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Jihadi Threat to India: Jihadist-Military Project: New Age Islam’s Selection from Indian Press, 7 August, 2015

New Age Islam’s Selection from Indian Press

7 August, 2015

 Jihadi Threat to India Is Next Door, Not In Arabia

By Ashok Mallik

 Pakistan Is Testing India’s Response to Terror, First in Gurdaspur and Now Udhampur. Why Is That ‘Befitting Reply’ So Long In Coming?

By Ashok K Mehta

 Yakub Case Reminds Us the Home Truths about Justice

By Rajdeep Sardesai

 Iran Nuclear Deal: The Reckoning

By Talmiz Ahmad

 Welcoming Iran to South Asia

By Khaled Ahmed

 How to Deal with Pakistan: New Delhi Must Pursue a Flexible Strategy with Elements of Containment and Engagement

By Manoj Joshi

 Raja-Mandala: After Mullah Omar

By C. Raja Mohan

 Jihadist-Military Project at Work

 The Hindu Editorial

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Jihadi Threat to India Is Next Door, Not In Arabia

By Ashok Mallik

 07 August 2015 |

Pakistan is talking up the Islamic State’s presence in South Asia and the grave threat it poses to India to divert attention from the real issues plaguing bilateral ties and regional peace. India musn’t fall for this propaganda

On August 23 and 24, the National Security Advisers of India and Pakistan will meet in New Delhi. Few if any will hazard a prediction as to the outcome, though it would be prudent to limit expectations. Even so, what can safely be foretold is a media frenzy, non-stop television coverage and Twitter chatter.

The NSA-level talks were announced when the two Prime Ministers met in Ufa, Russia, recently. Governments in India and Pakistan have chosen to interpret the mandate of the upcoming meeting differently. The Pakistanis, particularly the team around Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said it implied the resumption of the composite dialogue by another name and eventually “all outstanding issues” would be discussed. This was to stave-off criticism at home that the Kashmir dispute had not been mentioned in the joint statement at Ufa.

The Indian side, quizzically, decided not to refute the Pakistani Government’s briefings, arguing off-the-record that it wanted to “keep Nawaz in play” and strengthen the civilian regime vis-à-vis the Army. Many previous Prime Ministers and Governments in Delhi have suffered from the delusion that India has the capacity to bolster a civilian administration in Islamabad against the generals in Rawalpindi. Why somebody as hard-headed as Prime Minsister Narendra Modi seemed to fall for this line, even if temporarily, is not immediately clear.

Nevertheless, the reverie was soon ended by the Pakistani Army, which triggered another round of firing at the border. This diminished any confusion in Delhi and led to an iteration of the idea that India sees the NSA’s conversation as largely limited to terrorism and safeguarding Indians from religious radicalism that can turn violent and spill across the Line of Control or the Radcliffe Line.

In spite of this, the past few days have seen ambiguous messaging from various quarters. A mystifying notion is being spread that the fundamental Islamist challenge to the subcontinent comes from the Islamic State. It is said that the Islamic State is threatening Afghanistan, Pakistan and India and, as such, these countries are equal targets of the militia that has spread mayhem in Syria and Iraq.

Mystifyingly, many seem to have bought into this idea, with the domestic intelligence agencies talking up the Islamic State challenge as they talked up the alleged Al Qaeda threat to the Indian mainland a few years ago.

Papers apparently found in Islamic State hideouts, and probably indicative of outrageous dream scenarios for the Islamic State rather than workbable blueprints, have been cited. Once more, as happens every few years, apocalyptic visions of a final and defining war, of a centuries-old “Khorasan prophecy” and an attack on India (Ghazwa-e-Hind), are being spoken about.

Earlier this century, Ghazwa-e-Hind was meant to be Al Qaeda’s plan for the annihilation and Islamisation of India. Today, it is the Islamic State’s plan for the annihilation and Islamisation of India. One supposes regurgitating old theories is necessary to keep intelligence agency report writers and newspaper columnists busy.

It is worth noting though that diplomatic sources point to no imminent Islamic State threat to India. In fact, even references to the Islamic State gaining ground in Afghanistan are seen as exaggerated. One senior official told this writer that dissident and loose Taliban factions, which may have broken away from a larger group due to turf or treasure, have probably adopted the Islamic State label in Afghanistan. That apart, there have been odd displays of Islamic State flags in the Kashmir valley, largely for the benefit of television cameras. Overall, it is likely, the Islamic State has more Twitter accounts in India than actual lethal fighters

This is not to discount the Islamic State challenge nor to suggest, the Islamic State does not want to vanquish India (or for that matter make deep inroads in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as part of its caliphate project). It is just that aspiration and reality are different. The Islamic State remains a substantially Arabia-based movement for the moment. Before it turns its attention to Afghanistan and the subcontinent, it needs to defeat Iraq’s Shia south and the Shia vastness of Iran. It also needs to capture territory and influence in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Dilli, as they say, durast: Delhi is a long distance.

