Indo-China border – The current situation

August 22, 2010 15 comments

China’s quiet but steady plans of increasing it’s military capabilities are not going unnoticed! Reports emanating from the Pentagon, early last week, have confirmed that it has successfully deployed long range CSS-5 missiles close to the Indian border while also having developed contingency plans to move airborne forces to the region at very short notice. Quite naturally, this is of serious concern to India, considering the long standing not-so-friendly relations that both countries have shared over the years, a culmination of which was witnessed in 1962 when Chinese aggression against India came at a very unexpected time, at the backdrop of the Indo-China cooperation effort that was supposed to spearhead the beginning of a warm bilateral relationship between both nations!

In an annual report to the US Congress, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” officials from the US Department of Defence have stated that “Beijing remains concerned with persistent disputes along China’s shared border with India and the strategic ramifications of India’s rising economic, political, and military power” and in order “to improve regional deterrence, the PLA has replaced the older liquid-fuelled, nuclear capable CSS-3 intermediate-range ballistic missiles with more advanced and survivable solid-fuelled CSS-5 MRBMs and may be developing contingency plans to move airborne troops into the region.” The report also notes that China continues to invest heavily in “increasingly capable long-range air Defence systems, electronic warfare and computer network attack capabilities, advanced fighter aircraft, and counter-space systems.”

To understand the context of the report, especially the aforementioned contents of it, or rather to attempt to gain a clear understanding of the situation on the ground, one needs to revisit the occurrences of many instances of skirmishes initiated by the PLA against the Indian Army, while repeatedly claiming regions along the border as part of Chinese territory and systematically orchestrating such claims as legitimate, many such incidents having been reported during the course of the previous year! Therefore, mentions made by American officials about China’s concern and resultant up-scaled measures of deterrence along the Indo-China border can at best be termed as lopsided or unfounded in substance, considering, among other things, China’s continued posture of aggression and a refusal to engage in talks regarding territorial disputes!

Chinese aggression and repeated claims of Indian territory are not by any means recent, and have been happening well ahead of the 1962 engagement, both in overt and covert means! By remaining continually irreconcilable and averse to meaningful and constructive dialogue, this communist state has been nurturing a sense of hostility against India for a very long time now! Following the ascension to Presidency by Hu Jintao, China effectively began a new era of militarization and modernization of the PLA that at best can be described as transgressing the boundaries of China’s political and territorial interests! Apart from the Indo-China scenario, one can also draw instances from China’s actions with regards to Taiwan, where it continues to engage in a substantial military build-up, largely aimed at stifling any move by Taiwan to assert independence from the mainland!

It may be recalled that, not very long ago, China tried to block a $2.9 billion loan that India had sought from the Asian Development Bank, citing that it was purported for use in Arunachal Pradesh, a region China claims to be part of it’s territory! Such concerted attempts by the Chinese are not few or far apart these days and seem to be well orchestrated as is it’s view of emerging India and it’s imminently rising socio-economic status! China has, during the recent past, engaged in massive infrastructure development along the border with India, strengthening road and rail networks, aimed to augment operations by the PLA in the possible hope of arm-twisting it’s neighbour and gaining superiority in the region! So long as such projects continue to be undertaken unbridled, there is a looming danger of Chinese incursions on a large and more determined scale and the Government of India needs to ensure that steps are taken to recognize such threats by putting into place countermeasures of deterrence, or in the present circumstances, defence at least!

India and China share a 4057 km long border that is largely porous, and tensions have been long prevalent over how each side has viewed this dividing line and presently recognizes the same! The boundary with China is divided into three parts, namely, Eastern, Western and Middle sectors. In the Eastern Sector, China claims an area of 94,700 sq. kms., which is in addition to the entire part of Arunachal Pradesh and some parts of Sikkim. The Western Sector consists of Aksai Chin and the Western boundary in Ladakh and is located along Lanka La, Niagzu stream, Demchok and Teshigong through the Emis Pass. China has, for long, understood the strategic value of Aksai Chin in sustaining and maintaining control over Tibet. In this region, China claims about 38,000 sq. kms. of land, primarily of that in Aksai Chin. In the Middle Sector the area extends up to Spiti Valley and Shipkila Pass, while in the Garhwal area of Uttarakhand, Satluj-Ganga watershed has been the traditional boundary. Here China claims about 1,300 sq. kms. as part of it’s territory. After the war in 1962, China has been found to have illegally occupied 20,000 sq. kms. in Arunachal Pradesh and 38,000 sq. kms. in the Ladakh region, which is excluding 5,180 sq. kms. of area ceded to it by Pakistan in 1963. In the Eastern Sector, which consists Tawang, Zemithang and Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh, it has been ascertained that the Thagla Ridge, where the 1962 Indo-China war had begun, along with places such as Namka Chu and Sumdrong Chu Valley have been under Chinese occupation since 1986. The occupation has resulted in the loss of extensive amounts of traditional grazing land of the local people. In central Arunachal Pradesh, under the Upper Subansiri district, the Asa-Pila-Maya Army camp which was part of the Indian territory is now under Chinese occupation. Similarly, in the eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh under Dibang Valley district, the Athu-Pupu range, a place regarded as sacred by the local people, has been been under Chinese occupation since 2006. In the Chaklagam range in the Eastern part, the three mountain ranges have been occupied by China since 2006. Similarly, in Kurung Kumey district, seven of the nine India Army base camps have been occupied by Chinese Army.

