12 March 2013

AFSPA: Misconceptions and Ground Realities

12 Mar , 2013 

Troops patrol in Kashmir 

Sanjoy Hazarika1 and Walter Fernandes2 bring out the justifiable opposition to AFSPA felt by people from our northeastern states where it was first imposed in 1958. The provocation for both articles is Mr. P. Chidambaram (PC, hereinafter) stating on February 6, 2013, at the Institute of Defence Studies, that government would like to make AFSPA “more humanitarian”, but accusing the army of being an obstacle to that proposal. Also both writers have focussed on rape offences following the Justice Verma Commission on women’s safety, which opined that a soldier (which means any member of any rank in the three armed forces) committing rape should be tried under the same law as civilians. But both articles contain misconceptions about the law, governance and the army’s functioning notwithstanding that Hazarika (SH) and Fernandes (WF) have wide experience in the northeast and are highly respected. 

Chidambaram’s remarks are grossly unfair to the army which cannot respond in the media to state its position on AFSPA. 

Targetting the army 

PC’s remarks are grossly unfair to the army which cannot respond in the media to state its position on AFSPA. Even though PC is well versed in law, the politician in him appears to have overcome his sense of justice to provide the “accused” opportunity to respond, knowing well that it cannot do so because of legal restraint. Accusing the army of wanting imposition of AFSPA is political chicanery to divert attention from and shift blame for decades of political and administrative failure and corruption through a toxic combination of mal-governance, misgovernance and non-governance in the northeast and Kashmir, that is the primary cause for social disaffection and unarmed and armed militancy in those states. The same irresponsible political-bureaucratic approach, independent of political ideology but surely centred on corruption and sell-out to corporate interests, exacerbates poverty and is responsible for growing militancy in other states of the Indian union. This has even been stated by a high-power committee set up in 2006 by the Planning Commission of India.a Shifting blame to the army is unwise, politically short-sighted and unbecoming of a seasoned politician. 

Jammu and Kashmir 2012- An Overview

The year gone by in Jammu and Kashmir was characterised by relative peace amid development activities.For the second consecutive year Kashmir Valley witnessed a relatively peaceful summerwith declining violence indicators reported across the state..The number of terrorists eliminated in the year decreased by 25 per cent indicating reduced terrorist presence. Perhaps this accounts for the surge in infiltration attempts from across the border starting from June 2012. Pakistan thus continues to follow its strategy of destabilising Kashmir through terrorist violence and civil unrest. ISI attempts towards higher infiltration rates are indicators of this effort.

Peace Indicators

There was an upsurge in the number of tourists visiting the Valley with 1.5 million footfalls recorded in 2012 against a million footfalls in the previous year. The signs of prevailing peace were evident with return of Bollywood to the Valley during the year with shooting of a movie by late Yash Chopra in Kashmir Valley and Ladakh which prompted others to also follow suit.The Amarnath Yatra was largely peaceful and free of terrorist related incidents, although comparatively more number of pilgrims died due to physical and medical reasons. An intervention by the Honourable Supreme Courtled to orders being issued on December 13, 2012 for improvement of infrastructure and medical amenities on the Amarnath Yatra route.This led to sharp protests from separatist leaders,who contended that any such move would violate forest laws and disturb the region's delicate ecological balance. The Supreme Court Bench clarified “Neither have we directed nor should we be understood to have implicitly directed that there should be metalledmotorable road in place of the walking tracks/ passages” as they passed a slew of directives for improving the infrastructure and other amenities including health care for pilgrimage to Amarnath Shrine in Jammu and Kashmir.[i]

The year saw improved political activity in the state with 1930 political rallies and meetings taking place as compared to 1740 in the previous year.In Jammu & Kashmir, four Legislative Council (LC) seats are reserved under rural local bodies’ (Panchayat) quota. After 1980, for the first time the Panchayat members voted for these four LC seats which had 37 candidates in the fray. The Electoral College for the LC polls consisted of 33,540 panches and sarpanches with 46.56 percent in Jammu region and 53.4 percent in Kashmir region. There were strong rumours about the possible boycott of the polls by some panchayat members in particular after the killing of at least five panches and sarpanches by suspected terrorists and subsequent threats to elected panchayat members to resign and the poll boycott calls given by militant/terrorist organisations. Defying the terrorists, the people voted in large numbers, the state recording 93 percent polling with 95 percent voting in Jammu and 91 percent voting in Kashmir and Ladakh divisions. This reflects the firm belief of the grass root people in the Indian democratic system and the yearning for return to peace and normalcy.

Marines: An Over-anxiety to oblige the Italian Government

12 Mar , 2013 

An over-anxiety on the part of the Government of India to oblige the Italian Government on the issue of the two Italian Marines, who have been charged with killing two Kerala fishermen wrongly mistaking them for pirates in an incident that took place on February 15,2012, has created suspicions in public mind on the bona fides of the Government of India. The Italian Marines were posted as sentries on board a private Italian tanker at the time of the incident. 

The Indian contention was that the incident took place in Indian waters and that the Kerala fishermen were unarmed. 

The following two questions arose as a result of the incident: (a). Was the Italian contention that the fishermen approached their ship in an aggressive manner thereby giving the impression that they were pirates corroborated by other evidence? (b)Did the incident take place in Indian territorial waters or outside? 

The Italian contention was that the incident took place outside Indian territorial waters and that the fishermen definitely appeared to be approaching the Italian tanker with hostile intention, which gave the Marines the right to open fire in self-defence. 

The Indian contention was that the incident took place in Indian waters and that the Kerala fishermen were unarmed. Hence, the question of their approaching the Italian vessel in a hostile manner did not arise. 

India rejected Italy’s demand that the case should be tried before an Italian court in Italy. Having rejected the Italian contention, India should have vigorously gone ahead in prosecuting the Italian Marines. It did not do so. 

