Friday, December 17, 2010

TERROR KNOWS NO RELIGION

For someone who has seen and suffered terror up close and personal, Rahul Gandhi’s comments are disappointing and sad to say the least. Not comments you’d expect from a man being groomed to take over the reins of a billion strong nation of secular Indians.

What is extremely frightening, these comments were not made for public consumption. These were not words uttered at a rally to sway voters. These words were uttered in private – in confidence to the US ambassador to India Timothy Roemer. One would naturally feel this is what Rahul Gandhi actually thinks.

That be the case his appreciation of terror needs a mid course correction. He is a member of parliament. He is seen as the heir apparent of the ruling party in the country and he has the prime minister’s ear. Perhaps, it would be in the fitness of things to have the Director Intelligence Bureau and the Secretary Research and Analysis Wing depute officers to brief Rahul Gandhi about the Lashkar-e-Taiba and its activities in India.

Terror is terror – it has no religion, caste, creed, sex or colour. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian is not the question at all. This characterization of terror only helps terrorists succeed.

Rahul Gandhi has been quoted as saying that Hindu Radical groups are a bigger threat than even the Lashkar-e-Taiba. He was talking to the US ambassador in India on July 20, 2009. The ambassador is learnt to have broached the subject of LeT activities in the region and its immediate threat to India.

Remember, this conversation was taking place barely 8 months after 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists attacked Mumbai and held off the Indian state for 59 hours killing 166 innocent people.

The Yuvraj of the Congress party said there was evidence of some support for LeT among certain elements of Indian Muslims but he felt the bigger threat was the growth of radicalized Hindu groups.

So eight months after the worst ever terror attack on India, which police insist was carried out by Pakistan based Lashkar –e Taiba, the prime minister in waiting felt radical Hindu groups are the bigger threat.

Rahul Gandhi is making the same mistake that Bal Thackeray made in Mumbai – our mafia versus your mafia. So Chota Rajan was acceptable but Dawood Ibrahim was not. The police and security agencies just follow signals they receive from the political masters. The police automatically went soft on one set of mafia and hard on the other.

A statement like this from Rahul Gandhi may send the wrong signal again. Rahul Gandhi flanked by armed to the teeth special protection group commandoes, will, God willing remain safe. It is the common man on the street that would bear the brunt of terror. Once again.

This is not the time for point scoring and pontificating. The BJP should not try and score points. After all this is not a high school debate and clearly the BJP’s track record in fighting terror is nothing much to write home about.

A party that sent a union minister to escort dreaded terrorists to Kandahar – who in turn killed scores of innocent Indians and the party that gave respectability and acceptance to a military dictator like Pervez Musharraf has no locus standi to take the high moral ground on combating terror.

This is the time for the entire political leadership to come together and educate themselves about terror and the harm it does to the man on the street. How terror not only kills people in bomb blasts and firing, but also destroys lives of people who have lost their near and dear ones. Rahul Gandhi should know that.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

CHINESE WHISPERS: LOST IN TRANSLATION

As China walks away with business deals of about $ 16 billion dollars from New Delhi what is in this for India? What is in it for our economy, diplomacy and strategy?

Bharat Karnad, Professor in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research said on Headlines Today that a fool and his money are soon parted. He fears that this happening to India with billions of dollars worth of deals being signed with China, France and the US with corresponding strategic gains not being harnessed.

But for the moment let us talk about China. It is nobody’s case that India should not engage with China. But is this the best format of that engagement. What is India taking away from this summit table?

India’s core issues - terrorism from Pakistan, nuclear support to Pakistan, Chinese strategic involvement in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), the boundary issues all remain. The added pin prick – stapled visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir still remains on the table. However in an exclusive interview to Headlines Today Foreign Editor Saurabh Shukla, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said that China has given assurance that they will solve the stapled visa issue. But see how China makes India go down on her knees.

India has been unable to resolve the existing outstanding differences with China and have shot themselves in the foot by making stapled visas such a major issue. Have we forgotten the art of statecraft so completely? Why must we go running to Beijing – from foreign secretary to National Security Advisor to the Foreign minister - with a begging bowl pleading with them to resolve the stapled visa issue?

Our Ambassador in Beijing should have been in a position to tell us the ground realities. He is a seasoned diplomat and from the next day itself we should have started giving stapled visas to those living in Tibet.

Friendship is always between equals. China is militarily, strategically and economically far superior to India. But India, South Korea, Japan and like minded powers can together form a block to effectively tackle China. And that is what India should try for. Could this $ 16 billion dollar worth of business not be shared with Japan and South Korea ?

Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao says relations between India and China are much better than they were two or three decades ago. Trade ties have doubled – even tripled in the past two decades – but in the past 10 years alone diplomatic face off with China has only intensified.

As Brahma Chellany, strategic affairs expert and a renowned Sinologist told me that enhanced trade and economic ties are no guarantee of better strategic relations. Brahma Chellany analyses the situation thus: China is taking raw material (mainly iron ore) from India and giving us steel. There is a 24 billion dollar trade surplus in China’s favour. And China is dumping goods in India – from tyres to ceiling fans for example - only delivering a body blow to the industry but also creating more unemployment in India.

Is this not what was happening to India when the British were ruling us for 200 years. They would take cotton from here to feed their mills at Manchester and then give us the finished products. Is that not what China is doing in the 21st century to us? Our exports are mainly raw materials (quite like African countries) and buying Chinese products. They are desperate for the huge Indian market. Are we are not bending over backwards and dancing to their tune?

If better economic ties are no guarantee of better strategic and diplomatic relations – is it possible to combine the two. Let economic ties grow but let them grow simultaneously with diplomatic and strategic ties. We open our markets to you when you open yours to us – to our IT and Pharmaceuticals sector as the government says (with no hidden barriers – as we face today).

Why is it that we need to please China first – before China even thinks about answering our concerns on stupid issues like stapled visas. Ambassador G. Parthasarthy told me on the show that China respects power. Let us at least learn to display our power and presence as a growing super power that we claim to be.

Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier called himself a Gandhian. Nice! The Gandhian Chinese prime minister has a nobel laureate locked up in prison and the country put pressure on half the world not to attend the nobel prize ceremony in Oslo. India attended that ceremony. Please show more spine – engage with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, on issues related to China – after all is he not the legitimate leader of the Tibetan masses.

Sources in the government say China was not keen to take questions after the summit level meeting between Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao. Is it because China has no answers to its completely unwarranted pin pricks on the visa issues and `support’ for terror-breeding Pakistan? India is a democracy and questions are asked freely.

The Chinese ambassador to New Delhi said relations between the two countries are fragile. Foreign secretary Rao says they are robust. Is this diplomatese? Or in this game of Chinese whispers is the message lost in translation.


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Friday, December 10, 2010

INFLICT COSTS ON TERRORISTS

On the 18th of December 2010, Swastika Sharma would have turned one. But on 7th December, 11 days before her birthday she was killed by terrorists on the ghats of Varanasi. The union home minister, P. Chidambaram and the Uttar Pradesh Chief minister, Mayawati visited the ghats and have promised to nab the perpetrators.

It is essential to nab the planter of the bomb, but it is of utmost importance to eliminate the masterminds of such terror attacks. There is a pattern to these attacks – strike temples on Tuesday and mosques on Fridays.

This is what Rajiv Kumar, Associate Producer, Research, Headlines Today pieced together. There is a very sinister design behind these terror attacks.

Targets and dates have been carefully chosen. A close look at recent attacks reveals the sinister design: Hindu temples have been targeted on Tuesdays, an auspicious day for the devotees of Hanuman, while Muslims and their mosques have been attacked on Fridays.

CONSIDER THIS:

Varanasi Dec 7, 2010: Tuesday, Shitala Ghat Blast: 38 people injured.1 foreigner among the injured, The blast took place at around 6:30 PM just five minutes after the Ganga Aarti.

