17 July 2013

Keeping the NSA in Perspective ***

July 16, 2013
By George Friedman

In June 1942, the bulk of the Japanese fleet sailed to seize the Island of Midway. Had Midway fallen, Pearl Harbor would have been at risk and U.S. submarines, unable to refuel at Midway, would have been much less effective. Most of all, the Japanese wanted to surprise the Americans and draw them into a naval battle they couldn't win.

The Japanese fleet was vast. The Americans had two carriers intact in addition to one that was badly damaged. The United States had only one advantage: It had broken Japan's naval code and thus knew a great deal of the country's battle plan. In large part because of this cryptologic advantage, a handful of American ships devastated the Japanese fleet and changed the balance of power in the Pacific permanently.

This -- and the advantage given to the allies by penetrating German codes -- taught the Americans about the centrality of communications code breaking. It is reasonable to argue that World War II would have ended much less satisfactorily for the United States had its military not broken German and Japanese codes. Where the Americans had previously been guided to a great extent by Henry Stimson's famous principle that "gentlemen do not read each other's mail," by the end of World War II they were obsessed with stealing and reading all relevant communications.

The National Security Agency evolved out of various post-war organizations charged with this task. In 1951, all of these disparate efforts were organized under the NSA to capture and decrypt communications of other governments around the world -- particularly those of the Soviet Union, which was ruled by Josef Stalin, and of China, which the United States was fighting in 1951. How far the NSA could go in pursuing this was governed only by the extent to which such communications were electronic and the extent to which the NSA could intercept and decrypt them.

The amount of communications other countries sent electronically surged after World War II yet represented only a fraction of their communications. Resources were limited, and given that the primary threat to the United States was posed by nation-states, the NSA focused on state communications. But the principle on which the NSA was founded has remained, and as the world has come to rely more heavily on electronic and digital communication, the scope of the NSA's commission has expanded.

What drove all of this was Pearl Harbor. The United States knew that the Japanese were going to attack. They did not know where or when. The result was disaster. All American strategic thinking during the Cold War was built around Pearl Harbor -- the deep fear that the Soviets would launch a first strike that the United States did not know about. The fear of an unforeseen nuclear attack gave the NSA leave to be as aggressive as possible in penetrating not only Soviet codes but also the codes of other nations. You don't know what you don't know, and given the stakes, the United States became obsessed with knowing everything it possibly could.

In order to collect data about nuclear attacks, you must also collect vast amounts of data that have nothing to do with nuclear attacks. The Cold War with the Soviet Union had to do with more than just nuclear exchanges, and the information on what the Soviets were doing -- what governments they had penetrated, who was working for them -- was a global issue. But you couldn't judge what was important and what was unimportant until after you read it. Thus the mechanics of assuaging fears about a "nuclear Pearl Harbor" rapidly devolved into a global collection system, whereby vast amounts of information were collected regardless of their pertinence to the Cold War.

There was nothing that was not potentially important, and a highly focused collection strategy could miss vital things. So the focus grew, the technology advanced and the penetration of private communications logically followed. This was not confined to the United States. The Soviet Union, China, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, India and any country with foreign policy interests spent a great deal on collecting electronic information. Much of what was collected on all sides was not read because far more was collected than could possibly be absorbed by the staff. Still, it was collected. It became a vast intrusion mitigated only by inherent inefficiency or the strength of the target's encryption.

Justified Fear

The Pearl Harbor dread declined with the end of the Cold War -- until Sept. 11, 2001. In order to understand 9/11's impact, a clear memory of our own fears must be recalled. As individuals, Americans were stunned by 9/11 not only because of its size and daring but also because it was unexpected. Terrorist attacks were not uncommon, but this one raised another question: What comes next? Unlike Timothy McVeigh, it appeared that al Qaeda was capable of other, perhaps greater acts of terrorism. Fear gripped the land. It was a justified fear, and while it resonated across the world, it struck the United States particularly hard. 

Part of the fear was that U.S. intelligence had failed again to predict the attack. The public did not know what would come next, nor did it believe that U.S. intelligence had any idea. A federal commission on 9/11 was created to study the defense failure. It charged that the president had ignored warnings. The focus in those days was on intelligence failure. The CIA admitted it lacked the human sources inside al Qaeda. By default the only way to track al Qaeda was via their communications. It was to be the NSA's job.

As we have written, al Qaeda was a global, sparse and dispersed network. It appeared to be tied together by burying itself in a vast new communications network: the Internet. At one point, al Qaeda had communicated by embedding messages in pictures transmitted via the Internet. They appeared to be using free and anonymous Hotmail accounts. To find Japanese communications, you looked in the electronic ether. To find al Qaeda's message, you looked on the Internet.

But with a global, sparse and dispersed network you are looking for at most a few hundred men in the midst of billions of people, and a few dozen messages among hundreds of billions. And given the architecture of the Internet, the messages did not have to originate where the sender was located or be read where the reader was located. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. The needle can be found only if you are willing to sift the entire haystack. That led to PRISM and other NSA programs.

The mission was to stop any further al Qaeda attacks. The means was to break into their communications and read their plans and orders. To find their plans and orders, it was necessary to examine all communications. The anonymity of the Internet and the uncertainties built into its system meant that any message could be one of a tiny handful of messages. Nothing could be ruled out. Everything was suspect. This was reality, not paranoia.

Operation Surya Hope

It was a disaster waiting to happen. And strike it did with cataclysmic ferocity, on a wet and windy day on 16 June, leaving over a hundred thousand people stranded in narrow valleys with base altitude of about 10,000 feet. The hapless pilgrims found themselves in an extremely hostile environment, cut off from the rest of the world without food, water and shelter. Surrounding the valleys were majestic snowcapped peaks touching heights of over 20,000 feet.

Millions of devotees each year undertake the holy pilgrimage circuit of the ‘Char Dham’ comprising of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath along with Hemkund Sahib in Uttarakhand. This year was no different. However, very heavy rains along with cloudbursts on June 16 caused the rivers to swell and in a short span of time, led to unimaginable death and destruction.

