Demand and supply (The Pakistan-US version)

What Pakistan wants to open the supply routes, and what the US can give

This one has been in the offing for a few months now. And it is finally here — the review of Pakistan’s relations with the US by Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS). For months, everyone including the man who really matters in Pakistan, the army chief, General Kayani has sworn to abide by the directions of the parliamentary review. There is some meat, a lot of rhetoric and a few unintentionally funny demands in the 40-pointer Guidelines for Revised Terms of Engagement with the US/ NATO/ ISAF and General Foreign Policy (pdf).

Ignoring the rhetoric in the PCNS review report, let us focus on the meaty ones — Pakistani demands, and the likely US reaction.

#2 – The US must review its footprints in Pakistan. This means (i) the cessation of drone strikes inside the territorial borders of Pakistan,

= It is impossible that the US will agree to stop drone strike inside Pakistan. These drone strikes are low-risk, low-cost means to effectively target al Qaeda and other jehadi groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Having seen them deliver good results so far, these strikes form the very basis of US strategy in Pakistan. The best that the US can perhaps agree to is to stop using Pakistani airbases to fly its drones, and operate them only from bases in Afghanistan.

What happens if the US refuses to accede to this demand? Will Pakistan muster up its aircrafts and anti-aircraft weapons to shoot these drones inside Pakistani airspace? Or it will continue to be nudge-nudge, wink-wink as hitherto.

#5 – The Government of Pakistan should seek an unconditional apology from the US for the unprovoked incident dated 25th-26th November, 2011, in Mohmand agency…

= It has been reported that the US President was about to offer an apology to Pakistan around the time the Quran burning incident occurred in Afghanistan. His apology to Afghanistan put him in a political spot domestically and has made it difficult for him to apologise to Pakistan now. However, it is possible that a senior US military official could call up General Kayani and apologise for the Salala incident. Of course, Pakistan Army will spin it as an “unconditional apology”  which will then give it an excuse to carry on with its ghairat (pride) intact.

#11 – Taxes and other charges must be levied on all goods imported in or transiting through Pakistan for use of infrastructure and to compensate for its deterioration.

= This is something which will be negotiated between US and Pakistan. Pakistan, more particularly the Pakistani Military-Business Complex, needs US dollars and wants to milk the NATO supply routes to the maximum possible extent. The US military needs the supply routes through Pakistan not to supply its troops in Afghanistan but to bring the military equipment out of the theatre, consequent to the planned troop drawdown.

#15 – A new fast-track process of billings and payments/ reimbursements with regard to CSF and other leviable charges shall be adopted.

= US has not given a penny to Pakistan as Coalition Support Funds (CSF) reimbursement since November 2010. Pakistan’s perilous economic situation necessitates an early transfer of CSF money from the US. While US might release some old dues as a one-time sop after the supply lines resume through Pakistan, it is unlikely to amend the process of audit and verification of bills submitted by Pakistan Army towards CSF reimbursement. Audit and verification of bills is a Congressional requirement and the US Department of Defense can’t afford to bypass that stipulation.

To sum up, out of these four demands, the one on drones will not be accepted by the US. Two will be met partially — the apology may not be unconditional but would still be an apology, and some old CSF dues may be released by the US while the process remains unchanged. The demand on levying new taxes and charges will be — or has perhaps already been — negotiated by the US.  This is how the final score sheet looks like : one No, one Yes, and two Maybe. If that one No is not a Veto, NATO supply lines through Pakistan should resume next month.

Now to the unintentional levity in the PCNS report. There are a few but this one is absolutely hilarious:

#9 – There should be prior permission and transparency on the number and presence of foreign intelligence operatives in Pakistan.

Really! Now dear PCNS, did you really need to prove that talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand?

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Some (blatant) self-promotion

Time to gloat a bit

Yesterday, Brunch, the Sunday supplement of the Hindustan Times did a cover story on social media influencers and (surprise, surprise!), it featured your humble blogger there.

You can read the complete story at HT-Brunch here.

