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Archive | February, 2013

A system of neglect

India doesn’t need more ideas in tackling its internal security challenges; it needs action.

Another terrorist attack in a major Indian city this week left 16 dead and over 50 injured. Yet, within hours of the attack, India’s elected leaders were busy passing the buck and hypothesizing on the intent and “color” of the terrorist attack before a formal investigation had even begun.

There is something sadly predictable about all of this; the incident in Hyderabad itself — going by the dilapidated state of India’s internal security apparatus — and the indulging in parochial rhetoric thereafter that our leaders find so irresistible. Shouting free-for-alls followed when Pune and Varanasi were hit in 2010, and when Mumbai and Delhi were hit in 2011. Yet, not one terror case since 2008 has been solved. While our internal security agencies battle for their own credibility and relevance in the absence of strong political leadership, the cycle of terror continues.

In response to the attacks on Mumbai in 2008, the government set up the NIA, whose mandate could, at best, be described as confused.  India’s “FBI-style” agency, meanwhile, hasn’t produced the results to even remotely warrant a comparison with the FBI. Centre-State issues have stalled essential progress on NATGRID and the NCTC.  And internal security at the Centre continues to be the part-time responsibility of the Home Minister, whose other responsibilities include areas as varied as dealing with Centre-State issues and the implementation of the provisions of the Official Languages Act.

Can Indian citizens really harbor any expectations of reasonable safety and security when there is such abominable neglect on issues related to national security? India’s internal security apparatus is rotting. And this rot is merely a microcosm of a much larger problem that India faces, which is that there is systemic institutional atrophy in varied velocities across the country. The aspiring India of 2013 has government institutions built to govern an India of the 1940s. Where there are incidents that expose these very apparent gaps, we apply short-term Band-Aids when our institutional structures are falling apart at their very core.

Let’s be candid: India does not need any more ideas on how to tackle internal security challenges. Most of these ideas exist in public domain today. They have already been articulated in reports commissioned by the Central and State governments of India themselves. The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) report in 2001, for example, put forward recommendations in reforming our intelligence agencies. On the heels of the KRC report, a Group of Ministers report under the chairmanship of LK Advani proposed structural changes in intelligence and police reform.

The Ram Pradhan Committee Report — as yet not made public — commissioned by Maharashtra in response to the 26/11 attacks, highlighted critical gaps in coordination and execution of response to an ongoing terror incident. The National Police Commission issued eight reports between 1979 and 1981 on police reform and measures to prevent political interference. The Padmanabhaiah Committee report in 2000 recommended significant structural reforms to policing in India. Further, various states have set up their own commissions to study police reform since the 1960s.

So the ideas for reforming our internal security are already there. What India needs is meaningful action, which can only come about through structural reform (sustained by the continued application of political will) to bring our internal security apparatus into the 21st century. If ideas are needed anywhere, it is perhaps in trying to determine how to politically “sell” these essential changes.

K Subrahmanyam, perhaps India’s greatest post-Independence strategic thinker, once said that India’s leaders weren’t interested in national security, but in the politics of national security. While entirely divorcing “politics” from national security might not be practical, given the realities of India today, the political class’ response to terror cannot be restricted to trading accusations, applying Band-Aid solutions and commissioning reports.  India’s citizens cannot be held hostage to perfunctory political reactions to every terror attack on Indian soil.  The ideas are there, as is the mandate from the people of India.  But India’s politicians have been repeatedly found wanting in action.  They must step up or make way for those capable of action.

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Be careful, where ye tread

India has no business granting Pakistan an NOC on the Diamer-Bhasha dam.

