08 October, 2013

India and Iran – narrowing the separation?


pp 274-278, "India and Iran - narrowing the separation?"

On 27 December 2010, India’s Central Bank had issued a directive, regarding the payment mechanism for trade with Iran. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced that:
In view of the difficulties being experienced by importers and exporters in payments to and receipts from Iran, the extant provisions have been reviewed and it has been decided that all eligible current account transactions including trade transactions with Iran should be settled in any permitted currency outside the Asian Clearing Union (ACU) mechanism until further notice.”
After about two and a half years’ negotiations and head-scratching, the two countries could finally evolve an acceptable solution. Iran has agreed to take payments for oil it sells to India entirely in rupees after US and western sanctions blocked all other payment routes.1
India has been, since July 2011, paying in Euros to clear 55 per cent of its purchases of Iranian oil through Ankara- based Halkbank. The remaining 45 per cent was remitted in rupees in the accounts the Iranian oil companies opened in Kolkata-based UCO Bank.
At a time when the rupee is on a downslide vis-à-vis dollar, the rupee payment mechanism with Iran against crude oil imports has offered some path for its upliftment.
According to UCO Bank, crude oil import from Iran by state-owned Indian Oil Corporation under the rupee payment mechanism during the last 13 months has been worth $7 billion. Incidentally, UCO bank is the only Indian bank designated to receive the oil payments in rupee from oil importing companies.
Indubitably, this is soothing news for both Tehran and New Delhi. Furthermore, the move indicates that the Foreign policy establishment at South Block is pursuing an independent foreign policy paradigm – fundamentally based on the plank of national interest.

In fact, erasing all doubts, India’s relations with Iran received a straight drive from none other than India’s erudite Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. On a state visit to Tehran in August 2012 to participate in the Non – Aligned Movement Summit, he bludgeoned all speculations:

There are of course difficulties imposed by western sanctions, but subject to that I think, we will explore ways and means of developing our relations with Iran.”

Views and Narratives: Scholarly and Analytical

In this contentious and highly debated matter of India-Iran relations, it is noteworthy to delve into what analysts and scholars have commented.

In the innovative article “Why Iran Should Get the Bomb”2 in the Foreign Affairs magazine, Kenneth N. Waltz writes:

Israel has made it clear that it views a significant Iranian enrichment capacity alone as an unacceptable threat.”

Rather interestingly, he further comments:

In fact, by reducing imbalances in military power, new nuclear states generally produce more regional and international stability, not less.”

“Israel’s regional nuclear monopoly”, comments Waltz, “has proved remarkably durable for the past four decades.”

Actually, Waltz is stressing on the age-old, yet time-tested concept of “Balance of Power”. It is worthwhile to remember Bismarck’s policy in pre-1880 Europe in this regard. By carefully engineering power blocks, he could ward off any major war. As per Waltz’s thesis, similar situation could be created in the Middle East today.

Noted Indian analyst Harsh V Pant and his co-author Julie M Super are categorical as they predict quite affirmatively:

Indian interests will continue to shape New Delhi’s policies toward Iran. Increased pressure from the US may not be the deciding factor in India-Iran ties.3

In fact, the authors seem to be positively skewed toward India’s foreign policy paradigm. They write:

New Delhi’s continued emphasis on strategic autonomy undercuts efforts by Washington to influence Indo-Iranian relations.”

And the authors seem hopeful that “Washington may find value in considering New Delhi’s potential role as an interlocutor in reaching out to Tehran.”

Energy security, according to Pant and Super, is a major concern for India that has necessitated a delicate balance of relationships amid the competing interests of the US, Israel and Iran.

The authors are confident that talks of an Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline will also continue despite US criticism and a lack of progress in that direction. Probably, Pant and Super attempt to underscore the nuances of diplomacy that South Block clinically executes.

Through the paper “India and Iran relations: Sustaining the Momentum”, Meena Singh Roy laments4:

Iran was India’s second largest supplier of oil but now it has slipped to 6th position.”

