9 August 2013

India’s options in dealing with Pakistan ***

Issue Net Edition | Date : 07 Aug , 2013

When we consider our options, the first reality that we must accept is that we have no option but to deal with Pakistan irrespective of whether we have friendly or inimical relations with it, as it is our direct neighbour.

Pakistan is determined to confront us bilaterally, regionally and internationally. It inflicts wounds on us, through jihadi terrorism, for instance.

Some say that we pay excessive attention to Pakistan. At one level this may be true. At SAARC meetings or other forums the intensity of diplomatic attention we give to Pakistan stands out, to the chagrin of other countries in our neighbourhood. At another level, heightened attention is inescapable as our biggest and most intractable problems are with Pakistan.

For many reasons we cannot actually ignore Pakistan even if we wanted to. Those who want India to treat Pakistan with benign neglect miss some important compulsions. Pakistan is determined to confront us bilaterally, regionally and internationally. It inflicts wounds on us, through jihadi terrorism, for instance. The terrorist threat from Pakistan, therefore, becomes prominent in our internal and international discourse.

There is no other country that uses terrorism as an instrument of state policy towards us, or where jihadi groups openly exist and incite hatred towards India. Pakistan plays the religious card against us, targeting not only communal harmony inside India but also our relations with Islamic countries. We have also to be watchful of the rise of religious extremism in Pakistan as it has consequences for our multi-religious society.

Pakistan constantly seeks to internationalize bilateral issues with us, pressing the US and other western powers to intervene, which we have to resist. It raises human rights issues in J&K, and as such issues are sensitive for the international community, we are obliged to counter its propaganda.

Pakistan transfers responsibility for its nuclear ambitions on to our shoulders, creating a linkage between its programme and ours in the minds of other countries, forcing us to enter into the debate on the nuclear threat in the sub-continent.

Pakistan transfers responsibility for its nuclear ambitions on to our shoulders, creating a linkage between its programme and ours in the minds of other countries, forcing us to enter into the debate on the nuclear threat in the sub-continent.

Even in the case of Afghanistan, it justifies its policies there as necessary to counter India, a line that some in the West buy.

All issues in the forefront of international attention, whether religious extremism, terrorism or nuclear proliferation, figure in the India-Pakistan equation, which makes it impossible for us to behave as if Pakistan is a secondary problem for us.

The relevant question is whether we have dealt with the panoply of threats from Pakistan optimally in terms of available options.

On the face of it, given the lack of success in containing Pakistan one can say that this is not the case. One must, of course, concede that Pakistan is a unique case and no easy answers are available on how it can be successfully dealt with.

Whenever the government’s policy towards Pakistan is criticized, the critics are asked to propose a better policy, one that could have guaranteed, or will guarantee in the future, better results.

Conditions needed for India-Pakistan rapprochement

The act of geographically dividing a people on an untested “two nation theory,” ignoring a shared multi-cultural heritage dating back centuries, was bound to have consequences beyond anything that political scientists could have imagined. This cataclysmic event resulted in the creation of a country based on religion, with two halves separated by thousands of kilometers, mass transborder migration of the population, division of families, untold bloodshed, and the poignant division of militaries that shared a common military history and tradition. Not surprisingly, the aftermath of this painful experiment in human history continues to haunt India–Pakistan relations and now threatens regions well beyond.

Pakistan continues to receive generous military and economic aid, its military dictatorships were condoned and promoted, its nuclear proliferation activities studiously ignored, and its waging of a proxy war against India…

As estranged neighbors, the two have fought three wars plus the Kargil conflict, of which one war resulted in the birth of Bangladesh and the burial of the original misguided theory. Today, both are nuclear weapon states, and while India remains the largest democracy in the world, Pakistan’s experiment with democracy remains patchy.

Over the decades, Pakistan has helped further U.S. interests as a bulwark against communism during the Cold War, break the ice with China, reverse the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and now fight the al Qaeda and Taliban both in Afghanistan and within its borders. For this, Pakistan has extracted a heavy price. It continues to receive generous military and economic aid, its military dictatorships were condoned and promoted, its nuclear proliferation activities studiously ignored, and its waging of a proxy war against India in Kashmir glossed over as a freedom struggle.

But the Pakistan state also paid a heavy price. Its polity and democratic institutions decayed, its military and intelligence agencies became politicized, and the seeds of religious fundamentalism were sown to breed a new generation brought up on hatred and jihad towards non-believers in general and India in particular.

Buoyed by the apparent indifference of the U.S. and its allies, the Pakistan military – the ultimate arbiter of power within the country – ventured into uncharted territory by promoting terrorism as an instrument of state policy to bleed India “through a thousand cuts” and to establish strategic depth in Afghanistan through the creation of the Taliban and other terrorist organizations. Ironically, the inspiration for this hydra-headed monster was the mujahideen fighters (erstwhile creatures of U.S. and Pakistan intelligence agencies to thwart the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan), who have now mushroomed into various terrorist outfits spanning the region. Today, distinctions between these different outfits and the good and bad Taliban are meaningless, as all are fused ideologically and operationally. Now when terrorist rhetoric speaks of destroying the “Crusader-Zionist-Hindu-alliance,” the chickens are coming home to roost!

Pakistan is a rogue country and should be treated accordingly

Issue Net Edition | Date : 07 Aug , 2013

Pakistan is at it again. Five soldiers have lost their lives. Indian leadership appears unfazed and wants to continue dialogue with Pakistan. One of the greatest misfortunes for India is the fact that no political leader or bureaucrat sends his progeny to the armed forces. As loss of soldiers’ lives does not impact them personally, they remain unconcerned. They do not realise that every life lost means ruination of a family – loss of a son for the parents, widowhood for the wife and orphans’ lives for the children.

