31 December 2014

Indian captives in Iraq: Question of answers

R Dayakar
Dec 31 2014 

The fate of the missing Indian workers in Mosul, many of them from Punjab, is a cause for concern. In a two-part series, a former Indian Ambassador to Iraq looks at the complex situation and how their release can be sought. The first part focuses on Iraq’s political scenario.
Families of the abducted youth in Iraq after a prayer meeting at the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Mission in Jalandhar. India is in the third rung of nations in the jihadist campaign.  

Case of missing Indians in Iraq

The cloud of suspense continues to hover over the fate of 39 Indians kidnapped by ISIL militants in Iraq over six months ago.

The government said it didn't have direct evidence of either their death or survival but would continue to search for the missing youth.

Harjit Masih, now in the protective custody of the Government of India, has said that ISIL militants kidnapped some Indians and Bangladeshis whom they later separated into two groups. The Indian group was taken to a forest and shot dead while he escaped. There are discrepancies in the account and six other sources have confirmed they are alive.

India and Indians have a fund of goodwill in the region. The release of the nurses from Tikrit is a pointer. Case for the workers' release may be inherent in the workers’ humble socio-economic background.

THE blanket silence from the abductors and absence of verifiable inputs on their location and safety has led to an existentialist debate on the fate of the Indian workers detained from a labour camp in Mosul in mid-June by the terrorist group Islamic State in Levant (ISIL).The current information available with the Government of India and shared with the Parliament appears to be based on secondary or tertiary sources. All the leads from the sources in the region, relied on so far by the Government to assure the workers’ families of their safety, seem to taper off in dead-ends, with no further onward trail to the workers or the captors. This is perhaps understandable with ISIL being a phantom monstrosity that never ceases to spring surprises with an invisible leadership and a structural and functional framework that is highly compartmentalised — making contact or communication with its core power centres nearly impossible. The conclusion by the government that the workers are safe, therefore, seems to be in the nature of an optimistic surmise from an uncertain situation. One only hopes earnestly that this is indeed the reality. 

Sunni groups

Nehru: A failed god

Dec 31, 2014

Nehru was a visionary and more of an idealist than practical in dealing with national security issues. His Kashmir and China policies proved disastrous. Sixty years have elapsed. They continue to be a festering problem defying solution.

As a student in my teens, I had the good fortune of hearing Mahat-ma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru address public meetings in Patna. We revered the Mahatma, adored Nehru and admired Patel. During the 1937 Assembly elections Nehru came to address an election rally in a large open ground not far from my school. He came some three hours late. As he arrived, the waiting crowd burst into a tremendous applause, shouting “Inqilab Zindabad” and “Panditji ki Jai”. Nehru spoke about the evils of imperialism and fascism. War clouds had started gathering in Europe. I wrote a letter to Nehru asking for his autograph. I received a reply on his letter pad with “Anand Bhavan, Allahabad” printed at the top. It had just his signature in the middle.

The next time I saw Nehru was in Singapore. I was then a captain serving in Indonesia and had gone there for selection for permanent commission. After the Japanese surrendered to us in Burma, we were moved to Indonesia. We had to take the surrender of one lakh Japanese soldiers on the islands, put them in PoW (prisoner of war) camps and repatriate them to Japan. They had handed over their weapons to the Indonesian Revolutionary Army of Soekarno. There were rumours that Soekarno had invited Nehru to Indonesia. While we were fighting insurgency in Indonesia, British troops dynamited the Indian National Army (INA) memorial in Singapore. 

The Indian community in Singapore invited Nehru to lay the foundation of a new INA memorial at the same site. Nehru, not holding any official position, had accepted in his personal capacity. Singapore was then, as now, a predominantly Chinese city. Nehru was known to be very friendly with Chiang Kai-shek, the then ruler of China. I went in a taxi driven by a Chinese to Changi airport. My Chinese driver asked me the rank of Nehru, saying his leader, Chiang Kai-shek, was a marshal. I told him that Nehru was also a marshal. We later heard that Nehru was charmed by Mountbatten. That was the first time they met. Both had studied at Harrow. Mountbatten was much junior to him. He persuaded Nehru not to lay the foundation stone for the INA memorial nor go to Indonesia. He told him that India would soon be independent and he should not do anything which may politicise the Indian Army or undermine its discipline.

In September 1946, as a captain I was posted to South Block in New Delhi. Nehru was now vice-president of the interim government and was a de-facto Prime Minister. I used to see him not using the lift to go to his office on the first floor, sometimes even running up the steps. The Kashmir war started in September 1947. I was now a major holding an important Operations Staff appointment of Lt. Gen. K.M. Cariappa who had taken over as Western Army Commander. In November 1948, I was deputed as liaison officer at 77 Para Brigade to report the progress of operations. In a military operation unprecedented in the world, we had used tanks to break through the 10,000-foot-high Zojila Pass. We had to get to Kargil before the pass got blocked by snow. On the evening of December 9, 1948, I was at Matayan, across Zojila Pass while we were frantically constructing a road to take up vehicles, guns and ammunition for further advance.

Keep New Year resolutions, your phone is watching you

December 31, 2014

An app to help quit smoking

Another New Year, and it’s time for resolutions, many of which, going by experience, are forgotten as the year wears on. Now, however, a set of mobile-phone applications help you stay the course.

These applications function on the simple rule of tracking your progress and motivating you with the success you achieve.

They show how near or far you are to your aim. Most of these apps present things in data format using bar graphs and pie charts.