The area affected by floods covered an area of about 40,000 square km in Uttarakashi, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Bageshwar and Pithoragarh districts of Uttarakhand and 7 districts of Uttar Pradesh. However, it was in Uttarakhand that the elements wreaked havoc, the worst affected places being Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Gaurikund, Hemkund and Jyotirmath – the very area of the ‘Char Dham’ pilgrimage.These holy sites were located in three narrow valleys, and the national highways that traversed through them, viz NH 58, 87, 108, 109,119 and 124 crossed through very formidable terrain (see map below).

Fig: Coloured lines indicate extensively damaged highways.

In the Gangotri Valley, there was extensive damage to NH 108 between Uttarkashi and Gangotri. In the Central Sector, landslides blocked NH 58 between Srinagar and Rudraprayag. Beyond Rudraprayag, NH 109 to the West led to the Kedarnath Valley and further Eastwards, NH 58 led on to Badrinath, the latter axis further bifurcating to Hemkund Sahib.In the Kedarnath Valley, landslides had washed away many stretches of NH 109, the damage being extensive at GauriKund. In the Badrinath Valley, many stretches remained blocked between Govindghat and Badrinath. In addition, the overflowing rivers washed away most of the bridges, effectively isolating the hapless stranded pilgrims. In this situation, when hope was all but lost, the Indian Army launched perhaps the most extensive rescue operation in the nation’s history, and in the next two weeks, successfully evacuated pilgrims, some from the most inaccessible of places, despite inclement weather conditions. The rescue operation, led by the Commander in Chief of the Indian Army’s Central Command, Lt Gen Anil Chait, was aptly termed ‘Operation Surya Hope’, to provide succor, hope, humanitarian assistance and logistic needs in Badrinath, Hemkund and Kedarnath regions.

Even before the civil administration could comprehend the magnitude of the disaster, the Army swung into action. On 17 June, the Area Commander at Bareilly, a three star General, ordered the move of his headquarter to Dehradun and within a day was fully functional to coordinate the rescue operation. Simultaneously, unit commanders moved forward with their troops to the inaccessible valleys and they too were in location by 18 June to begin and oversee the largest humanitarian mission undertaken by the Army since Independence.As a first step, the Army immediately established kiosks at Harsil, Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, Joshimath, Govindghat, Hanuman Chetti and Dharchula to provide information, medical aid, food and water to stranded and hungry pilgrims. Simultaneously, the Army launched a dozen reconnaissance parties to inaccessible areas to obtain firsthand information of the situation. In addition, the Army established a dozen medical aid posts at Rudraprayag, Joshimath, Govindghat and Dharchula to provide immediate life saving medical assistance along with an emergency medical helpline to provide medical advice to the stranded pilgrims.

While the print and visual media documented the relief operations in detail, what has not caught the attention of the public is the comprehensive and meticulous planning that went into the execution of ‘Surya Hope’. The initial phase was devoted to concentration of troops in the affected valleys for evacuation support, carrying out reconnaissance and air evacuation of isolated pockets. Alongside, the stranded pilgrims were concentrated at specific points where food, water, shelter and medical assistance was provided prior to dedicated air evacuation. The army also inducted soldiers by helicopters and stationed them at intervals of 2 km to enable them to contact isolated people. In an act of great sensitivity, a large number of satellite phones inducted into the area enabled many stranded pilgrims to get in touch with their families.

India’s nuclear doctrine and capability: Some answers

Manpreet Sethi

IT has been fifteen years since India conducted five nuclear tests. This period has been spent operationalising the country’s nuclear doctrine in order to establish credible deterrence. This has meant building certain capabilities to address the country’s threat perceptions. The most evident of these have been the testing in 2012 of Agni V, a ballistic missile of the range of 5000 kms, and the launch in 2009 of INS Arihant, the nuclear submarine.

Both these capabilities are still some distance from being inducted into operational service. Comments, however, have appeared (such as in Daily Star of June 9, 2013) expressing apprehensions over what the capability would mean for “small nations like Bangladesh in the Asia Pacific,” or that through these India is looking for “great power status” which it might then be tempted to abuse.

These questions arise from an inadequate understanding of India’s nuclear doctrine and the role that the country envisages for its nuclear weapons. India entrusts its nuclear weapons with the narrow task of deterring the threat of use or use of nuclear weapons. Deterrence is based on communicating the message that any nuclear use against India would invoke massive retaliation since India eschews first use of the weapon. It is also clearly stated that India would not use or threaten to use its nuclear weapons against states that don’t possess these weapons and are not aligned with other nuclear weapon powers.

Not all nuclear-armed states so clearly define the purpose of their nuclear weapon or the circumstances of their use. But, India has been transparent by placing a written doctrine in the public domain. Encapsulating the philosophy behind the nation’s nuclear strategy, it provides pointers on the nature and size of the nuclear arsenal, including delivery vehicles, the kind of command and control systems, and the type of retaliation and targeting options.

Another unique aspect of India’s nuclear doctrine is that while operationalising nuclear deterrence, it nevertheless identifies “global, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament” as a “national security objective.” This is not rhetorical. India believes that its national interest best lies in a world without nuclear weapons. Until such a world emerges, however, nuclear deterrence becomes necessary to safeguard the nation against nuclear coercion or blackmail.

Rejection of the concept of nuclear war fighting and the need of the weapon purely for defence allows India to accept credible minimum deterrence (CMD) and no first use (NFU) as the defining principles of its doctrine. Both these need to be examined in some detail to understand why India is building the capability it is.

CMD mandates a capability that remains at the minimum level and yet credibly signals that nuclear use against India would invoke retaliation that would be punishing enough for the aggressor to negate any gains he makes through first use. It is a strategy that deters by the promise of punishment, and punishing modern urban conglomerates does not require a huge arsenal. Therefore, India’s focus has not been on increasing nuclear warheads, but on developing delivery systems of requisite ranges, accuracy and reliability that can reach targets whose loss would be unacceptable to the aggressor. The continued testing of missiles, including Agni V, is with this objective in view.

The second pillar of India’s nuclear strategy is no first use (NFU) or a retaliation only posture. Since India does not intend using the nuclear weapon for coercion or territorial ambitions, it refuses to carry the burden of first use. Rather, it maintains deterrence by conveying that while India will not use the weapon first, in case the adversary does so, India would respond to inflict punishment.

