8 October 2013

Flying high on its achievements

October 8, 2013 
THROUGH STRUGGLES TO THE STARS: The 80th anniversary day at Hindon in 2012. Photo: AP

The IAF evolved into a modern fighting force through the dedication and hard work of its Indian pioneers and their achievements in theatres of war

Today marks the 81st anniversary of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and as it showcases its full range of modern aerial capabilities at the Air Force Day Parade at Air Force Station Hindon, it is only right to rewind the clock to the halcyon early days of military aviation in India.

Early years – World War I

Flt. Lt. Indra Lal Roy. Photo: Rana Chhina
As World War I gathered momentum, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) commenced recruiting Indians as front line combat pilots. Of the five Indians who applied for a commission into the RFC between November 1916 and April 1917, Lieutenant Srikrishna Welingkar, Lieutenant Eroll Chunder Sen, Lt. Indra Lal Roy, DFC and Lt. Hardit Singh Malik saw action on the Western front. Welinkar and Indra Lal Roy perished in aerial combat, while Sen was shot down behind enemy lines and captured by the Germans — he was repatriated after the war. The image of the First World War combat pilot was often romanticised and unrealistic — the average life expectancy of a pilot was just 11 days as pilot safety was not a real concern. Lt. Indra Lal Roy was the first Indian to be decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for shooting down nine German planes in less than 14 days. Roy’s life expectancy in sustained combat was above the average — just over a month!

Playing at War

19 September 2013

How two madmen brought the world to the brink of a third great war

Extracted from ‘The Blood Telegram: India’s Secret War in East Pakistan’ by Gary J Bass, with permission from Random House India

ENDGAME Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora (left) looks on as Lt Gen AAK Niazi signs the declaration of surrender in Dhaka on 16 December 1971 (Photo: AP/INDIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY/HO)

On December 7, Lieutenant General AAK Niazi, the commander of Pakistan’s Eastern Command, was haggard and exhausted. According to another general, he wept loudly in a meeting. After only a few days of combat, the Pakistan army was being routed in Bangladesh. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger became sincerely convinced that ripping Pakistan in half would not be enough for India. India could next redeploy its eastern forces for a crushing assault against West Pakistan.

What was India fighting for: the liberation of Bangladesh or something more? “The destruction of Pakistan, which seemed to be the ultimate war aim at the time,” answers Samuel Hoskinson, Kissinger’s aide, without hesitation. “Indeed, she was ready to do it. We had pretty good information that this was under serious consideration in the war cabinet.” Once Bangladesh was secured, the White House staffer says, “Her intention was to move troops across northern India and attack in the west, to finish off this problem.” He says, “I know that it was being discussed actively with her generals and her top people.” This was intolerable for the White House. “This would be a mighty strategic defeat for the US,” says Hoskinson. “She had taken on an ally and destroyed it. Nixon and Kissinger were always aware of national prestige. . . . This would be a total victory for the Soviets.”

Although the most sensitive wartime records are still secret, it is not clear that India was seriously trying to break apart West Pakistan. As Kissinger briefed Nixon, “the Indians still seem to be essentially on the defensive” in the west. Even if India could smartly finish up its eastern campaign, it would take more time to redeploy its troops westward than the Soviet Union, stalling a cease-fire at the United Nations, could accept: the CIA reckoned that it would take five or six days for India’s airborne division to move to the western front, and much longer for their infantry and armor fighting in the east. US intelligence analysts argued that in order to hack apart West Pakistan, India would have to not just defeat the Pakistan army, but completely wipe it out— something probably beyond India’s capacities, even if it wanted to do so.

Hoskinson’s verdict, echoing that of Nixon and Kissinger, depended heavily on raw intelligence from a CIA mole with access to Indira Gandhi’s cabinet. Based on this one source, the CIA reported that Gandhi meant to keep fighting until Bangladesh was liberated, India had seized a contested area of Kashmir currently controlled by Pakistan, and Pakistan’s armor and air force were “destroyed so that Pakistan will never again be in a position to plan another invasion of India.”

It is still not certain who the mole was, nor how reliable he was. Many intelligence analysts doubted the report. For a start, the real debates and decisions happened in the prime minister’s secretariat, sometimes widening to include a small political affairs committee of key ministers, but certainly not the whole unwieldy cabinet of blabbermouths. It is true that Indian diplomats were evasive when asked about that contested area of Kashmir, and Indian officials later admitted wanting to gain some other small, strategic bits of territory in Kashmir— but they emphasized that Gandhi had overruled her hawks and insisted on waging a basically defensive war in the west. Whether the informant was worth much, the US government relied overwhelmingly on this information.

Kissinger, whose emotions were already running high, was jolted. He did not question the intelligence, which confirmed his preconceived view of India. He did not ask how India would manage such a major campaign against West Pakistan, nor about how it could extricate itself afterward. Instead, he decided that the United States needed to get much tougher on India. On December 8, he told Nixon, “the Indian plan is now clear. They’re going to move their forces from East Pakistan to the west.” They would then “smash” Pakistan’s army and air force and annex some of Kashmir. This, he argued— going beyond the CIA intelligence— could well mean “the complete dismemberment” of West Pakistan, with secessionism in Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier Province. “All of this would have been achieved by Soviet support, Soviet arms, and Indian military force.” So Soviet client states in the Middle East and elsewhere would feel free to attack with impunity, while China would think the Americans were “just too weak.” The crisis was, he told Nixon, “a big watershed.”


