Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Hindu : Locked in U.N. files, 15 years of bloodletting at LoC

An excellent article appeared in the Hindu on Martyr's Day when India remembers not only Gandhi but all its slain heroes. The article brings to light a possible 15 years of tit for tat beheading since Capt. Saurav Kalia's killing and mutilation in the run up to Kargil war. This shows what happens even to the most professional of services when there is no closure on such brutality. If these are proven to be true then they reflect not only the unprofessional conduct by our services but also the difficulty our services face when the political masters fail to fulfill their duties to bring closure to such crimes which have happened in past.

There is no need for the Indian army to fall to the level of such brutality in reply to brutality. But they should never be forced in situations when they find no other option either. The political leadership of India should intervene. 'Truth' is the only cleanser.

The Hindu : News / National : Locked in U.N. files, 15 years of bloodletting at LoC

Saturday, 26 January 2013

There is no Rogue ISI

Ever since 26/Nov Mumbai attacks in the year 2008 the people of the subcontinent are being lead to believe that there are some rogue ISI elements who have been out of control of the Pakistani Army and who have not severed there links with the terrorists and Taliban and who have possibly planned and carried out the attacks. Mr Ahmed Rashid a well respected author and journalist who is an Afghanistan/Pakistan expert had argued in 2008 immediately after that attacks that the attacks were perhaps planned and executed by the al-qaeda along with "disbanded LeT". He had written in an article for BBC "Al-Qaeda is looking for some relief and a diversion... This strategic diversion ploy for the sake of al-Qaeda and its surrogates is the principle motive behind the Mumbai terrorist attacks." He went on to say "Charges that the Pakistan government, army or its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were behind the attack appear unfounded." In the words of the Pakistani government after they finally agreed that the attack was planned in and executed from Pakistan, they were "non state actors".

However in the same year before Mumbai attacks while discussing his book Descent into Chaos in the Conversations With History program with Harry Kreisler Mr Rashid had categorically stated that "there is no rogue ISI". The so called rogue ISI was created to continue supporting Taliban while avoiding detection by the CIA of its activities. Retired Army generals, and ISI men who had worked with the Taliban were given "part time" jobs to go on a "vacation from home for 4 weeks 5 weeks" and work with the Taliban.

Ahmed Rashid - "There is no Rogue ISI" (26:02)

All this has been in public domain for quite sometime it is also in the US government's knowledge for a. long time that Pakistan is supporting the Taliban and keeping it as a "Strategic Asset". A 2007 Congressional Research Service report RS22632 titled "Pakistan and Terrorism: A Summary" released by Wikileaks in Feb 2009 in its summary mentions that "The outcomes of U.S. policies toward Pakistan since 9/11, while not devoid of meaningful successes, have neither neutralized anti-Western militants and reduced religious extremism in that country, nor have they contributed sufficiently to the stabilization of neighboring Afghanistan. Many observers thus urge a broad re-evaluation of such policies."

The report says  "Throughout the opening months of 2007, Administration officials, U.S. military commanders, and senior U.S. Senators issued further incriminating statements about Pakistan’s assumed status as a terrorist base and the allegedly insufficient response of the Islamabad government." it goes on to say "The United States also remains concerned with indigenous extremist groups in Pakistan, and with the ongoing 'cross-border infiltration' of Islamist militants who traverse the Kashmiri Line of Control and other borders to engage in terrorist acts in India and Indian Kashmir. Many analysts consider such activities conceptually inseparable from the problem of Islamist militancy in western Pakistan and in Afghanistan. Domestic terrorism in Pakistan, much of it associated with Islamist sectarianism, has become an increasingly serious problem affecting major Pakistani cities. Separatist violence in India’s Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir state has continued unabated since 1989 with some notable relative decline in recent years. Many experts reject efforts by the Pakistani government and others to draw significant distinctions between U.S.- and Indian-designated terrorist groups fighting in Kashmir and those fighting in western Pakistan and Afghanistan, and in Pakistan’s interior".

