31 December, 2009

India's Quiet Diplomacy Turns Quieter

The following article has been published in an edited format in

On 22 December, India’s Home Minister P Chidambaram offered a Christmas bonanza for the Maoist insurgents. He uttered: “If you abjure violence, we are ready to talk. We are not asking them to lay down arms. They will not do it now.” That too in an ambience when the Maoist politburo member Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji declared that they would agree to a ceasefire provided the authorities suspended their operations.

The aforementioned gesture had an exclamatory aroma. This is so because barely a couple of months ago, Chidambaram was reluctant to talk to the indigenous Leftist rebels unless they laid down their arms; though he announced the proposition for talks with the separatist groups in Kashmir without imposing similar conditions.

Furthermore, on 17 December, India decided to pull out around 30,000 troops from Kashmir in a bid to ease tension in the valley. This was done on the premise that the security situation was improving. Paradoxically though, ceasefire violations took place a number of times from the other side of the border.

Chidambaram has termed his way of tackling insurgency as “Quiet Diplomacy”. The term should not be construed as his invention. But definitely his “praxis” is an essay with the Indian peculiarities in the background.

Even European Union’s (EU) new Foreign Secretary Catherine Ashton upholds the same term when she writes in Times online: “I believe that a lot can be achieved with Quiet Diplomacy. We need people who can listen as well as talk, and who can work behind the scenes as well as in the glare of the spotlight. What we also need is concerted action to achieve our goals.”

According to the parlance of Political Science, ‘Diplomacy’ is the management of International Relations and politics through negotiations. But it can get vociferous at times, with coercion being applied by one state actor over another. On the other hand, “Quiet Diplomacy” rests on the tenets of ‘rapproachement’, ‘providing space’ and ‘ethics and morality’; shunning “Realpolitik” (politics based on realism).

Quiet Diplomacy (QD) is distinctly different from “gun-boat diplomacy” (through force) or “public diplomacy” (through propaganda). In fact, QD is that form of diplomacy which may be interpreted as a subset of “Preventive Diplomacy”. The latter is defined in Article 33 of the UN Charter and encompasses all possible modes of conflict resolution; viz. negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement or other peaceful means of choice adopted by the parties to the dispute.

It is assumed that when the state is following QD, it should not stick to publicity against the other party; which is yet to be witnessed in case of the Maoists because the government has unceasingly indulged in a hate-campaign against them. The target of QD is to create atmosphere for talks, alleviating the milieu of hatred.

In that regard, both Kishenji and Chidambaram are justified in their own domains since both want the other party to stop their actions first and then come to the discussion table.

Now, the question of the hour is why did the Home Ministry turn to QD, first in case of Kashmir and thereafter the Maoists? It seems that the overabundance of criticism by the civil society against the authorities is probably telling its tale. It can also be possible that the Ministry has understood the futility of pursuing an ostentatious policy regarding domestic security.

India’s liberal outlook pertaining to International problems, age-old culture of peace and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s ‘mitigative influence’ might have softened the stance of the Home Ministry. Still, the change in policy can be merely a ‘pragmatic stance’, without any ethical fabric. The Ministry has of late probably understood that ‘trust deficit’ was widening between the rebels/insurgents and the executive.

Strategy regarding the Maoists can be comprehensible, but troop pullout from Kashmir may be seen in the light of impending Muharram (Muslim Festival). It can also be perceived from the point of Pakistan’s stance in filing First Information Report (FIR) against Hafeez Saeed, the terrorist who allegedly masterminded the 26/11 Mumbai carnage.

As such, not much should be read into the present troop decrement in Kashmir as this Government did something similar in 2004 too, though numerically speaking, the figures then were about 20,000 combatants.

Exchange Policy with Pakistan or for that matter any neighbour is fine; but only till it suits national interests. Any kowtowing under external browbeating would be intolerable. QD needs to be a coherent policy, which this author had pleaded in an earlier article in this forum itself. Applicability of QD should focus on principles, and not on parties. Inconsistency is completely uncalled for in this context. The Union Home Ministry must keep in mind one more thing while devising policies that it should have a proper coordination with the provincial governments as “Law and Order” remains a provincial subject as per the Constitutional provisions.

‘Banal Empiricism’ in framing domestic security policies would be balderdash.

30 December, 2009

Obama identifies : Af-Pak, YEMEN & guess what? Somalia

In a statement issued on Monday evening, Mr Obama also vowed to track down the plotters behind the attempted Christmas Day aeroplane bombing attack.

He said the attack was a serious reminder of the danger his nation faced.

Mr Obama said he also had ordered a thorough review of the airport screening process to determine how the alleged bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was able to fly into the United States.

Commenting on an attempt to bomb a US airliner while it was landing in Detroit, the president said he had directed his national security team to keep up the pressure on those who would attack his country. “We do not yet have all the answers about this latest attempt, but those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the United States will do more than simply strengthen our defences,” he said.

“We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the US homeland.”

Mr Obama noted that apparently the suspect in the Christmas incident was in the US security system, but not on a watch list, such as the so-called no-fly list.

“So I have ordered a thorough review, not only of how information related to the subject was handled, but of the overall watch list system and how it can be strengthened,” he said.

The second review would examine all screening policies, technologies and procedures related to air travel, he added. “We need to determine just how the suspect was able to bring dangerous explosives aboard an aircraft and what additional steps we can take to thwart future attacks.”

TTP claims Karachi bombings on the eve of Muharram : Naturally though

"My group claims responsibility for the Karachi attack and we will carry out more such attacks, within 10 days,” Asmatullah Shaheen, one of the commanders of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, who spoke by telephone to a Reuters reporter in Peshawar.

The prospect of more violence comes at a tough time for embattled President Asif Ali Zardari. He already faces political pressure because corruption charges against some of his aides may be revived.

And Zardari has yet to formulate a more effective strategy against the Pakistani Taliban, despite relentless pressure from Washington, which wants his government to root out militants who cross over to attack US and Nato-led forces in Afghanistan and then return to their Pakistan strongholds.

The scale of his challenges was clear on Monday, when a suicide bomber defied heavy security around a Shia procession, killing 43 people and triggering riots.

In a sign of mounting frustrations, Pakistani religious and political leaders called for a strike for Friday to condemn that attack, one of the worst in Karachi since 2007.

The bloodshed illustrated how the Taliban, whose strongholds are in the lawless northwest, have extended their reach to major cities in their drive to topple the government.

“The bombing itself was bad enough, but the violence that immediately erupted was also very well planned,” said Sunni scholar Mufti Muneebur Rehman, who blamed Pakistani authorities for the chaos.

“We want the government not only to compensate those killed in the attacks, but also those who lost their livelihoods, and so we are calling for a complete strike on Friday,” he said.

The Taliban campaign and their hardline brand of Islam — which involves public hangings and whippings of anyone who disobeys them — angered many Pakistanis.
But the Karachi bomb suggested growing violence has raised suspicions of Pakistan's government.

“The government is using the Taliban as an excuse for everything that is happening anywhere in the country,” said Noman Ahmed, who works for a Karachi clearing agency.

“The organised way that all this is being done clearly shows that the terrorists are being sponsored either by the government itself or some other state that wants to destabilise Pakistan.”

Security policy

Pakistan's all-powerful military sets security policy. So the key gauge of public confidence may be how the army's performance is viewed. In the 1980s, Pakistan's army nurtured militant groups who fought Soviet occupation troops in Afghanistan. The Taliban emerged in the 1990's after a civil war in Afghanistan.

Now Pakistan's army faces home-grown militants.

“I don't buy that foreign hands are involved (in the Karachi attack). They're domestic elements. They're those who were nurtured, trained and protected in late 1990s,” said Sajid Ali Naqvi, head of the influential Shias' Islami Tehrik movement.

The bombing was one of the bloodiest in Karachi since an October 2007 attack on former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on her return to the country that killed at least 139 people.

Shia leaders, as well as Karachi's dominant Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) political party, backed the strike call, which could bring the teeming city of 18 million to a standstill.

The high-profile bloodshed had all the hallmarks of the Taliban, who often bomb crowded areas to inflict maximum casualties. The blast led some Pakistanis to conclude that several hands must have been involved.

“The Taliban, or whoever is behind this, cannot do it without the support of a government,” said Shahid Mahmood, whose perfume and watch shops were torched in the riots.

“They know that Karachi is the heart of Pakistan and if it goes down, the country will go down.”

23 December, 2009

TTP distracting Pakistan & USA

Waliur Rehman told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Monday night that the Pakistani Taliban remain committed to battling the army in the South Waziristan tribal region, but they are essentially waging a guerrilla war.

Rehman is a deputy to Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, and the man in charge of the group's operations in South Waziristan.

‘Since (President Barack) Obama is also sending additional forces to Afghanistan, we sent thousands of our men there to fight Nato and American forces,’ Rehman said.

The Afghan ‘Taliban needed our help at this stage, and we are helping them.’

Col. Wayne Shanks, a US military spokesman in Afghanistan, called Rehman's comments ‘rhetoric’ that were not to be believed.

‘We have not noticed any significant movement of insurgents in the border area,’ he said.

Ishtiaq Ahmad, a professor of international relations at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, speculated the comments were just an attempt to worsen the already tense relationship between the US and Pakistan.

‘When the United States expects Pakistan to synchronise its own counterterrorism policy with the troop surge...the militants issue these statements in an attempt to create problems in this relationship,’ said Ahmad.

Either stance is nearly impossible to independently verify. Access to the tribal belt, especially conflict zones, is severely restricted. Pakistani army spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment.

Rehman spoke in a large mud-brick compound in the Shaktoi area of South Waziristan.

He looked relaxed as a he sat on a carpet surrounded by seven rifle-toting guards and Azam Tariq, a Taliban spokesman. It was apparently the first time either he or Hakimullah Mehsud had given an in-person interview to a journalist since the Pakistani military launched the ground offensive on October 17.

To meet Rehman, the AP reporter travelled to North Waziristan's town of Mir Ali and from there was taken by Taliban militants on a six-hour ride to South Waziristan in a vehicle with tinted windows.

The army sent some 30,000 troops to battle as many as 10,000 militants in South Waziristan, including hundreds of Uzbek fighters. The military estimates it has killed about 600 Taliban fighters. Rehman claimed he'd lost fewer than 20 fighters.

But many of the Pakistani Taliban militants are believed to have fled to other parts of the tribal belt, a semiautonomous stretch of rugged territory that runs along the Afghan border. Most were believed to have gone to North Waziristan, Orakzai and Kurram tribal areas.

The military has launched airstrikes in the latter two regions in recent weeks, and a full offensive might be in the works there.

Rehman, considered to be the strategic brains behind the Pakistani Taliban, said most of his fighters had reached Afghanistan and he didn't need that many insurgents to take on the military in South Waziristan.