This approach reinforces CMD since it does not require India to build a large force capable of fighting with nuclear weapons. Nor is it necessary to keep forces on hair trigger alert with an elaborate and edgy delegated command and control system — capabilities that are prone to accidental or unauthorised use. The NFU, therefore, contributes to stability by steering clear of nuclear brinkmanship.

Army: The reliable rescuer

Jul 17, 2013

The recent tsunami in Uttarakhand was a humongous disaster. The military met this gigantic challenge most remarkably. The soldiers and airmen risked their lives to rescue stranded people, and in doing so some made the supreme sacrifice.

The military in its secondary role, when summoned, provides aid to the civil authority to restore law and order, and during disasters like earthquake, floods or tsunami, succour to the suffering people. During the Partition holocaust, the government had to rely heavily on the Army to restore law and order.

It escorted millions of Muslim refugees going to Pakistan by train. It also had to organise evacuation of non-Muslim refugees from West Pakistan and put up a tented staging camp for five lakhs of them at Kurukshetra, before the civil authorities dispersed them to areas evacuated by Muslims who had left for Pakistan.

There have been many major disasters like the Gujarat earthquake, massive cyclone and floods in coastal Orissa, widespread floods in Kosi in Bihar and tsunami in the Bay of Bengal. During all these calamities, the military played a splendid role in rescue and relief operations. The recent Himalayan tsunami in Uttarakhand was a humongous disaster, the like of which had not happened before. The military met this gigantic challenge most remarkably. The soldiers and airmen risked their lives to rescue stranded people and in doing so, some made the supreme sacrifice. Two battalions of Central Reserve Police Force also performed very creditably. The nation watched the tragedy on the electronic media and saw the wonderful job done by our armed forces. They won the hearts of the people, while the civil administration — both at the Centre and the state — drew much flak.

It is irrelevant to mention how the armed forces manage the hazardous Amarnath Yatra for two months in a year under the directions of the Amarnath Shrine Board. The board was constituted in 2002 after the heavy snowstorm in which over 200 pilgrims perished, many got injured and many were reported missing. Besides, terrorists were often attacking pilgrims and killing many. The shrine board, functioning under the governor, arranges effective security neutralising the terrorist threat. The movement of pilgrims is strictly controlled, life-saving facilities are provided in camps and when bad weather is forecasted, movement of pilgrims is suspended. Over half a million pilgrims go to the 13,000-feet high holy shrine every year. For the last 10 years, this yatra is being managed smoothly.

In November 2006, there was a major earthquake in Kashmir. Over 1,000 people died on the hills around Tithwal, Uri and Poonch. The Army deployed in the area immediately went into action on its own with little or hardly any participation by the state government in rescue and relief operations. Large portions of mountain tracks were obliterated due to landslides hampering rescue work. Our soldiers suffered casualties not only due to collapse of bunkers but also while going along treacherous mountain tracks to rescue marooned people. Within 24 hours, helicopter evacuation operation was in full swing. Chetaks (small helicopters) picked up people from remote villages, bringing them to the bases at Uri and Tithwal, where field hospitals were set up in tents. Serious cases were flown in bigger helicopters (MI-17) to civil and military hospitals in Srinagar and, still more serious cases were evacuated by transport planes to Delhi. Prefabricated shelters from Amarnath Shrine Board were immediately put up to house people in severe cold. Soon such shelters from elsewhere in India also arrived and free food kitchens were run by the Army. Thus, no one died due to of lack of medical aid, hunger or cold. Rehabilitation was organised by the civil administration and left much to be desired. The slogan of the affected people, the Gujjars and Bakherwals, was “Indian Army zindabad”. They wanted the Army to organise their rehabilitation also. They feared that funds would be misappropriated by the civil administration.

The faraway neighbour

Jul 17 2013

Fracas with Bhutan underlines why Delhi must recast its neighbourhood policy

The "crisis" in India's relations with Bhutan did not begin with New Delhi's bungled withdrawal of petroleum subsidies in the middle of the recent elections. Nor has it ended with the claim that the next government in Bhutan will be "pro-India". Recent developments in Bhutan reflect India's growing foreign policy challenges in the neighbourhood. They are a reminder that many of the traditional assumptions of India's regional policy are no longer sustainable.

For one, Delhi must come to terms with the reality that paternalism, however benign it might appear from India's perspective, is no longer a sensible approach towards its smaller neighbours. For paternalism breeds resentment. Put simply, India can no longer afford to treat Bhutan as a protectorate, in the manner that the British Raj and independent India dealt with it for more than a century and a half.

The British Raj had propped up a ring of weak states around the subcontinent as buffers against intrusion by other powers. The rulers of these small states traded the freedom to conduct their own foreign policy for political support and economic subsidies from the Raj. India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, did not abandon this framework when he signed a series of friendship treaties with Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal during 1949-50 that preserved the essence of the special relationship structured under the Raj.

But India's protectorate system quickly broke down amidst a number of factors. As the Kathmandu elite learnt to play the China card against Delhi, it undermined much of the 1950 treaty. The games that Sikkim's Chogyal played with Delhi forced Indira Gandhi to integrate the kingdom into India. Bhutan has been a lot slower in asserting its national identity and creating an independent international personality. Until recently, it scrupulously avoided the balancing game between India and China. But the pressures to do so are clearly mounting.

The democratisation of the Kingdom and the new competitive politics within the nation are bound to make Bhutan's relations with India a lot more complicated. To be sure, India did recognise this problem and sought to put relations with Bhutan on a more equitable basis by renegotiating the 1949 treaty of friendship in 2007. The latest turn of events underlines the fact that India will have to go beyond formalism and change the operational basis of its Bhutan policy.

Second, India can no longer delude itself that the subcontinent is its exclusive sphere of influence, as in the days of the Raj. In a globalising world, Delhi can't keep other powers out of the subcontinent. As China's power rises, its influence in the subcontinent has rapidly grown over the last decade, from Bhutan and Nepal in the Himalayas to Sri Lanka and Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

It was outgoing Bhutan PM Jigme Thinley's flirting with China that is said to have triggered the mutual distrust between Delhi and Thimphu over the last year or more. India, however, can't build a great wall around the subcontinent and keep China out of the region. At a time when India itself is expanding its economic and political relations with China, it can't order its neighbours to limit their ties to Beijing.

