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Tag Archives | Lashkar-e-Taiba

Talkistan ka matlab kya?

The politics of talking to our neighbor.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has invited Pakistan’s prime minister Gilani and president Zardari to attend the cricket World Cup semi-final match between India and Pakistan in Mohali.  Mr. Gilani has accepted the invitation while we’re waiting to hear from Mr. Zardari.  In the past, cricket diplomacy has been afforded to the likes of Gen. Zia-ul-haq and Gen. Musharraf.  This time around, the extension of invitations will result in two tickets being granted gratis to  individuals who neither craft nor implement Pakistan’s foreign policy, instead of our own VVIPs, who are accustomed to not paying for anything anyway.

They say there is momentum towards a resumption of talks between India and Pakistan.  Mr. Singh and Mr. Gilani met on the sidelines of the NAM summits in Bhutan and (infamously) at Sharm el-Sheikh.  Talks between India and Pakistan have also taken place in Lahore and New Delhi in the recent past.  Times of India’s diplomatic editor, Indrani Bagchi informs in her column that New Delhi was also keen to open channels of communication with the Pakistan army and its ISI (recall that DG-ISI Lt. Gen. Pasha had a tete-a-tete with India’s envoy to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal at an iftaar dinner in 2009).

Not talking to someone is more a momentary tactic and less a strategy. If the Government of India has decided to seriously engage not just the civilian administration in Pakistan, but also its military overlords in talks, then fine, but what is the end game?  In India, our leaders have repeatedly articulated that they are “not willing to give up on Pakistan.”  As if not giving up on Pakistan is a virtue!

Lest we forget, there is the more immediate matter of Pakistan prosecuting its citizens involved in the heinous terrorist attacks against India on 26/11.  It has been 2 ½ years since 200 innocent Indian citizens were killed in a state-sponsored project executed by the Lashkar-e-Taiba and members of Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex.  Not only has LeT’s leader gone unpunished, he is also being invited to give speeches at that venerable bastion of justice, the Lahore High Court!

To be sure, the pursuit of  peace between India and Pakistan (or indeed between any two nations) is always desirable.  However, in India we are victims of our own unattainable quest for morality in international relations above all else.  Our leadership has always taken pride in suggesting that if Pakistan takes minor, but tangible steps in addressing our concerns, that we would be “willing to go more than half the distance” in resolving our disputes with our neighbor.  But why?

In the anarchic world of international relations, abstract terms such as morality have no place.  States promote their national interests by exercising their relative power, both in times of war and peace. If it is in India’s interests to talk to Pakistan, then negotiations must be dictated from positions of relative power.  Magnanimity has no place in international relations.  As the greater power, India must expect settlements to be more favorable to its interests, not the other way around.  To quote India’s former intelligence chief and senior fellow at Takshashila, Vikram Sood, “magnanimity is a function of victory; otherwise it is appeasement.”

Prime Minister Singh is right in pursuing talks with Pakistan, but he would be wrong to believe that India’s growth and prosperity were contingent on making peace with that country. If India and Pakistan can, by some remote possibility, reconcile their differences and live in peace with one another, then fine.  If they can’t, that should also be okay for us as well.  Prime Minister Singh will always be favorably remembered in India’s history books for loosening the shackles of our License Raj.  He should remain invested in bringing 400 million of our citizens out of poverty.  India’s growth and development cannot be held hostage to anyone’s grand visions of orchestrating peace with countries that seek nothing but our dismemberment.

 

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Hafiz Saeed under house arrest?

Is he is or is he ain’t?

Predictably,  in response to the Data Darbar attacks in Lahore, the government in Punjab made all the right noises about eradicating terrorism from the province.  Earlier, Interior Minister Rehman Malik traded barbs with Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif on his use of the term “Punjabi Taliban.”  The nomenclature did not sit well with the government in Punjab; the Taliban, they claimed, had no identity and references to Punjab hurt the sentiments of its residents.

