Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Saturday, 21 May 2011

From Today's Papers - 21 May 2011

Air Marshal Browne to be next IAF chief
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, May 20 Air Marshal NAK Browne, an ace MiG-21 and Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter pilot, will be the next chief of the IAF. Fifty nine-year-old Browne, Vice-Chief of the IAF, will take over from Air Chief Marshal PV Naik when he retires in July this year.  Born in Allahabad on December 15, 1951, Air Marshal Browne was commissioned into the Fighter stream of the Indian Air Force on June 24, 1972. With about 3100 hours of flying to his credit, he has a varied operational experience that included flying Hunters, all variants of MiG-21s, Jaguars and SU-30s.  An alumnus of National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, Pune, he is a Fighter Combat Leader, who has also served as an instructor at the Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment (TACDE), a premiere flying establishment of the IAF and the Tri-services Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington.  A graduate of the Air Command and Staff College, Albama, USA, he had trained with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the United Kingdom, on Jaguar aircraft and went on to command a Jaguar Squadron subsequently.  During his long and distinguished career spanning 38 years, he has held various operational and staff appointments that include Joint Director at Air War Strategy Cell at Air Headquarters, Chief Operations Officer and Air Officer Commanding of a SU-30 base, Air-I at New Delhi based Western Air Command (WAC) and Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Intelligence) at Air Headquarters.  He was also responsible for establishing the Indian Defence Wing in Tel Aviv, Israel, in April 1997 where he served as the Defence Attache till July 2000.

Post-Osama, Antony tells forces to remain prepared
Ashok Tuteja/TNS  New Delhi, May 20 Defence Minister AK Antony today asked the top brass of the Indian Armed Forces to continuously assess the security situation in the country's strategic neighbourhood in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden and remain prepared for any eventuality.  Describing the US operations in Pakistan as "a watershed in the global war on terror", Antony said the event has "internationally stamped" Pakistan's position as the core of terrorist activities in the region.  Addressing the Unified Commanders Conference here, he said the ripples of this event would have wide-ranging impact on the country's strategic neighbourhood. Antony said the security situation in Pakistan continued to be a cause for concern. He said despite supporting the war on terror, China remained its main strategic partner.  The Defence Minister said if any real progress was to be made in improving bilateral relations, Pakistan must take concrete action to dismantle terrorist infrastructure on its soil.  The Defence Minister said India has always desired friendly relations with all its neighbours. Antony said that though India was not unduly concerned over China's moves to modernise and upgrade its military capability, the country had to watch the ongoing process of upgrading the military structure. He expressed the hope that progress would be made in discussion with China on the border dispute.  Dwelling on the ground situation in Jammu & Kashmir, Antony said it has shown improvement over the past few months. Violence has declined and the political processes have come to the forefront.

Exploiting the gap in Pakistan's Security
operation Gerenimo by the United States to kill Osama Bin Laden in his hideout in Pakiistan not only reveals a big gap in Pakistani security and also raises a genuine fear in that country's establishment of a similar strike being launched to take out its nuclear weapons. This opens up an option for India to develop such a capability as a means to check Pakistan from creating any mischief
Nobody in India expected the type of frenzied and nervous response from Pakistani military chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani and Pakistan foreign secretary Salman Bashir, threatening not only India but also the US with dire consequences in case the recent Operation Gerenimo, conducted by US commandos who flew all the way to the Pakistani military town of Abbotabad to kill the world's most wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden, gets repeated. The big question is why this unusual belligerence from Pakistan. Besides, are we capable of undertaking such an operation ?  This Pakistani jingoism was in response to an off-the-cuff reply to journalists by both, the Indian Army chief, Gen V.K. Singh, and the Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, to their questions on Indian capability, that yes, they can do it. Even if the military chiefs of world's smallest nations like Monaco and Tobago would have given a similar reply to such questions.  One thing that should be understood by all of us is that all three branches of the Indian armed forces have the training and capability to launch this kind of a surprise raid. Even Pakistan knows it. During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the Indian Navy quietly and silently towed their small missile boats to Karachi without the enemy getting any wind of it and played havoc with Karachi's harbour and the oil installations in its vicinity. In India the problem lies with the Indian political leadership that lacks the necessary strategic acumen and political will to take on such types of risks. Their bureaucratic advisors are apparently even more clueless and spineless.  