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Monday, 2 August 2010

From Today's Papers - 02 Aug 2010







Keep the General in good humour
It is in India's interest to woo Myanmar and cosy up to the military junta there. New Delhi does not have too many options either, given China's prevailing clout. Harsh V. Pant  Myanmar’s military ruler General Than Shwe and his wife with the President and PM in New Delhi Myanmar’s military ruler General Than Shwe and his wife with the President and PM in New Delhi. Photo: Mukesh Aggarwal  Myanmar's reclusive military leader, General Than Shwe, just ended a five-day visit to India and signed a raft of pacts including treaties on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, counter terrorism, development projects, science and technology and information cooperation etc.  A memorandum of understanding was also signed to provide Indian assistance in restoring the Ananda temple in Bagan, a major tourist attraction in Myanmar.  Two issues were central - energy cooperation and insurgents operating in India's Northeast who manage to use the 1650 km long India-Myanmar border for their hiding purposes. India plans to invest more than $1 billion in Myanmar's energy sector over the next few years. Among the infrastructure and development projects that were discussed include an India-Myanmar-Thailand highway project, a hydro-electric project to be built by the NHPC, a truck assembly plant by Tata Motors and a border trade point on the Mizoram-Myanmar border.  In an attempt to restructure the India-Myanmar border areas, Myanmar has agreed to give citizenship cards to people of Indian origin even if they lack any document. In a sign that Myanmar wants to substantively engage India on economic and trade issues, Than Shwe visited the information technology hub in Hyderabad and the industrial centre in Jamshedpur.  Than Shwe's visit to New Delhi came days after the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in a speech at the ASEAN meeting urged regional countries to push Myanmar to comply with UN human rights resolutions.  The US is anxious that the junta in Myanmar will use its growing engagements with India to gain greater global legitimacy. The US Assistant Secretary of State, Kurt Campbell, suggested that India's growing role in global politics should be used to penetrate the tight military clique that runs Myanmar and that New Delhi should "encourage interlocutors inside [Myanmar] to embrace reforms."  After being a strong critic of the Myanmar junta, India muted its criticism and dropped its vocal support for Aung San Suu Kyi since mid-1990s to help pursue its 'Look East' policy aimed at strengthening India's economic linkages with the rapidly growing economies in East and South-east Asia. More important has been the realisation that China's profile in Myanmar has grown at an alarming pace.  India's ideological obsession with democracy made sure that Myanmar drifted towards China.  As India realised that one of its closest neighbors and a major source of natural gas, Myanmar, is coming under China's orbit, it reversed its policy of isolating the Burmese junta and has now begun to deal with it directly. India cannot afford to toe the western line on Myanmar. India's strategic interests demand that India only gently nudge the Myanmar's junta on the issue of democracy.  India's relief efforts after the tropical cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in 2008 earned it great deal of appreciation. India has gained a sense of trust at the highest echelons of the Myanmar's ruling elite and it would be loathe to lose it. Not surprising, therefore, that India remains opposed to western sanctions on the country.  After six years of discussions, India agreed to the building of Sittwe port in 2008 at a cost of $120 million. This will provide an alternative route to connect with South -east Asia without transiting Bangladesh. India has also extended a $20 million credit for renovation of the Thanlyin Refinery, but it also supported Myanmar against the U.S. censure motion in an attempt to lure the junta to grant preferential treatment to India in the supply of natural gas.  Bilateral trade between India and Myanmar today stands at almost $1 billion. The junta has cooperated with India in eliminating Naga insurgents. India's long border with Myanmar is an open one where the tribal population is free to move up to 20 kms on either side.  Apart from India's existing infrastructure projects in Myanmar, which include the 160-kilometer India-Myanmar friendship road built by India's Border Roads Organisation in 2001, India is looking into the possibility of embarking on a second road project and investing in a deep-sea project (Sagar Samridhi) to explore oil and gas in the Bay of Bengal as well as the Shwe gas pipeline project in western Myanmar.  Even as the Burmese military junta was readying for a violent crackdown on monks and democracy activists, the Indian petroleum minister was in Yangon signing a production deal for three deep-water exploration blocks off the Rakhine coast. While India did support the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution against Myanmar, it tried to tone it down and balance its democratic credentials with its desire to retain its influence with the Burmese military government.  Yet, India has found it difficult to counter Chinese influence in Myanmar, with China selling everything from weapons to food grains to Myanmar. There is no escaping the clout China wields in Myanmar. The Chinese firms get preferential treatment in the award of blocks and gas, apparently in recognition of China's steady opposition to the U.S. moves against Myanmar's junta in the UN.  China's growing naval presence in and around the Indian Ocean region is troubling India as it restricts India's freedom to manoeuvre in the region. Of particular note is what has been termed as China's "string of pearls" strategy that has significantly expanded China's strategic depth in India's backyard.  Some of these claims are exaggerated as has been the case with the Chinese naval presence in Myanmar. The Indian government, for example, had to concede in 2005 that reports of China turning Coco Islands in Myanmar into a naval base were incorrect and that there were indeed no naval bases in Myanmar. Yet the Chinese thrust into the Indian Ocean is gradually becoming more pronounced than before. The Chinese may not have a naval base in Myanmar but they are involved in the upgradation of infrastructure in the Coco Islands and may be providing some limited technical assistance to Myanmar.  Indian strategic interests, therefore, demand a robust partnership with Myanmar. Democracy promotion is a luxury that India cannot afford at the moment.








