Sunday, 17 April 2016

‘Saint’ Nitish and flamboyant Eknath (Sunday Guardian)

Matters such as the consumption of alcohol are best left to individual consciences, and should the state leap in, the results are certain to be disappointing.
Saintliness is everywhere. The latest example is that of Nitish Kumar, who is following in the footsteps of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president, “Saint” V.M. Sudheeran in ensuring that bootleggers and smugglers thrive in Bihar, the way they soon will in Kerala. Matters such as the consumption of alcohol are best left to individual consciences, and should the state leap in, the results are certain to be disappointing. A couple of years from now, when illicit liquor gangs multiply their operations in Bihar and the state gets even more deficient in revenue than is the case at present, Nitish may reflect on the high cost of virtue to governance in the state, already in tatters because of the involvement of Lalu Yadav & Family in the administration. Indeed, the RJD leader seems to have left even that maestro of “keeping power in the family”, Muthuvel Karunanidhi, a bit behind in the number of relatives that he has inserted into prime slots. Of course, saintliness does not extend as far as giving up the mansions and other perquisites of power. Even while garlands get strewn at statues of Mahatma Gandhi, none within the political class aspire to follow the Mahatma in living in huts and going “third class” in trains, not even “Saint” Nitish. The odds are that the Bihar Chief Minister will follow the example of the prime saint in Indian politics, Arecaparambil Kurian Antony (Defence Minister under Manmohan Singh) and avoid controversy by the simple expedient of not taking any decision. In India, speed in decision-making often gets punished, extreme slowness—indeed, paralysis—never.
Of course, there are those in politics who make zero pretence of sainthood. They are in the game to enjoy a good life, and the more filled their existence is with goodies, the better. Despite the bad press that he has been receiving because of his addiction to helicopters, it must be said to the credit of Eknath Khadse that he has not hidden his love for luxury the way so many others in his politician tribe do, but has been open about living a life suffused with privilege. Of course, if Eknath Khadse is representative of politicians in Maharashtra (and indeed, the rest of India), it is unlikely that he would have even seen the inside of a car during the decades of youth. Even a Bajaj scooter may have been too much of a luxury, although presumably a bicycle would have been affordable to the Khadses. It would be later, as he ascended the ladders of office, that the Agriculture Minister of Maharashtra would have begun to suffer the mysterious disease of the legs that afflicts those in posts where luxury cars, fawning assistants and colonial bungalows become an everyday facet of existence. Had he a bit of political savvy, Eknath Khadse may have decided to go around the parched precincts of Latur by bicycle, or—given the fact that he is no longer a teenager—pillion on a motorcycle. However, once the worthies who get sworn in as ministers cross to that stage of advancement, to travel except by car or a yet more advanced means of locomotion becomes an ignoble act.
Indeed, many politicians have climbed to a yet more elevated perch, refusing to travel except by charter flights or helicopters. Such, for example, are the favoured modes of transport of Lalu Yadav, who has spent much of his life ensuring that he and his not inconsiderable family have reached a level of economic advancement that would place them in those income levels where comfort gives way to luxury and to waste. Mr Yadav is hardly an outlier in such an expansive—sorry, expensive—approach to life, indeed, his is the norm.
The lifestyles of the families of the politically powerful are, with rare exceptions, comparable to those who have acquired great wealth. The families of an Abdul Kalam or a Narendra Modi are the exceptions, remaining in the same circumstances as they were before their loved one reached the top of the protocol chain.
But why be harsh on Eknath Khadse? He may have wanted to walk to Latur from the nearest railhead, but were he to do so, would his family be able to bear the shame of a minister in their ranks actually using his legs for locomotion rather than as props while reclining in a ministerial chair? And what of Khadse’s followers? Would they not feel as though they were second-class citizens, especially when faced with the hangers-on of those who refuse to travel otherwise than by chartered flight or helicopter? After all, the minister has to keep up with others of his tribe who are the successors to the British colonial masters of India. It was no accident that Jawaharlal Nehru (a self-declared socialist) chose for himself the most palatial residence in Delhi after the Viceregal Palace (which he would have occupied, had it not been frequented by Louis and Edwina at the time). It was no accident that every one of the colonial laws and practices were adopted (a few with a modicum, of adaptation) by the “people’s representatives” who took over from the departing Brits.
Both the hypocrisy of “Saint” Nitish and the openly flamboyant lifestyle of Eknath Khadse have come to exemplify politicians in India ever since in 1947 one group of colonial masters got replaced with another.


Friday, 15 April 2016

Trump & Sanders face lobbyist fire (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
HIS front-runner status has generated a barrage of attack ads against Republican Party Presidential hopeful Donald J Trump. Each of these is anchored in claims that the public interest is what motivates such publicity, and that the US would lose ground were the real estate mogul to get sworn in as Head of State and Government of the world’s most consequential country on January 20, 2017.

In reality the primary “sufferers” would be the phalanxes of lobbyists that infest Washington. Some of these are directly affiliated to either the Democratic or the Republican Party, but most are ambidextrous, ensuring continuing relevance no matter which party makes it to the White House. They are assisted in this by the governance system in the US, which segments and distributes power between different branches of the state, such as the US Senate, the White House, the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives. Other power centres include corporate and financial interests, as well as a variety of specific lobbying groups that over time have cultivated cosy relationships (usually under the surface) with both major political parties and their hangers on. Their nightmare is in the form of two individuals who are for the present at least impervious to the influence of lobbying groups.

In ensuring a firewall between Big Money special interests and themselves, Bernie Sanders is a bit ahead of Donald Trump, who has off and on been given the attention of lobbying groups seeking to tap into his dirigible-sized public persona. However, the problem they face is that Trump has both money and influence of his own, lots of it, and has, therefore, the potential to be resistant to the wiles and lures of lobbyists in a manner not possible for Hillary Clinton or Ted Cruz, the other major contestants in the race for nomination as Presidential candidate of either the Republican or the Democratic Party.

While it is understandable that the Republican hopefuls would be going slow on their barbs at the Clinton Foundation, what is less so is the way in which Bernie Sanders has given Hillary Clinton almost a free pass on the issue. The Clintons are a single political entity, taking decisions together, and this was clear during the period when the former First Lady was Secretary of State. This at a time when huge dollops of money were accruing on a regular basis to the Clinton Foundation (as well as in the form of speaking fees and other payments) from locations that had a direct interest in the direction of US foreign policy. Perhaps entirely might be coincidence, the policy pursued by Secretary of State Clinton in the Mideast matched perfectly with the requirements of Riyadh and Doha.
The record shows that Washington was lockstep behind Qatar and Saudi Arabia, whether this be the removal from office of Muammar Kaddafi in Libya and his replacement with a regime steeped in the traditions of Wahabbism, or an effort to push Bashar al-Assad down the same road as the Libyan dictator was made helpless by his own destruction of WMD on the request of the very powers that subsequently took the lives of himself and all but one of his sons. The Secretary of State using an email account that was accessible to officials of a foundation that was the recipient of billions of dollars of foreign money, constituted a security risk to US interests that this far does not appear to have been intensively examined, perhaps because President Obama does not wish to damage his former Secretary of State’s chances of becoming his successor.

