Tuesday, January 29, 2008


One Bhutto legacy

By Ardeshir Cowasjee (" DAWN" OF KARACHI, JANUARY 6,2008)

ON Jan 4 in our national press, on a front page, there appeared a most startling news item under the heading ‘Shujaat says ISI’s political cell should continue working’.The news item quoted his rationale as so tortuously expressed on one of the independent television channels: this undesirable, suspect and sinister body “keeps a watch on political parties and reports their anti-government and anti-state activities”. In the same breath he stated that his party would accept the results of the upcoming general elections.Well, naturally it will, because the chattering Chaudhry obviously intends to make use of the Inter-Services Intelligence organisation’s experienced ‘political cell’ to ensure that the elections are rigged to his party’s satisfaction. So that the question of ‘acceptance’ does not even arise.

The next day, front-paged also, was a not-so-startling news item under the heading ‘PPP for end to ISI role in electoral process’. Quite naturally, the PPP has accused the ISI, inter alia, of indulging in “pre-poll rigging”.How was this political cell formed and why? In 1975 Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, that man of great perspicacity, ruling under an ‘emergency’ and exercising his finite wisdom, issued an executive order creating this political cell within the ISI for purposes that do not have to be spelt out. It eventually was one of the factors that led to his downfall and execution. He used it as the almost incomprehensible Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain of the fiefdom of Gujrat intends to now use it again. But Zulfikar overused it to unnecessarily rig his general elections of March 1977 which subsequently caused an uprising of the opposition, trouble and turmoil in the land, and the inevitable military takeover. After his use of this political cell, it was all downhill for him.

The Gujrat Chaudhry should be warned. Over-rigging does not pay.The cell was subsequently made much use of by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in cahoots with his army chief, General Mirza Aslam Beg, to form a political alliance, using public money and funds provided by Yunus Habib of Mehran Bank, to rig the 1990 elections, bring in the Ziaul Haq-groomed Nawaz Sharif as prime minister and stop the dismissed Benazir Bhutto from coming in again. It was a successful operation, as the concerned luminaries and we all know. The details of the ISI shenanigans have been written of in the press time and time again, and pleas have been made that the cell should be disbanded so that the military has no involvement at all in the political process of this country — as was recommended by General Asif Nawaz when he was the COAS in the early 1990s.

In 1996, on the floor of the National Assembly, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s interior minister retired Lt-Gen Naseerullah Babar announced that the then former chief of army staff, Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, had in 1990 handed over to the then chief of the ISI, Lt-Gen Asad Durrani, an amount of Rs140m withdrawn from Mehran Bank and instructed him to use the money to purchase a selection of anti-PPP politicians and ensure that Nawaz Sharif’s IJI was brought to power.Shortly thereafter, retired Air Marshal Asghar Khan wrote a letter to the then Chief Justice of Pakistan, Sajjad Ali Shah, requesting him to take note of the matter of the ISI and its political interference. The Chief Justice did so and the letter was converted into Human Rights Petition 19/96. Beg, Durrani and Habib were cited as respondents.

Hearings commenced in Feb 1997, initially in camera on the request of the ISI insofar as its legal standing was concerned, and continued on sporadically, the last hearing being on Oct 11, 1999 when the then Chief Justice, Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, announced that he had reserved judgment in the case. General Pervez Musharraf assumed all powers unto himself the next day. (Full details of the case and its background can be found in Asghar Khan’s book, We’ve Learnt Nothing from History published by OUP in 2005.)

To give due credit to Benazir Bhutto, in her first term of office she correctly appointed the late upright officer, Air Chief Marshal Zulfikar Ali Khan, to head a commission to review the working of the security and intelligence agencies of the country, amongst them the ISI. One of his findings (March 27, 1989) is revealing and pertinent:

“Another undesirable aspect of the working of certain intelligence agencies was their conduct in the recent general elections and to the subsequent transfer of power to elected representatives of the people. Arrogating to themselves the exclusive right to patriotism, they tried to manipulate the results in favour or against certain political parties by threats and coercion, persuasion and offers of bribes. Subsequently, efforts were made to destabilise the government duly established by law and these agencies tried to act as virtual king-makers. In normal times, this should have entailed severe punishment for the individuals concerned, but I realise that under martial law such activities are considered valid. The least that should be done to redress the situation is to transfer the key personnel of the agencies concerned without delay, as the posting out of lesser functionaries does not seem to have produced the desired results….”

No prime minister or president since then has sought to curb the powers of the ISI’s political cell and its meddling in political affairs. In fact, they have used it in various nefarious ways to further their terms in office. No Chief Justice since Justice Siddiqui has been able to take on the ISI and hear the case filed by Asghar Khan and finally deliver judgment. What is it — a lack of guts or the reluctance to rock the boat?

Chief Justice Siddiqui was followed by Irshad Hasan Khan, Bashir Jehangiri, Sheikh Riaz Ahmed, Nazim Hussain Siddiqui and then Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. Today, almost 12 long years later, Human Rights Petition 19/96 remains shelved. Each successive Chief Justice of our Supreme Court has found it prudent to leave the petition undecided. It is too much to expect that the present Chief Justice, placed as precariously as he is, and under the firm guidance of President Gen Pervez Musharraf, will even consider seeing this petition to its finality. (It can also safely be said that the case of the 200 or so missing persons so bravely taken up by the dismissed Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, will also not for the time being see the light of day or justice.)

In these elections of 2008, the ISI and its cell are surely once more well into the act, egged on as they are by the Chaudhry of Gujrat. Alas, for the nation and its much-touted ‘national interest.’arfc@cyber.net.pk

Sunday, January 27, 2008



A purely statistical analysis can be misleading. The current euphoria over the expanding Sino-Indian economic relations, the gallopingbilateral trade and the mushrooming analytical studies triggered off by this euphoria are coming in the way of an adequate focus on certainemerging characteristics of these relations, which have already started redounding more to the benefit of China than of India. Thesecharacteristics could have positive as well as negative impact on the over-all Sino-Indian relations.

2. The first emerging characteristic is that China is increasingly the beneficiary of the expanding Sino-Indian economic relations during the last five years just as it has been the major beneficiary of the expanding Sino-US economic relations during the last two decades.Initially, asIndia and China embarked on their policy of expanding bilateral trade, India benefited more than China because of growing Chinesedemands for iron ore for its steel industry. Consequently, in the first four or five years after this expansion started, the balance of trade wasin favour of India. This balance in favour of India quietened fears of a possible dumping of moderately-priced Chinese goods into the Indianmarket.

3.Now, there is a greater flow of goods and services from China to India than the other way round. The result: the balance of trade isincreasingly in favour of China. The large manufacturing base in China enables it to offer a large basket of manufactured goods to the Indianmarket. The inadequate development of the Indian manufacturing sector is coming in the way of expanding the basket of Indian exports toChina, which continue to depend on raw materials-----with iron ore constituting nearly 60 per cent of our exports.

4. The galloping bilateral trade----already touching US $ 40 billion and racing towards the newly-set target of US $ 60 billion--- has alreadymade China the second largest trading partner of India after the US. More importantly, in the coming five years, it is likely to make the Indianmarket the second largest market for Chinese consumer goods after the US market. The continued prosperity of the Chinese manufacturingindustries would depend on the continued availability of this market.

5. This would have positive as well as negative impact just as it has happened in the case of Sino-US economic relations. The dependenceof the Chinese manufacturing industries on the US market has introduced a certain moderation in Chinese policies towards the US instrategic areas due to the Chinese anxiety to avoid unnecessary tensions in its relations with the US in matters such as Taiwan lest thesetensions affect the trade, which is overwhelmingfly in favour of China.

6. Similarly, the growing dependence of the Chinese manufacturing industruies on the Indian market could moderate Chinese policy-makingtowards India in non-economic fields. Unnecessary political tensions in Sino-Indian relations could affect the growing economic benefit toChina arising from the vast Indian market.

7. As against this, a likely negative impact is that the dependence of the Indian market on Chinese manufactured goods and the fascinationof the Indian consumers for Chinese goods could come in the way of our being able to develop our own manufacturing industries.

8. The flood of Chinese goods flowing into the US market is not triggering off any undue concerns -----apart from some proforma expressionsof concerns from time to time--- because both the US and China are almost equal beneficiaries of the expanding economic relations. Many ofthe Chinese consumer goods flooding into the US market are manufactured by enterprises set up in China by American capital flows. If theChinese are earning more money by flooding the US market with consumer goods , the Americans are earning more money by flooding Chinawith American direct investment flows and getting high returns for them.

9. This has not been happening in the case of Sino-Indian economic relations. The trickle of Indian capital flow into China has been in the services sector----mainly information technology (IT). There has been hardly any Indian investment in the sector of manufactured goods.Thus, the benefits to China from the flow of its manufactured goods to India has not been compensated by attractive returns for Indianinvestors.

10. The second emerging characteristic is in respect of the flow of skilled manpower. There is a greater flow of skilled Chinese manpower toIndia than the other way round. The over-fascination for the IT sector in India and the large salaries offered by IT companies have resultedin a distortion of our technical education system. The IT rush is making Indian youth flock to IT training institutions and there has been adeclining interest in joning engineering colleges to specialise in subjects unconncted with the IT sector----such as civil, mechanical andelectrical engineering. The result: India has been producing a surplus of excellent quality IT experts, who are able to find jobs withoutproblem either in India itself or abroad, but it is no longer able to produce the required number of good quality engineers even to meet itsown needs.

11. This distortion in the technical education system has not yet occurred in China. China's ever-increasing investments in the infrastructuresector and the increasing involvement of Chinese companies in foreign construction projects----particularly in Africa---- have sustained a highdemand for good quality engineers. Chinese technical institutions have been producing all the good quality engineers it needs internally aswell as externally.

12. The shortage of good quality engineers is going to be increasingly felt as we embark on a programme of improving our infrastructure.There has already been an increasing flow of Chinese engineers into India for the execution of the construction contracts won by them.Wherever Chinese companies win construction contracts, they prefer to take their own engineers in view of the language problem and alsobecause they have greater faith in the quality of their engineers. In India, even if they want to employ local engineers, they say good qualityIndian engineers are in short supply.

13. One has been seeing this second characteristic already in the power sector where many new plants are coming up in the private sector.Very often, the money is Indian, but the equipment and engineers used for the construction of these projects are Chinese. To quote from anagency report carried by Rediff.com on January 21,2008: "Who would have thought a few years ago that there would be a Chinese hand inthe development of the Indian power sector? This is a reality today. Not only is Chinese equipment being deployed by quite a few powercompanies in the country, Chinese manpower from companies such as Dongfang Electric Corporation (DEC), Sichuan Machinery andEquipment Corporation (SCMEC) and Shandong Electric Power Construction Corporation (SEPCO) is employed in large numbers in thecountry...... The Chinese companies want to get their own people , because they know how to best handle the equipment and can do itfaster.This also helps the Indian companies tide over the huge crunch in technical manpower in the country for engineering, procurementand construction (EPC) contracts and operations and maintenance jobs....Since there's already a huge shortage ,they are not eating intoanyone's jobs. "It is not as if they are bringing blue-collared labourers to compete with the Indian labourers," said a management expert.They are bringing people at the supervisory and engineering levels."

14. Has there been a reverse flow of Indian IT experts to China? No. At least, not yet. Indian IT companies operating in China tend to recruitChinese graduates in increasing numbers, bring them to India for improving their knowledge of English and IT skills and then employ them intheir companies in China. Moreover, Indian IT companies in China are not yet getting as many contracts as Chinese engineering companieshave been getting in India. The contracts procured by the Indian IT companies are largely from Western multinationals in China, which valuetheir English knowledge and IT skills.

15. The Chinese companies in India are not recruiting Indian students, taking them to China to learn the Chinese language and engineeringskills and then employing them for their projects in India. This is what the Russians used to do in the 1950s and 1960s, when companies ofthe Soviet Union were involved in construction projects in India. While we are prepared to help the Chinese catch up with us in the IT sector,they are not prepared to help us catch up with them in the engineering sector. The Soviet Union did not look upon India as a potential rival.The Chinese do. That is the reality behind soothing statistics.(28-1-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Tuesday, January 22, 2008



President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan is presently on a visit to West Europe. He arrived in Brussels on January 20,2008. After Belgium, he was scheduled to visit France and the UK and address the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland before returning to Pakistan. He is expected to meet Ms.Condoleeza Rice, the US Secretary of State, at Davos.His programme, drawn around his participation in the Davos Forum, had reportedly been drawn up before the assassination of Mrs.Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister, at Rawalpindi on December 27,2007.

2. He has stuck to his travel plans despite the wave of suicide terrorism sweeping across Pakistan, the public anger over the shortages in the supply of essential commodities such as wheat, flour and oil, the growing threat to political stability arising from the till-now uncontrollable activities of the Tehrik-e--Taliban Pakistan headed by Baitullash Mehsud of South Waziristan and the persisting Western dilemma over how to prevent Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations from assuming control over Islamabad just as they assumed control over Kabul in September,1996, and taking possession of its nuclear arsenal and material. This shows his anxiety over the inexorable erosion of his credibility in the eyes of the West and the need felt by him to counter this. His credibility in Pakistan is already weakened and the present weakening of his credibility abroad could make his position increasingly untenable even if he sticks to his public commitment to ensure that the forthcoming elections would be free and fair and to work with whoever comes to power as a result of the elections.

3. It is clear that the future stability of Pakistan and Afghanistan and the ultimate outcome of the so-called war against global jihadi terrorism are going to be decided in the Pashtun homelands of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan and the adjoining Afghan territory. Neither the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan nor the Pakistan Army have been able to come out with a workable strategy which would effectively neutralise the rainbow coalition of jihadis, which has been operating from the tribal belt and which is determined to defeat the US-led coalition on the one side and the Pakistan Army on the other. Such a strategy has to simultaneously address the legitimate concerns and anger of the Pashtuns over matters such as the Pakistani commando action in the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July last and the large civilian casualties in the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan due to what is perceived as the disproportionate use of force by the US-led coalition.

4. The rise of the jihadi monster now seeking to spread havoc across this region was unwittingly facilitated by the unwise policies of the West in general and the US in particular. These policies were based on a hotch-potch of opportunistic tactics, without any strategic lucidity. The failure of each unwise tactic to produce results led to even more unwise tactics. Initially, there was an unwarranted over-lionisation of Musharraf, who used the Western political and material support not to crush the jihadis as he claimed to be doing, but to decimate the political opposition to him at home in order to ensure his continuance in power.

5. His over-focus on this political opposition to him and his under-focus on the spreading jihadi fire from the Pashtun belt have created a situation where Pakistan has become a volcano, which could explode any time. By the time the US realised the folly of its over-lionisation of Musharraf and embarked on a policy of cutting him down to size without seeming to do so by encouraging a democratic process and facilitating the re-emergence of the political class as the rulers and policy-makers of the country, Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda jihadi organisations had developed a capability to frustrate the US not only operationally in the tribal belt on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, but politically in the rest of Pakistan.No political leader, who is perceived as enjoying the confidence of the US, is safe from assassination.

6. Benazir paid a price for the perception that she was the new card of the US to counter the jihadis.Every political leader in Pakistan is afraid whether the elections could be held as scheduled and, if they are, whether he or she would continue to live in order to be able to contest, win and come to power. The entire political process in Pakistan is at the mercy of the jihadi terrorists.Baitullah Mehsud is already threatening to step up the suicide attacks through his volunteers if the Army does not call off its operations against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. It is not an empty threat. If he carries it out, there will be more12/27s making the holding of free, fair and peaceful polls even more difficult than it is today.

