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Monday, December 29, 2014

Responding to Chetan Bhagat

What is a moderate Indian Muslim to do? @Chetan_Bhagat


Proclaiming “It’s not moderate Muslims’ fault”, in an uncharacteristically generous moment pop-pundit of Hindutva, Chetan Bhagat, lets moderate Muslims off the hook, even as he sets the stage characteristically for reviling their religion alongside. To quote him in full flow: “religion (Islam) gets associated with terror, hate, intolerance and violence. Even though people from other religions don’t say it, you (Muslims) can feel their prejudice towards you. With every incident, your religion gets more tainted.”
With a typical sleight of hand, that somehow always escapes his presumably loyal following of his column “The underage optimist” in a national daily, he absolves the “moderate Muslim,” resignedly sighing: “What is a moderate Muslim to do?”
Before answering the question, let’s first turn the question round and ask Mr. Bhagat, in the context of what is happening in India under the champion he has been cheer leader for, “What is a moderate Hindu to do?”
Your religion, Mr. Bhagat, is increasingly in danger of being hijacked by extremists. Absent intervention by the Mr. Bhagat’s champion, can it be taken that this takeover of Hinduism by a narrow, right-wing philosophy has government imprimatur? The assault on minorities is the obvious part of what is happening.
What is actually happening is the subversion of Hinduism from the inside. Its tolerance and broad philosophical streams within are being slowly and surely contaminated.
What is a moderate Hindu to do? Is he to keep up his political support for Mr. Modi who is presiding over all this in the hope that economic dividend will sweep such social costs under the carpet? Or is he to speak up, stand up and be counted, before his religion is distorted? While Mr. Bhagat believing people associate “terror, hate, intolerance and violence” with Islam, thinking people will never ascribe distortion resulting from cultural nationalism to Hinduism, one of the humanity’s great succours. They will place the blame where it rightly belongs, at politics door. 
Mr. Bhagat will be well advised to use his prolific pen introspectively to sermonise for the moderate Hindu, who has handed over power to Mr. Modi, to rethink timely. It is not only Hinduism at stake; it is over time the nation. The relatively greater power that moderate Hindus have to preserve Hinduism - in contrast to the moderate Muslim’s ability to preserve Islam from extremism within and Islamophobia without - implies that they can do much more and should do so. Should the silent majority of moderate Hindus remain silent, leaving the defence of their faith to a minority of active, courageous, secular-minded Hindus alone? Can these stalwart guardians of Hinduism match the government-backed politico-cultural formations running rampage across India? Mr. Bhagat, do answer: “What is the moderate Hindu to do?”
Leaving Mr. Bhagat with a taste of his own medicine, it is worth dissecting his answer. He believes that moderate Muslims cannot reclaim their faith. It requires the “UN and NATO” and “an organisation equivalent to the UN for all the world’s religions, backed by world leaders.” Since the NATO is part of the problem, Mr. Bhagat’s referring to it as a knight in shining armour reveals his lack of political sense, easily attributable to his IIT-IIM, and therefore technical as against political, background. As for the UN, it is indeed doing all it can. Since a “UN of world religions” makes little sense – perhaps his allusion to inter-faith dialogue – we shall let it pass here.
Clearly, then Mr. Bhagat has no answer to his question: “what can be done?” Which brings one back full circle to the beginning: to the aim behind his article.
It is apparent that it is Mr. Bhagat’s smoke-screen to cover what is happening in India by alighting on what happened in Pakistan, and then typically riding off on his favourite hobby horse, minority-bashing.
But then, since he has raised the question of significance for readers of this journal, the answer bears an attempt on two levels: one is internal to India in relation to the onslaught on Hinduism and India, and the second, external, in relation to the problem that defies Mr. Bhagat.
Internally, India’s moderate Muslim majority has to stay engaged with moderate Hindus, strengthening them strategically against their rabid counterparts. The first ones to take a hit will be this, vocal secular Hindu minority. Once they are silenced, Hinduism would be up for grabs with the secular Hindu majority bought off with the economic sops that they voted Mr. Modi into power for. Since Muslims will be next in the queue, the majoritarian nationalists will rely on provocations to gain an excuse to tamp down the minority to second class citizenship.
Moderate Muslims have their task cut out. They are to in the interim emerge as the leadership of Muslims so as to prevent such an outcome over the middle term. They are to work in tandem with the secular Hindu vocal minority in arousing the secular Hindu silent majority to deploy its vote, this time to overthrow the pretender who has taken over their faith and country in their name.  
Externally, Mr. Bhagat’s reliance on the NATO as an answer suggests that moderate Muslims need to dispel the argument for a “military solution,” an oxymoron if ever there was one.
The heinous act in Peshawar that set Mr. Bhagat off on his article was not without a context. Part of the context has been persistence of colonialism in the form of external interference and military presence in Muslim lands in general and in the region in particular.
Clearly, while there is every call for the terrorists who planned and perpetrated this crime, and such likes crimes in the region including in India, need to be administered their just deserts, other measures than military ones need highlighting and pursuing alongside. Ending the militarised environment in such lands is the answer. Take for instance the AfPak region. This crime originated partially in lack of the peace surge accompanying Mr. Obama’s military surge. If the former had kept pace in terms of developmental and educational efforts in the “ungoverned space” between Pakistan and Afghanistan, such crimes would have been prevented. To wit, firstly, moderate Muslims world-wide have to fight this notion that terrorism has only a military solution. Secondly, moderate Muslims in India need to weigh-in against cultural nationalism-inspired strategic and intelligence pro-activism on India’s part. 
And finally, back to Mr. Bhagat’s platitudinous comparison, “that Hindu radical groups don’t have as much power as Muslim radical groups do around the world at present.” Unlike Muslim radical groups that are pursued and hunted by respective states across Muslim lands, Hindu radicals instead have the power of a nuclear armed state being placed at their disposal by its very government! They have fulfilled the epitome of Tzun Tsu’s art of war: taken over the government of a nuclear power and without a fight, democratically empowered by the secular, but silent, Hindu majority, sadly bought off by the mere promise of “acche din”!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My second book

