30 July 2013

LEFT, RIGHT, CENTRE ***

 - The television debate is no substitute for actual conversation 
Writing on the wall - Ashok V. Desai 

Two Indian luminaries of economics have made an awe-inspiring — some might say awful — display of fireworks. The eruption occurred over a review of An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions, a book by Amartya Sen and Jean Dréze, in The Economist. It said that the book went much farther than Bhagwati and Panagariya, who lay out a route map for further market-based reforms in their recent book, Why Growth Matters: How Economic Growth in India Reduced Poverty and the Lessons for Other Developing Countries. Bhagwati thought that he always was and continued to be miles ahead of Sen and Dréze. To which Sen replied that he had been in favour of growth from early years, but that growth needed to be supplemented with public expenditure directed at improvement of health, education, nutrition etc. The public row between two eminent NRI economists immediately caught the attention of the Indian press. While Amartya Sen once wrote a book that noted and approved Indians’ argumentative nature, Jagdish Bhagwati loves an argument, and the media love a good fight. I myself felt sorry, for a friendly, reasoned argument between the two would be of considerable benefit to the rest of us. 

I first met Jagdish Bhagwati in 1952, when I joined Sydenham College in Bombay to do a B Com in accountancy; he was two years senior, and was doing banking. Next year, we both went on a college trip to Kashmir. Jagdish was a great hit with the girls; he had an endless stream of jokes, which they lapped up. I could not make up my mind whom I envied more — Jagdish with his jokes, or Niazi with a motorbike on which he would whisk away the girls. 

When I was admitted to King’s College in 1956, I wrote to Jagdish. He said he was going to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but had asked a friend to look after me. The friend came to see me when I got to Cambridge, took me around, and made me comfortable. He was Manmohan Singh. A year later he went back to Chandigarh. When he returned to Oxford in the early 1960s to do his D Phil, he was married. His and Gursharan’s house was open to me while he was there. Amartya Sen had just left Cambridge to teach in Jadavpur University when I went up, but he was a legend. His Stevenson Prize essay on the choice of techniques was a classic. He came back a couple of years later with his bride, Nabaneeta. They had a tiny flat in Trinity Street, where I used to drop by often for adda. 

After Cambridge, I went to teach in the Bombay department of economics in 1963. Ravi Hazari took me one evening to see Sachin Chaudhuri in his little flat behind Taj Mahal hotel. Economists dropped by to see Sachin every evening, and often got into passionate arguments. It was a bit like a Cambridge seminar, but more informal. The sessions could go on from six to ten in the evening, and interrupting was allowed; the only rule was sustained good temper. Sometimes at the end of the evening, Sachin would say, “Ashok! That was interesting. Why don’t you write it up for me?” I would write up a comment or an article, and it would go into the following Friday’s Economic Weekly. He did it to all the economists; that is how we learnt to debate, and Economic Weekly became the forum for discussion of Indian economy. 

In 1966, I went to work in Delhi. I often used to drop by in Delhi School of Economics, where K.N. Raj, Jagdish Bhagwati, Amartya Sen and Manmohan Singh were teaching. I also taught there briefly. One got to D School in the morning and settled down outside the canteen with coffee. Over the day, all the teachers came, got together and left. There was a lot of chatting, discussion, leg-pulling and fun. I would also visit the homes of the four friends, which were close by, where Sarasamma, Gursharan, Nabaneeta and Padma Desai (who was also teaching), were always welcoming. 

Those days of easy camaraderie did not last long. Jagdish left for MIT in 1968; Manmohan Singh left around the same time to join commerce ministry as economic adviser. K.N. Raj became vice-chancellor of Delhi University in 1969, where he faced terrible student trouble. In 1971, he resigned. In 1973, when I decided to take a professorship in the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, he came and tried to dissuade me; he felt I was needed in India. Four years later, when I was in University of Sussex, he came and asked me to join the Centre for Development Studies, which he was about to set up in Trivandrum. I accepted his invitation and worked in the Centre for a couple of years. The last time I saw Raj was a few months before his death. He was as full of jokes as ever; as I entered, he said, “First of all, tell me who you are.” 

When I went to D School again in the early 1980s, the ambience had changed. The teachers were younger, and more specialized. They came and lectured; they spent less time in the School and more at home or in New Delhi. The informal chatting around the canteen had declined; and the discussion was no longer about the Indian macroeconomy. The Economic and Political Weekly also changed in the late 1980s. It turned Left; non-leftist content declined, and debates deteriorated. When I pointed this out to Krishna Raj, he implied that higher powers were responsible. 

Wide spectrum of options

Tuesday, 30 July 2013
Kushan Mitra

Information, data and the constant and easy availability of both is the grease that runs the world's machine nowadays. However, India runs the risk of being left behind in this new information race if high-speed Internet is not made available to a larger part of our population

Over the last decade, hundreds of millions of Indians have tasted the Internet for the first time in their lives. This is less an achievement of the UPA Government, unlike what the regime has claimed, but more of the need for private companies who bought radio spectrum to maximise the potential of the airwaves they leased from the people of India. And of course, thanks have to be given to the manufacturing ability of our large eastern neighbour.

Minus China’s immense manufacturing ability, cheap feature-rich devices would not have allowed millions of Indians to take to the Internet on their mobiles. Despite some of the recent hostility between India and China, our neighbour has played an immense, albeit a quite accidental, role in this information revolution.

The mobile phone industry, at least from the point of view of connecting Indians, has been an unqualified success, with over 900 million mobile phone connections linking at least half of India’s total population. Yes, there have been arguments about the risks mobile radiation poses, but global studies over the past two decades have found little merit on tested devices. A word of caution, though, about cheap, often untested devices which do not have proper shielding. Any which way, the human race has collectively decided that the rewards outweigh the risks.

Several studies have proven that mobile phones have opened up a world of opportunity across the board. Plumbers, mechanics, maids, drivers — all have mobile phones today. Far from being a luxury, mobile phones have become a necessity. And as mobile phones have reached deeper and deeper into Indian society, so has the information age. Data connectivity using mobiles has touched hundreds of millions of people, though not as much as it should.