Taking an obvious cue from Dr Singh’s visit, reports Singh Roy, External Affairs Minister (EAM) Salman Khurshid visited Iran in May 2013 and therein the decision to upgrade the Chabahar port project was ‘conveyed’.

Actually, India is interested in investing in the Chabahar container terminal project as well as the Chabahar-Faraj-Bam railway project. Bam is on the Afghanistan border and is connected to Zaranj-Delaram road in Afghanistan. The Delaram–Zaranj Highway, also known as Route 606, is a 135 miles long two-lane road connecting Zaranj in Nimruz Province, near the Iranian border, with Delaram in neighboring Farah Province.

It connects the Afghan–Iranian border with the Kandahar–Herat Highway in Delaram, which provides connectivity to other major Afghan cities. Route 606 reduces travel time between Delaram and Zaranj from the earlier 12-14 hours to just 2 hours. The highway was financed fully by development grants from India. It was designed and constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) of India.

During the visit of EAM, developments in Afghanistan and Syria were discussed at length. In a post-2014 Afghanistan, both India and Iran will have common stakes. A fanatic Taliban-dominated Afghanistan can be detrimental to both a Shia Iran and a Pakistan-wary India.

Insofar as Syria is concerned, India and Iran both support the Geneva Communique; which includes the 6-point Plan of Kofi Annan. However, Iran is much more deeply involved in a so-called neo-Cold War scenario in Syria since Hezbollah and Israel are at definite loggerheads. Whereas India’s stance in a civil war ridden Syria is more philosophical and ideational.

Naturally, it seems a collision between New Delhi and Tel Aviv is evident if the former goes on in its reconciliation with Tehran. However, it is germane to note what Ambassador Prakash Shah opines5 at FPRC Journal:

It is well known in diplomacy that a country’s relations with another country are never at the expense of its other bilateral relations. Independent foreign policies pursued by each country should not blind either India or Iran to the benefits of closer bilateral relations.”

Interestingly, much like Pant and Super, Shah also finds credence in the hypothesis that “in fact, India can work for US-Iran rapprochement.”

On the other hand, and quite starkly, executive editor of Iranreview.org, Mahmoudreza Golshanpezhooh seems rather critical when he opines6:

the Iranian public opinion was shocked by India’s positive vote for the anti-Iranian resolution at the Security Council. We presume that India is not with us anymore. However, no presumptions are permanent.”

Quoting a voice of an Indian intellectual; we find that Dr Asghar Ali Engineer disapprovingly asserts:

It is so unfortunate that Iran had supported India on Kashmir issue and yet we supported American stand on nuke issue and alienated Iran. Since then, our relations cooled off.”7

Such an assertion may not hold much ground now after Dr Singh’s visit to Tehran in 2012 and India’s positive posture vis-à-vis Iran, without however, totally disbanding its position with respect to Iranian nukes. India is firm on its principles as well as on its autonomy in framing foreign policy in a multipolar world. Pragmatism coupled with national interest defines the contours of India’s foreign policy architecture.

Deductive Logic?

As a possible inference, it may be stated that India – Iran bilateral relations hinge on the following aspects:

First, US and Israel factor - that is, how both these countries view the development of Iranian nukes and Tehran’s stance towards IAEA norms. Though USA will be far more rational in its approach, Tel Aviv can be more demanding from its partners and allies. But the moot question is whether India is an ally of Israel in the Middle East? In a best possible mode, India is a strategic and defence partner with Israel. Keeping in mind what Ambassador Shah said, and in general what India pursues as a matter of policy, India’s relations with Israel and Iran may go ahead independently, one relation flourishing without hampering the growth of the other.

Second, Iran’s domestic pulls could turn out to be vital. It will depend on the theocracy and the incumbent regime as to how they react to Western sanctions. Though termed irrational by Western media, Iranian regime might not be that puerile to choose the path of self-destruction. Rather, they may skillfully tread the diplomacy of brinkmanship as was the case during the recent crisis curling around the geography of Strait of Hormuz.

