11 February 2014

The enduring idea of India

Lieut-Gen (retd) Baljit Singh

Twelve generations of Independent India have witnessed, may be without a conscious thought, what is perhaps among the world's few very sombre and yet flamboyant performances, namely "Beating Retreat" by the massed bands, pipes and drums of the armed forces, which brings to end the Republic Day celebrations. The audience of several thousand Indians drawn from the lowly aam aadmi, right up the scale to the heads of the country's legislature, the executive, the judiciary and the diplomatic missions is usually seated, twenty minutes before the commencement and it is therefore natural that the specially created, vast open amphitheatre centred on the Vijay Chowk, would hum like the beehive.

That was the setting a few days ago, when President Pranab Mukherjee alighted in the six-horse-drawn state coach, in itself a work of art and antiquity of over ninety years! In clock-work precision, two posses of eight trumpeters sounded the fanfare and intuitively, the spectators fell silent and searched for the source of the music score, "Herald The Chief"! The trumpeters played their hearts out, from beneath the domes surmounting the two towers of the North and South Blocks, directly above Vijay Chowk, bringing the spectators on the edges of their seats as they watched the President take his seat.

Further enhancing this ceremonial ambience was a troop from the President's Mounted Body Guard, attired in scarlet tunics with intricate gold lace-work and white mole-skin breeches, astride well groomed and manicured horses, a heritage stretching to the Madras Governor General's Guard, raised way back in 1778. The guard salutes, and the massed bands strike the national anthem exuberantly as the national flag is hoisted, at the venue. The audience bursts in vigorous clapping, every face having misted eyes and wreathed in a smile! Now, that indeed is symbolic of the enduring spirit of India and let no one tamper with it.

Over the next 45 minutes the spectators cannot avoid tapping their feet to the rhythm of martial music. The under lying theme of every tune is focused on patriotism and glory of the Republic, such as "Kadam kadam budhaye chall, khooshi kay geet gaey chaall, yeh zindgi hay kaumn ki too kaumn par lootaye chall….!" As though to fortify this resolve, they next play out the rousing "Dhawaj Kay Rakshak", leaving nothing to chance that the fortress is under trustworthy and unfaltering vigil. The "Drums Roll" which follows, creates the auditory crescendo of the thunder and volley on the battle field.

The "Last Post" played by massed buglers, the national flag lowered and some 400 battle-inoculated, soldier-bandsmen wearing immaculate ceremonial uniforms, symbolising time-tested loyalty to the country and heritage of valour, march up the Raj Path playing to perfection "Sare jahaan say achha…!" As though to underline that resolve, Rashtrapati Bhavan, the North and South Blocks, and Parliament are flood-lit, signifying the eternal light even amidst darkness. And the lotus fountains of Vijay Chowk cascade water in the colours of the national flag. That too is the enduring idea of India and let every Indian mount vigil against those who may dare to mess with it, ever.

The Operation Blue Star Papers

By Harpreet Bajwa
09th Feb 2014

It was a turning point in contemporary Indian history that rewrote political and social equations in lines of blood. It claimed the life of a Prime Minister and subsequently the lives of over 8,000 Sikhs at the hands of vengeful mobs in 1984. It spawned terrorism for the first time in India on a large scale, in which hundreds—ordinary people, militants, policemen and journalists—perished. Just after noon on June 3, 1984, Indian security forces started the first phase of Operation Bluestar that ended on June 8, 1984, to flush out militants occupying the Golden Temple, the most sacred of Sikh shrines. By the time the seige ended, the Army calculated that 492 terrorists and 142 soldiers were killed. What was little known was that the Indian government had asked the British government then headed by Margaret Thatcher for military advice on how to take the temple. Knowledge about this caused major uproar in both India and Britain, after declassified documents on Operation Bluestar were shown by Labour Party MP Tom Watson, who asked Prime Minister David Cameron for a review into events in Amritsar in 1984. A series of letters (reproduced here) suggest that the Indian Government kept Sikh sentiments in mind while deciding to execute the siege of the shrine. It was concerned about civilian casualties. Hence, advice given by the Special Air Services (SAS) agent sent by the United Kingdom on how to go about flushing out extremists from the Golden Temple was eventually ignored, resulting in a high number of casualties. The SAS officer who visited India between February 8 and 17 went to Amritsar on February 10, 1984. On February 13 he recommended a surprise attack (airdropping troops from helicopter), and that armed intervention should be the last resort. On February 10 he made a ground reconnaissance of the Golden Temple. The SAS agents plan was approved by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. “It was clear to the officer that the Indians had not given much thought to how they should root out the extremists, beyond applying the ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ principle.

On March 7, 1985 the UK High Commissioner in Delhi Sir W Harding stated, “Although some of the recommendations were used, the main concept changed once the Indian Army took over.”

The communications also reveal that the British felt that if the visit becomes public knowledge, it would provoke a Sikh backlash at home. Meanwhile, the controversy has ignited a political war in Punjab. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal sought an unconditional apology from the British government. “Both the national governments were equally guilty for this unpardonable act and the Sikhs would never forgive them for this sin against humanity.” The Akali Dal was in power when Operation Bluestar occurred. Accusing Badal of trying to make political capital out of a sensitive situation and blaming him for various acts of omission and commission before and after the operation, former Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said Badal was raking up the issue again for partisan gains. But it is far from dead.

When netas are around, the babus are at play

Monday, 10 February 2014 | 
Joginder Singh

The issue is of the over-protection given to bureaucracy. Once you join Government service, there is no fear of loss of job. Even if you are caught red-handed extorting bribes, it takes decades to get rid of you

In a landmark ruling in May 2013, the Madras High Court had said that the Central Bureau of Investigation does not need the Union Government’s nod to probe IAS and IPS officers. This would have affected nearly 300 senior officers, of Joint Secretary or above rank in the IAS, IPS and other services, facing corruption cases across the country.

