Sunday, December 10, 2017

Donald Trump's Iran gamble could hit India too

United States President Donald Trump is expected to begin a process that will torpedo the Iran nuclear deal. His own national security team and almost all experts have said that this is a bad idea. The New York Times says this will be "his most feckless foreign policy decision yet".
The IAEA which closely monitors the Iranian nuclear programme, and the US intelligence community have all certified that Iran has been honouring the deal. The Trump decision will heighten tensions between the US and Iran, but also the Americans and their other partners in the deal — Germany, UK, France, China and Russia.
How it affects India
Further, if Iran dumps the deal, and takes up its nuclear weapons programme where it left off, it could bring the region to the brink of war. India will not be immune to the fallout. Indeed, Trump's actions will have a hugely negative impact on us, both in terms of opportunity costs of stable ties with an oil-rich country proximate to us, as well as direct costs that would come with a potential conflict.
It would also upend India's geopolitical moves to counter the One Belt One Road (OBOR) by creating transportation linkages to Afghanistan, Central Asia and Europe through the Iranian ports of Bandar Abbas and Chabahar.
Considering that the US is finding it difficult to deal with North Korea, just why it would allow another nuclear power to emerge and complicate matters in the Middle East is inexplicable. At the bottom of everything, Trump's decision raises the question: Is the US even capable of taking rational and reasonable decisions any more, and can it be trusted to play the leadership role in world affairs?
The Chabahar project and India's membership in the International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) provide us a major opportunity to come up with a viable and workable riposte to the OBOR. The $500 million (Rs 3,272 crore) Chabahar agreement is in two parts: the first worth $150 million (Rs 982 crore) is to develop the port, and the second is to develop a railway line between Chah Bahar and Zahedan.
Even with Pakistan hampering trade, India imports some $300 million (Rs 1,963 crore) worth of Afghan goods and exports $600 million (Rs 3,926 crore). With an alternative route, things could be much better. Besides aiding in stabilising Afghanistan, it could enhance India's stock as a player in the Afghan reconstruction.
chabahar690_100917093402.jpgThe Chabahar project and India's membership in the International North South Transportation Corridor provide us a major opportunity to come up with a viable and workable riposte to the OBOR.
Trade opportunities
The opportunities in Iran are even greater. As of now Iran, exports nearly $6 billion (Rs 39,200 crore) to India which is its second biggest export destination after China. Indian exports are some $3 billion (Rs 19,600 crore).
These 2015 figures reflect the fact that Iran was under sanctions because of the nuclear issue till the end of the year. Indian companies such as Tatas, Essar, Cipla, Hero, Bajaj and TVS are already in the Iranian market and Indian oil majors are keen to step up their investments in Iran as well.
There is already an excellent 1,000-km road linking Chabahar with Mashad and Sarakhs on Iran's tri-junction with Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. A railway linking the three countries was inaugurated in 2014. The rail link to Zahedan can be extended to Mashad from where it will link up to northern routes to Central Asia and Afghanistan.
Parallel to this is the more ambitious INSTC which sees Kandla and Mumbai being linked to Iran's major port Bandar Abbas, and thence northwards through rail links which are mostly already developed to the Baltic ports of Russia and the European railways system. Test cargoes sent on this route have found that a 40 ft container costs $3000 (Rs 1,96,000), as compared to $4,000 (Rs 2,61,764) by the sea route which would take twice as long.
Independent stand
What Trump's misguided action will do is to undermine all the positives that have emerged from the Iran nuclear deal and take us into an era of uncertainty and even war. India will lose out on the potential opportunities listed above. Things could get worse if there is war and the oil supply from the Persian Gulf to India is hit and the Indian diaspora forced to return home.
Between 2010 and 2015, India complied with UN-mandated sanctions by reducing economic relations with Iran. This time, India is unlikely to follow suit if only because there won't be any UN mandate. But Trump's actions would pose a major political dilemma for India which has otherwise put all its eggs in the American basket.
But at some point, New Delhi has to decide between making rational choices in national interest, rather than being carried away by the rhetoric of a country whose leader is both intemperate and unreasonable.
Mail Today October 9, 2017

