Graceful exit wounds

The manner of Musharraf’s exit

Most people think Pervez Musharraf is toast. And that, apart from a matter of time, it is a question of how he should go. The American senators who were in Pakistan for last week’s elections have publicly called for a ‘graceful exit’. Well, he’s reportedly building a new home—complete with security bunkers—in Islamabad. “He has already started discussing the exit strategy for himself,” a close friend told the Sunday Telegraph “I think it is now just a matter of days and not months because he would like to make a graceful exit on a high.”

Now the wonderful retired Major General Rashid Qureishi has denied the authenticity of the report, not its content. So it may well be that we will soon see some grace.

It won’t be impossible for Mr Musharraf to hold on to the presidency—but he will have to share power with the politicians and Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani. If he was the sort who could share power he wouldn’t have been in this hole in the first place.

Impeachment—and there’s a lot of political support for this—is not impossible. But as Ali Khan of Washburn University School of Law argues on Jurist, impeachment is for legally elected presidents, not usurpers. “The proper constitutional treatment for usurpers”, Mr Khan writes, is “removal by incarceration”. Since lawyers are a vocal political lobby at the moment, they might insist on meting out the proper constitutional treatment to Mr Musharraf. Such an exit is unlikely to be graceful though.

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

My op-ed in Mint: Conscription is not the solution

The solution to officer shortages is military modernisation and liberalisation of education

In our op-ed in Mint, Sushant Singh and I argue that the shortage of officers in the armed forces is not an anomaly, and merely raising take-home salaries isn’t going to solve the problem. First, India needs a capital-intensive army and must allocate more resources to military modernisation. Second, the armed forces need to deepen their officer training programmes and build what they can’t readymade. Ultimately, India needs to increase the supply of employable graduates—for that, setting education free from government control is a must.

Read on…

Rough diamonds into leaders
Talented graduates are increasingly scarce and the search for ‘officer-like’ qualities will be increasingly futile. It’s time for other, harder strategies

What does the Indian Army have in common with the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council? Answer: They are all complaining of a shortage of employable graduates. The army is short of more than 11,000 officers. In 2005, a Nasscom-McKinsey report projected that the IT industry would face a potential shortage of 500,000 people by 2010.

The army may be looking for young people with “officer-like qualities”, while the private sector is looking for people of “management calibre”, but they are essentially fishing in the same pond. India produces three million graduates each year. But as Satyam’s B. Ramalinga Raju noted, “most of these are uncut diamonds that have to go through polishing factories, as the trade requires only polished stones”.

It is more than a coincidence that the Armed Forces were unable to fill available seats at the Indian Military Academy since the early 1990s—just after the P.V. Narasimha Rao government’s reforms dismantled the licence raj. Steady economic growth over the last two decades and the emergence of globally competitive IT, financial and manufacturing industries has increased the opportunity costs of joining the Armed Forces. Furthermore, productivity growth in these sectors is increasing wages: A young Indian will have to give up even more to join the Armed Forces, which offer relatively lower take-home salaries.

It is tempting to believe that merely raising military pay will address the issue of officer “shortages”. To do so would be to ignore the fundamental changes to the relative abundance of capital and labour in India’s growing economy. Continue reading “My op-ed in Mint: Conscription is not the solution”

Friday Squib: Unconventional war footing

The things that they believe in America!

Fred Gedrich, a former US government official, in the Washington Times:

Pakistan could do two things to diminish the Islamic extremist threat: develop an unconventional warfare capability and cut off the stream of jihadis coming out of madrassas.

Pakistan hasn’t been able to succeed in pacifying the lawless tribal region and elsewhere because it’s using conventional troops, weapons and tactics against enemies who don’t wear uniforms, carry weapons openly or abide by international war rules.

It needs to transition to an unconventional war footing (special military forces working with local populations and performing clandestine operations) but presently doesn’t have this capability. The United States offered to provide training, advice and support, but Pakistan’s government hasn’t fully accepted the offer yet… [WT, emphasis added]

Mr Gedrich, despite having worked for the State and Defense departments (or perhaps because of it) seems hopelessly ignorant of Pakistan’s history. The problem is not that the Pakistani army does not have unconventional warfare capacity or that it can’t do clandestine operations. The problem is that it has and did too much of it.

If India asks America to run Kashmir

Some more departures into the unthinkable

If their mandate is to think the unthinkable, then Frederick Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon are making a good job of it over at the Brookings Institution. In November last year, they wrote an op-ed in the New York Times outlining how the United States might have to confiscate Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and fly them to New Mexico. And now, in a policy brief arguing for the US to increase the size of its armed forces, they construct a scenario wherein American troops may have to enter Kashmir.

