Tuesday, February 26, 2013

‘Indophobia’ and Its Expressions

Dr. Anirban Ganguly 
(Associate Fellow, VIF)

The hideous massacre of unarmed Indian Satyagrahis who had gathered at Jallianwala Bagh to show their displeasure at draconian laws adopted by the British government in India is much in the news these days. The British Prime Minister’s visit and his terming the gory episode ‘shameful’ has generated debate and has again brought to the fore highly uncomfortable episodes in the British empire’s history.

It is at least good that episodes such as the cataclysmic Bengal Famine of 1943 which saw millions of Indians die and the repressive Komagata Maru incident of 1914 which saw firing by the colonial riot police on unarmed Indians is again being highlighted and vigorously discussed. After all it is only correct that in the annals of world history, the violent role of a civilisation which professed to impart modern governance structures, progressive institutions and enlightenment to much of the third world, be recorded and periodically reiterated for the benefit of posterity.

Creation of Indophobia

It is interesting to read, from colonial records, how India began to be misgoverned once the Company seriously decided to enlarge its role from that of a mere facilitator of trade to an agency for governing and enlightening the ‘natives.’ It is equally interesting to read the observations of a number of 18th and 19th century European intellectuals and India hands on how the entire societal and cultural structure of India began to be dismantled and decimated in the name of progress, modernity and European enlightenment. But such records and their authors, due to historiographical inconveniences arising out of their habit of challenging conjured notions of the superior and inferior civilisations, have been deftly and systematically ignored, marginalised and silenced.

The Indophobic mindset was carefully nurtured and allowed to triumph and the aim of the British policy that hoped to ‘minimize and denigrate the accomplishments of Indian civilisation’ 1 succeeded in creating a breed of colonial administrators whose sole purpose, while in India, was to remain aloof and give shape to the myth of an inferior Indian people and civilisation. In this, James Mill’s voluminous History of British India and in it especially his long essays of ten chapters, ‘Of the Hindus’ became the ‘single most important source of British Indophobia.’ 2 Mill’s volumes, apart from heavily influencing generations of British administrators trained to administer India, also ‘solved his financial problems.’ 3 It was a profitable business to denigrate India and Hindu civilisation regardless of whether the denigrator ever set foot in India or even knew a smattering of the natives’ language.

Reginald Dyer, the ‘Butcher of Amritsar’, his patron Michael O’Dwyer, then governor of Punjab and the majority of their ilk were representatives of that Indophobic mindset inculcated through a calibrated exposure to, among other things, Mill and his story of India. The inferiority of Indian civilisation, its thought and its achievements thus became an idée reçus for generations of youth who came over to India in order to mal-administrate her and amass a fortune in the process. Every administrative act that these Indophobics executed was inspired by that misreading of India and it was the dominance of such a mindset that eventually allowed the perpetration of some of the most violent episodes in British Indian history. Whether that mindset has altered for the better today is of course open to debate!

Challenging the Indophobic Perception of India

Alexander Walker (1764-1831), a now forgotten figure who had once served in India, took part in the operations against Hyder Ali’s forts and later became Governor General of St. Helena, had watched at close quarter Indian life and society. Walker’s perception and description of India, which did not quite fit into the colonial-evangelical scheme of denigrating her civilisation, finds no mention today in the mainstream discussion on Indian society and culture. The Indian impressions of some of his other intellectual compatriots too have suffered the same fate of an enforced silence. A product of the Edinburgh enlightenment, Walker has left behind a repository of first hand records of his sojourn in India and among them one finds an interesting description of the exact attitude and habit of the colonial administrator. Putting down his image of India sometime around 1820, Walker noted:
Europeans have formed but very inadequate and imperfect notions of the state of society and of civilisation in India. One great and the only true means of judging, they hardly or ever have enjoyed. This is the conversation and intercourse with the natives in their houses; in the midst of their families and in their private way of life. It is perhaps from the general conversation of the people and their usual domestic habits from which the best judgement can be formed of the state of their society…For want of this advantage they [Europeans] have found only bad qualities and so many of them…They have forgot also, that the manners of Europeans, and their degrading treatment of the natives, must banish from their company natives of spirit and of high pretensions….In fact it has become the interest and from thence the habit of the Company's servants to misrepresent the natives of India; to hold them forth as men who disregard every divine and human laws; who neglect the most solemn ties and obligations; who cheat and rob and are guilty of the blackest ingratitude. 4
Joining issues with Mill over his interpretation of India, especially his representation of the Hindu character, Walker unequivocally argued, that Mill’s portrayal was too ‘dark and a severe view of the Hindu character’ which ‘did not agree either with’ his [Walker’s]‘experience or observation.’ 5 In fact, he displayed remarkable prescience when he wrote to Mill, that the latter’s history of India would, if not rectified and balanced, eventually:
Add to the state of disgrace and reproach under which they [Hindus] already labour with many people; and the authority of your name will be produced to sink them still lower in the scale of society. The continual association of immorality and vice with their character will only expose them to the further contumely and contempt of our countrymen who are appointed to rule over them. 6
This was exactly the negative effect that it created in the understanding of India, not only among generations of Westerners but also among Indians themselves.
When the British talked of a being a superior civilisation, Walker argued, it was a vague idea; the scales were never effectively measured, nor were parameters developed. Interestingly, while arguing against this unfairness of approach, he made a comparison of Indian and Western civilisations at certain epochs by providing indices of comparisons. He confessed that he was quite at a loss in trying to fix the ‘point of civilisation.’ What could be the ‘discriminative characteristic of a civilised people?’ 7 How could one gloss over huge aberrations during periods which the West marked as its high points of civilisation. How could one rank in civilisational scale, Walker asked Mill, the ‘Grecians who were in the practice of murdering their prisoners, in cold blood, and who could drag them from the altar and put them, to death after a promise of mercy’, nor was ‘pre-eminence’ in science and literature a criteria for being highly civilised, or else how could one explain the fact that the age of Bacon and Newton saw many innocents being put to death for witchcraft. 8 The Indophile almost sounded like an Indian nationalist of the early part of the 20th century, when he spoke for adopting a fair yard stick in measuring civilisational heights:
The vague ideas we have of civilization must render every attempt peculiarly difficult, if not abortive, to fix the precise rank of the Hindus in the scale. In my opinion they are far above the days of Henry the 4th [1399-1413]. 9 He lived in a faithless period, which was distinguished by crimes and civil wars. Property was extremely insecure and the laws but little respected. If the state of civilization depends on commerce it had made little progress in that reign,
It was extremely rare even in the 15th century for an English vessel to appear in the Mediterranean. In the 14th century we are informed that the manners even of the Italians were rude. The cloths of the men were of leather unlined and badly tanned. We are told by a Spaniard who came to London with Philip the 2nd [1554-1598] that the English lived in houses made of sticks and dirt…Even the art of building with bricks was unknown in England until it came into general use in the time of Henry the 6th. [1422-1462]. The people were ill-lodged and not well clothed until the beginning of last century. In Scotland every thing was worse. In short the pride of Europe was quite barbarick until a very recent period and we must come down very low indeed before we can institute any comparison with Hindu manners. 10
Walker displayed a steady conviction – a result of his empirical experiences in India – regarding the high levels that Indian civilisation had reached. He saw the Hindus standing ‘pretty high in the civilisational scale’ because of their being ‘perfectly acquainted with the arts of regular life’, because of the ‘great progress’ of science amongst them, because of their respect for and adherence to ‘moral values’ and more importantly, because they have never ‘disgraced themselves neither by sanguinary punishments nor by senseless prosecutions against those who entertain’ singularly opposite opinions. 11 The last was a most important criterion for civilisation in which Europe had repeatedly failed the test. Walker’s persistence, his first hand experience of India, made Mill eventually accept the errors of his own judgment of Hindu civilisation, he replied, ‘Above all you have convinced me that I had drawn the moral character of the Hindus in too dark colours, and this I shall acknowledge.’ 12 But intriguingly the copies of his volumes were never withdrawn neither were substantial alterations made to ward off the negative effects of that reading. Mill was treated as an authority on India and his descendants never ceased to promote his line. The alternate narrative of India was throttled by the dominant Indophobic mindset.

