7 September 2014

Back to the Valley

September 6, 2014 

Sandeep Raina

The writer on Al Pathri peak in Gulmarg.
The HinduIllustration by Satwik Gade

Twenty-four years after he left Kashmir in the wake of violence, Sandeep Raina returns to find a home he had all but forgotten.

For 24 years, I fed on memories of a place and a people gone bad. A valley that had turned ugly, where blood was shed at the slightest excuse and where humanity had lost its way. I kept away from it. I was afraid, for myself and for my own.

This summer, when we told our three children, who have been raised in London that we were going to Kashmir for a holiday, they were mentally geared up for the images on TV and the stories that had gone around in the families. I was prepared for worse. I had actually seen it crumble in 1989. I had first-hand experience of the violence.

We went anyway. And we took with us my parents, who have been living only 200 km away from Kashmir, in Jammu, for the last 24 years, not wanting to visit Kashmir.

When our van slipped into Srinagar and hit the boulevard, Kashmir’s beauty struck us. Tourists that we were, our cameras went click-click as we approached the bank to get to our houseboat. When I was growing up, it was fashionable to speak in Hindi/Urdu/English. Kashmiri was for the uneducated. I suddenly found my Kashmiri tongue unfurling when I spoke to the boatman and the shikarawala. My children stared at me in wonder; they had never heard me speak Kashmiri at home in London. I heard the shikarawala whisper, “Our Kashmiri brothers.”

The Dal Lake was clean, not red and dirty as I had been told. The shikaras that floated next to our houseboat sold Himalayan stones, papier-mâché and walnut wood carvings. The young vendors displayed the most graceful etiquette and manners. I looked hard at them thinking how little they seemed impacted by the 24 years of militancy in Kashmir. Something was not fitting well with my images of Kashmir. This must all be pretence.

In the evening, our houseboat owner Abdul Ahad, a man in his seventies, asked me where we lived in Kashmir before we fled, and then popped up the most popular question in the valley “Will you not return?”

I answered mechanically. “I live in London and who would want to live with neighbours who couldn’t step out of their houses and let militants burn our house down.” Abdul Ahad looked at me with a smile. He said, “Come sit here, let me tell you my story.”

The servant boy whom Abdul Ahad had raised turned up one day in 1990 with 10 militants, and demanded Rs.50 lakhs from him, saying azadi was not just his responsibility, the rich had to contribute too. If Ahad did not have the money, he had to hand over his four young sons to be trained for azadi. He would return the next day for the boys or the money. Abdul Ahad, the well-off houseboat owner, locked his houseboats and packed his bags and escaped to Delhi that night, with his wife and sons. To a life of homelessness and poverty. He had unlocked the houseboats after 15 years.

When they saw mountain bikes in Dachigam, which is the forest reserve recently opened for tourists, the faces of my teenage twin sons lit up. “I will show you a part of Dachigam which very few have seen, trust me,” said Yusuf, the guide. “I am too old for this,” I said to Yusuf. “No, you think you are old,” he said laughing. “Look at me, I am 40 but I think I am young, so I feel fit. Come on, you won’t regret this,” he laughed.

There was something sinister about the way he said this. The presence of CRPF and other armed forces on the way up calmed me a bit. The excited flushed faces of my sons following Yusuf took my fear away and I cycled on. Right at the end of the climb was the most beautiful sight I had seen in my life.

“That treeless peak over there.” Yusuf pointed to a mountain. “Do you know what that is? It’s called Mahadev; it has a temple of Shiva at the top. And do you see that large boulder in the stream over there? It is called Shiv Pall — Shiva’s boulder. It hides a cave under the water. Nehru and Indira Gandhi used to come here often.”

I wondered why the Muslim guide wanted to show me Mahadev and talk about Shiva temples. As we went downhill, an official photographer joined us on his bicycle. He was the third person to ask, “Will you not return to the valley?”

“No,” I said. “Our house was burnt down.” I was surprised at my own directness. “Our neighbours burnt it down. I don’t trust them anymore.” I was ruthless.

“You know your half of the story,” he said. “It is hard to save someone else’s life when a gun is pointed at your own head. Your loss is immense, I understand, but think of the mother whose daughter was raped in front of her. This is what happened in Kashmir in the nineties. Every day.”

He continued, “You don’t have to answer this, because I don’t know you. I live in Dachigam, you live in London, our paths will never cross again, but I want to ask you something.” He put his hand on mine and said, “I want you to come home with me and eat a meal with my family. Like old days. Will you?”

Something melted inside me.

Kheer Bhawani, the Hindu temple in Tullamulla was heavily guarded by the Army. My parents were astounded to see a Muslim man rush out to them with a pooja thali in his hands for them to offer at the temple. An unheard of thing before, when things were normal. I liked this abnormality.

My wife and I untied a thread that I had tied here 25 years ago, feeling a big sense of relief. I wondered if the temple would have still been around, if the army was not guarding the gates? If the Muslim man was not handing over pooja thalis to her devotees?

I had to untie two more threads. At the Dargah at Hazratbal on the banks of Dal Lake and at the shrine of Baba Shukurddin near Wular Lake. We went to Hazratbal. My wife and I together untied the thread that I had tied here 25 years ago. My 20-year-old Britain-raised daughter was not too happy that she could not walk through the dargah, and that she had to stand with her mother and grandmother and only peer through a latticed wall.

“This is how some worlds are,” I tried explaining to her.

“But should not be,” she said.

When I saw the snow covered Al Pathri peak in Gulmarg, I told my sons about the frozen lake at the top. “We want to see it,” they said. And I wanted them to. Asif Khan, the guide, climbed with us over the rocky mountain right to the top. He pointed to a Pakistani bunker in the distance. ‘That is the Pakistani side over there, and this is our Indian side.’

I looked at him, wondering which side he was on. I kept the question to myself, ashamed at my own cynicism. I asked Asif Khan to take us back. He was 24-years-old. He had never seen a Kashmiri Pandit in Kashmir. But he spoke to us as if he knew us. He lived in the hills of Baramulla, the town where I grew up. I wanted to hold his hand, I wanted to embrace him. I wanted to tell him that I was like him. That I was the Kashmiri Pandit that he had never seen. At the base of Al Pathri, my daughter showed us a bunch of mountain flowers that she had collected.

