Sunday, April 24, 2016

The European nightmare has begun

Last November, reporting on the 2015 Global Terrorism Index, issued by Sydney-based think tank, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website headlined the news “Globally, terrorism is on the rise-but little of it occurs in Western countries.”
Strangely enough, though the Paris attack had taken place, leading to the deaths of 130 persons, it did not figure in the report on What the report did reveal, however, was that the terrorist threat was at the highest level it had ever been, and was rising at an “unprecedented pace.” It showed that a total of 32,658 people were killed by terrorists around the world in 2014, an 80 per cent increase over 2013.
No doubt the figures for 2015 will be higher, and for 2016, which has just experienced the horrific Brussels attack, the recent attacks in Turkey and Pakistan, even higher. While the terrorist high tide that had ravaged Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Nigeria and Iraq, is showing no signs of receding, it seems to be spreading to other areas like Indonesia and Turkey.
Deaths from terrorism have increased dramatically since the US invasion of Iraq, peaking first in 2007 with the US troop surge in the country and subsequently going virtually off the chart with the onset of the Syrian civil war and the Iraqi meltdown.
While in absolute terms, the deaths in Paris or Brussels are not as deadly as the happenings in Syria, Iraq or Nigeria, the impact has been much more severe because they were unexpected and took place in two advanced and secular societies where there is no ostensible social or political tension.
A portrait of major attacks in the first 15 days of 2016 reveals the spread and virulence of global terrorism. In Afghanistan, on January 1 a suicide bomber detonated himself at a French restaurant in Kabul killing two persons and wounding 15. On January 2, four terrorists attacked the Indian military base at Pathankot killing 7 security personnel and 1 civilian. On the same day in Mogadishu, 3 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a popular restaurant near the National Theatre. On January 3, two bombers detonated their vehicle-borne explosive at the gate of a former US base in Iraq killing 15 members of the security forces.
On January 7 a suicide truck bomb killed 60 people and injured 200 at a police training camp near the town of Zliten in Libya. On January 11, at least 12 persons were killed in an attack on a shopping mall in Baghdad, on the same day, a double blast in the northern part of the city led to the deaths of 20 persons. On January 12, a suicide bomber killed 11 persons in a suicide bombing in Istanbul, targeting tourists. 7 people died in a suicide bombing attack in Jalalabad near the Indian consulate which was accompanied by an attack by gunmen on the Pakistani consulate.
On the 13th of January 15 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a police vehicle in Quetta. Twelve people died when a suicide bomber struck at a mosque at Kouyape, close to the Nigerian border in Cameroon, in an attack attributed to the Boko Haram. January 14 saw suicide bombings and a shootout in Jakarta, resulting in 4 deaths as well as that of the 4 terrorists who claimed allegiance to the IS. On January 15, 63 people died in El Adde Somalia following a siege at an African Union base. On the same day terrorist stormed a hotel taking hostages and killing some 30 people in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso.
India was one of the first countries to suffer from terrorist strikes, mainly masterminded by actors supported by Pakistan. However, Pakistan-backed militancy and terrorism has declined since the Mumbai attacks of 2008. India has successfully coped with the worst and developed protocols and procedures to minimise terrorist violence. But many other countries in Africa and the Middle-East are simply going under the onslaught of mass casualty attacks.
According to the 2015 GTI, most of the attacks in the West between 2006-2014 were lone wolf attacks. But clearly even that is now set to change. What happened in Paris and Brussels was the handiwork of networks of Islamists who were embedded in their societies. They may have been radicalised by the Islamic State propaganda, but they were very much the products of the dysfunctions of modern Europe.
There is every indication that the huge surge of refugees into Europe has enabled many European Muslims who had travelled to the Islamic State to return fully radicalised to their societies. It also reveals that they have now acquired high levels of training and capabilities, such as the ability to make large quantities of the very dangerous explosive TATP which can be made from commonly available chemicals. Europe’s nightmare may just be beginning.
Mid Day March 29, 2016

