2 April 2014

Our blood doesn’t boil

Apr 01, 2014

The ‘People’s War’ launched by the Naxalites requires an equally effective people-oriented counter strategy by the government, perhaps a ‘War for the People’.

The loss of 11 CRPF troops and four Chhattisgarh state police constables on March 13 in a Naxalite ambush on a road opening party (ROP) near Sukma, in Chhattisgarh’s Mukrana forest region, was a sharp jab in the ribs, a reminder of the forgotten insurgency smouldering in the heartland of India. But no one in Delhi or elsewhere seems to be concerned in the least that Naxalism and its associated socio-economic issues exist in a major way inside the drought-ravaged scrub jungle spread over substantial portions of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and the Jangalmahal districts of West Bengal. The poverty and backwardness of this expanse certainly cannot be “breaking news” for any self-respecting Indian government. Yet, it is too far away and inconsequential to attract and retain the attention of politicians and power brokers in Delhi who live snugly from one election manifesto to another. They rarely venture out into the “hot zone” to see things for themselves, leaving rapacious local minions to handle matters on the ground.

The result? An entirely home-grown and progressively intensifying free fire zone in middle India where the Red Revolution has been flickering unattended for decades, with every indication of flaring up into a conflagration that may consume the entire country. If, God forbid, this ever comes to pass, it would cause greater devastation than the Russian or Chinese revolutions.

The scene of the recent encounter was in the Abujmarh forest region which seems to be on its way to becoming India’s Yenan — Mao’s base area for the Chinese Revolution — or the U Minh Forest in Vietnam, during the times of Ho Chi Minh.

Though the graph of violence is creeping ominously and inexorably upwards, it will serve little useful purpose here to tabulate yet again the running tally of casualties suffered by the tired, jaded government forces fighting the Naxalite insurgency. These “vital statistics” never really impacted public and institutional memory, not even the monumental body count of 76 CRPF personnel of 80th Battalion killed on April 6, 2010, near Dantewada, again in Chhattisgarh, perhaps the highest ever number of casualties sustained by the security forces in a single incident anywhere in the country.

Chhattisgarh and its adjoining regions in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa are now firmly established as the main theatre of the Naxalite offensive in India. And the Naxals seem to be following almost to the letter Mao Zedong’s instructional manual, On the Protracted War, drawn up as far back as the 1930s. The analogy of guerrillas as fish swimming in a sea of people still remains as relevant as ever, with the local populations, urban as well as rural, trapped in the ricocheting crossfire. It might be time for the governments at all levels to go back to the drawing board and redesign their entire counter strategy which seems to be misfiring badly.

The wretchedly poor and impoverished adivasi population amongst whom the Naxalite insurgency has foisted itself has very little option or choice in the matter. They are truly the most wretched of the earth, living on sufferance of both the security forces as well as the extremists, brutalised, degraded and exploited by both as unwilling informants, providers of logistics and shelter, and, when required, used as human shields. Their sheer survival is an unimaginable nightmare, which compels their adjustment with both protagonists in a conflict they wish to have no part of. Meanwhile, the problem remains defiantly insoluble, notwithstanding the massive presence of paramilitary, Central police and state police forces. Something is obviously very wrong.

The Abujmarh forest region — which the Government of India has officially acknowledged as a “liberated zone” — has not been surveyed since Independence, which by itself should be an indication of the root cause of the Naxalite problem. Given the chronic failure to tackle the issue through civil politico-administrative intervention, recourse to the Army is unofficially regarded by many as more or less inevitable.

The Indian Army on its part has made its distaste for anti-Naxalite operations clear and is not directly involved in any manner. The Central government is only too happy to agree with the Army in this case, because the Naxalite-affected regions are mostly governed by Opposition-led state governments. On sheer cynicism and hypocrisy, the entire situation is hard to beat.
Meanwhile, the Chhattisgarh government has gifted a 750 sq km “manoeuvre range” in the Abujmarh zone to the Army, a very welcome gift considering the reluctance of civil authorities everywhere to part with land for military training and field firing ranges of which there is an acute paucity. Like good soldiers, the Army has commenced the process of setting up a jungle and counter-insurgency training school in Narayanpur district, 300 km from Raipur and adjacent to the Naxalite “liberated zone”.

But it must be remembered always that the critical elements in the fight against Naxalites have to be the indigenous tribals of the area who are both participants as well as victims on both sides. They need to be mobilised by the state into counter-Naxalite “Peoples’ Militias” under strict discipline to function as police auxiliaries. This is a sound and long-accepted solution that seems to have gone terribly wrong in practice. The Salwa Judum, a tribal militia raised on this principle, earned a horrific reputation for gross indiscipline and atrocities against the tribals. The Supreme Court of India has declared the organisation to be unconstitutional and ordered it to be disarmed and disbanded. However, this setback notwithstanding, the historical fact does remain that insurgency can only be combated by indigenous forces, including in Chhattisgarh.

The “People’s War” launched by the Naxalites requires an equally effective people-oriented counter strategy, perhaps a “War for the People”.

Though the Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh have been successful, Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh and other initiatives in other affected states have been a failure. The case of
Dr Binayak Sen in Chhattisgarh has highlighted the moral dilemmas in dealing with almost equally rapacious “Peoples’ Movement”. Which way lies success amidst the terrible fratricidal hatred and bitterness of the conflict?
The writer is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament


Crimea and South China Sea Diplomacy

Crimea and South China Sea Diplomacy
Image Credit: REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Russia’s big move shows both the limits and importance of diplomacy in territorial disputes.
By Sophie Boisseau du Rocher & Bruno Hellendorff
April 01, 2014

On March 18, China and ASEAN gathered in Singapore to pursue consultations on a Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea, alongside talks on the implementation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC). The gathering came at a time of rising preoccupation over a perceived creeping assertiveness by China in pursuing its maritime claims. Just one week before, Manila and Beijing experienced another diplomatic row, after Chinese Coast Guard vessels barred the resupply of Philippine marines based in the Spratly Islands.

