major or core activity. Most of them make losses in their media businesses. For all of them, media has also been an afterthought, after they had made their money in other businesses, mainly chit funds, mining, real estate or simply politics. They obviously saw media as a small investment relative to the size of their businesses. What is more important to the people of India, and for us, a small but expanding community of Indian journalists, they also saw media as a force multiplier. A mere adjunct to their businesses, a small hole in their balance sheets, but an investment that was monetised in other ways. It secured you political patronage, protected you from the police and regulators, helped you fix your rivals and, as in the case of the head of the media ventures owned by the Saradha group, got you a seat in Rajya Sabha. One thing it rarely made you was old-fashioned profits.

The Saradha group set up several news channels, besides newspapers in Bengali, English, Hindi and Urdu. The group in the Northeast it was looking to invest in belonged to another unconventional owner, an occasional politician, Matang Singh, who appeared from nowhere to become a minister in Narasimha Rao's cabinet in Chandraswami's heyday and disappeared equally mysteriously. If he and his wife Manoranjana Singh made any money running the media business, we do not know, but it seems unlikely. Rose Valley, Tower Group, Shine Group, Rahul Group, Chakra Group and G Group, all under the scanner now in Bengal, have the same basket of interests: chit funds, real estate and media. In resource-rich east-central India, where a mining lease is the ticket to status, clout and a private Cessna Citation, even an Embraer, a media appendage has now become a necessity.

THE political class was the first to understand what a tiny business the media was financially, and how out of proportion its clout. The first "non-traditional" media entrepreneurs in this current phase were thus politicians, particularly in the states. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy's Sakshi group is the most visible, but there are many others, some in almost every state. Of these two sets of new entrants in the media, entrepreneurs who work on the cusp of politics and resources (mining, real estate) and regulation (non-banking finance), and the politicians, the latter have been cleverer. If it was clout they were after, the better way, some of them figured, was to control access for others rather than go through the "jhanjhat" (messiness) of setting up channels and newspapers and paying salaries to ungrateful, insufferable journalists. Go over the map of India, state by state, and see how politicians have taken control of television channel distribution. Punjab and Tamil Nadu are two of the starkest examples where powerful political leaders or families control distribution, and anybody critical of them is routinely taken off air. You are also less likely to lose money in this business. Distribution has guaranteed incomes, and political clout ensures your monopoly anyway.

But why are we complaining? Why are we being so protective of what only we see as our turf? There is nothing in the law to stop anybody from owning media. And sure enough, the biggest business houses in India have tried their hand with the media and retreated with burnt fingers and singed balance sheets. The Ambanis (Observer Group), Vijaypat Singhania (Indian Post), L.M. Thapar (The Pioneer), Sanjay Dalmia (Sunday Mail), Lalit Suri (Delhi Midday), are like a rollcall of the captains of Indian industry who failed in the media business. They failed, you'd say, because they did not, deep down, respect the media, or journalists. Many of them saw themselves as victims of poorly paid, dimwit journalists employed by people who called themselves media barons but were barons of what was a boutique business compared to theirs.

Long ago, on the eastern front

Kaushik Roy : Sat Apr 27 2013

Although the British voted it so, the Imphal-Kohima confrontation was not the greatest battle of World War II

On March 4, 1944, the Japanese launched their last ground offensive in Burma, known as U-Go. Three Nipponese infantry divisions of Renya Mutaguchi's 15th army converged on the hill towns of Imphal and Kohima. "Bill" Slim's 14th army used five divisions and by mid June, the Japanese thrusts were defeated. However, in 1944, the English-speaking world did not pay much attention to the struggle that unfolded in the jungle-covered regions of the India-Burma border. The attention of the Western world was on fighting in Italy (Anzio and Rome) and Operation Overlord (June 6, 1944).

The British personnel in the 14th army, out of frustration for lack of attention to their activities in the Far East, described themselves as members of the "Forgotten Army". Both official accounts and popular histories, including Hollywood movies, focused overwhelmingly on combat on the European fronts. In the new millennium, a group of British military officers, including some academics, started arguing that combat against Japan in Burma was as important as fighting against Hitler's Festung Europa. The new genre of operational historians started claiming that Slim was a greater general than Bernard Montgomery, the man who defeated Erwin Rommel in Normandy. Some Indian writers claimed that Indians played a prominent role on both sides during the climactic confrontation at Imphal and Kohima. In reality, how important was Imphal-Kohima in the context of global warfare? And how important was the role of the Indians in this campaign?