COUNTERPOINT Why was Indian civil society mute?
Sreeram Chaulia  A 5-day trip to India by Senior General Than Shwe, the head of the military junta that has ruled neighbouring Myanmar for decades, was expected to pass off smoothly. It did, as neither the Indian government nor the country's activist community rose to the occasion to apply any pressure on the draconian junta.  The itinerary of the General's second visit to India included access to the highest portals of power and business centres. Although incredulously dubbed as a "religious visit" by a devout Buddhist, Than Shwe came with a delegation of government officials and met the entire top brass of the Indian leadership. It was a de facto state visit that notched up workmanlike deals and accords on trade, investment and border security.  While the Indian government's 15-year-long logic of not upsetting Myanmar's entrenched authoritarian regime by advocating for democracy and civil liberties is strategically and morally questionable, an even more surprising silence has emanated from India's civil society.  Than Shwe visited major tourist and business centres across India where there is no dearth of activists, social workers and crusaders for justice. Yet, they did not think it worth their time and energy to display significant dissent.  The streets were largely left to Myanmarese exiles in India (unofficially around 100,000 strong) to voice their disgust at the honour and legitimacy being accorded to a man they consider a war criminal.  Myanmarese refugee organisations in India clearly have the greatest stake in their homeland's destiny, and they did turn out in sizeable numbers with banners and placards demanding that Than Shwe conduct free elections and release thousands of political prisoners. But glaringly absent from these mini-demonstrations were India's civil society progressives.  The Thailand-based Irrawaddy magazine mentioned as a footnote that a handful of Indian intellectuals, film makers, writers and movie stars had written a letter to the Manmohan Singh government denouncing the cosy relations between New Delhi and the blood-stained junta ensconced in Naypyidaw.  Some 'progressive' elements from India's marginal political parties, such as Jaya Jaitley of the Samata Party and the youth wing of the Communist Party of India, were observed marching, delivering speeches and burning effigies. However, such interventions belied the concept of 'civil society' participation, which is supposed to be non-electoral and unrelated to the agendas of political parties.  It is evident now that pro-democracy forces within the Indian civil society are negligible in number and declining in quality. When Than Shwe's deputy, General Maung Aye, came calling to India with an official entourage in April 2008, expatriate Myanmarese media outlets reported a gathering of over 1,000 Myanmarese exiles, Tibetan refugees and Indian civil society activists to mark their disapproval of the atrocities and repression being perpetrated by the junta.  But not even a few hundred Indian activists with some public clout and influence on opinion- making were around this time when Myanmar's head of state arrived.  The deficiencies and inconsistencies of the Indian civil society with regard to mobilising concern on issues of international social justice have been exposed in recent years in the Tibet theatre as well. When the Olympic torch relay in the run up to the Beijing summer games was underway in 2008, India proved to be one of the safest transit points. There was no untoward incident or even peaceful expression of mass outrage when the flame was carried by India's cognoscenti and selected sporting legends through sanitised New Delhi.  This passiveness stood in sharp contrast to the robust protests and symbolic shaming actions of civil society groups in a number of international cities, distressed by the Chinese government's crackdown in March 2008 on Tibet. The spirit of popular resistance to Chinese rule in Tibet, which were witnessed in the USA, Turkey, Japan, the UK, France, South Korea, Australia et al, were contrasted by sleepy anti-climaxes in India, West Asia, Africa and Latin America.  An interesting North-South divide has emerged in civil society approaches to murderous regimes in the decolonised world. While civil society activism in rich countries is global as well as self-critical in its range of interests, social movements in poorer, formerly colonised countries tend to be ambivalent about indignities meted out by states of fellow developing countries.  India's raucous civil society- a self-proclaimed defender of justice that estimates itself to be an avant garde force standing up against impunity and misrule- barely raised a whimper in the final stages of Sri Lanka's war in 2009. Except a few prominent figures like the novelist and essayist Arundhati Roy, who has critiqued Chinese oppression in Tibet, Sri Lankan state terrorism, as well as the US 'war on terrorism' in equal measure, most Indian social activists kept deafeningly quiet about the gory endgame of the war in Sri Lanka and the Indian government's acquiescence to it.  It would be unfair to label Indian civil society an accomplice of the Indian state, because the former does intercede with gumption against domestic state policies that militate against justice and equality. Even in foreign affairs, in recent times, Indian civil society entities have staged impressive protests and agitations drawing in crowds in excess of 20,000 against the US war on Iraq and Israel's attacks on Lebanon and Gaza.  But their no-show on Myanmar or Tibet reveals disturbing double standards that condemn Western iniquities but condone or ignore human-made disasters in Asia owing to ideological limitations of seeing villains only if they are white or capitalist.  Opposing state and corporate misdeeds stemming from the West and from within India, but remaining disinterested or misinformed about tyranny elsewhere in Asia and beyond, reproduces the toxic conditions in which Than Shwes of the world thrive.  (The author is Associate Professor of World Politics at the OP Jindal Global University in Sonepat, Haryana)







Cabinet Committee on Security discusses Kashmir situation 
NDTV Correspondent, Updated: August 02, 2010 01:06 IST  PLAYClick to Expand & Play  New Delhi:  As Kashmir valley witnesses a fresh spurt in violence, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met on Sunday to take stock of the situation.  Sources told NDTV that in the meeting, the CCS favoured a two-pronged approach to tackle the Kashmir situation:      * Omar Abdullah should visibly reach out politically to citizens     * A harder crack down on trouble makers was also advocated   This is the second time in less than a month that the CCS has met to discuss the situation in Kashmir. At least 7 people have been killed in the Valley today in separate incidents of violence. (Read: Kashmir: 4 killed as police station set on fire)       During the meeting, reports of various intelligence agencies and views of the political parties were discussed and the inputs received from the Jammu and Kashmir government and the state Governor N N Vohra analysed.  Besides the Prime Minister, others who attended the meeting were Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A K Antony and other senior bureaucrats from Home and defence ministries.  Curfew remained clamped in violence-hit Kashmir Valley as security forces maintained a close vigil on the situation, which continued to be tense.  The CCS had earlier met on July 7 during which they discussed the Kashmir situation and had favoured "maximum crackdown" on miscreants who had contributed to deterioration of the current situation in the valley.  Meanwhile, Army and Intelligence sources have said that the protesters are devising new strategy which includes storming of police stations and outposts.  Already there have been attempts to burn down police property in Sopore, Pattan Khrew, Tral and Pampore. Police vehicles are being deliberate targetted eliciting strong response from police.  Also, the blockade of National Highway-1A is aimed at triggering a Valley vs Jammu situation. The Army is keeping close watch. (With PTI Inputs)








Efforts on to complete MOD rail project
Kumod Verma, TNN, Aug 2, 2010, 02.17am IST PATNA: Although work on the ministry of defence (MOD) rail project sanctioned by the defence ministry on February 8, 2004, during the tenure of former defence minister George Fernandez, could not make much progress during the past few years, the railways hopes to complete it during 2011-12.  Work on this rail project has been going on in full swing to lay new broad gauge lines between Sakri Junction and Nirmali and between Jhanjharpur and Laukha Bazar in north Bihar.  According to sources, the defence ministry is funding this Rs 414 crore rail project. In the interest of the Army, building new broad gauge (BG) lines on these routes covering a distance of about 95 km is important since these areas fall under defence strategic points to keep a close watch on the Indo-Nepal and Sino-Indian borders, sources said, adding in the absence of proper movement either by rail or road, Army personnel often remain a mute witness to any kind of development in the border areas.  During monsoon these places are totally isolated and Army men are unable to perform their duty mainly due to complete disruption of communication. The new broad gauge lines on these routes located on highly sensitive areas would help Army personnel to perform their duty smoothly in any emergency, sources said.  Though the railways has been expediting the work to complete the project on priority basis, the eight km stretch between Nirmali and Ghogardiha is the most vulnerable route in the sense that tracks often get washed away during monsoon or flood. Besides, deposition of the silt has been too heavy in these areas. Considering all these aspects, the railways has been carrying out work unhindered with the help of new technology, sources said.  According to ECR CPRO Dilip Kumar, the railways has chalked out its strategy to raise the present track level up to minimum three feet to check water accumulation on tracks during monsoon or flood. The railways is very keen to complete it at the earliest in the larger interest of the country, he said.  ECR chief administrative officer (CAO, construction) Parmod Kumar said that the railways has been smoothly carrying out civil work between Nirmali-Sakri Junction and Laukha Bazar-Jhanjharpur routes. Though the railways has been facing challenges, efforts are on to complete it in time, he said.








