5 February 2014

A More Assertive German Foreign Policy

February 4, 2014

The Ukrainian crisis is important in itself, but the behavior it has elicited from Germany is perhaps more important. Berlin directly challenged Ukraine's elected president for refusing to tighten relations with the European Union and for mistreating Ukrainians who protested his decision. In challenging President Viktor Yanukovich, Berlin also challenged Russia, a reflection of Germany's recent brazen foreign policy.

Since the end of World War II, Germany has pursued a relatively tame foreign policy. But over the past week, Berlin appeared to have acknowledged the need for a fairly dramatic change. German leaders, including the chancellor, the president, the foreign minister and the defense minister, have called for a new framework that contravenes the restraint Germany has practiced for so long. They want Germany to assume a greater international role by becoming more involved outside its borders politically and militarily.

For Berlin, the announcement of this high-level strategic shift comes amid a maelstrom of geopolitical currents. As the de facto leader of the European Union, Germany has to contend with and correct the slow failure of the European project. It has to adjust to the U.S. policy of global disengagement, and it must manage a complex, necessary and dangerous relationship with Russia. A meek foreign policy is not well suited to confront the situation in which Germany now finds itself. If Germany doesn't act, then who will? And if someone else does, will it be in Germany's interest? The latter is perhaps the more intriguing question.

Setting Boundaries

Such a reconfiguration shows that Germany has its own national interests that may differ from those of its alliance partners. For most countries, this would seem self-evident. But for Germany, it is a radical position, given its experience in World War II. It has refrained from asserting a strong foreign policy and from promoting its national interest lest it revive fears of German aggression and German nationalism. The Germans may have decided that this position is no longer tenable -- and that promoting their national interests does not carry the risk it once did.

The timing of the announcement, as Ukraine's strategic position between Russia and Europe continues to make headlines, was not coincidental. While the timing benefited Germany, it would be a mistake to ascribe too much importance to Ukraine itself, particularly from the German perspective. That is not to say Ukraine should be discounted entirely. As a borderland between the European Peninsula and Russia, its future potentially matters to Germany -- if not now then perhaps in the future, when unexpected regional realities might show themselves.

Ukraine is an indispensable borderland for Russia, but it has little value for any modern power that has no designs against Russia. It is one of the gateways into the heart of Russia. A hostile power occupying Ukraine would threaten Russian national security. But the reverse is not true: Ukraine is not a primary route from Russia into Europe (World War II is a notable exception) because the Carpathian Mountains discourage invasion. So unless the Germans are planning a new war with Russia -- and they aren't -- Ukraine matters little to Europe or the Germans.

The same is true in the economic realm. Ukraine is important to Russia, particularly for transporting energy to Europe. But outside of energy transport, Ukraine is not that important to Europe. Indeed, for all that has been said about Ukraine's relationship to the European Union, it has never been clear why the bloc has made it such a contentious issue. The European Union is tottering under the weight of Southern Europe's enormously high unemployment rate, Eastern Europe's uncertainty about the value of being part of Europe's banking system and currency union, and a growing policy rift between France and Germany. The chances that the Europeans would add Ukraine to an organization that already boasts Greece, Cyprus and other crippled economies are so slim that considerations to the contrary would be irrational. The fact that Ukraine is not getting into the bloc makes German policy even harder to fathom.


04 February 2014 

One problem is the conflation of strategic issues with practical operational issues. These need to be separated and dealt with individually. This will allow us to give more thought to the conundrum the strategic issues pose

On the eve of Defexpo this year, and with a reasonable amount of time having passed since the Sindhurakshak tragedy, now is probably a good time to reflect on the submarine wing of the Indian Navy and its future plans. Large complex projects like submarines are intrinsically slow and get further delayed given India’s political processes, complicated procedures and the desire to absorb technology. Consequently given the falling serviceability of the extant fleet, significant force depletion of the submarine fleet must be expected over the next decade.

One big problem is the conflation of strategic issues with practical operational issues. These need to be separated and dealt with individually. Separating these issues allows us to give more thought to the conundrum the strategic issues pose, while enabling relatively cheaper solutions in the near term.

Strategically, there are three important considerations. First is the choice of weapons’ suite for the submarine fleet as a whole, the second is the procurement of the next P-75I — a batch of six submarines to be procured globally. And the third is a close appraisal of the nuclear submarine programme. Each of these creates a series of conundrum that need a careful cost-benefit analysis. As of now our submarine fleet fields three different types of torpedoes. The Soviet-designed Kilos will only fire Russian torpedoes the TEST 71/76 and the Type 53-65, The German type 209 submarines use the SUT torpedoes, while the Scorpène fleet will be equipped for both SUT and the Blackshark if and when this procurement is finally cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security. Effectively, India cannot create the economies of scale and bulk demand to force a deep technology transfer and indigenise future torpedo designs. Going in for Blackshark, though a modern torpedo, poses problems for the future, given that its makers a consortium of DCNS & WASS have fallen out which means a big question mark hangs over future upgrades owing to Intellectual Property Right issues. Consequently the rationalisation of the torpedo stock poses more problems than solutions.

Similarly, for the land attack role, the Union Ministry of Defence wants the P-75I to have a vertical launch system. Here the Defence Research & Development Organisation has insisted on missile commonality demanding installation of the BrahMos system irrespective of which submarine design is chosen. Submarines though are not Lego sets; even a 10 per cent change in its design requires a 90 per cent change in the blueprints given the extraordinarily integrated and complex construction of these boats. As a result, BrahMos integration would mean a full-fledged redesign that would take anywhere between five years to a decade in the design phase alone and would require a complete revamp of the P75(I) specifications (weight, speed, endurance, stealth, etc).

