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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The tangled triangle
31 August 2010 - The Pentagon report, Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China, 2010, has opened a fresh chapter of India-China friction. The report had let on that China had moved CSS 5 Medium Range Ballistic Missiles to Tibet. Following on its heels, the latest headline is that India has cancelled a few military confidence-building engagements with China in wake of China not granting a visa for the visit of the head of India's Northern Army.

SEE for full article....

China for its part is miffed at the unpublicised meeting of the Dalai Lama with the Prime Minister last fortnight. It had raised objections to the visit of the Dalai Lama to Tawang last year and also to that of the PM. It is also rankling perhaps from India taking objection to China's work on infrastructure in Gilgit in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. India is lobbying with the NSG to block two Chinese nuclear reactors bound for Pakistan. But more significantly, China is wary of India's drawing closer to the US signified by the nuclear deal with the US in 2007. The deal has since culminated in the Parliament passing the Nuclear Liability Bill, paving the way for closer ties in the run up to the Obama visit in November.

China sees itself as hemmed in by the US' presence as an 'Asian' power. Hillary Clinton upset China when she raised the issue of territorial claims at the ASEAN regional forum in July, referring to China's claim of 'indisputable sovereignty' over the South China Sea. The US Pacific Command chief has claimed that the US is mindful of Chinese 'assertiveness'. The report to Congress mentions that Chinese military modernisation that attempts to deny US access to Asia through acquiring a ballistic missile capability to hit US' giant air craft carriers. This is the latest twist to the long standing trans-Pacific disagreement along several dimensions such as North Korea's nuclear ambitions and US interests in Taiwan.

India risks being sucked into the incipient global rivalry between a hegemon and a rising challenger. Thus far it has attempted to maintain relations with both states without reference to the proximity or otherwise of the second. In this, for example, India not only exercised its military regularly with the US, but also has had two rounds of exercises with China. However, a view is emerging that while not alienating China there is a case for India to lean towards the US.

India's strategy has been to engage China ever since the visit of Rajiv Gandhi to Beijing in 1988. Vajpayee upgraded the joint working group on the border talks to a higher level with the National Security Adviser to serve as India's special interlocutor. These initiatives have since resulted in China becoming India's largest trading partner, with trade likely to hit $60 billion this year.

Alongside, India has been upgrading its military capability in the east. It has moved from what it terms 'dissuasive defence' to 'active deterrence'. This means a move away from conventional 'deterrence by denial' to an ability to punish, based on two additional mountain divisions. These are under raising presently as part of four to be raised to eventually form part of an offensive 'strike' corps for mountains. This is coupled with infrastructure development, specifically 72 strategic roads along the border. The idea is to bring home to China that India too is a rising power.

The current low ebb may owe to China warning India tacitly against explicitly weighing in on the side of the US. It has created a two-front problem for India in arming Pakistan in both nuclear and missile delivery fields. It may now be keeping India's focus eastwards so as to bail out its friend Pakistan, passing through a period of uncertainty. It is constantly balancing India in its own backyard in its relations with Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. The message is that India has its vulnerabilities, and these could be aggravated at will.

India needs to borrow a page out of the Chinese success story. Ever since 1978, China has attempted to maintain a stable environment to continue on the growth path. It has resolved its border problems with all states and placed others, such as with India, on the back burner. It has simultaneously raised its military capabilities to eventually be able to break into the superpower league.

India is in a similar position. It requires stability so as to remain on the growth trajectory. In case it is displaced or distracted, then it would not be able to cope with its monumental problems, leave alone match China or be a useful partner for the US. It therefore needs to stay out of the China-US equation.

The argument to the contrary doing the rounds is that India needs to get closer to the US since it needs technology, both civilian and military, and capital. The US would tacitly oblige since it would help balance China, but would extract a price in terms of strategic autonomy from India. Some believe that this is a price worth paying, while others believe that such proximity would make the US dependent on India and therefore would strengthen autonomy. More importantly, it would ensure that the magic 10 per cent growth figure is met. Given such growth, India would be able to arm itself, reorder itself internally and get its periphery to bandwagon. This is a seductive visualisation of the future.

