1 January 2014

A Year-end Security Review of Southern Asia

December 31, 2013

The year gone by saw both China and Pakistan become militarily more assertive on India’s borders than ever before in the last decade. While China launched a major incursion into the DBO sector of Ladakh and took several weeks to take the PLA troops back across the LAC, Pakistan repeatedly violated the cease-fire agreement and once again stepped up infiltration of terrorists across the LoC to launch strikes in Kashmir after lying low for several years.

Topping the charts of the unstable regional security environment in Southern Asia is Afghanistan’s endless conflict. The present situation can be characterised as a stalemate at the strategic and the tactical levels. This will continue with the Taliban and the Afghan-NATO-ISAF forces alternately gaining local ascendancy for short durations in the core provinces of Helmand, Marja and Kandahar. The Afghan National Army is still many years away from achieving the professional standards necessary to manage security on its own. It will, therefore, be difficult for the NATO-ISAF forces to conduct a responsible drawdown of troops in 2014. The US forces are likely to continue to launch drone strikes in Pakistan against extremists sheltering in the Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and FATA areas despite the adverse diplomatic fallout. A gradual drift into civil war appears to be the most likely outcome.

Pakistan’s half-hearted struggle against the remnants of the al Qaeda and the home grown Taliban like the TTP and the TNSM, fissiparous tendencies in Baluchistan, continuing radical extremism and creeping Talibanisation in the heartland, the tentative counter-terrorism steps of the new civilian government, the floundering economy and, consequently, the nation’s gradual slide towards becoming a ‘failed state’, pose a major security challenge for the region. Unless the Pakistan army gives up its idiosyncratic notions of seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan and fuelling terrorism in India and concentrates instead on fighting all varieties of Taliban that are threatening the cohesion of the state, the eventual break-up of Pakistan may be inevitable.

Sri Lanka’s inability to find a lasting solution to its ethnic problems despite the comprehensive defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has serious repercussions for stability in the island nation. Despite the election of a civilian government, the gradual resurgence of the LTTE remains likely as the core issue of autonomy has not been addressed. The rising tide of Islamist fundamentalist terrorism in Bangladesh, even as it struggles for economic upliftment to subsistence levels, could trigger new forces of destruction if left unchecked. Much will depend on which party emerges as the largest after the elections scheduled in January 2014.


How a road was restored to its rightful owners
Diplomacy: K.P. Nayar

The story of a more-than-a-decade-long road closure surrounding the American embassy in New Delhi — now withdrawn — is the story of the most egregious land-grab in the heart of India’s capital by the United States of America, playing on the trauma and disquiet among Indian officials after the events of September 11, 2001. Within hours of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, called a meeting of the cabinet committee on security to which the three armed-services chiefs and heads of security agencies were also invited. “We have already initiated action for providing all necessary additional security and safeguards required for the US embassy [in New Delhi and American consulates in other cities],” the external affairs minister, Jaswant Singh, announced suo motu after the CCS meeting.

The very next day, the president, K.R. Narayanan, who did not have a great reputation as a friend or admirer of Washington, reflected the mood in India when he wrote to George W. Bush that “we stand united with the American people in this hour of grief”. Four days later, Vajpayee spoke to Bush at Camp David, and the US president agreed to receive the national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra, soon after. India’s top leadership having set that tone of commiseration with the American people, their diplomats in New Delhi could ask for almost anything and hope to get an answer in the affirmative. Files in the archives of the ministry of external affairs now reveal that these American diplomats proceeded to do just that.

In complete inconsideration of several other embassies and diplomatic residences in Chanakyapuri, the Americans approached the Indian government with their intention to appropriate a whole stretch of thoroughfare, Nyaya Marg, merely because they did not want to cross a public road from the rear of their main embassy on Shanti Path to the secondary properties that lay on Nyaya Marg. They also owned properties beyond Nyaya Marg: the American Embassy School is on Chandragupta Marg. The recreation facilities of the American Community Support Association, its bar, swimming pool and restaurant on embassy premises, have their main entrance on Panchsheel Marg, which is adjacent to Nyaya Marg.

Looking back, it is reminiscent of the methods of the East India Company that in the wake of September 11, exploiting the sympathy that was triggered by al Qaeda’s terrorist acts, US diplomats in New Delhi had the temerity to demand that the public roads they cross in Chanakyapuri should be exclusive to them and that no one else, not even ambassadors and diplomats from other countries who lived on those roads, should be allowed to use them.

Network problem

Christophe Jaffrelot
Posted online: Tue Dec 31 2013

Recent assassinations of two members of the Haqqani network could indicate a rift with the ISI

In November this year, the killing of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Hakimullah Mehsud overshadowed the assassinations of two other Pakistan-based jihadists who, in fact, were probably almost as important to India and the US. On November 10, Nasiruddin Haqqani, brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani — who orchestrated some of the most devastating operations in Afghanistan — was killed on the outskirts of Islamabad and 11 days later, a drone strike killed Sirajuddin’s right-hand man, Maulvi Ahmad Jan, in Hangu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

These men were important because they belonged to the top leadership of the Haqqani network. Of all the Taliban sub-movements, this is probably the oldest (at least on the Pakistani side), the best organised (even the most effective) and the one which, in the FATA, has been consistently in contact with Paksitan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. Its founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, hailing from the Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan close to Pakistan, is the product of the famous madrasa in Akora Khattak, the Darul Uloom Haqqania. Jalaluddin was one of the mujahideen allegedly spotted and trained by the ISI in the 1970s, along with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Burhanuddin Rabbani and Ahmad Shah Masood, to combat the ruler of Kabul, Daoud Khan, a champion of Pashtun nationalism whom the Pakistani leaders wanted to weaken. During the anti-Soviet jihad, he was an active commander around Khost — near Miran Shah — and one who received significant backing from the CIA, the ISI and Saudi Arabia. Jalaluddin did perhaps the best job of channelling the flow of Arab combatants streaming in as of the early 1980s, which paved the way for fundraising.