In the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai attack when Indian military chiefs reportedly suggested to their political masters to launch surgical strikes on Pakistani terror camps functioning across the LOC in Kashmir, the Indian political class went into a fit of epilepsy, while the Indian Intelligence agencies said that they were not sure of the exact locations of these camps on the ground.  Contrast this with the US. American intelligence agency CIA got to know of this Abbotabad mansion of Osama Bin Laden in August 2010.They quietly hired a house close to that place in Abbotabad and put their operators on round the clock surveillance. Room by room, the design of this mansion was sent back to America. In US, a complete mock up of this target was made where the American commandos practiced for this proposed raid for a full month.  American President Barrack Obama himself used to monitor all the intelligence originating from Abbotabad on daily basis. After lot of discussions with his security and military advisers, with the possibility of success only being 55:45, Obama issued an order in writing on April 30 to kill Osama. How many current Indian politicians can take on this type of responsibility themselves and issue this type of an unambiguous order? Taking the case of former telecom minister A Raja, embroiled in the 2G scam, as a pointer, the answer is none.  Agreed that diverting world attention from their perfidy of taking America and the West for a ride by hiding Osama in Pakistan was an imperative for Pakistan. Nevertheless this is not all that a worrying factor for Pakistan because America and World at large had in any case of late being giving broad hints that they knew that Pakistan was involved in hiding of Osama. The real worrisome factor for Pakistan is that their Achilles' heel in their security set-up has been exposed. Four helicopters entered Pakistani airspace -- They flew to the heart of Pakistan and then went back unharmed after hovering over a military town for 40 minutes. The first Pakistani F-16 fighter got airborne one hour after Americans had left Pakistani airspace.  This leaves a big gap in Pakistani security. Their genuine worry now is that India may be tempted to resort to this type of operation to take out their most prized jewels - their nuclear weapons. This then opens to us a real option of truly developing this type of capability to keep Pakistan on tenterhooks and away from mischief in India. We must immediately implement the already sanctioned Chief of Defense Staff system in India to provide a single window strategic advice to the government and to coordinate the fighting efficiency of the three services.  For these types of operations to be effective, India will have to revamp its entire Intelligence gathering system. We should cut down on the plethora of Intelligence agencies who only undercut each other for the so called intelligence. We should just have two agencies - Intelligence Bureau for internal intelligence and Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) for foreign intelligence. R&AW must have its powers of working in a proactive manner outside the country restored. Cases in point are CIA of US, MOSSAD of Israel and even the ISI of Pakistan. It is time we wake up to this great opportunity.

The Special Forces checklist
THE armed forces, para-military and the state police maintain a fairly large establishment of special forces and units for missions that do not generally fall in the realm of regular forces. Highly trained and better equipped than the rank and file, they are designated to perform a wide range of combat and combat support tasks across the entire spectrum of conflict. With the nature of warfare changing and emphasis shifting towards proxy war, low intensity conflict and sub-convectional warfare, the role and importance of Special Forces is assuming greater significance. Indian Special Forces have by and large acquitted themselves commendably, but issues like restructuring, modernisation, equipment, real-time intelligence and support elements need urgent redressal. Some of India's Special Forces are:
Parachute Regiment
With 10 battalions, it forms the largest and most important component of Special Forces in India. It includes traditional parachute units, 5 Para, 6 Para and 7 Para, as well as the Special Forces (SF) units, 1 Para (SF), 2 Para (SF), 3 Para (SF), 4 Para (SF), 9 Para (SF), 10 Para (SF) and 21 Para (SF). Its role includes covert and overt operations behind enemy lines, subversion and sabotage of vital enemy infrastructure through deep penetration and surgical strikes, intelligence gathering, counter-terrorist operations, hostage rescue and spearheading assaults.
Ghatak Platoons
Each infantry battalion has a platoon of highly trained commandos that form the unit's "shock troops" to assault enemy positions and fortifications with or without support from the unit. Their objectives include recce, combat patrol, search and destroy missions, ambush and designating targets for artillery and air raids. They are a means to further the tactical and strategic objectives of the battalion.