The Spectre Still Looms

Like his other colleagues of the Edinburgh enlightenment, Alexander Walker displayed a great concern for the adverse effects of British modernity on India, her people and society. He was worried that the ‘conquest and defeat of a civilisation generally led not only to its disintegration’ but to the loss of its precious knowledge, styles of living and identity altogether. 13 He and some others appeared to be convinced that the official British policy in India was working towards facilitating just such a demise of the Indic civilisation by nurturing the growth, consolidation and dominance of the Indophobic mindset, a mindset which would ultimately outlast the empire itself. The resistance to the creation of such a mindset never took off; it remained at best peripheral by refusing to serve the aims of political subjugation and dominance.

Dyer’s act was just one of those bloody manifestations of that mindset; he was an administrative mercenary while Mill was an intellectual mercenary with both working to disintegrate a civilisation superior to their own. It is the same mindset which made Philip Duke of Edinburgh find the figures of those killed at Jallianwala Bagh ‘a bit exaggerated’ and it’s the same mindset which refuses to tender unqualified apologies for historical wrongs, denies the famine holocaust in Bengal, overlooks the creation of the political mess in the subcontinent and refuses to entertain any serious debate on treasures forcibly taken and their possible return to their country of origin.

The spectre of Indophobia thus still looms large and resistance to it is at best marginal!

  1. Thomas R. Trautmann, Aryans and British India, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), p.113.
  2. Ibid., p.117.
  3. Ibid., p.118.
  4. ‘Alexander’s Walker’s Image of India’ (Edinburgh: National Library of Scotland: Walker Bowland Papers) in Dharampal, ‘British Narrations on India, Its Conquest, Dominance and Destruction 1600-1900’, Archival Compilation, vol.9, (Sevagram: Ashram Pratishtan, 2000), p.88.
  5. Alexander Walker’s letter to James Mill dated 24th November, 1819, in ibid., p.75.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Alexander Walker’s letter to James Mill, dated 21st October, 1819, ibid., pp.73-74.
  8. Ibid., p.73.
  9. Indicates the period of reign.
  10. Letter dated 24th November 1819, op.cit., p.76.
  11. Letter dated 21st October 1819, op.cit., p.74.
  12. James Mill letter dated, February 26th , 1820, p.77.
  13. See e.g. Dharampal, The Beautiful Tree, (Mapusa: Other India Press, 2000), pp.15-16.

Failing on Terror Yet Again

Kanwal Sibal 
(Member, VIF Advisory Board)

Hyderabad is bloodied again by terrorism, exposing once more our failure to marshal the political will, the legal instruments, the organizational structure and the required technical skills and manpower resources to combat this grave threat to the nation.
Admittedly, combating terrorism is extraordinarily difficult because a few individuals armed with rage, rudimentary bomb making techniques and the most ordinary means of “delivery” like tiffin boxes and bicycles can cause mayhem in crowded localities in our overpopulated and disorganized cities when they choose.
More importantly, terrorism has a vast international dimension outside not only India’s control but also of countries more powerful, resourceful and determined to fight terrorism than us. At its centre is the sense of grievance nourished in Islamic circles against the enemies of Islam and the moral legitimacy accorded by religious texts as interpreted by them to the act of killing innocent people haphazardly as redressal.


While it would be unrealistic to expect the government to provide total protection to the public against any possible terrorist attack, the people can legitimately expect credible and comprehensive steps to secure their lives against such deadly violence, without being necessarily able to emulate the US success in this regard. The US is oceans away from the epicenter of terror; its neighbours cooperate fully to shield North America from terrorism; by drawing its frontline against terrorism thousands of miles away from its shores the US has given itself vast protective geographical depth.

India has no such cushions. Our neighbour has used terrorism as a weapon against us for almost 30 years now. Having long judged our weak response, Pakistan can fine tune the timing, periodicity and degree of its provocations to suit its political needs. It knows that deniability is important to create space for doubt about its culpability so that an immediate Indian riposte is deflected and the risk of being declared a terrorist state is avoided. For that it has raised jihadi groups to attack India, whose violence is then politically justified as being driven by the unresolved Kashmir question. As international scrutiny of its terrorist links grows, Pakistan has also outsourced terrorism to extremist groups in India by mobilizing them through pan-Islamist ideologies on the back of local grievances.

Pakistan also has a class of politicians, diplomats and members of civil society that come across as educated, modern, articulate and rational and they counter with finesse accusations that it is promoting terrorism. The rise of domestic terrorism, although an offshoot of the complicity of state organizations with jihadi groups, gives them an added argument to deny Pakistan’s terrorist affiliations.

Additionally, the rampant belief in conspiracy theories in Pakistan about the West, Israel and India conniving at slandering Islam creates a sense of victimhood, precluding self-introspection about its own failings as a society. In this narrative, Islam is the embodiment of peace and justice and terrorism is alien to it. If Islamic groups commit acts of terrorism, it is because of manipulation by hidden hands. The other defence is that either those guilty are not true Muslims, or that the entire community should not be tarnished because of the misdeeds of a few with no proper understanding of Islamic tenets. This explains the widespread belief that the 9/11 attacks against America was a Jewish conspiracy. The remarks in Delhi by Pakistan’s interior minister alleging an external hand behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks is part of this syndrome.


Iran and North Korea are castigated for terrorism, as was Libya earlier, even if what is attributed to them has no parallel in scale and scope to Pakistan’s involvement with such activity. Pakistan is spared the same ignominy because its relationship with the West is not one of unalloyed hostility. Its attitude to western demands, even on terrorism, is both compliant and defiant. In any case, a non-Nato US ally, receiving substantial American arms and economic assistance and geopolitically vital for extricating the US from Afghanistan, can hardly be declared a terrorist state. This western ambivalence towards Pakistan severely limits the extent to which India can bilaterally and multilaterally make Pakistan more accountable for its terrorist misdeeds. A nuclearized Pakistan makes the problem even more complex to handle.
India’s democratic system, its openness, its internal watchdogs such as the independent judiciary and the press, the accountability of the instruments of force in the hands of the executive in a constitutional system, do not allow India to use the instrument of terrorism against Pakistan as a deterrent.


While all these difficulties and handicaps are understandable, what is not is the absence of a coherent national strategy to combat terrorism despite repeated assaults. We have made matters worse for ourselves by diluting the centrality of terrorism in our dialogue with Pakistan; we have accorded Pakistan the status of a terrorism stricken state just like us; we have lowered the heat on Pakistan by conceding the amplitude of our problem of home grown terrorism; we have weakened our position by equating a few isolated terrorist attacks by Hindus with scores of such attacks over two decades by jihadi groups; further harm has been done by the Home Minister accusing the main opposition party of training Hindu terrorists; we have politicized the terrorism issue for electoral reasons so much that any corrective action will be interpreted with political bias; the disproportionate sympathy in sections of our intelligentsia for Afzal Guru shows the soft belly of any potential resolve to combat terrorism without quarter.

No wonder that all we can do when a terrorist attack occurs is to call it “dastardly” and vow that the “perpetrators” will not go unpunished, and repeat the same clichés when innocent Indian citizens are bloodied again by jihadi groups. 

