14 October 2014

The soft power war

Oct 14, 2014

Whether in the UN or at the Madison Square Garden, Mr Modi’s speeches had to be designed and structured to reverberate with the TV audiences back home, who would be casting their votes

Information warfare is both offensive and defensive the first, to dominate the mind of an opponent population and shape their perceptions to our own advantage; the second, to prevent similar efforts by an opponent from influencing the collective psyche of own population. To put it simply, information warfare is a blend of psychological operations (“psyops”) and electronic warfare (“EW”).

The former creates the theme and the message, i.e. the “idea” (heard that one before?) to be projected to the target population; the latter disseminates it by the most appropriate means of projection, whether through an upmarket electronic medium, or the more humble but highly effective medium of the poster, the placard, or the handbill. Whatever the process, information warfare is an essential requirement for strategic projection of soft power, to achieve specific national agenda and objectives. Information warfare is a highly sophisticated and above all imaginative process. It has never been amongst the strong points of India’s institutions controlled by India’s official bureaucracy. In fact, India’s attempts at so-called psychological warfare(s) have generally been hidebound and sometimes downright ridiculous. Yet, ironically enough, though in a connected but different context, India has some of the “best brains and minds” in the business (a variation on the “hearts and minds” analogy) right here in India, most of them in the world of media and advertising in the private corporate sector, where some of the most ferocious battles rage for the “hearts, minds and market space” of the Indian customer. Suitably reset and realigned, these resources can be utilised to achieve strategic objectives even at the national level, as also to achieve these for even relatively minor objectives at strategic, operational, and somet-imes even tactical objectives. Military history is replete with such narratives. The Indian military could well interact with profit with the wizards of advertising in the media private sector.

It is in the context of information warfare, that the Indian establishment requires to carefully examine and analyse the recent visit of their own Prime Minister to the United Nations, in particular his address to the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly, as also to members of the Indian American community at the iconic Madison Square Garden.

Narendra Modi, now coming to the United States in his own right as the democratically elected Prime Minister of India, still remains something of a controversial love-hate figure to many in the United States, particularly its prosperous Indian-American community, which has been quite divided on the issue. He had been declared persona non grata by an earlier US administration, specifically at the urgings of a section of the Indian community. The George W. Bush administration had proscribed his entry into the country under the somewhat simple-mindedly framed Freedom of Religion Act, on grounds of condoning (or committing — the two are virtually synonymous) atrocities against religious minorities in the state of Gujarat during his tenure as chief minister. The fact that the former chief minister of Gujarat state had been let off by the Supreme Court of India, due to lack of evidence was passionately dismissed out of hand as irrelevant by vigilante opinion of some in the Indian community. On his part, the Prime Minister was fully aware at all times throughout his visit that though he was physically in the United States, whether in the United Nations or at the Madison Square Garden, his speeches had to be designed and structured to reverberate with the television audiences back home, who would be casting their votes in the elections to state Assemblies approaching in 2015 and to the Lok Sabha elections a little further down the road. The Prime Minister’s performance before the world body under these circumstances would be a text-book case study on information warfare, and a demonstration of a sophisticated campaign to influence hearts and minds on a mass scale, in this case not of the United Nations, but of the Indian electorate back home watching him on television, who would be voting in the forthcoming elections to several state Assemblies. To begin with the Prime Minister’s choice of Hindi in which he is an eloquent and powerful orator, as the language of choice for his maiden speech in the United Nations and which was also understood by the electorate back home, could be construed as a step in this direction, even though it was totally unfamiliar to the very large majority amongst the national delegations present at the United Nations General Assembly. The very latest language translation facilities were of course available, but then the impact on its recipients of even the best translated speech is of necessity diffused. Also, as in some perceptions, the choice of Hindi by Mr Modi might even be interpreted almost as an in-your-face gesture to the rest of the General Assembly, because his own primary concerns remained more the pre-electoral situation developing back home, rather than the one ongoing at the United Nations, whose public relations impact, if any, in India would in any case be almost non-existent. The cheering Indian-American audiences in Madison Square in New York, primarily “Overseas Friends of the BJP”, represented the money-machine feeding the Bharatiya Janata Party’s political war-chests in India. But the “Indian-Indians” attending political rallies back home, would actually fill the ballot boxes come election time. It was they who constituted the “vital ground” of the campaign.

The public addresses, delivered in forceful, passionate Hindi, (again, a payload for home consumption) whether at the UN General Assembly, or the iconic Madison Square Garden, largely dwelt on India’s international concerns; his interactions with President Barack Obama as also to corporate America, were more businesslike and private. Both meshed together and complemented each other. The visit to the United States was almost an old-style whistle stop campaign tour, throughout which his objectives remained focused and unambiguous to get the American manufacturing industry to invest in India. He promised a positive and business friendly atmosphere in this country, something which the hard-boiled American corporate heads in the audience, bruised from earlier encounters with the Indian political system and its bureaucracy, could be forgiven for regarding with a degree of skeptic déjà vu. Would matters be different this time around?

The writer is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament

Relentless ceasefire violations

India should be prepared for cross-border terrorism
Gen V P Malik (retd)

THE India-Pakistan ceasefire along the 1,050-km international border, Line of Control (LoC), and the Siachen Glacier area, came about on November 26, 2003. The then Pakistani Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, had announced it as a commemoration of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of prayer and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan that year. This year's Eid al-Zuha saw its worst violation by Pakistan since 2003. During the heavy firefight, the annual tradition of exchanging sweets on Eid was done away with. And so was the practice of holding a flag meeting by the BSF and Pakistan Rangers deployed along the international border.

A historical analysis of the ceasefire violations since November 2003 shows that the escalation in the number of violations has no correlation with the new NDA government coming into power in India. The escalation picked up gradually in January 2013 and then very steeply after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif assumed office in Pakistan in June 2013. According to reports, 347 violations were recorded in 2013, compared to 114 incidents in 2012. This year 334 incidents have already occurred till date. Despite much improved vigilance on the LoC, the number of cross-border infiltration attempts has also gone up in the last one year.

