Tuesday, May 29, 2012



There were two incidents of attempted self-immolation by young Tibetan monks in their early 20s in Lhasa in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) on May 27,2012. One of the incidents was fatal, while in the other the police managed to put out the fire. The protester suffered burns, but survived.

2. The dead man was identified as Tobgye Tseten, from the Tibetan-populated Gansu province which was separated from Tibet by the Chinese authorities after occupying Tibet. The injured, Dargye, is from the Kirti monastery area of the Sichuan province where the wave of self-immolations in protest against the continued Chinese occupation of Tibet started last year.

3. Since the protests through self-immolation started in the Kirti monastery area of Sichuan in the beginning of last year, there have been 37 attempted self-immolations---- 34 of them outside the TAR and three in the TAR. The majority of the self-immolation attempts have been reported from the Sichuan Province.

4. From the TAR, only one incident was reported last year as against 34 from the Tibetan areas outside the TAR  (Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai ). No satisfactory explanation has been forthcoming as to why the TAR, which saw widespread Tibetan protests against the Han occupation  before the Beijing Olympics in 2008, has remained the least affected.

5.Even in the two incidents of May 27, which took place outside the sacred Jokhang Temple, the protesters had come from outside the TAR and were not local residents. This would indicate that while the Tibetans outside the TAR continue to defy the Chinese authorities, the Tibetans of the TAR, who were subjected to brutal suppression after the violent incidents of 2008, have continued to remain subdued. There have been no copy-cat self-immolations in the TAR by local Tibetan residents.

6. The Chinese authorities seem more confident of their ability to keep the TAR under control than the Tibetan areas of the other three provinces. The Tibetans of the TAR maintain regular interactions with Tibetan refugees in Nepal, India and the West and the radical Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), with its leadership based in the US, was in the forefront of the revolt of 2008 in the TAR.

7. One would have expected that the Tibetans of the TAR would have been in the forefront of the current wave of protests and non-violent satyagraha, but this has not been so. What one has been seeing since the beginning of last year has been a spontaneous movement with no central organisation behind it. It is the anger of the young monks in Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai, outraged over the virtual Chinese occupation of the Kirti monastery of Sichuan last year and the arrest and forcible detention of many of the monks in a PLA detention centre, that has kept the protest movement sustained. The effect of this anger and outrage is still to be felt in the TAR. ( 30-5-12)

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

Sunday, May 27, 2012


This is not meant to be a detailed critique of the report of the three-member team of interlocutors headed by Shri Dileep Padgaonkar constituted by the Government of India in October 2010 to suggest ways forward in dealing with the various aspects of the alienation of the people of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) which led to an anti-Government of India insurgency there.

2. The insurgency was the result of accumulated grievances and anger over a long period of time. There were various factors responsible for this accumulation--- perceptions of a dilution of the special status granted to the State when it acceded to India after the partition of the country, malgovernance, perceptions of a distortion of the democratic process by successive Governments of the National Conference without the Government of India doing anything to check such distortions etc.

3. Political and not economic factors were at the root of the insurgency. The Government of India and successive State  Governments of the National Conference have to share the blame in equal measure for wittingly or unwittingly creating a negative political atmosphere marked by a growing alienation of the people that was exploited by the Pakistan Government for sowing the seeds of an anti-India insurgency in the State.

4. What started as an anti-Government insurgency due to our mishandling of the affairs of the State was turned into an anti-India insurgency by Pakistan with the collaboration of some elements in the State which gave a religious dimension to what started as an essentially political movement and took up the Pakistani cry of “Kashmir Banega Pakistan”.

5. The introduction of the religious dimension by these elements led to brutal attacks on the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits and their being ejected from their traditional homeland .Thus, what we faced in J&K was a three dimensional problem consisting of a political dimension due to our own mishandling, a religious dimension injected by Pakistan with the help of its supporters in the State and an operational dimension caused by the widespread outbreak of violence by elements instigated, trained, funded and armed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

6. After over 20 years, our security forces led by the Army have succeeded in bringing the operational dimension under control. There has been a significant decrease in violence and a steady movement towards normalcy on the ground. The successful holding of State and Panchayat elections and the resumption of the domestic tourist traffic to the State are indicators of this movement.

7. The successful handling of the operational aspects of the problem by the security forces so far should not be over-assessed  to mean that the original causes of alienation in the hearts and minds of the people have disappeared and that the Pakistani machinations in the State have been defeated once and for all.

8. There has been an insurgency fatigue in the State caused by the skilful campaign of attrition waged by the security forces against the anti-Government and anti-India elements which had taken to violence with the support of Pakistan. This fatigue indicates that these elements have now been convinced that violence, with or without the support of Pakistan, has not taken them anywhere.

