6 January 2014

Year of the small

by Bibhu Prasad Routray — January 3, 2014 

Most of the violence in Indian conflict theatres, including the northeast, is being perpetrated by militant outfits with very small cadre strength.

As 2013 drew close, Assam’s hilly Karbi Anglong district showed signs of lapsing into yet another bout of instability. On 27 December, militants of the Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers (KPLT) opened indiscriminate fire in villages inhabited by Rengma Naga tribals, killing four persons, three of them women. A retaliatory attack followed with cadres of the Naga Rengma Hills Protection Force (NRHPF) militant group, representing the Rangma Nagas, killing two KPLT militants inside a dense forest the next day. In counter-retaliations, KPLT militants, on 28 December, torched seven houses belonging to Rengma tribals, forcing the district administration to impose a curfew. A day later, another nine houses were torched. The toll of dead reached eight after two more dead bodies were recovered. By 31 December, over 1500 people had fled their homes and were being housed in three relief camps set up by the administration. The Nagaland Chief minister has written to the Prime Minister and his counterpart in Assam warning that “continuance of violence, intimidation, threats and exodus of people from Karbi Anglong may snowball into a situation with very grave consequences.”

There are several ways of interpreting the incident- an acrimonious ethnic divide between the Karbis and the Rengmas, livelihood issues, land encroachment, and the insecurity created by the Nagas among the non-Nagas. Irrespective of the interpretation influenced by one’s intellectual inclination, it is undeniable that violence of this nature gets a life and subsequent escalation by the militant formations thriving under the benign neglect of the state.

The KPLT was formed in January 2011. A disgruntled faction of the Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF), which laid down arms in February 2010, KPLT itself has undergone several splits. Initially formed with a cadre strength of 25 cadres, the KPLT, in three years, has added only 15 members to its army and boasts a cadre strength of 40. With a number of sophisticated arsenals, its finances have been sourced from rampant extortion activities. In the latest instance, the tax imposed by the KPLT on orange cultivation by the Rengma villagers and the latter’s refusal to abide by the diktats led to the violence. KPLT had warned that the non-complying villagers would have to vacate the area. Within its short history, KPLT has emerged as one of the most violent outfits in the state recording over 30 violent incidents in 2013.

No arbitrary transfers, no corruption in procurements

by Gulzar Natarajan — January 3, 2014

For ending corruption and improving governance, we need to institutionalise reforms in personnel deployments and procurements by the government.

There are no more important contributors to our governance failures and pervasive corruption than the unhealthy practices that corrode personnel deployments and procurements by government agencies.Frequent and arbitrary transfers of officials are a feature of personnel management within government agencies across India. Political leaders prefer their favourites in important positions to exercise influence over the department as well as to further their personal rent-seeking ambitions. The former is essential to dispense political patronage through preferential and extra-legal access to public services. The later generates the rents from political power.

It is no secret that in many parts of India local caste relations and political equations determine the appointment of important officials like Tahsildars and police Station House Officers (SHO), who then owe allegiance to their political patrons. Positions that involve high-stakes regulatory and procurement responsibilities are among the most politicised. These so called “focal posts” are the object of fierce competition among officials, who are motivated by rent-seeking considerations. A mutually beneficial partnership develops between political leaders and officials.

This partnership corrodes the bureaucratic rules of the game. Emboldened by political support, the official feels no longer accountable to either his external stakeholders or superiors within the department. It is therefore no surprise that the local SHO becomes unresponsive even in the face of egregious injustice or the Deputy Executive Engineer pays lip-service to his Superintending Engineer. The administrative system gets enfeebled and quality of public service delivery suffers.

Procurement of goods and services by government agencies is the other important source of governance failures.Procurements vary from student hostel kitchen provisions and office supplies to outsourcing hospital cleanliness and awarding large engineering contracts. Like with personnel deployments, political leaders are attracted by the patronage and rent-seeking opportunities that come with favoring one supplier over another. They enlist the services of collaborators within the bureaucracy to game the procurement process. Poor quality of goods and services are procured. Efficient and superior contractors and service providers get crowded out. The system gets entrapped in a vicious spiral of inefficiency and squandering of public funds.


06 January 2014
Sapna Singh

‘Indigenous’ terror group supported by Pakistan

South Asia expert Stephen Tankel's recent study of the Indian Mujahideen only proves what has been known for long within India's strategic circles — the terror group is propped up by Pakistani elements, and it is the lifeblood that it receives from across the border which makes this ‘home-grown' outfit so lethal and destructive. Mr Tankel’s detailed report exposes how the Indian Mujahideen has been nurtured, especially in its initial years, by well-established terror groups in Pakistan such as the Laskhar-e-Tayyeba.

Unsurprisingly, the LeT is also known to be the Inter-Services Intelligence agency's preferred weapon to fight its proxy war against India. The study underlines how the relative success of the Indian Mujahideen has allowed Pakistan the luxury of changing its terror-export policy for India. From using Pakistani nationals to carry out attacks on India, the focus is now on recruiting Indian locals for the job. This brings Pakistan the benefit of plausible deniability which is a major plus point, according to Mr Tankel, as terror groups there, along with their patrons in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, seek to navigate the ongoing peace process with New Delhi.

Consequently, the focus is on disaffected Indian Muslim youths, who are trapped in the victim narrative and tempted by the prospect of avenging the ‘wrongs’. This understanding of how external factors exacerbate internal faultlines should be an eye-opener for Indian Mujahideen apologists in the country who justify the group's violence as a reaction to the ‘marginalisation’ of Muslims in India. While it is true that recruiters play on this alleged sense of social injustice and use emotive events to manufacture a sense of political persecution, the fact is that without Pakistani support, the Indian Mujahideen would not have been capable of the kind of damage that it has been doing.

