Gill Sans

KPS Gill makes several good points on Naxalism. And one bad one

Tehelka’s Harinder Baweja uses KPS Gill’s shoulder to fire a salvo against the central government-led counter-insurgency operation targeting the Naxalites. Mr Gill makes several good points: among others, that the Naxalites run the biggest extortion mafia in the country, that the corrupt state officials are part of the problem and that the solution to the fundamental problem involves giving property rights to the tribals. He also makes a bad point when he argues that Operation Green Hunt is unnecessary.

He is entirely right when he says that strengthening local police is an important part of the strategy. In fact, as we have argued, the counter-insurgency strategy must focus on improving the overall capacity of the local government such that it can deliver basic public services—law & order, protect property rights, deliver education, healthcare and justice. But in states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand such a strategy will deliver results, at best, in the medium-term. Also, because Naxalites will use violence to block progress in this direction, it is quite likely that such a strategy alone will prove to be ineffective.

Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand are quite unlike Punjab, which Mr Gill alludes to, in important ways: Punjab had a robust agricultural-industrial economy, its administrative machinery was much better developed and the insurgency there was not caused by poor or absent governance. The Naxalite affected regions are tribal/subsistence agriculture-based societies, have primitive administrative machinery and have therefore fallen victim to the dubious promises of Leftwing revolutionaries.

The upshot is that the counter-insurgency strategy for the Naxalite-affected regions needs a well-equipped and well-directed “clear” phase that will create the conditions for Mr Gill’s proposals to stand a chance. That is why Operation Green Hunt is necessary.

My op-ed in Indian Express: Challenges for India’s anti-Naxalite campaign

Making Operation Green Hunt succeed

In today’s Indian Express Sushant and I call for the Indian government to address two big issues that appear to be missing from its strategy to fight the Naxalite insurgency. Excerpts:

First, the Naxalites and their sympathisers will launch a psychological counter-offensive to weaken the political commitment to the campaign by trying to delegitimise it in the public mind. Security forces will be accused of human rights violations, and a dubious moral equivalence drawn between the damage chemotherapy causes and the cancer it treats. Celebrity activists will find a new cause to express their outrage in prize-worthy eloquence. Even genuine human-rights activists will become the Naxalites’ unwitting instruments — to the extent that criticism of the government’s conduct will be projected as an implicit vindication of the Maoist agenda….

To get out of this hole, the government must release accurate and factual information to the public with unprecedented timeliness. In this age of inexpensive technology and connectivity, there is no excuse for the home ministry to be unable to release reports, photographs and video footage from the field. Paying for advertisements in the national media will only take it so far—-unless the UPA government implements a sophisticated public communication strategy, it will find its political will sapped by the Naxalite propaganda machine.

This brings up the second challenge: India does not have the capacity to conduct the vital endgame of counter-insurgencies…

After any serious surgery, there is usually a brief period of convalescence in the hospital before the patient is discharged into the care of the general practitioner. India does not have the capacity to take an area that has been cleared of insurgents, build institutions of governance before discharging it to the state government. Unless this capacity is built, the successes of Operation Green Hunt will remain ephemeral.

Delivering governance in the immediate aftermath of conflict requires hybrid civil-military capacity. A new organisation must be raised by the Central government, under a restructured home ministry, to lay foundations for the rule of law, economic freedom and property rights in areas cleared of Naxalites. We call this the CIMPCOR or Civilian Military Partnership for Conflict Resolution model…

The alchemy of Naxalism lies in the transformation of millions of quotidian grievances into disaffection and rebellion against the Indian state. Green Hunt rightly focuses on security first; but it will only be complete when good governance eliminates those quotidian grievances. [Indian Express]

We flesh out the CIMPCOR model in our in-depth piece in Pragati that was reproduced by The Pioneer as a two part series.

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.

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My op-ed in Mint: Who wants to be good Taliban?

US counter-insurgency in Afghanistan, Pakistan army’s choices and implications for India

In today’s Mint. Sushant & I argue that General Kayani’s political decisions will depend on the course and outcomes of US negotiations with ‘moderate’ Taliban. We suggest that while moderate Taliban is an oxymoron it is also “a label of convenience, using moral connotations to render realpolitik-driven compromises acceptable” and will be applied to whoever the US negotiates with. Excerpts:

So who might end up as the ‘good’ Taliban in the coming months? Mid-level commanders of the militias fighting Western forces are one likely set of contenders—a combination of political accommodation, financial rewards and astute exploitation of inter-tribal rivalries might help distance them from their top leaders. Another set of contenders are the warlords (now called Taliban commanders) who might not share deep loyalties to the al-Qaeda leadership and the Pakistani establishment. How all this will fare is difficult to say, though the cards are heavily stacked against its success. Nevertheless, its course and outcome will determine General Kayani’s political moves in Pakistan.