I was already feeling at home when we drove to Baramulla, down the street where we once lived. We met the neighbours who had built a new house where our house used to be. We embraced. We cried. I showed my wife the house and the garden which she had never had a chance to live in. I showed my daughter the river she is named after; it still runs at the end of the street. I showed my sons the river bank where we played in the sand all day long. My father and mother took a photograph in the garden that was laid out by them. Standing in front of a house, which is not their home anymore. New lives breathe in that house and new plants grow in that garden.

The Muslim neighbours and friends that we met were emotional and happy to see us. They talked of old times; they remembered small details of our home, our garden. One remembered that I had gifted him a book: Gone with the Wind. I couldn’t recall this at all. It seemed they had talked a lot about us for the last 24 years.

Naseem Auntie said to my mother: “I built my house next to yours because of you. But you left me.” She burst into tears. Her daughter Nasreen tied a rakhi on me every year, and I used to savour firni at their home, every Eid. Ironic that we were visiting them right between Eid and Raksha Bandhan. We had missed 24 Eids and 24 Raksha Bandhans.

My college friend, Basheer, took us to his home and his wife laid out a wazwan fit for kings. Their entire family turned up to meet us.

My wife was amused that while the neighbours had so much to say, my parents and I were mostly quiet. We seemed to have forgotten the good times.

Our daughter has brought the 20 Himalayan rock flowers back to England, pressed neatly between pages of a thick book. Now she wants to match them to the Alpines that we grow in the rock garden in our home in London.

I have one more thread to untie; at Baba Shukurddin’s shrine near Wular Lake. Someday, I will return to that lake and untie that thread too. Until then, I will live with the beautiful memories of this trip. Reminding me of a Kashmir that I had forgotten. I pray that I am given a chance to thank the gods of that land again, and untie the thread. And be forgiven for forgetting.

Note: The names of people mentioned have been changed for privacy.

TALKING HEADS - On the subject of the fragile peepul leaf in bronze

Gopalkrishna Gandhi

I have written in these pages earlier on the subject of the Bharat Ratna, that fragile peepul leaf in bronze, which so many want conferred on so many others but, in fact, covet for themselves — by proxy. I can only imagine the following conversation, as fictional as it is conceivable, that might well have taken place in 1953, or thereabouts, between Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President Rajendra Prasad in the president’s study, Rashtrapati Bhavan.

JN: Rajenbabu, I have been meaning to broach one matter with you but what with one thing or another, have not been able to do so.

RP: Achha…tell me.

JN: Every nation state , every stable state, through history, has had a system by which the Crown recognized and honoured the good and the great among its citizens. This has been mostly through titles, grants, land grants, mansabs and so on. I am not quite sure if Chandragupta Maurya decorated Chanakya with a title, but perhaps he did.

RP: Very possible. In fact, ‘Chanakya’ was perhaps itself a name of acknowledgment, of recognition. Unka naam to vaise Vishnugupt thaa.

JN: Jii haan, Chanakya probably was such a conferred name, though his other name Kautilya was not! Apte’s Sanskrit to English Dictionary tells us that ‘Kautilya’ means ‘crooked’. The Mudrarakshasa apparently has the line “Kautilyaha kutilamati”.

RP: (Chuckling) We are naming our new diplomatic enclave after him!

JN: I hope having that name in their address will encourage the ambassadors of other nations posted here to study our history and our ancient literature.

RP: That it will and should. Otherwise they will be stuck with Minto and Curzon and Irwin.

JN: Quite, though I would say there is no harm in keeping some colonial names like Curzon’s alive for he did things that were good for our archaeological heritage. The Taj may well have been a potholed grey mess but for him.

RP: Hmmm…Curzon’s speech at Brindavan praising the temple to Govinda Deva as an example of Hindu art is inspiring.

Modi stays the course on nuclear goals


Amidst a setback with Japan and a major success with Australia on nuclear deals, the good thing is that Modi has maintained continuity in India’s nuclear weapons doctrine and given impetus to power generation. 
Raj Chengappa

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s widely watched telecast to millions of school students, when one of them asked what kind of a person he was in real life, he turned philosophical. Modi talked of the spiritual quest of understanding ‘Who am I?’ and ended humbly admitting: “I am yet to fully discover myself. I have not been able to know who I am.”

Judging by his performance last week it was apparent who ‘Modi Sir’ really was: An omnipresent and omnipotent Prime Minister. If Modi the campaigner loomed large over TV screens and 3D holograms, Modi the PM is now no less visible, whether imparting fatherly advice to students or playing the drums and the flute in Japan, revealing in the process a kinder, gentler facet to his personality.

On the world stage, while he got on famously with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and struck some important deals, particularly with regard to investment in Indian infrastructure, there was disappointment on the nuclear front. India was keen on entering into a civilian nuclear deal with Japan that would permit Delhi among other things to import reactor technology that is among the world’s best.

Abe though faced stiff political resistance as there has been a major rethink in the country over its dependence on nuclear power after the Fukushima reactor meltdown in the wake of the 2011 tsunami. Also there remains a large lobby that is against selling nuclear technology to a country like India that has steadfastly refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), conducted six nuclear tests and boasts of being a nuclear weapons state. Japan, the world’s only victim of a nuclear strike, remains resolute on its policy of not encouraging nations that remain outside the NPT orbit. Japanese negotiators adopted a tough stance demanding stringent inspection and safeguards of nuclear power plants that India is unwilling to accept.
Tony Abbot's nuclear handshake would have come as a relief for Narendra Modi. 

The visiting Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot though came to the rescue of Modi soon after with a landmark nuclear handshake. When India and Australia inked the deal on Friday, it was the first time that Canberra was signing an agreement to supply uranium to a non-signatory of NPT. Though the Australian nuclear deal had been in the works for years, stiff domestic political resistance had prevented it from being signed earlier. Two major factors were responsible for Australia’s change of heart. With uranium a major source of revenue for Australian provinces and the need to boost economic growth, the government was able to persuade naysayers that India had an impeccable track record with regard to nuclear non-proliferation and had enough safeguards to ensure that there was no diversion of uranium for military use. Also given Australia’s growing strategic stakes in the Asia Pacific region, good relations with India was a must.

Colonial yoke or bureaucratic insouciance?