UA-58538765-1

First eBook edition published in India in 2014.
First print edition published in India in 2014 by CinnamonTeal Publishing.
ISBN: 978–93–84129–61–3
Copyright © 2014 Firdaus Ahmed
Firdaus Ahmed asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of the work.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this book are the author’s own and the
facts are as reported by the author, and the publisher is not in any way liable for the same.
Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information
in this book was correct at the time of going to press, the author and publisher do not
assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption
caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence,
accident, or any other cause.
Ebook Development and Cover Design: CinnamonTeal Publishing
Cover art: Firdaus Ahmed
CinnamonTeal Publishing,
Plot No 16, Housing Board Colony
Gogol, Margao
Goa 403601 India
www.cinnamonteal.in




For
IndiaTogether.Org




Acknowledgements
I am greatly indebted to indiatogether.org for its patronage
through the years these commentaries appeared on its website.
The ideas and their readability has greatly been improved upon
by the perseverance of the editors. I am most grateful to Ashwin
Mahesh and Subramaniam Vincent for allowing my views space
from 2003 onwards on their website and to Satarupa Bhattacharya
for assistance in every way. This has helped me grow as a writer
and has enabled me to develop my perspectives. The joint effort
has hopefully proved useful for readers of their website and this
compilation of articles will serve the cause of peace.
I have tried to reflect the liberal perspective in security in
the webpages ‘Subcontinental Musings’ on the indiatogether.org
website. The subject itself being dominated by realists in general,
IndiaTogether’s interest in the liberal perspective has helped in
furthering it. This has been not only to the benefit of readers
but also for the debate between perspectives and for fleshing
out policy options in the security field. Alternatives have found
mention on these pages, alongside critique of security policies
through a peace studies lens.
The perspective presented here and ideas owe to my readings
as part of curricular and self study. The credit must therefore
go to authors and intellectuals who have laid out, defended and
furthered the liberal perspective in strategic, security and peace
studies. I hope I have been able to take their work further through
these pages.
I have gained insight from the experience at my parents’ home.
Many ideas and interests that recur through these pages were
obtained and polished at their house that was to me a constant
refuge. Alongside, the support of my family in this project has
made it emerge as a book. It is a collective effort in every sense
and our contribution to peace in our times for all of us in India,
and South Asia, together.



