5 June 2013

***The Significance of Omaha Beach

June 4, 2013


I have always dreamed of standing on Omaha Beach on a rainy and cold morning at low tide, standing by the edge of the water and looking inward. Until recently, I never had. No matter how many times I had visited France before, I always needed to be somewhere else, or was too busy to really imagine. I could never devote my mind to the water and the beach and the memories that, for me, were history but for those who took part in the D-Day landing were the pivot of their lives. Imagining a battle long gone is an act of will and imperfect in the best of circumstances, in spite of the fact that I have read voraciously on this battle. It is an act of will to force yourself to believe, to know, that something extraordinary happened here. The morning I visited Omaha Beach, a man was racing a horse drawing a sulky up and down on the sand, as if to challenge my intentions. 

The invasion took place at dawn on June 6, 1944. A North Atlantic storm had hammered the beaches the day before June 6 and would resume a few days later. On the day the forces came ashore, there was a break in the wind and rain. But it was still cold, wet and terrifying. The invasion took place at low tide. The Germans had placed obstacles that, at high tide, would be submerged and tear out the bottoms of landing craft. They were revealed at low tide. But that meant that the men who landed would have go across a vast, flat expanse of sand to a sea wall that is no longer there. I tried to imagine what it was like to force yourself to walk across the beach with heavy packs and machine gun fire raking the beach. I think I would have frozen. Death was random that morning, and no amount of skill or courage would prevent it. A man placed his soul in the hands of his God and moved forward. On a peaceful day when the only movement was a horse, sulky and rider, it still took me about five minutes to go from the water's edge to the place where the sea wall had been in June 1944. I tried to feel what the soldiers must have felt. In some battles, there is a degree of wit and skill that gives you the illusion that you might have control over your fate. There could be no such illusion at Omaha Beach. Some lived, some died, and virtue had little to do with it. 

The Significance of Omaha Beach

I focus on Omaha Beach not because the British at beaches codenamed Sword and Gold, the Canadians at Juno or the Americans at Utah were less brave than the men at Omaha, but because the defeat of Nazi Germany was sealed that day on Omaha Beach. The plan of the invasion was to land the British and Canadian forces to the east, as far as the town of Ouistreham. The Americans landed at Utah, at the base of the Cotentin Peninsula, and at Omaha. It was a 50-mile front. There was no chance of creating a continuous front that day, but the expectation was that the landing forces on the five beaches, plus the airborne troops behind enemy lines, would link up and create a foothold that could withstand German counterattacks. 

An enormous number of things went wrong that day. Landing craft could not make it into the beach, and men drowned when they left the craft under fire and could not swim with their equipment. The landing craft came in at the wrong place. The naval gunfire and air forces could not destroy the German positions. The airborne assault was chaotic as troops were scattered all over the region. The amphibious tanks had trouble being amphibious. 

I reflect that had the modern media been there, they would have declared the landing a failure and demanded that Eisenhower be investigated. Even after the landings proved a success, I can imagine op-ed pieces and television commentators, as well as senators and congressmen, asking how Eisenhower could not know that naval gunfire could not clear the defenses. All the planning in the world is of little value when chance, the enemy and miscalculation intervene. Those who have not fought wars demand precision from commanders that they themselves are incapable of in their own, much simpler lives. One hundred and sixty thousand troops landed within 24 hours on a 50-mile front. That it was chaos was inevitable. That it achieved the mission changed history. 

Turkey's Violent Protests in Context

June 04, 2013



The rapid escalation of anti-government protests in Turkey in recent days has exposed a number of long-dormant fault lines in the country's complex political landscape. But even as the appeal of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (also known by its Turkish acronym, AKP) is beginning to erode, it will remain a powerful force in Turkish politics for some time to come, with its still-significant base of support throughout the country and the lack of a credible political alternative in the next elections. 


The foundation for the current unrest was laid May 28, when a small group of mostly young environmentalists gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square for a sit-in to protest a planned demolition of walls, uprooting of trees and the perceived desecration of historical sites in the square's Gezi Park. The initially peaceful demonstration turned violent the night of May 30, when police tried to break up what had grown to more than 100 protesters. 

The environmental protesters were joined the next day by high-level representatives of the Justice and Development Party's main opposition, the secular Republican People's Party (known as CHP). The message of the protests soon evolved from saving Gezi Park's trees to condemning Erdogan and his party for a litany of complaints. Anti-government chants included "Down with the dictator," "Tayyip, resign," and "Unite against fascism." 

The protests grew rapidly when the weekend began, with more than 10,000 people gathering in Taksim Square on June 1. Many of these made their way to the square from the district of Kadikoy, a Republican People's Party stronghold on the Asian side of Istanbul, by walking across the Bosphorus Bridge banging pots and pans in defiance of laws against pedestrian use of the bridge. Some reportedly threw Molotov cocktails, fireworks and stones at police, prompting the use of tear gas and water cannons on the protesters. However, this quickly drew condemnation, leading the government to temporarily withdraw police at the cost of allowing more protesters to gather. 

Erdogan's response was defiant. While admitting excessive force by the police and ordering an investigation of the matter, he said that he would not give in to "wild extremists" who belong to an "ideological" as opposed to "environmental" movement and that he would bring out a million supporters from his party for every 100,000 protesters. The same night, riots broke out and some 5,000 protesters threw stones at the prime minister's office in the Besiktas neighborhood in Istanbul. 

On the morning of June 2, heavy rains kept protesters away from Taksim Square save for a few dozen who huddled around bonfires. More protesters made their way back to the square in the afternoon while Erdogan made another defiant speech blaming the Republican People's Party for the unrest and vowing to proceed with the development plans. Clashes between police and protesters have resumed, and close to 1,000 people have been detained and dozens injured. 