Jaipur May 13, 2008 : Tuesday serial blasts including one outside Hanuman Mandir, kills at least 60 in Jaipur

Ajmer Sharif Dargah October 11, 2007: Terror struck the revered Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti as thousands were breaking their Ramzan fast, a day before the Friday prayers. The bomb inside the complex killed two persons and injured another 28.

Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad May 18, 2007: 14 persons killed, more than 50 injured in blasts and subsequent police firing in adjoining areas. Blasts took place during Friday prayers.

Noorani Masjid, Malegaon September 8, 2006: Blasts on Friday coincided with the Shab-e-Barat. First bomb went off outside Masjid. Blasts at Mushaira Chowk and grave yard too. The toll: 38 killed, over 200 injured.

Jama Masjid, Delhi April 14, 2006: Low intensity blasts at India’s most famous mosque left 14 injured. First blast took place as the faithful prepared for Friday prayers.

Sankat Mochan Temple, Varanasi March 7, 2006: Twin blasts in city left 28 dead, injured over 100. Blasts took place on Tuesday when the temple is packed with devotees.

July 05, 2005: Terror In Ayodhya: Terrorist attack on the site of the 16th century Babri Masjid -Ram Janmabhoomi Hindu temple in Ayodhya on July 5, 2005 ( TUESDAY). Following the two-hour gunfight between Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists based in Pakistan and Indian police, in which six terrorists were killed, opposition parties called for a nationwide strike with the country's leaders condemning the attack, believed to have been masterminded by Dawood Ibrahim.

September 24, 2002: The Akshardham Temple Attack occurred on September 24, 2002 ( TUESDAY) when two heavily armed terrorists arrived at the Akshardham in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat at around 1630 hrs local time. They scaled the perimeter fence and opened fire, killing a woman and a temple volunteer right away. Then they began throwing grenades into the crowd at the temple. About 600 people were in the temple at the time. By the end of the attack, 29 people were killed and another 80 wounded. Apart from the 25 people killed in the first assault, 1 state policeman and 1 commando also died in the action (the total toll was 31 at the time the case started). One more seriously injured commando died after 2 years.


The devilish aim of those masterminding these attacks is to create a communal divide and cause riots.

After the Batla House encounter the Delhi Police succeeded in delivering a near fatal blow to the terrorist organization Indian Mujahideen. But terrorist sympathizers put so much pressure on the security forces that they did not move in to deliver the final blow. Some terrorists managed to escape – there is proof in public domain to show they lived with politicians and slowly have managed to regroup and strike at Varanasi.

These terrorists are still at large. They have fall back options – and not just in Azamgarh. They strike and melt into some ghettos where they are like fish in water.

After the Ahmedabad serial blasts and the failed Surat serial blasts – the Gujarat police led the way. Despite strong political opposition they moved in and made arrests. They went into Azamgarh. This was a time when the intelligence bureau and the Uttar Pradesh Police despite political opposition – moved in with great speed and made arrests in Azamgarh.

Political pressure once again forced the police to get their foot off the pedal giving these terrorists crucial breathing space. That nationwide effort to hunt down and neutralize terrorists that began after a spate of terror attacks in Delhi, Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Surat became a victim of vote bank politics.

What are terrorists doing by attacking the ghats of Varanasi? Sending a message – we can strike at a place and time of our choosing. Hit you where it hurts the most and despite having intelligence about planned attacks (David Coleman Headley interrogation talks of attacks at Ghats and temples in Varanasi specifically), there is little Indian police can do to stop them.

An anti-terror drive cannot be an off again on again policy. Pressure has to be maintained constantly – irrespective of Congress or BJP in power.

The nation has to take a conscious call to kill convicted terrorists. Afzal Guru and Kasab are potential threats. Terrorists could hijack trains, planes, take school children, patients at hospitals, politicians, their kin, scientists…VIPs hostage and demand release of these terrorists like in the case of Maulana Masood Azhar.

Our governments have buckled in the past and there is no guarantee they will not do so again. Kill terrorists in custody and have a declared policy – terrorists may strike but they will have hell to buy when caught. They will be killed and their supporters/sympathisers jailed. There has to be a cost.

It is the government’s responsibility to ensure Swastika Sharma gets justice. Her killers – including those who planned the attack are punished! Evil must die.

Monday, September 13, 2010

PLAYING WITH FIRE: AFSPA

Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, home minister P. Chidambaram and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah are together playing a very dangerous game. After the unfortunate deaths of over 84 people in J&K in the recent spate of violence, the trio instead of going after the perpetrators of the violence are trying to deflect the issue to the armed forces special powers act; its dilution or lifting it from some parts of the state.
The three leaders – Dr Singh, Mr Chidambaram and Omar Abdullah were all seen as visionary leaders who would not only `think out of the box’ but also take the situation from better to best. On the contrary, one thing is clear from the events of the past couple of months – the situation has gone from bad to worse because neither men are either thinking out of the box or even interested in tackling the situation in the right earnest.
The situation in J&K today is not what it is because of the armed forces special powers act. It is because both Omar Abdullah and P. Chidambaram failed to stem the rot; each hoping the other would bell the cat. The prime minister is clearly more interested in winning browny points from the world community than actually sorting out the situation for the benefit of the nation.
The world criticises George W. Bush II for attacking Iraq when the real trouble was in Afghanistan. The Indian trio are doing just the same. The trouble is in Pakistan paying the separatists and disgruntled elements to foment trouble in J&K. Instead of tackling that – like Bush attacked Iraq, PM, HM and CM J&K are attacking the AFSPA. If you cannot catch the culprit hang the guy whose neck fits the noose.
General Ved Prakash Malik, former chief of army staff was on Centre Stage debate and he insisted the army would be handicapped in battling Pakistan sponsored terrorism in the state of J&K minus the AFSPA.
So is it in national interest to tamper with the AFSPA at this stage? Lawyer and activist Shabnam Lone was also on Centre stage on Monday evening and she raised the same point. The present crisis in J&K has nothing to do with the AFSPA. None of the 80 plus live lost in the state, especially in and around the valley have anything to do with the army. So why bring in the AFSPA at this stage.
Dr Manmohan Singh, P. Chidambaram and Omar Abdullah owe the nation an explanation. Are they playing politics with such a sensitive issue? Are they playing to the gallery?
The union government is of the considered opinion that the chief minister needs to do more to connect with the people. He also needs to be more assertive with his administration. Two things come to fore at this stage – one if the Hurriyat’s Gilani faction is indeed fomenting trouble in the state then those trouble makers need to be dealt with in the strictest possible manner, what ever the repercussions. And Omar Abdullah not only needs to spend more time in the state but also spend that time meeting with more people and not be flanked by just a coterie. As the youngest chief minister with popular mandate, he should reach out to the people directly than rely on either some ministers or officials who have their own axe to grind in the state.
As far as the people of the state are concerned – they need to wake up and appreciate the ground realities. Asiya Andarabi of Dukhtaran-e-millat is more interested in sending her son abroad for education but wants the kids of the valley to give up their future for the `cause.’
The Hurriyat leaders are being paid to create trouble in the state – more than one intercepted conversation has proved that point. Their only interest is in fomenting more trouble – just to keep their `shops’ running. So Clearly it is for the parents to decide – would they want peace in their lives and the state or keep chasing the mirage called `azadi’ and play right into Pakistan’s hands.
The governments both at the centre and the state too need to ponder – by advocating dilution or partial lifting of the AFSPA are they playing right into ISI’s hands or actually thinking of national interest.
Political interests are important but nothing is more important that national interest. And that is not just the job of the armed forces. It is the job of the nation and those who head it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

OF TOURISTS AND TERRORISTS FROM PAKISTAN

India can certainly do well without tourists like Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan's Foreign Minister with a penchant for theatrics. After his extremely undiplomatic remarks during S.M. Krishna's Pakistan visit, Qureshi shot his mouth off again.

"I will undertake a visit to India only if I am assured that the neighbouring country (India) has the intention to hold a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue, otherwise I am not really fond of taking a tourist trip," he was quoted as saying.

Pakistan's biggest export remains terror and India certainly enjoys the most-favoured-nation status here. India can undoubtedly do better without tourists like Qureshi and terrorists like Ajmal Amir Kasab.