A smart China policy, then, involves giving our neighbours greater access to our markets, improving connectivity, modernising trade facilitation, letting them benefit from India's economic growth, and resolving longstanding bilateral problems. At the same time, the new approach must also lay down clear red lines on security cooperation between India's smaller neighbours and China. Making sure these red lines are respected will not be easy, but must be part of India's strategy of continuous tending to the neighbourhood.

Third, India needs to expand the interface of its engagement with the neighbours. At the moment, Delhi's neighbourhood policy is run by a handful of overworked officials in the ministry of external affairs and our "viceroys" in the neighbourhood capitals. What India now needs is a more intensive — formal and informal — political interaction between the leaderships of the subcontinent. The lead must necessarily come from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has been remiss in avoiding frequent travel to the neighbouring capitals.

Fourth, while the Union government has sole responsibility of foreign policy, India's current political conditions demand a more active involvement of the opposition parties in engaging the elites across the borders. But our opposition leaders have not been able to resist the temptation of playing politics with foreign policy towards the neighbours. Consider, for example, the BJP's reluctance to support the historic agreements that the UPA government has negotiated with Bangladesh in 2011 and the deafening silence of the CPM, which should be so interested in transforming relations between Kolkata and Dhaka. Worse still, some regional leaders have become spoilers in India's neighbourhood policy. If Mamata Banerjee undercut India's engagement with Bangladesh, political dynamics in Tamil Nadu have severely circumscribed Delhi's diplomatic room in Colombo. Delhi, then, needs to reassert its primacy in foreign policy while making all efforts to bring the regional parties on board the national consensus on foreign policy.

Finally, Delhi needs to discard the tradition of offering economic subsidies and negotiating project proposals with neighbouring capitals. It should focus instead on enabling agreements and let market forces leverage the existing economic and geographic complementarities.


- The food security bill has sound economic backing
Bhaskar Dutta

This version of the United Progressive Alliance team has earned itself the label of “masters of non-governance”, largely because of its inability to steer major pieces of legislation through Parliament. A case in point has been the food security bill. The bill, one of the Congress’s main election promises in 2009, guarantees cheap foodgrains to three-fourths of the rural and half the urban population as a legal right. Unfortunately, the Congress could not muster enough support among its coalition partners; perhaps there were rumblings of disquiet even amongst its own ranks. Finally, as its life comes to an end, it has been able to muster some kind of consensus to pass an ordinance to implement the bill. Of course, the bill still has to be approved in Parliament. It is unlikely that there will be enough explicit opposition in the Lok Sabha since parties who vote against it will be labelled anti-poor.

The food security bill has generated almost as much heat as the Right to Employment Act, one of the highlights of UPA-I, and for very much the same reasons. Economists, who would much rather leave everything to the market, feel that any kind of government intervention in favour of specific groups is unnecessary at best and plain wrong at worst. They would prefer the government to take steps to remove any possible road blocks in the growth process, and let growth take care of the rest.

The more vociferous critics argue that the bill will cause the level of food subsidy to reach stratospheric levels. This will increase the already high fiscal deficit, and make the public fiscal management completely unmanageable. However, this argument ignores the fact that the additional expenditure that will be incurred on the food security bill is relatively small compared to India’s GDP.

Many critics argue, not without some justification, that the main delivery system envisaged in the food security bill is the public distribution system, and that the PDS is quite unequal to the task of delivering any increased volume of food to the poor. They highlight the many inadequacies of the PDS — its uneven coverage particularly in rural areas, its inability to target the deserving, and the huge leakages in the form of diversion of subsidized grain to the open market. Any increase in social welfare resulting from the operation of the PDS, they claim, is obtained at an exorbitant cost because of the leakages, not just because of the diversion of subsidized food to the open market but also because many BPL cardholders who get food at highly subsidized prices have incomes significantly above the threshold level.

It would be foolish to deny that the PDS is grossly inefficient and that many people have made their fortunes milking the system. But, as all readers of newspapers know, many armaments deals are also plagued by kickbacks and bribes paid by foreign suppliers, who then recover these costs by inflating the prices at which weapons are sold to the Indian government. However, this form of corruption, which has pretty much the same effect on the Indian exchequer, has not resulted in any clamour to stop defence purchases. This is presumably because modern armaments for our defence forces are deemed to be absolutely essential.

So, the proper question is about the importance of legislation guaranteeing minimum quantities of food for the poor. Or, can we trust an accelerated rate of growth to ensure that the poor do not go hungry to bed? Some pieces of data provide an adequate answer. The International Food Policy Research Institute prepares a global hunger index — India ranks 65 out of 79 countries for which data are available. Moreover, even the government has been forced to admit that nearly half the children under five are chronically malnourished.

There is no doubt that in spite of almost two decades of reasonably fast growth, vast numbers of Indians lead lives that are well below any notion of an acceptable standard of living. This is a compelling rationale for legislation such as the food security bill. Of course, the actual contents of the ordinance still deserve close attention.

In the debate preceding the formulation of the bill, an overwhelming majority supported universal coverage even if that came with a lower quota. Universal coverage would have ensured that the state governments would not have to screen out those who are not entitled to subsidized food, almost entirely because almost all state governments have proved to be notoriously bad at this task. Also, a large segment of the top income bracket would probably have opted out of the scheme anyway because of the poor quality of grains typically available in the ration shops. Unfortunately, the Central government has dug in its heels and refused to go in for universal coverage — although they have reduced the quota recommended by the National Advisory Council.

The use of the PDS as the main delivery mechanism is also open to question. Some states, Chattisgarh being a leading example, have improved the functioning of the PDS beyond all recognition. But, in most states, the PDS is a leaky sieve. And here alternative arrangements need to be made. A refreshing change in attitudes is that the ordinance does not rule out the use of cash transfers in regions where food cannot be delivered physically. It hopes that the increasing use of the Aadhar card, which will link a designated bank account to each card, will enable the cash to be directly transferred to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.