Many Indian journalists, who have been feted by Nawaz Sharif, believe him to be the messiah of peace. But Nawaz Sharif's rhetoric on improving relations with India fails to match up with the developments on the ground. Apart from the Kargil misadventure in 1999, his tacit approval — willingly or unwillingly — to keep the LoC alive and maintain terrorist pressure in J&K cannot be missed. He and the Pakistan army have always been together on this page.

According to intelligence reports, soon after taking over as Prime Minister in 2013, the Nawaz Sharif government cleared a new ‘Kashmir strategy’ and set up a ‘Kashmir cell’ in his office. The purpose of the cell was to keep track of developments in J&K. The other related fact in his current tenure is that as his political position weakens, he comes more and more under pressure from the Pakistan army, the ISI and the terror outfits of Punjab and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

After the Modi government came into power, the last week of August 2014 saw the first major ceasefire violation in which Pakistani troops resorted to small arms fire and 82 mm mortar shelling (such mortars have never been used on this stretch ever since the India-Pakistan war in 1971) of nearly 35 Border Security Force posts, from Samba to Akhnoor along the international border. This was responded to in the usual manner. After four days of firefight, para-military commanders of both sides met and agreed to maintain the ceasefire.

This incident was followed by the Pakistani High Commissioner meeting J&K secessionists despite being warned by the Indian government not to do so. The Indian government reacted sharply. It cancelled the Foreign Secretaries' meeting. Soon after, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif raised the J&K issue in the United Nation General Assembly on September 26, 2014. He earned a sharp rebuke from Prime Minister Modi at the same forum the next day. Modi made it clear that “Raising it at the UN won't resolve bilateral issues.”

This is where Pakistan and its army went wrong. Without taking into consideration the Indian government's revised J&K policy and resolve, it continued with its attempt to increase pressure on the new Indian regime. In a major skirmish this time, the Pakistan army and Rangers targeted the entire LoC south of the Pir Panjal Range and the civilian population and towns along the international border. This engagement of soft Indian targets after October 2, 2014, left no choice with India except to retaliate with force. The Modi government could neither afford dilution of its policy nor be seen giving in to pressure of violence. After analysing earlier incidents of ceasefire violation, it had already given greater autonomy and escalation dominance/control to local military commanders. The forceful response was evident on the ground as well as in the political rhetoric. Pakistan was shocked by the massive retaliation. It had failed to appreciate the new Indian government's strength in public and Parliament, and that of its armed forces. Even more importantly, the change in its leadership! Such failures can be a fatal flaw in any armed conflict. The important lesson from Kargil had been forgotten.

Two steps back

Pakistan takes Kashmir issue to the UN

GUNFIRE recently punctuated cross-border encounters in Jammu and Kashmir. Many civilians lost lives in the heavy shelling along the Line of Control and the international border. The ceasefire that had been in effect since 2003 has been repeatedly violated. Now another long-standing understanding between India and Pakistan to settle contentious issues bilaterally, has been wilfully ignored. Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Pakistan Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, has written to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, to protest what he calls unprovoked Indian shelling. He has also asked for a plebiscite in the region. Aziz’s letter is consistent with the stand taken by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who had, during his recent visit to New York, raised the “core issue” of Kashmir at the UN General Assembly. These actions represent a new, and more strident diplomatic offensive against India.

Islamabad has been systematically fermenting trouble in Kashmir by sending in terrorists and thus violating the first condition under which any possible plebiscite could be held. It has also used the Kashmir bogey to often successfully turn the focus away from its own internal failures. India, on the other hand, has rightly maintained that the vitiated atmosphere that comes in the wake of infiltrating terrorists and sponsoring terrorism is the opposite of what ought to be done.

Peaceful relations between India and Pakistan would result in a spurt in economic growth in both countries something that would certainly improve the life of their citizens. Promises of better trade and commerce have often been voiced and even the limited trade that takes place now highlights its potential. However, for all this, the prerequisite is peace, which Pakistan has been unable to deliver. Prime Minister Narendra Modi seemed keen to start with a new slate soon after his swearing in, but the situation deteriorated thereafter, with jingoistic statements of political leaders on both sides accelerating the process. Given the circumstances, and Pakistani diplomatic offensive, any improvement in relations is unlikely to happen in a hurry, which is a pity.

Wanted: dogma-free models of inflation

October 14, 2014 

The target of inflation experts at the RBI is 8 per cent for December.

Inflation data for September 2014 was released yesterday and came in at 6.5 per cent, making it the best reading since February 2008, when it was 6 per cent. Last October, the inflation gauge measured 10.2 per cent. That is close to a 4 percentage point decline in one year. But I guarantee you that my brethren in the profession, and experts at the RBI, will still be talking about how this declining inflation estimate is distorted, like many others this year, and how base effects, seasonals, etc explain the entire reduction. And how, just you wait, inflation is going to shoot back up.

In a recent note, monetary experts at the IMF argued that India needs to increase the repo rate in order to successfully reduce double-digit inflation. The target of inflation experts at the RBI is 8 per cent for December. We all get our forecasts wrong every now and then, but less than three months ago, RBI experts were talking about the dangers of inflation not slipping below 8 per cent. And just 10 days ago, RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan talked about the dangers of inflation being above 6 per cent 15 months from now, in January 2016.

If the RBI knows best about inflation, why is it consistently missing near-term forecasts, and by a large margin? One explanation is that it does not have a correct model of inflation or growth, or a model relating the two. If this is true, why should the RBI be trusted with its present model of inflation? It could be that the RBI policy of substantially high repo rates is working to reduce inflation; however, the model needs to communicate the correct trend. A miss by such a magnitude is a structural miss — remember, the “informed’ RBI target for December is 8 per cent. Three months from now, inflation is likely to be closer to 6, not 8 per cent.

