Thursday, March 28, 2013

A 360 degree look at contemporary China

For the past decade or so, much of Indian strategic thinking and discourse has visibly shifted from its Pakistan-centric focus to study Sino-Indian relations. The rise of China and its implications for India is now a preferred area of serious study. 

At the same time Chinese inroads into India's strategic neighbourhood, Beijing's continuing attempts to use Pakistan's as cat's paw against India and New Delhi's balancing act of evolving a strategic partnership with the United States even while keeping a dialogue going with China are some of the highlights of the past decade. Many authors write about India-China relations, the emerging US-India-Japan trilateral compact but there are very few authoritative and knowledgeable Indian writers who have a deep insight into Chinese strategic thinking and the internal dynamics within China. 

Jayadeva Ranade, a former Additional Secretary in India's Cabinet Secretariat, an euphemism for the country's external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), is one such analyst. A frequent writer in leading newspapers and regular panelist on Indian Television channels, Ranade was also associated with the Centre for Airpower Studies (CAPS) for a couple of years after he retired from active service. As the foremost China hand in RAW, Ranade was engaged in keeping a close watch on day to day developments around China and its implications for India. 

After retirement however he was not constrained by the compulsions of government policies and requirement. Freed of encumbrances, Ranade has utilised the luxury of being an independent analyst in his post-retirement writings for CAPS as well as for different newspapers. The sum total of all his writings in the 2010-2012 period has resulted in a book China Unveiled: Insights into Chinese Strategic Thinking (KW Publishers: ISBN 978-93-81904-43-5).

Released by National Security Adviser (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon, himself a China thinker, the book is a valuable asset for every serious student of China. Ranade's vast experience in dealing with China both from the ground (he was in Beijing when the Tiananmen Square incident happened in 1989) and from his perch as the leading analyst in the agency, shines through the book. 

Unlike most Indian writers, Ranade has chosen to write on China and Chinese leadership as a standalone subject rather than through the prism of Sino-Indian dynamic. So you have a great insight into Hu Jintao's rise and his real power. By tracing his roots, his rise and his tenure through little known facts, Ranade draws a completely refreshing profile of Hu, who has just  handed over the reins of power to Xi Jingping. In the first chapter Hu's in charge? Ranade states "though Hu's tenure has been dogged by comments that he is not powerful as his predecessors, his career path shows otherwise. It is likely that Hu Jintao's influence will, in fact, continue to linger well after he steps down from office (January 2011)."

In less than three months after profiling Hu Jintao, Ranade wrote at length on Xi Jingping in the chapter China's Next Chairman: Xi Jingping. And again broughtout unknown facts and anecdotes. His prognosis of Xi's likely stand (March 2011)--"What can be inferred with reasonable surety is that Xi Jinping’s military affiliations and pronounced linkages with senior PLA officers will influence his policies. The military will receive high budgetary allocations and the focus on the PLA’s modernisation will continue. ‘Integrated joint operations’ and preparations for fighting ‘short duration regional wars under hi-tech informatised conditions’ will remain a feature. He is likely to stay with the current policy, which combines diplomacy with a strong suggestion of military muscle"--is bang on. All developments in recent months after Xi has formally taken over confirms what Ranade predicted two years ago!

The strength of this compilation in fact remains in its accurate prognosis.

For instance in the chapter entitled India and China: The way forward (December 2010he correctly assesses how the relationship will pan out. "India-China relations specifically need to be viewed in this backdrop. The Chinese leadership’s view of India is significant. While discussing India in interactions with foreign strategists and diplomats, Chinese officials and members of Chinese government-controlled think-tanks list three main items as issues of concern. These are, in the Chinese-listed order of priority: the Dalai Lama and Tibet issue; the border dispute; and India’s geopolitical ambitions. These can be classified as tactical and short-term, medium-to-long term and strategic.

"For example, during the US-China Strategic Dialogue in Washington a few months ago, when the US proposed a US-China-India trilateral, China vehemently rejected the
idea and questioned how the US could place India anywhere near on par with China when the two were not at all comparable. Noteworthy also is the omission by China of vital natural resource issues like water and food, which will become serious factors that bedevil the relationship in the next ten to fifteen years." 

China's new leader Xi Jingping and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in fact met at Durban during the BRICS summit in South Africa on 27 March 2013. Just days before that meeting the Chinese had suggested a five point formula to take forward the Sino-Indian relationship. Much of the proposal is old but it very much resembles what Ranade said over two years ago!

Although the book deals with a range of subjects, its main focus remains contemporary China. The 32 essays that comprise the book presents a comprehensive 360 degree look at present day China dealing with subjects ranging from rapid modernisation of the PLA, the changing nature of China's Communist Party, environment to China's maritime ambitions and cyber strategy.

If there is one drawback in the book that serious scholars of India-China relationship will complain about is the lack of citations and references. But as the publishers and author himself have clarified, the book is meant as an easy reading and not a heavy tome full of notes and index!

Anyone interested in today's China, must read this book if only to understand the complex challenge that the middle kingdom poses to strategic thinkers. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Tyagi not alone in clearing change in specifications for helicopter procurement, records show

Although the CBI has named former Air Chief SP Tyagi, his cousins and some others for conspiring to award the VVIP contract to Agusta Westland, a detailed investigation by NDTV has revealed that Air Chief Marshal Tyagi wasn't alone in identifying and finalising the Italian Company's name for supply of 12 VVIP helicopters to India. 

Several top officials including the then NSA MK Narayanan (now Governor of West Bengal), then SPG Chief BV Wanchoo (now Governor of Goa) then Defence Secretary Ajai Vikram Singh and current Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma, who was then Joint Secretary (air), were all involved in deciding the specifications that allowed AgustaWestland to enter the competition. 

A series of at least half a dozen meetings between Nov 2004 and September 2006 were held at the highest level in the government involving the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), Ministry of Defence (MoD), Representatives of the Special Protection Group (SPG) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) before specifications and technical requirements for procuring the VVIP helicopters were finalised and then a request for Proposal (RFP) issued. Decisions taken in these meetings in fact allowed AgustaWestland to enter the competition post-2006, our investigations show. Here's a detailed account of how the case progressed and how at each stage, every stake holder was involved and how each of them concurred with a collegiate decision.