13 September 2013 

Afghanistan's ill-equipped forces are taking huge casualties as they confront the Pakistan-backed Taliban. American policies are seen as a deliberate ploy to force the Afghans to ‘reconcile' with these extremists

The Air India flight from Kabul to New Delhi on September 5, in which I had travelled, had just landed, when I was told at the arrival hall that Sushmita Banerjee had been brutally murdered by the Taliban, in retribution for her exposé of Taliban atrocities against women. The brutal murder again exposed the medieval and murderous characteristics of the Taliban, with whom the US is almost desperately seeking ‘reconciliation’. This, after the Taliban, operating largely from bases in Pakistan, has killed 2,161 American combat personnel and wounded 19,080. What I found in a five-day-visit to Afghanistan is that it is a country with unlimited opportunities for development and democracy, even while facing a brutal insurgency fuelled and funnelled from across its borders with Pakistan. Pakistan is an object of hate and derision across the country. Visitors from Pakistan in Kabul often prefer to describe themselves as ‘Hindustani’ in Kabul’s bazaars.

In just over a decade after the medieval Taliban was ousted, Afghanistan has seen a remarkable political and social transformation. The country has since developed a robust political system. President Hamid Karzai and his Ministers are freely criticised. The media is free and lively. Shah Rukh Khan and hisChennai Express receive rave reviews. While schools were virtually defunct and women denied the right to education and work in the Taliban years, there are now 10.5 million students in educational institutions, with universities now flourishing in Kabul, Nangarhar, Khost, Herat and Balkh. Forty-eight per cent of all doctors and 60 per cent of teachers are women, who now are also well represented in the legislature and even in the army and police.

Afghanistan is now preparing for presidential elections scheduled for around April 2014. With President Karzai constitutionally ineligible for a third consecutive term, jockeying has commenced for who should succeed him. Afghanistan has traditionally been ruled by the dominant Pashtuns, with the Tajiks, Hazaras (predominantly Shia), Uzbeks and Turkmens who constitute over 50 per cent of the population, forming alliances to protect their interests. Powerful regional leaders with significant armed cadres, like Mohammed Atta in Mazar-e-Sharif and Ismail Khan in Herat, will have a significant say in any outcome. This jockeying for viable coalitions will continue till the presidential elections are held. Mr Karzai, derided by the Americans and their British camp followers, deserves high praise for the way in which Afghan democratic institutions have been nurtured, ethnic, sectarian and religious pluralism respected, and state and educational institutions developed, in his 11 years as President. Even the miniscule Sikh and Hindu communities are now represented in Parliament.

There are understandable suspicions in Afghanistan about the future role of Americans after they end their combat operations in December 2014. Recognising their economic and military vulnerabilities, Afghans realise that they will have to conclude a security pact with the Americans, giving the Americans over half-a-dozen air bases, if they are to secure economic and military assistance from the US and the West. It will require at least 10 years of relative peace for the Afghans to become economically self-reliant, by developing their agricultural and mineral potential. What is most worrying for the Afghans is the American policy of supplying their Armed Forces only weapons with limited firepower, while denying them artillery, tanks and other heavy weaponry, which they possessed earlier, but were destroyed by the Americans, shortly after they arrived. This is a source of deep anger and anguish because Afghanistan’s ill-equipped forces are taking huge casualties as they confront the Pakistan-backed Taliban. American policies are widely seen as a deliberate ploy to force the Afghans to ‘reconcile’ with the Pakistan-backed Taliban and Haqqani network, with Pakistani ‘facilitation’.

Adjusting to Myanmar’s reform mood

1 OCTOBER 2013

1. Background – Myanmar’s Self-Determined “Road to Reform”

Myanmar’s political reforms, as we know them, were essentially derived from the former military regime’s “7-Point Road Map” of August 2003, which was the orchestrated product of decade-long military plan for an orderly “transfer” of power. Its credibility was low because it was not a truly inclusive process at all, especially once the National League for Democracy (NLD) walked out of the military regime’s National Convention in 1995. It was, moreover, followed quite closely by what appeared to be a major set-back in the form of a purge of early military reformers led by Prime Minister (and General) Khin Nyunt in October 2004. This was in turn followed by the countervailing increase in popular opprobrium towards the military, evidenced by the popular mass unarmed protests and street marches of August-September 2007 (the so-called “Saffron Revolution”), and not long after this, by the countervailing civil disobedience after May 2008 Cyclone Nargis (when the people ignored the government’s attempts to block grass-roots assistance to the devastated areas of the Irrawaddy Delta to the south-west of Yangon). The international community never accepted the ‘7-Point Road map”, or the 2008 referendum process for the adoption of the constitution, and criticised the rigged results of the 2010 elections. However, the international community was unable to impose its wishes over these actions, has tended to welcome Myanmar’s reforms as they are announced, and has begun to calibrate its largely positive responses to these reforms.

