Tuesday, 27 November 2012

General indifference

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 27th Nov 12

Four years ago, after the 26/11 Mumbai attack, the three service chiefs dashed off letters to the MoD listing out the equipment deficiencies that hamstrung their forces. Their barely-disguised accusation to the politicians and bureaucrats: you have failed to equip us, so think carefully about what you ask us to do!

Pakistani generals know well that the Indian Army is unfit to take the field against them. In making this bald statement, I give away no secrets. Every effective military intelligence organisation --- and Pakistan we know has one --- possesses devastating compilations of our army’s crippling shortage of tank ammunition; the night-blindness of our tanks; the absence of modern artillery; our obsolete air defence network; and shortfalls in practically every parameter by which an army’s equipment readiness is gauged. All this is kept secret only from the Indian people who faithfully support their army, sending sons and daughters to die for the country, often in unnecessary ways.

Of course our army is fit for war, these patriotic citizens will say, pointing to the decades of counter-insurgency in J&K and the north-east that have claimed more soldiers’ lives than all the wars fought by independent India. But rolling back secessionism is different from fighting a full-scale war. All that is needed for counter-insurgency is excellent light infantry and India’s infantry battalions are equal to that task. Kargil, too, was an infantry job, even if one that took all our reserves of 155-millimetre artillery shells to drive home. But full-scale war requires much more; and our mechanized forces, field artillery, air defence networks, combat engineers and logistics are woefully unequal to the task. This was true during the 1999 Kargil conflict; when India mobilised in Operation Parakram after the 2001 attacks on Parliament; four years ago during 26/11; and it remains true today.

But nobody looks at this cold-eyed, because the generals hide their shortfalls behind the heroism of the fighting troops. Go through the recent media coverage of the 1962 war and, astonishingly for such an abject defeat, the army comes out smelling of lotuses, floating beatifically in the mire. Jawaharlal Nehru, Krishna Menon and BN Malik are blamed for throwing our brave jawans under the Chinese bus! Could this have happened had the generals held fast? When army chief General KS Thimayya resigned in 1959, Nehru personally intervened to minimise the damage. If a chief were to resign today over equipment shortfalls, does anyone doubt the intensity of the political inquisition that would follow?

But there is a two-fold reason why army chiefs do not resign or even thump their boss’ tables: firstly, they seem unable to contemplate giving up power and the institutionalized perks and privileges associated with senior rank. Secondly, and this is crucial, the generals know that the military, far more than the bureaucrats and politicians, is responsible for the lack of war readiness.

Take the deplorable state of affairs in the armoured corps, which operates the armoured tanks that are the cutting edge of India’s three strike corps. As this newspaper reported on Monday (Nov 26, 2012, “Army scuttles Arjun trials to push through T-90 purchase”) the army much prefers to buy equipment off-the-shelf from countries like Russia, rather than painstakingly developing and manufacturing equipment better suited for our own operating environment.

Incredibly, the army has not developed an indigenous armour philosophy in the last 65 years. Every serious army, even Israel, designs its tanks around a custom-made philosophy. Since human resources are a key constraint in tiny Israel, and distances are small, Israeli tanks are heavily armoured, lumbering vehicles where crew protection counts for more than the ability to quickly move long distances. In contrast, Russian tanks, designed to sweep rapidly through the vast expanses of Europe, are mobile, lightly armoured and have a smaller, three-man crew since a tank is expendable. The Indian Army, with one of the world’s largest fleets of 4000 tanks, has neither an armour philosophy, nor a tank design bureau that can produce indigenous designs.

The army has more generals than the Government of India has secretaries. But none, from the army chief downwards, has insisted on an armour philosophy, an essential pre-requisite for an India-specific tank. Instead the T-90 tank, designed and built for freezing Russia, is now being air-conditioned (heresy!) so that its electronics can survive the Indian summers. In an incredible moral contortion, those who back the indigenous Arjun are branded anti-national; while the generals who support the Russian T-90 style themselves as patriots!

Crafting an armour philosophy is not an intellectual feat. Three bright armoured corps colonels could do it in a week, given inputs on India’s border geography; war termination objectives; likely adversaries; the army’s manpower profile and India’s industrial capabilities. But generations of armoured corps generals have had better things to do with their time; successive army chiefs, and directors of operations and planning have been too preoccupied, or simply unconcerned, to ask why this is so.

If the army’s entire planning hierarchy has ever questioned the absence of any doctrinal coherence in the strike formations’ equipment, this has not resulted in any remedial action. But our generals believe the road to salvation passes through Moscow; respond to the challenge of indigenisation by buying more T-90s, just as the air marshals buy more and more Sukhoi-30 fighters. Does this point to Russia’s colonisation of our generals’ operational thinking, or it is just apathy and lack of professionalism? Either way, the answer is depressing.

After 3 months on ground, Tejas fighter flies again

File photo of LCA in flight tests over Bangalore

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 27th Nov 12

The Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), which has remained grounded for more than three months, finally resumed flight-testing last week. Seven flights of the Tejas have taken place since then without mishap.