The report clearly raises doubt on Pakistan's intentions by stating that "Numerous experts raise questions about the determination, sincerity, and effectiveness of Pakistani government efforts to combat religious extremists. Doubts are widely held by Western experts, many of whom express concerns about the implications of maintaining present U.S. policies toward the region, and about the efficacy of Islamabad’s latest strategy, which appears to seek reconciliation with pro-Taliban militants." The report is so damning that I can go on quoting from the report but it is rather better if the interested reader reads it himself/herself. It is also in my view one of the main inputs if not the cornerstone of the subsequent Obama government's policy in  Pakistan as I have covered below.

Mr Rashid's assertions in the interview to University of California Berkley, and the picture of a typical handler of this "ISI within ISI" fits well people like Hamid Gul a retired ISI chief with links with both Taliban and LeT founder Hafees Saeed. He openly conducts meetings with Hafees Saeed and other Jehadi outfits in Pakistan on a supposed pro Kashmir and anti India platform. There is no dearth for such India baiters in Pakistan who fit the bill of these "ISI within ISI" operatives. The narrative since Mumbai asking for restraint from the people of India and from the GOI at the face of all provocations has been that al-Qaeda  and Taliban affiliates "want to divert attention from the west of Pakistan to the east". On the face of it this argument seems logical and valid. US war in Afghanistan would have been jeopardized by any Indo-Pak flareups, so it was valid for the US to make this argument. But the odd price for this restraint will have to be paid by innocent citizens of India. The perpetrators of Mumbai are still not punished and Hafees Saeed is a free man.

Frankly there are so many diversions in the diversions that no one can say what the real story behind Mumbai is. Was it to divert Pakistan from the west? Or was it planned with an assumption that no trace will be found as to who was behind that attacks? Did the ISI within ISI get embolden with its success in hoodwinking the CIA and felt it was time to punish India as a warning to keep out of Afghanistan? Was the planning for the attack done with  full knowledge that there will be no military response from India after all Pakistan had built up conventional and nuclear military since 9/11 with US military aid. Is it wrong to suspect that the real perpetrators were pretty much the establishment itself rather than any rogue elements?

But what is interesting is to note the response of the United States and India to these Mini ISI's activities. While India replied under the time tested "good faith policy"(I am not sure if it has ever worked) and resumed uninterrupted and un-interruptible dialog with Pakistan. US also had "time tested"(never worked?) response in the lines of continuing to provide aid carrots to its "strategic ally".

Obama government replaced the Bush government in Jan 2009. Under Obama's watch AF-PAK policy was formulated. Under this policy an attempt was initially made to include India too which the Indian government declined. The idea was to engage the whole region for solving Pakistan's problems. India did not want to be clubbed so as to avoid any external pressures on its own national interest, especially pressures to "resolve" Kashmir as an incentive to Pakistan for stop supporting the terrorists. But never the less all said and done after Mumbai we still started dialog with Pakistan "in spite of terrorism". In US a policy change was perhaps undertaken and Afghanistan was brought back in focus. A military surge was ordered but unfortunately at the same time a withdrawal date was announced thus emboldening the Taliban and its friends to dig in and fight it out.

On the aid front United States had now installed an old Pakistan friend and India-baiter Ms Robin Raphel as Ambassador responsible for the targeted civilian aid to "improve the image of United States". At the same time it seems the Pakistani concerns as mentioned in the Congressional Report were being addressed during the drafting of the so called Kerry-Lugar bill sanctioning civilian aid of $1.5 billion per year. When the US congress was pushing President Bush to be tough on Pakistan after his years of leniency for inaction on Taliban as per the CRS report  "In response to U.S. congressional signals of a possible shift in U.S. policy toward Islamabad, the Pakistani National Assembly’s Defense Committee unanimously passed a resolution threatening to end or reduce Islamabad’s cooperation on counter terrorism if U.S. aid to Pakistan were to be made conditional."  later the report says "Other analysts, however, including those making policy for the Bush Administration, believe that conditioning U.S. aid to Pakistan has a past record of failure and likely would be counterproductive."

The Kerry Lugar bill does impose certain restrictions. For civilian aid it requires a certification each year by the special representative to Pakistan (Robin Raphel) to certify that "principal objectives" are being met in order to release the full quantum of $1.5 billion, but is also allows up to $750 million to be released without such certification. The bill also puts a certification requirement for certain military assistance. Limitation on Security-related Assistance for fiscal years 2011 through 2014 and a limitation on Arms Transfers for fiscal years 2012 through 2014. Why arms transfers we allowed for another year without certification requirement? I don't know.

