Sunday, November 27, 2011


Avoidable unpleasantness has recently crept into India-China relations over issues which should not have been over-dramatised by China thereby injecting a certain distrust into the relations which had been progressing well despite continuing differences over the border dispute between the two countries.

2. China’s unhappiness over the participation of an Indian Government-owned oil company in off-shore oil/gas exploration in three blocks in the South China Sea area belonging to Vietnam sovereignty over which is claimed by China was the starting point of this unpleasantness.

3. Chinese official spokesmen took care to be measured in their comments on the participation of the Indian company so that the issue did not have an uncontrollably adverse effect on the bilateral relations. Similar care not to over-dramatise the Chinese unhappiness was evident in Chinese official comments after the recent meeting on November 18,2011,between Prime Ministers Dr.Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao in the margins of the East Asia summit at Bali in Indonesia.

4. This salutary restraint was unfortunately not evident in two commentaries on Sino-Indian relations disseminated by the party-owned “Global Times” and the Government-owned Xinhua news agency. In view of the Party ownership of the “Global Times” and the State ownership of Xinhua, it is natural that their hard-hitting comments on India were viewed by many in India as the conscious adoption of a two-edged policy by the Chinese authorities on India’s relations with Vietnam and its perceived activism in the South China Sea. This two-edged policy was seen by many in India as marked by seeming official restraint and semi-official anti-Indian virulence.

5. The hiccups over India’s firm, but gentle assertion of its right to help Vietnam in oil/gas exploration without taking a stand on the merits of the dispute between China and Vietnam over the question of sovereignty over the South China Sea islands have been aggravated by another instance of over-dramatisation by the Chinese of their objection to the proposed participation by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in a global Buddhist conference being held by a non-governmental foundation at New Delhi from November 27 to 30 coinciding with the 2600th anniversary of the Enlightenment of Buddha.

6. It is understood that the Chinese initially objected to the participation of His Holiness in the conference and subsequently to the conference itself. It so happened that the dates of the conference coincided with the 15th round of the talks on the pending border issue between the Special Representatives of the Prime Ministers of the two countries which was proposed to be held at New Delhi on November 28 and 29. This round has now been postponed without any fresh dates being fixed because of the reported Chinese unhappiness over the Buddhist conference and the participation of His Holiness in it.

7. While one could argue with some reason that Chinese sensitivities could have been kept in mind while fixing the dates for the two events so that they did not clash, one would have equal reason not to appreciate the avoidable drama created by the Chinese which has not only come in the way of the 15th round of the border talks, but has also cast a shadow over the current state of the Sino-Indian relations.

8. While continuing to be sensitive to Chinese interests and concerns wherever possible and necessary, India has in recent months started slowly asserting its own interests and concerns without surrendering totally to those of China.

9. The increasing assertion of the Indian will to defend and promote its interests without impinging on those of China has been particularly evident in our relations with Vietnam and Myanmar and in our refusal to intervene in matters concerning His Holiness Dalai Lama provided those matters are purely of a religious nature without any political significance.

10. This assertion of the Indian will has had two aspects---in relation to our developing relations with Myanmar and Vietnam, and in developing our co-operation with the US, Japan and Australia in matters relating to maritime security and maritime counter-terrorism.

11. While the Chinese have not so far openly come out with any objection to our developing relations with Myanmar, their officially-controlled media has been increasingly irritable with regard to our developing relations with Vietnam and the US. The Dalai Lama issue is showing signs of becoming an additional source of irritation.

12. If the Chinese really value their relations with India as they claim to be, it is important for them to pay as much attention to India’s interests and concerns as we have always paid to theirs. Mutual respect of each other’s core interests and concerns has to be a two-way traffic. The Chinese, who lose no opportunity of asserting their core interests and concerns, cannot object to India doing likewise.

13. It is hoped that the current unpleasantness in the bilateral relations would be ephemeral and would dissipate in the days to come thereby enabling the two countries to resume their forward movement in their search for a mutually satisfactory solution to the border problem.

14. However, India should be prepared for the possibility that it may not be ephemeral and it may have to live for some years with the shadow cast on the bilateral relations. We should continue to assert our core interests and concerns in a carefully calibrated manner without letting our assertion become disproportionate to our present capacity to counter any adventurist impulses of China directed at us----whether across the border or in the South China Sea. ( 28-11-11)

( 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: Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )

Saturday, November 26, 2011



Appearing in a talk show hosted by Suhasini Haidar of CNN-IBN on November 26,2011, I said that I never believed a coup was likely in Pakistan as a result of the Army’s anger over the so-called Memogate affair . I added that Pakistan had an independent judiciary today and that, hence, the Army would not have the confidence that it could get a coup validated by the judiciary post-facto.

2.If Suhasini were to ask me the same question today in the light of the outrage in the Pakistan Army over the reported death of 28 Pakistani troops due to a mistaken NATO airstrike on two Pakistani military posts about two kms from the Afghan border in the Mohmand Agency of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on November 26, my reply would be a little more nuanced.

3. I would still rule out a coup by senior officers headed by Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), who are quite capable of rational thinking regarding the legal and other consequences of a coup, but I would not rule out a coup by subalterns and middle level officers enraged over the failure of their senior officers and the political leadership to protect the honour of the Pakistan Army against repeated infringements by the US and other NATO forces.

4. One saw reports of such anger in the barracks over the failure of the senior military leadership to prevent the US Commando raid to kill Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad on May 2,2011.Kayani managed to control this anger with great difficulty by undertaking a tour of important military cantonments.

5. Reports received by me from Pakistani sources, who are not known to have misled me in the past, claim that one could see similar anger over the latest incident spreading across the barracks. The anger is against the US as well as against the senior leadership of the Army. The reports indicate that organisations such as the Hizbut Tehrir have been trying to fan this anger.

6.If this anger doesn’t subside, there is a danger of a successful or attempted coup in Pakistan organised by officers at middle level, who would not be bothered about the legal consequences of a coup. The Pakistan Army is a disciplined force. In its history, there has never been a successful coup by junior officers. However, there were two instances of attempted junior officers’ coup, the preparations for which were detected in time by the senior military leadership and crushed.

7. The last of them was in 1995 when Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minister and Gen Abdul Wahid Kakkar was the COAS. A group of middle level officers headed by Brig. Zahir-ul-Islam Abbasi, fromer Defence Attache to India, joined hands with the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and planned to capture power after killing Benazir and the COAS. The plans for the coup were accidentally detected and the officers concerned arrested and court-martialled.

8. When Gen.Pervez Musharraf was in power we had seen reports of individual junior officers of the Army and the Air Force, who were angry over Musharraf’s co-operation with the US, joining hands with Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda elements in a conspiracy to have Musharraf assassinated. Their role came to notice during the investigation into the two attempts to kill Musharraf in December,2003, allegedly orchestrated by Abu Faraj at-Libbi of Al Qaeda now in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre of the US.

9. The anti-US anger in the lower and middle ranks of the Pakistan Army after the Abbottabad raid has till now been kept under control by Kayani. If the anger over the killing of 28 troops, including two officers, allegedly by NATO air strikes on Pakistani military posts in the Momand Agency is not carefully and tactfully handled by the US and the Pakistani civilian and military leadership, there is a danger of this anger getting out of control leading to a conspiracy of the junior officers.

10. If such a conspiracy is successful with the co-operation of jihadi elements, there would be a real threat of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal coming under their control. Senior Pakistani Army officers are responsible people who are quite capable of ensuring that there is no misuse of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. I do not have the same confidence about the junior officers.

11. The US-Pakistan relations are going from bad to worse--- particularly the military-military and intelligence-intelligence relationship. There is a lot of glee among many Indian analysts over it. This need not necessarily be a beneficial development for India. It is in our interest that the US retains the ability to influence the behaviour of the Pakistani military leadership.