A number of major terror attacks in India — from Patna to Hyderabad, in recent years — have been attributed to the Indian Mujahideen. Yet, not so long ago, high-ranking Government officials claimed that the group simply did not exist. Back in 2008, a member of the Colombo-bound delegation on board the Prime Minister's aircraft had famously said: “There is no such thing as Indian Mujahideen”. More than five years later, Mr Tankel's study of the group's organisational structure offers a more a nuanced understanding of that statement. The Indian Mujahideen is a loosely-knit umbrella group with a decentralised leadership.

One nation, one grid

January 6, 2014

The integration of the southern power grid with the national grid fulfils a long-felt need of consumers and state electricity utilities in the South. The integration was achieved when the Power Grid Corporation of India commissioned a 765-kilovolt transmission line between Raichur and Solapur on New Year’s Day, five months ahead of schedule. The southern grid is the third largest in terms of power consumption amongst the five regional grids and is perennially starved of power. With a base energy deficit of 7.7 per cent that shoots up to 12.5 per cent during peak hours (as per latest data from the Central Electricity Authority), the southern grid has been hamstrung by inadequate generation capacity. The absence of synchronous connectivity with the national grid meant that the southern states could not take advantage of surplus power available in other regions. Currently, the southern grid has asynchronous connections with the other grids that enable transmission of high voltage direct current. But this is a cumbersome and inefficient way to transmit power and the capacity is limited. The completion of the commissioning process of the Raichur-Solapur line will synchronise the southern grid with the others in a single frequency and allow seamless transmission across the country; it will be a truly ‘one-nation-one-grid’ that will have 232 giga watts of installed capacity at its disposal.

To be sure, there are still technical procedures to be completed before the line becomes operational in the next few months but there is little doubt that it will help balance the power situation across the country. The southern states can now purchase power from the other regions to manage their deficit, but more important is the nationwide electricity market that will now come into being. There is a large disparity in traded short-term electricity prices between the south and the other regions due to the absence of transmission links. During the summer, for instance, traded electricity prices in the South are typically twice or even thrice the levels that prevail in the other regions. Hopefully, such disparities will now be a thing of the past. The responsibilities of the regulators and grid managers are now that much higher with the entire country united in a single grid. Lapses such as those that caused the western and northern grids to collapse on two consecutive days in July 2012 can lead to disastrous consequences in a unified grid. The regulators also need to keep an eye out on power exchanges and traders as their market expands with the entry of the southern grid and its eternally power-starved utilities. If integrating the country into a single grid was a challenge, then that will be rivalled by the task of efficiently managing it.

Printable version | Jan 6, 2014 11:12:30 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/one-nation-one-grid/article5542124.ece

© The Hindu

Foreign Policy Must Be Bolder

By Arvind Gupta

Published: 03rd January 2014

Indian foreign policy achievements in 2013 were mixed. While there was considerable diplomatic engagement, in critical areas there were many problems. At the bilateral level, India engaged at the highest levels with France, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Portugal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Australia, Turkmenistan, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Japan, the US, Singapore, Afghanistan, Iraq, Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea, to name a few. A large number of agreements and MoUs in diverse areas were signed.

India also maintained a high international profile during the year. The prime minister attended the 68th session of the UN General Assembly. India participated in CHOGM, BRICS, SCO, EAS, ARF and ASEAN-India meetings and hosted IBSA Summit as well as ASEM meeting.

Despite this proactivity, 2014 has begun for Indian foreign policy on a challenging note. The shocking mistreatment of a senior Indian diplomat by US authorities in New York, in contravention of the Vienna Convention for consular matters, has snowballed into an unprecedented crisis in bilateral relations. The incident has incensed public opinion in India creating a hugely negative image of the US. The crisis has also shown the fragility of the bilateral relationship that is going through a lean patch.

Sino-Indian relations, despite the two prime ministerial visits in either side in 2013, remain uneasy. The Depsang intrusion by the Chinese has created apprehensions in India about the behaviour of a rising China. Even today, it is not clear why the Chinese troops stayed in Depsang a good three weeks before the crisis could be resolved. The two sides signed a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement during the PM’s visit to Beijing but whether it will help avoid Depsang-like incidents in future is a question mark. India would have to be circumspect in dealing with an assertive and nationalistic Chinese leadership.

Relations with Pakistan are going nowhere despite the meeting of the two PMs in New York and the belated meeting of DGMOs. Hopes of a fresh start in Indo-Pak relations after the election of Nawaz Sharif have been totally belied. Repeated violations of ceasefire at the LoC, beheading of Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops, and the continuous infiltration attempts into Kashmir have hardened public opinion in India.

The contemporary resonance of 1971 War

by Srinath Raghavan — January 3, 2014

Was the 1971 Bangladesh crisis not only the moment of India’s greatest military triumph but also a grievous strategic error?

In the meantime, India and Bangladesh signed a treaty of friendship in 1972, and the two countries began to negotiate outstanding problems over territorial enclaves and sharing of river waters. But Dhaka’s attention was increasingly turned inward. The economy was a shambles, and reconstruction proved demanding. The overall economic productivity lagged well behind the prewar level, and the real income of agricultural and industrial workers sank to a lower level than in 1970. Economic management at all levels was rife with inefficiency and corruption. The global oil shock of 1973 sent the economy spiraling downward.

Further, Mujib’s government was challenged by a plethora of left- leaning political groups—particularly after the elections of 1973, which they claimed had been heavily rigged. During these years, Bangladesh teemed with militias formed by the freedom fighters and was awash with weapons. In an attempt to put down these insurrectionary trends, Mujib arrogated to himself emergency powers that undermined democratic rights and civil liberties.

Finally, sections of the Bangladesh army were disgruntled by the government’s creation and patronage of a paramilitary guard called the National Security Force. They were also peeved that their contribution to the liberation struggle was being downplayed. These perceptions were overlaid on an already problematic relationship between the army and the Awami League dating back to 1971. On 15 August 1975, a group of midranking army officers assassinated Mujib and several of his family members. A week later, four other members of the original Awami League high command—Tajuddin Ahmad, Syed Nazrul Islam, A. H. M. Kamruzzaman, and Mansoor Ali—were gunned down in their prison cells. The new president of Bangladesh, Khandakar Moshtaque Ahmad, granted amnesty to the killers. Soon, he was deposed in another coup by Major Ziaur Rahman. Bangladesh might have parted ways with Pakistan, but it continued to bear the mark of Cain in the form of military rule.