And even though prices for data have been going down, there are a couple of other factors that have been less than encouraging. Due to a lack of last-mile connectivity as well as policies to encourage connectivity, high-speed wired Internet connections into homes through cable, copper and fibre-optic lines have grown at a snail’s pace over the last decade. While third-generation (3G) mobile networks have over the past two years in particular become faster and more ubiquitous, operators who were granted fourth-generation (4G) radio spectrum are rolling out services far too slowly, and India again risks falling behind the curve when it comes to connectivity.

Using a data service such as a ringtone or wallpaper download is not the same as watching a video on YouTube. And even with free access to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter on some mobile networks, data usage in India leaves quite a lot to be desired. And it is not just for a lack of content, in fact, content has been climbing at a fast pace.

The fact is that India is a very crowded country, each megahertz of spectrum in India serves more people on average than almost in any other country. In China, the spectrum is shared by just two operators, but in India’s hyper-competitive market, we have a situation where in some cases seven to eight operators in a circle are using thin slivers of spectrum to service more customers than they should. Thus, there are network jams and dropped calls. Try making a call from a crowded mall on a weekend, it is almost impossible. As more people join the networks, they will only get more crowded and almost impossible to use.

Next year, the 20-year lease on certain parts of 2G Spectrum that the earliest operators had, will expire. While the operators are fighting tooth and nail to get extensions, the Government is planning to ‘re-farm’ these airwaves. By doing so, the Government hopes to reap a windfall like they did with the 3G auction; however it is unlikely that the mobile operators who are not flush with cash will bid the amounts they did for 3G.

But it is not just about the money the Government can raise upfront. As mentioned above, more and more people using mobile phones and being able to talk has meant increased economic activity. The Government has slowly been increasing the service tax net, and thus, more economic activity means more annual revenue.

Some argue that the potential for voice in the mobile phone world is not fully tapped out; indeed, millions more Indians remain outside the connected world. But, the biggest opportunity in India going forward lies in data and information. Data has the potential to become a massive driver of economic growth in India, one that in the long-term can be bigger than that of physical infrastructure.

For this to happen, the Government needs to seriously consider auctioning more airwaves and making auctions technology-independent. The 900 megahertz spectrum held by the oldest mobile licensees is extremely effective, and in some countries it is being used to offer 3G telephony. Any re-farming proposal ought to include that. There is also the goldmine of connectivity that lies in the 700 megahertz space in India. These low-frequency airwaves with good dissipation qualities are being auctioned by the Governments the world over to enhance over-the-air data services. In India, we have been talking of a potential 700 megahertz auction for years, but nothing has come of it.

LIVING UNDER THE BIG BROTHER’S GAZE

The allegations of the US snooping on nations have stirred anti-American sentiments all over the world, but not in India, writes Abhijit Bhattacharyya

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One’s sympathy lies with those countries that have been targeted by the United States of America for close-circuit, combative snooping. However, this development is neither surprising nor shocking. The US has been known to mount global surveillance on friends and foes alike. Perhaps it will be a good idea for the aggrieved parties to acquaint themselves with the wisdom of The Art of War by the Chinese philosopher, general Sun Tzu. The Art of War has this to say — “There are no areas in which one does not employ spies.... In general, as for the armies you want to strike, the cities you want to attack, and the men you want to assassinate, you must first know the names of the defensive commander, his assistants, staff, door guards, and attendants. You must have our spies search out and learn them all.” 

In India, too, Kautilya’s Arthashastra lays down important formulas regarding the State espionage machinery across the length and breadth of the empire and beyond in order to inculcate a sense of fear and respect for the ruler in the minds of the subjects who, on account of an adverse psychological impact, could be unfavourably disposed towards him. 

At present, it appears that among the Western nations, Germany — the economic engine of Europe — is extremely unhappy and no longer trusts the Obama administration. What makes Germany so aggrieved and disappointed? Perhaps because Germans are unwilling to trade their freedom for enhanced security. The people of Germany remain unimpressed because thanks to their history and experience they know what can happen to people when the government knows too much about citizens. Countless Germans were betrayed when good neighbours and best friends turned out to be informers of the Gestapo or members of other State agencies. Germans still remember the brazen violation of privacy carried out by the secret police and the intelligence agencies. 

Germans are upset — and rightly so — because Barack Obama appeared on the international stage like a breath of fresh air. Unlike Bush Jr, he was perceived as someone who had the potential to end the mass surveillance that had accompanied the so-called war on terror and restore individual freedom. The revelations by Edward Joseph Snowden have raised disturbing questions about Obama’s proclaimed commitment and his ability to protect individual freedom. 

Germany indeed has a reason to be aggrieved. The Americans appear to be paranoid about ‘security’, leading to their judges and courts negotiating secretly and unlimited and direct data transfers taking place on a real time basis. Also, even as State agencies examine the mega-data storage instead of pursuing targeted individuals, the balance between liberty and security is lost. Accountability and responsibility are undermined as well in the process. 

The US foreign intelligence surveillance court — established in 1978 — has created a clandestine unit of law, empowering the National Security Agency to put together a vast data bank on US citizens, who are considered to be terror suspects as well as on those who are allegedly involved in such activities as nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyber attacks. Apparently, the rulings of the US surveillance court lie beyond public scrutiny. This makes 21st- century America — supposedly the land of the free — a feared country similar to Germany of the 1930s where the proverbial midnight knock was a common occurrence. 

In fact, Americans themselves have long known that the foreign intelligence surveillance court approves of wire-tapping. However, given the major changes in legislation after 9/11 on account of fear and paranoia, the institution has quietly emerged as the last word on matters of State surveillance. It has delivered verdicts that will have far-reaching consequences not only for the US but also for America’s friends and foes. The US is of the opinion that it continues to be threatened by extremist groups from across the world, especially those hailing from the Middle East and Pakistan. Given its threat perceptions, it is natural that the world’s sole ‘superpower’ will feel vindicated while gathering intelligence on weaker nations. The US is now a shadow of the nation that was once truly a global superpower. Understandably, it is trying hard to cling on to its past glory. Hence, nothing seems to deter the US from taking on weaker countries in the comity of nations even though it is undergoing financial hardship. 

