Friday, April 27, 2012



Individual States can control regional terrorism or insurgency with a limited spread. We have had success stories as in the case of Al Ummah in Tamil Nadu.

2.But terrorism or insurgency of a pan-Indian spread is a different kind of threat like that of the Indian Mujahideen or insurgency of the Maoists. The whole of India is their theatre. And target. No individual State police, however professional and competent, can deal with the threat on its own.

3.We are on the threshold of other and more deadly mutations of terrorism such as maritime terrorism. Global terrorist organisations have been on the look-out for weapons of mass destruction material that they can use. From global, such threats are likely to become national.

4.Only the Government of India can deal with these mutations and prevent them from operating in our territory. No individual State Police has or will ever have the expertise and capability to prevent and neutralize them.

5.Our internal security problems are inextricably entwined with our external environment. The non-State actors of today---whether terrorists or insurgents---copy-cat States in their ability to use modern technologies and new means of causing death and destruction.

6. Protecting ourselves and our nation from these ever-changing threats is the business of all of us--- whether the central agencies or the State Police. When our Constitution was framed more than 60 years ago, our internal security tasks were simple ---dealing with dacoities, robberies and insurgencies of the Telangana kind. Our founding fathers had the confidence that the States can deal with any internal security threat alone. In their keenness to preserve and protect our federal State, they made the Police a State subject.

7.Threats have changed today. Beyond our worst imagination. No single Government or agency or police force can cope with the threats of today by operating from an island of its own imagination. The island mentality and the island techniques in the management of internal security have to give way to a co-operative and co-ordinated way of managing internal security.

8.Federalism is no longer the ability to act alone. It is the willingness and the ability to act together. Terrorists and insurgents are increasingly acting together at the regional, national and global level. But we in India are not. We find it easier to co-operate with other nations, but not with each other.

9.The current controversy over the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) between the Centre and the States illustrates the continuing prevalence of the island mentality in dealing with pan-Indian internal security threats.

10.The concept was borrowed by P.Chidambaram, the Union Home Minister, from the US where its NCTC has played a useful role in preventing terrorism. Normally, there should have been no controversy but Chidambaram’s action in seeking to make the NCTC a part of the Intelligence Bureau with executive powers of arrest and search has rightly alarmed the opposition-ruled States.

11.IN the US and elsewhere, such instruments function independently and not as a wing of the intelligence agency. They have no powers of arrest and search. The IB is a clandestine instrument. Fears of likely misuse of such powers by it are legitimate. They have to be addressed.

12.We used to have good habits of co-operation in the past when the same political party was in power in the Centre and the States. These habits are withering away due to the emerging multipolarity of our political landscape in which everything is getting politicized.

13.We need new instruments to deal with the threats of today. Yesterday’s instruments are out of date. To oppose the new instruments under the pretext of threats to federalism is short-sighted and will prove to be suicidal.

14.We have to think of new ways of interpreting and protecting federalism that would strengthen our ability to maintain internal security without jeopardizing our federal structure. Dogged, unthinking opposition to new, much-needed structures such as the NCTC will prove counter-productive.

15.The Centre cannot escape blame for the current controversy. It should have realized that it cannot deal with internal security without the co-operation of the State Police. Instead of consulting the States on equal basis and encouraging them to get into the same boat, it has added to their suspicions by playing games that politicians play unmindful of national interests. Its action in avoiding political consultations on the NCTC before issuing the notification on its creation is haunting it now. Instead of making the States more flexible and responsive to ideas of pan-Indian counter-terrorism management, it has made them more distrustful of the Centre.

16.It is time for the Prime Minister to come to the forefront, take over the leadership role in this matter and remove the suspicions and apprehensions of the States. How can India have internal peace if the institutions of individual States decay and how can individual States  have internal peace if the central institutions are thwarted from functioning as they should ?