Bulk of the arm purchases of conventional variety by Pakistan from the US had already taken place during the Bush-Musharraf years. A CRS report of 2012 on this subject says "Major U.S. arms sales and grants to Pakistan since 2001 have included items useful for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations, along with a number of big ticket platforms more suited to conventional warfare.In dollar value terms, the bulk of purchases have been made with Pakistani national funds, but U.S. grants have eclipsed these in recent years." it goes on to say "The Pentagon reports total Foreign Military Sales agreements with Pakistan worth about $5.4 billion for FY2002-FY2010 (in-process sales of F-16 combat aircraft and related equipment account for about half of this).", It should be remembered that in the 90's the US had denied arms sales to Pakistan. The sale of F16s were done under the garb of using them in counter terrorism operations.

It is always possible for the US government to block transfer of weapons already contracted. A CRS report of Aug 2009 says ", all government-to-government agreements or licensed commercial contracts for the transfer of defense articles or defense services may be halted, modified, or terminated by the executive
branch should it determine that it is advisable to do so. In this context, should the Bush Administration decide that actions taken by the government of Pakistan are contrary to the national security interests of the United States, the President can suspend or terminate existing arms sales agreements or prevent the delivery of weapons previously ordered, as he deems appropriate. The Congress can also pass legislation that would suspend, modify, or terminate any arms sale contract should it choose to do so."

Of course none of these weapons sales were ever suspended. All this while the ISI within the ISI continued to support Taliban and blunt the US army's efforts. Under Obama's watch Osama Bin Laden was found in a safe haven within the garrison town of Pakistan, again the so called "rogue elements" in ISI were blamed to have provided support to him without the knowledge at the "highest level". Then in 2011 there was a border skirmish between Pakistani forces and the American forces in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed. In response Pakistan blocked the supply routes and threatened to evict US from the Shamsi air base. After US apology the blockade was lifted. But the US government had to take some action too so the aid was reduced for a while.

Obama's second administration has now taken office. After the cooling down period of 2011-2012 the relations between Pakistan and US are back on track. Pakistani foreign minister visited US in January and during an interview with Charlie rose said that relations are much better now. I believe they were assured of support from the US government of continued aid and assistance despite their chequered history. The statement from newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry in which he said "aid cut will be unkind" should be indicative.

While all this was going on there was an incident on the LOC in January 2013 in which two Indian soldiers were killed there bodies mutilated and one dead body beheaded by the Pakistani army as claimed by India and as usual denied by Pakistan. This incident was supposedly in response to a previous incident in which one Pakistani solder was killed in cross border firing by India which was in response to Pakistani shelling in which three civilians had died which India claims was to enable cross border infiltration. When India protested to Pakistan about the beheading incident  the Pakistani FM denied any role of her Army and in the wake of Indian Army Chief's statement that "we reserve the right to retaliate at the time and place of our choosing" did not miss the opportunity of her US attention to blame India of "war mongering ".

While all this is important the most important story here is, and what even Mr Ahmed Rashid is now pushing in the west is, that before exiting Afghanistan USA should get a peace settlement done between Pakistan, Taliban and the Afghanistan government to avoid any post withdrawal conflict between the regional players via their proxies in that country. So the mini ISI has pretty much succeeded in ensuring that its interests in that country are served through the Taliban and also ensured that any talks should not happen without its knowledge. One should be reminded that the Pakistanis had detained Mullah Baradar when they found that he was talking to Afghanistan government without their knowledge. In Sep 2011 Burhanuddin Rabbani who was holding peace talks with the Taliban on behalf of the Afghan government was killed in a suicide attack.

