May 01, 2010

Obama has his way : PM caves in, resumes talks with Pakistan

The Pioneer Edit Desk

They met on the sidelines of the SAARC summit and came away grinning from ear to ear. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani seem to be making up for the frost in India-Pakistan relations that followed the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai. An earlier effort at Sharm el-Sheikh last year had backfired on Mr Singh. But it is apparent that he believes that sufficient time has elapsed to rediscover bonhomie with Pakistan. Following his meeting with Mr Gilani, it has been decided that the best way forward for both the countries is through the resumption of the bilateral dialogue process. Both the leaders have affirmed that they would like to see their respective Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries meet at the earliest to restore the ‘trust’ and ‘confidence’ in the bilateral relationship. There is also a possibility that a new format of talks will be created, replacing the old format of the composite dialogue process — a clever ploy by Mr Singh to try and pacify those who question the efficacy of these bogus talks. But the fact remains that terrorism — something which Mr Singh claims he believes has been responsible for impeding the progress of talks between the two countries — and anti-India jihadi organisations are still being sponsored by the Pakistani military-political establishment. There is absolutely no reason to believe that Islamabad has done anything at all to end terrorism emanating from Pakistan. And there is no reason to assume that this will happen in the near future. The so-called trial of those who plotted the 26/11 attacks is nothing but a sham, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed is still a free man and faces no restrictions as far as making hate speeches against India is concerned, and terrorist infiltrations from across the LoC into Jammu & Kashmir have increased in recent months. Yet, somehow, Mr Singh believes that all this will change if we re-engage Pakistan through bilateral talks.

The truth is that Mr Singh is under tremendous pressure from the Obama Administration to re-initiate the dialogue process. This is because the Pakistanis have complaining to the Americans that the frost in relations with India has created a ‘trust deficit’ between the two countries, preventing the former from diverting troops from its eastern border to its western tribal areas to fight the ‘bad’ Taliban. And given the Obama Administration’s obsession with securing an early exit from Afghanistan — at least by the time the US President is up for re-election in 2012 — it is obvious that Washington, DC will be more inclined to lean on New Delhi to pacify Islamabad. The consequences of our troop-cut in Jammu & Kashmir — at the behest of the Americans who seem to be dictating the UPA Government’s policies — are there for everyone to see.

Now that formal talks between India and Pakistan are set to resume, there is little doubt in the fact that Islamabad will use the opportunity to once again shame and slander New Delhi. Yet Mr Singh believes (or has been forced by the US Administration into believing) that it is better to talk with Pakistan than shun a rogue state which brazenly promotes jihadi terrorism and is loath to act against mass murderers. No purpose is served in blaming Pakistan as nothing better can be expected of its military-political establishment. But what about our effete Congress-led Government?

All Kayani’s Men

by Anatol Lieven


VOLTAIRE REMARKED of Frederick the Great’s Prussia that “where .some states have an army, the Prussian Army has a state!” The same can easily be said of Pakistan. The destruction of the army would mean the destruction of the country. Yet this is something that the Pakistani Taliban and their allies can never achieve. Only the United States is capable of such a feat; if Washington ever takes actions that persuade ordinary Pakistani soldiers that their only honorable course is to fight America, even against the orders of their generals and against dreadful odds, the armed forces would crumble.

There is an understanding in Washington that while short-term calculations demand some kind of success in Afghanistan, in the longer run, Pakistan, with its vastly greater size, huge army, nuclear weapons and large diaspora, is a much more important country, and a much greater threat should it in fact succumb to its inner demons. The collapse of Pakistan would so vastly increase the power of Islamist extremism as to constitute a strategic defeat in the “war on terror.”

The Pakistani military is crucial to preventing such a disaster because it is the only state institution that works as it is officially meant to. This means, however, that it also repeatedly does something that it is not meant to—namely, overthrow what in Pakistan is called “democracy” and seize control of the government. The military has therefore been seen as extremely bad for Pakistan’s progress, at least if that progress is to be defined in standard Western terms.

Yet, it has also always been true that without a strong military, Pakistan would probably have long since disintegrated. That is truer than ever today, as the country faces the powerful insurgency of the Pakistani Taliban and their allies. That threat makes the unity and discipline of the army of paramount importance to Pakistan and the world—all the more so because the deep dislike of U.S. strategy among the vast majority of Pakistanis has made even the limited alliance between the Pakistani military and the United States extremely unpopular in general society and among many soldiers. Those soldiers’ superiors fully understand the importance of this alliance to Pakistan and the disastrous consequences for the country if it were to collapse.

The Pakistani army is a highly disciplined and professional institution, and the soldiers will continue to obey their generals’ orders. Given their basic feelings, however, it would be unwise to push the infantrymen too far. One way of doing this would be to further extend the U.S. drone campaign by expanding it from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to Baluchistan. Much more disastrous would be any resumption of U.S. ground raids into Pakistani territory, such as occurred briefly in the summer of 2008.

TO UNDERSTAND this somewhat-counterintuitive (at least to Western audiences) prescription, a close look inside the military is necessary. In essence, the armed forces’ success as an institution and its power over the country come from its immunity to kinship interests and the corruption they bring with them; but the military has only been able to achieve this immunity by turning into a sort of giant kinship group itself, extracting patronage from the state and distributing it to its members.

During my journeys to Pakistan over the years, I have observed how the Pakistani military, even more than most armed forces, sees itself as a breed apart, and devotes great effort to inculcating new recruits with the feeling that they belong to a military family different from (and vastly superior to) civilian society. The mainly middle-class composition of the officer corps increases contempt for the “feudal” political class. The army sees itself as both morally superior to this group and far more modern, progressive and better educated.

Pakistani politics is dominated by wealth and inherited status, whereas the officer corps has become increasingly egalitarian and provides opportunities for social mobility that the Pakistani economy cannot. As such, a position in the officer corps is immensely prized by the sons of shopkeepers and big farmers across Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). This allows the military to pick the very best recruits and increases their sense of belonging to an elite. In the last years of British rule, circa 1947, and the first years of Pakistan, most officers were recruited from the landed gentry and upper-middle classes. These are still represented by figures like former–Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Jehangir Karamat, who, perhaps most tellingly, is the former president of the Pakistan Polo Association; but a much more typical figure is the current COAS, General Ashfaq Kayani, the son of an NCO. This social change partly reflects the withdrawal of the upper-middle classes to more comfortable professions, but also the immense increase in the quantity of officers required in the military as a result of its vast expansion since independence.