Let us examine Qureshi's statement closely. How can India assure Pakistan that there can be meaningful and result-oriented dialogue when Pakistan refuses to take a single step to dismantle the terror infrastructure aimed at India and prosecute the 26/11 masterminds?

New revelations prove the active involvement of Pakistani state actors. Pakistan has seen American terrorist David Coleman Headley's interrogation report. He has spoken about the direct involvement of Pakistan Navy personnel in training the 10 terrorists sent to Mumbai.

Worse, it now emerges that Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI, not only paid Rs 25 lakh to buy the boat (Al Husseini) for the 10 terrorists but also personally visited Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakvi and Sajjid Mir in jail. Any country with a powerful democratic set-up would have ordered a probe and taken the rogue general to task. But not Pakistan, where the army clearly calls the shots and orders puppets like Yousuf Raza Gilani and Qureshi to parrot the lines handed over to them.

Terror from Pakistan rightly is and should remain India's focus. Islamabad, without dismantling the terror infrastructure aimed at India and without going after the 'real' masterminds of 26/11, hopes to resume the composite dialogue. There is clearly no middle ground. So why go through the fa├žade of talks?

I am not against talks. But talks for the sake of talks when the Pakistani establishment continues to plot attacks on India and Indian interests in Afghanistan do not make sense. After the sellout at Sharm-el-Sheikh, India agreed to talk to Pakistan when Gilani told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Thimpu that he had clearance from the army to resume talks. And then, the disaster in Islamabad with Qureshi calling India's foreign minister Krishna names.

This is clearly a part of Pakistan's blow hot-blow cold tactics. Pakistan is doing what it does best. Complicate the situation so much and create so many power centres that everybody has rights and nobody has any responsibilities. The civilian establishment can blame the army and the army can blame the civilian establishment. In the end there is the ISI and the 'fundoos' (fundamentalists) to blame for any fiasco.

India has to take care that it does not fall into Pakistan's trap anymore. Civil or military establishment remains immaterial. Power is wielded by the army. Any lasting peace and prevention of future terror attacks can only be ensured if the Pakistan Army is aboard the peace bandwagon. And that clearly will not happen till they change the syllabus at Pakistan military academy.

Till then, talk if you must. But do not lower your guard. Expect Pakistan to hit you when and where you least expect it. When that happens, instead of frothing in the mouth, hit back hard and fast.

Wargame your response now. If you have reasonable proof that elements of the Pakistani establishment were involved, punish them. That's the only way to ensure that the next terror attack is at least delayed if not prevented completely. Offence is not just the best but the only defence when you are living next door to terror.

Friday, June 11, 2010

INDIA FAILED BHOPAL

Warren Anderson escorted out of Bhopal in a state government aircraft. The then district magistrate of Bhopal, Moti Singh, told Headlines Today that he was under express orders to ensure that Anderson was granted bail and escorted safely to the aircraft. Arjun Singh was the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh in December 1984. He owes the nation an explanation. If he chooses to keep mum because of loyalty to the party over justice for the 20,000 people killed and over five lakh affected, then this is an act of treason.

Former chief justice of India A.M. Ahmadi too owes the nation an explanation. Why was the case against Union Carbide officials watered down from 304 II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) to 304A (causing death due to negligence)? He was the chief justice of India.

The Supreme Court too let down the people of Bhopal. Former chief justice R.S. Pathak accepted the watered down compensation of 470 million dollars when the state of Madhya Pradesh demanded 3.3 billion dollars as compensation and punitive damages against Union Carbide. The judge concerned owes the nation an explanation. Is his conscience clear today?

B.R. Lal, the CBI officer supervising the case that time, claims there was pressure from the ministry of external affairs not to pursue the extradition of Anderson.

The Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary together let down Bhopal and the nation.

The learned chief judicial magistrate Mohan P. Tiwari gave the maximum punishment to the convicted as permitted by the law under 304A. He did his best. His hands had been tied by former chief justice of India A.M. Ahmadi. The former chief justice too has some questions to answer.

Yesterday, while speaking to journalists he used words to the effect in case his orders were bad in law it could have been challenged by a review petition then. He claimed as far as he knew there was no review petition. But there was a review petition. A Bhopal-based NGO, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udhyog Sangathan, claims it filed a review petition. Today former chief justice Ahmadi changed his stance. He did a U-turn, saying there may have been a review petition. He said: "I do not recollect any review petition."

Look at the anguish of the people of Bhopal. Rajkumar Keshvani, a senior journalist and petitioner, wrote: "It's an irony that Justice Ahmedi, on retirement, got appointed as lifetime chairman by the Supreme Court for the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust, which runs a hospital in Bhopal created by the funding of Union Carbide. An eminent Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaisingh opposed his appointment on the grounds that Ahmedi provided relief to Carbide officials accused in the Bhopal criminal case."
Keshwani's anguish is clear when he writes: "Earlier, incidentally, another Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Justice R.S. Pathak too got the posting as a judge in the International Court of Justice, Hague, in April 1989. This was just three months after Justice Pathak facilitated the infamous out-of-court settlement between the Union Carbide and the Government of India, which had assumed the role of the 'parent of nation' (Parens patriae) by taking away the rights of Bhopal gas victims to contest their compensation cases.

"In this dirty deal by the then Rajiv Gandhi government, Justice Pathak also quashed the criminal proceedings against Carbide in lieu of the payment of settlement money of $470 million. The case could be revived only after victims challenged the decision in the SC.

"It was this revived case in the Bhopal court which was decided on Monday to utter disillusionment of the survivors and to a great delight of the accused, since none of them had to go to jail even for a minute. They were granted bails then and there by the CJM against a surety of Rs 25, 000 each."

Our political masters came out with the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act 1985. This Act conferred certain powers on the central government to secure claims arising out of, or connected with, the Bhopal gas leak disaster. The aim was that the claims are dealt with speedily, effectively, equitably and to the best advantage of the claimants. Can anyone of our leaders today stand up and say that they did so? A claim of 3.3 billion dollars watered down to 470 million dollars. Is this the best they could do?

This is India, a growing superpower so desperate for that permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. This is a country let down by its political leadership. This is a country that looked up to its so well-respected judiciary. But justice was not only delayed but also denied.

The executive, the legislature and the judiciary clearly appear to have favoured the rich, the high and the mighty over the poor suffering people of Bhopal.

It is a pity that even today, none of the powers that be are interested in the truth coming out and the guilty brought to book. Before we attack the US, let us look within. Unless we take ourselves seriously, the world will not. Unless we are more serious about bringing the guilty to book, how can we complain if the US does not take us seriously on extraditing Anderson?

We can only complain that Barack Obama cares more about American dolphins (looking for ass to kick in the BP oil spill) than Indian lives in Bhopal. But what are we doing to ensure Arjun Singh speaks the truth? What are we doing to ensure former chief justices Pathak and Ahmadi explain their actions.

Twenty thousand people were killed in Bhopal, many in their sleep. Over five lakh suffered and continue to suffer. Do we care? We should. For nuclear power, we are to set up plants and the world will soon be at our doorstep trying to sell its wares. An accident there will be a Bhopal multiplied a million times. We should care because we could be next. The next Bhopal could be in our city.

If foreigners like Anderson and powerful companies like Union Carbide could get away so easily that time, their money could buy our establishment again and again. We have to be aware to demand accountability. And that starts today.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fight a guerrilla like a guerrilla

There is a basic flaw in the anti-Naxal operations being undertaken by the security forces. There is a clear lack of aim and no clarity on standard operating procedures (SOPs) resulting in Dantewada-like disasters. Headlines Today accessed the E.N. Rammohan report on the Dantewada massacre, and even to a layman it is unbelievable how the 81-member CRPF company moved around like headless chicken for three days before finally being slaughtered.

There is a crisis in command. The Director General of CRPF needs to do some serious soul-searching. If this is how his men are going to fight the Naxals they'd better pack their bags and leave. Not just the officers on the ground, what was the CRPF brass doing? What was their plan B, their contingency plans for an ambush-like situation? If they had not factored in an ambush, they were not doing their basic job right.