While officials in the Indian government continue to remain in a state of denial with regards to repeated border violations by the Chinese, it is estimated that India has lost vast amounts of land to China over the past decades. For starters, various agencies in India including the Army and the Union Ministry of Home Affairs admit the persisting differences over mapping of the area. Coordination incapacities among these institutions have only compounded the magnitude of the problem, something that is well known to the Chinese side! A high level meeting on the Indian side, held between various stakeholders, concluded that “there is a lack of institutional memory in various agencies as well as clear policy on this issue which in the long run has resulted in loss of territory by India in favour of China”. A report by a fact finding mission, as recently as July 2010, has detailed some shocking facts. It states that “China has built 13 airports at the border and most of them including Lhasa, Qando, Nyngchi, Ngaji and Xigaza are operational now. Apart from rail links it has also established several missile points there. It has constructed metalled roads up to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and has reportedly deployed two lakh army personnel on the border. It has the potential to move two more divisions to forward areas during emergency. On the other hand there are virtually no metalled roads on Indian border and more distinctly in those areas which are under threat. There are just wind sandy rubble tracks which Indian security forces are using today. Such a road system in no way can serve our requirements during war time. This state of affairs exists both in Eastern and Western sectors of India.” The report further outlines that “China now has 40,000 km road network in Tibet, apart from rail links of 1,118 km, one from Lhasa to Gormo in Qinghai province. This would enable China to mobilise large forces by train and by road onto Indian borders. Earlier, this exercise not only took a long time but also was impossible during winter but the new rail line into Tibet and the expressway have changed the scenario totally.”

It is time that the Indian government woke up to the Chinese threat, before it becomes too late! A state of denial, in the hope of forging better bilateral relations cannot help but offer concessions to an aggressor. Alarmingly, the Indian side remains yet to be strengthened by dependable road and rail networks that could help mobilization of troops and resources in the event of a Chinese misadventure. That Chinese incursions are happening in a very slow and inch-by-inch manner does not mean that they are not happening at all. China is also supplying the local populace with essential commodities and supplies fully aware of the sheer scale of neglect by the Indian side. By doing this, it hopes to gain confidence of the people in the region, another threat that the Government of India must recognize immediately. Furthermore, China’s record of completing strategic projects well ahead of schedule and the fact that contingents of the Indian army need to walk for days together to reach the border are not helping the Indian side in any manner! Required on an urgent footing are the need for constructing a well networked chain of roads in the area, along with the need to upgrade the living and operating conditions of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel, while also involving the local people to form liaisons with the territorial army in order to garner valuable HUMINT regarding the movement of Chinese army personnel. Basic infrastructure and other facilities such as telecommunications and power supply, to name a handful, are severely lacking and need to be worked upon! All of these need to be undertaken and continued very seriously in order to stave off a threat that has been looming large and will one day pose a serious threat to the Indian union!

WikiLeaks and beyond

August 1, 2010 5 comments

You’d have to have been utterly uninformed if you didn’t notice the storm created by WikiLeaks over the past week in connection with the leaking of some 92,000 classified documents pertaining, among others also to the war in Afghanistan, what the United States terms as the war on terror! Almost everyone in the American administration seems to have an opinion on this, while calling for a systematic effort to comb the intelligence community in a desperate attempt to seal the leak, which is feared to have wider and longstanding implications, so much so as threatening the lives of many American people and their allies, while also seriously compromising their interests at home and beyond!

Come to think of it, founder Julian Assange and team, of WikiLeaks, have not been working really hard to obtain this so called tonnage of information, most of which are already in public domain and knowledge, far from the absolutely classified or top secret types anyone would expect. While the media lapped up the story, publicizing it to no ends and thereby creating a sensation that would perhaps be equivalent to a high-profile assassination, experts are yet to be surprised by this episode, which has now come to be recognized as a fiasco, one that has most certainly been a deliberate inside effort, well-timed to achieve a certain set objective, more so, at the connivance of the American administration and the intelligence community itself! Sharing the beliefs of many experts, several officials within the United States government are also of the opinion that the disclosure by WikiLeaks was a well planned process, aided by none other than senior functionaries within the intelligence community of America, at the insistence of, of course, the top brass of the American administration. Wayne Madsen, formerly with the US Navy and the US National Security Agency (NSA), now a popular blogger, investigative journalist, author and columnist, is known to have told a friend that the disclosure by WikiLeaks is a controlled leak process aided and used by the United States Government run entirely through intelligence networks.

Having spent a great deal of time glossing over the WikiLeaks website, in the past few days, I find that the information so mentioned or offered as part of the leak discloses nothing so significant or shocking, and is certainly not something not already known before. The packet deal consists very little apart from America’s knowledge of Pakistan’s ISI and it’s complicity with various outlawed factions in aiding state sponsored terrorism and the likes, nuances pertaining to the war on terror, notes on NATO operations, and field reports that have been systematically fed into a central repository over a period of time for collation and analysis!