In his masterpiece on the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan, Ghost Wars, Steve Coll writes, “Celebrated as a kind of noble savage by slack-bellied preachers in Saudi Arabia’s wealthy urban mosques, Haqqani became a militant folk hero to Wahhabi activists. He operated fundraising offices in the Persian Gulf and hosted young Arab jihad volunteers in his tribal territory. In part because of Haqqani’s patronage, the border regions nearest Pakistan became increasingly the province of interlocking networks of Pakistani intelligence officers, Arab volunteers, and Wahhabi madrasas.”

In Khost, he worked with Osama bin Laden, building a maze of underground caves and tunnels to store vast stocks of ammunition and fuel. As early as the 1980s, the Haqqani network was training jihadists who have allegedly been active in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

While claiming to be a member of Hezb-i-Islami (Yunus Khalis faction), Jalaluddin maintained his independence even after the Taliban victory. Chosen by Mullah Omar, he was not part of his first circle of lieutenants and retained a degree of autonomy. He was appointed minister of borders and tribal affairs, which did not require him to be present in Kabul fulltime, allowing him to consolidate his base at the Pakistani border, especially in Loya Paktia (comprising Paktia, Paktika, Khost and a fraction of Logar and Ghazni). The ISI continued to back him, which made up for the drop in resources he experienced once the Americans had withdrawn from the area. Gretchen Peters, an expert on illicit networks, attests to this in her book, Haqqani Network Financing: the Evolution of an Industry, on the strength of documents seized by the Americans in 2002 after their conquest of Afghanistan. Exchanges of faxes between Jalaluddin and the ISI show that, during the war against the Soviets, the latter supplied the Haqqani network with weapons (including Stinger missiles), food and money. The ISI continued to provide support after the war, but the Haqqani network diversified its resources. Apart from collecting what was virtually a revolutionary tax from local merchants, as well as outright extortion, it took advantage of the booming drug trade and explored avenues for funding that offered it contacts in the Arab countries and the Persian Gulf.

Tokyo's Defence

C. Raja Mohan
Posted online: Wed Jan 01 2014

As it heralds a new year, Asia is waking up to a very different Japan. After decades of pacifism and strategic marginalisation, Japan is now shaking up the region’s geopolitics by responding vigorously to China’s rise. The talk of a war between Japan and China might be excessive, but the mounting tension between the two is now part of the region’s political landscape.

India, which hosts Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations later this month, must come to terms, like the rest of the region, with Tokyo’s determination to shape the Asian security order. After he returned to power a year ago, Abe has set about transforming Japan’s military strategy. He has proposed a 5 per cent increase in defence spending to $240 billion for the next five years. While approving more money for defence, Abe is aware that Tokyo can never match Beijing’s rapidly growing defence budget or the size of the PLA. He, therefore, wants a military doctrine that will leverage the Japanese lead in technology, focus on Chinese vulnerabilities and let Tokyo stare Beijing in the eye.

In a recently released document on national security strategy, the first ever in Japan, Abe has underlined the importance of a “dynamic deterrence” and “active defence” against the growing Chinese military challenge. Japan will now develop a marine corps of its own, integrate unmanned drones into defence plans, strengthen its capacity for real-time military intelligence, and respond effectively and immediately to Chinese intrusions into the disputed air and maritime spaces.

Abe is complementing changes in the military strategy with policy change and institutional innovation. He wants to lift the ban on Japan’s arms exports in order to strengthen the domestic defence industrial base. He is trying to dismantle the many self-imposed political constraints on Japan’s ability to cooperate with other nations in securing the region from military threats.

Abe has also established a national security council (NSC) that will help Japan better coordinate its defence, security and foreign policies. The four-member NSC, headed by the PM at the ministerial level, will have staff support from a 60-member national security bureau. A full-time national security adviser, a post to be held by a political figure, will assist the PM in bringing greater coherence and purpose to Japan’s national security policy.


Abe knows that Japan on its own can’t balance China, whose comprehensive power is growing by the day. Alliances, therefore, are central to Abe’s strategy, especially the longstanding one with the United States. Some in Japan are indeed questioning the sustainability of American alliance commitments amidst the rise of China. Will the US defend Japan against China, when Washington’s stakes in a good relationship with Beijing have risen so much in recent years?

Overcoming cynicism

Pratap Bhanu Mehta
Posted online: Wed Jan 01 2014

A new democratic experimentalism is in the air.

India’s great churning will continue in the coming year. There is new momentum towards change. The momentum will be most manifest in glimpses of a new institutional order that is coming into being. India’s progressive moment is now beginning to find its feet, with a clamour for a governance architecture that is more horizontal, transparent, decentralised, based on public reason and allows for new political formations to emerge. This process will continue. The flotsam of the old order will continue to be visible, and will often disguise the new undercurrents forming. More poison may come out of the system as partisan competition intensifies. But amid all the high-decibel exchanges, a quiet revolution will continue.

But the revolution will be most palpable in a subtle reorientation of attitudes. The most besetting sin of Indian democracy over the last couple of years has been its corrosive cynicism. It was a cynical democracy with much to be cynical about. But the cynicism had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Few believed anything could change, so little changed. There were no texts, there were only subtexts. Virtue was nothing but deception. We converted it into such an art form that there was cynicism about everything that pretended to be anything other than cynicism.

