Sunday, January 31, 2010



His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Special Envoy Lodi G. Gyari and Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen arrived in China on January 26,2010, for the ninth round of discussions with the representatives of the Chinese leadership.The eighth round terminated without any agreement in November 2008. The present dialogue started in 2002. They were accompanied by senior assistants Tenzin P. Atisha, Bhuchung K. Tsering, both members of the Tibetan Task Force on Negotiations, and Jigmey Passang from the Secretariat of the Tibetan Task Force. As the talks progress, China seems to have suspended for the time being its campaign of demonisation of His Holiness. Even overseas supporters of His Holiness concede that the Chinese Government and the Communist Party have toned their rhetoric against His Holiness.

2. Messages coming out of commentaries and editorials on the resumption of the talks after an interval of 14 months are that unless His Holiness adopts a more realistic attitude in the present round of talks, there will be no useful outcome. By a realistic attitude, the Chinese mean His Holiness accepting the present constitutional and political status of the Tibet Autonomous Region without raising demands for a merger of all Tibetan inhabited areas and without insisting on the expansion of the autonomous powers of the re-constituted Tibetan region. After the failure of the last round, the Chinese had also stated that the Dalai Lama should stop raising the issue of the alleged Han colonization of Tibet and should accept the need for the continued presence of the People’s Liberation Army troops in the Tibet Autonomous Region. While accepting that Tibet is a part of China, His Holiness reportedly wants for it a special status similar to the status enjoyed by Hong Kong. The Chinese have already ruled this out.

3.In a commentary titled “Dalai Should Seize Chance Provided by Talks” published on January 28,2010, the “Global Times” run by the party-owned “People’s Daily” group, explained in the following words what the Chinese expected of His Holiness: “Now, at the age of 75, time is not on the side of the Dalai Lama. Though the March 14 riots in Tibet in 2008, plotted by the Dalai clique, caught the world's attention for a while, it is always the progress of China, including Tibet, which has impressed the world. For his own sake, the Dalai Lama needs to make the most of the opportunity provided by the current round of talks with the central government. As the new round of talks in eight years, also the first since November 2008, is underway, it is time for him to reflect on the discussions thus far, the reasons for them getting stalled and adopt a more realistic approach to keep the dialogue going with the central government. Only when he gives up "Tibetan independence", eschews separatist activities, and acknowledges Tibet as an inalienable part of China can the talks yield results. Any unrealistic request – such as greater "autonomy" in Tibet and some Tibetan-populated regions, proposed by his envoys during the last talks – are certain to be turned down. The realistic appreciation of Tibet – and not as a mysterious Shangri-la steeped in esoteric religious and cultural traditions – can help clear up the misunderstanding between China and some Western countries over Tibet. The mystification of Tibet has added to the confusion, and even prejudice against the Chinese central government's policy in Tibet. Some sections of the West have gone further by playing the Tibet card to embarrass China, either out of ignorance of Tibet's past and present, or in pursuit of their own political agenda. That explains why the Dalai clique's deliberate agitation and disguised attempt to seek "Tibetan independence" in the name of "autonomy" could once gain some momentum in the West. But more Westerners have come to realize that supporting the Dalai Lama will be in vain and do them no good.”

4. Overseas supporters of His Holiness say that the Chinese initiative for holding another round of talks with the representatives of His Holiness was preceded by the holding in Beijing of a Tibet strategy session from January 18 to 20, 2010. Since the People’s Liberation Army occupied Tibet in 1949-50, Chinese leaders are reported to have held five such strategy sessions under the name the Tibet Work Forum. The latest session called the Fifth Tibet Work Forum was reported to have been attended by about 300 Party, Government and military leaders playing a role in policy-making on Tibet.

5. The strategy session was held at a time when China had successfully weathered international pressure on it on the question of the human rights of the Tibetans. During his visit to China in November last, President Barack Obama was reported to have suggested the resumption of the talks with the representatives of His Holiness. However, it is not clear whether his raising the issue played any role in the Chinese decision to resume the dialogue with His Holiness.

6. Why was a new strategy session held at this time when there is seeming normalcy in Tibet after the anti-Chinese uprising of 2008 and when the international pressure on China on the human rights issue has eased after its successful holding of the Beijing Olympics in August,2008? Does it indicate Chinese nervousness about a fresh spell of trouble in Tibet after the exit of His Holiness, particularly if the person nominated by the Chinese as His Holiness’ reincarnation is not accepted by large sections of the Tibetan population? Do the Chinese want to explore the possibility of reaching a compromise with His Holiness on the modalities for his succession in order to avoid a controversy and fresh violence? Will the Chinese take the initiative in proposing any new ideas to the emissaries of His Holiness instead of merely reacting negatively to suggestions emanating from His Holiness and rejecting them as they were in the habit of doing in the past? While advising the Dalai Lama to be realistic, are the Chinese prepared to be realistic themselves and realize that future peace in Tibet depends on an uncontested succession process endorsed by His Holiness?

7.These are important and relevant questions, but no answers are forthcoming in the Chinese commentaries on the ongoing talks. The International Campaign For Tibet, a Washington DC based organization of His Holiness’ supporters, has come out with a detailed analysis of the recent strategy session on Tibet held by the Chinese leadership. Some interesting points emerging from the analysis are quoted below:

The Fifth Tibet Work Forum concluded days before the envoys of the Dalai Lama, led by Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, arrived in China for the ninth round of the Sino-Tibetan dialogue. Speculation on the timing of the ninth round of dialogue so soon after the Fifth Tibet Work Forum has raised expectation that this could be a pivotal moment for Tibet.

The Fifth Tibet Work Forum was the first since the protests and crackdown beginning in March, 2008; the fourth was held in June, 2001. It was not announced in the official media until two days after the meeting was over, and the only prior indication that it was about to take place was a series of brief online articles in the state media in English referring to previous Tibet Work Forums. Since then, a carefully-chosen selection of statements from the meeting has been published in the official press, including speeches by Party Secretary and President Hu Jintao, and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

Reports on the Fifth Tibet Work Forum in the official media do not indicate a policy shift on Tibet – the emphasis is still on consolidating central control by further assimilation of Tibet into a ‘unified’ Chinese state – but there is a difference in tone and approach, with a notable lack of virulent rhetoric against the Dalai Lama, which is usually such a prevalent feature of official comment and reporting on Tibet.

Reports indicate that there is more of an emphasis on improving conditions in rural areas, although this emphasis still exists within a model of economic development based on infrastructure construction and resource extraction that has shown to deepen the marginalization and poverty of Tibetans. While this new focus on improving conditions in rural areas could be a positive step, the strategy for Tibet’s development as a whole needs to be addressed. The reports suggest that there is less emphasis on the large amount of funds spent on major ‘aid and development’ projects compared to previous Party and government planning documents on Tibet, which may signal a recognition that flooding Tibet with money does not automatically secure loyalty to the state. Tibetans from some of the most ‘developed’ areas of Tibet including Lhasa and parts of eastern Tibet were at the forefront of protests from March 2008 onwards.

Reports from the Fifth Tibet Work Forum demonstrate that Tibet is not of marginal concern but is a core issue to the Party, as evidenced by the strategic significance of Tibet laid out in the published statements. Compared to previous high-level meetings and in line with global concerns on climate change, the Fifth Tibet Work Forum emphasizes security issues linked to the environment of the Tibetan plateau, which is the source of Asia’s major rivers. The Party’s assertion of control over Tibet’s natural resources and fragile eco-system is in the context of an increasing international awareness of the global significance of the impact of climate change in Tibet. Many scientists characterize the Tibetan plateau as the earth’s ‘third pole’ because it has the biggest ice-fields outside the Arctic and Antarctic.

While the Fourth Tibet Work Forum in 2001 focused on the Tibet Autonomous Region, the Fifth includes all Tibetan areas in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces – encompassing the eastern Tibetan regions of Amdo and Kham – which may indicate a trend towards regional integration of policies across all Tibetan areas of the PRC. Government statements have typically represented only the Tibet Autonomous Region as ‘Tibet.’ The protests that began in March 2008 spread to all Tibetan areas in the PRC, indicating a shared Tibetan identity, a commonality of grievances, concerns and a determination to express a shared loyalty to the Dalai Lama.

The Chinese authorities have announced that they would hold the First Work Forum on the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (East Turkestan) after the regional capital Urumchi erupted in protests and rioting in July 2009. The strategy for Xinjiang is framed with a stronger emphasis on the “fight against splittism” and independence activism than in the Fifth Tibet Work Forum statements seen to date. This could indicate a distinction in the way the Party is now handling policy on Xinjiang and Tibet. ( 1-2-10)

( 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 Cennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )



At a time when Chinese officials and non-Governmental analysts have been highly confused by the unusually strong line taken by Mrs.Hilary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, in support of Internet freedom in the wake of Google’s threat to stop censoring its search engine in China and its protests over alleged Chinese web snooping into the Google mail accounts of Chinese political dissidents and Tibetan and Uighur nationalists, they have been in for another shock by the decision of the administration of President Barack Obama to notify the Congress on January 29,2010, of its plans to sell a fresh package of arms to Taiwan in disregard of Chinese protests and sensitivities on the subject.

2. Mrs.Clinton’s strong statement on the question of Internet freedom has already given rise to Chinese allegations of the US reverting to its past policy of “information imperialism” and adopting double standards with regard to restrictions on the Internet in the interest of national security. As a result, earlier speculation and even expectations that the Chinese authorities and Google could reach a face-saving compromise to facilitate the continued operation of the Google in the Chinese market have been belied so far.

