February 20, 2010



The well-publicised arrests by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the supposed No.2 of the Afghan Taliban, and two other senior Taliban leaders Mullah Abdul Salam and Mullah Mohammad Mir have not had any impact on the morale of the Afghan Taliban fighters confronting the 15.000---strong US led NATO cum Afghan National Army troops, which launched an offensive on February 13,2010, to wrest control over the Marjah area of the southern Helmand province from the Afghan Taliban.

2. While it has been confirmed that Mulla Baradar was captured in Karachi on the basis of intelligence collected by the US agencies, it is not yet clear where the other Afghan Taliban leaders were captured. According to some reports, Mulla Salam was captured from Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab, while Mulla Mir was captured in Balochistan. Acording to some other reports , both were captured in the madrasa at Akora Khattak, near Peshawar, run by Maulana Samiul Haq, the Amir of one of the factions of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam Pakistan.

3. There have been some other arrests of middle-level office-bearers of the Afghan Taliban in Karachi. These arrests have been projected by many American analysts, including Bruce Riedel, formerly of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as a possible game-changer and indicator of a welcome Pakistani decision to co-operate sincerely with the US against the Afghan Taliban.

4. These projections have not been borne out by reports from well-informed police sources in Karachi, which describe these arrests as a manoeuvre by the ISI to discard the well-identified leaders of the Afghan Taliban and usher in a new leadership consisting of well-motivated and well-trained recruits of recent vintage, who have not yet come to the notice of the US agencies.

5. They say that the leaders arrested since January-end in Karachi and other parts of Pakistan no longer constituted the command and control of the Afghan Taliban and that is why their arrests have not yet had any impact on the operations of the Afghan Taliban on the ground----either in the Helmand province or elsewhere. They say that the Taliban forces presently resisting the US-led offensive in the Helmand province are led by a new crop of leaders devoted to Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Afghan Taliban, but capable of operating independently without the need for directions from a central command and control.

6. The Taliban forces in the Helmand province have been following the same tactics as the Taliban had followed in the past and as Al Qaeda had followed in Tora Bora. This tactics consists of the bulk of the forces withdrawing from the battle zone into Pakistan or dispersing to their native villages, while a smaller number stayed put in the battle zone to inflict casualties and equipment damage to the advancing US-led troops and make their “victory” pyrrhic.

7.Though it is now a week since the battle started, the advance made by the US-led forces has been expectedly slow. This is partly due to the large planting of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and landmines by the Taliban along the expected route of advance of the US-led troops and partly due to the resistance to the advance put up by the Taliban forces still in the battle zone.

8. During the first week of the fighting, 11 NATO troops and one Afghan soldier have been killed in the operation, according to the International Security Assistance Force. The Afghan authorities have claimed that at least 40 Taliban fighters were killed in and around Marjah.

9.The repeated allegations by the NATO forces that the Taliban has been using civilians as “human shields” in order to slow down the NATO advance speak of the difficulties faced by the NATO forces. Major-General Nick Carter, of the British Army, has been quoted as saying: "I guess it will take us another 25 to 30 days to be entirely sure that we have secured that which needs to be secured and we will probably won't know for about 120 days whether or not the population is entirely convinced by the degree of commitment that their Government is showing to them. So I guess looking downstream, in three months time or thereabouts we should have a pretty fair idea of about whether we have been successful. "

10. In their media briefings, US spin-masters have been projecting the entire operation as carried out on the orders and under the political leadership of President Hamid Karzai, who is being projected as being in the driving seat of the operation. In a report carried on February 19,2010,the “Wall Street Journal” described how Gen.Stanley McChrystal , the US Commander, obtained the approval of President Hamid Karzai before launching the operation. It reported: “Gen. McChrystal said: "Mr. President, tonight is the night the operation needs to happen. I need your permission to go." Mr. Karzai paused, remarked that it was first time anyone had ever asked him to make such a decision, and gave his assent.”

11.Mr.Karzai apparently did not suspect that the Americans wanted to show him as being in the driving seat so that they could blame him tomorrow if the operation failed. A victory in the operation will be Mr.Obama’s, but a defeat will be Mr.Karzai’s. (21-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

February 19, 2010



The "China Daily" carried the following report on February 18,2010, the day on which President Barack Obama received His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the map room of the White House for what was described as a private meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader:

"China drastically slashed its holdings of United States government debt last December, allowing Japan to retake its place as the largest foreign holder of US Treasury bonds. China sold more than $34 billion in short- and long-term bonds, leaving its total holdings at $755.4 billion, according to US Treasury data released on Tuesday (February 16).The country sold about $45 billion in US Treasuries in the last five months, Alan Ruskin, chief international strategist for RBS Securities Inc, said in a research note. He said it was a "long enough period to hint strongly at a trend". Liu Yuhui, an economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), said now is a good time to cut holdings of US Treasuries as recent European debt concerns have driven up the US dollar. "China has chosen the right strategy in slashing its huge holdings of US government debt as the greenback rebounds," said Liu, adding that there is no sign of change to the long-term weakness of the US dollar.Massive US deficit spending and near-zero interest rates would also further erode the value of US bonds, said Cao Honghui, director of financial market research at CASS. The White House released a budget plan on Feb 1 that predicted the deficit for this year would total a record $1.56 trillion, surpassing last year's $1.4 trillion, which re-ignited China's concern about its dollar assets. As one of the US' biggest creditors, China has sought to diversify its portfolio of foreign exchange reserves over the past year as the share of US dollar-dominated assets is too large. "

2. The Chinese decision to cut down its investments in the US Treasury Bonds seemed to have been taken weeks before Mr.Obama sought Congressional approval for the sale of a fresh arms package to Taiwan and the White House announced that he intended receiving His Holiness during the latter's visit to Washington in February, but the prominent publication by the "China Daily" of the Chinese sale of some of its investments in the Treasury Bonds on the day His Holiness met Mr.Obama has given rise to speculation as to whether Beijing was seeking to convey a message to the US that in view of Mr.Obama's decision to sell arms to Taiwan and to receive the Dalai Lama, the US can no longer count on China for helping it out of its financial crisis by stepping up investments in the US bonds.

3. It needs to be underlined that long before the recent tensions in Sino-US relations, Prime Minister Wen Jiabo had been speaking of the Chinese worries about the strength of the US dollar and Chinese economists had been talking of the need for China to diversify the investments of its foreign exchange reserves. Suggestions had been made even last year that China should emulate India and invest more in gold.

4. Moreover, while US announcements on the arms sale to Taiwan and Mr.Obama's meeting with His Holiness were made in January, US spokesmen had been saying that Mr.Obama had mentioned about these things to President Hu Jintao when he met him in Beijing in November last. Thus, the US contention was that the public announcements of Mr.Obama's decisions should not have come as a surprise to Beijing.

5.Against this background, there is no reason to believe that there is any linkage between the Chinese decision to downsize its holdings in the US Treasury bonds and the decisions of Mr.Obama to which China has reacted adversely.

6.It is however, interesting to note that the "China Daily" itself has drawn attention to the fact that while one expert sees a linkage, others don't.

7. As expected, the Chinese Government has strongly protested against Mr.Obama's receiving the Dalai Lama, but at the same time avoided any threatening language. The comments made by the Chinese Foreign Office spokesman in his daily media briefing were restrained in language. Chinese analysts have described the meeting as reflecting the continuing cold war mentality on certain issues affecting China in the US.

8. The Chinese have continued to follow their recently-noticed policy of avoiding any demonisation of His Holiness, (19-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

February 18, 2010

Majlis National Security Commission Head: England Must Take First Positive Step

Persia House

in International Relations Vol. 34

Iranian Parliament Ready to Pass Bill Lowering Diplomatic Relations with U.K.

Jam-e Jam Online – Summary translation by Persia House
February 15, 2010

In reference to the sensitivity of public opinion over British-Iranian relations—and with regards to England’s actions in the post-election crisis—[Head of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission] Alaeddine Boroujerdi said, “England’s track record in Iran, following the victory of the Revolution, is very dark. In order for Tehran to reconsider reducing relations, England must take the first positive steps.”

Boroujerdi also noted that the British Ambassador’s letter “will not have an effect on the Majlis members’ decision to review relations with England…we also will reply to it.” Regarding the British Ambassador’s request to hold a dialogue with the Head or members of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, he said, “This request will be presented to the Commission, which will look into it. The decision will be up to the Commission.”