The navy's elite special operations wing, MARCOS (Marine Commandos) are considered amongst the world's finest maritime special forces and one of the few qualified to jump in the water with a full combat load. Similar to the US Navy SEALS, they are capable of undertaking operations in all types of terrain. Estimated to number 2,000 troops, their role includes underwater sabotage, hostage rescue and assaults and counter-terrorist operations in maritime and urban environment.
Numbering about 1,500, it is the IAF's special force and some elements are trained like the Para-commandos and MARCOS for missions deep behind enemy lines. Its roles include combat search and rescue of downed personnel from behind enemy lines, suppression of enemy air defence, radar busting, designating targets for guided missiles and munitions and other missions in support of air operations. It is also tasked to protect air bases and vital installations from enemy raids or terrorist attacks, sealing-off aircraft hangars and other major systems during conflicts, form emergency response teams and carry out anti-hijacking operations.
Aviation units
In addition to special missions like deep interdiction, electronic warfare and reconnaissance, the IAF has modified an dequipped some aircraft like the An-32, C-130J and Mi-17 and Mi-35 and trained aircrew to support and sustain operations by the Special Forces like para-dropping, airborne assaults and special heli-borne operations.
National Security Guards
With an overall strength of about 14,000 men drawn from the armed forces and the para-military, it is a special response anti-terrorist force under the home ministry. It is meant to neutralise terrorist threats, specially in urban or built-up areas, handling hijack situations in air and on land, bomb disposal and hostage rescue. The 51 Special Action Group, comprising army personnel, is the NSG,s offensive arm undertaking combat operations, while the Special Rangers Group drawn from the para-military is tasked with support and VVIP protection.
State Police Special Units
Many state police forces have their own special units to deal with local terrorist, insurgency and law and order situations, organised crime, drug trafficking and smuggling within their respective jurisdiction, that are beyond the capabilities of the constabulary. Examples of such forces are the Mumbai Police Anti-Terrorist Squad, Rajasthan Police Special Operations Group, Punjab Police SWAT, Greyhounds (Andhra Pradesh) and Chattisgarh Commando Battalion.

US consulate vehicle hit by Taliban suicide bomber in Pakistan, 1 dead   Read more at:
Peshawar:  A Taliban suicide bomber rammed his motorbike into an armoured vehicle taking American officials to the U.S consulate in northwest Pakistan on Friday, in a strike the militants said was in revenge for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.  Two Americans suffered minor injuries, but one Pakistani passer-by was killed and at least 10 others were wounded in the attack in the city of Peshawar, officials said. The strike was the first on Westerners since the May 2 raid by American commandos on bin Laden's hideout in an army town around three hours from Peshawar.  The Pakistani Taliban, an Al Qaeda-allied group behind scores of attacks in recent years, claimed responsibility.  "We say to the Americans and NATO that we will carry out more deadly attacks and we can do it," Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said in a phone call from an undisclosed location. "We had warned that we will avenge the martyrdom of Osama."  
The Americans were travelling in two cars from their homes to the heavily-protected consulate building when the bomber on a motorbike struck one of the vehicles, said U.S. Embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez. The Americans from the hit car were whisked away from the scene in the second vehicle.  The most serious wound was a possible broken hand, he said.  Pakistani police's initial reports contradicted Rodriguez's account by suggesting it was a car bomb, and made no mention of a suicide attacker. But the police were still investigating.  Rodriguez declined to say what job the Americans held. The consulate is home to diplomats, security contractors and - it is widely believed - CIA staff hunting Al Qaeda and associated groups. Both the consulate building and a previous top officer there have been attacked in the past.  Peshawar lies just outside Pakistan's tribal regions, where Al Qaeda and the Taliban have bases.  The city has witnessed many of the suicide and other bombings that have scarred Pakistan over the past five years, the vast majority against Pakistani government and security force targets. Foreigners in Pakistan have also been targeted, but not nearly as much.  Last week, the Pakistani Taliban killed more than 80 Pakistani recruits for a paramilitary border force in double suicide attacks close to Peshawar. They said those blasts were also in revenge for the death of bin Laden.  Pakistani TV footage showed that the car that was hit was a large, sport utility vehicle. It appeared to have veered into a pole and the hood was damaged. Nearby buildings also were damaged in the blast.  In August 2008, Lynne Tracy, then the top U.S. diplomat at the consulate, survived a gun attack on her armoured vehicle. In April last year, militants used car bombs and grenades to strike the consulate, killing eight people. None of the dead were U.S. citizens, but several were security guards working for the consulate.  The U.S. raid that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad has badly damaged Pakistani-American relations.  Pakistan is angry it was not warned in advance that the Navy SEALs team would storm bin Laden's compound, and insists it had no idea the terror mastermind was hiding there. U.S. officials have visited Pakistan in recent days to try to patch up differences, and assure Pakistan's continued cooperation in the battle against Al Qaeda and allies Islamist militant groups.