Third, Iran’s stance towards nukes remains critical in how India and the rest of the globe perceive Iran and its motives. If Tehran pursues a clear and conscientious nuclear policy for peaceful civilian purposes, then it is not at all a matter of wild guesswork that India will not specifically be on the belligerent side to thwart such moves by Tehran through resolutions.
In sum, India’s dual pursuit of Energy Security and Strategic Co-operation will largely define its relations with not only Iran, but with major powers and blocks, viz, Russia, Gulf Co-operation Council, Central Asian Republics, USA and Israel. Iran would be no exception.

Notes :


1: “Iran agrees to take all oil payments from India in rupees”, The Economic Times, Jul 14 2013

2: “Why Iran Should Get the Bomb?”, Kenneth N. Waltz, Foreign Affairs, July/Aug 2012

3: “Balancing Rivals: India’s Tightrope between Iran and the United States”, Harsh V. Pant and Julie M. Super, Asia Policy 15, January 2013

4: “India and Iran Relations: Sustaining the Momentum”, Meena Singh Roy, IDSA Issue Brief, May 20, 2013

5: in FPRC Journal No. 6, 2011

6: ibid

7: ibid


10 July, 2013

The Last Thunder?

Geopolitics, July 2013, pp 62 - 64

by Uddipan Mukherjee

Dandakaranya is huge. The undivided Bastar district alone was larger than the state of Kerala. The railway line connecting Delhi to Hyderabad borders Dandakaranya on the west, while the sea, near Vishakhapatnam, flanks it on the east. The railway line connecting Kolkata and Mumbai near Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh marks out its border in the north.”

How apt was Sonu – one of the protagonists of erstwhile BBC journalist Shubhranshu Choudhary’s composition Let’s Call Him Vasu. The very idea of creating today’s dreaded guerrilla zone at Dandakaranya was of Kondapalli Sitaramaiyyah’s, then leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People’s War. And as Choudhary describes the geography of 1,00,000 square kilometre ‘sprawl of trees, hills and treacherous paths……’, one is forced to acknowledge the hazardous terrain which so readily traps India’s security forces and of late, peaceful political marches. Ambushes are the order of the day – in fact, for days.
However, the stealthy attack on the Parivartan Yatra of the Indian National Congress on 25 May was not only the most impactful in 2013 – probably it was the most high profile targeted attack after the assassination bids on erstwhile Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. And as STRATFOR’s Scott Stewart had suggested in their security weekly a couple of years back in June 2011 that “if an assailant has a protectee's schedule, it not only helps in planning an attack but it also greatly reduces the need of the assailant to conduct surveillance -- and potentially expose himself to detection”, such an intelligence malfunction and information leakage turned out to be the two most decisive factors at Darbha Ghati, Jeeram Valley – again in Bastar !

On that Day

27 people, including Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nandkumar Patel, his son Dinesh and anti-Maoist vigilante group leader Mahendra Karma, among others were brutally butchered. Veteran leader and former Union minister V C Shukla was badly injured and later on succumbed to the injuries. Over 30 rank and file of the Congress party had to fall prey to the carefully orchestrated ambush of the Communist Party of India – Maoist (CPI-M), for which the left ultras, later asked an apology in their official proclamation – too late, too little though.
The Darbha Ghati incident was neither the first of its kind, nor will be the last. The Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) have had to face brutal onslaughts and invariably taken unawares on many occasions – not always in the labyrinthine topography of Chhattisgarh, but at times in Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal – though terrain was almost always the slippery area. Not only that, lack of ground intelligence and exposing their own selves to the guerrillas in the search operations against the Maoists had been lethal to the security personnel – let’s take the planting of IEDs inside the dead bodies of CAPF jawans in Latehar in January 2013 or may we just remember the April 2010 Dantewada massacre of 75 CAPF jawans. Or, for that matter, why fail to recollect the annihilation of 11 CAPF men at Lohardaga in Jharkhand in May 2011.