So where is this Islamic State phobia and this concern of a likely Islamic State invasion coming from? It is telling that the story is emphasised most often by the Pakistanis. It would appear the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Pakistani Army are talking up the Islamic State presence to divert attention from and in a sense even mainstream the Taliban. The fantasy plan of an India-Pakistan joint front against the Islamic State  has also emerged from Pakistan Government sources. Some Pakistani analysts have gone to the extent of saying the supposed age-old prophecy of Ghazwa-e-Hind actually promises war against Pakistan as well, as the Hind it refers to is undivided India. Clearly, somebody is trying sell the Modi Government a lemon.

The Islamic State is no friend of India. Having said that, the immediate threat and the danger for the foreseeable future comes from the ISI and its proxy terrorist groups in Pakistan, and from the Rawalpindi/Islamabad-backed attempts by the Taliban to re-establish itself in Afghanistan as the Americans move out. The supposed Islamic State outposts in the Indian region are a red herring.

During his recent visit to Central Asia, Mr Modi discussed the situation in Afghanistan with several of its neighbours. One feedback the Indian delegation received was the Taliban was preparing for a far wider area domination than in the late 1990s. Then, the northern areas of Afghanistan, bordering Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, had been left free for the Taliban’s non-Pashtun rivals to re-group. This time, the Indian Prime Minister was told, the Taliban was planning to begin by consolidating northern Afghanistan.

Obviously, all this is being plotted with the assistance of the military establishment in Pakistan. The Islamic State is clearly not a huge factor, as is being made out for an Indian audience. The Government needs to approach the August 23-24 talks with that realism.

Ashok Mallik is senior fellow, Observer Research Foundation.



Pakistan Is Testing India’s Response to Terror, First In Gurdaspur and Now Udhampur. Why Is That ‘Befitting Reply’ So Long In Coming?

By Ashok K Mehta

August 7, 2015

Pakistan is testing India’s response to terror, first in Gurdaspur and now Udhampur. Why is that ‘befitting reply’ so long in coming?

The capture of Fidayeen Mohammad Naved alias Qasim Khan — call him Qasab II — during a terrorist attack in Udhampur, just days after the assault on Gurdaspur, is a significant achievement of the security forces and village defence squads. It also shows the determination of the handlers in Pakistan to disrupt and derail the 68th Independence Day celebrations and the proposed NSA-level talks and test the new government's tolerance threshold.

In a significant policy shift the government has not called off the NSA talks as it is determined to confront Pakistan with the live evidence of a Qasab II. However, the element that has been missing from India's policy of combating cross-border terrorism for decades is retribution.

While deeply analytical, the mention of an Indian deterrent to fend off such terror attacks from Pakistan is conspicuous by its absence in recent articles on the Gurdaspur attack. It is this missing ingredient of India’s internal security policy that has encouraged Islamabad to expand the geography and frequency of cross-border terrorism beyond J&K to Punjab, for the first time after the 26/11 strikes on Mumbai in 2008.

No Deterrence

Speaking in Mumbai this week on the use of hard power, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval emphasised the need for India to have a “deterrence against attacks on its soil”. This rephrasing of similar comments made earlier suggests that an appropriate but belated response is in the making.

In his very erudite article, M. K. Narayanan, a former NSA, writes at length about the challenges posed by terrorism emanating from Pakistan. He proposes that as cross-border terrorism intensified in J&K, it declined in Punjab. Now, he says, as terrorism has declined in J&K, it may return in Punjab, where conditions are ripe for an escalation . He is right. The linkage between Kashmir and Khalistan was made by the ISI in its famous “K2 Project” attempted in early 1990s but the idea of Khalistan was nipped in the bud by the Punjab police.

However, while Mr Narayanan makes an inventory of defensive measures, there is not a whiff of how to punish Pakistan. The steadfast pursuit of “not losing an inch of land” has, sadly, bred a passive and defensive mindset among Indian security forces.

In the run-up to the hanging of Yakub Memon, the word 'deterrent' was dropped by political leaders and intellectuals like confetti at a wedding. Retribution has a sobering effect on sponsors of terror and Pakistan's indefatigable pursuit of it has been whetted by the absence of a response. The attacks in Gurdaspur and Udhampur are stark reminders of this.

Policy Dead End

Despite a strenuous spin to its Pakistan policy, portrayed as more muscular than that of the UPA , it is becoming clear that the new government has hit a cul de sac. After raising the bar for resuming the dialogue process, it has had to make a dramatic climbdown. As the international border and LoC resonate with artillery, there is no sign of restoration of calm.Terror and talks will go hand-in-hand when the two NSAs, armed with their respective dossiers on Gurdaspur and Udhampur, and R&AW meet on August 23 and 24 at New Delhi.