The British Foreign Ministry published an open letter to the Head of the Majlis National Security Commission, written by its Ambassador to Tehran, Simon Gass, in response to the recent demands of some MPs regarding to lessen ties with England. In the letter to Boroujerdi, Gass wrote that any decision by the Majlis to lessen ties would be “regrettable.” For the original article in Persian, click here.

Persia House Analysis:
The Iranian parliament’s stance indicates that powerful players in the regime are not worried about worsening diplomatic tension with Europe, despite the recent drop in trade with European countries due largely to political differences over Iran’s nuclear program.

The bill, which was introduced to the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission in early January, originally called for the government to sever all ties with the U.K. in response to its alleged role in fomenting the post-election unrest. The legislation, however—now in the final stages of deliberation, and soon to be put to a parliamentary vote—is likely to call instead for relations to be reduced from the ambassadorial to the charge d’affaires level. The National Security Commission may feel that, by lessening rather than cutting all ties, the regime can still mitigate the U.K.’s espionage capabilities while also leaving the British with diplomatic room to take the “positive steps” to which Boroujerdi refers.

Deputy Majlis Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar is putting pressure on MPs, saying that if the Majlis fails to pass a bill reducing ties, “they are not the true representatives of the people.” Further anti-British measures in the Majlis may have economic repercussions for Iran. On February 16, several Majlis members called for Iran to reduce annual trade with England from $1 billion to $500 million, including dropping cigarette imports.

British-Iranian relations have soured since the June 2009 presidential election. Majlis members accuse the British Embassy of gathering intelligence for the U.S. and Israel, and of helping to foment the post-election crisis. Shortly after the election, the regime heightened tensions with the U.K. by detaining eight Iranians working for the British Embassy in Tehran (all of whom were released later). On January 18, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki also announced that Iran was intending to “limit its relations with Britain in various areas.”

Iranians have long been suspicious of the British who, along with the Russians, meddled in the country’s internal affairs throughout the first half of the 20th century. It was not until the 1979 Islamic Revolution that Britain was replaced by the U.S. as “enemy number one.” Relations with the U.K. soured again in 1989 when Iran severed ties as a result of the publication of British author Salman Rushdie’s book, “Satanic Verses.” The two countries resumed full ties in 2001, although the U.K. has towed a hard line regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

Illustrating the importance of downgrading diplomatic ties with the U.K., Heshmatollah Falahat-pishe, a member of the Majlis National Security Commission, has said that “the British have played a more negative and destructive role than even the Americans because, while [the British] maintain the highest level of relations, they still continue their negative policies against Iran.”

Despite the regime’s threats to reduce ties, the U.K, along with France, called on February 16 for the U.N. Human Rights Council to investigate Iran’s human rights record for the first time since its 2006 founding.

Source Information:
Jam-e Jam is a state-run publication and is part of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).



The strongly-presumed hand of Mossad, the Israeli external intelligence agency, in the successful neutralisation of a Damascus-based leader of the Hamas (Mahmoud al- Mabhouh ) while he was on a visit to Dubai in January last has come in the wake of other suspected covert actions of the Mossad in recent months, which were directed against Iranian nuclear scientists, who were reportedly playing a role in the development of the uranium enrichment technology.

2.While all these operations succeeded in eliminating the intended targets who posed a threat to Israel's national security, those directed against the Iranian scientists were copybook examples of covert actions whereas the one against the Hamas leader was not.The Mossad was able to maintain the total deniability of its strikes against the Iranian scientists.Till today, Iranian intelligence officials and police investigators have not been able to find out what happened. Apart from allegations, they have no evidence of the involvement of the Mossad, which has taken care not to leave any trace of its involvement.

3. In the case of the Dubai operation, the deniability has been weak and many tell-tale traces left behind by those who participated in the alleged elimination of the Hamas leader have enabled the Dubai Police to reconstruct in a fairly convincing manner what happened.The employment of an unusually large team of agents for carrying out the action and their inability to make the closed circuit TV in the hotel non-functional have enabled the Dubai police to make a break-through in the investigation.

4. The fact that the Mossad agents decided to go ahead with the operation despite their inability to make the CCTV non-functional strongly speaks of local collusion in the covert action. Since the CCTV was presumably functioning, those in the security control room of the hotel who would have been monitoring the CCTV, would have definitely noticed the Mossad agents forcing their way into the room of the Hamas leader. The fact that they did not raise an alarm for hours, which enabled the Mossad agents to flee Dubai without being intercepted, is an indicator of collusion in the hotel.

5.Even when they travel incognito, Hamas leaders are usually accompanied by at least one person from their security set-up who takes up a room opposite the room occupied by the leader so that they could keep a look-out for any attempt to break into the room of the leader. The fact that no one intervened as the Mossad agents forced their way into the room indicates that either there was collusion by Hamas elements too or the Mossad agents had neutralised the security detail of the Hamas leader before attacking him.

6.The entire story of the covert action will never come out.Particulars of any collusion will remain unknown for some time to come.

7.The Dubai operation of the Mossad was not copy-book perfect, but it was a successful operation in the sense that the agency eliminated a worrying threat to Israel's national security and to the lives of Israeli citizens and other Jewish persons.It was an attack carried out in exercise of the right of self-defence of the Israeli nation and people.

8. Laws of all countries---including India---- provide this right of self-defence and this rigt can be exercised by individuals as well as States.

9. Those opposed to covert actions might argue that despite the repeated resort to covert actions against identified enemies of the State of Israel and its people, Israel has not succeeded in eliminating terrorism and in countering effectively States like Iran which are determined to destroy Israel. Another way of looking at it is that but for such covert actions Israel and the Jewish people might have been forced to their knees by now by their enemies. It is such successful covert actions which have enabled the State of Israel to survive and even flourish.

10.The importance of selective covert actions to ensure the security of a State and its people has been recognised by many States----democratic and authoritarian. Some States----such as the US and Israel---admit that they have a covert action capability. Others don't, but they maintain the capability clandestinely. Pakistan is an example of a State in Asia which has over the years maintained an effective covert action capability for use against India. It has followed the model of other rogue States such as North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iraq of Saddam Hussain and Sudan in using terrorism as a way of waging a covert warfare.

11. Since 1997, India has been a pathetic victim of Pakistan's covert actions waged through different terrorist organisations. Pakistan has been using terrorism as a means of covert action against India since 1981.Between 1981 and 1997, India was retaliating in its own limted manner. The policy of covert retaliation was stopped in 1997 and has been totally discarded since then.

12. None of the Indian Prime Ministers in office since 1997 has had the political will to revert to a policy of at least limited retaliation against the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and its terrorist surrogates. The resault has been that our national security has been continuously endangered and our people have been dying in their hundreds. When Pakistan, through its intelligence agencies and terrorist surrogates, has been waging a relentless covert warfare against Indis, we cannot protect the State and the people merely by revamping our counbter-terrorism atchitecture.

13. Unless we create a capability for retaliatory covert actions in a deniable manner and use that capability we will continue to bleed.

14. Between 1981 and 1997, the Prime Ministers in office followed a dual policy of "talk, talk, hit, hit" against Pakistan. They never fought shy of talking to Pakistani leaders and officials. At the same time, they never missed an opportunity to undermine the State of Pakistan covertly in retaliation against its covert actions against India.

15. Since 1997, our policy has been reduced to one of talk, talk and more talk with no retaliation even covertly. Our political leadership and large sections of our bureaucracy have no concept of the importance of covert action in an assymetric proxy war.That is the tragedy of our country. ( 19-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

February 17, 2010

Another Wave of Unemployment On the Way


Mehr News - Summary translation by Persia House
February 3, 2010

While the most recently published unemployment figures show a national unemployment rate of 11.1 percent for fall 2009, forecasts indicate that this figure will increase to 15 percent by March 2013 – March 2014 [Persian calendar year 1392]. A review of the country’s unemployment rates over 10 years shows that in 1996/1997, 1.184 million men and 271,000 women were unemployed—equivalent to unemployment rates of 8.5 and 13.3 percent, respectively. In 2006/2007 [1385], by contrast, 2.145 million men and 847,000 women were unemployed—equivalent to unemployment rates of 10.8 and 23.3 percent, respectively.