Despite the assertion of some populist writers, the Japanese strategic aim in launching U-Go was not to conquer India, but to occupy the important military bases of Imphal and Kohima in order to disrupt the Allied ground offensive, which the Japanese rightly predicted would be launched into central Burma in mid-1944. It is true that 70 per cent of the personnel in Slim's army were Indians. There was only one British division and two African divisions in Burma. The rest of the five infantry divisions comprised of Indians. However, most commissioned officers in even the Indian divisions were British.

Some over-emphasise the role played by the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army/ INA) in the Imphal-Kohima campaign. Only 7,000 INA personnel participated in this campaign. Moreover, they were neither trained nor equipped for frontline combat. They were assigned rear area security tasks. The Japanese aim was to use these units for encouraging sedition and rebellion among the Indians behind British lines. However, the INA failed to perform these tasks. The Nagas around Imphal and Kohima sided with the British and hated the Japanese, due to the latter's pillage and plundering of village livestocks. Actually, the Japanese had no option, as their supply line from Chindwin was in ruins while the 14th Army enjoyed the luxury of air supply. The British armed many Nagas for self-defence. Military training imparted to them by British officers in wartime and the capture of weapons of retreating Japanese soldiers enabled the Nagas to conduct armed insurgency against independent India in the 1950s. Moreover, the jawans remained loyal to their white masters and shot at the INA personnel. Regimental loyalty prevented mutiny among the British-officered Indian soldiery. Only the demobilisation of the 1.8 million strong Indian army in August 1942 and the British failure to provide the demobilised jawans with jagirs and jobs turned them against the Raj. But that is a separate story.

How important was U-Go in terms of lethality in the context of der totale krieg? About 1,57,000 Allied troops were used to counter the Japanese invasion in 1944. The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) had about five divisions in Burma (including one in Arakan and another in north Burma deployed against Joseph Stilwell's Chinese-American troops). In comparison, some 3,56,000 Allied soldiers jostled at Normandy. And the Wehrmacht had 58 divisions to defend west Europe. Between February and July 1944, the 14th Army suffered 24,000 casualties (including 12,000 at Imphal and 4,000 at Kohima). The corresponding figure for the IJA was around 90,000. Of the Wehrmacht troops in Normandy, 2,50,000 became casualties after the German defeat at Falaise Gap on 21 August 1944. So, Imphal-Kohima was a smaller affair than Normandy. However, both these battles were chicken feed compared to what was going on in the Ostfront.

In the summer of 1944, Stalin launched Operation Bagration. By the end of 1944, the Red Army had advanced from Smolensk to the outskirts of Warsaw. The Wehrmacht suffered almost a million casualties. The point to be noted is that 70 per cent of the Wehrmacht was always on the eastern front. So, if any battle could be categorised as decisive, it had to have been one fought on the Russian front.

Historical perception is different from historical reality. Every nation uses history for national mythmaking and a professional historian's thankless job is to blast the myths and counter-myths of history. To conclude, Imphal-Kohima was not a world shaking event and the INA (despite its post-1947 importance) was merely a cog in the wheel.

The writer is a Kolkata-based senior researcher at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo

‘Homework to Do’: The Afghanistan-Pakistan Peace Talk Tipping Point

Apr 26, 2013

Don’t get too excited about this week’s revived peace talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan, since both countries came to the table with specific, complicated demands. But Shamila N. Chaudhary and Omar Samad say hope is not lost—but appointing an envoy to the region is essential.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s diplomatic initiative to host talks between Afghan and Pakistani leaders in Brussels this week was a timely step meant to reset tense relations between the two South Asian neighbors, and revive stalled talks with the Taliban as the 2014 deadline for the U.S. and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (center) talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai (left) and Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Asfhaq Parvez Kayani as they take a walk during a break in a meeting on April 24, 2013, in Brussels, Belgium. The trilateral meeting is to discuss regional security issues, and the 2014 withdrawal of NATO combat forces from Afghanistan. (Pool photo by Evan Vucci)

With no immediate breakthrough on the horizon, the Secretary emerged after three hours of talks saying that both sides have "some very specific homework to do.” In other words, it may be naïve to expect quick results, but specific demands have been exchanged that require action within a specific time frame. The most challenging might be prodding Taliban leaders to enter talks.

