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Friday, December 13, 2013

the military in kashmir

The debate between the generals
By Firdaus Ahmed

http://www.kashmirtimes.in/newsdet.aspx?q=26382

A piece in the column by Shekhar Gupta, National Interest, has prompted a rebuttal from Ata Hasnain. Gupta referred to a senior 'soldierly' general with five tenures in Kashmir telling him that with 'victory' over the Lashkar achieved, the military had little to do. Hasnain, who was commanding general in Srinagar a little while back, disputes this. He opines that 'victory' needs to be measured against politico-military aims. 

Absent government action, the military had to unilaterally set for itself this yardstick: "integrate Jammu and Kashmir with mainstream India, politically, economically, socially and psychologically". He lets on that the aim has not been achieved and it 'would take years of committed campaigning' before it is. Since the army is the only agency with 'the capability to strategise, plan and stay committed to such a campaign', he argues against overturning the gains made over the past quarter century in getting the army step back. 

He invites his fellow former member of the brass - Shekhar Gupta's informant - and other 'arm-chair strategists' - presumably a tongue-in-cheek reference to Shekhar Gupta himself - to visit the many guest rooms the army has prepared all over the state to get a better vantage on the situation in Kashmir. The elements in this situation, to him, include a separatist-radical nexus; a body of surrendered militants who could revert to militancy due to non-materialisation of what has been promised them; and the precedence of Pakistani effort to get people to rise along with their conventional attacks may find resonance, since 'finally' what matters is what 'people think'. These, together with the expected geopolitical changes in the vicinity, suggest that the 'context' is not right for 'declaring victory prematurely'. 

To the general, 'victory' is 'not against the people of Kashmir but for them, and against the intent of Pakistan, the separatists and terror groups.' Therefore it is 'for' the people of Kashmir that the Rashtriya Rifles needs to remain in place, with the AFSPA for cover. Furthermore, he reminds that the RR cannot be moved off to Chattisgarh since it would be required to defend strategic arteries. After all, there are more surrendered militants who have not received their promised recompense as a 'potential source of home terror' in Kashmir than those waiting in staging camps across. More importantly, he reveals that the RR is an 'add on force for conventional operations' in order to balance the 110 Wings of the Frontier Corps that Pakistan has reequipped for similar ends. Therefore, it is a misunderstanding at the tactical level if 'to neutralise just a handful of terrorists each year' is mistaken as the RR's task; it is instead to 'cement the separatist population with the mainstream' as befits a counterinsurgency force. 

In admitting to a wish that 'Gupta had faulted the army for not demanding the articulation of a politico-military aim', the general reinforces the well-known secret that India does not have a strategy. As a result of this, the army has arrived at a strategy of its own. This has been articulated candidly by the general in his rebuttal of Gupta's argument that the army having done its job militarily, must now vacate the hinterland and concentrate on the Line of Control. The army's position therefore seems to be that the populace is potentially restive and the neighbor can yet take advantage of the situation. Therefore, the army needs to stay on, but with a better understood and implemented purpose of cementing the population with the 'mainstream'. 

Gupta makes the point that Kashmiris could do with sharing the 'peace dividend' by a 'disarming' of Kashmir, referring to statistics on the return of peace. To Hasnain that is an illusion. Since the general ends on a note exhorting the reader - and perhaps Gupta - to 'learn to trust the army' since 'it is your (the reader's) army', it would be too much to expect the general to dwell on how much the army is itself causing the alienation that the general admits to exists in Kashmir.

There is little doubt that army presence in their midst and the continuance of AFSPA are disliked by many in Kashmir. These are then red rags that feed into a situation in which 'separatism and radicalism run hand in hand in the Valley'. In other words, the Hasnain's solution is part of the problem. The advantages for the army are many. Guest rooms at 'Keran, Machel, Gurez, Uri, Sopore, Tral and Shopian' for one; even if Hasnain's refutation that new golf courses have come up is taken. Second, the RR gets to stay on in the cool climes of J&K rather than clear Bastar's jungles. Third, this would be for an indefinite duration since as Hasnain deems it there are no 'agencies who can take it (Kashmir) forward to "peace".' 

Hasnain's praiseworthy plain-speak must be taken seriously. It is clear that Kashmir remains potentially unstable. Also the dreaded '2014' - bandied about since the advent of Obama on the world stage - is barely round the corner. However, it is equally clear that unresponsiveness to Kashmiri demands on AFSPA and military presence, referred to by Gupta as the army's 'veto', is part of the problem in Kashmir. Hasnain's solution is that since the army is going to be part of the scenery in Kashmir, it should be put to better use as befits a counter insurgency force. Gupta's view and that of his general informant, is that the military must step back. Hasnain thinks that would be premature. To Gupta, the time is ripe to trust people to hold back the separatist-radical-terrorist tide. Whichever side of the debate one is, the debate is academic. 

What is clear is that the status quo will prevail over the near term. With the national and state elections close at hand, experimentation with the security grid is most unlikely. From the results of the recent state elections it is clear that the next dispensation in Delhi is very likely to be different from the present one. The current government in its lame-duck year is unlikely to make any changes. The next one if of the saffron hue has already declared its intent obliquely: to review Article 370. When it is so engaged it would be equally unlikely to make any changes, particularly since as it goes about debating Article 370, all of Hasnain's fears would likely be a reality on the ground. 

Therefore, it is not, as Hasnain seems to suggest, the reality in the Valley that will end up precipitating matters and also not what happens across the border, but what happens in Delhi and how it (mis)manages Srinagar.