Unemployment Rates Since 2006/2007

YearUnemployment Rate
March 2006-March 2007 [1385]11.1 percent
March 2007-March 2008 [1386]10.5 percent
March 2008-March 2009 [1387]>/td>10.4 percent
Spring 2009 [spring 1388]11.1 percent
Fall 2009 [fall 1388]11.3 percent

Five Million More Employed Men in 10 Years

In 1996/1997 [1375], there were 12.806 million employed men, and 1.765 million employed women in the country—equivalent to 55.6 and 7.9 percent, respectively, of the Iranian population aged 10 and above. In 2006/2007 [1385], there were 17.695 million employed men, and 2.781 million employed women—equivalent to 58.5 and 9.5 percent, respectively, of the Iranian population aged 10 and above. [Employment rates are normally computed as a percentage of the labor force. In this article, however, Iran’s employment rates are presented as a percentage of the population 10 years of age and above.]

The Statistical Center of Iran has expressed concern regarding nine million people born from 1981 – 1990 who are entering the job market, causing some to predict that the country will have to assist 1.9 million new unemployed people in the coming years—a number of new jobless people that is unprecedented in recent years. Just as the number of employed people [is expected to] increase from 25 million currently to 27.7 million in 2013/2014 [1392], the unemployment rate is expected to rise to 15 percent.

Employment Share by Sector: Industry, Agriculture, Services

The Percentage of Employed Men and Women in Each Economic Sector

1996/1997 [1375]30.1734.523.9216.6844.3145.86
2006/2007 [1385]32.7525.1118.5614.4646.5856.26

A Decrease in the Number of Employed Married Men

In 1996/1997 [1375], 78.4 percent of employed men and 79.9 percent of employed women were literate. In 2006/2007 [1385], 87.8 percent of employed men and 87.7 percent of employed women were literate. In 1996/1997 [1375], 78.2 percent of employed men were married, while this figure had decreased to 75.8 percent in 2006/2007 [1385]. In 1996/1997 [1375], 61.1 percent of employed women were married—a figure which had increased to 61.7 percent in 2006/2007 [1385].

The Predominance of Educated Employed Women Over to Men

In 1996/1997 [1375], the number of jobs for women increased 6.2 percent compared to the previous year, while the increase in jobs for men was 2.4 percent. In 2006/2007 [1385], jobs for women increased by 5.5 percent compared to the previous year, while men’s jobs increased 3.2 percent.

In 1996/1997 [1375], 27.5 percent of employed women had advanced degrees, a figure which had reached 36.7 percent in 2006/2007 [1385]. In 1996/1997, 10.1 percent of employed men had advanced degrees—a figure which had reached 13 percent in 2006/2007 [1385]. For the original article in Persian, click here.

Persia House Analysis:

Iran’s unemployment problem is expected to grow worse in the coming years, as Iranian “baby boomers”—children born during the dramatic spike in the country’s birthrate in the 1980s—continue to enter the job market. According to the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI), in 2007, there were nine million Iranians between the ages of 20 and 24 who were ready to enter the workforce, while between March 2005 and March 2007 (the first two years of the Fourth Economic Development Plan) only 2 million new jobs were created—at least according to official figures. That same year, one million students gained admission to Iranian universities. As a result, in the next few years, nearly a million university graduates will enter the job market in search of professional work.

While there are no reliable, independent figures on unemployment in the country, the Iranian government’s official figures are considered by most observers to vastly underestimate the true extent of the problem. The government’s inability to address this problem in any meaningful way will fuel social unrest, in one form or another, particularly among jobless youth—something that Tehran seems to recognize as a looming challenge even based on its own calculations.

A lack of employment opportunities in rural areas, government mismanagement of the agricultural sector, and recent periods of drought have driven an increasing number of Iranians to urban areas in search of work. A variety of economic woes, however—including rampant inflation, economic stagnation, and a withering private sector—have made finding employment in Iranian cities difficult as well.

  • Big cities such as Tehran, where some 300 industrial workshops are reportedly “in crisis,” have been particularly hard hit by unemployment.
  • Labor protests and strikes have recently erupted in several cities, with workers protesting delays in salary payments.
Source Information:

Mehr is a semiofficial news agency based in Tehran. Its managing director, Parviz Esmaeili also publishes the English-language Tehran Times.



Two developments originating from Pakistan after the explosion in the German Bakery of Pune on February 13,2009, call for comments.

2. The first is the claim reportedly made by an individual to Ms.Nirupama Subramanian, the Islamabad-based correspondent of "The Hindu", the daily newspaper published from Chennai, claiming responsibility for the explosion on behlaf of an organisation called the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET)--Al Alami meaning international.

3. To quote from the paper (February 17): " Identifying himself as a spokesperson of a group calling itself the LET--Al Almi, an individual using the code name Abu Jindal said the bombing was carried out because of India's refusal to discuss the Kashmir issue in the coming talks with Pakistan. Abu Jindal said he was calling from Miramshah in North Waziristan and the telephone number used to make the call carried an area code common to the Waziristan tribal area and Bannu, the adjoining district in the North-West Frontier Province. When The Hindu tried calling back, though, a recorded voice message said the number was temporarily not in use. No past communique was issued by the LET--al Almi and terrorism experts in New Delhi told The Hindu that no such group was known to exist."

4. The expression "Al Alami" meaning "International" had been used in the past by Pakistan-based terrorist organisations, which claim to have an international presence. Two examples are the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), which is a founding member of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People and the Jamiatul-Mujahideen. After 9/11, there were some terrorist strikes in Pakistani territory directed against the US and other foreign targets----such as the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the reporter of the "Wall Street Journal ", the murder of the wife and daughter of a US diplomat with a hand grenade in an Islamabad church, a suicide attack outside the US consulate in Karachi etc. Pakistani investigators attributed these attacks as well as an unsuccessful attempt to kill Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Karachi to an organisation called the HUM--Al Alami.

5. On different occasions, Pakistani police officers gave different accounts of its background. Sometimes, they described it as the international wing of the HUM. Some other times, they described it as the wing of the HUM which represents it in the IIF. On other occasions, they described it as a spinter group of the HUM, which had split from it due to differences. They also said that the the HUM itself had started functioning under the name HUM--Al Alami after it was declared a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the US in 1997 because of its involvement in the kidnapping of some Western tourists in Jammu and Kashmir under the name Al Faran in 1995.

6.The HUM had never made a secret of its extensive presence abroad outside India, including in Southern Philippines, the Central Asian Republics, the Gulf countries, and Chechnya. In fact, it used to brag about it in interviews to Pakistani media. Next to the HUM, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and the LET have a presence abroad outside India. While the HUJI's presence is confined to Bangladesh, the Arakan area of Myanmar, Southern Thailand, the Central Asian Republics, the Gulf countries and Chechnya, the LET is the only Pakistani organisation, which has a presence not only in Indonesia, Singapore and the Gulf countries, but also in the US and West Europe.

7. Whereas the HUM talks openly about its international presence, neither the HUJI nor the LET do so. The LET, in particular, which is close to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), never talks of its activities in the West lest the ISI be embarrassed.Till today, it has not admitted that David Coleman Headley and Hussain Rana, presently facing trial in Chicago, belonged to it.

8. The only occasions when the LET had referred to its interests in overseas targets other than India were with reference to the need for a jihad against the US troops in Iraq and the need for action against the Danish newspaper and its cartoonist for publishing cartoons of Prophet Mohammad in 2005. One never found in the past any reference to an Al Alami wing of the LET.

9. It will be difficult to establish the authenticity of the telephone call received by The Hindu correspondent as having really originated from a designated representative of an organisation called the LET--- Al Alami. If one presumes that such an organisation exists and that the call did originate from its spokesman, it would mark an attempt by elements based in Pakistan to project the LET---Al Alami as part of bin Laden's IIF unconnected with the Jamaat-ud-Dawa of Pakistan headed by Prof-Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed. It is similar to the attempt made after the 26/11 terrorist strikes to project them as having been carried out by a group of Indian Muslims called the Deccan (Southern) Mujahideen.

10. The second development calling for comments is the E-Mail received by the Karachi-based correspondent of "Asiatimes Online" purporting to be from Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani national, who has been indicted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) along with Headley and Rana for conspiring to launch a terrorist attack on the offices of the Danish journal which carried the cartoons. According to well-informed Pakistani journalists such as Hamid Mir, Ilyas used to be in the Special Services Group (SSG) of the Pakistan Army before drifting into the world of terrorism----initially in Afghanistan, then In Kashmir and now in North Waziristan.