India’s policy of extending a hand of friendship and accommodation has been a total failure. On the contrary, it has emboldened Pakistan into considering India to be a soft state…

It was reprehensible to see the leading spokesperson of the ruling party laughing and joking when discussing such a grave issue on TV. For him, it was nothing more than a debating matter to score points over the opponents. These insensitive people make all Indians hang their heads in shame. They do not realise that an uncaring and callous government is the worst demoralizing factor for the armed forces.

India’s policy of extending a hand of friendship and accommodation has been a total failure. On the contrary, it has emboldened Pakistan into considering India to be a soft state and increased its intransigence and hardened its anti-India attitude. How to deal with an unreasonable and hostile neighbour continues to be a convoluted dilemma for India.

Every nation has certain core values. These are fundamental traits that provide sustenance to it for its existence. Normally, these are positive attributes which are considered non-negotiable and unalterable. In India’s case, it is to secure for all its citizens justice (social, economic and political); liberty (of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship); equality (of status and opportunity); and fraternity while assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.

Pakistan’s core values are based on the warped political principles of ‘hate and hurt India at all costs’. Pakistan was created on the ideology that the ‘pure’ cannot coexist with the infidel. A nation born out of hatred needs hatred to feed itself on for continued sustenance and to justify its existence. Anti-India stance fulfills this need and cannot be shed.

A few years ago a group of Indian ladies visited Pakistan under a social exchange programme. One of the ladies sustained a wrist fracture in an accidental fall and was taken to the nearest medical facility. The orthopaedician on duty treated the lady diligently and to the best of his ability. While bandaging the wrist, he engaged the lady in small talk. When the lady referred to commonality of Indian and Pakistani cultures, the doctor flared up and blasted the lady for her ‘flawed views’. “What is common between us? We eat cows and you worship them. We asked for a separate nation only because we are totally different in all respects. I suggest you Indians should stop fooling yourselves”, he thundered.

Retaliation against Pakistan is warranted

Issue Net Edition | Date : 08 Aug , 2013

The time window to retaliate against the Pakistani castration and beheading of three Indian soldiers earlier this year or killing of five brave soldiers in Poonch this week does not elapse if a month or year has passed. In fact, the time, place, and method of retaliation are a matter of the victim’s own choosing. Thus, retaliation could take place a year or two years from now: there are no statutes of limitations on this type of situation, and there is no absolute moral constraint from exercising retaliation; and there is no written international law on this matter.

Stupid Indian politicians fall for this diplomacy hook, line, and sinker, while Pakistani diplomacy returns chuckling that it made a fool of stupid Indians once again.

It is unfortunate that since the beheading incident, the Indian prime minister met with his Pakistani counterpart, hailing from the same district of Jhelum. The Pakistani PM paid a pilgrimage to the sacred tomb of Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer, and further met with India’s foreign minister. These incidents served to diffuse the situation, and both Islamabad and New Delhi agreed to brush the incident under the carpet with the aim of forgetting it altogether.

But India has failed to understand or recognize this ploy by Pakistan. After each major incident, Pakistan starts playing cards of goodwill, brings up old connections of Indians with West Punjab, raises the issue of sharing a common language and culture, opens the connection of religion with Indian Muslims, relates that Iqbal was an Indian poet laureate who wrote sare jahan se acha Hindustan hamara, and purports to act as a brother toward India. Stupid Indian politicians fall for this diplomacy hook, line, and sinker, while Pakistani diplomacy returns chuckling that it made a fool of stupid Indians once again.

After 66 years with Pakistan, India has not learned. To make it worse, we’ve had two prime ministers from Jhelum who have been immensely soft with Pakistan – Inder Gujral and Manmohan Singh. Other prime ministers may have not been soft, but they have exhibited fear and restraint, which amounts to the same effect. Thus, time and again, Pakistan gets away with excesses and atrocities against India. And India in its arrogance thinks that love will conquer Pakistan. Such thinking is far distant from the realpolitik, and tends to portray weakness and cowardice, instead.

Terror related activities in developing India

Issue Courtesy: Aakrosh | Date : 05 Aug , 2013

As defined, development is a process in which something passes by degrees to a different stage. It involves a process of becoming deeper and more profound. It is a progression from simpler to more complex forms – the growth of culture. In general parlance, it is an improvement from the past to the present, moving steadily to a better future. Development can always be good, provided it is perceived and accepted with a positive mindset. It occurs whenever and wherever there is a need for improvement in the existing system. With the inclusion of modern technologies, especially networking, the world has become one small piece of land and India is not away from the impact of globalisation and consumerism growing quickly everywhere. Children no longer stay in the shadows of their parents. They independently strive to achieve their goals through cut-throat competition. They have become altruistic and dreamers for a glamorous and glorious future.

If development is not equivocal, society is not completely empowered and progress has not touched everyone, and this is exactly what we are witnessing in India today. Home-grown terrorism is the result of it.

Any development, be it any form, has some fallout. Resistance comes from different sections of society or from think tanks, which retards the growth. Some people are left behind in the race while others run so fast that they become the front setters. Those who are marginalised nurture anger and disappointment against others. A rift is, therefore, created between the rich and the poor. As development proceeds, consumerism increases and wealth gets amassed with some sections while the rest remain where they have been. The wealthy and the powerful indulge in scams and white-collar crimes, while the deprived and the poor adopt the criminal career. It is the middle class in our country that strives to do well, maintaining a balance between its rights and responsibilities, but there is no doubt that it remains under severe mental and economical stress.

If development is not equivocal, society is not completely empowered and progress has not touched everyone, and this is exactly what we are witnessing in India today. Home-grown terrorism is the result of it. Small factions of people in different parts of the country are often disrupting our country’s peace by imposing war on the government and taking innocent people to task. Lives are lost, and work comes for a moment to a halt. So, a modern India has in store problems emerging from casteism, regionalism, communalism, sectarianism and many others.

