November 08, 2019

Managed chaos: Russia’s deal with Turkey on northern Syria



Commentary

Gustav Gressel 

3rd November, 2019

Kremlin - ©

Source:    ecfr.eu

Russia is now in charge of a multi-front war. It will need to manage relations between multiple local actors very carefully.

Following their meeting in Sochi on 23 October 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced a ceasefire deal for northern Syria. The agreement laid the foundation for extending Bashar al-Assad’s rule over north-eastern Syria, secured the Russian military presence across the whole country, and formalised the Turkish military deployment in the region close to its northern border. For the Kremlin, the agreement signals that the Russian-backed regime has conclusively won the war in Syria.

Few in the West expected this victory when Russia intervened in the Syrian war in September 2015. Moscow’s goals were to ensure the survival of the Assad regime and reduce US influence in Syria – but the extent to which this would be possible was unclear. Victory then fell into Putin’s lap after both the Obama and Trump administrations failed to create a coherent strategy on the conflict. The latter’s erratic manoeuvres also prevented any European country from easing the burden on US forces deployed to Syria.

Putin likely sees the close strategic alliance he forged with Erdogan after the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016 as instrumental to Moscow’s victory. This alliance led to the launch of the Astana peace process with Turkey and Iran – thereby killing off the Geneva talks, which, unlike those in Astana, involved US-backed forces. While the Astana process did not immediately produce results, it prevented any political settlement in line with Washington’s interests. Yet even this diplomatic victory would not change the fact that US-backed forces controlled north-eastern Syria. Because it had no means to remove US forces on its own, Russia feared that, in the long term, the United States could use the area to stage further military action against Assad.

In its military campaign against Syrian opposition forces, Russia prioritised operations in western Syria. Meanwhile, the Turkish operation against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin served as a template for further cooperation between Russia and Turkey. Military pressure from both countries pushed Kurdish forces out of the area, granting Turkey a foothold near its southern border and helping Russia prevent the US from establishing a military presence in western Syria.

Turkey’s attempts to use Islamist fighters against Kurds in north-eastern Syria are a gift to Russia.


Idlib province – which was controlled by opposition forces that included Turkish-backed Islamist fighters, some of them extremists – was the other rebel stronghold in Syria. Assad wanted to regain control of the area but could only do so through a massive use of force and by engaging in ethnic cleansing there, as the conservative Sunni population would hardly accept the presence of regime troops. Moreover, Idlib’s terrain is poorly suited to the kind of mechanised warfare for which Russian military advisers have trained the Syrian army. To defeat the rebels in Idlib, Russia would have to weigh in with more of its own forces – a move that the Kremlin would find difficult to justify to a domestic audience.

Turkey’s attempts to use these Islamist fighters against Kurds in north-eastern Syria (thereby drawing the fighters away from Idlib) – and its alleged plans to use Sunni refugees from across Syria to replace the Kurdish population in the area – are a gift to Russia. These moves could not only allow Assad to advance into Idlib, but could also intensify military pressure on the Kurds in the north-east, increasing tension between Turkey and its key NATO ally, the US. Therefore, Putin had no reason to dissuade Erdogan from launching the Turkish incursion into northern Syria.

The Trump administration’s abrupt withdrawal of the American protective umbrella from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) presented Russia with more unexpected risks and opportunities. The withdrawal left the Kurds so vulnerable that they accepted Russian and regime forces as a deterrent against the Turkish military in north-eastern Syria. To maintain pressure on the Kurds, Moscow reconfirmed the 1998 Adana agreement between Syria and Turkey, allowing Ankara to cross the border to crush Kurdish forces. This left the SDF at the mercy of whoever was willing to protect it. While the group could fend off the Islamist fighters Turkey uses as a proxy force, it had little chance against the regular Turkish army.

This has left Moscow with the issue of how to deal with the SDF. The Kremlin likely does not trust anyone who once cooperated with the Americans. In the coming months, it would not be surprising if key SDF leaders fell victim to accidents or voluntarily sought exile, to be replaced by personnel more loyal to Moscow. The flexible arrangements of temporary ceasefires and the loosely defined arrangement of Turkish-Russian “joint patrols” provide ample room to Moscow to negotiate a transition of power. So far, Assad’s forces have moved into north-eastern Syria while taking up positions far from the “safe zone” that Ankara aspires to control. For the time being, they are neither an intervention force nor a deterrent – but they have moved east. Although these forces might take on such roles in the future, this will depend on the deal they get.

In the meantime, the Turkish incursion has paused but not ended. Turkey has put its alleged plans for ethnic cleansing on hold (partly due to the public outcry in the West), but has not abandoned them. In this environment, Moscow can intensify military pressure on the Kurds if it feels the need to do so. Moscow still wants to avoid the burden of controlling eastern Syria directly through its military but, for now, it lacks the proxy structures to do so.

Russia entered the war fearing an American campaign of regime change. It had the strategic advantage of concentrating its efforts on the single objective of protecting Assad, meaning that it only had to blunt diplomatic and military efforts to unseat him reactively. Now, given that it is in charge of a multi-front war, Russia will need to manage relations between multiple local actors very carefully. The Kremlin likely never anticipated that it would take up such a prominent role.

Russia will not only have to deal with the Kurds as they try to preserve as much independence from it as they can afford, but will also have to manage Iranian-Israeli clashes. Iran, Israel, and Turkey are all in a position to undermine Moscow’s efforts but unable to control events in Syria using only their own resources. Thus, there is little reason to think that Syria will become any more stable in the coming months.

November 03, 2019

Jallianwala Bagh - Why did Indians fire on Indians?

I lived in Hong Kong for some years. One of the facts I observed was that Hong Kongers by and large do not like Indians and many of them even hate us. Whether an Indian goes on to look for a home or on the streets to buy groceries, the feeling is palpable. Many Indians I talked to said that they felt it rather strongly. I had asked several people but got no satisfactory answer.

Finally, I asked a local friend about the reason. He was a historian at one of Hong Kong’s University. At first he tried to deny that this existed but then later said the roots of it were historical.

*“Do you know,”* he said, *“the British came to Hong Kong in 1841 and when they tried to build the first police force with the help of locals, they realized that the loyalty of the locals could not be trusted to follow their orders or shoot and kill if their fellow brethren revolted or were a rebellion. But they realized that they didn’t have the same experience in India. So they brought the Indians.*

*The first batch of Indians, who came brutalized and tortured the people here. The memory still lives in the mind of every person here and we haven’t forgiven you for it and will never do,”* he said in a deeply emotional voice.

*“You Indians followed orders and didn’t show any mercy towards us, which we expected you would do.”*

I could only apologize to him and said that it was an injustice. But what he had said left me perturbed. In social sciences *‘the other’* is a term that denotes how human beings divide, create walls with other groups, whom they perceive as not similar to them and even inferior.

For the American *‘the other’* is everyone, who is outside America. For the British everyone who is not White and outside the country is *‘the other’.* For the man from Pakistan it has become the Indian. Same can be said of the Chinese. But the curious thing for Indians is that for many an Indians *‘the other’* is not an outsider but another Indian only with whom his deepest chasm lies. He is someone whom we make into an enemy.

*“You Indians, you have done it with your own people, like in Jallianwala Bagh. That is how the British controlled your nation for two centuries, isn’t it?”*

The historian’s words have stayed with me since then.

In one of his books, Amitav Ghosh, the author, writes that the British believed that the Indians could always be relied upon to ruthlessly put down any one whether their own in India or anywhere else on their orders, something they could never imagine doing with anyone else. Would a Japanese be ever trusted to fire on its own people on the orders of a foreign General? Would a Chinese army have done so when asked? I believe the answer is a big no.

As one ex-General from the former British Indian army said,

*“The British were masters in making the Indian people believe that they were fighting on the side of the truth and so when the Indians fought a fellow Indian they saw him as evil and felt little or no guilt in killing him.”*

Is that why even today we are deeply divided, can torture a fellow Indian and feel little empathy, even shoot at him or beat him to death?

Why did we Indians create *‘the other’* amongst each other and not outside like other nations do?

Once, a British historian, on the mention of Jallianwala Bagh, said that a British police force or army would never shoot at its own people if asked to do so.

Why did we Indians did it then? I believe it is worth finding an answer to this dilemma.

Why didn’t the police force refuse to follow Michael Dyer’s orders and not shoot at their own people? This maybe is one of the most poignant and perplexing questions in understanding why British could rule India.

Has the notion of *‘the other’* as one we can hate and eliminate always existed amongst us in our history and as one that the British only perfected when they came in contact with us? I wish to ask this on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy of Jallianwala Bagh, if we as a society created a gap within that can cause fissures and we can again be ordered into maniacal behavior on the orders of a white man or woman.

Did we carry our philosophy of *‘ Vasundhara eva kutumbakam’* too far and become like the subjects in Milgram’s experiment?

Jallianwala Bagh to me appears to be not the action of a deranged, crazy lunatic General, but of a psychopath who knew this weakness of Indians only too well, who understood this mindset in us. He knew that when ordered to fire, the men wouldn’t stop because the cries of their own country men would have no effect on them. This philosophy, sick and dangerous, may need to be addressed and understood that may lead us to kill each other or destroy. Will it ever lead us to become a united cohesive nation and not hold us back?

