19 January 2013

“War Is The Last Thing We Should Talk About”


'Straight talks, dual talks, engagement, battle, and only then does the question of war come' 

It is not unusual for an army chief to call on the family of a martyred soldier. But possibly because of the public attention the decapitation of the two jawans on January 8 attracted, General Bikram Singh visited the home of Lance Naik Hemraj Singh in Shergarh village near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. Chandrani Banerjee caught up with him on his return. Excerpts from an interview: 

Is India economically prepared to wage a war? 

War would be an extreme step. It’s the last thing on the list of priorities, always the last resort. Various steps have to be taken before a country can think about war. It’s the last thing we should talk about. 

What is the Indian army’s current position on the recent incidents involving Pakistan? 

We will try to use four to five technical steps that are there. Straight talks, dual talks, engagement, battle, and only then does the question of war come. Currently, engagement of people in talks has been encouraged. In the current scenario, it is being used to defuse tension. 

You have claimed that we have concrete proof against Pakistan. Could you give us some details? 

The Indian army has concrete evidence. This means we have enough and solid intelligence inputs with us. Apart from this, we have other corroborative evidence to show what Pakistan is doing in the frontier and border regions. 

What kind of intelligence inputs do we have against Pakistan? 

We have given all the details and supporting evidence to the government. There is enough and concrete evidence to support our claim of the beheading of Indian soldiers. 

Let Sunken Submarines Lie

Fascinating memoirs of one of the Indian navy’s most decorated officers 


Vice-Admiral Krishnan was one of the Indian navy’s most decorated officers, and a man who had the curious distinction of almost becoming naval chief on two separate occasions, but was passed over both times. His memoirs are a pleasure for the military history buff, because he served in World War II, right from the time the famous naval signal flashed out to the Royal Navy fleet in 1939, saying ‘Winston’s back’. 

As a young midshipman, Krishnan took part in the historic attack on Stavanger in 1940 (in Norway), after which his fleet was relentlessly bombarded by the Luftwaffe, but miraculously got away. That battle was a turning point in history: possibly the last time naval ships managed to survive a concerted aerial attack. The next time such an encounter took place, in December 1941, Japanese aircraft would swiftly sink two of Britain’s most powerful warships and conclusively announce the era of air power in naval warfare. 

Krishnan had a front-row seat on some of the most famous naval battles of World War II, and later personally captured an enemy gunboat, an act of gallantry for which he won the Distinguished Service Cross—one of only two Indian naval officers to do so. After Independence he went on to lead the liberation of Diu, and become the first commander of the INS Vikrant, and chief of naval aviation. All this he recounts engagingly—with riffs on fascinating personalities he encountered en route, including Sardar Patel, Krishna Menon and Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer, the last prime minister of Travancore (who apparently offered him the post of naval chief in the independent Travancore he was planning to create in 1947). 

Implications of Demographic Change in the Security Environment of Assam


In a political system that seeks to hold together a society containing multiple ethnic groups, one of which has a bare or near majority is often a precarious arrangement. Differential natural population growth rate among ethnic groups could lead to large scale civil conflict and violence. While overall population growth or increase in overall population density do not generally lead to conflict, research has shown that in many cases, certain population changes are strongly associated with political instability. There is a complex relationship involved wherein demographic changes occurring in a particular political and economic context causes instability. 

In the case of North-East India in general and Assam in particular, the demographic changes have generated tensions between the indigenous communities and the communities which migrated into the region during the colonial rule and after India’s independence. The ethnic tension in Assam between the Bengali and the Assamese people following the immigration and settlement of lakhs of Bengalis/Bangladeshis after 1947 is a well recorded fact.[1] Also, ethnic tensions between tribal and non-tribal populations is attributed to the immigration of lakhs of Bengalis from East Pakistan, now Bangladesh which made the indigenous communities feel that they have become a minority in their own land. By and by, it is unclear whether the worry about the possible influx of outsiders into Assam is real or imaginary, but at times, this fear drives them to violent attacks against the communities considered outsiders. 

Throughout the twentieth century, Assam has been the fastest growing area in the subcontinent. Its population has grown nearly six-fold since 1901. When India had a decadal growth rate of 5.7 percent between 1901-11, Assam had a decadal growth rate of 16.8 percent and when India had decadal growth rate of 13.3 percent between 1941-51, Assam’s decadal growth rate stood at 20.1 percent. Subsequently, in the decadal growth rate between 1971-81, India grew at 24.7 percent, while Assam’s population grew at 36.3 percent.[2] Since there is no evidence that Assam’s rate of increase was significantly different than that in the rest of India, the difference can only be accounted for by net immigration.[3]

The first wave of migration into Assam began shortly before the middle of the nineteenth century when the British created tea plantations in the hill areas. This migration was accompanied by an influx of educated Bengali Hindus into positions in the administrative services and in the professions. The 1981 census estimated that one-fourth of the population of the Brahmaputra valley was of migrant origin. The largest influx took place after 1900 when Bengali Muslims moved into the Brahmaputra Valley from East Bengal. Bengali Muslims reclaimed thousands of acres of land, cleared vast tracts of dense jungle along the south bank of the Brahmaputra and occupied flooded lowlands all along the river. 

