16 March, 2010

Brother In, Friend Out

This is an Op-Ed piece for News Blaze


One thing is as clear as crystal. India needs to pack its bags and leave Afghanistan. None of the parties want it to stay. The Taliban and the Pakistani government never wanted it to. Now, even its 'friend' Karzai, to an extent under coercion, does not want it to meddle in Afghan affairs any further.

It's just a matter of time now. Only the modalities need to be sorted out.

The Afghan President Hamid Karzai's most recent visit to Pakistan last week, agreeing to arrange a series of peace Jirgas (Councils of Tribal leaders) with 'active Pakistani involvement' made matters absolutely transparent that finally the US-Pakistan camaraderie in the 'Global War On Terror' is bearing its true fruit.

USA has disbursed the Kerry-Lugar largesse to the civil administration of Pakistan. In return, the Pakistani authorities have acted with alacrity in tightening the noose around the Taliban by pumping in resources to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in order to continue the military offensive.

Ground operations in Swat valley have also gone on with enthusiasm. And to add to the list of accomplishments, several top Taliban commanders have been arrested in Pakistan, the big fish being Mullah Baradar; the man only second in the hierarchy to Mullah Omar.

Pakistan should be eulogized for its cunning diplomatic moves. On one hand, it appeased the Americans by acting against the Taliban and on the other it did not totally alienate the Taliban either. Pakistan is yet to reach the 'breaking point'.

Moreover, the civil administration seems to have handled pressure from the judiciary well, at least for the time being. Furthermore, the Zardari-Gilani duo configured proper arrangements with the Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Pervez Kayani; which could be seen from the service extension of Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the Chief of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

India however, appears to have bungled, at least as far as the ground realities are concerned. No doubt, it had put in a good deal of finances in rebuilding war-torn Afghanistan, even completed the 200 km Delaram-Zaranj highway but was never unequivocal in its approach.

What did India actually want to achieve in Afghanistan? Did it want to thwart the Pakistani moves of establishing a 'strategic depth'? Or did India wish to use Afghanistan as a spring board to launch into resource-rich Central Asia? Or was it just an economic venture anyway?

These queries may be answered only by the Foreign Policy establishment of the 'Land of Eternal Peace'.

Nevertheless, the situation today is that even Karzai has come to terms with reality. He knows that in order to entrench himself in the seat of authority, he has to do three things.

First, he should be on mutually agreeable terms with the Americans. Thus, he must negotiate with the Pakistani government.

Second, he needs to bring the Taliban, either the 'good' or the 'bad' or both, to the discussion table. To implement that, he must again appeal to the Pakistanis because of their close links with key Taliban leaders.

And third, so as to make the first two issues a reality; he must not alienate the Pakistani civil-military elite in any manner. Thus a natural corollary is to maintain a safe distance from the Indians.

All of the above three moves are directly hurting Indian interests in the region.

Actually India's calculations regarding Afghanistan were spectacularly misleading. It probably believed, definitely on an emotional note, that the Americans could be bought by the nuclear deal, vote against Iran, stalling the Indo-Iran gas pipeline and some nice rhetoric.

But USA wanted a far stronger ally which could be a force not only in finances but also military into Afghanistan if needed. And India vacillated on this very point.

It was torn apart between the pulls of the Gandhi-Nehru doctrinal ideology and the post-cold war realities.

Finally, India succumbed to indecision, which has been the hallmark of Indian foreign policy since independence.

Thus, when the Indian educated Karzai says: "India is a close friend of Afghanistan but Pakistan is a brother of Afghanistan. Pakistan is a twin brother. We are conjoined twins, there's no separation," India surely needs to shiver.

But this fever had to come. The signals were there for the taking. India just did not possess the radar. Or may be it did not pay any heed to the vibrations on the screen.

The last option seems to be more plausible.

What Blocks Global Investment in India

Published in Diplomatic Courier, 12 March 2010


In this causally-connected post Cold War neo-liberal world; any real-estate dilemma in Europe or USA makes the Indian stock indices jittery. Similarly, any socio-political imbroglio in India also curtails the investment capacities of multinational corporations : more so keeping in mind India’s immense potentialities as a ‘consumer market’.

Thus, the apparition of 1967 is haunting India and consequentially the world too.