Published: September 7, 2014 
Vidya Venkat

‘Blame the British’ is an oft-invoked argument when the subject of India’s outdated laws comes up for discussion. But 68 years since Independence, can we still afford to parrot that old line?

Moiz Tundawala, a doctoral researcher in law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, feels that it is unfair to blame just the colonial hangover when several opportunities for reforming the legal system in India have been wasted by bureaucrats and judges. He points to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as an example.

“This law pronounces illegal carnal intercourse against the order of nature, making criminals of gays and transgender persons. But why was a progressive judgment of the Delhi High Court, which struck off this section, upturned later by the Supreme Court? If we continue to bear the burden of colonial era laws, we only have ourselves to blame,” he said.

Though the Constitution-making exercise in India was inspired by the British and other western systems, it was nevertheless an independent process. But the same did not happen with the laws in India that were handed down from the British, Mr. Tundawala said. He felt that several laws enacted in the post-colonial era smacked of a colonial mindset. “Take for instance laws such as the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, or the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. All of them aim to control and subjugate a population with little regard for their democratic aspirations. So what this country needs is a radical overhaul of the judicial and criminal justice system.”

The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, continues to presume the state to be the primary owner of telecommunications networks, though the sector was privatised long ago. “The provisions on surveillance in this Act are from a colonial era and are heavy-handed, allowing for spying even without a court warrant. Up until 1998, it spoke of ‘the Provinces’ in some provisions instead of ‘India,’” Pranesh Prakash, Policy Director, Centre for Internet and Society, said.

ISIS gives China jitters


'Capture' of Chinese national fighting with 
By Jaime A. FlorCruz, CNN
September 5, 2014 

Who is fighting for ISIS?

Iraqi Army has captured Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighter from China, report said
If true, he would be first Chinese national caught fighting with ISIS militants
One Chinese commentator assumes the man is Uighur, a Muslim minority group
Beijing has stepped up efforts to appease local dissatisfaction and curb violence

Beijing (CNN) (CNN) -- "URGENT," read the Iraqi News headline of its September 3 posting. "First Chinese ISIS fighter captured in Iraq says Ministry of Defense."

The Iraqi Army has captured an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighter from China, the Baghdad-datelined report said. Two pictures accompanied the report: one showed the captured militant in fatigue pants and a bloodied shirt, lying on the ground; another showed him escorted by an Iraqi soldier, his face seemingly swollen.

If true, he would be the first Chinese national to have been caught fighting with ISIS militants.

"We are not able to verify whether or not the information is true," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang, responding to a foreign reporter's question. "I cannot confirm the information for you."
What don't we know about ISIS
Inside the Mind of the ISIS Executioner

It's not clear how many Chinese nationals may be fighting with the ISIS. Wu Sike, until recently China's special envoy to the Middle East, earlier stated that there could be about 100 of them, but Qin Gang said he had no specific numbers or estimates.

Chinese netizens' reaction was typically visceral. "Kill them!" commented "Hellen" on the Iraqi News website. "we chinese are glad to see these muslims' death!"

If such reports are true, said Chinese commentator Victor Gao, "this will be an additional evidence that terrorism in China has a strong international connection. Terrorism does not care about national borders."

It remains unclear if the captured Chinese national is actually Uighur, a Muslim minority group in Xinjiang, but Gao seems to assume so.

Zia’s Army and two ‘useful idiots’


Sep 07, 2014

Pakistan has made itself central to a sectarian conflict. From a professional Army to the Army of Islam to the Army of the Sunnis, it has been a steep decline for the generals in Rawalpindi.

Usually attributed to Lenin, the term “useful idiot” refers to an individual or political activist who has been used to provide propaganda ammunition for a cause he does not entirely understand. Given the street tumult in Islamabad, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Imran Khan, Pakistan’s most iconic cricket captain, has now become its most iconic useful idiot.

Along with Tahir-ul-Qadri — a religious scholar turned politician who has flown home from Canada with the avowed intention of cleaning up Pakistani society — Mr Khan is leading large mobs and demanding Nawaz Sharif resign as Prime Minister. Mr Sharif and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), won a handsome victory in an election in 2014. Mr Khan claims the election was rigged.
Both Mr Khan and Mr Qadri are close to the Pakistan Army. It is widely believed the Army is orchestrating the protests, while pretending to be neutral. It is probable Mr Sharif will survive, but emerge out of the crisis as a lame-duck Prime Minister. He will have to compromise with the military brass on several issues. He will have to give amnesty to Pervez Musharraf, who is facing a host of criminal charges. More important, the Army wants control of Afghanistan and India policy.

If and when this is achieved, the useful idiots would have served their purpose. The Army will probably be happy enough if Mr Qadri then goes back to Canada and Mr Khan goes back to giving television interviews. However this crisis ends — with advance for the Army or an unexpected gain for Mr Sharif — it is impossible to see how Imran Khan will benefit.
The politics of a delusional, theatrical former cricketer is a side-show. The crucial question is why is the Pakistan Army acting in this manner? Why does it want to announce its re-emergence? Why has it chosen this juncture to in effect junk all that talk of peace and amity, of trade with India being more meaningful than a stand-off on the Siachen glacier? Why is it more confident about not needing to say those sweet nothings about peace, and give appropriate interviews to impressionable foreign correspondents?

Let's Talk About Kashmir

Could Modi, Islamabad, and the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan make the disputed territory the world's next terrorist hotspot? 

· SEPTEMBER 5, 2014

On July 31, 1988, two explosions shook the Kashmiri summer capital of Srinagar. It might have been a shot heard 'round the world: Although nobody was killed, the bombings by the previously nonviolent Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front marked the beginning of an insurgency that would soon be a focal point for global terrorism. At the time, few people outside of the region seemed to notice. By the following summer, however, Kashmir was firmly on the world's radar screen. Why? In February 1989, the last Soviet soldier withdrew from Afghanistan. The transformation of Afghan warfare from jihad to chaos in the 1990s propelled an upsurge of violence in Kashmir, where a decade's worth of fighting left upwards of 50,000 dead. When the Russians left Kabul, so did many of the foreign mujahideen, or Islamist fighters. They had to go somewhere. And for many of them, somewhere was Kashmir.