They were allowed to go to Italy to spend Christmas with their families—an extraordinary gesture to under-trials in a murder case. 

On the contrary, special facilities were given to the accused Italian Marines and there was a definite half-heartedness in proceeding against them. They were released on bail and allowed to stay in a hotel at the expense of the Italian Embassy. They were allowed to go to Italy to spend Christmas with their families—an extraordinary gesture to under-trials in a murder case. Even though they were supposed to be in Indian judicial custody, they were not accompanied to Italy by Indian guards. However, they returned from Italy after Christmas as promised by the Italian Embassy in New Delhi. 

On January 18, 2013, the Indian Supreme Court had ruled that the Kerala Government had no jurisdiction to prosecute the marines and had directed the Union government to constitute a special court in consultation with the Chief Justice of India (CJI) for fresh trial. 

There was a delay in constituting the special court, which led the Supreme Court to observe as follows: “Why is the Centre dragging its feet over the matter? Nobody has initiated any consultation process till now.” 

India's soft power problem

By Anahita Mathai
12 March 2013

Author anIs India in danger of losing its soft power advantage? This was the question posed by Mira Kamdar, a noted author, while speaking on "India’s soft power problem" at Observer Research Foundation on March 7, 2013. Adding to Joseph Nye’s definition of ’soft’ power as a power of persuasion rather than coercion, Ms Kamdar, author of Planet India: The Turbulent Rise of the Largest Democracy and the Future of Our World (2008 Scribner), highlighted the importance of economic and cultural assets. She noted that soft power is largely based on perception and reputations, meaning a variety of factors determine the soft power advantage of a country. 

The ability to conduct actions - political, military or otherwise - is one facet of a nation’s power; soft power is significant in terms of those actions being seen as legitimate. Thus the ’power’ component of soft power comes from the influence of democratic institutions. This is the reason that India’s interests are still relevant to the United States -- while India cannot keep up with China economically, it maintains the core elements of soft power: democracy, rule of law and open society. In fact, Ms Kamdar said, these elements are integral to the ’Indian story’ - selling the world’s largest democracy, a vibrant economy, cultural diversity and so on. India’s soft power position is at risk because these institutions are now being questioned, accused of not functioning optimally. 

India has experienced a series of highly publicised corruption scandals, from the Commonwealth Games organisation fiasco to the Anna Hazare protest movement, lending to the idea that India is a corrupt country. Ms Kamdar mentioned the possibility that India was always seen as somewhat corrupt, but other positive stories had emerged which pushed the spectre of corruption into the background. As those positives faded, the corruption issue became more significant. 

As with much of the world, the economic news from India was also negative. The idea of double digit growth - once touted by the Prime Minister as the minimum requirement for a trickle down to alleviate poverty - now seems a fantasy. Ms Kamdar pointed out that the wealth gap is increasing and foreign direct investment is down. Foreign institutional investment did grow, but this was not encouraging as it involved speculative, ’hot’ money. To compound the problem, other developing economies are emerging as rivals to India for foreign investments. 

Ms Kamdar emphasised the importance of the rule of law in the soft power equation. The deficiencies of the Indian legal system were exposed by the Delhi gang-rape which received widespread publicity in the international media. Ms Kamdar said it was the tipping point in terms of attitudes towards violence against women. The victim seemed to be representative of all ’aspirational’ India - a woman, pursuing higher studies, modern enough to be going to see a movie with a male friend who was just a friend. Her story was contrasted with those of her rapists, who were reported to be slum-dwellers, in dire economic straits, lacking education, unable to deal with modernity and urban culture. 

The idea that ’fast-track’ courts had to be set up to deal with the case meant the legal system was not sufficient. Ms Kamdar said the principle of equality before the law was threatened because ’sensational’ cases received coverage and the possibility of resolution but all others were left to the mercy of the unreliable and long-drawn out system. 

Angry Afghan Villagers Want U.S. Special Forces Out

March 11, 2013

(MAIDAN SHAHR, Afghanistan) — An Afghan policeman gunned down two U.S. special forces on Monday in Wardak province, less than 24 hours after President Hamid Karzai‘s deadline expired for them to leave the area where residents have grown increasingly hostile toward the Americans. 

Despite Karzai’s orders, the American special operations forces remain in the province where dozens of villagers accuse them and their Afghan partners of intimidation through unprovoked beatings, mass arrests and forced detentions. The shootout, which also killed two Afghan policemen, only deepens the distrust. 

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan says it has found no evidence to support the claims of abuse. But infuriated by the villagers’ allegations, Karzai two weeks ago ordered U.S. special operations forces to withdraw by midnight Sunday from Wardak province, 45 kilometers (27 miles) south of the capital, Kabul. 

Most international forces are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Wardak, like the rest of the country, is slated to be eventually handed over to Afghan forces, but U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, indicated on Sunday that the troops were not leaving Wardak province just yet. 

“The only issue is the timeline and the methodology, and we’re still working on that,” Dunford said. 

Wardak has a stubborn insurgency on the doorstep of the capital Kabul and its location has led some U.S. military officials to warn that a premature withdrawal of U.S. special operations forces would open a “six-lane highway” into Kabul for the Taliban. But Afghan security forces disagree, saying they don’t think insurgents can capture the provincial capital. 

On Monday, an Afghan policeman stood up in the back of a pickup truck, grabbed a machine gun and started firing at U.S. special forces and other Afghan policemen at a police compound in Wardak’s Jalrez district, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Maidan Shahr, said the province’s Deputy Police Chief Abdul Razaq Koraishi. 

Two U.S. special operations forces and two Afghan policemen were killed and four others were wounded in the gunfight before the assailant was gunned down, Koraishi said. 

