Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cyber Warfare in the Indian Context

Lt Gen (Retd) Gautam Banerjee, 
Executive Council, VIF

The Cyber Space

The contemporary era is characterised by what has been described as the ‘information revolution’. This is a phenomenon in which automated processes are activated to marshal and manipulate huge volumes of digitised information as relevant to every field of human endeavours before disseminating that information across a virtually unlimited realm. As human societies across the entire globe as well as the systems governing these become entirely captive to usage of information assets, effective harness of information infrastructure in military engagements too becomes an undeniable obligation.

Information infrastructure is a chain of high-technology systems made up of sensors, transmission media, data processors, information centres and competent personnel to man these, all of which are coupled to form a most effective regulating medium for all global activities. However, the soul of this infrastructure rests in the all pervasive electronic time-space continuum. Described as ‘cyber-space’, this is the arena in which all exactions of societal progress, peace, stability - and war, of course – must be played out. Cyber-space, therefore, is central to the information infrastructure.

Just as it is in case of all other arenas of competitive engagement – land, sea, air, space and perception - the native instinct of usurpation of other’s resources has made it obligatory to protect one’s usage of cyber-space against corruption, subversion and neutralisation by adversarial powers, or even friendly competitors. When this obligation is sought to be fulfilled in the realm of military operations, the concept of Cyber Warfare crystallises. In principle, the term ‘Cyber Warfare’ should be usable only in military context and differentiated from the term ‘Cyber Security’, the latter term being better reserved for civilian information security functions. This distinction is necessary to avoid intrusion of conceptual ambiguities into the nation’s civilian and military security strategies.

The subject matter being vast, in this paper it is proposed to focus the discussion to the basic framework which dictates the terms of engagement in Cyber Warfare.

Information Warfare

Military security of a nation is cultivated by preparing for, or activating if necessary, such extreme inflictions that make the adversary desist from his unbearable animosity. In the nation’s military security functions, the profound role performed by information infrastructure makes it a key military objective, to be nurtured or neutralised as the case may be. Thus, the activities undertaken to gain ‘Information Superiority’ over the adversary through recourse to various kinds of military operations are termed as ‘Information Warfare’. Notably, while the ‘hard’ objects of information infrastructure may be attacked or protected by physical - active and passive - means, the ‘virtual reality’ of cyber-space needs sophisticated science and high-technology to tackle. Thus, within the overall ambit of Information Warfare, when military operations are carried out in the domain of cyber-space, the term used is ‘Cyber Warfare’. It is, however, important to note that while the adversary may be disabled by Cyber Warfare, he may not yet be induced to submit; whereas Information Warfare, when prosecuted, could achieve that purpose.

Measures applied to engage in Information Warfare are classified under two categories, namely, ‘Information Operations – Offensive’ and ‘Information Operations – Defensive’. These conventions help in delineating the military aspects of the information era.

Information Operations

Information Operations in either mode – Offensive and Defensive – are by convention classified under the following descriptions:-
  • Command and Control Warfare (C2W): Attacking adversary’s ability to generate and communicate commands to its forces is termed as C2W. It is directed at the adversary’s Defence Information Infrastructure.
  • Intelligence Based Warfare (IBW): It is the integration of sensors, processors and data-links to achieve profound and near-real time surveillance, reconnaissance, decision support, target selection and engagement, and finally, damage assessment.
  • Electronic Warfare (EW): Combat in the electromagnetic medium to achieve enhancement, degradation, interruption or corruption of radiating wave emissions is classified as EW. In other words, it implies domination of the electro-magnetic spectrum.
  • Psy Warfare: This is aimed at targeting the adversary's mental orientation and perception, and thereby influence his intention. In a larger context, it may be aimed at demoralising the hostile population.
  • Hacker Warfare: This is defined as destruction, degradation or exploitation of adversary’s computer data-base. Intrusion into adversary’s systems by ‘virus’, ‘worm’, ‘trojan horse’, logic bomb’ etc. is the mode adopted in this case.
  • Infrastructural or Economic Warfare. This involves ‘information blockade’ and ‘information hegemony’ to garner undue economic advantage. Under warlike conditions, its extreme manifestation may lead to attacks on the adversary’s core infrastructure – railways, power, oil sectors, for example.
It is needless to emphasise that the last three kinds of warfare are liable to transcend into the civilian domain.

Cyber Warfare

To reiterate, Information Warfare is resorted to gain Information Superiority by the means of Information Operations which are executed in Offensive as well as Defensive modes. There are many operating fields of Information Operations, such as human intervention, passive and active protection, weaponised attack, sabotage etc. which are executed in the physical domain. Similarly, the electro-magnetic spectrum becomes the battle field for Electronic Warfare. Lastly, when Information Operations are executed in the cyber domain, the term applicable is Cyber Warfare.

Cyber Warfare involves targeting the adversary’s military networks to induce collapse or corruption of his information-based Command, Control, Communication, Co-ordination, Intelligence and Inter-operable Systems (C4I2). Point to note is that the scope of hostilities are liable to transcend into the civil sector too, when the focus would be on the adversary’s societal perception and his national administrative and economic infrastructure.

Cyber Warfare is therefore one of the ‘military operations of war’. In the Indian context, it may be used as a purely military term and prosecuted in the manner of a military operation in the same spirit of extreme measures just as it is in the case of conventional, sub-conventional, manoeuvre or positional, mine and nuclear warfare.

Objectives of Cyber Warfare

The purpose of Cyber Warfare is to undertake defensive and offensive Information Operations in the cyber-space to degrade the adversary’s sensory, early warning, data analysis, intelligence exchange, decision support, and command, control and communication network – the entire system of military net-centricity in short - while at the same time protecting own information assets from hostile intrusion. In offensive operations, that goal is achieved by intrusion into the adversary’s vast volumes of digitised information that circulate in the cyber-space. Notably however, in defensive mode, besides adoption of general security measures, the effort cannot be so much in locking up own volumes of information simply because in the cyber domain that is impractical to achieve. The effort therefore is to identify the algorithms and processes of the adversary’s offensive Information Operations and neutralise these through corresponding counter-offensive measures - preferably proactive.

Objective of Cyber Warfare therefore is to gain information superiority in the aspects of surveillance and reconnaissance, data analysis, intelligence exchange, command and control of battle elements and flow of communication, and thereby protect own net-centric systems while disrupting that of the adversary.

Science of Cyber Warfare

Automated exploitation of information in the cyber-space covers the entire gamut of communication, computation and transmission net-works. In Cyber Warfare, the process of extracting information from vast array of data, converting these into intelligence and then deriving tactical inferences to support decision making is a highly complex matter. Even if humans naturally do so remarkably well, there are limitation of volume and speed that they can handle. Here science comes to the rescue, to define and quantify information, analyse input-data and facilitate decision making.

The matter of the science of Cyber Warfare is vast. It would therefore suffice here to just mention the core aspects of mathematical analyses which help in identification, selection and targeting in the cyber-space. This process is carried out through algorithms based on mathematical logic and digitised models, and involves the following defensive-offensive steps in continuum:-

  • Sensor based detection of presence, identification and tracking of cyber-entities (e.g. personnel and equipment, radiation pattern, etc.) by the process of search and intrusion of the cyber-space. This involves mathematical derivation of ‘inductive’ and ‘deductive’ logic to select relevant signatures or data-input.
  • Determination of inter-relationships and activities (e.g. data-mining, computation, data-transfer etc.) of the targeted cyber-entities. Comparison and templating with help of ‘data ware-house’ and ‘data-fusion’ is resorted to chart the adversary’s possible options thus. Application of information theories to sift through the data, identification of the target cyber-space and inference of intelligence are carried out through processes known as ‘abduction’ and ‘deduction’ of information.
  • Inference of plausible objectives of the adversary (e.g. dissemination of intelligence, command or engagement instructions etc.) through activation of the cyber-entities. This is accomplished by means of ‘indicator-data analysis’
    of the detected cyber-hierarchy and the deployment pattern of the cyber-entities. ‘Decision theories’ are applied to analyse and evaluate the alternatives.
  • Determination of the likely courses of Cyber Warfare, reactive or proactive, available to the adversary. This is a technical appreciation, assisted by automated military logic.
  • Assessment of own possible Cyber Warfare options and objectives. This too is a process of technical appreciation, duly narrowed down by pre-loaded military logic. The assessment is contingent upon right evaluation of the utility of intelligence and its exploitation in effective conduct of Cyber Warfare.
  • Decision support, passage of orders and monitoring of Cyber Warfare, and feedback. This may include automated target fixation, selection of the mode and method of Cyber Warfare, media selection, generation of engagement and manoeuvre instructions and fixation of the parameters of time and space (e.g. activation of sensors and other cyber-entities, followed by passage of orders).
The point to note is that Information Technology is the creator of cyber-space and also the core resource in the conduct of Cyber Warfare. Obviously therefore, it is also the most lucrative target of Information Warfare, cyber-attack included.