What has changed is the language of warnings to Pakistan. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has threatened to give a 'befitting reply'. In a chaotic Rajya Sabha, over the din, he vowed “an effective and forceful response” to the Dinanagar assault by the Pakistani fidayeen whom he referred to as “enemies of India”. Earlier, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar had made a generic remark that the response to terror will be “disproportionate and unpredictable and at a time and place of our choosing”. Be it Dinanagar or Udhampur, the charade of a “befitting reply” is repeated ad nauseum on Indian TV channels, where supercharged anchors, accompanied by their over-enthusiastic panelists, pay back their Pakistani counterparts in high decibels with choice invectives, recounting the history of treachery in fouled battles and clandestine campaigns. Calling Pakistanis 'cowards' appears to be the acme of retribution.

We are told that new fences and walls are to be put up to prevent terrorists from swimming across the Ravi river that the fidayeen crossed last month to surprise the Dinanagar police station. In the past we have built canals and ditch-cum-bunds, erected minefields and smart fencing on the IB and LoC and adopted anti-and counter-infiltration and counter-insurgency grids by thickening troop density. These measures have contained insurgency in J&K, but not brought an end to it. The focus now, as in the past, is strengthening defensive measures.

Forceful Language

Is India being self-deterred from delivering a befitting reply? Over the last several months, signals emanating from NSA Ajit Doval and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar were very encouraging. Mr Parrikar spoke about using terrorists to remove terrorists and re-creating deep assets dismantled by default earlier. Mr Doval has been urging Pakistan to end terrorism and at least once warned: “you do another Mumbai, you lose Balochistan”.

One must assume that the befitting reply — effective, forceful, disproportionate and unpredictable — is in the making, to be delivered at a time and place of India's choosing. Translating words into an actionable deterrent is the challenge for policymakers.

Two other aspects require attention: prevention of and a quicker response to the fidayeen assaults. The guru of counter-terrorism K .P.S. Gill, under whose charge Khalistan terrorism was ended in Punjab, stated after the Dinanagar attack: “You don't prepare for terrorism after it has happened.” Fidayeen infiltrate across the LoC/IB, strike targets in Jammu and some even get away. Over the years, the Indian security forces have frequently dealt with terrorists holed up in villages and hideouts in the Srinagar vallley and elsewhere. All the operational experience to end a crisis situation has been assimilated but not institutionalised for re-use. That is why units take inordinately long to finish the operation.

The lackadaisical deportment of personnel at the Dinanagar police station showed the absence of operational readiness and preparedness despite the general alert. Counter-terrorism skills, acquired by the Punjab police in early 1990s, were obviously not passed down; else the response would have been more professional and the police post would not have caved in. It took all of 12 hours for Punjab police's SWAT team, trained in Israel, to overcome three fidayeen. As one watched on TV the melee of troops, police and onlookers, it was obvious that the lessons of Mumbai had not been heeded: of no live coverage of counter-terrorism operations. Closure was brought half a day after the attack, with the fidayeen given live coverage and the ultimate oxygen of publicity. An American woman trapped in Taj Mumbai during 26/11 on her rescue at the end of the operation while exiting the hotel angrily told a police officer: “there were six terrorists. And you took three days.”

In Dinanagar and Udhampur, Pakistan was testing India's response to a terror attack, the first outside J&K after Mumbai. Some government sources are claiming that the civilian government in Pakistan was unaware of these attacks. That is possible, even probable. However, the autonomy of the Punjab-based terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammad acting independently of the ISI is unlikely. Either way, it ducks two questions: how will India respond to the next big attack sourced in Pakistan; and why is the deterrent overt or covert or both, taking so long to materialise? Is it the lack of political will? Because the man on the street is asking “iska kuchh hoga” (will something be done of this) to end cross-border terrorism. The government must give a befitting reply.

(Maj. Gen. Mehta (retd.) was a founder- member of the Defence Planning Staff, now the Integrated Defence Staff.)


Yakub Case Reminds Us the Home Truths about Justice

By Rajdeep Sardesai

Aug 07, 2015

“The Mumbai blasts seem to be a reaction to the ‘totality of events’ in Ayodhya and Mumbai in December 1992 and January 1993.” Justice BN Srikrishna report.

Justice Srikrishna is spot on: If there were no riots in Mumbai in 1992-1993, there would have been no serial blasts. Like if there was no Godhra train burning there would have been no 2002 Gujarat riots, or if Indira Gandhi was not assassinated, there would have been no anti-Sikh pogrom in 1984. Or we could argue that if the Babri masjid was not demolished, the post-Babri riots would not have occurred; if Indira Gandhi hadn’t ordered the army to storm the Golden Temple, Sikh militancy would have been contained; if the VHP hadn’t undertaken a Kar-Seva in Ayodhya, no train would have been targeted.

Searching for the ‘root causes’ of any act of violence is fraught with danger. Just how far back will action-reaction theories take us, and do they eventually lead to rationalising violence?

And yet, it is impossible, as Justice Srikrishna points out, to separate the Mumbai blasts from the riots that preceded them. Which is why the narrative over 1993 Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon’s execution cannot but reflect on the riots as well.

Why did Memon, who by all accounts had set up a relatively successful chartered accountancy firm in Mumbai’s Mahim area (Memon and Mehta, a Gujarati Hindu being his partner), become part of a diabolical ‘Muslims only’ terror plot? Can his transformation be linked to the fact that Mahim was one of the worst-affected areas during the communal clashes? Or that his brother’s office was attacked in the riots, the family received threat calls, and local Shiv Sainiks had warned Muslims in the area to ‘go to Pakistan’?