Nevertheless, the Darbha Ghati event shook many structures – especially the corridors of authority – and the resultant is that two independent probes are on – one by a sitting judge of Chhattisgarh High Court, Justice Prashant Mishra and the other by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). A natural knee-jerk reaction could have been to send ‘more CAPF forces’ against the rebels – however, even though in a phase-wise manner the number of battalions need to be increased in Ground Zero – but that’s not the panacea for this woe.

Ganapathy, the General Secretary of the CPI-M, still has dreams of a Red Flag at the Red Fort. Or may be, since he knows that those are dreams to be seen during the day, he needs to pull off something extravagant from time to time in order to maintain the espirit de corpsof his guerrillas and sometimes, to buttress his own dreams. The Darbha Ghati mayhem needs to be viewed in that context. Apart from the obvious negatives, the positives that could be taken out of the gory bloodletting on 25 May would be the analytic that CPI-M was definitely and still is under pressure – with its top brass either incarcerated or eliminated. Its wings and branches had been pruned in Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal. In fact, after the era of Mallojula Koteswara Rao alias Kishenji, West Bengal’s Jangalmahalregion has had a long bout of serenity and silence. In such a backdrop, it may not be naïve to surmise that 25 May was an ‘act of desperation’ by the Maoists. However, in no way, we can infer that the Maoists are in their last stage or they could be eradicated easily now.
However, it is probably hard to deny that Ganapathy and his party were hard pressed from all directions and they ‘had’ to prove their existence somehow. 

And nothing could have been bigger than Darbha – where their age-old animosity against Mahendra Karma was brought to an illogical fructification. Desperation manifested in diabolism when the demise of the octogenarian politician V C Shukla was justified by the spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, Gudsa Usendi, on 11 June 2013. In their ‘press release’, the Maoists have attempted to paint their devilish actions with the colours of exploitation and deprivation – a bogey with which they have consistently tried to coerce the tribal people join their military dalams.
Eradication or Negotiation?
A baffling situation no doubt, and the Indian policy makers have embarked on a two-pronged strategy to deal with the insurgency. The general principle works on the security-cum-development model. First, ‘clear’ the affected area and then ‘hold’ onto it and pump in the development as fast as practicable – or may be, faster than normal bureaucratic processes function.

As former Director General of the Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF), K Vijay Kumar told at the Idea Exchange event hosted by Indian Express in January 2012:

"Indian insurgencies need to be fought with security and development."

Taking the example of the anti-Maoist operation in Saranda forests of Jharkhand's West Singhbhum district, he also said in the same forum that “the security forces had pushed the door figuratively, by going in first. This had to be followed by immediate development in the region from the government.”
The strategy, however, do not exhibit much novelty as this has been put into effective usage in Iraq and Afghanistan recently and moreover there is nothing ‘new’ in the government’s experience regarding the Naxal/Maoist insurgency. It is a four-decade old problem. Though it subsided in the late 1970s and was dormant in the 1980s and 90s; Andhra Pradesh was to feel the jolts of the shock many a times, first during 1978-85 and thereafter in the late 1990s which zoomed in March 2000 with the assassination of A. Madhava Reddy, then Home Minister of Andhra Pradesh, further magnified with the attack on a central cabinet minister in 2001 in Andhra itself and finally culminated at the failed murderous attempt on the erstwhile Chief Minister of the state, Chandrababu Naidu in October 2003. The machinery of the province did react and it was ruthless in its execution. It prepared an elite band of ‘Greyhounds’; on most occasions manned by the Indian Police Service officers and clubbed it with a penetrative intelligence department.

The strategy worked quite successfully. Incarceration and annihilation of the top brass of the Maoist leadership obliterated the preponderance of the Naxalites in the province and they were forced to shift base to neighbouring Chattisgrah. The ultras were forced to form a new epicenter: Dantewada-Bastar region of central India. Such was the dramatic effect of the elite Greyhounds on the Maoists, that N. Venugopal, a participant observer of the movement in Andhra notes in p. 219 his book:

“The Greyhounds do not even have uniforms, they do not wear badges, they do not travel in numbered vehicles, and their sojourns are never recorded.”