Features of Cyber Warfare

Having seen that it is impractical to establish any clear distinction between the conduct of offensive and defensive Cyber Warfare, it would suffice here to touch upon the mutually shared qualifying features. Accordingly, an overview of the likely ‘approaches’, ‘targets’ and ‘points’ of Cyber Attack may be in order.

Approaches of Cyber Attack: The approaches that could be adopted to carryout Cyber Attacks could be as follows:-
  • Direct or Penetration Attack: This involves penetration into adversary’s communication links, computer net work or data-base to steal or compromise internal information in favour of the attacker.
  • Indirect or Sensor or Media Attack: Insertion of false inputs into the adversary’s observation sensors or sources to achieve counter-information will be the objective of attack in this case.
  • Hybrid Attack: This will be a combination of the above mentioned two types of attacks – a most likely approach.
  • Cryptographic Attack: This involves one-time intrusion to locate vulnerabilities in the adversary’s system of cryptography, for manipulation when time comes. This aim is achieved by breaking the ‘key programme’ which is the heart of the system’s security.
  • Net Exploitation: This is an extension of ‘NETINT’ (Network Intelligence) aimed at compromising or corrupting the adversary’s information network. Introduction of malicious software executing agents, data scanners, ‘Radio Frequency Interception’ through wire tapping or remote 'sniffing', and software tools to carryout synchronised attack upon multiple cyber-entities are the means to do so.
Targets of Cyber Attack: Unlike other forms of attack, in Cyber Warfare, there is no scope of achieving any residual consolation from ‘near-hits’. Therefore, whatever be the approach adopted, a Cyber Attack has to be focused on a specific target. These targets could be:-
  • Content Attack: In this case, content of the information is targeted for disruption or denial with the purpose of misleading the adversary’s decision making process.
  • Dislocating Attack: In this form of attack, the location of data or its route for access is targeted to cause confusion, delay or corruption of information.
  • Temporal Attack: Here, either the retrieval of information is delayed till it is too late or a pre-conceived notion is reinforced well ahead of the actual event. This way the timeliness of information is subjected to disruption, thus diverting the adversary’s process of decision making.
Cyber Attack Points: Data or network level Cyber Attacks may be directed at any of the following vulnerable points:-
  • The adversary’s input sources or reporting links, by means of electronic warfare, irrational visuals and deception. The other option is to alter the orientation and focus of input sensors by steering away the control mechanism.
  • The process of object identification or tracking may be truncated by placement of hostile radiators.
  • The adversary’s sensor behaviour may be put through analysis to infer his focus of information query, and so gain insight of his objective.
  • Degradation or deception of the adversary’s deductive process may be achieved through network interference devices.
  • The adversary’s system design may be stolen, so as to acquire the capability of accessing his data base. This facilitates launching of Cyber Attack as and when necessary.
Imperatives of Cyber Defence

It is seen that when it comes to planning and execution of Cyber Warfare, there is little to distinguish between attack and defence. The fact is that foolproof Cyber Defence is difficult to achieve even after committing enormous resources unless it incorporates the ingredients of Cyber Attack. Even then, in the prosecution of Cyber Warfare, there are certain defensive obligations to be adopted. These, in brief, are:-
  • Warning mechanism for impending Cyber Attack, to trigger security drills including the automated response for safety or shut down.
  • Retrieval of corrupted, diverted, destroyed or captured assets - such as primary, secondary and tertiary data, the operating protocols, automated processes, etc.
  • Restoration of the compromised cyber driven systems - fiscal, transportation, power, industrial, technological and societal programmes, for example.
It will be noticed that only the first of the three responses has any room for retaliatory action, the rest being in-house measures. This limitation reinforces the fact that in the Cyber Warfare, defence comes a cropper unless its execution is facilitated by pre-planned intrusions into the adversary’s Cyber War establishment.


Being a relatively new form, it is important to develop indigenous postulations, concepts and practices of Cyber Warfare in the Indian context. This paper suggests that the term ‘Cyber Warfare’ be usable in the context of military operations, as distinct from the overarching scheme of ‘Cyber Security’ at the national level. It also posits that when prosecuted under the overall ambit of Information Operations, Cyber Warfare is predominant in offensive content and may be conducted from space, earth and cyber-space. Further, it implies that: firstly, continuous engagement in Information Operation during peace keeps the system fully updated and promotes experimentation and the spirit of innovations; and secondly, readiness for instant engagement is an imperative of Cyber Warfare.

It is also reiterated that most of the principles and activities associated with Cyber Warfare are applicable, with certain reorientations, to the civil information infrastructure too. Indeed, since the state of war engulfs the entire nation, targeting the adversary’s quasi-military and civil infrastructure to disrupt his national functioning may be an ultimate objective of Cyber Warfare. It is therefore absolutely necessary to adopt similar mechanisms for the sanctity of the nation’s civil infrastructure, and so foster a regime of ‘Cyber Security’ at the national level.

“The wise man does at once what the fool does finally” – Niccolo Machiavelli.

  1. “Information Warfare: Concept and Development”, 21st Century Army: Strategies for Future, Lt Gen (Retd) Gautam Banerjee, Manas Publications, New Delhi, 2012.
  2. Waltz, Edward, “Information Warfare Principles and Operations” : ARTECH House, London, 1998.
  3. Fialka, JJ, “War by Other Means”, New York: WW Norton, 1997.
  4. David and Katherine Hollis, “The Cyberspace Policies We Need”, Armed Forces Journal, USA, 2010.
  5. “Stray Voltage: War in Information Age”, WM Hall, Naval Institute Press, USA, 2003.
  6. http://www.vifindia.org/article/2014/february/07/dimensions-of-cyber-sec....

Published Date: 28th April 2014, Image source: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com

Friday, April 25, 2014

Kunming Stabbing Incident: China under the Shadow of Islamic Radicalism

Radhakrishna Rao, 
Visiting Fellow, VIF

Slowly and surely, the middle kingdom seems to be emerging as a preferred “soft target” of terrorist violence spearheaded by a radical outfit with its alleged links to the notorious Al Qaeda. For the communist China, which not long back was least worried about the devious doings of global terrorist networks, disturbing developments in its home-turf in recent months have brought home the looming threat of terrorism in all its manifestations.

Not surprisingly then the violent stabbing spree at Kunming railway station in Yunnan province on March 1 has set the alarm bells ringing in China’s security set up. Incidentally, the south westerly Yunnan province whose capital is Kunming has had no history of a terrorist attack or social violence. Much to the dismay of Chinese security and intelligence agencies, the knife wielding attackers who encountered virtually no resistance initially left 33 people dead and 130 injured in one of the bloodiest incidents ever reported in this part of the country. China’s official Xinhua news agency described this pre-meditated violent incident as “China’s 9/11 and a severe crime against humanity”. The authorities of the Kunming Municipal Government were quick to point out that evidence at the crime scene showed that the attack was organised by the Xinjiang based Uighur separatists. Significantly, this is for the first time that militants allegedly belonging to the, which is fighting for a sovereign Muslim majority Xinjiang country, managed to carry out such a frightening and violent attack outside their home-turf. The suspicion is that the attack could be a part of the long term strategy of Uighur separatists to hit soft targets deep inside China with a view to create “fear psychosis” and draw global attention to their on-going struggle for a separate Muslim majority Xinjiang country.

The Patronage that the banned East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is said to be receiving from Al Qaeda is considered a major factor behind its rapidly expanding acts of violent terrorism.

Nevertheless, this is not the first act of terrorism mounted by Uighur separatists outside of the Xinjiang province. In October last, a terrorist attack in the capital city of Beijing had stunned and rattled China. This well planned violent attack at the historic Tiananmen Square had resulted in the death of five people. In the aftermath of this incident, the ruling dispensation in Beijing had described this terrorist outrage in the heart of China’s capital city as a “pre meditated and well planned suicide attack” aimed at destabilizing the Communist giant. This attack which was also blamed as the handiwork of ETIM marked a significant shift in the militant activities of ETIM whose violent activities were for long confined to Xinjiang. Chinese authorities drive home the point that ETIM has for long been engaged in Central, East (By "East" , the Chinese authorities imply the possibility of Uighur extremists having linkages with Muslim separatists in Southern Thailand and insurgents in Mindanao island of Philippines) and West Asia and has joined hands with many of the terrorist outfits with global footprints. ETIM cadres are known to have fought alongside Taliban militia in Afghanistan and rebel forces in trouble torn Syria. Clearly and apparently, China has enough to worry about ensuring its domestic peace and territorial integrity in the face of brazen terrorist attacks.