8 Nov 2004:
Defence Secretary Ajai Vikram Singh holds a meeting attended by Deputy Chief of IAF, Additional Secy (Acquisition), Joint Secretary & Aciqisition Manager (air), SK Sharma (current Defence Secretary), OSD, PMO, Director PMO, IGP, SPG among others.

SK Sharma informs the meeting that "Air HQ had reviewed the OR (operational requirement) pertaining to mandatory service ceiling of 6,000 metres and came to the conclusion that it would not be feasible to reduce the service ceiling to 4,500 m, as with 4500 m altitude the helicopter would land only at altitudes that were substantially lower. Air HQ advised that it would not be prudent to change the mandaory OR of service from 6,000 metres to 4500 metres."

In response to the Air HQ stand, the PMO representative referred to earlier minutes of the meeting held in the PMO and stated that previous VVIP movements had not exceeded 4500 metres, and hence relevance of 6000 metres as the service ceiling altitude was not clear. He also stated that the views of the PMO were not obtained while finalising the ORs and the aim was to have wider competition for procurement.

So the meeting decided that the PMO would give a list of requirements on the aspects relating to safety, security and comfort of VVIPs and also confirmation on the specific need for 6000 metres ceiling, that is use of helicopters at high altitude.

1 March 2005:

NSA MK Narayanan chairs a meeting with Defence Secretary, Secretary (security), Director IB, Director SPG and Deputy Air Chief.

The meeting agrees to the following:
  • Since the proposal is to procure helicopters to replace existing Mi-8 helicopters, the ORs should broadly conform to the parameteres of Mi-8 which was the most widely used VVIP chopper at that time (This meant the altitude ceiling of 4500 metres was acceptable to PMO since Mi-8's reach was only upto that altitude).
  • Defence Secretary would convening a meeting with participation of IAF, SPG, Secretary (security) to draw up the operational specifications  for the VVIP helicopters in light of the above.
  • A single vendor situation should be avoided.
7 March 2005

Then Deputy Air Chief convenes a meeting at Air HQ attended by Director SPG, JS & AM (Air), IG, SPG among others. All ORs are deliberated during the meeting.

Point 8 of the minutes of the meeting says for instance notes: "The earlier OR of 6 km altitude and performance required at 5 km had been reduced to 4.5 km and 2 km respectively to avoid single vendor situation. Both were accepted as mandatory ORs." In words, every stake holder agreed to the revised ORs.

14 March 2005
The revised ORs are approved by the Air Chief, Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi.

The Deputy Air Chief forwards the finalised ORs approved by ACM Tyagi to Special Secretary (Acquisition). The Deputy Chief also writes: "It is felt that with the finalised ORs, a single vendor situation will be avoided." (This is conformity with the PMO's insistence to avoid single vendor situation)

1 April 2005:
Revised ORs are presented to Defence Secretary.

15 April 2005 

Based on discussions with Defence Secretary on the revised ORs, IAF's Assistant Chief of Air Staff , ACAS(plans) forwards the amended ORs to the Joint Secretary and Acquisition Manager (Air) (in this case SK Sharma, the current Defence Secretary) stating: "The ORs have now been made specific, to minimise subjectivity."

9 May 2005

Defence Secretary chairs meeting of all stake holders ( Sceretary Security, Deputy Air Chief, Joint Sectetary Air, IG, SPG among others) and each Operational requirement including altitude, cabin height, security  and communication is discussed.

7 October 2005

Deputy Air Chief director SPG, JS (Air) among others decided to increase number of helicopters from 8 to 12 for operational and security requirements.

With the ORs now locked, further discussions take another 11 months before the MOD finally issues RFP

27 Sept 2006: 

Request for proposal for acquiring 12 VVIP helicopters issued.  Three companies including AgustaWestland respond.

Three companies--makers of Mi-172, Sikorsky which made the S-92 helicopters and Augusta Westland's AWA101-- responded to the RFP.

Meanwhile the MoD had put in place a new concept--the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)--which lays down stringent rules and regulations. Under the DPP all companies that bid for contracts above 100 crore rupees have to sign an integrity pact which binds the companies to give an undertaking that no bribes would be paid or agents would be used in the contracts.

The Russian company that makes Mi-172 withdrew from the competition at an early stage refusing to sign the integrity contract!

That left AgustaWestland and Sikorsky in the race. By now this was late 2007. 

The evaluations and trials of S-92 and AW101 began and continued over the next couple of years (2008-09). According to Air Force sources S-92 was found to be non-compliant on 4 counts: 

1. It could not reach 15000 feet without maximum power

2. Its 'hover out off ground effect' wasn't sufficient

3. Its drift down altitude was not meeting the requiremt

4. Missile airborne warning system wasn't up to the mark

Agusta Westland with its three engines was a bonus, according Air Force test pilots since one engine failure still meant it had two to fall back upon.

Some time in 2009, Air HQ sent its recommendation to the Defence Ministry and after all going through the stringent financial and technical requirements mandatory under the DPP, a contract was signed in February 2010.

Friday, March 15, 2013

We are witnessing completion of an unfinished revolution in Bangladesh, says High Commissioner Tariq Karim

The video link is here:

Full transcript: Bangladesh High Commissioner Tariq Karim speaks to NDTV
New DelhiAs concerns about Dhaka's growing military ties with Beijing grow, Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Tariq Karim allays fears and says Dhaka will never allow its soil to be used against any anti-India activity. Speaking to NDTV's Nitin Gokhale, Mr Karim said by bringing the war criminals to book Bangladesh is overcoming its original sin of not acting against those who committed heinous crimes against humanity.

Here's the transcript of the interview:

NDTV: High Commissioner thank you very much for giving us this time and agreeing to speak with us. You know we are speaking at the backdrop of a great movement of people that is happening in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, at Shahbag Square. What is the genesis of this protest or movement whatever you want to call it?

