The other General Kiyani

An angry retired general on television

Lieutenant-General (retd) Jamshed Gulzar Ahmed Kiyani, who served as a corps commander of the Pakistani Army under General Pervez Musharraf had a lot to say about his former chief. And none of it charitable. General Kiyani has joined the ranks of a number of former general officers at the head of an ‘ex-servicemen’s movement’ against General Musharraf. Here are two of his recent TV appearances: first, on PTV’s Live with Talat, and a second, more beans-out-of-the-bag one on GEO TV’s Meray Mutabiq show with Shahid Masood (via UB). The latter is 90 minutes long, but is worth watching in full. (alternative link, report).

In the early stages of the interview with Dr Masood, he boasts that a Pakistani general is far superior to an Indian one. And then he blames the top leadership of the Pakistani army for the “debacles” in East Pakistan and Kargil. He points out that the Pakistani military leadership did not expect the “intense response” from the Indian side, that used air power and ‘state-of-the-art’ Bofors howitzers (when the latter were at least 15 years old in 1999). On the other hand, he does admit that “you can’t dictate terms to the enemy” and admits that the fighting was done by young Pakistani army personnel—that ‘mujahideen’ fig-leaf being fully dead.

While General Kiyani comes out as a harsh critic of General Musharraf, he is more sympathetic to Nawaz Sharif. He first absolves Nawaz Sharif as having knowledge of the Kargil operation, but then goes on the describe a meeting of leading figures where Sartaj Aziz, the foreign minister, opposed it on the grounds that it would be diplomatically indefensible, and General Majid, the minister of Kashmir and Northern Areas grilled the Rawalpindi corps commander on whether the army had the logistics capability to support the offensive. Mr Nawaz Sharif himself is quoted as saying that he would support it as long as the going was good, but would ditch them if things fouled up.

General Kiyani calls for an impartial closed-down inquiry into the Kargil debacle. It remains to be seen if Mr Nawaz Sharif himself would want that.

Duh Roy

And duh Dilip?

Arundhati Roy asks rhetorically (via Dilip D’Souza who asks inquiringly):

Roy: I think speaking out against the occupation is the bravest thing that a soldier can do. I have always admired the U.S. soldiers who spoke out against the Vietnam War. In fact, in places like India, when people get randomly racist and anti-American, I always ask them: When do you last remember Indian soldiers speaking out against a war, any war, in India? [War Times]

Imagine you were an Indian soldier. Would you speak out against war when Pakistan attacks India at Kargil, Pakistan-sponsored terrorists attacks the Indian parliament, when terrorists habitually kill your fellow citizens and conduct ethnic cleansing in your own country? Or when terrorists kill your own family members? Would you speak out against war when a murderous Pakistani military dictatorship is conducting genocide in Bangladesh driving 10 million refugees into India? Or when the Sri Lankan government is brutally repressing the Tamil minority, again driving refugees into India?

If you were an Indian soldier, you would be very unlikely to speak out against a war that is imposed on you.

And let’s not forget that the Indian armed forces do not engage in public debate over policy, but professionally execute the political decision to use military force. And that’s generally a very good thing.

Why are we involved in UN peacekeeping?

The unasked question

Omair Ahmad’s article on the ugly business of Indian blue helmets in the Congo is titled “rotten olives”. He raises the most important point:

That shining reputation will be in tatters if the current charges of misconduct by Indian peacekeepers in the Congo are proved. The Indian government has assigned Lt Gen Rajinder Singh to investigate the charges, but nobody seems to be taking a look at the purpose of India’s role in UN peacekeeping operations today. Without a clear reason to be participating in such operations, India runs the risk of being lumped together with other developing nations who join these UN missions only for the money and perks. [Outlook]

It’s time for India to stop contributing troops to the UN.

Time to stop contributing troops to the UN

The shame in Congo

What the ‘BBC’ found in its investigation of UN peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo is deeply disturbing. The accusations are serious:

Indian peacekeepers operating around the town of Goma had direct dealings with the militia responsible for the Rwandan genocide, now living in eastern DR Congo.

The Indians traded gold, bought drugs from the militias and flew a UN helicopter into the Virunga National Park, where they exchanged ammunition for ivory.[‘BBC‘]

The Indian High Commission in London has reflexively tried to put a brave face over the allegations, pointing out that the offences are trivial, and that disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty. But this is not the time for the defence ministry to merely go through the routine of setting up panels of inquiry and acting against errant personnel. This is the time for a wholesale re-evaluation of the entire policy of contributing troops to the UN.