The grounding of the Tejas, which was kept a secret, took place because of the new pilot’s helmets. Since these protruded above the ejection seats, the helmets could have prevented a smooth ejection by smashing into the fighter’s canopy before it was blown off. Since that constituted a serious safety issue for the pilots, flight-testing was halted since August.

The Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) chief, Dr VK Saraswat, confirmed to Business Standard that the problem had been resolved. The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the DRDO agency that oversees the Tejas programme, has now provided a backup mechanism to blow off the canopy before the pilot’s head struck it.

“Yes, we had about three to three and a half months of gap [in flight testing]. Now that problem has been resolved. We have modified the Martin Baker ejection seats, making them more reliable and giving more confidence to our pilots. With that behind us, I think we are roaring now,” said Saraswat.

For the Tejas’ flight-test programme, which is already behind schedule, this three month delay has been a blow. The Initial Operation Clearance (IOC), which was scheduled for end-2010, and which the Indian Air Force (IAF) accorded only provisionally in Jan 2011, is now expected only around mid-2013.

The Final Operational Clearance (FOC), which clears a fighter for combat operations, was scheduled for end-2012. This could be delayed by at least two years.

An upbeat Saraswat says the three-month delay gave ADA an opportunity to resolve several other problems, which needed to be done on the ground.

“We have made use of this time by solving many of the problems which were part of the feedback that came from the flight test programme. I feel that by middle of next year we should complete (the IOC),” said Saraswat.

The Rs 14,047 crore LCA project involves building an air force version of the fighter in two models --- Tejas Mark I; and Tejas Mark II --- as well as a naval version that will operate from aircraft carriers.

The IAF has already placed orders on Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) for two squadrons (42 fighters) of the Tejas Mark I aircraft. Defence Minister AK Antony told parliament on May 21, 2012, that the IAF would be delivered six squadrons (126 fighters) by the end of the 13th Plan, i.e. by 2022.

While this was not specified, the next four Tejas squadrons will be of the Mark II fighter, which will field the more power General Electric F-414 engine. The government has allocated Rs 4,353 crore for developing the Mark II fighter.

Meanwhile Pakistan’s light fighter, the JF-17 Thunder, which was developed in partnership with China, has achieved combat status. Three squadrons of the JF-17 are already in service in the Pakistan Air Force, and a fourth is currently being raised. The PAF expects to eventually operate some 12-13 squadrons of the fighter.

Army proposes to scrap Future Main Battle Tank: instead build successive models of the Arjun

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 27th Nov 12

The indigenous project to build a Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT) is being quietly buried by the army. Instead, the army’s tank directorate has proposed keeping  faith with the home grown Arjun tank, while incrementally improving it into the future backbone of the army’s strike forces.

Senior army sources tell Business Standard that the Directorate General of Mechanised Forces (DGMF), which oversees the army’s tank force, has formally proposed that the Arjun be gradually improved through successive models --- Mark II, Mark III, Mark IV and so on --- rather than attempting a major technological leap into the unknown, which is what the FMBT would be.

On Dec 06, 2010, Defence Minister AK Antony had informed parliament that the “FMBT is likely to be developed by the year 2020.” He said the army had already conceptualised its requirements and the DRDO was carrying out a feasibility study.

Now, by consensus between the DRDO and the DGMF, the future of indigenous tank building is to flow from the Arjun. Two Arjun regiments, consisting of 128 tanks, are already in frontline service. And a Mark II version of the Arjun is undergoing trials in Rajasthan. The army has committed to buying 118 Arjun Mark II tanks after trials are successfully concluded.

These orders for just 246 Arjuns are insignificant, complains a senior DRDO official, given that the army fields about 4000 tanks. To evolve the Arjun through successive models, the army would have to operate the tank in larger numbers and cooperate closely with the DRDO. This, says the DRDO official, would require a mindshift amongst senior army generals who tend to favour imports.

Three important realizations drive the DGMF’s new proposal. Firstly, there is growing acceptance of the Arjun, after its strong performance in field trials. Secondly, the need for an industrial “eco-structure” for providing spares and maintenance backup for the Arjuns that are already operating. This would come up only if a viable number of tanks are in service. Finally, the DGMF believes that there are no recent breakthrough technologies in armoured vehicle design, which eliminates the logic for building an entirely new tank.

This DGMF decision not to develop an FMBT stems from the difficulty it faced in drawing up specifications for the new tank. A key hurdle was in reconciling the need for a four-man tank crew (like the Arjun, and unlike Russian tanks that have a three-man crew) with the simultaneous wish for a lighter tank that weighed not more than 50-tonnes. The 60-tonne-plus Arjun has been criticised as too heavy.

Says a key general: “All contemporary three-man-crew tanks weigh 50-tonnes, like those being built by South Korea, Turkey and Japan. Adding a fourth crew member also adds roughly 10-tonnes of weight, due to increase in the tank size and weight of armour. But we were asking for a 50-tonne FMBT that would have a four-man crew. It just didn’t add up.”

Meanwhile, Israel Military Industries (IMI), which provides consultancy to the DRDO on tank design, has advised that the Arjun could be gradually pared down to below 60 tonnes, from the 65 tonnes of the current Arjun Mark II.