Tariq Karim:
 Well first of all, it is a pleasure having you here... at the Bangladesh High Commission, it's a pleasure to be talking to you. Yes, I would certainly like to try and give you my take of what is happening at Shahbag as you know it's been called the new generation square, which is the literal translation of the Bangla term. I look at it more symbolically as the renaissance square. I call it the renaissance square because it is renaissance of the spirit of the liberation struggle that actually lead to our independence which we had to wrest at great cost to ourselves and you know these people, these young people... suddenly something triggered them off and came out... what triggered them off was one of the judgement of the war crime trials being held. As you are aware, Sheikh Hasina's government in its election commitment had said that she would try bring the war criminals to justice. It's been a long festering demand, sometimes vocal, sometimes subdued, and this was one of her election commitment as well as bringing to trial people accused of other heinous acts of terrorism. There was... has been a growing sense that unless you bring crime and criminality to trial and to justice, the culture of impurity which had grown in Bangladesh over the last 35 years plus would continue to take hold of the state itself. Now I have been questioned why now... how have these people come out? The only rational answer that I can give or find is that when the first judgement was passed there was not ...

NDTV: It wasn't a death sentence?

Tariq Karim: No it was. No the first judgement was a death sentence but the person was tried in absentia. He had fled to Pakistan, I believe and it was welcomed but it did not trigger off a mass outpouring . Before the second judgement was to have been passed, somebody from the (Jamaat), I forget who it was, had issued a statement that if the second judgement is passed , there will be a civil war or words to that effect. 

NDTV: It was... like a warning.

Tariq Karim: Yeah and then finally when the second judgement was passed, it was life sentence and what triggered off I think was the fact that he came out and smiled and beamed at the television cameras and flashed the V sign. It was almost saying that you know our threat worked and you've got me in for life lets see how long I remain inside. That was...
And ..and that I think triggered off everyone to say that we can't, he can't thumb his nose at the justice system and get away with it... 

NDTV: Right but the connectivity with the young people you know.. how did that come?

Tariq Karim: That was you see, nowadays young people are connected widely and there is a very wide network of connectivity... one person has a friend of ten or twenty people he shares it and you have the tool of... the mobile networks, the social networks being there and it just passed like wild fire, it spread like wild fire. You know I look back on a phenomenon like this where mass pourings have come out as a result of such social mass inter-connectedness and although what happened in China in 1989 was nothing like that. It was a spontaneous pouring out. 

NDTV: And you were witness to it...

Tariq Karim: Yes, I was witness there, but the mobile phone was still not largely used in those days. In fact, it was not there. The first such outpouring I remember was in Seattle against the WTO in 1988-89. That was a result of this sort of networking and social connecting where people of similar ideas responded to somebody or the other saying we will not allow this to happen and they poured out. and similarly then  after that you have seen this phenomenon growing whether it was in Iraq or other different issues or against you know the regimes so you know whether you call it rose revolution or the Tehrir Square or whatever. These are very similar phenomena and it has been facilitated by this availability of this tool of people connecting to each other. 

NDTV: I can understand the new technology having facilitated this but I'm still intrigued and I would like you to explain this: what is the connect between this generation which is maybe a generation or a generation and a half after liberation war, it's been almost 41-42 years after the liberation. What sort of gave them this idea to you know, come up and still get identified with that cause of liberation?

Tariq Karim: That's a very good question and I'd like to try and answer it in some depth. I have in my own writings and lectures said that the biggest mistake or sin that Bangladesh committed was what I call the original sin - not bringing to justice the crimes against humanity which were on a scale unprecedented in the post-war era. In a sense, in terms of number of people killed and number of women raped and number of houses destroyed etc. The number of families affected by it was huge, because Bangladesh maybe a small country in terms of area but it's huge in terms of population and because of combination of factors. At that time the international and regional situations did not want to see war crime trials happen, we were forced not to proceed with it. Now, I have a theory for this. The theory is just like in a legal system of any country, it is initially based on a legal court from which the statue or laws, as you know, put in place by the Constitution and through that the court adjudicates justice, alright? And each judgment passed is a precedence, it adds to the previous one, it builds up the body of law. Now imagine a reverse situation, a mirror-image situation where you permit a crime go unpunished. When you permit a crime to go unpunished, in a sense you are sanctioning that crime, alright? You are legitimising that crime. So any other crime that happens within the rubric or equal to it, the lawyers will argue that you have let that go, how can you punish this... and I think what we have witnessed since 1971 is that the biggest crimes that people can ever commit is the crime against humanity. Okay, am not going to quibble about numbers because people do it... couple of zeroes more or a couple or zeroes less does not diminish from the heinousness of that crime, alright. Then after that what happens you have the father of the nation, his entire family, his closest associates and his extended family, they were all wiped out by one act on 15th August 1975. What happens after that? The Constitution of Bangladesh is amended to indemnify those criminals who have gone out loudly and proclaimed in front of the international media that we have got rid of Mujib, we have done this, we have done that... and you can't prosecute them. Not only then they are given, they are sent abroad, given sanctuary, diplomatic missions abroad and finally many of them become ambassadors. Now I call this a brazen thumbing of one's nose at the law and justice system. After that the crime committed by any individual pales in insignificance. And that is how, over a period unfortunately, and this is our tragedy that a system of culture of impunity has becomes deeply ingrained and no society can go forward unless it rests on the bed rock of law and justice. Respect for law and respect for the justice system. If people do not have that the society cannot progress. Ultimately, chaos takes over. 

NDTV: But that doesn't still explain how the young people have identified with this?

Tariq Karim: Alright now, very few families or households in Bangladesh were not affected by what happened in 1971. Either directly or indirectly , either they lost some immediate member of their family or they lost a kin or they are aware that somebody had been killed in the neighborhood.  Now, although after 1975 there was an attempt to re-write history and sweep it under...within families history of what happened remained as a sort of oral history which was passed on within the family. And that what happens is, it takes time. These are people who were either children, at the time of the liberation war or children of children who were there. And this oral history has remained across the swathe of society. It has come to, you know, to come to the point where it clicks and the trigger was that one sign and people then saying what is this. You know his basically thumbing his nose at the state and saying you know this legal system cannot hold me in.

NDTV: Does this cut across ideologies, party lines, political spectrum?

