4 March 2013

India's Northeast: The Threat of Islamist Militancy

By Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman, Research Scholar, JNU 
03 Mar 2013

The demonstration by Muslim advocacy groups, which resulted in violent clashes in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan on 11 August 2012, leaving 2 dead and over 65 injured, was held to protest against the killings of Muslims in Kokrajhar (the inter-community clashes between Muslims and the Bodo community) and in the Arakan state of Myanmar (the inter-community clashes between the Rohingya Muslims and the Rakhine community). The linkage of these two separate inter-community clashes to a single protest march in Mumbai may be symbolic, but the threat of the rise of Islamist militancy in parts of Northeast India, and the larger international neighbourhood encompassing Myanmar and Bangladesh, has to be seen in context.

It has been well documented that Islamist militant groups and networks have had links with insurgent groups in many states of Northeast India, especially in Manipur, Assam and Nagaland; and this had been oscillating between tactical support in arms dealing, narcotics, illegal and fake currency networks, and anti-government sabotage activities over the past few decades. This trend, however, does not indicate by itself the threat of Islamist militancy. While many commentators have described the threat of the rise of Islamist militancy in Northeast India as unfounded and being alarmist, the ground conditions in the larger region cannot be ignored.

The People’s United Liberation Front (PULF) has been operating in parts of Manipur, Assam and Nagaland for the past two decades, and has been splintered, as has been the trend with many other insurgent organisations in Northeast India. Though split into many smaller factions over time, it is one of the major Islamist militant organisations currently active in the region. Apart from this, the role and support of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Bangladesh’s Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) to many insurgent organisations and networks in Northeast India, has unabatedly continued. There is a sort of an ideological vacuum in many of the ‘home-grown’ insurgent organisations in Northeast India. They have suffered huge losses in tactical and public legitimacy accounts in the past decade or so and are not in a position to prevent the growth of Islamist militancy in Northeast India, as to guard their own turf.

The entry points for Islamist militancy in Northeast India are not hard to comprehend. The presence of a large ‘illegal’ Muslim immigrant community in Assam, which has been a source of perennial political activism, and was one of the motivations behind the formation of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), became fertile ground for an entry point to the Islamist militant groups. The political uncertainty that has engulfed this migrant community over more than four decades now, has made them vulnerable to such militant influence, as a way to survive the political threat. Further enhancing the political aspect of an ever-looming ‘threat to their survival’ versus their responses to ‘surviving the threat’ over the past decades; the instance of large-scale riots and inter-community clashes in the past, such as the Nellie riots and the recent instances in Udalguri in 2008 and Kokrajhar in 2012, have made the case for militant responses an usable instrument in the evolving politics of the region.

What Went Wrong in Afghanistan?


We asked everyone from an ex-president of Pakistan to a former Afghan spy chief to weigh in. 

What was the West's biggest failure in Afghanistan? Rory Stewart, who once walked across Afghanistan in winter and now walks the corridors of Whitehall, makes the case that the intervention was doomed from the outset, that "the West always lacked the knowledge, power, or legitimacy to fundamentally transform Afghanistan." Seth G. Jones, author of In the Graveyard of Empires, argues that history should have provided a lesson: "The U.S. failure to stop Pakistan is particularly egregious because the United States was involved in an almost identical program 30 years ago -- with the ISI's help -- against the Soviets in Afghanistan." Here's what some of the foremost experts on the conflict -- from former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to American Enterprise Institute scholar Frederick W. Kagan -- identified as the biggest mistakes of the long war. 

Rory Stewart: Trying to do the impossible 

Many have argued that the problem with the Afghanistan intervention is that it "wasn't done right": If only we had not been distracted by Iraq, had tackled the right warlords, pursued the correct counterinsurgency strategy, and surged earlier, it would have been fine. But they are wrong. The problem was much more basic: The West was trying to do something it couldn't do, and it was trying to do something it didn't need to do. Its basic assumptions were wrong. Afghanistan did not pose an existential threat to international security; the problem was not that it was a "failed state." The truth is that the West always lacked the knowledge, power, or legitimacy to fundamentally transform Afghanistan. But policymakers were too afraid, too hypnotized by fashionable theories, too isolated from Afghan reality, and too laden with guilt to notice that the more ambitious Afghanistan mission was impossible and unnecessary. 

Lessons Learned (and Not)


Seven things we've learned after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Ten years ago this March, George W. Bush launched America's invasion of Iraq. Had Twitter existed back then, #ShockandAwe would have been trending. Ground operations advanced quickly. By May, the president stood in front of a banner declaring "Mission Accomplished." Simultaneously, in a less-heralded but perhaps even more egregiously premature assessment, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared the end of "major combat" in Afghanistan. At the time, only 8,000 U.S. troops were in Afghanistan. Today, more than eight times as many are there. 

These conflicts will not only define America in the eyes of the world for many decades to come, but they will also shape the views of a generation of men and women who will decide where, when, and how the United States will flex its muscles internationally. That can be beneficial if the right lessons are drawn. But in an America that simply wants to get out and not look back, the absence to date of orderly, critical analysis of where the country went wrong has been striking. 

Nothing underscores this more than this spring's other major anniversary, albeit one likely to pass largely unnoticed. On March 29, 1973, the last U.S. troops withdrew from South Vietnam, which fell into communist hands just two years later. 

If Vietnam seems remote, a baby-boomer nightmare far removed from the world of drones and cyberattacks, look again. The ghost of Vietnam has been omnipresent for years in planning by senior U.S. officials and military officers -- sometimes leading to successful initiatives, sometimes placing a phantom hand on the tiller of state and guiding policies into the shoals. 

The officers who led U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan studied the lessons of insurgency learned in Vietnam, clearly shaping their thinking. Gen. David Petraeus, who attended West Point during the last years of the Vietnam War, titled his doctoral dissertation The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam. In his memoir, Stanley McChrystal, the Afghanistan war general fired by President Barack Obama, tells the story of a "memorable night in Kabul" when he and diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who served in Vietnam as a young Foreign Service officer, telephoned historian Stanley Karnow to ask about the lessons that disastrous war holds for today's Afghanistan conflict. Holbrooke spoke openly and passionately about the need to avoid that fate -- an endless, costly war. But as McChrystal writes, "the lessons to be drawn were anything but incontrovertible." The same might be said about the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq, but nonetheless we must try to identify those we can. Here are a few. 