The cynicism was compounded by what Amartya Sen has made India’s badge of self-identification: the argumentative Indian. We thought arguing was generally a good thing, since it denoted a kind of freedom and engagement with learning. But we forgot the other side. An argumentative person is someone who goes on arguing, well after the matter has been settled. Much of our public argument had this character. It was not argument in the interest of learning; it was argument in the interest of going on and on. Few who came to the argument were open to being persuaded, few were open to any possibilities other than what they had already committed to.

Cynicism contributed to a contagion of littleness. Cynicism is corrosive, precisely because it denies the possibility of there being a real distinction between virtue and vice, it denies the possibility that change for the good can take place. We become cynical not just about the fact that anyone can live up to high standards of morality; we become cynical about those standards themselves. The worst kind of levelling a democracy produces is one where all fine distinctions are levelled, where no utterance can be taken at face value.

The cynicism actually served the status quo rather well. If everyone’s motives could be distrusted, there was no possibility of credible critique. Cynicism made collective action impossible: when we cannot trust each other how can we work with each other? Cynicism was hollowing out democracy.

The most remarkable change over the last few months has been the overcoming of cynicism. In a small way, idealism does not seem so outlandish after all. There is a new democratic experimentalism in the air. Not only were voters in that most cynical of cities, Delhi, willing to take a chance on a new party, the AAP, they did so in ways that defy any neat narratives. The AAP’s single biggest achievement has been to change the mood of significant sections of the country. Arvind Kejriwal injected that real tonic that a democracy needs from time to time: the possibility of the new. But most importantly, it began to speak a language that we thought had become almost impossible in our democracy: the language of trust. The AAP’s ideas were not that important. What was important was the novel claim that if people just discussed thing as equals, things would get better. Instead of the needlessly argumentative Indian who had, in the name of freedom, undermined democracy, the AAP injected the thought that a people involved in collective deliberation could reach sensible agreement. It identified the key deficit of our democracy, which has always been founded on distrust. Its simple promise was that if people can more visibly and easily participate in governance, things can improve. The idea is itself not original. But making the very classes that have stood in the way of that ideal accept it, even if fleetingly, is an achievement. It crafted a symbolic vocabulary around that idea. Even if government as a daily plebiscite is not always an attractive ideal, it certainly had the virtue of not being cynical about the virtue of ordinary citizens.

Not handled with care

Hardeep S Puri 
Posted online: Wed Jan 01 2014

In 2013, India failed to manage important bilateral relationships, or to communicate the rationale of foreign policy initiatives.

Was 2013 the annus horribilis for Indian foreign policy? Foreign policy formulation and implementation by definition require meticulous planning, attention to detail and clinical and mature assessments. Some of these qualities were not in full evidence during the course of the year.

The events of 2013 provide pointers to a few trends. First, the management of the more important bilateral relationships, particularly those in our immediate neighbourhood and with the United States, requires extra effort and skilful handling not only with the countries concerned but also with domestic constituencies, including the media and state governments. The required margin of persuasion with domestic constituents does not appear to have been used in 2013. In many cases, there was a failure to communicate the rationale of policy initiatives, even when these were sound. The management of our relations with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is a case in point. In the case of the former, the failure to persuade domestic constituencies, particularly the chief minister of West Bengal, will prove to be costly, in both the short and medium terms. In Sri Lanka’s case, we failed to encourage Colombo to move away from majoritarianism and be more responsive to and ensure Tamil interests.

With Pakistan, the year started badly. The barbaric beheading of an Indian soldier inside Indian territory in January, the murder of Sarabjit Singh in a Pakistani prison in April-May and the killing of five Indian soldiers by Pakistani special forces in August brought relations to a boil. Firing along the Line of Control almost threatened the 10-year-old ceasefire. Domestic passions were inflamed and provided just the opportunity some members of our strategic community required to indulge in Pakistan-bashing. There was little or no evidence that the new political dispensation in Pakistan either wished to turn a new leaf or had the clout to rein in the terror machine. The need to keep channels of communication open is not an issue. What was and should continue to be the decisive determinant is timing. The prime minister should have been discouraged from meeting his counterpart in New York. Strong political opposition domestically, particularly from the BJP, scaled down expectations.

In many respects, the events of 2013 forcefully drove home to the domestic audience in India that our approach to China has been somewhat complacent. A new political leadership in Beijing, established following the 18th Party Congress in November 2012, tested our resolve. The physical demonstration of this was the three-week-long incursion by Chinese troops and the stand-off in Ladakh during April. This and continuing incursions elsewhere again generated concern in Parliament and across the political spectrum. There were demands for a more clinical assessment. Equally, India needs to accelerate the modernisation of the infrastructure on the border on our side and scaling-up of our defence preparedness.

Beyond Chinese Whispers and Indian Rope Tricks

R. Swaminathan
30 December 2013

The deeply intertwined civilisational legacies of India and China add a set of textured imperatives to the contemporary relationship between the two Asian giants. The most astute of observers often misses the subtle nuances that get woven into the narratives and discourses of the two countries by these imperatives, focused as they are on evaluating the relationship from the twin rubric of economic competition and regional hegemony. Such a rubric is more than adequate to explain the global geopolitical shifts, the realpolitik of Indian and Western Pacific Ocean regions and the modalities of energy security: strategic actions that have a certain rationale and linearity to it. But it's often inadequate to explain the seemingly sudden eruptions like the Chinese incursions into Indian territories or India's kneejerk ban of Chinese telecommunications equipment. The twin rubric flounders to explain any localised and tactical action that might seem like an irrational departure from a well-laid out script. Any attempt to understand and analyse contemporary Sino-Indian relationship, especially its multiple layers, must factor in the possibility of civilisational imponderables. 