Defence Procurement: Would You Do Business With India?

Dr M N Buch 
(Visiting Fellow, VIF)

Ever since we became independent we seem to be lurching from one crisis to another in any matter which concerns a deal or a transaction in which we make purchases or where decisions are taken regarding business. One harks back to the scandal attributed to the purchase of jeeps when Krishna Menon was High Commissioner in London. The most celebrated scandal in this behalf was the purchase of 155 mm guns from Bofors, a Swedish arms manufacturer renowned internationally for the quality of the product produced by the company. The Bofors anti aircraft gun of 40 mm, the Bofors quick firing gun version mounted on small naval vessels were the mainstays of most of the Allied Forces and even today the Bofors anti aircraft guns are widely used. The 155 mm gun is of such a superb quality that it could virtually dominate the Kargil battlefields and was a major factor in our being able to dislodge the Pakistanis. However, the purchase agreement was befouled by allegations of bribes being given by the suppliers through an Italian agent, in which the name of Rajiv Gandhi was also mentioned by V.P. Singh. The amount of bribe was Rs. 64 crores. Rajiv Gandhi denied any wrongdoing, V.P. Singh never produced any evidence which could have clinched the matter, CBI utterly failed to unearth irrefutable evidence and Quattrochi, the Italian agent, could never be brought to book. What resulted was that we virtually black-listed Bofors and every effort to purchase more guns to strengthen the artillery has been aborted by allegations of corruption, leading to blacklisting of almost all the manufacturers of a gun of this calibre and quality. The tragedy is that Bofors, despite all the mud slung at them, completed its part of the transfer of technology by making available very detailed drawings of the gun. These lay gathering dust in the Defence Ministry, despite the fact that the Ordnance Factory Board kept telling government that it could manufacture the gun on the basis of these drawings. Manufacture could have started at least eight years ago and by now the indigenous gun could have been in service with the Army. One allegation of corruption, which never led to any viable action against the persons named as the culprits, has left the Indian Army in the unenviable position of not having added a single worthwhile gun in over twenty years.

The acquisition by purchase or indigenous manufacture of warships upto the destroyer class by the Navy has had a relatively better record than weapon acquisition by the Army or the Air Force, but in terms of under water capacity the Navy has not advanced at all, whether it be the French Scorpene submarine or the German HDW. The Navy has been able to make very little progress because we just do not take any decisions in order to avoid complaints. Despite this there are serious allegations of financial irregularities. By now we should have had at least fifty submarines, including at least four or five nuclear submarines, but all we have managed is one nuclear submarine on lease from Russia and one indigenously manufactured nuclear submarine whose sea trials have yet to be conducted. Our lone aircraft carrier is now obsolete and its replacement, INS Vikramaditya (formerly Admiral Gorshkov), has had a 250 percent increase in cost and will not be delivered till the end of 2013, five years behind schedule. The keel of the indigenous aircraft has been laid but it is unlikely to be in service till 2017. Meanwhile China has acquired and put into service one aircraft carrier bought from Ukraine and is in the process of manufacturing one more carrier. Without a strong submarine fleet equipped to fire nuclear tipped missiles we cannot really boast of having a sea-land-air based nuclear deterrent in place. Those who are responsible for decision making must realise that in an environment in which our two chief opponents, Pakistan and China, have nuclear weapons and some delivery systems to target Indian cities, our delaying of decisions of purchasing or manufacturing necessary defence equipment has left the nation precariously vulnerable.

The cause celebre is a relatively minor acquisition of twelve helicopters for carriage of VVIPs. The proposal has been mooted by the Air Force about fifteen years ago because the MI8 helicopters on VIP duty are now totally obsolete, difficult to keep airborne and really not in a position to safely carry dignitaries such as the President and the Prime Minister. It was initially mandated that the new VIP helicopters would have an operational ceiling of 18,000 feet and the specifications were drawn up accordingly. Only one helicopter, the Eurocopter 200, could attain this height and this narrowed down the purchase to a single vendor. The then National Security Adviser, Brajesh Mishra, pointed out the unacceptability of a single vendor. The SPG, which guards the Prime Minister, also objected to the cabin size and said that it would not be in a position to protect the VIP unless the cabin specifications were changed. Therefore, the NSA recommended that the matter be re-examined. The file was shunted back and forth for at least five more years. Ultimately the Air Force recommended new specifications, lowering the ceiling to 15,000 feet and also stating the size and the layout of the main cabin. Now four firms give their tenders. Had the specifications not been changed the order was not large enough for any firm to change the aircraft design and also restructure the production line as this would be uneconomical. Therefore, there was no alternative but to change the specifications. It is now alleged that bribes were paid to the cousins of the Chief of Air Staff and, therefore, there was the suspicion that the specifications were altered to suit one company only, Finmeccanica, which manufacturers the Agusta Westland helicopter. The amount of bribe is stated to be in excess of Rs. 360 crores.

The above allegation is based on the statement said to have been made by two officials of Finmeccanica who were arrested in Italy on a complaint alleging corruption in the Indian transaction. No one has said that the process whereby the Agusta Westland helicopter was finally selected was in any way wrong. It is not alleged that technically and financially the best bid was not that of Finmeccanica and Russian and American (Sikorski) bids were wrongly rejected. The adherence to prescribed norms of the Agusta Westland helicopter has not been questioned, nor has its performance. It has also not been alleged that had the bribe not been paid the helicopter would be cheaper to that extent. Had this been stated then it would have meant that we were being overcharged in order to pay a bribe.

What has been the Indian reaction? The media, print and electronic, have virtually gone berserk in sniffing out and unearthing wrongdoing in the instant case. Television anchors wave papers on the screen and state that these give proof positive of wrongdoing in the helicopter deal. From this these anchors deduce that other deals not connected with this particular purchase also are suspect, that bribes have been given and that either because the same agent figured in more than one case, or because the supplying company was the same, every defence deal is based on corruption. What is written in those papers is never shown, nor is it categorically stated that they constitute the totality of documentation, nor is their any real attempt to prove that the so-called papers, which form part of a larger whole, are being read in context. Selective display of documents or use of words can be very dangerous. One recalls the story of the Giant Panda who walked into a restaurant in New York finished his meal, took out a revolver, shot dead the restaurant owner and left without paying for the food. When arrested he said, “Have you not read what we Pandas do? A Panda eats, shoots, and leaves”. Delete the commas and this would read “A Panda eats shoots and leaves”. Our Indian scribes, unfortunately, believe in retaining the commas in the above sentence, which not only changes the meaning of the context but also leads to very dangerous conclusions. There is no need to be judgemental about an issue because some television anchor waves papers in the air, pontificates holily about the evidence of wrongdoing that he has and then tries to browbeat people into saying ‘mea culpa’. If there is wrongdoing let it be investigated and the accused brought to trial. That trial will be in a court of law, not in a court of journalism.

To return to the helicopter purchase case, the need for new helicopters is amply proven and requires no clarification or elaboration. Changing of specifications, which would be universal and not confined to benefiting a particular manufacturer, is not only permitted but is normal. If the tender procedure is transparent, if bids are duly received and are examined impartially, if the product is what we need, if the price is acceptable, then the deal is complete and must be given effect to. If there are allegations that despite precautions bribes have been given, let the complaint be investigated and if a prima facie case is made out, then the accused persons must be brought to trial. However, the acquisition should be completed because it does not make sense to foreclose on a deal which is beneficial to India.

