8 September 2013

The Case for India's Nuclear Weapons

September 7, 2013 

Both the benefits and limitations of nuclear weapons are best captured by a single fact: of all nuclear-armed adversaries, only the Soviet Union and China in 1969 and India and Pakistan in 1999 ever fought a war with one another. The benefits are intuitive. There have been only two such episodes in the 68 years since Hiroshima, and both were limited in scope and duration. The shortcomings of nuclear weapons are equally obvious: the fact that such conflict took place at all and that military competition between and against nuclear powers often took other forms, including the use of proxies and nonstate actors. After all, nuclear weapons did not prevent American and Soviet allies from killing tens of millions of each other’s people between 1945 and 1991, nor did they deter the 9/11 attacks. 

In his August 26 article (‘India’s Nuclear Blunder’), Zachary Keck argues that India’s failure to prevent cross-border incursions by China and Pakistan since 1998, when it declared its nuclear weapon capability, is evidence of a colossal strategic blunder. In Keck’s reading, Indian nuclear weapons acquired with the intention of deterring China’s territorial ambitions failed to achieve that purpose and—worse—provoked a weaker power, Pakistan, to develop a nuclear deterrent to its benefit. But this assessment stems from a fundamental misreading of India’s threat environment and strategic intent, the absence of certain key facts, and the obscuring of context. 

India’s decision to pursue a nuclear weapon capability—which resulted in preparations being made for a nuclear test in 1995—arose from the confluence of several factors, including security threats, a hostile international nuclear regime, domestic politics, and the country’s promising economic trajectory. Of the two primary external impulses, Keck correctly identifies the first, which was the latent threat of Chinese aggression dating back to the 1950s. But this threat was by no means static. As John Garver details in his book Protracted Contest, China withdrew its proposal to accept the territorial status quo in October 1985. This would have involved recognizing Indian control of Arunachal Pradesh in exchange for India’s recognition of China’s claims to Aksai Chin. In Garver’s telling, “China for the first time began actively asserting its claim to the southern slope” of the Himalayas. Moreover, Indian government reports have recently indicated a changing of ground realities. The People’s Liberation Army’s incursion earlier this year in Ladakh—where Beijing’s territorial objectives were thought to have been achieved—had little to do with its continuing claims to Arunachal Pradesh, and may have signaled an even more ambitious statement of intent, in line with Beijing’s newfound approach to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and South China Sea

More significantly—and Keck’s omission here is glaring—China pursued a policy until the early 1990s of supporting Pakistan’s nascent nuclear program, a move very much directed at containing India. In fact, Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons with Chinese assistance proved an impetus for India’s nuclear-weapon pursuit, not the other way around. Indian and Western intelligence agencies believed that China conducted a test in 1990 for Pakistan’s benefit, effectively granting it a nuclear-weapons capability. Testifying before the Senate in 1993, then CIA director James Woolsey said, “Beijing, prior to joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1992, probably provided some nuclear weapons related assistance to Islamabad.” As far as Indian security planners were concerned, their country was by 1990 bordering not one, but two, nuclear-armed states with irredentist claims to Indian-controlled territory. 

India's Draft Nuclear Doctrine

Latest ACA Resources 

(July 12, 2013) 
(July/August 2013) 

On August 17, Indian national security advisor Brajesh Mishra released a draft report from the National Security Advisory Board on Indian Nuclear Doctrine. The report, which outlines in broad terms India's rationale and intentions regarding the development of its "minimum nuclear deterrent," has not been formally approved by the caretaker government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Below is the full text of the draft doctrine. 


1.1. The use of nuclear weapons in particular as well as other weapons of mass destruction constitutes the gravest threat to humanity and to peace and stability in the international system. Unlike the other two categories of weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical weapons which have been outlawed by international treaties, nuclear weapons remain instruments for national and collective security, the possession of which on a selective basis has been sought to be legitimised through permanent extension of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) in May 1995. Nuclear weapon states have asserted that they will continue to rely on nuclear weapons with some of them adopting policies to use them even in a non-nuclear context. These developments amount to virtual abandonment of nuclear disarmament. This is a serious setback to the struggle of the international community to abolish weapons of mass destruction.

1.2. India's primary objective is to achieve economic, political, social, scientific and technological development within a peaceful and democratic framework. This requires an environment of durable peace and insurance against potential risks to peace and stability. It will be India's endeavour to proceed towards this overall objective in cooperation with the global democratic trends and to play a constructive role in advancing the international system toward a just, peaceful and equitable order.

1.3. Autonomy of decision making in the developmental process and in strategic matters is an inalienable democratic right of the Indian people. India will strenuously guard this right in a world where nuclear weapons for a select few are sought to be legitimised for an indefinite future, and where there is growing complexity and frequency in the use of force for political purposes.

1.4. India's security is an integral component of its development process. India continuously aims at promoting an ever-expanding area of peace and stability around it so that developmental priorities can be pursued without disruption.

1.5. However, the very existence of offensive doctrine pertaining to the first use of nuclear weapons and the insistence of some nuclear weapons states on the legitimacy of their use even against non-nuclear weapon countries constitute a threat to peace, stability and sovereignty of states.

1.6. This document outlines the broad principles for the development, deployment and employment of India's nuclear forces. Details of policy and strategy concerning force structures, deployment and employment of nuclear forces will flow from this framework and will be laid down separately and kept under constant review.

2. Objectives

2.1. In the absence of global nuclear disarmament India's strategic interests require effective, credible nuclear deterrence and adequate retaliatory capability should deterrence fail. This is consistent with the UN Charter, which sanctions the right of self-defence.

2.2. The requirements of deterrence should be carefully weighed in the design of Indian nuclear forces and in the strategy to provide for a level of capability consistent with maximum credibility, survivability, effectiveness, safety and security.