If your resolution is to quit smoking or lose weight, there are apps that record when you had your last smoke or workout. They allow you to set alarms and reminders to help with the task. With losing weight being one of the most common New Year resolutions, there are applications such as Simple Weight Loss Resolution.

Google Play alone has over a dozen resolution apps — Goal Tracker, Free New Year’s Resolution, Resolutions and so on. From the Windows Phone Store, download “New Year Resolutions” or “My Motive.” BlackBerry users can check out “Resolution Diary.”

Searchers resume hunt for bodies from AirAsia jet

December 31, 2014

ReutersRelatives of passengers of the AirAsia flight react upon seeing the news on television in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, on Tuesday.
ReutersRelatives of passengers of the missing AirAsia flight QZ 8501 react upon seeing the news on television about the findings of bodies on the waters near the site where the jetliner disappeared, at the crisis centre at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, on Tuesday.

A massive hunt for the 162 victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 resumed in the Java Sea on Wednesday. The search will focus on the area of the aqua-colored waters where the first bodies and debris were located a day earlier. But wind, strong currents and high surf hampered recovery efforts as distraught family members anxiously waited to identify their loved ones.

The first proof of the jet’s fate emerged on Tuesday in an area not far from where it dropped off radar screens. Searchers found as many as six bodies and debris that included a life jacket, an emergency exit door and a suitcase about 10 miles from the plane’s last known coordinates.

The airliner’s disappearance halfway through a two-hour flight between Surabaya, Indonesia, and Singapore triggered an international search for the aircraft involving dozens of planes, ships and helicopters. It is still unclear what brought the plane down.

We are deeply saddened by the news of QZ8501. Heartfelt condolences to loved ones of those affected #togetherwestandpic.twitter.com/gFHpYAJpAq— AirAsia (@AirAsia) December 30, 2014

The plane needs to be located and its cockpit voice and flight data recorders, or black boxes, recovered before officials can start determining what caused the crash.

Images of the debris and a bloated body shown on Indonesian television sent a spasm of anguish through the room at the Surabaya airport where relatives awaited news.

The first sign of the jet turned up about 10 miles (16 kilometres) from its last known coordinates. Parts of the interior, including the oxygen tank, were brought to the nearest town, Pangkalan Bun. Another find included a bright blue plastic suitcase, completely unscratched.

“I know the plane has crashed, but I cannot believe my brother and his family are dead,” said Ifan Joko, who lost seven family members, three of them children, as they travelled to Singapore to ring in the new year. “We still pray they are alive.”

First Adm. Sigit Setiayanta, commander of the Naval Aviation Centre at Surabaya Air Force base, told reporters six corpses were spotted about 160 kilometres (100 miles) from Central Kalimantan province.

Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow

Dec 31, 2014

MOSCOW: Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as retribution by the Kremlin, setting off one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years. 

Police allowed the unsanctioned protest by several thousand people to proceed just outside Red Square for about two hours before moving in to push the rally away. 

The demonstration came hours after Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner, was found guilty of fraud and given a suspended sentence of 3 ½ years. His brother was sent to prison. 

The convictions are widely seen as a political vendetta by President Putin, who has shown little tolerance for dissent during his 15-year rule. 

Navalny, who has been under house arrest since February, broke its terms to attend the rally and was rounded up by police as he approached the site. He later tweeted that police drove him home and blocked him from leaving his apartment. 

The protesters, who gathered on the square, chanted: ``We are the power!'' and ``You won't be able to jail us all!'' Some shouted slogans of support for Ukraine, which saw its Crimean Peninsula annexed by Russia in March and has faced a pro-Russia insurgency in the east. 

Alexei Mayorov, a security official in the Moscow mayor's office, had warned that any attempt to hold a rally would be quickly blocked, but police allowed it to proceed for a while before pushing the protesters toward subway entrances. Police said they detained about 100 protesters. 

Russian law requires demonstrators to receive official clearance for their actions and can impose heavy fines and prison sentences for those who disobey. 

The provocateur punk group Pussy Riot had released a video supporting Tuesday's demonstration, featuring four stylishly dressed women sweeping snow from the square, then mounting their brooms and flying off as witches across the Kremlin wall in a performance symbolizing protest. 

Two of the performers, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, spent nearly two years in prison on charges of hooliganism for mounting an anti-Putin protest in Moscow's main cathedral in 2012, and won global fame. 

Pakistan offsets Lakhvi detention suspension, arrests him for abduction

Dec 31, 2014

Lakhvi (54) was arrested in an abduction case and shifted to an Islamabad police station from Rawalpindi's Adiala jail, where he has been lodged since he was booked for his role in the Mumbai carnage in 2008.

ISLAMABAD: Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist and 26/11 plotter ZakiurRehmanLakhvi was arrested on Tuesday in an unrelated case a day after a local court suspended his preventive detention. 

Pakistan had been forced to put Lakhvi under detention after an anti-terrorism court granted him bail in the Mumbai attacks case on December 18. 

Lakhvi (54) was arrested in an abduction case and shifted to an Islamabad police station from Rawalpindi's Adiala jail, where he has been lodged since he was booked for his role in the Mumbai carnage in 2008. 

A fresh First Information Report was registered against him for kidnapping one Anwar Khan at Islamabad's Golra police on Monday night hours after the Islamabad high court suspended his detention under the Maintenance of Public Order. 

But he was lodged at Shalimar police station in Islamabad's posh F-10 sector for security reasons. 

He was produced before a local court in Islamabad amid tight security on Tuesday. During the brief hearing, police requested the court to grant a two-day remand of Lakhvi, which the court accepted. 