As per Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, corruption cases against Joint Secretary-level officers and above cannot be commenced without prior permission from the Union Government. But the court ruled that, “An overall reading of entire Section 6A would only show the legislative intent that the approval contemplated therein can at the best be only directory and not mandatory.”

The apex court observed on February 5, during the hearing of the above case, that, “If the policymaker in the top bureaucracy gets protection from inquiry, who should face the rigour of law — the lower bureaucracy which implements the policy decisions? How is this class of bureaucrats separate from others? All bureaucrats and government servants have protection under the PC Act, which requires a probe agency to seek sanction from concerned authority prior to prosecution. Why this special protection for a small band? On what classification can you deprive other public servants of this benefit…” The court said all accused were a class in themselves. “If that is so, then how could the Government create a privileged class of accused among the top bureaucrats by according them this protection?” the Bench asked.

The Bench added that by providing “blanket” protection to a small band of bureaucrats, the clause is seemingly contrary to the object of the Prevention of Corruption Act. It added, “The legislature appears to have not done a responsible job as in this process, it has protected the entire top layer of bureaucracy.”

At present, nearly 300 requests from investigating agencies are pending with the Government and prosecution against the accused is stuck. It seems like the Union Government has become the greatest supporter of those who indulge in malfeasance, illegal conduct and even corruption. It even went against the orders of the Madras High Court and told the Supreme Court on February 4 that bureaucrats of Joint Secretary-level and above “take all policy decisions” and must be protected from frivolous inquiry.

Few will disagree with the Government on this count. But the Government has not produced any facts and figures about the people against whom any frivolous inquiry has been started by an investigating agency. In fact, there is almost no evidence of any such cases.

There is no doubt that many senior officers are reasonably honest. But honest officers are of no use if they cannot stop corruption under their charge. It is equally so with some politicians, whose USP is their honesty. No Government can be run by mere exhortations of honesty. The real problem in the Government is that it is not clear as to what it should be doing and in what order, and who should be doing what. The Government wants only pliant civil servants who do its bidding, whether legal or illegal. It does not believe in sorting the grain from the chaff, standardising procedures, introducing checks and balances in the system and maintaining them.

Life on the razor’s edge

Source Link

AP FEAR AND HATRED: Abuse of the blasphemy law continues to take a heavy toll in terms of human lives and harassment of citizens. Picture shows a mob attacking a Christian neighbourhood in Lahore protesting alleged blasphemy by the community. File photo

Speaking up against the blasphemy law in Pakistan often has fatal consequences as the few who do speak up face death threats

When 69-year-old British Pakistani, Mohammad Asghar came to Rawalpindi in 2010, he was shocked to find that one of the two properties he owned there was occupied by a notorious land grabber. He filed a complaint against him before leaving for the Haj pilgrimage but it was Asghar who was arrested on his return. His crime was that he claimed to be the Holy Prophet and wrote letters in his name and even printed visiting cards, for which he was charged with blasphemy, a criminal offence punishable with death under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

While awarding the death sentence on January 23, 2014, the sessions court which conducted the trial in Adiala jail disregarded his extensive medical records from Scotland in which it is evident he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. An affidavit in June 2011 submitted to the court by Dr. Jane McLennan, a consultant psychiatrist of Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh, where Asghar lived with his family, says that he was her patient in February and March 2010. Records showed that in 1993, he was first referred to psychiatric services and treated for depression. In 2000 he suffered a cerebrovascular stroke and as a result walked with a limp, needing the support of a walking stick. He also suffered from psychiatric symptoms after the stroke which included depression and delusionary beliefs of a paranoid and grandiose nature. He had auditory hallucinations and persecutory delusions, believing that his home was bugged by the Pakistani and international media and that he was being persecuted for having written to Prime Minister Blair and President Bush, telling them the Iraq war was wrong, the affidavit said.


By Vijay Shankar
Former Commander-in-Chief, Strategic Forces Command of India
10 February 2014

India-Pakistan: Nuclear Risk Reduction Measures

The Problem

The problem with nuclear weapons is the complexity of convincing decision-makers that no conceivable advantage can be achieved from a nuclear exchange. As long as one side believes that there is some value to be had through the deployment and use of nuclear weapons, uncertainties and imponderables creep in that sets into motion a chain reaction that provokes and raises the degree of risk.

Military planners are familiar with the fact that risk assessment is an imperative in the development of a strategic plan. The process is marked by persistent motivation to not only eliminate uncertainties and bring about balance in the ‘Political Objectives-Resources-Means’ equation but also to ensure that probability of success and benefits outweigh the hazards of failure. In the nuclear arena, it is noted that strategic imbalance is intrinsic to the relationship. From the start, the equation is irrevocably in a state of unstable equilibrium caused by the fact that when nuclear means are used the impact will invariably be to obliterate the very objectives that were sought to be achieved. This is the reality of nuclear weapons. Its value lies in non-usage; its aim is nuclear war avoidance; its futility is in attempting to use it to attain political goals.

Strategic collaboration with a potential enemy is not a concept that comes naturally to the military planner. Tradition is against it and the very idea of sovereignty rejects the thought of it. Nonetheless it can be no nation’s case to destroy the very purpose that polity sets out to attain and therefore strategic empathy lies at the heart nuclear risk reduction.

Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNW)

Planners in Pakistan suggest that nuclear weapons have an inalienable place in their military strategy and therefore a flexible response of the conventional, tactical nuclear weapons and strategic weapons is in the order of things. Also, that ambiguity and the threat of first use are central to the absence of a declared doctrine. The direction in which arsenals are headed with the induction of the Nasr, Babur and the Raad into the Pakistani armoury is a grim reminder of the upshot of ambiguity and opacity. 

Added to this is the actuality of an enfeebled civilian leadership incapable of action to remove the military finger from the nuclear trigger, the active involvement of non-state actors in military strategy, and an alarming posture of an intention-to-use - all of which have the makings of a nuclear nightmare. 

Principles Governing Risk Reduction

The cardinal principles that govern nuclear risk reduction are five-fold: an abiding belief in nuclear war avoidance; clarity in strategic underpinnings and rejection of ambiguities; stability of the deterrent relationship where incentives to use and expansion of arsenal are abhorred; transparency in policy, technology intrusions, intent and alerts; renouncing tactical nuclear weapons; and centralised command and control with clear demarcation between Custodian and Controller.


By Sheel Kant Sharma
Former Permanent Representative to UN Office in Vienna & IAEA
10 February 2014

Nuclear Security Summit 2014 and the NTI Index

President Obama’s major initiative launched in Washington in 2010 will enter its next stage with the convening of the third Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague. The fourth one is set for Washington in 2016. This process of Nuclear Security Summits is unique in many ways. It has brought together Heads of States/Governments from over fifty nations to discuss, define and put in action a concerted global campaign to deal with the challenges posed by nuclear terrorism by addressing threats to nuclear enterprises from theft, sabotage, unauthorised access with malevolent intent, subversion of personnel and terrorism in general. 

The heightened concern about certain aspects of security of nuclear enterprises, that is, of nuclear material including uranium and plutonium and radioactive substances involved in various nuclear facilities, reactors and nuclear fuel cycle, has been there since the break-up of the Soviet Union. The US took the lead in 1994 in getting the IAEA to commence a whole spectrum of activities to prevent and combat illicit nuclear trafficking and to enhance physical protection of nuclear material and facilities. In parallel, the hugely successful Nunn-Lugar programme was also launched bilaterally with Russia to salvage nuclear material in the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.

Initially the effort was driven by fear of proliferation but it assumed a magnified threat perception after 9/11 since it was felt that suicide-bands of non-State actors could lay hands on nuclear material or dangerous radioactive substances to create mass panic or attack nuclear reactors to release radioactivity. While the responsibility to comprehensively enhance protection of nuclear enterprises to avert, prevent and combat such menace lay squarely on the governments concerned, support has steadily grown for international response through cooperation and assistance including through provision of equipment and advisor services, sharing of best practices and broad awareness raising about danger of nuclear terrorism. 

The IAEA has completed several five-year action plans to help its member states, on request, in diverse aspects of nuclear security in the same way as it has put in place a systematic programme for assisting countries regarding nuclear safety. While safety-concerned public health implications of the phenomenon of radiation is inherent to peaceful uses of nuclear energy and has received funding from the regular budget, the security-related programme has generally been funded by extra-budgetary contributions led by generous US funding.

The Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) process raised the level of international action and concern to the highest and gave a significant political profile to all related programmes in nuclear security, whether bilateral or multilateral. Participating governments have been sensitised and spurred to act owing to a high level interest in the Summit process, preceded by preparatory ‘sherpa’ meetings and careful drafting of declarations and recommendations for action. The impact of these summits is comprehensive in that all facets of the menace are addressed, such as reducing nuclear materials (usable for bomb-making) in reactors by converting them to fuelling with lower levels of enriched uranium, eliminating surplus stocks ofsuch material as was the case with several successor states of the former Soviet Union, adopting measures for greater security and control such as on-site physical protection, better accounting and control, prevention of threats from insiders and capability for effective response to any security-related event. 

Artillery Modernisation: A Reality Check

09 Feb , 2014

BAE's M777 ultra-light field howitzer

With changes in policy clearly stating that in all future acquisitions of defence equipment, the first priority would be given to Indian companies both private and public, a number of private companies such as L&T, Bharat Forge, Mahindra Defence Systems, Tata Powers and Punj Lloyd have taken the plunge and are forging JVs with renowned global defence equipment manufacturing companies especially those related to manufacture of 155mm/52 caliber artillery Howitzers of all types. There is also an urgent need to quickly revise the present blacklisting policy of the government which is retrograde in its application and is doing more harm than good to the procurement process. Imposing of severe financial penalties on the company rather than banning, would yield better results and ensure that the acquisition of major/critical weapon systems does not suffer – an existing practice in many countries. The Naresh Chandra Committee on defence reforms has addressed this issue and the Government must act on it.

Presently, the artillery inventory is grossly inadequate both in quantity and quality…

Both Napoleon and Stalin, in their respective time in history, have extolled the decisive role of artillery in war fighting. This fact remains relevant even today as firepower especially artillery continues to play a significant battle winning role in modern warfare. In the Indian context, this fact was amply demonstrated during the Kargil conflict. But despite the lessons of history and the imperatives to transform well recognised, the Regiment of Artillery’s modernisation plans continue to stagnate.

In the last 26 years, India has not bought even a single gun after the then Government of Rajiv Gandhi was hit by a pay-off scandal over the procurement of Bofors guns. The major reason has been the numerous defence related scams, leading the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to display an extreme risk-averse behavior, resulting in the blacklisting of some of the major players in the world market, producing state-of-the-art modern artillery gun systems. The latest in this sordid saga is the uncertainty in the acquisition of the 145 BAE Systems M777 Ultra Light Howitzers (ULH), being acquired through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route with the United States. While the trials were completed almost a year and a half ago, the process for finalisation of the project seems totally stagnant with the MOD maintaining a stoic silence. This despite the fact that the Maintainability Evaluation trials were carried out at its behest in January 2013 – this in actuality constitutes the final round of trials in the procurement process of any military equipment.