News Updated at : Friday, December 13, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

communal strategists

Ideologues as 'strategists'
By Firdaus Ahmed
http://www.kashmirtimes.com/newsdet.aspx?q=25731

 "
It would be entirely fair to intuitively answer the question, 'Are some strategists communal?', affirmatively. There is no longer any field that has not seen the penetration of communal forces in India. The whole project of the Hindutva brigade over the past century has been to take over India from the inside. This they have admirably succeeded in doing, not due to any intrinsic merits of their own, but more due to the partial complicity of the Congress party, itself deprived of any vision since the departure of Nehru. It is therefore inevitable to find communal forces in the seminar rooms of the strategic circuit. 

That said it must be admitted that their presence is not easy to detect. The esoteric vocabulary used in discussions of security affairs enables them to hide behind a façade as conservative thinkers. Since conservatism and realism are in a tight embrace in security studies in general, being conservative-realist is perfectly legitimate. This school of thought - incidentally the dominant school in international politics - enables the communalist sanctuary, keeping their extremist inspiration in religious supremacism, sometimes mistaken as 'cultural nationalism', largely in the closet. There is a case to not only to expose them, but also to oust them intellectually since they currently stand poised to take over the strategic space with the possible ascent of their gladiator in the political ring to power in 2014, Narendra Modi.

Admitting that subjectivity tends to inform professional judgment is only to acknowledge the human condition that renders academic objectivity only an ideal. Consequently, traces of ideology can be expected to be visible in advocacy. It is possible in certain instances the familial experience of Partition may be operative. Their advocacy then needs being taken as motivated. Currently, the conservative-realists benefit by the presence of their more ideologically inclined fellow travellers and are insensitive to this influence. It helps them in their intellectual fights with the liberal-rationalists. While most conservative-realists are secular and their strategic positions well secured sustainable strategic argument, they are oblivious to their inability to detect and evict the ideological canker in their midst. It is only a matter of time that they will be disabused of their illusions; and much to their surprise. The problem is that this awakening could well be left till too late.

The effort here is therefore to highlight the influence of Hindutvavadis in the strategic community with an aim to prevent their contamination of the policy space. Already that is the case. In the policing of the seminar rooms, they have succeeded in marginalising liberal-secular voices who have been relegated to 'activists' from the 'higher' perch of 'strategists'. It is now impermissible to question dominant narratives without bonafides being called into question and the 'anti national' epithet finding its way into the conversation. Their influence, combined with and purveyed by their conservative realist accomplices, has led to 'Indian' strategic culture being defined in a particular way. The consequence is in an advocacy, to which the state is proving responsive, of over-turning a millennium of subjugation to 'foreigners' - a period that includes the Muslim presence in India. 

Take for instance the advocacy for 'massive punitive retaliation' in case of nuclear first use by Pakistan. The formulation has eminent pedigree, with strategic heavy weights espousing it. However, their advocacy was informed by strategic insight and sound deterrent logic. The problem is that since their doing so about two decades back there has been an increasing possibility of nuclear first use in conflict. Pakistan threatens tactical nuclear use in case of Indian conventional attack. The latter is very likely as response to a mega terror attack. Resulting nuclear escalation could be witnessed. It is here the extremists come into their own as avid defenders of the 'massive punitive retaliation' logic. They believe that while India will survive, Pakistan will be finished. While for nuclear wonks this only serves a deterrent purpose, their ideologically informed counter parts can hardly conceal their glee when they highlight this asymmetry in nuclear punishment between the two states. 'Wiped off the map', 'cease to exist' etc are the revelatory phrases to watch out for in such writings. That India will be grievously wounded, if not fatally so, to them is not a cause for self-deterrence: self-deterrence being a sign of 'weakness' that needs excision from the Indian (read Hindu) mind and culture. It is no wonder there is a thrust for the 'bigger (thermo-nuclear) bang' since the last one turned out a 'fizzle'. 

At the conventional level, their engagement is with use of conventional forces imaginatively in order to undercut Pakistani nuclear threat and avenge terror attacks utilising India's conventional advantage. While this is ordinarily understandable and is a favoured pastime of the military for instance, what distinguishes those with communal propensities is an avidness to get back at Pakistan and a pronounced blindside to India's vulnerabilities and the dangers of doing so. To them exercise of Indian strategic maturity, such as in restricting operations on this side of the Line of Control during the Kargil episode and maintaining strategic restraint in the face of the Mumbai terror attack, are signs of Indian pusillanimity. Such 'weakness' is to be exorcised in a bloody tryst, the end of which sees Pakistan felled. The favoured phrases are 'taking the battle to the enemy', 'decisive victory', 'proactive', 'offensive' etc. 

It is in sub-conventional discussions that they are easiest to spot. While force is an intrinsic part of a state's repertoire against a challenge to its monopoly of force, it is widely accepted that the exercise of such force has to be cognisant of the law. The realists would employ the argument that not doing so will only exacerbate a state's predicament. The communalists on the other hand go a step further. They wish to use force to demonstrate the state's power and overawe those so subject to its power and glory. They accuse that anything less is debilitating for the forces; the 'one hand tied behind the back' thesis. Their reification of the state as an embodiment of cultural power narrowly defined makes even a secular challenge to the state incomprehensible and unacceptable. This provides the ideological impetus to subcultures in the military and paramilitary to go beyond the pale in counter insurgency operations. Such a thesis alone can explain the proliferation of unmarked graves across the Kashmiri landscape. It is not the doings of a largely secular and professional military, but is evidence of episodic dominance of subcultures subscribing to the communal virus within it. It can be hypothesised that such subcultures predominate in the paramilitary, given the acculturation into (north) 'Indian' mores, including for instance the propagation of Hindi.