17.The Prime Minister should announce the withdrawal of the notification already issued and set up a small group of experts from the Centre and the States to come out with a fresh draft of how the NCTC will function without adding to frictions between the Centre and the States.

( 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, April 26, 2012



There is an air of nervousness all over the world where there is a strong US presence regarding the dangers of Al Qaeda-inspired attacks on US nationals and interests coinciding with the first anniversary of the killing  of Osama bin Laden by US Navy Seals during a clandestine raid into his hide-out in Abbottabad in Pakistan on May 2 of last year. A terrorist alert has already been sounded and US intelligence agencies and security forces are already in a state of preparedness to counter any attack.

2.The greatest danger is feared in the Af-Pak region where there is considerable US presence offering tempting targets to Al Qaeda and its affiliates. This is also an area where there is maximum anti-US anger. The US is particularly concerned over Pakistan where the Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have not been  co-operative with the US in unearthing and neutralising the remnants of Al Qaeda.

3.After seeing the impunity with which Osama bin Laden had been living and operating from right under the nose of the Pakistani Army in Abbottabad, one has reasons to fear that those remnants of Al Qaeda that have escaped death from the US Drone strikes must be similarly living in sanctuaries in the urban centres of Pakistan and biding their time for an opportunistic attack on US targets.

4.Among those still believed to be living and operating from Pakistani territory is Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over as the Amir of Al Qaeda, after the death of OBL. He is not as charismatic as OBL and not as innovative in conceiving and having executed terrorist operations of a catastrophic nature on a global scale similar to the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US.

5. Under his leadership, the anti-US PSYWAR campaign of Al Qaeda is showing signs of losing some lustre. I have seen no evidence to show that Al Qaeda under Zawahiri’s leadership is making as effective use of social media networks as other traditional fundamentalist organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt have been doing.

6.In fact, none of the six organisations that have emerged as terrorist organisations with Al Qaeda like potential for catastrophic acts of terrorism have shown a capability for imaginatively using social media networks for promoting their ideological campaigns and terrorist strikes. These six organisations are the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) of Pakistan, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) popularly known as the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen; al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, based in Algeria and Mali; al Shabaab of Somalia; and Boko Haram, of Nigeria.

7. The loss of momentum of PSYWAR operations after the death of OBL has led to a decline of “lone wolf” terrorist attacks of the kind witnessed in Glasgow in June,2007.   Individual Muslims inspired by online radicalisation and training launching terrorist attacks on their own is no longer as dreaded as it was before the death of OBL

8. Organised jihadi terrorism is still a major threat to be reckoned with. The six organisations mentioned above have shown a capability for sustained operations in their respective areas and sporadic strikes outside their territory like the LET’s 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai and the AQAP’s failed attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound US plane on December 25,2009. The death of OBL at the hands of the US Navy Seals was followed by the death of Anwar al-Awlaki of the AQAP reportedly by a US Drone strike in Yemen on September 30,2011.

9. OBL, a Saudi of Yemeni origin, Ramzi Yousef of  Pakistan, now in a US jail, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, another Pakistani now in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre,  al-Awlaki, a US citizen of Yemeni origin, and Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed of the LET of Pakistan were the conceptualisers and executers of well-orchestrated and imaginatively planned terrorist strikes outside their traditional areas of operation. Of these, only Sayeed has presently the motivated cadre and infrastructure to organise trans-national terrorist strikes of Al Qaeda kind.

10.Zawahiri is more an expert on jihadi intifada, a kind of regionalised insurgency in areas where there is a high level of alienation as in Somalia, Algeria, Mali and Nigeria. Thus, after the death of OBL, one sees two jihadi trends--- an intifada-cum-insurgency kind of a regional dimension inspired by the thoughts and exhortations of Zawahiri and trans-national  terrorism of Al Qaeda inspiration promoted by the LET and the TTP, either on their own or with the collaboration of Al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network of Afghanistan.

