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Challenges & Responses to Conflictual Politics

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Vigil and violence-Anupama Katakam

Posted by admin On August - 29 - 2016 Comments Off on Vigil and violence-Anupama Katakam


Aggressive groups of vigilantes have taken upon themselves the task of saving ‘gau mata’, particularly in BJP-ruled States, and often at the receiving end are Dalits who make a living out of skinning dead cows. Naturally there has been a steep rise in crimes against Dalits, and the authorities show a marked unwillingness to act. A round-up of the situation in some key States.

THE July 11 stripping and thrashing of four Dalit boys at Una village in Saurashtra, Gujarat, by a bunch of self-styled cow protectors, or gau rakshaks, for skinning a dead cow has provoked a movement in Gujarat of a scale never before seen in the State. Dalits in Gujarat, who account for about 8 per cent of the State’s population, have been long used to discrimination, segregation and even violence. Observers say the Una incident served as a tipping point to bring out old resentments at routine injustices.

At least seven suicide attempts followed the Una beating, and one of these turned fatal. Strong statements of Dalit assertion were also made through the dumping of cow carcasses outside government offices.

The strongest statement has come in the form of a 350-kilometre, 10-day rally from Ahmedabad to Una. Called the Azadi Kooch (March for Freedom), the march has Dalit organisations united under the umbrella group Una Dalit Atyachar Ladit Samiti walking from Ahmedabad to Una. It started on August 5 and is moving through villages to end at Una on Independence Day. The message that it carries is this: Dalits should no longer take on work such as collecting and skinning cows for paltry sums, clean toilets or do manual scavenging. They should not any longer feel inferior to the so-called upper castes. The march, led by the committed duo Jignesh Mevani and Subodh Parmar, has been gaining hundreds of followers on its way.

On August 5, some 15,000 Dalits gathered in Ahmedabad to start the march. It was a significant turnout. Thousands are expected to reach Una on August 15. Mevani pointed out that the agitation was not backed by political groups or leaders.
“The current movement is being built by the youth of the community. The resentment and anger has been simmering for some time. It is time to release it and we will do it in a peaceful yet assertive way,” he said. “We want to reach the rural areas where the problems are harsh and where the most downtrodden live. We want to show them we are not doing this for political gains but for the community.”

The demands of the movement focus on alternative livelihood options, reservation for Dalits, allotment of land for Dalit families, and a strong legal framework to fight atrocities and increase the conviction rate in crimes against Dalits. It also demands a total end to manual scavenging.

Frontline found the rally gaining in momentum when it caught up with the protesters at Dhanduka village on the Ahmedabad-Rajkot highway. “Fundamentally wrong things are happening. We have to spread the message that Dalits are as much citizens of this country as the upper castes,” said Abhishek Parmar, a 20-year-old college student from Ahmedabad. “Unfortunately, Dalits have a weak political leadership. It is up to us to make fundamental changes that will take us out of this backwardness. We need social and economic improvement.”

Kamlesh Rashmiya is a daily wage earner from Dhanduka who has given up 10 days of work to join the rally. “We have no dignity. They keep trying to suppress us. This is no life,” he said. “We have to fight for our rights. It is up to us to help the community and I believe it is worth giving up work for this movement.”

According to activists involved in organising the rally, notwithstanding the massive turnout in Ahmedabad, the real show of strength has come from the villages, where there are always between 70 and 100 people attending the meetings. “The Dalit population averages 7 to 8 per cent in Gujarat. Which means if there are 1,000 people in a village and 70-80 Dalits show up, it is a good representation,” said Subodh Parmar. “We have realised it is critical to work at the rural level, as it is here that we are stuck. It is the 21st century. People are going to the moon, but we are still fighting battles over drawing water from someone else’s well.”

The slogans at the march are simple and powerful. Mevani has coined a phrase that particularly stands out and seems to have grabbed the media’s attention: “Gai ki loom aap rakho; hume humari zameen do” (You may keep the cow’s tail; give us our land).

Among other slogans are “Hame chahiya azadi, hame chahiya zameen” (Give us our freedom, give us our land) and “Aadi roti khao, lekhen Una jayenge hum” (We will eat half a roti but we will go to Una). The gatherings are not large, but they are not small either. It is obvious that the participants have made an effort to make it to the meeting. Many of them said that it was hard to give up precious time from daily wage jobs but they knew it was important. Bipin Solanki, an elderly farm labourer from Dhanduka, said: “The time has come to make changes. The politicians will not do anything. Hopefully, Jignesh and his team can do it.”
Two notable things emerged in the weeks following the Una incident. Young Dalit people have displayed remarkable solidarity and a degree of assertion not seen before in Gujarat. The other thing is the use of social media. Distrustful of the mainstream media, Dalit protesters have taken to social media to spread word about their movement. Much of the anger on display now is the result of simmering resentments at the upsurge in atrocities against Dalits and the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators. The conviction rate is as low as 3 per cent in Gujarat in cases of atrocities against Dalits. In 2015, Gujarat reported the highest crime rate against Dalits (6,655 cases), followed by Chhattisgarh (3,008 cases) and Rajasthan (7,144 cases). The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports that there were 1,130 cases of crimes against the Scheduled Castes (S.Cs) in 2014 in Gujarat. Activists point out that this means at least three cases of atrocities a day.

Mevani said: “I think something just snapped post-Una. We had had enough. Our young Dalit boys are not willing to be put down by caste and be oppressed any longer.” Speaking to Frontline about the need for an uprising, he said: “We have to go beyond Una. We have to demand social and economic justice. Land is critical to our emancipation. When one reads Ambedkar and Marx in the context of atrocities, land reforms emerge as the key issue. In India, land determines the caste.”

He believes that lower caste men like the ones assaulted at Una would not have had to skin dead cows for a living if they had their rightful land. “This campaign is not made up of rhetoric. It has to be about the current problems and solutions. We have to break the caste system and the Brahminical hold,” he said. Recalling how the demands of the Patels had been accommodated, he said that the Dalit movement would be taken to a more advanced stage if its demands were not heeded. “We plan to stage rail rokos and other non-violent means of protest,” he said.

The Patels had benefited from land reforms in the pre-Independence period and evolved into a highly successful farming community and, later, also an entrepreneurial one. Dalits might have gone the same way. Mevani said that the caste system was so deep-rooted in Gujarat that nothing was done for Dalits even if they were a potential vote bank.

Mevani, who owes allegiance to the Aam Aadmi Party, is a 35-year-old law graduate who worked as a journalist and later with the Jan Sangh Manch under the late lawyer and activist Mukul Sinha. As a Dalit, he has been exposed to the community’s problems. It was after he toured Saurashtra with the activist Bharat Zala in 2013, when the region was witnessing a spurt of farmers’ suicides, that he realised that it was time to act. Ever since, he has been fighting for Dalit land rights.

Andhra Pradesh
Kunal Shankar
“BELTS, bags, and leather products, we introduced them to the world. The leather industry of this country runs because of us, Dalits. We put India’s leather industry on the world map. And yet, we have suffered immense violence. This has to end now. This injustice has to stop,” said an angry and distraught Chittibabu Mokati after his father and uncle were beaten to pulp by a higher-caste mob on the intervening night of August 8 and 9 at Amalapuram in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district. The mob falsely accused Elisha Mokati, 57, and his cousin, Venkateshwar Rao, 52, of killing a cow owned by one of the villagers.

A crowd of about 100 villagers cornered Elisha and Venkateshwar at 11:30 p.m. on August 8 while they were skinning a dead cow at a cremation ground at the edge of Sudapalem. Sudapalem is the upper-caste Kapu settlement of Amalapuram, which is the largest village in the mandal by the same name. Men and women used derogatory caste slurs and taunted the two men and beat them until Elisha’s right eyebrow tore and Venkateshwar lost hearing in his left ear. They beat them with sticks, pelted them with stones, and threw garbage at them. Then they tied them to a “coconut tree and beat them indiscriminately with stones and sticks and humiliated them in public view by abusing them by their caste name”, said the first information report that was filed after Elisha managed to give a police complaint in his battered state around 1 a.m. on August 9.

At 5 p.m. earlier that day, Elisha had received a call from Aravind Boragaiala, who owns a sawmill at Amalapuram. One of his cows was electrocuted that afternoon by a live power line lying in his fields. He wanted Elisha to remove the carcass. Aravind and Elisha have known each other from childhood. While Aravind belongs to the landed Kapu caste, Elisha is a Madiga Dalit. Elisha performs a range of services, as his community has done for generations, which include removing carcasses, skinning them for their hide and selling the meat. Elisha could not do the job immediately as he had to arrange for transport, and because, when he received the call, he was attending a family function of an acquaintance near Janakipeta Colony, the Dalit neighbourhood of Amalapuram.

It was 8:30 p.m. when Elisha could arrange for an autorickshaw. He and three of his family bundled the carcass into the auto and drove to the cremation ground. Chittibabu, who helped load the carcass, did not accompany his father to the cremation ground. He went there, however, when his father was not home past midnight and found that his father and relative had been beaten up. According to Chittibabu, the only reason the mob did not beat the two men to death was that the police arrived an hour into the violence. The auto driver who helped them to transport the carcass called the police after failing to placate the mob. The police, initially hostile towards the Dalit men, confiscated their phones. They confiscated Chittibabu’s phone as well and did not return it until local Madiga political leaders intervened later in the night.
Violence against Dalits is not uncommon in Andhra Pradesh. Most often it goes unreported out of fear of reprisals and because the police rarely book cases under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. But such incidents have become far more frequent since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in New Delhi.

Amalapuram happens to be a reserved Assembly constituency and is represented by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which wrested the seat from the Congress in the 2014 Assembly election. Over one-third of the mandal’s population is Dalit. But this did not deter the higher castes, mainly led by Kapus, from beating up Elisha and Venkateshwar.