Preface
This is a compilation of my articles that have appeared on the
website indiatogether.org between 2003 and 2014. The articles
cover the gamut of security and peace in India and the region. They
have been written from the liberal perspective. Taken together,
they are a record of the very interesting and at times dangerous
times, India and the region have transited through in the decade.
The ideas in the book are not new or original. They have been
thought up and thought through by intellectual giants in the field.
I have merely taken the opportunity to adapt them to the Indian
condition and interpret our times in the security field. I have been
privy to discussions in the strategic community and media and have
attempted to engage with the controversies and issues through
my commentaries. I have tried to present ideas to better current
policies and to show alternatives are available where such policies
are dangerous or potentially harmful. Collectively, the articles are
a trove for those interested in liberal perspective on security and
fill a gap in peace studies literature in the region.
I am putting the articles into one cover so as to ease access of
students, researchers and the attentive public to the ideas. They
appear in an abridged form in my blog www.subcontinentalmusings.
blogspot.in. The book must on this count be read in conjunction
with my other book – Think South Asia: A Stand for Peace. Think
South Asia comprises articles carried by websites other than
indiatogether.org. Together, the two books are my life contribution
to peace in the region and in our times.
This book is divided into five parts with articles arranged
chronologically. The themes are: national security, military affairs,
nuclear issues, internal security and minority affairs. The national
security part covers the whole gamut from regional security to
India’s relations with its neighbours, in particular its strategic
equations with Pakistan and China. The defence part has articles
dealing with Indian military and civil-military relations. I have
separately put together the articles dealing with nuclear issues
since I have brought a different view point to bear. My position
is that while nuclear weapons need to be got rid of earliest by
all, that they are likely to be around for some time, implies that
we need to engage also with the least dangerous way they can
be used. The other two parts are on internal security including
Kashmir and the last part on minority affairs.
Since the articles cut across international relations, regional,
strategic and peace studies, I hope the book will be consulted by
students, researchers and the attentive public. This way I hope it
will make a difference.

Contents

Acknowledgements
Preface

PART I - NATIONAL SECURITY
Indo-Pak talks: Getting past the eyewash
Reaching beyond its brief
To specialise or not?
Unity in Militarism
China in the strategic debate
Long road still ahead
What if Pakistan implodes?
Manufacture of a partner
Muddling along
Starving for England
The tangled triangle
Talk another day
Surgical strikes: Missing the mark
Our view, their view, the world-view
Making Kargil serve a purpose
Looking at China, missing Pakistan
Inward lens for incoming government
The coming fateful decisions
2009: A preview of security issues
Military cooperation with the US: A mixed bag
Mid-year chakravyuh
Is Vox Populi good enough?
This summer, at a border near you
Security agenda: 2006 and beyond
Political courage, and the next step
A new security agenda
Not yet history
A national confidence syndrome
Lies in the name of ‘security’
PM’s Peace Initiative : Much Ado?
Lessons from Baghdad
A debt we can do without

PART II - MILITARY ISSUES
Soldiers, not servants
An ambush loaded with meaning
The new ‘normal’ at the border
The strange case of 2nd Lt. Kalia
Expanding too fast?
Uncivil war in South Block
An age-old lesson
The ‘Age’ of misjudgement
Defence reforms: The next phase
The Army’s right to its opinion
AFSPA: Between battle lines
The government versus the military
Much hullaballoo, little cause
How deep is the rot?
The Indian Army: crisis within
Lessons from recent wars
Grand manoeuvre, yes, but to what end?
Politicisation and the Indian military
An illusory battleground
Hail to the new chief
Preparing for the wrong war
The calculus of ‘Cold start’
Chief of Defense : Implications
Must remain ‘unfinished’
Limited nuclear war, limitless anxiety
Questions in search of answers

PART III - NUCLEAR ISSUES
Getting ‘practical’ on No-First-Use
One gaffe too many
Whose command? Whose control?
The nuclear numbers game
Wanted: A peace movement
Making nuclear sense
Successful deterrence? Hardly.
Expansion in Indian nuclear theology
Unacceptable underside of ‘deterrence by punishment’
Of nukes and counter-nukes
Second Strike and false security
Missing the security target

PART IV - INTERNAL SECURITY
The fog of jungle warfare
Pause the mineral economy
A job for an infantryman
Awakening the somnolent state
An indirect response to terror
Internal security agenda for the new year
The Nagaland model for Kashmir
Special powers, mixed results
Kashmir after Nadimarg

PART V - MINORITY AFFAIRS
The relevance of Vanzara’s letter
A good school for Maqbool
The importance of being Asif Ibrahim
A secure minority, for a secure nation
Shall we imprison everyone?
In Muslim India, an internal battle
Muslim headcount: A useful controversy
About the Author

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Think South Asia: A Stand for PeaceThink South Asia: A Stand for Peace by Firdaus Ahmed


The book is at www.subcontinentalmusings.blogspot.in.
The book comprises commentaries authored by Firdaus Ahmed covering the ‘interesting times’ which India and the region have been through since South Asia acquired a nuclear backdrop. The author’s observations from his ring side seat in the region cover all dimensions of security – from internal security to nuclear war. The book offers an alternative – liberal – perspective on security. It would be of interest to students, researchers, policy wonks and attentive public. The book is a contribution to the peace discourse in the region.