India is Making Up for the Lack of Vision by Bandwagoning with the US

Following Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s visit to the United States last December, his American counterpart, Ashton Carter, waxed eloquent. “We’ve done so much more in the last year, probably more than we’ve done in the ten years before that,” said Carter. “I’m guessing that in the next ten months, we will yet again do more than we’ve done in the last year,” he added.
Carter was merely expressing what most observers believe to be true.
Through the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) years, former Defence Minister A.K. Antony stood like a Leftist rock against closer military links with the US, despite the views of his boss, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Antony knew he had Sonia Gandhi’s blessings, and he was able to successfully block all measures to enhance the India-US military relationship, which had looked so promising when the two countries had signed the New Framework of Defence Cooperation in 2005, and the Maritime Cooperation Agreement of 2006.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and India's Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar take a photo before their bilateral meeting at the Pentagon on Dec. 10, 2015. Credit: Ash Carter/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

With the IIT-educated, tech-savvy Manohar Parrikar as the Defence Minister of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, the US has made it more than obvious than its military ties with India are on a roll. In February this year, the news agency Reuters reported that India and the US had discussed the idea of joint patrols in the South China Sea. The item, by the world’s leading news agency, implied that the discussions had taken place during Parrikar’s visit, and that there had been follow-up discussions since.
But the next day, a spokesperson in Washington DC issued a clarification, saying, “At this time, there are no plans for any joint naval patrols.” On March 5, at a press conference, Parrikar too said: “As of now India has not taken part in joint patrols, but we do participate in joint exercises. So the issue of joint patrols at this time does not arise.” Neither side is categorically denying the idea of joint patrols; all they seem to be saying is that it is a matter of time.
The foundational agreements
In the run up to US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter’s visit to India in April, the two countries have been having intense discussions on a range of issues, and joint patrolling is only one of them. The discussion is focussed on the need for India to sign ‘foundational’ agreements which will enable the India-US military relationship to grow deeper roots. The three agreements are the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geospatial intelligence.
Of the three, the LSA is said to be the closest to being signed by the Indian side, despite resistance from the military and civilian officials of the Ministry of Defence. Initially, this was  called the Access and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) but later it was renamed the Logistics Support Agreement. The ACSA is a standard agreement that the US has with its NATO allies and other countries like Singapore, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. The US and Pakistan also signed an agreement in 2002, which lapsed in 2012.
Under the LSA, the two sides can access supplies, spare parts and services from each other’s land facilities, air bases, and ports, which can then be reimbursed.
In the past, India has provided logistics assistance to the US on a ‘case by case’ basis. So for a short while, we permitted the refueling of American aircraft in Bombay during the first Gulf War in 1991. During Operation Enduring Freedom, India permitted US ships to visit Indian ports for repair and fuel. It also offered the US military bases for operations in Afghanistan before Pakistan was coerced into doing the needful. India also escorted US vessels through the Malacca Straits in this period.
The CISMOA would allow the US to provide India with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that Indian and US higher commanders, aircraft and ships can communicate with each other through secure networks in peace and war.
The BECA would provide India with topographical and aeronautical data and products which will aid navigation and targeting. These are areas in which the US is very advanced and the agreement could definitely benefit India, although the armed forces which use systems from many other countries like Israel and Russia are not comfortable with sharing information about their systems with the US.
India has told the US that it is agreeable ‘in principle’ to all these agreements but wants them to be modified to be ‘India specific’, in other words, allay India’s reservations, wherever they exist.
All these agreements are reciprocal. But only the most obtuse analyst can ignore the fact that in the ultimate analysis, we are talking about a relationship, a partnership if you will, between two very different countries: a country with a global military reach, and another which is hard put to remain afloat in its own region. India may have the potential of being a regional power, but at present and for another decade at least, this potential is all there will be.
Two other agreements are not being discussed, but remain problematic. These are the End Use Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) and the Enhanced End Use Monitoring Agreement (EEUMA).
The US requires all foreign buyers to sign up to these agreements, and this includes close allies like the UK and Australia. In response to a question about the EUMA in Parliament in 2014, Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs VK Singh said that India had various end use monitoring arrangements with the US since the 1990s.
Then in 2009, the two sides signed a generic agreement to smoothen the process. This is not a formal agreement, but an India-specific arrangement. The EUMA and EEUMA remain major deal-breakers when it comes to India acquiring US equipment, because India cannot always permit the US to access locations where equipment or weapons systems are located. What do you do about, say, air-to-air missiles which are located in operational locations?
Does India need the foundational agreements?
The big question is: Does India need the foundational agreements?
The answer to this is complex. If India intends to maintain its relations with the US at the current level, it can live without them. But if it plans to enhance its ties to the level of strategic coordination, or even cooperation, India would be well advised to sign them.