In broader terms, several high-profile developments have hinted that China is becoming more inclined to consider the threat and use of force as its preferred vehicle for influence in the South China Sea. China’s considerable maritime build-up has been accompanied by the merging of its maritime agencies into a unified Coast Guard unit, the publication of maps with a 10-dash line covering Chinese claims in the South China Sea, and even the announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, covering the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. All have contributed to turning the South China Sea into “Asia’s cauldron,” as one renowned expert titled his last book. A widely circulated photograph picturing Chinese sailors forming the slogan “The Chinese dream, the dream of a strong military” on the deck of the Liaoning did nothing to help mitigate nervousness over Chinese aims and strategy in the region.

The timing of these China-ASEAN discussions coincided with rising tensions in Eastern Europe around the fate of Crimea. In recent days, neither international law nor European pressure have proved of much value in the face of Russian resolve. Illegal in many respects, the Crimean referendum was still deemed valid in Moscow, which subsequently annexed the region. The Ukrainian military bases in Crimea were rapidly overwhelmed by pro-Russian forces as the last vestiges of political control from Kiev were swept aside, making a return to status quo ante increasingly remote. Russia clearly has the upper hand in Crimea. It successfully promoted its interests through a combination of intimidation and crawling assertiveness while answering European and American criticisms by pointing to Western interventions in Kosovo and Libya. The larger consequences of this strategy for Euro-Russian relations and stability in Eastern Europe remain unclear. However, this demonstration of how, in certain situations, force prevails over diplomacy, a notion long fought by the European Union, has opened a new Pandora’s box.

The great Game Folio: China’s railroads

C. Raja Mohan | April 2, 2014 

Xi’s vigorous rail diplomacy brings to mind the expansive railroad construction by the European great powers in Asia and Africa during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Reuters

During his swing through Europe last week, China’s President Xi Jinping had time to stop at Duisburg, a major inland port and industrial hub in Germany. Xi was there to receive a train full of goods that had left Chongqing in southwestern China a fortnight earlier. The train travelled nearly 11,000 km through Central Asia, Russia and eastern Europe to Germany on what is called the “Yuxinou” rail line that was established in 2011 by a group of Chinese companies. Travelling by the traditional sea route through the Indian Ocean, the containers would have taken three more weeks to reach Germany.

The Yuxinou railway is the world’s second longest rail link, 2,000 km shorter than the one that connects Germany with Shanghai.

The Yuxinou rail is a big boost to China’s emerging industrial zones in landlocked southwestern regions of the country that are too far from Shanghai.

Xi’s presence at Duisburg helped showcase the president’s ambitious strategy of reviving the historic Silk Road that connected ancient China with Mediterranean Europe. Over the last one year, Xi has unveiled a plan to build a new Silk Road industrial belt between China and Central Asia, approved the development of a trans-Karakoram corridor through Pakistan, proposed transport links with Myanmar, Bangladesh and India, and called for a maritime silk route connecting the littorals of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Beijing is also pushing for highspeed railway lines between China and Southeast Asia and building new rail corridors in East and Central Africa.

Xi’s vigorous rail diplomacy brings to mind the expansive railroad construction by the European great powers in Asia and Africa during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Railways then were about integrating far-flung colonial frontiers, projecting military power, and gaining access to natural resources and markets. If building railways has long disappeared as a critical feature of great-power strategies, Xi has put it right back at the very centre of China’s grand strategy in the 21st century.


Xi’s plans to build new “Iron Silk Roads” traversing the length and breadth of Africa, Eurasia and Southeast Asia are built on the foundation of a dramatic expansion of China’s national railway system over the last three decades. China’s rail network was at 27,000 km in 1949; it is now at more than 110,000 km. Last year, it had plans to invest more than $100 billion in railways. After initial imports of highspeed rail technologies, China has become a leader in the domain and is offering to build fast train networks in America and Europe.

**** Russia and the United States Negotiate the Future of Ukraine

Geopolitical WeeklyTuesday, April 1, 2014

During the Cold War, U.S. secretaries of state and Soviet foreign ministers routinely negotiated the outcome of crises and the fate of countries. It has been a long time since such talks have occurred, but last week a feeling of deja vu overcame me. Americans and Russians negotiated over everyone's head to find a way to defuse the crisis in Ukraine and, in the course of that, shape its fate. 

During the talks, U.S. President Barack Obama made it clear that Washington has no intention of expanding NATO into either Ukraine or Georgia. The Russians have stated that they have no intention of any further military operations in Ukraine. Conversations between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have been extensive and ongoing. For different reasons, neither side wants the crisis to continue, and each has a different read on the situation. 
The Russian Perspective 

The Russians are convinced that the uprising in Kiev was fomented by Western intelligence services supporting nongovernmental organizations and that without this, the demonstrations would have died out and the government would have survived. This is not a new narrative on the Russians' part. They also claimed that the Orange Revolution had the same roots. The West denies this. What is important is that the Russians believe this. That means that they believe that Western intelligence has the ability to destabilize Ukraine and potentially other countries in the Russian sphere of influence, or even Russia itself. This makes the Russians wary of U.S. power

The Russians also are not convinced that they have to do anything. Apart from their theory on Western intelligence, they know that the Ukrainians are fractious and that mounting an uprising is very different than governing. The Russians have raised the price of natural gas by 80 percent for Ukraine, and the International Monetary Fund's bailout of Ukrainian sovereign debt carries with it substantial social and economic pain. As this pain sets in this summer, and the romantic recollection of the uprising fades, the Russians expect a backlash against the West and also will use their own influence, overt and covert, to shape the Ukrainian government. Seizing eastern Ukraine would cut against this strategy. The Russians want the pro-Russian regions voting in Ukrainian elections, sending a strong opposition to Kiev. Slicing off all or part of eastern Ukraine would be irrational. 