A U.S. defense official in Washington and a coalition official in Afghanistan said 10 Americans — both special operators and regular soldiers who worked in a combined team — and at least 12 Afghans were wounded in the attack. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details of the attack with reporters. 

It is not known whether the assailant was targeting the Afghan policemen along with the U.S. special operations forces and whether they were killed by the assailant’s bullets or during the crossfire. It’s also unclear whether the incident was directly related to the simmering tensions between villagers in Wardak who are unhappy with the U.S. special operations forces and their Afghan partners. 

The Sri Lanka File at the UNHRC: Need for India to Adopt a Balanced and Firm Approach

March 12, 2013 

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is holding its 22nd Regular Session from 25 February to 22 March 2013. Its deliberations will cover the human rights situation in Sri Lanka also. Much progress has not been evident on bringing about ameliorating conditions for the Fourth Eelam War-ravaged Tamil people of northern Sri Lanka since the last UNHRC meeting. While the fact of the matter is that more than 40,000 Tamils died in early 2009 and the Sri Lankan Government (SLG)-constituted Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) had itself referred to instances of shelling of the civilian population, a five-member Sri Lankan Army Court of Inquiry appointed by the Army Commander, Lt. General Jagath Jayasuriya, has in its recent report asserted that the troops did not shell civilians during the closing phase of the Eelam War. This report, prepared in the nature of a fact-finding investigation, is expected to be eventually accepted by the country’s Defence Secretary and the President. If this is the trend that internal enquiries will take, no substantial remedial measures can be expected at the SLG-level on the institutional wrongs during the execution of the Eelam War. Substantive positive follow-up action, in consonance with the recommendations of the LLRC, is therefore unlikely. 

Against this backdrop, the revelations by Channel 4 TV of the UK inter-alia highlighting the poignant photographs of the 12-year-old child of the LTTE Chief apparently slain by Sri Lanka Army personnel and the latest remarks of Navaneethan Pillay, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, in her opening address on 25 February 2013 at the current Session of the UNHRC that still far too many people with command responsibility escape justice for serious crimes and gross human rights violations and that massive violations have occurred in Sri Lanka, only seem to be queering the situation against President Mahinda Rajapakse and his Government. The Government of India will have to face its next dilemma in the UNHRC on which way to vote when the United States and some of its Western allies once again bring up the issue of human rights violations in northern Sri Lankan and the need for remedial measures inter-alia proposing unfettered access for UN Special Rapporteurs to probe the allegations of such violations and examine whether credible investigations are taking place on extra-judicial killings and internal disappearances, acts affecting judicial independence, land issues, etc. 

Political pressure is already building up on the Government of India from virtually the entire range of political parties in Tamil Nadu as well as from parties like the CPI and the BJP to vote against SLG for the second time within a year and in favour of a resolution calling for effective and suitably monitored measures to restore the human rights of the Tamils of northern Sri Lanka, ensure accountability of those who perpetrated the human rights violations and institute safeguards for the socio-economic, cultural and land rights of the Tamils. Without being oblivious to the consequences of voting against the SLG, the Government of India has to formulate a calibrated strategy on how best to effectively convey its concerns to Colombo on the consequences of inadequate action by the Rajapakse regime vis-à-vis the adverse situation prevailing against the Tamils in northern Sri Lanka. It is significant that the Indian Prime Minister in his latest intervention in Parliament has pointedly spoken on the need for the appropriate authorities in Sri Lanka to talk to the true Tamil leadership, thereby implying the Tamil National Alliance. 

Hack Attack: China and the U.S. Trade Barbs on Cyberwarfare

March 12, 2013

Locals walks in front of 'Unit 61398', a secretive Chinese military unit, in the outskirts of Shanghai, Feb, 19, 2013. The unit is believed to be behind a series of hacking attacks, a U.S. computer security company said, prompting a strong denial by China and accusations that it was in fact the victim of U.S. hacking. 

The gloves are off. For years, the White House has danced around the sensitive topic of Chinese hacking into American computer systems that is believed to have compromised everything from electrical grids to the email accounts of researchers focusing on China’s human-rights record. Public finger-pointing at Chinese hackers has been left largely to the American legislative branch or to private Western cyber-security firms like Mandiant or McAfee, which have produced reports linking the Chinese military to online espionage. Even when U.S. President Barack Obama warned of the dangers of cyberwarfare in his State of the Union Address last month and then issued an executive order to protect America’s online borders, he declined to specifically name China as an offender. 

No more. On March 11, U.S. National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon said that Chinese hacking had become a “key point of concern” in bilateral relations. “Increasingly, U.S. businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber-intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale,” Donilon said in remarks to the Asia Society, a non-profit organization based in New York. “The international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity from any country.” 

For its part, China has consistently denied any state-sponsored hacking campaign. Only two days before Donilon’s speech, China’s outgoing Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi lashed out at the U.S. for the recent drumbeat of accusations blaming China for cyber-attacks. “Anyone who tries to fabricate or piece together a sensational story to serve a political motive will not be able to blacken the name of others or whitewash themselves,” he said at a news conference during the National People’s Congress, the annual Chinese leadership confab currently underway in Beijing. Yang went on to call for increased regulation of this new frontier: “Cyberspace needs not war, but rules and cooperation. We oppose cyberspace becoming a new battlefield, and to using the Internet as a new tool to interfere in another country’s internal affairs.” 

On Monday, Chinese newspapers, which are guided by propaganda directives from the government, launched their own incursion against Western accusers. “The American government should make a self-examination first before it accuses other countries of such behaviors,” the Global Times, a Beijing-based daily, wrote, citing a Chinese international-affairs expert. “No country can compete with America in terms of its hacking ability.” The Liberation Daily, the mouthpiece of the People’s Liberation Army, noted that between Nov. 2012 and Jan. 2013, “China suffered 5,792 hacker attacks launched from the U.S., making the U.S. the No. 1 country hacking China.” 