He said Hakimullah Mehsud was ‘not far away’ and safe. Hakimullah Mehsud took over the extremist network in August after a US missile strike killed former commander Baitullah Mehsud.

Earlier this week, fliers signed by Mehsud appeared in North Waziristan warning Taliban fighters taking refuge there not to cause problems. It appeared to be an attempt to keep peace with other militants in that region — some of whom have truces with the government.

‘The claims of sending thousands of warriors into Afghanistan and the circulation of such leaflets to appease the warriors in North Waziristan are basically a reflection of increasing desperation of the Pakistani Taliban as it comes under increasing pressure from our security forces,’ said Ahmad, the international relations professor.

Rehman also said his group would stop attacking Pakistani forces if the country would sever its ties with the United States, a somewhat more moderate stance compared with his proclamation in a video he recorded before the South Waziristan operation that the group would fight until it set up an Islamic state in Pakistan.

Since October, militants have launched numerous attacks throughout Pakistan in a wave of violence that has killed more than 500 people, many of them civilians.

‘We would again become Pakistan's brother if Pakistan ends its support for America,’ he said. He claimed the Taliban only attacked security forces and disavowed any strikes on civilian targets.

Rehman urged Obama to focus on shoring up the beleaguered US economy. ‘He should know that Americans don't want war,’ Rehman said. ‘He should use this money for the welfare of his own people.’

He further claimed that Osama bin Laden was safe and alive, but that he had never met the al-Qaeda chief in person. Pakistani officials have long cast doubt on suggestions that bin Laden is hiding in the tribal belt.

‘I know he is in touch with his people and he is communicating with them to convey his instructions,’ Rehman said.

Courtesy - AP

21 December, 2009

Fluid Taliban, Rigid Military

An edited version of the following article has been published today in UPI Asia (http://www.upiasia.com/Security/2009/12/21/pakistan_army_too_rigid_to_beat_fluid_taliban/7281/)

The much awaited and much vaunted Operation Rah-i-Nijat, chose the propitious moment of October 17 to get itself launched by the Pakistani military. With the ‘not so successful’ previous operations against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) acting as apparitions in the background, the military elite must have taken a conscious decision to go about the duel against its ‘erstwhile ally’.

The military backed by the secret agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI); had to act under US pressure and also in order to curb the malicious pre-emptive attacks heaped upon by the TTP on its major cities in the form of suicide bombings.

The rugged topography, former ‘abject’ failures and the fear of loosing its stooge against the ‘childhood enemy’ India; acted as potent parameters in creating a sense of ‘uneasiness’ in the mind of the Pakistani military. But Obama’s cry against terror, albeit asymmetric; somehow propelled them to launch the ground offensive. Nay, not only launch it but continue it for the last two months.

Serious questions that come up are how the military is continuing its journey through the inhospitable terrains of South Waziristan (the southern-most agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas or FATA) and why it could not achieve this before? Furthermore, is the Taliban really being destroyed?

On Saturday December 12, the Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani proclaimed that the army had ended its offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan and was shifting focus to Orakzai. Well, does this mean that the Taliban strongholds in South Waziristan have really been demolished and the Army has a new destination?

Not quite.

Actually, the Taliban has started guerrilla warfare and are prolonging this battle. Moreover, they have scattered into other agencies of FATA and the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP). A glance at the map of the region shall lead one to understand that the Orakzai territorial agency of FATA is separated from South Waziristan by the Kurram and North Waziristan agencies. Logically speaking, the militants should have regrouped there by directly crossing through the other two provinces. Or they may have taken a circuitous route to reach Orakzai by NWFP and Punjab. The second scenario is an even more dangerous situation for the greater Pakistani landmass and the results are showing.

When Rah-i-Nijat commenced, it was said that South Waziristan was the epicentre of the TTP, and amusingly, now the focus of the military has shifted to Orakzai. In fact, incidents of violence have also been reported from other agencies like Khyber and Kurram.

So, what is the upshot of the situation?

The fact of the matter is TTP is a wily contender and has enhanced its fluidity. It is distributing itself all over Pakistan and the military shall consequently find it bothersome to achieve success in this battle.

Indubitably, this time round, the Pakistan Army has a stronger conviction to uproot the Taliban menace but the enemy ‘is not a baby’. At the same time, the civil-military combo is not excluding the option of ‘talks’ with the insurgents.

After all, they shall not altogether want to alienate their ‘erstwhile ally’, more so in the event of a possible American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Compounding the aforementioned problems is the presence of the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Muhammad Omar at Quetta (capital of the Pakistani province of Balochistan). This ‘haven’ maintains the constant supply-line to TTP in FATA and NWFP, both in terms of logistics and ideology.

The Los Angeles Times reported on December 13 that senior US officials are pushing to expand CIA drone strikes beyond FATA and into a major city in an attempt to pressure the Pakistani government to pursue Taliban leaders based in the city of Quetta. Interestingly, after much dilly-dallying, Pakistan has confirmed the existence of the alleged “Quetta-Shura Taliban” network. Moreover, they have also admitted the use of the Shamsi airbase by US for predator-drone strikes on Taliban at FATA.

Shamsi airfield, also called Bandari, is a small airfield located in Balochistan, about 320 km southwest of Quetta, near the town of Washki.

Top leaders of the TTP like Hakeemullah Mehsud and Qari Hussain et al. are still at large. Then has the military achieved anything substantial in South Waziristan? Neither Rah-i-Nijat has thwarted the suicide attacks on the urban areas : though the military claims on the contrary.

And on the same cacophonous note, Pakistan’s civil administration keeps on shifting the blames on their ‘childhood enemy’ India; which means that ‘real success’ against the TTP and other ‘lumpen elements’ is hard to come by.

There are reports of Taliban-elements sneaking into India to commit many more 26/11s. Is this the extended arm of the TTP-Al Qaeda duo acting on its own or ISI has re-activated its machinery? And there has been the biggest bank robbery in the history of Pakistan in Karachi on December 13. Is the bank robbery in any way related to TTP?

Well, working out a coefficient of correlation may not turn out to be a formidable exercise.

04 December, 2009

A Ball of Fire in the Indo-China Border

An edited version of the following piece appeared today in UPI Asia (http://www.upiasia.com/Security/2009/12/04/a_fireball_on_the_indo-china_border/3880/)

In Astronomy, unraveling mysteries of the universe is a Sisyphean job; and taking up the task of unfolding the enigma of a Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) can be gargantuan. A GRB, inter alia, is a manifestation of immense luminosity: carrying energies unfathomable and indescribable on paper. And among many exotic theorizations, a ‘Fireball’ has been modeled to be the progenitor of a GRB.

One might wonder, information apart, about the correlation of the above anecdote with politics or security issues on Earth.

The Indian Army, always chastised to be acting in subservience to civil machinery, underwent an exercise code named ‘Fireball’ near Changu (Tsomgo) Lake in the North-Eastern state of Sikkim on Friday, November 27. The mock targets were hit by precision and with heavy fire power of artillery and infantry weapons.

The capabilities of modern machines of conventional warfare like the Bofors guns were openly brandished.
Surviving kick-back controversies since 1980s, the Bofors gun has given India ‘an edge’ over the adversary on the Line of Control (LoC) and has helped the nation-state to win ‘artillery duels’ in the War over Kargil (Kashmir) against arch-rival Pakistan in 1999.

The FH-77 Bofors guns were considerably better than the medium artillery guns available with the then Pakistani Army.
The gun is capable of firing 3 rounds in 12 seconds. After Kargil, they proved their mettle during ‘Operation Parakram’ in 2001 against Pakistan when they could fire 80-90 rounds per day causing immense damage to enemy posts and morale.

After the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, ‘Operation Parakram’ was launched in which tens of thousands of Indian troops were deployed along the Indo-Pakistan border since India blamed Pakistan for supporting the terror-mechanism.

Today, the Bofors guns have been deployed at altitudes ranging between 10-13,000 feet and may aid the Indian troops to achieve “total dominance” over the enemy in the unfavorable terrain.

Interestingly, these guns have a Mercedes Benz engine in them and are able to move short distances on their own. This capability helps to avoid enemy counter fire.

In the aforementioned “Operation Fireball”, agile ‘Cheetah’ (meaning leopard) helicopters were also displayed. They are the indigenous version of the French ‘Aerospatiale Lama SA 315’ helicopters. ‘Cheetah’ is a lightweight high performance helicopter, specially designed for operations over a wide range of weight and altitude conditions. It is powered by the tried and trusted. Artouste-IIIB engine, manufactured in India, but under license from ‘Turbomeca’ of France. The Cheetah also incorporates the latest technologies like an automatic starting system whereby facilitating a start and take-off in less than a minute. Being highly maneuverable, it can carry external cargo up to 1 Mega Tonnes (MT). The Cheetah also excels in observation, surveillance, and logistics support and rescue operations. It comfortably seats five and can also operate in unfavorable environmental conditions.

The Speaker of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly congratulated the army personnel who demonstrated the “Fireball” exhibition and encouraged the young people present there to join the Indian Army.

The Indian government as well as the army may downplay this event by terming it as an annual one, but two things evolve out of a critical analysis of this military exercise. One, the timing of this event and secondly, the territorial location.

It cannot be purely coincidental that the event was arranged at a period when Sino-Indian border relations are not exactly smooth and China has been unceasingly using a ‘blunt rhetoric’ against India. At one time China even ‘reminded’ India of the consequences of their ‘interactions’ in 1962.

It is high time India sheds the ‘pacifist tag’ in a realist world podium. If it has to showcase its prowess in Asia, crossing the boundaries of the sub-continent; then it definitely needs to exhibit the ‘conventional firepower’ since a nuclear option is beyond feasibility. The stance of Non-Alignment and disarmament were not only ethical but also practical necessities on an ideological plane in the post second world war era. But ideological maxims do change and India strategically should embark on a ‘paradigm change in foreign policy’: which has to be beyond illusions.

The Chinese ‘hard-talks’ and Obama’s recent most visit to Beijing not auguring especially well for the Indians since the American President was envisioning a ‘larger role for China’ in South Asia. And this must have shaken the Indian diplomacy from slumber.
Hence the army chose the serene locales of the glacial Tsomgo Lake in Sikkim, at an altitude of 3,780 m (12,400 ft). Sikkim has a chequered history in Sino-Indian relations as China took about 28 years to recognise it as a part of India; that too in 2003. This was construed as a significant overture on China’s part and a considerable alleviation of border tensions.

But it seems that China is ‘flexing its muscles’ as the Asian Hegemon, more so in consonance with the commemoration of its 60 years of ‘Communism’. On the other hand, India too has crossed 60 years of democracy and should show the other side its firepower and wherewithal to counteract any moves of authoritarianism in the region.

Sanity should prevail in South Asia and Asia at large and both these countries have immediate responsibilities towards that direction. But it does not mean that a country of 1 billion people should act in a servile manner. In that regard, “Operation Fireball” has sent apropos messages across the border. How long shall this country be draped in the attires of Budhha and Gandhi and consciously deny the ‘masculinity’ of its populace?