But what is the “correct” model of inflation? In several articles since July 2011, including (‘Where monetary policy is irrelevant’, IE, September 13), I have argued the following: that a primary determinant of Indian inflation is the policy variable of minimum support price (MSP) inflation set by the agriculture ministry. In addition, I have argued, indeed challenged, the monetary authorities and/ or researchers to empirically document a relationship between any non-MSP variable and inflation.

So far, this challenge has not been met. However, in an article written by a consultant to RBI (CAFRAL division), senior economist Amartya Lahiri, without offering an alternative model of inflation, claims that MSP inflation was just mirroring lagged CPI inflation. Technically, Lahiri does this by purging MSP inflation of past CPI inflation; interestingly, he does not do the counter-purge. If he did, as discussed below, he would not have obtained the result he did. (‘Don’t blame MSP for inflation’, IE, October 7).

There are two major problems with Lahiri’s conclusion. First, at a conceptual and/ or policy level, how can one argue that the politically and Sonia Gandhi-inspired change in the terms of trade in favour of agriculture were all due to the fact that the UPA experts were just making up for past CPI inflation? Just a simple check of the numbers would have shown Lahiri that he was following the wrong “garden” path. Second, I have argued, and still argue, that MSP affects inflation with a one-year lag. CPI inflation was averaging 4.5 per cent for the nine years from 1999 to 2007 and MSP inflation averaged 5.2 per cent. In 2008, MSP was increased by 27 per cent; and CPI inflation averaged 12.4 and 10.4 per cent in the subsequent two years, and in double digits for each of the next three years. He should also note that CPI inflation is down in 2014 and likely to go down further, because MSP inflation has averaged less than 5 per cent in 2013 and 2014.

Malala, despite Pakistan

October 14, 2014 

The Taliban’s psychopath chief, Mullah Fazlullah, had ordered her execution from his hideout in next-door Afghanistan.

A girl from picturesque Swat Valley — once visited by the Chinese traveller, Hsuan Tsang, in search of ancient Buddhist scriptures — has won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014. At 15, Malala Yousafzai, who had openly objected to the Taliban’s policy of destroying girls’ schools, was shot in the head at close range by a Taliban terrorist. The Taliban’s psychopath chief, Mullah Fazlullah, had ordered her execution from his hideout in next-door Afghanistan. Unfortunately, a popular TV channel in Islamabad aired a “morning view” on October 13, saying Malala’s Nobel was a Great Game conspiracy aimed at Pakistan.

Pakistan has, by and large, welcomed the award but many who denounced her as an American agent are silent. For its part, the state has honoured her with all kinds of medals and awards, in the face of a rising storm of opinion which wanted Malala set aside in favour of Aafia Siddiqui, an al-Qaeda agent doing 86 years in an American prison, whose release has been demanded by the Islamic State. Pakistan’s then army chief, General Kayani, saved Malala from death by dispatching her post haste to the UK, where permanent damage to her brain could be prevented.

After her departure for the UK, a pro-Taliban Pakistan went crazy. Some expat Pakistanis in the UK announced that they had recognised Malala for what she was: a renegade from the Muslim cause. A Britain-based Islamic group decided to meet at the infamous Lal Masjid in Islamabad to issue a religious decree against her, accusing her of supporting the “occupying” US forces in Afghanistan. Most people in Pakistan did not believe she had been shot in the head.

“There will be a fatwa issued regarding Malala Yousafzai, taking into account the full story of her injury, including her public statements in support of the occupying US army in the region and mocking of key symbols of Islam such as hijab and jihad,” said Abu Baraa, a senior member of Shariah4Pakistan.

You guessed it. This was a cell linked to Anjem Choudhary, a British-Pakistani currently in trouble for abetting terrorism, and with a reputation that stinks a mile, because of his association with Arab cleric Omar Bakri, now ousted from the UK, and the latter’s radical outfit, al-Muhajiroun, as well as for his links with the Britain-based al-Ghurabaa, whose leader has been hiding in Karachi, where Daniel Pearl was killed trying to meet him.

Abu Baraa had further stated: “Malala is one of the issues we are going to be addressing because she is being used as a propaganda tool by the enemies of Muslims”.

Malala was guilty of defying a warlord possessing unopposed power. Swat was at his feet, honourable men were humbled and women made to surrender their jewellery to the mullahs. The Taliban governed through the spectacle of death in a district known for its soft tribal identity, welcoming tourists as guests.

Swat suffered the destruction of schools but there was more that left a deep wound: floggings of alleged thieves and fornicators, beheadings, suicide attacks and target-killings while the local administration stood aside and watched. Objecting to this Islamic governance was akin to signing your own death warrant.

And the state of Pakistan was going through its rabidly anti-American phase, which looked like an abject surrender to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. An anti-Malala wave gripped the middle class and families were split over whether she was a good Pakistani or a renegade who deserved to be killed. Facebook was full of incredibly filthy charges against her and her father, a schoolteacher who had recognised the genius in her quite early.

The J&K Flood Disaster : Overcoming Effects on The Security Paradigm

In 2005, one of the major considerations for the inauguration of the Karvan-e-Aman, the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad Bus Service, was the projection of a contrast which was expected to be perceived by the POK travellers between the standard of development on the Pakistan occupied side and that on the Indian side of Kashmir. That contrast has always existed. Yet, in one devastating night on 6/7 Sep 2014 the fury of the Jhelum has virtually equated the two sides of the LoC, laying bare vast stretches of human habitation, destroying livelihoods, habitat, much ancient architecture, and J&K’s famed products; papier-mâché, saffron, carpets, pashmina; just about everything one associates with the Valley’s great culture and tradition. Rightfully almost all the media coverage has concentrated so far on the human tragedy, involving displacement, health and sanitation, relief work, brave heart stories of courageous people, the deep and committed involvement of the Armed Forces, the youth’s energetic heroism and the negatives, involving governmental paralysis. Enough has been written on that, and a sensitive media has rightly ensured that no attempt was made to analyze the security paradigm of J&K and how that has undergone a change, post the flood.

