Friday, June 26, 2009


The Maoist corridor is increasingly being called India’s Swat. The Maoists – India’s Taliban. While the Maoists may not have the Taliban’s war like stores, training and expertise yet, they certainly have a similar style of functioning.


From creating Kangaroo courts, public executions, levying taxes, issuing diktats to the concept of creating a state within a state, there are many similarities between the Taliban and the Maoists. Both the Taliban in the Af-Pak region and the Maoists in India-Nepal region made use of the apathy and weakness of the state to carve a place for them selves.

Both the Taliban and the Maoists were encouraged by elements within the state for vested interests. And now the Frankenstein’s monster appears too powerful and hydra headed. Both India and Pakistan have started separate operations to crush the monster – but in these initial phases the sincerity of these operations are being questioned.


Lalgarh in West Bengal was perhaps the biggest slap on the face of the state. Even after the chief minister was targeted, the state’s response was limp. After nearly seven months of abdicating power, the West Bengal government was forced to take action, with the centre and the world watching. For India this was a litmus test. Lalgarh was captured with little resistance but the war against the left wing extremism has just begun.

The big question – how prepared is the state – not just west Bengal but all the left wing terror affected states and the centre – to fight this war. In September 2004, Maoists closed ranks and formed one group – CPI (Maoists). They found they could coordinate their actions better – mount bigger offensives against the state. And in case pressure mounted in one state they could just hide their weapons and sneak into the neighbouring state.


The need of the hour is for the naxal affected states to launch a multi-pronged attack on the Maoists. Police and special anti-naxal forces in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra need to launch a simultaneous well coordinated operation to seek and destroy Maoist strongholds.

This would require a lot of help from the Indian Air Force – for movement of men and material and aerial reconnaissance. But this is a national problem and needs to be addressed at this level. Not only this, police forces in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and other adjoining states need to ensure Maoists do not slip into their areas. Already there is intelligence about increased Maoist movement into new territory.

An operation of this magnitude would require careful planning and perfect execution to avoid a) collateral damage and b) friendly fire casualties. The army has tremendous experience in mounting multi-theatre operations and their assistance should be sought. This should be above turf wars and in national interest.

Army’s counter insurgency and jungle warfare school (CIJW) at Vairangte (Mizorum) provides perhaps the best jungle warfare training in these parts of the world. I have seen it first hand and have heard rich words of praise coming from some US officers who did a course there. A core team of police officers and men from the naxal affected states should undergo intensive training at CIJW and then be deployed to eliminate the threat in their respective threats. Since these officers would have trained together they will be able to operate together easily and can overcome turf and jurisdiction issues.


Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had on November 4, 2004 said and I quote
The spectre of Left wing extremism continues to haunt us, albeit in new forms. Charu Mazumdar had once talked of a ‘Spring thunder over India’. In the initial days of the movement, many of the best and the brightest had been attracted towards the movement. Almost 40 years later, the Naxalite movement has lost much of its intellectual √©lan, but it has gained in strength and has now spread to over 150 districts all over the country.
In 2004, left wing extremism was the biggest threat India faced – bigger than terror both in Jammu and Kashmir and in the north east. What is shocking is the fact that the Prime Minister of the country says naxals are the biggest threat and yet precious little is done over the next 5 years to eliminate the threat.

The Naxal threat has grown from 150 districts (in 2004) to more than 200 districts in 2009. Traditional logic is Maoists occupy the vacuum created by the absence of state administration. While that is true – it is equally true Maoists are now ensuring there is no development in the areas under their domination for the simple reason it will weaken their control and hold over the region.


According to statistics tabled in the Lok Sabha, on December 16, 2008, a total of 62 telecommunication towers have been damaged in Maoist blasts between 2005 and November 30, 2008, in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Orissa. According to union home minister P. Chidambaram, Maoists are anti-development.
Telecommunication towers, railway stations, rail tracks and infrastructure and power stations have been Maoist targets across the Naxal affected states. In 2007, there were a total of 26 attacks on the Railways. During the previous year, there were a total of nine attacks on the Railways. The largest loss from attacks on infrastructure was witnessed when the rebels blew-up three 132 KVA high tension (HT) towers in Narayanpur district of Bastar, on May 31, 2007.
As a result, six districts were thrown into darkness for a week; normal power distribution in the affected area was impaired for a whole fortnight; and functioning of hospitals, communication system and rail traffic, besides iron ore mines, were badly affected. The total estimated loss on account of this act of destruction was a whooping Rs 2,000 crore.
The Maoist game plan is clear – destroy all infrastructure development so that their word remains the law. The Maoists too lord over a multi-crore rupee industry.