In a 2008 seminar, organized by the DGMF, Israeli Major General Yossi Ben-Hanan --- an acclaimed tank designer who fathered Israel’s successful Merkava tank --- told an attentive audience that tank design is evolutionary, each design building upon the previous one. The Israelis began designing their Merkava Mark-1 MBT in 1970; today they have the world class Merkava Mark-4.

The DGMF’s proposal to scrap the FMBT indicates that it has bought into the concept of evolutionary development. The Arjun Mark II, which is currently undergoing field trials in Rajasthan, has 79 improvements over the Mark I that is in service. These include: the ability to fire an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM); a panoramic electro-optical sight for the commander; an improved suspension; and an auxiliary generator for powering the Arjun’s electricals when the main engine is not running.

The army has not responded to an emailed request for comments for this article.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Army scuttles Arjun trials to push through T-90 purchase

The T-90MS on display at Defexpo 2012 in Delhi 

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 26th Nov 12

Top army generals are undermining India’s Arjun tank to push through a Rs 10,000 crore order for T-90MS tanks from Russia. Senior defence ministry (MoD) sources tell Business Standard that Arjun trials, proposed for the plains of Punjab, are being scuttled to prevent any high-profile Arjun success from jeopardising the import of more T-90s from Russia.

A proposal from the tank directorate for Arjun trials in Punjab has been placed on the backburner after instructions from the Military Operations (MO) Directorate. The powerful MO Directorate, more than any other branch of the army, deals directly with the army chief.

At stake here is the Rs 10,000 crore purchase of 354 new T-90MS tanks for six tank regiments for the China border. Business Standard had first reported the raising of these regiments (Sept 17, 2012, “In a first, Indian tank brigades to defend China border”). In the proposal that the government is considering for two tank brigades and a mountain strike corps, the army has put in the cost of 354 T-90MS tanks.

These new tanks will supplement the 1657 Russian T-90S, and 2414 T-72M tanks already deployed on the Pakistan border. So far, there are just 128 Arjun tanks in service, with an order for another 118 in the pipeline.

Contacted for comments, the Indian Army denies that the MO Directorate is blocking any trials.

Even as the Arjun tank --- developed in India by the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) --- outperforms the T-90 in comparative trials held by the army, support for Russian tanks inexplicably grows. With the Arjun’s performance established, the army is now arguing that the 60-tonne Arjun is too heavy for the soft soil of Punjab and J&K; it must therefore be confined to the deserts of Rajasthan. That would mean that only 4-6 of the army’s 65 tank regiments can operate the Arjun tank.

The DRDO rebuts this logic, as do the tank units that actually operate the Arjun. “The Arjun’s heavier weight is distributed over a larger area because of its larger tracks. Its “nominal ground pressure” is lower than the Russian tanks. So the Arjun can actually move more easily in Punjab,” says S Sundaresh, the DRDO’s Chief Controller of R&D for armoured vehicles.

This is validated by history, says Lieutenant General (Retired) RM Vohra, who won a Mahavir Chakra in the 1971 war while commanding 4 HORSE, a tank regiment equipped with Centurion tanks. He says the 42-tonne Pakistani Patton M-48 tanks got mired in the soft soil of Asal Uttar, in Punjab, while the 51-tonne Centurion moved around that battlefield easily.

The T-90MS, a new, upgraded version of the T-90S that India bought in 2001, is regarded as well suited for the extreme cold of Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, where the two new armoured brigades will operate. The Arjun, in contrast, is designed to withstand the heat of the Indian plains, where the T-90S has repeatedly malfunctioned in high temperatures. The T-90S now being built under license at the Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi, near Chennai, have proved less reliable than the Russia-built T-90S that were delivered initially.

“The army is justified in wanting the T-90MS for the China border. But it is wrong in scuttling the induction of the Arjun in Punjab and J&K. The Arjun must be given a fair chance. How can a Russian tank be given preference over an Indian one?” says a senior armoured corps general who is still in service.

The six tank regiments being bought for the China border will be divided between two armoured brigades, one located in Ladakh, and the other one in the north-east. Both sectors have valleys and plateaus in which China could attack with tanks. The new tank formation will safeguard these approaches and also provide a retaliatory capability in case of Chinese attack.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

HC slams Army promotion board

Two retired major generals might return to service

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 25th Nov 12

In an unprecedented indictment of the Army’s arbitrary promotion policy, Delhi High Court on Monday overturned an entire promotion board, in which major generals from the 1975 batch were evaluated for promotion to lieutenant general. The court also upbraided the defence ministry (MoD) for endorsing promotions that it knew were procedurally flawed.

Now, the Army faces the humiliating prospect of bringing back two major generals from retirement, since the fresh board seems likely to approve them for promotion. Worse, some lieutenant generals who were promoted by the impugned board could be rejected when legitimate promotion criteria are applied. This could trigger further litigation.

The judgment quotes liberally from Army Headquarters (HQ) documents and MoD notings that detail the Army’s arbitrary changes of promotion policy. It illustrates the MoD’s meek endorsement of these changes, and its acquiescence when Army HQ violates the ministry’s written conditions and guidelines.