In a well thought out move aimed at psychologically paralysing the terrorist outfits by blocking their funding sources, China’s Central Bank has announced new measures aimed at enabling authorities to freeze assets of domestic terrorist groups and their “overseas patrons’. Cutting off the source of funding could take the sail out of the winds of a terrorist group. India too needs to take steps to end the “hawala racket” which has become a major source of funding for terrorist outfits, criminal gangs and anti social networks in the country. Chinese security agencies believe Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asian Republics offer safe sanctuary to the fugitive Uighur separatists owing allegiance to ETIM For long there has been a suspicion that ETIM gets funds, training and psychological motivation from Al Qaeda. The Islamabad based Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies had indicated that Uighur separatists from Xinjiang province of China mainly frequent the mountainous North Waziristan, the most turbulent part of the lawless tribal belt. Indeed, Beijing has on many occasions expressed its displeasure over the failure of Pakistan to crack down on Uighur terror groups. Chinese officials in Xinjiang blame ETIM overseas cadres, chiefly those active in camps of Pakistan, for fomenting trouble in many parts of the province. This largest Chinese province in the extreme west of the country shares porous borders with both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Uighur extremists are also known to have forged strong links with radical Islamic groups in the Central Asian Republics.

For well over two decades now, the ruling dispensation in Beijing has been blaming Uighur extremists for acts of sporadic violence and destruction in the sprawling and resources rich Xinjiang where 12-million ethic Uighurs reside. Currently, Uighurs constitute 45% of the total population of Xinjiang. Uighurs are upset that with the state supported plan to settle Chinese Hans in the restive Xinjiang, they are doomed to end up as a minority group.

Since 1990s, Xinjiang has been making it into the media headlines for acts of violence indulged in by the disgruntled Uighurs who see a repressive streak in the policy designed for them by the rulers in Beijing. China is of view that ETIM is trying to insulate itself from the country’s counter terrorism measures by developing robust transnational ties that include alliance with other terrorist groups and safe operational bases in other countries.

Uighurs are quite upset that their religious, cultural and commercial activities are being curtailed by Beijing presumably to put a lid on the separatist sentiments embedded deep in the psyche of the community. In recent years, Chinese authorities have been pressurising Uighur men not to grow beards and Uighur women not to use veil or other Islamic attire. These measures have been justified by Beijing as a cornerstone of the strategy designed to end the spread of religious extremism said do be responsible for the violent separatist movement. Many Uighurs say that they are made to feel like second class citizens in their home turf. Uighurs are upset that the Chinese speaking Hans in Xinjiang have cornered most of the civil service jobs and are forging ahead in business and professions.

In 2009, around 200 people had paid with their lives in one of the bloodiest clashes that took place between native Uighurs and Han settlers in the provincial capital of Urumqi. And in April 2013, violent clashes involving Uighurs and policemen in Kashgar had left 21 dead. Further in June.2013, 35 people were killed in an attack against a Police Station in Luquan. Uighurs who follow a moderate version of Sunni Islam are clear that repressive policies aimed at the community is at the root of on-going “unrest and turbulence” in the province. But Uighur uprising has never attracted the global attention the way Tibet has. Strategic analysts believe, however, that Uighur uprising could pose a serious threat to China’s territorial integrity in comparison to the turbulence in Tibet. For now, by design or accident, Tibet is on the way to slowly getting integrated into the “Chinese mainstream”. But then the festering unrest and turmoil in Xinjiang has all the potentials of graduating into a full scale and well armed separatist movement that China can ignore at its own peril. It is not for nothing that Xinjiang has been described as China’s emerging West Bank.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Attack on Hamid Mir: Pak Media Caught in Pincer of Military, Militants & Market Printer-friendly version

Sushant Sareen, 
Senior Fellow, VIF

The attack on one of the best known Pakistani journalists, Hamid Mir, has only reaffirmed Pakistan's reputation as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. Mir, who took six bullets, barely survived the well planned ambush carried out in broad daylight on a busy road in Karachi when he was heading from the airport to his office. The attempt on his life created a veritable storm in the Pakistani media, more so after his brother alleged that the ISI chief, Lt. Gen Zaheerul Islam, was responsible for the attack.
According to reports in the Pakistani media, Mir had confided in his friends and family about the threats to his life from ISI and had even recorded his testimony on paper and in a video which was to be made public if something happened to him. Naturally, as soon as news of the attack broke, fingers started being pointed at the ISI. The military spokesman was quick to condemn the incident and deny any involvement of the ISI in the incident. But cut to the bone by the audacity and temerity of the journalists who were accusing the ISI of being behind the attack, the intelligence agency, which is a virtual state within a state, unleashed its army of plants in the media to launch a fierce counter offensive, not just against Mir (accusing him of all sorts of anti-national activity) but also the media group –Jang/Geo – that he works for. For the rival channels, this was a Godsend opportunity to pull the Jang Group down from its pedestal as the most popular and powerful media group in Pakistan.
For some months now, the ISI has been using a rival channel ARY (owned by a dubious UAE based Pakistani-origin businessman who is alleged to be hand in glove with Dawood Ibrahim and involved in all sorts of shady deals, including Hawala and gold smuggling) to target Jang, its owner and its journalists. After the Hamid Mir attack, other channels like Express (owned by the Lakhani group) have also jumped into the act. The idea is to severely damage, if not destroy, Jang’s credibility and popularity and at the same time increase their own market share at Jang’s expense. The icing on the cake will be currying favour with the real power centre in Pakistan – the Pakistan Army.
The Jang group has faced tough situations in the past, but always came out winner. This is however the first time that it is pitted directly against the military. The tiff with Musharraf in the last few months of his regime cannot be compared with what is happening today when it is facing a sustained and vicious campaign entirely backed by the dirty tricks department of the military. To an extent, the Jang group must share the blame for what it is facing. Over the years, it has carried out exactly the same sort of campaigns against civilian governments, weakening them to a point where they became pushovers for the ‘establishment’. The only time they failed was with Asif Zardari who despite the unremitting and unfair hostility of the Jang group managed to ride out all the storms that this media powerhouse created. In the case of the Nawaz Sharif, the Jang group was clearly seen to be leaning in support of the PML (N) government by demanding greater accountability of the army and was not just backing the prosecution of the former dictator, Pervez Musharraf, but also raking up other issues that rankled with the Men in Khaki. Perhaps, with the Jang group starting to believe that it could make and break (and even save) governments, the Pakistani establishment had already made up its mind to disabuse it of this notion and de-fang it. The charges levelled against the army and ISI in the Hamid Mir case will only give further impetus to the plan which is already underway.
What makes the attempt on Mir’s life so sinister is that it comes against the backdrop of mounting tensions between the civilian government and the military. Apparently, the army was pretty cut up with the government on the issue of former dictator Pervez Musharraf’s treason trial, the peace process with the Pakistani Taliban and the trade deal that the government was all set to sign with India. Things got a little tense after some rather strong words were used by cabinet ministers against Musharraf, which the media twisted to present as though these were aimed at the army. Adding further fuel to fire, some TV channels started playing an eight year old fiery speech of the Defence Minister, Khwaja Asif, in which he had railed into the military for meddling in politics and taking away the Lion’s share of the national cake without having anything to show for it.
Things seemed to have cooled down a bit after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad and expressed his confidence in the army and held up the Army Chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, as a role model for the newly commissioned officers. But the attack on Mir, coupled with the allegations against ISI, seems to have muddied the waters once again. Although Nawaz Sharif has set up a judicial commission of inquiry, the Mir case threatens to snowball into a test case for establishing civilian supremacy and making the military accountable. However, if Nawaz Sharif tries to brush this under the carpet, and the army continues on its offensive against those who question its dubious policies as well as its monopoly on defining national interest, then all the tall talk of civilian supremacy will remain just that. Already, the government, under pressure from the army, has retreated on the issue of opening trade with India (which isn’t such a bad thing from India’s point of view because of the sort of concessions which the Manmohan Singh government had given in return for getting a not quite MFN status). Even on Musharraf, there seems to be a move to let him off the hook and allow him to flee Pakistan. If now the government backs down on getting to the bottom of the attack on Mir, then it will be, for all practical purposes, reduced into a glorified municipality, like its predecessor. It may survive in office for a full term, but wield no real power to take any important decision, unless this is endorsed and sanctioned by the military.
Mir is of course not the first prominent journalist to come under fire, nor will he be the last. Just a couple of weeks earlier, another well-known journalist Raza Rumi escaped by the skin of his teeth after his car was ambushed in Lahore. Raza’s driver died in the incident and he has reportedly left Pakistan. Although in Raza’s case, the Taliban (through one of their affiliated organisations, the Sunni sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) are believed to be responsible, a number of other journalists have claimed threats from state, quasi-state and non-state actors. Interestingly, the ideological persuasions of the threatened journalists cover the entire spectrum of opinion. In other words, it is not just liberal people like SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam and columnist Kamran Shafi, but also Taliban advocates and sympathisers like Ansar Abbasi and Ahmed Noorani who have received threats, from both the military and the militants. Hit lists containing the names of journalists have also been floating around for some time now. But more than the threats, which are a professional hazard in a country as disturbed, divided and intolerant as Pakistan, it is the sheer impunity with which journalists are threatened and targeted that exemplifies the dysfunctional nature of the state and its institutions. Nothing illustrated this fact better than the utterly useless report of the commission that investigated the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad, who is also believed to have been killed by the ISI after he published a story that the Al Qaeda had infiltrated the Pakistan Navy.
Like Shahzad, Mir had frequently been crossing the unwritten red lines of the military by highlighting issues like the enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings by the army and paramilitary forces, the human rights violations in Balochistan, the need to prosecute Musharraf, the rising civil-military discord etc. The problem was not just with the stories he was covering but also the fact that Mir thought he had become too big to be touched. This hubris was his undoing, as it has been of scores of journalists before Mir who thought that their prominence put them out of harm’s way. In Mir’s case, his past must also have gone against him. He was at one time seen as a blue-eyed boy of the ISI (his detractors claim he was on the payroll) and an Urdu paper he used to edit some years back was alleged to have been funded by the ISI. What is more, he used to espouse the cause of Jihadist terrorists and had developed close links with them. He also had a very rabid stance on India and Kashmir. When such a person tries to assert his independence, his former patrons are bound to be furious and the attack on him is likely to have a ‘salutary’ impact on other journalists who were outspoken, something that is already becoming apparent in the sort of guarded statements and comments that Mir’s colleagues have been making on TV and in the print media.

