13 November 2013

No Calm After the Storm

NOVEMBER 11, 2013

Some of the first photos of the 'absolute bedlam' unleashed by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Warning: some images are graphic.


After first making landfall in the Philippines on Nov. 8, bringing almost 16 inches of rain and winds at up to 147 mph, Typhoon Haiyan has left a wake of destruction and death. Local officials estimate that up to 10,000 people have been killed by Typhoon Haiyan and almost 630,000 have been displaced by damage and flooding. The storm left the eastern town of Giuan totally destroyed and another Philippine city, Baco, 80 percent underwater. From a public health perspective, the crisis has just begun: In Tacloban, a city "largely flattened" by the storm, an insufficient supply of clean water has raised concerns about the spread of dysentery, and aid workers are concerned about the many potential health risks for survivors.

International relief efforts are growing in response to the broad destruction: Australia has contributed 9.4 million dollars in assistance, and the United Kingdom has contributed a 9.6 million dollar non-food aid package, while the United States has deployed some 80 Marines, along with search-and-rescue helicopters and surveillance planes. But with 9.5 million affected, relief aid has a lot of catching up to do with the near-unprecedented damage wrought by the typhoon, the scope of which is sure to leave the country reeling for months.

Typhoon in the Philippines

The horror after Haiyan
Nov 11th 2013
by J.M. | MANILA

Children peek out from their makeshift shelter in Tacloban after Typhoon Haiyan tore through eastern and central Philippines on November 10th

Typhoon Haiyan was one of the strongest storms ever recorded with winds gusting up to 194mph

WEATHER forecasters had given warning before Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines that the storm was extraordinarily powerful. That it was extraordinarily destructive became clear to all when the typhoon landed on the east coast November 8th. Three days later it has become apparent that the storm was also extraordinarily deadly; the survivors will require an colossal relief effort just to stay alive.

Before the typhoon landed, meteorologists had detected wind speeds of 313kph (194mph) near the centre, gusting up to 378kph, making it one of the strongest storms ever recorded. It whipped up giant waves that crashed ashore. Between them, the wind and waves ploughed through coastal communities, crushing buildings as if they were cardboard, tossing boats and cars around like toys and sweeping people to their deaths. The storm charged across the middle of country from east to west, drenching everything in its path with driving rain. Homes and crops that the wind failed to destroy were left at the mercy of flooding and landslides brought on by the rain.

A picture of the amount of death and destruction caused began to emerge only after the storm had swept out over the South China Sea, heading towards Vietnam. Witnesses spoke of corpses littering the wrecked city of Tacloban, on the east coast, which felt the full force of the storm. They spoke of dazed survivors wandering streets strewn with debris, begging for help. “From the shore and moving a kilometre inland, there are no structures standing. It was like a tsunami,” said the interior secretary, Manuel Roxas, after inspecting the destruction from a helicopter. “I don't know how to describe what I saw.”

The Secret World of Cargo Ships



By Rose George | November 10, 2013

On a modern shipping vessel, what's in the hold is unknown — even to the people moving it
Floating mysteries. (Ramin Talaie/Corbis)

THE BRIDGE OF a modern ship is a shock on first encounter. Although this place is still known as the wheelhouse, the wheel at the helm is not wooden and impressive, but mundane plastic, the kind that would suit a video arcade game. Nearly all else is automated. A bank of screens contains radar, ECDIS — an electronic chart system — and AIS, an automatic identification system that transmits the ship's name, speed and heading, and other details to other ships, port authorities, and well-equipped pirates. There is radio, a gyrocompass and magnetic compass, a tachometer and echo sounder.

Capt. Glenn Wostenholme is often to be found on the bridge. He is here for port approaches and departures but also whenever he can escape paperwork, which is not as often as he would like, now that the role of ship's purser has ceased to exist and all the administration falls on the captain and senior officers. He can be on his computer for four to eight hours a day now. Glenn is the most senior captain in Maersk's container fleet. In older times, he would have been known as commodore and saluted by the raising of flags on courteous passing ships. His talk turns often to earlier times, because he has done enough years to have plenty and because in his four decades on ships, life at sea has changed dramatically. His first ship was a tramp steamer, a freelance vessel that picks up trade where it can, not a liner with a scheduled route like Kendal, his current ship. A taxi, not a bus. It was iron, had derrick cranes on deck to heft cargo about, and was held together by rivets. Rivets! Not like this Korean-made welded ship, only 4 years old.

In front of him the captain sees sea, but mostly he sees boxes. Orange, blue, gray, red. If the captain leaves the wheelhouse to stand on the port or starboard wings — the bridge's two terraces — he will see boxes fore and aft. That is if he sees them at all. For him they are blank, boring. "I am indifferent to them. They're just boxes, you've got to admit." He thinks they have destroyed the soul of a ship and of shipping. This is an old lament. In the middle of the shift from sail to steam, Joseph Conrad complained that "the loading of ships was once a matter of skill, judgment, and knowledge." With the modern steamship, cargo was "dumped into her through six hatchways, with clatter and hurry and racket and heat, in a cloud of steam and a mess of coal-dust."

AN EXCHANGE OF VISITS

India’s expanding power gap with China
Kanwal Sibal

We have a tendency to overstate the positives of our relations with China and downplay the negatives. This creates the impression that our ties are better than they actually are, and that the problems are either not as bad as they are made out to be or are more manageable than is thought. Since our most difficult relationship is with China, we have to be very careful in how we project it. It should be as close to reality as diplomacy permits so that the public at home is not misled or encouraged to be complacent, and observers abroad are not confused about where we stand.