What ever happens in Afghanistan after american withdrawal, I am afraid history is witness, that whenever western countries have interfered in this region for their strategic reasons even if it was for a reason as morally justified as stopping terrorism, the effect has been detrimental to the citizens of the subcontinent. In their "strategic interest"  the tilt has well and truly always been in favour of the establishment in Pakistan at the detriment of India. So I doubt if the LeT will be eliminated or the perpetrators of Mumbai be punished by the time US exists Afghanistan. Time will tell and as they say history will be the judge. But one thing is for sure to me after hearing Mr Rashid and seeing what all has happened since his interview in 2008,  there is no Rogue ISI only a clever indirection. I wonder who was deceived. Was it the US government? Was it the Indian Government? Or the people of the subcontinent?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Obama 2.0

Mr Barack Obama has taken oath of his second term in office of the President of United States Of America. His first speech after his oath on 21 January was much appreciate in the media. I could not keep myself from comparing this speech with the speech he gave in 2009 after taking office of his first term and the most important aspect which I was looking for and found, was the skipping of terrorism from any direct mention in his latest speech. In his speech in 2009 he had made a very substantial reference to terrorism when he had said "Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred." where as in the speech of 2013 he has said that "This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending.". He went on to say "We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war." and "...we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war; who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends - and we must carry those lessons into this time as well."

President Obama is no doubt one of the best Orators of our times in the world so his speeches are always interesting to listen to. His latest speech should not come as a surprise to any listener because it was long known that USA was looking for an exit strategy in Afghanistan since the day Mr Obama was sworn in. He winded up Iraq and had to do the same in Afghanistan. Iraq was a war against a regime which could be ended once an alternative regime was established. Ending of wars is always welcome to the people who suffer the pains of war, except for the fact that Afghanistan was a war like no other war. It was not a war against a nation it was a war against certain organizations and group of people with a certain ideology who in Mr Obama's own terms were a "far-reaching network of violence and hatred".  USA may have run out of appetite for war and do not want to fight a perpetual war, but I wonder if their war in Afghanistan has really succeeded. Osama Bin Laden was found in Abbottabad and as we hear about the various drone strikes which USA does with in Pakistan, that they have managed to get several al-qaeda terrorists. But unfortunately the Taliban leadership and several members of al-qaeda leadership have survived. Other banned organizations like the  LeT, the Jaish-e-Mohammad and other al-qaeda affiliates still survive and we all know where all these outfits find a mostly comfortable home. It is is within Pakistan.

From the day the Americans threatened war on Taliban the Pakistani establishment has played a double game with them. It has been established and commented on by many journalists that when the ISI chief under Parvez Musharraf, Mahmoud Ahmad was sent to Taliban leadership to make them break links with al-quaeda he instead encouraged them to dig in and fight it out. He was later sacked by Musharraf. After the US invasion in Afghanistan Taliban leadership was provided a sanctuary in Pakistan. We all know in which circumstances Osama Bin Laden was found within the Pakistan garrison town close to their most important military academy. The Pakistanis continued to support Taliban to regroup and fight NATO forces in Afghanistan while at the same time supporting NATO supply lines in Pakistan in exchange for money. When USA attempted to pursue and punish the Pakistani armed forces supporting the Taliban in 2011 they were greeted with an angry Pakistani reaction which lead to the closure of these very supply lines, which eventually lead to a US apology.  I am reminded of an interview of Hamid Gul the Ex ISI Chief of Pakistan who was one of the master minds of the first Afghan Mujahideen war against the soviets. He continues to openly support the terrorists invading Kashmir. In his interview he mentions by attacking Pakistani forces "the Americans have shot themselves in the foot" since their supply lines run from Pakistan he also threatens the countries north of Afghanistan to desist from providing an alternative route to the Americans because "the fallout will be on them.. this is an irregular warfare .. which can travel across borders".

A lot has changed since the 2011 incident the relations between USA and Pakistan have normalized again, there is talk of settlement with Taliban and centrality of Pakistan's role in it. The 21 January speech of Mr Obama hints at the possible settlement with Taliban which US is contemplating. This is a victory of sorts for the Pakistani ISI. They were saving Taliban as a possible asset to be used once the US exits. They also did not allow any direct negotiations between Taliban and the Afghan government lest they come to an agreement which is not acceptable to them. As being stabbed in the back goes the Obama administration also has its share of people with dicey record when it comes to Taliban I am hinting at the so called "Lady Taliban" Ms Robin Raphel. More about her later but there is little doubt as many journalists and Afghanistan experts and even Afghans themselves have said Pakistan is the problem as far as fighting the Taliban is concerned in Afghanistan.

Coming back to the Obama speeches. As speeches of Mr Obama go I am reminded of a speech he gave to college students in Mumbai during his 2010 India visit. Mr Obama was asked by a student a very pertinent question perhaps stated in such blunt terms that Mr Obama had to use an equally blunt answer. The question was "Why is Pakistan so important to America that it does not declare it a terrorist state?". The answer along with a lot of other explanation was that "Pakistan is a Strategic country, not just for the United States but the world."