Here’s why India did the right thing by refusing to send troops to Afghanistan

US President Donald Trump’s decision to stay the course in Afghanistan was welcomed by New Delhi not just because it pinpointed the role Pakistan plays in providing sanctuaries to terrorists targeting India and Afghanistan, but also because a continuation of US boots on the ground allows India to continue to ‘do its job’ on the very same Afghan ground.
India has played a significant role in building state capacity in Afghanistan since 2001 through projects big and small. It did so under the security umbrella provided by the US and the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf). The somewhat precipitate US departure announced by the Obama Administration has seen the return of the Taliban and raised questions about the viability of the Afghan government led by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Now, not only has the US decided that it will stay on, but it has also offered India an enhanced role, though just what it has in mind is not clear. Even so, there are five good reasons to applaud New Delhi’s refusal to commit ground troops in Afghanistan.
First, the ground situation in the country has deteriorated to the point where India’s token entry would make little difference. And New Delhi lacks the ability to make a significant military commitment.
Second, it would trigger a hostile Pakistani reaction, which could include Islamabad targeting Indian for forces using the Haqqani Network.
Third, although India and the US are on the same page on improving the situation in Afghanistan, there is no agreement between them on the Taliban’s role in any reconciliation process that the US hopes to engineer. The US is open to a deal with the Taliban that, as of now, India adamantly opposes.
Fourth, retaining an independent policy in Afghanistan gives India the flexibility to work with the US, Russia and Iran to stabilise the country.
Any move to become part of a US-led effort would alienate the Russians and Iranians, who remain important players in Afghanistan.
Fifth, notwithstanding harsh words at Islamabad, the enhanced US commitment to Afghanistan is likely to increase US reliance on Pakistan. It can also increase the pressure on Washington to re-hyphenate India-Pakistan relations, something that could adversely affect India-US relations.
Game of Thrown
There would have been some schadenfreude in New Delhi over Islamabad’s reaction were Indian boots to have landed in Afghanistan. But that is a dangerous game. It could provoke Pakistan’s worst instincts and further roil the situation in the Af-Pak region.
India also needs to consider that the US’ record has not been particularly reliable or beneficial for the former. As a superpower, the US has the luxury of taking its ball and leaving the game. Or, for that matter, changing the rules of the game.
Notwithstanding fanciful Pakistani claims, Indian policy in Afghanistan has been prudent and responsible. It has sought to develop Afghanistan State capacity for better governance, rather than participate in a Great Game of Thrones that has wracked the country since the 1980s. Indian projects have ranged from building roads, public buildings and dams, to enhancing community assets like schools to humble culverts, electric supply and minor irrigation works, providing scholarships, medical assistance and technical training to tens of thousands of Afghans.
India has also provided the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) equipment, like light trucks and bulldozers. More recently, it provided transport and combat helicopters.
Not having a significant arms industry, India has paid the Russians to provide equipment like small arms, light artillery and mortars to the Afghans. In addition, it has provided specialised training to the Afghan forces.
The US and Isaf had long denied the ANSF any heavy equipment and aviation assets, so as to not offend Islamabad. The result was that when the US pulled out, the Afghan forces were left bereft of the ability to even defend themselves.
But now the US has changed tack, and the Indians, too, are likely to enhance the quality of their military assistance, a process that should make Kabul happy and Islamabad apoplectic.
New Delhi has its plate full when it comes to foreign policy challenges. It is a moot question as to whether it would like to step up to the plate and take greater responsibility in Afghanistan.
The country is important, but not vital for India’s foreign and security policy in the way, say, Nepal and Sri Lanka are. There is a certain value it offers in keeping Islamabad off balance. But more important is the common interest India has with Washington in ensuring that Afghanistan does not once again become a training ground for terrorists.
Build for the Kill
This is what has motivated Trump’s renewal of US commitments there. It would be smart for India to continue operating under the US shadow, even while enhancing its role in key areas like intelligence coordination, military training and boosting its commitment to building Afghan state capacity.
The US remains the key geopolitical player in the region, and it is in India’s interest to hold the US close. Qualitatively enhanced India-US cooperation in Afghanistan must also be seen in a holistic perspective of closer India-US ties.
This is required to assist India’s goal of ‘normalising’ Pakistan. And dealing with the challenge of China.
Economic Times September 27, 2017

At China’s Upcoming Party Congress, Will Xi Jinping Further Consolidate His Powers?