He was driven back in a convoy of police vehicles to Shalimar police station. 

The suspension of Lakhvi's detention had prompted a strong reaction from India. The ministry of external affairs summoned Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit to protest Lakhvi's release order on Monday. 

Pakistan had pledged to challenge Lakhvi's bail when he was granted it in the Mumbai attacks case on December 18. But that has not happened so far. 

Lakhvi is among seven Pakistani suspects being prosecuted in Pakistan for planning, financing and executing the Mumbai carnage. 

New Delhi has given evidence about Lakhvi and his co-accused to Islamabad in the case. 

But the slow pace of the trial has highlighted inherent flaws in Pakistan's judicial system. The evidence included voice samples, phones data, and timings of communications besides other related evidence. 

Lakhvi was in touch via satellite phone from Karachi with 10 terrorists, who sailed into Mumbai and killed 166 people there in November 2008. 

Lakhvi's bail had provoked outrage and raised questions about Pakistan's resolve to fight terrorism. It came a day after the country suffered the worst terrorist attack on an army-run school in Peshawar in which around 150 people, mostly kids, were killed. 

Palestinian draft resolution fails in UN council, US votes against

Dec 31, 2014

The United Nations Security Council has rejected a Palestinian resolution demanding an end to Israeli occupation within three years on Tuesday. (AP Photo)

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council on Tuesday rejected a Palestinian resolution calling for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territories by late 2017. 

Even if the draft had received the minimum nine votes in favor, it would have been defeated by Washington's vote against it. The United States is one of the five veto-wielding permanent members. 

There were eight votes in favor, two votes against and five abstentions. Australia joined the United States in voting against the measure. 

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power defended her position against the draft in a speech to the 15-nation council. 

"The United States every day searches for new ways to take constructive steps to support the parties in making progress toward achieving a negotiated settlement," she said. 

"The Security Council resolution put before us today is not one of those constructive steps," she said, adding that it would undermine efforts to achieve a two-state solution. "This text addresses the concerns of only one side." Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar expressed regret that the resolution was voted down. 

"We had hoped that the Security Council will today adopt the draft Arab resolution because the council bears both the legal and moral responsibilities to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," she said. 

The defeat of the resolution was not surprising. Washington, council diplomats said, had made clear it did not want such a resolution put to a vote before Israel's election in March. 

But the Palestinians, the diplomats said, insisted on putting the resolution to a vote despite the fact that it was clear beforehand that Washington would not let it pass. Their sudden announcement last weekend that they wanted a vote before the new year surprised Western delegations on the council. 

In order to pass, a resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes from the council's five permanent members. 

The Palestinian resolution called for negotiations to be based on territorial lines that existed before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war. It also called for a peace deal within 12 months and ending Israeli occupation by the end of 2017. 

India needs to take the lead

December 31, 2014

APPROGRESS: “There are serious plans to reduce the carbon intensity of Indian production, construction as well as energy consumption through more energy-efficient vehicles.” In this file photo, smoke billows from the chimneys of the Indraprastha Thermal Power Station in New Delhi.

Without Indian leadership, there will be no climate change agreement. The country should improve its own energy efficiency

The latest marathon negotiations on climate change recently finished in Lima, Peru. Many outside observers feel that the centrepiece of Lima, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), neither to be reviewed nor externally monitored, are too weak to have any real impact on climate change.

Despite this, the Indian delegation expressed satisfaction over the result. So has the U.S, which is understandable since little is really being asked of it in terms of commitments. But what is India seeking?

Let’s look at the situation. India is a warm and primarily subtropical country where agriculture and drinking water depend on the monsoons. Northern India depends on river systems which are sustained by melting Himalayan glaciers. The country has a long coastline. It is also regularly exposed to extreme weather events — floods, droughts and hurricanes — and suffers from the presence of mosquitoes and other vectors that can carry infectious diseases.

Global warming leads to changes in weather patterns that could make the monsoons more erratic and extreme weather events more likely. With glaciers melting more rapidly, there will be more floods followed by water scarcity. Rising sea levels due to warming will threaten our coastal cities and low-lying villages. Higher temperatures could reduce yields of some major crops while bringing in tropical diseases that have not been endemic in the country so far. Rising emissions, especially in urban areas, have worsened pollution and made the air in many Indian cities unhealthy.More vulnerable

Where armed insurgents roam about freely

December 31, 2014

The Hindu“Insurgent groups that sign ceasefires with the state, based on which their cadres get remunerations, need to be disarmed in a phased manner.” Picture shows cadres of the NSCN (IM) in Nagaland in 2012. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

India has given up the monopoly of organised violence to non-state actors, especially to those that have signed ceasefires

Why is it that insurgent groups in the Northeast that have signed ceasefires with the Union government openly carry their weapons in civilian areas? This applies, but is not limited, to the National Socialist Council of Nagalim led by Isak Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah (NSCN-IM), the National Socialist Council of Nagaland led by S.S. Khaplang (NSCN-K) and the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD), to name but a few. If you consider the ceasefire ground rules with the NSCN (K) for instance, one of the clauses states that “in the interest of promoting the peace process, there will be no movement in uniform and/or with arms outside designated camps.” The ceasefire ground rules also state that “the NSCN will refrain from acquiring any additional arms/ammunition military equipment”; that “the NSCN will refrain from extortions, forcible collection of money and supplies and intimidation of individuals including Government officials.” Similar clauses are repeated in the revised ceasefire between the NSCN (IM) and the Union government.Ground reality

Yet, the ground reality totally controverts what is stated on paper. Any visit to Naga areas makes it clear that the Union government, responsible for enforcing ceasefire ground rules, has miserably failed to do so. Cadres of the NSCN (IM) routinely move out of designated camps in uniform armed with weapons to civilian areas, often without providing the mandatory information about their movements to the security forces and the Cease-fire Supervisory Board (CFSB). The NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) cadres carry weapons with them while blocking national highways for purposes of extortions, which are in sheer violation of what they agreed to, while signing ceasefires in 1997 and 2001 respectively. The consequence of armed insurgent cadres moving about so freely creates an atmosphere of fear amongst the civilian population who are thereafter easily coerced into shelling out money and other support to the armed groups. 