Nonetheless, nominal steps were taken to curb extremism in the province.  A news report in the Jang elaborated:

The Punjab Home Department has “banned” 17 organizations; these include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan, Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed, Millat-e-Islamiya Pakistan, Islamiya Tehrik-e-Pakistan, Hizb-ul-Tehrir, Jamaat-ul-Ansar, Jamaat-ul-Furqan, Islamic Students Movement, Baluchistan Liberation Army and Jamaat ud-Dawwa.

This list does not include Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), despite statements made by Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, which indicate that the TTP and al-Qaeda have collaborated with Sipah-e-Sahiba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Punjab.According to the Home Department, there are approximately 4,000 individuals with relations to these terror groups.  These individuals have been placed under surveillance, per Section 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and they have been banned from carrying out such activities. [جنگ]

Almost equally predictably, an editorial in the Jang’s sister publication, The News, went soft when news broke, contrary to previous reports, that the Jamaat ud-Dawwa had not been banned.  The editorial reasons:

The JuD and other organizations may not be behind direct acts of militancy. It is also a fact that they are engaged in many good works that bring solace to many everywhere. Hindu women in Sindh have recently demonstrated in their favour. [The News]

So Hindu women from Sindh demonstrating in JuD’s favor is reason enough to absolve them of the massacre of several hundreds of civilians in the name of religion and state?  Something to keep in mind the next time someone gives you the old “we’re both victims of terror” spiel.  While these events unfold, the federal and state civilian administrations are anxious to demonstrate their capacity for action against terror groups.  PML (N) leader Nawaz Sharif called for a “national conference” on terrorism, which Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani has accepted.

But should it surprise anyone that Messrs. Gilani and Kayani are simply waiting for the storm to blow over?  Prior to this “national conference,” Mr. Gilani was busy ruling out military operations in South Punjab,  while Shahbaz Sharif went even further and denied the existence of the so-called “Punjabi Taliban.”

One wonders what the big purpose of this “national conference” is then.  Half the terror groups that should have been part of an offensive (including the TTP/ al-Qaeda affiliates and JuD) have already been given a clean chit and in any case, there’s not going to be any military action against the groups that did end up making it to the Punjab Home Department’s list of “banned” groups.

A month from now, everything will be forgotten and it will be business-as-usual.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

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Pune terror attacks

Challenge the infrastructure where it stands

Nine dead, several injured in an IED triggered explosion in Pune last night.  By Home Secretary Pillai’s account, the IED was placed in an unattended packet, which exploded when a waiter tried to open it. The attacks come just weeks after Lashar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed issued specific threats to the cities of New Delhi, Kanpur and Pune in a February 5, 2010 Yaum-e-Yakjehti Kashmir speech in Lahore.  Indeed, Pune was also one of several Indian cities recceed by David Coleman Headley.

The attacks also come at a time when India and Pakistan are scheduled to begin their first round of talks at the Foreign Secretary level, starting February 25.  The talks were offered by India at the prodding of Washington, which wants to be seen as being sensitive to Pakistan’s India-paranoia, as US begins its largest military operations against the Taliban since 2001 in Marja.

So what must India’s response be?

Much can be done, both as an immediate response to the attacks as well as from the standpoint of expunging the notion that India is incapable of challenging the infrastructure that supports such attacks.  Pragmatic Euphony’s excellent post details how India should lay out short- medium- and long-term goals vis-a-vis Pakistan.  In the here and now, India must mitigate the threat of immediate attacks in other Indian cities and soothe public apprehension and anger. It must also carry out a full investigation of the attack, identify the perpetrators and bring those under its jurisdiction to book.

Equally important, India must also ensure that talks with Pakistan continue as planned.  The idea is one that many will scoff at, but consider this: despite public statements that indicate otherwise, Pakistan is not keen on talks with India.  Talking to India denies Pakistan from invoking the convenient “beast on the east” schpeel that today finds more resonance in the Obama Administration than it ever did during Bush 43’s reign.

Hence the even more vocal “help Pakistan solve Kashmir and it will return the favor in Afghanistan” (or alternatively, “help Pakistan solve Kashmir so that they can dedicate more troops to the Pak-Afghan border“) jabber from the American intelligentsia.  India is vested in a successful US/ISAF operation in Marja and if talking to Pakistan can help tweak perceptions, it must do so.

