Monday, November 30, 2009



The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The Washington pudding served by President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the latter's visit to the US from November 23 to 26,2009, is yet to be tasted, but if one is objective in analysing the outcome of the visit, one will have to concede that the spins put out by one of the PM's advisers from the PM's plane through obliging journalists before he landed in Washington DC have remained what they were----spins and nothing more.

2.Two of the pre-summit spins put out from the plane related to India's right to reprocess used nuclear fuel from US-supplied power stations and co-operation in counter-terrorism. The Indian public was given the impression that the agreement on the re-processing modalities had almost been finalised and would be a flagship outcome of the visit.

3.Hardly had the PM landed in Washington DC when Nirupama Rao, the Foreign Secretary, had to unspin the spin put out from the aircraft.She told the journalists that while there was progress in the negotiations, an agreement was still away and may not be the outcome of the visit.We have now been told during a post-summit spin session on board the plane while the PM and his party were returning to New Delhi that barring one or two issues, the agreement has almost been clinched. It might not have been possible to initial it during the PM's stay in Washington DC, so what? It is a question of a wait of another seven to 10 days. So we are told now.

4.Another pre-summit spin from the PM's aircraft was that a memorandum of understanding on future counter-terrorism co-operation between the two countries would be another important outcome. It was made out that the lightning visit of Leon Panetta, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to New Delhi before the Prime Minister took off for Washington was an indicator of the importance attached by Obama to this subject.

5. What the spin-masters did not tell the Indian public was that the CIA chief had actually flown to Islamabad due to concerns over the growing isolation of President Asif Ali Zardari and had stopped over in India by the way.

6.Some New Delhi-based analysts, who always go lyrical on Indo-US relations, have extensively quoted from the Manmohan Singh-Obama joint statement to claim that the so-called joint counter-terrorism initiative mentioned in the statement was, in fact, the flagship outcome of the visit. In post-summit spin sessions on board the returning aircraft, one of the PM's advisers put out for all who might believe him that Obama himself was personally monitoring the FBI investigation into the activities of the Chicago cell ( David Coleman Headley--- Tahawuur Hussain Rana) of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and that on his instructions a high-level team of the FBI headed by its chief would be flying to India to share with us all the information collected by the FBI during the investigation.

7. What the Indian public was not told was that the programme for the New Delhi visit of the FBI chief was fixed long before the PM's visit to Washington DC and that in the US the President has no powers to monitor the FBI's investigation process which is independent. Indian Prime Ministers may as a matter of habit monitor the investigations of the CBI, but the US President can't monitor the FBI 's investigations.

8.Embarrassed by the statement of the US National Security Adviser, Gen.James Jones, when the PM was still abroad that the Indian investigators may not be able to join in the interrogation of Headley and Rana due to legal difficulties, the spin-masters told us that this was because the two suspects had not yet been indicted before a court.We were told that once they were indicted, our investigators would be able to interrogate them.

9. What we were not told was that once a suspect is indicted, he is transferred to judicial custody and no more interrogation is possible without a special court order. US courts are often hesitant to permit foreign investigators to interrogate suspects facing trial before them. That is what Gen.Jones meant when he talked of legal difficulties.

10. The so-called counter-terrorism initiative, which has been projected as path-breaking, is thin in substance and thinner in new ideas. Two ideas of considerable originality and significance were born out of Indo-US counter-terrorism co-operation initiatives under the Bill Clinton and George Bush Administrations. The idea of a Joint Working Group on Counter-terrorism came out of the meeting between Jaswant Singh, the then Foreign Minister, and Strobe Talbot, the then US Deputy Secretary of State, at London in January 2000 in the wake of the Kandahar hijacking. Now this has become a model for a similar mechanism with many other countries.

11. The Indo-US Cyber Security Forum was born post-9/11 during counter-terrorism interactions between security officials of the Bush and Atal Behari Vajpayee Governments. Compared to those ideas, not a single new idea has come out of the much-hyped summit between Manmohan Singh and Obama.

12. And yet we are asked to hail the so-called counter-terrorism initiative. We should gladly do so if someone could explain to us what this initiative is about. Yes, there has been an improvement in what is called mutual legal assistance between India and the US after the 26/11 terrorist strike in Mumbai. For the first time since counter-terrorism co-operation between the two countries started in the 1980s the FBI allowed its officers not only to share their forensic findings with their Indian counterparts, but also to help the Mumbai Police in its prosecution by allowing FBI officers to testify before the trial court through video-conferencing. In the past while the FBI had shared its findings with us, it had refused to allow its officers to testify before an Indian court.

13. There has been a welcome change in that attitude because of the enormity of the offence and the death of six US nationals at the hands of the terrorists. There was an improvement in intelligence-sharing under the Bush Administration. In December,2008, Indian media carried reports about two timely warnings regarding the 26/11 strikes received by the Indian agencies from their US counterparts in September,2008. The US agencies were also of considerable assistance in the collection of technical intelligence during the terrorist strike which forced the Government of Pakistan to arrest some of the conspirators based in Pakistan and initiate action, however unsatisfactory, against them. All this was done between November 26,2008, and January 20,2009, when Bush was still the President.

14. One understands that under the Bush Adminisatration, the US agencies were helpful in collecting intelligence about the Pakistani involvement in the explosion outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul in July,2008, and sharing it with their Indian counterparts. They did it automatically on their own without the need for our PM having to take it up with Bush.

15. What has been our experience since Obama took over on January 20,2009? One has not heard of any active US role in helping us in the investigation of the recent second explosion outside our Embassy in Kabul. Even though the FBI has reportedly already shared a lot of intelligence with our agencies in the Headley-Rana case, one has the impression that there has been some foot-dragging by the US authorities in respect of sharing with the Indian agencies information which could help them in identifying serving or retired Pakistani military and intelligence officials with whom Headley and Rana were in touch.

16. If we are given permission to interrogate them, our investigators will query them on the identities of the Pakistani officials. The officials of the Obama Administration are uncomfortable over the prospect of this.

17. There is an apparent strip-tease going on about Headley. There are wheels within wheels in the Headley case. Before he gravitated to the world of jihadi terrorism, he was in the world of narcotics smuggling. He was reportedly arrested once by US officials responsible for narcotics control.

18.Instead of being dealt with severely as one does normally with narcotics offenders, he seems to have been treated somewhat leniently. Did the narcotics control agency of the US recruit him as its agent in return for the lenient sentence? Was the FBI aware of this? We are all assuming that he was able to lead a high-profile life in India because of financial assistance from the LET and the Pakistani intelligence. Were payments from th US narcotics control agency also helping him lead a comfortable life in India and rub shoulders with film personalities and other high-flyers?

19. Will we get complete answers to these questions from the FBI ? The Obama Administration's counter-terrorism co-operation with India reminds one of the policy pursued by the Clinton Administration. Help India in preventing and investigating an act of terrorism originating from Pakistan, but avoid helping India in any matter which might prove detrimental to the State of Pakistan.

20. We ought to be more balanced in our assessment of US policies which have an impact on our core interests and more articulate in expressing our concerns and misgivings. Our relationship with the US is important, but that does not mean that we let ourselves be overawed into silence. ( 30-9-09)

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

Friday, November 27, 2009



President Barack Obama is expected to announce on December 1,2009, a mid-course correction in his strategy to win the campaign against the Taliban in the Af-Pak region. One has been promised a comprehensive strategy which would focus equally on the military and non-military components of the fight with the objective of winning it in a foreseeable time-frame.

2. The campaign, launched in October,2001, by the previous Administration of George Bush under the code-name Operation Enduring Freedom, has already lasted eight years. No end is in sight. In the meanwhile, there are indications of a growing fatigue in public opinion over a campaign that seems to be leading nowhere.

3.Battle fatigue of the NATO forces is what the Taliban and Al Qaeda want. There are signs in plenty of such fatigue. The fatigue is presently confined to sections of the civil society. If it spreads to the security forces, the campaign will be unwinnable.

4. While Obama has promised a comprehensive strategy and is taking his time to formulate it without being hustled by critics and detractors, much of the discussion and speculation in the US is focussed on one aspect---- the likely surge in the troop strength.

5. If a surge alone can win the campaign, a decision ought to be easy.Unfortunately, neither surges nor body counts determine the course of a campaign and its ultimate outcome. Without better tactics and better understanding of the adversary's tactics, no war or military campaign can be won whatever be the number of troops at one's disposal.

6. The question of the appropriateness of the tactics currently followed by the US troops in the Af-Pak region has hardly figured in the various reports submitted by the US military commanders on the ground to the Pentagon and in the discussions preceding a decision by the President.

7. While the Taliban in Afghanistan has been following a variable modus operandi in respect of its terrorist attacks through suicide bombers, its MO in relation to its insurgent attacks has shown hardly any variation. The MO of its insurgent attacks can be described as follows: avoid a frontal confrontation with a superior enemy on the offensive, withdraw, bide your time, regroup and attack by surprise. Territorial control is an objective of only variable importance. Where territorial control could mean large casualties and a large commitment of insurgent forces to safeguard territorial control, there is no hesitation in abandoning it.

8. This a much tried and often successful MO of many insurgent organisations from the days of the Vietcong in Vietnam and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviet troops. The US troops have been countering this MO in the same way as they did in Vietnam and the Soviet troops did in Afghanistan.