Bridge To The Gods

Nirala Tripathi 
Naga sadhus of the fiery Juna akhara get ready for the Shahi snan on Makar Sankranti day at the Sangam, Allahabad, Jan 14 

The Sangam at the Mahakumbh is where it all comes together—faith, remembrance... 

Dawn is misty on the banks of the Sangam. Enveloped in a gigantic quiet, the water awaits the pilgrim. Sanatan dharma—dizzyingly varied, incorrigibly plural, welcoming of all, celebratory of difference and eccentricity—reveals its ancient provenance in millions of little rituals performed on the ghats. It’s fairly twinkling with life. There is incense, there are lamps, there is cannabis. 

The greatest Mughal emperor too succumbed to the addiction of the Sangam. The orthodoxy wanted a face-off with Akbar, but Akbar’s face was turned towards the Sangam. The emperor built his largest fort—the Allahabad fort—on the banks of this quiet confluence and dreamed of Din-e-Ilahi, Sulh-i-kul, respect for all religions. 

Sangam is a belief system. Sangam is a way of life. The spirit of the Sangam is infused in the great unifying philosophies of India. 

Walk On Female devotees prostrate on the path the Naga sadhus took as they walked in procession to the Sangam, Jan 14 

The amrit of the Kumbh is innocence. The innocent belief that a ritual bath can become a bridge to god. The kalpvasi (pilgrim) comes in hope, camping in austerity on the sand, seeking his personal relationship with river and sun. 

The formidably long line of akharas, sadhus and Naga babas provide the Kumbh with its spectacle and its magic, provide the made-to-order Oriental freak show for the western media. 

The Poor And Afflicted’: Vivekananda’s Many Gods

Much of the life-blood of our freedom struggle doesn’t conform to Nehruvian republican ideals. Swamiji’s life must be seen in its socio-political context. 

There is a scene from the late-’60s mushy and nationalistic Bengali film, Subhashchandra, that is worth recalling in a less innocent age. The moustachioed head of the local thana in Cuttack walks into the book-lined room where a teenage Subhas Chandra Bose is engrossed in his studies. Brandishing his baton menacingly, he glowers at the numerous photographs on the wall—including one of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, the author of Anandamath, and one of martyr Kshudiram Bose, who was executed for killing an Englishman. The policeman then turns his disapproving gaze on Subhas. “You’ve overlooked one,” interjects the boy insolently and points to another wall. The camera focuses on a portrait of Swami Vivekananda. The policeman stares at the photograph intently. Then, pointing his baton at Vivekananda, he declaims: “That is the raja of all the revolutionaries. Whichever revolutionary we catch, his picture is with them.” 

More than 65 years after Independence and with ‘official’ history being constantly reworked, it is both fashionable and obligatory to brush aside the inspirational importance of Swami Vivekananda to earlier generations. He was a sanyasi in saffron robes who was unabashedly committed to the propagation of spiritualism and national regeneration and who, at the same time, did not shy away from his self-identity as a proud Hindu. That such a man greatly inspired India’s passage to freedom may seem at odds with the puerile perception that contemporary Indian nationhood is based solely on universalist, secular and republican ideals. Thus, a complex past has become unwanted baggage that, if not discarded, is best left in storage. Unfortunately, what we were happens to be markedly different from what the champions of a spurious cosmopolitan modernity believe we are and, more important, should be. 

To the left-liberal elites that have a stranglehold on the citadels of intellectual power, the ‘idea of India’ is governed by the broad acceptance of the Nehruvian consensus and adherence to what might loosely be described as ‘constitutional patriotism’. Anything which doesn’t fit into this neat scheme is deemed to be in conflict with the national ethos and, as happened to Vande Mataram, quietly relegated to the ante-room. Alternatively, awkward facets of an infuriatingly complex inheritance are sanitised, bowdlerised and, like balls of plasticine, made to fit any shape. 

Per capita income in India and around the world

Last updated on: January 14, 2013

While India's economy is growing faster than most other countries, is the par capita income keeping pace? 

Let's take a look at GDP per capita income in India and around the world and find out where India ranks, according to Credit Suisse bank.Click NEXT to see per capita income in India... 


GDP per capita income: $1,703 

Overall rank: 24 

India and Pakistan: Getting Along with the Peace Process

January 18, 2013 

The incident of killing and mutilation of two soldiers of the Indian Army—and especially the beheading of one of them— by intruding Pakistani forces on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) has threatened to derail the India-Pakistan peace process. On the back of the public outcry over the incident, a usually soft-spoken Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a statement that there cannot be “business as usual”. The government has decided to “pause” the implementation of the liberal visa regime on ‘technical’ grounds. Against this backdrop, the following questions come to mind: is India-Pakistan peace process sustainable? Can they be de-linked from the events on the ground, especially in Kashmir? Can Pakistan’s fledging democracy be a partner in this long and tardy path of peace? 

