22 November 2013

Super Hercules in the Himalayas

How the United States is strengthening defense ties with India.
BY ASHTON B. CARTER | NOVEMBER 20, 2013

Last year, on an official trip to India, I had the opportunity to visit a manufacturing plant in Hyderabad that is assembling the newest variant of America's long-standing tactical airlifter, the C-130J Super Hercules, as part of a joint venture between the American firm Lockheed Martin and the Indian firm Tata. When I returned to India this fall, I had the chance to meet with an Indian Air Force pilot who had successfully landed an Indian C-130J -- and, just as importantly, taken off again -- in the Himalayas at an altitude well above 16,000 feet. He briefed me on the aircraft's crucial role in bringing relief to flood victims earlier in the year in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.

On the same trip, I discussed with senior Indian defense officials a recently concluded bilateral military exercise undertaken by members of the Indian Army and soldiers from the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division. While training at Fort Bragg, representatives of our two armies jointly conducted scenarios related to a UN peacekeeping mission and practiced skills ranging from humanitarian assistance to air assault operations.

While none of these events garnered much outside attention, they are the product of years of work between the United States and India to overcome a historical legacy of differing approaches to defense, and are a sign of how far our relationship has come. They also typify the kind of below-the-radar, long-term relationship-building that is critical to the Obama administration's strategic shift in focus toward the Asia-Pacific region.

To be sure, the rebalance to Asia is mostly a political and economic concept, not a military one. And in the military domain, most outside attention has focused on the Department of Defense's recent presence and posture decisions, and our investments in the new technologies and capabilities that will enable us to continue to underwrite regional peace, stability, and prosperity -- just as we have done for the past 60 years. But while the deepening of U.S.-India defense cooperation may not be as visible as some of our other efforts in the Asia-Pacific region, it is a key example of how the Department of Defense under Secretary Chuck Hagel is executing our role in the rebalance.

President Obama, who recently held his third summit in as many years with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has rightly described Washington's relationship with New Delhi as "one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century." From the conception of our new strategy, the United States has seen India as integral to a rebalance we're undertaking not just to the Asia-Pacific region, but also within the region, as we complement existing partnerships in Northeast Asia with new bilateral and multilateral collaboration in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. 

Refusing to learn from Mumbai attacks

Issue Net Edition | Date : 21 Nov , 2013

The heritage wing of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower aflame, November 26. (Photograph: Uttam Ghosh/rediff.com)

It is five years since that dreadful night of November 26, 2008, which saw 10 terrorists making an amphibious landing onto the jetties of Mumbai, and proceeding to carry out sophisticated and simultaneous deadly attacks on multiple targets, including the city’s main railway station, two of its most prominent hotels, a popular outdoor cafe, a movie theater and a Jewish community center. These terrorists held virtually Mumbai, India’s financial capital of nearly 20 million people, under siege and indulged in mayhem. They killed brutally nearly 200 people.

…India is in a helpless and hopeless situation in punishing the real mastermind of the Mumbai-attack, LeT supremo Hafiz Saeed, the favourite of the Pakistani establishment.

As we remember that dreadful night, questions arise as to whether we have learnt any lessons and taken adequate remedial measures so as to prevent such recurring not only in Mumbai but also in other mega cities of the country. All told, the Mumbai-attack underlined one fundamental change in the nature and tactics of terrorist attacks. It was a departure from the common suicide bombings. Of course, the tactics adopted in Mumbai attacks were relatively simple, all known before -armed assaults, carjacking, drive-by shootings, building takeovers, barricade and hostage situations. They had actually ordinary weapons – assault rifles, pistols, hand grenades and simple improvised explosive devices. In fact, many experts said that the arsenal of the Mumbai-attackers resembled that of infantryman in 1940s. But, the newness lay in doing or putting all these things together in an impressively complex operation for which the attackers were systematically trained.

Secondly, and this is really significant, the Mumbai-attackers used well the 21st Century communications technology—cell phones, satellite phones, BlackBerrys, and GPS locators. Thirdly, they used soft targets – civilians – to have the maximum impact. They used civilians not only as hostages but also as shields to impede the counter attacks from the security forces and to maximise civilian casualties (increase the body counts, in the parlance of terrorism). These tactics were repeated successfully very recently in Nairobi Mall attacks (September). And in every likelihood, these will be repeated in future elsewhere, given the wide publicity and effect that this kind of attack in a prominent urban place by a motivated group prepared to give up their own lives generate. Fourthly, in what is called going for multiple targets, two of the Mumbai-attackers went to the city’s busiest railway station to open fire on commuters; the attack at the station alone accounted for more than a third of the total fatalities of the event. What this underscored was that terrorists now could view public surface transportation as a killing field.

Organisational and Structural Evolution – Lessons from Al-Qaeda

Issue Courtesy: Aakrosh | Date : 21 Nov , 2013

The global community has witnessed transformations in terror groups across the spectrum. These transformations can be attributed to various external changes that force the terror groups to change internally. For a commoner’s eye, these changes do not mean much. But if we are to study these changes, we would be better placed to appreciate the systematic thought process behind each and every change that takes place in terror groups. Terrorists have shown extraordinary intelligence by adapting business concepts like creating interchangeable missions, redefining organisational structures and forming strategic alliances to run their organisations efficiently. This paper attempts to study this important facet of managing “change” by terror groups effectively, which is akin to the process of change management and organisational dynamics in legitimate business enterprises.

The irony is that law enforcement efforts have proved to be counterproductive, forcing these groups to transform themselves into virtual networks and making it much harder to detect and disrupt them.

The external environment is one of the important variables that have posed serious challenges to many entities. While some have survived, many have perished. Many start-ups led by energetic entrepreneurs have failed to take off while some crash-landed after take off. But one business which has grown by leaps and bounds in spite of an adverse environment is “The business of terror.” It is quite surprising to observe that terror groups, by and large, have been successful despite being illegal, functioning with illicit finance and being manned by outlawed persons while many a legal entity, with lawful objectives, funded by legitimate means and managed by genuine businesspersons, has failed. It is this reason which makes it all the more imperative to study a terror group’s growth trajectory and its survival abilities in spite of facing a hostile environment with very demanding and challenging deliverables. A terror group derives its resilience from its networks and organisational structure, complemented well by innovative methods led by individual brilliance. However, recent developments in technology have also helped terror groups to be more resilient.