Tariq Karim: It does , unfortunately, it does because we have again what I have described in my own expositions of Bangladesh's political history as the creation of political schizophrenia. Now when we emerged we were the only indigenous homogeneous nation state in South Asia. We had rejected religion as being the logic for formation of state or consolidation of the state. We had opted for secularism we have opted for democracy we opted for nationalism and we had opted for social justice. These were the four pillars of constitution. When we did not address the original sin everything that I see as a consequence. The constitution was changed after 1975 progressively until the two main pillars were taken off and the third one was sort of weakened. Alright. And those who were accused of war crimes in 1971 had fled but they were rehabilitated. You know the ameer of the Jamaat-e-Islami who was being looked for as a war criminal had escaped and gone underground or off to Pakistan. He was allowed to return, subsequently in the system of justice the law and the constitution were amended . He was also restored citizenship, his party was allowed to function again and people who had been looked upon by many as being either directly  perpetrators or abettors of war crimes were rehabilitated, they assumed places of high political office. They became integrated with the political system and the economic system and prospered and that is where the split personality in the political pysche come and what has happened is that while on the one hand largely those who suffered because we neglected the original sin and had to keep it within themselves continued was a festering wound within our polity. Those who have been responsible directly or indirectly for war crimes continued to prosper and that is where the split personality comes in. 

NDTV: So will you describe this as a completion of an unfinished revolution?

Tariq Karim: You have taken the words out of my mouth. This is exactly how I described it to a group yesterday that in sense the revolution which should have been completed, process should have been completed by father of the nation and had he not been assassinated and political order not been changed it would have been completed in due course. It was not allowed to be completed and therefore it's an irony of history. I think it's a lesson that you cannot commit a crime and get away with it, somewhere sometime it will catch up with you and that's what is happening...

NDTV: Mr. Karim we were speaking about the current agitation and protests that were happening but going away from there.. how do you see and where do you see the India- Bangladesh relations at this point?

Tariq Karim: Well... you know while these agitations were going on or I would call it differently, while the re-awakening of the social phenomenon or Renaissance of the liberation spirit has risen and protests against this from the other side of the divided political psyche has come up to assert because for them it is an existential question. Alright the visit of Pranab Mukherjee marks the highest point in our relations. Today he is the head of state of India without whose help Bangladesh's creation would have been much longer drawn out , much more pain and suffering with many more people killed. That's not say that I believe we would have attained independence on our own in any case but the fight would have been very prolonged. And the cost for India would have kept rising but without the help that we received from India, whether it was political, or economic or humanitarian you know 100 million refugees from Bangladesh landed up in India for sustenance and refuge. Our rights of passage our whole nationhood would have been much more painful. So we owe a debt of gratitude which we have never forgotten and president Pranab Mukherjee's visit was... essentially it was a state visit but it was to enable us to honour him. For the assistance that he had given personally in his personal capacity as well as a functionary of the state. We have so far honoured about 200 people. Even the next batch of honouries will be on 24th of March just two days ahead of our national day and there will be several people from Delhi going for that and these have been friends of Bangladesh with whom we have identified or in public perception who stand out for the help they have given either to the government, culture programmes or through fund raising or through political support or through civic body suppose's a wide range of that I think is the culmination, the high point so far, it doesn't mean it stands there. I think in a sense Bangladesh-India relations today are almost back at the same point where we started off in 1971. We realise that our destinies are closely interwoven together. We cannot shut our eyes to each other and ignore what is happening in the other because that will be only at our own peril as globalization forces increase and put pressures, we have to work with globalisation to realise our full potential together. We cannot do it separate from each other. We have realised that and we have consciously worked towards that. We have I think in the last three and a half years, certainly since I've been here, worked consciously towards putting in place a broad platform on which we can fulfill and march forward together. Agreements have happened with India... No 1 security and that has happened with our own self interest. The same people who carry out acts of terrorism or destabilisation in India have also carried out acts of destabilisation in Bangladesh. They are as much our enemies, as they are enemies of any civilised society. Terrorism is terrorism, it cannot be anything else. We have also found that terrorists networks even thought hey come from different places the origins are different the goals are different tactically collaborate with each other, because they are bound together by one element that is their activities are against the state. 

NDTV: I liked your term which you used previously that you have managed to reconfigure India-Bangladesh relations. While you have reconfigured them, there are still some wrinkles. I would like you to focus on them as well.

Tariq Karim: Well they are wrinkles which we hope will smoothen out soon. You know we have for example two neighbhours cannot leave in peace, am taking household neighbors not of the state. If they do not have good relations with each other there are you know disputes with each other. You find this in villages mainly the agriculture societies, disputes about where their boundary lies, where they demarcate their land. They still fight over every square inch of of their land. Similarly when Bangladesh was formed and that is originally East Pakistan formed during the Radcliffe award of 1947. There was a lot of baggage that we inherited. You have the peculiar phenomenon of the enclaves, the adversely possessed lands as well as the as demarcating the boundary which was drawn, that was disputed. The  foundations of that framework was arrived at between the leaders Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and Indira Gandhi way back in 1974. But it could not be implemented because Sheikh Rehman, the father of the nation, was assassinated thereafter and everything was put into a freezer And it served success of regimes perhaps in Bangladesh to keep that festering.  As long as you have that festering you have a causes belli to keep pointing fingers and say so-and-so has done this to us. We resolved that. We resolved that amicably, we resolved that in the spirit that we will not disturb populations that were there. We will not disturb economic activity which they had already entered into. Now because it is in a sense we are straightening the borders, you have to shift pillars. And it means that some territory adjustment will be made and for that the ratification has to be done under the Constitution so it is pending. Ours is a straight forward process and we have already done that

NDTV: Now India needs to do that..

Tariq Karim: India needs to do that... and you have a complex system so we understand but president Pranab Mukherjee when he was in Dhaka he assured that commitments made by India would be fulfilled. The second is we are bound together by rivers. The rivers are rivers of life. unfortunately over the last 60 years they have become rivers of contestation and dispute. We can still turn that around make them rivers of hope as George Verghese my good friend has said and rivers of connectivity. Teesta was something which was started couple of decades ago or more and this was one of the election promises. We will resolve it. I mean we have 54 rivers that we share with India only the Ganges dispute was resolved and that was.. I had a small role to play in that, in 1996 . On the Teesta also we have as far as Bangladesh is concerned, an agreement which was arrived at the senior most officials of the govt the secretaries of water resources. and the draft was initialled, we just put it off for signature that we would find the right moment and and right persons to sign it. So as far as we are concerned it's an agreement in suspension, in suspended animation. When ever India will say to sign it, we will sign it 

NDTV: But you are hopeful?