For instance, in areas where the NSCN (IM) or NSCN (K) has a presence, people have to pay so-called taxes, which include house tax, business tax, road tax, etc. Government servants regularly shell out ‘rebel taxes,’ cut at source from salary, primarily due to fear of being targeted by the insurgent groups if they don’t pay up. The situation is identical in the Kuki areas where the Kuki armed groups are under Suspension of Operations with the security forces, or the insurgency-affected areas in Assam like those of the Bodos or the Dimasas with armed groups under ceasefires or Manipur where some of the Manipur insurgent groups like the Kangleipak Communist Party-Nongdreinkhomba, Kuki National Liberation Front and the Kuki Revolutionary Party have signed Memoranda of Understanding with the State government to give up arms.

Given this situation, it is rather pointless for the Union government now to devise a new Northeast policy where it is debating on the efficacy of offers to talk to any militant group due to the problem of factions later, and/or revise the policy of remuneration to surrendered armed rebel cadres. These are actually second or third priority problems.

'Thatcher considered U.K. chemical weapons programme’

December 31, 2014

Margaret Thatcher considered restarting Britain’s chemical weapons (CW) programme at a cost of up to £200 million in response to Soviet threats, Downing Street correspondence reveals.

The Prime Minister, by training a research chemist, acknowledged that the government might be considered negligent for failing to acquire a “retaliatory capability” at the height of the Cold War.

Secret papers canvassing the military options available have emerged from a Home Office file, released on Tuesday by the National Archives in Kew, which contains warnings that airborne chemical attacks by Soviet aircraft on sensitive U.K. targets could inflict massive loss of life.

One civil defence paper estimated that up to 1,40,000 people could be injured and more than 20,000 killed if Liverpool’s dockyards were hit by lethal gases. If Gatwick was struck, medical modelling suggested, there would be about 30,000 casualties and 16,000 dead.

The U.K. had ratified the Geneva protocols in 1930, which banned the use of toxic gases and bacteria in war. But the treaty did not outlaw development or production of such weapons of mass destruction and permitted their use in retaliation.

The communist bloc’s expanding stockpile of nerve agents alarmed Ministry of Defence planners who warned that there was no military response short of escalating directly to nuclear conflict. “Any significant step to improve our retaliatory capability will involve serious political and presentational difficulties,” a secret policy document admitted. Saddam Hussein’s use of sarin and other toxic agents in the Iran/Iraq war was seen as helpful in alerting the public to the threat.

In February 1984, the Prime Minister attended a CW briefing in the chief of staff’s room at the MoD along with the defence secretary, then Michael Heseltine, senior army and intelligence officers and the government’s chief scientific adviser.

Another tragedy in the skies

December 31, 2014 

Two full days after an AirAsia aircraft on a flight from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore went missing, rescue teams have found pieces of debris and the bodiesof at least 40 of the 162 passengers and crew who were on board. This brings to a fairly quick end the suspense and speculation over the fate of the aircraft after it suddenly went off the radar. Reports point to similarities with an Air Algérie flight that disintegrated on impact after facing turbulent weather in the skies over Mali, while on its way from Burkina Faso to Algiers in July this year, leaving all 116 passengers and crew dead. 

Here, rescue missions from the neighbouring countries were immediately pressed into service — by air and by sea — from Sunday morning. Unlike the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 that vanished mysteriously during its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March, the AirAsia flight did contact radio control in Indonesia seeking permission to climb to 38,000 feet from the 32,000 level it was flying, to avoid thick clouds. But that permission was not granted because of traffic in the skies. Nothing more was heard after that, which is why the control managers in Indonesia and aviation experts feel the aircraft was caught in a storm and perhaps plunged into the sea. When debris was sited by aircraft naval ships rushed to the scene, to find the bodies too.

AirAsia has had a fairly good safety record since its founding over a decade ago. Similarly, the Airbus A320 is known to be a sturdy aircraft, with a load of safety features. So it could not have wilted so easily. The fact that there was no distress call, and only a request for a deviation, remains the bottom line of this suspected tragedy. Again, unlike the Malaysian aircraft that had deliberately taken a significant detour and could have plunged into the deep southern Indian Ocean, the AirAsia aircraft could have been lost only in the Java sea, since its flight path was across the sea from one island to another. That limited the area of search, which has now proved successful. 


ByTeshu Singh

The Indian Ocean is bounded by India's Lakshadweep Islands to the north 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), in collaboration with the National Maritime Foundation (NMF), has been conducting a series of discussions on the Indian Ocean Region. Based on the insights generated via the discussions, the IPCS hopes to produce a set of policy briefs for India, in 2015.

To that end, on December 2, 2014, the fourth round of the IPCS-NMF discussion series, titled ‘Securing Our Interests in the Indian Ocean: New Strategies and Approaches’, was held at the NMF Conference Hall. Five presentations were made, and were followed by a brainstorming session between the panellists and the audience.

