13 May 2013

Have Indian troops abandoned Indian territory?

IDR Blog
Date:08 May , 2013

Maj Gen S G Vombatkere retired as major general after 35 years in the Indian military, from the post of Additional DG in charge of Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ.

The incursion by Chinese troops into the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector of Ladakh on 15 April 2013 by erecting and occupying tents was responded to on the ground by Indian troops erecting tents nearby to prevent further Chinese advance.

The incursion is said to be in the Burtse (mis-spelt as “Burthe” and “Burste” by some journalists) sub-sector. Most people do not know where DBO is on the map because they have no access to maps that have DBO marked on it, much less Burtse. A not-to-scale map of the area alongwith a distance-chart and an altitude-chart is ATTACHED, to give a rough idea of the places, distances and altitudes. In particular, Burtse and DBO are about 43-km apart. My educated guess from my ground knowledge and from the map, and from the LAC as approximately marked in red, the incursion is likely to be closer to Depsang la than to Burtse post.

…some media reports are wrongly assuming that Indian troops have abandoned Indian territory, unaware of the fact that troops of any army occupy fortified positions (posts) and control area by observation and patrolling. Troops cannot and do not sit on the line like birds on a wire to monitor a line of control or a boundary.

A location which is fortified and occupied by troops is called a post. Troops come out of their posts and patrol the area in its frontage to reconnoitre (recce) or to show their presence or control of the area. Patrols normally go out as far as their knowledge of the line of control (LAC). When, as in DBO sector, the LAC is not marked on the ground by boundary pillars or other structures by mutual agreement, the Indian troops’ understanding of the LAC is the extent to which they have been patrolling and likewise, the Chinese troops’ understanding of the LAC is the extent to which they have been patrolling. Accordingly, the Indian side of the extent of Chinese patrolling is undisputed Indian territory, and likewise the Chinese side of the extent of Indian patrolling is undisputed Chinese territory. When the extent of patrolling by Indian and Chinese troops overlaps (obviously to different lengths at different places), there is a disputed area.

Since my information is only from the media (about Burtse, for example) and I have no information from troops stationed on the ground or from their higher HQ about the incursion, I cannot say with any degree of confidence whether the Chinese troops pitched their tents inside Indian territory or within the disputed area. However, reports in the media stated that the Chinese incursion was 10-km into Indian territory and later the same incursion was stated to be 19-km.

On May 5, 2013, Chinese troops are reported to have completed their withdrawal from their tented (incursion) position, and correspondingly Indian troops also withdrew from their tented position to their fortified posts. But some media reports are wrongly assuming that Indian troops have abandoned Indian territory, unaware of the fact that troops of any army occupy fortified positions (posts) and control area by observation and patrolling. Troops cannot and do not sit on the line like birds on a wire to monitor a line of control or a boundary. For journalists who are not familiar with the army’s functioning to get a better idea of the ground position, they need to ask the army authorities after understanding the above explanation.

Now that the stand-off has been defused without military engagement, it is vital that both sides negotiate and take concrete steps to demarcate the LAC on the ground including GPS coordinates.

Indian response to Chinese intrusion in Daulat Beg Oldie

IDR Blog
Col Danvir Singh| Date:05 May , 2013

Indian foreign policy analysts and experts categorise our policy into three distinctive phases of evolution. The first phase was the Nehruvian era based on idealism, the foundations of which were shattered by the Chinese aggression and India suffered a humiliating defeat in 1962. Then came the second phase, a period of real and power politics that started somewhere in the late 1960s and lasted till the end of 80s. In 1991 came the much awaited economic reforms, initiating an era of pragmatism; the third phase.

We displayed to the world our capability to handle adverse situations simultaneously on two fronts,

As an ex-military man the period of the seventies and the eighties excites me the most. During this phase India liberated Bangladesh and a new country was carved out of Pakistan. In 1974 India exploded nuclear device and further in 1984 we displayed our ability to fight at altitudes up to 21000 feet by capturing the Siachen Glacier. India displayed its hegemonic status in the region when the Indian army entered Sri Lanka with a peace keeping force in 1987, aimed at ending the Sri Lankan civil war. In 1988 the Indian armed forces intervened in Maldives and the coup d’état against Gayoom’s presidency failed. We displayed to the world our capability to handle adverse situations simultaneously on two fronts, while India was conducting its largest ever military exercise under code name operation Brasstacks near Indo-Pak border in 1986, the Chinese intruded into our area of Sumdorong Chu valley in Arunanchal. Indian political and military leadership responded expeditiously and mobilised troops under operation Falcon followed by Exercise Chequerboard to counter the Chinese. India not only contained the belligerent Chinese action but also set in motion a diplomatic exercise that resulted in various agreements on border issue and de-escalated the tense situation amicably .

… India can ill afford to trivialise the Chinese intrusion in to our territory as a routine and a localised affair, arisen due to differing perceptions of the LAC.