Rheinmetall wheeled Self Propelled guns RW G-52

In the absence of any communication from the MOD and with no other orders in the pipeline, the BAE Systems has been forced to shut down its M777 facility located in England in October last year. This facility catered to 30 per cent of the gun’s manufacture mechanism. As per reports, BAE Systems is also seriously looking at the option of closing down its main facility in the US by March 2014, in case no further progress is made. This is a major setback to the artillery modernisation process as this was the Army’s priority project, keeping in mind the raising of the new Mountain Strike Corps and the long outstanding inadequacy of artillery on our Eastern and Northern borders. This development has followed closely on the heels of the scrapping of another important project involving the acquisition of 180x155mm/52 caliber wheeled Self Propelled (SP) guns after completion of trials.

Defence Industry: Reach for the Sky!

09 Feb , 2014

Nearly sixty-seven years of Independence and not a single combat aircraft has been produced by India! Despite the word ‘indigenisation’ featuring repeatedly in political rhetoric, one of the reasons is because of the vested interests within the government of the huge kickbacks associated with imports of military hardware. The perception that in every armament deal massive amounts of taxpayers’ money is siphoned off is largely correct. Blacklisting vendors is merely theatrics to divert public attention from this crass truth. The long, convoluted and tedious process of procurement of military hardware has been created deliberately by the politico-bureaucratic red-tape to extract larger kickbacks which eventually is the taxpayers’ liability!

Worse, it appears that the primary national objective is not to add military capabilities to ensure the nation’s security but to find ways to guarantee maximum kickbacks.

Worse, it appears that the primary national objective is not to add military capabilities to ensure the nation’s security but to find ways to guarantee maximum kickbacks. Frankly, nobody involved in the decision-making process is really concerned about the MMRCA being inducted on time to shore up the rapidly declining firepower of the Indian Air Force; or about the Indian Navy receiving submarines in time; or with the tremendous collateral damage the nation suffers on its borders with Pakistan because the infantry is ill-equipped. Despite similar levels of corruption, China never overlooks the primary objective of building military muscle. Frankly, no other country does except India!

It is amazing that the Indian genius that has successfully launched technologically advanced and sophisticated spacecraft to Mars or has finally mastered ‘cryogenic’ engine technology is unable to produce small arms such as a modern rifle, carbine or a pistol.

India’s increasing dependence on import of arms up to almost 80 per cent is attributable to multiple reasons. Instead of creating competition between the Defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs) and the private sector, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the entrenched vested political interests continue to ignore colossal wastage of resources in the public sector. Elements in the government appear to have huge personal stakes in resources being funneled from the meagre defence budget under the guise of secrecy. The case of the Tatra trucks being re-invoiced at higher price by the Indian public sector unit clearly revealed the modus operandi of siphoning public funds.

The truth, however, is that substantial foreign assistance by way of technology was obtained in developing spacecraft, cryogenic engine, Light Combat Aircraft, the Arjun tank or missile systems. While one may take pride in naming the indigenous tank as ‘Arjun’, the fact is that the tank boasts of foreign components up to 55 per cent. In all fairness, even critics will agree there is nothing to be ashamed of in using imported technology till the capability for indigenous design is developed in-house. All modern hospitals in India today rely largely on imported equipment but at the same time, they earn millions in foreign exchange through medical tourism.

India and China: The End of Cold Peace?

February 10, 2014

In recent years China’s attempts to alter the status quo in its territorial disputes with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam have seized global headlines. The games of brinksmanship being played by Chinese naval forces in the Western Pacific have put the region on edge, propelling Asia into becoming “the most militarized region in the world [3].” Yet while the world’s attention has been focused on the maritime arena, it is China’s neighbor to the south, India, that has quietly become the world’s largest importer of arms. [4]

The China-India rivalry has not garnered the same attention as the China-Japan rivalry because their disputed Himalayan border—the longest disputed border in the world—has been virtually free of violence since the first major conflict in their history, the 1962 border war. Compared with the volatile confrontations playing out in the East and South China Seas, the de facto China-India border, the Line of Actual Control (LAC), has been relatively tame. It’s also because since the 1980s, Beijing and Delhi have crafted a durable framework to manage their border dispute and cooperate in areas of mutual interest within the confines of a cold peace.

Today China and India are more politically and economically engaged than at any time in recent history. Bilateral trade expanded sixty-seven-fold from 1998 to 2012, and the Chinese and Indian armies held their first-ever joint military exercise in 2007, followed by two more in 2008 and 2013. They have periodically found common agendas on global issues of mutual interest like world trade talks, climate-change negotiations, the primacy of state sovereignty, and the need to reform global-governance institutions.

Most important, both capitals have shown a commitment to mitigating recurring tensions in the relationship. When crises do arise—as was the case when a Chinese border patrol intruded across the LAC for three weeks in April 2013—they’ve responded with calm and patience to dissolve the crisis diplomatically. At the government-to-government level relations are, in a word, civil.

However, cooperation and competition coexist in this relationship, advancing in tandem on parallel tracks. And while the cooperative track has been accelerating since the turn of the century, the strategic competition has kept pace, and in some arenas advanced faster. The phenomenon should be familiar to Washington. U.S.-Chinese relations operate in a similar framework: deeper integration in the diplomatic and economic sphere accompanied by growing strategic mistrust in the security arena.