There is a pattern to the Maoist attacks. They attack at night – in large numbers – 200 to 300 armed Maoists lay siege and then open fire from all sides. They loot armouries and banks, kill policemen and government representatives and then disappear into the jungles.
The Maoists have a better intelligence network – know about the deployment and movement of security forces and exploit their weaknesses – laying land mines on routes of convoys, attacking police posts by launching simultaneous multiple attacks in an area.
They destroy communication network to ensure reinforcements cannot be sent quickly and even lay ambushes on the route of the reinforcement movement.


The government should beat the Maoists at their own game – launch multiple simultaneous operations against them – cut off their escape route and supply chain. This would choke them. Once the top leadership is either killed or captured the development plan should begin in the right earnest. Steps like Backward District Initiative (BDI) where Rs 15 crore is to spent each year on the backward district should be enforced in the right earnest. Development should show on ground.
Security forces must remain on ground till locals have a vested interest in development. Once that happens – Maoists will have nowhere to hide – people will turn against them. They will be fish out of water.
Unless this is on top of the government’s agenda – present Lalgarh operations will be just an eye wash!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Frankly it makes no difference who Pakistan sends to Sharm el Shaikh, Egypt for the NAM summit - its prime minister Yusuf Raza Gillani or president Asif Ali Zardari. Neither their President nor their prime minister wield real power in Pakistan.

The power is actually in the hands of General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the chief of the army staff (COAS). Since he cannot be called to Sharm-el-Shiekh - at least not till he does a Musharraf – and makes it acceptable to the world - it makes little difference who mouths his words - Zardari or Gillani.

Either ways India should set its house in order and prevent the next terror attack. After the post 26/11 deep freeze – Yekaterinburg (Russia) was the venue for the thaw. As soon as Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh met Pakistan’s president Zardari this is what he said : ``I am extremely happy to meet you, but my mandate is limited to telling you that the territory of Pakistan must not be allowed to be used for terrorism against India.''

Barely had Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh's aircraft touched down at the Delhi Airport when Pakistan's minister of state for foreign affairs Malik Amad Khan told the Pakistani senate prime minister Manmohan Singh’s remarks were ``unacceptable.''

I wonder what part of this statement, Pakistan finds unacceptable and offensive. And if this is Pakistan's attitude will they actually crack down on terror aimed at India. Having been ``snubbed’’ by Manmohan Singh, Zardari decided to skip the NAM summit. Pakistan’s foreign office in a late evening statement Thursday said prime minister Gilani would be attending the NAM summit and meet the Indian prime minister on the sidelines of the meet.


1. Pakistan will proceed against Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the head of Jamat-ud-Dawa and one of the 26/11 terror attack masterminds.
2. Pakistan will prepare a strong case against Hafiz Saeed and other accused in the 26/11 terror attacks.
3. Pakistan will dismantle the terror infrastructure i.e. take tangible action against Lashkar e Taiba activists, dismantle the training centres and arrest the leaders.
4. Pakistan army will not help terrorists trying to sneak across the line of control - not provide either cover or diversionary fire.
5. Pakistan will proceed against Masood Azhar, the head of Jaish e Mohammad hiding in Pakistan.


India has a long list, but sources say, Hafiz Saeed is step 1. Pakistan not only should appeal in the superior court against the Lahore High Court order but make a strong case against Saeed. The Indian intelligence and security forces have a thick dossier on Saeed. Information has been shared with not just Pakistan but several other countries – but no pressure has worked on Pakistan. He remains one of the ``Generals of their terror army.’’


Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is playing with words when he says the judiciary let off Saeed and judiciary in Pakistan is as independent as judiciary in India. Qureshi is fooling no one but himself. The issue is not judiciary in Pakistan releasing Saeed. The issue is the ``weak case'' presented by the Pakistan government. With the world watching the judiciary will not let off a terrorist like Saeed if the government produces hard evidence against him. Pakistan's attorney general submitted in court the government had evidence against Saeed and JuD's links with Al Qaeda. Yet he was released for want of evidence.


