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Saturday, 3 April 2010

From Today's Papers - 03 Apr 2010

Army Chief’s hard talk Tackling corruption is high priority 
It is not usual for a Chief of Army Staff to publicly make adverse observations about the ‘internal health’ of the Indian Army that is otherwise held in high public esteem. General V.K. Singh may have charted a new course in publicly acknowledging the gravity of the problem on the day of his assuming charge as Army Chief and announcing a need for an ‘operation clean up’. But he is not the first to acknowledge that there is a serious problem within the Army. In February 1985, a quarter century ago, General K. Sundarji had on assuming command as Army chief issued an internal letter criticising the Army’s officer cadre for ‘becoming increasingly careerist, opportunistic and sycophantic’ while lamenting the decline in ‘standards of integrity’. His letter was preceded by a decade-long debate within the Army through much of the 1970s that corruption was fast becoming a bane of the Indian Army. But never before in the Army’s post-Independence history has moral, professional and material corruption been making headlines as frequently as in this decade with many among them Lt Generals and Major Generals.  The Army, which has an impressive record of post-partition nation consolidation and subsequent nation preservation that has involved fighting wars with belligerent neighbours and quelling insurgency and terrorism in far flung states caused mostly by political and administrative mismanagement, has played a critical role in the country’s post-Independence history. For a complex mix of reasons ranging from careerism, a steadily growing inability to attract the best and brightest, shortage of officers, hardship postings ranging from harsh terrains to insurgencies that entail long separations from family, a steady decline in the warrant of precedence, questionable remuneration, and a widespread culture of corruption nationwide has combined to create a rot.  General Singh is right in saying that the Army’s value system has to be different from civil society. Difficult as it is, ridding the Army of corruption has become absolutely imperative for an institution that must always be above board and which is crucial to national security.

Army to set up cyber security laboratory
Vijay Mohan Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, April 2 As the armed forces gear for operations in a network-centric environment, the army is setting up a cyber security laboratory to train and officers in establishing and maintaining security protocols for a conglomerate of signal and data transmission networks.  The laboratory is being set up at the Military College of Telecommunication Engineering (MCTE) at Mhow. The Army is looking for vendors who can provide the requisite hardware and software for the project on a turnkey basis.  Sources said the Information Technology (IT) wing of college already has a laboratory for network applications that would form the basis for the cyber security laboratory. MCTE functions under the aegis of the Corps of Signals, the Army’s nodal arm dealing with information warfare and communication networks. The college runs several courses related to IT and communication.  The Army aims to become a network-enabled force by 2012 and network centric force by 2017. Over the past few years, it has been conducting field exercises to validate its concepts to exploit information technology by integrating collection and analysis of real-time information into the decision making process. So far the Army is a long way off from being fully networked and, according to sources its internal intranet is so far reached down only to division level.  The threat of hacking and interception to communication and data networks, which depend on landlines as well as radio waves is very serious. There have been numerous instances in the past where networks have reportedly been hacked and sensitive information compromised. The most recent example is that of some computers in the Prime Minister’s Office and some other sensitive installations being compromised through malicious e-mails.  Hacking is used extensively by intelligence agencies and military forces to gather information of subvert networks. China, for example, is known to indulge in hacking and has an established cyber-warfare doctrine backed by a dedicated establishment pursuing its objectives. Elements in Pakistan are also known to be active hackers.  Sources said it was not just government networks that are targets, but also the private computers and e-mails of individuals occupying sensitive posts that fall prey to hackers as these can reveal valuable information.  As a precaution against hacking, the Armed Forces have established a protocol for using computers and networks in their establishments. As a rule, computers on the intranet are not linked to any computer used for accessing the Internet or connected with any outside network. Regular cyber audits are conducted to sanitise computers and networks.