View all my reviews

Friday, December 19, 2014

Veterans refuse to fade away


Where veterans refuse to give up, what does the future hold?

http://indiatogether.org/influence-and-politics-of-veterans-in-the-indian-army-op-ed

A former army vice chief exasperatedly writes of the ‘loose cannons’ among the ‘highly active group of veterans’ who add their own experience-based ‘mirch-masala’ to events unfolding that involve the army, thereby distorting the picture. In the aftermath of the two recent incidents in Kashmir – the Chattargam killing of two youth at a check point and the terror attack at an army base in Uri - these ‘e-mail warriors’ are urged to ‘hold their horses’ instead. (http://www.thecitizen.in/NewsDetail.aspx?Id=1709).
The general’s concern is apparently also shared by the senior army general in Jammu & Kashmir who reportedly wrote to all his commanders explaining certain uncharacteristic army decisions that the veteran community had taken umbrage to. These were the verdicts of the courts martial in the Machhal case in which three innocents depicted as infiltrating terrorists were killed by the army in 2010 and, second, the apology made by the general in response to the army’s use of overwhelming force at the checkpoint in which the two youth in the car died.
FOR FULL  ARTICLE SEE http://indiatogether.org/influence-and-politics-of-veterans-in-the-indian-army-op-ed 
The growing visibility, if not power, of the veterans was not lost on the BJP that used it to good effect in its election campaign. Narendra Modi shared the dais with a group of veterans including former chief, VK Singh, to depict a strong-on-defence image during his campaign. This helped create the ‘wave’ that brought him from Ahmedabad to Delhi. In return, he cleared the long-cherished desire of the veteran and service communities for a national war memorial.
Modi has also crafted his national security policies according to the hardline blueprint, staple of the strategic writings of veterans. He has energised the defence production sector and has a $40-billion defence equipment shopping list. Environmental concerns have been summarily set aside as India embarks on strategic road building in the Himalayas.
While all this keeps the veteran community largely appreciative, its media savvy members and would-be strategists also project these as inevitable and desirable advances for national security, initiatives that awaited Modi’s displacement of the previous moribund regime.
FOR FULL  ARTICLE SEE http://indiatogether.org/influence-and-politics-of-veterans-in-the-indian-army-op-ed 
Since universally militaries vote conservative, the service community and veterans have had a soft corner for the right wing party currently in power. The nationalism that the regime espouses is also attractive to the patriotic vein in former military men. Also, being a part of the upper middle class that widely, and perhaps wildly, favours the BJP, the veterans form a reliable support base.
As with the rest of the middle class, they are swayed by the economic dividend they hope to achieve through Modi’s hitching of corporate power and politics. They are also vicarious recipients of the redeemed national glory that comes with the ascent of an unrepentant Hindu nationalist to power for the first time after, in their reading of history, a millennium.  This makes them, as it does the wider middle class, blind to the seamier side of current day Indian politics, brought to fore and respectability by the ascent of the BJP to unchecked national power.
By no means do these elements have the power to shape policy. For instance, their limits can be seen in the ascent of the current army chief to the post was in face of bitter opposition by the V K Singh camp, even though V K Singh was in the government as a junior minister. Yet, they certainly serve as foot-soldiers for justifying policies, particularly on prime time from which, in any case, reasoned discourse has fled in fear of crusading television hosts.
A case in point is the ballast lent by veterans in outshouting their Pakistani counterparts to sell the new - harsh and arguably dangerous - turn to India’s Pakistan policy.
FOR FULL  ARTICLE SEE http://indiatogether.org/influence-and-politics-of-veterans-in-the-indian-army-op-ed 
The problem is when veterans, armed as they are with a cultural transmission belt into the serving uniformed fraternity, transmit their politics alongside. This was mildly observable in the previous stint of the NDA regime in government when less-than-secular strategists made their first appearance writing for both in-service publications and journals of institutions patronised by veterans. The Vivekananda International Foundation, made famous by Doval’s move from its directorship to national security adviser position, took root then.
This time round, there is not merely greater acceptability for cultural nationalism, it is the dominant discourse. Anecdotal evidence indicates that e-bullying of secular voices on the Internet from the military fraternity started with the onset of campaigning in the last elections. The military has over the past decade also extended its domain of benign interest to cover veterans, deemed to be neglected by the ministry department that is mandated to look after them, Department of Ex Servicemen Welfare, thereby increasing the inter-permeation.
FOR FULL  ARTICLE SEE http://indiatogether.org/influence-and-politics-of-veterans-in-the-indian-army-op-ed 
The potential dangers are already evident. News from the two passing out parades, from IMA and OTA, suggest that about three quarters of officers are from the North Indian belt, within a half-day reach from Delhi by train. Also, most are wards of servicemen, mostly of those from the ranks. This area is also the heartland of veteran political activism, symbolised by the ex-servicemen political rally at Rewari that really mainstreamed Modi at the outset of his campaign.
Veterans appear to be at the centre of much more going on in military affairs than catches the eye. The missive from the general in Kashmir to his men is warning of more to come. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Modi's comfortable ride and India's minority