Scepticism about the longevity of bilateral dialogue has been a perennial feature of discourse on India-Pakistan relations ever since the two countries restarted the peace process in the aftermath of the ghastly Mumbai attack with the Indian government extending a hand of peace in spite of certain reservations expressed in the country regarding the future of the peace process. 

The two countries have been observing a ceasefire along the LoC since 2003, although the number of ceasefire violations has increased over time. From the Pakistani side there has been a slow move towards increasing contact with India without at the same time insisting on the ‘core issue’; in effect, Pakistan seemed to be adopting a holistic approach towards its relationship with India. Two reasons are self-evident for this new Pakistani approach. First, there appears to be a broad understanding among the political parties in Pakistan to stay engaged with India with the objective of reducing bilateral tensions. Second, there is a conscious effort not to over-emphasise India as a enemy, which inevitably empowers the Army and emboldens its position vis-à-vis the political forces in Pakistan. 

For the past few months, Pakistan seemed to be balancing the interests of the political parties with the interest of the Army. While it may be difficult to segregate these two interests into water-tight compartments, nevertheless, a majority in the Army do strongly believe that India is an existential threat in spite of their recognition that the internal security threat remains the most critical challenge confronting Pakistan today. 

This is not to deny that there are vested interest groups in Pakistan that have in the past tried to invent a link between non-resolution of the Kashmir issue and stability in Afghanistan. Even Zardari, perhaps at the behest of these forces, was seen to be raising the Kashmir issue at the United Nations. The attempt by Pakistan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jillani to meet the Hurriyat Conference leaders in Delhi in July 2012 was not only to assure these leaders that Pakistan has not abandoned their cause but also to send a signal to the Pakistani establishment that the government is conscious of the ‘core interest’ while pursuing the agenda of peace. 

India- Pak dialogue, futile exercise

Issue Net Edition | Date : 19 Jan , 2013 

The killing, and more importantly, savage mutilation of two soldiers of the Indian Army on the Line of Control ( LoC) has put a big question mark on the ‘ on- again/ off- again’ dialogue the two countries keep having, seeking the elusive peace. 

After Pakistan started sending terrorists across the LoC, it started resorting to heavy firing on our posts to divert the attention of our troops. 

My focus today is on these two aspects; the first is tactical and the second falls squarely in the strategic realm. While the former is predominantly military, the latter does need to take note of this deplorable incident while analysing the future of the dialogue. 

Dynamics of LOC 

It is important to understand the dynamics of the LoC first. The present LoC is the second avatar of the erstwhile Cease Fire Line ( CFL). While the CFL was delineated in 1949, the LoC became the dividing line after our victory in the 1971 war with Pakistan. 

Despite these formal delineations, the Pakistani Army did not honour the sanctity of these lines. They commenced encroaching and nibbling on our side of the line, with a view to gaining tactically advantageous positions. 

Media bytes on developments in India-Pakistan relations

Paper No. 5370 Dated 19-Jan-2013 

By Col R Hariharan 

[Here is a summary of my comments to print and television media on the India-Pakistan standoff on specific issues raised by them on January 15 & 17.] 

On Indian Prime Minister’s strong statement and later developments 

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s statement has relevance externally to India-Pakistan relations as well as internally to the people. His demand to Pakistan for bringing to book those responsible for killing and mutilating two Indian soldiers on January 8, 20012 is a break from the past. Despite strong opposition criticism Prime Minister had always made an effort, at time bending over backwards, to ensure that peace process with Pakistan is not derailed. He did not react sufficiently strongly against Pakistan even to the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Similarly, he also refrained from on reacting strongly two beheadings were carried out by Pakistani troops in 2011 (as stated by the Army Chief General Bikram Singh) to keep the peace process going. In fact this incident was never reported in public. 

The Prime Minister’s statement came a full week after the barbaric incident. Did he want to give Pakistan sufficient time to come out with a face saving interim reply? Or did he lose his cool when the Pak Foreign Minister Ms Hina Rabbani went on a publicity gig by offering to get the incident investigated by the UN Military Observers Group (UNMOGIP)? Or was he exasperated by Pakistan routinely not responding to Indian sensitivity on not only this issue but on many others including action against terrorist masterminds of 26/11 attacks in Pakistan? The use of the words ‘it cannot be business as usual’ would shows his level of exasperation with Pakistan as he is not given to such usage in public statements. Whatever be the reason, he has shown a red card to Pakistan – ‘Don’t take me or India for granted.’ 

Beyond Al Qaeda

As Western countries rush into Africa's troubled Sahel region, are we once again forgetting history? 
JANUARY 18, 2013 

For sheer sexiness, few news monikers can compete with the al Qaeda label. 

This, in a word, is how one of the world's most remote and traditionally obscure regions, Africa's arid and largely empty Sahel, has suddenly come to be treated as a zone of great strategic importance in the wake of the recent offensive by a hodgepodge of armed groups, including one called al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, that has threatened the survival of the Malian state and sent violent ripples throughout the neighboring area. 

