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Thursday, December 10, 2009

To Deploy Or Not To In Afghanistan

There is a surprising revival of the idea of deploying Indian troops into Afghanistan to apparently help Afghans fight Islamic terrorists along side with US (and NATO) troops. It's a revival because former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee considered the issue when US was planning to invade Afghanistan, then under Taliban and al Qaeda control, post-9/11, and thought otherwise.

So what changed to make the revival possible with the situation in Afghanistan actually deteriorating, not improving. The only change seems to be change in US leadership, from Bush to Obama. It's strange that we would consider deployment of troops in Afghanistan to help Obama, even as Obama himself hasn't done much to improve relationship between US and India. Obama's Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, ignored coming to India during her Asia trip. Obama has again provided aid and comfort to Pakistan despite India's misgivings. There were no significant agreements during recent PM Manmohan Singh visit to US - no finalization of Nuclear Agreement, no anti-terror cooperation agreement, or no hi-tech transfer agreement. Beyond Obama having first state dinner of US for Manmohan, nothing of substance happened between the countries, since the change of guard in US. So the reconsideration of deployment of Indian troops to Afghanistan is surprising.

We commented on Nitin's Acorn blog as to why the idea of troop deployment in land locked Afghanistan is not a great idea unless the deployment on a semi-permanent, meaning on 10-20 year, basis. (Nitin twitted recently that there is wide agreement in India's strategic circle that India needs to deploy troops in Afghanistan!)

And then we will be dependent on US and more importantly, Iran, for deployment. What if one pulls out or other vetoes – do we still stay there or did we waste blood and treasure for nothing?

Given the state of our economic development, our people will simply not fund a semi-permanent force...

Unless Pakistan cleans up its own act, India’s best options are (a) covert ops in Afghanistan (and in Pakistan), and (b) hope for the state of Pakistan to collapse enabling US to it clean up, with our active help. But the latter won’t happen as long as US keeps providing the state of Pakistan with aid and comfort.
We are better off fighting the Islamic terrorists in Pakistan, by going from the eastern border of Pakistan, with US deployment in Afghanistan guarding the eastern Afghan border and Iran guarding its eastern border. That's the only way to squeeze the terrorists, and their infrastructure, in Pakistan. Any other action will be a fight of attrition and will take a long time - one or two decades - and will end in a stalemate, unless Pakistan acts to clean up its act.

The more fascinating question to us is why is there a revival of the debate about troop deployment in Afghanistan. Who started it and why, when nothing changed in India itself?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Proletariat Communists No More!

Dogs of Beijing, China - For protection from Swine Flu after two dogs were found to have flu

No wonder various avatars of commies in India are actually supporting India in its border dispute with namesake commie China!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

As Much An Anti-Indian as Anti-Taliban?

US latest iteration of war in Afghanistan effort is being unrolled with lot of confusion as to what the goal will be, how many more troops will be sent, and how quickly US will leave Afghan. Manmohan Singh was just in DC with nothing to show for publicly for his long travel - no deals were signed, no promises about next steps made - nothing was achieved. B. Raman explains the lack of substance of this trip dismantling Manmohan Singh's media spin maestros on trip - nothing on counter terror partnership, nothing on wrapping up the nuclear deal, and nothing on economic issues. One wonder if Manmohan traveled half way across the globe just to attend the first state dinner of Obama - apparently the prawns served during dinner are an indication of the strong and stable strategic relationship.

How this relationship between US and India can be strategic partnership is a mystery. One hopes there were substantial talks on China and Pakistan. But there is no indication that Manmohan Singh pressed Obama on any issues related to China that we identified in our earlier post. On Pakistan, US seem to be sliding backwards from seriously understanding issues impacting us - sliding back to 80s, in fact, when Pakistan made demands and US obliged with serious implication to India's and world's security decades later.

Soon after Manmohan left D.C., reports of a secret offer by Obama to Pakistan, given about a month ago, to expand US patronage of Pakistan came to light. Obama offers more military and economic aid and support, meaning bribe, to apparently make Pakistan fight terrorists, with an 'or else' warning that US may take matters into its own hands.

President Obama has offered Pakistan an expanded strategic partnership, including additional military and economic cooperation, while warning with unusual bluntness that its use of insurgent groups to pursue policy goals "cannot continue."

The offer, including an effort to help reduce tensions between Pakistan and India, was contained in a two-page letter delivered to President Asif Ali Zardari this month by Obama national security adviser James L. Jones. It was accompanied by assurances from Jones that the United States will increase its military and civilian efforts in Afghanistan and that it plans no early withdrawal.
It is like watching a really bad movie being repeated again, but with real consequences to the security and well being of India (and Afghanistan.) Pakistan is very good at playing this game. It just got $6.5billion in aid with conditions that don't amount to much. Pakistan's president was reported to have to formally given the power over nuclear weapons to its prime minister, who is backed by Pakistan military, meaning, the president's formal powers are diminished significantly.

As if this bad movie repeating was not enough, Obama's Afghanistan plan seems to specifically aim to assuage Pakistan interests rather than actually fighting terrorists in Afghanistan. Obama's plan includes a surge of troops, followed by withdrawal of most troops, but continued long term presence in Afghanistan. The plan to stay in Afghanistan on a long term basis, it seems, has nothing to do with fighting the Taliban but to guarantee Pakistan's rite over Afghanistan policy to the determent of India.
Officials of one allied nation who have been extensively briefed on the president’s plan said, however, that Mr. Obama would describe how the American presence would be ratcheted back after the buildup, while making clear that a significant American presence in Afghanistan would remain for a long while. That is designed in part to signal to Pakistan that the United States will not abandon the region and to allay Pakistani fears that India will fill the vacuum created as America pulls back.
Did Obama brief Manmohan Singh on this specific issue? Did Obama provide contours of his Afghanistan war plans to Manmohan Singh during the his "first state dinner" visit? If so, what was Manmohan's response to the plans? If not, what is the nature of US-India relationship? It surely is not a strategic relationship - it doesn't even seem to be a rather friendly relationship.

Obama's Afghanistan war strategy seems to as much an anti-India strategy as an anti-Taliban strategy. India's military and intelligence better plan ahead of this US strategy to strengthen itself in Afghanistan and prepare for the blow back a decade or two from this rather recycled fallacious US policy, learning from American previous missteps.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Critical US Visit of Manmohan Singh

The recent peak of India-US relationship was when during Bush's visit to India, he and Manmohan Singh were discussing the nuclear agreement with a group people and in response to a comment by AEC chief Anil Kakodkar he said something to the effect that as long as we can keep you happy to get (the nuclear) deal done. Meaning, he didn't want minor issues blocking progress of India-US relationship. The key driver to India's improving relationship with US was president Bush himself. Now the relationship is at critical tipping point. On the one hand, it could continue on the high trajectory and make US and India close strategic partners or it could start drifting sideways at the current level of engagement - excellent trade and commerce with some military to military contacts with occasional political interaction with no significant substance. Increasing, the later is becoming a high probability scenario with the former becoming a lower probable.

I was dismayed to see Manmohan's Singh interview with an US journalist - there was no substance at all to the current visit.

I also think that India and the United States could be partners in refocusing our attention on an equitable, balanced global order. 

What does that mean?
We would like to strengthen energy cooperation with the United States -- [in] clean coal technology and in renewable energy resources. Similarly, there is concern for food security. We would like to have a second Green Revolution in our country -- therefore, cooperation in the field of agriculture, in science and technology, in health, and in dealing with pandemics.

It's typical small country talk with no case for enhanced strategic relationship. While, usually, India is not an agenda setter - it takes agenda given to it during multilateral forums - the utter lack of new agenda for this trip is disheartening. The nuclear issue was put on the top of US-India relationship agenda by Atal B. Vajpayee when George Bush was open for strengthening the relationship between the two countries. Manmohan Singh carried forward Vajpayee's agenda, but he has no new agenda of his own. And it's not like there is nothing going on around India that doesn't involve US.

For starters, India needs to understand the evolution of relationship between US and China. Is what China aggressive behavior towards India's entire border area, and how it impacts US relationship, on the agenda? Who would US support in diplomatic and strategic battles? Why did US say China had a role in India-Pakistan relationship when Obama was in Beijing recently, even as Chinese themselves said nothing about it?

There are increasing calls in US that somehow US should settle the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, presumably, favouring Pakistan so that it can take up US fight against Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  This scenario is not inconceivable as Obama is having second thoughts about Afghanistan war being the good war. A quick way for US to exit this region would be to go back to the 1950s, when Pakistan was the sole pillar of US, and British, strategic interests in the subcontinent. While India will never be a vassal state of US, Pakistan can play the role very well, as long J&K can be settled favourably towards Pakistan - the favour that can milked by US for another 50 years.

It makes even more sense, if US thought working with China is in its long term economic interests as US becomes more focused on economic issues, towards becoming a Europe-lite. The current US political leadership is internal looking and clearly would be happy to concede strategic ground to China in return for economic benefits. China is already US financier. US economic growth prospects would improve if it aligns with China - an economy that is vastly bigger than India's and will continue to be so throughout the current century.

Aligning with China and Pakistan makes eminent sense to US, especially for the current US left leaning leadership. I have argued in the past that the India-US relationship was primarily driven by George Bush. Changing the course of relationship of the two countries from Bush's era will not be difficult. That's why the current trip by Manmohan Singh is so crucial to US-India relationship and India's future. Will Manmohan Singh put India's future on the top of the agenda and get US leadership see our way or will he accept the agenda set by US, again, and realize the impact of US potential realignment too late, boxing India into a unfavourable strategic future?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

US Base Shooting and Vande Mataram

News of a Muslim US army Major shooting and killing his army colleagues randomly, at a US Army base in US, before he was taken down and revelations of his prior pro-Islamic jihadi attitude clarified to us what Vande Mataram debate should be about.

Few days ago, Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind (Pan-Bharatiya Islamic Seminary) said it supported Deobandhi mullahs fatwa saying that Muslims should not sing Vande Mataram song:

A top Muslim body on Tuesday asked members of the community not to recite Vande Mataram and supported seminary Darul Uloom's edict that opposes any prayer involving the song.

"The fatwa of Darul Uloom (opposing the recitation of Vande Mataram) is correct," stated one of the 25 resolutions passed by the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind on Tuesday, at its 30th general session in Deoband, in the presence of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram.

Darul Uloom's fatwa department had issued the edict in 2006, describing the recitation of Vande Mataram as anti-Islamic.

"The judgment of the Supreme Court also clearly states that nobody can be compelled to sing Vande Mataram," said the resolution, which was adopted by over 10,000 clerics from across the country. [Rediff]
In 2006, Daobhandi itself denied issuing that fatwa. 
The Darul Uloom Deoband -- a leading centre of Islamic learning, categorically stated on Monday that it had not issued any fatwa on Vande Mataram. It added that it has not directed Muslim children to skip classes on September 7 to protest against its mandatory recitation in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states.

Accusing 'communal forces' of maligning the 130-year-old Islamic institution, Mohatamim Maulana Margoobur Rehman, the rector,said that it had neither issued any fatwa nor appealed on this issue after the Human Resource Development Ministry issued a directive to all schools to recite the national song on September 7 which marks the centenary of the song.

"The Darul Uloom is being unneccesarily dragged into the Vande Mataram controversy," he said, adding that Muslims are true patriots and there was no need to question their patriotism. [Rediff]
But anyone who follows Islamic and other forms of extremism and their supporters should know the games that are played by related institutions. If Daobhandhi itself hasn't an issued a fatwa, why would Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind support a non-existing fatwa?

The issue to us is not whether some people chose not to sing what most consider to be a patriotic song, with religious undertones to it. Individuals are free to chose and express as they like - in this case, expressing by not expressing. But, it is cause for major concern if they are doing so because of religious mullahs demands as though it is their religious duty.

A Muslim friend of mine said that, while he doesn't agree with Deobandi mullahs fatwa, the mullahs themselves have clarified that they love the country but don't worship it.

That's exactly my concern. What if worship takes precedence over love? The highest precedence should be for the nation and national security. What happens if a self-declared Muslim nation, say, Saudi Arabia, attacks India. Would religious duty, worship, take precedence over love for the country?

If a Major in the most professional army, egged on by global lefty media and various Islamic terror groups, can conclude that wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are wars against Islam, as evidence shows that Major Hasan believed, as though Saddam Hussein, Mullah Omar, and various terror groups that US is fighting are the only representatives of Islam, what would Muslims looking up to terror groups like SIMI do?

One would hope right thinking people would express outrage at what Deobandi mullahs, and their Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind supporters, have done beyond silly calls by some people asking mullahs supporters to move to Pakistan. UPA lead GOI should take a strong stand against Deobandhi mullahs fatwa, and their Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind supporters, that the nation and patriotism should take ultimate precedence and the religion should not mix with issues of nationhood.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

On Chinese Economy

China official growth rate was 7.7% in first half of 2009 - this when its main customer for goods, US, was down over 6% in first quarter of 2009 and had negative growth in second quarter of 2009. And Europe, the other main customer, was contracting too. So how did an export economy like China grow that much? Daniel Lynch of Far Eastern Economic Review thinks the Chinese are making up numbers:

Beijing's insistence that GDP grew by 7.1% in the first half of 2009 is highly doubtful given that coal consumption by Chinese power plants fell 8.9% and usage of petroleum products (including gasoline) dropped 2.6%. In previous years, energy consumption consistently grew at a 7% to 9% rate. Equally remarkable, aggregate tax revenues fell 6% in the first half of 2009 after increasing by 17% to 31% in preceding years. The drop in tax receipts occurred at the same time as energy use fell.
Some analysts say there is nothing anomalous about these figures, . . . [but] [a]lmost certainly, the Chinese economy contracted after the recession began. . . .
There are other signs that the Chinese economy is not living up to its testimonials. For example, the explosion of credit and money has not been accompanied by inflation. M2—currency in circulation plus savings deposits—is reported each month to be, on average, 25% higher than in the comparable month last year. And new bank loans doubled in the first half and continue to increase at high rates. Yet consumer prices are reportedly down 1% to 2% year-to-date, while producer prices are off 7% to 9%.
Economics 101 teaches that if prices fall when the money supply is rising, either production must be increasing at a higher rate than money supply or the velocity of money changing hands must be falling. In China, the only market in which prices are consistently rising is the property market . . .[Notable & Quotable - FECR]
Also there has been lot of talk of China becoming a consumer economy instead of continuing to be an export oriented economy, which in large part played a role in current global financial crisis - China had to keep buying US treasury bonds, using the dollars it acquired to keep yuan down to enable exports, which kept US interests down helping leveraging up and spending binge by the Americans. Lee Kuan Yew, one of the few global wise men, talking to Charlie Rose, explains why the Chinese economic transition to consumption based economy may not happen anytime soon. In this hour long interview, Lee Kuan also talks about what issues will be paramount in the next few decades. First part of interview is here:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nehru, Not A Dove After All

While paying homage to Sri Homi Bhaha's centennial birth anniversary, Sri K. Subrahmanyam writes about the apparent perceived wisdom - that Bhaha was nuclear hawk interested in weapons and Pandit Nehru was nuclear dove interested in global nuclear disarmament:

There is a view that Bhabha was the main driver behind India’s nuclear weapon ambitions and Jawaharlal Nehru was a dove totally committed to nuclear disarmament. The late historian, Sarvepalli Gopal, who had access to Bhabha’s papers, told me that in the wake of the First UN Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, over which he presided, Bhabha wrote to Nehru proposing that India should amend its constitution, renouncing nuclear weapons. Nehru replied, advising Bhabha to concentrate on development of the nuclear programme and to inform him when the stage was reached when India could make nuclear weapons. He asked Bhabha to leave political and strategic issues relating to nuclear energy in his hands. [Homi Bhabha - Scientist, visionary, dreamer; highlight by ed.]
Sri Subrahmanyam goes to say Bhabha turned to nuclear weaponization only after Chinese tested the weapon in 1964 and his death may not be the reason why India couldn't test weapon before the January 1st, 1967 deadline of NPT.