The case relates to two decorated senior officers — major generals Darshan Lal Chowdhary and VSS Goudar — who were poised for promotion to lieutenant general, until a delayed and procedurally flawed promotion board sent them home instead. The judgment found that the Army twice delayed the promotion board for “no justifiable reason”; then violated MoD orders by implementing a policy change that would work against Chowdhary and Goudar; and then quickly held the promotion board within three days of that illegitimate policy change.

“I was amongst the most decorated major generals in my batch and was heading for promotion, since military decorations weighed heavily in the prevailing promotion criteria,” says Maj Gen VSS Goudar , who was on former Army chief General JJ Singh ’s staff before successfully commanding Kilo Force, a counter-insurgency formation in J&K. “But the promotion board was repeatedly postponed until a new policy was illegitimately introduced, in which my decorations counted for nothing.”

The judgment concurs that the new promotion policy, which Army HQ calls the “revised Quantified Model”, should not have been applied in Chowdhary’s and Goudar’s promotion board. While endorsing the new model on December 23, 2010, the MoD ordered it should be implemented only from April 1, 2011. Ignoring that order, Army HQ promulgated the new policy on January 4, 2011, and held the promotion board just three days later, ie. on January 7, 2011. On January 6, 2011, a day before the promotion board, the MoD again wrote to the Army HQ that the new model was to be implemented only after April 1, 2011. Army HQ ignored that reminder, too.

The board rejected Chowdhary and Goudar for promotion, since their decorations for distinguished service no longer counted. And the MoD, knowing that its own orders had been violated, meekly ratified the board results, noting: “The Promotion Boards for Major Generals and Lt Generals are presided over by the Chief of Army Staff and has senior commanders of the Army as its members. It would be extremely detrimental to the discipline of the armed forces and the credibility of the system if the government cancels the entire proceedings of the Selection Boards comprising the top most generals of the Indian Army.”

The MoD allowed the flawed board results, even though the defence secretary noted on file that “there is a general disquiet in the environment at the delayed holding of the Promotion Boards and in making deviations from the extant policy which is reflected in the representations and RTI applications received in the ministry in this regard.”

“It is obvious that the defence secretary was more influenced by the credibility of the Promotion Board being adversely affected and not by the merits of the matter. He forgot that to commit an error is to do no wrong, but to perpetuate an error is to do a wrong,” said the Delhi High Court in its judgment.

Jyoti Singh, the lawyer for Chowdhury and Goudar, says: “We are looking forward to the quick holding of a fresh promotion board, in which my clients are well-placed to be approved.”

But Major General VSS Goudar is bitter about having to wage a long court battle for a legitimate promotion. “What is the charm in now being approved for promotion to lieutenant general? Promotion is not about monetary benefits, but about the pride of one’s achievements being recognised. One should not have to go to court for that.”

There are a growing number of disputes stemming from the Army HQ’s frequent changes of promotion policy, which successive Army chiefs modify according to their own perceptions. This includes an impending legal challenge from a senior lieutenant general, which, if upheld, could see him as the next Army chief.

In a stinging rebuke to the army’s shambolic promotion policy, an unprecedented Delhi High Court judgment on Monday has overturned an entire promotion board, in which major generals from the 1975 batch were evaluated for promotion to lieutenant general. The court also upbraided the Defence Ministry (MoD) for endorsing promotions that it well knew were procedurally flawed.

Now the army faces the humiliating prospect of bringing back two officers from retirement if, as is likely, the fresh board finds them fit for promotion. The new board, which must select lieutenant generals based on a different set of criteria, might have to reject some officers who have already picked up lieutenant general’s rank, based on the impugned board. This could trigger fresh litigation.

Friday, 23 November 2012

DRDO press release of today's successful anti-ballistic missile test


Friday, Nov 23, 2012      

The Interceptor Missile AAD launched by the Scientists of DRDO from Wheeler’s Island, Odisha successfully destroyed the incoming Ballistic Missile at an altitude of 15 Kms. The interception took place at 12.52hrs. The target missile, a modified version of Prithvi, mimicking the enemy’s ballistic missile, was launched from Launch Complex III, Chandipur. 

Long Range Radar and MFC Radar located far away could detect the Missile from take-off and tracked it through its entire path. The total trajectory of the incoming Missile was continuously estimated by the guidance computer and subsequently the AAD Missile was launched at an appropriate time to counter and kill the ballistic missile.

The Ring Laser Gyro based Navigation System in Target, Fibre Optic Gyro based INS in Interceptor, Onboard computers, Guidance systems, Actuation Systems and the critical RF Seekers used for the terminal phase have performed excellently. The AAD Missile system initially guided by Inertial Navigation system was continuously getting update of the target position by the Radar through a data link.  The Radio Frequency (RF) seeker tracked the Missile & Onboard computer guided the Missile towards the Target Missile and hit the target. The Radio Proximity Fuse (RPF) exploded the warhead thereby destroying the target missile completely.