India and China have a shared history stretching back to 3000 years, one that's been organically cultivated through an exchange of ideas, people, goods and commodities that was more informal than institutional. If Chinese Buddhism can trace its intellectual and spiritual roots to India, several traditional ship building techniques of Eastern and Southern India can trace its material roots to the Song dynasty. Like all historical exchanges the intermingling of cultures and ways of life led to a series of layered understanding of 'Chineseness' of China and the 'Indianness' of India; an understanding that's ironically as static as it's dynamic. The post-independence contemporary relationship between a modern India and China were underpinned in the initial stages by a shared colonial history and an anti-imperial mindset, best exemplified by Dr Dwarkanath Shantaram Kotnis who was one of the five Indian doctors who answered the call of Jawaharlal Nehru to help China after Japan invaded the country in 1937. Every single important Indian and Chinese leader has never failed to mention the example of Dr Kotnis as a sub-text of the possibilities that exist between the two countries. 

Why India should monitor TTIP negotiations

Abhirup Bhunia
30 December 2013

Even as a diplomatic spat between the United States and India rages, the US is quietly leading discussions over two trading blocs that could alter the dynamics of international trade and the stakes are high for India. For all its importance, the absence of a debate in the public sphere in India surrounding these trade blocs -- the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) -- is conspicuous, if damaging. 

The TPP is a proposed regional free trade agreement (FTA) geared to tackle '21st century' trade issues, involving the United States and major Asia Pacific powers like Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The TTIP is quite simply a FTA between the European Union and the US, two major Western powers. 

These mega-FTAs command massive numbers. The TPP itself covers about 40% of global GDP and nearly a third of world trade. The TTIP on the other hand is the biggest FTA ever covering as much as 30% of world trade. While India has officially joined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP ), another free trade agreement led by China, it is yet to join the TPP. 

India's BRICS partner and a major world power, China is completely missing from TPP discussions, obviously bearing out the geopolitical exclusionary tactic adopted by the US. By hoping to shut out China from a trade deal of such mammoth proportions, the US hopes to gain a geopolitical brownie point. Interestingly the RCEP, which involves the ASEAN+6 countries and of which India is a part, hopes to negate the TPP. With China in it, RCEP covers more than half of the world's population. India finds itself in a tricky situation having to choose between China led RCEP and US led TPP. But while RCEP is a trade bloc subscription to which doesn't preclude India's commitments elsewhere, the implications of TPP are wide-ranging. 

Afghan Mujahideen and J&K: How real is the threat?

D Suba Chandran
Director, IPCS

There has been a serious concern, at times even a threat perception, that after the American withdrawal in 2014, the Afghan mujahideen would enter into J&K, as they did after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. How real is the threat? How relevant is the previous example to the contemporary situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan and J&K? Does the contemporary political and security situation in these three regions along with the attention of international community provide a space conducive for the Afghan mujahideen to enter (on their own) or being pushed (by Pakistan) into Kashmir?

Much of the Afghan mujahideen threat perception to J&K emanates from a perception that Afghanistan would unravel after 2014. In fact, it was the instability within Afghanistan in the early 1990s after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, which made the country unstable. This instability across the Durand Line also left Pakistan with a huge refugee population including a substantial mujahideen residue. A section within the Pakistani Establishment and ISI saw this as an opportunity to support the militant struggle taking roots at that time in J&K in the early 1990s. 

It was the opportunist use and abuse of the Afghans within Pakistan by the Establishment and its ISI which resulted in J&K witnessing the mujahideen. During that time, neither the mujahideen were infused with a jihadi spirit to establish a caliphate all over the region, nor did they want to fight for the cause of an independent Kashmir. They were used and abused by the Pakistani Establishment as mercenaries. 

In retrospect, it would also appear that the pumping of Afghan mujahideen into J&K did not support what Pakistan wanted to do; in fact, it became counterproductive, as there was at that time and in fact even today a substantial section within J&K that would abhor what the Afghan mujahideen did to the social fabric at that time.

Second, is Afghanistan likely to be unstable after the withdrawal of international security forces (ISAF) after 2014? In this context, there is a mis-percpetion or cynicism that Afghanistan would collapse after the American withdrawal. Such a perception does not reflect the improved situation at the ground level. Today the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are much better trained and equipped than they were in the early 1990s. In fact, this is the best force that Afghanistan could have had in the recent decade in terms of numbers, training, equipment and more importantly motivation. 

On the other hand, ever since their inception, the Taliban today is perhaps at its weakest position in terms of numbers, second tier leadership, infrastructural support and motivation. Unlike the 1990s, there is no Taliban wave, that could sweep province after province. In fact, the Taliban is using suicide attacks and IEDs as a major strategy against the ANSF, rather than any coordinated conventional offensive. Clearly, the Taliban is on a defensive and is unlikely to run over the ANSF militarily after 2014.

Ten Years of Ceasefire along the LoC: Through Elections and Media Ratings

Salma Malik
Assistant Professor, Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-I-Azam University

If nothing else, India and Pakistan have no dearth of issues to disagree and dispute over. The already fragile and precariously balanced “peace,” suffered yet another major setback when starting January 2013, the Line of Control (LoC) alongside Jammu and Kashmir area became restive enough to make the continuity of bilateral dialogue once again dubious and conditional. A ceasefire alongside the LoC, was unilaterally declared by Pakistan in November 2003 proposed by the Pakistani President general Pervaiz Musharaf, and for once reciprocated affirmatively by New Delhi. Ironically Musharaf happened to be the same person, whose “Out of Box” solution for a lasting peace in Kashmir was dismissed not only at domestic front but by New Delhi as well, the latter considering the general as the sole architect and executor of Kargil. This distrust and disconnect in Musharaf’s persona as well as the typical India-Pakistan “non-deliverance” was also visible during the 2001 Agra Summit, which brought crashing down many high expectations and optimism that perhaps for once there might be some positive change. 