Pakistan's foreign secretary has a fortnight to ``convince India'' Pakistan is serious about cracking down on terror aimed at India. He meets his Indian counterpart Shiv shankar Menon end June and once India is convinced Pakistan is actually serious and is not just buying time, the two heads of state will meet again on July 15 in Egypt on the sidelines of the NAM meet. The million dollar question here is will Pakistan actually crack down on terror aimed at India.


Zardari sought more time to crack down on terror. This in itself lays bare Pakistan's delaying tactics. When a patient is serious he is rushed to the ICU. More time is not sought for the patient's condition to deteriorate further before taking the patient to hospital. Pakistan once again is only buying time - waiting for international gaze to shift from the ``terror epicentre of the world''.The civil society in Pakistan appears to be putting pressure on their government to crack down on terror. Repeated suicide attacks across the country have exposed the real face of terror. While the people in Pakistan may not differentiate between the so called good terrorists (those who target India) and bad terrorists (those who target Pakistan) the Pakistani security establishment it seems is still not cracking down on the so called good terrorists.The equally important issue here is how effective is Asif Ali Zardari in Pakistan. Will the Pakistan army listen to him and stop training, arming and sending terrorists across the LoC even if he orders them to? The real power in Pakistan is wielded by the army. what is their thinking on the issue of terror aimed at India?


There are three faces of terror - one in Afghanistan that affects the US the most. The second in the Af-Pak region which is now hurting Pakistan and the third that comes from mainland Pakistan and PoK and is aimed at India. The US war on terror focuses more on the Afghanistan terror and the Af-Pak region. Pakistan under pressure from the US is fighting terror in the Af-Pak region also because it is now killing Pakistan from within. But neither the US nor Pakistan are focusing on the terror that targets India. The US has made the right noises but that is about it. Pakistan on the other hand has not shown sincerity from day one. Whether it is cracking down on the 26/11 perpetrators or admitting international terror financer Dawood Ibrahim lives in Karachi.

In case the leopard is actually changing its spots we will know in less than a fortnight when the two foreign secretaries meet. Keep watching this space.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009



Former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had weak knees. But if India is coerced by the US in talking to Pakistan at this stage, Dr Manmohan Singh’s government will be seen as having more than just weak knees. If we as Indians let this happen, not just Pakistan, the world will be convinced we have a weak resolve, a weak memory and a weak heart.

Before we decide to remove our finger from the ``pause button,’’ the good doctor needs to find a remedy to the chronic terror problem:-


Q. What has changed on ground since the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks?
Q. What has Pakistan done to show us it is sincere about cracking down on terror?
Q. Has Pakistan taken action against Lashkar e Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed?
Q. Has Pakistan proceeded against Masood Azhar for the 2001 Parliament attacks?
Q. Has Pakistan dismantled the terror camps training and sending terrorists to India?
Q. Can the PM assure the country if we engage Pakistan there will not be any more terror attacks?
Q. What do we achieve by talking to Pakistan? What is the aim?
Q. What do we lose if we continue this policy of not engaging Pakistan?

If nothing has changed on ground since 26/11, then why are we letting the US push us into talking to Pakistan? The US too hasn’t delivered on its promise to ensure Pakistan does not spread terror in India. US under secretary of state for political affairs William Burns is understood to be ``pushing India'' to talk to Pakistan.

The Udhampur based Northern Command in an assessment to the Army Headquarters in early May said there was no drop in infiltration attempts. Intelligence assessment speaks of ``heightened activity’’ in terror launch pads across the line of control, especially in north Kashmir.


The army is convinced infiltration in high altitude areas cannot happen without the help of the Pakistan army. On June 11, two Lashkar e Taiba terrorists were killed by the army and the police in Sopore. Three days earlier on June 9 a cache of arms and ammunition including 10 AK 47 rifles, one pika gun, over a thousand rounds of ammunition, 100s of grenades and 5 kg explosives were recovered by the J&K police and the army in north Kashmir. Imagine the destruction if these weapons had reached the terrorists.