France has responded with alacrity and seeming confusion to the Mali crisis, sending in an intervention force that at first seemed destined to be very small and then immediately ramping up the numbers into the thousands, all while scurrying to enlist regional partners in places like Nigeria, Chad, and Niger. 

Paris has exhibited great difficulty in conveying a clear aim or speaking with one voice, saying contradictory things in rapid succession -- promising that this will be a limited intervention quickly handed over to the Africans, while vowing to do whatever is required to stamp out terrorist movements in Mali and restore legitimate government. 

To understand what is really going on in Mali and in the broader Sahel today, though, it is vital to think through decades of colonial and independent history in the region. And when one does, it becomes clear that, apart from the trendiness of al Qaeda, a relative newcomer as factors go, what is most striking is the remarkable continuity of this region's crises. 

The West and Radical Islamists in Mali

 Marc Pierini
Seen from a European standpoint, the French military intervention in Mali illustrates what the fight against radical Islamists might look like in the years ahead. While Western democracies are disengaging from their long, costly, and frustrating Afghanistan operation, they are still facing immense threats from groups much smaller than al-Qaeda that have shifted both techniques and targets. As states engage in operations to combat these post-Afghanistan threats within new political and budgetary environments at home, their strengths and limitations tend to show more acutely, while resource pooling and sharing becomes a necessity. 

Since early 2012, Islamist insurgents have controlled northern Mali. On January 11, France launched airstrikes to halt the insurgents’ advance further into the country, and West African nations have also approved the deployment of troops to confront the rebels. This French-African operation might provide a blueprint for international counterterrorism policies to come. 

Along with the Horn of Africa, where piracy off the Somali coast presents a significant challenge, Mali and the Sahel more broadly have become the focus of radical Islamic groups. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has set up a base of operations in the region and is linked to other extremists, such as the Mali-based Ansar Dine and the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). In northern Mali, an insurgency made up of members of the Tuareg ethnic group (the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad or MNLA) existed before the radical Islamist groups became involved. Boko Haram, meanwhile, is very active in Nigeria. 

According to French official statements during the past few days, the Malian Islamist groups are highly mobile, and they have effective weaponry and motivated fighters. In addition, they are funded in part by kidnapping foreign citizens for ransom, a pattern which is likely here to stay. They aim to seize vast expenses of territory, and in Mali they are challenging the very existence of the state, taking advantage of the political impasse in the capital, Bamako, and of the weakness of the armed forces. Their ultimate goal is, no doubt, to extend their grip on other countries, as incidents during the past two years in Mauritania, Niger, and northern Nigeria have illustrated. 

Cloud Of Iron: DARPA Hardens Cloud Computing Against Cyber Attack

By Henry Kenyon
January 10, 2013 

New technology creates new capabilities -- and new vulnerabilities. "Moving to the cloud" is the trend du jour, even in the intelligence world, but the recent attacks on the nation's banking system has raised uncomfortable questions about how to make cloud computing secure.

"The cloud" may seem amorphous, but in reality it consists of a host of modestly capable user terminals connected to a high-powered central server or server farm. The great advantage of the cloud is that individual users can borrow capacity -- storage, processing power, even entire applications -- from the central server when they need it. The great vulnerability is a successful attack on the central server can compromise everyone on the cloud.

When you put that many eggs in one basket, you'd better guard it well. That's the objective of a new program at DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency: MRC, Mission-oriented Resilient Clouds.

MRC about building a system that can keep functioning while under an attack and continue to provide useful services even after some resources have been corrupted. The research stresses designing resilient, adaptive systems able to fend off attacks, MRC program manager Howard Shrobe told AOL Defense.

Centralization offers economic efficiency, but it also creates a single point of failure. The problem is similar to what agronomists call a monoculture. Traditionally, in a field of (for example) wheat, every seed will have slightly different DNA, so a disease that beats the immune system of one plant may have trouble infecting another. When you go to genetically modified crops, however, every plant has identical DNA -- which means a disease that breaks the code for one can rapidly spread to all the others.

The same vulnerability applies to the cloud. In a computing monoculture, all of the nodes/servers are identical and share the same vulnerabilities. So any attack that can take over a single node can take over the entire cloud.

Needed: A Brain-Based Approach to Strategy

January 17, 2013 

Suppose you are in great health, exceedingly fit and athletically gifted. During a routine medical checkup, you receive some very bad news. You have developed a degenerative condition. Without a lengthy and painful course of treatment, in five years time or less, you will be hardly able to walk, let alone run or play any sport. 

Unfortunately, this diagnosis applies to the U.S. Department of Defense. The U.S. military has never been in better shape and is held by its fellow citizens in the highest regard. Yet, sometime this decade or sooner, unless or until dramatic actions are taken, the U.S. military could implode. A recent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington posits the extreme choices that lie ahead. 

Consider two extremes. Assuming moderate inflation and no further significant cuts in defense spending meaning no sequester, during this decade, to keep our forces at current levels of modernization and readiness, the active duty force of approximately 1.4 million will have to be cut by nearly 40 percent. 