Perhaps the key feature of the China-India rivalry is that while it is felt and sustained by both parties, it is in many ways one-sided. China’s “comprehensive national power” exceeds India’s by such a wide margin. China’s economy was over four times the size of India’s in 2012, and over eight times the size when adjusting for purchasing-power parity (PPP). China’s official military budget of $119 billion in 2013 was over three times larger than India’s $38 billion defense budget. India more than twice China’s poverty rate (29.8 percent vs. 13.4 percent) and only two-thirds its literacy rate (62 percent vs. 95 percent).

India’s Rising Regional Military Engagement

By Nitin Gokhale
February 10, 2014

New Delhi has been strengthening defense ties with countries across the region.

Sometime in the latter half of 2013, the top brass of the Indian military had a short but effective brainstorming session with other stakeholders in the national security architecture. The participants were drawn from the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) which functions directly under National Security Adviser (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon, senior officials from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the Research and Analysis Wing or RAW, India’s external intelligence agency and of course the Ministry of Defence. The main agenda: how to further India’s interests in the immediate and strategic neighborhood through effective use of India’s military.

For the past decade, India has been receiving increasing requests for joint exercises and training slots from what are described as “Friendly Foreign Countries” in the bureaucratic parlance of South Block, the colonial style building that houses both the defense ministry and the external affairs ministry. Considering these requests, a review was called for. At the end of the high-level meeting, a six-point formula for stepping up the nation’s military diplomacy was finalized.

Specifically, the officials decided to: leverage the military element of national power towards the furtherance of the national interest; contribute to the national security environment by developing a shared confidence amongst the armed forces; strengthen defense relations to promote India’s influence in the region; establish a presence commensurate with India’s strategic interests and the comfort level of the host nation; assist friendly foreign countries in developing defense capabilities consistent with India’s security needs; exploit India’s presence in UN Missions to further the national interest.

Many of the elements in the policy are part of India’s ongoing engagement with its friends and neighbors, but the fact that a reiteration was considered necessary signifies renewed interest in making full use of Indian military’s standing across the world.

One of the first decisions flowing out of the new thinking was to post defense attachés in the Central Asian Republics. Accordingly, three new attachés have been placed in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the past three months. These three countries are of particular immediate interest because of their proximity to Afghanistan, currently in the middle of an uncertain transition. By posting defense attachés, India wants to make sure it remains engaged with the military leadership there as it has done for years with Tajikistan, another country that borders Afghanistan. In fact, after initial difficulties, India has helped Tajikistan build an air base at Ayni, besides intermittently basing some of its own Russian-sourced helicopters there. A 60-bed, state-of-the-art hospital built by India is manned by military doctors and paramedics at Ayni, and is seen as a major Indian contribution in Tajikistan. The new Indian defense attachés are expected to offer similar, if smaller projects to the other Central Asian Republics.

India must help Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban


India’s bonsai-sized nuclear programme is testimony to the way in which the timidity of its officialdom has prevented the exploitation of its geopolitical potential.

Afghan soldiers secure a site where a suicide bomber attacked an Afghan army bus in Kabul on 26 January. The attack was claimed by the Taliban. REUTERS

ndia's rickety nuclear deterrent illustrates the "smoke but don't inhale" approach of our timid policymakers. Given their pre-occupation with making money for themselves and friends and family, our politicians leave less consequential activities such as national and foreign policy to officials. In a system where there is zero retribution for omission but a high risk of punishment for commission, it is small wonder that timidity has marked foreign and domestic policies, if bombastic verbiage is ignored. In Homi Jehangir Bhabha, India had a scientist with vision and drive, who would have made the country a nuclear weapon state had he been given the political go ahead. However, Jawaharlal Nehru placed more reliance on his international stature than on military prowess in assuring the safety of the country from outside intervention, and Bhabha was never given all that he needed in order to propel this country towards parity at least with France and the UK in matters nuclear. As a consequence of Nehru's incomprehension of the necessity for a nuclear deterrent, it was China that exploded a device before India, despite the fact that this country's nuclear establishment was at that point in time far more advanced than Beijing's.

The putting in place of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ought to have been when India set off its first nuclear explosives. However, it was only in 1974 that Pokhran I took place. The "peaceful nuclear explosion" (so named presumably because no human lives were lost in the operation) resulted in a volley of sanctions against India, soon viciously led by US President Jimmy Carter, who was clear in his conviction that a country such as India was too barbaric to have a weapon that (in his view) should be the monopoly of the "civilised world". The best response to such pressure would have been to press ahead with more explosions, so as to perfect the technology and train more personnel in its manufacture and use. Once it was clear that India could not be pushed back into a box, negotiations would have taken place that would have brought this country into the NPT as a nuclear weapons state. Instead, the fact that fear of international reaction prevented India's leaders from a second explosion for 24 years gave confidence to the "civilised world" that it could succeed in arm-twisting India into giving up nuclear weapons altogether. In 1998, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee did what Prime Minister Rao was persuaded by his Finance Minister not to do in 1995, explode the Pokhran II nuclear devices. Subsequently, the PM unilaterally announced an end to further testing and thereby refused to sanction the additional tests then needed to ensure a workable set of devices.

How a triple murder in Karachi left the Taliban not just making headlines, but writing them, too.

FEBRUARY 7, 2014 

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — On Jan. 17, gunmen on motorbikes fired 17 shots into the back of a TV van in Karachi, killing three employees of the Express News, one of Pakistan's most popular media outlets. At first glance, the event might seem unremarkable in Pakistan's increasingly violent political environment. Viewed against the backdrop of the Pakistani Taliban's (TTP) reinvigorated campaign against the media, however, it could mark a watershed moment for independent journalism in the country. Those who were killed -- a guard, a driver, and a technician -- were caught in a clash of public opinion, one that's pitted Pakistan's burgeoning independent media against extremist militants vying for control of the country. 

