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Monday, December 21, 2009

Much hullaballoo, little cause

20 December 2009 - Manoj Joshi, an informed commentator on military affairs, has in his latest volley taken a crack at a Ministry of Defence claim that the armed forces "are fully prepared, battle-worthy and capable to counter any challenges at very short notice". The statement in question was MoD's response to a news item based on leaked information about a presentation made by the army to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence.

In its presentation, the army had voiced concerns about shortages in several key areas - 71 per cent in armour, 17 per cent in combat helicopters, 62 per cent in mechanised infantry and 52 per cent in artillery. Joshi opines that, "Even these figures don't tell the whole truth. They do not tell us, for example, that India only has 300 T-90 main battle tanks and that the 2000-strong T-72 fleet is yet to be modernised to fight at night ... it appears that what the army will achieve by 2027 is not a modern army circa 2027, but [instead it will] achieve the targets that it had set nearly 10 years ago."

The Army's readiness - or more correctly, the lack of it - would appear alarming, particularly if it is related to the requirements of the prevalent 'Cold Start' doctrine. This doctrine attempts to undercut the impunity enjoyed by Pakistan due to the proximity of its military formations to the border and its nuclear card. The idea is to have the capability for speedy launch of an attack in battle groups that would confound Pakistan's nuclear calculus. This would not only deter Pakistan from expanding the proxy war, but the military threat would force Pakistan to also roll back its terror infrastructure.

The doctrine can be seen as an attempt by the military to furnish the political leadership with an option for responding to the strategic problem of proxy war posed by Pakistan. As can be seen from recent history, political leaders have been selective in using the military option. Both during Operation Parakram and post 26/11, India refrained from using even the mildest military option. Also, it limited its military response to its own side of the Line of Control at Kargil. Going back to the 1990s and further back to Zia-ul Haq's provocations, a restrained approach to Pakistani adventurism has been the preferred yardstick at the political level.

Of course the military should be prepared for conflict. However, whether to engage in such conflict (and if so, how) is a decision for the civilian leadership. On this score, the military and the political leadership in India are not on the same page. The military's self-given program requires a higher level of capability and a political resolve and intention to use it than the civilian heads appear willing to support.


India's strategic posture - brought about by the overall effect of its grand strategy combining all elements of power such as economic, political, military, diplomatic, cultural etc. - has traditionally been of deterrence. The offensive content of this deterrence has of late increased, due to doctrinal innovation and budget expansion in India. Thus, it has shifted from defensive deterrence to offensive deterrence. The difference between the two is that in the former India would await an enemy offensive before responding, but of late with the movement to the latter, it would be proactive in the launch of its offensive - though only when provoked beyond a point. This ability is nevertheless to heighten deterrence, not for compellence.

It is arguable that the military has arbitrarily settled on a higher degree of offensive deterrence, bordering on compellence (i.e. forcing the other side to behave in a particular way). This stronger posture apparently does not have explicit government sanction. This is the military's answer to keeping conventional strength relevant to the strategic problem posed by Pakistan and into the nuclear era. The government on the other hand would be content instead to remain with defensive deterrence of the pre-Cold Start period, since it is more mindful of the possible implications and consequences of nuclearisation of offensive deterrence and compellence.

The impact of nuclearisation has been such that the military's traditional sphere can no longer be considered solely its own. The military may prefer a higher level of readiness, especially for conventional operations, but the politicians will be alert to the implications of even non-nuclear action on the nuclear aspect. Therefore, the figures on readiness need not necessarily be taken as alarming. The government it seems would prefer non-military means, such as diplomacy and intelligence, instead. These have worked to an extent in restricting Pakistani strategic space over the past half decade.

Military means also need to be seen in context of the state of the opponent. Pakistan is in considerable disarray. Its army is engaged on its western border. Even through it tries to upscale its conventional forces through diversion of US funds meant for operations against the Taliban, the equation is in India's favour, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Second, India's grand strategy calls for a sustained period of growth. It cannot be distracted by a conflict, howsoever localised or limited.

Third, its military preparedness is being undertaken with a long term eye on China. This explains developments and procurements of missiles, submarines, air craft carriers and multi role fighters. Whether these are sufficient to deal with future challenges from the Chinese or not, they would obviously help India militarily out-class Pakistan.

Lastly, in case the higher capability - to the extent the Army wants and Manoj Joshi seems to support - were made available, then the temptation to use that capability would surely be greater. At junctures such as 26/11, when resort to lower levels of military force such as through surgical strikes was thinkable, the very existence of the capability would weigh in favour of such action. Therefore, not having the capability for compellence is not such a bad thing after all. Even if hypothetically, resorting to it would have proved counter-productive in any case. Since it cannot be guaranteed that the conflict would not escalate, there is no reason to risk it in light of India's higher order aims and grand strategy. Therefore, India is better of without it.

See for full article -
http://www.indiatogether.org/2009/dec/fah-compel.htm


But more pertinently, there is a case for political direction of the military. It would be much better for the government to debate and indicate which posture it prefers - defensive deterrence, offensive deterrence or compellence - so that the military could work towards this, rather than define its scope on its own, as it currently does. ⊕

Saturday, December 05, 2009

MAKING OBAMA’S WAR ALSO INDIA’S

Leadership involves taking a call. Obama has placed himself in the firing line, not only on account of what he said at West Point but also for what he did not. His laying a deadline has already drawn fire; that of his defeated rival from the presidential polls, Senator McCain. What he left unsaid in terms of addressing the Taliban directly, has already drawn a response in the Taliban threatening heightened violence. In effect, in case the Taliban are not on board as the deadline approaches, then prospects of civil war loom. But by then it would no longer be Obama’s War since he has already announced, ‘Now, we must come together to end this war successfully.’

The exit strategy comprises another ‘surge’ of 30000 troops, supplemented by additional European contributions. This is intended to bring about a sense of security in which the civilian ‘surge’ and training of the ANA can be progressed. With the ANA suitably trained by additional trainers, it would progressively take on responsibility for security. This implies that the ANA has to be made battle ready in a year and half.

This is a tight time schedule for firstly imparting basic soldier training and then training the trained soldier into being a counter insurgent. Pitching the raw counter insurgent into action against the Taliban, that has been waging an insurgency for the last few years against the US-NATO combine, would be a tall order. Particularly when the ANA is known to suffer desertions and is prone to infiltration by Taliban sympathisers. The ANA would be able to take on the Taliban if foreign troops assist with superior technology, mobility and air assets. When they leave, the threat of a Taliban return heightens, even if Americans intend to ‘continue to assist and act as advisers’. This would be an unfortunate aftermath for a war that has seen so much investment of resources and blood.

What needs to be done to avoid this possibility? Clearly, if the past four years of a widening Afghan commitment have not worked, a year’s additional military effort will not. Obama did not spell out the answer. But in the deadline and his stating that, ‘it will be clear to the Afghan government - and, more importantly, to the Afghan people - that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country’, he has implied a political resolution needs to be worked towards. The advantage of the deadline is that it would focus minds.

A beginning has already probably been made. The suspicion of ISI connections with the Taliban has been virtually acknowledged by former Pakistani president Musharraf. In addition, Obama has wisely placated Afghan nationalism and sense of honour that under-grids the insurgency, stating, ‘We have no interest in occupying your country...And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect - to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron.’ Thus, an approach on an equal footing has been made. The Taliban can be expected to eschew temptation to wait out the US. This understanding has perhaps already been arrived at, otherwise Obama would not have ventured to set so explicit a deadline.

What are the implications for India? India’s position has been anti-Taliban form the outset. In case of an attempt at accommodation with the Taliban, India is likely to view it adversely. This owes to it being seen as a vehicle of Pakistani interests and because of its involvement in Kashmir. It would be unwilling to make a constructive contribution since it has been locked in a zero-sum relationship with Pakistan since 26/11. It can play a negative role by promising aid to its friends standing up to the Taliban after US exit, along with other concerned regional states. Though hard-line strategists in India would encourage this line, the problems are firstly its practicability and second it would only lengthen the conflict and lastly it would re-hyphenate India with Pakistan. However, it would not like to place itself at odds with the US led international community’s effort.

Therefore, what should India do? Firstly, it should cauterise itself against the worst case outcome. It has rightly already reopened talks with the separatists in Kashmir. It needs to continue keeping social harmony - managed well over the preceding year - on even keel. Secondly, it would require reining in any intelligence activity that would set Indian interests up as a target in Afghanistan. In case of an action-reaction cycle getting set, there would be no escaping deepening Indian commitment to upset the Pakistani game plan. Thirdly, on a positive note, it needs rereading the last part of Obama’s speech in which he addresses the Pakistani state and nation. From this would emerge how India can modulate its foreign policy to supplement the Obama initiative. In doing so it can extract from Pakistan like reciprocation. It must resume that stalled peace process as a first step.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our view, their view, the world-view
23 November 2009 -
In the context of Pakistan, India has acted as a status quo-ist power, whereas Pakistan is well known for being the revisionist keen on upsetting the territorial status quo. It has resorted to military means in 1965, proxy war in the nineties and a border war at Kargil. India on the other hand has been defensive in the post-1971 War period, relying on Bhutto to deliver on the secret pact at Simla. Through the eighties and nineties it has relied on deterrence.

And lately, its exasperation is evident in its movement to quasi-compellence of Pakistan, insisting that the state should roll back its anti-India terror infrastructure. All this popular reading of the strategic equation points to a uniform fact - India prefers to keep the status quo.But this view is not shared by the Pakistani Establishment - the informal clique of decision makers and influential personalities, historically centered on the Pakistan Army chief, and the formal conference of corps commanders that runs the Pakistan Army and underwrites the state.