Other options for the Russians are not inviting. There has been talk of action in Moldova from Transdniestria. But while it is possible for Russian forces there to act in Moldova, supplies for the region run through Ukraine. In the event of a conflict, the Russians must assume that the Ukrainians would deny access. The Russians could possibly force their way in, but then a measured action in Moldova would result in an invasion of Ukraine -- and put the Russians back where they started. 

***** China Expands Its Footprint in Tibet

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March 19, 2014 | 0933 GMT


Workers carry out track maintenance along a segment of the Qinghai-Tibet railway in December 2008.

Recently announced plans to extend the Qinghai-Tibet railway to the southern Tibetan city of Xigaze, located less than 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the border with India, highlight the Chinese government's continuing efforts to tighten its control over the country's disparate and often restive borderlands. This process will likely gain momentum and significance in the coming years as Beijing grapples with potentially destabilizing social, economic and possibly political transformations in China's ethnic Han core.

The railway extension, which authorities expect to be operational by October, is ostensibly intended to improve access for Tibetans and other Buddhist pilgrims to the Beijing-installed Panchen Lama -- the highest reincarnated lama after the Dalai Lama and the highest recognized by Beijing -- whose official seat is in Xigaze. At the same time, authorities say the rail line will open the way for increased Chinese and foreign tourism throughout Tibet, thus increasing the region's economic integration with and reliance on the rest of China. The railway will also extend China's infrastructural (and therefore security) footprint deep into Tibet.


The extension plan taps into a number of overlapping themes in contemporary Chinese geopolitics. Fundamentally, it must be understood in the context of China's centuries-old struggle to gain and maintain control of buffer regions such as Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Manchuria.When controlled by Han China, these largely impassable regions form a shell around the country's vulnerable lowland core, providing strategic depth from other Eurasian population cores.

Historically, when Han China has been strong it has enjoyed greater control over these buffer regions. Authority over the borderlands, in turn, is necessary for a secure Han China. But these areas traditionally have been tenuously integrated into Han cultural and economic spheres of influence. Therefore, when Han China weakens, these regions are often the first to break away, precipitating the disintegration of the core itself. This is the basic paradox of China's buffer regions: They are most secure when a strong Han China needs their protection least, and they become vulnerable when a weak Han China needs their protection most.

** From Estonia to Azerbaijan: American Strategy After Ukraine

MARCH 25, 2014

As I discussed last week, the fundamental problem that Ukraine poses for Russia, beyond a long-term geographical threat, is a crisis in internal legitimacy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent his time in power rebuilding the authority of the Russian state within Russia and the authority of Russia within the former Soviet Union. The events in Ukraine undermine the second strategy and potentially the first. If Putin cannot maintain at least Ukrainian neutrality, then the world's perception of him as a master strategist is shattered, and the legitimacy and authority he has built for the Russian state is, at best, shaken. 

Whatever the origins of the events in Ukraine, the United States is now engaged in a confrontation with Russia. The Russians believe that the United States was the prime mover behind regime change in Ukraine. At the very least, the Russians intend to reverse events in Ukraine. At most, the Russians have reached the conclusion that the United States intends to undermine Russia's power. They will resist. The United States has the option of declining confrontation, engaging in meaningless sanctions against individuals and allowing events to take their course. Alternatively, the United States can choose to engage and confront the Russians. 

A failure to engage at this point would cause countries around Russia's periphery, from Estonia to Azerbaijan, to conclude that with the United States withdrawn and Europe fragmented, they must reach an accommodation with Russia. This will expand Russian power and open the door to Russian influence spreading on the European Peninsula itself. The United States has fought three wars (World War I, World War II and the Cold War) to prevent hegemonic domination of the region. Failure to engage would be a reversal of a century-old strategy.

The American dilemma is how to address the strategic context in a global setting in which it is less involved in the Middle East and is continuing to work toward a "pivot to Asia." Nor can the United States simply allow events to take their course. The United States needs a strategy that is economical and coherent militarily, politically and financially. It has two advantages. Some of the countries on Russia's periphery do not want to be dominated by her. Russia, in spite of some strengths, is inherently weak and does not require U.S. exertion on the order of the two World Wars, the Cold War or even the Middle East engagements of the past decade. 

The Russian and U.S. Positions

I discussed Russian options on Ukraine last week. Putin is now in a position where, in order to retain with confidence his domestic authority, he must act decisively to reverse the outcome. The problem is there is no single decisive action that would reverse events. Eventually, the inherent divisions in Ukraine might reverse events. However, a direct invasion of eastern Ukraine would simply solidify opposition to Russia in Kiev and trigger responses internationally that he cannot predict. In the end, it would simply drive home that although the Russians once held a dominant position in all of Ukraine, they now hold it in less than half. In the long run, this option -- like other short-term options -- would not solve the Russian conundrum.

Whatever Putin does in Ukraine, he has two choices. One is simply to accept the reversal, which I would argue that he cannot do. The second is to take action in places where he might achieve rapid diplomatic and political victories against the West -- the Baltics, Moldova or the Caucasus -- while encouraging Ukraine's government to collapse into gridlock and developing bilateral relations along the Estonia-Azerbaijan line. This would prevent a U.S. strategy of containment -- a strategy that worked during the Cold War and one that the Europeans are incapable of implementing on their own. This comes down to the Americans.

The United States has been developing, almost by default, a strategy not of disengagement but of indirect engagement. Between 1989 and 2008, the U.S. strategy has been the use of U.S. troops as the default for dealing with foreign issues. From Panama to Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States followed a policy of direct and early involvement of U.S. military forces. However, this was not the U.S. strategy from 1914 to 1989. Then, the strategy was to provide political support to allies, followed by economic and military aid, followed by advisers and limited forces, and in some cases pre-positioned forces. The United States kept its main force in reserve for circumstances in which (as in 1917 and 1942 and, to a lesser degree, in Korea and Vietnam) allies could not contain the potential hegemon. Main force was the last resort. 