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And then there is another Chanakya tale

When a stump of grass becomes a stumbling block

India’s National Security Advisor, SS Menon delivered a lecture on “Transforming South Asia” at the Third Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi yesterday. Leave alone our pique about the Indian sub-continent being called South Asia, the NSA spoke about the way forward for this transformation by quoting a tale about Chanakya.

When Chanakya/Kautilya first met Chandragupta Maurya in Taxila around 330 BCE, Chandragupta had just failed in his fifth or sixth attempt to overthrow the Nanda dynasty by a coup in their capital Pataliputra in Magadha/Bihar and fled to the North West. Kautilya then asked him, when you eat a hot dish of rice do you plunge your fingers into the centre or do you start at the cool fringes. Chandragupta changed his strategy to the indirect approach and the rest is history.

I think we should learn the same lesson and should build the economic and other links that we can, while attempting to resolve the political and security issues that divide us.[Link]

I am not sure if the lesson from this Chanakya tale is about doing the doable thing and leaving the rest for later. However, the idea that economic links in the subcontinent can be dissociated from political and security issues is a dangerous one, particularly when it comes to Pakistan. While India’s other neighbours may have grudged India’s size and approach at different points in time, they haven’t consistently tried to damage or hurt India. In fact, India’s political and security issues with these neighbours are insignificant in the larger scheme of things. In the last decade, India has displayed a benevolent approach in economic relations towards these neighbours.

But when it comes to Pakistan — where its military-jehadi-elite complex has had the single-minded agenda of pulling India down since 1947 — the wisdom contained in this tale about Chanakya might be more relevant.

Just after getting humiliated from the king, Chanakya scampered through the streets of Patliputra. In a hurried walk, he stumbled upon a stump of grass and was about to fall. Chanakya the great scholar had his own style of handling things. He looked at the roots of the grass and quickly got into action. Though he was angry, he never let his anger to get out of control. He directed the anger in the right direction. Calmly, he sat down in the burning sun, removed that grass from the roots from the earth. After making sure that not even a single strand of grass is left, he resumed his journey.[Link]

If a stump is hell-bent on being a stumbling block in the path of your progress, it is perhaps better to remove every single strand of grass from the roots of that tuft. Wash your hands after that. And then move on to eating your dish with your clean fingers. Surely, that’s what Chanakya would have done.

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Another police reforms rant

So many reports, yet no result

An Indian Police Service probationer was killed by the mining mafia in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh last evening.

Home Minister Umashankar Gupta said Kumar, acting on a tip-off, chased the tractor-trolley carrying stones and ordered the driver to stop. When the driver did not comply, Kumar reportedly got down from his official vehicle and tried to board the tractor. The driver then reportedly pressed a lever and tipped the trolley on the IPS officer, crushing him under the heavy stones. Kumar was rushed to a hospital in Gwalior where he died.[Indian Express]

Of course, people can dissect the operation threadbare — whether the officer followed the Standard Operating Procedure or the local police was part of a conspiracy that led to the officer’s death. Yes, the police in India do not possess adequate skills and capacity to professionally respond to a number of challenges they face today. But that is to miss the larger point. The Morena incident is not the only one where the police has been treated with such contempt. In Hissar, the protesting  Jats attacked a police station earlier this week. Similarly, the police were unable to act against a mob holding journalists hostage in Jhansi this week. The incidents in Bangalore have led to a situation where police is on the street, organising a protest against the lawyers.

Notwithstanding the need to ensure that the police is better equipped to uphold the law, the political context of this malaise cannot be ignored. It is the political interference which lies at the root of this malaise. Police is, more often than not, a tool being used by the ruling parties to further its political aims. No political party in India, despite the Supreme Court’s clear directions, is thus willing to embrace police reforms.

The major excuse given to stall police reforms is actually a thinly-disguised call to continue with this politicisation of police in the name of democratic accountability. It is best understood by this extract from the Fifth Report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, which was headed by Veerapppa Moily. This is where the report states the first core principle of police reforms: accountability of the elected government.