The study on how a terror group functions with respect to its key functions will throw a better light on the grey areas surrounding it. Terrorist groups have transformed and evolved, innovating in the process. Strategic alliances like mergers, joint ventures and partnerships through franchises act as force multipliers. Their innovative recruitment policies and people centric motivation methods are their core areas of strength. The groups have grown under the tutelage of their leaders, who have shown tremendous leadership abilities. Hypothetically, if Osama Bin Laden and Vellupillai Prabhakaran had led a legal set-up, they would have been put on the same pedestal as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Steve Jobs.

Advantage China

Nov 22, 2013

China is now practically at our doorstep, ready to neutralise the enormous geographic advantage which the Indian Navy enjoys due to our strategic location astride the global sea trade routes. India may soon pay a heavy price for its PM not attending CHOGM.

In 1987, after the Indo-Sri Lankan accord, the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF), comprising units of the Army, Navy and Air Force, was deployed in Sri Lanka to prevent a civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan military. The Indian and Sri Lankan militaries did not come into conflict with each other but, before it was withdrawn in 1990, the IPKF lost 1,195 men with another 3,000 personnel were wounded in clashes with the LTTE. Among the dead were Indian Army Tamilian officers and soldiers.

In 2010, Sri Lanka built an IPKF war memorial to honour the 1,195 Indian soldiers who had lost their lives (a few had been captured and tortured to death by the LTTE). In 2009, the LTTE was destroyed and its leadership killed, leading to charges of genocide of the civilian Tamil population by the Sri Lankan military.

While public anger in Tamil Nadu is understandable (even though the LTTE was a ruthless terrorist organisation, which killed Indian soldiers and assassinated Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi), the government in Delhi should have been guided by national interest only when it came to the question of attending the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting, held in Colombo from November 15 to 17. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should have attended CHOGM, visited Jaffna and taken up the issue of genocide during closed-door diplomatic talks.

Every national leadership with an elementary strategic vision knows how important it is to keep enemy influence out of its immediate neighbourhood. By declining to attend the 54-nation CHOGM, Dr Singh has made a grave mistake (foreign minister Salman Khurshid represented India at the meeting).

The CHOGM was boycotted by distant Canada and Mauritius, but Sri Lanka is our immediate neighbour, and it will be a disaster for India if China finds a naval base just a few miles from Tamil Nadu. British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the Tamil majority Jaffna and publicly raised his voice against the atrocities on Tamils before proceeding to join the CHOGM.
A few years ago, Sri Lanka had approached India to build the Hambantota Port (located about four hours drive south of Colombo), and when India did not respond, the Chinese stepped in and built a new seaport with an international cargo airport nearby.

Chinese warships, submarines and aircraft could theoretically use the new port and airport for power projection into the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) along with similar port facilities that have already been built in Chittagong (Bangladesh) and Gwadar (Pakistan). China is now building an additional shipping container port terminal in Colombo.

Last year, two Sri Lankan military officers undergoing the prestigious Defence Services Staff College course at Wellington in Tamil Nadu were asked to leave due to pressure from the ruling All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party. These two officers are likely to go to Pakistan for their Staff Course and then reach senior ranks in the Sri Lankan military, and they as well as their colleagues can be expected to have little goodwill for us.

China's Third Plenum and India's 'Dictator Envy'

Watching China’s economic planning process, Indians may be tempted to ditch democracy. Here’s why they shouldn’t.

November 22, 2013

“Dictator envy” isn’t a pretty phrase, but it’s one that is helpful in describing what more than a few Indians might feel when they look to Beijing’s way of doing things. Of course, this isn’t something unique to Indians. Even Alexis de Tocqueville, in his early days, held a somewhat skeptical view of democracy as a chaotic and childish attempt to run “the circus from the monkey cage” (as H. L. Mencken would later put it). Tocqueville, who later authored the seminal “Democracy in America,” came around to the social, psychological and political benefits of democracies. Contemporary Americans, jaded by dysfunctional congressional politics, sequesters and shut-downs, may also see the merits of a technocratic oligarchy (just don’t call it a Politburo Standing Committee).

In the Indian case, it’s worth revisiting this theme in light of Beijing’s much-heralded Third Plenum (which I covered for The Diplomat in an earlier piece). I recently ran across a column by former Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran in the Business Standard reflecting on the Third Plenum. He writes that there should be “no doubt” that the Third Plenum will reinvigorate Indian “dictator envy.” Saran, however, urges Indians not to fall prey to this logic. He proffers a methodical repudiation:

“India is not China, and our own experience has demonstrated that any recourse to authoritarianism can only achieve temporary results. Nor has the practice of liberal democracy in our country proved to be incompatible with high rates of GDP growth. … China’s example should not become the defining template for India’s development in the 21st century.”

India isn’t alien to authoritarianism – Indira Gandhi’s imposition of a state of emergency from 1975 to 1977 is now seen as one of the darkest points in India’s political evolution. This is the episode that Saran references at the outset of the above passage. He is also correct to point out that Indian democracy isn’t necessarily immune to the sort of growth that China experienced – India saw annual growth rates of up to 11 percent in its very recent memory.

Saran has a prescription for what India really needs to put an end to any “dictator envy” it might be experiencing in the wake of the Third Plenum, or indeed, in general comparisons to China: “What has been evident in the past few years is a failure of imagination on the part of India’s elite and the lack of articulation of an overarching national narrative that is able to cut across India’s rich diversity and political and social plurality in order to sustain a journey towards a common destination.” In essence, Indian democracy needs an FDR or a Clement Attlee – a democratic leader capable of not only restoring a modicum of faith in the national institution, but ultimately delivering growth.

