21 March 2014

*** Maoists: Surviving Adversity

Ajai Sahni
Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, ICM & SATP

In a searing self-assessment, the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), at its 4th Meet, some time in April-May 2013, conceded, "the condition of our countrywide movement is critical". And further,

In DK (Dandakaranya) mass base decreased in considerable area, the intensity and expanse of the resistance of the PLGA (People's Liberation Guerrilla Army) and people decreased; non-proletarian trends increased in party and the PLGA, recruitment decreased; number of people leaving the party and the PLGA increased... the movement in NT (North Telangana) and AOB (Andhra Odisha Border) is in ebb. We are striving hard for their revival. Gondia division is continuing in a weak condition since a long period of time. Due to series of arrests in the past few years the Maharashtra movement is facing setback.

Though the Mainpur division movement in the COB (Chhattisgarh Odisha Border) area has weakened, in the rest of the area the movement is gradually getting established among the people and expanding. Due to betrayal of (Sabyasachi) Panda and enemy onslaught the Odisha movement weakened a lot. Due to heavy losses to the leadership and subjective forces and due to decrease in mass base the BJ (Bihar Jharkhand) movement suffered setback at present. Due to Comrade Kishenji's martyrdom and martyrdom and arrests of state and district leadership comrade and dent in the deluge of Lalgarh movement the Paschim Bang (West Bengal) movement suffered a setback... ..

(Due to) the martyrdom of four comrades including the secretary of the State Leading Committee in a fake encounter and arrests of other comrades... the Asom (Assam) state movement that was gradually developing weakened. In North Region we lost subjective forces at various levels along with party's central and state level leadership... As a result the North Regional Bureau was completely damaged... 


Between 2009 and 2012 the enemy damaged our central weapon manufacturing and supply departments; the political and military people's intelligence departments, the central magazine department, central SUCOMO (Sub Committee on Mass Organisations) and the international department. 

No official or outside assessment has been quite as devastating as the 4th CC's resolutions, reiterated thereafter in the Revolutionary Greetings for the 9th Anniversary of the party (September 21-27, 2013). Unsurprisingly, given the acknowledged weakening of the party, fatalities linked to Maoist violence across the country have remained relatively low, at 421 in 2013 [including 159 civilians, 111 Security Force (SF) personnel and 151 insurgents], less than 36 per cent of the peak fatalities in 2010, at 1,180 (626 civilians, 277 SF personnel and 277 Maoists), according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database. The 2013 figure, however, represents a significant escalation, after three years of continuous decline, from 367 fatalities in 2012 [146 civilians; 104 SF personnel; 117 Maoists]. Initial data for 2014 suggests a continuation of this escalating trend, with 81 already killed by March 17. Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) data, however, indicates a continuance of the declining trend through 2012-2013, with 394 fatalities recorded in 2013, as against 415 in 2012, 611 in 2011 and 1,005 in 2010.

Lessons from the Gate of Hell

March 21, 2014 
Praveen Swami

The Hindu ArchivesTRENCH VIEW: The notion that Jawaharlal Nehru allowed the Indian military to degenerate towards its defeat is an article of faith for many commentators on the war. Like much faith, though, it sits fill with fact. Picture shows Nehru and Defence Minister Y.B. Chavan talking to jawans in December, 1962.

The online release of the Henderson Brooks report has led critics of Jawaharlal Nehru to sharpen their swords. But their assumptions are wrong

From inside India’s western-most outpost, in that bleak winter of 1962, troops would have stared out across the sheet of ice at the shattered ruins of their retreating army, and at their the foes beyond. Murgo, it was called by the Yarkandi tribesmen who guided caravans across the great Karakoram pass, the Gate of Hell. The attack they must have feared never came. Chinese troops reached the line they claimed to be their border, just east of Murgo — and then stopped. For two generations since, soldiers have faced each other, prepared to kill on the roof of the world.

The online release this month of the first volume of the most closely-held 1962 war secret, Lieutenant General Henderson Brooks and Brigadier Premindra Bhagat’s searing indictment of the conduct of operations, has stoked deep fears Indians have nursed for over fifty years.

For critics of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, on the right of Indian politics, the release of the Henderson Brooks report has been an occasion to call for a more muscular military policy — holding him responsible for eviscerating India’s armed forces in the build-up to the defeat. Every historical text, though, has a context, and the context to this one shows that this would be precisely the wrong lesson to draw.Scapegoating Nehru

The notion that that Mr. Nehru allowed the Indian military to slowly degenerate towards its catastrophic defeat in 1962 is an article of faith for many commentators on the war. Like much faith, though, it sits ill with fact. From 1947 to 1962, the Army expanded from 280,000 to 5,50,000, the doyen of Indian security studies K. Subrahmanyam pointed out in a 1970 paper. Expenditure on defence rose from Rs. 190.15 crore in 1951-1952 to Rs. 320.34 crore in 1961-1962 despite the enormous financial constraints that a fragile, just-born nation faced.

The Army, by the eve of the 1962 war, had acquired a division of state-of-the-art Centurion tanks and two regiments of AMX-13 light tanks which fought at Kameng against Chinese troops who had none, but could not prevent the routing of Indian troops. The Air Force bought six squadrons of Hunter fighter-bombers, two squadrons of Ouragons, and two of Gnat interceptors—all equipment far superior to anything flown by their adversary. The Navy had acquired an aircraft carrier, three destroyers, and eleven spanking new frigates.

Mr. Nehru might indeed, as critics contend, been an instinctive dove, but if this is true, the record suggests he also believed in keeping his talons sharp. Yet, India lost the war. “So long as we cling to these myths to explain away the debacle,”Mr. Subrahmanyam concluded, “the reasons for the debacle will not be adequately investigated and correct lessons drawn.”

Reading Henderson in historical context

Triggered by India’s ‘forward policy’ and the leadership’s failure to read the Chinese reaction, the 1962 war was lost before it was fought 

Zorawar Daulet Singh

THE partial release of the Henderson Brooks Report (HBR) has affirmed a widely held belief among historians and sections of the strategic community that a politicised and incompetent higher defence and intelligence system in Delhi contributed to and adversely affected the outcome on the battlefield in 1962.