The estimated quantity of foodgrain that will be required to support the food security bill is actually not significantly higher than the amount disbursed through the PDS today. The major change from the existing system is that the target group can now claim their quota as a legal entitlement. The local ration-shop owner can no longer fob them off by saying that stocks have not arrived. Of course, the poor typically will not have the resources to claim what is rightfully due to them by taking their complaints against the local administration through the grievance redressal mechanism. This is an area where responsible NGOs can step in and fight legal battles on behalf of the deprived.

‘IB-CBI tussle will hurt us badly’

Sandeep Joshi

Home Ministry officials say Pakistan likely to push back on 26/11 demands

The ongoing tussle between the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) over allegations of involvement of an IB officer in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case may give Pakistan a chance to push back on India’s demand that it do more to punish those responsible for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks of 2008.

The most recent — and potentially most damaging — product of the bickering between the two agencies is the leaking of a letter written by a junior former official of the Home Ministry in which he accuses the CBI’s lead investigator in the Ishrat Jahan case of saying both 26/11 and the attack on Parliament in 2001 were orchestrated by the Indian government.

Details of the letter written by R.V.S. Mani were leaked last week, presumably in order to undermine the credibility of senior IPS officer Satish Verma, who led the CBI investigations that saw eight Gujarat police officers chargesheeted and several IB men named for complicity in the murder of Ishrat Jahan.

After first being published in the Times of India, Mr. Mani’s letter has been seized upon by Pakistani newspapers and TV channels to buttress the claim that 26/11 and the Parliament attack were not done by Pakistan-based terrorists but stage-managed by India.

In his letter, Mr. Mani, who signed affidavits on behalf of his Ministry in the Ishrat Jahan case, has complained about pressure being put on him by senior IPS officer Satish Verma to implicate the IB in the drafting of a key affidavit. He added that Mr. Verma also believed the attacks on Parliament in 2001 and Mumbai in 2008 were set up “with the objective of strengthening the counterterror legislation.”

“The way the Pakistani media has blown up this news, it is just matter of days before the Pakistan government again denies any role of Pakistani elements in the 26/11 Mumbai carnage,” a senior Home Ministry official told The Hindu. “The IB-CBI tussle may hurt us badly,” he added. Though Home has yet to receive any letter or document from Mr. Mani, who has since shifted to another ministry, it may order a probe into the entire episode.

In Pakistan, the Express Tribune reproduced the entire Indian news report and headlined it — ‘Startling revelations: Mumbai, Parliament attacks orchestrated.’ “In a shocking disclosure a former officer of the Indian Home Ministry has alleged that the Indian government had orchestrated the two high-profile terrorist attacks which New Delhi has blamed on Pakistan-based militant groups,” its report on Monday said.

Similarly, The Nation published the story as its first lead, titled ‘Indian govt behind Parliament, 26/11 attacks’, while Pakistan Today wrote ‘Indian officer claims govt behind Parliament, 26/11 attacks’. By Tuesday, Mr. Mani’s allegations against Mr. Verma had become, in the telling of Pakistani TV anchors, a “court document,” a “sworn affidavit,” and most studio guests in discussion shows on the subject took the view that Pakistan must formally take up the matter with India and stop giving in to Indian demands that it act against the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Four Point Musharraf Formula – Oxymoroning India?

Issue Net Edition | Date : 16 Jul , 2013

Critics would scoff at the word ‘oxymoroning’ saying there is no such word. What the minister could not learn at Oxford that it was the minister’s party that had first coined the phrase “Nationalist Muslims” rightly for people like Maulana Azad which set the tail of MA Jinnah on fire, who in turn labeled them “Congress Muslims”. So any Indian, of any religion, caste or creed can be a Nationalist no matter how hard you want to deny it.

Ironically, nationalism is something most Indians appear to have forgotten, partly because it hardly is part of our education system aside from perfunctory routine shows on Independence and Republic days. The bottom line is that the minister, his peers and media puppeteers need to understand that a Hindu Nationalist is not an oxymoron. But the minister himself, his peers, media puppeteers and the pressured or paid media that bending backwards to Pakistan and China for sake of political power and personal gains will, if not already, earn them the unenviable title of “oxymoron” – or shall we say “political oxymoron” irrespective of being Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, whatever.

But what even Ma Jun fails to elaborate is whether the 30 feet red banner proclaiming the area as Chinese territory was made of pashmina to keep the intruders warm…

Political oxymoroning will obviously be lapped up by adversaries, latest example being, Ma Jun of PLA’s Academy of Military Science describing the 19 kms deep PLA intrusion in Depsang Bulge as “activity not deliberately staged – camp set up merely to keep out the cold”, obviously cashing on the minister’s description of the intrusion as “a small acme on the face”. But what even Ma Jun fails to elaborate is whether the 30 feet red banner proclaiming the area as Chinese territory was made of pashmina to keep the intruders warm, whether the particular spot was chosen because of some unknown hot springs to “keep out the cold” and with this startling discovery whether the area is being claimed for keeps as a tourist destination, replete with bowls of hot biang-biang noodles.

One wonders how many in our political hierarchy are aware that in a ‘Letter to the American People’ that Osama-bin-Laden wrote in 2002, he stated that the one of the reasons he was fighting America is because of its support to India on the Kashmir issue. Simultaneously, the Christian Science Monitor reported in the same year their investigations having evidenced that Al-Qaeda and its affiliates were prospering POK with tacit support of the ISI. Now that was 2002 and today in 2013, the ambiguity created is that whether Al Qaeda is fighting America, if so in what measure or more importantly, whether Al Qaeda is fighting ‘for’ America? Same goes for Taliban. Those who cannot see the writing on the wall have surely qualified to the next level of oxymoroning – the ‘blind oxymoron’.

Now America using Al Qaeda in Libya and Syria, arming and embedding them in Middle East is no secret. Unfortunately, the Al Qaeda has not made much progress in Syria in toppling the Assad, implying that much is the delay in tackling Iran. But lo and behold, the Pakistan Taliban is now setting up base in Syria to help oust Assad; another remarkable fallout of America-Pakistani or shall we say Obama-Kiyani Bhai Bhai syndrome. Afghanistan in any case is offered to Al Qaeda-Taliban-Pakistan on a platter. So, the obvious pressure on India to give or rather keeps giving “more concessions” to Pakistan – act like Big Brother (India) because Big Brother (America) says so. Not without reason plenty analysts feel America couldn’t care less if J&K and even Arunachal Pradesh goes to China-Pakistan as long as India supports America in the Indo-Pacific Regions as part of their Asia Pivot.