01 December, 2009

Karzai's Loya Jirga and Obama's Afghan Job


There are speculations that Afghanistan’s embattled President Hamid Karzai may convene a Loya Jirga before parliamentary elections in June. He had announced plans for such a Grand Council in his inauguration speech, delineating it as a measure to promote peace.

If one goes by juridical sense, then the “Loya Jirga”, as described in Article 110 (Chapter six) of the Afghan Constitution; “is the highest manifestation of the people of Afghanistan.” It comprises the members of the National Assembly and Chairpersons of the provincial and district councils. The ministers, Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court may also participate in the sessions, but without the right to vote.

Interestingly, in accordance with Article 111 of the Afghan Constitution, the Loya Jirga is called upon to take decision on the issues related to independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and supreme interests of the country. It can also be convened in order to amend the Constitution or to prosecute the President as per the provisions of Article 69.

On an expected note of anticlimax though, Hamid Elmi, a spokesman for Karzai, said: “the assembly envisioned by the president would not be the ‘Constitutional Loya Jirga’ described formally under Afghan law but a ‘Traditional Loya Jirga,’ which could have a different make-up of notables.”

According to him, “The notables are not coming to talk about the cabinet and the administration. They are coming to bring security and peace.”

On Saturday (November 21), he said that “a decision on the participants would be in abeyance until a date is determined. The onset of winter makes it difficult to hold the Jirga soon, but the President would like to hold it before parliamentary elections in June.”

The spokesman further added that the government was considering the option of even calling the militants to participate.

In fact, just after being declared the President of Afghanistan for the second consecutive period, Karzai had rather amusingly offered a peace deal to his ‘Taliban brothers’. Was he acting on America’s behest?

It is an open secret that USA, as per the recommendations of General Stanley McChrystal (Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan); is trying to usher in an atmosphere of ‘assurance’ for the ordinary Afghan populace. Whether talking to the Taliban is a part of that agenda or not is still shrouded in mystery.

However, the legit question in this scenario is whether the Taliban would accede to the call of Karzai, whose government is encumbered with umpteen charges of corruption? An ablution of the present political dispensation is first necessary before Karzai could seek the assistance of all disparate forces in the country.

Furthermore, shall the core Taliban and Al Qaeda ever mellow down to the level of ‘talks’ with a government which is viewed as a handiwork of the Western powers?

Now on November 24, ending his ambivalence, President Obama has hinted at an escalation of American troops in Afghanistan, finally agreeing to the request of McChrystal. So, will the milieu in the immediate future be conducive enough for talks? And if a ‘Jirga’ indeed takes place, then will the militants ever be a party to it?

To make the political atmosphere rancorous; in a stern message on November 24, the one-eyed Taliban cleric Mullah Muhammad Omar ruled out any sort of negotiations with the ‘puppet administration’ of Hamid Karzai.

Hence skepticism prevails in the political circles of Afghanistan regarding the feasibility and consequent efficacy of the so-called “Loya Jirga”. This can also be deciphered from the language of Dr Abdullah, the closest competitor of Karzai, when he says: “formal Loya Jirga described in the constitution could not yet be held because the district officials who would attend it have not yet been elected. Karzai would have to spell out the aims if he wants support.”

Abdullah utters, “what’s the purpose of that Loya Jirga? What will be achieved in that Loya Jirga? These are big questions.”

Thus, it is crystal clear that if Karzai wants to muster support from all quarters so as to survive his entire term, then he first needs to behave as a martinet himself. Only

thereafter, he can suggest behavioral lessons to others. Obama and the US administration would surely keep a strict vigil on him.

And with the American President’s recent proclamation to ‘finish the Afghan job’, Karzai would have to answer probing questions of his countrymen: civilians and militants alike; regarding the future American role in their homeland.

Karzai’s call for the Loya Jirga can be interpreted as not only a mere rhetoric but also a step to hold onto the straw provided by the election victory. Well, it may also have an ethereal connection with Obama’s ‘Afghan job’.

25 November, 2009

Re : IDPs of South Waziristan

I received the following comment/criticism for my article on South Wazirstan from Prof Kunal Ghosh of IIT Kanpur. I attach both his comments & my reply.

The IDPs of South Waziristan
Posted by: "Prof. Kunal Ghosh" kunal@iitk.ac.in lanukg
Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:52 am (PST)
This article by Uddipan Mukherji gives a comprehensive picture of the on
going operation in South Waziristan and its fall out, namely the
deplorable condition of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). However,
in his analysis on why the populace is supporting terrorism, he uses the
same hackneyed so-called secular concepts and contradicts himself. He

"Being one of the most impoverished regions of Pakistan, FATA has become
the breeding ground of Taliban militancy. Lack of participatory governance
and abysmally low socioeconomic indicators are primary factors fostering
a milieu of terrorism. Quite expectedly, the terrorism generated in this
region by the Al Qaeda and Taliban has menacingly scattered into the
Pakistani heartland."

Lack of governance and grinding poverty set the context and are important
factors. But they are not the determinant factors. Poverty does not always
lead to terrorism. An ideological input is necessary. What are the
terrorist master minds promising the population? By taking up arms against
the Americans in Afghanistan and the army of Pakistan, would they acquire
wealth and welfare here and now? No, the promise is a birth in heaven.
Wahhabi-Deobandi madrasahs in thier hundreds are enlisting sons of very
impoverished people by promising them free board and education. The
finance comes from Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. These young boys are
indoctrinated in a truncated version of Islam which abhors Sufi
spiritualism or Tariqa, whereas Tariqa has always been an important
pillar of traditional Sunni Islam from the times of Prophet Mohammad.

Mukherji contradicts hinself when he says " Quite expectedly, the
terrorism generated in this region by the Al Qaeda and Taliban has
menacingly scattered into the Pakistani heartland." Why should terrorism
spread so easily into better governed and not-so-impoverished Pakistani

The world must confront this Wahhabi fanaticism squarely like it did
Nazism in the past. Otherwise this version of fanatic Islam would take
over all the Muslim countries one by one. It has already taken over Aceh
porvince of Indonesia which is actually a relatively prosperous region,
bacause many of the sons of Aceh have been working in Saudi Arabia. The
rest of Indonesia is hearing the sounds of the alarm bell. But the world
leaders are lulled into complacency by the piped music coming out of Saudi
Arabia, like the Prime Minister of UK before Churchill, Neville
Chamberlain, whose nerves were soothed by the vague Anglophile utterances
of Nazi supremo Adolf Hitler.

Kunal Ghosh
My Reply :

Dear Prof Ghosh,

Thanks for your erudite comments.

But I have reservations regarding the word "hackneyed".

I guess we are again at the ideological crossroads of Hegelian and Marxian philosophies. Whether "idea" or "material condition" is the basis of the Universe, remains a persistent matter of debate.

There is no gainsaying the fact that Al Qaeda-Taliban combo despise "dar-ul-harb" and vow to achieve "dar-ul-Islam" : historical legacy of which could be traced back to Abdul Wahab of Arabia (1703-87) and the Delhi saint Shah Waliullah (1702-62).

Further, I would like to point out the following (from your comments):

"What are the terrorist master minds promising the population?
By taking up arms against the Americans in Afghanistan and the army of Pakistan, would they acquire wealth and welfare here and now?
No, the promise is a birth in heaven.
Wahhabi-Deobandi madrasahs in thier hundreds are enlisting sons of very
impoverished people by promising them free board and education. "

So, Sir, I guess you also agree that ultimately the "impoverished lot" has to be given some concrete material benefits in this 'life', apart from the promise of '70 virgins' in 'jannat'.

Moreover, isn't/didn't the Maoist rebellion in India or say Nepal or for that matter in China & Vietnam feeding/fed on the disgruntlement of the population; viz. lack of development, unemployment & others ? Though these insurrections are/were based on strict doctrinal concepts.

Doctrines/Principles are fine, but the cadre-base has to remain powerful : and that can be assured through poverty (emphasis added).

Now coming back to the phrase "Quite expectedly" which I had used in the article, I would like to clarify the meaning.
1.) I meant that any insurgency needs spatial extension and wants to spread its bastions elsewhere; lest it looses its sheen.
2.) TTP wanted to terrorise major cities of Pakistan in order to thwart the "Operation Rah-i-Nijat".
3.) Some areas of Punjab, NWFP & Balochistan provinces in Pakistan are fecund "growthlands" of Taliban et al. But they are pockets of administrative negligence & poverty.

Undoubtedly, a Laden or a Hakeemullah or for that matter a Jinnah may foment mobocracy through their demagogy, but sustenance can occur only through an assured supply of mass base; the reasons of which are somewhere else to search.

Down the lane, the "state actors" are to an extent responsible for the "non-state actor-led" insurgency.

thanking you
Yours truly
Dr Uddipan Mukherjee

PS : Why has Saudi Arabia itself not been the breeding ground for terrorists? I mean, why is terrorism conspicuously absent from Saudi heartland ? Finance is agreeable, even McChrystal specifies it in his report. Regarding Banda Aceh, I am not an avid watcher of that area, but I don't think Aceh can be compared to Af-Pak. Sporadic incidents cannot be compared to sustained terrorism. For that matter, Mumbai, Banglaore also have faced terror events.

19 November, 2009

The IDPs of South Waziristan

The following article of mine was published in News Central Asia on 21st November, 2009 (http://www.newscentralasia.net/Articles-and-Reports/480.html)

The Operation Rah-i-Nijat has completed its first month. The battle seems to be long drawn as the Pakistani Taliban has declared to engage the military in guerrilla warfare. Furthermore, the battle is not only being fought in the core tribal areas but also in the mainland with important cities like Lahore, Peshawar and Rawalpindi facing suicide attacks almost daily.

“We have not been defeated. We have voluntarily withdrawn into the mountains under a strategy that will trap the Pakistan army in the area”. This was what the Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq told journalists on November 18.

But another issue of concern in this belligerent atmosphere is the condition of the displaced tribal population that is leading despicable lives in temporary camps.

Apart from its four provinces of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Punjab, Sind and Balochistan; Pakistan also houses the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) bordering Afghanistan in the west. From north to south, FATA is composed of the seven agencies of Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan. The President of Pakistan through the governor of the NWFP directly administers FATA.

Each agency of FATA has a particular tribe dominating its demography. Just to the east of FATA, there are six ‘Frontier Regions’, which are also administered by the governor of NWFP but has popular representatives. The Frontier Regions of Dera Ismail Khan and Tank are contiguous to the South Waziristan agency.

Being one of the most impoverished regions of Pakistan, FATA has become the breeding ground of Taliban militancy. Lack of participatory governance and abysmally low socioeconomic indicators are primary factors fostering a milieu of terrorism. Quite expectedly, the terrorism generated in this region by the Al Qaeda and Taliban has menacingly scattered into the Pakistani heartland.