The ten supposed golden years of ceasefire along what the divided Kashmiri population call as the “khoni lakir” were not ideally without violations or occasional exchange of fire. However, this time period where positively witnessed opening up of cross-LoC trade and transport linkages as of 2007, New Delhi in 2004 happily announced that the completion of 550 km of fence covering most of the 740 km LoC, had most successfully brought down the “infiltration” rate to 20%. The fence alongside the disputed land stretch was of course considered not only as a violation of mutual accords, but also a breach of the fragile trust and confidence that was being carefully crafted. A neutral analysis could have brought about a slightly altered perspective, one in which post 9/11 most of such forces were occupied in another proxy dual, and a Kashmiri population which virtually each summer vehemently voiced its purely indigenous protest against occupation forces and genuine grievances. In fact concerned voices both from Kashmir and New Delhi would highlight the plight but without much effect. 

The year-long skirmishes across the LoC initiated when around January 9th, both sides claimed infiltration and then killing of soldiers. What could have been a small scale manageable issue, very soon turned into not only a media circus but also an opportunity for political point scoring, with accusations and counter accusations heralded back and forth. Unfortunately any voices of sanity or rationality were downed by the Indian sale pitch as the country was entering the election year, with incumbent government already on a weak political footing. As for Pakistan, ironically enough, despite being in the thick of elections, conflict with India was never high on the campaign agenda, rather PML-N, which later won the elections, went all out to sound a reconciliatory tone with its neighbor, even when an incarcerated Pakistani was killed in retaliation to Sarabjit Singh’s killing in Pakistan. As for the much demonized Pakistan military, its focus genuinely remained westward. Driven by target rating points, private media houses specially the likes of NDTV fought a successful battle via airwaves, even when official military sources gave another version. 

Be wary of information detractors

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd)

The army deserves to be complimented on its ability to see through the lengthy procedure of military justice with a sense of balance and ensure that the alleged perpetrators are brought to justice, but like in any such system patience has to be exercised so that justice is meted out and seen to be correctly executed. 

IN April 2010, the third year of street protests in Kashmir was warming when brief media reports indicated that an army unit de-inducting after spending 24 months on the Line of Control (LoC) allegedly eliminated three young innocent persons in a fake encounter in the Machil area of the North Shamshabari, pass of their bodies as those of foreign terrorists and garner the credit in the “numbers’ game”. Post this incident, a brief inquiry by the Jammu and Kashmir Police indicated that there had been a conspiracy. Identifications were done after exhumation of the bodies and news of the incident went viral, leading to a spurt in the street protests. An alleged isolated incident slurred the army’s reputation and provided an impetus for the 2010 separatist campaign which would paralyze not only Kashmir but almost the entire nation. Machil thus became a byword in the Valley and the latest symbol of alleged human rights violations by the army.

Army jawans on anti-terrorist operations in Kashmir. The public at large is unaware of the military justice system and it is now up to the army to ensure that while imparting justice the perception game is not lost because of the lack of information 

For all the alleged dastardly nature of the incident, the army had to first take stock of the situation. It had been manipulated many times in the past to put it on the back foot, although admittedly it had a history of mistakes, as is wont to happen when any army thanklessly battles a sponsored militancy where the information/disinformation struggle becomes a part of the adversial campaign. It correctly followed the legal procedure to arrive at the current juncture but the skeptics continue to doubt its credentials towards justice.

On December 26, 2013, the nation woke to headlines stating that the perpetrators of the incident were to be tried by a general court martial (GCM). The perceived delay in justice (three and a half years), the apparent lack of knowledge about the military justice system and the emotions connected to the recall of the incident created enough of a potpourri to send the social media into a tizzy. Some perceived that the verdict was about to be announced as also the sentence, while others worked overtime to denigrate the army for the delay, painting it as the typical response of denial of justice by the army. A few explanations on social media put the procedural aspects and facts in the right perspective and better informed people started to change their ideas and in fact appreciate the army’s actions.

Information battle

The 24 year militancy and separatist campaign that the army has been fighting is not about elimination of terrorists alone. Much of the campaign has been about the information battle, something the army has never been very adept at. Its silence at the wrong times has cost it the image of a just army and it has been at the receiving end of smear campaigns even when it takes the correct decisions as it has very creditably done this time. It is all about information and timing. In November 2004, it gained much credit for the quick decision to investigate and put one of its officers through the military justice system. The officer had been accused of raping a mother and her young daughter. The GCM conducted in its wake (in precisely six weeks) found the officer guilty of attempted molestation and sentenced him to “be dismissed from service”, a verdict and sentence which was subsequently confirmed as per procedure but overturned by a higher civil court to which the accused officer appealed as per his rights. It gave enough credit to both the army and the judiciary in India, although many in Kashmir perceived the reversal as a decision of a biased Indian judicial system. The Army did not sufficiently publicise this important judgment of the higher court and that is coming back today to treat its promises of justice with much skepticism.

Pride and parampara in Manhattan

Published: December 30, 2013
P. Sainath

What if a class-action suit came up in the U.S. courts on the ripping-off of Indian domestic workers there? That fear drives the government’s outraged response to Devyani Khobragade’s arrest

In the Devyani Khobragade drama, the media have largely focussed on two themes and stoked wounded national pride around those. One: the outrageous manner of the arrest of the Indian consular official. Two, the perfidy of the United States. Of the latter, there has been plenty in the past few years. But you barely saw a whimper of anti-U.S. sentiment in the mainstream media. It took the Khobragade case to produce that. She has been charged in New York with visa fraud and illegally underpaying her domestic help and housekeeper Sangeeta Richard (who is also an Indian citizen). Both the human story and the U.S.-bully story are easily told, and indeed have been, many times over these past few days. With the crude bungling of her arrest, and the harsh manner of it, the U.S. has raised Indian hackles. And, of course, we’ve had yet another display of U.S. double standards on diplomatic immunity.

