Sunday, December 26, 2010

Imagine if India’s Seven Sisters had entered the Red Corridor….


Indian security forces are fighting insurgency, separatist movements and freedom fights in many of its states. Ranging from the North Eastern states commonly known as Seven Sisters to the area of Red Corridor, Indian army is busy fighting multi-front war. And these are the insurgency and separatist movement which even India cannot attribute to ISI. Kashmir freedom struggle is gathering momentum once again. India’s insurgency is a much graver issue than its archrival neighbor, and this is not sparked by religious extremist. Its religious extremists only fan hatred and discontent. 

However, the religion can be held responsible for the discontent due the rotten caste system decreed by the religion. In fact injustice, poverty and the caste system put together are responsible for India’s national security problems. This insurgency is India’s hidden war and is sparked by multiple factors. The insurgents have their objectives clearly drawn; they want to get hold of Indian’s wealth. It is not that they want to push their ideology or force their brand of faith, they want India’s mineral deposits for which they have waged a bloody war which is not of a recent origin. The Bailadila mine raid in 2006 was one of India's most profound strategic losses in the country's protracted battle against its Maoist movement, a militant guerrilla force that has been fighting in one incarnation or another in India's rural backwaters for more than 40 years. 

Maoists had lived in the shadow of India's breakneck modernization. Although it has gotten little attention outside South Asia, for India this is no longer an isolated outbreak of rural unrest, but a full-fledged guerrilla war. Over the past 10 years, some 10,000 people have died and 150,000 more have been driven permanently from their homes by the fighting. Still India finds time and resources to fan and fund internal disturbance in Pakistan’s restive areas. Today, India's GDP is more than five times what it was in 1991. Its major cities are now home to an affluent professional class that commutes in new cars on freshly paved four-lane highways to jobs that didn't exist. But this affluence is not for Indian majority. The area is commonly known as the Red Corridor.

Economic liberalization has not even nudged the lives of the country's bottom 200 million people. India is now one of the most economically stratified societies on the planet; its judicial system remains Byzantine, its political institutions corrupt, its public education and health-care infrastructure anemic. The percentage of people going hungry in India hasn't budged in 20 years, according to this year's U.N. Millennium Development Goals report. New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore now boast gleaming glass-and-steel IT centers and huge engineering projects. But India's vast hinterland remains dirt poor -- nowhere more so than the mining region of India's eastern interior, the part of the country that produces the iron for the buildings and cars, the coal that keeps the lights on in faraway metropolises, and the exotic minerals that go into everything from wind turbines to electric cars to iPads. 

The Seven Sisters of India are the seven relatively unexplored and isolated Indian states -- Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh -- which for many years was closed to foreigners. This land, better known to the world as the North-Eastern region of India, borders China, Tibet, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. India's remote northeast, the area comprising the seven states stretching from Tibet in the north to Myanmar (Burma) in the south, among them Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Assam. In this area, rarely visited by foreigners, peoples scarcely known to the Western world continue a way of life steeped in ancient ritual.

Extensive, complex patterns of violence continues in the seven states of northeastern India. The main insurgent groups in the northeast include two factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in Nagaland; Meitei extremists in Manipur; and the all Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) and the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) in Tripura. The proclaimed object of many of these groups is to break out of the Indian union, creating new, independent nations.

Their stated grievances against the Indian Government range from charges of neglect and indifference to the endemic poverty of the region, to allegations of active discrimination against the tribal and non-tribal peoples of the region by the center. The separatists are not expected to settle at less than separation from the Indian union. 

Imagine if the insurgents of Red Corridor, who are essentially fighting the discriminative system has joined hands with the separatists of the Seven Sisters. This would be the biggest nightmare for India’s security apparatus.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Humanitarian assistance is an effective tool of national security strategy….


The richer countries of the world are worried about the threat being posed by hundreds of millions of the humanity having limited or no access to food and water. They are apprehensive that these starving millions are out to deprive them of the luxuries of their lives, in their words, their lifestyle. These starving human beings are ideal recruits for extremist militant outfits. There have been a variety of efforts to curb the extremism including use of brute military force but these efforts have not borne fruits.  The affluent nations are now shifting their strategies from investing in security forces to investment in humanitarian aid. Feed them before they aim their guns at you, is the crux of the strategy.