The choice not offered by those making these arguments is whether India can stay non-aligned. India has inclined towards the US as a hedge against China. But China looms as a threat to India to the extent India seems to incline towards the US. Therefore, if India was to stay non-aligned or equidistant, then it gains time to protect its national interest of stability for economic growth. China then would not need to prop up Pakistan as their proxy either. This would give India the space of about a decade or a generation it needs to set its house in order. Greater distance from the US may entail a slower rate of growth, but it would be growth that would be certain.

Even while India tells China when to lay off, it needs to revisit why the relationship is as it is. Non-alignment may serve our interests once again.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


India’s Grand Strategy is not given out in a written policy document. However, its contours can be pieced together from the Prime Minister’s statements such as the yearly one from the ramparts of the Red Fort and from the actions being taken by the government on various fronts. This article attempts to make sense of India’s grand strategy. In doing so, it arrives at a conclusion markedly different from the spate of somber commentaries that greeted India’s Independence Day.

The refrain is that UPA II is a dysfunctional dispensation, much prone to infighting. Its coalition partners, tying down hefty ministerships in agriculture and railways, are a liability. Critics have it that the aging Prime Minister is waiting for handing over the reins to the next generation of the Gandhis. The party is in disarray in its critical home base, Andhra Pradesh. Kashmir burns. The CBI is barking up the wrong tree in Gujarat. The CRPF is lost in the jungles of Central India. The multiple blockades in the North East cast a shadow over the future. The CWG have driven the corruption index through the roof. Inflation is also through the roof. The Bollywood commentary on the times, Peepli Live, is entirely plausible.

The main line of critique is that India requires to grow at ten per cent in case it is to accommodate the demographic trends staring India in the face. India’s rise is to be economy driven and the economy is to be private sector led. This would place it favourably in the eventual face-off with China later. This requires infrastructure needs and governance and security issues to be addressed by the government. Since the government’s approach appears slovenly, India is said to lack variously national will, grand strategy, leadership etc. India is adrift.

However, a review of the initiatives of the UPA II seems to suggest that it is embarked on the right direction. Whether it gets anywhere, time will tell. It has major initiatives, in the tradition of UPA I’s coup de grace of MGNREGA and RTI, in the offing. There is the Right to Education Bill that seeks a demographic dividend. The Food Security Bill is to cast current reports of godowns overflowing with rotting grain a part of history. A revised Nuclear Liability Bill is to enable future energy needs for the growing economy. The trade with China, our largest trading partner, is set to top $ 60 billion. This would help avert conflict and moderate crisis someday. India has offered aid to Pakistan in its hour of need with the PM talking to his Pakistani counterpart on phone in an act of ‘disaster diplomacy’ of potentially long term consequence.

But two particular advances on the internal security front dispel the notion of a non-performing government. The two foremost threats have over the past decade been the rise of Maoism and of terrorism.

Though the casualty figures of the CRPF rightly suggest that action against Naxalism leaves much to be desired, the story has more to it. The latest is that the final clearance for South Korean steelmaker Posco’s project at Jagatsinghpur, in Orissa, will have to wait till settlements rights under Forest Rights Act, 2006, is complete.
Jairam Ramesh’s MoEF plans to send a team to undertake, ‘with due diligence’ in the words of the news report, the settlement of forest dwellers’ rights. Apparently there is cause to suspect the Jagatsinghpur collector’s report which said, “no claim for settlement of rights from tribals and traditional forest dwellers has been received.”

But more significantly, the mining giant, Vedanta, has been found to be afoul of the Forest Rights Act and the Forest Conservation Act in collusion with state officials implementing a fast tracked policy of mineral exploitation with political blessings. The NC Saxena committee report in preserving the Nyamgiri Hills, sacred to the Dongaria Kondh and the Kutia Kondh tribes, prevented a real life adaptation of the theme of the Hollywood megahit, Avatar.

This implies the state is serious, to the extent it can, of taking the ‘root causes’ approach to counter insurgency. In not deploying the military to chase down Naxals and persisting with CRPF, at some political cost, it has sensibly not militarized its response. Instead, it appears resolved that the experience in Bellary, the stronghold of BJP leader Sushma Swaraj and the Reddy brothers propping up the BJP ministry in Bangalruru, is not to be repeated. A commission under the Commission of Enquiries Act of 1952 is on the cards. A National Mining Regulatory Authority Act is in the pipeline.