Headlines Today's Ashish Khetan travelled to the forests in Dantewada where the encounter took place. He spoke to his sources on the ground and also in the Ministry of Home Affairs. It was shocking that the CRPF patrol did not even follow the SOPs.
While they left the camp at 7 pm on April 4, they did not enter the forest as tasked. Instead they camped a few hundred metres outside their base. This indicates their fear of entering the jungle they were tasked to dominate.

Camped inside village

The CRPF personnel violated the patrol plan and entered village Mukram, 4 kilometres from their Chintalnar camp. They asked villagers for cots, utensils to cook and a goat for meat. As per their SOPs they were supposed to maintain secrecy and not mingle with local villagers or stay at any location for long.

This was a big mistake. By camping just outside their camp, they displayed a total lack of seriousness of approach. By asking the villagers to bring cots to sleep in, utensils to cook food and a goat for meat, the CRPF team behaved like an 'occupation army'. Not a lean mean war machine out to neutralise Maoist guerrillas. They were just marking time - in the bargain - the better trained, armed and motivated Maoists found time to plan their operation annihilation.

Lost wireless set during patrolling

The CRPF personnel botched the patrolling operation at every stage. Such was the level of fear and demoralisation that they did not even follow the set plan for area domination.

The CRPF personnel did not follow the laid out plan for patrolling. They entered another housing cluster at Tadmetla. A CRPF officer lost his wireless set here. The personnel looked for the set but gave it up midway.

Returned to same village at night

Ignoring the grid references for the patrol, the CRPF patrol party returned to Mukram village and camped at the Chintalnar Ashram for school children 4 kilometres away. Again a violation of norms.

Did not dominate high ground

The CRPF patrol party patrolled the same area for more than 24 hours, giving ample time to the Maoists to follow their movement and plan an ambush. This is exactly what the Maoists did on April 6. They ambushed the 82-member CRPF patrol at Tadmetla and killed 76 personnel.

Maoist training, strategy and operations

Maoist literature seized by the security forces indicates their high level of military training and tactics. Consider this:

1. How to launch an offensive on a security forces patrol party. How company of Maoist guerrillas (100-120 men) will split into three platoons (25-30 men each) and attack from flanks…how a reserve platoon of Maoists will launch a deception attack…and then the main party will hit from the rear…how another platoon will be in place to beat back any rescue operation mounted by the security forces.

2. How the Maoists will disengage from operations if outnumbered, re-group and then launch another offensive.

3. How to plant IEDs and trigger them at an appropriate time to inflict maximum damage and disappear into the jungles and then regroup at a pre-appointed place.

4. There are several such training maps and sketches that talk of how sections (10 men) will loot weapons and reach the reserve platoon and secure the flanks to beat back counter attacks.

And this is exactly what the Maoists did during the four-hour long offensive in Dantewada. They took the high ground, launched an ambush with military precision, attacking the security forces from three sides. The jawans ran in one direction for cover. That is where the Maoists had apparently placed guns on tree tops and opened fire, cutting down the jawans.

Two Maoist platoons were in place to beat back the CRPF rescue operation. They triggered a landmine to ensure mine protected vehicles could also not reach the troops.

Maoist air defence and attack plans

Even as the Centre and the states debate the use of airpower, the Maoists already have a air defence and counterattack plan in place.
From aiming at rotor blades to bring down a chopper, the Maoist air defence training manual says engage helicopters with small arms when they are hovering or moving slowly. Also aim at the hub of the rotor so that the bullet or the debris falls into the engine that will bring the chopper down.

Using natural camouflage and total radio silence is also a part of the passive air defence taught to the guerrillas.

Naxals are also being trained to fix light machine guns on treetops to be used as anti-aircraft guns for low-flying helicopters.

Naxals are also being trained to lob grenades at helipads and fire at helicopters when they come in to land and take-off. Four such attacks have already been carried out in the past two years.
Neutralise top leaders

The counter Maoist forces need to improve their intelligence gathering abilities. Some of the top IB officers are now heading forces in the region and they need to pinpoint the location of Ganpathy, Kishenji, Kosa, Nambala Kesav and Kisan Da among others. A entire sector of CRPF and state police will not be able to locate them. It is shocking that the media reaches Kishenji each time but the state police and other forces are still unable to locate him. This despite the best technology available with the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Pinpoint the location of these commanders and neutralise them. The movement will be directionless. But don't rest on your laurels. Before the second-rung leadership can completely take over, neutralise them. Then the guerrillas will move around like headless chicken and will be easier to pick.
But this would require a national resolve. It is hard to believe that the Maoists who seriously started arming themselves only in 2001 are today too powerful for the state to handle. It appears that the state - or elements within the state - is happy to let the situation continue the way it is.

Poverty helps politicians and both bureaucrats and the police benefit from additional funds - being pumped into states in the name of development and counter-insurgency operations.

Learn from the army

I don't buy the logic that you don't use the army against your own people. This is the most flawed argument. Are Kashmiris not our own people? Just to name a few: Are Nagas, Manipuris, Assamese, Punjabis not our own people? Yet we have used the army extensively in all these states. The army runs the counter-insurgency and jungle warfare school in Vairangte. Use their training and tactics. Fight a guerrilla like a guerrilla. And you shall win. Behave like an occupation army and you will be like the Romans taking on the Gauls. Bound to lose. Wake up before it is too late. It is now or never.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