The police denied any political involvement in the incident and called it a “misunderstanding”. But why did Sudapalem’s residents suddenly attack Dalits who have been skinning cows at the neighbourhood cremation ground for several generations? Why did anyone in the crowd not just dial Elisha’s Kapu acquaintance from whom he had procured the carcass, despite his repeated offer of his phone number? Why would the villagers not look into their own backyards first to see if any one of their cows was missing?

Recent developments in the State’s caste politics could hold the answer. Kapus form 27 per cent of its population, thus forming a vote bank that the ruling TDP can ill afford to overlook. They also have prominent leaders across party lines, such as the Congress Member of Parliament and former Union Human Resource Development Minister Pallam Raju, and actor Chiranjeevi, whose foray into politics was accompanied with his own short-lived political outfit, the Praja Rajyam Party. Kapus are particularly dominant in East and West Godavari districts, but they have not been the traditional vote base of the TDP. This is because of their long-standing rivalry with Kammas, the caste to which Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu belongs. They have largely voted for the Congress in the past, but in 2014 they overwhelmingly voted for the TDP. They blamed the Congress for the creation of Telangana and saw it as a betrayal.

Chandrababu Naidu made an election promise to include the community in the Other Backward Classes list. Telangana has included Munnuru Kapus, a sub-caste which a sizeable population in the State in the OBC list, but Chandrababu Naidu has not delivered on his promise. This led to massive protests in January this year and it has considerably eroded Chandrababu Naidu’s base among Kapus. Sensing a political opportunity, almost all opposition parties have been fervently courting Kapu support. Both the YSR Congress Party and the Congress have backed the Kapus’ reservation demand.
Both Elisha and Venkateshwar were admitted to Amalapuram’s government hospital soon after their August 9 police complaint. Leaders of the entire political opposition of the State visited them and offered support within 24 hours, but the TDP and its ally, the BJP, stayed away. There was no word from the Chief Minister on the incident for over 48 hours. Speaking to Frontline, the MLA of Amalapuram, Aithabathula Anand Rao, a Dalit from the ruling party, said Chandrababu Naidu was aware of the situation but wished to gather more information before making a statement.

The police have named eight people as accused on the basis of information given by a resident of Sudapalem village, Srinivasa Rao, who had been urged to file a complaint of missing cows. All have been booked under various sections of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Some have been apprehended.

Uttar Pradesh
Venkitesh Ramakrishnan & Divya Trivedi

SUNIL SINGH, 37, the Uttar Pradesh president of the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV), the cow vigilante group with the proclaimed objective of “rashtra raksha, Hindu raksha and gau raksha” (save the state, save Hindus and save the cow”), is unfazed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statements against gau rakshaks and their assaults on Dalits. A close associate of Yogi Adityanath, the BJP MP from Gorakhpur and founder of the HYV, Sunil told Frontline that such comments would not make any difference for organisations like the HYV and committed gau rakshaks like himself who would continue their campaign as vigorously as ever.

Sunil Singh’s operational headquarters is at Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh. The HYV has been pursuing its stated objectives aggressively over the past 14 years and its activists, including Sunil Singh, are accused in close to 200 cases involving rioting, premeditated assaults and the spread of communal disharmony. Sunil Singh, who is booked in 76 cases that are at various levels of investigation and judicial scrutiny, says proudly that some 20 cases were caused by the HYV’s aggressive action against “cow traffickers”. The Prime Minister’s statements were targeted only at criminals masquerading as gau rakshaks and not at all gau rakshaks, he said.
Developments in Uttar Pradesh in the first two weeks of August 2016 made it clear that there were scores of Hindutva outfits like the HYV and hundreds of activists like Sunil Singh who were interpreting Modi’s comments in this way. Field reports of the State Home Department between August 6 and 9 show as many as 12 “gau raksha” attacks in four days. A senior official observed that assaults on people and vehicles transporting cows had been reported in recent times even from places that had never before witnessed incidents of this type. Among the areas in which cow vigilantism has intensified recently is Kannauj, represented by the Samajwadi Party’s Dimple Yadav, who is Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s wife. Cow vigilante attacks are common in parts of western Uttar Pradesh, particularly in areas like Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, which saw much communal violence in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Government field reports of early August, however, recorded attacks even from Basti and Ballia in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Mainpuri in central Uttar Pradesh and Jalaun in Bundelkhand.

Intimidation of and attacks on Dalits who dispose of and clean cow carcasses were reported from the outskirts of Lucknow. According to these reports, gau rakshaks thrashed two Dalits in Lucknow’s Takrohi area in the last week of July, accusing them of cow slaughter. Dalits who traditionally dispose of and clean cattle carcasses then complained to their employers and also to the Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC). The LMC and the State government promptly arranged for security for staff involved in lifting and skinning carcasses. Steps to issue photo identity cards to contractual workers engaged in these duties have also been initiated, said an LMC official.

Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav pointed out that the BJP and its associates in the Sangh Parivar pursued a special brand of “cow politics” aimed at creating differences and communal polarisation in society. Talking to Frontline, he added that at present such machinations were intensified in Uttar Pradesh for obvious political reasons. “These so-called gau rakshaks have no real interest in cows. The State government is determined to take on the perpetrators sternly,” he said.

Sunil Singh told Frontline that the work of the gau rakshaks had created a social climate in which cow traffickers and other anti-Hindu forces were scared. “The HYV’s activities have been so effective in Gorakhpur and adjoining areas that the organisation did not have to launch any major operation in the last three months,” he said.

Indeed, it is a sense of fear that such outfits and their political mentors wish to create, especially among minority communities. It emerged from discussions with several Sangh Parivar activists that Hindutva forces expected such activities to provide a suitable launch pad for the BJP in the forthcoming Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh. The symbolism of the cow is useful in building up a Hindutva plank, especially after the electoral drubbing that the BJP got in 2015 in Bihar, where the cow issue was forcefully taken up only in the last phase of polling.
The campaign did not result in political gains for the BJP in Bihar. There seems to be a feeling in the Sangh Parivar that not foregrounding the cow as a political symbol was an important factor in the BJP’s rout by the Grand Alliance in Bihar. There is also obviously a resolve not to make the same mistake in Uttar Pradesh.

At Shamli in western Uttar Pradesh, the construction of a swanky new gaushala, to be fitted with air-conditioners, is in full swing. With a capacity of 450 cows, and an approximate investment of Rs.4.5 crore, it is spread over four acres (1 acre=0.4 hectare). “When gau rakshaks catch vans transporting cows, there is no place to take them. The new gaushala is expected to fill that gap,” said Ajay Sandal, patron and district coordinator for the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) in Shamli. The huge sum of money is all through donations by local people, according to Sandal. Shree Gaushala Sabha, Shamli, established in 1904, is overburdened with 388 cows (native and foreign breed). Capacity building is on in all three gaushalas of the district, in Shamli, Kairana and Jalalabad, to house more strays since the Gau Raksha Andolan of the Sangh began. There are an estimated 500 strays in the district, according to Sandal, and through distribution of pamphlets and use of informal networks, information is being sought on stray cows that can be brought to the gaushalas.

Sandal hopes to emulate the Haryana model of gaushalas that have expanded under the Manohar Lal Khattar government. “I visited more than 10 gaushalas there in Karnal and Panipat. The State government is supporting and funding the initiative unlike the pro-Muslim Samajwadi Party government here. Ramdev has a 1,000-acre gaushala some 20 kilometres from his Patanjali ashram. It was all very impressive,” he told Frontline.

As compared to the desi cow, which yields six or seven kg of milk a day for six to seven years in a lifespan of close to 14 years, the foreign breeds HF (Holstein Friesian) and Jersey produce three times the milk for at least 15 years. For the past two years, the National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal, has been trying to increase the yield of milch cows and also their productive years. The RSS’ Gau Seva wing is trying to dissuade people from consuming milk produced by foreign breeds by stating that milk from foreign cows leads to illnesses like cancer. (Experts in the field say this belief is shaky at best.) The Sanghis, therefore, term only a desi cow as gau dhan or cow wealth. “While the desi cow’s calf takes 2.5 years before it is ready to yield milk, the foreign calf is ready in less than 12 months. This high level of hormonal growth is the reason Indian children are growing up too fast nowadays,” said Sandal.

Efforts are on to cross-breed the foreign-breed cows and convert them to desi in three years’ time. Seeds for the purpose are now available in Meerut and Karnal. But will farmers agree to switch from foreign to desi breeds, given the difference in milk yield? “We will tell them how illness spreads from foreign cows. Simple,” said Sandal. He said the Kamdhenu Yojana of the Akhilesh Yadav government was a failure as it used foreign cows. “He tried to copy the Haryana model, but it does not work as it is not for desi cows. He did it only with the aim of employment generation.”
The overwhelming stereotype of the Muslim Qureshi community in the region is that they all butcher cows. Frontline sat down with 10-15 community members in Shamli to further understand the chain. They did not want their names to be mentioned. According to them, people from all castes and religions form some part of the chain. The farmers hail from all castes (Jat, Kashyap, Harijan, Sharma, Brahmin, and so on), and they sell cattle to suppliers or buyers who also hail from all religions (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and so on) and transport them to the Wednesday mela held in three places in Shamli: Dabedi near Budhana for cows, Shamli and Banat for buffaloes. Buyers from as far as Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan visit the melas to make purchases. From the mela, the cattle are taken to slaughterhouses or for farming or for other uses, depending on their condition.

Instances of violence relating to cow vigilantism have become a regular affair in western Uttar Pradesh. When the Muslims of Shamli heard that a journalist had come, several of them arrived to give their testimonies, expressing a fervent hope that it would help stop the harassment.

Trucks with any form of cattle, be it milch cows, buffaloes, calves or oxen, are stopped randomly by gau rakshaks and money is extorted in lieu of safe passage. If money is not given, violence takes place. As recently as August 2, several trucks of buffaloes were stopped at Bijli Bamba Chowk on Hapur Road in Meerut by a crowd of 40 or 50 vigilantes. Ten days earlier, the same vigilantes took more than Rs.20,000 from a group of trucks.