Incidents and Indian reaction

What’s been an intriguing and no less riveting a story, is the high-voltage response of the Indian government. The rage and fury it has displayed. None of which was seen in many other cases that cried out for a much stronger response to U.S. wrongdoing. The Edward Snowden revelations earlier this year showed India to be one of the biggest targets of electronic espionage by the National Security Agency (NSA) of the U.S. Yes, ahead of even Russia and China. The scope of the damage done to us has still barely been explored. We know the Indian Mission to the United Nations was, and perhaps still is, bugged. We know that the G-20 meeting in London that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went to in 2010 was also bugged. The latter, by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the NSA’s British sibling.

Brazil, less affected than India, saw President Dilma Rousseff cancel a state visit to America. An angry Ms. Rousseff sought an apology and an end to digital snooping. She also launched a scathing attack on U.S. spying, in a speech at the United Nations this September. India said and did nothing. Though an American judge did, saying the NSA’s mass surveillance was most likely illegal even within the U.S. Our supine silence meant that Dr. Singh’s own trip to the U.S. went off without a glitch.

There was no flurry of angry statements from top officials when a U.S. Navy ship fired on a small fishing boat off Dubai in July last year. The USNS Rappahannock opened fire, killing one Indian fisherman and wounding three. All four — in a total crew of six — were from Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu. The survivors said they had no signal, warning or inkling of an attack.


31 December 2013 | Rohinee Singh

First, I would take this opportunity to wish you all a happy new year; 2013 was a rough year for many of us and 2014 could not come soon enough. As the Indian economy endured its slowest growth for over a decade, many plans were put on hold. The media industry suffered as well with large-scale layoffs, as advertising dried up. One can only hope that as the economy turns around, so will the media industry in India.

But 2014 is now upon us and the first quarter of the year, at least in India, will be consumed by the nation heading into the most important general election in a generation. An election, where the two protagonists have clearly different visions for India. But as we are discovering with Mr Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi, there is no magic wand to undo years of misrule.

There is no doubt that India has immense unfulfilled potential — potential that has been frittered away in poorly planned, statist economy freebies that have kept people wallowing in poverty and decades of crony capitalism. The fact remains that without the furious injection of money into the global economy by the US Federal Reserve, the global economy and India’s would be worse off.

But the worst seems to be behind us now and we should start 2014 on a positive note. However, this columnist strongly believes that we ourselves have the ability to change India for the better. One of the ways many of us will do that is to ensure that we cast our votes in the upcoming election.

The importance of voting was highlighted in the recent State Assembly election, with turnouts impressively high, exceeding 70 per cent even in urban areas. Democracy has many flaws, but not voting is clearly one of the worst. As the Assembly election in Delhi proved, nothing is beyond the realm of the possible in elections, as the Aam Aadmi Party had a stellar debut.

Unfortunately, political discourse in this country plumbed new depths through 2013, thanks, in no small part, to television ‘debates’ where civility was thrown out of the window, and despite hopes that things might improve in 2014 that is unlikely. And, god forbid, if there is a hung Parliament, then the loud and highly politicised television debates will not end, even in the second-half of 2014.

While political discourse might remain loud and uncivilised, some things can change. First and foremost, the civic sense of all Indians, which remains woeful. It continues to surprise this writer how we treat our civic property — for example, ‘protests’ on the roads often involve the wanton and unwarranted destruction of public property, because there is little fear of the law.

There is justified anger against corruption. However, when faced with a situation where we should pay a fine or penalty, we try and bribe our way out of it. Take traffic offences, for example: Many drivers willingly pay the traffic police money to avoid paying a fine. Worse still, there is a certain belief in ‘fate’ in the way we choose to live our lives, an attitude that costs far too many lives.

Just because the traffic law, for reasons beyond a sane person’s comprehension, does not insist that women wear helmets while riding pillion on two-wheelers, that is no excuse for not wearing a helmet. Proper helmets can and do save lives. As doctors announced at a Press conference surrounding Michael Schumacher’s accident recently, the helmet ensured that he got to the hospital alive.

Rise of the common man: The changing dynamics of Indian politics

T. V. Rajeswar
30 December 2013

The rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its assumption of office in Delhi marks an epoch-making event in the political life of India. It is not coincidental that it should have happened after the decisive defeat of the Congress in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi. The setback for the Congress in Delhi was also shared by the BJP, which also failed to emerge with a majority of seats. 

The Congress has been in power at the Centre almost continuously from 1947. It assumed many forms and in the last phase, it was UPA-I and UPA-II, whose term is coming to an end early next year, whether it can again emerge with a working majority appears doubtful. 

The UPA government was charged with many acts of omission and commission. Corruption and non-governance were the universal accusations against Congress-led government in the past 10 years. 

Political events in the recent years have been undergoing important changes. The arrival of Anna Hazare on the political scene was the beginning of an earth tremor in Indian politics. 

In his Intelligence Bureau Endowment Lecture on December 19, President Pranab Mukherjee said citizens' movements spearheaded by social activists and NGOs had added a new dimension to the democratic structure by exerting pressure on the government to pass key legislations that are in public interest. 

The President's address came only a day after both Houses of the Parliament approved the Lokpal Bill, in recognition of Anna Hazare's principal demand. The Lokpal Bill, which had been hanging fire for 46 years, has now become an act of law. Whether it would usher in greater accountability in the administration and effective control of corruption remain to be seen. 