The tragic turn taken by Bangladesh soon after independence prompts a final counterfactual question. What if India had intervened early in the crisis of 1971? In his first meeting with D. P. Dhar in January 1972, Mujibur Rahman asked, “Why did India not intervene soon after the army crackdown in Bangla Desh?” Such an intervention, he observed “would have saved so much of suffering and valuable life.” Such an intervention had indeed been proposed, most forcefully by K. Subrahmanyam, and discussed. The reasons for India’s reluctance have already been examined, but in retrospect the case for an early intervention—in May 1971—seems strong.

A flashback to victory

Sanjaya Baru
Jan 06 2014

On the India-US nuclear deal, PM took the initiative, risked his government and triumphed.

Addressing the nation for the first time from the ramparts of Delhi’s Red Fort, on August 15, 2004, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared, playing on Robert Frost’s lines, “Today, I have no promises to make, but I have promises to keep.” The reference being to the fact that his agenda in office would be defined by the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) arrived at between the constituents of the coalition he headed. It is not a secret that almost every important policy initiative taken by the first United Progressive Alliance government (UPA 1), save the nuclear deal, was embedded in the NCMP. The historic India-US agreement for cooperation in the development of civil nuclear energy, and the subsequent end to what Singh has called “the nuclear apartheid” against India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), that normalised and “legitimised” India’s status as

a nuclear weapons power, was Singh’s own promise to the country that he finally kept.

The nuclear deal was not an NCMP commitment because it was only after Singh took charge as PM that he discovered that his predecessor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had initiated an important dialogue with President George W. Bush of the United States towards this end. When the deed was finally done, Singh told Vajpayee, as the two stood alone at Singh’s official residence, “I have completed what you began.”

It is not, therefore, surprising that when Prime Minister Singh was asked, at last week’s press conference in New Delhi, what he thought was the “high point” of his decade in office, he promptly said, “the best moment for me was when we were able to strike a nuclear deal with the United States to end the nuclear apartheid, which had sought to stifle the processes of social and economic change and technical progress of our country in many ways.”

That was indeed his personal achievement in office. The rest being the product of the UPA’s jointly adopted NCMP. Two criticisms have been levelled against Singh for claiming that getting the nuclear deal through was his “best moment”. The first criticism has come from the supporters of the UPA government who wonder why the PM mentioned the nuclear deal rather than any of the important “rights” legislated by the government. The right to employment, information, education and food, claim these critics, ought to have figured higher on the PM’s list. The second criticism has come from the UPA’s opponents who claim the nuclear deal was just a “dud” and has not added a single megawatt

of nuclear power to the country’s power generation capacity.

The second criticism is easily answered with facts. India’s nuclear power generation was going down month after month in the early 2000s with a decline in the availability of the required fuel. India’s domestic production of uranium was not meeting the requirements of the nuclear power sector and imports were constrained by international restrictions. What the nuclear deal did was to remove the external constraint. Having entered into the 123 agreement with India, the Bush administration lobbied with member countries of the NSG, including a recalcitrant China, to lift the restrictions on the supply of nuclear fuel to India. The capacity utilisation at India’s existing nuclear power plants has gone up from as low as 30 per cent in the months preceding the deal to over 80 per cent. India’s access to global supply of nuclear fuel is a concrete benefit of the nuclear deal. So, the deal was no “dud”.

Deepening mutual trust

January 6, 2014
Wei Wei

PTIChina’s Ambassador to India Wei Wei believes the two nations should focus on deepening mutual trust, promoting shared complementarities and strengthening cooperation in regional and international issues. Picture shows Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. 

Special ArrangementChina’s Ambassador to India Wei Wei. Photo: Chinese Embassy Press Attache

As China prepares for a new stage of reform and development, there are opportunities for cooperation between it and the rest of the world, including India

The year 2013 is a harvest year for Sino-Indian Strategic Cooperative Partnership, which witnessed great progress in friendship and fruitful cooperation. Three aspects are featured in a whole year of our relationship.

First, frequent and close high-level interactions between China and India with continually strengthened strategic trust with each other. Chinese President Xi Jinping met twice with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the Durban BRICS Summit and the G20 St. Petersburg Summit to outline a grand blueprint for future development of China-India relations; Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Dr. Singh exchanged visits within one year after a lapse of nearly 60 years, during which joint statements were issued and more then 10 agreements reached. The visits resulted in comprehensive plans of pragmatic cooperation in various fields between China and India. Moreover, the 16th Special Representatives’ Meeting for the China-India Boundary Question and the 5th China-India Strategic Dialogue were respectively held to enhance mutual communication and understanding between our two sides.Converging interests

Second, converging interests deepened between China and India with continually expanded cultural exchanges. Mechanisms like the China-India Strategic Economic Dialogue, Financial Dialogue, Joint Economic Group are becoming more effective while our cooperation has spread from trade in goods and project contracting to trade in service, etc. The two sides also reached consensus in principle to set up Chinese industrial parks in India, carry out railway cooperation and strengthen investment cooperation in order to find effective measures for balanced bilateral trade. The just-concluded first joint working group meeting of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor formally established the cooperation mechanism among the four countries which we believe will play an important role in the integration of interests for China and India, and for the region at large. It is also conducive to an early realisation of balanced trade between China and India and common prosperity in the region. China-India cultural exchanges continue to deepen with more and more people favouring each other’s country as their tourist destination. The number of tourists between our two countries increased steadily in 2013 and is expected to exceed 7.5 lakh. The two countries also signed three pairs of sister city agreements, held the first China-India Media Forum and exchanged visits of 100-youth delegations.Foreign affairs


There is little action from the Centre and states on electricity
Commentarao: S.L. Rao

Electricity in India has grown enormously. As it has grown, especially in the 1990s, it was also increasingly badly managed. The important reasons were the dominance of government ownership, control and management, and the complete absence of competition. While government investment without much commercial calculation rapidly expanded the system, it failed in other ways. As the sector grew, investments and revenues shot up, government ownership led to political meddling in tariff setting, employment in the operating companies, and the growing role of administrators in managing electricity enterprises.

