Pragati April 2010: Stationed at the ends of the Earth

The cover feature of this month’s issue is a short update on India’s scientific research activities in the Antarctic and the Arctic: India has recently inaugurated new stations on both ends of the earth.

This month we cover several issues concerning domestic politics and internal security — out-governing the Naxalites; institutionalising the positive trend in Bihar; the need for a comprehensive new law governing political parties; managing ageing; and the negative fallout of reserving parliamentary seats for women. In the books section present an extended excerpt from a thoughtful new book on India’s north-eastern states.

In international affairs, we present a counter-argument to the editors’ views on India’s role in UN peacekeeping; examine use of nuclear-protected terrorism as a core strategy and present an Afghan perspective on India’s role in the war-ravaged country.

You can browse the articles online or download the digital community edition.

What we learn from our COIN campaigns

…is that we don’t learn from them

Here’s a passage from my review of India & Counterinsurgency: Lessons Learned, a volume of case studies and analyses edited by Sumit Ganguly & David Fidler.

A recurring theme in the book is that lessons that were to be learnt in one counter-insurgency campaign were not learnt, and mistakes repeated over and over again. That is as much a damning indictment of the Indian armed forces—particularly the army—as it is of a political class that treats political violence as within the ambit of legitimate politics. But while the failings of political leaders are well-known and roundly condemned, the lapses of the security forces are masked by information asymmetries.

Shouldn’t a counter-insurgency doctrine help prevent mistakes from being repeated? Comparing the counter-insurgency doctrines of the United States and India, Dr Fidler writes that the exercise of developing the Indian Doctrine for Sub-Conventional Operations (DSCO) was “mainly one of codification—collecting in one document guidance accumulated over the course of more than fifty years. The objective was not to revolutionise how the Indian Army or government thought about how to fight insurgencies.” That sounds quintessentially Indian and evokes images of the Vedas, which were codified into written form after centuries of existence as oral tradition. It will be a challenge to translate this kind of a document into a strategy for current and future conflicts.

Dr Fidler also points out that India’s counter-insurgency doctrine “has not involved the civilian government agencies affected, such as the state and central police forces.” This is perhaps its biggest weakness—by its very nature, counter-insurgency is a problem of (re-)establishing governance. The Indian pattern has been one where, even after a successful campaign by security forces, the civilian government is somehow expected to miraculously appear and resume administration. Unfortunately, this does not usually happen, setting the state for the insurgency to resume. It is unclear if this broad point has registered at the highest levels of the Indian government. [Pragati—The Indian National Interest Review]

Pragati March 2010: Strategy in trade

Pragati—The Indian National Interest Review is three.

Thank you for reading us, thank you for writing for us, thank you for subscribing and thank you for referring us to your friends. And thanks to Quill Media, our fantastic franchisee, who not only deliver the print edition to your doorstep, but are also putting it in major bookstores in India.

Highlighted in this issue is an argument for India to take a strategic approach towards trade and infrastructure and the ensuing need for a co-ordinated inter-ministerial approach towards policy formulation, negotiations and implementation.

In foreign affairs: you will find perspectives on India-US military ties, governing the diaspora, diplomacy in the neighbourhood and a critique of India’s engagement with the United Nations.

On the home front, the highlight is an essay on the newly introduced Right to Education Act. In parliament, we also make an argument for parliament to regain its supremacy over the executive. Finally, there’s a review essay on the lessons from India’s long experience countering insurgencies.

And there’s a lot more. Read & Share. (Download 2.5 MB PDF)

To mark the third anniversary, may we request you to share this issue with at least three of your friends; and encourage them to sign-up for the free digital edition or Rs 800/$80 (min) for the print edition.

Pragati February 2010: The Mumbai Project

Almost three years ago, the Percy Mistry Committee report recommended that India develop Mumbai into an international financial centre. Like other plans to modernise the city’s infrastructure and public services, the Mistry Committee’s recommendations were substantially unimplemented.