China is set to acquire the status of tomorrow’s Number Two power. How India, the only large Asian country that can potentially challenge China’s dominance, develops its relations with it has a bearing on international equations in the years ahead. China’s phenomenal rise is causing concern in its neighbourhood and beyond. Those watchful or threatened would want to apprehend as clearly as possible what the Indian perspective is for seriously exploring the possibility of forging greater understandings in common interest. If we behave as if the threat from China is either exaggerated or that we can cope with China’s rise and the expanding economic and military gap between the two countries largely on our own, then we will be unable to work out optimal partnerships needed to handle the challenges ahead.

It is debatable whether Manmohan Singh needed to go to China so soon after the Chinese premier’s May visit to India. Barring compelling reasons, such high-level visits are normally spaced out sufficiently to extract maximum results. Intensified top-level parleying between countries with known bilateral problems ordinarily indicates rapprochement dynamics at work. With mounting China-Japan tensions, rising Southeast Asian concerns about China’s conduct and growing US-China geopolitical rivalry, India releases pressure on China by visibly boosting its own engagement with it and allowing it to tactically present a more constructive and conciliatory face, just as we have been doing this by increasingly engaging Pakistan and softening our stand on its terrorist affiliations just when it had begun to be cornered on this issue by the West.

The calendar and content of our engagement with China should, of course, be determined foremost by our national interest and not the agenda of others, consistent with our strategic autonomy. But our initiatives should strengthen our position vis-à-vis China, rather than the reverse. We have to carefully watch China’s conduct towards Japan and its assertiveness in the South China Sea, and draw lessons from it for our own differences with China. China has multiple objectives in hiking up its engagement of India. With the forthcoming visit of the Japanese royal couple and Prime Minister Abe to India in mind, it would want to pre-empt, to the extent possible, a deepening of the India-Japan strategic embrace at China’s cost. By indicating a willingness to stabilize the military situation with India in spite of enduring territorial differences, it is trying to insinuate that Japan, not China, is primarily responsible for territorial tensions over the Senkakus by choosing to activate the dispute rather than seeking stabilizing arrangements. Beyond this, China’s moves towards India are tactically aimed at unbalancing the United States of America’s “re-balancing” towards Asia in which India is being cast in a central role.

Indo-Pak Relations: Moving Beyond Binaries

by ISSSP
ISSSP Reflections No. 7, November 11, 2013
Author: Dr. Arun Vishwanathan

Writing in the website of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, Sushant Sareen astutely describes India's Pakistan policy as having been reduced to single binary. The main point of debate in New Delhi about its policy towards Islamabad boils down to whether we should diplomatically engage with Pakistan; whether or not our cricket teams should compete with each other; and whether or not our Prime Ministers should meet. On one hand, many like Rahul Roy-Choudhury of IISS, London call for continued engagement as they believe that talking to each other is the only way forward. On the other hand, this point of view has met with resistance and scepticism in New Delhi given the fact that there has hardly been any progress in Islamabad on Indian demands following the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Many in India believe that Pakistan has not changed track. This can be seen in the killing of five Indian soldiers in August 2013 by the Pakistani special forces in the Poonch sector along the Line of Control (LoC) and the dastardly act of beheading an Indian soldier earlier in January. The terrorist attack (September 26) on the Army Camp at Samba and the police station in Hiranagar in J&K is indicative of the fact that Pakistan continues its policy of backing Pak-backed terror groups to carry out attacks inside India. As Praveen Swami writes, “it is evident that Pakistan’s generals don’t share the prime minister’s dreams.”

As a result of the above, there has been a growing constituency within India to take a more hard-line position vis-a-vis Pakistan. This view was most recently seen in the open letter to the PM written by a group of ex-Indian officials comprising of bureaucrats, diplomats, intelligence officials and military officers. The act was seen as significant as it was one of the rare occasions where such a group of Indian officials - many of whom had occupied high positions - publicly intervened in New Delhi's Pakistan policy. These officials requested the Indian Prime Minister to call off his impending visit to Pakistan in view of the above events. Though the Indian Prime Minister's visit seems to have been put on the back-burner, the two leaders met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly September meeting.

Given Pakistan's Indo-centricity and the fact that it continues to support Pak-based terrorist groups who carry out terror attacks inside India; it is indeed a matter of great concern that India's policy towards Pakistan has been reduced to such binaries. The question Indian decision-makers should ask themselves is the following. What will taking a hard-line position vis-à-vis Pakistan achieve? Rather, India should work towards building levers in order to be able to compel Pakistan to change its policies which are inimical to India's interests. Such levers need not necessarily translate into a military-style ‘tit-for-tat’ policy viz. carrying out pinpointed aerial strikes on terror camps across the border, or assassination of terrorist leaders etc. but could also take the shape of a more constructive engagement on economic or other fields such as energy. However, for any of latter initiatives at constructive engagement to work, it is crucial that Islamabad also invests political capital to ensure the success of such initiatives. At the moment, Islamabad does not seem to be interested in taking any such steps. Also, Indian decision-makers need to seriously ponder as to whether growing mutual dependence of both countries could result in a more amicable relationship?

India yet to stabilise as a nation state

Manoj Joshi
12 November 2013

Far from reaching the sky, the Indian project seems to be sinking. This is the message coming out of a clutch of unconnected developments: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh abandons his plans to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka because of protests from political parties in Tamil Nadu; West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee bans the export of potatoes from the state to ensure that the price of the commodity does not rise in her state. In retaliation, elements in Orissa have enforced a blockade of fish and other commodities to West Bengal. We have heard of water wars between states, now things are getting a little bit more elemental. 

The founding fathers of this country were imbued by nationalist history, which believed that India had been conquered repeatedly through its history because it was disunited. That is why our constitution provides the Union government exclusive jurisdiction over foreign and defense policy. Foreign and defence policy is understandable, but in many ways the constitutional scheme limits India's maneuverability since it compels states to turn to New Delhi for even issues relating to trade, consular representation, foreign direct investment and so on. China, for example, has been successful in pushing its provinces to take the lead in various aspects of regional policy. 