By the early part of this century, State-owned distribution enterprises were losing vast sums of money. These losses were a charge on the state government budgets and diverted funds from building physical and social infrastructure, routine maintenance, renovation, modernization and investment for fresh capacities. Losses occurred due to free or below-cost supplies to poor and vulnerable groups in the state, excessive staffing, undisciplined staff, and collusion in theft. Beneficiaries of populist sops were not clearly identified. Many undeserving and thieving staff, benefited instead. Free or low-cost power to farmers was, without ensuring it, used only for irrigation. There was no limit on the number of pump-sets for which a farmer could get free power. There was no measurement or limit on the power supplied and consumed. What was shown as power consumed by agriculture included a lot that was actually stolen by other consumers, or concealed by the distribution enterprises under agriculture to hide their inability to prevent thefts.

The transmission and distribution systems were poorly managed, with ageing equipment and declining maintenance. Employees of the distribution enterprises colluded in thefts, hidden under normal transmission and distribution losses. While technical losses, as electricity went on the wires, should at worst be 8 per cent or so, they were as much as 55 per cent in some states, and not much less in many others. Government ownership led to a lack of interest in efficiency and loss of employee integrity, since losses would be at the cost of the state budget. If these enterprises had been commercial enterprises, they would have been declared as bankrupt years ago.

Long journey to the sky

January 6, 2014

It has been 30 years in the making, has cost Rs.172.69 billion, and will easily take another year if not more to clear the last lap. Tejas, the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd-manufactured Light Combat Aircraft that received its second “initial operational clearance” — it got the first IOC in January 2011 — and was inducted into the Indian Air Force last month, is meant to replace the ageing fleet of MiG21s and MiG27s. But that goal is still some years away. First, the aircraft needs to get its Final Operational Clearance. The IOC certifies that the aircraft can fly, the FOC that it can fight. In order to be certified as an operational fighter, the LCA, developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency, must undergo intensive trials of its weapons systems; the Air Force also wants it to be fitted with air-to-air refuelling capability. Going by the track record of the LCA project, all this could take the deadline for the FOC from December 2014 to mid-2015. Then too, the payload and agility of the Tejas will not match the IAF’s expectations. The supersonic LCA’s General Electric F404 engine — an indigenously developed engine did not quite cut it — will allow only short-range missiles and laser-guided 500-kg bombs, less weaponry than was originally budgeted for. The limited thrust of the engine will also curtail its agility. The IAF will have two squadrons of the LCA, that is, 40 planes including eight trainer craft. HAL hopes to roll them out fast enough for the first squadron to be in place by 2016. But what the IAF is waiting for is Tejas Mark II, which is to be equipped with the more powerful GE 414 engine. For that, however, the aircraft may need to be re-engineered, and the process could well take another 10 years or more.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony has said that India could eventually have 200 Tejas aircraft, mostly for the Air Force and some for the Navy. At nine tons, it is said to be the lightest in its category of fighter planes. The ADA says the Tejas Mark 1 is better than its contemporaries, such as the French Mirage 2000, the U.S. F-16 and the Swedish Gripen. Moreover, it has not met with a single accident during trials. But perhaps its greatest advantage is that at Rs.180 crore apiece, its cost is just one third that of similar aircraft even though more than a third of its parts, including the engine, are imported. Its operational costs too will be lower. Tejas is also a brave effort to break the monopoly of a select few in making fighter jets. It travels at least part of the way towards the goal of indigenisation of military hardware, and has provided India with valuable experience, that can be put to good use for the development of the planned fifth generation fighter aircraft and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft.

Printable version | Jan 6, 2014 11:12:41 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/long-journey-to-the-sky/article5542125.ece

*** Jihadist Violence: The Indian Threat



India has been confronting jihadist violence for decades. Yet these dynamics remain underexplored and difficult to comprehend, particularly in terms of ties to external jihadist groups.

India has been confronting jihadist violence for decades. Yet these dynamics remain underexplored and difficult to comprehend, particularly in terms of ties to either the Pakistani state or nonstate Pakistani and Bangladeshi jihadist groups. Expeditionary terrorism by Pakistani militants typically receives the most focus, but indigenous actors benefiting from external support are responsible for the majority of jihadist attacks within India. The Indian Mujahideen (IM) network that announced its presence in 2007 is only the latest and most well-known manifestation of the indigenous Islamist militant threat. A few Indian Muslims have been launching terrorist strikes—often with Pakistani support and sometimes on their own—for more than twenty years. Despite this steady drumbeat of at least partly indigenous attacks, Indian officials did not acknowledge the problem until the end of the 2010s. Instead, the overwhelming majority of attacks were blamed on nonstate Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups. Little attention was paid to investigating the dynamics of the Indian networks involved in perpetrating them. This contributed to a knowledge gap in understanding Indian jihadism. U.S. analysts, policymakers, and practitioners have highlighted the paucity of information regarding the nature and scale of the indigenous Indian jihad threat, the degree to which indigenous networks could threaten U.S. interests in India or across wider South Asia region, and the nebulous ties between Indian jihadist networks and Pakistan-based groups.