Make Nehru's role in 1962 war known

Manoj Joshi
01 April 2014

The emergence of the Henderson-Brooks report during election season should have set the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons in India. But clearly it has not. The reason is that most people today simply don't care. 

We are talking of something that took place fifty years ago, when most of its principals have passed away. It is important to understand what the Henderson-Brooks report is, and what it is not. 

It was essentially a review of the Army operations in the Kameng Frontier division of NEFA (where Tawang is located in modern day Arunachal Pradesh) where India faced the biggest disaster to its arms in 1962, when IV Division collapsed without a fight, and the Chinese forces reached the foothills of Assam. The task of the two-man committee was to look at issues of training, equipment, system of command, ability of commanders and so on. 

It was not a review of India's China policy relating to the Sino-Indian border. Indeed, it was not even a review of the functioning of the Army HQ, which conveniently ordered that it be excluded from the scope of the Henderson-Brooks inquiry. 

So, the inquiry officers, Lt Gen T B Henderson Brooks and Brigadier Prem Bhagat had no access to the papers of the Prime Minister's Office, the Defence Ministry or the Army HQ. Whatever references they have made to these institutions came through the papers available at the Eastern and Western Command headquarters. 

The essential conclusion of the Henderson Brooks report was that the government initiated a Forward Policy to check Chinese incursions into what it considered Indian territory in Ladakh at the end of 1961. 

Unfortunately, the Army HQ failed to arrive at a correct military assessment of the situation and correlate it to developments in NEFA. Had a proper assessment been made, perhaps "we would not have precipitated matters till we were better prepared in both sectors." Instead Indian policies triggered a ferocious Chinese response catching the Indian side completely off guard. 

Unlike NEFA where the McMahon Line defined the border, there was nothing in the West. India had a notional claim, China had a strategic need. If the Indian case for the Aksai Chin was weak, the Chinese one was weaker. But because the region was vital for them, the Chinese backed up their claim by occupation and consolidation between 1951-1959. And when India sought to restrict the Chinese advance in 1961, a clash became inevitable. 

The maps attached to the White Paper on States published in 1948 and 1950 showed the border in the region from Karakoram Pass to the UP-Nepal-Tibet trijunction as undefined. 

The decision to include Aksai Chin firmly within India was only taken in 1953, and in 1954, Prime Minister Nehru ordered that a hard line be drawn there outlining the border. Older maps were withdrawn and new ones issued in their place. The fact that this was done unilaterally, without consulting the other disputant, China, set the stage for an inevitable clash. 

There was no problem here till the Chinese consolidated their authority in Tibet by the mid-1950s. As part of this, they built a highway linking Xinjiang to Tibet which traversed the Aksai Chin plateau. 

*** Ever Unready

Despite recent claims of arrests of terrorists, India's internal security apparatus continues to suffer extreme susceptibility under the control of an ignorant, deeply compromised and corrupt political executive.


In a series of arrests, at once indicating a major intelligence breakthrough and the sheer spread of the enduring threat of Pakistan-backed Islamist extremist terrorism in India, as many as 77 persons have already been arrested across the country in 2014, in connection with a string of Islamist terrorist plots and subversive activities.

These prominently include Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu, who had replaced Yasin Bhatkal as the Indian Mujahiddeen's (IM’s) ‘India operations chief’, and was the 'mastermind' of the Bodh Gaya and Patna attacks, and who was arrested from Naxalbari in Darjeeling district of West Bengal [arrest date not disclosed, announcement made on March 25, 2014].

Top IM operative, Pakistani national Zia-ur-Rehman alias Waqas, was arrested from outside the Ajmer Railway Station in Rajasthan, in the morning of March 22, 2014. In a continuing series of arrests, Mohammad Mahruf and Mohammad Waqar Azhar alias Haneef, were arrested from Jaipur on March 23. On the same day, Shaquib Ansari alias Khalid, was arrested from Jodhpur, even as "a huge amount of explosive materials, detonators, electronic circuits/timers" was recovered from "the residences of these three people from Jaipur and Jodhpur".

Again, on March 25, another three IM operatives, Barkat Ali, Mohammed Javed and Mohammed Iqbal, were arrested from Jodhpur, followed by the arrest of five IM operative—Mohammad Aquib, Mohammad Sajjad, Mohammad Waqar, Mohammad Umar, and Mohammad Wahid—from Sikar on March 28, 2014.

In Uttar Pradesh, two IM operatives, Murtaza and Owais, were arrested from Gorakhpur on March 26, 2014.

These arrests added to at least 882 persons arrested since 26/11 (the Mumbai attacks of 2008), according to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), in connection with Islamist extremism and terrorism, and including terrorist cadres, Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agents, and Bangladeshi, Nepali and Pakistani nationals.

151 of these arrests were made in 2013, and another 348 in 2012. These included three top terrorists—Yasin Bhatkal aka Mohammad Ahmed Siddibappa Zarrar aka Imran aka Asif akaShahrukh; Asadullah Akhtar aka Haddi; and Abdul Karim Tunda—who were arrested from Bihar along the Indo-Nepal border in August 2013. Yasin Bhatkal was thought to be IM's 'operational chief in India', while Tunda ranked 15th on India's dossier of most wanted terrorists in Pakistani safe havens.

In Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) at least six persons, including three militants, two civilians and one soldier were killed in Kathua district on March 28, 2014, when three Pakistani terrorists struck at Tarnah bridge at Dayala Chak near Hiranagar, killing a Bolero driver before striking at an Army camp at Janglot. An Army soldier and all three militants were killed while another trooper was injured.