9. Is there an unconventional response to the conventional insurgent tactics of the Taliban in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan? How to create battle fatigue in the Taliban and Al Qaeda? How to deny them sanctuaries and opportunities for re-grouping? What will be more effective---a large number of troops with advantages of numbers and better equipment centrally commanded and controlled or a large number of small groups of special forces such as the Green Berets operating autonomously of each other and enjoying operational flexibility? How to modify the current centralised command and control to suit such operational autonomy and flexibility?

10. To win the campaign against the Taliban in its territory where the US forces are strangers, the surprise element is important. The frequent Drone strikes from the air provide one such surprise element which has been effective time and again, but there is hardly any surprise element on the ground because of the continuing emphasis on large forces fighting set-piece battles.

11. The Af-Pak region is not the place for set-piece, predictable battle tactics. What is required is battle tactics of growing unpredictability to the Taliban that will confuse it, impose on it a high rate of attrition and ultimately lead to battle fatigue in its ranks.

12. One cannot expect Obama and his advisers to discuss battle tactics in public, but greater attention needs to be paid to it than seems to be the case till now. (27-11-09)

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

Thursday, November 26, 2009



The citizens of this country have valid reasons to be concerned over indications of poor morale and a deteriorating esprit de corps in the Mumbai Police and the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), our external intelligence agency.

2. One may have the best of technical capabilities and unlimited resources, but if the human element responsible for using them effectively is disgruntled and pulling in different directions, our counter-terrorism machinery runs the danger of failing once again as shockingly as it did on 26/11 of last year.

3. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P.Chidambaram, National Security Adviser M.K.Narayanan and Congress (I) leader Sonia Gandhi show no signs of being the least concerned over the poor state of morale in the Mumbai Police and the R&AW.

4. One does not need to have access to inside information to realise that the staff morale is far from satisfactory in two segments of our counter-terrorism machinery that will have to play an important role in preventing another 26/11.We have had three acts of mass casualty terrorism committed in Mumbai by Pakistan-based terrorists.

5. To prevent another----either in Mumbai or elsewhere--- we need a revamped and rejuvenated police machinery in Mumbai which will act as a team in detecting and neutralising any new conspiracy. The role of the R&AW, which has the task of monitoring the plans and activities of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and its terrorist creations, will be equally important. If the officers of the Mumbai Police and the R&AW are in a disspirited state of mind, the terrorists from Pakistan and their ISI creators will find the road open for a repeat of 26/11.

6. One has to only read carefully the reports appearing with disturbing frequency in the media to realise that the morale of the human element is in a poor shape. When morale and esprit de corps are poor, the human elements in the counter-terrorism machinery spend their time more in countering each other through the medium of an obliging media than in countering the terrorists.

7. The stories that some senior officers of the Mumbai Police are disseminating about each other and the serious allegations that they are making against each other do not speak of a happy, contented and energetic officer cadre on the go against the terrorists. They speak of the worrisome state of inter-personal relations among sections of the senior officers.

8.If inter-personal tensions are the cause of the poor morale in the Mumbai police, inter-service tensions are the cause of the malaise in the R&AW. When Indira Gandhi created the R&AW in September 1968, she had desired that it should not be a carbon copy of the Intelligence Bureau dominated by police officers. It was her wish that the new organisation should recruit its officers from a much wider reservoir in the open market.

9. After a little more than 30 years, those who entered the officer cadre of the organisation from the open market have reached senior levels and rightly aspire to become the head of the organisation. It is a legitimate aspiration. Some of the reported decisions regarding promotions at senior levels have rightly or wrongly created an impression that an attempt is being made to deny them a chance to occupy the chair of the head of the organisation.

10. The Special Task Force For the Revamping of the Intelligence Apparatus headed by G.C.Saxena, former head of the R&AW, had in 2000 recommended that we should study and adopt the good prctices of the concept of the intelligence community as it has evolved over the years in the US. This concept looks upon all the intelligence agencies as constituting a single community and all decisions--- whether in resect of human or material resources---- are required to be taken in the over-all interest of the community and the nation as a whole instead of in the interest of any individual agency of the community.

11. This recommendation was accepted by the Government, but there appears to have been foot-dragging in its implementation. Had the intelligence community concept been followed in decision-making, the kind of inter-service tensions that one finds in the R&AW now might not have been there.

12. The Prime Minister has an important role in the maintenance of morale and efficiency in the intelligence community similar to the role played by the US President. He should personally look into the reasons for the poor morale not only in the R&AW, but also in the Mumbai Police and address them in order to promote team work in our counter-terrorism machinery. ( 26-11-09)

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



Our capabilities for prevention of an act of terrorism as well as for its effective termination if prevention fails were found wanting in Mumbai on 26/11 last year.

Some prior intelligence was available, but it was found inadequate by the navy and the police which were responsible for follow-up action. Co-ordination between the intelligence agencies and those responsible for physical security was weak. There was inadequate interaction between governmental agencies and the management of the hotels. P.Chidambaram himself admitted in the Lok Sabha after assuming charge as the Home Minister that responsibility for follow-up action was diffused. The agencies responsible for termination after the terrorists had struck took time to mobilize themselves and act against the terrorists.

One could see from the various steps initiated by Chidambaram such as the decentralization of the deployment of the National Security Guards (NSGs), creating regional hubs of the NSG, strengthening its capacity for rapid mobilization and movement etc that we should be in a better position to confront the terrorists today if we are taken by surprise than we were on 26/11 of last year.

Certain steps have also been initiated for strengthening our prevention capability. The Multi-Agency Centre in the Intelligence Bureau,which is responsible for intelligence collection, sharing and co-ordinated action, has been revamped.There has been a regular monitoring of the intelligence process by the Minister himself. Action has been taken for creating a constantly updated database of information which could help in prevention and making it accessible to senior officers responsible for prevention.

Co-operation with foreign intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies has been strengthened and we have not hesitated to borrow good practices from foreign agencies and adapt them to our needs. After a visit by Chidambaram to the US, there has been a talk of our setting up a national counter-terrorism centre patterned after the centre set up in the US after 9/11. Joint command and joint action are among the operating principles of the US centre. These concepts are meant to ensure that there will be no buck-passing in counter-terrorism.

The National Investigation Agency set up post-26/11 to strengthen our capability for co-ordinated investigation of terrorist activities of a pan-Indian nature has had a slow start. The reasons for this are not clear.

The public has a right to ask whether as a result of these measures we are in a position to prevent another 26/11 just as the US has been able to prevent another 9/11. If, despite our best efforts, prevention again fails, are we in a better position to confront the terrorists more effectively than we did last year?

Till the Federal Bureau of Investigation detected the Lashkar-e-Toiba’s Chicago cell consisting of David Coleman Headley and Tahawuur Hussain Rana and discovered the LET’s plans to mount another terrorist attack in India using its US-based assets, we had a certain satisfaction about the perceived improvement in our capability and alertness.

After the FBI detected the cell and we found on the basis of the FBI tip-off that the US-based assets of the LET had been operating in India for nearly two years before 26/11 and even after 26/11 when we were supposed to be in a state of heightened alert, we ought to be bothered by the thought that the proclaimed improvement has been not up to the mark. The undetected activities of Headley and Rana clearly show the shocking state of our immigration controls and our failure to investigate thoroughly the 26/11 strikes.

Casualness in action and leadership has always been the bane of our counter-terrorism machinery. We wake up and act energetically for a few weeks after a terrorist attack and then go back into our casual mode. That is what has happened even after the traumatic strike of 26/11.

What we needed after 26/11 was a dramatic shake-up of our counter-terrorism machinery in order to improve leadership, enforce accountability, strengthen capacities and weed out casualness and incompetence. The fact that the machinery continues to function in the same haphazard manner as it was functioning before 26/11 should be all too evident to any objective analyst.

The fact that there has been no major act of jihadi terrorism outside J&K since September last year is no guarantee that surprises of the kind we faced on 26/11 are a thing of the past. They are not. The way Headley and Rana noticed and exploited gaps in our security architecture is another nasty surprise. Thanks to the FBI they were thwarted before they could execute their plans for another 26/11.

How many more Headleys, Ranas and the like are living in our midst and conspiring against us? Unless they are neutralized, another surprise is waiting to happen.

Most of the jihadi terrorism continues to originate from Pakistan and Bangladesh. In the past, the terrorists used to come across the border or through the seas. Now, they are trying to come from third countries in the West by assuming non-Muslim and non-Pakistani and non-Bangladeshi identities. They are faster in thinking new ways of surprising us than we are in refusing to be surprised.

There has hardly been any thinking in policy-making circles as to how to deal with the source of this evil. Their command and control, which is exercised from Pakistan, is still intact because of our inability to disrupt it.

If any more surprises are to be averted, we have to act at home as well as in Pakistan and Bangladesh. (25-11-09)

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009



May like to see





The 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai left many important questions unanswered, if not unposed.

What kind of intelligence was available----from the Indian as well as foreign agencies?

How and by whom were the reports analysed, assessed and disseminated?

Were the gaps in the available intelligence identified and was action taken to fill those gaps?

What follow-up action was taken on the available intelligence----however inadequate it might have been?

