Thursday, March 31, 2011


Shakti Bhatt died at the age of 26 on the morning of April 1,2007. She was almost like my daughter. What I would not have done for her ! Whatever I wrote during the bried period I had known her, I wrote for her. I wrote "The Kaoboys of R&AW" to make her happy, to help launch her into her career as a publisher. It was not to be.Before I could complete it, she passed away after a brief illness. The book, published with her in the world no more, brought me fame and money.But of what use fame and money with Shakti no more.

I cry for Shakti. What else can I do?

My heart bleeds for her parents and husband. What else can it do?

I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within. ( From Alfred Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam )


Wednesday, March 30, 2011



"Any exercise to demotivate the Pakistani state and help it to rid itself of its fears---which are seen by its army as real and by India as imaginary--- has to start with frequent and sustained interactions between the institutions of the two countries---- political parties to political parties, parliament to parliament, army to army, intelligence to intelligence, Foreign Office to Foreign Office and Home Ministry to Home Ministry. Increasing institutional contacts is as important as increasing people to people contacts to remove imaginary fears of each other.
How to achieve this increase in institutional interactions between India and Pakistan.? That should be the basic question to be addressed. It should be addressed in the context of an over-all vision statement between the two countries. The imaginary fears are more in Pakistan’s mind than in our mind. The Indian Prime Minister should take the initiative for visiting Pakistan to set the ball rolling towards an agreed common vision. "

2. So I wrote in my paper of March 15,2011, titled "Is it Possible to Visualise A Shared Future for India & Pakistan? " available at
" . This paper was written by me at the request of Prof.Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution, US, for an edited volume on Pakistan's future that he intends bringing out.

3. In the background of these suggestions, it is gratifying to note that the two concrete outcomes of the wide-ranging "conversations" between visiting Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani and our Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh at Mohali on March 30,2011, have been exchanges of visits by parliamentary delegations of the two countries and an invitation from Mr.Gilani to our Prime Minister to visit Pakistan. The invitation has not yet been formally accepted by our Prime Minister, but during her media briefing at Mohali on March 30 , our Foreign Secretary,Mrs.Nirupama Rao, gave an indication that we are having an open mind on this issue.

4. How to give a forward push to the relations between the two countries without creating an euphoria which may prove to be unwarranted and may come back to haunt us should there be a fresh terrorist strike originating from Pakistan organised by elements determined to derail the "re-engagement" and "re-connecting" process at the top political level set in motion by the two Prime Ministers? That is the question that has been sought to be addressed by the two Prime Ministers during their "conversations". The Foreign Secretary underlined that what the two Prime Ministers had during their interactions at Mohali were "wide-ranging conversations" and not "talks" .

5. The apparently deliberate attempt to avoid a joint statement or a joint media briefing at the end of Mr.Gilani's visit was to create and maintain an air of relaxed informality about the process of "re-engagement" started by the two Prime Ministers without giving it an over-projected formal cloak that could have proved counter-productive.

6. What one saw at Mohali was a refreshingly different approach to the exercise to impart a strategic new dimension to the bilateral relations. There are two defining characteristics of this new approach---- a carefully calibrated "re-engagement" process begun and taken charge of by the two Prime Ministers themselves and the continuation of the resumed dialogue process agreed upon by the two Prime Ministers when they met in Thimpu last year under the watch of concerned Ministers and senior bureaucrats.

7. The first stage of the resumed dialogue process was completed just before the two Prime Ministers met at Mohali when the Home/Interior Secretaries of India and Pakistan met at New Delhi and reached some positive agreements on issues arising from the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai and decided to set up a hotline between the two of them to enable faster and direct communications as part of a joint approach to internal security.The Home/Interior Secretaries' meeting is expected to be followed by a meeting---possibly in July---between P.Chidambaram, India's Home Minister, and Rehman Malik, Pakistan's Interior Minister.Thus, the two Prime Ministers have left it to their Ministers responsible for Internal Security the responsibility for finding mutually acceptable solutions to the issues relating to terrorism that could come n the way of the "re-engagement" process.

8. The resumed dialogue process set in motion at Thimpu would continue with forthcoming meetings between the Commerce and Foreign Secretaries of the two countries followed by meetings at ministertial level. The strategic "re-engagement" process and the tactical "dialogue process" will move side by side with the two Prime Ministers focussing on the "re-engagement" proces and concerned Ministers and officials focussing on continuing the dialogue process.

9. To prevent an attempt to derail the "re-engagement"process by elements which are against it, it is important that the "wide-ranging conversations" initiated at Mohali are kept moving forward by the two Prime Ministers by taking an early decision by our Prime Minister on his acceptance of the invitation from Gilani and by quick follow-up on the visits of parliamentary delegations.

10.The goodwill and the benign interest in each other generated by the World Cup cricket semi-final was taken advantage of by our Prime Minister to make the "re-engagement" and "re-connecting" process possible. He should readily accept the reported suggestion of Gilani for a friendly cricket match between the two teams in Pakistan in the near future and visit Pakistan to keep this process of strategic discovery of each other going forward. (31-3-11)

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



To be read from bottom to top

Let us wait & see.

If any concession in Mohali is followed by violence in Mumbai during final, credibility of both MMS &SG cd be damaged. Hence the caution.

MMS testing the waters with his big toe instead of getting into it.

There cd be a reference To Gilani's invitation to MMS or SGin media briefing.

MMS is playing it safe.

Who is Sonia Gandhi's foreign policy adviser. Will he or she be present?

Sonia's presence is a guarantee against Sharm-el-Sheikh type faux pas.

With both Sonia & MMS being present, who will talk to Gilani on substative issues?.

Sonia Gandhi wd not have agreed to attend dinner if she feared a subsequent controlversy.

Will there be a joint statement or media briefing? No answers now.

2 hrs of match watching, 2 hrs of dinner attended by 65 persons, off to Pak. No substantive discussions.

Why no one from PML (Nawaz) in Pak delegation?

In Gilani's delegation, among others, are PML-Q chief Shujaat Hussain, MQM leader Farooq Sattar, ANP's Asfandyar Wali Khan, Rehman Malik, Interior Minister, and Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister of State For external Relations

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi. E-mail: )

Tuesday, March 29, 2011



I sent the following Tweets (@ramthink) in response to a comment from a reader on Barkha Dutt, the famous TV personality of NDTV:

@anuyawarty @BDUTT It was a great show by Barkha. I enjoyed it. She was sparkling as usual. I have E-mailed my comments to her.

@anuyawarty @BDUTT At same time, I felt it was largely a Punjabi show.Would make great impact on Punjabi viewers, not on others.

@anuyawarty @BDUTT Inder Gujral,MMS, Barkha, Amarinder Singh & many others. They R unable to grow out of their Punjabiness.

@anuyawarty @BDUTT For them, what they like, others ought to. What they think, others ought to likewise.

@anuyawarty @BDUTT They fail to see that large sections of pple view Pakistan thro diff eyes.Their views shd not be ignored.

@anuuyawarty @BDUTT I have started advocating a new approach to Pakistan. At same time, I constantly keep in mind fact that very few, even in my profession, agree with me.I try to convince them without imposing my views on them.Barkha doesn't try to understand & convince the non-elitist sections who feel uncomfortable with her views.She rides roughshod over them .

@anuyawarty @BDUTT That is why she evoks extreme views towards her. Total admiration as in my case or strong criticism from others

@anuyawarty @BDUTT No scope for a middle ground.Despite all this, I remain her unashamed admirer.

@anuyawarty @BDUTT I consider her one of world's best TV journos. Her mastery of TV medium is unmatched in India.

@anuyawarty @BDUTT She is a born TV show personality.So too her intellect, mental sharpness & courage.Country ought to be proud of her.

The following is a subsequent comment---not tweeted. Barkha has to be careful. She has to be alert. How many of those admiring eyes are the same old eyes that keep following me everywhere? Are there any new eyes among them? How many of those applauding hands are the same old hands that had always applauded me? Are there any new hands among them? How many of those tweeting their admiration to me are the same old tweeple? How many new adherents to their ranks? She should constantly keep posing these questions to herself in order to keep her feet firmly on the ground. She should not be blind to the shifting sands of popularity and adulation. (30-3-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi )

Monday, March 28, 2011


( Written at the request of the “Economic Times” of New Delhi )


Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s decision to invite President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani of Pakistan to Mohali on March 30 to watch the India-Pakistan World Cup cricket semi-final appears to have been taken on the spur of the moment. It is meant to be a gesture to impart some warmth to the bilateral relations and to create a feel-good atmosphere as officials of the two countries resume their discussions on various bilateral issues after a long gap caused by the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai and the failure of the visit of our Foreign Minister S.M.Krishna to Islamabad in July to break the deadlock on the road map to resume the bilateral dialogue process.

Only Gilani has accepted the invitation after long discussions with Zardari and possibly also with Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), who is closely consulted by the political leadership before taking any important decision on relations with India.

An idea of the likely entourage that would accompany Gilani should indicate as to whether this would be a purely courtesy visit to be present at the match, or whether the two Prime Ministers would hold detailed discussions on bilateral relations in the margins of the cricket match. There is bound to be some bilateral discussions, but how substantial they would be is yet to be seen.

In taking the initiative, the Prime Minister seems to have taken care not to project it as a significant diplomatic initiative or as a new exercise in summitry.

Nobody can find fault with the Prime Minister for inviting Gilani. Indo-Pakistan relations have got into a rut. Only a meeting at the top level can give them the badly-needed push forward.

Unless the leaderships of the two countries agree on an over-all vision for the future, individual issues such as the Pakistani support to terrorism, its claim to Jammu & Kashmir etc will continue to prove intractable.

The time has come to agree on a shared vision for the future. Discussions on a vision statement can be held only at the level of the leaders of the two countries. Neither senior bureaucrats nor Ministers holding different portfolios would be able to prepare such a vision statement in the absence of appropriate guidelines from the political leadership.

One does not know whether the Pakistan Army would want such a vision statement and whether it would agree to its political leadership holding talks with its Indian counterpart on such a statement instead of focusing on solving the individual issues.

As part of this exercise, initially it would be necessary to convince the political leadership of Pakistan on the likely benefits of such a vision statement. Once they are convinced and are able to persuade the Army not to oppose such a statement, the details could be worked out by senior bureaucrats.

For this purpose, it would be necessary for the Prime Ministers of the two countries to hold more than one meeting. Our Prime Minister should use his forthcoming meeting with Gilani as the starting point of this exercise to agree on a common vision---- instead of getting involved in discussions on individual issues. Discussions on those issues can go on separately at the level of the bureaucrats as per the road map already agreed upon.

Since former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited Islamabad for the SAARC summit in January 2004, our Prime Minister has not been to Pakistan. The visit of Gilani to India for the Mohali match should be followed up by a bilateral visit by our Prime Minister to Islamabad to continue the discussions on the vision statement. Such exchanges of visits at the top level help in imparting the required momentum to bilateral relations.

We had seen how Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China in 1988 started the forward movement in our relations with China. Since then, the leaders of India and China have been regularly exchanging visits and discussing the over-all improvement in bilateral ties despite the persistence of differences on the border issue.

