September 02, 2017

“CPEC is not a game-changer, it’s game over”

Shahzada Irfan AhmedSeptember 2, 2017

Interview: Kaiser Bengali

Kaiser Bengali is a senior economist who has served as advisor to the chief minister Balochistan as well as consultant/national coordinator for Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), Government of Pakistan. Besides, he has headed research institutions including Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC), Karachi, and Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad. He has done his Masters in Economics from Boston University, USA, and has a PhD from Karachi University. He has vast experience in the fields of teaching, research, publications and finance.

Here he talks to The News on Sunday (TNS) about the country’s economic policies, the priorities of those managing the economy, the economic challenges faced at local and international levels, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and its relationship with Gwadar, development of the social sector, our falling exports and foreign reserves and other related topics. Excerpts of the interview follow:

The News on Sunday (TNS): The sitting government regularly boasts of robust growth figures. Are these real?

Kaiser Bengali (KB): I would simply say Ishaq Dar, who had been heading the team, follows a revenue-based approach to show growth and his focus is on increasing taxes. The result of this is that those already in the tax net get further burdened. The World Bank is also pressuring the government to increase revenue collection. We can call it a neo-liberal economy. The policies are nothing but patchwork and are quite similar to those pursued by Shaukat Aziz.

Shaukat Aziz would probably claim Pakistan was becoming a services-oriented economy. But my point is that for a country of 200 million, it is not a good choice to have two-thirds of it unskilled. This country needs jobs for which the manufacturing sector will have to be strengthened. Even Donald Trump is talking about reviving manufacturing and creating jobs this way.

The growth figures shared with us do not have any credibility as there is no reliable data to back them. In fact, the calculations are based mainly on the revenue collected and not on other important indicators that should have been considered.

As I said earlier, the World Bank is a party to all this so it does not question the credibility of these figures. Here I would quote the example of the livestock survey presented by the government which is completely flawed and based on estimates. Much after the results were revealed, we found that no proper ground work was conducted to reach the conclusions they were claiming.

The government just paints a flowery picture: so while sharing the attractive growth figures, they do not share that the manufacturing and agricultural sectors are nosediving. The growth of manufacturing should be around eight per cent but in Pakistan it is just four-and-a-half per cent per annum. Similarly, the growth of agriculture sector has hovered around one per cent per annum on average and there have been times when it has experienced negative growth as well. The government must explain why this is happening; especially why a purely agriculturally country cannot even feed its agro-based industry properly. It is common knowledge that the cotton crop has suffered in the past couple of years. The growth of the manufacturing sector is vital as it helps reduce unemployment but unfortunately it is not a priority here.

“I think our economy can best be described as a casino economy. This means that we are investing in real estate, stocks etc. in anticipation of high returns within a small span of time; there are no long-term goals in sight. Manufacturing is constantly on the decline so the domestic demand is fulfilled by importing products from abroad.”

TNS: In the current scenario, what do you think are the driving forces of our economy?

KB: I think our economy can best be described as a casino economy. This means that we are investing in real estate, stocks etc. in anticipation of high returns within a small span of time; there are no long-term goals in sight. Manufacturing is constantly on the decline so the domestic demand is fulfilled by importing products from abroad. Even in this process, easy and quick money is made by importers by under-invoicing and evading duties in collusion with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) officials.

There is hardly any realisation about how dangerous this practice can be for the country’s economy and its manufacturing sector. It’s pitiful that while importers are being facilitated, manufacturers are getting crushed. The cost of doing business is too high and it’s a fact that they have to pay different taxes whose value adds up to around 51 per cent.

Even worse is the government’s habit of seeking expensive loans and raising funds through floating financial products such as Euro Bonds and Sukuk Bonds in the international market. The promised rate of return is too high when compared to similar products launched by other countries. After launching such products, the government claims success, stating these have been oversubscribed in the international market. It’s a matter of common sense to understand that buyers rush for products that offer an exorbitant rate of return. The real test of the government will be when these mature and it has to pay dividends to the buyers.

TNS: The PML-N government promised an end to the power crisis. How successful have they been?

KB: Yes, it’s true that they capitalised on this promise and got political mileage out of it. They are pursuing several projects but my point is that the basic issues persist and are yet to be resolved. For example, the circular debt is once again out of control and close to Rs800 billion.

When the incumbent government came into power, it printed currency notes to pay off the circular debt. This solved nothing. You see the problem is still there and it will remain there till the structural issues of the power sector are resolved. It is not possible to produce expensive electricity and sell it for less than its cost, and at the same time offer preferential tariffs to certain sectors. Power theft and line losses further add to the burden.

The Chinese companies play smart and get excellent returns on their investments. It has proven difficult to extract much from them. China has a 10-year control of the SaindakCopper and Gold Project and gets gold as a by-product of the mining.

TNS: A lot of hopes are pinned on CPEC. Do you think it can really be the game-changer?

KB: I do not think Pakistan will gain a lot from the CPEC initiative which is still shrouded in mystery. There are no details available and the government is not ready to answer any questions. Instead of a game-changer; CPEC may signify a game over. I see the Corridor creating threats for local businesses and fear that it won’t be a win-win situation for both countries.

For example, since Chinese companies are tax-exempt they will bring everything from China and hence they will have no reliance on Pakistani businesses to fulfil their demands. This has shattered the dreams of many local companies that planned to expand their production facilities in anticipation of receiving orders from these Chinese companies. The association of cable operators in Pakistan is one such entity that was expecting a big boost in its sale volumes, but now they are struggling to sustain their existing sale figures.

The Chinese companies play smart and get excellent returns on their investments. It has proven difficult to extract much from them. China has a 10-year control of the Saindak Copper and Gold Project and gets gold as a by-product of the mining. Also, China does not share how much ore it is taking from Pakistan or how much copper it is extracting or what is the quality of gold obtained as a by-product. And nobody can ask them these questions.

They will definitely watch their interest this time also, so it becomes the duty of the government to secure the country’s interests. I raised this issue and presented 12 questions on CPEC to the government but it has not provided any answer except one “yes” to the question about whether any feasibility has been conducted on CPEC. However, they have no documents or figures to support this claim. Furthermore, there is no document on how the toll money, if at all, will be shared between the provinces through which the CPEC routes passes.

And one more thing; people believe all the money is coming from China. This is not so. Pakistan is spending a lot from of its own resources without calculating what it stands to gain or lose. All the CPEC roads are being built by Pakistan. Besides, the cost of providing security to the CPEC-related Chinese workforce and infrastructure falls on us. There are reports that NEPRA has allowed transferring this security cost to the citizens of Pakistan. This will be done by adding it to our electricity bills just like the PTV license fee that they have to pay.

Those celebrating it must know that the above USD 50 billion loans and Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) will ultimately impact the country when there will be an outflow of loan payments and profit remittances to Chinese companies. This will put immense pressure on foreign reserves which are already dwindling. Unfortunately, Pakistan has done no planning on how funds and revenues will be generated for these payments.

Another fear is that the trade imbalance with China will further widen. The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Pakistan and China has already resulted in trade imbalances with Pakistani exports being far less than its imports from China. This is about formal trade; the flooding of Pakistani markets with Chinese products is in addition to it. You will be surprised to know that many Pakistani manufacturers have stopped production at their units. Instead, they import products from China and supply them to the market in Pakistani packaging. Buyers think the product is manufactured in Pakistan which is not the case.

The environmental cost of CPEC will also be big. One reason is that no EIAs have been done to offset this. Several coal-powered projects based on imported raw material have been launched. This dependence on imported fuel will increase pressure on rupee. The effective rate of US dollar is already Rs120 but it has been kept between Rs104 and Rs106 artificially. Just imagine what will be the situation when Pakistan will have to honour the payback commitments.

TNS: How much does Pakistan stand to gain from the development of Gwadar?

KB: I have said it earlier and will say it again that Gwadar cannot become Dubai. It is a seaport built for the purpose of re-exporting Chinese products brought into Pakistan via a land route. I think it is not possible to establish industrial zones and a mega city in Gwadar because there is no water available to support this development.

The environmental cost of CPEC will also be big. One reason is that no EIAs have been done to offset this. Several coal-powered projects based on imported raw material have been launched. This dependence on imported fuel will increase pressure on rupee.

If we recall, Gwadar came into the spotlight after the Kargil war because a need was felt to have a port for naval purposes. India tried to blockade the port at Karachi and sent ships but this plan failed. As the sea is rough in the summer, the crew got sea-sick and returned. The Karachi-Gwadar Road (Coastal Highway) was also constructed during that time, mainly for defence reasons. Till then it had been completely neglected and its economic potential had not come under discussion. I am not against building infrastructure for security reasons; my point is that we must acknowledge it was for defence reasons and not to exploit its economic potential.