It wasn’t, however, just the military, but also the militants who were reported to be gunning for him. Although he was quite adept at walking the tight-rope on the issue of Taliban, there were times when he took positions that didn’t go down well with the Islamists. While the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has denied any involvement in the attack, there are some unconfirmed reports that the Punjabi Taliban have claimed responsibility. But this claim doesn’t appear to be very credible because Mir is known to have close links with the Punjabi jihadists, something that came out clearly when a tape emerged of a conversation between him and the Punjabi Taliban discussing the links of a kidnapped former ISI official, Khalid Khwaja, with the CIA. Khwaja was later shot dead by the Taliban after Mir virtually pronounced a death sentence on him by declaring him a CIA agent. If the Punjabi Taliban have now launched this murderous attack on Mir, then it would mean that there has been a big break between Mir and the so-called mujahideen.

Although the involvement of the TTP or its affiliates cannot be completely ruled out, the circumstances surrounding the attack on Mir shifts the needle of suspicion away from them. Despite their strong presence in Karachi – they have claimed responsibility for at least three or four attacks on media houses like Express and AAJ in recent months – for the Taliban to target an Islamabad-based Mir in the port city would require an intelligence and operational network capability which is probably out of their league. But if indeed it was the Taliban that carried out the attack on Mir, then it means that Pakistan is in far more serious trouble than what it is apparent. Apart from the Taliban, the ISI mouthpieces in the media have been quick to blame India for the attack. Some of these loonies have also named CIA and Mossad. Clearly, the intellect and worldview of these characters (which includes fairly senior retired military officers) is based on Bollywood masala movies like Ek Tha Tiger and Agent Vinod. Even more hilarious was the bizarre theories that some of the ‘analysts’ came up with: Mir was dubbed a RAW agent who was shot because he had outlived his usefulness; one genius morning show anchor even doubted that he was injured; another ‘analyst’ asked whether he staged the incident himself and accidentally got shot more than planned; yet another blamed the Jang/Geo group for the attack so it could paint the ISI in lurid colours!

More seriously, the fact that ISI touts have been using this opportunity to train their guns on India, their favourite whipping boy, raises serious questions about all the talk of the army being on the same page as the civilian government on the issue of improving relations with India. For some months now, known military mouthpieces have been carrying out a vitriolic and virulent campaign against India and have been taking pot shots at the Nawaz Sharif government accusing it of a sell-out. While the Manmohan Singh government, as is its wont, remained somnolent on this issue, what is surprising is that the so-called well informed Indian analysts on foreign affairs have continued to delude themselves that Pakistan has changed. The fallout of the Hamid Mir attack should serve as a reality check to all these Indians about how nothing has changed in Pakistan.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

PLA’s Information Warfare Capabilities on an Upward Trajectory Printer-friendly version

Brig (Retd) Vinod Anand, 
Senior Fellow, VIF

In end February this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping formed a new working group at the apex level on cyber security and information security. While this was seen as the political leadership’s renewed efforts in underlining the threats and challenges to the national security in this arena, the military leadership has been paying particular attention to information warfare (IW) challenges since early 1990s. According to People’s Liberation Army (PLA) concepts, the term information warfare encompasses cyber warfare, electronic warfare, deception warfare, psychological warfare, computer warfare, and transcends beyond the military realm.

The PLA has been adapting Western concepts to suit local conditions and considers it as a ‘driving force in PLA’s military combat readinesses. PLA has used the construct of People’s War and devised its own precepts of ‘Peoples War in IW domain’ where millions of Chinese, both civilians and soldiers armed with computers, could achieve the objectives of IW. That is what has been precisely happening since over the last one decade wherein a number of cyber/information attacks are known to have originated from China with India being one among many other countries being at the receiving end. In last few years, Indian government’s computers including those of National Security Council and some other important offices have been hacked with all evidence pointing towards China. PLA’s information warriors and hacker groups have been actively involved in virus warfare and hacking activities in countries of their interest.

PLA has intensified its efforts in IW field since it officially pronounced its military doctrine of ‘Local War under the conditions of informationalisation’ in its 2004 White Paper on Defence. The objective laid down was to build an informationalised force and to win an information war and push forward the revolution in military affairs with Chinese characteristics with ‘informationalisation’ at its core. Since the articulation of its current military doctrine, PLA has laid solid foundations for fighting information and cyber wars. According to PLA’s precepts, before any physical operations take place it would be the information and cyber domains that would be used to cripple the adversary’s capabilities.

PLA’s expanding capabilities in the use of space for military purposes provides it with the means to enhance its command and control, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, information and cyber warfare capabilities. Space is considered as a commanding height for enabling the battlefield information operations. PLA’s strategists have also stressed on the imperatives and necessity of ‘destroying, damaging and interfering’ with an enemy’s reconnaissance and communications satellite systems. No country other than China has plans of launching almost 100 satellites till 2015. Compared to China, India’s plans for launching satellites are very modest; in fact in the last 37 years, India has launched 100 missions. Such endeavours when fully realized would add to China’s counter-space and IW capabilities.

PLA has also vastly expanded its optical fiber and other terrestrial networks giving it a tremendous IW capability. At the national level, China has a C3I system based on fiber optic cables, satellite communications, micro-wave links and automated command and control systems. The PLA has both secured and non-secured telecommunications and has an army wide data communication network and integrated field operations communication system which has been strengthened in the last decade. Many joint exercises carried out by PLA show that its WAN capabilities within Chinese borders have improved. PLA has been carrying out military exercises in Lanzhou and Chengdu Military Regions (which include the entire Sino-Indian border) where the PLA has practiced joint and integrated operations that include ‘information operations’.

According to Pentagon’s Annual Report to Congress on China’s Military and Security Developments of 2013, PLA’s Information Operations (IO) have matured and the top priority in peacetime is given to Computer Network Defence. As mentioned above, not only the IO/IW should be used even before the start of the campaign it would continue in all phases of war. Pre-emption also rhymes well with PLA’s doctrine of active defence where counter attack can be used to gain advantage even before the commencement of hostilities. Chinese military theorists also believe that if an information campaign is won then the need for military operations may not be necessary. Such a contingency may arise possibly with nations (like the U.S.) which are information dependent.

But that is no solace for India as both military and civil arena in our country is increasingly becoming dependent on information and information networks and systems. Our critical infrastructure dependent on a wide variety of information systems remains vulnerable to information attacks. Stuxnet attack on Iranian nuclear facility did make India reflect on its vulnerabilities in the field of critical infrastructure. It has also been reported that even though the target of Stuxnet was Iran, Kaspersky Lab experts’ data indicates that in fact it was India that was the epicenter of Stuxnet activity thus raising questions about its implications and motives of the originator. Some analysts aver that the largest power outage in Indian history (of July 2012) which affected more than half of India was caused by the malicious ware of Stuxnet.

One also needs to take note of the theories and concepts articulated by two senior colonels of PLA in their book ‘Unrestricted Warfare’ where they opine that there would be no boundaries between military and non-military areas of warfare in future.

The levels of integration between the civilian and military efforts of PRC in all the fields of information and cyber warfare have been on the rise. The top political and military leadership of China is thoroughly seized with the significance of acquiring information and cyber warfare capabilities. The concept of Computer Network Operations (CNO) and Integrated Network Electronic Warfare is germane to their doctrine of IW. PLA’s Third and Fourth Departments of General Staff have been made responsible for executing CNO. While the Third Department has been tasked to collect intelligence and carry out defensive operations, the Fourth Department has the responsibility for network attacks and other offensive IW operations.