SYED SALAHUDDIN CAUGHT ON CAMERA BREEDING TERROR

The footage was shocking. Syed Salahuddin, commander-in-chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen, flanked by two terrorists holding Kalashnikov rifles and ordering a group of terrorists to cross the Line of Control (LoC) and attack India.
This most certainly appeared to be a launch pad somewhere in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). The words were full of hate and the orders were to kill and be killed. Salahuddin, a wanted terrorist in India, is an 'honoured guest' in Pakistan. He travels freely between Muzaffarabad and Islamabad.
"Go to India, wage Jihad. You will be fighting in the most inhospitable weather conditions. You will be killed there but your martyrdom will be supreme," screams Salahuddinin the visuals accessed exclusively by Headlines Today.
In the video, Salahuddin is seen indoctrinating his suicide attackers. They are armed to the teeth with rocket launchers and Kalashnikov rifles.
"The battlefield of Kashmir is no doubt the most difficult of all battlefields. That is why compared to others, the holy war (Jihad) in Kashmir will bear you the sweetest fruit," Salahuddin is seen in the video motivating his cadres before they cross the LoC.
He warns them of the might of the Indian army. He tells his terrorists they will be killed in Kashmir and that they would be fighting in the most inhospitable weather conditions and altitudes.
Highly placed sources told Headlines Today this is a very recent video - as recent as late January or early February 2010. Salahuddin is seen on video talking about the 21-year-old fight in J&K. "Recently on the 5th of February 2010, Kashmir Solidarity Day was observed across Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, where Salahuddin was quoted talking about the 21-year-long struggle in Kashmir," highly placed sources told Headlines Today.
This is not literature, Mr Salman Bashir"For the past 21-22 years, in the beautiful valleys and snow clad peaks of J&K, along the Dal Lake and Jhelum River, we have been fighting a war with the 7.5 lakh-strong Indian army," Salahuddin tells his band of suicide bombers.
Sources also tell Headlines Today that this video is in line with intelligence intercepts and warnings about expecting "one of the hottest summers ever" in J&K. Intelligence agencies have warned that terrorists across the LoC have been ordered to carry out a series of intensified spectacular terror strikes in J&K.
Bullets rang out at Lal Chowk, the heart of Srinagar, early on Tuesday morning. Within minutes, a CRPF jawan lay martyred. In a daring attack, a terrorist walked up to the jawan and shot him at close range before disappearing in the early morning crowd at Lal Chowk, popular among locals as 'Bomb Chowk'.
"Terrorists are now attacking security forces at least once a week. According to reports, Pakistan has reactivated training camps in PoK and infiltration figures are on a sharp upward curve," sources said. Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of Op Vayu Shakti in Pokhran last week, said: "Our real concern is the existence of terror camps intact across the border after the 26/11 attacks. There are 42 terror camps. And there has been no serious effort to dismantle these camps."
According to sources in the Jammu and Kashmir Police, the number of trained terrorists who crossed into Kashmir has risen dramatically by a hundred percent. "Sixty sneaked in during 2008 and that number doubled to 120 in 2009. The army and intelligence agencies are now estimating this to double once again in 2010," a top-ranking police officer told Headlines Today.
Sources also tell Headlines Today this is evidence of terrorists openly using Pakistani territory to launch terror attacks across the LoC into India. "Terrorists like Syed Salahuddin, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and Illyas Kashmiri represent the terror troika openly operating out of Pakistan. Salahuddin has been leading the oldest group of terrorists. He is not confined to PoK and has a house even in Pakistan's capital Islamabad,'' the sources said.
Even as India prepares for one of the hottest summers ever in the counter-terror operations, attacks like the one at Lal Chowk and the recent ones at Tral and Sopore - where the army lost a special forces officer and an infantry officer - are proof of Pakistan's stepped up operations to spread terror across the LoC.
Pakistan's terror troikaThe civil establishment in Pakistan does not really matter. They parrot the lines given to them by the all powerful military establishment. And for the military establishment, Salahuddin, Hafiz Saeed and Illyas Kashmiri are strategic assets.
Pakistan has fought and lost four conventional wars to India. This proxy war is a win-win situation for the Pakistan army and the terror troika — Saeed, Salahuddin and Kashmiri — are generals of the Pakistan army fighting this proxy war.
From Saeed to Salahuddin, the terror masterminds misuse Islam to indoctrinate the terrorists. The Pakistan army is understood to be giving them better training, teaching them more advanced tactics and giving them better weapons to take on the security forces. This is apparent from the diverse tactics terrorists have used in J&K recently — a 72-hour stand-off in Sopore where Captain Devender Singh Jas and two other Para commandoes were martyred, the 30-hour stand-off in Tral where Captain Yadav was martyred and the hit-and-run attack in Lal Chowk, Srinagar.
Options for IndiaOne thing is clear. Whether you talk to Pakistan or not, terrorists armed, trained, funded and nurtured by the Pakistan army and ISI will continue to strike. The intensity may vary - from an occasional Mumbai 26/11-style attack to the more frequent Pune, Jaipur and Delhi serial blast-style attacks. This has been the history of Indo-Pak talks. The attack on Parliament and Mumbai may have forced our old, weak kneed and equally if not more weak-minded political leadership out of their slumber and threaten Pakistan with war. But both Pakistan and India know that our politicians lack the will and army the preparedness for war.
The world knows we lack a foreign policy, especially a Pakistan policy. They have a consistent policy to bleed us. Our prime ministers keep reading Urdu couplets, taking buses to Pakistan or selling out the country's interests at Sharm-el-Sheikh.
India clearly needs to set benchmarks and put it in public domain. If talks have to resume in the right earnest, Pakistan has to crack down on the forces hostile to India on Pakistani territory. If Pakistan is not even willing to do that, why even go through the charade of talks? Unless Hafiz Saeed, Syed Salahuddin and Illyas Kashmiri are put behind bars, it cannot be business as usual.
Chidambaram's litmus test for PakistanThe only hope in India's otherwise rather dismal political leadership is Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram. One feels safer with Chidambaram at the wheel. At least he is honestly trying to ensure that the security apparatus delivers.
Post-26/11, there has been a sea change in the style of functioning of security forces on ground, and at least the first steps have been taken to ensure there is accountability in the intelligence agencies.
Speaking at the India Today conclave 2010, Chidambaram asked Pakistan to walk the talk on terror. If Pakistan is actually serious about cracking down on terror, especially terror aimed at India, it should provide the voice samples of terrorist handlers who were guiding the terrorists during the Mumbai attacks. At least then there is hope that Pakistan is serious about fighting the cancer of terror.
If Pakistan does not do any of this and yet calls for resumption of composite dialogue and India agrees, we would once again be let down by our political and diplomatic leadership. Then only God help India. We cannot keep raising the bar and then do a low jump.

PAKISTAN'S DOUBLE STANDARDS ON TERROR EXPOSED

Hours after 30-year-old Faizal Shahzad, son of a retired air vice marshal of the Pakistan Air Force, was arrested in the US, Pakistani authorities swung into action. Faizal's father-in-law and a friend were among the seven 'suspects' detained for questioning. Faizal's uncle retired as a major general in the frontier corps of the all powerful Pakistan army.

Contrast Pakistan's response to the failed terror attack at New York's Times Square with the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

India caught Ajmal Amir Kasab with a smoking gun. He confessed he was a Pakistani, named his parents, village, Lashkar-e-Tayeba trainers and Hafiz Mohammad Saeed. Pakistan went into a denial mode. And to a large extent remains in denial even today.

But from Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik to foot-in-the-mouth Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Pakistan's ambassador to the US Hussein Haqqani, everybody is bending over backwards to assure the US that strictest possible action will be taken against the plotters of the Times Square attack.

LESSONS FOR INDIA

There is a lesson here for India's Pakistan policy planners. In the US, national security and national interest are supreme. From President Barack Obama downwards, the focus is on ensuring safety of US citizens. They are answerable for every failure.

In India despite the loss of 166 precious lives, despite knowing that state actors were involved in plotting mayhem in India, despite knowing that the jihad factories are still churning out more Kasabs, the prime minister extends his hand of friendship.

Ujjwal Nikam, the special public prosecutor in the court of special judge M.L. Tahaliyani described Kasab as a snake, a demon and a killing machine. Kasab is just a product of the jihad factory where other snakes, demons and killing machines are being prepared. What is the prime minister doing to ensure that factory is shut down?

What is Shiv Shankar Menon, the national security advisor spearheading the 'talk to Pakistan initiative' doing to ensure that the CEO of the terror factory - Hafiz Saeed - is arrested and prosecuted?

Meeting of hands does not mean anything...hearts should meet. That is not possible when one heart is so full of poison. Unless India sticks to its stand of no further movement on any issue till the terror factories are shut down and its CEO, staff and products are locked up, Pakistan will continue to bite that extended hand of friendship with impunity.

Why should Pakistan crack down on the jihad factory aimed at India? It has India back on the negotiating table without even paying lip service to cracking down on terror. The US has the power to ostracize Pakistan. The US has the power to inflict costs on Pakistan. India lacks that power.

Questions are being asked in the US if the country was getting its money's worth from Pakistan. A country living on US dole, plotting to launch more terror attacks across the US. In the US, its intelligence agencies too are in the line of fire - why was Faizal not on the terror radar and more importantly how did he manage to board the aircraft to the UAE despite being on the no-fly list? Taxpayers in the US are demanding answers.

HOW MANY DEATHS ACCEPTABLE?

In India losing the life of a dozen people every month to terrorists in J&K or even across the country is considered "acceptable". So the loss of a young army captain and a jawan in Bandipora on May 5 is a part of 'acceptable' damage. That is really sad commentary on the state of the nation.

In India questioning the motives of the prime minister or his NSA are considered anti-national. With the Opposition in a perpetual state of disarray, the government is able to get away with murder.

Let India learn a few lessons from the US. They interact directly with the Pakistan army - the real wielders of power in the country. We in India keep harping on talking to civilians who have to get back to the army to take their orders.

The main focus of the prime minister and his NSA should be to take the Opposition into confidence and carve out a clear Pakistan policy. Let India have a national policy on Pakistan. Come rain, some shine India will not deviate from that policy. That let be a rational policy keeping India's national interest in mind.

If the government of the day in its wisdom has decided to talk to Pakistan, let the ground rules be settled. Terror and talks do not go together. Let our intelligence agencies be held accountable. Get credible evidence of the terror factories, hand them over to Pakistan. See if the jihad factories are shut down and those spreading terror in India put behind bars.

If that does not happen, talking for the sake of talking will never make Indians safe. Let us learn from the US - national security above all. The world will listen.