This achingly beautiful land, previously known in the West largely as the title of a Led Zeppelin jam, had experienced periodic insurgency for decades. Not until the Soviets left Afghanistan, however, did its conflict become a global problem. When U.S. combat troops complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan in December 2014, and training units follow two years later, the dynamics that turned Kashmir into both a target and an incubator of global terrorism may be repeated: Thousands of the war-tourists who've spent a decade battling what they see as the invasion of a Muslim land by godless Westerners may shift eastward in their quest for another battlefield that pits Muslim insurgents against a predominantly non-Muslim army.

Though Kashmir was relatively calm for much of the last decade, the situation is again growing very tense. On Sept. 2, India said it had killed three militants affiliated with the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in a shoot-out in the region. Ten days earlier, soldiers from India and Pakistan exchanged fire along the Line of Control, which divides Pakistani and Indian Kashmir, killing several civilians; India claimed to have discovered a 55-yard infiltration tunnel snaking under the militarized boundary. And in October 2013, Indian Army chief Gen. Bikram Singh charged Pakistan with infiltrating a group of several dozen militants across the Line of Control -- perhaps the largest such movement in a decade, and one of several detected in 2013 alone. (More worryingly, the scope of undetected infiltrations is -- by definition -- unknowable.)

Residents of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir have generally been the victims in a conflict fomented by outside actors: Indian security forces, Pakistan's spy service, and terrorist groups based largely in the Pakistani province of Punjab. New Delhi sparked the most recent insurgency, providing a ready-made pitch for militant recruiters: In 1987, it blatantly rigged state assembly elections, and after the imposition of martial law in 1990, it deployed several hundred thousand soldiers and paramilitary troops as a de facto army of occupation.

Whose Iron Ore is it anyway?

August 27, 2014

The irony is that it is this low cost of iron ore extracted from their Adivasi homeland mines that enables steelmakers not only to be among the most profitable companies in India, but also gives it the financial muscle to make huge overseas acquisitions
Mohan Guruswamy Delhi

For decades the royalty on Iron Ore was a meager Rs.27 per ton. After the troubles in the Adivasi homelands intensified, the Government of India woke up to the realization that the exploitation cannot go on as before and in 2009 it increased the royalty to 10% of the sales price. It is now proposed to raise this to 15%. Because of this there is now a huge orchestrated campaign against this and the PR machineries of the big ore and metals companies are working overtime to have this rolled back. We know from experience that governments are always susceptible to the blandishments of the well heeled. But who is there to speak for the major stakeholders in the game – the Adivasi's?

The exploitation of the Adivasi homelands for their mineral riches and always to the detriment of the Adivasi people, has stoked the biggest and most widespread insurgency this country has known. The Adivasi revolts predate the advent of the Naxalites by more than a couple of centuries. In just the Rampa region of East Godavari district in AP more than a dozen tribal revolts occurred between 1770 and 1924.

In the early years of colonization, no other community in India offered such heroic resistance to British rule or faced such tragic consequences, as did the numerous Adivasi communities of now Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Bengal. In 1772, the Paharia revolt broke out which was followed by a five-year uprising led by Tilka Manjhi who was hanged in Bhagalpur in 1785. The Tamar and Munda revolts followed. In the next two decades, revolts took place in Singhbhum, Gumla, Birbhum, Bankura, Manbhoom and Palamau, followed by the great Kol Risings of 1832 and the Khewar and Bhumij revolts (1832-34). In 1855, the Santhals waged war against the permanent settlement of Lord Cornwallis, and a year later, numerous Adivasi leaders played key roles in the 1857 war of independence.

Since the mid 1970’s a fire of discontent has been raging in the Adivasi homelands in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand. Much of this anger relates to how the big mining interests have ravaged the Adivasi homelands, and how the people have been forced out of their lands. Worse, little of the royalty extracted by the State trickles down to the people whose homelands are being destroyed.

That the increase in royalty on iron ore from 10% to 15% would lift the cost for miners by 150 to 250 rupees per ton ($2.50-$4.00) is plausible. Dhruv Goel, managing partner at industry consultancy Steel Mint says: "But they will not be able it pass it on completely to steelmakers for the reason that imports will be cheaper and people will prefer imports over domestic ore." This is just nonsense.

In 2009 when it was raised to 10% of the market price, in reality this was raised to Rs.270 per ton, when it should have been twice that or more. The cost of extraction is estimated to be not more than Rs.350 per ton. The export price has never fallen below Rs.5000 per ton. In February 2010 the landed price per ton of Indian iron ore in China was $128, which then was around Rs.6000 per ton. At present the purchase prices are around $100, which is still about Rs.6000 per ton. Thus, iron ore margins accruing to the miners and steel companies remain consistent and huge. 

The economics of steel manufacturing has been made explicit by the Business World of July 31, 2010 in its story on the financial dire straits of Ispat Industries. This insightful article details how the Mittal owned Ispat could never earn profits unless it has its own “captive” mines like Tata Steel, SAIL and others. And in doing so lets the cat out of the bag. The case is simple. Ispat spends about half its revenue on iron ore. Tata Steel, SAIL and others like Jindal, Essar spend about 20%. With captive mines Ispat’s input cost of iron ore will be 70-80% cheaper. At present Ispat uses 7 million tons of iron ore annually, of which the public sector NMDC supplies 5 million tons. The average price of this iron ore is about Rs. 6000 per ton, while if derived from ‘captive” mines it would cost it merely about Rs. 500-550 per ton. Quite clearly the margins on iron ore are huge and the miners, steelmakers or merchants, are raking in huge profits. 

A Big Deal: Japan’s Pivot to India

September 3, 2014 

India’s newly elected prime minister, Narendra Modi, made his first geostrategic move in Asia’s complex new dynamics this week, and together with Prime Minister Abe, catapulted the Japan-India relationship into a “special strategic and global partnership.” Two goals focused their attention: bolstering their national economies and contending with China’s growing influence.

While their ambitions for their partnership may be global, it was their regional message that had the most profound implications. At their meeting, Abe spoke of the “untapped potential of Asia’s two largest democracies,” while Modi referred to the “uncertainty ahead in Asia,” an uncertainty that brought with it even “greater responsibility for Japan and India.”

