20 April 2013

Boston Bombing Suspects: Grassroots Militants from Chechnya

April 19, 2013 


Timothy Alben (C) of the Massachusetts State Police and Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis (Center R) in Watertown, Mass., on April 19

The identities of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing -- Chechen brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26 -- appear tentatively to confirm several of Stratfor's suspicions. From this profile, the simple nature of the attack, their efforts to rob a convenience store and their lack of an escape plan, we can at least say at this point in time that they were what we refer to as grassroots militants. Despite being amateurs, such militants clearly still pose a significant threat.


Just after 10 p.m. on April 18, the Tsarnaev brothers were identified after having robbed a convenience store in Cambridge, Mass., just three miles from Boston, hours earlier. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, who responded to the robbery, was shot and killed and found in his car by fellow responding officers. The two suspects later hijacked an SUV at gunpoint, releasing the driver unharmed. Authorities later caught up to the suspects, and a car chase ensued.

Just after midnight, the car chase ended with a gunfight in Watertown, Mass. The suspects reportedly threw explosive devices at police, though it is not yet confirmed what types of explosives allegedly were used. During the firefight, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was wounded, taken into custody and later reported dead. Some press reports suggest he may have been wearing some sort of suicide belt or vest. Dzhokhar escaped by driving the stolen SUV through the police barricade and remains at large. According to media reports, a third accomplice was detained earlier this morning by authorities and is being questioned.

According to The New York Times, the two men are from Chechnya. Their family also reportedly lived briefly in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, before moving to the United States in 2002. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's profile on VKontakte, a Russian social media website, said he attended school at the School No. 1 of Makhachkala, spoke English, Russian and Chechen and listed his worldview as Islam. A school administrator from the School No. 1 said the two suspects and their family had previously lived in Kyrgyzstan before moving to Dagestan.

Given that they are grassroots actors, there is likely only a small chance that the authorities will discover a formal link between the suspects and a state sponsor or a professional terrorist group such as al Qaeda or one of its franchise groups. Any link will likely be ideological rather than operational, although it is possible that the two have attended some type of basic militant training abroad. Given what we have learned about the suspects and the nature of the improvised explosive devices they constructed, it is very likely that the authorities will find that the brothers had read and studied al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's Inspire Magazine.

This case also highlights our analysis that the jihadist threat now predominantly stems from grassroots operatives who live in the West rather than teams of highly trained operatives sent to the United States from overseas, like the team that executed the 9/11 attacks. This demonstrates how the jihadist threat has diminished in severity but broadened in scope in recent years -- a trend we expect to continue.

There will always be plenty of soft targets in a free society, and it is incredibly easy to kill people, even for untrained operatives. In this case, the brothers conducted an attack that was within their capabilities rather than attempting something more grandiose that would require outside assistance -- and which could therefore have put them in jeopardy of running into a government informant as they sought help. It is thus important for citizens to practice good situational awareness and to serve as grassroots defenders against the grassroots threat.

Reprinting or republication of this report on websites is authorized by prominently displaying the following sentence, including the hyperlink to Stratfor, at the beginning or end of the report.
"Boston Bombing Suspects: Grassroots Militants from Chechnya is republished with permission of Stratfor."

Fighting terror

by Rohan Joshi — April 5, 2013

India must evolve a modern and robust legal framework to address the scourge of terrorism.

India must revisit antiquated assumptions on terrorism that form the basis of its current framework to handle and respond to incidents of terror. There are significant Centre-State issues that must first be addressed if we are to get serious about combating terrorism in India. Indeed, after two decades of being victimised by terror more frequently than almost any other country, we have failed to evolve appropriate mechanisms to deal with this menace. The responses to the bomb blasts in Hyderabad in February 2013 indicate that we continue to be ill-prepared to deal with terror. It is essential therefore that India’s parties across the political spectrum agree on a framework to confront this existential threat to the country.

State governments —particularly, but not exclusively those ruled by opposition parties — have continued to challenge attempts made by the UPA to evolve mechanisms at the Centre to combat terrorism on the grounds that they upset the balance of power between the Centre and States. Centre-State relations are complicated to the extent that the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution grants exclusive powers for legislation over issues pertaining to law and order to the States.

However, the issue at hand is not so much that law and order is a “state subject” as it is in the implicit assumption that terrorism is a “law and order” problem. Given the nature of the threat that India has faced over the past two decades, this assumption has proven inadequate and has negatively impacted our ability to respond to instances of terror in the country. Terrorism is not merely a law and order problem in the same way that for example, street crime or theft are. Terrorist acts are an assault on the security and integrity of India. They are thus a threat to India’s national security to which our response must be commensurate with the gravity of the threat.

As a national security problem, the scourge of terrorism demands a different set of actors and responses than those currently available. However, despite being repeatedly victimised by terrorism for over two decades, we have failed to fully conceptualise the nature of the threat that confronts us and develop an appropriate legal framework to address the challenge.

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act 2008, enacted after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008, defines terrorism as an act “with intent to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of India or with intent to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India or in any foreign country.” This definition, favouring an interpretation of terrorism as a threat to national security, diverges significantly from existing practices which largely envision terrorism as a law or order issue.

Debating the Tiger's Rise

India would have had 175 million fewer poor people by 2008 had it embarked upon free-market reforms in 1971 instead of 1991.

For the first time since the advent of economic reforms in 1991, a question mark looms over India's development prospects. Growth this year is less than half the tigerish high of 9.8% six years ago, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's reputation as a reformer lies in tatters. The government he heads has become synonymous with corruption scandals, reckless populism and policy torpor.

Columbia University economists Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya believe that bad ideas and economic mismanagement are mostly responsible for India's current slowdown. In "Why Growth Matters," they trace India's economic trajectory since independence in 1947 and offer a comprehensive to-do list for reformers. At the heart of this book lies a simple message. The country's post-1991 transformation "from a basket case into a powerful engine of growth," the authors say, unambiguously proves something that many on the Indian left remain in denial about: that a rapidly expanding economy is the best antidote to poverty.