Xi Jinping has a keen understanding of the importance of reform. This is likely to serve him well.

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a meeting at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, January 18, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a meeting at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, January 18, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse
On October 18, the Communist Party of China (CPC) will begin its 19th congress. Like all previous meetings of the CPC congress, this one too will be tightly scripted; many decisions – especially around the line-up of new leadership – have already been taken in meetings in the months leading to the formal inaugural. Some of the work will be done through a plenum a week ahead of the congress.
The one result we do know is that Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC, president of the People’s Republic and supreme commander of its military, has made grade for a second term. What the analysts will be looking for is whether Xi, who is being described as a “core” leader, will also cast aside the convention limiting the terms of top leaders to two and carry on after the next congress scheduled for 2022.
However, if one of the two Politburo members who are born after 1960 figure in the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), then we could be possibly looking at a successor to Xi. The two are Hu Chunhua, the Guangdong party chief, and Chen Min’er, the new party chief of the Chongqing who is just a Central Committee member. A third, Sun Zhengcai, was abruptly removed from that position in July allegedly for corruption. There are, of course, other Politburo members like Li Zhansu, Hang Zheng and Wang Yang who could figure in the new list, but they will hit the retirement zone by the next party congress.
Analysts will pore over the list of new members of the various party outfits for clues as to the extent to which Xi has consolidated power. These signs will be available in the composition of the new Central Committee, which is nearly 400 strong and will be selected by the 2,300 delegates to the congress. The Central Committee will, in turn, elect the party general secretary, the Politburo, currently 25 strong, and the topmost organ of the Central Committee between its sessions, the seven-member PSC. In addition, it will elect its topmost control mechanism, the approximately 130-member Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). However, real power resides in the CCDI standing committee of 20 members and its secretary, currently PBSC member and Xi’s close associate, Wang Qishan.

Also read: Is a China-Centric World Inevitable?