Tariq Karim: I am very hopeful. You know these assurances have been been given to us at the highest levels by the president himself, by the prime minister, by the external affairs minister, so we took those assurances at face value because we of course trust our friends. 

NDTV: What next?

Tariq Karim: I think next is and this is something which Pranab Mukherjee himself proclaimed in Dhaka, our future is to be working together and not just working together bilaterally. Our future is also drawing in the immediate countries next to us for example as I said we are bound together by the rivers but the rivers have origins beyond our borders.The Ganges come and flows from Nepal and into Bangladesh so we two river basins, major river basins we have to contend with. The other is the Brahmaputra basin.The Brahmaputra basin originates from Tibet flows from China and then comes to Arunachal and then into Bangladesh. Now both countries have agreed that we will embark on sub-regional cooperation on these two river basins and in fact President Mukherjee gave this vision and said that we should start working because then that is our agenda for the future relationship and Bangladesh will be convening two meetings at technical level very soon in the next few weeks. Bangladesh, India, Bhutan and back to back Bangladesh, India and Nepal because these are two separate basins we don't link them up and at some point of time the linkage will come because it's not just management we have changed the rhetoric from water sharing to water management.

NDTV: Which is a very good thing to happen...

Tariq Karim: Yes, because the you have a different approach to it and terms of how to look at it. The water reserves are do we manage it how do we conserve it where it can be conserved that lean season flows are augmented by the stored water during the high season flows. In the process how do we tap the potential energy that is there. Brahmaputra basin would have potential energy generation of anywhere between 50-90,000 megawatts but we cannot tap it because we are not working together. Similarly, Ganga basin would also have different things. Ganga basin would probably be a little more complex because the river flows through six states before it enters Bengal...

NDTV: And not so much Brahmaputra...

Tariq Karim: ...Not so much Brahmaputra. So it'll be easier to approach that's why consciously we said you have two back-to-back meetings, don't mix up issues and each will go at it's own pace... one will perhaps go much faster, one will go at a slower pace.

NDTV: That brings me to the India-China-Bangladesh equation. Let me ask you this because there is apprehension in security establishment and the strategic experts about growing you relationship between China and Bangladesh. How do you see that affecting Indo-Bangla ties?

Tariq Karim: We do have excellent relations with China built over the last 30 years or so. China has been a development partner in Bangladesh, it has participated in many projects ..there was also military cooperation between China and Bangladesh but as I have said this in India, our relations with anyone country in not at the expense of the friendship that we develop or likely to develop with any other country and if we develop friendship with one country and it doesn't mean we are doing it to gang up against another country. I think the basic tenets of our foreign policy were laid down by our father of the nation who basically took a quote from Lincoln to say that our foreign policy is based on the principle of malice toward none and friendship for all. That is the ultimate goal. Alright and we have to live in peace and amity is this world. Having said that we have also said that very very categorically and at the highest levels on various occasions, we will not allow Bangladesh soil to be used by any group, any country or any force against us or any of our friends who are our neighbours and I think we cannot make anything more explicit. We have zero tolerance towards this...that is a mugs game existed... you know that was the paradigm which governed international relations so many decades ago. I think the progress with the passage of time, it has been shown that alliances are not in the best interest or benefit  so we do not enter into any alliance against anybody or for anybody. We work in the interest of our national consolidation and with progress and development.

NDTV: Great, and on that note ambassador, thank you very much for your time and great insights.

Tariq Karim: It's been a pleasure having you over

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Kargil controversy refuses to die down. Gen Malik responds to criticism

In January 2013, I had written a piece on NDTV website on Pakistan Gen Shahid Aziz's  revalation about Kargil war and Gen Musharraf's perfidy. Gen VP Malik, India's Army Chief in 1999, has responded to that piece AND another article in Outlook subsequently that criticised him. Here's the full email sent by Gen Malik to me. For reference I have pasted my earlier NDTV article. Read on.

Dear Nitin,

1. Two days ago, I came across an article written by you on a website. This was probably written  in the wake of Shahid Aziz's disclosures on Kargil war. You had spoken to me when that news was covered by NDTV.

2. What I said to you was that after Kargil war, we found a Pakistani regular officer's diary which indicated that (a) his (Pakistani) recce party had entered Indian territory around mid February, and (b) that Pervez Musharraf had visited his infiltration party at some location. One could not be certain if that location was on our or Pakistani side of the LoC. I want to emphasize that this information became available after and NOT before the war. It seems to me that you have given latter impression in your article.

3. There was another article written by someone for OUTLOOK magazine after Shahid Aziz's writing. This journalist interviewed Shyamal Dutta, IB Chief  during Kargil war. Dutta criticises me roundly and mentions that he wrote a letter to the PM and others with a copy to DGMO in June 1998, reporting increased Mujahideen activities across the LoC . What he conveniently overlooks is that the decision to launch Kargil war was taken by Pervez Musharraf, after he took over as Pakistan Army Chief on October 6, 1998. He was not Army Chief or a nation level decision maker in June 1998....Dutta's letter, written four months before Musharraf became Pak Army Chief thus had no relation with Kargil war intelligence. The Kargil Review Committee Report had taken all these aspects into consideration before coming to 'intelligence failure' conclusion.