What would India gain by them? India could definitely benefit from BECA.  The LSA can theoretically extend the reach of the Indian Navy deep into the Asia-Pacific region, where it has no base facilities. But this begs the question: does India intend operational deployment in those areas anytime in this decade?
The LSA could also be useful in Indian operations in its backyard in the Indian Ocean, but could it access American facilities in Oman for some future contingency in relation to Pakistan? Probably not.
The downsides of the CISMOA are obvious – it would enable the US to listen in on Indian conversations in operations where the US may be neutral or even adversarial, such as contingencies relating to Pakistan.
It is for this reason that India has refused to accept advanced communications equipment with US made C-130J transports and P8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft, and instead outfitted them with non-US communications equipment.
As for the US, it does not quite have to depend on an Indian LSA. It has prosecuted two wars in the past decade and more, without any real need for Indian facilities. But getting India to sign up on the LSA, CISMOA and BECA would serve the purpose of binding India closer to the US militarily, because it would make their equipment interoperable.
The US’ larger goals in its ties with India are no secret.The 2006 version of the National Security Strategy of the United States noted that US interests required a strong relationship with India, and that “India now is poised to shoulder global obligations in cooperation with the United States in a way befitting a major power.”
More recently, at the Raisina Dialogue on March 2, 2016, Admiral Harry B Harris, of the US Pacific Commander called for the two countries to not just exercise together, but “to conduct joint operations.” In the context of India’s exercising with Australia and Japan as well, he said, “As India takes a leading role as a world power, military operations with other nations will undoubtedly become routine.”
But the Indian perspective remains clouded because it has no declared national security strategy, and hence it is difficult to determine what exactly it is seeking from its relationship with the United States. The most obvious and general answer is that it wants high-technology, trade and good political ties with the world’s primary power which would aid its economic growth. Only the US has the clout to line up the Nuclear Suppliers Group to waive its rules governing civil nuclear trade, as it did in 2008. American blessings are needed to get rid of other technology restraints arising from the Wassenaar Arrangement or the Australia Group, and for the big prize – a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
But would India be game for joint military operations? If so against whom? China or Pakistan, or some other party? These things could be fraught with hazards if they are not thought through. India and the US do not have a common world or regional view – the US may be inimical to China, but its relations with Beijing are denser than those between India and China.
Likewise, it may have difficulties with Pakistan, but not of the kind India has. India views good ties with Iran as a strategic asset, and the US position is different. The same could be said of Russia on whom the Indian military machine will be dependent for at least another decade and a half.
But the American pressure is very much on.  The draft  US-India Defence Partnership Act which was introduced in the US Congress some weeks back seeks to  amend the US Arms Control and Export Control Act to give India a special status equivalent of US treaty allies and partners.
In addition, this act will call on the US president to “develop military contingency plans for addressing threats to mutual security interests” as well as call on the president to “annually assess the extent to which India possesses strategic operational capabilities to execute military operations of mutual interest to the United States and India.” Presumably, if India lacks those capabilities, the US will help to make up the deficit.
The obvious point is whether India wants that kind of a relationship with the US. “Military operations of mutual interest” implies a military alliance. And military alliances come up when there is an imminent sense of danger.
What India needs to do
So, the one calculation that India has to make is whether the balance of power in its region has become so skewed and the situation so dangerous in its relations with China that it needs a military alliance with the US to maintain the balance of power.
If indeed India we feel that we need US muscle to deal with China, we need to clearly assess whether or not Washington and New Delhi are on the same page on issues relating to not just the South China Sea, but the Sino-Indian border, the Sino-Pakistan relationship and so on. We need to gauge whether the US will be there for us if we need them. And that is where we go into an entirely new realm of analysis.
Actually, the real problem with India is its inability to be cynical about its relationship with the US. It tends to go overboard, and this is a special weakness of the NDA which when asked to bend, tends to crawl before Uncle Sam. In 2003, when the US asked for Indian troops to participate in the Iraq War, almost the entire NDA Cabinet backed the decision. It was just one wise man, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who stood against his entire cabinet committee on security lineup, and said “No.”
New Delhi should learn from the way other US allies and proto-allies have dealt with Washington. Countries like Turkey, Pakistan, and even China have gained a great deal  of political and strategic support or military aid by lining up with the US. But at the end of the day they have played their own game. The trick, as discerning readers will detect, is not to be carried away by the rhetoric, and to relentlessly pursue the national interest (provided you have a clear idea of what the national interest is).
Finessing the ability to play Uncle Sam is the name of the game. If you are up to it, signing the foundational agreements is not a major problem – none of them are so drastic that they will by themselves alter the nature of the Indo-US relationship. At the bottom of all this is the vision you have for India. If you think partnering with the US will take you there, by all means do so. But first figure out where “there” is. Is it a “great nation” status, or an independent pole in a multi-polar world?  Or do we have the gumption to dream, like China does, of becoming the  lead – not the MEA’s ‘leading power’ in the future?
Unfortunately, what India really seems to be doing is making up for the lack of vision by bandwagoning with the US.
The Wire March 28, 2016