What action was taken to strengthen physical security----- hotel and coastal security---- in Mumbai keeping in view the fact that the available intelligence---even if general and not specific--- spoke of likely sea-borne attacks on hotels, the Taj Mahal Hotel being one of them?

Who co-ordinated the physical security measures in the Governments of India and Maharashtra?

Some media reports immediately after the attack had quoted a senior executive in the Taj Mahal Hotel as saying that security was strengthened in the hotel for some days before the attack, but was subsequently down-graded. Who took the decision to down-grade physical security? On what basis?

Who co-ordinated the investigation after the terrorist attacks? What was the role of the Government of India in the co-ordination?

Were the foreigners, who escaped from the custody of the terrorists, debriefed thoroughly after they were rescued before they were allowed to go back to their countries? Who debriefed them? Were the debriefings recorded in writing? Where are those notes kept?If they were not debriefed, why? Was their being allowed to leave India without being debriefed due to negligence or was it the result of a conscious decision? If so, who took that decision?

Was a detailed reconstruction of the terrorist attacks made? Who made that reconstruction? What were the conclusions of that reconstruction?

On what basis did the police come to the conclusion that apart from the 10 Pakistani terrorists who came by sea from Pakistan, no other Pakistani accomplice was involved on the ground in Mumbai?

On what basis did the police come to the conclusion that apart from the two Indian Muslims arrested and prosecuted, there was no involvement of any other Indian Muslim?

On what basis did the police come to the conclusion that there was no evidence of any pre-9/11 reccee of the places attacked by the LET or its accomplices?

Did the police seize the guest registers of the hotels attacked, make out a list of persons of Pakistani origin who had stayed there in the months preceding the attacks and verify their background? If so, did the name of David Colemn Headley, who had reportedly stayed twice in the Taj Mahal Hotel, figure in that list? The fact that the Mumbai Police became aware of Headley's stay in the hotel only after they were tipped off by the FBI recently show that the registers were either not scrutinised or were scrutinised superficially.

Did the police seize the immigration records of the Mumbai airport to check the particulars of persons of Pakistani origin who had arrived in the days preceding the attacks and left in the hours following the attacks?

Were the investigators able to get any evidence beyond the confession of Kasab, the lone terrorist captured alive?

2. 26/11 in Mumbai was the most well-planned, well-organised and well-executed terrorist attack since 9/11 in the US. The National Commission appointed in the US made a detailed enquiry into the sins of commission and omission, which made 9/11 possible. Its report was debated in the US Congress and made available to the public. The relatives of US citizens killed by the 9/11 terrorist strikes mobilised themselves to ensure that there would be no cover-up, that the truth would be brought out and that follow-up action would be taken to identify and remove the deficiencies in the intelligence and physical security agencies.

3.The Government of India, by taking advantage of the apathy and confusion in the Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP), has skilfully avoided any enquiry into the 26/11 terrorist attacks and diverted public attention away from its sins of commission and omission. The Government of Maharashtra did appoint an enquiry committee headed by S.D.Pradhan, former Home Secretary, but its report has been classified and not shared with the legislattive assembly and the public on the unconvincing ground that releasing it could affect the ongoing prosecution.

4.The relatives of the security forces officers and civilians, who were killed by the terrorists, should emulate the relatives of those killed on 9/11 in the US, mobilise themselves and campaign for the constitution of a national commission to enquire into the terrorist strikes.

5. Kavita Karkare, the widow of Hemant Karkare, the brave head of the anti-terrorism squad of the Maharashtra Police who was brutally killed by the terrorists, should take the lead in the matter.

6. I had known Hemant personally. I met him for the first time at a seminar in Bangalore in February last year. I subsequently met him again in Jaipur in May last year after the explosions caused by the Indian Mujahideen. We were in telephonic contact with each other off and on. He never failed to return my calls-----whether they were professional or personal. He was an extremely sincere officer who, like the other officers killed by the terrorists, sacrificed his life in the fight against terrorism. Their sacrifice and the sacrifice of the civilians who were killed should not be allowed to go in vain. (24-11-09)

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

Monday, November 23, 2009



( Written at the request of an Italian journal)

Historically, India has had close relations with the rulers of Afghanistan and its people as well as with the Pashtuns on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. The Pashtuns of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan under the leadership of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, known as the Frontier Gandhi, fought hand in hand with the Indian National Congress led by Mahatma Gandhi against the British colonial rule for the independence of a united India. The Frontier Gandhi, a secularist Muslim, was opposed to the creation of Pakistan as demanded by the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In 1947, when India and Pakistan became independent, the Pashtun movement of Frontier Gandhi had to reconcile itself to the creation of Pakistan against its will, but started a movement for an independent Pashtunistan, which was ruthlessly crushed by the Pakistani authorities.

2. The Indian National Congress led by Mahatma Gandhi maintained cordial relations with the rulers and different ethnic groups of Afghanistan. These relations established long before India and Pakistan became independent, continued after India became independent. The ruthless suppression of the Pashtun nationalist movement, which enjoyed the support of the Pashtuns of Afghanistan, by the Pakistani rulers with the help of their Army, antagonized the people and the rulers of Afghanistan and made them look up to India for support and assistance. They looked upon Pakistan as an adversary of the Afghan people and India as their natural ally.

3. Because of poverty and lack of resources, education was ill-developed in Afghanistan. Those wanting higher education and in a position to afford it had to go to India, Pakistan or the Soviet Union. Those, who came to India, studied in its secular educational institutions and went back as enlightened members of the Afghan civil society. Hamid Karzai, who was recently re-elected as the President of Afghanistan, is a good example of the Indian contribution to the development of an enlightened component in the Afghan civil society. He is a product of the Indian educational system. He studied in Shimla.

4. Many of those, who went to Pakistan, studied in its madrasas and were influenced by the fundamentalist/Wahabi ideas taught there. If the Indian educational system produced the likes of Karzai, who sought to take Afghanistan forward into the modern age, the Pakistani madrasa system produced the likes of Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Afghan Taliban, who sought to take Afghanistan back into the middle ages by imposing on it a Wahabised Islam alien to Afghan culture.

5. Those educated in the Soviet Union returned home hardened communists, who played a role in the governance of the country in the 1980s and facilitated the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. The communists stand discredited after the Afghan Mujahideen defeated them and their Soviet supporters. They have been practically eliminated from the Afghan political and social scene.

6. Between 1992 and 2001, when the victorious Afghan Mujahideen (1992-96) and the Taliban (1996-2001) were in power in Kabul, attempts were made to eliminate, at the instance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the enlightened elements, which were products of the Indian educational system, and looked up to India for inspiration. The madrasa-educated elements from Pakistan assumed the leadership of the Afghan civil society and sought to convert Afghanistan into a medieval society. These elements looked up for inspiration to the madrasa products of Pakistan such as the late Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai of the Binori madrasa of Karachi, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI) Pakistan, Maulana Samiul Haq of a rival faction of the JUI and others of the same Wahabi kind.

7. These elements provided hospitality to Al Qaeda and its leaders and encouraged the mushrooming of a myriad jihadi terrorist organizations, which called for a jihad against modern values and the West. The Western Governments, which had trained the Afghan Mujahideen through the ISI in the madrasas and the training camps of Pakistan in the 1980s to use them against the Soviet Union and its troops in Afghanistan, looked on without the least concern as these Wahabised elements took over the leadership of Afghanistan. The Taliban was created by the ISI in 1994 with the blessings of the US which was hoping that a Taliban-led Government would give the Unocal, the US oil company, the right to construct oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghan territory.

8. The short-sighted policy of the US set in motion the train of events which led to the emergence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda as Frankenstein’s monsters and the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US homeland. The only Afghan force, which confronted the Taliban between 1996 and 2001, was the Northern Alliance led by the late Ahmed Shah Masood. It represented the enlightened component of the Afghan society, but was shunned by the US and other Western countries, who found greater strategic value in the Wahabised Taliban.

9. It goes to the credit of the political leadership of India and Russia that they realized the importance of helping the Northern Alliance in its efforts to counter the Taliban in order to preserve and encourage the enlightened component of the Afghan society. India and Russia----separately and jointly—provided training and other assistance to the Northern Alliance. It was this Alliance, that made possible the success of the US-led forces in having the Taliban Government defeated under Operation Enduring Freedom post-October 2001.

10.The goodwill traditionally enjoyed by India in the enlightened sections of the Afghan society made them and the new Government headed by Hamid Karzai look up to India once again for assistance in the creation of a new, pluralistic, democratic and enlightened Afghanistan. India has willingly come forward to assist them.

11. Since 2002, India has extended to Afghanistan assistance worth more than US $ 1.2 billion. This assistance has gone into projects such as the following:

(a).The construction of a 218 km road from Zaranj to Delaram in the Nimroz province in Southern Afghanistan.

(b). The construction of a 220 KV Transmission Line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul together with a sub-station in Chimtala.

( c ). The construction of Afghanistan's new Parliament building.

(d). A Graduate Programme under which about 650 young Afghan men and women are provided scholarships annually for studying in Indian universities.

(e). The upgrading of the skills of Afghan civil servants and technical people by training 650 of them annually in Indian institutions in subjects such as auditing, accountancy, agriculture extension, rural development, power sector management etc.