Pakistan Defense Reorganization: Positive, Stabilizing Move to Enable Security After a Coalition Withdrawal
                Written by Defense & Foreign Affairs    Sunday, 01 August 2010 15:58  The extension on July 22, 2010, by Pakistan Prime Minister Raza Yousuf Gilani, of the service of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani by three years was not, as some Indian and Western analysts have said, a move which precipitates a possible return to politics by the Army, but the start of a process which in fact, stabilizes and improves the control of the Government and Armed Forces. Gen. Kayani had been due to retire on November 29, 2010.  Noted Indian analyst Indranil Banerjie, writing in the Asian Age on July 25, 2010, asked “Has Zardari Sanctioned Another Coup?”, noting that Pakistan Pres. Asif Ali Zardari had “just given a three-year extension to his Army chief ...”. He went on: “This is the just the second time in the history of Pakistan when such an extension has been granted by a civilian head of state”.  The reality, however, is that the “coup” has already taken place, but not by the military. Executive authority has already been almost totally removed from the Presidency and given to Parliament, and the Cabinet under the Prime Minister. Pres. Zardari’s power has thus been effectively removed. And it was Prime Minister Gilani who asked Gen. Kayani to stay in office to ensure that stability was enhanced in the anticipated difficult years ahead, as the US and other Coalition forces begin — in 2011 — withdrawing forces from neighboring Afghanistan.  The withdrawal of most of the Coalition forces from Afghanistan — however it is disguised to the outside world (but not to the internal forces) — is expected to add dramatically to the security challenges facing Pakistan, and the Pakistan Government is preparing for this be restructuring the military for greater efficiency. The process has been, to this point, discreet. First, the highly-effective Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt.-Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, on March 10, 2010, had his own term of office extended by Prime Minister Gilani.  At the time, in the March 15, 2010, report, this Service noted: “This presages the probable extension in office of Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who became the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of the Pakistan Army on November 28, 2007, under the Presidency of Pervez Musharraf. Gen Kayani has long had a friendship with, and professional faith in, Lt.-Gen. Pasha.” That report continued: “Gen. Tariq Majid, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, was also scheduled to retire in 2010, and it is possible that this may be postponed, but it is possible — even probable — that his retirement will be allowed to happen on its normal rotation so as not to entirely block the promotions chain in the Armed Forces.”  FREE Breaking Investment & Geopolitical Intelligence - Previously only available to Governments, Intelligence Agencies & selected Hedge Funds. Click here for more information on our Free Weekly Intelligence Report  It is now known that under the major defense restructuring now underway, the post of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will assume the rôle which was originally intended for it: to be the supreme military oversight and joint command post, rather than as a post which was, in fact, subordinate to the COAS. As a result, it is now anticipated that Gen. Kayani will replace Gen. Majid as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the very near future, simultaneous with the announcement that the post will assume the function of overall military command. Thus, the Pakistani command structure will finally be re-shaped along the lines of the US, UK, Australia, Egypt, and so on, with all service chiefs — including the historically dominant COAS — coming directly and meaningfully under the Chairman, JCS.  To prepare for this, a new Chief of the General Staff was recently appointed. Lt.-Gen. Khalid Shameem Wynne, the present Chief of General Staff (CGS), was now expected to be promoted to four-star rank in a newly created Vice-Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) post.  There has been speculation in the Pakistani media, as recently as July 24, 2010 [in The International News] that Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), could succeed Gen. Majid, but GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs sources indicate that this could only occur if the post of Chairman JCS was to remain less of a true joint command function. Air Chief Marshal Rao will be in Washington, DC, for talks during the week of August 2, 2010, for talks with his US counterparts.  Also, to ensure continuity in defense planning and management over the coming difficult period, Lt.-Gen. (rtd.) Athar Ali, the Secretary of Defence, may be given a two-year extension in his position.  Where some of these announced promotions caused speculation in some circles was that the post of Vice-Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) had, in the past, only been used in times of domestic civil uncertainty. Clearly, while the new creation of the VCOAS post may indeed be to assist in national management in the anticipated crisis period, sources indicated that it was to position, or prepare, Lt.-Gen. Wynne to take over as COAS when Gen. Kayani moves up to Chairman JCS.  And by promoting both Gen. Kayani and Lt.-Gen. Wynne, the promotional chain — held up for some years while Gen. Musharraf retained the COAS position when he was also President — would allow for further change as the situation required. It seems unlikely that the post of VCOAS would be re-created just for a few months, however, so it seems likely that if Gen. Kayani and Lt.-Gen. Wynne make moves to CJCS and COAS respectively, then the post of VCOAS could remain functional, with a new appointee.  Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gilani must continue to consolidate a unified government — which he has achieved against many odds, in the face of the ambitions of Pres. Zardari and those of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the PML (Nawaz) party — in the hope of getting through the coming few years without having to see the Government collapse from internal pressures. Essentially, for the time being, Pres. Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have been contained, and the Armed Forces and Prime Minister Gilani have been of like mind in this.