However, it is in intelligence games that the communal strategists are most active. This has virtually been a cottage industry ever since Messrs. Vanzara and company, in Vanzara's own confession, were put to enhancing the image of a provincial politician as Iron Man II, the self-appointed saviour of the majority against terror intimidation from across the border and from within. To communal strategists, India's Muslim minority is a fifth column harbouring, in one fevered imagining, over 800 sleeper cells. They can be credited with making this canard a home truth. The latest instance of their cackle has been over the reference by the Congress scion of an intelligence operative accosting him with evidence of Muzaffarnagar's riot-affected Muslims turning to the bogeyman next door, the ten-foot-tall and no less, the ISI. One former foreign secretary with ambition to succeed the current National Security Adviser in the next dispensation in open forum said that India must not sabotage its case against Pakistan by referring to home grown, 'saffron' terror.

A major development in the strategic circuit has been the acceptability of communalists in seminar rooms. They are up front and unapologetic. They even have think tanks of their own with periodic events advertised as 'vimarsha'. This is useful in that there is no need to be hypocritical anymore. Secularism being to them pseudo secularism and given the intrinsic tolerance in Hinduism, they can only but be secular, there is no need for them to hide in the closet or hide their ideology as a skeleton. The advance is that a dialogue can now be joined with the credentials on the table. The enlightened public can then judge the debate. 

By and large they can be spotted in their rather 'tough' approach to neighbours, Pakistan in particular, Kashmir, 'Bangladeshi immigrants', Indian Muslim 'terrorists', Congress' nimble-footedness, 'pseudo-secular' strategists etc. The danger is that the debate is liable to get much less democratic in case the elections rustle them onto centre stage. Since they would hold the commanding heights of security policy, they would be averse to be shown up as emperors with no clothes. It can be hazarded that commentators pointing this out, both now and later, will be among the first to be frog-marched into silence. To pre-empt this, let naming and shaming of communal strategists begin. When ideology colours strategy, India cannot expect to be safe and secure.


News Updated at : Wednesday, November 27, 2013
By Firdaus Ahmed
 "
It would be entirely fair to intuitively answer the question, 'Are some strategists communal?', affirmatively. There is no longer any field that has not seen the penetration of communal forces in India. The whole project of the Hindutva brigade over the past century has been to take over India from the inside. This they have admirably succeeded in doing, not due to any intrinsic merits of their own, but more due to the partial complicity of the Congress party, itself deprived of any vision since the departure of Nehru. It is therefore inevitable to find communal forces in the seminar rooms of the strategic circuit. 

That said it must be admitted that their presence is not easy to detect. The esoteric vocabulary used in discussions of security affairs enables them to hide behind a façade as conservative thinkers. Since conservatism and realism are in a tight embrace in security studies in general, being conservative-realist is perfectly legitimate. This school of thought - incidentally the dominant school in international politics - enables the communalist sanctuary, keeping their extremist inspiration in religious supremacism, sometimes mistaken as 'cultural nationalism', largely in the closet. There is a case to not only to expose them, but also to oust them intellectually since they currently stand poised to take over the strategic space with the possible ascent of their gladiator in the political ring to power in 2014, Narendra Modi.

Admitting that subjectivity tends to inform professional judgment is only to acknowledge the human condition that renders academic objectivity only an ideal. Consequently, traces of ideology can be expected to be visible in advocacy. It is possible in certain instances the familial experience of Partition may be operative. Their advocacy then needs being taken as motivated. Currently, the conservative-realists benefit by the presence of their more ideologically inclined fellow travellers and are insensitive to this influence. It helps them in their intellectual fights with the liberal-rationalists. While most conservative-realists are secular and their strategic positions well secured sustainable strategic argument, they are oblivious to their inability to detect and evict the ideological canker in their midst. It is only a matter of time that they will be disabused of their illusions; and much to their surprise. The problem is that this awakening could well be left till too late.

The effort here is therefore to highlight the influence of Hindutvavadis in the strategic community with an aim to prevent their contamination of the policy space. Already that is the case. In the policing of the seminar rooms, they have succeeded in marginalising liberal-secular voices who have been relegated to 'activists' from the 'higher' perch of 'strategists'. It is now impermissible to question dominant narratives without bonafides being called into question and the 'anti national' epithet finding its way into the conversation. Their influence, combined with and purveyed by their conservative realist accomplices, has led to 'Indian' strategic culture being defined in a particular way. The consequence is in an advocacy, to which the state is proving responsive, of over-turning a millennium of subjugation to 'foreigners' - a period that includes the Muslim presence in India. 

Take for instance the advocacy for 'massive punitive retaliation' in case of nuclear first use by Pakistan. The formulation has eminent pedigree, with strategic heavy weights espousing it. However, their advocacy was informed by strategic insight and sound deterrent logic. The problem is that since their doing so about two decades back there has been an increasing possibility of nuclear first use in conflict. Pakistan threatens tactical nuclear use in case of Indian conventional attack. The latter is very likely as response to a mega terror attack. Resulting nuclear escalation could be witnessed. It is here the extremists come into their own as avid defenders of the 'massive punitive retaliation' logic. They believe that while India will survive, Pakistan will be finished. While for nuclear wonks this only serves a deterrent purpose, their ideologically informed counter parts can hardly conceal their glee when they highlight this asymmetry in nuclear punishment between the two states. 'Wiped off the map', 'cease to exist' etc are the revelatory phrases to watch out for in such writings. That India will be grievously wounded, if not fatally so, to them is not a cause for self-deterrence: self-deterrence being a sign of 'weakness' that needs excision from the Indian (read Hindu) mind and culture. It is no wonder there is a thrust for the 'bigger (thermo-nuclear) bang' since the last one turned out a 'fizzle'. 