Regular exchanges of bilateral visits by the leaders of India and Pakistan despite continuing differences on individual issues could prove equally beneficial in removing road-blocks in the way of better relations between the two countries.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Research & Analysis Wing, Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi )

Sunday, March 27, 2011



I have been a strong and consistent critic of the manner in which the Prime MinisterDr.Manmohan Singh has been handling India-Pakistan relations.

2.Nobody has written more strongly on his agreement with then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf at Havana in September 2006 for a joint counter-terrorism machinery than I.

3.Nobody has written more strongly on his failure to deal effectively with Pakistan post-26/11 than I.

4.Nobody has hit out more vehemently at him post-Sharm-el-Sheikh (July 2009) than I for making a reference to Balochistan in his joint statement with Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani.I had also written an open letter to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the Congress (I) President, on this subject. ( )

5.I had criticised him on other occasions too for what I perceived was a lack of consistency in his policy towards Pakistan.

6.Yet, despite my past criticism of Dr. Manmohan Singh, I have refrained from deploring the initiative taken by him in inviting President Asif Ali Zardari and Gilani to watch the India-Pakistan World Cup cricket semi-final at Mohali on March 30 except on the ground that inviting both the Head of State and the Head of Government of Pakistan could impose a heavy responsibility on our intelligence and security agencies which would be called upon to protect them.

7.My decision to refrain from criticising our Prime Minister's Mohali initiative could be attributed to two reasons. Firstly, I have been feeling for over a year now that Indo-Pakistan relations have got into a rut and that the time has come for the two countries to think of ways of giving it a forward push. Secondly, I saw the Prime Minister's invitation to the two Pakistani leaders not as a diplomatic initiative to discuss substantive issues, but as an attempt to create a Feel-Good atmosphere between the two countries at a time when the atmosphere of suspicions and hostility towards Pakistan in India is very strong because of Pakistan's perceived lack of interest in the investigation and prosecution of the Pakistan-based co-conspirators of the 26/11 terrorist strikes and due to reports on the ingress of a large number of Chinese troops into Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and China's decision, with US complicity, to supply two more nuclear power stations to Pakistan. We are naturally attentive to such issues.

8.The Prime Minister, as I could notice, had taken care to see that his invitation to the two Pakistani leaders is not viewed as "cricket diplomacy" or as yet another exercise at summitry. If he had wanted it to be another summit exercise, he would not have invited both the Head of State and the Head of Government, though ultimately only Gilani has accepted the invitation. If he had wanted to upstage the road map laid down for the resumption of formal talks with Pakistan at the level of senior officials, he would have most probably convened a meeting of either the National Security Council (NSC) or the Cabinet Committee on Security to prepare the groundwork for the initiative. There are no indications to show that he did either.

9.It seems to have been a decision taken by him on the spur of the moment after it became clear that India and Pakistan would be pitted against each other in one of the semi-finals. Because of the continuing cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, we could not have been generous in issuing visas to Pakistani spectators wanting to cross over into India to watch the match. The invitation to the two leaders of the Pakistani people is a gesture which could mitigate to some extent any disappontment in Pakistan over India's reluctance to issue more visas.

10.It is an important, but risky gesture which could have political consequences---positive if the two Prime Ministers reach some understanding on bilateral relations in the margins of the match and negative if Mohali is followed by a serious act of terrorism somewhere. In an earlier article, I had stressed the importance of not projecting the cricket match as another Indo-Pak war to be won or lost. It is equally important not to project the Prime Minister's invitation as a major diplomatic move, which it does not seem to be. We should avoid unnecessarily and unwisely creating either feelings of confrontation over the match or feelings of expectation over the meeting of the two Prime Ministers during the match .

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

Saturday, March 26, 2011




The “Dawn” of Karachi has reported as follows in its web site: “The guessing game ended early hours on Sunday when the Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani decided to accept Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s offer to go to India and watch the ‘high voltage’ India-Pakistan cricket world cup semifinal in Mohali on March 30, DawnNews reported.The decision was taken after a meeting between the Prime Minister and the President Zardari, which according to the presidential spokesman, Farhat Ullah Babar, continued for more than two hours. It may be recalled that Pakistan had welcomed the Indian Prime Minister’s invitation to President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani to witness the match and had said that a decision will be taken after PM Gilani’s return from visit abroad, Babar added.The foreign diplomats based in Islamabad, earlier felt that declining the invitation would be a serious mistake and a snub for Dr Singh as he had made normalisation of ties with Pakistan his personal priority.”

2. The “Dawn” report does not say anything about our Prime Minister’s invitation to President Asif Ali Zardari too. The absence of any reference to the invitation to Zardari in the media briefing by Farhatullah Babar could be interpreted as indicating that Zardari is not coming. I would avoid giving a political interpretation to this. I would attribute this to the concerns of those responsible for the security of Zardari about the dangers of exposing him to the public in Mohali. Zardari is the most threatened leaders of Pakistan today because of his perceived closeness to the US, his personal friendship with the late Salman Taseer, former Governor of Punjab, who was killed by one of his security guards in January because of his open criticism of the law relating to blasphemy and his perceived role in bringing about the release of Raymond Davis, a member of the staff of the US Consulate-General in Lahore, who was sought to be prosecuted for allegedly killing two Pakistanis on January 27.In Pakistan, on the advice of his security he avoids traveling in Pakistani Punjab. His internal travels are largely confined to Sindh. There have been unconfirmed reports that all Punjabis have been removed from his close-proximity (bodyguards) security entourage after the assassination of Taseer.

3. It was unwise on the part of our Prime Minister to have invited him as well as Gilani. I have been pointing this out in my Tweets from the moment the announcement was made in Delhi about our Prime Minister’s invitations to both. I am sure that our intelligence and security agencies would have been aware of the very high level of the threats to Zardari and that had they been consulted beforehand by the Prime Minister, they might have advised him to confine the invitation to Gilani only.

4.Presuming only Gilani is coming, the responsibility for ensuring the security of the World Cup cricket semi-finals, while still quite complex, can be manageable. In recent weeks, there have been reports---some of them attributed to foreign intelligence agencies--- about alleged plans of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and other Pakistani jihadi organization to target one of the venues of the World Cup cricket. Till now, as a result of the tight security enforced by our agencies under the supervision of P.Chidambaram, the Home Minister, no threat has materialized.

5. Mohali is particularly vulnerable to commando-style swarm attacks of the kind witnessed in this region six times since the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai in 2008. Of the six commando-style attacks after 26/11, three were in Afghanistan and three in Lahore in areas close to the Indian border. The three commando-style swarm attacks in Lahore were directed at a Sri Lankan cricket team (March 3, 2009), a police training school (March 30, 2009) and in a busy area on the Mall Road of Lahore (May 27,2009). There have been a number of other terrorist strikes in Lahore---including on targets associated with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

6. In the case of the repeated terrorist strikes in Lahore---three of them commando-style swarm attacks--- the Pakistani investigators were not able to conclusively establish who was responsible, but it was strongly suspected that these attacks were carried out either by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as the Pakistani Taliban is called, or by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), a Sunni extremist organization or by the LET---- either by acting alone or in tandem.

7. These strikes showed the ability of such organizations to mount spectacular terrorist attacks in Pakistani Punjab and the inability of the Pakistani intelligence and security agencies to prevent them through timely intelligence. The security arrangements at Mohali should seriously factor into the security planning the dangers of a swarm-style commando attack mounted from the sanctuaries of the so-called Punjabi Taliban in Pakistani Punjab.

8. Normally effective defensive physical security for events such as the cricket semi-final at Mohali would depend on effective access control to the venue and the VIPs attending the match and effective anti-explosive checks in and around the venue. In addition, keeping in view the dangers of a commando-style swarm attack in the venue as well as in the town itself, counter-smarm deployment by our own commando units would have to be an important component of the planned physical security.

9. In addition to this, we need to strengthen trans-border security to prevent jihadi elements from infiltrating into our territory in the garb of spectators, picking up arms and explosives from their India-based accomplices and mounting an attack. I continue to receive messages from my readers rebuking me for not recommending a ban on the issue of visas to Pakistanis wanting to enter India ostensibly to watch the semi-finals. The Government should go by the advice of our intelligence and security agencies in this matter. My own view is that this danger could be met by effective monitoring of trans-border movements and airport, train and bus arrivals and by stepped-up patrolling in Mohali itself without the need for a ban on the issue of visas till the semi-finals are over.

10. Gilani’s personal security from the moment he arrives in India and till he lands back in Pakistan will be our responsibility. While his close-proximity security (personal bodyguards) would be the responsibility of the Pakistani VIP security set-up, the access control and anti-explosive and anti-swarm checks would be our responsibility. These have to be planned with precision and a lot of attention to details.

11. Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies would have already stepped up their intelligence coverage---human as well as technical. We should not fight shy of asking the US to step up its coverage too in the entire Af-Pak region with the focus on detecting and neutralizing any threats to his security while he is in India.( 27-3-11)

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

Friday, March 25, 2011



The dozens of critical messages that I receive from my readers every day fall into two categories---- the downright abusive and the bewildered.

2. I wrote about the downright abusive ones yesterday. I will write today about the bewildered ones . To illustrate what I mean by "bewildered", I will cite two examples:

* Some messages ask: You had in the past opposed the issue of visas to Pakistanis to come to India to watch sports events because you were afraid they may go missing and indulge in terrorism.This time, you have not opposed visas for Pakistanis to come to Mohali to watch the India-Pakistan cricket semi-finals in the World Cup tournament. Why?
* Some other messages say: We all admired you as a superhawk on Pakistan. We read you every day. We applauded you. We modelled ourselves after you. After making us into superhawks like you, you are showing signs of being less harsh towards Pakistan. You have started using expressions like a "shared future", " need for a vision statement", "need for our Prime Minister to visit Pakistan" etc. What has happened to you?

3. Yes, there has been a transformation in my thinking since the beginning of last year. I have been suggesting in my various articles a more nuanced approach to Pakistan because I have started feeling that a policy of unrelenting hostility towards Pakistan and its total demonisation is leading us nowhere. Hostility begets hostility. Demonisation triggers counter-demonisation.. I have started feeling that the time has come for an alternative policy towards Pakistan without diluting our stand on Pakistan's claim to Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), without giving up our right to act against terrorism emanating from Pakistan and while continuing to press ahead with our co-operation with Afghanistan.

4. The nuanced approach which I have been suggesting for the last one year has the following elements:

* Encouraging Police to police relationship between the two countries by inviting Rehman Malik, Pakistan's Interior Minister, to India, treating him well and having discussions with him on counter-terrorism.
* Reviving the past liaison contacts between the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan and the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) of India. It has always been my view that such liaison contacts on a sustained basis may not lead to any substantive results, but will enable the officers of the two organisations to assess each other in flesh and blood instead of relying on source and media reports.
* Promoting interactions between other Government departments such as the Foreign Offices of the two countries to enable policy-makers such as the two Foreign Seccretaries to discuss freely and frankly how to move ahead in diluting the mutual mental resistance to each other.
* Making a gesture to Pakistan's elected political leadership by our Primer Minister making his long overdue visit to Pakistan in order to discuss the feasibility of working on a common vision statement and to replace the present cynicism and skepticism which cloud the bilateral relations with at least some rays of hope for the future.