If the United States decides to engage the type of individuals and groups that are backed by the Pakistani military-jihadi complex, General Kayani is likely to want to quickly arrest Pakistan’s political unravelling. The army can then expand its own bargains with the Pakistan Taliban, and relieved of pressure, go back to being its usual self: wielding power, cornering economic opportunities and fighting India.

If, on the other hand, the designation of ‘good’ Taliban does not square with the interests of the military-jihadi complex, then General Kayani has every reason to wait and allow matters to worsen. For the ‘bad’ Taliban will continue to hurt US forces in Afghanistan until Washington folds or quits. Pakistan’s military leadership very likely believes that the United States cannot simultaneously accept the failure of a nuclear-armed Pakistan and the triumph of the insurgency in Afghanistan.

What does this mean for India? There is an urgent need for India to protect itself from the fallout of Pakistan’s Talibanisation. This involves, first, ensuring that the Omar Abdullah government succeeds in ending the insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir. The new central government will have to imaginatively wind down the visible security presence in Kashmiri towns and villages even as it strengthens vigilance along the LoC and within the state. Second, the internal security lessons of the 26/11 attack on Mumbai must be learnt. And finally, India simply cannot continue the unserious approach to political violence: there must be zero tolerance of vandals, rioters, “sainiks” of one form or another and terrorists.

On the external front, the only way to save Pakistan is to put it under international management. The United States, to paraphrase old Winston, can be trusted to do the right thing after it has exhausted all other options. It is in India’s interests to see that it exhausts them fast enough. [Mint]

Read the rest at LiveMint. (Thanks to Swami Iyer for asking the right question)

It’s not NATO’s fight

And there’s no fight in NATO

You hear about leaked diplomatic memos, resigned assessments by British field commanders and complaints by pundits—but it is when you read reports like this one, about German commandos twiddling their thumbs for three years (yes, three years) sitting in their camps, that you know why the Taliban are getting so powerful. (linkthanks Pragmatic)

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the foreign minister, admitted they had not been deployed “a single time” in the last three years, despite a desperate shortage of Special Forces units in the country.

Last year it emerged that Norwegian troops, fighting alongside their German allies, were forced to abandon a battle at tea-time because German pilots refused to fly emergency medical helicopters in the dark. [The Scotsman]

NATO’s military presence in Afghanistan is hobbled by a spaghetti bowl of “caveats” placing various types of restrictions on the where troops from individual countries can be deployed and their rules of engagement. For an organisation whose purpose was to standardise equipment and procedures and ensure interoperability,this state of affairs is as ironic as it is shameful.

Perhaps they should just pack up and leave.

The stuff for military novels (2)

The flying assassin

In line with what some readers suggested, and also in line with Sharon Weiberger’s post over at Danger Room, the new secret technique that the Americans have brought to bear in counter-insurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan (possibly) involves unmanned aerial vehicles fitted with a networked “tagging, tracking and locating” system.

The new system now being deployed was first used on aircraft in Afghanistan, then was installed on Predators in Iraq starting about a year ago. Officials said introduction of the devices coincided with the 2007 U.S. troop buildup in Iraq, and was an important, but hitherto unknown, factor in the subsequent drop in violence in that country.

The technology allows suspects to be identified quickly. “All I have to do is point the sensor at him,” said a military officer familiar with the system, “and a missile can be off the rail in seconds.”

The devices are roughly the size of an automobile battery, but are heavy enough that outfitted Predators in some cases carry only one Hellfire missile instead of two. At times, the systems also have been in short supply, requiring that crews move the devices from one Predator to another as they land and take off.