Whether Memon was fully aware of the serial blasts conspiracy, widely believed to have been executed by his brother Tiger, is uncertain. But after the apex court verdict, the debate over his exact role in the 1993 blasts must now end; what must begin is an attempt to reset the discriminatory manner in which the Indian state and the criminal justice system deals with mass crimes.

In the cacophonous television studios, there has been an emphasis on how stringent punishment to Memon will be a deterrent to terrorists and provide closure to the families of 257 victims of the blasts. But few public figures have called for similar tough action against the rioters of Mumbai. More than 900 people died in the violence, but only three people were convicted and given one-year jail terms, one of whom is dead, the others out on bail.

And yet those who do raise their voice and seek justice for the riot victims are labelled ‘anti-national’, ‘presstitutes’ and worse. It is almost as if there is a selective amnesia where Mumbai’s violent journey begins on March 12, 1993 and what happened before is to be conveniently forgotten. And if you do care to remember, then you are accused of being an apologist for ‘terrorists’, as if a rioter with a sword who kills in the name of religion cannot be compared to a terrorist armed with RDX.

With informed liberal opinion being pushed on the defensive, is it any surprise then that the voice of dissent is now being hijacked by the likes of an Asaduddin Owaisi? The MIM MP from Hyderabad is no bleeding heart liberal, but a hard-headed politician who has sensed an opportunity in a surcharged and polarised atmosphere to build himself as a defender of ‘Muslim interests’. It is no different, in a sense, from how Bal Thackeray saw himself during the 1992-1993 violence as a ‘protector’ of Hindus, an image that eventually catapulted him to power during the subsequent 1995 Maharashtra assembly elections. Or how a Praveen Togadia and even a Narendra Modi projected themselves as 'indu Hriday Samrats'and defenders of Gujarati asmita in 2002. Or how the Congress under Rajiv Gandhi, during the 1984 general elections, ran an insidious campaign aimed at showing the Sikh as a terrorist.

The difference perhaps is that then we didn’t have the spectre of a global ‘jihad’ being waged by terror groups like the IS. Now, the rising influence of such groups and the growing radicalisation of Muslim youth whose rapid alienation is pushing them to seek ‘revenge’ demands that the State be seen to be just and even-handed. The claim that evidence is far more difficult to gather in a riot case than in a terror conspiracy can no longer be an alibi for shoddy investigation and, in some glaring instances, for an utterly compromised and partisan state apparatus.

You can’t have a Mumbai blast verdict being held up as a symbol of zero tolerance to terror even as a number of witnesses turn hostile in cases like Malegaon and Ajmer involving Hindu terror groups. Why should a public prosecutor in the Mumbai blasts case like Ujwal Nikam become a heroic figure while those in the Malegaon blasts are pushed around and threatened? How do you explain a Hashimpura verdict where almost three decades after 42 Muslims were gunned down, no one is held guilty? If those found guilty in the Godhra train burning have been given life or death penalties and remain in jail, why should those who were found guilty in the Gujarat riot cases like Naroda Patiya be out on bail with the state refusing to push for harsher punishment?

Sadly, in a divided society, raising these questions will perhaps lead to being labelled ‘anti-national’ yet again and offered a one-way ticket to Pakistan. But look at it in another way: These questions are really only in the nature of ‘inconvenient truths’ that any mature democracy must confront, the kind that might just ensure we don’t become another Pakistan!

Post-script: In 1993, I deposed for three days before the Srikrishna commission. As I was leaving court, a Shiv Sainik accosted me: ‘Don’t forget, Balasaheb is our God, our saviour, no court can hold him guilty.’ He was proven right. The BJP-Sena government in Mumbai junked the Srikrishna report findings. In 2012, Bal Thackeray was given a state funeral by a Congress-NCP government.

Rajdeep Sardesai is a senior journalist and author


Iran nuclear deal: The reckoning

By Talmiz Ahmad

Aug 06, 2015

While America’s principal concern is to mobilise regional support against the proliferation of jihadi forces while seeing Iran as an enduring security threat, Saudi Arabia has structured an alliance on a sectarian basis

Three weeks after the nuclear deal with Iran in Vienna, opinion in the US and West Asia on its implications for regional and global security remains divided. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described it as a “stunning historic mistake”. Israel’s influential lobby in the US, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has commenced a well-funded campaign for its rejection in the US Congress. This has aligned Israel with the Republican right-wing, has deeply divided Jewish opinion and made Israel adopt a partisan position in the US’ fractured politics. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush has called the deal an “appeasement”; another presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee, has said the agreement will march Israel “to the door of the oven”, while a Saudi commentator believes the deal “has opened the gates of evil” in West Asia. Some Iranian hardliners have said the deal has compromised Iran’s defence interests by crossing some “vital red lines”. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has affirmed the Iranians’ right to continue to condemn US “arrogance” and shout: “Death to America”.