Security Counsel

C. Raja Mohan : Sat Nov 16 2013

India at Risk: Mistakes, Misconceptions and Misadventures of Security Policy
Author: Jaswant Singh
Publisher: Rainlight/Rupa
Price: Rs 595
Pages: 292

The history of independent India will recognise the contributions of many distinguished ministers of the Union Cabinet. But it is difficult to recall many from the post-Nehru generations who have reflected on the great policy issues they confronted in office. Jaswant Singh, who served as the minister for foreign affairs, defence, and finance, and headed the Planning Commission, is clearly an exception.

Singh's book, Defending India, was published as he entered the cabinet in 1998. As the minister for external affairs, Jaswant Singh brought great dignity to the office, managed many crises and contributed to the transformation of India's foreign policy in the Vajpayee years. During his tenure, Singh also pushed for long overdue reforms of the country's national security establishment.

It is with great anticipation, then, one picks up Singh's latest book, India at Risk. He begins by asking a very big question. Why does India continue to flounder when it comes to national security management? Whether it is coping with terrorism or securing our troubled borders with China and Pakistan, the Delhi Durbar continues to have huge problems of management. 

Jaswant Singh identifies a number of factors, including the debilitating impact of the Partition that broke up the strategic unity of the subcontinent, the turbulence generated by nation building, the lack of sensibility to India's territoriality, and the failure to develop a statecraft that can get on top of the many security challenges confronting India.

Much of the book is devoted to a critical assessment of the Jammu and Kashmir war in 1947-48, the wars with China and Pakistan in 1962 and 1965 respectively, and the liberation of Bangladesh. This is not the traditional attack from the opposition on Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress party for their deemed failures. Singh is more philosophical than polemical in his criticisms of Indian mis-steps in the first decades after Independence.

Singh has an incisive chapter on what he calls "India's destructive decades" — the 1970s and 1980s — when the nation was at war with itself in the Punjab, Assam and the North East. He is at his clinical best in assessing India's unsuccessful military intervention in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s. 

The last two chapters are of the greatest interest to readers, for they deal with national security issues that Singh was intimately involved with as a senior minister. After all, this was a period when India ended its prolonged atomic ambivalence, conducted five nuclear tests, declared itself a nuclear weapon power, sought to negotiate on Kashmir with Pakistan, launched military operations to vacate Pakistan's Kargil aggression, explored a boundary settlement with China, and coped with the mounting challenges of terrorism.

India’s Policy Objectives in Afghanistan


November 21, 2013

Afghanistan’s location at the strategic crossroads between South Asia and Central Asia and South Asia and the Middle East makes the country extremely important for India. India has historically had friendly ties with Afghanistan and wishes to see a stable government installed in Kabul that is independent of any external interference. It has funded some major Afghan reconstruction and development plans and has invested US$1.5 billion so far. It has recently committed another US$500 million. The funds have been spent on building the 218 km-long Zaranj-Delaram road linking the Iranian border with the Garland Highway, electric power lines including one from the CARs to Kabul, hydroelectric power projects, school buildings, primary health centres and the new building for the Afghan Parliament. India is also training Afghan administrators, teachers and officer cadets, but only within India. At present, there is no support in India for sending military troops to Afghanistan. However, that might change depending on the security environment after the draw-down of NATO-ISAF forces has been completed.

India signed an Agreement on Strategic Partnership with Afghanistan in October 2011. This agreement envisages close political cooperation with a mechanism for regular consultations. It seeks to launch joint initiatives on regional and international issues and to cooperate at the United Nations and in multinational fora. The two sides also agreed to initiate a strategic dialogue to provide a framework for cooperation in the field of national security. Security cooperation is intended to enhance their mutual efforts in the fight against international terrorism, organised crime, illegal trafficking in narcotics, money laundering and so on. India also agreed to assist in the training, equipping and capacity building programmes for Afghan National Security Forces. The two sides committed themselves to “strengthening trade, economic, scientific and technological cooperation, as well as cooperation between other bodies of business and industry representatives, with a view to expanding trade and economic relations.” Both the countries also agreed to promote regional economic cooperation. India committed itself to continue to provide assistance for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development programmes and capacity building, particularly in the fields of governance, education, health and technical training. Given its vast experience in the field, India would also like to offer its help to Afghanistan to further democracy, particularly at the grassroots level.

India’s policy objectives flow out of the strategic partnership agreement signed with Afghanistan. These are naturally tempered by various constraining factors, including the prevailing security situation and Pakistan’s continuing interference in Afghan affairs through proxies such as the Haqqani network, which has been declared to be a terrorist organisation by the US State Department. In fact, it is the considered Indian view that Afghanistan’s problems cannot be resolved unless the linkages with Pakistan are also addressed simultaneously. Also, India’s efforts to provide assistance to Afghanistan are hampered considerably by the lack of geographical contiguity and limited access. India is making serious efforts to remove Pakistan’s misapprehensions about India’s role in Afghanistan, but Pakistan has steadfastly refrained from discussing this issue with India because its suspicions about India’s objectives. It is crucial for India and Pakistan to discuss their suspicions at the official level so as to allay each other’s apprehensions and work together for peace and stability.

HOW TO RESOLVE INDIA’S HELIUM QUANDARY

Instead of depending on supplies from the US, India will now have to initiate its own programme to produce helium on a large scale, write Bikash Sinha and Krishnan Srinivasan

Inauguration of the helium purification plant at Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Calcutta, 2002

During a visit to West Germany, the redoubtable second chief minister of West Bengal, B.C. Roy, came across the hot springs of Baden Baden and was immediately impressed by the medical and curative properties of the water for relief from rheumatism and chronic diseases like arthritis. Returning to Calcutta, Roy asked the famous physicist, S.N. Bose, to look into developing similar possibilities at the hot spring at Bakreswar, near Santiniketan. Bose’s protégé, S.D. Chatterjee, then working at the Indian Association of Cultivation of Science, was entrusted with investigating the potential of the Bakreswar thermal spring. Chatterjee, who benefited from an original bent of mind, came to the conclusion after intense research that, first, the helium content of the natural gas emanating from the hot spring at Bakreswar was unusually high, at about 1.4 to 1.8 per cent, and second, the water was rich with minerals with curative properties, and third, its natural temperature was about 72 degrees Celsius.