3. The continuing controversy over the Google was till now viewed by the Chinese authorities as an aberration and not as reflective of any change of policy by the Obama Administration towards China. However, the Administration’s notification to the Congress of its plan to sell to Taiwan US $ 6.4 billion worth of Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and minesweepers has come as a second surprise to Beijing. It is learnt that the Chinese authorities were aware for some time that the sale of this package was under the consideration of the Obama Administration, but were confident that after the smooth visit of Mr.Obama to China in November last and the importance attached by him to China’s role as an Asian power with stakes even in South Asia, he will not go ahead with the sale.

4. His surprise (to the Chinese) decision to go ahead with the sale has evoked strong resentment in official circles and has been strongly criticized by non-governmental analysts, who have accused him of being insincere and projected his decision as a wake-up call to China about the real Obama.

5.In its strong reaction within 24 hours of the notification, the Chinese Government has suspended (not cancelled) all military exchanges with the US. Mr.Qian Lihua, Director of the Foreign Affairs office of the Chinese Defence Ministry, lodged a strong protest with the US Defence Attache in Beijing. A press release issued by his office on the protest said: "The Chinese military expresses grave indignation and strongly condemns such a move to grossly interfere in China's internal affairs and harm China's national security interests. The Taiwan issue is related to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and concerns China's core interests. The US arms sales to Taiwan gravely violates the three joint communiques between China and the United States, and seriously endangers China's national security and harms China's reunification course. Such a move also constitutes severe violation of the agreements reached by the top leaders of both sides on the China-US relations in the new situation. It runs counter to the principles of the joint statement issued during US President Barack Obama's visit to China in November last year.”

6. A strong commentary on the US notification by the “China Daily” published on January 31,2010, said: “ The latest US arms sale to Taiwan has once again come up as a wake-up call. It cannot but let us be clear that in a world where the law of the jungle still prevails, China, like any other developing country, cannot remain aloof from bullies. It is painful to come to such reality. The feeling gripped us when our embassy was bombed in Belgrade; when our ace pilot was knocked down into the sea by a spy plane at door step. It is gripping us now….
More than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the US is still bent on integrating Taiwan into the American defense strategy in Asia, and still dreaming of using the island as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" to contain the growth of China. Forget about the pledge that "the United States does not seek to contain China" made by Mr Barack Obama when he was in Beijing just two months ago. Sincerity is subject to proof by action, not by words….China's response, no matter how vehement, is justified. No country worthy of respect can sit idle while its national security is endangered and core interests damaged. When someone spits on you, you have to get back. Compared with the US, China is still weak, both economically and militarily. The counter-measures that China has taken -- ranging from repeated protests to plans to halt military exchanges and punish US companies involved in the arms sale, may not be forceful enough to make Washington smart and mend its ways. But a message has to be sent: From now on, the US shall not expect cooperation from China on a wide range of major regional and international issues. If you don't care about our interests, why should we care about yours? China must never waver to make sure that it means what it says.”

7. The Chinese have also been surprised by indications from Washington DC that Mr.Obama intended meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama at a convenient time. He had avoided meeting His Holiness during his last visit to the US which came shortly before Mr.Obama’s visit to China.

8. Chinese analysts are confused as to why this sudden change in the policies of Mr.Obama on two issues----Taiwan and Tibet--- which are among the core concerns of China. Barring what the US viewed as China’s unhelpful stance at the recent Copenhagen summit on climate and Beijing’s dispute with Google, the relations between the two countries have been proceeding smoothly and the Chinese, in Beijing’s perception, have been co-operating with the US in its efforts to stabilize the global economy.

9. Even presuming that the Obama Administration might have been unhappy over the Chinese role in Copenhagen, its dispute with Google over web snooping, its failure to exercise sufficient pressure on North Korea to return to talks on the nuclear issue and its opposition to robust sanctions against Iran, would that be sufficient cause to go ahead with the arms sale to Taiwan at the risk of serious damage to Sino-US relations? That is a question to which the Chinese have not yet been able to find an answer. (31-1-10)

( 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: )

Friday, January 29, 2010



The absence of major acts of jihadi terrorism in the Indian territory outside Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) since November 26,2008, is partly due to the disruption of the command and control of the so-called Indian Mujahideen and the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), partly due to the continuous pressure exercised by the US on the Government of Pakistan to keep the anti-Indian jihadi organisations under control, partly due to the intensified monitoring of the activities of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) by the US agencies after the discovery of the Chicago cell of the LET and partly due to the fact that the terrorists do require time to plan their acts of mass casualty or spectacular terrorism.

2. The disruption of the command and control of the IM and the SIMI has been made possible by the vigorous action taken against them by the Indian intelligence and police after the series of explosions in Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi between May and September 2008. Many trained operatives of the IM and the SIMI are still absconding and have not been located and arrested. So long as they are not neutralised, the danger of a come-back will remain.

3. Despite our cynicism about the effectiveness of the US pressure against Pakistan, it will be churlish not to concede that the US has been more active and vigilant in Pakistan post-26/11 than it has been in the past.

4. The time factor is also important. Even the most well-funded, well-motivated and well-trained terrorist organisation---- whether it be Al Qaeda or the LET or any other organisation---- requires time to prepare and execute an act of mass casualty terrorism or a spectacular act, which gets considerable publicity, even if it does not cause large fatalities. Random explosions such as those organised by the IM and the SIMI do not require much preparation. One can have them at regular intervals provided one has the trained terrorists and the required materials for assembling an improvised explosive device.

5. Spectacular acts such as the Mumbai explosions of March,1993, the attack on the Indian Parliament House in New Delhi in December,2001, the suburbun train explosions at Mumbai in July,2006, and the 26/11 sea-borne attacks in Mumbai by the LET require a long time lead to prepare and execute. The fact that there have been only four such acts over a period of 17 years since March,1993, would show how much time is required between two successful acts of mass casualty or spectacular terrorism. The interrogation of David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the LET has brought out that the LET took about two years to prepare for the 26/11 terrorist strikes. It took such a long time despite the fact that its activities were not closely monitored before 26/11 as they are now.

6. The 14 months of lull in major acts of jihadi terrorism in the Indian territory have enabled Shri P.Chidambaram, our Home Minister, to set in motion a comprehensive plan for revamping our counter-terrorism machinery. A good start has been made, but a lot still remains to be done.

7. This lull should also be utilised to revisit our policies towards Pakistan in respect of our fight against terrorism originating from Pakistani territory. Any re-examination of our policies should take into account the following ground realities.

While tactically Pakistan may be observing some restraint due to the post-26/11 US pressure, strategically it has not given up its policy of using terrorism as a weapon against India to bring about a change in the status quo in J&K.

The US seems satisfied so long as Islamabad observes a tactical restraint so that the US faces no complications in Afghanistan due to a fresh escalation of tensions between the two countries. The US has shown little interest in making Pakistan give up its strategic use of terrorism against India.

The restraint exercised by Pakistan's military-intelligent establishment on the LET and other Punjabi terrorist organisations of ISI inspiration has been only in respect of their acts of terrorism in hinterland India outside J&K. It does not apply to their acts of terrorism against Indian interests in foreign territory such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

8. Should these realities be allowed to contribute to a rigidity in our relations with Pakistan with no scope of any flexibility or should we experiment with some flexibility in order to see whether it produces results? There is no need for a change in our present policy of no resumption of the formal composite dialogue with Pakistan till it gives up its policy of using terrorism and acts decisively at least against the LET, if not against other jihadi terrorist organisations.

9.At the same time, one has to recognise that the sequel to 26/11 has been qualitatively different from the sequels to March,1993, December,2001, and July 2006. Till today, Pakistan has not admitted that March,1993, December,2001 and July,2006, were planned in Pakistani territory with the collusion of the ISI and orchestrated from there. No arrests were made and no prosecution was launched in Pakistani territory.

10. However, in the case of 26/11, Pakistan has been forced to admit that the conspiracy originated in Pakistani territory and invloved important operatives of the LET, seven of whom have been arrested and prosecuted. We have valid reasons to suspect that Pakistan is not sincere in their prosecution and that they may ultimately be acquitted by the court after a charade of a trial.

11. We should not allow this suspicion----though well-founded--- to come in the way of our taking advantage of the seeming Pakistani willingness to co-operate with India in respect of action against those involved in the 26/11 terrorist strikes by establishing institutional linkages betweeen the National Investigation Agency of India and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of Pakistan, which are responsible for investigation and prosecution of the 26/11 terrorist strikes and other major acts of terrorism.

12. Such institutional linkages could help in the long run in promoting habits of mutual legal assistance between the two countries. Such mutual legal assistance has been totally absent between the investigation agencies of the two countries ever since they became independent in 1947. Since 26/11, there has been an attempt by the US and others to nudge Pakistan into changing its policy of no legal assistance to India. The exchange of dossiers of evidence between the two countries since 26/11 has got vitiated by the critical public posture of the two countries, which has not helped in any significant forward movement.

13. Shri Chidambaram should take advantage of the forthcoming meeting of the Home/Interior Ministers of the SAARC countries in Islamabad next month to lay the foundation for such institutional linkages. He should attend the meeting accompanied not only by the Home Secretary, but also by the Director of the Instelligence Bureau, the Directors-General of the NIA and the Border Security Force (BSF) and Shri Rakesh Maria, Joint Commissioner of the Mumbai Police, who co-ordinated the investigation of the 26/11 terrorist strikes and have a comprehensive discussion with Mr.Rehman Mallik, the Pakistani Interior Minister, as to how to successfully prosecute the conspirators .He should also propose the setting up of a hotline between the DsG of the NIA and the FIA to push forward the implementation of the decisions taken away from the glare of publicity.