Expectations are that half of the Central Committee and two-fifths of the Politburo will see new members. But the focus will be on the composition of the PBSC, currently with seven members: Xi; Li Keqiang, the premier; Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress (the lower house of China’s parliament); Yu Zhensheng, chairman of the National People’s Political Consultative Conference (the upper house of China’s parliament); Wang Qishan, secretary of the CCDI; Liu Yunshan, senior-most secretary of the secretariat of the Politburo and PBSC; and Zhang Gaoli, first vice premier of China’s upper cabinet, the State Council.
The last time around, in the 18th party congress, seven of nine PBSC members retired because they exceeded the age of 67, which is conventionally regarded as the retirement age. Two of them, Xi and Li, retained their positions and assumed the top offices of the CPC and People’s Republic of Cchina. This time around, by the age metric, five of the seven are expected to retire, meaning all except Xi and Li. Whether or not the age convention will be modified to accommodate someone like Wang, who has aided Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, is difficult to say.
The report that the CPC will amend its constitution has set off rumours that Xi’s authority will be enshrined in the constitution by inserting a ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ or ‘Xi Jinping Theory’ section into the document. The insertion would be significant; the former would bring him on par with Mao Zedong and the latter, Deng Xiaoping. But neither may happen, constitutional amendments have been a feature of past congresses as well, signalling the thinking and strategies of the party, and Xi’s ‘Four Comprehensives’ may figure, simply as a concept to be adhered to. These refer to building a moderately prosperous society, deepening reform, governance by law and tightening CPC discipline.
Another significant development of the 19th CPC congress is that it is likely to lead to see a massive turnover of the military leadership. An indication of this was given by the fact that in a list of 303 delegates of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and People’s Armed Police (PAP), slated to attend the party congress, as many as 90% are first-time delegates. It is from this group that the military members of the Central Committee will be selected. The last party congress saw 41 of the delegates being sent to the Central Committee.
Even among those re-elected, a number will step down because they cross the 67-year age limit. Among these are the top-most military generals who are also members of the Central Military Commission (CMC): Fan Chanlong, one of the two vice chairmans; Chang Wanquan, the defence minister; Zhao Keshi, director of the Logistics Support Department; recently-retired Navy chief Wu Shengli; and PLA Air Force chief Ma Xiaotian.
The continuing investigation into corruption in the PLA that led to the arrest and prosecution of Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, both former vice chairmen of the CMC, will have a significant impact on the military profile of the party congress. The report says that General Fang Fenghui, chief of the CMC’s Joint Staff Department, and General Zhang Yang, head of the Political Work Department, are facing investigation and hence their names have been dropped from the list of PLA delegates. One report included Admiral Wu Shengli in the list as well. All three of Zhang’s deputies were also missing from the list of delegates to the party congress.
A general view shows delegates raising their hands as they take a vote at the closing session of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing November 14, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria/File Photo
A general view shows delegates raising their hands as they take a vote at the closing session of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing November 14, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria/File Photo
The huge turnover of military members of the Central Committee will help Xi put his stamp of authority over the PLA. As it is, among those dropped as delegates to the congress include important princelings such as Liu Yuan (son of former president Liu Shaoqi), Liu Yazhou (son-in-law of another president), Liu Xiaojiang (son-in-law of former party chief Hu Yaobang) and Zhang Haiyang (son of a former CMC vice chairman). In addition, PAP chief Wang Jianping, political commissar of the PLA Air Force Tian Xiusi and Commander of the Tibet Military District Yang Jinshan were dropped from the Central Committee because of charges of corruption.
In the past five years, Xi has promoted officers who not only have strong personal ties with him, but whose careers has been marked by professionalism and, in some cases, combat experience. Many have headed military academies and are advocates of new trends in warfare.
Xi has surprised observers with the speed with which he consolidated his power. The consensus among analysts is that Xi’s anti-corruption campaign and reform measures have given him firm control of the party and the PLA. He has promoted people who have had an association with him, but this does not necessarily imply that he is establishing a faction; rather, he has sought to promote people with a good track record and a strong work ethic. He has a keen understanding of the importance of reform that is needed to revitalise a huge organisation like the CPC, if China is to meet the goals set by the party itself. This is likely to serve him well in his second term as party chief, which will begin in the forthcoming 19 congress.
The Wire September 25, 2017