Erdogan's Limits

The size and scope of the protests must be kept in perspective. By the end of June 1, protests had reportedly spread to Izmir, Eskisehir, Mugla, Yalova, Antalya, Bolu, Adana, Ankara, Kayseri and Konya. Many of the areas where protests were reported are also areas where the Republican People's Party would be expected to bring out a large number of supporters. Konya, Kayseri and Ankara, strong sources of support for the Justice and Development Party, were notable exceptions. The largest protests, in Istanbul and Izmir, brought out predominantly young protesters in the tens of thousands. The protests would be highly significant if they grow to the hundreds of thousands, include a wider demographic and geographically extend to areas with traditionally strong support for the ruling party. 

India's "Pivot to Asia"

By Pratyush
June 4, 2013 

India’s aggressive diplomatic engagement with key Asian partners belies the policy paralysis at home amid a raft of corruption scandals, which have severely undermined the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. 

Singh’s recently concluded visits to Japan and Thailand on the heels of high-profile visits by the Chinese andAfghan leaders to New Delhi highlight the fact that the government’s ability to pursue a policy of continued engagement with key strategic interlocutors remains unimpeded despite its depleted reservoirs of political capital. 

After all, India’s outreach to several East Asian countries is raising eyebrows. A case in point were the summit-level talks between Singh and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Tokyo last week, which led to the signing of a joint statement that is truly strategic and ambitious in breadth and scope, particularly at a time when mutual wariness of an assertive China is growing. 

Besides annual summits, a steady growth in political exchange, dialogue and policy coordination such as the Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue, the Foreign Office Consultations, and the Defense Policy Dialogue have transformed the nature of India-Japan ties in recent years. 

In addition to bilateral exchanges, Japan and India also held their fourth trilateral dialogue with the United States this May in Washington. In January, Tokyo and New Delhi also held their first-ever Maritime Affairs Dialogue to coordinate their strategies amid aggressive territorial claims by China in the South China Sea and the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands

No wonder, then, that the growing Indo-Japanese rapprochement has caused deep misgivings in Beijing. On May 30, following Singh’s visit, the Global Times, a Chinese state-run daily, ran an editorial warning India against its growing ties with Japan. “Overheated strategic cooperation with the Abe administration can only bring trouble to India and threaten its relationships with the relevant East Asian countries," it warned

In another development expected to rile Beijing, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has also expressed an interest in cooperating more closely with India in the realm of defense, including collaboration in production. Moreover, Indian Defence Minister AK Antony has made trips to Singapore, Thailand and Australia this week alone, suggesting that India’s own “pivot to Asia” is a well-thought out policy of engagement and not simply a coincidence or whimsical aberration. Reaffirming this view is the fact that Antony’s visit to Australia will be the first-ever by an Indian defense minister to that country. 

Bridging the soldier-scholar divide


Last month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laid the foundation for the nation’s first defence university at Binola in Gurgaon which is expected to be fully operational by 2018. Dr. Singh expressed his hope that when completed, the Indian National Defence University (INDU) “will become [a] world class institution of higher defence studies in which we will be able to take justifiable pride.” Given the dismal state of other institutions of higher learning in India, this might be a tall order but at least a first step has been taken towards establishing INDU, a project that has been part of the national discourse for decades now. Though various committees had recommended the setting up of a national defence university, the government had been dragging its feet on the project. Things are finally moving now but it will be quite some time before INDU is up and running. 


The nature of the challenges facing defence in the 21st century emphasises the vital requirement of education in a military officer’s career. While a key strength of the military organisation is its cohesiveness, underpinned by doctrine and systems, it is also true that the challenges posed by the use of military force in the world today require officers who can think and act independently of templates or formulaic guidelines. These challenges flow from changes in the strategic environment driven by social, economic and political factors which in turn affect the character of warfare and, by extension, security as a whole. As a consequence, there is a need to focus on enhancing the level of Professional Military Education (PME) in India. 


The aims of modern PME should be to: develop the military officers’ knowledge and understanding of defence in the modern world; demand critical engagement with current research and advanced scholarship on defence and its relationship with the fields of international relations, security studies, military history, war studies and operational experience; encourage a systematic and reflective understanding of contemporary conflicts and the issues surrounding them; promote initiative, originality, creativity and independence of thought in identifying, researching, judging and solving fundamental intellectual problems in this area of study, and develop relevant, transferable skills, especially communication, use of information technology and organisation and management of the learning process. Indian PME lacks every single one of these dimensions. 

Chhattisgarh massacre

Local battles and the larger war

By D. Suba Chandran 

AFTER the recent massacre of Congress leaders by the naxalites in Chhattisgarh, there has been a series of discussion in the media questioning the intelligence coordination and the failure of counter-naxal strategy. A section is even questioning the use of CRPF and its COBRA battalion, hinting that the Green Hunt should be totally abandoned along with Salwa Judum, in principle and practice.

Is there a need to abandon the strategy that the Union government and the CRPF pursuing now? Or, should they learn from the mistakes, and make necessary adjustments, but continue the larger war against the naxalites?

At the outset, there are two parallel wars that are being waged by the naxals vis-a-vis the state. The first one is violent — targeting the state and society together. The second one is psychological, pressurising the state through certain civil society actors along with the social, print and electronic media.