But with 14 terrorists gunned down in Kashmir in September 2014, a reviving and brooding discontent in the flooded streets, much antipathy generated by the deliberate efforts of the separatists, and a vast vacuum created for recruitment of discontented people towards the gun, J&K has the potential of once again turning into a tinder box. This needs some analysis. It is not as if everything is going to happen overnight, but turbulent situations always have their seeds sown by uncontrollable events. The earlier these are recognized, the better it is for the security environment.

The prevailing complexities of a situation emerging from 25 years of terrorism and proxy war have been further complicated by the displacement of people and the trauma brought by the flood. Just prior to the disaster, alarm bells had already been sounded about the reemergence of militant activities, particularly in South Kashmir. In the current situation and its aftermath, the unpredictability factor increases exponentially thus adding trauma manifold. It is perhaps wishful thinking that the excellent rescue efforts by the Army will translate into openly displayed and fulltime goodwill; instead, it may remain a grudging goodwill unless a conscious effort is made to get into the groove of outreach as follow up. In fact, to assess the psyche of the distraught population of Srinagar is currently almost impossible.

Kashmir’s media, which influences opinion very largely, was itself paralyzed and has begun to emerge only now, tentatively. The media is not sure how to tackle the ambiguous situation; whether to play to the Separatist galleries, fringe elements, fence sitters, or the establishment. To be completely above all this is almost impossible, and survival instincts dictate a different course each day. To top it there is an uncertain political environment, a lame duck state government, and insufficient energy to retrieve Kashmir and some areas of Jammu from the disaster they have witnessed.

Traumatized people are considered the last ones to have any scope of change in mindsets; if anything, the failure of early return of livelihood and inability to get back their normal lives is going to keep the population even more vulnerable to negativity. The youth’s displayed dynamism is likely to give it greater self-assurance which while being positive on one hand can also be extremely negative if exploited by anti-national elements.

Is this therefore the time to look at national interests afresh and commence a new narrative? The disaster has witnessed a tremendous outflow of positive energy from the rest of India; aid is flowing in, and social media has seen greater focus on aid rather than the usual discussions on ideological and political differences. While people may be traumatized on the one hand, a large segment of the populace of Srinagar has recognized the efforts of the Army and other agencies (notwithstanding the media’s unintended neglect of the youth) in the rescue efforts. Traumatized people also speak the truth and do not turn their backs on their saviors. The Army has little role inside Srinagar city but it can energize other security forces and build on this relationship which is even more important than its relationship with the rural people. Symbolic acts of goodness must continue through the difficult winter months, including holding medical camps in conjunction with the local medical authorities, conducting small scale recreational events in the suburban areas, ensuring disciplined traffic movement of its convoys, and being available for various winter emergencies.

Al Qaeda’s India Threat

By Prakash Katoch
October 13, 2014  

Immediately post Ayman al-Zawahiri announcing establishment of an India Wing of Al Qaeda, prompt came a US media report quoting US counter-terrorism expert Bergen that there is no evidence of Al Qaeda presence in India. Interestingly, link to this news report was pasted on Twitter by a Pakistani national with the comment that other similar US experts had said not long back that there is no ISIS in Syria. Al-Zawahiri’s video broadcast was reportedly from a location close to the Af-Pak border, most likely inside Pakistan. With the hospitality extended to Osama-bin-Laden, there is no reason why al-Zawahiri would not be lodged in a ‘safer’ safe house than what Laden had. Al-Zawahiri said it had taken two years to unite various Mujahideen groups in India, while nominating Asim Umar, a Pakistani radical Al Qaeda’s South Asia head. Shaped in radicalized seminaries and madrassas of Pakistan, Asim Umar distinguished himself by facilitating Osama-bin-Laden's covert move to the safe-house in Abbotabad till Seal Team 6 killed him. Umar is tasked with Al Qaeda operations from Afghanistan to Myanmar, his mother organization HUJI having cells in Kashmir, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Al-Zawahiri had earlier warned his fighters against attacking Sikhs, Hindus and other religious groups, saying Al Qaeda’s only interest in India was Kashmir. But in recent times Sikhs are being forced to flee Afghanistan and being killed in cold blood in Peshawar right under the nose of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) that came up with radical support. Not very long back Imran Khan himself was voicing support for rule of Sharia – read Islamic Caliphate, not democracy.

Recently, a report by Dean Nelson in the Telegraph said the newly formed India Wing of Al Qaeda attacked what they believed was an American aircraft carrier with the intention of taking it into custody, but instead found a Pakistan Navy frigate and suffered three killed and four captured dismally failing in the attempt, while two Pakistani navy guards were wounded. This is unlike Al Qaeda operations. Why would the India group strike a Pak frigate so poorly in Karachi when al-Zawahiri has access to the ISI directly as well as through the Haqqani Network? Besides it is known that Al Qaeda had trained its fighters with the Sea Tigers of LTTE years back and as early as 12 October 2000 had undertaken suicide bombing of US Navy’s guided missile destroyer (USS Cole) killing 17 US sailors, injuring 39 and creating a 40 feet by 60 feet gash on port side of the ship. The report emanating from Islamabad in the Telegraph was likely mere ISI propaganda, reinforced by another contradictory report two days later that the Pakistani frigate had actually been seized by Al Qaeda fighters.