T.K. Rajalakshmi

IN December 2013, the BJP formed the government in Rajasthan with a whopping majority, reducing the Congress tally to below 50 in the 200-strong Assembly. As committed in its manifesto, it amended its cow protection and anti-cow slaughter Act in September 2015 to allow the seizure of vehicles transporting cows and arrest of people suspected of smuggling cows for slaughter. It also created a dedicated Ministry for the cow and its progeny, the only one of its kind in the entire country. The amended Act replaced the Rajasthan Bovine Animal Act (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export), 1995.

A year earlier, in June 2014, it declared the camel as the State animal owing to the dwindling numbers. In March 2015, the State Assembly passed the Rajasthan Camel (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration of Export) Bill, making even causing injury to a camel punishable. The two laws appeared to exemplify the State government’s commitment to animals.
They were broadly in keeping with the BJP and the Sangh Parivar’s projected affinity to the cow as opposed to the attitudes of “other” communities and political parties that did not consider the animal and its progeny as sacred in equal measure. So when over close to a thousand cows were reported to have died at the gaushala in Hingonia, run by the government and managed by the Jaipur Corporation since July, the gap between the projected commitment and the ground realities became much too evident.

The gaushala at Hingonia, located some 25 km from Jaipur, drew headlines as reports poured in of bovine deaths by the thousands. The exact toll is still unknown, and the matter came to light quite accidentally. A workers’ strike since July 21 for non-payment of wages had apparently led to the neglect of the animals, causing their deaths. But the 266 workers, who were mostly engaged in menial jobs of cleaning the area and feeding the animals at very low wages, were not the only people responsible for the deaths. The Jaipur Municipal Corporation had outsourced the work to a contractor and he failed to pay the workers. As the majority of the councillors belonged to the BJP, it was difficult to pin the responsibility on the opposition.

The Mayor, too, was a political nominee of the ruling party. The BJP, it was clear, had no one to blame but itself for the cattle deaths. It was said that privately run gaushalas were far better off than the State-run one at Hingonia. As pictures and videos of the dead animals began piling up, no one seemed interested in fixing accountability. Two officials were suspended while the Minister in charge of cow welfare, Otaram Devasi, claimed that it was the local urban body’s concern and not his Ministry’s. The BJP did not set up an inquiry into the reported deaths. The neglect was all the more surprising as the matter pertaining to the gaushala was being heard at the High Court since 2010. The Congress, meanwhile, organised a protest from a popular Hindu shrine, the symbolism of which did not go unnoticed. Pradesh Congress Committee president Sachin Pilot told Frontline that the Prime Minister’s statements pulling up gau rakshaks had come a little too late. “He is saying that to undo the damage. Why are all these incidents happening in BJP-ruled States? Clearly, there is silent approval from the top. From chai pe charcha, it has become a case of gai pe charcha,” he told Frontline.

The cow and the keeper

The cattle deaths exposed another little known fact about the gaushala. Workers who lived in the sprawling gaushala complex told Frontline that irregular wage payment was a regular feature. They added that women were beaten up when they struck work in protest against the labour contractor’s move to replace them with labour from “outside”. There were some who had worked there for as long as 15 years. Of the 266 workers, 166 were women; some of them stayed with their families inside the complex and the rest came from neighbouring villages. “We have children to feed. How do we do that with no money? We work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” said Draupadi, who had worked for six years at the gaushala. Not too surprising in a State where the government that has changed labour laws for the “ease of doing business”.
Mayor Nirmal Nahata claimed ignorance about the workers’ strike when questioned and said that he would look into the matter. “The barns are in a low-lying area and water accumulated as a result, leading to the cattle deaths. We are looking into it. The cow is our mother, and it is a sensitive issue,” he said.

The workers told Frontline that the cattle had died because they were trapped in the slush caused by excessive rainfall. They said that had the area and the barns been cemented, there would not have been so many deaths. There were some 8,000 cows in the beginning, they said. One cow protection activist was bitterly complaining that no BJP or RSS worker was seen at Hingonia.

“We are doing the dirty work, picking up the cows from the slush and tending to the injured ones. Where are all the Gau Raksha Dal activists of the BJP and the RSS? No Bajrang Dal or VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] functionary has visited this place. Some of them come to get their photographs clicked and then they leave,” said an activist from Jaipur. Another worker who had come from Sri Ganganagar district said that he was a management graduate and was appalled at the lack of local volunteers.

The bovine deaths in Hingonia would not have taken place had the government heeded the recommendations of the High Court of Rajasthan, which has been hearing a petition in the matter since 2010. Poonam Chand Bhandari, who has a record of sorts in filing public interest petitions, and who was the advocate in the 2010 petition seeking the court’s intervention in the upkeep of Hingonia, told Frontline that the staff had a habit of fudging the number of livestock. “They need at least 400 employees but have half of that, and that too on contract. All these things were brought to the notice of the court and notices have been repeatedly issued to the corporation,” he said.

D.S. Bhandari, a former director of the State Department of Animal Husbandry and the president of the Rajasthan Gow Sewa Sangh, an organisation based on Gandhian ideals, said that the cow getting a religious status was relatively new. It was in the late 1990s, he said, that the BJP used the slogan “Gai bachao, desh bachao” (save the cow, save the country) and henceforth the cow became a politico-religious animal. He believed that the government had no business running gaushalas. “You won’t find a single example in the entire country where the government is running a gaushala,” he said. There were around 1,600-odd gaushalas in the State, housing a cattle population of nearly six lakh. The majority were run by private individuals, he said.

T.K. Rajalakshmi
BEFORE Una, there was Dulina. It happened in Haryana, almost 14 years ago—a lynching that has got all but erased from public memory. In October 2002, five young Dalit men were lynched in front of the Dulina police post in Jhajjar district. The men had picked up carcasses from a contractor, to skin them for the hide. It was late evening on Dasara, and they were in a hurry to join their families at home. None of them made it home as a mob, said to be 5,000-strong, attacked them on the suspicion that they had slaughtered a cow. It happened in the presence of a strong police contingent near by, but the police did not fire a single shot to save the young men.

The State government at that time was led by the Indian National Lok Dal, which was a constituent of the National Democratic Alliance ruling the Centre. A local gurukul had reportedly played a role in mobilising and inciting the mob, which was apparently heard shouting slogans like “Gau mata ki jai”.

Dulina did not make national headlines; it got silently buried in the debris of history. After Dulina, no major incident involving Dalits and cow vigilantes was heard of in Haryana. In the news now is Mewat, a region dominated by Meo Muslims and marked by unemployment and a lack of civic amenities including public utilities such as schools and hospitals. The only positive in the region is its favourable sex ratio. Cattle smuggling and Mewat have now become synonymous, thanks to a combination of the local media and the police that have stereotyped and caricatured the people living here.

On June 11, exactly a month before the incident at Una, two men from Mewat in their twenties were accosted and beaten by cow protection vigilantes at a toll booth and then taken to a lonely stretch where they were forced to eat cow dung and drink urine. Two weeks later, a shocking video of the incident was released. The two men were arrested by the police while not a single case was made out against the cow vigilantes.

One of the victims, Mukhtiyar, narrated his trauma sitting in his one-room brick home. On June 11, a few days before Eid, Mukhtiyar and his cousin Rizwan from Rehna village in Nuh district in the Mewat region, were given a job to deliver a consignment in Delhi. Both are unemployed and landless. They picked up the wares early in the morning and got on their way.

“My father died when I was very small. My mother brought me up. I have not studied beyond Class 2. My only earning is from doing odd jobs in and around the village. Our festival was approaching, and to meet the expenses, we thought we could earn a little money by doing the delivery,” he told Frontline.
At the toll post at Faridabad, he noticed an unusual crowd. It turned out they were gau rakshaks. Within seconds, Mukhtiyar and Rizwan were pulled out of the car in which they were travelling by a gang of 11 men and accused of ferrying beef. There was meat in the car to be delivered in Delhi, and the cow vigilantes insisted it was beef. In full view of the toll officials and a CCTV at the post, the two were beaten black and blue. “I think some kind soul called the police who arrived only to turn us over in the custody of the gau rakshaks. We beseeched the police to save us. The gau rakshaks told the police that they had information that more cow meat smugglers were on their way and that they should keep a watch on them,” said Mukhtiyar.

The police watched as the gau rakshaks bundled the two men in their vehicle and sped off towards Gurgaon. The men were beaten up again on a lonely stretch on the Kondli-Manesar-Palwal highway and made to eat cow dung and drink urine. Then the Gurgaon police was informed. “When we were being taken to Gurgaon, one of them put a pistol to my head and said that if we paid up Rs.15 lakh, they would let us go. We said we had no money. You have seen my house. Do I even look like the kind who would have one lakh rupees? The vehicle [we were using] was hired and we were just the delivery boys. I swear on my daughter’s head that they asked for a bribe,” Mukhtiyar said.

But the trauma for the two had not ended. Bleeding and bruised, they lay on the road as the Gurgaon police refused to take custody of the two, saying the case was not in their jurisdiction. They told the vigilantes to “take them back from where they had picked them up”. The two were again brought back to Faridabad and taken to the police station.

They were kept in police remand, judicial custody and then released on bail. The forensic report attesting that the material in their vehicle was cow meat was yet to be ascertained. “What do you think will happen to us? They made us shout slogans in praise of the cow. They might even kill us. They injured my eye. I don’t feel well at all. The police could have saved us,” said Rizwan, 22, whose father was a labourer.

Extortion by cow vigilantes is reportedly a big racket in the area. The vigilantes stop vehicles ferrying buffaloes and buffalo calves even when there is no ban on buffalo meat. “Even if a person has a milch cow, they stop the vehicle and ask all kinds of questions,” said Akhtar Hussain, a tea shop owner, adding that harassment had gone up manifold times during the BJP’s tenure.