Pakistan has long been one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, and the sixth most dangerous in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. But attacks on the media have generally been aimed at silencing particular individuals -- like leading investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad, whose brutalized body was found in a canal in 2011 after he reported on connections between Pakistan's infamous Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), the country's navy, and al Qaeda militants. But the attacks on the Express, which preceded a detailed fatwa spelling out what kind of reportage the TTP would tolerate, could mark the beginning of something else entirely: a wholesale targeting of the press as part of the organization's propaganda war against the Pakistani state. 

"The way that Express News is being picked out and targeted, makes absolutely clear that we are being given some sort of message," Fahd Husain, director of news at Express TV, said as the network shifted into live coverage of its murdered employees. 

Not long after, while the bodies of the slain still lay under white sheets, TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan called in to the channel to take responsibility for the shooting: "Express TV, like a lot of other Pakistani media outlets, is acting as propagandists against the Pakistani Taliban," he said in an attempt to justify the attack on live TV. 

What happened next was even more astonishing: Express anchor Javed Chaudhry began to negotiate a sort of informal peace settlement with the TTP, offering coverage on demand in exchange for security. 

"I will guarantee to you that in the future, if there are any instances of terrorism, or instances that the state considers to be 'terrorism' or an attack, and the Taliban accepts responsibility for it, we'll give you proper space to give your point of view that will be broadcast on TV or detailed in newspapers without any slant," Chaudhry said on air. "But for this, I'd like a guarantee from you that you won't attack anyone in the media." 

A tough choice for Pakistan: face bitter home truths or perish

February 9, 2014 

First deafened by the terrifying noise of Taliban attacks, then put on notice that the army would strike back, and now awaiting the outcome of peace talks, Pakistanis remain as confused as ever about the violent phenomenon that has plagued their country for six years, and has been a mounting threat to it for a lot longer.

Increasingly, however, they are beginning to ask the right questions: can we beat the Taliban? What would a peace deal with the Taliban mean? What will happen after the Americans leave Afghanistan?

The answer: ultimately, Pakistan can’t win until the state and public open their hearts and minds to the bitter truths of their situation.

The inference to be drawn from that is that the dishonest, often duplicitous political narrative of Pakistan’s domestic power struggles and regional security objectives is the root of the problem.

Let’s draw up a list of home truths that need to be accepted if Pakistan is to wriggle itself out of the tightest of corners.

First, there is no such thing as the “good” Taliban.

The reason Pakistan has a Taliban problem, which has caused more than 40,000 deaths (and counting), is that its military is still addicted to using covert militant warriors as the primary means of pursuing its so-called national interest.

Over the past year, the anti-India militant groups sidelined for a decade, and particularly since the November 2008 terrorist rampage in Mumbai, have been reactivated. It’s no coincidence there was significant warfare along the disputed Kashmir border last year.

Worse, the military relies on the Haqqani Network terrorists to keep the peace in South and North Waziristan, allowing them to operate a state within the state, because it gives them a seat at the Afghanistan end-game, and helps keep the Pakistani Taliban at bay.

Sure, that is characteristic of the so-called Great Game played in Afghanistan since the 19th century. But, time and again, it’s also been proven that once a genie has been released from the lamp, he won’t want to squeeze back in.

Afghan soldiers desperate for pact with U.S., criticize President Karzai for delay

ZABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan soldiers fighting the Taliban have grown confident in their ability to combat an agile insurgency. But for those on the front lines, one question casts a shadow over the young army’s progress.

What if the United States — and its funding — vanish from Afghanistan?

That outcome has become increasingly probable with President Hamid Karzai’srefusal to sign a bilateral security agreement that would allow the United States to maintain a small military presence here beyond 2014. Now, Afghan troops are beginning to raise their voices against Karzai, demanding at great personal risk that he sign the pact.

“If the international community leaves, there is no question that we will lose ground to the Taliban,” Col. Mohammad Dost, a battalion commander in Zabul province, said in an interview. “It’s the biggest worry for every soldier now.”

In recent weeks, soldiers have voiced that concern in local television interviews and in newspaper op-eds, despite not being authorized by the government to speak on the topic. For some, the consequences have been grave.

“As everyone wants the agreement to be signed, we also call for its signing,” Gen. Momand Katawazai told TOLO News, a Kabul-based television station, last month.

Days later, officials at the Defense Ministry told Katawazai that he shouldn’t bother coming to work any more. He hasn’t been formally fired but expects to be.

“It’s been a huge headache,” he said.

In the past few years, it was extremely unusual for an Afghan military officer to publicly criticize the Afghan government. But even though Katawazai got in trouble, other soldiers have continued speaking out.

“If the Americans leave, Afghanistan will be a lone sheep, left in the desert for the wolves to eat,” Capt. Abdul Zahir said in an interview in Zabul.

“Without the BSA, our arms will be cut off,” said Sgt. Maj. Wahid Wafa, referring to the accord by its initials. “We will become victims of the Taliban.”

Military officers have passed messages like those up the chain of command, all the way to Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, who discussed the agreement early last month at a meeting with the top Afghan field commanders, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

Mohammadi declined to comment for this report.

No money for salaries

The heat is on Colombo in the run up to Geneva

By Archana Arul
Feb 10, 2014 

The setting in the run up to the Geneva meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council is getting increasingly clear, not just with Washington letting Colombo know that a third successive resolution against the island nation for alleged war crimes and accountability is very much on the cards. If US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal has made known the Obama administration’s patent displeasure with the goings on, Sri Lanka has responded not with substantive proposals but upping the ante by denying a senior State Department official a visa.