According to the Foreign Affairs magazine, the current multi-billion-dollar campaign to counter transnational terrorism, defeat insurgencies, and stabilize fragile states blends diplomacy, defense, and development. A principal tool in this vast effort is humanitarian and development assistance -- what has come to be known as militarized aid. Flows of aid to fragile states have grown significantly over the past decade and are increasingly concentrated on a few frontline countries. The rhetoric of foreign assistance policymakers is infused with terminology derived from national security and counterterrorism doctrine. Defense ministries now control vast aid budgets. 

Militarized aid is delivered by soldiers or private contractors at the behest of a political-military leadership. In Afghanistan, for example, the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) weld military, aid agency, and contractor components to multiply force where, in the words of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, ”the U.S. military’s ability to kick down the door [must be] matched by its ability to clean up the mess and even rebuild the house afterward.” Yet it is unclear whether militarized aid is effective. In research carried out for the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University, Andrew Wilder dubbed militarized aid ”a ‘weapons system’ based on wishful thinking.” And it appears increasingly evident that such aid actually damages the greater stabilization effort in three ways: it erodes humanitarian principles, spreads risk, and is often of poor quality. 

Humanitarian principles are derived from the laws of war. These principles include, among others, humanity (aid must save lives and alleviate suffering), impartiality (aid is based solely on need), and independence (aid is not suborned to political or military objectives). These are not abstract, do-good notions. They are born of conflict, and there are hardheaded reasons why they define a civilian space for aid. 

Adhering to these tenets assures those in war-torn communities that the primary interest of aid workers is helping civilians survive with dignity. As a result, they grant humanitarian organizations access and protect aid workers’ safety. They may even mediate with armed opposition groups on the aid organizations’ behalf. This is how relief agencies continue to operate in violent places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Even given the best intentions, massive budgets and pressure to spend almost always translate into ineffective use of funds.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What will determine the new AfPak strategy, Pakistanophobia or sanity?

As the final date of the start of withdrawal of NATO’s troops from Afghanistan draws closer, Pakistanophobia in some of the circles of American establishment starts to grow. This is no ordinary time. It is when the US president is to review his AfPak strategy and announce policy options. These Pakistanophobes have their own calculations and their own explanation for their failure in Afghanistan.  They think that America can't win in Afghanistan as long as assorted Taliban insurgents find safe haven in Pakistan. That's the no-brainer dressed up as revelation in leaks this week about the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate regarding both countries. This is as if Pakistan does not have to ensure safeguarding its own national interests. Unlike the US, it is a critical moment for Pakistan involving the question of its survival and it cannot afford to make any stupid move just because someone somewhere wants his/her own stupid plans to materialize, come what may, that is for Pakistan.

And this has been acknowledged by some saner elements in the American establishment. American newspapers of repute have simultaneously published elaborate reports on this issue. Wall Street Journal, in its latest edition writes about the assumption that Pakistan can bring the extremists to heel at its pleasure. And the logic is that after all, the Pakistani military began nurturing Afghan and other jihadists in the 1980s and has kept them on as "strategic assets" throughout the American long war brought about by 9/11. The paper very conveniently ignores that fact that these jihadist elements may have been nurtured by Pakistan but were armed, equipped and funded by the US as they were, in some ways, fighting USSR to the interests of the US itself. If they were strategic assets for any one, they were useful both for the USA and Pakistan. And mind you, the present day Taliban and the Mujahideen of those days are not the same people. The paper goes on to say that American bribes, threats and pleas have prompted Pakistan into its own troop surge in the tribal regions. Over the past 18 months the Pakistanis have more than quadrupled their presence there, to 140,000, and have taken heavy casualties. Last year the Pakistani army cleared Swat Valley and South Waziristan, which had been overrun by militants.

In spite of all this, the major complaint is that Pakistan hasn't turned. The year ends sourly for U.S.-Pakistani military relations. American frustration with Pakistan's army has grown over broken Pakistani promises and a perceived lack of urgency. Summer floods diverted Pakistani troops away from the tribal areas, but the military doesn't have that excuse now. The Pakistanis have also denied American requests to expand drone coverage to the area around Quetta, the city in Baluchistan that is the headquarters-in-exile of the Taliban.

The demand is very clear; don’t go after the Taliban who attack Pakistani forces and interests with the help of India and may be USA, go after the Taliban who attack Americans. How cute and innocent….Well Pakistan must go after all these elements but it is already fighting an over-stretched war. War with Taliban in South Waziristan and Swat and other areas is indeed a proxy war with India. It is, in effect, a two-front war and at this moment, it would be suicidal for Pakistan to venture into North Waziristan. It does not mean that fighting Afghan Taliban is not important for Pakistan, it is simply a little too early when Pakistan forces are not ready before they clear the south Waziristan area.

Washington Post report quotes a military official saying he worries that the Washington debate about Pakistan is becoming "hyper-focused" on a demand that the Pakistani army attack North Waziristan to stop Taliban insurgents from crossing into Afghanistan - a request he says the Pakistanis are incapable of meeting because their forces are "stretched too thin." The paper says that the harder Washington pushes for a crackdown, the more Islamabad seems to resist. And the explanation is simple. The two countries' interests differ on this one: America, with its forces exposed in Afghanistan, wants action now. Pakistan, facing a nationwide campaign of terrorism, wants to concentrate on its internal threat. Politicians in each country accuse the other nation of being duplicitous and untrustworthy, which only makes the situation worse.

A New York Times report says that a new pair of national intelligence estimates take a bleaker view, arguing that the war has "a limited chance of success unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border." Despite the growing Pakistanophobia in Washington, senior U.S. officials say the Pakistanis are moving in the right direction, though maddeningly slowly. One notes that the Pakistanis, despite their perennial jitters about India, now have 140,000 troops in the northwest border area, more than the United States has in Afghanistan. "They are extended at this point as far as they can be," he says.

Washington Post quotes the American official saying that Washington should realize that the Pakistanis "are unable to conduct significant new operations without additional troops. That's not a criticism, it's a reality." This official notes that the Pakistani military has lost 1,500 to 2,000 soldiers fighting the extremists, with three to four times that many wounded. Civilian casualties are in the tens of thousands. If America experienced this level of casualties, he says, "we would probably call it a second American Civil War."

New York Times reports that Admiral Mullen’s during his trip this week has been talking about the need for “strategic patience.” But until Pakistan’s army moves against the Afghan Taliban — and Pakistan’s intelligence service cuts all ties with the extremists — the prospects for President Obama’s war strategy are, frankly, dim. But the list of things still going wrong is depressingly long, starting with the incompetence and corruption of the government of President Hamid Karzai. And as The Times reported on Wednesday, two new classified intelligence reports are particularly downbeat about the ease with which Pakistani-based militants cross into Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan’s refusal to shut down the sanctuaries used by the militants for rest and resupply.

While some American military commanders disputed the reports’ overall pessimism, there have been disturbing signs on our visit this week that the Pentagon is increasingly resigned to Pakistan’s inaction. A defense official argued that Pakistan’s army is so overstretched — from flood relief and 19 months of sustained combat that has caused thousands of Pakistani casualties — that it cannot possibly undertake any more operations. That may be true, but it would not take a major offensive for Pakistan to weaken the insurgents. The country’s intelligence service, the ISI, could start by withdrawing all support and protection from the militants. Even as Pakistan’s army vows to take on militants spreading chaos and mayhem inside Pakistan, the intelligence service still sees the Afghan Taliban as a way to ensure influence on the other side of the border and keep India’s influence at bay. It is a dangerous game, based on a flawed premise. American officials say the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other groups increasingly act like a syndicate, sharing know-how and colluding when needed. General Kayani, whose previous job was heading the ISI, should certainly know that.

The Obama administration has said and done many of the right things to build a long-term relationship with Pakistan, including cultivating top military leaders and providing long-term development aid. And not all of the news is grim. Last week, Pakistan and American forces jointly launched a successful cross-border operation. The number of American cross-border drone attacks into Pakistan have also increased significantly, while Islamabad’s protests have been comparatively muted. For a relationship this complicated, strategic patience may well be necessary. The problem is that the Taliban pose a threat, right now, to the survival of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Obama and his advisers — military and civilian — clearly have to do more to change the thinking in Islamabad.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It still pays to be on the wrong side of the USA….


The recent crisis created for the US and its friends by WikiLeaks proves one thing beyond doubt; it is still a rare privilege to be on the wrong side of the sole super power, for only those countries or people had to suffer the embarrassment as a result of the leaks who, in one way or the other, were connected with the US. And those who had diplomatic links, or were somewhat closer to US diplomats had to suffer the humiliation more than anybody else. It is dangerous to be America’s enemy, but it is far more dangerous to be her friend. The WikiLeaks have proven that. Take the example of Iran; it will appear only on the US Embassy dispatches before 1979 period when the United States severed its diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic (in 1980) while 52 Americans were being held against their will in their country's embassy on a main boulevard downtown. 

That's not to say that U.S. diplomats have stopped following their main Middle East adversary. To the contrary, says Foreign Policy Magazine, Iran is famously at the center of much of the diplomatic business recorded in the WikiLeaks cables -- that business, though, is forced to take place in other countries. Indeed, WikiLeaks has shed light not only on the content of America's Iran strategy, but on the unorthodox ways in which Washington finds itself gathering information about a state with which it has had limited direct contact. At the center of those efforts are the so-called Iran Watch stations, a set of monitoring posts the United States has been operating in more than a dozen cities on Iran's periphery and in Western Europe. 

These offices were established starting in 2006 by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Dismayed by the State Department's failure to cultivate linguistic and diplomatic expertise on Iran, she beefed up the department's Iran desk and insisted that Farsi-speaking U.S. diplomats be placed in embassies and consulates outside the Islamic Republic. Nicholas Burns, then the undersecretary of state for political affairs and the George W. Bush administration's point man on Iran, compared the strategy to posting Soviet expert George Kennan to Riga, Latvia, in the 1920s before the United States recognized the Soviet Union. 

The new push began with the Iran Regional Presence Office in Dubai, just across the Persian Gulf from Iran's Hormozgan province and adjacent to the Strait of Hormuz, the geographic bottleneck through which nearly 40 percent of the world's traded oil passes. Dubai is also home to a large Iranian expatriate community. With about a half dozen staff, Dubai's is the largest Iran Watch station and benefits from the regular traffic between the emirate and Iran by Iranians and others visiting the Islamic Republic. 

Other Iran Watch posts are single-officer affairs and are currently located in Baghdad, Baku, Berlin, Istanbul, London, Paris, and Tel Aviv. There was also an Iran Watch officer in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, for several years, but the office closed in part because of the repressive nature of the local government and the lack of high-value Iranian contacts. Aside from reporting on Iran, the watchers interact with Iran experts in local governments. The creation of these monitoring stations is having a cumulative impact on the State Department's bureaucracy, helping re-create an Iran-centered career track within the agency. But, more substantively, the posts are useful in providing a reality check for U.S. policymakers in the form of unvarnished information about Iranian political developments, says John Limbert, who was responsible for the Iran Watch stations during his recently ended nine-month stint as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. 

A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, agrees. "It's the internal reporting about what's afoot in Iran that Washington is starved for," the U.S. official said. "It supplements what we get from other sources."Still, Limbert, who personally visited all the Iran Watch stations, expressed frustration that the diplomats' views were often not taken into account by an administration that has focused more in recent months on economic sanctions than on outreach. 

Other cables analyze Iran's tumultuous domestic scene. One missive from the U.S. Iran watcher in Baku dated June 12, 2009 -- the day of Iran's presidential election -- reports growing sectarian unrest in Sistan and Balochistan, scene of recent suicide bombings and other attacks. The predominantly Sunni Muslim population there was allegedly so opposed to the Shiite Iranian government that neighboring Pakistan decided to postpone "completion of the long-planned improved rail link between Pakistan and Iran," the cable says. On the other side of Iran, the Baku-based watcher also says that local seizures of heroin from Iran in Azerbaijan totaled nearly 59,000 kilos in the first quarter of 2009 compared with 15,000 kilos in the same period of 2008. 

Many of the leaked cables deal with Iranian politics, describing the trajectory of optimism and despair that led up to and followed Ahmadinejad's fraud-tainted reelection. The then Iran Watcher in Ashgabat, writing three days after the election, quotes a source as saying that the Revolutionary Guards have pulled off a "coup d'etat" and that Ahmadinejad is now akin to the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. 

According to the source, whose name has been redacted by the Guardian, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Ahmadinejad's chief opponent, got about 26 million votes -- 61 percent of the 42 million votes cast -- while Ahmadinejad got "a maximum of 4-5 million votes." Mehdi Karroubi, another opposition candidate, actually got between 10 million and 12 million votes, according to the source, while the rest went to conservative Mohsen Rezai. (Official Iranian results said that Ahmadinejad won by a landslide of 63 percent, that Mousavi got 34 percent, and that Karroubi and Rezai split the rest.) The cable quotes the source as saying that the pro-Ahmadinejad forces stole the election by refusing to allow local precincts to announce the votes and having central election authorities declare the results.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Will Iran’s nuclear program unify Arabs and Jews?



Diverging vital national interests of two warring sides, Israel and Arabs, have come to converge on at least one issue; Iran’s nuclear weapons program which equally threatens both the sides. They want to stop Iran at all costs to become a nuclear state. Israel has already contemplated surgical strikes on Iran’s nuclear sites to destroy its nuclear capability and Arabs are pursuing their powerful friends to do the same on their behalf. This week's WikiLeaks release of State Department cables highlighted the growing concerns of numerous Sunni Arabs leaders over Iran's nuclear program. Bahrain's king, for instance, pleaded to a U.S. diplomat that the Iranian nuclear program "must be stopped." In another leaked cable, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia supposedly implored the United States to "cut of the head of the snake” before it was too late. Equating the present Iranian government with snake amply explains Arabs’ perception of Iran.

Will the US oblige its Arab friends and go ahead with the desired attack on Iran’s nuclear installations? In yet another leaked cable, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates dismissed the traditional way, an air campaign, concluding that it "would only delay Iranian plans by one to three years, while unifying the Iranian people to be forever embittered against the attacker." Smart thinking indeed and the U.S. military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have made it wiser than ever. For its efforts in these two very visible wars, the United States spent a huge fortune, lost thousands of soldiers and earned opprobrium from many quarters of the world. It is little wonder why Gates would be quick to find a reason to avoid yet another military commitment. 

It does not mean that Iran is not the focus of US attention any more. Foreign Policy Magazine,  in an article titled, The Covert War Inside Iran, says that Iran seems to be under assault from a different kind of warfare. First was the arrival of Stuxnet, a highly sophisticated malware worm specifically designed to attack machinery produced by Siemens Corporation, a German industrial conglomerate. According to FPRI, a think-tank in Philadelphia, Stuxnet (introduced into Iran's nuclear program by an infiltrator wielding a USB flash drive) targets Siemens-designed Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. Some anonymous adversary has apparently concluded that Iran's uranium enrichment facilities, archetypes of large-scale industrial processes, are highly suitable candidates for this type of cyber attack. 

Iran's nuclear program is also under attack from another very old-fashioned method: the anonymous assassin. This week one high-level Iranian nuclear scientist was killed and another wounded when they were attacked by assassins on motorcycles who attached bombs to their cars. In January, another Iranian nuclear scientist was killed by a bomb. But this covert war will have the same effects which an all-out attack could have; a temporary delay. The world should have lost its sleep at the ramifications of these ambitions considering the facts that three powers in the region already have this capability. Look at the balance of nuclear terror in the region with nuclear powers clearly aligned to two different camps; Pakistan and China as opposed to India and Iran. This also puts USA in a difficult position because India is its strategic partner which can bring it closer to Iran, India’s strategic partner. And a friend of my friend cannot be my enemy.

According to the New York Times, Israel, for its part, has been quick to assert that the leaks show that it and the Gulf Arab states have a common outlook regarding Iran. “More and more states, governments and leaders in the Middle East and the wider region and the world believe this is the fundamental threat,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said when asked about the cables. 

“No one will now be able to allege that Israel is acting irresponsibly,” wrote Aluf Benn, a columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz. “When the King of Saudi Arabia and the King of Jordan call for lopping off the head of the Iranian snake, no one will believe them when they denounce an Israeli operation.” But there is little to back up such claims. Israel has long wanted the United States to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. It has also strongly implied that if Washington refuses to do so, it will go ahead on its own — in a manner calculated to leave the United States no choice but to join it in war with Iran. 

The Gulf Arabs want to forestall Iranian nuclear ambitions, but they are willing to defer to American judgment about how best to achieve that, and they certainly don’t want it to result in a war in their own neighborhood. Clearly, this is a very different position from the one held by Mr. Netanyahu. 

There are other ways in which the Arabs and Israelis are at odds on Iran policy. The leaks show that Gulf Arab rulers are concerned above all that a nuclear-armed Iran would have greater prestige in the region and ever-greater influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. The nuclear weapons themselves, they feel, are primarily a threat to Israel and American forces in the region.Yes, Israelis fear that Iran might gratuitously attempt another Holocaust by attacking them. But the leaked documents also show that one of the main worries Israel has about Iran’s nuclear ambitions is that it could lose its regional monopoly on nuclear weapons, limiting their leverage on a whole range of issues. One doubts the Gulf Arabs share that concern. 


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