In the Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, one of the states worst afflicted by the Left Wing Extremist insurgency, 15 Security Force (SF) personnel were killed in an ambush by Communist Party of India—Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres, on March 11, 2014. One civilian, Vikram Nishad, also died in the crossfire, while three were injured. The incident occurred in the Jeeram Ghati area, barely eight kilometres from the location of the May 25, 2013, attack, when CPI-Maoist cadres killed 28 persons and injured at least 30 (another three subsequently died of their injuries), including the top leadership of the Congress Party in the State.

In the Kokrajhar district of Assam, in India's troubled Northeast, six persons were killed when suspected militants of the Ingti Kathar Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-IKS) opened fire at a bus on National Highway (NH) 31, at Serfanguri.

These developments and widely dispersed incidents come as sobering reminders of the enduring threat of extremist violence across India, despite broadly positive trends in fatalities and armed violence in a multiplicity of theatres. Crucially, total terrorism and insurgency related fatalities collapsed from a peak of 5,839 in 2001, to just 885 in 2013, according to the SATP database. The most dramatic drop has been in J&K, from 4,507 killed in 2001, to just 181 in 2013.

Our 'Infantry Pearl Harbour'

By V Sudarshan
Published: 30th March 2014

Critics have rounded on Neville Maxwell’s account of the war with China (India’s China War) as being too sympathetic to the Chinese. Yet, in the preface to the 1997 edition (Nataraj Publishers), Maxwell openly acknowledges the opposite: “One unavoidable imbalance in the book derives from the fact that my access to information has been immensely freer on one side of the dispute than on the other.” In another instance, he says “in the section dealing with the border war and its preliminaries …I have drawn on material from unpublished files and reports of the Government of India and the Indian Army. I was given access to those by officials and officers who believed it was time a full account was put together, and who trusted me to write it fairly.”

Maxwell’s tale, as he puts it, is that of a journalist who has an advantage over a scholar “coming later to the trial, when the evidence lies in paper only, and the smiles and frowns, the tones of injury or pride, the unregistered asides, have been forgotten”. It makes for depressing reading as the narrative hurtles inexorably towards comprehensive and punitive military rout—an “infantry Pearl Harbour”. Maxwell has been well briefed by his unnamed whistle-blowers, so well nourished must have been their dismay at the state of affairs; there must have been an army of them, so rich is the detailing. By playing favourites in the army, Nehru was by 1962, says Maxwell, “no longer dealing with professionals but with courtiers. So, when he sought professional decisions, he heard only what his military advisers believed he wished to hear—and with his assurances that China would not ‘do anything big’ he gave them the political guidance they hoped for”. It was a “process of mutual delusion”. As the IB chief gazed into his “crystal ball” troops are deployed (in NEFA) “not in the light of an overall defence plan but according to IB’s estimates of where the Chinese were likely to move”; we have a general (of IV Corps) “with maps strewn over his bed and telephones handy” issue detailed orders not from the corps headquarters in Tezpur or the battlefront, but from his bedroom in far Delhi; and a shaken defence minister who when asked by journalists where he thought the advancing Chinese could be stopped, says, “The way they are going, there is not any limit to where they will go.” Nehru then sacrifices his defence minister for his own survival.

Churchill lost the election after emerging victorious in the Great War but Nehru survived, for 18 months, after he led this nation to a stupid defeat. Afterwards it was business as usual. Maxwell says, “By and large, the official explanations for the debacle were accepted, the blame put on the Chinese rather than the Indian government or military leadership. It was suggested the Chinese had won because they had fought in overwhelming numbers, without regard for casualties and took the defenders often by surprise. Much was made of the climactic and logistical difficulties that faced the Indian troops, few asking why unprepared, they had been made to engage the Chinese in circumstances so adverse.”

I am no China expert; neither am I a defence expert; but this much is clear, Maxwell’s book is not Chinese propaganda—it is a fine piece of journalism. What was our leadership thinking? Fifty-two years later, have things changed? More next week.
Sudarshan is most recently author of Adrift

Nuclear Security Summit: An Assessment

March 29, 2014

The Hague Nuclear Security Summit concluded with a Communiqué in which the participants took stock of the progress made in nuclear and radiological materials and called for further strengthening of international “nuclear security architecture” and “nuclear security culture”. The nuclear security architecture consists of various legal instruments, international organizations and their initiatives as well as ‘good practices’ in the area. In addition, there were a number of additional pledges1 on nuclear security announced by different countries.

The Nuclear Security Summit process began with the first NSS in Washington in 2010 held at President Obama’s initiative and has now grown into a vast activity with multiple stakeholders.

The focus of the first summit was to secure nuclear material and radiological substance in order to prevent them from falling in the hands of terrorists. The second summit held in Seoul in 2012 in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, carried forward the process initiated in Washington. It also focused on the need for tackling nuclear security and nuclear safety in a “coherent manner” thus blurring the distinction between the two. A great deal of attention was paid to securing Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) and “separated plutonium”.

The recent Hague Summit maintains the continuity with the earlier summits building upon the work already done. Following the Seoul Summit, it deals with topics like the strengthening of the international nuclear security architecture, enhancing the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), safety of nuclear materials including highly enriched uranium, separated plutonium and other radio-active resources and materials, nuclear security and safety, illicit trafficking of nuclear materials, nuclear forensics, information security, nuclear transportation etc. The Hague communiqué is, however, much longer (36 paras) and detailed as compared to the Seoul Summit communiqué of 13 paras.

Following the “Stuxnet’ worm attack on the control system of Iranian centrifuges, the issue of cyber security has occupied centrestage in nuclear safety security discussion. The Communiqué talks specifically of the “growing threat of cyber-attacks” and their potential impact on nuclear security and calls upon the states and private sector to take appropriate measures to secure their facilities.