Now, should the Navy choose a design other than the Scorpène for the P75(I), the absorption of new technologies, the fabrication of a new type of steel, different construction techniques, different electronics, not to mention retooling the production lines will create delays of a further five to seven years. The only other option is to ask each competitor to offer a pre-integrated land attack missile of their choice on the ship, which throws missile rationalisation out of the window. One way or the other, the current request for proposal for the P75(I) is hardwired for significant delays.

The third strategic aspect is the future of the nascent nuclear submarine fleet. Russia’s transfer of Kilos to China and their rapid reverse engineering of the same into the Type 041 Yuan class, means that India and China have roughly equivalent Russian technology which would presumably filter into their nuclear submarine programme. The French also sold advanced underwater sensors to China in the 80s and 90s. This means that India will have to opt for significant qualitative superiority, as given the strength of the Chinese economy, a quantity contest cannot be sustained by India.

We, therefore, have to prioritise the acquisition of a Western single hull design, with its attendant quantum leaps in silencing and sensor technology. Brazil’s acquisition of the French Scorpène class submarines and assistance in designing a nuclear submarine is an interesting template for India to follow. However to fully benefit from the game changing technologies of French nuclear submarines and their sensors, the separate acquisition of Western miniaturised reactors would become a must. Transferring these to the military sector will be a long and painful process (though technically legal since the India-US nuclear deal accepts the horizontal proliferation of knowledge from the civil to military programme). There are the obvious political sensitivities at play here that will require political will at the highest levels to solve. But at some point the purchase of unsuitable aircraft like the Rafale do provide immense leverage and even if it was an unworthy victor of the medium multi-role combat circraft competition, its acquisition can be justified if the French are willing to support Indian exceptionalism.

These though, are long term strategic considerations that may take many decades, have to be planned for now. There are, in the meantime, some significant near-term, practical measures that can be taken to offset the force depletion problem.

Medievalism in Modern India

India’s economy might be growing, but its society has major problems.
February 05, 2014

A village court consisting of unelected illiterate representatives ordered the mass rape of a 20-year old woman for having a relationship with a man outside her community. Twelve men executed this order. The incident took place in last month in the Birbhum district in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, around 150 km away from the state capital Kolkata. According to reports, the community rape was ordered because the victim failed to pay a fine of 27,000 rupees as fixed by what the police call a kangaroo court.

The media regularly shame the Taliban and other practicing agents of medievalism, but such damning news has become somewhat characteristic in modern India.

In the Danapur area of Bihar, a father filed suit in court against his son for marrying outside his caste, thereby damaging the reputation and tradition of the community. The father, a lawyer, wants the court to stop his son from using the family surname and to have the son pay compensation of more than $1.6 million for the damage done to centuries of family tradition. Interestingly, the local court accepted his petition and agreed to hear his case.

The news might look funny to some but this mindset is very much a part of changing India.

In Delhi, a young man from the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh became the victim of widespread paranoia in mainstream India. According to news reports the, 19-year old was harassed and beaten up by locals over a small matter, reflecting the prevalence of racial prejudice against northeastern Indians. He later succumbed to his injuries. The issue is not how and in what circumstances the young man died after a street brawl; the question is how a small racist comment could lead to such deadly consequences.

People from all the eight northeastern states face racial discrimination. It is true that despite more than six decades of democratic coexistence, the connection between mainstream India and its northeastern states is still missing. Despite a significant presence of northeastern Indians in major cities, understanding remains very limited. As a result, prejudice governs the behavior of the majority.

This prejudice also exists in the academic world, where there is hardly any attempt to teach the history of the northeast. These mainstream attitudes reflect in the larger behavior of the majority against this demographic and cultural minority.

The same prejudice also extends to black Africans who come to India to study and do business. A minister of the local government in Delhi targeted women from Uganda and other African countries, calling them prostitutes, and ordering their arrest. To protect the erring lawmaker, the Chief Minister of the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party protested on the streets. The lack of enlightened leadership further reinforces existing prejudices and inhibits societal growth.

BBC Hindi reports that in the Basti district of Uttar Pradesh, a young boy became a victim of an honor killing – meaning the relatives of the girl killed the boy to protect the honor of the community. Such killing is not unusual in India’s rural hinterlands, where village councils order the deaths of young lovers on grounds that they broke the rules of tradition. There are pockets of India where killing is associated with honor.

This is the ugly underbelly of India and it holds the country back from progress. Unity in diversity – this is the prideful slogan of the country, but the fact of the matter is that geographical integration has failed to create emotional connections across caste, class, and race. The fault lines reflect in the prevailing prejudices in the country.

Economic growth has broken some of the barriers, but has failed to dent the deep-seated prejudices. Violence against women, atrocities against lower caste communities, discrimination against ethnic minorities, and prejudice against religious minorities are ways of life in modern India.

We rail against the Taliban and their ways but we don’t make serious attempts to address our medievalism.

India altered Bluestar plan, not us: UK


London, Feb. 4: Britain today confirmed that it aided India in Operation Bluestar but the “assistance was purely advisory, limited and provided” over three months before the operation to flush out extremists from the Golden Temple was launched in June 1984.

The UK also suggested that the actual Indian action contrasted sharply with the approach proposed by a British adviser who travelled to India.

“The cabinet secretary’s report finds that the nature of the UK’s assistance was purely advisory, limited and provided to the Indian government at an early stage; that it had limited impact on the tragic events that unfolded at the temple three months later; that there was no link between the provision of this advice and defence sales and there is no record of the (British) government receiving advance notice of the operation,” British foreign secretary William Hague told the House of Commons today.

This can be summed up as: what happened wasn’t our fault.