The then ‘Naxals’ are now being termed as ‘Maoists’. Nomenclature has changed, but the essence of the problem remains. The genesis of the armed resistance in 1967 was in the hamlet of ‘Naxalbari’ in the eastern province of West Bengal. At that juncture, the movement was temporarily curbed by the ‘state apparatus’.

Any insurgency sustains itself by feeding on the population and the Maoists are doing it no differently. The ‘protracted people’s war’ which was thought to have fizzled out in the early 1970s raised its serpentine head in 2004. Since then, the Maoists have ‘upped the ante’ and extended their dominions to penetrate large swathes of the Indian landmass. Presently, about one-third of the districts (substantially rural) in India are under the ‘Maoist Influence’. The area basically stretches from the Indo-Nepal border in the north to the southern part of the subcontinent; cutting across several provinces in its trajectory.

The Maoists staunchly oppose any form of market liberalization and global integration of goods and services. They view globalization as a powerful vehicle that assaults ‘tribal culture’ and threatens their ‘socio-economic existence’. They strictly disbelieve in the ‘trickle-down theory’ adopted by a welfare state.

Hence, they are opposed to mega projects by transnational corporations. About US $3 bn Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) being poured in by global steel giants like ArcelorMittal (Luxembourg based) and Posco (of South Korea) is hanging in balance due to the hurdles in acquiring spaces in the rural hinterlands. An attempt of the ‘Indonesian-based Salim Group’ to set up a chemical hub in a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in West Bengal was thwarted in 2007. On the other hand, Indian giants like the Tatas and the Vedanta group are facing strong opposition by the Naxal-backed tribals while making inroads into the rural backyards.

The strong propaganda machinery as well as the armed militia of the Maoists deters the growth of infrastructure and ‘first world development’ in the rural zones of the subcontinent. Though they speak volumes for ‘lack of development’ of the Indian peasantry, but ironically tend to impede ‘growth’ in the long run citing ideological rationale.

India is in definite need of FDI along with the concomitant infrastructure. In 2009, total FDI inflow into India as per the estimates of Ministry of Commerce and Industry amounted to US $19.9 bn (till August). China, on the other hand mustered an FDI four times compared to India in the same period.

The contribution of the manufacturing sector towards overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in India is hovering around 28 per cent for the last seven to eight years. And with the declining contribution of the decrepit agricultural sector (about 17 per cent in 2007-08), India needs to boost its secondary sector so as to climb up the ladder of industrialization. In that venture, FDI is imperative. In this scenario, the Maoist insurgency is a serious impediment and the authorities have to act in a positive definite manner to boost India’s image as an ‘investor friendly’ nation.

Data from the Ministry of Home Affairs clearly show a gradual rise of the number of casualties due to Maoist insurgency since 2004. The ‘liberated zones’ established by the insurgents in the Indian interiors pose dual problems of security and underdevelopment.

Manmohan Singh has been the ‘poster boy’ of the LPG (Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization) policy of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. In fact, he was the votary of ‘opening up India’ since 1991. Thus it is not only the Indian state that is confronting a major challenge but Dr. Singh’s credentials as a suave economist is also at stake. Returning back to power in May 2009, the UPA coalition had a formidable task to deal with; and that was to tackle the Left Wing Extremism which had emerged according to Singh, as the ‘biggest internal security threat’.

Hence, the much hyped “Operation Green Hunt” was launched in the Dantewada district of the Central Indian state of Chattisgarh in September 2009 to flush out the rebels. In the face of vehement criticism by large sections of civil society against this military offensive, the Home Ministry has probably put a halt on the operation.

Alarmingly, though the ultras prima facie despise globalization and liberalization, they are going ahead in forging a pan-South Asia network of terror. There are reports of a covert alliance of the ‘almost decimated’ Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Maoists of India. Actually the sagging LTTE may want to bolster their structure through a fresh base in South India, close to the Lankan landmass whereas the Maoists would seek to cash in on their ‘land warfare expertise’. Also, the knowledge of the LTTE about the global arms racket can be a viable option for the Indian Maoists.

Any further ‘alliance of sorts’ of this combo with the Pakistani based jihadi groups would prove ominous to both India and the US as the Taliban and Al Qaeda would then find sanctuaries in India.

Already, it is established that the Nepalese Maoists have close strategic and military links with their counterparts in India.

Recently, the Home Secretary G K Pillai has suggested that ‘small arms and ammunitions’ from China are being smuggled into India to feed the Maoist rebels. This opens up a completely new dimension of the quandary. The disturbed ‘political climate’ between India and China might suffer another blow from this angle with Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh already generating controversy.