First, the basic question — why are the naxals targeting the institutions of state, political parties and infrastructural projects? There are no ideological differences at the ground level between the state and the naxalites; it is pure lust for power by the naxalites, and the failure to provide good governance by the state. Over the last few decades, the state in these regions has abandoned its primary responsibility, resulting in governance deficit. Education, healthcare, rule of law, infrastructure and related issues of basic governance — the state failed to provide to the local people, due to either misgovernance or arrogance. As a result, the naxalites moved in.

Thanks to the late realisation, especially by the Union government (cutting across political parties), during the last decade, there is an increased emphasis by the state to move in. The state today is trying to recapture those areas which it had lost to the naxalites both in "territorial" terms and in terms of the "governance" process. 

Increased inputs on infrastructure, emphasis on building local institutions, improving the governance process — all the above are a part of the state's political strategy to ensure its presence in these areas. The CRPF is being used as a part of the above strategy to augment its political approach. Given the ground reality, and what has been conceded to the naxalites in the last few decades, the CRPF has no other option other than using coercive force either as a part of its Green Hunt or outside it. 

In this context, one could totally understand the criticisms over the Salwa Judum; though the idea of using civil society as a strategy has been used elsewhere in India (the Village Defence Committees in J&K, and the SULFA in Assam), Salwa Judum had come under severe criticism. Rightly so. Though the Salwa Judum process may have been a military success from the CRPF's perspective, it pitted people against the naxalites. Worse, it also showed the willingness of the state to abandon its primary responsibility to protect the people, and instead, making them as the first line of defence in a military strategy. Undoubtedly, the people and its institutions should be the first line of defence, but in political terms. Had the state only protected the institutions of civil society and ensured governance, the naxalites would have never entered these regions in the first place.

Should CBI Uncover The IB?

The myopic political regime in Delhi has not realized the significance of destroying institutions. Harass Gujarat government even if it means destroying India's security apparatus: the object of the Congress party is clear. 

The misuse of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by the UPA government has been repeatedly commented upon. This misuse is essentially for a political purpose. Not only has this seriously damaged the credibility of the CBI but has also lowered the level of professionalism in the organization. The gathering of evidence during investigation has seriously suffered. Investigations are increasingly becoming tainted with a political motive. The conviction rate in CBI cases has declined. 

The news reports that the CBI has been interrogating senior officers of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) assumes significance in this regard. The case in which the Intelligence Bureau officials have been investigated relates to the alleged encounter of Ishrat Jahan. Media reports and court documents available with regard to this case reveal that the IB through its intelligence gathering network, including electronic surveillance, received information that a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) module was active in western India in the year 2004 with the object of wanting to assassinate Gujarat Chief Minister, Narender Modi. In accordance with its own practice, the IB alerted the Gujarat police. It can be safely presumed that the central intelligence agency was also a part of the operation in which the four activists of the module were intercepted, and killed in an encounter with the police and security agencies. The Lashkar in its Lahore-based mouth-piece Ghazwa Times admitted to her being an LeT activist, paid homage to her martyrdom and took umbrage in removing her veil by the Indian police.

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Gujarat High Court by the mother of the deceased Ishrat. The Union of India was also arrayed as a respondent in the said petition. The government of India's affidavit in the said case strongly contested the contentions of the petition. It asserted that its agencies received intelligence inputs which were shared with the state government. All available evidence with the central government established that this was an LeT module which was active with the devious purpose of wanting to liquidate a prominent political leader in India. The national investigative agency was given an opportunity to interrogate the Pakistani- American David Hedley who was amongst the masterminds behind the 26/11 carnage at Mumbai. Hedley is believed to have told his interrogators that Ishrat was recruited by top Lashkar commander, Muzammil, and was a key Lashkar operative.

The political regime in Delhi saw an opportunity in the alleged encounter in which this LeT module was liquidated. The government of India decided to change its affidavit before the Gujarat High Court. The new affidavit almost disowned the intelligence inputs. The deponent of the affidavit states: "I say that it should be clear to all that such inputs do not constitute conclusive proof and it is for the government and the state police to act on such inputs. The central government is in no way concerned with such action nor does it condone or endorse any unjustified or excessive action". This assertion of the central government was politically motivated. It smelt an opportunity in the PIL in the Ishrat case. The volte face of the central government damages the consistent stand of the government of India that whereas "public order" and 'law and order' are a state subject, the battle against terrorism deals with the security of India and national sovereignty. It is therefore a shared responsibility of the centre and the state.

Chidambaram pilots biggest-ever heist of apex scale by IRS

By  Rohit Bansal 
05 June 2013 

Finance minister P Chidambaram has piloted the creation of 26 new positions called Principal Chief Commissioners of Income Tax (PCCIT) in the 'apex scale.'

Orders expanding the numbers of top guns by a dramatic number beyond SCPC were issued on June 1. This followed a general approval to Chidambaram's plan by the Union Cabinet on May 23. (Please click for copy of the Order: http://www.staffcorner. com/view.html?id=606001).

The 'apex scale' shall give these Indian Revenue Service (IRS) Officers the grade of Rs 80,000;so far reserved for full secretaries of the government of India, special secretaries, and heads of police and forest forces in the country, besides Members and Chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).

The lock-stock-and-barrel upgrade of IRS officers to the 'apex scale' is unprecedented in the history of tax administration (Historically inclined readers can tap the link on the Central Board of Direct Taxes site: http://incometaxindia.gov.in/HISTORY/PRE-1922.ASP).

Concurrently, an entire bunch of 191 Chief Commissioners of Income Tax (CCIT) have been upgraded to a higher grade called 'HAG+'from the pay scale of additional secretary (called HAG or 'higher administrative grade,' drawing Rs67,000-79,000)

In HAG+, ie, Rs75,500-80,000, the new salary of these 191 folks,will be within kissing distance of the 'apex scale' of Rs 80,000.