What, however, stands out in the West even during these times characterized by foreign policy fiascos — from the Persian Gulf to East and South China Seas, to the Mozambique Channel and the Nigerian coast — is this harsh reality. Intellectuals in America openly refer to the US snooping on its own citizens as “The Criminal N.S.A. (National Security Agency)”. This is because the US administration continues to hide the extent of incidental surveillance behind fuzzy language. ‘Turn to the Constitution’, wails the intelligentsia in American society. The Fourth Amendment to the American constitution “obliges” the government to reveal the likely cause before resorting to “invasive surveillance”. There does not exist a single precedent under the US constitution for the government’s seizing of such vast amounts of sensitive data. 

What India can learn from Fukushima

July 30, 2013
Pallava Bagla 

AP ‘Nuclear power still has one of best track records in safety when compared to other forms of generating electricity.’ 

Siegfried Hecker. Photo: Pallava Bagla 

Noted nuclear metallurgist, Siegfried Hecker, is one of the most sought after nuclear scientists in the world. He headed the key American nuclear weapons design facility, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, for over a decade till 1997. He continues to be an emeritus director and is simultaneously a professor at Stanford University. During a recent visit to India, he told Pallava Bagla why he admires India’s nuclear programme, what its failings are and how both India and the U.S. can benefit by cooperating in nuclear energy. Excerpts from the interview: 

You once said Indian atomic energy scientists were better than those in the U.S. Do you still believe that? 

I have visited both the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research. The technical people I found absolutely first-rate, these are world-class scientists and engineers, and in my opinion on par with those of the United States. 

In fact, India is ahead since you have never stopped the serious research related to nuclear energy and technology. If anything, the Indians accelerated it after the 1974 nuclear blast because they were sanctioned and realised that if they were going to carry out their plan for this very ambitious three stage atomic programme, they would have to do it themselves. 

So they continued all aspects of those research programmes. In the U.S., after the Three Mile Island accident, it was clear that nuclear power was not going to expand in the country. So the research dropped, the funding dropped. For a while, universities dropped out of the nuclear research business. But India never stopped. So India has an overall nuclear energy research programme that is significantly superior to the U.S. 

This is the point that I brought back to Washington — that it would be to the U.S.’s advantage to actually work with the Indians because there are things the Indian nuclear complex can do in their facilities that we no longer can do. There are people that they have and programmes that they have that we have abandoned. 

As the U.S. looks seriously to get back into the nuclear energy business, it should look towards India as to how to do cooperative research for the benefit of the Americans. On the Indian side there is always benefit by any technical cooperation when it comes to safety and security. 

What do you think of the Indian Fast Breeder Reactor programme? 

The Indian programme is one of the most innovative and also the most ambitious. The Indian nuclear complex has indeed done a lot of the type of work that needs to be done to be able to design, manufacture and then operate the fast breeder reactors. So, I think the rest of the world has a lot to learn, because I think at this point the Indians are going to put into operation the first new fast breeder in quite some time. But on the safety side, I would feel much better if the Indian complex had much closer connections to the world community. And so, technically it is very interesting, it is really ambitious, and is quite a safety challenge. 

Have you been following the debate on the liability legislation? 

Of course I know that there have been problems but I think eventually the biggest challenges will be internal. As I follow the public demonstrations against uranium mining or the opening of nuclear power plants, I think the Indian government could learn a lot from other countries as to how to overcome the concerns and the suspicions of the public, how to deal with the public in the sort of democracy that India is. China may end up being the only country that puts major new reactors out there because it has a way to control its people. India has no such controls. It has to convince its people that nuclear power has to be a significant part of the answer. There is a lot of experience in the U.S. on how not to do it, in France how to do it, now in Japan how not to do it. 

After the Fukushima accident, do you think nuclear power is still safe? 

The Fukushima accident is again a wake-up call that the nuclear industry appears to need to remind it of just how important safety and a safety culture are. In the retrospective analysis of Fukushima it became quite clear that Japan didn’t do all those things it needed to do to make nuclear power safe enough. After Three Mile Island, the U.S. learned an enormous amount and improved its nuclear safety. And then after Chernobyl, much of the world learned that there is work to be done. Yet, the people who have analysed this would say that the Japanese did not learn much from Chernobyl. 

Implications of Trans-Asian Highway in North East India


The most cursory look at a map shows that the territory of India commonly referred to as the Northeast is demonstrably landlocked with no outlet to the sea. An even more unique aspect of Northeast India, which comprises seven states (Sikkim, artificially tagged on for political reasons, is not included)[1] is that each of these states is also ‘internally locked’. Each of these states also shares one (in three cases, more than one) international border. The lack of easy access to their neighbours and extreme difficulties of mobility even within their own states arising out of this geographical reality have affected economic growth of the Northeast, as well as created some unique security problems in the region. 

Even though there are impediments on people travelling in this region, transnational transport linkages have been receiving attention from the highest quarters, beginning with the inauguration by the then foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, in February 2001, of the Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo highway section of the long envisaged completion of the Asian Highway project. Similarly, there have been several proposals to rebuild and modernise the Stilwell Road, the other India-Burma Road that goes all the way to Yunnan Province in China. 

It has been argued that the Stilwell Road if properly restored will open huge opportunities not only for trade, but also for manufacturing in Northeastern region. The reopening of the Stilwell Road, besides, boosting Sino-Indian trade overland will also have strategic importance as it did during Second World War. The present state of the Stilwell Road is that China has reconstructed the portion within its territory and connected it to the country’s major highways. On the Indian side, the section between Assam and Arunachal border has been repaired and construction is underway to link Myanmar at Pangsau Pass. In the Myanmar side, a Chinese company, Yunnan Construction Engineering Group and Junta-backed Yuzana Group of Myanmar are reconstructing the road through a contract awarded to them. 

The Asian Highway (AH) project, popularly known as the Trans-Asian Highway, is a cooperative project among countries in Asia and Europe, supported by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP), to improve the highway systems in Asia. The project is one of the three pillars of the Asian Land Transport Infrastructure Development (ALTID) project endorsed by the ESCAP commission at its 48th session in 1992. Japan, China, South Korea, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan are some of the countries taking part in the Asian Highway project. The larger, more developed countries such as Japan, China and India as well as international agencies such as Asian Development Bank fund the project. 