Myanmar has a long history of brutality against minorities

Even as India has come under criticism for its ungenerous treatment to Rohingya refugees, it is worth casting an eye on the perpetrator of the tragedy — the Myanmar Army. A series of attacks beginning October 2016 by a newly formed insurgent group Harakah al-Yaqin, also known as Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), led to a crackdown involving arbitrary arrests, extra-judicial killings and displacement of more than four lakh people.
Myanmar’s modern history has always been a violent one. The majority of 68 per cent or so are Bamar or Burmans. The most prominent minority groups are Shan, Karen, Chin, Rakhine, Kachin and Wa, who occupy significant portions of the country and have at various times fought the Burmese authorities. There are also the Tibetans, Gurkhas, Pakistanis, Indians and Rohingyas, most denied Myanmarese nationality, even though they have lived there for generations.
A Rohingya insurgency has been around since the time of independence in 1948, but it has waxed and waned depending on the level of repression. Jihadi outfits in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh have fished in the troubled waters of Rakhine for quite some time but it’s debatable whether they have achieved anything.
ro_092517100429.jpgPhoto: Reuters
Even the August 25 attack, which triggered the recent crackdown, saw the death of one soldier, one immigration officer and 10 policemen, against 59 insurgents killed. In response, the Army burnt entire villages, killed hundreds of Rohingyas and made more than four lakh refugees. What the world needs to focus on is their disproportionate violence, which is clearly a war crime.
Actually, there is nothing unusual about the Burmese Army’s actions. It has taken recourse to similar tactics in dealing with the Shan, Kachin, Karen or Wa insurgents, who have sought independence or greater autonomy. In 1988, the Army turned against the Burmese people as well, killing more than 3,000 people, who were protesting the military dictatorship.
In 2006, operations against the Karen National Union led to hundreds of deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands because of a government relocation programme. In 2011, it was the turn of the Shan; in 2014, the Kachins; and in 2015, the Kokang region. Many of these conflicts continue in large measure because of the Myanmar Army’s xenophobic attitude.
Fear mongering
Coming to the issue of refugees in India. In 2001, the Group of Ministers report on reforming the national security system also looked into border management and said that “illegal migration from across our borders has continued unabated for more than five decades... today, we have about 15 million Bangladeshis, 2.2 million Nepalis, 70,000 Sri Lankan Tamils and about 1,00,000 Tibetan migrants living in India... This massive illegal migration poses a grave danger to our security, social harmony and economic well being.”
Presumably, a majority of the Bangladeshis would be Muslims. Islamic terrorists coming from Bangladesh have mainly been operatives of the ISI or one or the other Pakistani jihadi groups. There is no reason to assume that the Rohingyas are the the vanguard of some new wave of Islamic terrorism.
Fear mongering reports manufactured by shadowy government agencies had also once claimed that al-Qaeda was coming to India and later, the ISIS. As of now, neither have shown up. While the government is right to be cautious, its approach seems to be shaped by the ruling party’s generally jaundiced world view when it comes to Muslims. The government’s stand in the Supreme Court insisting on its right to deport Rohingya refugees is essentially driven by the politics of Jammu & Kashmir.
Valley politics
Here, there is a tussle between the Valley-based parties who are ready to provide facilities for refugees returning from PoK, while denying rights to Hindus and Sikhs who had come into the state in the wake of Partition. In an already inflamed debate, the presence of a large number of Rohingya who are, no doubt, illegally settled in the area, are seen as a threat to the ethnic balance of the Jammu region.
While looking at the present crisis, it is worth casting an eye back in recent history, the 1960s, when General Ne Win expropriated the property of Indians who had been living in the country for generations. Some 3,00,000 Indians were forced to leave in conditions of extreme deprivation. Today, nearly a million Indians live in the country, but without any rights as citizens. As usual, India accommodated the refugees without any fuss. The need of the hour is a big heart, not a stingy mind.
Mail Today September 25, 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017

What Nirmala Sitharaman needs to do to reform India’s defence establishment

Let’s not worry too much about Nirmala Sitharaman’s lacking in experience to be the defence minister. For all their experience AK Antony and Manohar Parrikar were failures. In our system, no minister is expected to have expert knowledge of the subject he/she is allotted. A good minister is someone who sets goals, takes decisions, has sound judgment, listens, learns from experience, and has authority within the government.
Sitharaman shone as a BJP spokesperson, is an articulate, hard working and dogged person. However, she is a political lightweight and her authority stems from the trust of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

 Indian army officers stand on vehicles displaying missiles during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, January 26, 2016

And these qualities will not be enough in dealing with the major portfolio she has been entrusted with in the recent Cabinet reshuffle. As a commerce minister, Sitharaman’s task was to supervise well-established policies of a ministry that ran reasonably well. Outcomes in trade policy, FDI etc were not within the control of the minister or the government of India anyway; external factors played a key role.
But as defence minister, Sitharaman’s task is larger. Not only does she have to run a ministry, which deals with more than a million people and whose budget is nearly Rs 360,000 crore, but to run it well, she needs to carry out deep reforms and restructuring of the ministry.
The Indian ministry of defence (MOD) is obsolete, its public sector units and ordnance factories dysfunctional, it runs a military whose organisation is outdated. Worse is the barely concealed hostility between the civilians who run it and the military personnel who have to implement its policies without having an effective role in formulating them.
The agenda for reform is vast and has been outlined by several committees since 1990. Unfortunately, it has been subverted by the bureaucracy. Sadly, as Antony and Parrikar showed, the political heads of the ministry, responsible to the Cabinet Committee on Security, have failed in their job to discipline them. The Group of Ministers of the BJP-led NDA-I government recommended a range of measures to integrate the civilian and military parts of the MoD. The babus simply changed the nomenclature and declared that the decision had been implemented. So, today, the head quarter of the Indian Army is the Integrated Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence (Army). As for their main recommendation, seconded in 2012 by the Naresh Chandra Committee, to appoint a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), it has got lost.
The generalist bureaucracy lacks the expertise to advise the government, so they spend their time in preventing those who can, the uniformed military from doing so. Only if the problem of the inexpert bureaucracy is fixed can we move to the stage of reforming the ministry and restructuring the armed forces. Efforts to do so otherwise are doomed.
India has been trying to reform the MOD since the constitution of the Arun Singh Committee in 1990. This has been through two key reforms -- the integration of the civil and military components of the MOD and the appointment of a CDS — which would, in turn unlock a whole slew of reforms including the creation of theatre commands.
Sitharaman’s initial remarks suggest that she, like Parrikar, will be more focused on acquisitions and will seek to promote Indian manufacture of weapons systems. This is all for the good, but it cannot be achieved overnight. Also it requires systematic and deep reform in the way defence planning, acquisitions, R&D and manufacturing are linked.
Fixing manufacturing and acquisitions alone will not work. She needs to urgently tackle the need to reorganise India’s sprawling military to make them an effective fighting unit for 21st century warfare, where challenges range from nuclear armed adversaries to proxy jihadis. This means shedding flab, integrating commands, getting them to work as a single unit with the civilians and so on.