With 26 new positions in 'apex scale,' adding six CBDT Members and the Chairman,and 191 in HAG+, the IRS will have, with one executive order, over 225 officers at the top of the government's hierarchical pyramid; a situation that shall challenge the very basis of traditional dominance ascribed to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS).

Revenue Secretary Sumit Bose, an IAS officer, is the boss of the Chairman CBDT, as well as the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) and he too is in the 'apex scale'!

For context, only Chairman CBDT was in the 'apex scale' (pre-revised Rs 26,000 and now Rs 80,000) until the Six Central Pay Commission (SCPC) report came in. In the name of expanding career opportunities for non-IAS services, the SCPC upgraded CBDT Members too in the 'apex scale,' though only the Chairman came to be designated as an ex officio Special Secretary to the Government of India, reporting to the Revenue Secretary.

Those who were originally called CCIT now stand redesignated as Principal Commissioner of Income Tax (PCIT), a new nomenclature.

The total number of PCIT now approved is 300. These 300 PCITs will draw the HAG scale, Rs 67,000-Rs79,000, presently drawn by Additional Secretaries of the government of India.

So, if you are still not dizzy with the math, the total number of IRS folks benefitting from Chidambaram's largesse in 'apex scale,' HAG+, and HAG is a whopping 225+300=525.

No one in India Inc wants to grudge a taxman a faster climb to the Everest. But guess how that helps the politician? Simply, it expands the zone of consideration for every top job like, say, Member (investigation) CBDT, or even Chairman, CBDT. In the new dispensation, there are 26 PCCITs and 6 Members who will be in the same grade and therefore even the junior-most among them, if he/she were the darling of a finance minister, can be seated as Chairman without any one having a case before the Central Administrative Tribunal for supersession! By rule, an officer only has the right to the scale that his immediate junior draws. The choice of which post to consign him/her to remains within exclusive jurisdiction of the executive.

In the hands of an ingenious FM, this can recreate the encore of what the country saw in the Railway Board where an officer called Mahesh Kumar is alleged to have bid Rs 10 crore via the nephew of the then Rail Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal only to become Member (Electrical).

The corresponding damage in this sort of flattening of the pyramid is that seniormost officers stop listening to each other. More often than not expect all those in the 'apex grade' to stop attending coordination meetings where an officer of lower year of allotment in the IRS shall convene summon them as Member/Chairman, CBDT.

Iran port may give wings to India's ambitions in S Asia

June 03, 2013 

Developing the Chabahar port in Iran addresses India [ Images ]’s geopolitical as well as economic challenges, says Jyoti Malhotra 

Last month, the Indian leadership woke from its ten-year slumber, dusted the files, smothered a yawn at the Cabinet meeting and finally sanctioned $100 million to be spent on the upgradation of the Chabahar port in Iran. In 2003, the project had been discussed when then president of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, had come calling to explore options on securing the region post the terrorist events of September 11, 2001. 

Now, as the United States prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan next year, Chabahar has become a key piece in a chess match in which nations play shadowy games for mercenary self-interest as well as the selective consolidation of the other’s sphere of influence. 

Chabahar was a fishing port even in 1613, when the British and the Portuguese jockeyed here for maritime superiority, keenly aware that its location just off the Persian Gulf -- and the Straits of Hormuz -- was a significant asset. (As much as 17 per cent of the world’s oil passes through the Straits, which if Iran ever shuts down, as it sometimes threatens to, would raise the price of oil by 50 per cent.) 

To properly understand the geostrategic location of Chabahar, note that only 74 km and further up the Makran coast is Gwadar, a second port in Pakistan that has been jointly developed by the Port of Singapore Authority and the China Harbour Engineering Co Ltd since 2007. 

Singapore pulled out in 2012, having spent some $50 million, citing the Pakistan government’s inability to abide by the contract (Pakistan, in its defence, cited a Supreme Court order which prohibited them from transferring land to a foreign company). The Chinese, always the majority partner, have spent $198 million out of $248 million so far. 

With Singapore exiting from Gwadar, it seemed that the penny finally dropped in South Block. The Chinese were no longer coming, that war cry was good for black-and-white movies; they were already here, right in your neighbourhood, right under your nose. In any case, there are no rewards for sustained navel-gazing in the brutal world of realpolitik. If India was going to be so self-absorbed in its politics that it had no time to ponder over China’s expanded outreach in South Asia, then that would be India’s problem. 

When the penny dropped and Rip Van Winkle awoke, it seemed that in the decade since Khatami had come to Delhi [Images ] to discuss his philosophy of civilisations, the Chinese had cast a tantalising net of economic linkages across the length and breadth of South Asia. 

The basic unit of temptation was the loan-at-very-low-interest, almost too good to be true. The Chinese were becoming the self-appointed bankers of South Asia, quietly creeping up with the mission of becoming the go-to people, thereby enhancing the dependencies of nations. The promise of transforming these poor countries through cheap money was the new opium of their masses. 

Take advantage of Israeli innovation and Indian jugaad

02 June 2013 


It may be just two decades of formal diplomatic ties, but India and Israel have come a long way in cementing their relationship. In an interaction with the senior editorial staff of The Pioneer, Alon Ushpiz, the Israeli Ambassador, discusses ways to strengthen ties with India, along with issues ranging from the Syrian civil war to Iran and Palestine

The general perception here is that the India-Israel relationship is primarily about strategic, defence ties. Please tell us about the areas in which the two countries are working together.