China’s Military Development, Beyond the Numbers

By Andrew S.Erickson and Adam P. Liff 
March 12, 2013 

While reports warn of China’s rising military budget and lack of transparency, numbers and hyped headlines often cloud the bigger picture. 

Given China’s rapid rise in all aspects of national power, as well as its reluctance to release specific details about many important aspects of its military spending, its annual budget announcement rightly attracts worldwide attention. Last week, China revealed its projected 2013 official defense budget: 720.2 billion yuan (roughly $US114 billion), a figure that continues a trend of nominal double-digit spending since 1989 (the lone exception: 2010). 

Although China’s limited transparency about specific defense budget line items matters, it shouldn’t distract observers from seeing the bigger picture concerning China’s military development: 

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) increasingly has the resources, capabilities, and confidence to attempt to assert China’s interests on its contested periphery, particularly in the Near Seas (Yellow, East, and South China Seas). This development has the potential to seriously challenge the interests of the U.S., its allies, and other partners in the region, as well as access to and security of a vital portion of the global commons—waters and airspace that all nations rely on for prosperity, yet which none own. That’s why the PLA’s development matters so much to a Washington located halfway around the world. 

Yet beyond China’s immediate periphery the actual impact of PLA spending growth overall may be far less impressive than the headline numbers suggest. The PLA would need far greater resources and capabilities to pursue high-intensity combat capabilities much further away from China’s borders and the territory it claims. At least at present, Beijing is not prioritizing such capabilities. There’s no need to wait for China to achieve full transparency to see this; manifest trends, properly interpreted, speak for themselves. Meanwhile, the development of lower-end capabilities useful for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as well as protection of sea lanes against non-state actors, bode well for the PLA’s growing role in cooperative security. Hence, even as the Near Seas become more contested, there is significant potential to build on nascent developments in more distant waters—where Beijing has no claims—and further cooperation among China, the U.S., and other nations. 

These are the key characteristics of China’s military development. Properly understood, they can inform constructive responses in a challenging time. Misunderstood and conflated, they can confuse and inflame. 

Considering a Departure in North Korea's Strategy

By George Friedman
March 12, 2013

On Jan. 29, I wrote a piece that described North Korea's strategy as a combination of ferocious, weak and crazy. In the weeks since then, three events have exemplified each facet of that strategy. Pyongyang showed its ferocity Feb. 12, when it detonated a nuclear device underground. The country's only significant ally, China, voted against Pyongyang in the U.N. Security Council on March 7, demonstrating North Korea's weakness. Finally, Pyongyang announced it would suspend the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953, implying that that war would resume and that U.S. cities would be turned into "seas of fire." To me, that fulfills the crazy element. 

My argument was that the three tenets -- ferocity, weakness and insanity -- form a coherent strategy. North Korea's primary goal is regime preservation. Demonstrating ferocity -- appearing to be close to being nuclear capable -- makes other countries cautious. Weakness, such as being completely isolated from the world generally and from China particularly, prevents other countries from taking drastic action if they believe North Korea will soon fall. The pretense of insanity -- threatening to attack the United States, for example -- makes North Korea appear completely unpredictable, forcing everyone to be cautious. The three work together to limit the actions of other nations. 
Untested Assumptions

So far, North Korea is acting well within the parameters of this strategy. It has detonated nuclear devices before. It has appeared to disgust China before, and it has threatened to suspend the cease-fire. Even more severe past actions, such as sinking a South Korean ship in 2010, were not altogether inconsistent with its strategy. As provocative as that incident was, it did not change the strategic balance in any meaningful way. 

Normally North Korea has a reason for instigating such a crisis. One reason for the current provocation is that it has a new leader, Kim Jong Un. The son of former leader Kim Jong Il and the grandson of North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un is only 30 years old, and many outside North Korea doubt his ability to lead (many inside North Korea may doubt his ability, too). One way to announce his presence with authority is to orchestrate an international crisis that draws the United States, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea into negotiations with North Korea -- especially negotiations that Pyongyang can walk away from. 

The North Korean regime understands the limits of its strategy and has been very sure-footed in exercising it. Moreover, despite the fact that a 30-year-old formally rules the country, the regime is a complex collection of institutions and individuals -- the ruling party and the military -- that presumably has the ability to shape and control the leader's behavior. 

It follows that little will change. U.S. analysts of North Korea will emphasize the potential ferocity and the need for extreme vigilance. The Chinese will understand that the North Koreans are weak and will signal, as their foreign minister did March 9, that in spite of their vote at the United Nations, they remain committed to North Korea's survival. And most people will disregard Pyongyang's threat to resume the Korean War. 

Where bullet and ballot go hand in hand

By Vasundhara SirnateRahul Verma 
March 12, 2013 

The Hindu Incentivising violence: Massive unemployment in the Northeast makes insurgency a lucrative career amongst disaffected and marginalised tribal youths. 

The irony in the northeast is that armed insurgencies coexist with the enthusiasm for the electoral process 

The debate on the politics of the northeast has rested on the region’s alienation and marginalisation from mainstream politics. The astounding number of organised insurgencies in the region, party politics notwithstanding, gives credence to the idea that the northeast has substantial grievances against the Indian state. Yet, in last month’s assembly elections in the insurgency-hit States of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura, the incumbents were voted back into power and voter turnout was unprecedentedly high — Tripura had a voter turnout of 93 per cent, followed by Meghalaya at 88 per cent and Nagaland at 83.2 per cent. 

The States of the northeast in general have experienced much higher voter turnouts in both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections compared to the national average for the past two decades. Similarly, the incumbent governments in the northeast have been continuously winning re-election bids. In Tripura, Manik Sarkar has won his fourth consecutive term, while Neiphiu Rio in Nagaland has won for the third consecutive term. Mukul Sangma in Meghalaya is entering his second term. Likewise, Pawan Chamling in Sikkim, Tarun Gogoi in Assam, Okram Ibobi Singh in Manipur and Pu Lalthanhawla in Mizoram (intermittently) have been Chief Ministers in their respective States for more than ten years now. 