In a democracy, the government is elected to serve the people. People transfer a part of the right over their lives to government in order to serve the common goal of ensuring public order and protecting the liberties of all citizens. It is but natural that such an elected government must have authority. In our system, government is accountable to the legislature and to the people. Government must exercise real authority once elected to office. The imperatives of impartial investigation and fair trial demand autonomous functioning of the investigative and prosecution wings. But the overall accountability to the elected legislature and broad direction and supervision of the duly constituted government cannot be diluted. Also, several other functions of police including protection of public property, fight against terrorism, riot control and maintenance of law and order and intelligence gathering to anticipate threats need to be monitored and supervised by the political executive. Any reform proposal must recognise this requirement of democratic accountability and the responsibility of the political executive and elected legislatures. A police free from political direction can easily degenerate into an unaccountable force with the potential to undermine the foundations of democracy. The coercive power of the police can easily extinguish liberty unless it is tempered by responsible political direction.[Para 4.1.1]

Let me draw an inexact but relevant parallel here.The elected government is also responsible and accountable for national security of the country. Replace police with the armed forces in the above extract and it will still make complete sense. But does that accountability translate into interference in routine operational functioning of the armed forces? No politician tells the Navy which Captain should be commanding which ship or which airbase should have how many fighter jets stationed there. The only time when elected political leadership tried to personally select military commanders and direct a military campaign, it resulted in the debacle of 1962 against China. But the politicians continue to do the same with the police. Thus, what we are witnessing is a 1962 every single day in our police’s inability to uphold the rule of law and maintain public order.

As with the armed forces, the elected government must provide broad direction to the police. But it can’t mean direct interference in the daily functioning of the law and order machinery. There are, of course, major problems with the police and the criminal justice system in the country. None of them are easy to fix in a short span of time. But what is dispiriting is the broad political consensus against even moving forward on this critical issue.

The first attempt at police reforms in India happened in 1860. That was also perhaps the only time a government accepted and implemented the recommendations of a police commission. After that, the Indian Police Commission was constituted in 1902, the UP Police Commission in 1960, the West Bengal Police Commission in 1960, the Bihar Police Commission in 1961, the Tamil Nadu Police Commission in 1969, Gore Committee on Police Training by the central government (1971-73), the National Police Commission in 1977, the Ribeiro Committee in 1988, the Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms in 2000, Sorabjee’s Police Model Act Drafting Committee in 2005, and finally the Supreme Court’s directions were issued in 2006. But all these have amounted to little. Frankly, we don’t give a damn.

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Get these MRAPs from the US

India needs mine-resistant vehicles for its anti-Maoist operations. US has a surplus of them.

The equation is simple. The United States has a surplus of MRAPs — mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles — the heavily armoured military truck that was used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan to reduce casualties from roadside bombings and IEDs. And it doesn’t know what to do with them now, as wars in both these countries come to an end.

The MRAP’s signature V-shaped undercarriage helped deflect the impact of blasts from improvised explosives and made the armored vehicle exactly what troops needed in Iraq. In 2007, the military began ordering almost 28,000 MRAPs, most of which went to Iraq, though some were designed for Afghanistan and its more challenging terrain.

…What to do with the vehicles now is a complicated matter, particularly for the Army, which owns most of the MRAPs, and the Marine Corps, which has a sizable number.[WaPo]

India, in contrast, has manufactured its own version of MPV — Mine Protected Vehicle — for use in anti-Maoist operations. These MPVs have been spectacularly disastrous in preventing police and CAPF casualties due to IED blasts. In fact, they have been discarded by almost all forces and are now often used to only transport rations and other supplies.

Last year, the CRPF seized a Maoist military magazine, Awam-e-Jung from the Orissa-Andhra Pradesh border which revealed the Maoist tactics against the MPV. In an article titled ‘Mine-proof Vehicle — Its Shortcomings’, the Maoists identified the vulnerabilities in the MPV while advising the cadres in great detail on how to ‘handle’ it. “It is an utter lie to call it a mine-proof vehicle. The vehicle is being propagated as mine-proof to boost the morale of forces that have lost it,” the article said.