A number of officers and members of military families have told me something to the effect that “the officers’ mess is the most democratic institution in Pakistan because its members are superior and junior during the day, but in the evening are comrades. That is something we have inherited from the British.”

This may seem like a ludicrous statement, until one remembers that in Pakistan, saying that something is the most spiritually democratic institution isn’t saying very much at all. Pakistani society is permeated by a culture of deference to superiors.

Islamabad’s dynastically ruled “democratic” political parties exemplify this subservience in the face of inheritance and wealth; while in the army, as an officer told me:

You rise on merit—well, mostly—not by inheritance, and you salute the military rank and not the sardar [tribal chieftain and great landowner] or pir [hereditary religious figure] who has inherited his position from his father, or the businessman’s money. These days, many of the generals are the sons of clerks and shopkeepers, or if they are from military families, they are the sons of havildars [NCOs]. It doesn’t matter. The point is that they are generals.

Meanwhile, the political parties continue to be dominated by “feudal” landowners and wealthy urban bosses, many of them not just corrupt but barely educated. This increases the sense of superiority in the officer corps has toward the politicians—something I have heard from many officers (and which was very marked in General Pervez Musharraf’s personal contempt for the late Benazir Bhutto and her husband, the current president).

This same disdain for the country’s civilian political leadership is widely present in Pakistani society as a whole, and has become dominant at regular intervals, leading to mass popular support for military coups. Indeed, it is sadly true that whatever the feelings of the population later, when each military coup initially occurred, it was popular with most Pakistanis—including the media—and was subsequently legitimized by the judiciary.

It is possible that developments since 2001 have changed this pattern, above all because of the new importance of the independent judiciary and media, and the way that the military’s role in both government and the unpopular war with the Pakistani Taliban has tarnished its image with many Pakistanis. However, it is not yet clear that such a sea change has definitively taken place. Whether or not it eventually does depends in large part on how Pakistani civilian governments perform in the future.

By the summer of 2009—only a year after the resignation of then-President Musharraf, who had seized power from the civilian government of Nawaz Sharif in 1999—many Pakistanis of my acquaintance, especially in the business classes, were once again calling for the military to step in and oust the civilian administration of President Asif Ali Zardari; not necessarily to take over themselves, but to purge the most corrupt politicians and create a government of national unity (or, at the very least, a caretaker administration of technocrats).

AS THE military has become more egalitarian, the less-secular have filled its ranks. This social change in the officer corps over the decades has caused many in the West to fear that the army is becoming “Islamized,” leading to the danger that the institution as a whole might support Islamist revolution, particularly as the civilian government falters. More dangerously, there might be a mutiny by Islamist junior officers against the high command. These dangers do exist, but in my view, the absolutely key point is that only a direct attack on Pakistan by the United States could bring them to fruition.

Westerners must realize that commitment to the army, and to martial unity and discipline, is drilled into every officer and soldier from the first hour of their joining the military. Together with the material rewards of loyal service, it constitutes a very powerful obstacle to any thought of a coup from below, which would by definition split the army and very likely destroy it altogether. Every military coup in Pakistan has therefore been carried out by the chief of army staff, backed by a consensus of the corps commanders and the rest of the high command. Islamist conspiracies by junior officers against their superiors (of which there have been two over the past generation) have been penetrated and smashed by Military Intelligence.

It is obviously true that as the officer corps becomes lower-middle class, so its members become less Westernized and more religious—after all, the vast majority of Pakistan’s population is conservative Muslim. However, it is made up of many different kinds of orthodox Muslim, and this is also true of the officer corps.

In the 1980s, then–President of Pakistan and Chief of Army Staff General Zia ul-Haq did undertake measures to make the army more Islamic, and subsequently, a good many officers who wanted a promotion adopted an Islamic facade. Zia also encouraged Islamic preaching within the army, notably by the Tablighi Jamaat, a nonviolent, nonpartisan but fundamentalist group dedicated to Islamic proselytizing and charity work. But, as the career of the notoriously secular General Musharraf indicates, this did not lead to known secular generals being blocked from promotion; and in the 1990s, especially under Musharraf, most of Zia’s measures were rolled back. In recent years, preaching by the Tablighi has been strongly discouraged, not so much because of political fears (the Tablighi is determinedly apolitical) as because of instinctive opposition to any groups that might encourage factions among officers and loyalties to anything other than the army.

Of course, the Pakistani military has always gone into battle with the cry ofAllahu Akbar (God is Great)—just as the imperial-era German army inscribed Gott mit Uns (God with Us) on its helmets and standards; but according to Colonel Abdul Qayyum, a retired, moderate-Islamist officer:

You shouldn’t use bits of Islam to raise military discipline, morale and so on. I’m sorry to say that this is the way it has always been used in the Pakistani army. It is our equivalent of rum—the generals use it to get their men to launch suicidal attacks. But there is no such thing as a powerful jihadi group within the army. Of course, there are many devoutly Muslim officers and jawans [enlisted troops], but at heart the vast majority of the army are nationalists, and take whatever is useful from Islam to serve what they see as Pakistan’s interests. The Pakistani army has been a nationalist army with an Islamic look.

On the whole, by far the most important aspect of a Pakistani officer’s identity is that he (or sometimes she) is an officer. The Pakistani military is a profoundly shaping influence as far as its members are concerned. This can be seen, among other places, in the social origins and personal habits of its chiefs of staff and Pakistan’s military rulers over the years. It would be hard to find a more different set of men than generals Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia ul-Haq, Pervez Musharraf, Mirza Aslam Beg, Jehangir Karamat and Ashfaq Kayani in terms of their social origins, personal characters and attitudes toward religion; some were rich others poor, some secular others religious and some conspiratorial others loyal. Yet all have been first and foremost military men.

This means in turn that their ideology is largely one of nationalism. The military is tied to Pakistan, not to the universal Muslim ummah of the radical Islamists’ dreams; tied not only by sentiment and ideology but also by the reality of what supports the army. If it is true, as so many officers have told me, that “no army, no Pakistan,” it is equally true that “no Pakistan, no army.”