US-Russia N-arms control: A farce
April 03, 2010 02:37 IST Tags: Barack Obama, NPT Review Conference, Obama administration, New START, India Email this Save to My Page Ask Users Write a Comment How history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. The era of arms control is back. It was indeed tragic that all the arms control pacts between the United States and the former Soviet Union could not prevent the qualitative and quantitative improvements in the nuclear arsenals of the two super powers during the Cold War. And what is now being attempted by the two sides almost verges on the farcical, notes Harsh V Pant.  US President Barack Obama [ Images ] and his Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev will be signing their new arms control pact -- New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty)-- in Prague on April 8 that will lower limit on deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 each from the 2,200 permitted as of 2012.  Furthermore, it will lower the limit on launchers to 800 while putting a cap on nuclear-armed missiles and heavy bombers at 200 each. The pact is being heralded as one of the most far-reaching foreign policy accomplishments of Barack Obama.  It indeed comes at a crucial time for the US as Obama will be hosting one of the largest global summits aimed at securing loose nuclear material in April.  And then in May the US will be making an argument at the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty Review Conference to strengthen the NPT. The Obama administration wants to use the new treaty with Moscow [ Images ] to make a case to the US Senate for the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to the international community for a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.  It is being hoped in the corridors of power in Washington, DC that this pact will establish Obama administration's credibility before the nuclear security summit and the NPT Review Conference.  After all the initial hoopla about the new pact, however, it turns out that the new 10-year START will be making lower-than-advertised changes in the arsenals of the US and Russia [ Images ], leading to an actual decline of only about 100-200 weapons. The treaty cuts warheads only half as much as was accomplished by George W Bush [ Images ] in his 2002 Treaty of Moscow with Vladimir Putin [ Images ].  The treaty also does not affect the US ability to put a conventional warhead on either submarine-launched or ground-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles as part of the new global strike concept.  This gives the US the ability to strike a target anywhere within an hour without relying on the nuclear arsenal. The non-nuclear Prompt Global Strike weapon could achieve the effects of nuclear weapons, without turning a conventional war into a nuclear one.  The new treaty is not likely to affect American plans for a missile system to protect Europe and the US against Iranian missiles. This limited plan will be phased in over a ten-year period. Russia continues to view this missile system as a threat.  Meanwhile, the Obama administration has already announced that it will be spending billions of dollars more on updating America's weapons laboratories to assure the reliability of a smaller arsenal.  Yet, even this limited treaty was difficult to come by as Russia demanded less intrusive verification rules and was not inclined to share telemetry data on its missile tests. The Obama administration has decided to privilege arms control in its relationship with Russia in the hope that Russians would be of help on issues of global concern.  So far there is little evidence for this. And the Russians made sure that the completion of the deal took much longer and was much harder than the US had anticipated.  Moreover, there is little likelihood of the US and Russia moving beyond the currently agreed limits. Russian military views a strong nuclear arsenal as essential to counter American conventional superiority and America remains concerned about Russian advantage in short-range nuclear missiles.  It is no surprise, therefore, that the latest treaty does not touch the issue of tactical nuclear weapons and stored nuclear warheads. Tactical weapons are more likely to get used, so an agreement on them would have actually meant something.  At a time when real proliferation threats are being left unaddressed in practice, the rhetoric of arms control is unlikely to help the Obama administration achieve anything at the upcoming NPT Review Conference.  The US provides its nuclear security umbrella to around 31 countries around the world. It is important the US deterrent remains available and credible if these countries are to continue with the foreswearing of nuclear weapons.  The countries in the Gulf have no interest in a marginal reduction of American and Russian arsenals when they are facing the prospect of a nuclear Iran.  At best, the New START is a superfluous agreement that will have very little impact on the trajectory of global nuclear discourse. But the US will use these cosmetic changes to put pressure on India [ Images ] on the nuclear issue.  The NPT Review Conference will see renewed pressure on India to join the NPT as non- nuclear weapons state despite the acceptance of India's de facto nuclear status by the Nuclear Supplier's Group.  There have already been calls that the exception granted to India goes against the spirit of the NPT. Indian national security interests demand that the government should focus single-mindedly on strengthening its deterrent posture.  If a weaker India could resist the global pressure on the nuclear issue for so long, there is no reason why a rising, more confident India should fear engaging with the global nuclear regime and underlining the fundamental flaws in the very architecture of the regime.  If the major powers are serious about global nuclear disarmament, they should get India's support, but if they continue to use arms control provisions to constrain the strategic autonomy of other states, India should have no reticence in making its voice heard.