What Went Right?


Critics of the war are missing the big picture: Afghanistan is much better off today. 

Quick question: Which Asian country has seen its life expectancy go up an astounding 18 years in just one decade, while turning from one of the world's most rural countries into one of its fastest-urbanizing? Oh, and the country's GDP increased tenfold in that same period. 

No, this isn't Japan in the 1960s, Singapore in the 1970s, South Korea in the 1980s, or India in the 1990s. It is Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. 

What went wrong in Afghanistan since the American invasion is painfully clear, from the grotesque levels of official corruption to the worrisome rise of insider attacks against NATO forces by Afghan soldiers and police. Nobody is claiming all is coming up roses in a country devastated by decades of conflict. But not everything has gone wrong, either. So perhaps the more interesting question -- and certainly a more underexplored one -- is this: What went right? 

Afghanistan just after the November 2001 fall of the Taliban resembled Germany after World War II: The country had been utterly destroyed, around a third of the population had fled, and more than one in 10 of its citizens had been killed in the previous two decades of war. Much of Kabul resembled postwar Dresden, so utter was the destruction of the capital. 

When you flew into Kabul's airport, you were greeted by the disquieting sight of teams of de-miners clearing the airfield. This scene was repeated all over Afghanistan, which was then one of the world's most heavily mined countries. Those few visitors who traveled would find village after village empty. What were once houses now lay in fallen-down baked-mud ruins, like the remnants of some long-gone civilization. Many Afghans had fled for Pakistan and Iran during the 1980s and 1990s -- some 6 million out of a population of 15 million. 

As a result of the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan and the enterprising spirit of the Afghans themselves, Kabul is now rebuilt, the villagers are back, and the once-ubiquitous de-miners have all but disappeared. Furthermore, millions of Afghans have voted with their feet: Since the fall of the Taliban, more than 5 million have returned home. By way of contrast, some 2 million Iraqis left their country during the recent war there. Only a tiny fraction of those refugees has gone back. 

Think Again: The Pentagon


The military's Chicken Littles want you to think the sky is falling. Don't believe them: America has never been safer. 

"The Pentagon Is Always Fighting the Last War."

Just the opposite. The Pentagon, as former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates derisively pointed out, has a bad case of "next-war-itis." With Iraq now ancient history and Afghanistan winding down, all four of the major U.S. military services today prefer to imagine distant, future, high-tech shoot-'em-ups against China (er, well-equipped adversaries) over dealing with the world as we find it, which is still full of those nasty little wars. As Marine Corps general and outgoing Central Command boss James Mattis once told me, "I find it intellectually embarrassing that people want to hug the Chinese [and exclaim], 'Oh, thank God we have another peer competitor at last! Now we can go back to building the weapons that we always wanted to build.'" 

Some of these efforts can verge on the ridiculous. I recently sat through an Air Force briefing during which super-empowered individuals were portrayed as thiiiiiis close to being able to wipe out humanity with a genetic weapon or to kill off -- get this -- more than half the U.S. population through electromagnetic-pulse attacks that send us collectively back to subsistence farming (think of the TV drama Revolution). Another scenario posited a "one-machine" future when, naturally, the "beast" starts thinking for itself and can turn on humanity (here, take your pick of Terminator's Skynet or the Matrix trilogy). That's the beautiful thing about Armageddon-like future wars: They could happen tomorrow, or they could never happen. The only thing we know for sure is that we're totally unprepared! 

If you thought all these plotlines portray a Pentagon in search of the right justifying villain, then you'd be right. But remember, amid all this institutional angst, what's really being fought over are slices of a $530 billion budgetary pie that many experts think should be shrunk by one-fifth over the rest of this decade. 

The first services to be infected were "Big War Blue" -- the Navy and Air Force -- as both felt slighted in the post-9/11 long war against radical terrorist networks, seeing in its unfolding an existential threat: a long-term emphasis on "Small Wars Green" involving mainly the Army, the Marine Corps, and special operators like SEAL Team 6. Now, however, even the Army and the Marine Corps are beginning to catch the fever. So while the Navy and Air Force have been fighting harder for longer because they've gotten the short end of the stick for the last decade, the Army and Marine Corps are now running hard from the long war too, looking to make sure they don't get discarded like Iraq and Afghanistan. 

State of War


FP surveyed more than 70 experts on today's global conflicts, with John Arquilla guiding us through the results. 

Writing amid the early tensions of the Cold War, J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the fathers of nuclear weapons, asserted in 1956 that "the world cannot endure half-darkness and half-light." Yet endure it did for another three decades -- catastrophe was averted at the end of the Cold War. Today we are in the early stages of a "cool war" era, a time of conflict between nations and networks. Some networks harness the darkness of terrorism; others mobilize civil society to overthrow dictators. All the while, nations keep wary watch over each other, for this is an age replete with threat, an era when older weapons of mass destruction coexist with newer ones capable of mass disruption. Oppenheimer's imagery of the deadly interplay between dark and light forces still applies. 

Will the world find its way through current and coming perils as it has before? And what role can the United States play in mastering them? The 71 participants in the third annual Foreign Policy Survey on the future of war (myself included) make clear that the task ahead is going to be complex, confusing, and rife with hard-to-control elements. The survey's list of the most serious threats to U.S. national security speaks clearly to this problem, with experts pinpointing economic crisis and regional instability as the top two dangers. This is not the Cold War, with one overarching enemy to be "contained" wherever the need might arise. This is a world afire with more than two dozen serious armed conflicts -- and many areas not yet ablaze but at great risk of catching fire. It is a world that lies far, far beyond containment. 