11.Of the five conceptualisers of global or trans-national terrorism, two---OBL and al-Awlaki --- are dead and two---Ramzi and KSM—are in US custody. This leaves Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed as the terrorist with the greatest lethal potential for global or trans-national operations. Unless he is eliminated by India and the US—either acting alone or jointly--- the continuance  of global or trans-national terrorism of Al Qaeda kind will remain a major threat.

12.Al Qaeda and its affiliates are now operating on two planes----regional and trans-national. The regional has its epicentre in Somalia, Algeria, Mali and Nigeria. The trans-national has its epicentre in the Af-Pak region and Yemen. While the neutralisation of the regional terrorism has to be the responsibility of the States concerned with appropriate outside assistance,  that of the trans-national kind has to be the responsibility of the international community with the US playing the leadership role.

13.While the US is now convinced of the trans-national dimensions of the threat posed by the LET, it is still hesitant to mount against the LET a counter-terrorism operation, with no holds barred, of the kind mounted against Al Qaeda and bin Laden. Unless it does so, the threats emanating from trans-national terrorist groups and the remnants of Al Qaeda operating from the Af-Pak region will remain as high as ever.

14. The magnitude of these threats could increase after the thinning down of the US and other NATO forces in Afghanistan. The implications of the continued non-cooperation of the Pakistani Army and the ISI in dealing with the LET and the remnants of Al Qaeda and of a premature withdrawal of the US and other NATO forces from Afghanistan are factors that have to be carefully analysed in any assessment of the terrorist scenario after the death of OBL. In its anxiety to thin down its presence in Afghanistan, the US is not paying adequate attention to these factors.

15. The thinning out of the US and other NATO forces from Afghanistan is likely to lead to a transfer of large quantities of arms and ammunition of different kinds to the Afghan security forces by the departing US forces. There are dangers of the leakage of many of these into the hands of  the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda, the LET and other Pakistani jihadi organisations.

16. The Af-Pak region is again likely to be awash with arms and ammunition as it was before 9/11. There is a danger of some of them finding their way into Jammu & Kashmir along with surplus trained cadres of the Pakistani jihadi organisations. If India is not  careful, it may face a repeat of 1989 when surplus trained cadres and arms and ammunition from Afghanistan made their way into Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir to assist in an ISI-organised proxy war to annex J&K.

17. OBL is dead, but the threats emanating from the region will remain as high as before until the jihadi terrorist remnants operating from this region are neutralised and their sources of funding and arms and ammunition are forced to dry up. ( 27-4-12)

( 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, April 21, 2012



The Maoists have been increasingly resorting to abduction as one of their tactics for cowing down the State and society and for demonstrating their ability to enforce their will on the State.

2. The recent incidents of abduction of two Italian nationals and a member of the legislative Assembly of Odisha to force the State---unfortunately successfully--- to concede their demands for the release of some arrested Maoists have been followed by the abduction of Alex Paul Menon, the32-year-old Collector of Sukma District in Chattisgarh, on April 21,2002.

3.Citing Ram Nivas, Additional Director of Police in charge of Naxal operations in the State, media reports have stated that a group of 20 Maoists killed the two personal security officers of the Collector and abducted him while he was having a meeting with some villagers in the Majhipara village of the District. The Collector had reportedly gone to the village on a motorcycle as part of a Government-initiated campaign to wean the villagers away from the Maoists. S.K.Vaidya, a Sub-Divisional Magistrate, who had accompanied the Collector, was not abducted.

4. The young Collector, like other officers of different services serving in the areas affected by the Maoist insurgency in different States of India, deserves the highest praise from the citizens of this country for his personal courage and devotion to public service. Unmindful of the dangers faced by him, Menon had kept up his village touring in order to interact with the people and address their grievances against the State. It is the courage and devotion of officers like Menon which gives us hope that we will ultimately prevail over the Maoists despite the gloomy situation that prevails at present. It is important to underline this before discussing the options available to the State in dealing with the use of repeated abductions as a tactic by the Maoists.