5. Nothing may come out of my ideas. But that is not an argument for not trying them out as an alternative.We have to think of ways of changing the present confrontation between two rigid mind-sets marked by mutual suspicions---some real, some imaginary---- mutual hostility and bitter memories of the past. It is in this context that I guardedly welcome the initiative taken by our Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh, in inviting President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani to Mohali to watch the World Cup cricket semi-finals between India and Pakistan next week. I say guardedly because I do feel that the entire focus should have been on the players of the two teams who should have been Kings during those few hours when the match would be played. Now the players may have to share the limelight with the political leaders of the two countries. That can't be helped now.

6. My only appeal to the people, journalists and analysts of the two countries is: Please, please, please don't project the Semi-finals as another Indo-Pak war to be won or lost. Project it as a long-missing opportunity for shared fun.

7. Had I been the same Raman as I was last year, by now I would have dished out articles:

* opposing visas for Pakistani spectators lest they indulge in terrorism.
* Ridiculing and criticising the Prime Minister for inviting Zardari and Gilani.
* warning of dangers of another 26/11 by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) to derail attempts towards a thaw in bilateral relations.
* warning of the dangers of a terrorist strike by Ilyas Kashmiri and his 313 Brigade based in North Waziristan

8. All these dangers are very much there. I am sure our intelligence and security agencies are aware of them and will be taking the necessary precautions. I deliberately controlled my itch to flood the public with articles on all these possible dangers because I do want Mohali to create some positive vibrations in the bilateral relations and encourage the search for an alternative approach to Indo-Pakistan relations.


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

Thursday, March 24, 2011



(From my Tweeter site (ramthink) )

VOW 1:We will start thinking positively of each other.

VOW 2:We will stop demonising each other.

VOW 3:We will take care not to hurt feelings of each other

VOW 4: Whoever wins, we will respect the defeated.

VOW 5: We will keep these vows even after the semi-finals,

2.Tweets sent by me on the morning of March 25,2011, to a Pakistani woman journalist

@Mehmal: I was sorry to hear of abusive tweets received by you from some people.U R not alone. I receive dozens of them every day.

@Mehmal: Abuses not from Pakistanis, but from fellow-Indians. My articles R carried by many intl web sites.I glance thro the comments.

@Mehmal: The abuses showered on me R mostly from fellow-Indians, rarely from Pakistanis.

@Mehmal: I have written hundreds of articles criticising Pakistan, LET, Tablighi Jamaat, JEM. JEI etc I receive E-mails from their supporters.

@Mehmal: They criticise my writings, but do not abuse me personally. No Pakistani has ever called me senile, dozens of Indians do--every day.

3.The following comments of mine were not tweeted.

4.This tendency to abuse people with whom they do not agree seems to be the unique contribution of some Hindutva elements to Indian culture.

5.I have received hundreds of abuses.Some of them indicative of the disturbing mindset are given below:

• Senile ( I have been so called hundreds of times)
• A lunatic who has escaped from the lunatic asylum.
• His cancer has affected his mental faculties.
• His cancer has spread to his brain.
• He must stop writing and enter a cancer clinic.
• Corrupt. Only a corrupt person will exchange tweets with Barkha Dutt ( the TV personality).
• Has formed a mutual admiration club with Barkha.
• Courier of Niiru Radia, the lobbyist, who carries her money to her Swiss accounts.
• By supporting Barkha,he has become the laughing stock of India.
• Erratic---brilliant in his analysis sometimes, pathetic on other occasions.( What they mean is I am brilliant when I am supportive of the BJP and pathetic when I am not )

6.To illustrate the mindset of these elements, I will cite the following: On the morning of March 23, I wrote an article questioning the fitness of Rahul Gandhi to lead India. They hailed me as a great ever-green analyst whom everybody should read. In the evening, I criticized the political incompetence of the BJP as revealed during the debate on the cash for votes issue in the Lok Sabha. The very same people who hailed me as a great analyst in the morning, condemned me as biased, a Congress (I) man etc.

7. This abusive campaign against me has been triggered by the following:

• My writings that some of the terrorist attacks did not appear to have been carried out by Muslims.
• My writings that some Hindus have taken to reprisal terrorism against Muslims.
• My recent advocacy of greater interactions with Pakistan outside the composite dialogue process.
• My strong support for Barkha and my writings that she has been wronged and sinned against.

8.I have been surprised by the pressure to which I have been subjected on the Barkha issue even by well-known people who do not have anything to do with the Hindutva elements. It is not because of the merits of the issue.

• One very senior Editor based in Delhi “warned” me in writing that he will not carry my writings on other subjects if I did not stop supporting Barkha.
• Another senior Editor expressed his “disappointment” in writing over my praising Barkha.
• Another person, writing on behalf of some NRIs in the US, cautioned me that they will stop reading my writings if I did not stop supporting Barkha.

9. I have been in receipt of many more such messages warning me, cautioning me, rebuking me on the Barkha issue. These people should remember one thing: I have never succumbed to pressure in my life. I am not going to do so in the evening of my life.

10.If the BJP and other Hindutva organizations do not control the abusive elements, their own credibility will be affected in the long run. It cannot just throw up its hands and say that it is not responsible for the abusive behaviour of its supporters. It is. (25-3-11)

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


Wednesday, March 23, 2011



FACT 1: In July,2008, there were allegations of vote-buying levelled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other opposition parties to influence voting after a motion of no-confidence in the Government of Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh. The no-confidence motion was triggered off by opposition challenges to the Indo-US civil nuclear co-operation agreement. The no-confidence motion failed. The allegations were investigated by a Committee constituted by the Lok Sabha and the Committee concluded that there was insufficient evidence to come to any definitive conclusions. On December 16,2008,the then Speaker of the Lok Sabha Somnath Chatterjee stated as follows in the Lok Sabha:"The finding of the Committee is that material on record does not conclusively prove that the money contained in the bag which was eventually displayed in the House was actually sent by the persons who were alleged to have sent it for the purpose of winning over Shri Ashok Argal, Shri Faggan Singh Kulaste and Shri Mahavir Bagora to vote in favour of Motion of Confidence. The Committee have, however, found the evidence given before the Committee by three persons involved in this episode as unconvincing and the Committee have suggested that their role in the matter needs to be investigated by investigating agencies. I am accordingly referring the matter pertaining to the said three persons to the hon. Minister of Home Affairs for appropriate action in the light of the recommendations of the Committee."

FACT 2: In paragraph 168 of its report, the Committee observed as follows: "The Committee, after taking into account their findings and conclusions in the matter as detailed in para 141, particularly at 14 to 17 relating to roles of Shri Sanjeev Saxena, Shri Sohail Hindustani and Shri Sudheendra Kulkarni, recommend that this matter may be probed further by an appropriate investigating agency." The matter was referred to the Delhi Police for investigation. Further investigation is in progress. One does not know till now the result of the investigation that has been going on for more than two years.

FACT 3: On March 17,2011, "The Hindu", a daily newspaper of Chennai, published details of a cable sent to the US State Department on July 17, 2008, by Steven White, the CDA in the US Embassy in New Delhi, about a visit paid to Satish Sharma, the Congress MP, the previous day by the Embassy's Political Counsellor. The cable of the CDA does not identify by name the Political Counsellor. The cable also has a reference to the interactions of "an Embassy Staff member" with Nachiketa Kapur, described as Sharma's political aide, on July 16. This staff member has not been identified either. It is not clear whether the Political Counsellor and the Embassy staff member are one and the same person. “The Hindu” had obtained the cable from WikiLeaks. The cable spoke of alleged plans of the Congress (I) to pay bribes to certain members of the Lok Sabha in an attempt to influence the voting. It also claimed that Kapur showed the Embassy staff member some boxes said to be containing the money which was to be paid as bribe. This is a new allegation and a new piece of evidence, if true, which had not figured in the enquiry held by the Lok Sabha Committee of 2008. The Government was, therefore, under a moral and legal obligation to refer the details of the alleged contents of the cable to the Delhi Police for further investigation as part of their continuing investigation in the case arising from the Lok Sabha Committee’s report. It did not do so. The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, on his own without even an attempt at an enquiry rejected the contents of the cable as published by “The Hindu” as speculative, unverified and unverifiable. This conclusion was based not on a criminal investigation by an investigating agency, but on the partisan political assertion of the Prime Minister.

FACT 4: In a statement in the Lok Sabha on March 23, the Prime Minister stated as follows: “ I reiterate that it is not possible for the Government of India to confirm the veracity or the contents of such communications. If they exist, they would be communications from the US diplomats stationed in New Delhi to their Government in Washington. This is not open to us to inquire from either of the two regarding the communications they exchanged amongst themselves. In my Statement of 18th March, 2011, I had also stated that many of the persons referred to in these communications have strongly denied their veracity.…”

FACT 5: The Prime Minister’s statement of March 23 was preceded by two significant developments relating to the authenticity of the WikiLeaks cables released all over the world. On March 19, the US State Department accepted the resignation of the US Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual whose cable to the US State Department containing allegations regarding Mexico’s anti-drug policy came in for strong criticism from the Mexican Government. The fact of his resignation and its acceptance by the State Department amounted to an implicit acceptance of the authenticity of this cable as leaked by WikiLeaks. When the WikiLeaks cable containing serious allegations against the Mexican Government leveled by the US Ambassador was published by the local media, the Mexican President did not dismiss it as speculative, unverified and unverifiable. He strongly protested to the US Government against the allegations against the Mexican Government made by the US Ambassador in his cable. The US Government had to ask its Ambassador to resign so that state-to-state relations with Mexico were not affected. Compare the strong reaction of the Mexican President with the weak action of our Prime Minister. He does not refer the matter to the police for an enquiry. Nor does he protest to the US Government over a cable which seeks to cast doubt on the state of Indian democracy and tarnish the dignity of the Indian Parliament. Without referring the matter to the police and without taking up the matter with the US Government, the Prime Minister on his own dismisses the whole thing as unverified and unverifiable.

The other significant development related to a detailed interview of Julian Assange of WikiLeaks by Prannoy Roy, Chairman of the NDTV. The details of the interview were carried by “The Hindu” on March 22. In this interview, Assange, inter alia, stated as follows: “ When we look at the cables in other contexts, they have been used and accepted as evidence in the (Charles) Taylor case in The Hague; they have been using quotes in Spain to reopen a rendition case. They have been used in a number of places; they have been accepted as quotes, as probative evidence, as genuine official documents. Of course, what the officials say and, how they gain their knowledge too must be investigated and interrogated. But the comment I have been hearing from Prime Minister Singh---these, to me, seem like a deliberate attempt to mislead the public by suggesting that Governments around the world do not accept the material and it is not verified….ABSOLUTELY FALSE” (emphasis mine)

The Government managed to wriggle out of a difficult situation in the Lok Sabha on March 23 because the BJP was more interested in securing some partisan political gains for itself than in having the truth established in order to safeguard the health of our democracy and protect the self-respect of the nation. Neither the Congress (I) nor the BJP was interested in establishing the truth. They were only interested in partisan political gains.

It is time for the right-thinking citizens of the country, who have no political agenda, to take over the matter and pursue it doggedly till the truth is established. The matter needs to be raised before the Supreme Court in a public interest petition. ( 24-3-11)

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2011



Is Rahul Gandhi fit to lead India and enable it to take its rightful place as an Asian power on par with China?

