21 January 2014

Kashmir: fewer troops, more peace


Long-term deployment of soldiers inevitably leads to friction with local communities. In Kashmir, the tensions have been heightened by the failure of the government to sanction the prosecution of military personnel involved even in egregious human rights violations

In 1947, as Pakistani forces raced east in an audacious effort to take Srinagar, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru outlined the strategic challenge that has haunted every Indian Prime Minister since. “The invasion of Kashmir,” he observed pithily, “is not an accidental affair resulting from the fanaticism or exuberance of the tribesmen, but a well-organised business with the backing of the State […] We have in effect to deal with a State carrying out an informal war, but nevertheless a war.”

Earlier this month, the lawyer and Aam Aadmi Party leader Prashant Bhushan issued a radical proposal for the troops that Mr. Nehru despatched into Kashmir’s towns and villages.

“People should be asked whether they want the Army to handle the internal security of Kashmir,” Mr. Bhushan told the television station Aaj Tak. “If people feel that the Army is violating human rights and they say they don’t want the Army to be deployed for their security then the Army should be withdrawn from the hinterland”. The proposal was assailed by political rivals, and mocked by critics. The AAP itself was soon scrambling to disassociate itself from the idea.

Mr. Bhushan’s idea of law-enforcement-by-referendum might be eccentric, even dangerous — but the idea of phasing out the Army from its counter-terrorism commitments in Kashmir deserves serious debate. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has also long advocated a drawdown of troops from the State’s populated areas, a demand New Delhi has summarily rejected.

The war Mr. Nehru so evocatively described is now entering a new and dangerous phase, fuelled by the meltdown of Pakistan and the looming crisis in Afghanistan. Yet, having fewer troops in Kashmir, rather than more, might just be the right thing to do.

Even while maintaining a robust presence on the Line of Control (LoC) and retaliating hard against Pakistani military provocation, pulling out troops from counter-terrorism duties in inhabited areas could help address the resentments that long-term deployment of troops inevitably engenders. It could also breathe energy into J&K’s democratic system.

Fifth column: Remember Kashmiri Pandits?

January 18, 2014

More than two decades later, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits continue to be unable to go home. (Photo: Reuters)

Let me begin by admitting that I would not be writing about the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits today if I had not been shamed into doing so. I would have written about the flip-flop currently going on in the Congress over whether Rahul Gandhi should be declared their future prime minister or not. The whole debate is pointless because we all know that whether he is officially anointed heir apparent or not, he is, and will continue to be, the most powerful Congress leader after his Mummy. Nobody else matters. Not even the prime minister. There really is almost nothing more to be said on the subject. So when a young man called Rashneek Kher called to remind me that today (January 19) was the anniversary of the Pandit exodus from Kashmir and asked if I would write something, I started off by making excuses. Then I thought about what he had asked and felt ashamed that I had never written about something as important as the only instance of ethnic cleansing in the history of India. I happened to be in Srinagar around the time this happened and, like a lot of others, thought then that the overnight exodus was simply a cynical move by the hated Governor Jagmohan to clear the way for aerial attacks on the mass protests in the Valley. Jagmohan had been so brutal in the manner he dealt with unarmed protesters that the worst rumours about him were believed. But, more than two decades later, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits continue to be unable to go home, and somehow this bothers hardly anyone except those who are victims of the tragedy. When Rashneek called me, he told me that his own home had been burned and that he had lost relatives in the violence and that the hostility of ordinary Kashmiri Muslims to their Hindu brethren made it impossible for even those living in pitiful conditions in camps in Jammu to go home. So why does nobody speak for the Kashmiri Pandits? Where are those noisy human rights types who shriek nightly on national television about ‘internally displaced’ people in Muzaffarnagar? Where are the Hindutva wallahs and why did a Bharatiya Janata Party government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee make no effort to rehabilitate the Pandits? As for us in the media, why have we done no more about this horrible tragedy than write token remembrance articles every anniversary? When I thought about these questions, I found myself wondering if this was not of a piece with the false secularism that our political parties have propagated ever since Partition. Under this ‘secular’ worldview, the only victims of communal violence can be Muslims. And, even here, some victims are more equal than others. So if the refugee camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli had been in Gujarat, there would have been much greater outrage. Can you imagine the names that Narendra Modi would have been called if his government had allowed 40 children to die of cold? But, Akhilesh Yadav is a ‘secular’ chief minister, so he is treated more indulgently. Ever since Modi burst upon the national political stage, ‘secular’ politicians and journalists have fallen over themselves trying to have him disqualified as a possible prime minister on the grounds that he is a ‘mass murderer’. But, if you so much as try to say that Rajiv Gandhi was for a while a very popular prime minister despite being a ‘mass murderer’, you will find yourself shouted down and reviled. Has something not gone very seriously wrong with the Indian idea of secularism? Has it not become a tool that is used mostly to perpetuate a sense of grievance among Indian Muslims? I have written before in this column that if we stop thinking of Muslims as an aggrieved minority community and start thinking of them instead as India’s second most powerful majority community, some of the distortions in our secularism may begin to disappear. Instead of thinking along these lines, we have in the rule of Dr Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi spent the past decade convincing Muslims that they really have every reason to be constantly aggrieved. First, there was that very dodgy Sachar report, and now we have the Home Minister order state governments to ensure that Muslim youths are not detained wrongly in prison. Are all India’s 2.41 lakh undertrials Muslim? Kashmir is India’s only Muslim-majority state, and it happens to be the only state that has been responsible for ethnic cleansing. So today, on this tragic anniversary, can we stop thinking of Indian Muslims as an oppressed minority and think of them instead as our second most powerful majority community? India has the second largest Muslim population in the world. It has been ghettoised and handicapped by fake secularism.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

Nation's Security Overlooked for Petty Individual Gains!