5. Denying success to rural insurgents operating from forests who indulge in such tactics is always much more difficult than denying success to urban terrorists who operate from urban hideouts. Collection of preventive and operational human intelligence is more difficult in  rural areas ---particularly with a heavy forest cover---than in an urban area. Technical intelligence is equally difficult to come by since rural insurgents do not use modern means of communication like the urban terrorists do.

6. Confronted with a situation of almost zero intelligence regarding the specific plans of the Maoists, the only preventive option is a heavy security cover for touring officers and political leaders and a saturated security presence in the areas worst affected by the insurgency. It is not an uncharitable criticism of the young officer to state that one was surprised that Menon ventured into an area reportedly heavily affected by the insurgency with a very thin security cover. One is not certain whether Menon was accompanied by a police contingent in addition to his two personal security officers. Apparently not, because otherwise, there might have been an encounter between the police contingent and the Maoists who came to abduct him.

7. It is important for our officers and political leaders to keep travelling in those areas without letting themselves be cowed down by the insurgents. At the same time, they should ensure that they do not neglect the importance of a heavy security cover in the form of personal security officers and a protection contingent which would provide area protection.

8.Touring officers and political leaders probably avoid a heavy protection contingent as the presence of a large number of policemen in their entourage might unnerve the villagers and defeat the purpose of their touring for interaction with the people. But this cannot be helped. There is no point in venturing out into such areas without a satisfactory security cover.

9. The Maoists have also been abducting not only public servants, but also innocent civilians as one saw in the case of the two Italian tourists. It would become difficult for the State to provide dedicated protection to all civilians who have to travel in the areas under the control of the Maoists. All that the State can do is to brief them periodically on the dangers that they might face and what precautions they should take.

10. The Maoists have been using two tactical weapons effectively in their attempts to intimidate public servants and discourage them from touring--- the use of road mines and abduction. We still do not seem to have an effective answer to deal with the use of landmines by them. This calls for action on various planes such as preventing the flow of explosive material and mines into the hands of the Maoists and effective mine-clearing operations in the areas where the Maoists are active.

11. To ensure that normal village administration and village touring for interactions with the villagers is not affected by the intimidatory  tactics of the Maoists, we should provide helicopters to all Districts in the areas affected by the insurgency.

12. There is no satisfactory answer to the question as to how to deal with an abduction in a rural or forest area. The basic principle is never concede the demands of the insurgents to secure the release of the abducted persons. Once a person is abducted, various pressures start operating on the political leadership and the administration----from the relatives, sections of the political class itself, human rights activists etc. It becomes difficult for the political leadership to resist these pressures and stick doggedly to the principle of not conceding the demands of the insurgents, come what may.

13. Dealing with abductions is partly a game of patience, partly a psychological game and partly a game of calculated risks. Patient negotiations with those involved in the abduction are necessary to give the police and the intelligence agencies time  to collect intelligence and to the special intervention forces to prepare themselves for a possible rescue operation. The psychological game involves giving the abductors cause for hope that the State may concede their demands while sticking to the principle of not doing so The game of calculated risks is about undertaking a rescue operation if there are reasonable chances of success.

14.The difficulties faced by our political leadership in dealing with an abduction in a rural or forest areas arises from two factors--- the lack of precise intelligence as to where the abductors have kept their captive and the absence of a specially trained force for interventions in the rural and forest areas. The National Security Guards is more a special intervention force for urban than for rural areas or forests. The time has come for us to think in terms of a special intervention force for rural areas and forests.
15. Ultimately, the decision as to what the State has to do has to be taken by the political leaders and professionals jointly. There will always be political and public criticism of their final decision. If they concede the demands of the abductors they will be accused of being soft. If they stand firm and the victim is killed by the abductors they will be accused of being heartless and incompetent. It is an occupational hazard for a public servant having to deal with terrorism or insurgency. He should act according to his best judgement unmindful of the brickbats that might follow.( 22-4-12)

( 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, April 20, 2012



We don’t need Agni-V, the intermediate range ballistic missile that we successfully tested on April 19,2012, to give ourselves a deterrent capability against Pakistan. We need it only for a deterrent capability against China.