Why Growth Matters

By Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya 
(PublicAffairs, 280 pages, $28.99)

Over the past two decades, India's economic reforms—especially scrapping industrial licensing, in which bureaucrats set production targets for firms, and lowering tariff barriers to trade—have pulled nearly 200 million people out of poverty. Yet the country's public discourse remains littered with myths: that only the rich have benefited from growth; that ending poverty depends on redistribution; and that the country's wealth has little to do with its health and education standards. Taken together, they add up to the absurd notion that India has reformed too fast rather than not fast enough. Indeed, the present government first came to power in 2004 by championing the dodgy slogan "inclusive growth," which suggests that somehow growth by itself was exclusive or anti-poor.

In fact, it is the bloated and suffocating socialist model unveiled by Jawaharlal Nehru at independence in 1947 that deserves such ignominious labels. Messrs. Bhagwati and Panagariya contrast the heavy hand of Indian central planning with the private-sector-led growth that allowed East Asia's nimble economies, such as South Korea and Taiwan, to prosper from the 1960s onward. By contrast, India grew at an anemic 3.5% per year on average in the three decades to 1980, thanks to government control over private investment, the steady expansion of the public sector, an obsession with self-sufficiency and restraints on foreign investment. In short, as the authors write, after independence "India's economics quickly collapsed into the disaster range."

Nonetheless, the villain of the book isn't Nehru, a hapless idealist born to extreme privilege—his father sent his shirts to Paris to be laundered. It's Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, who led the country from 1966 to 1984 (minus a three-year spell in opposition). She doubled down on her father's mistakes even as the benefits of an unshackled private sector were fast becoming obvious in East Asia. On her watch, India nationalized mines, general insurance companies and the 14 largest banks. She forced the dilution of foreign equity in Indian companies, reserved production in vast swaths of the economy for small firms, limited the size of urban land holdings and made it virtually impossible to fire workers.

U.S. feared India would intervene in Bangladesh after coup

R. K. Radhakrishnan

Soon after the 1975 coup in Bangladesh when President Sheikh Mujibur Rehman was assassinated , the United States believed that India would make a militarily intervention.

Fresh evidence of the U.S.’ concern has surfaced in diplomatic cables obtained and made public by WikiLeaks recently.

The communications provide fascinating details about Washington’s nervousness.

On November 27, 1975, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote to U.S. Ambassador to India William B. Saxbe “recommending” that he meet Foreign Minister [Y.B.] Chavan because “the situation demands immediate attention in New Delhi,” despite the fact that a high-level U.S.-India meeting was scheduled in Washington DC for later that month.

Saxbe was to convey the U.S. “fear that mutual Indian and Bgd [Bangladesh] misperceptions of each other’s intentions might create a dynamic of events that led to consequences neither country really desired. The USG continues to believe that India shares our view that it would be extremely detrimental to the prospects for stability and peace in the subcontinent, and would set in motion unpredictable chain reaction, if external powers were to intervene in the internal affairs of Bangladesh,” Kissinger’s wrote to the Ambassador (1975STATE281302_b, secret).

Concurring with the U.S. Embassy’s assessment that “Indians remain in the posture of watching the situation carefully on the ground but have not yet decided to act,” Kissinger said the U.S. believed “it is essential, while we may still have some ability to influence situation to convey to the GoI at a senior level the sense of Bengalee [Bangladesh’s] concerns, just as we have raised Indian concerns with the Bgd [Bangladesh].”

From intelligence documents archived in the State Department, it is known that a joint memorandum by the CIA, the Defence Intelligence Bureau, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in the State Department concluded that Indian military intervention “cannot be ruled out.”

U.S. persuades Iran

Washington was so convinced of India’s intentions that it persuaded Iran, then under the pro-American Shah, to dissuade New Delhi from any such action, and even actively sought the opinion of the Soviet Union, which would have stood by India.

U.S. Ambassador to Iran (who was a former CIA Director) Richard Helms after meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Abbas Ali Khalatbary noted (1975TEHRAN11543_b, secret dated November 27, 1975): “Khalatbary responded that GoI [Government of Iran] was equally concerned about events in Bangladesh and possibility of Indian intervention... Ambassador urged Iran [to] weigh in with Delhi and Dacca to help defuse situation. When Khalatbary expressed doubts about influence Iran enjoyed in Delhi ambassador encouraged him not to underestimate important role Iran can play in this matter.”

In Moscow, U.S. Ambassador Walter J. Stoessel met Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolay Firyubin and inferred that “the soviets are less concerned about preventing possible Indian intervention than they are that it succeed decisively if undertaken (1975MOSCOW18221_b, secret dated Dec. 20).”

“Firyubin... left no doubt that from Moscow’s standpoint the question of regional stability, and by extension the prevention of a substantial increase in PRC [People’s Republic of China] influence in the area, were more important... I would not conclude from this that the Soviets are encouraging the Indians, but from Firyubin’s presentation it can be infer[r]ed that they might not do much to discourage them either.”

He added: “To my question about current Indian attitudes, he said that the Indians had been satisfied with the bilateral talks, but ‘only god knows’ what the future will bring.”

U.S. fears were fed by Bangladeshi officials: “During conversation at a reception January 3, an officer of Bangladesh deputy high commission told me, in response to my question about how relations are going between Bangladesh and India, that Indians are harbo[u]ring and training Bangladesh opposition personalities and force,” said a cable from the American consulate in Calcutta (1976CALCUT00023_b, secret).