South Waziristan is the epicentre of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the group responsible for the recent wave of terror attacks in the Pakistani mainland. Hence the Pakistan army launched the much-awaited ground offensive on October 17 in order to decimate the Mehsud and Uzbek strongholds in the region.

In this ongoing counterinsurgency battle, the collateral damage has been huge. The residents of South Waziristan in particular and FATA in general have been displaced.

Conditions are worse for the Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) from North and South Waziristan as the military has restricted the establishment of camps for them on the rationale that they would offer jihadi groups pools of easy recruits. Furthermore, the NWFP administration identifies and registers members of the Mehsud tribe, and requires them to be accommodated in private homes. The ‘host families’ have to assume legal responsibility for them. This is done to keep a strict vigil on the potential militants. Host families frequently face harassment by the security agencies, including the military, paramilitary and police.

The military is also restricting access to national and international humanitarian and development agencies in Dera Ismail Khan, where most of the Waziristan IDPs are located. Moreover, quack doctors often dispense medical care in homes and makeshift camps because there is a dearth of health practitioners in the region.

According to the Pakistani news agency Dawn, Martin Mogwanja, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, along with Dominique Frankefort, Deputy Country Director of World Food Programme (WFP) said in Islamabad on November 5 : “All those who are involved in military operation in one way or the other should ensure human safety and security to aid organizations to reach out to affected population.” He said that more than 46,000 families (about 330,000 people) had now been registered in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank as IDPs. Out of these, about 22,600 families had so far been verified, he added. He further informed that the re-screening of IDPs in Katcha Garhi and Jalozai Camps in Peshawar and Nowshera respectively had shown that only about two-thirds of the registered camp population was actually living inside the camp. The rest, were living elsewhere or had left without notifying the camp authorities.

The Chairman of the Special Support Group, Lt. Gen Nadeem Ahmad has said that the Pakistan Army is taking steps to make the process of registration of the IDPs of South Waziristan transparent.

In Dera Ismail Khan and Tank, around 125,000 IDPs from South Waziristan have been provided with 4,000 tonnes of food. Presently, the total requirement of the Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan is US $680 million and UN funds 70.5 per cent of that corpus.

Lack of potable drinking water, education and health facilities and hard cash are significant issues, which need to be catered. Mobile Hospitals of Pak-Army could be used. Another programme is the disbursement of ATM cards in order to provide an alternative to hard cash.

The pertinent question in this scenario is to what extent the army is prepared for the kind of protracted guerrilla warfare in South Waziristan that the Taliban has vowed to continue? And if the battle goes on for a long period of time, what would be the fate of the IDPs? Keeping in mind that winter is fast approaching, the plight of the IDPs is likely to surge. Moreover, how the ‘Mehsud tribesmen’ shall be differentiated from the ‘Mehsud militants’?

With all these questions lurking in the background, the present situation in South Waziristan and its associated Frontier Regions present a bleak picture. The situation might snowball and the ‘innocuous’ Mehsud tribesmen might be drawn into the folds of the Taliban due to the discrimination faced at the IDP camps. Pakistan has to embark on the counterinsurgency operations in a careful manner so as not to alienate the tribal populace. Pakistan cannot afford to do so as further chasm shall endanger the already vulnerable towns and cities of the mainland.

18 November, 2009

Too Much for India !

Punjab’s chief minister Shahbaz Sharif on Wednesday said India is involved in disrupting peace in Balochistan and Waziristan and that there is evidence available in this regard.

Speaking at a news conference in Quetta, he said India is trying to defame Pakistan on an international level by claiming its interference in its internal affairs and support to terrorism.

He, however, urged that there is a need for mutual understanding between the two countries to ensure peace in the region.

10 November, 2009

The Last Lifeline for Karzai

This article of mine was published in News Central Asia on 09th November. (http://www.newscentralasia.net/Articles-and-Reports/473.html)

The long and arduous process of electing (or selecting?) the President of Afghanistan that began on 20 Aug, finally came to an uneasy end on 1 Nov, when the formidable candidate Dr Abdullah Abdullah quit the run-off elections.

He expressed his dissatisfaction at the ‘election procedure’ and the ‘associated fraud’. Hence, on 2 Nov, the incumbent Hamid Karzai was declared president for another five year term by Azizullah Ludin, the chief officer of the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

Interestingly, Karzai himself appointed Ludin to the office and Abdullah had raised vehement objections regarding the ‘biased attitude’ of Ludin. In fact, it was a major issue on which Abdullah relinquished his candidature.

The Afghan law does not allow the third candidate in the fray to contest the run-off when the second bows out. Thus, the rules prevented Bashardost from posing any challenge to Karzai.

But all is not well for Karzai. It may be ‘joie de vivre’ for him for the time being, but President Obama has clearly warned him to work against the rampant corruption and opium trade that have encouraged the resurgence of the Taliban. Already, General McChrystal has categorically stated in his report that drug trade is one of the chief financial support mechanisms for the Taliban.

Hence, Karzai has vowed to have a head-on collision with corruption. In a press conference, flanked by Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim, Karzai said, “Afghanistan's image has been tainted by corruption. Our government's image has been tainted by corruption. We will strive, by any means possible, to eradicate this stain.”

Ironically, even Vice-President Fahim is charged with malfeasance. Karzai doesn’t have an easy path ahead of him.

The US administration wants Mr. Karzai and the Afghan government to put into effect an ‘anticorruption commission’ in order to establish strict accountability for government officials at the national and provincial levels.

In addition, some American officials and their European counterparts would like to see at least a few arrests. The international community’s wish list of potential detainees includes Mr. Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai. He is a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade. Another player in the same league is General Abdul Rashid Dostum, accused of involvement in the killings of thousands of Taliban prisoners of war early in the Afghan conflict. Furthermore, Fahim is on the wish list too.

Just after the declaration of the IEC, the fifty-one year-old Karzai, quite paradoxically, urged his Taliban ‘brothers’ ‘to come home and embrace their land’. What type of strategy is he following? Is he calling upon the souls of the patriotic Talibans to undo this quagmire?

The fitting question in this regard is: will the Taliban or for that matter ordinary Afghans pay heed to Karzai’s appeal? Keeping in mind the kind of maladministration that his government has rendered for the last five years, the scenario seems bleak. Moreover, the recent revelations of the unholy connections of Karzai’s brother with the CIA have made the situation in Afghanistan more cumbrous.

Some analysts have said that there was immense pressure on Abdullah to quit, as Karzai was the only choice of USA. But that might not have been the case as some reports do suggest that the Obama administration, in its early days tried its best to search for another ‘pliable’ alternative to Karzai. They did not succeed in that endeavour though. In a more probable scenario, Abdullah might have understood that even if a ‘semblance’ of an election took place, it would have been difficult for him to defeat Karzai. More so, when the voter turnout remains a contentious issue amidst Taliban threats.

By now, it is an established fact that the ‘lack of governance’ in Afghanistan has been a major plank for the Taliban re-emergence. Thus Karzai has to plug in the loopholes. Moreover, a politically stable Afghanistan is a pre-requisite for the phased withdrawal of the NATO-led forces. Also, to thwart the Taliban, revival of democratic and judicial structures is of utmost necessity.

Another ‘friendly government’ for five more years and Obama has obtained the verdant field to send his troops. Enhancement of American troops in Afghanistan as per the request of McChrystal is now almost unavoidable. Actually, White House is following a ‘wait and watch policy’. It is keeping a sharp eye on the Pakistani operations in South Waziristan. And it would also keenly watch if Karzai lives up to his promises to combat corruption. The success of both Pakistan and Karzai, even to a partial degree, would set the stage for an American onslaught in Afghanistan.

In the meantime, Karzai needs to pounce upon this opportunity. If he can create conducive political atmosphere for the ordinary Afghans, cut down on the illegal opium trade and most importantly restore the confidence of the ordinary masses in the democratic governance; a new sunshine may occur in the war torn country. Needless to mention, this opportunity is Karzai’s last one.

TTP vows a 'protracted war'

Reuters Reports from PESHAWAR :

Pakistani Taliban have started a guerrilla war against the army and will wage a tough, protracted fight in the insurgents' South Waziristan stronghold, a Taliban spokesman said on Tuesday.

The army went on the offensive in South Waziristan, a lawless ethnic Pashtun region on the Afghan border, on October 17, aiming to root out Pakistani Taliban militants behind a wave of violence in urban areas.

The offensive is closely watched by the United States and other powers embroiled in Afghanistan, as South Waziristan's rugged landscape of barren mountains, patchy forest and hidden ravines has become a global centre of militancy.

Soldiers have been advancing into the militant heartland from three directions, have captured a string of important bases and entered the Taliban headquarters in the town of Makeen, the army said.

But Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq played down the militants' losses.

‘They are capturing roads while our people are still operating in the forests and mountains,’ Tariq told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

‘We have started guerrilla war against the Pakistani army. We've carried out several actions against the army and inflicted heavy losses on them,’ he said.

According to army figures, 486 militants have been killed since the offensive began while 48 soldiers have died.

There has been no independent verification of casualties as reporters and other independent observers are not allowed into the war zone except on an occasional trip with the military.

The violence has unsettled trade on Pakistan's stock market and the main index was 1.07 per cent lower at 8,840.58 at 0752 GMT in thin trade.

Tariq vowed a long, tough fight.

‘They thought they would capture Waziristan easily but the fight in Waziristan will be tougher than in Kashmir,’ he said.

Indian security forces have been battling separatist guerrillas in the disputed Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir since 1989. Tens of thousands of people have been killed.

The militants have stepped up attacks in town and cities since the offensive was launched, killing several hundred people.

Asked about the attacks, most carried out by suicide bombers, Tariq said: ‘Whoever harms our movement will be given a lesson.’

The government says Tariq's real name is Raees Khan Mehsud and has offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to his capture ‘dead or alive’.

It has offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to the capture, dead or alive, of 19 top Pakistani Taliban members, including Tariq and leader Hakimullah Mehsud.

06 November, 2009

Pak troops enter Makin in South Waziristan


01 November, 2009

To Arundhati Roy

It needs to be clarified right at the very outset that the present piece is neither an outright remonstrance against Arundhati Roy’s essay ‘Mr. Chidambaram’s War' nor a panegyric of Mr. Chidambaram’s policies regarding the ‘Maoists’.

Rather, what I fail to comprehend is the manner in which Roy embarks on a ‘reprimanding spree’. That obviously does not exonerate the Home Ministry of its rhetoric, policies and actions which keep on fluctuating in an asymmetric fashion.

It is an undeniable fact that the mainstream media, government and even the think-tanks are to a large extent alienated from the movement that has been launched in tribal India by the followers of Mao Zedong; morally and sometimes financially and physically abetted by the urban intelligentsia. ‘Alienation’ does not mean in terms of information, dossiers or papers, but in terms of understanding the ‘root cause’ of the armed insurrection. In that direction, Roy has hit the bull’s eye.