IssueNet Edition| Date : 20 Jan , 2014

It is amazing how issues of national security are given the short shrift in India. Whether it is by design or inadvertent can continue to be guessed. That there is political interference is without doubt but whether such interference is because of mere vote-bank politics, mafia links or external pressures is the moot point, latter being the most dangerous. Recently, a gentleman put his comments on Facebook after meeting a CRPF soldier on leave from the Maoist insurgency area. As per him, there are many instances where Maoists nabbed by CRPF have to be let off because of political pressure. This would well be the case where local politicians are ready to look askance to matters of national security despite the Maoists insurgency being described as the biggest threat to national security. But if the local politicians look for the support of the Maoists to retain power, it does not stop there. In fact it goes all the way up through the political spiral right to the national apex.

While foreign links and massive funding of NGOs, politicians and political parties in India may never be investigated including the instant case of NGO Kabir because of calculative assessments to stay in power…

That is the reason terrorism and insurgency thrives in India undermining the blood and sacrifices of the security forces. That is why political parties brush aside even statements by idiotic so called political leaders that soldiers are meant to die. That is why a fledgling political party now governing Delhi, while claiming to be the most righteous in the country, does not even rebuke its members for openly preaching secession against the Indian State much to the glee of our enemies and those who want continued instability and a weak government in India. While foreign links and massive funding of NGOs, politicians and political parties in India may never be investigated including the instant case of NGO Kabir because of calculative assessments to stay in power any which way, we really should heed Ashley Tellis of Carnegie Foundation saying, “India being subjected to terrorism suits many ………. India is a sponge that absorbs terror”.

Take the recent case of Delhi Police claims to evidence that Pakistan based terror group LeT is attempting to recruit operatives in the riot hit district of Muzaffarnagar. As reported, the Delhi Police had even arrested two persons in this connection; Mohammed Rashid and Mohammed Shahid from Mewat in Haryana. The arrests were made after locals of Muzaffarnagar had alleged that Rashid and Shahid had approached them to discuss carrying out kidnappings and other nefarious activities. As per media reports, the IB had been tracking the movement of these two, who had already visited Muzaffarnagar six times since end of riots in September last year at the behest of Abdul Subhan, a leader of LeT. Then came news that MHA had capped the issue by saying there was not enough evidence. This, by a small news item inserted in an inconspicuous part of newspapers. Unfortunately in India, it is very easy to switch viewer attention quickly from one event to the other. A dispassionate analysis would tell you that the powers that be have successfully used these tactics through a TRP hungry media – an event suddenly brushed aside and forgotten (read erased). Therefore, for days on end, full media glare was shifted to Bollywood stars gyrating in the Saifai festival, the deaths and status of the Muzaffarnagar camps and the so-called multiple countries “educational” tours of some jaundiced politicians, only silver lining being the lucky correspondents who also got to visit the same countries covering the exploits of the scoundrels.

Will South Sudan reshape Indian peacekeeping?

by Richard Gowan — January 17, 2014 

Having taken a central role in the UN’s efforts to save lives in South Sudan, India should encourage an open debate – domestically and internationally.

Two names currently dominate discussions of Indian diplomacy at the United Nations: Devyani Khobragade and Sangeeta Richard. It might be better to talk about Dharmesh Sangwan and Kanwar Pal Singh. Khobragade is, of course, the Indian deputy consul general in New York who was arrested on charges relating to her treatment of Richard, her housekeeper. She was formally transferred to the Indian mission to the UN last week, gaining full diplomatic immunity. While her case has received immense publicity, even experts on Indian foreign policy might struggle to identify Sangwan and Singh.

This should be a matter of regret: they were the two Indian peacekeepers killed alongside another UN official and over thirty civilians by a mob in South Sudan on 19 December. Their murder came in the first days of a crisis that has since claimed thousands more lives and put the UN mission in the country, UNMISS, on the defensive. The seven and a half thousand peacekeepers in South Sudan – two thousand of them Indian troops – are guarding over 60,000 civilians on their bases. This is an act of considerable courage, and may have prevented an already horrific crisis from spiraling to a far more appalling level.

Yet the crisis has also highlighted the shortcomings of UNMISS, which lacked the personnel, military assets and political clout to deter the South Sudanese government and rebels from plunging into war. The mission has not yet suffered a humiliation comparable to that the UN faced in Sierra Leone – where hundreds of peacekeepers including Indian personnel were taken hostage in 2000 – and the Security Council has authorised other UN missions in Africa to send reinforcements. But UNMISS will need a longer-term reorganisation if it is to move beyond protecting its own compounds to providing broader security, monitoring any ceasefire the South Sudanese manage to agree and deterring future violence.

Barely inside the siege

by Toral Varia — January 17, 2014

Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy’s The Siege is a good and a fast paced read. But it is not an account recommended for the facts and the history of Mumbai terror attacks.

If Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab has become the face of 26/11 attacks, then the smoke and fire emerging out of the majestic Taj Mahal hotel has become the defining image of the carnage. Intricately orchestrated by Lashkar-e-toiba, the attacks are undoubtedly the most well coordinated and precisely executed terrorist operation in the recent history of terrorism. The carnage, which threw India out of gear for over 60 hours, is also the most reported story. Within weeks publishers had released books on the subject. Last year, on the 5th anniversary of the attacks, Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark’s The Siege was added to that list. For a book written by investigative journalists and released five years after the incident, it is more of a narrative and less of investigation and disappoints on several counts.

While The Siege makes for a thrilling racy read, it occasionally falters on the accuracy of its facts and analysis. The authors bring to life the fear, chaos and devastation felt by the victims, security officials and the terrorists themselves. Through personal stories of the dramatis personae, the book raises the curtain on how India’s security establishment was completely caught off guard and miserably disorganised before it got its act together and neutralised the young terrorists.