(f). Financial assistance for Indian NGOs working in Afghanistan. An Indian women’s organization called SEWA, the Self Employment Women’s Association – works with the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs on providing war widows, orphans and other destitute women with skills they can use to generate an income depending entirely on their own household resources. The Confederation of Indian Industry has a skills development programme – in areas such as plumbing, automobile repairs, carpentry, masonry etc. for school dropouts. Another NGO called Hand in Hand has been providing skills to the rural poor and organizing them in self-help groups for saving, entrepreneurship and job creation.

12. About 4000 Indians are working in Afghanistan in the various projects. In July,2009, the two countries decided to establish an India-Afghanistan Partnership Council, that will be composed of separate groups on political consultation, capacity development and education, power and water, culture, trade and industry, health, and agriculture.

13. These are projects and initiatives undertaken for the welfare of the Afghan people, for their economic development and for strengthening democracy in Afghanistan. The benefits of these projects have been welcomed by the Afghan Government and people. India’s role in Afghanistan since 2002 has been in the fields of democracy-promotion, economic development and upgradation of the quality of education and technical skills. The funds allotted for the upgradation of educational qualifications has been increased by 35 per cent this year.

14. Pakistan has been concerned over the popularity of the Indian programmes. It is worried that the strengthening of the role and influence of the enlightened sections of the Afghan society as a result of the Indian-aided programmes might make it difficult for the Taliban, its creation, to stage a come-back in Afghanistan. It continues to look upon the Taliban as its only strategic asset in Afghanistan and is hoping that the exit of the US-led NATO forces from Afghanistan due to a war fatigue might enable it to stage a come-back in Afghanistan behind the Taliban.

15. It has, therefore, embarked on a three-pronged strategy consisting of the following:

(a). Giving the Taliban leadership sanctuary in Pakistani territory from where they can organize their operations against the NATO forces. The command and control of the Afghan Taliban is located in Pakistani territory. The “Washington Times” recently reported that American intelligence experts believe that this command and control, which was till recently located in the Quetta area of Balochistan, has been shifted to Karachi to escape attacks by American pilotless planes (Drones).

(b).Making allegations of Indian attempts to destabilize Pakistan from Afghan territory and exercising pressure on the US to make India reduce its activities in Afghanistan as a quid pro quo for Pakistani co-operation against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

( c ). Attempts to intimidate India and the Indian personnel in Afghanistan by sponsoring terrorist attacks on the Indian Embassy in Kabul by the Taliban and the Jalalludin Haqqani group, which operates from North Waziristan.

16. Despite two terrorist attacks on the Indian Embassy, India and Indian personnel have refused to be intimidated by Pakistan. Unfortunately, some American experts have wittingly or unwillingly given legitimacy to the baseless allegations of Pakistan without realizing the machinations of Pakistan to pave the way for the return of the Taliban to power either on its own through a military victory over the US-led NATO forces or as part of a coalition with Western-backed elements. If Pakistan succeeds in its machinations, it will take the world back to the pre-9/11 period and nullify whatever gains that have been made by the US in its fight against Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other jihadi terrorist organizations allied to them.

17. India wishes well to the US in its campaign against the jihadi terrorists inspired and led by Al Qaeda operating from sanctuaries in the Af-Pak region. The success of the US campaign will benefit India too, which has been the victim of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism of various hues for three decades. It will also prevent the possibility of the terrorists getting hold of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and using it elsewhere.

18. If another 9/11, or Madrid or London or Mumbai or Bali is to be prevented, the US-led NATO forces have to succeed in the Af-Pak region. What stands in the way of their success is Pakistan’s complicity with the Taliban and other terrorist groups and inaction against Al Qaeda. India’s contribution to the fight against jihadi terrorism in the Af-Pak region is not through participation in the fighting on the ground but through imaginative initiatives in the schools, colleges, work places and among the people of Afghanistan in order to preserve the gains being made by the enlightened sections of the Afghan society.

19. The Indian initiatives in Afghanistan are making an important contribution to the ideological fight against the medieval forces. Their success is as important, if not more important, as the success of the NATO’s military actions. Pakistan should not be allowed to undermine the Indian initiatives.

20.The dilemma posed by the worrisome ground situation in Afghanistan is reflected in the growing impression that President Barack Obama's Af-Pak strategy has failed to take off and is unlikely to take off and that the time has come to think of a new strategy. Presently, the political pressure is on Pakistan to act against the Taliban and Al Qaeda elements operating from sanctuaries in its territory and on the Hamid Karzai Government in Kabul to improve governance, reduce corruption and pay better attention to the problems of the people in the areas controlled by the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the US-led Western forces. Neither of these pressures has worked. Nor have the never-ending incentives offered by the US to Pakistan in the form of increased civil and military assistance.

21.The pressures on Karzai to improve governance have not worked either. This is partly due to the difficult ground situation, which would pose a dilemma to any ruler---however democratic and however competent. Moreover, instead of strengthening the position of Karzai, US officials have done everything to weaken his credibility in the eyes of his own people as well as the international community through allegations---some true, many unwisely inspired--- regarding his inability or unwillingness to act against corruption and narcotics production and rigging in the recent Presidential elections. The importance of Karzai’s victory in the elections has been diluted by these allegations. US officials take a lot of care not to say or do anything, which might weaken the position of the Pakistani leadership, but they do not take similar care in respect of Karzai.

22.The crux of the dilemma being faced by the US-led Western forces is similar to the dilemma which the Soviet troops faced in Afghanistan in the 1980s before they decided to quit in 1988.This dilemma arose in the case of the Soviet troops and has now arisen in the case of the US-led Western troops from the absence of a counter-sanctuaries component to the counter-insurgency strategy.

23.The reluctance of the Soviet troops to take their fighting to the sanctuaries of the Afghan Mujahideen in Pakistani territory led to a situation where the Soviet troops kept bleeding till battle fatigue and public disenchantment with the war set in. Similarly, the absence of an effective counter-sanctuaries component is leading to a situation where the US and other Western forces as well as the ANA are bleeding more and more. There are already the incipient signs of a battle fatigue. One could see the beginning of a public disenchantment with the involvement in Afghanistan. This disenchantment is already pronounced in West Europe and Canada and one could see the beginning of it even in the US. Instead of allowing the Taliban to infiltrate in increasing numbers from its sanctuaries and recruiting grounds in the FATA and the Pashtun majority areas of Balochistan and then fighting or countering their ambushes in Afghan territory, the US should take its counter-insurgency operations to the camps of the Afghan Taliban in adjoining Pakistani territory----whether in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) or in Balochistan. If the reports that the ISI has shifted the Taliban leadership to Karachi prove correct, the US should discontinue its military aid to Pakistan.

24.Any new Af-Pak strategy has to focus on the following questions: How to strengthen the governance of Karzai and the capacity of the Afghan National Army to counter the Taliban on its own? How to stop the Pakistani collusion with the Taliban while seeming to co-operate with the West? How to eliminate the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistani territory? Unless satisfactory answers to these questions are found and implemented, the situation in Afghanistan is unlikely to improve. (23-11-09)

( 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. He is the author of five books---- “Intelligence---Past,Present & Future”, “ A Terrorist State As a Frontline Ally”, “The Kaoboys of R&AW ---Down Memory Lane”, “Terrorism---Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow” and “Mumbai—26/11: A Day of Infamy”. All of them have been published by the Lancer Publishers of New Delhi. He was a member of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India from 2000 to 2002 and of the Special Task Force set up by the Government of India in 2000 to revamp the Indian intelligence agencies . E-mail:

Sunday, November 22, 2009




On June 12,2009, US and Italian investigators arrested some persons on a charge of stealing phone services from phone companies around the world and using the illegal profits thus earned for funding terrorism.

2. They were accused of hacking phone lines and selling the phone services thus illegally obtained through call centers and via phone cards. It was stated by the invesigators that many of the phone calls were made over lines owned by the AT&T Corp. While the AT&T was not hacked, 12 million minutes of its phone services valued at $55 million were allegedly stolen by the arrested persons.

3.The three hackers, who were indicted by a grand jury of New Jersey in the US on June 12,2009, were residents of the Philippines. They were accused by the invesigators of helping the Madina Trading Company of Brescia, Italy, in obtaining stolen phone lines for providing stolen phone services to the customers of the company in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The "Wall Street Journal" reported on June 13,2009, that the Madina Trading Company, which paid the three hackers, also 'financed the communications of the terrorists" in the Mumbai 26/11 attacks.

4. According to the U.S. indictment, Mahmoud Nusier, 40, Paul Michael Kwan, 27, and Nancy Gomez, 24, residing in the Philippines, conspired to break into the phone systems of 2,500 entities in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe. The three hackers were arrested by the Philippines Police last year, but were released on bail. On getting information of their hacking into the phone systems of American companies, US authorities took up the investigation and have sought their extradition from the Filippino authorities. It is not known what action has been taken by the Filippino authorities on the extradition request from their US counterparts. The "Wall Street Journal" reported that the Filippino authorities alleged that Nusier, a Jordanian national, had links with Al Qaeda.

5. The Italian Police arrested on June 12,2009,five Pakistani nationals during raids on 10 call centers suspected of involvement in the alleged conspiracy. Among those arrested were a husband-and-wife team who managed call centers in Brescia, Italy -- Mohammad Zamir, 40 years old, and Shabina Kanwal, 38. The indictment filed in the New Jersey court alleged that the Madina Trading Company is owned by one of the call-center operators involved in the alleged conspiracy. However,the owner of the company was not named.