Clearly, the Sonia headed NAC appears to be back in action. NC Saxena is one of its members. To it is credited the backing of the common man for the Congress in the last elections. It has appropriated to itself the need to ensure that growth is an inclusive process, as promised by the Prime Minister from the Red Fort: ‘When our Government came to power in 2004, we resolved to build a new India under a progressive social agenda. We wanted the fruits of development to reach the common man.’

There is a consensus that India needs to come to grips with the Arjun Sengupta report pegging the poverty figures at 836 million people living on less than Rs 20 a day. The divergence is on the means to this end. Those enamoured of the growth rate opine that trickle down from the ten per cent figure is necessary to reduce these. Headlines, such as farmers protesting land alienation to the Noida-Agra expressway, indicate that this may not be enough.

The second major initiative is that of the Supreme Court. The Court appointed CBI team has zeroed in on the junior home minister in Gujarat for an ‘encounter’ killing, one passed off as one Jihadi terrorist less. Alongside another minister, Kodnani, has been displaced from the ministry for her role in the Gujarat pogrom by the working of the Raghavan team, yet again one appointed by the Court. This constraining of the forces of majoritarian nationalism is what has led in part to the absence of terror attacks, perpetrated by extremists of any camp, over the recent past.

From a security point of view those dispossessed by India’s infrastructure needs would be vulnerable to revolutionary propaganda. The Maoist threat, reportedly already in urban alleyways, would grow. Response incapacity would make the right wing stake claim to steward the state. The majority-minority cleavage would reopen for exploitation, reinforcing plausibility of the right wing’s claims to having answers.

India is not out of the woods yet. A ten per cent growth rate, as seen, may not be the right route out. The Center appears to be on the right track. The hope is that it does not get waylaid.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

articles of firdaus at

Talk another day
Both India and Pakistan have independently concluded that they would be able to extract better concessions from the other at a later date.
National Security
July 2010

Soldiers in our own images
The multi-ethnic reality of India must find expression in its institutions, especially those charged with security. Plus, there are other reasons to broadbase recruitment further.
National Security
June 2010

Pause the mineral economy
Let the mineral wealth of Central India remain untapped until the people there acquire the capacity to negotiate the terms for its use and benefit directly from doing so.
National Security | Mining
May 2010

AFSPA: Between battle lines
Two recommendations to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act have been ignored. The Army is right to insist on its view, but there are things that can be done to improve matters.
National Security
April 2010

The government versus the military
The armed services have given a long wishlist of material to be procured, but the Defence Minister is in no hurry to accommodate them.
National Security
March 2010

Surgical strikes: Missing the mark
Some months after advocating limited and focused attacks on Pakistan-based terror camps, FICCI has a rethink. Corporate concerns and the armed forces' unpreparedness are finding common ground.
National security
January 2010

Much hullaballoo, little cause
Of course the military should be prepared for conflict. However, whether to engage in such conflict, and how, is a decision for the civilian leadership.
National security
December 2009

Our view, their view, the world-view
President Obama will raise the Kashmir issue during the PM's visit to the White House. The many views of the problem and its consequences will have to be balanced.
National security | Jammu and Kashmir
November 2009

A job for an infantryman
At best the central police and paramilitary can hold an area once it is taken back, but clearing it and handing it over to them can only be done by the Army.
National security
October 2009

The nuclear numbers game
India claims that Pakistan is stockpiling more nuclear weapons than it needs for minimum deterrence. But this could just turn out to be an excuse for it to do likewise.
National security
September 2009

Wanted: A peace movement
Arguing against the nuclear enclave and its retainers is a kind of national service, and we must press on, no matter how futile it may appear at times.
National Security | Peace
August 2009

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.
National Security
July 2009

Looking at China, missing Pakistan
New developments in India's nuclear posture vis-a-vis China inevitably impact the Pakistani nuclear program as well. We must recognise this implicit risk.
National Security
June 2009

Inward lens for incoming government
The buzz on the global front should not distract us from pressing matters at home. This would also make our security agenda more human and less state-centric.
May 2009

Awakening the somnolent state
The common thread between our external and internal security predicaments is our approach to time. Most security issues are long-standing and seemingly interminable.
April 2009

The coming fateful decisions
The two protagonist South Asian states got their independence in the middle of the last century, and it is about time that they seize control of their mutual and intertwined destiny.
March 2009