The Siege is at best an incomplete compilation of the voluminous information available in the public realm. The language and style of writing does not redeem the authors from the fact that it only marginally offers any new information. Perhaps the only intriguing detail that has possibly never been reported before comes on page number 44, when Pakistan’s Major Iqbal “boasted they had a super agent at work in New Delhi who was known as “Honey Bee”. The authors offer no insight to the identity of this person, who was providing “classified Indian files” that had been obtained from within the Indian police and army and which “revealed their training and limitations”. The authors, known for their investigative account of the 1994 kidnapping and hostage crisis in Kashmir, have no answer to the question – Who is Pakistan’s ‘Honey Bee’ in India?

Reimagining India: Creating partnerships for the future

January 2014 | byHoward Schultz and Miles White
The power of partnership
Howard Schultz

In short excerpts from Reimagining India, two CEOs from very different industries reflect on how global companies can succeed in India.

We hope to have thousands of stores in India. I look forward to a day in the not-too-distant future when India takes its place alongside China as one of our two largest markets outside North America. But we know getting there won’t be easy. And our successful beginning in India has not been without hurdles; on the contrary, it was a complicated six-year journey. Along the way, we learned a lot about India and ourselves.

One key to our success has been our partnership with the Tata Group. We announced our joint venture with Tata in January 2012. Ten months later, the Indian government loosened restrictions on foreign investment in the retail industry. From a legal standpoint, we could have tried to set up shop in India on our own. But I can’t imagine bringing Starbucks to India without the assistance we’ve received from Tata. They helped us find great locations for our stores. They helped with store design and in getting the food menu right (tandoori paneer rolls and cardamom-flavored croissants!). They helped us overcome the many logistical and infrastructure obstacles to make sure everything on our India menu is fresh. They also helped with recruiting, which is crucial for us because no matter how big we get, the essence of Starbucks is to make that human connection: serving coffee one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time.

The other unique aspect of our alliance with Tata is the ability to source and roast coffee beans locally in India. India is the only major market in the world where we can do that, and it is only because of our relationship with Tata, which is the largest coffee-estate owner in all of Asia. They not only own farms but also operate their own roasting facilities. We were able to work with them to develop an India-only espresso roast, designed specifically for India, that is every bit as good as the espresso we serve all over the world.

Developing that blend required us to do some things differently. We created a unique blend for India, and it’s not roasted by our team, which is something we had never done before. It was a real test of our trust in our new partner because it required us to share with Tata some of the roasting secrets we have perfected over four decades and guarded very closely. But the result has been well worth it. In the process, we learned that not everything needs to be invented in Seattle, and that with the right partner, we can collaborate and coauthor, as long as there is a foundation of trust.

How they killed our factories

January 20, 2014

We are one hundred per cent different from China, at least as far as manfacturing and factories go. 


The government of India, it seems, has decided that factories must not be allowed to come up or to run.

Uday Kotak said a few months back, in the course of an interview, that he was amazed that in his new office in Mumbai, not one of the furniture or fixture items were made in India. My friend Rahul Bhasin conducted a similar exercise in his office in Delhi and discovered pretty much the same thing. The carpet is from China, the furniture is from Malaysia, the light fixtures are from China, the glass partition is from all places, Jebel Ali in the Middle East and so on. Kotak went on to add that even Ganesha statues are no longer made in India. They are imported from China.

Our great, glorious, imperial, imperious government in Delhi, I am told, organises what is called a cabinet meeting every week. The first item on the agenda is to take stock of how well the country has progressed in destroying its manufacturing base; the second item is to think up Machiavellian new ways to further emasculate what is left of Indian manufacturing. I am told that it is during one of these sessions that it was decided that the income tax department should mount a strong and no-holds-barred campaign against Nokia, a defenceless Finnish company which had shown the temerity and gumption to not only bring FDI into the country, but to actually be one of the few (only?) investors to set up a manufacturing facility.

The super-patriotic, super-matriotic cabinet of the super-intelligent republic of India has decided that land must not be made available to factories, electricity should be denied to factories, factory managements should be harassed by various super-inspectorates and flexible labour policies must be denied to factories, thus discouraging the employment of labour in our factories. The reason this is being done is clear. We must be different from China in every single way. In China, land is easily made available to factories; in China, good quality electric power is made available to factories; in China, local government officials do not harass factory managements — au contraire, local officials encourage factory managements; in China, factories are allowed flexibility in labour practices; paradoxically China’s factory managers hire lots of labour. Our hyper-patriotic, hyper-matriotic, hyper-intelligent cabinet has succeeded brilliantly in achieving what it set out to do. We are one hundred per cent different from China, at least as far as manufacturing and factories go. I teach young engineers at IIT Bombay. These days, quite a few of them are interested in becoming entrepreneurs rather than in taking up salaried corporate jobs. Their enthusiasm is boundless and quite impressive. The interesting thing is when I ask them as to what kind of enterprises they plan to start, they all talk about dotcom companies, data analytics companies, mobile software applications companies and so on. Not a word, not a whisper about factories or manufacturing. And these, mind you, are some of the brightest engineers in the land. When questioned, they tell me that the very thought of starting a factory is so daunting that they give up. These young persons all seem to be aware that it is the objective of the great government of India not to have factories in the country. Being patriotic youngsters, they are merely following the directions of our benevolent government.

Nation's Security Overlooked for Petty Individual Gains!

IssueNet Edition| Date : 20 Jan , 2014

It is amazing how issues of national security are given the short shrift in India. Whether it is by design or inadvertent can continue to be guessed. That there is political interference is without doubt but whether such interference is because of mere vote-bank politics, mafia links or external pressures is the moot point, latter being the most dangerous. Recently, a gentleman put his comments on Facebook after meeting a CRPF soldier on leave from the Maoist insurgency area. As per him, there are many instances where Maoists nabbed by CRPF have to be let off because of political pressure. This would well be the case where local politicians are ready to look askance to matters of national security despite the Maoists insurgency being described as the biggest threat to national security. But if the local politicians look for the support of the Maoists to retain power, it does not stop there. In fact it goes all the way up through the political spiral right to the national apex.