7. The time has come for the West to come to a parting of the ways with Musharraf. The present jihadi chaos cannot be reversed and the political situation normalised so long as he continues in power. The question is no longer whether he should go, but when and how---- even before the elections or after the elections, if so, how soon after the elections? This question has to be raised and debated. It has to be made clear to Musharraf that there cannot be even a semblance of normalcy in Pakistan so long as he sticks to power by hook or by crook. His pereceived utility in the so-called war on terrorism has been compromised by his manipulatory policies.

8.Musharraf has always been known as a manipulator par excellence. He survived in power so long by manipulating public opinion and political forces at home and abroad. His non-apologetic statements during the course of his present travels in West Europe show that he still believes he can continue to survive in power in Pakistan through skilful manipulation of Western fears about the prospects of a victory of the pro-Al Qaeda jihadi forces and their getting control of the nuclear arsenal and material. It has to be made clear to him that the time for manipulation is over and that the time for exit has come. The sooner he announces his intention and plans to quit the better it will be for him, Pakistan and the international community. The Western policy of continuing to swim with Musharraf despite its reservations over his policies and actions could prove catastrophic, if not reversed quickly. (23-1-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Thursday, January 17, 2008




The termination of the 2002 cease-fire agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and of the role of the foreign cease-fire monitors and facilitators underlines the determination of the Government not to let anything stand in the way of its military operations against the LTTE reaching their logical conclusion.

2. In its objective, such a logical conclusion would be the disruption, if not the destruction, beyond recovery of the command and control of the LTTE and the re-enforcement of the writ of the Government over the areas in the Northern Province, which are still under the control of the LTTE. Nobody can quarrel with this objective.

3. This objective is sought to be achieved through a two-pronged action---- intensified air strikes against the LTTE's command and control in the Wanni region and graduated ground operations, which are initially focussed more on a decimation of the LTTE's rank and file than on recovery of territory. If and when the rank and file is weakened substantially, the focus would turn to the recovery of territory presently under the LTTE's control.

4.The more the command and control is disrupted by the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF), the easier will be the ground operations. The longer the command and control remains intact, the slower will be the progress of the ground operations. Unlike Al Qaeda, which is a decentralised organisation with its operatives capable of autonomous operations for a long time even in the absence of a centralised command and control, the LTTE is a very rigid and centralised organisation. Its operatives do not seem to have the same capability as the operatives of Al Qaeda for autonmous action. The disruption of the command and control could have a debilitating effect on the organisation.

5. The LTTE has a very narrow pyramid at the top. Its command and control is concentrated in the hands of essentially three persons---Prabakaran, its leader, Pottu Amman, the chief of its intelligence wing, and Soosai, the chief of the Sea Tigers. If the air strikes can eliminate these three persons, that could mark the beginning of the end of the LTTE as it is constituted today and the ground operations could achieve their objective without large-scale civilian casualties.

6. The law of diminishing options and assets has set in for the LTTE. The law is already operating inexorably. It has very little option for offensive ground action of the guerilla type not amounting to terrorism. It has been reduced to fighting one defensive action after another against a harassing army in order to retain control of the territory and retard the advance of the Army towards Wanni. A guerilla force without offensive options slowly bleeds to death. It still has the option of the card of terrorism in areas outside the Tamil belt. It has already been using this card, killing innocent civilians without minding about the impact of its acts of terrorism on the international community. It has already lost considerable international support and understanding for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. The more it resorts to terrorism against soft targets, the more will be the loss of international support and the ultimate casualty will be that of the Tamil cause.

7. It has still two options left for it to use---- a successful ground strike to destroy the fighter planes of the SLAF and a successful attack on an economic target of considerable strategic significane for the Government.To use these options, it needs assets----human and material. Its human assets are still well-motivated and capable of turning the tide in its favour. But, its material assets are diminishing due to the disruption of its supply channels from abroad and its inability to mount successful offensive operations against the Army, which could replenish its stocks of arms, ammunition and explosives. Human assets alone, however top grade, cannot produce miracles without adequate material assets.

8. Internationally, the LTTE finds itself more and more isolated. What goodwill it had in the international community till 1991! A series of political blunders by Prabakaran like the brutal assassinations of Rajiv Gandhi, Premadasa and Laxman Kadirgamar and the unsuccessful attempt to kill Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunge, when she was the President, and its frequent resort to terrorism against Sri Lankan Tamil leaders disliked by Prabakaran and other innocent civilians have severely damaged this goodwill. Prabakaran has shown again and again a tendency to lift huge boulders and drop them on his own feet. He started his career as the well-heard voice of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. He seems destined to fade into history as its curse.

9. There is no need to feel concerned over the self-created predicament of the LTTE and its ultimate fate. But one has to feel concerned over the fate of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. Rajapaksa and his advisers have been saying soothing words about the importance of India for Sri Lanka, their receptivity to India's security concerns, their readiness to right the wrongs done to the Sri Lankan Tamils in the past etc.

10.But, let there be no doubt about it. If they succeed militarily, the dictated peace, which they will seek to impose on the Tamils, will be the peace of medieval conquerors over the conquered. They will seek to take Sri Lanka back to 1982 and the years before.

11. India has done well to assist the Sri Lankan Navy in its operations against the LTTE's Navy. It will also be justified in assisting the SLAF in destroying the so-called air force of the LTTE. The LTTE's naval and air capabilities pose a threat to the security of not only Sri Lanka, but also of the region as a whole. But this assistance should have been as a quid pro quo to simultaneous steps by the Rajapaksa Government to address the aspirations and grievances of the Sri Lankan Tamils, with firm commitments on the kind of peace, which would be acceptable to India and the world. India's action in not insisting on a visible and palpable quid pro quo in favour of the Tamil cause can prove to be a strategic blunder. (18-1-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Tuesday, January 15, 2008



With just a month to go before the postponed general elections to the National and Provincial Assemblies of Pakistan, which are now to beheld on February 18,2008, the election campaign is once again picking up the momentum, which it had lost after the shocking assassinationof Mrs.Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister, on December 27, 2007. Apparently rendered wiser by the shock and grief caused by herassassination, which was in part due to her habit of flouting security regulations, the political leaders have been more restrained in theircampaigning, with their public exposure restrained to the minimum unavoidable. The consequences of another assassination by the jihaditerrorists would be incalculable for the future of the country and its political stability.

2. There are essentially five players in the arena----the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) now led in the field by Mr.Asif Zardari, the widower ofBenazir, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) headed by Mr.Nawaz Sharif, another former Prime Minister, the pro-Musharraf PML (QaideAzam) led by Chaudhury Shujjat Hussain, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Mr.Altaf Hussain, who is remote-controlling from his exilein the UK, and the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI) Pakistan headed by Maulana Fazlur Rahman. There are other smaller players such as thePashtun Awami National Party (ANP), the breakaway faction of the PPP led by Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, another Pashtun leader etc.Elections will also be held in the terrorism-affected tribal belt in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where, however, thepolitical parties have no role to play. It is the tribal leaders, who determine the course and outcome of the elections. Interestingly, theleaders of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, headed by Baitullah Mehsud, while stepping up their acts of terrorism in the tribal belt and outside,have not joined the other religious fundamentalist parties in boycotting the elections. They are, however, working for the defeat of MaulanaFazlur Rahman in the Dera Ismail Khan constituency of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), which has a large number of migrant labourfrom South Waziristan. They are angry with him for allegedly colluding with Musharraf for facilitating his re-election as the President.

3. Of the main players, the PPP has retained its voter base in the rural areas of Sindh and in the Seraiki areas of southern Punjab. Had theelections been held on January 8,2008, as originally scheduled, it might have benefitted from the wave of anger and sympathy following theassassination of Benazir. This wave is already showing signs of weakening and might weaken further as the election date approaches. ThePPP will definitely do well in the elections, but may not do so well as to get an absolute majority on its own. It may have to depend on othersfor forming a stable Government.