‘China’s Endgame’ and the Maritime Silk Road’

Teshu Singh, Senior Research Officer (CRP), IPCS

China is using various tactics in its search for a stable and peaceful environment for its ‘peaceful development’ strategy – and the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) is one of them. Essentially, it is China’s soft power strategy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Today it has become a major tool of China’s economic and peripheral diplomacy. It is also part of China’s larger strategy to develop extensive transport networks – roads, railway lines, ports and energy corridors. It would further cater to somewhat resolving China’s Malacca Dilemma and help augment the ‘String of Pearls’ strategy. With the US’s ‘pivot to Asia’, China is concerned about its aspiration to become a global power. Additionally, it is not a South Asian power but seeks a presence in the region. Therefore it is using the MSR as a tool to make its presence felt by following a policy whereby it seeks cooperation with the IOR littoral states and making gradual infrastructural investment in these countries – catering to it Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) impasse.

‘Maritime Silk Road’

Captain Gurpreet S. Khurana, Executive Director, National Maritime Foundation

In retrospect, one look of the MSR suggests the strategic nature of the proposal. There was a gap between the announcements of the MSR at the Bali summit and the release of the first document in, April 2014, followed by the map in Xinhua newspaper. China is good in strategic communication and it closely follows up each development. Hence, it is pertinent to view the development from the standpoint of this perspective. India has not joined the MSR until now because of its own security considerations. The entire development in the region can be viewed within the framework of the ‘Hub and Spokes’ model.


By Neelam Deo*

The style and substance of the foreign policies of Narendra Modi’s six-month-old government have been remarkably different from those of his predecessors. Gateway House examines the changes in India’s equations with three critical countries—the US, China and Pakistan—and outlines a foreign policy forecast for 2015.

The end of 2014 and the middle of Narendra Modi’s first year as prime minister is an opportunity to compare the style and substance of the foreign policies of his government with those of the previous dispensation. The contrast is most apparent in the energy and attention that has been invested in international relations, rather than in the direction. After all, while core national interests—such as border security and development—endure, the manner of pursuing them can indeed change.

Modi’s articulation of his vision of the country has included new elements like the “Make in India” campaign; he has also brought a greater speed and intensity to the pursuit of foreign policy objectives such as attracting foreign direct investment to promote manufacturing in India. In pursuing the goal of industrialisation, Modi has shed some of the ideological elements of “third-worldism” and non-alignment, which were the signature of the previous government.

His government’s decisive foreign engagements have already changed international perceptions. The change is most visible in India’s relationships with the U.S. and Pakistan, though the outcome of his proactive engagement with China remains ambiguous. The differences between Modi’s and the previous governments approaches to these three critical bilateral equations are discussed in the following sections:

Although it was the UPA government that signed the India-U.S. nuclear agreement in July 2005, it remained passive about implementing the deal. The new government has so far not been able to move ahead on amending the nuclear liability legislation, but it has been outspoken about the importance of a good relationship with the U.S.

Modi has proactively intensified interactions—the best proof of which is U.S. President Barack Obama’s acceptance of the invitation to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi in 2015, which will make it an unprecedented second visit to India by a serving U.S. president.

The importance explicitly placed by this government on India-U.S. ties stems from several factors such as India’s need for U.S. investment and access to its technology. Good relations with the U.S. also usually translate into good relations with its allies such as Australia, Japan and west European countries, which in turn bring strategic support and increased investments from all these countries.

Washington’s capacity to influence Islamabad is another critical factor in the India-U.S. relationship. Additionally, in India’s experience, good relations with the U.S. tend to relieve pressure from China.

Previous risk-averse governments were oversensitive about Chinese reactions to India’s positions on the border issue. In a clear departure, the Modi government has overtly reached out to China. The first foreign leader that Modi received was Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi. In turn, China has responded positively, as was evident in the warmth during President Xi Jinping’s India visit in September, and his calls for a solution to the contentious border issue.

Border Fencing Will Not Stop Illegal Migration

December 26, 2014

While giving its December 17, 2014 verdict on writ petitions filed by the Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, All Assam Ahom Association and others on the issue of illegal migration, a two member bench of the Supreme Court not only asked the Central government why it has chosen to leave the border with Bangladesh porous but also directed it to erect fences and strengthen vigilance to prevent the illegal inflow of people through the border. In addition, the Supreme Court also directed the Central government to streamline the procedure for deportation of illegal migrants and begin parleys with Bangladesh on the issue. The Hon’ble Court further stated that it would monitor the efforts of the Central government and review the steps taken after three months.

The judgment of the Supreme Court is praise worthy given that successive political dispensations have been wishy-washy about the problem of illegal migration. But can fencing prevent large-scale illegal migration from Bangladesh? The answer is no. Fencing can at best be a physical obstruction for easy ingress into Indian territory. But it cannot stop a determined infiltrator. There is enough evidence to indicate that migrants have been devising ways to bypass this physical obstruction (see below).

The idea of fencing the border with Bangladesh to stem the tide of illegal migrants has a long history. The proposal was first put forward by the Assam government in January 1965. Assam, as is well known, has been a destination for migrants from the densely populated neighbouring districts of Mymensingh, Rangpur, Bogra, etc. since the second half of the 19th century. Over the decades, large scale migration altered the demographic profile of Assam’s border districts, as has been evidenced by successive Census Reports since 1871. This trend of migration of “foreigners” continued even after independence, which was only amplified by the inflow of Hindu refugees from the erstwhile East Bengal/East Pakistan following communal riots in the wake of Partition.