Simultaneous to raising Taliban in Pakistan to oust Soviets from Afghanistan, the US-Saudi-ISI nexus also raised Al Qaeda in Afghanistan for the same reason, as admitted by Hillary Clinton. It is well known that despite the show of killing Osama-bin-Laden, the US has been using Al Qaeda against Libya, Syria and Iraq, and that the ISIS itself is a creation of the US-Suadi Arabia nexus targeting Syria, Iraq and ultimate objective being Iran. Experts question the video message of al-Zawahiri; some speculating this could be on ISI instance to divert attention from an imploding Pakistan, others feeling it would not be easy for Al Qaeda to establish in India. But would SIMI and IM not be more than ready to do Al Qaeda bidding because of radical ideology and just the money? With tons of narcotic finances, when Afghan Taliban help TTP financially, why would they not fund Al Qaeda operations in India with al-Zawahiri reiterating support for Mullah Omar?

But besides IM, SIMI and HUJI cells what other connections Al Qaeda has in India? Around 2008-2010, a number of media reports emerged about Popular Front of India (PFI) with photographs of armed cadres in combat dress and terrorist training camps running in forested areas in Kerala. These reports citing R&AW indicated Al Qaeda, Taliban and LeT links with PFI for past several years. One report stated in October 2008, four LeT recruits of PFI killed in Kupwara trying to exfiltrate to POK and that as per R&AW, PFI radicals were going to Pakistan since 1992. The mysterious part is that all these reports have been defaced from the internet including an explicit one titled ‘Jihad’s Southern Outpost’ published in The Pioneer on 15 July 2010, revealing: ample evidence of ISI operating in Kerala going back to early 1990s; raid on house of Mansoor, PFI (formerly the NDF) leader of Ernakulam seizing publicity material with unmistakable link to Taliban and Al Qaeda – plans to monitor naval preparedness at Southern Naval Command and sneaking into defence exhibition at Kochi naval base to collect information; economic terrorism in Kerala including smuggling in fake currency worth crores; armed Pakistani national and Al-Badr coordinator with Kerala roots arrested in October 2006 with accomplice who reportedly helped LeT’s South India commander Thadiyantavide Nazeer in the Bangalore bombing of 3rd March 2006; raid at Mansoor’s house yielding documents that spoke of huge sums of money being pumped into the PFI from abroad; recovery of disgusting campaign material of Al-Qaeda-Taliban from another PFI leader, Kunjumon - CDs containing terrorists executing those sentenced by Al Qaeda and Taliban Islamic Courts - decapitation of girls and women and repulsive mutilation of their bodies amidst cheering radicals, and; on 4 July 2010, PFI radicals cutting off right arm of a college professor at Muvattupuzha. All this indicates a larger conspiracy. The only reference to PFI radicalization on the internet is by Wikipedia citing PFI appeal to Kerala High Court against possible government ban as a terrorist organization and the Court absolving them of Al Qaeda links, which is hardly surprising considering involvement of Kerala state politicians. Would it not be outright stupid to ignore this Al Qaeda base which is lying dormant perhaps in accordance with an overall plan that would be activated at the chosen moment? So much for the western expert of no evidence of Al Qaeda links in India.

Ceasefire Violations: Has the time come to call the Pakistan’s bluff

10 Oct , 2014

Heavy firing by Pakistani troops from across the International Border in RS Pura sector in Jammu region began on the night of Oct 5th. Since then it has been “continuing intermittently” as I write. Most of the casualties on the Indian side happened when shells landed in Arnia village during the initial salvos.

The naivety of Jawahar Lal Nehru who halted the winning Indian army in its tracks and went to UNO for help managed this issue to get internationalised, the consequences of which are still suffered by India till date.

Indian security forces have responded effectively and extensively. They have swiftly gained an upper hand in this heavy exchange of mortar fire witnessed so far. On the night of 9-10 Oct the border largely remained peaceful as the firing was reported only in Samba sector for about 15 minutes. Arun Jaitely’s warning and response of our security forces seems to have worked.

On the 9th of Oct, the Indian Defence Minister Mr Arun Jaitely issued a stern warning to Pakistan over its continued firing across the International Border escalating tensions. He said addressing a press conference, “If Pakistan persists with this adventurism our forces will make the cost of this adventurism unaffordable.” He further said “India is a responsible state. It is never an aggressor. But at the same time, it has a paramount duty to defend its people and its territory. Our Armed Forces particularly the Army and the BSF in this case have only one option – that is to respond adequately and defend our territory and our people.”

Soon in response to Arun Jately there was a statement from the Pakistani counterpart. Pakistan’s Defence Minister Mr Khawaja Asif said that the country is capable of responding “befittingly” to Indian actions on the border of Jammu and Kashmir. Reminding India of Pakistan’s nuclear umbrella, he said, “We do not want the situation on the borders of two nuclear neighbours to escalate into confrontation,” Mr Khawaja Asif advised India to demonstrate caution and behave with responsibility.

Pakistan has fought three major wars with India in the past. The 1947-48 Jammu and Kashmir conflict was the first war between the two countries. India claims victory in the fact that they prevented the Pakistanis from annexing the state by timely armed intervention. This was initiated under the internationally accepted legal framework in case of accession. On the contrary Pakistan draws comfort in the fact that the armed intervention by its tribal’s supported by the military, she could manage to grab a large portions of the state of Jammu and Kashmir which otherwise was next to impossible. The naivety of Jawahar Lal Nehru who halted the winning Indian army in its tracks and went to UNO for help managed this issue to get internationalised, the consequences of which are still suffered by India till date.

…India should not lose this opportunity in calling the Pakistani nuclear bluff by hitting out at the enemy well below the threshold…

The defeats of 1965 and utter humiliation and military disgrace of 1971 has not forced Pakistan to acquiesce to India but on the contrary hardened its resolve to fight the mighty neighbour. Its strategic objective is not limited to the bilateral dispute of Kashmir alone. As per Christine Fair, Pakistan’s military literature clearly maintains that the Pak Army also aims to resist India’s position of regional dominance and global ascent. Pakistanis consider threat from India in ideological and civilization terms rather than those of security. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s statement in the UNGA last month is a testimony to this strategic line of thought of Pakistan’s establishment.

