Thursday, March 3, 2011



The following are my answers to some questions on the above-mentioned subject received by me by E-Mail from an Italian journalist:

Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Akyab Cheduba and Bassein in Myanmar, to Chittagong in Bangladesh: India is afraid of the Chinese invasion of the Indian Ocean?

I will not use the word "invasion". India ought to be worried about the Chinese acquiring a power projection capability onshore and offshore in the Indian Ocean area.Gwadar, Gambantota etc are only one aspect of it. A more worrisom aspect, I feel, is the increase in the political and economic influence of China.India has the capability to counter the Chinese effectively on the sea---by itself as well as in co-operation with the US. Its ability to counter the Chinese influence onshore is very weak.The present Government headed by Dr.Manmohan Singh believes in maintaining a silence on this issue. Its silence will prove counter-productive.The rapidity with which the Chinese have evacuated their nationals (30,000) from Libya speaks very highly of the assets---political and strategic---that they have built up for themselves in the Indian Ocean and other far-flung areas.The slowness of the Indian evacuation machinery stands in sharp contrast.Our crisis management capability in far-flung areas came in for praise during the Tsunami of December 2004. Compared to our response in December 2004, our response this time has been found wanting.

The US-India alliance can be explained as an anti Chinese alliance?

There is no alliance presently. There is only talk of an alliance. What we need is not an alliance against China, but mutual co-operation to protect the onshore and offshore interests--- political, economic and strategic--- of India and the US in the Indian Ocean region and in North Africa. There has been no thinking on this subject. We wait for ideas to come from the US and then react to them. Instead we should take the initiative in strategising and then find ways of making the US part of this strategy born in the Indian brain.That kind of strategic thinking on what India and the US can and should do individually and jointly has not been there.

Most of the imports and exports pass through the Straits of Malacca. This is one of the weaknesses of the Asian giant? As China moves to overcome this weakness? The stability of Asia could be jeopardized by the Malacca dilemma?

The Malacca Dilemma worries China. We have no Malacca Dilemma at present beccause very little of India's energy supplies come from the region to the east of India. Our energy supplies still largely come from the West.China's Malacca Dilemma provides strategic and tactical opportunities for us to see that it is not able to address this dilemma effectively. Identification of these opportunities and thinking of ways of exploiting them should engage the attention of Indian strategic thinkers and planners.You are asking whether China's Malacca Dilemma could destabilise Asia. I don't think so in a strategic sense. On the contrary it could add to the vulnerabilities of China. In addressing this dilemma, Beijing has been putting many of its eggs in the basket of the military regime in Myanmar just as the US put many of its strategic eggs in the basket of the Suharto regime in Indonesia. Military regimes don't last for ever. The Myanmar military regime is bound to collapse one day just as the Suharto regime collapsed in Indonesia. The US, being a super power with vast resources and capabilities was able to quickly come out of its difficulties when the military regime in Jakarta collapsed. Will China be able to come out of its difficulties without serious damage if and when the military regime collapses in Myanmar? That question needs examination.

The missions in the Gulf of Aden of the Chinese navy what kind of information they give us about the military power of China?

It shows that China has still gaps in its power projection capability. The Chinese Navy has vast financial and technical resources, but it is not yet in a position to project China's power in far-flung areas. The US and Indian Navies will continue to maintain their off-shore pre-eminence in the short and possibly medium-terms. Can they do so long term? The US Navy is multi-dimensional in its thinking. The Chinese and Indian Navies are uni-dimensional--- with the Chinese naval thinking still focussed on the Pacific and the Indian Naval thinking on the Indian Oceam region. China is now trying to emulate the US by developing a multi-dimensional thinking. It is in the common interests of India and the US to keep the Chinese thinking unidimensional.


( The author 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: )



Sonia Gandhi can do no wrong.

2, That seems to be the basic assumption in the current debate on the various decisions of a very controversial nature made by the Government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh since the present Government was formed after the elections of 2009----whether the decisions related to the questionable functioning of the Ministry of Telecommunications or the wrongful appointment to the high-pedestal post of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner of someone facing an enquiry into a charge, which could cast a shadow on his integrity if proved or other serious matters of public interest.

3. In all the debates in public---whether in the media or by political parties---- the focus has been on the role of the Prime Minister and other concerned Ministers as well as bureaucrats. I watched with interest the debate in the various TV channels this evening on the adverse judgement of a bench of the Supreme Court delivered earlier in the day in the case regarding the procedure followed for the appointment of Shri P.J.Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner.

4. The eminent personalities, who participated in the debates, as well as the TV anchors focussed only on the role of the various personalities in the Government from the Prime Minister downwards. Not one of them mentioned even in passing the possible role of Sonia Gandhi as the leader of the Congress (I) in these controversial decisions. Even the spokespersons of the opposition parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), did not even mention her name in their interventions.