The Maoists are right. The MPV has failed to boost the morale of our forces. A senior CRPF official labeled the MPVs, “coffins on wheels”. Obviously, most paramilitary and police forces are reluctant to use the vehicle in Maoist-affected areas.[Mid-day]

Media reports suggest that India needs around 1,500 of such protected vehicles. With the approved acquisition figure of  25, 700 MRAPs, the US should be easily be able to spare many times that number from the surplus held by it. The Government of India, and particularly the union Home Ministry, should be actively pursuing this lead to defeat IEDs, the most effective weapon in the armoury of the Maoists.

More interestingly, it is not something that India may have to necessarily pay heavily for. The US has a provision of transferring EDA — or Excess Defense Articles — to various countries. India has earlier availed of that scheme when it got Ex-USS Trenton (LPD-14) for the Indian Navy — now rechristened INS Jalshwa –  in 2005.

The acquisition of MRAPs from the US military as Excess Defense Articles for Indian security forces deployed in anti-Maoist operations seems like a win-win proposition for both India and the US. The initiative though will have to be taken by the Indian government. India can not — and must not — let this opportunity go waste.

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There is no message

The message from these state assembly elections

The results of the assembly elections for five states were out yesterday. As expected, most of the pre-poll analysis didn’t make much sense once the results started coming in. And the pundits quickly swung into action to provide post-facto justifications for the results. But that is understandable. It is their job. What really irks is the morning-after effect — the desperate manner in which some pundits try to find an overarching theme after every elections. Of course, this may be true in case of some elections (1977 or 1985) but is otherwise mostly all hot air. Let us look at a few such themes.

Look at Amethi-Raibareli. This is a vote against dynastic politics. And what about Badals and Yadavs?

The mandate is a forward looking one, from people who have transcended their caste and religious identities, and voted for development. Take a look at the Samajwadi Party manifesto. How is it different from anything you heard in the 1980s and the 1990s from socialist parties? Is this the development people voted for?

This is a vote for governance. Manipur, where the incumbent Congress government was unable to keep national highways open for months, has been voted back into power with an even greater majority. Even Punjab, with its perilous economic state, agrarian crisis and social conflict, would not be held up as a model for governance to have pushed the Akali-BJP government back into power.

This is a clear verdict for stability where people do not want any horse-trading after the results. Did anyone try and catch a glimpse of the results in Uttarakhand?

This is a vote for a new Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, which is headed by Akhilesh Yadav. Even if you were to dismiss the horrendous incidents last night at Jhansi and Firozabad, the winners list of Samajwadi Party shows us the same old faces. People like Raja Bhaiya have won by thumping margins. A more detailed breakdown of Samajwadi Party’s winners will show us that it is the same old wine in the same old bottle, with a new sticker.

People have transcended identities while casting their votes. Really, and that is how Mayawati’s Bhaujan Samaj Party has won 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh without appealing to its core voters on the base of their caste identity. Or even Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal winning 9 seats in the Jat belt of western UP. Those following UP politics know pretty well that caste identity remains the bedrock of all election strategies in that state. Everything else can only be an addition to that. To deny the reality of caste and religion is to clutch at straws where none exist.

Of course, there are a few observations which can be made on the basis of the elections. One, the huge participation of the electorate across the country proves people have faith in the power of the vote to bring change. Anna Hazare and his promoters in the media may like to take note of this phenomenon.

Two, the results are a slap in the face of the Congress party’s policies. The election in Punjab was for the Congress party to lose, and it lost. It seems to have barely scraped through in Uttaranchal. It lost Goa to the BJP. Despite all the efforts of the Gandhi family in UP, it finished a poor fourth.

Three, all politics is local. It is perhaps hyper-local when it comes to state assemblies now. To try and weave them around grand phantasmagorical narratives is an exercise in futility.

Finally, the message from these elections is clear. There is no one message from these elections.

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Sunday Levity: Privatising the police

A bit of Fry and Laurie

Two of the biggest police departments in the UK have proposed a radical privatisation plan, wherein private companies could take responsibility for investigating crimes, patrolling neighbourhoods and even detaining suspects. Read the story here.

In response to this story, R Srikanth sent me the link to this clip from the old BBC skit: A Bit of Fry and Laurie – Privatization of the Police Force.