Concerned about the socio-economic and political repercussions of the unrelenting flow of people from across the border, the Assam government undertook several measures including the January 1965 proposal to erect barbed wire fences along some vulnerable patches of the International Border with the approval of the Centre. But a shortage of barbed wires and inability to clear a mile-deep area of habitation prevented it from implementing the fencing project and the plan itself was subsequently shelved. But the idea of fencing itself did not fade away and eventually found mention 20 years later in the Assam Accord of 1985.

The Assam Accord brought to an end the six year agitation by the All Assam Student Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP) against illegal migration from Bangladesh. An agreement between the AASU, the AAGSP, the Centre and the Assam government, the Accord stipulated that “the international border shall be made secure against future infiltration by erection of physical barriers like walls, barbed wire fencing and other obstacle at appropriate places”. Accordingly, the project for constructing fences and roads along vulnerable stretches of the border in Assam was initiated in 1986. But the construction of border fences in Assam, West Bengal and Meghalaya was started only in 1989 because of the decision to construct roads first. It was initially decided that only vulnerable stretches, and not the entire border, will be fenced. But by 2001-02, increasing cases of illegal migration, cross-border movement of insurgents and smuggling forced the Central government to decide in favour of fencing the entire India-Bangladesh border.

Why Bodo Violence Continues to Recur?

December 29, 2014

The Bodo areas in Assam are witnessing bloodshed once again. The National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit faction) [NDFB-S] is alleged to have targeted the Adivasi settlers in the two districts of Sonitpur and Kokrajhar, killing nearly 78 and leaving many seriously injured. It appears that this carnage started in retaliation to the death of three NDFB (S) cadres during a counter-insurgency operation conducted by the Mahar Regiment on December 21 against the outfit’s camp in the Chirang District along the Assam-Bhutan border. Information from the ground reveal that the NDFB-S may have targeted the Adivasi settlers near the forest areas suspecting them of providing intelligence about their movement to the counter-insurgency forces.

The faction is known to have regularly targeted people both from Bodo and non-Bodo ethnicities on suspicion of being police informants, like the case of a 16-year old Bodo school girl who was dragged out of her house, beaten and then shot to death by the NDFB militants in Dwimugri village on the Indo-Bhutan border in August 2014. The causes for recurring violence in the Bodo areas are deep-rooted. The Adivasi settlers are viewed by the Bodos as slowly establishing a large presence in the state along with other migrants, thus relegating Bodos to minority status.
Violent Background

A similar situation had occurred in May 2014 during the Lok Sabha elections when 41 bodies were discovered in Baska and Kokrajhar districts. At that time too, the NDFB-S was suspected to be behind the violence. The non-Bodos, including migrant Muslims, who constitute the majority, alleged that their failure to vote for the Bodo People’s Front (BPF) candidate, Chandan Brahma, resulted in the fatal retaliation. This was linked to the remarks by a BPF leader, Pramila Rani Brahma, who had commented on April 30 that the Muslim migrants had not voted for Chandan Brahma. Instead, Muslims had propped up their own independent candidate, Naba Kumar Sarania alias Hira Sarania, a former United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) rebel from Kokrajhar. This seat which had always been represented by a Bodo parliamentarian saw the victory of the first non-Bodo: Sarania.

To dwell further back, it was in 1993 when the first large-scale massacre had occurred in which 50 migrants were killed in Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts. In 1994, 100 migrants were similarly killed in the Bodo areas. In 1996, another minority community, the Santhals, was targeted by the Bodos leading to the death of 200 people and displacement of thousands. In 2008, very similar to the latest round of violence, about 100 people were killed and nearly 200,000 displaced in clashes between the Bodos and the minority communities. In 2012, again nearly 96 people had lost their lives and 400,000 were displaced in another such violent incident.
Deciphering Causes

Though the underlying causes of the recurring violence are complex, they can be deciphered. First, the political empowerment of the minority communities in the Bodo Territorial Area District (BTAD) in recent years has resulted in growing unease in the Bodo community. The fear is about non-Bodo communities dominating the political process as seen in the election of Sarania. Second, political tension in the area is further compounded by the perception among the Bodos that illegal migration from Bangladesh is relegating them to a minority status in their own land. The Bodos at present constitute 29 per cent of the population, followed by the Rajbonshis (15 per cent), Bengali immigrants (12 to 13 per cent) and Santhals (6 per cent). Third, the ‘perception’ of massive illegal migration has generated a fear psychosis in the Bodo community that their ancestral lands will be illegally taken away by the migrants. The lack of any reliable data on the number of people migrating from Bangladesh into Assam further aggravates the situation. Fourth, the inclusion of illegal migrants in the voters list is viewed as a deliberate ploy to empower an outside group vis-à-vis the Bodos, so that the latter lose their distinct indigenous identity. This has created a siege mentality among Bodos.

Pakistan's Trials

By Michael Krepon

Even for a nation accustomed to severe trials, what happened in Peshawar on December 16th was unbearable. Pakistani children, mostly belonging to military families, along with their teachers, gunned down with automatic weapons held by nihilists posing as religious zealots. Another rung of Dante’s inferno reached -- beyond murdering health care workers trying to inoculate children from polio.