When I heard this term "Strategic" in this speech as I was listening to it recently, after having read quite a bit about the history of western influence in Pakistan I was immediately reminded of the effect these influences and interference have had on the people of the subcontinent. It is well known that the very first interference was by the British in creation of Pakistan when after the 1942 quit India movement by the Congress they had firmly decided to support Muslim League in their demand for a separate state. A friendly Muslim state of Pakistan in the subcontinent gave them "strategic" leverage over USSR and it also gave them an ally in the Muslim world. It has been written that the British strategic interest also drove their Kashmir policy. I wonder if Mr Nehru was hood-winked into approaching the UN by Lord Mountbatten when the west had no interest in making the aggressor Pakistan vacate Kashmir for a plebiscite to take place under Indian administration, as Nehru had intended to do. One needs to keeping in mind that the Maharaja had acceded to India after Pakistani aggression in order to save the population of Kashmir from the invaders and Nehru had in Shekh Abdulla's own words no obligation to promise a plebiscite in the first place.

It was also for strategic reasons that the west armed the Pakistani Army and Air Force during the 50's and 60's and confident of their new found strength they planned another invasion in Kashmir ostensibly to raise a revolution which lead to the 1965 war. Is it also for strategic reasons that Pakistan Army was propped up for all these years in ways that allowed it to usurp power from the civil administration all too frequently in Pakistan. There was another "strategic" reason that the west had for providing aid and arms supply to Pakistan during the 80's. It was the first Afghan war that USA fought covertly along with Pakistan against USSR in Afghanistan. That war as we all know is the genesis of the current radical "Islamic Terror" that the world is facing. The current breed of terrorists who have been waging a war on Indian on behalf of the Pakistani's are all a result of the lessons learned by Pakistani Army and the networks built by them with these forces. The rise of Taliban in Afghanistan provided the Pakistani's with a ready supply of afghan fighters to be sent into Kashmir.

One would have thought that 26/Nov attacks in Mumbai would be a turning point in how India would be looking at its policies towards terror emanating from Pakistan. One had imagined that the tolerance for western military and financial support to Pakistan would no longer be so high within the Indian leadership and there would be considerable pressure put on the Americans to link their aid to progress on fighting all kinds of terrorists with in Pakistan. But it seems the support continues. Robin Raphel the wife of late Pakistan ambassador Arnold Lewis Raphel who was killed along with Zia-ul-Haq in the plane crash in 84, is a member of the Obama administration's Af-Pak diplomatic group. Ms  Raphel is ex CIA and a known Taliban sympathizer before 9/11. She is infamous in India for her comments about Kashmir in the 90's when she had said "US did not recognize the instrument of accession, as meaning that Kashmir was an integral part of India.”. Ms Robin is responsible for the civilian aid that Pakistan gets from USA as per the provisions of the Kerry-Lugar bill. After the shock of finding Osama bin laden in Abottabad USA had slowed down the disbursements, but after the Dec 2012 talks between USA and Pakistan the aid in her own words "is expected to pick up pace".

The Pakistani Army uses the military aid and reimbursements it gets for building is strengths in conventional and nuclear warfare against India. Substantial portions of aid for civilian purpose and war effort  reimbursements is alleged to be siphoned off for other purposes. So all in all my conclusion is that historically the western powers and China have for strategic reasons of their own kept the Pakistani military on steroids which allows them to punch well above their weight. Their self confidence in defeating any military response from India allows them to continue supporting terror in Kashmir and elsewhere against us. So I wonder, especially in the aftermath of the recent incidents in LOC in January 2013, if the Indian leadership will ever ask the western and eastern friends of Pakistan that when it comes to terrorism "Are you with us? Or are you against us?".