Some celebrate the high voter turnout and political stability (amidst relative peace) as an indicator of northeastern people’s leap of faith in New Delhi’s politically accommodative strategies. Others lament that the northeast has continued to be peripheral in India’s national political imagination and therefore successful elections in the region should not be seen as an extension of legitimacy for the Indian state. 

How does one explain the existence of well-developed electoral politics in the northeast with the robust presence of several insurgent groups? Do not high voter turnouts in these States indicate voter preference for electoral democracy and a rejection of the violent path of politics? We use the coincidence of elections in these three culturally, historically and politically distinct States in the northeast to understand the linkages between party politics and insurgency in the region. 

India voting against Iran in IAEA is not a strategic move, but a major difference...We wanted India to play its cards right'

Mar 12 2013

In this Walk the Talk on NDTV 24x7, Ali Ardeshir Larijani, Speaker of the Iranian parliament, speaks to The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta about Israel, India's vote against Iran at IAEA and Iran's right to a "peaceful nuclear programme" 

I am at the Iranian ambassador's residence in New Delhi and my guest today is Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, in many ways an adviser to the Supreme Leader, former chief negotiator on the nuclear issue, former national security adviser, a philosopher, a computer scientist and most importantly, a key contender in the coming presidential elections in June. And yet, all of 57 years old—Mr Ali Ardeshir Larijani. In fact, in 10 years of Walk The Talk, you are the first guest from your country. 

We always consider India as our friend. When I was the secretary of the Supreme National Council of Iran, the first visit that I paid to another country was to India. Therefore, I can say that our relationship with India is very close and tight. 

You've had some meetings in Mumbai and Delhi. How good have they been and what's the mood that you picked up? 

We had very good meetings both in Mumbai and in New Delhi—both with the business people and high-ranking officials of your country, like the Prime Minister, the President and your Foreign Minister. Overall, we had very good meetings. 

Because India and Iran have a very nuanced relationship and a very practical one. Both countries give flexibility to each other. 

Maybe it is better to say that Iran and India play a complementary role to each other. This goes back to the roots that bind the two countries together. It goes back (several) centuries. There were many Iranian scientists who came to India. I can say that for almost two centuries, Persian was the official court language (of India). You have some great people who are also considered great people for us too. Like Gandhi, like Jawaharlal Nehru. These are some great people. The people of Iran know about them. Their works are being studied even today in Iran. You have some Indian poets and they have actually written their poetry in Persian language and they are very famous in Iran too. So I can say that the people of the two countries are very close to each other. And when countries have very good people-to-people contacts, then it is very easy for them to have political cooperation. 

And yet, we have some arguments also between us. 

That's natural. In today's world, there are always small arguments and differences. You see that even in a small family, members arguing with each other. We have to see whether they are tactical or strategic. But when it comes to the strategic level, we have no difference of opinion. 

So when India votes in IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) against Iran, is that a tactical move or a strategic move? 

India-Myanmar Naval Diplomacy

Mar 11 2013 

In an important advance in the bilateral security cooperation between Delhi and Yangon, two naval vessels from Myanmar have arrived over the weekend in Vishakhapatnam for joint exercises. This important step follows the visit of Defence Minister AK Antony to Myanmar earlier this year and the agreement to boost bilateral defence cooperation. 

Until now the military cooperation between the two neighbours has been limited essentially to the armies. Confronting restiveness on their remote frontiers—in India's North East and Myanmar's North—the security forces of the two countries have over the last two decades deepened their counter-insurgency cooperation. 

Preoccupied for decades with its vast land frontiers, India has turned to the seas in the early 1990s. As it launched naval diplomacy two decades, Delhi inevitably looked to Myanmar with which it shares a long maritime frontier. 

For nearly a decade, India's naval ships frequently called at 

Myanmar's ports that were on the way to the east. Delhi was also pleased to see Myanmar's participation in the biennial 'Milan' exercises that its navy holds in the Bay of Bengal off the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. 

This is the first time though that Myanmar's ships—a frigate and a corvette-- have come to a port on India's mainland. Form there the ships of the two countries will conduct an exercise in joint patrolling in Southern Bay of Bengal. 

Slowly but surely, Myanmar is becoming increasingly conscious of its strategic location at the confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. 

Although Myanmar does not face the Western Pacific, it sits right on top of the Malacca Straits that connects the two oceans. 

Given its growing interests in the Indian Ocean, Beijing too is paying greater attention to maritime engagement with Myanmar. In the past there was much speculation about Chinese presence in Myanmar's Cocos Islands in the Andaman Sea. 

That speculation turned out to be false. Yangon went out of the way to reassure Delhi that it has no intention to provide naval facilities to any foreign power. But there is no denying China's growing interest in naval cooperation with Myanmar. 

Chinese naval ships traveling back and forth to the Arabian Sea, where it has been conducting anti-piracy operations since the end of 2008, have occasionally called on the Myanmar's ports. 

Given its long coastline, Yangon is bound to pay greater attention to its maritime security in the coming years. While India's naval diplomacy with Myanmar is headed in the right direction, Delhi needs to step up the pace of cooperation and take bolder steps in assisting Yangon build its naval and maritime capabilities. 

Intelligence Professional’s Perspective on India’s Strategic Environment: Pakistan and Afghanistan

By A. K. Verma 

I must compliment the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis for this exercise. It displays a recognition that intelligence analysis plays a vital role in identifying strategic interests and suggesting options to deal with them. 