The solutions to this imbroglio are non-linear. Analysts and experts have opined that the Indian government needs to have ‘unconditional’ talk with the Maoists. Honest efforts have to be made on the part of the mainstream to bring the tribals within the ‘social pale’. The huge tracts of land housing mineral resources need to be holistically dealt with. The government can broker a deal between the tribals and the Transnational Enterprises (TNEs), with a ‘win-win’ situation for both. On an encourage note, India has seen instances of ‘Contract Farming’ ventures by TNEs with PepsiCo successfully entering into one.

The Indian nation-state cannot veer away from the ‘development paradigm’ of interconnectedness with the global economy that it had embarked post Cold War. Similarly, the Leftist rebels have to appreciate the inevitability of integration of the tribals with their urban counterparts. India is on the track of globalization and their cannot exist ‘undeveloped islands’ within its topography. If the sub-continent has to grow in double-digits and the world has to benefit from its growth both as a consumer market and a knowledge powerhouse, then the ‘Maoist Menace’ needs to be sorted out. And if the rebels are loath to accept new ideas and want to stick to the age-old moorings, then it would be construed as an anachronism.

05 March, 2010

Indian Democracy Overthrown by 2050?

Fri, Mar 5 08:50 PM

New Delhi, Mar 5 (ANI): Union Home Secretary G K Pillai said on Friday that the Maoists have formulated an agenda to overthrow the Indian democratic system by 2050.

Addressing a seminar on "Left Wing Extremism Situation in India", at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis Pillai said: Documents which were found revealed that the Maoist agenda was to overthrow the Indian state by 2050, possibly with the help of ex-Armymen."

Commenting over holding talks with the Maoists in the line of ongoing dialogue with Naga rebels, Pillai said: "Maoists were not serious about talks because they weren't under enough pressure to do so."

He also opined that unless they feel the heat they will not come for talks and whatever statement they were making about peace were not serious.

"Right now, Maoists were looking to regroup and build their own army towards their plans," he added.

Pillai further said that the Maoists were using administrative vacuum and under development to do such activities.

Home Secretary reiterated that development is the only mantra to fight back the Maoists menace.

He said even though the joint anti-Naxal operations were going on, the Naxals have not suffered any significant reverses so far and the government would need seven to eight years to have full control over the areas which were lost to the Maoists.

"The operations have not hit even five per cent of hardcore militants. The real armed cadres are yet to come out," Pillai said.

Earlier, Home Minister P Chidambaram had asked Maoists to abjure violence and asked them to contact for peace talks. (ANI)

NO Indo-Pak Talks?

Fri, Mar 5 11:28 AM (YahooNews)

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is unlikely to meet his Indian counterpart Dr. Manmohan Singh in Washington, where they are scheduled to attend the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on April 12 and 13.

Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) spokesman Abdul Basit said he is unaware of any such meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the upcoming summit.

"I don't know yet," The Daily Times quoted Basit, as saying.

The focus of the conference hosted by President Barack Obama is on securing vulnerable nuclear materials and preventing acts of "nuclear terrorism".

The White House has invited 44 countries to the summit, though the list of delegates has not been finalised yet.

"The purpose of the summit is to discuss steps we can collectively take to secure vulnerable nuclear materials and prevent acts of nuclear terrorism," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had said earlier.

03 March, 2010

Will the Sheikhs "SHAKE"?


A string of incidents over the last weekend must have perturbed many, especially the Indians.

First, last week, the stalled Indo-Pak talks resumed, though Indian External Affairs Minister expressed an aversion to calling them an extension of the "Composite Dialogue".

The next day, suicide attacks in Kabul claimed a number of Indian lives, along with other foreign guests in Afghanistan. The Taliban lost no time in accepting the responsibility for it; as if we didn't know who did it.

And to provide the cushioning effect, our Premier Dr Singh flew to the "Land of the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques" the following day, for a three day visit.

In between, Twitter-oor (our beloved Shashi Tharoor) came up with another articulated 'gimmick' which has become his usual stuff since he ascended the 'throne' of the 'junior' external affairs minister.