12. The situation in Pakistan needs very close monitoring. (27-11-11)

( 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: Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

Friday, November 25, 2011



The 26/11 terrorist strikes led to five important decisions by the Government of India--- to decentralise the deployment of the National Security Guards (NSG) by setting up regional hubs, to set up the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate terrorist incidents of a pan-Indian nature, to strengthen coastal security, to create a national intelligence grid to serve as a data-base accessible to all agencies---- at the central and State levels--- dealing with counter-terrorism, and to set up a National Counter-terrorism Centre (NCTC), to take co-ordinated follow-up action on all terrorism-related inputs flowing from the intelligence agencies and the police.

2. The NSG has already been decentralised and regional hubs have come into existence. This has been done because of the delayed deployment of the NSG during the 26/11 terrorist strikes. The then totally Delhi-based NSG was slow to move and equally slow to react and its ability to co-ordinate with the local police and other security agencies in Mumbai was found wanting.

3. With the deployment of units of the NSG in big metro centres now, there is an expectation that the deficiencies witnessed on 26/11 will not recur now. If this is really so will become evident only when there is another act of mass fatality terrorism. Fortunately, we have not had one since 26/11. As a result, the proclaimed ability of the NSG to move faster and with greater effectiveness now is yet to be tested. It is important that the NSG’s training pays attention to the need to sharpen its institutional reflexes and that it keeps constantly interacting and rehearsing with the local police and other security agencies.

4. The NIA, which is already functioning, has had a lethargic and confused start. It is not clear to objective counter-terrorism analysts as to when and how it will be called into action. One has reasons to suspect and fear that like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) the NIA is tending to become a partly professional and partly politicised agency, which is sought to be used by the Government of India as a stick to beat the opponents with. It has shown greater alacrity and enthusiasm in looking into terrorist incidents in which some Hindus were suspected than in investigating cases where jihadi terrorists---indigenous or externally-sponsored---were suspected. Its record till now in successful investigation has been disappointing due to excessive political control over its functioning. It was expected to be an independent agency which will move on its own after a major terrorist strike. The expectation has been belied so far.

5. The steps already taken to strengthen coastal security have not yet contributed to an increase of our alertness to possible sea-borne threats. The shocking lack of reflexes on the part of the Navy, the Coast Guard, the intelligence agencies and the Police during a recent incident when an abandoned foreign ship managed to drift into our coastal waters without being noticed by any of these agencies speaks disturbingly of the continuing poor state of our coastal defence. Our capabilities for maritime counter-terrorism---whether by way of improved intelligence collection or physical security or alert mechanism---- seem to be as poor as they were before 26/11.

6. The decisions to set up a National Intelligence Grid and the NCTC have not yet been implemented---reportedly due to a lack of convergence of views among the various agencies and Ministries that would be involved in the implementation of these decisions as to how to go about it. The implementation process has been lethargic and glacial.

7. Fortunately, we have not had any major act of mass fatality terrorism ( with fatalities of more than 100) since 26/11. However, despite the proclaimed strengthening of our preventive and investigative capabilities since 26/11, we have had five acts of low or medium fatality terrorism after 26/11 in Pune, Mumbai, Delhi and Varanasi. Despite the proclaimed strengthening of our preventive capability, none of them could be prevented and despite the proclaimed strengthening of our investigative capabilities none of them could be successfully detected.

8. We are clueless as to who committed them, how many undetected cells are operating, are they indigenous or Pakistani, wherefrom are they getting their explosives, detonators and triggering mechanism etc. While our preventive capability has generally been below par, our investigative capability used to be good. This too seems to have deteriorated now due to politicisation and communalisation of the investigation process.

9. An equally worrisome aspect is the seeming deterioration in our TECHINT capability. While our HUMINT capability was not satisfactory, our good TECHINT capability made up for our HUMINT deficiencies------ contributing to successful neutralisation of new cells and successful investigation of terrorist strikes. The detection of the electronic chatter of terrorist suspects has become weaker after 26/11. As a result, good TECHINT is no longer compensating for the poor HUMINT. My assessment is that our terrorism-related intelligence collection capability today is weaker than it was before 26/11.

10. A reason given for our failures to detect the electronic chatter of terrorist suspects after 26/11 is that the terrorists now have access to better communication technology and gadgets and have better evasive capability and that, consequently, they have become smarter. I do not buy this explanation. I have not seen any evidence to support this. Our poor performance after 26/11 is not because the terrorists have become smarter, but it is because our agencies have become less smart than the terrorists.

11. We are yet to find an effective way of dealing with the sanctuaries of the terrorists in Pakistan. While our peace initiatives are welcome, they are not going to induce Pakistan to act against these sanctuaries. The peace process has to go hand in hand with a counter sanctuary process through deniable covert actions. Peace does not mean surrender or resignation. Peace means willingness to talk without letting it dent our courage and readiness to act against the sanctuaries. Action to create a counter-sanctuary capability continues to be totally neglected.

12. The continuing deficiencies in our counter-terrorism thinking and reflexes is due to a disinterested approach on the part of the Congress as well as the BJP. Both are equally guilty of politicising and communalising counter-terrorism. Both are equally guilty of failures to build up our counter-terrorism capabilities. The public is equally disinterested. There is hardly any meaningful debate on the issue either in the parliament or in our media or in public fora. The beneficiaries are the terrorists.

13. The public has to sit up and exercise pressure on the political class. The voters have to make it clear to the political class that their counter-terrorism record will be an important factor in influencing voter preference. Unless the public stirs itself up and moves, the political class is not going to move. (26-11-11)

( 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: Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )

Tuesday, November 22, 2011



A three-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Rajiv Ranjan Verma, a senior officer of the Bihar IPS cadre, has concluded that Ishrat Jahan, a 19-year-old girl from Maharashtra, and three others, who had been projected by some officers of the Ahmedabad Police as belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), killed by the Police during an encounter on June 15,2004, were in fact the victims of a case fabricated against them by the Ahmedabad Police. According to the original version of the Ahmedabad police, which now stands discredited by the SIT , the four were planning to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi, when they were intercepted resulting in the alleged encounter.

2.The SIT has concluded that they were killed in cold blood and subsequently shown as having died during an encounter with the Police. Since the text of the SIT report has not yet been released, one does not know under what circumstances they were taken into custody by the Police and why they were killed. It would appear that they did not belong to the LET and that the police version of their being LET members conspiring to kill Modi might have been cooked up to justify their killing.

3. The Gujarat High Court has ordered the registration of a fresh FIR on the basis of the finding of the SIT and a fresh investigation. The court is yet to decide who will investigate the case---the Gujarat Police itself or the SIT or a central investigation agency. Sections of the media have reported that 21 policemen, four of them IPS officers, may face investigation as suspects in the alleged murder of these innocent persons.

4. While the legal aspects of the case will be taken care of by the agency which would be doing the fresh investigation, the administrative and professional aspects have to be dealt with separately. These relate to setting right the rot that seems to have set in in sections of the Gujarat Police that has led to as many as 21 officers, four of them from the IPS, conspiring to project the deaths of four apparently innocent persons in police custody as deaths of terrorists in an encounter.

5.Rogue actions by individual police officers,including from the IPS, are not unknown in the history of the Indian Police, but as many as 21 officers conspiring together to commit an illegal act of a heinous nature which led to the death of four innocent persons at the hands of the Police should disturb all right-thinking police officers who value the reputation of the force. The Ishrat Jahan case is not one of individual aberration, but of collective aberration by a large section of the force without any qualms of conscience. They let themselves become a law unto themselves.

6. The fact that the enormity of their misconduct in deliberate violation of the law and the code of police conduct had not been brought to light till the SIT investigation by the senior police officers and the political leadership of Gujarat would indicate that an unethically permissive atmosphere has been prevailing in sections of the police force under the pretext of counter-terrorism.

7. Serious wrong-doings by sections of the police officers in the name of counter-terrorism have remained unchecked,unrebuked and unpunished. Terrorism, whether indigenous or externally-sponsored, needs firm handling, including the use of force legally permitted, but the firmness has to be tempered with a strict adherence to legality in criminal administration and justice. There are grounds to suspect that adherence to legality may not be the rule in dealing with terrorism in Gujarat.