China’s defence budget (as also the internal security budget) has witnessed a double digit growth (in percentage terms) every year for over a decade. According to one study, the Chinese government actively funds IW related research in commercial IT companies and civil and military universities. The number of universities conducting such research is put around 50 which indicates the importance and priority given to security related aspects of information technologies. Further, China’s commercial IT companies involved in R & D actively seek collaboration with foreign firms to obtain cutting edge technologies which have dual use and therefore, in the end, benefit the PLA also. In certain cases, the civil use is only nominal and routing the research and development through the civil entities is undertaken as a matter of expediency. Such a subterfuge also helps in lowering the costs for the PLA. As is well known, China’s official defence budget is said to be much less than the actual one.

In fact, in January this year, Chinese telecom equipment companies Huwaei was accused of hacking into Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL)’s network and sabotaging its expansion plans in Rajahmundry in coastal Andhra Pradesh. A five-member team comprising senior officials from the National Security Council Secretariat, Intelligence Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs and BSNL was formed to investigate the issue. Even a US Congressional report highlights the security threat posed by the Chinese companies like Huwaei and ZTE.

In conclusion, security threats and challenges to India in information warfare domain that includes cyberspace cannot be overemphasized. The Indian armed forces have promulgated a joint Information warfare doctrine and a tri-service Cyber Command is in the process of being established. Some efforts by the government have also been made in the shape of establishing a Computer Emergency Response Team and formulation of a National Cyber Security Policy-2013. However, what is needed of integrating the efforts of a number of ministries and stakeholders in this field. Allotment of additional funds for R & D and supporting such activities in educational institutions and universities is an imperative. Creating of space assets that support the information and cyber warfare efforts is also an imperative.

Information deterrence is equally important as a conventional military deterrence or even nuclear deterrence (which in turn is dependent upon a robust information capability). If critical infrastructure of a nation like banking, power industry, and railway or air communication networks are crippled, then there may be no need for a war. The nation would stand defeated as depicted by the Chinese military writers

Friday, April 18, 2014

Communal Polarisation of Indian Politics: Role of Congress & SP

Dr M N Buch, 
Dean, Centre for Governance and Political Studies, VIF

Till the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act 1976 was enacted, the words ‘socialist’ and ‘secular’ did not form a part of the Preamble to the Constitution.Till the 42nd Amendment, the word ‘integrity’ did not form a part of the Preamble. However, when the Constitution is read as a whole, these three words are already a part of the foundation of the Constitution and their inclusion in the Preamble was really not called for. In fact, there is some doubt whether the Preamble can be amended at all because the opening words of the Preamble are, “We, the people of India …..” The people, as represented by the Constituent Assembly, adopted not only the Constitution but gave us the Preamble which precedes the Constitution. Under Article 368, Parliament can amend the Constitution except, as decided by the Supreme Court in the Kesavananda Bharati case, in a manner such that the basic features of the Constitution are amended. That power does not vest in Parliament. Similarly, the question arises whether a preamble can be amended at all.

As per the Chambers 21st Century dictionary, preamble is defined as “an introduction or preface, e.g. to a speech or document, opening statement”. An opening statement cannot be considered to be a substantive part of the main document because it is an introduction, almost as if it is an explanatory statement to the effect that the main document is designed to fulfil the objectives laid down in the Preamble. If the Preamble, therefore, does not form a part of the substantive contents of the Constitution, how can it be amended under Article 368? That can only be done by the Constituent Assembly as and when it is convened. One, therefore, has strong reservations about the legality of that portion of the 76th.

Actually Articles 25, 26, 27 and 28 which give freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion, freedom to manage religious affairs, freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion and freedom to attend or not attend religious instructions or worship in educational institutions, had already declared India to be a secular nation. Article 15 prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Articles 29 and 30 provide for specific protection of the interests of minorities. In other words, the chapter on Fundamental Rights mandates the secular nature of the Indian State. When this is read with Article 38 which directs the State to secure a social order for the promotion of the welfare of the people, in effect, the Constitution directs that the State will be socialist in terms of ensuring equality and equity. The original Preamble promises justice, liberty, equality and fraternity to every Indian and in combination this means that India will be secular, nondiscriminatory and socialist in terms of promoting equity and equality. Articles 42, 43 and 44 direct the State to look after the interests of workers, which is what any socialist State would do. That is also the tenor of Article 14 which mandates equality before law.

This opening statement is made because in the democratic republic of India, where there is no State religion, no theocracy and complete equality before law, no practices can be permitted which communalise any situation in terms of religion, caste or region. That is why under Article 325, no person can be excluded from an electoral roll on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex. That is why under Article 326, elections to the House of People and the Legislative Assemblies of States will be held on the basis of adult suffrage in which every Indian citizen not less than eighteen years old will be entitled to vote. There are no separate electorates in India and this is the hallmark of a secular State. In a secular State, it is not permissible to communalise politics or seek votes on account of community, religion, caste, etc. In fact, under section 29(A) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, every political party, association or body, when applying for registration with the Election Commission, is required to state that it “shall bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established and to the principles of socialism, secularism and democracy, and would uphold the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India”. The Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951 thus makes it mandatory for every party to accept secularism, which not only means separation of Church and State but also means that the party will shun communalism.

Let us look at the party scenario in India. There are two parties which specifically represent the interests of a particular religious group. The first is the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) which is the successor to the pre partition Muslim League. By and large, this party has a significant presence only in Kerala. The other party which represents a particular religious group is the Shiromani Akali Dal which represents the Sikhs. There is a third party, The Majlis Ittehad-el Muslameen led by the Owaisis in Hyderabad, but it does have some Hindu members. Strictly speaking IUML and SAD should be considered communal parties, but SAD has Hindu members also and IUML, while promoting Muslim interests, does not project a blatantly religious image which calls for hostility against other communities. BJP is accused of being a party of the Hindus because it has the backing of RSS, but despite its support for the concept of Hindutva, BJP has kept its doors open to other communities and it has a number of Muslim, Christian and Sikh members. It also has India’s best known and most highly respected Jew, Lt. Gen. JFR Jacob, as a member. It, therefore, firmly and rightly rejects its identification by the Congress, Samajwadi Party, etc., as being a communal Hindu party. It must not be forgotten, however, that in the closing decades of the last century BJP did adopt the policy of promoting Hindutva and building the Ram Temple at Ayodhya. This was not appreciated by the Muslims but at no time did this represent a communal, religion based agenda, nor did it target a particular community.

The past as a means of understanding of the genesis the issues of today may be useful, but one has to move forward. For the elections of 2014, there is a systematic attempt to dub BJP as a communal party and its leader Narendra Modi as a man with Muslim blood on his hands. The merits of what happened in Gujarat in 2002 have been deliberately obfuscated by the shrill voice of those who in the name of secularism would in fact communalise politics. In this rhetoric of hate, facts are glossed over or even deliberately ignored. It is loudly acclaimed that Modi is a monster and must be kept out of office because with his coming to power every Muslim would be unsafe. Therefore, mobilise and polarise Muslim votes so that collectively they can keep BJP out of power. For this purpose have a pact with Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Imam of Jama Masjid, who appears to be a complete Hindu baiter and has made a blatantly communal appeal to Muslims to vote for the Congress. Muslims, mind you, not citizens at large. The Congress, when appealing to the Muslims, has virtually stated that they should keep communal forces at bay by voting for the Congress. This means that all Muslims are secular and, ipso facto, all Hindus are communal. Add to this the kind of speeches being made by Congress candidate from Moradabad Imran Masood and Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan in U.P. Khan has gone to the extent of saying that the victory in Kargil was won by Muslim soldiers and that Hindu elements of the Indian Army were not instrumental for it. The one institution which prides itself on being above politics, caste and creed is sought to be thrown into the cauldron of communalism. Does it matter whether it was Hindu or Muslim troops who saved Kargil? It is the Indian Army which shed its blood for the country and that is what counts.

Those who are trying to communalise politics by polarising Muslim votes must realise the disservice which they are doing to India. The Hindu vote is almost impossible to polarise, which BJP has found to its cost. The Hindu votes according to party ideology, caste, region, even language. Collectively the Hindus do not form a monolithic vote bank. The very heterogeneity of Hindu society makes it highly resistant to polarisation. There is, however, an exception to this. So long as Muslims vote anti BJP, the Hindu is prepared to live with this. Even in the heyday of Mahatma Gandhi, not more than five percent of Muslims have voted for Congress. However, if in Hindu perception, the Muslims are seen to be united against Hindus as such, we are in grave danger of seeing this resulting in polarisation of at least a section of Hindu votes. If twenty percent of the Hindu voters decide that they will polarise, then a party allegedly pro Hindu would sweep to power. The present effort at treating at least a section of Hindus as communal bigots who will destroy the minorities is likely to rebound in that it may lead to a certain amount of polarisation of Hindu votes. This would not be a happy situation. The one bright light in this murky scenario is BJP’s refusal to respond to provocation and to stick to development with equity as its election platform.