Years of acrimony and mistrust have left the two countries suspicious of each other’s motivations, and without active and judicious U.S. and international participation in the political end-game, the heavy investments made since 9/11 to fight terrorism and help stabilize the region might end up being in vain.

Relations between Kabul and Islamabad have soured since February when it was announced at a trilateral meeting hosted by the British Prime Minister that a peace deal may be possible within six months.

Afghanistan expected some movement from Islamabad to nudge the Taliban, whose leadership resides in Pakistan, to enter into talks. But Kabul is now accusing Pakistan of “sabotaging the peace effort,” pointing to several areas of contention:

Succeeding in Afghanistan

Journal Article | April 26, 2013


“All anti-colonial struggles are at the core about two things, repossession of lost land and restoring the centrality of indigenous culture…."[1]

The notion of “colonialism” is defined as a centralized system in which the elites run the system for their own benefit, bleeding the economy of resources and so stunting growth and depriving the local society of just administration. The ethnicity or nationality of the ruling elites doesn’t matter. In fact the concept of “internal colonialism” – colonization by fellow citizens – has been an accepted part of development theory for more than half a century and certainly defines the situation in Afghanistan today.

Not recognizing the truth of this opening quote is at the heart of Western failures in confronting insurgencies since Vietnam until today. The truth of it can be found by dissecting most revolutionary movements. Boring down past the ideological superstructure that most “civilized” countries use to justify their occupation of “uncivilized” lands will almost always expose a lack of economic opportunity and social justice. Missing the truth of the Nkwinti quote highlights a fundamental inadequacy in how the West manages postwar stability operations, how it counters insurgencies, and even how it creates their foreign aid programs.

Our modern sensibilities often impose a concern for the social and economic rights of indigenous cultures. However, when the West has substantial direct or indirect influence over poor countries, this concern is often manifested as unbalanced support for a strong central government, usually without respect to the existing political traditions. This leads to a confusion between sovereignty and self-government, two very different things.

After the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we seemed to believe that we are supporting these indigenous cultures by seeking to quickly restoring their sovereignty.[2] However, this course compels us to focus on the central government’s authority over the political economy, inevitably leading to a top-down process of administration, an approach that tends to reflect Western culture and is more likely to be an artifact of the colonial model of administration.

As a result, we ignore the political economy of the village. Scholars have studied village life for generations and know that, left alone, village government has a structure reflecting – in some manner – popular consent, and individual land rights, which is the most basic issue for most villagers. A landmark study of village life in India notes, “Most cases brought before the court have to do with land boundaries.[3] This is the sort of thing that matters to the average citizen who is part of a small, often isolated micro-economy.

Even today in the face of a 2014 pullout, Western political leaders are in general agreement that the war in Afghanistan must be “won,” but they are operating under a set of strategic objectives that are unclear and often conflicting. This creates a process to define their objectives that is faulty and so leads to programs that are ineffective. Even though most troops will be gone, billions of dollars in programs will continue with opaque methods and purposes. This persistent lack of strategic clarity deprived us of any chance of success in Vietnam, and is being repeated today in Afghanistan thus putting the West’s enterprise there at dire risk. 

Our leaders who formulate policies aimed at confronting persistent insurgencies often rely on the historic record for examples of stability operations running in parallel with counterinsurgency (COIN) programs. Although there are useful historic examples, when the US and its NATO allies in Afghanistan moved from counter-terrorism to COIN the tendency was to concentrate on the lessons from the Vietnam War. But COIN in Vietnam offers us an inadequate model because analysts have consistently misread the history of that conflict.

In the end, we failed in Vietnam because we did not understand that a political consensus is always built from the periphery into the center, and that modern economies can only be built from the bottom up. But if we ignore village life – or try to bend it to our view of what it should be – we will fail in Afghanistan as we did in Vietnam.

Because we misread Vietnam’s history we have been repeating these same mistakes in Afghanistan where our policies generally are aimed at building a political economy from top down, and it will not work. This paper will consider these deficiencies and try to suggest alternative approaches to defining, planning and executing our policies and programs.

Current Counterinsurgency Policies

The new “conventional wisdom” about COIN doctrine is useful as far as it goes. But insurgencies are contests between competing visions of government. If you strip away the rhetoric – ours and theirs – it’s all about power. Although Western governments always seek to extend or defend constitutional democracy we are centuries removed from those who actually created modern governments. As a result, today we tend to reduce the process to its superstructure – the part we can see such as elections, courts, stock markets, and law books – but then ignore its foundation that is a social consensus.