Pakistan did the opposite and, unlike India, drastically altered demography of POK by design. 1948 UN Resolution on Kashmir gave Kashmiris only two choices – either remain with India or join Pakistan.

There is every possibility that when our hierarchy is so much at loss simply about ‘nationalism’, it would be utterly chaotic for them to understand as to what are these concessions to Pakistan that Big Brother is hinting at. But then for learning, one must start with the basics as to what is the ground situation, what ‘concessions’ India has already given and how has Pakistan responded. The 1948 UN Resolution on Kashmir, vide which Pakistan still demands, plebiscite, had categorical pre-condition that Pakistan withdraw all her security forces from territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) prior to plebiscite. Pakistan did the opposite and, unlike India, drastically altered demography of POK by design. 1948 UN Resolution on Kashmir gave Kashmiris only two choices – either remain with India or join Pakistan.

Results of first ever poll both sides of the Line of Control in J&K conducted by Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatam House), UK in conjunction King’s College during 2009-2010 brought out that 98% of people in J&K do not wish to be part of Pakistan and 50% of people in POK do not wish to remain with Pakistan. It may be noted that this poll was financed by Gaddafi’s son on instigation of Pakistan. India has more Muslims than entire population of Pakistan. Muslims in India enjoy freedom of action in all spheres.

Afghanistan: The War After the War

July 15, 2013

An Afghan National Army soldier during an operation against Taliban fighters in Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan, July 9, 2013

The attempt at talks between the United States and the Afghan Taliban appears to have broken down for the moment. This is not unexpected, and is not in itself cause for despair. Almost every negotiating process in history aimed at ending insurgencies and civil wars has taken a very long time, and encountered numerous reverses along the way. Things are especially difficult because the conflict is not simply an insurgency against an “occupier,” but also a civil war between local groups, with one of them supported from outside. This means that negotiations have to be between three or more parties—the US, the Taliban, the Karzai government, and other anti-Taliban forces.

This kind of negotiating situation is not new: it was true in Northern Ireland, which involved the British, the IRA, and the Ulster protestant parties; in Algeria with the French government, the FLN and the French settlers in Algeria; and in Vietnam with the US, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam. Of course, one solution is for the outside power simply to abandon its local allies and reach a settlement with the enemy without them (of course, with face-saving provisions, but with the implicit understanding that these allies are being thrown to the dogs). This is what the insurgents always aim at—and what in Algeria and Vietnam they eventually achieved, after immense bloodshed: splitting the foreign power from its local allies or proxies. And this is precisely what Karzai and his supporters fear most, accounting for the sometimes hysterical nature of their protests against negotiations with the Taliban.

Seen from Kabul, there are good reasons to fear that the US will negotiate some sort of deal with the Taliban and quit Afghanistan entirely. According to unofficial statements from the White House reported in The New York Times, the option of complete withdrawal is one that President Obama is now actively considering. This would be in stark contrast to what had been hitherto planned—keeping bases, aircraft, drones, special forces, and advisers in place until at least 2024 to support the Afghan National Army and continue strikes against Al Qaeda targets in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Until now, the total withdrawal option has been ruled out largely out of the fear that it would repeat the experience of South Vietnam following the complete US pull out in 1973—where the local state left behind lasted barely two years before North Vietnamese victory. And of course, the latest suggestions from the White House are by no means an indication that the existing strategy will definitely be changed. Indeed, US officials have made it clear that floating the idea of total withdrawal is in significant part an attempt to put pressure on the Karzai administration to engage in the American-led peace effort. It also appears to be a strong warning to Karzai not to attempt to rewrite the Afghan constitution and somehow stay in power after his second term expires.

The fact that this “zero option” is now being mentioned at all however also reflects the Obama Administration’s growing concerns about the situation in Afghanistan after next year, and about the fate of the thousands of US military personnel who—according to existing plans—would be left in Afghanistan after most US forces withdraw. In particular, Washington fears that if the Afghan presidential elections that are supposed to take place next year fail to produce a legitimate and credible victor—or if Karzai decides to try to cling to power, a move that would also be regarded by most Afghans as wholly illegitimate—the result could be the implosion of the (in any case very weak) US-backed Afghan state, and either a military takeover, the disintegration of the Afghan military, or both.

There is however one big difference between the Afghan state and army today and some of the historical cases I’ve referred to. The French settlers in Algeria (the so-called pieds noirs) and the government of South Vietnam had nowhere else to go for help than France in the one case and the United States in the other. The present Afghan regime and its supporters can look to potential helpers that existed and were engaged in Afghanistan long before the US arrived on the scene—in the case of India and Iran, engagement in the area of what is now Afghanistan goes back more than 2,000 years. Russia and Iran supported the anti-Taliban forces in the 1990s; and large parts of the Indian establishment are now prepared to follow their example if the US pulls out, both to prevent Afghanistan becoming a Pakistani client state and base for anti-Indian terrorism, and to strengthen India’s economic position in Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Iran.

Afghanistan: What Pakistan Wants

Akhter Gulfam/epa/Corbis

A Pakistan soldier at the Pakistani-Afghan border, Chaman Province, Pakistan, May 20, 2013

To understand Pakistan’s position in the conundrum of Afghanistan’s future, it is necessary to understand that in certain respects, Pakistan and Afghanistan have long blended into each other, via the population of around 35 million Pashtuns that straddles both sides of the border between them (a border drawn by the British which Afghanistan has never recognized). Pashtuns have always regarded themselves as the core of Afghanistan, where they form a plurality of the population (Afghan is indeed simply the old Farsi word for Pashtun); yet around two thirds of Pashtuns actually live in Pakistan, where they form the backbone of the present Islamist revolt against the state.

In the 1980s, the US encouraged this merger of Afghan and Pakistani Pashtun sentiment in order to strengthen support of Pakistani Pashtuns for the Afghan Mujahedin. In the 2000s, this came back to haunt America, since most Pakistani Pashtuns with whom I have spoken over the years regard the Taliban fight against the US and its Afghan allies in very much the same light that they regarded the Mujahedin fight against the USSR and its Afghan allies.