However, given the CHOGM development, and before this, Mamata's last-minute torpedoing of the Teesta water pact in 2011 which broke the momentum of good relations between India and Bangladesh, there is some merit to the idea of central control of foreign policy. In Bangladesh, not only have the prospects for India getting transit rights to the North East receded, but also the prestige of Sheikh Hasina, India's most important partner in the country, has suffered a setback. 

The Sri Lanka issue is another case in point. India's tortured history with the Sri Lanka Tamils is well known. So is the manner in which it has been intertwined with Tamil Nadu politics. Even so, New Delhi managed to actually start a war on Tamil separatists in the island in the form of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Yet now, the ghost of the LTTE, has been resurrected by Tamil politicians in India to damage India-Sri Lanka relations in a possibly fundamental manner. 

Simply put, it means leaving the field in both countries to Chinese influence. Already, Chinese investment is making massive inroads into Sri Lanka and has been skillfully used by the Sri Lanka leadership to offset India. Sheikh Hasina remains friendly to New Delhi, but there is no telling what the coming election in the country will bring. 

Army kicks off high-tech “digital soldier” project

Tuesday, 12 November 2013
By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 12th Nov 13

Rs 40,000 crore ($6.5 bn) project will link formation commanders directly to tanks and soldiers on the front lines

The Indian Army has moved a step closer to the battlefield of the future, where command networks know the precise location of every soldier and weapon, with whom generals can exchange reports, photos, data and verbal and written communications.

On Monday, Army headquarters called in fourteen Indian companies and issued them an Expression of Interest (EoI) for developing a Battlefield Management System (BMS). The BMS will integrate combat units --- armoured, artillery and infantry regiments, infantry battalions, helicopter flights, etc --- into a digital network that will link together all components of the future battlefield.

While precise costs are still unclear, vendors competing for the contract say the army expects to pay about Rs 40,000 crore for developing and manufacturing the BMS. This includes the software architecture as well as the hardware that will link together every component of some 500 combat units, each having between 500-900 soldiers.

The BMS acquisition is being pursued as a “Make” contract under the Defence Procurement Policy of 2013 (DPP-2013). The vendors will respond to the EoI with a detailed proposal, based on which the ministry of defence (MoD) will short list two vendors or consortia as “development agencies” or DAs. The MoD will pick up 80 per cent of the development bill for both DAs to build prototypes of the BMS. The winning design will form the basis of the system.

The army’s directorate general of information systems (DG IS) is overseeing the planned shift from a twentieth century to a twenty-first century battlefield. The communications backbone of the new digital architecture will be the Tactical Communications System (TCS), which is being pursued separately as India’s first “Make” project.

In addition, the army is working on a Command Information and Decision Support System (CIDSS) that allows commanders to control the battle; a Battlefield Support System (BSS) to manage artillery units; and an Air Defence Control & Reporting System (ADC&RS) that will control airspace.

The BMS will link these overarching systems to the cutting edge --- the combat soldier on the front line. Each soldier and combat platform (tank, helicopter, jeep) will be a separate digital entity, whose location and state of combat readiness will be available to higher commanders. The BMS will also allow the sharing of inputs from a range of sensors in combat units, including seismic sensors, battlefield surveillance radars, long range optical sensors and thermal imaging devices.

Post-Taliban Afghanistan, 12 years on

Jayant Prasad

The picture in Afghanistan today is bleak: worsening security, ubiquitous Taliban presence, poor coordination between donors and the government, and a slowing economy

Exactly 12 years ago, on November 13, 2001 — just two months after the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud and the al Qaeda strikes in New York and Washington D.C. — Massoud’s forces entered Kabul after Taliban fighters fled the city the previous night. This came on the heels of desperate diplomatic efforts to prevent the Northern Alliance from occupying Kabul and taking over the reins of government.

Why did the United States and its allies go to Afghanistan? U.S. troops went there to get rid of the al Qaeda leadership, and combat terrorists with a global reach. Operation Enduring Freedom was launched against terrorist entities and the states that harboured them. That was the reason for targeting the Taliban regime.

Intense operations

The United Nations Security Council mandated an International Security Assistance Force for the security of Kabul and its environs on December 20, 2001. ISAF has since been supported by 49 U.S. allies and partners. At its high point in 2011, there were 1,40,000 ISAF troops in Afghanistan, including 1,01,000 Americans, not counting contracted private security personnel.

After such impressive marshalling of forces and intensified military operations, Afghanistan continues to remain among the greatest security challenges of our times. What happened?

A 2009 Senate Foreign Relations Committee report blamed the 2001 Pentagon leadership for the “lost opportunity” of preventing Osama bin Laden’s flight from Tora Bora to Pakistan. Centcom Commander General Tommy Franks turned down a CIA request for a battalion of Army Rangers to assist a rag-tag force tracking bin Laden. Concurrently, in late November 2001, Pakistani planes were allowed to airlift from Kunduz hundreds of Islamabad’s advisers and troops, presumably along with some of the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s leading cadres. A year or so later, the U.S. shifted its attention to Iraq, leaving the Afghan and Pakistan tasks unfinished.

The U.S. and NATO initially believed that a strong Afghan Army was not required, since the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters had dispersed without a fight — as for those who fled, Pakistan would take care of them. Afghans are still reaping the consequences of this initial neglect. The blunder of sub-contracting to Pakistan the management of the Taliban resulted in the outfit’s fighters being nursed, nurtured and re-infiltrated into Afghanistan from 2005.

Since then, Afghanistan has become an arena for experimentation in social and political engineering. The military campaign was first cast as a war against terror, then as a counter-insurgency operation. The advantages gained by the surging American troops and more muscular military action were defeated by the announcement of the exit strategy.

Opportunity lost

As for building Afghan capacity, little was done for several years. U.N. representatives on the ground advocated a ‘light’ international footprint. Rich countries were initially parsimonious in their commitments. In early 2002, Afghanistan was a relatively clean slate on which anything could be written, so long as the country’s well-wishers took account of its regional strategic space. But that was not to be.