India and Japan have much to gain by deepening their economic ties. Modi’s interest in new and expanded Japanese investment in India was clear. At a luncheon hosted by the Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), attended by 220 business leaders from both countries, Modi began his remarks (impressively, speaking in Japanese) by thanking Japan’s business leaders for their interest in his country, and promising that he would address their concerns over the labyrinth of regulatory barriers to Japanese direct investment. Japanese interest in helping New Delhi improve its national infrastructure is high, including the potential for sales of Japan’s famed high-speed rail systems. The joint communiqué did not disappoint, either. Abe promised five years of generous economic assistance to India’s economic transformation, with ODA and private capital totaling thirty-five trillion yen, or around $33.4 billion. Modi openly expressed particular interest in Japan’s clean energy technology.

On the security side of their agenda, the two leaders were clearly speaking from one script on their concerns over China’s growing maritime reach. India and Japan both have territorial differences with China, and Chinese maritime influence in and around India, including Sri Lanka, is growing. Modi and Abe agreed to regular naval consultations between the Indian Navy and the Maritime Self Defense Force, as well as to consider how to expand their defense technology cooperation. India has shown keen interest in Japanese seaplanes and other coastal defense systems. For his part, Modi spoke also to one of Japan’s strategic concerns – access to rare earth materials, promising to help Tokyo diversify its supply. Going forward, the foreign and defense ministers of both nations will meet regularly to discuss how to expand their strategic cooperation.

Modi called his visit “a new start” for relations with Tokyo, and Abe was clearly happy to see India’s new prime minister explore the opportunities for deepening their ties. Modi had visited Japan twice before he was elected this spring, and both times met with Shinzo Abe. Abe has long taken a special interest in India, and was the chief guest of the Indian government at their Republic Day celebration last January. Modi’s election in May has brought even more energy to the relationship. As the television footage suggested, the two leaders seem to have a good chemistry, and enjoyed their time together. Modi even sent out messages of thanks to Abe via social media as he visited Kyoto and other spots in Japan.

800 Years Later, an Ancient University Reopens in India

September 04, 2014

India’s Nalanda University opens again after 800 years. 

One of India’s most famous universities from antiquity, Nalanda University, reopened this Monday after a hiatus of over 800 years. Both the ruins of the old Nalanda University and the new Nalanda University are located near Rajgir in India’s Bihar state, an area that has a high concentration of ancient religious and historical sites, including Bodh Gaya, the site where the Buddha gained Enlightenment. This area was the core of ancient Magadha, a kingdom in ancient India that was known for its intellectual and politicalferment. In addition to being a center of Hinduism, it was in Magadha that Buddhism and Jainism arose. India’s first empire, the Mauryan Empire, arose from Magadha; its most famous emperor, Ashoka, was highly influential in patronizing and spreading Buddhism throughout Asia. In fact, the present day state of Bihar’s name is derived from the word vihara, the term for a Buddhist monastery, which is testament to the large number of monasteries that dotted the region that became Bihar.

Nalanda University arose from this context, the same way the schools of Athens and Alexandria arose from the intellectual fervor of the Hellenistic Mediterranean. There were many other ancient Indian universities as well, including Takshashila (Taxila) in modern day Pakistan, but Nalanda University stood out due to its size and cosmopolitanism.

Built during the Gupta Empire – the state associated with India’s golden age of culture and science – the original Nalanda University existed from between 413 C.E. and 1193 C.E. Although it was founded as a center for Buddhist philosophical study, it eventually became an institution for the study of various subjects, including secular ones, similar to the manner in which many medieval Christian universities evolved from being scholastic centers to more general institutions. Nalanda University was especially famous for the study of mathematics and medicine.

Nalanda University’s Buddhist origins and strong Buddhist curriculum meant that the university attracted a large number of students from outside of India, giving it a cosmopolitan air and enabling cross-cultural intellectual discourse. According to the website of the new Nalanda University, “the profound knowledge of Nalanda teachers attracted scholars from places as distant as China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia.” At its height, the university had 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers, while its libraries contained hundreds of thousands of books.

How India Can 'Balance' Relations with Japan and China

September 04, 2014

Decoupling economic issues from strategic issues might be the best way for New Delhi to keep both Tokyo and Beijing happy. 

Both Nitin Gokhale and Sanjay Kumar have cautioned in these pages that as India deepens its strategic partnership with Japan, it must be careful to consider its bilateral position vis-a-vis China. Given geopolitical realities in Asia today, Beijing is noticeably and understandably concerned with the growing rapprochement between Asia’s largest and richest democracies. While neither India nor Japan can independently stand against China on most standard measures of state power, together they form a considerably robust bulwark for the status quo in the region. For New Delhi, the ideal scenario would be to maintain positive economic relations with both countries while deepening security and strategic cooperation with Tokyo and maintaining an amicable detente with Beijing. In short, New Delhi seeks a positive-sum outcome with both countries. Achieving this won’t necessarily require traditional balancing, where New Delhi modifies its behavior to comply with the preferences of other actors (in this case Beijing). Rather, India’s interests would be best served by decoupling material and economic questions from broader strategic and security issues.

“Decoupling” is something that nearly every diplomatically mature state does — or at least tries to do. Simply put, the term describes the management of economic relations, including investment, development, and trade agreements, independent of broader strategic issues. The contemporary relationship between the United States and China is a good example of a relatively successfully decoupled bilateral relationship — major strategic issues persist but economic interdependency is amply developed, resulting in stability and mutual growth. India would do well to take this diplomatic paradigm to heart when it comes to interactions with both Beijing and Tokyo. As Modi’s recent visit to Japan demonstrates, in the India-Japan relationship, strategic issues, such as defense cooperation and even the civil nuclear cooperation agreement, run on a different track than economic issues. Modi returned from Tokyo with $34 billion in Japanese investment in tow while issues like the ShinMaywa US-2 aircraft deal, civil nuclear cooperation, and the two-plus-two dialogue were set aside for later. In broader terms, since the 2006 declaration of a “Strategic and Global Partnership,” economic and strategic relations have grown at different paces.