Moving forward, India must develop the capability to challenge the infrastructure that continues to support attacks on Indian soil.  Today, those who plan, finance and otherwise support terrorism against India are as smug as they are cozy, knowing India is incapable of challenging them in their own backyard — a heavy price the country is now paying for ill-advised policy shifts made by a fractious coalition in 1997. These ill-advised policy changes need to be reversed immediately.  This will only happen if Manmohan Singh’s government stops playing the perennial apologist, provides the funding, training, technology and resources necessary to impose heavy costs on terror infrastructure operating outside Indian territory.

The alternative to this is to continue to absorb ceaseless body blows and mutter away about surgical strikes and our patience not being inexhaustible.  So what will it be?

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The Lashkar threat and soft targets

A society with low levels of security consciousness contributes to threat potentiality

The arrests of David Coleman Headley aka Daood Gilani and Tahawwur Hussain Rana by the FBI in Chicago last week have led to revelations of threats against India.  David Headley is a US citizen of Pakistani origin, while Rana is a Canadian citizen, again of Pakistani extraction.

Both LeT operatives were arrested after an email exchange between Headley and an unnamed senior operative in which Headley suggested traveling to India, possibly either for recon or actual action. There is speculation that this unnamed operative is Pakistani SSG turned senior al-Qaeda operative Illyas Kashmiri.

The interrogations, in which both the IB and RAW participated, have brought to light specific threats against the National Defence College, New Delhi, two boarding schools in North India and a few five-star hotels.  According to Rediff‘s report:

Two leading boarding schools located in prominent hill stations in a north Indian state and a few five star hotels in popular tourist spots are targets of Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Tayiba, a senior Home Ministry official said on Wednesday. According to intelligence inputs, the terrorist group was planning to attack the two schools and the hotels, which are regularly frequented by foreign tourists, he said.

The information came in the wake of reports that David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US for plotting a major terror attack in India at the behest of LeT, have revealed that they were also planning to attack the National Defence College in New Delhi.

The official said the intelligence agencies gathered information about the possibility of LeT attacks a few weeks ago and forwarded it to the concerned state governments for providing adequate security at the schools and the hotels.

It is encouraging to note the level of information sharing between the FBI and intelligence counterparts in India, and the participation of contingents from RAW and IB in the Headley-Rana interrogations in the US.  The level of cooperation will likely increase with greater convergence of Indian and American threat perceptions.  Such information sharing and indeed participation would not have occurred seven years ago.

The other side of the equation for India is security consciousness.  Indian attempts to beef up its internal security must factor in security consciousness at Central, State and personal levels.  Our schools, universities, hospitals, marketplaces and centers of faith are all soft targets which unsurprisingly find their way into terror plots.  Ours is not a security conscious culture; indeed those who flaunt rules and bypass security protocol are greatly admired.

There is a systemic problem in India where appreciation for security has historically been lacking at personal, state and central levels.  While it took humiliation at the hands of a larger adversary in 1962 to shakeup the armed forces and a pacifist government forged from the idealism of the ahimsa movement, no such shake up has occurred in the case of local law enforcement.

Most state governments are happy to let their dilapidated law and enforcement apparatus rot away.  Low budget allocation, no training, no equipment and resources and poor pay.

I’ve never heard of an unmotivated terrorist.  But unmotivated police personnel, there are plenty. Nowhere is the urgency for police reform more apparent than when the physically unfit, unmotivated police constable armed only with a laathi (or a World War II era .303 rifle, if he’s lucky) comes face to face with a terrorist armed with an AK-47, several rounds of ammo and schooled in commando action in the finest jihadi tradition from across the border.

India has battled insurgencies galore, from Kashmir to Khalistan, is in the middle of a Maoist perversion in seven states, and experienced its annus horribilis last year when terrorism against soft targets claimed the lives of 400 Indians. One would have hoped that the impetus for a shakeup in mindset had been provided.  Almost a year after 26/11, nothing seems to have changed.

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