The main draw of a UN peacekeeping posting for army personnel is the financial reward. The point that it exposes troops to real conflict environments is bogus: there are too many conflict environments on India’s borders, certainly enough to give the armed forces the desired combat experience.

It would have been quite acceptable to allow Indian soldiers to derive financial benefits if only the UN peacekeeping operations had anything like the discipline, quality control and governance that are the practice in the Indian armed forces. Poorly defined rules of engagement, unclear chains of command, a hodge-podge of equipment and personnel from assorted ‘developing countries’ and great power apathy have bred a culture that allows and covers up errant behaviour.

Needless to say, the armed forces must act to investigate and deal exemplary punishment to those found guilty—not just troops and their immediate officers, but their commanders up the hierarchy as well. The organisational challenge for the armed forces headquarters is to root out the culture of corruption that has seeped in from the UN engagement. Without a complete cleanup, the risk to national security is immense.

While it is too early to conclude that the Indian troops are guilty, the accusations are serious enough. India should immediately suspend all further deployments under the UN flag. This should be followed by a phased withdrawal of all Indian troops currently carrying out UN peacekeeping duties around the world. [See this post on Pragmatic Euphony]. Overseas troop deployments must be seen in the context of promoting the national interest. But that is not the case today. Contribution to UN peacekeeping contingents is not part of any broad strategy: it continues to be done because it is something that has always done (and those that have to do it see it in their interests).

Related Posts: Regarding the troops in Congo; get the troops out of Lebanon;

Remembering the East Pakistan Genocide

Truth and reconciliation elude the victims of the 1971 mass murders

Thirty eight years ago this day, the Pakistani army’s tanks moved in to Dacca (now Dhaka), the capital of East Pakistan, as part of the General Yahya Khan-led junta’s plan to bring the autonomy-seeking province to heel. “We have to sort them out” said Colonel Naim of the Pakistani army’s 9th division, “to restore the land to the people, and the people to their Faith”. Operation Searchlight officially got underway on March 25th 1971, although in his memoirs, Major General Sujan Singh Uban writes that the Pakistani army had begun repressive measures a few days earlier.

Thus began the genocide.

It was perhaps among the few in recent decades that did not come as a surprise, not least to the victims. It accompanied the birth of a new nation leaving horrible birthmarks that disfigure Bangladeshi society to this day. Bangladesh in 1971 was the site of multiple conflicts: a civil war between the the two wings of Pakistan, communal violence between Bengalis and non-Bengalis, a genocide, an guerrilla war, a conventional war and a counter-genocide. In each of these conflicts perpetrators, victims and onlookers often exchanged roles. Here is my essay (PDF, 200kb) that examines the causes, course and results of one sub-conflict—the genocide against Bengalis by the West Pakistani army—and attempts to explain it through a Realist perspective.

In A Problem from Hell, Samantha Power indicts the realist underpinnings of US foreign policy for its indirect complicity or reluctance to intervene in several 20th century genocides—including those in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia.

While that may indeed be the case, the events in East Pakistan between 1970, when Bhola struck, to 1974, when India, Pakistan and Bangladesh arrived at a tripartite agreement to close outstanding issues, present an interesting case of how realpolitik considerations of the states involved explain why genocide was carried out with impunity, why it was permitted by international players, why it was halted by the Indian intervention and why the perpetrators were never punished. It is not a normative discussion to study how genocides may be prevented, but rather an attempt to explain the role of Realist foreign policies of states during the episode. (The essay contains a small section disagreeing with Sarmila Bose’s recent revisionist study that concludes that the term genocide was a product of exaggeration.).

Download the essay here

From the archives: Archer Kent Blood, RIP; Who claimed Bangladeshi independence?; Indira called Nixon a…?; Bangladesh celebrates victory day; Children of a failed theory; Foreign Policy Naifs (Barbara Crossette edition)

Weekday Squib: Suicidal Donkeys

Indian Blue Helmets in Sudan have an asinine problem

Major Shambhu Saran Singh, posted at a UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan, wrote this in his report: “A donkey, who had decided to end his miserable and wretched life, ran towards the Nile. As he approached the banks, he plunged into the river and moved towards the current and the strong current of the mighty river swept it to a watery grave”. (via Bharat-Rakshak Forum).