AMERICAN OPERATIONS in South Asia, however, are threatening to upset this fragile balance between Islam and nationalism in the Pakistani military. The army’s members can hardly avoid sharing the broader population’s bitter hostility to U.S. policy. To judge by retired and serving officers, this includes the genuine conviction that either the Bush administration or Israel was responsible for 9/11. Inevitably therefore, there was deep opposition throughout the army after 2001 to American pressure to crack down on the Afghan Taliban and their Pakistani sympathizers. “We are being ordered to launch a Pakistani civil war for the sake of America,” an officer told me in 2002. “Why on earth should we? Why should we commit suicide for you?”

Between 2004 and 2007, there were a number of instances of mass desertion and refusal to serve in units deployed to fight militants, though mostly in the Pashtun-recruited Frontier Corps rather than in the regular army. These failures were caused above all by the feeling that these forces were compelled to turn against their own. We must realize in these morally and psychologically testing circumstances, anything that helps maintain Pakistani military discipline cannot be altogether bad—given the immense scale of the stakes concerned, and the consequences if that discipline were to fail.

For in 2007–2008, the battle was beginning to cause serious problems of morale. The most dangerous single thing I heard during my visits to Pakistan in those years was that soldiers’ families in villages in the NWFP and the Potwar region of the Punjab were finding it increasingly difficult to find high-status brides for their sons serving in the military because of the growing popular feeling that “the army is the slave of the Americans” and “the soldiers are killing fellow Muslims on America’s orders.”

By late 2009, the sheer number of soldiers killed by the Pakistani Taliban and their allies, and still more importantly, the increasingly murderous and indiscriminate Pakistani Taliban attacks on civilians, seem to have produced a change of mood in the areas of military recruitment. Nonetheless, if the Pakistani Taliban are increasingly unpopular, that does not make the United States any more well liked; and if Washington ever put Pakistani soldiers in a position where they felt that honor and patriotism required them to fight America, many would be willing to do so.

And we have seen this willingness before. In August and September 2008, U.S. forces entered Pakistan’s tribal areas on two occasions in order to raid suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda bases. During the second incursion, Pakistani soldiers fired in the air to turn the Americans back. On September 19, 2008, General Kayani flew to meet U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, and, in the words of a senior Pakistani general, “gave him the toughest possible warning about what would happen if this were repeated.”

Pakistani officers from captain to lieutenant general have told me that the entry of U.S. ground forces into Pakistan in pursuit of the Taliban and al-Qaeda is an incredibly dangerous scenario, as it would put both Pakistan-U.S. relations and the unity of the army at risk. As one retired general explained, drone attacks on Pakistani territory, though humiliating for the ordinary officers and soldiers, are not the critical issue. What would create a military overthrow takes more:

U.S. ground forces inside Pakistan are a different matter, because the soldiers can do something about them. They can fight. And if they don’t fight, they will feel utterly humiliated, before their wives, mothers, children. It would be a matter of honor, which as you know is a tremendous thing in our society. These men have sworn an oath to defend Pakistani soil. So they would fight. And if the generals told them not to fight, many of them would mutiny, starting with the Frontier Corps.

At this point, not just Islamist radicals, but every malcontent in the country would join the mutineers, and the disintegration of Pakistan would become imminent.

THERE IS a further complication. Of course, the Pakistani military has played a part in encouraging Islamist insurgents. The army maintains links with military and jihadi groups focused on fighting India (its perennial obsession). Contrary to what many believe, the military’s support of these actors has not been based on ideology. The bulk of the high command (including General Musharraf, who is by no conceivable stretch of the imagination an Islamist) has used these groups in a purely instrumental way against New Delhi with Pakistani Muslim nationalism as the driver. But this doesn’t mean balancing these relationships with U.S. demands will be easy.

Since 2002, the military has acted to rein in these groups, while at the same time keeping some of them (notably Lashkar-e-Taiba, responsible for the 2008 terrorist attacks against Mumbai) on the shelf for possible future use against India should hostilities between the two countries resume. Undoubtedly, however, some lower-level officers of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), responsible for “handling” these groups, have developed close affinities for them and have contributed to their recent operations. The ISI’s long association with the militants, first in Afghanistan and then in Kashmir, had led some ISI officers to have a close personal identification with the forces that they were supposed to be controlling.

The high command, moreover, is genuinely concerned that if it attacks some of these groups, it will drive them into joining the Pakistani Taliban—as has already occurred with sections of the Jaish-e-Muhammad, suspected in the attempts to assassinate Musharraf in December 2003 (apparently with low-level help from within the armed forces).

This leads to a whole set of interlocking questions: How far does the Pakistani high command continue to back certain militant groups? How far does the command of the ISI follow a strategy independent from that of the military? And how far have individual ISI officers escaped from the control of their superiors and supported and planned terrorist actions on their own? And this leads to the even-more-vital question of how far the Pakistani military is penetrated by Islamist extremist elements, and whether there is any possibility of these groups carrying out a successful military coup from below.

Since this whole field is obviously kept very secret by the institutions concerned (including Military Intelligence, which monitors the political and ideological allegiances of officers), there are no definitive answers. What follows is informed guesswork based on numerous discussions with experts and off-the-record talks with Pakistani officers, including retired members of the ISI.

Concerning the ISI, the consensus of my informants is as follows: There is considerable resentment of the organization in the rest of the military due to its perceived arrogance and suspected corruption. However, when it comes to overall strategy, the ISI follows the line of the high command. It is, after all, always headed by a senior regular general, not a professional intelligence officer, and a majority of its officers are also seconded regulars. General Kayani was director of the ISI from 2004–2007 and ordered a limited crackdown on jihadi groups that the ISI had previously supported. As to the military’s attitude toward the Afghan Taliban, the army and the ISI are as one, and the evidence is unequivocal: both groups continue to give them shelter, and there is deep unwillingness to take serious action against them on America’s behalf, both because it is feared that this would increase the potential for a Pashtun insurgency in Pakistan and because they are seen as the only assets Pakistan possesses in Afghanistan. The conviction in the Pakistani security establishment is that the West will quit Kabul, leaving civil war behind, and that India will then throw its weight behind the non-Pashtun forces of the former Northern Alliance in order to encircle Pakistan strategically.