14. We already have a functioning hot line between the DsG of Military Operations of the two Armies. There is a need to supplement it with a hotline between the principal investigation agencies of the two countries.

15. This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of January 14,2010, titled " India-Pakistan: Need For A Sub-Composite Dialogue" at ( 30-1-10)

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

Thursday, January 28, 2010



The growing Afghan fatigue is clearly discernible among the NATO powers. There is a palpable fear that the NATO forces can't beat the Afghan Taliban. The question is no longer how to win in Afghanistan. It is how to avoid a defeat and an embarrassing withdrawal from Afghanistan.

2. The search for a face-saving formula is already on so that the NATO forces can contemplate an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan. The objective is no longer a modern dewahabised Afghanistan. It is an Afghanistan, which will not once again become the launching pad of Al Qaeda for its attacks on Western targets.

3. The various proposals and ideas being aired at the London conference on Afghanistan, which started on January 28,2010, and in its margins reflect a Western willingness to legitimize sections of the Taliban and give them a role in the governance of Afghanistan provided their return will not mean the return of Al Qaeda and they are prepared to share power with President Hamid Karzai and his associates.

4. The West is prepared to contemplate co-existing with an Afghanistan half modern-half Talibanised. Mr.George Bush and Mr.Tony Blair projected the "war" in Afghanistan not only as a "war" against the Taliban and Al Qaeda as terrorist organisations, but also against the medieval ideologies they represented. After the London terrorist attack of July,2005, Mr.Blair stressed the importance of winning the war ideologically too----not merely on the ground.

5. If the West is now prepared to make a deal with the Afghan Taliban as an organisation or at least with elements in it which are prepared to make peace with the NATO forces, how about its wahabised ideology? Is it prepared to accept the ideology of the Taliban and face the prospect of its coming in the way of the post-9/11 goal of the modernisation of Afghanistan? If the Taliban ideology is OK in Afghanistan if it gives up violence, how can one say that it will not be OK in Pakistan and the rest of the Islamic world?

6.If the West is prepared to legitimise the Taliban or sections of it in Afghanistan, how can it refuse to legitimise the Pakistani Taliban and give it a role in the administration of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan? If it is prepared to legitimise its ideology and objectives in the FATA, how can it refuse to do so in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP)? If it is prepared to legitimise the Afghan and the Pakistani Talibans, which are essentially a Pashtun phenomenon, how can it refuse to legitimise the Punjabi Taliban consisting of organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ)?

7. If the West legitimises the Pashtun and the Punjabi Talibans, will it not weaken the moderate elements in Pakistan and give a fresh momentum towards the Islamic radicalisation of the Af-Pak region? The trend towards the Talibanisation of the Pakistani Pashtun belt gathered force when Pervez Musharraf bought peace with the Islamic fundamentalist organisations and helped them to win power in the elections of 2002 and rule the NWFP for five years. The Afghan Taliban staged its spectacular come-back during this period helped by the fundamentalist parties ruling the NWFP and having a share of the power in Balochistan. The trouble in the Swat Valley of the NWFP started during this period.

8. The 2002-2007 experience in the NWFP showed how short-sighted ideas to buy peace in the short-term produce long-term damages. The US deal with the Afghan Taliban post-1964 in the hope of using it for facilitating the construction of oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Taliban-controlled territory by Unocal, the US oil company, enabled the Taliban to strengthen its position in the Kandahar and Herat areas. The Taliban under Mulla Mohammad Omar captured power in Kabul in September 1996, and became a thorn in the Western flesh. Musharraf bought temporary peace with the Mehsuds of South Waziristan in 2005-06 when his Army faced difficulties in countering them. The peace was short-lived. The result: the emergence of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after the commando raid in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad after July,2007.

9. What the Taliban wants is not re-integration into the Afghan mainstream. It wants its re-conquest of power in Kabul so that it can resume its original mission of setting an Islamic Caliphate in Afghanistan. If the Taliban succeeds in establishing an Islamic Caliphate in Afghanistan, will an Islamic Caliphate in the rest of the Islamic world under the leadership of Al Qaeda be far behind?

10. There are so many questions which would require detailed analysis before the question of the re-integration of even sections of the Taliban into the Afghan mainstream can be considered. Instead of analyzing these questions and working out a comprehensive strategy, attempts are being made to work out another half-cooked strategy, which will be counter-productive. The two Af-Pak strategies worked out by the advisers of Mr.Barack Obama during his first year in office proved to be non-starters. The bleeding stalemate between the NATO forces and the Afghan Taliban continues. The international community cannot afford another half-cooked strategy, which may end up returning power to the Afghan Taliban on a platter.

11. Any feasible Afghan strategy should start with the question: how to neutralize the Afghan Taliban’s sanctuaries in the Quetta area of Pakistan?The US is reluctant to act against those sanctuaries. In the absence of action against sanctuaries, it is not able to make headway in its counter-insurgency operations in Afghan territory. Instead of finding some other way of putting an end to those sanctuaries, it has started toying with the idea of winning over sections of the Taliban, who may not be as radicalized as the Taliban leadership. This is not going to work.

12. Either you have a modern, democratic Government in Kabul or you have a Talibanised one. You cannot have a hybrid--- with a mix of the modern and the medieval. ( 29-1-10)

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2010



The re-election of Mr.Mahinda Rajapaksa in the Presidential elections held in Sri Lanka on January 26,2010, was widely expected, but not the impressive margin of his victory over his opponent Gen.Sarath Fonseka, the former Army Chief backed by the opposition parties, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), known for its former empathy for the LTTE, and significant sections of the Muslims. The support of the TNA and sections of the Muslims to Gen.Fonseka during the election campaign did not translate itself into votes on the polling day. The voter turn-out from the Tamils at 30 per cent was much lower than expected and, as a result, the outcome was decided largely by the choice of the Sinhalese voters. Their overwhelming preference was for Mr.Rajapaksa, who won 57.8 per cent of the total votes polled as against a respectable, but inadequate 40 per cent for Gen.Fonseka.

2. The General, who prematurely left the Army in order to contest the election by cashing in on his perceived popularity because of his leadership of the counter-insurgency campaign against the LTTE, which resulted in a decimation of the dreaded terrorist organisation, has challenged the re-election of Mr.Rajapaksa for a second term on grounds of alleged intimidation of his supporters and misuse of the official machinery by the President's supporters in the Government. According to the correspondent of the British Broadcasting Corporation, there might have been irregularities and some violence during the campaign, but there was no evidence of vote-rigging. Independent observers feel that the voting was largely free and fair and that Mr.Rajapaksa won a fair victory. It could be difficult for Gen.Fonseka to question the legitimacy of Mr.Rajapaksa's victory, but it might take the Election Commission some days before ruling on the General's complaints.

3. What should have been a spectacular victory for Mr.Rajapaksa was somewhat tarnished by the drama on the counting day. Gen.Fonseka and some of his supporters took temporary shelter in a hotel alleging that there was a threat to his life. The Government ordered some units of the Army to surround the hotel on the ground that the General was depending on a large number of Army deserters to protect him when he had been assured of State protection for as long as he desired.

4. The manner in which Fonseka literally para-dropped into the political field after registering a resounding victory over the LTTE last May took off a lot of the shine, which was legitimately his thanks to the determined leadership provided by him to the security forces as a whole in the fight against the LTTE. He was badly advised after he entered the political field. The promises made by him to the Tamils in order to win their support did not carry conviction with large sections of the Tamils aware of his hawkish anti-Tamil stance during the final months of his career in the Army. At the same time, it seems to have antagonised many Sinhalese, who might have otherwise supported him. The way Fonseka played his political cards after deciding to contest the election made him appear as erratic and irresponsible. His wild allegations against Mr.Gothbaya Rajapaksa, the President's ex-army brother who, as the Defence Secretary co-ordinated the counter-insurgency campaign, did not go well with the Sinhalese in general and large sections of the Army in particular. Fonseka's bruised image of being erratic in his behaviour and irresponsible in his pronouncements might rule him out of reckoning for any future role in the opposition. Fonseka might find in retrospect in the months to come that he sounded his own political death-knell.

5. Next to India, Sri Lanka has had the most impressive record in South Asia as a well-functioning democracy. The ill-advised nature of Fonseka's campaign tended to politicise sections of the Army and weaken the image of Mr.Rajapaksa as the supreme commander of the Arrmed Forces. While Fonseka had every right to aspire to be the President of the country, the way he tried to win, not by a well-argued political platform and well-projected ideas on the future of the country, but through wild allegations, insinuations and the like proved counter-productive. One would be watching closely the post-election landscape to see whether his divisive, polarising campaign will have any fall-out on the discipline and morale of the Army. The indications till now are that the Army has maintained its long traditions of political neutrality. If these traditions continue undamaged, the future of democracy in Sri Lanka will continue to be safe.

6. Mr.Rajapaksa has won an impressive endorsement of 57.8 per cent of the voters for his political leadership of the counter-LTTE campaign. It was a joint victory against the LTTE by the political and military leadership. The Army's success under Fonseka was made possible by the steadfast political leadership of Mr.Rajapaksa. It was a vote, which expressed not only an endorsement of the past record of Mr.Rajapaksa, but also reflected the future hopes and expectations of the voters. The military aspect of the campaign against the LTTE has been brought to a successful conclusion, but the political follow-up to remove the widespread alienation of the Tamils in Sri Lanka as well as abroad is yet to start in right earnest. Mr.Rajapaksa sought premature elections in the hope that his success in the elections would strengthen his hands while attempting to undertake the political follow-up. Not only the Tamils of Sri Lanka, but also India, which has a keen interest in internal peace and harmony in Sri Lanka, will be watching with interest the political follow-up measures taken by Mr.Rajapaksa to re-integrate the Tamils into the national mainstream.