Pakistan’s Afghan policy today is essentially an attempt to reconcile the following perceptions and imperatives:
The need to appease Pakistani Pashtun opinion and prevent more Pashtuns joining the Islamist revolt within Pakistan;

The fear that if the Afghan Taliban come to full power, they will support the Pakistani Taliban and try to recreate the old Afghan dream of recovering the Pashtun irredenta—the Pashtun areas of Pakistan—but this time led by the Taliban and under the banner of jihad;

The belief that the Taliban are by far the most powerful force among Afghan Pashtuns;

The belief that Pakistan needs powerful allies within Afghanistan to combat Indian influence and that the Afghan Taliban and their allies in the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami are the only ones available;

The assumption that sooner or later the present US-backed state and army in Afghanistan will break down, most probably along ethnic lines;

Pakistan’s economic dependence on the USA and on the World Bank and IMF;

Pakistan’s strategic dependence on China, which regards Pakistan as an important ally, but which has also acquired potentially very large economic assets of its own in Afghanistan, and which certainly does not favor Islamist extremism.

If as a result of all this Pakistani strategy has often looked confused, contradictory, ambiguous, and two-faced—well, it would be, wouldn’t it?

All the same, at the moment, the basic elements of Pakistani strategy are pretty clear, and, crucially, there does not seem to be any important difference between the aim of the Pakistani army and the new government of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) under Nawaz Sharif: namely, a peace settlement in Afghanistan involving a new constitution and a power-sharing arrangement between the Taliban and the non-Pashtun populations of Afghanistan, which used to be grouped in the so-called Northern Alliance.

To this end, the Pakistani military has put considerable pressure on the Afghan Taliban to join in the present peace process, and both the Pakistani military and the foreign ministry have sought meetings with the leaders of the former Northern Alliance to assure them that Pakistan is no longer pursuing its strategy of the 1990s, and does not want to see the Taliban win exclusive power in Afghanistan—if only because the Taliban would then be free to turn against Pakistan.

Exodus: Afghan Diplomats Defect as Western Withdrawal Nears

An Afghan security official at Kabul Airport after a battle with the Taliban.

The situation in Afghanistan is becoming so precarious that Afghan diplomats no longer want to return to their homeland. Up to 100 foreign service employees set for rotation back to Kabul from assignments abroad have now defected.

A total of 105 Afghan diplomats were meant to report for duty at the Foreign Ministry in Kabul on Saturday. They were being rotated out of their foreign postings as scheduled, and it was time to return to headquarters. Yet just five of them have resurfaced. The others have apparently remained in the countries where they had been posted, among them several employees of the Afghan Embassy in Berlin.

Sources at the Afghan Foreign Ministry have informed SPIEGEL ONLINE that embassy staff members have said they would apply for asylum in their respective host countries or at least apply for an extension of their service until the presidential election in spring 2014. "They are hoping that there is more clarity about the future of our country by that point," said an employee of the ministry. "I feel as though there has been an exodus. No one wants to return toAfghanistan," said the employee, who added that they couldn't be faulted for wanting to stay away from"the situation in the country."According to recent surveys, most Afghans believe the country will sink into chaos and violence and expect that civil war will break out once Western forces withdraw at the end of 2014. For months, the Taliban and various other ethnic groups have been arming themselves in preparation for a fight for power in the country.

The Fiction of a Bright Future

Many Afghan diplomats are the sons and daughters of high-ranking politicians who are also trying to go abroad as soon as possible and stay there until the situation in Afghanistan becomes clearer.

International foundations and organizations that organize educational trips and conferences for Afghans abroad have also become more cautious recently. They know that more and more trip participants will disappear. It is said in Kabul that several Afghan teachers never returned from a trip organized recently by the German government. And a high-ranking official from the Afghan Foreign Ministry called home during a trip to Canada to say that he wouldn't be coming back.

Afghanistan's Opium Trade: Why Britain Should Not Kick the Drug Habit after 2014

RUSI Analysis, 12 Jul 2013 By Charlie Edwards, Senior Research Fellow/Director National Security and Resilience

As British troops depart Afghanistan, increasing production of opium and heroin in the country remains a cause for concern. There is a clear need for the British government to continue funding counter-narcotics programmes, and work with regional partners, including Iran.

Afghanistan produces roughly 90 per cent of the world's illicit opium.[1] According to a recent UNODC report, three times as much opium was produced in Helmand in 2012 than in 2006. The 2013 Opium Risk Assessment for the southern, eastern, western and central regions of Afghanistan highlights further concerns. Poppy cultivation is expected to expand into new areas where poppy cultivation was disrupted. This is particularly the case in less developed areas, where farmers are planting poppy seeds in the wake of the departing coalition forces. Areas that have been poppy-free for years risk resuming poppy cultivation.

The former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has stated that the drugs trade was one of the factors in his decision to intervene in Afghanistan in 2001, as it was part of the Taliban regime that 'we should seek to destroy'. Twelve years on, the drugs trade continues to undermine the security of the country and wider region. While figures remain difficult to verify, it is estimated that the Taliban amasses a small fortune from the trade each year - with estimates of up to $150 million per annum. This money fuels the insurgency, sustains corruption within national and local government and creates the necessary conditions across Afghanistan for terrorists and insurgents to operate. The situation is now so bad in some areas of the country that American soldiers are now advised not to step foot in poppy fields or damage them in any way. Nor can they discourage poppy farmers, from growing their illicit crop, which is hardier and commands a higher price than alternatives such as wheat. Something has clearly gone badly wrong.

Fragile Gains

The truth is that the counter-narcotics campaign was always going to be a complex challenge for coalition forces. Politicians, military commanders and media commentators in the region are rightly concerned with what the increase in opium means for the drug trade and Afghanistan's security in the future. The role of the US and its counter-narcotics strategy will also shape the UK's response. Since 2009 the Obama Administration has scaled back on eradication efforts focusing instead on targeting Taliban-linked traffickers and alternative livelihoods efforts. Like the UK, the US has concentrated on implementing these programmes but with limited success. Should the current governance structures deteriorate post-2014 and corruption increase further, security will remain extremely fragile.