In 1977, at the insistence of H. N. Sethna, then chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, and A.S. Divatia of the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, the helium recovery scheme was transferred from the IACS to the VECC. The scheme started operating from March 1978, and the field-work related to the scheme, at that time run by the department of atomic energy, was also transferred to VECC in 1982. Bikash Sinha came to VECC in 1984 from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and involved himself in the project. Many discoveries were made and helium extraction started from the nearby field at Tantloi, now at Jharkhand. A purification plant was installed that could improve the helium content to 99.99 per cent. The actual volume of helium extracted was, however, nowhere near the requirement for the superconducting cyclotron, since the emanation of helium was restricted to the surface area.

In time, this activity pursued by VECC was suspended, the reason being that helium could never be extracted in sufficient quantities for engineering purposes. The importance of the research already carried out and the knowledge base that accrued were not taken into account. Nevertheless, Sinha in his later capacity with the department of atomic energy, continued with the programme, now funded by the ministry of earth sciences, and arrived at two important determinations; namely, that the entire area, Bakreswar, Tantloi and the environs, was positioned over a huge reservoir of helium at a depth of about 1-2 kilometres from the earth’s surface, and that the surface content of helium was only a tiny fraction of what was actually available in that deposit — which was what had been correctly predicted long ago by S.D. Chatterjee. Additionally, this area would be ideal for setting up a geo-thermal energy reactor, of which there is none in India yet. It will be for the ministry of alternative energy to proceed with the geo-thermal project once the customary inertia of the government has been overcome.

SEEING THE RED LINE- How good is the finance minister’s eyesight?

Bhaskar Dutta

The Union finance minister is quite confident that the Indian economy will grow between 5 to 5.5 per cent during the current fiscal year. In a recent speech to bankers, he claims to have seen the green shoots of recovery, and is also quite confident that the measures taken by the government will ensure that the growth rate of the economy zooms upwards to 8 per cent in the near future. How good is Mr Chidambaram’s eyesight? This is pertinent because very few others seem to have seen the economy recovering and moving to a higher growth path.

Consider, for instance, some of the other forecasts. Perhaps the most pessimistic projection comes from the International Monetary Fund in its World Economic Outlook. This predicts an average growth rate of about 3.75 per cent for India in 2013-14, and expects this to pick up to 5.1 per cent in the next year. The IMF’s sister organization — the World Bank — is only slightly more optimistic both for the current year as well as the next. The most optimistic non-governmental forecast comes from the Delhi-based think tank — the National Council of Applied Economic Research, which estimates that the growth rate will be between 4.8 to 5.3 per cent. This is about a one percentage decrease from its previous forecast, reflecting the overall sense of gloom surrounding the Indian economy.

Much of this is due to the woeful performance of the manufacturing sector. A popular barometer of the state of health of this sector is provided by the purchasing managers’ index. This index reflects business activity in Indian factories excluding utilities. A score of 50 represents the borderline between expansion and contraction. The dismal state of the manufacturing sector today is reflected by a PMI score of 48.5 in August this year, down from 50.1 in July. This is the first time since 2009 that the PMI has actually contracted. The fall has been attributed to a sharp contraction in new orders.

Readers will recall that the Central government played a very active role during the post-2008 slowdown through its expansionary policies. There is very little doubt that the domestic economy managed to grow at moderate levels despite the negative external environment largely due to the fiscal stimulus provided by the Central government. However, no entrepreneur in his or her right mind even daydreams of any possible help from the finance ministry at this stage.

The state of the exchequer is almost as bad as it has ever been. A bankrupt government is in no position to bail out the economy by increasing public expenditure or slashing taxes. Even the finance minister has implicitly acknowledged this. In the same speech in which he laid claims to have seen some signs of recovery, he asserted the government’s determination to contain the fiscal deficit to 4.8 per cent. “It is a red line, a red line which we can breach only at our peril,” he emphasized.

This determination to contain the fiscal deficit is commendable, though it would have been so much better if Mr Chidambaram had been more diligent and watchful in slashing criminally wasteful expenditure. (For instance, is there any justification in spending not only rupees but also precious foreign exchange so as to allow ‘senior’ IAS officers to go abroad for medical treatment?) Several years of profligacy have resulted in the government running up a huge public debt. Unless the government takes firm measures to reduce the fiscal deficit, the public debt burden can become unserviceable. Rating agencies that have often threatened to downgrade India’s sovereign debt rating would get into the act. This would have a knock-on effect on India’s ability to borrow abroad — something to be avoided when the country is also running a huge current account deficit.

Stoop to conquer

Nov 20, 2013

Neither the BJP nor the Congress can demonstrate Sardar Patel’s sterling qualities of head and heart leaving aside his contributions to national security and his commitment to secularism

The fracas about Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s legacy and political beliefs has now become the standard fodder of the campaign leading to next year’s general election. The precise lineaments of his bequest to post-Independence India, quite frankly, are the tasks of professional historians to sort out. However, with his inheritance the subject of an unseemly debate amongst India’s two principal national parties, it is impossible to refrain from some comment about the issue at hand.

As both parties seek to invoke Sardar Patel’s memory and contributions to the freedom struggle and beyond, it is important to focus on what is really at stake as this tussle proceeds apace. The Bharatiya Janata Party, obviously, is trying to appropriate his legacy in the realm of national security and also wishes to suggest that he was, at heart, a politician devoted to the cause of a state that privileges the majority community. Furthermore, they would also like to suggest that in the wake of the poor record of governance under the UPA, the country urgently needs someone at the national helm who is an inheritor of Sardar Patel’s famed iron will. The Congress, with equal determination, wants to assert that as a member of the Congress Party, Sardar Patel was no less committed than any other party stalwart to the cause of secularism. Bluntly put, both parties are harnessing his memory for rather crude political ends.

The real question, that underlies this indecorous contest, of course, deals with two competing visions of the Indian polity. One idea would ensure that the state remains a secular, civic and plural entity. The other would like to transform it into what Fareed Zakaria, the Indian American intellectual has referred to as an illiberal democracy. Obviously, the Indian state would not dispense with open and fair electoral procedures, it would still maintain essential press freedoms and probably not encroach dramatically on personal rights. However, it would steadily consign minorities and especially Muslims to a diminished status.