7. The other daunting challenge for Mr.Rajapaksa would be to reverse the policy of years of low priority for economic development so that Sri Lanka could resume its march towards economic prosperity and a better quality of life for its citizens after having achieved internal peace. There will be competitive offers from China, Pakistan and the West to help Sri Lanka in the execution of its economic development plans, but ultimately it is the availability of the huge market next door in India, which will determine the success of Sri Lanka's economic development plans. Sri Lanka and South India with Tamil Nadu in particular could mutually fuel each other's dash to prosperity. India has already been taking keen interest in helping Sri Lanka in its economic development. This has to be stepped up. South Indian entrepreneurs have to be encouraged by the Governments of India and the States of the South to network more closely with their Sri Lankan counterparts in this regard.

8. A fall-out of the counter-insurgency campaign against the LTTE will continue to haunt the Rajapaksa Government. This is the impression in the human rights circles of the world that the entire truth has not been told about the methods followed by Sri Lanka for crushing the LTTE. How skilfully and diplomatically the Rajapaksa Government deals with their questions and reservations will determine how fast it is able to leave the past to historians and concentrate on the future. (28-1-10)

( 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: )




Sections of the US media, including the ABC News, have been reporting about the alleged plans of Al Qaeda to use female suicide bombers of non-Arab appearance and with possibly Western passports for future acts of terrorism.

2.Richard Clarke, who was an adviser on counter-terrorism to then President Geoge Bush in 2001, has been quoted as saying: "They have trained women. There are others who are still out there who have been trained and who are clean skins – that means people who we do not have a record of, people who may not look like Al Qaeda terrorists, who may not be Arabs, and may not be men."

3. A perusal of the reports on this subject appearing in the US and British media gives one reason to believe that this information might have come from Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian student who tried unsuccessfully to bring down a transatlantic airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day. He has been under interrogation by the FBI since then.

4. Use of female suicide bombers is nothing new. Palestinians have done it against Israeli civilians. The LTTE of Sri Lanka used a female suicide bomber to kill former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May,1991. There have been other incidents of acts of suicide terrorism by female bombers in Iraq and Jordan in recent years.

5. Terrorist organisations tend to use female suicide bombers for two reasons. Firstly, they are more fiercely motivated than men, particularly if they or their close relatives had suffered at the hands of the security forces which they want to avenge. Secondly, terrorist organisations using female bombers calculate on the possibility that female bombers would be less subject to strict security checks than males. They are able to avoid access control with greater use than male bombers.

6. The dilemma likely to be faced by Western security agencies would be in identifying the potential female suicide bombers of non-Arab appearance unless they manage to pick up tell-tale clues from electronic intercepts. In the case of David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, one saw the LET and the 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri trying to use a person of mixed Pakistani-American marriage with non-Pakistani physical features to infiltrate India by concealing his Pakistani and Muslim origin in order to facilitate the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai.

7. If Al Qaeda has really recruited female suicide bombers of non-Arab appearance as has been reported, they could have come from either White female converts to Islam or from children of mixed marriages such as Headley, who could easily pass off as non-Muslims of white extraction and hoodwink the security. There have been no reports in the past of instances of white female converts to Islam volunteering themselves to help organisations such as Al Qaeda. Are there female Headleys in the ranks of Al Qaeda? This is an angle which needs to be explored. (27-1-10)

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



In recent months, there has been considerable focus----rightly so--- on Chinese cyber snooping and disruption. The intensified debate on the subject started in Governmental circles of the West----particularly in the US----- and has since been given greater credibility by Google's open allegations against the Chinese of indulging in cyber snooping against anti-Beijing political dissidents and Tibetan nationalists patronising Google has been reported that the Chinese cyber snooping and disruption attempts were orchestrated in such a manner as to make it appear that they originated from servers in Taiwan. Google claims to have established that they actually originated from China.

2. The Chinese authorities have countered this by flatly denying these allegations and by making counter-allegations of US cyber snooping and disruption attacks directed at China by using servers allegedly in Iran. They have also been disseminating stories of the close links of Google with the administration of President Barack Obama. They have alleged that Mr.Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, was among the first to endorse the Presidential bid of Mr.Obama, that Google was the fourth largest corporate contributor to Mr.Obama's funds for the Presidential campaign and that its CEO acts as an adviser on science and technology to Mr.Obama. The attempted Chinese insinuation is that Google and the Obama Administration are acting in tandem in their attempts to create fears about the Chinese cyber capabilities and that the entire campaign is motivated---politically as well as commercially.

3. India as the neighbour of China with a long-pending border dispute with that country and as an aspirant for a leading position in Asia on par with China----an aspiration not liked by Beijing--- has to take note of the increasing reports on the Chinese interest in the use of the cyber space for advancing its national interests.Modernisation of its information warfare capabilities has been an important component of China's military modernisation ever since the first Gulf war of 1991.

4. The Gulf war of 1991 and the US-led military campaign in Iraq in 2003 showed that in modern wars between States, the decisive blows may come in the very beginning if one has the capability to render the adversary information-blind by disrupting, if not destroying, the adversary's information systems. With its information networks paralysed, Saddam Hussein's Army had to literally grope in the dark in its futile attempts to stop the US advance.

5.If the Iraq war demonstrated the decisive role played by information warfare capabilities in a military campaign against a State adversary, the US-led military campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Af-Pak region for nine years now has demonstrated that modern information warfare capabilities cannot be decisive against a non-State adversary, not dependent on networked information systems. The Taliban and Al Qaeda have been able to use the Internet for their own campaigns without creating a dependence on them which could increase their vulnerability. As a result, the USA's superior information warfare capabilities have been of very little use to it in its military campaign in the Af-Pak region.

6. Two concerns have been the driving force of the feverish Chinese acquisition of information warfare capabilities since 1991. The first concern relates to Taiwan. They are worried that in the event of a military conflict Taiwan may do unto them what the US did unto Saddam Hussein's Army.China's protective cyber security architecture is meant to defend their networked systems from a surprise attack by Taiwanese information warriors----either acting on their own or with the collusion of the US. At the same time, they are acquiring an offensive information warfare capability against Taiwan. They are aware of their limitations vis-a-vis the US and do not have any pretensions of being able in the near future to disrupt the US information systems. Their interest in the case of the US is limited to collecting intelligence through the Internet and preventing cyber snooping and disruption by the US against China.

7.The second Chinese concern arises from the increasing use of the Internet by political dissidents to discredit the one-party rule and by the Tibetans and the Uighur separatists to destabilise Tibet and Xinjiang. The disturbances in Tibet two years ago and in Xinjiang last year added to the Chinese alarm. Even before these disturbances, the Chinese have been paying attention to creating in their intelligence agencies a capability for cyber intelligence and counter-intelligence and disruption through cyber covert actions. The alleged Chinese attacks against Google seem to have been an outcome of the aggressive Chinese attempts to strengthen their information warfare capabilities against non-State actors to strengthen their internal security.

8. The capabilities, which the Chinese have been developing since 1991 primarily for use against Taiwan and non-state actors, can be used with equal ease against our own information systems as well as those of the US and other countries. Normally, information warfare capabilities are of universal application. They are not nation or adversary specific.However, offensive architectures have to be developed in a country-specific manner even though ultimately they become amenable to universal application. Similarly, protective architectures are of universal application. If one develops a comprehensive protective architecture it can be used to defend oneself against any power----whether China or Pakistan or the US or any other country.

9. India's needs are: Firstly, a protective architecture, which can protect us from cyber attacks of any origin; secondly, an offensive architecture, which could give us a first strike capability against China and Pakistan in the case of a war with either or both of them and thirdly, a cyber intelligence, counter-intelligence and covert action capability for use against State and non-State actors in times of peace as well as military conflict.

10. Having been a pre-eminent information technology power of Asia for many years, India could have had a head-start over China in developing information warfare capabilities----offensive and defensive. However, we were slow to draw the right lessons from the Gulf war of 1991 and remiss in launching a project for acquiring the required capabilities. My own assessment is that we are at least eight to 10 years behind China in developing our information warfare capabilities. If at least now we show a determination to catch up with China and find the necessary financial and human resources, we should be able to do so.