Let’s hope this is not how the private police force turns out to be.

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How many India-China boundaries?

Five of them on the army map

This is from Colonel(retired) John Taylor, who served on the India-China border in Ladakh in 1970.

As a young officer with just about six years of service, I was provided with a detailed map on which the boundary had been marked along with Chinese troop deployments (there were just a few). The map did not have just one boundary. It had many:

a.  The McMohan Line (prepared by and named after the first British Surveyor General of India).

b.  The Tibetan Boundary (as per documents left by the British army).

c. The 1962 Indo-Chinese Dispute Line.

d. The Indian Claim Line.

e. The Chinese Claim Line [Rediff]

When you next read a media report about the Chinese transgressing across the boundary, do ask which of these five boundaries was actually violated. That should help understand matters better.

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Supplying the US troops in Afghanistan

By NDN routes and more

Since the closure of NATO supply routes via Pakistan (officially called the PAK GLOC) in late November, it has been assumed that the US has compensated for its closure by using the supply routes through Central Asia (officially called the NDN) and by moving supplies through air. While this is indeed true, the details of how it has happened are interesting.

This comes from the testimony [pdf] of General William Fraser, Commander, United States Transportation Command to the US Senate Armed Service Committee.

In 2011 more than 35,000 containers were delivered on the PAK GLOC by surface transportation. When open, the PAK GLOC remains the quickest and most cost-effective route.

The NDN provides an alternative route to the PAK GLOC for sustainment cargo to Afghanistan. Over the past year, we moved an average of 40 percent of all cargo in support of OEF through the NDN’s multiple truck, water, rail, and air routes in an expanding distribution network. … In 2011 a total of 27,000 containers were delivered by surface transportation on the NDN, an increase of 15 percent from 2010.

But what is really interesting is that many stores being flown in to Afghanistan are actually being picked from commercial ports in the neighbourhood. This is how 39 ships were diverted from the Karachi port to Dubai and Aqaba after November.

Multimodal hubs proved invaluable when the PAK GLOC routes were no longer available for use in late November. Several hundred containers from 39 different ships bound for forces in Afghanistan were diverted to Dubai and Aqaba where they were stored and then airlifted as needed into Afghanistan to ensure sustained support to combat operations.

It is, however, not the end of US dependency on Pakistan. More than the need to supply troops in Afghanistan, US needs Pakistan supply routes to bring equipment out of the theatre due to the impending drawdown in Afghanistan.

“With the amount of equipment we need to move … we need the Pakistan GLOC open,” Fraser said. “Because of the large numbers that we are talking about that we need to bring out in a timely manner.”[Army Times]

Of course, Pakistan is equally desperate to reopen the NATO supply routes. Primarily for the financial benefits it brings to the Pakistan Army’s National Logistics council but also to recreate the leeway it had over the US by threatening to shut these routes. With the fig-leaf of a parliamentary approval to reopen these supply lines a given now, it is just a matter of a couple of weeks before things return to the pre-November state.

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Actions have consequences

The Kashmiri stone-pelters of 2010

“My career is ruined. I cannot seek admission in any college. I cannot get a passport, and worse, I cannot get a government job,” said one young man, arrested for throwing stones at police, who did not want to be named.[BBC]

Dear unnamed young man from Kashmir, you should have known that before joining the gang to throw stones at policemen, indulging in arson or destroying public property. The petty cash paid by Pakistan-backed separatists for taking part in those organised protests was never going to compensate you for the losses you will incur. You were dispensable for these separatists. You have been used. The separatist leaders will find a new set of boys to do this a few years down the line again. That is the way they operate.

You made your choices in 2010. Your frustration is a consequence of the choices you made. But it should be directed against these separatist leaders who enticed you into their devious plan, and not against the government which was reacting to the events.

If you do get an amnesty from the state government, good luck to you. If not, hard luck mate. Such is life. Remember, actions have consequences.

PS – Hopefully, your own friends, cousins and community members will draw the right lessons from your example and stay away from participating in organised street violence in Kashmir in the future. Your tribulations would have served a great purpose if that happens.

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