4. Even while maintaining its strident campaign against the Government for allegedly failing to protect Benazir, it has taken care not tototally burn its bridges with President Pervez Musharraf. It has kept open the possibility of working with him after the elections in aUS-blessed Troika arrangement with Musharraf continuing as the President, a leader of the PPP as the Prime Minister, and Gen AshfaqPervez Kiyani as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS). Zardari has been saying till now that he would not be in the race for the post of PrimeMinister and that the Prime Minister could be Maqdoom Amin Fahim, the Vice-Chairman of the Party, or any other candidate chosen by theParty Executive. Even if Zardari sticks to his commitment not to enter the race for the post of Prime Minister, he would be the de factopower behind the throne.

5. His statements and remarks after the assassination of Benazir indicate that he prefers continuing with the policy of Benazir of workingwith Musharraf---- with the US acting as the umpire in the relations of the PPP Prime Minister with Musharraf on the one side and Kiyani onthe other. Despite the growing unhappiness in the US administration over the failure of Musharraf to deal effectively with the remnants of AlQaeda and the Neo Taliban operating from the Pakistani territory, the US still has confidence in his ability to ensure the security ofPakistan's nuclear arsenal and prevent their falling into the hands of the jihadi terrorists. It would, therefore, like Musharraf to continue asthe President without any dilution in his powers, but working in tandem with an elected Prime Minister and not at cross-purposes with him.

6. Even in the PPP there is a realisation (not openly expressed) that the Army should continue to play the leadership role in the fight againstterrorism and that the continuance of Musharraf as the President would facilitate this objective. It is also receptive to the US perceptionthat at a time when the terrorists seem determined to destabilise Pakistan, it would be unwise and short-sighted to rock the boat forMusharraf.

7. It is, therefore, likely that while not making the position of Musharraf untenable by seeking to impeach him or re-opening the issue of hisarbitrary exercise of power during the short period when he had imposed a State of Emergency and suspended the operation of theConstitution, it would insist on guarantees to prevent such an arbitrary exercise of power by Musharraf in future. When Benazir was alive,she had already raised the question of doing away with the power of the President to dismiss the elected Prime Minister. This could be itsminimum condition for co-operation with Musharraf after the elections.

8. The PML (N) of Nawaz Sharif and the PML (QA) of Shujjat Hussain are expected to have equal chances in Central and Northern Punjab andin some pockets of the NWFP. Nawaz Sharif continues to be as erratic as ever in his political judgement. He has denied himself of anyflexibility in his political manoeuvring by taking up a strong line against Musharraf, by insisting on the re-instatement of the judges sackedby Musharraf after imposing the Emergency, by wanting to have Musharraf impeached and by continuing to display a lack of understandingfor the US concerns over the dangers of the spreading terrorism in Pakistani territory and its likely threat to international peace and security.

9.So long as his conviction by an Anti-Terrorism court of Karachi in 2000 continues, there is no question of his becoming the Prime Ministeragain. It would be in the interest of his party to build up Mr.Shahbaz Sharif, his younger brother, who has friends among senior Army officersand who is liked by the US too, as the future candidate for the post of Prime Minister should the circumstances after the elections favour thePML (N). But Nawaz seems to be reluctant to give way to his younger brother. This comes in the way of any reconciliation betweenMusharraf and the Army on the one side and the PML (N) on the other.

10. The role of the PML (QA), which is essentially an opportunistic grouping of the Punjabi loyalists of the late Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf, willremain diminished, but in the event of the PPP not doing as well as expected despite the so-called sympathy wave, it could have a greaterroom for political manoeuvrability. The MQM of Altaf Hussain retains its support base in the urban areas of Sindh and it will use its power andinfluence in the urban areas to prevent any weakening of the position of Musharraf. The JUI will hardly have any role after the elections.

11. How effectively Musharraf and the new Prime Minister are able to deal with terrorism will depend upon not only, who comes to power inIslamabad, but also on who comes to power in Peshawar, the capital of the NWFP. The five years of governance of the NWFP by aMusharraf-encouraged religious coalition called the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) weakened the fight against terrorism and facilitated thespread of terrorism from the FATA to the NWFP. Now that the other religious parties, which formed part of the MMA, are boycotting theelections, the possibility of pro-Al Qaeda fundamentalist elements re-capturing power in Peshawar is small. The coming into power in theNWFP of a new coalition more sincere in its commitment to fight against terrorism, should be of help to the new Government in Islamabad. (16-1-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and,presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies,Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )


It would be too early to make a meaningful assessment of the concrete outcome of the visit of our Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh, to Beijing from January 13 to 15,2008.Due to constraints of time and opportunity for independent interaction with non-governmental interlocutors, the Indian journalists accompanying the Prime Minister on such tours are not in a position for an in-depth assessment of the visit, shorn of the usual superlatives regarding "positive personal chemistry", "body language, which reflected warmth", "unique gestures to the honoured guest" etc. There is a certain sameness in their reporting largely based on official briefing. Cosmetics have greater play than substance in their despatches. It takes time for the real results of the visit to become evident.

2. Despite this, one could see even now that there has been no significant forward movement in the political dimensions of the relations between India and China, though the forward movement in the economic dimensions----more beneficial to China than to India---continues. A mutually satisfactory formula to get over the differences between the two countries on the border dispute is not yet in sight. Ms.Pallavi Aiyar, the well-informed and highly-regarded correspondent of "The Hindu" in Beijing, has frankly said (Jamuary 15,2008) that there were no indications of a break-through in the boundary dispute.

3. The reported Chinese delay in handing over copies of their maps indicating their perception of the alignment of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) without any satisfactory explanation for the delay continues to be a matter of concern and puzzlement. Without the exchange of such maps, there cannot be any substantive discussions. All the Chinese seem to be doing is to keep repeating in all the talks between the specially-designated representatives of the two Prime Ministers their claim to Arunachal Pradesh----or at least to the Tawang Tract there. This is a claim which no Government of India can accept.

4. At least now, there seems to be a welcome realisation in New Delhi that instead of hoping for an early breakthrough, we should accept the reality of a possible Chinese attempt to tire us out while they strengthen their military capability in Tibet and we should start matching their preparations with our own so that we are not taken by surprise once again as we were in 1962. Shri Pranab Mukherjee, our Foreign Minister, needs to be complimented for confirming in an interview to Shri Karan Thapar of CNBC, which was telecast on the day of the arrival of the Prime Minister in Beijing, the fact that there had been Chinese troop intrusions into our territory, though he did try to play down the gravity of the implications of these intrusions.

5. Before 1962, Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister, committed the serious mistake of not admitting to the people of this country for a long time that the Chinese in bad breach of faith had occupied large areas of our territory and clandestinely constructed the Aksai Chin Road in the Ladakh sector. When the truth could no longer be concealed and we faced the disastrous military confrontation with China in 1962, Nehru's credibility as a leader and a statesman was severely damaged. We should learn from the past and try to avoid our past mistake of concealing from Indian public opinion the true state of affairs in our long border with China. Fears of a possible misunderstanding with China if we spoke frankly should not inhibit our handling of the issue in a forthright manner keeping in view our national interests. In the past, the Chinese had always interpreted our reluctance to be forthright as a sign of our weakness and exploited it.

6. Over the years, diplomats and statesmen all over the world have perfected the art of creating an illusion of a dramatic forward movement in bilateral relations while, in fact, remaining stuck in the same place. A subterfuge used for this purpose is what is called a vision statement. The two Prime Ministers have produced a document titled " A shared Vision For the 21st Century". Three formulations in this document have been cited by Indian officials accompanying the Prime Minister as indicators of a significant forward movement in the bilateral relations despite the lack of progress in the border talks. These are:

A reiteration of the official position of both sides to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution of the border dispute on the basis of the political parameters and guiding principles announced in 2005. The Chinese have already reportedly gone back on one of these principles, namely, that any settlement should not involve exchange of populated areas. Of what use then, a reiteration of this formulation?