8. It is important for the National Human Rights Commission to go into this and lay down a special code of conduct by the police while dealing with counter-terrorism to prevent a recurrence of such serious incidents. Such a code of conduct in counter-terrorism could be drafted in such a manner as to have pan-Indian applicability. (22-11-11)

( 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: Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

Sunday, November 20, 2011



In the wake of the allegations levelled by Mansoor Ijaz, the controversial US businessman of Pakistani origin, against Hussain Haqqani, the Pakistani Ambassador to the US, two separate bouts of boxing are going on simultaneously in Pakistan---- Ijaz vs Haqqani and President Asif Ali Zardari vs Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS).

2.As I had mentioned in my previous article on this subject, there has so far been no smoking gun on the basis of which anyone can be hung. Ijaz, who has made a series of claims regarding his contacts with Haqqani on May 9,2011, in a London Hotel and subsequently, has carefully built up an electronic trail that could support his claims and allegations and handed it over to Lt.Gen.Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), during a meeting in London on October 22,2011.

3. The electronic trail would have been in the Blackberry (BB) of both Haqqani and Ijaz. Whereas Ijaz would seem to have saved the trail and given it to the ISI, it is not clear whether Haqqani has saved or erased it. He has offered to hand over his BB for forensic examination to any enquiry committee set up by the Government or the National Assembly. If it turns out during the forensic examination that there is no electronic trail in Haqqani’s BB, he would have difficulty in explaining it and the Army’s suspicion against him would be further strengthened.

4. If the National Assembly decides to hold an enquiry, it will have to depend on the Ministry of the Interior headed by Rehman Malik for a forensic examination of Haqqani’s BB. Thus, there could be two forensic examinations---one by the ISI of the material handed over by Ijaz, which must have been already done, and another by the Ministry of the Interior of the material handed over by Haqqani. Reconciling any contradictions between the two forensic examinations of materials of different origin could further exacerbate the suspicions of the Army against Haqqani and even Zardari himself.

5. There is a third possibility. Sections of the Pakistani media have reported that a public interest petition has been filed before Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhamed Chaudhury of the Pakistan Supreme Court, requesting that he should monitor the investigation into the case. He has not so far reacted to it. If he decides to do so, the ISI may have to suspend its enquiry and the National Assembly may not order its own enquiry.

6. The matter could get prolonged and the question would arise as to what to do with Haqqani in the meanwhile--- replace him honourably without waiting for the results of the enquiries or allow him to continue in office and fight it out. Will the Army agree to his continuing in office?

7.The boxing bout between Zardari and Kayani is unlikely to lead to any military coup against him. The Army may not be able to get any coup validated by the judiciary. Moreover, when the enquiries are still on, the Army would have no grounds for intervening. The Army would most probably wait and watch while keeping up the pressure for removing Haqqani from office. To build up the pressure, Kayani might refer the matter to his Corps Commanders and get their support for removing Haqqani.

8.So long as L’Affaire Ijaz is not settled in a manner mutually satisfactory to the civilian and Army leaderships, the uneasy vibrations between the elected civilian leadership and the Army would add to the already existing suspicions between Zardari and Kayani. The civilian leadership might find itself reduced to a lame-duck administration till the next elections due in the beginning of 2013.

9. L’Affaire Ijaz is Pakistan’s internal affair. However, the re-surfacing of Ijaz from oblivion could uncomfortably remind us of the naivete of the NDA Government which lionised him in 2000-01 and amazingly without verification accepted his claims that he could help in bringing peace to Jammu & Kashmir. The then NDA Government headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee extended to him extraordinary courtesies to facilitate his visits to Srinagar without any paper trail as an interlocutor supposedly blessed by the US. The details of what happened are too well known to need any recapitulation.

10. Since the middle 1990s, Ijaz has repeatedly taken many personalities in the US, India and Pakistan for a ride by projecting himself as a man of iconic influence and web of contacts in the corridors of power in Washington DC, Islamabad and New Delhi. Despite this, eminent sub-continental personalities have been walking into his parlour again and again. This shows that naivete is perennial.

11. India has put its peace eggs in the basket of the elected Pakistani civilian leadership. It was already weak, but, despite this, had been able to carry the Army’s GHQ along with it in some of its peace initiatives. It is likely to be further weakened now if it doesn’t handle intelligently the sequel to L’Affaire Ijaz. What could be the impact of the civilian-military boxing bout on Indo-Pakistan relations and the peace process? This question would attract the attention of our policy-makers. Discreet silence combined with a discreet watch on the goings-on in Islamabad and Rawalpindi should be our policy till the dust settles down. ( 21-11-11)

( 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: Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )

Saturday, November 19, 2011



If Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari is intelligent, he would realise the damage that has been caused to the credibility of the state of Pakistan by Mr.Hussain Haqqani, the Pakistani Ambassador to the US, by his naivete in trying to use the services of Mansoor Ijaz, a controversial US businessman of Pakistani origin, for conveying to Admiral Mike Mullen, then Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, a request to rein in Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff, in return for some quid pro quos promised by Haqqani on behalf of “his boss”.

2. In this highly murky case, we have only claims and denials----with most of the claims coming from Ijaz and most of the denials coming from the Pakistani side. Apart from a belated admission that the Admiral did receive a memo relating to Pakistan, US Government sources have refrained from any comments in the matter.

3. There is as yet no smoking gun on the basis of which anyone can be hung ----not even Ambassador Haqqani--- but there are enough indicators regarding the utter naivete of the Ambassador which could ultimately burn the credibility of Zardari himself and drive a further wedge between him and the Army.

4. The entire L’Affaire Ijaz originated in the days after the US commando raid in Abbottabad on May 2,2011, that led to the death of Osama bin Laden. There was apparent nervousness among those close to Zardari that an Army humiliated and enraged by the success of the US raid, might turn its wrath against Zardari, who was generally perceived to be soft and sympathetic to the US interests in matters relating to the campaign against Al Qaeda.

5. Rightly or wrongly, there was an apprehension that Kayani might try to have Zardari removed. It was against this background that the Ambassador, who was then ( May 9,2011) on a visit to London, contacted Ijaz, who was then on a visit to Monaco, and sought a meeting with him in London. The rest of the sordid affair followed from there.

6.Ijaz prepared the memo or non-paper in his hand-writing on the basis of what Haqqani dictated to him and had it delivered to Mullen through an American intermediary. In his statements and interviews, Ijaz has clearly admitted that he never knew or had never met Mullen, that he had used an American intermediary to have the memo reached to him, that the memo is in his (Ijaz’s) handwriting and that the contents were dictated by Haqqani.

7. Ijaz has not said anywhere that he knew that the contents had the approval of Zardari. He only says that Haqqani gave him to understand that the contents had the approval of “his boss”.

8. One could understand the fears in the Pakistani civilian leadership--- particularly at the level of Zardari--- regarding a possible threat from Kayani in the wake of the Abbottabad raid. One could also understand their anxiety to seek the intervention of Admiral Mullen to have any threat from Kayani neutralised before it materialised.

9. There were various diplomatic and tactful ways of doing this----by directly taking up the matter secretly and informally with their contacts in the US Administration. It was amazing that instead of doing so, the matter was taken up through the intermediary of a Pakistani origin businessman with dubious credentials without paying any attention to the need for deniability. When you put down anything in writing---whether it is signed or not---you damage the deniability.

10. The only saving grace in the entire episode is that there is no evidence to implicate Zardari himself, but there is enough evidence to implicate the Ambassador. After carefully reading all the available evidence in the matter, my own conclusion is that it was a rogue initiative by an over-anxious or over-enthusiastic Haqqani, which has gone horribly wrong.

11. The Pakistani Army would be justified in feeling enraged against the Ambassador and in expecting that action would be taken against him. By failing to act against him and by trying to cover up the matter, Zardari would be further damaging his credibility in the eyes of not only his Army, but also large sections of the Pakistani public. It would create serious suspicions about the soundness of Zardari’s judgement in sensitive matters such as this.