The irony, of course, is that neither political party, as it brawls over Patel’s legacy, can demonstrate his sterling qualities of head and heart leaving aside his contributions to India’s national security and the strength of his commitment to secularism. The BJP — for all its pretensions of being an exemplar of India’s national security needs and concerns — failed to anticipate a stealthy Pakistani incursion into the Kargil region of Kashmir, witnessed the hijacking of an Indian airliner to Kandahar and was mostly helpless in formulating a decisive response in the wake of a brazen terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament. Patel, it needs to be recalled was not dewy eyed about India’s recalcitrant neighbours and in an extended letter had warned Nehru about possible Chinese machinations along the Himalayan border.

India and Vietnam Continue to Make Important Strategic Inroads

A high-level bilateral visit in New Delhi this week demonstrates the myriad areas of cooperation between the two.
November 21, 2013

Nguyen Phu Trong, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, is about to conclude a major bilateral visit to New Delhi. The visit seems to have reinvigorated the already-warm relationship between the two Asian countries, and saw agreements affecting the future of the India-Vietnam relationship in the South China Sea (SCS). Beginning with this visit, New Delhi will be spending the next few months on its diplomatic calendar looking east, with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and Japanese President Shinzo Abe also expected in New Delhi soon.

Over the course of the visit this week – the third such major bilateral visit conducted by Vietnamese officials since 2011 – India and Vietnam signed several agreements and a major Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). If there were any doubts about the strategic breadth and depth of the relationship – which was upgraded to a strategic partnership in 2007 – the agreements should put these doubts to rest.

India made strides in the long-delayed realization of its “Look-East Policy” by extended a US$100 million credit line to the Vietnamese for defense purchases. The Vietnamese have expressed interest in the India-Russia jointly-developed BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. Additionally, the two signed an air services agreement to increase direct air travel between the two countries and an agreement to set up a “high tech crime lab in Hanoi” – something that had been discussed earlier this year. The lab, known as the Indira Gandhi Hightech Crime Lab (IGHCL), is supported by an Indian financial grant that was also agreed upon during the current visit.

On the trade front, the two countries set a bilateral trade target of US$7 billion by 2015. Vietnam awarded an important contract to India’s Tata Power Ltd. for the “development of the Long Phu 2 coal-fired power plant project in Soc Trang, Vietnam,” according to the Indo-Asian News Service. India marked a landmark in its diplomacy by, for the first time, gifting a supercomputer to another country – Vietnam’s PARAM High Performance Computing Facility at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology will be powered by the computer.

India’s aggressive generosity across the board seems to have paid off. In return for its encouraging engagement with Vietnam, the Vietnamese stated that they appreciated India’s “constructive role” in the South China Sea. India is clearly interested in drawing Vietnam squarely into its sphere of influence to balance China in the region (as is Russia), and the two have an increasingly deep level of defense ties. India has provided support and training for Vietnamese submarine crews.

India, which has cooperated with Vietnam on offshore exploration for oil in the SCS before, was offered seven oil blocks for offshore exploration by the Vietnamese. India-Vietnam cooperation in this air has raised China’s ire in the past. The Times of India reports that “When India wanted to abandon oil block 128 off Vietnam in the South China Sea last year because there’s really no oil there, Hanoi asked New Delhi to stay back until 2014. This was at a time when China was flexing its muscles over Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea.”

India’s ASEAN Defense Sales Effort

India is stepping up its defense sales presence in Southeast Asia, an outgrowth of its Look East policy.
By Saurav Jha
November 20, 2013

In late October, India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and its domestic industrial partners exhibited a range of military wares abroad, with a dedicated pavilion for the first time at ADEX-2013 in Seoul. Taken together with reported sales of indigenously developed sonar systems to neighbouring Myanmar and talks with the Philippines about the prospect of supplying two naval frigates, it seems that India is now keen to move beyond mere maintenance and training support to a limited number of ASEAN members.

Naturally current and near future sales are likely to be focused on areas where individual ASEAN states seek specific capabilities that India’s domestic industry can supply. The China factor in the background may meanwhile lend something of a maritime edge to these transfers. India’s defence supply relationship with various ASEAN states will unfold on a realistic bilateral basis rather than through any overarching India-ASEAN framework. However, while sensors and munitions can be more readily supplied, major platforms that require sub-systems potentially sourced from other players will create the need for India to co-ordinate closely with the United States and Russia and build a case for its entry into various export control regimes.

While the venue for DRDO’s first serious show-and-tell abroad was chosen to signal emerging ties between India and South Korea (which incidentally is also pushing for military sales in Southeast Asia) it also marked an intent to upgrade the defence outreach component of India’s “Look East Policy.” As Avinash Chander, Scientific Advisor to India’s Defence Minister & Secretary Defence R&D, Ministry of Defence (MOD) put it on the sidelines of ADEX-2013: “Our presence at Seoul is an opportunity for building technology partnerships for R&D and manufacturing, and for creating export potential. Indian systems and defence manufacturing capability have matured. We want to project not just the DRDO, but all of India’s emerging defence capabilities.”

Now some of the more mature systems on display at Seoul are export variants of sensors already in use by the Indian military. An example would include a compact version of DRDO’s hull-mounted sonar (HUMSA) suitable for mounting on small frigates, corvettes and offshore patrol vessels (OPVs). Incidentally it has been reported that this is a variant of the HUMSA being exported to Myanmar’s Navy, which is recapitalizing its fleet with new OPVs and modest sized frigates. The sonars are also part of a larger pipeline of naval sensors being supplied to Myanmar, which has in the past included BEL-builtRAWL-02 Mk III L-band 2D search radars and commercial grade navigation radars that are being sported by Myanmar’s new line of Aung Zeya Class frigates armed with a mix of Russian and Chinese weaponry. The primary strike armament of the Aung Zeya class is, however, the Russian Kh-35 Uran anti-ship missile.