2. Historical & Cultural Contexts

Current developments in Myanmar also need to be seen against the backdrop of the historical and cultural contexts, that have previously inhibited genuine reforming impulses in Myanmar. For example, there is only a limited history of unified country inside current geographical borders, although strong unified kingdoms at certain times in the past had been capable of destroying the former Thai capital of Ayuthaya. So cohesion of the state tends to assume importance for leaders, and national security often becomes an unduly predominant theme when changes are being considered. Related to this is ethnic diversity for which Myanmar is renowned. According to some data Myanmar has more than 135 different ethnic groups. Yet, on balance this diversity has not had much centrifugal effect, and has not undermined national unity nearly as much as could have been the case: certainly, the Karen National Union still seeks independence, but the Kachin Independence Organisation only aspires to autonomy, despite its name. Moreover, the majority of ethnic groups accept their place in the state of Myanmar, though most seek more autonomy than they currently enjoy, and some (but not all) still wish to negotiate a completely new constitution as a basis for their aspirations. However, many ethnic organisations are quite realistic and prepared to work towards pragmatic outcomes with the Thein Sein government.

Myanmar’s British colonial legacy contributes both positive and negative influences. British-directed physical infrastructure and social infrastructure (legal, health and education systems) not only remain in evidence, which have not been repudiated by Myanmar’s ruling elites, but which been adapted or attuned to local circumstances. This inevitably comprehends Myanmar’s modern history of authoritarian regimes, including the outright denial of parliamentary processes, and the persistent pattern of non-tolerance of dissent. These bequeath a mindset that is not naturally inclusive or questioning of authority, and could be seen as “anti-democratic”. While Myanmar people generally have positive attitudes towards the UK, including as the former colonial power, they are also proud of their own history, and have not discarded their own culture. Moreover, a strong sentiment persists that Myanmar should decide what policies and arrangements it should adopt, rather than having these dictated from outside. In essence, this is what Burma’s political struggle against colonialism from the 1930s was about, and it is also the main characteristic of Myanmar’s current reforms.

Tin Htut Paing: On The Run in Myanmar

By Marcus J. Butler
October 07, 2013

Despite reforms, fighting for your rights in Myanmar remains a dangerous proposition, as one young activist has discovered.

When he was released from prison in January 2012 after serving nearly three years of a politically motivated sentence, Tin Htut Paing – only 21 years old at the time – had reason to be optimistic that his country was changing for the better. But in spite of the profound political changes that have occurred in Myanmar over the past few years, he’s being hunted by the authorities once again for his political work – and feels that it’s only a matter of time before he’s arrested.

A leader of Generation Youth – a loosely organized advocacy organization dominated by activists in their early twenties – Tin Htut Paing works to promote the fundamental rights and democracy denied to the people of Myanmar during 50 years of direct military rule. When he heard that a group of recently laid-off factory workers were staging a sit-in in the shadow of Sule Pagoda in downtown Rangoon, he raced over as quickly as he could, and lectured them on tactics for negotiating with the owner and the authorities. “Before the demonstrations started, I had already given advice and suggestions to the workers,” he told me. “When I heard they were protesting at Sule, I went down to encourage them to not give up.”

With the activists’ support, the workers’ demonstration succeeded: the owner increased their severance package, offered to help them find new jobs, and they went home the following morning. But Tin Htut Paing wasn’t so lucky. Narrowly avoiding arrest at the demonstration, he’s been in hiding ever since. “After [the demonstration], the police came to my house at midnight, looking for me,” he said. “Today, the police came to my house again, and I heard that I would have to face trial.”

Real Reform?

Once an international pariah rivaling North Korea for notoriety, Myanmar’s government has taken unprecedented steps to come out of the cold in recent years. Rapid political and economic reforms by President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government have been rewarded in-kind by the West, which lifted most trade sanctions this year. But where civil society comes into conflict with powerful economic interests – both foreign and domestic – the narrative of Myanmar’s miraculous opening to the outside world becomes decidedly murky.

After being outlawed outright for decades, the government legalized public demonstrations in December 2011, with the passing of the Right to Peaceful Procession and Assembly Act. While it grants a modicum of freedom – in theory – where there was none before, the Assembly Act puts onerous restrictions on freedom of assembly, requiring would-be protestors to apply for permission to demonstrate five days in advance.

Local police have the right to reject applications if they meet vaguely defined criteria of threatening the “security of the State, rule of law, community’s peace and tranquility, and public morality.” In practice, few demonstrations receive an official stamp of approval, and activists rarely bother to apply. Section 18 of the Assembly Act threatens participants in unauthorized protests with “a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment or a maximum fine of thirty thousand kyat (US$31) or both.” It’s become the government’s most-used weapon against civil society over the past year. Facing at least two charges under Section 18, Tin Htut Paing is trying to avoid the dragnet.

Young Activist

In 2007, at the age of 17, Tin Htut Paing took to the streets of Rangoon to hand out leaflets during the “Saffron Revolution,” a monk-led uprising against military rule and the largest anti‐government protests Myanmar had seen in 20 years. When the authorities began to round up activists, he fled to the border with Thailand, where he spent almost two years studying politics and activism.