A lake on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in Ladakh. The border with China remains as contentious as ever. Tribune file photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

To enable a better understanding of the causes of 1962, however, the HBR should also be located in its historical context. A study of Indian perceptions at the highest level is vital to understanding the path to 1962.

The primary objective of the Nehru regime, even as the dispute deteriorated after 1959, was to avoid a frontal collision with China. The central puzzle, therefore, is why did India find itself on the Himalayan battlefield in October 1962? There are four factors that arguably shaped Indian behaviour leading up to 1962:

Contested worldviews

It is useful to appreciate the context that framed India’s geopolitical worldview since this directly influenced the type of China policy adopted. The entry of Pakistan into the Western alliance system in 1954 led to an ideological model of threat assessment where an externally backed Pakistan was deemed as the primary political and military threat. India’s engagement of China and the 1954 Agreement emanated from Nehru’s unwillingness to open a second front.

After 1959, there appears to be one worldview embodied by Nehru and Krishna Menon favouring non-alignment, resisting Pakistan, and avoiding conflict with China, and another worldview from the right calling for an entente with the West, a common defence pact with Pakistan and a more robust policy vis-à-vis China. This was not simply a dichotomy of ideological threat assessments but a real military dilemma since given fixed force levels the challenge was finding an appropriate deployment mix for the Pakistani and Chinese frontiers.

If such a notion of contested worldviews is plausible, it might explain the erratic pattern of India’s policies and posture subsequently. Nehru in trying to placate the Congress right was compelled to make a policy shift and adopt an unyielding posture of no-negotiations and demonstrate resolve through the 1961 forward policy that even though did not intend for conflict with China it inevitably led to it.

The misreading

Nehru in trying to placate the Congress right was compelled to demonstrate resolve through the 1961 forward policy, without intending the conflict it inevitably led to.

India receiving strategic attention and material aid from both superpowers probably emboldened the Nehru government to overestimate India’s importance in superpower strategies.

Nehru believed in a nuclear world the next war could only be global. Mao saw that the basic nature of warfare remained unchanged.

In most standoffs between 1959 and 1962 the Chinese backed off. These experiences shaped the perception that the Chinese were not interested in a serious conflagration.

India in world politics

After 1959, the Indian government began to perceive both the superpowers’ tilt toward India on the dispute as some sort of restraint on Chinese behaviour. One could view it as ‘soft’ external balancing. In 1959, India made requests to the Soviets to rein in the Chinese. Soviet support via its neutrality, which was expressed in the famous Tass statement of September 9, 1959, while a symbolic gesture could have shaped India’s false sense of confidence in its dealings with China. Although we also now know that Moscow had told Delhi the limits of their influence on Chinese behaviour.

*** Orthodoxy and Europe

By Robert Kaplan
Horia-Roman Patapievici is a Romanian philosopher who, way back in the late 1990s, told me that Romania's task was to acquire a public style based on impersonal and transparent rules like in the West, otherwise business and politics would be full of intrigue. And he questioned whether Romania's Eastern Orthodox tradition is helpful in this regard. He went on to explain that Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Russia, Greece and Cyprus -- the Orthodox nations of Europe -- were all characterized by weak institutions, compared with those of northwestern Europe. He and many others have intimated that this is partly because Orthodoxy is flexible and contemplative, thus tolerant of the world as it is, having created its own alternative order.

Because of Orthodoxy, according to the late British historian Hugh Seton-Watson, early 20th-century Russians who lost their religious faith did not become "rationalist skeptics" in the Western tradition; they merely transferred their spiritual fervor to social revolution. Nicolas Berdyaev, a Russian intellectual of the era, observed that Bolshevism was an Orthodox form of Marxism, because it underscored "totality." (Indeed, Stalin, who studied for six years at an Orthodox monastery in Georgia, gave speeches that evoked the singsong litanies of the church.)

There is much to debate here. But clearly, given the millennia-old traditions of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, with its forests of beeswax candles, silver-plated icons and other exemplars of intoxicating magic, there is a clear otherness to Orthodoxy that defines it as a great world religion. To say that the Orthodox countries that dominate the Balkans and Russia are capable eventually of the same level of institutional development as those in northwestern Europe is altogether reasonable; but to say that such things as culture and religion simply do not contribute at all to different development patterns in Greater Europe is not reasonable.

Culture, geography and historical experience are all of primary significance. They make us what we are. To erase the past and to say that we are suddenly all identical creatures in a global meeting hall is the height of folly. Yet that, after a fashion, is what Europe's elites have believed for decades. If you even mention national characteristics to them, such as those devolved from Orthodoxy, you are an "essentialist," an academic word that means you are guilty of ethnic stereotyping. But can it be wholly an accident that the countries facing the direst financial and political straits in Europe today are mainly in the southeastern and southern parts of the continent? Clearly, geography, history and religion play some sort of a role, however much they can be overcome, and however difficult it is to quantify them.


Friday, 21 March 2014 | M Zulqernain

The country would have been more mindful of regional sensibilities if the West had been less aggressive in trying to fill the space Soviet Union vacated, and if regime change wasn’t integral to Washington's agenda 

Events in Crimea confirm that every large country must enjoy exclusive authority in its neighbourhood. The analogy that comes to mind is of Kolkata’s Fort William. The surrounding Maidan is the fort’s strategic glacis. Military historians agree that Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah captured the earlier Fort William so easily in 1756 because the glacis was crowded with houses which he took one by one. The possibility of an American-sponsored coup in Kiev holds a similar danger.

This is the logic of what Russia calls its Near Abroad. Actually, the Americans first enunciated the theory in 1823 with the Monroe Doctrine. China has tried to safeguard its glacis by swallowing up Tibet and Xinjiang, nibbling at the Paracel and Spratly Islands, designating the South China Sea a “core interest”, and unilaterally announcing an Air Defence Identification Zone restricting flights in international air space. India’s security demands international recognition of its own geopolitical ‘near abroad’. This means not only Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, but also Sri Lanka, probably Myanmar and possibly parts of Tibet. I would have included Sikkim if India had not in this one respect self-defeatingly followed the Chinese example of annexing a fragment of the Near Abroad.