It is widely believed that the source behind the WikiLeaks story is PFC Bradley Manning, a former US Army Intelligence Analyst, detained for allegedly “transferring classified data onto his personal computer and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system” and “communicating, transmitting and delivering national defense information to an unauthorized source.” Manning is also believed to have said that diplomatic documents, in his possession, expose “almost criminal political back dealings” and that they explain “how the first world exploits the third, in detail.” Stating that he hoped the release of matter within his possession would lead to “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms,” he reportedly wrote, “everywhere there’s a U.S. post, there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed.” While WikiLeaks has itself condemned actions initiated against Manning, it has so far refused to confirm or deny Manning as having been a source in the recently conducted disclosure, stating that it has a policy not to name it’s sources citing strict measures of confidence! In a twist following the initial refusal to confirm or deny it’s believed source, WikiLeaks founder and presently it’s editor-in-Chief, Julian Assange claimed that neither he nor his organization had any knowledge of the identity of the person who sent them the classified material, stating that the website itself was created in order to hide the source of it’s data from those who receive it.

This is however not the first time that WikiLeaks has come up with matters of disclosures that it claimed will stun the world, exposing the many cover ups being systematically undertaken by government and administrative officials. Ranging from Standard Operating Procedures of Guantanamo Bay to the membership list of the ultra-right wing British National Party, confidential reports of the United Nations, secret Congressional Research Service reports, intercepts pertaining to the 9/11 incident, reports related to dumping of toxic waste materials in Africa, Oil scandals in Peru and several other interesting material, the leaks of documents pertaining to the American war on terror in Afghanistan is among the many such instances, with the exception of it’s sensitivity considering how high this probably came from! These reports, ranging from the period of 2004 until 2009, detail incidents including friendly fire and civilian casualties, as a result of the various operations conducted within Afghanistan. Also, among the documents leaked are reports that American officials in Afghanistan strongly suspected Pakistan’s actions supporting Taliban militants while on the other hand, accepting huge amounts of American aid. Although publicly known, it is believed that these documents could fuel growing doubts within the US Congress about President Obama’s strategy on the war on terror and it’s effectiveness as American death toll continues to rise.

Interestingly, while the White House, along with senior government bodies in the United States has repeatedly termed this episode as an action constituting the breach of federal law, there has been no talk of any actions against WikiLeaks itself, while only an appeal not to publish any more sensitive material that maybe available in it’s custody! When asked if WikiLeaks could face criminal action, Pentagon officials have simply stated in what appears to be an evasive answer that “historically the leakers have been the ones targeted for criminal prosecution and not those who merely publish the information.” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said “I don’t know what’s going to happen here. This is a whole new world that we are entering into where an organization without any editorial judgment, beholden to nobody, is soliciting classified information from people all over the world and then publishing it, I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer but people are going to have to make judgments about whether there are legal ramifications for soliciting a criminal act.”

In the aftermath of what is being seen as a sensational episode of disclosure, the US President will face a very tough task of convincing the congress to continue funding the war on terror. These disclosures, which have portrayed the on goings of the war on terror in a finer detail, often highlighting the failure of the administration in containing the many threats associated to the exercise, have come at a very crucial time. Because of undying difficulties on the ground and increasing casualty rates, a raging debate over the continued American presence in Afghanistan has begun much earlier than expected. It is believed that within the administration, more and more officials are turning skeptics and privately questioning the American policy towards the war on terror. Elsewhere within the US Congress, leaders are preparing to hold a vote on a very important bill related to financing the war on terror amidst fears that the leaks could incite opposition on the administration’s policies from even within the Democrats. Also geared to be chaired is a Senate panel aimed to hold a hearing on President Obama’s choice to head the military’s central command, Gen James Mattis, who will oversee military operations in Afghanistan. It is widely believed that the documents, released by WikiLeaks, will make it harder for President Obama as he strives to garner public and Congressional support until the end of the year, when he has scheduled a review of the war effort.

So given all of these complications already present and soon escalating, one wonders why there should have been an administrative level complicity in the disclosures made by WikiLeaks, for there seems to be no valid reason why the administration would endanger it’s own position in front of the American people and the Congress! Logically, there cannot be an answer to this unless it is a well concerted plan of the current US administration aimed to facilitate a withdrawal from Afghanistan! Maybe the government conveniently authorized this leak and aided it at the highest possible levels well aware of the furore it would create and therefore pave way for it’s exit from Afghanistan with the least possible political damage while stating the obvious that the war is intensifying in a manner that even the most efficiently coordinated efforts will pale in the face of escalating terror and continuance in such a situation will only drain American resources, lives and cost! An already edgy and driven Congress will be ‘made to understand’ the facts without ever the need for any elaborate explanations and testifying, all thanks to such a grand scale of leaks! With the international media spending such a considerable amount of time and effort in scrutinizing the war on terror in extensive detail, the task of the administration has lessened even more to a comfortable level of being able to convince the world of how unfruitful the pursuit of freedom or peace in Afghanistan can be! And for the general public, overwhelmed by the frantic pace of reporting by news channels over this so called sensationally humongous leak, I doubt if many would even understand that this mass cache of documents mean anything to the point of being able to be understood.