At the conventional level, their engagement is with use of conventional forces imaginatively in order to undercut Pakistani nuclear threat and avenge terror attacks utilising India's conventional advantage. While this is ordinarily understandable and is a favoured pastime of the military for instance, what distinguishes those with communal propensities is an avidness to get back at Pakistan and a pronounced blindside to India's vulnerabilities and the dangers of doing so. To them exercise of Indian strategic maturity, such as in restricting operations on this side of the Line of Control during the Kargil episode and maintaining strategic restraint in the face of the Mumbai terror attack, are signs of Indian pusillanimity. Such 'weakness' is to be exorcised in a bloody tryst, the end of which sees Pakistan felled. The favoured phrases are 'taking the battle to the enemy', 'decisive victory', 'proactive', 'offensive' etc. 

It is in sub-conventional discussions that they are easiest to spot. While force is an intrinsic part of a state's repertoire against a challenge to its monopoly of force, it is widely accepted that the exercise of such force has to be cognisant of the law. The realists would employ the argument that not doing so will only exacerbate a state's predicament. The communalists on the other hand go a step further. They wish to use force to demonstrate the state's power and overawe those so subject to its power and glory. They accuse that anything less is debilitating for the forces; the 'one hand tied behind the back' thesis. Their reification of the state as an embodiment of cultural power narrowly defined makes even a secular challenge to the state incomprehensible and unacceptable. This provides the ideological impetus to subcultures in the military and paramilitary to go beyond the pale in counter insurgency operations. Such a thesis alone can explain the proliferation of unmarked graves across the Kashmiri landscape. It is not the doings of a largely secular and professional military, but is evidence of episodic dominance of subcultures subscribing to the communal virus within it. It can be hypothesised that such subcultures predominate in the paramilitary, given the acculturation into (north) 'Indian' mores, including for instance the propagation of Hindi.

However, it is in intelligence games that the communal strategists are most active. This has virtually been a cottage industry ever since Messrs. Vanzara and company, in Vanzara's own confession, were put to enhancing the image of a provincial politician as Iron Man II, the self-appointed saviour of the majority against terror intimidation from across the border and from within. To communal strategists, India's Muslim minority is a fifth column harbouring, in one fevered imagining, over 800 sleeper cells. They can be credited with making this canard a home truth. The latest instance of their cackle has been over the reference by the Congress scion of an intelligence operative accosting him with evidence of Muzaffarnagar's riot-affected Muslims turning to the bogeyman next door, the ten-foot-tall and no less, the ISI. One former foreign secretary with ambition to succeed the current National Security Adviser in the next dispensation in open forum said that India must not sabotage its case against Pakistan by referring to home grown, 'saffron' terror.

A major development in the strategic circuit has been the acceptability of communalists in seminar rooms. They are up front and unapologetic. They even have think tanks of their own with periodic events advertised as 'vimarsha'. This is useful in that there is no need to be hypocritical anymore. Secularism being to them pseudo secularism and given the intrinsic tolerance in Hinduism, they can only but be secular, there is no need for them to hide in the closet or hide their ideology as a skeleton. The advance is that a dialogue can now be joined with the credentials on the table. The enlightened public can then judge the debate. 

By and large they can be spotted in their rather 'tough' approach to neighbours, Pakistan in particular, Kashmir, 'Bangladeshi immigrants', Indian Muslim 'terrorists', Congress' nimble-footedness, 'pseudo-secular' strategists etc. The danger is that the debate is liable to get much less democratic in case the elections rustle them onto centre stage. Since they would hold the commanding heights of security policy, they would be averse to be shown up as emperors with no clothes. It can be hazarded that commentators pointing this out, both now and later, will be among the first to be frog-marched into silence. To pre-empt this, let naming and shaming of communal strategists begin. When ideology colours strategy, India cannot expect to be safe and secure.


News Updated at : Wednesday, November 27, 2013

vanzara in indiatogether.org

The relevance of Vanzara's letter 
In his resignation, Vanzara gave no indication that obeying illegal orders bothered him. Instead, his lament is that he was used and thrown. In right-shifting India, it may next be the military's turn if the shift from Gandhinagar takes place, writes Firdaus Ahmed. 

19 November 2013 - D G Vanzara's letter of resignation from the Indian Police Service is important at two levels. The first is relatively straight-forward, dealing with the rough and ready methods that security forces adopt when given a free hand. The second, more intricate, is infinitely more consequential. The latter is what makes the confessions from Sabarmati jail so important as the political drama unfolds into elections next year.
Beginning with the mundane aspect first: Vanzara reveals that his outfit dutifully carried out the bidding of the political masters in Gujarat. While there was no call for them to obey illegal orders, Vanazara's letter carries no indication that this bothers him. In fact he projects his acts as legitimate, and is on this account miffed with his handlers for not having bailed him and his fellow travellers out. His mindset is indicative of the mentality of those who have contributed to the embarrassments on India's human rights record. Many states boast of 'encounter specialists'. Likewise, the inability to see their actions as departures from the rule of law is an affliction also of those responsible for unmarked graves across J&K.
Among fighting men, the comforting belief of being on the 'right' side and on the side of the 'right' is a useful motivational factor. The belief is built up through internal communication strategies. The larger social discourse in which political ideologies play out provides context. It makes killing, an otherwise taboo act, become not only doable, but even the desirable thing. This is what resets the norm away from taking innocent lives. If innocence is withdrawn, it is easier to take life.
Militaries, realising this, have perception management strategies, earlier called propaganda, directed also at their own sides. While information war campaigns such as anti-Japanese posters in World War II are par for the course in war, in internal conflict the situation is hazier. There is the law, and the environment has all shades of grey. Therefore, even if the official discourse is sanitised and politically correct, the dominant discourse need not be so.