2.3. India shall pursue a doctrine of credible minimum nuclear deterrence. In this policy of "retaliation only", the survivability of our arsenal is critical. This is a dynamic concept related to the strategic environment, technological imperatives and the needs of national security. The actual size components, deployment and employment of nuclear forces will be decided in the light of these factors. India's peacetime posture aims at convincing any potential aggressor that :

In Bhutan too, Chinese grab land

By Claude Arpi
 Indian Defence Review
06 Sep 13

Chinese Claims (map courtesy: yesheydorji.blogspot.in)

On Aug 9, Kuensel, a Bhutanese publication, reported that the Indian National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon arrived in Thimbu to ‘congratulate the new Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay on assuming the office’. Menon wanted also to commend Tobgay for Bhutan’s successful transition to democracy. 

During their meeting which followed, the Bhutanese Prime Minister thanked Menon for visiting Bhutan at this critical time; he expressed his gratitude to Dr Manmohan Singh, who had assured Bhutan of India’s continued assistance in the implementation of its 11th Plan and its Economic Stimulus Plan. Tobgay explained to the NSA that the 11th plan was inadequate to address the country’s current economic situation; therefore the newly elected government had to prepare a ‘stimulus plan’ to increase liquidity schemes in banks which would allow loan provisions for private sectors and enhance youth employment. 

According to Kuensel: “Lyonchhoen [Prime Minister] said these issues required immediate attention and the present government called for Indian Government’s assistance and support to ensure these issues were carefully and effectively addressed.” 

“We’ll do everything we can to support and provide assistance to Bhutan. We really look forward to working together and achieving positive outcomes,” answered Shivshankar Menon, who was accompanied, oh surprise, by the new Indian Foreign Secretary, Ms Sujatha Singh. 

Why this ‘double’ visit? The NSA does not usually travel with the Foreign Secretary. There was certainly more than the 11th Plan to be discussed. Though the Indian Foreign Secretary could have traveled alone to Bhutan, she took along her senior colleague and former foreign Secretary, Shivshankar Menon. It soon become clear that the NSA’s main purpose was to advise the Bhutanese government on how to handle the border talks with China. 

The 21st round of boundary talks between Bhutan’s foreign minister Rinzim Dorje and the Chinese vice-minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were to be held on Aug 22. The New India Express speaks of “a shift in emphasis from the disputed north-western, close to Siliguri corridor, to the central parts of Bhutan,” this made Delhi nervous. 
These border talks have indeed serious strategic implications for India’s security and Delhi’s own negotiations with China probably needed to be ‘synchronized’ with Thimpu.

The New Indian Express asserted: “According to sources, NSA spoke to his interlocutors about the current status of the India-China border talks. But, with the political leadership in Bhutan being brand-new, Menon took the opportunity of the Foreign Secretary’s visit to share Indian ‘experience’ and knowledge of Chinese negotiation tactics to advice Thimpu on the way forward.” 

A very delayed and subdued reaction, at a time when the non-aligned world had expected a big country like India to come out in support of rights and justice. It was yet another example of the mealy mouthed approach that has come to define Indian foreign policy

By Seema Mustafa. 

British Prime Minister David Cameron inadvertently forced India to take a declared position on the United States proposal to invade Syria, limited or otherwise. After a long bout of silence, New Delhi was shocked on the eve of general elections, to find that the British government had listed it as one of the countries supporting US military action against Syria. 

The mandarins controlling foreign policy realised that the silence, made even more fashionable by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was not working to India’s advantage and fielded the MEA spokesperson to clarify that the government was certainly not supporting the proposed limited strike on Syria. 

A very delayed and subdued reaction, at a time when the non-aligned world had expected a big country like India to come out in support of rights and justice. And yet another example of the mealy mouthed approach that has come to define Indian foreign policy, where old friends have been discarded but new friends still not really found except for the US and Israel who continue to cast a heavy shadow on most Indian foreign policy and even defence responses. 

The injustice of the US strategy for Syria can escape only the most hardened and blinkered governments. Russia’s Vladimir Putin is a fine example these days of a sovereign country that will not allow unilateral will to be imposed on weaker nations, whereby military might becomes the sole criteria with rights, laws, international covenants, and indeed the United Nations itself being willfully flouted. 

China is supporting Russia, and one would have expected India to take the lead in raising a voice against unilateral military action that has already turned West Asia into a cesspool of chaos and conflict instead of this self imposed silence that really did translate as support for the US President Barack Obama. 

From being a player and a country well respected in West Asia, India is now seen by even the so called friendly regimes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and of course the Arab League as a supporter of US imperialism and Israeli Zionism. Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt (once a very close friend) and of course the hapless Palestinians, have all raised quiet diplomatic fingers against the Indian silence, that in the current scenario favours American unilateralism. 

From a reliable friend India has reduced its role to that of a bystander, unreliable when the US pressure escalates from a nudge to a push as happened in the case of Iran.

For years New Delhi blocked overtures from Iran to join the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline that would dramatically increase our energy resources, citing security reasons at one point, and price at the other. It had no hesitation, however, in joining the US backed Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India pipeline that would go through even more ‘insecure’ territory, and thus be a non-starter from the word go. Iranian ministers and officials continued trying to convince India to avail of their country’s tremendous energy resources, but with no luck as Dr Singh made it clear down the line that he did not want the US to be offended. 

Now that growth has dropped, the rupee has crashed, and the price of oil and gas is being reviewed and increased within weeks at a time, it was ironic to hear Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily speak of increasing energy cooperation with Iran. This was a sign of his desperation, but clearly he has been directed to keep his mouth shut, and hunker down instead of trying to ease the situation by taking up the old Iranian offers. 