Donald Trump is spending his own money in the Presidential primary, and this makes him unique among the other candidates. Ted Cruz has, through his spouse, links with the financial conglomerates that helped cause the 2008 financial crash which saw the demise of NATO-bloc dominance in global geopolitics. As for Hillary Clinton, she has made no secret of the act that millions of dollars have been paid to her and Bill Clinton by such conglomerates. In the case of Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont has shown a disregard for riches that is almost totally absent in US politics, which as in some other democracies, is entirely about making money for oneself, family and friends through the use of state power and influence. A contest between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders would represent an entirely different choice to US voters than a match-up between two Goldman Sachs favourites, Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton.

However, precisely for this reason, efforts are intensifying to ensure that Trump and Sanders lose steam. Daily, there have been attack ads against Trump, usually filled with innuendo, while in the case of Sanders, the reason why these are not so common is the view that he will lose to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Presidential primary contests. Should this take place, a heavy chunk of the blame would fall on Sanders himself, because he has shown himself too much of a country gentleman to match the aggression of his opponent. The Clintons are political fighters of the most superior kind, and across the years, have perfected a political machine that is expert at deciphering what the voters want to hear and in ensuring that contests be won. It is a tribute to Bernie Sanders and to the innate decency of the US voter that the Vermont politician has survived this far.

Had this columnist a vote in the US primary, he would have backed Trump over Cruz in the Republican primary and Sanders over Clinton in the other. The US needs a Head of State and Government who is as free of lobbyists as Sanders is, or even Trump has the potential to be. In healthcare, ensuring access to cheap drugs at the expense of Big Pharma would work wonders for the budget, while in matters of security, delinking from big money interests in the Mideast would help make the US and the globe more secure.

The policy of relying on religious extremists to carry out tactical and strategic objectives on behalf of the US and its partners has run its course, and needed to have been discontinued after 9/11, rather than revived during 2003 in Iraq and later in 2011 to terminate Kaddafi. The best hope of such a pragmatic policy vests in Bernie Sanders or even Donald Trump following the telegenic and likeable Obama clan into the White House. Rather than the paid views of lobbyists, what US policymakers need to give preference to, is the need of US citizens for a government that treats them fairly.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Clinton holdovers seek to derail Modi-Obama outreach (Sunday Guardian)

By MADHAV NALAPAT | NEW DELHI | 10 April, 2016
The US nuclear disarmament lobby has begun a drumbeat of criticism of India at the same time as it’s praising Pak.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has walked the extra mile to demonstrate his government’s sincerity towards even the more restrictive interpretations of the Bush-Manmohan nuclear agreement that was agreed upon in 2005. Early in 2015, India issued an FAQ to clarify points in the CNLD (Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage) Act passed by Parliament. This ensured that the Indian operator, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), would agree to waive supplier’s liability voluntarily, thereby opening the doors to investment by US companies in the nuclear sector. Subsequently, an international convention, which leaves the liability question in the open, was signed in the form of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC), an agreement that in the view of some experts is contrary to some of the provisions of the CNLD Act. In its efforts at building a new paradigm in India-US relations, the Narendra Modi government has shown political courage in being very accommodating of US and other international requests for information and visits to nuclear installations, so as to demonstrate good faith before the international community to an extent not done by any other nuclear weapons state (NWS) or by India till this period. 
Given the fact that a single megawatt of nuclear power costs far more (around Rs 25 crore on a conservative estimate) than an equivalent quantum of solar (Rs 9 crore) or thermal energy (Rs 6 crore), with costs for both the latter duo declining at the same time as the cost of nuclear power installations is rising, several experts question the need for significant investments in nuclear power plants manufactured abroad. They say this makes little sense when India itself has mastered the capability of setting up plants of 1 Gigawatt size and has the potential to export this technology to friendly countries. However, in deference to international sensibilities, thus far the export market has not been seriously looked at by the Modi government. Indeed, India has gone the extra mile in assuaging concerns on fossil fuel utilisation by signing COP21 and declaring carbon emission targets despite a minuscule volume of per capita emissions. This means that the reporting requirements to international agencies (controlled by countries with much higher per capita carbon emission levels) have gone up significantly. However, in order to show that India is no longer a problem in the matter of battling climate change but part of the solution, Prime Minister Modi has voluntarily affixed India’s seal to global agreements on climate change, after decades of this country being an outlier in such matters. Interestingly, the global climate has risen by 1 degree Celsius since 1870 and another 1 degree will be added by just two countries, the US and China, in the coming decades. 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invested substantially in his relationship with US President Barack Obama, and the omens are bright that transformational India-US agreements will get signed before the US President fades away into retirement next January. However, for such a trajectory to be maintained, it will be needed for Barack Obama to retain the autonomy from Bill and Hillary Clinton’s policies that he has shown in much of his second term, especially in matters relating to Cuba and Iran. However, so far as India is concerned, there are disquieting signs that the Clinton machine is tightening its grip over the White House. The non-proliferation bureaucracy in Washington is among the agencies heavily infused with Clinton-era holdovers, most of whom are negative towards India and still seek to ensure that this country give up its nuclear and missile programme. After being de-hyphenated during the period in office of President George W. Bush, US President Barack Obama appears to have reverted to the Bill Clinton policy of linking Delhi and Islamabad within the same bracket, including in the nuclear field. The US President’s equating of India and Pakistan in the field of nuclear security underscores the return of Clinton-style policies towards India and Pakistan in place of the recent trends towards acknowledging that the trajectories of the two subcontinental neighbours are very different. Interestingly, the US nuclear disarmament lobby has begun a drumbeat of criticism of India at the same time as it is praising Pakistan for its nuclear safety record, with even Obama praising the Pakistan Prime Minister for making the nuclear programme safer and under international protocols. 
Meanwhile, there have been multiplying reports, including on alleged weaknesses of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), the force protecting India’s nuclear plants. 
At present, the expectation that India would soon get admitted to the MTCR, the Wassenaar Agreement, the Australia Group and the NSG appear to be fading. Even the two countries that have signed nuclear agreements with India (Japan and Australia) have thus far seemingly not moved towards further steps in the matter, despite more than a year having gone by. In another field, that of pharmaceuticals, there are efforts to get Delhi to dilute its stand on compulsory licensing and “ever greening” so as to benefit big pharma companies in the US and Europe at the expense of hundreds of millions of the world’s poor. As for corporate India, it is groggy with debt and stressed assets, thereby becoming easy prey for foreign funds looking for discount purchases of Indian industry. Prime Minister Modi is working hard to ensure that those responsible for siphoning off bank funds into offshore accounts be brought to justice, and it is expected that several arrests and prosecutions will take place in the coming months on this score. 
Overall, prospects for a transformation in India-US relations despite numerous false starts in the past remain bright, especially in view of Prime Minister Modi’s commitment to innovative diplomacy designed to tap the global geopolitical synergies available to India. However, for such a change to take effect, President Obama will need to recover his autonomy in decision-making, and return to his efforts at changing the India-US relationship in a way that makes the two largest democracies form allies in a world filled with dangers common to both. 