A good intelligence analyst is an asset to the national security apparatus. Having worked for several years at the same desk he develops a much better insight and expertise in his field than those serving in other arenas, Government or public. When the analyst is tasked in the context of national security, his study is lifted out of the academic realm and becomes a basis for choosing a course of policy. 

Pakistan has become a national obsession. But our policies with regard to this country have been consistently marked with failures. One single reason has been that such decisions were not based on studied analysis where different options could be considered. The decision to go to the UN on Pakistani sponsored tribal incursion into J & K in 1947 when the Indian army was poised to drive out the infiltrators and the Pakistani soldiers who had reinforced them, came out of the high idealism of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the country is still suffering from its consequences. The decision to hand over Haji Pir back to Pakistan in 1966 by Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, much against the recommendations of the Indian army, was based on lofty compassion and a sense of fair play but the country lost a key vantage point from where the infiltration routes into J & K could be comprehensively monitored. A golden opportunity to settle the Kashmir question on Indian terms was frittered away in Simla in 1973 when nearly one lac of Pakistani soldiers and officers held as prisoners of war were allowed to go back merely on a verbal assurance of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who otherwise was a very astute political operative. The bus journey to Lahore by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was in the spirit of high moral faith, despite advice that nothing substantive would come out of it. Not only the three service chiefs of Pakistan refused to be present at Lahore to receive Vajpayee but Kargil followed like a stab in the back. Subsequently, we allowed Pakistani state engineered terrorism against us to be equated with terrorism in Pakistan against the state by the local entities. The assurances given about Pakistani territory not being used for terrorism against India have remained empty promises. 

The simple truth is that we have not understood what Pakistan is all about. And so we will continue to make wrong judgments about Pakistan, as long as we do not scrutinize Islam in the Pakistani context. Such a study will reveal the impulses which guide policy making in Pakistan and influence public opinion there. 

The Abrahamic religions, Islam being one of them, differ greatly from all the dharmic traditions of India, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, or Sikh. Their core texts can only be reinterpreted never modified. Their truths are linked to historicity of specific events or the doings and sayings of an individual each. They have never integrated with one another. Their cultural and spiritual matrixes are different. Therefore, the Islamic perspectives can never accommodate non Islamic perspectives. Religious pluralism and its by product, universal harmony, have become unacceptable in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan, by and large, do not want to remember their Vedic, Hindu or Buddhist background. For most of them a non Muslim is an infidel and needs to be dealt with in accordance with scriptural dictates, 

The Art of the Possible: Moving Mountains in Afghanistan

March 07, 2013

Near the end of the summer in 1992, Lt. Gen. Gus Pagonis, the logistical wizard behind the overwhelming coalition victory in the first Gulf War, published a book called Moving Mountains. Part memoir, part leadership guide, the book described the gargantuan task of basically moving the population of Alaska, along with their stuff, halfway around the world on short notice. “Armies are a constellation of needs,” Pagonis wrote. “These needs are always numerous and complex, and sometimes contradictory.” 

When the war was over and Iraqi forces had been driven from Kuwait, Pagonis then faced the equally colossal mission of retrograding (the military’s technically-sounding term for “bringing home”) all of the equipment the coalition had built up to support half a million troops. It was by no means an easy mission–they had to account for and clean thousands of vehicles and containers and pieces of equipment in the middle of the desert, get it all to a port and ship it home. As anyone who has spent time in the desert will tell you, sand gets in everything, so something as simple sounding as “cleaning” is a mission in its own right. 

In late January and early February, I traveled to Afghanistan to report on the retrograde mission from this war. I spoke with dozens of people in the logistics process, both military and civilian, and Moving Mountains came up at least half a dozen times. I read the book as a young ROTC cadet and I remember being flabbergasted at what logisticians accomplished in that war. But as I saw the retrograde from Afghanistan, I realized that in 1991, they had two luxuries we don’t have now: time and space. 

Time is self-explanatory. After the first Gulf War, logisticians didn’t have unlimited time to accomplish their mission, but they were not battling the drop dead timeline we face now. In Afghanistan, President Obama has set an end date for the war of Dec. 31, 2014. On that date, there will be somewhere between 8,000 and zero American troops left in the country, which means the overwhelming majority of the equipment must be gone. 

By space, I don’t mean physical space (although the rolling desert of Saudi Arabia might be, in many ways, preferable to Afghanistan’s less than certain bridges, tunnels and roads). I mean tactical space. Logisticians in 1991 didn’t need to start retrograding until after the bullets stopped flying. In Afghanistan, the withdrawal is a constant balance between giving commanders what they need to keep fighting, with moving enough equipment to keep it all on schedule. Commanders are constantly evaluating the two missions and making progress on the movement, even as their main focus is on training Afghan forces to take over the fight. 

In this week’s dead tree edition, (available to subscribers), you’ll find a longer piece about how American soldiers, airmen, sailors and contractors are accomplishing the retrograde. My partner on the journey from the remote reaches of Logar Province to the city-size colossus that is Bagram Airbase was acclaimed photographer Yuri Kozyrev. Some of his amazing photographs can be found here

Muslim mob burns Christian homes in Pakistan

11 March 2013 

Until Pakistan's politicians are prepared to speak out against the country's outmoded blasphemy laws, it will continue its slow descent back to the middle ages 
Ugly scenes in Lahore this weekend

Sawan Masih, a Christian sanitary worker in Lahore, Pakistan, decided to go for a casual drink with his Muslim friend, Shahid Imran, last Wednesday. The two friends would frequently meet up for a drink after work and discuss topical issues. On this occasion, however, as they sat sipping their alcoholic beverages, and breaking the law in the process, they became embroiled in a debate about religion. 

No one, except Sawan and Shahid, knows precisely what was said but the next day Shahid, whilst shaking off his hangover, decided to accuse Sawan of insulting Islam, thus declaring him in breach of Pakistan's controversial and archaic blasphemy laws. On Friday, Sawan was arrested and incarcerated, pending an investigation into what had been said during the drunken row. 