4. Incidentally, we now have documentary evidence that no Pakistani or Indian Mujahideen participated in Kargil war.

Ved Malik  


Kargil, LoC and Gen Musharraf

Former Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf, unwanted in his own country and shunned by his own fraternity there, is fighting a desperate battle for survival. Under attack from some of his own Army colleagues for having kept large parts of the Pakistani establishment in the dark over the Kargil operation of 1999, General Musharraf through his aides and confidantes, is making new revelations about the 1999 India-Pakistan conflict.
On a TV programme aired on Geo TV on Thursday night, a former Pakistani colonel revealed that Musharraf had crossed the Line of Control in March 1999, a couple of months ahead of the actual Kargil conflict, which lasted two months.   Colonel (retd) Ashfaq Hussain alleged that General Musharraf entered 11 km inside Indian border to survey the area.
In his book ‘Witness to Blunder’, Colonel Hussain has written that Musharraf  himself crossed the LoC in a helicopter on March 28, 1999 and spent a night on  the Indian-controlled side.  
General VP Malik, who was the Indian army chief during the Kargil war, told NDTV: " The Indian Army had reports that the first Pakistani patrols had crossed over into Indian side of the LoC some time in February even as Prime Ministers Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif were discussing the peace process and Vajpayee had taken the bus ride to Lahore.  Gen Musharraf, who had already planned the incursions into Kargil thought it fit to visit the forward areas immediately thereafter to assure the troops that the operation was going ahead as planned. It is therefore possible that Musharraf went there in March 1999 but whether he crossed the LoC or not, I cannot say."
In his book, Colonel Husain says the Kargil 'misadventure'  was masterminded by Major General Javed Hassan, General Mehmood and General Aziz. They made then president Musharraf agree to the plans, which later lead to a limited conflict between India and Pakistan.
However, General Musharraf, in an interview to Pakistan’s Geo TV,  said the Kargil conflict was a huge success militarily. He claimed that the Pakistani Army would have "conquered" 300 square miles of India, if  then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had not visited the US and succumbed to pressure from  then US President Bill Clinton to withdraw Pakistani troops from Indian territory.
Clearly nearly 14 years after the conflict, Kargil continues to make headlines.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How India secretly helped Lanka destroy the LTTE

Today (7th March 2013), BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, during a discussion in the Lok Sabha on the Lankan Tamils' issue, read out a couple of paragraphs from my 2009 book: Sri Lanka: From War to Peace. Ever since then I have been receiving a number of messages from friends and acquaintances asking for details and what exactly the book contained. 

Here are the details and a relevant excerpt carried by in 2009. Read on.


Bibliographic information

Nitin Anant Gokhale, NDTV's Defence and Strategic Affairs Editor, has been reporting on military affairs and militancy from hostile terrains like India's north-east, the Kashmir valley and the Naxal heartland since 1983.

His latest book Sri Lanka: From War to Peace is based on his reportage of the 33-month civil war in Sri Lanka. Gokhale chronicles the details of an unprecedented military campaign by the Sri Lankan armed forces and analysis the reason for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's decline.
In this exclusive excerpt, he details how the Indian government, bound by domestic political compulsions, covertly helped the Sri Lankan army and navy to scour out and destroy the LTTE.
By the end of November 2008, the script was no longer in LTTE chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran's hands.
It was being written by the Sri Lankan forces tacitly supported by India and openly assisted by China and Pakistan.
Since December 2005, when Mahinda Rajapaksa made his first visit to New Delhi less than a month after he took over as Sri Lanka's president, India was aware of his intention to take the LTTE head on.
Although in the initial days he was advised to seek a negotiated settlement with the Tigers, New Delhi saw merit in Rajapaksa's argument that the LTTE was only biding its time to regroup and rearm itself and that war was inevitable sooner than later.
And if the LTTE was preparing for a showdown, Rajapaksa did not want to be caught off guard either. His armed forces needed to be ready for any eventuality.
The president therefore sent his brothers Basil and Gotabaya to New Delhi with a shopping list for essential weapons and equipment that the Sri Lankan armed forces needed. The shopping list included air defence weapons, artillery guns, Nishant unmanned aerial vehicles and laser designators for precision-guided munitions.
Initially, New Delhi was non-committal.
Top officials involved in the talks on either side told me that in its typical bureaucratic style, New Delhi neither said yes nor said no to the visiting Sri Lankans. So the two brothers went back slightly disappointed but were still hopeful of getting Indian help.
Outwardly, India did adopt a hands-off policy vis-a-vis the Sri Lanka conflict. But that was because of domestic political compulsions born out of the fact that the ruling United Progressive Alliance government in New Delhi was dependent upon the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party from Tamil Nadu for its survival in Parliament.
Aware of DMK chief M Karunanidhi's soft corner for Prabhakaran, the UPA did not think it politically prudent to annoy the DMK patriarch by openly supporting the Sri Lankan government against the LTTE.
So, publicly India maintained that it would not give Sri Lanka any offensive weapons.

New Delhi didn't want to annoy the DMK

Yet, in early 2006, India quietly gifted five Mi-17 helicopters to the Sri Lankan air force. The only Indian condition was: These helicopters would fly under Sri Lankan air force colours. New Delhi clearly did not want to annoy UPA's Tamil Nadu allies like the DMK unnecessarily.
The Mi-17s were in addition to a Sukanya Class offshore patrol vessel gifted by the Indian Coast Guard to the Sri Lankan navy in 2002.
Sri Lankan defence sources later told me that these helicopters played a major role in several daring missions launched by the Sri Lankan air force to rescue the army's Deep Penetration Units and the eight-man teams, whenever they were surrounded by LTTE's counter-infiltration units, or when injured soldiers had to be airlifted from deep inside LTTE held territory.
As a senior Sri Lankan army officer confided in me, "Our soldiers operating behind enemy lines functioned with greater degree of confidence and efficiency in Eelam War IV since they knew these helicopters were always on hand to come to their rescue whenever necessary. This was surely one of the key factors in our Special Forces delivering spectacular results."
But hampered by domestic compulsion, New Delhi could not go beyond such meagre and clandestine transfer of military hardware. And publicly all that India was willing to acknowledge was the supply of low-flying detection 'Indra' radars to the Sri Lankan air force since this equipment was considered a defensive apparatus.
Colombo, on the other hand, was becoming increasingly restless since an all-out war with the LTTE looked inevitable. Domestic political pressure had also stalled the signing of a Defence Cooperation Agreement between India and Sri Lanka. Although both sides had publicly committed themselves to such an accord in 2004 itself, the DCA never materialised.
Insiders in Sri Lanka's defence establishment reveal that India's insistence on securing exclusive rights to the use of Palaly air base in the Jaffna peninsula was the most contentious point between the two delegations.
Colombo saw this demand from India as downright insulting and symptomatic of India's hegemonistic mindset. So the DCA never got off the ground. Ironically, three months after the Eelam War IV ended, India decided to fund the repair and restoration of the Palaly air base in north Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka needed India's support