To them, Kashmir is the most salient issue on the table between the two nations. And, as they see it, India committed to resolving the Kashmir issue at Simla, Lahore and Islamabad, but did not follow through with enough despatch with the progress made in the back channel during the Musharraf years. They accuse India of engaging in talks for the sake of talks, and has reneged on its commitment to resolving Kashmir. In other words, they see India as reivisionist, reneging from the mutually agreed position that Kashmir is an issue that needs resolving in favour of ensuring that only the Indian view prevails - i.e. that the Line of Control be turned into an international border, if necessary by exertion of compellence!

The fact is that the infiltration and terror activity in Kashmir has steadily gone down since 2002. The interpretations as to why this has happened differ. We in India believe that this is due to action by Indian security forces, and the creation of the fence separating the territories controlled by India and Pakistan. The Pakistani security establishment would argue, since they cannot own up to terrorism in the first place, that the lessened terrorist activity in Kashmir is due to movement promised by India, particularly so at the Islamabad joint statement.

See http://www.indiatogether.org/2009/nov/fah-usvisit.htm for full article

Whether Pakistan is exercising restraint can never be proven to Indian satisfaction. There are too many periodic reminders of the terrorist threat and its links to Pakistan, for India to believe that its neighbour is doing much to rein in its agents. 26/11 particularly reinforced this view, with India threatening immediate and strong action. Any quietening-down by Pakistan over the last year is attributed to this new Indian anger, and not to any self-restraint by the Pakistanis themselves.

Pakistan's support of terrorist actions, albeit patently illegitimate, can be interpreted as means to goad India to seek a resolution of the Kashmir issue through talks. India has indicated its willingness to engage in talks, but it has been reluctant to arrive at an understanding with Pakistan at the point of a gun. Internally, no government would be able to sell its case of accommodation if seen to have been forced into talks and their outcome by terrorist action. Therefore, India maintains that it would talk to Pakistan only when terror ceases to be its instrument.

By this yardstick, Pakistan would have to defang itself, at a time when India's power credentials are growing and have placed it further out of Pakistan's league. Pakistan is thus being required to make a leap of faith twice over - first to take at face value that India still believes in talks even while it strengthens itself militarily, and second to accept that India would engage in talks in case Pakistan complies with the demand to stop arming the terrorists first. But, says the Pakistani establishment, if Pakistans lowers the militaristic tone of its engagement, India would have no incentive to talk and there would be no 'issue' left to talk about. This, the Pakistani Army is unlikely to bite.



It can be expected that President Obama will try to prevail on the Indian Prime Minister during his visit to White House. The silver lining internally has been that in the run up to the visit India has opened up a long delayed line to Kashmiri separatists. Externally, the least that will come about could be a declaration to resume the 'paused' dialogue process.

But this may not be very significant. Pakistan has virtually dropped out of the Kashmir question, no doubt due to its own counter productive strategy. Moreover, India would not know who to engage with in Pakistan - the longevity of the civilian government is questionable, and the Army there is scrambling to outlast the current adverse turn in the Global War of Terror, before it returns to the traditional and familiar Indo-Pak game of 'balance of power'.

All of this is made complicated by the fact that each side - India as well as Pakistan - would not like to be seen as acting under compulsion. Thus any new moves proposed during the PM's visit would have to be seen as emanating from the self-interest of all the parties, rather than merely responding to the expectations of others. Just to prove internally that action is not being taken at others' behest, no meaningful moves will be taken. Unless more is done to change the perceptions of each other as 'revisionist', fingers will continue to remain crossed. ⊕

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

AN ISSUE IN CIVIL-MILITARY RELATIONS?

The Army Chief has said, "US has not allowed a second 9/11 to happen. Indonesia has not allowed a second Bali bombing to happen. India has allowed people to get away after the Parliament attack, the Delhi blasts and finally the 26/11. It's time for all of us to say no more." In light of weightier civil-military relations issues in question, that both analogies are inappropriate is not worth a pause. But first a consideration of whether this is indeed a defining juncture in India’s civil-military relations.

The context is the forthcoming anniversary of 26/11, which India would like to traverse without incident. The urgency owes to the situation in Pakistan worsening. It is possible that the government is putting the pressure on Pakistan to rein in the jihadis to the extent it can. This explains the Home Minister’s earlier warning, “I'm warning Pakistan for the last time. If Pakistan attempts to send terrorists into India again, India will not only foil those attempts but also give them a crushing response.” Such a ‘good cop-bad cop’ routine helps balance the prime minister’s extending a ‘hand of friendship’ to Pakistan on his trip to the Valley late last month. The Chief said this in the presence of the Minister of State for Defence. News that the latest terror plan, bust by the FBI in the US, was to target the prestigious National Defence College, was perhaps the provocation. The statement of the present Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee is in keeping with precedent of policy influencing pronouncements set by the previous COSC Chairman, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, in his address at a National Maritime Foundation lecture recently – the statement in question then being on India’s China policy.

But is India capable of such finesse in signalling? Answering this question in the ‘affirmative’ would mean that treating the Chief’s statement as a departure in civil-military norms as an attempt at generating a conflict where there is none. Since whether there is a plan to the government’s moves cannot be known with any certainty, giving the benefit of doubt is warranted. The government is using the Chief’s broad shoulders to unmistakably convey to Pakistan that India is poised precariously on its proverbial ‘tolerance threshold’.

Nevertheless, even as an academic exercise, its worth probing what the juncture implies. Keeping civil-military relations under scrutiny periodically helps keep militarization in check and democracy in good health.

Firstly, the statement was at a CII-Army seminar. This indicates the vested interest corporate India, and external arms dealers, have in arming India. The Minister of Defence having indicated that India is likely to spend $ 50 billion over the middle term, this is not surprising. Of consequence is what this implies for policy choices. This can only be to facilitate military expenditure in pursuit of capabilities allowing India to prevail in case of exercise of the military option, an inevitability since the Chief has spoken.

Secondly, with the Home Minister and the Chief having in their utterances sealed India’s policy choice, whether it is the right one needs questioning. Higher end options, such as war, can be ruled out for the very reasons that have stayed India’s hand earlier. These are economy, US presence and the nuclear overhang. However, surgical strikes on any of the list of 5000 targets that the Air Force Western Command boss has said they have drawn up, is possible. This could perhaps be supplemented with Army action across the Line of Control, so that all services have a piece of the action. Would this make sense in a situation in which Pakistan finds itself in currently? The expectation that India can pull off a mini Israel style punishing strike is to mistake a nuclear armed state with Palestinian non state actors. Since madrasas can reasonably be expected to be part of jihadi training complexes, bloodied madrasa children on CNN would make for a avoidable political debacle.

Thirdly, in case India has not foreclosed its options, then credibility of the minister and the Chief, and in turn that of India, would suffer. With credibility at stake the pressures for the military option would increase. This would be in addition to right wing pressures that would be strident, in the hope of regaining the ground lost in recent electoral battles. Therefore, even if the option is open, it has been virtually foreclosed.

This brings to fore the most important implication. Can the military pronounce on policy choices? It can discuss and advise on options. Making choices in democratic systems are patently a political prerogative. Military positions on issues command credibility that a government would find hard to challenge. The leaking of the MacChrystal report is an example from civil-military relations in the US. In the current circumstance, were the government to choose the saner option once again, it would fall foul of the opinion, albeit inadvertently generated by the Chief’s remarks, in favour of an overtly militarised response.

While not over dramatising the juncture, any lessons it has can only serve deepen India’s democracy and military professionalism.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pakistan Owes Much, But Not Suicide

By Firdaus Ahmed

29 October, 2009
Countercurrents.org

Pakistan is no stranger to being at the vortex of global conflict. With Operation Rah e Nijat it finds itself once again centre stage; not for so much for its army is doing in Waziristan but the counter the operation has incited elsewhere in the country. The death toll elsewhere has surpassed 300 in the run up to the operation and since its launch. This is as anticipated. Musharraf had walked the tight rope in his years in power hoping to avoid just such a predicament. But his tenure was on Bush’s watch in which US radar screens had Iraq written all over them. Kayani has been denied the option by a watchful Obama pursuing his ‘war of necessity’. Zardari had for his part ordered the army to expel the Taliban from Waziristan way back in the aftermath of the Swat operation. The Army had taken time to prepare, using the excuse that the civil administration was not prepared to cope with the human aftermath of conflict. It was right. Pakistan cannot cope; therefore its Army should rethink strategy.

Conflict has an inbuilt tendency to spiral. This inherent feature of war is tempered by political aims limiting conflict. This is the Clausewitzian principle. Applying conflict theory to Pakistan, the bloody contest has potential to harden positions through a cycle of vengeance. The resulting spiral or slippery slope would involve greater application of military force and a more violent and indiscriminating counter. This has been the precedent of such conflict both in Algeria through the early to mid nineties and in Iraq in mid decade. The bomb blasts of this month in Iraq are signs of reversion. Thus, there is no guarantee of success, even from using greater military force in pursuit of the elusive position of strength. Strategic prudence requires a revisit to the aspect of political ends.

Political ends alone determine the levels of military means to be applied. The Powell-Weinberger doctrine, thought up in the run up to Gulf War I, was to ensure that the ghost of Vietnam is exorcised through a successful military campaign. The test of war aims was through a set of questions, prominent amongst which was: Is victory at all possible? The answer to this in the context of Pakistan can be taken as negative. In case the assessment is that Pakistan cannot win against the insurgents, should it be entering into a conflict with them in first place? This begs the question: Why cannot it win?