The Indian Air Force has been trying desperately to find a multi-role combat aircraft. The process of specifying norms, performance parameters, etc., has been long drawn out and the Air Force has virtually tested every alternative almost to destruction. Optimising the performance index of the aircraft, its lift and delivery capacity in the matter of weapons, the transfer of technology and the possibility of future total indigenisation, the maintenance schedule and cost, as also the operational life of the aircraft, the Air Force found the Dassault Rafale aircraft to be best suited to our needs. The American F16 and F18, The Anglo German Eurofighter and the Russian MIG-35 did not come up to the mark and were rejected. The technical and financial bids were taken into consideration when making a final selection. Over a year has passed and we have still not signed the final agreement. Meanwhile our television channels have tried to find a connection between a person who sued the Dassault Corporation over some deal for Mirage 2000 aircraft dating back to about eight to ten year. That gentleman sued the Dassault Corporation because he said he had not been paid an amount which had been promised to him by way of commission. My information is that he lost the case. Now an effort is being made to try and show that he is involved in the Rafale deal also so that even this acquisition is aborted. Are only television channels honest in this country and every one else is rotten to the core?

The process by which we arrive at conclusions is bizarre. There is a perception which we can ignore only at peril that Indian officialdom is corrupt. Let me narrate an incident dating back to 1968, when I was Director, Tribal and Harijan Welfare in Madhya Pradesh. One day my minister summoned me to the Secretariat, about ten kilometers from my office. When I entered his room I found a gentleman sitting there. The minister said that he had some problem and could I sort it out? I took the gentleman to my office where I would attend his case. I had not brought my driver and was driving the official vehicle myself. When we reached the Hamidia Hospital gate the gentleman asked me to stop. I asked him why and he said that we should have a cup of tea and some snacks before proceeding further. I told him that I would give him a cup of tea in my office but I found him still a little uneasy. Suddenly it stuck me what the man must be thinking. I was a sahib because the minister had offered me a chair. At the same time I was driving my own car and there was no attendant with me. This meant that I could not be the bada sahib who naturally would have travelled in style with paraphernalia. Therefore, unless the applicant entertained me I would not give him a proper hearing. This is what people felt about the bureaucracy even in 1968, when actually the bureaucracy was by and large honest and efficient. Today the position is that every single person is convinced that government and its minions are corrupt, despite the fact that there is a substantial number of people who are honest. The tragedy is that this perception of dishonesty is what our media is exploiting to blow things out of proportion.
Let us take the helicopter purchase case. If the aircraft is good let us buy it, but if bribes have been given let us deduct that amount from the payment to be made to Finmeccanica and also impose an equivalent fine. The aircraft acquisition, however, should go on and government out of panic should not negate the entire effort by cancelling the order. Let us have a similar attitude towards all defence requirements, which must be finalised unless there is incontrovertible proof of corruption. Waving sheets of paper before a television audience does not constitute such proof.

General N.C. Vij, former Chief of Army Staff, once told me that the process of weapon acquisition is so tortuous in India that by the time the weapon is received its half life is over. The following time frame for weapon purchase is suggested:-
  1. The Service Headquarters submits a proposal to government for acquisition of a certain weapon system, together with full justification, the cost estimate and tentative specification parameters. The process of preparing this proposal should not exceed one year.
  2. Examination of the proposal by government and a decision on the acquisition in principle, with a provisional budgetary allocation. The period for this should not exceed six months.
  3. Detailed specifications to be finalised by the Service Headquarters, acquisition of prototypes and the testing to destruction under different physical and weather conditions. This process should be completed within two years
  4. Stage two technical and administrative estimates and proposals to be submitted by the Service Headquarters to government. The process of decision making in this behalf must be completed within six months.
  5. Preparation of tender documents, issue of notice inviting tenders, receipt of tenders and the preparation of a comparative chart by the Service Headquarters, assisted by the Defence Ministry, together with short-listing of providers. This process should not take more six months.
  6. Examination of the scrutinised bids and the comparative statement, the short-listed providers of the systems and a final decision on acceptance of the bid by government. This should not take more than six months.
  7. Finalisation of whatever documentation is needed for the contract and issue of the work order. This should not exceed six months.
If the above scheduled is followed, then within six years from the proposal having been mooted the inflow of equipment concerned should begin and the whole process should be completed within seven to eight years from start to finish. If this happens our acquisition process would be within the given time frame, there would be no delays and because the process is continuous, the need or the possibility of giving bribes would be substantially reduced. Then people would be encouraged do business with India.

Let us take this whole issue very seriously because if the present trend continues we might as well disarm and disband the armed forces, deploy village kotwals or chowkidars armed with lathis to guard us and practise how to behave like slaves before the new conquerors who would inevitably make us captive. To obviate such an eventuality we need a government which is firm in its resolve and which refuses to be swayed merely because some complaints have been made, we need a machinery for quick investigation of complaints, but we also need a media which is responsible in its behaviour, exercises restraint where it is necessary in our national interest and which at least in defence matters puts the interests of the nation before its own hunger for attention.

Defence Acquisition: Urgent Need for Structural Reforms

Brig (retd) Gurmeet Kanwal 
(Visiting Fellow, VIF)

Allegations of corruption in the VVIP helicopter deal have once again brought to the fore the fragility of India’s defence acquisition process. Corruption appears to be endemic in defence procurement and a structural overhaul is now necessary.

India is expected to spend approximately USD 100 billion over the 12th and 13th defence plans on military modernisation. As 70 per cent of weapons and equipment are still imported, there is an urgent need to further refine the defence acquisition process and insulate it from the scourge of corruption. The Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) being followed now was introduced in 2005. Since then it has been revised and modified several times based on the experience gained in its implementation. The current Defence Production Policy (DPrP) was unveiled in 2011. Its objectives are to: achieve self-reliance in the design, development and production of, weapons systems and equipment required for defence in an early time frame; create conditions conducive for the private sector to play an active role in this endeavour; enhance the potential of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in indigenisation; and, broaden the defence research and development base of the country. While the objectives are laudable, the achievement of self-reliance remains in the realm of wishful thinking as most weapons and equipment continue to be imported, the defence PSUs have a stranglehold over contracts that are awarded to Indian companies and defence research and development is the monopoly of the DRDO.

Defence Research and Development

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been conducting research at all levels of technology development – from the strategic to the mundane. It should actually concentrate its effort only in developing strategic technologies that no country will provide to India. The report of the P Rama Rao committee had reportedly asked the DRDO to identify eight to 10 critical areas which best suit its existing human resources, technical capability and established capacity to take up new projects. Since its inception in 1958, the DRDO has achieved some spectacular successes but also has many failures to its name. The successes include the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme that produced the Prithvi and Agni series of ballistic missiles and, subsequently the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile in a collaborative venture with the Russians.

Among the failures are the main battle tank Arjun that took inordinately long to meet critical General Staff requirements of the Indian Army despite huge cost overruns. The LCA (light combat aircraft) still appears to be many years away from operational induction into the Indian Air Force. However, to DRDO’s credit, for many decades it worked under extremely restrictive technology denial regimes and with a rather low indigenous technology base. The time has come for the MoD to outsource defence R&D in non-critical areas to the private sector so as to encourage the development of indigenous technologies. In fact, funds should be allotted to the three Services for research aimed at product improvement during the life cycle of weapons systems and equipment.

Defence Procurement and Production Policies

The policy of self-reliance in defence production has not yielded the desired results. For several decades, the primary supplier of weapons systems was the Soviet Union and, later, Russia. If some MiG-21 aircraft and other weapons systems like tanks were produced in India, these were manufactured under license and no technology was ever transferred to India. The result was that even though India spent large sums of money on defence imports, India’s defence technology base remained very low.