11. Till some years ago, he used to be responsible for the operations of the HUJI in J&K. He has since fallen out with the HUJI and now heads as organisation called the 313 Brigade based in North Waziristan. Headley, who had met Ilyas in Norh Waziristan, was a common cut-out of the LET and Ilyas. He was helping the LET in its acts of terrorism in India and Ilyas in his planned attack on the Danish journal. For details of Ilyas and his 313 Brigade, please see my earlier two articles titled :LET Revives 2003 Plan to Use US As Launching Pad for Terrorism in India at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers35%5Cpaper3481.html and The 313 Brigade at http://ramanstrategicanalysis.blogspot.com/2009/11/313-brigade.html .

12.In the past, Ilyas had come to notice for his activities on behalf of the HUJI in J&K, but not in Indian territory outside Kashmir. But, HUJI cadres---from Pakistan as well as Bangladesh--- have been active in Indian territory outside J&K for many years.In the E-mail, Ilyas has sought to intimidate intending foreign participants in the World Cup Hockey league, the IPL Cricket League and the Commonwealth Games in India in the comming months into cancelling their participation by warning them of the consequences of their participation.

13. Since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore last year, foreign sports teams are not prepared to participate in any events in Pakistan, which has been totally boycotted. Ilyas' attempt to intimidate is part of a Pakistan-inspired Psywar to create similar nervousness among foreign sportsmen and sports officials about the likely dangers of participating in sports events in India.

14. Three prestigious sports events are to take place in India this year.The terrorists will look upon these events as providing an opportunity to publicise their cause and embarrass India. A similar attempt to intimidate sportsmen was made by the Khalistani terrorists at the time of the Asian Games in New Delhi in 1983.On getting information of their plans, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, personally monitored the security arrangements through Rajiv Gandhi and Arun Singh and requested R.N.Kao, former chief of the R&AW, to co-ordinate the physical security. Kao did so with the help of K. Sankaran Nair, who had succeeded him as the chief of the R&AW.

15. Keeping in view the likely threats and the high-profile attempts at intimidation initiated by Ilyas, the Government should constitute a high-power committee of senior officials to monitor the situation on a day-to-day basis and coordinate the physical security. The matter should not be handled in a routine manner as the follow-up action on Headley's visits to India seem to have been handled . (17-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd ), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2gmail.com )

Obama & the Lama

C. Raja Mohan

Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010 at 0223 hrs


As US President Barack Obama meets the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, this week in Washington, Beijing will certainly turn up the volume and tone of its protests. That does not mean the Chinese leadership is on the path of confrontation with the United States. In fact, the signals from Beijing during the last few days, after it excoriated the Obama Administration on Tibet and Taiwan, suggest a reluctance to push matters to the breaking point.
When the Obama Administration announced a $ 6.5 billion arms package for Taiwan, earlier this month, Beijing threatened Washington with ‘serious repercussions’.

It imposed sanctions on US businesses involved in the sale and suspended planned US-Chinese military exchanges. Beijing claims Taiwan is an integral part of China and considers such sales a violation of China’s “core national interests”.

It now turns out that Beijing has held back from canceling the entire military exchange programme, a more extreme step. Instead, they called off only scheduled meetings, leaving open the option of quickly restarting the program. Last week China gave permission for the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to make a port call at Hong Kong.

The many friends of China in Washington are declaring that the decision on the Nimitz, which will steam into Hong Kong this week, is a major indicator of Beijing’s flexibility.
Meanwhile, Washington too will do all it can to lower the tension with Beijing. The indications are that Obama’s meetings with the Dalai Lama will more formal and less warm than those that the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people has had at the White House with George W. Bush. As a gesture to Beijing on the eve of his visit to China last November, Obama postponed a meeting with the Dalai Lama in Washington. It is believed that he had told the Chinese leaders that he indeed plans to meet with the Tibetan leader.

As Washington and Beijing seek to carefully limit their tensions, the Tibetan exiles are left in an unenviable spot. The meeting with Obama means China will pour more venom on the Dalai Lama, while the American engagement with the Tibetans become more pro forma.

IR Theory

While Beijing and Washington step back from the brink, a section of Chinese scholars of international relations are convinced that a confrontation between the hegemonic power, the US, and the rising power, China, might be inevitable. According a commentary in the People’s Daily last week, the very nature of our understanding of international relations might change with the relative decline of the West and the growing influence of Chinese, Islamic and Indian civilisations.

An important section of Chinese scholarship is deeply involved in constructing a “Chinese theory” of international relations. Whether they get there are not, there is no denying Chinese academia’s new self-assurance. Beijing has sent thousands of students over the last three decades to universities in the US and Western Europe to master the Western social sciences. It is now gearing to create an “oriental” theory of international relations.

Cold War

Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s statement that the new troops being raised for deployment in the North-east are not directed at China might have been a well-intentioned one. But few in Beijing take such statements seriously. For they know that so long as it is kept off-balance by Pakistan, India poses no threat to China.

The Chinese establishment’s security perceptions of India are rooted in a realistic assessment of India’s strengths and weaknesses. A recent analysis pointed to India’s arms purchases from Russia and America and its intensified military diplomacy with Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Maldives. It argued that “despite its arms purchases from the great powers and military penetration of neighboring countries, it remains extremely unlikely that India will unleash all-out conflict with China.” It points to the fact that the “Sino-Indian dialogue and negotiation mechanisms are still operating.”

“While a ‘cold war’ between the two countries is increasingly likely, a ‘hot war’ is out of the question,” the analysis affirms. It concludes that India will remain tied down by the burden of “containing Pakistan and fighting terrorism” for the foreseeable future.

The writer is Henry A Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations at the Library of Congress, Washington DC

China-US Rivalry Intensifies


Monday, February 15, 2010


BANGKOK — With the Dalai Lama set to meet President Obama later this week, more political fireworks can be expected just days after the Chinese New Year. US-China relations have been stormy over recent weeks, with Beijing and Washington trading barbs over Taiwan and Google, disagreeing over policy on Iran, North Korea, and bickering over exchange rates, among a range of contentious political and economic issues.

But the officially atheist politburo in Beijing might take it as an auspicious sign that this is the Year of the Tiger. China has fared relatively well amid the global economic downturn, and with the US bogged down with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Obama's domestic reform agenda running into sand, Beijing might want to test American mettle as the perceived gap between the two countries narrows.

Obama dodged a bullet when shunning an opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama last year. But one year into an administration that has been dogged by accusations of softness and conflicting signals in foreign policy, a meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader will add to Obama's attempt at an image makeover. With his healthcare reform program stalling, he needs some public display of foreign policy backbone, just weeks after Republican Scott Brown took the Massachusetts senate seat left vacant after the death of Ted Kennedy.

Obama was the first US president to visit China during his first year in office, and he spent 2009 trying to charm or accommodate or appease (depending on your viewpoint) China's Hu Jintao.

However, Obama was largely rebuffed on issues such as the value of the yuan, North Korea, human rights in China and dealing with Iran. The year culminated in the farcical Copenhagen climate summit, when Hu Jintao sent minor officials to meet the US president, who then had to barge into a meeting led by Hu and involving the leaders of India, Brazil and South Africa, which the Chinese sought to stage without the Americans knowing.

The US recently sold Taipei US $6.4 billion worth of military equipment in a deal that was lined up for months in advance. Contrived verbal exchanges ensued, with the Chinese foreign minister telling the American ambassador in Beijing that the United States would be responsible for "serious repercussions" if the sale was not cancelled, and China's state-backed media laying into the US for its perceived transgressions.

Meeting the Dalai Lama will garner Obama some kudos from across the American political spectrum, from conservatives who want to see him stand up to China, to liberals and activists who work on Tibet advocacy.

China regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist politician, and Tibet ranks alongside Taiwan as a non-negotiable issue for Beijing. A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington reacted to the Taiwan arms deal and the mooted Obama-Dalai Lama meeting as follows: "China's positions on issues like arms sales to Taiwan and Tibet have been consistent and clear," Wang Baodong said, "as these issues bear on sovereignty and territorial integrity, which are closely related to Chinese core national interests."

China upped the ante, however, by mooting sanctions for American firms doing business in China, a somewhat pointed response alluding to American attempts to prompt Beijing into backing sanctions on Iran, fresh from marking the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. China quietly sanctioned several U.S. companies for participating in such weapons sales in the past. However, it would mark a major change if China makes the list public and includes companies such as Boeing, which sells billions of dollars of airplanes in China each year.

With China riding out the global economic storm better than the US, a new-found confidence is being exhibited in Beijing, with more strident rhetoric implying that China should challenge the US coming out of state-funded think-tanks and media. This type of talk is contrary to the posture advocated by Deng after 1989. He counselled: “Observe developments soberly, maintain our position, meet challenges calmly, hide our capacities, bide our time, remain free of ambitions and never claim leadership.” Similar words to those in “The Art of War,” the classic Chinese handbook on military strategy which advises that success comes not simply through brute, military force, but through oblique means, using stealth and even deception.

China recently overtook Germany to become the world's biggest exporter and may have already overtaken Japan to become the world's second largest economy. Last May, Australia's defense white paper analyzed Canberra's options in the Asia-Pacific region in the coming decades, as US power declines relative to that of China. Arms spending is up in Southeast Asia, as Asean countries react to growing Chinese influence and assertiveness, and wonder about the long-term US commitment to the region.

China is exerting a growing influence across Africa and in Central Asia, funding infrastructure projects and providing cheap grants and loans, in return for preferential access to natural resources and running a parallel diplomatic and economic track to the Western, aid agency-driven “development” paradigm, which has not improved conditions in much of Africa.

It is not just the US that is getting the sharp end of Chinese diplomacy. In autumn 2008, China canceled a summit with the European Union after French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with the the Dalai Lama. Before that, it had denounced German Chancellor Angela Merkel over her contacts with the Tibetan spiritual leader. Smaller countries have been humiliated: China suspended ties with Denmark after its prime minister met the Dalai Lama and resumed them only after the Danish government issued a statement saying it would oppose Tibetan independence and consider Beijing's reaction before inviting him again.

A recent report by the US National Intelligence Council concluded that the world is witnessing the rise of "major global players similar to the advent of a united Germany in the 19th century and a powerful United States in the early 20th century...[and they] will transform the geopolitical landscape."

Chief among those is China. But while Chinese geo-political weight is bound to increase in the coming decades, the stark facts show that it is a long way from challenging the US, even though Deng-style obfuscation could mean that China is downplaying its defence spending and military capabilities.

On the other hand, various analysts have written about how Chinese officials at local levels routinely lie about economic production, giving inflated numbers to keep bosses in Beijing happy. It is hard to know the real story, and therefore it is difficult to analyze the true nature and implications of China's rise.

To assume that China will overtake the US in 20 to 30 years, as some speculate, is to presume that the impressive Chinese economic growth of the past three decades can be maintained. Growth comes easier when coming from the relatively low base of late-70s China, reeling from the Mao era and destruction wrought by the Cultural Revolution.

China's aging and imbalanced population—the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC estimated that China will have to support 400 million elderly by 2040—means Beijing will find it hard to maintain the magic 8 percent target number for annual growth, seen as necessary to maintain social stability. With an estimated 90,000 annual "mass incidents," as Chinese security forces label protests, this cannot be taken for granted.

The depth of animosity between the two countries can be overplayed. Both need each other to ensure that the global economic crisis is overcome. But talk of the emergence of “Chimerica”—a sort of mutual dependency between the the US and China that means both sides will cherish stability over rivalry—is Panglossian. There are fundamental differences between how the two countries are governed and how they see the world.

Most notably, the idea that China can be somehow cajoled into becoming a “responsible stakeholder,” as mooted by World Bank President Robert Zoellick, seems unlikely. To a greater or lesser extent, countries see the world in terms of national interest, and the same applies to the US, even if the Obama administration has spun its “ return to multilateralism.”

China will work within the existing international order, such as it is, to the extent that it suits China. But where this conflicts with Chinese interests, Beijing will look for an alternative. The recent Copenhagen climate summit was case in point. To some extent, China sees Western exhortations to act “responsibly” in Africa or with regard to Burma, Iran or North Korea, as cover for the West asking China to emasculate itself.

Rising powers do not usually allow themselves to be constrained by the norms and institutions set up by those they are trying to rival or even replace.

And amid the struggles in the West to cope with the global economic downturn, China now can portray its authoritarian state capitalist model as one to be emulated, irrespective of the implications for human rights and democracy in China and beyond.

Just ask Google, which has threatened to leave China due to censorship and alleged state hacking of its e-mail service. And just ask Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident whose 11-year jail sentence was upheld last week, for his role in organizing the Charter 08 plea for democracy in China.

The Meaning of Marjah

This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR"

Graphic for Geopolitical Intelligence Report

By Kamran Bokhari, Peter Zeihan and Nathan Hughes

February 16, 2010 | 2119 GMT

On Feb. 13, some 6,000 U.S. Marines, soldiers and Afghan National Army (ANA) troops launched asustained assault on the town of Marjah in Helmand province. Until this latest offensive, the U.S. and NATO effort in Afghanistan had been constrained by other considerations, most notably Iraq. Western forces viewed the Afghan conflict as a matter of holding the line or pursuing targets of opportunity. But now, armed with larger forces and a new strategy, the war — the real war — has begun. The most recent offensive — dubbed Operation Moshtarak (“Moshtarak” is Dari for “together”) — is the largest joint U.S.-NATO-Afghan operation in history. It also is the first major offensive conducted by the first units deployed as part of the surge of 30,000 troops promised by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The United States originally entered Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. In those days of fear and fury, American goals could be simply stated: A non-state actor — al Qaeda — had attacked the American homeland and needed to be destroyed. Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan at the invitation of a near-state actor — the Taliban, which at the time were Afghanistan’s de facto governing force. Since the Taliban were unwilling to hand al Qaeda over, the United States attacked. By the end of the year, al Qaeda had relocated to neighboring Pakistan and the Taliban retreated into the arid, mountainous countryside in their southern heartland and began waging a guerrilla conflict. In time, American attention became split between searching for al Qaeda and clashing with the Taliban over control of Afghanistan.

But from the earliest days following 9/11, the White House was eyeing Iraq, and with the Taliban having largely declined combat in the initial invasion, the path seemed clear. The U.S. military and diplomatic focus was shifted, and as the years wore on, the conflict absorbed more and more U.S. troops, even as other issues — a resurgent Russia and a defiant Iran — began to demand American attention. All of this and more consumed American bandwidth, and the Afghan conflict melted into the background. The United States maintained its Afghan force in what could accurately be described as a holding action as the bulk of its forces operated elsewhere. That has more or less been the state of affairs for eight years.

That has changed with the series of offensive operations that most recently culminated at Marjah.

Marjah Map

Why Marjah? The key is the geography of Afghanistan and the nature of the conflict itself. Most of Afghanistan is custom-made for a guerrilla war. Much of the country is mountainous, encouraging local identities and militias, as well as complicating the task of any foreign military force. The country’s aridity discourages dense population centers, making it very easy for irregular combatants to melt into the countryside. Afghanistan lacks navigable rivers or ports, drastically reducing the region’s likelihood of developing commerce. No commerce to tax means fewer resources to fund a meaningful government or military and encourages the smuggling of every good imaginable — and that smuggling provides the perfect funding for guerrillas.

Rooting out insurgents is no simple task. It requires three things:

  1. Massively superior numbers so that occupiers can limit the zones to which the insurgents have easy access.
  2. The support of the locals in order to limit the places that the guerillas can disappear into.
  3. Superior intelligence so that the fight can be consistently taken to the insurgents rather than vice versa.

Without those three things — and American-led forces in Afghanistan lack all three — the insurgents can simply take the fight to the occupiers, retreat to rearm and regroup and return again shortly thereafter.

But the insurgents hardly hold all the cards. Guerrilla forces are by their very nature irregular. Their capacity to organize and strike is quite limited, and while they can turn a region into a hellish morass for an opponent, they have great difficulty holding territory — particularly territory that a regular force chooses to contest. Should they mass into a force that could achieve a major battlefield victory, a regular force — which is by definition better-funded, -trained, -organized and -armed — will almost always smash the irregulars. As such, the default guerrilla tactic is to attrit and harass the occupier into giving up and going home. The guerrillas always decline combat in the face of a superior military force only to come back and fight at a time and place of their choosing. Time is always on the guerrilla’s side if the regular force is not a local one.

But while the guerrillas don’t require basing locations that are as large or as formalized as those required by regular forces, they are still bound by basic economics. They need resources — money, men and weapons — to operate. The larger these locations are, the better economies of scale they can achieve and the more effectively they can fight their war.

Marjah is perhaps the quintessential example of a good location from which to base. It is in a region sympathetic to the Taliban; Helmand province is part of the Taliban’s heartland. Marjah is very close to Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second city, the religious center of the local brand of Islam, the birthplace of the Taliban, and due to the presence of American forces, an excellent target. Helmand alone produces more heroin than any country on the planet, and Marjah is at the center of that trade. By some estimates, this center alone supplies the Taliban with a monthly income of $200,000. And it is defensible: The farmland is crisscrossed with irrigation canals and dotted with mud-brick compounds — and, given time to prepare, a veritable plague of IEDs.