'Spy' arrest gives Pakistan ammo on Balochistan

The arrest of a retired Indian Navy Commander, Kulbhushan Jadhav, allegedly for spying and other activities in Balochistan, is a coup of sorts for Islamabad. 
For years now Pakistan has claimed that India is involved in Baloch separatism, but has not been able to provide a shred of evidence. Now, if we are to believe Islamabad’s version of events in the Jadhav case, they have it in good measure. 

But in such cases the truth is usually not what it seems to be. It does seem rather far-fetched to believe that an Indian naval commander would personally be involved in a covert operation in what is certainly be very dangerous territory. We need more details before we can accept the Pakistani charges at face value. 

Several people in India are not aware of the contemporary history of Balochistan
Several people in India are not aware of the contemporary history of Balochistan

Presumably, he will receive an open trial for his alleged transgressions and we will learn the truth - or maybe we will never really get to know it. 
India has never once publicly espoused the cause of Balochistan. Perhaps, given Islamabad’s covert and overt support to Kashmiri separatism and other acts of terrorism in India, New Delhi does indeed back the Baloch, but more likely through monetary support, rather than any military training or arms supplies. 
In contrast, Pakistan has for decades trained, armed and funded Kashmiri separatists and provided shelter for a generation of Khalistani and other terrorists. 
Many people in India are not aware of the contemporary history of Balochistan and the fact that the accession of its principal unit, the Khanate of Kalat, is even more controversial than Jammu & Kashmir’s accession to the Indian Union. 
If Kashmir has been in turmoil since 1990, separatism and insurgency have been a feature of Baloch history since they became part of Pakistan. 
Sparsely populated Balochistan comprises 44 per cent of the area of Pakistan, but just 5 per cent of its population. Pakistani Balochistan comprises the Khanate of Kalat, its feudatories Kharan, Makran and Las Bela, and the British Chief Commissionership of Balochistan. 
In the run-up to Partition, the Congress and the Muslim League faced off on the status of the Princely States in the country. Pandit Nehru rejected the notion that with the withdrawal of British paramountcy, the Princely States would become sovereign again. Whereas Jinnah, who knew that the bulk of Princely States would fall into what would become India, supported the notion that they could either join India or Pakistan or “assume sovereign and independent status for themselves.” 

The Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, was an enthusiastic supporter of Pakistan and Jinnah was a legal adviser of the state. Kalat believed its relations with the British were akin to those of Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim. 
Advised by Jinnah, the Khan of Kalat gave a memo to the Cabinet Mission in 1946 seeking independent status. 
At a meeting in Delhi on August 4, 1947, attended by the Khan, Jinnah and other officials, it was decided that the state would become independent. 
Three days before Pakistan came into being, on August 11, 1947, a joint statement was signed by Pakistan States Department recognising the independence of Kalat. 
Pakistan has subsequently claimed that this was simply a Standstill Agreement, but American scholar Wayne Wilcox who has examined the matter says it was not. 