12. Could there be a coup staged against Zardari by Kayani on this issue? Pakistan of today is not the Pakistan of 1999 when a small group of Amy officers loyal to Pervez Musharraf then out of the country staged a coup against Nawaz Sharif. They were confident that the judiciary would validate their coup. Today’s judiciary in Pakistan is more independent than that of 1999. Kayani can’t be confident that it would support him.

13. Moreover, Kayani would know that a coup or even an attempted one would create instability and damage his reputation as a General who wants to avoid politicisation of the Army. He will exercise pressure on Zardari to get rid of the Ambassador, but would not go beyond that.

14. Even the Americans would be embarrassed by the present controversy which shows the civilian political leadership and bureaucracy and its judgement in poor light. (20-11-11)

( 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: Twitter: @SORBONNE75)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011



The politicisation and communalisation of the investigation process since 2006 in terrorism-related cases has led to a paralysis of the investigation machinery in the States and the Government of India.

2. The result: Barring the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai which were successfully investigated and prosecuted, our investigating agencies have not been able to detect any of the post-26/11 terrorist strikes in Pune, Mumbai, Benares and New Delhi and they have not been able to successfully prosecute any of the major terrorist incidents that had taken place before 26/11.

3. The beneficiaries---the terrorists involved in these strikes, who continue to be at large, possibly planning more strikes. We do not even know who were the people involved in the post-26/11 terrorist incidents and whether the suspects who were arrested and prosecuted for their alleged role in the pre-26/11 incidents were really the perpetrators.

4. Nothing illustrates the confusion that prevails in our investigation machinery more disturbingly than the confusion worse confounded in the case relating to the September 8, 2006 blasts in the textile town of Malegaon in Maharashtra which killed 31 people, many of them Muslims. Please see my initial analysis of these blasts written two days after the incident at

5. The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra Police completed the investigation in record time and filed a charge sheet on December 20,2006, against nine Muslims, who were accused of having links with the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Pakistani Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET).

6. Despite the filing of the charge sheet, the Maharashtra Government handed over the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) following complaints regarding the investigation made by the ATS received from minority representatives and political parties.

7. The investigation has taken a different turn since then. It has been made out by the Central investigation agencies---initially by the CBI and later by the post-26/11 National Investigation Agency (NIA)--- that the Malegaon blasts of 2006 as well as some other terrorist strikes in Hyderabad, Malegaon (2008), Ajmer Sharif and on board the Samjotha Express were actually carried out by some Hindus who wanted to start a campaign of reprisal terrorism against Muslims for their role in jihadi terrorism.

8. The original charges of the ATS against the arrested Muslims and the subsequent charges of the CBI and the NIA against the arrested Hindus relied largely on uncorroborated confessions. There was no scientific investigation with painstaking collection of circumstantial and forensic evidence either by the State Police or by the central agencies.

9. As it always happens in such cases, those who confessed subsequently retracted . In the absence of substantial circumstantial and forensic evidence to back up the charges, the Malegaon case of 2006 has been hanging in mid-air. There has been no scientific forward movement in the investigation against either the arrested Muslims or Hindus. The result has been that neither the State Police nor the central investigation agencies have had the moral courage to admit that the investigations against the arrested Muslims by the State Police and against the arrested Hindus by the Central agencies have been very badly botched up and now there is no possibility of the truth being found out.

10. What we have against the Muslims arrested by the State Police and against the Hindus under investigation by the Central agencies is a series of allegations, insinuations and conjectures, but no legal evidence which will stand scrutiny in a court of law.

11. We have had the intriguing spectacle of the NIA not opposing bail applications from the nine Muslims originally arrested by the Maharashtra ATS, but at the same time refraining from ordering a closure of the investigation against them by submitting a Final Report in the case. The FR would have ended the investigation once and for all unless some fresh evidence was found, warranting a re-opening of the investigation. The Muslims released on bail would have been deemed innocent---neither accused nor suspects. By not opposing bail to them and at the same time, by not submitting a Final Report in the case, the NIA has kept them under the status of no longer accused, but still suspects. This doesn’t re-establish their honour in the eyes of the society.

12. In the case of the Hindus arrested in connection with some cases of reprisal terrorism, the facts and circumstances are exactly the same as in the case of the nine Muslims arrested in connection with the Malegaon 2006 blasts----that is, apart from the retracted confession of Swami Assemanand, there is hardly any circumstantial and forensic evidence against them. And yet they have been treated as suspects as well as accused. The mitigatory yardstick followed in the case of the Muslims has not been followed in the case of the Hindu suspects, one of whom is a religious lady. In the eyes of the Government of India, it is all right to be harsh with the Hindus, but not with the Muslims. Deplorable double standards adopted in the case of the two communities.

13. The result of the blatantly differential handling of Muslims and Hindus in the application of the same laws of criminal procedure would be to add to their anger against each other and against the Government. We will be playing into the hands of the jihadi terrorists and their Pakistani sponsors by aggravating the polarisation between the two communities and facilitating the Pakistani objective of creating a wedge between them.

14. The differential handling brings out clearly the political calculations of the Government in view of next year’s elections in Uttar Pradesh. Increasing the Muslim vote bank even at the risk of losing some Hindu votes has become the driving force of the investigation process. Seven of the Muslims will be out today and rejoin their families, but the Hindus will continue to languish in custody till the UP elections are over.

15. This is not the way to fight any terrorism---jihadi or Hindu reprisal. By politicising and communalising the investigation process, the Government will be further vitiating the relationship between the two communities and paving the way for more acts of terrorism in future. (16-11-11 )

( 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. Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

Saturday, November 12, 2011



Indian TV journos have generally been very kind to Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician of Pakistan. He has received more publicity from Indian TV journos than even from Pakistani journalists.

2. I have no personal objections to Indian TV journos having a soft corner for the glamorous Imran Khan. But, I do expect them to pay equal attention to those sections of Pakistani society, which have generally been well disposed towards India such as the Mohajirs of Karachi and the Balochs of Balochistan and their leaders. Their leaders are not as glamorous as Imran, but they are much more friendly to India than Imran.

3. How many times have you seen the Indian TV channels focussing on the tragedies being enacted in Karachi and Balochistan? How many times have you seen Indian TV journos focussing their spotlight on bleeding Balochistan? How many Mohajir and Baloch leaders have been interviewed by them?

4. While Indian TV journos have been enabling Imran to promote himself through the Indian TV, which is widely seen in Pakistan, as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, at least some Pakistani journalists, whose heart and mind are in the right place, have drawn attention to the state of affairs in Balochistan, where the situation is reminiscent of that in the then East Pakistan before the war of Independence for Bangladesh broke out in 1971.

5.Baloch nationalists kidnapped by the Pakistan Army, tortured to death and their bodies thrown out in remote places, 10 Baloch journalists kidnapped and killed this year and no coverage of these incidents in the Pakistani TV media. Nor on the Indian TV. Only some sections of the Pakistani print media such as the “Daily Times” of Lahore and the “News” have been drawing attention to the colossal human tragedy in Balochistan.

6. One can understand the Pakistani TV channels not paying adequate attention to this tragedy due to fear of adverse reaction from the Pakistani Army. What is preventing the Indian TV channels from covering this tragedy? Is publicity for Imran Khan more important than spotlight on the human tragedy in Balochistan?

7. To create an awareness of the situation in Balochistan, which has been practically blacked out by the Indian TV channels, I am reproducing below an editorial of the “Daily Times” and an article written by an Assistant Editor of the “News”:


Killings in Balochistan continue

When people all over Pakistan will be celebrating Eid-ul-Azha ( on November 7 ), the people of Balochistan will be mourning their loved ones. The responsibility for this lies with the Pakistan military, its intelligence agencies and the Frontier Corps (FC). The entire nation should be ashamed of the brutalities unleashed by the military against its own people in Balochistan. Javed Naseer Rind, a young journalist, was abducted in September and his tortured, bullet-riddled body was found the other day in the province. More than a dozen Baloch, including women, were killed last week in less than 24 hours during a military campaign in Balochistan; the same week when the FC was placed under the provincial government of Balochistan. The fifth military operation of our history is underway against the people of Balochistan but it seems that the rest of Pakistan remains oblivious to it. The apathy of the government and the nation is something that has further alienated the Baloch from the Pakistani state. Thus a new wave of separatism has found resonance in Balochistan. The lessons from 1971 have not been learnt.