"The two sides pledge to promote bilateral co-operation in civil nuclear energy, consistent with their respective international commitments, which will contribute to energy security and to dealing with tasks associated with climate change." Does this formulation mean that China is now willing to support the lifting of the restrictions on nuclear trade with India by the members of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group? Shri Shiv Shankar Menon, the Foreign Secretary, was vague in his response th this question. He told the Indian journalists: " If NSG members are ready to co-operate with us for nuclear energy, it will have certain implications for their (that is, Chinese) response to the nuclear issue at the NSG." This is apparently a hope nursed by the Indian side, but there does not seem to be any specific commitment by the Chinese.

"The Chinese side understands and supports India's aspirations to play a greater role in the United Nations, including the Security Council." The Foreign Secretary described the inclusion of the words 'including the Security Council" as an incremental, but important development. Even in the past, there were indications of an undeclared convergence of views between the US and China that India deserved to be a permanent member of the Security Council, but without the veto right. Has there been a change in this position? Most probably not.

7. The so-called vision statements have a limited shelf life and rarely contribute to any substantial improvement in bilateral relations. We saw it in the case of the Indo-US Vision Statement signed during the visit of Mr.Bill Clinton, the then US President, to India in 2000. At that time, the Government of Shri A.B.Vajpayee and its spokesmen had projected this as a very significant development in Indo-US relations. What happened to this Vision Statement? Nobody even remembers it. All the hype about the India-China Vision statement is unwarranted.

8. To be fair to the leaderships and officials of the two countries, it has to be conceded that they have tried to see that the continuing differences on the border question do not come in the way of a forward movement in other political issues. They have also been scrupulously avoiding rhetoric, which could prove counter-productive and keeping up the momentum in the non-political aspects of the relations such as bilteral trade.

9. There has been an attempt to give the impression of a greater comfort level in the bilateral relations. However, this increasing comfort level will not be able to remove the continuing core concerns in India in the absence of a forward movement in the border talks. Without the Chinese giving up their claim to populated areas in Arunachal Pradesh. these core concerns will remain a stumbling block in bilateral relations. (15-1-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Sunday, January 6, 2008



Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh, is scheduled to visit China from January 13 to 15, 2008, for talks with the Chinese leaders. This will behis first visit to China. He did not accept an invitation from the Chinese Government to attend the June,2006,summit of the ShanghaiCo-operation Organisation (SCO) at Shanghai as an observer. The Government of India explained his decision not to go as due to the factthat India's status as only an observer of the SCO did not warrant a presence at the level of the Prime Minister. Among the other observers,Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan were represented by their heads of State----Presidents Pervez Musharraf, Mahmud Ahmadinejad and HamidKarzai. Chinese officials suspected that the Prime Minister's decision not to go was actually due to the US suspicion that one of theobjectives of the SCO was to counter the US influence in the Central Asian region.

2. Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, the predecessor of Dr.Manmohan Singh, had visited China in June 2003. Mr.Wen Jiabo, the Chinese PrimeMinister, had visited India in April,2005, and President Hu Jintao in November,2006. Dr. Manmohan Singh has, however, been meeting hisChinese counterpart in the margins of other multilateral summits such as the recent (November 2007) ASEAN summit in Singapore.

3. India-China relations continue to be characterised by a mix of mutual concerns, mutual suspicions and mutual goodwill. The concerns onthe part of India have been in respect of the unresolved border dispute. The on-going talks on the subject between the specially-designatedrepresentatives of the two Prime Ministers have reportedly got stuck on the Chinese claim to Arunachal Pradesh, particularly to theTawang Tract. With the Chinese going back on the understanding reached by the Prime Ministers of the two countries during the visit ofMr.Wen Jiabo to India in April,2005, that they should avoid any territorial adjustment in populated areas, it is evident that the Chinese arenot prepared to give up their demand relating to Arunachal Pradesh.

4. While one can understand the hard bargaining by the Chinese on this issue, what should be a matter of particular concern to the Indianpublic are the frequent reports of Chinese troop intrusions into Indian territory, an intrusion into Bhutanese territory and reported Chineseobjection to some structures erected by Indian troops in Indian territory in Sikkim. While the Government of India has denied or playeddown the gravity of most of these reports, the fact that such reports keep appearing in our media from time to time itself indicates thecontinuing trust deficit between the two countries arising from the unresolved border issue. Just as they have gone back on the pastunderstanding that populated areas should not be disturbed, are they also preparing to go back on their commitment made in 2003 to ShriVajpayee that Sikkim was no longer an issue between the two countries? Are they trying to link any de jure concession on Sikkim by themto an Indian de jure concession on the Tawang Tract?That is a question, which must be bothering the minds of Indian policy-makers.

5. The heavy investments by the Chinese for the crash development of the road and rail infrastructure in Tibet and for extending the roadand rail networks towards Tibet's borders with India and Nepal and the reported desire of the Nepalese Government, now increasinglydominated by the Maoists, for the extension of this network to Nepal should add to India's concerns, if this has not already done so. Therecent statements of Shri A.K.Antony, the Defence Minister, after a visit to Sikkim in the first week of December,2007, on the need for payingurgent intention to a rapid (he used the expression "dramatic" ) development of the road and other infrastructure in our territory adjoiningTibet should be welcomed as an overdue wake-up call. It is to be hoped that this call is followed up seriously with concrete time-bound projects on the ground and that we do not slide back into another spell of complacency as we are in the habit of doing in relation to China.

6. Our ability to hold our own against China in the undesired event of another confrontation with China would depend on the state of ourintelligence agencies, the Army and the Air Force. While the Army and the Air Force are receiving the required attention, one has animpression that there has been a downsizing of our intelligence capabilities vis-a-vis China. This, if true, would be very unfortunate andwould show that we have forgotten the lessons of the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962 and are letting ourselves be lulled once again intoanother spell of complacency.

7. The continuing military, nuclear and missile supply relationship between China and Pakistan and the ever-increasing Chinese interest instrengthening their strategic presence in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar----- and possibly in Nepal too in the coming years---are another area of continuing concern for India. We tend to forget that militarily and strategically, Pakistan has benefited more from thesupply relationship with China than from the supply relationship with the US.

8. The Chinese too have their concerns arising from the steadily improving strategic relationship of India with the US, Japan and Australia.While India does not project its relationship with the US as a possible card that could be used against China, that is the way Beijing looks atit. The Chinese concerns were reflected in their comments on the joint naval exercise of September,2007, in the Bay of Bengal involving thenavies of India, the US, Japan, Singapore and Australia and on the floating idea of a concert of democracies involving India, Japan, Australiaand the US. When the Chinese have no qualms over continuing with their policy of having India excluded from the ASEAN plus threegrouping in order to keep India one pedestal below that of China, there is no reason why we should be apologetic about having Chinaexcluded from some of our common projects with the US, Australia and Japan based on democracy as the common ideological bindingfactor---- a glue which cannot bind China.

9. The mutual suspicions are the outcome partly of the continuing trust deficit and partly of the lack of transparency of Chinese policies.These suspicions are not unique to India-China relations, but are also to be found in China's relations with the US and other Westerncountries where parliamentarians and policy-makers continue to express concerns over likely invisible threats to their security from theenhanced activities of Chinese intelligence agencies in their territory by taking advantage of the developing bilateral relations. In thiscontext, one has to understand the anxiety of our intelligence agencies to subject proposals for Chinese investments and constructioncontracts in sensitive sectors such as telecommunications and port construction and in sensitive areas such as Bangalore to greaterscrutiny from the security point of view than we do in the case of proposals and projects involving the Western countries. The cautiousnessof our intelligence agencies should be understood and appreciated instead of being ridiculed and belittled as one tends to do in India.

10. It is not as if only the Indian intelligence agencies have suspicions about China. The Chinese agencies too have suspicions about Indiaand tend to protect China with appropriate firewalls. We saw it in the case of India's information technology (IT) majors. Everybody in India,critical of the over-cautiousness of our intelligence agencies, points out that the Chinese have allowed our IT majors to have a majorpresence in China since 2002 whereas we were reluctant to allow Chinese telecommunication companies to have an equal presence inIndia---particularly in cities such as Bangalore. And that too if there are retired Chinese intelligence and military officers associated with theChinese presence.