But Roy also flounders at the very beginning when she says :

“Perhaps the Kondh are supposed to be grateful that their Niyamgiri hill, home to Niyam Raja, their ‘god of universal law’, has been sold to a company with a name like Vedanta (the branch of Hindu philosophy that teaches the Ultimate Nature of Knowledge)”.

‘Has been sold’ is a phrase which is completely ‘out of phase’ with reality. In fact, throughout her article she has used such phrases which bolster paranoia. Is she trying to mock at the age-old Hindu Philosophies pertaining to the Vedas or just castigating Chidambaram? Not clear at all.

Roy vociferously proclaims : “Of course, the Maoists are by no means the only ones rebelling. There is a whole spectrum of struggles all over the country that people are engaged in — the landless, the Dalits, the homeless, workers, peasants, weavers.”

Hereby, she is exaggerating the internal security threat to the country and undermining our success as a democracy.

Moreover, is she eulogizing these movements? In the first place, she needs to appreciate the vastness of India, not only in the sense of territoriality but also in terms ethnicity, religion and caste. By no means are struggle of the landless, Dalits, peasants and workers novel. They had been documented since the days of the Raj and continue to spark the headlines even today. It is the sheer efficacy of democracy that such incidents get reported more often today and hence debated and thus sometimes acted upon.

That in independent India, we get the opportunity to discuss, debate and criticize; in itself is a pointer towards free democracy. Every system has its bottlenecks and India is no exception. And this is the fact which Arundhati Roy probably fails to understand or may be deliberately evades.

To quote her; “They’re pitted against a juggernaut of injustices, including policies that allow a wholesale corporate takeover of people’s land and resources”.

This is sheer hyperbole. There is no gainsaying the fact that at times, the policy-makers and the executive have treated the tribal populace with disdain. There is also no denial that post-1991, Indian economy has proceeded towards the LPG (Liberalisation Privatization and Globalisation) policy and on occasions almost without paying any heed to the repercussions on the rural demography. Nevertheless, the scenario is surely not as bleak as Roy portrays it to be.

Statements like “wholesale corporate takeover of people’s land and resources” and “the women raped as a matter of right by police and forest department personnel” are horrendous.

The usurpation of farm and forest lands on which the livelihood of millions depends has indeed fomented movements, both of the non-violent and violent genres. Starting from Naxalbari in 1967 to the recent events at Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal can be cited as viable case studies. There has been corruption and thoughtless imposition of industrialization from above. But then people have spoken and acted against these ‘State malfunctions’.

Furthermore Roy laments : “Right now in central India, the Maoists’ guerrilla army is made up almost entirely of desperately poor tribal people living in conditions of such chronic hunger that it verges on famine of the kind we only associate with sub-Saharan Africa”.

This is another exaggeration to its limit. Roy should present proper data in order to corroborate her assertions. True, there is poverty, hunger and malnutrition in India, even after six decades of independence. Officially speaking, about one-third of the total population of the nation is ‘under the poverty line’ whereas probably another major chunk is fighting to survive. But that does not necessarily make India comparable to sub-Saharan Africa ! If that had indeed been the case, then India would not have sent the Chandrayaan to space or exported its software knowledge to that continent.

And Roy continues, “They are people who, even after 60 years of India’s so-called independence, have not had access to education, healthcare or legal redress.”

First, let us harp on the concept of the ‘so-called independence’ of India. This phrase has reverberated through decades, starting from the ranting by the Communist Party of India right after 1947. But the sheer ambivalence of the Party regarding the definition of the term has manifested with time. To rebuke the government for its failures in order to usher in change and better governance is a welcome step, but not at the cost of jeopardizing ‘National Sentiments’. Roy should realize that casting aspersions in a blatant manner on the Indian government in international media generally boomerangs on oneself. Populism at national cost is unacceptable.

On the other hand, it needs to be remembered that the Indian authorities have vacillated to an uncanny degree in combating the Maoists and faltered in their analysis in distilling the tribal elements from the ‘ruffians’. Hence further alienation with the ‘grass-roots’ has occurred with time.

One fails to gauge why Roy is not joining the ranks of the Maoists when we come across the line; “Their journey back to a semblance of dignity is due in large part to the Maoist cadre who have lived and worked and fought by their side for decades.”

Arundhati Roy fails to mention, inter alia, about the Right to Information Act (2005) or the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) which have made independent India proud. On most occasions, she looks at the other side of the coin. She goes for excessive ‘demonisation’ of the government and puts forward wrong data through the argument; “To get the bauxite out of the flat-topped hills, to get iron ore out from under the forest floor, to get 85 per cent of India’s people off their land and into the cities”. It is well known that about 67 per cent of Indians live in the countryside, and not 85 per cent as Roy comments.

One thing is crystal clear though. She is definitely against Operation Green Hunt. She advocates talks with the Maoists. But she does not bring out the negative fallouts of an armed rebellion. What are the solutions offered by Roy? Apart from talks with the Maoists, she does not offer any further clue. I guess Roy is vehemently trying to dissuade the government not to subscribe to Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarianism or fall into the trap of Neo-Liberalism.

A few words of caution are probably the fallout of this autopsy. The administration needs to reorient its thoughts and be more pro-people. To do so, it shall require overhauling of the machinery at some level and repairing at other levels. Nonetheless, intelligentsia too needs to put a restraint on their verbosity. It would not only be mutually beneficial, but also a catalyst for democracy and for the development of the ‘tribals’ on the whole.

31 October, 2009

Whose War is this ?

I differ with Arundhati Roy.


30 October, 2009

Red Faces The Redder and The Other

Go through this link :


:::The CPI(M) is planning to fight it out against a serious onslaught. But isn't it too late ? The 'young guns' are talking of "Che",,,are they serious ? I guess they know "Che's" beliefs and thoughts ? :::

Netaji Versus Panditji

You may read this article by Ramachandra Guha. It appeared in Telegraph. I would soon go for some dissection.


Hillary Clinton Faces The Wrath

Dawn Reports on 30th October, 2009 :

ISLAMABAD: US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came face-to-face Friday with Pakistani anger over US aerial drone attacks in tribal areas along the Afghan border, a strategy that US officials say has succeeded in killing key terrorist leaders.

In a series of public appearances on the final day of a three-day visit marked by blunt talk, Clinton refused to discuss the subject, which involves highly classified CIA operations. She would say only that 'there is a war going on,' and the Obama administration is committed to helping Pakistan defeat the insurgents and terrorists who threaten the stability of a nuclear-armed nation.

Clinton said she could not comment on 'any particular tactic or technology' used in the war against extremist groups in the area.

The use of Predator drone aircraft, armed with guided missiles, is credited by US officials with eliminating a growing number of senior terrorist group leaders this year who had used the tribal lands of Pakistan as a haven beyond the reach of US ground forces in Afghanistan.

During an interview broadcast live in Pakistan with several prominent female TV anchors, before a predominantly female audience of several hundred, one member of the audience said the Predator attacks amount to 'executions without trial' for those killed.

29 October, 2009

Good Men or Madcaps ??

No Sorry business. I could not communicate (through the blog) to the 'world', at least to my friends and well-wishers for the last couple of days. I am really unaware if the world has progressed (or regressed) in the last forty-eight hours. Pakistan is bleeding under its own past deeds and India is reeling under the colourful banner of 'vermilion'. May be Obama is deeply thinking in the White House about Afghanistan, Iran, Honduras and how to make his Nobel 'compatible' with his future policies.

The "post-colonial" society has probably veered towards psychosomatic disorders or may be I am being cynical. The situation is such that we don't really expect to hear about, far unrealistically expect to 'meet'; men (read women too : "Sijda" to the feminists) of wisdom who shower 'wisdom' for free.

Nonetheless, 'madcaps' still do exist. And Kolkata has been a city (read an 'urban disaster') to have produced many such 'madcaps'; most of them passing into oblivion and only some of them making to the pages of documentation.

One among those 'few' madcaps is P.K. Banerjee : the legendary soccer player who represented his nation at the highest level. And today was he babbling stentorianly. Walked across one of the uneven meadows of our conurbation, albeit invited but not quite expected to arrive without being offered pecuniary benefits.

But there he was, inspiring the youth with all his wisdom and experience. A Septuagenarian, even the youth could not fathom the man, terming him a 'madcap'.

Surely, the society has veered.

26 October, 2009

Laugh Riot

Do you want to Laugh ? And don't find enough reasons for laughing ? Then here's one :::

"Pakistan has blamed India to have financed the Taliban to create unrest in its territory"


Rasmussen Speaks

Day two of NATO’s Defense Ministers’ meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia, continued on October 23, with NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and ISAF commander U.S. General Stanley McChrystal all urging stronger support for the war in Afghanistan.

24 October, 2009

Operation Rah-i-Nijat

Can have a look at this article of mine : http://www.boloji.com/opinion/0784.html

23 October, 2009

Food for thought !

French Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie says documents related to a bombing in Pakistan that killed 11 French engineers in 2002 have been declassified.

Two investigating judges asked for 40 documents to be declassified amid suspicion the attack was linked to shady defense deals, not a terrorist plot.

Alliot-Marie said Wednesday that France’s defense minister had declassified the documents and that ‘all hypotheses (on the bombing) are being studied.’

While French investigating judges long suspected al-Qaida-linked terrorists, the judges have said they are studying possible links to bribes connected to a Pakistan-France submarine deal.

The May 2002 bombing in Karachi killed 14 people, 11 of them French employees of a naval construction firm. — AP

22 October, 2009

India is really eyeing Central Asia, but ignore Russia at your own peril

External Affairs Minister Shri S. M. Krishna will lead a delegation to Moscow from October 20-22, 2009 for the 15th session of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC).

The 14th session of the IRIGC was held in New Delhi on December 3, 2008.

This will be Shri Krishna’s first visit to Russia since he took office as EAM and he will call on the President of the Russian Federation H.E. Mr. Dmitry Medvedev. He will also hold bilateral discussions with his Russian counterpart H.E. Mr. Sergei Lavrov.

Thereafter, EAM will visit Tashkent on October 22 – 23, 2009 at the invitation of H.E. Mr Vladimir Norov, Foreign Minister of Republic of Uzbekistan. During the visit, EAM will call on H.E. Mr Islam Karimov, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. He will hold talks with his counterpart H.E. Mr. Vladimir Norov, on bilateral, regional and global issues of importance. External Affairs Minister will also pay his respects at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial and inaugurate the India Centre at Al Beruni Institute of Oriental Studies. Besides, EAM will attend a reception hosted by the Indian Ambassador for the Indian community.

(Courtesy : MEA)

Last month, when our President paid a visit to Tajikistan, she first visited Russia. India definitely understands the importance of Russia in Central Asia and just cannot bypass it. At the same time, India needs the Gas rich Central Asia for its power starved citizenry and infrastructure.