2009: A preview of security issues
India begins 2009 from a position of strength. But how it approaches security issues in the internaland external security planes will determine how it ends the year.
January 2009

An indirect response to terror
What India does or does not do is critical to the two power centers in Pakistan. The triumph of democratic forces there cannot be done without such Indian help.
December 2008

How deep is the rot?
If Purohit's activities are only one instance of something wider, then the Army faces a real problem over the penetration of majoritarian religious ideology.
Peace and Security
November 2008

Military cooperation with the US: A mixed bag
A future government that is without the check of a strong opposition could strike out on a course that is markedly divergent from India's past record of abstinence from geo-political conflicts.
Peace and Security
October 2008

In Muslim India, an internal battle
The struggle to wrest back interpretations of Islam from the extremists could boost security, and halt the marginalisation and ghettoisation of Muslims in India.
September 2008

Mid-year chakravyuh
With the government firmly in ostrich mode on issues of internal security, and the external situation appearing complex, India awaits its Abhimanyu.
Peace and security
August 2008

Making nuclear sense
As the strategic enclave has grown, the agenda of political discourse has been usurped by 'high politics'. This has wide implications for democracy.
Peace and Security
July 2008

Is Vox Populi good enough?
In Advani's worldview, populist sorrow and re-election after the Gujarat riots amount to democratic endorsement of whatever happened, and is sufficient political accountability.
Peace and security
April 2008

Successful deterrence? Hardly.
The absence of open conflict between India and Pakistan is cited as proof that nuclear deterrence works. But there have been unacknowledged conflicts.
February 2008

Internal security agenda for the new year
The happenings in Pakistan, which have culminated in the unfortunate assassination of Benazir Bhutto, are equally portentuous for India.
January 2008

Expansion in Indian nuclear theology
Retired Army Chief General Shankar Roychowdhury, writing in a popular security magazine, says India's nuclear doctrine must be revised to cover the additional threat of sponsored nuclear terrorism that could, as part of Pakistan's proxy war, prove to be the 'Future Shock'. Firdaus Ahmed analyses the General's views.
November 2007

The Nagaland model for Kashmir
Pakistan, under pressure in the Global War on Terror (GWOT), has restrained its hand in the proxy war. By most accounts, Kashmir appears headed towards peace. This is the right juncture to approach the issue politically, both in its external and internal plane.
Peace and Security
September 2007

This summer, at a border near you
The United Stated-led Global War on Terror is all set to come up to India's doorstep this summer, with Pakistan's move from being a 'frontline state' to becoming a theatre of war. For India, a reflexive anti-Pakistani stance or a fashionable pro-American one are not the only choices. writes
March 2007

The Indian Army: crisis within
The army has apparently delivered on its mandate of ensuring the return of an environment more conducive to law and order since more than a decade, in Kashmir. But the recent spate of suicides and fratricides within are showing that the army is under stress, a slide that the political side can and must prevent.
January 2007

Lessons from recent wars
The impact of 9/11 has brought in a greater permissibility in the use of force by states. With terrorist attacks taking their toll of innocents by design, a move away from the earlier restrictions on use of force appears defensible. Like its strategic partners, India too might act on this higher latitude for war.
Peace and Security
September 2006

Grand manoeuvre, yes, but to what end?
That Ex Sanghe Shakti concluded in the plains of Punjab without much ado indicates the determination of both India and Pakistan to keep temperatures below the now usual levels of the summer campaign in Kashmir. However, this positive should not cloud the questionable premises of Ex Sanghe Shakti.
Security | Opinions
July 2006

Politicisation and the Indian military
While agreeing with General S Padmanabhan who says in his recent book that "politicisation of the military is a self defeating exercise in a democracy," it is difficult to concede that "greed for fish and loaves of office" is how the politician would corrupt the military establishment and wrench it from its apolitical moorings.
Security | Books
April 2006

Muslim headcount: A useful controversy
The furore over the counting of minorities in the armed forces has taken attention away from what such a survey might reveal. Are the minorities adequately represented in the security services? This question too should concern secular-minded citizens.
Peace and Security
March 2006