Interestingly, this time round, Twitter-oor might not have been that casual in spelling out that the "Saudis can act as interlocutors in Indo-Pak discussions". Though he soon had to clarify his statement repeatedly in the media (which he cherishes) that he never intended to mean that Saudi Arabia can be a 'mediator'. He showed amazement at the ignorance of politicos and media personnel about the meaning of the word 'interlocutor'.

Well, what does Tharoor think of others? Are they nerds? Are they lamebrains?

People were 'not too idiots' to not have read between the lines of Twitter-oor's statement. To later on pose in the media and harp upon definitions, simply downgrades an erudite fellow as Shashi Tharoor is, or rather was.

Now, getting back to the issue, during his return from Riyadh this week, Dr Singh, to a query, indeed uttered that he did discuss Indo-Pak relations with the King of Saudi Arabia on a one-to-one basis. And in fact, he requested Abdul Aziz to use his good offices to persuade Pakistan to desist from the path of abetting terrorism.

This, to anybody's guess, shall clear it all. Tharoor was not just casually twittering. He had the blessing of Dr Singh. After all, he is the 'junior' External Affairs Minister and a pet of the UPA government. But then, he is slightly pampered and hence leaked the matter before India's Prime Minister could proclaim it at large.

A scholarly analysis of India's standpoint on Kashmir and cross-border terrorism might consume volumes and we are here not in a forum to do so. Our focal point of consideration is why India is keen to enjoin Saudi Arabia to solve Indo-Pak bilateral issues?

The answer to this puzzling question is in fact, quite simple. India's foreign policy has, to date, not been able to break the 'frozen igloos' carefully built during the days of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. We may speak volumes for the 'paradigm shift' in our economic as well foreign policies post 1991, however, the ground reality is far from changed, at least as far as foreign policy is concerned.

Regarding Kashmir, Pandit Nehru referred to the United Nations and that was the genesis of today's intractable "Kashmir problem" and along with it the 'cross-border terrorism'. A number of wars with Pakistan have been the inevitable outcome of such a 'goof-up' committed by our celebrated predecessors.

Nevertheless, the most recent Indian overture to Saudi Arabia to 'talk' (not to mediate!!) to Pakistan, so as to reduce its terror sanctuaries is a logical extension of such a culture persisting in India. On one side, India is reluctant to resume the "Composite Dialogue" with Pakistan on a one-to-one basis, whereas it is prodding the Kingdom to nudge Pakistan on the other.

This clearly portrays India's hypocrisy in formulating a clear foreign policy, and also highlights India's helplessness in tackling terror in South Asia. After all, it is being pushed out of the fray in Afghanistan and Pakistan remains a favourite to the Americans.

In this entangled scenario, to expect the Sheikhs of Arabia to act as 'interlocutors' and persuade Pakistan to dismantle its terror-structure to favour India, is simply ludicrous.

Moreover, the Saudis were the first nation, along with Pakistan, to have acknowledged the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

The Sheikhs may "shake" in their own private ballrooms, but to expect them do that for the Indians would definitely be the expectations of buffoons.

We may watch a Jackie Chan movie instead.

Dr Singh Clarifies US stance toward Kashmir

New Delhi, March 3 (ANI): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday clarified that there is no change in the U.S. policy towards India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue.

Dr. Singh's reply came in response to senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani's question saying that President Barack Obama in his election campaigns had vowed to solve the Kashmir issue, if got elected, as Mr. Advani said: "The new president of America has said many times in his election speeches, that if got elected, I will put full force behind solving the Kashmir issue. However before that American policy was we will not intervene until India and Pakistan both ask for it. If they don't ask we will not intervene and want them to bilaterally hold dialogue."

Replying to Advani's query Dr. Singh said there was no change in the policy of the U.S. towards New Delhi and Islamabad.

"I feel very sorry that you are using this forum of debate, I think, to sow, I think, seeds of, I think, we wouldn't like to say...., what you have attributed to President Obama, is certainly not true. I have had number of discussions with President Obama and he has said to me unambiguously there is no change in the U.S. policy towards India and Pakistan," said Dr. Singh.

U.S. recently welcomed first official talks between India and Pakistan since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, held in New Delhi last week. U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in Washington the two countries had taken "a courageous step to open the door to dialogue" and he hoped it would be built on.

Re-engaging Pakistan was a politically fraught move for India, given strong public opinion against talks, but a nudge from Washington and dwindling diplomatic options saw India reaching out.

The first official talks between India and Pakistan ended with only an agreement to "keep in touch," signaling that relations between them remain frosty. (ANI)

Maoist Training Manual?