Hacker Group Releases Data From Chinese Govt Sites


The 'Anonymous' group of computer hackers yesterday followed up on its threat made to release data from Chinese government websites in support of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The group released hundreds of phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the Ningbo Free Trade Zone in Zhejiang province and a job-search site run by the Changxing county administration, also in the coastal province, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported today.

Anonymous took the action shortly after the government denounced the group's threat of cyberattacks, which were apparently in support of the protesters.

The data also included individual IP addresses and names.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said earlier that the threat shows that China is a victim of cyber assaults and faced a major threat from international hacker groups.

It was not immediately clear why the two websites were targeted.

Anonymous said it had already infiltrated more than 50 mainland government databases and leaked 50,000 user names and e-mails, saying it was fulfilling promises to "stand and fight alongside the citizens of Hong Kong".

The group had earlier targeted Hong Kong sites after issuing a first warning on October 2.

In a public video message, Anonymous declared 'cyberwar' on the government and police force for the use of tear gas against demonstrators, the Post report said.

Anonymous made some sites either inaccessible or intermittently accessible on October 3.

Michael Gazeley, managing director of security service provider Network Box, said it was difficult to judge "whether (the earlier attacks) really are (the work) of Anonymous to start with" because Anonymous is a loosely associated group, the Post report said.

Tibet: why is China so nervous?

09 Oct , 2014

China is slowly but surely tightening its grip on Tibet.

The latest sign is the ‘upgradation’ of the status of the Tibet Armed Police’s Political Commissar.

The Global Times yesterday announced : “China’s Central Military Commission upgraded the political status of the political commissar of the Armed Police Corps of the Tibet Autonomous Region, indicating the central government’s determination to safeguard regional stability”.

Major General Tang Xiao, the Political Commissar of the Tibet Armed Police Corps, under the People’s Armed Police, will now enjoy a new ‘treatment’. He will be treated at par with the head of a corps-sized military body…

The Communist mouthpiece quotes ‘experts’.

Major General Tang Xiao, the Political Commissar of the Tibet Armed Police Corps, under the People’s Armed Police, will now enjoy a new ‘treatment’. He will be treated at par with the head of a corps-sized military body, (equal to that of officials at a provincial or ministerial level, according to The Global Times). However, the Tibet Corps itself has not been upgraded.

The Global Times explains to its readers: “Under the dual leadership of the State Council and the Central Military Commission, the Chinese People’s Armed Police is composed of internal security forces and various police forces, including border security, firefighting and security guard units.”

Niu Zhizhong, Chief of Staff of the PAP announced Tang’s promotion at a press conference on October 3.

Niu said that ‘better treatment’ for the head of Armed Police in Tibet “is a major decision made by Central Military Commission based on the special environment and strategic position of the Tibet Armed Police.”

The objective of Tang’s promotion is to better safeguard regional stability.

Lt. Gen. Tang Xiao

Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military expert told The Global Times that: “It is not unusual that heads of certain military bodies, which are usually located in strategically important areas or suffer from harsh living conditions, are given certain benefits through their ‘treatment’ being improved.”

One online commentator said that it is an official announcement of the militarization of the People’s Armed Police in Tibet.

Strategic Estrangement: An Odd Bedfellow to Economic Engagement

Vijay Shankar
Former Commander-in-Chief, Strategic Forces Command of India

The inextricable interdependence of survival of China’s despotic leadership, its economic growth and stability of State-controlled Capitalism poses a curious dilemma when large democratic economies choose to expand and boost economic engagement. This is particularly so when there exists unresolved geo-strategic fissures. And yet, the overriding importance of political stability and economic growth (in that order) to China’s Communist Party leadership presents an opportunity to best influence China.

Of the ten bloodiest massacres in history five of them occurred in China (Qing conquest of the Ming Dynasty 1618-83, casualties 25 million; Taiping rebellion 1850-64, casualties 20 million; An Lushan rebellion 755-63, casualties 13 million; Dungan Revolt 1862-77, casualties 10 million; Chinese Civil War 1927-50, casualties 7.5 million). It can hardly be accidental that all five were internal to China. Neither is it coincidental that this part of their grisly past is an important determinant of their resolve to suppress uprisings whether in Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen Square or indeed in the current more-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The so called “Umbrella Revolution” has thus far resisted strong arm tactics; the State buying off local tycoons and using veiled threats of the use of disproportionate force. The underlying fear of encroachment of the Party’s authoritarian values on Hong Kong’s way of life is at the core of dissent. Nonetheless a vacillating leadership runs the risk of being perceived as weak when withholding the impulse to action. All the while an edgy mainland China watches uneasily. The Party knows full well that to loosen grip is the first step down the slippery slope to political instability. 

On the growth front China is at that stage in development when expectations and standards of living of its citizens can no longer be nourished by the diminishing sheen of the “China Price.” The IMF World Economic Outlook for 2014-15 marks a downward GDP growth forecast for China to under 7 per cent by 2015 as the economy attempts to make the transition to a more sustainable path along the service and technology sectors. This relative slow down puts a poser before Beijing: the only guarantee of the passivity of the masses is a satisfied populace; dissatisfaction amongst the citizenry animated by the urge to more democracy provides the recipe for mass upheavals, so how best can the current politico-economic situation be bridled?

In the meanwhile India finds itself fortuitously positioned. Politically, the Modi-dispensation’s has a resounding mandate and economically, there is an avowed emphasis on development, prodding an upward growth trend (indicated by the same IMF report), reaching 7 per cent by 2015 - a combination of both factors provides the vehicle to not just influence Sino-Indian relations but also to resolve our prickly border predicament. According to a study by the PHD Chamber of Commerce, an industry trade group in New Delhi, China has become India’s largest trading partner and in the wake of Premier Xi Jinping’s recent visit to India, targeting bilateral trade of over US$100 billion is not only achievable but also would make India amongst China’s top five trading partners.