In the present era of pragmatism, our economic interests guide our geo-political interests. Whatever may be the guidelines of the phase three of our foreign policy, India can ill afford to trivialise the Chinese intrusion in to our territory as a routine and a localised affair, arisen due to differing perceptions of the LAC. Lately our country has witnessed meek responses to the Pakistani or Chinese sponsored crisis. Be it the terrorist strikes by Pakistani non state actors, or Chinese violation of LAC, or their veiled threat to our growing cooperation with Vietnam in oil exploration in the South China Sea, India has displayed lack of will in sending strong signals that should radiate from an emerging regional super power.
  • Before suggesting a response to this intrusion in Depsang Valley it is important to visit certain timelines in the history.
  • Quing dynasty invaded Tibet in 1910 and annexed it. The 13th Dali lama, ruler of Tibet, fled and took refuge in India.
  • Three years later he returned triumphantly and reclaimed his throne and authority; a historical reminder that keeps China worried, in the present contest of 14th Dali Lama and his government in exile at Dharamshala.
  • China never recognised any boundary agreement between British India and the Tibet in 1914 Simla convection.
  • British India also changed stance over the perceived boundary in the western sector in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
  • Initially in 1865 it was the Jhonson line along the watershed of Kunlun mountain range and later a revised boundary Macartney- MacDonald line generally same as the present LAC.
  • Finally at the time of independence we inherited a boundary which was a mix of Jhonson and McDonald line in Ladhak region and a vague McMohan line in the North East Frontiers of Arunanchal.
  • China annexed Tibet again in 1950 and India provided asylum to the Dali Lama and his followers. This Irked the Chinese and the build-up of events thereafter led to a humiliating Indian defeat in the 1962 war.
  • There was a standoff between the two armies in 1967 at Nathu La in Sikkim and later in 1986 at Sumdorong Chu in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The decade of 90s saw a number of agreements between the two neighbours for maintaining peace and tranquillity over the border and instituting various Confidence Building Security Measures.
…the Chinese behaviour is on the expected lines in conformity to her aspirations in future.

Today China is the fastest growing economy with growth rate of 10 per cent roughly double to that of India. China has a defence budget of 115.7 billion dollars, nearly three times more than the Indian spending on defence. It sees India as a competitor in this region and a hurdle towards realisation of her super power aspirations. The rising Dragon foresees future conflicts with India over energy security in The South China Sea or the Indian Ocean and therefore wants to keep alive the boundary issue. This is intended to be used as a leverage by the Chinese in containing the rise of India. The strategic encirclement by the string of pearls is in sync with their overall strategic vision against India.
  • As we analyse the historical past, the Chinese behaviour is on the expected lines in conformity to her aspirations in future. India needs to explore some hard options by gtting down to real politk. In my opinion India has three options.
  • First Option – Indian acquiescence to the hegemonic stature of a belligerent China over the boundary situation and seek a quiet solution.
  • Second Option – India to take actions on the lines of 1986 Sumdorong Chu intrusion and enter into a dialogue from a position of strength.
  • Third Option – India to carry out action as stated in option two. In addition undertake extensive joint military training exercises by the army and the air force all along the LAC. The Indian Navy simultaneously to carry out training manoeuvres in the South China Sea. This way a strong message will go across the Himalayas and establish India as an emerging regional and a global power.
Whatever decision India takes and whichever option it opts to overcome the perennial Security threat emanating from China, our actions will be closely watched by the countries of this region who are threatened by the hegemonic stature of the Dragon. Any move by India asserting its national interest will set the agenda for future dealings with the Chinese in the decades to come. This intrusion is more than acne on a scared face and the beauty restoration would require serious therapy rather than a pimple cream.

Janus in Islamabad


Is Pakistan's once and likely future prime minister someone the United States can work with?

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Nearly 15 years after he was ousted in a bloodless coup, business tycoon Nawaz Sharif and his center-right party are poised to regain control over Pakistan's government, according to early returns from the historic May 11 vote -- the first transfer of power from one elected government to another in the country's history. 

Like the last two times he won the premiership, Sharif appears to have ridden to power on the back of strong support from his Punjabi heartland, a province that is home to much of the Pakistani elite, but also a patchwork of violent sectarian and Islamic groups. 

Nobody has ever accused Sharif, himself, of being an extremist, but like anywhere else, success in Pakistani politics requires playing to the base. Take Sharif’s push in 1998, during his second stint as prime minister, to pass a constitutional amendment that would have imposed sharia law across the country. “He doesn’t believe in sharia,” said William Milam, the U.S. ambassador in Pakistan at the time. “This was a totally cynical thing to do, it was obviously directed to try and keep the Islamists attached to him.”

Few, if any, in Washington or Islamabad think Sharif and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), will try to change the overall trajectory of bilateral relations between the United States and Pakistan -- on security or other priorities. But Sharif’s track record of ambivalence towards extremists could prove troubling in more nuanced ways.

Sharif's senior advisers insist he would be committed to working in close collaboration with the United States, including on security issues, the fact that PML-N governments have, as Millam put it, "played footsie," with extremist groups in the past represents exactly the sort of mixed message many in Pakistan worry the violence-wracked country simply cannot afford.

Since the end of last decade, Pakistan has faced a growing threat from the domestic insurgent group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, composed of Islamic fundamentalists intent on overthrowing the state. What once was a movement largely confined to the country's remote tribal areas now has a growing presence in major urban hubs, most worryingly Karachi, Pakistan largest city and its economic heartbeat. In a bid to disrupt the elections, they've launched terrorist attacks that have left more than 100 people dead in recent months.

Gone are the days when Pakistan's powerful military could take on foes -- both its own and Americas -- with impunity and not face popular pushback. A decade ago, President Pervez Musharraf, a general who assumed power in a 1999 military coup, enjoyed almost unfettered power to partner closely with the United States in its post-Sept. 11 "war on terror." Now he is under house arrest in his estate on the outskirts of Islamabad, facing trial for his actions during the waning days of his term. According to retired three-star Pakistani Army Gen. Talat Masood, today in Pakistan "there is a lot of confusion, especially amongst the political class" about the military campaign against extremists.

"And because of the political confusion and in the media, the people are also equally confused as to exactly what this war is all about, whom it is directed to," Masood explained in Islamabad earlier this spring -- a key reason, he said, for Pakistan's recent failures in its fight against militants.

Former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Maleeha Lodhi put it more directly. What Pakistan needs, she said, is a strong government that will tell its people, "we need to confront this threat, here's how we're going to do it, we need your support."

In the last few years, she lamented, "I have not...seen anybody stand up and make that kind of a speech."

In the waning days of this year's campaign, Sharif began to speak out publicly -- including to Western media -- against what he has characterized as a flawed U.S. "war on terror."

