Thursday, January 31, 2013




Despite its continuing concerns over the freedom struggle of the Balochs which shows no signs of letting up, China, which originally constructed the languishing commercial port of Gwadar on the Mekran Coast of Balochistan, is reported to have agreed in principle to take over the responsibility for the operation of the port.

2.The 40-year-old contract awarded by the Pakistan Government in 2007 to Singapore’s PSA international for the operation of the port has been a non-starter due to disputes between the Pakistan Navy and the PSA International over the free transfer of land to the PSA international for the construction of warehouses for containers and other infrastructure facilities and over the failure of the Pakistani authorities to improve the road and rail connectivity of the port as promised in the contract.

3.The Pakistan Government agreed to the request of the PSA International to withdraw from the contract. Islamabad has now approved in principle the signing of a contract with the Chinese Overseas Port Holdings giving it the responsibility for operating the port.

4.The problems created by the Pakistan Navy in the transfer of land for the PSA International indicated a lack of enthusiasm in the Pakistan Navy for the operation of the port by a Singapore  company and its preference for handing it over to the Chinese company.

5.In the eyes of the Pakistan Navy, the Chinese taking over the responsibility for the operation of the port will have two advantages. Firstly, the Chinese, with their reputation for the timely construction of projects, will be able to get the languishing operations revived quickly. Secondly, it could prove to be the first step towards China agreeing to a Pakistani request for upgrading the port into a naval base, available for joint use by the Pakistani and Chinese navies.

6. Taking over the responsibility for the operation of the port, will have strategic advantages for China. It can bring oil and gas from Saudi Arabia and Iran to Gwadar and have them transported to Xinjiang through pipelines. Secondly, it will provide a port of call for ships of China’s Indian Ocean fleet for refitting and other purposes. At present. Beijing has not shown any open interest in helping Pakistan by upgrading the existing Chinese-aided commercial port into a Naval base for joint use by the two navies.

7. The Chinese took nearly two years to make up their mind as to whether they should get involved in the operation of the port due to the deteriorating security situation in Balochistan because of the on-going freedom struggle of the Balochs. The Balochs are opposed to a Chinese presence in Gwadar because they look upon the area as their traditional homeland over which the Pakistan Government has no right to negotiate with any foreign power. Moreover, the Balochs fear that the Chinese taking over the responsibility for the operation of the port would result in an induction of a large number of Punjabis into the Gwadar area to work.

8.The Pakistani authorities are hoping that the Chinese agreement to take over the operation of the port could act as a deterrent to India whom they suspect of helping the Baloch freedom-fighters.

8. Beijing’s agreement in principle to take over the operations of the port speaks of its confidence that they could meet any security threats from the Baloch freedom-fighters. Whether their confidence will be sustained or belied has to be seen. The Pakistan Army will not be able to assure the security of the Chinese working in Gwadar. Unless the PLA decides to post its own security contingents in Gwadar as it has done for the security of its nationals working on the upgradation of the Karakoram Highway in Gilgit-Baltistan, security for the Chinese in Gwadar will be uncertain.

9.What the Pakistan Government announced on January 30, is an agreement in principle for the Chinese company to take over the responsibility from the Singapore company. The details of the final agreement are still to be worked out.

10.There is a case regarding the security situation in Balochistan presently pending before the Pakistan Supreme Court. The Gwadar project is also linked up in the case. The Supreme Court has to agree to the Gwadar agreemen with China being treated as a stand alone issue before the final agreement with China is signed. This should not pose any difficulty

( 1-2-13)

( 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)




Friday, January 25, 2013



The Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India has been less than honest with the public by trying to convey an impression that it will continue to try for the extradition of David Coieman Headley of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), who has been sentenced to 35 years in prison by a Chicago court for his co-operation with the LET of Pakistan and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the planning and execution of the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai and his role in the abandoned plans of the LET to blow up the office of a Danish paper which had published caricatures of the Holy Prophet.

2. His extradition is legally out of question since as part of the plea bargain entered into with him, the USA’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has made a commitment to him that he will not be extradited to India. Moreover, since he has been convicted by the US court for his role in the 26/11 strikes, the bar of double jeopardy will come in the way of his being tried in India. This prohibits the conviction of a person twice for the same offence.

3.When the FBI originally informed the court of the plea bargain, I had written that before the plea bargain is accepted by the court, the Government of India and the relatives of the victims of the 26/11 strikes should oppose its acceptance since its acceptance would preclude the death sentence and extradition. No action was taken by the Government of India and the relatives. His plea bargain was accepted by the court and he has now been convicted under it.

4.The MHA must have the honesty to admit that as a result of its bad handling of the case, the extradition door has been closed for ever. But an option of limited utility still remains open. As part of the plea bargain, Headley has made a commitment to the FBI to continue to co-operate with it and with the agencies of other countries having liaison with the FBI in any future investigation. Under this, a team of our National Investigation Agency (NIA) can still visit the US and question Headley in judicial custody in the presence of the FBI. However, it is doubtful whether anything useful would come out of this exercise, but we may still try it to find out about his network in India.

5. In my reading, the extradition door is still open in the case of Tahawur Hussain Rana, Headley’s Chicago-based accomplice. Intriguingly, the FBI did not consider it necessary to enter into a plea bargain with him. Only one logical explanation is possible for the FBI’s double standards in the case of Headley and Rana. The FBI wanted to protect Headley from independent Indian interrogation because he was an agent of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Rana was apparently not an agent of the Agency. The FBI, therefore, did not feel the need to protect him through a plea bargain.

6.Moreover, even though there is considerable evidence regarding Rana’s assistance to Headley and his prior knowledge of the Mumbai terrorist strikes, he has been convicted by the Chicago court only for his role in the Copenhagen case and not in the Mumbai case. The bar of double jeopardy may not apply in his case.

7. From the moment Rana was arrested, I have been pointing out that while extradition may be difficult in the case of Headley, it may not be difficult in the case of Rana and that we should press for it in order to collect details of the Headley-Rana network in India. Again intriguingly, this option has till now not been vigorously pursued by the NIA, which works under the MHA. At least now, we should try for his extradition.

8. There were definite sins of commission and omission by the FBI which came in the way of the prevention of the 26/11 strikes in Mumbai. Firstly, the FBI was aware that David Coleman Headley had originally an American passport under the name Daood Gilani. Before he started frequently travelling to Pakistan and India, he obtained a new US passport under the name David Coleman Headley. In India, when a person obtains a new passport under a different name, we make an endorsement in his new passport that he previously used to travel with another passport under the name----.Many other countries follow this security precaution. Surprisingly, the FBI did not make any such endorsement. As a result, the Indian Consulate in Chicago, which issued a multiple-entry visa to Headley, was not aware that he previously used to travel as Gilani.After the strikes, we became aware of the various travels of Headley to India as Headley. Are we aware of the travels that he might have made to India as Gilani before he changed his name?

9.Secondly, the FBI was aware  that during his travels to Pakistan for the Drug Enforcement Agency, Headley had also been visiting India and going back to Pakistan. He had  even visited India once after the strikes. The FBI did not alert India even once before the strikes. It was apparently afraid that if it informed the Indian agencies, they may detain and question him thereby exposing his being an agent of the Drug Enforcement Agency. It chose to keep quiet.

10.Thirdly, immediately after the 26/11 strikes, the “Hindustan Times” had carried a report by Vir Sanghvi, citing an unnamed high-level officer of the R&AW as saying that the CIA had twice alerted the R&AW that the LET was planning a sea-borne terrorist strike in Mumbai and that the R&AW had conveyed the information to the IB. Wherefrom did the CIA get this information, which proved to be correct? Was it from Headley or from one of CIA’s sources in Pakistan or from technical intelligence of the USA’s National Security Agency? No Indian journalist or analyst has gone deeper into this.

11.There have been serious sins of commission and omission by the Indian intelligence too. The processing of Headley’s case for a multiple-entry visa was handled by the Indian Consulate in Chicago in an unsatisfactory manner.

12.Headley was frequently coming to India from Pakistan and going back to Pakistan with the help of the multi-entry visa. Not once did our immigration question him about his frequent visits to Pakistan and keep him under surveillance in India. Even after we became aware of his frequent travels to India after the 26/11 terrorist strikes, we have not made thorough enquiries about his network in India.

13. In 1988, a source of the US Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) had reported that a Palestinian terrorist group was planning to blow up a US flight to Europe around Christmas. The FAA alerted the CIA, the FBI and the US diplomatic missions in Europe, but did not alert the US public of the likely danger of a terrorist strike against a US flight to Europe.

14. A flight of Pan Am was blown up off Lockerbie in Scotland killing all the passengers. The US media reported about the prior intelligence that was available to the US intelligence agencies which was not shared with the public. Some relatives of the victims took the US Government to court. It was from then that the practice of issuing an advisory about likely terrorist strikes started.

15.As reported by Vir Sanghvi, the CIA was aware of the LET’s plans for a sea-borne terrorist strike in Mumbai. Yet, the State Department did not issue an advisory to the US citizens intending to travel to India about the dangers of a strike n Mumbai. If it had gone public with the warning, that itself might have acted as a deterrent on the LET.

16. We still do not have a completely satisfactory reconstruction of the strikes and the roles of Headley and Rana. It is important for the relatives of the Indian, American, Israeli and other foreign victims to take the matter up before courts in India and the US in order to force the two Governments to come out with the truth. (26-1-13)

( 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  )

Wednesday, January 23, 2013



Tahawur Hussain Rana, of the Chicago cell of the Lsshkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the principal accomplice of David Coleman Headley, has already been sentenced by a Chicago court to 14 years in prison for his association with Headley and the LET in the abandoned plans to blow up the office of a Danish newspaper in Copenhagen which had published caricatures of the Holy Prophet.

2.Curiously, he has not been convicted for his role in the Mumbai blasts of 26/11 despite the fact that he had facilitated the frequent visits of Headley to India at the instance of the LET to collect operational intelligence and, according to his admission, was aware of the impending terrorist strikes in Mumbai even though had no role in it. According to him, a retired Pakistani Army officer told him of the impending strike during a meeting in Dubai before he flew to China on his way back to Chicago.

3.This was sufficiently strong evidence for convicting him as an accomplice before the act, but this aspect seems to have been ignored by the prosecution and the court. This could open the door for the Government of India moving for his extradition since the bar of double jeopardy may not be attracted. Under this, a person cannot be convicted twice for the same offence.

4.Even though officials of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) have been quoted in sections of the media as saying that they would move for his extradition, I have doubts whether any serious efforts would be made by the NIA to get him to India.

5.Headley is to be sentenced for his involvement in the Mumbai and Copenhagen cases and his co-operation with the LET and suspected officers of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) by a Chicago court on January 24,2013. Since his trial is based on a plea bargain with  the USA’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on the basis of his total confession, the FBI has not sought the death sentence for him. The FBI has also reportedly made a commitment that he will not be extradited to India. He is, therefore, expected to be sentenced to a prison term likely to be more than that awarded to Rana.

6. Headley and Rana were the tip of the Chicago iceberg of the LET which facilitated the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai by the LET and ISI masterminds in Pakistan. The FBI and the NIA, whose officials were allowed by the FBI to question Headley in FBI custody, were able to collect details regarding the Pakistani links of Headley and Rana.

7.The hidden iceberg itself consisted of the contacts of Headley and Rana in the Indian Muslim community who facilitated their frequent clandestine travels to India for helping the LET leaders in Pakistan and the ISI in planning and executing the 26/11 strikes. Surprisingly, neither in the narrative of the FBI nor in that of the NIA is there much reference to the Indian cells of Headley and Rana. No attempt has been made to identify them and question them.

8. There has been a huge cover-up of the LET iceberg in India that helped Headley and Rana. While the NIA has shown considerable persistence in repeatedly questioning a few Hindus who had allegedly indulged in some acts of reprisals against Muslims in the Malegaon and Samjauta Express explosions,  it has scrupulously avoided identifying and questioning the contacts of Headley and Rana in the Indian Muslim community.

9.Indian analysts and political parties have not shown much interest in exposing this cover-up by the partisan Ministry of Home Affairs and demanding an end to this. One must raise this issue strongly and demand thorough enquiries into the matter.  (23-1-13)

( 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 )




Monday, January 21, 2013


B.RAMAN has reported as follows: “In a statement that is expected to erupt a huge political row, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said on Sunday  (January 20,2013), "The RSS and BJP are running terrorist training camps to spread Hindu terrorism."He mentioned the Samjhauta Express and Malegaon blasts  to further enhance his point as he addressed Congress workers at the ongoing ( since concluded) Chintan Shivir in Jaipur . He said that BJP's " cultural nationalism" is actually a weapon to divide the country.”His speech was disastrous, to put it mildly.”

2. Apart from evoking protests from the BJP and the RSS, some of whose leaders have demanded his resignation for projecting the majority Hindu community of India as indulging in terrorism, even many of the Congress delegates to the Shivir were reported to have been embarrassed by his speech which lionized Mrs.Sonia Gandhi and demonized the BJP and the RSS.

3. Realising the damage that might be caused by his “disastrous” speech as described by Rediff, Shri Shinde has subsequently sought to retract from his statement by claiming that he was merely referring to media reports of the investigation made into some cases in the past. He was apparently referring to the media reports of the investigation into the Malegaon blasts that killed many Muslims and the explosion on board the Samjauta Express.

4. It is a fact that investigation into some pre-2008 terrorist incidents brought out that these were not committed by Muslim extremists and that at least some of them such as the Malegaon blasts were acts of reprisal against the Muslims by some Hindu extremists who had an association with the RSS in the past.

5. The investigation so far, based largely on the interrogation of some arrested Hindu suspects, who professed the Hindutva ideology, showed that neither the BJP nor the RSS had any knowledge of the planned acts of reprisal by these suspects. There has been no evidence at all that these organisations had any role in these incidents. These were purely rogue acts of reprisal by these individual Hindus with past association with these organisations.

6. While evidence of the involvement of some Hindu rogue elements in the Malegaon blasts seems to be strong, evidence of their involvement in the Samjauta Express explosion appears to be more circumstantial than direct. Moreover, immediately after it, US authorities had assessed that it was probably caused by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET).They have not come out with any subsequent assessment on it.

7. Investigation into these cases has since been taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) formed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in 2009 when Shri P.Chidambaram was the Home Minister. Despite all its resources, the NIA has not so far been able to come out with a comprehensive conclusion on the alleged involvement of some Hindu extremists in acts of reprisal against Muslims.

8. There has been no sense of urgency in the MHA in having the investigation completed and the suspects prosecuted. One has a strong suspicion that the NIA is sought to be used not for the investigation and prosecution, but for politically needling the BJP and the RSS by periodically leveling allegations against them. This partisan exploitation of the investigation for political purposes is likely to continue till the 2014 elections. Shri Shinde’s statement is part of this partisan exercise.

9. Short-sighted leaders of the Congress do not seem to realize that they have been playing into the hands of Pakistan and weakening our campaign against Pakistan for early action against the masterminds of the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. Pakistan has been trying to link up its early prosecution of the accused in the 26/11 strikes in Mumbai with our early prosecution of the accused in the Samjauta Express explosion on the ground that many Pakistanis travelling back to Pakistan by this train were killed in this explosion.

10. Shri Shinde’s statement was totally unwarranted and even mischievous because there have been no further acts of reprisal against Muslims after the arrests of the Hindu extremists allegedly involved in the Malegaon blasts. The total stoppage of such acts of reprisal shows that the group involved was very small and its arrest has ended such incidents.

11. Shri Shinde, before his retraction, sought to project as if such conspiracies involving the BJP and the RSS were continuing without any shred of evidence. His objective was to demonise the BJP and the RSS for political advantage before the 2014 polls.

12.The past allegations regarding the involvement of some rogue Hindu extremists in the Samjauta Express explosion are being exploited by the Interior Ministry of the Government of Pakistan. Shri Shinde’s latest allegations are being exploited by Hafeez Mohd Sayeed, the Amir of the Jamatt-ud-Dawa, the political wing of the LET, for claiming not only that there is Hindu terrorism against Muslims in India which justifies the LET’s acts of reprisal to  protect the Indian Muslims, but also that Shri Shinde’s statement shows that so-called Hindu terrorists from India are probably responsible for the recent wave of terrorism in Pakistan itself. His allegations could cause a serious backlash against the members of the Hindu minority in Pakistan.

13. Shri Shinde’s statement carefully avoids any condemnation of the on-going activities and conspiracies of the Indian Mujahideen and its links with the LET. At the same time, it seeks to project sections of the Hindu community who do not support the Congress, as associated with terrorism. His deeply prejudiced and communal stewardship of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs needs to be condemned by all right-thinking persons.( 22-1-13)

( 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)



Sunday, January 20, 2013



There are two ways of analyzing the speech delivered by Rahul Gandhi at the Congress conclave at Jaipur on January 20,2013, after he had been chosen by the conclave as the Vice-President of the Party. He was already the de facto No.2 of the party. The conclave decision made him the de jure no.2.

2.The first way of analyzing it is as the debut speech of the de jure Vice-President. Seen in that perspective, it was an impressive speech-----thoughtful, well-drafted, well-articulated and with a right touch of emotional references to Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

3.The speech showed that he has had the benefit of a good speech-writer, with possibly idea inputs from a number of people such as Sam Pitroda, Jairam Ramesh and others.

4. It was addressed to the party and not to the nation as a whole. It sought to give the impression of being introspective and self-critical, but lacked  in originality in thinking.

5.Though the party was the intended audience, it was designed to make a positive impact on the people of the country as a whole in an attempt to erase the widespread perception that Rahul Gandhi is still a political novice with no in-depth approach to the problems of the country.

6.Rahul Gandhi and his speech-writers largely succeeded in creating positive vibrations about him in the party as well as outside and in making it clear that he cannot be underestimated as a political leader. It was a well thought-out tactics on the part of his advisers to avoid all contentious references to the BJP and other political formations.

7.The second way of analyzing it is as a visionary document, analyzing the state of the nation and indicating a policy framework  and a way forward for the future. In that perspective, it was a disappointing speech devoid of any references  to serious problems facing the country such the growing public demand for a Jan Lokpal to deal with corruption, the stalling economy, inflation, national security in the light of new tensions in our relations with Pakistan, the recent upsurge of the people on the question of crime against women and the alienation of the growing community of netizens, which is already playing an important role in influencing perceptions.

8. Surprisingly and disappointingly, these issues were merely referred to in passing without any idea of his thinking on them and how he would like them to be tackled. His reference to the burning issue of corruption was dismissive and flippant. He seems to have inherited the flippant side of his personality from his father.

9. His references to various issues were from the point of view of the party and not the nation and the state. He carefully avoided stepping into the policy and performance world of the Government headed by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.

10.Overall, while he succeeded in rallying the party under his leadership, he failed to inspire and rally the nation under his leadership. Rahul Gandhi has been widely perceived as an uninspiring leader with no intellectual spark. This perception will remain strong even after his speech.

11. The Jaipur Conclave was held as the first step in the Congress Party’s preparations for the forthcoming elections to the Lok Sabha due in early 2014. It must be said to the credit of the traditional office-bearers of the party that they have started the organizational poll preparations well ahead of the BJP, which is still in a state of disarray and confusion. The BJP has not been able to take advantage of the widespread disenchantment in the country with the Congress Party and with the style of leadership of Dr.Manmohan Singh.

12.Despite its deficiencies, Rahul Gandhi’s speech will be a shot in the arm for the Congress Party as it prepares itself for the polls. What we saw on January 20 was not an inspiring or electrifying leader, but a leader who has been well-advised to make mid-course corrections in his personality.

13.It will be childish and presumptuous to compare Rahul Gandhi to President Barack Obama or to project his Jaipur speech as his Obama moment. Rahul Gandhi is no Obama either in his intellectual attainments or in the true dimensions of his personality.

14.Rahul Gandhi is Rahul Gandhi, an average leader, who is unlikely to set the Ganges and the Yamuna on fire. We should avoid over-stated expectations from him. ( 21-1-13)

( 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, January 19, 2013



In swift retaliation against the French military intervention against Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadi terrorists in Northern Mali starting from January 11,2013, a group of pro-Al Qaeda terrorists, reportedly headed by Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri of Niger, raided on January 16 a huge gas production complex employing many foreign experts located at In Amenas  at Tigantourine, about 40km (25 miles) south-west of the town of In Amenas and 1,300km (800 miles) south-east of Algiers, occupied the plant, mined it and took hostage the Algerian and foreign workers.

2.The gas facility, which is jointly owned by British Petroleum, Norway's Statoil and Algeria's state-owned oil company,  employs hundreds of Algerians and 132 foreigners from France, the UK, the US, Norway, Austria, Romania, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines  , Thailand and Colombia.

3. The terrorists reportedly demanded an end to the French intervention in Mali and the release of some terrorists held in prison in Algeria. The Algerian authorities rejected their demands and raided the gas facility. After four-days of bloody confrontation, they managed to re-capture the plant on January 19,2013, after killing many of the terrorists, who before their death, are reported to have executed seven of the hostages taken by them.

4.According to the Algerian authorities, at least   32 terrorists and 23 hostages died during the operation. Some foreign hostages are still unaccounted for.

5.The exercise of the hard option by the Algerian authorities of not bowing to the demands of the terrorists and taking military action against them has not been questioned by the Governments of the countries to which the hostages belonged.

6. The French have been strongly supportive of the Algerian action despite the loss of many foreign lives.  French President Francois Hollande defended the Algerian response to the crisis as being "the most suitable". He told the media: "When you have people taken hostage in such large numbers by terrorists with such cold determination and ready to kill those hostages - as they did - Algeria has an approach which to me, as I see it, is the most appropriate because there could be no negotiation.”

7.Mr.Leon Panetta, the US Defence Secretary, has reiterated the determination of the US to hunt for Al Qaeda, wherever it may find sanctuary.

8.India, which is still paying a heavy price for the soft option adopted by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government against the Pakistani terrorists who hijacked an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar in 1999 and for the humming and hawing of the Dr.Manmohan Singh Government after the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai, has lessons to learn from the Algerian firmness.

9. It will be incorrect to assume that the bloody raid in Algeria must have been locally organized. It is likely that the ideological inspiration and operational guidance came from the command and control of Al Qaeda located in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. As  I had pointed out in my past writings, Dr.Ayman al-Zawahiri, the present chief of Al Qaeda, has for many years been stressing the importance of the African front in the so-called global jihad against the Crusaders and the Jewish People.

10. As part of the drive to neutralize the African front of Al Qaeda, Zawahiri has to be located and his sanctuary in Pakistan neutralized, in addition to the on-going action against the local cadres of Al Qaeda in North Africa.

11.Till now, one has been assuming that he must be hiding in the FATA. It is quite likely that, like bin Laden, he might be actually living in the non-tribal areas of Pakistan and from there commanding and controlling the activities of Al Qaeda in Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Algeria and other African countries. Searches should be made for him in other parts of Pakistan too.( 20-1-2013)

( 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 )

Thursday, January 17, 2013



It is difficult to satisfactorily analyse and assess Allama Tahir-ul-Qadri, a Canadian cleric of Pakistani origin, who has suddenly returned to Pakistan to start a street movement against the civilian Government and traditional political parties on grounds of widespread corruption and bad governance.

2. A self-projected Sufi, his rhetoric and methods tend to be confrontational and  to be comforting to the Army and the judiciary. He does not call for a return to the Army rule, but wants the Army to have a role in ensuring free and fair elections by being a part of the interim Government under which the elections to the National Assembly due later this year will be held.

3. I do not agree with the conventional perception that his return from Canada to start a street movement was engineered by the Army in order to pave the way for a return to Army rule. I do not tend to see the hand of the Army or its Chief of Staff, Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani in the Allama’s street movement.There is little evidence to show that his movement has been inspired by the Army.

4. At the height of the global war against terrorism, the US and other Western countries sought to use the Allama in their attempts to de-radicalise and de-wahabise Islam. One does not know to what extent he was able to help them in this exercise. But his advocacy of Sufism and his disapproval of jihadi terrorism and Wahabi-Deobandi rhetoric impressed sections of Western policy-makers.

5. During his visit to India in the beginning of last year with no difficulty in getting an Indian visa, one noticed a difference from the normal run of Wahabi-Deobandi clerics like Maulana Fazlur Rehman who visit India from Pakistan from time to time. He was allowed to widely travel in India, visiting Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. He complied with restrictions imposed on his meetings such as not referring to Jammu & Kashmir.

6. One noticed that he spoke of the state of the Islamic world of today and not of the medieval Islamic world. One hardly found references to bin Ladenesque rhetoric on the need for an international jihad against the Crusaders and the Jewish people or the need for the revival of the Islamic Caliphate. The Allama does not fight shy  of flaunting his Sufism or  his admiration for the positive aspects of the Western world. Look at the way he unhesitatingly addresses audiences in Pakistan in English.

7. There are two questions to which satisfactory answers are not available. What made him suddenly return to Pakistan to start a street movement? Why has he been praising the Army and condemning the civilian rule?

8. His pro-Army rhetoric is definitely disquieting, but it would be unwarranted to conclude that the Army would be happy over the emergence of the Allama phenomenon. Both the Army and the jihadi extremists of Pakistan acting as surrogates of its Inter-Services Intelligence ought to be concerned over the Allama phenomenon because of his opposition to jihadi terrorism and his past proximity to Western liberal circles. Even Saudi Arabia, on which he does not seem to be dependent for funding, would be puzzled by the Allama.

9. His popularity in the streets of Pakistan should not be over-stated, but one cannot deny he has been attracting an increasing number of followers from his native Punjab. Till now, he seems to be a Punjabi phenomenon and not a Pashtun or Sindhi one. His immediate threat is likely to be to the Imran Khan phenomenon and not to the PPP or the Pakistan Muslim League of Mr.Nawaz Sharif. While the elite has remained steadfast with Imran,  sections of the poor and middle classes have been gravitating towards the Allama.

10. Will the Allama phenomenon be ephemeral helped by the widespread disenchantment with the Zardari-led Government and  fizzle out after some weeks or will it acquire momentum and staying power? It is difficult to  say at present, but as long as the movement continues, we in India have to closely monitor its impact on political stability in Pakistan and the state of extremism there.

11. Pakistani analyses and debates are replete with negative references to the Allama. He has been called by some a serial liar, ideologically dishonest, an Army stooge etc. We should not let these negative references influence our analysis and assessment. We should keep our judgement reserved. If he succeeds in injecting a dose of moderation in Wahabi-Deobandi Islam it will be good for the sub-continent. Our faith in the ability of the Pakistani civil society and political parties to de-wahabise Islam has been belied so far. If the Allama can do it, why not? ( (17-1-13)

( 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 )

Tuesday, January 15, 2013





It was reported in our media after a press briefing by Gen.Bikram Singh, our Chief of the Army Staff (COAS),on January 14,2013, that intruding Pakistani troops had carried out two beheadings of Indian soldiers even in 2011. For reasons unclear, neither the Government of India nor the opposition nor the media  chose to publicise this incident. It was kept a well-guarded secret. There was no public outrage and this incident did not impact on the on-going dialogue between the two countries.

2.On January 8,2013, some Pakistani troops intruded into Indian territory in the Jammu area, killed two Indian soldiers and beheaded one of them. The details of the barbaric act were given wide publicity, discussed in no-rhetoric-barred TV debates and gave rise to public outrage and tough talk by the COAS. The opposition spearheaded by the BJP sought to exploit the public outrage for partisan political purposes.

3. Why this difference in our reactions to the 2011 and 2013 beheadings? The answer is simple. In 2011, the election year 2014 was far away. In 2013, it is just a few months away. There may be votes to be gained by fanning further and exploiting the public outrage. The BJP was the first to jump into the fray for indulging in the game of politicization of the barbaric act in order to reiterate its demand, which has broad public support, for a strong response to Pakistan, even if it meant freezing of the bilateral dialogue. A  number of senior retired civilian and military officers joined the war dance promoted by our TV channels. Anyone who kept out of this war dance was ridiculed as a softie.

4.It is against this background that one should analyse the seeming metamorphosis of  our Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh on January 15. On the occasion of a function to observe the annual Army Day, one saw a transformation of Dr.Manmohan Singh from a man of eternal goodwill to Pakistan to one of tough talk and action.

5.In his chat with a group of journalists at the function, he was reported to have stated that those Pakistanis responsible for the barbaric act will have to be brought to book and that  “it cannot be business as usual with Pakistan.” Simultaneously, the Government chose to send three messages of a new activism on Pakistan to the Pakistani Government. These were the decision to defer the implementation of the introduction of visa on arrival for senior citizens from Pakistan, premature termination of a visit of Pakistani hockey players and cancellation of the participation of some Pakistani women cricketeers in an Indian tournament.

6.These measures, which are inconsequential, have been projected as signs of a new toughness in the Government’s attitude to Pakistan. The Government has also sought to open a dialogue with the BJP towards a national consensus on our response to the barbaric act of Pakistan

7. The new Government activism and toughness seem to be more opportunistic and tactical than genuine and strategic. Any euphoria that the Government has at last woken up to the ground reality of a hostile Pakistan will be unwarranted . It is essentially a pre-poll charade to deny the BJP any pre-poll gains due to the public outrage. The charade will continue till the public outrage continues. Thereafter, we will again be back to business as usual.

8. A “Jaise The” (As You Were) can be prevented only by the public and the opposition continuing to keep up the pressure on the Government without letting themselves be disarmed by the seeming new toughness.

9.While the strategic dialogue with Pakistan should continue, the Government should demonstrate its earnestness by announcing some policy initiatives in consultation with the opposition. One such policy initiative will be an announcement to revive and revamp the covert action division of the intelligence community without specifically linking the action to Pakistan. (16-1-13)

( 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  )

Monday, January 14, 2013




The barbaric Pakistani attack on Indian soldiers in the Jammu area on January 8,2013, and the brutal killing and mutilation of two soldiers with one of them beheaded called for a three-pronged response:

·     An exercise to express the solidarity of the nation with the families of the martyred soldiers and  to initiate action to maintain their honour and dignity. This should have been the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Office which should have taken a series of gestures like the PM visiting the families of the martyred soldiers, asking one of his senior officers to represent him at their cremation, a televised address to the armed forces to assure them of the solidarity of the nation and working for an all-party consensus on the subject to prevent partisan exploitation of the issue. One has an impression that  these important aspects were totally neglected by the PM and his entourage.

·     A second exercise to determine how the Pakistanis were able to carry out this barbaric attack well inside Indian territory without resistance from the Indian troops posted in the area and to tighten up the prevention  of trans-LOC violations. This was the total tactical responsibility of the Army. In his media briefing on January 14, Gen.Bikram Singh the Chief of the Army Staff, firmly and lucidly explained the action taken by the Army in this regard. He clearly explained that trans-LOC aggressions will be dealt with aggressively and offensively with appropriate retaliation not ruled out as an option. The Army, which has been entrusted by the Government with the responsibility for protecting the LOC, is empowered to take whatever measures are necessary and the COAS made it clear that it will do so.

·     The third exercise was to ensure that the Pakistan Army’s tactical barbarity across the LOC did not seriously disrupt the strategic dialogue between the political leaderships of the two countries. This has been competently handled by the Foreign Office.

2. In my view, the serious deficiency  has been with regard to the first exercise due to lack of appropriate leadership initiatives from the Ministry of Defence and the PMO. In cases like this, taking initiatives for reassuring the forces of national solidarity and for building up a national consensus is the responsibility of the head of the Government. In the US, whenever  the Armed Forces suffer a serious set-back, it is the President who steps forward and exercises leadership in dealing with the situation instead of leaving it to his Defence Secretary. So too in other Western countries.

3.Dr.Manmohan Singh, who prefers to operate from the background instead of from the forefront, chose to let the Defence Minister handle the first exercise. He failed to handle it himself. As a result, there was no leadership either from the Defece Minister or the PM. This created an unfortunate impression of neglect and indifference in the minds of the relatives of the martyred soldiers and possibly in the minds of other soldiers too.

4. The inept handling of the first exercise has again drawn attention to the insensitivity, indifference and casualness with which successive Governments have been handling matters relating to the welfare and honour of our ex-servicemen, whether retired or martyred. This needs urgent corrective steps. The over-all responsibility in this matter should be transferred to the PMO and the PM should set up a standing Task Force to deal with the welfare and honour of our ex-servicemen, retired or martyred. ( 15-1-13)


( 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 )

Sunday, January 13, 2013





( To be read in continuation of my article of July 11,2012, titled “Spectre of A  Neo Al Qaeda Haunts Africa” at )


French President Francois Hollande has ordered the strengthening of homeland security in France following threats of retaliation by Ansar Dine, an African affiliate of Al Qaeda, which has established control over Northern Mali.

2. It issued the threat of retaliation against French citizens anywhere after French troops and Air Force units went into action on January 11,2013, in Mali, to help the troops of interim Mali President Dioncounda Traore retake the strategically important town of Konna which had been reportedly captured by the Islamists.

3. Reports from Mali indicate that this town has since been freed by the Mali troops with French air support. One French helicopter pilot was reported to have been killed in the air action.

4.The short-term objectives of the French intervention seem to be to prevent the jihadi terrorists from expanding the area under their control, to strengthen the morale and capability of the Malian troops and to protect the local French residents numbering about 6000, mostly in the capital Bamako. The long-term objective is to roll back the jihadi terrorists and free the area presently under their control.

5.While the French action in Mali has gone on without any major mishap except the death of the pilot, a simultaneous but unconnected  commando raid undertaken by French commandos in Somalia to free a French hostage held in captivity since 2009 by al-Shabab, the Somali affiliate of Al Qaeda, seems to have failed with both the commandos and possibly the hostage too being killed. However, Al Shabab has not confirmed the death of the hostage.

6.The failure of the raid in Somalia seems to have been due to inadequate intelligence and poor planning.

7. The French will be operating in Mali side by side with a pan-African force whose intervention has been authorized by the UN. The French intervention had been expected for some time since the French were increasingly concerned over the implications of the activities of the jihadi terrorists for the protection of their strategic and economic interests in Africa and for their homeland security.

8. The French face two kinds of threats. The first threat is more in the nature of a Taliban-style insurgency in Mali. The second is more in the style of Al Qaeda style terrorism in the French Homeland. They, therefore, have to use both their counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency capabilities.

9.The jihadi terrorists’ threat of a retaliation against French nationals has to be taken seriously since the large number of persons of African origin in France will provide the terrorists a reservoir for recruitment of jihadi volunteers. They do have the capability for retaliation, but the question is how soon can they retaliate.

10.The French will be worried about the safety of eight  hostages still in the custody of the Islamists in different countries. After the failure of the rescue operation in Somalia, the chances of success in other countries will be doubtful.

11. Osama bin Laden’s main targets were the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan as a sanctuary, Yemen, Saudi Arabia  and Somalia. He did not give priority to French targets and interests, His successor Ayman al-Zawahiri has been talking for many months of the need for an African front and was showing interest in the French Homeland as a target.

12. Even though France has drawn down its presence in Afghanistan, Zawahiri would still be interested in France as a target to strengthen the North African front of the international jihad. ( 13-1-13)

( 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 )