Shameem Ur Rehman, lawyer for Mukhtiyar and Rizwan, told Frontline that he was fighting several cases in which innocent people had been framed under the Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Act, 2015, which provided for incarceration for up to 10 years for cow slaughter. He added that cow vigilantism had seen a spurt in recent years. Yet law empowered the police and not cow vigilantes to take action against alleged beef smugglers. The police, however, though slow to act against cow vigilantes for taking the law into their own hands, can be prompt and drastic in taking action against alleged cow smugglers.
On August 10, a police team shot dead an alleged cow smuggler near Narnaul in Mahendargarh district. All they seized was one cow and one bull. None other than the Superintendent of Police was reported to be on a night vigil to nab cattle smugglers. Remarkable, in the light of how ineffective the police are perceived to be in checking petty and heinous crimes and crimes against women.

Both Haryana and Punjab have a Cow Welfare or Gau Sewa Commission. In Haryana, it is headed by a known cow “activist”, Bhani Ram Mangla, who was earlier the district BJP president in Gurgaon and Mewat. The commission, which has a dozen unofficial members owing allegiance to the RSS and allied outfits like the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, was planning to issue identity cards to genuine “Gau Raksha Dals” following the Una incident. The commission has a special police task force to monitor the smuggling and slaughter of cows.

How gau rakshaks operate

Amit, associated with the Radha Krishna Gaushala, the biggest gaushala in Gurgaon, is a cow vigilante. He said he had been actively involved in at least 60 to 70 “cow rescue” operations so far. The founder of the gaushala in Basai village, Sandeep Kataria, an avowed gau rakshak himself, was murdered by his own relatives. His name is revered in the region even though the gaushala squats on two and a half acres of government land.

Amit said information about cow smugglers was given to him by toll tax officials and local people. A card with the phone number of the gaushala had been distributed widely. One of his fingers has been amputated, allegedly after cow smugglers fired at him. “It happened a month ago. We got information and then we pursued the lead. One of the smugglers shot at us,” he said, proudly displaying his injured hand. Earlier, the cow vigilantes use to put up road barriers. Now, the police were doing it, he said, adding that he was involved in another raid on August 5.

The manager of the gaushala, R.K. Chauhan, said that Amit was a “hero”. He said that 80 per cent of the cattle in the gaushala had been “rescued” from cattle smugglers. He was aware that the land was illegally occupied. “You can say that mother cow has encroached on government land,” he said.

Why China Should Fear the US Military’s Third Offset Strategy-Richard A. Bitzinger

Posted by admin On August - 29 - 2016 Comments Off on Why China Should Fear the US Military’s Third Offset Strategy-Richard A. Bitzinger


A way to negate Beijing’s A2/AD concept?
The Pentagon has never been at a loss for cute catch phrases when it comes to describing the Next Big Thing in the way of warfare.

In the 1900s, the U.S. military was all about the “revolution in military affairs” (RMA) and “network-centric warfare.” This gave way to “force modernization” in early 2000s, when Donald Rumsfeld was in charge. By 2010, it was “AirSea Battle” (ASB), later transmuted into the jaw-mangling “Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons.”

Today, the buzzword of choice is the “third offset strategy.”

Like many initiatives coming out of the Pentagon, it is long on ambition and short on details. Yet people in the Asia-Pacific had better become familiar with this new idea, as it will likely have a significant impact on the region.

The third offset strategy is all about leveraging US advantages in new and emerging critical technology areas in order to overcome supposedly weakening US advantages in more “traditional” areas of conventional military power.

The concern is that the US is losing its “near-monopoly” in “reconnaissance-precision strike,” as potential adversaries are now capable of fielding their own reconnaissance-strike networks to challenge US power projection. As such, the US military is increasingly vulnerable to long-range strike, modern integrated air-defense systems, more capable underwater systems, and attacks in the space and cyber domains.

The third offset strategy is both about developing new capabilities and about exploiting state-of-the-art enabling technologies.

On the one hand, third offset include many cutting-edge technologies, such as robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, big data, and advanced manufacturing, including 3-D printing.

On the other hand, it also entails the development of new pieces of military equipment, including hypersonic missiles, directed-energy weapons, electromagnetic rail guns, and naval mines.

China’s A2/AD challenge

What does the third offset strategy have to do with Asia-Pacific? Almost certainly it is intended to deal with the growing anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) challenge posed by China.

As the US military begins to address the challenges and opportunities created by third offset technologies and strategies, one of the most critical ways in which these ideas will be tested is with China and its growing capacities to create “no-go” sanctuaries in the far western Pacific, particularly in and around the East and South China Seas.

According to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Affairs (CSBA), “anti-access (A2) strategies aim to prevent US forces from operating from fixed land bases in a theater of operations,” while “area-denial (AD) operations aim to prevent the freedom of action of maritime forces operating in the theater.”

As such, China is trying to obtain the means by which to prevent US forces (and, by extension, its regional allies and partners) from entering or operating with impunity within these seas.

China possesses several strategic advantages when it comes to A2/AD. In the first place, it has the “homefield advantage” of being able to engage in military operations quite close to its national territory. Most of its forces that could be employed for A2/AD operations are already positioned on or near the Chinese coast and are therefore rapidly deployable to likely conflict zones in the East and South China Seas.

These forces are being reinforced by military buildups on Chinese-held islands in the regional seas, such as the heavily militarized Woody Island, and by the construction of artificial islands in the Spratlys, many outfitted with airstrips and radar. These islands greatly extend the PLA’s theoretical range of operations around the South China Sea.

Secondly, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has, over the past 15 years or so, acquired considerable hardware that boosts its A2/AD capabilities. These include an aircraft carrier, new submarines, new types of anti-ship missiles, and modern sea mines.

In addition, modern fighter jets and an expanding array of short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, as well as long-range land-attack cruise missiles, have endowed the Chinese military with new and improved capabilities for long-range, precision attack of US and allied bases in and around the far western Pacific, including Guam, Okinawa, and Taiwan.

What makes this strategy different?

Third offset capabilities are all about defeating A2/AD, therefore, and no nation today more embodies the A2/AD concept than China. That said, there is a lot about the third offset strategy that is quite familiar.

To quote CSBA’s Robert Martinage, the United States’ “core competencies” in the area of third offset technologies are “unmanned systems and automation, extended-range and low-observable air operations, undersea warfare, and complex system engineering and integration in order to project power differently.”

This is, however, not that much different from Rumsfeld’s “force transformation” efforts of a decade ago; perhaps there is a bit more emphasis on robotics and automation, directed-energy weapons, and extra-long precision-strike, but many of these initiatives were already underway long before the third offset was enunciated.

In addition, while cyber may be the next great battle space, most of us already knew that, and it is a certainty that the US military is almost certainly elbow deep into the planning stages for operations in cyberspace. Other technologies or capabilities often touted under the third offset umbrella – such as the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B), sea mines, networked expeditionary forces, etc. – also do not seem that radical.

So is the third offset strategy simply a re-branding exercise, a case of “new wine” in even newer bottles? Not necessarily. There is something different about the third offset strategy.

In the first place, it does not attempt to be as awesome-sounding as the “revolution in military affairs,” nor does it aspire to be an all-encompassing war-fighting doctrine like AirSea Battle. Rather it is an effort to bundle together and coherently pursue a number of promising technologies that could preserve the US military’s competitive edge.

And since it is much more modest in scope and goals than any RMA or new doctrine, it actually stands a much higher chance of succeeding – and that should give A2/AD-aspiring actors like China real cause for worry.

Richard A. Bitzinger is a Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Military Transformations Program at the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

This piece first appeared in AsiaTimes here [3].

Image: Courtesy of Raytheon.

BrahMos: India’s Supersonic Mega Missile That China Should Fear-Sebastien Roblin

Posted by admin On August - 29 - 2016 Comments Off on BrahMos: India’s Supersonic Mega Missile That China Should Fear-Sebastien Roblin


While many of us remain mesmerized by the unfolding shambles in the Middle East, the world’s two most populous countries have gotten into a tiff over missiles. And I’m not referring to the ballistic kind for once.

“India deploying supersonic missiles on the border has exceeded its own needs for self-defense and poses a serious threat to China’s Tibet and Yunnan provinces,” complained the People’s Liberation Army Daily. “The deployment of BrahMos missile is bound to increase the competition and antagonism in the China–India relations and will have a negative impact on the stability of the region.”

“Our threat perceptions and security concerns are our own, and how we address these by deploying assets on our territory should be no one else’s concern,” an Indian military source sniffed in response.

We’ll first look at the BrahMos’s capabilities and why they are considered a big deal, then plunge into why their deployment and export by is perceived as such a threat by China.

Indeed, the BrahMos cruise missile is stealthy, fast and extremely difficult to shoot down. It also has become a point of contention in a complicated web of overlapping alliances between India, China, Russia and potentially Vietnam.

Supersonic Carrier Killers

BrahMos began in the 1990s as a joint project between Russia and India to develop an Indian version of the P-800 Oniks cruise missile. The missile’s name is a portmanteau of the rivers Brahmaputra and Moskva in India and Russia, respectively.

Cruise missiles are designed to be fired at long ranges from their targets so as not to expose the launching platform to enemy retaliation. The quintessential cruise missile is the Tomahawk, developed in the United States. Fired by ships and aircraft, the 2,900-pound missile can cruise up to one thousand miles (depending on the model) at a speed of five hundred miles per hour—roughly the speed of a typical airliner—before slamming into its target.

During the Cold War, Russia developed a different style of cruise missile designed to take out American aircraft carriers. These flew over the speed of sound to better evade the carrier’s defenses—which include air-to-air missiles fired by fighters, surface-to-air missiles and Gatling-cannon Close-in weapon systems, or CIWS. They were also larger to increase the likelihood of achieving a kill in one hit.

Ramjets were used to maintain high speeds over long distances. A ramjet uses incoming air at high speeds to achieve compression instead of using a compressor, saving on fuel. However, a ramjet needs a boost from another source to help it achieve that airflow in the first place. In the case of the BrahMos, a rocket provides the initial acceleration before the ramjet takes over.

The BrahMos is actually slightly faster at Mach 2.8 than the P-800. It also weighs twice as much as a Tomahawk, at six thousand pounds.