The basic philosophy underlying all our modern political economies was first articulated by John Locke who wrote, “The great and chief end, therefore, of men's uniting into commonwealths and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.”[4] This can only be done by an effective legal code. So effective aid, not our “stuff”, begins with a basic system of rules common to every modern economy. This set of rules is necessary, though hardly sufficient.

Afghanistan's Looming Security Test

Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR
April 26, 2013

Interviewee: Stephen Biddle, Professor of Political Science and international Affairs, George Washington University; Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, CFR

The short-term situation in Afghanistan is more promising than is perceived in the United States, but uncertainties abound in the long run, says CFR's Stephen Biddle. Afghan security forces have thus far exceeded expectations as they assume greater autonomy from U.S. troops, but "this summer's fighting season will be a major test," he says. On the political front, Biddle notes that much is a stake for Afghanistan in the election next spring, when President Hamid Karzai is expected to anoint his successor. As the United States seeks to rekindle stalled peace talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Taliban in the coming months, the "overwhelmingly critical long-term issue" after the U.S. departure in 2014 will be Congress's willingness to keep funding Kabul.

An Afghan National Army soldier patrols in Kabul. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Courtesy Reuters)

You recently made your eighth fact-finding trip to Afghanistan. How are the Afghan forces doing now, and what are the chances for a political agreement to end the war that would be in the interests of the United States and Afghanistan?

The short-run situation [in Afghanistan] is probably more favorable than is widely understood in the United States. A variety of positive things are happening. One of the critical issues for the near-to-medium term is the performance of the Afghan National Security Forces. The sense at the moment is that although there is a wide variation of proficiency across different Afghan units, combat motivation seems to be going up as the U.S. safety net is removed.

Why take unnecessary risks to no good purpose? Now much of the time the Afghans are patrolling on their own without us. And now they actually will fight, because they have to.

There's kind of a "dependency doctrine folk theory" around the U.S. command, which is that when we were actively partnered with Afghan forces, and you'd have joint patrols--typically with the Americans at the front of the column and the Afghans at the back of the column--the Afghans tended not to fight very hard because they figured the Americans would. Why take unnecessary risks to no good purpose? Now much of the time the Afghans are patrolling on their own without us. And now they actually will fight, because they have to.

But this summer's fighting season will be a major test of this theory and of the future performance of the Afghan security forces. But generally speaking, the reviews in theater so far are that they've been doing better than perhaps expected. Very little of the Afghan military is currently capable of operating without extensive American logistical support. Very little, if any, of the Afghan military can operate without American medevac. But the process of transition from an overwhelmingly U.S. campaign to what will after 2014 be an overwhelmingly Afghan campaign is well afoot.

Why Have a Surrender Policy?

April 26, 2013 by Team SAISA
Filed under internal security

Pakistan Army is making an all out effort to fight Taliban, particularly on its western borders. It is using all the forms of warfare including propaganda and psychological warfare to capture the mind space of the people. Recent reports about the Pakistan – CIA secret deal, allowing US forces to undertake drone attacks along the Pakistan – Afghanistan borders with the caveat that US forces will not hit the infrastructure meant for exporting terror into Kashmir, does not augur well for the much publicised policy for rehabilitation of the surrendered militants from J&K.

Timing of implementation of the rehabilitation policy and the secret deal of CIA, both being in 2004, further raise the hackles and indicate towards the sinister designs of Pakistan.

Assuming that Pakistan will do what falls in line with its foreign policy, but why did Government of India fall for it? To top it all, the State Government has gone beyond the mandate of the policy by having enabled infiltration of so many of them through Nepal and is batting for including entry through Nepal as part of the policy.

At a time when all the terrorist affected countries are making robust laws to deal with the menace of terrorism, a country like ours, which has been bleeding due to terrorism in so many states is facilitating return of militants in hordes. Along with them, we are also welcoming the Pakistani citizens in the form of their wives and children. Are we rewarding these people who crossed over to Pakistan to become part of the war against India, waged by our hostile neighbour.

The recent incident of Liaqat Ali followed by arrest of four more with eight members of their families from Madhubani in Bihar, raises questions that need to be considered seriously. Firstly, is there really a need for having such a flawed policy? Who are we trying to placate – Pakistan, the family members of these militants or the constituency of separatists? While it is agreed that the rebels of the insurgency torn countries are often given a such a humanitarian benefit, but that happens only when the conflict is over. Moreover, those who form part of the war have to prove their credentials over a protracted period of time. They are not imported from another country along with the baggage of long list of family members. Secondly, the State Government which has not been able to create a legal frame work to rehabilitate those who came from Pakistan during independence, is busy facilitating the illegal infiltration of terrorists against the very policy that has been framed.