Aggression can be a symptom of many different underlying problems. It’s a polymorphic thing, a commonality for any number of different psychiatric conditions, medical problems and life circumstances. And so, at the very essence of treating aggression is first to find out what’s driving it. For a diagnostic approach, it is necessary to begin from the home where everything is shaping in an undesirable manner.

In India, the youths in their early to mid-twenties and the juveniles from the age of 10 years onwards are exhibiting aggression and their behaviour no longer conforms to the standards and established norms of Indian society. The age-old culture does not satisfy them. Rejection of any control, be it social or filial, is prominent among them. Violence is conspicuous in their personality characteristics. This is of course a global phenomenon, and this deterioration in the perceptions and attitudes of the present youths is generally explained by some people as all due to the generation gap. Researchers,1 while studying individual characteristics contributing to aggression, stressed that a number of individual characteristics have been shown to increase a child’s risk for aggressive behaviour. These include a difficult temperament as an infant, low intelligence, hyperactivity, impulsiveness and attention problems. Additionally, aggressive children frequently have poor social problem-solving skills: they often misinterpret other children’s behaviour as hostile, and they are often unable to find non-aggressive solutions to conflicts.


Avoiding Armageddon: America, India, and Pakistan to the Brink and Back By Bruce Riedel, HarperCollins, Rs 499

The name of the book reveals all. The author, Bruce Riedel, has been an insider of the Central Intelligence Agency for a long time, and has been privy to various twists and turns, trials and tribulations that the United States of America has undergone for more than 25 years. Hence, the quality and the authenticity of the book can hardly be challenged or disputed, interpretations of events by the author notwithstanding.

The book begins with the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai that were wrought by the Lashkar-e-Toiba. The banned terror outfit had the active help and participation of the Pakistan army and the Inter-Services Intelligence as the “LeT recruits from the same areas where the Pakistani army recruits, indeed from the same families.” And the role model for this is the “old Mughal Empire of the 17th and 18th centuries, under which a Muslim minority ruled the Hindu majority and dominated the most of the sub-continent.” It, therefore, results in anti-British rhetoric, as the Western colonizers snatched from the Muslim rulers their power over the majority population of South Asia.

In this background, enter the super power, the US. If there is a fight between India and Pakistan, the global strategic interests of the super power are hurt. And post 26/11, any fire in Pakistan directly affects 80 per cent of the Nato supplies that travel through Karachi port to landlocked Afghanistan; this would result in the instant defeat of the US and a victory for the al Qaida and the LeT. The US, understandably, is worried as to how to deal with the “emergence of India and Pakistan as major world powers.”

The US’s quest for a firm foothold in South Asia began long ago, with President Harry S. Truman. However, successive presidents, from Eisenhower to Obama, found the area extremely hard to succeed in. This is essentially because of the diverse interests and aims of India and Pakistan. India, through the non-aligned movement, wanted to move independently through a bipolar world and try to create a niche for itself with the use of its soft power under Jawaharlal Nehru; Pakistan was not confident doing so owing to its smaller size and overall limited capability in comparison to India. Hence Pakistan’s rulers, who were soon dethroned by the military general, sought the assistance of a bigger and greater power than its neighbour India, to guarantee the country’s safety, security and sovereignty. And who could be better than the US? Naturally India disliked the permanent presence of a distant big brother in the vicinity.

Seeds were sown for long “Indo-US relations which were cordial but not close.” Nehru and Indira Gandhi were welcome to the US through diplomacy sans intimacy. Pakistani generals, on the other hand, were allowed to be “personal” guests and their requests for arms and aid were considered with utmost care. Thus, during the Bangladesh crisis of 1971, when Indira Gandhi visited the US to gain world “support for the Bengali people and India, she met a brick wall in the Oval office” of President Richard Nixon. Understandably the Americans failed in their assessment of Indira Gandhi’s mettle; “she ordered her army chief to prepare for war.”

Interestingly, the book reveals once again the American expertise in preparing false reports, such as those made by the CIA. Richard Helms, the then director of the CIA, reported “that Indira Gandhi had designs beyond East Pakistan and was determined to destroy Pakistan entirely in the war.” Nixon was elated and called it “one of the few really timely pieces of intelligence the CIA had ever given him.” Subsequent events made Helms concede that though “the report was inaccurate, it was too important to be ignored.” Does this report sound suspiciously like CIA and American reports on present-day Iraq, Syria and Libya?

Indira Gandhi simply “did not need America”, but she was “convinced that Nixon was her enemy, and she harboured suspicion that the CIA was determined to assassinate her.” Her suspicion intensified after the “hero of Bangladesh’s independence struggle, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was murdered in a bloody coup in 1975 that she believed was orchestrated to punish her for the 1971 war.” In October 1974, however, the then US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, was sent to India to “repair the damage of 1971 and acknowledge the past errors.” Indira Gandhi remained unimpressed.

My first day in battle

by Col P. S. Sangha, Vir Chakra, (retd)

THE battlefield is the sole preserve of soldiers. All soldiers fantasise about being in battle situations, although many go through their full career without having the experience. A battle is the ultimate test of a soldier's professional competence, moral/physical courage, will power and determination. I am one of those who got the opportunity to go to battle stations. The first day in battle is an important one because anything can happen. You may have a great victorious day or you may get whipped. At the personal level, you may have a great/indifferent/bad day.

My first day in battle was in the famous Battle of Laungewala in the 1971Indo-Pak war. Laungewala is a small place North-West of Jaisalmer. I was an Air Observation Post pilot and our flight was located at the airfield in Jaisalmer. The war broke out on the night of December 3, 1971, and by midnight we were given orders to move up to our Advance Landing Ground (ALG) the next day.