The Aam Aadmi Party of Arvind Kejriwal is the bye-product of Anna Hazare's movement. The Aam Aadmi Party could impress the educated and the middle class of Delhi's urban population and they opted for the Aam Aadmi Party as the instrument of managing power in Delhi. It was no doubt due to their belief that the new political outfit would bring about a welcome change from the routine politics marked by corruption and misgovernance. 

The Aam Aadmi Party decided to form the government after ascertaining the views of the people of Delhi through a referendum. Having resorted to referendum method, even at the basic step of forming the government, the Aam Aadmi Party is expected to follow similar methods in running the administration. 

As Maldives President comes calling....

N Sathiya Moorthy
30 December 2013

It has been a mixed bag for President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, as he prepares for his maiden overseas visit after assuming office, to India. The India visit is to be followed by one to the other neighbour, Sri Lanka, and possibly to Japan. 

Yameen would be the first Maldivian President to visit Japan, which has been taking an off-again, on-again interest in India and its Indian Ocean neighbourhood. Such interest is believed to be waxing and waning, depending upon the concurrent state of Japan's economy, the tool that the nation has at its disposal for diplomatic initiatives in the region and beyond. 

Ahead of assuming office, President Yameen had his election becoming the centre of a series of domestic controversies. The oncoming of the election was expected to resolve many of the controversies leading up to it, after the 'change of government' in February 2012. Instead, the presidential polls of September 2013 caught mired in more and unimaginable controversies of their own. 

Included in the long list was the inevitable extension of the presidential poll and the elected person (Yameen in this case) assuming office, after the constitutionally-mandated deadline had elapsed. That there was judicial protection for the same, the Supreme Court having caused those delays, provided the required constitutional cover and consequent legitimacy to the entire process. 

Credit should go to President Yameen for declaring publicly after his election that he would always remember that close to half the nation's voters had voted against him, and that he would prove that he was their President, as well. He also promised not to be vindictive and indicated a desire to have an 'inclusive' polity through a consensus process, which alone would do the nation good, now and later. 

The Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), whose candidate, former President Mohammed Nasheed, had lost the polls narrowly, reacted positively. Under the prevailing circumstances, the party's conditional offer of support to the multi-party alliance Government (if it followed the MDP's policies) was the best that could have been expected. The MDP has stuck to its commitment. However, over time, both sides would have to revisit their current positions to see what would make for 'national consensus' that had eluded the first five years of the democratisation process in the country. 

The MDP majority in the 77-seat Parliament has thus passed the maiden budget of the new Government, due anyway for fiscal 2014 commencing on 1 January, after mutually-accepted and seldom contested amendments were cleared at the committee stage. However, Parliament has denied confirmation to eight of President Yameen's 15 Cabinet nominees. The list of denials included Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and Home Minister Umar Naseer. 

All but Umar Naseer were Cabinet Ministers under predecessor President, Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik, whose legitimacy the MDP had contested following the 'power-transfer' of February 2012. Like the other seven, Umar Naseer was in the forefront of anti-Nasheed protests at the height of the combined Opposition demand for the President's resignation. He had contested against Yameen for their People's Party of Maldives (PPM) elections for presidential nomination, and later went to the court contesting the legitimacy of the internal polls. 

FP’s Favorite Reads of 2013

Great books from the past year as selected by the FP staff.
DECEMBER 31, 2013

With 2013 fast receding into the rearview mirror, Foreign Policy looks back at the best books that crossed the desks of our staff and contributors this year. It is an eclectic reading list, one that spans foreign policy, intelligence, and military history. As we turn the leaf on a new year, put these on your shopping list and give yourself something to chew on for 2014.


Emile Simpson, FP Columnist

Carter Malkasian served for two years as the Pashto-speaking U.S. State Department political officer in the Garmser District of southern Afghanistan. He takes his inspiration from Jeffery Race, a U.S. political officer in Vietnam, who in 1972 wrote War Comes to Long An. Malkasian's account is not just one more book about Afghanistan, but a moving human story that stands alone as a classic of its genre as much as it explains in microcosm the political and cultural story of the conflict since 1978.

What is striking about the book is Malkasian's role as its narrator. On the one hand, he places the reader in and amongst the lively cast of Afghans whom he gets to know so well. We see the conflict through them: their rational and sometimes cynical calculations, their cultural and emotional obligations, the time a tribal leader is kidnapped and gets away after a fight in a car that is sinking into a canal. We understand in their words how the community is divided, united, and reformed by the pressures of war. On the other hand, Malkasian is dispassionate and almost invisible in describing his own role. He lets the reader judge the broader purpose and value of the mission. If there is a polemical subtext, it is the need for strategy to be historically attuned, and place its goals in dialogue with the hopes and fears of the actual people on the ground whom it seeks to persuade.

Killing by US drones questionable

Aerial platforms could become a major security risk in future
Air Marshal RS Bedi (retd)

THE US has been conducting drone operations in a number of countries with a view to eliminating extremists and jihadi elements that are seen as the source of international terrorism. Pakistan has been one of the victims of this policy. Its north-western border, particularly the province of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, seems to bear the brunt of these attacks.

Activists of the Muttahida Shehri Mahaz protest in Multan against a US drone attack on December 26 that killed three suspected insurgents near the Afghan border. AFP

Hundreds of ‘jihadi’ elements and a number of leading persons, including Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Afghan Haqqani leaders have been killed in these attacks. Hakeemullah Mehsud, head of the TTP was killed a few days after the summit meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US President Barack Obama, despite the issue having been raised by the former.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, are multipurpose technological marvel that can neutralise minuscule ground targets as small as a human body with unmatched accuracy. These are being employed extensively by the US and some other major powers, particularly Israel, for targeted killing of their perceived enemies. While these powers may be eliminating threat to their national security to some degree, their unilateral action without the concurrence of the target country has serious international ramifications, both legal and ethical.