Can one believe it is for the first time that Gwadar and Quetta have been connected via a direct road?

The issue is that one tanker of drinking water brought from as far as Mirani Dam (150 kilometres away from Gwadar) costs around Rs25,000. You will be amazed to hear that water theft from houses in Gwadar is quite common. What happens is that thieves enter houses and walk away with household containers carrying drinking water. They won’t steal motorcycles or other belongings, it’s water that they want.

The government does talk about the option of setting up a desalination plant but I do not think it is workable because of its huge fixed and operational costs. It is estimated that it will cost Rs750 million a year to run such a plant. China is apparently not ready to give funds, so Pakistan will have to cover the cost. I do not think Pakistan will be able to take this responsibility because its share of revenues from Gwadar Port is only 9 per cent while China has 91 per cent of the share.

TNS: The government talks of increasing the tax net but this has not happened. Why?

KB: I think this is because the moral legitimacy to demand taxes has been lost and the reason for this is that people do not recieve anything in return. In developed countries with a high tax-to-GDP ratio, people are motivated to pay taxes because they get services and privileges in return. They believe they are paying taxes that are ultimately being spent on their welfare and well-being, but in Pakistan there is a strong mistrust among citizens and the state. In Canada, the tax rates are high but people pay happily because facilities like education and health are free and of high quality.

In Pakistan this is not the case. Take the example of Sindh Industrial and Trading Estate (SITE) and the Korangi industrial area in Karachi. The owners of industrial units set up here pay billions of rupees in tax but the government cannot even provide proper roads to them. They have to pay bribes to have their petty issues resolved and are harassed by the state machinery.

The government is only interested in having a good budget to show and for this it plays with figures and deviates and digresses from original plans. It is quite common to find block budgetary allocations made for certain sectors without going into specific details. Besides, as I mentioned earlier, it takes further loans to pay off earlier loans and build up foreign reserves —- although this helps paint a pretty picture, it has severe repercussions in the long run. Similarly, the government of Pakistan received USD1.5 billion to maintain its reserves. This is just like borrowing money from someone to show a healthy bank statement at the time of applying for a visa and later on returning it to the lender.

Without a doubt, well-planned, comprehensive and sustainable policies with long-term objectives are the need of the time. We will have to do away with patch-work and short-lived quick fixes

Birth of Girl Child celebrated by planting trees

How India Should deal with Trump

India should formulate a totally pragmatic approach for dealing with Trump. This would be different than the typical ideological approaches Indians have tended to use in international affairs. In other words, do not pigeon hole Trump into Left/Right categories. Understand his top priorities as president, and make concrete deals that are free of lofty ideologies.

India’s most important diplomatic offensive should be on Baluchistan. Convince Trump that a game changer would be to free Baluchistan from Pakistan by supporting the Baluchi freedom movement. This will involve US military intervention. And it will change the map of the region forever. Afghanistan will get access to the sea via Baluchistan, and the US will no longer have to suck up to Pakistan for supplying its troops. Afghans will love this freedom from the Pakis. So will the other Central Asian “stan” countries that are presently landlocked. A potential new sea access for Russia will also be a negotiating card to deal with Putin. Pakistan will lose its geostrategic positioning, a card it has played very skillfully for too long.

For its part, India should offer military help in Afghanistan, but only if USA guarantee’s an independent Baluchistan. This will be a win-win deal of a kind that is right up Trump’s alley. Russia may decide to join. A clandestine or indirect role for Israel should also be discussed. As a side benefit, this might also open a new door in negotiating with Iran, given its strategic interests concerning Baluchistan.

Senior Indian military officials should lead strategic discussions with Trump. India should avoid sending the standard team of Indian diplomats because Americans appreciate clear-cut, no-nonsense dealmakers rather than woolly-headed poets or ideologues. This pragmatism will be even more applicable in dealing with Trump. India should also consider appointing some ex-military person as its ambassador to the USA. This US relationship should be a top priority for Ajit Doval.

The most important diplomatic defensive deal would be to convince Trump to end US governmental support for Christian evangelism in India. He was heavily backed by the evangelicals, and they are experienced in extracting foreign policy assistance from the US government. Trump needs to be convinced that a strong India is good for US interests. Weakening India by encouraging the breaking India forces would eventually play into the hands of Islam and China. In the long run, a fragmented India would not become a Christian country, but rather a battleground for the return of Mughalstan. It would be a worse nightmare for the USA than the entire Middle East is. My book, Breaking India, gives a detailed argument in its first and last chapters. This should become required reading for Indian officials involved in this discussion.

The above two-pronged strategy (offence and defence) combines carrots and sticks. India must present itself with a strong posture. It must not become available as an ally in desperate need to get saved.

Issues like H1B visa are important, no doubt. But corporate India and corporate America are already closely aligned on this. Trump will listen to corporate America. That is a good channel to use. The Indian government should lend support, but not dilute its attention from the two top priority opportunities mentioned above.

It is important that NRIs based in the USA should not leverage this event to get government appointments for friends and family. Unfortunately, that is what happened when Obama won – his Indian supporters instantly morphed into personal lobbyists for posts and prestige. They forgot their dharmic responsibility for India. There must be vigilance against this.

After a brief period of chaos on Wall Street, things will recover and stabilise. A more robust economic foundation will emerge in the USA. Trump does have a streak of anarchy like Arvind Kejriwal – the anti-establishment rhetoric. But the United States has a far more mature and robust network of institutions. This sense of chaos and lack of stability will be temporary.

This is also a watershed event in the global collapse of pseudo-liberalism. I use this term to mean liberalism that has become a mask of hypocrisy. Why is a soft stance on Islam considered a requirement for liberalism? Why are elitist individuals and groups having so much power in the guise of liberalism? Despite all its talk of human rights and other liberal agendas, the global movement has caused conflicts, uprooted traditions and promoted pseudo-secularism.

Brexit and now the Trump presidency will compel nations to re-negotiate the relationship between global and local. Trump will also experiment and evolve a new kind of conservatism in his way. The Republican Party must reinvent itself. The prevailing genre of conservative thinking was formulated by the brilliant William Buckley, Jr. I don’t agree with many of his thoughts, but I appreciate the huge imprint he made on the American conservative movement. The Trump era will generate similar fresh thinking just as Reagan inspired a new generation of conservatives for his time. The West’s conservative movement has gone through so many new developments since the second world war: from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan to Margaret Thatcher to William Buckley, and many others along the way. And now the temporary collapse of the myth of American Exceptionalism has become the crucible for developing a new national myth using conservative principles.

However, I am concerned about India’s intellectual crisis and the present state of conservatism in India. The old dynasty politics and the old pseudo-secular intellectualism are marginalised. But disruption is only half the story. We also need construction of new ideas. Where are the new and vibrant thinkers of the calibre of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay? I am disappointed that Hindu intellectuals tend to idolise the 50-year old works of previous giants, but lack the institutional mechanisms to help us compete in the global intellectual Kurukshetra. The best way to respect our previous great thinkers is to continue their level of creativity and audacity.

August 30, 2017

తెలంగాణ విమోచన ఉత్సవాలు ఎందుకు జరపరు?

సెప్టెంబర్‌ 17, 1948.

చరిత్ర తెలియని వారికి ఈ తేదీ ప్రాధాన్యం పెద్దగా తెలియకపోవచ్చు, కానీ చరిత్ర తెలిసిన వారి మనసు భావోద్వేగంతో నిండిపోతుంది. ఆనాటి స్వాతంత్య్ర సమరం, పోరాట యోధులు, త్యాగధనులను తలచుకొని వారికి నివాళులర్పిస్తారు.

అదే సమయంలో కొందరు ఈ తేదీ గురించి చెపితే ఉలిక్కిపడతారు. ఆత్మవంచన చేసుకుంటారు. ఈ తేదీకి ప్రాధాన్యం ఇవ్వాల్సిన అవసరం లేదని, మొండిగా వాదించే ప్రయత్నం చేస్తారు.
68 ఏళ్ల క్రితం అంటే సరిగ్గా ఇదే రోజున భారతదేశం నడిబొడ్డున ఒక సర్జరీ జరిగింది. క్యాన్సర్‌ లాంటి కణితిగడ్డ తొలగిపోయింది.. 1948 సెప్టెంబర్‌ 17 నాడు విజాతీయ, ఫ్యూడల్‌ భావాలు గల హైదరాబాద్‌ సంస్థానం కాలగర్భంలో కలిసింది. ఇక్కడి ప్రజలు స్వేచ్ఛాస్వాతంత్య్రాలు పొందారు. ఇది వాస్తవం.