Narayanpura (Chhattisgarh), March 3 (ANI): Maoists are training their cadres in the usage of modern arms and ammunitions in the thick forest area of Chhattisgarh's Narayanpur District.

The huge forest areas of Bastar in Chhattisgarh state makes them favourable for the insurgent group to train their cadres.

They are also given on-the-job training through real attacks on security forces, planting of explosives, blowing up of government buildings and infrastructure. Guerrilla warfare tactics are also taught.

The trainees also include a large number of women.

The Maoist's military wing in the state regularly conducts rigorous physical and arms training for its cadres.

"The training of guerilla warriors, their warfare and fighting skills is very extensive and strong. The police forces can't fight against them because they are in hiding," said Sujeet Kumar, an expert on the Naxalite Movement.

"In guerilla warfare worldwide, the enemy attacks and runs away and that is what they are doing even here. In Bastar, there is jungle all around the narrow stretch of roads. So, it is easy for Maoists to attack and escape. The police forces don't even come to know," he added.

Maoists recruit children aged between six and 12 into their children's association, called Bal Sangams, where they are trained in Maoist ideology, used as informers and taught to fight with non-lethal weapons.

Kumar further said that the number of women Maoists is increasing by the day. They not only support their cause but are trained enough to carry out attacks and operations single-handedly.

"Women commanders are not just supporters but leaders. As far as their training is concerned, the women Maoists, who are capable of leading the operation, are appointed in the Bal Sangam. Students aged 6-12 are trained in the Bal Sangams," Kumar said.

"After the girls attain the age of 20, they are equipped and trained enough to carry out the operations and lead from the front. These women are tried and tested several time over before andling the responsibility. The number of women Maoists is increasing day by day and I believe that in another 4-5 years their count will reach fifty percent," he added. (ANI)

02 March, 2010

Tajik Elections : FREE & FAIR ???

On 28th Feb 2010, the Tajik elections took place which more or less shall bring back or rather re-affirm Emomali Rakhmon in power. OSCE has alleged fraudulence in the elections. The main opposition party : Islamic Revival Party also alleges the same.

The Karachi Project ???

In the 1977 cold war thriller Telefon, a rogue KGB agent creates mayhem in the US simply by picking up a phone and reading a Robert Frost poem 'the woods are lovely, dark and deep...' to hypnotise sleeper agents who then go on to plant explosives across the continent.

The scenario could well echo a nefarious plan that India's security agencies are now grappling with: The Karachi Project set up by the Pakistan Army's ISI and groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and HUJI which utilise Pakistani-trained Indian-operatives to plant explosives in selected cities in the Indian heartland.

For at least three years now, Indian security agencies have known of the outlines of this scheme, which Home Secretary G.K. Pillai held responsible for the German Bakery blast in Pune.

"The link between the LeT and Indian Mujahideen (IM), as part of the project, has been established. The LeT pushed David Headley into India to recce potential targets. IM operatives went to Pakistan and viewed videos shot by him, so that they could be sent to India to carry out attacks," he said.

Named after the Pakistani port city and crime hotbed which has turned into a sanctuary for fugitive Indian underworld dons like Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, the joint-venture project was conceived some time after 2003. It is part of an overall strategy which, Admiral Dennis Blair the director of National Intelligence told a US Senate committee on February 3, was for Pakistan to "use militant groups as an important part of its strategic arsenal to counter India's military and economic advantages".

The Karachi Project has been directly responsible for the deaths of over 500 Indians in 10 bomb blasts since 2005.

Details of the project were first revealed by Pakistan-born American jihadi David Coleman Headley to the FBI in December last year. According to him, the fugitive Bhatkal brothers Riaz and Iqbal who founded the IM, Mufti Sufiyan and underworld don Yaqoob Khan aka Rasool 'Party' were being sheltered in Karachi by the LeT and ISI.

Headley, who checked out Chabad House close to German Bakery, also told the FBI interrogators about serving and retired Pakistan Army officers being part of the project. Headley confirmed that the ISI had put together a team of Indian jihadis in the port city, calling it the Karachi Project. They were waiting to launch them into India for attacks.

Over 500 people have been killed in 10 terror attacks carried out by the Karachi Project since 2005.