“Source was visibly nervous about imparting the foregoing and moved on quickly after having done so,” the cable dated January 5, 1976 said. Bangladesh also sought the U.S. help. In response, Kissinger, in a cable to the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, said: “We will continue to be sympathetic to Bangladesh’s needs and concerns (1975STATE265069_b, secret).”
Indian denials

For their part, Indian officials denied any movement of troops to the Bangladesh front (1976NEWDE000693_b, confidential, dated January 14, 1976): “Indians, at every opportunity, have been telling visitors here that it is slanderous to say that Indian troops have been augmented along the Bangladesh border [Prime Minister] Mrs. Gandhi having made this point to Senator [Codel] McGovern most recently Jan. 9,” it said, referring to a Congressman’s visit to India and Bangladesh to ascertain the ground situation.

Indian High Commissioner Samar Sen also “scoffed at reports that India had acted in any way that threatened” Bangladesh (1976DACCA00272_b, confidential), notes a cable from the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh at that time, Davis Eugene Boster.

Beam us up, Bangalore

Madhumathi D. S.

ISRO is unable to keep pace with booming demand for transponders from the private broadcasting sector

From its inception in 1969, the national space programme has been a source of pride and inspiration for most Indians. Consider the keenness with which Indians follow every launch, cheering as the spacecraft hurtles into space.

Successive chiefs of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have emphasised the space programme’s pro-people and development agenda as its raison d’être while downplaying its commercial aspects as a by-product of its core function. Bracketed with its cousins, atomic energy and defence research, the Department of Space has some 100 users for its satellite communication applications alone.

One of these is the private/commercial television broadcasting sector. It is tempting to see how the high-profile space sector stacks up in the context of this popular user, which has 820 channels and is consumed by 130 million homes.

The state-run ISRO is the sole provider of satellite capacity — or transponders — for broadcasters and other public and private users of space applications in the country. The private TV industry claims it is seriously starved of satellite capacity for its operations. Over a decade ago, ISRO, faced with a demand it could not meet from its own satellites, routed operators through transponders temporarily leased on foreign satellites.

According to a recent report on the broadcasting industry, the supply gap on Indian satellites for this sector has only widened over the years. With the television sector poised for massive growth over the next five years, the gap will only increase further. The report entitled “Easing India’s Capacity Crunch: An assessment of demand and supply for television satellite transponders” (hereafter Report), published by the Hong Kong-based Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) India states that 75 per cent of the 820-odd private channels are beaming into Indian homes through leases on foreign satellites. While ISRO tightly regulates this lease, it provides only 25 per cent of industry requirements on its own INSAT/GSAT communication satellites.

Not enough satellites

Simply put, there aren’t enough Indian satellites up there to beam for our private television industry, which generated a total turnover of Rs.39,800 crore in 2012.

Broadcasters beam in two frequency bands, technically called the C-band and the Ku-band; the latter is used by the Direct to Home segment. The report estimates that ISRO’s satellites supply only 18 of the 31 C-band transponders they currently need, and 18 of the 73 Ku band transponders required by the six private DTH operators — Airtel Digital, Dish TV, Reliance Digital, Sun Direct, Tata Sky and Videocon d2h. The rest of their requirement is run on foreign satellites.

How this crisis?

When the industry was expanding in the late 1990s and early 2000s, “everybody underestimated the potential of the Indian market,” says CASBAA’s Chief Policy Officer John Medeiros.

Smitha Jha, Leader, Entertainment & Media Practice in PwC, and author of the report, says that INSAT capacity has not been augmented in the last three consecutive years. One reason is that two Indian satellite launches failed in a row.

In 2010, ISRO lost two entire communications satellites (GSAT-4 and GSAT-5P) while launching them on its GSLV test vehicle; it also soon lost half of INSAT-4B which got crippled in orbit. (As a result, the GSLV rocket programme, meant to locally launch new communication satellites, also got bogged down.) All this set back the nation by some 50 transponders.

ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan in a statement last year had said the space agency fell greatly behind its 11th Plan target of creating 500 transponders. It ended up with only about half this number in 2012. Of the total number of 263 transponders in use in the country as of September 2012, the INSAT/GSAT fleet provides 168. ISRO hired 95 transponders on foreign satellites to meet its overall demand. (Capacity for broadcasters has been leased on foreign satellites such as ABS-1, Apstar-7, Asiasat-3S; Asiasat-5, Intelsat 7/10/20, Intelsat 17, MEASAT-3/3A and SES-7.) Here lies the broadcasters’ worry: with licensed channels projected to increase to 1,300 by 2017 (when the current 12th Plan ends) they would need 54 C-band and 222 Ku-band transponders. Ms Jha says this figure does not include a backup in case a working satellite switches off midlife.

How has this gap been addressed? “There is a large demand to be fulfilled and the INSATs are not sufficient. We are following two-three routes to meet the demand,” Dr. Radhakrishnan had said in 2011. The organisation is working to send large, improved four-and six-tonne satellites to meet the INSAT demand. In 2011, it tried to plug the shortage in two years by further leases and buying a satellite in orbit, but neither has transponders in new orbital locations.

The 12th Plan working group on Space noted that the space agency needs to “pursue rigorously to secure spectrum” for another 100 Ku-band and 50 C-band / extended C-band transponders.

ISRO reckons that its 2017 tally should touch 400 transponders, including 102 in the C and 158 in Ku bands. But that would still fall below the last Plan target of 500 transponders, as well as the broadcasters’ projected needs.

Leasing of INSAT transponders generates roughly 60 per cent (around Rs.600 crore) of the revenue of ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation. In hindsight, the space agency, at the first sign of a brewing capacity crisis, probably ought to have single-mindedly pushed its communication satellites agenda above all else and speeded up this pipeline. Some industry watchers believe there was an overemphasis in the last decade on remote-sensing satellites and projects such as Chandrayaan-1, tele-education and tele-medicine.