2. It is very difficult to give a comprehensive answer to this question because there is very little known about him and the Congress (I) has seen to it that his personality and stature do not become the subject of public scrutiny. Without any scrutiny and without any enumeration of his positive and negative qualities and track record as a political personality, his followers in the party want to impose him on the country as the next Prime Minister in the unlikely eventuality of the Congress (I) returning to power in the next parliamentary elections whenever they are held.

3.I consciously called him a political personality and not a political leader because his ability to exercise leadership over the country has not so far been tested. Even in his own party, in which he has been holding office as the General Secretary for some time now, he has not set the Jamuna on fire. If one has to prepare a comprehensive CV on him for dissemination through the Internet similar to the CVs on political leaders circulated in the US and other democracies before elections, one will have difficulty in completing the task because there is so little known about him except the flattery disseminated by the members of his party.

4. When we are told by his party members that he is fit to be the next Prime Minister of India, we have a right to know on what basis they have come to that conclusion. Leadership does not necessarily require high educational qualifications.K.Kamaraj, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, who subsequently became the President of the Congress (I) and played a key role in post-Nehru transition, was hardly educated. And, yet, he turned out to be one of the successful leaders produced by India.

5. Let us, therefore, keep aside the question of Rahul Gandhi's educational qualifications which, in my view, are not important for this debate. My perceptions of Rahul Gandhi are marked by the following thoughts:

* A potential leader must have something more than good personal qualities. He must have an intellectual spark which does not necessarily come from his or her educational qualifications. Rahul Gandhi has not so far given evidence of such an intellectual spark.
* Till now, he has not demonstrated any leadership qualities by way of ideas and actions.
* His ability to understand and logically analyse the complex internal and external problems facing the country is yet to be proved.
* His views tend to be very simplistic and do not indicate wide reading and an ability to think deeply.
* A good leader of the future must excite the younger generation. Rahul doesn't---not even in his own party.

6.. Under such circumstances, the Congress (I) will be doing a tremendous diservice to itself and the country if its tries to have him imposed initially on the party and then on the country as the next Prime Minister of India. His track record till now---whether in respect of contribution to new ideas or new policies---has been mediocre. Apart from the fact that he has come from a highly privileged political family, which has made a tremendous contribition to the nation, he is yet to demonstrate any qualities which compel attention and could make us look upon him as a leader of the future.

7. It is important to have an objective and balanced debate on this subject devoid of rhetoric, abuses and ideological arguments so that we have a complete picture of him before our eyes on the basis of which we can decide whether he is fit to lead India in the difficult years to come.Congress (I) could contribute to this debate by opening a separate web site for him in which they could give all data about him relevant to this debate,

8. If the Congress (I) expects the people of this country to seriously consider him as a potential leader, he should not be treated as a sacred cow which has to be accepted by the people without any scrutiny. (23-3-11)

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

Monday, March 21, 2011



“The rebels' strategy is to push west but this has got off to a halting start, and without further concerted air strikes it is difficult to see how this rag-tag army will ever achieve its aim of unseating Col Gaddafi.”
---Ian Pannell, the BBC correspondent in East Libya, in a dispatch of March 21,2011

Increasing confusion over basic aspects of the Western-led military operations --- ostensibly with the authorisation of the UN Security Council (UNSC)---- in Libya doesn't bode well for the achievement of the principal objective of the operation as authorised by the UNSC, namely, the protection of civilians in the areas outside the control of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan despot.

2. The No Fly Zone was authorised by the UNSC to protect the civilians from air strikes by the Libyan Air Force. States of the Arab League supported the proposal for a No Fly Zone under the impression that it meant patrolling by the planes of the members of the coalition in the Libyan skies in order to immobilise the Libyan Air Force.

3. The UNSC resolution has been interpreted by the US, the UK and France as authorising not only the immobilisation of the Libyan Air Force, but also its destruction on the ground. Hence, the repeated air and missile strikes for three nights in succession on ground positions in Tripoli, the capital, and other areas under Government control. This destruction, instead of immobilization, is causing large civilian casualties in the areas under the control of the Government. Even if one does not accept the figures of civilian casualties as given out by the Libyan Government, the fact that there have been civilian casualties in the Government-controlled areas cannot be denied. Civilians are being killed in Government-controlled areas in attempts to protect the civilians in the rebel-controlled areas.

4. The severity of the air strikes----- which is totally disproportionate to the requirements of a No Fly Zone to protect the civilians--- has already started causing disquiet in the ruling circles of the Arab world, but not yet amongst the population. There has not yet been any public demonstration against the disproportionate air and missile strikes under the pretext of preparing the ground for effective enforcement of a No Fly Zone. Amr Moussa, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, has been the first to give expression to this disquiet. One could expect others to do so in the days to come if this disproportionate resort to air and missile strikes continues.

5. The reported destruction by a missile strike of a building near Gaddafi’s place of residence under the pretext that it housed the command and control of Libyan air defence forces has given rise to suspicions that the Western-led coalition has arrogated to itself without the authority of the UNSC the objective of removing Gaddafi through military action. There have been vague answers from Western leaders to the question as to Gaddafi’s removal is one of the objectives of the military action. While the Americans have been somewhat vehement in their denial, the British have not been. While denying that Gaddafi is a direct target, the British do not rule out the possibility of his becoming an indirect victim of the air and missile strikes.

6. This calculated ambivalence results from Western realization that there is unlikely to be an early end to the military operations so long as Gaddafi continues to be in power in Tripoli. Even if the Libyan Air Force is totally destroyed on the ground, the rag-tag army of the opponents of Gaddafi is not in a position to move by road over a 1000 kms from Benghazi to Tripoli, defeat Gaddafi’s forces and remove him from power unless it is assured of sustained air support. Moreover, it has to pass through areas inhabited by tribes loyal to Gaddafi. Unless their ground fighting capability is degraded, the rebel army could face difficulty in reaching Tripoli. Having degraded Gaddafi’s air capability under the pretext of facilitating the No Fly Zone--- which itself was more than what was authorized by the UNSC--- the West now faces the prospect of having to mount more air and missile strikes on Gaddafi’s ground troops in order to degrade their fighting capability. This could aggravate the disquiet among the Arab members of the coalition.

7. If the rebel army does not capture Tripoli in another two or three weeks it is likely to face another adversary en route to Tripoli----the desert storms which could increase in frequency and intensity in the days to come. During the Iraq invasion of 2003, desert storms immobilized some US tanks and slowed down the advance to Baghdad. Fortunately, the desert storms did not last long. If they last long in Libya, not only it could slow down the rebel advance to Tripoli, but it could also hamper air strikes due to poor visibility thereby increasing the reliance on missile strikes which generally cause more civilian casualties than air strikes.

8. These problems---actual and potential---have been confounded by the lack of convergence over the command and control of the entire operation. Presently, the command and control is being temporarily exercised by the Americans, but President Barack Obama is anxious to erase as rapidly as possible the impression that this is an US-inspired, US-led and US-manipulated military action using the fig-leaf cover of the UNSC resolution. He wants one of the European members of the coalition to take over as quickly as possible the leadership of the command and control. What role should the NATO play in this command and control? Germany, Turkey and the Arab members of the coalition are not comfortable with the idea of a NATO role. The UK and Italy are in favour of it.

9. If these problems are not sorted out in the coming days and if there is no convergence on what exactly the UNSC resolution means and how to achieve the objectives as laid down by the UNSC resolution, one could find the situation in Libya becoming messier than it is today. ( 22-3-11)

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

Sunday, March 20, 2011



The publication in instalments of leaked WikiLeaks diplomatic cables by selected newspapers such as the “Guardian”of the UK, the “New York Times”, “Le Monde” of France, “Der Spiegel” of Germany and “El Pais” of Spain started a year ago.

2.The initial documents were about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The subsequent ones were about other subjects and other countries, including Pakistan, China and Singapore.

3.Some countries such as China and Singapore ignored the leaks with contempt without making any comments. Others such as Pakistan painstakingly avoided any impression of panic or embarrassment. They successfully created an impression of taking them on their stride. There have been very few instances of the documents causing any political or diplomatic or other bureaucratic heads to roll except the resignation of the US Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual whose cable to the US State Department containing allegations regarding Mexico’s anti-drug policy came in for strong criticism from the Mexican Government. The fact of his resignation and its acceptance by the State Department on March 19 amounts to an implicit acceptance of the authenticity of this cable as leaked by WikiLeaks. After this, it would be difficult for other States, including India, to take up the position that the WikiLeaks cables are not authentic.

4.The Mexican development is also the only instance so far in which the leaks have had a serious impact on state-to-state relations. Otherwise, barring Mexico, practically all the countries affected by the leaks as well as the US itself have shown a certain maturity in dealing with the leaks. They have been helped in this by the advance warnings given by the US State Department to other countries about the impending leaks.

5.One could already discern a diminishing interest in these cables in countries which faced the initial deluge of the leaks. In those countries, one hardly speaks any longer of the leaked documents. Despite the leaks, Government business goes on, diplomacy goes on, state-to-state relationships go on as before .

6.Leaks may come and leaks may go, but diplomacy and statecraft will go on for ever.

7.India was among the last countries to be hit by the Wiki deluge. It took “The Hindu” of Chennai nearly three months to work out with WikiLeaks an arrangement by which it has been allowed to have access to at least some, if not all, of the documents relating to India------ the majority of them consisting of diplomatic cables with various degrees of classification exchanged between the US Embassy in New Delhi and the State Department.

8. It was reported last year that WikiLeaks has about 3,000 such India-related documents in its possession. It is not known whether “The Hindu” has been allowed to have access to all of them or only some. If “The Hindu” is going to publish all of them, a leak fatigue is bound to set in---even earlier than it did in other countries.

9. Some of the documents published by “The Hindu” so far are of trivial importance. There was no need for it to have published them and given them over-stated importance. A typical example is the cable to the US Embassy in New Delhi asking for a personality profile on Pranab Mukherjee. There is nothing ominously significant about it. All countries have such personality profiles on leaders of other countries in their diplomatic database and keep updating them. The State Department’s cable on the subject is part of the updating exercise and there was no need for “The Hindu” to have gone to town over it.

10. The majority of the cables published so far would come under one of the following categories----- minutes of discussions of US diplomats with their Indian interlocutors, observations of US diplomats on the ground situation in states such as Manipur and assessments in general of US diplomats on various issues of interest to the US. These are largely based on facts as they became available to the US diplomats. I have gone through all the cables published so far. I have not come across a single instance where one could accuse the diplomats of fabrication or willful distortion. There is no evidence of any mala fide in the way the cables have been recorded.

11. Most of the facts as stated or discussed in the leaked cables are already known to well-informed sections of the Indian public. For example, everything that has been recorded in some of the cables about M.K.Narayanan, former National Security Adviser, was already known in India through our media reports. The only interesting thing is that the cables enable us to have a look at these facts through American and not Indian eyes. One finds that American eyes could be as jaundiced as Indian eyes.

12. There are some tell-tale leads for our investigative reporters. The most interesting of these leads, in my view, is the one about a planned tripartite meeting in the US on the initiative of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to discuss developments relating to the investigation into the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. This meeting was to be attended by officers of the intelligence and investigating agencies of India, Pakistan and the US. The cables are,however, silent as to whether this tripartite meeting was held as scheduled, if so, who attended and what transpired.