Economic intertwining comes with its own set of tilting levers which may be actuated to mutually settle the tricky border situation. It must be kept in perspective that the 3,225 km border (un-demarcated in the main) has been influenced historically by considerable cartographic jugglery. Significant to the boundary situation are the Johnson Line of 1865 which placed the Aksai Chin in Kashmir (which the British never took seriously); and the McCartney-MacDonald Line of 1899 which showed Aksai Chin as Chinese. China was not a signatory to either of these frontier delineations. However, by the second decade of the 20th century as both China and Russia lapsed into turmoil the Raj sensed a closure to the ‘Great Game’ and the border was redrawn to the original territorially favourable Johnson Line.

At the time of India’s independence in 1947, the Johnson Line in the north and the McMahon Line in the east, also not ratified by China, were inheritances of the partition award. Both independent India and China harboured no apparent conflicting territorial claims. But the annexation of Tibet in 1950 and the consequent moves aimed at strategic consolidation of the Aksai Chin to conform to the McCartney-MacDonald Line presaged the coming armed clash of 1962. It is of some consequence to note that in 1960; Premier Zhou Enlai had ‘unofficially’ offered a quid pro quo in Aksai Chin and the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA); that India accept the McCartney Line while China would abandon its claims across the McMahon Line. The time for this ‘grand bargain’ has perhaps arrived.

Geopolitics and international relations are often greatly influenced by timing events to capitalise on circumstances. For India to consider on the one hand strategic estrangement of China while on the other intensify economic engagement, at a time when Beijing faces the prospects of a slow down in growth coupled with restiveness amongst its citizens is to miss the opportunity to bring about stability on our borders and indeed in relations. In turn this can only spur growth, which for both nations is currently most desirable. The time to resurrect Zhou’s ‘grand bargain’ is at hand and as Mark Twain put it, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

China's Hong Kong Nightmare Is Back

October 10, 2014

The Hong Kong government’s decision to scuttle proposed talks with representatives from the protest movement could very well mark an important turning point. 

The Hong Kong government’s decision to scuttle proposed talks with representatives from the protest movement on the island that were originally scheduled to take place this weekend demonstrates just how uncertain, and potentially volatile, the situation there remains. Thus, this new development in what increasingly appears to be a long story is worthy of analysis, as it may prove to be an important turning point in this round of the conflict.

Earlier in the week, when talks were announced, they had the effect of taking quite a bit of air out of the protest movement’s collective balloon. In other words, even as some expressed skepticism about the sincerity of the offer, the initial announcement was seen by most as a way out of the dangerous impasse the two sides had reached. Most signs in the streets came down, and it seemed like it was time for everyone to go home.

With the threat of mass demonstrations dissipating, the bargaining position of Beijing and local Hong Kong officials vis-à-vis the protesters appeared to be strengthened. It is possible to surmise that this gave the powers that be the confidence to feel that they could now pull a bait and switch on the talks themselves. In short, this would seem to be a move of rather acute political gamesmanship.

However, such an interpretation of events suggests a level of policy coordination and cooperation, not to mention strategic foresight, that strikes me as quite extraordinary. Hong Kong is in the place it now finds itself because of policy dysfunction within the Special Autonomous Region, and heavy-handedness from Beijing, not due to adroit maneuvering by either party.

Is it possible that those in power have now become such skilled operatives that they can game out such a complex and unfolding set of variables? It is relatively safe to assume this is not the case. On the contrary, the abrupt policy reversals, shifts and inconsistencies in policy making are more the result of divisions and differences within the halls of power over in both Hong Kong and Beijing over how to handle the protests. Such infighting is then producing not a brilliant manipulation of the protest movement, but instead an incredibly confounding approach to the situation on the ground. In other words, policy is more a case of going left then right, forward then back, zigzagging to and fro, than it is one of an intricate, well-thought-out play. It more resembles the actions of the fabled keystone cops than those of thoughtful strategists.

This being the case, one might insist that there is, indeed, a degree of policy coordination, not dysfunction, in the decision to torpedo talks before they even begin. Within such a frame, it may also be argued that such a decision was a wise move on the part of the Hong Kong government. However, the short-term benefit of pulling the protests back from the brink earlier this week will be far outweighed by the long-term costs of an even greater erosion of trust on the part of the Hong Kong people toward those who govern them. It is certain to leave those who had already turned against the political power structure even more disaffected and less likely to compromise the next time that temperatures rise, while also generating broader sympathy for the protesters among the wider Hong Kong population. Reneging on the commitment to talks is then a move that could easily backfire.

The Battle for Kobani

OCT 8, 2014

For weeks now, ISIS militants in northern Syria have been attacking the Kurdish city of Ayn al-Arab, also known as Kobani, attempting to seize the city and solidify control of the territory. In the past few days, U.S.-led airstrikes on ISIS have included many targets around Kobani, and appear to have at least slowed their advance for the moment. Kobani is situated on a hillside right on the Syria-Turkey border, a border crossed by tens of thousands of Kurds fleeing their besieged city. Now, some of these refugees and fellow Kurds from southern Turkey have gathered on the border to watch the battles in Kobani through binoculars and cameras. Some Kurdish forces remain in the city, defending against invading militants, supported by Western aircraft and missiles, while ISIS continues to attack with artillery, mortars, suicide bombings, and small arms. CNN reports that senior U.S. administration officials conceded that Kobani will likely soon fall to ISIS, but downplayed the importance of the loss. [32 photos]

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Smoke rises after an U.S.-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani Ocotber 8, 2014. U.S.-led air strikes on Wednesday pushed Islamic State fighters back to the edges of the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani, which they had appeared set to seize after a three-week assault, local officials said. The town has become the focus of international attention since the Islamists' advance drove 180,000 of the area's mostly Kurdish inhabitants to flee into adjoining Turkey, which has infuriated its own restive Kurdish minority and its NATO partners in Washington by refusing to intervene. (Reuters/Umit Bekas)

A satellite view of Kobani, Syria, the border with Turkey evident across the top of the image. See it mapped here. (© Google, Inc) #

A Turkish forces armored vehicle in Mursitpinar, on the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, patrols the border road, backdropped by Kobani inside Syria, on October 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) #

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, on October 6, 2014.(Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Turkish Kurd uses binoculars in Mursitpinar to watch the intensified fighting between ISIS militants and Kurdish forces in Kobani, Syria, on October 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) #

'Shock and Awe' the Islamic State

October 11, 2014

The air campaign against the Islamic State needs to concentrate firepower in time. 