The Asian Highway is marked from AH1 to AH88. AH1 is the longest route of the AH network running 20,557 Km from Tokyo via South Korea, China, South-East Asia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran to the border between Turkey and Bulgaria where it joins with European route E80. In India, the AH1 extends along Moreh-Imphal-Kohima-Dimapur; Dimapur-Nagaon; Nagaon-Numaligarh-Jorabat; Jorabat-Shillong-Dawki; Petrapole-Barasat; Barasat-Kolkata; Kolkata-Durgapur-Barhi-Kanpur-Agra-New Delhi, and New Delhi-Attari. 

Northeast India through the Tans-Asian Highway and the East-West Corridor will link India with the vibrant economies of North-East Asia. It has been argued that without the development of India’s Northeastern states, cooperation with South-East Asia cannot be meaningful. It is also imperative that development of the economies of the states in Northeast India be through a process of linkage with the Southeast Asian countries rather than making them wholly dependent on the grants from the Indian government. The development of Trans-Asian Highway is the window towards that goal. 

The Trans-Asian Highway and the East-West Corridor will not only link India, especially its Northeastern region with the vibrant economies of North-East Asia but will aid the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) initiative which in turn will strengthen bilateral and multilateral relations that will lead to development through creation of avenues for further intra-mural cooperation. In addition, for the Mekong-Ganga project to be effective, the Brahmaputra Valley is a crucial factor. According to analysts, roadways are a key part of the plan to open the Mekong-India Corridor to link India with the Asian economies of Indo-China. 

Bilateral trade will receive a boost because of Trans-Asian Highway as it provides the transport infrastructure necessary for building and strengthening trade and economic interaction with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states. More importantly, Northeast India, considered as one of the country’s economically backward areas can now become India’s gateway to the fast developing ASEAN region. 

The dishonesty in counting the poor

Utsa Patnaik 

The Planning Commission’s spurious method shows a decline in poverty because it has continuously lowered the measuring standard 

The Planning Commission has once again embarrassed us with its claims of decline in poverty by 2011-12 to grossly unrealistic levels of 13.7 per cent of population in urban areas and 25.7 per cent in rural areas, using monthly poverty lines of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 816 respectively, or Rs. 33.3 and Rs. 27.2 per day. These princely amounts will pay for one urban male haircut while they are supposed to meet all daily food and non-food living costs. The poverty decline claimed is huge, a full 8 per cent points fall in rural areas over the two years since 2009-10, and a 7 per cent points fall in urban areas, never mind that these two years saw the aftermath of drought, poor employment growth and exceptionally rapid food price rise. The logically incorrect estimation method that the Commission continues to use makes it an absolute certainty that in another four years, when the 2014-15 survey results become available, it will claim that urban poverty is near zero and rural poverty only around 12 per cent. This will be the case regardless of any rise in actual deprivation and intensification of actual poverty. 

Substantial rise 

All official claims of low poverty level and poverty decline are quite spurious, solely the result of mistaken method. In reality, poverty is high and rising. By 2009-10, after meeting all essential non-food expenses (manufactured necessities, utilities, rent, transport, health, education), 75.5 per cent of rural persons could not consume enough food to give 2200 calories per day, while 73 per cent of all urban persons could not access 2100 calories per day. The comparable percentages for 2004-5 were 69.5 rural and 64.5 urban, so there has been a substantial poverty rise. Once the NSS releases its nutritional intake data for 2011-12 we can see the change up to that year, but given the high rate of inflation and sluggish job growth, the situation is likely to be as bad, if not worse. Our figures are obtained by applying the Planning Commission’s own original definition of poverty line. Given the rapidly rising cost of privatised health care, education and utilities (electricity, petrol, gas), combined with high food price inflation and exclusion of the majority of the actually poor from affordable PDS grain, it is hardly surprising that the bulk of the population is getting more impoverished, and its nutritional level is declining faster than before. 

What is the basic problem with the Planning Commission’s method which produces its low and necessarily declining estimates, regardless of ground reality? The Commission in practice gave up its own definition of the poverty line which was applied only once — to get the 1973-74 estimate. After that, it has never looked over the next 40 years even once for deriving poverty lines at the actual current spending level, which will allow the population to maintain the same standard of living in terms of nutrition after meeting all non-food costs — even though these data have been available in every five-yearly NSS survey. 

The Commission instead simply applied price indices to bring forward the base year monthly poverty lines of Rs 49 rural and Rs.56 urban in 1973-74. The Tendulkar committee did not change this aspect; it merely altered the specific index. 

Price indexation does not capture the actual rise in the cost of living over long periods. Those doing the poverty estimates would be the first to protest if their own salaries were indexed only through dearness allowance. A fairly high level government employee getting Rs.1,000 a month in 1973-74 would get Rs.18,000 a month today if the salary was only indexed. The fact that indexing does not capture the actual rise in the cost of living is recognised by the government itself by appointing decadal Pay Commissions which push up the entire structure of salaries — an employee in the same position today gets not Rs.18,000 but a four times higher salary of over Rs.70,000. Yet those doing poverty estimates continue to maintain the fiction that the same standard of living can be accessed by the poor by merely indexing the original poverty line, and they never mention the severely lowered nutritional access at their poverty lines which, by now, are destitution lines. 

Worsening deprivation 

The fact is that official poverty lines give command over time to a lower and lower standard of living. With a steadily lowered standard, the poverty figures will always show apparent improvement even when actual deprivation is worsening. A school child knows that if last year’s percentage of students passing the annual examination is to be compared to this year’s percentage, the pass mark should be the same. The school principal cannot quietly lower the pass mark without informing the public, say from 50 out of hundred last year to 40 this year, and then claim that the school’s performance has improved because 80 per cent of students are recorded as ‘passed’ this year at the clandestinely lowered pass mark, compared to 75 per cent of students last year. If, at the same pass mark of 50, we find that 70 per cent of students have passed this year, we are justified in saying that the performance, far from improving, has worsened. If the school is allowed to continue with its wrong method, and lower the pass mark further next year, and again the next year, so ad infinitum, it is eventually bound to record 100 per cent pass and zero failure. 

India can be a credible partner of the NSG

Rajiv Nayan
July 29, 2013 

Some of the members are expressing unnecessary apprehensions regarding India’s membership. Unlike China, India has a track record of complying with obligations of any treaty or agreement it signs. 