Security agenda: 2006 and beyond
Now that political alienation has been redressed to some extent by democratic changeovers, the presence of the Army in Kashmir can be more boldly reduced. The coming year is one of many possibilities, but it will be followed by an even more important year, and the opportunities at hand now must not be lost.
Peace and Security
December 2005

Of nukes and counter-nukes
What is the threshold for Pakistan to use its nuclear weapons? Public statements by knowledgeable insiders addressing this question may only be a decoy, and at any rate the pressures of war might trigger unforeseen lower thresholds for the use of nukes. Alertness and public scrutiny are both warranted.
Peace and Security
October 2005

Second Strike and false security
In Second Strike: Arguments about Nuclear War in South Asia, Rajesh Rajagopalan articulates that ‘the probability of nuclear weapons use is less in the India-Pakistan feud'. This is comforting, and perhaps on that account, dangerous, because of the false sense of security its conclusions give rise to, says Firdaus Ahmed.
Book reviews | Security
August 2005
Political courage, and the next step
Permitting Musharraf to sell the notion that what could not be wrested from India in a decade and half long jihad has been obtained through diplomacy can help with this. Doing so would deflate the legitimacy that jihadi forces seek from their presence in Kashmir.
Peace and Security
May 2005

An illusory battleground
Among military planners, it is common to devise war games to counter any nuclear attack by enemy states. The theories put forward in such games, however, are not always grounded in reality. The peace community should alertly challenge such thinking.
Peace and Security
March 2005

- Hail to the new chief
- Preparing for the wrong war
- Special powers, mixed results
- A new security agenda
- The calculus of 'Cold start'
- Chief of Defense : Implications
- Not yet history
- A national confidence syndrome
- Missing the security target
- Lies in the name of 'security'
- Must remain 'unfinished'
- Questions in search of answers
- PM peace initiative: Much ado?
- Lessons from Baghdad
- Kashmir after Nadimarg
- Limited nuclear war, limitless anxiety
- A debt we can do without
- Arms control and disarmament
- Time for policy re-orientation
- Kashmir - the way forward
- The Indian bid for Great Powerdom
- Muslim India - A liberal perspective
• Jammu and Kashmir: Need for a Political Solution
• Countering the Naxal Threat-IV: Military as an Option?
• Revisiting ‘1971’
• The Bright Side of ‘Asymmetric Escalation’
• Questioning Defence Spending
• India at 60: Acquiring Escape Velocity?
• Making Obama's War Also India's
• An Issue in Civil-Military Relations
• Disarmament in South Asia
• Emulating the US
• The 'Vision Thing'
• Kargil: Ten Years On
• From ‘No First Use’ to ‘No Nuclear Use’
• Agenda for the Next Government
• Rethinking Civilian Control
• A Strategy for ‘Af-Pak’
• Not Quite an Empty Threat
• The Counter Narrative on Terror
• National Security Adviser: Reviewing the Institution
• A Roadmap for Kashmir
• Afghanistan: Appraising the Future
• The Lesson from Sam Bahadur's Triumph
• The Myth of 'Weapons of Peace'
• Getting it Right: Rereading India's Nuclear Doctrine
• Reconceptualizing Internal Security
• Musharraf and the 'TINA' Factor
• Understanding Minority-Perpetrated Terrorism
• For a Return to Lahore
• The Day After 'Cold Start'
• Haldighati II: Implications for Internal Security
• Tackling Intervention in South Asia
• Querying India's Grand Strategy
• Kargil: Back in the News
• In the Line of Fire: Pakistan Army
• Pakistan's Possible Nuclear Game Plan
• Menu for the New Chief
• For a Paradigm Shift
• Addressing the 'Central' Issue
• 'No' To 'Cold Start'
• The Price of Malgovernance
• The Price of Misgovernance
• The Police and the Example of the Armed Forces
• Missiles and Crisis Stability
• Widening the Discourse on Terror
• The Post-Parakram Peace Agenda
• Indian Peacekeeping in Iraq?
• The ‘Peace Initiative’: A Tactical Gambit
• The Sole ‘Lesson’ of the Iraq War
• Muslim India as ‘Threat’
• For a Return to Clausewitz
• Preparing for ‘Limited Nuclear War’
• The General Did Not Bite!
• Lessons from India’s Kashmir Engagement
• The Logic of Nuclear Redlines
• A Smoke Screen Called Limited War
• ‘Terrorism’ and Intellectual Responsibility
• The Need to Revisit Conventional Doctrine
• Moving Beyond Realism
• Lessons from the Present Crisis
• The Impetus behind Limited War

It is no secret that India does not have a written national strategy document. While well known in respect of its external security situation, this is true for the internal security context as well. For instance, it is nearing ten years now since the CRPF was designated as the lead internal security agency by the GOM report. Yet there is no counter insurgency pamphlet with MHA imprimatur. The effects are visible in the CRPF’s showing in both Kashmir and in Central India.