The challenge is not limited to Afghanistan. The impact of the drugs trade on Pakistan in particular is cause for concern. For the British government, Pakistan's stability is likely to be a greater priority than Afghanistan in the future. As such, counter-narcotics work in the country - in particular supporting law enforcement activity may become a key priority for the government going forwards. 

For the British government there is another equally pressing issue as the 2014 deadline draws closer: what does this all mean for UK national security? The fear, expressed by some analysts, is that 2014 will mark the point where the UK and other coalition governments quietly cut counter narcotic programmes, reduce resources and shrink their footprint in the country.

This would be a strategic error. While only 5 per cent of the total opium market in Afghanistan reaches UK shores (the rest is consumed in the region, with Iran netting eight times more opium and three times more heroin than all the other countries in the world combined), 95 per cent of the heroin in the UK comes from opium produced in Afghanistan. This adds up to approximately 20 tonnes of heroin being imported into the UK per annum.

As the drawdown in Afghanistan builds up, so the UK's vulnerability to the drugs trade from the country and region will likely increase, though it is not necessarily inevitable. There are numerous factors that must be accounted for - such as the decline in the number of heroin users in the UK over the past decade, which now stands at 298,752 .The drugs trade comes with serious social and economic costs to the UK - some of which are hard to quantify though some organisations suggest that drug treatment programmes have prevented an estimated five million drug-related crimes a year, such as burglary, shoplifting and robbery.

Investing in the Future

Any plan to reduce the impact of the drug trade in the UK from Afghanistan will have to consider three mutually reinforcing strands of work. Support to the government of Afghanistan even if counter-narcotics becomes less of a priority for them; a renewed focus on disrupting and dismantling the supply chain which will require working with neighbouring governments; and continuing efforts at home.

Talking with the Taliban: A New ICSR Report

by David Ucko on 15 July 2013 

Last week I attended an event at the New America Foundation where Ryan Evans, Peter Neumann and Ambassador Omar Samad presented the new ICSR report, Talking to the Taliban: Hope over History?. The presentations were short, incisive and clear, and the question and answer session a constructive addendum to the event. I would strongly recommend anyone who is interested in this topic to read the report andwatch the video.

The report is sceptical about the value of talking with the Taliban, at least in the manner in which negotiations have been approached to date. There are many reasons for the pessimism: the Taliban is not hierarchical, so there are few leaders who can ‘deliver the movement’; the talks critically do not include the Afghan government; too many actors are involved in the process, producing distortion and ambiguity; and whereas negotiations require lengthy commitments, NATO is rapidly running out of time. Most fundamentally, whereas talks require a ‘mutually hurting stalemate’, NATO does not have a strong enough hand militarily to achieve what they want at the negotiating table.

This leads to the obvious question: should we nonetheless try? It could be said that talks is a luxury of the strong – you achieve agreements based on the military balance and on that basis NATO is at a disadvantage. Yet fighting on in the hope of a better deal is also a luxury of the strong – at this point it, too, is highly undesirable. So if not talks, then what?

The panelists were unsure. Peter Neumann made the important point that the efforts at negotiation do not occur in a vacuum but are themselves destabilizing: ‘there’s all kind of talk about a secret deal and people are arming in anticipation of some secret deal coming out’. This is an interesting point and worthy of further examination. Neumann also noted that that while he had ‘no doubt that those talks taking place are well intended, at least from the American side…, good intentions do not always lead to good outcomes’.

Still, it may be possible to see some value in the talks, even if they do not result in political progress. Perhaps these talks should be viewed in far more modest terms, not as a process of codifying political outcomes, but as an exercise of familiarization, where we learn more about the enemy, and determine whether there is any scope for future talks, or particular personalities that could prove useful at a later date. As Neumann emphasized in the presentation, talks generally take a good decade to reach an agreement so perhaps this should be seen as the first salvo rather than final settlement? This might be the 1984 first round of negotiations between San Salvador and FMLN, which went nowhere yet opened the door for future talks, which when held some eight years later, under wholly different conditions, helped end the war.

This leads to a second fundamental point: the Taliban is often seen as lacking unity, which complicates diplomatic engagement. As Ryan Evans put it, reflecting upon his own experience in Afghanistan, there is great ‘localism’ to the conflict: many people are ‘fighting for local reasons and are often only casually connected to the leadership of the Taliban’. Thus even a deal with the Taliban leadership might unravel as weakly connected clusters of fighters decide to go in a different direction, for a variety of local reasons.

The lack of hierarchy within the organization presents a challenge, but is not historically anomalous. As the moderator of the event, Ben Connable, noted, in Iraq, too, every village had its own concerns and preoccupations and would rise up as a new front of coalition. He suggested, and I agree, that there may be some interesting research insights to be gained from studying negotiations or engagement with dispersed insurgencies such as these. Counterinsurgency is armed politics, but how do you engage politically with a dispersed mass of concerns?

My initial take on this question relates to recent research of mine on clear-hold-build. First, it should be noted that, as Amb. Omar Samad reminds us during the QnA, the Taliban is more unified at the top – it shares one worldview and pushes toward conformity, so much so that attempts at dissent are quashed. Second, the localism that Evans speaks of strikes me as an inevitable byproduct of insecurity, which forces small groups to cope and use violence to protect themselves and their interest. Such localism is probably more typical of conflict zones than commonly realised and does not necessarily preclude the possibility of talks. The point would be to separate the wheat from the chaff – the bone fide insurgents, with their grand and ideologically driven ideas, from the population, typically at the village level, who in the midst of protracted conflict do what they can or must to meet their needs.

Such an approach would be based on a distinction between insurgency movements, with a more stable agenda and set leadership, and the endlessly variegated needs of the local population. The former are more accessible through high-level negotiations, the latter must be co-opted and pacified through effective clear-hold-build (for some example of how not to do it, see my latest article). The two processes are the not same but proceed in parallel: to co-opt the village-level militias and reduce overall insecurity, but also to isolate and help identify those ideologically-driven movements with whom negotiations or some form of engagement may one day be possible.

I am not confident that we have the time, wherewithal and partners to implement such an approach in Afghanistan, but it speaks to an important if more general distinction between insurgency at the high level and instability at the village level. So long as these are confounded or confused, the notion of talks will always be a non-starter.