This report seeks to address these and other questions. It argues that the Indian Mujahideen—the primary indigenous jihadist threat—is part of a larger universe of Islamist militant entities operating in India, many but not all of which are connected to external entities such as the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Bangladeshi Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI-B). It also asserts that the IM should not be viewed as a formal organization, but instead is best understood as a label for a relatively amorphous network populated by jihadist elements from the fringes of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the criminal underworld. The improper use of the IM label for all indigenous jihadist violence contributes to confusion about its composition and cohesion. Today, the decentralized IM network has a loose leadership currently based in Pakistan, but moving between there and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The IM connects to and sometimes attempts to absorb smaller cells and self-organizing clusters of would-be militants. Finally, this report illustrates that the Indian jihadist movement formed organically and as a result of endogenous factors, specifically communal grievances and a desire for revenge, but is more lethal and more resilient than it otherwise would have been, thanks to external support from the Pakistani state and Pakistan- and Bangladesh-based militant groups. In other words, external support was a force multiplier for Indian militancy rather than a key driver of it. Although the IM receives support from LeT, it should not be viewed as an affiliate within the same command-and control hierarchy. This distinguishes the IM from some of the other LeT cells or operatives active in India.


06 January 2014 

Freedom-fighters of the pre-Gandhian phase have largely received a raw deal in history. It is time for us to remember their sacrifices

As the West prepares to mark the centenary of World War I in 2014, we would do well in India to observe the centenary of other efforts undertaken by our own forgotten countrymen in their quest for the country’s freedom. Lest a society such as ours, obsessively possessed with contemporary politics, forgets to pay that homage, a few lines in memorial or in preparatory commemoration may perhaps be in order.

While 1914 saw a large number of Indian soldiers fighting for the Empire in distant lands, it also saw a herculean effort made to stitch together a formidable global network in support of the Indian revolution. Sensing the opportunities in it for India, an intrepid group of Indian revolutionaries took advantage of the first Western conflagration to fan out across continents in support of their struggling compatriots at home and made efforts to spread the true story of an India in bondage.

Introducing his seminal work on the Indian revolutionaries and their network abroad, historian AC Bose, for example, made a poignant observation when he wrote that while it was perhaps true that India achieved her independence through non-violent means, “a fair section of patriotic Indians resorted to other means for the same end, and their struggles and sufferings strengthened the Indian national movement.” It was the saga of their sacrifice both at home and abroad, argued Bose, which “more than anything else provided the Indian national movement with the necessary emotional thrust and helped changing its tone from that of a sophisticated debating society to that of a popular struggle.”

2014 essentially announces the centenary of the actions of this very group. Some names which crowd the mind when recalling its heroic saga are those of Jatindranath Mukherjee, Rashbehari Bose, Taraknath Das, Sufi Amba Prasad, Sardar Ajit Singh, Pandurang Khankoje, Mahendra Pratap and a host of others. The formation of the Berlin Committee (Indian Independence Committee) during this period, of which Bhupendranath Dutta, younger brother of Swami Vivekananda was a leading light, the Komagata Maru episode, the martyrdom of Jatin in the battle of Balasore, the formation of the Provisional Government of Free India in Kabul, all these landmarks in the violent struggle for Indian freedom shall soon attain their centenary. Ironically they are names and events that are not so familiar anymore, is it perhaps because they have not left behind political heirs or ideological legacies.


Monday, 06 January 2014 | GP Semwal
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The Gujjars and the Bakerwals of J&K got the Scheduled Tribe status in April 1991 after decades of relentless struggle. But successive Kashmiri-dominated and valley-centric Governments have refused to grant them political reservation

Rajouri, Poonch, Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts in Jammu province and Kupwara and Baramulla districts in Kashmir, besides a few other places in the State, have few rivals as far their scenic beauty is concerned. A vast majority of those who inhabit these mountainous areas, rich in green-gold, charming vales, dales and meadows and fascinating waterfalls, streams and springs, are the tall, well-built and liberal-minded nomadic Gujjars and Bakerwals. They are also called ‘nature’s own children’ and ‘lords of forests’. Constituting nearly 15 per cent of the State’s population, they form the third largest community after the Jammu Dogras and Kashmiri-speaking ethnic Sunnis. They are all Sunni Muslims.

The Gujjars and the Bakerwals of Jammu & Kashmir form that segment of society in the State which leads a very difficult life. An overwhelming majority still rears buffalo, sheep and goats and lives in the temporarily-built huts which also house their animals. For most part of the year, the Gujjars and the Bakerwals are on the move from lower to higher altitudes and vice versa to locate pastures and grazing grounds. Sometimes they traverse a distance of no less than 300km along with their belongings, which include several hukkas, a large quantity of tobacco and maize flour and few blankets and silver utensils, and enter the Sindh Valley and the Baltal Valley. More importantly, they have been helping the security agencies in the anti-insurgency operations since 1989, when the secessionist and communal violence gripped parts of Kashmir valley and Muslim-dominated areas in Jammu province. 

They are indeed a community of colourful people. They can be easily spotted in any crowd owing to their peculiar costumes. They face all kinds of vagaries of nature, but the valley’s rulers and their agents in the Congress take no step to mitigate their hardship or to ameliorate their socio-cultural and politico-economic life. The fact of the matter is that they reel under the scourge of poverty and backwardness even after 65 years of independence and are preparing themselves to directly challenge the valley’s domination over the State’s political and administrative and economic structure.

They got the Scheduled Tribe status in April 1991 during the regime of Chandra Shekhar after decades of relentless struggle. But the successive Kashmiri-dominated and valley-centric Governments in the State have refused to grant them political reservation. All their efforts in this direction have failed to move the authorities in the State for obvious reasons and the most notable one is that the Kashmiri ruling elite believes that the grant of political reservation to these tribal people would erode the State’s so-called special status as granted by Article 370 of the Constitution.

Sadly, even the three Gujjar and Bakerwal Ministers in the Omar Abdullah-led National Conference-Congress coalition Government have failed their community members by not taking up this issue, in a bid to remain on the right side of the ruling forces.

Interestingly, these communities have seen a ray of hope in the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Mr Narendra Modi, who, in December last year, demanded a debate on Article 370 while addressing a ‘Lalkar Rally’ in Jammu, saying it had strengthened the separatist constituency in the State, promoted politics of regional discrimination and jeopardised the interests of the people.