Counter-terrorism in India

By Do Lali
Sep 7th 2013

A good run for Indian intelligence

Yasin Bhatkal, in the bag 

ANOTHER week, another arrest. On September 4th Indian security forces nabbed a commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, one of five militant groups at large in Kashmir, a region run by India but claimed by Pakistan. The commander, Talib Lali, has been active in the Kashmir valley for 15 years. He was taken with two others after a brief shoot-out. 

A middle-sized catch, Mr Lali may spill details of the Islamist group’s local operations, especially how it raises and moves its cash. For India, it is handy propaganda, the latest in a string of summer successes against militants. Two earlier arrests made bigger headlines. On August 16th Indian authorities crowed that they had picked up Abdul Karim “Tunda”, a bomb-maker for the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. He is said to have been behind over 40 bombings in India, but is believed to have kept out of the country. Officially, he was taken on the Indian border with Nepal, after clever police work. More probably, somebody handed him to the Indians at the frontier. 
Then, on August 28th, India’s security agencies boasted of grabbing Yasin Bhatkal. Mr Bhatkal, the operational head of Indian Mujahideen, a dangerous home-grown terrorist group, is accused of a variety of terrorist attacks. Most striking, closed-circuit television footage in February 2010 appeared to show him placing a bomb at a German bakery in Pune in Maharashtra state. The explosion killed 17 people. 

The official story is that Mr Bhatkal was found in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which borders Nepal, but that he had previously been living in Pokhara, a tourist town in Nepal where he had posed as a doctor. Credit for his capture may go to India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB), which has close links with Nepal. But, as with Mr Karim, help may also have come from farther afield, possibly the United Arab Emirates. 

India’s two main intelligence bodies, the IB (mostly domestic) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW, for foreign work), have limited capacity. Ajai Sahni, of the South Asia Terrorism Portal in Delhi, says that their resources are stretched thin. The IB has around 19,000 staff in total, and RAW about 12,000. If these numbers seem ample, they include everyone, from drivers to secretaries; and never forget the Indian bureaucrat’s genius for indolence and paper-pushing. 

Ground Zero

The view from inside Pakistan

There is a clear disconnect in Pakistan between what people think about relations with India and the confrontationist approach adopted by their government. In fact, most look upon India as the aggressor. 

Raj chengappa 

At school, among the many short stories I studied the one that made a lasting impression was 'Purdah'. It was a simple story of how a family hid its poverty by hanging a fancy curtain on its front door to veil the misery inside. Travelling on the Lahore-Islamabad motorway last week, I was reminded of this story. The motorway is Pakistan’s showpiece and is superbly maintained. The speed limit of 120 kmph meant my 360 km drive to Islamabad took only three and a half hours. While my journey from Chandigarh to the Wagah border, around 300 km, had taken five.

Yet the motorway hides much of the strife and suffering Pakistan is currently experiencing. Pull over to one of the many dhabas on the highway and the sheen disappears. The acute power shortage meant that none of the air-conditioners worked and the odd fan that ran on generators was unable to blow away the fetid air. Like in India, with the economy tanking, the Pakistan rupee has been in free fall and now a dollar fetches around Rs 100.

The well-to-do, who zoom around in fancy SUVs, still live comfortably. But they form only a small percentage. The masses suffer from power and water shortages, unemployment, rising prices and appear to live in quiet desperation. That’s why in the recent general elections the big issue was governance and Asif Zardari’s PPP was voted out of power. On the other hand, the PML-Q won handsomely in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, because it had delivered.

A homeless woman with her child in Lahore. About 22 per cent population lives in poverty. —AFP 

While delivering the Distinguished Speakers Series lecture jointly organised by the Jinnah Institute and the Australia-India Institute in Islamabad, I realised the audience was puzzled over the recent rise of tensions between India and Pakistan on the Line of Control. Many asked me why India was being so hostile when both sides had to focus on issues like development.

© Collage: The Voice of Russia

By Rajeev Sharma*

The Syrian crisis and the post-2014 Afghanistan scenario are two compelling reasons that are driving Russia closer to Pakistan. The changing relationship between the two countries which have historically been inimical to each other was demonstrated recently when Russia and Pakistan held their first-ever strategic dialogue in Moscow on August 28-29, 2013. 

India is chary of this development and is keeping its fingers crossed. India has chosen to ignore the Russia-Pakistan strategic dialogue and has not come up with any official reaction on it. The Ministry of External Affairs did not react when this writer sought its comments on the two-day event which signals a major change in the Russian foreign policy. 

Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Jilani led his country's delegation at the talks. The Russian delegation was led by First Deputy Minister Vladimir Gennadievich Titov in the foreign office. Pakistan's Ambassador to Russian Federation Alamgir Babur and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov also participated in the dialogue. 

The Pakistani media said Jilani’s talking points with his Russian interlocutors ranged from economic, political, and defense cooperation to regional and international security issues. Other issues discussed during this meeting pertained to disarmament‚ counter terrorism‚ drug trafficking, global security and enhancing cooperation in various fields and expanding bilateral trade. 

India is watching the Russia-Pakistan synergy very closely and is aware of reports which said that Russia has been supportive of Pakistan becoming a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and that Russia helped Pakistan obtain observer status in the organization and in return Pakistan supported Russia's bid to gain observer status in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. 

The Russia-Pakistan bilateral relations are on an upward trajectory since last year and the defense engagements between the two sides have intensified. Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Kiyani visited Moscow last year while the Russian Air Force chief visited Pakistan earlier this month. 

India is also aware that the foreign secretaries of Russia and Pakistan, at their meeting last year, had agreed to start holding the annual strategic dialogue process and subsequently upgrade it to the level of foreign minister. 