The combination of twice the weight and four times greater speed as a Tomahawk result in vastly more kinetic energy when striking the target. Despite having a smaller warhead, the effects on impact are devastating.

Even more importantly, the BrahMos’s ability to maintain supersonic speeds while skimming at low altitude makes it very difficult to detect and intercept. To cap it off, the BrahMos performs an evasive “S-maneuver” shortly before impact, making it difficult to shoot down at close range.

A modern ship targeted by the BrahMos could respond with layered defenses to shoot down the missiles: ripple-fired medium- and short-range antiaircraft missiles and close-range CIWS. But an effective attack would involve firing multiple missiles in order to overwhelm these defensive countermeasures.

If the attack is launched within 120 kilometers of the target, it can skim at very low altitude the entire way to the target. While missiles can be detected earlier if benefiting from AWACs aircraft, a ship would likely detect a sea-skimming missile at range of only thirty kilometers, affording the vessel only a thirty second time window to respond. One intriguing analysis argues that a U.S. Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, with its layered air defenses, could not handle more twelve BrahMos missiles at once and that an entire carrier battle group would be saturated by more than sixty-four.

Of course, though India has some unpleasant memories of an encounter with a U.S. carrier group in the past, they probably have a different foe in mind.

In any case, the BrahMos has a major limitation…

The Missile Technology Control Regime

The BrahMos has a relatively short range—only 190 miles (290 kilometers)—under half the range of the Russian Oniks missile. This means that BrahMos launch platforms need to be relatively close to their targets—potentially within ranges they may be detected and fired back at.

This was purposefully done in order to conform to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a partnership of thirty-five countries which restricts the export of cruises missiles with ranges over three hundred kilometers. Russia is a member of the partnership—and just this June 28, India acceded into membership. And here we get into some interesting geopolitical strategy.

China is not a member of the regime, but would dearly appreciate the chance to deal in the market. India, on the other hand, would like to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group which regulates which nuclear technologies are permitted for trade. But China blocked its accession in June this year.

By adhering to the MTCR, India gained access to it—and now hopes to use that access as leverage versus China. Notionally, they could arrange a quid pro quo trading Indian NSG membership for Chinese admission to the MTCR. Whether it will work out that way remains to be seen.

Multiple Targets for Multiple Launchers

The BrahMos isn’t just an antishipping weapon—it also can hit ground-based targets, and is ideal for precision attacks against fixed installations such as radars, command centers, airbases and enemy missile batteries. It can also potentially carry a 660-pound nuclear warhead, though that doesn’t appear to be its primary intended use.

There are quite a few variants of the BrahMos missile designed to be used by the different platforms of the Indian military against either land or naval targets.

The Indian Navy’s BrahMos missiles mostly use eight-cell Vertical Launch System launchers. Six of its frigates and two destroyers have a single BrahMos launcher, while three of its destroyers have twin launchers. More BrahMos equipped ships are under construction.

The Navy has also successfully tested in 2013 a submarine-launched version which is expected to enter service in future vessels. Submarine-launched BrahMoses could potentially be launched fairly close to the target without being detected.

India has also developed the BrahMos-A, designed to be launched from its Su-30MKI strike fighters. Finding a ways to mount such a heavy missile on a fighter plane has taken years of work—in the end, the Su-30s had to be specially modified for the task. The first test flight was carried out in June this year. India has already requisitioned two hundred BrahMos-As, and plans to convert forty Su-30MKIs to carry them. This offers yet another flexible means to deliver the missiles close enough to their intended targets.

Finally, there are ground-launched Mobile Autonomous Launcher systems mounted on twelve-wheeler trucks. These are organized in regiments of five launchers with over 100 missiles. India is deploying a fourth missile regiment to Arunachal Pradesh, reportedly at cost of over 4,300 crore (over $640 million dollars.)

These are what have spooked the Chinese military, particularly since the new Block III missiles are designed to steep dive at seventy-degree angles to hit targets on the rear slopes of mountains. This has obvious application against the heavily militarized Himalayan border with China.

that India is pressing ahead with the development of even deadlier BrahMos variants. To begin with, some reports imply India tested in 2012 a version with a new satellite guidance system and a range of five hundred kilometers. Some argue that even the regular BrahMos may be capable of going further than its claimed 290-kilometer range.

India will also soon introduce the next-generation BrahMos-NG, which is smaller (only three thousand pounds,) faster (Mach 3.5,) and stealthier (smaller Radar-Cross Section.) It should be deployable from land, sea and air systems, including multiple missiles carried on fourth-generation fighters.

Additionally, India will soon be testing a scramjet-powered hypersonic BrahMos II missile capable of zipping along at Mach 7. Needless to say, these would be even harder to detect and shoot down and afford defending ships just seconds to react. The U.S. military has only just begun development a hypersonic missile of its own.

Russia, for its part, has appreciated the BrahMos’s commercial success, but seems to have only limited intention of fielding it: it may potentially deploy the system to Gorshkov-class frigates. It has more capable Zircon missiles (believed to be the model for the BrahMos II) in development and longer-range Oniks missiles already in service.

Showdown Over the Himalayas—and the South China Sea?

The BrahMos is a new game piece in India’s tense relationship with China. Chinese troops invaded India’s Himalayan border in a 1962 war that is still bitterly remembered in India. In the last decade, the Chinese border garrisons began to rapidly increase in size, leading to similar escalation on the Indian side. China’s close relationship with India’s historical enemy, Pakistan, and its development of military base in Gwadhar, Pakistan—seen as an attempt to encircle India—are another source of tension.

In the fall of 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited India in order to improve relations. However, a group of Chinese border troops appeared to have disregarded the civilian leadership and launched an embarrassing (though fortunately nonviolent) standoff that cast a shadow on any progress made.

The BrahMos cannot reach very far into Chinese. Although China is upset about the BrahMos missile’s presence on its border, it probably should be more worried that India is announcing it is close to a deal for selling the weapon to Vietnam.

Suffice to say, relations between China and Vietnam have a very long and complicated history, including a war in 1979. They recently have chilled over Chinese claims to the South China Sea. A particularly low point came with a Chinese oil expedition in 2014 that began drilling in Vietnamese-claimed waters, causing violent protests and a naval confrontation.

The Vietnamese Navy isn’t going to match China’s rapidly expanding flotilla any time soon. But small Vietnamese ships with BrahMos missiles could pose a major threat to China’s larger military vessel. Thus, if Vietnam does acquire the weapon, this would affect the balance of power in the Pacific.

Therefore, India may attempt to cultivate an alliance with Vietnam in order to counterbalance China.

Other countries interested in the BrahMos include Malaysia, Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, South Africa and Indonesia.

Reading the Cruise Missile Tea Leaves

The politics of the BrahMos system also highlights the limited potential of a Chinese-Russian alliance. Russia historically has strong ties with both India and Vietnam. It’s relationship with China has been more complicated (notice how that word keeps showing up?) After an energy agreement in 2014, there has been much speculation of a Chinese–Russian alliance based on shared authoritarian ideology and a desire to counterbalance the United States. However, the sale of the BrahMos missile to India and Vietnam illustrates that while Russia wishes to remain on good terms with all three countries, it is not yet committed to an alliance with China the expense of its economic interests or its own concerns with its powerful neighbor.

What can China do in response to the threat posed by the BrahMos missile?

Simple! It can de-escalate the conflict with India. India is a democracy with all the messy internal political deliberations that implies—it’s not about to launch a massive surprise invasion of the Himalayas. A well-managed de-escalation wouldn’t have to carry a huge political cost. The average Chinese citizen likely doesn’t have strong feelings on the precise boundaries of the McMahon line.

Disputes over lightly populated Himalayan mountains shouldn’t constitute a truly substantive conflict of interest between the two countries—but they have been allowed to flourish into full blown military competition. It is obvious the two Asian powers are wary of each other. But both would be better served by reciprocated détente, allowing billions spent fortifying the border to be redirected to the economic needs of the two countries.

Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

Image: INS Rajput firing a BrahMos missile. Wikimedia Commons/Indian Navy

India, US rush to ink logistics pact; Parrikar’s trip rescheduled to help deal-Chidanand Rajghatta

Posted by admin On August - 27 - 2016 Comments Off on India, US rush to ink logistics pact; Parrikar’s trip rescheduled to help deal-Chidanand Rajghatta

WASHINGTON: Any residual doubts about the intensity of the strategic engagement between India and the United States should dissipate with the meeting next week in Washington DC between the American Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parikkar, their third pow-wow in nine months.
The meeting will be book-ended by the US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in Delhi involving Secretary of State John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker (and their Indian counterparts Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman), and the visit to the US of Home Minister Rajnath Singh for the homeland security dialogue later in September.
Prime Minister Modi is also expected to meet President Obama at the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China on September 4-5, for what will possibly be their last meeting as heads of government.
All these exchanges are happening around the time of the NAM summit in Venezuela on September 17-18, where Prime Minister Modi may be a no-show+ .
The flurry of bilateral visits and exchanges will conclude the Modi government’s engagement with the Obama administration as the US Presidential election campaign enters the final stretch in America’s winter of discontent.
One of the few bright spots in an otherwise bleak world outlook is what both Washington and New Delhi agree has been a constructive and productive engagement between the two countries, and inasmuch as it is expected to continue into the next U.S administration regardless of who heads it, the two sides want to conclude as much business as possible before the impending changes in Washington DC.
Officials familiar with the engagement said the defense minister’s visit to the US Capital was advanced in part to conclude unfinished business before the makeover in Washington, which will also see personnel changes at the Indian Embassy.
The long-awaited and intensely-negotiated agreement pertaining to bilateral military logistics cooperation is just one item that is expected to be ticked off in a US-India defense agenda that has gotten more extensive with each passing year.
Customized to India’s specific needs, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) is the centerpiece of three foundational agreements that the US sees as the basis of long-term military cooperation – the expression ”alliance” being anathema to India.
The Scorpene snafu+ will likely be the opening that Washington will use to persuade India to move the on two remaining agreements — Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) although New Delhi has been leery of such arrangements precisely because of the risk of such leaks.
But given the intense military engagement — the US is now India’s #1 defense partner in terms of hardware supplies and operational exercises — such agreements are inevitable although New Delhi has sought customized versions specific to its unique status as a ”major defense partner,” albeit as a ”non-ally.”
It is in this spirit that India is testing the frontiers of the American word that just about anything it has is on the table for India — from the most advanced jet fighters to aircraft carrier technology to drones.
Indeed, the General Atomics-manu,factured Predator Drones are the next item on India’s military shopping list in the U.S. that has already ticked off heavy strategic lift aircrafts, anti-submarine warfare aircraft, and Harpoon Missiles, among other items.
Parikkar was initially scheduled to head out to the west coast to visit some of US manufacturing facilities but it now appears he will stay in the Washington DC area and perhaps visit local affiliates.
The US-India engagement comes even as there is a sharp decline in Washington’s patronage of Pakistan, now seen as a terrorist state in all but formal designation.
Top Comment