6. Two employees of the same Madina Trading Company in Brescia ---- 60-year-old Mohammad Yaqub Janijua and his son 31-year-old Aamer Yaqub Janijua----- who were managing the company were arrested by the Italian authorities on November 21,2009, on a charge of aiding and abetting international terrorism as well as illegal financial activity.

7. According to Stefano Fonzi, the head of the anti-terrorism police of Brescia, on November 25,2008, they sent money using a stolen identity to a U.S. company to activate an Internet phone account used by the terrorists involved in the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.The funds were transferred under the identity of another Pakistani who had never been to Italy and was not involved in the attacks, Fonzi said. His identity was probably stolen when he used another money transfer agency in Pakistan.The order to open the account that allowed the attackers to communicate during the attack came from two men in Pakistan. The Italian Police said the identities of these Pakistanis had been intimated to the Pakistani authorities.

8.The transfer of the money by the Mumbai conspirators through the Madina Trading Company had come to the notice of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Indian authorities shortly after the 26/11 attacks, but the manager of the company and his son could not be arrested immediately by the Italian authorities as they had fled Italy----reportedly to Pakistan. They were arrested when they returned to Italy. If it is correct that they had fled to Pakistan, it is not clear why they were not arrested by the Pakistani authorities.

9.The investigation into the activities of the Madina Trading Company bring out the involvement of members of the Pakistani diaspora in the West in the sale of stolen phone services and the use of such companies by terrorist organisations based in Pakistan such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). These organisations seem to have an up-to-date database of Pakistani-owned or run companies which could be used for facilitating terrorist attacks. (22-11-09)

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

Friday, November 20, 2009



The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of the Government of India is reported to have entrusted the newly-created National Intelligence Agency (NIA) with the task of follow-up investigation into the presence, travels and activities of David Coleman Headley, an American national of Chicago, and Tawahuur Hussain Rana, a Canadian national resident in Chicago, in India since 2006 and after the terrorist attack of 26/11 in Mumbai by 10 Pakistani members of the Lashksar-e-Toiba (LET).

2. Preliminary investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation between October,2008, and October 2,2009, brought out their suspected links with the LET. It also brought out that they were part of a conspiracy sought to be orchestrated from Pakistan to carry out a terrorist attack against a Danish journal, which had published cartoons of the Prophet in 2005, and a new terrorist strike in India by the LET. Both of them are of Pakistani origin.

3. Acting on preliminary evidence, which consisted largely of technical intercepts of the telephone and E-mail communications of the two, the FBI had arrested Headley on October 3,2009 and Rana on October 16,2009. According to the affidavits filed by the FBI in a Chicago court, Headley has waived his right against self-incrimination and has been talking voluntarily to the FBI interrogators.

4. The affidavits, which are available to the public, contain only that evidence which justified the decision to arrest and interrogate them. Evidence obtained during the still on-going interrogation, which would be necessary to prosecute them, has not been disclosed to the public. As and when one phase of the interrogation is over, evidence obtained during that phase is being put in a sealed cover and deposited with the court to enable the court to decide on the FBI's applications for further detention of the two suspects.

5. The FBI will be interrogating them from two angles---- their plans for future terrorist strikes and their activities in India before and after 26/11 in order to see whether they had any role in the terrorist attacks of 26/11 in which US nationals were among the foreigners killed.

6. While the US law and courts may not come in the way of the FBI sharing with India and Denmark information obtained during the interrogation which would enable the Indian and Danish Police to prevent future attacks, the FBI may not have a free hand at present in sharing with India any evidence pertaining to their role, if any, in the 26/11 terrorist attacks.

7.Any information obtained by the FBI relating to 26/11 from the two suspects has to be got verified by the FBI though the Indian NIA. For that purpose, the FBI will have to share even this information with the NIA. From its side, the FBI has taken care to see that none of the information being disclosed by the suspects during the interrogation leaks to the media and the public. The US media, which is more responsible than the Indian media, has refrained from publishing speculative stories relating to their interrogation so that the suspects continue to speak voluntarily to their interrogators.

8. Many sections of the Indian media have not been observing such restraint. There has been frenzied speculation and some journalists----in their attempts to sound more credible than others---- are even claiming to have obtained their information from "FBI sources", which one finds it difficult to believe.

9. If this kind of ill-advised speculation continues, it may come in the way of the FBI being able to share with India all the information that comes to its notice about the past and the future. The Government should caution its officials against talking to the media about the progress of the investigation and also issue an advisory to the media against frenzied speculation, which could be exploited by the lawyers of the two suspects to argue that the sharing of the information by the FBI with the Indian agencies might affect the legal rights of their clients. (21-11-09)

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



The following are the comments sent by me on the subject mentioned above in response to a query from a US think-tank:

How to address a complex mix of interests, concerns and policy preoccupations in a manner that will retain the US influence in the Af-Pak region without jeopardising the beginnings of its strategic presence and influence in India? That is the question that will be before Obama and his advisers during their talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. They have not found an answer to this dilemma and hence the spotlight more on style than on substance.

Efforts will be made to make India amenable to a resumption of the composite dialogue with Pakistan and to be more responsive to Pakistani concerns relating to Afghanistan.Will Obama use a promise of US support for India's permanent membership of the UN Security Council as a lollipop in return for Indian gestures to Pakistan?

The limitations on the US ability and willingness to make Pakistan address India's concerns on terrorism have been amply demonstrated time and again. To expect that Manmohan Singh will respond to US entreaties in the absence of a demonstrated US ability to make Pakistan act may be unrealistic.

Common concerns over China brought India and the US together under the Bush Administration. With Obama projecting China as a benign power and not as a power to be concerned about, China will no longer be a uniting factor between the two countries.

There is considerable confusion about Obama in India. He has clearly accorded a pre-eminent role to China not only in the rest of Asia, but even in South Asia. He is reluctant to act against Pakistan as vigorously as India would like him to.India is still keeping its fingers crossed as to whether he would keep up his promise to adhere to the commitments made by the Bush Administration on civil nuclear co-operation and transfer of dual-use technology.

During Manmohan Singh's visit to the US in July,2005, Bush managed to establish an excellent personal chemistry with him, which has served well the Indo-US relations.Obama's interactions with his foreign interlocutors have clearly brought out his inability to establish such personal chemistry. Indian policy-makers and analysts have, therefore been cautious in their expectations from the visit.( 20-11-09)

( 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: )

Thursday, November 19, 2009



The following are the comments given by me in response to queries from an American analyst in connection with the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, to the US, from November 23 to 26,2009:

(a). No thinking has been ever done in India as to what it expects out of a long-term strategic relationship with the US. It is always the US which decides what it will give to India and it is New Delhi which accepts. It was so with the nuclear deal which was offered by Bush in July 2005.Manmohan Singh was pleasantly surprised when Bush offered it and then we followed it up.India's expectations from the US in the past were limited to US pressure on Pakistan to stop using terrorism against India, removal of restrictions on the supply of modern dual-use technology to India and US support for India's permanent membership of the UNSC. They remain the same.Any strategic relationship has to be a quid pro quo relationship. Since the US has hardly any dependence on India in any matter, there is no scope for any quid pro quo.

(b). India visualises itself as an Asian power on par with China. Beijing does not see it this way.China views India as a sub-regional Asian power and wants to keep its influence restricted to its immediate neighbourhood. Obama's visit to China has uncomfortably brought out to India that there is a convergence of perceptions between China and the Obama Administration on the limited regional role of India.China's pre-eminence has been recognised by Obama. Obama has re-hyphenated India-Pakistan relations and quietly relegated India to the role of a sub-regional power whose aspirations of having a status on par with China are unrealistic.

(c).In geopolitical matters, there is no futuristic thinking in India. The quality of Indian thinking and analysis----strategic and tactical----is poor. What passes for analysis in India is just wishful-thinking. Nobody in India has realised and brought out that for the first time the US, Japan and Australia have a leadership which does not rate highly India's potential as an emerging power. There is less and less talk of Chindia.Even today, many in India are not aware that the new Japanese Govt is not as enthusiastic about India as its predecessor Govt.was.There has been no exercise in India to analyse future scenarios in US-Japan relationship..

(d).Someone ( was it Henry Kissinger?) once said that power and influence are not given. They are taken. China has shown how to take it. India does not have the political will and courage to fight for it and take it. It is hoping that the US will give it. Bush and Condolleezza Rice seemed inclined to bestow on India the status of an Asian power on par with China. The Obama Administration does not seem to be so inclined.

( 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: )

Wednesday, November 18, 2009



The failure of President Barack Obama to understand the distrust of China in large sections of the Indian civil society has landed the US in a situation in which the considerable goodwill between India and the US created during the administration of his predecessor George Bush stands in danger of being diluted by his unthinking words and actions.

2. The distrust of China in the Indian civil society is much deeper than even the distrust of Pakistan. Even today, despite Pakistan's continued use of terrorism against India, there is some goodwill for the people of Pakistan in many sections of the Indian civil society. As against this, outside the traditional communist and other leftist circles, one would hardly find any section which trusts China ---its Government as well as its people.