11.What those in India, who tend to ridicule our intelligence agencies, tend to forget is that, firstly, the Chinese have allowed our IT majorsto have a presence only in non-sensitive cities such as Shanghai. Have they allowed them to have a presence in sensitive areas such as theSichuan province where many of their military industries are located? Will they allow our IT majors to open offices in Tibet and Xinjiang tobenefit the Tibetans and the Uighurs? Secondly, even in non-sensitive places such as Shanghai, while allowing our IT companies to have a presence they kept their businesses confined to dealings with the local offices of Western multi-nationals. They discouraged their ownentities----governmental or non-governmental--- from having business with the Indian IT companies.

12. Only last year, the Chinese slightly changed this policy and started allowing their entities to have business with the Indian IT companies.This change was reflected in the award in February,2007, of a multi-million dollar contract to the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) toimplement a comprehensive international trading system for the China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS), which is a sub-institutionof the People’s Bank of China. The TCS has also expanded its presence in Beijing, where its interactions are expected to be more withChinese Government entities than with Western business companies. This is a welcome development.

13.In February last, the TCS, supported by the National Development and Reforms Commission (NDRC) of China, also announced theinauguration of TCS (China) at its new premises at the state-of-the-art Z-Park in Beijing. The joint partners of TCS (China) are the BeijingZhongguancun Software Park Development Co, Ltd, the Uniware Co, Ltd, and the Tianjin Huayuan Software Area Construction andDevelopment Co, Ltd . It was described as marking the launch of China’s first large scale outsourcing technology company. Speaking on theoccasion, Shri S.Ramadorai, the CEO and MD of the TCS, was reported to have stated as follows:"TCS has successfully completed five yearsin China and the new joint venture is the next step in our long journey in China.The joint venture will help to create a large scale globaloffshoring base in China and domestic business of increasing scale. We look forward to working closely with our Chinese partners,supported by the National Development and Reforms Commission to meet the expectations of our shareholders and customers." TCS AsiaPacific owns the majority of the joint venture with a 65 per cent stake. The three Chinese partners, supported by the NDRC, hold 25 per centwith Microsoft expected to take up the remaining 10 per cent. TCS China will focus on financial services, manufacturing, telecom as well asthe government sector, providing IT outsourcing services and solutions to the Chinese domestic market as well as the global multi-nationalcompany customers.

14. India too has not been found wanting in lowering its barrier of suspicions against allowing the Chinese presence in India to beincreased. The kind of difficulties which Chinese contractors faced in the past for getting visas for their engineers to work in constructionprojects in India has been lessened. More Chinese students----mainly the recruits of Indian IT companies such as Infosys and Cognizant---have been coming to South India for improving their knowledge of English and for training in IT. Many educational institutions in South Indiain places such as Vellore and Coimbatore have started getting Chinese students for learning English and IT-related subjects. The numberinvolved is still miniscule (about 500) compared to the thousands of Chinese who have been going to Western countries and Japan forstudies. But there has been a welcome beginning in opening the door to Chinese students. At the same time, it has to be mentioned thatmany Chinese, particularly in the rich coastal areas, have a fascination for the West and Japan and prefer going there for higher studiesthan coming to India. It is only the Chinese students from the less well-off families of Western China, who want to come to India for theirstudies.

15. The lowering of the barrier of suspicion by the Indian authorities was also evident in the announcement made in July last by the HuaweiTechnologies of China that it has received a network expansion contract worth over $200 million from Reliance Communications. Theseare straws in the wind indicating that the intelligence and security agencies of the two countries are a little more relaxed with regard toeach other's intentions than in the past. At the same time, the fact that the over-cautious attitude continues ---- though not at the samelevel as in the past---would be evident from the far-from-enthusiastic Indian attitude to the $200 billion sovereign wealth fund that wascreated by China last year. During a visit to Beijing in the beginning of December,2007, for a dialogue, inter alia, on India-China co-operationin multilateral financial institutions, Shri D.Subba Rao, the Indian Finance Secretary, was reported to have stated as follows: "We are yet tofirm up our views on sovereign wealth funds. We have to decide to what extent we can encourage them. We have not yet decided what to dowith sovereign wealth funds. We are looking at the issue from different angles.The case of Temasek holdings of the Singapore Government,which has investments in Indian firms like the ICICI Bank, is different because of a special relationship between India and Singapore. Asimilar arrangement exists in the case of a sovereign wealth fund of Norway. But the Government will need to carefully examine the prosand cons of allowing the entry of money from soveriegn funds of other countries including China."

16. The Chinese seem to feel that the barrier of mutual suspicions has been coming down faster from their side than from India's.Speakingat Kolkata on November 22,2007, Mr.Mao Siwei, the newly-appointed Chinese Consul-General in Kolkata, said: “Chinese FDI proposals inIndia are specially scanned. This attitude of the Indian Government should change. We are patient and expect the situation will improve inthe next three years.The Indian Government presently provides visas to Chinese nationals for 3-6 months. This is too insufficient to conductbusiness. The Chinese Government has initiated talks with the Indian Government to offer long stay visas and ensure liberal sanction of FDIproposals.The Chinese Government does not view India as a threat. We want to be friends with India. Both countries have common interestsand can achieve much more in the global arena if we work together.”

17.During interactions with Chinese non-governmental personalities, a point often made is that it is easier for an Indian to get a visa to go toChina for any purpose---tourism, studies, business--- than for a Chinese to get a visa to come to India. They allege that the attitude of theIndian diplomatic and consular missions in China continue to be marked by suspicion towards Chinese wanting to visit India.

18. It is gratifying that the two Governments have not allowed the mutual concerns and suspicions to come in the way of improvingState-to-State relationship. There is a welcome absence of rhetoric at official levels despite highly critical articles on China in sections ofthe media. There is a greater exchange of visits at different levels---governmental and non-governmental. Military-military bonhomie is beingstrengthened through joint exercises----between the Navies to start with and now between the two armies in the field of counter-terrorism inthe just concluded joint exercise in Yunnan. Military-Military bonhomie contributes to the creation of a feel-good feeling, but nothing more. Itwon't help in removing concerns over border developments unless there is a distinct change in the attitude of the Chinese politicalleadership.

19. The talks held during the visit of Mr.Hu Jintao to India in November,2006, resulted in an agreement to promote co-operation between thetwo counties in the field of civilian nuclear energy. Optimists in our strategic community interpreted this as a precursor of a possible Chinese support to the removal of the restrictions of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) on nuclear trade with India. Only when the mattercomes up before the NSG formally would one know whether this optimism was justified.

20. Bilateral trade continues to be the major success story of India-China relations.It is galloping forward at a tremendous pace. Accordingto Mr.Mao Siwei, India-China bilateral trade crossed a whopping $27 billion during January-September 2007. The Chinese Governmentexpected bilateral trade to exceed $30 billion by December -end2007, as against a target of US $ 20 billion. He added: “The volume ofbilateral trade has grown nearly 10-fold since 2002. Both the Governments had set a bilateral trade target of $40 billion in 2010, which wenow think will be achieved by 2009 itself. The Chinese Government believes bilateral trade is the most important factor to promote bilateralrelations."China now exports more than it imports from India. While major items of Chinese exports to India include coking coal, electronicgoods and specialised machinery, China primarily imports iron ore from India. India's iron ore exports to China constitute nearly 60 per centof its exports to China. Fears that the closing-down by China of its highly-polluting small iron and steel production units might result in adecrease in the demand for Indian iron ore have been belied. India has not been as successful as China in diversifying its export basket.There continues to be an unhealthy dependence on the export of one commodity (iron ore).

21. India-China relations have to be viewed in their totality. If one concentrates solely on areas of concern, one will develop an undulypessimistic attitude. If one looks only at the galloping trade and proliferating exchanges of visits, there could be unwarrantedover-optimism. There is a need for a balanced perspective. (6-1-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Thursday, January 3, 2008


US PARADROP FOR A NEOBENAZIR (http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers24/paper2353.html )
By B. Raman
The much talked about US plans for a political paradrop of a neo Benazir Bhutto into Pakistan in the hope of providing the badly-needed oxygen to President General Pervez Musharraf and saving the country from Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and an assortment of other pro-Al Qaeda and anti-US jihadi terrorist groups is likely to create a third mess in a row for the US after the earlier two in Afghanistan and Iraq.