This does not imply that the majority of the members of security forces subscribe to the sub-cultures that are beyond the pale. These dominate when the majority is inert, possibly being immersed in the urgent and the immediate, the routine and the mundane. This enables the minority sub-culture take over the space and set the terms of the discourse. The prevalence of fratricide, mutilation, drugs, indiscipline and excessive use of force during the Vietnam War is an illustration of what deviant sub-cultures can do to professional militaries.
The Vanzara letter indicates how the Gujarat police, that comprises officers who have done themselves and their uniforms credit, also had in its midst those responding to a different drum. The story in Kashmir has been different only in scale. Here the military's counter-insurgency campaign has largely been exceptional in its restraint. But the disclaimer cannot obscure the fact that there have been episodes that cloud its record. These occur when there is a momentary ascendance of sub-cultures, usually led or permitted by commanders who have not been politically innocent. These have had a touch of cultural nationalism, prevalent in politics and public discourse over the past quarter century.
Whereas in Kashmir, national security provided the fig leaf, in Gujarat, Vanzara informs us it was to embellish the credentials of the chief minister as a 'strong man'. Narendra Modi has gone on to use the image in his campaign inaugural speech suggesting to a Haryanvi audience comprising ex-servicemen including a former army chief, that the nation needs strong leadership, beset as it is with over-bearing neighbours.
Referring to the army's secularism, Modi suggested that it was the model for the rest of the country. This reference by Modi is not to mainstream military culture as much as to the sub-culture tinged with cultural nationalism. The professionalism of the military may lead it to stay out of politics, even as cultural nationalists in their midst are emboldened to bid for dominating the discourse.
This has been on for some time. A perspicacious co-editor of a magazine specialising on Indian security, Force, has revealed the extent of right wing wares in the chatter on military internet groups. These are dominated by ex-servicemen exercising their new found freedom of political expression in favour of the opposition party, with the majority of service members listening in, though not participating for reasons of cyber security, being conditioned suitably.
Modi, in his speech suggested that the Sachar Committee's inquiry into the numbers of Muslims in the army was uncalled for. This is to take the army's secularism that it wears on its sleeve, without critical appraisal. An army interested in secularism in its liberal reading would have proved introspective. This was not the case despite evidence that screams in the face that inequity in representation of Muslims detracts from its touted secular credentials. Take for instance a revealing statistic. Of some 2850 cadets since Independence who entered the portals of a leading military school that prepares cadets for entry to the NDA, only 28 were Muslims.
The innate conservatism of the military, combined with appeasement by charismatic leaders, can lead to the military to remain neutral in the political turbulence undoubtedly ahead. This reference is therefore neither untimely nor apolitical for Modi. It is a page out of the same book used in many other nationalist exhortations around the world. It may yet turn out that the BJP-led NDA government's sacking of the naval chief was a mere trailer. Vanzara's lament is that he was used and thrown. It may well be the military's turn if the shift from Gandhinagar takes place.
Firdaus Ahmed 
19 Nov 2013
- See more at: http://www.indiatogether.org/2013/nov/fah-resign.htm#sthash.ITz1PGcL.dpuf
POLITICS AND SECURITY 
The relevance of Vanzara's letter 
In his resignation, Vanzara gave no indication that obeying illegal orders bothered him. Instead, his lament is that he was used and thrown. In right-shifting India, it may next be the military's turn if the shift from Gandhinagar takes place, writes Firdaus Ahmed. 
 

19 November 2013 - D G Vanzara's letter of resignation from the Indian Police Service is important at two levels. The first is relatively straight-forward, dealing with the rough and ready methods that security forces adopt when given a free hand. The second, more intricate, is infinitely more consequential. The latter is what makes the confessions from Sabarmati jail so important as the political drama unfolds into elections next year.
Beginning with the mundane aspect first: Vanzara reveals that his outfit dutifully carried out the bidding of the political masters in Gujarat. While there was no call for them to obey illegal orders, Vanazara's letter carries no indication that this bothers him. In fact he projects his acts as legitimate, and is on this account miffed with his handlers for not having bailed him and his fellow travellers out. His mindset is indicative of the mentality of those who have contributed to the embarrassments on India's human rights record. Many states boast of 'encounter specialists'. Likewise, the inability to see their actions as departures from the rule of law is an affliction also of those responsible for unmarked graves across J&K.
Vanzara makes clear that the usual reason trotted out explaining away the phenomenon is nonsensical. The lure of awards and promotions is not all there is to the motives. What is pertinent instead is an inability to see their actions, even if illegal, as illegitimate. It is not legality but a belief in legitimacy that makes for an atmosphere permissive of excesses. The defense that the courts cannot keep up with convictions, and therefore it is necessary to serve as judge and executioner, is a rationalisation. What counts for widespread violations is a belief in ones' own 'righteousness' and the threat thereto from the 'other' side.
Among fighting men, the comforting belief of being on the 'right' side and on the side of the 'right' is a useful motivational factor. The belief is built up through internal communication strategies. The larger social discourse in which political ideologies play out provides context. It makes killing, an otherwise taboo act, become not only doable, but even the desirable thing. This is what resets the norm away from taking innocent lives. If innocence is withdrawn, it is easier to take life.
Militaries, realising this, have perception management strategies, earlier called propaganda, directed also at their own sides. While information war campaigns such as anti-Japanese posters in World War II are par for the course in war, in internal conflict the situation is hazier. There is the law, and the environment has all shades of grey. Therefore, even if the official discourse is sanitised and politically correct, the dominant discourse need not be so.