In this mission, a special feature of intercepting multiple target with multiple interceptor was demonstrated successfully. An electronic target with a range of 1500 Kms was launched and the Radars picked up the target missile, tracked the target missile subsequently & launched an electronic interceptor missile. This electronic interceptor missile destroyed the electronic target missile at an altitude of 120 Kms. All the four missiles were tracked by the Radars and all the guidance and launch computers operated in full operational mode for handling multiple targets with multiple interceptor.  All the four missiles were in the sky simultaneously and both the interceptions took place near simultaneously.  This has proved the capability of DRDO to handle multiple targets with multiple interceptors simultaneously. The complete Radar Systems, Communication Networks, Launch Computers, Target update Systems and state of the art Avionics have been completely proven in this Mission.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Indian bureaucracy an obstacle to defence relationship, says US report

Amer Latif, of CSIS, recommends that US and Indian forces share bases in Diego Garcia and the Andamans

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Nov 12

A respected Washington-based think tank released a report on Tuesday, entitled “US-India Military Engagement,” which reflects the American strategic community’s growing --- if incredulous --- realization that New Delhi is not as enthusiastic as Washington about a high profile military partnership between the two countries.

The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) report, authored by the Pentagon’s former South Asia director, Sahibzada Amer Latif, describes the period from 2004 to 2008 as “a heady time for bilateral security and strategic cooperation.” But the “stymieing of deeper military contact” since 2008 has been ascribed to: India’s policy of strategic autonomy; the Indian defence ministry’s (MoD’s) inability to discuss policy and strategy; and the Indian military’s “capacity challenges.”

According to the report “the Indian civilian bureaucracy has been the main obstacle to deeper military engagement despite the Indian military’s desire for greater bilateral cooperation.”

The US strategic community has earlier contrasted India’s “professional” and “highly capable” military, with its relatively slow-moving and cautious bureaucracy. But this report sharply questions the military’s capabilities. It notes that “the Indian military is facing capacity challenges through a combination of arms modernization, serious personnel and discipline matters, and complex national security challenges that will tax the capacity of the Indian armed forces to engage the United States.”

“India, as a strategically developing country, has yet to develop a comprehensive and long-term concept of how and when to employ its military beyond its immediate neighborhood or on missions other than peacekeeping,” the report says.

The report recommends that “the United States needs to maintain reasonable expectations of India as a potential security partner over the near term to midterm, given its reluctance to partner too closely with the United States, which is rooted in a combination of [India’s] foreign policy orientation and capacity limitations.”

Mirroring Washington’s disappointment at Indian reluctance to play a more visible security role in the Asia Pacific, the CSIS report states: “Aside from Washington, the rest of Asia is also waiting for India to wade into the complex security scenarios that confront the Asia-Pacific region… Many Asian countries feel there has been episodic engagement and little demonstration of New Delhi’s intent to exercise more decisive leadership in the region.”

This would be a reality check for US Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, who described India during his visit in May as a “linchpin” of America’s pivot to Asia. The report quotes Panetta, who said: “Defense cooperation with India is a linchpin in this strategy (of rebalance to Asia). India is one of the largest and most dynamic countries in the region and the world, with one of the most capable militaries.”

The CSIS report, unlike several earlier American reports, highlights the concerns that impose caution on New Delhi in engaging Washington. Amongst these are: Indian concern at the US-Pakistan relationship; domestic politics and the opposition of the Left; India’s impression of US unreliability stemming from “a past history of sanctions”, and the still unknown ways in which “the growing influence of state-based parties” will affect India’s national policies.

Given these constraints, the report recommends formulating a realistic long-term vision; dialogues about issues like Afghanistan and China’s military power; and multilateral cooperation with Asia-Pacific powers like Japan, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and South Korea. It advocates joint patrolling of the Indian Ocean with the navies like those of Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh. And, perhaps, most controversially, it recommends that the US and India share Indian Ocean bases like the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Diego Garcia.

Kasab executed: focus shifts to LeT commander’s trial in Pakistan

Taliban spokesperson Ihsanullah Ihsan calls Kasab's execution "a shock"

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Nov 12

Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only Pakistani terrorist who survived the 26/11 attack on multiple Mumbai targets, was hanged on Wednesday morning, a day before Pakistan’s interior minister, Rehman Malik, was due to arrive in India on a two-day visit.

According to senior government sources, Malik was told that the proposed dates for his visit, Nov 22-23, would have to be rescheduled because the impending winter session of Parliament left Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, with no time to deal with a foreign visit.

In fact, with preparations for the hanging under way since Nov 8, New Delhi did not want Rehman Malik to arrive immediately after Kasab’s execution, or to cancel his visit at the last minute.

As it turns out, Pakistan’s interior minister has not protested Kasab’s execution. “This is the decision by a court and therefore, I am nobody to say why they have done it. The court must have had some reason to do it. Hence, I think, whether it is a Pakistani court or Indian, we should respect its judgment,” said Malik according to TV channel CNN-IBN.

The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi has declined to comment.

Pakistan was aware of Kasab’s impending execution. Soon after the president rejected his mercy petition, New Delhi told Islamabad that Kasab had exhausted all his legal options. Immediately after the execution this morning, Islamabad was informed that his body would be handed over to the Pakistan authorities in case they made a request. Pakistan has not responded so far.