Therefore, how convenient and cooperative an effort by WikiLeaks and the Government of the United States!

Gen. Kayani, Pakistan and 2013

July 25, 2010 2 comments

In what is unprecedented in the history of Pakistan and it’s armed forces, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan has been given a 3 year extension, and will now remain in uniform until 28 November 2013, after Prime Minister Gilani whose tenure will come to a close in March 2013 and President Zardari whose term of office ends in September 2013. Gen. Kayani has since become the second army chief in the history of Pakistan’s armed forces to be given an extension by a democratically elected civilian government, and the first in such a position to accept that extension.

On the evening of 22 July, in a televised announcement, Prime Minister Gilani stated his government’s decision to give Gen. Kayani an extension. Citing the extension as one of absolute necessity, given at a time when the war on terror was being successfully conducted against the many elements who continue to pose a threat to Pakistan, he said: “The success of military operations could only have been achieved under General Ashfaq Kayani’s leadership. He has been involved in planning and monitoring of operations in militancy-hit areas. These operations are at a critical stage and successful continuation of these operations required continuation in military high command. General Kayani is held in high esteem at the international level due to his excellent military leadership qualities and pro-democracy views. In the best interest of the nation, I, in my capacity as prime minister, have decided to give General Kayani a three-year extension in his service from November 29, 2010, relaxing the rules, and after consulting President Asif Ali Zardari.”

As a junior officer, Gen. Kayani briefly served as a military aide to Benazir Bhutto during her first term as Prime Minister. A chain smoker and an avid golfer, Gen. Kayani has earned the reputation of being known as a man of few words. He replaced Gen. Musharraf as the army chief on November 29, 2007. Before becoming the army chief, he served as head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and also as Director General of Military Operations (DGMO). One may recall that it was during his tenure as DGMO that an intense military standoff during 2001-02 between India and Pakistan, as a direct result of the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, took place. Gen. Kayani was also known to have been present at the meeting that took place between Gen. Musharraf and Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, prior to the latter’s ouster by Musharraf. In January 2008, shortly after taking over as Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Kayani issued a stern directive requiring military officers not to maintain any contact with politicians. Barely a month later, he ordered the withdrawal of military officers from all of Pakistan’s government civil departments. It was an action that reversed the policies of his predecessor.

The many factors and situations that have led to this extension are very interesting to note, considering the long and disturbing history of interference that the Pakistani Army has been credited with in that nation’s political system. Since the election to office of the present civilian government in March 2008, there have been a number of indications of Gen. Kayani’s warm relations with Prime Minister Gilani and the contradictory in the case of his relationship with President Zardari, which is widely attributed to an air of mistrust that the latter has had for the armed forces, something not very different from that aired by his late wife and former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. Moreover, President Zardari’s initial statements echoing the need for a warm working relationship with India were viewed with a great deal of suspicion by Gen. Kayani and his colleagues in the army.

After assuming the office of the Chief of Staff, Gen.Kayani has been seen as being very assertive in matters concerning the Armed Forces, including the ISI, in a quiet yet decisive manner. He has also been accepting and non-interfering in matters concerning the political governance of Pakistan, which perhaps has earned him and the army a great deal of trust and credibility especially since the aftermath of Gen. Musharraf’s rule, that beleaguered the political establishment of Pakistan. Gen.Kayani, much like many of his senior army colleagues, strongly shares conventional suspicions nurtured against India by the Pakistan army establishment. He quietly fuels his determination to counter India, though not being too vocal about it, knowing fully well that a strong anti-India stance would help him win a deeply entrenched stand within the armed forces. That he has disguised it smartly, away from the glare of the media, shows how well he has played his cards in portraying his image that remains strong and appearing to be credible. His well established relationship with the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China, has contributed immensely to strengthening a working partnership with the PLA. However, one can note the characteristic absence in determination to take action against Al Qaeda operatives and their associates in places such as North Waziristan, for instance. Considering his warm bonhomie with the Chinese, he has not hesitated to act against the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which poses a threat to China. Barely a day after getting the extension as Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Kayani, accepted China’s advise on blasting the Attabad lake in Gilgit-Baltistan, which had flooded a portion of the Karokoram highway connecting the two countries. It is widely believed that Gen. Kayani’s extension would help the Chinese implement certain strategic policies in the terrorist hit region, which is very close to the Indian border. His actions, such as these have constantly proven how well determined he could be if he so chooses.