Well, one might cite the instance of Turkmenistan when our External Affairs Minister visited it on 18th September 2009 without paying any state visit to Russia. But Turkmenistan was staying in political isolation under Saparmurat Niyazov and EAM had to visit Russia this time around anyhow !

Pakistan's Interior Minister goes Exterior

Rehman Mailk speaks out : "We have solid evidence that not only in Balochistan but India is involved in almost every terrorist activity in Pakistan,’ the minister said after attending a meeting on security of educational institutions."

He said : "Mr Chadambharam should first take care of his own country and then blame Pakistan. Don’t threaten us. We can give better ones to you."

He further said that the Indian interior minister should arrest culprits of Samjhauta Express bombing, killers of Rajiv Gandhi and many more such incidents instead of blaming Pakistan for being incapable of coping with terrorists.

"If we talk about composite dialogue, they (India) should not consider it our weakness at all," he added.

He said India had made it a practice to threaten Pakistan every three months, adding: ‘We are a nuclear state and not so weak. We better know how to retaliate.’

The minister referred to the Indian prime minister’s statement that more Mumbai-like attacks could take place in India and said: "I ask the Indian prime minister that if they have any information about more Mumbai-like attacks they should share these with Pakistan and we will look into them, but if India does not share anything with us then they would be responsible for any incident," he said.

"I have time and again said there was Indian involvement in Balochistan and we have evidence, which could be shared with India, if they agree to come and sit with us," he claimed.

About Mumbai attack, Mr Malik said: "We have yet not received the seventh dossier, but we have arrested all seven accused of Mumbai attacks."

Pakistan would definitely take action against Hafiz Saeed if he was found guilty, but the government could not take action against any citizen of the country without solid proof against him, the minister said.

In reply to a question, the minister said that Pakistan had earlier handed over 18 accomplices of Abdul Malik Rigi, including his brother, to Iran.

He, however, said that Rigi was not in Pakistan and said he was in Afghanistan and ‘we can even point out his exact location in Afghanistan’.

To a question about installation of biometric system at the Pak-Afghan border, he said around 50,000 people crossed the border daily.

‘We have installed a biometric system on the Pak-Afghan border to check the movement of the people and the matter has also been taken up with the Afghan government and they have also agreed to install a similar system at their side of the border.’

(Courtesy : Dawn)

21 October, 2009

Abu Al-Masri dead ?

Dawn reports from PESHAWAR: "In the first drone strikes since the Pakistan military began its operation in South Waziristan a top al-Qaeda operative Abu Al-Masri is reported to have been killed in a strike from a US unmanned aircraft."

Hopefully, this news item stays true"". Unlike many other previous drone attacks.

HRD's Volte Face

In the Morning, in a remote town of India, a father tells his son : "Study hard. You have to score more than 80% in your board exams, dear."

"Why father?"

"Beacuse you need to sit for the IIT entrance, dear".

"So, now what shall I do father? Solve Irodov or mug up my text book?"

"Read the Vernacular text book, dear".


In the Evening ::::

"Dear, please start solving Irodov again."

"Oh, father, but I was reading Munshi Premchand !"

"No need to, dear. You just need to pass in your Vernacular".


Wonderful Pakistan, wonderful !

Dawn reports on 21st October : "Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that there is clear evidence of Indian involvement in Balochistan and that New Delhi should not be pointing fingers at Islamabad".

--->This too at a juncture when Iran has completely blamed Pakistan about the killing of its revolutionary guards on Sunday, 18th October.

Well, a good way to divert attention.

Now, do we remember "Sharm-el-Sheikh" ? When did it happen ? The Press Release ...

shhhh !!!!!!!!!!

Path to Deliverance

In an open letter to the Mehsud tribesmen, Pakistani Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani has sought their support in the Operation Rah-i-Nijat or "Path to Deliverance". Apart from the obvious tactical measure of isolating the Taliban-Qaeda faction, the other thing that emerges from this act is the primacy of the Army vis-à-vis the civil administration.

After all, such a thing is out of imagination in India. It would be the concerned Minister or the PM whose message shall reach the target group. The Army would just carry out operations. And thats all.

19 October, 2009

Kalashnikovs, Beards, Turbans and the Pakistani Army

New York Times reports on October 19, 2009 : "Gen. David H. Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as head of the United States Central Command, arrived in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, on Sunday to consult with the nation’s civilian and military leaders".

This was regarding the ongoing operations in South Waziristan

The army said in a statement on Sunday that 60 militants had been killed, and 5 Pakistani soldiers had died in the fighting so far. About 85,000 people have been displaced since last month.

The chief Taliban spokesman, Azam Tariq, said in a telephone call to reporters in Peshawar that the “army has launched attacks from all sides.” He said the militants had killed 60 soldiers.

USA has given F-16s & imaging systems to the Pak Army for its operations. Ha ! Shall they be used against India ? Old wine in a new bottle !

Are the NATO forces in Afghanistan shouldering the onus or is the Pak Army acting as its franchisee ?

"1,500 Uzbeks centered around the village of Kaniguram" are the most feared soldiers on the Taliban side.

Right from Shaibani Khan Uzbek who tormented Babur, the empire builder of the 16th century; to the Uzbeks of Wana (capital of South Waziristan) : these Central Asian tribes have been formidable.

Want to know against whom Shaibani Khan Uzbek finally capitulated ? ::::::
It was Shah Ismail of Persia.

It would require no post gradutae degree to conclude that Persia is today's Iran.


Oh! one more ::: Shaibani was decapitated by Ismail.

17 October, 2009

Feeling of Vindication

South Waziristan Operation Begins :::


In a post on 12th October, I had said that the "Operation in Waziristan is to take place sooner than later". The 'Mother of All Battles' has started.

But I feel it has started late. Time shall tell us the happenings through the fierce winter. Moreover, if US-NATO forces do not forge proper alliance with the Pak Army in creating the 'Pincer Approach', then this battle shall be useless. Another Peace Agreement!

Actually, the Pak Army had no options.

China Attacks India ??

the article in http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90780/91343/6783357.html

is stenchful. And by the way, who has asked them to behave as Pundits?

Nonetheless, I agree on one count : "Dating back to the era of British India, the country covered a vast territory including present-day India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh as well as Nepal. India took it for granted that it could continue to rule the large area when Britain ended its colonialism in South Asia."

India should have & should now also try to resolve the border issues as fast as practicable.
For its own benefit.

13 October, 2009

After Maradona, who from Argentina ?

At the invitation of our President, the President of the Republic of Argentina Dr. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will pay a State Visit to India from 13-15 October 2009. She will be accompanied by a high-level delegation including the Foreign Minister, and a large business delegation.During the visit, Prime Minister will hold discussions with President Cristina. Vice President Hamid Ansari, Chairperson of UPA Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Leader of Opposition Shri L.K. Advani and External Affairs Minister, Shri S.M. Krishna will call on the visiting dignitary.

On 15th October, President Cristina will visit Agra and Mumbai. President Cristina’s visit will take place during the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Argentina. This is also the first Presidential visit from Argentina in 15 years; the last visit was by President Menem in 1994. The last visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Argentina was in 1995 by Late Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao for the G-15 Summit. India and Argentina traditionally share friendly and close ties. Bilateral trade has been increasing steadily in recent years; it has reached US $ 1.3 billion in 2008 from US $ 694 million in 2003 .

Indian companies have made investments in IT, Pharmaceuticals, agro-chemicals, mining sectors in Argentina. The total Indian investments in Argentina are to the tune of US$ 119 million. This stand-alone visit will be opportune to renew and carry forward India-Argentina relations to a higher level. A number of agreements for cooperation are expected to be signed during the visit and will cover wide ranging areas such as sports, science & technology, industrial research, hydrocarbons, trade promotion and business visas.

12 October, 2009

Battleground Waziristan

October 4, 2009 : Hakeemullah Mehsud, the new leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was thought to have been killed in infighting. But to everybody’s dismay, he appeared before a small group of journalists at Sararogha in South Waziristan and vowed to avenge the killing of his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud. He also informed the scribes about attacking US and Pakistani forces in the near future.

October 5, 2009 : One person was killed and many were injured in a blast at an office of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Islamabad.

October 8, 2009 : Bomb blast in front of the Indian Embassy in Kabul. Reportedly 17 dead and 76 injured.

October 9, 2009 : Bomb blast in Khyber Bazaar near the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) assembly building at Peshawar. At least 10 people were killed and 40 others injured in the incident.

October 10, 2009 : Militants attacked the Pakistan Army Headquarters at Rawalpindi. It took the lives of 20 people.

October 12, 2009 : Forty-one people, most of them civilians, were killed when a suicide attacker struck a military convoy near a busy market in northwest Pakistan’s Shangla district

From the above, it is clear that Hakeemullah and the TTP have kept their words. And moreover, the Taliban appears to be a coherent lot with a well conceived strategy.

Actually, the series of suicide or ‘Fidayeen’ attacks are being carried out not only as a retaliation against the Drone-attack on Baitullah Mehsud on August 5, 2009 but also as a pre-emptive measure against the possible onslaught to be waged by the Pakistani Army on the Taliban stronghold in South Waziristan.

In April 2009, the Pakistani Army had driven out the Taliban from the Swat Valley (in the NWFP). Naturally though, on 4th October, Hakeemullah did not concede defeat at Swat but called it as their ‘Strategic Retreat’. But the fact of the matter remains that the bedrock of the TTP’s present policy is the maxim : “Offence is the best defence”. TTP chief had talked about mercy for the ordinary Pakistanis on his 4th October emergence in front of the media, but it seems that he has definitely not adhered to ‘his words’.

But would these fatal attacks deter the ‘Pincer Approach’ that the Pak-US combo wants to embark upon in order to sandwich the Taliban in South Waziristan? The Pakistani Army is almost ready to ‘pick up the gauntlet’ and barge inside the den of the Taliban. From the other side, the US-led NATO army is planning to aid the Pakistani Army by encircling the Taliban from the Afghan border. Can a well coordinated approach by the two armies guarantee success? These are the probing questions which probably lack unequivocal answers.

Pakistan is administratively divided into four provinces, namely : Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and NWFP. Apart from these, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are also a part of Pakistan. FATA is located on the western flanks of the country, with NWFP and Balochistan to its north and south respectively. The geographical arrangement of the seven Tribal Areas in order from north to south is: Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan. FATA has the Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces of Afghanistan to its west.