Don’t leave the army alone

War is too important a business to leave to the generals alone (notwithstanding Nehru-Krishna Menon)

In an editorial earlier this month The Pioneer called for the Army to be left alone, for there ‘are other ways to save money’. It is an excellent example of good intentions but poor policy thinking.

For some time now strategic affairs ‘experts’ and their political mentors, known for their proximity to the Washington establishment, have been peddling the theory that India needs a technology-intensive ‘lean-and-mean’ Army, not a large force of 11 lakh soldiers and officers.[via Bharat-Rakshak Forum]

The Pioneer gets off the mark on a very wrong note. It is presumptuous for it to not only cast aspersions on the expertise of those who have a different point of view but question their motives. We may be experts-in-quotes, but to the best of our knowledge Sushant Singh and I—who have argued for a more technology-intensive Armed Forces—are rather far away from Washington. The larger point here is that a sensible debate over making the Armed Forces more effective is impossible if one begins by questioning the other’s patriotism. Continue reading “Don’t leave the army alone”

My op-ed in Mint: Clarity in defence expenditure

Time to stop putting the defence rupee in so many different pigeonholes

In our op-ed in Mint, Sushant and I argue that to convert defence outlays into outcomes, it is necessary to consolidate defence expenditure under one head.

Read on…

The guns and butter trade-off
It’s time for India to review its outdated practice of obfuscating the true defence expenditure

Finance minister P. Chidambaram’s Budget speech on 29 February will be more than two hours long, but an expense item of more than Rs1 trillion will be covered in a couple of minutes. Defence expenditure is the second largest item of non-planned expenditure. It was covered in 34 words last year. Continue reading “My op-ed in Mint: Clarity in defence expenditure”

Military modernisation, beyond talk of

The call for a blue ribbon commission

In a piece to be published in a Hindi newspaper, K Subrahmanyam calls for the formation of a non-partisan panel to recommend military reforms, and that “it should be clear to the government and Parliament that once such a commission submits its recommendations there will be no further nitpicking by the committee of secretaries”.

Excerpts:

Till the Kargil Review Panel recommended reexamination, after 52 years since Independence the decision making procedures in respect of national security was left untouched since they were formulated by Lord Ismay in 1947. As a follow up of Kargil Review Panel’s recommendations a group of Ministers was appointed. In turn they appointed four task forces. As a result of these deliberations they were able to make a comprehensive set of recommendations to improve the decision-making process.

But there has been no thought devoted to the future requirement of armed forces in the light of changes in the international strategic environment, the revolution in military affairs, enormous technological changes in the equipment of the three services and radical changes that have come about in monitoring and surveillance. While all over the world there have been radical organizational improvements in the structure of forces, the Indian Army still continues to be structured on the pattern that was prevalent during World War II. Though the Prime Minister in his successive addresses to the Combined Commanders’ Conferences has pointed out the need to modernize the armed forces in the light of the international and subcontinental strategic developments there has been no attempt to plan to meet the long term security challenges.

The need for a blue water navy to meet the peace maintenance task in the Indian Ocean in cooperation with friendly navies has been recognized. It is also accepted that in all future military operations where jointness in conceptualization, planning, training and execution is involved the use of air power will be crucial. There is agreement all over the world that it is highly unlikely that India, as one of the six major balances of power, will be involved in a war with the other five—China, Japan, Russia, European Union and US. Future security threats would arise because of failing states—India is surrounded by them – and terrorism. All these considerations call for an overall review of the sizes of our army, navy and Air Force. Many strategists are of the view that India needs a larger Air Force and Navy, a smaller Army and better trained and equipped paramilitary forces. Modernisation of the armed forces does not mean only acquisition of modern equipment but modernization in organization, management, thinking, human resource development, operational methodologies etc. The Armed Forces, as a national institution should as far as possible not be called upon to deal with civilian unrest. That should be left to paramilitary forces.

It is obvious that no long term thought and planning have been applied to the future development of armed forces. Our parliamentarians have been devoting less and less time for serious issues of this type and more and more time for partisan political confrontations in the Parliament. It is therefore not surprising that in spite of its reputation and high prestige, the armed forces are not able to attract full quota of the manpower requirements. [K Subrahmanyam]

Related Post: Conscription is not the solution