Returning to Rangoon in February 2009, he picked up where he left off, and was soon arrested for putting up posters calling for the release of political prisoners. “After I was arrested, military intelligence interrogated me. I was beaten by the SPDC [Myanmar’s former military government], and they asked me a lot of questions about things I had nothing to do with,” he said. “If I didn’t answer, they beat my body – they punched me, beat me with sticks, and sometimes hung me up by my hands in the interrogation room… they held me for 28 days, and didn’t give me any water to drink. I had to drink water out of the toilet.”

Sri Lanka: Reading tea leaves; Centre vs. NPC

Guest Column: Dr Kumar David
Paper No. 5574 

The time for euphoria is past, celebrations must wind down. A carousing Tamil gentleman of my vintage and neighbourhood has drunk his whisky cellar dry. The serious stuff is getting started, so time to buckle down. The mouths of Jonas at home and in the diaspora who pressed the TNA to boycott the elections are stuffed with sludge by the scale of victory and inspiring voter turnout.

I wrote in a newspaper column in August that the real tussle would start after the elections since TNA victory per se was assured though no one foresaw a landslide of this magnitude. In that piece I drew up a five point list crucial for Vigneswaran, the new Chief Minister (CM), and the Northern Provincial Council (NPC). It is more relevant now than at that time, so I reproduce it without change.

(a) Shielding the NP Administration from wilful and/or contingent obstruction by the Centre, the Governor, and a military which has been aggressively interfering in civilian life.

(b) Demilitarising the North, ensuring safety and security on the streets for Tamils; ending the de facto status of these areas as if occupied by an alien force.

(c) Ensuring that swathes of land seized by the military are returned and resettlement is smooth; dealing with the tragedy of war widows and orphans.

(d) Building an energetic, able and efficient administration for economic activities and day to day administration. Recruiting talented people for this endeavour.

(e) Working within the discipline of a party - notwithstanding the TNA is an alliance. Vigneswaran has no experience of party dynamics and discipline; he needs to learn fast. 

Even before the new CM was sworn-in, the land powers of provincial councils were diluted by the Supreme Court when last week it squashed a judgement of the Court of Appeal and vested powers, beyond what was necessary for the case in dispute, in the President. I don’t need to remind anyone of the relationship between President and SC after the illegal ejection of the Chief Justice a few months age; hence this news will come as no surprise. The regime has no intention of returning land seized by the military for various and nefarious purposes to the rightful owners.

The regime has several motives. It wishes to please the army and permit it enjoyment of the usufruct of these lands; it must entrench military rule in the north to preserve undisrupted repression; it is sanguine about obstructing TNA-led development in the north (losing access to land resources hampers economic initiatives); and it shies away from humiliation at the hands of a TNA-PC which will make good when UPFA local bodies are disasters - dens of thieves, rapists and drug peddlers. So the regime, through the court system, struck the first blow in “wilful and contingent obstruction” of the NPC. Within a year readers can judge whether my premonitions were unwarranted.

China’s Real and Present Danger

Now Is the Time for Washington to Worry

Chinese soldiers participating in a drill (Courtesy Reuters)

Much of the debate about China’s rise in recent years has focused on the potential dangers China could pose as an eventual peer competitor to the United States bent on challenging the existing international order. But another issue is far more pressing. For at least the next decade, while China remains relatively weak compared to the United States, there is a real danger that Beijing and Washington will find themselves in a crisis that could quickly escalate to military conflict. Unlike a long-term great-power strategic rivalry that might or might not develop down the road, the danger of a crisis involving the two nuclear-armed countries is a tangible, near-term concern -- and the events of the past few years suggest the risk might be increasing.

Since the end of the Cold War, Beijing and Washington have managed to avoid perilous showdowns on several occasions: in 1995–96, when the United States responded to Chinese missile tests intended to warn Taiwanese voters about the danger of pushing for independence; in 1999, when U.S. warplanes accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the NATO air assault on Serbia; and in 2001, when a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet, leading to the death of the Chinese pilot and Beijing’s detention of the U.S. plane and crew. But the lack of serious escalation during those episodes should not breed complacency. None of them met the definition of a genuine crisis: a confrontation that threatens vital interests on both sides and thus sharply increases the risk of war. If Beijing and Washington were to find themselves in that sort of showdown in the near future, they would both have strong incentives to resort to force. Moreover, the temptations and pressures to escalate would likely be highest in the early stages of the face-off, making it harder for diplomacy to prevent war.


It might seem that the prospects for a crisis of this sort in U.S.-Chinese relations have diminished in recent years as tensions over Taiwan have cooled, defusing the powder keg that has driven much Chinese and U.S. military planning in East Asia since the mid-1990s. But other potential flash points have emerged. As China and its neighbors squabble over islands and maritime rights in the East China and South China seas, the United States has reiterated its treaty commitments to defend two of the countries that are contesting China’s claims (Japan and the Philippines) and has nurtured increasingly close ties with a third (Vietnam). Moreover, the Obama administration’s “pivot,” or “rebalancing,” to Asia, a diplomatic turn matched by planned military redeployments, has signaled that Washington is prepared to get involved in the event of a regional conflict.