At present, FATA is the home for the insurgent Pakistani Taliban led by the TTP. In 2001, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda began entering into the region. In 2003, Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces sheltered in the FATA began crossing the border into Afghanistan to revive their bases in Afghanistan. With the encouragement of the United States, 80,000 Pakistani troops entered the FATA in March 2004 to search for Al-Qaeda terrorists. They met fierce resistance from the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Finally a truce was worked out with the Taliban. It gave an indication of the extent to which the Taliban had wrested control of the region. Eight more times, between 2004 and 2006 Pakistani troops entered the region, into South and North Waziristan, and faced further Taliban resistance. Peace Accords entered into in 2004 and 2006 set terms whereby the tribesmen in the area would stop attacking Afghanistan. Moreover, the Pakistani Army would halt major military actions in the FATA and release all prisoners. And tribesmen would be permitted to carry small guns.

On June 4, 2007, the National Security Council of Pakistan met to decide the fate of Waziristan and take up a number of political and administrative decisions to control "Talibanization" of the area. The meeting was chaired by President Pervez Musharraf and it was attended by the Chief Ministers and Governors of all 4 provinces. To crush the armed militancy in FATA and the NWFP, the government decided to intensify and reinforce law enforcement and military activity, take action against certain madrasas, and jam illegal FM radio stations
Economically, FATA is the most impoverished part of Pakistan, with a per capita income of only half the national average of $500 (in 2008). Only 34% of households live above poverty level.

Due to FATA's tribal organization, the economy is chiefly pastoral, with some agriculture practiced in the region's few fertile valleys. Its total irrigated land is roughly 1,000 square kilometres. The country does not have a system of banks. The region is a major centre for opium trafficking, as well the smuggling of other contraband, making it a fertile area for the Taliban insurgents, who generally thrive on such business.

Insurgent Groups
TTP and other Taliban factions stationed in FATA, especially inside South Waziristan have ‘unholy connections’ with the Al Qaeda and the Taliban groups based in Afghanistan; like the Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) and the Haqqani Network. The rumours signaling internecine squabbles amongst the different Taliban groups in FATA was put to rest by Hakeemullah when he arrived before the journalists on 4th October, 2009 along with Fidayeen-i-Islam commander Qari Hussain Mehsud and Taliban’s South Waziristan chief Waliur Rehman Mehsud. The TTP chief accused the Pakistan government of having provided 1,000 acres of land for expansion of the US embassy and said that American agencies had hired over 200 houses in Islamabad to promote their agenda. TTP wants a strict enforcement of the Sharia all over Pakistan.

The recently leaked McChrystal Report has corroborated the above-mentioned facts. In fact, according to the report, the QST and the Haqqani network pose the greatest threat to stability in Afghanistan. The QST is an insurgent group responsible for Taliban operations in Afghanistan. The group is led by Mullah Mohammed Omar. He is obeyed by most of the groups currently active in the Af-Pak region. Following the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, Omar relocated the senior leadership council to Quetta, Pakistan. Though the QST is most active in southern Afghanistan, its operations have spread into areas of the north and west also. The Haqqani network, named after its leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, is an insurgent group which operates in eastern Afghanistan—in Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Ghazni, Wardak and even Kabul provinces. It also retains a base in North Waziristan. Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin, is reported to be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the movement due to his father’s ill health.

A senior Pakistani military official said : “If we don’t take the battle to them, they will bring the battle to us. The epicentre of the behemoth called the Taliban lies in South Waziristan, and this is where we will be fighting the toughest of all battles.’ The battle is being termed as ‘the mother of all battles’. Already this summer, the military has lost more than three hundred of its soldiers in the Swat valley. One out of ten was an officer — presumably the highest soldier-to-officer casualty ratio in any war, skirmish or operation in the world.

It must be remembered that the past operations against the tribal militants in South Waziristan ended in failure. The January 2004 operation led to the infamous Shakai peace agreement in April 2004, followed by another agreement with the now-dead Tehrik-i-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud on Feb 5, 2005.

In late January 2008, the military launched Operation Zalzala with the stated goal of dislodging Baitullah Mehsud from his stronghold. The operation did not cause much tremors and only 12 days later, the authorities were struggling to revive the dead Sararogha agreement.

Illusions ?
‘The TTP as a monolithic organisation remains no more,’ a Pakistani security official claimed. The icing on the cake came with the death of Baitullah Mehsud in a drone attack on 5th August 2009. His death complemented the military’s plan that included an economic blockade already in place since June 2009. Thousands of army soldiers : two divisions, are now sitting on the fringes of the Mehsud mainland waiting for orders from the high command to move in. A debate is raging within some circles whether the military could have mounted an assault shortly after Baitullah’s death. ‘Baitullah is dead and his group seems to be in some sort of disarray. And this provides the best opportunity to go after them,’ the official said.

But the emergence of Hakeemullah Mehsud with leaders of other factions and the associated string of deadly attacks in mainland Pakistan raises serious doubts with regard to the consideration that the TTP has been humbled. Rather it appears to be emboldened. Even if not, then certainly it is not the last desperado act of the TTP.

Rajapaksa has shown the way to the world; in handling brazen acts of terrorism. The Taliban-Qaeda duo present a similar tangle. But they have a better ‘strategic depth’ vis-à-vis LTTE. Sri Lanka is an island whereas Taliban-Qaeda reside in large swathes of land area. Moreover, the rugged terrain of FATA, NWFP and Afghanistan surely gives a far better mileage to these insurgents than what the LTTE got from the plains and jungles.

What Lies Ahead ?
If Pakistan wants to be exculpated from their past deeds of propelling the Taliban to gain the so-called ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, then it needs to act in a positive definite manner. Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) own “Frankenstein” has to be quelled. Bravado of the Pakistani Army notwithstanding, the attitude of the military elite is still in doubt. The ‘India factor’ looms large on the Pakistani strategic horizon. Indian presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia along with present Indo-US camaraderie enhances the skepticism and buttresses the prevailing cynicism regarding India.

Furthermore, USA would keep on pressurizing Pakistan ‘to act’ against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, more so when the US $ 7.5 billion aid-package has been passed by the American Congress. The so-called “Kerry-Lugar Bill”, through which Pakistan will get $1.5 billion per year for the next five years, has been criticised in the Pakistani military circles and media for the conditions attached to the aid. It is the US administration which will verify and give undertaking on behalf of Pakistan every year to the Senate that Pakistan is fulfilling the condition mentioned in the bill. The contentious clause in the Kerry-Lugar Bill is related to the US demand that security forces of Pakistan shall not interfere in the political and judicial processes of the country. Will the ISI and the military accept such demands of the US?

Obama shall have to soon come out of the Nobel euphoria and fix up his mind regarding the “Af-Pak” policy. Realistically speaking, he has to send in reinforcements to his General McChrystal and continue the ‘Drone-attacks’ on the chosen Taliban and Al-Qaeda targets. And if Pakistan has to ‘survive’, then its military has to concede. The ‘mother of all battles’ has to take place, sooner than later. The Operation cannot be deferred too late due to the impending winter. End of November would bring in snow to the region. Hence, to bring in ‘peace’, everlasting or not, this ‘war’ seems inevitable. Waziristan awaits ‘the mother of all battles’.

LTTE in the Abyss ?

The aim to resuscitate the ‘almost decimated’ Eezham movement launched by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) led by the swashbuckling Velupillai has been bludgeoned with their recently declared Chief Selvarasa Pathmanathan alias KP being incarcerated by the Sri Lankan authorities. After the death of Prabhakaran on May 18 2009, the Tigers were vigorously in search of a new leader in order to guide their movement to its logical conclusion. KP was definitely not a unanimous choice but probably an inevitable alternative.

After the LTTE went into a ceasefire agreement with the Lankan government in 2002, KP’s position in the Tiger hierarchy started to wane. This was because of the fact that a strong and youthful group surfaced in LTTE which wanted to supplant KP as the head of its overseas affairs. Leading that coterie was former tiger political commissar, (Late) Thamilselvan and ex-overseas administrative head (Late) Manivannan a.k.a. ‘Castro’. To join them was the 33 year old Sivaparan alias ‘Nediyavan’. KP had been the main plank of the arms supply line for the Tigers in their relentless struggle for the last three decades. Since the early 1980s till the end of 1990s, KP had bolstered the LTTE through his arms procurement and international propaganda. In fact, the LTTE becoming a sui generis terrorist outfit to possess a Navy and an Air Force owes much to KP’s faculties. To achieve the impossible, KP had utilised his well developed network amongst the Tamil Diaspora. But after the vitriol hurled at him by the coterie during 2002, KP went into a self-imposed retirement in Thailand only after proving his innocence to his venerated chief Velupillai. He married a Thai lady and settled there.

Meanwhile, the defection of Colonel Karuna, who was LTTE’s Commander of the East, in March 2004 as well as the coming of Mahinda Rajapaksa of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) at the helm as President of Sri Lanka provided lethal dual blows to LTTE’s designs. In fact, the organisation could never recuperate and this ultimately paved for its ignominious defeat at the hands of the Lankan forces. Amidst desperation in 2008, Prabhakaran sought last refuge in KP and requested for external aid. KP complied but wanted to be placed officially at the zenith of LTTE’s foreign affairs : to which Velupillai adhered. In a last bid of sorts, KP sent three shipment full of arms to the island, out of which two reached the LTTE. Definitely this help by KP delayed the defeat of the Tigers till mid-2009. After Prabhakaran’s demise, the semblance of an organisation that the Tigers were left with was their ‘Overseas Wing’, still enjoying the ideological and financial support of their Diaspora. After Castro committed suicide, KP had to contend with Nediyavan before he could officially don the cap of Velupillai. Though Nediyavan was placated, but there were others within the LTTE, especially in its Overseas Wing, who disliked KP as their future leader.

The long detachment (2002 - 2008) from active political work probably made KP an outsider to the Generation X of the LTTE ! Also, KP never had formal arms training, another reason which made him an alien to the hardliners. The arrest of KP on August 5 2009, allegedly from a hotel at the Malaysian capital and his consequent deportation to Sri Lanka which was corroborated by the Lankan authorities a day later speaks volumes about the kind of opposition which he was facing inside the LTTE. Not to undermine the intelligence prowess of the Lankan security agencies and the clinical fashion in which Rajapaksa has dealt with the whole matter. But one thing deserves deliberation. Pragmatic enough, KP was talking about re-modeling the LTTE and to follow the non-violent democratic path to revolution. He understood the fatality of waging a violent war against the State. Moreover, LTTE needed to remove the ‘terrorist’ tag so as to garner external diplomatic support, at least at the present juncture to rehabilitate the Internally Displaced People (IDP) in the island.

Therefore, the pertinent point is that there must be some vested interests within the LTTE who want to prolong this calamitous struggle. Furthermore, though Rajapaksa may boast of having nipped in the bud, but that might not be so. If the ruffian elements of the Tigers remain at large, then the possibility of completely dousing the Tamil anger in the island shall remain a distant dream. Another possibility is that KP’s diction of restructuring the LTTE is probably a mere rhetoric, a “strategic withdrawal”.