The unique capabilities have prompted competition among U.S. forces for access to specially equipped Predators, military officials said. The fleet being assembled for use in Pakistan has been assigned to the CIA and U.S. Special Operations Command, meaning fewer of the aircraft are available for conventional forces. [LAT, linkthanks Vivek Hirpara]

Why terrorists are called “militants” in India

Owing to the Panthic Codes

It is not uncommon for the Indian media to call the terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir, or Assam or elsewhere “militants”. In India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad: The covert war in Kashmir, 1947-2004, Praveen Swami tells us why:

Indian journalists who reported on the struggle for the creation of a separate Sikh state, Khalistan, had traditionally used the terms “extremists” or “terrorists” to describe the character of the groups engaged in this enterprise. Khalistan groups subsequently imposed a set of codes on civil society in general, and on the media in particular, which among other things deemed the use of these terms impermissible. Known as the Panthic Codes, these rules of reportage were imposed upon the media at gunpoint. The term “militant”, now widely used in the Indian press to describe armed opponents of the State, was the product of this coercion. As a journalist who worked through that period, and because the term “militant” conflates non-violent political radicalism with specific forms of armed activity, I find its use unacceptable. [India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad]

The stuff for military novels

A revolution in counter-insurgency affairs?

Bob Woodward claims that the United States used a new “secret technique” in its counter-insurgency operations in Iraq.

But beyond all of that, Woodward reports, for the first time, that there is a secret behind the success of the surge: a sophisticated and lethal special operations program.

“This is very sensitive and very top secret, but there are secret operational capabilities that have been developed by the military to locate, target, and kill leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq, insurgent leaders, renegade militia leaders. That is one of the true breakthroughs,” Woodward told Pelley.

“But what are we talking about here? It’s some kind of surveillance? Some kind of targeted way of taking out just the people that you’re looking for? The leadership of the enemy?” Pelley asked.

“I’d love to go through the details, but I’m not going to,” Woodward replied.

“Do you mean to say that this special capability is such an advance in military technique and technology that it reminds you of the advent of the tank and the airplane?” Pelley asked.

“Yeah,” Woodward said. “If you were an al Qaeda leader or part of the insurgency in Iraq, or one of these renegade militias, and you knew about what they were able to do, you’d get your ass outta town.” [CBS News]

Mr Woodward doesn’t offer more details—not even in his new book—but adds to the suspense by saying that “it is the stuff of which military novels are written.”

Meanwhile, Dawn‘s correspondent thinks that the same technique is being used by US forces against Taliban militants in Pakistan’s FATA. Whatever the technique is, to the extent that it increases collateral damage, it is bound to have different effects in the Pashtun geography.

Ill-conceived dialogue

…played into the Hurriyat’s hands

Praveen Swami’s indictment is damning: “New Delhi’s well-meaning but ill-conceived dialogue process communalised Jammu and Kashmir and laid the ground for the ongoing crisis”

Experts have been telling New Delhi that the solution to this Islamist upsurge lies in negotiations which will give power—if not independence—to secessionists. Both the premise of this received-wisdom and the prescriptions it lends itself to are false. In fact, the crisis now unfolding in Jammu and Kashmir can also be read as the consequence of New Delhi’s peace process. In its effort to make peace with the Islamist-led secessionist movement in Kashmir, this counter-intuitive argument suggests, India ended up fuelling competitive communalism in each of the State’s three regions.

New Delhi deferred the (round table conference) dialogue process until after the Assembly elections scheduled for October. Islamists in Kashmir, though, feared that the elections would lead to their annihilation, and began sharpening their knives. To anyone other than Prime Minister Singh’s house-intellectuals, whose eyes seemed to have been paper-clipped shut, the brewing crisis was evident. [The Hindu emphasis added]

The dialogue process in Jammu & Kashmir was in piece with the UPA government’s policy DNA: entitlements based on communal socialism, accepting competitive intolerance and yielding to the resulting political violence.

Terrorists attack Jammu

Infiltration, cross-border firing, hostage-taking, killing…the same old stuff

Terrorists have escalated the crisis in Jammu & Kashmir:

Three people, inclhuding an army officer, were killed and at least five others injured in Jammu on Wednesday by militants who had infiltrated into the Indian territory from across the border under the cover of firing from the Pakistani side.

The three militants, who had sneaked into Jammu through Kanachak border on Tuesday, are currently holed up in a house at Chinore, official sources said, adding that the area has been cordoned off by the security forces.

One woman and three children are being held hostage by the militants, they said. [IE]

There can be no doubt about the intent—to deepen the differences between “Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri on the one hand, and Muslim and non-Muslim on the other.”

This should nail the canard that the separatists had become “peaceful protesters”. It will be interesting to see if the leading lights of the Kashmiri separatist firmament denounce this act of violence. Don’t hold your breath, because “on August 22, Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik and (Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammed) Saeed had agreed to cooperate on the Kashmir issue.”

Update: Look who’s been using satellite phones to address jihadi conferences in Pakistan—the ‘moderate’ Mirwaiz, and Shabbir Shah.