On August 15, a day after Pakistan became independent, Kalat declared its independence which was endorsed by its elected National Assembly, though the state said it was willing to enter into special relations with Pakistan on the matter of defence, foreign affairs and communications. 
Baloch leaders, including the Khan sought Indian help to establish their claims, but they were rebuffed by Nehru. 
In March 1948, Pakistani troops were massed on its border and the Khan was forced to sign an Instrument of Accession with Pakistan, and on April 1, 1948, the Pakistan Army marched into the state and arrested the Khan. His brother Prince Abdul Karim escaped and declared a revolt, the first of a series of five so far that Pakistan has had to confront to date. 
As in the case of Kashmir, the British played a dubious hand in Balochistan. In 1946, the British felt they could live with an independent Balochistan, but by 1947 they believed this would be dangerous to their interests. The British High Commissioner was asked by London “to do what he can to guide the Pakistan government” to ensure that Kalat would not emerge as an independent entity. 
Pakistan has insistently charged India with helping the Baloch insurgency. No one has taken their charges seriously because their charges have been declarations, rather than the kind of proof India has adduced through the likes of David Coleman Headley or Ajmal Kasab. 
However, we do now have a new government in New Delhi, which may be less forbearing towards Pakistan than its predecessors. Covert operations are not something they will talk about openly. But Pakistan needs to watch out, because if India decides to follow Pakistan’s example in dealing with its neighbour, there could be big trouble ahead. 
Mail Today March 28 2016

Beyond Pakistan’s Claims to Have Caught a ‘RAW Agent’ Lies a Wilderness of Mirrors

Let us dispose of the notion that India does not carry out covert operations against Pakistan. New Delhi has, at least since 1990, refused to use the instrumentality of terrorism to hit back at Pakistan, but you can be sure that – short of terrorist acts – it employs all the weapons available in the covert arsenal for both defence and offence. This is the least you can expect, given Pakistan considers India its primary adversary and is into all kinds of activity ranging from ordinary espionage, to subversion of currency, promoting separatism and supporting terrorism.
India has important strategic interests in Pakistan, including in the Balochistan region. Balochistan is of interest principally because of the stepped up naval activities of the Chinese in Gwadar and the plans for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

baloch ap
For the past two decades, India has made no secret of its activities in Iranian Balochistan. It has sought to develop the port of Chabahar for alternative routes to Afghanistan and Central Asia. It has used its consulate in Zahedan, which is near the Pakistan border, to keep an eye on Pakistani activity there and support Indian interests. All this is done, of course, under the watchful eyes of the Iranian authorities who, no doubt, have their red-lines on what the Indians can do and what they cannot.
Looking at the case of Commander (retired) Kulbhushan Jadhav, the arrested India man that Pakistan says is a ‘RAW officer’, it is worthwhile recalling the legendary CIA counter-intelligence officer James Jesus Angleton’s description of intelligence craft as “a wilderness of mirrors.” Finding out where the truth lies is next to impossible, and reality is what you want to believe.
At first sight, the facts of the case are fairly straightforward.
On Thursday, local media in Pakistan reported that its security forces had arrested “a serving officer in the Indian navy and deputed to the intelligence agency Research & Analysis Wing (RAW)” in Balochistan. Subsequently, Dawn reported Balochistan home minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti as saying that “an Indian spy” was arrested in the southern part of the province.
On Friday, the Pakistan foreign office summoned Indian high commissioner Gautam Bambawale to protest what it claimed was the “subversive activities” of a “RAW officer.”
In a statement, the Pakistan foreign office said: “The Indian high commissioner was summoned by the foreign secretary today, and through a démarche (we) conveyed our protest and deep concern on the illegal entry into Pakistan by a RAW officer. And his involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi.”
Later on Friday, the official spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs, Vikas Swarup told reporters that the “said individual has no link with the government since his premature retirement from the Indian navy.” Indian diplomats in Pakistan had sought consular access, he said, adding that “India has no interest in interfering in the internal matters of any country and firmly believes that a stable and peaceful Pakistan is in the interest of all in the region.”
Pakistan’s Dunya News channel said that Jadhav had been arrested from the Chaman area of Balochistan, that his address in Mumbai was No 502B Silver Oak, Powai, Hiranandani Gardens and that he had a passport no. L9630722, with a valid Iranian visa made out in the name of Hussein Mubarak Patel. The channel said that Jadhav had joined RAW in 2013 and was initially based in Chabahar, the port in Iran which India is helping to develop.
The Indian Express has confirmed that Jadhav does indeed live where the Pakistani report says he does, is the son of a former police official in Mumbai, and is a businessman who had interests around the world, though it has not figured out what business he does.
This is the point from where the wilderness of mirrors begins.
The first big question is why a commander-level officer would be involved in a cross-border operation. His rank is the equivalent of a lieutenant colonel in the army, and officers of this rank run operations from a distance, they don’t participate in them. Indeed, persons of this rank are not even forward-based on a border where captains and majors run the operations that are in turn  executed by low-level agents, and non-commissioned officers, at least in the India-Pakistan context. Over the years, India has caught a raft of ISI agents, but all of them were relatively low-level operatives or non-commissioned officers like SSG commando Mohammed Khalid, who was arrested in Kupwara in 1995, or Naik Zulfikar Ahmed – who died in a Delhi hospital and was listed as a “martyr” on a Pakistan army website.
The second big question is why such an officer would carry an Indian passport with him for what was going to be a clandestine operation. Using third country passports for such missions is standard practice for any major intelligence agency, as it provides an immediate layer of deniability in the event of an agent being caught.
If we work with the assumption that Jadhav is indeed an Indian intelligence officer, there are several possibilities here.
First among these is that he was kidnapped from Iran and delivered to Pakistani officials at Chaman. The second, that he was lured by a Pakistani intelligence operation to enter Afghanistan and abducted from there. There is a third possibility – that Jadhav had to involve himself personally because either he had to deliver a large sum of money to Baloch contacts, or had been promised a meeting with someone so important that his contacts said this would require his personal presence.
The last scenario harkens to the Venlo incident in which British and Dutch intelligence officers were lured to the German border and kidnapped from Dutch soil in 1939. They were tempted by the offer of a meeting with a non-existent general who was supposed to be leading the resistance against Hitler. For Pakistan, getting hold of an Indian officer in Balochistan is a major coup. For years it has been shouting from the roof-tops that Indians were involved in Baloch separatist activity, as well as a whole raft of other bad things in Pakistan.