Among fighting men, the comforting belief of being on the 'right' side and on the side of the 'right' is a useful motivational factor. It makes killing, an otherwise taboo act, become not only doable, but even the desirable thing.

 •  A uniform betrayal
 •  Muslim headcount: Useful uproar
This does not imply that the majority of the members of security forces subscribe to the sub-cultures that are beyond the pale. These dominate when the majority is inert, possibly being immersed in the urgent and the immediate, the routine and the mundane. This enables the minority sub-culture take over the space and set the terms of the discourse. The prevalence of fratricide, mutilation, drugs, indiscipline and excessive use of force during the Vietnam War is an illustration of what deviant sub-cultures can do to professional militaries.
The Vanzara letter indicates how the Gujarat police, that comprises officers who have done themselves and their uniforms credit, also had in its midst those responding to a different drum. The story in Kashmir has been different only in scale. Here the military's counter-insurgency campaign has largely been exceptional in its restraint. But the disclaimer cannot obscure the fact that there have been episodes that cloud its record. These occur when there is a momentary ascendance of sub-cultures, usually led or permitted by commanders who have not been politically innocent. These have had a touch of cultural nationalism, prevalent in politics and public discourse over the past quarter century.
Given that the Pakistani proxy war peaked in the period, the military has had to rely on motivational themes that included variants of the 'clash of civilisation' thesis, in which Pakistan and its proxies in Kashmir were taken as the anti-thesis. Those seen as contaminated were to be eliminated, even where the association was difficult, and under the circumstance of innocence, impossible to establish. The benefit, if any, was in punishing them, thereby deterring others. Both sides attempted to terrorise, as is usually the case in counter-insurgency, and increasingly in anti-terror campaigns, universally. The side that puts most pressure on people and for longer perversely, 'wins'.
Whereas in Kashmir, national security provided the fig leaf, in Gujarat, Vanzara informs us it was to embellish the credentials of the chief minister as a 'strong man'. Narendra Modi has gone on to use the image in his campaign inaugural speech suggesting to a Haryanvi audience comprising ex-servicemen including a former army chief, that the nation needs strong leadership, beset as it is with over-bearing neighbours.
Referring to the army's secularism, Modi suggested that it was the model for the rest of the country. This reference by Modi is not to mainstream military culture as much as to the sub-culture tinged with cultural nationalism. The professionalism of the military may lead it to stay out of politics, even as cultural nationalists in their midst are emboldened to bid for dominating the discourse.
This has been on for some time. A perspicacious co-editor of a magazine specialising on Indian security, Force, has revealed the extent of right wing wares in the chatter on military internet groups. These are dominated by ex-servicemen exercising their new found freedom of political expression in favour of the opposition party, with the majority of service members listening in, though not participating for reasons of cyber security, being conditioned suitably.
Modi, in his speech suggested that the Sachar Committee's inquiry into the numbers of Muslims in the army was uncalled for. This is to take the army's secularism that it wears on its sleeve, without critical appraisal. An army interested in secularism in its liberal reading would have proved introspective. This was not the case despite evidence that screams in the face that inequity in representation of Muslims detracts from its touted secular credentials. Take for instance a revealing statistic. Of some 2850 cadets since Independence who entered the portals of a leading military school that prepares cadets for entry to the NDA, only 28 were Muslims.
The innate conservatism of the military, combined with appeasement by charismatic leaders, can lead to the military to remain neutral in the political turbulence undoubtedly ahead. This reference is therefore neither untimely nor apolitical for Modi. It is a page out of the same book used in many other nationalist exhortations around the world. It may yet turn out that the BJP-led NDA government's sacking of the naval chief was a mere trailer. Vanzara's lament is that he was used and thrown. It may well be the military's turn if the shift from Gandhinagar takes place.
Firdaus Ahmed 
19 Nov 2013
- See more at: http://www.indiatogether.org/2013/nov/fah-resign.htm#sthash.ITz1PGcL.dpuf
POLITICS AND SECURITY 
The relevance of Vanzara's letter 
In his resignation, Vanzara gave no indication that obeying illegal orders bothered him. Instead, his lament is that he was used and thrown. In right-shifting India, it may next be the military's turn if the shift from Gandhinagar takes place, writes Firdaus Ahmed. 
 
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19 November 2013 - D G Vanzara's letter of resignation from the Indian Police Service is important at two levels. The first is relatively straight-forward, dealing with the rough and ready methods that security forces adopt when given a free hand. The second, more intricate, is infinitely more consequential. The latter is what makes the confessions from Sabarmati jail so important as the political drama unfolds into elections next year.
Beginning with the mundane aspect first: Vanzara reveals that his outfit dutifully carried out the bidding of the political masters in Gujarat. While there was no call for them to obey illegal orders, Vanazara's letter carries no indication that this bothers him. In fact he projects his acts as legitimate, and is on this account miffed with his handlers for not having bailed him and his fellow travellers out. His mindset is indicative of the mentality of those who have contributed to the embarrassments on India's human rights record. Many states boast of 'encounter specialists'. Likewise, the inability to see their actions as departures from the rule of law is an affliction also of those responsible for unmarked graves across J&K.
Vanzara makes clear that the usual reason trotted out explaining away the phenomenon is nonsensical. The lure of awards and promotions is not all there is to the motives. What is pertinent instead is an inability to see their actions, even if illegal, as illegitimate. It is not legality but a belief in legitimacy that makes for an atmosphere permissive of excesses. The defense that the courts cannot keep up with convictions, and therefore it is necessary to serve as judge and executioner, is a rationalisation. What counts for widespread violations is a belief in ones' own 'righteousness' and the threat thereto from the 'other' side.
Among fighting men, the comforting belief of being on the 'right' side and on the side of the 'right' is a useful motivational factor. The belief is built up through internal communication strategies. The larger social discourse in which political ideologies play out provides context. It makes killing, an otherwise taboo act, become not only doable, but even the desirable thing. This is what resets the norm away from taking innocent lives. If innocence is withdrawn, it is easier to take life.
Militaries, realising this, have perception management strategies, earlier called propaganda, directed also at their own sides. While information war campaigns such as anti-Japanese posters in World War II are par for the course in war, in internal conflict the situation is hazier. There is the law, and the environment has all shades of grey. Therefore, even if the official discourse is sanitised and politically correct, the dominant discourse need not be so.