Excellent security development. US should also be requested to help India in the area of domestic counter-terrorism. At the same time, India should seek closer cooperation with Israel in drone texhno… Read More

Pakistan’s attempt to impute an Indian hand in its domestic turmoil, including in Balochistan and Karachi, has had no perceptible impact in Washington (or at the UN in New York), aside from the standard salutary advise to both sides that they should keep talking, with the pace, scope, and character of the dialogue to be decided by them.
The fact that Pakistan continues to host terror groups+ and has not given up its policy of using them as proxies in the neighborhood, despite protestations to the contrary, has not gone unnoticed in Washington, particularly after the latest attack on the American University in Kabul, which the Afghan government has blamed squarely on Pakistan.

Govt. charts road map for Modi’s Baloch policy-SUHASINI HAIDAR

Posted by admin On August - 27 - 2016 Comments Off on Govt. charts road map for Modi’s Baloch policy-SUHASINI HAIDAR

Govt. charts road maMIDEAST-CRISIS_SYR_2987385fp for Modi’s Baloch policy-SUHASINI HAIDAR

As the diplomatic exchange with Pakistan gets sharper by the day, India is discussing concrete steps to put its new policy on raising human rights violations by Pakistan forces in Balochistan into place, and the External Affairs Minister has been consulting former diplomats on its foreign policy implications.

“India has a strong human rights record, and we are naturally concerned about human rights violations in [Balochistan]. How this is expressed in our diplomacy, you will have to wait and see,” said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup on Friday.

But while the MEA says it “won’t divulge” its gameplan at the moment, government sources confirmed to The Hindu that the measures under discussion range from enlisting Indian embassies and missions worldwide to raise the issue of rights violations by Pakistan, easing visa restrictions on Balochis visiting India on the lines of the Cabinet’s recent notification on facilities extended to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries, as well as allowing them more “political” space in India.

U.N. the next step?
In the next few days, officials of the Home Ministry, External Affairs Ministry and PMO are expected to finalise details of announcements to be made on Balochistan. It will also decide whether the Baloch issue will be raised at the U.N. General Assembly this September, even as Pakistan says it intends to raise the violence in Kashmir at the U.N.

“We believe going to the U.N. is the next step for India,” said Azizullah Bugti, leader of the Baloch Republican Party, speaking to The Hindu from Rome. “India must go beyond Mr. Modi’s words and give our voice its support on the diplomatic level at the world stage. We would like that the government of India consider letting us set up a ‘government in exile’,” he added. Sources say that London-based Mir Suleiman Ahmedzai, the descendent of the ‘Khan of Kalat’ — the President of the Baloch council during Partition — is considered by most separatist groups as an acceptable head.

Countering Pakistan

When asked if the measures planned by the government include setting up a Baloch government in exile, similar to the Tibetan government in exile based in Dharamshala, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said last week, “Let us not jump the gun… MEA will do what it has to do because, after all, the people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (sic) are also our people,” indicating that India believes a tougher line on Balochistan will dissuade Pakistan from taking a more shrill position on Kashmir.

Other Baloch leaders say they hope to travel to India for a show of strength at a “public rally” in the next few weeks. In Washington, the Indian ambassador Arun Singh and other officials have been invited at an event to mark the 10th anniversary of the killing of Baloch leader Nawab Bugti on Friday. “This year is different because of Prime Minister Modi’s declaration of freedom for Balochistan,” said Ahmar Mustikhan of the American Friends of Balochistan.

Last Saturday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held a meeting with retired diplomats who have served as national security advisors, to discuss the PM’s remarks on Balochistan, as well as the likely impact on ties with Pakistan and China, given that Beijing’s infrastructure projects in Balochistan could be affected, The Hindu has learnt.

“All the ambassadors suggested continuity and endorsed the PM’s Baloch policy,” a senior government official present at the meeting detailed, referring to PM Modi’s statement that “The time has come when Pakistan shall have to answer to the world for the atrocities committed by it against people in Baluchistan and PoK,” earlier this month.

“Ms. Swaraj made it clear that the step had been considered only after India’s many attempts to reach out to Pakistan had failed,” the official added.

Others present at the meeting said that the former diplomats had made two suggestions. Firstly, that a clear distinction be made between India’s support to Baloch people on the issue of human rights violations by Pakistani forces, and that of PoK, which India has a full claim over. They also said that policy of raising the Balochistan issue can be effective only if it is sustained. “Once we raise the expectations of Baloch groups, they must not be dropped if and when relations with Pakistan improve,” an official said.

Life and Death in Lahore- AQIL SHAH

Posted by admin On April - 3 - 2016 Comments Off on Life and Death in Lahore- AQIL SHAH


Aqil Shah-


The Pakistani military must end its long history of using jihad as an instrument of national security as part of any successful strategy to tackle terrorism.
On Sunday, March 27, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded public park in Lahore, Pakistan, killing 72 people and injuring over 350 others, most of them women and children. The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a vicious splinter group of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was meant to target Christians celebrating Easter. It also sent the signal that it is capable of striking at will in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s hometown. In response, the military reportedly launched a province-wide counterterror operation and authorities detained over 300 suspected militants.
Aqil Shah

Pakistan has been here many, many times before. Every major terrorist attack reproduces a sickeningly familiar pattern. With robotic consistency, the generals vow to fight terrorism of all forms, while blaming it all on foreign powers (mostly India) and civilian incompetence. In reality, the fundamental cause of mayhem on Pakistani streets is not a malicious foreign power or inept civilians, but blowback from the military’s own long history of using jihad as an instrument of national security.
Even as terrorists have exploded bomb after bomb in Pakistan for almost a decade, Pakistan’s military has doggedly stuck to a false, self-serving dichotomy between “good” and “bad” terrorists. As it has fought hostile factions of the TTP, it has continued to use other militant groups as proxies against archrival India. These include the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban, which help maintain Pakistan’s influence over Afghanistan, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (reincarnated as Jamaat-ud-Dawa or JUD), which is mainly focused on India.

The military’s black-and-white view assumes that these groups can be neatly separated, when the actual lines between them are blurred. For instance, the TTP pledged allegiance to the Afghan Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar until the announcement of his death in 2015. The groups also offer each other operational assistance, and there is a revolving door of “good” terrorists turning into “bad” ones. For example, in December of last year, police in Punjab Province busted an alleged Islamic State (ISIS) cell in Sialkot City, whose members were all former JUD militants. And the TTP itself is a loosely organized conglomerate of jihadi groups that were created or sponsored by the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to fight in Indian Kashmir and Afghanistan but are now, apparently, more interested in killing Pakistanis.

In the past two years, the military has taken the fight to the TTP and its allied militant groups based in North Waziristan. But its much-delayed offensive, named Zarb-e-Azb, which was launched as a reaction to a terrorist attack on Karachi airport in June 2014, has been a partial success at best. The army seems to have deprived the Pakistani Taliban of its local sanctuaries and degraded their operational capacity to carry out terror operations from Waziristan. In 2015, terrorist attacks were down by 48 percent compared to 2014.

But the military’s gains might be illusory. The army has yet to capture or kill a senior TTP commander, and the operation has reportedly driven the Taliban leadership to sanctuaries across the border in Afghanistan, where they continue to plan terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. At any rate, there is not even any way of accurately assessing the operation’s effectiveness since news media are barred from the area and the only source of information is the army, which has an obvious interest in inflating the losses suffered by militants while underreporting its own.

In a perverse way, terrorism has aggrandized Pakistan’s army. For example, in response to the TTP attack on an army school in Peshawar in December 2014 that killed over 130 students, the army, under Chief of Staff General Raheel Sharif, took full charge of the state’s response to that horrific act. The generals pressed the government to create military courts for delivering “speedy justice” to terrorists. Subsequently, parliament amended the country’s constitution in January 2015 to authorize military courts to try civilians accused of terrorism. The proceedings of the courts remain secret, convicts do not have the right of appeal, and the impact on terrorism is less than impressive despite the execution of three dozen “hardened” terrorists.

For its part, the government adopted a National Action Plan (NAP) immediately after the army school attack. The NAP lifted the moratorium on the death penalty, in place since 2008, to execute terrorists on death row. It also committed the government to preventing armed militias from operating in the country, strengthening the civilian-led National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), tackling terrorist financing, regulating madrassas (religious seminaries), cracking down on hate speech and extremist materials, creating a special counterterrorism force, and reforming the criminal justice system. But the plan remains poorly implemented, partially because of the government’s lackluster follow-through but mainly due to resistance from the military, which wants to lead the counterterror effort without civilian interference.

For example, NACTA remains a shell organization in considerable measure because the military’s intelligence agencies refuse to work under its authority. With the exception of the government’s prosecution of several clerics for hate speech and the police’s extrajudicial killings of key Sunni militants in Punjab, there is as yet no concerted strategy or plan for dismantling the country’s vast militant infrastructure, nor have any serious efforts been made to reform the criminal justice system or bring the madrassas that typically spawn terrorists under meaningful scrutiny.