Leasing pangs

More than mere foreign leases, the broadcasting industry is anguished by an outdated ISRO rule of three-year leases, after which it must seek fresh approvals all over again for the same satellite, or for small additional space on it. “It does not make sense for ISRO to play middleman for the same [approved] satellite,” Ms Jha points out.

According to Mr. Medeiros, nothing scares a DTH broadcaster more than the prospect of having to move 5-10 million subscribers to a newly-leased satellite, literally antenna by antenna, when an old lease expires. he industry wants foreign satellite leases to be contracted for 10-15-years as it gives it reasonable prices and longer security in space. It also suggests automatic renewal on the same satellite, tying up with foreign operators for long-term deals; and a single window approval through multiple ministries [Space, Telecommunications, Home and Information & Broadcasting.] The 2000 SatCom Policy allows privately owned Indian satellites; they cannot happen without supportive policies, Mr. Medeiros says.

The report fears that in the coming years, the Ku band will be further squeezed by expanding segments like high-definition television, digital satellite news gathering, very small aperture terminals and digital cinema. It worries about having to share the C band realm with terrestrial wireless operators. Any new ISRO capacity will also have to feed developmental, defence and other priorities. With all transponder-using groups hitting a high growth curve, it appears unlikely that the great Indian space hole will close any time soon.

'An inspiration for the rest of us'

Bedabrata Pain

PATRIOTIC: Binod Bihari Chowdhury. Photo: Bedabrata Pain

We fondly called him 99. Bent as a bow, but sharp as a tack, one year shy of a century, he was on a hunger strike — protesting against the demolition of a school where Pritilata Waddedar used to teach. That was my introduction to Binod Bihari Chowdhury, one of those youngsters who stormed the citadels of colonial rule in 1930, and for the first time, liberated a town.

The next day, I accompanied him to the European Club, where I was treated to a first-hand account of the Chittagong Uprising. “How did Masterda (Surya Sen) recruit you?” I asked. His reply was prompt and sharp. “He did not! In fact, he refused to take us in. He said you are too young. I reasoned, pleaded and argued with him for over a year. Then I told him, ‘Do you think you are the only revolutionary leader? If you don’t take me, I will go to Dhaka or to Calcutta. It’d be my misfortune not to work with you, but nothing shall stop me from fighting for freedom!’” Indeed, there is no age limit for the fight against injustice. Even at 99, he reminded us of that. I met him again in 2012 after my movie Chittagong had released. He was 103 now. His health had deteriorated. But his spirit hadn’t – not one bit. He was excited like a little child that the film had been completed and received well by critics and audiences alike. His eyes danced with joy as he saw bits of Chittagong on my laptop. That’s the last I saw him.

The Chittagong Uprising achieved what nobody thought could be done. But perhaps an even bigger contribution was the element of continuity. The death of Surya Sen did not ring down the curtains. Nobody gave up, and the movement flourished in different forms. The last of these Chittagong revolutionaries has now passed away, but people who dare to dream, dare to challenge, and dare to create something new always remain an inspiration for the rest of us.

(Bedabrata Pain’s Chittagong has won the 2012 National Film Award for a Director’s first film.)

Requiem for a revolutionary

Sachidananda Mohanty

Binod Bihari Chowdhury, who took part in the Chittagong Armoury Raid of 1930, was the last link to a spectacular chapter of resistance against British colonialism

With the passing of Binod Bihari Chowdhury (1911-2013), a curtain has been drawn on one of the most spectacular chapters of the history of militant nationalism in undivided India. A colleague of the legendary Surjya Sen, or Master da, as he was popularly known, Binod Bihari, would be remembered as one who cherished, throughout his life, the values of Republicanism his leader stood for.

I had travelled to Chittagong to trace the footsteps of Surjya Sen, and his associates Pritilata and Kalpana Datta, the latter a revolutionary and an activist in her own right who later married P.C. Joshi, the charismatic Chairman of the Communist Party of India.

Ghulam Sarwar Choudhury from the Chittagong University received me at the Chittagong airport. Breakfast over, we reached the J.M. Sen Center that has a concentration of Hindu population. We visited the memorial to the martyrs of the Chittagong Uprising and paid our respects. Neighbours pointed out the home of Binod Bihari Chowdhury who lived on 120 Momin Road: the only surviving revolutionary of the Chittagong Armory Raid.

At 93, Binod Bihari looked frail and stooped a bit, but there was no mistaking the fire in his eyes once he spoke. The Chowdhurys’ house resembled a middle class home in rural Bengal: a bed-cum drawing room, sparsely furnished, a raised mosquito-net, books of history, assorted memorabilia and memories. The portraits of Pritilata, Surjya Sen and Kalpana Datta, his own photos from younger days, a framed photograph of him receiving an award from Sheikh Mujibur Rahman — these adorned the walls.

The Chittagong Uprising began on April 18, 1930. The group, led by Surjya Sen, raided the AFI Armoury, the railway station and the telegraph office, and proclaimed the provisional Government under the Hindustan Republican Arm. Although the revolutionaries fought bravely and fought hard, they were outnumbered and outgunned. Several died in action in the hills of Jalalabad. Some like Pritilata embraced martyrdom while launching abortive attacks on the European Club, the emblem of the British power in the city. Surjya Sen, who evaded capture for long, was finally betrayed. On January 12, 1934, he and Tharakeswar Dastidar were hanged in the Chauliagang Jail, their bodies thrown, in the dead of the night, into the Bay of Bengal by a British Naval cruiser.

Binod Bihari began slowly as he recalled his days with Master da and the Uprising. I asked him if he saw action. In reply, he showed me his neck where a bullet had pierced and he had escaped miraculously. He served a jail sentence in far away Rajputana (now Rajasthan), Kalpana Datta was sent to the Hizli Detention Camp (now a national monument in IIT Kharagpur). Later, while many of his family members left for the safety of India, Chowdhury continued to brave hardships in his homeland. In April 1971, he travelled to India through the Mizo Hills and returned to Bangladesh on January 3, 1972.