The big question is whether the present British government of David Cameron is off the hook for the assistance offered to Indira Gandhi by Margaret Thatcher in 1984.

The answer is probably “yes”, considering the report by cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood claimed that British advice on how to avoid loss of life was ignored and that the heavy casualties that resulted in the Indian Army’s assault on the Golden Temple between June 3-8, 1984, were solely India’s responsibility.

In particular, the lone British military adviser sent to India had emphasised that force should be used to remove militants from the Golden Temple only as a last resort, and in that eventuality helicopters — rather than ground troops — should be deployed to achieve the element of surprise and keep loss of life to a minimum.

Heywood’s report contained an assessment by current military staff, comparing Bluestar with the approach recommended by the unnamed adviser. Bluestar was a ground assault, without the element of surprise or helicopter-borne troops.

New Delhi confirmed this evening that Britain had shared with India the findings of the probe. “The UK government has kept the Government of India informed on this matter and has also shared the outcome of the UK government’s enquiry with us,” the foreign office spokesperson said in New Delhi. “We have noted the report and the statement made.”

As Prime Minister, Cameron has invested heavily in relations with India and with Sikhs. There appeared to be a consensus during the Commons debate today that Heywood had done a creditable job and there was no desire among Labour MPs to whip up the passions of the past.

India needs to increase public spending

Jayshree Sengupta
04 February 2014

One thing that the UPA government is trying its best to control is the fiscal deficit (the difference between government expenditure and revenues excluding the borrowings). The IMF has also warned that if the fiscal deficit is not controlled, there would be problems of high inflation and this would lead to a falling growth rate. The government seems all set to adopt austerity measures for containing the fiscal deficit but this may have an adverse impact on job creation. 

In recent times, the results of austerity measures adopted by different governments have not been very successful especially in the EU. A lesson could be learnt from the on-going Euro zone crisis which is leading to deflation and a rise in unemployment. Deflation is the opposite of inflation -- it means falling prices and higher real interest rates which lead to reduced investment and more unemployment. France has gone in for austerity measures. France's unemployment rate is high at 11 per cent and youth unemployment at a higher 25.6 per cent. Similarly, Greece and Spain, which went for austerity measures, are also faced with unemployment at 27.8 per cent and 26.7 per cent respectively with youth unemployment at nearly 60 per cent in Greece and 57.4 per cent in Spain. A situation where the young people coming out of schools and colleges cannot find jobs is hard to handle for any government. 

The US, on the other hand, has managed the aftermath of the financial crisis relatively better. The global financial crisis began in the US in December 2007 and ended a year and a half later. The US went in for monetary easing ever since to resuscitate demand and encourage economic recovery. Under its monetary easing policy, the Federal Reserve or the central bank buys bonds from the government worth $85 billion a month which means that a huge amount of liquidity is injected by it into the financial system. In this manner the US has managed to keep interest rates at the near zero level. It has also been successful in lowering the home mortgage rates. This has helped the recovery of the housing market. The US economy has seen a recovery in recent times and growth has been at 2.2 per cent which prompted the Federal Reserve to announce in June 2013 the tapering of its monetary easing policy in 2014. This created havoc in the emerging markets of Brazil, India, China, Russia, Turkey, Argentina, Indonesia and South Africa. The Indian rupee fell rather sharply. The recent turmoil in the stock markets is also due to the fear of less global liquidity. 

Clearly the US is coming out of its economic crisis and is in better shape than the EU in terms of the pace of economic recovery. The EU has had a massive bailout by the European Central Bank but the sovereign debt of some of its members is still large and growing. The US has an unemployment rate of around 7 per cent but there is a little problem of falling demand and the US recovery is poised to be stronger in 2014 which will help the rest of the world with a rise in US demand for goods and services. 


In late December last year, a strange story surfaced from Telkoi village in the Keonjhar district of Odisha. Mamata Munda, a child of about seven, had been accused by her teachers of turning into a cat each night and sucking her hostel mates’ blood. The teachers wanted her out of the residential Talasahi Lower Primary School, where Mamata was a student of Class I. Her father, Birsing Munda, who works as a mason, brought the issue before the local tehesildar and the block development officer. The news attracted the attention of various local language dailies and news channels, leading to the Orissa high court taking suo motu cognizance of the matter. The chief justice asked the district magistrate and the collector to appear before the court and apprise it of the steps taken (all of this was happening after the anti-witch hunting bill had been passed on December 5, 2013). Action was swift — the collector visited the school, suspended the headmaster, transferred some of the teachers and ordered the school to take Mamata back immediately. Now Mamata has been re-instated and is staying in the same hostel. The fear of the law seems to have dissolved all fears of Mamata being a witch.

Mamata’s mother, Ruibari Munda, answers questions about her daughter by staring at the distance. The men of the household are out in the January afternoon on which we visit Mamata’s home, and so the women and the children gather around us, taking up the story by turns (Mamata’s siblings are seen in the picture). We sit with the family in a neat little courtyard, with tall saal trees on every side standing as guards. A hen with her entourage of chicks zigzags around us, beaks to the ground. Mamata’s pretty aunt, who is going to sit for her Plus II examinations this year, smiles politely, as an informed person would smile at mumbo jumbo, when we ask the family about the accusations of witchery brought against Mamata. The older relatives are cagier as they say that the allegation is absurd and they have never heard of a gunia. Birsing’s elder sister, Jamuna, wearing dark glasses, probably because of a cataract operation, says that the child might have dreamt of something in her sleep, causing her to start, and this may have been interpreted as a sign of possession by her teachers.