Headley recceed targets for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks while shuttling between Mumbai and Karachi thrice in 2006 and 2008. Pune also figured prominently in his terror reconnaissance missions. He visited Pune twice, in 2008 and 2009, and stayed at the Surya Villa Hotel near the Osho Ashram and the local Jewish synagogue during his latter visit. This was part of his March 2008 survey of Israeli targets--Chabad Houses across Delhi, Pushkar, Goa, Pune and Mumbai--for future terror attacks.

More details of the plot emerged after the arrest of Abdul Khwaja, second-in-command of Shahid Bilal, who headed the Bangladesh HUJI unit. Khwaja was picked up by the R&AW in a clandestine 'rendition' operation in Bangladesh in December last year.

Spirited out to Sri Lanka and later to Chennai, he was brought to Hyderabad in January where he told interrogators that while he was at a terror camp in Karachi, IM chief Amir Reza Khan was also there during a briefing session when a retired Pakistan army officer showed them videos of terror targets like Pune's Osho Ashram and South Mumbai's Knesseth Eliyahu Synagogue. He revealed the targets include the R&AW headquarters in Delhi's CGO complex, the German Bakery in Pune, RSS offices in Nagpur and Kolkata, and oil refineries in Hyderabad and Chennai. Khwaja and Amir were then asked to take up the project, along with Asif, who is Amir's brother and a fourth IM activist Abdul Aziz.

Khwaja, wanted for a suicide bombing attempt on the Andhra Pradesh task force office in 2005, also told interrogators that the plan includes targeting police officers in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. Echoing Headley's confession, he said a large number of highly indoctrinated jihadi Indian nationals were housed in the Pakistani port city waiting for orders to strike.

The contours of this nefarious joint venture were fairly simple, as an intelligence official puts it, "Use disaffected Indian youth to carry out terror strikes using locally available bomb material. The objectives of the project were twofold: strike terror in the Indian heartland without raising suspicions of Pakistan's involvement."

In intelligence jargon, this is called a plausibly deniable operation. Unlike the 26/11 Mumbai attacks which left behind damning evidence of Pakistani involvement--Pakistani national Ajmal Amir Kasab--this operation would use only Indian nationals. They were recruited by Lashkar spotters either in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh and indoctrinated using propaganda videos showing the Babri Masjid demolition and Gujarat riots.

Through Khwaja and others like him arrested earlier, the agencies deduced that the youth were being trained by the ISI in a remote region of Balochistan. How they figured this was through a detailed study of the interrogation reports of at least a dozen Pakistan-trained Indian militants. The recruits were ferried across the border for arms training in the rugged province of Pakistan.

Here, starting in around 2003, the ISI began training these operatives in small groups of four to five. In two years, intelligence sources estimate, between 40 and 50 jihadis had been similarly trained and infiltrated into India.

Interrogations of at least 12 captured jihadis built up a picture of nondescript two-tent camps along the rugged coasts where candidates were given one-month training capsules, not in firing AK-47s but in bomb-making. "The four of us were driven out of Karachi for nine hours in a covered truck. We reached a camp in a desolate part of Pakistan, ringed by barren hills.

There were a few tents, four instructors and a few sentries. For one month, they trained us in the use of chemicals and locally available materials to fabricate IEDs. We were never told the location of the camp, but when we faced the rising sun, the sea was to our right. One day, one of the trainers pointed out a Pakistani border outpost on the Iran border," reads the confession of a militant trained in one of these camps.

If this sounds exactly like the training given to hundreds of Pakistani recruits in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK), there is a subtle but visible difference. Unlike the LeT camps in the hills above Muzzafarabad, the five-times-a-day prayer was not mandatory. Recruits in the Balochistan camps were allowed to play carrom and watch satellite television, mundane pleasures denied to the by-the-book jihadis in the POK camps. The trainers were Pakistani armymen in salwars. The camps were occasionally visited by evidently higher-ranking officials whom the trainers snapped to attention and addressed them by that very military salutation, 'sir'.

After completion of the training, many of the agents were infiltrated into India as sleeper cells, waiting for the command to strike. The agencies are unsure just how many operatives passed out of the camps and like Headley and Khwaja indicated, waiting for the signal to strike.

The template for the project was already there. The March 12, 1993, blasts in Mumbai which killed 257 people were executed by the then Dubai-based Ibrahim's gang. The ISI supplied the RDX for the 13 explosions using the same smuggling routes that landed gold, textile and watches in the 1970s and '80s. It trained Ibrahim's lieutenants and foot soldiers to handle, store, and finally plant the explosives.