Terror turmoil-I
In Pakistan, a man without his AK 47 is like a woman without her child-says a former Pakistani foreign minister and former speaker of Pakistani Assembly.  Exact statement of Mr. Gohar Ayub Khan is " Pakistani man without an AK 47 is like taking away child from a woman"  He was speaking during a discussion on Headlines Today, an Indian TV channel. The discussion was about the headquarters of terror-cum charity organization Jamaat Ud Dawa at Muridke about 30 kilometers from Lahore (Lahore is one of the largest cities in Pakistan with more than 10 million people living there). See short tv movies link below- Movies and discussions are in English.  JUD - involved in Mumbai Blast Muridke, headquarters of Jamaat is famous as the place where terrorist who attacked Mumbai were trained. After the terror attacks in Mumbai, Jammat Ud Dawa was declared a terrorist organization by United Nations.  Brave reporter Ms. Baweja One of the Indian reporters, Ms. Harjeet Baweja Of Headlines Today, could enter these headquarters and make these short tv-movies of activities going on there. I admire the courage of Harjeet and some other young girls who work as TV anchors and take trips to such dangerous places. Generally I think even Pakistani women may not want to venture out at such headquarters of terrorist organizations. The Headquarters of this organization looks to be a real contrast. You see in one shot 100's people running with AK 47 guns, In the second shot children, who look really getting trained for terrorist type activities and in the third one a little grown up- school going children playing with a computer, are seen. The camera then moves to a hospital in the compound, very modern one with all gadgets, operation theater, medicines, injections lying on tables and about 200 beds. A comparatively luxurious one.  Modern Hospital with 200 beds, operation theater but no patients, no doctors Seeing it one may start feeling -may be there is at least some charity activity in the organization as Pakistani government officials claim. But then you also wonder why so many AK 47 holding tough guys are there. Then suddenly you hear voice of reporter Ms. Baweja. She says, "do you notice there are no patients, no doctors in the whole hospital!"  Banned by government but city administrator says they can not stop its activities After the UN ban, Pakistani government had declared that it has banned the Jammat and government has freezed all its assets and taken over the whole organization. But it looks like these declarations have no meaning.  International Terrorist declared by UN and USA but roaming freely with AK 47 The chief of the organization Hafiz Saeed. He is considered to be the mastermind behind 26/11 terror attacks on hotels and metro stations in Mumbai, which killed around 166 people, from India, USA, UK, Australia etc. I remember, I had met a guy from USA and his daughter in a party in Mumbai one day and talked with them for some time and next day I saw on TV their picture, among those killed in this attack.  Hafeez Saeed has been declared by UN and USA an International terrorist but is roaming freely in this place and running this organization, which looks to be basically a terrorist training place with a cover up by phoney charity hospital, School etc.  In one shot administrator of the city is shown to be saying, "The organization is banned but you can not say we have taken no action. We can not obviously close it down completely."  Procession of 10,000 people carrying AK 47 In another shot Hafeez Saeed is shown to be leading a procession of more than 10,000 people, almost all carrying AK 47 and shouting loudly, "One Mumbai attack is not enough. Let us have jehad. We will have to do at least 1000 Mumbai type attacks."  1.7 million AK 47 in Pakistan illegally owned- one illegal AK 47 for every 100 people The former speaker of parliament of Pakistan, Mr. Gohar was reacting to these shots. He claimed that there are more than 1.7 million illegal AK 47 In Pakistan. That makes one AK 47 for every hundred people that too illegal? He was saying that Pakistan is armed to teeth with illegal weapons. Thus he was practically implying that there is nothing unusual in such processions with 10000 people with AK 47 and issuing threats of 1000 terrorist attacks.  He acted indeed funny in the show. Initially he tried to defend these scenes etc. by such funny arguments. Like one of his argument was that this organization is a charity organization. It had reached at earthquake place before government and almost implied that hence it should be allowed to carry out its violent training etc. Another of his argument was it has nothing to hide, otherwise why will it allow a reporter from India.  "We may be running terror training camps for terror attacks on you but let us be friends" But after some discussion, when it became clear that movie makes it pretty clear that the place is terrorist training type place and Pakistani establishment seems to be quite involved in this terror training camp as well as in providing it a cover up, he started arguing "why should Indian channels show such scenes and discussions. Let us be friends. People of India and Pakistan are the same. They love each other. Let us be friends."  What type of society Pakistani top rulers have in mind for their country When you see that their former speaker of parliament, former minister for foreign affairs implies that there is nothing wrong with a procession of 10,000 people with most carrying AK 47's and shouting that they will do 1000's of terror attacks, killing people from all over world, specially from India, you start wondering what are these rulers planning about their own country?  