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An Ignominious Climbdown

The joint statement issued by Manmohan Singh and Yousaf Raza Gilani talks of de-linking action on terrorism from progress on the composite dialog process between India and Pakistan.  After months of belligerence and posturing, this is how it all ends.  In a climbdown most ignominious.  From no dialog without action against 26/11 perpetrators, to a mandate to only discuss state sponsored terrorism, to a surrender so meek, it would make the Saddam that emerged from the hole look like Samson.

The sharm in Sharm el-Sheikh means “bay” in Arabic; perhaps, in their enthusiasm to renew composite dialog with Pakistan, India’s diplomats were remiss in accurately translating the term, taking it instead for its literal meaning in Hindi.  Pakistan no longer has any reason to do anything substantive with regard to bringing the handlers of the 26/11 carnage to justice.  The Hafiz Saeed drama will continue, and Pakistan will weave such a tangled web of contradictory statements on any potential point of progress, that it will have India and its media in coils for long enough for any resolution of the issue to be meaningless.

The text of the joint statement also mentions Baluchistan in name, a reference to Pakistani allegations on India’s involvement in secessionist movements in that province.  Clearly, full marks for thinking outside the box.  Why stop there — India should have acquiesced to a blurb about the Indian mission in Jalalabad and to insinuations about anti-national movements in Sindh, and the humiliation would have been complete.

To be clear, the resumption of dialog between India and Pakistan is important.  Not only is it important, it is the only available course of action to India, as The Filter Coffee has previously pointed out.  After the months of inertia that plagued India’s initial demand for no-strings-attached action on 26/11,  there could have been but one outcome on the composite dialog at Sharm el-Sheikh.

A resolution on this could have been achieved pragmatically and honorably, without the need to strike such a mind boggling compromise.  Vague cases will be made that this issue will be quietly addressed through backroom diplomacy.  But backroom diplomacy on an issue as critical as this, if not backed up by public pressure to act will yield nothing.  Sustainable pressure to act on the issue, both on the UPA and on the Pakistani government will be absent.

De-linking terrorism from composite dialog creates two isuses.  One, it raises questions on the credibility of the composite dialog process itself, when the issue that is front-and-center of India-Pakistani relations is specifically excluded from it.  And second, it will comfort the terrorists and their sponsors in Islamabad that India’s capacity for punitive diplomatic/military action against them in the event of mounting terror attacks on Indian soil is effectively zero.  Deterrence is about inducing the fear of retribution in response to an attack.  In the case of India, our deterrence capability on the issue of terrorism, whose credibility was low to begin with, is now null and void.

It is time Manmohan Singh came clean with the Indian public on how his government will address Pakistan’s propensity to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy against India.  190 civilians from 10 countries, including India, died on November 26, 2008 at the hands of terrorists who were recruited and trained in Pakistan.  What we expected at Sharm el-Sheikh was a reiteration of commitment from Pakistan (to act against terror aimed at India) and from India (to ensure that Pakistan’s committment is carried through).  What we saw instead was India’s abject, quivering surrender.

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Terrorism in India: A Cold Analysis – Part II

(Also see: Terrorism in India: A Cold Analysis – Part I)

In the first part of this two-series article, I reviewed the government’s response to the November 25, 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks, specific intelligence and coordination failures between State and Central agencies and armed forces, the political fallout in the aftermath of the attack, and the government’s responses to addressing an impotent internal security apparatus. In this article, I will examine what needs to be done by the government of India if it wants to demonstrate that it is committed to securing the lives of its citizens.

In response to the terror attacks, the Indian government is planning to increase the headcount of the National Security Guard (NSG) and establish centers in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.  The second item on the government’s plan of action involves establishing a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) along the lines of the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Based on the “Combating Terrorism” report issued by the Second Administrative Reforms Committee, the FIA will be established as an agency of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and will be responsible for investigating federal crimes, including organized crime, terrorism, sedition, trafficking in arms and human beings, etc.

What else can India do? The past couple of days have made it particularly painful to watch Indian news channels or read Indian newspapers. Uninformed jingoism, poor grammar and unhinged newscasters have made following the coverage of the aftermath truly agonizing. On Times Now, for example, I was never quite sure if I was watching news coverage of the terror attacks or a trailer for Mission Impossible IV. If the media is to be believed, the Indian army is about to launch punitive assaults on Pakistan any time now. I hate to break this to them, but their mouths are writing checks their government can’t cash. India will not fight Pakistan, because to do so would be to write your own death certificate, along with that of Pakistan’s. Does this mean we lie down and take a kicking? Not necessarily. If India is serious about the security of its people, here are things that it should do:

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Terrorism in India: A Cold Analysis – Part I

As the dust around South Mumbai settles, the world beings to hear of the chilling sequence of events of November 25, 2008, and the days ensuing, as narrated by survivors and investigators. The lone surviving terrorist apprehended by law enforcement agents has implicated Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as the attacks primary sponsor. Pakistan has asked for evidence on these charges, and it is India’s responsibility, to its own citizens and the victims of the attack, to construct a case so water tight, that it would force Pakistan to act.

If there is a lesson that India should have learned from the December 13, 2001 Indian Parliament attack, it is that in emotionally charged times such as these, rhetoric and demagoguery emanating from India will provide enough room for Pakistan to wiggle out of any squeeze that India or the United States can effectively put on it to act on terror groups within its borders.

It is in India’s best interests therefore, to tone down the rhetoric, and work towards gathering incriminating evidence, provide it not only to Pakistan but also to the international community, and work with the United States in ensuring that pressure is put on Pakistan to take tangible steps to eradicate the LeT and other groups from operating in their country. In this two-part article, I will recap the inept governance (which continues to linger) that lead to this tragedy, highlight challenges that India’s internal security apparatus faces, summarize steps that the government plans to take (or has taken) to address security flaws, and point out areas that India should focus on going forward if we are serious about protecting the lives of our citizens.

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