India to get 15 choppers from Russia
India will receive 15 Mi-17B-5 helicopters this year from Russia as part of the contract for 80 choppers.  Russia is to supply the helicopters to India within the framework of a contract India's Defence Ministry signed with Russia's arms exporter Rosoboronexport.
The contract is likely to be complemented with an extra order for 59 such helicopters, the general director of the Helicopters of Russia holding company, Dmitry Petrov, told Itar-Tass.  Russia is participating in the Indian Defence Ministry's tenders for the upgrade of 108 helicopters Mi-17 for the Indian army and 17 Ka-28 helicopters for the Indian Navy, Petrov said.

N.A.K. Browne next Air Chief
Air Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne will be the new Chief of the Air Staff. He will assume office on retirement of Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik on July 31.  Air Marshal Browne, who will turn 60 on December 15 this year, is a fighter pilot with a varied operational experience, including flying Hunters, all variants of the MiG21s, Jaguars and Sukhoi-30, logging about 3,100 hours, the Defence Ministry said.  An alumnus of the National Defence Academy at Khadakwasla in Pune, he had served as an instructor at the Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment and the Tri-services Defence Services Staff College in Wellington.  A graduate of the Air Command and Staff College at Albama in the United States, Air Marshal Browne trained with the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom on Jaguar aircraft and later commanded a Jaguar squadron.  During his 38 years with the IAF, he held various operational and staff appointments that include Joint Director at the Air War Strategy Cell at the Air Headquarters, Chief Operations Officer and Air Officer Commanding of a SU-30 base, Air-I at the New Delhi-based Western Air Command (WAC) and Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Intelligence) at the Air Headquarters.  In April 1997, he established the Indian Defence Wing in Tel Aviv and served as the Defence Attache till July 2000. Between 2007 and 2009, as the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff at the Air Headquarters, he oversaw the lAF's major modernisation programmes.  Before joining the Air headquarters this January as the Vice-Chief of the Air Staff, he headed the WAC. Air Marshal Browne has been decorated with Param Vishist Seva Medal, Ati Vishist Seva Medal, Vayu Sena Medal. He is appointed as one of the Honorary ADCs to the President of India.  He is married to Kiran Browne. They have a son, Omar, who is a fighter pilot in the IAF, and daughter Alisha, who works for a multinational company.

Growing China-Pak defence ties matter of concern: AK Antony
India today said it views with "serious concern" the growing defence ties between China and Pakistan and that it will have to enhance its own capabilities to meet the challenge.  "It is a matter of serious concern for us. The main thing is, we have to increase our capability, that i the only answer," defence minister AK Antony told reporters here when asked to comment on the growing defence ties between China and Pakistan.  The comments come in the backdrop of reports that China would immediately be providing Pakistan with 50 new JF-17 Thunder multi-role jets under a co-production agreement.  Antony, who was speaking after addressing the Unified Commander's Conference, also observed that the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan would have a fallout in the neighbourhood and "it can affect India also".  He said the safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan is "the main concerns for us" and Islamabad should "disband and destroy" all the terror outfits if it "sincerely" wants to improve relations with India.  When referred to statements by Army Chief Gen VK Singh and Air Chief P V Naik that India has capability of launching a surgical strike like the US carried out in Abbottabad, Antony refused to comment, saying "the Prime Minister has expressed his view. I don't have anything to say."  The Prime Minister has made it clear that India would not undertake such a strike.  On the situation on the Line of Control (LoC), the Defence Minister said, "Compared to past, violence level has come down but infiltration attempts were noticed on few occasions. Ceasefire violations are there. But by and large situation has improved."  With regard to the status of C-17 heavy-lift aircraft deal with the United States, Antony said, "The matter is before the CCS and no deadline can be set to finalise it."