11. In developing our protective architecture, we should not be over-focussed on China and possibly Pakistan.We should be conscious of likely dangers of penetration of our information systems by the agencies of other countries not for aggressive purposes but for collecting intelligence. Countries such as the US have been in this game for longer than China and have better capabilities than the Chinese. The fact that the Chinese are getting caught or exposed frequently shows that there are still deficiencies in their capabilities and that their deniability is still weak.The fact that there have been fewer instances of the US being detected cyber snooping shows that its capabilities and deniability are stronger than those of China. it does not show that the US is a saint in the game of cyber snooping and disruption. (27-1-10)

( 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: )

Monday, January 25, 2010



(Shortly after I retired on August 31,1994, I had prepared a brief paper on the dangers of what I called microchip moles----- that is, collection of intelligence through the cyber space by national adversaries.I also wrote a paper for the quarterly journal of the United Service Institute (USI) on what I called weapons of mass disruption---- a reference to microchip moles. On October 14,2000, the "Business Line" of the "Hindu" group of publications of Chennai had published an article written by me titled "Proxy War in Cyber Space". It is repeated below. It is available at . In May 2000, I was nominated a member of the Special Task Force For the Revamping of the Intelligence Agencies set up by the Government of then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee under the chairmanship of Shri G.C.Saxena, former chief of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW). I prepared for it a paper on cyber intelligence (using the Internet for the collection of intelligence about others) and cyber counter-intelligence (preventing others from using the Internet for collecting intelligence about us). Some of the suggestions in my paper found mention in the final report of the Task Force. I do not know what follow-up action was taken by the Government. I came to understand that during one of his interactions with his Indian counterparts, Richard Armitage, the then US Deputy Secretary of State, proposed that the US and India co-operate in cyber security. He was reportedly concerned for three reasons---- the increasing Chinese capability for cyber intelligence and cyber disruption; the likelihood of Al Qaeda paralysing the global economy through cyber attacks and the security of the information systems (IS) of the increasing number of US companies outsourcing in India due to what Americans perceived as poor cyber-security consciousness and expertise in India. The Government of Shri Vajpayee accepted his suggestion and an Indo-US Cyber Security Forum was set up consisting of governmental as well as non-governmental experts. Some years later, the Government was shocked to find that the US agencies had used the Forum itself as a Trojan Horse in an attempt to penetrate the IS of the National Security Council Secretariat, which is part of the Prime Minister's Office. One does not know what happened to the Forum thereafter. The recent reports of extensive Chinese use of web snooping against their own nationals and foreigners should not have come as a surprise to those aware of the priority attached by the Chinese to acquiring a capability for information warfare ever since the first Gulf war of 1991. One of the biggest advantages of cyber snooping and disruption in peace time is its deniability. Google may accuse the Chinese of cyber snooping, but will not be able to prove it. Everyday, there are hundreds of instances of cyber snooping going on----- by governmental and non-governmental entities, by lone cyber warriors as well as State warriors. In the conventional intelligence world, physical surveillance is an important tool of counter-intelligence. Many human moles are detected and trapped through physical surveillance. Have we been able to develop a technique of cyber surveillance, as effective as human surveillance? Unless we do so,our cyber counter-intelligence will continue to be weak. Now read what I wrote on October 14,2000 ---B.Raman )


B. Raman

THE principal threats to networked information systems (IS) arise from paralysis or destruction, clandestine data distortion or transfer and defacements.

Paralysis or destruction could be caused either by directly interfering with the IS or by indirectly disabling the source of power supply or the telecommunication system, without which networks cannot function.

The Gulf war saw the US and the UK paralysing the networks in Iraq by direct interference with the IS through microchip moles planted in the hardware/software supplied to that country during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s as well as by aerial strikes on the telecommunication system. During the Kosovo conflict last year, the power stations in Belgrade were paralysed by the US through the use of the graphite bombs, thereby rendering the networks non-functional.

Effective use of the graphite bombs requires precise identification of the location of the power stations. With the Nuclear-Driven Radio Frequency Warheads (NDRF), reportedly under development by the US, such identification is not necessary.

From a satellite, one can reportedly cause the explosion of the NDRF at a height of 50-100 km above the target area, creating an intense electro-magnetic field which, it is claimed, would disrupt all command and control equipment, computer networks, powe r grids and telecommunication systems within a radius of about 1,000 km, without any radiation fall-out or other collateral damage on the ground.

Data distortion is a new stealth weapon, the dangers of which have not been adequately understood by security experts, particularly in India. When data are destroyed or defaced, one immediately notices it and can manage the resulting crisis with the help of back-up systems and redundancies, consciously created at different nodal points, in the State as well as in the private sector, as in University networks, for example, with the latter's co-operation.

Skillful and clandestine data distortion will often be noticed only after something has seriously gone wrong, such as a missile failing on the launch pad or going astray.

Data transfer, which involves the theft of sensitive or classified data from an IS, often remains unnoticed unless the establishment concerned has a competent computer security staff.

Data defacement is the most widely-reported, but not-so-dangerous of the possible threats to IS from internal or external elements. One notices it immediately after it has occurred and can take the necessary corrective action. In fact, defacements help o ne, in a way, by making one aware of the weak points in the IS.

Governments as well as private establishments avoid admitting penetration of their IS, lest public confidence in the dependability of their systems be shaken. As such, available statistics, tabulated by groups such as `Attrition', are often incomplete. M oreover, they document mostly instances of defacements. No reliable data are available of successful instances of IS penetration, which resulted in paralysis or destruction of systems or in data transfer or distortion.

But these statistics do give an idea of the increasing magnitude of the threats to IS security from hackers, working either independently or at the possible instance of intelligence agencies or alienated anti-government groups, including terrorists. Hack ers are the mercenaries of the new millennium and the advent of the networked IS has enabled individuals to wage a war against a state, unnoticed and often undetected till the worst has happened.

Since August 1995, there have been 7,912 reported instances of penetration for defacements, of which 5,149 or 65.08 per cent were in the US, and the remaining 2,763 or 34.92 per cent in other countries. Among the US establishments whose IS was reportedly penetrated were private companies (3,303), non-governmental organisations (556), network providers (435), universities and research laboratories (376), the navy (58), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (50), the army (47), the air force ( 12), the Marines (5), other military establishments (34), the Department of Energy, which controls nuclear research laboratories (8), other government departments (231) and banks (47).

The large number of penetrations in the US could be attributed partly to the large spread of networked IS in the US, as compared to other countries, and to the better system of reporting due to the regular sensitisation of public servants and business ex ecutives about the need for prompt reporting of penetrations and about the dangers of a cover-up.

The US is believed to have the best IS security infrastructure in the world in terms of laws, trained computer security experts, protection technologies, and so on. The fact that, despite this, there have been so many instances of reported and often unde tected (until post-event) penetration would give an idea of the seriousness of the threats which countries such as India, which are at least 10 years behind the US in developing similar computer security consciousness and protection infrastructure, face from potential cyber invaders.

In Asia, the largest number of penetrations for defacements since 1995 has been from South Korea (142), followed by Japan (63), China (59), Malaysia (46), India (37), Singapore (20) and Pakistan (17). The much smaller number in Pakistan as compared to In dia does not necessarily mean that IS security there is better than in India. It is more due to the fact of a much larger spread of networks in India. The more the networks, the greater the possibility of penetration.

Pakistan lags far behind India in information technology (IT), but Gen. Pervez Musharraf, its self-styled chief executive, has embarked on an ambitious programme for catching up with India. Budgetary allocations have been increased considerably to promot e computer education and research and to persuade Pakistani IT experts in the West to help in this regard.

However, there is one domain in which Pakistan seems to have taken a lead over India -- in mobilising the resources of overseas Pakistani and other Islamic IT experts and hackers in its electronic psychological warfare (Psywar) against India and in raisi ng a dedicated corps of hackers, who could be used to identify weak points in the IS of Indian establishments and use them appropriately.

The potential of the World Wide Web (WWW) for Psywar purposes was realised by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) long before the Indian intelligence did.

There are about 150 jehadi web sites today. They provide the following services:

*Dissemination of information regarding jehad in different countries.

*Instructions on how to become a Mujahideen, how to prepare improvised explosive devices, and so on.

*Database on where one could purchase arms and ammunition and their prices.

*A bibliography of 266 articles on urban guerilla warfare and low-intensity conflicts.

*Anti-state propaganda.

About one-third of these Web sites relate to the so-called jehad in Kashmir and are run by organisations such as the JKLF, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Groups such as Attrition periodically publish a list of the 10 most active hacker groups of the world. Two groups of Pakistani hackers, calling themselves `GforcePakistan' and `Pakistanhc' figure in this list. The first one is estimated to have caused 11 0 defacements all over the world since 1995 and the second 99. Their targets include not only India, but also the US to protest against the US attitude on Kashmir.

A third group, the Muslim Online Syndicate (MOS), surfaced in March last, with an unverified claim of having defaced almost 600 Web sites in India and taken control of several Indian Government and private computer systems, in protest against alleged Ind ian atrocities in Kashmir.

Mr D. Ian Hopper, the CNN's Interactive Technology editor, reported as follows: ``Unlike the majority of Web vandals, the MOS members say they secretly take control of a server, then deface the site only when they `have no more use' for the data or the s erver itself.''He quoted one of the members of the group as saying as that: ``The servers we control range from harmless mail and Web services to `heavy-duty' government servers. The data is only being archived for later use if deemed necessary.''

It was suspected that the MOS managed to have access to Indian Web sites and IS through Alabanza, a Pakistani-controlled American Internet Service Provider, which had reportedly a collaboration agreement with a well-known Indian dotcom company, without t he latter being aware of its Pakistani connection.

There are many other Pakistani and Islamic hacker groups which have been active, with some of them giving online tutorials on how to use malicious software and hack and even providing malicious software, which can be downloaded and sent to someone whose computer one wants to damage.

These groups describe the growing number of hackers in the Pakistani diaspora as ``Pakistan's greatest natural resource''. The fact that they are able to indulge in such blatantly illegal activities online despite stringent Western laws against cyber cri me and vandalism should be a matter of concern to Indian national security managers.

Cyber Space Security Management has already become an important component of National Security Management, Military-related Scientific Security Management and Intelligence Management all over the world. Future intrusions threatening our national security may not necessarily come from across the land frontier, or in air space or across maritime waters, but happen in cyberspace. Intelligence operations and covert actions will increasingly become cyber-based. It is important that our intelligence agencies gear themselves up to this new threat.

It is, therefore, advisable to put in place a `National Cyber Space Security Management Policy' to define the tasks that need attention, specify the responsibilities of the individual agencies and provide for an integrated approach and architecture, whic h is now lacking.