Trail of Death

Shramjeevi Express, near Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh, July 28,2005 IED kill 10 passengers and injures 79 on the Patna-New Delhi train.

Delhi, October 29, 2005 Three serial blasts before Diwali kill 62 people.

Varanasi, March 7, 2006 Three explosions at Sankat Mochan temple and railway station kill 21.

Mumbai, July 11, 2006 Seven bomb blasts in six local trains at peak hour kill 209.

Hyderabad, August 25, 2007 Twin blasts at garden and snack stall kill 42 people.

Lucknow, Varanasi, Faizabad, November 24, 2007 16 people killed in blasts in court complexes in the three cities.

Jaipur, May 13, 2008 Nine blasts in market place kill 63 people.

Ahmedabad, July 26, 2008 22 IED blasts at 17 places kill 53.

Delhi, September 13, 2008 Five blasts in various locations kill 30 people.

Pune, February 13, 2010 Eleven killed as IED explodes in a popular restaurant.

Ibrahim's syndicate, said the US Congressional Research Service Report released last month, provides an example of how a profit-motivated criminal syndicate morphed into a 'criminal-terrorism fusion model'. It is not the first one. The Taliban funds their insurgency through their formidable drug trafficking structure. But Ibrahim's syndicate is unique in that it has found state sponsorship and shelter.

A facility that the Karachi Project has now extended to an assortment of India's most wanted. Mobster Amir Raza Khan of Kolkata, Rasool 'Party', a don from Ahmedabad, and Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal of Karnataka and a Tablighi Jamaat maulavi Mufti Sufian Patangiya-- a group of fugitives whom one intelligence official calls a "bewildering array of poisonous snakes". Each had good reason to flee into Pakistan.

Patangiya was the main accused in the March 2003 murder of former Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya. Rasool was a former accomplice of slain Ahmedabad gangster Abdul Latif Shaikh and Amir, wanted by the police for his role in the 2002 attack on Kolkata's US consulate. Amir, who fled into Pakistan after the attack was recruited by the LeT military commander Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi.

The fugitives from Indian justice brought with them extensive knowledge of the lay of the land, local intelligence and contacts of the cities they came from and also helped the ISI-recruited jihadis from India. The kingpins dipped into a reservoir of disaffected Muslim youth for their foot soldiers.

Some of them were highly educated and members of the radical Students' Islamic Movement of India and others like Qayamuddin Kapadia, a graphics designer now being tried for the Gujarat bombings, set up the IM.

The IM was another front for the project and claimed credit for a string of attacks in Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad in 2008, a further attempt by the ISI to distance itself from culpability. The Lashkar cat's paw which carried out a series of attacks was set up precisely for this purpose around 2007. The IM was born out of a meeting between Amir of Kolkata and Riyaz Bhatkal, an engineering graduate from Mumbai's Saboo Siddique college.

Indian investigators say the Karachi Project debuted on July 28, 2005, at around 5.15 p.m. in decidedly unspectacular settings--an IED was placed near the toilet of the Shramjeevi Express hurtling from Patna to Delhi. The results were deadly. Ten passengers were killed and 79 injured when an IED blasted through the coach.

After this, there was a bombing roughly every six months, clinically targeting places of worship, public transport and shopping centres. It seemed that the terrorists had only perfected their deadly art with every attack.

The twin attacks on Delhi in 2005 and 2008 and the dastardly attack on six local trains in Mumbai killed 209 people.The Bhatkals fled the police dragnet soon after the IM's spate of bombings in 2008 and managed to escape into Pakistan where they are now lodged in safe houses in Karachi.

The Indian intelligence agencies, meanwhile, were like the proverbial blind men feeling the sides of an elephant and the nation, seemingly impotent, unable to stop the bombings. Then the successes started coming in, if only in identifying the perpetrators. Between 2005 and 2007, the Delhi and Uttar Pradesh special task forces arrested several Lashkar and HUJI affiliated between 2005 and 2007, who revealed who was behind the plot.

In June 2007, Babu Bhai, a HUJI operative, was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police while ferrying 8 kg of RDX. He confirmed the involvement of Amir in the network. From then on, investigators began tracing the dots linking Amir to the series of blasts. In fact, the only strikes not attributed to this unholy alliance of the jihadis, Pakistan army and underworld were the Ajmer, Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid and Bangalore bombings.