At Chittagong, when he was not busy meeting visitors like me, he meditated at the Sadharan Brahmo Temple or gave tuitions to earn his livelihood.

What has been the legacy of Surjya Sen in Bangladesh? I asked him. “Unfortunately in many quarters, Surjya Sen is described as a dacoit, a Hindu leader,” he lamented. “I met Mujeeb four to five times. In 1972, idols of Goddess Durga were destroyed in many places. Accompanied by Fani Majumdar, a minister in Mujeeb’s cabinet, I went to Mujeeb and warned him that he would not remain in power if pro-Pakistan elements were not checked. There was an upsurge of such elements that were not reconciled to the emergence of Bangladesh as a secular nation,” he recalled. “Unfortunately, the Hindus and minorities of Bangladesh are being harassed because of their support to Sheikh Hassena,” he concluded.

It was time for us to go. As we rose, he told Sarwar: “I have given away the award money of one lakh rupees for an endowment lecture in the name of Surjya Sen to Chittagong University. Will you kindly follow up?”

As I read the news of Binod Bihari Choudhury’s passing on April 11, I remembered my visit to Chittagong. I recalled the lovely city, the river Karnaphuli which flows 12 miles into the Bay of Bengal, the majestic Sitakund Range and the hills of Jalalabad that saw action during the Uprising, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, home to the native Buddhist population, and above all, the Barawalias, the 12 Sufi saints whose spiritual presence is a perennial call to the devout.

Surjya Sen and Binod Bihari lived in this city of cultural confluence; they died for a cause. There is perhaps a lesson here for the two nations!

(The writer is with the Department of English at the University of Hyderabad. Some of the material in this article is from an earlier piece by him titled ‘History, Amnesia, and Public Memory: The Chittagong Armory Raid, 1930-34’, Manushi, No. 138, 2006.)

China-Pakistan nuclear axis

India factor behind their game plan
by Harsh V. Pant

LAST month Beijing confirmed its plans to sell a new 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor to Pakistan in a deal signed in February. This pact was secretly concluded between the China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission during the visit of Pakistani nuclear industry officials to Beijing from February 15 to 18.

This sale would once again violate China’s commitment to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and is in contravention to China’s promise in 2004 while joining the NSG not to sell additional reactors to Pakistan’s Chashma nuclear facility beyond the two reactors that began operation in 2000 and 2011.

While this issue is likely to come up for discussion at the June meeting of the NSG in Prague, Beijing has already made it clear that nuclear cooperation between China and Pakistan “does not violate relevant principles of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.” This when the CNNC is not merely constructing civilian reactors in Chashma, it is also developing Pakistan’s nuclear fuel reprocessing capabilities and working to modernise Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. At a time when concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear programme are causing jitters around the world, China has made its intentions clear to go all out in helping Pakistan’s nuclear development. At a time when many in India are contemplating a new bonhomie in Sino-Indian ties under the new Chinese leadership, China is busy trying its best to maintain nuclear parity between India and Pakistan.

After all, this is what China has been doing for the last five decades. Based on their convergent interests vis-à-vis India, China and Pakistan reached a strategic understanding in mid-1950s, a bond that has only strengthened ever since. Sino-Pakistan ties gained particular momentum in the aftermath of the 1962 Sino-Indian war when the two states signed a boundary agreement recognising Chinese control over portions of the disputed Kashmir territory and since then the ties have been so strong that the Chinese President Hu Jintao has described the relationship as “higher than mountains and deeper than oceans.” Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari, has suggested that “No relationship between two sovereign states is as unique and durable as that between Pakistan and China.” Maintaining close ties with China has been a priority for Islamabad and Beijing has provided extensive economic, military and technical assistance to Pakistan over the years. It was Pakistan that in the early 1970s enabled China to cultivate its ties with the West and the US in particular, becoming the conduit for Henry Kissinger’s landmark secret visit to China in 1971 and has been instrumental in bringing China closer to the larger Muslim world. 

Over the years China emerged Pakistan’s largest defence supplier. Military cooperation between the two has deepened with joint projects producing armaments ranging from fighter jets to guided missile frigates. China is a steady source of military hardware to the resource-deficient Pakistani Army. It has not only given technology assistance to Pakistan but has also helped Pakistan set up mass weapons production factories. But what has been most significant is China’s major role in the development of Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure, emerging as Pakistan’s benefactor at a time when increasingly stringent export controls in Western countries made it difficult for Pakistan to acquire materials and technology from elsewhere. The Pakistani nuclear weapons programme is essentially an extension of the Chinese one. Despite being a member of the NPT, China has supplied Pakistan with nuclear materials and expertise and has provided critical assistance in the construction of Pakistan's nuclear facilities. Although China has long denied helping any nation attain a nuclear capability, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, Abdul Qadeer Khan, himself has acknowledged the crucial role China has played in his nation’s nuclear weaponisation by gifting 50 kilogrammes of weapon grade enriched uranium, drawing of the nuclear weapons and tonnes of uranium hexafluoride for Pakistan’s centrifuges. This is perhaps the only case where a nuclear weapon state has actually passed on weapons grade fissile material as well as a bomb design to a non-nuclear weapon state.

India has been the main factor that has influenced China and Pakistan’s policies vis-à-vis each other. Whereas Pakistan wants to gain access to civilian and military resources from China to balance the Indian might in the subcontinent, China, viewing India as potential challenger in the strategic landscape of Asia, views Pakistan as its central instrument to counter Indian power in the region. The China-Pakistan partnership serves the interests of both by presenting India with a potential two-front theatre in the event of war with either country. In their own ways, each is using the other to balance India as India’s disputes with Pakistan keep India preoccupied failing to attain its potential as a major regional and global player. China meanwhile guarantees the security of Pakistan when it comes to its conflicts with India, thus preventing India from using its much superior conventional military strength against Pakistan. Not surprisingly, one of the central pillars of Pakistan’s strategic policies for the last more than four decades has been its steady and ever-growing military relationship with China. And preventing India’s dominance of South Asia by strengthening Pakistan has been a strategic priority for China.