2. All the reports from a variety of sources in Pakistan are clear on one point---- there is widespread anti-Americanism in the general public. This is not confined to the fundamentalist and jihadi parties. It is widely shared right across the country.

3. One of the reasons for the growing unpopularity of Musharraf is the public perception of him as a collaborator of the US in its so-called war against jihadi terrorism, which is viewed as a war against Islam. Outside the tribal areas, the Pakistani people are by and large moderate. They are unhappy over the role of the fundamentalists and the jihadis in hampering the modernisation of the country and in retarding its economic development. But they are equally unhappy over the perceived role of the US in influencing, if not dictating, not only the foreign, but also the domestic policy of the country.

4. Any leader---whether it be the Neo Benazir or anyone else--- who seeks to regain power with the support of the US with promises to co-operate with the US more effectively than at present in the so-called war against jihadi terrorism is unlikely to have much credibility in the eyes of the people.

5. Moreover, anyone even with rudimentary knowledge of Pakistan would know that Benazir, like Musharraf, is an opportunist par excellence. Both have broken more promises than kept them in the past. Both have betrayed more political allies than stood by them. Look at the way the Neo Benazir let down Mr.Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (PML) in her anxiety to come to power. Look at the way Musharraf is apparently prepared to ditch the PML (Qaide Azam), whose formation was engineered by him in 2002 in order to have himself elected as the President, in order to get her support for his re-election.

6. Benazir and Musharraf were birds of the same feather in the past. Remember how she, as the Prime Minister in her first term (1988-90) asked the Inter-Services Intelligence to start terrorism in India's Jammu and Kashmir in 1989? She, Maj.Gen.Naseerullah Babar, her Interior Minister during her second term (1993-96), and Musharraf, then the Director-General of Military Operations (DMO), were the joint creators of the Taliban and facilitated its capture of Kabul in September, 1996.It was she, who allowed Osama bin Laden, to shift from Khartoum to Jalalabad in 1996, thereby paving the way for the creation of Al Qaeda's infrastructure in Afghan territory. She was as responsible as Musharraf for the rogue activities of Dr.A.Q.Khan and other nuclear scientists. Pakistan's clandestine nuclear co-operation with Iran and Libya, started under Zia-ul-Haq, made headway under her and its clandestine nuclear and missile co-operation with North Korea started during her second tenure .

7. Musharraf has not kept up his promises to co-operate sincerely with the US in neutralising Al Qaeda activities from Pakistani territory.He has avoided action against the operations of the Neo Taliban in Afghan territory from its sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. Not having learnt any lessons from its pathetic faith in Musharraf, which has not produced results, the US is banking on Benazir's promise of strong action against the extremists and terrorists if the US supports her return to power. It seems to believe that Musharraf and Benazir acting together could save Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal from falling into the hands of the jihadi terrorists.

8. To expect that two opportunists such as Musharraf and Benazir, known for their insincerity, would now mend their ways and work jointly against terrorists is to live in a fools' paradise. Musharraf wants desperately to continue in power to save himself from ignominy. He believes, rightly or wrongly, that he would need the support of the US for this. She wants desperately to return to power, to have the corruption cases against her closed and to let her husband Asif Zirdari make more money as if the millions, if not billions, made by him during her first two tenures are not adequate.She feels she can do so only with US support.

9. Sections of the US media have quoted US officials as justifying the proposed Musharraf-Benazir patch-up as the best of the bad options available. So they said, when they gave unqualified backing to Musharraf post 9/11. So they are saying now.

10. US calculations of political stability in Pakistan under such a patch-up may be belied. Benazir of today is not the Benazir of 1988. She came to power in 1988 through her own efforts with the support of the people of Sindh and southern and central Punjab. The voters rejected the PML of Nawaz Sharif, which they saw as the creation of the Army and the ISI. She made a deal with the US after winning the elections in order to make the Army drop its objections to her becoming the Prime Minister.

11. Today, the Neo Benazir, who denounced Nawaz and his PML in 1988 as the stooges of the Army and the ISI, is seeking the benediction of the US even before winning the elections and the support of Musharraf and his Army for her return to power and the closing of the corruption cases against her and her husband.

12.Even if the US-engineered patch-up ultimately materialises and she returns to contest the elections, the victory of her party will be uncertain. The elections will be seen as between the collaborators of the Army and the US on the one side and their opponents on the other. The opponents will have a decided advantage in view of the prevailing anti-Army and anti-US atmosphere. Moreover, she and her party could face difficulties even in Sindh in view of the expected strong showing of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Mr.Altaf Hussain.

13. Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal need to be protected from the hands of Al Qaeda and other jihadi terrorists. Nobody can find fault with the over-all US objective, but it has been going about it in the wrong way. It should have allowed genuine democracy to take its own course, even at the risk of political forces not well disposed towards the US coming to power. Instead, by giving the impression of taking sides even before the elections and by making its ill-advised preferences known before the elections, it has given rise to the strong possibility of more instability, not less, more terrorism, not less.Even if Benazir comes to power in an election rigged by the Army,she will be seen as Pakistan's Hamid Karzai, who came to power not by the will of the people, but by riding on the shoulders of the US.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:seventyone2@gmail.com)


Sherry Rehman
Central Information Secretary
Pakistan Peoples Party,Pakistan
Letter to the Editor,
The Outlook September 10, 2007

This is with reference to Mr B Raman's article 'The Third Mess' that appeared in your esteemed publication on September 3, 2007. I apologise for this letter's length in advance, but the accusations he levels at Ms Bhutto, are innumerable, and require an answer.

Mr B. Raman is a well-respected writer who has held high level posts with the government of India . He currently heads the prestigious Institute for Topical Studies in Chennai, and one expects a person of his stature to present a responsible, accurate, insightful, objective and balanced view of affairs rather than ruthlessly pass on-the-fence opinions seeking to mislead the reader into a labyrinth of half-truths.

There are a number of factual errors and flawed conclusions Mr Raman has made while sitting miles away from the country and its people he has chosen to write on. Raman calls Ms Bhutto an opportunist as he feels she let Nawaz Sharif down. Not only is this untrue but malicious. Ms Bhutto had ideological as well as political differences with Mr Sharif over his growing association with the right-wing political party during the All Parties Conference in July this year. This rightwing alliance is in power in two out of four provinces of the country. Ms Bhutto, for her part, took a principled stance to not sit with the government parties and this was made public right from the start. If the respected author had taken the trouble to read press reports, he would have gathered that Ms Bhutto has made several public statements favouring Mr Sharif's return to the country and still considers him an ally in the struggle for the restoration of democracy.

Mr Raman would have also done well to understand the dynamics of Ms Bhutto's ongoing negotiations with the regime. Pakistan is a country that has suffered war-like violence for eight years now. People are entrapped in the vicious circle of poverty, unemployment, lack of justice leading to lawlessness - a state strengthened by the absence of a representative government. In this backdrop, the PPP, being the largest political party in the country with a massive following at the grassroots level has two options: confront the regime and put the nation through more trauma and bloodbaths, or hold negotiations for a peaceful transition to democracy.

Unlike other political parties, the PPP would not want to take the path of confrontation when the path of negotiations can be effectively taken to ensure the country's return to democracy without any bloodshed and violence.

Ms Bhutto's consistent demand before and during the negotiations has been the country's return to democracy through free and fair elections, balance of powers between the vital organs of the state, and especially between the Parliament and the Presidency and the removal of a president in uniform. None of these demands are undemocratic in nature, nor has Ms Bhutto ever asked the government to assure her a PM's seat post the elections. Furthermore, Ms Bhutto seeks indemnity for all the governments that were in power from 1988-99 (that includes six years of Mr Sharif's rule). The PPP is least worried about the votes as we are sure that the people of Pakistan will vote for the Party, for its liberal and democratic agenda, if they are allowed to vote without the fear of the gun.