The defence procurement and production policies (DPP and DPrP) continue to pay lip service to public-private partnerships and have so far failed to encourage India’s private sector to enter into defence production in a substantive manner – either on its own or through joint ventures (JVs) with multi-national corporations. The large-scale procurement of weapons and equipment from defence MNCs has been linked with 30 to 50 per cent “offsets”; that is, the company winning the order must procure 30 to 50 per cent components used in the system from within India. This will bring in much needed investment and will gradually result in the infusion of technology. However, the MNCs do not find the present level of 26 per cent FDI exciting enough. There is no credible reason why overseas equity investment cannot be raised to 49 per cent immediately for a JV to be really meaningful for a foreign investor.

As a growing economic powerhouse that also enjoys considerable buyer’s clout in the defence market, India should no longer be satisfied with a buyer-seller, patron-client relationship in its defence procurement planning. In all major acquisitions in future, India should insist on joint development, joint testing and trials, joint production, joint marketing and joint product improvement over the life cycle of the equipment. The US and other countries with advanced technologies will surely ask what India can bring to the table to demand participation as a co-equal partner. Besides capital and a production capacity that is becoming increasingly more sophisticated, India has its huge software pool to offer. Today software already comprises over 50 per cent of the total cost of a modern defence system. In the years ahead, this is expected to go up to almost 70 per cent as software costs increase and hardware production costs decline due to improvements in manufacturing processes.

Transparency in Decision Making

While the need for confidentiality in defence matters is understandable, defence acquisition decision making must be made far more transparent than it is at present, so that the temptation for supplier companies to bank on corrupt practices can me minimised. For example, tenders should be opened in front of the representatives of the companies that have bid for the contract. Before a contract is awarded, the file should be reviewed by the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC). If the CVC has reservations about such scrutiny, either his charter should be amended or an eminent persons group should be appointed to vet large purchases. Surely, many such persons with unimpeachable integrity can be found in India.

In the past, the selective tweaking of the technical requirements during the procurement process has led to one company being favoured over another. All technical requirements must be frozen when a Request for Proposals (RfP) is issued by the MoD. It may seem heretical, but the conclusions contained in the reports of user trials must be made public. This step will not only amount to a huge leap forward in transparency, but also insulate the trials teams of the three Services from being unduly influenced to stage-manage trials in favour of any of the contending parties.

The frequent blacklisting of defence companies is having a deleterious effect on India’s military modernisation. Perhaps monetary penalties can be built into the contracts instead. The MoD must immediately undertake a structural overhaul of the defence procurement and production process. The aim should be to streamline it so that the armed forces get high quality weapons systems and equipment at competitive costs, preferably from indigenous suppliers. Soldiers must not be called upon to fight the nation’s enemies with inferior rifles made by the lowest bidder.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Political Crisis in Maldives and Indian Dilemma

Dr. N Manoharan 
(Senior Fellow, VIF)

The political crisis has come to a full circle in Maldives. Last February, when the first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, was deposed by a bloodless coup, India did not make any noise.It thought, rightfully so at that point in time, the change of president was an internal matter of Maldives. New Delhi did not mind shaking hands with the new President Mohamed Waheed. Now, exactly after a year, when the former President Nasheed took refuge in the Indian High Commission in Malé on 13 February 2013 fearing arrest, India was forced to involve itself to bring a solution to the ongoing political crisis. A high-profile political leader taking refuge in any of India’s embassies is unprecedented. New Delhi’s dilemma is evident.

India may not be in a position to hand over Nasheed unconditionally to the Maldivian police. In that case, apart from threat to his life, Nasheed is certain to face trail and imprisonment for a long period jeopardising his political career. Preventing Nasheed from contesting presidential elections scheduled on 07 September would undermine the legitimacy of the next government thus perpetuating the political instability. His party – Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – has already announced boycotting the polls if Nasheed is debarred from contesting. Blocking a candidate from the largest political party (MDP) is politically unjust and is not in the long-term interest of Maldives. But, if Nasheed decides to move out of the High Commission voluntarily, India would be more than happy to let him go. He cannot stay at the premises indefinitely. During the stay, he is not allowed to turn the High Commission into his political office.

At the same time, it is difficult to sit and do nothing on the issue for long. India is already being accused by some of the pro-government hardline parties like Adhaalath Party for “meddling in the internal affairs of the country” and “for assisting a criminal fleeing from trial”. Nasheed knows India is the only lifeline left for him. And that was the reason why he did not take refuge in any other embassy based in that country. Only India could bring a solution to the present political impasse in the atoll state. A four-member Indian delegation, headed by Harsh Vardhan Shringla, joint secretary in-charge of the Maldives, has visited Malé on 19 February 2013 to “basically engage with all the stakeholders and understand the situation and all the issues involved.” Despite hectic parleys, the stalemate continues. Efforts should be made at the next official level, or, if need be, at the political level.

In doing so, India should not be seen as siding with either of the parties. A fine balancing act is necessary. What should be the way out? The following could be a compromise formula:
  1. Nasheed should be let out of the High Commission, but with a condition that all frivolous charges should be dropped against him and that he should be allowed to contest the upcoming presidential elections. Any trial against Nasheed should be just, but not politically motivated. Otherwise, the cycle of revenge and counter-revenge is bound to continue causing political instability in the atoll state. The aim is not to indulge in one-upmanship, but to create an appropriate atmosphere for free and fair elections.
  2. At the same time, Nasheed should not insist on resignation of present incumbent Waheed and institution of a caretaker government. He should fully cooperate for smooth conduct of elections and should gracefully accept the outcome whatever it may be.
  3. If the MDP’s fear is over free and fair conduct of polls under Waheed, strict international monitoring may be considered. This does not mean interfering, but helping Maldives to stabilise itself politically with a credible democratically-elected government in place.
The present situation is only a small hurdle. If this is overcome successfully, one can undoubtedly witness a stable, peaceful and prosperous Maldives. India cannot afford to have another unstable country in its neighbourhood.

China Strengthens its Missile Defence Capabilities: Implications for India

Brig (retd) Vinod Anand 
(Senior Fellow, VIF)

China conducted another ground-based mid-course missile-defence (GMD) test in January end to signify its increasing potential in missile interception capabilities. This test builds upon an earlier test in January 2010 which was again carried out to test its evolving capabilities in missile defence technologies. For long China has been opposed to the U.S developing its missile defence system as it undermines China’s strategic deterrence; American argument that the US missile defence systems are designed to deal with missile threats from rogue nations like North Korea and Iran does not carry much credibility with either China or Russia. Chinese spokesmen also emphasise that these tests are only technology demonstrators and have not been conducted with a view to build a missile defence system and they are not targeted against any country. The Chinese Foreign Ministry emphasized the test was defensive and was conducted over Chinese territory.

While China took strong positions on the ABM treaty and attempts to develop BMD systems, China was never lax on the potential of and requirement for BMD systems. The earliest Chinese effort to indigenously develop a BMD system was initiated in 1969 but the project was terminated during the 1980s after the 1972 ABM treaty between the US and erstwhile USSR. China launched Project 863 (in March 1986) which included research on missile interception technologies. However, China’s interest in continuing development of BMD systems received fresh impetus after US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002 and developments in Taiwan.

On 11 January 2007, China surprised the entire world by successfully testing a direct ascent Anti-Satellite (ASAT) weapon. It was assessed that the ASAT system employed a KT-1 space launch vehicle (SLV), itself a modified DF-21 medium range ballistic missile (MRBM). The missile destroyed an ageing Feng Yun 1C (FY-1C) polar orbit satellite at approximately 865 kms above the earth’s surface through kinetic impact. The test drew widespread condemnation, both for the manner in which it was carried out (resulting in a large amount of space debris, a major threat to low earth orbit satellites) and the major shift in China’s position concerning weaponization of space.