The 2013 Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) plenary meeting in Prague, from June 13-14, assumed significance in the context of the ongoing crises relating to Iran and North Korea as well the legitimacy crisis faced by the group because of the Chinese proliferation behaviour. Equally important challenges before the NSG have been the advancement in global nuclear technology as well as the expansion of its membership whereby its goals and objectives are promoted not compromised. 

The customary press release soon after the end of the plenary meeting underlined the resolve of the member countries to fight proliferation and expressed concern about ‘the proliferation implications’ of the North Korean and Iran nuclear programmes. Surprisingly, the press release did not express concern about proliferation and defiance of its member—China, which is blatantly undertaking nuclear business with Pakistan. The release also informed about the revision of NSG control lists to adjust to the advancement in global nuclear technology. Soon, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will publish the list. 

The limited and faulty membership of the group that has been an enduring challenge of the NSG remained unaddressed. On the one hand, a NSG member country like China is seen blatantly violating NSG norms, rules and guidelines and on the other, there are members who decide about the control of nuclear commerce without being producers of nuclear items. The expansion of the NSG membership is either becoming tokenism or contradictory to its objective. 

The membership of India was discussed but superficially. India has been knocking at the doors of the four multilateral export controls regimes for more than two years. Its membership to all the four regimes has got the support of several leading members such as the US and the UK. According to media reports, the UK circulated a paper in favour of India’s membership while earlier, the US and France also circulated their papers in support of India’s membership. Recently, Japan supported the candidature of India for all the four multilateral export controls regimes during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Japan. 

On his visit to India in February 2013, the British Prime Minister promised to work with India for the membership and to that effect a paper was apparently circulated in an informal meeting of the NSG on March 18 to answer some of the misgivings expressed. The British paper recognized that since India and the NSG non-proliferation goals and principles are the same, the member countries should facilitate India’s membership as early as possible. 

The NSG has membership criteria. These are: 
  • “The ability to supply items (including items in transit) covered by the Annexes to Parts 1 and 2 of the NSG Guidelines 
  • Adherence to the Guidelines and action in accordance with them 
  • Enforcement of a legally based domestic export control system which gives effect to the commitment to act in accordance with the Guidelines 
  • Adherence to one or more of the NPT, the Treaties of Pelindaba, Rarotonga, Tlatelolco, Bangkok, Semipalatinsk or an equivalent international nuclear non-proliferation agreement, and full compliance with the obligations of such agreement(s) 
  • Support of international efforts towards non-proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and of their delivery vehicles.” 
Wrongly, in India, many point out that these criteria were ‘finalized by the NSG members during their 2001 Aspen Plenary’. In fact, these criteria have existed for a long time and the public documents available in 1990s record all these criteria.1 [1] The important issue is that India meets all the criteria but for the adherence of the NPT. 

In reality, India, on several occasions, has been asserting that despite being a non-member country its policies are ‘consistent with the key provisions of NPT that apply to nuclear weapon states. These provisions are contained in Articles I, III and VI.’ The major powers realized this, but the NSG avoided taking a decision on India’s membership in its plenary session. 

Some of the members are expressing unnecessary apprehensions regarding India’s membership. Unlike China, India has a track record of complying with obligations of any treaty or agreement it signs. The 2008 India-specific waiver, which permitted full scope nuclear cooperation with India, underlined the need for adjusting the arrangement to achieve a larger goal of bringing India closer to NSG objective of promoting nuclear trade without compromising on nonproliferation. As for India’s membership, the member countries may relax the NPT criteria to bring India in the NSG control framework. India can certainly bring a balance in the composition and activities of the NSG. 

Are we ready for ‘peak water’ and smaller harvests?


John Vidal 

Wells are drying up and underwater tables falling so fast in the Middle East and parts of India, China and the U.S. that food supplies are seriously threatened, one of the world's leading resource analysts has warned. 

In a major new essay Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, claims that 18 countries, together containing half the world's people, are now over pumping their underground water tables to the point — known as “peak water” — where they are not replenishing and where harvests are getting smaller each year. 

The situation is most serious in the Middle East. According to Brown: “Among the countries whose water supply has peaked and begun to decline are Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. By 2016 Saudi Arabia projects it will be importing some 15 m tonnes of wheat, rice, corn and barley to feed its population of 30 million people. It is the first country to publicly project how aquifer depletion will shrink its grain harvest. 

“The world is seeing the collision between population growth and water supply at the regional level. For the first time in history, grain production is dropping in a geographic region with nothing in sight to arrest the decline. Because of the failure of governments in the region to mesh population and water policies, each day now brings 10,000 more people to feed and less irrigation water with which to feed them.” 

Brown warns that Syria’s grain production peaked in 2002 and since then has dropped 30 per cent; Iraq has dropped its grain production 33 per cent since 2004; and production in Iran dropped 10 per cent between 2007 and 2012 as its irrigation wells started to go dry. 

“Iran is already in deep trouble. It is feeling the effects of shrinking water supplies from over-pumping. Yemen is fast becoming a hydrological basket case. Grain production has fallen there by half over the last 35 years. By 2015 irrigated fields will be a rarity and the country will be importing virtually all of its grain.” 

There is also concern about falling water tables in China, India and the U.S., the world's three largest food-producing countries. “In India, 175 million people are being fed with grain produced by over-pumping, in China 130 million. In the United States, the irrigated area is shrinking in leading farm States with rapid population growth, such as California and Texas, as aquifers are depleted and irrigation water is diverted to cities.” 

Falling water tables are already adversely affecting harvest prospects in China, which rivals the U.S. as the world’s largest grain producer, says Brown. “The water table under the North China Plain, an area that produces more than half of the country’s wheat and a third of its maize, is falling fast. Over-pumping has largely depleted the shallow aquifer, forcing well drillers to turn to the region’s deep aquifer, which is not replenishable.” 

India’s crisis 

The situation in India may be even worse, given that well drillers are now using modified oil-drilling technology to reach water half a mile or more deep. “The harvest has been expanding rapidly in recent years, but only because of massive over pumping from the water table. The margin between food consumption and survival is precarious in India, whose population is growing by 18 million per year and where irrigation depends almost entirely on underground water. Farmers have drilled some 21 m irrigation wells and are pumping vast amounts of underground water, and water tables are declining at an accelerating rate in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.” 