Copy of the Indian passport Kulbhushan Jadhav was allegedly carrying. Credit: Dunya TV
Copy of the Indian passport Kulbhushan Jadhav was allegedly carrying. Credit: Dunya TV
Now, they have a person in their custody and the government of India has acknowledged that he is, indeed, a former Indian navy official. As for New Delhi’s denial of any action prejudicial to Pakistani interests, we can treat that as proforma; after all, the government is not likely to acknowledge such things.
The fourth, and somewhat improbable, possibility is that having abducted Jadhav, the Pakistanis have manufactured evidence in the form of a forged passport. But this can easily be verified through the passport authorities. If indeed, such a passport has been issued to Jadhav, the MEA will end up with a lot of egg on its face.
While India midwifed the creation of Bangladesh, it has never publicly backed the Baloch separatist cause.  This despite the fact that Pakistani “moral and political support” for Kashmiri independence extends to funding, training and arming Kashmiris and Pakistani nationals to fight against Indian forces in the state. Indeed, ISI efforts to promote separatism in India pre-date the Bangladesh war. Simply put, those looking for training camps run by Indians in Afghanistan will not find them. This doesn’t preclude covert moral and monetary support to the Balochis, primarily because of the pain Pakistan has inflicted on India in the last 30 years  – and not with some belief that Balochistan ought to be free. There are few in India who would support the breakup of Pakistan because that would be to open a Pandora’s Box. So, the MEA statement backing a “stable and peaceful” Pakistan should be taken at face value.
What the Jadhav arrest has done is to bring to the public domain the covert war that India is fighting against Pakistan. We know a lot about the Pakistani war against India, but not so much about the Indian effort. It also opens up the possibility that this war, bitter though it may be, can also be fought with some rules – principally, that arrested agents are treated with dignity, not just by those who arrest them, but in their own home country after they return.
Spies who have served the country with great fortitude and suffered torture and long terms of imprisonment are left to rot when and if they manage to return home, usually after long spells of imprisonment. This is in stark contrast to the practices of countries like Russia, Israel, the US or Britain, which sticks by its men, and, in the right circumstances quietly arranges exchanges.