It may be recalled that under Gen. Musharraf, the Army and the ISI were much more active against Al Qaeda operatives in the non-tribal areas than they have been under Gen. Kayani. Having witnessed, first hand, the anger of Al Qaeda against Gen. Musharraf owing to the action taken by the Army and the ISI, which resulted in a concerted and powerful campaign by the Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri against Gen. Musharraf and the Pakistani Army, Gen. Kayani has been very tactical to remain aligned to the war on terror in a more superficial manner thereby not angering the Americans and at the same time turning a blind eye to the actions of Al Qaeda forces. Since taking over as Chief of Army Staff, a number of very senior officials from the United States have visited Gen. Kayani aimed to reiterate the need for an unequivocal level of Pakistani commitment on the war on terror. The fact that most of them, including the former CIA Director, Gen. Michael Hayden, former National Intelligence Director, V-Adm. Mike McConnell and former CENTCOM Commander, Adm. William Fallon, have repeatedly echoed their confidence in Gen.Kayani saying about him that he “knows what he’s doing,” just about very well shows how deeply connected he appears to be despite his commitment to the war on terror being anything but unequivocal. Described as a soldier’s soldier by senior military officials in the United States and enjoying a very warm and close personal relationship with the current US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, Gen. Kayani is on an even closer footing with the Americans, another reason why he has been endorsed as the best person available in the hemisphere to ensure the continuance of the war on terror. One would be right in suspecting an American hand, among the many, having insisted upon the tenure extension he has just received.

India certainly has enough reasons to be concerned over the extension given to Gen. Kayani. Given his hawkish anti-India stand, which although not vocal, there is unlikely to be any change in Pakistan’s policy of directing terrorism against India. Gen. Kayani, at the pinnacle of his career, enjoying good working and personal relations with both the Pentagon and the PLA leadership, is unlikely to be sidelined and is slated to grow even more powerful, while gaining prominence as a liaison between the political and army brass, not only in Pakistan. The government of Pakistan, although stated to be democratic in functioning, is in truth under the mercy of the army establishment headed by Gen. Kayani. His reassurance and commitment to the war on terror, though flawed, will ensure a steady flow of sophisticated military equipment and money to Pakistan from the United States and an enhanced level of strategic assistance from China which will, without doubt, add to the many threats already faced by India. Gen. Kayani’s persona, unknown and far from being able to be gauged, certainly covers a deep hatred for India which show no signs of mellowing down. The recently concluded talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan, are believed to have been scuttled by none other than Gen. Kayani and the army establishment. So long as such a potent force exists within the topmost echelons of the Pakistani establishment, it is certainly difficult to gauge if both nations could attain anything close to a working relationship.

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India and Pakistan – Talking progress

July 18, 2010 2 comments

Apparently, the Pakistani side was more bothered about their Indian counterparts being on the phone with New Delhi. A determined agenda to achieve progress didn’t seem to be their priority clearly. One would be surprised to note that during the proceedings of the day, at several times, the entire Indian delegation was left by themselves in Foreign Minister Qureshi’s office while the Pakistan delegation repeatedly stepped out to consult with their bosses. Now, knowing fully well that during such a meeting, consultations with respective headquarters is the norm, one wonders why the Pakistani side attached unnecessary importance and claim to a matter as trivial as this. Clearly, the hypocrisy doesn’t end there.

Ahead of the talks itself, both sides had worked on a number of aspects for discussion including meetings between the commerce secretaries, aimed at resumption of trade. Also on the cards was a high level meeting aimed to iron out persisting differences in the area of water sharing. India subsequently suggested a meeting between parliamentarians of both nations, thus paving the way for a composite and inclusive dialogue, offering much more than just ministerial level interactions. However, the Pakistani side attempted sabotage by demanding inclusion of Kashmir, security and Siachen in the talks without forewarning! One cannot understand the demand considering Pakistan’s long pending action against the perpetrators of the 26/11 episode, to name just one of the many subversive anti-India operations it undertakes from time to time.

On India’s part, it certainly was very right to expect action on the incidents of 26/11 which have now been very long drawn, devoid of any substantial progress. Revelations from David Coleman Headley, about the ISI having financed the 26/11 operation couldn’t have come at a better time. Talks on terrorism and other related aspects such as security, though of paramount importance would not have, at this stage, made any sense, given that Pakistan is yet to take concrete steps to prosecute those behind 26/11. However, one does attempt to understand the difficulty involved in such a step, considering that the ISI and parts of the Pakistan army were complicit in the entire operation, definitely at the insistence or at least the connivance of certain branches of the executive government.

Pakistan’s stubborn stand and refusal to accept evidence against elements such as the ISI and terrorist Hafiz Saeed, aren’t making things easier either. Such a stand not only impedes the peace process that India is wholly committed to, but also brings to the table many questions on Pakistan’s motives. One is led to believe that such a stand devoid of understanding and cooperation is as a result of extensive pressure from within the army establishment of Pakistan that truly is in control of the executive there and avidly intent on bringing the issue of Kashmir on the forefront while aiding factions such as the LeT and the Taliban. What is certainly contradictory, hypocritical and amusing is the fact that Pakistan demands to talk about terror and security without wanting to include 26/11 and the actions demanded of it as a result thereof. Should this not be clearly viewed as one sided, rather lop sided? If Pakistan so desires to commit itself to the process of resolving all burning and core issues, it should begin by reigning in anti-India elements from within, namely the LeT, parts of the ISI and the army establishment. There is surely no issue as critical as that of Pakistan’s overt and covert support to terrorist groups aimed at destabilizing the Indian establishment and it must be understood that no amount of talks or attempts to sew bilateral relations can make amends when Pakistan repeatedly engages in it’s policy of abetting terror aimed at propagating the same within the Indian union.