Accordingly, I along with another pilot flew two aircraft to the ALG in the afternoon of December 4. The Flight Commander had gone up to the Division HQs for briefing and orders. Under the original plans our formation was to go in for an offensive into Pakistan and as such we were mentally prepared for that.

On the morning of December 5 we were up early and started preparing for the day ahead. At about 6.30 am the Flight Commander came in a tearing hurry and called us for a quick briefing. We were informed that the enemy had launched a surprise attack in the rear flank of the formation with a Brigade Group supported by a regiment plus of tanks. The Laungewala post, which was held by a company of infantry, was under attack. I was briefed to go there and get information of the battle situation. I was told that our Air Force was launching a two-aircraft mission which will also be there.

So, very quickly we got an aircraft ready and there I was sitting in it with my Observer Operator, Raj Singh, beside me waiting for enough light to take off on a winter morning in the Thar desert. My mind was in a bit of turmoil since this was going to be an entirely new experience. I was thinking whether I was going to make it back alive and that made me think of my parents and siblings. Anyway, at 7.15 am we had enough light to fly and I started my engine. A quick salute from the marshalling crew and we were running down the narrow ALG to get smoothly airborne. I turned left towards Laungewala and set course. I was surprised to feel my knees shaking. Was it fear of the unknown or just nervous tension? Probably, a mixture of the two. I willed myself to calm down and soon I was cool, calm and collected.

Before talks, Pakistan needs to settle internal equations

Vivek Katju
The Pakistan Army is a powerful player whose signals Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would do well to acknowledge

In all dispensations in Pakistan, crucial foreign policy and all security-related decisions are taken by the Pakistan Army. This has once again been revealed in the leaked Abbottabad Commission Report generally but particularly in the testimony of Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar. Mr. Mukhtar said that the Defence Minister was “not kept in the loop all the time” and files normally only went to the Defence Secretary. He admitted “that it would take some time for the Rules of Business to be implemented in letter and spirit.” Defence Secretaries are retired army generals.

In order to convey that the Army is on board a particular policy, Pakistani diplomats customarily use the formulation that “all institutions” have been consulted and are in agreement. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Special Envoy, Mr. Shahryar Khan, took recourse to similar words in Delhi last month. Mr. Khan emphasised that Pakistan wanted to move ahead positively to develop harmonious ties with India and especially mentioned trade. He also said that Pakistan was conscious of India’s concerns on terrorism.

Notwithstanding Mr. Khan’s message, it would be prudent to proceed cautiously for the equation between Mr. Sharif and the Army is uncertain and will take time to settle. India needs to give space to Pakistani institutions to arrive at an understanding among themselves instead of rushing to embrace the political class.

Internal dynamics

The interplay of institutions has to be an indigenous Pakistani process. The political class has to establish control over the Army itself. While the country’s civil society could help it in this endeavour, outsiders cannot. It will be a difficult and contentious process as the Army is bruised and low in self-esteem. Military operations against the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP) and other groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa have taken a heavy toll and been far from successful.

It is particularly demoralising for the soldiery that it is locked in brutal and bloody combat with fellow nationals who are largely of the same ethnic stock. What is more galling is that the militant groups are perceived by many in the Army to be fighting for a righteous cause: to throw out the Americans from the region and in defence of Islam. It is on account of these reasons that the Army has steadfastly refused to conduct operations in North Waziristan.

General Pervez Musharraf’s bizarre conduct has added to the woes of the Army leadership. He returned to Pakistan despite the clear advice of the Army top brass, his own family and, most importantly, the Saudi leadership.

The Army wants him to leave Pakistan but he has set conditions which are almost impossible to meet. The cases against him and his continued detention, although in the comfort of his own house, have caused substantial anger in the Army.

There is no indication or reason for the Army to seek to stage a coup at this juncture. It has its hands full in not only tackling the TTP but also in handling the situation in Afghanistan as the country will go through political, security and economic transitions in 2014. The Army is also aware of Pakistan’s precarious economic situation.

The question really is how much leeway the Army will allow Mr. Sharif with regard to India which is its permanent obsession and main defence issue. Here again, the Abbottabad Commission Report is instructive. It notes, “In reality the defence policy of Pakistan is considered the responsibility of the military and not the civilian government even if the civilian government goes through the motions of providing inputs into a policy-making process from which it is essentially excluded.” This has an obvious bearing on India which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his experienced advisers have ignored since Mr. Sharif won the election.

Dr. Singh wants to move quickly to resume dialogue with Pakistan. His advisers would do well to study the course of India-Pakistan relations between February 1997 and October 1999. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was no less committed to improve relations with Pakistan than Dr. Singh.


Friday, 09 August 2013 

When it comes to poverty reduction, the world doesn't really require such hollow and lopsided policies like free trade agreements. Rather, what we require are fairer wealth distribution programmes

In a recent comment, the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi expressed grave concerns on the outcome of a little known Free Trade Agreement that the Indian Government is hastily attempting to sign with the European Union. His concern was that the impact of this proposed EU FTA on the domestic dairy and animal husbandry industry in India would be debilitating if cheap European dairy products, supported heavily by EU subsidies, get inroads to Indian consumers. His fears are not unfounded.

Indeed, if top European multinational dairy brands like Lactalis, Friesland Campina or Arla Foods with turnovers of $12.7 billion, $11.2 billion and $8.7 billion respectively get access to the Indian market on the backs of zero or minimal import duties, India’s biggest dairy brand Amul (Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation), providing livelihood to more than 1.5 crore dairy farmers in rural India, might not survive for long. True, Nestle, one of the world’s biggest food products companies, has definitive footholds in India. Of course, Nestle too would be advantaged by the proposed EU-India FTA, but it’s a different ballgame when EU-Government subsidised products are imported directly from Europe with little entry barriers. Digest this figure. In February this year, the EU 2014-2020 budget was announced. Of the 960 billion euros budget, a mammoth 38 per cent, or 363 billion euros, was allocated purely for farm subsidies, which will without doubt make EU farm and dairy products ridiculously cheap compared to Indian products, which anyway suffer from massive cost additions due to various infrastructure issues. If these are the things to come, then the so-called ‘Free’ Trade Agreement could well turn out to be our costliest trade agreement.