Militants attack prison in northwest Pakistan


July 30, 2013

Militants disguised as police and armed with bombs and guns attacked a prison in northwest Pakistan holding 40 high-profile inmates on Monday night in an apparent attempt to free their colleagues, officials said. 

The attack in the town of Dera Ismail Khan began around midnight with a huge explosion, said intelligence officials. The militants then detonated a series of smaller bombs to destroy the prison’s boundary wall. 

At least eight attackers wearing police uniforms stormed inside the prison once the walls fell, said the officials. Security forces engaged the attackers, who were chanting “God is great” and “Long live the Taliban.” 

“We are trying to bring the situation under control,” said Dera Ismail Khan police chief Sohail Khalid. “The attack is still continuing.” 

“We are not sure if any of them escaped,” Mr. Abbas said. 

Authorities received a letter threatening an attack on the prison, but they didn’t expect it so soon, said Mr. Abbas. Army troops encircled the prison and exchanged fire with the attackers, he said, but security forces were having trouble distinguishing the militants in the dark because of their police uniforms. 

One prison official, Gul Mohammad, said he had just walked out of the prison at the end of his shift when two militants armed with AK-47s shot him. There are other officials who have been wounded, he said from a hospital bed, although the casualty toll was unclear.


India and Pakistan: Azm-e-Nau as a Response to the Cold Start

Ali Ahmed
Blogger at ali-writings.blogspot.in 
28 July 2013 

The Pakistani Army has just completed its summer war games, Azm Nau IV. The press release has it that with the Azm-e-Nau series of exercises held since 2009, Pakistan has arrived at an answer to India’s Cold Start. Its distraction so far with the ‘Af-Pak’ related security situation on its western border appears to be now behind it. With the Americans packing to depart, it’s back to business in South Asia.

The nuclear backdrop does make this worrisome. There is also no guarantee against a war breaking out. A conventional war cannot be guaranteed to stay conventional. It can be argued that Pakistan’s signalling that it is prepared conventionally is good in the sense that it will deter India on the conventional level. But the problem is that this gives Pakistan the confidence to provoke India at the subconventional level; providing a trigger for India to go conventional in response.

The ‘unthinkable’ cannot be wholly discounted. Pakistanis have gone down the plutonium route to miniaturise warheads so as to place them on missiles. Being short on planes, missiles are the mainstay of the Pakistani nuclear force. The latest of these missiles is a nuclear-tipped battlefield missile designed for use against Indian conventional forces. Its battlefield employment serves to bring nuclear war outbreak that much closer. Pakistan’s rationale for such lowering of the nuclear threshold is that it would deter India from launching Cold Start offensives; thereby, making nuclear war more remote.

This has got India debating its options. India could pay Pakistan back in the same coin of proxy war. It is easy to destabilise Pakistan, perpetually on the brink of being a failed and terror sponsoring state. However, there is no guarantee that this will end the terror provocations, and an unstable Pakistan is not necessarily in India’s interest.

India could rely on conventional asymmetry in its favour, deepened by successive defence budgets such as this year’s crossing of the INR250 thousand crores mark. The intent is to deter Pakistani adventurism and, if push comes to shove, to prevail at every level of the conflict, including nuclear. The idea is to gain ‘escalation dominance’, which means to convince the adversary to give up the fight rather than take it to the next higher level at which, yet again, it cannot hope to win.

India’s military has been on a learning curve ever since its conventional war doctrine was rendered obsolete by Pokhran II. While arriving at the concept of Limited War soon thereafter, it was unable to rise to the occasion when it was sorely tested at the next crisis in wake of the parliament attack. The embarrassment of having taken over three weeks to ready itself, led to the intensive thinking that resulted in the Cold Start doctrine.

The doctrine required multiple attacks into Pakistan at-the-double. Genuflecting to the nuclear backdrop, the army sought to limit these thrusts to shallow depths. Even so, this amounted to nuclear flirtation since the attack was to be rapid and along a broad front using resources with ‘pivot corps’ or defending formations and offensive formations staged forward closer to the border for the purpose. With the balance of its strike corps forming up in wake of the limited offensives and an air offensive unfolding simultaneously, Pakistan could well be stampeded into a nuclear decision in a truncated timeframe. This made Cold Start difficult to sell to the political masters.

Consequently, India has since distanced itself from Cold Start. An army chief has gone on to say that there was nothing called Cold Start. The contours of what it has come up with instead are indistinct. The publicity that attended Cold Start, intended no doubt to enhance its deterrent effect, is missing. Consequently, little is known of its successor, ‘Cold Start lite’. It apparently involves quick punches at key locations to punish Pakistan’s army and force its hand against destabilising forces within. While Pakistan could choose to up-the-ante, it is logically expected to be self-deterred when faced with the nuclear overhang. The nuclear scare is to help Pakistani army along in reining in its jihadists in a ‘Pakistan first’ strategy.

At the end of its summer exercises, the Pakistani army has claimed that it is in a position to deploy fast enough to the borders to give Indian attacks a bloody nose. This challenges India’s expectation that Pakistan would choose to lose cheaply than resoundingly at the next higher level. India will need to take the fighting up a notch higher. Its air force is also unlikely to sit out the war. This amounts to getting back into nuclear danger zone.

Clearly, even if a summer’s end finds both militaries more practiced, it does not mean either nation is any safer. The writing on the wall is to not only draw up the calendar for talks agreed on by Salman Khurshid and Sartaz Aziz at their meeting in Brunei recently, but have the two prime ministers meet swiftly to take the reopening forward.

Doha Dialogue, Obama’s Zero Option and the Afghan Future: Advantage Taliban

D Suba Chandran
Director, IPCS 
E-mail: subachandran@ipcs.org 

Obama has floated another Zero Option (remember the earlier Prague speech on global nuclear disarmament that won him the Nobel?), this time on the number of American troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014. This statement, whether bluff or threat, follows Karzai’s angry remarks and Afghanistan’s official protest against the dialogue with the Taliban in Qatar earlier, which witnessed the Doha dialogue collapse.