This month, we argue that it is time for the Indian government to revisit the Mumbai project. It is also time for India to embrace an entirely new urbanisation paradigm.

Another highlight of this issue: Shashi Tharoor defends India’s continued engagement with the United Nations. On that topic, don’t miss the infographic on India’s participation in UN peacekeeping operations elsewhere in the issue.

We also cover topics in naval strategy; the importance of defence economics in planning and budgeting; intelligence relations between the CIA & ISI and the conflict in Balochistan. There’s a lot more.

Read & Share

Digital Community edition (Free)
In print: 12 issues at Rs 800/US$ 80 (subscribe)

Brickbat to the editor

A picture and many strong words

In the January 2010 issue of Pragati, accompanying an article titled “Telangana Liberated”, we published the following photograph.

March and Dharna against Operation Green Hunt - Bharath Margabandu
March and Dharna against Operation Green Hunt - Bharath Margabandu

This image is part of a series of photographs taken by Bharath Margabandu on a protest march against Operation Green Hunt, the Indian government’s new security initiative against the Naxalite movement. We didn’t know (and didn’t care) who the persons in the photographs are. We chose the photograph because, in our judgement, it is relevant to the article alongside which it was published.

This morning we got an email from a Dr Ashley Tellis from the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (not the well-known Washington-based international relations scholar). We produce the email exchange in full and leave readers to arrive at their own judgements.

From: ashley tellis
Date: 2010/1/27
Subject: Photograph
To: pragati@…

Dear Sir/Madam,

I write to register my surprise at your profound stupidity. In the article ‘Telangana Liberated” (wrongly spelt in your Highlights section at least online, so please change it) by Ram Yadav ( a former DGP of AP, which shows just how “fresh” and “bold” your magazine is) in the latest issue of your pathetic, right-wing rag of a magazine, you carry a picture of me in an APCLC march against Operation Greenhunt in Hyderabad.

The march had nothing to do with Telangana, your article has nothing to do with Operation Green Hunt and the poster I am carrying has nothing to do with your article. It says (for non-Telugu readers) “Murderers of Adivasis in the forest/ The forced occupation of the natural resources by MNCs and Operation Green hunt Opposition Committee”. It says nothing about Naxalites or about Telangana and to carry this photograph with this raving and ranting rightwing article which shows the mindset of a five year old with a war video game is nothing short of ridiculous. The march was and is against the killing of tribals by people like Mr. Yadav through a fascist “operation” like Green”hunt.” The march had no position on Naxalites or on Telangana. Please get some basic facts right and learn to read a photograph before you carry it.

Please grow up and if you can’t carry a decent article at least carry a relevant photograph, you sad and sorry idiots.

Dr. Ashley Tellis
Department of Liberal Arts
Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad
Estamos en la lucha

From: Nitin Pai
Date: 2010/1/27
Subject: Re: Photograph
To: ashley tellis

Dear Prof Tellis,

Thank you for your email. If you permit, we would like to publish it on our website.


(via Mobile)

From: ashley tellis
Date: 2010/1/27
Subject: RE: Photograph
To: nitin.pai@..

Please do. That was the whole point in sending the email to you.

Estamos en la lucha

From: Nitin Pai
Date: 2010/1/27
Subject: Re: Photograph
To: ashley tellis

Thank you.

We treat all correspondence as private by default. That’s the reason I asked.


(via Mobile)

From: ashley tellis
Date: 2010/1/27
Subject: RE: Photograph
To: nitin.pai@..

There is no such thing as private. Everything in the world is public. The stupidity of your magazine is a prime example.

Estamos en la lucha

Note: We have edited out the email addresses to protect everyone’s privacy, including Dr Tellis’s

Pragati January 2010: Stepping up in Afghanistan

The January 2010 issue of Pragati discusses India’s options in Afghanistan. While there are a number of options ranging from scaling up training of Afghan national security forces to actually scaling down development projects if the United States quits prematurely, editorially, we argue that it is in India’s interests to send combat-ready troops to Afghanistan.