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Runaway grandmother - The story is now old but not over

I am publishing below a letter I wrote to Praveen Swami of The Hindu whose recent articles in Hindu have been appreciated by some as being 'more balanced' than the 'jingoistic' reporting in the Indian media about the killing and inhuman mutilation of two Indian soldier's bodies at the Line of Control by Pakistani army soldiers after a cross LOC infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir. In my letter to Praveen I raise some issues about how the GOI disputes some of the statements in his article as inaccurate especially the so called real trigger of these incident which was an old lady crossing over to POK without anyone noticing in September 2012. The Indian army spokesperson says the incident happened in 2011 not 2012 and so cannot be linked with the beheading. I also take exception to Praveen in effect stating that both sides have carried out mutilation without being able to have any proof to corroborate that statement. Finally I make an argument that to be really balanced his article should have mentioned about Pakistan army being accused of facilitating infiltration of terrorists into J&K by resorting to shelling and firing across the LOC which in my view is the real cause of tension at the border i.e. the terrorist infiltration.


This is regarding your now 'famous' article which appeared in The Hindu on 10th of January. I am sure you must have received responses on this and this is an old story now. The story may be 10 days old but it is by no means dead and while your article when it appeared would have possibly been considered by many as following high standards of journalism. It would have been praised as an article in which you brought out 'the facts' of the current escalation in conflict in a particular section of the LOC. After which it has been quoted everywhere from India, to Pakistan, to Washington, to UK. I also read the response from GOI and your response to that which appeared in The Hindu on 11th. 

The basic premise of your story was that incident started off with the grandmother crossing over in September 2012 which the Indian Army claims happened in September 2011. The Indian Army has also denied that it crossed over and raided the Pakistani post. While initially Pakistan had claimed that Indian soldiers had raided their post but now they have been saying that they came withing 30 meters of LOC and 'fired at them across the LOC' in their foreign minister's own words, which appears to me more closer to the fact of what really happened on the day when their soldier was killed on 6th/Jan.

While these another set of facts if they go unchallenged by you do place some doubts on the way your story was constructed but for me the crucial question in your story as I am sure is also for you is beheading as an insult to the dead soldiers. No matter what arguments on the issue are made that both sides may have carried it out, a past act does not justify the present specially when there is no proof of mutilation and beheading of enemy dead bodies by Indian soldiers as mentioned in your article "by the account of one military official, which The Hindu could not corroborate independently, beheaded two.".  If you could not corroborate independently then is there a justification in your carrying it in that way. I believe you should not just leave it at that. Your should bring about the facts of incidents when the Indian army did carry out such inhuman acts. I would like them exposed so that these incidents are brought to an end. Simply stating that the facts cannot be corroborated is not enough especially since we can corroborate that Indian soldiers were mutilated by Pakistan Army including the often quoted incident of the reward that Musharraf gave to Ilyas Kashmiri and also Saurabh Kalia's case.

The first account of beheading of enemy by Indian solders I came across is what I had read quite some time ago in a book about Kargil War by Srinjoy Chowdhury, But then there is beheading and there is beheading. That book carried an account of the Naga regiment soldiers who carry a 'Dao' weapon beheading enemy in hand to hand combat and then unfortunately also carrying it back with them. Now while this is not a graceful subject but the qualitative difference between beheading or bayoneting in hand to hand combat and the torture and killing of a captured soldier or the mutilation and beheading of dead soldier's bodies and the effect that has on their families should not be lost on anyone. This is adding insult to their grievous loss which is hard to tolerate for anyone. 

While your article does make every effort to sound balanced say mentioning PAK(a fact) instead of POK(also a fact of history) but it misses the most important reason why cease file violations in LOC are so crucial for India. It is not a game of one-up-man-ship for the Army; it is the infiltration of terrorists into Kashmir and the support that Pak army provides to them and continues to do so as I write this email to you is what is the main issue. That point was completely missing from your article. You did allude to it in your followup article on this issue but in a very different light, again diluting the problem of cross border terror. You have yourself written a book on the subject of the "Informal War" in Kashmir being waged by Pakistan on India. So the fact is that the Indian Soldier is continuously paying sacrifices on behalf of the nation. He cannot be considered dispensable for a higher cause. Had this present issue not been raised so strongly in the media then no general or politician would have bothered to visit the slain soldier's family.