9. While there is insurgency fatigue, there is no political fatigue. The anti-Government and anti-India elements remain politically active and there are no irreversible signs of a dilution of the state of alienation of large sections of the people. Bringing the insurgency under control was only one aspect of the problem. An equally important aspect is to set in motion a process of dealienation through appropriate political and psychological measures.

10. It was to address this important second stage of dealienation that the Government of India set up the interlocutors’ team to interact with large sections of the population and political and non-governmental forces in the State in order to create a positive momentum towards political normalisation in the State. The constitution of the interlocutors’ team was indicative of  a clear recognition by the Government of India that operational normalisation alone is not sufficient; it has to be followed by political normalisations so that the feelings of alienation wither away.

11. The setting-up of the interlocutors’ team was greeted with considerable scepticism by sections of the non-mainstream Kashmiris who tended to view the exercise as an eyewash by the Government of India to buy time. This scepticism ran the risk of being strengthened due to the delay in the release of the report of the interlocutors by the Government.

12. In this context, one has to welcome the belated release of the text of the report by the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India on May 24,2012. The report is both comprehensive and complex. It is comprehensive in the sense of dealing with all aspects of the problem---political, operational, economic, humanitarian etc. There is a huge humanitarian aspect to the problem due to perceptions of unchecked and unaddressed violations of the human rights of the people by the security forces despite their better control of the ground situation now.

13. It is complex in the sense that the interlocutors have come out with ideas and concepts--- the setting-up of the Constitutional Review Committee is one such idea---- which may not be acceptable to all sections of the people of the State and political forces in the rest of India. Now that the text of the report has been released for widespread public discussion, it is necessary for the Government of India to initiate steps to convince the people of the State of its sincerity and determination to persist with this process for achieving political normalisation in the State.

14. It needs to be admitted that some of the recommendations of the team could be controversial and might be opposed by those sections of the political forces who had always argued that the original sin in the State was committed by the founding fathers of independent India who agreed to grant a special constitutional status to the State. They are likely to oppose firmly any attempt to reverse the process of the dilution  of the special status. There could be other issues relating to Jammu and Ladakh and the return of the Hindu Pandits to their original homeland which might face opposition to their implementation.

15. Fears of likely controversies should not be allowed to inhibit the implementation process. No sensitive report of this nature can be implemented in toto.  Political compromises in the over-all State and national interest will be necessary. What is important is to create a positive momentum towards implementation.

16. The creation of such a momentum will be facilitated if the Government of India, in consultation with the State, identifies those recommendations that can be implemented quickly through executive orders  without the need for time-consuming political consultations and takes time-bound action to implement them. Among such recommendations one could mention those relating to the re-deployment of the security forces, re-evaluation of the need for special powers for the Army and improving the human rights situation.

17. If this is done, it will restore the confidence of the people in the sincerity of the Government and pave the way for a more non-emotional examination of the other more complex and controversial recommendations.

18.  We have a very short window of political opportunity in the State. The thinning down of the NATO forces in Afghanistan is likely to make available to the ISI surplus trained cadres and leaked arms and ammunition from the dumps left by the departing NATO forces for diversion to Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir in an attempt to re-kindle the dying insurgency. The implicit Chinese recognition of Gilgit-Baltistan as Pakistani territory and the increasing Chinese interest and presence in the Kashmiri  territory under the illegal occupation of Pakistan are likely to create new geostrategic dimensions of the problem and our relations with Pakistan.

19. In my assessment, we may have a window of not more than two years for creating a positive momentum towards political normalisation in the State. We must pay serious attention to the process for identifying the feasible follow-up action on the basis of the report and initiating that action. Any impression that we are dragging our feet and were never sincere in undertaking this exercise can be counter-productive. Don’t add substance to the campaign of the separatists that the whole exercise was an eyewash. (27-5-12)

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

Saturday, May 26, 2012



Gen.V.K.Singh, who will be retiring as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) on  May 31,2012, will go down in history as a highly competent General, who did not deserve to be the head of the proud Indian Army despite his excellent record in the battle-field against our adversaries.

2. He proved during the last months of his tenure that to command the Indian Army, one’s professional qualities and battle-field achievements alone are not sufficient. One requires leadership qualities like firmness in man management combined with fairness to subordinates and colleagues, discretion, an ability to win the respect of the colleagues and establish an atmosphere of trust with the political leadership.

3. India has been a successful democracy. Its success has been due to not only its voters and its electoral system, but also to the responsible behaviour of the heads of its institutional pillars. Our Army has always been one of the important institutional pillars of our nation and democracy.