SHOW SPINE HANG KASAB

Special Judge M.L. Tahaliyani delivered a landmark verdict on Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab in a packed courtroom at Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail. This is one story I have followed very closely. On November 26, 2008 I had just finished anchoring at 9.30 pm when the first flash came - shooting at Leopold. Was this gang war? We broke the regular show and dived into breaking news. The next flash - automatic weapons used, AK-47s and grenades hurled. This was most certainly a terror attack. Moments later, shooting at VT (Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus), a blast in a taxi at Ville Parle. It was unending...shooting at the Oberoi Trident and the Taj and then at Nariman House.
A.N. Roy, then director general of police, Maharashtra, told me on a 'live phono' that this was most certainly a very well organised terror attack and asked our channel to request people watching TV to stay where they were and not venture out on the streets. Leave the roads open for emergency services.
The young reporters and camerapersons of Headlines Today and Aaj Tak braved bullets to get us live shots of the terror attack. The entire team fanned out across the affected areas, capturing events on the ground, speaking to sources and piecing together the nightmare that was unfolding live. The killing of Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar came as another extremely rude shock. Just hours earlier, our western India bureau chief Sahil Joshi had interviewed him.
Sahil was returning from the police commissioner's office at VT and was on his way to Andheri when he got a call about firing in Colaba. Principal correspondent Ariz Chandra was at TV Today's Nariman Point office with senior camerman Raju Inamdar. He also heard about the firing at Oberoi Hotel - barely 2 minutes of walking distance from our office. They rushed there. They heard the gunfire and saw the injured being taken by the police in a van. Raju Inamdar rushed to Cafe Leopold in Colaba.
Our guest coordinator Muqtar Sheikh called Sahil and said his relatives had heard blasts at the CST. Reports came in of firing at the station too. Most reporters were on their way home. They rushed back. Principal Correspondent Vidya rushed to Metro Cinema. Rajesh Kumar went to the CST. Aditya Aman rushed to Taj. Vivek Bhat rushed to cover the Vile Parle taxi blast. Cameraman Kiran and Virendra Singh Ghunawat went to the Nariman House. Our outdoor broadcasting vans were placed at the Oberoi, Taj and CST.
Rahul Kanwal, our executive Editor, and I anchored till after 3 that night. The studio was live through the night. At 5 am on 27th November, I rushed to the airport. Sabina Sehgal Saikia's brother Nikhil and husband Shantanu were on the same flight. Sabina was at the Taj. We were all tense. At 8 when we landed, our entire team from Delhi fanned out to different attack spots.
I rushed to the Oberoi Hotel - a childhood friend of mine in the security forces was engaged in the anti-terror operations. The picture he painted was scary. He said they were facing trained commandos. The 'enemy' knew the training, tactics and standard operating procedures of the security forces.
Late that night I moved to cover the Nariman House operations where the NSG commandos launched a heli-borne operation at dawn. Over the next 60 hours, we reported from the historic Gateway of India (Taj Hotel), CST, Oberoi, Nariman House and from the homes and hospitals across the city. India had been attacked.
I was back in Mumbai on the first anniversary of the terror attacks. Was Maximum City safer? Had we learnt our lessons? What were Mumbaikars saying? And then again back in the city for the verdict. Reporting from dawn till past midnight on the verdict and then the death sentence.
Sense of closure?In the past decade or so, I have covered almost every major terror strike in the country...The stench of burnt flesh, limbs strewn around, crying faces, mangled shops, cars and scared people are etched in my mind. The terror attack at the Ahmedabad civil hospital was horrifying but nothing was as horrible as the Mumbai terror attacks.
The death sentence for Kasab is a significant step but in no way gives a sense of closure - to the victims of 26/11, their families and next of kin or even to people like us who covered the attacks and the trial.
Our weak-kneed leaders and the equally weak resolve of our entire political leadership leave much to be desired for. In 2005, Afzal Guru was convicted by the Supreme Court of India for his role in the attack on the temple of Indian democracy - the Parliament. Yet the terrorist remains on death row for over five years. Neither the BJP nor the Congress has shown urgency to display a brave and united face to combat terror. This is not only sad but downright disgusting. Politics over terror.
There is a genuine fear that politics will take over even Kasab's case. Some 'jhola-wallahs' will stand up for their five minutes of fame and put a spoke in the wheels of justice. Even the learned judge M.L. Tahaliyani feared that Kasab should not be allowed to live because there is a history in this country of a Kandhar-like hijack. The same could be repeated...this time for the release of Kasab. A prominent politician could be kidnapped or their kin could be abducted, and like in the case of Rubiya Saeed the government will release terrorists.
After all, the life and safety of the common man means nothing in India.
Show resolve, hang KasabThe real sense of closure will come when India hangs Kasab. The judiciary in this country is held in very high esteem and looked up to for guidance. Let the High Court and Supreme Court decide Kasab's case in record time. Hear it on a daily basis and deliver their verdict. And then let the government of the day at the Centre and in Maharashtra show the same speed in advising the President of India on the issue. Let Kasab jump the queue and meet his fate. Every day that Kasab, the lives of innocent Indians are endangered. If the government shows signs of delay, the government will also have blood on its hands.
Nail the CEOs of jihad factoriesHafiz Mohammad Saeed, Maulana Masood Azhar, Illyas Kashmiri, Dawood Ibrahim and the CEOs of the jihad factories in Pakistan are still active and plotting more terror attacks on innocent Indians.
Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Chennai, Hyderabad...the entire nation is on the terror crosshairs. Indian interests in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world are also threatened.
The government should focus on taking out the CEOs of the jihad factories by overt and covert means. Talk to Pakistan but ensure India is never attacked again. Show a firm resolve and tackle terror as a national aim. The government owes it to the nation.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

YUDHAYE KRIT NISCHAYA: TAKE A FIRM RESOLVE AND FIGHT

The mood in the army camp was tense. The morale low. The commanding officer did not even have the luxury of shedding tears - some of the younger officers and jawans stood in attention - tears freely streaming down their eyes. In front of us lay several bodies - of soldiers killed while launching an impossible attack on the icy peaks of Drass during the Kargil war. I had spent the last couple of days at this camp, had even shared a drink with the young officer who lay dead in front. I followed the commanding officer to his tent. Some officers followed. In the fog of war, no one knew how many peaks were held by the `enemy.' The orders from the top were to launch another attack the following night. But every where that the army went they drew fire. This peak, that bump, that tit and that hump. It seemed as if the Pakistani army had prepared its defences well. In the initial days of the war the reverses the severe.

A mug of hot coffee was brought in. But our throat was so heavy that not a drop went in. A soldier walked in, saluted the CO and sought permission to speak freely. It was granted. He was the religious preacher. He held the Bhagwat Gita in one hand and his INSAS 5.56 rifle was slung over his shoulder. That was the rule, even for religious preachers and cooks - the non combatants. The preacher in combat fatigues began :

HATO VA PRAPYASI SWARGAM, JITVA VA BHOGSHASE MAHEEM
TASMAD UTHISHT KAUNTEYA, YUDHAYE KRIT NISCHAYA..
In the Kurukshetra battlefield Arjun lost his will to fight. Even before the war Arjun's resolve failed him. He did not have the will to kill his cousins, uncles, guru and loved ones. Yogeshwar Shri Krishna told Arjun - If you are killed in combat, you will go to heaven, if you win you will rule over earth that seems like heaven...therefore o son of Kunti, take a firm resolve and fight.

The CO, the officers and the jawans assembled once again. There was a prayer ceremony. The commanding officer of the adjacent artillery regiment joined in. In the next couple of days more howitzers, additional troops, aerial reconnaissance pictures and fighter jets came in. The unit launched another attack. This time they won - and continued to press ahead till the enemy was pushed on the other side of the line of control. The CO is today a senior army general. Some of the young officers are now commanding batallions at the LoC and other parts of the border.