Furthermore, what makes decoupling a viable option for New Delhi today is the recent Chinese “charm offensive” since Modi’s election. Beijing has been uncharacteristically keen to normalize relations with India, moving away from the troubling April 2013 border stand-off and other issues. New Delhi would do well to seize on this Chinese overture, significantly expanding economic relations between Asia’s two giants. This is easier said than done, however. As we’ve discussed here at The Diplomat before, the asymmetric nature of the strategic rivalry between India and China has manifested in a way that is detrimental for India in terms of its material relations with China. When it comes to its relations with Beijing, New Delhi finds it almost impossibly difficult to conduct productive and stoic diplomacy despite the legacy of the 1962 war, current border disputes, and repeated Chinese slights along the McMahon line. This must change. This isn’t a call for appeasement or for ignoring the important differences that continue to persist between these two countries; instead, New Delhi should conduct economic diplomacy pragmatically and remain vigilant regarding strategic issues. Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to India will be important to watch in this regard.

Raising FDI Cap in Defence: Misplaced Euphoria?

04 Sep , 2014

It is time India makes up its mind whether it wants FDI in defence or not. If it is felt that FDI is not essential and India can achieve technological excellence through indigenous efforts; it should be stated upfront and all pretenses of seeking FDI should be shed. The current apathetic and uninspiring approach is a meaningless charade. The recent increase in FDI cap to 49 per cent is totally inconsequential and will not attract FDI. This fact has been amply established by joint studies carried out by the CII with KPMG and ASSOCHAM with Ernst and Young. Both studies indicate that foreign investors want a minimum of 51 per cent holding.

The budget speech of July 10, 2014 proved that the entrenched entities continue to call the shots…

There are times in the life of a nation when bold policy initiatives can prove vital and decisive for future generations. For that, the nation has to be blessed with bold, dedicated and mature leadership. In other words, the quality of a nation’s leadership can be judged by its capability to undertake radical, innovative and path-breaking reforms.

Notwithstanding the misplaced euphoria created by subjective reporters, raising of the upper limit of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the defence sector from 26 to 49 per cent is an infructuous decision. The budget speech of July 10, 2014 proved that the entrenched entities continue to call the shots. Unfortunately, the government has lost the plot and succumbed to the pressure of self-serving elements. Resultantly, a rare opportunity to charter an inventive and courageous course to kick-start the development of India’s embryonic defence industry has been missed.

It was in May 2001 that the defence industry was thrown open to the private sector. The aim was to co-opt the private sector to achieve the much declared target of reducing dependence on imports to less than 30 per cent of the total requirement. The government permitted 100 per cent equity with a maximum of 26 per cent FDI component, both subject to licencing. Subsequently, the detailed guidelines were issued in January 2002.

Foreign investors have shown little interest in investing in the Indian defence sector as they consider most provisions to be highly dissuasive. In addition to limiting the FDI component to 26 per cent, the policy contains the following stipulations:

Foreign investors have shown little interest in investing in the Indian defence sector… 
Licences for the production of arms and ammunition will be issued by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in consultation with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), whereas all FDI cases will be considered by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board as well. However, it is the MoD which will have the final say as regards procurements, sales and exports (even for non-lethal items). 

The applicant company has to be either an Indian company or a partnership firm. Management control must remain in Indian hands with majority representation in the board. 
The Chief Executive has to be a resident Indian. 

Al-Qaeda set to burn the Ganga Post 2014

04 Sep , 2014

The year 2014 is very important to many of us, in the Indian sub-continent for some reason or other. The importance of which is being discussed on the television, the radio and in the print media at length as to what will happen in Afghanistan after the Americans pull out, and many other questions which will effect this region as a whole thereafter. The uncertainty sometimes makes you shiver, more so when Al Qaeda as a subject gets attached to the destiny of the millions in our sub continent.

Recent revelation by Yasin Bhatkal during his interrogation by NIA that the Indian Mujahideen is in process of teaming up with the world’s most dreaded terror outfit the Al-Qaeda, which is in its final stages.

A landmark event that will take place in this region shortly would be the withdrawal of the American led NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2014. The vacuum of power in the most hostile region on this earth will witness a scramble and jostling for the space in question by different forces. What will be the fallout of this draw down, has been commented by many analysts quiet often. What emerges from the debate is a high probability of resurgence of Taliban and Al-Qaeda on the political landscape of Af-Pak region. If that be so, should it be a reasonable assumption to make of a future possibility of India coming under the devastating influence of Al-Qaeda terror. This scenario poses a serious threat of not only altering the lives of millions, but also the future emergence of India as a major global economic and a strategic player in times ahead.

When we run a scan, through our history it emerges that despite all the differences which surfaces between the followers of the two main religions in India quiet off and on, the relations amongst these communities have been cordial over the centuries. There are many examples where the members of both the communities have fought shoulder to shoulder like in the case of 1857 war of independence for the honour of their mother land. This unique synergy has been central theme to the idea of Hindustan and Hindustaniayt, which I fear, is now under threat from radical Islam emanating from Af-Pak region and fuelled by fanatics from amongst the majority in India. As the radical ideology spreads and displaces the Sufi essence of Islam in India the forces like Al-Qaeda can take advantage of furthering their ulterior motives. This rather pessimistic depiction of our future may not be out of context and I have tried to reason it out in the succeeding paragraphs.

Recently there was an article written by a Pakistani journalist in India’s leading news daily recently, which gave an insight into the spread of Al-Qaeda network in Pak Punjab with the active help of Jamat-e-Islami (JeI). JeI has a strong presence in various schools and colleges of Punjab in form of Jamat-e-Talaba (JeT). They were responsible for carrying out recruitment for the erstwhile Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The role played by the Punjabis in that regime gets highlighted by the fact that out of 9000 Taliban prisoners held by the Americans, 6000 were Pakistani Punjabis. Over the years the role of JeI has remained unchanged and that is to carry out indoctrination at colleges and school across Punjab and recruit the most diehard fanatics for Al-Qaeda, Taliban and now even the Tehreek- e-Taliban of Pakistan (TTP). The infamous Hafeez Sayeed of Jamat-ul-Dawa (JuD) is also an outcrop of this very Jamat (JeI). Al-Qaeda is busy strengthening its organisation in Punjab alongside recruiting new cadres, for a showdown with Afghan Military post American withdrawal in 2014.