According to a classified State Department cable that was made public by WikiLeaks, the January 2010 test had used an SC-19 missile as interceptor to strike the CSS-X-11 medium range target missile launched near-simultaneously. The SC-19 is said to have also been used in China’s anti-satellite test of January 2007 and both the January 2010 and January 2013 GMD tests are seen as also advancing China’s capabilities in ASAT weapons’ domain. Despite the WikiLeaks report there is not much clarity about the exact type of the missile used for January 2010 test though it could be an advanced/modified version of SC-19; some analysts think that the missile used in the test was a HQ-9, HQ-12, or DF-21 variant. Similarly, while the test in January this year apparently achieved its expected results, the exact missile used has not been confirmed.

In any case and as underscored by some of the Chinese analysts, China’s GMD tests have demonstrated significant progress by China in the development of "hit-to-kill," rapid precision-strike, guided and missile identification technologies.

While development of advanced BMD capabilities by other countries has implications for the effectiveness of China’s strategic deterrence the development of same capabilities by China largely has implications for India’s evolving strategic deterrence against China. Large number of missiles held by Russia and the U.S combined with extended strategic deterrence provided to the US alliance partners in East Asia make China’s missile defence capabilities less relevant to them. Saturation missile strikes launched by an attacker with a combination of manoeuvering re-entry vehicles (MaRV), multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRV) with warheads interspersed with decoys and other counter measures would allow some warheads to get through the BMD to cause unacceptable damage to the defender. During modeling and simulation tests it has been shown that BMD could be only effective against a limited number of missiles or warheads thus the claims by the U.S. that their BMD is meant for countries like North Korea and Iran.

After the January 2010 Ground-based Midcourse missile defence (GMD) test by China, some analysts suggested that it could also be a message to India in response to India’s continued testing of the Agni-III and an eagerness to develop the Agni-V ICBM, whose logical targets could only be in China. The second GMD test in January 2013 has come after India’s AGNI V test of April 2012 which could be partly seen as a response to India’s increasing capabilities in the missile field. Chinese media had even suggested that India has under-reported the range of Agni V. Further, there is also some speculation that India is developing AGNI VI with a longer but as yet unspecified range. Though prominent Chinese officials have publicly downplayed or discounted any credible strategic missile threat from India yet they have continued to strengthen their missile defence capabilities.

Apart from the GMD system in development China has placed considerable reliance on BMD of critical target systems that cover not only the Second Artillery force structure but also value targets like Beijing and Shanghai. It is producing under license the Russian S-300PMU-2/S-300PMU-1 series of SAMs that have an ABM capability. It also produces the indigenous HQ-9 SAM system and the HQ-19 system that has been jointly developed with Russia. Both these systems possess some ABM capabilities. A new generation of anti-ballistic and anti-satellite missiles called the KT-1, KT-409, KT-2, KT-2A, KT-3, and other KT versions are in development.

The PLA Navy has modern air-defence destroyers in the Type 052C Destroyer and Type 051C Destroyer. There are reports that China is in the process of developing HQ-26 like missile for PLAN which has technology similar to the US Navy’s Standard Missile -3 (SM-3) interceptor that is part of their Aegis Destroyer’s mid-course BMD system. The PLAN destroyers are presently equipped with naval HQ-9 air defence missile which has the same technology as Russian S-300 system. However, in future Chinese destroyers could be equipped with HQ-26 so as to give them comparable ABM capabilities with the US Aegis class destroyers. Thus, it can be seen that China has embarked on a comprehensive missile defence strategy.

Added to the above is China’s emphasis on developing cruise missiles with longer ranges and improved precision. The low flying Cruise missiles are able to avoid the BMD detection systems and can thus defeat such systems except that they have shorter ranges compared to the MRBMs and IRBMs.

Further, the new political leadership in China has been paying special attention to PLA Second Artillery Corps. After having taken over as Chairman of the Central Military Commission in November2012, Xi Jinping during his visit to Second Artillery Corps observed that “the artillery force is the core strength of China's strategic deterrence, the strategic support for the country's status as a major power, and an important cornerstone safeguarding national security”. Thus, the new leadership in China would continue to underscore the importance it attaches to upgrade its missile forces. PLA has been modernizing its short range ballistic missile force by consistently fielding advanced variants with improved ranges and payloads. China’s capabilities in both short and medium range ballistic missiles have improved both in qualitative and quantitative terms.

More ballistic missiles China has more it would be able to defeat any missile defence system that is already in place in the region or that might come up in the future. A variety of missiles combined with PLA’s increasing space-based capabilities and acumen in cyber warfare would give it tremendous advantage in what it calls ‘local war in conditions of informatisation’. And the Indo-Tibetan border remains an area where China may embark on such a venture.

So far as India is concerned there is a need to pay more attention to China’s missile-centric strategies. Without doubt India’s ballistic missile attack capability at long ranges needs an urgent upgrade. As numbers above a certain threshold will ensure that India always has the ability to pierce a thin BMD or a TMD deployed by China, India should work towards improving the quality, quantity and a variety of both its ballistic and cruise missiles. The recent testing of a subsurface-launched ballistic missile (K-15) with about 750 kilometers range is a step in the right direction.

Further, MIRV technology can be developed with much lower political risks and greater payoffs. DRDO seems to be working on MIRV technologies and hopefully it will acquire and demonstrate the capability for MIRVs in next one to two years. At the same time India should pay equal attention to improving its BMD capabilities. While working towards providing lower tier terminal defence to key counter-force targets India should also be working to provide BMD to a limited number of counter value targets. BMD being somewhat expensive proposition, protection to counter value targets may have to be linked with availability of funds and a phased approach would have to be adopted.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What Does the Chinese Take Over of Gwadar Imply?

Radhakrishna Rao 
(Research Fellow, VIF)

In a development that did not cause any surprise, Pakistan ha handed over the administrative control of the Gwadar Sea Port on Makrana coast in Balochistan province to China Overseas Ports Holding Company, a move that would provide China the much needed access to the warm waters of the Arabian sea, close to the strategically located Strait of Hormuz which happens to be a gateway for a third of the world’s traded oil. Considered Pakistan’s biggest infrastructure project, Gwadar port has failed to script a business success story on account of the volatile security situation in the socially turbulent Balochistan where secessionist tendencies and sectarian violence are on the ascendance. Commentators point out that it is the poor security scenario of Balochistan that has prevented China from committing on further investment for the development of the port and off- shore infrastructure. In addition, the reluctance of Pakistani navy to transfer 584 acres under its possession to Gwadar port has proved a stumbling block in the way of expanding the port project. When Port of Singapore Authority(PSA) had won the contract for operating Gwadar port for 40 years in 2007, the widely held perception was that former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf awarded the contract to the Singapore entity to keep US in good humour.

By all means, for China, Gwadar provides an ideal springboard to further its interests in the Arabian Sea. Situated about 470-kilometres to the west of Karachi at the mouth of the Arabian Sea, Gwadar can be a key asset for China to advance its geostrategic interest in one of most vital sea-lanes of the world. There are meanwhile plans to boost the business prospects of Gwadar port through the creation of new rail and road links .