To the extent that American foreign policy and security strategy can affect global events, survey respondents suggest that the current U.S. approach may not be addressing the most urgent problems. For example, the individual countries of greatest concern to half of the respondents are Pakistan and Iran, yet U.S. President Barack Obama seeks a "pivot" to the Pacific that clearly puts China in the cross-hairs. Respondents do not concur with the administration's priorities; roughly half of them view the "pivot" negatively, whether because it's overemphasized or poorly implemented. 

Empowering the Military

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
03 Mar , 2013 

Situations in counter insurgency environment cause their own stress on soldiers especially when politicians and officials play their dirty games.

Three days after the operation, DC Kupwara (under militant threat, militant sympathy or for money offered by militants) himself lodged an FIR that the army had raped 100 women in that single night including a 60 year old woman. 

How do you insulate the soldier from unwarranted surmounting stress of false accusations of serious crimes like rape including ignominy during the attachments and long winded inquiries while media cries blue murder and tarnishes the image of individual (s) and the Army? Can you gauge the effect of undue additional stress levels caused by regular spate of false human rights abuse allegations (94-95% as per NHCR) on soldiers in addition to combat stress? During 1990-91, a village called Kushan Pushpora in Kupwara District of J&K was searched during a winter night of continuous snow and rain. More than one unit was involved. Three days after the operation, DC Kupwara (under militant threat, militant sympathy or for money offered by militants) himself lodged an FIR that the army had raped 100 women in that single night including a 60 year old woman. It created a national and international furor. What followed was a spate of commissions and inquiries, eventually all proving after a year plus that the allegations were baseless. 

More recently, media frenzy and State politics in J&K accused army personnel with the rape and killing two women at Shopian in J&K, later proved to be a case of drowning. In insurgency areas, media too at times is under terrorist threat or is available on hire – which may perhaps be a global phenomenon. However, a former joint Director IB writes in his book ‘Open Secrets’, “The susceptibility of the fourth estate to the intelligence community had tied our hands down. They are one of the too many holy Indian cows. Some of them, as described by a senior member of the fourth estate, ‘taxi on hire’. Any paymaster can hire this particular brand.” 

…politicians continue to play their own games and actually enjoy the military being shown in poor light. 

Triumph and tragedy at Tashkent

By Inder Malhotra 
Mar 04 2013

With the signing of a peace agreement between India and Pakistan came the news of Lal Bahadur Shastri's passing 

ON THE morning of January 10, there was a sea change in the atmosphere of Tashkent. The bickering, the blame game and intensely motivated accusations about the "impending collapse of the talks" had suddenly vanished. Instead, everyone seemed cheerful. For, word had spread fast that in the wee hours of the morning, the tireless Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin had brought about an agreement between Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri of India and President Ayub Khan of Pakistan. It was to be called the "Tashkent Declaration", and signed in the afternoon by Shastri and Ayub, with Kosygin witnessing it. The text of the declaration was released only after it was signed, but there was striking unanimity among Indians, Pakistanis and Soviets that it was a "triumph of statesmanship". 

At precisely 4 pm, the accord was signed, and a long, lavish and exuberant reception by the Soviet hosts followed. Shastri left early. Those who shook hands with him and saw him off testified later that his hold was firm, and he seemed calm and carefree. My colleagues and I had left much earlier to report and analyse the welcome accord. On careful reading, however, it seemed an arrangement only for the disengagement of troops that were too close for comfort and for the return of occupied territories. Major issues had been slurred over. This became even clearer when reactions started coming in from Delhi and Rawalpindi. The public in both countries was unhappy. 

In India, the harshest criticism not only by the political class, but also by members of the PM's family, was focused on his decision to "give away" Haji Pir, which he had vowed never to do. Little did his critics know that Kosygin had explained to him the dire consequences of defying the UN Security Council's resolution insisting that the armed personnel of both countries "return to the positions they had occupied before August 5", when Pakistan's infiltrations into Kashmir were first detected. 

For his part, Ayub had wanted to hold on to the Chhamb area in Kashmir his troops had captured. Kosygin explained the facts of life to him, too. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, anxious to sabotage an agreement somehow, suddenly demanded that the entire paragraph committing the two countries to "discourage hostile propaganda against each other" be deleted. Kosygin turned on him and asked: "How do two countries that agree to make peace and maintain good-neighbourly relations also proclaim that they would carry on hostile propaganda against each other?" 

Ayub's difficulty with his countrymen was not Chhamb, however, but the glaring fact that their "core issue", Kashmir, had been "dismissed" in the declaration with the bland statement that "Jammu and Kashmir was discussed and each of the two sides set forth its respective position". 

Countering Terrorism: The Way Forward

By V. Mahalingam
March 3, 2013

Could we have avoided the Hyderabad blasts? The systems and the infrastructure are either faulty or not in place. We have not considered it necessary to train our policemen. If we had prevented it, that would have been a miracle. Four years have been wasted. Lack of political will, determination and clarity are clearly visible. Every time there is a bomb attack, our leaders talk of CC TVs as if that is the solitary solution to the problem. The political leaders and the bureaucracy handling this very sensitive issue seem to lack the vision and the practical acumen needed for the job. We went about creating organisations without a well-defined counter-terrorism (CT) strategy, resulting in faulty architecture models and controversy all around. We keep blaming some foreign sponsored terrorist outfit or the so called indigenous variety to politicize the matter and thus divert attention from the fundamental issue. What difference would that make if our own counter measures are effective and in place? 


Boundaries do not restrict terrorism and it will have to be tackled at the national level. That requires a body to do the strategic planning, coordination and application of all instruments of national power to thwart terrorism. It will involve collection, collation and analysis of intelligence from all the sources within and outside the country. The assessed threat perception will have to be shared with all the stake holders through a medium that is instantaneous to be of any value. The National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) can be an ideal intelligence agency for handling all CT related intelligence. We, however, need a strategic planning body, investigations and execution arm besides the intelligence outfit. A planning body needs to be separated from the execution agencies and each of them must be placed under appropriate professional heads. 