Mr Raman maliciously accuses Ms Bhutto for being involved in terrorism in India and for being the creator of Taliban. He further accuses her of being a part of the nuclear racket. Interestingly, the writer, despite his academic credentials fails to cite a single reference/proof to support his claims. Just to set the record straight, Ms Bhutto ruffled quite a few feathers in the Pakistani establishment for her fearless stand against nuclear proliferation and she has paid the price for it too. As far as the writer's allegations regarding Ms Bhutto being the creator of Taliban is concerned, this again reflects poorly on the writer's knowledge and the understanding of dynamics that drive the foreign policy of any country. The Taliban government was not created by Ms Bhutto's government. It was instead contained to Kandahar, as a localised entity, and never accorded recognition by her government even after they had dislodged the government in Kabul and claimed to be the rulers of Afghanistan.

The writer also accuses Ms Bhutto of aiming to return to power to make money. This is again defamatory and personal. Mr Raman would do well to know that this is not the first time Ms Bhutto has been approached by the regime. If power was all the PPP had aimed for, we had a better opportunity to grab it in the 2002 elections when we received the highest number of votes in the elections despite the massive rigging that oversaw the rise of right wing political parties to power.

Just to set the record straight, the US is not 'engineering' the dialogue, as the writer implies. The US and the British government have been encouraging towards such a dialogue as they see transition and not confrontation as the best answer to the political turmoil that Pakistan has been going through.

When a writer of the calibre of Mr Raman makes such a case, and a publication of the stature of Outlook India carries it, one expects an element of responsibility from the two due to their great influence in shaping public opinion. I hope your publication will review the arguments espoused in this article in the very near future.

Sincerely Yours,

Sherry Rehman

Central Information Secretary,

Pakistan Peoples Party

-- Sherry RehmanCentral Information SecretaryPakistan Peoples Party49 Old Clifton, Karachi021 5834663/421, St 37, F 7/1, Islamabad051 9224129Pakistan" La Ikraha Fid Deen"{There is No Compulsion in Religion]The Quran

Tuesday, January 1, 2008




(I have received a number of questions from the readers of my articles on the assassination of Mrs.Benazir Bhutto at Rawalpindi on December 27,2007. I have attempted to answer them in this article )

Q.Could President Pervez Musharraf and the Pakistan Army have had a hand in the assassination of Mrs.Benazir Bhutto?

A.Unlikely. Musharraf and other senior Army officers were unhappy with her confrontational style after the first attack on her at Karachi on October 18,2007. They were also unhappy about her habit of making what they saw as wild allegations and taking her complaints to her friends in the US. They wanted to marginalise her and prevent her from becoming the Prime Minister again. They would have been able to achieve this through "normal" Pakistani methods such as manipulation and rigging of the polls. They did not have to resort to the extreme step of having her killed. Moreover, in the unlikely event of their wanting to have her killed, they would have got it done at some other place such as Peshawar and not in Rawalpindi, where there would have been little deniability.

Q.How about complicity at the lower and middle levels of the armed forces, without the knowledge of Musharraf and Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS)?

A.Quite possible, but no evidence in support of this so far. There are two kinds of complicity---active and passive. Active complicity at the lower and middle levels would mean active participation by elements in the planning and execution of her assassination .Passive complicity means officers at lower and middle levels were probably aware of plans being made by terrorists or opponents of Mrs.Benazir Bhutto to have her killed, but they did not sound the alarm bell. They told themselves "it would serve her right" and kept quiet. The possibility of a passive complicity is higher than that of an active complicity. But no evidence either way so far.

Q.How about wilful negligence in providing effective physical security to her?

A.There is clear-cut evidence of glaring negligence in providing effective physical security to her. Her allegations and concerns regarding threats to her security were disregarded. Was it wilful? Did those who were negligent want her to die? Possibly so, but difficult to prove. One thing is certain----Musharraf and his officers had considerable prejudice against her and they allowed this prejudice to affect their professional judgement regarding threats to her security and the kind of security she would require. Politicisation of the physical security assessment process led to her death. This is what happened in the case of Rajiv Gandhi too in May,1991. The politicisation of the question of his physical security contributed to his death at the hands of the LTTE. His party (Congress-I ) was greatly concerned over what it perceived as the weak security provided to him, but their concerns were treated by officials of the Government then in power in Delhi more with sarcasm than with seriousness. Physical security for Rajiv at the public meeting where he was killed was as shoddy as that for Benazir at Rawalpindi. When political considerations and prejudices are allowed to influence professional decisions in security-related matters, terrorists and extremists are the ultimate beneficiaries.

Q. How come so many terrorist strikes have been taking place in Rawalpindi at regular intervals despite the fact that it is a military cantonment where the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army are located?

A. It is because of the notorious inefficiency and incompetence of the Rawalpindi Police. You may have the entire Pakistani Army based in Rawalpindi, but if the local police is inefficient, terrorists will continue to thrive.

Q. You have written about the growing infiltration of the GHQ itself by Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda elements and the dangers of the similar infiltration of Pakistan's nuclear establishment? Why the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has not been able to detect the sleeper cells of Al Qaeda in the GHQ?

A. The ISI has been able to organise periodic acts of terrorism through its surrogates in India. But in Pakistan itself, its capabilities for the collection of terrorism-related intelligence and act on them have been poor. This is also so in the case of the Intelligence Bureau of the Ministry of the Interior and the Police. The Pakistani police and intelligence agencies have the lowest rate of detection of terrorism-related cases in the world. The majority of the cases remain undetected. This is largely due to their inefficiency and incompetence. Complicity of elements inside the Police and the intelligence agencies with the jihadi organisations also comes in the way of their acting against the sleeper cells. This complicity can be attributed to the long history of their using them against India and Afghanistan.

Q. Who could have killed Benazir?

A.In the absence of evidence, I can only speculate. My needle of suspicion points to the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and individual Jundullah (Soldiers of Allah) elements in that order. The LEJ has the motivation and capability. It has some very good sharp-shooters recruited from among ex-servicemen. It had always disliked her because she was a woman, it looked upon her as the daughter of a Shia, who should not be allowed to rule Pakistan, and she was perceived as the cat's paw of the US. The same reasons would apply to the JEM also. Though the JEM avoids open anti-Shia rhetoric, many of its operatives used to be in the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, the political wing of the LEJ. Even Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the JEM, started his career as a terrorist in the Sipah-e-Sahaba. Jundullahs are individual Muslims with intense personal anger who undertake acts of suicide terrorism to give vent to their anger. The number of acts of suicide terrorism in Pakistan increased from six in 2006 to 55 in 2007. The upsurge was steep after the commando raid in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July,2007, during which 300 young girl students---most of them tribals---were allegedly killed.Most of them have remained undetected. Pakistani police sources say that this was partly because many of these attacks were undertaken by angry individual Muslims with no previous police record and with no known history of any organisational affiliation.

Q.How politically secure is Musharraf?

A. A major confrontation between him and his political opponents is on the horizon if his opponents, by profiting from the sympathy wave, manage to win an absolute majority, if not a two-thirds majority in the forthcoming elections. While getting himself re-elected as the President in October,2007, by the outgoing Assemblies, he had promised that he would have his re-election endorsed by the newly-elected Assemblies. He may not be able to keep up this commitment. Before lifting the State of Emergency in December,2007, he had incorporated a number of amendments in Pakistan's Constitution through his executive orders to ensure that he would not be impeached or legally held accountable for the actions taken by him in violation of the Constitution and the other laws of the land. The new National Assembly is likely to try to have these provisions removed from the Constitution and move for his impeachment. Whether he is able to counter this or not would depend on Gen.Kiyani and the Army. If they stand by him, he might be able to surmount the challenge. If they don't, that could lead to his exit from power. (2-1-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India,New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )