Monday, December 29, 2008




Gen.David Petraeus, the Commander of the US Central Command, who previously headed the US forces in Iraq, was credited with bringing down the level of violence in Iraq and weakening the capability of Al Qaeda in Iraq by creating a divide between the secular Baathist Arabs of Saddam Hussein's army and local administration and the Wahabi Arabs of Al Qaeda by strengthening various local militias with names such as the Awakening Councils, which had come into existence even before he took over in Iraq.

2. When he was appointed by President George Bush to be the head of the Central Command, which, inter alia, is responsible for the US operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and in the bordering Pashtun areas of Pakistan, he was reported to have set up a brains trust to advise him on a new strategy to be followed against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. While the new strategy is still being worked out, some elements of it are already in the process of being implemented.

3. These include a planned surge in the US forces in Afghanistan in the coming months by inducting another 30,000 troops and the setting up of local militias, which would work on the pattern of the Awakening Councils in Iraq. Many Afghan observers have been expressing doubts whether Petraeus' ideas would work in Afghanistan. The Pashtun society---particularly in Afghanistan--- is different from the Iraqi society. Hatred of non-Muslim foreigners is very strong among the Pashtuns and the hatred of Pashtuns who are perceived as collaborating with non-Muslim foreigners is even stronger. Moreover, the Pashtuns look upon the Arabs of Al Qaeda, now operating from sanctuaries in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan's Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), as their honoured guests and as their co-religionists, who had helped them in driving out the Soviet troops in the 1980s and who are now helping them in their fight to drive out the Americans and other NATO forces.

4. These observers have been saying that the intensifying violence in Afghanistan and the inability of the US-led forces to control it are due to the sanctuaries available to Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban in Pakistani territory and the inability or relcutance of the Pakistan Army to destroy these sanctuaries. While the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda in North Waziristan and of the Taliban in South Waziristan are being repeatedly attacked by the unmanned Predator aircraft of the US intelligence community, those of the Taliban in the Quetta area of Balochistan have largely been left untouched with neither the Pakistan Army nor the American Predator aircraft targeting them. These observers are of the view that unless these sanctuaries are destroyed no amount of surge and local militias will help.

5. The current operations of the Pakistan Army in the Bajaur Agency of the FATA and the Swat Valley of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) are mainly targeting the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which poses a threat to Pakistan and not the Afghan Taliban, headed by the Quetta-based Mulla Mohammad Omar, which the Pakistan Army continues to perceive as its strategic ally. While the Pakistan Army has reduced the scale of its operations in the Bajaur Agency and its presence in South Waziristan, where Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the TTP is based, in order to re-deploy the troops thus relieved on the Indian border particularly in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), its operations against the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), headed by Maulana Fazlullah, in the Swat Valley have not so far been reduced.

6. While the Mehsuds and the Ahmedzai Wazirs of South Waziristan, who were in the forefront of the Pakistani invasion of Kashmir in 1947-48 and in 1965, have informally agreed not to take advantage of the thinning out of the Pakistani forces in these areas, the Pakistan Army has not yet been able to reach a similar informal agreement with the TNSM, despite the fact that it is a component of the TTP. Moreover, the Pakistan Army is prepared to face the risk of a temporary dilution of the Pakistani writ in the Bajaur Agency and South Waziristan if the Mehsuds and the Ahmedzai Wazirs do not keep up their informal agreement not to create problems for the Army and the Frontier Corps.

7. It is not prepared to face a similar risk in the Swat Valley, which it sees as important for maintaining its writ in the NWFP. It is concerned over the recent increase in the activities of the Pakistani Taliban in Peshawar and is determined not to allow the TNSM undermine the Government position in the NWFP. The operations against the TNSM in the Swat Valley, which started in November,2007, have been continuing for over a year now without the Army and the Frontier Corps being able to make any headway in neutralising the TNSM. Even long before the Pakistan Army thinned out its presence in the FATA in the wake of the tensions with India after the terrorist attack by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET)----acting alone or in association with Al Qaeda--- in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008, it was facing difficulty in reinforcing its presence in the Swat Valley.

8. Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan's Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), borrowed some of the Iraqi ideas of Gen.Petraeus even before the latter assumed command of the US Central Command. He set up in some villages of the Swat Valley as well as the FATA people's militias called Lashkars, which were trained and armed to counter the Sunni forces of the TNSM and the Pakistani Taliban. A large number of Shia Pashtuns were recruited by Kayani into these Lashkars and they were given the task of countering the TNSM and the TTP. The Sunnis of the Pakistani Taliban retaliated with vigour against these Lashkars and killed a large number of them.

9.In October, 82 persons were killed and 241 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a grand Jirga held at Khadizai area of the predominantly Shia Alikhel sub-tribe of the Pashtuns. The Jirga was specially convened to form a tribal Lashkar against the Taliban.

10.Thirty-two people were killed and over 120 others injured in a blast just outside a Shia Imambargah called Alamdar in Koocha-e-Risaldar, located behind the historic Qissa Khwani Bazaar, in the Peshawar area on December 5,2008. A vehicle driven by a suicide bomber destroyed a multi-storey hotel, a girls’ school, and dozens of shops selling crockery and plastic-wares.

11.On December 7,2008, the Afghan Islamic Press disseminated a message purported to have been issued by Mulla Omar, which warned the US as follows in response to the reported new strategy of Petraeus without, however, naming him: “Today the world’s economy is facing growing risk from meltdown owing to the belligerent and expansionist policies of US. This has left its negative impact on the globe and it is the collective duty of all to work for a lasting peace in the world. You should understand that no puppet regime will ever stand up to the current resistance movement. Nor you will justify the occupation of the Islamic countries under the so-called slogan of rehabilitation anymore. Deployment of more troops (by the US) would lead to battles everywhere. The current armed clashes will spiral and your current casualties of hundreds will jack up to thousands.The US has imposed the war on the Afghan nation and the followers of the path of Islamic resistance will never abandon their legitimate struggle. The invading forces wrongly contemplate that they will be able to pit the Afghans against the mujahideen under the so-called label of tribal militias. No Afghan will play into the hands of the aliens and fight against his own brothers for worldly pleasure.”

12.On December 13,2008,Pir Samiullah, who had formed one of the Lashkars at the request of the Army, and eight of his followers were killed by the TNSM in Swat . The TNSM members captured over 50 AK-47 rifles with ammunition and two rocket launchers issued to the Lashkar by the Pakistan Army

13.Over 40 persons, many of them Shias, including two policemen and four children, were killed and 20 others injured when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a polling station set up in a school in Shalbandai village, located about six kilometres south of the Buner district headquarters, Daggar, on December 28,2008.The Swat chapter of the TTP has claimed responsibility for the attack.Speaking on the group’s illegal FM radio channel, TTP Swat chapter Deputy Head Maulana Shah Dauran said the bombing was in retaliation for the death of six TTP members gunned down in Shalbandai by a local Lashkar set up by the Army.He warned that the revenge wasn’t yet over and that every person in Shalbandai would be eliminated for killing the Taliban members.

14. In addition to stepping up the attacks on the Lashkars, the TTP has also embarked on a programme of disrupting the movement of supplies to the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan from the Karachi port.About 150 containers go to Afghanistan from Karachi every day. A majority of these containers crosses the Torkham border in the NWFP into Afghanistan while others take the Chaman route in Balochistan. In addition to this, about 150 to 200 oil tankers transport fuel from Karachi to Afghanistan via Torkham every day.About 100 tankers carry fuel through the Chaman border post.Around 300 vehicles and containers have been burnt in six attacks since December 1. The TTP has projected these attacks as in retaliation for the Predator strikes on the TTP hide-outs in South Waziristan.

15. Concerned over the attacks, US and other NATO officials have reportedly been negotiating with the authorities of Russia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for alternate routes to reduce their dependence on the Pakistan route. Not only the TTP, even the religious political parties of Pakistan and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League are opposed to the movement of supplies to the NATO forces in Afghanistan through Pakistani territory.

16. The TTP, which has till now been attacking the trucks and tankers only after they reach Peshawar, has warned that if the Predator strikes do not stop it will start attacking the supplies everywhere in Pakistan. This would include at the Karachi port itself as the supplies are brought by ships. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Group (IMG), a splinter group of the IMU, are also likely to attack the supply convoys in Central Asia when the US starts using the alternate routes. (29-12-08)

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

Saturday, December 27, 2008



Three ships of the Chinese Navy------ the missile-armed destroyers "DDG-171 Haikou" and "DDG-169 Wuhan" and the suply ship "Weishanhu"---are reported to have sailed from the Yalong Bay naval base on the Hainan Island on January 26,2008, on a three-month mission toundertake anti-piracy patrol for the protection of Chinese ships and crew from attacks by Somali pirates. This will be the first time ships ofthe Chinese Navy will be operating in far-away waters outside the Pacific on defensive missions----though only against non-State actors. The three-ship task force will have a Chinese special forces unit (strength not known) and two helicopters.