13. During the tenure of Rajiv Gandhi and Chandrasekhar as the Prime Minister, the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had three meetings at the level of their then chiefs held at the initiative of a Jordanian dignitary. Nothing much came out of these meetings. After the Mumbai blasts of March 1993, the US had tried to organize such a tripartite meeting in a third country. P.V.Narasimha Rao, the then Prime Minister, and J.N Dixit, the then Foreign Secretary, were not enthusiastic about it. So the suggested US initiative remained a non-starter

14. The leaked cables suggest that the US had again taken up this idea after the 26/11 terrorist strikes and that the Government of Dr.Manmohan Singh had reacted positively to it. This is something interesting and significant and could make a good story if properly followed up by our investigative journalists.

15. There is at least one cable relating to a possible commission of the serious crime of bribery to influence voting in the Lok Sabha and the role Satish Sharma of the Congress (I) and one of his aides had allegedly played in it. This, if true, is a fresh piece of evidence which has come to notice now. This evidence was not in the possession of the committee which had enquired into a related allegation on the same subject after the confidence vote in 2008. The Government cannot escape the responsibility for re-opening the closed investigation or enquiry of 2008 in the light of this fresh evidence.

16. As I read the various cables leaked in different countries, what strikes me is the frankness and lack of inhibition with which our political leaders and bureaucrats discuss sensitive matters of State policy with US diplomats. They confide in US diplomats sensitive things that they never confide in the Indian public or parliament. There is much greater transparency during their interactions with US diplomats than during their interactions with Indian political leaders, media personnel and public. A typical example is the discussion of P.Chidambaram, our Home Minister, with a visiting head of the FBI regarding the constitutional implications of the manner in which the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was set up in a hurry after the 26/11 strikes. He had apparently discussed with his US interlocutors things which he had never broached with us mere Indians. It is as if we mere Indians cannot be trusted with discussions of such sensitive matters whereas the Americans can be. One finds many such instances right across the cables.

17. I find this the most galling. ( 21-3-11)

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

Saturday, March 19, 2011



"Despite the fact that it was French war planes which launched the first attacks, it's clear that this early phase of the operations is an overwhelmingly American affair - all but a very small number of cruise missiles have been fired from American ships and submarines, " said Paul Adams, the BBC correspondent in Washington DC, while commenting on the air and missile strikes launched by the US, France and the UK against ground targets in Government-controlled areas in Libya on the night of March 19,2011.

2. As I watched the TV visuals and read reports on the strikes, I was reminded of what the George Bush administration called the decapitation strikes before it started the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The military action in Libya has been projected as having the limited objective of a humanitarian intervention to protect civilians in the areas under the control of the rebels. But its real objective is to have Muammar Gaddfi, the Libyan despot, removed from power as quickly as possible and instal a pro-Western leader at Tripoli so that Western oil and gas companies could return to Libya and resume oil/gas production.

3. Oil--- and not human rights or concern for democracy--- is the driving force in Libya as it was in Iraq. Saddam Hussein paved the way for his own isolation and destruction by antagonising his own people through cruel repression and his neighbours through his arrogance. Muammar Gaddafi has similarly paved the way for his own isolation and ultimate destruction through similar policies of repression and arrogance. No force on earth could have saved Saddam in 2003. No force on earth could save Gaddafi in 2011.

4. Gaddafi is politically doomed. When a ruler---- be a democrat or a despot---- loses the support of his people his end is inevitable. The question is no longer whether Gaddafi will fall, but when and under what circumstances. What suffering it would cause to the Libyan people? Are they going to be the real beneficiaries of the UN-authorised and Western-manipulated intervention or the consumer economies of Italy and other European countries dependent on the flow of oil and gas from Libya?

5.The Iraq invasion set in motion the train of events that ultimately led to the discrediting of the policy-makers of the Bush Administration in the US and the Tony Blair Government in the UK. As Obama himself had often conceded, the involvement in Iraq contributed to the USA's difficulties in the Af-Pak region.

6.One thought Obama had learnt the right lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq. It is apparent he has not. After the Second World War, the US had rarely covered itself with glory when it embarked on external adventures----whether it be in Kora or in Vietnam or in Somalia or in Afghanistan or in Iraq. If Obama thinks Libya could be an exception, he is mistaken.

7. The only effect of the Libyan adventure will be that the march of democracy, which started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, will be stopped.The Arab despots, who have jumped into the Western bandwagon against Gaddafi, have done so not because their hearts bleed for the civilians in Libya and for their human rights. They have done so because they calculate that the diversion of the Western attention to
Libya enables them to crush the human rights and aspirations for democracy of their own people.

8. The Western need for Arab support in Libya in order to show it as a truly international coallition of Western crusaders and Islamic people has already led to a cruel suppression of the pro-democracy agitators in Bahrain with Western voices and conscience remaining muted as the Sunni ruler, with the help of 2000 ground troops from the States of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), crushes the Shia protesters. Western near-silence in Bahrain today and in Saudi Arabia tomorrow is the quid pro quo for the Arab support in Libya.

9. Whatever be the outcome in Libya, its echoes will be heard wherever American lives are threatened and American interests are endangered---whether in the Af-Pak region, or in Yemen or in Egypt or elsewhere. We have seen the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan with a Neo Taliban keeping the NATO troops bleeding. We will be seeing a resurgence of Al Qaeda with a Neo Al Qaeda endangering American lives and interests everywhere. Anger breeds terrorism. More anger will breed more terrorism. 20-3-11)

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



Like a Buddhist monk, I am withdrawing into a spell of meditation and introspection for some days from today.During this period, I may not be accessible except to relatives and some very close friends.I will not be responding to tweets, E-mails and phone calls and will not be available for TV discussions.However, I will try to keep my blog updated and send my article alerts to those figuring in my list for many years.I will honour writing/speaking commitments already made, but will not undertake fresh commitments.Take care. B.Raman

Friday, March 18, 2011



I can understand the decision of India, Russia and China to abstain in the voting in the UN Security Council (UNSC) on March 18,2011, on the resolution authorising the enforcement of a No Fly Zone over Libya to prevent Libyan air stikes against anti-Muammar Gaddafi rebels and civilians and a humanitarian intervention not involving the use of ground troops.

2. Explaining the likely implications of the resolution for Libya to the White House media, President Barack Obama said: " "Now, once more, Muammar Gaddafi has a choice. The resolution that passed lays out very clear conditions that must be met. The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Arab states agree that a cease-fire must be implemented immediately.That means all attacks against civilians must stop. Gaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi; pull them back from Adjadbiya, Misrata and Zawiya; and establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya.Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable. These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Gaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action."

3. The Gaddafi Government has announced an immediate cease-fire in response to the resolution, but rebel sources have doubted its sincerity. They see it more as a tactical move to buy time and to create divisions among those who supported the resolution. They would, therefore, like the enforcement of the No Fly Zone and the humanitarian intervention to be accompanied by a joint action by the West and the Arab States to bring about a regime change.

4. Obama has ruled out---at least for the present--- any military action to bring about a regime change. He seems to believe that the regime change must be brought about through international psychological pressure and not through military action. Obama said during his interaction with the media: "I also want to be clear about what we will not be doing. The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya, and we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the protection of civilians in Libya. In the coming weeks, we will continue to help the Libyan people with humanitarian and economic assistance so that they can fulfill their aspirations peacefully."

5. This is meant to reassure abstaining countries like India, Russia and China who fear that the world might be witnessing a re-enactment of Iraq in Libya. In Iraq, the West exploited a vague UNSC resolution on a No Fly Zone to mount a military operation for a regime change. The resolution on the No Fly Zone on Libya is as vague as the resolution on Iraq was. It is silent on the command and control of the operation. Commenting on this, the BBC said: "Those countries taking part in the coalition still need to decide who leads this mission, and what action they will take if the ceasefire breaks down. It is not yet clear who the commander of the operation will be, where it will be headquartered and what Nato assets might be used."

6. While India and China refrained from spelling out in detail their concerns and reservations about the way the resolution was drafted, Russia did. It made it clear during its interventions in the UNSC debate that while it had no objection in principle to a No Fly Zone, it cannot support it unless the command and control was decided beforehand.

7. The US and other NATO countries have seen to it that all decisions regarding command and control will not be taken in the UNSC, but outside. The Foreign Ministers of France and Britain and the US Secretary of State are scheduled to meet in Paris later today to discuss, inter alia, about the command and control. In Iraq, the US and the UK manipulated the denouement in such a manner as to keep all major decisions in their hands. Even France was unhappy over this.

8. In Libya, a triumvirate consisting of the US, France and the UK is trying to retain in its hands the responsibility for all major decisions. Hence, my understanding and support for the decision of India to abstain along with Russia and China.

9. But, India's abstention should not mean that it abandons the interests of the anti-Gaddafi forces and the civilians supporting them. We are entering an uneasy period similar to what happened in Iraq----with the Kurds in the North retaining de facto autonomy with the help of US forces based in Turkey and Saddam Hussein's control restricted to non-Kurdish areas. In Libya, the anti-Gaddafi tribals will be helped by US-led forces based in Egypt and Tunisia to retain their de facto autonomy in their areas, with Gaddafi's control restricted to areas, including Tripoli, the capital, where tribals still loyal to him are strong.

10. In this unconfortable situation, India and Russia should mount a humanitarian mission of their own which would not come into conflict with the UNSC-authorised mission. It should have as its objective assisting all civilians in equal measure---whether they are in Govt-controlled areas or in areas under rebel control. India and Russia should enter into immediate consultations to discuss whether this is feasible and, if so, how to do it. They should keep the US, the UK, France and the Arab League informed of their moves. (19-3-11)

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



The Wikileaks cables will not most probably be accepted by a court of law.

But they will be accepted by large sections of the people of this country as indicating how rotten the State of India has become .

We have had instances of political bribery in the past too.

But those who committed bribery in the past to distort the democratic process understood they were committing a shameful act.

Those who have committed bribery under your watch as the Prime Minister of this great country, which held its head high as the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, did not show the least sign of shame over what they were doing. They proudly admitted to junior US diplomats their lack of political morality and their readiness to stoop to any methods, including payment of bribes, in order to survive in power.

What will these foreigners think of us? That question never even came to their mind.

When "The Hindu" published the cable from the US Embassy to the State Department on this subject yesterday, many of us who continued to think well of you despite all the corruption allegations of recent months that have led to a melt-down of our public and political morality, expected strong reactions from you as the person who is constantly projected as the most honest Prime Minister the country has produced since Independence.





A determination not to tolerate any more of this political immorality even if you have to lose office in the process.

Instead, what reactions we got?


More denials.

And yet more denials.

Not even by you directly.

But by those in your entourage.

And after a day of silence by you, we have been told that you never authorised any bribery.

What does it mean? Does it mean that those who committed it did so without your knowledge or permission?

Presuming this is correct, is it a mitigating circumstance in judging the state of political morality ?

Doesn't this reflect badly on the state of affairs that such things can happen under your Government without your knowledge and that when they come to your notice, you react as if such things are part of the normal processes of democracy that one has to understand.

Previously, you used to speak of what you call the coalition dharma under which you had to close your eyes to undesirable happenings in the interest of coalition stability.

Now, you have introduced a concept of bribery dharma under which you have to close your eyes to widespread corruption around you in the interest of the stability of your Government.

Is the survival in office under such conditions worth it?