Enemy Inside the Wire: The Untold Story of the Battle of Bastion

September 2013

One year ago this month, under cover of night, fifteen Taliban, dressed as American soldiers, snuck onto one of the largest air bases in Afghanistan. What followed was a bloody confrontation highlighting a startling security lapse, with hundreds of millions in matériel lost in a matter of hours—the worst day for American airpower since the Tet Offensive. Yet the attack faded from view before anyone could figure out what went wrong. For the first time, Matthieu Aikins relives those heart-pounding moments and offers an extraordinary account of the Battle of Bastion 

It was a suicide mission. None of them had a doubt about that.

They gathered in the Afghan village just outside Camp Bastion's perimeter wire, the fifteen young men who'd been chosen, some of them barely out of their teens. The village wasn't much to look at, a scraggly collection of mud-walled compounds erected on what, until recently, had been empty desert. Then, like an apparition from the sky, the foreigners had come and built a base so vast that its sewage runoff gave life to the barren ground outside the wire. Fields of opium poppy had sprouted within sight of the perimeter fence, their colorful flowers waving in the wind. For months, disguised as farmers, this team had been sending men to crawl inside the outermost lines of barbed wire, testing the foreigners' alertness and responses. Now they had found a weak point, and the mission could begin. There was no moon tonight, and darkness would cover their approach. 

Earlier, in preparation, they had donned their stolen U.S. Army uniforms and faced a video camera. Their leader stood in the center with a Koran in one hand and a British assault rifle in the other. It was early morning, still cool enough for breath to form. 

"In the name of almighty Allah, who is king of the kings," he said in broken, memorized English. He was a little older than the rest of them, his beard fuller but still short-trimmed, his face calm and confident. "I want to give this message to Obama, crusaders, and other non-Muslims. You have come to Afghanistan to guilt all Muslims under the name of terrorism. It is not terrorism. We are not terrorists." 

The Afghan on his right—a boy, really, in an army cap and square-rimmed glasses—pinched his lips and tried not to giggle at his leader's English. A rooster crowed in the distance. "You rain the bombs on Muslims," he said. "Next, insult of our Muslim sisters. Next, to destroy our mosques and madrassas. These are those actions which makes us ready to sacrifice ourselves in the way of almighty Allah. We are not suicide bombers. We have morals just like other young boys." 

They walked over to a whiteboard that had been affixed to a mud wall and sat down as the leader lectured with a pointer, the camera rolling. The board was marked with red and blue lines and symbols—showing the base's concentric defenses, its fuel farms, and their chief target, the jets on the airfield. It was a crude but accurate map of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing at Camp Bastion. 

As they made their final preparations in the quiet of the village, two Harrier jets roared out from the base and headed north, their wingtips glinting against the crystalline sky. To the enemy on the ground, they were as untouchable as the sun. 

Wanted in U.S. and India, Islamist Leads Mass Rally in Pakistan

September 6, 2013 

ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani Islamist with a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head appeared openly at a rally in Islamabad on Friday, denouncing India as a terrorist state as thousands of his supporters chanted for "holy war" against the rival nuclear nation.

India has accused Hafiz Saeed of masterminding the 2008 attack on its financial capital Mumbai where gunmen killed 166 people over three days. The United States has offered $10 million for information leading to his arrest and conviction. 

As dusk fell, more than 10,000 people gathered in Islamabad in a show of defiance certain to enrage India further following weeks of tensions over the disputed Kashmir border. 

"The United States and India are very angry with us. This means God is happy with us," Saeed told the crowd as supporters chanted "Jihad!" ("Holy war") and "War will continue until the liberation of Kashmir". He did not use the word "jihad" himself. 

"We are ready for every sacrifice for the liberation of Kashmir," the stocky and bearded former professor added at the rally marking Pakistan's Defense Day. 

Speaking about Sarabjit Singh, an Indian prisoner who died in a Pakistani jail this year and was given a state funeral back home, Saeed told the crowd: "He was a terrorist. How can the Indian government give state honors to a terrorist? This means the Indian government and army are terrorists." 

India has called on Pakistan to bring Saeed to justice, an issue that has stood in the way of rebuilding relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors since the Mumbai carnage. 

Saeed is the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a militant group banned in Pakistan but tolerated unofficially and believed to be close to the army. Saeed has long abandoned its leadership and is now the head of its charity wing. 

India is furious that Pakistan has not detained him since it handed over evidence against him to Islamabad, and allows Saeed to live freely in the city of Lahore in a villa with police stationed outside. 

Relations plunged to further lows last month after the killing of five Indian soldiers along the so-called Line of Control that separates the two sides in the Himalayan region of Kashmir. 


Seeking to defuse tensions, Pakistan's civilian leaders have kept a conciliatory tone, but on Friday, as thousands gathered in Islamabad, emotions spilled into the open. 

The mood was strikingly anti-Western and belligerent, with speakers openly declaring their sympathy for the Taliban fighting Western forces in neighboring Afghanistan. 

"India should stop describing Kashmir as its indispensable part," Saeed said from a makeshift stage mounted on a truck. "Otherwise every part of India would be dispensable for us." 

As the crowd cheered, two men performed a patriotic song threatening to "turn the whole of India into Mumbai". Others chanted "Whoever is a friend of India is a traitor" and waved black and white striped flags. 

"They should know there are a lot of people here who are waiting for the conquest of India," Hamid Gul, a former chief of the ISI intelligence service, told the crowd. 

Homesick Militants Are Offered a Way Back to Kashmir

September 6, 2013

LOLAB VALLEY, Kashmir — Many of them left as teenagers, impulsive boys fired by indignation who sneaked across the border to Pakistan-controlled territory without telling their mothers.

But even militants get homesick.

“My first contact with my mother was three years after I’d left, and my parents had no idea what had happened to me,” said Abdul Hamid Rather, who left India-controlled Kashmir in 2001 when he was 14. “She was weeping, and I was weeping.” 

