Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Many Pakistans, same old India

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 29th Oct 13

Since the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike in 2008, India's security czars have summed up New Delhi's Pakistan policy as follows: there are many Pakistans; we will deal with each appropriately.

In other words, the government in Islamabad does not speak for all of Pakistan. The Pakistan Army follows its own path. So does the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which --- despite being an integral part of the military --- is divided between the notorious "S" Wing, which handles jihadi allies like the Haqqani network and the Lashkar-e-Taiba; and the "C" Wing, whose counter-terrorism centre battles other jihadis. Then there are a plethora of political parties, ranging from the jihad-happy Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf , which organises rallies with the Lashkar-e-Taiba's Hafiz Saeed, to more India-friendly parties like the Pakistan Peoples Party. There are jihadi groups of many stripes, some reserving their venom for India, others focusing keenly on America and Afghanistan, but most of them co-ordinating operationally. There is the business community, mainly Punjabi, which sees profit in freer commerce with India. A wafer-thin layer of liberal secularists unapologetically, and bravely, advocates friendship with India. Finally, there is the broad Pakistani public that, despite being indoctrinated with doses of religious conservatism and anti-Indianism, realises that they are expendable pawns in a cynical and deadly game.

Some of these bits and pieces are predisposed to peace with India. Many will never be, for obvious structural reasons. But only someone who is visiting earth after a longish absence would argue that Pakistan is monolithic in its hatred of India, or cohesive in dealing with fundamental questions of its identity.

It is, therefore, mystifying why --- even while acknowledging the fragmentation within Pakistan --- New Delhi responds to Pakistan as if it were a cohesive entity, controlled by Nawaz Sharif. Why else would Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tell journalists on his flight from Moscow to Beijing last week that he did not understand why Nawaz Sharif could not enforce the ceasefire with India?

Perhaps the prime minister really believes that Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is waiting for orders from Mr Sharif about calibrating the temperature on the border. Dr Manmohan Singh might well assess that his counterpart is only feigning helplessness. After all, in relations between states, it is established strategy (read Thomas Schelling, for example) for one side to suggest that something is beyond its control. But most people would agree that Mr Sharif does not have much say on border policy. That is formulated in the Pakistan Army's General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi. New Delhi is scolding the little guy with spectacles for what the bully has done.

Does New Delhi have effective communication with GHQ? The two directors general of military operations talk each week over a telephonic hotline. But they only clear functional issues, such as ceasefire violations, since India's bureaucrats and politicians do not want soldiers discussing substantive matters. Besides, New Delhi does not want our "B" Team talking with Pakistan's "A" Team.

Nor does New Delhi communicate with the ISI, with Pakistani political parties or with business associations. We have no contacts with Pakistan-based militant groups since our external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, has had no covert capabilities since the late 1990s. Nor do we address the Pakistani public, giving them visas to India to expose the propaganda they are fed about this country. Getting a visa to India is almost as difficult for a Pakistani as obtaining a United States visa. So much for the many Pakistans that India addresses.

Contrast New Delhi's isolation in Pakistan with how the US addresses multiple constituencies there. It matters little to America that it is the single most hated country in Pakistan (even more so than India). Washington addresses the government, and the spectrum of opposition parties, academia and civil society. It maintains contact with the Pakistani military and the ISI, even knowing that they have masterminded the deaths of thousands of American soldiers in Afghanistan. US intelligence agencies talk non-stop to jihadi groups, even as they listen non-stop to their radio and digital conversations. The American people and the US Congress are no more enamoured of Pakistan than is India. But Washington knows that anger must be cloaked in engagement, since estrangement takes away the power to influence.

US engagement provides the leverage that allows the Pentagon to dismiss Pakistani objections to drone strikes. A clear decision that drone operations would be needed over Pakistan after 2014 compels John Kerry to conclude a strategic partnership agreement with the often impossible Afghan President Hamid Karzai. And the need to engage with post-2014 power groups compels the Central Intelligence Agency to talk to the Taliban even while US soldiers are being killed by Taliban bombs.

In an India that has chosen to be irrelevant in Pakistan except as a hate figure, it is popular to lament Washington's gullibility. "America is just so credulous when it comes to Pakistan," you will hear again and again in New Delhi. This is natural in a country where Pakistan has been dealt with mainly through scoring debating points and periodically walking away from the dialogue table, only to shuffle back later on the condition that the table is renamed.

India's diplomats, who also dominate the making of strategy, have been bred in this tradition, arguing for decades in international fora that Pakistan's national strategy involves the sponsorship of terrorism. Global events since 9/11 have brought much of the world around to this viewpoint. But this success has bred stagnation. Generating real influence --- through a broad menu of diplomatic engagement, economic incentives and coercive force, leveraged by intelligence operations --- is apparently too much for our word-loving diplomats. New Delhi's phrase, "addressing multiple Pakistans", remains little more than a nice thought.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Exercise Defence of Gujarat

Three Indian Navy ships --- INS Teg, Betwa and Trishul --- exercising off the coast of Gujarat

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Solving the problem: don't just keep adding layers of CBMs

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th Oct 13

It is heartening that New Delhi and Beijing are not allowing the breadth of their engagement to be constrained by the border question, which has not moved closer to resolution since 2005, when the two sides agreed on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles that would inform an eventual solution. Since then, “special representatives” of both governments have labored unsuccessfully to arrive at an “Agreed Framework” for a settlement. Only after that can a mutually agreed border be delineated on a map, and then demarcated on ground.