She will confront a wall of vested interests who do not want any reform because, like all bureaucratic organisations, they are afraid they will lose out on change. It’s the task of the political boss to knock their heads and change things. Sitharaman needs to first understand the nature of the challenge, get the support of her boss and push the reforms through, irrespective of who is on board or not in her ministry. 

Hindustan Times September 15, 2017

Kingdom Of Crooked Mirrors

Like the fabrication behind ‘Pakistan Defence Day’, Bajwa’s solemn jeremiad about their good intentions is a bare-faced lie. Only a strategic shift can correct it. 

The report, in many Indian newspapers, of Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa’s speech of September 6 to commemorate Pakistan Defence Day, was somewhat dist­orted. Several, basing themselves on a news agency report, noted that the Pakistan Army chief called for “political and diplomatic solutions” to resolve the Kashmir issue, which should be settled through dialogue and that permanent peace would benefit millions. Pakis­tan, however, would continue to extend “political, moral and diplomatic support” to the Kashmiris. This was given a positive spin, though in context they were merely old nostrums.

Bajwa was not pitching his remarks to India, but to his domestic audience, the United States of America and China, who in turn are focusing on Afghanistan.  President Trump’s charge that Paki­stan provided safe haven for terrorists clearly rankles. Rejecting allegations that Pakistan was selective in its counter-terrorism, Bajwa said that the Pakistan Army operations were targeting all groups. Adopting an air of injured innocence, which is quite past its ‘use by’ date even in Washington DC, he declared that Pakistan did not want aid, “but your [American] respect and confidence”, and that Islamabad’s efforts and sacrifices “needed to be acknowledged”. Now, said the general, “we are abiding by a policy that we will not allow our soil to be used against any country....”
There is not much new in Bajwa’s speech. It is worth recalling that following the Indian Army mobilisation in January 2002 in the wake of the attack on Parliament, President Pervez Mush­arraf, concurrently the Army chief, also spoke of the need to resolve the Kashmir issue through dialogue, declaring that Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used for terrorist activity anywhere in the world, even while extending “moral, political and diplomatic support to Kashmiris”.

 Kingdom Of Crooked Mirrors

In the ensuing period, Musharraf aided the Taliban to recover from its Afghan defeat and provided them sanctuary and weapons to fight the US and US-led troops in Afghanistan. This is a double-cross the US has not quite forgotten. Nearer home, there was no let-up in terrorist violence in J&K,  where 469 security personnel were killed in 2002 and 338 in 2003.

Trump’s inclination to fight it out in Afghanistan has upended Taliban, Pakistani and Chinese calculations.
Pakistan’s claim that all it does is to provide “political, moral and diplomatic” support to Kash­miris is a standard Pakistani template. In a quarter century of insurgency, they have sent across over 30,000 AK-47 type assault rifles, 15,000 pistols, light mac­hine guns, explosives and material that can equip a small army. They have trained thousands of Kashmiri and Pakistani insurgents, even while claiming that all they do is to back the “peaceful struggle of the Kashmiris for self-determination”.
In the case of Afghanistan, the long logistical trail of Taliban fighters to Pakistan can hardly be hidden. Yet it is Pakistan that has been the loser through its overreach. By backing jehadist elements, Islamabad has undermined the legitimacy of its own case in Jammu & Kashmir, just as it is unable to convince anyone that it has genuine stakes in promoting peace in Afghanistan.