Pakistan’s Army is better at controlling irregular wars, witness its proxy wars against the Soviet Union and in Kashmir. Its counter insurgency skills are not only wanting, but in its use of artillery and air power against insurgents are positively counter productive. The Swat operation yielded the largest displacement of people in the region in so compressed a time frame since Partition. The Pakistani Army does not have the luxury of numbers in comparison to its adversary, the Indian Army, for it to ‘clear and hold’ such a large area as the FATA. The Pushtun insurgents and their Islamist allies of the Al Qaeda are reputed to number 15000 and are spread into NWFP and northern Baluchistan. They have penetrated the Punjabi heartland and the Saraiki belt through the umbrella linkages with the Punjabi Taliban. This assortment of foes is battle hardened, reasonably led and equipped enough to keep the Army at bay. This implies that to whittle them down, greater levels of force of questionable effectiveness would require application. The insurgent counter, as demonstrated all through October, would be to expand the theatre of operation through terror attacks into Punjabi heartland, thereby destabilising Pakistan’s core areas.

Concerns cannot be limited to Pakistani territory alone. The ISAF has demonstrated like incompetence to the north. The commanding general there, General McChrystal, has stirred up the latest round of policy review in Washington. Obama is awaiting the outcome of the Waziristan operation, along with the results of the run off elections, to make up his mind on sending more troops. It is likely that Obama would honour the opinion of the military expert on ground, specifically since the report was solicited by Washington for just such a policy review. However, in case it is decided not to send troops, then the political aims would be suitably moderated depending on what is doable in the circumstance. The decision would be dependent on the assessment of whether its allies in Islamabad and Kabul are up to the task of taking on the Taliban on respective sides of the Durand line. The centre of gravity of the opposition being in Pakistan, it is consideration of whether Pakistan would be able to ‘take out’ the Taliban that will determine the outcome of the review. As assessed above, this is not possible without compromising the very stability of Pakistan. With stability risked, there is no guarantee the Pakistani state can survive.

Therefore, it is unlikely the US would press Pakistan harder, knowing that regional stability and US purposes in the region require a coherent Pakistan. This could imply a political opening up to the Taliban, even as additional troops, not amounting to the 40000 asked for, are made available. This is not impossible to visualise in light of increasing public distaste for the war and the necessity for Obama to be responsive, particularly in glow of the Nobel Peace prize. Consequently, there is no reason for Pakistan to inconvenience itself in operations that threaten its very stability.

The US would prefer to see at a minimum the Al Qaeda remnants wrapped up. The Al Qaeda has been considerably degraded over the past eight years. The current operations in Waziristan are to cause attrition in particular to the Uzbeks there. The operation’s aims met, the Pakistan would be wise to likewise switch to a political mode; one equally democratically responsive to the anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. No nation can be compelled to commit suicide even for the sake of supposed best interests of the international community.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

ON DISARMAMENT PROSPECTS IN SOUTH ASIA

President Obama chaired the UN Security Council meeting that resulted in Resolution 1887 calling on states to abide by obligations under NPT. This presumably includes those under Article VI regarding ‘negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control. This is in keeping with his agenda outlined at Prague of ‘America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons’.

In conveying India’s position on the Resolution its Permanent Representative endorsed Obama’s aspiration on ‘prohibiting the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons and providing for their complete elimination within a specified timeframe’. However, that the onus was on the US was evident from the twist in the tail: ‘It is clear that the international community would look to the countries with substantial nuclear arsenals represented on the Council for meaningful steps towards nuclear disarmament.’ India’s position is quite clear. The bottom line is that India is agreed with Obama’s most quoted sentiment from his Prague address: ‘This goal will not be reached quickly - perhaps not in my lifetime.’

The global disarmament initiative can be expected to progress with India’s tacit support at least till the Non-proliferation Review Conference in May next year. Any prospects of progress on a regional level are linked with those on the global level due to presence of China as a player in southern Asia. Given that India seeks notional parity with China and China, in turn, would look towards movement on the US-Russia nuclear front, the regional nuclear situation cannot be expected to change. However, the worsening regional security environment, with India figuring in both conflict dyads possible, suggests a South Asian track needs be progressed irrespective of the global agenda. In respect of China, while a war has been predicted as early as 2012, the difficulties of late

A consideration of the position of those with stakes involved would indicate whether this can happen. Some scientists of the ‘strategic enclave’ have already staked out their position for more tests. The strategic community would busy watching the global scene and writing ‘I told you so’ editorials. Maximalists would lead the drive for maximising fissile material stocks before the window closes. Academics would add a chapter to the disarmament syllabus. The military is content with the ‘triad’ that has something for all three. The politician is not likely to go out on a limb. The government is yet to recover from its Sharm es Sheikh revealed limitations. The NSA is reduced to cautioning the media against foreign policy determining levels of ‘hype’.

A disarmament agenda is not likely to come about on its own. Redirecting the energies of these institutions would be required. The scientists would require to be held accountable for delivering in the power sector, now that the nuclear deal has opened up vistas. The military would be happier with conventional armament made possible by a speedier acquisitions process. The strategic community should be challenged to divine contours of a peace dividend that it had visualised in the run up to nuclearisation. With these three sectors quiesant, the less pressured the political class can permit a reaching out to neighbours. The government, not requiring watching its back, can proceed more firmly. The media will then catch the fresh wind in its sails. A self-reinforcing loop can then bring a regional disarmament track alive.

Such an agenda can be set in case nuclear dangers in South Asia are openly discussed. Presently, reliance on the good health of deterrence is such that military strikes are discussed as response options to another 26/11. With no ongoing talks to act as buffer, such a response may be inevitable. The expectation that Pakistan is a rational state – one repeatedly proven false earlier - may not withstand the test of conflict. With respect to China, the mutual NFU is taken for granted. Three chiefs have in the recent past hinted at the redefinition of China in Indian perceptions. China for its part, either to take pressure off Pakistan; in reaction; or cognisant of the subtext of the Indo-US strategic partnership, is making the moves that serve to justify Indian apprehensions. Given the ‘face’ staked in any future conflict, rescinding of the NFU in a crunch situation by either side would be small price.

Proximity of nuclear dangers should be used to energise a peace and disarmament movement. It can originate only in India. Pakistan, given the feisty media and middle class, would likely catch it thereafter. China would then have no recourse but revert to the bonhomie of ‘peace and tranquillity’. For this to happen, the peace discourse requires going mainstream. Operating out of the margins only enables its marginalisation as ‘radical’ or ‘out of the box’. The key argument for breaking out would be that it would otherwise take a break in the nuclear taboo in South Asia to usher disarmament; now a distinct probability.
WAR CLOUDS GATHERING

Kissinger gets it wrong again. He got it wrong earlier in his extension of the bombing campaign into Cambodia during the Vietnam war; in bullying India during its humanitarian intervention in East Pakistan; and in bad mouthing Mrs Gandhi along with his boss, Nixon. He has got it completely wrong this time in believing that accommodation of the Taliban in Kabul threatens India because in his words: ‘India (is threatened) by general jihadism and specific terror groups’. He was in the midst of advising Obama against a policy of accommodation with the Taliban by asking for help from the threatened neighbours in his Newsweek article, ‘Deployment and Diplomacy’.

Arguing against a former National Security Advisor to two Presidents, Nixon and Ford, is not easy. Especially since his views find echo in the ‘boots on ground’ school of the strategic community. The assumption of this school of thought is that a return of the Taliban to Kabul would witness a reversion to the pre 26/11 era. While its allies in the Northern Alliance would be scattered, India would be particularly vulnerable on two counts. They believe that Taliban expansion into Kashmir would revive the insurgency there. Also that a Taliban ‘victory’ could lead to creeping Talibanisation in India’s susceptible minority. It follows therefore that the foe should be fought away from the home turf. Thus far the US was doing a considerable job keeping the Taliban occupied in the Af-Pak region. They fear that the outcome of the current rethink in the US and the public hand wringing there may prove to be beneficial for the Taliban. Kissinger, for his part, weighing in against such a possibility, required that tackling the Taliban be outsourced to the neighbours. This school would be most happy to oblige being amenable to the idea of Indian troops containing Pakistan by keeping the Taliban at bay in Afghanistan.

Firstly, the return of the Taliban would be a mediated one. Those being courted are referred to as the ‘moderate’ Taliban, implying they are purchasable and non-ideological. The surge, reportedly of up to 40000 troops that General MacChrystal has requested in his report leaked to the Washington Post, is to suitably contain the hard-core Taliban and grind down Al Qaeda remnants. In effect, military action will continue, to suitably incentivise the Taliban to come for talks. This implies that the Taliban at the negotiating table would be those willing to accede to the demands made by the west. These would necessarily include a reconciliation with those of the erstwhile Northern Alliance who sided with the west in the toppling the Taliban. These terms would include a promise of good behaviour by the Taliban in return for a share of power. This means neighbours need not worry about triumphalism-driven expansionism.

Secondly, the US would unlikely leave in a hurry. Their exit would be stage-managed over perhaps half a decade. They would likely be confined initially to bases from where they would be free to operate against the Al Qaeda and their continuing supporters among the Taliban. This way the present day counter insurgency, gaining in unpopularity in the populations of the west and in host societies, would be discontinued, being no longer required. The emphasis would shift to anti-terrorism operations relying on technology and stand off weapons. Therefore, the fear of the Taliban turning against their neighbours would not arise, even if the capability to do so exists.

Thirdly, while the Taliban have earned their reactionary image by their revolting ideology and actions, a proportion of this can be attributed to the pressure-cooker of war. It is believed that the Taliban are so backward looking that they would not like to see development. Therefore, any promise of assistance with reconstruction is unlikely to work with the Taliban. Attributing this to them is to disregard history. Ever since their advent in power late last decade, they did try and reach out for recognition and assistance. However, this led partially to their association with the Al Qaeda, further ensuring that they were denied engagement by the international community. Two, poppy cultivation had been curtailed when they were in power last. It has resurfaced not only because of rule by warlords, but also as a result of the war. Therefore, the expectation that those coming over ground can be controlled through assistance in reconstruction is not unfounded.