(The author is former Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India.)




Osama bin Laden's unusually brief message of January 24,2010, titled "Osama to Obama", which was broadcast by Al Jazeera, carries three significant points.

2. Firstly, it seeks to convey the impression to his followers in the Muslim world that he continues to be in charge of Al Qaeda despite the recent high profile rise of Al Qaeda groups in Yemen and Somalia.

3.Secondly, it tries to project that it was he who had inspired the Nigerian student who unsuccessfully attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day. He does not use a collective noun. He says: "The message I want to convey to you through the plane of the hero, mujahid Umar al Farouk [Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab] reaffirms a previous message that the heroes of 9/11 conveyed to you and was repeated frequently. "

4.Thirdly, he attributes the Detroit attempt to the sufferings of the Palestinians in Gaza and warns that the US will continue to be targeted so long as it supports Israel.

5. He does not attribute the Detroit attempt to larger causes such as Iraq or Afghanistan or the US Drone strikes in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Since the message was disseminated just days before the January 28 Afghanistan conference in London, one would have expected a reference at least to Afghanistan, but he is silent.

6. My interpretation is that the message has the limited purpose of underlining that he continues to be in total charge of Al Qaeda and nothing more. ( 25-1-10)

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

Sunday, January 24, 2010




The recent reports regarding the interest of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) in an air-borne terrorist attack on Indian and British targets have to be taken seriously in the light of the capability exhibited by the LET on 26/11 of 2008 for a sea-borne terrorist attack in Mumbai and the recurrent capabilities of Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda elements for air-borne terrorist strikes.

2.The meticulous manner in which the LET operatives in Pakistan collected operational intelligence from India through David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the LET and planned and executed the operation spoke of its operational capability, which is almost on par with that of Al Qaeda. For months before 26/11, there were periodic reports of the LET’s plans for a sea-borne attack on Mumbai, but these reports were not taken seriously and a strategy worked out to pre-empt the LET attack and to neutralize it without much damage if preventive measures failed. We should not commit a similar omission in respect of the current reports about the plans of the LET and the HUJI for an air-mounted action.

3. The Palestinian and the Khalistani terrorist organizations and Al Qaeda had always shown a fascination for air-mounted strikes because of their publicity value and their ability to demoralize the civilian population and to discredit the State’s security machinery. One could mention as examples the hijackings by the Palestinians and the Khalistanis, the blowing up of the Kanishka aircraft of the Air India by the Babbar Khalsa in 1985 and of a Pan Am aircraft in 1988 by the Abu Nidal organization with Libyan support, the 9/11 terrorist strikes by Al Qaeda in the US Homeland and its subsequent attempts to blow up two flights to the US through a shoe bomber shortly after 9/11 and by a Nigerian student on December 25,2009. There were two thwarted or failed attempts (Operation Bojinka) by Al Qaeda or pro-Al Qaeda elements to orchestrate the simultaneous blowing-ups of a number of aircraft---- once through Ramzi Yousef, then based in the Philippines, in the 1990s, and a second time through some members of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK in 2006.

4. Apart from nine air attacks by the Khalistani terrorists in the 1980s---- seven hijackings, the blowing up of the Kanishka aircraft and the attempt to blow up another Air India plane at the Narita airport of Tokyo on the same day in 1985, India had also faced a hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane from Kathmandu by the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) in 1999. The HUM managed to take the hijacked aircraft to Kandahar and forced the Government of India to accept its demands for the release of some terrorists in custody in Jammu & Kashmir.

5. Faced with difficulties in mounting an air-borne terrorist strike against El Air, the Israeli airline, because of their tight physical security, the Palestinian terrorists focused on attacking the ground capabilities of the El Air. In the 1980s, they mounted a spectacular commando style attack in the Rome airport.

6. The tightening of physical security all over the world during the last 20 years has not made the terrorists give up their attempts to stage air-mounted attacks. Examples of their success in circumventing tightened physical security are the 9/11 strikes in the US homeland and the two attempts to blow up US-bound planes from Europe. These two attempts illustrated the terrorists’ capability to get into planes with concealed explosive devices despite physical security. The 9/11 strikes in the US marked the beginning of air-borne suicide attacks.

7. The recent reports regarding the LET’s plans for an air-mounted strike speak of the possibility of another hijacking similar to the one organized by the HUM in 1999 and its attempts to procure paragliders reminiscent of the LTTE’s initial attempts to procure microlite aircraft and its subsequent procurement of small aircraft capable of ground strikes. Ground strikes from the air with light planes or gliders could help in circumventing access control and targeting critical infrastructure such as oil refineries, off-shore oil/gas platforms, nuclear establishments etc. Paragliders could also be used for infiltration of trained terrorists.

8.According to the “Sunday Times” of the UK as quoted by “The Hindu” of January 25,2010, the Indian intelligence agencies are reported to have alerted MI-5, the British security service,about the suspected plans of Pakistan-based pro-Al Qaeda elements to hijack an Indian aircraft originating from Delhi or Mumbai and crash it into a British city. The recent upgradation of threat level in the UK from “substantial” to “severe” but one below “imminent” has been attributed to this Indian warning. There is a possibility that the terrorist plans might be related to the January 28 London conference on Afghanistan. According to the “Sunday Times”, the Indian intelligence came to know of this plot during the interrogation of Amjad Khwaja of the HUJI, who was arrested recently in India.

9. The “Sunday Times” reported: “ It (the Indian warning) did not state that Britain was a specific target, but police security sources said it had raised fears in London that a British city might be attacked.”

10. The HUJI of Pakistan, which has an active branch in Bangladesh, has close links with the so-called 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri, who used to operate in Kashmir as the head of the 313 Brigade and now operates from North Waziristan where he has close links with Al Qaeda. Since shifting from Kashmir to North Waziristan, he has embraced the global jihadi agenda of Al Qaeda in place of his previous Kashmir-centric agenda and has been talking of the need for a major terrorist strike in the West.

11. The interrogation of Headley by the FBI brought out his role in trying to use Headley and others in Europe for a spectacular attack on the Danish paper, which published cartoons of Prophet Mohammad in 2005. The Copenhagen plot was thwarted by the arrest of Headley by the FBI on October 3,2009.

12. Against the backdrop of these reports, what Khwaja reportedly told the Indian intelligence about the HUJI’s plans for a 9/11 style terrorist strike using an Indian aircraft hijacked by Pakistani terrorists has to be taken seriously and aviation security on the ground as well as in the air has to be stepped up. The oft-exhibited capability of Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda elements to identify gaps in aviation security and exploit them show that the security measures taken after 9/11 are not adequate and need a continuous review. ( 25-1-10)

( 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 reply has been sent by me in response to a query from a journalist-reader of my articles:

Before 9/11, there was a counter-terrorism centre in the CIA, which had officers from various counter-terrorism agencies, who worked under a CIA Officer. This was part of the CIA because Director CIA was also Director Central Intelligence and in that capacity was responsible for co-ordination of all agencies of the intelligence community.The GC Saxena Task Force on intelligence revamp studied its working and recommended the creation of a similar counter-terrorism centre in the IB to consist of officers of various agencies and headed by an IB officer. The Government created it in the IB, but for reasons not clear to me called it a Multi-Agency Centre and not a counter-terrorism centre. It did not get going for a long time because of the reported reluctance of the R&AW and MI to depute their officers to work in the MAC under an IB officer. It has now got going since 26/11 in full steam.In 2004, the post of Director Central Intelligence was replaced by the post of Director, National Intelligence to coordinate. He is a member of the Presidential Executive Staff and works directly under the President. The NCTC was created as a separate organisation and placed under him. Director CIA, who is no longer responsible for co-ordination, has no control over it. The CIA continues to have its Counter-terrorism centre, but since 2004 it does not have a multi-agency role. Now the multi-agency responsibility is that of the NCTC under Director National Intelligence. All agencies have their own counter-terrorism divisions or centres, but their working is co-ordinated by the NCTC. The NCTC does not have an independent operational capability. It operates through different agencies. For example, if the NCTC decides that Drone strikes in the FATA must be stepped up, it is the CIA, which has the control of the Drone fleet, that will carry out the task. The NCTC by itself does not have a Drone capability. If the NCTC decides that there should be a covert ground attack against the Taliban or Al Qaeda in the FATA, it is the special forces of the Pentagon who will carry it out and not the NCTC, which has not been given any capability for covert action. ( 25-1-10)

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

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Friday, January 22, 2010



Dear Shri Menon,

I welcome your appointment as the National Security Adviser and wish you well in your new assignment. My purpose in writing this open letter to you is to share with you my thinking on the tasks ahead of you. Since retiring from the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) on August 31, 1994, I have written over a hundred articles on national security management. This letter will repeat some of the points figuring in those articles which are still valid and some others to which I will be giving open expression for the first time.

2. The importance of an action-oriented analytical process was highlighted by Lord Franks of the UK, who was asked by the British Government to enquire into the failure of Britain's national security managers to anticipate and forestall the Argentine occupation of the Falklands Islands in 1982, which led to a brief, but fierce naval conflict. Lord Franks concluded that though there was no secret intelligence regarding the Argentine intentions and plans, there was considerable open source reporting in the US and Argentine media on this, but these reports were not taken seriously and analysed either in the Foreign Office or in the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) to see what those reports implied and what action was called for. Hence, the so-called surprise.