Conspiracies occlude reality in Pakistan. Zealots still given air time tell viewers not to believe the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’s press release admitting responsibility for slaughter. Also disregard the group photos of stalwart child-killers. Apologists continue to say it was because of the Americans. Or the drone strikes. Or the Indians, Israelis, Uzbeks, or Arabs. At least Imran Khan, the most popular politician in Pakistan at present, and a former apologist for the TTP, has now pinned responsibility where it belongs. As has Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Party.

The Peshawar tragedy has given impetus to a long-delayed action plan against terrorism. Military courts will hear terror cases and capital punishment has been resumed. The first executions were of those attempting to kill President/General Pervez Musharraf and those involved in storming General Headquarters. Other key elements of the National Action Plan, as laid out in a government release on December 24th, include:
A commitment to ensure that no armed militias are allowed to function in the country 

Strengthening and activation of the National Counter-Terrorism Authority

Countering hate speech and extremist material 

Choking financing for terrorists and terrorist organizations 

Ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organizations 

Establishing and deploying a dedicated counter-terrorism force 

Taking effective steps against religious persecution 

Registration and regulation of madrassas 

Ban on glorification of terrorism and terrorist organizations through print and electronic media 

Administrative and development reforms in Federally Administered Tribal Areas with immediate focus on return of internally displaced persons 

Dismantling communication networks of terrorist organizations 

Tangible measures against abuse of internet and social media for terrorism
Zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab 

The Dangerous Drug-Funded Secret War Between Iran and Pakistan

In the largely forgotten deserts of Baluchistan that straddle the Iran-Pakistan border, covert wars are underway that could have far reaching consequences.

TURBAT, Pakistan—Something fell out of the sky near Arif Saleem’s home at 5:20 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2013. He scrambled outside to find a 25-foot-wide crater just beyond the mud wall surrounding his family compound. The strike was one of three, in quick succession, that morning in the village of Kulahu, in Pakistani Baluchistan, 45 miles east of the Iran border. One of the blasts damaged the local mosque. Pages from the Quran fluttered in the air before landing gently on the rubble. 

The next day, Saleem made the 30-mile trip east to Turbat, the administrative center of his small district in southwestern Pakistan. “They refused to register a case, saying the matter is out of their hands,” he told me. 

With few legitimate industries or development assistance from the central government, Turbat is a derelict city prickling with militants. Most of the area’s inhabitants grind out a living as subsistence farmers or cross-border smugglers, shuttling everything from cement and diesel to Afghan opium between Pakistan and Iran. There are few paved roads, and at the airport, soldiers outnumber travelers.  

It is also the epicenter of a war being waged by the Shiite regime in Iran against a shadowy group of Sunni Baluch jihadis. 

Already involved in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and neighboring Iraq, Iran is now increasingly worried about the threat from Sunni militants on its eastern border with Pakistan, who get backing, it claims, from the United States and Saudi Arabia. Although rarely mentioned in public, persuading Iran to budge on issues like its nuclear program may well depend on addressing what it now sees as a multi-faceted, global attack on it by Sunni jihadis. 

On Sept. 9, those jihadists detonated a massive car bomb at an Iranian military base near the border, clearing a path for 70 fighters to stream in. According to astatement from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, reinforcements had to be helicoptered to the scene to end a three-and-a-half-hour gun battle, and the fighters fled across the border into Pakistan. A few weeks later, the militants carried out a series of raids on border posts, killing five Iranian policemen. The attacks were the latest in a long campaign of roadside explosions, suicide bombings at mosques, and gun attacks on security posts that have killed more than 600 Iranians, mostly civilians, since 2005. 

Across the entrance to the only functioning hotel in Turbat, the proprietor has strung a thick rope to slow down gunmen who may want to attack his patrons. The carpeting is worn, the furniture is falling apart, and the electricity is out for most of the day. Here, in a dilapidated room, Saleem recounts the November blast. “Some buildings collapsed. Luckily, none of the kids were inside those.” 

Clean-shaven and balding, Saleem is in his forties and walks with a limp. He speaks in a whisper, flanked by the two locals who set up the meeting. They eye the door anxiously, convinced that at any moment, a Pakistani or Iranian intelligence officer will come barging in. 

“The blast was so strong,” he said, “we thought the world was ending.” Saleem believes that the strike came from a nearby airbase across the Iranian border. Others, he recalls, heard the buzzing of Iranian drones. 

He hesitates when I ask him about the target of the other missiles. “I don’t even want to name him, he's not even from our area—but the missiles hit his homes.” 

The man whose name Saleem is reluctant to utter is “Mullah Omar” (not to be confused with the Afghan Taliban leader of the same name). A senior Iranian official in Pakistan later confirmed the strike took place, declining to elaborate. 


December 28, 2014 

Obama’s Lists: A Dubious History Of Targeted Killings In Afghanistan; Over Reliance On Armed Drones Is A Strategic Mistake

The German news magazine — Der Spiegel, notes that while “combat operations in Afghanistan may be coming to an end, a look at secret NATO documents reveals that the U.S. and the U.K. were far less scrupulous in choosing targets for killing than previously believed. Drug dealers were also on the lists.”

The magazine describes one U.S./U.K. targeted- killing/drone attack in which an Afghan, who’s codename is ‘Doody,’ a “mid-level commander” in the Taliban — according to what the magazine claims is a Secret NATO document — number 3,673 on the list and NATO has assigned him a priority-level three — on a scale of one to four. In other words,” Der Speigel notes, “he isn’t particularly important with the Taliban leadership structure. The operations center identified “Doody” at 10:17am local; but, the visibility was poor and the helicopter is forced to circle another time. Then the gunner fires a “Hellfire” missile. But then, the helicopter pilot lost sight of the Mullah during the maneuver, and the missile strikes a man and his child instead.” According to the documents, the boy is killed instantly, and the father is severely wounded. When the pilot realizes that the wrong man has been targeted, he fires 100 rounds at “Doody,” with his 30-mm gun, critically injuring the mullah.”