Government sources do not expect the Pakistani government to accept Kasab’s body. It would be a lightening rod for radical anger, with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) in particular, expected to exploit the body as a cause celebre. The LeT is widely acknowledged to have executed the Mumbai attacks.

According to Reuters, a senior LeT commander in Pakistan has issued a statement calling Kasab a hero and asserting that he would inspire more attacks. “To die like Kasab is the dream of every fighter,” the commander told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Other jehadi groups, including the Pakistan Taliban have weighed in on behalf of Kasab. “There is no doubt that it's very shocking news and a big loss that a Muslim has been hanged on Indian soil,” Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told Reuters.

Indian attention now focuses keenly on the trial in Rawalpindi of LeT commander, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, and six other men accused of complicity in the 26/11 Mumbai strikes. New Delhi has repeatedly insisted, publicly and in bilateral talks with Pakistan, that progress on this case has been glacial. Pakistan has not yet granted New Delhi's request for voice samples of the terrorist handlers who directed Kasab and his 9 fellow-terrorists over satellite links from Pakistan while the Mumbai attack was in progress. The Indian government also strongly objects to Pakistan allowing LeT founder and chief, Hafiz Saeed, to roam free in Pakistan.

But senior Indian officials also see the beginnings of change in Pakistan’s attitude to the Zaki-ur-Rehman trial. Pakistani intelligence officials have testified before the court in Rawalpindi that the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks received training at Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) camps in Pakistan, including navigational training in Karachi.

According to Dawn newspaper, five inspectors from Pakistan’s crime investigation department (CID), testified as prosecution witnesses on Nov 17, recounting details of the training and capabilities of the accused persons, including Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged controller of the Mumbai attacks.

“We see Pakistani officials admitting that the terrorists who took part in the 26/11 attacks were trained in Pakistan. That is new and it is a positive development,” a senior New Delhi official told Business Standard.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Macaulay: pioneer of India's modernisation

Macaulay: pioneer of India’s modernisation
By Zareer Masani
Random House India, 2012
Price: Rs 450/-
269 pages

“If you’re an Indian reading this book in English, it’s probably because of Thomas Macaulay,” says a blurb on the cover of the smartly produced volume that is billed as the first general biography of a man who made incalculable contributions to the shaping of modern India. This refers, of course, to Macaulay’s controversial Education Minute, in which he advocated British support for English language education to create “a class (of Indians) who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.”

But enticing the reader with the bait of “Macaulay’s children” does little justice to the rest of his prodigious legacy which Zareer Masani details in his beautifully written portrait of a brilliant, opinionated, patronising, infuriating, yet strangely likeable Macaulay. Just as Napoleon’s military conquests overshadowed his contributions to modern France --- The Code Napoleon, the Bank of France, the baccalaureate examination and the departmental system amongst others --- so too has the furore over Macaulay’s propagation of English overshadowed his other achievements, like his seminal role in drafting the Indian Penal Code, creating the Indian Civil Service, legislating a free press, and effectively nationalising the East India Company.

Masani’s skill as a historian, which is evident from his marshalling and interpretation of material, is complimented by a simple, readable writing style that draws skilfully on the illustrative anecdote, the telling quote. Given Macaulay’s superlative command of the language, and the trove of speeches, interventions, ripostes, comments, letters and documents, that Masani has mined, he has wisely chosen to use Macaulay’s own words extensively, with Masani’s own presence light and skilful. Through most of the book, the author is barely perceptible; this self-effacement is his greatest triumph.

Arranged chronologically, the book describes a self-made man from a modest background who overcame his ordinary looks (a political periodical of the time described him as “an ugly,… splay-footed, shapeless little dumpling of a fellow, with a featureless face”) to journey, apparently unstoppably, to becoming a cabinet minister and amongst the most respected intellectuals of his time. In successive chapters, the author traces his meteoric journey from child prodigy and debating wunderkind, to the House of Commons as the foremost Whig hatchet man in parliamentary debates, to his arrival in India to earn a financial buffer. Here, Macaulay would earn the undying hatred of modern Indian language nationalists as a member of Lord Bentinck’s council in what the author terms “the most radically reforming Governor-Generalship in the history of the British Raj.”

Never one to mince words, Macaulay’s contempt for Indians, and especially Hindus, are conveyed in overtly racist terms that Masani assures us was the norm for those colonial times. “There never, perhaps, existed a people so thoroughly fitted by nature and by habit for a foreign yoke,” he declares about the people along the Lower Ganges. “The physical organization of the Bengalee is feeble even to effeminacy. He lives in a constant vapour bath. His pursuits are sedentary, his limbs delicate, his movements languid…. His mind bears a singular analogy to his body. It is weak even to helplessness for purposes of manly resistance…”

This scorn for Indians is matched by Macaulay’s disdain for the early British administrators, who he terms “rapacious, imperious and corrupt.” Macaulay believed in good governance and upliftment, even if that generated Indian demands for European institutions and privileges. “To have found a great people sunk in the lowest depths of slavery and superstition, to have ruled them as to have made them desirous and capable of all the privileges of citizens, would indeed be a title to glory all our own,” says Macaulay, thinking way ahead of his British contemporaries.