But with India’s ascent in global hierarchy and American attempts to carve out a strong partnership with India, China’s need for Pakistan is only likely to grow. A rising India makes Pakistan all the more important for Chinese strategy for the subcontinent. It’s highly unlikely that China will give up playing the Pakistan card vis-à-vis India anytime soon. Indian policy makers would be well advised to disabuse themselves of the notion of a Sino-Indian convergence in managing Pakistan. China doesn’t do sentimentality in foreign policy, and India should follow suit.n

The writer teaches at King’s College, London.

Managing transition in Afghanistan

India needs a strategy to frustrate plans by Pakistan and its Taliban proxies to dominate Afghanistan after 2014

Afghanistan will undergo multiple transitions in 2014, and their outcome will determine whether the country will emerge as a strong, viable and peaceful state or whether it will relapse into internecine violence, instability and a base for cross-border terrorism against neighbouring states.

The impending political transition has two aspects. One, there will be elections for a new president, marking the end of the Hamid Karzai era and, therefore, the political continuity - if not always predictability - that it represented. Two, there is the fate of the peace and reconciliation process, which seeks to integrate the Taliban and other militants into the political and constitutional mainstream. These two dimensions of the political transition are interlinked.

The political transition is accompanied by a security transition. There is already a steady drawdown of the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and the Afghan National Army is taking on security responsibilities throughout the country. The Afghan army is already responsible for security in areas that account for nearly 90 per cent of the Afghan population - this will be complete by the end of 2014 when the combat role of the ISAF will come to an end. The ISAF may retain a residual presence for the purposes of extending training and advice to the Afghan army, but it will not engage in active operations. The peak strength for the Afghan security forces is 352,000 and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, provided the promised financial support from the ISAF countries - of $4 billion annually, initially for the three years 2014-16 - is realised.

The third major transition will transform Afghanistan from an aid-driven economy to an investment- and trade-driven one, leveraging the country's location at the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia as well as its more recent emergence as a resource- and mineral-rich country.

It should come as no surprise that the success of each of these transitions is linked to the other two. Political instability or renewed violence, for example, would render the achievement of the economic objective impossible.

So, what is the current status of each transition, and what could India contribute to enhance the prospects of success?

The reconciliation process is going nowhere. The representatives of the Mullah Omar-led Quetta Shura are in Doha, but no structured talks have been held so far either with the US or with the Karzai government. It had been reported that Pakistan had had a change of heart and was actively supporting the peace and reconciliation process. However, a recent interaction with Afghan government officials indicated that, rather than play a supportive role, Pakistan was looking at 2014 as an opportunity to get back into so-called "strategic relevance", become the dominant arbiter of Afghanistan's future and, in particular, marginalise India's considerable presence in that country. In recent talks with the Karzai government, Pakistan demanded that Indian presence in the country be limited only to its embassy in Kabul; that training for Afghanistan's security forces should be sought from Pakistan and not from India; and that Indian involvement in infrastructure projects should cease - only then would Pakistan assist with the peace process by leaning on the Taliban and the other Pakistan-based militants such as the Hekmatyar group and the Haqqani group to take part.

It is also noteworthy that a much-touted meeting of senior clerics from Pakistan and Afghanistan, which was sponsored by the Afghan High Peace Council last month, did not take place eventually. A leading Pakistani cleric even publicly declared that suicide bombings were justified in a so-called liberation struggle. Despite persistent hopes expressed in Western capitals, this process is a dead end and India should work on the assumption that Pakistan and its Taliban proxies look upon 2014 as an opportunity to regain a dominant and strategic foothold in the country. We need a strategy to forestall and frustrate this outcome.

Musharraf’s Great Folly Tests the Army


Pakistan's former dictator returned home to what he thought would be a hero's welcome. Instead, a court ordered his arrest -- and put the military in an awkward spot.

In early 1999, unbeknownst to Pakistan's prime minister, then-army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf ordered a covert incursion into the Kargil area of Indian-controlled Kashmir. Musharraf's aim was to sever India's links between the western and eastern portions of the disputed territory and force the international community to help resolve a 50-year conflict it conveniently ignored.

The Kargil operation was classic Musharraf: daring, but ill-thought out. Pakistan's cover story was that the raiders were Kashmiri freedom fighters, not regular Pakistani troops. The need for deniability meant that Pakistan could not meaningfully provide air support to its own troops, who claimed the heights of Kargil and fought valiantly, but were left stranded after India used its air power to cut off their supply routes. By summer, India and Pakistan were at war and Nawaz Sharif, the elected prime minister, had rushed to Washington to ask President Bill Clinton to get India to deescalate. And by October, Musharraf would overthrow Sharif.

Today, General Musharraf is now Mr. Musharraf, and he's once again gotten himself into trouble. On Thursday morning, he fled from the Islamabad High Court, which had denied his plea for bail after a lower court ordered his arrest in a treason case against him, and retreated to his villa in the Islamabad suburb of Chak Shahzad, hoping to avoid criminal prosecution. Like the Kargil affair, this is a mess entirely of Musharraf's own making, and one that puts the army as well as other power brokers in an uncomfortable position during a fragile political transition. 