See the present architecture of the NCTC. It has been placed as an adjunct to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). MHA is a busy body dealing with multifarious issues from Telengana to North East to Honours and Awards. It has neither the time nor the professional competence to do any worthwhile strategic planning relating to counter terrorism. 

Counter terrorism is not the only item on the IB’s menu. Going by its past, the IB is viewed with suspicion and is considered a political tool of the Government in power. Used to the culture of running to the power centres with information to score brownie points rather than alerting the security agencies for prompt action, will anyone provide the IB with any vital intelligence input first hand rather than scoring a point themselves? The IB lacks the status and the authority to be able to demand information from the states, other agencies and departments within the country. Won’t such a design promote turf war between intelligence agencies? Does anyone expect the other departments and State Governments to act on the IB’s directions if it were to coordinate the national effort to combat terrorism? 

Perils of Ignoring State Police

As per the constitutional provisions, law and order happens to be a state subject. The powers conferred on the NCTC to search, arrest individuals and carry out independent investigations without involving the State Governments is viewed as an infringement on the states’ powers and has accordingly raised a political storm. The principle of not granting arrest powers to intelligence agencies has also been violated. 

Managing Kashmir

By Prem Mahadevan
February 13, 2013 

Indian and Pakistani forces continue to clash along the 'Line of Control' in Kashmir. Why do sporadic outbursts of violence occur over this territory? 

For several decades, the situation in Kashmir has been intrinsically linked to that in Afghanistan. After the Soviet Union withdrew its armed forces from Afghanistan in 1988, a Pakistan-backed insurgency broke out in Kashmir. The dynamics are quite straightforward: Pakistan cannot afford to fight on two fronts. It has a border dispute with Afghanistan over the alignment of the Durand Line, which has been smouldering since 1947. Whenever relations with Kabul are bad, Pakistan seeks to improve ties with India. When Afghan-Pakistani relations improve, relations with India go downhill. The mid 1970s provides another good example. Afghanistan and Pakistan were supporting insurgencies on each other's territory, and India-Pakistan relations suddenly became very friendly. 

The latest outbreak of violence is part of this cyclical pattern. Pakistan knows that the United States wants a trouble-free exit from Afghanistan. It bases such knowledge on quiet assurances from the United Kingdom, its main partner in the West, that the US is not interested in opposing a Taliban return to power in Afghanistan. Islamabad, and more particularly the Pakistani army, is calculating that a hardline Islamist government in Kabul would be more likely to let the border dispute lie, or settle it on Pakistani terms. In anticipation of such a 'grand bargain' that would pacify its western frontier, it has allowed jihadist groups to start raising tensions with India. It is widely believed that the Pakistani military has advised jihadist leaders to prepare for a resumption of major terrorist actions from 2014 onwards, once the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is complete. 

What is India's approach to managing the conflict in Kashmir? 

India considers the Pakistani military to be the core problem, not the civilian leadership. It is trying to strengthen the civilian leadership in every way possible, while ignoring the military. This means it is attempting to boost economic ties with Pakistan, provide emergency aid, and also promote cultural exchanges to reduce public hostility between the two countries. In Kashmir, it has pushed for an opening of borders, having calculated that this would de-emotionalize the issue and permit a settlement which safeguards territorial integrity and allows the Kashmiris to retain a unique identity within both countries. 

In military terms, Indian counterinsurgency strategy distinguishes between Kashmiri insurgents and Pakistani jihadists, whom the Indian security establishment considers as 'mercenaries'. The distinction is sometimes difficult to maintain in urban areas, but in rural communities it is relatively easy, as Pakistani jihadists tend to stay aloof from the local population, whom they view as not sufficiently puritanical. This has worked to the advantage of Indian security forces. After years of learning on the job, they now have a detailed awareness of where and how Pakistani groups tend to operate. Kashmiri insurgents tend to be left alone, so long as their violent activities do not extend to murder. However, there is still no solution for dealing with the rear bases and supply depots of the jihadists, which are located across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistani Kashmir. 

Holding back on soft power

By Rani D Mullen 
Mar 04 2013

While India's development assistance has increased markedly since 2000, it remains moderate in relation to the country's size and growing stature 

The newly released budget has not only protected but has actually increased India's foreign assistance, or development partnerships as the government prefers to call it. It has done so despite fiscal pressures to decrease spending, as well as pre-election year pressures to increase funding only for programmes that will gain votes. 

Given India's growing global stature and its international strategic interests, India needs to ensure that its development assistance is harnessed to its full potential. Protecting the ministry of external affairs' budget, and that of development assistance in particular, will help to further cement several changes India has undertaken over the past decade to strengthen its relationships with other developing countries. 

India is not an "emerging donor", having started development assistance to neighbouring Bhutan only a couple of years after Independence, at a time when India was itself struggling to deal with its massive poverty and other social issues, as well as the horrors of Partition. With the addition of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme in the 1960s, India's development assistance focused on training and capacity building in partner countries and was able to leverage an entire generation of Indian-trained civil servants from numerous countries into friendly bilateral relations, as well as support for India's views in multilateral fora. For example, nearly 700 Ethiopians, largely civil servants (but including the current prime minister), have received training to date under the ITEC programme. The Ethiopian government has repeatedly stated that India is among its preferred partners and it supports India's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council. 

While India's development assistance has increased markedly since 2000, it remains moderate in relation to the country's size and growing stature. Between 2003-04 and the new 2013-14 budget, India's development assistance increased fourfold, from Rs 1,749 crore to Rs 7,019 crore annually. Much of this increase in development funding went to Afghanistan where India, with a total commitment of around Rs 11,000 crore, is the fifth-largest bilateral donor. India has also provided increased assistance to other neighbouring countries, such as Bhutan and Myanmar, and has given some grants to several African countries. Over the past two years, development assistance as a percentage of total government expenditures has grown from 0.27 per cent to 0.42 per cent. Yet, this soft power tool of foreign policy is still below half a per cent of the budget, and is dwarfed when compared to spending on hard power, as defence accounts for over 12 per cent of the estimated government spending in this year. 