It is my submission that the Indian political leadership has failed the Indian soldier, and if they claim to be patriotic and expect continued sacrifices from the soldier and his family, if they expect the soldier to continue fighting this war of attrition in Kashmir while they do nothing substantial about the continued support that Jehadi's get from Pakistan then they are perhaps expecting too much from the soldier. It does not need television anchors to question the Pakistan policy of the Indian government after an incident like the present one. One can never rule out another Mumbai. If we are waiting for another Mumbai before substantial efforts are made to dismantle the terror machinery in Pakistan then another Mumbai will happen, may be sooner than anyone expects; after all a lot will change in the subcontinent once USA exits Afghanistan. When it comes to terrorism, the civilian government in Pakistan, the citizens of Pakistan and the friends of Pakistan(including western powers) are also in the dock not just Pakistan Army. A concerted reply is needed from Indian Government, Army, media and the people for this issue of terrorism. One cannot remain neutral to it. We cannot continue to pay odd sacrifices, they have to be held accountable and I don't think anyone has seriously being asking for a War, being fully aware of the consequences, but people are asking for accountability which should be achievable by other means. Should it not?

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

On Patriotism

"Patriotism is the last refuge of the Scoundrel" this often mentioned quote of Samuel Johnson has been used in many different contexts to mean several different things. It easily fits in various contexts to highlight the hypocrisy that many a times surrounds the idea of patriotism. The recent events on the border with Pakistan in which the bodies of two Indian soldiers were insulted with mutilation and the reaction (or lack of) by the Indian government, media and political parties make me wonder how true he was when he made this statement two centuries ago in 1775. There have been statements from government leadership that they have lodged "strong protest" with Pakistan while in the same breath mentioning that "there should not be any escalation over this incident". Sections in the media have taken grave exception to what has happened, while others have tried a bit too hard to be balanced, going to the length of suggesting that both sides might have carried out beheading.

The two Indian soldiers who have died are among the many that have been lost since independence in Indo-Pakistan conflicts. It is unfortunate that the day the new nation of India was born it was born with a sworn enemy to contend with as a neighbor. Most enmities between nations in history are created based on political  divergence or conflict over resources. India's case has been if not entirely unique then quite peculiar never the  less. Free India was born with a predestined enemy even before it was independent of colonial rule. The partition which was meant to save lives and avoid civil war within the newly independent nation served no such purpose. Not only was the birth of Pakistan and Free India preceded and followed by civil violence, within two months of independence the two countries were fighting a war in Kashmir. The events following the conflict are well known I need not repeat them at length here. It should suffice to say that for a nation based on Muslim religious identity it was unacceptable that the Muslim majority region should remain independent or join India. They felt they had a right on Kashmir and all means were justified in obtaining it. The fact that Geo-political reasons and the support of western powers in this quest played a part in their attempt to wrestle Kashmir in October of 1947 is not hidden, but religion was the moral justification and the rallying call for the leaders in Pakistan to get their population behind their quest.

There is no denying that both nations would be better of without this enmity and both nations would benefit from permanence of peace. But one cannot brush aside the enmity by refusing to acknowledge that it exists. It has been so long since the seeds of this hatred were sown that the original reason if ever there was one has been convoluted beyond  recognition. The reasoning for the Pakistani Army's perpetuating this enmity is so confusing that any logical person should fail to explain why they continue to pursue it. The Idea of getting Kashmir by force is not achievable is something I am sure every logical general in the Pakistan Army understands. The past wars are a testament to that fact. So if the basis of enmity is Kashmir as leaders in Pakistan seem to claim and military force will not deliver Kashmir to them then why pursue it? The answer lies in the fact that a lot of water has flown down the Indus since the first war. During the first war in 1947 the Maharaja of Kashmir paid the price of his prevarication, the Ex-British, Pakistani military got its first taste of using religious extremism for politico-military purpose, the idealistic Indian political leadership got its first lessons in realpolitik and the Indian military got its first experience of  premature cease fire. But since then one can argue that the political benefits to the leaders in Pakistani civilian governments and military of continuing this obsession far out weighed any logic.The single minded obsession has lead to pathological hatred within the Pakistani establishment for their eastern neighbor. This obsession lead them to plan 1965 infiltration and subsequent war, the clandestine and illegal acquisition of nuclear weapons, the creation and growth of the Jihadi culture and use of terrorism as a state policy.