Lastly, it is important to interrogate the degree of Taliban influence in both Kashmir and of their ideology among Muslims in rest of India. In Kashmir, there has been little evidence of direct Afghan Taliban participation as fighters. Though there have been reports of Afghan war veterans in the insurgency there, these are exaggerated since those involved are colourful and projected as larger than life. Further, statistics from Kashmir are unreliable on this count since any unidentified body is usually passed off for Afghan by security forces outfits competing for glory. That Kashmiri militants died in missile hit Taliban camps owes to the Taliban lending their services as trainers. This is a common phenomenon on the insurgent network. For instance, the LTTE were linked with the Maoists and the Kerens with North East groups.

With respect to rest of India, Muslim perpetrated terror has been over-hyped by the media. This has led to an eclipse of the terror perpetrated by right wing extremists passed off as Muslim perpetrated. In case suspicious instances, such as the recovery of the bombs in Surat after the Ahmedabad bomb blasts of last year, are subtracted, and those organised by Pakistani groups, then a more accurate picture of the terror originating in the minority emerges. The image of a minority vulnerable to terror inducement from the Taliban can then be safely discarded. The fear of ideological penetration - of Talibansiation - is also questionable. The minority in light of the Sachar Committee report revelations appears more concerned with existential and secular issues of bread, education and jobs. The expectation that Afghans could serve as a role model for them is to underestimate the ‘idea of India’, to ignore the syncretic fount of Indian culture and to do injustice to the draw of India’s economic miracle. Any angst that still exists has local causes, with the linkage to radical Islam being tenuous at best or a self-serving canard at worst.

Therefore, the case for India to fall in line with the Kissinger formulation - that all but asks for troops deployment - is wanting. Debunking it is important, for over the coming period commentary from the hawks can be expected to dominate the air waves and hog inches of print columns. This will create the ground for politicians to look more approvingly at military involvement that currently appears far-fetched. As it is, India is creating the capability for intervention through exercises in interoperability with the US military. It would lead to India backing the military dominant option against the Taliban-Al Qaeda combine.

The US is contemplating pushing Pakistan to ‘do more’, the Kerry-Lugar bill being the sweetner. This option is fraught with dangers of destabilisation of Pakistan with its knock on effects on India. Engaging Pakistan in talks could help extract a promise of Pakistani control over any anti India stance of the Taliban and also a cessation of India directed terror by Pakistani groups. In exchange India can offer to let up its containment of Pakistan in Baluchistan and Afghanistan and collaborate in reconstruction. Such ‘win-win’ options can only emerge once blinkers are forced off. Else the war announced by the bombing yet again of the Indian embassy in Kabul is set to escalate.

Words 1268

Thursday, September 17, 2009

CALL OUT THE NIA!

Ishrat Jahan died in an ‘encounter’, her life claimed by encounter specialist DG Vanzara, a DIG of the Gujarat Police now in jail for the killing in yet another ‘encounter’ of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausarbi. In the Sohrabuddin case, a superintendent of police of the intelligence bureau and an officer of the Rajasthan cadre were also involved. The Ishrat Jahan case recently hit the headlines because of the courageous report of Metropolitan Magistrate, SP Tamang. Of consequence is the supposed motive of the police officers involved, that of seeking promotions based on their performance against ‘terrorists’. This apparently understandable motive anchored in human greed serves only to paper over a grimmer reality.

Those killed were billed as members of the terror outfit Lashkar e Tayyaba out to assassinate the chief minister of Gujarat. This is a plausible construct in light of the strained communal relations in Gujarat post the carnage of 2002 and sustained propaganda on the suspect nationalist credentials of the minority. The terror connection serves to justify ‘encounters’ in the public mind, creating heroes of ‘specialists’. However, this serves to eclipse a divergent construct. Such encounters, and media hype surrounding them, have instead served to create and project an image of a minority with external linkages. When seen in the light of the various bombings of questionable origin across the country culminating in 2008, the political project appears to have been for creating and sustaining an image of a ‘fifth column’ in India’s midst. The hoped for fallout was likely as not to influence perceptions and craft an electoral majority nationally out of denominational majority. It’s a political project that has deeper roots not only in compromised state structures, which by now describes the state of the Gujarat police accurately, but also in formations that claim a cultural rather than political agenda.

While the RK Raghavan led Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team would likely throw up more light on this angle as it culminates by end this year, the National Investigation Agency, set up with considerable fanfare in wake of 26/11, should be put to work on this case. What requires probing is the manner the intelligence bureau advisory on terror has been taken by the Gujarat police as rationale for the killings of Ishrat Jahan and three others. Filed by an under secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs on August 6 before the Gujarat High Court, the affidavit confirms that Ishrat Jahan, Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Shaikh, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar as terrorists linked with Lashkar-e-Taiba. The affidavit was filed on a plea by Ishrat’s mother for a CBI probe. The Times of India reports that an IPS officer, Rajinder Kumar, of the Gujarat cadre, once the state IB chief between 2002 and 2005 and now an Intelligence Bureau joint director, was responsible for most of the intelligence inputs on Gujarat encounters. Thus emerges a questionable connection stretching from Maharashtra, from where the abductions for the fake encounters took place, through Gujarat where these were executed to New Delhi where the rationale was apparently manufactured. This is a fit case for the NIA to earn its credentials, set a precedent and lay out its own standards for itself.

The NIA was created in December last through the NIA Act. It was meant to enable the Center to act in cased of national import through the inclusion of a schedule of central acts covering offences against the state, terrorism, atomic energy, anti-hijacking, weapons of mass destruction etc. Since ‘terrorism’, of which the ‘encounters’ and bombings are part, acquired a nation wide footprint, it requires a central agency to probe. With revelations of Hindu terror groups, such as an army intelligence officer led Abhinav Bharat involved in terror, and linkages in right wing subverted police and intelligence apparatus in concerned states, there is a case for central intervention for investigation and outing of the truth. Some states having rightly raised objections based on constitutional issues as center-state relations and the lack of consultations prior to the NIA Act being rushed through has led to the Home Minister promising a revisit to the Act. However, objections could have suspect motives such as restricting scope for additional scrutiny of the center so as to constrict the possibility of unpalatable revelations. The increases the immediacy with which New Delhi must take the checks and balances introduced to their logical conclusion.

Another long pending measure is warranted to be progressed using this juncture as opportunity, that of police reforms. It appears from the pattern discerned here that sections of the police stand compromised through infiltration of majoritarian sympathisers. Their placement in key positions and unprofessional actions now constitute a threat to the secular character of the state. Core values being threatened thereby, they are an existential security threat. Underway is virtually an ongoing coup in slow motion from within, one that can be speeded up in case the political constellation at Delhi is right once again in future. Police reforms, mandated by the Supreme Court in response to the PIL of former DGP, Shri Prakash Singh, require progressing and monitoring by the MHA. A professionalisaton of the police could set back this agenda, to the extent it exists, besides being a project worth pursuing on its own merits.

India is a veritable conglomeration of minorities along differing axes as ethnicity, persuasion etc. The difficulty of creating a majority based on shared primordial affinities has not dissuaded its activists. Their project requires creation of an ‘Other’ to succeed. They have managed partially to control the discourse through ‘black propaganda’, by succeeding in attribution of all terrorist incidents as minority perpetrated. This has political utility for such forces in marginalising the minority even while elevating their political agenda as the only way a culturally-defined nation can safeguard and cope with the externally-inspired internally-abetted aggression. Therefore, the Ishrat Jahan case has wider ramifications. Clearly, attribution of comparatively innocent self-interest of the involved police officers in these killings would be to obfuscate the political connection and context of these crimes.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Emulating the US

The proceedings of the CCS are appropriately not in the open domain. Only its decisions, where required, are made known to the public, as was done in case of its endorsement of India’s nuclear doctrine in January 2003. However, the recent washing of dirty linen in public by those in the CCS during the NDA’s first term over the Kandahar hijack episode bespeaks of lack of institutionalisation of national security decision making at the apex level. This is of a piece with India’s amorphous strategic culture. While matters are likely to have improved in the decade since owing to the National Security Council and its secretariat having firmed in, there is a case for bringing greater formality into the proceedings of bodies such as the CCS, the NSC and the Political Council of the NCA.

These three bodies, having virtually identical membership, are vested with decision making responsibility in the national security sphere. Since the system has not let India down so far, there is no cause for unwarranted alarm. However, this is no reason not to constantly improve it. It would then be able to cope with the demands it may be faced with in future. Two scenarios buttress this point. In the first, there could be difficulty in case there is a weak minority government in power, as was being apprehended in the run up to the elections only a hundred days ago. Representatives of various fractious parties without a national profile could in such a circumstance be taking decisions that, while within their responsibility, could be outside of their ken. The second is in formulation of India’s response in case of breakdown in deterrence. Whatever the decision arrived it, in the aftermath of the resulting nuclear exchange India would require an explanation of the rationale. Since life would not be the same again, accountability would require to be apportioned. For doing this adequately there is need to institute procedures now.

Learning from the US experience is in order. Three aspects stand out. One is that those charged with policy and decision making can be held directly responsible. Replication would do away with the proverbial ‘kitchen cabinets’ that have characterised the Indian system, at least till the late eighties. So much so that such informal bodies virtually crafted India’s nuclear trajectory till the Shakti tests. Reforms would minimise the baleful influence of unaccountable lobbies, such as that exercised by parent ideological formations on political parties. The recent stewardship by the RSS of a troubled BJP indicates that there is more to exercise of constitutional authority than meets the eye.

