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: )