In the face of this increasing threat from across the western border, the Indian soldier has been expected to be patriotic to the nation since the first war onward and to preserve the idea of newly created multicultural, secular and peaceful India. At the same time the political leadership in our country has repeatedly failed in its responsibilities towards the soldier. Indian soldier is expected to be professional, to make sacrifices, to follow orders, to continue serving the country, while the leadership pays lip service to patriotism. I am afraid the sacrifice of our soldiers is being taken for granted. It is the responsibility of the leading officers in the Army that such an attack could take place on the patrol and also go without immediate retaliation. Some have started fixing responsibility on the local commanders for laxity. Hopefully this will not be an exercise of shifting blame but of fixing problems. Questions should be asked if the soldiers are properly equipped for their job? The INSAS rifle which the Indian army currently uses was developed to give the nation an indigenous capability of manufacturing such weapons. How is it that within 12 years of its formal induction and after 300,000 of these rifles are in use, design issues in the weapon are being found now and a replacement is being sought? Somebody should be held responsible for such a botch up but it is unlikely that anybody will. For this replacement we will be spending Rs 10,000 Crores. The defense spending that India does in the name of patriotism seems to be more to the benefit of the defense contractors and arm suppliers and middle men than for the benefit of the Indian soldier.

The Kargil War in 1999 followed the infiltration and capture of strategic mountain positions by the Pakistani army in the winter months of 1998-99. No responsibility was ever fixed on anyone as to how the strategic peaks could be so easily captured and how the infiltration could not be discovered for so long. This war which should never have been necessary had we been better prepared was fought by the Indian soldier in difficult Himalayan conditions in "cotton shirts and canvas shoes". There was also a corruption scandal that came to light in the purchase of coffins for the martyred soldiers.

The Kargil war was itself preceded by the nuclear tests by both Pakistan and India. Truth was finally out in the open that Pakistan has nuclear parity with India and with a first strike option has the ability to deter any serious conventional military action by India. It has been suggested that Pakistan had developed the weapon in the 80's. They had not tested it openly within the borders of Pakistan but they had a working design and also had some delivery capabilities. It can't be a coincidence that the insurgency in Kashmir followed the Jehadi victory in Afghanistan and the acquisition of the bomb by Pakistan. So the first and the biggest failure of our political leadership since the 1971 war for me is in allowing a sworn enemy to acquire nuclear weapons so easily without much protest either militarily or diplomatically. It can't be that nobody in India was aware of their weapons program. The Indian political leadership has failed the Indian soldier by allowing Pakistan to acquire a nuclear weapon.

Some have argued that the ceasefire in 1971 was also premature and was agreed to without a permanent settlement on Kashmir border issue. It is no secret that the Pakistan army has it seems sworn to do to Kashmir what has happened to East Pakistan. Every newly recruited officer in the Pakistan army swears to avenge the 1971 loss. That is why the Pakistan army continues aggression in Kashmir and develop capabilities to continue hurting the Indians by any means however immoral they may be in the eyes of individual citizens of any country of the world. The Pakistan backed terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir and in other parts of the country continues in spite of evidence of their involvement out in the open. One wonders why the military support for Pakistan from the west and the east continues and one wonders why it continues to be an ally of the western powers. Questions are to be asked of our leadership on how the common friends of Pakistan and India can remain neutral when is suits them and take sides when it suits them and what have the Indian leaders done about these double standards on their part? If Russia can be persuaded not to sell arms to Pakistan why not United States and France.

It is my submission that the Indian political leadership has failed the Indian soldier, and if they claim to be patriotic and expect continued sacrifices from the soldier and his family. If they expect the soldier to continue fighting this war of attrition in Kashmir while they do nothing substantial about the continued moral and material support that Jehadi's get from Pakistan then they are perhaps expecting too much from the soldier. It doesn't take long for the message of Samuel Johnson and the deep meaning that it contains to reach patriotic individuals when they realize that they are being taken for granted by a leadership which is incapable of truly valuing their sacrifices. Which either only pays lip service to patriotism when in government or calls for some esoteric tough measures or worst still asks for more sacrifices to teach the enemy a lesson when part of the opposition. If they really value the Indian soldier they should deliver in putting an end to the terror machinery in Pakistan as a condition to improving ties both with our western neighbor and with its western allies. Dialog at all costs is clearly not delivering expected results. Letting the friends of Pakistan off the dock when they are clearly as much responsible for this situation as Pakistan government is hard to comprehend.