Creating *‘the other’* and making him into an enemy is dehumanizing which has just not only been symbolic, making us slaves but also making us lose what is the most precious, our freedom. It delineated us from the power that rightfully belonged to us as a nation.

Last year we visited the Jallianwala Bagh. There were hundreds of people *laughing, talking and taking pictures. No single face looked solemn.* Only some seemed curious looking at the Well or the Bullet marks on the wall. Where does this detachment from our history comes from?

Slavery dehumanized us Indians. As we know from history, no group cedes its privileges over others out of altruism but is forced to do so when the privileges they enjoy begin to threaten their survival. Gandhi could never do that to the British. Only once during the INA Trials and the Naval Revolt, it happened when the idea of one Indian being separate from *‘the other’* got erased terrifying the British into thinking it might bring their annihilation in India.

Will the present generation erase this blot? In it perhaps lies the safety that will make our future generations safe from the contradictions that pushed our ancestors into slavery and annihilating each other.

-Rajat Mitra,
Psychologist and Author of *‘The Infidel Next Door’*

Jallianwala Bagh - Why did Indians fire on Indians?

I lived in Hong Kong for some years. One of the facts I observed was that Hong Kongers by and large do not like Indians and many of them even hate us. Whether an Indian goes on to look for a home or on the streets to buy groceries, the feeling is palpable. Many Indians I talked to said that they felt it rather strongly. I had asked several people but got no satisfactory answer.

Finally, I asked a local friend about the reason. He was a historian at one of Hong Kong’s University. At first he tried to deny that this existed but then later said the roots of it were historical.

*“Do you know,”* he said, *“the British came to Hong Kong in 1841 and when they tried to build the first police force with the help of locals, they realized that the loyalty of the locals could not be trusted to follow their orders or shoot and kill if their fellow brethren revolted or were a rebellion. But they realized that they didn’t have the same experience in India. So they brought the Indians.*

*The first batch of Indians, who came brutalized and tortured the people here. The memory still lives in the mind of every person here and we haven’t forgiven you for it and will never do,”* he said in a deeply emotional voice.

*“You Indians followed orders and didn’t show any mercy towards us, which we expected you would do.”*

I could only apologize to him and said that it was an injustice. But what he had said left me perturbed. In social sciences *‘the other’* is a term that denotes how human beings divide, create walls with other groups, whom they perceive as not similar to them and even inferior.

For the American *‘the other’* is everyone, who is outside America. For the British everyone who is not White and outside the country is *‘the other’.* For the man from Pakistan it has become the Indian. Same can be said of the Chinese. But the curious thing for Indians is that for many an Indians *‘the other’* is not an outsider but another Indian only with whom his deepest chasm lies. He is someone whom we make into an enemy.

*“You Indians, you have done it with your own people, like in Jallianwala Bagh. That is how the British controlled your nation for two centuries, isn’t it?”*

The historian’s words have stayed with me since then.

In one of his books, Amitav Ghosh, the author, writes that the British believed that the Indians could always be relied upon to ruthlessly put down any one whether their own in India or anywhere else on their orders, something they could never imagine doing with anyone else. Would a Japanese be ever trusted to fire on its own people on the orders of a foreign General? Would a Chinese army have done so when asked? I believe the answer is a big no.

As one ex-General from the former British Indian army said,

*“The British were masters in making the Indian people believe that they were fighting on the side of the truth and so when the Indians fought a fellow Indian they saw him as evil and felt little or no guilt in killing him.”*

Is that why even today we are deeply divided, can torture a fellow Indian and feel little empathy, even shoot at him or beat him to death?

Why did we Indians create *‘the other’* amongst each other and not outside like other nations do?

Once, a British historian, on the mention of Jallianwala Bagh, said that a British police force or army would never shoot at its own people if asked to do so.

Why did we Indians did it then? I believe it is worth finding an answer to this dilemma.

Why didn’t the police force refuse to follow Michael Dyer’s orders and not shoot at their own people? This maybe is one of the most poignant and perplexing questions in understanding why British could rule India.

Has the notion of *‘the other’* as one we can hate and eliminate always existed amongst us in our history and as one that the British only perfected when they came in contact with us? I wish to ask this on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy of Jallianwala Bagh, if we as a society created a gap within that can cause fissures and we can again be ordered into maniacal behavior on the orders of a white man or woman.

Did we carry our philosophy of *‘ Vasundhara eva kutumbakam’* too far and become like the subjects in Milgram’s experiment?

Jallianwala Bagh to me appears to be not the action of a deranged, crazy lunatic General, but of a psychopath who knew this weakness of Indians only too well, who understood this mindset in us. He knew that when ordered to fire, the men wouldn’t stop because the cries of their own country men would have no effect on them. This philosophy, sick and dangerous, may need to be addressed and understood that may lead us to kill each other or destroy. Will it ever lead us to become a united cohesive nation and not hold us back?

Creating *‘the other’* and making him into an enemy is dehumanizing which has just not only been symbolic, making us slaves but also making us lose what is the most precious, our freedom. It delineated us from the power that rightfully belonged to us as a nation.

Last year we visited the Jallianwala Bagh. There were hundreds of people *laughing, talking and taking pictures. No single face looked solemn.* Only some seemed curious looking at the Well or the Bullet marks on the wall. Where does this detachment from our history comes from?

Slavery dehumanized us Indians. As we know from history, no group cedes its privileges over others out of altruism but is forced to do so when the privileges they enjoy begin to threaten their survival. Gandhi could never do that to the British. Only once during the INA Trials and the Naval Revolt, it happened when the idea of one Indian being separate from *‘the other’* got erased terrifying the British into thinking it might bring their annihilation in India.

Will the present generation erase this blot? In it perhaps lies the safety that will make our future generations safe from the contradictions that pushed our ancestors into slavery and annihilating each other.

-Rajat Mitra,
Psychologist and Author of *‘The Infidel Next Door’*

October 22, 2019

Japanese official Tadashi Maeda dismisses China’s Belt and Road Initiative as just a ‘political show’


Diplomacy

Japanese official Tadashi Maeda dismisses China’s Belt and Road Initiative as just a ‘political show’

Tokyo hopes its China-containment project will eventually include Taiwan as a participant, says the governor of the Japan Bank for International CooperationTadashi Maeda says Japan’s own strategy ‘is based on three pillars: promotion of the rule of law, freedom of navigation and free trade’

Topic | China-Japan relations

Lee Jeong-ho

Published: 6:25am, 18 Oct, 2019

Updated: 11:04pm, 18 Oct, 2019

China’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure plan, the Belt and Road Initiative, is a “political show” that lacks real substance, the head of Japan’s international development agency said on Thursday, adding that Japan ultimately hopes to include Taiwan as a participant in its China-containment project.

 

Speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Tadashi Maeda, governor of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), criticised the belt and road project, saying it lacked real “programmes” to help the developing world.

 

“BRI is just a political show, and there is no clear definition of what it is exactly … it’s just everywhere,” Maeda said of the initiative, which spans multiple continents.

 

“I think China does not fully understand” sustainability issues and other implications involved with the projects, including climate changes, he said, also noting that some belt and road participants suffer from heavy debt loads related to projects in their countries.

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Japan is concerned that the belt and road projects are accelerating China’s growing global clout, and both Japanese and US leaders worry that the initiative could ultimately change the economic order enjoyed by the traditional powers.

 

China’s initiative, which began in 2013, has long faced international scrutiny. Beijing has been accused of using it to further its political agenda and to attain more power and influence amid its rivalry with the US.

As criticism grew, Chinese President Xi Jinping hinted last year that Beijing was adjusting its strategy in promoting the project, saying that his New Silk Road plan was not about creating a “China club” but was meant to improve the quality of lives for people of the partnering countries.

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Japan keen to do business in Africa as China extends reach

“[Japan's initiative] is different. It is based on three pillars: promotion of the rule of law, freedom of navigation and free trade,” said Maeda, who formerly served as a special adviser to the Japanese cabinet.

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Chasing China, Japan looks to Africa for trade and global influence

“In some sense, this is a counterproposal to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.”

 

The Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy is Japan’s version of the plan, and Maeda said Tokyo was paying special attention to the “treatment of Taiwan” as it develops further.

“I had private meetings with a national security adviser of Taiwan, and also the foreign minister of Taiwan” about Taipei’s participation in the project, Maeda said.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has suggested that Beijing is adjusting its strategy in promoting the belt and road project, which has come under criticism. Photo: Reuters

“Taiwan has already engaged [the Japan-led economic initiatives] on a transaction-by-transaction level [from] a year ago,” he added without elaborating.

 

Maeda said that Japan “cannot invite Taiwan as an official partner”, but that it was possible for the self-ruled island to take part in the China-containment strategy on a transactional level.

 

“Transaction-by-transaction would enable Taiwan to take part in the project” in supporting FOIP, he added.