Corruption and Duplicity- smugglers and criminals provide security to USA army supplying convoys Former president of Pakistan Musharraf did all sort of double games during his rule in Pakistan. Now it is practically accepted by every one in world that he duped both USA and Taliban or Al-Qaeda. Currently in Pakistan some administrators and journalists are trying to assess amount of contracts (most of the money came from USA), Musharraf managed to give to his relatives and friends in army and government organizations. According to them it seems to run into at least a billion dollars.  USA army in Afghanistan gets practically all its supplies via Pakistan. The goods are offloaded at Karachi port and then carried in conveys of trucks to Afghanistan. There are reports, which say that companies which provide these trucks are owned by some of the top government officials, even presidents or their relatives, friends etc. The security for these are provided by the same smugglers or terrorist against whom USA army is supposed to fight. Some reports say, Dawood Ibrahim, who has been declared international terrorist, smuggler and is perhaps also an agent of Pakistani spy agency ISI, is involved in providing such security to USA army supply convoys. He has been involved in several terrorist blasts in India.  Terror-cum smuggling machinery of Dawood Ibrahim, spread over India, Mid-East, South East Asia, USA, UK is reported to have turn over in several 100's of million dollars.  People who go for terror training in Pakistan do not have entry stamps of Pakistan on their passports Terrorists from many countries including India, USA, UK, Western Europe, Russia, China, Central Asia have been found to have had their terror training in Pakistan. Such terrorists often go to Pakistan via Middle East. Many of these terrorists did not have on their passports entry stamps of Pakistan, or any other record of their trips to Pakistan, even though they admitted that they were in Pakistan.  Terror Machinery is considered strategic depth for Pakistan, which will help them in creating equality with India, manipulating government in Afghanistan and bargaining with USA money and creation of international status It seems pretty clear that Pakistan is currently being ruled by army top bosses and some feudal lords. Also most of these top guys do support creating and maintaining terror machinery in Pakistan and their hubs in other countries. The terror machinery is supposed to be strategic depth for Pakistan in their defense and foreign policy goals. Their claim seems to be that India is too large but Pakistan has to be equal to India and only way to equalize is to have a terror machinery. It does not end of course with India. Talibans are needed for strategic depth in Afghanistan, otherwise Pakistan will feel insecure. Then they have to have training camps for terrorists stationed practically any where in world, Middle East, Russia, USA, UK, West Europe etc. It helps Pakistani army to squeeze money and arms out of USA.  US Army generals and top diplomats also have started singing the same song as Pakistani Army  USA soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq were supposed to provide strength to itself and world. But now it seems to have become weakness for its administration and army generals, it has to announce that it can not support Israel much because that will provide insecurity to its soldiers? Army top officials and diplomats of USA in Pakistan practically every day make announcements which indirectly hint that Pakistan has right to keep its terrorist machinery intact as its strategic assets against India and Afghanistan (all because USA needs a face saving device to get out its army -- which face of USA does it save?). They seem to be now getting ready to announce similarly for Nukes in Pakistan.  USA intrusion in Af-Pak region was supposed to save world from Taliban but now it plans to negotiate with Taliban and thrust them and Pakistan on Afghanistan. For American Administration, suddenly Taliban or Hamas etc. seem to have become human friendly organizations, generating equality in world . Friendship circle of USA or countries in the same wavelength as itself seem to be changing in Asia-Pacific from Japan, Australia, Israel and India to Taliban, Palestinian terror organizations, Pakistan etc.  One of the strangest campaigns by USA media, press and administration is that of trying to nail Afghanistan President Karzai on charges of corruption. Again it seems American administration is in the spell of Pakistani spy agency ISI and army bosses and trying to work on Pakistani ISI agenda rather than their own. Americans should really look first at corruption of its own team. The following quote in article by M.K. Bhadra Kumar in atimes is worth pondering over. (see link below for the full article- a very interesting analysis)  "But then, no one is asking Holbrooke since when is it that corruption became a big issue in America's South Asia policies? Billions and billions of dollars American taxpayers' dollars were funneled into the black hole that was military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq's Pakistan during the Afghan jihad.  In today's Afghan war, history is repeating itself. There is no accountability about where the money is going and it is the talk of the bazaars that vested interests control disbursement of such vast sums of money. The US Congress should perhaps begin an investigation starting with the so-called "experts" who advise the Pentagon and Holbrooke's team."  May be USA administrators and army generals think of it as just a temporary strategic step to get them out of some of the problems they are facing and are not serious about such crazy indications by them or what seems to be a submission to ISI agenda. But still it seems a bit strange for USA to follow such a course even for a strategy. After all USA administration is not Pakistani Army!    