Remodelling public sector banks

Privatisation to ensure capital-adequacy norms
Sanjeev Bansal

INDIAN banking is standing on the verge of “theatrical remodelling”, thanks to RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan's announcement. His enthusiasm for a "remodel" emerged way back in 2009 through the Committee on Financial Sector Reforms chaired by him. It is notable, however, that there is little novelty in the nature of the remodelling Rajan endorses. Whatever is being finished and what is scheduled to be completed are all schemes that were uncovered in the past by a string of committees — Narasimham I and II, Tarapore, Mistry, Rajan, to name a few.

RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has to go through a giant trial, which is grounded on the assurance to shake up the public sector banks

Rajan's impact appears in the fact that he has commenced executing, in true earnest, the numerous proposals that were in progression. Largely, there has been considerable development in two areas. The first is the series of measures that provide foreign banks larger access to and additional sovereignty in the native banking cosmos. The other is the subject of new private bank licences, for which submissions have been entertained from domestic conglomerates and business clusters as well. The latter had been kept out of this cosmos since bank nationalisation. However, with the committee to scrutinise and select the submissions in place, anticipation is that one or more business groups would re-enter Indian banking. Rajanomics seems to be working, aided by extensive media backing, and probably the fact that now elections would inhabit the nation's attention.

Given the expectations of the stakeholders, the current Governor has to go through a giant trial, which is grounded on the assurance to shake up the public sector banks. The post-reform approach of the government towards public banks has been contradictory. On the one hand, banks have been poked into loaning to areas such as the retail segment and infrastructure, resulting in a mounting size of non-performing loans and a rising volume of restructured corporate debt. While restructuring has facilitated camouflage the degree of inherent default and dress-up of the financial accounts of banks, even the RBI's just-released report on trends in banking articulates concerns about the state of public bank financial statements.

On the other, the RBI and the government seem dyed-in-the-wool to warranting that Indian banks meet the steadily tough capital adequacy requirements set by the new Basel guidelines. Three consequences flow from this assurance. First, since the early 2000s, the government has been forced to permeate capital into the public banking system to fortify their balance sheets and push them into compliance of universally recommended standards. The government has so far infused Rs.746 billion into the public banking system, with bulk of it having been provided since 2009. However, this is far insignificant of estimates of what the banks would need if Basel III has to be complied with.

Another Challenging Year Awaits for India’s Economy

Lower growth rates and stubborn inflation will keep the Reserve Bank of India on its toes.
January 06, 2014

India’s economic policymakers move into the New Year probably relieved that a very difficult 2013 has finally ended. However with low growth rates; persistent and problematic inflation; ongoing worries about when the U.S. Fed’s “taper” will actually kick in and what effects it will bring; and an uncertain political situation created by the upcoming summer elections, 2014 may turn out to be pretty difficult too.

The main economic growth figure India uses is based on a fiscal year ending each March. The figure released in March 2013 was at a decade low of only 5 percent. It seems likely that India’s 2013-14 fiscal year ending this March will bring an even lower figure, which the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) predicted may be 4.8 percent in a review document back in October.

The Reserve Bank of India remains extremely important in India’s multiple economic battles into 2014. Governor Raghuram Rajan surprised many when he chose to leave rates on hold a few weeks ago.

This rate hold was despite stubborn inflation figures for November. Consumer prices rose 11.24 percent in the month from a year earlier. Wholesale inflation came in at 7.52 percent for the same month. Food inflation remains a primary driver, and Rajan’s comment that “…We are not ignoring food inflation, but we would like to see through the noise. And for that, we want to wait for a month more” suggests that the RBI is indeed focusing on core inflation, or the rate of price change without food and energy costs included.

Rajan was also given a bit of reprieve by the stronger performance of the rupee since the “taper-scare” of the late summer and early autumn. Indeed the drop in the rupee (which was arrested soon after Rajan took over at the RBI and has risen 11 percent from its mid-2013 lows) was also a key driver of inflation. The RBI’s hold in December certainly feels more like a wait-and-see strategy ahead of December’s inflation data.

Even while trying to see through the “noise” of food volatility, the RBI cannot sit idly by if either inflation picks up again or the rupee sees further weakness. The outlooks for both remain unclear for January and February, and persistently high food prices will eventually feed through into wage and wider inflation.

After the 2013-14 GDP data release, India will already be heading into an election season that is sure to be another complicated and spectacular affair. Economic observers already have extremely high hopes for the post-election government in terms of enacting the difficult-but-necessary reforms if India’s growth is not going to fall much further during the 2014-2015 fiscal year. While Rajan and the RBI continue their skillful tactical battles with regard to the currency, inflation and growth; it is the second half of the year and more strategic economic reforms that will determine India’s economic fate. The post-election government will not have much time to get into gear.

Protests Greet New Year in Southeast Asia

Price hikes, minimum wage disputes and political corruption spark discontent.
January 06, 2014

Southeast Asia was rocked by street protests during the first week of the new year – a troubling preview of the unfolding political and economic crisis gripping many countries in the region. In Malaysia, consumers rallied against the looming price hikes in petrol, sugar and other basic products. In Cambodia, garment workers conducted a nationwide strike to push their demand for a pay hike. In Thailand, anti-government protesters are preparing to “shut down” Bangkok in the next few days.

If Bersih (clean) was the battle cry of election reform advocates in Malaysia in the past two years, Turun (down) was the rallying call of protesters who joined the annual New Year countdown at Dataran Merdeka park in Kuala Lumpur and used the occasion to denounce the rising cost of living in the country.

The action was organized mainly by students belonging to the Reduce Cost of Living Movement (Gerakan Turun Kos Sara Hidup) in response to the decision of the Malaysian government to cut fuel and sugar subsidies, making these products more expensive. In addition, price hikes are also expected in electricity tariffs, assessment rates for Kuala Lumpur properties, public transport fees and toll rates for highways.