The significance of the Indian sales emerges from the fact that Myanmar is now engaged in a competitive naval buildup with Bangladesh, particularly since the maritime standoff between their navies in 2008, which did not portray Myanmarese naval capabilities in a particularly good light. It brought home to the Myanmarese side the need to augment their surface fleet with larger ships equivalent to those the Bangladeshi navy fields. The 2008 standoff was ultimately defused through an intervention by China, which is still the chief supplier of naval equipment to both navies. But since then Myanmar has been keen to diversify foreign support for its naval buildup even as Bangladesh’s navy is actually increasing its dependence on China. Myanmar’s navy may be particularly concerned about Bangladeshi aims to source submarines from China as the former is known to be rather weak in anti-submarine warfare and sonar sales by India also assume significance in this light.

Love from Tokyo

Nov 21 2013

The Emperor and Empress return to Delhi after 30 years to open a new chapter in ties.

Along a walking path that takes you to a medieval shrine in the Japanese garden behind the Chinzanso Four Seasons Hotel in Tokyo is an impressive stone sculpture of a three-headed god with six arms. I was not able to establish if this was a rendering of Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwara, but anyone who knows Japan's ancient history would not rule it out. Both India and Japan must avoid the temptation and the trap of viewing their bilateral relationship merely from the contemporary prism of the world we live in now, and remind themselves that their relationship is based on the firm foundations of an ancient civilisational link.

One would imagine that this is the message that the emperor and empress of Japan would want to convey to their Indian hosts on the first ever official visit to India of a Japanese monarch. Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko have been to India before, in 1960, but as prince and princess on a honeymoon, at a time when neither country was looking at the other as a strategic partner. In the winter of their reign, the two arrive in Delhi to signal the beginning of a new phase in the bilateral relationship. It is significant that the visit of the emperor and empress will be followed by that of Japan's charismatic leader, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Taken together these visits to India, following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Japan earlier this year, will mark the beginning of a new era in India-Japan relations. Why do I say this?

Despite the ancient civilisational relationship between the two countries and the fact that Japan played an inspirational role in India's own national movement, drawing to its shores a great Indian philosopher and religious leader, Swami Vivekananda, a great Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, a great Indian engineer, Mokshagundam Vishweswarayya and offering protection and support to a great Indian freedom fighter and soldier, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, postwar Japan's incipient engagement with an industrialising India, in the 1980s, was nipped in the bud by its decision to focus on China. During the 1990s, when India opened up to foreign investment, Japan was so mesmerised by the China opportunity that it chose to yield market space across a wide swathe of industries to South Korean competitors.

The 1990s was not just Japan's "wasted decade", it was also a wasted decade for the India-Japan relationship. Little wonder then that when India chose to conduct nuclear tests in the summer of 1998, Japan was quick to impose sanctions, while South Korea made a point of taking no such action, in the face of considerable pressure from the United States.

In December 1998, I was invited to be the youngest member of a high-powered Indian delegation that travelled to Tokyo to urge Japan to end the regime of sanctions. Led by the late J.N. Dixit, a former foreign secretary and later national security advisor, the team included the late Jasjit Singh, then director-general of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, a former Indian ambassador to Japan, Arjun Asrani and N.N. Vohra, now governor of Jammu and Kashmir and at the time, director of the India International Centre. I was then a professor at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations. Our mission, given to us by the late Brajesh Mishra, then national security advisor and principal secretary to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was to get Japanese thinkers, business leaders and policymakers to "appreciate" India's reasons for going nuclear. An entire day was spent at Tokyo's Japan Institute of International Affairs with a Japanese delegation led by Nobuo Matsunaga, a former Japanese ambassador to the US and the UN. It agreed to state Japan's "understanding" of India's decision, but not its "appreciation" of it.

Iran Deploys Submarine to India & Sri Lanka

A submarine-escorted naval fleet set sail from southern Iran for Mumbai and Colombo on Wednesday.
November 21, 2013

A submarine-escorted naval fleet set sailed from southern Iran for Mumbai and Colombo on Wednesday.

As if Asia’s waters weren’t crowded enough with subsurface vessels, Iran has deployed one of its heavy submarines to South Asian waters as part of a larger naval fleet, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency, which has close ties with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

On Wednesday afternoon, Fars quoted Admiral Siyavash Jarreh, the Lieutenant Commander of the Iranian Navy for Operations, as saying, “The (Iranian) Navy will dispatch the ultra-heavy Tareq-class submarine, ‘Younus’ as part of the Navy’s 28th flotilla of warships to the countries of East Asia.”

The report said that the 28th flotilla left a southern port in Iran hours after Jarreh made the announcement. Fars also reported that Admiral Jarreh had said Iran’s Alborz destroyer and Bandar Abbas helicopter-carrier warship would be accompanying the Younus submarine on the voyage.

Despite Jarreh’s claims that the 28th flotilla was headed to East Asia, the Fars report quoted him as saying, “The Navy’s 28th Flotilla will berth at Mumbai and Colombo ports during its voyage.” In other words, the 28th flotilla seems to be headed to South Asia — India and Sri Lanka in particular.

The purpose of the voyage is unclear, although Fars referred to it as a “crucially important extraterritorial mission of the Iranian Navy.”

Tasnim News Agency, which was established last year to report on the Arab Spring, also carried a report on Jarreh’s comments. It quoted Jarreh as saying that the flotilla’s mission is to make its “mighty and constant” presence felt in international waters. Jarreh apparently added that the flotilla would also “convey the message of peace and friendship” along the way.

The Iranian Navy seems to keep a flotilla constantly deployed, although most of them do not venture farther than the Gulf of Aden and Mediterranean Sea. Still, the trip itself is not unprecedented for Iran’s navy. Indeed, according to Indian news reports, the Bandar Abbas itself made a port call in India back in 2006. Iran’s regular naval forces, rather than the IRGC Navy, are in charge of these longer deployments, which have included port calls in China and Russia.

The more frequent deployments around the Gulf of Aden do not usually have a submarine escort, at least one that is usually announced. However, the inclusion of the Tareq-class submarine on this mission could very well just be due to the fact that it has little other purpose. Iran has three such Tareq-class submarines, which are really 877EKM Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines that Iran purchased from Russia in the late 1980s and 1990s. Although it reportedly paid about US$600 million for each of them, they are uniquely unsuited to Iran’s maritime environment. Specifically, the Persian Gulf’s shallow depth means the heavy submarines cannot operate in most of it.