The main question revolves round Pakistan which is yoked with India in the American consciousness like unreconciled Siamese twins. As I noted in Waiting for America: India and the US in the New Millennium, sometimes the hyphenation is symbolic, like Harry Truman lavishing exactly the same hospitality on Liaquat Ali Khan immediately after Jawaharlal Nehru’s first US visit. Sometimes it is substantive like successive administrations building up Pakistan militarily. The latest instance of that is provided by the current talks to hand over to Pakistan $7 billion worth of mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles the US Army no longer needs in Afghanistan.

“Parity was extended to create the myth that if India’s neighbours were not its equal in every way (despite their combined area and population being a fraction of India’s), this invested India with a special responsibility to shrink to their level in all regional transactions.” Indians did not repudiate this theory, perhaps seeing in it a tribute to their own pre-eminence. In January 2002, China’s Foreign Minister, Tang Jiaxuan, advised Mr Jaswant Singh that “as a big country” India should “play a more positive role” in the subcontinent. No one asked Mr Tang what concession big China made to smaller Vietnam or to the even more vulnerable Philippines.

Some facts may have changed since I wrote, “Pakistan’s domestic product is one-eighth India’s; it has one-seventh the population and one-fifth the area. Pakistan’s Armed Forces are only between two-and-a-half to three times smaller than India’s because the military has been built up at the expense of social welfare. While India has sustained its parliamentary democracy through regular elections at several levels — from village council to Parliament — Pakistan had already known three prolonged spells of military rule before General Pervez Musharraf seized power.” Yet, Mr Henry Kissinger dared to argue that a strong and stable Pakistan threatened India with a psychological challenge!

MH370: India’s wake-up call


There is no reason to believe MH370 was hijacked to target Indian cities. But if such an attack was to occur, is India ready?

The surreal disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 is a good occasion for Indians to start thinking about what might happen if we are ever compelled to live those nightmares.

Bar online speculation as idle as the Indian Mujahideen’s Internet chatter, there’s no reason to think that MH370 was hijacked to stage a 9/11-type attack on an Indian city or nuclear installation. There’s even less reason to think the aircraft might have been fitted with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Yet, on the morning of September 11, 2001, there was no good reason at all to believe a terrorist attack involving hijacked jets might bring down the Twin Towers in New York.

Threats from the air

Though the prospect of a terrorist group acquiring nuclear weapons or radiological assets remains small, Indian nuclear installations remain at risk from aircraft used as weapons. Though newer nuclear reactors have double-domed concrete structures, in theory capable of withstanding a direct hit, there are obvious reasons to avoid testing the engineering in the real world. In the wake of 9/11, New Delhi promulgated no-fly regulations around several nuclear facilities. However, as the scholar Sitakanta Mishra noted in a 2009 paper, “even today, aircrafts can fly over the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.”

It isn’t only nuclear installations that are at risk. There have, government sources say, been repeated restricted air space violations over New Delhi, each a potential threat to critical targets like Parliament, defence and intelligence complexes, the President’s estate and the Prime Minister’s home and office. None reached crisis-point — but there is little clarity on what would happen if they did.

Air Force sources familiar with air-defence systems at these facilities say one key problem is pre-delegation — instructions for when commanders on the ground can use lethal force against a potential threat.

For military planners, the dilemmas involved in such decisions are significant. In 1983, the Soviet Union shot down a Korean Airlines Boeing 747 flying from New York to Seoul. Soviet feared that it might be a hostile aircraft.

Declassified Soviet documents show that the commander of the Soviet Far East District Air Defense Forces, General Valery Kamensky, wanted the aircraft destroyed — but only after it was positively identified not to be civilian. His subordinate, General Anatoly Kornukov, commander of Sokol Air base, disagreed.

India’s Role in the Hague Nuclear Security Summit

P.R. Chari
MARCH 18, 2014


So far, the Nuclear Security Summits have proved unable to break through India’s penchant for secrecy on what it considers to be matters of national security, so the country’s nuclear security arrangements remain somewhat opaque.

At President Obama’s initiative, a series of biennial Nuclear Security Summits begun in 2010 have sought to raise awareness about the need to tighten controls over nuclear materials. States participating in these summits were urged to meeting international best practices and to improve transparency so as to build confidence that their security systems would prevent nuclear materials from being stolen or diverted.

India is a participant in the Nuclear Security Summit process, but thus far the results of its engagement are mixed. The summits elicited commitments to stronger security measures but failed to convince New Delhi to increase transparency regarding its nuclear security practices. So far, the summits have proved unable to break through India’s penchant for secrecy on what it considers to be matters of national security, so the country’s nuclear security arrangements remain somewhat opaque.

Another summit is now on the horizon. As it looks toward the next meeting, scheduled for March 24–25 in the Netherlands, New Delhi should take steps to further improve its own nuclear security and to advance the goals of nuclear security summits more broadly.


Nuclear security involves protecting nuclear materials in order to guard against theft or diversion and preventing sabotage of nuclear facilities. It entails physical protection, the deployment of guards to confront on-site threats and to respond from off-site to emergencies, and the use of automated systems to prevent unauthorized persons from gaining access to nuclear materials. 

These issues came to the fore after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 led to acute concerns regarding “loose nukes.” Great fears arose that chaotic conditions in the erstwhile Soviet Republics would invite nonstate actors to acquire nuclear materials and, perhaps, even operational nuclear weapons. 

In his historic Prague speech on nuclear weapons in April 2009, President Obama highlighted the need to bring nuclear materials around the world under national and international control, and he set a target of four years to accomplish this task. Toward this end, Obama declared that “we will set new standards, expand our cooperation with Russia, [and] pursue new partnerships to lock down these sensitive materials.” 