As we are celebrating the 21st anniversary of our diplomatic ties, I must say it’s a unique relationship. It did not start as a normal one, but I think both of us — Indians and Israelis — are tremendously proud of what we have achieved in the past 21 years. I believe this is due to a lot of factors. The most important being the chemistry between Indians and Israelis, and believe me it’s a close one. The second thing that I find quite impressive is the ability of the two Governments — even before they had smooth diplomatic relations — to, first, define and understand the compatibility between needs and solutions on both sides, and, second, to be able to look beyond the immediate problems and challenges and assess the strategic issues that we have to and we should work together.

The two countries are today working together in six-seven fields. First is defence, followed by agriculture. Then comes the issue of civilian trade. In 2011, we had for the first time crossed $5 billion of trade which was fairly balanced. The year 2012 saw a bit decline, but we are in the right direction and we can take it in the course of three to five years from $5 billion to $10-15 billion. In the fourth position is internal security. It needs to be understood that India has its challenges and Israel has its own; Tel Aviv has its expertise and knowledge, and Delhi has its own. Whenever we have interactions with your people and these are intensive interactions, there are so many things we learn from Indians.

Then comes the issue of water conservation and desalinisation. Israeli innovation in this field comes from necessity. There are places in Israel where we have 8 mm of annual rainfall and India too has regions which often suffer from drought-like conditions and get extremely low rainfall. Here I would like to emphasise that we in Israel have, through technology, been able to enlarge the pie, the pie of water, whether it is through the cost-effective desalinisation process or recycling of drought water (75 per cent of our sewage water goes back to agriculture which is the highest figure in the world) or even water management. You can, thus, enlarge your pie of water. Likewise, we can work closely in the field of energy as well.

If you look at all these projects we are trying to work together, I think at the core of each one of them is the concept of innovation. Our economy has moved from agriculture and small, medium-sized industries to service economy, which is primarily based on R&D and innovation. I, along with my colleagues in the embassy, spend quite some time with Indians who either do business or do innovation or study in one of these fields, and I must admit that I am quite impressed by the qualifications of these argumentative Indians and their hunger for improvement. So there is a whole scope of collaboration here.

As for agriculture, I think both in Israel and in India, it goes way beyond producing food. It is something that has a cultural meaning. Nevertheless, providing food to 1.2 billion people is a serious challenge. We have gone through something similar, not because of size but because of scarcity of resources. And we have been able to reach high levels of productivity in horticulture, dairy, poultry, fish, etc. And once again our ability to do these things are based not only on the proficiency and diligence of the Israeli farmer, which is something that India also has in abundance, but also on our ability to turn agriculture into a technology-oriented profession. Israel and India can work closely in this field. In fact, we have a three-year working plan in 10 States, based on which we will establish 29 centres of excellence. And the idea behind these centres is to introduce the Israeli agriculture technology in India. We don’t come here and say, “This is what we think you should do.” You come and tell us, “We think this is what we should do. Do you have the applicable technology for this?” So we listen to your demands and if we have the technology, we bring it to India; and you Indians — Indian farmers, scientists, et al — do the adaptations. We do not do copy paste. Whatever can be done in the Negev, in the southern part of Israel, does not necessarily apply to Rajasthan, and certainly not to Tamil Nadu.

So, as of today, we are working in Haryana, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. In many cases, each one of these States has two to five or even six centres and each centre is dedicated to one crop.

Iran remains a challenge for Israel. How do you plan to deal with the problem?

The militant web

By Christopher Anzalone 
June 4, 2013

A recently published jihadi Internet magazine, Azan: A Call to Jihad, produced by a group calling itself the "Taliban of Khurasan," has led to speculation about disappearing lines between Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Afghan Taliban, and other affiliated groups in the region. The numerous "Taliban" groups operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, from the TTP umbrella movement to factions of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, pay allegiance to Mullah Muhammad Umar, the founder of the original Afghan Taliban movement. However, the degree to which this rhetoric translates into active cooperation and coordination on the ground remains hotly debated. Using available primary sources, it is possible to sketch out the complex militant milieu in Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal regions, and get a picture of the types of cooperation and inter-group dynamics at play among the different organizations. 

The TTP, for example, has forged a close alliance with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), an Uzbek militant group that has had a presence inside Pakistan's Pashtun tribal regions for over a decade. Having previously been aligned with the Afghan Taliban, the IMU shifted many of its fighters and senior leadership to Pakistan following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. In late 2003, the IMU's leader, Uzbek preacher Tahir Yuldashev, met with his followers in Waziristan and announced that he was dedicating himself to fight the Pakistani state due to its targeting of the IMU's local allies and protectors. Since then, the IMU has integrated into segments of the local societies that have sheltered it for over a decade. It has forged alliances with local militant outfits such as the TTP, with which it has carried out joint attacks on Pakistani state targets, though it also carries out independent operations. 

Most recently, the IMU claimed responsibility for the May 12 "martyrdom operation" that targeted Pakistani police in Quetta, which it said was carried out in retaliation for an attack by the Pakistani military on one of the IMU's "jihad schools." And one of the most successful joint operations was the April 2012 attack on Pakistan's Bannu prison, an operation which freed nearly 400 prisoners. Among those freed was Adnan Rashid, a former member of the Pakistani military who had been imprisoned for his role in an assassination attempt on then-Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf. Rashid has since been featured in media productions produced by both the TTP's Umar Media and the IMU's Jundullah Studio. 