The PPP-led government in Islamabad seems helpless before the Pakistan Army and its skewed policies. Even then there is no reason that the government cannot put pressure on the army and make a logical case against its brutalities. Promising development and aid will not serve its purpose unless and until the military is called back from Balochistan and the people of the province are empowered in letter and spirit. The Baloch insurgency started only to ask for their just rights but in order to quash their nationalism, the military under General Pervez Musharraf started using force. Even after the ouster of General Musharraf, the same policies are being carried out. When democracy returned to the country in 2008 after nine years of military rule, it was hoped that the civilian government would do away with a military dictator’s wrong policies. Instead, we have been disappointed with the way the ‘kill and dump’ policy is being carried out with impunity in Balochistan. Thousands of Baloch are still missing while hundreds of them have been slaughtered like animals by the army. Is this the way to deal with a demand for just rights?
The need of the hour is to settle this conflict through a political settlement. Military means cannot crush the honourable Baloch people. The government must talk to the Baloch leadership, both in the mountains and those who are in self-exile, and bring an end to the insurgency on a just basis. All the missing persons should be brought back to their homes safely. The military operation must be stopped at once. The Balochistan government is toothless and cannot do much to stop what is going on. The federal government must come to the rescue. If things keep on going the way they are, the federation will be in trouble. The government should not take this matter lightly. The Baloch deserve better from a democratically elected government. Cruelty is not the answer to anything. Peaceful means and political negotiations are key to bringing peace and prosperity in Balochistan. *


Even if we buy the government’s claim that the number of missing persons in Balochistan has declined, it is only because many of them have lately been found dead. Since June 2010, more than 230 bodies of the previously missing persons have been dumped at abandoned places in the largest but the least populated province. According to the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ), 10 journalists have been killed so far this year.

The missing persons issue and the so-called kill-and-dump spree in the province are as disturbing as the fact that Balochistan’s problem is almost altogether missing from the mainstream discourse. Any mention of Balochistan appears in speeches of politicians and the ranting of anchorpersons only when they intend to be politically correct.

The political parties have yet to include the Balochistan problem in their main agenda. The Jamaat-e- Islami (JI) has shown more concern for an individual, Dr Aafia Siddiqui, than a whole province. At a time when people in Balochistan are talking of separation from Pakistan, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has concentrated its efforts on keeping the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) a part of the government. Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf has no time for Balochistan, or for any other thing, as it is out to save Pakistan. The MQM would desperately wait for another opportunity to flaunt its street power in defence of a Musharraf or a Zardari. Nawaz Sharif? Balochistan’s inconsequential electoral value does not guarantee premiership.

Ironically, our news-hungry media seems least impressed by Balochistan’s immense news value. Last month, Turbat city, the cultural hub of the province, remained shut for more than a week without a call for a strike from any of the political parties. Not important enough? OK. Only in Balochistan, the security forces take out rallies and sometimes, especially when their convoys meet roadside blasts, force the closure of shops. Of course, apart from these ‘human-interest stories’, Balochistan is home to more alarming news items, but who would want to become the 11th journalist to be killed this year? Is it not news itself that none of our mainstream newspapers and news channels has a full-fledged correspondent outside Quetta?

Unfortunately, only the security establishment has taken Balochistan seriously. In fact, too seriously. And that is where the real problem lies. In the absence of any check, as the rest of the country largely remains unmoved, the security forces have dealt single-handedly with the political unrest in the province. And that is the only way they deal with any issue. That is the army way. For a political solution, the political forces need to intervene and take the matter in their hands.

If they keep ignoring Balochistan, they may be missing it later. (12-11-11)

( 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: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

Friday, November 11, 2011


Slowly and steadily, the Army-propped civilian regime in Myanmar headed by President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy icon, are coming to terms with each other to avoid a confrontation and to pave the way for a Government, which would enjoy her support from outside, if not association, and thereby enjoy a greater credibility in the eyes of the people.

2. The Government has not imposed any restrictions on her travels outside Yangon. Despite this, she has been avoiding any travels, in an attempt not to create any embarrassing law and order situation for the Government. The change ---whether in her tactics or attitude to the Government--- figured in a question posed to her during her weekly radio interview on November 8,2011.Her reply was interesting.

3.She said: “ I would like to clarify that it is not true that I have made trips around the country whenever I was released from house arrest. In 1995 and in 2000, when I was released for the second time, I never made trips around the country, because of restrictions. Between 2002 and 2003, I did make trips around the country. But this time, since my trip to Pegu, although I have thought about making trips around the country I have been unable to do so because there is a lot of work to be done in Rangoon. Plans have already been made for the NLD to distribute rice to the flood victims as much as possible. I think that it would be better to distribute rice in this manner than to spend money to travel across the country.”

4. Similarly, questions are being asked by sections of the people as to why she is not opposing the construction of the gas pipeline from the Arakan area to Yunnan in China. She had strongly opposed on environmental grounds the construction of a big hydel project by a Chinese company in the Kachin State. Her opposition combined with the opposition from the Kachin leaders and people forced the Government to suspend the project, leading to protests from Beijing.

5. The gas pipeline project too is being opposed by the local people on various grounds such as payment of inadequate compensation for the land acquired for the project , taking the gas away to China instead of utilising it for the benefit of the local people and environmental damage. Despite this, she has not been as active in opposing the gas pipeline project in the Arakan area as she was in opposing the hydel project in the Kachin State.

6.She was asked about it during her weekly radio interview of October 28. In another interesting reply, she said: “Although one cannot say that a nationwide boycott (of the pipeline project) could not happen, I don’t think it would be easy. But it is necessary for the whole country, including the government, to be aware of matters that are really giving trouble to the people. Only then will we be able to find solutions to such issues. However, while we are protecting the interests of the people, we must at the same time be aware of—and take care to maintain—good relations with our neighbouring countries.”

7. The gas pipeline being constructed is more important to the Chinese than the suspended hydel project. It is designed to carry not only gas found locally, but also gas brought from the Gulf by Chinese tankers in order to reduce the Chinese dependence on the Malacca Strait. Suu Kyi has been avoiding any opposition to the gas pipeline project lest it add to the difficulties already being faced by the Government in its relations with China after the suspension of the hydel project.

8. In carefully calibrated steps, she and the Government have been trying to pave the way for her election to the Parliament, which seems to be the present priority of both. An amendment to the law on political parties, endorsed by President Thein Sein on November 4, removed the condition that all parties must agree to "preserve" the country's 2008 constitution.

9.In a significant interview to the “Yangon Times”, Khin Aung Myint, the Speaker of the Parliament, who used to be the Director of Public Relations and PSYWAR in the Ministry of Defence, was quoted as saying: “I recognize the result of the 1990 election, which the NLD won with a vast majority of the votes. The results cannot be reversed and I have no intention to do so.”

10.On November 8, a spokesman of her party the National League For Democracy (NLD) announced after a meeting at her residence in Yangon that more than 100 senior members of the party would meet at Yangon on November 18 to decide whether, in view of the change introduced by the Government, the NLD should re-register itself as a political party. Though he did not say so, its re-registration would make it, including Suu Kyi, eligible to stand for election to the Parliament. The speculation is that there is already an unwritten understanding between her and the President that a bye-election would be held before the year-end in which she could be elected.

11. What one has been seeing is a recognition of the victory of her Party in the 1990 elections by the Government. In return, she has agreed not to question the validity of last year’s elections to the present Parliament under the supervision of the Army. The NLD has apparently agreed to end its boycott of the present Parliament and the Government has agreed to pave the way for the election of some NLD leaders, including Suu Kyi, to the Parliament.

12. What then: Will Suu Kyi and her party work from outside the Government or will they join the Government? An answer to this question is not yet available. She said in her November 8 radio interview: “If the people are active and enthusiastic, the government will also become active and the country will develop. If all of you are active in this manner, the road toward political change will be smooth, and our cooperation will be more effective.”