Overall, the Hague Communiqué does not break any fresh grounds but it pushes the states to take greater responsibility for nuclear security. There have been calls on the sidelines of the summit for consolidating the fragmented international nuclear security legal regime for converting voluntary commitment by states to legally binding commitments on nuclear security. Suggestions have also been made to states for incorporating the IAEA guidelines on nuclear security and safety in national legislations.

Gift Baskets

The Communiqué is an agreed document representing the lowest common denominator of views. It is interesting to examine the “gift baskets” or the separate pledges undertaken by countries or a group of countries at the summit. The process of “gift basket” pledges began in 2012 and has continued in 2014. For instance, the US issued 15 joint statements, South Korea 10 and Japan, Kazakhstan and the UK 9 each. Among the P-5, Russia and China did not undertake any pledge. Pakistan signed one pledge while India did not undertake any. Earlier, India had pledged to offer a Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) which it has fulfilled. These pledges cover a range of subjects such as maritime supply chain security, transport security, nuclear smuggling, nuclear forensics, global minimization of nuclear materials etc. Such pledges given out by states indicate their preferences with regard to different aspects of nuclear security. They also build pressure on other states to join such initiatives.

An Afghan Afghanistan

Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, is the author of Asian Juggernaut, Water: Asia’s New Battleground, and Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis.

Print MAR 29, 2014 2

NEW DELHI – As it braces for its upcoming presidential election, Afghanistan finds itself at another critical juncture, with its unity and territorial integrity at stake after 35 years of relentless war. Can Afghanistan finally escape the cycle of militancy and foreign intervention that has plagued it for more than three decades?

Two key questions are shaping discussions about Afghanistan’s post-2014 trajectory. The first concerns the extent to which Pakistan will interfere in Afghan affairs, such as by aiding and abetting the Afghan Taliban and its main allies, including the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s militia. This will depend on whether the United States conditions its generous aid to cash-strapped Pakistan on noninterference in Afghanistan.

The second question is whether US-led NATO forces will continue to play any role in Afghanistan. It is no secret that US President Barack Obama wants to maintain an American military presence in the country – a reversal of his declaration in 2009 that the US sought no military bases there.

Indeed, for several months, the US has been involved in painstaking negotiations with the Afghan government to conclude a bilateral security agreement that would enable the US to maintain bases in Afghanistan virtually indefinitely. What was supposed to be an endgame for Afghanistan has turned into a new game over America’s basing strategy.

But, despite having finalized the terms of the agreement, Obama failed to persuade Afghanistan’s outgoing president, Hamid Karzai, to sign it. That means that America’s role in the country can be settled only after the new Afghan president assumes office in May.

And the election’s outcome is far from certain. While all eight Afghan presidential candidates claim to support the security accord, this may offer little comfort to the US, given that most of the candidates have directly opposed US interests in the past – not to mention that several of them are former or current warlords.

Moreover, there remains the question of how a residual American-led force, even if sizable, could make a difference in Afghanistan, given that a much larger force failed to secure a clear victory over the past 13 years. Obama has offered no answer.

Nonetheless, there is strong bipartisan support in the US for maintaining military bases in Afghanistan, as a means of projecting hard power, and the increasingly charged confrontation between the US and Russia over Ukraine has boosted that support considerably. In fact, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explicitly linked Russia’s actions in Ukraine with “talk of withdrawal from Afghanistan, whether the security situation warrants it or not.”

According to Rice, anything less than a residual force of 10,000 American troops will send the message that the US is not serious about helping to stabilize Afghanistan – a message that would embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin further. What she does not seem to recognize is that America’s deteriorating ties with Russia – a key conduit for US military supplies to Afghanistan – could undercut its basing strategy.

The US is clearly convinced that a continued military presence in Afghanistan is in its interests. But what would it mean for Afghanistan, a country that has long suffered at the hands of homegrown militant groups and foreign forces alike?

Afghanistan has been at war since 1979, when Soviet forces launched a disastrous eight-year military campaign against multinational insurgent groups. That intervention – together with the US and Saudi governments’ provision of arms to Afghanistan’s anti-Soviet guerrillas through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency – helped spread militancy and terrorism, which the subsequent US military intervention has kept alive. As a result, Afghanistan is now at risk of becoming partitioned along ethnic and tribal lines, with militia- or warlord-controlled enclaves proliferating.

In short, foreign involvement in Afghanistan has so far failed to produce positive results. That is why Afghanistan’s political and security transition would be better served by focusing on three key internal factors:

Free and fair elections that are widely viewed as reflecting the will of the Afghan people to chart a peaceful future.

The ability of Karzai’s successor to unite disparate ethnic and political groups – a tall order that can be filled only by a credible and widely respected leader.

The government’s success in building up Afghanistan’s multi-ethnic security forces.

How next month’s presidential election plays out is crucial. If threats and violence from the Taliban prevent too many Afghans from casting their vote, the legitimacy of the outcome could be questioned, possibly inciting even more turmoil, which Afghanistan’s fledging security forces would struggle to contain.

To be sure, the security forces have, so far, mostly held their ground, deterring assassinations and keeping Kabul largely secure. But they have also failed to make significant gains, and US plans to cut aid will make progress even more difficult. Unable to sustain the current force with reduced aid, the Afghan government will have to try to make it “leaner and meaner.” Whether it will succeed is far from certain.

That only increases the pressure to maintain a foreign military presence, even though it is unlikely to bring peace to Afghanistan. In fact, the risk of becoming locked in a protracted, low-intensity war against militancy and warlordism is likely to outweigh any geopolitical advantages that the US would gain from military bases in the country. After all, the terrorist havens and command-and-control centers for the Afghan insurgency are located in Pakistan – undercutting the US military effort to rout the Afghan Taliban since 2001.