There are a large constituency of ex-terrorists who surrendered within India who are far from being rehabilitated. When the State Government is questioned about their future, it expresses its dilemma stating that rehabilitation and out of turn efforts to give them jobs will send wrong signals to those who remained loyal citizens. Applying the same logic and the fact that those coming through Nepal route have not proved their credentials with regard to giving up militancy, it is difficult to comprehend as to why we are committing such a blunder. It is the same State Government, which has been commenting that the Army should ensure zero infiltration through Line of Control. Knowing what it takes to put the tap on infiltration, why is it helping in infiltration of terrorists through Nepal?

Beyond this simple logic, lies the fears that may not be meeting the normal eye. Visits by the separatist leaders to Pakistan in the recent past and their close door meeting with the likes of United Jehad Council supremo Sallahu-ud-Din and ISI officials were soon followed by the threat from Sallahu-ud-Din as well as separatist leaders that the militants will be directed towards Kashmir. Also, consequent to the arrest of Liaqat Ali, UJC supremo wasted no time in stating that Liaqat Ali genuinely wanted to return and was not involved in terrorism. Character certificate issued by him was soon endorsed by Omar Abdullah.

Analysing China’s Defence White Paper

April 26, 2013 by Team SAISA


The importance of Defence White Papers lies in providing a broad understanding of politico military direction together with the plans for modernization of the armed forces. The aspects include an understanding of Chinese political leadership’s thinking on emerging security environment, political and security challenges that emanate with anticipated areas of conflict; and above all envisaged role of the armed forces in dealing with them.

Regular production of Defence White Papers is an exercise in strategic communication aimed at internal and external audience. At one level it is to exhibit high levels of military transparency but more importantly convince the world about the strides China is taking in transformation and modernization of its armed forces, by highlighting, the growing capacity, credibility and technological prowess of the Chinese Armed Forces. It is also an exercise to internally reassure both the Party organs and people on the credibility of its armed forces in ensuring territorial integrity, national sovereignty and protection of its core national interests.

This year’s Defence White Paper is interestingly titled as “Diversified Employment of Chinese Armed Forces”, highlighting the multiple role Chinese armed forces play in overall national development and security. The paper does not fight shy of conveying propensities of power projection through enhanced military capabilities. For the first time China provides insights into the shape and size of its armed forces in particular the role of the second artillery forces. Importantly it highlights the role of hard power in terms of “military prowess” in providing security guarantees and strategic support for national development?

This commentary looks upon the underlying nuances of Chinese military capability covered in this year’s White Paper being the first since the changes in the Chinese political leadership. Second and importantly the commentary also analyses implications of these developments for India.

Security Environment

Paper acknowledges profound implications of US rebalancing strategy in Asia – Pacific that is resulting in complex security environment particularly as the US expands its military presence and rebuilds its alliance system. This is outlined in the comment that ‘some countries have strengthened its Asia-Pacific military alliances, expanded its military presence in the region, and frequently makes the situation there tenser.”While the Chinese appear to be sanguine about these developments there is an underlying concern about these impacting Chinese ambitions and interests?

While concentrating on the US and Japan the White Paper has not included South China Sea and the littoral countries as area of concern thus for time being downplaying the issue and possibly setting priorities for settling/importance of these issues. The “Taiwan independence” issue however remains a core issue in particular concerns about the threat of the separatist forces and their activities on the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations. The paper singles out Japan for vitiating the maritime environment with its stand on SenkakuIsland issue.

Interestingly, the border issue with India does not find mention. This is in contrast to articulations made in earlier papers. For instance White Paper of 2006 talked of having settled border disputes with 11 out of 13 countries. This formulation implied that India and Bhutan were being unreasonable. In his ‘Five Point Proposal’ for improving Sino-Indian ties made in mid- March this year President Xi Jinping observed that “The border question is a complex issue left from history and solving the issue won’t be easy.” There should be no doubt that the “Boundary Issue” remains central to the future of India – China relations and central concern for India. The fragility of the boundary issue is highlighted by the ongoing PLA intrusion into sensitive at Daulat Beg Oldi in Ladakh, exacerbating tensions and continuing faceoff.