India-China relations: Visa issue

March 18, 2014

The practice of issuing stapled visa instead of proper visa by the Chinese embassy to Indian citizens from Arunachal Pradesh in last few years, and earlier in respect of Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir, has been an irksome issue in the Sino-Indian relations. It may be recalled that in 2010, when Lt Gen. BS Jaswal, the GoC-in-C Northern Command, was issued a stapled visa by the Chinese Embassy, allegedly on the ground that he commanded a disputed territory, to visit China to participate in a defence exchange programme, it created deep resentment in India. The government responded strongly by freezing defence exchanges with China. Beijing later signaled overtures to defreeze the military exchanges. Subsequently, an eight-member delegation led by Maj Gen Gurmeet Singh of the Northern Command visited China in 2011.

Subsequently, the issue of stapled visa was discussed between the two countries during the visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in December 2010. A welcome change of attitude was seen when the Chinese embassy issued proper visas to journalists from Jammu& Kashmir accompanying the Prime Minister on his visit to China to participate in the BRICS summit in Sanya in April 2011. Ever since, there has been no instance of stapled visa being issued to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir. However, the Chinese embassy continues with the practice of issuing stapled visas to Indians from Arunachal Pradesh.

This differentiated approach can be understood in the context of the Chinese claims over the bordering state of Arunachal Pradesh, which they call ‘South Tibet’. India’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh is based on the McMahon line drawn at the Simla Convention of 1914. Consequent upon its independence in 1947, India inherited the McMahon line in the eastern sector. India not only exercises administrative and political control over the territory, but also exercises effective sovereignty over Arunachal. China, on the other hand, does not recognize the McMahon line. The Chinese inference is that if its visa is embossed on the Indian passport, it may tantamount to recognizing India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh. The Indian position is that if the holder of a stapled visa with Indian passport is allowed to travel to China, it may be construed as conceding to Chinese claim over Arunachal Pradesh, and hence dilute India’s stand towards Chinese claims.

There is, however, a view that by issuing stapled visas to the Indian citizens from Arunachal, instead of the earlier policy of denying them a visa altogether, the Chinese government has “softened” its position and has virtually conceded that Arunachal Pradesh is a “dispute”.1India, clearly does not regard Arunachal as disputed. In fact, the Indian stance on the issue is that by following a two-track visa policy, China has disputed the legality of country’s international border, thereby impinging adversely on its sovereignty as well as territorial integrity.

Given that the visa issue has caused intermittent irritants, it is time to resolve it thoughtfully and imaginatively through the CBMs signed between the two countries in 1993, 1996 and in 2005. The ‘Political Parameters and Guiding Principles’ agreed between the two countries in 2005 envisages that “in reaching a boundary settlement, the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas”. If the spirit of these provisions is understood in a broader sense, then it is only reasonable to expect that Beijing should be sensitive to the interests of the residents of Arunachal Pradesh in granting them a visa.

Mizoram: Continuing Irritants

Veronica Khangchian
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

A 20-year insurgency, in what was then the Lushai Hills District of Assam (after 1972, the Union Territory of Mizoram) came to an end on June 30, 1986, with the signing of an accord between the rebel Mizo National Front (MNF) and the Government of India (GoI). The accord resulted in the creation of Mizoram as a State in February 1987. The end of the insurgency, however, only solved the 'Mizo' (Lushai speaking people's) issues, leaving out the State's minority tribes, such as the Hmars and the Brus. Nagging issues continue to feed cycles of low grade strife, and the 'silent' activities of the Hmar under the Hmar People's Convention-Democracy (HPC-D), and the issue of Bru (Reang) refugees, remain unresolved, more than two-and-a-half decades after peace was restored to the State.

On February 9, 2014, the Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF) declared that repatriation of refugees from Tripura to Mizoram would not be possible as long as three basic demands were not fulfilled: financial assistance to each family should be enhanced from INR 90,000 to INR 150,000; free ration for two years; and allotment of land under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

Following the Assembly elections of November 2013, the new Government of Mizoram had initiated steps to resume repatriation of Bru refugees sheltered in six relief camps in North Tripura’s Kanchanpur Subdivision. A. Sawibunga, President of MBDPF, stated, on February 9, 2014, “We heard that the Mizoram Government is on the move to resume repatriation of Reang refugees without considering our basic demands. We are ready to resettle in Mizoram but provided the Government takes steps to address our basic needs or requirement.” Arguing that repatriation of Bru refugees is not the only solution to the problem, A. Sawibunga added that the Government must pay heed to the ‘social demands’ of the Bru people, and that, “Return of displaced Bru people could take place any time after addressing genuine grievances of Bru people.”

Congress leader Lal Thanhawla, at his swearing-in ceremony as the Chief Minister of Mizoram for the second consecutive term, on December 14, 2013, declared that the future of Brus lodged in six relief camps in Tripura would be taken up by his Government, and that the new Government would try its best to end the problem. He, however, asserted that the Government would take steps to delete the names of those who refused to be repatriated.

This declaration came even before the dust had settled, after scores of Brus fled Mizoram following the abduction of three people [two Mizos and Deep Mondal, an official of a Delhi-based telecom company and resident of Kolkata (West Bengal)] by Tripura-based National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and Bru Democratic Front of Mizoram (BDFM) militants from Damparengpui village near the Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mamit District of Mizoram on November 23, 2013. On December 6, Mizoram Police officials stated that an NLFT cadre, who abducted the trio, had demanded a ransom of INR 50 million for Mondal's release. A senior Police official indicated that the ransom demand was made directly to the telecom company. The abductors had not demanded any ransom for the two abducted Mizos. On January 19, 2014, over 2,423 Bru, including women and children fled from Mizoram, and sheltered in Tripura, after Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP, Mizo Students’ Federation), a powerful students' union, reportedly began a mass voluntary search operation, on January 14, 2014, to find the abducted men. "Over 2,423 men, women and children comprising 368 families late January 19 evening took shelter in four villages in Tripura," a Tripura relief department official disclosed. The Brus from at least three villages - Damdiai, Tumpanglui and New Eden - in Mamit District, fled to Tripura or had taken refuge in nearby villages, fearing a repeat of the 1997-Bru-Mizo ethnic violence. On January 16, 2014, MBDPF President Saibunga alleged that a group of Mizo youth had perpetrated violence against Brus living in the three villages on January 13, and accused the latter of maintaining clandestine relations with banned militant outfits. Saibunga alleged, "They beat up the Brus and set at least 13 house on fire, forcing the Bru families to flee the place and take shelter in camps in Tripura."