3. The US National Commission, which enquired into the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US Homeland, stressed the importance of the culture of joint action for dealing effectively with terrorism. It pointed out that effective coordination alone would not be adequate unless it was supplemented by the operating principle of joint action by all those having any responsibility for counter-terrorism. This principle implies that every piece of intelligence is analysed jointly by everyone responsible for counter-terrorism and acted upon. One of the main purposes of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), which came into being in 2004 under the supervision of the Director, National Intelligence, (DNI), would be to enforce this responsibility for joint action. Every counter-terrorism agency would be individually and jointly responsible for ensuring that significant pieces of intelligence are promptly analysed and acted upon.

4. The recent enquiries by officials of the Barack Obama Administration into the failed attempt by a Nigerian student to blow up a US commercial flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day brought out that even more than five years after the NCTC was set up, the culture of an action-oriented analytical approach has not taken hold in the US national security establishment.

5. The father of the student alerted a US diplomat and a CIA officer in Nigeria that his son had got radicalised and was suspected to be in Yemen. The diplomat conveyed the information to the State Department and the CIA officer to his agency's headquarters. Both passed on the information to the NCTC. Days before the student boarded the plane at Amsterdam, the information that he is a security risk was available in the data bases of the US Embassy in Nigeria, the State Department, the CIA and the NCTC, but it was not subjected to a joint analysis to see what the information implied and what joint action on it was called for.

6. In his statement in the Lok Sabha after taking over as the Home Minister after the 26/11 terrorist strike, Shri P.Chidambaram mentioned that he found that responsibility for follow-up action on intelligence reports was diffused. In December last year, the "Hindustan Times" had reported that twice in September, 2008, the R&AW had reported about the Lashkar-e-Toiba's plans for a sea-borne terrorist attack in Mumbai. The paper also quoted a senior unnamed official of the R&AW as saying that its responsibility was to collect and disseminate intelligence and that follow-up action on the intelligence disseminated was not its responsibility. This showed the total absence of the culture of joint action in our national security establishment. This should be a matter of serious concern and needs to be addressed.

7. The Kargil conflict of 1999 revealed a serious deficiency in our analysis and follow-up action process. Every year, the Indian Army had been withdrawing its troops from the Kargil heights during winter. Before the onset of the winter of 1998-99, there were intelligence reports of unusual Pakistani Army activity in the Gilgit-Baltistan area. In the middle of 1998, Shri Shyamal Dutta, the then Director of the Intelligence Bureau, had analysed these activities and sent his assessment to the Prime Minister's Office and other Ministries concerned. One would have expected an immediate meeting of the JIC to consider the implications of these developments and to recommend to the Government whether in the light of these developments the annual winter withdrawal by the Army should be cancelled. Nothing was done in Delhi and the decision to withdraw as usual was taken locally. The result: the Pakistani occupation of the heights.

8. One would have thought that in the light of the detailed lessons drawn by the Kargil Review Committee, the analysis and follow-up action process would have improved. Unfortunately, this was not so. This became evident during the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. The two reports received in September,2008, about the danger of a sea-borne attack by the LET were analysed and security was upgraded by the Mumbai police, the naval authorities and those in charge of physical security in the Taj Hotel. Subsequently, nothing happened for seven weeks. There were no fresh reports.

9. There should have been an analysis in Delhi on what this lack of activity and absence of fresh reports implied. Did it mean that the threat no longer existed and that the security could be down-graded? These were very important questions which should have been examined in Delhi and instructions issued to the concerned authorities in Mumbai as to whether the high-level of security should continue or could be downgraded. This was not done and there were no fresh instructions to Mumbai from Delhi. The local authorities in Mumbai downgraded the security on their own, presuming that the threat was less likely. Delhi was not aware of this till the terrorists struck on 26/11.

10. The analysis, assessment and follow-up action process has been in a state of neglect for many years. Nothing illustrates this more than the state of the JIC. In 1983, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, bifurcated the JIC and created a separate JIC for internal security. Two years later, Rajiv Gandhi reversed her decision and re-merged them. Officers of the IB and the R&AW started monopolising the post of the JIC Chairman. When Shri Inder Gujral was the Prime Minister, a move was made to consider military officers too for this post. As no consensus could be reached on this, the post was kept vacant for nearly three years and the chief of the R&AW was asked to hold additional charge as the Chairman of the JIC. He did not have adequate time to discharge this responsibility. The JIC functioned with no head and only half a body. There was a dramatic drop in the flow of military intelligence reports to the JIC.

11. The Atal Behari Vajpayee Government, which created a new national security management mechanism headed by the NSA, felt that with the creation of the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), the JIC had become superfluous and made it a subordinate division of the NSCS with very limited independent powers of analysis, assessment and follow-up action. The Task Force for the Revamping of the Intelligence Apparatus headed by Shri G.C.Saxena, former head of the R&AW, recommended in 2000 that the JIC should be rescued from the limbo to which it had remained confined for about five years and restored to its original authority. It took another six years to implement its recommendation.

12. Previously, for nearly a decade, we had no body for analysis, assessment and follow-up action, today we have three---- the JIC of the old vintage, the NSCS of the 1998-99 creation and the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), which came into existence in 1999 as a body of non-governmental analysts and advisers on national security. From a state of practically no analysis, we have gravitated to one of a plethora of analysis. Analysis for analysis sake without orienting it towards action has become the name of the game.

13. There is a need to re-visit the national security management system created in 1998-99 and subsequently modified by the revival of the JIC in order to ensure that the JIC, the NSCS, the NSAB and the NCTC, to be created in the Ministry of Home Affairs, work in a co-ordinated manner instead of adding to the prevailing confusion. The main responsibility of the JIC and the NCTC should be action-oriented analysis and follow-up action---- the JIC in respect of non-terrorism related threats to national security and the NCTC focusing on terrorism-related threats. The NSCS should confine itself to policy-related analysis to examine how past and present policies in national security matters have been working and whether any changes are called for. The NSAB should provide the inputs for the policy-related work of the NSCS. It should be encouraged to function as the generator of new ideas on specific issues to be referred to it by the PM and the NSA.

Warm regards,

Yours sincerely,

B.Raman, Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi.

Shri Shiv Shankar Menon,


New Delhi.

Thursday, January 21, 2010



M.K.Narayanan ( also known as MK or MIKE) and I were contemporaries in college, but we had not known each other as students. I met him for the first time in July,1967, when I joined the Intelligence Bureau (IB) as a Joint Assistant Director (JAD). MK, six years senior to me in the Indian Police Service, had joined the IB some years earlier and was working as an Assistant Director ( AD) in a Division dealing with communism. Though very young in the intelligence profession, he had already made a name as a brilliant analyst and was held in great respect by his seniors and other colleagues.

2. He used to share a room with another officer in the South Block. All the young officers of the IB religiously used to gather in his room every day for a shared lunch. It used to be an uproarious gathering discussing men, matters and memories in a humourous manner. MK had always been known for his keen---- and often debunking--- sense of humour and he used to keep everybody laughing. His humour endeared him to many, but caused misunderstandings with others who could not appreciate the humour in his remarks.

3. R.N.Kao was a Joint Director then and occupied a room two rooms after MK's. He used to regularly go home for lunch, but often, before going home, he would peep into MK's lunch club as we used to call it, greet all of us and leave.

4. MK used to talk to Kao as freely and as humourously as he used to talk to me and other juniors without the least sign of nervousness. If I am asked to name three qualities of MK, which I valued most, I would mention his sense of personal dignity, his high standards of personal integrity and his human relationships.

5. MK had the privilege of serving under or with titans of the intelligence profession such as B.N.Mallick, Kao,M.M.L.Hooja, A.K. Dave, K.Sankaran Nair and G.C.Saxena. I had seen him in the company of all these officers except Mallick. He used to show great respect to them and treated them with deference, but I had never seen him exhibit servility or submissiveness to any of them. Even though he was years junior to them, he would talk to them on equal terms and would not hesitate to give his views right or wrong---firmly, but politely.

6. I could cite many instances of his personal integrity, but would confine myself to two. As the head of the IB, he rarely used special aircraft. He invariably chose to travel by the commercial flights of the Indian Airlines. In 2000-2001, he and I served as members of the National Security Advisory Board. The rules permitted the outstation members of the NSAB to stay in a comfortable hotel approved by the Government. MK, who used to come from Chennai, often preferred staying in a small guest house of the IB.

7. His human relationships were and are legendary. He was easily accessible in his office to anyone wanting to see him. He never stood on formalities in meeting people. He knew everyone working in his Divisions by name, by face and by family background. He took keen interest in their personal problems and never hesitated to help them. His staff even at the lowest of the lower levels worshipped him and could cite instances when they took their problems to MK, he found the time to help them. Over the years, the IB has built up excellent traditions of human relationships that are retained even today. MK's contribution to these traditions was immense.

8. I had often seen sections of the media writing that he owed his appointment as the National Security Adviser to his contacts with Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. I never believed such stories. MK has never been known to curry favour with political leaders in order to secure an official position. He was a great networker and maintained excellent relations with many people on both sides of the political spectrum. He got along as famously with V.P.Singh and Chandrasekhar as he did with Rajiv Gandhi. He got along as famously with Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani as he did with Narasimha Rao. He believed that good relations with political leaders helped him in his profession, but he did not look upon such relationships as a means of advancing his career. He was definitely not a careerist, who kept calculating how to go up the ladder.

9. MK is a religious, God-fearing man though in his personal conversations he hardly ever talks of religion or God. I had heard it from reliable sources that when in Delhi he never fails to spend a few minutes every day worshipping in a particular Hanuman temple to which he is attached and that every day he never goes to bed without doing pooja at home however late in the night it might be.