Pak, India exchange maps, survey reports on Sir Creek dispute
SLAMABAD: Pakistan and India have agreed on resolving Sir Creek dispute keeping in view interest of both the countries besides exchanging survey reports and maps on this issue.  First round of talks on Sir Creek concluded in Ministry of Defence Rawalpindi Friday. Talks remained suspended for four years.  8-member Indian delegation was led by Surveyor General of India S Sabha Rao and Pakistan delegation was headed by additional defence secretary Rear Admiral Shah Sohail Masud.  As per Online both the sides exchanged maps and survey reports with reference to the whole area of Sir Creek during first round of the talks.  During the final round of talks on Saturday both the sides will focus on developing consensus that joint survey of Sir Creek be got conducted as was decided during Musharraf regime. It was suspended due to Mumbai attacks incident.  Sources told Online that first round of talks remained positive and constructive and it was held in conducive atmosphere.  A joint declaration is likely to be announced on conclusion of 2nd round of talks.

Astra ballistic flight test carried out
Balasore (Orissa), May 20 (PTI) India today carried out the ballistic flight test of Astra -- Beyond-Visual-Range Air-to-Air Missile -- from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur near here today.The missile was fired around 0950 hours, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) sources said, adding two more tests are likely to be conducted in the next two days.The missile is envisaged to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft at supersonic speeds in the head-on mode at a range of 80 km and in tail-chase mode at 20 km."The main purpose of today's trial is to gauge the performance of the motor, propulsion system and the configurations of the vehicle and aero-dynamics evaluation," said a DRDO scientist.The data is being analysed by the scientists to ascertain the outcome of the trial.The missile, after its final trials, would be integrated with fighter aircraft Su-30 MKI. Astra missiles would also be carried by MiG-29 and Light Combat Aircraft Tejas.Astra, which uses solid propellant, can carry a conventional warhead of 15 kg. It is the smallest of the missiles developed by the DRDO in terms of size and weight.It is 3.8-metre long and has a diameter of 178 mm with an overall launch weight of 160 kg. The missile could be launched from different altitudes � it can cover 110 km when launched from an altitude of 15 km, 44 km when fired from an altitude of eight km and 21 km when the altitude is sea-level.DRDO officials said it is more advanced than the similar class of missiles of the US, Russia and France. The missile�s captive flight tests from Su-30MKI were carried out near Pune in November 2009 when seven sorties were conducted.Astra�s first flight trial took place on May 9, 2003 from the ITR at Chandipur.

India and Operation Geronimo
In no country did Osama bin Laden's demise generate as acute a sense of vindication as in India. For the past twenty years, India has pointed to Pakistan as the epicentre of regional and global terrorism.  Aside from sensationalist headlines and the occasional barb, India's self-satisfaction was generally muted, expressed in tones of exasperation rather than glee. In the short-term, bin Laden's discovery at the heart of the Pakistani establishment offers only a fleeting sense of schadenfraude to Indian decision-makers.   Despite the anger coming from the US Congress, it would be wishful thinking on the part of India to expect US assistance to Pakistan to dry up. As long as 130,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan continue to require feeding and fueling, and as long as the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) into the country is deemed inadequate, the US will not completely stem the flow of funds to the war's staging point.  Moreover, if bin Laden's death enables President Obama to declare victory in the Afghan campaign, as many Democrats are urging, then India envisages a new set of security threats. New Delhi fears that a precipitous US withdrawal would result in a power vacuum in Kabul, one that would open operating space for anti-Indian militants in southern and eastern Afghanistan.  Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was accorded the rare honour of addressing Afghanistan's parliament in mid-May, and he pointedly exhorted the country to determine its future "without outside interference or coercion". But Hamid Karzai's growing overtures to Pakistan indicate that that this is unlikely to happen, and that significant concessions will be made to Pakistan as the peace process unfolds over the next several years.  India does have robust links to Afghan line ministries, but its influence within the regime has dwindled since Hamid Karzai's firing of interior minister Hanif Atmar and intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh last year. It could attempt to re-activate old ties to what is left of the Northern Alliance, but this would make India little more than a bit player in any renewed civil war. It's ability to funnel money and arms to anti-Taliban warlords in the 1990s was hardly effective in preventing militancy across the rest of the country.  