The pebbles ahead in Mr. Modi’s comfortable ride

Milligazette, 16-31 December 2014

Mr. Modi is so comfortably in power that he can ride out the storm ineffectually put up by the opposition and intellectual class over the deplorable remarks of one of his ministers. There are three legs to Mr. Modi’s stool. The first is the one from which springs the minister in question, the Sangh. The second is corporate India and the third is the ‘international community’. Even so, Mr. Modi’s comfort levels can be upset, and given the prohibitive prospective cost of this, requires timely warning against.
Over the short term, the corporate India and its middle class is the more critical leg of Mr. Modi’s stool. Mr. Modi is its hatchet man and has played his part thus far admirably. He has rolled back environmental legislation, gone global with his ‘make in India’ campaign, kept the autarchists of the loony brigade in check, firmed up his fences and in doing so given a boost to the defence sector. Corporate India awaits Mr. Modi’s bolder roll out of second generation economic reforms that are perhaps wisely pended by him to the next budget. This gives him time enough to firm-in in saddle so that he can then proceed with confidence. This will enable the corporate to get back the investment they have made in him over the past decade, culminating in the rupee imparted ballast to his election campaign. Mr. Modi needs to deliver on their demands in order to be able to fulfil his ideological inclinations.
Arguably, over the longer term it is the ideological agenda of the right wing that carries greater significance for Mr. Modi. For the present, rightist oddballs that embarrass corporate India and its Modi-supporting middle class have to be managed. They lent their legs to his campaign as well as generated the polarisation to make of the Hindu vote a bankable vote bank for Mr. Modi. They will have their pound of flesh and therefore the politician in Mr. Modi is unlikely to mess with them. This explains his reticence in the case of the eminently sackable minister in question. It is the cultural nationalist agenda to which Mr. Modi will turn once his economic agenda is on course. This will not merely keep the Sangh placated but will help keep Mr. Modi in power well into his dotage; besides ensuring his place in history as the one who rolled back a ‘millennium of humiliation’. And well in time for the birth centenary of the RSS that conveniently for his project coincides with 500 years of Babur’s invasion.
Mr. Modi’s comfort levels are enhanced by India being the cynosure of the international community due to its strategic and economic significance. His economic agenda will be supported by global capital and India’s diaspora that has helped him to power for precisely this purpose. The strategic scene is also Modi friendly. Obama is enroute to India since India is important for the containment and balancing of a rising China. It is also useful to cover the US’ flank as it moves out of the region. Obama would not like another Iraq style return to square one when he pulls out of Afghanistan. Whereas India would have been significant, with or without Mr. Modi, Mr. Modi’s attributes are useful, particularly for the US. Mr. Modi’s Pakistan policy suggests as much. He has put Pakistan on notice and that helps the US cover its tracks as it bails out of Afghanistan. Mr. Modi’s attributes are useful for the US. It is not unhappy in the temporary turn to majoritarian politics in India and its corollary of incipient authoritarian rule. History repeatedly reminds that being a friend of the US is a worse than being its enemy. For China and Russia, India assumes importance owing to his importance to the US. Both want to keep India out of the US firmament.
If life were a fairy tale, it could be said that such comfort levels can breed hubris that can bring Mr. Modi down. However, analytical rigour precludes such wishful thinking. It is unlikely that India’s justice system that alone could have made a difference can catch up with him. On the contrary, a commission report has pronounced him guiltless and the courts have asked for speeding up of the Gujarat trials in order to put them behind him. This suggests India will race into a Modi-led future comprising of a Ram Temple, status of third largest economy and other middle class ego enhancing gimmicks such as Indian on the moon and ocean going boomers. To think that political midgets in India’s opposition comprising has-beens and would-be’s can ‘get Modi’ is a laugh. Also, Maoists are unlikely to be able to break out of the jungles in the timeframe till 2025 to build bridges with disempowered have-nots left behind by Mr. Modi’s gifting of India to corporate interests.
Since Mr. Modi strides the internal domain unchecked, the seeds of possible upsetting of Mr. Modi’s applecart are in the external domain. His aggressive regional policy has potential to cause unravelling of his two-step strategy: economy followed by socio-cultural engineering. Developments on the Pakistan front are somewhat unsettling, with Pakistan’s national security adviser pronouncing that normalisation is ruled out so long as Mr. Modi is in the chair. Mr. Jaitley has in response indicated that it is Pakistan that has instead to appreciate India’s trajectory is such that Pakistan cannot escape falling in line. On the China front, India’s proximity to the US is such that it may get the message that India has been unresponsive to its premier’s visit. China could prop up Pakistan, as it has all along, to keep India tied down, just as the US is propping up India to keep China tied down. Given military preparations, including nuclear developments, and a strategic scene set to get ‘interesting’ in the Chinese sense of the word in AfPak and India’s increasing footprint in Afghanistan, there is scope for instability. The scenario of a mega terror attack being followed up by an Indian Cold Start attack leading to tactical nuclear use by Pakistan is by now trite, but India’s aggressive posture, perhaps intended for deterrence, under Mr. Modi, may lead up to its inevitable unfolding in case terrorists wanting to set India back, try him. In effect, India’s aggressiveness makes this more likely, even if India’s posture is intended to achieve the opposite.