Simply put, regardless of the Taliban’s strategic or tactical goals, Marjah is a critical node in their operations.

The American Strategy

Though operations have approached Marjah in the past, it has not been something NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) ever has tried to hold. The British, Canadian and Danish troops holding the line in the country’s restive south had their hands full enough. Despite Marjah’s importance to the Taliban, ISAF forces were too few to engage the Taliban everywhere (and they remain as such). But American priorities started changing about two years ago. The surge of forces into Iraq changed the position of many a player in the country. Those changes allowed a reshaping of the Iraq conflict that laid the groundwork for the current “stability” and American withdrawal. At the same time, the Taliban began to resurge in a big way. Since then the Bush and then Obama administrations inched toward applying a similar strategy to Afghanistan, a strategy that focuses less on battlefield success and more on altering the parameters of the country itself.

As the Obama administration’s strategy has begun to take shape, it has started thinking about endgames. A decades-long occupation and pacification of Afghanistan is simply not in the cards. A withdrawal is, but only a withdrawal where the security free-for-all that allowed al Qaeda to thrive will not return. And this is where Marjah comes in.

Denying the Taliban control of poppy farming communities like Marjah and the key population centers along the Helmand River Valley — and areas like them around the country — is the first goal of the American strategy. The fewer key population centers the Taliban can count on, the more dispersed — and militarily inefficient — their forces will be. This will hardly destroy the Taliban, but destruction isn’t the goal. The Taliban are not simply a militant Islamist force. At times they are a flag of convenience for businessmen or thugs; they can even be, simply, the least-bad alternative for villagers desperate for basic security and civil services. In many parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban are not only pervasive but also the sole option for governance and civil authority.

So destruction of what is in essence part of the local cultural and political fabric is not an American goal. Instead, the goal is to prevent the Taliban from mounting large-scale operations that could overwhelm any particular location. Remember, the Americans do not wish to pacify Afghanistan; the Americans wish to leave Afghanistan in a form that will not cause the United States severe problems down the road. In effect, achieving the first goal simply aims to shape the ground for a shot at achieving the second.

That second goal is to establish a domestic authority that can stand up to the Taliban in the long run. Most of the surge of forces into Afghanistan is not designed to battle the Taliban now but to secure the population and train the Afghan security forces to battle the Taliban later. To do this, the Taliban must be weak enough in a formal military sense to be unable to launch massive or coordinated attacks. Capturing key population centers along the Helmand River Valley is the first step in a strategy designed to create the breathing room necessary to create a replacement force, preferably a replacement force that provides Afghans with a viable alternative to the Taliban.

That is no small task. In recent years, in places where the official government has been corrupt, inept or defunct, the Taliban have in many cases stepped in to provide basic governance and civil authority. And this is why even the Americans are publicly flirting with holding talks with certain factions of the Taliban in hopes that at least some of the fighters can be dissuaded from battling the Americans (assisting with the first goal) and perhaps even joining the nascent Afghan government (assisting with the second).

The bottom line is that this battle does not mark the turning of the tide of the war. Instead, it is part of the application of a new strategy that accurately takes into account Afghanistan’s geography and all the weaknesses and challenges that geography poses. Marjah marks the first time the United States has applied a plan not to hold the line, but actually to reshape the country. We are not saying that the strategy will bear fruit. Afghanistan is a corrupt mess populated by citizens who are far more comfortable thinking and acting locally and tribally than nationally. In such a place indigenous guerrillas will always hold the advantage. No one has ever attempted this sort of national restructuring in Afghanistan, and the Americans are attempting to do so in a short period on a shoestring budget.

At the time of this writing, this first step appears to be going well for American-NATO-Afghan forces. Casualties have been light and most of Marjah already has been secured. But do not read this as a massive battlefield success. The assault required weeks of obvious preparation, and very few Taliban fighters chose to remain and contest the territory against the more numerous and better armed attackers. The American challenge lies not so much in assaulting or capturing Marjah but in continuing to deny it to the Taliban. If the Americans cannot actually hold places like Marjah, then they are simply engaging in an exhausting and reactive strategy of chasing a dispersed and mobile target.

A “government-in-a-box” of civilian administrators is already poised to move into Marjah to step into the vacuum left by the Taliban. We obviously have major doubts about how effective this box government can be at building up civil authority in a town that has been governed by the Taliban for most of the last decade. Yet what happens in Marjah and places like it in the coming months will be the foundation upon which the success or failure of this effort will be built. But assessing that process is simply impossible, because the only measure that matters cannot be judged until the Afghans are left to themselves.

February 16, 2010

Fasten your seat belts

K. Subrahmanyam
Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010 at 0225 hrs


US Defence Secretary Robert Gates predicted during his visit to India that the Lashkar-e-Taiba, or LeT, would launch an attack on India to trigger an Indo-Pakistan conflict. While commending India’s restraint following the 26/11 Mumbai attack, he wondered whether India’s patience would endure in that case. The Pune attack signals that this testing moment has arrived for India. It is time for the Indian government, strategic community, media (especially the electronic media) and civil society to carefully assess India’s national interest — because, in all probability, the Pune terrorist attack is likely to be just the first; others, perhaps even more devastating, are likely to follow. Let us for the moment forget the partisan political rhetoric on the foreign secretaries’ talks and concentrate on threats to India and how to tackle them.
The US National Intelligence Advisor, Dennis Blair, told the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 2 that “Pakistan has not consistently pursued militant actors focused on Afghanistan, although Pakistani operations against TTP and similar groups have sometimes temporarily disrupted Al-Qaeda... Simultaneously, Islamabad has maintained relationships with other Taliban-associated groups that support and conduct operations against US and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) forces in Afghanistan... It has continued to provide support to its militant proxies... The Al-Qaeda, Afghan Taliban, and Pakistani militant safe haven in Quetta will continue to enable the Afghan insurgents and Al-Qaeda to plan operations, direct propaganda, recruiting and training activities, and fundraising activities with relative impunity.”

American and British forces have launched their biggest operation since 2001 in a place called Marjah in the Helmand province of southern Afghanistan. The US has every reason to be worried that the Afghan Taliban forces under attack will retreat into Pakistani territory and obtain a safe haven in which to regroup.
When Robert Gates spoke about the LeT triggering off an Indo-Pakistan conflict, he had in mind the precedent of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar being pursued by the Northern Alliance and being cornered in the Tora Bora mountains — only to discover a safe haven in Pakistan in December 2001. At that time the Pakistani army was supposed to block their entry into Pakistan. But General Musharraf withdrew his forces from the border to allow the Al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban leaders in. He justified his action with the alibi that Pakistan faced a threat from India under Operation Parakram, launched in the wake of the December 13 attack on Parliament by the LeT. In fact that attack was a deliberate trigger to cause an Indian mobilisation, thus providing Musharraf with an alibi. Gates was anticipating that the Pakistani army would again resort to the same trick to create Indo-Pakistanconfrontation that would be an alibi allowing the Pakistan army to let the Taliban retreat into Pakistan to save it from a rout. Ever since the Marjah offensive was imminent, the last few weeks, the US has issued a terrorist threat advisory.

That explains why Chidambaram says there was no intelligence failure. This attack was expected and it is logical to expect more LeT attacks — and probably more severe attacks, sufficiently provocative to create immense pressure on India to retaliate with a military response. Pakistan desperately wants Indian jingoistic rhetoric: talk of military response, our strategists holding forth on a “cold start” and our media screaming for retaliation. They may not need an actual military response; even our politics and media, if sufficiently jingoistic, will be adequate for Pakistan to move their troops away from their western border to the east, allow safe haven to the Afghan Taliban and blame it all on the “Indian threat”.

The next couple of weeks are crucial. Pakistan has to generate its alibi well before the Afghan Taliban are pushed across the border. The LeT will have prepared contingency plans for attacks on Indian targets and developed the appropriate sleeper cells to carry them out. In this respect David Headley will be a valuable source of information. The closest coordination between Indian and US security agencies is called for to assess the possible targets, the nature of the attacks and their intensities. It is not only necessary for Indian and US security agencies to cooperate but also to be seen to be cooperating.