Across the Arab sheikhdoms of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the principal concern is that Iran, now flush with funds and an appetite for regional domination, will be a threat to the interests of the GCC countries, given its strong political and military influence across West Asia, in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and now Yemen. In response to these concerns, US officials have rushed to the region with expressions of political and military support. Defence secretary Ashton Carter has asserted that the nuclear agreement “places no limit” on the use of US forces to defend its interests and those of its allies. Both Carter and secretary of state John Kerry have said that the US can and will take action to “push back” Iran’s conventional threats, including additional sanctions, and bolster the capabilities of Israel and its Gulf allies with new weapons, intelligence assets and special forces training to the GCC militaries. The US has just approved the sale of 600 Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia, valued at $5.3 billion.

However, in spite of these public postures of camaraderie, there are deep differences in the Saudi and US’ understanding of the regional security scenario. The US’ principal concern is to mobilise regional support against the proliferation of jihadi forces, represented by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State for Iraq and (Greater) Syria (ISIS). Saudi Arabia in recent months has pursued a very different approach: seeing Iran as an enduring security threat, the Kingdom has structured an alliance on a sectarian basis. The two prongs of this policy are: outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood and accommodation of jihadi forces in this Sunni alliance.

In order to rollback Iran’s regional influence, in a significant reversal, the Kingdom has now reached out to affiliates of the Brotherhood in Syria and Yemen to make them a part of the national political process. More importantly, in Syria, Saudi Arabia has included the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Nusra (Victory Front) in the newly formed militia, Jaish al Fatah (Army of Victory), which brings together under one umbrella the Jabhat ally, Ahrar al Sham (Movement for Free Syria) and other jihadi militant groups. This approach has enabled the Sunni trio of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar to provide substantial military, intelligence, logistical and training support to the new jihadi outfit, thus abandoning the US-backed policy of supporting “moderate” elements in the Syrian civil conflict.

The scenario in Yemen is similar: even as the Kingdom has unleashed the full force of its fire power on the Houthi militia across Yemen, it has avoided attacking elements of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) who have consolidated themselves in the southern town of Al Mukalla, the capital of Hadhramawt province, and in large parts of the province itself. As the GCC forces expand their territorial conquests in and around Aden, the stage is set for the consolidation of the southern provinces into one entity, the reinstatement of the Abdel Rabbo government, and the de facto partition of Yemen into the Houthi-controlled north and the Sunni-dominated, oil-rich south where effective power could be exercised by the Al Qaeda. Thus, the sectarian proxy war in West Asia will see the legitimisation of Al Qaeda influence in two major Arab countries under Saudi patronage.

However, while these results might give Saudi leaders a sense of triumph against their sectarian and strategic rival, the policy is fraught with considerable danger for the Kingdom’s own stability. This alliance with jihad will further radicalise Saudi youth, promote attacks against the Shia population, retaliatory assaults by the latter, and terrorist acts against state authorities when they crack down on the escalating violence. This will also strengthen the ranks of the jihadi forces which will in time turn against their Saudi patrons.

Turkey too seems to be playing a convoluted role in the regional scenario. For sometime now, Turkish and Western observers have noted that in seeking regime change in Syria, the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been extending considerable support to the ISIS. Thousands of foreign recruits have been allowed to cross the Turkish border into Syria, including nearly 5,000 Turks, along with considerable weaponry. Turkey has also extended financial support to ISIS by buying oil from its occupied territories.

Following the ISIS-sponsored suicide bombing in Surucon on July 20, in which 32 Turks were killed and over a hundred injured, Erdogan has reversed his policy and permitted the US to bomb ISIS targets from the Turkish airbase of Incirlik. Turkey has also carried out bombing raids against ISIS, but observers suggest that their principal targets are cadres of the dissident Kurdish group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Erdogan has secured US approval to set up a 90-km long and 40-km deep “safe-zone” at the Turkey-Syria border which will ostensibly free the area of ISIS supporters but, more importantly, will prevent the Syrian Kurds (who are pro-PKK) from consolidating themselves in territory that is contiguous to that of the Turkish and Iraqi Kurds.

Amidst these fierce confrontations, a few voices advocating moderation have been raised. The distinguished Arab journalist, Raghida Dergham, has called for a “Gulf strategy based on regional restraint”, with new regional engagements between the principal players — Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia — and a new roadmap to address ongoing conflicts. Echoing this, the Saudi writer Mohammed al Harithy has asserted that the people of the region are “desperate for security, stability and development”. As of now, no one seems to be listening.

Talmiz Ahmad is a former diplomat


Welcoming Iran to South Asia

By Khaled Ahmed

Aug 6, 2015

The Iran nuclear deal has changed the strategic map in our part of the world. We thought the Sunni Middle East would oppose it along with Israel, and a new Cold War threatening to become hot would ensue. But the Arabs have cooled down after blowing their top earlier on. It appears that the Gulf sheikhdoms embraced realism first: the UAE foreign minister visited Iran and met the leaders there; and the Saudis have invited the Iranian “deal-negotiating” Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to a regional security dialogue happening in December. A Saudi statement has already looked at the deal as starters for a nuke-free zone in the Mideast and the Gulf.