All of this points to a clear conclusion: Afghanistan’s future must finally be put in the hands of Afghans. Outside resources should be devoted to building the governing capacity needed to keep the country united and largely peaceful 

Botching North Africa

30 March 2014

The United States government is putting another alliance at risk—this time with Morocco, which is a little like screwing up Canada. The White House is partly to blame, but the main culprit here is the State Department, the one institution that should be the least likely to drop the ball diplomatically since managing diplomatic relations is its job. 

Morocco’s main foreign policy problem is its Cold War with next-door Algeria which backs the Polisario—a communist guerilla army hatched by Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Moammar Qaddafi. The Polisario claims the Western Sahara region in the south of Morocco, vacated by Spanish imperialists the same week its long-time dictator General Franco finally died in 1975. Most Americans have never heard of the Western Sahara, but wrapping up this holdover conflict from the Cold War is at the top of Morocco’s agenda, and there’s no excuse for the State Department—and especially its diplomats in Morocco—to blow it off like everyone stateside.

Yet State is blowing it off. And State is straining the US relationship with Morocco not only with its flippant attitude that the Sahara doesn’t matter but also with its nonsense-on-stilts belief that North Africa is some kind of Arab-Muslim Las Vegas, that was happens there stays there. On the contrary, the region is a conduit for guns, drugs, and human trafficking into Europe. It’s also an incubator for terrorists with a global outlook and global ambitions.

Libya is on the verge of disintegrating into a failed militia state like Somalia. In 2012 Al Qaeda-linked terrorist seized power in Northern Mali and posed a big enough threat that France saw little choice but to invade. Egypt is a darker and more sinister place today than it was when Hosni Mubarak ran it. Algeria’s Syrian-style civil war never did fully wind down and could mushroom again at any moment. All this is happening in a region so close to Europe that from one point—in and around Tangier in Morocco—you can see Europe.

Tunisia is doing sort of okay, but it’s tiny. Morocco is effectively the only stable place in North Africa. It’s also our only true ally.

Emerging Trends in West Asia: Regional and Global Implications


Publisher: Pentagon Press
ISBN 978-81-8274-771-5
Price: Rs. 995 [Download E-Book]
About the Book

The West Asian region has been weathering waves of volatility and instability for the last five years. The political storm that slammed into Tunisia in late 2010 gradually engulfed the entire region under the umbrella of 'Arab Spring'.These developments have had both global and regional implications. With the growing economic and energy ties between Asia and the Gulf region, several Asian countries particularly, India, Japan, China and South Korea have developed major stakes in the security and stability of the West Asian region. Thus, the desire to understand the West Asian region from a global and regional perspective has been at the heart of inquiry in this edited volume.

The book provides an in-depth assessment of socio-political, economic and strategic trends unfolding in West Asia. It also explores options for India to enhance existing relations with the West Asian region in a much more meaningful manner. The complexities of West Asia have been systematically explored by scholars, diplomats and specialists to advance the understanding of West Asia's political and strategic architecture.

Sri Lanka: Indian Abstention at UNHRC: National Interest or Complicity Issue?

Paper No 5676 Dated 30-Mar-2014
Guest Column: By Prof. Ramu Manivannan 

The introduction and passing of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution L.1/Rev.1.,‘Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka’ on 27/03/2014 heralds a new page on many fronts in South Asia. 

First, the uninterrupted impunity that the successive Sri Lankan governments have enjoyed in their treatment of Tamils since 1948 has finally been challenged at the international level. 

Secondly, the Indian government has for long conducted itself like a school headmaster with the Tamils of Sri Lanka and the Tamils can now clearly move ahead with or without any support of India. There is more political confidence among the Tamils today than ever before. 

Thirdly, United States of America, United Kingdom and other members of the European Union are equal stake holders in the future of Tamils and the politics of South Asia. Indian government and its leadership, in the recent past, has consistently, thrown away its historical responsibilities, moral conscience, geographical preeminence and political potential to stand up for the weak and oppressed people of South and Southeast Asia.The realistic situations in Burma, Tibet and Sri Lanka are only a few pointers to this effect. The so called Indian domain has long been penetrated. 

Fourthly, the passing of this resolution with the support of USA, European Union and the Latin American countries and with the resistance of Pakistan, China, Cuba (also read as Russia) presents a new polarization that will prevail and extend to other areas as well with India falling between the stool without any self-belief and courage of conviction. 

Lastly, the vote against Sri Lanka also reveals that the ways of Asian democracy cannot be defended and nurtured with homegrown solutions alone and the acknowledgement of this transition comes from the shift away from Sri Lanka demonstrated by Philippines and Indonesia. Though Bangladesh has no memory of its own past there are more Asian and African countries warming up well for this transition as we need to address substantial issues of human rights and justice that cannot be hidden away in the name of Asian, African or Third World solidarity. 

Sri Lanka was virtually breathing out of Pakistan as ventilator after doing everything it can to defeat the Human Rights Council Resolution L.1/Rev.1.,’Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka’. Worse of all, Sri Lanka needed a certificate of democracy from Pakistan.! When the Pakistan delegation spoke about thriving of political institutions and democracy in Sri Lanka during the debate on the resolution on 26/03/2014, a wave of disbelief with deep sigh swept the house. Pakistani delegation came back next day 27/03/2014 with another trick up their sleeves with questions about the financial implications and the availability of resources for the process of international mechanism while this should have been addressed during the consultative process. 

Crimea, and China-Russia Relations

Paper No. 5677 Dated 31-Mar-2014
By Bhaskar Roy

The Crimean referendum to join Russia and subsequent action by Kremlin incorporating it into Russian territory has raised several questions on issues of territorial sovereignty and aspirations of people. Consequent to this development Russia was expelled form the G-8 and certain sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union.