The Border Defence and Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) that was signed on Wednesday as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Beijing takes the two sides no closer to a final settlement. All that it does --- like the earlier agreements of 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2012 --- is to bolster a relatively benign operating environment on the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC). This imposed calm is essential for curbing hotheaded tactical commanders; violence between patrols that come face-to-face in disputed areas can easily blow up into full-scale diplomatic crises.

But the BDCA does nothing to address the root cause of tension on the border --- an absence of clarity on where the LAC runs. With both sides needing to demonstrate physical presence and control up to their claimed LAC, this gives rise to accusations of “patrol intrusions”, perceptions of aggression and mal-intent, concomitant insecurity, and the consequential massing of troops that heightens the probability of escalation.

Agreeing on an LAC is far simpler than agreeing on a border. But, so far, India and China have shared perceptions on the LAC only in the inconsequential Central Sector, i.e. Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. In the Western Sector (Ladakh) and Eastern Sector (Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh), which is where the real disagreement lies, Beijing has resisted the exchange of maps marked with each side’s claimed LAC alignment. It is unclear whether this is because China wants to retain the option to expand its claim later, or because of the apprehension that this would lead to unrealistic claims that would complicate the situation further.

The absence of an agreed LAC blocks many of the de-escalatory measures spelt out in the CBM agreements. The 1996 agreement explicitly states “the full implementation of some of the provisions of the present Agreement will depend on the two sides arriving at a common understanding of the alignment of the line of actual control.” New Delhi must press Beijing to move forward with the map exchange. True, this might result in identifying more areas where the Indian perception of the LAC does not align with that of China. But pretending that the LAC is disputed in only 14 areas (the currently identified differences) is hardly a substitute for ascertaining the real magnitude of the dispute. Once the situation is clear, solutions could be tailored to de-escalate the disputed areas without prejudice to either side’s claims.

India, China sign border pact: PM raises concerns over visas, trade and river waters

Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th Oct 13

On the plus side, there was an agreement to enhance cooperation on the border, a move towards sharing more data on river waters, and greater Chinese concern for India’s negative trade balance with China. But India also scuttled a visa agreement, sought by businessmen on both sides, to convey displeasure over Beijing’s continued refusal to grant regular visas to Indians living in Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims.

In the final balance, the Beijing visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made clear that no single issue — not even the border — dominates the agenda between the two Asian giants.

After meeting China’s Premier Li Keqiang, Singh declared: “I believe my visit to China has put our relations on a path of stable and fast growth.”

The showpiece signing, the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), incrementally adds to four earlier agreements signed over the past three decades — the 1993 Agreement on Peace and Tranquillity on the Line of Actual Control (LAC); the 1996 Agreement on Confidence-Building Measures on the LAC; the 2005 Modalities for the Implementation of Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field; and the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs, signed last year.

The BDCA reiterates many of the principles covered in earlier agreements, but additionally formalises a five-layer mechanism for communication between the two sides: First, flag meetings between border personnel on the LAC; second, meetings between senior officers of China’s Military Regions and India’s Army Commands; third, periodic meetings at the ministry level; fourth, meetings of the Working Mechanism (set up last year) between diplomats handling Sino-India relations; and fifth, the apex India-China Annual Defence Dialogue.

Implementing real-time communications on the LAC, the BDCA provides for border meetings in every sector, and for telephone links at various places along the LAC. There will be “mutual consultations” to set up a hotline between the two military headquarters. The Indian and Pakistani armies already have a hotline over which the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) speak every week.

“We decided to encourage and institutionalise greater exchanges between the armed forces of our two countries,” Singh said after the meeting.

Minimising the risk of patrol clashes, the BDCA prohibits patrols from tailing (following) opposing patrols. This has been traditionally done to ascertain that an intruding patrol goes back into its own territory.

Interestingly, in comments to the media on Wednesday, Singh spelt out a strategic framework for Sino-Indian relations. His “strategic vision” was to “realise the full promise of our partnership and maintain the friendliest of relations”.

The “strategic benchmark” would be to maintain peace on the borders and “move forward the negotiations towards a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement to the India-China border question”.

And, perhaps most significantly, the PM said that “strategic reassurance” would dictate that “the relationships pursued by India and China with other countries must not become a source of concern for each other”.

While New Delhi links this to China’s “all-weather friendship” with Pakistan, Beijing would link it with India’s growing partnership with the US.

Indicating that contentious issues were placed on the table, the PM said he raised India’s “interest in continued and expanded cooperation on trans-border rivers and received reassurances from Premier Li.” He did not elaborate what assurances were given. The agreement signed between the two ministries for water resources agreed to provide India with hydrological information on flows in the Brahmaputra (Chinese: Yaluzangbu; Tibetan: Yarlung Tsangpo) from May 15 to October 15. So far, data have been provided from June 1 to October 15 each year.

Singh also tabled the issue of India’s adverse trade balance. “Premier Li was receptive to my concern about the unsustainable trade imbalance between our two countries and we have agreed to explore avenues to bridge this gap.”
“We are taking forward the suggestion made by Premier Li in New Delhi for a Chinese industrial park to act as a magnet for Chinese investment in India,” Singh added.

India and China aim to boost trade to $100 billion a year by 2015. Last year, trade was $66 billion, marginally down from the previous year.
While Singh declared “when India and China shake hands, the world takes notice”, China’s media was less effusive. With the Russian and Mongolian prime ministers visiting Beijing along with Singh, online English newspaper, Global Times, headlined these visits as, “China receives three PMs”. The newspaper said China was “underlining an emphasis on peripheral diplomacy in its overall diplomatic strategy against the backdrop of the US pivot to the Asia-Pacific”.