Adding to the book’s readability are colourful vignettes of colonial life, from large breakfasts that included “plenty of eggs, mango fish, snipe-pies and frequently a hot beef-steak, in addition to coffee and toast”, to five-six hour meetings during which Macaulay would pen letters home in his characteristic hyperbole: “Sir Charles is alternately yawning and punning. The Commander-in-Chief has gone into the antechamber to take a cup of coffee. One of my colleagues is writing a note, and another is drawing a man and a horse on his blotting paper… I cannot employ the next hour better than in writing to you.”

The book also provides a splendid window into the heyday of Pax Britannica when “Victorian Britain imagined itself on the threshold of a new Elizabethan age”, with Britain dominating the world not just militarily but also in science, technology and medicine, much like America today. London, which grew six-fold in the 19th century, was then a squalid construction site with “heavy and foul-smelling” air redolent with “the stench of huge amounts of raw sewage dumped straight into the River Thames.”

This book ought to be read widely. Masani has given us a revisionist view of a much-vilified man, who has been judged for almost two centuries largely on the basis of a solitary document. Macaulay now emerges as a flawed genius, far ahead of his time in recognizing phenomena like globalisation and soft power. Ironically, his extraordinary ability as a wordsmith may have also been his undoing, causing him to overstate arguments and bludgeon opponents into perpetual animosity.

Friday, 16 November 2012

China unveils its new leaders: Signals that continuity is more pivotal than change

Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 16th Nov 12

At the end of the week-long 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping --- probably China’s president and Party head for the next ten years --- led seven men onto the crimson dais of the Great Hall of the People. This chosen group will comprise the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), the pinnacle of political power in the People’s Republic of China.

Xi’s elevation to party chief was on the cards, but a surprise development was his immediate appointment as head of the Central Military Commission, which oversees the influential People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Outgoing party chief, Hu Jintao, had been expected to continue as CMC head for two more years before handing over to Xi. Now Xi, who will oversee China’s security, will not have to look over his shoulder.

Behind Xi was Li Keqiang, who is expected to succeed Wen Jiabao as premier early next year. Li is from the “populist” political grouping, dubbed the “tuanpai”, which traditionally upholds the interests of farmers, migrant workers and the urban poor. Xi belongs to the “elitist” grouping, dominated by so-called princelings (descendents of powerful party elites), with careers in economic management rather than the rural areas that the “tuanpai” focus on. The PSC has traditionally featured members of both groups, under the slogan “one party, two coalitions.”

Following Li, in third place, was Zhang Dejiang, the party fire fighter who was sent to Chongqing to clean up after the spectacular downfall of Bo Xilai, and his wife’s arrest and sentencing for murder. As the third-ranked leader, Zhang will chair the National People’s Congress, China’s nominal parliament.

Addressing the delegates, Xi identified intra-party corruption and “bureaucratism” as “severe challenges” for the Party. “We must make every effort to solve these problems. The whole Party must stay on full alert,” said Xi.

But the PSC’s composition did little to suggest that reform was in the offing. The party’s two most prominent reformers --- Li Yuanchao and Wang Yang --- who were watched closely as bellwethers of party intentions, have been left out of the PSC.

A surprise big winner in the behind-the-scenes jostling for control of power is former President Jiang Zemin, now 86, who was critically ill last year and written off by many as a seriously power player. Four of Jiang’s protégés --- Zhang Dejiang; Yu Zhengsheng; Wang Qishan, and Zhang Gaoli --- have made it to the PSC, leaving him with greater power over China’s future direction than outgoing chairman, Hu Jintao.

But Jiang’s protégés might remain in a majority only for the next five years. In the 2017, five of the PSC members, including all four Jiang protégés, would reach retirement age. In contrast, both Hu’s allies seem set to continue after 2017.

Jiang, an unapologetic economic reformer who had brought China into the World Trade Organisation and built a strong economic relationship with the west, has apparently criticized the current fourth generation of leaders --- Hu and Wen --- for backtracking on economic reform and, thereby, slowing China’s growth.

* * * * * 

Profile: China’s 7 wise men

(Clock wise, from top left) Xi Jinping; Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng; Liu Yunshan; Wang Qishan; and Zhang Gaoli 

1.     Xi Jinping. Party chief and slated to take over as president early next year. Folk singer wife, Peng Liyuan, may be better known in China than Xi. A princeling son of a former CCP leader, Xi is from the “elitist” faction.

2.     Li Keqiang, likely to take over as premier next year. Risen from a manual labourer, he is from the “populist” faction. A protégé of Hu Jintao, Li will handle China’s economy.

3.     Zhang Dejiang, became a front-runner for the PSC when he was sent to Chongqing this year to manage the Bo Xilai crisis. From the “elitist” faction, Zhang is a conservative who opposes economic, political and media liberalisation. A protégé of Jiang Zemin.

4.     Yu Zhengsheng, is a princeling from the “elitist” faction, with known ties to Deng Xiao-ping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Yu’s father briefly married Mao Ze-dong’s notorious wife, Jiang Qing. A trained ballistics missile engineer.