5. Does this mean that all these controversial decisions were taken only by the Government with the Congress (I) leadership playing no role in it? Any objective analyst would find it difficult to accept this. We have been under a peculiar system of governance since 2004 in which real power seems to be wielded by Sonia Gandhi in her capacity as the head of the Congress (I) with the Prime Minister as the head of the Government exercising only seeming power.

6.There has been an unseen, but unquestioned power which has been exercising a compulsive influence on decision-making in important matters. This compulsive influence is quite evident in the case of the appointment of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner. Whether in matters relating to his appointment despite his facing an incomplete enquiry or the defence of his appointment before the Supreme Court everyone from the Prime Minister downwards has been acting as if they were acting at the instance of an invisible force that could not be resisted. Such an invisible force could be only that of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi.

7. She has been conducting herself as a neutral, disinterested by-stander, who had nothing to do with any of these decisions. She has not spoken on any of these decisions in any great detail, nor has she been questioned.Everyone, including the media and even the opposition, has been behaving as if like the British monarch she is above and beyond all controversies and, hence, her role cannot be questioned.

8. If one has to find out the real truth behind the recent controversies it is as important to go into her role as it is to go into the role of others. The assumption that Sonia Gandhi can do no wrong has to be challenged by the public as well as the media and the political class. She must be made to face the fire of criticism and questioning like any other leader. She should no longer be treated as if she is a morally superior person whose good faith and integrity have to be implicitly accepted.

9. It is important for the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) now being constituted to summon her and question her in detail on the various controversies. It is equally important for her role in decision-making to be debated in Parliament, in the media and elsewhere. She should herself welcome a greater public focus on her role and influence in decision-making. ( 3-3-11)

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



Preliminary evidence in the case relating to the death due to shooting at the Frankfurt airport on March 2,2011, of two US airmen, one of them a bus driver, indicates that it might have been the act of an angry loner and not that of any jihadi organization such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) or the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) or the so-called German Taliban, which refers to a group of German converts to Islam trained by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

2. It was known in the past that these organizations had been focusing on German as well as US military targets in Germany, but the German intelligence and Police had managed to detect and neutralize their plans in time before the conspiracy could be carried out.

3.The German intelligence and police, who are generally well-informed and alert, seemed to have been taken by surprise on March 2 because the assailant came from a community which had in the past not come to notice for association with any of the organizations mentioned above. The 21-year-old suspect, whose name has been given as Arid Urka, is an Albanian Muslim from the town of Mitrovica in the Kosovo area, who had reportedly been living in Germany. He held a German passport in addition to an old passport of undivided Yugoslavia.

4.According to media reports, the two US airmen killed belonged to the military police of the US Air Force and were part of a unit generally stationed in the UK which was being moved either to Iraq or Afghanistan for deployment via Germany. It is not clear whether it was merely an opportunistic attack by the gunman on a group of US airmen boarding a bus at the airport without his being aware of the fact that they were bound for Iraq or Afghanistan or whether it was a targeted killing of US military personnel going to Iraq or Afghanistan.

5. Germany plays an active role in the NATO operations in Afghanistan and the conspiracies detected in the past were triggered off by anger over the role of Germany and the US in Afghanistan. The German authorities initially treated the incident as an act of anger following an altercation between the US airmen and the gunman as they were boarding the bus. They subsequently started looking into the possibility of its being an act of terrorism because of some evidence of the gunman allegedly visiting jihadi sites in the Internet.

6. The investigation seems to be presently confined to examining whether the attack could have been Afghanistan-related. There is no indication of any suspicion of its being Libya-related. The Libyan intelligence and terrorists linked to the Libyan intelligence had operated in Germany in the 1980s as indicated by an explosion in a West Berlin discotheque in 1985 that killed some US military personnel and the bombing of a Pan-Am aircraft originating from Frankfurt in 1988 ( the Lockerbie incident). The West Berlin incident led to the US bombing of Libya in 1986 and the Lockerbie incident to the arrest and trial of suspected Libyan intelligence officers and the payment of huge compensation by the Libyan Government to the relatives of the passengers and crew killed.

7. Since the 1990s, Libya had totally cut off its past links with terrorism----either of the Palestinian or Al Qaeda kind --- and had effectively kept Al Qaeda and its allied organizations out of its territory. It is very unlikely that at a time when the Gadaffi regime is facing mounting international pressure because of the uprising against it in Eastern Libya, it would add to the anger of the West by dabbling in terrorism once again.

8. Muslims of Kosovo origin had not come to notice in the past for association with Afghanistan or Iraq based organizations because of their dependence on the US for making themselves free from Serbia. The act of the lone gunman of Kosovo origin would require detailed investigation before satisfactory conclusions could be drawn. For the present, it could only be characterized as a possible terrorist incident of unknown inspiration. (3-3-11)

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