Or, if current force levels are kept, modernization and readiness would be slashed to the bone leading to a "hollow force." And if additional defense spending cuts are made, which seems exceedingly likely given the national debt, the future is even grimmer. 

How this happened is painfully obvious. The costs of people and weapons are skyrocketing. Consider pay, benefits, retirement and medical costs for a service man or woman in the all volunteer force who enlists at 18; spends 20 years in uniform and retires at 38; lives another 40 years at half pay; and receives virtually free full medical coverage including for his or her family. That is a huge sum of money. 

Similarly, the costs of advanced weapons and sensor systems are also spiraling upward at an accelerating rate. Advanced technology is very expensive. And the regulatory and bureaucratic requirements of the acquisition process continue to increase the cost burden. 

Barring the emergence of an existential military threat, the United States cannot do what is has mostly done since the beginning of World War II and spend its way clear of danger. Worse, a broken political system and seemingly unbridgeable ideological divides between left and right, when too many politicians believe that military brawn and large forces are more important than intelligent and creative uses of a smaller and more adaptive capacity, incapacitate rational decision making. 

When the water in the spring turned black

Published: January 19, 2013
Rahul Pandita


Barbarshah in old Srinagar, one house they say smouldered for six weeks. Photo: Vijay Koul 

The Hindu ANGER AND HOPE: Kashmiri Pandits protest in Delhi in 2006. Photo: Shanker 

Special Arrangement Our Moon Has Blood Clots. 

The exodus of Pandits from the Valley is an aspect of the Kashmir conflict that has received scant attention. In a book just released, Rahul Pandita, who was 14 at the time he and his family left their home in Srinagar forever, gives a searing account of the displacement, struggle and survival of the community 

Kashmir Valley, 1989-90 

It was from a neighbour that we heard the first rumours. He had gone to the ration shop to get sugar when he overheard a man exclaiming — ‘Inshallah, next ration we will buy in Islamabad!’ It was around this time that bus conductors in Lal Chowk could be heard shouting — Sopore, Hand’wor, Upore. Sopore and Handwara were border towns while Upore means across. Across the Line of Control. It was meant as an enticement for the youth to cross over the border for arms training, to launch a jihad against India. 

Their lives on the line

January 18, 2013 

In the last few days the sound and fury that has amplified public anger over the killing and mutilation of two Indian jawans at the Line of Control (LoC) would have us believe that we are a country that cares deeply about our soldiers. The enthusiastic ferocity with which our leaders have plunged 

themselves into the debate would suggest that our military traditions are seamlessly woven into the fabric of our body politic.

I wish this were the case. Instead of thrusting the mercilessness of war upon young men and their families, if only we were evolved enough to build a genuine culture of respect for our soldiers. By definition, the easily expressed emotionalism of our rage - 140 characters on Twitter, the mechanical press of a click on Facebook or a forwarded chain mail - is designed to diminish in synchronicity with the fading of the headline. But the loneliness of loss in military families and the unimaginable burden that an obligatory stoicism places on them only registers once everyone else has moved on with their lives. And it is then that honour and a rightful place in the collective consciousness of a country can help make some sense of youth being snuffed out by violent death. 

War-by-teleprompter or sabre-rattling from the long-distance comfort of a studio must not to be confused with giving our soldiers the value they deserve. But then it is much easier to whip up cosmetic concern than to actually tackle questions of attitudinal and institutional change. Former Army Chief General VP Malik, who was at the helm during the 1999 war in Kargil, has rightfully argued that the military must be given some space to provide inputs in sensitive areas of policy-making. That the ultimate authority will always belong to the government of the day should not exclude the legitimacy of the military's concerns, especially since it's their lives that are on the line. 

In the initial aftermath of the eruption along the LoC, it was, for instance, not clear whether the government and the army were speaking in one voice or whether our politicos had any keen understanding of what it means for a 'paltan' to lose one of its own at the frontlines of conflict. There is a reason that the first priority for local commanders was to ensure that the cauldron of simmering anger and grief did not boil over; regimental honour is as primal a trigger in the fauj as family loyalty could be in the civilian universe. 

The gaps in understanding are partially because almost none of our politicians has a military background or any visible and regular engagement with the troops. Contrast this with the US where 24 presidents have had roots in the military; where US President Barack Obama will routinely be on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan to meet US combat soldiers or where every family who loses someone in battle will get a personal letter from the president in tribute. 

Here the fact that a hunger strike by the mother of a slain soldier was what it took to get political attention for her family says something about us. But while media focus was intense in this instance, there were more than 90 other army funerals last year that remained on the margins of public attention. 

India: In Need of a New Pakistan Strategy

By Sumit Ganguly 
January 17, 2013

The debate about what New Delhi should do next with Islamabad has become completely polarized, with both sides equally misguided.

Those who are intent on continuing the frayed peace process argue vociferously that regardless ofPakistan's actions along the Line of Control (the de facto international border in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir sometimes referred to as the LoC) last week, India can ill-afford to call it off. They contend that terminating the dialogue would play into the hands of the Pakistani military establishment and the Jihadists, neither of whom are entirely well disposed toward it. Furthermore, they argue that it is vitally important to keep Pakistan engaged to strengthen the liberal elements of its civil society. 