Musharraf had returned to Pakistan in late March after four years in self-imposed exile to take part in the country's general elections scheduled for May. Like countless other exiles, Musharraf claimed that he had come back because his country needs him. But the reality is that few -- aside from a couple of lawyers who profit from the ex-general's numerous legal challenges -- clamored for his return. Since his resignation from the presidency in 2008, Pakistan has grown beyond Musharraf. The party he created soon after overthrowing Sharif in 1999, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, no longer mentions his name. It is allied with his replacement, President Asif Ali Zardari. Sharif, Musharraf's nemesis, is now expected to be prime minister once again. And the urban middle class and elite that supported the commando-turned-politician for most of his tenure have now shifted their loyalty to retired cricket star Imran Khan and other political forces.

The army, for its part, has worked assiduously to improve its public standing post-Musharraf. Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the current army chief, has distanced the army from overt involvement in politics. He declared 2008 the Year of the Soldier, trying to restore ties with low-level officers who were alienated by the corruption of Musharraf's era. The military also issued a number of leaks to insinuate that Kayani, whom Musharraf appointed to head Inter-Services Intelligence and later the army, had never supported Musharraf's most controversial moves, such as deposing the chief justice in March 2007.

Today, the army is fighting multiple counterinsurgencies and a terrorist threat that will endure well after America departs from Afghanistan. It has no appetite or capacity to rule, despite Pakistan's failing economy and poor governance, and is banking on a smooth political transition. Kayani has expressed his support for democracy on multiple occasions and received plaudits from much of the political class.

China's arms sales to Pakistan unsettling South Asian security

Issue Vol 25.4 Oct-Dec 2010 | Date : 19 Apr , 2013

Underscoring its primacy as Pakistan’s primary benefactor in the realm of arms transfers, China’s recent upward swing in conventional arms sales to Islamabad has ruffled feathers as far as security of the South Asian sub-continent is concerned. As China positions itself as the fifth largest global arms exporter following long-established suppliers—the US, Russia, France and Great Britain, the fact that weapons sales to Pakistan have been instrumental in Beijing’s achieving the mentioned feat is incontestably conclusive.

In addition to being Pakistans largest defence supplier, China simultaneously is working towards enhancing its own strategic outreach in South Asia for which, Islamabad has provided a key base.

Given that both Islamabad and Beijing envision their partnership through a prism in which, keeping India engaged and limited to the peripheries of South Asia is a discernible objective, the deep-rooted cooperation in the military sphere is a critical angle. This was widely demonstrated in December 2008 when Pakistan and China signed a landmark agreement that sought to further escalate existing bilateral military cooperation. The agreement signed in Beijing between Pakistan’s Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Tariq Majid and People’s Liberation Army’s Chief of General Staff, General Chen Bingde, was in furtherance to the forum of Defence and Security Talks instituted way back in 2002.

While keeping a close tab on the security calculus in the region, New Delhi remains constantly on its guard with reference to the growing military nexus between China and Pakistan. Expressing grave apprehension on this subject, India’s Defence Minister, AK Antony stated in November 2009, “The increasing nexus between China and Pakistan in the military sphere remains an area of serious concern.”

It was well established by the early 1980s that nearly 65 percent of Pakistan’s aircraft and 75 per cent of its tanks were supplied by China. Therefore, the recent build-up in Beijing-Islamabad arms deals have further been placed under the scanner more intimately especially following China’s decision to sell submarines and warships to Pakistan. As the Chinese defence industry assumes shape towards becoming a formidable contender in the vast Asian and African weapons markets, it needs to be highlighted that primarily, most of China’s big ticket arms sales come from a handful of customers, most importantly, Pakistan. In an apparent attempt to equate India’s defence cooperation with the US and Russia, Deputy Director of China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, Zhai Dequan advocated, “The initiative may invite concerns from its neighbouring countries, but the doubts are unnecessary.”

An invitation from a neighbour

V. S. Seshadri

Myanmar is open for trade and investment but the response from Indian business has not been adequate despite the growing political ties between the two countries

A message coming out from our neighbour Myanmar that is transforming itself after 50 years of military rule is ‘we are open for business.’ Are our commercial establishments listening and are they ready?

Our bilateral relations with Myanmar have gathered momentum in recent times. We have agreed on a wide-ranging development cooperation agenda. India has made substantial commitments to assist Myanmar in the areas of capacity building, connectivity, infrastructure and border region development. Our trade and economic ties have however not kept pace. India figures at only the seventh place in Myanmar’s total imports and ranks, even lower at the13th place in terms of foreign investments into Myanmar. Being a large and contiguous neighbour, a closer overall engagement would call for a more robust trade and investment share that seems definitely possible at a time when rapid changes are unfolding.

Inclusive politics

To what extent has Myanmar transformed itself? President Thein Sein has, in the last two years, taken the country towards a democratic path that has made political life more inclusive; it has also enabled Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy to enter Parliament, albeit in a small way. The government has released a great majority of political prisoners and launched an ethnic reconciliation process to build peace with the various minority groups that have been out of the national mainstream from before independence.

Some problems have no doubt arisen in taking forward this process. Hostilities broke out with the Kachin rebels but the atmosphere has improved since late January. Tensions have also been building between the Buddhist and Muslim communities. Deadly riots erupted last year in Rakhine state in two spells between the Rohingayas and the Rakhine Buddhist community, leading to casualties and displacement of people. Last month there were attacks against the Muslim community in certain areas in Central Myanmar.

President Thein Sein has acknowledged that rioters have harmed the image of the country but he has also talked about adoption of a different approach to build trust. In a recent meeting with Muslim leaders, Ms Suu Kyi told them that the law has to be just for all and she would want everyone to feel proud of being a citizen of the country. Building trust and peace to pave the way for an inclusive society is a delicate and painstaking process. It is hoped that the troublemakers are firmly and effectively dealt with and the supremacy of the rule of law is maintained.

One can expect that responsible leaders of Myanmar would not want adverse domestic developments to affect its hosting of international events in the coming months — for the first time, the World Economic Forum East Asia Summit in June and the South East Asian Games in December 2013. It will also chair the ASEAN from January 2014.