2.The Chinese announcement came shortly after nine pirates attacked "Zhenhua 4", a Chinese cargo ship with 30 crewmen, in Somaliwaters on December 17,2008. The Chinese ship, owned by the China Communications Construction Co, was rescued by two warships and ahelicopter of Malaysia.Twenty per cent of the 1,265 Chinese ships that have passed through the Somali waters in the first 11 months of thisyear, have faced pirate attacks, according to a spokesman of the company. Seven of these ships were hijacked, and the pirates were stillholding a Chinese fishing ship and 18 sailors.China's decision came after the UN Security Council, in an unanimous vote on December16,2008, gave nations fighting against pirates in the Gulf of Aden a one-year mandate to act inside and off Somalia.

3.The State-owned Xinhua news agency quoted Wu Shengli, the Commander of the Chinese Navy, as telling the 1000 sailors of the threeships at a function before the Task Force set sail as follows: "It's the first time we go abroad to protect our strategic interests armed withmilitary force.It's the first time for us to organise a naval force on an international humanitarian mission and the first time for our navy toprotect important shipping lanes far from our shores."

4. The Chinese task force will be joining more than a dozen warships from Italy, Greece, Turkey, India, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, France,Russia, Britain, Malaysia and the US, who have already undertaken an anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden. With China sending its ships, theNavies of all the five permanent members of the UN Security Council will now be co-operating in the fight against piracy. Japan has alreadyannounced its intention of sending one of its ships too.

5.Even though Admiral Timothy Keating, the Commander of the US Pacific Command in Hawaii, has welcomed the Chinese decision andexpressed the hope that the operations of the US and Chinese naval ships side by side in the Somali waters might lead to a resumption ofthe military-military contacts between the two countries, which are in a state of suspension since October, 2008, due to Chineseunhappiness over the supply of US military equipment to Taiwan, the US cannot but be concerned over the long-term implications of theChinese naval presence in an area of strategic importance to the US.

6.Admiral Keating was quoted by the media as saying immediately after the Chinese announcement of its decision to send the ships onanti-piracy patrol: "China's plans to join the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia could lead to a renewal of military exchangesbetween Beijing and Washington. I think this could be a springboard for a resumption of dialogue between PLA forces and US PacificCommand forces."

7.Commenting on the US Admiral's statement, Peng Guangqian, a Chinese strategic expert working in the Chinese Academy of MilitarySciences, was quoted as saying on Decemmber 22,2008, that the armed forces of China and the US would be cooperating for the first timein a real security environment off Somalia's coast. He added: "The military cooperation between the two sides should be based oninternational laws and codes, mutual respect and equal consultation. Only this way can bilateral military cooperation proceed steadily."

8. The Chinese decision has been widely welcomed by Chinese Internet chatters and bloggers as a moment of great pride for China. It hasalso been welcomed by the community of Chinese strategic experts;. Typical among the comments are:

Li Wei, Director of the Anti-terrorism Research Centre of the China Institute of Contemporary Relations: "It is a huge breakthrough in China's concepts about security.It sends a strong political message to the international community that China with its improved economic and military strength is willing to play a larger role in maintaining world peace and security."

Prof. Li Jie, a naval researcher: "Joining other countries to fight Somali pirates would be a very good opportunity for the Chinese Navy to get into the thick of the action. Apart from fighting pirates, another key goal is to register the presence of the Chinese Navy.If the navy's special forces join in, that will be in order to counter the pirates' attempt to board other ships. In general, the mission is to deter pirates, because that is the basic objective."

Prof Pang Zhongying at Renmin University of China: "Joining other fleets in the Somali waters will contribute to international security. Earlier, Chinese army personnel joining UN peacekeeping missions were engineering and medical staff, police, or peacekeepers. But now, dispatching naval ships would not be a problem as the menace of Somali piracy has become a common threat to the whole international community.China's image as a responsible sovereign nation will improve by participating in such missions.The number of troops in any such mission would not be high. It would be on a limited scale initially." .

9. It is not yet clear which port the Chinese ships will be using for refuelling and re-stocking purposes during the three months they will beaway from China, but reports from Pakistani sources say that the Pakistan Navy has already offered the use of the Karachi port for thispurpose. The Gwadar port is not presently under consideration for this purpose since part of the construction has not yet been completed.Even though Part I has been completed and a small number of foreign commercial ships has started using it, the refuelling and re-stockingfacilities in Gwadar are not yet satisfactory.

10. The Pakistani offer of the use of Karachi was reported to have been discussed with Chinese officials during the recent visit to China bythe Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Tariq Majid for the sixth round of the Pakistan-China Defence and SecurityTalks. On December 15,2008, Gen.Majid and General Chen Bingde, Chief of the General Staff, People's Liberation Army, signed anagreement on military co-operation. Though details of this agreement were not disclosed, it is believed that Pakistan has offered the use ofthe Karachi port to the Chinese ships under this agreement. This visit was fixed long before the Chinese decision to undertake anti-piracy patrols.