Also, absolutely uncalled for, during such a level of serious negotiations was the statement by the Pakistan Foreign Minister likening and comparing the remarks of the Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai with those of Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, which earned him criticism even from someone so radical as the former ISI Chief Hamid Gul. Mr. Qureshi must understand that the statements made by the Indian Home Secretary were nothing more than what the world already knows about Pakistan, the ISI and it’s role in the 26/11 episode and in doing so, the Indian Home Secretary was undoubtedly justified so as to seek action from the Pakistani side which has long been pending and literally unattended to. Therefore, to make an issue out of something such as this and accusing the Indian side of ill-will with the aim of scuttling the effort is entirely baseless, knowing fully well that the responsibility lies on his government to make amends considering it’s complicity.

Having stated during a press conference with visiting British Minister Sayeeda Warsi that he would like to visit India only if talks are progressive and result oriented, the Pakistani Foreign Minister must understand fully well that it is not the Indian side that has been contributory of impediments and the onus to make any future dialogue successful lies on him and the Pakistani establishment by merely taking steps to curb terrorism against the Indian union and refrain from aiding terrorist organizations to succeed in their nefarious anti-Indian designs. If the Pakistani side is intent and committed to address what it calls burning issues, surely it is the party that singularly needs to take steps to do just that rather than expect India to make concessions from time to time in the hope of maintaining a working partnership.

Undoubtedly, there is a level of trust deficit that is widening and Pakistan surely has to be held accountable for mitigating the damage and bringing forth a conducive and positive working environment. Accusing the Indian side of having arrived with a limited mandate is certainly not the way forward when one himself is left with a dangerously limited mindset which does not contain achieving peace in the agenda. Strangely, voicing concerns and commitments after the exercise is over does not amount to progress and certainly underlines a lackadaisical attitude on the Pakistani side, which goes on to underscore that it is not committed to peace or partnership, whatsoever! The Pakistani side, after having effectively derailed the process cannot echo it’s commitment to normalizing ties with India. Such an act is merely as sham, as has always been witnessed in the past despite strong and committed efforts from India. India on it’s part has to up the ante and refuse to enter into dialogue with Pakistan unless there have been steps from the latter that are concrete and measurable. One simply cannot engage with such a faction, that is opposed to peace and dialogue, merely because one’s democratic overtures guide one to do so. Handling Pakistan means India must employ a level of being absolutely firm and unyielding and not allow it’s policy of warmth and friendliness take center stage!

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The menace of Maoism

March 7, 2010 2 comments

Barely hours after Indian Home Secretary G. K. Pillai stated that Maoists will possibly overthrow the Indian administration by 2050, Kishanji a.k.a Koteshwar Rao, the de-facto Maoist leader audaciously stated that such a plot could be accomplished way ahead of the time-line stated by Pillai. This outrageous statement, coming straight from the nerve center of the Maoist establishment comes as a forward to a definite plan by the outlawed brigade to wreck havoc on the Indian establishment, even as they have called for a 72 day ceasefire in the wake of the Indian government’s now committed exercise to wipe them off systematically through what is Operation Greenhunt!

Calling for the need to talk and put aside military operations against them, the Maoists have warned that they would attack cities if their demand to come to the table is not met. Left wing extremism has been on the rise within the Indian boundary for some time now. A number of factors, ranging from soft peddling by certain states to support from within the ranks of former armed forces personnel have raised the threat to a new level and the government can no longer consider this as a controllable situation unles it is determined to act strongly! Concrete steps must be taken to regard this as a troubling menace. For starters, a proposal that the Indian Air Force’s initiate aerial operations against the Maoists is still awaiting clearance from the Ministries of Defence and Home Affairs. This reluctance from within the establishment conveys the current stand of the government and it’s willingness to take action as one of weak measure!

As if that isn’t already enough, there are elected representatives openly opposing operations against the Maoists and worse still pledging their support to the outlawed faction and aligning with them ideologically. Furthermore, certain states which are hot beds for Maoism have simply refused to cooperate with the centre in order to take actionable steps to counter the problem. When Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram called for a meeting of state heads to discuss the issue, the Chief Ministers of Jharkhand and Bihar abstained, citing prior appointments – thus displaying notably uncharacteristic lack of interest in coordinating with New Delhi.

Meanwhile, Operation Greehunt, which is the centre’s initiative to tackle the Maoist menace, is currently underway, with over 18 companies of central paramilitary forces deployed in key Naxal infested areas. However, its effectiveness is yet to be ascertained with the states playing very little parts in the exercise. Gathering, sharing and disseminating intelligence could be a major roadblock this operation may face considering the centre-state relationship in the context of the war on Naxals. There are a significant number of challenges that New Delhi will face in the wake of this operation. Chief among them is the problem of a psychological counter-strike by sympathizers aimed to weaken the commitment of the operation by trying to designate it as illegitimate in the public eye. Besides there will emerge a battery of chance activists pressing the government to terminate the operation in the wake of scores of alleged human rights violations by the armed forces! Criticism of the government is bound to rise, however, New Delhi could do well to ignore it in the face of wanting an upper hand against a dangerous enemy!