10. In the IB, he had held a large variety of responsibilities before becoming its chief---- as an expert on national and international communism and Dravidian politics, counter-intelligence, counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. His role in dealing with the tribal insurgency in Tripura was highly commended. His contribution to counter-terrorism in J&K and Punjab was very significant. One knows a senior professional by the number of juniors he trained and made them shine. Outstanding IB officers such as A.S.Dulat (J&K) and Ajit Doval (counter-terrorism) greatly benefitted from their training under MK. You name any outstanding officer of the IB, you would find that MK was his mentor at some stage or the other. You will also find that excellent inter-personal relationships was a strong quality of all proteges of MK. He made them imbibe the importance of good team work for success in the intelligence profession.

11. There has been a number of articles on MK's contribution as the NSA. Nobody can talk knowledgeably and authoritatively on this except Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh. The NSA reports directly to the PM, who uses him as a sounding-board for new ideas and initiatives. The relationship between a Prime Minister and his NSA is often more informal than formal. It has to be that way. Nobody can claim to know the kind of close informal relationship that prevailed and continues to prevail between Dr.Manmohan Singh and MK.

12. Even without much direct access to reliable information, one could have a good sense of MK's style of functioning as the NSA. Some examples of MK's initiatives:

When he realised that there were serious reservations over the Indo-US nuclear co-operation agreement in sections of the community of retired nuclear scientists, he arranged an interaction for them with the Prime Minister so that they could share their concerns with the PM. He did not just dismiss their concerns, but felt it necessary that the Prime Minister should be aware of them before he went ahead with the agreement.

He managed to establish a folksy relationship with his counterparts in the George Bush Administration which smoothened the negotiations. Both MK and Bush shared a penchant for such folksy relationship. I was told that when Mr. Bush visited India in April 2006, he put his hand around the shoulders of MK and whispered into his ears: " I want this agreement".

He set up a Task Force headed by Shri K.Subrahmanyam, the doyen of strategic analysts, to give inputs to the PM on how to progress Indo-US relations.

He set up a similar Task Force reportedly headed by Shri C.V.Ranganathan, former Indian Ambassador to China, to provide inputs on Sino-Indian relations.

He revived the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), which was in limbo under Deve Gowda, Inder Gujral and Vajpayee, and re-invigorated its working as the main analytical tool of the Government.

He increased the number of academics nominated to the NSAB, which used to be packed with retired Government servants.

He set up a Task Force headed by Dr.S.D.Pradhan, who was formerly in the NSC Secretariat, to make recommendations on how to improve the functioning of the intelligence agencies.

He sought to give a strategic dimension to our intelligence collection capabilities by visualising what kind of new capabilities we are likely to need in the years ahead and how to create them. In this context, he paid attention to improving the capabilities relating to weapons of mass destruction terrorism.

13. Without knowing the details of the various initiatives taken by MK and the results achieved, it will be unfair to criticise his record. Only the Prime Minister will know all these details and will be the right person to judge fairly.

14.One might ask with validity, if MK had done all these things, why did the PM decide to shift him from the post and replace him with Shiv Shankar Menon, former Foreign Secretary. The Prime Minister's first term in office was devoted to establishing the foundations of a new relationship with the US and the European Union countries. MK had no mental reservations on this, whereas diplomats of the Foreign Office, who had won their professional spurs in the years of the cold war, might have dragged their feet in implementing this policy. The PM found in MK the right person for giving shape to his ideas.

15. It is my impression that the PM wants to devote his second term to new initiatives for improving relations with Pakistan. MK, as a hardened intelligence professional, found it difficult to rid himself of his suspicions and reservations vis-a-vis Pakistan. Anyone from the intelligence community might have dragged his feet in concretising the PM's ideas for a new approach towards Pakistan. He wanted a distinguished diplomat with an open mind on Pakistan. He felt that Menon would be the right person for the job.

16. How about China? One feels that the Prime Minister himself is not very certain how fast to move forward in our relations with China. The lingering memories of 1962 and the strong distrust of China in the Indian civil society continue to come in the way of any meaningful initiatives for finding a solution to the border dispute. Will the Prime Minister feel more confident now in thinking of new ideas for pushing forward the border talks? Unless he does so, it would be unfair to expect any significant results from the new NSA.

17. MK's tenure had its negative record too. The first related to his perceived inability to build up an effective command and control in the Government of India for counter-terrorism. The second was his failure to improve morale and man management in the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) and to strengthen cohesion in the Indian intelligence community. A US expert who watched the 26/11 terrorist strikes on the TV, had remarked that he got the impression that there was no single command and control and that nobody appeared to be in total charge of the situation. His observations were not wrong. This was a measure of MK's failure to build up our counter-terrorism capabilities and leadership.

18. MK, who had no experience of diplomacy, did extremely well in high-level diplomacy. He was considered the leading internal security expert of this country, but he was not as successful in this area.

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2010



The contours of the strategic course correction in its relations with India, Pakistan and China, which the administration of President Barack Obama has undertaken since it assumed office a year ago, became evident once again during the just-concluded two-day visit of Dr.Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, to New Delhi coinciding unintentionally with the end of Mr.Obama's first year in office.

2. The conventional wisdom that the Pentagon and the State Department look at India through two different prisms, with the Pentagon under Mr.Obama visualising a much larger role for India than one confined to the sub-continent as seen by the State Department, would have fewer takers after Dr.Gates' visit. Dr.Gates is in the unique position of having served as the Defence Secretary during the last two years of the second term of Mr. George Bush, and continuing in the same position under Mr.Obama.

3. Under Mr.Bush, he was a supporter of the multi-dimensional strategic relationship with India, covering civilian nuclear co-operation, military supply relationship, networking between the armed forces of the two countries, a high-profile role for India in maritime security and maritime counter-terrorism and an important role for India as a respected interlocutor of the US in assessing the implications of China's rise as a modern military power in the wake of its rise as an economic power aspiring for a parity of status with the US.

4. Under Mr.Bush, the interactions of Dr.Gates, his predecessor (Mr.Donald Rumsfeld) and their advisers and officials in the Pentagon with their Indian counterparts used to have a rich agenda with a much larger arc of vision---- with Indo-Pakistan tensions forming only a small part of it. During Dr.Gates' just-concluded stay in Delhi, one saw the transition that he has made in adjusting himself to Mr.Obama's vision of India as the pre-eminent power of South Asia, whose role will be important for the success of Mr.Obama's Af-Pak strategy. He has also adjusted himself to Mr.Obama's objective of quietly ridding the developing Indo-US strategic relationship of the preoccupation with China, which was an important characteristic of the India-related policies of the Bush Administration. Dr.Gates came to India as a supporter of the mid-course correction in the Obama Administration's policies towards India which have been underway for a year now.

5.China seems to have figured as expected in Dr.Gates' talks with Indian leaders and officials and in his interactions with the media, but not as a driving force of the Indo-US strategic relationship. As one reads and analyses the various comments made by Dr. Gates, one is at a loss to understand whether there is any driving force at all under the Obama Administration----except perhaps Washington's anxiety to prevent any escalation in Indo-Pak tensions due to terrorism from derailing Mr.Obama's objectives in the Af-Pak region.

6." The Hindu" of January 21,2010, has quoted Dr.Gates as having remarked as follows during his interactions with the media on January 20: "While the discussions with the Indian leaders on China were generic in nature, both sides talked about Beijing's military modernisation plan. In the same breath, he said Washington preferred to engage more with China to avoid any miscalculation. "

7. Pakistan-centric issues ---- strategic as well as tactical--- received a disproportionately large attention as compared to broader issues which used to figure more prominently in the past. India's relevance as a US partner in a much larger geopolitical context hardly found mention. We in India cannot escape part of the responsibility for the reversion to the past practice of looking at India in a restricted Indo-Pakistan context. By refusing to rid ourselves of our consuming fixation with Pakistan, we have unwittingly created an impression that what matters to India is keeping Pakistan under control---- a few statements supportive of India and critical of Pakistan on the terrorism issue and the Indians will be happy. That is the prevailing reading in Washington DC----whether in the White House, the State Department or the Pentagon and we saw that reflected during Dr.Gates' visit.

8. We have not yet realised the full implications of the mid-course corrections in Washington DC and we have not yet examined whether in the face of the unmistakable signs of a much narrower definition of the Indo-US strategic relations by the Obama Administration, any mid-course corrections of our own policies are called for. There is definitely a need for such an examination in respect of our relations with China.

9. As the scope for convergence of Indo-US perceptions and policies relating to China gets increasingly reduced during Mr.Obama's term in office, it is important for us to strike out on our own in re-fashioning our policies towards China. There is a need for examining the wisdom of enlarging our engagement with China beyond trade to strategic security related issues of common concern and interest to the two countries. Maritime counter-terrorism is one such issue. Co-operation between India and China against maritime terrorism and in ensuring sea lane security is of much greater importance than co-operation in maritime counter-terrorism with the US. Our continuing differences and unhappiness with China over the border issue and the alleged Chinese troop intrusions into Indian territory should not come in the way of identifying new areas of convergence with China.

10. Even in respect of Pakistan, the time has come to have a re-look at our policies to decide to what extent our fixation with certain issues has served us well. Is it possible to give a strategic depth to our relations with Pakistan? How to go about it? These are questions which need to be posed.

11. India's relevance and acceptability as a major Asian power will be determined not by our continuing to hang on to the US coattails, but by our chartering our own independent course based on our national interests and future aspirations. While the US has been steadily doing its course-corrections, we should not remain glued to our past policies. ( 21-1-2010)

( 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: )