Bring back secular practices in Kashmir (Sunday Guardian)

The people of J&K seek an opportunity to improve their own lives, and this can take place only if secularism once again becomes a dominant lifestyle choice.
Religious exclusivism and supremacy are antithetical to the concept of secularism, which has as its guiding principle the absence of discrimination between those belonging to different faiths. Those societies and territories where those belonging to a particular faith are given advantages by state policy over others are anti-secular and need to be exposed as such. In India, there has been constant talk about “secular values” and a “secular identity”. There exists an army of commentators who regard it as their duty to protect secularism in our country from enemies real or imagined. However, few of this flock have looked at a state in India where secularism is almost on its deathbed. This is Jammu & Kashmir, specifically the Valley of Kashmir, from where, since the 1990s, not only has there been a steady increase in the extent of Wahhabi influence, but a decrease to insignificance of the minority communities in J&K in the valley. Those few who remain are in constant fear of their lives, and seek to conceal their religious identification lest they become the target of a murderous attack. Houses of worship belonging to the main minority community in the state have almost all been destroyed in the Kashmir valley, again to silence from those who claim to uphold secular principles. Neither in India nor abroad is there even a cursory mention of the fact that the secular principles of the republic have been steadily destroyed over the past four decades in a key state of the union, indeed a state where those in authority consistently pose as the votaries of secularism. 
What took place at the NIT campus in Srinagar is every bit as deplorable as the actions of the Delhi police on the JNU campus, after B.S. Bassi took the decision to make Kanhaiya Kumar an international hero by sending him to jail for a few comments made in a speech in a somewhat excitable tone of voice and gesture. However, neither have those who supported or who opposed Kanhaiya Kumar been at all vocal about the brutal manner in which innocent students on that campus were belaboured by policemen. Their “crime” was apparently the raising of the Indian Tricolour. The question that needs to be answered is whether the police in J&K believe themselves to be in India or in Pakistan, for if they are aware that they are in India, it was incomprehensible that students were abused and beaten up for simply displaying the Tricolour, an activity which is the right of every citizen of India since Naveen Jindal won Supreme Court approval for such a right in 2004. Thus far, there does not seem to have been any action taken against the policemen involved in the assault on the Tricolour-waving NIT students. Such pusillanimity on the part of the J&K government (in which the BJP plays a significant part) will only encourage Wahhabi elements in the valley to multiply their endeavours to create a distinct contra-secular ethos and culture in the state, or at the least, in the valley. The more powerful the Wahhabis are in that state, the less the chance that it will actualise its immense potential as a knowledge and travel hub for the world. Because of the intellectual qualities of the Kashmiri people, including the community which has been driven out of the valley since the 1990s, global R&D centres can potentially be established throughout the state, making it an export hub for Information Technology-enabled services. 
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti visits Delhi frequently, and much of the time seems to be spent in seeking grants and loans from the Central government. The proud people of Jammu & Kashmir do not seek charity, they seek an opportunity to improve their own lives, and this can take place only if secularism once again becomes the dominant lifestyle choice in the state. Whatever the religion of a citizen, he or she ought to have the same rights and treatment from the state. 
There should be zero discrimination on the basis of religion, including in the matter of recruitment and promotion in the numerous agencies of the state government. The people of Kashmir have been steeped in Kashmiriyat, which is the same as Insaniyat. However, especially since the 1990s, this gentle culture is being replaced by a growing acceptance of Wahhabism in significant sections of the society in the state, especially in that most enchanting of locations, the Kashmir valley. Globally, there is a reaction against Wahhabism, mainly because of the fact that several groups owing allegiance to that exclusivist and supremacist ideology have taken to violence in a manner which resembles the cruelty of the National Socialist German Workers Party in 1932-45 Germany. Over the past months, for the first time in a long while, forests of Pakistan flags have sprouted in parts of Kashmir, while—again for the first time since the 1990s—the funeral processions of Pakistan-trained terrorists have been accompanied not any more by dozens but by hundreds of people. These are not signs of improving societal health. Rather, they are symptoms of the reality of a tightening of the grip of Wahhabi interests in the state. During the latter half of the 1980s, especially following the Gul Shah episode, a similar rise in fundamentalism stealthily took root, causing incalculable damage later. 
This time around, before the problem reaches the levels seen at that time, those who value secularism need to get active in Kashmir so that the march within the state of the Wahhabi impulse gets replaced by the spread of the moderate philosophies that are far closer to the traditional spirit of the Kashmiri people.
 

Friday, 8 April 2016

No surprises in the Panama Papers (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has done service to the global community by exposing hundreds of individuals guilty of looting their own countries by sending money abroad illegally. The “Panama Papers” show how easy it is to create dummy entities in tax havens such as the Virgin Islands so as to park billions of euros anonymously. High-priced lawyers, financial advisers and bankers assist high-value individuals to cheat on taxes by generating cash through measures such as over-invoicing of imports, the difference in price going to offshore accounts. Much of this could easily be caught, had the authorities the will to do so. An example is Air India, the government-owned airline in India, which bought the same type of aircraft at the same period of time as two private sector competitors did, but paid much more for each than the other two airlines. However, it is unlikely that such discrepancies will ever get investigated.


Those who make billions out of looting the exchequer spend millions out of that in making friends with influential officials and politicians, with the result that they remain protected no matter which party comes to power. Instances are in the hundreds where items produced in India get sold at low prices to paper entities based in the Cayman Islands or such other tax havens, and within seconds get resold to others at much higher prices. The price differential remains in the foreign bank accounts of the domestic producer of the item sold in the first instance at an artificially low price to a dummy buyer but resold later to a genuine buyer at the correct market price. Were authorities serious in their task of dissevering illegal income, it would have been a simple matter to find out which items were being sold at prices far below that prevalent in the international market, but such an effort never gets made, because both officials as well as their political masters are more interested in adding to their personal bank accounts than to the exchequer.


In the Panama Papers, there are reported to be around five hundred Indian citizens. This is hardly a surprise, as for decades money has flowed out of the country through such means as under-invoicing, over-invoicing and hawala. The Government of India has followed past precedent and set up a Multi-Agency Investigative Team to “investigate and monitor” the revelations in the Panama papers. After months if not years, it will be seen that next to nothing will come of such “monitoring and investigation”. A few of the five hundred may be asked to pay a fine or penalty, but the rest will escape. India has a long tradition of those who are guilty of large-scale theft getting away, even while pickpockets making off with Rs 50 get sent to jail for years.

This columnist believes that the higher the scale of the robbery, the more should be the punishment. Petty theft ought to be punished by community service as a form of restitution, rather than by prison. The reality is that jail usually degrades an individual’s skills, making him or her lose the capacity to return to free life as a productive citizen. By depriving an individual of access to the internet or to the family, rehabilitation is being made almost impossible. Those guilty of petty offences or who are non-violent in behaviour need to be shifted to “open” jails, where they can be visited by family and friends and avoid the depression and psychosis that too often attaches to those sent to jail. It is a disgrace that seven decades after the British pulled down the Union Jack across the subcontinent, as yet the politicians who are their successors retain the harsh conditions of imprisonment that were prescribed by the former colonial masters of the subcontinent. Our officials and politicians have effortlessly slipped into the role of colonial masters, using the same restrictive laws and procedures that were followed by the British to ensure that the population was kept in a state of subservience.