Then we land up in Mamata’s school to see the ‘cat’ for ourselves. The headmaster, newly appointed after the last one was suspended, denies all knowledge of what had happened. Then Mamata, a slight girl in a blue uniform with a belt and tie in tricolours, emerges barefoot from her classroom. Violet bangles tinkle on her tiny wrists as she clasps and unclasps her skirt and looks at us with sparkling, inquisitive eyes. She says she likes to study, her favourite subject being mathematics. But when she goes home, she helps with household chores, cooks curry with tomato, which she calls bilati, as some Bengalis of a bygone era did.

Looking at this quick child, I try to figure out what possibly could have prompted the teachers’ phobia. So I ask her if she feels scared at night. She sagely nods her head; her smile fades for a second. Mamata says she is scared of the dark, and feels afraid at night not only in the hostel but also at home. Does she sleep alone? No, Mamata has a best friend, Shantirani, with whom she shares her room. When she feels scared, she sits up in bed, Shantirani by her side. In my mind, Mamata merges with little Jane Eyre crouching on the hostel bed with her Helen, the only source of solace within the cold, hostile walls of Lowood school.

In the meantime, Mamata is fidgeting and looking longingly at her classroom, where a song and dance session is going on. We ask her to go and she runs back. After a while, she stands beside her teachers in the classroom and sings a song in her native Ho language in a clear, trilling voice.

When we are coming back, the children are busy at a game of musical chairs, played without chairs. The headmaster is very much a part of the gang and runs around with the giggling children. In the vivacious bevy of children in blue, I lose Mamata. The tinkling sound of their laughter creates a cocoon of warmth and I leave the school trying to assure myself that young Mamata will soon forget the perverse shadow that had blighted her life.

Defence Procurement: Slow March to Indigenisation

Urgent Need for Reform

No nation can aspire to great power status without being substantively self-reliant in defence production. Defence Minister, Mr A K Antony, has repeatedly exhorted the armed forces to procure their weapons and equipment from indigenous sources. However, unless the government reorients its defence procurement policies, the import content of defence acquisitions by the Indian armed forces will continue to remain over 80 per cent.

India’s defence procurement has remained mired in disadvantageous buyer-seller, patron-client relationships like that with the erstwhile Soviet Union and now Russia. While India has been manufacturing Russian fighter aircraft and tanks under license for many years, no weapons technology was ever transferred to India. Futureprocurement of weapons platforms and other equipment for defence modernisation must graduallylead to a transformative change in the country’s defence technology base and manufacturing prowess.All new defence acquisitions must have aToTclause built into the contract even if it means having to pay a higher price. The aim should be to make India a design, development, manufacturing and export hub for defence equipment in two to three decades.

Defence Research and Development

Though it seeks to encourage public-private partnerships, privately the government continues to retain its monopoly on research and development and defence production through the DRDO, the ordnance factories and the defence PSUs (DPSUs). The private sector has shown its readiness and technological proficiency to take up the production of weapons and equipment designed and developed by the DRDO and must be trusted to deliver.The DRDO must concentrate its efforts on developing critical cutting edge technologies that no strategic partner is likely to be willing to share; for example, ballistic missile defence (BMD) technology.Other future weapons platforms should be jointly developed, produced and marketed with India’s strategic partners in conjunction with the private sector. The development of technologies that are not critical should be outsourcedcompletely to the private sector. Also, the armed forces should be given funding support to undertake research geared towards the improvement of in-service equipment with a view to enhancing operational performance and increasing service life. Gradually, the universities and the IITs should be involved in undertaking defence R&D. This five-pronged approach will help to raise India’s technological threshold over the next two decades by an order of magnitude.

At the table, with Taliban

February 5, 2014

Nawaz Sharif’s team has a judicious mix of voices.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seemed poised, in the middle of January, to get the army to attack the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan. A retaliatory military sally there had already killed many of their number and probably “softened” the pathologically violent new Taliban chief, Mullah Fazlullah.

By the end of January, Sharif was probably told of this “softening” and changed tack radically to switch to the “talk” mode, with the Taliban still killing innocent Pakistanis all over the country.

Unlike in Egypt, Pakistan has a ‘political middle’ that can mediate between Islamists and liberals, and that is represented by Sharif’s PML-N. 

What proved that he was actually in “attack” mode earlier was the way he treated a “teacher of the Taliban”, cleric Maulana Samiul Haq of Akora Khattak madrasa, near Peshawar, where the assassins of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had stayed before going to Rawalpindi in 2007 to complete their job. Haq was suddenly “dropped” and had to slink back to his seminary, complaining that Sharif had not deigned to grant him an audience. Now it’s back to talk mode, and Sharif has nominated four individuals to a team that will talk to a panel likewise chosen by the Taliban.

The four members of the team are: Rustam Shah Mohmand, Irfan Siddiqui, Rahimullah Yusufzai and Major (retd) Muhammad Amir. Mohmand is an old Civil Service of Pakistan officer who served as political agent in the tribal areas, rose to the office of chief secretary of the Frontier Province before being put in charge of the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan, and finally landed up as ambassador in Kabul. He is linked to Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf and hence prejudiced against the United States and opposed to military operations in the tribal areas. This is balanced only by his equally intense desire to get Pakistan to normalise ties with India, with him swearing that an Indian presence in Afghanistan will not destabilise Pakistan. He was Sharif’s appointee to the committee charged, in the 1990s, with normalising Pakistan’s relations with what is today the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

Siddiqui is advisor to the prime minister and was media consultant to him when the latter languished out of power in Lahore. He is the only non-Pashtun in the team and would like the Taliban to agree to a bilateral ceasefire before the two sides engage. Journalist Yusufzai is a veteran Taliban-watcher, with credibility in the global media, and is sure that his team will end up being a sounding board from where the agenda for the actual talks can be gleaned.