3. The Indian distrust of China arises mainly from three factors. First, the Sino-Indian war of 1962. Second, China's role in giving Pakistan a military nuclear and missile capability for use against India. Third, the Chinese blockage of the pre 26/11 efforts in the sanctions committee of the UN Security Council to declare the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), the parent organisation of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), as a terrorist organisation and its subsequent opposition for a similar declaration against the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JED).

4. The dubious Chinese stand on the issue of Pakistani use of terrorism against India is viewed by many in India as amounting to collusion.

5. The Indian suspicions of China have been magnified in recent years by Beijing's Look South policy. China is not a South Asian power, but it has sought to create for itself a large South Asian presence by developing a military supply relationship with the countries of the region, by helping India's neighbours in the development of their infrastructure of strategic importance such as ports and by supporting the Maoists of Nepal.

6. At a time when concerns in India over the increasing Chinese strategic presence and influence in India's neigbourhood have been increasing, it is an amazingly shocking act of insensitivity on the part of Obama and his policy advisers to project China as a benign power with a benevolent role in South Asia---- whether for promoting understanding between India and Pakistan or for influencing developments in other countries of the region.

7. It is politically naive on the part of Obama to expect that Indian political and public opinion will accept any role for China in South Asia in matters which impact on India's core interests. Bush's China policy had favourable vibrations in India by highlighting the threats that are likely to be posed by its military modernisation made possible by its economic power. A convergence of concerns over China between Washington and New Delhi laid the foundation for the strategic relationship between the countries.

8. Obama's projection of China as a trustworthy partner of the US in jointly tackling long-standing contentious issues in South Asia shows a shocking ignorance of the fact that China was one of the causes of the persistence of these issues. Its effort has always been not to promote mutual understanding and harmony in South Asia, but to keep India isolated by keeping alive the old distrusts and animosities and creating new ones.

9. At a time when Indian public opinion was looking forward to fruitful results from the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the US, reports from Beijing on Obama's visit to China would strengthen the impression that Obama is not India's cup of tea. (19-11-09)

( 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: )



Extracts from my article at

The Obama Administration is showing signs of greater sensitivity to the concerns and interests of China than those of India. Reliable reports indicate that it is veering towards a policy of neutrality on the issue of Arunachal Pradesh, which has been a major bone of contention between India and China. It is believed to be dragging its feet on the implementation of the understanding reached between the preceding Bush Administration and the Govt. of India for the US Air Force to undertake searches in Arunachal Pradesh territory for US Air Force personnel, who were missing in action during the Second World War.

It is learnt that the formats of the joint exercices between the three wings of the Armed Forces of the two countries, which were agreed upon during the Bush Administration, are being reviewed in order to delete elements, which could cause concern to not only China, but also Pakistan--- such as joint exercises between the two armies in the Siachen area to enable US Army personnel to get exposed to high altitude conditions, joint naval exercises in the seas to the east of India etc.

While the Obama Administration wants to go ahead with the over-all format of the strategic relationship with India as laid down by the Bush Administration, it wants to have a second look at those aspects, which could cause concern to China.

There was one joint naval exercise off Japan involving ships of the navies of India, the US and Japan after Obama assumed office. Such exercises are likely to be avoided in future.

There is also a possibility of the US abstaining when the specific proposal for assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for a flood control project in Arunachal Pradesh comes up for approval before the ADB.The ADB's Board of Governors had earlier this year, after Obama came to office, approved a basket of projects proposed by India despite opposition ftrom China. It is learnt that ADB officials have been saying that approval for the package as a whole did not mean approval of each individual item in the package and that each individual item has to be approved separately. Efforts are being made to scuttle ADB support for the individual proposal relating to Arunachal Pradesh.

The Obama Administration seems to be thinking that all that it needs to do to humour India and soften the blow due to its steady reversal of the pro-India policies initiated by the Bush Administration is to accord the honours of a State visit to Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh in November and play up the ceremonial honours accorded to him. In the last few days, officials of the US State Department have been briefing the media about the kind of honours which will be accorded to Dr.Manmohan Singh when he visits Washington. These are meant to show that there has been no change in the US policies towards India under the Obama Administration. The reality is that on every matter, which is of concern to India, greater attention is being paid to China's sensitivities and concerns.

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

Monday, November 16, 2009



The Khalistani terrorism in India and the terrorism of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka are two unique instances in the history of terrorism where the State prevailed over the terrorists without conceding their demands.

2. The threat faced by Sri Lanka was more complex and difficult to handle than the threat faced by India. Sri Lanka was confronted with a ruthless mix of a full-blown insurgency seeking territorial control and terrorism seeking to intimidate the civil society. The Khalistani terrorism was a purely terrorist movement with no mix of an insurgency.

3. The situation, which Sri Lanka faced, was similar to that faced by the US and other NATO forces and the Afghan National Army in Afghanistan. They have not yet been able to find an effective answer to the complex mix of insurgent and terrorist tactics used by the Neo Taliban.

4. It goes to the credit of the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism machinery of Sri Lanka that after having struggled against the LTTE for nearly 23 years till 2006, they were able to fashion an appropriate mix of tactics to prevail over the LTTE.

5. This mix had a number of components. The political component, which was handled by President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself, focussed on giving the security forces and the intelligence agencies the resources and capacities needed by them to prevail over the LTTE and at the same time, ensuring that the counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations of the security forces did not drive more Tamils into the arms of the LTTE.

6. The diplomatic component, which was handled by Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, ensured the diplomatic isolation of the LTTE. In fact, it was the success of the Sri Lankan diplomacy in getting the LTTE declared as a terrorist organisation by the European Union countries and in persuading the US, the EU countries and the Governments in South-East Asia to act energetically against the flow of money and weapons to the LTTE, which laid the foundation for the ultimate success of the Army on the ground.

7. If Sri Lankan diplomacy had not acted as energetically as it did in getting the sources of weapons supply to the LTTE choked off, the LTTE might not have collapsed as completely as it did.

8. It also goes to the credit of Rajapaksa and his Foreign Office that they realised the importance of India in any effective strategy to defeat the LTTE. China and Pakistan might have supplied arms and ammunition to the SL security forces, but what really helped the security forces was the assistance rendered by the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and intelligence to their SL counterparts in ensuring that the LTTE was not able to smuggle in fresh stocks of weapons from abroad. Another contribution made by the Government of India was in the handling of any political fall-out in Tamil Nadu to prevent any backlash against the Sri Lankan operations in Indian territory.

9. It is the political and diplomatic handling of the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency campaign by Rajapaksa and his political aides such as his Foreign Minister and professional aides such as his brother Gothbaya Rajapaksa, who as the Defence Secretary was the Chief Co-ordinator, that paved the way for the ultimate success of the armed forces.

10. The Armed Forces fought bravely. The credit for working out a ground strategy, which will prevail against the LTTE, should go to Gen.Sarath Fonseka, the chief of the Army, who subsequently became the Chief of the Defence Staff after the victory over the LTTE. The victory of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces over the LTTE was even more remarkable than that of the Indian security forces over the Khalistani terrorists, who were as ruthless as the LTTE.

11. We were not able to neutralise the command and control and leadership of the Khalistani terrorists as completely as the Sri Lankan Armed Forces under the leadership of Fonseka were able to do in respect of the LTTE. In any history of counter-terrorism, the way the entire Sri Lankan counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency machinery under Rajapaksa fought against the LTTE and prevailed over it would form an important chapter.

12. In his newly-assumed post of the Chief of the Defence Staff, Fonseka would have been able to do a retrospective analysis of the entire evolution of the LTTE and the way different SL Governments had handled the threat in order to draw lessons for the future. Such an exercise would have been of immense benefit to his own country as well as to India and others who face similar problems.

13. instead of doing so, he has allowed his pique over perceived slights by the Government to get the better of him and has resigned from his post as the CDS after making a series of allegations against the Government. A perusal of his letter to Rajapaksa does not speak well of his intellectual maturity as an individual. He was a brilliant professional, but professionalism alone does not make a good leader.

14.Media reports say that he has developed political ambitions of contesting the next Presidential elections against Rajapaksa. He has every right to do so as a Sri Lankan citizen. Unfortunately, his letter to Rajapaksa does not bring out any latent political acumen in him. They only bring out his huge ego and his pique. The message which comes out of the letter is: " I am the super hero of the success against the LTTE. My role in the triumph has not been sufficiently recognised."

15. As one reads his letter, one's mind goes back to our triumph against Khalistani terrorism. The success was achieved when K.P.S.Gill was the Director-General of Police of Punjab. He has never projected himself as the super hero of the success. He is always the first to admit that the success of the Punjab Police under his leadership would not have been possible without the political leadership and guidance of Narasimha Rao as the Prime Minister and Beant Singh as the Chief Minister of Punjab, without the team work put in by the police, the armed forces, the intelligence agencies and the Foreign Office and without the co-operation of foreign intelligence agencies which gave a lot of valuable intelligence.

16. Punjab is the most important of our successes against terrorism and insurgency, but not the only one. We have had other successes in Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram and Kashmir.The professionals--- whether from the Armed Forces, the police or the intelligence agencies--- who were instrumental in making those successes possible, did not go around projecting themselves as super heroes. They recognised the role of others and maintained their sense of balance.