Black hole of the state

By Pratap Bhanu Mehta 
Mar 04 2013 

Unless there are signs that we are reinventing the state, all promises will prove illusory 

Beyond the jugglery of numbers, there is one unambiguous message we should take away this season: India's future depends on the state of its state. And the evidence provided by the Union budget, particularly the economic survey, on the state is truly dispiriting. The state is now the black hole of reforms, swallowing everything thrown at it. 

The core of India's economic challenge is managing inflationary expectations. Everything from the savings rate to investor confidence depends on giving some signal about what kind of world to expect in terms of inflation. Fiscal tightening might signal a resolve to manage those expectations. But the state has done nothing to lessen the uncertainties over inflation. If anything, the budget suggests even more inflationary pressures. The government lost credibility because for three years it was being mendacious about inflation diagnostics. Was it labour cost push? Was it energy prices? Was it government expenditure growth not being linked to productivity increases? Without a diagnostic that is clearly addressed in the budget, there is no credible roadmap to managing inflation, and this will create choppy seas. 

The second black hole of the state is regulatory certainty. The biggest regression over UPA 2 was that it continued to multiply regulators, while at the same time moving away from principled regulation. It got into trouble in sector after sector because it could not stick to regulatory frameworks with credibility; even in PPPs, it was amenable to arbitrary discretion. This also created openings where other institutions like courts could compound uncertainties. So here is a non-rhetorical question. Do we have any reason to have more confidence that the regulatory capacity of the state is going to improve? The answer is probably, no. 

The third black hole of the state is that it still does not seem to understand the importance of a framework for justifying its decisions in terms of public reason. The issue is not tax rates. A good case could have been made for taxing the super-rich. But it should have been made with courage of conviction and on principled grounds. Instead, what we got was something like, "We are in trouble, so let us do this for a year and then we will roll back." This will hardly cement the state's reputation as a credible taxer. 

The fourth black hole comes out most clearly in the economic survey. This is that every single item required for future growth is premised on a radically different kind of state. The survey tries to do a fair-minded assessment of the deep dynamics of growth and the more contingent drivers. The survey is wonderful at emphasising the need for job growth. It then offers a good comparative analysis of issues we have to face: labour laws, the ease of doing business, formalisation, education and skilling and so forth. The survey often draws comparisons with East Asia, but then tellingly leaves out the most important question: do we have similar state capacity? In fact, in the short to medium run, state capacity may actually decline. Take the items in turn. 

Border Tales

By Premankur Biswas 
Mar 02 2013

The 1971 War brought millions from Bangladesh to Kolkata, Premankur Biswas catches up with a few who stayed on and a few who chose to leave. 

Plates, heaped with rice, change hands with alacrity at the Radhuni restaurant. Waiters bustle from one table to another, carrying bowls of Bangladeshi delights, while patrons dig into their portions with gusto. This is a well-oiled machinery. Nirpendra Chandra Bhaumik, stoic and brusque, installed in a chair behind a dingy counter, presides over all. Looking at him dispatch bills, without looking up from his counter, it is easy to assume that this man is all about memorised price lists and exact change. But then something happens. An unassuming lady in a salwar kurta, who was having her meal with her family just a few tables away, approaches him with folded hands. "Bhaumik da, thanks to your good wishes, my son is hale and hearty now. I can take him back to Dhaka", she says. For the first time in our meeting he, smiles. "They come from Dhaka every two months for the treatment of their seven-year-old son who is suffering from leukemia. Life can be so cruel at times," he says, after bidding goodbye to the family. 

Bhaumik is no stranger to life's cruelties. He deals with his ghosts every day. "It has been 32 years and I still cannot forget the sight of dead bodies on the streets of my hometown, Mymensingh," he says. He was only 16 when the nine-month liberation war of Bangladesh started on March 27, 1971. The war which pitted East Pakistan and India against West Pakistan resulted in the secession of East Pakistan, which became the independent nation of Bangladesh. 

It was a war which snatched 19 of Bhaumik's classmates. "It was April, my friends wanted to be freedom fighters. They decided to cross the border and be trained in camps in India, but they were gunned down by the Pakistani army. They were mere boys," says Bhaumik. It was then that his parents decided to leave the country. "I know it may sound like a cliché, but we were zamindars back home. You will say everyone who migrated to India from Bangladesh claims to be zamindars. I can't argue with that, all I will say is that it was really painful to leave all we had and set out for an unknown destination," says Bhaumik. 

On a muggy morning in May 1971, Bhaumik, his parents and his four brothers took a boat on the Brahmaputra till the Indian border. "When we crossed the border, we started walking. We walked for hours together before we got a lorry to take us to Agartala," says Bhaumik. But his family was not the only one taking the route that day, or for that matter, days to come. "It was a steady stream of humanity. We were going with the flow. We didn't even have the energy or the inclination to make our own decisions. We were going where everybody was going," says Bhaumik. 

It was the same for millions of other Bangladeshis who migrated to India, leaving behind old hopes and dreams in search of new ones. Many took the badge of asylum-seekers and turned things around for themselves, scripting success stories, building bridges, being absorbed and shaping the local culture. Others, it seems, simply disappeared between the cracks of the system. 

Troubled Pak province

By T.V. Rajeswar 
04 Mar 2013

Islamabad coming to terms with reality in Balochistan

THE problem province of Balochistan in Pakistan continues to simmer. It has always been a source of conflict and headache to the Government of Pakistan. The geographical parameters of the province are such that they are prone to generate conflicts. The western part of Balochistan borders Iran while the northern part borders Afghanistan. The Gulf of Oman marks its southern border. The Balochis trace their origin to the central Caspian region. They have had close affinities with this region. 

When Pakistan and India became independent in 1947, the British gave the Baloch tribes the choice of joining either Pakistan or India. Baloch tribal leaders, however, were against joining either of these two countries and instead wanted to be an independent State of Balochistan. Lord Mountbattan thought that Balochistan would not be able to survive as an independent country and decided to declare it as a part of Pakistan. 