The Al-Qaeda is already in league with Afghan Taliban and TTP fighting for a common goal of establishing a Nizam based on Shariat in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Lashkar-e-Taoiba (LeT) and JuD joining hands with Al-Qaeda will not only add up to strengthen this terror machinery in Af-Pak region but will also pose a serious challenge to all the countries of South Asia.

Muzaffarnagar riots should give an insight in to the extent the radicalisation that has taken place in the society at large. They should also be seen as an intelligence failure in failing to identify the areas and pockets where sophisticated weapons have made way.

Pakistan’s Top General Increasingly Want Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Go

Army chief holds off generals seeking Pakistan PM’s ouster

Reuters, September 5, 2014

Weeks of mounting anti-government protests in Pakistan had been enough to convince five of the powerful army’s 11 Corps Commanders that it was time for them to step in and force embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign.

According to a minister close to military circles, top generals met in the garrison city of Rawalpindi at the end of August as demonstrations raged in nearby Islamabad. Thousands of protesters had just tried to storm Sharif’s residence.

At the tense, four-hour conclave, Pakistan’s democratic process was once again in peril, with the military pondering another intervention in a country that has seen power change hands more often through coups than elections.

But army chief Raheel Sharif decided the time was not right to overthrow the civilian leadership, and moved to quell any disagreement in his ranks by overruling the hawks and declaring the crisis must be solved through politics, not force.

Soon afterwards, the army issued a brief statement, reaffirming its commitment to democracy, and the threat of a coup, at least for now, had passed.

The minister, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of discussing the inner workings of the military, said at least five generals had been pushing for weeks for the army to take a more “active role” in defusing the crisis.

"The time for the army to be neutral is over," was how the minister summed up the message from dissenters around the table.

Two military sources confirmed this version of events. They, like the minister, spoke on condition of anonymity.

A senior security source added: “Raheel Sharif is not interested in direct intervention. The tanks aren’t going to come rolling in. This army believes in compromise.”

The army’s media wing confirmed Sunday’s meeting but declined to share details. Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told Reuters the army was a “monolithic institution”.

"What comes out from the army is ultimately one opinion," he said. "And … they have supported democracy."


General Sharif, who is not related to the prime minister, may simply be biding his time.

Double cross and deceit by the Pakistan army


IssueCourtesy: www.defenceinfo.com| Date : 05 Sep , 2014

Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, is a very lonely man today; undoubtedly he would also be sad, dejected and depressed by the manner in which he has been let down by the generals of his own country’s army that is sworn to serve his democratically elected government. In his case such double cross and deceit has happened not once but twice.

…Nawaz Sharif lost his chair on the previous occasion also because of his so-called “soft stand” towards India. This can be counted as one of the major causes for the situation but it is definitely not the main one.

The role of the Pakistan Army in boosting both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri with the specific intention of weakening/toppling the legitimate, democratically elected government of the country is, by now, well documented. If there were any doubts they have been cleared in ample measure by the statements of Javed Hashmi, the President of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) which implicate that his party chief of playing to the tune of the “establishment” (Pakistan Army). Hashmi has been sacked from membership of the party for speaking the truth. Qadri, in any case, loses no opportunity in singing paeans in praise of the Army, thus leaving no doubts whatsoever about his affiliation and loyalty.

In an abominable expression of subservience to the army both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri were indecent in their haste to meet General Raheel Sharif and accept his role as a mediator. It was as if they heaved a sigh of relief on the end result having been finally achieved. The manner in which their paid cadre cheers the army leaves no doubt as to where the finances are coming from.

In India the popular perception is that the Army is gunning for the Prime Minister of the country because he attended the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed determination to normalise relations. It is notable that PM Nawaz Sharif lost his chair on the previous occasion also because of his so-called “soft stand” towards India. This can be counted as one of the major causes for the situation but it is definitely not the main one.

There is no doubt that the Pakistani generals do not want to see any forward movement in India-Pakistan relations since any such step would contradict all that they stand for. However, Pakistan army has the clout to sideline the government and carry on with its anti-India machinations through its evil Jihadi partners; after all, it has been doing so for decades. In fact, the Pakistan army rolled out its response even before Nawaz Sharif got back after his visit to India. It heated up the line of control (LoC) and the international border (IB) with ceasefire violations of an unprecedented intensity. Apparently, it would need more than India policy for the establishment to openly gun for the government.

Nawaz Sharif failed to read the writing on the wall and did not give the honourable exit to Musharraf that was being demanded.

The army and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have had an uneasy relationship right from the word go! In the initial stages it was said that the new government of Pakistan would settle down only after General Kayani was eased out. Many heaved a sigh of relief when this happened and PM Nawaz Sharif got an Army chief of his choice and kinship in the shape of General Raheel Sharif. The bonhomie however did not last too long.

General Raheel Sharif was visibly upset by the manner in which his life time mentor General Pervez Musharraf was being tried for treason. Nawaz Sharif failed to read the writing on the wall and did not give the honourable exit to Musharraf that was being demanded.

Nawaz Sharif procrastinated and remained indecisive in dealing with the Taliban when the army was insisting on a firm and immediate action. The long period of talks and subsequent humiliation of the government in the hands of the Taliban raised heckles of the army. Of course, the army has not much to show in the subsequent Operation Zarb-e-Azb launched in North Waziristan which indicates some wisdom in Nawaz Sharif’s attempt to go for a political solution, but it has put all blame on the government.

The final nail in the coffin was stuck on failure of the government to support the army when Geo Television accused the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt General Zaheerul Islam of shooting its prime correspondent, Hamid Mir. Nawaz Sharif went to the extent of plotting the sacking of the ISI chief.

The events in Pakistan have an impact on India; the Pakistan army wishes to keep its traditional bogey of anti-India sentiment alive through this fight for its survival.

The army may have plotted its move to destablise Nawaz Sharif meticulously but the cards are no longer stacked in its favour. The entire parliament and democratic forces of Pakistan are behind Nawaz Sharif and so is the international community, most prominently the United States. As of now the Army is no longer playing the role of an arbiter with the focus having shifted to the Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, the power of the army in Pakistan cannot be underestimated; the environment is rife with talk of a “soft coup, creeping coup” and what not. The agenda of the army is, quite obviously, to wrest foreign policy especially with respect to India and Afghanistan from the government. However, this time round the force will not be able to sit on a high moral ground, proclaim the government to be corrupt and inept and take over the reins; democratic forces are determined not to go down without a fight and the people are witnessing the diabolic act that is being played out.