Civilian intelligence and police officials, meanwhile, complain that the ISI routinely blocks or intervenes in their investigations when they involve “good” terrorists. Even the anti-terror campaign against “bad” terrorists is hampered by the military’s desire to steal the limelight and appear resolute to the Pakistani public. Following the Lahore attack, the army and its intelligence services carried out raids against suspected militants in five major cities across the province, which were duly advertised on Twitter by the military’s social media-savvy official spokesman, Asim Bajwa, as an exclusively military operation. The military’s PR offensive forced an embarrassed provincial government to claim that the counterterror operation was actually a joint venture between civilian and military security forces.

Aware that the military’s domination in Pakistan is linked to the longstanding rivalry with India, Sharif has tried to mend fences with New Delhi as part of a broader drive for regional stability. For example, Sharif met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Paris climate change meeting in November 2015, which ultimately paved the way for foreign-secretary-level talks to discuss security, confidence-building measures, Kashmir, and counterterrorism. On December 25, Modi made an unexpected visit to Pakistan, apparently to greet Sharif on his 66th birthday, giving further impetus to the dialogue process.

But just as the relationship seemed to be thawing, terrorists belonging to the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad attacked an Indian Air Force base close to the border with Pakistan. And while Indian security forces were still battling the terrorists, Afghan Taliban militants struck the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan. A day before the Lahore attack, the military revealed that it had captured an alleged Indian operative who later admitted to sponsoring subversive activities in the restive Baluchistan province, where Baloch nationalists have waged an insurgency against the Pakistan Army. Although the Indian government expectedly denied involvement, the timing of the spy’s confession was more than curious, because it shifted the focus of public scrutiny from homegrown terrorists to India and simultaneously scuttled Sharif’s renewed efforts to reduce the enduring tensions between India and Pakistan.

The success of any strategy to tackle terrorism is subject to the fundamental contradiction in the military’s counterterrorism approach: attack the terrorists who attack you, but patronize those who kill your enemies. Short of a radical break with this self-deluding policy, Pakistanis will continue to pay for the generals’ intransigent follies with their blood.

This article was originally published in Foreign Affairs.

Mohammad Javad Zarif: Saudi Arabia’s Reckless Extremism-MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF

Posted by admin On January - 11 - 2016 Comments Off on Mohammad Javad Zarif: Saudi Arabia’s Reckless Extremism-MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF


Demonstrators opposed to Saudi Arabia gathered in Tehran on Friday. Credit Abedin Taherkenareh/European Pressphoto Agency
THE world will soon celebrate the implementation of the landmark agreement that resolves the unnecessary, albeit dangerous, crisis over Iran’s nuclear program. All parties hoped, and continue to believe, that the resolution of the nuclear issue would enable us to focus on the serious challenge of extremism that is ravaging our region — and the world.

President Rouhani has repeatedly declared that Iran’s top foreign policy priority is friendship with our neighbors, peace and stability in the region and global cooperation, especially in the fight against extremism. In September 2013, a month after taking office, he introduced an initiative called World Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE). It was approved by consensus by the United Nations General Assembly, giving hope for a farsighted global campaign against terrorism.

Unfortunately, some countries stand in the way of constructive engagement.

Following the signing of the interim nuclear deal in November 2013, Saudi Arabia began devoting its resources to defeating the deal, driven by fear that its contrived Iranophobia was crumbling. Today, some in Riyadh not only continue to impede normalization but are determined to drag the entire region into confrontation.


Demonstrators opposed to Saudi Arabia gathered in Tehran on Friday. Credit Abedin Taherkenareh/European Pressphoto Agency
Saudi Arabia seems to fear that the removal of the smoke screen of the nuclear issue will expose the real global threat: its active sponsorship of violent extremism. The barbarism is clear. At home, state executioners sever heads with swords, as in the recent execution of 47 prisoners in one day, including Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a respected religious scholar who devoted his life to promoting nonviolence and civil rights. Abroad, masked men sever heads with knives.

Let us not forget that the perpetrators of many acts of terror, from the horrors of Sept. 11 to the shooting in San Bernardino and other episodes of extremist carnage in between, as well as nearly all members of extremist groups like Al Qaeda and the Nusra Front, have been either Saudi nationals or brainwashed by petrodollar-financed demagogues who have promoted anti-Islamic messages of hatred and sectarianism for decades.

The Saudi strategy to derail the nuclear agreement and perpetuate — and even exacerbate — tension in the region has three components: pressuring the West; promoting regional instability through waging war in Yemen and sponsoring extremism; and directly provoking Iran. Riyadh’s military campaign in Yemen and its support for extremists are well known. Provocations against Iran have not grabbed international headlines, primarily thanks to our prudent restraint.

The Iranian government at the highest level unequivocally condemned the assault against the Saudi embassy and consulate in Tehran on Jan. 2, and ensured the safety of Saudi diplomats. We took immediate measures to help restore order to the Saudi diplomatic compound and declared our determination to bring perpetrators to justice. We also took disciplinary action against those who failed to protect the embassy and have initiated an internal investigation to prevent any similar event.


By contrast, the Saudi government or its surrogates have over the past three years directly targeted Iranian diplomatic facilities in Yemen, Lebanon and Pakistan — killing Iranian diplomats and locals. There have been other provocations, too. Iranian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia have endured systematic harassment — in one case, Saudi airport officers molested two Iranian boys in Jeddah, fueling public outrage. Also, Saudi negligence was to blame for the stampede during the recent hajj, which left 464 Iranian pilgrims dead. Moreover, for days, Saudi authorities refused to respond to requests from grieving families and the Iranian government to access and repatriate the bodies.
While I’m not a huge fan of Iran, the Saudi regime is horrible. We should not be giving them money or weapons.

While it is certainly true that the al-Saud family bargain with the medieval wahabbists has kept them both in power for nearly a century, it…
Really? 2 minutes ago
We all hope Mr Zariff is telling the truth when he says Iran wants to promote peace. But there has been too much violent extremist rhetoric…

This is not to mention the routine practice of hate speech not only against Iran but against all Shiite Muslims by Saudi Arabia’s government-appointed preachers. The outrageous beheading recently of Sheikh Nimr was immediately preceded by a sermon of hatred toward Shiites by a Grand Mosque preacher in Mecca, who last year said that “our disagreement with Shiites will not be removed, nor our suicide to fight them” as long as Shiites remained on the earth.

Throughout these episodes, Iran, confident of its strength, has refused to retaliate or break — or even downgrade — diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. We have until now responded with restraint; but unilateral prudence is not sustainable.


Iran has no desire to escalate tension in the region. We need unity to confront the threats posed by extremists. Ever since the first days after his election, the president and I have indicated publicly and privately our readiness to engage in dialogue, promote stability and combat destabilizing extremism. This has fallen on deaf ears in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi leadership must now make a choice: They can continue supporting extremists and promoting sectarian hatred; or they can opt to play a constructive role in promoting regional stability. We hope that reason will prevail.

Mohammad Javad Zarif is the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

China hits India where it hurts-M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

Posted by admin On December - 29 - 2015 Comments Off on China hits India where it hurts-M.K. BHADRAKUMAR


Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Nepal Kamal Thapa (L) with Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao

China has moved for the first time to demonstratively erode India’s ‘influence’ over one of its small neighbors, Nepal. The disclosures following the weekend talks in Beijing by the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Nepal Kamal Thapa  during his 5-day visit point in that direction.
Thapa received a warm reception in Beijing and was received by Vice-President Li Yuanchao, apart from holding talks with Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Li said: “China supports Nepal’s efforts in safeguarding national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and stands ready, together with the new government of Nepal, to expand cooperation in connectivity, energy, production capacity, post-disaster reconstruction, tourism and other areas so as to achieve mutual benefits, win-win results and common development, and elevate the long-lasting and friendly China-Nepal comprehensive cooperative partnership to new levels”.

At a joint press conference by Yi and Thapa, the following details were revealed regarding bilateral ties:

Opening of more border points for transit trade;
A permanent arrangement for supplies of petroleum from China;
A transit treaty to enable Nepal to access Chinese ports;
Stepping up trade;
Start of the post-disaster reconstruction projects in Nepal under China’s pledge of $500 million as aid;
Agreement on economic and technical cooperation providing $140 million as grant-in-aid for repair and maintenance of the Araniko Highway; and,
Abolition of visa by Nepal for Chinese tourists.
Yi advised India not to regard Nepal as “a boxing arena”.

He added: “China, India and Nepal are close neighbors connected by the same mountains and rivers. This makes the three of us a natural community of shared interest. This is why China has proposed the development of a China-India-Nepal Economic Corridor. It is all about common development and prosperity. The ultimate goal is to form a community of shared future for the three of us”.

Thapa, in turn, discussed with the media (in the presence of Yi) his country’s stand-off with India, and said, “it seems we are now able to clear the air of mistrust and misunderstanding and slowly things are moving and coming back to normal”.

But he stressed Nepal’s “special relations” with China and pledged that his government will continue to crack down on the illegal movement of Tibetans between China and India and “will not allow any activities that infringe on China’s sensitivities on Tibet”.

Evidently, Beijing is cashing in on the Nepal-India stand-off, resulting from the Indian economic blockade for the past several months, with a view to create enduring, long-term underpinnings of partnership with Kathmandu.

Beijing has experienced for decades that so long as India treated Nepal as its ‘sphere of influence’ and the leadership in Kathmandu remained vulnerable to Indian pressure, New Delhi kept calibrating Nepal’s China policies.

Today, no doubt, Chinese diplomacy is operating in fertile ground.  Through a series of missteps and miscalculations, New Delhi has stoked the fires of Nepali nationalism, and, to compound matters, the new leadership in Kathmandu dominated by the communist parties has altogether spun out of Indian control.

Delhi is running out of options. A daily associated with the ruling party has put the blame on the foreign-policy establishment and demanded, “It is time for the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) to personally intervene and lead the reconciliation efforts. Or else, China will fill the vacuum”.