Musharraf's unique gift Musharraf's rule and support he got from USA Europe did harm Pakistan quite a bit, still he did give a unique long lasting gift to Pakistan. He made its media and press practically free. Even though there are some problems still left, for example any body writing strong words against Pakistani Army or ISI is threatened immediately, some have been killed also. But there are many quite bold writers. This is perhaps first time that Press and media have such a freedom in Pakistan.  I have been asked several times by Americans "why did Musharraf made media and press free?" There are no clear answers. One possibility is that he assessed that their barks may not matter much for him and he can get away with real bad ones. What ever may be his reasons, this seems to be one of the great developments. A lid opened by Musharaff may now never get easily closed. Even Pakistani army may not dare to go too far in this respect.   Not every one in Pakistan thinks that these ideas of strategic depths via terror thrusted by army top and feudal rulers are good for them and Pakistan Fortunately not every one agrees with these ideas of strategic depths via terror thrusted by army top and feudal rulers are good for them and Pakistan. Average Pakistani has to worry more about his daily bread, butter and living conditions, just like any other country. He/She has practically no time for thinking about such exotic strategic depths.  Also many political experts, journalists, opinion writers are against these ideas. They are worried about the direction their country is taking. I am giving below links to some of these write ups, blogs etc. from Pakistani press.  Let us hope this silent majority in Pakistan and writers and journalists of Pakistan can provide direction and strength to their country to get it out of terror turmoil created by insecure army top, feudal rulers of their country and some others.  Countries like USA, India should support this strength from silent majority in Pakistan. But just now USA seems to be supporting opposite side- the Pakistani army and feudal lords while India's moves are not clearly directed at all towards solving these problems of terror generation against them by Pakistani army top and feudal lords etc.

Strengthen internal security: Army chief 
A day after taking charge as the Indian army chief, Gen VK Singh on Thursday said internal security in the country needs to be strengthened to fight external challenges.  "Our internal health (security) is very important. Till the time our internal security is not up to the mark, we won't be able to take good care of external challenges," Singh told reporters here.   "For this, we will give due attention to our core values and ethos," he added.  Singh, 59, took over as army chief Wednesday. He will hold the office till he turns 62.  Asked about the Chinese threat perception against India, he said: "I can assure (that) for any challenges against us we are fully prepared. Preparedness is (an) ongoing process... we are making our training more practical."

Three Let militants killed in J-K encounter
Express news service Posted online: Friday , Apr 02, 2010 at 1634 hrs Jammu : In one of the biggest counter insurgency operation going on since March 23 in parts of Jammu and adjoining Rajouri districts, troops of Uniform Force and state police personnel jointly killed three more Lashkar militants in Songri forests nearly 9 kms north-east of Kalakote in Rajouri district this morning.  A defence ministry spokesman Lt Colonel Biplab Nath said that the contract with militants was established around 8 am and three of them were killed during an hour long fire fight. The operation was still in progress as some more militants were reportedly holed up in the area.  The slain militants were part of the heavily armed group which appeared to have sneaked into the state from across the Line of Control through the plains of Palanwala sector on the intervening night of March 22-23. With this, the total number of militants killed by troops and police during the last one week has gone to 15 as six militants were killed in adjoining Dharamsal forests only yesterday.  The Army too have lost its four men including a havaldar, while a police inspector has been injured during the 12 day long operation which is still in progress.  Fourteen AK rifles, besides UBGLs, pistols, half a dozen satellite phones and almost an equal number of global positioning systems (GPS), besides Rs 1.30 lakh in Indian currency are among various things seized from them.  The militants were first spotted by a villager and two women and they had asked them to show the route to Rajouri through Kalidhar range. However, they let them go after sometime, but not before beating them up.  Last year, troops and state police personnel had jointly laid seize of Bhatti Dhar forests in Mendhar tehsil of Poonch district for 11 days during January last year wherein two armymen including a junior commissioned officer and a Special Police Officer were among seven people killed. However, the militants had managed to escape.  Sources said that militants appear to have been unable to move towards their destination which appears to be Doda or Kashmir Valley due to large scale combing operation simultaneously launched at various places by troops and state police personnel after the news about their having been spotted by some villagers poured in. The first contact with the infiltrating group was established at Kabakote in Rajouri district where two militants were killed on March 27.  Three days thereafter, the troops again tracked down the militants in Dharamsal forests in Kalakote areas through intercept of their satellite phones and killed four more during a night long encounter at Tiryath.  A similar combing operation was in progress in the nearby Bagla forests the same day, but militants managed to escape. Following this, troops from other formations in neighbouring areas were also rushed to bagla on March 31 and six militants were killed there the next day.