The events in Pakistan have an impact on India; the Pakistan army wishes to keep its traditional bogey of anti-India sentiment alive through this fight for its survival. It has, therefore, called upon its Jihadi friends to keep the LOC/IB heated up and anti-India propaganda going, troops deployed along the border are rendering active support.

India needs to understand the idea behind the unusually intense ceasefire violations and infiltration attempts. While giving a more than adequate response on ground as rightly advocated by the Indian Army Chief it is also necessary to sensitise the international community about what is happening. India can also expect enhanced belligerence from across the border as the Pakistan army loses ground. The Nation therefore needs to stay prepared for the worst.

Viewpoint: How Nato can help make Afghan forces sustainable

As the Nato summit in Wales approaches, guest columnist Lotfullah Najafizada looks at how the Afghan army has fared since international troops started to withdraw. He argues that Nato should continue funding the army in order to make it a sustainable force to be reckoned with and put enough pressure on the Taliban to bring about a peace deal.

In his closing press conference at the Nato summit in Chicago in May 2012, US President Barack Obama said the alliance had a clear roadmap ahead in Afghanistan: handing over combat operations to the Afghan forces, with the US-led Nato mission assuming a support role. With the next Nato summit about to begin, one thing is certain: Afghan forces have held up their part of the deal and more.

“Start Quote

More than a dozen Afghan forces are maimed every day and join a growing army of forgotten wounded warriors”

Army successes

The 352,000-strong Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have engaged with the Taliban and other insurgent groups 150 times a day during the 2014 summer fighting season.

The fight is tough, the ANSF sacrifices are immense, but the Taliban - backed by foreign fighters in the battlefield this year - are not taking control of districts and small towns, let alone cities and populated areas. This is in direct contrast to the dire predictions of some, who foresaw that the Taliban would retake districts less than 24 hours after the departure of foreign troops.

Nato has departed from more than 800 bases and outposts across Afghanistan since the last Nato summit. Today, there are just over 40,000 Nato troops in Afghanistan, a third of the size of the Nato force in 2012. In May 2012, the same month of the Chicago summit, 56 Nato troops - including 40 Americans - died in the battlefield, but in the month leading to the Wales summit, there have been just five casualties.

An intensified army presence at this year's polls brought about a larger turnout than in previous years

Fewer casualties on the part of Western troops is not an indication that the war is over and the enemy has been defeated. The heat is instead being taken by Afghan troops: a minimum of 15 Afghan forces have died each day during this year's fighting season and there are insurgent-related incidents every day across 20 Afghan provinces - almost two thirds of the country.

Despite such pressure, Afghan forces secured two rounds of national elections this spring and summer, allowing millions of Afghans to vote across Afghanistan. Under the ANSF umbrella, the turnout was higher and the elections were safer than the 2009 elections, when President Obama began his military surge, enlarging the US military footprint in Afghanistan to 100,000 troops.

Now, when President Obama, his host British Prime Minister David Cameron, Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and another two dozen leaders from other Nato countries convene in Cardiff this week, they should keep their promise: continue to support the Afghan forces.

Forgotten warriors

The Afghan army is a post-civil war one: it is fragile. Neighbours have already questioned the size of the Afghan army and some elements within the region's armies do all they can to undermine the Afghan forces in their first real test in leading combat.

Neither success nor failure could be ruled out at this stage. The domestic Afghan political environment is another threat facing the Afghan forces. President Hamid Karzai has banned his forces from seeking air support from their Nato counterparts, due to stated concerns over air strikes killing civilians. This policy may have prevented civilian deaths in Afghan villages, but it has also turned the battlefield deadly for the young Afghan men in uniform.

The banning of Nato air support may have led to more casualties in the Afghan army

More than a dozen Afghan forces are maimed every day and join a growing army of forgotten wounded warriors. The Taliban's unprecedented large-scale attacks, involving hundreds of fighters including Pakistanis in Helmand in the south, Nangarhar in the east, and Kunduz in the north were aimed at making territorial gains.

“Start Quote

It is critical for the Afghan forces to bring enough pressure to bear on the Taliban that they are forced to make a peace deal. Doing so requires continued Nato support to the ANSF”

They are pushed back by Afghan forces at each front.

Under armed

The Afghan police force - nearly half of the entire ANSF - lacks sufficient weapons to fight the well-equipped Taliban.

The Taliban are equipped with rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), mortar shells, machine guns and intelligence support from the regional countries. Our police force - in the frontline of the war similar to the army - only has AK47s, most of which are unreliable on the battlefield.

Our special units within the police - the best trained ones in the region - prefer to use the old Soviet AK47s and have painted them to look new, rather than use AK47s purchased from eastern Europe because most AK47s produced outside Russia and bought for the Afghan police stop functioning during firing.

Police officers often come up against better-equipped Taliban fighters

Nato should prioritise equipping the Afghan police and helping them to grow in numbers in strategic population centres across the country. The army can back them and prevent insurgents from easily crossing into eastern Afghanistan from their safe havens in Pakistan.

More pressure

It is an urgent need to ensure the sustainability of the force. In 120 days, there will be no Nato troops policing any Afghan town or village. It has been a rapid transition. When the transition was first discussed in 2010 in the Kabul Conference, a peace process had also begun.

A peace deal was expected to lessen the need for a robust Afghan force after 2014. But the reconciliation track went nowhere and the fight intensified. It is critical for the Afghan forces to bring enough pressure to bear on the Taliban that they are forced to make a peace deal. Doing so requires continued Nato support for the ANSF.

Offering Afghan soldiers better equipment may prevent further large-scale Taliban attacks

The $4.1bn (£2.5bn) annual funding pledged for the Afghan forces should continue with more focus on equipment. The "support" role should strengthen the Afghan intelligence capacity and build a desperately needed air force with the aim of ensuring two goals: Nato not being forced to resume a combat role in the future and the Afghan forces gradually become self-sustaining by 2024.

The achievement of these two goals is the only way to ensure insurgents do not terrorise innocent Afghans, and to deliver a result worthy of the sacrifice of Western soldiers and taxpayers.

Lotfullah Najafizada is the head of one of Afghanistan's leading news stations, Tolo news TV.