The Wire March 26, 2016

The Chinese Great Leap that is Leaving India Further Behind

The government of India last month showed the world that it cannot maintain control over a minor law and order event just kilometres away from its headquarters on Raisina hill in New Delhi. Just how it proposes to fulfil its bigger plans for overhauling the country’s infrastructure and launching a manufacturing revolution is a bit of a mystery.
All this is more troubling when you look in your neighbourhood and see China purposefully guiding its economy to  a soft landing and laying the foundations for its next advance – to emerge as a rich country by 2050 when it expects its per capita GDP to be of the order of $60,000.
This is no pie in the sky because its building blocks are being placed before our eyes, even though the full fruit of the projects will unfold over the coming decades. The best symbol of this was the arrival of the first “Silk Road” train from Yiwu, in eastern China, to Tehran, through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, taking 14 days less than  it would have taken the same cargo to go from Shanghai to Bandar Abbas. These are early days for the ambitious Silk Road scheme, which has the twin goals of connecting China to the high-end markets of Europe, as well as make it the geopolitical anchor of Eurasia.
A second indicator is the complete overhaul of two hoary programmes that have provided sinew to China’s emergence as a technology and manufacturing power. The new national research & development plan unveiled on February 16 will streamline the many state-funded science and technology programmes that are related to agriculture, energy, environment, health and various facets of industry and innovation. Many have a key national security component as well.   And as of now the plan covers 59 specific areas which have been based on the older Projects 863 and 973.
“863” is the numeric rendition of the year (1986) and the month (March)  of the launch of  the State High-Tech Development Programme. This is when several top weapons scientists wrote to supreme leader Deng Xiaoping calling for special focus on a range of civilian technologies to boost China’s growth. The technologies chosen were  in biotech, space, information, lasers, automation, new materials, super computing, telecom, marine  and, since 2001, clean energy.


Project 973 launched in March 1997 was  the National Basic Research programme aimed at giving China a strategic edge in a number of scientific fields ranging from agriculture to rare earths, population, materials and energy.
863 and 973  based themselves on  the American model followed by the National Institutes of Health and the Pentagon, where expert panels worked out priority areas, called for bids and awarded grants and contracts to researchers, labs and companies. They avoided the old British model into which India remains stuck, where all the activity is done under an allegedly autonomous council for scientific and industrial research which owns the labs and the scientists are life-long government employees.
A third indicator of the new directions China is headed towards comes from steps being taken by the National Development Reform Commission to put up 400 billion renminbi ($61 billion) per quarter this year to finance the next layer of infrastructure development across China. The money will be offered in the form of bonds to local authorities.
The goal of the special bond scheme is obviously to serve as a cushion against the slowdown of the Chinese economy which will continue through 2016 as well. But it is also to further enhance urban and suburban services like broadband, public transportation, telecommunications and promote the use of green technologies.
One important area for investment is also underway – the creation of a grid of charging stations for electric cars being made by Chinese companies. As part of 863, China invested a great deal in electric propulsion for vehicles. As a result, it is a common sight to electric scooters and motor-cycles in the streets of Chinese cities. Now, the stage is being set to have a million electric cars on Chinese roads by 2020. For this, a network of charging stations is being organised in cities and on principal expressways. Having missed the internal combustion engine revolution, China intends to have its companies in lead positions in electric car propulsion.
The fourth area of focus is the internet. Chinese plans to emerge as an internet super-power are being operationalised through its 13th five year plan. According to Wang Yukai of the China National Academy of Governance, its focus is on providing a high speed and secure broadband network throughout the country.
In 2015, China hosted the second world internet conference which was addressed by President Xi Jinping. That China has created a famously autonomous and huge internet system is well known, but what China is seeking to do now is to insist that the principles it has espoused – sovereign control – becomes a universal value.
Last year, China’s internet plans received key political direction from the fifth plenum of the Communist Party. In February 2014, it was announced that a new leading small group on internet security and information technology would be headed by Xi Jinping himself. These leading small groups are apex decision-making bodies, the equivalent of our erstwhile empowered group of ministers (EGOMS).
India, too has explored many of the ideas that the Chinese are working along. Rajiv Gandhi had established a number of technology missions in the late 1980s. But those programmes imploded along with the Rajiv prime ministership. Newer proposals are floating in the air with little direction. Having abolished the Planning Commission, the Modi government appears unclear as to what the Niti Ayog is supposed to do. In any case, unless it controls the money, as the Chinese NDRC does, its decisions will have little value. The unfortunate aspect of the situation today is that there seems to be a drift without any clear direction. Ministerial function may have improved in some areas, but long-range planning and marshalling of scarce resources is absent. As is social stability, but that is an entirely different issue.
The Wire March 8, 2016

JNU is the best

JNU may not figure in the list of the best universities in the world, but there can be little doubt that it is the best in India. The spread of its academic disciplines, and its influence in Indian academia and public life, cannot be matched by any other institution in the country. 
This is what was intended by the government when it was established as India’s ‘national university.’ 