Will the Americans allow themselves to be taken for a ride for a second time and allow the Afghan Taliban to escape? If so, then there is no way the surge strategy will work, and the US and NATO will have to purchase reconcilable Taliban and ensure they stay purchased. The latest US Quadrennial Defence Review (QDR) says that “the first (objective) is to prevail in today’s wars” — the first time this objective has appeared in a QDR. “Achieving our objectives in Afghanistan and Iraq has moved to the top of the institutional military’s budgeting, policy, and programme priorities. We now recognise that America’s ability to deal with threats for years to come will depend importantly on our success in the current conflicts.”

In other words, if the Americans do not win this campaign in Afghanistan they can forget about not only being a preeminent economic and technological power but a preeminent military power. They will have been defeated not by the Taliban — but by the wily ISI, that they themselves trained in the 1980s. Will that be acceptable? The Pakistanis will have reversed the results of the 2001 campaign, restored the Taliban to Afghanistan, sustained the LeT threats to the US homeland and perhaps kept alive Osama bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri.

India should not walk into the Pakistani trap. Can the government of India afford to do so?

The writer is a senior defence analyst

Let India Train the Afghan Army

Let India Train the Afghan Army

It's the most effective and economical way to prepare troops for counterinsurgency operations.


Training the Afghan army is "the most critical part" of America's "long-term strategy" in the country, U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke said Monday. Pakistan agrees, and has suggested it can help, too. Yet the best candidate for the task is the Indian Army.

This million-strong force has had close to 60 years' of intense counterinsurgency experience in a variety of terrains. Indian troops have successfully carried out campaigns in jungles in India's northeast, at high altitudes in Jammu and Kashmir and in the plains in the Punjab. Its officers and enlisted men have counterinsurgency experience in both urban and rural environments.

India already has the capacity to impart this knowledge to friendly forces. The country boasts one of the world's largest military training establishments, with the ability to train officers and men for varying combat duties. Educational facilities include a major counterinsurgency training base—the Counterinsurgency and Jungle Warfare School—and a school focused on urban warfare in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the site of an ongoing insurgency. Both can simulate a variety of combat situations and provide the Afghan Army with training relevant to the terrain and physical conditions that its troops are likely to encounter upon deployment. India's counterinsurgency schools also come complete with firing ranges, obstacle courses and training areas for the detection and handling of improvised explosive devices.

Beyond such infrastructure, however, the Indian Army has at its command significant accumulated knowledge of counterinsurgency operations and techniques. Its substantial cadre of instructors have ample field experience and routinely train India's forces in counterinsurgency operations. The Indian military has formulated a viable, codified doctrine to fight counterinsurgency. This doctrine calls for important restraints on the use of force, highlights the significance of not alienating civilian populations, insists upon respect for local customs and emphasizes the importance of an eventual political solution to all insurgencies. These principles are routinely stressed in the curricula of the counterinsurgency schools and applied to the best extent possible in field operations. There is little reason to believe that within a specified span of time they could not be inculcated into the Afghan Army too.

Finally, thanks to some setbacks over the years, most notably in its operations in Sri Lanka and subsequently in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Army has taken heed of and learned a great deal from its past errors. Its leadership has undertaken a number of organizational innovations to best cope with counterinsurgency operations. Since 1990, for instance, India has fielded a contingent called the Rashtriya Rifles (literally "National Rifles"), forces with an optimal "teeth to tail" ratio, specifically trained in counterinsurgency operations. These units, drawn from the regular Indian Army, have proven especially effective when deployed in Jammu and Kashmir and have managed to restore more than a modicum of order in the state.

The Indian Army has other advantages, too. Thanks to its cheap labor costs, it can train Afghan forces at a fraction of the costs of training them in similar duties almost anywhere in the United States or Western Europe. Rank and file Afghan soldiers would feel much more at ease in India than in most other parts of the world. India has cultural bonds with Afghanistan of very long standing and Afghans have over centuries traveled to various parts of northern India. Finally, critics of the Indian Army's counterinsurgency operations notwithstanding, its forces have learned to operate within the scope of the rule of law. Many officers who have exceeded their brief have been subject to court-martial and charges of human-rights violations are not swept under the carpet.

If training the Afghan Army is as important as the U.S.-led coalition says it is, then why not accelerate training in the place that's best served to do it? Not turning to India would amount to a grave strategic error.

Mr. Ganguly holds the Ngee Ann Kongsi Chair in International Relations at the Rajaratnam School for International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.



US intelligence agencies have widened their hunt for the leaders of the Afghan Taliban in the non-tribal areas of Pakistan, particularly in Karachi.

2. This is reminiscent of the widening of the hunt for the leaders and senior operatives of Al Qaeda in the non-tribal areas in 2002-03 after they fled into Pakistan from Tora Bora in Afghanistan. This, inter alia, led to the capture of Abu Zubaidah in Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab in March,2002, Ramzi Binalshib in Karachi in September 2002 and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in Rawalpindi in March,2003.The success of the US agencies in tracing them in the non-tribal areas and pressuring the Pakistani agencies to arrest them and hand them over to the US forced the other leaders, who had evaded capture, to flee to North Waziristan and take shelter there. They are now being hunted there by the Drones (unmanned planes) of the CIA.

3.Originally, the US agencies believed that the surviving leaders of the Afghan Taliban, including Mulla Mohammad Omar, were operating from the Pashtun majority areas of Balochistan, particularly from the refugee camps in the Quetta area. The collusion of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) with the Quetta-based leaders led to suggestions from the US field commanders in Afghanistan for extending the Drone strikes to the Quetta area to hit at the hide-outs of the Afghan leaders there.

4. In the wake of these suggestions, there were reports that the ISI has shifted the Afghan Taliban leaders to Karachi and helped them to get sanctuaries among the pro-Taliban elements in the local Pashtun community. Karachi is estimated to have more Pashtuns than Peshawar, the capital of the Pashtun-majority North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the party of Mohajirs headed by Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in the UK, has been alleging for some months now that not only Afghan Taliban, but even some Pakistani Taliban leaders have taken shelter in the Pashtun community in Karachi and have been operating from there.

5.Till recently, the US was not taking these allegations seriously. It is now paying more attention to these allegations and US agencies have stepped up their intelligence collection efforts in Karachi-----particularly after attacks on NATO logistics convoys in the Karachi area.

6. The reported capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban's operational commander and the deputy to Mullah Omar, in Karachi some days ago by the ISI at the instance of the US agencies has to be viewed in this context. The reports of his arrest have been denied by Mr.Rehman Mallik, the Pakistani Interior Minister,and Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

7.Other reports purported to be emanating from Taliban commanders have been quoted as claiming that Baradar has in fact been captured by the Americans, but in the Helmand province of Afghanistan where the US has launched an offensive against the Afghan Taliban and not in Karachi.

8. The report of his arrest in Karachi, if confirmed, would embarrass both the Pakistani authorities and the Afghan Taliban as this would lend some substance to the allegations of the MQM that the Taliban leadership is now operating from Karachi.

9. The speculation that the reported arrest of Baradar is a US-engineered charade and is part of its exercise to create a split in the Afghan Taliban by winning over associates of Mulla Omar does not carry conviction at present. ( 17-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