It is the closer identification with the former colonial authority rather than with the ordinary people that is responsible for the successors of the British being more focussed on acquiring personal wealth than on improving the overall condition of the citizens. The level of commitment to the country and its people is low – indeed absent – in the countries of the subcontinent, so far as those in power and in positions of governmental authority are concerned. The consequence has been theft on the same scale – or in some instances worse – than that indulged in by the British colonial masters, and a neglect of policies that would improve living conditions. If a survey were to get done of the top hundred political leaders and the top five hundred civil servants, a large number would be seen to have their children abroad, and their families more often outside the country than inside. A son or a daughter gets sent abroad and made a foreign citizen, and subsequently money gets channelled in that individual’s name, so that many well-connected youths with no visible work living in Singapore or London or Miami nevertheless have very large incomes, usually funnelled through offshore banking havens. It would be a simple matter for authorities in India and Pakistan to investigative such individuals, given that we are only talking of the top five hundred officials in a country and the top hundred politicians, but of course, this will not even be attempted.

There is too much at stake for those at the top in a cosy system where making money and sending it abroad is regarded as normal. In order to make a pretense of ensuring acceptability, governments often impose heavy penalties on monies parked abroad, thereby making sure that few declarations get made. The only way to ensure access to such monies is to set low rates of penalty rather than high, and to ensure that those making such declarations not be subsequently harassed by officials. Otherwise, those voluntarily disclosing unaccounted assets will find themselves harassed every year for a long period thereafter, thereby reducing the incentive for others to follow their example. The Panama Papers represents only a very small proportion of the monies illegally parked abroad by individuals who care only about their own wealth rather than public welfare. Unless more of such money comes back and gets used within the country of origin, poverty in the subcontinent will continue to be shamefully high.

— The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Masood Azhar shadow over Modi-Xi diplomacy (Sunday Guardian)

Officials said that the decision to protect Masood Azhar at the behest of Pakistan GHQ was unlikely to have gone to the level of President Xi Jinping.
Almost unknown three years ago, these days, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India is almost as well known in the Chinese capital as US President Barack Obama. His home-state welcome to China’s President Xi Jinping, followed by the latter’s return gesture in Xian, has entered the diplomatic annals of the world’s other superpower. Aware of the immense power of the Indian bureaucracy to hold back, few policymakers in Beijing expected Modi’s promises of smooth passage for PRC investment into India and e-visas for Chinese tourists to become the reality that both did within weeks of Prime Minister Modi’s announcement. The recent statement of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar about Delhi not seeing Beijing as a threat has further dispelled the clouds of mistrust between the two sides. However, in the same way as the Pakistan army serves up a terror attack on India soon after friendly discussions between the two civilian governments, the entrenched pro-Pakistan lobby in Beijing bowls a googly just when relations seem on a significant upgrade. The latest has been the self-defeating decision by Beijing to block the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) from declaring Masood Azhar a global terrorist, despite all fourteen of the other UNSC backing India’s request and China frequently claiming to be a frontline state in the war on terror.
Although the perception is that such a decision would have been cleared at the level of President Xi himself, knowledgeable officials point out that the decision to protect Azhar at the behest of Pakistan GHQ was unlikely to have gone to the top. They point to the example of the entry of PLA forces into border territory controlled by India during Xi’s India visit, and how this too was blamed on Xi by Sinophobes across the world, who later had to recant when the PRC President ensured the withdrawal of the intruding troops soon after his return to Beijing. This leaves open the possibility of a rethink, should there be a discussion at the top between both sides on why it makes no sense for Beijing to back a global terrorist. The reality in China is that corrupt elements in the bureaucracy have been waging a silent war of attrition against Xi Jinping because of his battle against corruption, and upsetting the growing mood of bonhomie between Delhi and Beijing through a decision to protect an international terrorist at the behest of the ISI was a sample of the way in which clandestine efforts by the anti-Xi faction are ongoing to prevent a full normalisation of relations between India and China, including a border settlement that may earn both Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping a Nobel Peace Prize.
There are increasing tensions within Pakistan between the Pashtun people and the Punjabi-dominated Pakistan military, and these are in addition to the violent battle for human rights and justice being carried out by the Baloch people. Although not for the record, pro-Xi officials in Beijing acknowledge that it will be a difficult task to complete the $30 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and a near impossibility to ensure that it reaches financial viability. “A $50 billion China India Economic Corridor would be far better for both economies than the CPEC, a road passing through some of the most unstable regions of the globe”, an economic expert based out of Shanghai said, adding that “both Xi and Modi have the authority and mutual trust to make this happen”. However, such a project would be a nightmare for the generals in Islamabad and their backers in Beijing, who are wary that closer ties between the two giants of Asia may lead to a diminution of importance of the militaries in Pakistan and China, both of whom “feed off mistrust between Delhi and Beijing”.
A senior official pointed out that “the trust at the top (between Xi and Modi) makes it necessary for a Sino-Indian settlement to be led and effectuated from that level”, as at lower levels, the trust levels are still not high, despite the substantial progress in relations since Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister in May 2014.
For China, massive infrastructure projects are of critical importance, as the country has developed a world-class infra sector in the big cities, but because of the slowdown in economic growth, more than 30% of the capacity is unutilised. “The machines that are idle can very quickly be put to work in India and help make Modi’s plans a reality”, such as housing for all by 2020 and 50 new Metro rail systems. However, it was pointed out that some of the tax policies followed by North Block stand in the way, as for example, steep duties on second-hand machinery that would nullify the cost advantage of the same. “If leasing were permitted, equipment that is surplus in China can get redeployed to India”, an engineering official claimed, adding that “almost none of the construction needed in India require ultra-sophisticated equipment”. Workers would get trained on older models and later on, graduate to more and more sophisticated versions.
In such a context, it was suggested that “for a year, a few Chinese workers be permitted to work on infrastructure projects, so that they can train their counterparts in India”. Otherwise, the worry was that “more than a year would go by in the process of on the Job training, in a context where time is money”. Of course, care would need to be taken to ensure that domestic industries such as steel and cement not get adversely affected by cheaper imports from China. Such items would need to be excluded from the trade basket.
Apart from roads, railways and housing, other sectors where Chinese companies are looking to do business with India are in solid waste management, water preservation, wind energy and solar energy. Chinese companies are aware that the market is huge, with a starting estimate of $100 billion during the present term of Prime Minister Modi. However, for such a situation to come about, the Chinese Communist Party will need to rein in the pro-Pakistan elements who are looking to sabotage the Xi-Modi rapprochement through bowling googlies such as the recent decision to protect an international terrorist from justice.