China might be less cautious about triggering a crisis -- and less cautious about firing the first shot if a crisis ensued.

Also, the United States insists that international law affords it freedom of navigation in international waters and airspace, defined as lying beyond a country’s 12-mile territorial limit. China, by contrast, asserts that other countries’ military vessels and aircraft are not free to enter its roughly 200-mile-wide “exclusive economic zone” without express permission -- a prohibition that, given Beijing’s territorial claims, could place much of the South China Sea and the airspace above it off-limits to U.S. military ships and planes. Disputes over freedom of navigation have already caused confrontations between China and the United States, and they remain a possible trigger for a serious crisis.

India Setting-Up Three New Armed Forces Commands

Paper No. 5575 Dated 07-Oct-2013
By Dr Subhash Kapila

The Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne announced last week that the Indian Armed Forces are submitting finalised proposals to the Government for approval of setting up three new Armed Forces Commands.

The three new Commands proposed to be set up are as follows:
  • Special Operations Command. To be headed by an Army Lieutenant General
  • Space Command. To be commanded by an Air Force Vice Air Marshal
  • Cyber Security Command. Will be headed by the three Services on a rotational basis by a three-star officer. It is possible that eventually it may be assigned to the Navy.
Also announced was that the Tri-Service Command headquartered in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands which was so far been held in rotation by the three Services will henceforth be headed by a Vice Admiral of the Indian Navy.


Assigning each of these new Commands to a particular Service on the basis of their expertise in a particular field is logical both for operational control, training and administrative sustenance. However, that in no way lessens the Tri-Services cooperation and integrated operational synergies.

The Strategic Forces Command which handles India’s nuclear weapons, it seems, will still continue to be commanded in rotation by the three Services. However, this is one area where extensive fine-tuning is required of Command and Control in terms of political and technical control over nuclear weapons. The Armed Forces are the operational agency and despite that reality the Armed Forces hierarchy is kept out of the decision-making loop on specious grounds of ‘civilian control’.The decision however involves political deliberation and bold political decision-making.

The Armed Forces have been focussing on the establishment of these three Commands for a number of years and held discussions amongst them. It can be presumed that once financial approvals are obtained from the Government the establishment of the new three Commands would be speedily established by the Armed Forces.

In view of modern warfare becoming highly complex and fast-moving the setting up of these three new Armed Forces Commands dedicated to critical aspects of military operations is a pressing military imperative.

More so when China which is India’s main military adversary and threat perception has already moved far ahead in this direction, especially Cyber Warfare

India with its expansive reservoir of highly trained Information technology manpower should have moved ahead long time ago in the field of Cyber Warfare and Cyber Security. The impediment in such progress invariably is bureaucratic and imposition of financial cuts every year in the sanctioned Defence Budget every year.

The Afghan Endgame: Some Indian Options

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on 27 August had made his 20th visit to Pakistan and the first since the election of Nawaz Sharif as the Prime Minister, in a bid to improve strained relations between the two countries and restarting the stalled peace process with the Taliban. The initial outcome of the visit disappointed analysts as it led to no agreements or specific statements on the key issues of Taliban peace talks. However the visit showed results after Pakistan released seven detainees in the first week of September[i] and then on 21 September acceded to Karzai’s key request by releasing former Afghan Taliban deputy chief Mullah Baradar[ii], keeping alive the possibility of some sort of negotiation with the Taliban in the future. To add to the tentative situation there appears to be some dissension within the Taliban itself on the peace talks.[iii]

The possibility of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have had an overbearing hold on the Afghanistan endgame. Likely outcome of the peace negotiations and its timing (pre/post 2014) virtually cleaves the possible future scenarios into two categories; one, Taliban agrees to a peaceful option and two, it continues on the present trajectory for a military solution. The question at hand is what does India do proactively to safeguard its interests or hedge its position till this ‘Taliban’ penny drops?

Get a Plan B

Notwithstanding the existing warm and friendly relations with Afghanistan and the diplomatic capital being expended to extend this cordiality post 2014, India has to have a ‘Plan B’. A plan that moves beyond the ‘Kabuliwali’ typecast and notions such as “a Pashtun does not fight outside his country.” Afghanistan is home to a large number of foreign terrorist groups whose motivation to fight resides in concepts such as the ‘Islamic Caliphate’ and ‘global jihad,’ which are impossible to resolve or reconcile. Afghanistan is also the world’s largest producer and trafficker of opium and sits on one of the biggest cache of illegal weapons - two issues India can no longer ignore. Parallels must be drawn from Libya, Iraq and Syria on the potential fallout of an ungoverned Afghanistan on the region. C Raja Mohan recently even suggested that India should be conscious of the limitations imposed by geography on its dynamics with Afghanistan and focus on insulating itself from the negative consequences of the new phase that has begun to unfold on country's northwestern frontiers.[iv] Insulate, by having a Plan B in place based on the answer to the question: which is worse for India – Afghanistan governed by the Taliban or Afghanistan wracked by civil war.