India too has its interests playing in this clandestine arrest. The deadly weaponry carried by the assassins of our Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was supplied by KP. So, India would definitely like to interrogate the man to unravel the bigger story behind the grievous incident. Furthermore, KP is on the wanted list of the Interpol too. Regardless of stiff opposition, KP’s experience and maneuvering abilities made him the Chief of the beleaguered LTTE. His arrest would definitely dent the Tigers further but the plight of the IDP might surge. A wait and watch policy regarding the ramifications of his arrest is best suited in this post-Prabhakaran scenario of the Tamil ethnic struggle.

A Fresh Look at the Indo-Bangladesh Relations

The Bangladeshi masses have yet again chosen democracy. Thus the fourteen party grand alliance spearheaded by the Awami League has come back to power. The military has handed over the reigns to Sheikh Hasina in January 2009. India would definitely expect positive response from the present Bangladeshi government now. More so, when we keep in mind the smooth relations with the previous Hasina government in 1996-2001. But the irritants remain and the major impediments seem to be rising Islamic Fundamentalism in Bangladesh, usage of the said territory by insurgents of the North-East of India for illegal transit as well as shelter. In this backdrop, we try to examine the bilateral relations of these two historically and culturally connected neighbours, starting off with a brief historical introduction.

It is well known that India’s role in the emergence of today’s Bangladesh was phenomenal. The two countries signed a 25 year Treaty of Friendship, Peace & Cooperation in March, 1972. India also aided the nascent economy by providing essential commodities like food, petroleum products, sugar, steel etc. The two countries also signed a short term agreement on sharing the water of the Ganges and established a Joint Rivers Commission to conduct a survey of the river system. In August 1974, President Mujibur Rahman was assassinated by a military coup. And after coups and counter-coups, Gen. Zia-ur-Rahman took over as the military dictator of Bangladesh. He initiated the process of Islamisation (1975 - 1980). It reached the zenith during Gen Ershad’s regime (1982 - 1989) when Islam was declared the State religion in June 1988. Khaleda Zia, the widow of the assassinated dictator Zia ur Rahman became the new leader by succeeding Ershad in 1991. Next in line was Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the Awami League and daughter of Mujibur Rahman succeeded Khaleda in 1996. Two important treaties were signed : the Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) Peace Treaty & the Ganges Water Sharing (GWS) Treaty.

Let us have a bird’s eye view on those two treaties.
CHT Peace Treaty : The agreement recognised the distinct ethnicity and special status of the tribes and indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and established a Regional Council constituting of the local government councils of the three districts of the Hill Tracts. The council was to be composed by men and women from the Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Murang and Tanchangya tribes; the delegates would be elected by the district councils of the Hill Tracts. Elected for a five-year term, the council would have authority and responsibility to maintain law and order, social justice and tribal laws, oversee general administration, coordinate disaster relief and management, issue licenses for heavy industries and oversee other development projects. The central government would be required to consult the regional councils over all issues concerning the Hill Tracts.
The agreement also provided for the setting up of a central Ministry of Tribal Affairs to be headed by a person of tribal ethnicity to administer the affairs concerning the Hill Tracts. The agreement also laid out plans for the return of land to displaced natives and an elaborate land survey to be held in the Hill Tracts.

GWS Treaty or the 30 years’ Treaty : According to the treaty, the Ganges water would be distributed from Farakka for the two countries between January 1 and May 31 each year on the basis of an agreed formula, and that India would make every effort to maintain the flow at Farakka at the average level of previous 40 years. At any critical period Bangladesh would get the guaranteed flow of 35,000 cusec (1 cubic foot per second). The two countries also agreed to the need for mutual cooperation in augmenting the flow of the Ganges on a long-term basis, and for entering into similar accords in sharing the flows of other common rivers.
It removed the tense relation between the two countries, and opened the way for their wider cooperation in sharing the water resources of the entire region. The implementation of the treaty has the prospect of allowing Bangladesh to receive a fairly good flow of water into the Ganges-Kobadak Irrigation Project in greater Kushtia and into the Gorai river that drains the southwestern districts, thereby saving agriculture, and the world's largest mangrove forests in sundarbans by preventing salinity from the Bay of Bengal. It has also opened the way for Bangladesh to build a barrage on its segment of the Ganges to make a judicious use of the lean season flow coming from upstream.
But after Sheikh Hasina’s term expired, it was Khaleda Zia again with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in 2001 and relations with India naturally strained.

Major unresolved issues between India and Bangladesh can be enunciated as follows :

Border Fencing : India has to fence the 4100 kilometers long land border with Bangladesh. According to Status Report on Internal Security released by the Union Home Ministry, out of the 2218 km land border in West Bengal, fencing could be constructed along only 1191 km. Moreover, the decision to set up 13 Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) has not been implemented.

Refugees : Official reports of the BSF quote that 1.2 million Bangladeshis who entered India between 1972 and 2005 with valid documents have not been sent back. In fact, it seems that Panchayats purportedly help Bangladeshi immigrants procure primary identity cards like ration cards, voters ID etc. There has been a negotiation between the two countries regarding the ‘Chakma refugees” flooding into India.

Tin- Bigha Corridor : The exchange of enclaves according to the Land Boundary Agreement of 1974 has not yet taken place. About 110 Indian enclaves are still in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves are still in India. Tin Bigha corridor is the name of a strip in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal (between the Dahargam and Angarpota enclaves). It was given to Bangladesh in June 1992 as a brotherly gesture by India. (An enclave is a territory whose geographical boundaries lie entirely within the boundaries of another territory)

The enclaves were part of the confrontations centuries ago between two regional kings, the Raja of Cooch Behar and the Nawab of Rangpur. The little territories were the result of a confused outcome of a treaty between the Kingdom of Koch Bihar and the Mughal Empire. After the partition of India in 1947, Cooch Behar was merged with India and Rangpur went to then East Pakistan. In 1974, both countries agreed to exchange the enclaves or at least provide easy access to the enclaves, but since then little has materialised. Talks between the two countries on the issue resumed in 2001, but the lack of a concrete time frame has relegated the issue to the back burner.

The residents of the enclaves live in abysmal conditions, with lack of water, roads, electricity, schools and medicines. Crime also is rampant, as complaining would mean crossing the international boundary due to the lack of law enforcement resources. Residents of the enclaves may go to their respective countries on the production of an identity card, after seeking permission from the border guards.

New Moore Island : Also known as Purbasha, or South Talpatti, is a small uninhabited offshore island that emerged in the Bay of Bengal in the aftermath of the Bhola cyclone in 1970. Administratively, it is located in the South 24 Parganas district of the Indian state of West Bengal. It is situated only two kilometers from the mouth of the Hariabhanga river, a distributary of the Ganga.The island is administered by India but is claimed by Bangladesh. The emergence of the island was first discovered by the West Bengal state government in 1971 and it was subsequently surveyed by the Indian Coast Guard. India named the newly emerged island as New Moore Island. The first remote sensing image of the island taken by an American satellite in 1974 showed the island to have an area of 2,500 sq meters. Later, various remote sensing surveys showed that the island had expanded gradually to an area of about 10,000 sq meters. The island is located in the coastal shallow seas south of the border marked by the Hariabhanga river flowing between South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, India and Satkhira district of Bangladesh. The island lies at 21.37 N latitude and 89.12 E longitude. The island continues to expand and the landmass area fluctuates between 7 km² and 14 km² depending on the high and low tides.

Tipaimukh Dam : It is a mooted Hydroelectric project based in Manipur. It has evoked controversy as the dam is to be built 100km off the Bangladesh border. The dam will be 390m long and 162.8m high, across the Barak River, 500 m. downstream of the confluence of the Tuivai and the Barak rivers on the Manipur-Mizoram border. The dam will be at an altitude of about 180 m. above mean sea level with a maximum reservoir level of 178 m. The dam was originally designed to contain flood waters in the lower Barak valley but hydro power generation was later incorporated into the project. The project will have an installation capacity of 1500 MW and a firm generation of 412 MW. The dam will permanently submerge an area of 275.50 square kilometres.

A non-resident Bangladeshi engineer, Dr. Khondakar Abu Sufian, suggested that the Tipaimukh Dam will be a blessing for Bangladesh, because it will have the potential to reduce flooding in Bangladesh by 30%, or the river-levels in Sylhet region will be reduced by 1.5 metres during rainy season. Apparently, this calculation about reduction of flooding by Tipaimukh Dam is based on a study done in 1992-94. The opponents of the dam claim that this is a gross violation of international norms and the existing Ganges Treaty between India and Bangladesh. They also raised concerns about unilateral control of an international river by India, and think that the dam will reduce the flow in Surma-Kushiara-Meghna rivers during dry season and will increase during rainy season.

Terrorism : Both the countries have accused each other of harbouring insurgents. Government of India (GoI) has prepared a list of 119 alleged terrorist camps within Bangladeshi territory while Dhaka alleges that there are 39 terror camps on Indian soil. In fact, Chittagong Mayor Moinuddin Chowdhury has publicly admitted about terrorists of SIMI, ULFA & LeT in Coxbazar & Chittagong Hills. On top of this, growing Islamic Fundamentalism and anti-India sentiments add fuel to these fiendish developments. A recent validation is that on 10th July, 2009 Jibon Singh alias Timir Das, the self-styled chairman of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), an underground separatist outfit, was arrested in Bangladesh.

The China Factor : China has become Bangladesh’s number one trading partner, dislodging India from that spot. In 2007, the total Sino-Bangla trade was USD 3.5 billion. Beijing has also become a principal source of funds for Dhaka’s infrastructure development and nuclear technology. In fact, already in 2005, the Bangladesh-China Cooperation Agreement on Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy has been signed. China also trains the armed forces of Bangladesh & is the largest supplier of military hardware. Thus, looking at Beijing’s strategy in South Asia, India cannot afford to ‘miss-the-bus’.

Possible Solutions ??
To overcome these problems, acceleration of trade and commerce between the two countries is probably the most acceptable solution. Way back in 1994, the Indo-Bangladesh Joint Business Council had identified a body of high-prospect sectors like chemicals, fertilizers, engineering and electronics, computer software and others. Presently India imports raw jute & anhydrous ammonia & exports food materials, capital goods & software. About 15 % of Bangladesh’s imports are from India. But Bangladesh laments in having a large trade deficit vis-à-vis India. In this regard, tariff and Non-tariff Barriers (NTBs e.g. certification & standardization of commodities and quantitative restrictions) need to be eased so that both the countries garner benefits from each other.
The platforms of SAARC (1982) & BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, in 1997) need to be maximally utilised for mutual benefit. A third of the 136 million strong Bangladesh’s population is supposedly under the poverty line. GDP per capita is below USD 400. Hence vibrant trade and commerce is imperative for Bangladesh. Furthermore, India can help Dhaka extract oil & gas reserves in the Bay of Bengal since energy is acutely necessary for India.
Last but not least, we must encourage Track II diplomacy to lubricate the existing frictions, although problems like that of Taslima Nasreen do exist which need to be handled with care.