One imagines the ghosts of Lord Cornwallis, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the Duke of Wellington are frowning at the slow-motion air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Not because airplanes and precision-guided munitions are engines of war beyond the ken of 18th- and 19th-century soldiery. Hardly. Cornwallis, Lafayette, and Wellington were steely-eyed field commanders, possessed of minds supple enough to adapt to newfangled gadgetry and warmaking methods.

Masters of land warfare would intuitively grasp this novel form of long-range fire support. And indeed, despite what its most ardent champions claim, air power did not usher in some novus ordo seclorum. Successfully executed, air strategy helps commanders mass superior might at crucial places and times, advancing the strategic and political aims for which societies undertake martial endeavors. Despite today’s gee-whiz weaponry, there’s nothing especially new-age or incomprehensible about that. It’s Strategy 101 — and timeless.

No. What these fighters from a bygone age would find objectionable is the slow, intermittent character of this air war that (apparently) dare not speak its name. They would upbraid its overseers for neglecting tactical and operational principles at which European armies of their day excelled. Victorious hosts outmatched their antagonists when and where it mattered. In the days of musketry — of wildly inaccurate, muzzle-loaded, smoothbore weaponry — that meant lining up, synchronizing fire at close range, and thereby transmitting a sudden pulse of combat power.

Or rather, delivering as many successive pulses as their fire discipline and enemy counterfire permitted. That gave linear tactics their shock effect. An armed force’s strength derives both from physical capacity — numbers and quality of armaments, and so forth — and from resolve. Disciplined volleys struck at both elements of strength simultaneously. Or as the crusty army colonel who acted as cruise director for our faculty outing to the Saratoga battlefield bellowed stated meekly, “linear tactics were not stupid!!!”

And indeed, whittling down enemy manpower while sapping enemy morale is no small achievement. Ultimately, once orderly fusillades became ragged, commanders ordered soldiers to fix bayonets and charge. Neat ranks gave way to hand-to-hand combat. How the ensuing mêlée unfolded determined who won the field — and the day.

Coupla takeaways from those thrilling days of yesteryear for strategy vis-á-vis ISIS. One, strive for that thunderclap of force and the shock effect it imparts. Field commanders of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic age concentrated firepower in space, sure. Grouping men-at-arms on the battlefield was their only way to wring serious value from rudimentary firearms. But the Napoleons bestriding Europe also concentrated firepower intime. They unleashed hails of bullets as close to the same instant as their troopers could manage.

Fear, Inertia, and Islam

October 9, 2014 

“Start with what is right rather than what is acceptable.”

– Franz Kafka

The conventional wisdom about strategic inertia, doing little or nothing, is that whatever might be done might make things worse. No proof is ever offered for such reasoning because none ever exists. The future is unknowable.

A forecast or estimate is not a prophecy, and both have shaky legs. Most deductive reasoning proceeds from asserted conclusions or lame assumptions in any case. The conventional wisdom, or beaten path, is often more convenient than it is wise.

Fear of consequence inspires inaction or timidity. Predators and aggressors thrive on panic, indecision, and weakness. The consequences of fear are well known. The associated behavioral evidence is well understood too.

Vertebrates, including humans, usually react to threats one of four ways: fight, flight, freeze, or faint. Autonomic experts now include related responses like arousal and acute or prolonged stress.

Although there seem to be six possible visceral responses to threat, one or more in combination is likely - and fight might be the most unlikely for modern men. You could argue that a typical human response to fear or threat is a series of half measures – some amalgam of indecisiveness that often confuses friend and foe alike.

The Islamist threat, terror and small wars, might be a case study of contemporary collective inertia, decades of half measures in the West where candid analysis and common sense policies are hostage to dread, the unreasonable fear that analytical truth or decisive political/military action will make matters worse.

Boko Haram, the Muslim slave traders of East Africa, is an example. Their depredations are euphemized as “child trafficking.” These Sunni Islamists were exempt from a “terrorist” designation for years until their atrocities went wholesale, seizing an entire girl’s school.

ISIS Executioner

Government and academic analyses of the Egyptian based Muslim Brotherhood (al Ikhwan) suffered from the same immunities. Brotherhood affiliates and derivatives now girdle the globe. Some peddle rhetorical imperialism while others (like al Qaeda and Hamas) are blatantly kinetic. Terror is a function of propaganda, the knife, the bomb – and passive victims.

Threat inflation is a no-lose hedge, underestimates can be fatal.

The Egyptian and Libyan examples are illustrative. Western Media, Washington, and Brussels tried to put lipstick on the Brotherhood pig (nee Arab Spring). A military coup was necessary to restore civility in Cairo. Any Janissary is preferable to every theocracy.

In Libya, a failed state was the price of regime change. Gadhafi doesn’t look so bad in retrospect. Europe and America now pay lip service to democracy in Arabia for all the wrong reasons.

Boko Haram and al Ikhwan are but two of the dozens of Sunni Islamist groups that are treated with deference or kid gloves. Now comes the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The American Commander-in-Chief (CINC) prefers to call the “new” threat ISIL, the Islamic State in the Levant.

Clearly the White House, or John Brennan at CIA, is rebranding another Islamist terror splinter to mask the horrid truth about the latest mutation of Islam. Renaming ISIS also serves to fudge serial military folly and failure in Iraq and Syria. Oval Office spin is an easy sell to a Facebook or Twitter generation that might think the Levant is a hookah bar in Soho.