The EU-India FTA discussions gathered steam back in 2008. However, because of the sensitivity of the issue, the progress had been shrouded in utmost secrecy with little or no data available. Of late, the discussions progressed more, so much so that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even came out with a surprisingly strong statement in July, “We have entered into Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements with the Asean countries, as well as the Republic of Korea. We are hoping to conclude a similar agreement with the European Union soon”. Most political parties are silent on the issue despite the fact that the implication of such an agreement is enormous.

An FTA generally means the lifting of trade barriers and an unhindered flow of goods and services with minimum import duties, intellectual property rights, Government procurement, and competition policies between the nations bound by the agreement. So, if the EU-India FTA gets signed, then one could well imagine world class 

A joint study by Corporate Europe Observatory and FDI Watch slammed the proposed EU-India FTA. The authors of the study mention, “The EU and the Indian Government have handed the negotiation agenda over to corporate lobby groups, ignoring the needs of their citizens. It is an outrage that two of the world’s biggest so-called democracies should behave in this way.” And the issue is not just limited to dairy and agricultural products. A paper titled, ‘India-EU free trade agreement — should India open up banking sector?’ concludes the following, “The proposed India-EU trade agreement is likely to further constrict the access to banking services in the country, geographically, socially and functionally... The provisions in FTAs are likely to further destabilise the financial system and so make future crises more likely.” Similar have been the arguments of global aid agencies like Oxfam, Stop AIDS Campaign, Health Action International Europe and Act-Up Paris who protested against the EU-India FTA outside the European Parliament in April 2013.

Norman Borlaug's legacy remembered in US

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s India visit, top US and Indian officials have paid glowing tributes to the legacy the father of the Green Revolution who helped India become self-reliant in food production.

Observing that Dr. Borlaug spent most of his time “building a vast army of hunger fighters” to carry forward his vision, Dr. Raj Shah, Administrator of USAID, said Dr. Borlaug spent his time in inspiring people around a very simple point that if tried one can “remove hunger in our” life time.

“If my father were here today, he would praise our dedication to the science and technology that will feed a hungry world. He would be happy to see that his work is being continued by dozens of organisations and countless scientists and farmers around the world,” said Jeanie Borlaug Laube, daughter of Norman Borlaug at an event organised by Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao at her residence.

“I know that my Dad would implore the policy makers of the world to learn from scientists who collaborate for the betterment of their people and the health of the planet. My Dad would also implore us all to hurry, for we cannot be complacent while people are starving. There are 7 billion people to feed now and by 2050 we will need to feed nine billion people,” Jeanie said.

Describing him as a “true hero,” Suzanne Heinen, Administrator, Foreign Agricultural Service, from the US Department of Agriculture, said Dr. Borlaug was a visionary and a scientific innovator.

Dr. Borlaug died on September 12, 2009 at the age of 95.

Although he began his life’s work in Mexico, his “grandest theatre of operations” as it has been termed was India, said Rao.

“He believed in thinking outside the box,” she said.

“The wheat seeds he brought to India were described as impossibly ideal, producing 4000-5000 kg of grain per hectare instead of the earlier 1000 kg norm,” she added.

Noting that Dr. Borlaug became the man who saved a billion lives, Rao said: “His name has become part of our zeitgeist, because he was one of those among us, who made miracles. There are not many like that, and we treasure his memory and his invaluable contribution to India’s development.”

“Dr. Borlaug left the world a heritage that includes billions of lives saved from the misery of starvation and inspired thousands of scientists worldwide who will continue to carry on his vision today and tomorrow,” Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said in his message sent for the occasion.

Mr. Pawar said Dr. Borlaug led the global crusade against hunger with a missionary zeal and over the years succeeded in saving billions of lives from starvation.

“He developed wheat varieties that were resistant to several diseases; could grow under diverse agro—climatic conditions and possessed high yield potential. Through his efforts, India received the ‘miracle seeds’ of these wheat varieties and supported by enabling policies and R&D programmes, ushered the “Green Revolution” placing our food security on a firm foundation,” he said.

Pakistan's number one threat

By Farahnaz Ispahani
August 8, 2013

For the last few days, Pakistan's capital has been on high alert due to the threat of a possible terrorist attack. Police and military vehicles have paraded around the city, commandos and snipers have been posted on Islamabad's picturesque Margalla Hills, and Pakistan's Navy has been deployed to protect a city that is 915 miles away from the sea. But the mobilization is being portrayed by the country's media as more of an inconvenience than a necessity.

Almost 12 years after it joined the rest of the world in fighting terrorism, Pakistan still remains uncomfortable with the idea of confronting the terrorists. Pakistani politicians, clerics, and journalists see terrorism only as a consequence of their country's alliance with the West, not as Pakistan's problem to handle. 

The high alert in Islamabad follows the recent jailbreak in the country's northwestern city of Dera Ismail Khan. On July 29, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an al-Qaeda ally, freed 253 prisoners, including 45 top terrorists, after storming a high-security prison. Besides five of the attackers, 24 people were killed, including 12 policemen, 4 prisoners, and 3 civilians.

But the brazen attack remained the top story in the country's media for barely a few hours. Squabbling among Pakistan's politicians over electing a figurehead president garnered greater attention. Soon after, the antics of Pakistan's Supreme Court, which accused populist cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan of contempt of court, became the focus of the nation's media attention. Interestingly, Khan's political party rules the Khyber-Pahtunkhwa province where the jailbreak took place.