Indian hawks, on the other hand, many of whom would be deemed to be "chicken hawks" in the American political context, insist that only swift, firm and decisive retaliation will send a dissuasive message to Islamabad. 

Both arguments are flawed for a number of compelling reasons.

Those calling for continuing the dialogue do not seem to recognize that the benefits of the dialogue have been few and far between. Yes, a cease-fire of sorts was maintained over the past several years along the LoC, a more liberal visa regime was put in place late last year and Pakistan has continued to hold out the prospect of granting India Most Favored Nation (MFN) status. If these constitute the fruits of a nearly decade long peace process it must be conceded that the flame is not worth the candle. Far too much effort has been expended in attempts to assuage the concerns of a genuinely fractious and recalcitrant neighbor for very little recompense. 

On the other hand those who seek harsh retaliatory measures have not done their homework either. If India launches such an attack the Pakistani military establishment will not stand by idly. In the face of such an attack Islamabad’s diplomatic corps will come out in full force and harangue India at every international forum. Already Hina Rabbani Khar, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, has publicly accused India of "war mongering." Imagine how much more heated the rhetoric will be in the event of an Indian military response. 

'Pakistan knows it can't win a conventional war with India'

Last updated on: January 18, 2013 

'Such barbaric acts reflect that there has been a Talibanisation of the Pakistan army.' 

'An army that gets used to barbarism cannot overnight change,' says retired Lieutenant General D B Shekatkar. 

"There has to be an operational rethinking in the Indian Army," says Lieutenant General D B Shekatkar (retd). "It has to be a proactive rather than a reactive army." 

Pointing out to what United States Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said recently that America will take action against anyone from whom there is a threat, the retired general said similarly, if India feels that there is an imminent threat from any sector on the Line of Control, which divides India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, it should take firm action rather that waiting for an attack first. 

"If there is a violation of ceasefire and incidents like the crude beheading and mutilation of troops, then the local commander should have the authority to retaliate immediately to prevent further ingress and to halt them from taking further liberties again and again." 

"If you retaliate after a few days, then the impact of retaliation is lost and according to international norms, you will be accused of violating (the ceasefire), but if you retaliate immediately then you can say they acted first and there was no option but to retaliate," the general told Rediff.com on the telephone from Pune. 

"If you say we will do it at a time and place of our choosing, then it does not make that much sense of what is required to be done," General Shekatkar said. 

There are mainly three reasons for retaliation along the LoC: Retaliation in self defence when the soldier is fired upon from across; 
Retaliation when there is a violation of the ceasefire; and, 
Retaliation to punish them so that they don't repeat it again. 

"We in the Indian Army don't take any pleasure in violating the Line of Control. We never cross the Line of Control," the general said vehemently. 

Looming Taliban threat India, Pakistan should revise their strategy

By Kuldip Nayar 
19 Jan 2013

WITH America's announcement to withdraw troops from Afghanistan even before 2014, the date that it had itself fixed, it becomes imperative that Pakistan and India should revise their strategy and face the new development. Both have no option except to be on the same page because the Taliban, Al-Qaida's front, has neither been decimated as Washington claims, nor has it been deterred from the fixation to capture the Pushtu-speaking areas, the North-West Front Province (NWFP), now called Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa.

I do not know how President Barack Obama has come to the conclusion that Al-Qaida has been finished and that America's purpose has been served. The entire terrorism in the area is because of Al-Qaida's inspiration. It does not matter whether it comes in the forefront or not. The outfit is working under different names and on different fronts. President Obama may be in a hurry to withdraw his forces to placate the American opinion, but Washington and its drones have not wiped out the Taliban, the promise which it gave when it started carpet bombing in certain parts of Afghanistan.

After America's exit, the Taliban and the warlords would try to divide Afghanistan among themselves, not a difficult proposition when Kabul's forces are in the midst of modernisation and training. Even otherwise, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has been negotiating with the "good Taliban" to suck them into the administration so as to divide them.

Islamabad knows, like other countries in the world, that it would be hard for Afghanistan to stay sovereign without America's support and that it would be a matter of time before the Taliban would overrun the country. They would leave the warlords to govern their fiefdoms. Sturdy and determined, the Taliban activists have dispersed themselves over high mountains to await the time when the forces of America and NATO would quit. How to ensure Afghanistan's safety is the issue that faces the world.

Policies of America and India coincide since both want democracy to take roots in Afghanistan and become militarily and economically viable to stand on its own legs. Things would have worked smoothly between Delhi and Islamabad if the latter were to give up its insistence on treating Afghanistan as a country within its sphere of influence.

In fact, such a policy has been in the way of Delhi and Islamabad forging joint action against terrorists, the Taliban's real face. No doubt, Pakistan is trying to defeat the Taliban with the support of America, which provides it with arms and money. Yet the Taliban factions have spread themselves all over Pakistan. The fight is not confined to Afghanistan and the Waziristan border but inside Pakistan where the Taliban groups have joined hands with the fundamentalists to fan terrorism.