More than 350 former militants have returned here to India-controlled Kashmir recently in a quiet new effort to deal with the growing problem of rehabilitating some of the thousands who left home in recent decades to fight for Pakistan in its long-running separatist feud with India over the disputed territory. 

“It turns out that it’s not as dangerous as it might seem,” said Shuja Nawaz, the director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, a research group in Washington. “It’s probably better to have them under scrutiny in India than out of reach in Pakistan.” 

In addition to the prospect of seeing aging parents, Kashmiris, in their bowl-shaped valley and its breathtaking vistas, find an unusually powerful incentive for putting down arms. 

Under the new program, once a former fighter has decided he wants to return, his family files an application with the Indian authorities. If there are no accusations that he attacked India or killed anyone, the application is usually approved. After that the former jihadi is required to meet with the police regularly for at least a year. 

There have been hiccups in the program, in part because Pakistan has chosen not to participate. Returnees must fly to Nepal and cross into India by bus or car. And like all peace efforts between India and Pakistan, it has been overwhelmed this summer by some of the deadliest fighting in a decade between the nuclear-armed rivals. Dozens have died, and life near the Line of Control that separates the Indian and Pakistani claims has once again become dangerous and uncertain. 

But even as fighting continues, former militants continue to trickle back into India-controlled territory, where returnees say they have found life both better and worse than they expected. 

Ghulam Mohammad Mir, 27, was 14 and just finishing the ninth grade in 2000 when a recruiter he had once played cricket with asked if he wanted to cross the line. The border was fairly porous at the time, and the recruiter told Mr. Mir and four of his classmates that they could return after just a few days, Mr. Mir said. 

It was the first of what Mr. Mir and his friends would soon discover were many lies. “We were trapped there,” he said.

They were sent to camps, where for eight months they received intensive religious indoctrination. Then for another eight months they trained in weaponry, including machine guns. At the end of his training, Mr. Mir made clear that he had no stomach for war, he said. So he left the camps and began driving an auto-rickshaw. In 2007, he married a Pakistani woman and soon had three children. 

He spent all of his savings to return to India-controlled territory last year, and has since started a small tea shop. Of the four boys who ran away with him, he said, two were killed, one returned and one remains in Pakistan-controlled territory. 

Mr. Mir said that his first year back was challenging. Neighbors were suspicious. His paperwork was not in order. But he is convinced that his children will have a better life in India than they would have had in Pakistan, with its myriad economic, social and political problems. 

Zardari & PPP's decline

By  Rana Banerji

Governance suffered as survival became paramount

AS Asif Ali Zardari demits the office of President on September 8, 2013, history may reserve judgment on whether he contributed more towards the consolidation of democracy in Pakistan or to the decline of the People's Party of Pakistan (PPP) to a mere regional presence in Sindh.

After Benazir's assassination in December, 2007 the PPP benefited from the sympathy vote in the February 2008 elections to emerge as the single largest party in the National Assembly, with 121 seats. Though this was short of majority, Zardari could charm the second largest party's (PML-N) leader, Nawaz Sharif, into an alliance. This bonhomie proved short-lived as differences snowballed on the judges' restoration issue but Zardari skillfully sewed up an alliance with the Muttahid Quami Mahaz (MQM-Altaf) through a power-sharing agreement in Karachi. He later opened up a line to Nawaz's rival Pakistan Muslim League (Q) to checkmate the latter's options on ousting him from power.

Zardari's maneuvering in the party leadership succession was equally adroit. Makhdoom Amin Fahim was the senior-most leader but as a Sindhi, he could not be made Prime Minister if Zardari's own ambition to become President was to be achieved. So he entered into an over-stated and tortuous process of intra-party consultations before surprising most party faithfuls by choosing a comparative lightweight but loyal Punjabi feudal from Multan, Yousuf Raza Gilani, as his Prime Minister. Till the Supreme Court disqualified him for contempt over refusing to write to the Swiss authorities to revive corruption cases against Zardari, Gilani proved completely loyal to him.

Zardari could disarm critics about his own hunger for power by passing the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution, restoring its 1973 parliamentary format, with executive power passing to the PM and the President being bound by the PM's advice. Both the 18th and 20th amendments to the Constitution were landmark legislative achievements of the last National Assembly, transferring power to the Provinces and providing for a caretaker administration to oversee elections. The consensus achieved to share finances with the states under the 9th Finance Commission award was also notable.

However, Zardari was harsh on old Benazir loyalists like Nahid Khan and her husband, Safdar Abbasi. He brought in old cronies who had served jail sentences with him to positions of power, both in the Sindh administration and at the national level. The mercurial Zulfiqar Mirza was made the Interior Minister in Sindh, his wife Fehmida became the Speaker in the National Assembly and relative lightweights like Farooq Naek were given disproportionately important Cabinet posts. This was completely different from Benazir Bhutto's style of sustaining the party's organisation and support from the mass-based cadres or ‘jiyalas’. These factors contributed to the party's poor showing in the 2013 elections but more importantly, the PPP suffered from the perception of poor governance and pervading corruption of its leaders.

Despite a grudging acceptance of his position as the Supreme Commander of the armed forces after he became President, Zardari was able to manage his relationship with the coterie of Army Generals rather cleverly. After spontaneously promising to send over his ISI chief to smoothen ruffled sentiments in India after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, he quietly reneged when the Army protested. He appeased Kayani by offering him a rather unprecedented three-year extension as the Army Chief in 2010, which even had other aspiring Generals demurring. Thereby he could ensure a full-term for the beleaguered PPP government while it faced a hostile judiciary during the latter half of its tenure. The Army remained quiescent.