13. Co-operation and national reconciliation and not political confrontation seems to be her objective. As part of this, she is prepared not to create any more difficulties for the Government in Myanmar’s relations with China. It is clear that she does not want to support the movement of the people of the Arakan region against the Chinese gas pipeline to Yunnan and the construction of a modern port at Kyaukpu to transport gas brought by Chinese tankers from the Gulf to Yunnan. (12-11-11)

( 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: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

Thursday, November 10, 2011



This may please be read in continuation of the following articles of mine bearing on the same subject:

(a). My paper of March 15, 2011, titled "Is it Possible to Visualise A Shared Future for India & Pakistan?" at

(b).Article of March 31,2011, titled “India-Pakistan: Re-Discovering Each Other” at

( c ).Article of June 27,2011, titled “Introspection in Pakistan: Will it Endure?” at

(d). Article of July 9,2011, titled “INDIA-PAKISTAN: LEARNING TO LIKE EACH OTHER” at

( e ). Article of July 27,2011, titled “INDIA-PAKISTAN: A Breath of Fresh Air” at

(f ).Article of October 24,2011, titled “Chopper Release Speaks Well of Gen. Kayani” at

During his visit to Pakistan in December,1996, Mr. Jiang Zemin, the then Chinese President, made a speech titled "CARRYING FORWARD GENERATIONS OF FRIENDLY AND GOOD-NEIGHBOURLY RELATIONS AND ENDEAVORING TOWARDS A BETTER TOMORROW FOR ALL" in Islamabad on December 2, 1996.

2.He highlighted five points which, according to him, governed China's foreign policy towards the South Asian countries. He explained one of these points in the following words: "We should look at the differences or disputes from a long perspective, seeking a just and reasonable settlement through consultations and negotiations while bearing in mind the larger picture. If certain issues cannot be resolved for the time being, they may be shelved temporarily so that they will not affect the normal state-to-state relations."

3.Even though he did not make any specific reference to India or Pakistan, his highlighting this point was widely interpreted in Pakistan as a hint to it that it should emulate China, which has not allowed its long-standing border dispute with India to come in the way of the development of economic and other relations between the countries. It was seen as an advice to Pakistan that while negotiating with India on the Kashmir issue, it should not allow it to come in the way of normal economic and other relations with India.

4.Ever since Pakistan became independent in 1947, successive Governments have been following a policy of not agreeing to a normalisation of trade relations with India till the so-called Kashmir dispute was resolved to mutual satisfaction. While the Pakistani authorities always cited the pending Kashmir issue as standing in the way of normal trade relations, another reason was their fear that their industries might not be able to compete with their Indian counterparts if trade was normalised.

5.It was reported at that time that Mr. Jiang had raised this point more explicitly with the Pakistani authorities and suggested that Pakistan should emulate China's example by normalising its trade relations with India without allowing them to remain frozen till the Kashmir issue was resolved. They reportedly did not accept his advice.

6.Pakistan's past policy on the question of normalising its trade relations with India consisted of the following:

( a ).Not reciprocating India's action in granting the Most Favoured Nation Status to Pakistan till the Kashmir issue was resolved.

( b ).Allowing a strictly limited bilateral trade only in respect of certain commodities included in a positive list without accepting India's suggestion of having a limited negative list mentioning commodities which cannot be traded and allowing restriction-free trade in respect of all commodities not figuring in the list.

( c ).Not allowing Indian investments in Pakistan.

( d ).Not allowing banks to open branches in each other's territory.

7. Signs of a new thinking in Pakistan on the question of moving towards a normalisation of trade relations with India despite persisting differences on the so-called Kashmir dispute became evident during the third round of the bilateral talks on economic co-operation held by the Commerce Secretaries of the two Governments at New Delhi on August 2 and 3, 2007.

8.The meeting reportedly took a significant decision to work for an increase in the value of the bilateral trade from US $ 1.7 billion as it was in 2006-07 to US $ 10 billion by 2010. Among other important decisions taken were allowing specified banks of the two countries to open branches in each other's territory, expanding the trade basket, improving transportation links, reducing tariffs and mutual technical assistance in capacity building.

9. It became obvious that even while continuing to stick to the stand that there cannot be a normalisation of trade relations till the Kashmir issue is resolved, the Pakistani authorities had started quietly allowing a movement towards a de facto normalisation. De jure restrictions, but de facto normalisation seemed to be the direction in which the bilateral economic relations started moving.

10. This trend towards a normalisation of economic and trade relations between the two countries seemed to have lost momentum after the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai, when attitude towards each other became hardened once again. Since the beginning of this year, there are again signs of a thaw despite continuing Indian dissatisfaction over the perceived slowness of the Pakistani authorities in taking action against the Pakistan-based masterminds of the 26/11 terrorist strikes and renewed Pakistani concerns over perceived Indian activism in Afghanistan---which seemed to have moved from the economic to the military field.

11. This thaw became evident during the meeting in March last between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousef Raza Gilani at Mohali in Punjab in the margins of the World Cup Cricket semi-final between the teams of the two countries and the subsequent meeting between Foreign Ministers S.M.Krishna and Hina Rabbani Khar at New Delhi in July last.

12. This process of thaw has since resulted in two positive moves by the two countries. The first is the reported decision of the Government of Pakistan to grant the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India without linking it to the progress in the bilateral talks on the Kashmir issue. The reported decision is yet to be formalised, but what is significant is that there are no signs of any opposition to it from the Pakistani Foreign Office and the Army. In the past it was the opposition from Pakistan’s Foreign Office and the Army that stood in the way of a forward movement on this issue. The economic Ministries of the Government of Pakistan had been in favour of this since 1996 onwards.

13. The lifting of opposition to the grant of the MFN status by the Army is a tentative indication that it has started looking at India through a less hostile prism. It is important to encourage any sign of new thinking in the Pakistani Army by taking the first steps towards building a military-military relationship by inviting Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff, to visit New Delhi at the invitation of his Indian counterpart. I have been advocating this for quite some time and reiterate my continued support for it.

14. The second significant move has come from Dr.Manmohan Singh during his meeting with Mr.Gilani on November 10,2011, in the margins of the SAARC summit in the Maldives. “The Hindu” has reported that Dr.Singh said that India had decided to move towards a Preferential Trade Agreement with Pakistan and a liberal visa regime for Pakistani nationals. His announcements were apparently meant to reassure Pakistan that its decision to grant the MFN status to India would have economic dividends to it.

15. Apart from the Kashmir issue, past Pakistani reluctance to grant the MFN status to India had strong economic reasons too---namely, its fears that the MFN status would be more beneficial to India than to Pakistan and could reduce Pakistan to a position of economic dependence on India. It is important to remove these fears from the mind of Pakistan.

16. Pakistan continues to take a rigid stand on one economic issue of considerable interest to India---- that is, the right of transit through Pakistani territory of Indian goods moving overland to Afghanistan. This rigidity might continue for some time till the fears in the minds of Pakistan regarding the implications of India’s strategic relations with Afghanistan are diluted. We should not allow this to stand in the way of a forward movement in respect of other economic and trade issues.

17. The SAARC summit provided an opportunity for meetings between the Foreign Secretaries, Foreign Ministers and Prime Ministers of the two countries. Even in the absence of any substantive movement on the question of Pakistani action against anti-India terrorists operating from its territory, one is gratified to note the evolution of a new vocabulary between the two countries, which highlights the positive more than the negative and which reflects a budding feel good atmosphere in the relations between the political leaderships and civilian bureaucracies of the two countries.

18.This feel good atmosphere is yet to percolate to the armies and intelligence agencies of the two countries. There are as yet no signs of any dilution in the ranks of the die-hard hawks in the analytical communities of the two countries. It is important to bring the Armies, the intelligence agencies and analytical hawks on board if this feel good trend is to be sustained and strengthened.

19.The only way of doing this is by encouraging greater interactions at different levels. Nothing like personal interactions to reduce suspicion and distrust. In this connection, I reiterate what I wrote after the Mohali meeting between the two Prime Ministers.