For India, Trump or Sanders trumps Clinton anytime (Sunday Guardian)

By M.D. Nalapat | 2 April, 2016
Looking at the “independent” analyses of so many of the great brains of Lutyens’ Delhi, it is amusing to note how closely they follow trends in the thinktanks and foundations in the US that are, to many, their second home. Hence, the cacophony of voices in favour of Hillary Clinton as being far preferable to either Donald J. Trump or Bernie Sanders, both of whom were just weeks ago derided as comic figures, but are these days (in line with DC and NY thinktank opinions) merely seen as undeserving individuals riding an “anti-establishment” vein of public sentiment. Echoes of horror similar to those in the DC Beltway greet such sallies of the other billionaire in the race (besides the Clintons), as Trump’s call to do away with NATO, or, even more alien to thinktank groupthink, that US intervention in Libya or Syria was a mistake and that it is perfectly possible for Washington to work with Vladimir Putin, rather than drench and drown him in a Ukrainian-style colour revolution. Almost certainly, despite coming from opposite ends of the wealth and political spectrum, the views of Bernie Sanders in such matters are the same. The messianic Senator from Vermont is clearly no booster of either NATO or the many Secretary Clinton-era interventions, carried out in lockstep with such middle-aged schoolboys as Francois Hollande and David Cameron, who have never taken seriously Barack Obama’s admonition that a handful of individuals from the same geographic location no longer have the power to change the world. As for Putin, while Russia has paid a high price for Madeleine Albright-style sanctions imposed by the ageing schoolchildren who still predominate in the chancelleries of the Atlantic alliance, it is Europe that will, over time, pay much the heavier price, including in a sharp fall in goodwill within the Russian people at countries that seek to punish Moscow for the “crime” of seeking to avoid the same descent into geopolitical irrelevance that was visible in the Gorbachev-Yeltsin era.
The fact is that on almost all such issues, the views of Donald Trump are very similar to that of that diminishing part of the Indian establishment that is yet to succumb to the lure of exchanging intellectual freedom and an adherence to our national interest at the altar of superpower foundation largesse. Examine the manner in which NATO intervened in Afghanistan, a country critical to the Indian national interest and which Delhi seeks to ensure is allowed to conduct its own business without interference by Pakistan, a country whose military considers Kabul to be its colony. Throughout 2004-7, the ISI succeeded in planting members and ideological clones of the Taliban into almost every recess of the Afghan system, which is why that organisation has revived despite the expenditure of more than a trillion dollars on seeking its defeat. Just as in Vietnam, the US and its partners have been defeated in Afghanistan, and this time, by its own errors, rather than the ferocity of an enemy that in essence is little more than a band of ruffians. Of course, these days, what is becoming more obvious is that the Taliban has been cut in two, one section enslaved to the Pakistan army and the other which hates that military and which has linked up with like-minded Pashtuns across the Durand Line to battle the men in khaki. As for Libya or Syria, the results of intervention are obvious, even though excuses have been created, such as that the “moderate opposition” in Syria lost ground to ISIS because Barack Obama did not bomb Damascus. Had the US President not stood up to his Secretary of State and refrained from repeating Libya in Syria, the capital of ISIS would be Damascus and almost the entire population rather than nearly half would have washed up on alien shores. As for Vladimir Putin, despite his intent to shape a transformational partnership with Washington, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it clear that the President of Russis is not dispensable.
It was only after somehow managing to prise Hillary Clinton away from her perch at the heart of what was less an Obama administration than a Clinton Lite setup, that Barack Obama ensured breakthroughs with Iran and Cuba that will endure in his legacy for generations.
However, the US President’s obsession with keeping big donors happy has meant that he has walked away from the fact that only a public health partnership between the US and India will enable that country to provide universal quality healthcare to its citizens at a cost that will not bankrupt it. A President Sanders, who has understood the inhuman effect of Big Pharma monopolies on the poor across the world, would be very different, as hopefully would be Trump, who thus far has spent only his own money during the campaign and is hence not the servant of big donors that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are. Interestingly, few have noted that much of the donations to the Clinton Foundation come from the Mideast, and hence that it is perhaps not wholly accidental that Secretary of State Clinton pushed for policies favoured by Doha and Riyadh, despite these being contrary to US national interests.
Using a Clinton email server has opened the possibility that several sensitive emails may have been shown to some of the big donors by Clinton Foundation staff, a temptation that ought to have been avoided.
The Clintons have sweet-talked their way into bureaucratic hearts in India despite in practice adopting an inflexible approach seeking to keep India firmly in a subordinate space to “civilised” countries such as France and the UK. Unless the FBI resists pressure from the White House and conducts a comprehensive investigation into Emailgate, Hillary Clinton may continue to bedevil Delhi in practice, while nuzzling it in a pretence of support. And certainly, a President Hillary Clinton would be certain to attract far more cash into the foundation run by the family than even Secretary of State Clinton.
Better by far a President Sanders, or even a President Trump.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

‘Midnight knocks’ cannot end poverty in India (Sunday Guardian)

By M.D. Nalapat | 26 March, 2016
India needs a pragmatic policy matrix, not measures driven by the TRP cycle.
Those who argue in favour of hyper-expensive welfare schemes designed to provide some income to the underprivileged are correct in pointing out that the super rich take away a much bigger share of national resources. Among HNIs, the offenders are those who make billions by getting public sector banks to loan them huge amounts of money, and thereafter use the services of financial consultants to siphon the cash away towards locales where money hoards can easily disappear. Instances are many in which such a game plan has been resorted to multiple times, each time passing off a Ponzi scheme as genuine business, which ends deliberately in the collapse of the sacrificial goat of a company and the accumulation of more “non-performing assets” (NPAs) in the balance sheets of banks. Often, such depredators relocate to countries where they are safe from authorities in India. Should the DRI or the ED quiz the financial advisors of such runaways, they would soon be able to learn how and where taxpayer money has disappeared to. However, these “legitimate” experts in money laundering usually have as their closest friends those high up in the political and bureaucratic system, a factor which has protected these “financial advisors” from the investigating agencies. These have become expert in catching a few smaller fish every now and again to keep television anchors busy, while the sharks remain unmolested.
However, the fact is that those who take bank loans with the intention of not repaying them but siphoning off much of the amount are an easily identifiable handful. The majority of entrepreneurs are honest, although many are facing ruin because of the sluggish business environment caused by high taxes and interest rates and an exceptionally high degree of discretion in the hands of officials, not all of whom are honest. As a consequence, such innocent businesspersons too run up NPAs. Unlike what is the practice in India of erasing the distinction between crookedness and bad luck, the “Ponzi minority” alone ought to be punished. If India has not so far been able to replicate the double digit growth rates that post-Deng China has enjoyed for a generation, the reason is that the bureaucracy has acted as though the minority of crooks is representative of the majority of businesspersons. Just as “hard” drugs (such as heroin and cocaine) need to be given police attention, rather than “soft” (i.e., marijuana), the ED, DRI and other agencies need to focus on the few Ponzi scamsters to ensure that the moneys get returned, in some cases in exchange for freedom from prison. At the cost of being politically incorrect, let it be repeated that a businessman in jail does little substantive good to the hundreds of millions of the poor than an individual who pays back to the exchequer the bulk of what he in effect stole from the banking system. Attention needs to be on those who, (a) have clearly acted in a Ponzi mode, and who have (b) major bank loans outstanding that co-exist with records of extensive overseas and domestic assets.
It was Industry Minister Narasimha Rao who kick-started reform in India in 1992, by freeing much of industry from the licence raj, and it is expected that much more reform along the same lines will be accomplished by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he gets into his stride in Year 3 and Year 4 of his term. In contrast, Finance Minister Manmohan Singh was responsible (through a tax and duty structure that penalised domestic industry and gave an unbeatable advantage to imports) for the early smothering of the computer hardware industry in India. As a consequence, this country spends more on importing computer and related equipment than it does on buying oil and gas. However, because the government left them alone for a while, the IT software industry developed, as did telecom. From 16 million telephones a generation ago, this country now has nearly 900 million phone connections, landline and mobile, even in locations where there is no electricity or infrastructure. From a base of zero, there are now more than 300,000 telecom towers, although double that is needed for universal and high quality coverage.
Narendra Modi is right. Digital India is the only way India can ensure that its billion-plus people secure jobs and an income adequate to live a dignified life. But for this to succeed, there is need to avoid policy errors as levying tax on a buyer (Vodafone) or blocking major overseas investors (such as the Malaysian top executives of Aircel Maxis) from ever coming back to India. Those politicians and officials who connived at Aircel Maxis chicanery need to be sent jail, and the businesspersons concerned be made to pay up the money lost through official corruption. Such recompense, rather than be subjected to warrants that are unenforceable, are the way forward. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s equating of the bribe giver and the bribe taker was wrong. The former should be given a pass in exchange for making up the loss to the exchequer and providing evidence against the politicians and officials who took bribes and other favours from them. Within India, the people of Gujarat are known for their pragmatism. In the witch-hunting culture that the nation is witnessing since the 2010 Commonwealth Games scandal (where again none of the truly big depredators appear to have been netted), it is such pragmatism—which focuses on concrete results rather than televised symbolism—that India needs. Only such a pragmatic policy matrix rather than measures driven by the TRP cycle will ensure that India’s entrepreneurs generate the tens of millions of new jobs needed to protect India from a desi version of the Arab Spring rather than remain paralysed by fear of a midnight knock. 