By Saturday, a frenzied and blood-thirsty mob of 3000 extremist lunatics had been galvanised and decided they wanted revenge. They entered the largely Christian area of Badami Bagh in Lahore looking for Sawan, forced the residents to flee their homes, looted the houses of any valuables, and set the remaining contents on fire. Over 170 homes and businesses were burnt and ransacked, whilst hundreds fled leaving their livelihoods behind. The Police arrived but they were pelted with stones by the mob, some of them were injured. 

Disgusted? Repulsed? Seething with uncontrollable rage? Any decent-minded person would be. But this is Pakistan, land of the pure, so let’s be honest, you're not really surprised. This is a country in which the only way to avoid offending someone is to seal your mouth and hide in a jungle; a country in which peaceful co-existence is about as likely as Abu Qatada getting deported back to Jordan. 

Amidst the misery and pain of events in Badami Bagh, however, there are few consolations. Putting aside the usual condemnations, which don't really help anyone, news of the mob violence caused several spontaneous protests to erupt in many major Pakistani cities. At least 130 people have already been arrested over the attacks and, according to a spokesperson for the Punjabi Provincial government, are going be tried in anti-terrorist courts. Compensation packages for the victims have also been announced and rebuilding of homes is already being discussed. 

Israel's Warlords

How the Military Rules in War and Peace

Former Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion speaks with Israeli Major General Ariel Sharon in January, 1971. (Lucy Nicholson / Courtesy Reuters) 

Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country -- and Why They Can't Make Peace 
BY PATRICK TYLER. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012, 576 pp. $35.00.

Zion's Dilemmas: How Israel Makes National Security Policy 
BY CHARLES D. FREILICH. Cornell University Press, 2012, 336 pp. $49.95.

In the early afternoon of November 14, 2012, an Israeli drone hovered over the Gaza Strip and zeroed in on its target: Ahmed al-Jabari, the military leader of Hamas. A precise missile strike blew up his car, leaving him and his fellow passenger dead. The assassination, which followed two Palestinian cross-border attacks in the previous days, marked the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense, an intense weeklong campaign of Israeli air strikes on Gaza. Those were matched by a barrage of some 1,500 rockets that Hamas and other Palestinian organizations fired on Israeli cities. 

Several hours before his fateful road trip, Jabari had received the final draft of a proposal for a long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, mediated by an Israeli peace activist with ties to Hamas and Egyptian intelligence officials. Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak (and possibly also its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu), was aware of the back-channel talks that had led to the offer. But rather than wait for Hamas' response, the leaders instead opted to kill their Palestinian interlocutor and launch a large-scale military operation, believing -- as most of their predecessors had -- that reprisals were the surest way to restore Israel's deterrence and calm the border. 

This sequence of events could have served as the perfect epilogue to Patrick Tyler's Fortress Israel. Tyler, a veteran foreign correspondent and the author of several books on U.S. foreign policy, portrays Israel as the Sparta of the modern Middle East, a country that "six decades after its founding, remains . . . in thrall to an original martial impulse." Israel's leadership duo during the campaign against Gaza, Netanyahu and Barak, were simply carrying this legacy forward. The former rivals' decision to join forces after the 2009 election, Tyler writes, "revealed a common faith in military action as more likely to yield results than diplomacy or negotiation, which they held in low regard." 

Netanyahu and Barak's Gaza policy would also have made a fitting case study for Charles Freilich's Zion's Dilemmas. A former Israeli defense official who served as deputy national security adviser in the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Freilich wrote his book in the hopes of improving the quality and effectiveness of Israeli decision-making. Israel, he laments, "has not unequivocally won a major military confrontation since 1967 and has failed to achieve its objectives in most of the major diplomatic efforts it has taken as well." Indeed, despite its military prowess, its dynamic economy, and substantial U.S. backing, Israel has neither integrated peacefully into the Middle East nor convinced the world to accept its occupation of and settlements in the West Bank. 


By Bikash Sinha & Krishnan Srinivasan 
March 12 , 2013 

Technology may now be more effective than activism 

One of the features of our modern times is the ability to communicate with one another exceptionally rapidly. Events nowadays burst into our consciousness in an instant, whether it is the Arab Spring manifestations or the rape and murder atrocity in New Delhi, and these happenings show the ability of the public to organize mass action very quickly. But this phenomenon is two-faced; in the same way as these incidents come alive in a flash, they subside very fast as well, and it is a sad reflection of our times that our attention span is becoming shorter and shorter. New ideas race in, crowding out the old before they have had time to germinate and turn from campaign into action. 

Thus it seems with the agenda for climate change. Certainly, this problem did not emerge at the speed of light. Instead, it followed a long period of almost silent gestation in the laboratories of science and along the back alleys and corridors of diplomacy and politics. Twenty years ago, it would have been necessary to explain global warming to the bewildered public, but then climate change issues suddenly seemed to grab the public consciousness. Five years ago, the public were more aware of the perils of carbon emissions than the world’s politicians. Newspapers were full of the dangers of an over-warmed planet, there was the remarkable documentary film in 2006 by Al Gore called An Inconvenient Truth, and the drama of global warming was expounded on television. Climate change entered every home. 

Then along came the American president, Barack Obama, with his inauguration speech, repudiating the character of denial of the George W. Bush years. That moment, four years back, was probably the high-water mark and represented the greatest hope in the climate change debate. For the first time, there was a realistic prospect that the world’s most powerful and influential power, and biggest polluter, was ready to confront and overcome the world’s greatest challenge. After Obama’s inauguration, the public was ready to believe that the rhetoric would turn into action, that nations would stop quibbling and start curbing emissions, and that the world’s politicians would stop trying to negotiate with physics and instead begin to use the science to reconfigure the world’s energy strategy. 