More open economy

Myanmar is also moving towards an accelerated development programme with the promise of a more open economy. An unexpectedly deliberative Parliament, social activism and loosening of media controls have further energised the process. An economic reform programme launched with more debate is likely to be more acceptable and enduring even if the process is slower.

Several steps have already been taken. An IMF Staff Assessment Report on Myanmar acknowledges that the government has embarked on a bold set of reforms and cites changes brought about in the areas of foreign exchange, banking, budget formulation, agriculture and improvement in business climate. It further notes that economic performance has improved projecting a 6.25 per cent growth for 2012-13 and a growth rate of 7 per cent over the next five-year period. The local currency Kyat, for example, has seen a fair degree of stability.

On the financial front, private local banks have been granted an enhanced role, including in handling foreign exchange transfers, and allowed to consolidate themselves. Steps are under way to make the Central Bank more autonomous from the Finance Ministry.

America’s Oil Wealth: Use It Wisely

April 17, 2013


The world is not running out of oil—in fact, it may never run out of hydrocarbons. But new oils must be carefully analyzed before the environment is irreparably damaged.

The oil landscape is shifting rapidly. With America’s newfound oil wealth and the growing number of oil resources around the world, governments and producers are changing their economic calculus with potentially major repercussions.

In a Q&A, Deborah Gordon explains how these unconventional oils will impact the U.S. economy and the environment. To prevent bad decisions that unnecessarily hurt the climate, Gordon says these resources must be carefully analyzed before they are depended on too heavily.

Why is the world no longer worried about running out of oil?

Basically, because the market worked. Only five years ago, the talk was all about peak oil. This conversation had been going on since the 1970s. Policymakers and those looking to influence their decisions were trying to determine what could replace oil as crude production dwindled, focusing on alternative energy sources for transportation—electric vehicles and biofuels.

But the price of oil spiked in 2008 and reached almost $150 per barrel, and the conversation shifted dramatically. The world didn’t end when these seemingly unimaginable prices were hit. Once the price was high enough, new technological possibilities became economically viable.

Conventional oil is running out—but conventional isn’t the only game in town these days. The potential for finding and extracting new, unconventional oils has opened up. The world now has the capacity and economic motivation to turn many different types of hydrocarbons into liquid fuels that people depend on. And I would argue that it’s clear that the planet will never run out of hydrocarbons.

This changes the entire landscape of solutions to problems like climate change. Resource scarcity is no longer a significant factor. It is policies in times of plenty that will determine the future.

What is unconventional oil?

This is difficult to answer as unconventional oils will quickly become conventional. But the reason so many people are starting to think about unconventional oil is because the world is transitioning from a hundred-year period defined by a certain type of hydrocarbon that flows easily, comes out of the ground under its own pressure, and makes a specific slate of products: gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

One definition of unconventional oil is tied to the physical and chemical makeup of the feedstock, which extends beyond crude to include everything at the margins: the ultra-light hydrocarbons with more hydrogen than carbon and the extra-heavy ones with more carbon than hydrogen can all be considered outside the norm today. This encompasses oils that have a consistency like nail polish remover, including some tight oils, as well as ones more like window putty or peanut butter, called bitumen and kerogen.

There is a second definition that deals with the production techniques of oil. This is why fracked oil (or shale and tight gas that is released by hydraulic fracturing) is classified as unconventional. Some extend this definition to Arctic and deepwater oils, which are conventional in their makeups but unconventional in their production.
What are the implications of new oils for climate change?

Climate will undoubtedly be impacted by unconventional oils. The degree, however, will depend on which new oils are tapped and turned into fuels and how much fuel is consumed and burned.

The vastly different makeups of new oils mean that their extraction methods, processing requirements, treatment additives, transport procedures, energy inputs, and petroleum product outputs are varied as well. These factors shape the ultimate impact oils have on the climate.

And the assorted byproducts that are created when these oils are transformed into marketable petroleum products contribute to the carbon footprint of the oil. The heaviest oils stand out because their transformation process involves dealing with their high carbon content, which requires extensive processing, high energy inputs, and low-quality fuels—and results in greater carbon emissions.

This will certainly have repercussions for water and the environment, but the ultimate impact is not completely understood at this point as it will depend on the choices that are made. The effects on water resources and climate should be determined before methods are used that will irreparably damage both.

The world possesses a century’s worth of knowledge about what it takes to turn conventional oil into products, but now governments and producers are dealing with hydrocarbons they don’t really know enough about.

Will new oils prevent wider adoption of renewable energy sources?

It’s possible.

It is important to acknowledge that renewables have always been a stretch for the transportation sector, which accounts for 70 percent of oil in use today. The potential for renewable resources to fuel vehicles is limited beyond biofuels because most cars and trucks cannot be easily plugged into the utility grid at this point.

But if electric vehicles took off and drove technological advancements to make that possible, renewable energy could become a more viable option for fueling transportation. The problem is that the world might not pursue the electrification of cars as aggressively as it might have absent these new oils.

This is a legitimate concern. Electric vehicles in particular are more important than ever for improving local air quality. With so many new oils to choose from, the evolution of electric vehicles could slow down and therefore the goal of increasing the use of renewable energy resources could go unrealized. The fight against climate change could be hampered.

How will unconventional oils impact the U.S. economy?

In terms of economics, trade, and security, the future dynamics are unclear.

The United States has woken up to a brave new world overnight. As an importer of oil since the 1970s, there was tremendous concern in the country about where its oil would come from and how it could guarantee access to oil as the wells ran dry.

Now the United States has discovered a huge amount of tight oil across the central part of the country—from North Dakota down to Texas and westward to the Rockies—and there is access to new sources of bitumen from Canada. This changes everything.