Armor: T-90s Recover From Heat Stroke

March 17, 2014

India is upgrading 600 of its Russian T-90 tanks with new electronics (navigation systems, thermal sights and fire control computers) and air conditioning at a cost of about $42,000 per tank. The main reason for air conditioning in the tanks is not the crew, but the electronics. Russia was asked to develop and install air conditioning but were unable to create a system that could handle the Indian climate. That failure caused a lot of damage to the Russian and foreign made electronics in the Indian T-90s, thus the need for these changes. 

One of the most obvious reasons for this upgrade was the heat related problems. Despite years of effort India was unable to get the thermal imaging systems to operate reliably on its T-90 tanks. Most of the thermal imagers on the T-90s were down at any one time. The problem was eventually found to be heat, and the 40 degree (Celsius/104 Fahrenheit) heat is unavoidable because it's a desert area where Indian T-90s have to be stationed. The Indians paid $2.6 million for each tank (half the price of the U.S. M-1). Some 20 percent of the cost was for the thermal sight, similar to the one that makes the U.S. M-1 tank so effective on the battlefield. Unfortunately, tests of the T-90 revealed that the thermal sight system could not handle the heat of Indian summers once the air conditioning failed. Much of the border between India and Pakistan is desert, and most of India's armored units are stationed there. The problem is that while the T-90 had Russian developed air conditioning (something new in Russian tanks), it cannot handle the 100+ degree heat in tropical India. The Russians were unable to develop a suitable upgrade because there was no room inside the tank to install a more powerful, but larger, cooling system. The American M-1 air conditioning has been able to handle extreme heat, so the Indians knew it could be done and eventually found a supplier who could build a system that worked and fit into the space available. 

The T-90 went into low level production in 1993, but was too expensive for the Russian army to buy more than a few of them. India eventually became the biggest user. The T-90 is based on the T-72, but has composite armor (plus reactive armor) and better electronics. The 50 ton tank uses a 125mm smooth bore gun, and can also fire the 9M119M Refleks-M missile (to 4,000 meters) at ground or air (helicopter) targets. The tank carries 43 tank shells or missiles, 22 of them in the autoloader carousel. India agreed to buy 310 T-90s initially and is to have over 1,600 of them by the end of the decade, most of them assembled in India using Russian made parts. 

First, Do No Harm

March 18, 2014 

The US needs more than an exit plan for Afghanistan. It needs a new strategy for South Asia, starting with Pakistan.

While Washington and Kabul debate military withdrawal from Afghanistan, South Asia is wondering what comes next. NATO’s campaign has skewed US policy towards the entire region, and not for the better. As troops withdraw America will have increasing latitude to radically redefine policy towards the failing states and kleptocracies of South Asia, starting with Pakistan.

While the US has begun scaling back drone operations, it is yet to articulate a new strategy for Pakistan. Last October in Waziristan the CIA finally caught up with Hakimullah Mehsud. His death by drone was somewhat satisfying – in 2009 Mehsud orchestrated the death of seven US operatives in Khost, Afghanistan. But the assassination also complicated Pakistan’s efforts to resolve its own insurgency. Around the same time Washington resolved to release more than $1.5 billion of aid to Islamabad (after cutting aid to India to a paltry $91 million a year).

The dichotomy of drone violence and economic largesse continues to cause more harm than good. After more than a decade of increasing distrust, it is time for the US and Pakistan to walk away from the September 11 agenda, and each other. Since 2001, the US has delivered nearly $26 billion in aid to Pakistan. US national interests have expanded over time to include democracy promotion, the strengthening of civil institutions, human development and resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

Instead of achieving these noble aims, US military assistance is diverted to menace India, rule of law isdiminishing, while generous dollops of aid undermine local governance and foster corruption on a sub-continental scale. Pakistan continues to drift through political instability, amid rising sectarianviolence in Kashmir and elsewhere. Despite impressive economic growth, the UNDP reports Pakistan is still outpaced by India and Bangladesh according to most indices of human development. Meanwhile, the most significant US intelligence coup since 2001 – the Bin Laden raid – was conducted unilaterally, prompting a significant backlash from Islamabad. US policy has delivered few friends and created more enemies in Pakistan.

This abusive relationship with Washington erodes the popular legitimacy of civilian government, while nourishing the same discontent and religious extremism which America then tries to destroy from the air. Throughout much of Pakistan, the US is not represented by diplomats, aid workers, or even Hollywood. America falls from the sky, fuelling hatred and conspiracy on the ground.

Pakistan’s New Policy to Counter Terror- An Appraisal


The Pakistan government approved the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) 2014-2018 on 25 Feb14. In his statement, after tabling the policy before the cabinet for approval, Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar indicated that the NISP has three parts; operational, strategic and day to day government actions that would remain secret. The draft of the counter terrorism policy had earlier been presented to Nawaz Sharif on 13 August 2013. The draft policy had advocated a five pronged approach of dismantle, contain, prevent, educate and reintegrate to curb terror, which was distinct from the 3-D (Deterrence, Development and Dialogue) approach of the previous Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government. The Pakistani government had evolved a tentative political consensus on the draft policy through an All-Party Parliamentary Conference (APC) before finalizing the policy.

The 100-odd page document, which is Pakistan’s first-ever national internal security policy, states that close to 50,000 people have been killed in Pakistan including over 5000 personnel of the law-enforcement agencies since the country joined the US-led war on terror after 9/11 attacks in 2001. The policy document goes on to estimate the total loss to the Pakistani economy in the last ten years due to terrorism, at $78 billion. This article examines the key constructs of the NISP to arrive at the challenges and pitfalls the policy would have to contend in changing the way Pakistan has been combating its internal strife.

Present Counter-terrorism Mechanism

According to the Constitution of Pakistan, maintaining law and order is the responsibility of the country’s provinces. Policing is a provincial matter, with each province maintaining its own police force. The federal government provides additional support to provincial governments when requested. The federal government has its own law enforcement agency, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which is governed by an Act of parliament and investigates offenses mentioned therein.