This attitude changes, however, when it comes to the Pakistani Taliban and their allies. The military as a whole and the ISI are now committed to the struggle against them, and by the end of 2009, the ISI had lost more than seventy of its officers in this fight—some ten times the number of CIA officers killed since 9/11, just as Pakistani military casualties fighting the Pakistani Taliban have greatly exceeded those of the United States in Afghanistan. Equally, however, in 2007–2008 there were a great many stories of ISI officers intervening to rescue individual Taliban commanders from arrest by the police or the army—too many, and too circumstantial, for these all to have been invented.

It seems clear, therefore, that whether because some ISI officers felt a personal commitment to these men, or because the institution as a whole still regarded them as potentially useful, actions were taking place that were against overall military policy—let alone that of the Pakistani government. As well, some of these Islamist insurgents had at least indirect links to al-Qaeda. This does not mean that the ISI knows where Osama bin Laden (if he is indeed still alive), Ayman al-Zawahri and other al-Qaeda leaders are hiding. But it does suggest that they could probably do a good deal more to find out.

However, for Islamist terrorists who wish to carry out attacks against India, ISI help is not necessary (though it has certainly occurred in the past). The discontent of sections of India’s Muslim minority (increased by ghastly incidents like the massacres of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, and encouraged by the Hindu nationalist state government) gives ample possibilities for recruitment; the sheer size of India, coupled with the incompetence of the Indian security forces, give ample targets of opportunity; and the desire to provoke an Indian attack on Pakistan gives ample motive. But whether or not the ISI is involved in future attacks, India will certainly blame Pakistan for them.

This creates the real possibility of a range of harsh Indian responses, stretching from economic pressure through blockade to outright war. Such a war would in the short term unite Pakistanis and greatly increase the morale of the army. The long-term consequences for Pakistan’s economic development would, however, be quite disastrous. And if the United States were perceived to back India in such a war, anti-American feelings and extremist recruitment in Pakistan would soar to new heights. All of this gives the United States every reason to push the Pakistani military to suppress some extremist groups and keep others on a very tight rein. But Washington also needs to press New Delhi to seek reconciliation with Islamabad over Kashmir, and to refrain from actions which will create even more fear of India in the Pakistani military.

IN THE end, Washington must walk a very fine line if it wants to keep the military united and at least onboard enough in the fight against extremists. If it pushes the army too far by moving ground troops into Pakistan proper, the consequences will be devastating. The military—and therefore the state of Pakistan—will be no longer.

Anatol Lieven, a senior editor at The National Interest, is a professor in the War Studies Department of King’s College London and a senior fellow of the New America Foundation in Washington, DC. He is author of America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism (Oxford University Press, 2004). His next book, Pakistan: A Hard Country, is to be published in 2011.

Outside View: The United States, India and the politics of benign neglect

Published: April 28, 2010 at 7:53 AM

By STANLEY A. WEISS, UPI Outside View Commentator

NEW DELHI, April 28 (UPI) -- Imagine for a moment that 15 months after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Indian authorities captured attack mastermind and Osama bin Laden henchman Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a raid in southern India. Imagine how loudly and quickly the U.S. government and media would have demanded extradition from India to the United States.

Now, imagine the outrage if India announced instead that it had struck a plea bargain with Mohammed and not only refused extradition but refused to allow American authorities to interview him at all.

And yet, since his arrest in Chicago on Oct. 3, 2009, American authorities have had in their custody a Pakistani American named David Coleman Headley, who has confessed to playing a lead role in the deadly terrorist attack in Mumbai on Nov. 26, 2008 -- memorialized in India as 26-11 -- that left 170 people dead and 300 wounded.

More than seven months later, not only have Indian authorities yet to interview Headley, a team of interrogators that traveled to Washington to investigate his connection to Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba was turned away.

Three weeks ago came word of what one Indian newspaper dubbed "a kick in the gut": in exchange for admitting his role in the Mumbai attack, among others, Headley was granted a plea deal by U.S. authorities that he wouldn't be extradited to India. Outrage in India reached such heights that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was forced to raise the issue with President Barack Obama at last week's Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, reportedly earning a pledge from the president that India would "get access."

Friends don't make friends beg for cooperation. But even as U.S. Ambassador Tim Roemer tells me that "relations between the U.S. and India have never been better," there is a growing perception in the markets and chat rooms in India that the friendship between the world's oldest democracy and its largest is souring -- driven by an Obama administration that thinks it is doing a better job in Delhi than it actually is.

"What we worry about regarding the future of U.S.-India relations is general uncertainty and China's new role since this global economic crisis," says Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon. "Those are henny-penny worries right now. The real worry is the Afghanistan situation and Pakistan's negative statements and terrorism."

"The U.S. dilemma in Afghanistan," says former Indian Ambassador to Pakistan G. Parthasarathy, "is that the war is unpopular domestically. Ninety percent of Indians believe that means America will cut and run -- they will cut a deal with the Taliban and withdraw prematurely, before the Afghan army is ready. It will be a disaster."

Retired Indian army Maj. Gen. Afsir Karim agrees. "A timeline that precludes an open-ended U.S. deployment has been welcomed in Pakistan because most people and the army believe this will motivate the Taliban to fight with great vigor and hasten the withdrawal of U.S.-backed forces," he says. "On the other hand, the Taliban will be able to evade American attacks by crossing over to Pakistan border areas and waiting until the U.S. offensive loses momentum."

Adds Shekhar Gupta, editor in chief of India Express, "We aren't so much worried about the U.S. going home but we are worried about the hardware left behind when they do."

Since 2001, America has given its nuclear-armed ally in Islamabad more than $15 billion in direct aid and military reimbursements. Most worrisome to India are the 18 F-16s due to be delivered by summer, along with 115 M-109 self-propelled howitzers and 20 Cobra attack helicopters -- on top of 5,250 anti-armor missiles already delivered.

"When's the last time you heard about F-16s being used to take down the Taliban?" asks Y.K. Sinha, Indian joint secretary in charge of Pakistan. "These aren't weapons that will be used against al-Qaida. Those are weapons that will either be used against India or go to China."

Adds scholar Brahma Chellaney: "The vast majority of Pakistanis rate America as its biggest enemy, with India second. Washington isn't focusing on this: how will these weapons be used?"

What can Washington do? Three immediate steps:

First, give Indian authorities immediate access to Headley, with no more delays. Rumors in India that he is a CIA agent gone rouge only poison the relationship more.

Second, condition ongoing aid to Pakistan on Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani making good on his pledge to track down the Pakistanis responsible for the Mumbai attacks -- and to open an investigation into evidence that Pakistanis planned last February's attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

With 45 terrorist training camps rumored in Pakistan, if Pakistan doesn't act to curb violence against India -- India soon will.

Third, refocus the discussion on economic relations. A record number of U.S. executives disillusioned with doing business in China is flooding into India. Business-to-business cooperation is stronger than ever. Bringing public attention to those growing ties will help counterbalance disillusionment over security issues.

As a high-ranking Indian businesswoman told me: "The U.S. and India are an unhappy couple but they will never get a divorce. They need each other too much."


(Stanley A. Weiss is founding chairman of Business Executives for National Security, a nonpartisan organization of senior executives who use the best practices of business to strengthen the nation's security.)


(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Brazil gets high on Indian chai

May 01 2010

I’ve been absolutely fascinated by Latin America and the minute I got an invitation to be part of the Buenos Aires Fashion Week, I did not give it a second thought and jumped with joy and said yes.
Girlfriends were sending messages on my Blackberry asking about the dishy six-pack men, but honestly all I got to see were gorgeous beautiful women. Both the countries have real beauties, gorgeous hair and skin and fantastic bodies and a confident attitude. They love Indians, and India is hot right now thanks to the television serial Caminho Das Indias, which is set in India, and is the most watched prime time soap in Brazil and will be aired shortly in Argentina too.

The coffee drinking Brazil has suddenly discovered chai and samosas. Talking to Indian restaurateur Lucky Daswani who’s settled there for 36 years now, said the number of Brazilians ordering chai and samosas has gone up dramatically.

Indian influences are predominant with local Argentinean designers too. Argentina’s top model Dolores Barreiro has started a store called Holii. Right from the décor to the clothes it’s completely India inspired. Many other local brands have a strong Indian influence in their clothes and use Indian textiles. The synthetic and rayon export promotion council team showing their textiles at BAAM have been seeing a good growth in their orders.

From the cool restaurants and bars in Buenos Aires, to the uber fashionable stores in Sao Paulo where champagne is served all day and DJs spin music in trendy stores selling hip fashion, it was a wow experience.

Anita dongre is a fashion designer

The idea of a “Greater Baluchistan”: First Map by Aziz Kurd

The first map of “Greater
Baluchistan” by Mir Abdul
Aziz Kurd, the General
Secretary of the Anjuman-e
Ittihad-e Balochistan (From
Inayatullah 1987).

The idea of a “Greater Baluchistan” was one of the many projects formulated by those who, between 1920 and 1930, had been trying to picture the future of the Indian Subcontinent after a hypothetical departure by the British. The 1930s projects had no sequel, due to the intervention of the British intelligence who silenced the nationalists, and, after the partition of 1947, to the annexation (in two stages) of Baluchistan by the new state of Pakistan. The nationalistic spirit survived however in the decades. that followed, to regain fresh impetus in the seventies.

April 30, 2010

Madhuri Gupta maligns the Foreign Service

April 29, 2010 14:43 IST


Someone just told me at a function in Thiruvananthapuram that it should be a dark day for the Indian Foreign Service since an Indian diplomat was caught as a traitor in an enemy State. After I recovered from the shock of that statement, I explained at some length to the assembled group about the composition of our missions abroad. I said that it would be wrong to assume that everyone who worked in our missions abroad belonged to the elite Foreign Service. In fact, no member of the IFS has ever been accused of spying. My listeners were surprised that all diplomatic personnel in our missions were not from the Foreign Service.

The national media, particularly the news channels, which takes the credit for breaking the story, has been bandying about words like "senior diplomat", "Foreign Service officer" and "top official" etc to enhance the seriousness of their scoop. It was also reporting that Madhuri Gupta was present at all the important and confidential discussions with Pakistan and about the possibility of her having befriended a Research and Analysis Wing officer in the mission. The viewers of our 24X7 news channels must be imagining her to be next only to the high commissioner in the mission hierarchy.

I have never met or heard of Madhuri Gupta, the second secretary in our high commission in Islamabad [ Images ], but with my familiarity with the system I can certainly assert that describing her as a diplomat is totally misleading. She may never have been trained in diplomacy, particularly secrecy and discretion. She apparently belongs to the interpreters' cadre and her language is Urdu. She did not have to make any extra effort to get posted to Islamabad with her language proficiency. Her reported postings to Baghdad and Kuala Lampur should be more of a mystery.

Since the interpreters do more or less the same job for years together, they are given career advancement by giving them senior diplomatic designations. "Second secretary" is a designation an IFS officer gets within three years of entering the service, while she may have got it after 20 years. This designation for an interpreter is a mere acknowledgement of his or her having spent many years in the government. Interpreters have been designated as counsellors and ministers in large missions just to indicate that they are senior and competent interpreters. Their job continues to be interpretation and translation.

The only disadvantage in giving them such high designations is that they will not serve the junior officers in the mission, who need interpretation the most. It is embarrassing for a "counsellor" to interpret for a mere "first secretary".

Many innovative ideas have been discussed to make the cadre of interpreters attractive to good people. One of them is to select some of them to the regular Foreign Service with real diplomatic responsibilities. But very few of them have been found fit enough to be elevated to higher levels. One celebrated exception was Vasant Paranjpe, a highly competent Chinese interpreter, who retired as ambassador to the Republic of Korea. His services were eulogised by many colleagues when he passed away recently.

Our missions abroad, particularly the larger missions, are staffed from a variety of ministries and departments of the Government of India [ Images ]. For instance, during my time in Moscow [ Images ], we had only about half a dozen IFS officers in a list of a hundred diplomatic officers. Not only the representatives of the various services, but even of public sector undertakings like Bokaro and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd went around as first secretaries and counsellors. Professors were designated as ministers, not because such high dignitaries were required for the kind of work they did, but because even former vice-chancellors were willing to go on assignments abroad.

Some of these "diplomats" were accused of indiscretions like currency speculation, but the bad name went to the Indian Foreign Service because they operated under the cover of diplomacy. The same thing is happening with Madhuri Gupta, who had a diplomatic designation in one of our most sensitive posts abroad. Since the international system of diplomacy works this way, the Foreign Service will continue to be maligned by such functionaries. This is particularly sad as no IFS officer has yet been caught spying for another country, while those from the other services have been caught red-handed.

The extent of the damage that may have been caused by Madhuri Gupta may also be exaggerated. Indians and Pakistanis are proud of their proficiency in English and they hardly do business in Urdu. So Gupta may have spent her whole career translating obscure articles from the Urdu press or making telephone calls to plumbers and electricians. Even if she was privy to some official conversations between India and Pakistan, the ISI would not be interested in gaining access to her. Only some third countries may have been interested in those conversations. The CIA will not have to compromise the likes of Gupta to get the information as they normally have sources in the Pakistan army [ Images ].

To be an effective and useful spy, Madhuri Gupta had to get access to secret documents with the connivance of another colleague in the mission and she may well have accomplished it in some way. The key lies, therefore, in identifying her collaborators at sensitive desks in the mission. These contacts may be the supporting staff in important offices in the mission. Such weak links in high places have been exposed even in the prime minister's office in the past. Financial incentives are very attractive for relatively junior officials, who handle sensitive information. Madhuri Gupta may well have found financial gratification tempting, but there may be other temptations like "love jihad", a recent phenomenon, which has ensnared spinsters who are in search for partners. Only a thorough investigation will reveal the whole conspiracy.

The damage done by the sordid Madhuri Gupta saga to national interests may well be serious. The damage it has done to the reputation of the Foreign Service must also be of concern. The system of staffing of our missions and designations cannot change, but the public needs to be educated more about the diverse composition of our diplomatic corps abroad. Such diversity also explains the general reputation of unhelpfulness of our diplomats. Very often, the public comes across untrained personnel from domestic services and make judgments about the Indian Foreign Service, which is patently unfair.

T P Sreenivasan is a former ambassador of India to the United Nations, Vienna [ Images ], and a former Governor for India at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna. He is currently the Director General, Kerala [ Images ] International Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, and a Member of the National Security Advisory Board

TP Sreenivasan



"Both Prime Ministers recognized that dialogue is the only way forward. Action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue process and these should not be bracketed. Prime Minister Singh said that India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues."--- From the joint statement issued by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani on July 16,2009, at the end of their talks at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt.

" The two Prime Ministers decided to ask their Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries to first discuss the modalities of restoring trust and confidence in bilateral ties. That would pave the way for talks on all issues of mutual concern. We don't have to be stuck with nomenclatures. This does the relationship no good. Dialogue is the only way forward to open channels of communications and restore trust and confidence.....They agreed to assess the current state of affairs and then to start afresh on the way forward. The focus is on charting a course forward so that the searchlight is on the future and not on the past."---From the remarks made by Mrs.Nirupama Rao, India's Foreign Secretary, at the end of the talks between the two Prime Ministers at Thimpu in Bhutan on April 29,2010.


From the above quotes relating to the meetings of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani at Sharm-el-Sheikh in July last and at Thimpu on April 29,2010, it is evident that Dr.Manmohan Singh has once again conceded at Thimpu as he had done at Sharm-el-Sheikh Pakistan's point of view that India's dissatisfaction over the perceived lack of action by Pakistan against the "terror machine" in Pakistan as the Foreign Secretary put it should not be allowed to stand in the way of a resumption of the dialogue on other issues of importance. The terrorist strike by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in Mumbai in November, 2008, should not be allowed to continue to cast its shadow over the future relations between the countries. That is the meaning of the remark of the Foreign Secretary that the searchlight should be on the future and not on the past. While India will continue to press Pakistan for action against the LET and the Pakistan-based conspirators now facing trial before a Pakistani anti-terrorism court for their involvement in the 26/11 terrorist strike, it will no longer link this to the question of the resumption of the dialogue on all issues of mutual concern.

2. Having succeeded in making Dr.Manmohan Singh de-link the terrorism issue from the dialogue issue, Pakistan is now trying to change the very nature of the approach on the terrorism issue by projecting it as a global issue and not just a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. During his interaction with the Pakistani media at Islamabad after returning from Thimpu, Mr.Shah Mehmood Quereshi, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, has sought to downgrade the priority attached to the terrorism issue. "The Hindu" of May 1,2010, has reported as follows: : "As for India's concern about terrorism, his counter was that it was a global concern and would be best addressed collectively."

3. Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister, had made it clear during his meeting with Pervez Musharraf at Islamabad in January,2004, that the terrorism issue was the core issue for India and that progress on other issues of interest to Pakistan would depend on the progress on the terrorism issue. At the Havana meeting in September,2006, Musharraf succeeded in removing this linkage by making Dr.Manmohan Singh agree that the terrorism issue was of common concern to both India and Pakistan. It ceased to be a core issue of exclusive concern to India.

4. At Sharm-el-Sheikh as well as at Thimpu, Mr.Gilani has succeeded in downgrading the primary importance of the terrorism issue and now Mr. Quereshi has proceeded a step further by projecting it as a global issue and not a bilateral issue. What, in fact, he has said is, let the bilateral dialogue focus on issues of concern to Pakistan and let the terrorism issue be dealt with multilaterally in appropriate fora.

5. Dr. Manmohan Singh has repeatedly failed to project the Pakistan State-sponsored terrorism as the core concern of India which has to be addressed first before there can be progress on other issues.His over-keenness for a dialogue with Pakistan and his repeated failure to counter the Pakistani strategy of playing down the importance of the terrorism issue are not serving India's interests. They are strengthening the impression in the minds of the civilian and military leaders in Pakistan that it can sponsor any act of terrorism against Indian nationals and interests in the Indian territory or Afghanistan and get away with it.

6. Unless the Pakistani leadership is disabused of this impression through appropriate political, diplomatic and covert actions, our nationals will continue to bleed at the hands of Pakistan-sponsored terrorists. No one is against the resumption of a comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan, but the conditions under which the talks are to be resumed should protect our nationals and our core concerns. One does not have the impression this is being done. ( 1-5-2010)

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



When he was President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan had sought to counter the Indo-US deal on civilian nuclear co-operation at two levels. He did not oppose the deal. Nor did Pakistan energetically try to have the deal disapproved by the US Congress through Congressmen and Senators sympathetic to it. Instead, it sought to counter the deal by using the following arguments. First, it would be discriminatory to Pakistan if it was not made applicable to it too. Second, it would create a military nuclear asymmetry in the sub-continent by enabling India to divert its domestic stock of fuel for military purposes, while using the imported fuel for civilian purposes under international safeguards. Thus, it would have an adverse effect on Pakistan's national security.