While foreign links and massive funding of NGOs, politicians and political parties in India may never be investigated including the instant case of NGO Kabir because of calculative assessments to stay in power…

That is the reason terrorism and insurgency thrives in India undermining the blood and sacrifices of the security forces. That is why political parties brush aside even statements by idiotic so called political leaders that soldiers are meant to die. That is why a fledgling political party now governing Delhi, while claiming to be the most righteous in the country, does not even rebuke its members for openly preaching secession against the Indian State much to the glee of our enemies and those who want continued instability and a weak government in India. While foreign links and massive funding of NGOs, politicians and political parties in India may never be investigated including the instant case of NGO Kabir because of calculative assessments to stay in power any which way, we really should heed Ashley Tellis of Carnegie Foundation saying, “India being subjected to terrorism suits many ………. India is a sponge that absorbs terror”.

The Geneva Conference on Syria: What Will It Deliver?


January 20, 2014

The UN has convened an international conference on Syria to meet in Montreux, Switzerland, starting from January 22, 2014. Thirty odd states, including India, will attend. The US is standing in the way of Iran’s participation. Secretary of State John Kerry has contended that Iran should accept the decisions taken at the first conference on Syria held in June 2012 in Geneva. Iran did not attend that conference, it was not even invited. Incidentally, though the forthcoming conference is not going to be held in Geneva, for convenience, it is called Geneva 2.

Kerry is not entirely right in insisting that Iran should accept the decisions or conclusions of the previous conference. The final communiqué in June 2012 said that there should be a transitional government consisting of members of the government in power and the opposition. About President Assad’s role or non-role in the transition there was no agreement. The US announced post-conference that it was agreed that he should go, but Russia made it clear that there was no such agreement.

No concrete results came out of that conference and in protest the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan resigned. If Kerry is expecting Iran to announce publicly that it will agree to Assad’s exit or even to negotiate that, he is not being realistic. Obviously, he wants to prevent Iran’s participation. His earlier proposal for Iran to participate ‘from the sidelines’ has been, as expected, rejected by Iran.

Russia has stated clearly that Iran’s absence will prevent the conference from delivering the intended results. Most observers will agree with Russia on this. Without Iran’s support, military, economic, and moral, President Assad might not have survived till now. According to the US sources, since signing the interim nuclear deal on November 24, 2013, Iran has sent 330 truck loads of arms and equipment to Syria through Iraq. This is in addition to whatever is sent by air through Iraqi airspace. Any expectation that the interim nuclear deal would change Iran’s stand on Syria has proved wrong. The US has so far failed to stop Iraq from letting Iran use its territory for sending supplies to Syria. Both Iraq and Iran support President Assad.

The US has another problem in agreeing to Iran’s participation. It has strained relations with Saudi Arabia. That country was expecting a US military strike on Syria after President Obama made an announcement months ago clearly indicating an imminent strike. When Obama changed his mind owing to opposition from the Congress, partly triggered by the UK Prime Minister’s failure to get approval from the Commons for joining in such a strike, Saudi Arabia was much upset. It refused to accept the Security Council seat it won. If Iran is invited, Saudi Arabia might not attend and in any case its discord with the US will get worse. One may assume that Kerry knows the cost of preventing Iran from attending, but he does not have much room for maneuvering.

Afghanistan: Can India and Pakistan work Together?


With the US drawdown (perhaps even complete withdrawal) from Afghanistan looming large over the horizon, there is growing pessimism (a lot of it unwarranted) over the prospect of the Afghan state’s ability to survive without the crutches of foreign security forces. Clearly, the impact of any collapse of the Afghan state as a result of ceaseless onslaughts by Islamist radicals (the Taliban/Al Qaeda combine) will not remain limited to Afghanistan. If anything, a destabilised Afghanistan will severely destabilise the entire region. Countries like India and Pakistan are very likely to be buffeted by developments in Afghanistan. This is one of the main reasons that has given rise to talk among academics, think-tanks and policy wonks about the two countries which most fear the fallout of Afghanistan descending into chaos working together to ensure that such a catastrophe doesn’t occur. While on a theoretical plane such cooperation between India and Pakistan might sound like a great idea, on a more practical level, the possibility of such cooperation is nothing but a pipedream.

Much of what has gone wrong in Afghanistan is the result of Pakistan trying to compete with, counter and check India and to now expect it to change tack and cooperate with India at this rather late stage is quite unrealistic. Apologists for Pakistan and Western academics who discovered the Afpak region only after 9/11 often dumb down the spectre of instability in Afghanistan by attributing it to “the hostility between India and Pakistan” which according to these people “lies at the heart of the current war in Afghanistan”. Equally egregious is the peddling of the illogical theory that the road to Kabul passes through Kashmir. Obviously, the purveyors of such specious theories deliberately try to pin some, if not most, of the blame on India for Pakistan's malignant acts against Afghanistan.

By equating India’s benign and beneficial development oriented involvement in Afghanistan with Pakistan's malign and destructive interference in Afghan affairs, a disingenuous attempt is made to draw some sort of moral equivalence between India and Pakistan in Afghanistan, blithely ignoring the fact that India has no, repeat no, interest in making Afghanistan a proxy battlefield against Pakistan. The same however cannot be said for Pakistan which has not only used Islamist terror networks to target India in Afghanistan but has forged its entire Afghan policy with an eye on denying India any presence inside Afghanistan. If therefore a proxy war is being fought inside Afghanistan, it isn’t India that’s fighting it but Pakistan and to club the two countries together is nothing but a travesty.