But Sharif's senior advisors have also taken pains to highlight the party's longstanding partnership with the United States, including their boss's close relationship with former President Bill Clinton during his time in office. The message: Sharif is a known quantity to U.S. policymakers, as opposed to, say, Pakistani cricket icon Imran Khan, who has publicly threatened to shoot down U.S. drones if elected prime minister.

Sharif: Pakistan’s next Prime Minister?

Prakash Nanda| Date:09 May , 2013

Prakash Nanda is a journalist and editorial consultant for Indian Defence Review. He is also the author of “Rediscovering Asia: Evolution of India’s Look-East Policy.”

The other day while watching noted television journalist Karan Thapar’ s “Devil’s Advocate” programme, I was impressed by Pakistani leader Nawaz Sharif’s “sincere” assurance that if elected to the office of the Prime Minister, he would never allow the Pakistani soil to be used by the terror groups against India. Shaif, who has been Prime Minister twice, was eloquent how he had signed the Lahore declaration with former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and started a reconciliation process with India, that, unfortunately, got derailed by his then Army Chief Pervez Musharraf’s war in Kargil. Musharraf, incidentally, staged a coup against Sharif later.

While it is a fact that the PPP is the most secular of all the Pakistani political parties, it is virtually powerless to be of any effect because the real power of the country continues with the Army as far as internal and external securities are concerned.

183 million Pakistanis will be electing a new federal government. That will be a historic feat in the sense that for the first time in Pakistan’s history an elected government will succeed an elected predecessor that completed a full term.

This time, 86.1 million Pakistanis—more than a third of them between the ages of 18 and 30—are registered to vote at polling stations across the country. The Election Commission has allowed some 148 political parties to run, allotting symbols to each party to help voters who cannot read. Apart from the traditional mainstream parties such as Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML), some famous personalities and their respective political parties, not necessarily form the conventional political background, are also in the race.

For instance, there is the controversial nuclear technologist, arguably father of Pakistan’s nuclear bombs and missiles, A.Q. Khan, whose party has been given a missile as the election-symbol. Legendary cricketer Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf will fight on the symbol of a cricket bat. Then there is former Army Chief-turned President Pervez Musharraf, who, with his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) party, also wanted to be in the fray “to save Pakistan”, but his goal has been thwarted by the Pakistani Courts. He has been disqualified for contesting the polls and his party has decided to boycott the elections. There are also the religious political parties of Jamaat Ulema-e-Islam and Jamaat-e-Islami , though they will like to be seen together with Tehreek-e-Insaf.

With about 10,000 candidates nationwide, the polls will present Pakistanis with a range of options to choose from. The left of the centre—which wants social freedom and liberties, peace with India, a laissez-faire approach to Afghanistan, continued strong relations with the U.S., and curbs on the Army’s power—is led by the PPP and its allies. The right of the centre — which is usually anti-India, anti-America, and preaching the importance of religion in political life—is represented by Imran Khan and his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf; Saudi-backed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League, as well as smaller religious parties. The fringe is occupied by Musharraf, A.Q. Khan, and the political divisions of militant groups that have also been allowed to run.

Against this background, some fundamental aspects of Pakistani polity need to be pointed out. To begin with, the PPP coalition government is the first democratically elected government in Pakistani history to complete a full term. The PPP and President Asif Zardari deserve credit for this. All the more so because the PPP made qualitative improvements in the country’s constitution, with the President returning powers to the Prime Minister that were unduly taken away during Pervez Musharraf’s military rule. It was also creditable on the part of the PPP for devolving powers to the provinces.

Soldiers and jihadis in Pakistan

By Tufail Ahmad
13th May 2013

There is conclusive evidence that the jihadi organisation Jaish-e-Muhammad is a constituent unit of the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. However, as India agonises over the killing of Sarabjit Singh in a Lahore jail and a tit-for-tat attack on a Pakistani inmate in India, it is relevant here to see some reports of how the Indian government has been releasing Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) prisoners in recent years.

According to the 7-13 January, 2011, issue of Al-Qalam, an Urdu-language Pakistani weekly published by JeM, there were five Jaish-e-Muhammad members among a number of Pakistani prisoners released by India as a gesture of goodwill. The JeM leadership was in prior knowledge of their arrival.

The five — Muhammad Adnan, Muhammad Bilal, Syed Waqar Shah, Muhammad Manzoor and Muhammad Aslam — were welcomed at the Wagah border by Qari Zarrar, an official of Al-Rehmat Trust, a charity associated with JeM. Of them, Adnan and Bilal are senior militants and were accorded a “spectacular welcome” at the JeM headquarters in Bahawalpur.

As per the April 22-28, 2011, issue of Al-Qalam, Saiful Maluk, another Jaish-e-Muhammad militant, was freed from an Indian prison after serving over five years. After his release, Maluk was honoured at the JeM headquarters. Speaking on the occasion, JeM leaders Maulana Muhammad Talha and Maulana Muhammad Shafiq Abu Jandal declared that Al-Rehmat Trust would use all resources to free all its members from Indian prisons. These reports point to the sobering performance of Indian intelligence, the argument not being here that India has been freeing militants knowingly.

In an entirely different context of the hijacking of the Indian passenger plane to Kandahar in 1999, India released three militant commanders — Maulana Masood Azhar, who went on to establish the deadliest of anti-India organisations, Jaish-e-Muhammad; Omar Saeed Sheikh, who is jailed over his role in the beheading of US journalist Daniel Pearl; and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, who re-emerged last March from a decade-long hiding to give an interview in which he stated: “we still run training camps on both sides of the Line of Control. India must remember that the US has been defeated in Afghanistan; in four months’ time India will see what we are capable of.”

Close observers of Pakistan know that militant commanders emerge from hiding when the ISI desires.

The JeM is a formidable jihadi organisation. Even if a single militant escapes from prison, it can have long-term consequences for India. Masood Azhar was a single militant who went on to found the countrywide jihadi network of JeM.