Early in 2012, a group of US Congressmen suggested a novel solution to bring about peace in the Af-Pak region as well as in Afghanistan. It suggested recognising Balochistan an independent state and thereby ensuring peace. However, the idea was dropped later on as being impractical. One of the Balochi leaders, Suleiman Khan, said that they had no desire to be a part of Pakistan. But they were given no choice and were "sold down the river". However, the Balochi leaders tried to negotiate with Pakistan to secure at least autonomy for retaining the authority over land and natural resources. But Pakistan integrated Balochistan as one of its four provinces and more or less completely erased the Balochi identity. With a population only 7.5 million, Balochistan is the largest of the four provinces of Pakistan. But the people of Balochistan are behind the rest of the Pakistanis in terms of education and social development, and as much as its 63 per cent of its people are living below poverty line. The people even lack safe drinking water and electricity. All these have led to a state of continuous discontent and hatred towards Pakistani rulers. There have been periodic outbreaks of insurgency which had been put down ruthlessly by the Pakistan Army. 

The Balochi tribes took up arms and have resorted to a continuous guerrilla warfare. They had their bases in the region of Marri and Bugti. The insurgents bombed railway tracks and ambushed the convoys. The Pakistan Army retaliated ruthlessly and put down the conflicts that erupted in the shape of Guerrilla warfare in 2004, 2006 and 2009. In August 2009 the Khan of Kalat, tribal leader as a ruler of Balochistan, formally announced a council for independent Balochistan. 

It is of interest to recall that after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani met at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in July 2009. They considered the entire gamut of bilateral relations with a view to charting the way forward for India-Pakistan better relations. Both leaders agreed that terrorism was the main threat to both countries. They affirmed their resolve to fight terrorism and cooperate with each other to this end. Dr Manmohan Singh reiterated the need to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks on 26/11, 2008, to justice. Gilani assured that Pakistan would do everything in its power in this matter. 


3 Mar 2013

1.  In our preoccupation with the anti-India activities of the Pakistani jihadi organisations, we should not overlook the positive factors that have brought a ray of hope not only to Pakistan, but to the region as a whole. 

2. The most positive factor is the fact that the mainstream political class in Pakistan---with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of Mr.Nawaz Sharif in the forefront--- have been showing for the last five years since the last elections were held a greater sense of political balance and maturity than ever before in the history of Pakistan. 

3. The past habit of political leaders of running to the Army as an institution or to individual Army officers for help in countering the activities of their political opponents is slowly fading away. There is a welcome realization in the mainstream political class that it cannot escape its share of responsibility for the Army acquiring the role of an arbiter in political matters. 

4.All mainstream political parties now realize that to curb the political role of the Army and to promote genuine democracy, it is important that the political parties fight out their differences in the legislatures and town halls and should not take them to the army for arbitration. 

5. It is this balance, maturity and self-restraint that contributed to the present PPP-led coalition being able to complete its normal tenure of five years. The credit for the remarkable fact that the elected National Assembly and the civilian Government have been able to complete their tenure of five years should go not only to the mainstream political parties but also to the senior Army leadership headed by Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff, who resisted the temptation to intervene on occasions when they could have done so without creating a public outcry. 

6. The controversy over the role of Mr.Hussain Haqqani as the Pakistani Ambassador to the US was one such occasion when the Army leadership was under considerable provocation to act to express its indignation over the back-channel assurances allegedly conveyed to the US by Haqqani regarding the steps which the Asif Zardari Government would be prepared to take in return for the US support to the civilian leadership. 

7. The fact that Kayani resisted the temptation and urge to intervene reflected well on him and the senior officers under him. By exercising self-restraint, the Army under Kayani contributed to the continuance of the elected civilian leadership for its normal term of five years. 

8. The Army still claims for itself the primacy of decision-making in matters concerning national security in general and relations with India in particular. It is still not prepared to allow the civilian leadership a role in monitoring and supervising the functioning of the Armed Forces. But, it is now prepared to keep away from politics if its primacy in decision-making in these matters is respected by the elected leadership. 

Ahead of 2014 pullout, India, China plan Afghan dialogue

By Pranab Dhal Samanta 
Mar 04 2013

India and China have agreed to start a dialogue on Afghanistan, lending an interesting twist to hedging among regional powers ahead of the planned withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014. 

An in-principle agreement on official-level dialogue has been reached, sources said, and dates for the first meeting are being worked out. Already, the two countries have dialogue on Central Asia, West Asia and Africa. 

Earlier this week, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon travelled to Moscow for the first three-way dialogue between India, Russia and China on Afghanistan in an effort to build on common security concerns. 

What is notable about the planned bilateral conversation is that it grew out of a Chinese proposal for a dialogue on South Asia, much on the lines of what the two had initiated on other regions. 

However, India was not too keen on opening up conversation about its own neighbourhood with China, a key security factor in many of the South Asian countries, apart from the fact that New Delhi felt that there was not much in common to discuss in the region. Delhi was also apprehensive about, say, the Tibetan question coming up. India therefore made a counter proposal to hold a dialogue on Afghanistan. 

As of now, India has an institutionalised dialogue on Afghanistan only with the US. 

While Pakistan is not officially part of the dialogue with China, it's likely to be discussed. India expects that China, just like any growing regional power, will seek to re-define its role in Afghanistan after the US and its allies reduce their military presence. Already, China has invested in the mining sector and, through Pakistan, aims to corner infrastructure projects. 

From a security standpoint, China is focused on its western borders to quell any problems from Islamic fundamentalist groups in Xinjiang. To that extent, engagement with Afghanistan is a logical extension of its Pakistan policy. 