4. In our 65 years of history as an independent nation, we have had instances of honest differences of opinion between the COAS and the political leadership and between the COAS and his senior colleagues. They were handled in a way   as they ought to be handled in a sensitive institution like the Army--- with a sense of balance, with mutual respect despite the differences, with discretion and away from the glare of publicity. We, the people, became aware of such instances long after the COAS concerned had gone into superannuation.

5. It went to the credit of those chiefs that they saw to it that their differences did not damage the trust of the political leadership and the public in our proud Army. An Army marches on its pride and its image in the eyes of the public. If the pride and the image are damaged, even the best of weapons and training will be of little avail in maintaining the battle-hardiness of the Army.

6. In his last months as the chief, Gen.V.K.Singh played to the gallery and exhibited in public a viciousness towards some of his senior colleagues, the like of which will not do credit to any institution, particularly the Army. We have had instances of viciousness in leadership in other institutions of the Government of India dealing with national security, but such viciousness was never exhibited in public and did not make the institutions the laughing stock of the public.

7. Firmness and fairness in man management is the most important quality the heads of the Armed Forces should have. The esprit de corps, which keeps them fighting fit all the time and under all circumstances, depends on those qualities.

8. Gen.Singh  showed himself to be lacking in those qualities. The Indian Army, that has never been accused or suspected of factionalism, became a breeding ground of factionalism. The relationship of mutual trust and mutual respect between the political and military leadership which has been the bedrock of our successful democracy stands eroded.

9. Over the years, there has been a demand from strategic analysts in the country for giving our Armed Forces a greater role in decision and policy making in national security matters on par with practices in Western democracies. The Government of Dr.Manmohan Singh had initiated a major exercise to see how this can be done.

10.Any decision to give the Armed Forces a greater role in decision and policy-making in defence and national security related matters has to be that of the political leadership. It would depend on its confidence in the sense of balance, discretion and responsibility of the military leadership.

11. That confidence is likely to have been eroded by the way Gen.Singh conducted himself in his sunset months as the COAS. A major casualty of his behaviour could be the exercise to associate the military leadership with policy and decision making in an increasing measure.

12. The last months of Gen.Singh as the COAS were a bad dream for the country. It is hoped that his successor  will repair  the damage quickly and make the Army once again one of the important institutional pillars of our democracy and re-establish its esprit de corps. ( 27-5-12)

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

Friday, May 25, 2012



Reports from Myanmar indicate that during his visit to Myanmar next week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be meeting Aung San Suu Kyi at Yangon (Rangoon) on May 29,2012. She has reportedly re-scheduled a visit to Bangkok, her first visit abroad since her release from house-arrest, in order to be available at Yangon for meeting our Prime Minister.

2. This gesture of hers is indicative of the importance attached by her to Myanmar’s relations with India despite her past unhappiness over India’s close relations with the military junta that ruled the country till the end of 2010.

3. The Prime Minister’s visit comes at a time when there are reports of spreading public unrest over severe power-cuts in many towns. The unrest in the form of street demonstrations first started in Mandalay and from there has since  spread to Pegu, Monywa and Yangon.The protesters have not taken the permission of the Police for holding demonstrations which is an offence, but the Government has chosen to ignore the violation of the law in order not to provoke them further. The protesters have been using their restricted access to Facebook and Twitter to call upon people in other towns to demonstrate.

4.It is not yet clear whether the street demonstrations are spontaneous or have been instigated by anti-democracy hawks in the Army to weaken the position of the Thein Sein Government which has been steadily moving towards greater political reforms and opening-out to the world.

5. However, in an attempt to project the demonstrations as spontaneous, the protesters have accused  the former military government  of selling off natural gas reserves to China and pocketing the profits, while  75 per cent of the local people have no access to electricity. Electricity consumption in  Myanmar averages 104 kilowatts an hour per person—one of the lowest in the world.

6.Speaking during the opening of a local office of her National League For Democracy (NLD) on May 22,2012, Suu Kyi said that the  power shortages were the  direct result of government mismanagement and called upon the Government  to give priority to increasing the power supply and to creating jobs for the unemployed youth.

7.The Government announced  on May 23  that it was purchasing  six generators from U.S.-based Caterpillar Inc., which will be air-freighted within a week, and two 25-megawatt gas-turbines to be bought from General Electric Co. The Government has blamed the Kachin insurgency for severely damaging electricity production and distribution.

8.During his visit, our Prime Minister should offer to help the Myanmar Government on an emergency basis to increase the power supply and also gift a plane-load of generators of the required capacity needed by the Government. The Prime Minister could also offer a special credit to enable the Government to repair the damages to the power infrastructure. ( 26-5-12)

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