Three days ago, the chief recruiter of Lashkar e Taiba in Nepal and India Mohammad Umar Madani was arrested by the Delhi Police. His aim was to recruit computer savvy graduates in metros and sailors in coastal areas for future Lashkar operations. He had already distributed US $ 22,000 and Rs 9.5 lakh to sleeper cells in Bihar and UP. The terrorists have a well laid out strategy and plan to destabilize India at a place and time of their choosing. Why is the government then losing sight of the big picture and sending feelers about removing its finger from the ``pause button.’’


The Pakistani government hasn’t taken a single step to reassure India it means well. Pakistan may be carrying out operations in the NWFP under pressure from the US but it has not closed down a single training camp, staging camp or even a launch pad which is used to spread terror in India. Then why is India even thinking of talking to Pakistan. On the contrary its prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani raked up the Kashmir issue. Its provincial law minister called Hafiz Saeed a respectable man and its President Asif Ali Zardari is blackmailing the world into believing only they stand between the Taliban and the civilized world.

If nothing has changed on ground post 26/11, if Pakistan continues to be belligerent and if Pakistan is not cracking down on anti-India terror what do we achieve by talking to them? Or let me put it the other way – what do we lose if we continue not to talk to the terror epicentre of the world.


We have trusted Pakistan time and again and have been repeatedly stabbed in the back. 1947, 1965, 1971, Lahore, Kargil, Agra. What have we achieved in the past 60 years of trusting Pakistani leadership civil or military? India trusted Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, returned the Haji Pir, 93,000 PoWs and got the threat of a thousand year war in return.

Vajpayee traveled to Lahore by bus in February 1999 and we got Kargil in return in May 1999. Over 530 soldiers were killed and almost 800 injured, many permanently. Do their lives not mean anything to India.

In December 1999 IC 814 was hijacked. A plot hatched and directed from Pakistan. Masood Azhar fled to Pakistan and continues to direct terror operations from there including the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament.

General Pervez Musharraf, the architect of Kargil took no tangible or lasting action against the terrorists. Yet he was rewarded with international recognition and invited to India by Vajpayee. What did we achieve - nothing!

Apart from 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, India is convinced Pakistan has been spreading terror against India as part of state policy across India and even in Afghanistan where India’s defence attach√©, a senior diplomat and ITBP personnel were killed in an ISI sponsored suicide bombing.


Pakistan has a strategy – to bleed India. It is a no cost to their country or army strategy. We know this. Yet we don’t have an effective policy to counter it. Fools learn from the mistakes of others. What are we if we don’t learn from our past mistakes?

The thinking in the Pakistani security establishment is Indians are weak politically, diplomatically and as a nation. If we speak to Pakistan from this position of weakness Pakistan’s point will be proven once again.


You stab us in the back, maim us, bomb us, shoot us, kill us and we will still be there at the negotiating table wagging our tail – because our politicians are weak and our diplomats are desperate to be on the international high table.

If not, if we are a strong nation we claim to be, if we are a responsible self respecting nation that cares for the lives of its citizens we should insist we will talk to Pakistan only when it takes tangible steps to dismantle the terror infrastructure and proceeds legally against those who are working to destabilize India.

We are a nation of a billion strong Indians. We will stand by our government through thick and thin. We only hope the government will keep long term national interest in mind and not just short term international recognition.

The government should care for American lives and interests in Afghanistan but one hopes the government will care more for Indian lives and Indian interests in India first.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, amir of Jamat ud Dawa (JuD) and the ex-amir of Lashkar e Tayeba (LET) let off despite Pakistan’s own admission that the JuD had links with the Al Qaeda and suspected JuD’s involvement in the recent spate of terror attacks in Lahore.

Pakistan has a history of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. First lets take a look at what all is the Professor of Terror wanted in India for.