Af-Pak and India’s Strategic Innocence
Raj Shukla  April 2, 2010  If the grand design of the Manmohan Singh government is to forge peace with Pakistan as a liberating step in our sub-continental rivalry, India should surely be more understanding of Pakistani sensitivities in Afghanistan and its larger paranoia. Can a nation which has been done in once in the past, of course largely by its own blunders but also with some strategic help from India (the creation of Bangladesh), afford on its Western borders a government which is seen to be kowtowing to India? Much of this haranguing about strategic depth is nothing but a desperate desire in Pakistan for a friendly dispensation on its West, so that it is free from the fear of being destabilized from the rear. India’s good friend Hamid Karzai himself has alluded to the reality of the triangular matrix by describing Afghanistan and Pakistan as “conjoint twins” with India being a mere “friend.” In the dance for influence and power, therefore, why not gracefully allow the “twin” a larger role? Unless of course there are overwhelming compulsions of national interest, in which case we must recognize the prevalent hardball, take necessary risks and act with far greater persuasion and resolve so as to apply soft and hard power in an appropriate mix to get a foothold in the emerging power dynamic. The problem with India’s posture is that we seem to be shying away from the existing realities and simply hoping that economic engagement alone will secure our interests. It takes some strategic innocence to aspire for influence in a country as dangerous, conspiratorial and bloody as Afghanistan, without being willing to muddy our boots. And it is plainly ridiculous to expect Mr. Jayant Prasad and a lone military attaché to match the power and guile of Jallaluddin Haqqani and Shuja Pasha. If we seek greater influence in Afghanistan, we need to recognize the salience of military drivers therein and leverage our capacities accordingly. And if we are unwilling or unable to do so, simply and gracefully stay out. The reason we seem to be falling in between two stools is because we seek influence while being unwilling to take attendant risks (reiterating our resolve to stay engaged times without number, without spelling out as to how precisely we shall secure our interests).  India’s engagement in Afghanistan has been based on a set of soft choices - economic, infrastructural, developmental and humanitarian assistance (an estimated 4000 Indians are involved in the reconstruction effort with an investment of 1.3 billion dollars) with security guarantees coming from the Karzai government and its infantile tools. We eschewed a more deterministic military role for ourselves, even though short of direct military committal we could have done much more to shape the security dynamic in Afghanistan. We could have opted for greater involvement - through some direct military diplomacy and a broad based training commitment for instance (a stake in the planned training of 300,000 ANA/ANP personnel by 2013 is of course a gargantuan challenge but also a huge opportunity), so that we had friends, linkages and far greater leverage in the emerging security framework, but we chose not to. There were many who had cautioned against the adoption of this effete strategic outlook, whereby, even as we kept on enlarging our civilian engagement we did not do enough to shore up attendant security concerns, but we hung on to our bravado. There were others who advocated keeping channels open with some elements in the Taliban leadership but their calls went unheeded, defying not only common sense but also mathematical logic. The Taliban, it bears reiteration, represents the Pashtuns - the single largest ethnic identity in Afghanistan numbering about 40 million - how can you simply refuse to do business with such a numerically significant entity? Today, many liberal Pashtuns complain that India did not back them strongly enough. Of course, the choices were never and are still not easy, with each of the major players being a bundle of contradictions - Karzai is reportedly doing a deal with Pakistan because he feels that India did not put its weight behind him with sufficient resolve, the Taliban is grateful that India did not intervene militarily but openly claims responsibility for the recent attack in Kabul alleging RAW presence, and our natural ally (the United States) does not want us in because of fear of inviting Pakistani wrath. But the Pakistanis and the Americans were faced with similarly difficult choices - yet they did assert themselves and muscled their way in. In contrast, India was simply not assertive enough, a perception now publicly reinforced by the likes of Moridian Dawood, Advisor to the Afghan Foreign Minister, who has said, “India seems apologetic about its presence. It’s a regional player and must behave like one, instead of insisting on a benign presence with a penchant for staying in the background.” By design, or more accurately by conscious drift, therefore, we conceded the strategic initiative to Pakistan. We took the burden of a good democracy to Afghanistan, but as is our wont forgot to under gird it with force (not merely its combat dimension, but its numerous softer nuances). Pakistan, on the other hand, chose to pay with blood and leveraged its role in targeting the Afghan Taliban in hideouts on its side of the border with skill. From accused (terror epicentre) it turned approver and is now using arrests of key Taliban leaders (Mullah Baradar) to further muscle its way into the emerging power structure in Afghanistan. It has also deftly nuanced its counter terror response - decisive contest with the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba) and selective engagement with the Afghan Taliban, while continuing to aid and abet the LeT and Jaish as foreign policy tools along its Eastern borders.  