17. By failing to maintain his sense of balance and by allowing his pique to get the better of him, Fonseka has only devalued himself. The political forces in Sri Lanka which are exploiting his pique as a stick to beat Rajapaksa with are playing an unwise game. They may end up by diluting the professionalism of the SL Army. (17-11-2009)

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

Sunday, November 15, 2009




There are two jihadi terrorist organisations by the name the 313 Brigade. The first is Kashmir-centric and is associated with the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) of Qari Saifullah Akhtar. It has been in existence since at least 1999 and is a member of the United Jihad Council, based in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, which is headed by Syed Salahuddin of the Hizbul Mujahideen. It looks upon India as its main enemy and is not against the Government of Pakistsan, its Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

2.On December 15,1999, a Rashtriya Rifles unit in Jammu & Kashmir had killed one Sher Khan, who was described as the chief commander of a newly formed 313 Brigade and a HUJI commander called Nadeem Khan during an encounter in the Marot forest area of Surankote. The "Excelsior", a daily newspaper published from Jammu, had quoted Indian defence sources as saying that the 313 Brigade had been formed by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) a few days earlier.They claimed to have killed its leader within a few days of its formation and infiltration into J&K.

3. Thereafter, from to time, there were references to the activities of the 313 Brigade in the Surankote area of J & K. In October 2004, a Rashtriya Rifles unit captured one Sabzar Ahmed, a resident of the Surankote area, who was described as a member of the 313 Brigade.

4. On March 17,2006, "The Nation", the Pakistani daily, had carried a report on a letter jointly written to Pervez Musharraf by the members of the United Jihad Council of Kashmir protesting against his Government succumbing to pressure from the George Bush administration to discontinue support to the Kashmir-related jihadi organisations. Among those who had signed the letter was one Munir Ahmed of the 313 Brigade.

5.In April 2006, the US State Department issued the 2006 "Country Reports on Terrorism," which listed a number of designated "foreign terrorist organizations" and also listed "other selected terrorist groups also deemed to be of relevance to the global war on terrorism." The HUJI was listed in the latter category. The report noted the group's "links to al Qaeda," and that the "HUJI's operations in Kashmir were led by Commander Ilyas Kashmiri, a former commander in the Afghan jihad, .... who was arrested in October2005 on charges of attacks against President Musharraf in 2003."

6. Reports in the Pakistani media indicated that Ilyas Kashmiri, who headed the 313 Brigade of the HUJI in J&K, was released by the Pakistani authorities on the intervention of Syed Salahuddin and had shifted from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), where he was previously based, to the Waziristan area of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

7. A second organisation also known as the 313 Brigade is Pakistan-centric and is the fighting arm of the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed by Osama bin Laden in 1998 in association with a number of terrorist organisations of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and other countries. It came into existence after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. It looks upon the US and Israel as its main enemies. It is strongly against the Pakistan Govt, its Army and the ISI because of their alleged co-operation with the US in Afghanistan.

8. While the Kashmir-centric 313 Brigade claims responsibility for its actions in Jammu & Kashmir, the Pakistan-centric 313 Brigade does not admit its operations in Pakistan. Till 2007, the responsibility for the attacks on Pakistani army and ISI officers was claimed by organisations with names such as the Islambouli Brigade, the Jundullah etc. After the raid by the Special Services Group (SSG) of the Pakistan Army into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July,2007, the responsibility for many of the attacks on military establishments and personnel has been claimed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

9. Among the terrorist attacks in Pakistani territory in which the Pakistan-centric 313 Brigade was suspected were:

(a). The two attempts to kill Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi in December,2003.

(b). The attempts to kill the Corps Commander of Karachi and Shaukat Aziz, the then Finance Minister who had been nominated by Musharraf to take over as the Prime Minister, at Fateh Jang in the Attock constituency of Punjab in 2004. Shaukat Aziz escaped an assassination attempt while he was canvassing a bye-election campaign.

(c). The murder of two officers of the Intelligence Bureau at Kohat in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) in 2004.

(d). The attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September 2008.The Danish diplomatic staff were functioning from there.

(e).The November 19,2008,assassination of Maj-Gen Amir Faisal Alvi, who headed the SSG in 2003-2005 before he was removed by Musharraf for unworthy conduct.

10. Immediately after the attempt on Shaukat Aziz, an Islamic web site had quoted a group calling itself the Islambouli Brigade as claiming that it had targeted one of the men of the "American infidel group in Pakistan". Lt Khaled Islambouli was the leader of the group of soldiers, who assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat during a military parade in Cairo in 1981.Though the statement did not mention Aziz by name, it was apparent the reference was to him. It said: "One of our blessed battalions tried to hunt a head of one of America’s infidels in Pakistan while he was returning from Fateh Jang, but God wanted him to survive. With this blow, we are delivering a message to the Pakistani Government and its head Pervez Musharraf, who is still extraditing the Mujahideen to America to appease it." . It accused the person targetted at Fateh Jang of being "a follower of the wicked Bush and his cronies."

11."Yesterday’s attack will be followed by more painful blows if you do not stop blindly obeying the orders of that Bush. If you don’t stop, the Mujahideen will wage a bloody war in Pakistan," it added. It said it was giving the Musharraf Government a "period of truce" to stop handing over arrested persons to the US, failing which the brigade "will behave in a different way." The statement did not say how long the truce would last, but it warned that its message was "the last warning. "Within the coming few days, our brigade will speak with the language of blood which is the only language you understand," it further warned.

12.In an interview to the "News", the prestigious Pakistani daily, apparently given after the attempt to kill Aziz, the 45-year-old Haji Mohammad Omar, who had succeeded Nek Mohammad as the leader of the pro-Taliban elements in South Waziristan, warned: "The rulers would not be safe if the Pakistan Government with US assistance targets our leaders. We are convinced that commander Nek Muhammad was killed by the US military with the connivance of our own government.The rocket attacks on Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps camps and assets in South Waziristan and the resistance being put up by the militants there are largely fuelled by the US military involvement in the so-called campaign against al-Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan.The militants target only those places where US military personnel and spies are stationed. Our men take maximum care not to harm Pakistani soldiers and militiamen."He alleged that hundreds of US troops and intelligence agents had been secretly deployed in South Waziristan and that US military planes and helicopter gunships were operating in Pakistani territory and air space.

13. The attack came at a time when there were reports that the so-called 313 Brigade of the International Islamic Front (IIF), as distinguished from the 313 Brigade of the HUJI in J&K, had stepped up its campaign against the Pervez Musharraf Government in Pakistan and the Islam Karimov Government in Uzbekistan for co-operating with the USA in its war against terrorism.

14. The attack also come at a time when the Iraqi resistance and foreign jihadi terrorist groups in Iraq had stepped up their campaign against Saudi Arabia and Pakistan for allegedly letting themselves be used by the Bush administration for suppressing the Iraqi people. They were virulently criticising Jehangir Ashraf Qazi, the Pakistani diplomat, for agreeing to work as the UN Representative in Iraq and warning Pakistan against sending its troops to Iraq to protect the UN office.

15. Two Kashmiris from the POK, who had gone to Iraq to work for a US contractor, were captured by unidentified elements and beheaded as a warning to people in Pakistan not to volunteer to work for US contractors in Iraq. The responsibility for the beheading was claimed in the name of an organisation called the Jaish-e-Islam (Army of Islam).

16. These attacks followed after a statement issued by Osama bin Laden in 2003 calling Pakistan an apostate State for co-operating with the US and a virulent statement by his No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri calling for action against Musharraf. In the meanwhile, the investigation into the two attempts to kill Musharrafr reportedly brought out the involvement of some junior officers of the Army and the Air Force in the conspiracy along with members of the HUJI, the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ).

17. The various reports received during this period indicated that at the instance of Al Qaeda, the IIF had revamped its 313 Brigade by including in it select volunteers from not only the Pakistani jihadi organisations, but also sympathetic military personnel for carrying out reprisal attacks to protest against the Pakistani , co-operation with the US.

18. After the attacks on Musharraf, Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the Amir of the HUJI, ran away from Pakistan. He was arrested by the Dubai Police on August 6,2004, and handed over to the Pakistani authorities. Surprisingly, the Pakistani authorities did not prosecute him just as they did not prosecute Ilyas Kashmiri. They released him after keeping him under informal detention for some months. After the failed attempt to kill her at Karachi on October 17,2007, Benazir Bhutto had named the Qari as the principal suspect. He was again arrested, but released after some weeks without being prosecuted.

19. The 313 Brigade of the IIF, which has been focussing on attacking Pakistani targets as distinguished from the 313 Brigade in J&K which attacks Indian targets, is a shadowy organisation. Media reports project Ilyas Kashmiri as the head of the 313 Brigade of the IIF. In a press interview, Ilyas himself has sought to give the impression that he heads it. He has been saying that unless the US and its collaborators in Pakistan are defeated, the so-called struggle against India in J&K will not progress. He thus now gives primacy to the jihadi campaign against the US and its alleged collaborators in Pakistan.

20. Ilyas sees himself as another Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and wants to carry out a spectacular terrorist strike in a Western country. The purpose of his trying to use David Coleman Headley, of Chicago arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation at Chicago on October 3, 2009, was for an attack on the Danish journal, which carried caricatures of the Prophet in 2005. A perusal of the FBI's affidavit against Headley shows that while Ilyas wanted a Mumbai--26/11 style attack in Copenhagen, Headley felt that a more feasible option would be to assassinate the cartoonist and his Editor.