Responding to War over Kashmir What if war breaks out between Pakistan and India over Kashmir? U.S. interests in Kashmir are not great enough to justify armed intervention on one side in such a war, and no formal alliance commits us to step in. There are other ways in which foreign forces might become involved, however. If India and Pakistan came close to using, or actually used, nuclear weapons, they might consider what was previously unthinkable (to New Delhi in particular)—pleading to the international community for help. For example, they might ask the international community to run Kashmir for a period of years in order to prevent a nuclear war that would kill tens of millions, shatter the tradition of nuclear non-use so essential to global stability, and make Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal vulnerable to extremists.

What might a stabilization mission in Kashmir entail? The region has about half of Iraq’s population and area. That suggests initial stabilization forces of about 100,000, with a U.S. contribution of 30,000 to 50,000. The mission would make sense only if India and Pakistan blessed it, so there would be little point in deploying a force large enough to defeat one of those countries. But, robust monitoring of border regions, as well as counter-insurgent and counter-terrorist strike forces, would be necessary. [Brookings]

Now, Kagan and O’Hanlon are entitled to think of far out challenges, even if they are too far out and contain too many leaps of logic. But it is remarkable that they should think that a force of just 100,000 troops is sufficient for stabilisation, even of the ‘initial’ kind. There are far more than that number today just on India’s side of the Line of Control. And what about troop levels after the initial period? They don’t say. Perhaps that’s because doing so will not fit their conclusion—that the US needs at least another 100,000 active duty soldiers and marines. Indeed, that’s the greatest weakness in their analysis: for the kind of global policing role they envisage for the US, they grossly underestimate the numbers of troops required. For all the advances in military technology, the business of holding territory is a numbers game. To acquire the capability to match its intentions, the US needs to put many times more than number in uniform.

The irony is if Kagan and O’Hanlon were to argue for, say, 300,000 more troops, no one will take them seriously. For that is truly unthinkable in America.

Between impressiveness and delusion

Patriotism, power over people’s lives and the army

“Twenty years from now, men will be ready to die for me, but not for you.” This is what a cadet at the National Defence Academy in Khadakvasla, Pune, tells his friends pursuing engineering when they discuss how much money they will make in their careers compared to him. [Rediff]

Rediff’s Archana Masih thinks the cadet’s words are ‘staggeringly impressive’. Amit Varma argues that they are ‘staggeringly delusionary’, because, he explains ‘there are better reasons to feel proud of being an army man than the power you have over people’s lives’.

As indeed there are. But Amit misunderstands the import of those words. Ask soldiers what makes them rush into combat in war zones, when there’s a good chance that they’ll lose their lives and they’ll tell you that its for their paltan (platoon). And it’s not just the men that are ready to die for their officer, the readiness to die for their platoon-mates extends to the officers who command them. A look at the officer casualties in the Kargil war and in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere reveals that the Indian army’s officer casualty ratio is among the highest.

In a follow-up post, Amit quotes a journalist’s reply to a general who had berated the media for being un-patriotic. “You are paid to be patriotic” the journalist told the general. That’s a nice one-liner to put down someone talking down to you, but neither is it reasonable to suggest that soldiers are patriotic because they are paid, nor is it wrong to be paid to be patriotic. If anything, the army’s shortage of officers shows that India expects patriotism (of the risk-to-life kind) to come at a discount rather than at a premium.

Engaging the South-Central Asian Raja-Mandala

Applying ancient Realism in the modern age

“American military assistance to Pakistan in the last 15 years will, I believe, be listed by historians as among our most costly blunders”, wrote an American diplomat who had served as ambassador to India. No, this is not Robert Blackwill writing in 2007. It was Chester Bowles writing in the New York Times in 1970.

That’s what Vanni Cappelli points out in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, in which he argues that the United States must contain Pakistan.

In my essay “Containing Pakistan: Engaging the Raja-Mandala in South-Central Asia” (published in the winter 2007 issue of Orbis), I argued that the United States should change course and commit itself to an American-Indian-Afghan alliance aimed at containing Pakistan and the Islamic ideological and terrorist threat that it poses under military rule. Only by joining with secular democratic and other anti-extremist forces in the region can the United States combat the violence perpetrated in the name of an “Islam in danger.”

Cutting off military and economic aid to Pakistan, formally designating it a state sponsor of terror and working with its neighbors to contain it will allow the United States to effect the same internal collapse of a dictatorial order that occurred when the Soviet Union’s weak economy proved unable to sustain its military superstructure. Rawalpindi’s possession of nuclear weapons need not deter such a policy any more than Moscow’s did the successful Cold War containment strategy.