Pakistan and India, both tied to Iran strategically but opposed to each other, are preening themselves on opportunities the Iran deal has offered. But they are doing it separately, studiously avoiding looking at each other. Pakistan’s Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi lost no time counting Pakistan “among the winners” from the deal and boasted of completing Pakistan’s section of the 80km gas pipeline “within six months”. Pakistan had been reprimanding itself for signing the pipeline deal in 2013 when it was under sanctions, allowing Iran a punitive clause if it didn’t build its section by 2015.

 Iran had spent big money taking its section of the pipeline up to the Pakistani border. India and Pakistan didn’t give much thought to why Iran did this — and waived the fine Pakistan had to pay — but the fact is that Iran is looking to sell its gas big to India more than to Pakistan.

Iran has a lot of gas which it has not exploited as it should have and runs the risk of losing it to a much more active Qatar if their subterranean deposits are joined under the Gulf. India was originally the big market and Pakistan was to figure as the transit country, but no one in the world can figure why the South Asian neighbours carry on the way they do.

But there is a pipeline waiting to cross into energy-starved South Asia, a pipeline more credible than the Turkmenistan pipeline called TAPI that Pakistan and India have signed up to, which has to cross areas of Afghanistan not expected to simmer down enough to allow passage for years ahead. Short-sighted Pakistan is gloating over a north-south economic corridor with Chinese help, not thinking it could become the world’s biggest trading hub with Indian trade plying through it to Central Asia in addition to the Chabahar route that it has built with Iran. Chabahar port and the Iranian gas-pipeline project could practically attract Iran into becoming a South Asian state for the economic good of the region as opposed to Afghanistan, which became a member of Saarc only to stage a remote-controlled India-Pakistan battle on its soil. What China might not be telling Pakistan yet: It is spending $46 billion as a Silk Road to India too.

 In India, there are hard-nosed people with vision enough to grasp the new strategic opportunities. C. Raja Mohan, writing in The Indian Express, thinks the Iran deal “helps remove a number of recent constraints on Indian foreign policy”, enabling “a larger Indian role in the Greater Middle East” and that “India’s thinking about the Middle East has tended to be ideological and rooted in domestic political considerations”. He thinks Prime Minister Narendra Modi is temperamentally suited to reach out to Iran to set things right. In Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif too is focused on the economy rather than ideology and has taken the brunt of Pakistan’s anti-India lobbies without changing his outlook. The opposite of war is not peace, but trade and investment. Ideological Pakistan is subject to occasional spasms of trade egotism after coming under China’s pragmatic pressures. It has been vaguely aware of the advantage of being a median state on whose soil neighbours seek transit routes to trade with the states of the outer circle.

But Pakistan’s ingrained militarism looks at this advantage as hostile leverage: Block passage and become important rather than give passage and become important. The good thing is PM Nawaz Sharif is an ideological deviant focused on the economy by his own confession. Iran thought of selling its gas within South Asia in 1990. As the idea gelled with Pakistan, India joined too, and the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline began to be called the “peace pipeline”, a not too hidden pun on smoking the peace pipe.

Then Iran fell back on its global ideological rivalries and got itself besieged with sanctions, which everybody wrongly thought would be ineffective. South Asia was also a vector of what may be called the “nuclear disease”; and Pakistan passed it on to Iran after saying it had caught it from India. India then signed a civil nuclear power deal with the US in 2008 and pulled out of the project.

 In Persian, hero is called “qaharman”. After many years of crippling sanctions, Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei okayed the deal, saying it was Iran’s heroic flexibility (“narmish-e-qaharmanana”). It’s time South Asia showed some of its own “narmish-e-qaharmanana” to welcome Iran into its economic zone where a pragmatic China is already extending its silk roads.

Khaled Ahmed is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek Pakistan’


How to Deal with Pakistan: New Delhi Must Pursue a Flexible Strategy with Elements of Containment and Engagement

By Manoj Joshi

August 7, 2015

After the two back-to-back attacks in Gurdaspur and Udhampur, choices before India are stark: Carry on as before, launch tit-for-tat strikes, or turn our backs on Pakistan. After tentatively exploring options two and three for the past year, the Modi government has adopted the first course.

There is nothing dishonourable about this approach which essentially calls on India to field everything that Pakistan throws at us, and yet continue the policy of engagement with a view to reducing the space for hardliners.

Governments since Rajiv Gandhi have followed this track. Recall that Atal Bihari Vajpayee swallowed the bile of the Kargil betrayal and reached out to its planner – Pervez Musharraf – to arrive at a fairly successful agreement which has dramatically reduced violence in Jammu & Kashmir. Looked at in the perspective of 30 years, India is the one that has emerged stronger even as Pakistan is tottering on the brink.