21. Where do the statements of the TTP claiming responsibility for attacks on Pakistani military personnel fit in? What is the relationship between the TTP, Ilyas and his 313 Brigade? What happened to the 313 Brigade of J&K? Does it continue its separate existence? Answers to these questions are not available.

22. The jihadi picture in Pakistan is getting murkier and murkier. Nobody----neither Pakistan's political and military leaders nor the US intelligence agencies and military leadership nor the mushrooming community of terrorism analysts all over the world---- seems to understand what the hell is going on in Pakistan, which is inexorably becoming a country beyond understanding and beyond redemption. (16-11-09)

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




In my article on the October 10,2009, terrorist raid into the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army at Rawalpindi available at , I had written as follows: "There are possibly other SSG officers ( in addition to Ilyas Kashmiri)---serving and retired---- who have similarly gravitated to the world of terrorism. As a result of this, knowledge of commando-style operations seems to be widespread in Pakistan's jihadi world. Till now, the international focus has been on the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as the sponsor and trainer of jihadi groups. Indications of a similar role being played by at least some elements in or of the the SSG---- possibly in tandem with the ISI --- are coming to the fore now."

2.It was known in the past that some retired officers of the ISI had been guiding the various anti-Indian and anti-US terrorist groups in Pakistan. They were also allegedly helping them in their training and supporting the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan and Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's Hizbe Islami in their operations against the NATO forces and the Afghan National Army in Afghan territory. By using these retired officers for helping these terrorist organisations, the ISI and the Pakistani Army were able to maintain the deniability of their role in sponsoring terrorisn in the Indian and Afghan territories.

3. Amongst the senior retired officers of the ISI, who had come to adverse notice in this connection are Lt.Gen. Hamid Gul, who was the Director-General of the ISI during the first tenure of Benazir Bhutto (1988-90) as the Prime Minister, Lt.Gen.Javed Nasir, who headed the ISI during the first tenure of Nawaz Sharif ( 1990-93) and Lt.Gen.Mahmud Ahmed, who was the chief of the ISI during the first two years of Pervez Musharraf after he seized power in October,1999. While Gul was removed by Benazir, who disliked him, Nasir and Mahmud Ahmed were removed under US pressure because of their suspected links with the terrorists.

4. After the November 19, 2008, assassination in Islamabad of Maj.Gen. Amir Faisal Alvi, who headed the SSG till the middle of 2005 before he was sacked by Musharraf for unworthy conduct, there have been indications of similar contacts between serving and retired officers of the SSG and the jihadi world. While the details of the alleged unworthy conduct of Alvi, who was the brother of Lady Naipaul, wife of the famous writer, were never revealed by Musharraf, the speculation in Pakistan was that during an official visit to the UK, Alvi had spoken to his British interlocutors about the contacts of some Pakistani army officers with Baitullah Mehsud, who used to be the head of the Pakistani Taliban, and criticised Musharraf for not acting against them. On coming to know of this, it was reported, Musharraf sacked him. Alvi, who was born in Kenya, had the dual nationality of Pakistan and the UK.

5. Amongst the terrorist leaders who were exposed in the Pakistani media after the assassination of Alvi as former SSG officers were Ilyas Kashmiri, who became the Amir of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir after having worked for the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) for some time and Capt. Khurram, who left the SSG in 2003, joined the LET and then gravitated to the Taliban. He was killed in Afghanistan in March,2007.

6. Khurram was the younger brother of Major Haroon Ashique, who took premature retirement from the Pakistan Army in 2001 after a meeting with Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed , the Amir of the LET. He and his brother occupied important positions in the LET till 2004. Subsequently, they developed differences with Sayeed and left the LET. Haroon joined a group of retired officers of the Army raised by Ilyas Kashmiri for assisting Al Qaeda and the Pakistani and Afghan Talibans. Khurram joined the Afghan Taliban.

7. The jihadi role of Haroon came to notice during the investigation of the assassination of Alvi. He was found to have been the ring-leader of not only the assassination, but also of the kidnapping for ransom on October 20,2008, of Satish Anand, a Karachi-based film distributor, who is reported to be the uncle of Juhi Chawla, the Indian film actress. The investigation reportedly brought out that both these incidents were orchestrated by Haroon on the instructions of Ilyas Kashmiri. Haroon, who is a Kashmiri from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, is presently facing trial in these two cases along with two accomplices.

8. The identities of the two persons referred to in the FBI's affidavit against David Coleman Headley as "Individual A" and "LET member A" still remain unclear. It is also unclear as to why the FBI is not revealing their identities.

9. There are wheels within wheels in the Chicago conspiracy

10. Annexed is a backgrounder on the SSG (source Among the various tasks of the SSG is the protection of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. After the Lal Masjid commando raid by the SSG in July,2007, a member of the SSG blew himself up in the officers' mess of the SSG at Tarbella Gazi killing a numbder of SSG officers in reprisal for the Lal Masjid raid. That incident brought out the infiltration of the SSG by the jihadi elements. (15-11-09)

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




In 1953-54 the Pakistan Army raised an elite commando formation with US Army assistance. To disguise its true mission, the new unit was simply designated 10 Bn. of The Baluch Regiment The battalion was posted to a new headquarters at Cherat near Attock City. In March 1964, a Mobile Training Team from the US Army Special Forces Group (Airborne) went to Pakistan to set up a new airborne school at Peshawar for 19 Baluch. The school included basic and jumpmaster courses. All members of 19 Baluch were airborne-qualified. The training team also included four riggers, who helped train Pakistani counterparts.

By this time 19 Baluch was already considered the SSG (Special Services Group) which was divided into 24 companies. Each company had specialization units, specialized in desert, mountain, ranger, and underwater warfare. The desert companies participated in training exercises with US Army Special Forces Mobile Training Team in late 1964. The scuba company in Karachi was renowned for its tough physical training.

In 1970 an anti-terrorist role was added. This mission was given to the Musa Company, an independent formation within the SSG. The name was given after the name of Prophet Musa (Moses). The company was originally formed in 1970 as a combat diver unit. In 1980, however, each company was given a diver unit. After the Musa company was converted to an anti-terrorist unit, it received training by British SAS advisors in Cherat during mid-1981.

In 1986, the SSG began a large-scale basic training program for Sri Lankan paramilitary militia forces. Commando and airborne training was given to members of the Sri Lankan Commando Regiment.

SSG units have also been seconded in covert operations in Afghanistan during the Afghan war, as air marshals on passenger airlines and as VIP security. At present, the SSG maintains its headquarters at Cherat and runs the Airborne School at Peshawar. Two SSG battalions are normally rotated through Cherat with a third battalion divided between the border and other strategic locations such as the Terbella Dam and nuclear research facilities. Each SSG battalion numbers 700 men in four companies. Each company is split into platoons and further sub-divided into 10 men teams. Battalions are commanded by Lieutenant Colonels, the group is currently run by a Colonel . ( My comment: It is headed by a Major-General since 2003)


SSG officers must have at least two years of prior military experience and volunteer from other formations for three-year assignments with the SSG; NCO and enlisted men volunteer from other formations to serve permanently in the SSG. All trainees must participate in an eight-month SSG course at Cherta. The SSG course emphasizes tough physical conditioning. Included is a 36-mile march in 12 hours, a grueling requirement that was first institutionalized by 19 Baluch. They are also required to run 5 miles in 40 minutes with full gear. Following the SSG course, trainees must volunteer for Airborne School. The course last four weeks, with wings awarded after seven (five day, two night) jumps.

Many in the SSG school are selected for additional specialist training. A HALO course is given at Peshawar with a 'skydiver' tab awarded after 5 freefall jumps. A "Mountain Warfare" qualification badge is given after completing a course at the Mountain Warfare School in Abbotsbad; and a "Combat Diver" badge is awarded for the course held by the Naval Special Services Group SSGN at Karachi. Three classes of combat swimmers were recognized: 1st class to those completing an 18-mile swim; 2nd class to those finishing a 12-mile swim; and 3rd class for a 6-mile swim.

SSG regularly sends students to the US for special warfare and airborne training. Later on, due to Siachen crisis, a Snow and High Altitude Warfare School was also established.

SSG Weapons and Uniforms

While they were designated 19 Baluch, the Pakistani special forces were distinguished by a green beret with the Baluch Regt. beret insignia on a maroon flash. A 'Baluch' tab, black with a maroon background, went on left shoulder. Combat uniforms were Khaki. The SSG dropped the green beret in favor of a maroon beret. A silver metal SSG beret is worn in a light blue felt square. A bullion SSG para wing with a black cloth background is worn on the left chest. A red cloth version is worn by a master parachutist who has at least 50 jumps. SSG "Riggers" wear a wing with the English word 'Rigger' stitched across the wing. A distinctive SSG badge featuring a dagger framed by lightening bolts, used since 1964 by members of 19 Baluch goes on the left shoulder; qualification tabs and badges such as Skydiver, SCUBA, or Mountain Warfare go on the right shoulder. A silver metal SSG insignia is occasionally worn on shoulder straps.