After 9/11, Pakistan joined the ranks of nations united to fight the war against terror. But 12 years later, many Pakistanis remain unconvinced that terrorism must be fought as the greatest threat facing them. It's odd that this confusion about national priorities persists as at least 5,152 Pakistani civilians have been killed in terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda and its associated groups since 2008, while the total number of Pakistanis killed by terrorism and the military's effort to fight it since 2001 stands at 49,000.

The Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak could have been averted if lessons had been learnt from an earlier attack almost a year ago on the Bannu Central jail in southern Khyber-Pahtunkhwa province. Around 400 prisoners were freed by over 200 heavily armed Taliban fighters during that assault. In Bannu, the Taliban attacked with 150 suicide bombers and took over the area for more than two hours. Their goal was to set some of their imprisoned comrades free.

The Bannu Central jail was located on the outskirts of the city whereas the Dera Ismail Khan jail was centrally located in the heart of the city. The police headquarters, military cantonment, and the paramilitary Frontier Corps command center were not far from the prison's location. The Taliban passed several checkpoints, roadblocks, and security personnel in the course of their offensive. Both on their way to the prison and on the way back, the Taliban's massive convoy managed to go through without any resistance.

Security fears hinder Chinese projects in Pakistan

August 9, 2013
Ananth Krishnan

Chinese official says security concerns may impeded Xinjiang-Gwadar economic corridor plan

Concerns over security could hinder China’s ambitious plans to build a road and rail network and economic corridor from the western Xinjiang region to Pakistan, a Chinese official has said.

Long-discussed proposals to take forward the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor got a boost last month when newly-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Beijing and framed the project as one of his government’s priorities.

The corridor envisages improving road links from Xinjiang to Pakistan, including expanding and bolstering the Karokaram Highway, as well as building railway lines and pipelines from Kashgar in Xinjiang to the Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea, which could open up a much-needed alternative route for energy imports.

The security implications of the plan have concerned India as the corridor runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which borders Xinjiang.

This week, a top Chinese planning official acknowledged that despite the recent attention, it could still be a long while before the project comes to fruition.

At a meeting in Beijing discussing the plan, Lin Dajian, a top official in the foreign affairs office of the National Development and Reform Commission, the planning authority, said “security issues and challenges” could impede the project, according to a report by the official Associated Press of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Masood Khalid, who attended the meeting, expressed optimism about the corridor. He said “a task force and secretariat” had been set up to take forward the project, while a team from Pakistan would visit China soon “for further discussion”.

China’s growing concerns over security in Pakistan, in the wake of recent kidnapping threats to workers, have also slowed down other infrastructure projects executed by Chinese companies in the country. Analysts say China’s investments in the country have, as a result, not kept pace with the often lofty rhetoric hailing “all-weather” relations.

Only a day after Ms. Lin’s note of caution, Xiong Lixin, vice-president of Sinohydro, one of China’s biggest hydropower companies, was quoted as saying Chinese workers had to be escorted to construction sites in Pakistan in helicopters by armed guards.

Mr. Xiong, who earlier worked on the Gomal Zam dam project, said work on the project came to a halt for two years in 2004 “after unidentified militants kidnapped two

Chinese engineers working on the project at the north-western border of Pakistan”, the official China Daily reported. One worker was rescued but the other was killed. In 2011, the Kingho group, a coal mining firm, said it was reconsidering a $19-billion investment – the biggest by a Chinese firm in Pakistan – in Sindh province on account of security concerns

Sri Lanka: Challenges of Rehabilitation and Reintegration

Aaranya Rajasingam
Programme Officer, 
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies,

In May 2009, Sri Lanka ended its three decade long civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The cessation of fighting resulted in the urgent need to rehabilitate and reintegrate thousands of former militants of the LTTE. The Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prisons took direct responsibility of the rehabilitation of these ex-combatants. 

The mission statement of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prison Reform states that its main motive is to “disengage, de-radicalize, rehabilitate and reintegrate the misguided men/women and children, who were radicalized by the protracted armed conflict” and make them into “useful citizens and productive members” through a “center and community based comprehensive rehabilitation process”. These detention centres or PRACs (Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centre) as they are called carry out programmes for both children and adults alike. The programmes include educational classes, vocational training courses, spiritual development programmes and counselling. However, it is not clear whether all those detained had access to such facilities and training at all times. 

International humanitarian agencies have highlighted that though many of the suspected ex-militants have been released; the actual numbers detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in Sri Lanka is yet unknown. International Crisis Group reports have documented that factors such as constant transfers of detainees from centre to centre and lack of legal criteria as to who can be detained have made the process highly problematic. Routine instances of prison violence in the northern and southern detention centres in the country also show a lack of transparency and a failure to provide effective custody and care. 

In addition to this, the arbitrary decision to include political dissenters in these detention centres (designed to rehabilitate former combatants and not peaceful protestors) is not only unsuitable but a convenient strategy used to prolong the life span of these detention centres. The refusal of the Sri Lankan state to adequately respond to accusations of large scale rape and sexual violence of prisoners detained and the impunity allowed to officers who continue to commit those crimes shows a continued lack of political will from the Rajapaksa regime to reform these institutions in the near future.

It must be noted here that applying the standard of recidivism alone to evaluate the GOSL’s rehabilitation efforts is not sufficient. This is because in the Sri Lankan context, the rehabilitation of former combatants is directly linked to reconciliation. The end of the war and the destruction of LTTE’s leadership and its global economic linkages have meant that, though conspiracy theories still survive, there is practically no room for a return to militancy. Therefore, using recidivism as a marker of its success is redundant. It is more useful to take into cognisance that since any inadequacies of the rehabilitation programme will directly affect the potential for trust building and co-existence in the long term, its effectiveness is dependent on its ability to pave the way for reconciliation in the country. However, the delegitimization of minority grievances altogether within such programmes has made it difficult to reconcile differences between communities. 