Both the TTP and IMU have acknowledged the groups' integration, as well as some instances of intermarriage between non-Pashtun/non-Pakistani members of the IMU and local Pashtuns,including the daughters of one of the IMU's most important local patrons, Hajji Nur Islam. In addition to drawing upon a pool of foreign fighters from Central Asia, Europe, and the Arab world, the IMU recruits local Pashtuns in both Pakistan and Afghanistan

An Idiot's Argument

' After 9/11, the US created its NCTC and, since, had no further terrorist attacks on its soil; ergo, we must have the NCTC, and there will be no further terrorist attacks in India as well.' 


Another Conference of Chief Ministers on Internal Security will be convened on June 5, 2013, this time in the shadow of the slaughter of political leaders and cadres at Darbha (Chhattisgarh) by the Maoists. A voluminous report on internal security has been ritually compiled by the union ministry of home affairs (UMHA), and will be circulated among participants— to what conceivable purpose, it is not clear, since it is unlikely to be read quite so quickly as to inform discussions during the Conference. A higher purpose is likely intended.

It is also not clear whether the UMHA will display the crass opportunism to push its long-standing effort to secure the approval of the Chief Ministers for its cherished National Counter-terrorism Centre (NCTC) on the specious grounds that the establishment of this grand edifice will help ‘prevent’ future Darbhas, but the centre has not been above such mean gambits in the past. It is useful, nevertheless, to recall that the establishment of the NCTC remains high among the political priorities of influential segments within the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and of the UMHA, and has been part of the agenda of earlier and important conferences on internal security. Indeed, this was at the core of the agenda of the earlier Conference of Chief Minsiters, on April 15, 2013, which, in a palpable snub to the UMHA, many invitees chose not to attend. 

In the run-up to the April 15 Conference, union minister of home affairs Sushil Kumar Shinde, in his pitch for support to the NCTC, told the nation, after the proposed agency had purportedly been divested of all (operational) powers impinging on the Constitution’s federal principles, “There is nothing to oppose in the NCTC now.”

He was both right and wrong in ways he may not have intended. Right, because not even the terrorists and their state sponsors would find anything objectionable in the proposed NCTC, if ever they had any apprehensions with regard to this bogey— it is and has always been a paper tiger. Wrong, because all the efforts to bulldoze the NCTC through the opposition of the states and through Parliament, are no more than a pathetic charade intended to massage a few political egos and to project a false image of ‘responsiveness’ that adds nothing to counter-terrorism (CT) capabilities and, in fact, would result in their significant diminution in the near term. These considerations give ample reason to oppose the very idea of the NCTC as it is being applied to India.

This line of reasoning, explored repeatedly elsewhere in the past, is yet to find traction in political and public debate, where the promise of the NCTC, which, we are told, will be “like the US NCTC”, continues to seduce the majority of those who refuse to engage even in minimal due diligence to examine the realities of the US CT experience in the post 9/11 years.

Discussions on the proposed National Counter-terrorism Centre (NCTC), some with the fairly eminent, but most within relatively modest echelons of government and ‘civil society’, spike after each major terrorist attack, even as such incidents are cynically exploited by the centre to push its agenda to bring the NCTC project off the back burner, where it had rightly been pushed. The overwhelming thrust of much of the advocacy of the NCTC has, largely, been a fairly simple argument that can crudely be summarized as follows. After 9/11, the US created its NCTC and, since, had no further terrorist attacks on its soil; ergo, we must have the NCTC, and there will be no further terrorist attacks in India as well.

This is, to put it bluntly, an idiot’s argument.

Even before the Boston Marathon bombing, apart from the first proposition— that the US created NCTC after 9/11— every succeeding element of this argument is demonstrably false, and has been clearly falsified elsewhere. Yet, almost every discussion within the echelons of power— including the leaderships of the states where qualified opposition to the idea has been tentatively offered— begins with an unspoken premise that the NCTC is necessary, and that the only dispute is over its powers, structure and control. The exception to these discussions comes from actual practitioners— the more knowledgeable in the intelligence and enforcement establishment— many of whom (privately) admit that this new institution will do little, if anything, to improve operational capabilities.

Taliban’s Spring Offensive and the Consequences

June 3, 2013 

On 24 May, the Taliban launched a large-scale attack through a suicide car bomb outside a compound of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Kabul. The attack came eight days after six American soldiers and civilians and nine Afghans were killed in a similar suicide car bombing in Kabul. Two major attacks in Kabul in such a short span have shaken the security set up in Afghanistan. The peaceful transition by 2014 looks threatened by the Taliban offensive and could discredit the process of reconciliation and transition. 

Earlier, the Taliban announced that this year's spring offensive 'Khalid bin Waleed' would begin on April 28. The Taliban stressed that they would focus on suicide assaults on coalition installations, use ‘special military tactics’ and ‘collective martyrdom operations,’ as well as ‘insider attacks’ or ‘green-on-blue’ attacks.1 Taliban has traditionally announced its spring offensive every year highlighting their focus for each summer. To recall, the 2012 spring offensive was named ‘Al Farooq’ and focused on targeting Afghan security personnel and government officials while the spring offensive in 2011 ‘Al Badar’ focused on "military centers, places of gatherings, airbases, ammunition and logistical military convoys of the foreign invaders in all parts of the country”2

While the previous Taliban spring offensives were met with the international coalition forces launching their own intense summer campaigns, this year, however, the coalition is winding down its military campaign. The additional 33,000 troops of the 2010 military surge3 has already gone back home and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are being gradually put in charge of operations. Sharp increase in violent incidents in the first four months of 2013 is an indication of things to follow in the year. According to the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, the increase in violence in 2013 has been dramatic. There were 2,331 attacks by Taliban in the first quarter, compared with 1,581 in the same period last year, an increase of 47 percent4. There is also a significant increase in number of encounters and IED attacks. IED attacks have accounted for 55.8 % (24 out of total 43) coalition war casualties this year, an increase from 42% (132 out of total 312) war casualties last year.5