Second, is the manner the US maintains records. Not only is the historical record is enriched by perspectives of players, for instance Nixon’s take on Indira Gandhi in 1971; but, more importantly, they can be held accountable. The latter may not be required so much in case of wrong decisions, but more so in case of mal-intent. Perversely, it is taken as an ‘achievement’ that there are no written records of India’s transition to becoming a nuclear power!
And lastly, the release of these records into public domain. This would help not so much with building the sense of history that Indians reputedly sorely lack, but with keeping a check on leaders. For instance, prospective Prime Minister’s would not be emboldened with impunity into fudging their role in national decision making that’s gone wrong for some reason! While such deliberations are understandably kept out of the remit of the Right to Information Act, perhaps thirty years on these could be made public as done elsewhere. This would help researchers understand the compulsions and analysts to recommend improvements in the approach to security. Presently, relying on whistle blowing, such as happened recently over the hydrogen bomb ‘fizzle’, bespeaks of much ground yet to be traversed for India to acquire a credible, functional and accountable system.

It is interesting to speculate on why India’s national security system is both impervious and underdeveloped. Answering the question, ‘Who benefits?’ could provide the clue. One answer this question would not throw up is the legislative. Legislative accountability of the executive could do with emulating the US, even though theirs is a Presidential system. While parliamentary committees do perform, US style congressional hearings help. This would lend balance in a system which otherwise lends itself to competing constituencies pulling in wilful ways. A recent example is the manner a section of scientists have expressed an interest in further nuclear tests. Taking a call on whether India needs a thermonuclear based deterrent is not within their ambit; yet the controversy.

The recent remarks of the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee on the developments in Pakistani nuclear deterrent underlines that India is in a dangerous neighbourhood. It is also an aspiring great power. Both require continuous evolution of its national security system. The gravamen of the otherwise discrete controversies over this month, is that the Indian system is still a work in progress.

Words - 831
Yet another nuclear controversy

Earlier in end May at the end of a book release function, India’s Army chief, when quizzed on developments in Pakistan’s nuclear capability recounted in the US Congressional Research Service report, remarked, "They require a certain minimum amount (nuclear capability), but ... Pakistan's attempts to increase the number of its nuclear weapons is a matter of serious concern." Yet again when accosted by the press, this time during his visit to the army's Artificial Limb Centre in Pune, for his opinion on the Federation of Atomic Scientists reporting on Pakistan increasing its warhead haul to 70-90, he said, "There is a difference between having a degree deterrence, which is required for protection, and going beyond that. If the news reports of (Pakistan) having 70 to 90 atomic bombs are correct, then I think they are going well beyond the requirement of deterrence."

A report comments that ‘Kapoor's implied suggestion that India could have to revisit its no-first use policy’. Quoting the hyper-realist duo of the think tank, Center for Policy Research, it gives out Brahma Chellaney’s take that there is need to review India’s “deterrence posture”; while the other analyst, Bharat Karnad, is reported as saying ‘no-first-use is not a substantive declaration’.
The report revisits the recent controversy over the thermonuclear test in the Shakti series having turned out a ‘fizzle’ maintaining ‘that the Indian nuclear arsenal needs refurbishing, if not the need to carry out more tests, to maintain its nuclear programme’s cutting edge.’ Thus we can see that favourite hobby horses of players in the nuclear field have been hitched to the Chief’s remarks, though the Chief himself has not implied anything of the sort.

Since this time round he was speaking in his new capacity as Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, his remarks acquire a greater degree of significance. The Chairman in the Indian system oversees its Strategic Forces Command, responsible for the nuclear arsenal. Understanding the General is necessary in order to dispel the spin self-interested forces with a nuclear agenda are using the media for.

On both occasions, the Chief was engaged in a function unrelated to the nuclear issue. The earlier remark can be taken as his preliminary observation. Charged with safe-custody of India’s national security, he cannot be expected to say that nuclear developments in India’s neighbourhood are not of concern! However, the second time round, he would be voicing India’s considered take.

Firstly, India cannot second guess Pakistan. Since the numbers India possesses is not known, Pakistan would require making an educated guess and reacting accordingly. Therefore, its figure need not necessarily coincide with India’s expectation. Both countries consider the ‘minimum’ of their ‘credible minimum deterrence’ to be a dynamic, security situation related, number. Secondly, this perhaps brings out India’s purpose. The Chief had earlier said, "I think the world community should put the kind of pressure which is required on Pakistan to cap the enhancement of their nuclear capability.” The context this time is that Pakistan has in the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, that is considering introducing the Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty, stalled talks by citing national security. Which means there is an incipient arms race on in the region.

This can be attributed to India pegging its numbers by clubbing Pakistan and China together as a twin front problem. The resulting numbers can be perceived by Pakistan as conferring on India an ability for a disarming first strike. Thus the movement upwards in Pakistan’s stocks has rightly been taken as an attempt to gain a stabilising second strike capability. Given that India is buttressing its second strike capability by the recent launch of the INS Arihant, there could be no objections to Pakistan doing likewise, particularly since on both occasions the higher end was pegged at 90 warhead. Doing so, as the Chief has done, only serves to hyphenate India to Pakistan yet again, and secondly allows the forces wishing India to proceed down the arms race route to take advantage of his voiced concern.

The suggestion that increase in Pakistan’s arsenal requires reconsideration of India’s NFU pledge is untenable. Since by reaching 90 warheads or thereabouts, Pakistan still does not gain first strike capability, there is no cause to revisit the pledge. Rescinding it carries the danger of what Schelling called ‘the reciprocal fear of a surprise attack’ or an avoidable tendency toward pre-emption. This is not a theoretical possibility in the India-Pakistan dyad given the mutual vulnerabilities and fears they harbour. While India wishes to use the conventional plane to react to Pakistan’s proxy war, even if in a limited way, Pakistan, feels a need to use the nuclear card to stall the same. This reliance on the nuclear capability is heightened in the situation as obtains at present in which its Army is contending with the Taliban, if reluctantly, even while the threat exists of India reacting conventionally in face of another 26/11.

The timing of the other controversy over whether India needs to test again is suggestive. India had earlier been prepared to accede to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In the event the treaty had been stalled by the US Senate not ratifying it. With the possibility of the US championing it once again after a decade long hiatus, forces in India preferring that India maintain its option to test are exerting themselves. Their scientific position is that India does not have the requisite computing power to go ahead with arsenal development without testing. Even if this is true with respect to the hydrogen bomb, deterrence is not necessarily a function of a thermonuclear capability when merely a fission or boosted fission based arsenal can serve the same purpose adequately. H Bombs on the other hand lend themselves to city-busting, a prospect best avoided if deterrence were ever to break down. Thermonuclear weapons have other advantages, such as ‘more bang for the buck’ and being lighter payloads easier to deliver. This technological advance led to the doctrines that eventuated in the MAD arsenals of the superpowers. There is no call to replicate the cold war experience in Southern Asia.

Thus, while every development in the nuclear plane is indeed a cause for concern, the manner such concerns are appropriated by interested constituencies and the way these manipulate the media, has been starkly witnessed in the latest nuclear episode. Their inner motives require to be revealed so that public opinion exercises a check over politicians, who neither know nor care enough to ward off such pressures.

Words - 1081

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stopping Nuclear War

Also see - http://www.indiatogether.org/2009/aug/fah-peaceship.htm

The direction of likely nuclear developments has been summarised in a top article in a leading daily recently (http://m.timesofindia.com/PDATOI/articleshow/4864321.cms). The occasion was launch of the nuclear submarine, INS Arihant. The laundry list includes at least two more nuclear submarines, though the eventual figure is ten. Three air craft carriers including the Gorshkov yet to fetch up from its Black Sea port. Nuclear tipped submarine lauched missiles of a greater range than the present 700 km of the K 15 experimental missile. Missiles of the IRBM class, Agni III and Agni V and ICBM Surya, to target the eastern seaboard of China and beyond have been recommended. The missiles are to be MIRV’d, that is fitted with multiple independently targeted warheads. To enable targeting spy satellites for all weather 24x7 cover. Missile defences are to be built up, in collaboration with the US and Israel. With three decades of missile and two decades of nuclear development, accuracy of missile delivery and variegated warheads are surely already a reality. To protect these developments, the article recommends staying out of the CTBT, that is in the news once again, and participation in the FMCT negotiations, since the interim decade before their culmination would gain India adequate fissile material to join in. In all it devotes one and a half lines to the disarmament question, indicating the writer’s inclination. That there has been no follow up top article on the contrary, tragically implies this is an unchallenged position.

The whole gamut is likely to be in place in a decade, though each of these pieces is in place to a limited degree now. Navigating the interim is as fraught as the possible situation tens years on. Though exaggerated, reports are of a threat to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. The threat of a future 26/11 continues to loom, witness the controversy over security surrounding the international badminton championship in Hyderabad. The rhetoric in respect of China had a spike to coincide with the thirteenth meeting between the two special interlocutors in Delhi in early August. While an Indian hyper-realist predicted Chinese invasion in 2012, a Chinese website countered with its take on a Chinese assisted disintegration of India. If this is bad enough, consider what India’s nuclear preparation that peak in about a decade imply. It is apparent that a pessimist view is taken of the long term, for which presumably the nuclear trajectory is to prepare us to meet.