Peace cannot be built on Pakistan’s lies 
There is an increasing disconnect between the government of India’s attitude to Pakistan and the view of most educated Indians. The disconnect has been most apparent in the recriminations that have followed the failure of the Indo-Pak foreign minister’s summit. And each day brings new evidence — such as the Wikileaks documents — that seems to undermine the government’s approach.  To be fair, the official Indian approach sounds reasonable. The government says that India cannot hope to be one of the great powers of the 21st century if it continues to engage in pointless hostility with a small neighbour. It is, therefore, important to improve relations with Pakistan. Obviously, this will not happen overnight. But it is vital to continue with a process of engagement that results in confidence-building measures, in such symbolic gestures as the release of fishermen and in tiny incremental steps that improve the overall atmosphere. When both sides narrow what Manmohan Singh calls the ‘trust deficit’, then perhaps some real progress will be possible.  Educated Indians take a different view. They argue that there is only one compelling reason to talk to Pakistan: to put an end to cross-border terrorism. If Pakistan is serious about improving relations with India, then there is only one confidence-building measure that matters: a crackdown on those who murder and maim innocent Indian civilians. What’s worse, say many Indians, is that the Pakistan government is not only unwilling to stop terrorists from coming across the border but that elements within the regime are actually master-minding the terrorist operations. It makes no sense to talk of people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges when Pakistani interests are already waging a proxy war against India. Any talks that do not result in an end to terror are worthless.  This position is the exact opposite of the government’s. For instance, the foreign ministry now suggests that the collapse of the last round of talks had something to do with the home secretary’s statement that the 26/11 Bombay attacks were — at least, according to David Headley — an Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) operation. The foreign ministry says that the home secretary’s assertion was ‘hundred per cent correct’ but that he should not have said anything about Pakistani-inspired terrorism on the eve of the talks.  That view demonstrates the distance between the two positions. The Indian public will only support the talks if we tackle the issue of terrorism head-on. The government of India, on the other hand, believes that we should not even mention terrorism for fear of upsetting the Pakistanis and damaging the dialogue process.  The government’s position would have more credibility if the foreign ministry could offer us any assurances that an incremental approach to improving relations will lead to a reduction in terror. In fact, the government is in no position to offer any such assurances. There have been so many confidence-building measures over the last two decades that by now both sides should be brimming with confidence. But the terrorism continues to get worse.  The response of the Pakistanis to India’s overtures this time around also suggests that Islamabad has no real interest in tackling the terror problem. The Pakistan foreign minister spoke insultingly about his Indian counterpart and — most revealingly — compared the Indian home secretary to Hafiz Sayeed. When a politician can no longer tell the difference between a bureaucrat and a terrorist, you know that his country is in serious trouble.  But even if we were to accept that the Pakistanis are serious about improving relations, there are practical problems.  First of all, the official position of the government of Pakistan is that it is also a victim of terror and is, therefore, unable to stamp out the terrorist threat to India, largely because it lacks the ability to do so. Secondly, it is not clear that the civilian government — the people we speak to — counts for very much. Real power appears to reside with the army whose chief was given an extension shortly after the summit collapsed. Thirdly, there is evidence to suggest that many of the terror groups are led and financed by retired generals who pursue their own private foreign policies. They do not consider themselves bound by their foreign minister’s commitments. And fourthly, there is the most obvious problem: the Pakistanis have a history of lying about their support to terrorist groups within the region.  Last week, a huge cache of 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports from the Afghan conflict was leaked to the internet site, Wikileaks. While this is raw intelligence that has not been fully processed, some revelations are worrying. The documents suggest that Pakistan has been secretly supporting the Taliban and sheltering such leaders as Osama bin Laden while simultaneously lying to the Americans about its activities. These intelligence reports also indicate that the ISI has been using the Haqqani network to launch terror attacks on Indians in Afghanistan. One such attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul resulted in the death of 54 people, including our defence attaché. Moreover, the documents record the movements of such figures as General Hamid Gul, an India-hating former head of ISI, who appears to be pursuing his own agenda while liaising with terrorist groups.  The consensus in the US is that while every bit of intelligence in the raw files cannot be treated as gospel truth, the sheer mass of evidence that Pakistan is financing and arming terrorists to attack Indians (and Americans, for that matter) is too strong to be dismissed.  These revelations will confirm the worst fears of most Indians. Every doubt we had is justified: the military does call the shots; retired Generals pursue their own agendas with private armies and Pakistan has been lying to both India and America about the role of the ISI in fomenting terror in the region.  In the light of all this, the government’s approach makes less and less sense. Why bother with a polite step-by-step engagement with Pakistan when the situation is so grave? Pakistan is busy sending terrorists to kill Indians while cheerfully lying to the world about the activities of the ISI and its army.  It is not necessary to be a Hindu communalist or a Pakistan-hater to recognise that India is wasting its time. The government needs to listen to the views of its own people. We do not want war. We do not believe in needless hostility.  But equally, we simply do not see the point of this pointless charade. Peace with Pakistan is a laudable aim. But one country cannot make peace by itself. And as long as the other continues to kill our people, all attempts at a high-level dialogue come across less as peaceful initiatives and more as signs of weakness.  If not outright stupidity.