While it is true that India has a vital interest in Afghanistan’s stability, security and independence, this interest is far transcends a desire to use Afghanistan to only poke a finger in Pakistan's eye, much less ‘encircle’ Pakistan and catch it in a ‘pincer’. If anything, India sees Afghanistan as critical for ensuring regional stability because an unstable Afghanistan will inevitably destabilise the entire region. Unlike Pakistan, India has imbibed this immutable lesson of history and is therefore committed to helping Afghanistan stabilise politically, economically and militarily. Ironically enough, this is also what is in Pakistan's interest because more than anyone else, it is Pakistan that will suffer the immediate fallout of any instability in Afghanistan. Indeed, over the last three decades, Pakistan has faced the brunt of the various wars that have been fought inside Afghanistan.

Post 2014 Afghanistan: India’s Interests and Concerns


Afghanistan is the war that Barack Obama thought was the ‘good war’ which now he cannot wait to leave. He set a time to which NATO agreed and subsequently powers with stakes in the country set their watches. With the Presidential elections and the eminent pull out of Western troops, 2014 is turning out to be a landmark year for Afghanistan and the region. Series of assumptions and rough calculations are underway to deal with the situation flowing from the inevitable drawdown of financial and technical assistance and the formidable challenges those developments might pose for a country like India. Afghanistan has bearing on India’s security and economic interest. Post 2001, it provided India an opportunity to underscore its role as a regional power. Having invested $2 billion already and being aware of the security challenge an unstable Afghanistan can pose, India is resetting its Afghan policies and exploring avenues of regional cooperation.

The recent India visit of President Karzai is the fifth one in last three years and is extremely significant for the bilateral relations. Afghanistan pressed India for stepping up military aid including lethal and non-lethal weapons and after negotiations President Karzai told media that his talks with Indian PM were “very productive, resulting in satisfaction for Afghan side”. In the last 12 years, India has attempted to support and complement allied efforts. It adopted a “soft power” approach aimed at striking a chord with ordinary Afghans through developmental initiatives and stayed away from internal politics. It also wisely refrained from sending troops for engaging in security operations. However, Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) in 2011 indicated, “India agrees to assist, as mutually determined, in the training, equipping and capacity building programmes for Afghan National Security Forces.” December 2013 talks further agreed on deepening security cooperation and military aid that would increase their operational capabilities and mobility.

Considering the delicate geopolitical situation of the region neither Delhi nor Kabul would be inclined to push the envelope of defence cooperation and tread on Pakistani sensitivities. Friendship and cooperation with India creates diplomatic space for Karzai to negotiate with Pakistan. Afghans have always dealt with India-Pakistan issue rather smartly by remaining terribly neutral.

India has much to consider. Afghanistan cannot forever remain an economic basket case and a burden on international community. An unstable Afghanistan could revert to becoming a safe haven for terrorists and the brunt of escalating terror¬ism could be borne by India, which already has been described as “the sponge that protects” the West. US has primarily focused on dismantling Al-Qaida networks, but other terrorist groups which have been India’s major concerns (like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul-Mujahideen) have been relatively unaddressed. 

Northeast 2013: A Year of Peace and Violence

20 January 2014

Rani P Das
Senior Research Associate, Centre for Development and Peace Studies (CDPS), Guwahati

India’s Northeast saw new twists and turns in so far as its conflicts and peace processes were concerned. If peace appeared to be knocking at the doors with most of the major rebel groups coming to truce mode, the emergence of many smaller groups and break-away factions and continuing bloodshed, mostly because of internecine turf wars, painted the year with warnings of more violent conflict amidst the perceived calm.

The year ended on violent notes of ethnic turmoil between the Karbis and the Rengma Nagas in southern Assam. On 28 December 2013, Naga Rengma Hills Protection Force (NRHPF) executed the cold-blooded murder of ten Karbis, nine of them near Nagaland’s commercial hub Dimapur. This was, however, a retaliatory action against the killing of nine Rengma Nagas by the KPLT (Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers) in the Chokihola area in Karbi Anglong on 27 December 2013. The stage was set for intra-tribal feuding. Altogether, 3,131 people (1,033 women and 911 children), about 1,600 of them Rengma Nagas and the rest Karbis, Adivasis and Nepalis, have since been displaced from their homes and are taking shelter in nine camps. Describing the cause of the attack, Assam Home Secretary G D Tripathi said, “The KPLT had issued a quit notice to Rengma Naga community sometime back, and had also fixed a deadline, which the latter ignored.” The community was targeted earlier in June 2013. 

Behind the conflict, there could be livelihood issues, land encroachment, and insecurity created by the Nagas among the non-Nagas. However, the conflict between the two communities reveals a clear attempt at ethnic cleansing of the minority Nagas from the area. And such attacks always bear retaliatory measures by rebel groups representing the injured party, no matter how small the community is. The ethnic divide created by such conflicts between various communities cohabiting in the same area leads to continued ethnic conflict - a situation that seems to become unmanageable for the authorities. The government’s flawed policy while trying to meet the aspirations of different tribal communities on ethnic lines could be blamed for this. The conflict between the Garos and Rabhas in the Assam-Meghalaya border areas, for instance, is due to the fact that the minority Garos do not seem to accept the arrangement to stay within the Rabha Autonomous Council - the nomenclature itself implying that it is meant for the majority Rabhas. Here and in similar cases, the government should reflect upon their policy of granting autonomy and consider granting of regional autonomy in place of ethnic autonomy in the region, which is home to 220 ethnic groups.

On 21 November 2013, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said that agitation for separate states by various groups had made western Assam and Karbi Anglong "vulnerable to ethnic and communal" tensions. Actually, ethnic mistrust and communal tension among the Bodos, Karbis and Dimasas in Assam, Garos in Meghalaya, and tribals of Tripura increased dramatically with the raising of statehood demands after the Congress Working Committee announced its decision to create a separate Telangana state on 3 October 2013. 

Japan: Death by Demographics?