The Rajapaksa regime was nothing if not shrewd. It knew the past history. It was aware of the dynamics that determined India's domestic politics in the context of Tamil Nadu. It was also conscious of India's anxiety in losing strategic space in Sri Lanka.
But above all, the Rajapaksa brothers were pragmatic enough to realise that Sri Lanka needed India's support in the prosecution of the war against the LTTE, total support from China and Pakistan notwithstanding, simply because India was Sri Lanka's next door big neighbour. Colombo could ignore India but only up to a point.
So Mahinda Rajapaksa hit upon an idea of setting up an informal exchange mechanism between New Delhi and Colombo. The president nominated both his brothers Basil (a member of parliament and presidential adviser) and Gotabaya, the defence secretary, along with his own secretary, Lalith Weeratunga, as members of an informal yet powerful delegation that would update the Indian government on the latest developments as frequently as possible.
India too reciprocated immediately.
India's National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh formed the Indian trio. The two teams interacted frequently both on the phone and by visiting each other. The Sri Lankan trio in fact visited New Delhi at least five times between 2007 and 2009. The Indian delegation made three return visits in the same period.
Most of the interactions were low-profile and discreet except the Indian team's June 2008 trip to Colombo that attracted huge attention mainly because of its timing. That time Sri Lanka's military operation was pushing the LTTE out of its north-western coastal areas in the Mannar district.
And two months later, Sri Lanka was supposed to host the 15th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.
When Narayanan, Menon and Singh arrived in the Sri Lankan capital in a special Indian Air Force plane, almost unannounced, military analysts, both in India and Sri Lanka, were speculating a massive retaliatory strike by the LTTE.
Indian intelligence agencies apparently had credible information that such a counter attack could be aimed at the 15th SAARC summit that Colombo was hosting on August 2 and 3.
The Indian officials wanted to ensure foolproof security for the summit. New Delhi in fact persuaded the Sri Lankans to accept India's help during the summit. After much persuasion and even a veiled threat that India may stay away from the summit if New Delhi's suggestions on a security upgrade in Colombo was not met, Sri Lanka reluctantly allowed Indian naval ships, anti-aircraft guns and helicopters to be deployed in and around Colombo for the duration of the meet.

Conclude Eelam war before polls

I happened to be in Colombo as part of the media delegation that traveled with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. I had never seen such tight security in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan capital was indeed locked down in a tight security grid for the duration of the summit.
The Indian prime minister and all top Indian officials were transported in Indian Air Force helicopters from the Bandarnaike International Airport to the heart of Colombo. All roads used by the VIPs were shut hours before they traveled on them. In fact, I remember friends in Colombo having left town to avoid being inconvenienced by the stifling security arrangements.
The SAARC summit did pass off peacefully although, as usual, its focus was hijacked by the hyped meeting between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers.
But security at the SAARC summit was not the only point of discussion that India was interested in. The top Indian officials, according to sources in Colombo, also wanted detailed briefing on the on-going operations in the north. This was readily done at the ministry of defence by both the commander of the army, General Fonseka and commander of the navy, Vice Admiral Karannagoda.
The Indian delegation, I was told by an insider, once again raised the issue of increasing Chinese and Pakistani involvement in Sri Lanka's military campaign, but was quietly reminded that it was India's refusal to supply lethal weapons that had compelled Colombo to look elsewhere, primarily to China.
But the most important political message was delivered by the Indian delegation to President Rajapaksa. He was told to try and conclude Eelam War IV before the summer of 2009 when India was expected to hold the general election.
The ruling Congress party obviously did not want the shadow of Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict to fall on the politics of Tamil Nadu and needlessly complicate matters during the election campaign. President Rajapaksa did not commit himself on the deadline, but promised to expedite the operations. The trio returned to New Delhi perhaps with a mixed feeling of achieving only part of its objective.
Colombo may have been ambivalent about meeting Indian requests to end the operations before the general election, but the Sri Lankan leadership once again gratefully acknowledged the Indian Navy's contribution in locating and destroying at least 10 'floating warehouses' owned by the LTTE.
These warehouses or ships of varying sizes were used by the LTTE to store arms, ammunition and even armoured personnel carriers. These ships, which had no names or identification numbers, used to remain on high seas for months on end. They were brought near Sri Lankan shores whenever the LTTE needed the arms. Smaller ships and craft were used to transport these arms to the Sea Tiger bases on the east and the west coast.

Well-coordinated operations by the two navies

Indian and Sri Lankan navy sources revealed that well-coordinated operations by the two navies between 2006 and 2009 actually broke the backbone of the Sea Tigers.
The Indian Navy, the Sri Lankans said, helped in various ways.
For instance, the Indian Navy's Dorniers based at Ramnad in Tamil Nadu flew regular reconnaissance missions over the seas around Sri Lanka. These Dornier aircraft, fitted with high-powered radar, scoured the area for ships with suspicious movement and cargo.
Whenever such a ship was detected, the Indian Navy passed on the information to the Sri Lankans. The real time intelligence helped the Sri Lankan navy track and then destroy LTTE arms consignments.
Once the rogue ships were located, Sri Lankan navy's Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) would go after these floating warehouses and destroy them. The Sri Lankan navy destroyed the first warehouse ship on September 17, 2006, about 120 nautical miles east of the island. Three more such ships were sunk in early 2007.
Moreover, under an agreement between the two countries, the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard frequently sent out ships to patrol the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar. The presence of warships and Indian Coast Guards's OPVs acted as a firm deterrence against the Sea Tigers.
Indian naval ships traveling between the east and the west coast and those going on overseas deployment were also told to look out for rogue vessels. Frequent exchange of information between the two navies resulted in a fine-tuned system that enabled quick remedial action.
Sri Lanka's navy chief Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda praised the Indian Navy's role. 'Cooperation with India has been extremely successful in countering the LTTE. Every year, the Indian Navy with the Indian Coast Guard and the Sri Lankan navy, holds four bilateral discussions. We are conducting coordinated patrols with the Indian Navy as well,' he said in early 2008.
'The navy has destroyed almost all LTTE vessels that could have assisted the Tigers in attacking the armed forces,' he said. 'Within one year, we have destroyed eight floating warehouses, which had carried more than 10,000 tonnes of war-like material including artillery, mortar, dismantled parts of three aircrafts, bullet proof vehicles, underwater delivery vehicles, scuba diving sets, and radar, among other things.