As a result, few in Delhi are calling for an American departure, even if this would grant Washington a freer hand in pressuring Pakistan's generals. Whether or not this is a sound prognosis, it continues to guide Indian thinking about Afghanistan.  An Indian Abbottabad?  In the longer-term, however, May 2 2011, might prove to be a pivotal moment. This is because the circumstances of bin Laden's death may have shifted India's calculus for using force against Pakistan in future crises or standoffs.  This is categorically not because India is able to conduct an Abbottabad-esque raid, as Indian Army chief VK Singh suggested when he declared that "all arms of the [Indian] military are competent to carry out such an operation". They are not. (And this reflects a worrying trend among Indian Army chiefs to make self-assured and subsequently misinterpreted statements that complicate Indian diplomacy).  Pakistan's air defences did appear to receive a blow by the notional ease with which four American helicopters traversed the 160 miles from Jalalabad to Abbottabad, conducting a firefight under the nose of sleeping cadets of the Pakistan Military Academy, before supposedly evading hastily scrambled US-supplied F-16 jets of the Pakistan Air Force.  But this is a moot point, because India will operate on the entirely reasonable assumption that Pakistan was informed of the operation once it was underway and was told in no uncertain terms that the Pakistani Air Force would come to regret any interference.  More importantly, India's soldiers and spies know that they possess neither the same proficiency in joint operations nor the necessary human intelligence to replicate the feat. According to B Raman, the former head of counterterrorism of India's foreign intelligence service, India's covert action capabilities in Pakistan were dismantled by then Prime Minister I K Gujral nearly fifteen years ago and have never been reconstructed.  All this means that a figure like Hafiz Saeed, leader of the Punjabi terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, can sleep soundly without fear of Indian commandos dropping into his Lahore compound.  Perceptions of Pakistan  Rather, the important implications of Operation Geronimo lie in the way it has transformed global perceptions of Pakistan's links to militant organisations.  This international dismay with Pakistan is somewhat ironic, because the evidence tying the Pakistan Army and ISI intelligence agency to Al Qaeda is weaker and more circumstantial than that implicating them in the activities of other groups, such as the Afghan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, or Jaish-e-Mohammed, which has been steadily mounting over the past decade.  Only a week before the US raid, the top American military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, bluntly conceded that "the ISI has a long-standing relationship with the Haqqani network". Separately, a federal court in Chicago will shortly implicate an officer of the ISI in the Mumbai attacks of 2008.  Few American and NATO officers still harbour any doubts about the direct collusion of the highest ranks of the Pakistani military with most segments of the Afghan insurgency. Leaked threat assessments from Guantanamo Bay are replete with references to links between the ISI and Taliban leader Mullah Omar.  And yet it took bin Laden's death to bring these sentiments to boiling point, prompting even President Obama to ask "whether there might have been some people inside of [Pakistan's] government" helping bin Laden to elude capture. Public statements are careful to note that the US has no evidence of Pakistani complicity, but officials privately express a certain incredulousness. Whether or not Pakistan did facilitate bin Laden's evasion of US forces - and there is a volume of circumstantial evidence each way - is less relevant than the effect that this episode has produced: a worldwide exhaustion of patience with Rawalpindi.  Perceptions Matter  This sea-change in perceptions matters. After Pakistan-based terrorists assaulted the Indian parliament as part of a sequence of attacks from 2001-02, India undertook its largest military mobilisation since the 1971 India-Pakistan War. Over a million troops were called up on each side, and many hundreds died in accidents and skirmishes. During that standoff, known as the "twin peaks crisis", American and British diplomats made strenuous efforts to restrain India from using force.  But hereafter, diplomats everywhere will begin with a firmer presumption of state complicity.  Last year, outgoing US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, normally a paragon of caution, noted that it was "not unreasonable to assume Indian patience would be limited were there to be further attacks" after that inflicted on Mumbai. Gates' comment was more than an observation; it was a warning, and one whose applicability has suddenly sharpened.  Washington is hardly likely to green-light a war, of course. It has deep-rooted concerns about nuclear escalation, and does not trust the command and control arrangements of either India or Pakistan. But it may go as far as to facilitate Indian air strikes away from urban areas, possibly through the provision of sensitive intelligence. This is particularly so if it deems the likely alternative to be an Indian ground assault that could result – as per Pakistani doctrine – in the use of tactical nuclear weapons against India's conventional forces on Pakistani soil.  The extent to which India has adopted a limited war plan – the so-called Cold Start doctrine – has been greatly overstated. That plan was developed by the army without consulting other branches of the military and it is yet to secure the approval of civilian leaders. Its logistical and organisational foundations are nowhere near ready.  But, as in the aftermath of Mumbai, the Indian Air Force is likely prepared and willing to conduct aerial attacks. An Indian defence journalist, Manoj Joshi, claimed that in November 2008 "all three services were keen to strike" and that the IAF went as far as to activate its forward bases. Segments of the civilian leadership, particularly in any future government controlled by the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (which is currently in opposition), would favour this option.  Far from being "surgical", these would likely be ineffectual and risky. They would do little, in concrete terms, to degrade terrorist groups' operational capabilities. Rather than deter Pakistan's generals from the sponsorship of terrorism, they might renew widespread support for such a policy, although air strikes would serve a punitive and symbolic function – just as the US action did in Abbottabad.  None of this means that India is guaranteed to use force, and an array of other constraints - military readiness, fear of nuclear escalation, civilian reticence – will play their part. Nonetheless, the diplomatic environment in which the choice would be made has changed.   Old gamble, new odds  Does Pakistan understand this shift? The three years since the Mumbai attacks have passed without any significant acts of mass-casualty terrorism from Islamist groups. This is principally because the ISI has kept Lashkar-e-Taiba and affiliated groups on a tight leash (though the extent of that control over the minutiae of their operations remains contested).  The leash may tighten, but the Pakistani military is not ready to completely give up its "strategic assets", as Pakistan Army chief General Kayani once famously described warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani. This is because Pakistan's guiding assumption continues to be that the US is willing to discriminate between global and India-centric militants. That assumption became less tenable as these groups made alliances of expedience, cooperated in places like Waziristan, and some, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, began to explore Western targets.  The idea that the Americans are still willing to distinguish between different Pakistani militants may have dissolved altogether on that moonless night in Abbottabad. Pakistan's gamble that the US will turn a blind eye to attacks on India because they are peripheral to US interests may no longer pay off.  Whether or not one approves of putative Indian retaliation, and there are reasons to be leery, there is only one surefire way to transform international perceptions of Pakistan's involvement in any future attacks on India. That is for Pakistan to begin degrading – cautiously and without public fanfare – the full panoply of terrorist groups on its soil, and not just those threatening the Pakistani state. This is no easy task - it will take considerable finesse to prevent this leading to a further escalation of Pakistan's civil war.  This prescription is at odds with one advanced by Anatol Lieven, who has recently published an exhaustive study of Pakistan. Lieven argues that "the United States should accept and even welcome continued Pakistani military links to Lashkar-e-Taiba … while holding to the absolute condition that the Pakistani military uses these connections successfully to prevent further LeT attacks". The audacity of this argument only marginally obscures its wrongheadedness. As extraordinarily painful as a process of adjustment would be, in a country already accustomed to considerable pain, endorsing such Pakistani "links" will purchase short-term stability at a potentially devastating long-term cost. (Lieven's argument also implies the reductio ad absurdum that one ought to fund any terrorist group over which one might exert some control).  Many Pakistanis reject this argument wholeheartedly. Babar Sattar, writing in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, wrote with penetrating clarity that "it is time to completely liquidate the jihadi project and cleanse our state machinery of those who believe in its virtue". Instead, the military establishment closed ranks. Kayani regrouped his senior officers and, with cowed civilians in tow, struck back at the US. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani hit a defiant note in parliament. The name of the CIA station chief in Islamabad was mysteriously leaked for the second time in six months. The war that should have been launched on militants was, it seems, launched on the CIA.  Once its complaint has been lodged, the dispute will quickly die down. But the disparity in perceptions between a disillusioned international community and a recalcitrant military establishment means that next time Pakistan stands indicted by India, the anticipated chorus of restraint may be reduced to a Pakistani solo.  For more writing by Shashank Joshi, visit his website here.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal