New Age Islam Edit Bureau
January 14, 2016
To talk or not to talk…
Breaking The Terror Cycle
By Vivek Katju
Arun Kumar Singh
Accountability After Pathankot
To Talk Or Not To Talk…
PTI "Talk we must, but for any dialogue with Pakistan to be successful, New Delhi will have to be sensitive to Nawaz Sharif’s imperative that it be seen as a win-win outcome for both sides."
Talk we must, but for any dialogue with Pakistan to be successful, New Delhi will have to be sensitive to Nawaz Sharif’s imperative that it be seen as a win-win outcome for both sides.
After the terrorist attack at the Pathankot airbase, a lot of discussion has taken place about whether or not the India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary-level talks, scheduled for mid-January in Islamabad, should go forward or not. However, that should not be the question. The question should be whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has a policy on Pakistan, and if so, what? So far, each time Mr. Modi has taken an initiative for resumption of dialogue with Pakistan, his policy has been hijacked by establishing new ‘redlines’ which have been rubbed out and forgotten as and when a new opening appeared. As a result, there seems to be a lack of coherence in policy which appears to oscillate between ‘talks’ and ‘no-talks’. Clearly, the Prime Minister needs a more centred policy to take forward his agenda, a BeJAK policy — Between Jhappi and Katti.
During the last quarter century, after the end of the Cold War and as the Indian economy gradually began opening up, every Indian Prime Minister has faced a similar dilemma and has dealt with it in the context of India’s larger geopolitical interests and domestic priorities. Yet, there has been a remarkable degree of consistency in the approach they followed though each one of them — P.V. Narasimha Rao, I.K. Gujral, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr. Manmohan Singh also put their own distinctive imprint on how they approached the talks.
Twenty-five years and counting
Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, jihadist terrorism had already reared its ugly head in Kashmir and tensions rose between the two countries. Pakistan was widely believed to have developed a small nuclear arsenal. U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser (NSA) Robert Gates paid a low-key visit to New Delhi and Islamabad in May 1990 after taking the Soviets on board. Subsequently, Prime Minister V.P. Singh approved Foreign Secretary-level talks which focussed for the first time on the issue of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). Gradually, these talks took on a more structured character and the first CBMs were concluded in 1991. Other agenda items were gradually added on to the Foreign Secretaries’ dialogue, while the Directors General of Military Operations of the two sides focussed on finding a resolution for the Siachen glacier.
By the time Prime Minister Gujral took over, the Foreign Secretary-level talks had an established pattern which had survived a number of political changes in Pakistan. Together with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Mr. Gujral sought to put his own stamp on the dialogue process by putting it in the framework of an eight-point “Composite Dialogue”. Despite ups and downs in the political relationship when the dialogue got suspended, the basic structure remained intact. Different subjects were dealt with by the relevant Secretaries while the Foreign Secretaries directly dealt with the subjects of peace and security, including CBMs and Jammu and Kashmir, and also coordinated the process. Siachen was handled by the Defence Secretaries; Sir Creek by the Surveyors General; trade and economic relations by the Commerce Secretaries; and Tulbul Navigation Project/Wular Barrage by the Water Resources Secretaries. Terrorism and narcotics were tied up together and handled by the Home Secretaries while “people-to-people contacts” dealt with religious tourism, consular matters and cultural issues. Incremental progress was registered periodically though any breakthroughs on key issues were regularly held hostage by linking it to progress on other matters.
Two steps forward, two steps back
After the nuclear tests in 1998, Prime Minister Vajpayee soon realised that absence of dialogue between two nuclear armed neighbours locked in a hostile relationship would generate negative perceptions in the region and beyond. Following the meeting with PM Sharif in New York in September 1998, the announcement about a Delhi-Lahore bus service was made. Thereafter came Mr. Vajpayee’s historic visit to Lahore on the inaugural bus journey where he used his oratory and poetry to convey a significant message to the people of Pakistan when he visited Minar-e-Pakistan to boldly state: “A stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan is in India’s interest. Let no one in Pakistan be in doubt. India sincerely wishes Pakistan well.” Even then there were many who accused Mr. Sharif of a sell-out and the Kargil war reflected the limits imposed by Pakistan’s Army on a dialogue process led by an elected government in Islamabad. The banquet in honour of Mr. Vajpayee at the Lahore Fort had to be delayed because of Jamaat-e-Islami protesters who went to Minar-e-Pakistan the following week to cleanse it with rose water because Mr. Vajpayee, “an apostate”, had stepped on the site which was set up to commemorate the decision to create Pakistan. Undeterred, Mr. Vajpayee continued with the Agra invitation to General Pervez Musharraf and when that failed, used coercion, diplomacy and international pressure to establish a ceasefire across the Line of Control (LoC).
Dr. Manmohan Singh inherited the Rao-Gujral-Vajpayee legacy. The ceasefire held as long as General Musharraf was in control. Lacking the political authority and the oratory of his predecessor, Dr. Singh used back-channel diplomacy to build cross-border trade and transport linkages across the LoC in Kashmir. These talks evidently made considerable progress on core issues of Kashmir and the LoC but lacking ownership on either side, ended up getting mired in the political quicksand in both countries. Changes in Pakistan’s domestic politics, in the Army, and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan created a set of new short-term priorities for Pakistan in which India did not figure. Dr. Singh’s government went into a defensive mode during its last two years and the Foreign Secretary-level talks ended up being shelved. His speech, where he talked of a vision of an interconnected South Asia where you could have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul, was given concrete shape by his successor Mr. Modi on Christmas Day last year when he lunched in Kabul, had tea in Lahore with Mr. Sharif and was back in Delhi for dinner.
Putting realpolitik over redlines
During these years, there were a number of terrorist attacks which led to the derailment of talks but communication channels were always kept open. Each of Mr. Modi’s predecessors had a vision but the dialogue process was grounded in realpolitik. Each of them realised that relations with Pakistan could not be allowed to become a distraction from the primary task of sustaining a healthy economic growth rate and improving the political climate in Kashmir. Secondly, they were acutely conscious that tensions with Pakistan constrained India’s diplomatic space for wider engagement, by keeping it locked in an India-Pakistan construct in terms of external perceptions. None of them established arbitrary redlines that could become liabilities; instead they shared their thinking with all political leaders, cutting across party lines. Senior officials were often asked to provide background briefings to retired officials and foreign policy commentators so that expectations were not allowed to get out of hand and both the pace and outcome of the dialogue process was controlled.
Mr. Modi’s “neighbourhood first” policy got off to a good start with his invitation to all the regional leaders for his oath-taking ceremony in May 2014, and his Ufa meeting with Mr. Sharif to restart the dialogue was also received positively. However, both times, the follow-up talks were nixed by a shrill media forcing the government to retreat. The third time around, expectations were kept low-key by keeping the media at a distance, both at the two leaders’ meeting in Paris and the follow-up NSA talks in Bangkok. Clearly, the lesson about managing expectations had been understood.
Pathankot was not planned after Mr. Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore but is certainly intended to test his redlines again. The key difference is that this time, the communication channel between the NSAs seems to be working and it is highly likely that what is considered a prompt and adequate response by Pakistan has already been spelt out. Mr. Sharif’s call to Mr. Modi, his setting up of a joint investigation team to probe into the links of the Pathankot attackers with Pakistan, and most importantly, his statement on January 8 that “no terrorist and terrorist organisations would be allowed to use Pakistan’s soil for committing terrorism anywhere in the world” indicate that Pakistan would like the talks to go forward. This is not a new commitment; Gen. Musharraf had said the same to Mr. Vajpayee in 2004 but reiteration has some value.
Mr. Modi still needs to spell out his policy. He has shown that he is a risk-taker and his preference is for a personalised style of diplomacy. However, he should have realised by now that this runs the risk of converting each encounter into a zero-sum game. The dialogue, in order to deliver on the Modi government’s priorities, has to be perceived as a win-win outcome for both sides. For this, the Prime Minister has to understand that Pakistan cannot be seen to be giving in to Indian pressure as this becomes Mr. Sharif’s limitation. Domestically, for the opposition parties, engaging in political rhetoric is a cost-free exercise. The way to neutralise this is to reach out, as his predecessors have done. Only then will Mr. Modi be able to make his Pakistan strategy dovetail with his “neighbourhood first” policy, thereby stamping both with his own distinctive imprint.
Rakesh Sood, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation till May 2014, has also been First Secretary and Counsellor in India’s High Commission in Islamabad.
By Vivek Katju
January 14, 2016
flag meeting, india pakistan flag meeting, indo-pak flag meeting, latest news, loc, border, border tension, poonch, J&K, kashmir Pakistan has turned the conventional approach to contest among nuclear states on its head.
In a recent and relatively sober television debate, both the BJP and Congress representatives emphasised that the India-Pakistan engagement should continue despite the Pathankot attack. However, neither dwelt on the nature of such engagement. Without precision, the word “engagement” in the context of a sensitive bilateral relationship lacks value.
Bilateral engagements stretch from the maintenance of routine diplomatic contact to intense political interaction as well as the establishment of problem-solving and cooperative mechanisms. India and Pakistan have gone through all these phases: From intense engagement to routine contact. However, nothing has persuaded the Pakistani establishment to abandon the pursuit of terror — though it has always calibrated its use.
Pakistan’s acquisitions of nuclear weapons added a new dimension to the use of terrorism. All states with nuclear weapons, except Pakistan, have refrained from grave and violent provocations on others’ territories. Nuclear powers have engaged in harsh and violent contestations, including through promoting insurgencies, but in other countries. This was witnessed especially during the Cold War.
Pakistan has ignored this precaution. Indeed, it turned the conventional approach to contest among nuclear states on its head. Nuclear weapons became the licence to undertake terror through its proxies. Its object was strategic — at a minimum, to keep India continuously on the defensive.
The Indian political class and strategic community considered Pakistan’s promotion of insurgency and use of terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir as a major strategic challenge. However, as it became increasingly evident through the 1990s that the situation was contained, their thinking on the nature of the challenge changed. No longer was it thought of as strategic but as political. This, notwithstanding the continuing heavy deployment of forces.
The 1999 Kargil attack was not a terrorist operation. It was a full-scale military undertaking by the Pakistan army that was sought to be disguised as a mujah-ideen operation. It involved the capture of territory and its object was to upset the strategic calculus. India’s response was full and successful.
The Parliament attack of 2001 was designed to inflict grave damage to the political leadership of the country. It could not but be considered strategic in design and conception, and the response was so. Forces were deployed at the border. Since then, all terrorist attacks either in J&K or elsewhere in India have only led to diplomatic or political responses, confirming that they are considered as only political embarrassments. These include the 26/11 Mumbai attack, too. The Modi government’s response to the Pathankot airbase is being put in the same category even though a major military facility had been targeted.
The underlying approach is that these provocations can be taken in the nation’s stride. Political parties and the media make noises, and the bitterness towards Pakistan increases, but, in time, tempers cool sufficiently for the bilateral engagement to be intensified till the next grave
The hope that full engagement with Pakistan can withstand major terrorist attacks is misplaced. Political pressures and the need to show action inevitably lead to disruptions. The time has come to seek to break this cycle not by overlooking Pakistani terrorism because it no longer has strategic consequences but because the loss of innocent lives matters even if cynical strategic thinkers overlook this aspect.
The question to be considered by our strategic community is this: What should a nuclear-weapons state do if a nuclear neighbour uses terrorism as an essential part of its security approach? This is a unique problem faced by India. The answer surely cannot lie in engagement, for it has not worked, and nor has its opposite.
This Indian problem is unique and has not been considered seriously by Western strategic thinkers. Western governments have always advised India to be restrained. This is in their interests. But Indian strategic thinkers must articulate this issue as a conceptual problem to their Western counterparts, draw attention to it.
Countries have the right to self defence under international law. But as long as India relegates the problem of terrorism to that of political management alone, the chanting of meaningless mantras of continuing dialogue will continue and no resolution will be forthcoming.
Jan 12, 2016
We have again become the laughing stock of the world, which is aware that we had 50,000 Army troops in Pathankot, and yet the NSA chose to send 210 NSG commandos
On January 10, 2016, the media reported that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, dissatisfied by the manner in which the terror attack on Pathankot Air Force base from January 2-5 had been dealt with, despite prior intelligence, decided to set up a new ministry of homeland security which will be reporting directly to him (i.e. Prime Minister’s Office). It will act as the single window for dealing with terror attacks on India.
Given the growing threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the continuous terror threats emanating from Pakistani soil, this move is a welcome step even if late. This should have been done after the 26/11 terror strikes on Mumbai.
Having visited the US whilst in service in 2005, I am familiar with the highly effective US department of homeland security. A professional organisation that encompasses elements of customs, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Coast Guard, Air National Guard, immigration authorities at airports, seaports, land border crossings, Drug Enforcement Agency, Internal Revenue Service, the police, the national guard, etc., all linked with real time communication and situational awareness. If the proposed Indian system is to succeed, it must preferably emulate the American example, which includes the Patriot Act, 2001. The American’s admit that it’s a draconian act, but they say it’s necessary to fight terror. What’s good for them is good for us. And we must ensure that the staff comprises highly trained professionals with little or no bureaucrats.
Unfortunately, it appears that our higher defence and security management, which comprises unaccountable bureaucrats, has not learnt lessons from 9/11 or our pathetic response to 26/11, which made us the laughing stock of the world.
The media, while analysing the attack on the Pathankot airbase and the Indian consulate at Mazar-e-Sharif, has done a good job, they have missed one vital point — the Pakistan Army Chief, Raheel Sharif, has not only the Army under his direct command, also the Inter-Services Intelligence. As per some media reports, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (which carried out the devastating Mumbai 26/11 attacks), and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (which carried out the recent Pathankot and Mazar-e-Sharif attacks) are also suspected to be under his command.
If this is proved, than one can assume that such terror attacks on India are not sponsored by rogue elements of the Pakistan Army or the ISI, but by an “expendable and deniable extensions” of the Pakistan Army.
The moment Mr Modi and Nawaz Sharif surprised the world with their Christmas Day meeting which, apparently due to “short notice” was not attended by the Pakistan Army Chief appointed and trusted NSA (the recently retired Lt. Gen. Naseer Khan Janjua), the General Headquarters Rawalpindi set in motion its two pronged deniable attack on the Pathankot airbase and the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif, with the aim of getting maximum publicity by killing hostages and destroying Indian Air Force planes and helicopters.
Unlike 26/11, this time media reports indicate that Indian intelligence did a commendable job by providing actionable intelligence almost 20 hours in advance, while it appears that the Americans provided intelligence about the impending attack on the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif.
The attack on the Indian consulate was neutralised with no Indian casualties partly due to the professionalism of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP) inside the consulate, along with the Afghan forces outside, who were led personally by the local governor Ata Mohammad Noor (a former Mujahideen fighter of the anti-Taliban northern alliance) and since this consulate was located in Afghanistan, it was immune to faulty decision-making by the NSA-led New Delhi team.
I will not go too much into the Pathankot airbase attack, since it has been covered very extensively by the media, except to state that like 26/11, we have again become the laughing stock of the world, which is aware that we had 50,000 Army troops (including special force battalions and armoured brigades) in Pathankot, and yet the NSA chose to send 210 National Security Guard commandos instead of assigning the task to the military.
Media reports indicate that the command of the Indian operations was changed two to three times in four days, thus adding to the confusion. My retired Army friends tell me that two infantry battalions (1,500 men) would have formed an impenetrable external perimeter outside the base, and another battalion (750 men) could have been kept inside the airbase as additional security. This entire operation should have been under a single Army commander, thus preserving the basic principles of “single command, concentration of force and the right specialist force for the task”.
There are mixed reactions to the attacks in India, with some calling for cancellation of the January 15 foreign secretaries talks, while some are focusing on the positive signs emanating from Islamabad. In my opinion, if the direct complicity of the Pakistan Army in these terror attacks is proved, then a new strategy needs to be implemented, i.e. always continue “uninterrupted” talks with Pakistan at various levels, but concurrently commence and continue “uninterrupted and deniable tit-for-tat” proxy war against the Pakistan military and its “terrorists”.
There is another equally serious issue which Mr Modi needs to address urgently, since he also decides on nuclear retaliation against a WMD attack on India by virtue of chairing India’s “Political Council” of the NCA which receives advice from the executive council of the NCA headed by the NSA. Given our terrible track record — the IC-814 hijacking on December 24, 1999, the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001, the 26/11 attacks and now the Pathankot airbase attack — I feel, an urgent restructuring of the NCA needs to be considered. In case of a nuclear attack, there is no room for errors in higher security decision-making. Here also the basic principle should be to induct real professionals into the team that takes decisions.
The writer retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam
Thursday, 14 January 2016
There was ample warning for the Pathankot attack, and the authorities had sufficient time and a well-trained force at their disposal to prepare a defence. Yet, experts in the national capital behaved in an unprofessional manner and failed to check the attack in time
While the world welcomed the new year with cheers, all-round revelry, and popping corks of champagne bottles, it brought betrayal, deceit, fraudulence, perfidy and the breach of solemn promise by no less a person than the Prime Minister of a neighbouring country made to our Prime Minister, not once but repeatedly — that jihadi terrorists will not be permitted to operate from Pakistan and attack targets in India. This author is referring to the attack on the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot by terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad from Pakistan.
While the terrorists did not succeed in their nefarious mission, the attack has brought to the fore the gross ineptness of both persons and institutions that deal with security issues of our nation. This ineptness was seen at all levels, from the very top to the brave soldiers who, once again, proved that even when the higher-ups botch up everything, they readily sacrifice even their lives and do not shirk from their duty and responsibility. Yet, mere bravery and putting lives on the line are no substitute for wrong decisions and ill-thought of follow-up actions by supposed experts charged with national level policies affecting the security of the nation. In the aftermath, instead of taking the culprits to task, cover-ups are already underway to shield loyalists and look for scapegoats.
Although the media has carried considerable reports about this terrorist operation, it is necessary to highlight some important aspects. It is clear that the attack was mounted to derail the so-called peace process between the two countries, when for the umpteen time India extended its hand to normalise relations with its neighbour. Unlike earlier occasions, the attempt at disruption came much earlier than in the past, indicating that nothing really has changed among those in Pakistan, who for their own reasons of retaining power, do not want a rapprochement, even when the Pakistani awaam desires it.
This writer is of the firm view that it is narco-terrorism that was fully and deeply involved in making this attack possible for JeM terrorists. Many Border Security Force and Punjab Police personnel are in cahoots with smugglers of both sides and are deeply involved in smuggling narcotics from Pakistan. The nexus extends all the way up to perhaps higher-ups in the Punjab Government. All facets of the incident involving then Gurdaspur Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh, particularly that he and his companions were not killed, and his cock-and-bull story, are pointers to the deep involvement of the JeM — and by association the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence in making use of these collaborators to launch terrorist actions in India. That Mr Singh later got in touch with his headquarters was a hedge to his other activities.
The Pathankot attack is one instance when sufficient clues, evidence and information about the high probability of a terrorist attack were not just available but even the target was broadly identified. Sufficient time and a well-trained force was readily available to foil the likely attack. In spite of this, people who project themselves as experts at the highest levels in the national capital behaved not just shabbily but in a most unprofessional manner.
The National Security Advisor, having received relevant information from more than one source, did not even think of calling the experts in counter-terrorist operations (the Army units next door), but chose to airlift a small team of National Security Guards — trained for tackling hostage situations and anti-hijacking operations, not flushing out terrorists. Then the flood gates of mismanagement opened when no command arrangements were made.
Information available in the public domain also states that the decision taken was in a meeting of the so-called ‘core group’ that gets activated in such situations. One can understand that civilian officials in the group may be somewhat naïve about security issues and more concerned about ensuring that no blame comes to them later, but it is baffling that the three Service chiefs, including the Chief of Army Staff, who were all present, went along with this peculiar decision.
The nation then found itself looking at a situation where a whole division or more of well-trained and equipped force was left cooling its heels next door in Mamun Military Station, while Defence Security Corps personnel meant for static guard duties, a few Garud Commandos of the Indian Air Force who are not tasked for such roles, sundry personnel of the Punjab Police, some armed and others with only their dandas, some elements of the BSF whose role is guarding the border, a few intelligence personnel from a number of intelligence agencies (whose role the writer is unable to comprehend); and sundry others, responded to the attack.
The Base Commander of a sensitive operational base is always specially selected for his professionalism and leadership qualities. This was also the case for the Pathankot air base. However, when a leader with such great responsibility is confronted with a challenge of the type that had presented itself, he needs space to interact with his command to formulate plans and monitor execution. However, if the senior brass lands up in his base, he are bound to curb the style of the ground commander.
This is exactly what happened, as senior officers, including the Commander-in-Chief of the Western Air Command, began landing in Pathankot. Notwithstanding the botched-up decision-making in Delhi, some senior members unfortunately forgot the basic teaching drummed into them for years — to let the commander on the spot handle the situation and to not breathe over his shoulder. This was the same case with the DG of NSG, who also landed in Pathankot. Some of you may remember that the police officer who was the DG at the time of the 26/11 attack had done the same and proved to be a major hindrance in the conduct of those operations.
The shemozzle of wrong decisions taken at Delhi was eventually corrected after we suffered many casualties and had dollops of sheer luck, but can or should we depend on luck? Such situations are serious and sensitive where, if standard operating procedures are not followed, there are cover-ups after the event so that blue-eyed boys can be extracted from their ignominious decisions. Accountability is unfortunately an alien concept in our country. Whether it was the debacle of 1962 or the many attacks including that of 26/11, none was held accountable. Some low-level functionaries may be blamed and then all is forgotten and forgiven. Sections of the media are already working speedily to shift focus away from the unprofessional way the maharathis of Delhi handled the crisis.
When insurgency was at its height in the early 1990s, the Army used the ratio of troop casualty to insurgent casualty as one of the indicators of performance and preparedness. The Army always had a favourable ratio, which gave a good idea of the gains that were being made. It is sad and disheartening that, even after a prior warning, the casualty ratio in Pathankot was in favour of the terrorists.
Vijay Oberoi is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff.
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