In domestic affairs, we present two perspectives on the demand for the new Telangana state; the challenges before the chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir; and the need for an urgent reform of the laws governing political parties.

We’re piloting a new section that presents a synopsis of commentary in the international non-English language media: this month, “alif” has coverage of the Urdu & Arabic press.

There’s a lot more, for you to Read & Share!

It costs you Rs 800 (or US$80 outside India) to get 12 monthly issues of Pragati delivered to your doorstep. If you have not already subscribed, please do. Sign-up instantly at QuillMedia’s secure online subscription gateway—they accept all major credit cards and (in India) debit cards and bank transfers too.

Sign-up for the digital PDF edition (free subscription)

Pragati December 2009: Where India stands on climate change

The image on the cover of this month’s issue of Pragati is a painting by Azmat Ali that expresses the complexities involved in international efforts to address climate change. Climate change negotiations have now fully entered the foreign policy agenda. Our cover story highlights where India stands on this issue.

The other highlight is the first of a two-part interview with Dr Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for External Affairs where he discusses India’s approach to Africa, the need to strengthen India’s diplomatic corps and his initiative to rejuvenate the policy planning process within the foreign ministry.

In addition to the regular features: this issue examines the prospects of political change in Myanmar & Sri Lanka; Europe’s struggle for strategic relevance in Asia; China’s moves in Afghanistan; what Hillary Clinton achieved in Pakistan and a review of a book on all sorts of maritime crime.

Note: Quill Media, our franchisee, graciously sent out complimentary copies of Pragati to all those who expressed an interest to subscribe to the print edition. They have announced their subscription package (see Page 30 of this month’s issue). Quill Media’s online subscription gateway will be ready in a few days—this will allow you to subscribe using a credit card. We will alert you once the site is ready.

A yearly subscription is really affordable. So please do subscribe.

Download (PDF, 1.7 MB)

Pragati: Now in print

Yes, you will now be able to receive Pragati in print.

Quill Media Pvt Ltd, a Kolkata-based company, has introduced a third-party print & distribute service that will put the magazine in your hands. To indicate your interest in subscribing visit their website.

is an independent, non-commercial, non-profit publication. We have granted permission, free of charge, to Quill Media to provide a service that many of you have long asked for. Your support is vital for Quill Media to sustain the service, so please do subscribe. (The digital community edition & the website remain free of charge)

We have also redesigned the magazine to coincide with the print launch. While there have been small, incremental changes to the design since May 2007, this is the first major revamp. It kept us busy through the month of October. Hope you’ll like it.

The November issue is a pilot both for the print version and for the new design—and is a special compendium of the best ideas we featured this year. But we won’t tell you what’s in it—open it to find out for yourself.

Read & Share. Subscribe & tell your friends!

Pragati October 2009: Targeting Naxalism

Despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s characterisation of the Naxalite movement as the biggest threat to India’s internal security, for years, the Indian government showed little imagination and resolve in earnestly confronting it. While the Naxalite movement consolidated across the country, moving cadre, arms and funds across state and international borders, the Indian government’s response was inefficient and lacked coordination. Not only did this result in Naxalites gaining strength unchecked, it also resulted in dubious and poorly-conceived responses like raising tribal militias and ham-fisted police action against rural and tribal populations in the worst-affected areas.

In its second term, the UPA government has demonstrated more seriousness in tackling what it calls Left Wing Extremism. Most of this month’s issue of Pragati deals with the nature of the Naxalite threat and the ways to address it. We argue that Naxalism is a manifestation of poor or absent governance but establishing good governance in Naxalite-affected areas, after successful security operations, requires the Indian government to invest in hybrid civil-military capacity that it does not yet have at the present time.

In addition: we have essays on the flux in Afghanistan, the UPA government’s much-publicised austerity drive; a parliamentary brief that examines MPs’ voting record; and other regular features.

Read & Share!

Download (3.5 MB, PDF)