(report prepared by Saurabh Mishra, Research Assistant IDSA) 
February 1, 2013 
Event: Fellows' Seminar 

Chairperson: Lt Gen Satish Nambiar, PVSM, AVSM, VrC (Retd)
External Discussants: Maj Gen (Retd) B K Sharma, Cdr Kamlesh Kumar Agnihotri
Internal Discussants: Brig Mandeep Singh, Dr. Jagannath P Panda 

This paper discusses the factors responsible for the evolution of the Chinese military doctrine and attempts to chalk out its nuances. Its core premise is that a military doctrine is a component of a nation’s grand strategy for security and, at times, it may not be stating actual military conditions but is simply a declaration of its strategic intent. The paper finds that Chinese have learned from their and others’ experience. China’s threat perception and relations with the nations of the world has changed with time influencing their military doctrine. Over the years, the Chinese have evolved four broad military doctrines: 

The Maoist ‘People’s War Doctrine: It prevailed during the “Lean one side phase” of the Chinese foreign policy. Maturing during the CCP’s revolutionary struggle and the Japanese invasion in the 1930s, this predominant military doctrine lingered up to the late 1970s and its vestiges remained till the 1980s. This essentially guerrilla doctrine is still alive in academic debates. In 1960s, Mao and Lin Piao interpreted it as Flexible National Defence applicable to conventional war based on the premise of “trading territory for time”. The doctrine envisaged when the enemy launches the first offensive, the revolutionary forces, mindful of the enemy’s technological and material superiority, would quietly follow a subsequent strategic retreat, strategic stalemate and strategic counter-offensive. The fight would essentially be in the rural areas from where the revolutionary army would draw its strength out of the masses indoctrinated by the communist party. This infantry-centric doctrine relied on the use of staggering man-power aimed at overcoming technological superiority through inferiority. Air-power had just a supporting role and the navy was almost non-existent. 

The doctrine addressed the worst case scenario of an all-out attack including a nuclear strike. The US was the enemy for this doctrine, purely on ideological basis, for about two decades. There is nothing to suggest that any counter-offensive against the US was also planned. However, according to the author, terming it defensive would also be inappropriate. The doctrine hugely underappreciated the role of international diplomacy. It was often debated whether the strategy of “luring the enemy in the deep” was a strategy worth pursuing as the ‘modernisers’ in China argued that the enemy should not be allowed to crash the gates. 

China Advocates "Military Preparedness to Curb Outbreak of War"

By Dr. Monika Chansoria

As the conflict over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands intensifies between Japan and China, there is a considerable section within China which appears to be hawkishly advocating in favour of the use of force to regain what China terms to be the Diaoyu Islands. Being cited in a publication of the organ of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the views need to be taken cognizance of, especially given the argument that the conflict between China and Japan will likely intensify. 

In order to address this facet, Chinese analysts, Li Daguang and Li Xuejun of China’s National Defense University, while reacting to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands issue, have more generically advocated that “appropriate preparations for military struggle are needed to curb the occurrence of war.” Li and Li have called for preparations for military struggle in wake of what China refers to as Japan’s military readiness. Both authors argue that while making necessary preparations for a military struggle, China should focus its energies by appropriately gauging the extent of foreign threat and make sure that China’s resources do not get depleted. 

Besides, Li and Li aver that China should adhere to requisite preparations for a military resistance, and “should not give up appropriate and necessary preparations for a military struggle because of the excessive worry about being dragged into an arms race.” The authors go on to argue that China should certainly not blame appropriate preparations for military struggle by considering it a “mistake in strategic policy.” 

It needs to be recalled that in his Selected Works volumes, Chairman Mao Zedong wrote extensively on the concept of launching a strategic offensive. In December 1935, Mao prepared a report “On Tactics against Japanese Imperialism” in which problems concerning the political line of the Party in the Second Revolutionary Civil War were systematically solved. According to Mao, China’s revolutionary war, whether civil or national, was waged in an environment specific to China, thus implying that besides the laws of war and of revolutionary war in general, it has specific laws of its own. Unless these are understood, it would not be possible to win China’s revolutionary war. 

In this reference, General Secretary of CCP Central Committee and Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC), Xi Jinping called for “expanding and deepening” the military’s combat preparedness while visiting China’s Lanzhou Military Area Command. Covering the Gansu, Shaanxi, and Xinjiang provinces, the Lanzhou military region controls the largest physical area of all the military regions. Xi stopped by an air force base and the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center according to the official Xinhua news agency and stressed upon “national defence efforts, urging the military to enhance its combat preparedness and constantly improve its ability to fulfill missions and tasks.” Significantly, at the Lanzhou Military Area Command, Xi affirmed the “military’s role in safeguarding northwest China.” This brings to light Chinese policy of cracking down on separatism and extremism in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region. 


By Scott Moore 
February 12, 2013 

Editor’s note: Scott Moore is Giorgio Ruffolo Doctoral Research Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School. He was a guest researcher at Brookings’ John L. Thornton China Center and Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in the spring of 2012. His research project was made possible by the generous support of the Ford Foundation. 

Among the many challenges to China’s current economic development trajectory, water resource constraints are among the most worrisome. According to Barry Naughton, one of the foremost experts on the Chinese economy, “China’s greatest development challenges…are in the areas where a dense population pushes up against the limits of water and what the land can provide.”[1] The water resource challenge to China’s development is exceptionally complex, encompassing a blend of geographical, political, economic, and social dimensions. This Issue Brief describes the root causes of China’s water resource challenge, assesses the Chinese government’s policy response to date, and finally offers recommendations to increase the effectiveness of these policies. 

In short, China’s water resource challenge consists of both water quantity and quality issues, each of which present distinctive challenges for Chinese policy. Although the Chinese government is implementing perhaps the world’s most ambitious water resource management strategy, its efforts risk being undermined by inter-governmental rivalries, corruption, and incentives that favor economic development over sustainable resource use. In particular, inter-jurisdictional conflicts over water resources threaten to undermine policies to address water scarcity, while mis-matched incentives between pollution control and economic development at local levels of government threaten to undermine water quality control objectives. 

