Tuesday, December 13, 2011



China’s official Xinhua news agency disseminated the following report on December 12,2011:
“China said on Monday that its naval fleet may seek supplies or recuperate at appropriate harbors in Seychelles or other countries as needed during escort missions.
“It is international practice for naval fleets to resupply at the closest port of a nearby state during long-distance missions, the Ministry of National Defense said in a press release commenting on a recent report stating that China will establish a military base in Seychelles to crack down on piracy.
“Chinese naval fleets have resupplied at harbors in Djibouti, Oman and Yemen since the country sent its first convoy to the Gulf of Aden in 2008, according to the ministry
“Defense Minister Liang Guanglie paid an official goodwill visit to Seychelles earlier this month.
“During Liang's visit, the two sides exchanged views on their countries' and armies' cooperation, as well as on the global and regional situation.
“Seychelles appreciates China's efforts to maintain safe navigation on the Indian Ocean, as well as the support it has granted to Seychelles, the ministry said.

“Seychelles also invited China's navy to resupply and recuperate in the country during escort missions, the ministry said.”

2. An article carried the next day by the “China Daily” said:
“The navy is considering taking on supplies in the Seychelles while conducting escort missions to tackle piracy.
“Military experts stressed that the move did not equate to establishing military bases.
“"According to escort needs and the needs of other long-range missions, China will consider seeking supply facilities at appropriate harbors in the Seychelles or other countries," the Ministry of Defense said in a statement on its website on Monday.
“The statement was in response to a recent report that the Seychelles invited China to establish a military base in the Indian Ocean archipelago to crack down on piracy during a visit by Defense Minister Liang Guanglie, the first by a Chinese defense minister, earlier this month.
“The Press Trust of India news agency later interpreted this as Beijing reneging on its promise not to build military bases abroad.
“Li Jie, a professor at the Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told China Daily "as China will not send troops to protect the supply stop in the Seychelles, by no means can it be called an overseas military base".
“Beijing has repeatedly confirmed that its policy of not stationing troops abroad will not be altered. It stands alone among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council in not having overseas bases.
“Due to anti-piracy missions off the coast of Somalia, it is only natural for Beijing to ensure naval supplies, Li said.”
“Peng Guangqian, a Beijing-based military strategist, said facilities allowing ships to take on supplies cannot be called military bases because "China respects the host's sovereignty and internal politics, and no political conditions are attached".
“"Besides, it will be solely used for logistics and supplies," he added.
“Li Qinggong, deputy secretary of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies, said that any arrangements over the use of facilities will be mutually beneficial with jobs provided for people in the Seychelles and the navy better able to protect China's growing overseas interests.”

3. MY COMMENTS: Chinese naval ships on long-range anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden area do need ports of call for re-stocking, re-fuelling and rest and recreation facilities. Initially, they were using the Karachi port. They have stopped doing so for some months now due to the poor security situation in Karachi, which was highlighted by a terrorist attack on the Pakistani naval air base in May last. They are not going ahead with their original plans for the upgradation of the Gwadar port into a naval base due to the poor security situation in Balochistan.

4.They are, therefore, now looking for such facilities in safe Gulf ports and may start using Hambantota in Sri Lanka once it is ready for receiving Chinese naval vessels. The Chinese have never made any secret of their interest in port calls in the Indian Ocean area for availing of such facilities. Because of the long distance involved from the waters of China to the patrolling areas in the Gulf of Aden their requirements for re-stocking, re-fuelling and rest and recreation are natural and genuine.

5. I understand that as a confidence-building measure, the Indian Navy had also invited Chinese naval vessels returning from anti-piracy patrols to make a port call at Kochi. This was a good initiative which I support. While we must carefully monitor the movements and interests of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean area, we should avoid the kind of paranoia created by the ill-advised PTI report.

6. In a paper presented at a seminar organised by the National Maritime Foundation at Vizag in July last, I had stated as follows: “The indications are that China’s interest in helping the countries of the South Asian region in the development of their port infrastructure is related to its need to ensure the security of its energy supplies from West Asia and Africa. It has no naval power projection dimension at present.

7. Till now, the main driver of China’s strategic interest in Gwadar, Hambantota and Chittagong has been the perceived need for refuelling, re-stocking and rest and recreation facilities for its oil/gas tankers and naval ships deputed for anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden area. China is not yet interested in an overseas naval base, but is interested in overseas logistic facilities for its oil/gas tankers and for its naval vessels.

8.Individual retired officers of the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) have been talking of the likely long-term need for an overseas naval base in the Indian Ocean area, but the Communist Party of China (CPC) has been discouraging such talk. Presently, the Chinese interest in playing a role in the development of the port infrastructure is not designed to place its Navy in a position as to be able to challenge the primacy presently enjoyed by the Navies of the US and India in the Indian Ocean region.

9. China has seen as to how the over-assertiveness of its Navy in the South China Sea has had a negative impact on the comfort level of its relations with the ASEAN countries. The Indian Ocean is not comparable to the South China Sea. China has no territorial claims to islands in the Indian Ocean area. It has no disputes relating to fishing and exploration of oil and gas with any of the countries of the Indian Ocean region. China and its Navy are, therefore, welcomed by the countries of the region. This comfortable position could change if China graduates from energy security to power projection in its strategic planning for the Indian Ocean region.

10. I do not expect this to happen in the short and medium terms (five to 10 years). However, if the Chinese strategic thinking changes in the long-term, what could be the new threats to India and what will be the options for our Navy? We have to start thinking on this.( http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers46%5Cpaper4595.html

11. While reiterating this assessment, I must highlight that there has recently been important statements and comments by President Hu Jintao and Chinese analysts on the need to give priority to further strengthening the Chinese Navy. My present assessment is that these comments are related to the recent re-assertion of the US primacy in the Pacific and the greater interest taken by the US in the South China Sea. They do not seem to be related to Chinese perceptions of any new core interests they may develop in the Indian Ocean region.