The legitimacy of the BJP seeking power comes from the Constitution which mandates free and fair elections. The Election Commission of India is armed with sufficient powers to ensure that the BJP fights the election with a secular orientation. However, if the Congress, Samajwadi Party, etc., try and polarise Muslim votes, then the possibility of an equivalent and opposite polarisation of Hindu votes cannot be ruled out. In other words, without anyone asking or advocating it, if a certain amount of polarisation of Hindu votes takes place, it will be the Congress and the Samajwadi Party which will be wholly responsible for this. One fervently hopes that these parties will return to their senses and let the election be based on principles, ideology and peace for all.

The IC 410 Hijacking Case: A Shameful Example of the Congress’ Dangerous Contempt for the Rule of Law

Dr. A Surya Prakash, 
Distinguished Fellow, VIF

On December 20, 1978, Bhola Pandey of Azamgarh and his friend Devendar Pandey of Ballia hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC 410 from Lucknow to Delhi, soon after it took off from Lucknow.There were 132 passengers on board. The hijackers, who appeared to be armed, made several demands and forced the aircraft to land at Varanasi. They said they were members of the Youth Congress. They wanted Indira Gandhi to be released from jail; all criminal cases against her and Sanjay Gandhi to be withdrawn; and the Janata Party Government at the Centre to tender its resignation. They demanded that the authorities should convey “their regards” to Sanjay Gandhi and summon the Chief Minister of the state for talks. The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the Inspector General of Police and the Chief Secretary took a special flight to Varanasi and arrived at that airport soon after 1 a.m. the following morning, to negotiate the release of the passengers. The hijackers also demanded that arrangements be made for them to address a press conference at the airport lounge and that the Prime Minister and All India Radio should be informed of the hijacking.

Following protracted negotiations with the Chief Minister and senior state officials, the two hijackers released the passengers and surrendered. The hijacking incident created quite a stir in Parliament and the Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Mr.Purushottam Kaushik made a statement the following day and explained the sequence of events beginning with the hijack of the aircraft soon after it took off from Lucknow the previous day.1

That week was marked by large-scale violence in many states triggered by members of the Congress Party in protest against the arrest of Ms.Indira Gandhi in a breach of privilege case and her disqualification from Parliament on December 19. Tha Pandeys hijacked the plane on December 20 to protest against Parliament’s decision to punish Ms.Gandhi. On December 21, Congress mobs went to the extent of hurling bombs into the Calcutta residence of Mr.Samar Guha, the Chairman of the Committee of Privileges of the Lok Sabha, which had indicted Ms.Gandhi. Congress goons also went on the rampage in Bangalore and Hyderabad and targeted public property. Several persons were killed in these incidents. These violent incidents became the subject matter of an intense debate on December 23 in the Lok Sabha.

MPs belonging to other political parties condemned the hijacking and said that such trends smacked of fascist tendencies, which the Congress Party had in any case displayed in abundant measure during the dreaded Emergency imposed by Ms.Indira Gandhi for 19 months from June, 1975. However, leading lights of the Congress Party including Mr.R.Venkataraman, who later became President of India and Mr.Vasant Sathe, sought to rationalize the conduct of their party members and even tried to dismiss the hijacking incident as nothing more than a joke. They went to extraordinary lengths to defend Bhola Pandey and Devender Pandey when the Lok Sabha debated the incident. Their comments said a lot about the respect that the Congress Party had for Parliament and its committees. It showed that despite the humiliating defeat suffered by the party in the March, 1977 Lok Sabha election, when it was punished for imposing a dictatorship on India, it had learnt few lessons. The debate once again exposed the Congress mindset, its fascist inclinations and revealed a lot about the party’s respect for the rule of law.

Among those who stood up to defend the violence unleashed by the party was Congress veteran R.Venkataraman, who went so far as to talk about the right of every citizen to express dissent.”It is a lesson we have learnt from Gandhiji…..when in South Africa, he protested against discriminatory laws and courted imprisonment…..When Gandhiji broke the salt laws in the country for the purpose of agitating the peoples’ right to freedom , he exercised the right to dissent. Therefore, the people of the country feel that a certain punishment is out of proportion or is unwarranted (expulsion of Indira Gandhi from the Lok Sabha and her arrest) and they have a right to dissent and to take recourse to such things as to bring forth their point of view…..”.2

After this near shameful justification of country-wide violence, including the hijacking, Mr.Venkataraman claimed that the Congress Working Committee had passed a resolution condemning violence. However, “if in spite of it (the resolution), certain people take to certain measures, it is not because of the bidding, it is in spite of it”. Therefore, he claimed, the party was not to blame. He then went on to claim that “there are always recalcitrant and intransigent elements in every party. There are always extreme elements in every party and extreme elements cannot be shown or brought up as an argument for condemning the party as a whole”.3

This argument sounds hollow today because the Congress Party has rewarded the “recalcitrant and intransigent and extreme elements” with party tickets to contest not just the state assembly election in Uttar Pradesh but the Lok Sabha polls four times in a row! It shows that those who hijacked the aircraft in 1978 are deeply loved and respected by the Nehru-Gandhis and the Congress Party.

Finally, Mr.Venkataraman dismissed the hijacking as nothing more than a joke. He said when they first heard the news about the hijacking, there was great deal of anger in the country. “But, ultimately, when it turned out to be nothing more than a toy pistol and a cricket ball, Sir, it has become the joke of the year”. On hearing this, the Speaker said “fortunately” Mr.Venkataraman was not in that plane.4

Mr.Vasant Sathe, another senior parliamentarian in the Congress ranks, said at the outset that he was not justifying the conduct of the Pandeys but said he did not know how to describe the incident. Was it hijacking, skyjacking or skyjoking? According to him, it was “a prank by misguided young men” because they had deployed a cricket ball and a toy pistol.5

Mr.Janardhana Poojary blamed the ruling Janata Party government for the violence that culminated in the hijacking. He said there was an overwhelming sentiment across the country in favour of Ms.Gandhi and people were willing to sacrifice their lives and their property for her sake.

Lok Sabha records show that Mr.K.P.Unnikrishnan informed the House of the political connections and antecedents of the two Pandeys. He said they were closely connected with a confidant of Ms.Gandhi and were “very active” in the campaign to oust Mr.Bahuguna from the Chief Ministership of Uttar Pradesh.6

Mr.Yadvendra Dutta spoke of how members of the Congress Party were saying that “if Indiraji goes to jail, rivers of blood will flow”. The Congress had just a single point programme – “release the queen bee or the honey bees will die. Is this not sycophancy of the highest order?”7

Mr.Dutt compared the Congress Party’s tactics to “Hitlerian tactics”. He said the technique of a dictator is to bring the institutions of democracy into disparagement, disregard and disgrace” and all this one can see when Sanjay Gandhi is taken to court, followed by a howling mob which is abusing every court officer. He recalled that in Hitler’s time this is what happened in Germany. In the streets of Munich or Hamburg, jack-booted storm-troopers marched on the streets to give people the impression that democracy was useless. “And that is exactly what they (Congress Party) want to show…that Mrs.Gandhi and Shri Sanjay Gandhi are above the law and they are above everything. Nothing can be done against them except to worship them by garlanding. That is what they want to establish in this country”.8

Mr.Saugata Roy said Mr.Dharam Bir Sinha, a former MP was on the hijacked plane. He told him that the hijackers were dressed in khadi kurta and pyjama . They came out of the cockpit and addressed the passengers and told them why they were hijacking the plane. They said they wanted to focus the attention of the world to Ms.Gandhi’s arrest. “There may not have been specific instructions; but these young men had a specific purpose in mind – to demand the release of Mrs.Gandhi”. He said he heard from Varanasi that groups of Congress Party supporters went to the Varanasi airport that day and raised slogans like “Pandeyji ki jai”.9

Mr.P.G.Mavalankar, a member of the Committee of Privileges which found Ms.Gandhi guilty of breach of privilege of the House, said ‘there was ample proof of her guilt”. He did some plain speaking and said he was shocked to hear of the bomb attack on the house of Mr.Samar Guha, Chairman, Committee of Privileges. He said the House must stand as one and condemn this incident and build up public opinion against such behavior. He said neither Mr.Guha nor other members of the Committee of Privileges would be intimidated by such conduct. He said such protests were highly objectionable “as they lead to disruption, dislocation and sabotage” and we cannot tolerate it. He said some public decency and standards of morality had to be maintained in politics. Mr.Mavalankar was also amused at Mr.Venkataraman talking of the right of dissent in a democracy after Indira Gandhi had crushed dissent during the Emergency and jailed MPs who spoke against her in Parliament.10