Der Spiegel says “the child and his father are two of the many victims of the dirty secret operations that NATO conducted for years in Afghanistan. Their fate is described in Secret documents to which Spiegel was given access,” the article said. “Some of the documents concerning the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and the GCHQ and NSA intelligence services are from the documents of whistleblower [leaker]by Edward Snowden,” the magazine said. “Included,” Der Spiegel says, “is the first, known, complete list of the Western alliance’s “targeted killings” in Afghanistan. The documents show that the deadly missions were not just viewed as a last resort to prevent attacks; but, were in fact — part of everyday life in the guerilla war in Afghanistan.”

“The list, which included 750 people at times, proves for the first time, that NATO didn’t just target the Taliban leadership; but, also eliminated mid, and lower-level members of the group on a large scale. Some Afghans were only on the list because they were drug dealers — who were reportedly supporting the insurgents,” the publication said.

Rules of War

“The 13yr. combat mission in Afghanistan, comes to an official end this week; but, the kill lists raise the legal and moral questions that extend far beyond Afghanistan,” Der Spiegel argues. “Can a democracy be allowed to kill its enemies in a targeted manner — when the objective is not to prevent an imminent threat? And, does the goal of eliminating as many Taliban as possible justify the killing of innocent bystanders?,” the publication asks.

“Different rules apply in war than in fighting crimes in times of peace. But, for years, the West tied its campaign in Afghanistan, to the promise that it was fighting for different values there. A democracy that kills its enemies on the basis of nothing but suspicion, squanders its claim to moral superiority — making itself complicit instead. This lesson from Afghanistan also applies to the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen,” Der Spiegel argues.

The material that Der Spiegel reviewed all fell within POTUS Obama’s tenure, who campaigned that Afghanistan was “the good war,” and therefore legitimate — in contrast to the Iraq War,” which candidate and POTUS Obama has called a mistake and unwarranted.

“When POTUS Obama assumed office, the U.S. opted for a new strategy in Afghanistan; and then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates installed Army Special Forces four-star, Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the new commander there. Gen. McChrystal “promoted an aggressive pursuit of the Taliban,” Der Spiegel said. POTUS Obama also sent an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan; but, “their deployment was tied to a demand that the military provide a binding date for withdrawal. At the same time,” Der Spiegel said, “POTUS Obama distanced himself from the grand objectives the West had proclaimed when it first marched into Kabul. The U.S. would not try to make Afghanistan “a perfect place,” POTUS Obama insisted. “It’s new main objective was to fight the insurgency.”

‘Escalate And, Exit


December 29, 2014

The “mujahideen” reached Peshawar in the early 19th century, bringing with them a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam and the readiness of zealots to use violence – then against the Sikhs. Their leader, Sayyid Ahmed from Rae Bareilly in northern India, who was inspired by the reformist preacher Shah Waliullah, is still celebrated today in the officially sanctioned ideology of Pakistan as a forefather of modern jihad. But local Pashtuns, who disliked his severe interpretation of Islam, rejected him and the Sikhs killed him in 1831. The story is significant in showing how in the history of the region, extremism and religiously sanctioned violence was just as likely to move from east to west, from the heartland of undivided British India to Pashtun lands, as it was to move from west to east. It has all the more resonance following this month’s attack by Taliban militants on a school in Peshawar, in which more than 140 people – most of them children – were killed. It is an attack that Pakistan would desperately prefer to blame on an external enemy hiding among the Pashtuns to the northwest than on influences radiating outwards from its heartland.

The narrative that the dangers of extremism would come from predominantly Pashtun lands to the northwest of British India – including large parts of modern-day Afghanistan, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) adjacent to Peshawar – is of British origin. It was a convenient way for colonial functionaries to explain to London their poor judgment, which led to the massacre of a British army on its retreat from Kabul in 1842. That retreat took place more than a decade after Sayyid Ahmed died, and yet it is far more frequently cited as a foundational moment for the development of jihad in the region than his arrival in Peshawar from the east. Later, the British would relegate the Pashtun lands to the periphery of the British Raj, happy to avoid the burden of governance provided that Afghanistan accepted British tutelage on foreign policy. The British colonial spotlight on the Indian subcontinent meant that the history of Afghanistan was often consigned to the shadows. If there were a grammar of Raj thinking, the Pashtuns would always be the objects of a sentence, never its subjects.

The Pakistani state, the direct inheritor of British colonial power in the lands bordering Afghanistan, has preserved many elements of the Raj view of Pashtuns. Its military continues to see Afghanistan as a country over which it has rightful influence – as it has proved with its enduring support for the Afghan Taliban and other Pashtun groups opposed to the government in Kabul. It still governs the Pashtun tribes living in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) through the colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulation. Since the United States overthrew the Taliban in Kabul in 2001, Pakistan has also been able to rely on an orientalist description of “untameable” Pashtuns to explain resistance to the American presence in Afghanistan. This explanation also allows Pakistan to avoid its own active role in Afghanistan’s instability. Some years back, Pakistan’s military establishment, which runs foreign and security policy, even managed to convince many at home and in the West that the Pakistani Taliban were essentially wild tribals riled up by U.S. drone strikes in FATA. After the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack on the school in Peshawar this month,