2. The Bush Administration rejected the Pakistani arguments by pointing out that Pakistan's economy was unlikely to grow as rapidly as the Indian economy in the short and medium terms and hence it should be possible to meet its energy requirements from conventional sources. The Bush Administration also repeatedly made it clear that in view of the role of Dr. A. Q. Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, and some of his colleagues in clandestinely supplying nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya, Pakistan cannot be treated on par with India, which had an unimpeachable record of non-proliferation.

3.During his State visit to China in February, 2006, Musharraf requested for Chinese assistance in the construction of six more nuclear power stations, with a capacity of 600 or 900 MWS each. The Chinese reportedly agreed in principle to supply two stations of 300 MWs each to be followed later by four more. This subject again figured in the General's bilateral discussions with President Hu Jintao in the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in June, 2006, and in the subsequent discussions between the officials of the two countries, who met at Islamabad and Beijing for doing the preparatory work for Mr. Hu's visit to Pakistan from November 23 to 26,2006. Gen. Musharraf and his officials were so confident that an agreement in principle for the construction of two nuclear power stations would be initialed during Mr. Hu's visit that they even set up a site selection task force.

4.However, there was no substantive reference to the co-operation between China and Pakistan in the field of civilian nuclear energy during Mr. Hu's visit to Pakistan. The joint statement issued on November 25, 2006, by Gen. Musharraf and Mr.Hu said: “The two sides also agreed to strengthen cooperation in the energy sector, including fossil fuels, coal, hydro-power, nuclear power, renewable sources of energy as well as in the mining and resources sector.” Addressing a press conference after his talks with Gen. Musharraf, Mr.Hu said in reply to a question on nuclear co-operation: "Cooperation in the energy sector is an important component in the relationship between the two countries. We reached a common understanding on strengthening energy cooperation. We would continue this cooperation in future as well." While Mr.Hu himself did not refer to any future supply of new nuclear power stations, some Pakistani analysts interpreted Mr. Hu's remarks as indicating a willingness to supply more nuclear power stations.

5.Well-informed Pakistani sources attributed the more guarded Chinese position to the bilateral discussions between President George Bush and Mr.Hu at Hanoi in the margins of the summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Organisation on November 18 and 19, 2006. The speculation was that during these bilateral discussions, Mr. Bush pointed out to Mr.Hu that the Chinese supply of new nuclear power stations to Pakistan could not be projected as a continuation of the Chinese assistance to Pakistan under a 1985 bilateral co-operation treaty under which CHASHMA I and CHASHMA II were given and hence would need the clearance of the NSG. According to this speculation, Mr. Bush was also reported to have referred to the Pakistani rejection of repeated requests from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to hand over Dr. A. Q. Khan for an independent interrogation and pointed out that the Chinese supply of the new power stations could encourage Pakistan's non-cooperation with the IAEA.

6. The Chinese attempt to project its proposal to supply two more power reactors to Pakistan as continuation of an old project of 1985 entered into by China with Pakiatan before the safeguards of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) imposing restrictions on the supply of civilian nuclear equipment and technology to countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and not a new project was rejected by the Bush Administration. The Chinese sought to compare their Chashma project with the Russian project for the supply of nuclear power stations to India being set up at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu. The Russians went ahead with the project on the ground that the agreement for its construction had been reached before the NSG restrictions went into effect.

7. Following the rejection of the Chinese arguments by the Bush Administration, the Chinese did not take any further action for going ahead with their proposal. During their visits to China, President Asif Ali Zardari and other Pakistani leaders kept pressing the Chinese to finalise the agreement and start its implementation. The Chinese were reluctant to do so.

8. In a surprise move, the Chinese have now announced that they are going ahead with the project. There have been two announcements in this regard. The first is by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), which set up Chashma I and is now constructing Chashma II. It has now announced that an agreement for the provision of a Chinese loan for two new nuclear reactors at the Chashma site designated as Chashma III and IV was signed with Pakistan on February 12 and that it went into effect in March,2010.

9. The second announcement is in the form of a confirmation by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The "Global Times" , the English daily of the Party-owned "People's Daily" group, reported as follows on April 30,2010: "Beijing confirmed Thursday (April 29) that Chinese and Pakistani officials have signed an agreement to finance the construction of two nuclear reactors, to be built in Pakistan by Chinese firms. Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said Thursday that the nuclear deal conforms to international standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)."

10. The paper quoted Shen Dingli, Executive Deputy President at the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, as saying as follows:"Beijing and Islamabad had started joint civilian nuclear projects before China joined the NSG in 2004, which means the mutual cooperation is legal. Washington can't find reasons to criticize Sino-Pakistani nuclear cooperation."

11.This is a reiteration of the original Chinese stand that Chashma III and IV are extensions of an agreement of 1985 signed before the NSG safeguards went into effect and hence not affected. This would also indicate that China does not consider it necessary to seek the approval of the NSG for going ahead with the construction of Chashma III and IV.

12. The surprise Chinese announcement has come at a time when Pakistan has stepped up pressure on the US for a US-Pakistan civilian nuclear co-operation agreement similar to the agreement signed with India in July 2005, followed by action to have the restrictions against Pakistan lifted. This issue was raised by Pakistan at the recent Ministerial-level strategic dialogue between the two countries at Washington DC. While the Obama Administration was reported to have rejected the Pakistani request, there were indications that it was treating the A.Q.Khan affair as a closed chapter and was sympathetic to Pakistan's energy needs. The US has already made a commitment to help Pakistan improve its conventional energy production capacity.

13. While rejecting the Pakistani request for a nuclear agreement once again----though not as firmly as was repeatedly done by the Bush Administration--- did the Obama Administration indicate to China that it would not raise an objection to China's going ahead with its proposal for the construction of Chashma III and IV by accepting the Chinese interpretation that it did not attract the NSG safeguards? If so --- I am inclined to believe it is--- this is the second instance in which the Obama Administration has enlisted the co-operation of China in strengthening Pakistan's capacity in various fields.