The place of the minority in this is a rather delicate one. In case India is upset in this manner, Mr. Modi and his backers will need a scapegoat. Muslims, scattered in isolated local communities across the Indian landmass, have proven handily vulnerable. Finally, the higher he soars the more resounding the fall; implying he will take much else down with him. Since he will likely go only in pulling the house down with him, there is no cause for Muslims to want to figure in the debris. Self-preservation impels wishing him well, though seeds of possible alternative futures need warning against.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

India-Pakistan with Kashmir in between

India-Pakistan with Kashmir in between
http://www.kashmirtimes.com/newsdet.aspx?q=39309

 "
As testimony for the efficacy of the counter insurgency grid, the commanding general in Kashmir indicated that terrorists ran into an army post while they were trying to get into the civilian areas in hinterland, and were promptly eliminated. However, it challenges common sense as to why they would take a route near the highway while they could well have moved into civilian areas with less chance of detection by sticking to the upper reaches on their way in.

Clearly, then there is an alternative explanation, which is that they were out to target the military and to do it spectacularly to befit the occasion: elections and their disruption. This explains their choice of target, the route to which they would certainly have memorised by studying the Google map. This makes political sense too since Pakistan would not like more civilian blood on its hands with an Obama visit to Delhi lined up the following month.

But the general is right in his assessment that the attack is part of a coordinated campaign authorised right at the top of Pakistan's Establishment. However, his interviewer
 rightly
 alighted on this aspect of the interview to suggest that the military was
pronouncing on a political issue. Whereas this may have been a faux pas
in the earlier regime
 in which a distinction was sought to be made between the Pakistani establishment and the
terrorists in order to continue dialogue with the former, in the Modi era it is no longer
politicallyincorrect. The military is being used for political messaging, earlier left to
diplomats, in order to more firmly shut the door to dialogue banged shut in August.

Doing so is necessary to drive home to Pakistan that it is now dealing with a new
regime with a difference. The policy of the new government was explicated most recently
by Mr. Jaitley on the campaign trail in Srinagar. Pakistan would require reconciling to the
 reality of an India going places, while it remains poised on the brink. The earlier possibilities,
 brought to attention once again by Kasuri in his insider account on the near-miss of a
resolution in the Musharraf era in his book, are now history. There are reasons for this,
strategic and political.