The ideal arrangement would be if Kabul and Islamabad could join hands to fight against the Taliban and other such forces which would become active after America's withdrawal. The biggest obstacle in the way is Pakistan's policy to have Afghanistan as its strategic depth. The late Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, tried his best to sell Kabul a status which would ensure Afghanistan's autonomy under the protection of Pakistan's armed forces. No self-respecting nation, much less the one comprising Pathans, can accept to be a satellite state. Karzai knows it and has often criticised the ambition of "elder brother", the title he has given to Pakistan.

A year of foreign policy disasters

The Government’s handling of GMR’s expulsion from Maldives was a major diplomatic failure of 2012. 

The Government has been flat-footed in responding to China’s assertiveness and addressing national security concerns. 

While the world celebrated the advent of the New Year and firecrackers lit the skies, people across India heaved a sigh of relief that the year 2012 had finally ended. The last year was marked by a declining economic growth rate, continuing high inflation, anger at growing corruption and a gang rape in Delhi that shamed the country for being insensitive to the safety and security of women. 

More importantly, what irked people most was the belief that they were being ruled by a Government and political class insensitive to their aspirations and concerns on corruption, inflation and the growing crimes against women. The credibility of the political class is not enhanced by the fact that 162 Members of Parliament face criminal charges, including two charged with sexual assault and abuse. While public anger at the decline in the standards of governance grew, India saw a decline in its international standing, as a fast growing, “emerging” economy. There was international attention on corruption scandals like “Coalgate”. 


But, India had to face the ignominy, for the first time in its history, of a virtual censure by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who condemned violence against women and called for “steps and reforms to deter such crimes and bring perpetrators to justice”. 

The New York Times described India as a country “which basks in its growing success as a business and technological Mecca, but tolerates shocking abuses of women”. 

Policy paralysis mars narrative on Pakistan

Author: Ashok Malik 
19 Jan 2013

Whether you are a peacenik or a pragmatist, a candlelight vigilante or a foreign-policy realist, conventional analysis of our western neighbour has reached a dead end. The situation in Islamabad does not help 

Anyone who speaks or writes about Pakistan with certitude and confidence these days is either a brave man or driven by an overstated sense of self. In truth, as events of the past week have made apparent, there is utter confusion amid all varieties of stakeholders as to what to do with Pakistan. Anodyne remarks and occasional belligerence have been used to cover this up, but behind these is the disturbing reality of policy paralysis. 

Whether you are a peacenik or a pragmatist, a candlelight vigilante or a foreign-policy realist, the fact is that conventional analysis of Pakistan has driven into a cul-de-sac. To be fair, there is legitimate reason for this. Internal conditions in Pakistan are poised at not one but several forks. That aside, the security situation in its near neighbourhood — specifically Afghanistan — is likely to change dramatically after a decade. Nobody can predict exactly how transformative those processes will be. Those unwilling to admit this are resorting to template responses.They are adding noise and not clarity. Many of the reactions to the gruesome and barbaric killing and beheading of an Indian soldier at the Line of Control have been emblematic of this. 

There are some broad themes about Pakistan that are becoming increasingly apparent. Unfortunately, for the moment they lead up to nothing definitive, and are only milestones on a highway that is still largely unknown and un-navigated. Nevertheless it is important to acknowledge their existence. 

First, the process of engagement and incremental rapprochement that India had begun with Pakistan roughly after Operation Parakram (2002) has now plateaued. Two Indian Prime Ministers, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, made essentially the same calculation. Any sort of formal conflict, even a so-called limited war, was very difficult. The fact that the countries had nuclear weapons and, even more, the heavy strategic and military investments the Americans and the West had made in the Af-Pak region, had severely contracted autonomy for action in both Islamabad and New Delhi. 

The Indian Prime Ministers saw this as opportunity, hoping a sobering Pakistani leadership — Pervez Musharraf evoked such hopes in roughly the 2003-2006 period — would see sense, recognise Pakistan was never going to gain territory in the part of Jammu & Kashmir under Indian jurisdiction and perhaps agree to a de facto border (the LoC) acquiring de jure status, albeit with flexibility for trade and travel. 

The Pakistani Taliban’s “preposterous” ask

By Knox Thames 
Friday, January 18, 2013

Just after Christmas, the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP) offered a peace deal of sorts to the Pakistani government. In exchange for a cessation of TTP violence, they demanded Pakistan's constitution be brought into conformity with their version of Islamic law and the government break ties with the United States. In response, a senior Pakistani government official reportedly called the offer "preposterous."

Yet it may not be, especially regarding the implementation of religious law. Similar demands were met in 2009 after the TTP took the Swat valley, with the Pakistani government giving away these very rights. The local government led by the Awami National party agreed to establish sharia law in Swat and the broader Malakand Division, which was approved by the national parliament and signed by President Zardari. It was only when the Pakistani Taliban pushed for more territorial gains that the government responded with force of arms. If past is prologue, the government may bend to get a deal now. 