India should provide military aid to Karzai

07 September 2013

Will the Afghan National Security Forces be able to hold their own after the Americans leave? The killing of an Indian author is a chilling reminder of the dangers that lurk post-2014

The killing of the Indian author, Sushmita Banerjee, outside her home in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province, where she lived with her Afghan husband, Mr Jaanbaz Khan, bears the unmistakeable imprimatur of the Taliban. The crime once again raises the question of the Afghan National Security Forces’, and particularly of its main component, the Afghan National Army’s ability to hold the Taliban at bay once the bulk of the American and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s forces depart in 2014. The assessments, earlier uniformly pessimistic, are now mixed and even offer a glimmer of hope that the ANSF and ANA may succeed.

In this context, a report by Azam Ahmed, carried by The New York Times on August 30, stands out for being different from the usual doomsday forecasts in Western media. It shows how Afghan forces have not only held on but have had an impact on the situation in Pech Valley in eastern Afghanistan where, following heavy casualties, American forces had to abandon in 2011 an offensive, ‘Operation Khanjar’ (curved sword), they had launched against the Taliban in 2009.

Understandably, a contingent of American troops that returned to the rugged stretch of terrain that had been so violent that they had christened it “Valley of Death”, and where its soldiers did not expect the Afghans to last “even for weeks” on their own, were surprised. Equally understandably they began wondering how such an unthinkable eventuality came about! Their conclusions are important as indicators of how the security situation in Afghanistan can unfold in the future.

One of these is that the withdrawal of foreign troops has removed an irritant and the local Taliban often hesitated to attack Afghan Government troops who were Muslims like them. There seemed in some cases to have been an understanding between the two sides as to what was off limits for each other. Also, the performance of the Afghan troops had improved with intensified training, better arms and combat experience. Finally, an aggressive campaign of American drone strikes in Pech over the past year and a half had devastated Taliban networks and killed the organisation’s leaders — including Dost Muhammad Khan, Nuristan’s shadow governor, and “a crucial asset for Al Qaeda” and their facilitators.

The question is whether the Afghan National Army will be able to hold on to its gains after the Western withdrawal. It is one thing to succeed in Pech which is only one area, albeit with a record of deadly violence, and quite another to prevail over the whole of Afghanistan. Significantly, according to a report by Ben Farmer in The Daily Telegraph of August 18, it has been a somewhat different story in the southern district of Sangin where Afghan forces, suffering heavy casualties from a Taliban offensive that began in late May, called for help from the British who had earlier fought the Taliban in the area at great cost to themselves in terms of human lives. The 80-man strong British mission which led to the neutralisation of more than 30 IEDs and the killing and detention of a number of Taliban, cost the lives of a number of Afghan soldiers but not of any Britisher. In addition, Americans provided satellite images to help the Afghans target groups of Taliban and evacuated wounded Afghan soldiers by air, but, unlike in the past, did not fight or provide the air support. The result? The situation has been somewhat stabilised but Sangin remains “a challenging area”.

According to a report by Steven Swinford in The Daily Telegraph of September 5, Nato commanders, while believing that the ANA has the ability to fight the insurgency, are concerned that they lack technical and logistical expertise. It quotes a senior military source as saying that as a result, Nato soldiers might be required in a non-combat role for “three to five years” beyond December 2014, and were likely to provide casualty evacuation and logistics to the Afghan National Army beyond the official draw-down in December 2014. In fact, the source suggested that Britain’s military involvement after the draw-down was likely to be far more significant than previously thought.

Two things are going to be critically important — the size of the Afghan Army, which will have to shoulder the bulk of the military operations, and the kind of air an artillery support they received. The ANA had a strength of 2,00,000 at the beginning of the year, and the ANSF, which includes Afghan National Police and other law enforcement organisations as well, of 3,52,000. This is highly inadequate. As Lieutenant General (Retired) RK Sawhney points out in his chapter ‘Afghanistan Today’ in Afghanistan: A Role for India, the US counter-insurgency doctrine prescribed the presence of 20 to 25 counter-insurgency personnel for every 1,000 residents. Afghanistan’s population of roughly 28.4 million (some put it at 30 million) call for the deployment of anything between 5,68,000 and 7,10,000 troops.

War in Afghanistan: Campaign Progress, Political Strategy, and Issues for Congress

August 29, 2013
Lt Gen ® Asad Durrani

The AfPak Conundrum

1. Divided by a Common Destiny

With no end in sight for the turmoil in Afghanistan that has already spanned a third of a century, the desire to keep Pakistan out of it is understandable- except, that there is no way that we can. To start with, this Toynbee’s “Crossroads of History” sucks in anyone who is in the neighbourhood, and even some who is not. More importantly; when invaded by superpowers- chronically once in a century, and now the third time in a row- Afghans in their millions seek refuge in our country. One could have still lived with that; gratefully in fact for the opportunity it provides to revive the spirit of Medina. The problem is that these are not only the refugees who come over.

What all spills over along with them are weapons and drugs; militants and freedom fighters; agents and saboteurs; and lately drones. And, this is not a one way traffic. There are many over here who on tribal, ethnic, even ideological or good neighbourly grounds join the Afghans in their hour of need. The rights and wrongs, the costs and benefits, the sins of the past and the incapacities of the present, can be discussed and debated ad-nauseam. The fact is that there is precious little that anyone on either side can do to prevent this cross border flow of men and material; not the least because of the topographic and the demographic nature of the frontier that unites, more than it divides, the two countries.

So to use an idiom in vogue: let’s get real. “AfPak”- a Yankee turn of phrase many in Pakistan are uncomfortable with- exists. Much of what happens in the two countries was best understood in a bilateral context. Whether the two are “conjoined twins” (Karzai) or are “joined at the hip” (another rough and ready American expression), the fact is that the two countries are stuck with each other. If one is in trouble, it was only a matter of time that the other would catch up.