Over the past few years, several JeM militants have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir. Last November, JeM commander Shaukat Ali, aka Yasir, from Pakistani Kashmir was killed in a major fight against Indian security forces in Baramullah.

And after Afzal Guru was hanged this year, Al-Qalam confirmed that he was a JeM member, observing: “In the history of Kashmir jihad and among the martyrs of Jaish-e-Muhammad, another great mujahid has been included.”

In April 2012, hundreds of Taliban militants launched a daring attack on a prison in the Pakistani town of Bannu, freeing Adnan Rasheed and other militants. Rasheed, a former Pakistan Air Force commando, had been jailed for assassination attempts on General Pervez Musharraf.

Clan mightier than Khan Sharif family record clicks


May 12: The 2013 Pakistan elections have delivered some small surprises but not the big one that some observers were anticipating — a significant success of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

By this evening, Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was expected to emerge the leading party but with a few seats short of the majority.

Many had expected the PTI to win more constituencies in Punjab, and few anticipated the rout of the Awami National Party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, along the Afghan border, and other places. The failure of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to secure many seats outside of rural Sind was unsurprising.

However, the fall of some of the PPP’s stalwarts, including former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s family, along with the loss of Lyari — long a party stronghold in Karachi —underlined the electoral weakness of the party.

A number of factors seem to have contributed towards the overwhelming success of Sharif’s PML-N, particularly in Punjab. For the past five years, under Sharif’s brother Shahbaz, Punjab has done well in terms of improved economy, social services and security that may have removed any compelling reason for people to try a new, untested party. Second, the collapse of the PPP in Southern Punjab and Upper Sind helped the PML-N gain extra seats.

The failure of the PTI to get more seats in Punjab, which further helped the PML-N, may indicate that the reach of Imran’s party in rural areas does not match its support among the urban middle and upper-middle classes. Also, the increased participation of youths in Punjab, at least according to one survey, may have helped the PML-N as much as it did the PTI.

The almost-complete rout of the Awami National Party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — it has won only three seats, compared to 30 in 2008 — indicates a strong desire for change in this violence-wrecked province; something the Awami National Party was unable to deliver in its five-year tenure. The PTI’s message that it can bring security to the province seems to have found many takers. Restoring a modicum of peace in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is not a task anyone should envy the PTI, should the party, with 37 of the 99 provincial seats against the PML-N’s 12, form the government there.

Sharif’s PML-N is in a position to form a government without the support of any significant party. If the reserve seats for the National Assembly are added to the PML-N’s national tally, the total tops 150, leaving the party marginally short of 172 seats required for forming the government. The PML-N has a mandate to rule.

The leaders of the PML-N will need to handle their success with great care; it is a double-edged gift. Sharif and his government can easily exacerbate in other provinces the significant sense of isolation from Islamabad.

The future Prime Minister should be mindful that Pakistan is bigger than Punjab, a point crudely driven home by Altaf Hussain of the MQM in his congratulatory message when he stated his hope that “as the leader of the biggest province of the country, Sharif will also treat the non-Punjabi people of the remaining three provinces with equality, justice and honesty”.

The alienation of the Balochs from the Punjab-dominated Pakistani State needs to be addressed soon. The elections have done nothing that can help the Balochi population, represented by various ethno-nationalist parties, to step down from their demand for an independent state. Most Baloch parties boycotted the elections and the grim security situation, which made free voting difficult, further reduced the legitimacy of this election in Balochistan.

The PML-N must also resist overtures from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and not support Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahman in forming a coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in exchange for joining the PML-N at the centre with its 10 National Assembly seats. Such a move would surely anger many Pathans and increase the region’s unhappiness with Islamabad.

Imran’s PTI, with the largest number of seats, should rightfully be invited to form the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

It is unclear which party will be the leader of Opposition in the new government. The PPP, with support of the MQM, may play that role. It will be interesting to see what kind of an Opposition role the PTI will be able to play then.

Indo-Iranian cooperation in Afghanistan faces challenges

Aryaman Bhatnagar
08 May 2013

India has reaffirmed its willingness to develop Iran's Port of Chabahar during the seventeenth meeting of the India-Iran Joint Commission in Tehran recently. With an initial investment pledge of some $100 million, the move further strengthens the emerging partnership between the two countries in Afghanistan. 

The Chabahar port is critical to India's Afghanistan policy. In the absence of direct physical access to the country and a hostile Pakistan denying Indian goods transit, the Iranian harbor is the most viable access point India has to Afghanistan and the rest of Central Asia. 

India has already signed agreements with Afghanistan and Iran that grants preferential treatment and tariff reductions to Indian goods bound for Afghanistan and Central Asia at Chabahar. It has helped build the Delaram-Zaranj Highway, which connects Iran to the main Kandahar-Herat Highway in Afghanistan, as well as a road from Chabahar to the Iranian border. 

Given Iran's vital role in providing access to Afghanistan for Indian businesses, the government in New Delhi has resisted American pressure for the country to join international sanctions against the Islamic republic, designed to dissuade it from developing a nuclear weapons capability. 

Before the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, India and Iran both supported the Northern Alliance, a group of mostly minority ethnicities that opposed the Islamist Pashtun regime. 

The two neighboring powers' interests in Afghanistan still converge. A spillover in violence could have negative repercussions for both, including refugee flows, a particular concern for neighboring Iran, increased narcotics smuggling and terrorist attacks, which mainly concern India. 

A return of the Taliban or some other radical Islamist group taking control of the country would serve neither India nor Iran. In such a case, the former would fear that the country once again becomes a safe haven for Muslim extremists who will be more susceptible to Pakistani interests. 

From Tehran's point of view, a Sunni bloc comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia poses an ideological as well as security challenge. India's and Iran's engagement in Afghanistan has, for the past decades, been aimed at reducing the Pakistani, Saudi and, in Iran's case, American influence in the region. 

