Friday, September 25, 2009


If the Chief of the Army Staff, the Army Commander Northern Command, the Srinagar Corps Commander and the General Officer Commanding Kilo Force can sleep comfortably after the Baniyari encounter in north Kashmir – the nation has reason to be worried.

The encounter is a perfect example of how not to conduct an operation. And if this is the standard operating procedure now, the army needs to re-look its training and tactics. A refresher course is essential if we want our young officers and jawans safe and the morale of the army high. There needs to be accountability in the army – at all levels.

Who is responsible for the deaths of Major Suresh Suri and Naik Khushal Singh? The two terrorists holed up in the house in Baniyari village or poor planning and higher management of operations. The army owes Major Suri’s young widow and Singh’s family an explanation.

Let’s take a look at the facts of the case. The army had ``hard intelligence’’ about two hardcore terrorists hiding in a house in the Baniyari village. An operation was mounted. The 13th Battalion of Rashtriya Rifles sent out a team. Major Suresh Suri of 6 Kumaon, a veteran of Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School, Vairangte, his buddy Naik Khushal Singh and the team surrounded the house.

There is a track leading to the house in the village near the picturesque Wular lake. Another team of soldiers went by boat. The house was surrounded. To the best of their ability the army tried to ensure the terrorists do not escape. It was established there were no ``innocent civilians’’ in the house. This is one of the toughest areas in North Kashmir.

The standard operating procedure, according to veteran soldiers is, once the house is surrounded – the army draws fire to know a) the number of terrorists and b) the general area where the fire is coming from. An assessment is made about the next move. To avoid loss of trained manpower (crores are spent training officers and soldiers) – the army ``brings down’’ the house. Sources say – the officer sought permission to do the same. It was denied.

He was ordered to enter the house and eliminate the terrorists. The army needs to find out (and in the right earnest) who insisted that the major and his team enter the house. Major Suri and his buddy Naik Singh cleared the ground floor and climbed to the first floor of the house. They saw a depression on the wooden floor. As soon as Major Suri lobbed a grenade inside, the two terrorists opened fire. Both Major Suri and buddy were grievously injured.

Major Suri and his buddy, no doubt, were brave soldiers. They walked into the house – not knowing its topography. They cleared the entire ground floor. And then they moved up to the first floor. The terrorists were trapped and suddenly opened fire from their hide out inside the house. According to sources, the terrorists then came out of their hideout and opened fire at the army party waiting downstairs – two majors and four more jawans were injured. The injured soldiers made a tactical retreat.

The terrorists clearly had the edge. They not only had pushed the army out but also gained access to extra weapons and held on to the bodies of the martyred soldiers. They managed to hold on for 25 hours.

The army had to call in the special forces. Sources say, the para commandoes once again requested permission to ``bring down the house.’’ Again the army needs to inquire who turned down that request and why. The Para Commandoes went in and drew in heavy fire. Ultimately the two terrorists were killed. But at what cost.

Two good for nothing pieces of scum – Moosa and Pasha of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar e Taiba – were eliminated. They were dreaded terrorists – operating in the area for eight years. But the world’s fourth largest army – best trained in counter insurgency operations paid an extremely heavy price in neutralizing the threat. It took them 25 hours to do so. Could this have been done in two hours and with `no own casualty’?

There is no doubt there are good days and bad days in counter-terrorist operations. But risking lives of soldiers is an unacceptably high price to pay. The commanders must never forget that. Soldiers are a national asset. The army must learn to respect them – before expecting the country to do the same.

Infantry soldiers and officers are not specialists in clearing houses. National Security Guard (NSG) commandoes receive specialized training for it. Lobbing stun grenades, using tear gas shells, mirrors to look and using specialized moves to enter as a team. This is a task best left to them – or raise special units to do it in J&K. Statistics show house, hut and dhok (kachcha structures in mountains) clearance is one of the biggest reasons of casualty of troops in J&K.

The Infantry jawan can surround the house, draw fire and use that opportunity to isolate the terrorist, prevent him from escaping and bringing down the house. The army and the state have enough funds to rebuild the house and better ones at that. Anyways rebuilding a house is much cheaper than losing a trained resource – a soldier.

So can Major Suri’s Commanding Officer and the Sector Commander look at his young widow in the eye and explain there was no way out of that situation. That there was no alternative to Major Suri and Naik Singh laying down their lives and 2 more officers and 4 more jawans getting injured (one in the lower back) to kill only two terrorists.

Where was the Commanding Officer? Where was the sector commander? Were they there to guide the youngsters? Or were the commanders safe in the sector headquarters protected by more than a company of soldiers – only willing to venture out when the General Officer Commanding of the Kilo Force and the media reached in large numbers?

I have spoken to several serving and retired officers who have been in the thick of things – they are equally shocked by the manner in which this operation was conducted. Nobody is saying that Major Suri was not brave. He was a daredevil! He is a hero to be cherished – his bravery is immense.

But he did not have to die to prove he was brave. He was a veteran of the CIJW, Vairangte. He was an instructor. He should have lived to guide future generations of soldiers. He perhaps should have been brave enough to stick to his guns and ensure he was not forced to enter the house.

His superior officers should have realized the terrorists could have been eliminated by other means. Bravery is not laying down your life for the nation. Bravery is making the enemy lay down his life for his nation. NEVER FORGET THAT!

Let every commanding officer, brigade commander, division commander and Corps commander take a pledge he will not let a soldier die for personal glory and promotion. It is not worth it. Never ever forget the oath taken at the `antim pag’ at Chetwode building.

The safety honour and welfare of your country

come first always and every time.

The honour welfare and comfort

of the men you command come next.

Your own ease comfort and safety

come last always and every time

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Saturday (12. Sept.09) at 9.30 pm (IST)

Sunday (13. Sept. 09) at 10.30 pm (IST)

A half an hour special on cutting edge scientific experiments in the Arctic to study the impact of climate change. I was on board the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise. Do find time to watch the special and share your views.


Gaurav C. Sawant

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Union home minister P. Chidambaram has spelt out the evidence against Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the 26/11 mastermind. The evidence is now in public domain. Based on Ajmal Amir Kasab's confession (made to a judicial magistrate - admissible as evidence in any court of law), Chidambaram gave details of the time Saeed spent with the Mumbai attackers, motivating them, brainwashing them. Chidambaram also spoke of how it was Saeed who gave the terrorists their new name (Abu Mujahid for Kasab) before the attack and the fact that he visited the terrorist training camp on more than one occassion.

Is it not a fact that Saeed was the founder head of the Lashkar e Taiba ? Is it not a fact that LeT has owned up responsibility for several terror attacks not just in Jammu and Kashmir but across the country ? Is it not a fact that LeT became Jamat ut Dawa but Saeed continued to head it ? Join the dots and you get the picture of a terrorist.

Chidambaram says this evidence is sufficient for Pakistan to begin the probe against Saeed. And Chidambaram should know. He is a lawyer himself. So what should the legal course of action be... Step 1: arrest him.
Step 2:Get the Federal Investigative Agency to probe his role.
Step 3: File a chargesheet based on Indian evidence and FIA's own probe
Step 4: Start the trial in an independent court of law.
Legal experts say Saeed is a mastermind and will never be caught with a smoking gun. Arresting a terrorist with a gun and his confession is evidence enough in any civilized country. If even after this Pakistan refuses to act against Saeed, there is no point talking to Pakistan. Several Pakistani politicians have gone on record to say Hafiz Saeed is a respectable man. It is only in Pakistan that a terrorist can be called a respectable man. Then why do Pakistanis see red when they are called the terror epicentre of the world?

Pakistan's former natonal security advisor Mehmud Ali Durrani speaking to reporters after delivering the the first R.K. Mishra lecture on “India and Pakistan - Bridging the Gap”, organised by the Observer Research Foundation said there was zero evidence linking Saeed to the terror attacks.

This coming from a man who lost his job for speaking the truth in Pakistan and admitting Kasab was a Pakistani. It seems he has learnt his lesson and has given up speaking the truth.
Almost 10 months after the 26/11 terror attacks at least one thing is clear - Pakistan is unwilling to act against the terror masterminds.


Let's for once call a spade a spade. Why should we talk to Pakistan on Kashmir. Who is Pakistan and what is Pakistan's locus standi ? It behaves like a rogue state. It is a bully. It is on the verge of being a failed state. It can't handle its own affairs whether it is in the north west frontier province, Balochistan, Sindh or even Punjab. It cannot set its own house in order and it wants to meddle in our affairs. On more than one occassion the Indian Parliament has made it clear that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. And then it tells lies. White lies.

Why should India be afraid if Pakistan raises Kashmir in the international fora. Let it. Let us raise Balochistan, Sindh and NWFP and atrocities by the Pakistan army and their Taliban battalions in these regions. The world now anyway knows the inside story of a collapsing state called Pakistan.


Pakistan's prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani says Pakistan will continue to give moral and diplomatic support to Kashmir. But according to the Indian chief of army staff General Deepak Kapoor Pakistan is giving military support to terrorists - helping them cross into Indian territory and violating the Ceasefire of November 2003. Once again Pakistan appears to be speaking with a forked tongue. Its foreign minister Shah Mehmood Quereshi says Pakistan will take up the Kashmir cause more vigorously. Perhaps what he means is terrorists will be pushed in more vigorously before the passes on the higher reaches of Pir Panjal get snowed in coming winters.