The Pakistan federal government in 2003 had assigned counter-terrorism role to FIA and the Special Investigation Group (SIG) was formally established in May 2003 within the FIA to combat terrorism. The SIG had been modelled on a similarly tasked cell of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. The first batch of SIG recruits were drawn from the Police Service of Pakistan, Intelligence Bureau (IB), FIA and direct recruitment through the Federal Public Service Commission. SIG Officers were provided extensive training and some equipment by US government’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, in the area of crime scene analysis, computer forensic analysis, cyber terrorism, terrorist financing investigations and post blast explosives analysis etc1. The SIG was tasked with identifying and investigating terrorists and terrorist activities, bank frauds and informal money transaction systems. It was the only civilian agency dedicated to countering terrorism”2 and had regional offices in all the four provinces under the administrative command of Director, FIA. All civil and military intelligence agencies were required to share their information on terrorism with the SIG at the FIA level. Later SIG was re-designated as Counter Terrorism Wing (CTW). The other federal-level agency – the IB also has a counter terrorism responsibility. Intelligence Bureau (IB) is Pakistan's main domestic/internal intelligence and espionage agency. It functions under direct control of Chief Executive of Pakistan - either the Prime Minister or the President.

A Startlingly Simple Theory About the Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet


There has been a lot of speculation about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Terrorism, hijacking, meteors. I cannot believe the analysis on CNN; it’s almost disturbing. I tend to look for a simpler explanation, and I find it with the 13,000-foot runway at Pulau Langkawi.

We know the story of MH370: A loaded Boeing 777 departs at midnight from Kuala Lampur, headed to Beijing. A hot night. A heavy aircraft. About an hour out, across the gulf toward Vietnam, the plane goes dark, meaning the transponder and secondary radar tracking go off. Two days later we hear reports that Malaysian military radar (which is a primary radar, meaning the plane is tracked by reflection rather than by transponder interrogation response) has tracked the plane on a southwesterly course back across the Malay Peninsula into the Strait of Malacca.

The left turn is the key here. Zaharie Ahmad Shah1 was a very experienced senior captain with 18,000 hours of flight time. We old pilots were drilled to know what is the closest airport of safe harbor while in cruise. Airports behind us, airports abeam us, and airports ahead of us. They’re always in our head. Always. If something happens, you don’t want to be thinking about what are you going to do–you already know what you are going to do. When I saw that left turn with a direct heading, I instinctively knew he was heading for an airport. He was taking a direct route to Palau Langkawi, a 13,000-foot airstrip with an approach over water and no obstacles. The captain did not turn back to Kuala Lampur because he knew he had 8,000-foot ridges to cross. He knew the terrain was friendlier toward Langkawi, which also was closer.

Take a look at this airport on Google Earth. The pilot did all the right things. He was confronted by some major event onboard that made him make an immediate turn to the closest, safest airport.
The loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense in a fire.

When I heard this I immediately brought up Google Earth and searched for airports in proximity to the track toward the southwest.

For me, the loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense in a fire. And there most likely was an electrical fire. In the case of a fire, the first response is to pull the main busses and restore circuits one by one until you have isolated the bad one. If they pulled the busses, the plane would go silent. It probably was a serious event and the flight crew was occupied with controlling the plane and trying to fight the fire. Aviate, navigate, and lastly, communicate is the mantra in such situations.

Myanmar Fighting a Losing Battle Against Opium Addiction

Also: Singapore housing market surges, endangered Malaysian sun bears returning to the wild. 

March 18, 2014

In Myanmar, opium and heroin addicts don’t hide in abandoned buildings or dark alleyways to get high. Drug abuse has become so common in some villages that dealers sell in broad daylight in public places. When police or military officers arrive on the scene, it’s not to break up the illegal activity – they come to buy and use.

In opium-growing areas, such as the village of Nampakta, officials estimate that half of the population is addicted. Myanmar, formerly the world’s largest opium producer, is experiencing a resurgence in poppy cultivation as the government seeks truces with rebel groups.

“The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates the country produced 870 tons of opium last year, a 26 percent increase over 2012 and the highest figure recorded in a decade. During the same period, drug eradication efforts plunged … The decrease was linked to efforts to forge peace with dozens of ethnic rebel insurgencies that control the vast majority of the poppy growing territory,” wrote AP. “Nearly a dozen ceasefire agreements have been signed with various groups, but several insurgencies, including the Shan State Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, continue to hold out. If Thein Sein goes after the rebels’ main source of income, the drug trade, he risks alienating them at a delicate time.”

However, some villages – such as Nampakta – are under government control. Residents have pressed local officials to crack down on the open air drug markets to no avail. They claim that drug dealers pay off security officials or simply turn them into users.

Over in Malaysia, good news for one of the country’s most threatened animals: Officials at the Sabah Wildlife Department seized five sun bears, likely destined for the illegal wildlife trade. The animals will be returned to the wild.

Malaysian sun bears are targeted by wildlife traffickers because the bile produced in their gallbladder fetches a high price in the world of traditional Chinese medicine – despite having no scientifically proven medicinal qualities. Captured bears live excruciating lives, often trapped in tiny cages that restrict their movement with an open incision used to extract the bile.

The bears – four male and one female – will be released into the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center, where they will be protected from poachers.

Meanwhile in Singapore, demand for new private homes surged in February. The city-state’s Urban Redevelopment Authority announced that developers sold 724 units last month, compared with 565 in January,marking a 28 percent increase.

The increase was attributed to the sales of executive condominiums and mass market homes in suburban areas.

Appeasing China

March 19, 2014

Last Monday, Qin Gang of the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that China Coast Guard vessels on the previous day had prevented two Philippine-flagged ships from approaching Second Thomas Shoal. Beijing’s sailors “spoke through amplifier” and warded off the intruders, the spokesman explained. “It is known to all that China has sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their surrounding waters, including the Ren’ai Reef,” said Qin, using Beijing’s name for the shoal.