In addition to this, in order for the rehabilitation and reintegration effort to be sustainable it requires the involvement of the private sector. Unfortunately the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) has so far failed to rope in the private sector to share in the mammoth task of training, equipping and employing all the rehabilitated members. The increasing domination of the army, in development schemes and commercial activities in the North, has made it impossible for the private sector to compete in this economy. Such instances are proof of glaring inconsistencies in the planning and managing of such programmes. 

China boosts Sri Lankan trade options with India

By Amantha Perera 

COLOMBO - As he stood on the westernmost edge of Colombo’s new harbor expansion, it was hard for Priyath Bandu Wickrema - the man tasked with reinventing the port as a regional giant - to cap his enthusiasm. 

"The potential is enormous," Wickrema said, standing on top of the new pilot house. "You know we are standing on land that is not even on the map." 

The land is part of a harbor expansion scheme that will add three terminals to Colombo port, each with three berths. The first opened this week. In all, US$400 million were invested for the land development and another $500 million for the infrastructure on the

berths. Of the investment on berths, 85% came from China Merchant Holdings and the rest from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). 

Wickrema, the SLPA chairman, is upbeat on prospects. "Our aim is to get $1 billion in revenue by 2020." 

The target is large ships that carry above 10,000 containers. There are at present 183 such ships moving between East Asia and Europe, according to SLPA chief manager Upul Jayatissa. Only three ports in the Indian Ocean can handle these massive vessels - Salalah in Oman, Singapore and Dubai. 

The SLPA envisions the new harbor as a transshipment hub, with India the biggest supplier of business. "Our catchment area is the east coast of India," Jayatissa said. 

Wickrema does not disThe government has also faced charges that China could use some of the investments in the ports, especially in the southern port, for military purposes. Critics of these Chinese funded projects on India’s southern doorstep say that China could use the southern harbor to increase its naval presence in the Indian Ocean. 

Chinese military presence in the Indian Ocean is not a major worry for India yet, according to Ramani Hariharan, a former Indian intelligence officer and defense specialist. But, he said, there are growing concerns. 

"The Chinese want to establish a strong presence in the marine business in Sri Lanka because that would enable them to build up their influence in future maritime developments, including security of Chinese ships, mainly tankers, and anchorages and repair facilities," he told IPS. 

In addition, the investments would allow the Chinese to maintain a presence in the region more easily. "It would also provide legitimate excuse to collect data required for future naval operations - survey of ocean and approaches as well as stealthy electronics eavesdropping," Hariharan said 

Wickrema dismisses all such fears. "I guarantee there will not be a [Chinese] naval base in [southern] Hambantota," he said. Chinese investments such as those that he has overseen are only commercial deals with profits as the final target, not military muscle, he said. "I don’t think anyone will get opportunities to use these ports as strategically important military service hubs," he said. 

If the aim is to get more Indians to ship through Colombo, Wickrema would have to make sure he and the government kept that promise. 

India-China make a Myanmar tryst

By Sonu Trivedi 

As India and China have emerged as major powers in Asia, their interests and concerns have transcended their geographical boundaries. There is particularly the case in Myanmar, where those interests have converged. This is largely due to the fact that Myanmar shares common borders with both the countries. Myanmar shares a 2,185-kilometer border with China, and 1,643-kilometer border with India. 

It has long been argued that Myanmar has always been a strategic concern for governing the dynamics of India-China relations. Myanmar's strategic location is considered as an important asset for India and China that offers tremendous opportunities for the countries of the region. Therefore, recent developments in Myanmar are a matter of concern for both India and China. 

China's role in Myanmar is decisive as it is one of the country's largest trading partners (India stands at fourth) and its biggest source of foreign investment. There has been an enormous growth in China's influence in Myanmar, significantly, after Western sanctions were implemented in 1989. 

China is investing heavily in developing ports in Myanmar, gaining greater access to the Indian Ocean. Furthermore, support from China has been crucial to Myanmar in diplomatic fora such as the United Nations Security Council. Beijing is investing heavily in infrastructure, mining projects, hydropower dams and oil-and-gas pipelines to help feed southern China's growing energy needs. 

It is noteworthy that Myanmar occupies a critical space on China's south-western flank. It is important as a trading outlet to the Indian Ocean for its landlocked inland provinces of Yunnan. Yunnanese companies are big investors in mining, rubber and other industries in the bordering state of Kachin in Myanmar. Thus, officials in Yunnan have a keen interest in Myanmar keeping the ethnic clashes in its border states calm. Hence, China's Myanmar policy has been dictated to a large extent by what will help Yunnan's economy move forward. 

Meanwhile, however, the new reformist regime in Myanmar considers India as a land of opportunity. It has been characterized as a benign power and an alternative force, given the competitions that exist from the existing players and other potential stakeholders. 

The key drivers of the India-Myanmar strategic relationship are cooperation in counter-insurgency operations and the need for India to ensure that Myanmar is not driven into "area of influence" of any other power in the region through Indian neglect of its security concerns. 

Indian insurgent groups from the northeastern states consider Myanmar a safe haven. Similarly, the rebels from these areas in Myanmar take refuge in the bordering areas of Indian Territory. Therefore, it is in the interests of both countries to cooperate with each other to fight these insurgent groups in a coordinated manner similar to China's approach of solving its problem of the Yunnan province in its southwest border. 

Given that Indian and Chinese interests overlap in Myanmar, building up the rail-road connectivity is high in the priority lists of both the countries for their land locked provinces at the borders. Myanmar acts as a major source of energy for the rising population of both the countries. 

Strategically, India and China both believe that strengthened ties with Myanmar are the key to dominance in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Sisi's Year Abroad


What Egypt's most powerful man learned from the U.S. military.

In 2006, Professor Stephen Gerras hosted a Super Bowl party at his house for the foreign military officers who were taking his courses at the U.S. Army War College. As the Pittsburgh Steelers clobbered the Seattle Seahawks, Gerras kept one eye on a partygoer who wasn't paying much attention to the game -- Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, currently the most powerful man in Egypt.

"My mother had come to help with the food, and she's this almost 80-year-old Italian mother," Gerras said. "And he grabs her and gives her a tour of all the things in our house that are written in Arabic, and the religious significance of it. Nobody else that I've ever had has ever felt the need to do that."

Some officers use their year at the War College to relax a bit -- they have been plucked out of their military hierarchy, after all, and the senior generals who determine their professional advancement are absent. Gerras, who served as Sisi's faculty advisor and was his professor in three courses at the War College, said his former pupil was nothing like that. And it went far beyond one Super Bowl party: "He was smart, his English was very good, and he was very serious," said Gerras. "He would be the most serious [military fellow] that I've had."

Sisi, who trained at the U.S. Army War College from 2005 to 2006, is the first Egyptian military chief to be trained by the United States rather than Russia. During his year in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he took classes in strategic thinking, theory of war and strategy, national policy formulation, and -- in an ironic twist, given the position in which he now finds himself -- an elective on civil-military relations. However, there's little evidence that Sisi's studies have given Washington any influence over the Egyptian general: Though Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel repeatedly warned him against launching a coup and subsequently called on him to build an inclusive political system, Sisi not only deposed President Mohamed Morsy -- he went on to imprison top Muslim Brotherhood officials, while Egypt's security forces have opened fire on pro-Morsy demonstrators.

In an odd turn, Sisi has unleashed some of the harshest anti-U.S. rhetoric in decades from an Egyptian army chief. In an interview with the Washington Post published this weekend, he blasted the United States for not more fully supporting the July 3 military takeover: "You left the Egyptians, you turned your back on the Egyptians and they won't forget that," he said. "Now you want to continue turning your backs on Egyptians?"

Despite such rhetorical broadsides, however, U.S. officials insist their communications channel through Sisi remains strong. According to one U.S. official with knowledge of the dialogue between President Barack Obama's administration and Sisi, the message they reiterate "is that we believe in a strong relationship, a strong Egypt."

However, the official added, the United States realizes how the situation on the ground could damage that relationship. "If things get out of hand [in Cairo], it's going to be very difficult for us."

Sisi told the Washington Post that he speaks with Hagel almost every day, and the U.S. official characterized the dialogue as blunt from both directions. "These conversations are all very direct, there is no dancing around the topic," the official said. "They listen, they really value the relationship, they want to engage us."

The Epic Arab Trek Between God and Gun

The Daily Star
Rami G. Khouri

August 3 - Hold on to your seats, for the four most powerful and influential Arab countries – Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt – are all experiencing significant, sometimes violent, internal changes that touch on the most basic elements of identity, power and national authority. 

What happens in those countries in the years ahead will shape the Middle East for generations perhaps, creating new patterns of stable statehood on the way. Saudi Arabia is not experiencing the upheavals of Iraq, Syria and Egypt, but its new internal dynamics portend historic changes underway in that country and throughout the Gulf – because some citizens no longer accept blindly to follow the rules of the foundational tenets of Saudi-Wahhabi doctrine.

The worsening carnage in Syria, the sharp increase in bombings and ethnic cleansing in Iraq in the past few months, and the confrontation between the armed forces and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are stark reminders of where the modern Arab world stands today on its road to modern statehood. Syria, Iraq and Egypt embody the leading political challenges the Arab world faces: how to shape a stable and equitable pluralistic society; how to achieve an acceptable balance of authority among military and civilian forces; and how to assert religious values in daily and public life without falling into the trap of theocratic autocracy or artificially imposed secularism from above.

That these three historical Arab powerhouses all are experiencing deep conflict or uncertainty is the inevitable consequence of our recent history since the 1950s. We are today dealing with the national wreckages, social carcasses and political diseases of several generations of security-based state-building that provided a thin veneer of stability, but never buttressed this with the durable substance of genuine citizen-anchored nationhood.

The surge in killings in Iraq – over 1,000 people died in July – is most troubling for revealing the combination of weak state security capabilities in the face of resurgent attacks by groups that largely kill their victims on the basis of their sectarian identity. The inability of the Iraqi state to protect its prisons or defend its own citizens is bizarrely juxtaposed against the determination of much of the Iraqi state’s and society’s determination to send troops and support the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. This completes a linkage between Iranian, Iraqi, pro-Assad Syrian, Hezbollah and Hamas-Islamic Jihad parties that have been working together for some years to maintain their collective regional interests.

The battle in Egypt brings into the open an important fault line that has been lying beneath the region for the past century: This is simply about whether individuals and society are shaped by the divine promise of religious values, or by the post-1770s temporal handiwork of civic-political-national institutions that have been hijacked by security agencies in the modern Arab world.

God or the Gun, in fact, is really only basic choice that Arab citizens have faced in recent generations, and it is both unfair and unworkable. The big tragedy is that faced with opportunities that they have had to date in the Middle East and South Asia, religious and military leaders have proven to be fully and embarrassingly incompetent at promoting productive, just and stable societies.

Egypt now reveals the determination of tens of millions of typical Arab citizens seeking that elusive middle ground between Gun and God, which is simply pluralistic citizenship and accountable governance under the rule of law. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt offer different examples of the hard, slow quest for this goal. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states offer another example, which defines citizenship primarily as consumerism, with unaccountable governments spending hundreds of billions of dollars to provide their nationals with every possible material need.