The centre on its own, now, needs to focus on arming the operation with people, material and intelligence. Also needed to be considered and worked upon is the Chinese role in supporting the Maoists. Teams conducting the operation need to be instructed that they work their way in eliciting support from the civilian population in the affected areas, thereby gaining confidence and also invaluable intelligence. Considering that this brigade is one in possession of significant levels of motivation, sophisticated training, manpower and material, it certainly will be a challenge to counter them! However, the task is not impossible and requires a great deal of inter-agency coordination particularly at the centre-state level, something that is presently absent.

In all spheres, the government is the one that will face the burden of turning over the situation in its favour. While addressing the issue, it also needs to undertake a great deal of developmental activities in the affected areas thereby making its presence felt in a strong and supportive manner – one which will certainly be welcomed by the people! This is surely the way forward to gain support and confidence and also the means to destroy Naxal groups from the root! Also urgently needed is a well structured policy on countering the threat, something that has not come to be, despite the situation warranting its necessity. During it’s previous term in office, the present government’s response to the Naxalite movement was one composed of a mixture of denial, accommodation and neglect. Expectedly, the Maoists expanded their area of operations into what has now come to be known as the ‘Red Corridor’, while neither the centre nor the affected states had formulated any real response.

The absence of a decisive political resolve and a measure of leadership in policy initiation from New Delhi and the level of centre-state partnership did more harm than good. The States undoubtedly failed due to their choice of ineffective, inferior and almost often counter-productive measures such as, for instance, the creation of armed groups like the Salwa Judum. Such exercises mean that currently prevalent Operation Green Hunt already strikes a bad note in the minds of the people, while it’s success largely depends upon public support.

If anything, the government needs to hit hard at the faction, breaking its confidence and thus bringing it to it’s knees. Only then can one consider the job half done. For all of this, there needs to be a measure of well drafted policy leading to action. Lessons need to be learnt from the manner in which terrorism in Punjab was brought under control.

Among the worst that can happen is a situation alike the one in Nepal. The Home Secretary’s remarks must therefore serve as an urgent warning to many in the establishment thus enabling a renewal of the government’s commitment to wipe out this force before it is too late!

The Indo-Pak Foreign Secretaries meet – An Overview

February 21, 2010 Leave a comment

About 25 miles from Lahore, in Pakistan, and situated barely meters away from the Grand Trunk Road is Muridke. It is a sprawling campus, complete with a hospital, well appointed residential quarters, a school, a madarasa, a swimming pool, a mosque, vegetable farms, a fish breeding center, and well cut lawns amidst a number of trees.  One could be forgiven for mistaking this complex to be a plush resort. In fact, Muridke is the headquarters of the terrorist organization known to the world as the Lashkar-e-Toiba or the ‘army of the pure,’ the very same outfit that among many other ghastly handiworks, masterminded the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. Changing names as often as credible Indian evidence exposes its hardened terrorist designs, it is known by many aliases, some of which are Jamaat-Ud-Dawa, Tehreek-e-Tahafuz Qibla Awal and Markaz-Dawa-Wal-Irshad. Irrespecitve of the name it adopts, its mission remains the same, and that is to further terrorism deep into Indian Territory in the name of Islamic jihad. In effect, it can be safely said that this organization is largely responsible for almost all terror related activities that plague the Indian union.

Later this week, diplomatic efforts will see the coming together of the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan in an attempt to redraw the relationship either nation shares with its neighbour – largely to talk tough on a serious problem, that being terror. This exercise, if successful, could lay down the foundation for a more composite dialogue in the future that will hopefully improve the level of confidence that both nations need in order to jointly tackle and address a slew of problems they have been facing, ranging from social, political, economic to the most important aspect of security systems.

But before all this is to begin, Pakistan needs to accept the fact that it’s boundaries are haven to many radical elements that threaten not only Indian security but also have been hard hitting on its own democracy. It may choose to call these elements as non-state actors, but the fact remains that these actors operate from Pakistani territory and are funded and aided by parts of the Pakistani establishment namely the ISI and the army. That this is factually so can be affirmed, among other incidents, by what was the brazenly customary presence of the former head of the ISI – Lt. Gen. Mehmood Ahmed at annual conferences of the Lashkar at Muridke. And that is not all. The attacks conducted in Mumbai by the group dispatched to do so on 26/11 in 2008 bore the hallmark of a very well crafted military operation, suggesting that the handlers of this operation were indeed part of the armed brass in Pakistan.