Pak-Afghan Relations

The next issue is the Pak-Afghan relations. The lack of progress on the Taliban and Afghan reconciliation over-shadowed the other objective of Karzai’s recent visit; it was to improve strained relations with Pakistan which have been at low ebb since the skirmishes on the border and the fiasco of the Taliban political office in Doha. Issues requiring attention included repatriation of refugees, narcotics control, trade including transit trade, energy, transportation links, water sharing, management of the border etc.

Let us give credence to this maddening idea that a stable Pakistan with cordial relations with Afghanistan would not only put an end to its negative stimulus in that country but also prevent these threats from spilling over the Durand line. To that end positive developments in Afghan-Pak relations must be welcomed (and where possible ‘tri-lateralised’) as they need not necessarily come at the cost of Indian interests. Peace in Afghanistan serves Indian interests.

Dual-leadership role at NSA and Cyber Command stirs debate

Evan Vucci/AP - National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander testifies on Capitol Hill on Oct. 2.

During suspected Iranian cyber­attacks on the Web sites of commercial banks last year, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who simultaneously heads the country’s largest electronic spy agency and the military’s Cyber Command, proposed a simple solution: Shut off the attacks at their source.

“We had the expertise and could have done something about it,” said one U.S. official, who like others interviewed for this store spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive discussions. “We’re sitting on their networks overseas. Why don’t we just turn it off?”

But the proposal to send a simple computer “reset” command to the attacking servers was ultimately rejected by National Security Council officials this year because the attacks were not causing enough harm to warrant an offensive response.

The episode shows the willingness — some say eagerness — of Alexander to use his authority to conduct offensive actions to fend off attacks against the private sector. If a similar proposal were on the table today, it would be the new cyber-teams that Alexander is creating to defend the nation that probably would do the job.

As he builds out U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Md., and other installations to a fighting force of 6,000 over the next three years, there are fresh questions about the wisdom of so much power residing in one
“dual-hatted” official.

The debate has taken on greater significance in the wake of disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about the sweeping scope of the agency’s domestic surveillance to thwart terrorist attacks and gain foreign intelligence.

“The mashing together of the NSA and Cyber Command has blurred the lines between a military command and a national spy agency,” said Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution expert on evolving modes of warfare.

Alexander disagrees. “It’s one network,” he said in a recent interview. “We all operate on the same network. You create more problems by trying to separate them and have two people fighting over who’s in charge [of both missions] than putting it all together. I think our nation benefits from that.”

He said that other countries “do similar things.” Britain’s GCHQ, the equivalent of the NSA, is able to conduct espionage and computer-network attacks.

With Alexander expected to retire next year after eight years as the longest-serving NSA director, his successor will face the questions.

UCAV: Airborne Without a Pilot

 by gp captain Noronha in IDR

It seems likely that UCAVs will supplement manned aviation in a growing number of operational situations. The main reason is the capability UCAVs offer to mount a lethal attack without endangering the lives of service personnel. In an era of shrinking defence budgets, cost-conscious governments are more likely to approve the acquisition of three or four squadrons of armed drones instead of one squadron of manned combat aircraft. In some cases, weather restrictions and the physiological limitations of human pilots could also make UCAVs more viable than manned aircraft.

UCAVs offer greater range, manoeuvrability and payload capacity than manned strike aircraft…

The strange aircraft approaches the target system stealthily, selects the most significant one, and then strikes with unerring accuracy and devastating effect before speeding away. Yet, should the machine be shot down, the pilot’s life is never at risk. In fact, the ‘pilot’ may  not even be a trained aviator and may be located thousands of kilometres away. Is it any wonder that Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs) are rapidly becoming the weapons of choice for military forces worldwide? Despite savage cuts in the defence budget of many countries, the UCAV market continues to grow at a healthy pace.

Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), popularly known as drones, have already proved their worth in the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) role. Since Israel made drones a household word as far back as the Yom Kippur War of 1973, they have become a cherished asset of many nations. But there’s a crucial time lag while the attacking force goes through the operational cycle of unarmed UAV employment – gathering and transmitting actionable intelligence, relaying it to a command post, launching a manned air strike and ultimately, executing the attack. By the time the attacking aircraft reaches the reported location the target itself may have moved.

Boeing's Phantom Ray

Such delays can be eliminated by UCAVs that are able to locate, track and kill a target in real time, from the same platform, all without a pilot onboard. UCAVs also offer greater range, manoeuvrability and payload capacity than manned strike aircraft because they can dispense with life-support systems, flight controls, ejection seat, even the cockpit. On the flipside, the response time of a UCAV’s flying control surfaces is much longer than that of a manned aircraft due to the distance between the operator and the airborne machine. At present, UCAVs are remotely piloted by a person who is generally on the ground. Alternatively, the operator could be located on an airborne aircraft in the vicinity. In the near future, UCAVs will also be capable of fully autonomous missions with pre-programmed routes and target details, decision making ability, and adequate means of defence against air and ground opposition. Are the days of the combat pilot numbered?

Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) have already proved their worth in the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) role…

America’s Leading Lights

The United States has been in the forefront of the emerging UCAV revolution for over a decade. In 2005, the total fleet of UAVs deployed by the US constituted just one in twenty military aircraft, but the figure has now soared to one in three. It is still rising. The US Air Force (USAF) reportedly trains more pilots for advanced UAVs than for any other single weapons system. Given the pace at which UCAVs are surging ahead, some believe that the troubled and
prohibitively expensive Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fifth generation fighter may be the last manned strike aircraft the West will build.

U.S. raids on Al Qaeda operatives show shift away from drone strikes

By Ken Dilanian and David S. Cloud
October 6, 2013

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's decision to mount two risky attempts to capture Al Qaeda operatives in Africa reflects a reduced role for lethal CIA drone strikes and a growing prominence for the Pentagon in counter-terrorism operations, U.S. officials said Sunday. In one raid, Navy SEALs stormed the coastal Somalia home of a leader of the Shabab, the Somali-based group that claimed responsibility for last month's massacre in a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. In that operation, the administration opted to put U.S. commandos at risk against a fixed target that could have been destroyed with bombs or missiles from the air.

U.S. intelligence had indications that a dozen or more family members and other noncombatants were present at the compound, raising the risk of civilian casualties in any missile strike, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity in discussing the classified operation.

The suspect sought in the raid was not captured, and the SEALs ultimately withdrew, officials said. A senior administration official identified the target as a Kenyan of Somali origin named Ikrina who commands foreign fighters for the Shabab and has links to two deceased Al Qaeda operatives. It was unclear whether Ikrina is his full name. 

The official said the assumption is that Ikrina survived. In Libya, an operation carried out jointly by the CIA, the FBI and U.S. special operations forces captured a long-time suspected Al Qaeda leader who goes by the alias Abu Anas al Liby. He has been indicted on charges that he was involved in planning Al Qaeda's 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

That suggested a common thread in the two raids. The two deceased Al Qaeda operatives linked to the suspect in the Somali attack, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, played roles in the 1998 Nairobi bombing as well as in attacks in 2002 on a hotel and airline in Mombasa, according to the senior administration official.

The Libyan operation relied on an element of surprise: The U.S. had determined that Al Liby used minimal personal security and was moving openly in Tripoli, the Libyan capital. He was detained without incident, officials said. The results of the two raids — the successful capture of Al Liby and the apparent failure to capture the Shabab leader — illustrate the risks and potential rewards of aiming for captures rather than drone strikes.

A senior administration official said the Obama administration has not formally shifted away from CIA drone strikes in favor of using the military to capture wanted militants. Another official noted, however, that as criticism over secret drone strikes has grown, President Obama has increasingly expressed a preference for capturing militants, rather than killing them.

Modal Trigger - Navy SEALs aren’t enough to win war on terror

By Max Boot
October 6, 2013
New York Post

The paradox, and saving grace, of the Obama presidency is that while the president is indecisive about big things — the Afghan surge, intervention in Syria, entitlement reform, repealing the sequester, reopening the federal government, even the fast disappearing “Pacific
pivot” — he is very decisive about ordering drone strikes and raids by Special Operations Forces (or SOF) on terrorist targets.

Indeed, Obama may well be the most SOF-friendly president we’ve ever had.

This weekend, acting on the president’s orders, Special Operations teams came ashore in both Somalia and Libya. In Libya, the operators captured Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, alias Abu Anas al-Liby, who is wanted for the bombing of two US embassies in Africa in 1998.

In Somalia, SEALs targeted a senior leader of the Shabab, the Islamist terrorist group responsible for the massacre at the Westgate mall in Nairobi. It is unclear if they killed their target because the team had to withdraw under fire, but even if the raid was not entirely successful, it sent a welcome message to terrorist plotters that they cannot hide from the long arm of the US Special Operations Command.

That is a much-needed message to send, and it helps in a small way to begin undoing some of the damage from Obama’s vacillation over Syria, which signaled American confusion and retreat.

But, while important and welcome, Special Operations raids and drone strikes will not by themselves win the War on Terror.

That is why, even as these surgical strikes have proliferated in recent years, al Qaeda and its affiliates have spread their reach further than ever.

To counter the spread of violent extremism requires not simply one-off missions designed to eliminate senior leaders; what is required is steady, long-term engagement to build up indigenous institutions capable of keeping order on their own.

The US track record in this regard is mixed. Somalia, although still lawless, has been a success story of sorts because US-backed African Union forces have bolstered the sway of the government in Mogadishu and pushed back the Shabab, leading the group to lash out in high-profile terrorist attacks outside the country, in Uganda and Kenya.

Libya has not been nearly as successful, because the United States and its allies haven’t provided enough support to the pro-Western government in Tripoli to allow it to build up security forces capable of pushing back the militias that still rule the streets.

The situation is even worse in Iraq, where al Qaeda in Iraq has managed to revive itself after the withdrawal of all US forces. 

Bhutan: PM makes his debut in the National Assembly: Update No. 101

Note No. 696 Dated 6-Oct-2013
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan.