Friday, 25 March 2016

Three musketeers & Brussels blasts (Pakistan Observer)

Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
The March 22, 2016 terror attack in Brussels was a tragedy foretold in these columns, when – following the Cameron-Clinton-Sarkozy intervention in Libya, it was pointed out that the intervention would generate a swelling flow of refugees into Europe as well as a secure base from where attacks on European Union members could get launched by terror groups. The problem with what is referred to in narcissistic terms as “The West” is that the countries belonging to this group consider themselves to be the only repositories of wisdom and look down with derision at assessments coming from “underdeveloped” locales, unless they be from individuals who have spent years in academic locales within the “western world” and who have therefore become an echo chamber for the views fashionable there, in the process shutting out any consideration of the realities of life in the locations they analyse.

“Western” scholars know a dizzying amount of detail, such as fluency in languages of different regions, but without understanding much of the emphases and uses of irony used by native speakers of such languages, with the result that nuances essential to understanding “deep meaning”( i.e. meaning beyond simple strings of words ) in what gets said or sometimes written in such target countries. In the case of Libya and later Syria, it is obvious that strategic planners in the US, the UK and France failed to conduct an exhaustive study of the prolific writings of those who opposed Muammar Kaddafy and Bashar Assad.

Had they done so, it would have been clear that it was not an attachment to Westminister-style democracy that impelled them to oppose the two authoritarians but a conviction that both were enemies of the fanatic Wahabbi faith that the extremists of Daesh or Al Qaeda profess. The consequence of such neglect of the intellectual roots of opposition to the regimes in Tripoli and Damascua was the Cameron-Clinton-Sarkozy policy of joining hands with Ankara, Doha and Riyadh in funding, training and equipping such anti-Kaddafy and anti-Assad fanatics to do battle on the model of 1980s Afghanistan.
When David Cameron, Hillary Clinton and Nicholas Sarkozy watch on their television screens images of the dead and wounded in the Brussels attacks, it is unlikely that they will make the connection between this and their own actions beginning early 2011 onwards. “Western” politicians, officials and academics live in a bubble created entirely out of their own perceptions of the truth, and it is a bubble where the blame for disasters always rests elsewhere. The consequences of the actions taken by chancelleries in the major NATO powers are fobbed off to the natives. An example is mass killing of children, old and the diseased in Iraq caused by the sanctions imposed by President William Jefferson Clinton on Iraq in the 1990s, measures that were designed not simply to constrict the military led by Saddam Hussein but to inflict such misery on people of Iraq that they would turn on their dictatorial government.

Predictable, they instead saw the major powers in NATO as the guilty party, and this drove several to join fighting groups active against US forces in Iraq, as well as Al Qaeda offshoots that were active in global terror operations. Will Madeleine Albright acknowledge the role the sanctions so ruthlessly enforced by her on Iraq have played in creating the conditions for the mindsets of terror to flourish in Iraq and subsequently other locations where the military-oriented interventionist policies of David Cameron, Hillary Clinton and Nicholas Sarkozy (as well as the successors of the latter duo) took place. Instead, the narrative heard in think tanks and official chambers in Washington, London or Paris is that Nazi-style organisations such as Daesh are the consequences of the very authoritarians in the Middle East who have for decades been in reality the death target of such outfits.

It is, however, not intellectual dishonesty that leads to such absurd conclusions but a suspension of belief in the truth and an almost subconscious embrace of a manufactured version of events in which truth gets garbled into conclusions that are removed from reality. Even two years after the toxic effects of their intervention have become too widespread to ignore, the John Kerrys and the Francois Hollandes still call for fresh doses of Cameron-Clinton-Sarkozy policy of going in locations where angels forbear to enter, despite clear evidence of the security risks of such policies to their own countries.

Astonishingly, as yet very few in France, the UK and the US accept that the terror attacks which are spreading like a rash across western Europe are the consequence of the policies followed by the Three Musketeers. Apart from the fact that Hillary Clinton may become the next President of the US and Sarkozy that of France, while Cameron remains Head of Government in the UK, what is disquieting is that the three apparently believe the fiction that they mouth. Such as that the carnage now being caused in Syria is the direct consequence of Barack Obama’s “timidity” in not recreating a Libyan-style intervention in Syria in 2012.

The reality is that an offer was made in that year for a peace agreement very similar to what is being discussed in Geneva these days, but this was shot down by France, the UK and US, who believed that Assad was about to fold. Today, there is no way the Geneva talks can succeed. The country is already fractured and cannot be put together again. What will emerge is a Kurdish state, a residual state controlled by Bashar Assad for the duration, and a sliver of territory that will in effect be a failed state let kept going for reasons of preetige and ego by some regional capitals.