Paradoxically, after the Taliban recovered, regrouped and re-equipped itself in its safe havens and brought violence back to Afghanistan, a stepped-up civilian effort followed. The Afghanistan Compact, put together in London in January 2006, made nation-building the main focus of the future international effort. Its conceptual flaw was the vision to transform Afghanistan into the image of its benefactors.

Congress beyond dynasty

Ramachandra Guha 
Nov 13, 2013

The grand old party can survive if it breaks free from the overarching presence of a single clan.

On May 8, 1964, Indira Gandhi wrote to her friend Dorothy Norman that "the whole question of my future is bothering me. I feel i must settle outside India at least for a year or so..." She was thinking of moving to the UnitedKingdom where both her sons were then studying.

In the event, her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, died before the month was out. She had to attend to the public mourning and then the new prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, invited her to join his cabinet (in the minor role of information and broadcasting minister). Shastri himself grew considerably in office, providing excellent leadership in the war with Pakistan and laying the foundations of the Green Revolution. He seemed set for a long tenure when he suddenly died of aheart attack. Now, in a move they would come to regret, the party bosses chose Indira to replace him.

Once she acquired control over the Congress, Indira brought her son Sanjay into politics, making it clear that she wished him to succeed her as prime minister. After Sanjay died in 1980, Rajiv was brought into the Congress with the same intention. Following Rajiv's death in 1991, the Congress returned to its pre-dynastic roots, before Sonia Gandhi was asked to lead it in 1998. She, in turn, brought her son into the party, and made him her heir apparent.

The Nehru-Gandhi family has dominated Congress politics for the past four decades. Might this domination be coming to an end? Opinion polls suggest the Congress will suffer significant losses in the next general elections. In that case, the leadership (or lack thereof) of the party president and vice-president will be a major contributory factor.

The charisma of the Nehru-Gandhi family has been steadily declining over time. A majority of voters were born after Indira Gandhi died. Her father is even further removed from public memory. Nehru's great contributions towards nurturing a democratic India, or Indira's successful handling of the Bang-ladesh crisis, are not remembered or recognised. No voter under 30 remembers Rajiv either.

An ever younger electorate tends to judge the Nehru-Gandhi family by their own experiences. They note that the corrupt UPA is headed by Sonia Gandhi. And they see that the person slated to succeed her, her son Rahul, has done little in his decade in politics. He has scarcely been visible in Parliament and shied away from ministerial responsibility. In his rare public speeches, he has not offered a single new idea on econo-mics, politics or governance, preferring instead to praise his father, mother, or grandmother.

Do we bother about our rivers?

13 November 2013 

With a general election round the corner, the price of onions seems to hold everyone's attention longer than something like a publicly stated commitment from our politicians to revive our rivers and keep them clean and flowing

A few years ago, I met a French couple that had walked across Africa, and asked the two what was the most difficult part of the three-year long journey. They recounted the time when they were in an uninhabited area and had to walk for a couple of days without a village or a person in sight, and without water. When they were severely dehydrated and close to giving up, like a mirage a single woman with a pot of water appeared and poured till they drank the entire contents. Never had they ever imagined what the value of a single sip of water could mean and how immensely life-enforcing a single mouthful of it can be.

We are all quite aware of the state that rivers all over the world are in. Many have been reduced to little more than either large tanks for breeding fish, reined in to generate power or more often than not a sewage and garbage disposal system. We throw something into the water stream, and the river just carries it away, out of sight, out of mind and out of our backyard. It’s not possible for a lot of us to even fathom the extent and depth to which we’ve filled and choked our rivers till they turn into a slow moving slurry of plastic, sewage and chemicals.

While in the greater Himalayas, I was camping at one of the villages and trying to locate a water source when I found my way to a little stream that came out from within a rock-face. Right next to the spout was a little sign (in Hindi) which said: “This is drinking water — do not throw garbage, spit or dirty it”. The most basic principle of water and life was being acknowledged and respected. 

Across the mountains, I could see there was another source of water which had made its way down the tree-less slopes — like an outline of the ravine drawn in green, plants and trees clung to the edges of the snowmelt as it trickled and flowed. Animals and birds knew and remembered this water source as well, and mapped their movements around the one thing that holds life on earth.

In a flash I found myself in what could have been Delhi or Kanpur or Ahmedabad; the river could have been the Cauvery or the Damodar or the Yamuna — they all looked the same and shared the same fate. Once civilisations settled on their banks and as villages, towns and cities grew and growth became the only thing we could see, the rivers began dying.

A river of fish, turtles, plants and tiny shrimp grew darker with each new pipe that was added, spewing all the waste, toxins and chemicals from the belly of industries that had lain themselves down like some enormous beast that had over-eaten and couldn’t break the cycle of consumption and expulsion. Rivers, being the travellers that they are, wind their way through thousands of kilometers heading to the ocean where they finally spill themselves in their entirety with the longest and widest carrying the most waste.

India at risk: Makes you question, think

Wednesday, 13 November 2013 

Service chiefs were raring to have a crack at Pakistan after the Parliament attack, but strategic restraint won the day. Jaswant Singh’s new book elaborates on this incident and on other contentious issues

The partition of India and the occupation of Tibet by China are at the heart and root of our current national security challenges. Add to this the inherited legacy of coercive cartography, and India is trapped between the Durand and McMahon lines and the Line of Control and the Line of Actual Control. The collapse of four empires — the Qing Dynasty of China, the Ottomans, the British and the Soviets — has had a profound effect on the Indian subcontinent. Coupled with the ‘strategic confinement’ of India were the ‘illiterate and untrusting civilian control of the military’, the absence of strategic ideas (not just thought) and a sense of geography, often mistaken with territory. The birth of Bangladesh, the second Partition was the ‘revenge of geography over history’. These are salient vignettes from Jaswant Singh’s new book, India at Risk: Mistakes, Misconceptions and Misadventures of Security Policy. I would have placed misconceptions before the other two Ms and added a fourth M: Missed opportunities.