Prime Minister Morarji Desai lambasted Mr.Venkataraman and other Congress MPs who were trying to down play the hijacking. He said it was fortunate that the incident did not end in a disaster.”If the pilots had lost their nerve, anything could have happened”. This was the gravity of the hijacking. He said he was pained to hear Mr.Venkataraman’s comment that the incident was a joke. “How was it a joke? Such a thing can never be defended, whether it was a toy pistol or whether a ball was presented as a bomb. How was it possible for the pilot to know that it was a toy pistol? They could not take a risk. If anything had happened, I do not know how many lives would have been lost”. He also referred to the large scale violence unleashed by the Congress Party in the country including the bomb attack on the house of the Chairman of the Committee of Privileges of the Lok Sabha; the violence in Karnataka and the attack on the house of another MP, Mr.Shejwalkar in Gwalior the previous night; and attempts to burn the office of the Janata Party in Delhi.11

The Congress hatched a plot to split the Janata Party in Parliament in 1979 and succeeded in doing so by weaning away Chaudhary Charan Singh and his followers. The Congress Party tempted him with prime ministership if he broke away with his MPs. It offered him support to form the government. These moves led to the fall of the Morarji Desai Government. Mr.Charan Singh was sworn in as Prime Minister by the President, but he never faced Parliament as Prime Minister because the Congress Party withdrew support before the next session and thus forced elections. Meanwhile, the Charan Singh Government, under pressure from the Congress Party, initiated the process to withdraw the case against the hijackers. The case against the two Pandeys was dropped.12

Thereafter, the Congress Party honoured both of them by giving them tickets in the 1980 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election. They were elected to the assembly. Devendra Nath Pandey too has held key posts in the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee apart from successfully contesting elections to the state assembly.13
Since then, Bhola Pandey has been a favourite of the Nehru-Gandhis and given tickets to contest Lok Sabha elections in 1999, 2004 and 2009. On all these occasions, he has been unsuccessful. Further, Bhola Pandey has had his brush with the law on several occasions since the hijacking. For example, he was arrested and remanded to judicial custody by a local court in Ballia in March, 2009 following a non-bailable warrant in an extortion case dating back to 1982. Though remanded to judicial custody, the magistrate permitted him to file his nomination papers for the Lok Sabha election.14

However, his clout with the Nehru-Gandhis is such that he has been once again given the ticket for the Salempur Lok Sabha seat in 2014! Who knows? Given their persistence, the Nehru-Gandhis may well succeed in their efforts to bring the man who hijacked a plane in 1978 into their ranks in Parliament!


  1. Lok Sabha Debates, December 21, 1978, Cols 331-335
  2. Lok Sabha Debates, December 23, 1978, Col 16
  3. Ibid, Col 17
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid, Col 41
  6. Ibid, Col 3
  7. Ibid, Col 37
  8. Ibid, Col 39
  9. Ibid, Col 47-48
  10. Ibid, Col 59-61
  11. Ibid, 107-108
  12. P. 124, Indian Airports (Shocking Ground Realities), Kishin R. Wadhwaney,Diamond Pocket Books, 2005
  13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bholanath_and_Devendra_Pandey
  14. http://zeenews.india.com/news/general-election/cong-candidate-from-salem...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Tongpal Maoist Attack: Time to Act Tough

Lt Gen (Retd) Gautam Banerjee, 
Executive Council, VIF

A Perpetual Cycle

On 11 March, in a repeat of many such narratives, a police ‘road opening’ patrol moving along the Sukma-Jagdalpur Highway in Chattisgarh found itself entrapped, inflicted with heavy casualties and nearly two dozen items of their weapons and communication sets looted before the attackers melted away unscathed. Thus, Tongpal is the latest in the chain of blood letting, preceded by Kuankonda Feb 2014 (Dantewara), Tandwa Dec 2013 (Aurangabad, Bihar), Pakur Jul 2013 (Santhal Pargana), Jheerum Ghati May 2013 (Sukma), Barha Dumania Oct 2012 (Gaya), Silda Camp Feb 2012 (Midnapur), Narayanpur (Jagdalpur) Jun 2010, Chintalnar May 2010 (Dantewara), Saranda (Jharkhand), Sundergarh (Gadchiroli, Maharashtra), Beliamela (Malkangiri, Odisha), ..... , the list is endless as one goes back in time.

This is the latest among a stream of outrageous incidents which have become an ever incessant slander that the nation’s conscience is subjected to, and another rudely administered affront for those among the nation’s leaders, who cannot avoid having to make a show of breast-beating, and having fulfilled that obligation, get on with their routine of the mundane. Thus, the state’s reaction, in keeping with its Hippocratic subterfuge, was emphatic: it “condemned” the “brutal killings” and thundered the earth shaking verdict, “violence will not be tolerated!. Apparently, it is hoped that the Maoist insurgents have been severely chastised thus – till they choose to strike again.

Not to be left behind, many papers published articles which after summarising the incident, went on for the nth reiteration of the follies the dead policemen had apparently undertaken to commit. Meanwhile, the class of ‘high priests’ ensconced in the Government establishment continue to attend to their foremost engagement – procrastinating and nurturing own turf – while fumbling through organised police martyrdom.

The Situation

During the past two years, the State Government has undertaken to re-establish its presence in areas which had been taken over by the Maoists. Accordingly, strengthened police posts (one company plus or two company size Operating Bases – COPs) have been established at key locations to deny free run of the insurgents. Policing is carried out by contingents made up of a company of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) personnel, a platoon or so from the State’s armed constabulary battalions and a few of the district police personnel who are vested with police powers of arrest and investigation. From the ‘grid’ of bases, patrols are sent out to dominate road axes and settlements located in the intervening spaces. Forays into the forested hills stretching yonder are launched but once in a while for which additional forces are built up, guides and informers arranged and helicopters deployed. During these operations, the insurgents abandon their hideouts, only to return once the forces have passed over. Even then, these operations have much value in terms of terrain familiarisation, training and confidence building, besides showing the Maoists their place.

Not having the confidence of engaging in frontal confrontation with these forces, the Maoists are constrained to keep off the police beat. That dilutes their ‘rule’ over their domain besides affecting their ‘levy collection’. Thus they find this ‘intrusion’ of the ‘anti-proletariat enemy’ into the areas that had been heretofore under their control, as an act of bourgeois hostility. That in the coming days the Government has it in its mind to extend such intrusions deeper into their ‘liberated’ areas, makes their future even more threatened. Obviously therefore, Maoist insurgents find it compelling to contest the intrusion and so protect their ‘revolution’. Thus in line with Mao Zedong’s teachings to keep the ‘enemy’ on the tenterhook, leaders of the insurgency remain ever on the lookout for an opportunity to hit hard, kill policemen and loot their weapons and ammunition – before scooting from the scene to the safety of their jungle camps. In this they are encouraged by the fact that in no instance ever, the police have been able to react and decimate the attackers by immediate counter-action.

Here it may also be pointed out that during the past two years or so, a number of deliberate counter-Maoist operations have been undertaken jointly by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the State armed police battalions like the ‘Greyhound’ of Andhra Pradesh, ‘C 60’ of Maharashtra, ‘Jaguar’ of Jharkhand, etc. In half a dozen or so such operations, the insurgents have been worsted. But the frequency of such successful operations is not enough to make a mark.

A Road to Death

The Sukma-Jagdalpur area in the southern part of the State of Chattisgarh is situated astride the Indravati and Sabri River Valleys which form part of the Godavari River Basin; besides, there are numerous perennial and seasonal streams. The Kangar Reserve Forest spreads between the Sukma township to its South and Jagdalpur town to its North, the latter being an old and well established town situated amongst lakes, streams and a rich reservoir of rare minerals. The forest is interspersed with settlements few and far between and the vegetation varies between thick to moderate in patches, the stretches astride the road generally having sparse cover. This is a remote region, undeveloped in terms of surface communication, and having been left out of the state’s contention, lies enclosed within a Maoist dominated perimeter that is bounded by Narayanpur and Amravati Ranges to the North, Raigada and Koraput to the East, Malkangiri to the South and Bijapur to the West, Jagdalpur being at its middle - presently the hottest ‘Red’ area, so to say. Incidentally, the Maoist ambush of the political convoy at the Jheerum Ghati (Darba) on the Sukma-Jagdalpur Highway in May 2013 had taken place just 13 odd kilometres to the North of Tongpal village, the site of the latest attack. That spot however is on a hilly, winding and thickly forested stretch of the road – an ideal site for ambush. That is not the case in this instance.

The highway – a road actually - connecting the neighbouring district headquarters of Sukma and Jagdalpur cuts through the Kangar Reserve Forest to connect the townships of Sukma and Jagdalpur. Tongpal is a village situated 43 kilometres North of Sukma astride the road to Jagdalpur which is further 52 kilometres to the North. The road has been resurfaced recently under the ‘Special Infrastructure Scheme’. An armed contingent of 30 CRPF and 14 State armed police personnel had taken off to ‘open’ this road to reach a spot North of Tongpal village where the Maoists had burnt down some lorries for non-payment of ‘levy’. The village is bounded on its North, West and South by the Kangar Reserve Forest. The forest astride the road has sparse to moderate vegetation density, mostly the former, so much so that the forest perimeter is mostly distinguishable not by dense tree-lines, but by cultivations on its fringes. As Tongpal is approached, the road enters into the forest area, then emerges from it into the Tongpal settlement, and after four odd kilometres enters into a thicker and uninhabited part of the Reserve Forest till it flows into the Jagdalpur plains, 30 kilometres away.