As one watches with shame and bewilderment what has been happening since yesterday, one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry . (18-3-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi. E-mail: )

Thursday, March 17, 2011



This article is based on my reading of the report on the subject carried by "The Hindu" on March 17,2011, the analysis by Sheela Bhatt, Delhi-based Editor of, carried by Rediff the same day and the scintillating debate on the subject anchored by Barkha Dutt from 9 to 10-30 PM, again the same day.

2.The whole controversy on the subject has originated from a cable sent to the US State Department on July 17, 2008, by Steven White, the CDA in the US Embassy in New Delhi, about a visit paid to Satish Sharma, the Congress MP, the previous day by the Embassy's Political Counsellor. The cable of the CDA does not identify by name the Political Counsellor. The cable also has a reference to the interactions of "an Embassy Staff member" with Nachiketa Kapur, described as Sharma's political aide, on July 16. This staff member has not been identified either. It is not clear whether the Political Counsellor and the Embassy staff member are one and the same person.

3.To establish the evidential value of the cable in a court of law, one has to prove the authenticity of the cable and of the summary of the discussions of the Political Counsellor with Sharma and the staff member with Kapur. There are only two sources, who can prove the authenticity of the cable---- the CDA who initiated it and the State Department, which received it. Even though the US Government has initiated legal action against Julian Assenge, who has been leaking the Wikileaks cables, it has not so far admitted in public that the thousands of cables being leaked by him are genuine. Unless it so admits, the cable referred to by "The Hindu" will have very limited value as documentary evidence in a court of law.

4. The CDA is not describing in the cable what transpired at his own meeting with Sharma and his aide. He is describing what his Political Counsellor and Embassy Staff member told him about their interactions with Sharma and Kapur the previous day. The authenticity of the contents of the cable can be certified in a court of law only by these three persons. Since neither the State Department nor the three officers of the US Embassy can be forced to testify on the subject, any enquiry into the violation of the law ( alleged payment of bribe to some Members of Parliament by the Congress (I) to influence voting in the Lok Sabha) has to find other ways of establishing the authenticity of the details as stated in the cable. This is going to be very difficult since none of the persons, who allegedly received the bribe, will admit it and Sharma and Kapur will not admit that they paid bribe.

5. Even earlier there were strong suspicions that bribe had allegedly been paid by the Congress (I) to some members to influence their voting after the debate on the no confidence motion. This cable strengthens those suspicions without being able to prove them. Hence, my assessment that the cable will have high political embarrassment value and low evidential value.

6. There is an intriguing aspect of the cable to which attention has been drawn by Sheela Bhatt--- namely, some members of the staff of the US Embassy,including the CDA, had become aware that a serious offence (alleged paying of bribes to influence voting) was about to be committed, but did not consider it necessary to alert the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of what they were told in order to prevent the commission of the crime.

7. Under the law, everyone---including diplomats--- has an obligation to alert the authorities concerned if he or she comes to know of information indicating plans for the commission of a crime.The US diplomats did not carry out this obligation. They just reported to the State Department and did nothing more. They invited Kapur allegedly on an-expenses paid trip to the US. Sheela Bhatt says: "It is astounding to see that the Americans were witness to the corrupt drama of the buying of MPs in Parliament. The last thing on their mind was the value of democracy so finely inscribed in the American constitution.Despite being in the know of the UPA government's corruption to buy votes, the Americans sent Nachiketa Kapur on an all-expense-paid junket to the US."

8.This is a damning indictment of the political morality of the US with which many would be in agreement. Under the US law, payment of bribes by the US Government or US companies to promote US interests abroad is banned. In this case, the alleged bribe was not paid from the US tax-payers' money. Nor was it paid by the Congress (I) directly to promote US interests, but an indirect beneficiary will be US nuclear manufacturers, who would get contracts. Thus, an illegality was being committed that could ultimately benefit some US companies. Three members of the staff of the US Embassy came to know of it, but it did not occur to them to alert the Indian authorities. Nor did the State Department do so. One can only draw attention to this. Nothing more can be done.

9.There is another aspect of the affair .Kapur allegedly showed the staff member of the US Embassy the boxes in which the money to be paid as bribe was kept. Why did he do so? Was some of the money to be re-imbursed later by US sources? Was he trying to convince the US staff member that money was in fact paid so that re-imbursement could be later claimed?

10. A last personal observation : I have never made a secret of my admiration for Barkha and the esteem in which I hold her for her professional and personal qualities even though I had met her in flesh and blood only once in 2008 in New Delhi. My admiration and esteem for her have gone up further after watching the dignity and poise with which she has been covering this subject without stooping to score points against other TV channels, which have been unkind to her and which have not covered themselves with glory in the entire matter of coverage of this issue since 2008. Hats off to Barkha. (18-3-11)

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2011



It is leant from reliable sources in Pakistan that acceptance of blood money by the heirs to the two Pakistanis who were killed by Raymond Davis on January 27,2011, their withdrawal of the complaint of murder against him, his release from detention in the Kot Lakpat jail of Lahore and his airlift from Lahore to the Bagram air base of the US in Afghanistan and subsequently to the US naval base in Diego Garcia on March 16,2011,followed an agreement reached between the Inter-Serices Intelligence (ISI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in secret talks held in Oman under the intermediary of the Saudi intelligence under which the CIA has agreed not to run its own Human intelligence (HUMINT) network in Pakistani territory.

2. It is further learnt that under this agreement while the US would be free to run its Technical Intelligence (TECHINT) network, which provides TECHINT for the operations of the US as well as Pakistan in the tribal belt, the US HUMINT requirements would in future be projected to the ISI which has agreed to strengthen its HUMINT capability with assistance to be provided by the CIA.

3. To avoid embarrassing allegations of payment of blood money by the official agencies of the US or Pakistan, it was reported to have been paid by the Saudi intelligence in the court before which Davis was being tried in Lahore on March 16.

4. According to these sources, the ISI and the Pakistani Foreign Office had the following two major complaints against the CIA :

* Deployment of an increasing number of retired officers of the US intelligence community and Special Forces as contract employees in Pakistani territory without the knowledge and approval of the ISI for collecting HUMINT.
* Ex-post facto grant of diplomatic status to them after they had arrived in Pakistan with official or ordinary visas by showing them as members of the staff of the US diplomatic mission in Pakistan.

5. The sources say that the CIA has agreed to end both these practices.The agreement will not come in the way of the posting of regular staffers of the CIA under diplomatic cover in Pakistan for liaison with the Pakistani agencies. It will also not come in the way of officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) being posted under diplomatic cover as Legal Attaches in the US missions to liaise with the Pakistani intelligence agencies and the Police.

6.Raymond Davis, who was shown as a member of the technical and administrative staff of the US Consulate-General in Lahore, had reportedly arrived in Pakistan with an official and not a diplomatic visa. He was susequently shown by the US as transferred to the US Embassy in Islamabad, which upgraded his status to a diplomatic one, but he continued to function from the Lahore Consulate.The unilateral upgradation of his status by the US Embassy had not been accepted by the Pakistani Foreign Office.

7. The option of a blood money had been there from the beginning, but was not seriously considered because the heirs to the two Pakistanis allegedly killed by Davis were under tremendous pressure from the Islamic fundamentalist organisations not to accept it. The ISI refrained from pressuring them to accept the blood money, but once the US agreed to accept the ISI's demands in respect of HUMINT operations, the ISI intervened and persuaded the legal heirs to accept the money and move for the withdrawal of the prosecution of Davis.

8. The adverse public and jihadi reactions in Pakistan to the release were expected to some extent. The Government is hopeful that the ISI, which handled the negotiations, would be able to contain the protests through its influence over the fundamentalist and jihadi organisations and prevent any new wave of reprisal attacks.Lt.Gen.Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the Director-General of the ISI, has been given an extension of one more year from March 18, when he was due to retire. But one should not over-estimate the ISI's ability to control the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Sunni extremist Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ). The recent assassinations of Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, and Shabaz Bhatti, Minister for Minority Affairs, showed the limited nature of the ISI's control over these organisations. The ISI has fairly effective control over the Punjabi Taliban organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, but its control over the TTP, the SSP and the LEJ is very weak. Serious reprisal attacks could come from these organisations. Pakistan could be in for a renewed spell of reprisal suicide terrorism directed against the ISI and the political leadership.

9. Does the agreement also provide for the eventual release of Aafia Siddiqui, a US-educated Pakistani neuro-scientist, presently in jail in the US after having been convicted on charges arising from her suspected collaboration with the Afghan Taliban? The answer to this is not clear. Aafia's case is much more complex than that of Davis. She has already been convicted whereas Davis was only an under-trial. (17-3-11)

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

Tuesday, March 15, 2011



( To be read from bottom to top)

Air India spokesperson said: "Air India is operating flights to Japan. We have no instructions to screen passengers for radiation." AFP

India downplays radioactive contamination dangers--AFP

What steps India is taking to prevent radioactive contamination from reaching India through transport, passengers, imported foodstuff?

Malaysia starts checking passengers from Japan for radio activity.Thai Airways cancels overnight stops in Japan for its crew.

Of the 62 reactors being built arnd the world,40 R in Asia, according 2 the World Nuclear Assc.China 27, India 5 & S.Korea 5

Lufthansa checking flights from Japan for radioactivity. How about flights from Japan touching Indian airports?

IAEA yet to send experts.

US team includes reactor experts, international affairs experts, and a senior manager from one of the NRC's (Nuclear Regulatory Commission ) four operating regions,

Japan formally asks US & IAEA for reactor blast management assistance. 8 US experts already despatched. 2 more being sent. AFP ( 16-3-11)

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


(From my tweets @ramthink)

Economic melt-down may follow nuclear melt-down.

Immediate victims---tourism, civil aviation & sea food exports. Power shortages will bring down industrial production.

Fears of eating food articles from Japan. Loss of contracts & jobs in MENA (Middle East North Africa) compunded byTsunami after-effects.

Impact on India. Inward-looking Japan will be less interested in strategic co-operation with India.Cut in overseas Japanese aid.

Japanese investment flows will be hit. South Korea will be hit too. Will North Korea become more dangerous?

Reputation of Japanese nuclear technology will be hit.

Impact on Chinese Economy.Likely fall in investment flows. Business travel will be affected. (16-3-11)

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



Bahrain, a Shia majority State ruled by a Sunni family, is on the sectarian razor's edge following the entry of about 2000 troops from the member-States of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) into Bahrain in the early hours of the morning of March 14,2011, to guard the banking district and vital installations. One thousand of these troops with 150 armoured personnel carriers have reportedly come from Saudi Arabia, about 500 from the United Arab Emirates and the remaining from other GCC States. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are the members of the GCC.

2. The pro-reform protesters, largely Shias, who had been demonstrating for the last five weeks mainly in the Pearl Roundabout area, moved for the first time into the banking district on March 13. There were violent clashes between the police and the protesters when the police prevented them from occupying the banking district, resulting in injuries to a large number of persons.

3. The move of the demonstrators to the banking district created nervousness and panic in the Government which saw it as the beginning of an attempt by the demonstrators to attack economic targets and paralyse the economy. The local security agencies saw it as a move which was not spontaneous, but had been instigated by Iran through its contacts in the local Shia population.

4. An emergency request for help was sent to the GCC Secretariat and there was an immediate positive response. The Government has stated that the troops of the GCC countries would be used mainly for static physical security duties to guard vital installations and the economic infrastructure and that they would not be used for law and order duties which might bring them into a confrontational situation with the Shia population.

5. What would be the nature of the command and control over the GCC troops is not yet clear. Will they operate autonomously and if so, under whose command? Or will they operate under the command of the Bahrain Army?

6. The Shia protesters have projected the GCC troops who have taken up position in Bahrain as an army of occupation. Nabeel Rajab, from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera that the Saudi troops would be opposed by the protesters. "This is an internal issue and we will consider it as an occupation," he said. "This step is not welcomed by Bahrainis. This move is not acceptable at all. It is a repressive regime supported by another repressive regime." There is limited likelihood of clashes between the GCC troops and the pro-reform protesters so long as the GCC troops keep themselves confined to their static physical security duties.

7. The Shia demonstrators for democracy and political reforms have till now been avoiding a projection of their movement as a confrontation between the Shia population and the Sunni rulers and their security forces. The deployment of the Sunni forces from outside Bahrain for the physical security of vital installations threatens to give it the colour of the Shias of Bahrain being suppressed by the forces of the Sunni rulers of the region.

8. Calls for regional Shia solidarity with fellow Shias in Bahrain sought to be suppressed by foreign Sunni forces could lead to a pan-Gulf Shia unrest in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia, in Kuwait and the UAE, with the Shia protesters looking up to Iran even more than till now for guidance and help.

9. There have been only proforma expressions of concern from the US and other Western countries to the entry of the GCC troops into Bahrain. A statement from the White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said: "We urge our GCC partners to show restraint and respect the rights of the people of Bahrain, and to act in a way that supports dialogue instead of undermining it." At the same time, the Western countries have reasons to be worried that Iran might turn out to be the ultimate beneficiary of any pan-Gulf Shia unrest. If the Shia unrest gets aggravated, what would be the impact on the Shias of Pakistan, who constitute about 20 per cent of the population? ( 15-3-11)

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

Monday, March 14, 2011


" Paper prepared at the request of Prof.Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution, US, for inclusion in an edited volume on Pakistan being brought out by him. The volume, which is proposed to be published from India, Pakistan and the US, would include papers on Pakistan contributed by scholars in the three countries plus from the UK and Norway)
Religious extremism encouraged by the Pakistan Army has turned into a double-edged sword. It did hurt the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s and India post-1989 to some extent, but it has started hurting Pakistan more than it has been hurting India.

2.The consolidation of the presence of Al Qaeda and its associates and the deepening of the roots of the Afghan Taliban in Pakistani territory, the growth of the Pakistani Taliban called the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Pakistani Punjab and the tribal belt and the ideological Talibanisation of India-specific terrorist organizations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and of growing sections of the youth in the tribal belt and Punjab have been the outcome of the encouragement of religious extremism by the Army. The Army has been using it as an operational asset to achieve its strategic objectives of forcing a change of the status quo in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) , retaining the Pakistani presence and influence in Afghanistan and countering the Indian presence and influence there.

3.The growth of religious extremism has made Pakistan a state of great concern not only to India as it has always been, but also to other countries of the world. Al Qaeda and its associates , which have global ambitions, have established de facto control over North Waziristan. The noticeable surge in the strikes by the Drone aircraft ( pilotless planes) of the US since Mr.Barack Obama came to office in January 2009 might have weakened Al Qaeda and its associates to some extent as claimed by the US, but the weakening has not significantly affected their ability to operate globally. They may no longer be able to do a repeat of the 9/11-style terrorist strikes, but they are still in a position to operate on a smaller scale, but in a larger geographical area as compared to the period before 9/11.

4. What Al Qaeda and its associates have lost by way of well-motivated and well-trained Arab and other foreign cadres has been made good to some extent by the increase in the number of motivated cadres and capabilities of Pakistani organizations such as the LET. In the past, the LET was essentially an asset of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) raised, motivated, trained and armed for use against India and against Indian nationals and interests in Afghanistan. While continuing to play the India-focused role assigned to it by the ISI, the LET has gravitated into an organization with global ambitions and a global reach capable of making good the weaknesses of Al Qaeda and its associates.

5. The TTP, which started essentially as an organization indulging in acts of reprisal against the Pakistani security forces following the raid into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad by the Pakistani military commandoes in July,2007, has developed a larger agenda of assisting the Afghan Taliban in its operations against the NATO forces in Afghanistan and assisting home-grown jihadis in the US and other Western countries by training them in the areas under its control in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

6. The Pakistan Army’s policy of using the extremists and terrorists as operational assets where it can and countering them as adversaries where it should has created a dichotomy in its counter-terrorism policy, thereby weakening the fight against terrorism emanating from Pakistani territory. While the Pakistan Army can be expected to keep up its sporadic operations against the TTP which poses an internal threat, it is unlikely to act effectively against the LET and other India-specific terrorist organizations and against the Afghan Taliban. It has been avoiding action against Al Qaeda due to a lack of confidence in its ability to eradicate it and due to a fear that Al Qaeda might indulge in acts of reprisal terrorism in Pakistani territory.

7. The internal security situation in Pakistan, already very bad, has been made worse by the activities of Sunni extremist groups such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) against the Shias, who constitute about 20 per cent of the population, the non-Muslim minorities and the liberal elements in the Sunni majority who take up the cause of the minorities and advocate changes in the blasphemy law in order to prevent its misuse against the minorities.

8. The religious parties, which contest in the elections, generally receive less than 15 per cent of the votes polled. There is no reason to believe that their number has increased. What has been happening is the gravitation of the terrorism-prone elements in these organizations as well as in the general population towards the terrorist organizations due to various reasons such as anger over the commando raid into the Lal Masjid and the civilian casualties due to the Drone strikes etc. Since the terrorist organizations do not contest the elections, it will be difficult to quantify the support enjoyed by them in the general population. However, the fact that they continue to have a regular flow of volunteers for suicide terrorism would indicate the existence of well-motivated support for them---particularly in Punjab and other areas.

9.From all this, it would be incorrect to assess that there has been a radicalization of Pakistan as a State and society. What we are seeing is a radicalisation of sizable sections of the population—particularly in certain areas of Punjab and the Pashtun belt--- who have come under the influence of destabilising radical ideas and are posing a threat to peace and security in Pakistan as well as in the region and the rest of the world.

10. Despite pessimistic assessments by many analysts, I do not see any danger of a radicalisation of Pakistan as a State and a nation in the short and medium terms. The Army plays an important role in the governance of Pakistan----either directly by taking over the reins of power or indirectly when a duly elected political leadership is in power by having a say in matters concerning national security. There has been an increase in the number of radical elements in the Army since the days of the late Gen. Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88). One finds an increasing number of students from the madrasas in the Armed Forces and other Government departments. They are more prone to be influenced by radical ideas than the products of non-religious institutions.

11. Such radical elements are found mainly at the lower and middle levels. The presence of radical elements at the higher command level is rare. However, exceptions have been there----the most prominent of them being Gen. Zia himself, who was a devout Deobandi and Gen. Mohammed Aziz Khan, who retired some years ago. Gen. Aziz Khan belongs to the Sudan tribe of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and was considered a hard-core fundamentalist in his thinking and actions. After his retirement, there are no votaries of radical or fundamentalist ideologies at the level of Lt. Generals and Generals

12.Despite the presence of such radical elements at the lower and middle levels, the Pakistan Army is not a radical institution in the religious sense. While the Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, which consists largely of military officers, have no compunctions about using radical elements in the society for achieving their strategic objectives, they have ensured that their institutions do not get infected with radical ideas at the senior levels. During the war against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the ISI, in collaboration with the USA's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), used radical ideologies for motivating the Afghan, Pakistani and Arab volunteers to fight against the Soviet troops. At the same time, it saw to it that these ideas did not affect the Army as an institution. This was equally true in the case of the Air Force and the Navy too.

13.There are three destabilizing ideological influences in Pakistan---- the Wahabised Islamic extremism, the trans-Ummah pan-Islamism and the country-wide anti-Americanism. The Wahabised Islamic extremism calls for the transformation of Pakistan into an Islamic democracy ruled according to the Sharia and the will of Allah, as interpreted by the clerics. It says that in an Islamic democracy, Allah will be sovereign and not the people. The trans-Ummah pan-Islamism holds that the first loyalty of a Muslim should be to his religion and not to the State, that religious bonds are more important than cultural bonds, that Muslims do not recognize national frontiers and have a right and obligation to go to any country to wage a jihad in support of the local Muslims and that the Muslims have the religious right and obligation to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in order to protect their religion, if necessary. The anti-Americanism projects the US as the source of all evils afflicting the Islamic as well as the non-Islamic world. The religious elements look upon the US as anti-Islam. The non-religious elements look upon it as anti-people.

14. The geo-religious landscape in Pakistan is dominated by two kinds of organizations-----the fundamentalist parties and the jihadi organizations. The fundamentalist parties have been in existence since Pakistan became independent in 1947 and have been contesting the elections though they are opposed to Western-style liberal democracy. Their total vote share has always been below 15 per cent. They reached the figure of 11 per cent in the 2002 elections, thanks to the machinations of the Pervez Musharraf Government, which wanted to marginalize the influence of the non-religious parties opposed to him such as the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) of Mr.Nawaz Sharif. In his over-anxiety to cut Mrs.Bhutto and Mr.Nawaz down to size, Musharraf handed over the tribal areas on a platter to the fundamentalists and the jihadis, thereby ---- more unwittingly than consciously --- facilitating the resurgence of the Neo Taliban and Al Qaeda.

15.The jihadi organizations are so called because they misinterpret the concept of jihad and advocate its use against all perceived enemies of Islam----internal or external, non-Muslims or Muslims---- wherever they are found. Their call for jihad has a domestic as well as an external agenda. The domestic agenda is the setting up of an Islamic democracy in Pakistan ruled according to the Sharia and the will of Allah. The external agenda is to “liberate” all so-called traditional Muslim lands from the “occupation” of non-Muslims and to eliminate the influence of the US and the rest of the Western world from the Ummah.

16. The jihadi organizations were brought into existence in the 1980s by the ISI and the Saudi intelligence at the instance of the CIA for being used against the troops of the USSR and the pro-Soviet Afghan Government in Afghanistan. Their perceived success in bringing about the withdrawal of the Soviet troops and the collapse of the Najibullah Government has convinced them that the jihad as waged by them is a highly potent weapon, which could be used with equal effectiveness to bring about the withdrawal of the Western presence from the Ummah, to “liberate the traditional Muslim lands” and to transform Pakistan into an Islamic fundamentalist State. The Pakistani Army and the ISI, which were impressed by the motivation, determination and fighting skills displayed by the jihadi organizations in Afghanistan, transformed them, after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, into a new strategic weapon for use against India to annex J&K and in Afghanistan to achieve a strategic depth.