Advances in the missile and nuclear fields are played up in the media and have votaries in the strategic community. The argument is that this helps deter adversaries keeping a close watch as also reassure all that India’s defences are on course. This has political dividend and keeps the technological momentum going. It builds a constituency behind the developments, enabling their continued funding and legitimacy over time. They would then become irreversible, for it would take a lot of explaining and political capital to slow or turn these round. The expectation is that these developments would make for deterrence not only of nuclear weapons use against India, but also war itself. They would enable India to match up to China, helping in negotiations from a position of equality. This would help resolve the border dispute. It would place India in the big league, enabling it to fulfil its ‘responsibilities’ as a great power with a reach from Aden to the Malaccas. Pakistan is ignored in this discourse, so much so that in a farewell address in Delhi the outgoing Chairman of India’s Chief’s of Staff Committee failed to mention Pakistan at all in his prepared speech.

It should not take a nuclear war for these developments to be challenged. Even if the technological momentum is not reversible, the technology need not be operationalised. A critique would help lend balance to the debate in the public domain. The usual arguments against such a course can first be dispensed with, since the developments are evidence of their failure already. That it is economically prohibitive enterprise is countered by the argument that an India, growing at nine per cent can afford it. That deterrence can fail is undercut by the logic that this is not reason enough not to try. That it results in militarization of India and its otherwise resolvable disputes is met with the argument that passivism of Mother India is what led to her subjugation for the past millennium. That India’s priorities should be internal security and development is countered by saying that defence and development are complementary. That India’s militarised approach would result in a security dilemma for its neighbours is demolished by maintaining that India is the one that is reactive to a security dilemma imposed on it by its implacable neighbours. The vision of mushroom clouds over the country does not hold attention since it is taken as fiction. Arguing that India cannot cope best indicated by incompetent municipal response to monsoon showers is negated by pointing to the National Disaster Management Authority and the battalions under it. Thus, there is no way nay-sayers can get an argument in, even edgeways.

But arguing against the nuclear enclave and its retainers amounts to a national service. Lets take a scenario ten years on. China has built up infrastructure in Tibet to an extent that it could transport troops onto the plateau in short order. Newspaper reports already have it of an exercise underway in China to test precisely this ability. This has led to India’s recent emphasis on border infrastructure. Over the next half decade or so, India would be at a disadvantage. However, the scenario is situated a further half decade down. By then the two regional adversaries are expected to face off over strategic space and leadership in Asia. India’s economy, population numbers and its relationship with the US would be the drivers of its challenge of China. That the border is to be unresolved till India gets round to gaining parity with China, enables it to serve as a flashpoint. Consider the case in which despite equal military capabilities, due to some or other operational level move, one of the two states is losing. In case of India, this would have a direct impact on the North East, as indeed it did in 1962. In case of China, the impact would be on its hold over Tibet, that is already increasingly tenuous. Though both states subscribe to the No First Use, its not impossible that the loser could countenance using nuclear weapons to get out of a tight spot. This may be in the tactical mode in the battlefield or at a higher level in greater depth to stem reinforcements routes into the theatre. The consequences for escalation are stark. Neither state, contending then for super power status, would back down. A nuclear war would jeopardise effort of the preceding four decades of growth. The only gainer it appears would be the US, with both its challengers in self destruct mode.

A study in the context of an India-Pakistan conflict by the National Resources Defence Council in the US has it that sixty million casualties could result in a nuclear war in case fifteen cities are targeted. This would be equally true in an India-China context too. The nuclear trajectory of India closely parallels that of the states in the Cold War. There is no guarantee that the next Cold War, one between India and China, would remain cold. Good sense would be in not acquiring a capability for national suicide. Even as the nuclear enclave has acquired a power difficult to dislodge, building up a peace movement of equal weight is the only way ahead.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

http://www.indiatogether.org/2008/feb/fah-deter.htm

NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Successful deterrence? Hardly.

29 February 2008 - It is being argued in scholarly circles that despite the crises that have periodically punctuated the recent history of the subcontinen, there has been no war owing to successful operation of the 'nuclear deterrence' principle. Knowing that the other side too has the ultimate weapon, neither side has resorted to war to settle its political differences or to gain military advantage due to the fear of the war escalating to the nuclear level. This is seen as a continuing successful case of nuclear deterrence in South Asia.

The problem with such reasoning is that is legitimises nuclearisation into perpetuity. Redefining peace as merely the absence of war is troubling, for nuclear weapons remain an existential threat not only to the other side as deterrence theory asserts, but also to possessors. Even so, to those who argue that deterrence has dissuaded political heads from choosing war as an option, we should point out that deterrence remains untested in war.

In wake of Operation Parakram - the year long military stand-off of 2002 - arguments echoing international relations theorist Kenneth Waltz's formulation in favour of nuclear proliferation, that 'more may be better', appear to be gaining ground by default. Sumit Ganguly, an influential presence on the scholarly beat with his ten books on the strategic scene in South Asia, in a co-authored work with Devin Hagerty, Fearful Symmetry: India-Pakistan crisis in the shadow of nuclear weapons (Seattle, Univerity of Washington Press, 2004), contends that the crises have not turned into conflicts on account of three factors: one is the operation of conventional deterrence; next is the peace-making role played by the US; and lastly is the successful operation of nuclear deterrence.

A refutation of this view is in order, for the simple reason that crises have in fact often not turned into conflicts for reasons other than nuclear deterrence. The crisis of the pre-nuclear era, that of the 'fourth round' of 1984 and 'the war that never was' of 1987, to use the catchy titles of the knowledgeable Ravi Rikhye's idiosyncratic books, are not considered here. In 1990 too, India shifted troops from its North East to cope in Kashmir, as also to respond to Pakistan's reply to India's Exercise Brasstacks called Exercise Zarb-e-Momin. Such manouevres signal war clouds, evident from the example of Egypt, which launched the Yom Kippur war of 1973 under the guise of going in for military exercises. Thus war, not being an option, cannot be said to have been deterred by the existence of nuclear weapons, which both states by then are now known to have had only a screw's turn away.

In 1998, the intervening period between Pokhran and Chagai, witnessed considerable rhetoric on part of India principally to goad Pakistan into testing, and thereby legitimising India's tests and deflecting the ensuing international criticism. Discussion of the possibility of preemptive action by India was academic, as the tests by Pakistan were more a demonstration of capability, it reportedly having used the Chinese test site at Lop Nor earlier to acquire the capability.

Non-wars without the need for deterrence

The role of nuclear weapons in the two major events post-nuclearisation requires more careful refutation. Pakistan chose the site of its Kargil adventure with care. This is attributed to its desire to limit India's reaction, cognizant that the scale of the reaction would determine the nature of the subsequent conflict, which could assume nuclear proportions. If we are to remove nuclear weapons from the equation, it would yet be proven that Pakistan would still have chosen the same site for its intrusion.

See for balance article - http://www.indiatogether.org/2008/feb/fah-deter.htm


The extended crisis of 2001-02 too requires further probing, for there is more to the issue of the Parliament attack than the popular narrative lets on (see 13 Dec: The strange case of the attack on the Indian parliament, published by Penguin Books in 2006). But even with a plausible casus belli, India did not go to war, and this is taken as Indian prudence brought on, amongst other factors, by presence of nuclear weapons. But what is more likely is that economic and strategic interests in India deflected any possibility of a war, and no further 'deterrence' was needed to dissuade it from one. In Pakistan too, there was no question of contemplating war, for it was by then fully immersed in the Global War on Terror.

Conclusion

Once each crisis is put into perspective, the role of nuclear deterrence becomes self-evidently a fallacy. Unfortunately, the nuclear deterrence argument is gaining ground, and one expects to see more of this in future, thereby increasing nuclear dangers. Arguments on their utility have therefore to be relentlessly exposed, lest the dangers continue to mount.

The plain fact is that most of the thought exercises about deterrence are way off the mark; there are any number of other reasons that can fully explain why India and Pakistan have not moved to a point of open conflict, and the possession of nuclear weapons is only incidental. Still, they are always looked at as more important than is the reality, because this fits nicely with the 'seminar circuit', which is happy to discuss nuclear weapons if only for the simple reason that, like the Himalayas, 'they are there'! ⊕

Firdaus Ahmed
29 Feb 2008
10 YEARS LATER
Making Kargil serve a purpose

27 July 2009 - A tenth anniversary has its limitations. It's too early to know what really happened, for protagonists are usually still around purveying their end of the story. For instance, Musharraf in his autobiography still continues with the line that the intruders were Mujahedeen, while we know that they were soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry. This was then a paramilitary outfit with soldiers largely recruited from the Northern Areas in Pakistani occupation. As a reward for its showing at Kargil, the NLI has since been absorbed into the Army as a 'regiment'.

Likewise, on the Indian side, celebrations to mark the tenth anniversary highlight the military victory, whereas the role of the Americans who prevailed on the Pakistanis to pack up and leave is glossed over. Thus, even while acknowledging the victory as a great martial feat, it bears recounting that had the Pakistanis not left under American tutelage, the war could have expanded beyond its Limited War dimensions. With both states having gone nuclear the previous summer, the outcome of such a war could have been grave.

During the Kargil War, the two states had not got their nuclear act together. India was surprised by the Pakistani reading of the nuclear era in its launching of Operation Badr. India had for its part launched the bus to Lahore. Pakistan, in turn, was surprised by the ferocity of Indian reaction, one that threatened to expand the scope of the border war. During the war, Bruce Riedel reports of Clinton telling the visiting Nawaz Sharif of the Army's nuclear preparations back home. Raj Chengappa, a journalist with access to the nuclear establishment, maintains that India upped its nuclear alert status to Level 3.

Little has changed

Ever since, both states have apparently given themselves the mechanisms to avoid making such errors in strategic thinking. The National Security Council in both states was nascent then. India's was then in its first year, while that of Pakistan though half-a-decade old was of little significance. Soon after the war, Pakistan's National Command Authority was set up in February 2000, while India's Nuclear Command Authority followed three years later in wake of Operation Parakram. Can these mechanisms and the learning since be taken as adequate to play the game differently?

Ever since the US weighed in on the Indian side at Kargil, a closer relationship between the two has developed.



Pakistan's Army - that had called the shots under Musharraf at Kargil despite there being a civil authority in place - remains in control of Pakistan's security and nuclear policy. Musharraf's back channel agenda and 'out-of-the-box' thinking were credible only to the extent he had the capacity to carry the Army along. The Army is presently engaged in riding out the pressure on it to do more against the Taliban without compromising on its earlier strategy of using extremists for strategic purposes.

India has not managed to bring the troubles in Kashmir to a close. Even though India is at a self-congratulatory moment, having conducted two credible elections in Kashmir, the potential for trouble remains. Pakistan has not dismantled the infrastructure of terror, nor has India made any noteworthy political intervention. Governance initiatives, admittedly imaginative, are nonetheless poor substitutes. In effect, little has changed since Kargil.

Instead, a near war in 2001-02 and a major crisis, 26/11, have occurred since. India has exercised restraint. Nuclear optimists argue that this restraint is due to the nuclear deterrence. Pessimists claim that the fact that crises keep recurring and have the potential for escalation indicates otherwise. To them any consideration of the context needs to factor in American presence and, post 9/11, heightened interest in the region. India has only temporarily been persuaded by the US that Pakistan will stay the course in the global war against terror. Allowing it an alibi through a distraction on the eastern front would debilitate the international effort. It would make the Pakistani state vulnerable to extremists.

However, it is possible to argue that Pakistan is not unaware of the impact of US presence. In trying to influence it through jihadi attacks claimed as renegade action, it hopes the US would prevail on India to concede ground on Kashmir. Its limited success has been in keeping India at bay. Withdraw the American factor and the story since Kargil would have been different.


See for balance article - http://www.indiatogether.org/2009/jul/fah-kargil.htm


The Indian investment is one of longer term importance for the US, directed at the rising power likely to challenge its global position, China. Already, hyper-realist opinion-makers claim China may seek to divert the attention of its citizens from its economy-related internal troubles by attacking India in the near term. The former Air Chief while departing on pension - a moment when there is least reason to be reticent - opined that China is a 'greater threat' than Pakistan. General JJ Singh, Governor in Arunachal Pradesh, has stated that a build up of 60,000 troops in the border state is required.

As at Kargil, India could blunder into another border war and there is also no guarantee that this would stay limited as then. It would make better sense to acknowledge the primary requirement of the nuclear age and get into a meaningful huddle with both antagonists. Only a strategic dialogue in a standing forum can help avert dangers and alleviate conditions that give rise to such dangers. Only by setting this up can we truly honour the martyrs of Kargil; else they will have died in vain. ⊕

Firdaus Ahmed
27 Jul 2009

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Vignettes Of India's Security Culture

By Firdaus Ahmed

03 August, 2009
Countercurrents.org

The rape and murder of two young women in Shopian, the acceptance by the NHRC probe of the Delhi Police version of the Batla House encounter, the killing of a PLA member in custody in Manipur as evidenced by the photos published in Tehelka, and the furore over the mention of Baluchistan in the India-Pakistan Joint Statement tells us something of India’s strategic culture. This article seeks insight into India’s security culture through a snap shot of these four occurrences over the recent past.

That there was an attempted cover up in the Shopian incident implies that there was a ‘felt need’ for the same. Clearly then this was to protect the culprits, implying that the culprits are possibly known. There is no reason to resort to a cover up if there is nothing to be hidden. The unilateral additions made by the police to the report of Justice Jan that enquired into the case are reportedly slanderous about the deceased and their family. The portions disowned by the enquiring judge mention the ‘possibility’ of one of the deceased ‘developing some relation with others.’ The point of the investigation is to bring out who these alleged persons were, for they would have motive in murdering the victims to hide their association. That the police have signally failed to follow up only serves to prove there is a connection to the security apparatus that needs hiding. That the state machinery to include the Chief Minister has thereafter concentrated on the peripheral aspects, such as how much was conveyed up the reporting channel etc, has led to the need to apprehend the culprits being lost sight of. This only reinforces suspicions that the culprits were from the security forces or those having links with the security apparatus in the state, which since its partial outsourcing to the likes of the Ikhwan includes those in plain clothes. That the increasingly politicised debate has now gone back three years to the 2006 sex scandal bespeaks of the security culture in Srinagar.

As a final word on the Batla House encounter, the NHRC report states: ‘We are clearly of the opinion that having regard to the material placed before us, it cannot be said that there has been any violation of human rights by the action of the police party.’ It is quite obvious that any ‘material’ that was to be ‘placed’ before an enquiry could have been worked upon to give it the desired spin over the interim. Therefore, the enquiry was logically expected to go beyond the ‘material placed before us’. In failing to do this, it has set a precedent and devalued the credibility of the NHRC.

Other shortcomings have been pointed out by those following the case closely such as the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Group. However, even as the ‘material placed’ before the enquiry is reported as bringing out the group as carrying out a series of terrorist crimes, that the police party leader did not wear a bullet proof jacket while attempting to arrest them is explained away that the reason cannot be second guessed by the commission. The commission records that, ‘there is ample and sufficient material before us which leads to the irresistible conclusion that there was imminent danger to the life of members of the police party.’ All the more reason one would think warranting a bullet proof jacket.

The Indian Mujahedeen is described in the ‘material placed’ as a group ‘found to be involved in terrorist activities in different parts of the country for the last several years.’ It is fairly well known that the IM came into the limelight for the first time only last year with the blasts targeting the larger cities. This shortcoming in the ‘material placed’ has apparently not detracted from its credibility in the eyes of the commission. The commission refrains from dwelling on the issue of whether those killed were terrorists; yet explains police party actions as self defence. In case the commission was to play a mental game and take them as innocent for the sake of an intellectual exercise developing the scenario, then action as going in without a bullet proof jacket makes sense. Therefore, there was reason enough even from the ‘material placed’ for the commission to take a proactive route and go beyond the ‘material placed’ in its enquiry. That it failed to do so constitutes the evidence being marshalled in this article on the India’s security culture.

The Tehelka photo feature of the killing of alleged insurgent Chonghkhum Sanjit in Imphal by Manipuri police commandos is chilling in the extreme. That this was done in broad daylight speaks of a culture of impunity. In the logic of the security forces this display is perhaps explicable. The message to the insurgent underground watching is that there are no holds barred in the contest; a message that would no doubt be lapped up by the insurgents. The Punjab model is being played out in the North East. Those doing the killing appear Manipuri. One set of natives is set on another in a version of divide and rule. The nadir of this strategy has already been reached in the silent killings of relatives of ULFA insurgents in Assam. There is a subtext to the picture that has perhaps escaped the planners. In this the message to people is that the judge and executioner have been conflated. The implications are stark for the culture of protest that has been perfected in Manipur by the sacrifice of icons as Irom Sharmila and actions as the women who stripped to shame the Assam Rifles out of the Imphal Fort. Two inferences can be drawn from the pictures. One is that the state has lost control over its security apparatus. Worse is that this is a demonstration of the level of its control. The latter is most likely truer. It can be wagered that the enquiry that will no doubt follow, forced by the unrest presently on in Manipur, will not be able to trace those who ordered this. What happens in a provincial capital can only draw on what transpires in the national capital.

Lastly, is the contrived breast beating partially over the mention of Baluchistan in the Joint Statement emanating in Sharm es Sheikh. This also involved a march by opposition MPs led by the leader of the opposition to the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The Prime Minister has clarified on the floor of the Lok Sabha that he agreed to the mention knowing that ‘India’s hands are clean’. This is difficult to accept at face value; since, he – though honest - had earlier opined that Mr. Bush was a much ‘loved’ US President in India! The criticism was however not on this account but that Pakistan had managed to highlight its version on India’s intelligence managed covert role in the Baluchistan insurgency. In the security logic, it is entirely understandable for India to fuel Pakistan’s fires to sensitise it that it too lives in a glass house. Talking about the issue gives India a handle to bring this home to Pakistan and force a mutual winding down of this propensity of both states to interfere in each other’s internal affairs. But to insist that India ‘has nothing to hide’ either implies naivety or a loss of political control over India’s external intelligence agency. With the furore greeting the mention, it is unlikely that India would countenance talks on this issue, implying that the covert operations designed to hurt Pakistan in retribution for its well recorded proxy war in Kashmir will continue. This war by intelligence agencies would not be in the interest of either Baluchis or Kashmiris or indeed the other subcontinental nationalities, but is of a piece with the adults-only games played by states.

Clearly, India’s security is gravely threatened by insurgency and terrorism. India’s response as witnessed in the four cases does not recommend itself. It is no wonder then that India continues to be beset with problems of state consolidation. It is as yet a developing state still transiting through the state making and nation building stage. It would do well to recognise that it cannot skip the stage of national consolidation in its haste to becoming a great power.

Monday, July 27, 2009

10 YEARS LATER
Making Kargil serve a purpose
India has not managed to bring the troubles in Kashmir to a close. And Pakistan has not dismantled the infrastructure of terror. In effect, little has changed since Kargil, writes Firdaus Ahmed.


27 July 2009 - A tenth anniversary has its limitations. It's too early to know what really happened, for protagonists are usually still around purveying their end of the story. For instance, Musharraf in his autobiography still continues with the line that the intruders were Mujahedeen, while we know that they were soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry. This was then a paramilitary outfit with soldiers largely recruited from the Northern Areas in Pakistani occupation. As a reward for its showing at Kargil, the NLI has since been absorbed into the Army as a 'regiment'.

Likewise, on the Indian side, celebrations to mark the tenth anniversary highlight the military victory, whereas the role of the Americans who prevailed on the Pakistanis to pack up and leave is glossed over. Thus, even while acknowledging the victory as a great martial feat, it bears recounting that had the Pakistanis not left under American tutelage, the war could have expanded beyond its Limited War dimensions. With both states having gone nuclear the previous summer, the outcome of such a war could have been grave.

During the Kargil War, the two states had not got their nuclear act together. India was surprised by the Pakistani reading of the nuclear era in its launching of Operation Badr. India had for its part launched the bus to Lahore. Pakistan, in turn, was surprised by the ferocity of Indian reaction, one that threatened to expand the scope of the border war. During the war, Bruce Riedel reports of Clinton telling the visiting Nawaz Sharif of the Army's nuclear preparations back home. Raj Chengappa, a journalist with access to the nuclear establishment, maintains that India upped its nuclear alert status to Level 3.

Little has changed

Ever since, both states have apparently given themselves the mechanisms to avoid making such errors in strategic thinking. The National Security Council in both states was nascent then. India's was then in its first year, while that of Pakistan though half-a-decade old was of little significance. Soon after the war, Pakistan's National Command Authority was set up in February 2000, while India's Nuclear Command Authority followed three years later in wake of Operation Parakram. Can these mechanisms and the learning since be taken as adequate to play the game differently?

Ever since the US weighed in on the Indian side at Kargil, a closer relationship between the two has developed.


Pakistan's Army - that had called the shots under Musharraf at Kargil despite there being a civil authority in place - remains in control of Pakistan's security and nuclear policy. Musharraf's back channel agenda and 'out-of-the-box' thinking were credible only to the extent he had the capacity to carry the Army along. The Army is presently engaged in riding out the pressure on it to do more against the Taliban without compromising on its earlier strategy of using extremists for strategic purposes.

India has not managed to bring the troubles in Kashmir to a close. Even though India is at a self-congratulatory moment, having conducted two credible elections in Kashmir, the potential for trouble remains. Pakistan has not dismantled the infrastructure of terror, nor has India made any noteworthy political intervention. Governance initiatives, admittedly imaginative, are nonetheless poor substitutes. In effect, little has changed since Kargil.

Instead, a near war in 2001-02 and a major crisis, 26/11, have occurred since. India has exercised restraint. Nuclear optimists argue that this restraint is due to the nuclear deterrence. Pessimists claim that the fact that crises keep recurring and have the potential for escalation indicates otherwise. To them any consideration of the context needs to factor in American presence and, post 9/11, heightened interest in the region. India has only temporarily been persuaded by the US that Pakistan will stay the course in the global war against terror. Allowing it an alibi through a distraction on the eastern front would debilitate the international effort. It would make the Pakistani state vulnerable to extremists.

However, it is possible to argue that Pakistan is not unaware of the impact of US presence. In trying to influence it through jihadi attacks claimed as renegade action, it hopes the US would prevail on India to concede ground on Kashmir. Its limited success has been in keeping India at bay. Withdraw the American factor and the story since Kargil would have been different.

The US factor

The American commitment in Afghanistan has been extended by Obama. It would bear watching what happens after the presidential elections in Kabul in August. Once the US gains a position of military advantage over the Taliban, it would likely strike a deal with the willing Taliban and leave as early as it can without loss of face. This could be as early as Obama's bid for re-election. Thereafter India and Pakistan would be left more on their own, though not entirely. Firstly, the US would not entirely disengage this time round, and secondly, as at Kargil, its good offices are readily available in a crisis. Without the US as benefactor, Pakistan would likely get less provocative. India would however be less restrained. Nevertheless, with Pakistan less provocative, India may not require to be aggressive.

The counter argument is that Pakistan may gain from a trade-off between the US and the Pakistani military. According to this scenario, while the Pakistani Army enables a tidy exit of the US from the region, it is given something in return - such as strategic space in both Afghanistan and in Kashmir. Therefore, India must fend for itself. For this, India appears prepared.

Learning from the Kargil episode and the subsequent standoff, it has given itself an offensive war doctrine, Cold Start. To stymie Pakistan's nuclear challenge of an Indian conventional attack, India has acquired a second strike capability and given itself an expansive nuclear doctrine promising 'massive' punitive retaliation. Thus, the stage is set for a future minus the US. Being prepared reduces the incentive to negotiate with Pakistan or for political ministration in Kashmir. The growing power divergence between the two states would keep the outcome in India's favour.

There is a second dimension to the dangers ahead. Ever since the US weighed in on the Indian side at Kargil, a closer relationship between the two has developed. What began in the post Pokhran II dialogue to arrive at a mutual comprehension between Jaswant Singh and Strobe Talbott is to culminate in the Indian prime minister being the first state guest of the Obama administration in November this year.

The Indian investment is one of longer term importance for the US, directed at the rising power likely to challenge its global position, China. Already, hyper-realist opinion-makers claim China may seek to divert the attention of its citizens from its economy-related internal troubles by attacking India in the near term. The former Air Chief while departing on pension - a moment when there is least reason to be reticent - opined that China is a 'greater threat' than Pakistan. General JJ Singh, Governor in Arunachal Pradesh, has stated that a build up of 60,000 troops in the border state is required.

As at Kargil, India could blunder into another border war and there is also no guarantee that this would stay limited as then. It would make better sense to acknowledge the primary requirement of the nuclear age and get into a meaningful huddle with both antagonists. Only a strategic dialogue in a standing forum can help avert dangers and alleviate conditions that give rise to such dangers. Only by setting this up can we truly honour the martyrs of Kargil; else they will have died in vain.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

#2915, 25 July 2009
Kargil: Ten Years On
Firdaus Ahmed
Freelancer
e-mail: firdyahmed@yahoo.com

While crises under the nuclear overhang have punctuated South Asian security, Kargil was the first after the two states went overtly nuclear. It has since been followed by standoffs in 2001-02 and 2008. This has ignited a debate between nuclear optimists and nuclear pessimists. Optimists believe that nuclear weapons have that deterred war and where it did break out, like in Kargil, it remained localized. Pessimists see the potential of escalation in such crises and explain that the Kargil conflict remained limited due to American intervention. This underlines the continuing nuclear danger in South Asia, which acquires prominence in light of the strategic irrationality evident at Kargil. The Indians believed that advent of the nuclear era made war unthinkable and embarked on the Lahore process. The Pakistani military assessed that there was scope for a limited conventional conflict and launched Operation Badr. It obfuscated issues by claiming that the Line of Control was indistinct in the Kargil sector and that the operation was led by Kashmiri militants.

The Indians, buying into the Pakistani logic that there is a window for conventional conflict, have adopted a proactive conventional war doctrine, Cold Start. However, there is no debate on the contours of Limited War. This emphasizes the limitations in strategic thinking on both sides. This situation, described by Ashley Tellis as ‘ugly stability’ is likely to persist, a sense of ownership of the peace process is absent at the political level. Issues lending themselves to technical solutions, such as Siachen, Sir Creek, Baghliar and Tulbul projects, are held hostage to the larger vexed question of Kashmir. While confidence-building measures have expanded, the peace process – despite being accepted as ‘irreversible’ - continues to be vulnerable to negative forces. Thus, advances made since Kargil, while welcome, remain tenuous.

The problem of reading Pakistan correctly persists. Mistaking Nawaz Sharif’s position before Kargil as Pakistan’s, India misread the civil-military equations in Pakistan. India misread Musharraf twice over. Once at Agra and next by making the backchannel dialogue hostage to his term in office. There is much more scepticism for Zardari’s placatory statements like his acceptance that proxy war was promoted by Pakistan through ‘strategic assets’ who are more appropriately termed ‘terrorists’. Pakistan’s Army remains India’s foremost strategic problem. It has the backing of the US for its recently energized role against the Taliban. India is an interested bystander at best and a spoiler at the worst in the Af-Pak region, assuming that India wishes to do more on conflict resolution, fresh governments coming into office with Delhi and Srinagar.

Meanwhile, civil unrest continues in Kashmir over completely avoidable issues. Bringing back normalcy requires both political and governance initiatives. The political prong of normalization is taken as ‘done’ with the holding of elections. The Prime Minister’s Round Table working group on, “Strengthening Relations between the State and the Center,” has not even submitted a report. Thus, the situation has not changed materially since Kargil. The present preoccupation is over the withdrawal of the Central Reserve Police Force – foisted on the Valley by the Task Force on Internal Security.

Siachen was among the candidate causes of the Kargil conflict, but the issues continues to linger with Rs.30 million spent there a day. Militarization of Kargil and Ladhak is underway with the Ladhak Scouts, a paramilitary force under the Army, gaining the status of a regiment, which mirrors the case of Pakistan’s Northern Light Infantry comprising men from the Northern Areas.

The current call to militarize the disputed Arunachal border with China has echoes of Kargil. India continues with the military approach to its border problems even as indications from society are to the contrary. While the attraction of officership in the services gained temporarily in the aftermath of Kargil and the drop in popularity since was arrested temporarily, due to the coincidence between the economic slowdown outside the military and the Sixth Pay Commission largesse within, the state has been remiss in observing military proprieties. The highest dignitary at Sam Bahadur’s funeral was a Minister of State and the tenth anniversary of Pokhran II went unnoticed last year. Ceremonies can be dispensed with if lessons that are rehearsed at anniversaries are assimilated. The memory of the young martyrs at Kargil of both sides requires that both states exert themselves to reach strategic maturity. This is best achieved by avoiding shedding more blood. The reaction to the resumption of dialogue with Pakistan in India is an indication that lessons remain unlearned.