The Crimean issue is complicated both in historical and strategic terms for Russia. Crimea was part of Russia and transferred by the Soviet Union to its Ukrainian province in 1954 by Nikita Khruschev, who came from that region. The basic fact is that it remained within the Soviet Union and the Soviet leaders had not foreseen their empire’s disintegration. Crimeans are overwhelmingly Russian speaking and decided to break away from Ukraine because they are feeling alienated and discriminated against. 

On the strategic side, Russian President Vladimir Putin saw that Ukrainian politics was increasingly being infiltrated by the US and the west, and Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Yanukovic was ousted by a movement covertly engineered by the US and the West. NATO’s eastward move to encircle Russia was noticed since the break up of the Soviet Union. At that time Russia had become very weak, led by leaders like Gorbachev and Yeltsin who decided to give in to the west. Putin, a tough KGB ex-colonel thought otherwise. He may be accused of grinding democracy under his heel and running a draconian regime, but Putin is also being applauded at home for rejuvenating Russian pride, turning around the economy to a great extent and rebuilding its powerful military. In this context, Moscow has regained a very important naval base in the Black Sea region in Western Europe.

How the Crimean action plays out in the immediate future would have implications for international order and behavior. The Crimean decision appears to be irreversible at the moment. The questions facing the international community are: (i) can a people with their historically owned land be forced to remain under an alien dispensation against their will, and (ii) can a nation demand return of its legal territory from foreign occupation? (legality must be proved concretely and not just claimed by historical concoction).

In this context, China-Russia relations and China’s territorial claims stand out large as they are of current context. China’s assertive territorial claims backed by periodic military show are a cause for regional and international concern.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang described relations with Russia as the best ever during the National People’s Congress in March. Both Russia and China have inter-dependability but each also has its own priorities. The Chinese propaganda machinery has been working overtime to advertise their bilateral relations. President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony of the Sochi winter games was seen standing with President Putin against western criticism. At the same time as mentioned above, their differences or independent political positions may not make for an “all weather” friendship.

China-U.S. Relations: The Myth of the Thucydides Trap

There are strong reasons to believe that China’s rise will indeed be a peaceful one.
By Wei Zongyou
March 30, 2014

In recent years, especially since the beginning of this decade, the term “Thucydides trap” (between China as a rising power and U.S. as an established one) has gained increasing currency among policymakers, advisers, and China experts in Western research institutes and think tanks. The fear is that as its power increases, China will eventually choose to challenge or even overturn the existing international order that has contributed so much to its rapid rise, making a war between China and the U.S. likely.

These worries and concerns are not without basis, and nor do they represent a bias against China, despite what some may claim. After all, the long history of modern international relations since the Treaty of Westphalia is, in a way, the history of the rise and fall of great powers, nearly always accompanied by bloody wars. Peaceful transitions of power or hegemony have been far and few between; even the example of Britain and U.S. was not as peaceful as is often claimed. In the case of China, the prospect of peaceful transition looks particularly dim. It is a country that is as politically, culturally and institutionally different from the U.S. as the U.S. and Britain were similar. In so many respects, China seems to be America’s opposite. If there is anything they do share, it is the aspiration to be the world’s preeminent power. Nor does China’s behavior in recent years help much. It is viewed as increasingly assertive or even aggressive in the way it defines its core interests and in its approaches to the East and South China Seas disputes. As its power grows, China is becoming more outspoken about its interests and more prepared to defend them forcefully.

Still, for all the rationales for the Thucydides trap argument, I would offer at least three reasons for optimism.

First, the world today is not what it was three centuries ago, or even sixty years ago. Before the United Nations was founded in the wake of World War II, and the principle of sovereignty was firmly established in the UN Charter, the world was a colonial system that operated based on the law of the jungle: The strong get what they want and the weak do as they are told. In that world, the strong became stronger and richer by conquering, invading and annexing the weak, and were only stopped or defeated by an even stronger power or by a power coalition, as in the case of France under Napoleon, Germany under William II and then Hitler, and Imperial Japan. It was also a world where sovereignty meant the capacity to defend from conquest and to conquer others.

Following the Second World War, that world gradually gave way to a post-colonial system, where the legal status of sovereignty applies to all, large or small, strong or weak. This is a world in which states cannot hope to become strong or rich by means of conquest or force. The only path to prosperity and greatness is through internal development and external trade. The peaceful postwar integration and reemergence of Germany and Japan, and the rise of China and India are powerful examples.

Welcome to China's political gamble of the century

President Xi Jinping has put the burden of modernisation squarely on the single ruling party. It is quite an experiment

Timothy Garton Ash in Beijing
The Guardian, Sunday 30 March 2014 20.30 BST

A model during China fashion week. 'There is conspicuous consumption, high fashion and cosmopolitan lifestyle – but also national pride and a sense of ­historical optimism.' 

As export-hungry Europeans have feted president Xi Jinping on his imperial progress across the continent over the past week, how many have realised just how extraordinary is the political experiment he is leading back home? In essence, he is trying to turn China into an advanced economy and three-dimensional superpower, drawing on the energies of capitalism, patriotism and Chinese traditions, yet all still under the control of what remains, at its core, a Leninist party-state. He may be a Chinese emperor but he is also a Leninist emperor. This is the most surprising and important political experiment on the face of the earth. No one in the 20th century expected it. No one in the 21st will be unaffected by its success or failure.

Back in 1989, as communism was trembling in Warsaw, Berlin, Moscow and Beijing, who would have predicted that 25 years later we would be poring over the 60-point Decision of the 3rd Plenum of the 18th Party Congress, so as to understand exactly how the party leadership proposed to keep China both economically growing and politically under control? After the trauma of the Bo Xilai affair, Xi has moved decisively to strengthen central party power and his own position. Besides taking the traditional commanding heights of the military as well as state and party more rapidly than his predecessors, he has created at least four other central command committees or "small leading groups" – on economic reform, state security, military reform and, tellingly, the internet. "More than Mao!" cries one disgruntled party reformer.