Biswal could not have been more clear when she made it known that the United States has been increasingly concerned about the worsening human rights situation in Sri Lanka as well as the weakening of the rule of law, together with an increase in corruption and impunity since the end of a nearly three decade civil war in 2009. “All of these factors lead to undermine the proud tradition of democracy in Sri Lanka,” the senior State Department official said while stressing that Washington was going ahead with the third resolution in Geneva in as many years.

Biswal’s comments and observations were more on the lines of what another top American diplomat, Stephen Rapp, the Ambassador at Large in the Office of Global Criminal Justice, had said recently after a visit to Sri Lanka. Colombo’s response was along expected lines. “The treatment of Sri Lanka (by the United States) is highly selective and patently unfair,” Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris said. But Colombo responded in a clumsy fashion — by denying a visa for the visit of Catherine Russell, the Ambassador at Large for global women’s issues. Colombo maintains that the dates of Russell’s visit were not convenient and thus any issue of denial of visa does not arise.

The problem for the Mahinda Rajapaksa government does not just arise from Washington’s observations on human rights and accountability. Recently the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) passed a resolution calling for an international probe into the war crimes allegedly committed during the ethnic conflict. In comments to The Hindu newspaper, a member of the NPC, M.K. Shivajilingam said that the council sought an international enquiry into the Sri Lankan government’s acts of “ethnic cleansing”. The small comfort to the government was that the moderate chief minister was supposed to have insisted that the term “genocide” should be avoided.

If the government of Mahinda Rajapakse in Sri Lanka is dispatching its top officials to Geneva and capitals of key nations, including India, it is not without good reason. The visits are undoubtedly scheduled for persuading world leaders of the “sincerity” of Colombo in meeting global expectations. And all this barely five or six weeks before the United Nations body takes up another resolution on Sri Lanka. But there is a difference this time -- all indications are that the international community led by the United States means business having realized that what has come out of Colombo may have been nothing but huff and fluff over the last two years.

It is not just the US that is taking up the cudgels against Sri Lanka — Britain and Canada have already put notice on Colombo and the noise of India’s United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by the Congress party this time around is going to be particularly shrill. It is not on account of any particular change in policy but the ground realities in the face of elections: political parties in the southern state of Tamil Nadu have already started upping the ante and the Congress party would have to fall in line even it means that this is going to mean nothing to it electorally.

That things are going to be difficult for Sri Lanka is pretty evident in the fashion in which the US and the UN are moving along, though not in a concerted fashion. Of interest to the US and the international community is particularly what took place during the closing stages of the war in 2009 which has given rise to allegations and accusations of genocide and war crimes by the Sri Lankan forces in a bid to crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“…he (Ambassador Rapp) listened to eyewitness accounts about serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including those that occurred at the end of the war. In that context the government of the United States encourages the government of Sri Lanka to seek the truth through independent and credible investigations, and where relevant, have prosecutions” the American Embassy in Colombo said in a statement after the visit in January.


By Chintamani Mahapatra
10 February 2014

US in Asia: A “Non-Alignment” Strategy?

As territorial and maritime disputes in Asia have sparked regional cold wars, the United States appears to have adopted a non-aligned strategy to navigate in troubled political space of the continent. 

George Washington and Non-Alignment
Non-alignment as a diplomatic instrument of state craft has been known to American Administrations for centuries. Although the term “non-alignment” was not used, the need of such a strategy was first articulated by first President of the United States—George Washington. In his farewell address, Washington warned against the folly of getting involved in the European entanglements. 

In order to keep the US out of European quarrels, controversies and collisions, he pleaded that “Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”

Three centuries later, as the US recognizes the economic and strategic significance of Asia for its national interests, it encounters myriad Asian quarrels and controversies over “sovereignty” issues. Such disputes are “essentially foreign” to American “concerns”. 

Asia Pacific Today and the American Non-Alignment
Turbulence in the Asia Pacific is discernible in Sino-Japanese rivalry over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. The spat over the islands, islets and reefs in the South China Sea between China and five other claimants, such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei threatens to contaminate the cooperative ties of China with these countries. China-Taiwan conflict remains unresolved despite a series of confidence building measures and rising trade and investment ties. 

During the Cold War days, Washington shunned the non-alignment foreign policy championed by India and many others. But the strategic compulsions and economic imperatives of the post-Cold War era have tempted the US policy makers to innovate “non-alignment” strategy and apply in the mini-Cold Wars of Asia. 

The US political support to the idea of creation of a “Palestinian State” in the post-9/11 incident and building of pressure on Israel to seriously negotiate peace; Washington’s policy of making India a “strategic partner”, while elevating Pakistan’s status as “major non-NATO ally” during the anti-terror operations in Afghanistan; constructing a rock-solid economic partnership with China, while maintaining defence and security ties with Taiwan; giving lip service to multilateral dialogue for resolution of South China Sea disputes, yet conducting joint research with China for oil exploration in the waters of this sea; refraining from backing Japanese claim of sovereignty over Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, but standing by the US-Japan bilateral alliance treaty are some of the prominent illustrations of American non-alignment. 

Asia and the two world wars

C. Raja Mohan
07 February 2014

The First World War began a century ago. The Second World War drew to a close nearly 70 years ago. As the world prepares to mark these anniversaries, the two great wars have acquired a peculiar political resonance in East Asia. 

In a region where China is flexing its impressive military muscle in multiple maritime territorial disputes with its neighbours and Japan is reclaiming its place in the Asian sun, the presumed lessons from the two wars are being evoked widely to describe the dangers of the current tensions in the region. 

In an interview to the 'New York Times' this week, the president of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino compared China to Nazi Germany and warned the world against appeasing China by accepting its aggressive territorial claims in the contested waters of East Asia. 