Today, after years of patronage and unconditional support to groups like the Lashkar, Pakistan has lost all control over them and chooses to echo to the world it’s utter helplessness in reining them in, in the hope that the international community will be overcome by the incidents within it’s borders and thus accord some sympathy. What it has done is create a dangerous network of well trained people who can lie low until the opportune moment and carry out a debilitating attack when needed. One such incident was witnessed in Pune, India, a few days ago, on 13th February, when an explosive device claimed the lives of 15 innocent people! Sleeper cells, hidden deep, and forever vigilant and abreast of their ideology are being used to threaten the secure fabric of India, and their handlers in Pakistan have sworn to step up the ante in a more violent manner. This is precisely what Pakistan needs to be cognizant of and admitting to when it’s foreign secretary Salman Bashir meets his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao, in just a few days.

It needs to understand and accept the responsibility for the existence of such an elaborate network of sleeper cells and sincerely work towards dismantling this apparatus in the hope that this scourge is controlled, for any and all dialogue in a composite manner can only be initiated after the problem of security is addressed. Furthermore, the Pakistani establishment must refrain from falsely implicating India for its security woes, which in effect have been as a result of it’s involvement with radically fundamentalist elements operating unchecked within it’s periphery.

Why then is India not right in going to the table with minimal expectations and focusing primarily on issues such as terrorism and security? Why must Jammu & Kashmir be a part of the agenda? India is surely justified in voicing its concerns over what has come to be known as the Karachi Project – a scheme being orchestrated by the Lashkar and its collaborators in the ISI to engineer attacks across India with the help of fugitive jihadis. Besides, there are growing inputs of cadres being given systematic arms training in Pakistan, something that is conducted by the LeT and sponsored by the ISI.

For now, one needs to be cautiously optimistic on how these talks would set guidelines for the future, and more importantly what they will bring as a result thereof! It is certainly foolish to assume that long standing issues can be solved with just a round of talks – they will not! Issues can only be solved by measurable actions and those need to emanate from Pakistan in the form of clamping down on terrorist camps and their infrastructure. But this is more deep rooted than one can imagine, since the complicity of the Pakistani establishment is significant here, by virtue of the working relationship the ISI shares with the Lashkar and many such groups. Such an arrangement has a lot of Anti-India sentiment written all over it and for that to change will take more and just a conscious effort.

Until then, many exchanges will happen over the table. One only hope that they remain over the table and not across the border!

India & China – The ongoing spat

October 23, 2009 Leave a comment

A war of words between the Asian heavy weights seemed to get out of proportion, with China blaring its thoughts in public domain over Arunachal, Agni, Indian High Altitude Landing Zones and now Kashmir. With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh barely days away from meeting his Chinese counterpart, the bureaucratic and diplomatic machinery is what is ensuring to downplay what both countries have been echoing as opinions and responses to one another’s comments that have been repeatedly emblazoned by the media!

Relations between both countries although not sour, have in no means been warm, something that both nations need to be cognizant of and thereupon workaround to improve the same, if they so desire that is! A war of words is certainly not a formula to extinguish problems that have had long standing contentions in between the two states, particularly when one country feels it appropriate to comment on the domestic matters of its democratic neighbour!

Progressive steps on the part of India to activate and upkeep its high altitude landing bases in regions proximate to the international border is simply a measure of drawing responsibility upon itself to ensure the security of the nation in the face of any untoward threat – much less as a mechanism of offense! History does stand testimony to the misadventures of 1962, which came shortly after India’s commitment to a renewed working relationship between the two nations. China must not view this as a threat and should rather reconcile in the thought that border security is as important an issue to address, as much as one would employ resources to tackle economic and political challenges that a nation may come to face!

That of Arunachal Pradesh is a very serious and committed demonstration by its people with regards to their allegiance, which, even as I write, has been clearly a response favourable to the Indian union. Who visits there and how, is a matter of right possessed and controlled solely by the Indian republic and by no means can be at the whims of a nation that believes it to be in possession of the said territory. Therefore, in this respect, the visit of the Dalai Lama should not be a mention, let alone an issue, to the Chinese, since it is beyond doubt, as it has been all along, that the state of Arunachal Pradesh – despite whatever it’s supposed ongoings of turbulent demographics and politics, remains a sovereign territory of the Indian union!

China’s comments, in the previous days, on Kashmir, calling India to resolve a long standing historical dispute, is uncalled for and unwarranted since it does not have any business to engage in such matters, which are clearly a problem for India considering the repeated sponsorship of cross-border terrorism and the unwillingness to come to the talking table by another nation! Historical or not, the issue of Kashmir is not one that requires interventions by any third-party, much less the Chinese! Calling this an issue left over by history, China has once again demonstrated its desire and frenzy to meddle with affairs of the Indian union, than take cognizance of issues in its domestic area – such as the ones pertaining to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, for instance, better known to the world in the form of the despicable massacres in Urumqi, in the recent past!

Why then should Dr. Manmohan Singh’s comments, to his military commanders asking them to be wary of China, come to be viewed as bewildering, wrong or panicky? Is he not justified in anticipating and thereby wanting to neutralize a threat posed to the Indian sovereign? And more importantly, are the voices of Beijing as a result of desperation? One as a result of the fall of a Maoist government in Nepal, which China attributes to India? And also for India having kept the Tibetan political identity alive?

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