The incident followed what is by now a more or less formally scripted sequence of events. As the patrol passed by a moderately closed stretch of the road to walk into a sparsely wooded one, insurgents hidden behind trees on either flank let loose a hail of fire on the column. This stretch has sparse vegetation on its East while there are cultivations on its West. There is a canal about 100-150 metres to the West of the fields, beyond which a stream flows a further 200-500 metres to the West. Thus, while the attackers could use the cover of clump of trees on either flank to take the patrol by surprise, open fields, the canal and the stream running alongside the road exacerbated the patrol’s vulnerability. Thus caught on the open road and exposed by the clearing around, the patrol could do little beyond firing back and run to take what cover they could find from ground undulations. While the troopers fired back and withdrew, 15 including one civilian of the party of 44 were killed and 20 odd escaped with injuries. Twenty odd weapons and radio sets were looted, besides of course the watches, money etc., before the attackers melted away unhindered and untraced – once again.

Noticeable Matters

The purpose of describing the terrain and the incident in some details is to examine certain matters which have to be taken serious cognisance of. The purpose is to discuss the measures to avoid such one-sided massacres of the state’s forces at the hands of Maoist anti-nationals, till the time the state is fully geared up to take the war to their sanctuaries.

The matters to be taken note of are:-
  • It is known that the ‘liberated zone’ in contention is the heart-land of insurgency. Denied control over this area, particularly over the road, the Maoist insurgents are on the lookout for an opportunity to strike back at the police forces.
  • It is known that a good part of the Sukma-Jagdalpur Road is prone to ambush from either flank. Unlike the ideal ambush site of Jheerum Ghati, the location of Tongpal attack may not be a text-book ambush site. Yet, the stretch is constricted by the canal and the stream, while the flanks, with cultivations and sparse tree cover, afford least protection from fire. Obviously, the patrol leader was outwitted by the Maoist leader.
  • On either flank of the road, the tree density is not so much as to blind the tactical visibility. Reportedly, moments before the fire-attack was delivered, some policemen saw movements of green uniform clad figures hiding behind tree trunks. Trained to avoid marching on road surfaces and to adhere to the field-craft of fanning out on either flank, the patrol did not pay heed to their teachings. Had the appropriate formation of tactical move been adopted, there was little chance of the patrol getting ensnared.
  • Once under fire-attack, members of the patrol opted to flee to safety, firing back not to retaliate, but to save themselves. Fourteen personnel were killed and 18 weapons, besides radio sets etc., were looted by the insurgents. Apparently, some of the injured personnel had abandoned their weapons before escaping to safety. Aggressive counter-action was absent.
  • The insurgents had adequate time to collect weapons, ammunition etc. before marching away in good order. May be they had their own casualties, but they had ample time to carry them off on their shoulders. Such impunity is an usual narrative.
Right Questions

It is the usual practice to eulogise the martyrs while whispering attribution of the tactical blunders to the dead and barely surviving policemen. There would be a cursory investigation, followed by its reiteration in teaching manuals, and then the case will be closed. The debilitating weaknesses, like the state’s capability to induct forces, track and trail the insurgents, box them in from exterior fringes and intercept them to administer retribution, would remain in void; during the entire course of two decade long insurgency, there has been no instance of infliction of swift punishment upon the attackers. Uncontested so far, the insurgents have no fear, no dent in their motivation. It is therefore not surprising that one sided massacres continue with sickening frequency. Maoist insurgency thrives thus.

Rather than just ascribing the mistakes to the dead and nearly dead, the right questions to ask may be:-
  • Are all the personnel the right material for imbibing the training on counter-insurgency? Many times, the manner of tactical action-reaction raises concern as to whether there are many in the CAPF who are unsuited for counter-insurgency training and deployment.
  • Should not the leadership selection policies be included in the scheme for modernisation of police forces? There are valid reasons to examine the suitability of the present policy on deputing officers to counter-insurgency forces at company, battalion and direction levels.
  • As to whether the present structure of the CAPF is optimally tailored to counter-insurgency role, there may be case to examine if an armed police force dedicated to a plethora of law and order roles is readily morphed into a counter-insurgency force.
Larger Issues

As pointed out, the mishap was followed by the standard responses: show of injured indignation from political leaders and dead-pan comments from officials regarding the coming dispensation of more manpower, equipment, training facilities and of course, higher posts. May be, that is a political compulsion to avoid despondency among the populace and bide time while the state is engaged in the time consuming process of capacity building. But even then, enforcement of remedial measures against the core causes of mishaps must be the top priority. If that requires calling to account those at the top who might have faltered on their responsibility and strict ingraining of tactical discipline into the rank and file - notoriously recalcitrant as these are known to be – so be it. Conversely, the inertness of the state-apparatus makes it most challenging to close the chasm between the following three imperatives of the counter-insurgency mandate:-
  • One, a serious resolve of controlling the insurgency;
  • Two, committal of resources to build up the capacity to do so; and,
  • Three, deliberate planning and effective implementation of the intended strategy.
The truth of the matter is that: one, the intent of controlling the Maoist insurgency remains diluted by vested interests of the political and bureaucratic classes; two, the Centre as well as State Governments do not yet have the required wherewithal at hand to defeat the insurgency within a short period; and three, the political and the police hierarchy is still hopeful that the strategy of postponement, delay, and stoicism, mixed with adoption of incremental measures would be enough to dismantle the Maoist rebellion.
Indeed, in terms of departmental structures, trained manpower and monitoring mechanisms, the States do not possess adequate capability either for execution of the required range of development works or deployment for the full measure of police actions, not even to deliver good governance across the vast expanse of Maoist affected landmass. No doubt, efforts towards the state’s capacity building is at hand, but it will take a long time to build up the right wherewithal, the challenges being in terms of time, budgetary support and lack of basic infrastructure in the undeveloped areas.

Counter-insurgency operations have to grow out of a concept, which in turn must lead to institution of preparatory measures in terms of organisation, tactics, equipment and procedures. This is to be followed up with integration of these assets through test-exercises and then fielding the capability through intimately led and supervised execution. Admittedly, after weaning themselves away from the banal idea that the Maoist insurgency was just a law-and-order problem, the Central and State Governments have instituted many concrete measures towards that process. However, it is evident that the effort is not backed up with the depth of resolve that it warrants. For example, the concept of Unified Headquarters stands vilified by personal ego and turf competition, the intelligence apparatus continues to be afflicted by disorientation and enforcement of operating procedures, posting policies, provisioning for weapons and equipment and the tenets of field craft are treated as mundane, not as exigencies. As a result, even after the elapse of five years from the time the States resolved to institute serious counter-insurgency measures, a situation when the full measure of development work and police action may synchronise to banish the insurgency is yet far away.

Balancing Intent to Ability

One sided mass murder of the state’s law enforcement arm, again and again, with assured impunity of the outlaws, is a condition of abject helplessness that shows the nation in poor light. It encourages the external merchants of proxy war and motivates intransigence among the native rogues. It may therefore be a better option to hold back on the urge for express reclamation of state’s control over areas captured by the Maoist insurgents till the requisite capacity to dominate various areas is acquired over time. Meanwhile, deployment of ‘grid’ or operating bases may be reviewed and the vulnerable ones either strengthened or withdrawn.

Similarly, road or area clearance operations may be organised with overwhelming force that operates in parallel and co-ordinated columns, as indeed it has been successfully done on many occasions before. If that necessitates placing limits on the launch of operations, that may be acceptable as a temporary expediency.

The Tongpal incident provokes certain concerns for the nth time. These are :-
  • One, committed enforcement of field-craft and minor tactics. This requires ingraining troops with the right habits, and may be achieved only through strict discipline and aggressive troop leadership. Sadly, that is not the case with the police forces across-the-board. Thus, there is a need to select personnel more carefully and nurture a breed of troop leaders who possess aggressive ethos and tactical wit.
  • Two, priority build up of the ability to track, trail, trap and swiftly counter-act against Maoist attacks. Even if the insurgents fleeing after ambush may escape interception, the threat itself - which being absent today fuels Maoist arrogance - would limit their options. Being multi-unit and combined-resource operations, such operations can succeed only if led by those middle and top level officers who have grown up in the troops’ environment rather than the ‘all-in one’ types.
  • Three, resuscitation of the State intelligence apparatus. Selection of the right personnel and implant of the long defunct grass-roots information network is needed for that purpose.

As the benediction awaits, it may be wise to tailor the state’s urge of reclaiming control over Maoist affected areas according to its capabilities to do so. It is not wise for the state to be on the losing end of armed confrontations - always.