11.India, which has sent a ship of its own navy to the Gulf of Aden on anti-piracy patrol, cannot object to the Chinese ships joining the patrol,but it would be justified in keeping a wary eye on the Chinese ships. What is now projected by the Chinese as a temporary measure ofself-defence and peace-keeping against pirates, could develop into a permanent presence of strategic value to the Chinese Navy in terms ofpower projection in the waters to the West of India. It could develop as a Chinese counter to India's power projection in the seas to the Eastof India.

12. Pakistan's immediate interest in the Chinese using Karachi as a possible base for their operations in the Somali waters arises from thehope that it could act as a deterrent to any Indian threat to Karachi in the event of the current tensions between India and Pakistan afterthe terrorist attack in Mumbai on November 26,2008, leading to a military confrontation between the two countries. (27-12-08)

(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: )

Monday, December 8, 2008



The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not such cat's whiskers in counter-terrorism as it projects itself to be.

2. That seems to be the conclusion of the voters in the elections to the State Assemblies of Delhi and Rajasthan, the results of which wereannounced in Delhi on December 8,2008. The Congress (I) has retained power in Delhi despite any public anger over its failure to prevent theterrorist strikes of September 13 and to have them investigated satisfactorily . The BJP has failed to retain power in Rajasthan, which alsosaw serial explosions in Jaipur in May.

3. If one excludes the terrorist strikes in Assam in October, the responsibility for which is not yet clearly established, there have been fivemajor terrorist strikes this year---three of them in the BJP ruled States of Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat and two in Cong (I) ruled Delhiand Maharashtra. These strikes clearly showed that the counter-terrorism machinery in the BJP-ruled States is as bad as it has been in theCongress (I) ruled States. Both parties are equally responsible for neglecting the important task of revamping the counter-terrorismapparatus.

4. Despite this, the BJP might have still got the support of the voters on the terrorism issue if it had placed before them a comprehensivealternate strategy for dealing with terrorism. Despite the strong rhetoric of the BJP on the terrorism issue, its campaign did not show that itunderstood the issue of terrorism any better than the Congress (I). The two showed themselves to be equally confused on the issue ofcounter-terrorism. If the BJP was good in rhetoric, the Congress (I) was good in giving sermons to the people on the issue of terrorism.Caught between the rhetoric of the BJP and the sermons of the Congress (I), the voters decided to keep aside the issue of terrorism andvote on the basis of other issues, which are very important for their day-to-day living.

5. Apart from advocating the restoration of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), the BJP has hardly come out with any new ideas on howit will deal with terrorism, which will be qualitatively different from the way the Congress (I) has been dealing with it.

6. The people are greatly concerned over terrorism----not merely in the urban areas. They want more energetic steps by the Government todeal with it. They are not satisfied with the way it has been dealt with by the BJP-ruled as well as the Congress (I)-ruled States. But theywant new ideas and signs of a clear determination to implement them. Rhetoric alone will not do.

7. There is a rhetoric fatigue on the issue of terrorism. This has come out clearly in the just announced State Assembly election results.(8-12-08)

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

Wednesday, December 3, 2008



You cannot convince somebody, who does not want to be convinced, who is not prepared to be convinced.

That has been our experience since 1981 when Pakistan started using terrorism as a weapon to keep India bleeding and to weaken it, in the hope that, by doing so, it will be able to force India to agree to a change in the status quo in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).

The recovery by the Dubai authorities in 1983 from a Khalistani hijacker of a revolver which the German authorities certified in writing was from a consignment sold to the Pakistan Army; the recovery from the perpetrators of the March,1993, blasts of hand-grenades which Austrian experts certified in writing had been manufactured in Pakistan with technology and equipment sold by Austria to the Army-run Pakistan ordnance factories; the recovery from them of a chemical timer which the US certified in an unsigned note was part of a consignment supplied by the US to Pakistan in the 1980s and more and more and more.

The more the evidence we collected, the stronger the rejection---particularly from the US. Not sufficient enough. Does not directly implicate the Government of Pakistan. That was the stock reply we received repeatedly.

The US was interested only in protecting the lives and property of its citizens and in preventing another 9/11 in the US homeland from Pakistani territory. So long as Pakistan was co-operating with the US in action against Al Qaeda, the US closed its eyes and continues to close its eyes to Pakistani support for acts of jihadi terrorism directed against India.