20. I wrote as follows: “ 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. 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.” (11-11-11)

( 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: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

Tuesday, November 8, 2011



Shock and shame have greeted the news about an incident which took place in the Amboli area of Mumbai on October 20,2011, in which two honourable young men of Mumbai---Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandes--- were surrounded and brutally killed by a group of hooligans and their supporters when Keenan and Reuben protested against their misbehaviour towards their girl friends and tried to defend themselves from attacks by the enraged hooligans.

2. We owe a debt of gratitude to Vidyut, a keen Tweeter activist of Mumbai, for her painstaking research into the incident from open source information and for posting the details in her blog titled “Aamjanata” at “ Facts of the Murder of Keenan and Reuben

3.Barkha Dutt, the Group Editor and President of the Board of Editors of the NDTV, telecast a special discussion on the incident under her “The Buck Stops Here” programme on November 8,2011.She had invited the families and girl friends of the brave men who were brutally killed, a cross-section of opinion-makers and members of the public for the discussion which was recorded in Mumbai on the night of November 7.

4. The stamp of high quality of Barkha’s programmes was there in this debate too. She needs to be complimented for taking the initiative in producing her unimaginably and unbearably poignant show. At the same time, I would be failing in my duty if I did not record my surprise over Barkha’s omission to invite Vidyut to be a member of the panel. Nobody had shown greater indignation than Vidyut over the murders and nobody has done a more painstaking research into the incident than Vidyut. She should have been the first choice for the panel.

5.The shocking incident highlights how dishonourable many of us are in our attitude to women and behaviour towards them. It has been reported that the people who misbehaved towards the girl friends of Keenan and Reuben come from the under-privileged and uneducated sections of our society, but we find instances of such shocking behaviour in all layers of our society---privileged or under-privileged, educated or uneducated, sophisticated or unsophisticated.

6. In our society, the word behaviour has two meanings. It has one meaning when it comes to behaviour towards men and another in respect of behaviour towards women. Large sections of our society tend to presume that in our behaviour towards women certain extra liberties---in words or action--- are understandable and even permissible. Words and actions which we may look down upon when employed against men, we treat as natural and rationalise them when employed against women.

7. It is this tendency to rationalise misbehaviour towards women and our reluctance to come down heavily on those misbehaving towards women that is responsible not only for the increasing number of incidents of misbehaviour towards them, but also for the shocking insensitivity and callousness of the police in dealing with such incidents.

8. I believe in what I often describe as an honour code in relation to women whom I take out. I consider myself morally responsible for their physical protection and honour. I am in a high state of tension till they reach home and inform me over phone that they have reached home safely. It is evident that Reuben and Keenan had a similar honour code. They considered themselves morally responsible for the protection and honour of their girl friends. They lost their lives in an act of extraordinary bravery after they tried to protect them from attempted misbehaviour by the hooligans.

9. They reacted according to their sense of honour. We should applaud them for their bravery and sense of honour and refrain from analysing whether their actions were wise or advisable. We should also salute the fortitude and sense of honour and pride of their families and girl friends for expressing their pride over the way Keenan and Reuben reacted. We need more such families, more such relatives and more such women.

10. The most shocking aspect of the incident was the utterly shameful and shocking and inhuman inaction of a group of about 40 bystanders, who watched the two boys being surrounded and murdered by the hooligans without the least attempt to go to their rescue. They watched as if they were watching a street play. I can understand --- but will not excuse--- if there were only one or two bystanders and they were afraid of intervening. There were about 40 of them. There was no excuse for their inaction. There were so many things they could have done. They could have raised an alarm and collected more people. They could have intervened physically. But they did nothing. They just watched--- not in horror, not with shock, but just with a sense of disinterested curiosity. They probably saw it as a quarrel between young men over women and as none of their business. Even the use of a knife by one of the hooligans for repeatedly stabbing did not make them intervene.

11. Even more shocking than the passive attitude of the bystanders was the attitude of some of the people in a nearby restaurant as narrated by one of the girl friends to Barkha. According to her, after the hooligans had run away, when she pleaded to the people in the restaurant to help her in taking care of the injured and dying, none of them came forward to help her. Can one imagine anything more inhuman and callous?

12. This inaction of the bystanders and others shows to what extent inhuman traits have seeped into our society. The only way of dealing with it is through education and creation of awareness of our duty as members of the society and citizens of this country. Under the law, watching a person being killed without going to his or her rescue is itself a crime. The police should prosecute not only the perpetrators, but also those bystanders who can be identified.

13. The incident also speaks very poorly of the state of our police. It shows the extent of the lack of fear of the police and the law in many sections of our society. The inability or reluctance of the Police to enforce the law effectively is responsible for the growing number of such incidents. I am myself an ex-police officer and I feel ashamed of myself for the kind of ineffective, shameless and prideless police that we have created. I was surprised by the attitude of a retired police officer in Barkha’s panel. I didn’t discern even the slightest trace of embarrassment, shame and indignation in his interventions during the debate.

14. It is important for our senior police officers to sit up and act to reverse the inexorable process of decay of our police force. How can the police blame the citizenry alone for such shocking incidents when the police itself has become a paragon of inaction? ( 9-11-11)

( 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: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

Monday, November 7, 2011



The stepped-up PSYWAR by Israel against Iran on the question of the possibility of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities indicates an underlying lack of confidence in Israel’s military and intelligence circles over the chances of success of any military strike against Iran.

2.One does not see in Israel of today the kind of confidence that it had in 1981 that it would be able to succeed with a clandestine air strike against Iraq’s OSIRAK nuclear reactor then under construction with French assistance and manage the consequences.

3. The Mossad--- the Israeli external intelligence agency---of today is not the Mossad of 1981. There has been a decline in its professionalism despite the success of some of its recent sabotage operations against Iran’s nuclear establishment. The public opposition by some of the retired senior intelligence officers such as Meir Dagan, former head of the Mossad, and Yuval Diskin, former head of the Shin Bet, the security agency, to any military action against Iran reflects the lack of confidence about the success of a military strike against Iran amongst officers who retired only recently and hence must be up-to-date in their knowledge of the Israeli capabilities against Iran.

4. There are conflicting reports about the stand of serving officers. While some reports say that the serving officers are confident that Israel can successfully carry out a military strike against Iran, other indicators are that even some serving officers share the misgivings of the retired officers. It is believed that the statements against a military strike issued by these retired officers reflects not only their lack of confidence in the success of a military strike, but also of some of the serving officers who had worked under them when they headed the agencies.

5.Unless there is an assessment backed by a majority of the serving military and intelligence officers that a military strike will be successful in neutralising Iran’s retaliatory capability and nuclear facilities, those in the political leadership in favour of immediate action headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may find it difficult to go ahead with a military strike.

6. The unusual high-octane PSYWAR mounted by Israeli leaders talking and threatening from roof-top regarding the likelihood of a military strike reflects not Israeli confidence in its ability to carry out a successful strike, but the persisting misgivings in the national security decision-making circles as to whether a strike would be successful.

7. Israeli national security and intelligence culture forbids public airing of military plans and debates before an imminent military action. The fact that such a public airing is being done now by the Government as part of its PSYWAR and that retired senior intelligence officers no longer feel bound by their culture of discretion and self-restraint are indicators of a lack of confidence in the political and professional circles regarding the chances of success of a military strike.

8. There would have been little opposition to a military strike if there was total confidence that it would succeed. The lack of unanimity of support for a strike is an indicator of the lack of such total confidence.

9. Israel of today is not the Israel of 1981. It no longer has the confidence that it can prevail in having its national security will and interests enforced. Iran is counting on this in going ahead with its nuclear plans, but it will be committing a serious mistake if it underestimates Israel’s penchant to take risks and act if its leaders and people feel that their national survival is at stake. (8-11-11)

( 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: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )



I have received the following comments on my article "If Israel Attacks Iran" from a well-placed and well-informed reader:

It appears that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain [monarchy], Kuwait, Oman are lobbying for an IDF (Israeli Defence Force) strike. [since they appear to have failed to persuade the US and Europeans to strike against Iran's nuclear program.]