Sure, we could get some psychological satisfaction in bombing the terror camps and sending the Pakistan high commissioner packing. Both options would a ctually please the Pakistani deep state which wants to have nothing to do with us, and would welcome a conflict that derails India from its path of economic growth.

It is not too difficult to see the hand of these elements in the attacks which are taking place even as the two countries are planning a meeting between their top security officials ‘to discuss all issues connected to terrorism’ and expedite the Mumbai case trial.

In September 2013, a couple of days ahead of the Manmohan Singh-Nawaz Sharif meeting in New York, militants dressed in army fatigues struck in Hiranagar near Kathua killing several policemen, army personnel and civilians before being gunned down. In November 2014, just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was meeting his Pakistani counterpart at Dhulikhel, Nepal, four gunmen struck an army camp in the Arnia sector of Jammu leaving three army men and five civilians dead before being killed.

The attack in Gurdaspur and now the one on the Udhampur-Srinagar section of National Highway 1A are a bit out of the usual grid which, in the past five years, has seen attacks by militants wearing army fatigues on army and police camps on either side of the highway connecting Jammu and Pathankot. But there are still dots that need to be connected as to why Gurdaspur was the chosen target or why the captured militant Naved made his way with his companion all the way from Kupwara in the north, across the Valley and over the Pir Panjal, to launch an attack on a BSF bus near Udhampur.

Whether the authorities learn anything from Naved is moot. He is the lowest part of the Pakistani deep state food chain – the cannon fodder. Those comparing him to Kasab are overstating the case. The 26/11 attacker was also cannon fodder, but part of a complex high-impact conspiracy. Naved appears to be playing a role in a set of low-level operations which have been taking place for years in the areas across the international border in Jammu.

Fortunately, not everything is bleak on the India-Pakistan front. For one thing, the Modi government seems to have bitten the bullet and is determined to press on with the National Security Advisers’ level meeting later this month.

Then, on Monday Tariq Khosa, the former Director General of Pakistan’s Federal Investigating Agency, published an oped in the Dawn newspaper giving the gist of his erstwhile agency’s investigation into the Pakistan-end conspiracy relating to the Mumbai attack of 2008.

Essentially, Khosa acknowledged that Kasab was a Pakistani national, that he and his fellow militants were trained at the Lashkar-e-Taiba training camp in Thatta, Sind, and launched from there, that his agency had recovered the trawler which was used to hijack the Indian trawler, the ops room for the attack was located, the VOIP communications unearthed and the commander, his deputies and financiers arrested and brought to trial.

There is no new revelation here, but what is noteworthy is Khosa’s former rank as DG FIA. He could have written the article any time after he retired after 2011, but that he has written it now is as significant as the fact that Dawn published it.

The first part of Khosa’s article gives a hint of the churning that is taking place in Pakistan since the December 2014 attack by the Tehreek-e-Taliban on a school leading to the deaths of 145 persons, including 132 school children. As he puts it, “I have no doubt that the political and security leadership [of Pakistan] have resolved to eliminate the scourge of terrorism, militancy and extremism.”

This may well be true, or it may not. Only time can tell. However, for any government in New Delhi the challenge is in crafting an effective response to Pakistan. Over the years, governments have triangulated their options and realised that the only sustainable one is a strategy that combines containment and engagement.

This involves a policy where the country continues to harden its capabilities to counter terrorists, even as it seeks to smother the domestic base of terrorism in Pakistan through a policy of engagement with those elements who have realised that their country must get out of the suicidal path it has been on.


Raja-Mandala: After Mullah Omar

By C. Raja Mohan

Aug 4, 2015

Beginning today, a weekly column tracking India’s changing world and its turbulent circle of states The “killing” of Mullah Omar last week, more than two years after he died, will only add to the mystery surrounding the reclusive leader of the Taliban who seemed to dominate the Afghan landscape for nearly two decades. But the sudden death of the man, in whose name the Taliban leadership issued Eid greetings just days before, reminds us that Pakistan remains the most important external player in Afghanistan. It also tells us how effortlessly Pakistan can change the international storyline on Afghanistan.

The carefully constructed myth of Mullah Omar attributed political charisma, religious wisdom and great leadership skills to a man who was hardly literate. However, some of Pakistan’s opponents in Afghanistan have long insisted that Mullah Omar and the Taliban were mere creatures of Rawalpindi’s invention.

Although the truth about Mullah Omar and his movement might be a long time coming, no one denies the intimate relationship between Pakistan and the Taliban, ever since the organisation came into public view two decades ago. Some say Pakistan has pulled the plug on Mullah Omar because Rawalpindi is now deeply committed to peace in Afghanistan. Others counter by arguing that Pakistan was finding it hard to sustain the deception that the one-eyed Mullah Omar was alive and leading the Taliban. They suggest Pakistan has had to reboot the Taliban amid emerging internal divisions within the organisation and external pressures, especially from the US and China, to support political reconciliation within Afghanistan. Pakistan found that Mullah Omar had outlived his utility, and that it now needs to revamp the organisation and prepare it to regain power in Kabul and international legitimacy.