One can sympathise with his disgruntlement and hence the venom pouring through his pen.

A freelance journalist Rana Bose, somewhat inadvertently, lays down the principle of conflict resolution. He contributed an article in the anthology “War and Peace in Junglemahal” whose title ran like: “If You Want Peace, You Must Go To War” – something similar had been propounded by Edward Luttwak in Foreign Affairs magazine, when the celebrated military strategist wrote: “Give War a Chance”. However, and quite correctly so, Bose goes on to clarify the military tactic inherent in his title:

“………You must actually wage war to a point of advantage where a stalemate is reached and peace negotiations are inevitable.”

Simply put, ‘talks’ with a guerrilla organization, whose sole motive is to uproot the democratic structures of the nation, can possibly take place only when the authorities place themselves in a position of strength. After the Jhiram valley murders, who is at a position of strength? Analytically speaking and by gleaning onto the data of the past 2 to 3 years, it may be safely commented that the government still holds onto that advantage, but an outright clash at this moment could be gorier. However, the government must utilise the media coverage during this period and win the propaganda war – since it would be utterly cumbersome for the Maoists to intellectually defend themselves after these mass murders.

It could always be the case that Ganapathy and his Central Committee smashed the ace through the Darbha incident – expecting an all-out offensive – which in turn would be utilized by them to foment disaffection against the state structures and wean away the masses from the democratic moorings. Another possibility which Ganapathy and his mates could have guessed was a timid reaction by the government so that offer of talks may flow and they would renew and refresh in the meantime. As Gautam Navlakha notes in p. 311 of “War and Peace in Junglemahal”:

“……majority line at the Unity Congress 2007 on the issue of talks in Andhra Pradesh was to utilize the relaxation in order to complete the preparation for confronting future offensive ……”.

Navlakha’s theoretical statement is empirically corroborated by failed Maoist interlocutor Sujato Bhadro in p. 63 of the same book: “To our utter dismay, the Maoists, even after our contact with them had been established and a round of peace talks with them was completed on a positive note on 28 August, took the lives of 3 activists of other political parties in a ruthless manner.”

Let’s Move On, But How?

·         The CPI-M is still a non-conventional guerilla force and fighting an insurgency in the strategic stalemate phase. Thus, a full-fledged operation employing the Armed Forces is still not on the cards of feasibility.

·         The CRPF needs to be trained in counter-insurgency warfare. More jungle warfare schools modeled on the one at Kanker needs to be set up and are being done so. The disbanded civil militia is gradually being incorporated into regular police forces. In this manner, the irregular militia is obtaining a facade of legitimacy. Local men with knowledge of the topography and dialect would surely provide a fillip in counter-insurgency operations.

·         Interestingly, Sunil Dasgupta in a Brookings publication, while discussing on local alliances in counter-insurgency operations, comments:

Extant counterinsurgency theory, which is sensitive to escalation control and accusations of abuse of power, does not highlight this frankly brutal approach that still allows the government keep their hands relatively clean.”

·         Further, CRPF could implement platoons, or may be squads so as to “fight the guerilla like a guerilla”. Finding targets is a challenge. Satellite imagery and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are being used to zero in on the targets. Area domination exercises must follow proper Standard Operating Procedures, in order to avoid loss of lives of the security forces.

·         Not only strength in terms of technical wherewithal or arms, the CAPF personnel need to have constant motivational and psychological boosts – more so in the wake of reports of high suicide rates and attrition factor.

·         Empowerment of the adivasis must continue as a parallel course, for instance, revenue-sharing with the adivasis by the corporate bodies and the proper implementation of the Forest Rights Act 2006. The administration needs to act as a facilitator in this regard. Some corporate houses have taken positive steps. Like the Tata Steel has called for social infrastructure development in the Maoist areas. Already, ITC has served the peasant community by introducing agri-marketing through Information Technology (the e-choupalscheme)

·         Surgical strikes against top leaders of the Maoists need to continue. Such a policy will lead them to ideological bankruptcy. By all probability, personnel from the Greyhound force can ‘coach’ the provincial police forces and the CAPF.

·         Human intelligence network of the police has to be improved because it’s the local police which will be the base of the pillar of strength against the Maoists. The CAPF will provide the raw power, but the local police stations must come up with the vital nutrients – in this case, intelligence aka precise information and at the same time, conserving one’s own. But, the key has to be ‘mixing’ with the population and ‘winning’ them from the ultras.

·         Finally, seeds of dissension may be attempted to be sown amongst the Maoists; that is, try for a de-merger of CPI-M into MCC and PWG wings. A case in point is the bloody internecine skirmish going on in Jharkhand, between the Tritiya Prastuti Committee and the CPI-M.

The way forward may not be smooth – both for the administration as well as the ultras and more so the masses – whom Mao Tse-tung so fascinatingly termed the ‘water’. Meticulous planning, a unity of purpose and clinical execution may very well combine so that the original Spring Thunder can as well be the last.

Dr. Uddipan Mukherjee is an IOFS officer under OFB, Ministry of Defence, Govt. of India. Any opinion expressed in this article is solely that of the author and in no way reflects the official position of the Govt. of India.

19 April, 2013

Marx, Mao and Rajanna – Aim and Shoot

by Uddipan Mukherjee

Uday India, Vol. IV, No. 20, April 27 2013

Eric Hobsbawm, noted historian and prolific scholar, rues the fact that Dr Marx and Marxism were on a definite wane since 1980s. He devotes a separate chapter on this topic in his epic book How to Change the World. He writes:

“In a word, Marx was typecast as the inspirer of terror and gulag [concentration camps during Stalin’s regime], and communists as essentially defenders of, if not participators in, terror and the KGB [Soviet era secret service]” (p. 398 of the book)

Though the author refers to India’s Subaltern school of historiography [an attempt by a group of historians led by Ranajit Guha to re-write India’s struggle for Independence through the eyes of the tribals and the peasants], he doesn’t recognize the Maoist guerrilla movements in South Asia to be the torchbearer of the doctrinaire of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Hobsbawm probably desires to remain a puritan and refrains from mixing Marxian ideology with its variants.

Interestingly, Ranajit Guha, in an interview to Milinda Banerjee (02 February 2010, at a place near Vienna), had showered praises on Charu Mazumdar and his then fledgling Naxal movement – albeit lamenting the organizational [in]capabilities of the erstwhile Naxals – which, according to Guha was the nemesis of the otherwise revolutionary outbreak. And when chroniclers of post-2004 era draft their books and monographs, they are somewhat mesmerized by the martinets of today’s Maoist organizations – who adhere to a strict code of conduct, with a restrained and modest lifestyle, and yet, aspire to conquer the Red Fort with their red flag, with few bought and largely stolen Avtomat Kalashnikovas and with a lot of their crude, country-made Improvised cannons and explosives.

Former BBC journalist and presently based in Chhattisgarh, Shubhranshu Choudhary describes: “He looked too old to be in charge of anything in a naxal squad. With his grey hair set in smooth waves and thick glasses in rectangular frames, he looked like an eccentric professor. The army fatigues and the casually slung Sten gun contrasted peculiarly with his face.” (p. 191 of Let’s Call Him Vasu).

Choudhary deserves applause, if not for narrating the oral history of the growth of the Maoists in the thickly forested regions of Bastar-Abujhmaad 1980 onwards, when seven squads each comprising of seven “comrades”  were unleashed by then leadership spearheaded by Kondapalli Sitarammiah [or KS as he is called by his “comrades”] to start/re-start the revolution; then at least for exhibiting the bravado of entering the Maoist den by jeopardizing his health – under the constant attack of the deadly mosquitoes.

“Only about a third of our party is armed, and at first, we used to buy all the arms we needed. But now, we purchase only 5 per cent of our arms; around 15 per cent is looted from the police, and we make 80 per cent ourselves” – claims Rajanna, the “Professorial” Naxal (p. 193 of Choudhary’s book). The veracity of such tall figures could well be challenged. However, Mr Rajanna elucidates about the making of Improvised cannons – which were a revelation, at least to this researcher, fifteen of which he boastfully claims to deliver in a day ! (p. 198)

In fact, Rajanna mocks at the capabilities of the Indian government in repairing rifles – an art which he and his ‘boys’ have mastered in less than one-fifth of the time ! (p. 200). This could very well be a part of the psychological warfare which is a veritable component of the fourth generation warfare -  a term for which we may hold American military scholars William Lind and Thomas Hammes responsible, albeit partially. A kind of warfare which bases itself on intelligence gathering, psychological coercion and emphasizes on asymmetry – far removed from the conventional war zones. It’s a war of the insurgent. And such an assumption with regard to Rajanna’s gameplan might not be completely out of the world, as in the same manuscript, Choudhary quotes the same “military man” Rajanna pontificating:

“See, intelligence is the main thing in this war. The state is deploying a Cobra [Commando Battalion for Resolute Action] force here, but it cannot do much if you don’t give it eyes. That is intelligence. The Andhra police planted many coverts in our Party, and they managed to strike at the top and hurt us gravely.” (p. 204)

Mr Rajanna, inheriting a legacy of carpentry, comes out with the expected and the normative. The loss of the top brass did ‘hurt them’. Even this researcher keeps on re-iterating in different forums, platforms and outlets that the Targeted Approach would be the best methodology against the insurgency. Very recently, Union Home Secretary too, professed similar ideas when he asked his troops to focus on Maoist leaders in their operations. (ZeeNews.com, 22 March 2013)

It is a war indeed. And it’s a war is believed not only by Muppalla Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathy – the present General Secretary of the Maoists (who is one of the wanted by the National Investigation Agency), but even by Rajni. Satnam – an activist and writer, in his not merely a travelogue Jangalnama, tells the tale of Rajni, who is fully confident that she and her comrades will eventually gain control over Bastar, after which they will march into Delhi (p. 94, Jangalnama). Rajni and her comrades may be planning to emulate the rebellious Sepoys of 1857 in the process !?

Gun-wielding Rajnis and Rajannas by all probability gather their inspiration from those 49 guerrillas who moved into Bastar in 1980 – who by all means drew their zeal from their leader KS and Ramji aka Kishenji – who in turn might have extracted their strength from the concept of an insurrectional foco – the practical aspects of which were developed by Che Guevara and the theoretical concretization provided by the French intellectual Regis Debray. Che, in his by now legendary monograph Guerrilla Warfare writes on the thirteenth page:

“foco, [or foquismo, or a small nucleus of revolutionaries], can develop subjective conditions based on existing objective conditions.”

Actually, Guevara was trying to posit a new paradigm for revolution – something markedly contrasting with Lenin’s vanguard party thesis. Interestingly though, after the success in Cuba, Che started hailing Marx when he voiced:

“This revolution [Cuban revolution against Batista] is Marxist because it discovered by its own means the path that Marx pointed out” (p. 247, Development of a Marxist Revolution). 

So Che reverts and somewhat finds shelter under the overarching umbrella of Marxism. His foquismo fails miserably in Congo and Bolivia – he is hunted down in 1967 by the Bolivian counter-insurgents – when at a different latitude, amidst a differing culture, Mao innovates and plays around with his Cultural Revolution, under the premise of the psychotic threat perception of Marxism [or Mao-ism?] in danger from the cultural shocks of capitalism. Do we blame Gramsci for such actions and excesses of Mao? The Italian communist Gramsci, who wrote mostly from within the confines of the prison cell, was presumably the first scholar to have invoked this cultural onslaught on communism from the capitalist world.

As if the Sonus (Choudhury’s best bet as the future General Secretary of the Maoists), the Rajnis and the Rajannas of Bastar corroborate such views of Gramsci and Mao and keep on cocooning themselves from the external world by the integument of the autochthonous tribal identity. And with Anil (p. 10 of Let’s Call Him Vasu) leaving the intellectual and sometimes pseudo-intellectual horizons of Kolkata’s Presidency College – more specifically the Baker laboratories and acting as the courier of Kishenji and plunging into the real-life laboratory at Bastar – that elusive urban connection is what Sonu and Rajanna obtain – the umbilical cord which got detached – albeit unnaturally in early 1970s – and which they painstakingly strive to revive through frontal organizations and hidden arms manufacturing units in Indian cities.

It is the city and the growing conurbations where the final war would be fought – Mao too envisaged encircling cities from the countryside. Rajanna concurs: “The main war should be fought outside the jungle, in cities” (p. 202, Let’s Call Him Vasu). The jungle after all, is basically a guerrilla zone – a hideout against the agile counterinsurgent – a geographical ruse to aid hit-and-run tactics. The jungle is the beginning – not the destination. The cities were hamstrung though – both in India as well as in Latin America and Western Europe – in the early 1970s and late 1960s. Notably in Western Europe, under the philosophical tutelage of Herbert Marcuse, Althusser and Franz Fanon, radical student outburst was directed at saving the ‘depressed’ and ‘alienated’ worker from the mass of capitalist industrial set-up.

Equally radical, if not more violent and bloodthirsty, were the youth in Kolkata and its precincts during the Naxal movement in 1970. Journalist, author and activist Sumanta Banerjee eulogises them to an extent: “They were not common criminals, which the police tried to make them out, but dreamers with a violent mission, characters whom Dostoyevsky would have been proud to have created” (p. 237, In the Wake of Naxalbari). 

However, it is germane to note as Banerjee quotes then Naxal leader Sushital Ray Chowdhury: “Sentimental students were used to perform democratic and socialist revolutions simultaneously. 
Such activities as burning educational institutions, libraries, laboratories and destroying the educational system were prescribed. It is enough to say that no discussions were held in the Party’s Central Committee before these tasks were adopted” (p. 225, In the Wake of Naxalbari ).

This researcher interviewed ex-Naxals of late 1960s, belonging to both their ideological realm as well as squad action teams, who now are leading cosy lives in either government jobs or entrepreneurship in Kolkata. More or less unanimous verdict oozed out – “We committed errors. We should have taken the masses into confidence. Alienating them was a grave mistake.” Furthermore, interviews with people affected by the Naxal violence of the early 1970s in then North Calcutta brought out stories which indicate ruthlessness and immaturity on the part of the erstwhile so-called revolutionaries.

Accepting the wrong tactics and to some extent the philosophy had been echoed by other ex-Naxal leaders like Kanu Sanyal [allegedly committed suicide]. Charu Mazumdar’s annihilation line led them to nowhere. Probably, that provided them the lessons to couple Guevara’s foco theory with Mao’s protracted people’s war – a model more or less successfully applied at Bastar-Abujhmaad.

Undoubtedly, as Hobsbawm says that the political impact of Marxism is the most significant achievement of Dr Marx from the point of view of history; at least insofar as the guerrilla movements are concerned. On the other end, the concept of a nation-state which emerged from Westphalia holds itself intact till date and at least as immediately foreseeable future is concerned, doesn’t seem to be affected by the onslaught of the guerrilla battle-zones. Marx cheers for the Paris Commune, Mao didn't believe that revolution could be peaceful and effected at leisure, while Rajanna innovates with the ammunitions and targets the administration. 

The counter-insurgent firmly holds the gun and deservedly so. In the process, he fires at Rajni, Rajanna and Sonu. He keeps a strict vigil on the cities. He gathers intelligence and plants moles. He aims and shoots. Does he have any other alternative? 

[The author acknowledges Google Image for the snaps of Mao and Marx (top) respectively]

Dr Uddipan Mukherjee is an IOFS (ADMIN) Officer working under OFB, Min. of Defence [Govt. of India]. Any opinion expressed in this article is exclusively that of the author and in no way reflects the official position of the Govt. of India