Indeed, for China, the control of Gwadar port would mean a shot in the arm for its long cherished plan to strengthen its dominance over the Indian ocean region. China’s new naval strategy of “far sea defence’ is aimed at giving Biejing the ability to project its power in the oceanic waters in which both US and India have stakes .But then as a section of defence analysts point out, given the geographical advantages that India enjoys in the Indian ocean, China will have difficult times upstaging India in the Indian ocean region. But China continues to stress the point that take over of Gwadar port was “conducive” to maintain regional stability and would enhance bilateral cooperation. ”The transfer of the managing rights is a business project that falls under trade and economic cooperation conducted between China and Pakistan,” said a spokesman of Chinese Foreign Ministry. But then Pakistani offer to develop a trade corridor linking Muslim dominated Chinese province of Xinjiang to the Middle East through Gwadar port presumably meant to enhance trade between China Pakistan could provide China tremendous strategic edge to nullify US interests in this part of the world.

On the seamier side, the plan to link Gwadar with Kashgar could be a potentially troublesome exercise for China. For Kashgar situated in Xinjiang, one of the sparsely populated regions of China, happens to be the hotbed of separatist jihadi activities under the banner of Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement. Indeed, there have been media reports to suggest that Islamic separatists from this Chinese province had received training from one of the Islamic hard-line groups active in Pakistan. There is no denying the fact that Muslim dominated Xinjiang is China’s achilles heel against the backdrop that it is a breeding ground for the separatist jihadi forces.

To add to the discomfiture of China, the fierily independent Balochs, who are spearheading a violent separatist movement to free the province from the control of Islamabad, have vowed to defeat attempts at bringing in Chinese personnel under the ruse of speeding up the development of this largest and resources rich part of Pakistan. In particular, Baloch separatists have not taken kindly to the move of Islamabad to involve Chinese experts in the mining projects of the province. Biejing started its involvement with the Gwadar sea port about a decade ago with an investment of around US$250-million in the project. In 2004, three Chinese engineers helping to build Gwadar port were killed in a car bombing incident. The same year, two Chinese engineers working on a hydroelectric dam project in South Waziristan were kidnapped and one of them was found dead.

The Gwadar port, when fully operational, will help Pakistan do away with its near total dependence on Karachi ,which on account of its proximity to India could be a sitting duck to the strike force of the Indian navy in the event of a war. Indeed, during 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, Indian navy had inflicting massive damage on the Karachi port. Pakistan’s trade is 95% through the sea, most of which is facilitated through the Karachi port. Even today Pakistan is dependent on Karachi port for as much as 68% of its exports and imports are concerned.

On a larger canvas, the Chinese toehold on the vital Arabian sea coast of Pakistan could be a serious threat to the US Fifth Fleet in the Middle East. Obviously, the Chinese presence in Gwadar would embolden Beijing to mount an interception threat to the strategic oil trade to the Far East and Europe as Gwadar is very close to Hormuz Strait. As it is, the proposal for a pipeline from Gwadar to transport oil and gas to China, could help China avoid Malacca and Singapore Straits which can be closed during wartime or are vulnerable to piracy. In the ultimate analysis, Gwadar could be a trump card in China’s long term energy security plan. This pipeline could perhaps provide synergy to the proposed Iran-Pakistan pipeline.Currently,60% of China’s oil imports transit through the Strait of Hormuz, located just 180 nautical miles from Gwadar port.

However, from India’s perspective, the port could be used by the Chinese navy to jostle for geo-strategic power in the region. Indeed, Indian defence Minister during Feb.6 media interaction at the Aero India- 2013 show at Bangalore had stated that China’s role in operating Gwadar port was a matter of concern. Reacting to Antony’s concern, a spokesman of Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry had stated in Islamabad that “We think that this is not something that any other country have any reason to be concerned about.” Stretching this argument a bit further, Fazul-ul-Rehman, a former director of the China Studies Centre at the Institute of Strategic Studies at Islamabad, dismisses the possibility of China going to war in the Indian Ocean region and calls Indian concern a propaganda. According to Rehman, China is now more cautious about big investment projects in Pakistan due to security concerns what with Taliban activities, sectarian violence and separatist movement blighting turbulent Balochistan. As a result, Rehman says, there is a long way to go on China-Pakistan economic cooperation and emphasizes that Gwadar will be a long term project with Beijing looking for future alternatives to shipping routes for its oil and gas imports. However, western defence experts point out that Gwadar could serve China as a strategic listening pot to monitor maritime and naval activities in the region. On another front, the naval strike force of China’s People’s Liberation Army(PLA) could use Gwadar to deploy its ships and submarines to ensure the safety and security of China’s vital energy supplies.

It is widely perceived that Gwadar take over along with the Chinese built port at Hambantota in Sri Lanka and new terminals at Chittagong and Sonadiya in Bangladesh followed by China’s recent forays into Maldives completes the final links in the Chinese “string of pearls” strategy to safeguard its sea-lanes for energy imports and dominate the Indian ocean region. As things stand now, Gwadar would be the most westerly in a string of Chinese funded ports encircling its big regional rival India. The US$450-million deep sea port at Hambantota, close to the vital east-west route, used by around 300 ships a day, built with Chinese loans and construction expertise would provide China a platform for furthering its commercial and military interests in the vital Indian Ocean region. Although China has no equity stake in Hambantota, they have taken up to 85% slice of Colombo International Terminal Ltd, which is building a new container port adjacent to the existing Colombo harbour. According to Dean Cheng,a Research Fellow at the Asian Studies Centre for the Washington based think tank Heritage Foundation, China is actively pursuing the strategy of cultivating India’s neighbours as friendly states, both to protect its economic and security interests and counteract Indian influence. Not surprisingly, the concern in India continues to mount over China giving a practical shape to the ancient Chinese philosophy of “String of Pearls.” For the Chinese move to encircle is getting unfolded in a dramatic fashion with China forging extensive maritime links with countries in Asia and Africa.

Significantly, the widely debated “String of Pearls” theory which was originally conceived by a team of experts at the US based consultancy Booz Allen essentially underpins Chinese strategy of involvement with countries along its Sea Line of Communication(SLOC) extending from South China Sea to the Indian Ocean. A section of strategic analysts hold the view that “String of Pearls” provides China a robust platform to leverage its diplomatic and commercial ties to further its energy security and strategic interests on a long term basis.

What strategy India would adopt to counteract the aggressive Chinese move to encircle India through the “String of Pearls” approach, there is no clue as yet. But then the Indian defence strategists should not waste time to finger out the dimensions of the threat posed by Chinese “String of Pearls” strategy and formulate an appropriate Indian response to defeat the Chinese moves to dominate the Indian ocean region.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

As US goes Retrograde in Afghanistan Pakistan gets an Upgrade

Monish Gulati


Kicking-off the first phase of the US pull-out from Afghanistan, two convoys of 25 containers each crossed the Torkham and Chaman border check-posts in Pakistan on 10 Feb 2013. The containers, “part of the US redeployment of equipment from Afghanistan”, were on way to Karachi to be shipped back to the US. The move oddly signifies the start to what president Obama termed in his SOTUS to the American nation on 12 February 2013, the “end of our war in Afghanistan”. At the same time in sharp contrast yet within the same process, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the leader of Pakistan’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) faction with tacit approval of the Pakistan federal government, met with the Afghan Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar. A move that sees Pakistan ‘upgrade’ itself into the lead role in the ‘Afghan-owned’ peace process after the London trilateral summit meeting held on 3-4 February 2013.

Mawlana Fazlur Rahman, the leader (amir) of the JUI-F left for Qatar on 09 February to hold talks with Taliban. 1 According to a report, it was on the invitation of the Taliban. The Maulana was accompanied by a member of the Pakistan National Assembly from the tribal areas, Haji Munir Khan Orakzai. They met a group of Taliban representatives led by Tayyab Agha and assisted by Shahabuddin Delawar on 10 February 2013 at a farmhouse in the suburbs of Doha in a first such direct meeting between representatives from Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban. 2 Tayeb Agha is a close aide and former secretary to Mullah Omar, and Shahabuddin Delawar was the Taliban envoy to Riyadh during the Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

Though Mawlana Fazlur Rahman is currently in the political opposition, the influential politician is believed to have been holding talks with the Taliban on behalf of Pakistan. There is no official confirmation from either Pakistan or Afghanistan about the nature and the exact purpose of the talks in Doha. However, as reported by the Pakistani media the JUI-F leader went to Doha as part of the Pakistani efforts to persuade the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. 3 In an interview on 09 February 2013, the central leader of JUI-F, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed stated that JUI-F chief had been invited to participate in the reconciliatory process between the US and Taliban. 4 He added that negotiations were also aimed at exploring ways of how Pakistan could become part of the Qatar initiative (Doha process). 5

Afghan Position

Commenting on the trip of Maulana Fazal-Ur-Rahman to Qatar, the Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul said that no talks had started with the Taliban officials in Qatar as yet and no office had been opened for the Taliban in Qatar as yet. 6 There were also reports that the Mawlana’s trip to Qatar has neither been welcomed by the High Peace Council (HPC) nor by the Afghan Government. 7 However, according to some reports in the Afghan media the HPC welcomed the recent of visit of Pakistan’s JUI-F leader, but said the Council had no prior information about the trip. The HPC added that despite being unaware of the nature of negotiations in Qatar the talks will have a positive impact on the peace process. 8

Pakistani Position

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik in his remarks on 10 February 2013 distanced the government from the JUI-F chief’s participation in the Afghan peace talks in Doha. Malik said the JUI-F chief was no longer an ally of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led government and was taking part in the Doha talks ‘in his personal capacity’. He added that “Fazlur Rehman is the head of an independent party… the government does not have any business in his negotiations with the [Afghan] Taliban or any other stakeholder.” 9 Reports in Pakistani television channels suggested the visit was part of the Pakistani government’s efforts to reach out to members of Afghan Taliban, representatives of which are already in Doha to hold preliminary talks about opening their political office. 10

JUI-F Position

The special spokesman accompanying Maulana Fazlaur Rehman on his visit to Qatar told the media that the Maulana is in Qatar on four-day party tour and he is holding consultations with the party workers in Qatar. 11 “We are here and going to meet the Pakistani community and some Qatari officials in the next couple of days, it is a trip on the invitation of the Pakistani community. Nothing else, this is a private tour”. 12

While the exact details of the outcome of the meeting in Doha have not been disclosed, it has been reported by the Afghan media that that during the meeting the Taliban said that they will only negotiate with the Kabul administration if it agrees for the establishment of transitional Government. A member of the HPC said that “peace is an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process, if it’s ignored by any country, we will not accept it.” 13


In a joint statement issued after the London summit, Karzai, Zardari and David Cameron had supported the opening of an office in Doha for the purpose of negotiations between the Afghan Taliban and the HPC. It was reported that Pakistan had certain reservations over the proposed initiative particularly regarding the preconditions that the Karzai administration consistently attaches to the Doha process. Karzai’s government wants that Doha office should only be used for negotiations between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan HPC. Pakistan felt that such preconditions were more of a hindrance to a “broad based all-inclusive reconciliation process”. 14 The Pakistani viewpoint could have come from its need to involve the Maulana as its representative, to take lead role in the initiative and speed up the peace process.

Maulana Fazal-ur-Rahman is one of the few the political leaders of Pakistan, who, wields considerable influence across the Pakistan border in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban has received support from the madrassas run by Maulana's faction of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI). Fazl ur-Rahman built his public image by supporting Zulfaqir Ali Bhutto's daughter Benazir Bhutto during her second term as the prime minister. His cooperation with the PPP to some extent diminished temporarily his party's image. He had charges leveled against him regarding supply permits for exporting diesel from Pakistan to Afghanistan, which earned him the nick name ‘Maulana Diesel’. Maulana Fazal is from the dominant Deobandi school of thought, the same ideology as that of the Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban. It is said that the Maulana also played a role in the last year’s secret talks between the US, Taliban and Germany in Qatar. President Karzai is also supposed to have sent a letter to the Maulana to encourage the Taliban to join peace talks.


Maulana Fazal-ur-Rahman is among three mainstream Pakistani political leaders whom the TTP has chosen to be a guarantor in its latest offer for peace talks with the country’s military. The JUI-F leader has indicated that he is ready to play the role of a mediator between the Pakistani authorities and the TTP. 17

Maulana Fazlaur Rehman’s brother and member of the National Assembly, Maulana Attaur Rehman also confirmed that JUI-F is seriously reviewing the offer of becoming a guarantor on behalf of the TTP in government-TTP peace talks. He said that the JUI-F supports dialogue with the TTP. 18

A leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood party, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, also went to Qatar to hold talks with the Taliban. 19 It’s said that Dr al-Qaradwai has contacts with the Taliban’s office in Qatar and that he played a role to spur the negotiations. Al-Qaradawi has a prominent role within the intellectual leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood and a professional relationship with the Seerah and Sunnah Center at Qatar University.

Implications for India

Maulana Fazl-Ur-Rahman, is also the Chairman of the special committee of the Pakistan National Assembly on Kashmir. The present special committee was constituted on 19th August, 2008. The maulana with his string of madrassas has today emerged as the ‘thread’ that links the Afghan Taliban, the TTP and Kashmir. He has the ear of the Pakistani and Afghan governments and he will have the US support once he secures the release of Sgt Bowe Bergdahl form the Taliban; and that of the NATO once he gets the Taliban to the negotiating table. This ‘thread’ winds down to Dar-ul-uloom in India. The Maulana’s position on India is well known. The involvement of the Maulana in the peace process raises the possibility of the Afghan Taliban and the TTP being on to a common platform, greater focus on Kashmir and reduction in India’s role in Afghanistan’s future. Irony of the situation is that the man who has provided the Afghan Taliban foot soldiers and religious legitimacy is negotiating peace for US/NATO while representing Pakistani interests.

End Notes
  1. ‘Fazl off to Qatar for Taliban talks’, The Nation, February 10, 2013.
  2. Kamran Yousaf, ‘The Qatar initiative: JUI-F chief features in Doha talks’, The Express Tribune, February 11, 2013. http://tribune.com.pk/story/505597/the-qatar-initiative-jui-f-chief-feat...
  3. ibid

  4. JUI-F joins US-Taliban reconciliatory process for bringing peace in Afghanistan’, South Asian News Agency ,February 9, 2013 http://www.uruknet.de/?p=m95089&hd=&size=1&l=e
  5. Ser 2.
  6. Shamshad TV Headlines, February11, 2013.
  7. Hewad Daily, February 11, 2013.
  8. Hasht-e-Subh Daily, February13, 2013).

  9. Afghan peace talks: Govt distances itself from Fazl’s move’, The Express Tribune, February 11, 2013.
  10. Zia Khan. ‘Leading Pakistani cleric in Doha as Afghan Taliban get ready to open office’, Gulf Times, February 10, 2013. http://www.gulf-times.com/qatar/178/details/341638/leading-pakistani-cle...
  11. ‘JUI-F joins US-Taliban reconciliatory process for bringing peace in Afghanistan’, South Asian News Agency, February 9, 2013 http://www.uruknet.de/?p=m95089&hd=&size=1&l=e
  12. Ser 10.
  13. Tolo TV, February 12, 2013.
  14. Ser 2.
  15. http://www.abdallahshah.com/JHI-F.html
  16. Hasht-e-Subh Daily, Editorial, February 13, 2013.
  17. Ser10.
  18. Ser11.
  19. Ser8.