The War In Afghanistan Could Be Lost This Week

Posted By Dan Lamothe, Yochi Dreazen 
November 20, 2013

The U.S. has sustained more than 2,200 combat deaths and burned through hundreds of billions of dollars in Afghanistan since 2001, when U.S. forces were first sent to fight al Qaeda and topple the Taliban-led government providing it sanctuary. But after all that bloodshed and treasure lost, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan may soon take a turn for the worse, strategically - and the results could mean the difference between winning and losing the war.

Just as officials with the U.S.-led military coalition in Kabul say they have trained the Afghan military well enough to stand on its own two feet in combat, President Hamid Karzai and U.S. officials are due to present this week a bilateral security agreement to thousands of Afghan tribal leaders for their approval. They will do so at a loya jirga, an Afghan assembly beginning Thursday that could approve or scuttle the deal.

The agreement, reached Wednesday between Karzai and Secretary of State John Kerry, includes provisions that will allow the U.S. to protect its troops from prosecution by Afghanistan's justice system. It remains to be seen, however, whether the deal will be approved by the loya jirga. And therein lies the rub: Unless Karzai can corral enough support in his last full year in office to hold the line on his plan with the U.S., the future of Afghanistan remain in doubt. (Well, even more in doubt than it would have been without the deal.)

The loya jirga's views are not officially binding, but Karzai has said repeatedly that the tribal elders there will decide some of the most controversial pieces of the new security agreement, most notably whether U.S. forces will be granted prosecutorial immunity. Iraq's unwillingness to do the same resulted in the U.S. pulling all of its troops from that country in 2011, setting the stage for widespread bloodshed there this year.

One U.S. official in Kabul told Foreign Policy that Afghanistan is at a crossroads. Not only is it close to shutting the book on more than a decade of U.S. combat operations, it also must grapple with a history in which previous Afghan heads of state, like former King Zahir Shah, have been accused of being too close to outside forces. That makes it difficult for Karzai, installed by the U.S. as president in 2001, to rally support.

Nevertheless, deadlines loom. The U.S. has withdrawn thousands of forces from Afghanistan, and eyes a long-term presence of about 10,000. That would be less than 10 percent of the force that was on the ground in 2010 and 2011, after President Obama ordered in late 2009 a short-term surge of forces to fight Taliban fighters and create space and time for the Afghan National Security Forces to grow. He did so while announcing that all U.S. combat forces would be removed from the battlefield by the end of 2014, a split-the-difference decision that infuriated some Americans for putting more troops in harm's way, and others for telegraphing the U.S. strategy.

The 2014 deadline does have some value, however. One U.S. official in Kabul monitoring the politics of the situation said it serves as a "political forcing function," shoving the Afghan and U.S. government toward reaching a long-term deal, even after widespread outrage in Afghanistan over the use of air strikes, night raids and other muscular tactics.

"It is forcing all parties to confront critical issues that are needed in place for the country's long-term stability and our mutual national security interests," the official in Kabul said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Meet Pakistan's Next Gen Terrorists

November 19, 2013

Pakistani authorities have long had ties to domestic militant groups that help advance the country's core foreign policy interests, namely in connection with Afghanistan and India. Since Islamabad joined Washington as an ally in the post-9/11 "war on terror," analysts have accused Pakistan's security and intelligence services of playing a "double game," tolerating if not outright aiding militant groups killing NATO troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies these charges.

Concerns about Pakistan's commitment to counterterrorism heightened in May 2011, when U.S. commandos killed al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden at a compound not far from Islamabad. Leadership elements of al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban have made Pakistan's semiautonomous tribal areas their home, where they often work with a wide variety of Islamist insurgent groups like the Haqqani Network. Some groups have used Pakistan as a staging ground for attacks in Afghanistan, while others have pursued domestic targets, including schools and houses of worship, as well as organs of the state.

Zachary Laub is an associate writer at the Council on Foreign Relations Full Bio

Terrorist Groups

The numerous terrorist groups operating in Pakistan have tended to fall into one of the five categories laid out by Ashley J. Tellis, a senior associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in a January 2008 Congressional testimony:
  • Sectarian: Religiously motivated groups such as the Sunni Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Shia Tehrik-e-Jafria that are engaged in violence within Pakistan
  • Anti-Indian: Groups focused on the Kashmir dispute that operate with the alleged support of the Pakistani military and the intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and Harakat ul-Mujahadeen
  • Afghan Taliban: The original Taliban movement and especially its Kandahari leadership centered around Mullah Mohammad Omar, believed to be based in Quetta
  • Al-Qaeda and its affiliates: The global jihadist organization founded by Osama bin Laden and led by Ayman al-Zawahiri;
  • The Pakistani Taliban: A coalition of extremist groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), led by Mullah Fazlullah
Other militant groups fall outside of Tellis' framework, including secessionist groups such as the Balochistan Liberation Army in southwest Pakistan.

Ending the War in Afghanistan

How to Avoid Failure on the Installment Plan

A seat at the table: leaving the burial of an Afghan negotiator, Kabul, September 2011. 

International forces in Afghanistan are preparing to hand over responsibility for security to Afghan soldiers and police by the end of 2014. U.S. President Barack Obama has argued that battlefield successes since 2009 have enabled this transition and that with it, “this long war will come to a responsible end.” But the war will not end in 2014. The U.S. role may end, in whole or in part, but the war will continue -- and its ultimate outcome is very much in doubt.

Should current trends continue, U.S. combat troops are likely to leave behind a grinding stalemate between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The Afghan National Security Forces can probably sustain this deadlock, but only as long as the U.S. Congress pays the multibillion-dollar annual bills needed to keep them fighting. The war will thus become a contest in stamina between Congress and the Taliban. Unless Congress proves more patient than the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, funding for the ANSF will eventually shrink until Afghan forces can no longer hold their ground, and at that point, the country could easily descend into chaos. If it does, the war will be lost and U.S. aims forfeited. A policy of simply handing off an ongoing war to an Afghan government that cannot afford the troops needed to win it is thus not a strategy for a “responsible end” to the conflict; it is closer to what the Nixon administration was willing to accept in the final stages of the Vietnam War, a “decent interval” between the United States’ withdrawal and the eventual defeat of its local ally.