12. Presently, they have core concerns in the Indian Ocean area arising from the activities of the Somali pirates and likely threats to their energy security from pirates and terrorists. They have no core interests in the Indian Ocean area, but developing a capability for power projection in the Indian Ocean to counter the renewed US power projection in the Pacific could become a driving force of their strategic vision in the Indian Ocean region. We need to closely monitor the evolution of Chinese strategic thinking in this regard. ( 14-12-11)

( 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: seventyone2@gmail.com Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )



There have been four mass fatality attacks (with fatalities of more than 100 ) on Indian nationals or foreign nationals of Indian origin by terrorists enjoying sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. Three of these attacks carried out by jihadi terrorists were in Mumbai ( in March 1993,July 2006 and November 2008)and one involved the blowing-up of the Kanishka aircraft of Air India off the Irish coast in June 1985 by Khalistani terrorists.

2. The jihadi attacks in Mumbai were carried out by terrorists who came from sanctuaries and training camps of their organisations in Pakistani territory. Talwinder Singh Parmar of the Babbar Khalsa, who orchestrated the blowing-up of the Kanishka aircraft, came from Vancouver and took sanctuary in Pakistan after having the attack carried out. He was subsequently killed in August 1992 when he crossed over into Indian territory.

3.The two Indian masterminds of the March 1993 terrorist attack in Mumbai----Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon---- continue to live in Karachi without any action being taken against them by the Pakistani authorities. Those involved in the July 2006 terrorist attacks on suburban trains have not been definitively identified, but they are believed to have taken sanctuary with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in Pakistani territory. The LET masterminds of the November,2008 attacks---- all Pakistani nationals--- are still in Pakistani territory---some facing a make-believe trial and others untouched by the Pakistani authorities.

4. The potentially catastrophic attack on the Indian Parliament by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), with the suspected complicity of the LET, on December 13,2001,was designed to be a decapitation strike directed at India’s parliamentary leadership, but the alertness and bravery of the Indian security forces guarding the Parliament thwarted their designs. They were prevented from shooting their way into the Parliament and killed. There were no mass fatalities of civilians.

5.The capability of the terrorists to carry out repeated mass fatality attacks or potentially catastrophic attacks was facilitated by the connivance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and by the availability of sanctuaries and training facilities in Pakistani territory.

6.A repeatedly demonstrated lesson in the history of terrorism is that when terrorists operate with the complicity of a foreign intelligence agency from foreign sanctuaries it would not be possible to eliminate their terrorism unless the intelligence agency and/or the sanctuaries are targeted and irreparable damages are inflicted on them.

7.The US air strikes in Libya ordered by President Reagan in 1986 in retaliation for a bomb attack on US soldiers in Berlin was an example of a justified attack on a foreign State assisting terrorists. The US special forces attack in Abbottabad in Pakistan on May 2,2011, to kill Osama bin Laden was an example of an attack targeting sanctuaries and those given sanctuaries without targeting the State which provided sanctuary. The US has also been using its Drone (pilotless plane) strikes in North and South Waziristan as part of its counter-sanctuaries strategy.

8.Since the mass fatality attacks started in 1985, we have refrained from targeting either the State of Pakistan and its ISI or the terrorists and their sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. Even if we don’t want to exercise a counter-State policy against Pakistan, unless we exercise the counter-sanctuaries policy against the terrorist organisations and their sanctuaries in Pakistani territory, we will be destined to see a periodic recurrence of such attacks on our nationals.

9. There are two requirements for an effective counter-sanctuary strategy---- the political will to undertake targeted attacks against sanctuaries even at the risk of a possible military conflict with Pakistan and the clandestine capability called the covert action capability to translate the political will into action.

10. In India, we do not have either the political will or the covert action capability. Whatever limited covert action capability we had against Pakistan was ordered to be disbanded by Shri Inder Gujral when he was the Prime Minister in 1997. Neither Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, who succeeded him, nor Dr.Manmohan Singh have shown a willingness to order a re-creation of our covert action capability because they did not have the political courage to order its use against the sanctuaries.

11. The ISI as well as the terrorists sponsored by it know that India does not have a retaliatory covert action capability and that fear of a military conflict degenerating into a nuclear one has stymied Indian decision-making on the inclusion of a counter-sanctuary component into our counter-terrorism strategy.

12. The Indian State finds itself in a state of not having the required covert action capability to act against the sanctuaries and not having the political will and courage to use that capability even if we re-create it.

13. We will never be able to deal with mass fatality terrorism emanating from Pakistani territory unless we get out of this self-created and self-imposed paralysis of the will of the Indian State to act.

14. I am all for talks with Pakistan to improve our relations, but the talks must be accompanied by the will to act against the sanctuaries. Talking alone without demonstrating a will to act will prove counter-productive.

15.As we observe the 10th anniversary of the attack on the Parliament and pay homage to our brave security personnel who died to thwart the attack, it is this question-----the resuscitation of the national will to act as demonstrated by Indira Gandhi in 1971 and the re-creation of the covert action capability to translate that will into action--- that should engage our attention.

16. Instead of doing so, the entire focus has been on the perceived delay in the execution of Afzal Guru, an Indian national, who has been sentenced to death by the court for his complicity with the terrorists who came from the sanctuaries in Pakistan. His execution is not going to put an end to the sanctuaries in Pakistan. Only the iron fist of the Indian State will do so. ( 13-12-11)

( 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: seventyone2@gmail.com .Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )