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Archive | November, 2009

Urdunama: Seymour Hersh

Almost on cue, Pakistan’s Urdu media went to work, lambasting Seymour Hersh for his article in the “New Yorker” on US-Pak back-channel talks on securing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, in the event of a debilitating security situation in the country.

Hersh was dismissed as a “Jewish agent” and his credibility immediately was called into question. This was followed by some chest-thumping on the integrity of Pakistan’s armed forces and the sanctity of the country’s nuclear assets.

Nawaiwaqt’s editorial was one of first to issue forth an opinion on Hersh’s piece:

The “New Yorker” claimed that the Obama administration is in sensitive talks with Pakistan to secure the country’s nuclear assets.  Under this agreement, American special units can secure Pakistan’s nuclear assets in the event of a crisis.

However, rejecting Seymour Hersh’s report as baseless, the Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Abdul Basit said that no help was needed from foreign nations to secure Pakistan’s nuclear assets.Because of his affiliation with the Jewish lobby, Seymour Hersh maintains a close watch on Pakistan’s nuclear program.

A propaganda campaign is underway in America which claims that extremists could take control of Pakistan’s nuclear assets — this propaganda is a result of the presence of the Indian lobby in America.The Hindus and the Jews have to this day not accepted Pakistan’s nuclear status.

The Americans and Europeans don’t seem to have any issues with the Hindu or Jewish bomb, but will never accept a Muslim country possessing such technology.Extremism has grown in Pakistan because of America’s war in Afghanistan and if there is any threat to Pakistan’s nuclear assets, it is from India, Israel and America.

Dr. AQ Khan has been put under house arrest and Blackwater, along with various other US officials have established a presence in Islamabad and elsewhere in Pakistan.

It is therefore important to pay close attention to the contents of Seymour Hersh’s report. Let there be no doubt that Pakistan’s nuclear command-and-control is better than that of any other nation’s.  In the name of securing Pakistan’s nukes, Blackwater has tried to infiltrate Quetta and other cities in Pakistan.  This is part of a larger conspiracy through which America hopes to make India its slave by alleviating its fears over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

We have developed the nuclear program through our ability, hard work and resources.  We will provide for its security ourselves and if our enemies cast their evil eyes on our nuclear program, they will be given a bloody nose in reply.

In its November 11 editorial, the Daily Ausaf observes that consensus on maintaining and enhancing Pakistan’s nuclear program transcends the country’s dysfunctional and chaotic political environment.

Attempts to malign Pakistan’s nuclear program began with the genesis of the program itself. However, Pakistan’s politicians, despite their several faults, have continued to protect our nuclear program. If Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is credited with having the vision to embark on the nuclear program, then the credit to not only protect, but also enhance the program needs to be given to Ghulam Ishaq Khan and General Zia ul-Haq.

The US has tried to repeatedly discredit Pakistan’s nuclear program — raising fears of instability in South Asia, of an arms race between India and Pakistan — but despite the US’s best efforts, our armed forces and politicians have safeguarded our nuclear program.We have been pressured to accede to several US demands.

Despite disapproval from the people, Pakistan was enlisted as a frontline state in US’s war on terrorism. But there will be no compromise on Pakistan’s nuclear program and if the day comes when a politician takes such a step, he will have to face the repercussions of his action and the awam will itself safeguard our nuclear program.

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26/11 and India’s response

It’s politics as usual in New Delhi, and no one seems to care

A year has gone by after the carnage in Mumbai that left over 190 people dead and hundreds injured.  In the immediate aftermath of 26/11, articles were written about the gaping holes in India’s internal security preparedness.

Recommendations put forth to the Indian government are all in public domain —  a tougher anti-terrorism law, a separate ministry for internal security, police reform, increasing NSG headcount and footprint, and enhancing India’s covert ops capability

Of the recommendations made, Manmohan Singh’s government chose to make the establishment of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) central to its response to the holes in India’s internal security preparedness.  To be sure, the establishment of the NIA was an important move, because it addressed Centre-State jurisdiction issues that hitherto plagued the CBI.

However, the NIA’s mandate notwithstanding, nothing in public domain indicates any significant activity in the NIA, until 11 months and two weeks after November 26, 2008, when the NIA belatedly sprung into action, based on inputs from the FBI on David Headley and Tahawwur Rana.

In addition, by virtue of design, the NIA mostly addresses post-incident investigation and forensics.  Manmohan Singh’s government articulated little by way of detective and preventive enhancements to India’s internal security preparedness.

The bigger picture that needs to be examined on the first anniversary of 26/11 isn’t necessarily about specific structural and organizational changes, but about the government’s willingness (confidence?) to make public aberrations in its response to the terror attacks and how these can be addressed.

In the year following the World Trade Center attacks in the US, the Bush Administration constituted the 9/11 Commission to examine aspects of US’s response to the attacks as they unfolded, and make recommendations on how the US should proceed, going forward.  The US Department of Homeland Security was born out of these recommendations.

India deserved its 26/11 commission with a limitless mandate to examine our response to the attacks in Mumbai. Key aspects of the events of 26/11 require independent review.

These include incident-specific issues relating to governance and leadership such as  (a) How long it took to notify key stakeholders, such as the Prime Minister, NSA, intelligence services and ministers of Home Affairs and Defense, (b) The time it took for the relevant stakeholders to coordinate and assess the situation, (c) How long it took to authorize deployment of anti-terror units to the scene, and (d) Crisis management — who was coordinating what aspect of India’s responses.

The second aspect of the commission’s review should have entailed structural and organizational changes and enhancements, including those previously discussed.  Sadly, this government does not have the gumption to constitute such a comprehensive review of its responses to the 26/11 attacks.  This isn’t an assailment of the the UPA administration, it is an indictment of India’s petty political environment.

There are critical aspects of the attack that require further analysis — aspects that India is still uncovering, including the roles of Headley and Rana — and questions that no one seems to be able to answer, such as how a bunch of semi-literate people alien to Mumbai, were able to negotiate their way through the city’s conspicuous and inconspicuous landmarks, without local assistance.

This cannot be accomplished by adhocism or through token responses, such as establishing the NIA and deploying the NSG in some cities. One would have thought that the time was ripe for such a bold response, faced as the UPA is, with an ineffectual, embattled Opposition. Sadly, barring a few cosmetic rearrangements, not much has changed in India, and no one, least of all Mumbaikars seem to care.

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Manmohan's US trip

India must aggressively pursue to protect interests and stake in Afghanistan’s future

Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US coincides with Thanksgiving week and the first anniversary of 26/11.  During the Prime Minister’s visit, the debilitating security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan will be on the agenda.  It is on this issue that some incredibly silly, wantonly naive advice is being shoved the US President’s way.

Two broad themes on India’s place in the regional security discourse seem to periodically appear, which can be summarized thus.  Firstly,  Pakistan feels threatened by the presence of a larger adversary at its eastern border. The main thorn in Indo-Pak relations is Kashmir. Therefore, solve Kashmir and receive a grateful Pakistan’s full commitment on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Second, Pakistan feels “strategically encircled” by India’s presence in Afghanistan.  An increase in Indian involvement would inflame Pakistan’s apprehensions vis-a-vis India. Therefore, in the interest of Pakistan’s sensitivities, an expansion of Indian involvement in Afghanistan must not be encouraged (or must at least be brushed aside).

Both these themes do an excellent job in confusing symptom (the “Kashmir” issue, and “strategic depth”) with root cause (Pakistan’s pathological neuralgia with India).  It is another issue of course that those advocating the “resolve Kashmir” approach haven’t ever come close to articulating how this feat is to be accomplished by Washington.

It is no secret that there is disconnect between the UPA and the Obama administration on the way forward in Afghanistan.  There are two aspects to this disconnect — one, th UPA administration has been blind to US’s plans in the region (and consequences to India’s interests), and two, the Obama Administration has been unable to present a coherent, consistent vision for Afghanistan, mired as it is with internal squabbling.

But Obama, who ran on a canvas promising to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is under pressure to act, if only to placate his fellow Democrats and voters.  The Obama administration sees greater regional involvement as a solution that would allow for a phased US withdrawal.   Hence Richard Holbrooke’s  recent diplomatic sojourns to China and Russia.

The role that India will play in this “regional approach” will perhaps become more apparent after the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington. Rightly, as the preeminent power in the region, India’s involvement is not only “beneficial”, but imperative.

But the status of “regional power” is not achieved through birth-right.  It must be  earned, and if India believes itself to be the preeminent regional power, it must start acting like one. Unquestionably, this involves taking tough decisions not only on what India would “prefer to do” in Afghanistan, but what it must do to safeguard its interests.

Thus far, India has stayed away from overt involvement in shaping the politics in Afghanistan, choosing instead engage in the (noble) pursuits of building schools and roads and training the Afghan police force.  “Soft power”, Shashi Tharoor calls it.  But soft power is credible only as long as someone else is willing and able to do the dirty yard work.

What if that “someone else” leaves? Who will step in?

A power vacuum in Afghanistan with a weak, de-legitimized government in Kabul constantly being undermined by a reinforced and invigorated Taliban and affiliated networks presents a scenario for India where its overall influence in the country will diminish, relative to that of China and Pakistan.

Economic investments in Afghanistan (totaling over $1 billion), development of ties with the country’s civilian polity and strategic importance of Afghanistan to an energy-starved nation, make such a scenario unacceptable to India.

There is simply too much at stake for India not to be meaningfully involved in a regional approach to the Afghanistan problem.  Indeed, India’s contribution to such a regional solution must span across all realms, including security/law enforcement, political reconciliation and delivery of social services.  In this regard, offering a larger Indian contingent to train Afghanistan’s security forces, can be a small, but important first step.

US administrations will always have India doubters, just as they will their  share of Indophiles.  India’s goal within the construct of the “regional approach”  must be to aggressively defend its interests in the country, while playing a meaningful role in addressing the current crisis and defining the future of Afghanistan.

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Urdunama: "Foreign Hand"

The Filter Coffee is happy to announce a new regular segment, Urdunama, dedicated to coverage of news and analysis from Pakistan’s Urdu media.  As reports ( 2.86 MB) on Pakistan’s media landscape will tell you, Pakistan’s vernacular press dominates English and local language publications and comprises almost 70% of total newspaper distribution.

Yet, while the Internet has provided us the opportunity to read and absorb opinions from Pakistan’s English newspapers, their tone, message and impact on audiences (and indeed on political action) differs greatly from that of the vernacular media.  An eye on Pakistan’s Urdu media therefore helps us see what the awam sees and assists us in understanding what informs popular opinion in Pakistan. This is critical, in the opinion of this blogger, in helping India better understand its western neighbor.

As always, comments and suggestions on what readers like about the segment, or would like to see improved are appreciated.

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The fires may have died down in India, but as far as Pakistan’s vernacular media is concerned, all Sharm el-Sheikh did was to provide fuel to an incantation summoned by Pakistan’s most imaginative minds.

There is pressure on the Pakistani Army to see Operation Rah-e-Nijat through and to turn a blind eye to US Predator assaults in North Waziristan and elsewhere.  A section of Pakistan’s media and intelligentsia wants to know why three Infantry Divisions were moved away from the Indian border and redeployed to assist with NWFP operations.

All these questions cannot be explained without pointing fingers at the Pakistani Army, which is riding a wave of goodwill not seen since the years immediately after the 1999 coup d’état.  The simplest solution therefore is to attack the hapless civilian administration, particularly Asif Ali Zardari and those close to him, including Rehman Malik and Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Rafiq Dogar’s op-edJhoota kaun hai?”, is a rhetorical masterpiece on the subject of India’s involvement in Balochistan.  Dogar’s issue in the op-ed isn’t focused so much on the factual accuracy of India’s involvement in Balochistan (this is taken for granted), but on why the “proof” of India’s interference wasn’t presented to Hillary Clinton and the people of Pakistan.

Who does one trust? On 13th October, the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry informed the media that proof of India’s involvement in Balochistan would be presented to the people at the appropriate time. Prior to Hillary Clinton’s visit, the Interior Minister had informed Hamid Karzai that India was interfering in Balochistan, via Afghanistan.

The same day, the president of the Balochistan People’s Party, Mir Lashkari Raisani, informed the media that Education Minister, Shafeeq Ahmed Khan had been murdered because he tried to raise awareness of India’s meddling in Balochistan.   India’s meddling in Balochistan was also corroborated by IG, FC, Maj Gen Salim Nawaz.

Prior to Hillary Clinton’s visit, Interior Minister informed the media that a “foreign hand” existed in supporting the Pakistani Taliban against the army, and had asked the US to ensure that this interference is stopped.  Surprisingly, after Hillary’s visit, the spokesperson of the Interior Ministry announced that no such evidence was presented to the US.

If this was indeed the case, why didn’t the Foreign Ministry — whose spokesperson earlier stated as having proof of external interference in Balochistan — provide the evidence to the US? Ayatollah Durrani is also one of Asif Ali Zardari’s ministers who on 18th October stated that the US wanted Balochistan to secede and that Pakistan’s agencies must work to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

But Pakistan’s agencies operate under the same Interior Minister who announced prior to Hillary’s visit that the proof had been handed over to the Americans.  Who does one believe?

We cannot accept the notion that those suggesting India’s involvement in Balochistan are lying. It is the word of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) that a Muslim can neither lie nor present false witness.  Our Foreign Minister is a descendant of Muslim makhdooms — are we to now believe that his ministry’s spokesperson was lying?

Even if we are to assume that the spokesperson of the Interior Ministry and the Interior Minister himself were speaking the truth, then why wasn’t (India’s interference) brought up with Hillary Clinton? Were they that scared of her and Richard Halbrooke?

The Interior Minister, Foreign Minister, Zardari and Gilani didn’t have the courage to present the facts to Hillary; but do they have the will to present the facts to the people?

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