But Obama’s inauguration proved to be a false dawn. Obama, as it turned out, would stake his presidency on healthcare and not on climate change. A series of conferences in recent years and on several continents, in Copenhagen, Durban, Doha and Rio, did nothing more than evince general intent to think about doing something sometime. And it seems, in rapid order, climate change has moved from the front pages to the backwaters. If one questions the editors and the journalists about this new low priority, they will say it is the public’s fault: the discerning audience has had its moment of focus and has now moved on to other matters. Breaking news has crowded out what might well constitute the most important crisis ever to confront mankind. 

In cyberwarfare, rules of engagement still hard to define

March 11,2013

When Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the Pentagon’s Cyber Command, comes to the Hill on Tuesday, he will probably be asked to describe his plans for building a military forceto defend the nation against cyberattacks. 

But one question remains unclear: Under what circumstances will these cyberwarriors be used?

President Obama last fall signed a classified directive that requires an “imminent” or ongoing threat of an attack that could result in death or damage to national security before a military cyber-action can be taken to thwart it. 

But the definition of “imminent” is, like the definition of an “act of war,” subjective and dependent upon circumstances. 

A century ago, when one nation’s army massed at another’s border, imminence was clearer. An attack seemed about to happen. Most acknowledged the threatened nation had a right to defend itself. 

But today, technology and terrorism have confused the application of old rules. In cyberspace, where attacks can launch in milliseconds, a nation might not have enough time to detect an attack and mount a defense. 

In fact, the last clear “window of opportunity” to counter a threat may be hours or days or months before it is launched. That broader concept of imminence was advanced, to some lawmakers’ concern, in a recently leaked Justice Department white paper outlining the rationale for lethal drone strikes against certain al-Qaeda operational leaders. 

Administration officials have struggled in recent months to determine when Cyber Command, under new rules of engagement soon to be issued, should be empowered to neutralize an attack without presidential permission. 

“We’ve run through dozens of scenarios, and each time you get to the point where you say, ‘You mean you really couldn’t get to the president in time?’ ” said one senior military official, who like other U.S. officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “Until something happens, our best guess is it’s going to be an extremely narrow circumscribed set of conditions that would really be imminent.” 

Army’s First Interactive iPad Book Lets You Finger-Swipe Through Afghanistan


A screenshot of one of the embedded maps in Vanguard of Valor, the Army’s first interactive iPad book. Image: U.S. Army

The Army has no shortage of battlefield maps. But until Friday, it didn’t have many that animate troop movements or enemy positions at the touch of a fingertip. Now, explains Command Sgt. Major Joe B. Parson, Jr., “if I flick a finger, you don’t change the page, you change the picture.” 

That’s the added value of Vanguard of Valor, a platoon-level recent history of the Afghanistan war published by the Army’s Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, part of the ground force’s brain trust. There’s a musty paper edition. But the Army’s more excited about the iPad edition that debuted on Friday in the iTunes store. 

Vanguard of Valor is primarily a teaching tool, meant to instruct the mid-career officers who pass through the Center about the lessons learned from years of grueling war in Afghanistan. The enhanced iPad edition is a step up from previous Army digitized books: It’s the first immersive, interactive Army e-book, replacing the simple PDF-style scans with dynamic animations of the warzone. Maps shift, videos load, audio plays and pictures scroll to complement the text. 

Sri Lanka: Comments on India and resolution in UNHRC

By Col. R. Hariharan

[This summary contains comments made by Col Hariharan to different print and TV media from 5 to 7 March 2013 on specific issues raised by them on India’s response to the U.S. draft resolution on Sri Lanka’s accountability now under consideration at the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva.] 

Information update

The Congress-led coalition came under intense pressure in parliament to back the U.S. sponsored resolution at the UNHRC, when almost all parties condemned the alleged atrocities against Sri Lanka Tamils and wanted the government to act. Though the External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid did not make a commitment, he informed that the government would keep the concerns of the MPs in mind while taking a call on voting on the resolution when it comes up on March 21, 2013. 

He also said that India had demanded an independent inquiry into the abuse of human rights allegations besides investigation into the death of LTTE leader Prabhakaran and members of his family. The DMK, an important member of the ruling coalition, called for the trial of Sri Lanka’s top leadership for alleged war crimes. The BJP, vociferous in supporting the Tamils, demanded the withdrawal of the army from Tamil areas, while the AIADMK reiterated its demand for imposing economic sanctions on Sri Lanka. 

Congress representatives in a show of solidarity participated in the Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation (TESO) conference organized by the DMK at New Delhi to highlight the Sri Lanka Tamil issues. The participation of Ghulam Nabi Azad, General Secretary of the AICC, in the conference showed the importance the party now attaches to the Sri Lanka issue. His statement that Sri Lanka had “a moral duty to find the truth about the inhuman acts of oppression, sexual assaults and torture of helpless persons, including the family LTTE leader Prabhakaran” was perhaps the strongest-ever statement made by a high ranking Congress leader in recent times. His hard hitting statement quoted by the Hindu stated, “We are firmly of the view that the issues of reconciliation and political devolution in Sri Lanka need to be addressed with a sense of urgency and not merely used to buy time” should be heart-warming to the participants at the conference. 

He has also said the government’s decision on the UNHRC resolution would be guided by India’s vote against Sri Lanka in March 2012 UNHRC meeting, gives an indication of the Congress party’s line of thinking. This slightly varies with the stand taken by the Minister of External Affairs. However, it remains to be seen how much of the words are translated into action by India at Geneva. Regardless of India’s vote on the resolution, the Congress’ articulation of the concerns of the people on Sri Lanka issue, publicly and in clear terms should send a strong signal to Sri Lanka. One can only hope it would prod some positive action from President Rajapaksa.