The choice of Amir, a former ISI officer, has given rise to comment, but his background is firmly pro-Sharif — his training inside the army has been to fear the PPP as a liberal party, soft on India and Pakistan’s nuclear programme. He represents the ideological nature of the army, where no wits are required to become an intelligence officer. In 1989, he tried, together with another ISI officer, Brigadier Imtiaz Billa, to persuade some PPP members of the National Assembly to “defect” in order to topple the government of Benazir Bhutto. Operation Midnight Jackal turned out to be a reverse sting in which the PPP politicians filmed the officers in flagrante delicto. Both were fired from service.

A tale of two Taliban

Published: February 5, 2014
D. Suba Chandran

File photo: APSOME UNKNOWNS: Given the lack of documentational support and evidence, along with interviews with the top leadership on both sides, most of the understanding of the two Taliban has to be based on conjecture. Picture shows a Pakistan Taliban militant in the Waziristan area.

The Pakistan Taliban was more a creation of the al-Qaeda than that of the Afghan Taliban under Mullah Omar

What are the linkages between the two Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan across the Durand Line? Is there a hierarchy or chain of command between these two, or are both two different organisations with different objectives, ideologies and targets? Is there a communication link between the two leaderships in terms of operational activities, or are they more of a rhetoric?

The more one analyses the linkages between the Afghan Taliban and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the more differences one could trace between the two organisations — in terms of history, objectives, ideology and operational targets.

Given the lack of documentational support and evidence, along with interviews with the top leadership on both sides, most of the understanding will have to be conjectures based on an informed guess. A larger debate is needed on this subject.The 10-year gap

There are adequate writings and historical accounts of the Afghan Taliban; from Ahmed Rashid’s magnum opus on the Taliban, to multiple publications during the last decade, there is a clear historical account of how Mullah Omar from a madrasa in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) ended up becoming the Amir of Afghanistan.

The Afghan Taliban was founded and supported by Pakistan in the 1990s to achieve a particular objective in Kabul. To use Admiral Mike Mullen’s proposition much later, the Afghan Taliban in the 1990s was a veritable arm of Pakistan — both the political leadership and the military establishment. There is adequate literature available today explaining why Pakistan founded and supported the Afghan Taliban in the 1990s. Of course it was not referred to as the “Afghan” Taliban then; it was just the Taliban. The founders of the Taliban would have never expected or even dreamt that there would be a parallel organisation east of the Durand Line within Pakistan.

The TTP, referred to loosely as the Pakistani Taliban, came into being in 2007 with its headquarters in Waziristan. But who founded it and who supported it? More importantly, for what reasons?

The Pakistani Taliban was certainly not founded by the security establishment in Pakistan, which was responsible for the birth of the Afghan Taliban. Ironically, the TTP was founded to fight the Pakistani establishment. This could be seen from a series of attacks that the TTP carried out; from suicide attacks to high profile attacks on military targets in Rawalpindi, Karachi and elsewhere, one could easily conclude that the primary target of the TTP remains Pakistan.

Taliban Talks and the Four Horsemen: Between Peace and Apocalypse

3 February 2014

Director, IPCS

Source Link

The previous article in this column discussed the talks about talks with the Pakistani Taliban, and Sami-ul-Haq being projected as the interlocutor between the State and the Teherik-e-Taliban (TTP). 

Since the previous column was written in early January 2014, three major developments have taken place. First was a short military campaign against the militants in Waziristan. Second was appointment of a 'four member committee' by the government to negotiate with the Taliban. Third was the acceptance of the TTP to negotiate with the State, along with nomination of a team from the Pakistani Taliban.

While the decision to negotiate with the TTP and the latter’s response was itself a substantial achievement, the harsh reality is that the problems for the State have just begun. Given the issues and questions, this process is likely to be anything but easy.

From Sami-ul-Haq to the Four Horsemen: A Changed Strategy by the Government

During the last week of January 2014, the government appointed a four member committee to negotiate with the TTP, comprising of Rahimullah Yusufzai, Irfan Siddiqui, Rustam Shah and Major (Retd) Amir.

Rahimullah Yusufzai is a well-known and independent senior journalist. His writings in mainstream newspapers have been balanced and he his insights are respected. Irfan Siddiqui is also a senior journalist, but today he is known more as a pro-Nawaz person; he is also a Special Assistant to the Prime Minister. Major Amir has been reported as a former ISI officer who is close to Nawaz Sharif. According to Amir Mir, "Major (retd) Amir... has a murky past being the alleged architect of the infamous 'Operation Midnight Jackal' to topple the first government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1989." (The News, 30 January 2014). Rustam Shah is a former diplomat who has served in Afghanistan and is known to be sympathetic to the Taliban.

In terms of the composition, it could be generally agreed that two of them (Irfan Siddiqui and Major Amir) are seen as closer to Nawaz Sharif. There is nothing wrong in Sharif choosing his confidantes, in fact, given the intricacies it is always useful for the Prime Miniester to choose a team he has confidence in. However, as Fazlur Rehman has already criticised, they were not chosen on a consensus, nor they have a political background. The four horsemen are all professionals in one field or the other, but have never been politicians. 

A debating group in search of politics

February 4, 2014
Meena Menon

NEW ROADS: In any attempt to rejuvenate the Left, there is an understanding that it needs a new identity which forges links with anti-Taliban and anti-fundamentalist forces. 