As the Philippines lost control over some of the waters it claims to the Chinese navy over the last couple of years, neither Manila's regional partners in the ASEAN nor the United States, its long-standing military ally, were ready to stand up and be counted. 

No wonder, Aquino was recalling the Western acceptance of Germany's territorial demands in the run up to the Second World War. "At what point do you say, 'Enough is enough'? Well the world has to say it-remember that the Sudetenland was given in an attempt to appease Hitler". China reacted angrily by denouncing Aquino's remarks as senseless and calling the Filipino president as "ignorant of both history and reality". 

Beijing, of course, is not averse to using the Second World War to justify its territorial claims against Japan in the East China Sea. Amidst the mounting tensions with Tokyo over small islands called Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyu in China, Beijing has argued that accepting Japanese claims will be tantamount to overthrowing the peace arrangements that followed the Second World War. 

North Korea, meanwhile, has called the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Asia's Hitler in a reference to Japan's efforts to revitalise its military capabilities. Many in South Korea, which rarely agrees with the North, are as vehement in deploring Abe's policies. 

On his part, Abe has argued that the growing distrust between Japan and China today is similar to that between Britain and Germany in the First World War. Abe was drawing attention of the world business community at Davos last month to the prospects for an unwanted war between Japan and China as their militaries try to stare each other down in the East China Sea. 

Is the PLA Going Rogue?

By Minxin Pei 
February 10, 2014

One of the worries many people have about a potential military confrontation between China and its neighbors in East Asia is whether Beijing’s civilian leadership has a firm grip on the military. This particular concern has been aroused by a series of disturbing incidents going back a decade—the collision between a Chinese jet fighter with an American naval surveillance plane near Hainan Island in April 2001 [3], the surprise test of an anti-satellite weapon in January 2007 [4], the rollout of a stealth fighter during the visit by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in January 2011 [5], and various others.

Most recently, as territorial disputes between China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands escalated, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) actions triggered even louder alarms. One of its warships aimed its fire-control radar at a Japanese destroyer [6] in February last year, an act that could have provoked an accidental conflict. In November 2013, the PLA suddenly announced the establishment of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that overlaps with those of Japan [7], South Korea, Taiwan, and covers the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

In early December last year, in another hair-raising encounter, a Chinese naval vessel intentionally cut in front of an American missile cruiser [8], which was monitoring a Chinese naval exercise in the international waters in the South China Sea. Only the quick reaction by the American crew averted a collision that could have resulted in a maritime disaster.

These incidents have raised serious questions about the degree of control exercised by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which the PLA is supposed to serve, over the actions of the Chinese military.

The most alarming concern is that the PLA (or at least some of its commanders) has been pursuing an agenda that is in conflict with that of the civilian leadership. The Chinese civilian leaders believe that the imperative of maintaining economic development as the principal means of regime survival dictates strategic restraint. However, the PLA may prefer a more confrontational security posture, because tensions with Chinese neighbors and the U.S. would support the case for more defense spending, which would benefit the PLA.

Another explanation, albeit less worrisome, is that the Chinese national-security apparatus suffers from the same problem of poor bureaucratic coordination as in most other countries. According to this interpretation, the Chinese national-security apparatus has a “stove-piped” organizational structure, in which interagency communication and coordination are poorly conducted. Consequently, the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

While these two explanations may have some partial truth to them, they are too simplistic and ignore the real political context in which the PLA operates and the incentives that motivate Chinese military commanders. In deciphering the strategic intentions of the Chinese military, a more productive approach is to analyze the degree of operational freedom enjoyed by the PLA in the context of a one-party regime that has consistently failed to penalize excessive risk-seeking behavior.

China’s call for arms

8 february 2014

Vassily Kashin is Senior Research Fellow at the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. He holds a Doctorate in Political Science.

One theory doing the rounds in the 2000s was that Russian-Chinese military-technical co-operation was going downhill and would inevitably cease altogether. Now, however, it is obvious that the situation has improved, with Russian military exports to China picking up again. The volume of exports has already reached the level of the 1990s and the early 2000s, and may yet beat that record.

However, one difference is how insignificant the arms trade is in the overall structure of co-operation between the two countries. In the 1990s, military-technical co-operation was one of the pillars of mutual trade, and served as the basis for their bilateral partnership.

After Russian arms exporters had broken into new markets in the 2000s, China’s share in the total volume of exported Russian military equipment decreased noticeably. According to published data, Russian arms exports to China peaked during the early years of the last decade.

China is still a major buyer of Russian weapons, second only to India. However, China is no longer crucial to the survival of the Russian defence industry. According to a 2012 statement by Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin, exports accounted for only 22 per cent of the national defence industry’s total revenues, while 45 per cent came from sales to the national armed forces.

This growing domestic demand, and new export markets, and diversification into civilian markets, has lessened arms manufacturers’ dependence on Chinese contracts, while providing Moscow with a significant degree of freedom in negotiating future contracts with Beijing.

The data available indicates that Russian military exports to China exceeded US$1.9 billion in 2011, and expanded last year. As for the newly signed contracts, Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport reports that China accounts for 12 per cent of the overall US$17.6 billion in new arms sales; this puts the total contracts signed with China at more than US$2.1 billion.

Of this figure, US$1.3 billion worth of contracts have been accounted for. These include a US$600 million deal to deliver 52 Mil Mi-171E helicopters, and a US$700 million order for 140 Saturn AL-31F engines.

These powerplants are intended for the Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighters previously sold to China, and for indigenous Shenyang J-11B/BS, J-15 and J-16 warplanes.

No one really knows the nature of the contracts for the remaining US$800 million, but may assume that these represent a number of relatively minor orders.