Plenty of water, in all the wrong places 

In aggregate, China possesses substantial water resources, constituting the world’s fifth-largest national endowment of fresh water. By per-capita standards, however, China’s water resources are much more modest at approximately 2000 cubic meters per person annually, as compared to a global average of about 6200 m3/person/year.[2] These aggregate statistics nonetheless conceal marked regional discrepancies in precipitation and irrigation patterns, which combined with uneven distributions in population and economic activity mean that some areas possess plentiful water resources while others face chronic and crippling shortages. While residents of the sparsely populated, mountainous southwest enjoy some 25,000 cubic meters of freshwater per person annually, those of the populous and arid north have less than 500.[3] Some of China’s largest and fastest-growing urban areas, notably Beijing and Tianjin, and its most water-intensive crops, especially wheat, are located and grown in the arid north, where annual precipitation is less than one-third of that in southern coastal areas. For the past few decades, water-stressed areas have relied on groundwater to make up the difference, but since at least the 1970s rates of withdrawal have become unsustainable, and water tables are dropping by approximately one meter annually throughout the North China Plain.[4] Apart from making water more difficult and expensive to access, over-pumping of freshwater allows saltwater to penetrate aquifers in some areas, rendering them unfit for human consumption.[5]


By Ravi Bhoothalingam 
02 May 2011

The emergence of India and China as potential leaders of the 21st century has drawn world-wide attention. Eminent journals have speculated on a scenario when both nations are expected to have overtaken the USA in GNP terms---China by 2030 and India by 2050. The National Intelligence Committee of the United States has further examined the military implications of China’s rise and its consequences for world geopolitics. Many books have addressed the theme, predicting all manner of outcomes ranging from dire war to peaceful collaboration. Not to be left behind, popular magazines and newspapers took up the India-China theme, liberally using the term ‘Chindia’ coined by Indian Minister of Environment, Jairam Ramesh. Meanwhile, the perceived dichotomies were further enhanced by depicting China as a dragon (in Western terms, menacing) and India as an elephant (wise but lumbering), quite ignoring the meaning of these symbols in their respective cultures. 

My acquaintance with China started well before this time, arising from an avid interest in that country through travel and exploration over the last 15 years. I have no claim to being a scholar or an economist, but often during my travels I pondered over the differences between India and China. Could there exist, I wondered, identifiable ways of thinking that are distinctive to the Indian and Chinese psyches, and if so, what might the implications reveal? Could they throw light on some frequently asked questions like: What explains the Chinese prowess in infrastructure and manufacturing? Will China ever become a democracy? Will China and India be friends? 

On a more practical note, reading Ranganathan and Khanna’s excellent book i reminded me that the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict arose through a disastrous “chain of misperceptions and misunderstandings.” This situation seems ominously likely to arise again, given recent events, as neither country appears in the meantime to have invested seriously in endeavours to gain deeper knowledge and understanding of the other, let alone read each others’ signals. But, on the positive side, what opportunities does mutual engagement open for both India and China? And what could the simultaneous rise of these two nations mean for the world? 

Despite growing trade ties between India and China—annual trade by 2010 was US$ 60 Bn, growing at 50% annually ii the two countries are yet to engage with each other in a meaningful way, either on the economic front, or indeed any other. Investment flows are weak, tourism a mere blip. Until 2007, the only direct flight between Beijing and Delhi was still by Ethiopian Airlines—a service started 4 decades ago! Even this much-hyped trade growth is heavily dependent (nearly 75%) on low-value primary products out of India, while the trade deficit with China is growing. Meanwhile, the rest of the world rushes to exploit the strengths of China as the ‘world’s factory’ and increasingly of advanced technology and R&D. Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan, are all heavily involved in China. Each of them still have serious political issues with China, some with a long and bitter history, but these have not held them back from vigorous engagement with a rapidly growing Chinese economy, to mutual benefit. 

China plans ‘South Asia gateway’ to boost regional links

By  Ananth Krishnan 
March 3, 2013 

Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan leaves after the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, China, on Sunday.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, left, reacts near Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, centre, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference held in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, China, on Sunday. 

China’s top political advisory body, which began its annual session in Beijing on Sunday, put forward proposals for the new government that will take over this month. Among the proposals were calls for more balanced economic growth and to take forward several major development projects, including long-discussed plans to build an "international gateway" to South Asia. 

China will accelerate plans to build “an international gateway to South Asia” by boosting road, rail and air links from its southwestern border province of Yunnan to the region, according to a government work report released on Sunday. 

China’s top political advisory body, which began its annual session in Beijing on Sunday, put forward proposals for the new government that will take over this month. Among the proposals were calls for more balanced economic growth and to take forward several major development projects, including long-discussed plans to build an “international gateway” to South Asia. 

The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory political body, and the National People’s Congress (NPC), the top legislative body, will hold a crucial session in the coming week to formalise the appointment of new government officials, following last year’s once-in-ten year leadership transition in the Communist Party of China (CPC). 

Taiwan Challenges Its Neighbors

By Ted Galen Carpenter
February 28, 2013 

The territorial disputes between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors over islands in the South China Sea have received considerable attention from an anxious international community. There has been even more global angst about the flare up of tensions between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Concern about those feuds—especially the Sino-Japanese confrontation—is understandable, given the potential for miscalculation and escalation. 

But it’s important to note that there is another, increasingly assertive party to both disputes: Taiwan. And the Taiwanese have not been shy about pressing their claims. That adds a volatile element to the controversies. 

Taipei has not only asserted ownership of portions of the South China Sea; it has managed to establish a significant physical presence there. Taiwan controls the Pratas—the largest island group, known locally as the Donghsa Islands—and Taiping, the largest of the hotly contested Spratly Islands. In September 2012, a group of thirty prominent Taiwanese, including national legislators, landed on Taiping to inspect the security situation. The coast guard conducted a live-fire exercise for the delegation during that visit, much to the annoyance of countries with competing claims. 

The Taiwanese government summarily rejected all complaints. “Taiping Island is part of the Republic of China’s territory,” stated Wang kuo-jan, an official with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in response to Vietnam’s diplomatic protest. He added that “no one has the right to protest over Taiwan’s exercise of its sovereignty rights there.” 

But incidents between Taipei and other claimants in the South China Sea have been mild compared to the tensions with Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Matters came to a head in late September 2012 when a comic-opera naval battle involving water cannons erupted between Japanese patrol ships and a flotilla of dozens of Taiwanese fishing boats and coast guard vessels.