Even before the early 1980s when they started pouring in over the Durand Line that defines our common border, the Afghans had recognised the value of Pakistan. It was their corridor to the outside world and a source of duty free imports for many an essential goods. The historical and religious affinities too must have counted for something and therefore very wisely the Afghans offered to look after our western borders when we needed all our troops on the eastern, in 1965 and 1971. Indeed, only an independent Afghanistan could do that. When under foreign occupation, the same border becomes so hot that we have to reinforce it from the East. No surprise therefore that Pakistan takes great risks helping those Afghans who resist external aggression. It is possible of course that in the process it disaffects those who are the beneficiaries of the occupation. Of course, the vacation of foreign troops alone does not return stability to that country.

Suffering from all possible fault lines- tribal, ethnic, geographic, demographic, even cultural and ideological- Afghanistan became a country through a grand bargain amongst its major constituents. The destabilisation caused by the occupation can only be undone by restoring that consensus. Pakistan, since it is affected by the aftermath more than any of Afghanistan’s neighbours, is naturally in the forefront to bring about the much needed reconciliation. That carries the risk of taking sides or being accused of that.

Balancing the two acts- helping the Afghans repulse foreign aggression and bringing most of them on board thereafter- has been Pakistan’s most difficult calling during the last three decades.

Tracing China's Long Game Plan

September 1, 2013 

Orville Schell and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century (New York: Random House, 2013), 496 pp., $30.00. 

SINCE THE 1990s, U.S. policy toward China has been premised on the idea that increasing Chinese wealth and international stature would lead naturally to domestic political liberalization. Early in the previous decade, the Bush administration also held out hope that China would become a “responsible stakeholder” in the international community. The intervening years have witnessed marked growth in China’s economic and diplomatic heft, with the country emerging as the second-biggest economy in the world. Its leaders refer to it as a “great power” alongside the United States. And yet the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) retains its monopoly on political authority, and since the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics the party-state has clamped down on domestic human-rights activists, lawyers and other advocates of liberal reform. Abroad, China has engaged in increasingly militarized efforts to press its claims to disputed territory, and it has also used economic tools, including threats to slow or halt commerce in certain goods, to this end. Where Chinese political elites once at least paid lip service to democratic values and international norms, now they actively tout their model as an alternative to the so-called Western system. How did successive generations of U.S. policy makers get China so wrong? 

One answer is that they ignored indicators from modern Chinese history and the CCP’s record that would have called into question the notion of inevitable Chinese liberalization and assimilation to international institutions. Better late than never, Orville Schell and John Delury probe those indicators in their excellent and erudite new book, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century. Schell, a former dean of the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and current director of the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations, and Delury, a Yale-trained historian based at Yonsei University in Seoul, combine scholarly learning with a reportorial appreciation of colorful, revealing details. They breathe life into their history through biographical sketches of pillars of Chinese intelligentsia and politics from the nineteenth century through the twentieth, and they argue that national rejuvenation—defined in terms of fuqiang (“wealth and power”)—has been the goal of these figures all along. Chinese elites over the past two centuries have attempted to convert the shame of their country’s nineteenth-century humiliation, when outside powers repeatedly exploited China’s military inferiority, into energy to fuel China’s ascent and redress its anguished past. If some of these elites from time to time promoted Western political values, they did so only fleetingly, at moments when they believed liberal democracy could enrich and strengthen the state. Schell and Delury’s introduction identifies a common theme across these cases: 

Unlike democratic political reform in the West, which developed out of a belief in certain universal values and human rights as derived from a “natural,” if not God-given, source, and so were to be espoused regardless of their efficiency, the dominant tradition of reform in China evolved from a far more utilitarian source. Its primary focus was to return China to a position of strength, and any way that might help achieve this goal was thus worth considering. . . . Reformers have been interested in democratic governance at various stages in China’s tortuous path, not so much because it might enshrine sacred, inalienable political liberties but because it might make their nation more dynamic and thus stronger. 

Among Chinese elites, concerns about power, understood as a function of economic and military capacity, have trumped any serious appreciation of human rights or the rule of law, whether at home or abroad. They see the world through power-hungry lenses. It is a dog-eat-dog competition out there, and the unit of account is the state, not the individual or citizen. While this perspective contrasts sharply with contemporary Western norms, it would have been familiar to nineteenth-century European statesmen such as Otto von Bismarck. Such an outlook precludes support for genuine political liberalization, which would entail popular sovereignty. Instead, China’s leading thinkers and statesmen have tended to see themselves as essential to their country’s effort to prevail in the global rat race—and, accordingly, as entitled to amass their own personal wealth and power. 

Obama's Weak Syria Case

September 6, 2013

President Obama’s case for striking Syria is perplexing and misguided. Here’s hoping that these attributes will become clear during the debate that will occur now that he has delayed acting and sought Congressional consent. 

Despite the massive death toll in Syria, which now exceeds one hundred thousand, Obama has been chary (wisely, in my view) of intervening in a complex and increasingly sectarian conflict between a brutal government and an assortment of armed groups animated by discordant visions of that country’s future—or, in the case of the Kurds, a future outside of it. What little Obama has done in support of the Syrian resistance, he has done reluctantly. 

Then came the August 21 chemical attack on a Damascus suburb that, according to Secretary of State Kerry, killed 1,429 people, including more than four hundred children. President Obama soon tagged Assad’s government as the perpetrator and began preparations for a fusillade of air and missile strikes by naval vessels on patrol in the eastern Mediterranean. 

The lives taken by the August 21 attack amount to less than 1.4 percent of total number of Syrians slaughtered by Assad’s security forces and the proregime thugs, the shabiha. So why did the killing of one-thousand-plus people (horrific no doubt) become unacceptable when over one hundred thousand have perished, and with no military response from the United States for over two years? Is there something about murdering people with chemicals that sets the act apart entirely from doing so with rifles, bombers, helicopter gunships and artillery barrages? If so, what is that difference, why does it necessitate an attack on Syria, and for what strategic purpose? The White House and those who call for an attack on Assad—or something even more substantial—act as if there is a difference but can’t quite articulate what it is. 