What role Saudi Arabia might play in a strike on Iran, even if they deny their role?

According to several military analysts, Iran lacks the ability to disrupt the port of Hormuz. As a practical matter, how can they do it?

Iran's air defense capability is extremely limited. And their fighter aircraft lack functional avionics and electronics. Iran lacks accurate long range rockets. Their primary ability to strike at Israel is Hezbollah. But would Hezbollah risk a war with most Lebanese to help Khamenei? Both Khamenei and Nasrallah are focusing their limited resources on helping Assad survive. [Assad is apparently using Hezbollah Arab fighters inside Syria against the Syrian resistance.]

Their priority is to help Assad survive. This will be more important to them than retaliating for an Israeli strike [or a joint Israeli, Saudi strike.]

You seem to think the US and Europeans won't support a military strike on Iran. Before the attempted assasination of the Saudi ambassador inside the US, you were 100% right. But the failed assasination has changed things. There is now serious talk about military action in Europe and the US, which the Sunni Arab countries are exploiting with their powerful lobbies.

More than 80% of Sunni Arabs have a negative view of Iran in recent Arab public opinion polls. This is the highest negative rating ever recorded. Much of this is because of the role of IRGC in helping Assad against the Syrian resistance. This increases the odds of a military strike against Iran.



Will Israel attack Iran’s nuclear capabilities? If so, how will it go about it? What will be the consequences?

2. A PSYWAR has been mounted from Israel regarding the strong likelihood and imminence of an attack on Iran’s nuclear enrichment capabilities should the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna report ---as it is widely expected to---- that Iran has repaired the damages suffered by the computer network of its enrichment complex as a result of a virus (Stuxnet) allegedly planted by the Israeli intelligence and has resumed its enrichment operations full steam with the objective of acquiring weapons grade enrichment capability.

3. Such a report would mean that Israel’s sabotage operations to paralyse the enrichment facilities on which it was relying as an alternative to direct military strikes have failed to produce the desired results leaving it with no other option but direct military strikes to destroy the enrichment facilities that Iran has built up.

4. Should Israel undertake a military strike and if so, when? This question is being debated now in Israeli political, military and intelligence circles. It is apparent that any Israeli military strike may have to be unilateral because the West----including the US--- are not prepared to support a military strike. They feel that paralysing sanctions should be given an opportunity to force Iran to see reason and make Iran give up its plans for achieving a capability for weapons grade enrichment.

5. Israel’s faith in sanctions and sabotage as options to neutralise Iran’s capabilities has weakened and there is growing conviction in Israeli political, military and intelligence circles that the time for a direct military strike against Iran has arrived. If Israel does not act before November-end, the onset of winter and the heavy cloud cover during winter may make precise missile strikes difficult.

6. Political and diplomatic pressure from the US and other Western countries is unlikely to have any impact on Israeli decision-making which will be influenced purely by the assessment of the military and the intelligence agencies regarding the likelihood of success of a military operation.

7. Success means success in destroying Iran’s enrichment capabilities and success in destroying Iran’s capability for retaliation against Israel. When Israeli aircraft bombed Iraq’s Osirak reactor under construction with French assistance in June,1981, the dangers of a retaliatory strike by Iraq against Israel were not a worrisome factor in the planning. It was known that Iraq did not have such a capability.

8. Iran has a strong retaliatory capability against Israel in the form of its missiles. Its Air Force is facing problems due to the reported unserviceability of many of its planes because of the sanctions. It, therefore, plans to rely on its missiles for a retaliatory strike on Israel. The Israeli forces will, therefore, have to either destroy the Iranian retaliatory capability in advance before attacking the nuclear facilities or attack the two simultaneously.

9. The final decision on a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities will depend on the confidence of the Israeli military and intelligence leadership that it can destroy Iran’s retaliatory capability through a pre-emptive strike.

10. While serving officers of the Israeli intelligence seem to be confident that a neutralisation of Iran’s nuclear facilities and retaliatory capability will be doable, some retired officers of the Israeli intelligence such as Meir Dagan, former head of the Mossad, the Israeli external intelligence agency, and Yuval Diskin, former head of the Shin Bet, the security agency, have expressed misgivings on this. They have advised the Government against any adventurist impulses.

11. If Israel succeeds in destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities and retaliatory capability, Teheran will have two options----- block the Strait of Hormuz thereby creating serious dislocations in oil supply or undertake a long-term sabotage operation directed against the West without affecting the oil supply.

12. Blockage of the Strait of Hormuz will have an impact not only on the global economy, but also on Iran’s own economy at a time when its economy is already facing serious difficulties due to the economic sanctions. Success of a long-term sabotage operation will be doubtful since Iran is unlikely to enjoy the ground solidarity of the Sunni world. The Sunni countries are as worried as Israel over Iran’s nuclear aspirations. They will condemn Israeli military strikes, but will not do anything in support of Iran beyond that.

13. In view of what has been stated above,if Israel succeeds in neutralising Iran’s nuclear facilities and retaliatory capability, Iran may decide that it has no other option but to gulp it and keep sulking---- as Saddam Hussein did post-1981.

14. If an Israeli military strike is successful, the consequences for the region and the global economy may not be serious. If it is not successful, the consequences could be far-reaching. (7-11-11)

( 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: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

Wednesday, November 2, 2011



The unrest of Tibetan monks, which has so far led to 10 attempts to commit self-immolation ---seven of them successful resulting in deaths--- in Western Sichuan, is now showing signs of spreading to Tibet. However, there are no reports so far of any attempted self-immolation in Tibet.

2. The unrest in Tibet is showing signs of taking a more violent form directed against Han targets instead of self-immolation. The Chinese authorities have banned all religious activities at the historic Karma monastery in Tibet's Chamdo prefecture following a bomb explosion at a government building there on October 26,2011. It has been reported that nearly all the monks at the monastery in the Dzagyu Karma township where the blast occurred have fled from the area, fearing that they might be arrested and detained in a military detention camp as the Chinese have done to a large number of monks of the Kirti monastery in Western Sichuan following the first incident of self-immolation of a young monk in March last.

3.For some week now, there have been reports of anger among the Tibetans in the Dzagyu Karma area over the re-settlement of a large number of Hans from other provinces in the rural areas under the pretext of undertaking development projects for the Tibetans. Before the blast, anonymous leaflets circulating in the area had warned as follows: "Anyone who settles in the rural area should speak Tibetan. Otherwise, we will not accept them. If this policy of settling Chinese in Tibetan rural areas is not stopped, we will protest and may be forced to resort to violence."

4. After the blast, Chinese security forces surrounded the Karma monastery, located on the eastern bank of the Dzachu River in Chamdo (in Chinese, Changdu) prefecture and founded in the 12th century. They allegedly suspected that monks in the monastery were behind the blast, which badly damaged the building but caused no casualties. The Chinese security forces claimed to have found in the area of the blast posters and leaflets calling for Tibetan independence.

5. Fearing that the Tibetan refugees in Nepal ( about 20,000) may play a role in spreading the unrest to Tibet from Nepalese territory, the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu is reported to have stepped up pressure on the Nepalese Government to arrest what the Embassy described as the splittist elements in the local Tibetan refugee community. Chinese concerns have increased following an attempt by some members of the Tibetan refugee community in Nepal to hold a prayer meeting in memory of those who committed self-immolation in Sichuan. Following pressure from the Chinese Embassy, the Nepalese authorities are reported to have arrested about 100 refugees who participated in the prayer meeting.

6.In the meanwhile, Lobsang Sangay , the newly-elected head of the Tibetan Government-in-exile in Dharamshala, has arrived in Washington DC to testify before a Congressional Committee on the human rights situation in the Tibetan areas of China. While expressing his readiness for talks with the Chinese authorities, he blamed the Chinese refusal to accept the reality of the ground situation in the Tibetan areas for the continuing unrest. He added: “The actions of Tibetans who pour gasoline over themselves are clear indications of their desperation and frustration and of the urgency of the situation inside Tibet.” ( 2-11-11)

( 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: Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )