Filter, Alif, Radar

Ravi Gopalan

Degrading the LeT network

STEPHEN TANKEL of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace profiles the growth of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) network from its origins during the anti-Soviet jihad to its current role as Pakistani military’s strategic asset against India with a support network stretched throughout the subcontinent, the Gulf and the West. In a policy brief for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “The Long Arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba”, he concludes that the West had to compel Islamabad to use its leverage to prevent any LeT attack against India and also degrade its transnational network.

Aircraft Carriers: Hunter or Hunted?

ARUN PRAKASH, former Chief of Naval Staff tracks the growth of the aircraft carrier as the mainstay of major navies as well as the different paths in the arena of carriers and carrier aviation adopted by the major navies and what could come in the future. In a valedictory address as the Chairman of the National Maritime Foundation, “Aircraft Carriers in the 21st century: Doctrinal, Operational and Technological Challenge”, he counters critics of aircraft carriers and states that optimal utilisation of carrier deployment for sea control, protection to friendly units, power projection and survivability rendered them invaluable in any military’s arsenal and the greater need was to overcome operational, doctrinal and technological challenges.

Festering sore

MUSTAFA QADRI states that the strong public support in Pakistan currently for its war against the Taliban insurgency within its territory arose due to a host of factors including a perception that Pakistan was fighting a war for its  existence, with the armed forces as brave guarantors of national security against foreign actors. In a briefing paper for the Pakistan Security Research Unit, “Public perceptions of Pakistan’s war against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan“, he cautions that this prevented the Pakistani society from confronting the very real, and serious infiltration of militant, political Islam into mainstream society and effectively absolved the state and religious leaders from their culpability in creating the very environment that enabled the TTP to form and so rapidly expand throughout the tribal areas.

Counterinsurgency training for Afghans

SUMIT GANGULY, Ngee Ann Kongsi Chair in International Relations at the Rajaratnam School for International Studies, Singapore declares that the most effective and economical way to prepare Afghan troops in counterinsurgency operations was to rely on the Indian Army. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, “Let India Train The Afghan Army”, he states that the Indian Army with its decades of counter-insurgency experience in multiple terrains, training capacities, cheap labor and training costs, cultural similarities, and its record of civil-military relations made it the ideal candidate to train the Afghan national army.

Basic banking in India

BINDU ANANTH and NACHIKET MOR lament the low penetration rate (20 percent) of bank accounts in India stating that the technology, on-ground capability, cost  and process maturity of banking intermediaries such as business correspondents do not warrant such a low access rate to finance. In an article in Mint, “Basic economic freedom: why can’t we get it done?”, they argue that currently no single entity was currently accountable for the low penetration rate and recommend that Finance Minister designate the Reserve Bank of India to own the process, mandate Government payments through business correspondents and to direct banks to set up well-distributed automated access points.

Policy inertia on India’s financial sector

ARVIND SUBRAMANIAN, fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics recommends greater interaction between the government and the Reserve Bank of India on strategic and long-term issues such as the liberalisation of the financial sector and that of the capital account. In an op-ed in the Business Standard, “What Globalization Strategy for India?“, he states that a combination of factors such as greater availability of foreign capital seeking higher returns in India and a domestic political economy that favored foreign capital would ensure that India moved to a model based on reliance to foreign capital by default and this called for a jolt out of policy inertia and a greater co-ordination between the key stakeholders on strategic issues.

Get ready for brickbats…

Michael Auslin, AEI’s director of Japan Studies states that global public opinion may be turning against China in the wake of increasing evidence of China not turning out to be a “responsible stakeholder” as envisaged. In an op-ed for The Washington Examiner, “Good feelings for China at a tipping point“,he states that sustained tension between China and the world could lead to further Chinese probing of American and Asian countries’ defences, more deployment of advanced weaponry including aircraft carriers, and continued obstruction over Darfur and Iran.

Another Persian Gulf?

SELIG S HARRISON, Director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars provides a brief analysis of the various legal and jurisdictional issues related to the treasure trove of untapped seabed oil and gas in the vast expanse of the East China Sea between China and Japan and the Yellow Sea between China and the Koreas and the motives of the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean players. In a study for the Project on Oil and Gas Cooperation in Northeast Asia, “Seabed Petroleum in Northeast Asia: Conflict or Cooperation?“, he states that although agreement on a joint exploration zone was impeded by conflicting positions between Japan and China, the two Governments could authorise their oil companies to conduct seismic surveys, exploratory drilling, exchange data and negotiate terms of production operations and profit sharing while the conflicts were being resolved.

Justice as well as Peace in conflict resolution

RICHARD DICKER, Director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch calls attention to the thorny debate over whether pursuing justice for grave international crimes interfered with peace negotiations in the wake of increasing possibility of trials for abusive national leaders. In an article for the Chatham House magazine, The World Today, “International Criminal Court: Peace & Justice“, he states that international law and practice had evolved to a point where both peace and justice had to be equal objectives of negotiations to end conflicts where serious crimes under international law had been committed and that peace agreements did not have to foreclose the possibility of justice at a later date.

Diplomacy in Persia

KAYHAN BARZEGAR, senior research fellow at the Center for Middle East Strategic Studies in Tehran states that Iran would not concede its claim to the nuclear fuel cycle on which there is broad consensus within the Irani elite and Iran could prove vital in bringing lasting security to the Middle East. In an article in The Washington Quarterly, “Iran’s Foreign Policy Strategy After Saddam“, he recommends that the Obama administration engage in meaningful diplomacy with Tehran and not give in to the temptation of isolating and weakening Iran, which would impinge on U.S. goals of stability, non-proliferation and resolution of ongoing regional conflicts.

Rohan Joshi

Wet job in Dubai

MAISA GADEER writes about the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabouh in Dubai, in the UAE’s al-Bayan. Ms Gadeer is not surprised with the official reaction from those countries whose citizens Dubai police suspect as being involved in the assassination. She indicates that the release of images of the suspects as well as video footage of their movements suggests that Dubai police was committed to transparency in its investigation and has in turn, sought international co-operation in bringing the assassins to book. She opines that those behind the assassination chose Dubai so as to not raise suspicion of their involvement; indeed, although Hamas was quick to blame the Palestinian Authority, its suspicions were subsequently targeted at Israel’s external intelligence agency, Mossad.

Powers of the Middle East

In Saudi Arabia’s al-Madina newspaper SAEED FARHAH AL-GHAMDI discusses three non-Arab countries in the region—Israel, Iran and Turkey—in terms of their ambitions and interests. He opines that Israel is a “cancer in the heart of the Arab world,” which, if not curtailed, will continue to pose a threat to world peace. Mr al-Ghamdi is unsure when the Iranian government will realise that its conduct does not benefit the Iranian people. He argues that Iran must give up its hegemonic ambitions and threats against other regional countries, stop fomenting sectarianism and learn to co-exist peacefully with others. Moreover, the writer argues, its desire to acquire nuclear weapons is a source of worry to countries in the region. As far as Turkey is concerned, the ascendancy of a new power in the region is not needed; however, Turkey’s position and relationship with non-Arab countries, including the West and Russia could be leveraged by Arab nations.

In no hurry to talk

In an editorial, Pakistan’s Ausaf suggests that Pakistan should decline India’s invitation for talks if Kashmir is not on the agenda. It cautions Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in committing to talks with India, suggesting that there was no immediate hurry for dialogue. It further argues that the primary reason for India’s offer for talks was due to the movement for Kashmiri independence, supported by the Pakistani government and army, being rekindled—a reversal of the state of affairs that prevailed during Pervez Musharraf’s reign.

The newspaper points out that Washington is aware that after its withdrawal from the region, the only force that can effectively manage Afghanistan is the Pakistani army; however, the Pakistani army, which is currently being pressured on its eastern border with India, is spread too thin and therefore unable to sufficiently combat al-Qaeda and Taliban forces along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Holding all the cards

A Nawa-i-Waqt’s editorial highlights the important role played by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in the London Conference on Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai, whom the editorial refers to as “America’s puppet” sought assistance from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on negotiating with the Taliban. It says that because of Mr Karzai’s unwillingness thus far to negotiate with the Taliban, Pakistan has had to pay a heavy price in its border regions. Despite this, the editorial suggests, if Mr Karzai is now willing to sincerely engage with the Taliban, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will lend a helping hand.The editorial suggests that there is no doubt that the only country in the region capable of returning Afghanistan to normalcy is Pakistan.

Centrifugal tirades

In Jang, A Q KHAN opines that this is the first time in Pakistan’s history that two important institutions are free and conducting themselves with honesty—the media and the judiciary. Dr Khan highlights two important issues on which he urges national attention—bad legislation, such as the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which both the Supreme Court and media have targeted—and the issue of billions of rupees written off in loans to influential people by Pervez Musharraf. He highlights the plight of many citizens facing food shortages, while those close to General Musharraf’s regime have been excused to repaying the money they borrowed from the state. Dr Khan hopes that the full force of law will be felt upon such individuals.

Saurabh Joshi

ASAT action in China

WENDELL MINNICK, writing in Defense News on January 19, 2010, says the missile test conducted by China has ominous implications. According to Mr Minnick, while the Chinese news agency Xinhua had reported that the test was conducted to test missile interception technologies, there are others who believe the test was for the purpose of expanding anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities.

Also, Mr Minnick quotes experts in the piece who point out that even if the test was to enhance ballistic missile defense capabilities, the main ballistic missile threat to China is not from the United States, Japan or Taiwan, but from Indian ballistic missiles.

The test took place exactly three years after the first Chinese ASAT missile test in 2007.

..and in India

PETER J BROWN, writing in Asia Times on January 22, 2010, says the Indian anti-ballistic missile (ABM) and missile defense programs are ‘shifting to accommodate’ ASAT capabilities.

Dr VK Saraswat, the Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister AK Antony, has already disclosed that an Indian program on ASAT weapons is likely to be tested towards the end of this year.

According to Mr Brown, “What Saraswat did was, in effect, to inject a powerful destabilising element into the South Asian strategic equation at a time when the US is determined to do everything in its power to bolster regional stability.”

Mr Brown also thinks that it is no secret that ABM and ASAT programs are developing side-by-side wherever they exist. He ends by writing that India needs to evolve its ASAT-related technology in the backdrop of Chinese advances in this domain.


But HARSH V PANT and BHARATH GOPALASWAMY question the Indian rush to develop ASAT capabilities at Rediff on February 9, 2010. They think India’s resources would be better spent on reducing the disparity with China in space. The two look at the economic dimensions of satellites and conclude it to be no surprise that countries are increasingly looking to develop ASAT capabilities, considering the revenue and jobs involved.

They also point out that while China is moving from ASAT technologies to missile defence while India is moving in the opposite lane.

The two claim that the vastly larger fleet of Chinese satellites in comparison to India means that India cannot win a shooting war in space with ASAT weapons and should thus be concentrating more on covering the satellite gap with China before spending money on ASAT weapons capabilities. “India’s lack of redundancy in satellite capabilities will compromise its capability to retaliate,” they say, adding, “why focus on developing ASAT technology for a war that India can’t win in the near future and everybody loses?”

The new phase of state-corporation dynamics

THOMAS E RICKS, blogging The Best Defense in Foreign Policy on January 18, 2010, quotes an air force pilot who says of the Google-China tiff, “We’re seeing low-level warfare between a state and a corporation.” Ricks thinks there’s a paper waiting to be written here about precedents of states versus companies such as the British East India Company.

Mr Ricks also points out that states are now hiring companies, and vice versa, for their own interests, taking the example of the contracting of Blackwater by the US and the Maersk shipping company contracting a Tanzanian warship to protect it from pirates.

Drilling oil from computers

JOHN YEMMA, editor of the Christian Science Monitor, on January 26, 2010, called the Chinese hacking of US oil companies, compromising bid data, worrisome. He says that “as dangerous as al-Qaeda and other groups have proven to be, the threat they represent is not as systemic as the ongoing threat of cyber-warfare.”

While there have been repeated and increasing instances of hacking, the trails of which usually lead to China, this is a glaring instance of the compromising of data that has not only enormous economic value but also strategic connotations. The story broken by the Monitor on January 25 this year has caused Mr Yemma to comment, “When Google announced two weeks ago that Chinese hackers had broken into its GMail system, the target appeared to be information about human-rights activists in China. But hackers operating from Chinese servers are also systematically targeting the IT networks of major US companies to extract valuable competitive intelligence in areas like technology and energy resources.”

He says the target—competitive data on potential energy deposits—constitutes the crown jewels of an energy company. His conclusion is that while an al-Qaeda terror attack might be devastating, the silent war on the internet has stakes that are at least as high as those in the war on terror.

India hacked again

The Indian government is no stranger to hacking either. Early last month, the then National Security Adviser MK Narayanan had admitted to The Times of London, that the penetration attacks were conducted on the computers of high officials in the security establishment. Turns out, that wasn’t the end of it. While India has seen attacks on its MEA peripherals before, VIJAY MOHAN reported in The Tribune on February 11, a repeat of the attacks of January 15 on the Prime Minister’s Office amongst other office computers.

He lists the National Security Council Secretariat, the National Security Advisory Board, the chief and deputy chief of the navy and the chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee as target on the fresh attacks that began on January 28.

Mohan also quotes sources at the National Technical Research Organization as pegging the number of the attacks at 450.