But there is a lesson here for Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and his brave men combating what prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh has rightly called the biggest threat to India's internal security - the Maoists. There will be set backs. There will be serious reverses. But that should only firm the nation's resolve to fight to the finish. It is time to call in the experts. I am not advocating that we remove the brave men of the central reserve police force and other central police organisations. They need able commanders. Senior army officers - both serving and retired who have decades of experince in counter insurgency and jungle warfare. Jawans who have the experience to fight in the jungles of Nagaland and Kupwara.

In one of my previous blogs I have argued a piecemeal effort will never succeed. Chidambaram will have to rope in chief ministers - more importantly the director generals of police of all the affected states. They will have to launch simultaneous offensives in the states. Neutralise the leaders and the movement will fizzle out. Deny them the oxygen of publicity. Do not discuss tactics and operations in the media. Be transparent - let operations be open to coverage so that rumours do not fuel further trouble but let this be a war for the victory of the nation - above narrow petty political interests.

PLAN OPERATIONS WELL

The initial mistake in Kargil was rushing in without appreciating the might of the enemy. We seem to be repeating the same mistake even in Operation Greenhunt. The operations dont have to begin today. Plan well. Intelligence about the Maoist strength, weapons, escape routes, supporters, tactical and senior commanders is essential. The police in Delhi, Chattisgarh and West Bengal seem have to gathered sufficient intelligence about the training, tactics, weapons and operating procedures of naxalites from the arrest and interrogation of several maoist leaders and sympathisers. Let that information not be restricted to police files only. Let it percolate down to the platoon commanders - after all they are the ones in the line of fire.

74 CRPF personnel being killed by Maoists not only points to poor planning of operations but also extremely tardy tactics, training and SOPs in place. For every soldier it should be his second nature to break out of an ambush. After all you do not have to be Clausewitz or Sun Tzu to know how Maoists attack and how to beat it back. Gather intelligence and then launch an offensive at a place and time of your choosing. To use the army or air force or not is the decision of the commander on ground - the media may discuss it threadbare - but let the war planners deliberate - take a decision and stick to it.

To win a war - aim is important. But equally important is maintaining that aim. Shifting the goal post will only lead to more Dantewada type set backs.

FIGHT TO THE FINISH
In India we have had this discussion for a long time - decades. we have romanticised the naxal movement and we have criticised it. We have debated long enough. Now is the time to act. and act decisively. the Maoists have been given long enough to join the national mainstream. If they claim to represent the masses let them represent them in the state assemblies and the national parliament. The election commission and the media - let there be international media if they so desire - to see the transprency of elections. But the Maoists and their jhola-wala sympathisers have to realise in India - the majority believe in democracy. Power does not come from the barrel of the gun and you cannot overthrow the democratically elected government (even if you and I hate it for a million reasons) by a so called revolution. It is ballot over bullet. Believe in it or please go where ever they believe in your kind of jungle-Raj.

The commanding officer of that Kargil unit is today a senior general in the army. He told me even he felt like putting in his papers that icy morning in Kargil. But like the Bhagwat Gita preaches - he took a firm resolve and the nation won. He did not even have the luxury of putting in his papers. That in the army during war is cowardice. India is at war Mr Chidambaram. The nation needs you to lead from the front. Your resignation is victory for the Maoists. Your resolve is the nations' victory. Fight on....you owe it to the 74 martyrs of Dantewada and the nation.

Friday, February 5, 2010

INDIA RAISES THE BAR, DOES A LOW JUMP

Pakistan not taking any action against the Mumbai attacks accused. I reiterate Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s stance that dialogue is possible only after Pakistan takes action against the Mumbai accused and dismantle the terrorists’ dens inside the country.

Shashi Tharoor,

Minister of State, External Affairs

December 22, 2009

No question of dilution of our demand for extradition of the suspects wanted for the Mumbai attack and other terrorist activities. Perpetrators must face Indian justice.

Pranab Mukherjee

Former External Affairs Minister

January 1, 2009

Let me say there is no pressure on us to resume a dialogue. If there is any attempt, we will not succumb to that pressure. I have said several times that dialogue with Pakistan is a necessity. But this dialogue cannot resume unless Pakistan gives sincere evidence of its willingness to prosecute all those involved in the Mumbai attacks.

Dr Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister, India

April 11, 2009

I did brief them (USA) on the state of the trial of Ajmal Kasab (the lone surviving Mumbai attack terrorist) in India and I also did mention about no progress in Pakistan in respect of the five or six people they have arrested. And Hafeez Saeed (LeT founder) remains a free man. I think thats enough. They know to draw the lessons from that statement.

P. Chidambaram

Union Home Minister

September 11, 2009

We have taken up the matter with all the force at our command with the government of Pakistan. We expect the masterminds of the attack and their supporters to be tried and punished. The infrastructure of terrorism and all safe havens have to be dismantled. The government will not rest till we have brought the perpetrators of this crime to justice. This is our solemn duty.

Dr Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister, India

November 26, 2009

WHY HAS PAKISTAN BEEN LET OFF THE HOOK?

Since 26/11, we have had the Indian prime minister, external affairs minister, home minister and defence minister tell us they will not let Pakistan off the hook till the perpetrators of 26/11 are brought to justice. India repeatedly insisted it will not be business as usual till action is taken against those who planned the worst ever terror attack on India.

What happened?

Why are we behaving like the eunuchs in the harems of the court of later Mughals – waving our swords in the zenana Mahal and thinking we are brave.

Today as an Indian citizen, I feel cheated, let down and very unsafe. Hafiz Saeed is not only roaming around freely in Pakistan, he is addressing conferences and meetings of terrorists and openly threatening India. And yet we invite Pakistan for talks.

Pakistan has taken no action against any of the main accused of 26/11, nor has it shown any desire or intention to either. And yet we invite Pakistan for talks.

Terror factories and fake currency mints are still operating in Pakistan. Yet we invite Pakistan for talks.

Both the army and the Jammu and Kashmir police are on record to say Pakistan army is openly pushing terrorists across the line of control and the international border – giving them covering fire. Yet we invite Pakistan for talks.

Instead of Pakistan being desperate to talk on our terms, Pakistan is actually setting the agenda – saying no talks unless composite dialogue resumes. Pakistan is actually pontificating. Yet we invite Pakistan for talks.

INDIA LACKS STRATEGIC THINKING

What are our long term aims when it comes to Pakistan and how do we intend to achieve them? India clearly lacks a roadmap. There is no consistency in our policy and approach. And Pakistan takes advantage of that.

Pakistan for the past 63 years has followed a consistent policy. War by all means – overt (1947, 65, 71 and Kargil in 1999) and covert (sponsoring terror in Punjab, J&K, the north east and now trying to make inroads in the naxal areas).

We know it. Pakistan remains unrepentant. And yet despite no tangible action on ground each time India changes its stance. We buckle under pressure – whether from the US or from Pakistan. Let us then just accept we are a soft state, led by weak kneed leaders with a weaker resolve. We leave ourselves open to attack – again and again.

Pakistan has done nothing since 26/11. The terror camps have still not been dismantled. The terrorists are not on the run. On the contrary they are holding open meetings – issuing threats to India under the full glare of the international media. And yet we meekly move forward for talks.

TERROR COMMANDERS MEET IN PAKISTAN

Even as India extended an invitation for talks, terrorist groups held open meetings across Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The so called Kashmir Solidarity Conference is nothing but the Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamat-ud-Dawa and the Hizbul Mujahideen coming together and opening ``base camps’’ in PoK to launch terror attacks in India.

So no longer are the JuD and its terror commander Hafeez Saeed lying low. For the first time after the 26/11 terror attacks, the terrorists are out in the open talking about launching fresh strikes against India.

Along with them is Lt Gen Hamid Gul, former director general of the ISI, considered by many as one of the main architects of terrorist movements in J&K and now even beyond. He is seen as one of the links between the state and the non actors. But with several Pakistan army officers – both serving and retired – working in tandem with the terrorists it is virtually impossible to differentiate between the two.