 But this is where the story gets a bit complicated. Within hours after announcing the death of Mullah Omar, a new leader, Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, was proclaimed as the new Amirul Momineen, or the commander of the faithful. But mobilising loyalty to the new leader has not been easy. Many, including Mullah Omar’s brother, Mullah Abdul Manan, and son Yacoub, have challenged Mansour’s “selection” by a small clique as the new leader of the Taliban.

Pakistan will certainly want to stamp out dissidence and make sure that potential breakaway factions are small and ineffective. That the talks scheduled for this week between Kabul and the Taliban had to be postponed suggests that Pakistan has much work to do. An audio statement issued in the name of Mansour over the weekend promised to continue the jihad until Islamic rule is brought to Afghanistan and urged the Taliban to stay united. While some were hailing Mansour as the new champion of engagement with Kabul, the audio statement rubbished the peace process as a “propaganda campaign by the enemy”.

The peace credentials of the new leadership are also undermined by the installation of Sirajuddin Haqqani as one of the two new deputy commanders of the Taliban. Sirajuddin heads the Haqqani network, arguably the most violent Pashtun group. Based in Pakistan, the Haqqani network has conducted attacks on the US and Indian diplomatic missions in Afghanistan and is affiliated to al-Qaeda. More importantly, as the senior most US military officer in 2011, Admiral Mike Mullen, told the US Congress, the Haqqani network is a “veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency”.

There is no question that Pakistan’s Afghan strategy is evolving. If the Taliban seemed inflexible about negotiations in the past, Pakistan is promising to make it more reasonable. Many in the West and China are ready to accept, at least for now, Pakistan’s claim that a new and moderate Taliban is at hand. Not everyone in Afghanistan is convinced, however. Even if Pakistan succeeds in getting the new Taliban leadership to negotiate peace with Kabul, there will be enough Afghan elements on both sides challenging the terms of settlement.

Meanwhile, the world will deal with the new Taliban with a much weaker hand, thanks to the precipitous decline in the Western military and economic footprint in Afghanistan. But Pakistan has its own historic handicap in Afghanistan. Like the British Raj, Pakistan believes dominance over Afghanistan is critical for its national security.  As the successor to the Raj on the Durand Line, Pakistan wants a say in who runs Kabul, and how. Geography — physical, political and ethnic — has given it the power to disrupt any regime in Afghanistan. Pakistan has demonstrated that capability beyond doubt since the mid-1970s.

Yet, the Pakistan army may not have either the material resources or the political vision to construct an inclusive and durable state structure in Kabul. The gap between Pakistan’s strategic ambition in Afghanistan and its national capability might inevitably set the stage for the next round of blood-letting on India’s north-western frontiers.

 The writer is a contributing editor for ‘The Indian Express’ and a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi


Jihadist-Military Project at Work

The Hindu Editorial

August 7, 2015

Wednesday’s terror strike in Udhampur by militants from Pakistan was clearly aimed at provoking India. It came barely 10 days after a police station in Gurdaspur in Punjab was attacked, again by militants from Pakistan. This time India captured one of the attackers alive — a Pakistani youth identified as Mohammad Naved. The timing of the attack, in which two Border Security Force men lost their lives, is also important. If Gurdaspur followed the India-Pakistan joint statement issued from Ufa, Russia, last month, Naved has been caught just weeks before the scheduled meeting by the National Security Advisors of both nations. It is more of a game plan than a coincidence. Certain elements in Pakistan are steadfastly opposed to any meaningful engagement between the two countries. But what is the Pakistan government doing to address this? Even if Islamabad’s position that the government is not involved in cross-border terror attacks is taken seriously, several questions remain unanswered. The first of these relate to the duality in Pakistan’s approach to terrorism. The Pakistan establishment often presents itself as a victim of terror. It is true that Tehrik-i-Taliban and other sectarian groups have targeted the people of Pakistan often and that the Pakistan Army has been fighting them in the North-West. Meanwhile on another front, the Pakistan establishment is deeply involved with the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network and anti-India jihadist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, leading to the rise of a powerful jihadist-military complex. This complex didn’t come up overnight. Using jihadists for strategic gains has been a deliberate strategy of Pakistan’s military establishment for decades. Its role in the 1980s in helping jihadists to fight the communists in Afghanistan is hardly a secret. And that strategy has proven to be counter-productive over the years. It destroyed modern Afghanistan and destabilised the entire North West of Pakistan. Does Pakistan want to repeat the same story on its eastern border?

Pakistan has to realise that it is playing a dangerous game here. If the militants are acting on their own, as the government claims, it should rein them in, rather than pretending to be helpless. If the problem is systemic, there has to be a systemic response. Islamabad cannot sit quietly while its citizens cross the border and launch attacks on India. On the other hand, New Delhi has to be alert to the dangers. If it is true that the militant who has been captured crossed the Line of Control 12 days ago, that puts the spotlight back on India’s preparedness — or the lack of it — to deal with armed militancy of a resilient kind. New Delhi should be prepared for any eventuality, while engaging Pakistan and bringing international pressure to bear on it.