తెలంగాణ విమోచన ఉత్సవాలు ఎందుకు జరపరు?

భారత స్వాతంత్య్రోద్యమ చరిత్రలో 1947 ఆగస్టు 15కు ఎంత ప్రాధాన్యం ఉందో, తెలంగాణ విమోచనం జరిగిన 1948 సెప్టెంబర్‌ 17కూ అంతే ప్రాముఖ్యం ఉంది. ఈ రెండూ స్వాతంత్య్ర దినోత్స వాలే. దురదష్టవశాత్తు తెలంగాణ ప్రజలు ఏడు దశాబ్దాలుగా తెలంగాణ స్వాతంత్య్రదిన ఉత్సవాలకు నోచుకోలేక పోతున్నారు.
1956 నవంబర్‌ 1వ తేదీన ఆంధ్రప్రదేశ్‌ ఏర్పడింది. నిజాం నుండి విమోచన లభించిన హైదరాబాద్‌ సంస్థానంలోని తెలంగాణను ఆంధ్ర ప్రదేశ్‌ రాష్ట్రంలోనూ, మరాఠ్వాడాను బొంబే స్టేట్‌ (మహారాష్ట్ర) లోనూ, కర్ణాటక ప్రాంతాన్ని మైసూర్‌ స్టేట్‌లోనూ విలీనం చేశారు.
ప్రతి ఏటా 17 సెప్టెంబర్‌ నాడు మహారాష్ట్ర, కర్ణాటకల్లోని పాత హైదరాబాద్‌ భూభాగాల్లో విమోచన వేడుకలను ఆయా రాష్ట్ర ప్రభుత్వాలు అధికారికంగా ఘనంగా నిర్వహిస్తున్నాయి. కానీ పాత హైదరాబాద్‌ సంస్థానంలోని ప్రధాన భాగమైన తెలంగాణ మాత్రం ఈ అదష్టానికి దూరంగా ఉండిపోయింది.

సమైక్య ఆంధ్రప్రదేశ్‌ ఏనాడూ హైదరాబాద్‌ విమోచన వేడుకలను నిర్వహించిన పాపాన పోలేదు. కొత్తగా ఏర్పడిన తెలంగాణ రాష్ట్ర ప్రభుత్వం కూడా అదే మార్గంలో కొనసాగుతోంది. ప్రత్యేక తెలంగాణ రాష్ట్ర ఉద్యమ కాలంలో కె.చంద్రశేఖరరావు విమోచన ఉత్సవాలను ఎందుకు నిర్వహించడం లేదంటూ నాటి ఆంధ్రప్రదేశ్‌ పాలకులను తప్పు పట్టారు. తెలంగాణ వచ్చాక అధికారికంగా నిర్వహిస్తామని ప్రకటించారు. కానీ తెలంగాణ ఏర్పడి, స్వయానా కె.చంద్రశేఖర రావు ముఖ్యమంత్రి అయ్యారు, కానీ ఇచ్చిన హామీని నిలుపుకోవడానికి జంకుతున్నారు. అందుకు కారణం సుస్పష్టం.

ఆనాటి రజాకార్ల పార్టీ మజ్లిస్‌తో కె.చంద్రశేఖర రావు పార్టీ టిఆర్‌ఎస్‌ స్నేహ బంధం మొదలు పెట్టింది. హైదరాబాద్‌ విమోచన ఉత్సవాలు నిర్వహిస్తే వారు నొచ్చుకుంటారని టిఆర్‌ఎస్‌ భయం.
అసలు తెలంగాణ విమోచన వేడుకలకు మతం రంగు పులమాల్సిన అవసరం ఏముంది? ఈ వేడుకలు ముస్లింలకు వ్యతిరేకం అని ఎవరన్నారు?
హైదరాబాద్‌ విమోచన ఉద్యమం ముస్లింలకు వ్యతిరేకం అనే అపోహలను కల్పించిన పాపం కేవలం ఓట్ల రాజకీయాలకు పాల్పడే కొందరు రాజకీయ నాయకులది మాత్రమే. ముస్లింలు కూడా నిజాం అరాచక పాలనకు వ్యతిరేకంగా పోరాడిన విషయాన్ని వారు మరచిపోతున్నారు.
నిజాం, రజాకార్ల దాష్టీకాలు, దమన నీతిని తన ‘రయ్యత్‌’, ‘ఇమ్రోజ్‌’ పత్రికల ద్వారా ఎండగట్టిన ముస్లిం పాత్రికేయుడు షోయబుల్లా ఖాన్‌. అందుకు అతను అత్యంత దారుణంగా హత్యకు గురయ్యాడు. కమ్యూనిస్టు నాయకుడు మగ్దుం మొహియుద్దీన్‌, దొరల అరాచకాలపై ధిక్కార స్వరం వినిపించిన షేక్‌ బందగీ తదితరులు ముస్లింలు కాదా?

హైదరాబాద్‌ విమోచన వేడుకలను అధికారి కంగా నిర్వహించకుండా తెలంగాణ ప్రభుత్వం ఎందుకు మొండి పట్టుదలకు పోతున్నట్లు? హైదరా బాద్‌ స్వాతంత్య్రాన్ని, ఆనాటి పోరాట యోధులను, త్యాగధనులను తలచుకునే అపూర్వ ఘడియల గురించి భావి తరాలు తెలుసుకోకుండా అడ్డంకులను ఎందుకు కల్పిస్తున్నట్లు?
ఇప్పటికైనా తెలంగాణ ప్రభుత్వం తమ సంకుచిత విధానాలు, మొండివైఖరిని పక్కనపెట్టాలి. తెలంగాణ విమోచన దినోత్సవ వేడుకలను అధికారికంగా, రాజకీయాలకతీతంగా ఘనంగా నిర్వహించాలి.

August 29, 2017

Pakistan Army becomes largest beneficiary of drug business in Balochistan

August 29, 2017


Pakistan Army has become the largest party to benefit from drug trafficking business in Balochistan, Abid Zamurani The Balochistan Post’s correspondent, reports from Panjgur.

Makuran region of Balochistan has recently become one of the main international drug trafficking routes in the region. Drugs are trafficked through this route to various parts of the world in large quantities. Along with smugglers the Pakistan Army has also played a major role to make this happen. Other than giving impunity to drug dealers like Imam Bheel, senior officers of Pakistan Army have also made riches out of the drug business. These officers have become millionaires by reselling the drugs caught in “anti-narcotics” raids.

According to details obtained by The Balochistan Post’s Panjgur correspondent, Pakistan Army, under supervision of FC Commandant Panjgur, has formed at least ten different groups in Panjgur to loot and resale drugs. Each of these groups work under command of a Major rank officer of Pakistan Army.

According to an estimate, the drugs looted by these groups on monthly basis only from Panjgur, Parom and adjoining areas are worth 800 million to 1 billion Pakistani rupees. A big portion of this money goes in the pockets of senior Pakistan Army officers.

Recently, After becoming extremely rich because of the drug business, at least three Major rank officers of Pakistan Army have applied for earlier retirement.

According to details, a government official told our correspondent that at least three Major rank officers have given applications for earlier retirement. These officers claim they cannot perform their duties due to ill-health. Upon retirement these officers get at least 4 million whereas they have been earning nearly 5 million each on monthly basis due to the drug business.

These officers do not want to further risk their lives, therefore, they are trying to find ways to escape the volatile situation of Balochistan. However, the replacing officers will also follow the same path.

The local death squads are the main partners of Pakistan Army officers in this business. These death squads, initially formed to counter Baloch struggle, have been involved in killing and abduction of several activists.

However, this has not been a smooth ride. Recently, due to disagreement on distribution of drug money, a notorious criminal and head of a local death squad, Khuda Rahm alias Bijoo, was arrested by Pakistan Army. According to reports, he had given all the funds obtained through drug trafficking to intelligence agency ISI. This had displeased Military Intelligence and Frontier Corps (FC) officers, who had then used their authority to arrest Khuda Rahm alias Bijoo.

There has been sharp increase in drug use in Makuran recently and locals believe this is mainly due to impetus provided to the business by Pakistan Army

Long Ignored: The Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons Against Insurgents

28 Aug 2017

By Glenn Cross for War on the Rocks

Glenn Cross contends that a prevailing assumption has held that chemical and biological weapons will not be used because of their ineffectiveness as well as international norms and agreements. However, in this article, Cross uses the examples of Rhodesia in the 1970s and Syria today to highlight 1) that chemical and biological agents can possess significant utility in modern counterinsurgency campaigns; and 2) that in extremis, certain regimes can have little compunction about resorting to such weapons.

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 15 August 2017.

A conventional shibboleth is that chemical and biological agents have no place in modern conflicts. In this view, chemical and biological agents are not useful because they are inhumane, uncontrollable, ineffective, or obsolete in the face of modern conventional weapons. These arguments were put forth when the U.S. decided to ban biological weapons, and later applied to chemical weapons. However, a review of chemical and biological weapons use since the end of World War I puts the lie to many of these claims. Chemical and biological agents possess significant utility in modern counterinsurgency campaigns, as Rhodesia and Syria have demonstrated. (One disclaimer is apropos at this point: This argument does not justify or condone the use of chemical or biological agents in any form or at any time unless legally sanctioned by the relevant international agreements.)

Throughout history, chemical and biological agents have demonstrated effectiveness against ill-equipped, ill-prepared, or poorly trained adversaries, especially insurgents. Examples of the use of these weapons against insurgents include Spain (Rif war, 1921-1927), Italy (1935-1936), Egypt (1963-1967), Rhodesia (mid-late 1970s), South Africa (1980s), Libya (1987), Iraq (1988), and Syria (2013-ongoing). And while the Spanish, Italian, Egyptian and Libyan uses are examples of the use of chemical weapons in inter-state conflict, most of the cases involve colonial governments using the weapons against native insurrections. The Rhodesian example illustrates a regime’s largely internal use of chemical and biological agents against insurgents. These are clear parallels between this example and Syria’s well-publicized use of chlorine and sarin against civilians, which has been ongoing since 2013.

As Chris Quillen points out, Arab nations used chemical weapons after conventional forces proved ineffective in the wake of prolonged conflict that strained economies, weakened international standing, and threatened vital assets. Quillen argues that chemical agents were used as a weapon of last resort and that therefore, these cases demonstrate the strength of the norms and taboos prohibiting the use of these weapons.

But a counterargument is that international norms are weakened with each consecutive use and the absence of an effective response. Richard Russell asserted in a 2005 article that “Nation-states are likely to learn from Saddam [Hussein] that chemical weapons are useful for waging war against nation-states ill-prepared to fight on a chemical battlefield as well as against internal insurgents and rebellious civilians.”

The conclusion from these examples is that regimes in extremis — when the battle is for their very survival — seem to have little compunction about resorting to chemical and biological weapons use. The much-heralded international norms and conventions prohibiting and condemning chemical and biological development and use go out the window when a regime’s survival is at stake. In academic and policy circles, the norms against chemical and biological development and use seem almost sacrosanct, inviolable. The Rhodesian case dispels the myth and offers a more nuanced understanding of the role the norms play and the circumstances in which those norms are abandoned. When regimes are fighting for survival and perceive that chemical or biological agents can help defeat an insurgency, the use of these weapons becomes more attractive despite the existence of norms. The examples of Rhodesia and Syria show that the international community must be united and demonstrate the requisite political will to enforce norms if the use of chemical and biological weapons is to be prevented.

The Rhodesian Case Study

The Rhodesian example is likely the only example of biological weapons use by a nation since the end of World War II. The case allows us to examine the rationale behind a decision not only to develop, but also to use, biological weapons agents. Rhodesia also sheds light on other post-World War II chemical weapons cases, such as Iraq’s, particularly against its Kurdish population, and Syria’s, against insurgents in its civil war.

The lesson of Rhodesia and Syria is that regimes are much more likely to use these unconventional agents against internal opposition (i.e., insurgents and rebellious populations) than against foreign state adversaries. The Rhodesian case demonstrates how a small, internationally isolated regime can develop effective chemical and biological agents undetected and use those agents with lethal effect against both internal and external guerrilla threats.

Rhodesia covertly established a rudimentary, small-scale chemical and biological program using readily available materials, equipment, and techniques. Starting in 1965, Rhodesia faced international sanctions and a blockade of supplies entering the country through Mozambique’s port of Beira. Salisbury depended on Portugal (until the 1974 coup) and South Africa for foreign support (which became increasingly sporadic after 1975). The loss of Portuguese support and the unpredictability of South African assistance led Rhodesia to turn to chemical and biological weapons as self-help.

Rhodesian decision-makers adopted an unconventional response to the growing imbalance that favored the far more numerous insurgents. After the collapse of Portuguese colonial power in Mozambique — along with the dramatic increase in guerrilla recruitments and the escalating violence — people within the security structure realized the counterinsurgency could not be won solely through the conventional military.

With scant material resources, the project employed relative novices in basic facilities to produce significant amounts of lethal material in a short period of time. The Rhodesian effort also shows that states, groups, or individuals lacking funds or sophisticated equipment can easily use toxic agricultural and industrial chemicals as chemical weapons agents. By minimizing reliance on foreign suppliers and limiting personnel to a small, tightly knit group, nations and non-state actors can reduce the likelihood of discovery by foreign intelligence services.

If the Rhodesian sources are credible, their chemical and biological effort at times inflicted more guerrilla casualties than the conventional military operations did. This comparative success was largely due to guerrilla hit-and-run tactics that emphasized avoiding contact with Rhodesian forces in favor of attacking softer civilian targets. In other words, where the Rhodesian military struggled to locate and engage an elusive foe, the chemical and biological effort sought to kill the guerrillas in their camps and bases, and among their village supporters. These attributes made chemical and biological warfare well-suited to counterinsurgency when the regime’s aim was survival.

The lessons of the Rhodesian chemical and biological program and its legacy are more relevant today than is commonly realized. Outside the international system — and already under crushing sanctions — Rhodesia had very little to lose in adopting chemical and biological agents. International opprobrium would have had little effect on Rhodesian decision-making. Second, little global attention was focused on events inside Rhodesia. What little attention Rhodesia did get myopically monitored Soviet and Chinese support for the insurgent parties, who were widely seen as Marxist proxies. The covert nature of the Rhodesian program compounded the lack of attention. Western diplomatic, intelligence, and journalistic channels did not report the Rhodesian production and use of chemical and biological agents, despite ineffective insurgent efforts to raise awareness of the issue.

International norms against chemical and biological weapons had no impact on Rhodesia’s decision to use these agents. Although the regime was aware of treaty obligations, no evidence exists to suggest that Rhodesian authorities even debated the reaction of the international community when they established their chemical and biological weapons effort. As a footnote, the British government deposited a reservation to the Biological Weapons and Toxins Convention in March 1975 stating that the U.K. could not be held liable for any breach of the convention that might occur in Rhodesia while the colony remained beyond British control. The Soviet Union promptly protested the British reservation. Clearly, authorities in London wanted to avoid blame for any Rhodesian violations of the Biological Weapons and Toxins Convention, while Moscow sought to hold the U.K. culpable for acts by the rebellious Rhodesians. In either case, the outlaw Rhodesians actually involved in biological weapons use were beyond the pale of international obligation. The Rhodesians believed using these agents against the counterinsurgency was necessary to preserve their regime and way of life regardless of international law.

The Syrian Example

Like the Iraqi chemical weapons program, Syria’s interest in chemical weapons began after the Egyptian use in Yemen in the 1960s. However, Damascus did not adopt a full-fledged chemical weapons program until its military inferiority was unmasked by the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The sense of inferiority — and the perceived unwillingness of Arab neighbors to rise to Syria’s aid — resulted in Damascus’ adoption of chemical weapons by the mid-1980s. Chemical weapons were the most expedient means of protecting the Assad regime from catastrophic defeat at Israeli hands. Similarly, the Rhodesian chemical and biological effort began out of an increasing awareness of the deteriorating security situation in the face of international isolation.

Even though Damascus’s interest in chemical weapons first arose in an international/regional context focused on deterring Israel, the utility of the weapons for the Syrian regime has been, like Rhodesia, in countering its internal insurgency. The Syrian attack on Khan Sheikhoun demonstrates the utility of chemical weapons in the counterinsurgency. According to the declassified assessment by the U.S. intelligence community, released on April 11, 2017:

The Syrian regime maintains the capability and intent to use chemical weapons against the opposition to prevent the loss of territory deemed critical to its survival. We assess that Damascus launched this chemical attack in response to an opposition offensive in northern Hamah Province that threatened key infrastructure.

On the same day, a senior U.S. official elaborated on the threat posed by the rebel offensive in Hamah. The official stated:

The regime we think calculated that with its manpower spread quite thin, trying to support both defensive operations and consolidation operations in Aleppo and along that north-south spine of western Syria, and also trying to support operations which required it to send manpower and resources east toward Palmyra, we believe that the regime probably calculated at that point that chemical weapons were necessary in order to try to make up for the manpower deficiency.

These assessments clearly illustrate that Damascus resorted to the use of chemical weapons to compensate for inadequate conventional military resources as it sought to counter an imminent threat to a key population center and a vital air base. The U.S. intelligence assessment even emphasized these regime assets as “critical to its survival.”

Effective Constraints on Chemical And Biological Use

Although a prevailing assumption has held that chemical and biological weapons will not be used because of a combination of ineffectiveness, international norms, and international agreements, Rhodesia and Syria show that this perspective doesn’t tell the full story. Deterrence (i.e., the credible threat of military action) likely is the only effective means of preventing the use of these weapons. International agreements and prohibitive international norms or taboos are largely ineffective unless the political will exists to punish the transgressor. Prohibitions against chemical and biological weapons are enshrined in international agreements, most notably the Biological Weapons and Toxins Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention. Yet these agreements have been ineffective in constraining the production and use of these agents.

The political will for action in the international community has also long been severely lacking — witness the inaction after the gassing in Halabja and President Obama’s “red line” in Syria. After the Obama administration ultimately decided against striking Syria in 2013, the Kerry-Lavrov agreement resulted in Damascus’ accession to the Chemical Weapon Convention and its surrender of declared chemical weapons stocks for destruction. Yet as later events demonstrated, Syria retained chemical weapons materials and remained willing to use them against civilians, making the ultimate value of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement questionable.

Despite the conventions, several state parties to these agreements likely have chemical and/or biological weapons programs. A number of states have maintained biological weapons programs in contravention to the Biological Weapons Convention, as demonstrated by the well-known example of Yeltsin’s termination of the Soviet program in 1992. Another party to the convention, South Africa, developed and used biological weapons agents for over a decade after ratifying the agreement. Although the Chemical Weapons Convention now has been in force for 20 years, several signatories likely still possess chemical weapons. According to a June 2017 fact sheet assembled by the Arms Control Association, convention signatories thought to possibly retain covert chemical agents or munitions include China, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Russia, and Syria.

The apparent lack of international political will to confront the use of chemical and biological weapons should be evidence that the norms and taboos against the production, possession, and use of these weapons have eroded. Those norms and taboos represent the prevailing international consensus — embodied in international agreements — that underpins the political will to action. Norms represent a consensus defining appropriate and inappropriate conduct by nation-states under anarchic conditions. Norms are not universal nor are they immutable.

Taboos, on the other hand, are prohibitions on conduct considered so morally repugnant and reprehensible so as to be universally condemned. Following the experiences of World War I, chemical and biological weapons became taboo. But even so, World War II saw a massive increase in the number of national chemical and biological programs. Arguably, Allied and Axis powers were deterred from using these weapons by fear of retaliation from the opposing side.

Yet the Axis powers used chemical and biological agents on an enormous scale against vulnerable populations. Japanese units using weapons developed by Unit 731 wrought untold destruction on Chinese military units and civilian communities. For his part, Adolf Hitler may have prohibited use of chemical and biological agents against Allied forces, yet he was not dissuaded from using poison gas (Zyklon B) against millions of civilians. In neither of these instances was the taboo effective. The effect of deterrence and the relevance of international norms in preventing chemical and biological weapons use is arguably lessened when a nation-state is facing an ill-prepared or vulnerable population. The Arab, Rhodesian, and South African cases all bear this out.

Syria’s recent use of chemical weapons likely has diminished effectiveness of the chemical and biological prohibitions, as have previous uses (i.e., Egypt, Libya, and Iraq). The international community’s failure to act more decisively may embolden other marginal nations to explore chemical and biological adoption and use to counter threats to their internal security.

Although the U.S. cruise missile strike on April 6, 2017, against Syria’s Shayrat airfield signalled Washington’s resolve to punish Damascus for future chemical weapons use, the political impact (and legality) of the U.S. strike remains debatable, especially given allegations of continued Syrian use. According to an article in the German paper Die Welt in July 2017, “Western intelligence agencies confirmed to Die Weltthat Syria’s government continues to use poison gas against its own population. Apparently, the regime understands the latest signals from the U.S. as an encouragement.” As of early June 2017, the U.S. government itself warned of a possibly imminent Syria chemical weapons attack, further suggesting the attack on Shayrat failed to sufficiently punish the Assad regime.

One reason the U.S. strike may not have prevented further use is that it came from the U.S. alone. Unilateral action against the transgressor demonstrated the weakness of the norm in that the international community lacked the political will to act. The absence of political will is highlighted by Russia’s repeated vetoes of U.N. resolutions condemning Syria for its chemical weapons use. Furthermore, a member of the U.N.’s war crimes commission, Carla Del Ponte, resigned in early August 2017, saying, “The Assad government has perpetrated horrible crimes against humanity and used chemical weapons…I am quitting this commission, which is not backed by any political will. I have no power as long as the [U.N.] Security Council does nothing. There is no justice for Syria.”

The Bottom Line

Despite the international moratorium on chemical weapons use in interstate conflict, these agents are effective in suppressing internal violence. Chemical and biological weapons’ lack of utility against well-prepared, well-equipped adversaries deters their use against modern militaries, yet historically the weapons have been effective against the unprepared or vulnerable.

The post-World War II examples of chemical weapons use show that their greatest utility is in intrastate counterinsurgency operations and in attacks on ill-prepared and poorly equipped or trained adversaries. This perceived advantage is likely the greatest obstacle to the elimination of these arms from national arsenals. As demonstrated in Rhodesia, Iraq, and Syria, the norm against chemical and biological weapons use is weakest in low-intensity counterinsurgencies involving rogue or pariah regimes, and when poisons and toxins are used in special operations and assassinations (examples include Chile under Pinochet, South Africa, and Russia). The Rhodesian and Syrian cases clearly show the relative inability of international norms to prevent the use of chemical and biological weapons in these cases. For norms to be truly effective, there must be unanimity among nations about enforcing the prohibitions. As we’ve seen in Syria, such consensus is elusive, and the international community has failed to act. As a consequence, the world faces a sad, but inevitable conclusion. The Syrian regime is unlikely to ever face justice for its use of chemical weapons.

About the Author

Dr Glenn Cross is the author of the recent book, “Dirty War: Rhodesia and Chemical, Biological Warfare.” He has served for 29 years in the Intelligence Community as a CIA analyst, manager of biological weapons analysts in the FBI, and in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as the Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Weapons of Mass Destruction, responsible for the US Intelligence Community’s biological weapons analysis from 2008 to 2010

August 28, 2017

Joke onTrump Administration

Donald Trump went to London and met with the Queen.

"Your Queenship, “ he asked her. “I am finding things way more difficult than I could have imagined. May I ask you - how do you run such an efficient government?  Are there any tips you can give me?”

“Well," replied Her Majesty, "the most important thing is to surround yourself with intelligent people."

Trump frowned.

"But how do you know the people around you are really intelligent?" he asked.

"Oh, that's easy” the Queen replied. “You just ask them to answer an intelligent riddle”.

She pushed a button on her intercom. “Please send Theresa May in here."

The Prime Minister walked into the room.

“You called for me, Your Majesty?"

"Answer me this, if you would, Theresa. “ the Queen said. “Your mother and father have a child. It is not your brother  and it is not your sister. Who is it?”

Without pausing for even a second, Theresa May answered, “That would be me."

"Yes! Very good,” said the Queen.

Trump went back home, returned to the White House and the very next day called for Mike Pence to come and see him.

Pence duly trotted in to the Oval Office

“Mike, answer this for me,’ said the Don. “Your mother and your father have a child. It's not your brother and it's not your sister. Who is it?”

"I'm not sure," said Pence. “Let me get back to you on that one.

Pence went panicking off to his advisers and asked everyone, but none of them could give him an answer.

The next night, as it happened, Pence ran in to Hillary Clinton in a restaurant. By now, desperate for an answer to give to his tyrannical boss, he approached her – much to her surprise.

  “Hillary, I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye but I would really appreciate it if you could answer this riddle for me

“Sure, Mike “Hillary said. “I’m not one to hold a grudge. What is it?”

“Thanks, said Pence,” It’s this.  Your mother and father have a child and it's not your brother or your sister. Who is it?”

Hillary answered right back, “That's easy, it's me!"

Pence smiled,  “Thanks!"

Pence then went back to speak with Trump. "Say, boss, I did some research and I have the answer to that riddle.  It’s  Hillary Clinton.”

Trump got up, stomped over to Pence, and angrily yelled at him. "No, you idiot! It’s Theresa May!"


US Think Tanks commentary on Trump's Afghan policy

while we need to hold Pakistan accountable for its actions and respond proportionately, we need also to hold the door open to better relations someday. Reductions in aid, and more strikes by American or Afghan forces over the Pakistani border against the Taliban, are reasonable places to start. *Targeted sanctions on those individuals in the Pakistani “ISI” intelligence forces who are known to help the Taliban could also be part of the mix. But a restoration of aid and perhaps even a free-trade zone could be offered to Pakistan if and when their cooperation improves.*

Try to mediate between India and Pakistan whenever and however possible—the latter’s resentments about India, including its presence in Afghanistan, make it harder for Pakistan to give up its support for the Taliban (Pakistan sees the Taliban partly as a hedge against long-term Indian domination of Afghanistan, however unlikely that latter prospect may seem to us).

There are approximately 350,000 Afghan military, police and local constables facing 35,000 to 45,000 Taliban and other insurgent groups. Despite being dramatically outnumbered, out-trained and out-equipped, the Taliban now control or contest 40 percent of Afghan districts, more than at any other time since 2001.

Pakistan has received military support and aid packages from the United States throughout the United States’ war in Afghanistan. According to Ahmad, “that assistance has not dissuaded Pakistan from its poisonous and assiduous agenda in the region.” 

*“We’re not going to buy our way out of this with US aid and development programs,”* said Fair, adding that Trump must identify the sources of political support for terrorism in South Asia in order to eradicate it.

Existing loopholes in South Asia’s counterterrorism strategy have allowed for the proliferation of extremism. According to Chemali, porous borders, particularly the one shared by Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as governments that turn a blind eye to illicit activity, facilitate ISIS’ spread. She described how ISIS and ISIS-K, which sustain themselves with self-generating revenue by “taking advantage of the resources and people in the lands which they control,” *thrive on illicit “financing or funding going on within borders, and no action taken against it.” *

Trump also took a much harsher line than his predecessors on Pakistan and *made a more explicit threat to draw India more heavily into Afghanistan to counterbalance malign Pakistani influence.* Whether this will lead Pakistan to draw back or double down on its support for the Taliban remains to be seen, but the *president's tougher line is reflective of the long mounting frustration with Pakistani behavior throughout the American national security establishment.*


Finally, U.S. strategy must accept the fact that there is no clear solution to the fact that Pakistan, a supposed ally receiving massive U.S. aid, never stopped from providing a de facto sanctuary to the Taliban, Haqqani network, and key elements of Al Qa'ida central. Pakistan is not only a real ally; it so far has not been a state where U.S. aid could make the Pakistani military fully support the U.S. on even a transactional basis. Words and meetings have also done little so far to change Pakistan's behavior.

The U.S. has two real world strategic options. The first is to simply go on dealing with Pakistan on the present basis. This does not mean ignoring Pakistan's real world actions, but adding some level of pressure—although a series of explicit public white papers on Pakistan's actions and the role of ISIS in supporting terrorism might add to U.S. leverage. The other is to try to force the issue by making it clear that unless Pakistan acts decisively, U.S. aid will be suspended indefinitely and U.S. economic sanctions will be applied.

Quite frankly, a somewhat harder line U.S. approach—coupled to more transparently handle Pakistan's actions—seems far more practical than creating a major crisis that could drive Pakistan into reliance on China. There are times where there are no good options, but some options are worse than others.

Pressing Pakistan

Trump also continued the ritual started by President George W. Bush’s administration of demanding that Pakistan end its support for insurgents in Afghanistan without having any clear idea of how to accomplish that. The Trump administration has already held up $350 million in military aid, but there is no evidence that this financial pressure will cause a change in Pakistan’s fundamental policy, which it has been pursuing since the 1990s, of supporting the Taliban as a proxy for its interests in Afghanistan.

The Trump administration is now considering other steps, including sanctioning individual Pakistani officials and more freely bombing insurgent groups in Pakistan, but Trump did not announce either measure on Monday night. This is a sign of how controversial such policies remain. There have always been powerful countervailing arguments that the United States cannot afford to alienate Pakistan, because it is a supply route for U.S. forces in Afghanistan and because it cooperates with the United States against some transnational terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Trump thus essentially left U.S. policy toward Pakistan unchanged.

The final policy pillar that Trump announced was a bit more of a break with Obama’s. Trump vowed not to micromanage the fight from Washington and to “expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorists and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.

This was a reference to the rules that Obama imposed as he withdrew U.S. forces; he mandated that the United States could only undertake offensive air strikes against transnational terrorist groups, such as the Haqqani network and al-Qaeda, not the Taliban, unless U.S. troops were in harm’s way. More recently, Obama granted U.S. forces the authority to hit the Taliban if Afghan military units were in extreme danger, but Trump’s speech suggests that military commanders may soon be granted the authority to bomb the Taliban as part of offensive operations. Other rules, such as those restricting counterbattery fire in response to attacks on U.S. bases, may also be relaxed.  Trump would no doubt be happy to scrap rules designed to limit collateral damage from air strikes. But the generals are not seeking a return to the free-fire zones of the Vietnam War: They remain committed to the calibrated and careful use of force, so, in practice, this pillar of Trump’s strategy will make a difference only at the margins

Munir Mengal at Conference

The Americans Are Back: F-16 for the IAF and F/A-18 for the Indian Navy

Source: Getty


August 02, 2017Force

Summary:  Because combat aviation is steadily moving towards the dominance of stealthy platforms, India should be seeking to leverage these purchases towards the development or the acquisition of fifth-generation fighters.

During the last year, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy (IN) confirmed what must have been the worst kept secret in New Delhi: that the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, for all its achievements, was unsuitable as a strike-fighter for their near-term modernisation requirements.

Ashley J. Tellis

Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs

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Where the IAF was concerned, the request for information (RFI) for a new single-engine fighter issued in the United States, Russia, and Sweden in October 2016 marked a further twist in its long-running saga to complete the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) acquisition that first began in 2001. After the aborted competition led to an off-the-shelf purchase of just 36 Rafales in 2015 — instead of the 126 aircraft originally intended — the question of how the IAF would overcome the deficit of the 90 remaining fighters was still unanswered. There were some in India who argued that the IAF should jettison the MMRCA requirement altogether and fill out the remainder of the force with more Su-30s at the high-end and additional Tejas fighters at the low-end.

Given the shortcomings of the Tejas — some, but not all, of which can be rectified — it is not surprising that the IAF finally threw in the towel and decided to seek an advanced foreign fighter to satisfy its MMRCA requirements, even if only partially. That the 90 aircraft now considered for acquisition will be single-engined suggests that this segment of the IAF may eventually end up bifurcated. The single-engine platform, which hopefully will be announced in the next year or so, will complement the 83 Tejas fighters already approved for procurement: together serving as replacements for the retiring MiG-21s in the IAF inventory. Because the 90 future selectees and the 123 Tejas aircraft that will eventually be acquired will still not suffice as one-to-one replacements for the MiG-21s, it is possible that the IAF may consider acquiring additional medium-weight twin-engined Western fighters down the line, if and when finances permit, in order to further strengthen the IAF for counter-air operations involving China and preserve the three-tier force that the service has sought to maintain more recently.

Obviously, there is nothing particularly sacrosanct about a three-tier force structure in the abstract. If the foreign single-engine fighter met the multirole requirement effectively, the IAF could simply expand its numbers to maintain a larger component that straddles the light- and medium- weight categories, as this new acquisition would in any case bring more to the air superiority campaign than a defensive counter-air fighter like the Tejas ever could.

The Indian Navy, in contrast, has moved in a different direction from what appeared to be initially contemplated. Although the navy has been the strongest supporter of India’s indigenous defence development efforts, the sea service too finally rejected the naval version of the Tejas that was originally intended for deployment aboard the INS Vikrant — Indian Aircraft Carrier-1 (IAC-1) — currently under construction. This decision is eminently sensible given the navy’s special requirements: because an aircraft carrier hosts a relatively small number of combat aircraft aboard a single-engine fighter is a risky proposition at even the best of times. The technological and operational limitations of the Tejas only implied that these risks would be magnified, even if it were to be deployed merely as a second-string complement to a more advanced strike-fighter, such as the MiG-29K, which has been bedevilled by serious serviceability problems of its own. Consequently, the IN has prudently chosen to seek a new advanced twin-engine fighter that hopefully will populate the entire combat air wing on the INS Vikrant and possibly the follow- on vessel (IAC-2) as well.

Both the IAF and the IN have thus ended up similarly: although the former, seeking a twin-engined airplane originally, has now settled for a single-engine combatant, and the latter, investing in a single-engine fighter initially, is now exploring a twin-engined aircraft, both have decided to look abroad rather than at home for good reason. A direct purchase of the aircraft finally selected, however, is not on the cards. Thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on ‘Make in India,’ the final winners in both the IAF’s and the IN’s competitions will be decided not simply on operational excellence and costs — the traditional criteria that dominated fighter selections hitherto — but equally on how best they leaven India’s domestic manufacturing capabilities. And the traditional Indian interest in using its defence acquisitions to strengthen its strategic partnerships abroad still remains unchanged; if anything, these geopolitical imperatives have only intensified since Modi took office.

The renewal of a global search to supply India with advanced fighters has unexpectedly pushed the United States back into the game after both its entrants, the F-16IN Fighting Falcon and the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, were ejected from the previous round of the MMRCA competition. Because the IAF’s new RFI specifies a single-engine platform, however, the only two aircraft capable of satisfying this requirement are Lockheed Martin’s venerable F-16, offered to India in its latest and most sophisticated Block 70 variant, and Saab’s Gripen, which has been offered in a new, larger, and more impressive E variant that flew for the first time on 15 June 2017. The IN’s requirement for a twin-engined naval fighter has similarly left only two contestants in the race — Dassault’s Rafale, the previous selectee in the IAF’s MMRCA competition, and Boeing’s Super Hornet, the principal strike-fighter on the US Navy’s aircraft carriers today.

The return of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Block 70 Fighting Falcon and Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet into the IAF’s and IN’s competitions respectively has irked some Indian commentators, such as Bharat Karnad, who view them as examples of ‘technologically obsolete weaponry.’ This criticism is misplaced and fails to appreciate what makes combat fighters effective.


Starting with the IAF race first, the F-16 is a storied fighter that has been in continual production since 1976 with over 4,500 aircraft built since. Although designed initially as a light fighter for within- visual-range combat, it has evolved into a formidable multirole platform over time, all the while remaining one of the most agile air combatants ever produced by the United States (US). Today, the F-16 in the US Air Force (USAF), for example, is employed for all-weather counter-air operations: these include both beyond- and within-visual-range air-to-air engagements as well as anti- surface strike (including specialised missions such as the suppression of enemy air defences).

That the F-16’s basic airframe has evolved only modestly over the years has proven to be completely irrelevant where manoeuvring superiority is concerned. This is evinced in the fact that, although the aircraft first flew in 1974, its sustained and instantaneous turn performance (when flying without its conformal fuel tanks) at both low and high altitudes is virtually identical to that of the Gripen and its thrust-to-weight ratio is unambiguously superior — not bad for an aircraft that was designed almost 15 years earlier! It would be surprising if the Gripen E, with its heavier airframe in comparison to its predecessor and its lower-thrust engine in comparison to the F-16, could improve upon this feat dramatically.

Success in modern air combat today, however, is not simply a matter of manoeuvring performance, even though the F-16 is fully the Gripen’s peer in this regard. Rather, the aircraft’s sensors, electronic warfare and information management systems, and weapons make an enormous difference — as do pilot training, doctrine, and the concepts of employment. If pilot training is excluded from the comparison, it is in the other realms that the F-16 has undergone a truly transformative metamorphosis over time, making it a worthy competitor to the Gripen in both the air-to-air and the anti-surface warfare regimes.

The F-16’s primary sensor, the AN/ APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Active (AESA) radar, for example, employs fifth-generation AESA radar technology that is derived from the advanced radars developed for the F-22 and the F-35. The F-16’s electronic warfare systems will be sophisticated Israeli systems, selected in accord with IAF preferences, and its weapons are more or less comparable to those of the Gripen E (and are, in fact, interchangeable should India require it). The Gripen’s information management capabilities are undoubtedly exquisite, but whether they are superior in an operational context to those of the F-16 is not obvious. At any rate, the F-16’s larger weapons load and, when used, its conformal fuel tanks give it a larger radius of action in comparison to the Gripen E, which makes it more attractive for theatre strike operations involving China.

None of this derogates from the Gripen E’s technological excellence, which is conspicuous, but it does indicate that the F-16 is at no particular disadvantage to its Swedish competitor where its combat capabilities are concerned. Its age in particular has posed no special impediment as its avionics and weapons — the capabilities that really matter, given that its aerodynamic characteristics are already superlative — have been continuously modernised, as required by the complex operating environment facing its principal and most demanding customer, the US Air Force (USAF). Parenthetically, it may be noted here that the F-16 Block 70 offered to India is so dramatically superior to the version in Pakistan’s employ as to defy serious comparison.

Given the difficult financial constraints facing the IAF today, the unit flyaway and life cycle costs of the two aircraft will be critical factors affecting the Indian decision. Unfortunately, good comparative data on these issues is hard to come by. The original Gripen had a well-deserved reputation for having low operating costs (the F-16’s being somewhat higher), but whether this will be equally true for the Gripen E is as yet unclear. In any case, the price at which the F-16 and the Gripen E are being offered to India today is publicly unknown; suffice it to say that, the closer they are in price, the more attractive the F-16 would be to the Modi government, given its other advantages for defence industrial cooperation and deepening the US-India strategic partnership.

It is in these latter arenas that the F-16’s advantages over the Gripen E are most pronounced. Because Lockheed Martin is transitioning toward the manufacture of the F-35 in the United States, the company has committed to transferring the entire F-16 production line to India, should this aircraft be selected in the IAF’s single engine fighter competition. The transfer of the line would enable Lockheed Martin and its Indian partner, Tata Advanced Systems, to complete the final assembly of the aircraft in India along with manufacturing of its various structural components, while eventually shifting towards the fabrication of some of its combat system components as well.

While Saab is certain to table a similar offer, sweetening the pot with financing in addition to technology transfer, the Lockheed Martin-Tata joint venture promises to advance Modi’s employment generation objectives far more ambitiously because it would integrate India into the global aviation supply chain at a level that Saab cannot match. Beyond supporting the IAF’s own F-16s, all future F-16 sales globally — including to the four-six countries that are currently exploring new acquisitions — could occur from production in Indian plants. Furthermore, India would become a critical node in supporting the 3,200 F-16s still in service in 25 countries (including the 950-odd F-16s that will remain in US Air Force (USAF) service for another two decades), in contrast to becoming a supplier for a much smaller market — at best 200-300 Gripens in some six or seven countries — were it to select the Gripen E eventually. The advantages of the F-16’s global popularity, and its still expanding market, are thus obvious for India.

The gains to a deepened US-India relationship are no less consequential. At a time when President Donald J. Trump seeks transactional benefits to the US from all its foreign partnerships, an Indian purchase of American F-16s would go far in protecting its bilateral ties with the US — still the most important power in the international system — without compromising the IAF’s capabilities. New Delhi’s selection of the Gripen E would obviously strengthen the IAF in similar ways, but a strategic partnership with Sweden is meaningless in the face of the problems posed by China’s rising assertiveness in Asia.

The significant proportion of US technologies in the Gripen further complicates matters: it has been estimated that between 40 to 50 per cent of the original version’s components are of American origin, meaning that the US license regime would apply even if India purchased the Swedish aircraft. This fact diminishes the attractiveness of the Gripen where political considerations are concerned, because New Delhi would end up substantially buying American but without getting the requisite credit. In any event, Saab appears to be attempting to replace the Gripen’s American components with other substitutes, but the success of this effort and its impact of the aircraft’s effectiveness are thus far unclear.