Pakistan: Biting the hand that feeds it
All countries know that Pakistan begs for and gets US aid. yet its intelligence officers hob-knob with Islamist terrorists to kill American troops. PAKISTAN IS in the habit of biting the hand that feeds it. The journalists of Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta and Karachi are presently going out of their way to find fault with the Surge, Defeat Taliban and Quit plan of the Obama administration.   The Generals of the Pakistan army and civil servants running the show in the central government secretariat find their wings clipped and feel miserable that they do not have the freedom to squander the American tax payers money as they used to do in the recent past. The US administration will keep an eye on where the American money is being spent by the Pakistan government. Naturally it will not be rerouted to private accounts of politicians and civil servants.   Notwithstanding the counselling done by President Obama to President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani of Pakistan that henceforth they must treat the Islamist terror groups as enemy number one of Pakistan and stop treating India as enemy no 1.   The attention of the Pakistan administration should be more on the western front and Pakistan-Afghanistan border than towards the eastern border facing India. However, the old mindset is yet to change.it is said that most Pakistanis regard India as the biggest threat to Pakistan. In comparison to India, Taliban presents a friendly image to both the establishment and the people of Pakistan. After all, the anti-India and hate Hindu campaign run by most Pakistani leaders and generals has made an impact on Pakistani people’s minds.   No number of confidence building measures like Samjhauta Express and music festivals is going to water down the deeply etched anti-India ideas.  The top generals of the Pakistan army are unhappy with the Pentagon and US generals as hereafter the latter would be keeping an eye on the use or the misuse of the American weapon systems and armaments. In a nutshell, these must be used in fighting against the Islamist terrorists on the western front and not stored or kept stacked away to be used against India at a later date. Thus there is a rider with the US aid now to be given to Pakistan.     The top echelons of the Pakistan army and the civil administration feel, wrongly though, that the sovereignty of Pakistan will be eroded under the new arrangement. The American Drones have been making more and effective killings of top Taliban leaders than ever before. The Pakistani protests are muffled by the aid of US dollars. Protests are there but  they cannot say NO to the large bounty being given by the USA. A fierce debate is raging internally in Pakistan but willy-nilly they will accept the US aid with all the riders and agree to come under surveillance.  It is good that the Obama administration has been firm in handling the erring administration of Pakistan. Americans are aware of the sympathy of some echelons of Pakistani army being with Islamist terrorists but they turn Nelson’s eye to it in the larger interests of the NATO forces who are slated to start withdrawing from July 2011.     At the same time the plan to defeat the Taliban in a major battle is also there. That explains the massive launch of an attack by a combined force of the British and Afghan forces in Helmand province today, 31st July 2010. With a view to winning the war against terror on the soil of Afghanistan, it is necessary to keep Pakistan on board. At the same time the United States has to ensure that the money, weaponry, armaments and sophisticated equipment given to Pakistan is not misused or used against India instead of the Islamist terrorists.  The plan appears to be on course now because of the strict implementation of the guidelines given to Pakistan.   It has long been suspected that Pakistan is hand in glove with the Taliban terrorists. Pakistan takes American money but conspires with the terrorists to kill American soldiers. WIKILEAKS has confirmed the worst fears that Pakistan Army and many of its officers are not trustworthy. Their mind may be with America but heart is with Taliban terrorists. The world wonders how can America finance Pakistan Army because they will use their weapons against India and not Taliban.     Now Afghanistan, the main player and the host country. It is President Karzai who has to win the trust of the Afghan people. It is well known to all concerned that the civil administration of Afghanistan is badly ridden with corruption. In the run up to the Presidential election, President Karzai was accused of illegal and immoral electoral practices. Thousands of votes that were fraudulently cast in his ballot box had to be rescinded. It made an additional dent in the Karzai image. With a view to winning the hearts and minds of his own Afghans and others , Karzai has to live down this poor reputation of a corrupt administrator. Many an American soldier is right in asking why should he risk his life for a man who does not have a clean image?  As of now, the situation on the ground is a fluid one. The anti-American and anti-European propaganda being carried out in mosques after community prayer every Friday, poisoning of young minds of students and preventing efforts of coalition forces to win minds and hearts of Afghans in the streets is having a cumulative effect even on the police constables and army soldiers of Afghan origin. No wonder some Afghan constables under training turned their guns on the western trainers and killed some of them. It does not augur well for the amity being brought in between the western and Afghan troops.   There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel. With suitable psychological treatment the two ethnic groups are again out in the open for aggressive patrolling against the Taliban terrorists. With prayer on lips and good of Afghans at heart, the coalition forces are all set to win the war against Islamist terror groups. May God bless them!









Indefinite curfew in major towns of Kashmir Valley
Press Trust of India / Srinagar July 31, 2010, 14:33 IST  Indefinite curfew was clamped in all major towns of the Kashmir Valley today in the wake of protests, even as the death toll in the violent clashes between locals and security forces rose to four.  There were also reports of sporadic protests in some parts of the Valley.  Two of the 70 people injured during protests yesterday succumbed to injuries at a hospital this morning, a police spokesman said. The deceased have been identified as Mohammed Rafiq and 30-year-old Mohammed Siddiqui of Baramulla district.        Police and paramilitary forces were deployed who opened fire to quell stone-pelting protestors and curfew has been imposed as a precautionary measure following the protests.  Curfew passes given to media persons have been cancelled, police said. This is the second time this month that curfew passes have been cancelled. On July six, curfew passes were cancelled when the army was deployed in the city.  The mob had also ransacked a police station in Pattan besides a special operation group camp in the same area.       People had taken to the streets shortly after Friday prayers and were heading towards Sopore town when the security forces intercepted them asking to disperse.      However, the protesters turned violent and indulged in stone-pelting on a CRPF picket. The security personnel opened fire, resulting in injuries to seven persons who were rushed to hospital. Two succumbed to injuries at SMHS hospital here, they said.   Seven persons were also injured when police opened fire after a group of youths went on rampage and set ablaze a vehicle parked inside police station Pattan, 27 kms from here on Srinagar-Baramulla national highway, police said.       The clashes come nearly 10 days after a person was killed and another injured in police firing in self-defence on a mob which turned violent during funeral of youth who had drowned in Jhelum river in Baramulla district.        Condemning the killings, Opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had said yesterday that such incidents were contributing to an "unprecedented worsening of situation".   PDP general secretary Mohammad Dilawar Mir, in a statement here, accused the state administration of failing to perform its duty.  The state unit of CPI(M) also expressed grief and shock over the killings.









What is Pakistan doing now is the real question, says US
 Lalit K Jha/ PTI / Washington July 31, 2010, 9:59 IST  In the wake of revelation by WikiLeaks on the war in Afghanistan, the real question is what Pakistan is now doing, US has said.  "The real question is: What is Pakistan doing now?  We are satisfied with the action, the aggressive action that Pakistan has taken," State Department spokesman P J Crowley said.  "But we want to see Pakistan continue on the offensive. We've made that clear since these documents came out," he said adding that US believes that Pakistan has made a strategic shift.  "They are now aggressively attacking these elements inside their borders that have safe havens inside of Pakistan's territory that not only threaten Afghanistan, the United States, but also Pakistan," Crowley said.  "The links between Pakistani agencies and these elements have been known and understood for quite some time," he said.  The State Department does not believe that the documents released by the WikiLeaks present any new information in terms of Pakistani interest in and association with elements that have played a role in Afghanistan, he observed.  "It is very, very important to understand that there have been historical links going back a couple of decades," Crowley said.










Two killed in security forces' firing; Kashmir simmers
Last updated on: July 31, 2010 21:59 IST Share this Ask Users Write a Comment  A youth was killed and eight others were wounded in security force firing in Jammu and Kashmir [ Images ] on Saturday as the authorities imposed curfew in capital Srinagar [ Images ] and other towns. Meanwhile, the death toll in security force firing in the past two days has risen to five.  In north Kashmir's Baramulla town, Javed Ahmad Teli, a teenager who was critically wounded in police firing late on Saturday afternoon, succumbed to his injuries at the Sour Medical Institute on Saturday evening.  Officials said police had to open fire to disperse the stone pelting mobs in the town.  A senior police officer said mobs shouting pro-freedom slogans took to streets in the Naidkhai town in north Kashmir's Bandipore district, 40 kms from capital Srinagar on Saturday afternoon.  He said they later indulged in heavy stone pelting on the local state armed police camp. The guards at the camp had to open fire to quell the mob resulting in bullet injuries to two persons, one of whom identified as 23-year old Mudasir Ahmad Lone later succumbed to injuries.  High tension has gripped the town even as the security force-protestor clashes continued.  In south Kashmir's Pampore town, hundreds of people blocked the Srinagar Jammu highway and indulged in heavy stone pelting on passing vehicles.  The clashes come nearly 10 days after a person was killed and another injured in police firing in self-defence on a mob which turned violent during funeral of youth who had drowned in Jhelum river in Baramulla district.  Condemning the killings, opposition Peoples Democratic Party had said that such incidents were contributing to an "unprecedented worsening of situation".  PDP general secretary Mohammad Dilawar Mir, in a statement here, accused the state administration of failing to  perform its duty. The state unit of Communist Party of India [ Images ] (Marxist) also expressed grief and shock over the killings.