There are only two real alternatives to this, neither of them pleasant. One is to get serious about negotiations with the Taliban. This is no panacea, but it is the only alternative to outright defeat. To its credit, the Obama administration has pursued such talks for over a year. What it has not done is spend the political capital needed for an actual deal. A settlement the United States could live with would require hard political engineering both in Kabul and on Capitol Hill, yet the administration has not followed through.

Wooing the warlords

By Kai Eide
November 18, 2013 

Afghanistan's presidential race has started, but among the ten remaining candidates, there is no obvious successor to President Hamid Karzai. While at this early stage, the leading candidates seem to be Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai -- both are experienced former ministers -- neither has Karzai's charisma nor, even more important, his consensus-building abilities. And the race has already brought some surprises.

Compared to the 2009 elections, the current list of candidates includes a greater number of warlords -- men who tore the country apart in the 1990s and paved the way for the Taliban and al-Qaeda to gain a foothold -- including Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and Gul Agha Sherzai. Sayyaf has even teamed up with another warlord, Ismail Khan, choosing him as his running mate for First Vice President. Abdullah himself has chosen Hazara strongman Mohammad Mohaqiq as his candidate for Second Vice President. And Ghani, one of the most prominent reformers, has registered with one of the most infamous warlords, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum. Disappointed that Karzai had not given him more in return for his endorsement in 2009, Dostum now seems to have made his support contingent on an offer to become First Vice President, and Ghani gave him what he asked for.

This Ghani-Dostum pairing is the most remarkable in today's race. In an article for the London Times on August 20, 2009, when Ghani received three percent of the votes in the presidential elections, he called Dostum a "killer" and lashed out against Karzai for calling Dostum back from Turkey to lend him his support. Now, Ghani has invited the very same Dostum to be his closest partner in the hope that this new alliance will bring him victory. "Politics is not a love marriage, politics is a product of historic necessities," he explained to Agence France Presse a few days after he had chosen Dostum.

As a result, members of the Afghan human rights community, which would normally be Ghani's constituency, threatened to withhold their support. Young voters took to social media to express their disappointment. "Then I am out. Mark my words, Ghani," one female activist wrote about the prospects of a Ghani-Dostum team. Seeing the possible fallout of his new partnership, Ghani asked Dostum to issue an apology for his past actions -- and he did.

On October 7, Dostum issued a widely published statement of apology to people who have suffered on both sides of the conflict while avoiding any direct reference to his personal role in the fighting. However, he emphasized that all ethnic groups have been victims of atrocities. Predictably, the statement was received with suspicion by many, who insisted that an apology would not help people forget his crimes. Nevertheless, the statement could be important beyond its immediate aim of pacifying disillusioned voters, as it is the first such apology given by any of the commanders from the civil war.

Gathering to review draft Bilateral Security Agreement begins in Kabul

By Bailey Cahall, Shruti Jagirdar
November 21, 2013

Editor's Note: Next Monday, November 25, the AfPak Channel will be relaunched as the South Asia Channel on foreignpolicy.com. While we will continue to provide you with news and commentary from and about Afghanistan and Pakistan, the New America Foundation has partnered with the South Asia Program at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies to provide our readers with key stories and insights from India as well. Beginning this week, the daily brief will include an India section, with India-related posts to appear on the redesigned brief and site next week. 

Afghanistan

Jirga begins

Afghan President Hamid Karzai opened the Loya Jirga (grand council) on Thursday by urging the thousands of Afghan dignitaries who had gathered in Kabul to support the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that will determine the size and scope of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan after 2014 (BBC, RFE/RL, VOA). Citing the draft document, whose language had finally been agreed upon late Wednesday evening, Karzai said that between 8,000 and 15,000 foreign troops could stay in Afghanistan through 2024, 10 years after the NATO combat mission will end (AFP, NYT, Pajhwok, Post). While Karzai said signing the agreement was in Afghanistan's best interest, he acknowledged the lack of trust between the two governments, saying: "My trust with America is not good. I don't trust them and they don't trust me" (AJAM, Pajhwok, Reuters). 

President Obama tried to address this issue on Wednesday by sending a letter to Karzai that pledged that the United States will continue to respect "Afghan sovereignty" under the new agreement (AP). Obama also said the U.S. military would not conduct raids on Afghan homes, except under "extraordinary circumstances" - a particularly sensitive issue for the Afghans. 

The other contested issue, the immunity from Afghan law for U.S. troops who commit crimes in Afghanistan, also appeared to have been resolved, with the United States maintaining jurisdiction over their security forces and contractors (Pajhwok). According to Article 13 of the draft BSA, "Afghanistan, while retaining its sovereignty, recognises the particular importance of disciplinary control, including judicial and non-judicial measures, by the U.S. forces authorities over members of the force and of the civilian component."

But despite the personal letter from the U.S. president, Karzai told the jirga that the agreement should be signed after the presidential and provincial elections that are set to occur next April (AP, Pajhwok). Karzai's decision to defer signing the agreement and leaving it to his successor had been seen as a possibility, though it raises concerns that it could be a potential deal breaker as the United States had wanted a finalized and signed security pact by the end of October. 

The jirga is expected to last until Monday, November 25, and U.S. officials have said they will not comment as these are ongoing diplomatic negotiations. 

Pakistan

Drone strike

At least six people, including two members of the militant Haqqani network, were killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike on an Islamic seminary in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Thursday, the first strike to occur in the province and just the second outside of Pakistan's tribal regions (AJAM, AP, BBC, ET, Pajhwok, Post, Reuters). Fareed Khan, a local police officer, told reporters that an unmanned aircraft fired at least three rockets at the madrassa, which reportedly belongs to the Haqqani network, in the province's Hangu district (RFE/RL). Ahmad Jan, believed to be an advisor to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the militant group, and Hameedullah, another militant fighter, were reportedly among the dead (Pajhwok). Taliban sources confirmed Jan's death, but the Haqqani network has not yet commented on the incident (Dawn). The other victims included students and clerics at the seminary.