The impending visits to India in quick succession of Putin and Obama and the earlier
isit of the Chinese premier that gave Islamabad a go by are indicative of India's economic
and strategic draw in the region. With the US engagement transforming into a training
mission in Afghanistan, even if one robustly named Resolute Support, it needs India as
minder in the region. India has for its part stepped up to the plate, besides serving itself
up for economic, defence, industry and strategic purposes of the US. Pakistan, on the
contrary, has lost its nuisance value imparted by its strategic location. Whereas India
earlier countenanced talks, albeit pragmatically, it was partially under US pressure
occasioned by US need to have its backyard free of India-Pakistan discord as it went
about resetting AfPak. India was then also attempting to get closer to the US through
 the nuclear deal, partially to offset Pakistan's proximity. Now, India has managed not only
a de-hyphenation but a closer relationship than that of Pakistan, brought about by the
 in-the-works US 'pivot' towards Asia-Pacific in which China looms large. As for China,
India is offering its economic space. This is not so much to ambitiously displace Pakistan,
 but to ensure that China does not substitute for the gap left by withdrawal of US support
 of Pakistan. Strategically, therefore, India finds itself well poised to ignore Pakistan.

Politically, there is little reason for an ideological regime in Delhi to talk. It believes it is poised
on a historic win in Kashmir and will be able to settle with the Kashmiris by offering development,
 if only they would forget azadi. Mr. Jaitley when in Srinagar reiterated Vajpayee's formula of
'insaniyat' indicating that the speedy inquiry into the Chhatergam incident was within such a
framework. (Ominously he also outlined the contours of this include making Kashmir a hub for
 leisure, adventure and religious tourism!) He referred to discussing a new constitutional
arrangement, indicating that India has the stick of reworking Article 370 to beat Kashmir with.
It is a useful pressure point to make Kashmiris settle for what they have, with the hard-line
reinforcing that they have none to bail them out.

Since India is not intending to budge and asymmetry stares Pakistan in the face, Pakistan, as a
 rational actor could well reconcile. Its civilian side is suitably incentivised for this. They are willing
 to play along with an endless dialogue in order to get the commercial and economic gains turn
the equations over time in their favour over the hold-outs in the military. The military for its part
is aware of the portents of the ill wind from the spreading instability in the Middle East. The
new ISI chief wrote his thesis during his US training stint on the need to engageIndia. Therefore,
 it is not entirely without reason that Delhi is through its hard-line gambling on making Pakistan
 see the writing on the wall finally. By this benign logic, if and since Pakistan cannot also open
up another front against terror by reining in the Kashmir oriented terrorists, it will likely only for
tactical reasons allow them a limited scope for operations. However, this is how the previous
 national securityestablishment in Delhi would likely have viewed things.

This time round there is an ideologically inspired national security establishment. This explains
the link of the terrorists who hit Mahura (Uri) with the Pakistani establishment drawn by the
general. It is no doubt on account of this that Pakistan's national security adviser has admitted
that no headway can be expected during the Modi era. Therefore, the link is suggestive
 of Pakistan's response to India's new aggressiveness. Noting that India needs to be incentivised
once again to talk, Pakistan for its part may take the proxy war route. Pakistan perhaps reasons
that India is concentrating on its economic trajectory, threats to which are avoidable. Once the
new government in Delhi gets the message that Pakistan is not rolling over to play dead, it may
come round to talks. This would be more likely once the government, currently busy gaining a
dominating position in Kashmir to reflect its hold over Delhi, chooses regional stability for
economic growth over the status quo in Kashmir. As always, Pakistan is gambling with a gun
to its own head.

India in counter could also indulge in an intelligence led proxy war that can push Pakistan
over the edge. To the extent India has done this so far, it has been only to convey the
message that Pakistan living in a glass house ought to be more circumspect. India also could
not afford to have an unstable nuclear armed neighbour. However, these sensibilities of
the earlier national security establishment are unlikely to be emanating the current ideologically
 inspired one. In fact, the increased proximity of India with Israel suggests strategic osmosis
in which Israel's strategy of keeping its periphery restive in order to remain at peace may be
finding a receptive ear in India. In this strategic alternative, not only is trouble assuredly ahead
 for Pakistan, but also for India.

Both states are gambling on the other's good sense. Since both exhibit a lack of good sense -
Pakistan traditionally and India because of having ideology substitute for strategy -
an 'interesting' year in the Chinese sense of the term is surely coming up.

Monday, December 08, 2014

On India Opines: Mr Modi, pebbles ahead!