After the tactical hiatus of 2009 which India experienced as a result of various pressures on Pakistan, the latter calibrated its visible terrorist engagement downwards. These pressures have now been significantly diluted--particularly after the London conference, where the US indicated a pullout and suggested a willingness to 'franchise' the management of the Afghan conflict to Pakistan once again.

From a militant trained in one of the camps in Balochistan

"The four of us were driven out of Karachi for nine hours in a covered truck. We reached a camp in a desolate part of Pakistan, ringed by barren hills. There were a few tents, four instructors and a few sentries. For one month, they trained us in the use of chemicals and using locally available materials to build IEDs. We were never told the location of the camp, but when we faced the rising sun, the sea was to our right. One day, one of the trainers pointed out a Pakistani border outpost on the Iran border."

"All this has enormously increased the degree of impunity with which Pakistan engages in terrorism, and this would have been crucial in the decision to initiate a new phase of attacks against India," says Ajai Sahni of the Institute for Conflict Management.

"Instead of another 26/11 attack, which could lead to war between India and Pakistan, expect frequent smallscale blasts in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games to show India as unsafe," says former R&AW official Colonel (retd) RSN Singh.

Such attacks will need the assistance of youths like college dropout Mohammed Abdul Shahid aka Shahid Bilal, who was one of the first batch of 12 Muslim youth from Hyderabad whom Rasool smuggled into Pakistan in 2002.

Bilal was responsible for the twin Hyderabad bombings of 2007 and later headed the Bangladesh unit of HUJI before being killed by unidentified gunmen there in 2008. "The names may change, but this is a long-term project. It goes on uninterrupted," says a senior intelligence official.

"There are only two ways to shut down this project," says an intelligence official, "Either we neutralise them ourselves (using covert options) or Pakistan hands over the accused like the Bhatkal brothers and Rasool and stop terrorism."

With neither option visible on the horizon, the Home Ministry is going back to asking for Headley in the hope of preventing further strikes.

The project uses Indian jihadis, enabling Pakistan to deny any role in terror attacks.

Following the Pune blast, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said India had once again sought access to Headley. Though details of his interrogation were shared with India, Home Ministry sources said that access to him may have prevented Pune.

Even in this worrisome tale of hunting for the enemies among us, however, there is a slight ray of hope. Indians have so far been used by the ISI only for the kind of "insidious attacks" as Chidambaram called it, leaving behind an explosive-laden bag in public places.

Dangerous Nexus

Conceived in 2003 as a joint strategy between the ISI, Pakistan Army, Lashkar and HUJI to use fugitives given sanctuary in Karachi to Indian youth and bring them to Pakistan for arms and explosives training via Bangladesh and Nepal, where they are indoctrinated by videos of Babri Masjid and Gujarat riots.

Underworld dons and fugitives like Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal are used as spotters to ensure a steady supply of recruits from India for the project. By using Indians, it gives Pakistan the fig leaf of denying involvement.

The project was conceived as a crucial element in Pakistan's strategic arsenal to counter India's military and economic advantages.

Original strategy was to send the trained recruits back to India to plant bags with bombs at strategic locations. Pune shows it is now aimed at foreigners in India. Detailed information about Karachi Project has come from Abdul Khwaja, Bilal's No. 2, who was clandestinely arrested by Indian intelligence operatives in Bangladesh late last year. The other major source of information on the project has been David Headley, who has given the FBI additional details about the project and his role in it as well as the interrogation of Amjad Khwaja, a leading IM operative, arrested recently.

The recruits are being trained by the ISI in a remote region of Balochistan, not far from the Iranian border. They were taught to construct IEDs from locally available explosives. They are allowed to play games and watch satellite television, unlike militants in the camps in PoK.

After completion of the training, the agents are infiltrated into India as sleeper cells, waiting for the command to strike.

First strike on the Shramjeevi Express in 2005, and the most recent one suspected to be in Pune. The project can only be stopped if Pakistan hands over fugitives or India neutralises the operatives.

Resumption of strikes linked to pressure being taken off Pakistan by the international community.

No Indian has so far been used to carry out fidayeen attacks like the one in Mumbai, which calls for a level of indoctrination and brutality that has so far been seen only in Pakistani jihadi recruits. "But who knows what the future holds?" asks a senior intelligence official.

(Courtesy : Yahoo)