India's hidden hand in 'whacking' the LTTE

In one instance, accurate intelligence enabled the Sri Lankan navy to sail nearly 1,600 nautical miles southeast of the country, close to coasts of Australia and Indonesia, to destroy three ships in September 2007 and a fourth ship, which had escaped the initial action, three weeks later on October 7, Admiral Karrannnagoda said.
One of the LTTE weapons smuggling vessels was intercepted and destroyed by naval task units after a long pursuit in the high seas 1,700 km off Dondra Head, the southern extremity of Sri Lanka. At least 12 Tamil Tigers on board were killed in the attack.
'We went near Australian waters and whacked the last four vessels,' Vice-Admiral Karannagoda told Jane's Navy International in March 2009. 'Yet we are not a big navy; we had to improvise and use innovation and ingenuity to get our job done. The Sri Lankan navy does not possess any frigate-sized ships, so we used offshore patrol vessels and old tankers, merchant vessels and fishing trawlers as support vessels.'
What he left unsaid, according to sources in both Indian and Sri Lankan navies, was India's hidden hand in providing vital intelligence and operational support to identify and locate these ships.
In March 2009, the Sri Lankan naval chief deliberately avoided mentioning India's crucial contribution since electioneering in Tamil Nadu was picking up speed and Eelam War IV was in its final stage that month. Any public admission of India's hand in destruction of LTTE assets would have created a furor in Tamil Nadu and further strained the already delicate relationship between Sri Lanka and India.
But the fact remains that in late 2007, the Indian Navy's Southern Command deployed three fast attack boats and a missile corvette that patrolled the Palk Straits, searched and caught hold of LTTE fugitives.

'India is the big power in the region'

The 'sea denial' and 'naval blockade' by the Indian Navy started after a daring attack by the Sea Tigers on the Delft Island near Jaffna.
Delft Island, the largest inhabited island of the Jaffna peninsula, is located almost equidistant from Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Jaffna. The Sri Lankan navy used the island to monitor sea and air movements not only towards Jaffna but also between Mannar and Tamil Nadu coast.
In May 2007, the Sea Tigers mounted a daring attack on the naval attachment posted at Delft Island and after killing seven naval personnel, took away two anti aircraft machine guns, two machine guns, one RPG launcher and eight rifles.
Some reports said the Sea Tigers also took away functioning radar from the island. Jolted by this setback, the Sri Lankan navy requested India for operational help. The assistance was immediately given, but both sides had decided to keep quiet about the details.
Despite such a close working relations between the two navies, India was not happy with Colombo's increasing dalliance with China and Pakistan. New Delhi was acutely aware of the deep inroads made by Pakistan and China in India's backyard.
A worried Narayanan had bluntly declared in May 2007: 'It is high time that Sri Lanka understood that India is the big power in the region and ought to refrain from going to Pakistan or China for weapons, as we are prepared to accommodate them within the framework of our foreign policy.' Which in effect meant India could only supply 'defensive' equipment to Colombo.
Narayanan's statement in fact reflected the dilemma that New Delhi faced. The crisis was, of course, purely India's own making.
Crippled by the iron grip wielded by the DMK and other smaller Tamil parties on the UPA coalition at the Centre, New Delhi could not even openly approve of Colombo's determination to exterminate the LTTE.
Colombo understood India's predicament but had no other option but to shop for weapons and ammunition from elsewhere once India refused to comply with its requests.

Pakistan and China in India's backyard


Army Commander Sarath Fonseka admitted as much in an interview to me, "It is only after India told us that it cannot supply offensive weapons that we looked at other options. We first tried western countries but their weapons are expensive. Also, the Western countries cannot be depended upon to continue the supplies when it came to the crunch as it happened with us in the middle of the war, when certain countries blocked supply of spare parts for our airplanes and helicopters. So we turned to China which offered us arms immediately and on favourable terms. They gave us five-year long credit line. We bought armoured personnel carriers, artillery pieces, basic infantry weapons and some ammunition from them. As for Pakistan, we only bought some emergency ammunition from them."
Even Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had a similar story to relate.
Little wonder then that Beijing and Islamabad took full advantage of India's quandary.
By February 2007, Gotabaya Rajapaksa had concluded several defence purchase agreements with China.
One of the earliest agreements in Eelam War IV was a $37.6 million deal with China's Poly Technologies in April 2006 to supply its defence forces with ammunition and ordnance for the army and navy.
Another company, China National Electronics Import Export Corp supplied a JY 11 3D radar for $5 million.
According to the UK-based Jane's Defence Weekly the Sri Lankan navy's requirement, valued at $2.7 million, includes a range of ammunition including 100,000 14.5 mm cartridges, 2,000 RPG-7 rockets and 500 81 mm airburst mortar shells was met by the Chinese.
According to the authoritative Defence Weekly, other arms included 50 Type 82 14.5 mm twin-barrel naval guns, 200 Type 85 12.7 mm heavy machine guns, 200 Type 80 7.62 mm multipurpose machine guns, 1,000 Type 56-2 7.62 mm submachine guns and 1,000 Type 56 7.62 mm submachine guns.
China was not alone in supplying arms to Sri Lanka.
A high-level defence delegation from Islamabad visited Sri Lanka in January 2008 to sell weapons to Colombo.
Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) chief Lieutenant General Syed Sabahat Hussein held detailed discussions with Sri Lanka's security officials, including the defence secretary. The delegation included senior POF officials, Export Director Usman Ali Bhatti and General Manager Abbas Ali.
POF is Pakistan's largest conventional arms and ordnance facility and its 14 factories and four subsidiaries produce several varieties of armaments for export. These include infantry weapons, tank and aircraft ammunition, anti-aircraft and artillery ammunition, rockets, aerial bombs, hand grenades and mortars.
Getting China's and Pakistan's backing was important for the Rajapaksa government but it also needed to get its own act together at home. So the government and especially Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa got down to the task of reorienting the Sri Lankan air force and the Sri Lankan navy, always considered the weakest link in previous military campaigns.

Excerpted from Sri Lanka: from War to Peace, by Nitin Gokhale, HarAnand Publishers, 2009, with the publisher's permission.