Peace cannot be built on Pakistan’s lies 
There is an increasing disconnect between the government of India’s attitude to Pakistan and the view of most educated Indians. The disconnect has been most apparent in the recriminations that have followed the failure of the Indo-Pak foreign minister’s summit. And each day brings new evidence — such as the Wikileaks documents — that seems to undermine the government’s approach.  To be fair, the official Indian approach sounds reasonable. The government says that India cannot hope to be one of the great powers of the 21st century if it continues to engage in pointless hostility with a small neighbour. It is, therefore, important to improve relations with Pakistan. Obviously, this will not happen overnight. But it is vital to continue with a process of engagement that results in confidence-building measures, in such symbolic gestures as the release of fishermen and in tiny incremental steps that improve the overall atmosphere. When both sides narrow what Manmohan Singh calls the ‘trust deficit’, then perhaps some real progress will be possible.  Educated Indians take a different view. They argue that there is only one compelling reason to talk to Pakistan: to put an end to cross-border terrorism. If Pakistan is serious about improving relations with India, then there is only one confidence-building measure that matters: a crackdown on those who murder and maim innocent Indian civilians. What’s worse, say many Indians, is that the Pakistan government is not only unwilling to stop terrorists from coming across the border but that elements within the regime are actually master-minding the terrorist operations. It makes no sense to talk of people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges when Pakistani interests are already waging a proxy war against India. Any talks that do not result in an end to terror are worthless.  This position is the exact opposite of the government’s. For instance, the foreign ministry now suggests that the collapse of the last round of talks had something to do with the home secretary’s statement that the 26/11 Bombay attacks were — at least, according to David Headley — an Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) operation. The foreign ministry says that the home secretary’s assertion was ‘hundred per cent correct’ but that he should not have said anything about Pakistani-inspired terrorism on the eve of the talks.  That view demonstrates the distance between the two positions. The Indian public will only support the talks if we tackle the issue of terrorism head-on. The government of India, on the other hand, believes that we should not even mention terrorism for fear of upsetting the Pakistanis and damaging the dialogue process.  The government’s position would have more credibility if the foreign ministry could offer us any assurances that an incremental approach to improving relations will lead to a reduction in terror. In fact, the government is in no position to offer any such assurances. There have been so many confidence-building measures over the last two decades that by now both sides should be brimming with confidence. But the terrorism continues to get worse.  The response of the Pakistanis to India’s overtures this time around also suggests that Islamabad has no real interest in tackling the terror problem. The Pakistan foreign minister spoke insultingly about his Indian counterpart and — most revealingly — compared the Indian home secretary to Hafiz Sayeed. When a politician can no longer tell the difference between a bureaucrat and a terrorist, you know that his country is in serious trouble.  But even if we were to accept that the Pakistanis are serious about improving relations, there are practical problems.  First of all, the official position of the government of Pakistan is that it is also a victim of terror and is, therefore, unable to stamp out the terrorist threat to India, largely because it lacks the ability to do so. Secondly, it is not clear that the civilian government — the people we speak to — counts for very much. Real power appears to reside with the army whose chief was given an extension shortly after the summit collapsed. Thirdly, there is evidence to suggest that many of the terror groups are led and financed by retired generals who pursue their own private foreign policies. They do not consider themselves bound by their foreign minister’s commitments. And fourthly, there is the most obvious problem: the Pakistanis have a history of lying about their support to terrorist groups within the region.  Last week, a huge cache of 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports from the Afghan conflict was leaked to the internet site, Wikileaks. While this is raw intelligence that has not been fully processed, some revelations are worrying. The documents suggest that Pakistan has been secretly supporting the Taliban and sheltering such leaders as Osama bin Laden while simultaneously lying to the Americans about its activities. These intelligence reports also indicate that the ISI has been using the Haqqani network to launch terror attacks on Indians in Afghanistan. One such attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul resulted in the death of 54 people, including our defence attaché. Moreover, the documents record the movements of such figures as General Hamid Gul, an India-hating former head of ISI, who appears to be pursuing his own agenda while liaising with terrorist groups.  The consensus in the US is that while every bit of intelligence in the raw files cannot be treated as gospel truth, the sheer mass of evidence that Pakistan is financing and arming terrorists to attack Indians (and Americans, for that matter) is too strong to be dismissed.  These revelations will confirm the worst fears of most Indians. Every doubt we had is justified: the military does call the shots; retired Generals pursue their own agendas with private armies and Pakistan has been lying to both India and America about the role of the ISI in fomenting terror in the region.  In the light of all this, the government’s approach makes less and less sense. Why bother with a polite step-by-step engagement with Pakistan when the situation is so grave? Pakistan is busy sending terrorists to kill Indians while cheerfully lying to the world about the activities of the ISI and its army.  It is not necessary to be a Hindu communalist or a Pakistan-hater to recognise that India is wasting its time. The government needs to listen to the views of its own people. We do not want war. We do not believe in needless hostility.  But equally, we simply do not see the point of this pointless charade. Peace with Pakistan is a laudable aim. But one country cannot make peace by itself. And as long as the other continues to kill our people, all attempts at a high-level dialogue come across less as peaceful initiatives and more as signs of weakness.  If not outright stupidity.