The difference between Indo Pacific and Asia-Pacific? The US and China

The term “Indo-Pacific” first emerged as regional strategic framework in US politics in 2010 when then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton used it to signal renewed American interest in the area.

 

The approach was reinforced in 2016 when FOIP was introduced. The US government further articulated the concept in 2017, stressing the need to combine military and geoeconomic goals to contain China’s military expansion, as well as to provide alternative development models to the Belt and Road Initiative.

 

Timothy Heath, a former analyst at US Pacific Command who is now a senior international defence researcher at the RAND Corporation, said the US would likely “welcome a stronger Taiwan role in Japan’s FOIP programme”.

 

“The message this sends is that the United States and Japan are willing to work with Taiwan and others to bolster the FOIP, even if this antagonises China,” he said. “A closer Taiwan partnership with Japan and the US also weakens Beijing’s hopes of peacefully coercing Taiwan into unification.”

How Japan is countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative

John Sitilides, geopolitical strategist at Trilogy Advisors in Washington, said Taiwan’s participation “will have little direct impact on China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative”.

 

“Ultimately, Tokyo’s message to Beijing is predicated on the necessary economic, political and diplomatic engagement of the world’s second largest economy just several hundred miles across the East China Sea,” Sitilides said.

 

“At the same time, Japan will retain and further consolidate its independent foreign and defence policies, alliances and trade agreements, including opportunities for greater trade benefits with Taiwan, while granting formal diplomatic recognition only for the People’s Republic of China.”

 

The shared goal for Tokyo and Washington, he said, “would be to check China’s assertive regional growth and power projection strategies”.




https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3033470/top-japanese-bank-official-tadashi-maeda-dismisses-chinas-belt

October 20, 2019

How Pakistan’s Generals turned the country into an international jihadi tourist resort

An article by a Pakistani, about Pakistan Army. An impressive and telling Govind
-------------------- -

How Pakistan’s Generals turned the country into an international jihadi tourist resort

BY Mohammad Hanif

(Mohammed Hanif is the author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes(2008), his first novel, a satire on the death of General Zia ul Haq)

What is the last thing you say to your best general when ordering him into a do-or-die mission? A prayer maybe, if you are religiously inclined. A short lecture, underlining the importance of the mission, if you want to keep it businesslike. Or maybe you’ll wish him good luck accompanied by a clicking of the heels and a final salute.

On the night of 5 July 1977 as Operation Fair Play, meant to topple Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s elected government, was about to commence, then Army Chief General Zia ul Haq took aside his right-hand man and Corps Commander of 10th Corps Lieutenant General Faiz Ali Chishti and whispered to him: “Murshid, marwa na daina.” (Guru, don’t get us killed.)

General Zia was indulging in two of his favourite pastimes: spreading his paranoia amongst those around him and sucking up to a junior officer he needed to do his dirty work. General Zia had a talent for that; he could make his juniors feel as if they were indispensable to the running of this world. And he could make his seniors feel like proper gods, as Bhutto found out to his cost.

General Faiz Ali Chishti’s troops didn’t face any resistance that night; not a single shot was fired, and like all military coups in Pakistan, this was also dubbed a ‘bloodless coup’. There was a lot of bloodshed, though, in the following years—in military-managed dungeons, as pro-democracy students were butchered at Thori gate in interior Sindh, hundreds of shoppers were blown up in Karachi’s Bohri Bazar, in Rawalpindi people didn’t even have to leave their houses to get killed as the Army’s ammunition depot blew up raining missiles on a whole city, and finally at Basti Laal Kamal near Bahawalpur, where a plane exploded killing General Zia and most of the Pakistan Army’s high command. General Faiz Ali Chishti had nothing to do with this, of course. General Zia had managed to force his murshid into retirement soon after coming to power. Chishti had started to take that term of endearment—murshid—a bit too seriously and dictators can’t stand anyone who thinks of himself as a kingmaker.

Thirty-four years on, Pakistan is a society divided at many levels. There are those who insist on tracing our history to a certain September day in 2001, and there are those who insist that this country came into being the day the first Muslim landed on the Subcontinent. There are laptop jihadis, liberal fascist and fair-weather revolutionaries. There are Balochi freedom fighters up in the mountains and bullet-riddled bodies of young political activists in obscure Baloch towns. And, of course, there are the members of civil society with a permanent glow around their faces from all the candle-light vigils. All these factions may not agree on anything but there is consensus on one point: General Zia’s coup was a bad idea. When was the last time anyone heard Nawaz Sharif or any of Zia’s numerous protégés thump their chest and say, yes, we need another Zia? When did you see a Pakistan military commander who stood on Zia’s grave and vowed to continue his mission?

It might have taken Pakistanis 34 years to reach this consensus but we finally agree that General Zia’s domestic and foreign policies didn’t do us any good. It brought us automatic weapons, heroin and sectarianism; it also made fortunes for those who dealt in these commodities. And it turned Pakistan into an international jihadi tourist resort.

And yet, somehow, without ever publicly owning up to it, the Army has continued Zia’s mission. Successive Army commanders, despite their access to vast libraries and regular strategic reviews, have never actually acknowledged that the multinational, multicultural jihadi project they started during the Zia era was a mistake. Late Dr Eqbal Ahmed, the Pakistani teacher and activist, once said that the Pakistan Army is brilliant at collecting information but its ability to analyse this information is non-existent.

Looking back at the Zia years, the Pakistan Army seems like one of those mythical monsters that chops off its own head but then grows an identical one and continues on the only course it knows.

In 1999, two days after the Pakistan Army embarked on its Kargil misadventure, Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmed gave a ‘crisp and to the point’ briefing to a group of senior Army and Air Force officers. Air Commodore Kaiser Tufail, who attended the meeting, later wrote that they were told that it was nothing more than a defensive manoeuvre and the Indian Air Force will not get involved at any stage. “Come October, we shall walk into Siachen—to mop up the dead bodies of hundreds of Indians left hungry, out in the cold,” General Mahmud told the meeting. “Perhaps it was the incredulousness of the whole thing that led Air Commodore Abid Rao to famously quip, ‘After this operation, it’s going to be either a Court Martial or Martial Law!’ as we walked out of the briefing room,” Air Commodore Tufail recalled in an essay.

If Rao Abid even contemplated a court martial, he probably lacked leadership qualities because there was only one way out of this mess—a humiliating military defeat, a world-class diplomatic disaster, followed by yet another martial law. The man who should have faced court martial for Kargil appointed himself Pakistan’s President for the next decade.

General Mahmud went on to command ISI, Rao Abid retired as air vice marshal, both went on to find lucrative work in the Army’s vast welfare empire, and Kargil was forgotten as if it was a game of dare between two juveniles who were now beyond caring about who had actually started the game. Nobody remembers that a lot of blood was shed on this pointless Kargil mission. The battles were fierce and some of the men and officers fought so valiantly that two were awarded Pakistan’s highest military honour, Nishan-e-Haidar. There were hundreds of others whose names never made it to any awards list, whose families consoled themselves by saying that their loved ones had been martyred while defending our nation’s borders against our enemy. Nobody pointed out the basic fact that there was no enemy on those mountains before some delusional generals decided that they would like to mop up hundreds of Indian soldiers after starving them to death.

The architect of this mission, the daring General Pervez Musharraf, who didn’t bother to consult his colleagues before ordering his soldiers to their slaughter, doesn’t even have the wits to face a sessions court judge in Pakistan, let alone a court martial. The only people he feels comfortable with are his Facebook friends and that too from the safety of his London apartment. During the whole episode, the nation was told that it wasn’t the regular army that was fighting in Kargil; it was the mujahideen. But those who received their loved ones’ flag-draped coffins had sent their sons and brothers to serve in a professional army, not a freelance lashkar.

The Pakistan Army’s biggest folly has been that under Zia it started outsourcing its basic job—soldiering—to these freelance militants. By blurring the line between a professional soldier—who, at least in theory, is always required to obey his officer, who in turn is governed by a set of laws—and a mujahid, who can pick and choose his cause and his commander depending on his mood, the Pakistan Army has caused immense confusion in its own ranks. Our soldiers are taught to shout Allah-o-Akbar when mocking an attack. In real life, they are ambushed by enemies who shout Allah-o-Akbar even louder. Can we blame them if they dither in their response? When the Pakistan Navy’s main aviation base in Karachi, PNS Mehran, was attacked, Navy Chief Admiral Nauman Bashir told us that the attackers were ‘very well trained’. We weren’t sure if he was giving us a lazy excuse or admiring the creation of his institution. When naval officials told journalists that the attackers were ‘as good as our own commandoes’ were they giving themselves a backhanded compliment?

In the wake of the attacks on PNS Mehran in Karachi, some TV channels have pulled out an old war anthem sung by late Madam Noor Jehan and have started to play it in the backdrop of images of young, hopeful faces of slain officers and men. Written by the legendary teacher and poet Sufi Tabassum, the anthem carries a clear and stark warning: Aiay puttar hatantay nahin wickday, na labhdi phir bazaar kuray (You can’t buy these brave sons from shops, don’t go looking for them in bazaars).

While Sindhis and Balochis have mostly composed songs of rebellion, Punjabi popular culture has often lionised its karnails and jarnails and even an odd dholsipahi. The Pakistan Army, throughout its history, has refused to take advice from politicians as well as thinking professionals from its own ranks. It has never listened to historians and sometimes ignored even the esteemed religious scholars it frequently uses to whip up public sentiments for its dirty wars. But the biggest strategic mistake it has made is that it has not even taken advice from the late Madam Noor Jehan, one of the Army’s most ardent fans in Pakistan’s history. You can probably ignore Dr Eqbal Ahmed’s advice and survive in this country but you ignore Madam at your own peril.

Since the Pakistan Army’s high command is dominated by Punjabi-speaking generals, it’s difficult to fathom what it is about this advice that they didn’t understand. Any which way you translate it, the message is loud and clear. And lyrical: soldiers are not to be bought and sold like a commodity. “Na  awaian takran maar kuray” (That search is futile, like butting your head against a brick wall), Noor Jehan goes on to rhapsodise.

For decades, the Army has not only shopped for these private puttarsin the bazaars, it also set up factories to manufacture them. It raised whole armies of them. When you raise Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish Mohammed, Sipahe Sahaba, Sipahe Mohammed, Lashker Jhangvi, Al- Badar Mujahideen, others encouraged by the thriving market place will go ahead and start outfits like Anjuman Tahuffuze Khatame Nabuwat and Anjuman Tahuffuze Namoos-e-Aiyasha. It’s not just Kashmir and Afghanistan and Chechnya they will want to liberate, they will also go back in time and seek revenge for a perceived slur that may or may not have been cast by someone more than 1,300 years ago in a country far far away.

As if the Army’s sprawling shopping mall of private puttars in Pakistan wasn’t enough, it actively encouraged import and export of these commodities, even branched out into providing rest and recreation facilities for the ones who wanted a break. The outsourcing of Pakistan’s military strategy has reached a point where mujahids have their own mujahids to do their job, and inevitably at the end of the supply chain are those faceless and poor teenagers with explosives strapped to their torsos regularly marched out to blow up other poor kids.

Two days before the Americans killed Osama bin Laden and took away his bullet-riddled body, General Kiyani addressed Army cadets at Kakul. After declaring a victory of sorts over the militants, he gave our nation a stark choice. And before the nation could even begin to weigh its pros and cons, he went ahead and decided for them: we shall never bargain our honour for prosperity. As things stand, most people in Pakistan have neither honour nor prosperity and will easily settle for their little world not blowing up every day.

The question people really want to ask General Kiyani is that if he and his Army officer colleagues can have both honour and prosperity, why can’t we the people have a tiny bit of both?

The Army and its advocates in the media often worry about Pakistan’s image, as if we are not suffering from a long-term serious illness but a seasonal bout of acne that just needs better skin care. The Pakistan Army, over the years, has cultivated this image of 180 million people with nuclear devices strapped to their collective body threatening to take the world down with it. We may not be able to take the world down with us; the world might defang us or try to calm us down by appealing to our imagined Sufi side. But the fact remains that Pakistan as a nation is paying the price for our generals’ insistence on acting, in Asma Jahangir’s frank but accurate description, like duffers.

And demanding medals and golf resorts for being such duffers consistently for such a long time.

What people really want to do at this point is put an arm around our military commanders’ shoulders, take them aside and whisper in their ears: “Murshid, marwa na daina.”
-------------------------------------------

Rani Abbakka Chowta, brave heart of Mangalore

The year was 1555. Portuguese colonial power was at its peak in the 1500’s. They destroyed Zamorins of Calicut. Defeated the Sultan of Bijapur. Took away Daman from the Sultan of Gujarat, Established a colony in Mylapore, Captured Bombay and made Goa as their headquarters. And while they were at it, pretty much unchallenged, they even ruined the ancient Kapaleeswarar Temple to build a Church over it.

Their next target, the super profitable port of Mangalore.

Their only bad luck, just 14 kilometers south of Mangalore was the small settlement of Ullal - ruled then by a feisty 30 year old woman - Rani Abbakka Chowta.

Initially, they took her lightly and sent a few boats and soldiers to capture and bring her back to Goa - Those boats never came back.
Shocked and enraged, they sent a huge fleet of ships this time, under the command of much celebrated Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira - The admiral soon returned, badly injured and empty handed.

Thereafter, another Portuguese fleet was sent - only a few injured from the crew managed to make it back.
Then the Portuguese went on to capture the Mangalore port and the fort anyways, perhaps planning to tackle Rani Abbakka Chowta from the convenient distance of the Mangalore fort.

After the successful capture of Mangalore, a huge army under João Peixoto, an experienced Portuguese General was sent to Ullal.
The brief was simple: Subjugate Ullal and capture Abbakka Chowta.
The plan was foolproof- there was no way a 30 year old with a few men could withstand the might of an army of thousands with advanced weapons.
The Portuguese reached Ullal and found it deserted. Abbakka was nowhere in sight.

They roamed around, relaxed and thanked their stars - Just when they were about to call it a victory - Mrs Chowta attacked with 200 of her chosen men - there was chaos all around and many portuguese lost their lives even without a fight

- General João Peixoto was assassinated, 70 portuguese were captured and the rest just ran away.

So if you’re Abbakka Chowta, who’s just defeated a large army of aggressors, killed a general, captured fighters and defended her city - What will you do?

- Rest and enjoy the moment right?

- Right?

- No!

Rani Abbakka Chowta, rode with her men towards Mangalore that same night, and laid a siege of the Mangalore fort - She not just broke inside the fort successfully - but assassinated Admiral Mascarenhas the Chief of the Portuguese power there and forced the remaining Portuguese to vacate the fort.

She didn’t just stop at this but went on to even capture the Portuguese settlement at Kundapura, a full 100 kms, north of Mangalore - Just to make a point.

The Portuguese finally managed to get back at Abbakka Chowta by convincing her estranged husband, to betray for money. She was arrested and put in the prison where she revolted again and was killed while trying to escape.

Abbakka Chowta was a Jain who fought against the Portuguese with an army comprising of both Hindus and Muslims, a full 300 years before the First War of Indian Independence in 1857.

What did we Indians do to her, as a mark of our respect and gratitude? - We just forgot her.
We didn’t name our girls after her. We didn’t even teach her stories to our kids.

Yes we did release a Postal Stamp in her name, named a boat after her and erected 2 statues - yes just 2 statues in the whole of India for someone who should be our national hero.

We might have got to read a chapter about her in our text books, had she been a European or an American.

Many talk about her being the last Indian to have the power of the agni-ban. In all this cacophony, our generation has lost a great hero - a great source of inspiration.

Still wondering why you’ve not heard about her yet?
Wonder on.

*Atleast now, spread such historical facts to all your friends*

Trump Withdraws Troops From Syria: The Fallout


Chatam House

15 October 2019

Lindsay Newman and Leslie Vinjamuri survey the damage the president’s latest move has done to US foreign policy.

Dr Lindsay Newman

Senior Research Fellow, US and the Americas Programme

@lindsayrsnewman

LinkedIn

Dr Leslie Vinjamuri

Head of the US and the Americas Programme, and Dean of the Queen Elizabeth II Academy, Chatham House

@londonvinjamuri

Google Scholar

2019-10-15-TrumpCC.jpg

Donald Trump walks from Marine One to Air Force One at Ocala International Airport on 3 October. Photo: Getty Images.

 

   

A tactical approach to Turkey has failed

Lindsay Newman

The US approach to Turkey under President Donald Trump has been tactical, consisting of a series of mixed signals.

In August 2018, the US imposed sanctions on several Turkish officials to pressure for the release of detained American pastor Andrew Brunson. With the Turkish lira plummeting, Brunson was released in October of that year.

In a separate incident, after squeezing Turkey economically, the US offered to work with Turkey in the investigation into the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But later, the White House considered reopening the case of the extradition of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, long sought by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a bid to convince Turkey to reduce pressure on Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi killing.

In the latest development, Trump agreed to withdraw US troops from Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria, opening up the space for a Turkish military incursion. While Trump seeks to deliver on a campaign promise to reduce the US military presence abroad, the clear winner of his latest decision is Turkey, which now gets to pursue its key objective of driving out the Kurdish presence along the Turkish-Syrian border and resettling Syrian refugees there.

The clear losers are the Kurdish fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the very fighters who have been critical to the US counterterrorism efforts against ISIS in Syria. Together the withdrawal of US troops in conjunction with Turkish attacks on Kurdish fighters (and civilians) opens a wide lane for the resurgence of ISIS in Syria, already underway according to an August report by the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General.

Events are moving fast: developments in the first week of the Turkish operation include the apparent escape of ISIS-affiliated detainees and the realignment of Kurdish fighters with the Syrian government.

There are other losers, however. These include counterterrorism initiatives globally where the US has shifted from active leadership to more advisory roles. For instance, following a December 2018 policy statement by then-national security advisor John Bolton, the US has scaled back support for counterterrorism initiatives in Africa, including against Boko Haram in West Africa and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in the Sahel.

Additionally, the abandonment of a strategic (non-state) ally at the request of another (NATO) ally when it is expedient to do so will be registered not only by the Kurdish fighters in Syria but also potential partners worldwide, including Juan Guaido in Venezuela and the Cuban-American diaspora. And it is still not entirely clear what the US or President Trump (perhaps increasingly separately) get out of this latest policy signal with Turkey.

Congress and US allies continue to struggle to restrain Trump

Leslie Vinjamuri

After Donald Trump announced he was pulling troops from Kurdish-held areas in Syria, there was outrage from both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate. Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham, two of Trump’s strongest supporters, both admonished the president for his decision to withdraw troops from Syria.

Evangelical leaders previously silent on some of Trump’s most controversial policies also dissented. Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, condemned Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds. This sentiment was expressed by other leading figures in the conservative Christian community who believe the US has a responsibility to protect persecuted Christian communities overseas.

The threat that evangelical voters, who made up 26% of voters in the 2016 presidential election and voted overwhelmingly for Trump (81%), might break with the president over his Syria policy, or that Republican Senators would push back, may explain Trump’s decision to support sanctions against Turkey. It may also signal that Trump is willing to bend if failing to do so threatens the support of his Republican base. 

European governments have also condemned Trump’s phone call with Erdogan and his decision to pull US troops from Syria, and for good reason. Turkey has seized on criticism of its military manoeuvres to renew its threat to use Syrian refugees as a bargaining chip with the EU. Europe is justified in its concern that the release of ISIS detainees and renewed terrorist activities presents a security risk for Europe. And US pressure to repatriate ISIS fighters with European citizenship is likely to grow.

This week, they took action, as the foreign ministers of all 28 EU member states agreed to stop selling arms to Turkey. 

For Europe, a pushback against Trump over Syria is important not just for its immediate effects, but for what it says about European attempts to create a foreign policy independent of the US president. Some in government are now recognizing that America’s international role may be changing for good. As this struggle plays out on policy towards Iran, and also China, Trump’s Syria policy gives European countries one more reason to distance themselves.

Congressional attempts to challenge Trump’s abrupt decision, given the rapidly changing facts on the ground, also look like they will be too little, and too late, at least in Syria.

Even with Trump’s support, measures designed to punish Turkey’s leaders by targeting their assets, inhibiting foreign travel and preventing military sales will have little effect on who controls northeast Syria if Assad succeeds in using the Kurdish deal to re-establish a foothold across northeast Syria. And if this does deliver stability to the region, it will have come at a high price.

It remains to be seen if any of this will translate into a victory for Trump. For a US president who stakes his reputation on doing deals, the announcement that the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have agreed their own deal will come as a big blow.

And if it succeeds, this deal will be a dramatic setback for US strategic and humanitarian priorities in Syria: to secure the territorial defeat of ISIS and prevent its resurgence, contain Iranian and Russian influence, and provide a secure space with humanitarian relief for the diverse community of Christians, Kurds and others in the region who have looked to America for support.

The US president seems happy to absorb these costs if it means he can deliver on his campaign promise to bring US troops home. But much will depend on whether a humanitarian crisis in Syria and the threat of a resurgent ISIS erodes the unqualified support from his Republican base that this president heretofore seems to have enjoyed.

October 18, 2019

An unintended effect of Modi govt’s Kashmir lockdown – militants caught in their own trap

The Print, India

Militants in Kashmir have run into what Mao Zedong would call ‘contradictions of purpose’.

ABHIJIT IYER-MITRA18 October, 2019 10:00 am IST

Villagers look on next to the debris of a house after a gunbattle between militants and security forces in Bandipora district, North Kashmir | Representational photo: ANI

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Every insurgency reaches a critical stage where some imperceptible shift in strategy changes the nature of the campaign, guaranteeing success or failure. Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, used to call it “contradictions of purpose”. The basic idea was to use civilians as human shields, and force the state’s security apparatus to overreact and alienate the local population.

However, when state forces don’t fall into the trap, it’s usually the insurgents who start losing popular support. By torching apple orchards, attacking traders, and killing an apple trucker and a stone crusher, militants in the Valley are simply betraying their desperation and sowing the seeds of their own irrelevance. The unintended consequence of the communications blackout was that the security forces couldn’t react even if they wanted to, but the “contradictions of purpose” brought upon by the Narendra Modi government with its 5 August move have refracted to start impacting the militants in the Valley.

Orchards provide cover

To understand why this has happened, we need to understand why apples and stone crushing are important to Kashmiri militants. Apple orchards have only one house in the middle of a large tract of land, insulated from prying eyes in villages and smaller towns where everyone knows everyone else. With the foliage growing outwards up to 12 feet, an apple tree blocks the line of sight and makes for the perfect cover for militants to move around freely. Apples being highly nutritious, an apple orchard thus creates a perfect ecosystem to harbour insurgents coming from a hazardous border-crossing.

A view of the packaging crates taken from full height to show the masking properties of apple trees and how short they are | Photo: Abhijit Iyer-Mitra | ThePrint

Unfortunately for the militants, the apple orchard owners are also the biggest source of intelligence for security forces, as I learned in the core apple-growing districts of south Kashmir – Shopian and Pulwama. About 90 per cent of the actionable human intelligence comes from these cultivators, who accept payment from militants to give them shelter but inform the security forces the moment they leave. This is done for two reasons: first, nobody wants a shootout in their orchard; and second, the reward for handing over a militant is far too good for subsistence farmers to resist.

Also read: After 3 killings in one day, traders told to load trucks on highways & main roads

When militants act, forces react

The apple harvest also dictates the cadence of the insurgency and counterinsurgency operations. Given the extreme danger of operating in the August-October harvest season, when the apple trees are dense, security forces avoid going into the orchards. This is usually when militants plan most of their attacks, putting the foliage to good use. When the trees start shedding in mid-October and go completely barren by November, security forces go hunting. One of the greatest worries of the local security commanders was that the blocking of mobile services had completely shut them off from this timely intelligence that they needed during August-September to fend off terror attacks from mid-October onwards.

Looking back, we can now say it was probably for the good since we know other forces were also at work. The orders from Pakistan dictated a complete halt to economic activity, to “show solidarity with the Kashmir cause”. In effect, this made the insurgents forcibly turn on their biggest benefactor in the valley – the apple farmers. The first turning point came in mid-September when an orchard was burnt down and a cultivator family was attacked in Sopore.

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In the past, the smooth running of the apple business was seen as critical to the functioning of militancy, so it came as a surprise to the cultivators that this was no longer the case. During my visit, I filmed the gathering of the early September crop of the “Kullu” variety having been successfully evacuated by stealth, mostly at night, for fear of militant retaliation, and preparations were underway to do the same for the October harvest between 5th and 15th, which includes the Maharaji and Delicious varieties. Clearly, the rise in violence against apple farmers and their orchards indicates that instead of cowing down the farmers, the militants have only succeeded in aggravating them. And so, once mobile services are fully restored, the quantum of tip-offs is only going to rise.

Also read: Modi govt’s plan to empower Kashmir economically & disempower politically will cost India

Business that provides finance

The stone crushing is a different story altogether. Dominated by mafia groups across India, the situation in Kashmir is no different. Much of what happens, happens illegally. In my interviews with stone crushers from Jharkhand at a clearly illegal operation, the workers told me they had been well looked after. Within days of the mobile blackout, the quarry owners had provided them with landline phones with free calls to home. The local police, however, confirmed that the stone-crushing business continues to attract protection from higher echelons.

At the site of a brick kiln in Kashmir | Photo: Abhijit Iyer-Mitra | ThePrint

They also confirmed the existence of a “hafta” model where quarry owners would pay militants a fee to be left alone, unlike the informal arrangement mining companies have in the Naxal belt. While there was no unanimity on this (primarily because money laundering is one of the weakest points of both intel and security operations in the Valley), officers estimate that anywhere between 40 and 70 per cent of local operating funds comes from such extortion by militants.

To sum up, apple orchards provide the cover and stone quarrying the finances for significant parts of the Kashmir militancy. The fact that these two critical assets are being attacked, shows that in some form, the Indian state has reversed the “contradictions of purpose” onto the militants, who are now not just preventing people from earning their livelihood but also compromising their own operational advantages due to orders from Islamabad. Delhi may or may not have realised this, but this could very well be the turning of the tide, where Pakistan’s insurgency strategy is at direct variance with its diplomatic need to “internationalise the dispute”.

The author is a senior fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. He tweets @iyervval. Views are personal. 

India must change its modus operandi towards Balochistan


On August 6th India constitutionally abrogated the conservative and absolutist Article 370 from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The move – which proved to be a stumper for Pakistan’s diplomacy wing – triggered a fission of frustration catalysed with enigmas in Pakistan’s entire establishment. Pakistan’s frustration found many ways to carve itself out open on the world canvas, the darkest of it was their military and ISI’s sweating attempt at maligning India at the world stage. Every brush of the box was used to paint a case for liberation of Kashmir from Indian state and longing for the merger with Pakistan.

Pakistan ever since its creation – which was a result of instalment of intense religious hatred, fundamentalism and extremism along with clever populistic political play – has used every trick to annex Kashmir from India. It partly, due to negligence of Indian state, succeeded in annexing a third of J&K in 1947. Bound by its ideology of Gazwa-e-hind, Pakistan has injected the mission to destroy India into its veins. Though, by abrogation of article 370, India has further knotted the vindictive mission for Pakistan, it is also equally unambiguous that Pakistan will try every possible pernicious trick to return its way in the quest for the annexation of Kashmir. The state of Pakistan, deeply enmeshed in and fuelled by terrorism and religious extremism, will eventually return to turf with new challenges for India.

Map showing Balochistan and other regions of Pakistan

For years we have been burned by our house fire lit by neighbour Pakistan. And for years we tried extinguishing the fire. Every time we extinguished it, the neighbour came with a new idea to again lit fire in our house, repeatedly burning us. Despite our strength, might and nationalism, Pakistan didn’t stop perfidiously harming us. And it won’t stop, until we completely quash its malevolent establishment, break its backbone. The best way to foil and counter Pakistan’s mission of destroying India is by dismantling the entire state of Pakistan. This is the time India shifts its gear from being defensive counter aggression to hardcore lethality. We can start by changing our modus operandi towards Pakistan’s most vulnerable part – Balochistan.

Balochistan, apart from being the largest province of Pakistan making 40% of the total area, is also the least inhabited province with only 5.94% of the total population. The province is also the most marginalised province with only 20% of population having access to safe drinking water, only 25% villages electrified, a whopping infant mortality rate of 108, highest poverty rate, lowest literacy rate and share of GDP in Pakistan’s economy witnessing a steady drop from 4.9% in mid 1970s to 3.7% now. Despite being carved on soil which possesses one of the region’s richest mineral reserves, the state of Balochistan has singled out and charred to backwardness by Pakistan.

Also Read: India’s strategic conundrum and Balochistan

The Balochs have locked themselves in an intense fight with the state of Pakistan for occupying their land, illicitly and unjustly, since 27th March 1948. The land has witnessed 5 major conflicts by the Balochs against Pakistan, each fiercer than earlier. Even at complete lack of any visible external support, Baloch sarmachars (freedom fighters) once succeeded in regaining their independence for a short while. The current and the fifth conflict – which started after the assassination of one of greatest Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in 2006 by Pakistan military – is the biggest conflict till date.

Despite Pakistan’s unremitting interruptions in Kashmir, India has completely refrained itself from espousing and promulgating the Baloch issue. Lack of which has given Pakistan an upper hand over us. ‘Lack of unity’ in Baloch tribes – a reason often cited behind India’s blasé and disengagement in Balochistan – is, though concurring with reality, a fallacy on many points. The Baloch tribal lack of unity is no different from the diversity of opinions in India or Europe, given for the fact that all of the Baloch tribes are unanimously united for the ultimate cause of attaining freedom. Shunning of Baloch issue on the basis of ‘lack of Baloch tribal unity’ fallacy, as it often happens, is a ludicrous mistake. Another possible reason behind India refraining indulgence in Balochistan was the fear of prompting a counteract by Pakistan. The fear was a parrying inclination. India, as a state, has a proclivity of non-indulgence in others’ internal matters, which, however banal in this case, spawned the initial blasé. All of the reasons are unworthy of countering the geopolitical advantages we have on our table if we free Balochistan.

The most prudent advantage of a free Balochistan for India is countered and diminished Pakistan. Espousing the Baloch issue will give India an upper hand over Pakistan. Decluttering the Baloch issue to make it compatible for India will automatically make it more labyrinthine for Pakistan. Pakistan’s Kashmir card – which it loves to use at every international gathering and diplomatic engagements – will have a legitimate counterpart from the Indian side. India utilising the Baloch issue conscientiously coupled with PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan case can provide an incredible advantage, completely dismantling Pakistan’s paradigm and steering a tectonic shift in geopolitics towards India. Balochistan’s rise aided by India will also spawn mentality for replication in the vicinal province of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also. India can utilise Baloch land to further disintegrate Pakistan and can morph into the beginning of the end for Pakistan.

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Pakistan’s growth is heavily dependent on the province of Balochist. Understanding the significance of Baloch land along with the consciousness of its meagre non-economic value, Pakistan is aiding Chinese capture of the province in exchange of exchequers. Pakistan’s growth in Punjab is modelled on poverty in Balochistan. And China, in all understanding of this, has been capitalising on this Pakistani need by acquiring access to, or gradually annexing, Balochistan. Chinese BRI’s flagship infrastructure and CPEC project run through Balochistan ending at the port of Gwadar. Which, undoubtedly, makes Gwadar and Balochistan one of the most important strategic points for China. India supporting the Baloch movement will provide an impeccable uppercut to India over China. Establishing a permanent and powerful influence in Balochistan can provide India with tremendous strategic advantages.

The geopolitical strategics at the helm of the region of Balochistan is of paramount significance and prudence, especially to India. For an aspiring global power like India, ensuring economic security is undoubtedly the top priority. Balochistan is a key to that locker where we can secure our assets for future economic requirements. The region is home to rich mineral resources and possesses a vast reservoir of oil and natural gas. India can utilise the region’s economic prowess through exploration, extraction and development of reservoirs by Indian technologies. The vast energy resource of Balochistan can suffice great part of India’s rich energy demands, significantly easing the energy crisis. Balochistan also sits on an extremely critical strategic point. Balochistan is the passage from the Arabian Sea to energy and resource rich Central Asia – Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan – which makes it a tremendously significant strategic region. India can capitalise on the region’s situation and can establish direct, devoid of Pakistan, connection with Central Asia and Russia.

Also Read: Pakistan plundering Balochistan, we appeal PM Modi to support freedom struggle: Dr Allah Nazar Baloch of BLF speaks exclusively to OpIndia

The 771 km long coastline of Balochistan oversees the busiest and richest passages of the world’s oil coming from the Middle East. Strait of Hormuz – the critical chokepoint passage of world’s 20% oil trade – lies in a close approximation of Balochistan’s Gwadar port. In the 21st century, ports play an extremely important geopolitical and strategic part in a country’s muscle power, sometimes vital to countries’ significance. Pakistan without Balochistan and Sindh will be just a landlocked country like the Central Asian nations. Having Balochistan as an ally will enable its long coastline which can add in the enhancement of India’s defence and economic prowess.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016 spoke of Balochistan from the Red Fort, he triggered a chain of intellectual thinking. PM Modi torched a beam of light on the dark realms of Balochistan through his address. Now since the issue has captured the limelight, it is important for India to carry onto it. This is the time India not only extinguish but also counter the fire caused in our backyard for years by our neighbour. This is the perfect time for India to change its modus operandi towards Balochistan.

Yogendra Singh

I am a student from Betul District, Madhya Pradesh primarily focused on Indology and Economics. I am a two times state topper in Astrophysics and Art of Lecture. Interested in writing and reading.



https://www.opindia.com/2019/10/india-must-change-its-modus-operandi-towards-balochistan-to-have-an-upper-hand-over-pakistan-and-china/

October 17, 2019

My Driver : Incident narrated by Sh. Nathan S V, Human Resources Leader at Deloitte

*My Driver : Incident narrated by Sh. Nathan S V,  Human Resources Leader at Deloitte

(Incident narrated by Sh. Nathan S V,  Human Resources Leader at Deloitte.)
----------------------------------------

I was a freshly minted graduate of a leading B- School and wore its stripes proudly on my shoulders. I was to join a British Multinational in one of their plants in Gomia, Bihar as a Management Trainee. They chose only the best. And I was full of it, all puffed up.

The night train from Calcutta would reach Gomia in the morning. I had a letter that said that there would be a car to pick me up from the station and take me to the guest house.

The coal fired engine creaked up to the station and I alighted with my canvas hold-all, yes we had such things in those days. There was not a soul in sight to receive me. I felt let down. I heaved the luggage on my shoulder and came to the exit.

There I saw a nice car. The driver in a khaki shorts and a white coloured tee shirt was walking towards the car. Aah, my driver, there he was!

I went up to him and brusquely asked him to open the trunk and keep my luggage. He asked me in Hindi, who I was and I introduced myself.

All this in a condescending way, and asked him to take me to the Guest House. He said he would be happy to drop me.

The driver heaved the luggage in, opened the rear door and had me seated. He asked me if I was comfortable. This was getting better.

Throughout the ride he asked me questions about my family etc. in a kind sort of way. I responded in monosyllables, irritated with a driver, who spoke too much.

Near the guest house, he alighted and a couple of the staff ran up to the car and saluted me. I thought I saw some exchange with the driver and they respectfully carried my luggage.

I waved out to the driver, who wished me the best in my new job. The next day was a big day. I was to meet the big daddy of the place- the Chief Executive – Dr.S.K.Varma. And I was nervous.

I went in early to the factory. His secretary ushered me into a corridor that led up to the room. I knocked on the door and walked into the large office. The big man in his overalls, had his back to me and as he turned I recognized the man he was the driver in factory clothes.