One would have expected that the US attitude after the Mumbai terrorist strikes would have been different because the terrorists of the Pakistan Government-raised and backed Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) killed not only about 160 Indians, but also 25 foreigners-----six of them Israelis and another six Americans.

The Jewish civilians killed by the terrorists in the Narriman House were subjected to brutalities the like of which the world has not seen since the brutalities inflicted on the Jewish people by the Nazis during the Second World War.

And yet, the attitude of the US and other Western countries has been the same as it has always been. Where is the evidence, we are asked.

What evidence?

Evidence of the death of 160 Indians?

Evidence of the death of six Americans?

Evidence of the death of six Israelis?

Evidence of the brutalities inflicted by the terrorists on the Jewish people?

Is not the capture by the public of one of the perpetrators, a Pakistani national, who has confessed that he is from Pakistan and that he belonged to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and that the entire operation was mounted by the LET evidence enough?

Are not the intercepted telephone conversations between the perpetrators and their handlers in Pakistan evidence enough?

Are not the movement and activities of Prof.Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed, the Amir of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), the political wing of the LET, in Pakistan as reported in the Pakistani media and in its own web site evidence enough?

Is not the continued existence of the training camps of the LET in Pakistani territory, including at Muridke, its headquarters near Lahore, evidence enough?

Is not the refusal of the Pakistan Government----whether of Pervez Musharraf or Asif Ali Zardari---- to arrest the operatives of the LET and close their camps despite an ostensible ban on it evidence enough?

What more evidence do the Americans want?

What evidence did they have when Ronald Reagan ordered the bombing of Libya in 1986 after an explosion in a West Berlin discotheque, which killed some Americans?

What evidence did they have before Bill Clinton ordered the Cruise missile attacks on jihadi training camps in Afghan territory in August,1998?

What evidence did they have against Al Qaeda and the Taliban before they bombed Afghanistan from October 7,2001?

What evidence did they have against the Saddam Hussain Government before they invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003?

In every case affecting American nationals and interests, they bombed and then collected evidence. They did not wait till they had collected all the evidence possible before they bombed.

They did not act on the basis of evidence accepted by the international community. They acted on the basis of their conviction as to where from the attacks on Americans came.

Their actions were motivated by the need to show that nobody can play with American lives and get away with it.

We should stop demeaning ourselves as a nation by going to the Americans and others with evidence. I am shocked by suggestions that we should produce the evidence before the UN Security Council. I cannot think of a more naïve idea. It is as stupid as the advice given by the British to Jawaharlal Nehru to take the Kashmir issue to the UN Security Council with a promise that it would do justice by India.

The time for action against Pakistan has come. Action based on our conviction that the terrorists came from a Pakistani terrorist organization, which enjoys the patronage of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The objective of the action should be to force Pakistan to act effectively against the LET and its terrorist infrastructure. It should also be to mount a no-holds barred covert operation against the LET through our own resources and methods.

Two steps the Government can take immediately:

STEP No.1: Downgrade the diplomatic relations with Pakistan, terminate all economic relations including bilateral trade and communication links, suspend the confidence-building measures and the so-called peace process, terminate the talks on the gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan and withdraw from the so-called joint counter-terrorism mechanism, which has been a farce forced on Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh by the US. Announce that these actions will remain in force till Pakistan acts against the LET and its terrorist leaders and infrastructure and hands over to India the terrorists wanted for trial in India.
STEP No. 2: Revive immediately the covert action capability of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), which was wound up by Inder Gujral, when he was the Prime Minister in 1997, and empower it to impose prohibitive costs on Pakistan till it stops using jihadi terrorism against India. The R&AW imposed heavy costs on Pakistan for supporting the Khalistanis and should be able to do so now for its support to the LET and other jihadi terrorist organizations.

If step 2 has to be effective, there is an urgent need for a revamping of the R&AW. The organization has been in a bad state of affairs with low staff morale, factionalism and internal bickerings. Unfortunately, at this critical time in the nation’s history, the R&AW has no covert action specialists at the top of its pyramid. Get a suitable officer from the IB or the Army. If necessary, make him the head of the organization..

This is not the time for a direct military confrontation with Pakistan. It could prove counter-productive. It would enable the Pakistan Army to divert its troops from the Pashtun tribal belt to the Indian border and could unite the various jihadi organizations against India.

A divided Pakistan, a bleeding Pakistan, a Pakistan ever on the verge of collapse without actually collapsing----that should be our objective till it stops using terrorism against India.

We should be realistic enough to anticipate that Pakistan will step up terrorism in Indian territory if we adopt such a policy. This should not deter us from embarking on this policy. The policy of active defence against Pakistan should be accompanied by time-bound action to strengthen our counter-terrorism capability at home. (3-12-08)

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