Finally, for Iran, cooperation with India in Afghanistan serves a symbolic and economic purpose as it allows the country to appear less isolated in the world and ease some of the pressure that international sanctions have brought. 

Iran's standoff with neighbouring and Western nations does pose a problem for India which has to balance its relations with Iran against its interest in deepening relations with the United States. Collaborating with American initiatives in Afghanistan or Central Asia that exclude Iran might persuade the latter to sever ties, for instance by removing the preferential treatment given to India at Chabahar. 

Linked to the standoff is Iran's response to the American troop presence in Afghanistan. While it does not want to see the Taliban return to power, it has extended support to the group in an attempt to keep the United States preoccupied in Afghanistan and distract it from attacking Iran. It is likely to reduce this support once the United States and its allies withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014. For now, though, it threatens to strike at the very foundation of what brought India and Iran together in Afghanistan. 

Moreover, this Iranian sabotage, along with its treatment of Afghan refugees and its tendency to fuel sectarian or ethnic rivalries in Afghanistan, is damaging its reputation in Afghanistan. It is increasingly seen in the same light as Pakistan. India, then, may want to be more cautious in being seen as a willing "partner" of Iran's. 

Pakistan's possible response to such collusion cannot be ignored. The Northern Alliance was, and possibly still is, viewed in Islamabad as an Indo-Iranian attempt to thwart its influence in the country. The memory of such collaboration is likely to play a part in Pakistan's strategic calculations, especially as increasing Indian and Iranian influence in Afghanistan, at Pakistan's expense, could stoke its fears of strategic encirclement. Indian projects and targets have been attacked in the past and such attacks could extend to Iranian interests as well. 

How the administrations in New Delhi and Tehran manage to navigate around these roadblocks over time will determine the viability and durability of their alliance in Afghanistan. 

(The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi) 

Sharif in hurry to fix Pakistan

Nawaz Sharif at his home in Lahore on Sunday. (AFP)

Islamabad, May 12 (Reuters): After 14 years out of power, Nawaz Sharif is poised to become Prime Minister again, and he is a man in a hurry to clean up what he calls Pakistan’s mess.

Sharif inherits a country with a dizzying array of troubles, from chronic power cuts to a Taliban insurgency.

“The challenges are huge,” the portly Sharif told Reuters in his bullet-proof car during the last days of campaigning. “We have to bail out the economy.”

Sharif, who vows to bring in free market enterprise and ease economic controls, says speedy growth is the only answer for Pakistan.

The powerful military still calls the shots in Pakistan but the poll marked the first time that an elected government will replace another one. Nevertheless, Sharif will have to work with the generals, who control foreign policy and security.

The new civilian government will also have to play its part in Pakistan’s difficult relationship with the US.

Washington has a long- standing alliance with Pakistan, but is troubled by elements in the country supporting militants fighting US troops in neighbouring Afghanistan.

In addition, the economy is stuttering. Power cuts that can last all day have infuriated Pakistanis and crippled key industries. Corruption and poverty are rampant, and infrastructure is crumbling.

Sharif, who made his fortune in steel, seems to have matured as a politician since he was toppled by former army chief and President Pervez Musharraf in a bloodless coup in 1999.

As the main Opposition leader, he avoided antagonising the army, or bringing down the Pakistan People’s Party-led coalition government when it was in trouble. Instead, he waited patiently for an opportunity to rule and now that his moment has come, he says he is in a hurry to fix Pakistan.

The honeymoon will be short.

Pakistan needs billions of dollars from donors to avert a balance of payments crisis but the cash may not flow to the South Asian nation unless politically sensitive economic reforms are implemented.

So far, one politician after another has failed to muster the courage to bring change. Sharif’s background suggests he may have the stomach for it, based on his attempts in the past to reverse socialist policies and open up the economy.

Sharif, who was born into a family of wealthy industrialists in 1949, served as Prime Minister twice in the 1990s, when he tried to promote free market policies.

His family is from Lahore, the capital of Punjab, Pakistan’s most prosperous and populous province.

Now he says he is willing to again risk a backlash, and cut government expenditure by 30 per cent in order to secure international backing for the economy.

“You see privatisation, free market economy, deregulation — have been hallmarks of our party in government,” he said. “We are going to pick up the threads from where we left off.”

Despite his reform credentials, Sharif may raise concerns in the West because of his conservative values: in 1991 he tried to make Shariat the country’s supreme law.

More recently he has been accused of failing to act against militant groups that have a breeding ground in Punjab. He is one of the few major politicians not on the hitlist of Taliban insurgents.

Sharif's two terms as Prime Minister in the 1990s were marred by allegations of graft and Pakistan conducted its first nuclear tests on his watch in 1998.

Sharif was a protege of military dictator General Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s.

But he became a victim of the powerful military when he was overthrown by Musharraf. He was then convicted of corruption and given a life sentence for hijacking, because he refused to allow an airliner carrying Musharraf to land in Pakistan.

Sharif went into exile in Saudi Arabia, but never lost hope of returning to politics one day.

“In private conversations, Nawaz still gets very emotional when he remembers that period,” said a senior journalist who has reported on Sharif for decades. “He has not forgotten being handcuffed and walking through the airport. His face still gets red in anger when he recalls those days.”

No surprise, then, that he now talks tough against the army meddling in civilian affairs — a risky stance in a country ruled by generals for more than half of its 66-year history, either through coups or from behind the scenes.

Sharif’s attempt to fire Musharraf as army chief ultimately cost him his job in 1999. He will have to avoid further errors in judgement to survive Pakistan’s stormy politics, especially when it comes to the top army officers.

Musharraf attempted a political comeback of his own in March when he returned after nearly four years of self-imposed exile hoping to contest the election. Instead, he has been barred from public office for life and is under house arrest at his luxury farmhouse as cases against him grind through the courts.

With his nemesis humiliated and out of the picture, politics has come full circle for Sharif. He has patiently plotted his own return to the top from his lavish, 700-acre estate near Lahore where peacocks strut on the lawns.

Sri Lanka: Elections, Electricity Prices, and odds and ends

Paper No. 5490 Dated 12-May-2013

Guest Column: Dr Kumar David

I will deal with the long overdue provincial council elections in the Northern Province, a political storm that has broken out as a consequence of an electricity price hike imposed with effect from 20 April, and two minor issues.

There is a vigorous campaign in the media, no doubt the government is pulling the strings from behind, that it is dangerous, undesirable, or whatever excuse one wishes to trot out, to hold provincial council elections in the Northern Province. The irony is that the Provincial Council system was created so that the Tamil areas could have a degree of self-administration, and the Tamil North is the only province in the country that has never had an elected provincial administration!

There is a fifty-fifty chance that the government will dish out some cock-and-bull excuse and rescind the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) elections. Nothing can be put beyond its craft and cunning, its sordidness and duplicity. But this leaves us with a fifty percent chance that elections may be held in September, and if so the TNA will win. So says everybody even government henchmen. It is perfectly obvious that this is why the government desires to scuttle the elections if it could get away with it. After the bloody nose in Geneva and the promises of NPC elections in September reluctantly extracted from it by the international, one section in the government is afraid to rescind the elections. Extremists, monks on the warpath and the militarised fascistic factions want to give the Tamils a kick in the teeth and squash the elections, hopefully in eternity.

Authoritarians are totalitarians in that they survive on control of the totality of power; even one pocket of resistance is perilous for autocrats. The Rajapakse Government is in panic about even one Provincial Council escaping from its control and becoming a point of challenge. The whole apple cart can be thrown into turmoil. The regime’s instincts are right, and conversely it is precisely for this reason that it is important that the Tamils win control of the NPC. This is a foot in the door; it opens a way to confront the would-be dictators. Every chink in the armour - electoral defeat, economic setback, or spotlight on graft and abuse - is another abscess through which to drive the dagger and twist the blade. An independent PC with a mind of its own, not kowtowing at the beck and call of the Rajapakses, is not a chink but a gaping tear in the armour. Defeating the regime at the NPC elections has a value that cannot be exaggerated, for the denizens of the province, and nationally.

It is true that provincial councils, elected provincial administrations, and chief ministers, are statutorily near impotent. Decision making can be wrested away and exercised by a governor who is no more than a puffed up yes man of the president. It is also true that PCs are miserably funded and after Divineguma their resources further depleted. However, control of the NPC will give Tamils pole-position to prosecute the fight for greater autonomy; statutorily impotent but politically potent! This regime must be prevented from grabbing this political instrument and taking it away from elected representatives of the Tamils. It would be disastrous for Tamils if the government grabs the NPC.

Tamils cried themselves hoarse all over the world that they are denied an instrument of self-administration – albeit an emasculated one – and have demanded an elected council. Notwithstanding the limitations of the PC system, internationally, it would be a gross contradiction if the Tamils pull out of the NPC elections and hand over the council to Rajapakse’s agents.

The programme of the winning Tamil party must focus on two aspects; usual or conventional programmatic issue (education, agriculture/fisheries, transport/communications and demilitarisation are priorities) and the politically vital issue of using the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) as a platform for pushing forward real devolution of power to Tamil areas.

Electricity tariff cock-up

The government has made an ass of itself by implementing a moronic, I am not exaggerating, tariff system on the 20 April. The public outcry and expression of exasperation from expert quarters was so stormy that it was forced to backtrack within 20 days and announce changes that abandoned some, but not all, of the most asinine features of the proposal. (Interested readers may visit my articles in the Sunday Island – www.island.lk - of 28 April and 19 May).

There are three matters of concern; technically, the design of the tariffs is silly, if revenue was the concern prices can be raised by intelligently designed, and transparent to the public, changes. The second concern is price increases per se; action groups and trade unions are mobilising and the first step is a general strike planned for 20 May or thereabouts. The third issue is that the government is at sea on industrial policy. It has no industrial policy ands lives by day to day decision making. It has undertaken a great deal of infrastructure development, some of it very creditable, some useless white elephants, but on industrial policy it is cluless. I was in Taiwan for a few days overlapping May Day and saw at first hand what a dirigisme economic policy with long term planning, not only of the state sector but also in partnership with private investors, has achieved.

Electricity price increase will render exports less competitive, discourage investment and further slow down growth that has been stalling since August 2012. There is no long-term thinking, planning or strategy. The mish-mash in the electricity sector, the President jumping this way and that, the inability to reform the Ceylon Electricity Board for enhanced productivity (I am not a CEB basher and I do not support wholesale privatisation) and a similar state of affairs in the petroleum sector, all have the same root; absence of, policy, managerial discipline, and political will or understanding. You can’t teach old dogs new tricks; this government will not learn or reform.

Odds and ends

It seems now that GoSL has wrapped up the Commonwealth Heads Meeting due November this year. Protests by human rights activists and diaspora Tamil groups have failed to deter British PM Cameron who is keen to wrap up an order from the national carrier for Rolls Royce engines. Australia too is keen to keep on the good side of GoSL because it is desperate for help in stopping boat-people refugees. Canada’s one time threat to boycott the event if held in Colombo ended up a damp squib, and Manmohan Singh’s India, anyway, has always been in Rajapakses pocket. We can be fairly sure that the meeting will go ahead, but I am not sure how extensive protests against authoritarianism, that are unavoidable, are likely to be. It will depend on how two Rajapakses (Mahinda and Gothabahaya) behave themselves in the interim and on much further the now declining economy further erodes. The government cannot unleash unbridled repression because that will play into the hands of critics.

This relates to the final point I wish to touch on, the Azarth Salley episode. Sally was a fellow traveller of the UNP initially and then climbed on Rajapakse’s bandwagon. Recently he formed a radical Tamil-Muslim party. As politicians go he is a plain opportunist. But even opportunists cannot be arrested and ill-treated on trumped-up charges when they oppose the government and expose its repression and abuses. Salley made a statement, carried in a Tamil Nadu magazine that if the Mahinda-Gothabaya state continues to encourage the BBS (roughly Buddhist Power Army) which has been engaged in anti-Muslim extremism and violence, then a revolt or uprising (I am not sure of the exact wording in Tamil) is unavoidable. Now to me that sounds like a statement of the obvious; didn’t we all say the same thing about the Tamil youth before the war started?

But they decided to teach Salley a lesson and make him an example to anyone who critics the BBS (patron saint Gothabahaya) or the government. He was detained for 90 days under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act 9PTA0; a horrible piece of legislation which deserves to be rescinded from the statutes of any civilised society. Then, when it transpired that they had no case, the police tried sending out cock-and-bull stories that he was arrested in connection with numerous allegations of fraud. When asked, “Why under the PTA and not normal law?” they were dumbfounded. Unable to face the mounting criticism Mahinda Rajapakse (with or without the concurrence of his sibling) capitulated and released him. The only good thing about this episode is that the government has burnt its fingers and learnt that its days of riding roughshod over the public are over.

Impact of Pak Elections on Ties with India.

Paper No 5489 Dated 11-May-2013

By B.Raman

1. There is a need to restrain euphoric expectations from the positive statements on relations with India coming out of some mainstream Pakistani political leaders such as Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML—N).

2.Nawaz Sharif, in particular, has gone out of his way in befriending some of the Indian journalists covering the just-ended Pakistani election campaign and expressing his intention to improve relations with India and hold an enquiry into the Kargil military conflict of 1999, which, according o him, was initiated by Gen.Pervez Musharraf, the then Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), without his (Nawaz’s) knowledge.

3. Such statements have created unwarranted expectations of better India-Pakistan relations in sections of the Indian media.

4.The assessment in media circles in Pakistan is that the PML (N) may emerge as the largest single party in the elections being held on May 11 followed by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) and the united front of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP), which have been viewed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as liberal parties and have been the targets of violent attacks by the TTP to disrupt their poll prospects.

5.Whoever comes out on top in the elections, the period after the elections will see competitive attempts to form a new coalition to rule the country. During the period of the coalition formation, foreign policy, except the policy towards the Afghan Taliban and on opposition to the US war on global terrorism, particularly the use of the Drone strikes by the US against targets in Pakistani territory, is expected to occupy a low priority.

6.Better relations with India will be a minefield. The sensitivities of the Army and the fundamentalist and jihadi organisations may have to be taken into consideration by the mainstream parties doing well in the elections before they take any major initiative for a policy change in a positive direction. They have to go very slow and keep down their enthusiasm. Better relations with India are, therefore, unlikely to be for tomorrow unless the PML (N) comes out with an absolute majority of its own.

7.India’s immediate policy interest ought to be not in the prospects for a quick improvement in the bilateral relations , but in the prospects for better internal stability and better internal security in Pakistan with a genuine control over the activities of the TTP, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) and other jihadi organisations.

8. India has had a contentious relationship with Pakistan ever since the two countries became independent in 1947.If this contentious relationship continues for some more years, we can live with it provided the new ruling dispensation in Pakistan shows the courage and foresight to take on the fundamentalist and jihadi organisations and defeat them in the interest of the people of Pakistan and at the same time persuade the Army to co-operate with the civilian leadership in this direction.

9. If and when the fundamentalist and jihadi organisations are removed from the scene, the obstacles in the way of better ties with India will get gradually diluted. 

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )

Chinese lessons in diplomacy

May 12, 2013

The Ladakh border incident in Sino-Indian relations is seemingly over. Diplomacy appears to have won. Salman Khurshid, the Indian external affairs minister, visited China where he met the top Chinese leaders and, at least for the time being, successfully diffused the tension. Even the Chinese media hailed the outcome of the visit. An official media commentary said that the two countries are “blazing a new trail for positive interaction”. The western media has been blamed for casting Sino-Indian relations in the mould of “strategic rivalry”. Giving a positive assessment of Salman Khurshid’s visit and underplaying the seriousness of the border incident, official Chinese media has called for a “new type” of cooperative partnership between the two countries.

Following the visit, both sides seem to have made up and committed themselves to work towards the betterment of bilateral relations. Prime Minister Li Keqiang will visit India as scheduled. This being his first official visit abroad, it has a special significance for Sino-India relations.

Notwithstanding the restoration of bonhomie and normalcy in the two countries relations, the uneasy feeling persists that all may not be well. After the Ladakh episode, the cloud of uncertainty will hover on the bilateral relations for a long time to come.

Despite this seemingly happy ending to the sordid border incident, inconvenient questions persist. Why did the Chinese intrude deep inside Indian territory thus risking the very first official visit of the Chinese new prime minister to India? What did they gain by doing so? What message were they trying to send?

According to media accounts of the external affairs minister’s visit, the Chinese told the visiting guest that both countries should continue to work together and handle their differences “properly”. Nothing wrong in that advice except that it came after the Chinese troops dug in the Indian territory for a good four weeks. It took several flag meetings and probably a threat of cancellation of the Chinese PM’s maiden official foreign visit before the issue could be resolved.

There are several lessons for India in this stand-off. First, the Ladakh incident should be seen as an example of Beijing’s pressure diplomacy. China is becoming assertive towards its neighbours in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Now its assertiveness is showing vis-à-vis India as well.

Second, China, quite clearly, will try to remain in the driving seat and in control of the situation. Its actions are calculated and calibrated. By first forcing the issue and then ‘resolving’ it at the time of their choosing, China has succeeded in putting India on the defensive and in a reactive mode.

Third, the Chinese have the propensity to take calculated risk and would not hesitate to up the ante. Often, their opponents are left guessing. In the South China Sea and in the East China Sea, the Chinese naval ships aggressively patrol the area harassing even the powerful US navy. At the same time they respect firmness and at some stage India must show resilience.

The fourth lesson is that the Chinese behaviour may seem irrational but it has logic which the opponents struggle to understand. While the Chinese intrusion into Ladakh, a few weeks before the visit of their PM, seems an irrational behaviour, the deeper reason could be to send across a wider message that they have an uncompromising position on the border issue. The adjustments like withdrawing of the troops are probably tactical. One might expect that during PM Li Keqiang’s visit the Chinese may make some new proposals.

Cyber Infrastructure Protection: Vol. II

Added May 03, 2013
Type: Monograph
281 Pages
Download Format: PDF
Cost: Free
Brief Synopsis

Increased reliance on the Internet and other networked systems raise the risks of cyber attacks that could harm our nation’s cyber infrastructure. The cyber infrastructure encompasses a number of sectors including: the nation’s mass transit and other transportation systems; banking and financial systems; factories; energy systems and the electric power grid; and telecommunications, which increasingly rely on a complex array of computer networks, including the public Internet. However, many of these systems and networks were not built and designed with security in mind. Therefore, our cyber infrastructure contains many holes, risks, and vulnerabilities that may enable an attacker to cause damage or disrupt cyber infrastructure operations. Threats to cyber infrastructure safety and security come from hackers, terrorists, criminal groups, and sophisticated organized crime groups; even nation-states and foreign intelligence services conduct cyber warfare. Cyber attackers can introduce new viruses, worms, and bots capable of defeating many of our efforts. Costs to the economy from these threats are huge and increasing. Government, business, and academia must therefore work together to understand the threat and develop various modes of fighting cyber attacks, and to establish and enhance a framework to assess the vulnerability of our cyber infrastructure and provide strategic policy directions for the protection of such an infrastructure. This book addresses such questions as: How serious is the cyber threat? What technical and policy-based approaches are best suited to securing telecommunications networks and information systems infrastructure security? What role will government and the private sector play in homeland defense against cyber attacks on critical civilian infrastructure, financial, and logistical systems? What legal impediments exist concerning efforts to defend the nation against cyber attacks, especially in preventive, preemptive, and retaliatory actions?


Monday, 13 May 2013 | Gwynne Dyer

Israel no longer believes that preserving the hostile but stable relations which have prevailed for long between Tel Aviv and Damascus is a priority

After making two major air strikes in and near Damascus in three days, Israel informed the Assad regime on Monday that it is not taking sides in the Syrian civil war. But of course it is. The Syrian Government promptly claimed that these Israeli attacks proved what it had been saying all along: That the ‘armed terrorist groups’ that are trying to overthrow Mr Bashar al-Assad's regime (the anti-regime fighters of the Free Syrian Army) are really the tools of a demonic alliance between Israel, the United States, conservative Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and the Sunni Islamist fanatics of Al Qaeda.

That is just as ridiculous as it sounds, but there were always a few little bits of truth in the Syrian regime's story, and they are gradually getting bigger. It's true that the Free Syrian Army is getting money and weapons from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and that the United States supports it diplomatically. So do almost all other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members.

It's true that the Al Nusra brigades, the most effective fighting force in the Free Syrian Army, are made up of Islamist extremists whose leaders claim to have ties with Al Qaeda — and that this has not stopped the Arab Gulf states and the United States from supporting the FSA.

And it's true that Israel is now attacking military targets on Syrian territory. It insists that those targets are actually advanced missiles and anti-aircraft weapons that Syria is planning to deliver to the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, and that may also be true. Hezbollah fought the Israeli Army to a standstill in southern Lebanon in 2006, and Israel is anxious about what it could accomplish with better weapons.

But even if Israel's main worry is that advanced weapons would reach Hezbollah, the air strikes took place on Syrian territory, and the Syrian regime claims that 42 officers and soldiers of its army were killed in them. At the very least, Israel no longer feels that preserving the hostile but stable relations that prevailed for so long between Tel Aviv and Damascus is a high priority.

The Assad regime said that the attacks were tantamount to a “declaration of war”, and that is true. It's not that the Israelis have decided that Mr Assad must go. It's rather that they have looked down the road, seen a Sunni-Shia war looming in the eastern Arab world — and decided, rationally enough, that they have to be on the Sunni side.

That war is already underway in Syria, where men from the majority Sunni Muslim community are the main fighters in a revolt against a regime controlled by Shias of the Alawite sect. The same sort of war may be re-starting in Iraq, where the Shia majority who dominate the Government have already fought one civil war with the Sunni minority in between 2005 and 2007.

Those two Sunni-Shia wars might then coalesce and spread to Lebanon, where the Shias of Hezbollah are at odds with the Sunni Muslim and Christian communities. Weapons, money, and maybe direct military aid would come from Shia Iran to one side and from the Sunni countries to the south (Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf states) to the other. In such a war, Israel would certainly prefer a Sunni victory.

It has no desire to take an active part in a Sunni-Shia war, nor would its intervention be welcomed by either side. It worries that radical Islamist regimes might come to power in Syria, in the western part of Iraq, and even in Lebanon if the Sunnis won such a war. But Israel is at peace with its Sunni southern neighbours, while the Shia regimes to its north in Syria and Iraq and the Hezbollah group in southern Lebanon are all its sworn enemies.

If it comes to an all-out struggle, Israel knows which side it wants to win. And, in the meantime, Tel Aviv already feels a lot freer to take direct military action against the Syrian regime and Hezbollah if it thinks its interests are threatened. The world will have to take note of these realities.