26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai.
Hafiz Mohammad Saeed is an absconder and Ujjwal Nikam, special public prosecutor in the case has sought a non bailable warrant against him.
December 13, 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. He is the co-planner along with Maulana Masood Azhar and their ISI masters. Detained by the Pakistan government under international pressure but released after three month as soon as pressure eased.
July 11, 2006 attack on the Mumbai local trains. 200 people were killed. He was the mastermind. Detained by the Lahore police but released on the orders of the Lahore High Court within 17 days. Detained again the same day but then released on court orders in less than two months.
December 28, 2005 attack on Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Lashkar-e-Tayeba’s effort to strike at India’s centre for science, technology and economy. One professor was killed. According to police investigations, the plan to strike at India’s centre for scientific excellence was Saeed’s idea.
October 29, 2005 serial explosions in New Delhi that killed 62 people. Saeed’s game plan to strike terror in the heart of the capital on the biggest religious festival Diwali.
March 7, 2006 attack at Sankatmochan temple Varanasi – 21 people died in the Lashkar attack. The target was the Hanuman temple chosen to create communal tension in India.
LeT’s Fidayeen squad in J&K was Saeed’s brainchild. After the Kargil conflict of May-July 1999, the LeT reorganized itself into smaller attack squads and launched suicide attacks on army and security forces camps in J&K. LeT terrorists dressed as security personnel also attacked Hindu and Sikh villages in the remote areas of J&K. Minorities would be rounded up in villages and gunned down.

These are just a few examples of the evil designs of the Professor of Terror Hafiz Mohammad Saeed. A co founder of the LeT Saeed’s jihad is not limited to Jammu and Kashmir alone. Junagarh and Hyderabad are also on his terror radar.

There is a pattern to Saeed’s detention and release. That Pakistan is the terror epicenter of the world is now an acknowledged fact. That Pakistan does not have the will to fight terror (especially that targets India) is also as clear as day. After every major terror strike in India under intense international pressure Pakistan does detain Sayeed but releases him as soon as pressure eases.


In fact Pakistan’s doublespeak became apparent yet again when Rana Sanaullah, the law minister of Punjab Province went on record to say Hafiz Saeed is a respectable citizen but the government will appeal against the court orders to release him. If the Law Minister of the Province feels the Professor of Terror is a respectable man how will they make a strong case against him in a superior court. This is a perfect example of Pakistan’s hypocrisy on combating terror.

Neither the police nor the ISI will ever investigate Saeed’s role since he is a part of their game plan to bleed India with a thousand cuts. Since they will not investigate him there will be no evidence against him and courts in Pakistan will be forced to release him for lack of evidence. India and the international community will be taken for a ride again and again.

Not once has he been formally arrested and put behind bars to face trial under any sections of the Pakistan Penal Code. Pakistan has no intentions of proceeding against one of their Generals of Terror. He heads their terror army that has been waging a war against India in Jammu and Kashmir since 1993 when 12 LeT terrorists infiltrated into Poonch south of Pir Panjal.

Now a terror ideologue like Hafiz Saeed will never be arrested with a smoking gun. Is it not a fact he is one of the founders of the LeT and was the amir of the group till it was banned by the US and the UN. LeT then became the JuD. He then became the amir of the JuD.


Pakistan’s Attorney General Sardar Latif Khosa told the Lahore High Court on the 30th of May that Hafiz Saeed and the JuD had links with the Al Qaeda. He said the government had classified information that ``prima facie’’ JuD had links with the Al Qaeda.

Now here is a man who headed an international terrorist organization LeT. Here is a man who heads a so-called charitable organization JuD. An organization that has links with the biggest terror network in the world Al Qaeda.

And yet, Punjab Province Law Minister says Saeed is a respectable man. His government is probing the role of LeT and JuD in the repeated terror attacks in Lahore – whether it was the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team or the Manawan police camp attack or the most recent terror attack at the Rescue 15 HQ in Lahore.


Releasing Hafiz Mohammad Saeed is a myopic step. It will further embolden the terrorists. Under intense US pressure Pakistan army did start an operation against the Taliban in the north west frontier province. And immediately there was a backlash.

But this is just the beginning. The Battle in Swat is only half won. Pakistan will need more boots on the ground to uproot the Taliban from the NWFP and then the real battle will begin. After decades of training with the Pakistan army, the Taliban are now well versed with Pakistan’s military tactics. They have fought in trenches together and know the weaknesses of the Pakistan army. The Taliban are sure to exploit it in their `jihad’ against the Pakistani security forces.

And that’s the time Pakistan will realize it made a terrible mistake by letting its territory become the terror epicentre of the world. And by then it might just be too late.