A new alliance would cripple Pakistan’s capacity to support militants and give the country’s secular democratic forces their first real chance to transform their troubled land into one that is no longer a threat to international security. [SFGate via The Conjecturer]

Defence industry woes: beyond the blame game

The real issue is competition (and the lack thereof)

It is unfortunate that those making arguments for positive change feel compelled to blame participants of the status quo for all that is wrong with it. The most famous example of this—and its unfortunate consequences—is the India-US nuclear deal. The prime minister’s office under Manmohan Singh sought to justify the need for this deal by casting doubts on the record and the capabilities of India’s nuclear scientific establishment. Not only did it create resentment in a constituency whose co-operation is vital for the success of the deal. It didn’t play too well with the public either, as people were more likely to trust India’s scientists on the topic than its politicians and spin doctors.

Now Bharat Varma, a respected analyst and editor of the Indian Defence Review, disses DRDO in an article in which he makes a very important point: the need for greater competition in the defence industry. Blaming DRDO for ‘failing the Indian military’, though, was unnecessary and will draw undue attention to the less relevant part of his article. There is little doubt that DRDO’s performance could have been better. But holding DRDO responsible for failing the armed forces is like holding Hindustan Motors responsible for India’s lacklustre car industry during the license permit raj. The real fault lies elsewhere. Given the right incentives, sleepy state-owned behemoths can reveal surprising agility. [Related Post: A player who is also a referee]

Capt Varma’s offers good suggestions as to how these incentives might be changed. One word: competition. It is fair to say that India has the industrial capacity to support the most exacting needs of the armed forces. What has really failed the Indian armed forces is the government’s failure to harness the vitality of the private sector and combine it with the achievements of DRDO and the wider public-sector scientific establishment. [Related Posts: Liberalise the defence industry; On government husbandry]

Public awareness of military and security issues is relatively shallow. The interest of reformers would be better served if the public debate generates more light than heat. Given the gravity of the issues involved, a slugfest that places the armed forces and DRDO in opposing camps is wholly unnecessary. You are now bound to see DRDO’s supporters respond to Capt Varma’s article by pointing out how the armed forces prefer foreign hardware. And the debate can get passionate.

It is more important to target the Indian government, the political class, and the scandal-happy media for a concert of ineptitude, political point-scoring and sensationalism that is responsible for the armed forces not getting the most bang for the taxpayer’s buck.

Musharraf’s favourite word

The First Person of Pakistan

Der Spiegel interviewed Musharraf recently. Here is the last question:

SPIEGEL: Are there any circumstances under which you could imagine resigning from your post as president?

Musharraf: Yes.

SPIEGEL: Which?

Musharraf: First of all, there is my own disposition. Following the developments of the last seven or eight months, to resign would be the easiest thing. I like playing golf, bridge and tennis, and I feel like socializing more often than is possible in my position. I like relaxing. Believe me: On the day I think the people, the majority, don’t want me any more and the day I think I have no contribution to make to this country, I will not wait a second. I will leave. [Spiegel Online emphasis added]

So it’s all up to him.

Give ’em Kashmir, for stability’s sake

To believe that an American tilt against India will stabilise Pakistan is to ignore the new realities

As expected, some commentators have begun suggesting that the way for the US to regain influence in Pakistan is to “tilt” towards its ‘national security’ interests by, you guessed it, rethinking Washington’s India policy. Never mind that much of the assistance that the US has transferred to the Pakistani military establishment is already doing exactly that. Even amid all the turmoil after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, the United States found it appropriate to announce the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft to Pakistan.

Now Kaveh Afrasiabi cannot be ignorant of all this. So when he calls for Washington to rethink its India policy, what he really means is that the US must take Pakistan’s side over Kashmir.

Bhutto never criticized U.S. policy that seemed to elevate India in the region, thus many in the Pakistani military elite saw her in a negative light.

Bhutto’s assassination has tipped the scales in favor of the ruling politico-military elite focused on national (security) interests. The latter’s overriding concern now is to have some breathing space domestically.

The United States needs to seriously consider recasting its India policy in favor of a more balanced approach, while steering clear of Pakistan’s domestic politics. Otherwise, the United States risks further alienation of Pakistan’s political elite. [SFGate]

Dr Afrasiabi is wrong on several counts: there is no reason to believe that appeasing the politico-military elite will stabilise Pakistan. As the American media is discovering belatedly, the crisis runs deeper. And more than rethinking its India policy, American politicians, officials and commentators would do much better not to engage in loose talk about snatching Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. That worries the politico-military establishment a lot more than Kashmir.

It is amazing how Dr Afrasiabi overlooks the costs of rethinking. Surely, he doesn’t expect such a policy change to be inexpensive to Washington?