Perhaps in anticipation of negative consumer reaction, the government announced that it will implement 11 austerity measures to prove that it is serious about rationalizing public spending. But this move didn’t satisfy protesters, who still proceeded with the Turun action.

For writer Zurairi AR, the successful Turun rally provided activists with an important lesson on how to effectively solicit the support of ordinary Malaysians. “The issues most dear to the people and capable of spurring massive turnouts are about civil liberties and bread-and-butter issues,” he said. “Turun was about the falling value of money in our wallets, and just like the others they attracted people from all walks of life.”

Meanwhile in Cambodia, tens of thousands of garment workers participated in a nationwide strike to press the government to raise the monthly minimum wage to $160 dollars. The current minimum wage is only $80 dollars, but the labor council is only willing to grant a $15 dollar hike in basic pay. As protests intensified, the government agreed to raise the minimum wage by another $5.

The garment sector is a $5 billion dollar export industry in Cambodia which employs more than 600,000 workers. Many of the leading clothing brands in the world get their supply from Cambodia, which has one of the lowest minimum wage rates in the Asia-Pacific.

China’s hi-tech emperors

04 Jan 2014

From a global online 'anything store’ to high-end smartphones challenging Apple, a generation of billionaire entrepreneurs is rising in the East

Global e-commerce is booming and Shanghai and other huge Chinese cities are alight with new ideas as the country shifts gear from assembly line to powerhouse of the technology industry. Photo: Alamy

A new generation is taking power in China. Not the grey graduates of Communist Party committees. But aggressive, entrepreneurial and often colourful internet billionaires.

As well as influencing domestic politics, several plan to break out on to the world stage in 2014.

They will be following a trail blazed by Huawei, the telecoms equipment maker. But with products and services that have much less to do with the critical infrastructure and ownership structures more familiar in the West, China’s internet giants are unlikely to hit similar trade and national security barriers.

Leading the charge is Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, an online bazaar that allows a business to sell almost any item to any other business.

On Alibaba you can buy a machine for converting used car tyres into fuel oil, a kilo of “good quality” toad venom extract, or a full-size Sponge Bob bouncy castle. Jeff Bezos wanted Amazon to be “the everything store”, but Ma built it first.

Most of the suppliers are, of course, Chinese, but Alibaba is increasingly used by exporters around the world and the company is in an enviable position to profit as trade becomes ever more global and online. The company predicts that Chinese e-commerce will be worth more than that of the United States and European Union combined by 2016.

“Increasingly we’re finding markets that were only buyers are increasingly suppliers too,” says James Hardy, head of Europe for Alibaba.com.

Four Things China Learned From the Arab Spring

January 04, 2014

The CCP has a history of monitoring political unrest around the world closely. The Arab Spring is no different.

As the Arab Spring enters its third year, events in the region remain fluid. Still, enough time has now passed that some preliminary conclusions can be reached.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is one institution certainly drawing lessons from the Arab Spring. It is well known that the CCP studies political unrest in other parts of the world in search of lessons it can use to maintain stability at home. The most notable instance of this was the massive study the CCP undertook into the causes of the Soviet Union’s collapse. The lessons the CCP drew from its more than decade-long study into the Soviet bloc have since been incorporated into the curriculum at party schools, and are regularly referred to by senior Chinese officials.

Although the CCP’s study of the Arab Spring won’t be nearly as massive, the events in the Arab world are of significant interest to the party for a number of reasons. The first is simply their size and magnitude. Additionally, in its early days the Arab Spring inspired some Chinese to call for a Jasmine Revolution in China. Although nothing much came from these calls, there were a tense couple of weeks in China that saw the CCP on high alert.

Finally, Chinese leaders should be particularly interested in the Arab Spring simply because it provides an excellent case study. Although the protests seemed to be motivated by similar causes, they quickly diverged in terms of how each government responded, as well as their ultimate outcomes. Thus, the protests offer valuable lessons for how the CCP can maintain power in China. Four points from the Arab Spring seem particularly pertinent:

1) Get Ahead of Events

The regimes that have best weathered the Arab Spring have gotten ahead of events on the ground. At the first sight of unrest in Egypt, Saudi Arabia sought to preempt protests by significantly increasing subsides. The Gulf Cooperation Council contained unrest in Bahrain by using overwhelming force to smother the then-nascent protests. Only after order had been restored did the government begin offering small concessions. In other countries like Morocco and Jordan, governments quickly appeased protesters by offering at least cosmetic concessions, such as removing especially unpopular leaders. The new Chinese leadership seems to be pursuing a similar course by initiating highly publicized anti-graft and mass line campaigns that are partly aimed at reducing public anger over the party’s excesses.

Six major trends to watch in 2014, as China embarks on monumental economic reform.

JANUARY 3, 2014

If one thing defined China in 2013, it would be how the current and future state of its economy inspired sharply divergent views. Although the Chinese economy will have grown to about $9 trillion at the end of 2013, it is clearly slowing down. Opinions differ widely on whether the slowdown can be managed and orderly or whether it will be precipitous and destabilizing. Some analysts, like Nouriel Roubini, have been predicting for years "a meaningful probability of a hard landing in China after 2013," while former World Bank Chief Economist Justin Lin, an outlier even for optimists, argues that China can maintain near 8 percent growth for decades to come.

The landing in 2014 will be soft, but much still hinges on how Beijing navigates its structural economic reforms and how disruptive they will be to the broader economy. Major change is almost always uncomfortable for those that benefit from the status quo. But the Chinese government feels it has to shake that up -- to reform its way out of potential economic bottlenecks like the middle-income trap, the difficulty that moderately-developed nations face in reaching the elite league of high-income economies.

That's why reform will be the central task as China gallops into 2014, the Year of the Horse. As Chinese leaders have repeatedly exhorted the government to "roll up its sleeves" and get things done, 2014 will prove to be a pivotal year in how the balance between reforms and economic growth plays out. Here are six areas to watch:

The economic slowdown is real, but is it all bad?