The Americans continue to ignore Pakistan government’s protests against violation of its sovereignty and kill its citizens without any inhibition. But surprisingly, Pakistan has neither taken up the issue at any international level nor attempted to shoot down these highly air interception vulnerable drones. There is a wide suspicion that in this case the Pakistan army unable to subdue the ‘jihadi’ elements despite heavy casualties has perhaps agreed tacitly to look over the shoulder while the CIA continues with its task.

Pakistan is not the only country where the US has resorted to such precise killing of unsuspecting victims from the air. It has been using the drones in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Libya with amazing effectiveness. Thousands of people have been killed in these countries in this manner.

Asia’s Business Winners and Losers for 2013

It was a good year for some of the region’s titans. For others…less so.
December 31, 2013

Mystery, malevolence and also business acumen are just some of the qualities associated with the Year of the Snake. Here’s a look at some of the major successes – and failures – in Asian business in 2013.


Chung Mong-Koo: Listed by INSEAD among its best performing “global CEOs” of 2013, the 75-year-old Hyundai Motor boss is credited for helping South Korea’s largest automaker drive its product quality upmarket and become the world’s fourth-biggest carmaker.

Lui Chee Woo: The head of a hotel, property and casino conglomerate, Lui grew his net worth by $8.3 billion in 2013 to $19.6 billion on the back of strong revenue growth in Macau casinos, boosting the share price of his Galaxy Entertainment Group. A China native, the 84-year-old resides in Hong Kong and is ranked as Asia’s second richest man.

Ma Huateng: Nicknamed “Pony Ma,” the 42-year-old founder and chief executive of Chinese internet company Tencent has been rated among this year’s best business leaders, helped by a push into mobile: “To say that 2013 has been a good year for him and his firm would be an understatement. The market valuation of Tencent has skyrocketed to more than $100 [billion]…and the company appears to be poised for tremendous growth

Masayoshi Son: The founder and chief executive of SoftBank Corp, Japan’s second-richest man increased his net worth by more than $10 billion to reach $19.1 billion as of December 11, helped by an aggressive acquisition strategy including Sprint Corp. The 56-year-old aims to build the world’s biggest mobile internet company, with Son’s latest move a bid for US wireless carrier T-Mobile US.

Mike Smith: The former HSBC boss earned kudos for taking Australia’s ANZ into Asia, helping the bank earn a record A$6.5 billion cash profit and picking up a tidy A$10 million for his services. Despite skepticism from some analysts, Smith says there is more “gas in the tank” for his “super regional” strategy.

Akio Toyoda: The grandson of Toyota Motor’s founder is eyeing record profits after cutting costs and boosting exports, helped by a weaker yen. The 57-year-old was rated this year’s second-best CEO for his efforts in helping the Japanese giant recover from US product recalls to become the world’s best-selling automaker.

Four Trends to Watch in Asia in 2014

By William Pesek - Dec 30, 2013

As we head into 2014, one thing is clear about the outlook for Asia: No one really has a clue what’s in store for this increasingly eclectic, cacophonous and unpredictable region.

That includes prognosticators whose annual forecasts are drawing lots of attention, including “Dr. Doom” himself, Nouriel Roubini. The New York economist who called Wall Street’s 2008 meltdown predicts that 2014 will see asset bubbles inflating in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, Singapore and Turkey. If he’s right, many of us will be homeless scavengers come 2015.

A guru known by an even darker moniker -- Hong Kong’s “Dr. Gloom, Boom & Doom,” Marc Faber -- is down on everything from art to bonds to collectibles to commodities to equities. He also worries the zero-interest rate policies of the Federal Reserve and other central banks may bankrupt the world.

It’s enough to make me want to flee to a cabin in the woods, buy guns and find God. But first, allow me to address four themes that I think will dominate the year ahead.

An Asian Spring: No, I don’t expect governments to fall as they did in Tunisia and Egypt. But from Beijing to Hanoi and New Delhi to Kuala Lumpur, growing discontent could generate epochal demonstrations. Widening rich-poor divides, rising prices and high-profile corruption cases have alienated not just the masses but also the middle classes across the region. Vicious political splits in Thailand and Bangladesh have already led to street violence. Japan’s Shinzo Abe will run into a firestorm if he tries to restart the country’s nuclear reactors. China’s Xi Jinping can’t even get a handle on the country’s shadow banking system, let alone its unchecked state enterprises, entrenched special interests and choking smog. Even hyperstable Singapore could see rumblings if the government doesn’t get a handle on rising resentment toward foreign workers.

Sino-Japanese Scuffling: You can bet Xi is already making a list of ways to retaliate for Abe’s visit last week to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which houses the souls of 14 Class A war criminals from World War II. That should worry Japanese automakers, electronics exporters and travel agents. The real fireworks may involve an accident between aircraft or vessels at sea near disputed islands Japan calls Senkakus and China calls Diaoyu. China’s new air-defense identification zone raises the odds of conflict. I wouldn’t bet on war, but several tense days in the East China Sea that rock global markets shouldn’t be ruled out.

New Brooms: The odds favor Hindu hardliner Narendra Modi replacing Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, charismatic Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo replacing Indonesia’s Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Thailand’s Yingluck Shinawatra quite possibly being shown the door. Modi would bring significant baggage with him to New Delhi, given his lack of contrition for anti-Muslim violence in 2002 that claimed more than 1,000 lives on his watch as Gujarat chief minister. Wildly popular as a clean and efficient administrator, Widodo would be quite the wild card to take Yudhoyono’s anti-graft efforts to the next level. And while the baby sister of living-in-exile former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra should easily win elections that her opposition is boycotting, many Thais appear to be souring on democracy. A quiet coup could well push her out before or after the polls.