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
January 20, 2014

For the past year, the biggest news story about Japan has been its territorial disputes with China and Korea. As important and potentially dangerous as this issue is, many media outlets in the US have paid relatively little attention to the other significant social, economic, and political issues that Japan is facing. Among the most complex and important of these is Japan’s low fertility and associated population decline. In 2013 Japan lost about 250,000 people, continuing a trend unlikely to abate any time in the near future. The 2013 population of Japan was about 126 million, while the Japanese government projects a drop to about 46 million if nothing intervenes to alter current trends (such as a dramatic change in immigration policy). The cause is fairly simple: Japanese have among the lowest total fertility rates (TFR) in the world at about 1.4 [3] and this rate has been consistently under 2.0 (2.1 is needed to keep a population stable) since the mid-1970s. At the same time, the Japanese population is among the longest-lived in the word with about 25% of the people over 65 and only 13% in their teens. As the elderly have started to pass away, the population has started to shrink.

On the surface, this looks like a very troubling problem and some Japan watchers have argued it does not bode well for Japan’s future as an economic and political power in the world or in[4]East Asia [4]. Problems clearly do lie ahead. The most obvious is related to the cost of healthcare. In 2000, Japan initiated a long-term care insurance (LTCI) program designed to help manage and provide the care needed by an increasingly aged population. Like many social insurance problems, the young pay for the care of the old; when those younger people reach old age, there are insufficient younger people to pay without significant tax increases. As was predicted at the time, LTCI has proven to be quite costly, leading to long-term care expenditures (including out-of-pocket expenses) that have more than doubled from four trillion yen in fiscal year 2000 to 8.4 trillion yen in fiscal 2011. And projections have these expenditures increasing to 20 trillion yen by 2025, which will represent 3-4% of [5]GDP [5]. This has generated a public discussion about the future of LTCI leading to a report in August of 2013 by the government’s National Council on Social Security Reform on revising the program.

China's Building Second Aircraft Carrier

A provincial party leader confirms China has begun construction on its second aircraft carrier.
January 20, 2014

China has begun building its second aircraft carrier and will eventually build four of them, a provincial Party leader said, according to local media.

Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao newspaper quoted Wang Min, the Party chief of Northeast China’s Liaoning province as saying that construction of China’s second carrier had begun in the port city of Dalian in Liaoning province. Wang said that the carrier would be completed in six years’ time, and that China ultimately intended to build four aircraft carriers.

If true, this would be China’s first indigenously built aircraft carrier. China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, is a Ukraine carrier that was refitted at a shipyard in Dalian. The PLA Navy (PLAN) commissioned the Liaoning in late 2012, and it recently underwent test trials in the South China Sea.

Ta Kung Pao later took down the report, although not before it was picked up by numerous international media outlets and, on Sunday, the official Global Times ran an article on Wang’s comments. The Global Times said that China’s Defense Ministry had not responded to inquiries about the Hong Kong news reports. However, the fact that the Global Times carried the story lent credibility to the Ta Kung Pao report.

It has long been assumed that China was interested in building additional aircraft carriers. In August a picture posted to Chinese military forums appeared to show a carrier under construction in southern China. However, some foreign analysts later speculated that the picture was actually of an amphibious assault ship capable of carrying hovercraft and helicopters.

When asked about the photos in August, Yang Yujun, a defense ministry spokesperson, would only say that the Liaoning would not be China’s only aircraft carrier. In late November, South China Morning Post, citing a military source, reported that China planned to build up to four medium size carriers by 2020. Then, in December of last year, Australia’s The Age cited Chinese website qianzhan.com in reporting that China planned to build a nuclear-powered 110,000 ton super carrier by 2020 and two smaller carriers by 2015. That report seemed overly ambitious.

Chinese military analysts told the Global Times that the second carrier was likely to be similar to the Liaoning in terms of tonnage, and would also feature a ski-jump take-off ramp.

Wang was also quoted as saying that the shipyard in Dalian was building two 052D missile destroyers. Notably, during its recent training exercises in the South China Sea, the Liaoning was escorted by two Type 051C or Luzhou class destroyers, as well as two missile frigates.

Tehran Calling: Understanding a New Iranian Leadership


Iran’s new president has paved the way for improved relations with the West. Now, the West must determine whether Iran’s changed rhetoric signals the start of a new direction.

After years of tension, sanctions, and deadlocked negotiations, Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s relatively moderate new president, has provided an opening for improved relations between the Islamic Republic and the West. While Rouhani has not ushered in a new Iran, Tehran has adopted a more conciliatory tone on its nuclear program since he took office. This shift is more than just talk, but the West will have to carefully calibrate its response to determine whether Rouhani’s changed rhetoric signals the beginning of a new direction for Iran.


Tehran’s pursuit of a nuclear program can only be understood by looking at all four dimensions of Iranian politics—power, ideology, norms, and communication.

Iran’s power dynamics and ideology are fueled by a fundamental antagonism with the West, making compromise in these areas unlikely.

Iran does not accept all the norms governing today’s international system, but it claims to advance the aims of global nonproliferation.

Rouhani has adopted a new approach to communication, indicating that Iran is willing to increase its nuclear transparency, exploring new channels of communication with the West, and showing signs of wanting to open Iran up to the world.

Iran has concluded an interim nuclear agreement with several global powers, which is a positive step toward resolving the nuclear dispute and perhaps toward improving relations more broadly. 


Take Rouhani’s words seriously, but judge him by his deeds. Rouhani’s rhetoric suggests an opening for more productive nuclear negotiations. Iran must follow these words with verifiable, tangible nuclear concessions.

Broaden the scope of negotiations with Iran.Faithfully implementing the interim nuclear agreement will build trust between Tehran and the West and make it possible to expand discussions with the aim of finding common ground on other shared norms that can help improve relations.

Promote norms that Iran values and that advance nonproliferation aims. Reinvigorating attempts to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East and advance global nonproliferation will give Iran face-saving ways to frame concessions it must make as part of its stated commitments.