There is little point in telling Bajwa that while India and Afghanistan have suffered from terrorists sheltered, funded and armed by Pak­­istan, his country only has itself to blame for the rise of terrorist violence at home. And the institution principally responsible for this is the Pakistan Army.
The Pakistan Army chief’s speech was as deceitful as the day it was meant to commemorate. The Def­ence of Pakistan Day is based on fake history, which claims that India attacked Pakistan on that day, triggering the India-Pakistan war of 1965. The facts are considerably at variance. At the beginning of August 1965, Pakistan sent tens of thousands of armed invaders into Jammu & Kashmir with the delusional hope that they would trigger a rebellion. When they were detected and rounded up in quick time, and India launched counter-infiltration operations, Pakistan sent in its regular army, spearhea­ded by two armoured regiments to cut the Jammu-Poonch highway. This attack took Indians by surprise and came within an ace of succeeding. Efforts by the UN for a ceasefire did not work and eventually, prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri ord­ered Indian forces to cross the international border at Punjab towards Lahore on September 6.
It is this capacity for self-delusion, especially in relation to India, that marks out the Pakistani elite from those elsewhere. Bajwa claimed that the world community was aware of India’s ‘excesses’ in J&K, as well as its role in disintegrating Pakistan. “India’s plans,” he declared, “include openly supporting terrorists and usurping our water resources”. So, contrary to the record which is available for all to see, India is the one threatening Pakistan; as for the water theft, one doesn’t know what to say.

Though there are similarities, Musharraf and Bajwa’s mendacity, there are important differences. Unlike 2002-2007, the US is hanging on in Afghanistan by the skin of their teeth. Obama was ready to pull out, but President Trump’s inclination to fight it out has upended Taliban, Pakistani and, I dare say, Chinese calculations.

India’s best option is to adopt as forward a posture as it can in Afghanistan as long as the US is there.
China has been the big beneficiary of the US failure in Afghanistan. The US has done all the fighting, while China is hoping to reap the benefits, especially the lucrative mining contracts in Afghanistan. But Beijing must  square the circle on terrorism. On one hand, it denounces terrorism, as it did in the BRICS declaration of Sept­e­mber 4, calling out a slew of Islamist groups for fomenting violence, included three which are nurtured by the Pakistan Army. On the other, it criticises the Trump administration for escalating the conflict. Walking on the razor’s edge, they have begun a limited military commitment in Afghanistan by patrolling the Wakhan Corridor. If things slide in the AfPak region, the Chinese could be big losers, because of the terrorist threat to Xinjiang, as well as their ongoing investments in Pakistan.
There is, of course, an alternate future, but only if Pakistan makes that strategic shift—abandon the use of jehadi terrorism against India and Afghanistan. This would have a cascading effect on the economic and political future of the region. Military expenditure would come down, militias dismantled, road and rail traffic would open up and the CPEC could be int­egrated with India, Iran and Afghanistan, opening up the prospect for regional prosperity.

This is not as far-fetched as we may think it is. We saw a glimpse of it in the 2004-2007 period when Musharraf was ready for a deal on the status of J&K following a back-channel dialogue. Unfor­tunately, domestic issues, not related to Kashmir, derailed his plans. At the heart of the matter is the attitude if the Pakistan Army and its insecurities.
Unfortunately, for the present, we seem condemned to another round of the Great Game. In this, thanks to the Indian Army and our geography, Kashmir is a side-show. Given the circumstances, the best option for New Delhi is to adopt as forward a posture as it can afford to in Afgh­a­nistan, as long as the Americans are there. Pak­istan and China understand the logic of realpolitik and force. India may lack boots on ground, but it has important soft-power equities in the country which, to put it politely, detests Pakistan.

Outlook Magazine September 25, 2017