Washington’s own attitude toward the use of chemical weapons has, by the way, been less than consistent. Some five thousand people perished when Saddam Hussein used these munitions in March 1988 against the Kurdish inhabitants of Halabjah (and elsewhere thereafter) as part of his infamous “Anfal” campaign. The Reagan administration responded by claiming that Iran too had used such weapons at Halabjah, a proposition for which it offered no evidence and for which none has since been found. The imperative guiding American policy then was to back Iraq in its long war with Iran. There was no forthright American condemnation of Saddam or call for sanctions, let alone punitive strikes. The White House even lobbied (successfully) against a condemnatory Congressional resolution. 

Obama is hardly obligated to emulate Reagan, but he does need to explain why the August 21 attack warrants the response he has chosen, especially since Assad has not attacked the United States. He has not done this persuasively. 

The president has raised the impermissibility of using weapons of mass destruction. But the United States itself has reserved the right to use nuclear weapons in a first strike, though in President Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review that option was for the first time reserved for preventing a nuclear attack by another state. On occasion, administration officials have said that that Assad could launch another chemical attack if his wings aren’t clipped now. If he did, still more Syrians would be killed. But that would simply underscore the relentlessness of the carnage occurring in Syria. A limited strike (whatever that means) will not end the bloodbath itself, though it may give guilt-ridden leaders in the West solace that they have done something after all. 

On Syria, a weak strike is better than none

By Frederick W. Kagan

Frederick W. Kagan is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and director of its Critical Threats Project

The idea is gaining ground in some circles that an excessively limited strike against Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program would undermine U.S. credibility and interests more than would a decision not to strike. On its face, this argument is appealing: After all the buildup and expressions of moral indignation, supporters of intervention would, of course, feel let down by a weak attack. Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers would no doubt declare that they have once again defeated the great superpower. And the media may fill with questions about the United States’ strength and determination. 

But even a weak strike is more in line with U.S. interests than a refusal to strike or, worse, congressional action blocking any attack. Not just U.S. credibility but also the will of the Syrian opposition is at stake. 

Especially after this lengthy buildup and public debate, Syrian rebels and their supporters would view a U.S. failure to act as abandonment of their cause. In particular, the moderate Syrian opposition, which relies on support from the United States and its allies, would be devastated. These people are the majority of the opposition. The al-Qaeda franchises that have no expectation of U.S. aid and other terrorists are estimated to comprise 15 percent to 20 percent of Syria’s opposition fighters. So at this moment, inaction is likely to strengthen Assad, Iran, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda — and weaken the lone group whose interests coincide with America’s at all. 

What next for our 'small island’ and its dwindling Armed Forces?

06 Sep 2013 

Our political leaders’ cloying rhetoric masks a confusion about what Britain is fighting for 

Tony Blair is right when he says the fall of Assad would be 'long, bloody, difficult and expensive', but that the alternative would be 'long, bloody, difficult, expensive – and worse' Photo: REX 

Tony Blair is right. I realise that this is not the most persuasive way to start an article in a modern national newspaper, but it is the columnist’s task to shock, as well as to please. 

In his interview with the BBC, which will be broadcast in full on Monday, Mr Blair says that it is not mistrust about weapons of mass destruction that lies at the root of public anxiety about any attack on Syria. Unlike in Iraq, no one seriously disputes that chemical weapons were recently used, and therefore exist. The anxiety, says our former war leader, is about the aftermath. After what happened in Iraq, people want to know not only what you will start off by doing, but what you want to happen next and whether you are ready to achieve it. Bitter experience has seared this point upon Mr Blair’s mind. 

Here the military are privately at one with the public. Before David Cameron’s debacle in the House of Commons last week, the top brass were recalled from their August beaches and boats to be briefed on what would be laid before Parliament. They were told about the plan for what President Obama had called “a shot across the bows” of President Assad; so they naturally asked what would happen after that shot had been fired. Answer came there almost none. You can see a similar pattern in the United States, where the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, is asking the same thing of President Obama, with uncomfortable rigour. 

So Mr Obama, like Mr Cameron in the specially assembled Commons last week, is in a strange position now that the G20 leaders have flown tetchily home from St Petersburg. He wants to be seen to be doing something big – anything military is always big – but at the same time, he wants to keep emphasising that it is really quite small. “I’m going to hit those horrid Syrians,” he is saying, “but not very hard or for very long.” 

Odder still, he is not really saying what it is all for. Like Mr Cameron, he takes his stand on the wickedness of chemical weapons. Wicked they certainly are, but who can doubt that the allies would not be talking about attacking the Assad regime if they wished it to survive in its present form? Attacks only make sense as part of a policy of regime change, or at least regime modification, yet the leaders feel they have to deny this. Worse, perhaps, they seem to think it immoral to prepare for it: if Assad did fall quickly after any attack, the US would not know what to do next. The message is that this is all about WMD alone. As Mr Cameron put it, before he fell by the wayside: “Full stop. End of story.” Unfortunately, the grammar of warfare is rarely so abrupt. 

You can understand the political considerations that drive our leaders into this way of talking. But you need also to see it as if from a government bunker in Damascus. The adversary always looks for clear signals that his opponent is in earnest. Assad and his pals would be reasonable at this point to conclude that they will, more likely than not, be hit, but that they can “outload” their chemical weapons from their static bases, park them in (say) a school playground, and live to murder another day. Indeed, they have probably already done so. 

The Syrians do not expect a full, followed-up attempt to knock out their air defence systems. They know that Mr Obama has stayed away from all this for two and a half years. He has never wanted to be a president doing all that reordering the world at the point of a gun. Now he has made the mistake of “telegraphing his punch”. He has signalled weakness.