Among fighting men, the comforting belief of being on the 'right' side and on the side of the 'right' is a useful motivational factor. It makes killing, an otherwise taboo act, become not only doable, but even the desirable thing.

 •  A uniform betrayal
 •  Muslim headcount: Useful uproar
This does not imply that the majority of the members of security forces subscribe to the sub-cultures that are beyond the pale. These dominate when the majority is inert, possibly being immersed in the urgent and the immediate, the routine and the mundane. This enables the minority sub-culture take over the space and set the terms of the discourse. The prevalence of fratricide, mutilation, drugs, indiscipline and excessive use of force during the Vietnam War is an illustration of what deviant sub-cultures can do to professional militaries.
The Vanzara letter indicates how the Gujarat police, that comprises officers who have done themselves and their uniforms credit, also had in its midst those responding to a different drum. The story in Kashmir has been different only in scale. Here the military's counter-insurgency campaign has largely been exceptional in its restraint. But the disclaimer cannot obscure the fact that there have been episodes that cloud its record. These occur when there is a momentary ascendance of sub-cultures, usually led or permitted by commanders who have not been politically innocent. These have had a touch of cultural nationalism, prevalent in politics and public discourse over the past quarter century.
Given that the Pakistani proxy war peaked in the period, the military has had to rely on motivational themes that included variants of the 'clash of civilisation' thesis, in which Pakistan and its proxies in Kashmir were taken as the anti-thesis. Those seen as contaminated were to be eliminated, even where the association was difficult, and under the circumstance of innocence, impossible to establish. The benefit, if any, was in punishing them, thereby deterring others. Both sides attempted to terrorise, as is usually the case in counter-insurgency, and increasingly in anti-terror campaigns, universally. The side that puts most pressure on people and for longer perversely, 'wins'.
Whereas in Kashmir, national security provided the fig leaf, in Gujarat, Vanzara informs us it was to embellish the credentials of the chief minister as a 'strong man'. Narendra Modi has gone on to use the image in his campaign inaugural speech suggesting to a Haryanvi audience comprising ex-servicemen including a former army chief, that the nation needs strong leadership, beset as it is with over-bearing neighbours.
Referring to the army's secularism, Modi suggested that it was the model for the rest of the country. This reference by Modi is not to mainstream military culture as much as to the sub-culture tinged with cultural nationalism. The professionalism of the military may lead it to stay out of politics, even as cultural nationalists in their midst are emboldened to bid for dominating the discourse.
This has been on for some time. A perspicacious co-editor of a magazine specialising on Indian security, Force, has revealed the extent of right wing wares in the chatter on military internet groups. These are dominated by ex-servicemen exercising their new found freedom of political expression in favour of the opposition party, with the majority of service members listening in, though not participating for reasons of cyber security, being conditioned suitably.
Modi, in his speech suggested that the Sachar Committee's inquiry into the numbers of Muslims in the army was uncalled for. This is to take the army's secularism that it wears on its sleeve, without critical appraisal. An army interested in secularism in its liberal reading would have proved introspective. This was not the case despite evidence that screams in the face that inequity in representation of Muslims detracts from its touted secular credentials. Take for instance a revealing statistic. Of some 2850 cadets since Independence who entered the portals of a leading military school that prepares cadets for entry to the NDA, only 28 were Muslims.
The innate conservatism of the military, combined with appeasement by charismatic leaders, can lead to the military to remain neutral in the political turbulence undoubtedly ahead. This reference is therefore neither untimely nor apolitical for Modi. It is a page out of the same book used in many other nationalist exhortations around the world. It may yet turn out that the BJP-led NDA government's sacking of the naval chief was a mere trailer. Vanzara's lament is that he was used and thrown. It may well be the military's turn if the shift from Gandhinagar takes place.
Firdaus Ahmed 
19 Nov 2013
- See more at: http://www.indiatogether.org/2013/nov/fah-resign.htm#sthash.ITz1PGcL.dpuf