The Communists had no understanding of Pakistani society and were divided into pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese factions

When Abid Hassan Minto joined the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) in 1949, one of the first unions he formed was a workers’ union in the Military Engineering Service and another in a multinational oil company at Attock. Such a thing would be unthinkable now, he grins. At 80, he is president of the Awami Workers Party (AWP), formed after a merger of three Left parties in 2012 which plans to hold a congress in March. There is a renewed attempt to forge a clearly defined Left in Pakistan, he says.Beyond activism

Writing in The News, Sarah Humayun says, “the left has lost visibility in the public space; in this respect, it has fared even worse than the NGOs, whose liberal pro-civil-society thought has been similarly assimilated without increasing the appeal of liberal thinking as such in the public space.” The Left in Pakistan was scattered after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War and the resurgence of the global corporate system in the shape of the New World, Mr. Minto says. Pakistan was badly affected by the disarray of the Left especially since its trade union movement was weak, resulting in many factions. Trying to regroup, the key question is: what kind of politics has the Left to come up with to deal with new challenges in Pakistan where many things haven’t changed at all? It also wants a distinct identity from the liberals, who hail from a class not interested in social change, according to Aasim Sajjad, secretary general of the AWP, Punjab. “Activism alone won’t help us consolidate or add up to a coherent movement. Something beyond activism needs to happen and we are trying to bring all the left groups together,” he points out.

For the AWP, the challenge is mainly to create an alternative to the neo-liberal economic system. Opting for a social democratic method is the only way out for the new party. For the three parties in the merger, there was no choice but to revert to the principles enunciated in Left/Marxist politics and they have to be adopted to the changing situation, Mr. Minto says. Departing from the earlier internationalist politics which split the Communists between China and the Soviets, the new party has decided to stick to anti- imperialism and anti-colonialism in some manner and formulate a joint programme on Marxist principles at the congress.

The Great Game Folio: Sindh festival

February 5, 2014


A fortnightly column on the high politics of the Af-Pak region, the fulcrum of global power play in India’s neighbourhood .

C. Raja Mohan
From caste to Gandhi, the Rudolphs’ lifelong study of India stands out for novelty and impact.

Sindh Festival

The two-week-long Sindh festival, now underway in Pakistan, is significant for multiple reasons. For one, it is about the unfolding leadership transition in the Pakistan People’s Party from Asif Ali Zardari, who led it after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.

Zardari now appears to be stepping back to let his son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, take on a larger role. During his five-year tenure as the president and mentor of the PPP-led government in Islamabad, Zardari consciously sought to promote the unique cultural heritage of Sindh, the stronghold of the PPP. Bilawal has now taken it to a higher level by assuming personal leadership in organising a lavish celebration of Sindh’s cultural heritage at the site of Mohenjodaro, one of the most valuable sites of the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation. Some experts have warned that these celebrations might damage the ruins. The organisers, however, have contradicted these claims and asserted that they have taken every care to avoid any damage. That a leading political party is celebrating vital civilisational heritage is an important development not just for Pakistan but the entire subcontinent.

The Sindh festival comes amidst the rise of sectarianism and extremism that have vandalised the subcontinent’s priceless heritage, both pre-Islamic as well as Islamic. The Afghan Taliban, it might be recalled, destroyed the spectacular Buddha statues in Bamiyan. In the last few years, militant groups have attacked many historic Islamic shrines in Pakistan, including the Data Darbar in Lahore. The traditions of Sufi and Barelvi Islam that have had such influence in the subcontinent are under massive assault in Pakistan. If the collective response in Pakistan has been muted so far, Bilawal’s effort could have the potential to change the terms of the discourse.

Indus Valley

Leading Islamic countries — Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Indonesia to name a few — are proud of their pre-Islamic roots and have gone to great lengths to preserve and showcase it to their own people and the world. A similar effort in Pakistan is welcome. The PPP is not the only one in Pakistan to have shown interest in pre-Islamic heritage. During the Musharraf years, Islamabad had decided to restore the Katas Raj temples in West Punjab dating back to the Mahabharata era. BJP leader L.K. Advani was shown the sites and briefed of plans by the Musharraf government during his visit to Pakistan in 2005. It is not clear if the import of these fleeting signals from Pakistan is appreciated in Delhi. India needs to think boldly about cooperation with Pakistan in excavating, protecting and promoting the shared cultural heritage of the Indus Valley civilisation. Unlike Pakistan’s national narrative, India’s has always tipped its cap to the Indus Valley Civilisation. But Delhi is yet to invest significant resources in an intensive exploration of the Indus Valley sites and the development of those already known. With the new interest in Sindh on the Indus Valley Civilisation, it is possible to imagine extensive archaeological cooperation between Pakistan and India. In Pakistan, the Indus Valley sites are not limited to Sindh, but stretch all the way up the Indus into the Punjab and beyond. In India, these sites range from Gujarat to Haryana and Maharashtra to Uttar Pradesh.

Afghan Presidential Campaigning Begins

Afghanistan’s eleven presidential candidates began campaigning amidst security concerns.
February 04, 2014

On Sunday, Afghanistan’s eleven presidential candidates began campaigning amidst security concerns. The general election will take place on April 5, giving presidential hopefuls just two months to appeal to Afghanistan’s diverse electorate. The winner of the election will replace President Hamid Karzai in what will be the first successful democratic transfer of power in the country’s history.

Security is a major concern ahead of the elections as the Taliban have been known to target polling stations and candidates for public office in the past. According to The Washington Post, three armored vehicles and 35 police officers provided protection for several candidates during campaign activities in Kabul. The Taliban additionally have not fallen back to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border for the winter this year; they have instead intensified their attacks. The bombing of a popular restaurant in Kabul that killed several foreigners shook the city and renewed concerns that the security situation would deteriorate as the United States and NATO draw down in the country.

The major front-runners in the election include former Foreign Ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmay Rassoul, parliamentarian, businessman, and brother to the incumbent president Qayoum Karzai, and former World Bank technocrat Ashraf Ghani. Additionally, General Abdul Rahim Wardak, a former defense minister, educated in the United States, is also running.