In fact, only Beijing thinks China has sovereignty over Ren’ai, which Manila calls Ayungin Shoal. The long and thin coral outcropping is part of the Spratlys, 250 islands and reefs covering 165,000 square miles of the South China Sea. The contested reef is 105 nautical miles from Palawan Island of the Philippines. Hainan Island, China’s closest point, is about five times farther away.

Beijing has expansive territorial claims in the area. Its official maps contain nine dashes, in the form of a tongue, that encompass about 90 percent of the South China Sea, recognized by all states other than China as international water. Beijing’s apparent claim is inconsistent with obligations it has undertaken by treaty and has no support in international law.

In recent years the Chinese have employed rough tactics to enforce their designs on the area. In early 2012, for instance, China’s vessels first surrounded and then took control of Scarborough Shoal, a part of the Philippines about 120 nautical miles off the main island of Luzon. In June of that year, both Beijing and Manila agreed, after mediation by Washington, to withdraw their craft from Scarborough’s waters. Only Manila did so, however, and to this day Chinese ships prevent Filipinos from returning to their traditional fishing grounds.

Chinese state media brazenly boasted of their government’s seizure, and Chinese military officers, emboldened by success, now arrogantly trumpet their provocative acts. Major General Zhang Zhaozhong, for instance, described what he called the “cabbage strategy” that was successfully employed to seize Scarborough. By wrapping an island “layer by layer like a cabbage” with small vessels, Chinese forces could keep out the ships of other nations.

At Second Thomas Shoal, China is using a small flotilla to strangle a tiny Philippine garrison. There, Manila in 1999 grounded the Sierra Madre, a World War II-vintage hospital ship, to mark its territory, leaving a handful of marines on board. As General Zhang explained, China, with its cabbage tactics can block resupply of troops like those on that rusting vessel. Without provisions, the troopers stationed there will be forced to leave after one or two weeks. “Once they have left, they will never be able to come back,” Zhang gloats.

The Political Utility of China’s A2/AD Challenge

Anti-Access/Area Denial is often seen purely in military terms. It’s much bigger than that.
March 19, 2014

At The Diplomat and elsewhere, much ink (digital and otherwise) has been spilled on China’s burgeoning anti-access area denial (A2/AD) capabilities. This is perfectly sensible given the importance of the Asia-Pacific to the 21st Century geopolitical order, and the fact that China’s A2/AD capabilities are just the most prominent example of a larger global trend.

As a military doctrine, A2/AD largely gets analyzed by military professionals and civilian defense analysts. And one result of this is China’s A2/AD capabilities get analyzed abroad largely through a military lens. Thus, discussion in the U.S. of China’s A2/AD capabilities seems to center around scenarios in which Beijing uses A2/AD to deny the U.S. military the ability to operate in its littoral waters during a crisis such as a Chinese invasion of the Taiwanese Strait.

Strategies and operational concepts for countering China’s A2/AD therefore tend to focus on ways the U.S. can gain access to China’s littoral waters during said crisis contingencies. It is assumed that if the U.S. is able to penetrate Chinese waters during such crisis scenarios than Beijing’s A2/AD doctrine will have failed. All of this is largely sensible too. China may in fact seek to use its A2/AD capabilities in this manner and if it is successful it would be to the detriment of the United States (and especially its allies).

At the same time, it is widely recognized that China, certainly to a greater extent than the United States, doesn’t compartmentalize its different sources of national power. As the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Studies’ (CSBA) Barry Watts has noted: “the overarching aim of the PLA’s military modernization is to contribute to China’s comprehensive national power (综合国力 or zōnghé guólì) rather than to field military capabilities per se.”

By comprehensive national power, Watts explains, China means the “sum total of the powers and influence of a country as measured by its economic power (gross domestic product), knowledge and technological resources, human capital… natural resources, capital resources (such as domestic and foreign investment), government’s ability to mobilize resources, military power, and international resources.”

And there are political uses for China’s A2/AD capabilities beyond simply denying the U.S. military access to China’s littorals during hot conflicts such as an invasion of Taiwan. Namely, A2/AD encourages the U.S. military to develop capabilities to fight over longer ranges, out of reach of China’s medium-range missile capabilities. This indeed is one of Watts’ recommendations for dealing with China’s budding long-range precision strike capabilities.

While this method may be effective in overcoming A2/AD challenges during actual conflicts, it proves less useful in times of peace. Not wanting to put expensive naval assets like aircraft carriers at risk of China’s missiles even during peacetime, and having long-range aircraft that can strike at distances over 1,000 kilometers, the U.S. Navy may drastically reduce its peacetime presence in the Asia-Pacific.

China: United We Find

March 18, 2014

The government recently ordered its Internet censors to crack down on what people say on Chinese social media. This quickly led to many local critics (or simply commentators) of the Chinese government disappearing from the Chinese Internet. This does not surprise most Chinese, especially since in 2013 the government finally revealed the number of people (two million) involved in Internet censorship operations. This operation is called Golden Shield (or “Great Firewall of China” in the West) and it’s a huge information control system that has been under construction since for over a decade. Before the new revelations Golden Shield was believed to have at least 40,000 full time Ministry of Public Security employees dedicated to monitoring and censoring Internet use throughout the country. This was done using specialized hardware and software and lots of paid and volunteer censors. These “irregulars” were known to be numerous but it was difficult to get an accurate estimate. Now the government revealed that irregulars bring the total Internet censorship manpower up to two million. This is for keeping some 600 million Chinese Internet users under control. This is not cheap and over ten billion dollars has been spent on Golden Shield so far. While the Great Firewall cannot stop someone expert at how the Internet works, it does greatly restrict the other 90 percent of Chinese Internet users. And it provides a lot of information about what is going on inside all that Internet traffic. Year by year the Golden Shield operators learned what worked (to monitor and control news and user activity) and what didn't. Not only can Golden Shield keep news from getting out of a part of China but it can greatly limit how much contradictory (to the government version) news gets into all of China. Most of those two million Internet censors are occupied with monitoring new material showing up, especially via Weibo (the Chinese version of Twitter) and blocking anything that disputes the official government line. 