However, the status quo arguably meets TTP demands regarding religious law, as much of what they seek already exists - Islamic law plays a major role in governance, and militants are free to violently force their religious interpretations on the population. 

This slide towards religious governance goes back to the country's founding. From the outset, the Objectives Resolution of 1949, which preceded the first of several constitutions, tilted Pakistan towards an Islamic state where citizens and their rights were defined by religion. This occurred despite Jinnah's famous speech two years earlier to the Constituent Assembly, in which he said, "You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed -- that has nothing to do with the business of the State." The Objectives Resolution went in a different direction, and while it recognized the presence of religious minorities, it only promised "adequate provision" of basic rights, while defining the entire state in Islamic terms. Constitutions that followed built off and expanded this foundation. 

The case for an enduring mission in Afghanistan

By Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, Jeffrey Dressler
January 18, 2013

Denying al Qaeda's reemergence in Afghanistan requires ensuring that Afghanistan can be sufficiently stable and capable of defending itself, as President Barack Obama explained during the surge announcement at West Point on Dec. 1, 2009. Al Qaeda is not present in large numbers (perhaps less than 1,000) in Afghanistan now, but Secretary Leon Panetta stated in November 2012 that "intelligence continues to indicate that they are looking for some kind of capability to be able to go into Afghanistan as well." The U.S. and NATO cannot allow war weariness and economic conditions to obscure the realities and requirements they face. The recently announced accelerated shift to a "support role" in Afghanistan could become a guise to withdraw if "support" means just a few thousand counterterrorism forces and trainers. 

In the eyes of many officials, a sound counterterrorism strategy rests on the assumption that the U.S. and NATO can kill their way toward a better future, against the Taliban and the Haqqanis or against al Qaeda and its affiliates. A decade of war proves the falsehood of this assumption. Experts outside the military are better qualified to determine how best to assist Afghanistan in the areas of governance, economic development, and reconciliation, and how best to move forward in Pakistan. But my experience in accelerating the growth of the Iraqi security forces -- in size, capacity, and confidence -- during the Iraqi "surge" of 2007 to 2008 qualifies me to speak about what is necessary to help the Afghan army succeed in taking lead responsibility. 

The Afghans and NATO began a program of accelerated Afghan National Army (ANA) growth in 2009, recognizing that sufficient capacity is still years away. The ANA's combat power is only partially developed. The tip of the ANA's spear, its fighting units, is more developed than its shaft, its enabler capacity. Its human intelligence ability can sense near-term threats, but its capacity to detect and anticipate threats is low. On the ground, it can maneuver well, but the ANA lacks the air and ground mobility to shift forces around the country in order to mass against the enemy. Lack of mobility and its still-developing staff capacity reduce the ANA's ability to apply timely and coordinated force. The ANA can place accurate enough direct fire against the enemy once engaged but has only limited land-based indirect fire ability. Nor does it have adequate air-delivered fires, important in the mountains and remote areas of Afghanistan. Pending medical, supply, maintenance, and transport capacity means that the ANA has limited ability to maintain momentum against the enemy once engaged. Leadership quality varies. All these shortcomings affect the ANA's confidence and combat power; none will be complete by the end of this year or next. 

Which Way Did the Taliban Go?

The New York Times
The village was abandoned. Streets deserted. Houses empty. Behind the central mosque rose a steep escarpment. Behind the escarpment mountains upon mountains. Up there — above the timberline, among the peaks — a white Taliban flag whipped in the wind. Several Afghan soldiers were admiring it when a stunted and contorted person emerged from an alley. Dressed in rags, he waved a hennaed fist at them and wailed. Tears streamed down his face. Most of the soldiers ignored him. Some laughed uncomfortably. A few jabbed their rifles at his chest and simulated shooting. The man carried on undeterred — reproaching them in strange tongues.

A truck pulled up, and Lt. Col. Mohammad Daowood, the battalion commander, stepped out. Everyone waited to see what he would do. Daowood is a man alive to his environment and adept at adjusting his behavior by severe or subtle degrees. He can transform, instantaneously, from empathetic ally to vicious disciplinarian. To be with him is to be in constant suspense over the direction of his mood. At the same time, there is a calculation to his temper. You feel it is always deliberately, never capriciously, employed. This only adds to his authority and makes it impossible to imagine him in a situation of which he is not the master. A flicker of recognition in the deranged man’s eyes suggested that he intuited this. He approached Daowood almost bashfully; only as he closed within striking range did he seem to regain his lunatic energy, emitting a low, threatening moan. We waited for Daowood to hit him. Instead, Daowood began to clap and sing. Instantly, the man’s face reorganized itself. Tearful indignation became pure, childish joy. He started to dance.

This continued for a surprisingly long time. The commander clapping and singing. The deranged man lost in a kind of ecstatic, whirling performance, waving his prayer cap in the air, stamping his feet. When at last Daowood stopped, the man was his. He stood there — breathless and obsequious — waiting for what came next. Daowood mimed the motion of wrapping a turban on his head. Where are the Taliban? Eager to please, the man beamed and pointed across the valley.