5.     Liu Yunshan, aged 55, is head of the CCP propaganda department. Has advocated “internet restraint” and could wield a heavy hand over media nationwide. From the “populist” faction, he is a close ally of Hu Jintao.

6.     Wang Qishan, China’s key economic negotiator, he is dynamic and reformist. A princeling from the “elitist” faction, he is regarded as a protégé of Jiang Zemin.

7.     Zhang Gaoli, a little-known former oil executive, who has managed Shenzhen and Tianjin. Economically reformist, he is from the “elitist” faction. A long-time protégé of Jiang Zemin.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Challenging the Pakistan army

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 13th Nov 12

The Pakistan Army’s overlordship of that country’s national security decision-making has scarred New Delhi’s engagement with Islamabad, undermining the dialogue between the two countries. In any discussions, India’s Team A only meets Pakistan’s Team B. After they finish talking, Pakistan’s Team A --- viz. the Pakistan Army, which wields a veto over everything the diplomats and bureaucrats have discussed --- rules on the outcome from General Headquarters (GHQ), Rawalpindi.

But that stranglehold is being challenged within Pakistan in tentative but unmistakable ways. Following President Asif Ali Zardari’s extended confrontations with the generals, now the judiciary has fired a broadside across the military’s bows. On Thursday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court issued its detailed verdict in the Air Chief Marshal (Retired) Asghar Khan case, in which it has ordered action against former army chief, General Mirza Aslam Beg, and his spymaster, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) head, Lieutenant General Asad Durrani, for funnelling Rs 14 crore to various political parties to rig the outcome of the 1990 elections.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the battle-scarred campaigner who was instrumental in unseating President Pervez Musharraf, threw his full weight behind that verdict. After some TV news channels (a match in inanity for our own) reported that the Court Registrar had authored the judgment, the Supreme Court officially clarified that a three-judge bench headed by the chief justice himself had delivered it.

In its judgment on the case, which had remained a judicial hot potato since 1996, Justice Chaudhry enjoined soldiers to uphold the Constitution, even if he received orders from his seniors ordering otherwise. For the military, this must have sounded like, “Tell the general you’re not available for the coup.”

Such judicial strictures could not but provoke a military that is already under pressure from the media and from President Asif Ali Zardari. The president from the traditionally anti-military Pakistan People’s Party has repeatedly taken on the khakis (as Pakistani liberals disparagingly call the military), denting the army’s aura of omnipotence. Since 2008, when the Zardari government was forced to quickly withdraw a notification placing the ISI under the Interior Ministry, Zardari has grown steadily bolder. Last year he refused to back down in the so-called Memogate affair, when the military effectively accused Zardari of asking Washington for protection against a possible coup after Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad. This after a fleeting moment of legislative oversight, when the military was forced to explain to parliament why it could not prevent US Special Forces from mounting a military operation in the Pakistani heartland.

Today the Pakistan military needs political cover from the government for military operations against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The conservative opposition parties steadfastly refuse to back those operations. All this boosts Zardari’s confidence, already high after remaining in power for what could be an unprecedented five-year term, despite massed resistance from the judiciary, the military, his political foes and the jihadis.

Rattled by these potentially adverse political winds, the generals have warned all concerned to back off. On Nov 5, army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani issued a statement through the Inter-Services Public Relations directorate, the military’s own PR agency, warning that, “All systems in Pakistan appear to be in a haste to achieve something, which can have both positive and negative implications. Let us take a pause and examine the two fundamental questions; One, are we promoting the rule of law and the Constitution? Two, are we strengthening or weakening the institutions? In the ultimate analysis, all of us would have served Pakistan better if history and our future generations judge us positively.”

For a country that understands well their military’s praetorian lexicon, the meaning of this profundity is clear: “Hold it, chums. We love democracy like you all do. But democracy does not mean that the institutions (the army) can be weakened. So back off!”

For the first sixty years of Pakistan’s history, such a statement from GHQ would have had every institution stepping back and issuing pro forma statements about the need to remain united to safeguard national security. But, in yet another sign of change, the Supreme Court’s retaliatory salvo came within three days, in the form of the detailed judgment.

This changing civil-military dynamic, which only the ideologically blinkered can fail to perceive, has not yet translated into any loosening of the Pakistani military’s absolute stranglehold over policy in four areas --- Kashmir, America, Afghanistan and China. Nevertheless, Pakistan’s polity, judiciary, civil society, clergy and jehadis are all increasingly willing to challenge the khakis. Nobody yet knows how this fascinating contest will play out as one side, then another, pushes back and flexes its muscles. But New Delhi must watch this power play carefully, keeping a safe distance from the participants it favours, because India’s approval is still the kiss of death in Pakistan.

India provides the generals with a useful raison d’etre. But for most Pakistanis America has long supplanted India as the top hate. As more Pakistani troops are diverted from the relatively peaceful border with India to the roiling badlands of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the Pakistani soldier will also wonder where the real enemy lies. Now the structural trends in Pakistan raise the interesting possibility that the army’s opinions may increasingly have to parallel, not shape, the public’s.