Yusuf Nuristani, chairman of the Afghan election commission, urged candidates to compete cordially and without issuing personal attacks against other candidates. He additionally requested that candidates refrain from adding “to the misery of the Afghan people further” by stoking ethnic and sectarian tensions during campaigning. Afghan politics have traditionally been more identity than issue focused, generally resulting in a leader from the Pashtun ethnic group in Kabul. In contrast to this legacy, most candidates have chosen to diversify their tickets with running mates of differing ethnicities. For example, Ashraf Ghani, a Pashtun, has chosen Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek, as his vice-presidential candidate. Ghani notes that “Our debates should be about national topics and national goals.”

Clash of Dreams: Becoming a ‘Normal Country’ in East Asia

The region’s countries have different visions of what they want to be. Can they work together to achieve them?
February 04, 2014

East Asian countries are each striving to become a “normal country.” In other words, they are unsatisfied with their current status and positions. The meaning of “normal country” may hold different answers for each of them: reunification, democratization, abolishing constitutional limitations, or national rejuvenation and restoration.

However, the varying contents of these countries’ dreams could lead to a clash of dreams. In particular, a real danger of a clash of dreams may include one party blaming the other for being an obstacle in the path to its search for greatness or past glory. Many problems in East Asia are represented by territorial disputes, such as those between China and Japan and between South Korea and Japan. Tensions can also be generated by words and actions over historical symbols, such as the recent controversy over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. The fundamental source of these conflicts, however, is a clash of national dreams and identities.

Becoming a Normal Country

The discourse on becoming a normal country has been pondered for quite some time in East Asia. On the Korean peninsular and in Taiwan and Japan, there has been much discussion about becoming a normal country by heads of state, the media, and the general public. For the two Koreas, “normal” spells reunification. The Taiwanese are debating whether to seek independence to become a “normal country” or to reintegrate with the mainland in some way in the future and restore a “Great China” status.

As for Japan, being a “normal country” refers to abolishing the still-valid constitutional limits on military development and playing a more “symmetric” role in world economic and political spheres. For many Japanese, this concept also means that Japan would no longer live in the shadow of history and it would have a normal, not apologetic, relationship with its Asian neighbors. However, many Japanese fail to realize that this process of normalization presupposes a reconciliation of Japan’s self-image with the images its neighbors hold of Japan’s past.

In contrast, the Chinese leadership has never openly spoken about whether China is a normal country. Is it, in fact? What does it mean, anyway, to be a “normal country” for China? There are no commonly accepted standards to judge one country as normal or abnormal. Many may say that China can become a normal country only after it has changed from a communist dictatorship to a multiparty democracy in which officials are chosen in regular elections. In terms of democratization, there is no doubt that China still has a long way to go, but Beijing would never agree to use democratization as a standard of being a normal country.

Asia's 1937 Syndrome

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
February 4, 2014

In first days of July 1937, Chinese and Japanese soldiers skirmished in Wanping, a few miles southwest of what is now the Chinese capital. China’s Chiang Kai-shek then knew his army was no match for Japan’s, and he had many opportunities to avoid battle with a vastly superior foe. Yet he ultimately chose war.

So why did Chiang decide to fight? And how did a minor—and probably accidental—clash turn into years of disastrous conflict? Now, analysts think today’s Asia feels like 1914 Europe [3], and last month in Davos Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe likened today’s situation involving his country and China to that of England and Germany a hundred years ago [4]. The better comparison, however, is 1937. The parallels between then and now, unfortunately, are striking.

The “China Incident,” as the Japanese then called the war, began on the banks of the Yongding River in Wanping during the night of July 7, 1937. Imperial troops, shooting blanks in an evening exercise, found themselves under fire, presumably from elements of the Chinese 29th Army. After the minor exchange near Lugouqiao, commonly known as the Marco Polo Bridge, Japanese officers were alarmed when one of their soldiers failed to turn up for a roll call. They then demanded that Chinese guards let them search nearby Wanping, where the Japanese had no general permission to enter.

A refusal triggered days of skirmishes. Once the fighting started, it did not matter that the stray Japanese private, who is thought to have wandered off to urinate, eventually turned up unhurt. Soon, Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China was at war. The Japanese in short order would take the Marco Polo Bridge, cut off Beijing from the rest of the country, and seize that city. They would then drive Chiang’s forces from the metropolis of Shanghai, the capital of Nanjing, and most of the rest of eastern China.

Chiang could have avoided the descent into a war in July 1937. In fact, both sides had agreed to a truce after the initial fighting around the Marco Polo Bridge. Yet the agreement did not hold. Oxford professor Rana Mitter compares the events [5] then to those surrounding the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo in 1914. War, in both cases, was coming.

Asia’s Dangerous Strongman Nostalgia

By William Pesek Feb 4, 2014

Indonesia is growing at 6 percent, has rejoined the ranks of investment-grade nations, and after decades under the corrupt and repressive Suharto, has reaffirmed its place as the world’s third-largest democracy. Yet somehow enough Indonesians remember the Suharto years fondly that hisGolkar Party has hopes of regaining power in upcoming elections.

Golkar isn’t alone in trying to exploit nostalgia for past strongmen (and -women). India’s Congress Party is trying to squeeze any remaining good feelings about the Nehru-Gandhi period (from 1947 to about 1989) to elevate lackluster heir apparent Rahul Gandhi. Even as China’s Xi Jinping pushes ahead with market reforms, he continues to pay homage to Communist icon Mao Zedong (1949-1976). Thais are destroying their economy rather than cut off support for tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra (2001-2006) and his sister Yingluck. Many Malaysians wax sentimental about the boom days of Mahathir Mohamad (1981-2003). Japanese are indulging Shinzo Abe’s dangerous stroll down memory lane.