The Golden Shield does not keep the truth out and many of those who know the most about what’s going on in China are getting out. For example thousands of the smartest people in the country still go off each year to attend graduate school in the West and do not return. Many of the graduate students from the 1970s and 80s have returned and many have founded hugely successful businesses. But now a third of China’s most successful businessmen (and some women) are moving their families and fortunes overseas. Many of these economic refugees are obtaining dual citizenship wherever they can. Many are sending their wives to give birth in the United States, so that some of their children will be United States citizens. These refugees already have moved over half a trillion dollars in assets out of China and at current rates that will double in the next three years. These wealthy refugees fear the pollution and corruption in China and are losing faith in the current government (a dictatorship run by the Chinese Communist Party) to set things right before the country collapses into another period of civil strife and economic collapse. There is little faith in the armed forces, who are seen as just another bunch of corrupt government bureaucrats. While the government says that everything is under control, the one group of non-government employees most likely to know what’s really going on are running for the exits. The government quietly tries to stem this exodus but fears doing so openly because of the risk that might trigger widespread panic. But many Chinese are noticing the gradual disappearance of the families that used to occupy the mansions and luxury apartments are gone, many of them for good or most of the time. This is not good for morale. 

Countering China in the South China Sea

March 18, 2014

On March 18, officials from China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will meet in Singapore to discuss steps towards an elusive code of conduct in the contentious South China Sea dispute. If the past is any indicator, China will ensure that such diplomacy will produce little significant progress even as it continues to coercively change realities on the ground in its favor. While cooler heads hope diplomacy will prevail, hope is not a strategy. Southeast Asian officials and other external partners like the United States and Japan need to use the full range of instruments at their disposal to persuade Beijing about the urgent need for a diplomatic solution, dissuade it from undertaking further destabilizing moves, and prepare for a range of crises in the absence of Chinese cooperation.

Since 2009, China has displayed a growing assertiveness towards ASEAN states in the South China Sea, using a combination of diplomatic, administrative and military instruments to impose unilateral fishing bans, harass vessels, and patrol contested waters. Despite the so-called ‘charm offensive’ by China’s new leadership in the region in 2013, Beijing’s conduct in the South China Sea has remained largely unchanged, with a new fishing law promulgated in January, invasive patrols and encroachments into waters of other claimants, and foot-dragging at talks over a code of conduct it finally agreed to discussing last year. Meanwhile, the specter of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea also continues to loom large. Yet, as former CIA senior analyst Chris Johnson told a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies earlier this year, unlike most other observers China’s leaders continue to see no contradiction between seeking better relations with Southeast Asia and assertively defending their sovereignty claims at the expense of other ASEAN claimants.

Given this, it is now up to ASEAN states and their partners to craft an integrated strategy in the diplomatic, legal and security realms geared towards both steering Beijing away from its assertiveness if possible, and preparing to counter it effectively should it continue or intensify. In the diplomatic domain, ASEAN states and other parties should continue to consistently emphasize the cardinal principle that all countries – including China – need to resolve their disputes by peaceful means in accordance with international law. The principal means to reach this objective is a legally binding code of conduct. In spite of Chinese stalling, ASEAN states should remain united in insisting on both its speedy conclusion and meaningful content, including key mechanisms like a crisis management hotline.

While all ASEAN countries ought to be united in pursuit of a code of conduct, the four ASEAN states that have claims in the South China Sea – namely Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – should also take additional steps together given their greater stake in the issue at hand. The main objective would be to thwart China’s efforts to divide the ASEAN claimants (most clearly by isolating the Philippines) by banding together in spite of certain differences in their positions. Greater coordination looks more promising now than it did in the past, with the recent hardening of Malaysia’s stance along with the birth of the ASEAN Claimants Working Group Meeting held in the Philippines last month. Additionally, external actors beyond just the United States, including the European Union and Australia, need to do their part by speaking out against Chinese transgressions to raise the cost of noncompliance. A rules-based approach to resolving the disputes ought to be a shared global interest, and a greater coalition explicitly calling for this will help increase the pressure on Beijing without it being framed as just a U.S.-China issue.

Uyghurs Test ASEAN's Refugee Credentials

Despite facing religious and ethnic discrimination in China, Uyghur refugees are often sent back.

March 19, 2014

Handling the plight of refugees and Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) has often found the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) wanting.

From the eastern shores of Borneo to Myanmar’s northern border with Bangladesh, millions of people have sought sanctuary from wars, civil conflict, and religious and ethnic intolerance.

The issue takes on an unwanted dimension when China gets involved.

Fearing pressure from the political and military giant to the north, ASEAN states tend to overlook international norms, particularly when it comes to dealing with Uyghur asylum seekers, usually from China’s western Xinjiang region.

About 200 Uyghurs are apparently being held by Thai immigration authorities in that country’s Muslim-dominated south, where they have spoken with officials from the Turkish embassy and accepted help from UN refugee agencies.

Human rights groups say ethnic Uyghurs face discrimination, religious persecution and cultural suppression at the hands of Chinese authorities. Beijing, however, insists they are terrorists.

Attacks on Tiananmen Square in Beijing and at Kunming Railway Station that left 29 people dead and 140 wounded have been blamed on Uyghur separatists.

In Thailand they have refused to talk with immigration officials who want them prosecuted and deported back to China for illegally entering the country.

Chinese embassy officials have also been rebuffed.

Combined reports say the Uyghurs flew south from Xinjiang to Kunming then travelled south through Indochina to Thailand where the 78 men, 60 women and 82 children were found hiding in a rubber plantation in the southern province of Songkla.

They had planned to board a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Turkey, long seen as a safe-haven. Now it’s the rights groups and the U.S. State Department, mindful of recent precedents, that are demanding the Thais provide protection under its international obligations.

Efforts by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have gone ignored before. In 2009, Cambodia – increasingly a Chinese satellite – forcibly returned 20 Uyghurs to China claiming they were not legitimate refugees.

Malaysia followed suit in 2012 and deported six back to China.

But the ramifications are also much wider with the ASEAN Economic Community slated for launch by the end of next year.

People smuggling rackets out of Malaysia have flourished over the past decade with Kuala Lumpur becoming an important transit route for asylum seekers and economic migrants between the Middle East, Australia and East Asia.