So it seems that the Asian Development Bank has put paid to Pakistan’s desire in building the Diamer-Bhasha dam, which was expected to produce 4,500 MW of electricity for the energy-starved country.  According to the Express Tribune:

After initially placing two conditions for financing the dam, estimated to cost around $12 billion, the ADB has lately asked Pakistan to get a no-objection certificate from India, which is not being received well in government circles. Initially, the ADB called on Pakistan to acquire land and develop national consensus in a bid to avoid hurdles during construction work. However, when both the conditions were met, the ADB retreated from its commitment. [Express Tribune]

The Asian Development Bank is right in stalling the project, given that Pakistan’s intended construction of the dam lies in disputed territory.  Requiring an NOC from the other disputant, therefore, is only fair.  The danger here isn’t so much gauging how Pakistan or the ADB would react than reigning in India’s historic proclivity for being magnanimous with regard to Pakistan.

In the pursuit of magnanimity and peace with Pakistan (whatever that means), the Government of India might feel compelled to grant such an NOC to Pakistan.  However, Diamer-Bhasha dam falls within the region of Gilgit-Baltistan, which was unequivocally declared as Indian territory in India’s Parliamentary resolution in 1994.

Thus, issuing an NOC enabling Pakistan to proceed with the Diamer-Bhasha dam has implications beyond the construction of the dam itself.  New Delhi would be wise in treading very carefully on the issue.  Altering our stance here could have a larger implications on our claims on J&K as well as our position on the status of territory illegally usurped by an aggressor state in 1947.

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Urdunama: Tehrik-e-Kashmir

Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust’s annual Kashmir Solidarity Day conference was held in Lahore yesterday.  Speakers included the always-delightful Majid Nizami, chairman of the Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust and Waqt Group, and the well-known pacifist and respected academic, Professor Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.  The theme of this year’s conference was clear.  The U.S. has been vanquished in Afghanistan.  India’s leverage over Pakistan is at an end.  The Kashmir issue is no longer on the back burner.  Freedom fighters are about to return to the Valley.  Excerpts of their speeches follow:

Majid Nizami: Kashmir cannot become a part of Pakistan without jihad.  I am willing to sacrifice my life for Pakistan.  We can win Kashmir only through arms, missiles and atom bombs, not through dialog or trade.  And until the issue of Kashmir is solved, Pakistan must not have any relations with India of any kind.

Hafiz Saeed: In the past, we have been unable to resolve the issue of Kashmir because our political and military leaders were disunited.  When Pakistan became a nuclear power in 1998, India was despondent, and [prime minister] Vajpayee — whose links are with the BJP, which was recently identified as having terrorist affiliations by India’s Home Minister — rushed to Pakistan to save face.

Similarly, when it appeared in 1999 that India was about to lose Kashmir (and I am personally aware of what our position was in Kargil), India appealed to the U.S.  It was because of U.S. interference and our own internal differences that we were not able to win in Kargil.  But there is no need for pessimism. I propose that a committee be formed under Majid Nizami, which will examine the reasons for our past failures and propose future plans for the resolution of the Kashmir issue.

As a consequence of 9/11, the freedom struggle in Kashmir was negatively affected.  During the U.S.’s invasion of Afghanistan, India tried its best to cause harm to Pakistan.  India set up terror training camps along our border with Afghanistan and interfered in Balochistan.  But India’s ambitions in Afghanistan now have been severely hit with America’s retreat.

The issue isn’t just Kashmir.  India plans to stop the flow of river water into Pakistan; there is a project to build over 250 dams to prevent river water from flowing into Pakistan, of which 62 have already been built.  But India knows that it is failing in its designs against Pakistan.  It brings up dialog and “aman ki asha” when it realizes that its American friends have have been forced to leave the region.  We salute the Kashmiris for not having given up hope these 11 difficult years.

Pakistan’s priority must be to solve the Kashmir problem.  We can talk to India, because issues can also be resolved through dialog.  But on the condition that India stops its aggressive behavior towards Pakistan, withdraws its troops from Kashmir, and stops damming the rivers flowing into Pakistan.  Let India decide if it wants to resolve the Kashmir issue through dialog or through war.  Hafiz Saeed and those under his command are ready for jihad. [نواےوقت]

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