14.The " Los Angeles Times" reported on May 25,2009, that the Obama Administration had appealed to China to provide training and even military equipment to help Pakistan counter a growing militant threat and that Richard C Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, had visited Beijing in this connection for talks with the Chinese authorities. Following his visit, the Chinese Government announced an aid package of US $ 290 million to enable Pakistan strengthen its counter-terrorism capability.

15. Indications of the Obama Administration taking a benign view of China's military and nuclear co-operation with Pakistan ought to be taken seriously by Indian policy-makers. ( 30-4-10)

( 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: )

April 29, 2010

Sri Lanka's War: Time For Accountability

The end of Sri Lanka’s post-war electoral cycle makes it even more important for the world to stand for justice over the country’s human-rights abuses, says Meenakshi Ganguly for openDemocracy.

By Meenakshi Ganguly for

Sri Lanka’s authorities have failed seriously to investigate the allegations of abuses committed during the first months of 2009 - the endgame of the twenty-six-year internal armed conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). An approach based on semi-private polite persuasion, often referred to as the “Asian way of diplomacy”, has been unable to convince President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Colombo government to respond to widespread international concern. What now needs to be done?

The Sri Lankan military’s final defeat of the Tamil Tigers in early 2009 was messy and bloody. The insurgents who had long fought for a separate Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka had already been condemned both by the international community and human-rights organisations for widespread abuses. Now, in this last period of the war, Human Rights Watch research found that both the military and the LTTE had violated international humanitarian law, including abuses amounting to war crimes (see “Sri Lanka’s hollow victory”, 20 August 2009).

The history of efforts to ensure accountability for such violations is not promising. For example, a Sri Lankan presidential commission of inquiry was established in 2006 to investigate sixteen important human-rights cases that implicated both sides); this was supplemented by an oversight body - an “International Independent Group of Eminent Persons”, headed by India’s former chief justice PN Bhagwati and including the leading Japanese professor Yozo Yokota. But the eminent-persons group quit in disappointment in March 2008, after the presidential commission was subjected to government interference; the commission failed to finish its job, and President Rajapaksa has never made public even its limited findings.

The pattern has continued in 2009-10. Soon after the war ended, Mahinda Rajapaksa signed a joint communiqué with United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. This expressed Sri Lanka’s “strongest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, in keeping with international human rights standards and Sri Lanka’s international obligations”, and promised that “the government will take measures” to address allegations related to violations of international humanitarian and human-rights law.” Between the lines, it was clear that the Sri Lankan government wants the international community to trust it to address accountability issues without external intervention.

The bonds of law

The Sri Lankan president declared victory in the long war on 19 May 2009. Almost a year on, Colombo has done nothing to fulfil its promises, and there has still been no accountability for the actions undertaken in the war’s prolonged and destructive climax (see Luther Uthayakumaran, “Sri Lanka: after war, justice”, 21 May 2009). As a result, Ban Ki-moon announced on 5 March 2010 that the secretary-general had decided to establish a panel of experts to advise President Rajapaksa on accountability in Sri Lanka.

The Rajapaksa administration reacted with characteristic venom. Since the end of the long war, it had repeatedly insisted that - against overwhelming evidence to the contrary - there had been no violations by the armed forces. In the same spirit, it described the proposed panel as “intrusive” and “unwarranted”. Sri Lanka’s foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama even warned that it “has the potential to dent or sour the excellent partnership” with the United Nations.

Sri Lanka also convinced a few of its allies to intervene on its behalf. The non-aligned movement’s ambassador and permanent representative to the UN in New York, Maged A Abdelaziz, sent a letter to Ban Ki-moon in March 2010 warning that he “strongly condemns selective targeting of individual countries, which it deems contrary to the founding principles of the movement and the United Nations charter.”

Such criticism is wholly unjustified. Ban’s initiative can in no way be considered interference in Sri Lanka’s domestic affairs. The panel’s mandate will be limited to advising Ban on next steps to facilitate accountability in Sri Lanka. As the secretary-general has said, it is well within his power to “ask such a body to furnish me with their advice.”

Furthermore, Sri Lanka is bound by international humanitarian law, according to which states are obligated to investigate allegations of war crimes committed by their citizens or on their territory and ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted. The Geneva conventions make clear that justice for war crimes is not solely a matter of a country’s “internal affairs”.

Asian way, western way, human way

In this situation, India and Japan - two Asian countries that can in principle influence Colombo - should support a United Nations initiative to examine options for accountability in Sri Lanka.

India has considerable influence with the Sri Lankan government. It has provided humanitarian relief and assistance for those displaced by the war, including the hundreds of thousands of people interned in military camps for months before their recent release. An Indian field-hospital provided emergency care to over 50,000 people harmed during the fighting or otherwise in need of medical assistance. India is also providing de-mining assistance, and has provided equipment to repair and rebuild homes.

Japan’s voice too carries influence. Its foreign minister Katsuya Okada said on 29 January 2010 that he “strongly expects [that] Sri Lanka will steadily and swiftly carry forward political processes for national reconciliation” and pledged to “support efforts by the government of Sri Lanka.” Japan has since provided Y36,664 million (around $390m) to Sri Lanka under its official development assistance (ODA) loan scheme to finance infrastructure projects, including building roads and water-supply facilities.

However, these large-scale building projects can contribute to long-term national reconciliation only if accompanied by a process of ensuring accountability for abuses that have inflicted deaths on thousands of civilians. For a long time, India and Japan have tried to engage with Sri Lanka, rightly pushing for reconciliation between its ethnic communities, government reform and the return home of those displaced by the armed conflict (see "Sri Lanka's displaced: the political vice", 8 April 2009). That process will be severely hampered if there is no accountability and the minority Tamils believe they are being treated as second-class citizens and a defeated population.

Both New Delhi and Tokyo often contend that their efforts at polite persuasion are more effective than the public condemnation they describe as the “western way”. There is a time and place for private diplomacy, but for years now the Sri Lankan government has ignored such behind-the-scenes advice. In any case, private diplomacy should never become an excuse for inaction in the face of grave human-rights violations. Ban Ki-moon’s panel of experts, although modest, could yet prove to be an important step toward accountability for wartime abuses in Sri Lanka. India and Japan should publicly and wholeheartedly support his initiative.

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