The book encapsulates the defence and security dilemmas India has faced in the last 67 years and the way wars, insurgencies, mutinies, and hijackings have been dealt with. Hindsight has meshed easily with foresight to present a politico-military canvas that blends history, geography and strategic thought in the right proportion. There is one regret though — Mr Singh suddenly ends the book a decade prematurely and ‘Leaves the rest to the Gods’ in his inimitable style.

Britain’s perceived post-Empire concerns prevailed over all other considerations, despite the warnings on Partition and the creation of Pakistan, issued through several military assessments including the one in 1946 by Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck recommending that “only a united India can promote Britain’s strategic interests”. Viceroy Field Marshal Lord Wavell’s February 1947 report to the King emphasises the decline in Britain’s prestige and powers following the wars. Governor of Punjab, EM Jenkins, in his despatches to Lord Louis Mountbatten writes, “there is complete absence of enthusiasm for the partition plan.” Jawaharlal Nehru’s own conversations with Lord Mountbatten and letters to the Nawab of Bhopal mention misgivings about Partition and how it “robbed us of peace”. What Mr Singh does not mention is how Partition, the cardinal sin, could have been prevented.

Similarly the prevention of China’s occupation of Tibet was urged by Lieutenant General Sir Francis Tuker of Eastern Command in his essay on The Mongol Frontier, in which he stressed that Tibet was the vital area or launch pad for ingress into north and north-east India. He recommended that “rather than see a Chinese occupation of Tibet, India should be prepared to occupy the plateau.” How could India pre-empt or even prevent this, as the defence of Indian land, till 1947 and even afterwards, was in British hands? Further, even after independence Nehru ignored the warnings on China given by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and military leaders of the time. In July 1962, then Army chief General KS Thimayya wrote that one “can’t envisage India taking on China in an open conflict on its own... it must be left to politicians and diplomats to ensure own security.” In 1950, was it then feasible to implement the Tuker plan? Did Nehru allow China a free run or was the loss of Tibet inevitable? 

In 1947, the Kashmir war we fought was “the first unnecessary war”, strangely with British Commanders-in-Chief on both sides. A winnable war was lost by Nehru under Lord Mountbatten’s influence, by taking the Kashmir issue to the UN. The Himalayan conflict of 1962 is deftly narrated, tracing its roots to the annexation of Tibet in 1950, the flight of the Dalai Lama in 1959, and India’s Forward Posture in 1962. The provocation for China teaching India a lesson was provided by New Delhi’s misconception that China would never attack India. The rest was criminal negligence and leadership failures leading to a humiliating defeat.

Targeting needles, or adding more hay?

John Mueller : Wed Nov 13 2013

The NSA has institutionalised alarmist thinking and is remarkably resistant to counter-information

Recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that America's National Security Agency (NSA) had perhaps "reached too far" in its massive collection of communications data. That is a monumental understatement. From the start of America's "war on terror", overreach has been the norm. Recall former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani: "anybody, any one of these security experts, including myself, would have told you on September 11, 2001, we're looking at dozens and dozens and multi-years of attacks like this."

The fears and concerns were plausible extrapolations from the facts then at hand. However, that every "security expert" should hold such erroneous views is fundamentally absurd. It was also an entirely plausible extrapolation from facts then at hand that 9/11 could prove to be an aberration rather than a harbinger. Yet it appears that no one in authority could even imagine that proposition to be true, even though it could have been taken to fit the available information fully as well as the passionately embraced alarmist perspective.

The "dozens and dozens" of 9/11 attacks never happened, of course, and the thousands of trained al-Qaeda operatives intelligence agencies imagined to exist in the US at the time turned out to be zero or exceedingly close to it. Nonetheless, alarmist thinking from the early days has been internalised and institutionalised, and it has proved to be notably resistant to counter-information. As anthropologist Scott Atran puts it, "Perhaps never in the history of human conflict have so few people with so few actual means and capabilities frightened so many." Central to the process, the NSA has continually expanded its spying efforts, searching for the needle by adding more and more hay.

When asked earlier this year about the NSA's massive data-gathering programmes, the agency's head, General Keith Alexander, contended that they were "crucial or critical" in disrupting "dozens" of terrorism plots. He then provided Congress with a list of 54 such cases. Although the list (unsurprisingly) is classified, Senator Patrick Leahy says that the notion that these cases represent disrupted plots is "plainly wrong". Indeed, "they weren't all plots and they weren't all thwarted."

When operatives at the NSA, sorting through their data collections, uncover leads, they are virtually never productive. At the FBI, reports journalist Garrett Graff, the NSA tips are often called "Pizza Hut" leads because, following them up, agents inevitably "end up investigating the local pizza delivery guy". At one point, FBI Director Robert Mueller bluntly told Alexander, "You act like this is some treasure trove; it's a useless time suck."

Is The Pakistan-Saudi Weapons Program for Real?

Simon Henderson
November 8, 2013

BBC Newsnight, a British equivalent of ABC's 20/20, ran a story on Nov. 6 saying intelligence reports judged that Pakistan was ready to deliver nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia. The purpose would be to counter Iran's perceived nuclear weapons program:"It is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic [of Iran]," the report concluded.

The story ran the night before the next round of talks between international powers and Iran in Geneva. The implicit message was that Riyadh had a fallback option in case a deal is cut with the Islamic Republic that is not to its liking. Some may be skeptical about the report due to the denials of both nations and some vagueness about the source of these claims, but dismissing the report out of hand would be foolhardy: The outline of the Newsnight story has been circulating among Saudi watchers for several months as Riyadh's frustration with Washington over its Middle East policies have grown.