Clearly both the expressions of the two Presidents are linked. Why was Karzai upset and angry with the Doha dialogue with the Taliban, when his government has already initiated a parallel process through a High Peace Council in Afghanistan? And the follow up statement by Obama on zero option in Afghanistan – is it a policy formulation, or a bluff, or worse a threat directed at Karzai?

Remember the Hollywood blockbuster – Clash of Titans and its sequel, the Wrath of Titans on the Greek mythology involving Perseus, Zeus, Hades and Ares? It appears, Obama and Karzai are fighting their battles, without realizing that there is larger good that needs to be nurtured and safe guarded. And that can be done only by dialogue and better understanding of each other’s situation, sensitivities and future projections, and not by threatening each other and fighting in open.

Unless the mighty Zeus and Hades realise their past mistakes and come together, Kronos can never be stopped. We the little Perseuses, are powerless (unlike the mythical one) and cannot afford to see our mighty Gods fight amongst themselves in our names, and in the process fail us for generations. Remember, the Kronos is getting powerful, and has the full support of the Ares!

Back to the contemporary power politics in Afghanistan from the Hollywood/Greek myth, what is the Zero option that the President Obama is talking about, and what are his reasons today?

Though “Zero Option” was in the public debate especially within the American think tank circles during the recent past, it was never formally enunciated by the American leadership – either as an option, or as a strategy. The “Zero Option” aims at removing all the American troops stationed in the US after 2014. As has been referred elsewhere, Obama as the Commander in Chief of the mighty American military has the right to increase or cut down his troops. In theory.

But the general understanding has always been that the US would do the following as a part of its larger exit strategy before December 2014. It is widely quoted that the level American troops in Afghanistan today is over 60,000 to be gradually reduced to 34,000 by February 2014, and then further lowered by the end of December. It was expected, that this strategy will not result in the complete withdrawal of American troops at the ground level from Afghanistan, and that there will be a “residue American force” even after December 2014.

What is this residue American force for, as has been originally advocated? It was to serve three purposes – first and foremost, to ensure that whatever has been achieved militarily in the last ten years do not go waste. This will be done by an overall assessment of ground situation in Afghanistan after 2014. The second objective is to continue the training of Afghan troops; both the Afghan National Army and the Police are being rained heavily by forces from the rest of world. The last objective, the most important one, for keeping an American residue force even after 2014, is to ensure that the al Qaeda network across the Durand Line does not get revamped after 2014. As a part of this objective, the American strategy could be observed from continuing with their Drone attacks, even after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Afghanistan: Is The Absence of War a Substantial Condition for Peace?

Priyashree Andley
Security Analyst

The post-Cold War period has witnessed a significant shift in the nature of conflict. The number of internal conflicts increased and the intensity of behaviour of parties has undergone change. The number of actors involved increased as various pressure groups and ethnic/minority groups rose up in rebellion against the state or each other. However, interests within these groups are diverse and actions of coalitions are influenced by this internal political dynamic. Contemporary peace processes, crucial in a state’s transition from war to peace, highlight the complexity of these intra-state and inter-group relations.

In this background, the issue to be addressed is why civil war combatants may continue to fight even after a settlement, especially focussing on Afghanistan which is inching closer to its new government selection period in 2014. There are two types of peace processes. One that follows an agreement and the other is followed by an agreement. This distinction is useful for linking the nature of the peace process to the relapse to war. The critical challenge for conflict resolution in Afghanistan is to convince conflicting parties to submit to a new political scenario by giving up their individual defences when they are most vulnerable and lack guarantee of their opponents doing the same.

It is necessary to differentiate between two types of interventions: hard (military) and soft (diplomatic ties, track two level talks, humanitarian aid). However, there is a very thin line separating the two as humanitarian relief is largely getting ‘militarised’ as seen in the case of Afghanistan. Military intervention leading to a settlement under auspices of third parties can be a necessary mechanism in conflict resolution, but not the final solution. Just before Joe Biden, the Vice President of the US’ visit to India, he confirmed that if the Taliban wished to play a positive role in Afghan polity, they would have to break ties with Al-Qaida, stop supporting violence and accept the Afghan constitution.

If the US is still asserting the need for the Taliban to stop violence and end contacts with Al-Qaida, then have the ten years of presence of the international community in Afghanistan been successful?

It is necessary to recognise and address violence as a structural problem rooted in the political, social, and cultural context. However, coordinating the work of multiple actors with different approaches is challenging, requiring collaborations between them and their roles. Secondly, agencies at the local and middle level often avoid working with national authorities making peace processes fragmented. Moreover, the role and nature of civil society varies in conflicting states. In Afghanistan, the civil society has less capacity to act as a countervailing force on the Taliban and warlords with entrenched localised power.

There is a fear among different groups that once US-led forces withdraw post the 2014 elections it could lead to marginalisation, especially if the Taliban reasserts its political hold. The case of an attack on Malala Yousafzai when she was travelling home from school in SWAT valley in Pakistan, and the response by a member of the Pakistani Taliban claiming that she is maligning the insurgents proves the same. Last week, she celebrated her 16th birthday, giving a speech at the UN in New York, in which she called on world leaders to provide free schooling for all children.

Today, conflict resolution needs to concern itself with social, psychological, and political changes affecting all actors. The gap between urgency and sustainability increases the incentive for rebellion, causing a breakdown in peace processes. Currently, resolution aims at state-building, perpetuating the international order of sovereign nation-states, as is visible in the case of Afghanistan. It reasserts the role of dominant actors.

According to the UN, Afghan elections scheduled for April 2014, will be a 'make or break' event and it is vital that the Afghan parliament pass two legislations related to the upcoming elections. One is related to the roles and responsibilities of the Independent Election Commission and the second is related to the main electoral law governing Afghan elections.

However, even if these elections become the legitimate way of the democratic transfer of authority and the basis of internal legitimacy, can they be the bases for future stability and Afghanistan's transformation? Will the different interest groups and political forces accept their results as credible?

Sectarian violence in Parachinar leaves at least 57 dead, more than 150 wounded

July 29, 2013 

Bonus read: "An Afghan Media Mogul, Pushing Boundaries," Graham Bowley (NYT). 