2. Agni-V is a Chinese-centric missile. The Chinese rightly know it and would be evaluating any changes required in their defence strategy vis-à-vis  India in the light of India having at its disposal a missile capable of hitting targets in mainland China, including Beijing. The operational missiles that we have at our disposal  now are in a position to successfully target Chinese-occupied Tibet and Western China such as Sichuan, which are not yet economically as developed as Eastern China. Once Agni V becomes operational, India should be in a position to target those parts of Eastern China on which its economic prosperity depends.

3. China’s plans to protect itself against a possible Indian missile strike have to cover the whole of China, instead of only Western China as it is till now. Our intelligence agencies have to be on the look-out for indications of Chinese thinking on this subject.

4. While we are now in a strategically better position to protect ourselves against China by discouraging Chinese temptations to intimidate us with its missile capability, this does not mean that our capability to protect ourselves tactically against China will improve with the induction of Agni V into our arsenal.

5. Our ability to protect ourselves tactically will depend on our conventional capability to deter a surprise Chinese strike across the Himalayas to occupy areas---particularly in Arunachal Pradesh which it describes as southern Tibet--- that it claims as its territory.

6. During the last 10 years, the entire Chinese military planning vis-à-vis India has been focussed on giving itself such a surprise strike capability. Its improvement of its road and rail networks in Western China, particularly in Tibet, its attempts for road-rail connectivity with Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh, its improvement of its air bases in Chinese-occupied Tibet and live firing air exercises in Tibet are part of its plans to strengthen its surprise strike capability.

7. Our Army did badly in the 1962 Sino-Indian war not because it was a bad fighting force, but because our policy-makers had not given it the required capability to neutralise a Chinese surprise strike. If you do not give the Army the required capability, you cannot blame it for doing badly.

8.Have we now learnt the right lessons from history and given the Army the capability to blunt a surprise Chinese strike and throw them back after inflicting a prohibitive cost on them? Unless we confront the Chinese with the prospects of a prohibitive cost and outcome if they indulge in a surprise strike as they did in 1962, the temptation on their part to launch a surprise strike, if they lose patience with the border talks, will remain.

9. While we are steadily closing the gaps in our strategic military capabilities with China, the gaps in our tactical capabilities remain and need to be identified and redressed. In our euphoria over the successful Agni V test, we should not lose sight of the continuing gaps in tactical capabilities and the need to close them.

10. The tactical situation that we face today is less favourable than what the Chinese face. In 1962, China had no military relationship worth the name with Pakistan. Today, China has a multi-dimensional military relationship with Pakistan, much of it focussed around the Gilgit-Baltistan axis. In 1962, China had no military-related presence in our periphery. Today, it has in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. In 1962, we didn’t have to worry about the Chinese Air Force and Navy. Today, we have to.

11. In 1962, the war plans of the Chinese Air Force were largely focussed on Taiwan. Today, there are indications of a partial shifting of the thinking of their Air Force towards India. In 1962, they had no Navy worth the name. Today, they have a Navy increasingly capable of operations in the Indian Ocean.

12. It is my assessment that if the Chinese mount a surprise tactical strike across the Himalayas now, it will be a joint Army-Air force operation. It will be a lightning strike designed to satisfy their territorial objectives in the shortest possible time without running the risk of a prolonged war. The role of their Navy will be insignificant for some years to come.

13. We have to have a multi-pronged strategy designed to enable us to pre-empt a tactical Chinese strike with the co-operation of our Tibetan friends and to blunt their strike and throw them back if pre-emption fails. Such a strategy would call for better intelligence collection, better road-rail-air connectivity to the border areas, more well-equipped bases near the border from where our Army and Air Force can operate and a better logistics trail well-tested during peace time.