Although the latest information does not appear to have come from Saudi Arabia -- an unnamed "senior NATO decision-maker" was cited as the principal source -- any transfer of Pakistani warheads or missiles would fit neatly into the category of "ways the House of Saud could make things unpleasant for Washington."

Well before the uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring, King Abdullah regarded the threat of a nuclear Iran as a major destabilizing force. More than 10 years ago, the Guardian reported the kingdom was debating a strategy paper setting out three options: acquiring a nuclear capability of its own, maintaining or entering into an alliance with an existing nuclear power that would offer protection, or trying to reach a regional agreement on a nuclear-free Middle East.

In February 2012, a correspondent of the London Times was summoned to Riyadh, where he was told by an unnamed senior Saudi official that the kingdom could acquire nuclear warheads "within weeks" of Iran developing atomic weapons. In the event of a successful Iranian nuclear test, Riyadh would "immediately launch a twin track nuclear weapons program," according to the Saudi source, while warheads would be purchased "off the shelf" from abroad. At the same time, the kingdom would upgrade its planned civil nuclear program to include a military dimension.

President Barack Obama's administration will find it challenging to shrug off these stories as mere rumors. Among those interviewed by Newsnight was Gary Samore, until recently the National Security Council's WMD czar, who expressed his belief that the Saudis have an understanding "that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan." (Full disclosure: I was interviewed for the program and some of my sager comments were included in the film report.)

Al Qaeda Presence in Afghanistan Still Very Small, Pentagon

November 12, 2013
US continues to claim al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan is minimal
Long War Journal

Earlier this week, the US military claimed that al Qaeda has a “limited presence” in Afghanistan and is confined to “the remote areas of eastern Afghanistan.” Although Obama administration and military officials have stated for the past four years that al Qaeda has a minimal presence in Afghanistan, the group and its allies continue to sustain operations in the country.

The claim was made in the newly released Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan, a semiannual update prepared by the Department of Defense.

"AQ [Al Qaeda] maintains a limited presence in the remote areas of eastern Afghanistan such as Kunar and Nuristan, and maintains a seasonal presence in other provinces," the report states.

"During the reporting period [from April 1 to Sept. 30] , sustained counterterrorism (CT) operations exerted pressure on AQ personnel and networks, and eliminated dozens of al Qaeda (AQ) operatives and facilitators, restricting AQ movements to isolated areas within northeastern Afghanistan,” the report continues.

"ISAF [the International Security Assistance Force] estimates that the number of AQ fighters in Afghanistan remains very low, but the AQ relationship with local Afghan Taliban formations remains intact."

While claiming that al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan is minimal, the report does not mention al Qaeda-allied groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other organizations that fight in Afghanistan and also are part of the global jihad. A plot by the IMU to conduct attacks in Europe was broken up after an IMU operative was captured in Afghanistan in 2010.

US officials downplay al Qaeda’s importance in Afghanistan

US military officials continue to downplay al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan, despite ample evidence that the group is active in the country as well as in Pakistan.

In an interview on July 28, General Joseph Dunford Jr., the Coalition commander in Afghanistan, said al Qaeda was merely a “shell” of its former self, with only about 75 members in Afghanistan, who were mostly too busy trying to stay alive to plan attacks against the West, the New York Times reported.

Is The Pakistan-Saudi Weapons Program for Real?

Simon Henderson
November 8, 2013

BBC Newsnight, a British equivalent of ABC's 20/20, ran a story on Nov. 6 saying intelligence reports judged that Pakistan was ready to deliver nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia. The purpose would be to counter Iran's perceived nuclear weapons program: "It is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic [of Iran]," the report concluded.

The story ran the night before the next round of talks between international powers and Iran in Geneva. The implicit message was that Riyadh had a fallback option in case a deal is cut with the Islamic Republic that is not to its liking. Some may be skeptical about the report due to the denials of both nations and some vagueness about the source of these claims, but dismissing the report out of hand would be foolhardy: The outline of the Newsnight story has been circulating among Saudi watchers for several months as Riyadh's frustration with Washington over its Middle East policies have grown.

Although the latest information does not appear to have come from Saudi Arabia -- an unnamed "senior NATO decision-maker" was cited as the principal source -- any transfer of Pakistani warheads or missiles would fit neatly into the category of "ways the House of Saud could make things unpleasant for Washington."

Well before the uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring, King Abdullah regarded the threat of a nuclear Iran as a major destabilizing force. More than 10 years ago, the Guardian reported the kingdom was debating a strategy paper setting out three options: acquiring a nuclear capability of its own, maintaining or entering into an alliance with an existing nuclear power that would offer protection, or trying to reach a regional agreement on a nuclear-free Middle East.

In February 2012, a correspondent of the London Times was summoned to Riyadh, where he was told by an unnamed senior Saudi official that the kingdom could acquire nuclear warheads "within weeks" of Iran developing atomic weapons. In the event of a successful Iranian nuclear test, Riyadh would "immediately launch a twin track nuclear weapons program," according to the Saudi source, while warheads would be purchased "off the shelf" from abroad. At the same time, the kingdom would upgrade its planned civil nuclear program to include a military dimension.

President Barack Obama's administration will find it challenging to shrug off these stories as mere rumors. Among those interviewed by Newsnight was Gary Samore, until recently the National Security Council's WMD czar, who expressed his belief that the Saudis have an understanding "that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan." (Full disclosure: I was interviewed for the program and some of my sager comments were included in the film report.)

Al Qaeda Presence in Afghanistan Still Very Small, Pentagon

November 12, 2013
US continues to claim al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan is minimal
Long War Journal
November 10, 2013

Earlier this week, the US military claimed that al Qaeda has a “limited presence” in Afghanistan and is confined to “the remote areas of eastern Afghanistan.” Although Obama administration and military officials have stated for the past four years that al Qaeda has a minimal presence in Afghanistan, the group and its allies continue to sustain operations in the country.

The claim was made in the newly released Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan, a semiannual update prepared by the Department of Defense.

"AQ [Al Qaeda] maintains a limited presence in the remote areas of eastern Afghanistan such as Kunar and Nuristan, and maintains a seasonal presence in other provinces," the report states.

"During the reporting period [from April 1 to Sept. 30] , sustained counterterrorism (CT) operations exerted pressure on AQ personnel and networks, and eliminated dozens of al Qaeda (AQ) operatives and facilitators, restricting AQ movements to isolated areas within northeastern Afghanistan,” the report continues.

"ISAF [the International Security Assistance Force] estimates that the number of AQ fighters in Afghanistan remains very low, but the AQ relationship with local Afghan Taliban formations remains intact."

While claiming that al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan is minimal, the report does not mention al Qaeda-allied groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other organizations that fight in Afghanistan and also are part of the global jihad. A plot by the IMU to conduct attacks in Europe was broken up after an IMU operative was captured in Afghanistan in 2010.

US officials downplay al Qaeda’s importance in Afghanistan

US military officials continue to downplay al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan, despite ample evidence that the group is active in the country as well as in Pakistan.

In an interview on July 28, General Joseph Dunford Jr., the Coalition commander in Afghanistan, said al Qaeda was merely a “shell” of its former self, with only about 75 members in Afghanistan, who were mostly too busy trying to stay alive to plan attacks against the West, the New York Times reported.

Similarly, Major General Joseph Osterman, the deputy operations commander of the International Security Assistance Force, said in July that al Qaeda is fighting for its survival in Afghanistan and is isolated primarily in Nuristan province.

After Hakimullah: The New Face of the Pakistani Taliban

By Kiran Nazish
November 12, 2013

On November 1, a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan killed five militants including Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the movement which is called Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – the Pakistani Taliban – as they left a mosque in the village of Danday Darpa Khel, in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan.

Initially, U.S. intelligence did not confirm the death, but Pakistani intelligence officials claimed that Hakimullah was indeed killed in the strike – although when approached for a statement they did not speak on record. Eventually, the death was confirmed as the TTP themselves confirmed the "martyrdom" of Hakimullah. While the death of Hakimullah has erupted a flurry of debates about Pakistan’s relations with the U.S., and its possible peace talks with the Taliban, the TTP has threatened Pakistan for playing politics and warned the United States that it will take revenge.

This strike was carried out exactly one day after the government of Pakistan announced formal negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban. It is unclear, however, whether the U.S. was really targeting Hakeemullah himself, as it did not confirm this information. The report released by the United States at the time said that the strike killed militants and did not confirm the successful killing of the Taliban leader. If it is true that the United States did not have the information of who exactly was being killed, this also begs the question whether the United States is as accurate and precise in these strikes as it claims to be.

The New Face of the Taliban, Not up for Peace

The new elected face of Pakistani Taliban is Mullah Fazlullah – whose real name is Fazal Hayat. He was also nicknamed “Radio Mullah” in 2005 when he started preaching via Radio to listeners in Swat. He had led the Taliban’s vicious rule in Swat valley between 2007 and 2009, but later lost hold after a military operation. He also has a record of having led a deadly fight against the Pakistani military in Buner and Dir for several years. Fazlullah’s death has been misreported by local and foreign media various times. Some locals from Swat say, “Fazlullah is less open to reconciliation than any of the Mehsud’s (both of whom have been killed in drone strikes).”

Born in the Imam Dherai area of Swat in 1973, Fazlullah is son-in-law of Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the founder of Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), a banned group that aims to impose Shariah in the country.

Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan

Executive Summary

Afghan security forces are now successfully providing security for their own people, fighting their own battles, and holding the gains made by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the last decade. This is a fundamental shift in the course of the conflict. The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have seen their capabilities expand rapidly since 2009, while insurgent territorial influence and kinetic capabilities have remained static. During the 2012 fighting season, ISAF led the fight against the insurgency, helping to put the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) firmly in control of all of Afghanistan’s major cities and 34 provincial capitals. During the 2013 fighting season, the ANSF led the fight, and have consolidated GIRoA’s control of Afghanistan’s urban areas. The fact that the ANSF – a force in its infancy five years ago – can now maintain the gains made by a coalition of 50 nations with the best trained and equipped forces in the world is a significant accomplishment.

Chief financier of the Haqqani network shot and killed by unknown gunmen

By Bailey Cahall, Monday, November 11, 2013 
November 11, 2013 

Haqqani son/financier killed

Dr. Nasiruddin Haqqani, a son of Haqqani network founder Jalaludin Haqqani and the organization's chief financier, was shot and killed by unknown gunmen on Sunday in Islamabad (BBC, Dawn, ET, Pajhwok, RFE/RL). Nasiruddin was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in June 2010 as a "specifically designated global [terrorist]" for his role raising funds for the group, and the Haqqani network was branded as a terrorist organization in September 2012 (Reuters). According to news reports, Haqqani's body will be taken to Miran Shah in North Waziristan on Monday for burial. 

Haqqani's death comes as Pakistan implements a new legal framework designed to address its internal militant threat - a law "some are calling a local version of the USA Patriot Act" (Post). The Pakistani government says the law will improve its anti-terrorism efforts, which have been plagued by inefficiency and abuses, but human rights advocates have criticized the ordinance for being harsh and having ill-defined sections. The law, which was handed down by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in October, is currently under review by the country's Parliament. If passed, it could be used in Karachi, where a months-long security operation against criminal and militant groups in the city led to nearly 5,000 arrests. 

The New York Times reported on Sunday that five journalists have been killed in Pakistan this year - 44 in the past decade - citing numbers from the Committee to Protect Journalists (NYT). While the Pakistani government has said that it wants to protect journalists operating in the country, the report notes that attacks come from all sides - from insurgents and criminals, as well as Pakistan's civilian and military intelligence agencies. While the "most perilous reporting beats" are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Balochistan, experts say attacks on reporters are also rising in Karachi. 

Vacancy filled 

The Pakistani government announced on Friday that Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani has been appointed as the new ambassador to the United States (AP). Jilani, who will take up the position in December, will replace Sherry Rehman, who stepped down after the May 2013 elections. He has served in Pakistan's foreign service since 1979, and previously served as Pakistan's ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, and the European Union. 

Understanding Pakistani Geopolitics

Posted: 11/11/2013 
Liaquat Ali Khan

Pakistan continually draws world attention. The Taliban, Osama bin Laden, Malala Yousafzai, the ban on NATO supplies for nearly six months, armed Pakistanis invading Mumbai, the Sufi songs of Nusrat Fatah Ali Khan, the Burka Avenger, Ms. Marvel, these and other stories offer a perplexing picture of Pakistan -- the sixth largest nation in the world and owning a stockpile of nuclear weapons possibly exceeding that of the United Kingdom and France. Pakistan, an ancient land baked with layers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Islam, is a complex and intriguing nation preparing to play a more assertive geopolitical role in the coming decades. 

Composed of distinct peoples who have lived in separate enclaves for centuries, including Punjabis, Pashtuns, Sindhis, and Balochis, Pakistan is striving hard, though unsuccessfully, to forge a new national identity. However, inter-ethnic dissensions linger. Few Punjabis would ever marry Sindhis, Pashtuns, or Balochis, and vice versa. Each ethnic group is proud of its history and traditions. The Pashtuns celebrate themselves as indomitable warriors. The Balochis find roots with Iranians and Arabs. The Sindhis are the first Muslims in the subcontinent. The Punjabis, constituting the majority of the population, profess intellectual superiority over others and dominate federal bureaucracy, politics, and the armed forces.

Partly because of ethnic diversity and partly because of a robust oral culture, Pakistanis have a keen sense of regional geopolitics. Much like Iranians, though not as much, Pakistanis are a poetic people. Most Pakistanis are multilingual, speaking at least two languages. The educated Pakistanis may know five to six languages, including Arabic, Persian, and English. Urdu, the national language, is itself a composite language that draws its vocabulary from at least fifteen other languages. Pakistanis are enigmatic in social attitudes, scientific in the day and superstitious at night, chivalrous but erratic in combat, charitable even when impoverished, continuously oscillating between haughty self-confidence and panic-stricken inferiority complex. Pakistanis claim to be the heirs to a thousand years of Muslim rule in India. Yet in folk stories and TV shows, Pakistanis ridicule the memories of Moghul Emperors. They adore cricket and yet make the cruelest jokes about the British Raj.

Myanmar: Kachin State and the State of Peace

11 November 2013
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Research Officer, SEARP, IPCS 

The ongoing clash in southern Kachin state has questioned the success of the new peace deal that was signed between the Myanmarese government and Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO). The peace deal, which was signed in October 2013, was expected to bring a ceasefire. However, the ceasefire agreement was not attained and the conflict still persists. The latest peace deal was preceded by a similar peace accord in the same year between the two parties. Nevertheless, no major initiatives have been taken in order to stop the violence and improve the plight of the civilians who have been regularly victimised during these clashes. 

What are the pros and cons of the latest peace deal signed? Should the government be blamed for the lack of success of all the peace deals?

The Peace Deal: Expectations and Outcomes

After three days of negotiations, a preliminary peace agreement was signed on 10 October 2013 in Myitkyina – the government administered capital in Kachin region. Both the parties have agreed upon several terms that include attainment of peace in the region, establishing a joint monitoring committee to observe the ceasefire as well as to work towards the resettlement of thousands of people who have been displaced during the clashes in the region. While the accord mainly emphasises the reduction of hostilities and lays the ground for a political dialogue, a ceasefire agreement is yet to be reached between the parties. They have both claimed that a formal ceasefire agreement is in the pipeline. Additionally, the new agreement is based upon a seven-point deal that was decided between the government and the KIO during their previous meeting held in May 2013. In order to form a ceasefire monitoring committee, a set of five basic policies and 18 rules have been recommended by the negotiators. Furthermore, several pilot projects have been planned for four villages for the resettlement of the displaced people. Thus, the only positive aspect of this recent peace deal is that it has at least laid a foundation for the formation of a ceasefire monitoring committee. 

The biggest criticism that the deal has invited is that the accord has had no substantial achievements. It basically reiterates similar points that were agreed upon during the May 2013 peace deal. Moreover no concrete plans were chalked out in order to attain peace in the region, which was supposed to be the main focus. According to the deal, the roads connecting this region to the rest of the country would be reopened; however, no such measure has been implemented till date. Establishing a joint monitoring committee will not be an easy task until both the government and the KIO stop blaming the other instead of working together towards establishing peace.

Who is to Blame?

The deal is part of the government plan to achieve a comprehensive ceasefire with all the armed ethnic rebel groups and end decades of confrontation; essential for the development and growth of Myanmar as a democratic nation. The government has already signed a ceasefire agreement with most of the ethnic armed groups except for some, including the KIO. The KIO have been fighting the government for greater autonomy and ethnic rights in Kachin since 2011. Although peace talks with this group were initiated in 2011, no success could be achieved due to conflict between the negotiators. Furthermore, although the KIO has been insisting on a peace dialogue, government representatives have placed a ceasefire agreement as a precondition for the peace dialogue. It seems that the government is in a rush to achieve its plan of achieving immediate nationwide ceasefire agreements prior to the 2015 election. Interestingly, the government, in its hastiness to attain the peace plan within a time frame, has been granting business licenses and concessions to these leaders. Thus, prolonging the ceasefire agreement benefits armed group leaders who are allegedly more concerned about their personal gains rather than the cause for which they have been fighting for.