Mr. Modi, pebbles ahead!
http://indiaopines.com/narendra-modi-agenda/ 
Mr. Modi is so comfortably in power that he can ride out the storm ineffectually put up by the opposition and intellectual class over the deplorable remarks of one of his ministers. His comfort levels derive from the three legs to his stool. The first is the one from which springs the minister in question, the Sangh. The second is corporate India and the third is the ‘international community’. Even so, Mr. Modi can be upset, and given the prohibitive prospective cost of this, requires timely warning against.
Over the short term, the corporate India and its middle class is the more critical leg of Mr. Modi’s stool. Mr. Modi is its hatchet man and has played his part thus far admirably. He has rolled back environmental legislation, gone global with his ‘make in India’ campaign, marginalised autarchists, firmed up his fences and in doing so given a boost to the defence sector.
Corporate India awaits Mr. Modi’s bolder roll out of second generation economic reforms that are perhaps wisely pended by him to the next budget. This gives him time enough to firm-in in saddle so that he can then proceed with confidence. This will enable the corporate to get back the investment they have made in him over the past decade, culminating in the rupee imparted ballast to his election campaign. Mr. Modi needs to deliver on their demands in order to be able to fulfill his ideological inclinations.
Arguably, over the longer term it is the ideological agenda of the right wing that carries greater significance for Mr. Modi. For the present, rightist oddballs that embarrass have to be managed. They lent their legs to his campaign as well as generated the polarisation to make of the Hindu vote a bankable vote bank for Mr. Modi. They will have their pound of flesh and therefore the politician in Mr. Modi is unlikely to mess with them. This explains his reticence in the case of the eminently sackable minister in question.

It is the cultural nationalist agenda to which Mr. Modi will turn once his economic agenda is on course. This will not merely keep the Sangh placated but will help keep Mr. Modi in power well into his dotage; besides ensuring his place in history as the one who rolled back a ‘millennium of humiliation’. And well in time for the birth centenary of the RSS that conveniently for his project coincides with 500 years of Babur’s invasion and a 1000 years of Ghazni’s ravaging of Somnath.
Mr. Modi’s stability is enhanced by India being the cynosure of the international community due to its strategic and economic significance. His economic agenda will be supported by global capital and India’s diaspora that has helped him to power for precisely this purpose. The strategic scene is also Modi friendly.

Obama is enroute to India since India is important for the containment and balancing of a rising China. It is also useful to cover the US’ flank as it moves out of the region. Obama would not like another Iraq style return to square one when he pulls out of Afghanistan. 

Whereas India would have been significant, with or without Mr. Modi, Mr. Modi’s attributes are useful, particularly for the US. Mr. Modi’s Pakistan policy suggests as much. He has put Pakistan on notice and that helps the US cover its tracks as it bails out of Afghanistan. Mr. Modi’s attributes are useful for the US. It is not unhappy in the temporary turn to majoritarian politics in India and its corollary of incipient authoritarian rule. History repeatedly reminds that being a friend of the US is a worse than being its enemy. For China and Russia, India assumes importance owing to his importance to the US. Both want to keep India out of the US firmament.
Since Mr. Modi strides the internal domain unchecked, the seeds of possible upsetting of Mr. Modi’s applecart are in the external domain. His aggressive regional policy has potential to cause unravelling of his two-step strategy: economy followed by socio-cultural engineering. Developments on the Pakistan front are somewhat unsettling, with Pakistan’s national security adviser pronouncing that normalisation is ruled out so long as Mr. Modi is in the chair. 
On the China front, India’s proximity to the US is such that it may get the message that India has been unresponsive to its premier’s visit. China could prop up Pakistan, as it has all along, to keep India tied down, just as the US is propping up India to keep China tied down. Given military preparations, including nuclear developments, and a strategic scene set to get ‘interesting’ in the Chinese sense of the word in AfPak and India’s increasing footprint in Afghanistan, there is scope for instability.
The favoured scenario of a mega terror attack being followed up by an Indian Cold Start attack, leading to tactical nuclear use by Pakistan is by now trite. However, India’s aggressive posture, perhaps intended for deterrence, under Mr. Modi, may lead up to its inevitable unfolding in case terrorists wanting to set India back try him. In effect, India’s aggressiveness makes this more likely, even if India’s posture is intended to achieve the opposite.
While Mr. Modi can be expected to outlast this decade on the chair, he needs being warned against relying overly on Pakistan’s good sense, for most part of that state’s life marked by absence.