Should the Assad regime have been taken down in 2012,by now not 40% but 80% of the Syrian population would have been refugees. It is mendacious of Hillary Clinton and other fantasists to suggest otherwise. However, given the poor level of understanding in modern Europe and North America of the chemistry and mechanics of the Middle East, wisdom is unlikely to dawn before the Daesh virus metastises to a level that will make bombings such as what took place in Brussels a part of everyday life in first Europe and afte rwards, the US.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Modi’s governance makeover is real (Sunday Guardian)

Despite naysayers, the next two years will show transformation due to his governance.
Despite the less than adulatory commentary in the media about the overall performance of his government, Narendra Modi’s government is miles different from that of his predecessor. However, whether intentionally or accidently, the transmission of information about the changes being effected by the chaiwalla-turned-pracharak from Gujarat has gotten refracted through perception prisms that shrink the actual gains, much as trick mirrors convert tall people into short. An error was the initial economic survey of the new government, which gave an upbeat report card on the performance of the last government. This was clearly because both were written by the same set of bureaucrats, who naturally did not want to admit that the measures they adopted during the last six “disaster years” of the UPA drove the economy very close to what had been the case in 1991 when P.V. Narasimha Rao took over the job presently being held by Modi.
Certainly, fiscal and monetary policy needs to better serve the indispensable objective of generating enough additional jobs each year in India to prevent an “Arab Spring” (i.e., a descent into populist chaos) taking place in cities across India even before the next Lok Sabha elections fall due in 2019.
North Block babus have long been conditioned to view each budget in single year terms, rather than design tax structures that may suffer a notional loss in revenue over the first year or two, but which would subsequently more than compensate through higher growth. Lower taxes, gentler compliance, and the CBI desisting from arrogating to itself the role of an Anna Hazare-style all-powerful Lokayukta of the banking system would improve investor confidence sufficient to make companies sitting on huge piles of cash spend once again, besides sending share prices higher so that any dilution of equity by the state would garner much higher returns than taxes lost for a short while by lower rates. Had the Black Money Bill, for example, adopted lower tax rates and penalties, it would have raked in many times more than the revenue it has. In the case of direct taxes, a penalty of 300% will usually result in the bankruptcy of an individual or a company.
Destroying a company, as took place in the case of Nokia in Tamil Nadu, or sending a businessperson to prison, helps the people not at all.
What does, would be an injection of money through disclosure made easier by a climate of trust and lesser penalties.
Those who have watched the manner in which Narendra Modi ensured steady growth and stability in Gujarat will be hoping that the Prime Minister moves ahead with speed on doing away with irksome administrative procedures, whose sole function is to generate bribes for corrupt officers. They will be looking to a chopping off of the thicket of colonial laws (including several introduced since 1947) that are each suffused with colonial contempt and mistrust of the citizen. When a citizen comes face to face with an official, the silent message too often conveyed in the latter’s manner is that the citizen is either a fool or a knave, and therefore undeserving of discretion and consideration. Each layer of anti-corruption legislation and consequent agencies has generated more, not less, graft, and such filth will get reduced only when procedures get introduced that are fair and transparent. Unless a process generates product, unless systems generate an outcome of value to the people, they are useless. In India, many, if not most, processes block product and outcomes rather than facilitate them, and voters are looking to Modi to examine and implement ways by which the present colonial system of governance gets replaced by a 21st century construct that recognises the right of individuals to freedoms and autonomy of action that are commonplace in many of the countries the Prime Minister has visited over the past year.
India is also expecting a foreign policy attuned to the need of the country for growth and security than an adherence to cosmic principles that deflect attention away from the former two objectives. In this context, the Prime Minister appears to be fine-tuning a balance between the two largest economies on the globe, the US and China. In the case of the first, Delhi needs to make Washington its primary partner in matters of security, and a good start would be to sign the three Defense Foundation Agreements that have been delayed for far too long by bureaucrats and politicians seeking to atone for sending sons and daughters to the US by deciding against necessary linkages with that country in specific fields. Where China is concerned, that country has the potential over the next five years of emerging as the largest investor in this country, both through FDI as well as by providing our corporates with loans. Certainly, Beijing will look askance on a close security relationship between the US and India, but just as India’s unease has not prevented China from continuing to shower Pakistan with sensitive technologies, nor should its displeasure stop India from closer military to military ties with the US. When ISIS attacks India, this country will need to respond via attacks on locations controlled by it, and in such circumstances, entering into mutually beneficial pacts with the US would greatly increase this country’s options for retaliation. At the same time, earlier barriers on Chinese investment and tourism into India need to be dismantled so as to transfer jobs to India rather than keep them overseas.
Despite the naysayers and the admirers-turned-critics of the Prime Minister, it would be safe to predict that the next two years will make obvious the transformation which the unique governance style of Modi is making in our country, a change that will become obvious by the time he enters into his mega electoral test in 2019, even if his party loses every state election till then. What counts most of all to take transformation forward is victory in the Lok Sabha polls.

‘Pak GHQ plans betrayal on Pathankot planners’ (Sunday Guardian)