The US-China Scrap: Seeking New Rules for Engagement

By Bhaskar Roy


When a Chinese expert in Beijing complains that the US wants their help in a multitude of issues ranging from the North Korean nuclear question to resolving the Afghanistan problem, but counter China in matters relating to crucial sovereignty issues like Taiwan and Tibet among others, he has a point from China’s national perspective. But when China resorts to unrestricted warfare, the game changes.
In the space of last one month, sharp exchange of words and acrimony replaced the win-win bonhomie seen in 2009 between the two sides. When US President Barack Obama visited China last November, he declared China as a strategic partner rather than strategic competitor described by his predecessor, President George W. Bush. Mr. Obama almost handed over the managership of South Asia to China, a gesture seen in India as an affront and disregard to Indian concerns. He declined to meet the Dalai Lama before his China visit. Till that time, the new president of the United States held up all military transfers to Taiwan, and skimmed over issues like human rights and Tibet.
Mr. Obama got a bad press back home. In a way, he was doing something in China quite different to what his Secretary of State did on an earlier visit to the region. Ms. Clinton signalled a ":US back to Asia" message, while Mr. Obama was seen to be agreeing that East Asia, South East Asia and South Asia were China’s backyard.
The common perception of China-US observers in Hong Kong and the region was that the Obama administration was willing to give all to Chinese, hoping Beijing would support US on various difficult issues, especially Iran’s nuclear programme and climate change. The “Group of Two” or G-2 (USA and China as the world’s top two) came from the USA.
Senator Barack Obama was a totally new person for China as the President of the United States. As a Senator, Mr. Obama had not made that kind of impression on Beijing as presidential hopeful Senator John McCain did. A decorated veteran of the Vietnam war, Mr. McCain was a force in American politics on foreign policy issues of strategic nature, and he was aggressive.
President George W. Bush, the father of the past 9/11 Afghan military solution policy, and the nemesis of Saddam Hussain, had some hard issues with China. He started his first presidency with the policy of “engage China economically, counter Chinese militarily”. The Iraq invasion finally proved to be conducted under concocted intelligence, created a much more dangerous Iraq to the world, and shifted American focus away from China. Notwithstanding the adventures or misadventures, Mr. George W. Bush had the determination to do what he wanted. This was something the Chinese were concerned about.
Strategic analysts in Beijing and Shanghai, and the leadership team in Zhongnanhai, studied Mr. Obama for almost a year. The 45th President of the USA was engulfed in serious democratic issues like the economic melt down and the health care bill. But he had also inherited much of his predecessor’s foreign policy miscalculations.
Perhaps, the Chinese establishment underestimated that President Obama’s dependence on wide public opinion in the US. Secretary of State Clinton’s relationship with China goes back to her husband President Bill Clinton’s China policy, especially in his second term. That was the high point of US-China relations. Washington cleared China for WTO membership, China’s military and high technology espionage were swept under the carpet, Mr. Clinton was the first and the only US President to state the “Three Nos” (No two Chinas, no one China one Taiwan, no independence) on Taiwan from the China’s soil, and enjoined China to criticize India’s May, 1998 nuclear tests. But Ms. Hillary Clinton is subject to American public concerns over a fitful government foreign policy, hoping China has joined the global mainstream because of its market economy.
When China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping declared opening up to the outside world, conduct capitalist type of business with a new public sector – private sector market economy, the capitalist west saw in this a move in Beijing towards Westernization. Comrade Deng’s quip that “It does not matter whether cat is black or white as long at is catches mice”, was widely misinterpreted as the country’s paramount leader had turned liberal. Deng was no liberal as he demonstrated with the bloody crack down on student agitation in 1989. Comrade Deng’s aim was to maximize China’s development with international exchanges, and nothing more. It, however, appears the current leaders in Beijing may be seeing an opportunity to surge ahead. China appears to be confident to take on the US, and the US administration paved the way for them.
The president of the world most powerful democracy, Barack Obama, appears to have displayed some personal and institutional weakness. After embarking on a hectic global agenda, he showed some visible hesitations. It happened in the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Chinese leaders tested out President Obama during his November, 2009 visit and concluded that he could be psychologically pushed and projected as a weak president of a weakening super power. His talk and question answer session to a CCP selected Chinese students groups in Shanghai was edited and not broadcast country-wide. His interview with the media was only with the Southern Metropolis of Guangdong, and other media were prohibited from publishing the interview. The interview hardly saw the light of the day.
For any visiting head of state or head of government, such treatment from the host country would be considered an affront if not deliberate insult. The Obama administration not only swallowed the insult, but Obama kept off issues which the US holds at its claim to work for democracy, religious freedom and human rights.
These developments apparently encouraged China to take such a belligerent and challenging posture against the USA relating to the US decision to sell $6.4 billion arms to Taiwan, especially Patriot Advanced Capacity-3 (PAC-3) anti-missile systems and Black Hawk attack helicopters. The other issue was the forthcoming meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama.
The protest against the Obama-Dalai Lama meeting may be in a sense, old rhetoric. Obama had clearly told President Hu Jintao during his visit that he would be meeting the Dalai Lama. But from the Chinese point of view, this meeting may interfere with Beijing’s new initiative on the Tibet issue and with Tibetans both inside and outside China. The 5th Tibet Work Conference (January 18, Beijing) chaired by President Hu Jintao laid a ten-year development plan for Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), and Tibetan areas outside TAR. They held the 9th round of talks with the Dalai Lama’s envoys in Beijing (Jan.30-31) and kept the door open for further talks.
What marked the 9th round of the Chinese authorities – Dalai Lama envoy meeting was the respectful references to the Dalai Lama by the Chinese side. This was clearly unprecedented, though the Chinese did not give an inch on the Dalai Lama’s demand for real autonomy for Tibet. The Chinese hope that with their new initiative they may be able to win over the Tibetans. A new Chinese strategic initiative noticed last year was to try and isolate the Dalai Lama internationally and among Tibetans. They reacted strongly against French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, downgraded relations with France, and pulled out of annual China-EU meeting as France was holding the EU Presidency. They are trying to carry forward the same aggressive policy with President Obama and the US. Beijing has opened up all stops against this meeting, but needless to say they will be disappointed.
More serious, however, is China’s threat to sanction US companies involved in the supply of the new arms package to Taiwan. Companies under Chinese scanner include Rayethon and Boeing. This is the first time the Chinese have openly declared sanction against foreign companies, which again speaks on growing Chinese assertiveness.
Beijing has been working with Taiwan’s KMT government headed by Ma Ying Jeou, to expand multilevel contacts and trade, and open confrontations have reduced significantly. It is noteworthy that China is yet to berate Taiwan over the arms import. Yet, China’s military deployment including medium range missiles targetting Taiwan have been steadily increasing. This obviously promoted the Taiwanese government to tell Beijing there can be no political or military talks under the present conditions. But to avoid further tension with China, Taiwanese military officials have sent out word that Taipei may not pursue procurement of submarines with the USA.
In another significant posturing, three senior Chinese serving officers told the official publication Liaowang Weekly (Feb.08) that in the wake of the US arms sale to Taiwan, China must increase defence spending and military deployment.
One of the officers who spoke to Liaowang, a major policy journal, Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu warned China could attack the US “by oblique means and stealthy feints”, a doctrinal proposal make by two Chinese colonels in a restricted book “unrestricted warfare” a restricted publication of 1999. Zhu suggested economic means including sanctions against US companies and dumping the $800 billion worth US treasury bonds held by China. The “unrestricted warfare” suggested other methods including no-contact warfare, and non-state instruments. Zhu became famous when in 2005 he told reporters that China would use nuclear weapons to retaliate if the US attacked with precision-guided conventional missiles.
The Central Military Commission (CMC) of China, though headed by civilian President Hu Jintao, has enormous clout where security and territorial issues are concerned.
It will have to be seen how China brings this round of storm with the USA to a conclusion. But if China goes ahead with selling its holding of US Treasury bonds, it will hurt itself doubly. The value of the bonds will plummet, and in damaging the US economy its exports, on which its economy largely dependent, will be seriously affected. The Chinese are not known to take such risks.
The Beijing leaders seem to have adopted a well used tactic of dividing the USA and Europe in trade and commercial relations. Some Chinese experts are already talking on these lines, opting to purchase Europe’s Air Bus passenger aircraft instead of Boeings.
Saner voices can also be heard advising against uncalculated retaliation. There are clear indications that Beijing is not ready to derail the six-party talks on the North Korean issue. Visits and activities on this issue is on. Beijing have also allowed port call at Hong Kong by USS Nimitz, the main aircraft carrier of the USA’s Pacific Command. This is a very significant signal from China to the US that there is space to work together.
The other issue is the Iran nuclear programme and an UN sanction on Iran initiated by the US. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China is trying to avoid a voting in the council on the question. They have conveyed to the UK they do not support a nuclear armed Iran. On the other hand, China has billions of dollars invested in the Iranian oil and gas sector, and energy security is China’s top most priority. If China vetoes the proposed UN sanctions on Iran, it will stand isolated in the UNSC since Russia is also moving the American stand point. If it abstains the UNSC can go forward. But the US and others can side step the UNSC and promulgate their own sanctions. China will lose face all around.
The Chinese posturing has a definite internal political ramification. The leadership cannot sit by and accept US moves on Taiwan and the Dalai Lama which may challenge the edifice of China’s sovereignty and territorial position. There is a real feeling in Beijing that Taiwan, which enjoys international support as a de facto independent country, may acquire a de jure status in time. The Dalai Lama and the Tibet question retains international support. The Chinese perceive that the world prefers a status quo on both these issues, which is detrimental to China’s highest national policy.
Having said that, China’s weaker neighbours including India must take early lessons from what a new powerful and aggressive China may mean to the region in the future. All of them put together are not anywhere as powerful as the USA, and many of them have territorial problems with China.
(The author is an eminent China analyst with many years of experience of study on the developments in China. He can be reached at grouchohart@yahoo.com)