With regard to the broader situation, there are of course huge difficulties, but there is also the faint glimmer of hope. The United States has done a great deal and will continue to remain engaged over the next 12 to 18 months in seeking military ascendancy over the Taliban. The fear that America will cut costs and run does sound a little unreal - having invested so much in blood and treasure it will stay for a while, and an early exit will come about only if America begins to cede the military initiative. If it continues with its military ascendancy as seems to be the case now, Obama will be empowered to prolong the American stay (public support for the American involvement in Afghanistan is already growing). The exit time table is more in the nature of a warning to others to get their act together, since the Americans cannot be expected to stay forever. Efforts are on under the stewardship of Maj. Gen. Richard Barrons to lure away the second tier leadership of the Taliban and peel away the hard core fighters by offering them jobs and cash (250 dollars a month as against 300 dollars on offer by the Taliban). In a few years from now, Afghanistan could begin to resemble today’s Iraq - restive, violent, not greatly democratized but not entirely anarchic either. Operation Mushtarak aimed at capturing the drug stronghold - Marjah, and despite the recent Taliban fightback in Musa Qala this may turn out to be the Fallujah moment in Afghanistan (not as bloody but possibly as decisive). If the trend continues in Kandahar (Operation Omaid is due to begin in June) and then in Eastern Afghanistan where the all powerful Jalaluddin Haqqani is ensconced in the provinces of Khost, Pakyta, Pakhtiar and Gardez, the halo of invincibility shrouding the Taliban may begin to disappear.  We do seem to have got it wrong - staying engaged as reiterated by the National Security Adviser and even by the Prime Minister, is of course a symbol of our altruistic resolve, but whether it reflects strategic acuity or even level headed pragmatism is another matter. Afghanistan was a test case for our foreign policy resolve - an arena where while leveraging other tools of foreign policy, use of instruments of force and military diplomacy/intelligence should have been predominant. But that would have meant a paradigm shift in our foreign policy construct, leading to a greater role for the military. It was easier therefore to deflect by jumping to the usual conclusions about use of force not being an option - the various reasons being trotted out do seem to be frivolous. The end state in Afghanistan will soon reflect the pusillanimous reality, because in life as in diplomacy you reap as you sow. While we may continue to gain goodwill, we will soon be faced with the prospect of waning influence in the evolving power structure and little security for our civilian presence. Closer home, we may be faced with a qualitatively upgraded terror threat - the ISI/LeT could use surrendered Taliban cadres to bring the menace of deadly suicide bombers to our door step (revelations in the ongoing Headley saga which document his linkages with elements of the Al Qaeda in North Waziristan point to the rather ominous possibilities of collusion). Even at this late stage there is a need to seriously review our options. We lack the necessary military presence and leverage with the security establishment in Afghanistan to secure our interests. Hamid Karzai is simply not in a position to guarantee our security. It may be more prudent to roll back our civilian engagement, unless we wish to lose more civilian lives. Merely pumping in more and more CRPF personnel in defensive rings will be of little help in a country where we have no penetration in the central facets of the security dynamic and no worthwhile military presence, such defensive rings can be easily breached - especially by seasoned rogues from the ISI.  We also need to ponder over our broader approach - instead of going down the familiar road of preachiness/talking down to Pakistan (repeatedly describing it as a state whose creation was fundamentally flawed, a failed/failing state, etc.) and indulging in endless diplomatic gobbledygook without accompanying resolve, we need to change tone and tenor and become less patronising while quietly undergirding our own response with far greater acuity and resolve. It may also be useful if we were to revisit the utility and wisdom of some of our own polemical rhetoric. We need to acknowledge that Pakistan may be a troubled state in many ways but it is neither failed, nor failing. Given its peculiar dynamic it is indeed a smart survivor with an uncanny knack of leveraging its benefactors (the Americans and the Chinese) with particular finesse. We must also avoid the easy temptation of churlishly finding fault for many of our own failings in the persona of the Pakistan Army - the number of people in Delhi’s seminar circuit who needlessly spit venom on the Pakistan military as the mother of all evils is indeed incredible. “Kashmir is merely an obsession with the Pakistan Army, the ordinary Pakistani does not care,” is the frequent assertion. Really? Last week, prominent Pakistani media personality Hamid Mir (who is no friend of the Pakistan military establishment), when asked by CNN-IBN as to what was