As is customary, Prime Minister Tobgay presented the State of the Nation Report in the first meeting of the National Assembly. He made a departure in calling the presentation as sacred and inviolable “State of Tsa-Wa-Sun” - “King, Country and People.” Overall, his performance could be considered as excellent though on some controversial issues he was not frank enough. Some of the highlights of his speech include

* On foreign policy, he reiterated his desire to further strengthen and deepen close relations with the government and people of India. On relations with China, he briefly referred to the recent talks and the joint technical survey conducted in the Payul Pasamlung area and not to the overall problems of border incursions by China. He pointed out correctly , what was long overdue that “meaningful engagement in multi lateral diplomacy remains an integral part of the foreign policy.”

* On the refugee issue, while he avoided the use of the term “refugee,” he was ‘pleased’ to report that 82179 “people in the camps” were resettled in third countries. He was also good enough to acknowledge his extreme gratefulness to the core group of countries led by US for supporting the initiative. He did not say whose initiative it was, though it is known to everyone that it was not that of Bhutan or India. Thankfully he did not talk about further meetings with Nepal on repatriation though there will still be a residue of over 10000 refugees.

* On democracy, he rightly pointed out his idea of consciously nurturing and promoting the values and principles of democracy and for the Constitution and rule of law to prevail at all times.

* To follow up on campaign promises, he announced the intention of the government to have a pay commission within a month to make a comprehensive review of the civil service.

* He did admit that the media was lagging behind though no specific proposals were made. 

* On economy which perhaps is the biggest challenge faced by the new government, the PM mentioned about the steps he proposed -an economic stimulus plan that included an injection of funds in financial institutions, making loans available to productive sectors, transparent economic policies and going for private and foreign investments. He also mentioned about the outlay of the 11th plan and sources of funding.

* He referred again to the government’s plan to produce 10,000 MW by 2010 and briefly referred to the delay in Punatshangchhu I due to “unstable geological conditions.” . What he did not say was that the location was moved further downstream just to generate an additional 200 MW and it is not known whether it was done with the approval of WAPCOS who did the DPR and whether fresh drilling was done to ascertain the geological structure at the right bank which has been sliding dangerously during construction. It is known in Himalayan geology that nothing can be taken as granted and no extrapolation of data should be done as the project officer himself has stated that Himalayan geology could change every ten meters! There could be a minimum of delay of more than one year and an additional expenditure of one billion ngultrum, but it looks that the loss and the delay could be more than what is estimated!

Nyapyidaw: Brokering Peace, Nationalism and Development

Date: 07/10/2013

The election of President Thein Sein in March 2011, under the auspices of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the success the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) leader, Aung San Suu Kyi in the April 2012 parliamentary elections paved the way for an unprecedented political and economic reformation of Myanmar. As a stark departure from six decades of repressive military rule, this was a historic landmark of great expectations. Previously, the Military Junta (Tatmadaw) had an uncompromising attitude towards rebel groups and internal dissent. Today, it is actively engaging in peace negotiations. The sincerity of the reforms process can be indicated by the leadership’s openness to international observation and involvement, the diversification of foreign direct investment (FDI), encouraging private enterprise domestically and permitting democratic practices such as uncensored media reporting, the right to protest and civil society participation.

Economic Development 

Most western countries have begun to revoke sanctions to facilitate international trade help expedite the economic reforms and inject confidence into the bilateral relationship. Today, western support is a necessity for Nyapyidaw as it seeks financial aid from the IMF, World Bank, EU and readies itself to be an active participant in global political forums such as the UN. 

As Nyapyidaw diversifies its investment options and reduces its dependence on its prime ally (China), it acquires a degree of control over its economy and leverage in the negotiation of contracts. Presently, much of Myanmar’s oil, gas and mining industries are dominated by China given the advantage of time it has had over its western counterparts. Globally, industrial growth in metal & mineral ore mining and hydrocarbons sectors constitute some of the highest contributions to the GDP of a country. As Nyapyidaw diversifies its portfolio of investors, it may have an upshot on Chinese economy in the longer term, if not now. Regardless, China as a global economic power, obtains its resources from far and wide including Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia etc. 

Up till now, the majority of investments in Myanmar’s oil and gas sectors have been from Asian countries such as China, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia etc. However, post liberalisation, “several western global majors such as ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, BG Group and Hess Corp are lining up to get contracts”. Given the economic isolation of Myanmar, it has many large sectors that provide ample opportunities to foreign investors such as in IT, telecommunication, media, real estate etc. As the private enterprise takes root, Myanmar’s stock market is likely to develop as is the purchasing power of its citizens. Thus, a snowball effect can be expected as the multiplicity of FDIs accumulates in Myanmar. 

Infinity Journal's Volume 3, Issue No. 3 is Now Available Online.
by SWJ Editors

SWJ Blog Post
October 7, 2013 

Enjoy the Following 6 New Articles at IJ:

1. Antulio J. Echevarria II: “Does War Have its Own Logic After All?”
2. Patrick Porter: “The Weinberger Doctrine: A Celebration”
3. Nathan K. Finney: “Containing Syria: An External Approach Using the
Threat of Violence”
4. Dimitrios Machairas: “Why Did the US Adopt the Strategy of Massive
5. Deployed Serviceman (anonymous): “A Response to “Voices From the
Field: Towards a Successful Outcome in Afghanistan”
6. Troy Smith: “When Should Covert Action be Used In FulFillment of
Foreign Policy Strategy?”