On balance, therefore, whether India finally chooses the F-16 Block 70 or the Gripen E, the IAF comes out ahead because both aircraft are indisputably superior to the Tejas in manoeuvring performance, sensors, electronic warfare and information management systems, weapons load, and in radius of action. There are marginal differences in operational capability between the F-16 and the Gripen, some favouring the former and some the latter, with the F-16 having an indisputable advantage in range and in the weight of the payload carried. Both aircraft will continue to evolve in the areas that really matter for air superiority over the long term — sensors for passive and active detection, advanced fire and forget weaponry, cooperative targeting using off-board data, and fire control systems for air and ground operations — and therefore, Indian interests would be well served by choosing either airplane for its air force. Both the F-16 Block 70 and the Gripen E are highly capable multirole fighters, and, as a result, the Indian government will be confronted by the difficult dilemma of juggling operational effectiveness and cost on one hand with the benefits for defence industrial cooperation and deepening the US-India partnership on the other hand. Pulling off such a balancing act cannot be easy, but New Delhi is better off being spoilt for choice than having to cope with skimpiness.


If the F-16 is the worthwhile revenant in the IAF’s single engine competition, Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet actually has an upper hand in the IN’s search for a twin-engined fighter for its future aircraft carriers. The fleet’s requirements here are complicated by the fact that the aircraft selected as its primary strike-fighter must be capable of operating from both the INS Vikrant, the ski jump equipped short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) carrier currently being built in Cochin, as well as from its future large deck catapult take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) carriers, such as the IAC-2, which will begin construction at some point in the future.

The IN has concluded that the Tejas is unsuitable for either vessel because, despite the structural improvements made to the test airframe in support of carrier operations, the final product did not meet the standard of acceptability at a time when Indian naval aviation is preparing to meet formidable adversaries, such as China, in the Indian Ocean.

Being able to successfully defend against — and overcome — Chinese aircraft carriers with their deployed air wings consisting of Su-33/J-15s, and possibly indigenous J-20s and J-31s in the future, should constitute the real metric for judging the acceptability of a given strike-fighter for the IN’s prospective carriers. This implies that rather than obsessing over some arcane detail pertaining to the increased tensile strength of the Tejas’ undercarriage or the extent of the nose droop improvements intended to expand its pilot’s vision, its worth as the mainstay of Indian carrier aviation must be judged by its effectiveness as a combat system rather than merely by its aerodynamic viability.

Obviously, achieving success on the latter count is a precondition for satisfying the former. But the challenge facing the IN here is that the indigenous Tejas is hopelessly behind the times relative to the threat that it faces from more mature opponents in the here and now — adversaries whose war-fighting performance is now steadily being expanded even as the Indian test-bed struggles to become merely a worthwhile flying platform for carrier operations.

Given this asymmetry, it is not surprising that the IN has chosen to look for an advanced strike-fighter from abroad right away, partly because it cannot wait in hope that the Tejas Mark 2 will eventually make the cut as an effective strike-fighter for the Vikrant. If it is to have a combat aircraft manufactured in India and ready for operations by the time this carrier enters the fleet in 2021, the selection and procurement processes will have to be completed by early 2018 at the latest. Given the development timelines associated with the Tejas Mark 2 thus far, it would be simply miraculous if the aircraft could be certified as combat ready, let alone superior to its likely adversaries, by that date.

Because an aircraft carrier has only a small number of aircraft, the qualitative superiority of both aircraft and pilot are critical, while maintainability — meaning the reliability of the airframe and its combat subsystems as well as the ease of diagnostics and repair — contributes towards the ability to turn an aircraft around quickly for repeated sorties, thus making it a vital combat multiplier, particularly for small- or medium-sized air wings. Of the foreign contestants in the IN’s search list, neither the Swedish Sea Gripen — as yet only a notional alternative — nor the Russian MiG-29K have demonstrated the capacity for both ski jump and catapult launches, and the Sea Gripen additionally fails to meet the RFI’s requirement that it must already be in service in its country of origin. Consequently, only the French Rafale and the American F/A-18 Super Hornet remain as plausible contenders and each offers India the opportunity to dominate the adversaries it is likely to face in the Indian Ocean.

But the two rivals are not evenly matched. The Rafale, unlike the Super Hornet, does not have fully foldable wings and, hence, cannot use the Vikrant’s elevators without major modifications that would add to its already high unit costs. The IAF’s Rafale came out at close to USD160 million per copy and the naval variant, of which less than 50 have been produced, is likely to be even more expensive. But cost aside, the Rafale’s lack of fully folding wings implies that fewer aircraft can be spotted on the carrier’s flight deck, a disadvantage when more aircraft there mean faster cyclic operations and by extension greater combat capability. And its maintenance requirements and operating costs are much more substantial than that of the Super Hornet.

Beyond these issues, even when both aircraft are compared one-on-one, the F/A-18 E/F compares favourably with the Rafale. The Super Hornet’s organic sensors and its capacity for integration with the E-2D airborne early warning aircraft, which is likely to be eventually deployed by the IN ashore and most likely on board the IAC-2, are unparalleled. The F/A-18 E/F’s primary sensor, the APG-79 AESA radar, has no peer among fourth-generation combat aircraft, and its huge detection and electronic attack advantages ensure first look-first shot opportunities that even sophisticated rivals often cannot match. Its advanced electronic warfare suites, one area where the Rafale’s capabilities are indeed comparable, make it exceptionally survivable in a variety of war-fighting environments, while its ability to swing effortlessly between air-to-air and air-to-surface missions make it just as versatile as its French competitor — but in a much cheaper platform.

To make a long story short, the F/A- 18 E/F Super Hornet has been designed for standoff air superiority as well as for flexible multirole operations and for that reason will remain the US Navy’s workhorse strike-fighter well into 2040, if not beyond. Both the Super Hornet and the Rafale are superb strike-fighters, but the IN is likely to find the F/A- 18 E/F better suited as the primary aviation battery for both its STOBAR and CATOBAR carriers. The cost advantages of the Super Hornet are considerable and, when considerations relating to defence industrial cooperation and deepening strategic partnerships are taken into account, it also does just as well as, if not better, than the Rafale on both counts. Because Boeing already has major production activities underway in India, including a joint venture with Tata that fabricates the fuselage for the Apache attack helicopter, as well as Indian suppliers that already manufacture components for US and international F/A-18s, such as Sasmoss, Rossell Techsys, and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the selection of the Super Hornet by the IN would yield expanded partnerships with Indian industry for the manufacture of its airframe sections, wings and control surfaces, parts of its engines, and various other subsystems.

These activities, which would result in the transfer of proprietary knowhow, advanced manufacturing technologies, and industrial fabrication processes, would help to nurture a production complex that can oversee the delivery of an advanced weapon system that the US has never before sold to India. Developing such an infrastructure would not only create high technology jobs dispersed throughout India, but it would build indigenous proficiency that could aid in the development and manufacture of other civilian and military technologies. Even as these benefits come to fruition, India would position itself to support the nearly 600 F/A-18s that are in operation globally. It would also open the door to possible co-development and co-manufacturing of components for the Advanced F/A-18 Block III, with its conformal fuel tanks, enclosed weapons pod, and an enhanced General Electric 414 engine that could serve as a common power plant for the Super Hornet, Tejas, and eventually the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft concurrently. These kinds of benefits would obviously not be comparably available with the Rafale because of its smaller global market.

The deepening of the US-Indian strategic partnership would also be an obvious consequence of an Indian decision to purchase the Super Hornet for its prospective aircraft carriers. The same would be true for India’s partnership with France were the IN to settle for the Rafale. But important though this latter political affiliation is for New Delhi, the twists and turns in the earlier MMRCA endgame demonstrated how the extraordinarily high costs of French equipment made it difficult for India to fuel its strategic partnership with France through large defence transactions. In this instance, therefore, the case for the IN selecting the Super Hornet is persuasive because it would bring combat capabilities on par with the Rafale but at much lower cost while simultaneously enhancing India’s industrial base and strengthening its partnership with Washington.


There is little doubt that India has good options as it moves forward to fulfil its air force and naval requirements for an advanced strike-fighter. In both cases though, there will be challenging tradeoffs to be made as the government of India juggles the operational excellence of the various contenders, their unit and lifecycle costs, their contributions to leavening India’s defence industry, and their capacity to deepen the country’s strategic partnerships.

When these variables are assessed synoptically, the American offerings prove to be remarkably competitive — not entirely a surprise, even if the circumstances that permitted their re-entry were not initially anticipated. In any event, India should treat the winners chosen in both the IAF and IN competitions merely as ‘interim’ acquisitions despite the fact that these aircraft will be in service for several decades. Because combat aviation is steadily moving towards the dominance of stealthy platforms, India should be seeking to leverage these purchases towards the development or the acquisition of fifth-generation fighters — a technology area where, at least to date, American suppliers dominate in the international marketplace. Perhaps that is one more reason for giving Lockheed Martin and Boeing serious consideration in the current competition.

This article was originally published in FORCE.