1`4. We have already taken steps towards giving shape to such a multi-pronged strategy in the Himalayan area, but the progress in implementation has been slow. Our policy-makers should pay urgent attention to this. Our strategic and tactical thinking continues to be largely Pakistan-centric.

15. Whatever Chinese-centric thinking there has been is largely in the context of our power projection with US blessing. We must remember : If there is another limited border war with China imposed on us by Beijing, the US will have no role in helping us. We have to fight and win the war alone. Are we in a position to do so? (21-4-12)

( 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, April 19, 2012



During a visit to the site of the devastating avalanche near Skardu in Pakistan-Occupied Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) on April 18,2012,which killed about 125 military personnel and 15 civilians,Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), is reported to have made ----for the first time since he took over as the COAS from Gen.Pervez Musharraf--- some positive references to India.

2. The Pakistani media has quoted him as saying as follows: “Peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours is very important so that everybody can concentrate on the well-being of the people…… The decades of enmity between India and Pakistan should be resolved through negotiation.”

3.It needs to be underlined that these remarks should not be interpreted as indicating a change in the hostile mindset of the Pakistan Army towards India. Nor do they indicate a definitive desire of the Pakistan Army for a thaw in Indo-Pakistan relations.

4. These remarks were made by Gen.Kayani in the context of the tragedy caused by the avalanche and were apparently designed to prod the international community to revive pressure on India to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement with Pakistan on the Siachen issue that could lead to a mutual withdrawal of troops from the glacier.

5. Pakistan is paying a heavier price than India in Siachen in terms of financial and human costs. Moreover, signs of alienation among the Shia population of GB have been increasing steadily. The fact that the majority of those who perished in the avalanche were from GB--- possibly Shias--- and that none of them could be rescued has added to the anger against the Army in the area.

6. Talk on the urgent need for a stand alone Siachen agreement with India is, therefore, assuming a desperate urgency for Pakistan. Kayani has to respond to this desperation if he has to prevent a further erosion of support for the Army from the people of the area.

7. His remarks have the tactical objective of responding to the local anger and projecting India as responsible for the lack of a forward movement on the Siachen issue. His remarks thus have an international and domestic angle.

8. It would be unwise for India to agree to any stand alone agreement on Siachen. Any ultimate agreement on Siachen has to be part of an overall package that would address India’s concerns relating to the suppression of the Shias of GB who have ethnic links with our Shias of Jammu and Kashmir and the increasing Chinese presence in the area.

9. The induction of Chinese construction teams and security personnel ---all reportedly from the People’s Liberation Army---- into the GB area have totally changed the complexity and complexion of the Siachen issue. It is no longer a simple question of mutual withdrawal of troops. Other dimensions having an impact on our security interests in Jammu and Kashmir have emerged since we started talking to Pakistan sporadically on Siachen.

10. This is not the time for re-opening any talks---substantive or exploratory --- on Siachen. We need to have a clear understanding of the implications of the recent developments in GB in order to revisit our strategy in respect of Siachen-related talks.

11.While we should be cautious and slow-moving on this particular issue, we should not spurn cynically the new---a little more benign--- rhetoric of Gen.Kayani on Indo-Pakistan relations in general. This seeming willingness to move away from a compulsive demonization of India has to be encouraged.

12. I have been advocating for more than a year the beginning of a military-military relationship between the two countries in order to enable senior military officers of the two countries, including the chiefs, to know and assess each other personally instead of depending on third parties and sources for this purpose. This is the time to take advantage of the overtures of Gen.Kayani to set in motion an exercise in this direction. Let us invite Gen.Kayani for an exploratory visit. If he seems reluctant to come, let us request him to depute some other senior officer to come to India on a getting to know each other visit--- without a formal agenda. ( 19-4-12)

( 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 )