Some of its schools, like those of international studies, life sciences, languages, biotechnology, environmental sciences, and social sciences are leaders in their respective areas in the country. This reflects the purpose with which the university was set up, as well as the investment the country has made.
Of the tens of thousands who apply, only a handful are admitted, which makes this an elite institution - just as top universities are around the world.
Sadly this is the cause of a great deal of envy and resentment, which is visible in a lot of uninformed, and even absurd, commentary we have heard in relation to the allegedly anti-national slogans being heard on the campus. 
The spread of its student body makes the university unique, because students come from across the country and from all classes of people through a deliberate policy of inclusiveness. 
Far from being a den of anti-nationals, JNU is the place where the project to shape the new Indian identity has been taking shape.
Make no mistake, the real goal of JNU is to promote India’s nationalist project. 
Though we became free in August 1947, Indians today still retain strong local identities – or language, ethnicity, religion, caste, sub-caste and so on. But it is the experience of JNU that many of these get broken down. Not surprisingly, you don’t get reports of North-easterners being bullied or Dalits being made to stay in their own hostels, as is the case with some other universities in the country. 
The products of the university are not one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs like IIT students. JNU has produced generations of teachers, civil society activists, political leaders, journalists, scholars, diplomats, executives, writers and poets. 
The best proof of its nation-building role is that the university has given birth to generations of sensitive and sensitised civil servants who run key departments of Union and state governments today. 
There is perhaps no university in India which produces more civil servants for the country than JNU, and this from a student body that is just about 6,000 today. 
The Modi government’s brightest development star, Amitabh Kant, has a masters from JNU, as do the chief of the CBI, Anil Sinha, the head of NTRO, and the Special Envoy for Counter-Terrorism, Asif Ibrahim. 
And of course, batches of Army officers go out with a JNU degree because the far-sighted military leadership in the 1970s believed that their institutions needed to be linked to a national project like JNU. 

In this process of being the new Indian, it is important to learn about India as well. It is only through interaction with people from the North-east, Jharkhand, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Telangana, Odisha and other states that we really understand their concerns and problems. 
In the India of today, there is regional exploitation, economic backwardness, caste repression, violation of tribal rights - and there is resistance to this, and so this is reflected in the narrative of JNU’s student politics. 
The country also confronts separatism, whether in the North-east, Punjab, or Jammu & Kashmir, and this, too, figures in the JNU story. 
To the best of this writer’s knowledge, however, this discourse has remained verbal and no alumni has actually gone and taken up a gun to overthrow the state.  

The persistence of separatism and deep roots of caste and regional prejudice are an indicator that the “new Indian” project remains a work in progress. But instead of using the lathi to shape the new Indian, it is so much smarter to help him/ her emerge through the process of debate, discussion and engagement, a process whose corollary is the acceptance of dissent. 
JNU is the small lab where the new Indian identity is being forged. Attacking it for being “anti-national” is actually aimed at undermining the project and destroying the best university we have on the basis of some dubious pseudo-nationalism. 
There is good nationalism and bad nationalism. Japan rampaging across Asia in the 1930s was the negative; getting an ethnically and linguistically diverse India to fight against British rule was the positive kind. 
Indian nationalism of desh bhakti today cannot be directed against ‘the other’ as Pakistan’s religion based nationalism is. It can have only one goal - the economic transformation of India and the true equality of all its people. 
Our nationalism will become a bad thing if it promotes resentment against people who look different, eat differently, profess a different faith, or have different views. 
Chauvinism and jingoism can only lead to disaster, as in the case of Germany and Japan in 1945, or the case of Pakistan today.
The writer is a JNU alumnus, but also has degrees from DU and Lucknow University
 Mail Today February 29, 2016