Friday, November 08, 2013

muslims in strategic space


Muslim absence from the strategic space



The competition is already on for the loaves of office once the expected changeover in Delhi takes place next year. It is taken as a foregone conclusion that Luah Purush II, marketed as brand ‘NaMo’, will take over 7, Race Course Road. The recent outburst of the Prince on the ordinance providing politicians a loophole for escaping the long arms of the law notwithstanding, there is little sign of beating the anti-incumbency factor this time. The manoeuvrings by underlings for sinecures as gubernatorial posts and for more consequential ones such as that of National Security Advisor are patently visible.
Those in the running for NSA include at least two from the right wing think tank, India’s own Heritage Foundation, the Vivekananda International Foundation. While it’s director, ex IB chief, Mr. Doval, is in the race, so is Mr. Kanwal Sibal, former foreign secretary, also at the foundation. But there are others outside of its building in Chanakyapuri burnishing their credentials: the TV nemesis of Pakistan, G. Parthasarathy; pseudo-academic, MD Nalapat; Amb. KC Singh, and not a few moustachioed generals. Some with similar proclivities have however burnt their bridges by being supping with the Congress, such as Mr. Shyam Saran. He brokered the Indo-US nuclear deal and has staged a national security comeback his speech earlier this year on ‘massive’ nuclear retaliation, which a critic has called ‘making a hash of it’.  
The last time a policeman held the post, MK Narayanan, there was little to show for national security but for the nuclear deal. This slims Doval’s chances, leaving Kanwal Sibal as frontrunner, not least because the majority of those who have held the post have been from the foreign service. Given this, it is useful to examine his views. The following excerpt on strategic culture, carried by the VIF website, can serve as a start point: 
The Muslim rulers failed to properly assess the European sea-borne threat. The way the rulers of that period allowed an English trading company to steadily conquer large swathes of Indian territory speaks volumes about the lack of any strategic culture in the India of that period.
In stating this, Sibal echoes the dominant position in conservative-realist circles that India does not have a strategic culture. It is a defensive, reactive and weak power with little understanding of the role of force and its utilisation in international power games. This deficit to owes to a historical legacy dating  beyond the colonial period to Moghul times. The usual trope is that Indians lacked a strategic culture that allowed the Muslim ‘invaders’ (Sibal’s term) to conquer India. They in turn lacked the foresight to anticipate the threat from the sea. Though debatable, these are commonplace views and therefore need not detain us overly. Of consequence here is what he goes on to say: 
Independent India could imbibe virtually nothing in terms of strategic culture from the centuries of Muslim rule, especially as Islam became the basis for India’s eventual division and its theology as practised by Pakistan  presents an enduring threat to India’s security today (italics added).

Sibal, careful foreign service bureaucrat that he has been and one who is looking to come out of retirement soon, takes care to caveat ‘its (Islam’s) theology’ by adding ‘as practiced by Pakistan’. This is to stay politically correct by stating that it is not Islam that is the problem, but the manner it is practiced in Pakistan. What Sibal is implying probably is that Islamism or political Islam in Pakistan is a threat to India as manifested by terrorism to which India is sometimes subjected by its adherents. Pakistan is culpable to the extent the ruling establishment condones and participates in such acts inspired by religious extremism.
This is a generous interpretation of Sibal’s comment. One would wish it had come from him, articulate diplomat that he is. That it has not suggests that Sibal has no interest to elaborate on his somewhat cryptic position. Why this is so is a moot question.
Firstly, this could be proof of Sibal being in the run for posts that the new dispensation may hand out as early as next year. What he has to say is intended as music to the ears of cultural nationalists and that of their minders in Nagpur. Endorsement by conservative thinkers propels them in cyberspace with, hopefully, enough ballast to carry them to Raisina Hill. Thirdly, Sibal may believe this himself. This can give a clue to the manner national security will be run over the coming half decade and more. Even if Sibal himself does not get the post he apparently covets, the one who does no doubt has similar views. 
Abstracting from the individual level and moving away from Sibal specifically, is the point he makes among others, on the absence of strategic culture. The narrative is that India has been slave for a millennium and therefore has lost the ability to think strategically. This equates Muslimness with being foreign, casting the period of Muslim dynasties in India as non-India. The fact is that a fusion at the elite level helped run India even in medieval times, making the period as much Indian as any.
By default then, the Muslim legacy is one commandeered by Pakistan, which ironically, due to its military’s attractions for power, finds enough strategic cultural grist to consummately play the power game. To compensate for this perceived deficit in aggressiveness with Pakistan, Indian strategists of this school recommend greater strategic assertiveness on India’s part. While suggestive of a design to eclipse Muslim contribution to India and its strategic history more than mere default, outcome is in direct pressure on Muslim communities in the country for the contrived linkage with Pakistan and terror, and more directly in Kashmir.
While Indian intellectuals of the liberal-rationalist school do contest such narratives, it also needs greater Muslim involvement in debates and issues of national security to set the record straight. For instance, Seema Alvi could correct the version of history that Sibal suffers from. But getting balance into the narrative will prove an uphill drive. There are but a handful of Muslims on the mainstream strategic circuit. The Vice President was understandably silenced in his elevation to the constitutional post. Former generals, Afsir Karim and Ata Hasnain, Mustafa, Maroof Raza, Amb. Talmiz Ahmed, Gazala Wahab, Amb. Ishrat Aziz and Najeeb Jung come to mind. Perhaps, Asif Ibrahim could join them once he is through with his present appointment as head of IB and later Akbaruddin, the MEA spokeman, in his turn. There is MJ Akbar around too, but editing the Muslim-baiting India Today as he does, it is uncertain which drum beat he marches to.
Muslim contribution to security debates needs also to move beyond community centric issues of terrorism and Palestine. They have the right, and perhaps more importantly the duty as citizens, to exercise their voice on topics such as India’s Pakistan policy, its nuclear doctrine, conduct in Kashmir, maritime ambitions, defence budget etc. A Muslim voice on national security cannot but be beneficial to the debate, even if the critics will have it that it is ‘Muslim’ and not quite national. But that would be to argue that Amb. Sibal and Amb. KC Singh speak the way they do because they are Hindu and Sikh respectively.
Absence of fear of being contradicted due to strategic circles not reflecting India’s diversity enables passing of what is essentially hate speech as security analysis. Deliberate exertion for an informed gate-crashing of strategic debates needs being done lest questionable if not downright communal views become ‘Truth’ itself.