Ramadan violence 

At least 57 people were killed and more than 150 were injured on Friday night when a pair of bombs tore through a crowded bazaar in the town of Parachinar in the Kurram tribal area (AP, BBC, Dawn, NYT). According to Riaz Mehsud and Fazal Naeem Khan, a local government official and police spokesman, respectively, one explosion was caused by a suicide bomber, while the other came from a bomb that had been planted on a motorcycle. Parachinar is home to a large number of Shiite Muslims, a minority sect in Pakistan, and the explosions came as people were shopping for the iftar meal to break their fast. A militant group associated with the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. 

In a statement released on Saturday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai denounced the deadly assault that targeted fasting Muslims as "an anti-Islam act that could not be justified in any way" (Pajhwok). Meanwhile, in Parachinar on Sunday, residents held a demonstration protesting the Friday attacks but another person was killed and two were injured in Parachinar when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb (Dawn). An article in the New York Times suggests this violence is caused, in part, by militants moving from the tribal belt to Pakistan's larger cities, particularly Peshawar, where they have increased sectarian attacks, attacks on police, extortion demands, and kidnappings (NYT). 

At least six militants were killed and four were wounded on Sunday in a suspected U.S. drone strike in the Shawal area of North Waziristan (ET, Guardian, Post). According to multiple reports, the men were killed as they crossed over the Afghanistan-Pakistan border on foot, though others suggested a compound in the area had been the target (Dawn, Pajhwok). An unidentified militant commander told the New York Times that the group had been returning to Pakistan after a week of fighting against coalition forces in Afghanistan's Paktika province (NYT). Intelligence officials suggested that a senior commander in Gul Bahadur's faction of the Pakistani Taliban had been killed, but no name was released. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry quickly condemned the strike and reiterated its stance that the CIA drone program has "a negative impact on the mutual desire of both countries to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and to ensure peace and stability in the region" (Dawn, MoFA). 

Muhammad Hashim, an Afghan official working in the passport section of the Afghan Consulate in Quetta, was reported missing on Saturday (Dawn). Hashim's son, Siddiqullah, told police he had lost contact with his father on July 25, while Ghullam Muhammad Bahadur, the Afghan Consul General, said the consulate had not spoken to Hashim since July 23. While it is unclear what has happened to Hashim, kidnappings for ransom have increased in Quetta with around 78 local gangs involved in the practice. 

Hints of progress 

Janan Mosazai, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry, told reporters on Sunday that President Hamid Karzai had accepted the invitation to visit Pakistan and would soon make his first trip to the country in more than a year (AP, Pajhwok). While Mosazai said the agenda for the trip is still being worked out, the focus will likely be on mending relations between the two neighbors and soliciting Pakistan's help in ending the Afghan war, particularly in encouraging the Afghan Taliban to participate in peace talks. He also told reporters that Karzai had met with the commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin, on Saturday to discuss the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) but further details were not given. Though Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he'd like to see the BSA signed by October, Mosazai said "a timeframe for signing the pact is not imperative. The deal's contents, quality and guarantees are important for us." 

Mosazai's statements came as a new Washington Post/ABC poll showed that the Afghan war is now more unpopular with Americans than the Iraq war ever was (Post). According to the poll, released on Saturday, the number of Americans who say the war has been worth fighting has dropped to 28 percent, while 67 percent say it has not been worth it. The drop crosses all political lines, though it is more pronounced among Republicans who just three years ago supported the war by 69 percent. Now 51 percent say they oppose the war. 

Af-Pak Diary

Talks with the Taliban: A Post Mortem 

D Suba Chandran
Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi 
Email: subachandran@ipcs.org 

What was touted as the Doha process – negotiations with the Afghan Taliban -- appears to be dead now. There was a parallel initiative within Pakistan, between the government and the Teherik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which also appears to be in limbo. 

Why have the much talked about negotiations with the Taliban – Afghan and Pakistani varieties -- not yielded substantive results – either in terms of the process, or in terms of the outcome? Are the objectives totally different between the stakeholders? Is there no meeting point? Or are these processes a chimera, to hoodwink public opinion, and buy more time? 

The 'Moderate' Taliban: American Discovery or Invention? 

With the Afghan Taliban, the Doha process is not the first initiative. Ever since the Americans discovered (or perhaps invented) the “Moderate Taliban” (referred also as the “Good Taliban”) there have been multiple attempts in negotiating with them. While some of these attempts did result in established contact with the Taliban, there were also instances of being fooled by those who projected themselves as having reach into the Taliban leadership, especially Mullah Omar. 

In retrospect, it appears that none of the above attempts had the approval of the Afghan leadership, especially the Quetta Shura led by Mullah Omar. It is clear now, that unless the Afghan Taliban leadership is directly involved, any attempt to negotiate would be futile. 

Pakistan's Role

Besides the involvement of the top leadership of the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan has been playing a role (perhaps until the Doha process last month) in scuttling whatever was taking place with the Taliban. 

Two primary reasons could be identified for Pakistan playing a negative role in the previous attempts. First, the US or whoever led the initiative on behalf of Washington, did not keep Pakistan in the loop, especially the military leadership and the ISI. Despite the “close” US and Pakistan relationship, the former did not trust the latter, and hence kept Kayani and Pasha outside the loop. Nor did the Taliban leadership, despite its own “close” relationship with a section of Pakistan’s military and its ISI, inform the latter. 

As a result, Pakistan has not only been apprehensive, but it has also been angry with any dialogue process with the Taliban behind its back. The GHQ would prefer that it either leads the show with the US and the Afghan Taliban present, or is kept totally informed and a close observer in the process. It appears now that the latter was the reason behind Pakistan’s comfort level in the failed Doha process. 

Karzai and Kabul

Where do Karzai and Kabul stand in the dialogue process with the Taliban? In principle, Karzai has already agreed to a dialogue process with the Afghan Taliban. The High Peace Council has the popular mandate of the Afghan people, Karzai and his administration. 

Why then did Karzai play a spoilsport in the Doha process? The reasons are similar to why Pakistan did. Karzai, his administration and the rest of country would like to see this dialogue with the Taliban as “Afghan Owned and Afghan Led”, instead of being dictated or decided by others. There is a general fear in Kabul today that the dialogue process (in Doha) was being completely hijacked by outsiders and the Afghan government absolutely sidelined. 

Worse, there is a bigger fear that there might be a larger collusion between the US and Pakistan in imposing a solution on Kabul on the Taliban.