Delay attempts at U.S.-Iranian rapprochement. There is not enough bilateral trust for such a bold step, especially among hardliners in both countries.

Improve communication strategies. The West’s attempts to convince the world—and especially the Middle East—that its approach to the Iranian nuclear issue is reasonable have fallen short. It will need to articulate this position more persuasively to maintain international support for Western objectives in Iran.

The Dynamics of Syria's Civil War


As the ongoing conflict in Syria enters its third year, persistent uncertainty regarding the circumstances on the ground, potential outcomes, and long-term consequences continues to confound analysis and possible policy responses. This essay explores the dynamics of the Syrian conflict, including the characteristics and interests of the belligerents, the interests of foreign powers involved, and the implications that the present course of events has for the future of Syria and the wider region.

It is concluded that the possibility of reaching a political settlement is becoming increasingly unlikely as the sectarian nature of the conflict intensifies and the unity of the rebel groups remains fractious — no end to the current stalemate is in sight. The conflict has become an existential struggle for all concerned, so not even the fall of Assad will bring an end to the violence. Also, the involvement of Islamic extremist groups and other hardliners poses a future international terrorist threat that could be directed against the West. By the end of 2014, more than half of the Syrian population could be living as refugees, which will exacerbate existing sectarian tensions in neighboring countries — another factor conducive to terrorism. We will be dealing with the effluent of Syria's civil war for decades.

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The land of Babur

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The Silk Route expedition traverses 1,500 kilometres in Uzbekistan, taking in its varied landscape, meeting its vibrant people and absorbing its colourful culture and chequered history. Text & photographs by SUDHA MAHALINGAM

AFTER the severe steppes of Kazakhstan and the stark mountains of the Kyrgyz Republic, the India-Central Asia Foundation (ICAF) expedition through Central Asia entered Uzbekistan on the last leg of its journey. This republic came across as a stark contrast to the lands we had crossed so far, not only for its varied landscape, vibrant people, colourful culture and chequered history but also for the thoroughness of the Uzbek immigration and customs officials at the land border. Our luggage was rummaged through meticulously, even our laptops were opened and files scrutinised. The procedure took a long time, but all the while we were entertained by the immigration officials who spotted resemblances to Bollywood stars in the facial features of the three young women in our team.

Professor P.L. Dash of Bombay University, who is currently the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) India Chair at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, the Uzkek capital, had come all the way to the border to receive and accompany the delegation. A new set of vehicles had been arranged to take the team through the next 1,500 kilometres of Uzbek territory. The Cyrillic script gives way to Latin and the Russian language makes way for Uzbek. Yet, all the towns of the Ferghana Valley—Andijon, Ferghana, Rishton, Namangan, Kokand—still bear the unmistakable imprint of Soviet influence, with their broad, tree-lined avenues and clean streets.

The legendary fertility of the Ferghana Valley is much in evidence. Both sides of the highway have burst into a profusion of blinding white flashes as far as the eye can see. This is cotton country. September is also the fruiting season, and in villages and towns, every home is fronted with trellises, all laden with luscious grapes. Throughout the countryside, there are melons, watermelons, apples, apricots, quinces, persimmons and many other fruits that we do not even recognise. In parks, public spaces, cafes, restaurants and streets, there are fruit trees and the sidewalks are stained with fruit juice. No wonder, Babur spoke so nostalgically of the sweetness of the melons of his homeland.

Denying Flight Strategic Options for Employing No-Fly Zones


In recent years, discussions about external military intervention in local conflicts have often included consideration of no-fly zones (NFZs) as a policy option. In the past two decades, the U.S. Air Force has participated in three contingencies involving NFZs over Bosnia, Iraq, and Libya, and NFZ proposals have been proffered for some time as an option for intervention in the Syrian civil war that would avoid placing Western troops on the ground. This paper provides a preliminary look at NFZs as a strategic approach in such situations. It evaluates the possible objectives of NFZs, including (1) preventing the use of airpower, (2) coercing adversaries, (3) preparing future battlefields, (4) weakening potential enemies, (5) political posturing, and (6) signaling or creating commitment, and discusses the potential utility and probable limitations of each.

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The West's Catastrophic Defeat in the Middle East

January 17, 2014

This analysis first appeared in Les Echos

Bashar al-Assad is still in power in Damascus and al-Qaeda's black flag was recently waving above Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq. Not only has the process of fragmentation in Syria now spilled over to Iraq, but these two realities also share a common cause that could be summarized into a simple phrase: the failure of the West.

The capture, even though temporary, of the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi by Sunni militias claiming links to al-Qaeda, is a strong and even humiliating symbol of the failure of the policies the United States carried out in Iraq. A little more than a decade after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime - and after hundreds of thousands of deaths on the Iraqi side and more than 5,000 on the American side - we can only lament a sad conclusion: All that for this!

In Syria, the same admission of failure is emerging. Assad and his loyal allies - Russia and Iran - have actually emerged stronger from their confrontation with the West. Civilian massacres, including with chemical weapons, did not change anything. The regime is holding tight, despite losing control of important parts of its territory, thanks to its allies' support and, most importantly, the weakness of its opponents and those who support them.

In reality, from the Middle East to Africa, the entire idea of outside intervention is being challenged in a widely post-American region. How and when can one intervene appropriately? At which point does not intervening become, to quote the French diplomat Talleyrand following the assassination of the Duke of Enghien in 1804, "worse than a crime, a mistake?"

When is intervention necessary? "Humanitarian emergency" is a very elastic concept. Is the fate of Syrian civilians less tragic than that of Libyans? Why intervene in Somalia in 1992 and not in Sudan? The decision to intervene reveals, in part, selective emotions that can also correspond to certain sensitivities or, in a more mundane way, to certain best interests of the moment.