In 2014, pundits will go to battle again over how much more deceleration the Chinese economy can withstand, and what will cause that inevitable slowdown. But it seems relatively certain that macroeconomic policy will tilt "pro-reform" rather than "pro-growth." Premier Li Keqiang said in November 2013 that China only needs 7.2 percent GDP growth -- less than the 2013 target of 7.5 percent -- to sustain momentum and create the number of jobs needed to absorb an expected 12 million new workers.

Four Things China Learned From the Arab Spring

The CCP has a history of monitoring political unrest around the world closely. The Arab Spring is no different.
January 04, 2014

As the Arab Spring enters its third year, events in the region remain fluid. Still, enough time has now passed that some preliminary conclusions can be reached.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is one institution certainly drawing lessons from the Arab Spring. It is well known that the CCP studies political unrest in other parts of the world in search of lessons it can use to maintain stability at home. The most notable instance of this was the massive study the CCP undertook into the causes of the Soviet Union’s collapse. The lessons the CCP drew from its more than decade-long study into the Soviet bloc have since been incorporated into the curriculum at party schools, and are regularly referred to by senior Chinese officials.

Although the CCP’s study of the Arab Spring won’t be nearly as massive, the events in the Arab world are of significant interest to the party for a number of reasons. The first is simply their size and magnitude. Additionally, in its early days the Arab Spring inspired some Chinese to call for a Jasmine Revolution in China. Although nothing much came from these calls, there were a tense couple of weeks in China that saw the CCP on high alert.

Finally, Chinese leaders should be particularly interested in the Arab Spring simply because it provides an excellent case study. Although the protests seemed to be motivated by similar causes, they quickly diverged in terms of how each government responded, as well as their ultimate outcomes. Thus, the protests offer valuable lessons for how the CCP can maintain power in China. Four points from the Arab Spring seem particularly pertinent:

From Mao to Xi

Published: January 4, 2014 

Sifting myth from reality in a dark chapter of historyAnanth Krishnan

The HinduVeteran Journalist and writer Yang Jisheng. Photo: Ananth Krishnan

China’s farmers, exhorted by Mao Zedong’s delusions of propelling China to rival the Soviet Union, were told to abandon their farming tools

In November 2011, exactly a year before taking charge as the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) new leader, Xi Jinping delivered a lecture to the students of the Central Party School, an elite institution tucked away in the forested western suburbs of Beijing that trains China’s future leaders.

In an unusually forthright speech that discarded the rigid and staid format followed religiously by Chinese leaders, Mr. Xi lambasted the CPC’s cadre for being “out of touch with reality.”

Most surprising of all, Mr. Xi drew a parallel with a sensitive chapter of history rarely discussed in China today. “In the early 1960s,” he said, the Party was able “to reverse a difficult situation” by undertaking grassroots surveys, demonstrating the importance of conducting rigorous — and more importantly, honest —inspection studies.

Mr. Xi was referring to the turbulent years that marked the end of the “Great Leap Forward”, a disastrous campaign launched by Mao Zedong in 1958 that destroyed the countryside. The four years of devastation were the darkest period of the CPC’s rule, with the scale of the disaster arguably even surpassing that of the decade-long Cultural Revolution (1966-76) on account of the sheer magnitude of the tragedy.

China’s farmers, exhorted by Mao Zedong’s delusions of propelling China to rival the Soviet Union by becoming an industrial superpower overnight, were all told to abandon their farming tools to manufacture iron in backyard furnaces. While fields lay idle, officials fabricated figures to please their Chairman by showing bountiful harvests.

** The continuing evolution of al-Qaeda 3.0

Al-Qaeda fighters linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) carry their weapons during a parade in Tel Abyad, Syria, near the border with Turkey, Jan. 2, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Yaser Al-Khodor)

Al-Qaeda the organization(s) and al-Qaedism the idea are thriving across the Arab world like never before due to the failure of the Arab Awakening to create competent reformist governments. The counter-revolution keeping old autocrats in power or putting new ones into power is already creating the next generation of al-Qaeda converts.

Summary⎙ Print A revived al-Qaeda is effectively filling vacuums created by autocrats and failed reformist governments, who are planting the seeds for the next generation of recruits.

Author Bruce Riedel Posted January 3, 2014

Less than three years ago, al-Qaeda, the organization and its ideology, was on its back foot. Osama bin Laden, its charismatic founder and leader, was killed in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad. Many of his key lieutenants, including the Pakistani Ilyas Kashmiri and the Yemeni-American Anwar al-Awlaki, were hunted down and killed by drones. The al-Qaeda narrative that only violent jihad and terror can bring change to the Muslim world came under attack as dictators were toppled from Tunis to Cairo to Sanaa by mostly peaceful protest. The Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda’s old adversary, seemed poised to dominate Arab politics and demonstrate that real change was possible without terror.

It was Awlaki who predicted al-Qaeda’s comeback. Writing in his English-language journal Inspire, Awlaki described the Arab Awakening as a “tsunami” of change that would inevitably benefit al-Qaeda. He said the hopes of reformists and democrats would be shattered against counter-revolutionary plots by reactionaries and that the breakdown of law and order would benefit the global jihad.

As 2014 begins, the picture is very different from 2011. Most dramatic has been the rise of al-Qaeda-affiliates in the Fertile Crescent, from Beirut to Baghdad. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, once wrongly proclaimed defeated by the surge, has revived and is more deadly than ever as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Today, it is fighting again to take control of the Anbar province. It successfully gave birth to a Syrian franchise, Jabhat al-Nusra, and now competes and collaborates with its own offspring for power in Syria. Together, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra are trying to destroy the century-old borders of the region, erasing the hated Sykes-Picot boundaries drawn by London and Paris in the aftermath of World War I. Thousands of jihadis from across the Muslim world, many of them from Europe, have flocked to Syria to join the fight against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence is multiplying, feeding a fire that al-Qaeda has long stoked.