By MADHAV NALAPAT | NEW DELHI | 19 March, 2016

Sources say that ISI has recommended that six or seven individuals identified by the agency as Indian agents be sent, rather than those actually guilty.
Officials outside India, who are involved in counter-terror operations, warn that GHQ Rawalpindi is planning a “betrayal” on the issue of sending the actual planners of the 2 January 2016 Pathankot terror strike to India. They claim that the ISI has recommended that six or seven individuals identified by the agency as agents of India be sent, rather than those actually guilty, thereby daring authorities in India to put these innocents on trial and execute them on the charge of being perpetrators of the terror attack on the airbase in which six of the attackers lost their lives.
Such a betrayal would occasion no surprise among those who have tracked the operations of GHQ Rawalpindi for three decades. Although officials remain silent over the fatalities caused by the Pakistan army GHQ covert war on India, which began in the 1980s, those familiar with the situation say that “an estimate of 200,000 killed in acts of terrorism, insurgency and hate crimes fomented in this country from across the border would be accurate”. Trackers of terror say that the Pakistan army, despite periodic words of reassurance designed to soothe Washington, has “not slackened its activities in India and is, on the contrary, reinforcing them for a big push during the next two years”. Meanwhile, Delhi has continued with the three-decade-long policy of pointing out to the Pakistan establishment the misdeeds of GHQ, especially its covert operational wing, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
In the 1980s, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi sent multiple overt and secret missions to Pakistan with evidence of GHQ’s activities in the Punjab. Such information included lists of individuals known to be funding, training and equipping those engaged in the Khalistan terror insurgency. Each was met by a denial or a “we will get back to you” response. Finally, after it became clear that Pakistan would do nothing besides a few anodyne statements and vague commitments that were ignored in practice, a decision was taken by Rajiv Gandhi to brief important world capitals about such activities—but in the midst of the Afghanistan conflict, when Washington, Beijing, Riyadh and London were assisting religious extremists to battle the Soviet Union, these entreaties went unanswered in practice.
Instead of assistance to quell such actions, increased pressure was brought on India by the US and its allies not to intensify, but stop necessary police and army operations against Pakistan-trained irregulars in the Punjab. By the close of the 1980s, when it became clear that Moscow was soon going to pull out of Kabul, GHQ Rawalpindi began a programme of training youth from the Kashmir Valley in armed combat and terror operations, and in creating a climate of intolerance against the Hindu minority in the Valley. Those involved in operations during that period say that there was almost “zero interest” in Delhi at devising ways of preventing Kashmir from going the Punjab way, especially after V.P. Singh took over as Prime Minister on 2 December 1989. Counter-measures against GHQ became reinforced only after the coming to office of the Narasimha Rao government in 1991.
Once the ISI’s Kashmir front became fully operational by 1993, once again the Government of India busied itself sending huge volumes of information to Pakistan, the US, the UK, China and other countries about what was taking place in the state. By 1991, when the Narasimha Rao government took office, as many as 1,200 Kashmiri youths had been trained in terror and mayhem in camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, a number which ballooned to 6,000 by 1995. Indian agencies dutifully compiled lists of those trained by the Pakistan army, again to no avail.
In Washington, Assistant Secretary of State Robin Raphel implemented the Clinton administration game plan of forcing India to concede the Kashmir Valley to Pakistan, or at the least to cease defensive operations against the armed groups operating there. Unsurprisingly, not a single Pakistan-trained terrorist was handed over despite conclusive evidence of their location and previous terror activities in India. Although the Indian Army has been accused by pro-Islamabad and pro-Wahhabi groups worldwide of being solely responsible for the 96,000 deaths in Kashmir during the armed phase of the conflict, in reality, almost all the killings were done by terror groups so as to intimidate and overawe the local population, much of whom remained wedded to Kashmiriyat and who, therefore, refused to join actively in the armed struggle. Earlier in the Punjab as well the overwhelming majority of the Sikh population showed their loyalty to India by rejecting calls by Pakistan-based groups to participate in the conflict on the Khalistan side. Ultimately, the courageous Sikh soldiers in the armed forces and dedicated Sikh policemen were the decisive force in ensuring that the effort by GHQ to separate the Punjab from India failed.
Incidentally, apart from the Kashmir cauldron peaking, 1993 was also the year when a home-grown operator, Dawood Ibrahim, perpetrated the killings of dozens of individuals in Mumbai. Despite UN and US designations as an “international terrorist”, despite dossiers regularly presented to authorities across the globe, Dawood Ibrahim is leading the comfortable life of a multi-millionaire, and is unlikely to be voluntarily surrendered by Islamabad to India. Indeed, the authorities in Delhi were unable to persuade or pressure Pakistan to release even a single D-Company, Hizbul Mujahideen, Kashmiri or Khalistani terrorist from Pakistan. Instead, the flow was in the reverse direction, as with Masood Azhar being released and sent to Pakistan after the 1999 Kathmandu hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft. Azhar repaid the favour done by the A.B. Vajpayee government by forming the Jaish-e-Muhammad and perpetrating the 2001 attack on Parliament, thereby sparking off a fresh round of effort to get him to India, with no success thus far. In 2008, after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, agencies in India launched an international manhunt for Hafiz Saeed. The hunt was carried out through Track 1 and Track 2 dialogues, dossiers, diplomatic missions and much else, and again came out with a zero score. After the 2016 attack at Pathankot, once again a renewed effort has begun by authorities in India to get back Masood Azhar.
Hopefully, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will get back the individual whom Prime Minister Vajpayee freed.
Officials tracking Pakistan say that authorities in that country, who are involved in terror operations in India, “intensify Track 2 diplomacy, as well as pump additional funds to select NGOs to divert attention away from Pakistan to internal issues in India”. This took place despite multiple efforts by Delhi to regularise the relationship between the two countries. According to international experts, such indifference on the part of the military establishment in Pakistan to rolling back terror operations in India are continuing despite the efforts of the Narendra Modi government to create a climate of peace and trust with India’s troublesome neighbour to its west. This sincerity was shown, for example, by the Bangkok talks of 6 December 2015, in which National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval led the Indian side. On 25 December last year, Prime Minister Modi surprised the world by calling on his counterpart in Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, at Lahore. Modi ignored warnings by his security team and decided to take a risk for peace by going impromptu to a country whose military was in continuous conflict with India since the time when India (and Pakistan) became free countries. However, in a message to both Modi as well as Nawaz Sharif, within a week of the history-making visit, Pathankot happened. Fortunately, the multiple killings planned by controllers in Pakistan failed to take place, because of the gallantry of the men in uniform.
It was pointed out by officials that the much heralded gesture by Islamabad of “warning” India that 10 terrorists have sneaked into the county is an “empty gesture”, which will enable Pakistan to deflect blame for a future attack by saying “we told you so”. Stopping such terrorists in Pakistan before they enter India to strike would be a much more genuine show of good faith, but this GHQ is unwilling to do. All that it is ready to give are cosmetic gestures, they point out, adding that such empty actions are enough for those still having illusions that the Pakistan army has walked away from its efforts at Balkanizing and bleeding India.
These international experts say that as a further gesture of goodwill to the Pakistan side, it is understood that the involvement of GHQ Pakistan in the Dina Nagar attack in Gurdaspur and the arrest of LeT operative Naved were not followed by India asking Pakistan to allow an investigating team (for these two incidents) from India to visit Pakistan on the lines of the Pakistan team that is coming to India—including to the Pathankot airbase—to investigate this year’s terror attack on the base, when the actual investigation needs to be focused on Pakistan, the country where the terrorists involved were trained.
Dossiers of these attacks were provided to the Pakistan NSA, who feigned ignorance of both on the usual model of Deny, Deny, Deny. Security experts point out that conventionally, “the police and other agencies where the attack took place should play the lead role in investigations, and not the country of origin of the attackers”. They point out that “had the Pathankot precedent been followed after the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, the Saudis would have been tasked with leading the investigation, instead of being a primary target of enquiry by the victim country”, i.e. the US.
Prime Minister Modi has been a special focus of GHQ, which is worried about the success of the PM’s global outreach and his measures to place the economy of India into double digit growth mode. Consequently, no fewer than 50 suicide bombers have been deployed in attacks that have taken place on Indian diplomatic and security interests since 26 May 2014, including 17 attacks on BSF, CRPF, Army, Air Force and diplomatic missions, even forgetting the multiple smaller attacks that took place in Kashmir during the same period. In the attacks on the Indian consulates in Afghanistan, nearly 20 suicide bombers were used, apart from three dozen in other major attacks within this country itself. Now that Pakistan has been presented with evidence by not just India, but the US as well, Islamabad has admitted that some of the terrorists came from their side, and have registered some cases, even arresting five operatives.
Interestingly, in the Pathankot FIR, the only name mentioned is that of NSA Ajit Doval, whom the Pakistan side wishes to summon as a witness in the trials involving Pathankot. Should the courts in that country issue summons and the Indian NSA—who is globally accepted as an authority on Pakistan—not respond, that could be used to free the guilty.  Instead of the NSA, an investigating team from India needs to be given permission to visit Bahawalpur and other locations in Pakistan where Masood Azhar is known to be based. The Modi government can be expected to insist on such reciprocal visits, in exchange for allowing a team from Pakistan to come to India and visit even sensitive installations.
The experts and officials spoken to are pessimistic that there will be “any” change in the approach of Islamabad, “as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has no influence over the military”, the organisation responsible for the India-directed terror factories in Pakistan. They are looking to PM Modi to ensure that Indian agencies be given the robust access to logistics hubs and establishments in Pakistan of the extremist groups as a reciprocal gesture for the unprecedented move by the Government of India to host a team of “investigators” from Pakistan, which is supposed to investigate the Pathankot attack, despite almost all the evidence of planning and directing the attack being on the other side of the border. However, those familiar with the working of the security establishment under Narendra Modi say that the Prime Minister and NSA Ajit Doval are “fully in the loop on the machinations of the ISI” and “are devising measures to ensure that such stratagems fail”.