the central obstacle in India-Pakistan relations, simply stated “Kashmir.” We need to acknowledge this reality. Sample some of the responses to the recently concluded Strategic Dialogue in Washington. As soon as news came that Kayani and Shuja Pasha would attend, we saw a spate of Pakistan military bashing once again. Strategic Dialogues are a great deal about matters military - so if Generals Kayani and Shuja Pasha represented the Pakistani delegation, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman JCS, represented the Americans. That is the global practice. If our own horribly antiquated practices don’t reflect the same, we need to make amends and not curse the Pakistan military. Anyway, while there is little we can do about the US-Pakistan or Sino-Pakistan engagements, there is a great deal we can do ourselves - strengthening our counter terror response domestically, making sure we have viable military response options in the event of another Mumbai (well thought through, swift and decisive), restoring our greatly eroded conventional military edge, enhancing the credibility of our nuclear deterrent, initiating long pending organizational and structural defence reforms in the absence of which we shall continue to field an impaired military capability. This will be far more useful than the endless parroting of strategic nonsense like “force is no option”. Strategic Restraint lies in holding back despite the capacities and not in indulging in a lengthy exchange of dossiers since you neither have the capacities nor the resolve. While the former will inspire respect and may even deter, the latter is more likely to provoke fresh bouts of adventurism (especially when your thresholds are being monitored by smart cookies like Kayani and Shuja Pasha who sense weakness in our predilection to hum and haw).  Unfortunately, while this country has an extremely astute and sagacious political leadership, our National Security Management Structures (those that proffer options and advice) are held hostage to the Indian Foreign Service which may be extremely adept at leveraging diplomacy but has little understanding of instruments of force and their nuanced utilities. So when the odd opportunity does arise to graft the two in the interest of Indian statecraft they choke. Afghanistan is an instructive case in point. The absence of cross cultural inputs and a viable military dynamic in our foreign policy construct is the most serious handicap in our statecraft. A good way to begin might lie in designating somebody with a sound strategic mind and an understanding of the military dynamic as the Special Envoy to Afghanistan - it could be a Lt. General from the Army or somebody like C. Raja Mohan. Such an arrangement will be a welcome departure from the present practice of an extended swaddle (the Ambassador, Special Envoy and key appointments in the National Security Council are exclusively IFS) presenting the political leadership with the usual rigmarole - the same suspects producing the same stereotyped views. But will our combative turf warriors ever be able to place national interest before their own? Or, will our political class summon the nerve to abandon outdated tenets of civilian control and seek direct, unfettered, professional military advice on matters of foreign policy while simultaneously infusing our National Security Structures with cross cultural talent? Desultory consultation (often only when the crisis erupts) must make way for intimate, prior, continuous and informed dialogue with the military and the strategic community. The resultant feed will help to develop and nurture capacities, that allow us, when confronted with challenges like Afghanistan, to apply comprehensive national power to more purposeful effect.

US has excellent military ties with India: Pentagon
Wednesday, Mar 31, 2010 at 0906 hrs Washington : The United States has an excellent military to military relationship with India, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.  "We have very strong military-to-military relations with the Indian government, with the Indian military; have had them for some time," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said at a news briefing.  Morrell said Defence Secretary Robert Gates recently visited India when he reaffirmed the Obama Administration's commitment to have strong working relationship with the Indian military.  "The Secretary just visited India recently and reaffirmed our strong working relationship with Indian military, exploring new ways in which we can partner and exercise and do disaster-relief work, and sell weapons and other military hardware to the Indians," Morrell said.  At a Congressional hearing recently, Admiral Robert F Willard, Commander US Pacific Command had argued that the US must continue to strengthen its relationship with India.  "We must ensure the US-India relationship remains rooted in our extensive common interests of which the Afghanistan-Pakistan issue is only one," he said.  "I think that the India-US relationship right now is stronger than I've ever enjoyed. As you know, because of our history, we've only been truly engaging with India mil-to-mil for about the last half a dozen years; and yet it's been pretty profound how far that's come," Willard said in response to a question at the Congressional hearing.  He said America's relationship with India has grown significantly over the past five years as both countries work to overcome apprehensions formed during Cold War era, particularly with respect to defence cooperation.

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