Intervention becomes more probable when it follows the success of some other action; or, on the contrary, a decision to abstain that led to massacre and remorse. The tragedy of the African Great Lakes in 1994 - not to mention the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1995 - certainly contributed to the West's decision to intervene in Kosovo in 1999. In reality, the intervention of a given country at a given time is typically driven by multiple factors: the existence of an interventionist culture, a sense of urgency, a minimum of empathy towards the country or the cause justifying the intervention, and, of course, the existence of resources that are considered, rightly or wrongly, sufficient and well-adapted.

A French example

But more than "when," it is a question of "how" - the two being often inextricably linked. Intervening alone can have many benefits, including the rapidity of execution, which often leads to efficient operations. The French army was not unhappy to end up alone in Mali. On the other hand, although it can slow down the operations schedule, forming a coalition gives the intervention more legitimacy, and helps share the costs and risks between the various operators.

It is likely that France, which after the Mali operation has engaged in the Central African Republic in a much more uncertain conflict, would now prefer having some support - for reasons related to costs and resources as well as geopolitics. No one wants to share success, but no one wants to end up alone in a potential deadlock either.

America's failure - in Iraq and in Syria - should be considered the West's failure as a whole, even though Washington's share of responsibility is unquestionably the largest.

Will America End Syria's Humanitarian Nightmare?

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
January 20, 2014

The United States and like-minded countries will soon have to make up their minds on how to keep millions of Syrians going.

In the past three years of civil war the world’s humanitarian efforts have concentrated on helping Syria’s neighbors keep their borders open to refugees and providing support for almost three million, and supplying multi-million dollars of assistance to needy peoples inside Syria. That has been a significant achievement. But the problem keeps growing and has become even more difficult to manage.

Washington is currently focused on working out a political settlement at the Geneva conference beginning January 22, in the hope that Russia and perhaps even Iran can somehow be brought around to produce an agreement. However necessary a political settlement is, it is highly unlikely to be achieved at this time whatever our determined efforts with the Russians. That probable failure makes the deepening humanitarian debacle in Syria an even more pressing concern.

The US and its friends working closely with the UN will continue to try hard to stem Syria’s dismal humanitarian situation internally and externally. Aid monies were aggressively pursued at the second international pledging conference on Syria January 15, but the 2.4 billion dollars promised for both Syrian refugees and internal victims, even if paid, is far less than the 6.5 billion dollars the UN insists it needs for this year. Whether or not a peace settlement is achieved we will seek at Geneva ways of better dealing with the terrible internal humanitarian situation.

International aid goes to the needy in Assad controlled areas where the population is greater and apparently lesser amounts to the non-Assad controlled areas where the need is probably greater but more difficult to deliver. Assad forces and some rebel groups often prevent aid deliveries. The US is leaning now on Russia and through others on Iran to find ways of persuading mostly the Assad regime to allow more goods into encircled areas. There is the belief that the Sochi games and efforts to embarrass the Russians may help prod Moscow to persuade Assad to allow more goods into beleaguered areas. Assad has recently offered Moscow to allow goods into some encircled areas including Aleppo but only if there is a ceasefire. The rebels have looked with justifiable suspicion at the government’s behavior on this score.

Even if Geneva produces increased internal deliveries, it is doubtful they will be permanent or proportionate to the need. Continued fighting will again resume in civilian populated areas and we can expect renewed blockades by Assad and some rebel groups. In short we may well be back to the previous situation, except worse for the non-combatants. The conflict will likely drag on with the tide of war seemingly back and forth. Some knowledgeable American officials think Assad will ultimately crack, but they are obviously uncertain when that hoped for development will take place. In the interim millions will continue to flee to supposedly safer areas in Syria, or to the neighbors who are increasingly fed up with the continuing Syrian influx and whose political stability may be approaching its limits. Many more will certainly die.

Washington's Hard Egypt Lesson

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
January 20, 2014

We appear to have come full circle in Egypt. With the passage of a new constitution in a referendum which in terms of how it was conducted (and in light of a nearly-unanimous yes vote) strongly resembles how balloting was conducting during the days of Hosni Mubarak, the old regime has essentially been restored, three years after the start of the Tahrir Square uprising. The path is now clear for General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the current defense minister and de facto head of the interim authority that took power after the military deposed Mohamed Morsi from the presidency of Egypt, to seek the presidential office.

Events in Egypt validate many of the concerns of those who criticized the Obama administration's volte-face on Egypt three years ago, by backing a revolutionary process rather than helping to orchestrate evolutionary change. The apparent failure of the Egyptian revolution is only the latest in a series of setbacks for the supposed fourth wave of global democratization. We don't hear much anymore about the progress being made towards consolidating pro-Western democratic rule in places like Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Iraq, Afghanistan, or Lebanon anymore; indeed, of all the many events heralded over the last decade and a half as proof that freedom was on the march, only two--the revolution which deposed Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia and the Rose Revolution in Georgia--which has just seen the first peaceful transition of presidential power in its nation's history--can now be assessed as successes. Caught up either in the emotional upswing of the CNN effect when large crowds are shown in squares in capital cities, or overestimating the power of the United States to depose autocratic regimes and forge viable new democracies, much of the U.S. foreign policy community has consistently rejected the advice and counsel of those who might term themselves the "gradualists", labelling the latter as nonbelievers in freedom and democracy because of their "take it slow" approach.

The Obama administration was swept up by the cries of "Mubarak must go" and the optimistic expectations that the Tahrir Square revolutionaries would usher in a new age for Egypt. The playbook which worked to bring about long-term, sustainable change in places like South Korea was thrown out--where the U.S. worked with a military regime to ultimate pave the way for a more open political system. In particular, the U.S. has and continues to conflate two different strategies; the first, what Amitai Etzioni has termed a "de-tyrannization" strategy--removing despots from power and creating sustainable regimes that can evolve towards greater openness and ultimate democratization--with pushing for rapid democratization, even in the absence of the conditions for sustaining viable democratic regimes.