What gives with nostalgianomics? The yearning for yesteryear speaks to our disorienting times and a dearth of visionary leadership when it’s most needed. This is an upside-down era when the unthinkable has a way of becoming reality: The U.S. is a developing nation again; Europe is hitting up “poor” China to bail out its debt markets; central banks have gone Islamic with zero-interest rates everywhere; the free trade that once raised living standards now foments poverty. Many simply want to get off this crazy ride.

That’s a problem in a dynamic global economy that is constantly reinventing itself. It’s natural to pine for a less-frenzied existence, but looking to the past for policy solutions courts economic decline. Unless nations reinvent themselves and plan ahead now, they’ll get left behind.

Across Asia, there are too many examples of populations still fixated on worldviews that no longer exist. The forces of globalization won’t slow down as nations reminisce. Neither will the biggest migration flows in history, the dizzying pace of change in technology, the need to compete with neighbors as much as cooperate, nor the deadly effects of climate change. These are simply the conditions of our new world.

Amid such upheaval, those at the helm must lead their people forward. They must innovate constantly, promote dialogue about how best to exploit global developments, and manage plural societies. When their citizens start looking to the past for inspiration, today’s leaders must take the hint and do better.

Nostalgianomics is related to the cult of gross domestic product that started with Japan. Its swift rise from the ashes of World War II set the bar high for leaders from South Korea to Indonesia. Fond memories of a Japan-like post-war boom under Park Chung Hee (1961-1979) helped propel daughter Park Geun Hye into the Korean presidency. Japanese long for a return to their boom years so much that they’re willing to turn a blind eye to Prime Minister Abe’s nationalistic ways and retrograde foreign policy.

The Mahathir schmaltz pervading Malaysia recalls the days when GDP there, too, soared. But the insular and jury-rigged system of affirmative action, national champions and fat subsidies over which Mahathir presided now holds the economy back. The Malaysian leader also had a tendency to embarrass his nation on the international stage with his nutty anti-Semitic tirades. Malaysians must find fresh inspiration by looking forward, not back to 1990.

Al-Qaeda Leader al-Zawahiri Urges Jihad Against the “Anti-Islamic” Government of Bangladesh

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 2
January 23, 2014 05:36 PM Age: 11 days

Ayman al-Zawahiri (right), with Osama bin Laden in 2001 (Source The Guardian)

Widespread violence, marked by protest rallies, hartals (general shutdowns), group clashes and bombings have led to massive confrontations between secular and Islamist forces in Bangladesh over the last year. Now, al-Qaeda leader Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri has issued a call for jihad in Bangladesh, the fourth largest Muslim nation in the world. 

The radical Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and activists of its student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir, have raised the standard of revolt by aligning themselves with the radical Hefajat-e-Islam (HeI) in violent opposition across the country against the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT – a domestic creation) verdicts in the trials of senior Jamaat leaders accused of war crimes during the 1971 liberation struggle. Most of the accused were sent to the gallows. 

The schism in Bangladesh society deepened further along party lines as well, with the ruling “pro-liberation” secular parties led by the Awami League opposed by the pro-Islamist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which colludes with extremist groups such as HeI and JeI (the latter was recently banned from participating in elections). 

The political situation became unstable when JeI leader Abdul Qadeer Molla was executed for war crimes on December 12, 2013. The Islamists have since unleashed a wave of violence against the country’s minorities, killing Hindus and Christians and vandalizing their property (The Hindu[Chennai], January 8; Dhaka Tribune, January 11). Minorities in Bangladesh have always endured the brunt of political and religious violence, even if they are not directly involved in the events that precipitated it. Their support (particularly that of the Hindu minority) for the secular Awami League government makes them targets of Jamaat Shibir extremists who seek to create an Islamic state in Bangladesh. 

The direst implication of the ongoing crisis in Bangladesh is that it has reinvigorated dormant Islamist militant groups. Outlawed and decimated militant groups see opportunities to reorganize and consolidate in the current religiously-charged environment. The February 2013 standoff between secularists/atheists and pro-Islamist groups at Dhaka’s Shahabag intersection sparked the emergence of banned clandestine militant groups that came forward in support of mainstream Islamist organizations like JeI and HeI. Proscribed militant groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir, Harakatul-Jihad-i-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B), Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and the newly-formed Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) surfaced with a jihadist agenda. 

Existing militant groups like HuJi-B and JMB have tried to restructure themselves under the names Tanjim e-Tamiruddin and BEM:

Tanjim-e-Tamiruddin (TeT) is one of the offshoots of HuJI-B. TeT was founded by the currently detained HuJI-B leader Maulana Abdur Rauf. TeT is now led by Khalilur Rahman (a.k.a Shahriar), who was arrested in Dhaka last October in possession of firearms and explosives along with three accomplices (Daily Star [Dhaka], October 8, 2013). In August 2013, Bangladesh police arrested nine TeT militants, along with arms, incriminating documents and provocative literature, including Takbiatul Iman, a book that claims Muslims in Bangladesh were tortured, assaulted and killed after Sheikh Hasina (Awami League leader and present Prime Minister) assumed power. These arrests and further investigations shed light on the HuJi and JMB joint effort to reorganise the militant movements in Bangladesh (Daily Star [Dhaka], August 16, 2013).

BEM is an offshoot of the banned Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). This was disclosed after security forces arrested at least three militants in the town of Bogra in August 2013. During interrogation, the arrested militants reportedly confessed that the JMB is now operating under the new BEM platform (Dhaka Tribune, August 24, 2013). Police have yet to discover the structure and membership of BEM. Even its full name is not yet known.