Another significant factor being witnessed this year is the reduced number of coalition deaths and a dramatic increase in ANSF soldiers getting killed in encounters, reflective of the fact that more and more ANSF teams are taking part in active operations. In the first quarter of 2013, Taliban attacks against international military forces made up only 4 percent, compared with 73 percent against the ANSF (the rest are against civilians). 1,183 Afghan soldiers were killed in the year ending March 20, 2013, compared with 841 in the year ending March 20, 2012, an increase of 40 %. On the other hand, international coalition casualties have reduced from 183 for period January-May 2012 to only 66 till 26 May 2013 this year with US casualties being reduced from 135 to 53 for the same period.6

Reconciliation talks do not seem to be moving forward. There has been stalemate in talks with Taliban since 2012, partly due to the reason that there has been no agreement on transferring Taliban captives from the Guantanamo detention facility to a form of house arrest in Qatar and partly over Qatar’s failure to fully assure the US that the detainees would not escape custody.7 Although President Karzai was successful in talks with Qatar on the issue of Taliban opening office in Qatar in March this year8, there is hardly any forward movement. 
Taliban’s Game Plan 

The game plan appears quite clear. With the coalition military campaign coming to a closure and the ANSF responsible for more than 80 % of the operations,9 the Taliban sees this as a favourable opportunity to re- assert its influence in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s recent offensive posture may have been influenced by multiple factors. First, there has been a growing discontent within the Taliban regarding reports of rapprochement with the senior Taliban leadership. Second, the Taliban realizes that it is timely to discredit the coalition and the ANSF efforts in stabilizing the security situation and thus would help in gaining moral and physical ascendancy before 2014. The Taliban has also realized that the present situation is ideal to regain influence in areas lost over the past two years. 

Thus, the Taliban, in its latest spring offensive has clearly displayed two distinct features. First, it is attempting to regain its foothold in areas where it had lost influence while seeking opportunities to expand its influence in newer areas. Secondly, there seems to be a definite focus towards conducting attacks on high profile targets. Some of the recent high profile attacks include:

Tiananmen Square, Then and Now

JUN 4, 2012 

Twenty-three years ago today, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) violently cleared Beijing's Tiananmen Square of protesters, ending a six-week demonstration that had called for democracy and widespread political reform. The protests began in April of 1989, gaining support as initial government reactions included concessions. Martial law was declared on May 20, troops were mobilized, and from the night of June 3 through the early morning of June 4, the PLA pushed into Tiananmen Square, crushing some protesters and firing on many others. The exact number killed may never be known, but estimates range from several hundred to several thousand. Today, China's censors are blocking Internet access to the terms "six four," "23," "candle," and "never forget," broadening extensive efforts to silence talk about the 23rd anniversary of China's bloody June 4 crackdown. Here is that story, in images and words, Please share it widely. [50 photos

A Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing's Cangan Boulevard in Tiananmen Square, on on June 5, 1989. The man, calling for an end to violence and bloodshed against pro-democracy demonstrators, was pulled away by bystanders, and the tanks continued on their way. More on this iconic image and the still-anonymous "tank man" here. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener)

A student displays a banner with one of the slogans chanted by the crowd of some 200,000 pouring into Tiananmen Square, on April 22, 1989 in Beijing. They were attempting to participate in the funeral ceremony of former Chinese Communist Party leader and liberal reformer Hu Yaobang, during an unauthorized demonstration to mourn his death. His death in April triggered an unprecedented wave of pro-democracy demonstrations. (Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images) #

Thousands of students from local colleges and universities march to Tiananmen Square, Beijing, on May 4, 1989, to demonstrate for government reform. (AP Photo/Mikami) #

Students from Beijing University stage a huge demonstration in Tiananmen Square as they start an unlimited hunger strike as the part of mass pro-democracy protest against the Chinese government, on May 18, 1989. (Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images) #

The Emerging Strategic Triangle in Indo-Pacific Asia

By Minghao Zhao
June 4, 2013 


For China’s new premier Li Keqiang, the choice of India for his first foreign trip was a smart one. Li went to New Delhi amid a public outcry in India over the territorial spat with China, and then visited Pakistan at a time when a new government was preparing to take office. The context meant the timing was meaningful. 

Li took pains to make it clear to India that “we are not a threat to each other, nor do we seek to contain each other,” and pledged to open China’s markets to Indian products to address the trade imbalance and boost commerce to $100 billion a year. The premier also sought to reassure India over the vexed boundary issue and calledon the countries to use their wisdom to find “a fair and mutually acceptable solution.” The challenges are many, but the strong political will of the Chinese leadership to keep the bilateral relationship on the right track deserves recognition. 

What Beijing will find disturbing, however, is the Indian public’s growing wariness towards China. A recent poll by the Lowy Institute in Australia suggested that more than 80% of Indians view China as a security threat, even though China has become India’s largest trading partner. Moreover, 65% agree that India should join with other countries to limit China’s influence, although 63% would like to strengthen relations with China. 

Australia may be the country that does the best job observing and assessing the evolving dynamics between Asia’s two giants, China and India. Chinese strategists keep a very close eye on the research outlets and debates within Australia. One of the most powerful intellectual innovations by Australian international relations scholars in recent years is the concept of “Indo-Pacific Asia”. It is a concept that has inspired many Chinese strategic thinkers and planners to begin to look at China’s grand strategy across a wide Indo-Pacific swath. 