Clearly, India’s ruling elites are yet to realize that the zero sum mindset is irrelevant today. The Chinese diplomacy is in a ‘win-win’ situation. If Modi eases pressure on Kathmandu, that is not going to prompt the fiercely independent new leadership there to freeze their deepening engagement with ‘communist China’, while, on the contrary, the present stand-off is only driving them to embrace China’s friendship tightly.

The backdrop is one of the mandarins in Indian foreign-policy establishment needling China constantly by butting into the South China Sea problem, flaunting Modi’s bonhomie with Japan’s Shinzo Abe or America’s Barrack Obama, and identifying closer than ever with the US’ rebalance strategy in Asia. (With an eye on China, India is inching close to signing an unprecedented treaty with the US that would provide access for the American forces to Indian bases.)

The Modi government estimates that if India joins a trilateral US-Japan-India quasi-alliance in Asia, Beijing will sooner or later read the tea leaves and reach out for a mutual accommodation with India. There is an element of bravado here, because Delhi assumes that the US and Japan see India as a ‘counterweight’ to China in the geopolitics of Asia, and have a strategic interest to build up India as a powerhouse.

This is a complete departure from the Indian policies traditionally, which had sequestered India from identifying with the US’ rebalance strategy and sought to exploit its inherent advantages as an emerging power to create space to negotiate persuasively with China.

Suffice it to say, the incumbent ‘China hands’ in the Indian establishment have been showing uncharacteristic alacrity to career away in a new direction that atrophies the bilateral track and emphasises the axis with the US and Japan. China surely has taken note of the strange, unwarranted Indian behaviour.

So far, China’s South Asian policies largely focused on self-interests – be it in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka or the Maldives. China even ignored the ‘regime change’ in Sri Lanka, which the US-Japan-India axis rooted for.

But Beijing may be making its counter-moves in Nepal if only to underscore that this is a game both can play. Its decision to provide transit facilities to Nepal is tantamount to helping that country to shake off the overbearing Indians.

The setback hits India’s Hindu nationalist government where it hurts most, because it all happened when Nepal rejected the demand by a group of Hindu activists drawing inspiration from Modi’s rise to declare their country a ‘Hindu state’. In no time, as the Bible says, the small cloud, ‘the size of a man’s fist was coming in from the sea’ – and there was not any time left to go, tell Ahab to prepare the chariot.

(Copyright 2015 Asia Times Holdings Limited

India’s Worst Nightmare: Pakistani F-35 Stealth Fighters?-Dave Majumdar

Posted by admin On December - 10 - 2015 Comments Off on India’s Worst Nightmare: Pakistani F-35 Stealth Fighters?-Dave Majumdar


“Pakistan wants to buy Lockheed Martin’s stealthy fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. ”
Pakistan wants to buy Lockheed Martin’s stealthy fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. But the South Asian nation’s chances of acquiring the new American-built warplane are fairly remote. Not only would export of the F-35 to Islamabad compromise the stealth fighter’s technology to Beijing, it could also destabilize the security balance in the region.

While Pakistan is focused on modernizing its air force with the Chinese-developed JF-17 Thunder, it is considering three possible options to acquire fifth-generation fighters. According to Islamabad’s chief of the air staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, who spoke to the Pakistani daily The News [4], the country has started negotiations with the United States to acquire the stealthy single-engine F-35.

The Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter program office—which manages the F-35 and coordinates with its foreign partners—could not immediately comment on the matter. However, Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the JSF program, said, “it’s not ringing any immediate bells.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department would not comment on the matter. “As a matter of policy, the Department of State does not comment on proposed or requested defense sales or transfers, unless they have been formally notified to Congress and we have completed all necessary administrative and technical details with recipient partner nations,” said Julia Mason, a State Department spokesperson.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency would not return calls, but congressional sources said that they would be shocked if the United States were to export the F-35 to Pakistan. One senior congressional source noted that Pakistan works very closely with China on various aerospace development programs. As such, it is very unlikely that the United States would consider selling Pakistan the F-35; the risk of technology transfer to China is far too great.

While the F-35 is often derided for its myriad technical glitches, schedule delays, massive cost overruns and astronomical price tag, the jet incorporates some of the most advanced military technology ever developed by the United States. The aircraft’s radar and electronic warfare systems are extremely capable—and the Pentagon is not willing to compromise those systems.

Moreover, the nuclear-capable F-35 could potentially tip the balance of power on the Indian subcontinent. With its stealthy airframe, the F-35 could deliver a nuclear payload into to neighboring India with little to no warning—which could further destabilize an already tense relationship between the two powers. Indeed, the F-35/nuclear bomb combination [5] has been criticized by arms control experts like Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. Moreover, the F-35 is not likely to be cleared for export to America’s allies in the Persian Gulf because of the Israeli security concerns.

Realistically, Pakistan’s best bet at acquiring a fifth-generation stealth fighter is probably either the Chinese J-31 or the J-20. However, the Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA might also be a possibility is Moscow were willing to alienate its Indian allies. The Russians have been discussing a Su-35 sale to Islamabad, so it is not out of the question. But Pakistan’s chances of buying the F-35 are fairly close to nil.

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for the National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.

Image [6]: Lockheed Martin

Daniel Bodirsky: Beyond Operation Zarb-e-Azb in northwest Pakistan

Posted by admin On December - 7 - 2015 Comments Off on Daniel Bodirsky: Beyond Operation Zarb-e-Azb in northwest Pakistan


Pakistani ground forces began their assault into the Shawal Valley, the final substantial militant stronghold in North Waziristan, in August. Shawal represents an endgame of sorts for Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the large-scale offensive to clear the region of militants. It has successfully dislodged the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas face significant challenges as the operation draws to a close.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched on 15 June 2014 following the breakdown of peace talks with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and an attack on Karachi’s international airport by TTP militants. The Pakistani military committed 30,000–60,000 ground troops to the operation, which quickly flooded into North Waziristan. The military began Operations Khyber I and II in October 2014, complementary offensives with a similar goal of clearing militant strongholds in Khyber Agency. Active combat in Zarb-e-Azb waned by September, but the massacre carried out by TTP militants at a Peshawar school in December 2014 triggered a renewed commitment by the Pakistani army.

By June 2015, the military’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) stated that the army was in control of 80% of territory in North Waziristan. In mid-June, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif marked the one-year anniversary of Zarb-e-Azb by announcing that the operation had entered its ‘final phase’, and that the Tirah Valley – long a TTP safe haven in Khyber Agency – had been cleared of militants. Airstrikes continued in North Waziristan, but it was not until August that Pakistani ground forces moved into the final militant stronghold of the Shawal Valley. Lieutenant-General Asim Bajwa, director of the ISPR, announced on 27 August that after intense clashes leaving at least 200 militants dead, the Pakistani army had gained control of strategic mountains surrounding the valley, cutting off major supply lines to the TTP and other militants based in Shawal.

The entrance of ground forces was widely covered in the Pakistani press, however, the ongoing media blackout has made it difficult to accurately gauge specific details of the current progress of Zarb-e-Azb. All casualty figures are provided by the ISPR, which states that 2,763 militants and 347 Pakistani soldiers had been killed in the operation by June 2015. Verification of these figures has been impossible, because independent media have rarely been allowed to embed with active personnel in North Waziristan.

In spite of the blackout, consensus is growing that Zarb-e-Azb has begun to have a positive impact on Pakistani security. The Pakistani government released figures reporting a 70% decline in major militant attacks across the country since the beginning of the operation. Monthly attacks in neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have dropped from an average of 49 per month to 12. Pakistani forces have regained nearly all militant-held territory in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), destroying most of the Taliban-affiliated groups’ safe havens in North Waziristan and Khyber Agencies.

As Pakistani forces look to conclude formal military operations in North Waziristan in the near future, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government will continue to face a host of challenges in FATA. The destruction of militant strongholds in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency has reportedly triggered an exodus of TTP militants to neighbouring Afghanistan. Taliban sources have claimed that as many as 80% of militants previously based in FATA have fled to Afghanistan. While this figure is almost certainly exaggerated, the Pakistani military itself has acknowledged that senior members of the TTP leadership have fled the Pakistani military advance. The TTP, while having been severely disrupted, has not been destroyed, and is likely to re-establish itself across the border. Without closer cooperation with the Afghan government, efforts at which failed earlier this year, a clear threat of a Taliban resurgence remains.

The thorny issue of FATA’s political future has also become a topic of heated debate. Political reforms for FATA will be required for any lasting victory over militancy, and the success of Zarb-e-Azb has created a groundswell of support to break through the political deadlock that has previously hampered such efforts. In November, Sharif formed a five-member committee headed by foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz to work on political and constitutional reforms in FATA. A proposed 22nd amendment to the constitution of Pakistan would involve the merging of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, doing away with the region’s autonomy and bringing it into the political mainstream.

The government also faces the immense task of rehabilitating the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced peoples (IDPs) from FATA. A few IDPs from the northwest have begun to return home, but at least 700,000 remain in refugee camps across the country. Sharif has repeatedly pledged to prioritise the repatriation of internal refugees, a task estimated to cost US$753 million, but the government is likely to fall short.

As the TTP and its breakaway factions lose ground in FATA, some Pakistani officials have expressed concern that local affiliates of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) may gain sway. There is currently little direct threat of ISIS superseding the TPP’s influence in FATA, despite the group having declared Afghanistan and Pakistan to be its ‘Khorasan province’ (Wilayet Khorasan). Social media groups linked to ISIS distributed photos and videos in October 2015 of reported training camps in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan. Militant organisations based in FATA like Jundullah and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have both pledged allegiance to ISIS, as have a handful of individual defectors from other groups.

Significant challenges await FATA as military operations wind down in 2016. The TTP and its offshoots, while dislodged from their long-established bases in the northwest, remain a potent threat and could well regroup in Afghanistan. Sharif will have to push ahead with political and constitutional reforms clarifying the status of FATA, as well as working to repatriate the people who have been displaced by the conflict in the region. The gains Operation Zarb-e-Azb has achieved will likely be squandered if a more comprehensive approach is not taken.

This post originally appeared in ACD News.

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