GENERAL KAYANI’S FRESH SALVO

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani who considers the Taliban a `strategic asset’ clearly stated in Rawalpindi that the Pakistan army remains India centric. Issuing what is being seen as a veiled threat, he said unless Kashmir is resolved, the Pakistan army shall remain India centric.

Kayani again gave the speel of state and non-state actors claiming if India and Pakistan do not resume talks, non state actors would feel emboldened.

India has clearly failed yet again to tell Pakistan in particular and the world community at large, it is very difficult if not possible to differentiate between the state and non state actors in Pakistan – especially when Kayani and Hafiz Saeed break bread together during Iftaar in Rawalpindi.

RUDDERLESS FOREIGN POLICY

After the sell out at Sharm-el-Sheikh, national interest has been sold out in our own backyard. This, despite the prime minister insisting India will not buckle under international pressure. But today let us just accept US interests are more important to our leadership and diplomats than our own national interests.

Our political and diplomatic leadership would rather see American soldiers and citizens safe in Afghanistan than our own soldiers and citizens in Jammu and Kashmir and across the country.

Our national interest and safety has been bartered at the US altar. Pakistan, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Al Qaeda have once again got proof that India is a soft state. There is a pattern. Attack India at will - bigger the strike – louder will India scream – there will be a stand off situation, a freeze, a deep freeze and then within a couple of years it will be business as usual.

This is what happened after Kargil, Kandahar, attack on Parliament and Mumbai. Our diplomats lack the long term strategic goal and insight. Our politicians and diplomats fail to stand up to international pressure.

They fail to look Pakistan in the eye and call a spade a spade. It has been the same story after 1965 when our diplomats and political leadership lost the Haji pir pass and the same story after 1971 when we lost everything on the negotiating table at Simla.

SECURITY FORCES NOT IN THE LOOP

Be it the armed forces or the intelligence agencies - our security agencies insist Pakistan (both state and non state actors) are working overtime to target India – not just in J&K and the rest of the country but targeting Indian interests across the world. The Pakistan army (pushing infiltrators across) the ISI (pushing in terrorists from J&K, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the sea route), government (printing fake Indian currency) are all working in tandem.

And yet we invite Pakistan for talks. Sources in the army and the intelligence bureau insist they are not in facour of talks. As soon as talks resume, there is a semblance of normalcy and India lowers its guard. Terrorists use the opportunity to strike and each time the strike is bigger than the last one.

India pays the price – this low intensity conflict operation (LICO) is a no cost option for Pakistan to bleed India. We know it all and yet we continue to bleed and invite them for talks.

WHAT AFTER THE NEXT TERROR ATTACK

So what will India do after the next terror attack? Continue to talk or stop talking again. Perhaps, the ministers will once again wave their swords – protected by an army of soldiers and policemen. The prime minister downwards each will scream louder than the other, threaten Pakistan, visit homes of killed innocent Indians in the protection of an army of SPG and NSG commandoes and six months later it will be business as usual.

There is a pattern and Pakistan knows it. It will continue to inflict a thousand wounds. We will continue to bleed. Because we are a soft, weak kneed state with a weaker resolve.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

IMAGINE BEING NUKED FOR NOT SELECTING SHAHID AFRIDI!

* If only Pakistan spoke in one voice condemning the 26/11 terror attacks like they are condemning the IPL auction.
* If only Pakistan took action against the perpetrators of 26/11 like they are in the case of IPL auctions.
* If only the Pakistan rose as one nation in support of India after 26/11 as they are against India in the IPL auction.

Then India and Pakistan would have perhaps played together happily ever after.

I am amazed by Pakistan’s response to 11 Pakistani cricketers not been selected by individual team owners of the IPL.

PAK’S IMMATURE RESPONSE

From their interior minister Rehman Malik to their sports minister Aijaz Jakhrani to the man on the street – they want to sever all ties with India. Pakistan has cancelled the visit of their election commission officials to India in retaliation. The visit would have been unnecessary anyways. Who ever wins elections in Pakistan, it is the Army that calls the shots. So ``free and fair’’ elections perhaps means little even to the Pakistanis. Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson Abdul Basit termed Indian foreign minister SM Krishna’s `stern warning’ to Pakistan ``immature.’’ But from all accounts it is Pakistan’s response to IPL that is rather immature – bordering juvenile. An entire country is up in arms over 11 cricketers not being selected by private cricketing bodies. For Heaven’s sake! We live in the most dangerous neighbourhood in the world. Imagine being nuked for not selecting Shahid Afridi. Pakistan wants Lalit Modi to apologise to the entire nation. But why should Lalit Modi apologise? And why should Shilpa Shetty be forced to explain her decisions? It is for the team owners and advisers to decide who suits their requirements the best. Did we ask Ratan Tata why he bought Jaguar or Lakshmi Nivas Mittal why he pulled out of the Kazakh oil fields? Then why should the IPL team owners have to explain their investments.

WHAT NEXT - RESERVATIONS IN IPL?

Why is only Pakistan crying foul? No Sri Lankan was taken and neither was a single Bangladeshi player selected. Only a single Aussie was taken. Of the 67 up for auction only 13 were sold. So does Pakistan enjoy a special status in the IPL? Does IPL stand for India-Pakistan league? This kind of brouhaha needs to be nipped in the bud otherwise soon there will be pressure to have reservation in the IPL teams. 22.7 per cent Pakistanis. 27 per cent Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Australians and 25 per cent from rest of the world – leaving only 25 per cent for Indians. Then it will be a ``propah’’ team. Oh! So politically correct. Forget making money – the franchisees need to do their bit for being diplomatically correct in the sub continent. I still can’t come to terms with the reaction in Pakistan.

Cricket and terror don’t go hand in hand Mr Gilani!

Barely 14 months ago, Pakistan said India was over reacting when 166 innocent people were killed in the worst ever terror attack and India pushed the pause button on composite dialogue. Even today Pakistan prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani wants India to separate composite dialogue from terror. And yet the Pakistan government decides not to send a high level parliamentary delegation to India because of the ``humiliation’’ their 11 cricketers faced.

Going by that logic India should close down its High Commission in Islamabad and end all ties with Pakistan, because not just India – the world is convinced Pakistan is responsible for all the major terror attacks in India. Lets start from the beginning:- October 1947.

Barely two months after Independence, Pakistan raiders attacked Jammu and Kashmir. 1,104 Indian army soldiers and 684 soldiers of the J&K state forces were killed in the first Indo-Pak war.
3,000 Indian soldiers were killed in the 1965 Indo-Pak war.
3,843 Indian soldiers were killed in the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
530 Indian soldiers were killed in the 1999 war in Kargil.
170 innocent people were killed in Mumbai, the worst terror attack on India. And yet we are going hysterical over 11 Pakistani players not selected by private team owners for the third edition of the IPL.

14 months after the worst terror attack on India, Pakistan has done nothing to bring the perpetrators to book. And Pakistan’s Interior minister Rehman Malik wants India to apologise for these 11 players. Did Pakistan apologise for Mumbai? No! Did Pakistan apologise for terror attacks in Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, J&K, Andhra Pradesh? No!

ANOTHER 26/11 IN INDIA?

Pakistan’s prime minister Gilani says there could be another 26/11 terror attack in India. Is that a veiled threat? Talk or face another attack! Take our players or face another attack? What next – get out of Afghanistan or face another terror attack? Actually to an extent Gilani is right. He is powerless to stop the attacks. For it is the Pakistan army that calls the shots in the country and as long as Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul continues to preach hate for India – the terror tap will never be closed. But Pakistan needs to watch out. It has been described as the terror epicenter of the world. And the world is watching. US defence Secretary Robert Gates has warned Pakistan not to test India’s patience. Another 26/11 would have very dangerous repercussions. British High Commissioner Sir Richard Stagg has also insisted Pakistan cannot shrug off its responsibility. And foreign minister SM Krishna has been unusually frank when he said any misadventure will have serious consequences on bilateral relations. Intelligence agencies have warned there could be another spectacular terror attack. Terror could strike from the skies. Security forces are gearing up to face perhaps – multiple terror attacks across multiple cities but the government needs to do more to tell Pakistan – back off or else…..