And it is true that a power game of great significance has unfolded in Indo-Pacific Asia. The United States, India, Japan and other players are seeking to collaborate to build an “Indo-Pacific order” that is congenial to their long-term interests. China is not necessarily excluded from this project, and it should seek a seat at the table and help recast the strategic objectives and interaction norms that bind all participating states. 

The biggest challenge in Indo-Pacific Asia is the grand accommodation among one hegemon and two rapidly rising giants. The pressing task for China, the U.S. and India is to build and sustain substantial and purposeful dialogues to find viable mechanisms for communicating their interests and concerns to each other, managing the impending rivalry and generating synergy for regional stability and prosperity. 

The deployment of U.S. Marines to Darwin, a location that can be viewed as a crossroads between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, indicated that the U.S. is adopting a new two-ocean strategic framework, and is part of the U.S. military pivot to the region. 

A U.S. strategic guidance document released in January 2012 emphasized “the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia” and specifically highlighted that “the United States is also investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region,” echoing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s encouragement of India not only to “Look East”, but also to “Go East”. 

Undoubtedly, China does not want to see India become the linchpin of the U.S. alliance system in the Indo-Pacific region. In June 2012, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted, “America is at a turning point. After a decade of war, we are developing a new defense strategy…In particular, we will expand our military partnerships and our presence in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia. Defense cooperation with India is a linchpin in this strategy.” 

However, neither the U.S. nor China should make the mistake of assuming that there is a natural Indo-U.S. alliance vis-à-vis China. Since independence, India has pursued strategic autonomy as a guarantee for its leading role in world affairs. Most Chinese observers are very confident that India will stick to that creed and will manage its relations with both China and the U.S. effectively. 

Why China Is Not the Solution to the Korean Crisis

June 03, 2013
By Mitchell Lerner

Beijing calls the shots in North Korea? History shows that thinking is misguided. 

As tensions on the Korean Peninsula have grown, much of the relevant conversation within the United States has focused on China, the one nation that, according to many American policymakers, can control the North Korean leadership. “China does hold the key to this problem,” explainedSenator John McCain, who described the Chinese “failure to rein in what could be a catastrophic situation,” as “disappointing.” Many otherpolicymakers and media outlets agree

This thinking is, however, fundamentally flawed on numerous levels. To begin with, it abdicates American leadership, deferring to a rival in an area of great strategic and economic interest. It also embraces facile solutions at a time when difficult decisions are needed. The U.S. may not have many good options on the Korean peninsula, but the nation’s long-term interests require its leaders to make some hard choices, rather than fall back on rhetorical nostrums that distract and delay without offering any substantive vision. Most significantly, however, the current approach suffers from a fundamentally flawed understanding of the true nature of the Sino-North Korean relationship. 

Over the past decade, the world has finally begun to gain insights into DPRK policymaking, largely through materials obtained from former communist bloc states, most of which have been collected by the North Korea International Documentation Project. On a most basic level, these materials do confirm that China has been both North Korea’s most consistent ally and a vital provider of assistance in many forms. At the same time, these archival documents also suggest that the Sino-North Korean relationship has always been much more complex than Mao’s famous claim that the nations were “as close as lips and teeth” suggests. 

These new materials point to four additional aspects of the relationship that policymakers must also consider. They suggest, first, that the alliance is rooted in strategic self-interest rather than strong fraternal or ideological bonds; second, that the closeness of the relationship has waxed and waned dramatically based on changing internal conditions and the evolving international environment; third, that DPRK leaders have often seen China as too expansionist, too assertive, and too unreliable to be fully trusted; and finally, that throughout the past half-century, the DPRK leadership has firmly and consistently resisted Chinese efforts to influence their policymaking. 

These realities were on display as early as the Korean War. In the months preceding the North’s surprise attack against South Korea in 1950, China strongly discouraged the DPRK from launching a military campaign and refused Kim Il Sung’s suggestions for greater intelligence collaboration. A resentful Kim thenfailed to provide China with information about his war preparations, and did not even send a representative to brief the Chinese until three days after the attack. Mao was furious, venting that, “They are supposed to be our next-door neighbor, but they did not consult with us before taking military action, and they did not even notify us of the outbreak of the war until now.” The Chinese, of course, later intervened to save the North, but they did so because of Soviet pressure and a desire to protect and expand their own influence, not because of any genuine commitment to Kim. For his part, Kim was also reluctant to accept the Chinese as equal partners for fear of sacrificing his political control, leading to tensions over strategy and decisionsranging from the organization of the military command through control of railroads to the specific tactics to be implemented. In these cases, Kim almost always had to defer to the Chinese, given his need for their military support and Josef Stalin’s frequent interventions on the Chinese side. Nevertheless, Kim clearly resented the way the great powers made critical decisions without regard to his wishes, steadily fought against allowing his patrons to control internal matters, and constantly sought to minimize Chinese influence. 

The immediate postwar years offer similar examples of how Chinese aid and support did not translate into policymaking influence. During these years China provided massive economic aid and delivered thousands of Chinese soldiers to supply critical labor power as Pyongyang set out to rebuild a country that had been ravaged by war. Nevertheless, relations between North Korea and China remained tense, especially whenever Kim perceived potential Chinese threats to his domestic sovereignty. To guard against encroachment, Kim significantly downplayed China’s contribution in the war, stressing instead the internal leadership that he had provided as the decisive factor. He also tried to avoid Chinese diplomats in Pyongyang, a task simplified by the fact that China had recalled its ambassador in 1952 and did not reappoint one until 1955.