I burst out – *"Hey, what are you doing in this office?"*

He gave me a broad smile and in chaste English said he was Shiven Varma, and asked me to take a seat. I choked and could have died in that instant. My feet were all jelly and I apologized profusely for my behaviour and was at a loss for words.

He said that he had come to the station to see off a friend. And he had seen me and wanted to be of assistance. And played along for he knew I had mistaken him to be a driver.

He offered me tea and had a long conversation. Said that outside of work one should not wear their education, only use them. And never referred to the incident. Almost as if it did not happen.

As I walked away, I learnt the greatest lesson in humility. So, the guest house staff were actually saluting him, not me!! My ego came crashing down. Shoulders hunched, weighing heavily with lessons learnt, I exited his office.

*Reflections*

Humility is playing a role, any role, sans ego, whatever the role may be. Even if this were that of a driver. Dr. Varma never referred to this incidence ever, not even in any informal chat. He was unknowingly driving home a lesson in humility...!!

October 16, 2019

PAKISTAN: THE BALOCHISTAN CONUNDRUM

PAKISTANTHE BALOCHISTAN CONUNDRUM

TILAK DEVASHER

Conclusion

ESSENTIALLY, PAKISTAN’S BALOCHISTAN CONUNDRUM IS that the state is
trying to resolve a serious political issue militarily; instead of a surgeon’s
delicate and deft touch, Pakistan is using a butcher’s cleaver. The roots
of Baloch alienation and resentment run deep. The state, led by the
army, just cannot or does not want to understand the import and depth
of Baloch nationalism. Having learnt very little from the past, the
Pakistan state, led by the army, sees the insurgency as a law and order
problem that needs to be tackled militarily.
The army does not see that the insurgency is not the real problem
but is the result of a problem, and the problem is political. It goes to
the heart of what kind of a state Pakistan is and whether minority
nationalities like the Baloch can be accommodated equitably or will
have to live subserviently under the dominant Punjabis. The army being
overwhelmingly Punjabi is also part of the problem. In Punjab the army
is seen as a friend but in Balochistan, or Sindh for that matter, the army
is not a friend but a force of oppression.
The results of tackling a political problem militarily are there for all
to see. The International Crisis Group (ICG) perhaps summed it up
best when it noted, ‘The military can retain control over Balochistan’s
territory through sheer force, but it cannot defeat an insurgency that
has local support … its policy directions will likely undermine the
remaining vestiges of state legitimacy in the troubled province … The
insurgency is not likely to recede, nor will Islamabad manage to
dampen the Baloch’.
1
There is no doubt that Balochistan poses a complex problem and it
is this complexity that poses a challenge to the military mind that is
used to seeing things in black and white. Even so, the fact that the problem in the province resurrects after a hiatus of few years must
make the leadership, including that of the army, think why this
happens. The simple answer is because political remedies have always
been ignored.
If there is one thread running through the problem, it is the memory
of the forced accession of Balochistan in 1948 and the economic
exploitation of the province for the benefit of Punjab leading to severe
deprivation, which, in turn, has fuelled political alienation. The Baloch
believe that their land is rich but they have been kept poor by the state.
As Kaiser Bengali puts it: ‘The province has, for seventy years, suffered
a situation where the country has taken much from and given little to
it. That the province can be rich in natural resources and yet abjectly
poor is a testimony to long years of neglect and exploitation. It is a saga
of resource transfer on a massive scale, a saga of colonial style political
and economic management.’
2 Haunting deprivation, discrimination and
disenchantment are starkly evident and cannot be callously refuted by
merely alleging that it’s the handiwork of a few sardars, or of foreign
hands.
Politically and socially, the Baloch believe that their secular
democratic mindset is not compatible with religious fundamentalism
and dictatorial behaviour of the state’s ruling elite.
3 According to
Naseer Dashti, ‘… the essence of the Baloch national struggle is the
assertion that the Baloch have their separate cultural, social and
historical identity which is markedly different from the fundamentalist
ideology of the religious-based state of Pakistan.’ Baloch nationalist
politics has always been based on secular principles and they have not
politicized religion that has remained in the personal sphere and
tradition.
4
In the initial decades, alienation provoked by the above factors was
limited to a few tribes who intermittently broke into rebellion. Now,
since the basic issues have been aggravated instead of being resolved,
the insurgency has spread to all parts of the province. The fact is, in
large parts of Balochistan, the Pakistani state is considered anillegitimate actor.
5
The army seems to be unwilling to concede that unlike in the 1970s,
the insurgency in Balochistan today is not limited to a handful of
sardars. The insurgency is truly a nationalist one with the participation
of a wider spectrum of the Baloch. They are not fighting to preserve
individual sardari rights but to become masters of their own destiny, of
their own resources and be responsible for their own political,
economic and social empowerment. According to a Baloch nationalist,
the military cannot crush the insurgency, since ‘there is no single
messianic leader whose removal will end it. This movement is based on
an ideology that cannot be wiped out, and that ideology is Baloch
nationhood’.
6 Even those Baloch who are participating in the political
process are just as concerned about the narrowing space for the Baloch
in Pakistan as those who have taken up arms against the state. It is just
that their methods are different.
In the collective Baloch memory, injustices of the Pakistani (read
Punjabi) state began with the creation of Pakistan itself, when they lost
their independence, when their distinct national identity was snuffed
out. Over the decades, the injustices have been fuelled by broken
promises, and betrayals like the arrest, imprisonment and execution of
Baloch leaders after the revolts of 1948 and 1958 despite solemn
guarantees of amnesty and safe passage, sworn on the Koran. This was
followed by the arbitrary dismissal of three democratically elected
provincial governments, especially the one in 1973 that led to the four-
year insurgency. Compounding matters was the killing of Nawab Akbar
Khan Bugti in August 2006 that has become a defining moment in the
current insurgency. Other injustices include: the lack of, or inadequate
representation of the Baloch in the state and administrative structures
of Pakistan; the continued exploitation of the province’s natural gas and
other resources for the benefit of other provinces, especially Punjab; the
appalling socio-economic indices of the province; the construction of
mega projects like Gwadar deep-sea port and the CPEC that do not
factor in Baloch aspirations and ownership and could turn them into a minority in their own province. Topping it all are the brutal tactics of
enforced disappearance and especially the wanton kill-and-dump
operations adopted by the army. The weight of such past and present
injustices cannot be lightly brushed under the carpet by touting distant
development goals.
Perhaps the former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry
summed up the conundrum best during a hearing on the law and order
situation when he remarked: ‘We are all responsible for the destruction
of Balochistan ourselves.’
7
Facing absorption and subjugation, a growing section of the Baloch
seem to have had no other choice than to resort to arms. They have
chosen the option to fight to be alive rather than being submissive and
becoming extinct. As Declan Walsh put it, ‘Balochistan’s dirty little war
… highlights a very fundamental danger—the ability of Pakistanis to
live together in a country that, under its Islamic cloak, is a patchwork of
ethnicities and cultures.’ He quotes Haris Gazdar, a Karachi-based
researcher, saying, ‘Balochistan is a warning of the real battle for
Pakistan, which is about power and resources and if we don’t get it
right, we’re headed for a major conflict.’
8
The roots of these problems lie in Pakistan’s failure to acknowledge
and accommodate its ethnic diversity, economic disparities and
provincial autonomy. In the process of constructing a national ideology
based on a purely mechanical unity and simplistic idea of religious
homogeneity, the ruling classes of Pakistan neglected the diversity of its
people and ignored the interests of ethnic and regional minorities. This
gave a deathblow to Pakistan as it was created in 1947. A majority of its
people broke away to form a separate country in 1971—Bangladesh.
The remainder of Pakistan is marred by ethnic and sectarian conflicts,
religious terrorism and economic inequality.
9
For Pakistan the dilemma is that given the economic and strategic
importance of Balochistan, it cannot afford to fail. Loosening of the
links with Balochistan would be a signal for other nationalities, like the
Sindhis especially, to put forward claims for independence of their own. However, continuation of the conflict, let alone its escalation,
could seriously impact the image of stability and could potentially raise
doubts about its territorial integrity. Thus for Pakistan, Balochistan is a
test case of its resolve not only to hold Pakistan together but also to
weld the various nationalities into a larger whole. However, the way it
is doing so is ensuring just the opposite.
As the equations stand today, the needs and interests of the state
establishment and the Baloch are diametrically opposed to one another.
The Baloch are fighting for their identity and their cultural, historical,
geographical and economic rights. The state, including the army, is
concerned with making an artificial Islamic nation, politically
marginalizing the Baloch and ruthlessly exploiting Baloch resources. For
the army, to reverse the course in Balochistan will not be easy given its
mindset.
The moot question is whether the situation in Balochistan is
irretrievable for Pakistan? Will the insurgency dissipate with economic
development and improvement in social indicators? Will the state put
an end to the policy of kill-and-dump and release those in illegal
captivity? Will Balochistan see a lessening of the presence of security
forces? Will the state ensure provincial rights and autonomy, allowing
the Baloch to genuinely use their resources for their benefit first?
While the jury is out on this, what is clear is that such measures are
unlikely to be taken and will certainly not be taken simultaneously. For
one thing, the military is averse to provincial rights and autonomy. For
another, Pakistan has gone too far down the road in terms of
commitments to the Chinese on Gwadar and the CPEC to tweak the
projects to give the Baloch a stake. For most of the Baloch themselves,
the struggle seems to have gone beyond economics.
In any case, the Baloch have come to view development projects as
more examples of the exploitation of the resources of Balochistan for
the sake of the Punjabi state. For most of them, it is now about their
honour, their survival with dignity on their own lands, about preserving
their national identity, culture and language—in a word, about independence. Pushed to the wall, facing marginalization and
subjugation, an increasing number of Baloch are now willing to pick up
the gun for the sake of preserving their rights.
There is also a huge trust deficit. The people in general and the
militant groups in particular no longer trust the government because of
the frequent betrayals, military operations and the continuing policy of
systematic enforced disappearances. Blood has been spilled; among
others, the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, the mysterious killing of
Balach Marri, the brutal murder of three Baloch leaders in 2009 and so
on. For the Baloch, revenge is a key element in their honour code,
Balochmayar. Clearly, one of the biggest obstacles in stabilizing the
situation is the repugnant policy of enforced disappearance and kill-
and-dump.
10 The trust deficit is too huge; moreover, the establishment
is totally intransigent because it believes, as it did in East Pakistan, that
they are powerful enough to crush people’s aspirations in Balochistan.
11
Not surprisingly, the HRCP warned that the decades-long history of
neglect and betrayal combined with systematic human rights abuses
carried out with impunity had made a vast number of Baloch people
desperate. In such a situation ‘… a large section the Baloch youth has
been driven into repudiating their allegiance to the state. When the
people’s will is being broken, their voice ruthlessly stifled and their
bodies charred in torture cells; where mothers are dying to hear any
news of their disappeared children, the state cannot expect any other
reaction but one of rebellion.’
12
There were windows of opportunities for peace in the past but were
squandered through arrogance and ignorance; the best among them was
the 1972-73 Attaullah Mengal government. In September 2008 the
Baloch militant groups unilaterally observed ceasefire but there was no
response and in January 2009 they ended the ceasefire.
The current spate of insurgency is the fifth in Balochistan. In other
words, in the seventy years since the creation of Pakistan, almost every
successive generation of the Baloch have risen in revolt, having lost
faith that their grievances could be addressed within the political system. Every time the Baloch have risen, they have been put down
militarily without any attempt to address their basic problems and
issues and without giving them an equal opportunity to become
stakeholders in Pakistan. As a result, these issues have festered and
erupted whenever the Baloch have thought they were strong and able
to assert their rights.
What is the likelihood of the establishment of an independent
Balochistan? Despite Baloch determination and resolve to preserve their
specific and unique identity and not be subsumed into a larger Pakistani
identity, the political realities are indeed very challenging and pose
major obstacles to the realization of their hopes. Many analysts have
argued that Balochistan is an unlikely candidate for a successful
separatist movement. Stephen Cohen, for example, has written that it
lacks a middle class, a modern leadership, and that the Baloch are a tiny
fraction of Pakistan’s population—and even in their own province are
faced with a growing Pashtun population. Further, neither Iran nor
Afghanistan shows any sign of encouraging Baloch separatism because
such a movement might encompass their own Baloch population.
13
Selig Harrison remarked that the insurgency itself is scattered and
weak but enough to keep a portion of the Pakistan Army tied down.
Earlier, the insurgency was tribal-based but now, in the last decade,
there has been a greater political awareness among the common people
about their exploitation and hence there has been greater political
mobilization. Even the moderate Baluch politicians have to articulate
issues of provincial rights, missing persons, etc.
14
At present levels, therefore, the conflict is unlikely to threaten the
integrity of the state. Pakistan’s military is large with well-trained
troops and sophisticated weapons, making it capable of holding the
country. The Pakistan Army will manage to outfight the Baloch
fighters. Whether it will manage to outlast a people who are fighting to
protect their identity and their homeland is a different matter
altogether. What is likely is that protracted violence will continue to
afflict Balochistan. The Baloch insurgents cannot defeat the army but as they have demonstrated, they can certainly defy the writ of the state,
increase the cost for the army to maintain its grip on the province and
prevent further exploitation of their resources.
15 The resistance groups
have come to view the conflict with Pakistan as a prolonged struggle
and are devising appropriate methodologies, involving both political
mobilization and armed resistance.
16
For Pakistan the question is what cost would it have to pay for
holding on to Balochistan for the present and in the future. So far,
previous military ‘victories’ have not resolved the Baloch question and
there is nothing to suggest that another military ‘victory’ will either. If
anything, the way the government and the army are handling mega
projects, making the Baloch a minority in their own province, will
increasingly ensure that in the future more and more ordinary Baloch
will be alienated and take to armed insurrection.
Thus, neither the army nor the Pakistan state can get much comfort
from the situation. Even at its present level, the insurgency is enough to
target various pipelines and other infrastructure that gives the
impression of instability to the outside world. The Chinese would be
especially worried since they are investing huge sums of money.
A comparison with the situation in the then East Pakistan is
instructive. The Bengali discontent that led to their independence in
1971 was driven by economic as well as political grievances. Baloch
alienation, too, is driven by much the same grievances with the addition
of historical wrongs. Speaking at a function in February 2018 in
Karachi, former diplomat Jehangir Ashraf Qazi said that it was criminal
governance not bad governance and sustained transfer of income from
East Pakistan to West Pakistan, without benefits in proportion, that led
to a kind of alienation, which was widespread and legitimate. He
warned: ‘The same process is taking place in Balochistan today,’ adding
that ‘unlike East Pakistan, the population in Balochistan was lesser and
there was a tendency to say that they can be crushed because there are
just pockets of rebellion and resistance’.
17
The difference between the two is that the Bengalis were relatively homogenous, had a significant middle class, a well-established cultural
and literary life, a standardized language, a broad base of nationalist
activists and a history of mass politicization that dated back to the
struggle against the British Raj.
18 The Baloch nationalist movement, on
the other hand, was built on ‘uncertain social and cultural foundations
of a fragmented tribal society’ that had only a minuscule middle class,
widespread illiteracy, underdeveloped literature, only a narrow base of
nationalist activists and no real history of mass participation in the
political process.
19 Moreover, the Bengalis obtained the support of India
while the Baloch do not have a foreign backer. Resultantly, they have
not been able to pose a grave threat to the Central government’s hold
on power.
The Baloch have, however, come a long way from the 1970s. The
nature of the Baloch society is evolving. With the gradual dismantling
of the age-old ‘sardari nizam’ (tribal structures), a new generation of
leaders is taking root and these young and dynamic leaders are at the
forefront of the Baloch struggle now. As the Foreign Policy Centre
notes: ‘The Baloch have also started defining their nationhood
consciously and have assumed greater international visibility now than
ever before. While there are many weaknesses within the movement,
the spirit of independence and the will to fight, partly induced by the
undemocratic and excessive measures by the Pakistani state, may turn
the tide in favour of the Baloch, but only if there is exemplary
leadership, unity among the ranks, a long-term strategy and resources to
keep the movement alive.’
20
Where would Balochistan be, say, ten years from now? How will its
political dynamics play out when the Baloch become a marginalized
and impoverished minority in their own province and the demography
shifts decisively in favour of other groups? What about the Baloch
youth? These questions need answers. However, answering them today
can only be hypothetical given that there could be many variables in
the developing situation.
One thing that is clear is that unless resolved the insurgency in Balochistan, even at current levels, will eat the innards of Pakistan.
Unfortunately, Pakistani leaders have selective memories and learn
selective lessons from history. For them, there is hardly any incentive to
resolve such issues, given the fact that they are invariably bailed out by
the US/West (and now by China) on the one hand, and on the other,
the insurgency is not of such intensity yet as to threaten Pakistan’s
existence. However, what they seem to overlook is that it took nineteen
years for the language riots in the then East Pakistan that broke out in
1952 to mature into the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. During this
period, resentment among the Bengalis continued to grow unabated,
just as it has been growing in Balochistan.
The overall prognosis has to be that given the current military
capability of the Baloch and without a catalyst like massive
international support, Balochistan is unlikely to break away. However,
having sustained the insurgency for over a decade, it has developed a
momentum of its own. Hence, military force alone will not break
Baloch resistance. Pakistan would have to be prepared for a long haul
unless there is a radical change in the way the army decides to deal with
the Baloch. This, at present, seems unlikely.
For the long term, the Pakistani state will have to compromise with
the Baloch. Continuing to seek a military solution to a political problem
may make sense tactically in softening the opposition. But it can never
be the long-term solution. One of the key factors for the future
development of Pakistan would be a just solution to the Balochistan
conundrum, a solution that puts the Baloch in the centre rather than
the resources of the province. Failure to do so will slowly butinexorably exacerbate the crisis in Balochistan till it explodes with direconsequences for Pakistan.