Absence of an official document makes divining of India’s COIN (Counter-Insurgency) policy difficult. The policy needs to be traced instead from statements and actions, making the exercise resemble the ‘Blind men of Hindustan’. Nevertheless, it can be taken, contrary to expectations, that India’s attitude to return of normalcy in disturbed areas is not dependent on talks. For instance, the action of killing of a Maoist, Azad, apparently interrupted a ‘talks initiative’ of Swami Agnivesh. From statements, such as the PM’s recent two speeches on Kashmir, it is quite clear that India’s policy is one of ‘peace preceding talks’. This article questions this policy.

Delhi’s past record on the political approach to insurgency is not heartening. In Kashmir, George Fernandes, KC Pant and NN Vohra failed as interlocutors. Talks with separatists, initiatives of Advani, the PM in UPA-I and the Home Minister in UPA-II have made no headway. The autonomy report and reports of the five working groups to the three round tables lie neglected. The dialogue with Pakistan got nowhere and is not getting anywhere soon.

Elsewhere too, Delhi has not been able to reach political solutions to insurgencies. Though the offer of talks has been made, the Naxals are required to first cease violence. The Nagaland ceasefire is in its second decade for want of a political solution. Other insurgencies have simply been outlasted. In the Mizoram case, it took two decades for the conversion of a District Council into a UT and thereafter into a state to end the insurgency.

This record along with the PM’s recent statements spells that no political moves are in the offing. The PM has indicated as much in his meeting with the All Party delegation. He said: “…But this (talks) process can gather momentum and yield results only if there is a prolonged peace.” He repeated this formulation, of ‘peace preceding talks’, in the same speech and it should be noted unmistakably: “Let us recognize that repeated agitations whether violent or otherwise only obstruct this process. The cycle of violence must now come to an end.”

Problems in advancing political solutions no doubt exist. For instance, in the Naga case, the demand for Nagalim holds up the solution. In Kashmir, the insistence of separatists for tripartite talks involving Pakistan can hardly be conceded by the government. But can these problems not be taken as a way to legitimize procrastination by the government, in the hope that the militancy would exhaust itself eventually?

The attitude of placing peace as a prerequisite to talks betrays a lack of understanding of peace dynamics. Peace elides any military template, as the military continually warns. Talks are the vehicle for peace. Solutions need to be advanced through talks. With respect to Kashmir, though the PM says that the intent exists, there are no talks ongoing, either on its internal or external planes.

The agitations in Kashmir, over the past three years failed. The earlier militarization of their movement also failed. They will be more innovative in future. What has not happened so far may yet occur, a radicalization of the movement. Praveen Swami, a Kashmir watcher, warns that younger Islamists have taken over the movement in Sopore, displacing separatists who were known quantities. While earlier Kashmir was sought to be linked with the wider Islamist project at the global level, this had amounted to no more than point scoring against Pakistan. Even while some terrorists were inspired by the jihadist ideology, the people were not. The danger lies is in this occurring, should the Indian democracy fail them.

Avoiding this eventuality requires the Center to be politically innovative. If today it is not in a position to deliver, tomorrow it may be less so and it might get too late. For instance, in case the situation in AfPak shapes up negatively, India would have lost time and opportunity. The PM’s words require to be seriously followed up: “I believe that India's democracy has the generosity and flexibility to be able to address the concerns of any area or group in the country...” The reality is that this has not been in evidence in India’s COIN engagements.

The wider point is that the expectation of ‘talks preceding peace’ is insensitive to the plight of the people in disturbed areas. The government, having greater power and sense of responsibility, needs to exhibit it by engaging insurgents through the medium of talks, rather than being reactive militarily. Its COIN policy should instead be ‘peace through talks’. A written document to that effect emanating from the MHA may be a useful first step.