17.The aggravation of the anti-US feelings in the Islamic world post-9/11 has resulted in a dual control over the Pakistani jihadi organizations.The ISI has been trying to use them for its national agenda against India and in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden has been using them for his global agenda against “the Crusaders and the Jewish people”. The jihadi organizations are now fighting on three fronts with equal ferocity----against India as desired by the ISI, against the US and Israel as desired by Al Qaeda and against the Pakistani State itself as dictated by their domestic agenda of an Islamic State ruled according to the Sharia and the will of Allah. The growing Talibanisation of the tribal areas in the FATA and the Khyber Pakhtoonkwa province (KP) and its spread outside the tribal areas are the outcome of their determined pursuit of their domestic agenda. The acts of jihadi terrorism in Spain and the UK, the thwarted acts of terrorism in the UK and the unearthing of numerous sleeper cells in the UK, the USA, Canada and other countries and the resurgence of the Neo Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan are the outcome of their equally determined pursuit of their international agenda. Members of the Pakistani diaspora in the Gulf and the Western countries have been playing an increasingly active role in facilitating the pursuit of their international agenda.

18.The international community’s concern over the prevailing and developing situation in Pakistan has been further deepened by the status of Pakistan as a nuclear weapon State. The Pakistan Army has been repeatedly assuring the US and the rest of the international community that the security of its nuclear arsenal is strong and that there is no danger of its falling into the hands of the jihadi terrorists. Despite this, the concerns remain. This is due to various factors.

19. Firstly, it is admitted even in Pakistan that there has been an infiltration of extremist elements into every section of the Pakistani State apparatus---- the Armed Forces, the Police, the Para-military forces and the civilian bureaucracy. When that is so, it is inconceivable that there would not be a similar penetration of Pakistan’s nuclear establishment.

20. Secondly, the fundamentalist and jihadi organizations are strong supporters of a military nuclear capability for the Ummah to counter the alleged nuclear capability of Israel. They project Pakistan’s atomic bomb not as a mere national asset, but as an Islamic asset. They describe it as an Islamic bomb, whose use should be available to the entire Ummah. They also support Pakistan sharing its nuclear technology with other Muslim countries. In their eyes, A.Q.Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, committed no offence by sharing the nuclear technology with Iran and Libya because both are Muslim States or with North Korea as a quid pro quo for its sharing its missile technology with Pakistan. They look upon Pakistan’s sharing its nuclear technology and know-how with other Islamic States as an Islamic obligation and not as an illegal act of proliferation.

21.Thirdly, while serving scientists may be prepared to share the technology and know-how with other Muslim States, there has been no evidence of a similar willingness on their part to share them with Islamic non-State actors such as Al Qaeda. However, the dangers of such a sharing of know-how with the non-State actors were highlighted by the unearthing of evidence by the US intelligence after 9/11 that at least two retired Pakistani nuclear scientists ----Sultan Bashiruddin Chaudhury and Abdul Majid---were in touch with Osama bin Laden after their retirement and had even visited him at Kandahar. They were taken into custody and questioned. They admitted their contacts with bin Laden, but insisted that those were in connection with the work of a humanitarian relief organization, which they had founded after their retirement. Many retired Pakistani military and intelligence officers have been helping the Neo Taliban and the Pakistani jihadi organizations. The most well-known example is that of Lt.Gen.Hamid Gul, who was the Director-General of the ISI during Mrs.Benazir’s first tenure as the Prime Minister (1988-90). Are there retired nuclear scientists, who have been maintaining similar contacts with Al Qaeda and other jihadi organizations?

22. The Pashtun belt on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border would continue to be under the de facto control of Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and the Pakistani jihadi organizations with neither the Pakistani Army in Pakistani territory nor the US-led NATO forces in the adjoining Afghan territory being able to prevail over the terrorists in an enduring manner. The NATO forces will not be able to prevail in the Afghan territory unless and until the roots of the jihadi terrorism in the Pakistani territory are initially sterilized and ultimately destroyed. The Pakistani Army has so far not exhibited either a willingness or the capability to undertake this task. The lack of willingness arises from its perception that it will need its own jihadis for continued use against India and the Neo Taliban for retrieving the strategic ground lost by it in Afghanistan. Moreover, the Army fears that any strong action by it against the jihadis operating in the Pashtun belt could lead to a major confrontation between the Army and the tribals, who contribute a large number of soldiers to the Pakistan Army. Next to Punjab, the largest number of soldier-recruits to the Pakistan Army comes from the KP and the FATA.

23.Its incapability arises from the fact that ever since Pakistan was born in 1947, the FATA has remained in a state of isolation and utter neglect with no worthwhile development of its economy and infrastructure. It should be possible to root out the terrorist infrastructure in this area through operations mounted by the NATO forces from the Afghan territory, but neither the present Government nor any future democratically elected civilian Government might be in a position to agree to this as this could aggravate anti-American feelings right across the political spectrum and the country as a whole and discredit the Government in power at Islamabad. If the Pakistan Government, including its military leadership do not act vigorously in time, there is a danger of the spread of jihadi extremism of the Taliban kind from the tribal areas to the POK and to those areas of Pakistani Punjab bordering the Pashtun belt. There are indications of this having already started.

24.India and Afghanistan will continue to face the immediate impact of the uncontrolled activities of the extremists and jihadis in Pakistani territory. Jihadi terrorism in the Indian territory will ebb and flow depending on the effectiveness of the Indian security forces and counter-terrorism agencies in dealing with it. Occasional outbreaks of spectacular acts of terrorism will be followed by long spells of inactivity. In the first few years after terrorism broke out in J&K in 1989, it almost assumed the shape of a sustained insurgency. But, the political, counter-infiltration (building of border fences) and counter-terrorism measures taken by the Indian authorities have dented the capability of the terrorists to maintain a sustained wave of terrorist attacks. The total elimination of these sporadic acts would not be possible till the Pakistani State gives up its use of terrorism as a strategic weapon.

25.There will be continuing instability in Afghanistan with the danger of Afghanistan reverting back to the pre-9/11 position. Narcotics control measures and all measures to dry up the flow of funds to different terrorist groups will remain ineffective. The flow of funds from the international community to Afghanistan will not result in any significant economic development and in an improvement in the standard of living of the people. On the other hand, there would be a danger of some of these funds leaking into the coffers of the terrorists through their sympathizers in the Government. There has been a penetration of the newly-raised Afghan security forces and the civilian administration by the Neo Taliban.

26.The phenomenon of angry individual Muslims in the Pakistani and other Muslim diaspora in the West taking to suicide terrorism and emulating Al Qaeda even if they do not agree with its objectives will continue. The strong measures taken by the Western Governments against their own Muslim population as well as Muslim visitors to their country will add to the feelings of alienation and anger in the Muslim diaspora. This will come in the way of their integration and aggravate the divide between the Muslims and non-Muslims. Instances of acts of reprisal terrorism against Western nationals and interests will continue to take place. A repeat of 9/11 in the US homeland cannot be ruled out however strong the physical security measures. The vicious cycle of More terrorism—More physical security and restrictive measures against Muslims---More alienation and Anger---More Terrorism will continue unbroken.

27.The fire of jihadi terrorism started in the Af-Pak region. It can be extinguished only through appropriate measures in the region from which it started-----particularly in Pakistan where the heart of the fire is located. A mix of immediate and long-term measures is required. The immediate measures would include pressurizing Pakistan to stop the use of terrorism as a strategic weapon, effectively put an end to the terrorist infrastructure created by the ISI and arrest and prosecute the leaders of the jihadi terrorist organizations. These measures would weaken the Pakistani jihadi organizations, but would not end Al Qaeda. It could be neutralized only by joint international action. The international community has not been successful presently because of a lack of co-operation from Pakistan. It must be made to co-operate through a carrot and stick policy. Another immediate measure required is a change in the present over-militarised counter-terrorism methods of the US, which are causing considerable collateral damage and driving more Muslims into the arms of Al Qaeda.

28. The long-term measures would include heavy investments in education in Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to make modern education available to the poorer sections of the society at an affordable price and reform of the madrasa system in order to make the madrasas serve the genuine religious and spiritual needs of the people without seeking to make jihadi terrorists out of them.The Western countries should seek to remove the feelings in the minds of their Muslim population that they are a targeted community. For this, there is a need for an improvement in the quality of the interactions of the intelligence and security agencies with the Muslims. How to be firm without seeming to be harsh and how to avoid creating feelings of humiliation in the minds of the Muslims under questioning? These are questions, which need attention----immediately as well as in the medium and long terms. Eradication of the roots of terrorism would be a long drawn-out process. It needs to be handled with patience and understanding of the feelings of the Muslims. The economic development of the tribal areas on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border also needs attention.

29. India has to be a front-line State in the political and ideological campaign against extremism and terrorism in the Af-Pak region. The threats originating from these areas will continue to confront India, Afghanistan and the international community as a whole for at least another 10 to 15 years to come. It has to be gradually diluted and the terrorist organizations demotivated before one could hope to see jihadi fatigue set in. Demotivation of the terrorism-prone sections of the population should be the first objective. Better education, better medicare, better infrastructure, better governance and greater economic prosperity would be important factors in any exercise to achieve demotivation.

30. Attention to these factors alone would not be adequate to achieve the required level of demotivation which would enable a roll-back of the jihadi threat. It is equally important to work simultaneously for a demotivation of the Pakistani military leadership, whose reflexes are still largely influenced by memories of the defeat of the Pakistan Army by the Indian Army in 1971 and by fears of a possible repeat of 1971. The reflexes of the Pakistan Army are governed not only by its feelings of insecurity arising from its perception of what India could be up to, but also by its conviction that Jammu & Kashmir belongs to Pakistan and needs to be wrested from Indian control. Fears of India regaining its past influence in Afghanistan are another strong motivating factor.

31. The question of India handing over J&K to Pakistan does not arise. No amount of terrorism and no increase in the strength and capabilities of the Pakistan Army can shake India’s control over J&K and its determination to fight for the territorial status quo.The recent attempts of Pakistan to bring in China in a big way into Pakistan are an indicator of its realization that it cannot achieve its strategic objectives against India through the use of terrorism alone. It is also realizing that the US is unlikely to help Islamabad in achieving its objective vis-à-vis India.

32.Having realized the likely futility of the jihadi card and the US card, it is once again trying to use the China card against India by inviting Chinese troops into the POK and the Gilgit-Baltistan area and by encouraging China to diversify its economic and military stakes in Pakistan. China, which has been concerned over the likely implications to its status and security by the coming together of India and the US, is showing a greater willingness than hitherto to let itself be used by Pakistan to buttress its feelings of security vis-à-vis India.

33. In this web of geopolitical complexities, what are the policy options before India----- keep adding to Pakistan’s feelings of insecurity and instability or taking the initiative to lessen Pakistani concerns? Is it possible to lessen Pakistani concerns and help Pakistan rid itself of its anti-India reflexes without changing the status quo in J&K and without giving up India’s growing links with Afghanistan?

34. Any exercise to demotivate the Pakistani state and help it to rid itself of its fears---which are seen by its army as real and by India as imaginary--- has to start with frequent and sustained interactions between the institutions of the two countries---- political parties to political parties, parliament to parliament, army to army, intelligence to intelligence, Foreign Office to Foreign Office and Home Ministry to Home Ministry. Increasing institutional contacts is as important as increasing people to people contacts to remove imaginary fears of each other.

35. How to achieve this increase in institutional interactions between India and Pakistan.? That should be the basic question to be addressed. It should be addressed in the context of an over-all vision statement between the two countries. The imaginary fears are more in Pakistan’s mind than in our mind. The Indian Prime Minister should take the initiative for visiting Pakistan to set the ball rolling towards an agreed common vision. (14-3-11)

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