Because one thing is clear Pakistan doesn't care a tuppence for the people of J&K. If it did, tourists would not be attacked and terrorist strikes would not take place in the heart of Srinagar scaring away the handful of tourists brave enough to venture north of Pir Panjal. Kashmir's economy is being sustained by the counter terror apparatus. But for the billions being pumped in by the centre, Kashmir perhaps would be worse than Bihar or Jharkhand.
Every time I go to Kashmir, I see bigger and better built homes, even in the back of beyond areas. Recently a senior army officer told me his division was spending more than two crore rupees a month just on porter and ponies. Taxi business is booming even across Zojila, in Drass and Kargil. Even the people of J&K know there future is far more secure in a stable India than a terror hub Pakistan. Perhaps this is one reason why the army seems to be getting slightly better inputs on terrorist movement than ever before. All this certainly is not music to Pakistan's ears.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says we need to think out of the box. Let's act for once in a decisive manner. Pakistan's namby pamby leadership (to rise in the eyes of its military leadership) try and raise the Kashmir bogey. Let's call their bluff one time. Tell Pakistan we will not talk to them about Kashmir at all. We will only talk about terror or not at all.


What will happen if we refuse to talk to Pakistan ? Tell me the worst case scenario. Let me argue it in another way. What good came of it when we were talking to Pakistan - actually witnessing Pakistan going through the motions of talking to us.Terror attacks continued unabated. So whether we talk or not, Pakistan will continue to export terror to India. It is a part of its state policy. What is the worst that has happened so far ? 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. What can be worse ? Another terror strike ? Multiple terror strikes across multiple cities ? Let us pepare for it. Let us for once not be bulled into talking to Pakistan - come Hillary come Obama. Let us explain to the world with evidence, It is not in our national interest to go through the motions of talking to Pakistan. what do we lose if we do not talk to Pakistan. Nothing! In fact we gain in terms of our mental preparedness. We know there is a hostile neighbour out to mess up our happiness - we are prepared to deal with it. We begin talking to Pakistan and automatically our security forces let down their guard. This time at least they know what a slimy neighbour they are up against.


What have the US and UK done that there have been no terror attacks in their countries post 9/11 (US) 7/7 and 21/7 (UK) attacks. Let us study it very minutely and emulate it. They must have done something right that there has not been another terror attack in their countries for so many years. Of course it is easier for them since they are far-far away from Pakistan and we unfortunately share a border with the terror epicentre of the world. but look at the flip side - they are bearding the Lion in its own den. US forces are attacking Al Qaeda and Taliban inside Afghanistan and on the Pak Afghan border and the British forces are supporting them in combat.

We have rightly refused to be drawn into that conflict but the lesson is you have to kill the enemy in his house and not wait for him to attack you in your backyard. Gather intelligence and pass it on to people who are out there to eliminate the terrorists. India needs to build a cast iron case against the terrorists operating out of Pakistan and then put it in the public domain.


Pakistan's war on India by another means. Security press in Pakistan are printing high denomination Indian currency. Both Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes, including most security features. It seems Pakistan buys the security paper and ink from the same source as India. Adolf Hitler did this to Britain in the second world war. Printed millions of pounds and air dropped them over London and other cities during the war in an effort to destabilize England's economy further during war. Pakistan is doing just the same. Trying to destabilize India's economy. Security paper and ink are never sold to non state actors.

Pakistan is buying far more than its own currency requirements. India should be firm here too. Either change the source of procurement of its currency paper and ink or insist if they do business with India they cannot do business with Pakistan. India has enough clout in the world to ensure we have it our way.


Finally our foreign policy experts need to get off their high horses and start engaging all our other ``non hostile'' neighbours in the right earnest. Pakistan and China we need to beware of but Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka should be spoken to not as `subordinate states' but engaged as `equals' to help us solve our problems. there is no reason why every neighbour of ours should be hostile to us. Our foreign office mandarins need to do some soul searching Why are Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka hostile to us. We have close historic, cultural and social ties with them. what went wrong ? Let us start making ammends. It is never too late. They need us but at this point we need them more. We cannot afford to fight fire on all fronts. We need Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to crack down on anti-India elements on their soil. We benefited so much from Bhutan's initiative against the ULFA.

Imagine if the same happened in Bangladesh. I know it is easier said than done but not impossible. Let us try. We must in the right earnest start to counter Pakistan and China's growing influence in our strategic backyard. That is in our interest.


War on terror cannot be won by empty threats and words alone. India will have to take some hard decisions and follow up tough words with tough actions. But the first step is taking a firm position and then not budging from it - come rain, come shine. Let our leaders do it for once. For us...for India.