Farewell to foreign arms?
Josy Joseph, TNN, Aug 1, 2010, 12.22am IST The modern nation state has certain core components, including killing machines such as fighter jets, battle tanks and nuclear-powered submarines. Countries maintain armies because it's the state's duty to protect its citizens. In the 20th century, countries started to pursue organized defence research to ensure their military is well equipped. This led to some of the greatest inventions of modern times, notably the Internet and rockets. The process also resulted in the establishment of massive industries making deadly war machines, employing millions and generating billions in sales. Today, the Military-Industrial Complexes (MIC) that emerged is at the heart of the industrialization of most developed and some emerging economies.  There is an exception: India.  India has the dubious distinction of heading the list of the world's biggest arms importers. The list includes undemocratic oil-rich countries in West Asia. Other traditionally big arms importers such as China have moved away from buying and towards creating their own military-industrial complex. China's conventional weapons imports show a steady decline. In 2009, except for a few helicopters from Russia and France, Beijing did not buy any major systems. But, India's defence budget rises year on year. Given the two-pronged threat from Pakistan and China and concerns about the Indian Ocean, India is expected to remain a voracious consumer of military equipment for the foreseeable future. More than 70% of India's defence purchases are from firms in Russia, Israel, Europe and the US.  India's big-spend on weapons has not gone unnoticed by the wider world, mainly sellers. Now, it is virtually mandatory for visiting world leaders to bargain in Delhi for big-ticket defence purchases. When British Prime Minister David Cameron landed in Bangalore on Tuesday and realized the 735million-pound deal for 57 new Hawk trainer aircraft wouldn't be signed as expected, there was much last-minute diplomatic manoeuvering by the British. A single-page agreement was finally signed, enough to satisfy the visiting delegation.  In the next few months, at least three other high-profile visitors — President Sarkozy of France, President Medvedev of Russia and President Obama of US — will arrive in Delhi, hawking military wares. Big-spend defence orders from India are important to each of them. They will bring in money and help create and sustain thousands of domestic jobs.  Why can't India do the same for its domestic economy? Why shouldn't it create its own MIC — a giant web of major factories that work as system integrators; numerous small and medium industries that supply specialized parts; a cutting-edge military research agency; the armed forces to say what they will need in the future; several layers of supervision and coordination and the government funding it all.  The MIC has had a bad press. Fifty years ago, US President Dwight Eisenhower's farewell speech to the nation warned against “the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex”. In the 1960s, Bob Dylan sang about the “Masters of War”, who “build the death planes (and) hide behind desks”. In the West, MIC has been replaced by other terms, such as “permanent war economy” and “war corporatism”.  But it may still have relevance in India. Our defence public sector units (PSUs) and ordnance factories employ more people than almost any other country in the world, but have failed to produce any cutting edge military equipment. India has spent — and will continue to — billions of dollars buying defence equipment from abroad.  Why not spend at home and create more jobs domestically? The heart of the matter is India's apparent inability to develop military systems that could be run off assembly lines that employee thousands. Researching and developing new military systems is the job of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO). The DRDO consumes 20% of the Indian government's total R&D funding. Its inherent problems and contradictions mean it is unable to lead the creation of India's very own MIC.  What is wrong with the DRDO? In February 2007, the government tried to find out, setting up an external review committee under the chairmanship of P Rama Rao, a former secretary in the department of science and technology. The committee submitted its report to the government in 2008. In April this year, another committee headed by defence secretary Pradeep Kumar accepted some of its recommendations and rejected others. The Rama Rao Committee report remains a classified, two-volume report, which exposes all that has gone wrong with DRDO. TOI has seen a copy of the damning report.  It paints an extraordinary picture of planning and execution failure and abysmal human resource management and says the DRDO brand is “wilting”. The report says: “Sixty years ago the fervour generated by extraordinary leadership won India its political independence. At the present time, technological independence requires a similarly passionate and inspiring leadership.”  The report says poor HR management is the DRDO's biggest problem and only 3% of its scientists have PhDs in engineering-related subjects, 60% being plain-vanilla graduates or post-graduates in science, humanities or medicine. The DRDO's staffing clearly is ill-equipped and ill-prepared to conduct cutting-edge research, which could find its way to the assembly line and eventually into the armed forces' armoury.  The DRDO has more than 6,750 scientists in its Defence Research and Development Service (DRDS) cadre, which is spread over 51 laboratories. Fewer than 2% of the scientists in 43% of the DRDO's labs have PhD degrees in their respective core disciplines. The report warns that the DRDO's “biggest challenge” is to attract, nurture and retain talent. “The situation cries out for reforms in HR policies and imaginative new steps to improve and enhance professional opportunities for a technically highly qualified workforce,” it says.  The DRDO's cut-off age for entry-level scientists “should ideally be less than 24 years (but) is 28 years and above in more than 40% of the labs,” the report says. It adds that in half its labs, “the average age of scientists in all grades is above 37 years. The average age at various levels is significantly higher than what is desirable. This has to be corrected since it is important for younger people to occupy higher positions.”  DRDO's recruitment process, too, has come under fire. Entry-level scientists are hired through the Scientists Entry Test (SET) and there is some campus recruitment from IITs, IISc and NITs. But SET suffered a 71% drop in applicants between 2003 and 2006, says the report and there is unnecessary delay in hiring, which “is a major deterrent for the highly talented to consider DRDO as a ‘go-to' organization,” says the report.  An internal survey, quoted in the report, says 57% of scientists leave DRDO on account of professional dissatisfaction. A whopping 87% of the entry-level cadre joins the DRDO in the belief that it offers great career opportunities, but is “disenchanted soon after”, laments the report.  The committee also points serious lacunae in project execution. The report says the DRDO has taken up several large projects, which it would find impossible to execute because of human, financial and infrastructure resource constraints. The committee said interaction with the UK and Israel's defence R&D establishments revealed the “involvement of users at virtually all levels of design, development and production.” But back home, there is nothing like that, save for the Navy. “While the Navy has taken the initiative in managing and involving itself successfully in several major projects, the Army and Air Force have not had a similar experience. DRDO, too, has not been forthcoming in accepting service officers, especially at senior levels, to assist in project management,” the report says.  The report recommends setting up a ‘Services Interaction Group (SIG)' and creating a new chief controller's post within the DRDO. But the panel headed by the defence secretary has shot down these proposals. Instead, it has suggested nominating an officer from each service, who would always be available to the DRDO for consultations. There is the suggestion that senior DRDO scientists undergo abridged capsule training at the War College and other military colleges and that junior scientists be sent on field assignments in a bid to overcome the mistrust between the country's premier defence research organization and its armed forces. “This will enable them to meet and see men in action, and get a better appreciation of the ‘how' and ‘why' of general staff requirements,” the report suggests.  More important, the DRDO should have a bigger role in the purchase of weapons from abroad, the report says, but the defence secretary's committee has shot down this proposal too. The point of all of this is that the DRDO, in the words of the report, is playing a “peripheral role” and India's “most important need is of a policy for self-reliance, promoted by specific quantitative targets for indigenous sourcing of products of R&D.”  The report argues that “such growth and development are most urgently required in taking India beyond vulnerability in research, development and effective production”. It warns the “imported equipment will increasingly (be) embedded denial-of-use technology as a strategy to protect the national security interests of supplier nations.” It says India urgently needs to “reiterate...the goal of self-reliance as a basic policy goal”.  All of this is damning stuff but India's inability to create an MIC goes beyond the inherent weaknesses of the DRDO. Senior private sector executives blame the ministry of defence's “institutional bias” against private sector participation. “The attempt is to keep out the private sector, and favour the defence PSUs even if it is at the expense of quality and cost,” says a senior executive, who insisted on anonymity. He points out that the central recommendations of the Vijay Kelkar Committee, set up by the government in 2004 to enhance the “country's self-reliance in the defence industry” haven't been implemented six years later. The Kelkar committee had suggested nominating more than a dozen Indian private sector companies Raksha Udyog Ratnas, with a status equivalent to that of the defence PSUs when it comes to bidding for major defence contracts. It had also suggested setting up a Technology Development Fund to support R&D.  An indigenous MIC would also go against the interests of that other invisible power broker — the arms dealers lobby, which greases palms at every level of decision making. It's thought that on average, 5% commission is paid on every defence deal. That would mean a few hundred crores for a deal worth, say, $2 billion. “If the Indian private sector were to become system integrators and major players in the defence sector these middlemen would have no role,” points out a senior executive with a major private sector firm.  The problem is clearly part DRDO incompetence, part conspiracy and part systemic weakness. All of this means India is losing out on what could be a key driver for the economy. According to some estimates, a Rs 5,000 crore defence contract can sustain or create about 20,000 high-end jobs. For each high-end job, there are about four support jobs. So, India's projected $80 billion arms imports over the next decade could create six million to seven million jobs within the country. The other positive fallout would be greater financial commitment to industrial R&D and improvement in engineering capabilities.  There has never been a better chance for India to create an MIC as a force for good. It has huge military requirements, a growing defence budget and a thriving private sector. Never in its history has India needed a MIC more than today. South Asia's growing chaos, the rise of a “superpower” in the neighbourhood and its adversaries' threatened manipulation of imported systems.  Are we ready to take the plunge?









Supping with the Taliban
By Irfan Husain Saturday, 31 Jul, 2010 font-size small font-size largefont-sizeprintemail share The British prime minister would probably not have used the same words had he been in London. –Photo by AFP  Recently, the Guardian carried a story on the alleged ISI links with the Taliban based on the Wikileaks bombshell. Written by Declan Walsh, the report bore the headline: ‘Whose side is Pakistan on?’  I doubt if the reporter — a friend and a very well-informed journalist — wrote the headline because the answer to the question is self-evident: Pakistan is on its own side, as is every country in the world.  While Wikileaks has detailed these alleged covert links between Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency and the Taliban, it has not really told us anything we did not know, apart from retired Gen Hamid Gul’s supposedly hyper-active efforts to guide the Taliban and sundry extremists. While he is, as Declan Walsh reports, an avid publicity hound, I doubt if he has retained the clout and the contacts his leadership of the ISI over 20 years ago would have given him at the time.  Another reply to the Guardian’s question comes from Stratfor, the respected intelligence and security website, which came to the conclusion that since the Pakistanis did not envision a defeat for the Taliban and would not want trouble in Afghanistan, they would maintain close links with the militant group. It went on to indicate that this would not be Pakistan’s public stance since it could exert pressure on India only through the US. This had forced Pakistan to publicly oppose the Taliban while retaining secret support for the militants.  Speaking in Bangalore, David Cameron said that this two-faced policy was “unacceptable”. The British prime minister would probably not have used the same words had he been in London. Indeed, a Downing Street spokeswoman quickly watered down her boss’s words by issuing a clarification: “The PM is not saying the Pakistani government is a sponsor of terrorism … the Pakistani government needs to do more to shut terror groups down.”  Such words go in through one ear at Pakistan’s GHQ, and out the other. Similar strictures have been sent to Islamabad in numerous letters and through a long succession of emissaries. But mostly, they are for public consumption. The reality is that the West needs whatever help it can get from the Pakistan Army, and cannot afford to cut Pakistan off, given its long common border with Afghanistan. Our military planners know this.  They also know that sooner rather than later, western forces will be pulling out of Afghanistan, and we will have to contend with the turbulent situation that will ensue. Although Nato will try and effect a tidy hand-over of power, I doubt very much if Hamid Karzai’s administration will survive very long. Even if the Taliban give any kind of assurances, these will not endure for a moment after the allies leave.  For Pakistani military planners, fixated as they are by the perceived Indian threat, the worst-case scenario is an alliance between their traditional foe and Afghanistan. To prevent this encirclement, they need a powerful player in place. Who better than the Taliban, the force nurtured by the ISI since its inception in the mid-1990s?  Many people, myself included, have questioned and criticised this double game as immoral and dangerous. But morality does not figure when spooks and soldiers invoke national security to justify the most hazardous policies. It is widely believed that our security establishment has been following this path ever since Musharraf executed his famous U-turn on Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, and officially disowned the Taliban.  Americans and Brits are understandably upset at a supposed ally acting in this devious manner. In Pakistan’s defence, government spokesmen in Islamabad and our diplomats ask critics if it makes sense for the ISI to be helping the very terrorists who are killing our soldiers and citizens. The widespread belief in the West is that that the ISI is probably playing footsies with Mullah Omar’s Taliban and Jalaluddin Haqqani’s outfit as these are the major groups operating in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the army is trying to stamp out home-grown terror groups that target Pakistanis.  I have long maintained that it is not possible to draw any meaningful distinction between these groups. They merge and mutate with bewildering frequency, but share a common ideology. Nevertheless, our intelligence agencies continue making common cause with primarily Afghan groups.  In the vortex that is Afghanistan today, there are no easy answers or quick fixes. In a sense, it was always a restless hotbed of competing tribes, ethnicities and criminal enterprises. The king mediated between these power centres, but after the 1973 coup and the 1979 Soviet invasion, the glue holding the fragile state together has slowly dissolved.  Unlike Iraq, there are virtually no institutions to rebuild. The stark reality is that whether the world likes it or not — and I certainly don’t — the Taliban are the only viable force that can keep the country together. Had Al Qaeda not launched its attacks on America nearly nine years ago, I have little doubt the Taliban would still have been in power in Kabul, busily dragging their benighted country back to the seventh century. And nobody in Washington or London would have really cared.  The alternative to the Taliban is for western forces to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely, something the voters back home understandably have no stomach for. The third and best option is for regional states to keep a stabilising force in the country. However, given the bitter rivalry between India and Pakistan, this is clearly a non-starter.  So with the kind of end-game that is beginning to play itself out, there are few strategic choices for Pakistan to pick from. I am sure even our generals would not willingly wish to cosy up to Mullah Omar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, but in our tough neighbourhood, they see themselves being pushed into the Taliban corner.  In an imperfect world, there are no perfect solutions. But speaking personally, I recoil from the notion of having any truck with the Taliban.




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